Travel theme: Edge

I didn’t get enough sleep last night and am a little on edge, so I’m funneling my edginess into this week’s travel theme. Here are a few edgy moments I’ve encountered along the way.

The edge of Croton Dam where the water starts to tumble over the spillway.

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Looking over the edge of a speedboat on Lake Atitlán, I caught a little of the boat’s spray in the bottom of the frame.

atitlan1

Sun peeps over the edge of a slot canyon in Zion National Park.

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Vibrant colours trace the edge of a sulphur waterfall in Yellowstone National Park.

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Hopefully this week’s theme has got you on the edge of your seat. If you would like to join in with your own interpretation (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Edge
  • 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

We live at the edge of the miraculous. – Henry Miller

Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty. – Jacob Bronowski

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 120 Comments

21 Great Day Trips from Seattle

When I wrote my guide of free things to do in Seattle’s Pike Place Market earlier this year, I got a couple of requests to write an article about day trips from Seattle, including destinations within reach of public transport.

The first ten trips I’ve chosen are easily accessible using public transit – check out Sound Transit’s handy trip planner here for routes and schedules, and WSDOT’s site here for ferry information. Amtrak trains run from Seattle to several of these destinations and cheap and cheerful Bolt buses run regularly to and from Vancouver, British Columbia up north and Portland, Oregon down south.

Without further ado, here are my picks for top 21 day trips from Seattle.

1. Tacoma

Head down south of Seattle to walk across the Chihuly Bridge of Glass and visit the Tacoma Museum of Glass and Tacoma Art Museum. If you’re a history buff don’t miss the Washington State History Museum. Just over 33 miles south of Seattle, this is a short, sweet trip by car, bus or train.

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2. Olympia

Keep going south to visit Washington State’s capital. Take a free guided tour of the State Legislative Buildings (on the hour from 10am to 3pm Mon – Fri, weekends from 11am to 3pm). Then check out the wealth of murals and public art installations that are dotted around nearby waterfront park, Percival Landing. A little over 60 miles from Seattle, this is another easy day trip by car, bus or train.

3. Portland

Bookworms will find nirvana in the aisles of Powell’s City of Books (1005 W Burnside St), foodies will freak at the cornucopia of culinary delights on offer at the city’s 500+ food carts (Portland Food Carts) and nature lovers can hike through 5,000 acres of urban forest in Forest Park, the US’s largest forest located within a city. At a hair over 170 miles south of Seattle, it’s a fantastic day trip if you leave early. Driving is a straight shot down 1-5, on public transport Bolt Bus is a cheap, reliable option. Amtrak is another alternative, more expensive but the trip is wonderfully scenic as the track meanders along the coastline much of the way.

4. Edmonds

Going north this time, the seaside town of Edmonds is one of my favourite short hops from Seattle. Hanging flower baskets and vintage street lamps add charm to the main streets which fan out from a central fountain. Browse through eclectic boutiques and galleries, enjoy great coffee at a sidewalk cafe or sit in the sand and watch the waves roll in and the ferries drift back and forth at Brackett’s Landing. Edmonds is a mere 17 miles from Seattle and easily accessible by public transport (bus mostly, limited schedule on Sounder Train and Amtrak) as well as by car.

5. Vancouver BC

Embrace your inner globetrotter and travel to a whole new country and back again in a single day. Explore historic Gastown, wander through Stanley Park and take a water taxi to Granville Island for an amazing view of the city. Vancouver is an easy drive along 1-5 which takes about 3.5 hours each way (depending upon lines at border control). If you don’t fancy driving, Amtrak and Bolt bus both go there too. Remember to bring your passport.

6. Bainbridge Island and the Bloedel Reserve

The Washington State Ferry trip over to Bainbridge Island is worth doing for the view alone; you’ll be treated to a stunning panorama of the Seattle skyline. While you’re over there, however, a short drive or a quick bus ride will bring you to the Bloedel Reserve which is a study in tranquility and a gorgeous escape from the city.

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7. Vashon Island

I adore the laid-back feel of this little island which is just a short ferry ride from West Seattle’s Fauntleroy ferry terminal or from Pier 50 in downtown Seattle (commuter – foot ferry only). Measuring only 13 miles from north to south, with a maximum width of 8 miles, this is a great spot to hop on a bike and go exploring, but there’s also a bus that runs the length of the island. A haven for artists, there are plenty of galleries to browse, as well as lavender farms to visit, free-range eggs to buy and beaches to explore. My favourite spot is Quartermaster Harbor right by the sleepy little village of Burton (it has a great little coffee stand!) and Point Robinson Park and Lighthouse is worth checking out too.

8. Issaquah

Just 16 miles east of Seattle along 1-90, easy to reach by car or bus,  Issaquah is a wonderful mix of trendy restaurants, galleries, boutiques and watering holes in a stunning setting, surrounded on three sides by the “Issaquah Alps” – Cougar, Tiger and  Squak Mountains. While you’re there, check out the Salmon Hatchery at 125 West Sunset Way and the Historic Train Museum at 50 Rainier Blvd. North. Travel back to the 1950s with a stop at the retro Triple X drive in restaurant.

9. Woodinville

Otherwise known as Woodinville Wine Country, just 30 minutes from downtown Seattle by car and a great spot to learn about the process of wine making or stock up on premium Washington wines. You can get there by bus too (about 1.5 hours each way) but if you want to visit more than one vineyard (winery) you might be better checking with your hotel concierge or calling the Washington State Travel hotline 1-800-544-1800 for a wine tour.

10. Bellevue

A short hop by bus or car eastwards across Lake Union will get you to the heart of downtown Bellevue. Definitely worth visiting while you’re in town are the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, 53 acres of fuchsia, rhododendron, native, Japanese and rock gardens (make sure you walk over the suspension bridge!); entry is free, open from dusk to dawn year round. Also check out Bellevue Arts Museum, open Tues – Sun 11am – 6pm. The first Friday of every month admission is waived.

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Destinations 11 to 21 are more suitable for days when you have access to a car, but there are several tour companies that offer day trips via minivan, coach, boat, airplane and even floatplane to some of them. To explore what day trips are on offer when you visit, drop into Seattle’s downtown Visitor Center/Concierge Services on the lobby level of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center on Pike Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. Summer hours  (Memorial Day to Labor Day) 9am to 6pm Mon – Fri and 9am to 5pm on weekends. Winter hours 9am to 5pm Mon – Fri. Phone 206-461-5888. Another great resource is the Washington State Travel hotline 1-800-544-1800 staffed by travel advisors from 8am to 5pm Mon – Fri. (All times are PST.)

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11. Victoria BC

Another sashay into foreign climes; this time the capital city of British Columbia located on the southeast coast of Vancouver Island. Marvel at the exquisite Butchart Gardens, explore Craigdarroch Castle, stroll along the harbour and stop for traditional afternoon tea at the Empress hotel. Kenmore Air run regular flights from Seattle’s Lake Union. Clipper Vacations operate a ferry service from Pier 69 in downtown Seattle; WA State Ferries run from Anacortes, other ferry services available from Port Angeles.

12. Mount Rainier

John Muir wrote of Mount Rainier: “Of all the fire mountains which like beacons once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.” If you have a day to spare, a trip to Mount Rainier will not disappoint – all the better if you can spend even longer exploring this stunning national park. Depending upon which entrance you choose, it’ll take between 2 to 3 hours from downtown Seattle to be wandering around this little slice of paradise. If you don’t have a car, check out local tour offerings, there are usually day trips to Rainier on offer.

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13. Snoqualmie Falls

Just 25 miles east of Seattle along 1-90 you’ll find a thundering 270 foot waterfall that will take your breath away and some gorgeous hiking trails. At night the falls are lit up by the nearby Salish Lodge. This is also the spot where Twin Peaks was filmed. Before you go, read up on the Legend of Snoqual – and when you’re there pick up some Snoqualmie Falls Pancake and Waffle Mix – you will thank me for it later! Easy to reach by car; there are also tour companies that run day trips from Seattle.

14. La Conner

Charming at any time of year, this pretty little community comes into its own in springtime during the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. If you go, stop by the Dirty Biter statue to meet the town’s most beloved dog.

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15. San Juan Islands

You’re not going to get to all of the islands in this archipelago – there’s 172 of them! However, you can get a taste of island life on a trip out of Seattle. There’s a 45 minute flight from Seattle’s Lake Union and Boeing Field with Kenmore Air, by sea try the Victoria Clipper ferry from downtown Seattle, and if you have a car, drive north to Anacortes, leave your car and walk onto the Washington State Ferry which serves four of the islands – Orcas, San Juan, Lopez and Shaw. During the crossing, keep your eyes peeled for the local orca whales. Grey, humpback and minke whales have been known to make an appearance too, along with a wealth of other marine life like seals, otters, sea lions and porpoises. To get around and explore the stunning scenery, you can rent a bike on Orcas, San Juan and Lopez, or rent a moped or car on Orcas or San Juan.

16. Mount St Helens

Mount Rainier’s turbulent neighbour, this volcano erupted with tragic consequences on May 18th 1980. Since then it has been granted the status of protected national monument and left to return to its natural state. A three hour drive from Seattle will get you up close and personal with the mountain at the Johnston Ridge Observatory Visitor Center – accessible from the entrance on the west side of the monument. If you’re not easily spooked by heights try the hike around Devil’s Elbow. As with Mount Rainier, you can visit on a day trip but all the better if you have more time to dedicate to this incredible area. The southern and eastern approaches to the volcano give you entirely different perspectives and landscapes.

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17. Gig Harbor

Just across the Narrows Bridge from Tacoma lies the prettiest of waterfront cities with a picturesque harbour and delightful waterfront populated with shops, galleries and restaurants. Explore Gig Harbor’s maritime and shipbuilding heritage at the historic Eddon Boatyard and the Harbor History Museum, then go crazy on seafood at local restaurants with some of the tastiest seafood chowder, fish and chips and freshly shucked oysters anywhere.

18. Whidbey Island

Miles of beaches and acres of unspoilt scenery are just part of Whidbey Island‘s charm. Explore the little town of Coupeville in the heart of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, try their famous Penn Cove Mussels, go bird watching year round. The island can be reached by a short ferry ride from Mukilteo, about 26 miles north of Seattle, but it can also be reached by car by driving north on I-5 to Burlington, then turning westbound onto WA State Route 20, which takes you right through Deception Pass State Park. Deception Pass is definitely worth seeing, so if you take the ferry on the way there, come back via the pass.

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19. Olympic Peninsula

Pristine lakes, windswept beaches, snow-capped mountain peaks, tumultuous waterfalls, humid rain forests, Olympic National Park is home to the most extraordinarily diverse ecosystems. One day is nowhere near enough time to explore all that this peninsula has to offer, but if you take the car ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge and drive north across the Hood Canal Floating Bridge you can be exploring your own little part of the Olympics in about 3 hours. Vampire lovers might want to stop in Forks where Stephenie Meyer based her Twilight stories.

20. Leavenworth

The faux Alpine village where it’s Christmas every day of the year. Leavenworth is a ridiculous amount of German-themed fun in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, complete with pretzels, men in Lederhosen, yodeling and an Oktoberfest. It’s between 2 to 3 hours by car each way, depending upon the route you choose, and bus tours are also available.

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21. North Cascades National Park

One of the least visited national parks, North Cascades National Park is fee-free and only two hours from the centre of Seattle so if you have some free time and a yearning for mountain air, head north on 1-5 to Burlington, then take State Route 20 eastbound. In just two hours time you will have reached the heart of the American Alps.  The road through the park is not very long, but make sure you travel right through and out the other side as far as Washington Pass before turning back, because this is where you will see the most iconic view in all of Washington State – the mighty Liberty Bell.

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That should keep you busy. Happy travels.

 

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

Travel theme: Orange

Summer seems to have fizzled out like a damp squid where I am, and to make matters worse, some of the stores have started carrying Christmas stock. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of yuletide cheer as much as the next person, but in August?  To counteract this overhasty exodus of summer I am attempting to heat things up with a sharp injection of spicy colour. Orange is hot and tropical but it is also the colour of fall. It energizes, stimulating creativity and symbolizing joy, love and purity but it also polarizes. Most people have a very strong reaction to the colour, they either love it or hate it, but there are so many different hues, from rust and terracotta to apricot and peach, there’s an orange for everyone to love. Here are a few oranges I’ve found along the way.

A levitating street performer on the streets of Rome dazzled in silky orange robes.

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Sizzling sunset along the California coast.

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A very New York Hallowe’en.

pumpkinpile

A piece of the Berlin Wall that ended up in the heart of Manhattan.

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Did you know that up until the fifteenth century there was no word in English for the colour orange? It was simply referred to as red-yellow. Whatever you call it, amber, saffron, tangerine, flame or persimmon, are you ready with your fifty shades of orange? 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: Orange
  • 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

Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow. – Wassily Kandinsky

Orange is the happiest color. – Frank Sinatra

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 162 Comments

Travel theme – Horizons

Seeing as I just left you in Kilmore Quay, gazing at the horizon, I thought that might be an interesting theme for this week because horizons are fun to play with. Putting the horizon high up in the frame of your photograph draws attention to the foreground like in this shot of Yellowstone Park

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… and this shot of the Far Rockaways.

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A high horizon also enhances the sense of distance in this photo taken from Alki Beach.

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Placing the horizon low in the picture frame is great for dramatic sunsets.

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It’s supposed to be against “the rules” to put the horizon in the centre of the frame, but it can work if you’ve got a reflection going on like this shot of the Roman Forum

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..and anyway, sometimes it’s just fun to break the rules because you feel like it.

foggy arches national park girl umbrella monsoon season utah

Are you ready to get horizontal? ;) 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: Horizons
  • 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

Life rarely presents fully finished photographs. An image evolves, often from a single strand of visual interest – a distant horizon, a moment of light, a held expression. – Sam Abell

Between two worlds life hovers like a star, twixt night and morn, on the horizon’s verge. – Lord Byron

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , | 173 Comments

Kilmore Quay

Kilmore Quay on the south coast of Ireland is everything you might imagine a fishing village to be. It is the kind of place where nautical themes abound…

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…where brilliant blues cosy up beside sparkling whites…

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…a place where dogs take themselves for walks.

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The village starts atop a hill; the road lined with pretty little thatched cottages.

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Up close, the thatch on the rooftops is surprisingly thick. It must weigh a tonne, especially when it gets wet, but I bet it provides a great home to a large range of wee beasties.

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Following the main street down to the coast I found a small marina, its turquoise waters busy with colourful fishing boats.

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Although it was sunny, the winds were bracingly strong and there were no boats out fishing. This stretch of water can be deceptively wild. Lobster pots were stacked high against the marina walls waiting for their next excursion.

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The Saltee Islands lie just a few miles out to sea and are home to all kinds of birds and marine life. Puffins, dolphins, whales and seals abound in this natural wonderland. Both islands are privately owned and the larger of the two is accessible to the public during the day. The water was too treacherous to make a boat trip across to the islands so that will have to wait until the next time I visit. Instead, I settled for a big bag of piping hot chips liberally doused in salt and vinegar, and savoured every last crispy golden morsel sitting on the shore watching the waves roll in with the Saltees floating just out of reach on the horizon.

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Posted in Europe, Ireland, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Travel theme: Endearing

Bernini’s stumpy little elephant won its way into my heart not for its beauty but because it was so irresistibly endearing. I am a sucker for things that make your heart skip a beat and fill you with good will. Here are a few more endearing encounters that have made me smile. First up, a memorial to a well-loved dog with a crooked jaw named Dirty Biter.

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Life in the Big Apple can get pretty hectic and sometimes a stroll through Central Park is just what the doctor ordered. On my way from the Upper East to Upper West Side I cut through the park for an escape from the city and look who popped out to say hello and follow me around for about 20 minutes. Needless to say, I forgot all about where I was going and settled for a little bit of raccoon watching instead.

raccoon central park

I love seeing a community come out to play; you can tell so much about a neighbourhood by the types of events they embrace. When I visited Seattle’s Georgetown it was love at first sight – how can you not adore a group of people who hold onto their worn out electrical appliances and repurpose them to take part in their annual Power Tool Drag Races?

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Are you ready to charm, delight and captivate? 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: Endearing
  • 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

It is not beauty that endears, it’s love that makes us see beauty. – Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

The universe is but one great city, full of beloved ones divine and human, by nature endeared to each other. – Epictetus

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , | 89 Comments

Bernini’s Little Elephant

You don’t have to look far to find Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s legacy in Rome. Evidence of his genius is everywhere, from the fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps to the sculptures in the Chigi chapel and the Ponte Sant’Angelo. His sculptures of popes, cherubs and mythological figures brim with vigour and passion, but my absolute favourite of his sculptures is much more low key. Tucked in neatly behind the Pantheon there is a gem of a Gothic church called Santa Maria sopra Minerva (St. Mary above Minerva). The name comes from the location; it was built in 1280 over the site of a temple to Minerva. The church itself houses a wealth of extraordinary art but my heart broke into a million tiny pieces at the sight of Bernini’s little elephant standing at the bottom of the obelisk in the piazza outside.

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Officially known as Elephant and Obelisk, it was commissioned by Pope Alexander VII when an obelisk was discovered in the garden of the adjacent Dominican monastery in 1665. Not only was the church built above a temple to Minerva; it would appear the temple to Minerva was built above or near an Iseum, an Egyptian-inspired cult worshipping the goddesses Isis and Serapis.For some reason the pope wanted the obelisk displayed in the piazza and called for architects to submit designs for the base of the obelisk.

One of those submitting a design was a Dominican priest by the name of Father Domenico Paglia. His design was rejected in favour of Bernini’s elephant. When Bernini’s design was unveiled, Father Paglia, perhaps still smarting from his rejection, raised concerns about the stability and Bernini was forced to place a supporting block underneath the elephant’s torso. Bernini tried to obscure the block by adding the ornate saddle with tassels that hung down low but that made the elephant look squat and dumpy and he was never happy with the end result. It was said that he would avert his gaze when he passed by, and he omitted it from the list of his life’s work. Local Romans wasted no time making fun of the stocky little elephant, christening it Porcino della Minerva (Minerva’s piglet). Over the years it has morphed into Pulcino della Minerva (Minerva’s chick) – which it is still affectionately referred to as today.

A striking feature of the sculpture is the elephant’s head, turned quite markedly away from the church, leading some to speculate upon its meaning. It was here in 1633 that Galileo Galilei was summoned, held and interrogated by the infamous Inquisition in the adjacent Dominican monastery and forced to recant. There are those who believe the elephant’s shunning of the church was Bernini’s way of condemning their treatment of Galileo.

Bernini did manage to get his own back on the meddling Dominican priest. The statue is placed carefully in the Piazza della Minerva with its rear end facing the Dominican monastery. The elephant’s tail is shifted ever so delicately to the left, so every time Father Paglia exited the monastery, he was greeted with a very clear view of the elephant’s nether regions.

bernini, rome, italy, baby elephant, obelisk, santa maria sopra minerva, minerva's chick, sculpture, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

Posted in Europe, Italy, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Travel theme: Simplify

The first week of August is Simplify Your Life week, and it’s always good to be reminded that life doesn’t have to be so complicated. With a nod to the week that’s in it, I just got through re-reading Henry David Thoreau’s study on simple living, Walden. (It’s available free on Wikisource here.) When I first though about using Simplify for the travel theme, my mind flew to this photo taken along Salmon La Sac Creek in the North Cascades – how better to simplify your life than to spend quality time doing something you love with your best friend?

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Another method of simplifying is to embrace minimalism. It doesn’t get much more minimalistic or more beautiful than a Zen garden like this one at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

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One of the easiest ways to simplify is to eliminate distractions and that works for photography too. A single subject can make for a pleasing composition.

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white water lily international women's day

The main goal of simplifying your life is to rid yourself of the inessential in order to make room for what is important to you. I’m working on creating space to do more writing so am carving out chunks of time with no tv or radio to distract and no phone or email to interrupt. What would you do with more space and time? 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: Simplify
  • 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 ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. – Hans Hoffman

Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify. – Henry David Thoreau

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Travel Themes | Tagged , , , , , , | 122 Comments

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

 

 

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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 , , , , , , , | 22 Comments