Travel theme: Meeting Places

My recent post about the history of Guinness got me thinking about places where we meet. In England and Ireland pub culture is strong so it comes as no surprise that pubs are one of the most commonly suggested places to meet, but there are plenty of other options around. Over the course of a Christmas vacation in Dublin I wrote about some of the more popular meeting places in the city, past and present, and very few of them were pubs. I’ve always adored the Parisian Left Bank coffeehouse culture that provided the breeding ground for some of history’s most distinguished painters and writers. Here are a few more meeting spots from my travels. In New York City, the most romantic of rendezvous points – under the clock in Grand Central.

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The fountain in the middle of Antigua‘s Parque Central. There’s always something going on, so even if your friend is late, chances are you won’t even notice because you’ll be too busy enjoying a street performance.

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In Rome, the venerable Antico Caffè Greco has been the meeting place of the literati since 1760.

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ANTICO CAFFE GRECO ON VIA DEL CONDOTTI

Still in Rome, I spotted these policemen congregating at their own favourite meeting place.

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Are you ready to meet up with this week’s challenge and share some of your favourite rendezvous points? If you would like to join in (everyone’s welcome) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Meeting Places
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

xxx Ailsa

The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life. – Oscar Wilde

Twitter is my bar. I sit at the counter and listen to the conversations, starting others, feeling the atmosphere. – Paul Coehlo

I can’t tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that art has often judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past has suffered, so that it has never been forgotten. I know too that the powerful fear art, whatever its form, when it does this, and that amongst the people such art sometimes runs like a rumour and a legend because it makes sense of what life’s brutalities cannot, a sense that unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last. Art, when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts and honour. – John Berger

 

 

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , | 63 Comments

The birthplace of Guinness

The Guinness Storehouse at St. James’s Gate in the heart of Dublin is a traditional stop on the well-worn tourist path. Here, for a price, you can take a self-guided tour with a pint waiting for you at the end and plenty of opportunity to snap up Guinness merchandise along the way. If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, however, try taking a trip to the true birthplace of the mighty pint.

The Cashel Palace Hotel is located right in the middle of Cashel, County Tipperary. The song doesn’t lie, it’s a long way to Tipperary. To be more precise, it’s about 100 miles from Dublin to Cashel with a drive time of about 2 hours unless, like me, you get stuck behind a tractor, a combine harvester and sheep. Once you get into town, however, it’s a straight shot to the hotel, which is a very grand affair of red brick and limestone, filled with wood paneling, elegant staircases and barley sugar banisters.

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If you’re looking for the birthplace of Guinness, take the narrow staircase down to the lower levels and go through the archway into the gardens behind the palace.

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There, tightly curled around silver railings, are the tendrils that gave birth to the legendary drink, and if you go down a further flight of steps you’ll find the appropriately named Guinness Bar where the bartender will happily fill you in on the history of the famous pint.

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Back in the 1740s a land steward named Richard Guinis worked here for the then Archbishop of Cashel, Arthur Price. The Archbishop had a hobby, brewing ale, and to that end he had about 25 feet of hops planted in the garden behind the palace. The brewing took place in the cellar, where the bar is now located. On the 17th of August 1740 Richard was messing around with the brew and roasted the hops into the mash instead of the barley and by doing so created a darker beer. Everyone on staff loved it, dubbing it “The Wine of Ireland” so the Archbishop and Richard took out a patent on it. The Archbishop named it after Richard, spelling his name the way we recognize it today; Guinness. The recipe was passed on to Richard’s son, Arthur, who went on to open up the now iconic brewery at St. James’s Gate in Dublin and the rest, as they say, is history.

The tendrils twining around the railings are what remains of the original hop plants Richard used on that fateful day. Even in the chill of early spring when I visited, the hops were still bursting with vigour.

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It’s thirsty work looking for legends, so what better way to quench your thirst than with a pint of the black stuff.

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I’ll leave you with a fitting poem by Flann O’Brien.

The Workman’s Friend

When things go wrong and will not come right,
Though you do the best you can,
When life looks black as the hour of night -
A pint of plain is your only man.

When money’s tight and hard to get
And your horse has also ran,
When all you have is a heap of debt -
A pint of plain is your only man.

When health is bad and your heart feels strange,
And your face is pale and wan,
When doctors say you need a change,
A pint of plain is your only man.

When food is scarce and your larder bare
And no rashers grease your pan,
When hunger grows as your meals are rare -
A pint of plain is your only man.

In time of trouble and lousey strife,
You have still got a darlint plan
You still can turn to a brighter life -
A pint of plain is your only man.

Sláinte.    xxx Ailsa

Posted in Ireland, Travel, Travel tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Travel theme: Purple

With visions of sugarplums cardinals still in my head after my bizarre day in Vatican City, I have gone looking for my purplest photos. Sitting on a Manhattan rooftop waiting for 4th of July I was treated to this lavender-pink sunset.

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Radiant faces filled with glee and covered with gulal powder at Maple Valley’s Holi Festival.

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Toddlers tiptoe through the tulip festival in Skagit Valley.

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Watching a traditional Quinceañera coming of age ceremony in the grounds of a rather unusual monastery in Washington D.C.

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If you’re in the mood to create your very own purple patch, get out your lilacs and lavenders, plums, mulberries, mauves and wines and join in this week’s travel theme. Here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Purple
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

xxx Ailsa

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. – Alice Walker

Warning – a poem by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 133 Comments

A funny thing happened on the way to the Vatican

I was almost at the end of my visit to Rome and Vatican City seemed to be getting impatient with me for not having visited straight away. The great dome of St Peter’s Basilica floated defiantly into sight over rooftops, down alleys, through keyholes, every time I took a photo. “I’ll get to you,” I promised inwardly. “I’m just too busy right now with the Roman Forum, rose sellers, orange groves, scenes from Roman Holiday and following the Grand Tour footsteps of literary masters.” On my second last day in the Eternal City I was finally ready and made my way over the Tiber, past Castel Sant-Angelo and down the cobbled street towards Vatican City.

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I had my day all planned out in my head. First I would take a wander around St. Peter’s Basilica, then pop out and watch the changing of the Swiss Guard before heading into the Vatican museums to marvel at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Guide books had all warned of long lines to get into the basilica but I only had a brief five minute wait which I spent watching a pair of Swiss Guards refusing entry to a couple of nuns who seemed to be on a mission to sneak in a side gate. That’s how the story seemed to be playing out in my head anyway, but before I could see how it ended I was ushered into the basilica and was swept up in the spectacle of the interior.

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I never expected it to be so vast, so colourful, so ornate or so crammed to the rafters with art. Read all you want about the basilica, look at as many photos as you like, but nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming resplendence this place exudes. There really was too much to take in all at once; and far too much to try and capture in a photograph, so I contented myself by picking out details and finding odd angles to focus on one exquisite object after another.

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I was brought to a standstill by Michelangelo’s Pieta. Again I was taken unawares, not expecting to be quite so moved by this iconic sculpture.

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It’s hard to comprehend how a young man of 23 had the life experience to capture the expression on Mary’s face as she sits holding the broken body of her dead child. Intellectually, this sculpture is clearly religious; however its physical presence is intensely, divinely, compellingly human.

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I had lost track of time inside the basilica and decided to venture outside and over to the Vatican museums, but a passing tour guide informed me the museums were closing early due to a holiday or holy day;  his accent was thick so I couldn’t tell which he had said; mind you holiday and holy day were probably one and the same thing within the confines of Vatican City. Instead, I settled for a quick peek at the Swiss Guard standing duty outside the basilica.

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There was another 20 minutes before they were due to perform their Changing of the Guard, so I thought I might wander out into the square for a look around. Just as I was thinking that, a white-haired gent dressed all in black sailed past the Swiss Guard with a confident swagger reminiscent of Tom Jones in his heyday. The men on duty almost curtsied out of respect as he passed by so I figured he must be someone of note. He hurried towards the square and I followed along at a distance, intrigued by his demeanour.

In the square a small group were gathered watching two men pace up and down steps in front of the colonnades. The holy Tom Jones chap skirted around the small group, talked to some official looking entities off to the left and then engaged the two men in conversation.

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Things got rather heated very quickly. The men were carrying bottles of gasoline and lighters and were threatening to self-immolate if they weren’t granted an audience with the Pope. Most of the people around me were Italian and took turns trying to talk to the protesting men but they were getting more and more upset with each person who tried to talk to them. At several points they launched into great, impassioned and clearly vitriolic diatribes. I don’t speak Italian but I understood the sound of true anguish in their voices. An Italian girl next to me, her hair in thick braids stuffed under a knitted hat, was trying to explain the situation to a tourist from Nebraska; speaking of mass corruption in the government and mass unemployment throughout the country. She said these men had lost their jobs and had no way to provide for their families; appealing to the Pope was in their minds a last resort. Things were turning worse now; the men hurled insults at Tom Jones who retreated back towards his official friends. New faces showed up amongst the small crowd, faces that looked well-versed in military operations. Policemen began cordoning off the area with little orange traffic cones and red and white tape. I looked around; they had cordoned off the whole square leaving us huddled inside. Camera crews from television stations had started to gather at the roadside outside the cordons with their cameras trained on the action. I looked back towards the basilica, thinking perhaps it might be a good idea to put some distance between me and the bottles of gasoline. Walking back towards the Swiss Guard I saw the tail end of the Changing of the Guard and stopped, undecided as to where I should go next. I turned around towards the square again. The crowds leaving the basilica were being funneled off to the left out of the way so I started towards them, but an official gent on my right smiled at me, removed a barrier rope and waved me through under the colonnades on the right. I smiled at him and obliged, climbing the steps not entirely sure where I was going. When I turned around to inquire, I was overrun by a flock of cardinals in purple sashes and caps. There were hordes of them, all moving en masse (pun not intended) in my general direction, accompanied by camera crews.

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At this point I gave up trying to make sense of things and started to giggle nervously, convinced I had wandered onto the set of a Terry Gilliam movie. I pulled out my camera and started snapping away merrily, chuckling like a maniac. This was just a little too weird, even by my standards. I had completely lost the plot. Many of the cardinals looked startled and scurried past without making eye contact, but some of the hipper cardinals beamed broadly at me and took me with them on their excursion through the columns and out the other side to some kind of enclosed courtyard patrolled by yet more Swiss Guard. Everyone hung around in a group swapping pleasantries and cardinal small talk …

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…until someone, somewhere, decided it was time for the cardinals to be elsewhere. Like a murmuration of starlings the cardinals turned as a man and flowed past the guards, fluttered through the courtyard and disappeared out of sight underneath a distant archway, leaving the camera crews, the Swiss Guard and me standing around in uncomfortable silence.

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I took one last look towards the vanishing cardinals and then turned to follow the camera crews but they had already gone. I turned to the Swiss Guard with a look of incredulity and bewilderment and threw my hands up in a gesture that I hoped would let them know I had no idea where to go next. I giggled again at the absurdity of it all, I couldn’t help myself.

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One of the guards obviously took pity on my plight, for he uncharacteristically cracked a smile (seriously, have you ever seen a Swiss Guard smile?) and pointed me in a direction. “Thanks” I waved awkwardly and shot off under the columns, ending up back in the square almost on top of the protesters again. Firefighters stood by with what looked like blankets ready to extinguish any flames that might arise. Something was about to happen, you could feel tension rising and energy seemed to coagulate in the air around the square. I felt small beads of sweat rise in prickles down the back of my neck and I wanted to be anywhere but here, but I stood transfixed like a stunned rabbit, unable to move, scarcely daring to breathe, waiting.

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My phone rang, shocking me back into action; it was my friend Karen who I was supposed to meet for dinner. “How was the Vatican?” she asked. “Umm, not what I expected,” I backed away from the firefighters and not-so-secret service agents who were moving in on the protesters. “Hang on, I’ve got to find a way out of here,” I ducked under some red and white tape and spotted an exit out of the square. Still on the phone, I pushed through a cluster of camera crews and out onto the road, throwing a quick glance back towards the protesters just in time to see the police make their move. In a matter of seconds the men were on the ground, then lifted and carried away by plain clothed officers. I breathed a sigh of relief; the thought of them setting themselves on fire was just too dreadful to imagine.

Twenty minutes later I was sitting in a little restaurant in Trastevere telling Karen all about the protests and Tom Jones and the cardinals as she listened in disbelief. It sounded unreal when I was telling her about it; in fact it still feels unreal as I write about it now. Over the next few days I scoured the newspapers and searched online for more information about what had happened, but found only one Reuters photo of one of the men being carried away, face down, by a small army of police, and two very short paragraphs about protesters claiming to be from the Pitchfork Movement (the Pitchfork Movement, which started in Sicily to protest rising taxes and funding cuts, distanced themselves from the protesters). I never heard what happened to them, never found out who the Tom Jones guy was and will never forget that Terry Gilliam moment when a murmuration of cardinals flocked my way.

Posted in Europe, Italy, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 50 Comments

Travel theme: Decoration

After my trip through Leavenworth‘s year round Christmas shop my thoughts are filled with all things decorative so I went looking through my photos to see what other embellished delights I could lay my hands on.

Bright red eggs make a pretty centrepiece for a traditional Greek Easter celebration. They also provide the ingredients for a great after-dinner game.

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Beautifully ornate Turkish pottery that I would have bought if it weren’t for the fact I had only an overstuffed backpack and it would have smashed for sure. Those colours just make me happy.

Turkey Turkish handthrown pottery dish bowl

Manhattan’s Upper West Side doesn’t pull any decorative punches on Hallowe’en; this dreadful creature was so lifelike it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in terror.

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Are you ready to adorn your post with decorative delights? If you would like to join in this week’s travel theme (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Decoration
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

xxx Ailsa

I try to decorate my imagination as much as I can. – Franz Schubert

Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.  – Charles M. Schulz

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , | 99 Comments

North Cascades Road Trip Pt 4 – Christmas in July

We drove south from Winthrop, stopping briefly in the tiny town of Twisp to grab a coffee and giggle at the ingeniously named “Cinnamon Twisp Bakery”. The rain which had hastened our departure from Winthrop caught up with us and sent us scurrying back on our way. The road wound us through the fertile Methow Valley, thick with orchards. Fruit-laden boughs overhung the roadway, heavy with apples, pears and peaches. The aroma of ripe fruit in the heat of the midday sun was intoxicating.

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Stacks of wooden crates teetered precariously by the side of the road, ready to be filled with the fruits of the approaching harvest.

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Our route followed the Methow River until it spilled into the mighty Columbia River. A heavy, black freight train thundered past us;. it felt out of place in this gentle part of the world with its lush orchards and verdant vineyards scrambling up hillsides.

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The storm was stalking us and along the Columbia it finally had its wicked way, lashing our car with so much water we had to slow almost to a complete halt because the windscreen wipers couldn’t keep up with the volume of water and visibility was almost nonexistent.   Violent shards of lightning spat from the heavens and then, just as suddenly as it had arrived, the storm moved on, leaving scarcely a trace behind save a few telltale raindrops on our car window.

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Around the southern shores of Lake Chelan and ever south along the Columbia, we watched the countryside dart by but didn’t dally as we still had a long way to go today. Just north of Wenatchee we turned west towards the mountains and started to climb higher. Not far along we turned off into the town of Cashmere because Jo wanted to visit the home of the Pacific Northwest sweet treats, Aplets and Cotlets. For the uninitiated, they are small, rectangular confections for all the world like Turkish Delight, but flavoured with apple and apricot, filled with chopped walnuts and dusted with powdered sugar.

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We ambled around the factory shop, indulging in far too many free samples and snapping up a few boxes on special offer to bring back as gifts. Naturally we made sure to get an extra box for us to nibble on as we headed back across the mountains. There was only one more stop left for us on our trip before we made the descent back into Western Washington. Nestled on the eastern side of Stevens Pass at an elevation of about 1100 feet, the little town of Leavenworth brings a little slice of Bavaria to the heart of the North Cascades.

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Leavenworth started life as a small logging community located right beside the tracks of the Great Northern Railway which was completed in 1893. The town’s streets ran parallel to the tracks and the Great North Railroad company set up their headquarters and a huge switching yard for trains right in the centre of town. Life and business flourished in this little community until the railroad moved their headquarters to Wenatchee in the 1920s, to the detriment of Leavenworth’s economy. Their economic woes were compounded by the closure of the switching yard, rendered obsolete by the construction of the Cascade Tunnel in 1929, the longest railroad tunnel in the US which is still in operation today (Amtrak’s Empire Builder coasts through this tunnel on its way to Seattle).

The town foundered; businesses closed, townsfolk moved away and the once thriving pioneer town looked destined to become just another ghost town. It might well have done so if it weren’t for a couple of residents who went on vacation to California. There, they visited the Danish community of Solvang, filled with Danish architecture, restaurants and businesses, boasting a replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue, and a bust of Hans Christian Andersen.

In 1962 a town meeting was called and the community decided to try turning Leavenworth into a tourist attraction. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains; they opted for a Bavarian theme and slowly transformed their logging town into a fully fledged alpine hamlet complete with Oktoberfest, yodeling and a Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market).

It’s a town-turned-theme park and although I am not a fan of theme parks, I have a soft spot for Leavenworth. It’s remarkably well done; cheesy in the best possible way and an awful lot of fun. If you’re going to create a faux alpine village, this is how it should be done. The streets are decked with flowers, walls adorned with murals and buildings given a ‘Tudorbethan’ overhaul.

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The pioneer street names remain but they have also adopted German names that appear on all the signposts.

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A ghost town no more; this gamble paid off big time. As we walked through town, crowds thronged the ‘Strassen’ and filled the local Espresso Haus, Cafe Mozart and Gingerbread Factory.

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What’s more, it appears to be just the tip of the “Eisberg”. As Jo and I explored the bustling streets we came across blocks and blocks of buildings under construction at the far end of town; a future extension to the main shopping and dining hub. I suspect this little town has got a very bright future and I, for one, applaud their ingenuity.

It was late afternoon when we arrived, so I made a beeline for the Nutcracker Museum (it has limited hours) and wandered in to admire an extraordinary collection of Nutcrackers dating from antiquity to the present. A giant soldier stood guard over glass cases filled to bursting with all kinds of delightful figures.

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There were thousands of them, all charming, but my favourites were a rather menacing Shakespeare nutcracker…

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…and a peculiar little nutcracker with a furry hat and boots that put me in mind of Attilla the Hun.

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Up the street from the museum we found the Kris Kringl shop; a store where it’s Christmas every day of the year.

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, kris kringl, christmas shop, toy village, nutcracker museum, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, kris kringl, christmas shop, reindeer ornament, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

Room upon room was filled with Christmas trees and decorations, Santas, elves, carousels, reindeer in ballet shoes, twinkling lights and train sets. An entire wall was given over to themed ornaments, each set given its own cubbyhole along the wall. New ornaments were being carefully staged by a dirndl-clad shop girl in the far corner.

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, kris kringl, christmas shop, toy village, nutcracker museum, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, kris kringl, christmas shop, toy village, nutcracker museum, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, kris kringl, christmas shop, toy village, nutcracker museum, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

 

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, kris kringl, christmas shop, toy village, nutcracker museum, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

Right at the very back, a dimly lit room housed elaborate model villages. Centre stage, a yuletide olde worlde New York City glittered and radiated Christmas cheer.

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, kris kringl, christmas shop, toy village, nutcracker museum, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

Off to the side I noticed an altogether spookier village with grimacing clowns and glowering pumpkins. The Kris Kringl store was obviously willing to diversify.

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, kris kringl, christmas shop, Halloween village, nutcracker museum, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

So atmospheric was the interior of the Kris Kringl shop that it was genuinely disorienting to wander back out into high summer when snowflakes and icicles would have been more in keeping with the ambiance. I have visited Leavenworth once before in the middle of winter and it is truly magical to walk through the town when it is dusted in snow and sparkling with Christmas lights.

As there was no snow to be found today, I opted to cool off with a rather unusual local offering, Umpqua Black Licorice ice cream. First, the brand name Umpqua is ridiculously fun to say. Second, the ice cream is a gloopy green-black mess; how could I resist?

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, Bavarian village, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney, umpqua black licorice ice cream

It was absolutely delicious; the herbal spiciness contrasted surprisingly well with the chilly creaminess of the ice cream. The only downside was that it left its mark, staining my lips a disconcerting grey-green that sent Jo into peals of laughter every time she looked at me. We wandered off the main drag to check out some of the residential buildings and Bavarian-style rooftops as I finished my ice cream and grabbed a bottle of water to try to return normal colour to my lips.

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north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, Bavarian village, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney, architecture

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, Bavarian village, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney, architecture

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, Bavarian village, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

On our walk back to the car, we found a giant knight in armour keeping watch over the Ritterhof Motor Inn…

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, Bavarian village, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney, Ritterhof

…and a bronze goat herd tending to his unruly goats clambering over rocks around a fountain outside the Festival Hall.

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, Bavarian village, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney, peter and his goats fountain

I have no doubt there was plenty more to explore around town but it was getting late and we had a long drive back to Seattle. Also, my lips were still strangely grey and I was getting worried looks from passing tourists, so was happy to escape their gaze and return to the relative privacy of our car. About a half an hour out of town we crested Stevens Pass and hit a bank of fog. Western Washington’s weather had thrown us a welcome home party.

north cascades loop, leavenworth, washington, Stevens Pass, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

As the fog grew thicker I put my camera away and Jo and I motored contentedly over the mountains, reminiscing about our recent adventures, munching on Aplets and Cotlets and giggling all the way back to Seattle. My lips had returned to normal by the time I got back, but the memories of our trip around the North Cascades Loop will stay with me forever.

Here is a little footage of our travels today.

xxx Ailsa

The Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum is open daily 2-5 pm May 1 to October 31 and on weekends only from November to April. Admission (at time of writing) is $2.50 for adults, $1 for students, under 5 free.

Posted in Photography, Travel, United States, Washington | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Travel theme: Twist

One of the things I loved most about my hikes around the Washington Pass area were the gnarled and twisted trees that populated the mountain tops, so I went looking for other swirly, twirly, bendy photos I’ve taken on my travels. The frothy, ribboned edges of Yellowstone‘s Emerald Pool was the first one that sprang to mind.

emerald pool, yellowstone national park, usa, america, road trip, travel, travelogue, photography, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Twisting ribbons around a giant maypole on May Day in Seattle.

may day, maypole. seattle, washington, travel, ailsa prideaux-mooney, photography

A long and winding road through Zion National Park.

zion national park road brown utah trip us usa america driving

A couple weave and twist around each other in a secret tango along Seattle‘s waterfront.

seattle, dance, waterfront, washington, travel, photography, ailsa prideaux-mooney

A serpentine bench in New York‘s Battery Park.

new york, battery park, bench, city, us, usa, america, travel, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Now it’s over to you for your twist on this week’s theme. If you would like to join in (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Twist
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

Happy Independence Day to my US pals.

xxx Ailsa

I believe in fairy tales. They are the basis of all our performance, of storytelling and filmmaking – when we twist the real events of the world into something that offers us hope – and I believe in that. – Charles Sturridge

In the context of general relativity, space almost is a substance. It can bend and twist and stretch, and probably the best way to think about space is to just kind of imagine a big piece of rubber that you can pull and twist and bend. – Alan Guth

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , | 110 Comments

North Cascades Road Trip Pt 3 – Driving in the Wild, Wild West

Jo and I were up early as sunlight flooded our campsite and the air filled with birdsong. The tantalizing aroma of coffee drifted across from a nearby campsite and I wished I had thought of bringing a flask – even a cold cup of coffee might have taken the edge off the stiffness that had settled into my arms and legs overnight. I was paying the price for my frenetic struggle up Sauk Mountain the day before. Following the scent of coffee to a neighbouring camp site I found an older couple and their black lab seated around a campfire. We exchanged pleasantries and the lady peered at me, concern ruffling her brow. “Oh dearie, the bugs got you good” she said in an accent straight out of the movie Fargo. My hand shot instinctively to my forehead which felt suspiciously hot and sure enough, there were great big welts where the evil flies of Sauk Mountain had dive-bombed me in their thousands. I smiled wanly and scuttled back to our campsite where Jo confirmed the worst, my forehead was a mass of bumps and hollows resembling the surface of the moon.

I pinched some ice from our cooler to soothe the bug bites and after a hurried breakfast of bagels torn apart and stuffed with cheese and cold boiled eggs, we set off on the road back to Washington Pass to take in the views during daylight. It was a glorious day and Liberty Bell towered majestically against blue skies.

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We followed the trail we had taken the previous evening, clambering over rocks, past twisted, gnarled, windswept trees…

ton

…to a stony plateau that gave us the most splendid view of the Liberty Bell massif. In my book, it ranks as one of the most breathtaking sights in all of Washington State. Mother Nature must have been awfully proud when she finished this particular masterpiece.

washington pass, liberty bell, north cascades loop, highway 20, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Back in the car, we drove east along highway 20, past our camp site to the head of the Rainy Lake Trail. It was the name that captivated my imagination and as I eased my aching muscles into action at the trail head, I hoped it wouldn’t turn out to be another bug-infested struggle up the side of a mountain; I really wanted something a little more mellow today. Thankfully, my wish was granted; this was a leisurely amble with zero gain in elevation. We drifted past waterfalls, through forests of crooked trees, bent out of shape by “snow creep”. This area gets heavy snowfall in winter and as the snow piles up at the bottom of the trees it forces them to grow in a graceful curve.

washington pass, liberty bell, north cascades loop, highway 20, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, rainy lake, snow creep

Suddenly the forest cleared and we were on the shores of the most pristine of alpine lakes, gleaming a glacial emerald green under the rays of the sun. Off in the distance the Rainy Lake waterfall thundered down the mountain and the sound of the crashing water was so loud we could hear it on the opposite shore.

washington pass, liberty bell, north cascades loop, highway 20, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, rainy lake

We stayed gazing at the sparkling water for a few blissful minutes before a crowd of people descended on the shoreline and the silence was broken. This is a busy trail and we were lucky to have had it to ourselves for even a few minutes. It was time to push on, and I was desperately craving coffee.

I was expecting to have to wait until we reached Winthrop to get my caffeine fix so it came as a pleasant surprise when we dipped down into the Methow Valley and came across the tiny town of Mazama.

highway 20 coffee, mazama, washington, north cascades loop, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

This little town started out as a departure point for mining towns in the Harts Pass area, and was originally called Goat Creek after a nearby creek. In keeping with its goat-ish origins, its current name, Mazama, is an obsolete name for ‘mountain goat’. We made a beeline for the Mazama Store which seemed to be bustling with customers, always a good sign. Inside, we found mounds of freshly baked pastries and the most amazing array of coffees. I was in heaven.

highway 20 coffee, mazama, washington, north cascades loop, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

One blackberry-peach tart and several strong cups of mighty fine organic Highway 20 house blend later, Jo and I were two happy campers ready to take on the world. Or at least the next part of our road trip. We drove further eastward, and further back in time, back to the days of the Old West and an ex-mining town called Winthrop.

winthrop, methow valley, north cascades loop, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

The gold mining boom times of the 1890s had long since vanished and been replaced by agriculture in Winthrop, but then along came the North Cascades Highway and changed everything. A rough pioneer road was completed in 1968; the highway was officially opened in 1972 and that meant droves of tourists would  now travel through Winthrop on their way around the North Cascades Loop. Locals started to realize that whilst their gold mining days were over, there was plenty of gold still to be had in them there tourists, so they gave the town a Wild West makeover and the rest, as they say, is history.

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winthrop, methow valley, north cascades loop, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

winthrop, methow valley, north cascades loop, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, dance hall, wild west

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winthrop, methow valley, north cascades loop, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

After wandering along wooden sidewalks, past hitching posts, saloons and dance halls, we stumbled upon the Shafer Museum, filled with memories and memorabilia of a bygone era.

winthrop, methow valley, north cascades loop, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

winthrop, methow valley, north cascades loop, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

winthrop, methow valley, north cascades loop, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, vintage car

Just as we were finishing up, there was a massive thunderclap and thick drops of rain started to thump down. We scurried to the car and bid Winthrop a hasty farewell as we continued along the North Cascade Loop.

washington pass, liberty bell, north cascades loop, highway 20, washington, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney, methow valley

Lightning blazed as we left town and drove over a bridge across the Methow River. It felt like we’d had a full day’s worth of adventures already, but we weren’t even halfway there.

(to be continued…)

Here’s a short video of our travels today.

xxx Ailsa

 

Posted in Photography, Travel, United States, Washington | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Travel theme: World Cups

Has anyone else been following the World Cup? It’s been pretty eventful so far and now the competition is getting hotter. I’ve been looking at other world cups I’ve encountered on my travels. First up, a wonderful mural in Philadelphia, featuring a hand cupping the word ‘family’.

mural, philadelphia, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Then there was this great cup of coffee I had in Rome on Valentine’s Day, made even more special by a flirty Italian waiter and a little bit of espresso art.

coffee, caffe latte, italian coffee, Rome, Italy, photography, travel, travelogue, Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney

These funky egg cups found in the Rock Stop in Utah.

marble, stone, mineral, votives, utah, rock stop, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Last but not least, looking up at the cupola (hey, it’s cup-shaped and has cup in the name!) from beneath the baldachin in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.

st peter's basilica, st. peter's dome, cupola, baldachin, vatican city, travel, rome, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Look at all those cups and not a football in sight! How many more cups or cup-shaped things are out there? If you would like to join in this week’s travel theme (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: World Cups
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé!

xxx Ailsa

Life’s enchanted cup sparkles near the brim. – Lord Byron

You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me. – C. S. Lewis

 

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , | 118 Comments

Travel theme: Shine

It is hot, hot, hot and with the summer solstice just around the corner in the northern hemisphere, the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are truly here. The sun is shining and so is this week’s theme. To start off, here are some giant shiny Christmas ornaments in midtown Manhattan.

new york, xmas, christmas, travel, travelogue, manhattan, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Railroad tracks shining in the sunset during a quick break on the Empire Builder.

empire builder, amtrak, train tracks, sunset, travel,  travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Check out the gleam of that paint finish. A rare sighting of a rare beauty; there are only 150 ‘Kissel Kars’ known to exist today. I spotted this one getting ready to hit the road in a vintage car rally in Wisconsin.

road trip, wisconsin, kissel kar, vintage car, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Hidden in a Seattle neighbourhood, there’s a rather special tree called the Holiday Tree which changes not just with the season but with the holiday. Here it is shining out in all its Valentine’s Day glory.

seattle, washington, valentine's day, holiday tree, phinney ridge, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

High noon over one of my favourite places on the planet, the awe-inspiring Zion National Park.

zion national park, utah, red rock canyon, us road trip, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

I hope you take a shine to this week’s theme. If you would like to join in (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Shine
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

Shine on!

xxx Ailsa

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within. – Elizabeth Kubler Ross

An age is called ‘dark’ not because the light fails to shine but because people refuse to see it. – James Michener

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 129 Comments