Travel Theme: Sensory

This week, the travel theme at Where’s My Backpack? is: Sensory!

OK, look. There’s a part of me that wants to make crap jokes asking “are you ready to be stimulated?” *tee hee* but then I think, what am I, twelve? My struggle is real. Onward to maturity! Here’s to our senses, and please enjoy the ride.

Paris. There are small ponds in the park that surrounds the Eiffel Tower. If you lean over the railing and look straight down from one of the upper observation decks, you can see them for yourself. And it’s a little disconcerting. Note: if you have vertigo, perhaps you should avoid this exercise.

Watch that first step. It's a doozy.

Watch that first step. It’s a doozy.

There’s something profoundly invigorating about getting on a boat. At least there is for me. When I’m on the water and the smell of the salty air hits me, and boat’s engine roars to life and we are seaward bound, and the wind whips my hair around my face, I feel everything come alive. I think I was a sailor in a past life.

See you later, Boston.

See you later, Boston.

Welcome to the Day-Glo Garden at the Great Lakes Science Center. Fun fact: I totally want to build an inner sanctum that looks like this. With a killer stereo system and all the streamable TV I want. Because really, this is what things look like inside my brain most of the time. Hashtag when I am a millionaire.

The only thing this is missing is are tiny sparkly pixies.

The only thing this is missing are tiny sparkly pixies.

When in Rome

Go to the Jewish ghetto, find a nice place to eat with sunny, pleasant outdoor seating and, if the fried artichokes are in season, eat them. When you go inside to use the restroom, prepare yourself for the smell of garlic wafting down from the rows and rows of corded bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

 

I had no idea what I was walking into.

And nary a vampire to be found. Savvy.

Behold! Music is just moments away with this handy-dandy travelling turntable and a trusty guitar. Photo taken at an Ellis Paul concert. Who I need to go see again, soon, but I digress.

Looks like the party's about to start.

Looks like someone has the party well in hand.

And finally.

My place. Black bean burgers with cilantro pesto on a bed of shredded sweet potatoes. It was delicious. My mouth is watering at this photo: Paging Dr. Pavlov!

I like vegetables. That is all.

Therein lies my sensory challenge. I hope you have fun checking out the other participants in this week’s photo challenge. Thanks for dropping by!

Travel Theme: Letters

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa invites to look at letters.

So let’s look at letters.

I can’t read it, but it’s letters for someone. The tattered remains of an ancient scroll written in hieroglyphics. Seen at Boston’s beautiful Museum of Fine Arts.

Don’t ask me what it says, I don’t remember. And I can’t read it. But it looks super-cool, doesn’t it?

Chef Boyardee was, in fact, a real live person. Hector Boiardi emigrated to the US, became a chef, began marketing his sauce and–as one thing leads to another–eventually had so much demand he needed his own factory. Hector Boiardi built said factory in the fertile, tomato-crop-growing lands of Milton, PA, just a few short miles from my home. It has since been bought out by a larger food company (which shall remain nameless) but the iconic smokestack–and the surrounding tomato fields–remain.

He's real, people.

He’s real, people.

As seen in Skaneateles, NY. ’nuff said.

Ham, sweet ham. HOME! HOME!

Ham, sweet ham. HOME! HOME! I mean HOME!

If you ever wanted to read a collection of poetry by Nobel Prize-winning author Pablo Neruda–translated into Russian–here’s your chance. It’s even prettier when it’s written in Cyrillic.

A little light reading (and a kind of creepy doll) before bed, anyone?

A little light reading (and a kind of creepy doll) to send you off to dreamland, anyone?

And recently, I went on a nighttime river cruise on the Hiawatha, an event-and-rentable (party) boat on the mighty Susquehanna River. Here’s the recently-risen moon, shining on the tiara of letters that spell the boat’s name.

Nice night for a cruise.

Nice night for a cruise.

That’s it, for now, for letters. I hope you enjoyed them! Or even want to play along yourself… 🙂 Happy shutterbugging!

Travel Theme: Details

Ailsa has issued this week’s photo challenge at Where’s My Backpack?, and this week, the devil is in the details. 

Like this one, close to my home. This weekend we get to feast our eyes on a ton of ice sculpture for the annual Lewisburg Ice Festival. (Bonus! It’s neither unseasonably warm nor raining, so the sculptures will make it through the festival, so long as the weather lasts.) I love this little walrus guy, and his detailed whisker holes and scary walrus tusks. 

I am he as you are he as you are me. Or something like that.

I am he as you are he as you are me. Or something like that.

Next stop: Venice! We were at a glassblower’s shop on Murano Island. The artist was showing off his mad glassblowing skills (which were prodigious), but every so often, you have to look elsewhere. I liked this schematic for an upcoming art glass project. 

There's a lot of fire in that hole.

There’s a lot of fire in that hole.

Heading home…and I mean, really, heading home from Italy, we were starting to descend and I realized we were flying right over Long Island. Which, might I say, is really long. And is made up of a lot of barrier channels and quirky little islands, like this one. I had no idea, until I saw it from above.

Greetings from New York. Now go home.

Greetings from New York. Now go home.

While we’re in New York…

…New York State, that is…

…let’s make a stop at Dr. Frank’s winery, on Keuka Lake. The wine? Delicious. The view? Gorgeous? But the little grape cluster cut crystals that comprise the body of the chandeliers in their tasting room? Swoon-worthy.

Want.

Want.

And finally, we end with a visit to my beloved Boston. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has some extraordinary exhibits, but their musical instruments room is exceptional. Here’s a close-up of a hand-worked guitar inlaid with a salacious amount of mother-of-pearl. And check out the carving in the sound hole. Crazy!

What? Like making this was hard?

What? Like making this was hard?

That’s it for now. Enjoy the photo challenges, everyone! See you around Ailsa’s page. 

Travel Theme: Golden

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is “golden”. Groovy! I don’t have much time to be chatty today, so let’s get to it, shall we?

First stop: close to home. Beautiful Lewisburg, PA, where the trees put on quite the seasonal display and turn a stunning shade of gold in autumn.

It's kind of spectacular here in the fall.

It’s kind of spectacular here in the fall.

These Italian fig bundles look like little golden dessert ravioli. Stuffed with figs. They’re like a dream come true.

IMG_0062

Bask in their golden aura!

 

And speaking of Italy…here’s a cozy little street in Florence that turns golden once the sun starts to set and the lights come on.

I want to live here. That is all.

I want to live here. That is all.

Relax during the holidays! Be like Buddha, in perfect tranquility in a lotus flower. As seen at the MFA in Boston.

I feel all zen and groovy.

I feel all zen and groovy.

And finally…here is a sunrise that’s about as golden as it gets. Taken at North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It’s one heck of a way to start the day.

Nature is so effortlessly beautiful.

Nature is so effortlessly beautiful.

This was a great challenge for me to do. It’s been an opaque gray here for about a week; I’ve been starved of brightness. (No, wait. There was one notable hour of sunlight; we were all so happy to see it we made sure our friends and neighbors checked out that strange fiery sky orb, but I digress.) I hope you enjoyed the photos! Or, of course, you’d be more than welcome to participate. See you ’round the internets.

XOXO

Travel Theme: Round

The travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is “round”, and oh, how do you narrow that down? It’s so open to interpretation, so full of possibilities. There are lots of things in this world that are round. Where to begin?

Oh, OK. We just got back from a trip to Boston, and I had my camera working overtime for a few days. So. Any picture I use today will be from a trip to my northern home away from home.

While wandering around Boston Common, we walked behind the Frog Pond, the area that is the site of the winter skating rink and the summer carousel and reflecting pool. It’s no longer winter so the rink is empty. The carousel, not quite set up, has been broken out of its winter coverings.

Stacked, dismantled merry-go-round parts aren't nearly as much fun as the real thing.

Stacked, dismantled merry-go-round parts aren’t nearly as much fun as the real thing. But they look cool.

Also on the Common…spring finally approaches! It was strangely exciting to be in a city at the exact weekend that the seasons were changing. I looked up the path I had walked to my hotel just the day before and suddenly, there were puffy pink buds over my head. I have no idea what sort of buds they are and I’m willing to learn. But. Yay! Finally! It was a long, cold winter here in the northeast. I’m not alone in saying I’m glad it’s changing.

Hey, Bud.

Hey, Bud.

Meanwhile, on Beacon Hill… We were wandering the streets of Beacon Hill looking for interesting things–it’s a neighborhood I don’t know very well, but will absolutely visit more often, as it is a fascinating blend of wealthy and quirky–when this gorgeous bit of iron grillwork over someone’s front door caught my eye. I love the combination of rigidity and soft shapes.

No, I didn't crop this photo. The front of the building was washed out in a blast of afternoon sun, but the door and accompanying grillwork were recessed and in photo-friendly shadow.

No, I didn’t crop this photo. The front of the building was washed out in a blast of afternoon sun, but the door and accompanying grillwork were recessed and in photo-friendly shadow.

While wandering among the open-air vendors along Faneuil Hall and the Quincy Market, I came upon a cart that sells sparkly whirligigs. I have no interest in owning one. But they sure looked pretty, flashing together in the sun that day.

Oooooh...shiiiiny...

Oooooh…shiiiiny…

Also at Quincy Market, a light pole full of the roundest, bubbliest, grooviest street lights around.

Bubbles! Bubbles bubbles bubbles bubbles!

Bubbllllllles! Bubbles bubbles bubbles bubbles!

And finally…

This building sits just behind the (currently closed) Government Station T-stop, and I’ve always loved the architecture, how this building makes that wide, smooth arc, like it’s some kind of castle or something. On this day, partly because of the lighting and partly because of my ever-growing nerdery, this building particularly reminded me of the opening credits to Game of Thrones, where the buildings all move together like cogs in the giant Lannister machine.

"A mad man sees what he sees." -- GRR Martin, A Game of Thrones

“A mad man sees what he sees.” — GRR Martin, A Game of Thrones

*stands around waiting for someone to punch her nerd cred certification sheet*

And so, that’s it for me. Enjoy checking out the rest of Ailsa’s travel theme participants!

Here’s the GoT credits to play on your way out.

A Word A Week Challenge: Sign

I’m going to keep this one brief, since the city is calling, it’s (finally!) a beautiful day, and I’ve got an itchy camera finger. But. In response to this week’s A Word A Week Challenge from skinnywench, I give you…sign.

Same thing, right?

Same thing, right?

The lesson from this? For good or for ill…assemble at Faneuil Hall.

Or else.

Enjoy the other challenges!

Travel Theme: Winter

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa’s travel theme is the seasonally appropriate “winter”.  Cool.  Pun intended.  It’s my favorite season.  Actually, they all are except for summer, of which regular readers have come to realize I am no fan.  Mostly, and especially this week, winter (for me) is nearly synonymous with Christmas, so there’s a reasonable amount of Christmas in this mix.  It’s not always about ladies in red velvety dresses with crisp white fur trim…

…except when it is.  I was recently visiting family in Myrtle Beach, who thought it would be great to go see the Carolina Opry‘s Christmas Spectacular, matinee, for my birthday (which just passed, two days after I totaled my car).  I might have been the youngest person there.  It was a delicious cheesefest.  I knew we were in for a real treat when, not ten minutes into it, Rita Gumm–the First Lady of the Carolina Opry–glided onto the stage, in a horse-drawn sleigh.

BEHOLD! Rita Gumm, the First Lady of the Carolina Opry!

BEHOLD! Winter in South Carolina.

That is some dress, my friends, red and vibrant as a Carolina sunset.  It was a Christmas miracle.

Winter for me means decorations and sparkly things, and the decorations can be elegant and beautiful or whimsical and sweet.  I love this penguin.  It was given to me by a friend and former co-worker who I adore, and we all know penguins = snow and ice and snow and ice = winter.

Yay, decorations and sparkly things to brighten up dreary winter nights!

Yay, decorations and sparkly things to brighten up dreary winter nights!

While driving down to South Carolina, we stopped in a grim little restaurant with uninspired food and faded, 1930s-era cabbage rose wallpaper in the main dining room.  I’d say what restaurant it was but I’m hoping to extort them for hush money (*cough cough* Shamrock).  Anyway.  So the food was uninteresting (I think I’m still getting over my sodium headache) and bizarrely expensive, and left me feeling as though I’d been tricked somehow.  But you know?  The surroundings, at the foot of the Catoctin Mountain Ridge?  When they were heavy with fresh snow?  Were fantastic.

Out back behind The Restaurant That Shall Remain Nameless (Shamrock).

Out back behind The Restaurant That Shall Remain Nameless (Shamrock).

Closer to home, my little ‘burg has an annual tree lighting and high-school-chorus-singing ceremony, that takes place in the town square with the frilly street lamps and the absolutely frigging enormous tree that has to be strung with fancy lights thanks to the use of a cherry picker.  Or maybe the town keeps a de-toothed bumble in the maintenance shed.  Off camera there’s a gazebo.  It’s insanely picturesque, and I live here.

Did I mention the art deco movie theater and the overall cool architecture?

Did I mention the art deco movie theater and the overall cool architecture?

And finally…

No winter in recent memory has been complete without a trip to see my former Russian professor.  She lives just outside of Boston and YES, I go north in the winter.  Judge me for it, I don’t care.  It’s the most snug and welcoming house in the world, filled with great conversation and lovely people and delicious food.  While we were there this past February it snowed big fat flakes, giving me an eye-feast from Elena’s cheerful kitchen window.

IMG_0071-001

This is one of my favorite places no matter what season, but for me? It’s extra-special in the winter.

This is a relationship in which I consider myself incredibly lucky.

Have fun checking out the rest of the participants at Ailsa’s place this week!

Travel Theme: Distance

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? asks us to look at distance, into the distance, from a distance.  For the record, the word “distance” literally means “standing apart”, from the Latin “dis” (apart) and “stare” (stand, of course).

See, kids?  Latin is fun!

Anyway.

Pictures.

This first shot was taken this spring at Milton State Park, which is probably about three miles away from my home.  If you walk down toward the southern tip of the park, which juts out into the Susquehanna River, you’ll soon find yourself…well, still in the park and on the other side of the river, but directly facing the smokestacks of the plant one Ettore “Hector” Boiardi opened in 1938 in support of his canned pasta business.

The Chef's plant, looming in the distance.

The Chef’s plant, looming in the distance.

Yes, Chef Boyardee was a real man and no, he wasn’t just some fabrication of ConAgra, which now owns the plant.  I haven’t eaten canned ravioli in years but nevertheless, I’m delighted his iconic smokestack remains.

Next we go to Little River in beautiful South Carolina.  My brother has a boat docked there, but I’m pretty sure he’s selling it (or possibly has sold it by now), so I don’t know if what once was his boat is still there.  Anyway.  I digress.  This photo was taken while looking out toward the bow of the boat (and beyond, natch!) from the hatch that opens out from the cabin.  That thin line of land is the spit that separates the Little River Inlet from the big ol’ Atlantic Ocean.

Ahoy!  Shiver me timbers! Avast, ye scurvy dogs!

Ahoy! Shiver me timbers! Avast, ye scurvy dogs!  And other piratey things to say, as well!

Next, we go to my beloved Boston and the gorgeous Park Plaza Hotel.  Often, when I stay in hotels, I will choose to take back stairways instead of the elevator.  I’ve always had a penchant for wandering the halls of any hotel I stay in (which can sound a little creepy but I swear, I don’t peek where I ought not) because I like to go where most people ignore.  And most people?  Don’t take the stairs and see this, spinning upwards into infinity.

Here's looking up yer old staircase.

Here’s looking up yer old staircase.

And now we head to Baltimore.  This picture was taken this summer at Artscape, a mega-art-music-comedy-groovy jewelry outdoor feast for the eyes, ears and wallet.  It stretches for blocks and blocks.  I could have spent a ton of money there (especially in some of the jewelry stands; I’ll take one of everything, please) but kept it under control.  I did, however, take a trillion pictures.  This was near a railroad crossing.  It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day and all of Baltimore (including the iconic Howard Street bridge) stretched out before us.

Presenting: Baltimore.

Presenting: Baltimore.

Please note that there’s a mirror in the photo–almost dead center–so you can see what’s in the distance behind.  Kind of a yin-yang of Baltimore industrial architectural photography.  Dig it.

And finally, we end today’s blog in Italy, because Italy, that’s why.  This picture was taken while visiting a church on one of the hills overlooking Florence, just across the Arno River.  The Ponte Vecchio–which literally means “old bridge”–is that crazy, awesome structure in the middle of the shot.  This bridge, and the shops that are built hanging off the sides, has survived floods, Nazis, and nearly 700 years worth of weather (it would be nearly 800 years worth of weather, but it did have to be rebuilt in 1345).

Damn.

Distance: physical, temporal, historical.  Achieved.

Distance: physical, temporal, historical. Achieved.

I mean…I’m happy if I get a DVD player that lasts more than a few years, you know?  I hate that we’ve come to accept planned obsolescence.

Anyway.

Again, I digress.

Enjoy Ailsa’s theme!  Maybe you could find a little somethin’ somethin’ to post and play along yourself.  😉  Please enjoy some Dixie Chicks for your listening pleasure.

Travel Theme: Architecture

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is architecture, and…frankly…I’m not sure how I can rein myself in.  There are so many fantastic structures I’ve had the good fortune to see…let’s get started.

Staying close at home…as in, in my small-yet-groovy corner of central PA…dig this crazy squiggly fence!  Rumor has it a math teacher lives here and wanted a fence that would represent…some mathematical concept, don’t ask me, it’s not my thing.  But the fence design and execution?  Very cool.

I understand teh maths are at work here.

0.o I understand teh maths are at work here.

Next, we travel on to Cleveland.  This is taken from the walking pier that goes behind the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (sort of cool but didn’t live up to my expectations), looking back at the cityscape created by the HoF and the Great Lakes Science Center, to the right.  Further to the right, just out of the line of sight on the camera is Browns Stadium, which I would have loved to get into the shot because it’s a fantastic confluence of cultural relevance: music, the sciences, and a little sport for good measure.  But.  My lens wouldn’t do me that way.  I love the clean, modern lines of the buildings; it’s got that “City of the Future!” sort of look going for it, no?  All it needs are, like, hovercars flitting around in the air.  Or people in jetpacks.  Dare to dream.

Behold the Land of Cleve!

Behold the Land of Cleve!

Next, we go to Boston and feast our eyes on the John Hancock Tower.  I never really stopped to think about whether or not I was a fan of modern architecture, but you know…this building was designed by I,M. Pei’s firm  and it’s hard to argue with the gorgeous buildings he and his firm are responsible for.  The Hancock Tower, it’s so sleek!  It’s so reflective!  It almost disappears into the sky.

It's the tallest--and I am sure, the shiniest--building in Boston.

It’s the tallest–and I am sure, the shiniest–building in Boston.

Next, we globetrot across the pond to France and the stone beauty of the Chartres Cathedral.  Completed (-ish; it’s hard to determine when cathedrals are deemed finished because they’re ALWAYS work to be done) in the mid 12th century (so, somewhere around 1150, for those playing at home), the towers of the west façade were, at that time, similarly topped with gorgeous but not terribly ornate pyramid-shaped spires.  All things being relative.  Then a lightning strike started a fire on the north spire in 1506, causing the spire to have to be rebuilt.  In the intervening three hundred years architectural tastes had changed somewhat.  The north spire was fashioned in the much frillier flamboyant style of Gothic architecture that was de rigueur until about the 1530s.  And so?  One church, two similarly aged towers, two spires that reflect the changing artistic sensibilities that 300 years could bring.  Good times!

Flamboyant is the new black.

Flamboyant is the new black.

And finally…Venice.

Which I love.

You need to admire their architectural ingenuity, though I often imagine what the conversations about building this city must have sounded like.

Venetian 1:  Hey, we’ve got to get the hell away from these invading Huns! What do you think about those marshy pads of mud out in the middle of the lagoon?

Venetian 2:  I think they’re little more than really sucky mud.  They’ll barely support our weight.

Venetian 1:  I know, but that means it won’t support the weight of invading armies, either.  See?  And besides I’ve been thinking about that…I wonder if we could let the lagoon be a natural defense for us and while we’re out there, build some kind of a platform…

Venetian 2:  Like what, a raft?

Venetian 1:  Well, yeah, but you know.  Permanent.

Venetian 2:  Oh, right.  So you’re just going to “create” some land, or something?  And what do you propose to do?

Venetian 1:  Now, now.  Hear me out.  Here’s what I’m thinking, and I’m just going to throw this out there and see what sticks: how about we go to Slovenia and deforest all of the Kras region, plus some of Croatia and the southern bit of Montenegro, and then take all those trees and strip them into massive logs, right?  And then we sink them straight down, right into the muck and goo?  The water is so full of minerals that the wood won’t rot. In fact, it will anti-not-rot.  It will petrify.  And once all these channel islands have been reinforced with the pilfered forests of nearby countries, then we can build homes and palaces and cathedrals and a trade-and-spice empire the likes of which the world has never seen!  *mwah ha*  *mwah ha ha ha*

Venetian 2:  Papa Doge, you so crazy.  It’ll never work.

Venetian 1:  Oh, no..?  Is that a dare?

Venetian 2:  Worse.  It’s a triple-dog dare.

Venetian 1:  You’re on!

Sounds crazy, but it just might work.

Sounds crazy, but it just might work.

OK, just because I love it too much, here’s another picture.

No cars allowed.

No cars allowed.

~~~end scene~~~

Have fun checking out the rest of the architecture challenges on Ailsa’s page!

Travel Theme: Costume

Ailsa’s travel theme this week involves costume.  How do people wear them?  Where do they wear them?  Why do they wear them, if they’re not on a stage?

Admit it, we’re all, always, on stage.  Some of us are just more apt to dress that way than others.  So here are a few memorable costumes I’ve run across while going about my business.

In Boston…which is always good for finding some kind of people in some kind of costume somewhere…a historical re-enactor grabs a sandwich and a beer at The Green Dragon, which was home turf for the planning of the battle at Lexington and Concord.  Bonus: the food is good, and the bartenders are awesome.

Hail, barkeep! A plate of ye olde nachos, make haste!

Hail, barkeep! A plate of ye olde nachos, make haste!

When I was in Paris, I happened upon a living statue street performer, dressed a little bit like the love child of Neo and Uncle Creepy.  Imagine my total excitement when I realized I immortalized him forever mid-poke.  It’s like catching the ventriloquist moving his lips.  Day=made.

Slick. But not slick enough.

Slick. But not slick enough.

When in Bayville, NJ, I was hanging out with my dreadfully handsome brother, who was handed a pair of costume glasses to return to his wife, who had left them behind at some Halloween party they’d gone to.  One perfectly timed picture later…

I think the fact that the glasses are upside down makes this  even more charming.

I think the fact that the glasses are upside down makes this photo even more charming.

Love you, big bro!

Moving on, to the Vatican.  Everything you’ve heard about the elaborate costuming worn by the Swiss Guard?  All true.  (Not accounting, of course, for the many many many  blazered and earpieced and guns-in-forearm-slide-holsters undercover security walking around.  You don’t take pictures of them.  Or maybe you could, but I didn’t want to try my luck.)

Well, helloooo, Mr. Fancypants.

Well, helloooo, Mr. Fancypants.

Annnnd…

Right here in beautiful downtown Lewisburg we have an annual “Victorian” parade (which is much more thematically engaging than your standard Christmas parade), and all the marchers dress up in costumes.  You have characters from works of literature like A Christmas Carol and Mary Poppins.  (And p.s. if you’ve got a problem with me linking to Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, then you meet me in the school yard at 3:00.)  Anyway.  So there I was, at the Victorian Parade and what becostumed thing to I see rolling toward me but…

A Christmas dalek.

EXTERMINATE!

EXTERMINATE!

OK, so normally I stop at five photos (for no reason except for just because), but since I have that picture of my big brother in doofy glasses, I figured I’d include one of me.  In my own doofy glasses.  So we may stand in solidarity.  This was taken at the local Halloween store.

Keepin' it sexy in the 'burg.

Keepin’ it sexy in the ‘burg.

There are so, so many reasons this picture cracks me up.  But mainly, it makes me feel like I should have had a starring role in the Beastie Boys‘ video for Sabotage.

So, that’s what I’ve got.  What groovy costumes have you run across in your life?  Join me at Ailsa’s!

No more posts.