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!

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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!

Travel Theme: Pathways

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is pathways, which of course is one of my favorite things because they’re inherently liminal.  Maybe I’ve got an overly-developed sense of romanticism about pathways and roadtrips…though I don’t think so…but I always think of that Fellowship of the Rings quote:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

And so.

From an overpass looking down onto a train yard in Cleveland.

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Westward bound.

In the park outside l’Orangerie in Paris.  Please note: the lady is carrying a parasol.  A parasol.  And I don’t care if it’s actually an umbrella multitasking as a parasol.  It’s still a parasol.

This picture delights me every time I look at it.

This picture delights me every time I look at it.

My niece and nephew, in training for future adventures down pathways of their own.  At Knoebel’s, one of the greatest amusement parks in all the land (not that I’m biased).

World's most controlled road trip.

World’s most controlled road trip.

The Grand Canal, Dublin, which connects Dublin with the River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland and a major thoroughfare for…oh…pretty much all of time. Located right next to it? The Grand Canal Hotel (wonder where they came up with that name?), which was a pretty swanky spot to stay.  That was where I had literally the best and spendiest veggie burger I’ve ever eaten.

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I was happy to have this sight greet us whenever we left our hotel.

And…home sweet home.  We have loads of enticing back roads around here just open to imagination and exploration.

Ever forward!

Ever forward!

What pathways have you taken?

Travel Theme: Contrast

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa’s theme is “contrast”.  My photos are all about the visual contrast of the silhouette, which I love.

The view from my room at Belhurst Castle.  Yes, that’s a boat dock looking out over Seneca Lake.  And yes, I was literally (and I don’t mean that figuratively) hanging out my hotel room window so I could get this photo.

Not too shabby!

Not too shabby!

This photo was taken in Cleveland. It’s the War Memorial Fountain, formally known as the “Fountain of Eternal Life”, which symbolizes mankind rising victorious from the ashes of war.

I love that the brightest light makes for the darkest shadow.

I love that the brightest light makes for the darkest shadow.

Next: Paris.  Which is in my heart forever.  This is at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, and the contrast helps illuminate the complicated and gorgeous metalwork.

Must. Go. Back.

Must. Go. Back.

I saw this tree at the Elizabethan Gardens in the Outer Banks.  I adore the multi-level contrast of this.  Light/dark, and the tree itself stands in total opposition to what tree trunks are supposed to do.

No idea how or why this happened.  But cool!

No idea how or why this happened. But cool!

And finally, this picture was taken at sunset from the foot of the Ponte Vecchio, looking out across the Arno.  Because Florence, that’s why.

Does this need further explanation?

Does this need further explanation?

Join Ailsa and play along!  Hope you enjoyed the show.

Travel Theme: Time

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack is: time!  As in, how you visualize it and the passage thereof.  I dig these sorts of themes.  They’re so up for interpretation.

The picture below was taken in front of the Super 8 in Sturbridge, MA.  Why the owner bought this carriage is still a mystery, even to him.  He said, “I was just really, you know, drawn to it.  I had to have it.  Now I don’t know where else to put it.”  Fair enough.  Time has clearly had its way with the old girl, though I think it’s fair to say that despite the ravages of time (and weather, and carelessness, and probably raccoons) you can still see what a lovely carriage she must have been, once. The owner said he wanted to restore it at some point, though it would take a ton of pimping to fix this ride.  But who am I to harsh on his restorative ch’i?  Go for it!

This used to be grand.

This used to be grand.


The installation of the glass pyramid that serves as the main entrance to the Louvre made people INSANE with rage when it was first installed, but I dig it.  I know that now people are cool with it (for the most part), even though it took a while.  It’s difficult to argue with I.M. Pei‘s capacity for design, once you accept that he’s not going to subscribe to the notion that he has to design all 16th-19th century (12th century if you look at the foundations) neo-classico-baroque-renaissance-gothic curlicued French.  I love the juxtaposition of modern and not-so-much that shows the evolution of design sensibilities over time, not just next to one another randomly on a street but rather, incorporated into one functional building.  Awesome.

Dude, it's totally more than a prop in a Dan Brown movie.

Dude, it’s totally more than a prop in a Dan Brown movie.

This next photo is a passage of time double-whammy.  This lock was probably a hundred years old and so severely weathered that it’s beyond use; it is rusted shut and now, if you want to open it, you’d better have some manner of hand saw near by.  Of course, if you wait a little longer it just may crumble, the metal is that spent.  The gate on which the lock sits surrounds a small family plot in the middle of a larger church graveyard in scenic Mazeppa, PA.  Look toward the bottom left and you’ll see the cool grey of an eroded headstone behind the gate.  All things pass.  Even metal.

Ain't no party like a Mazeppa party.

Patience…patience…

The next photo was taken during the waxing stage of a new moon.  It was a beautiful night and it was the fourth of July and the moon was spectacular rising through the trees.  The moon, of course, is what the ancients used to mark time (moon->month, see the connection?) and so…

Hey, baby. It's the fourth of July.

Hey, baby. It’s the fourth of July.

When in Rome…go to the Forum.  While Rome is indeed an ancient city, that doesn’t mean that all its streets are exactly as they were 2,000 years ago.  Since Rome is subject to things like flooding from the Tiber River, and because people live there and are a dynamic presence in their environments, streets and buildings have altered over time.  But not at the Forum.  The structures may not all be intact, but the paths and steps and view are indeed the same steps that Julius Caesar walked, the same stones Cleopatra crossed, the same view that greeted Marc Antony.  The Roman general, not the ex-husband of JLo.  Holy pockets!  Though admittedly, that doesn’t signal so much the passage of time as it does take me backwards through time.  But who cares?  It’s all good.

Greetings from 2,000 years ago.  The weather is beautiful, wish you were here.

Greetings from 2,000 years ago. The weather is beautiful, wish you were here.

Time, time, time.  See what’s become of me?

What?  Like I could resist.

Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: Monotone

This week, Cee’s photo challenge is a celebration of monotone.  It can be particularly challenging to make something that’s basically one color interesting and eye-catching and quite frankly, most of what I looked at in my photos that would have fit this challenge?  Yawn.  But here are some of the ones I liked most, with some short explanations and/or descriptions.

Homemade caramel corn.

I was informed last year that Christmas won’t be Christmas without a supply of this stuff, so I am now locked into providing caramel corn for my family, for the rest of my natural life.  There are worse things I could have to do.  It is pretty darn tasty!

Inis Mor, Aran Islands, Ireland

I really like that the land and the sky are basically the exact same color in this picture, and I love that this piece of land has such a tremendous tidal fluctuation that the water, well receded in this shot, comes up to the rocks at high tide.

We’ll spend the rest of this blog in France…

An alley, Paris.

The French seem to be enamored of buildings made out of the same building material, or at least the same color building material, for large stretches of area (more on that later).  So looking down an alley can be weirdly disconcerting, because the matchy-match on either side makes it seem almost like walking down an interior hallway from which a roof has been removed.  A very tall hallway, perhaps, but a hallway nonetheless.

At Chateau de Chenonceau.

On the grounds of Chateau de Chenonceau, an OMFG I must be dreaming sort of place, if ever I’ve seen one, there is a hedge maze.  It’s not an immensely tall, creepy, lurking death sort of hedge maze a la The Shining but rather, a charming little whimsical hedge maze that you could chase your intended around while flirting over the tops of the bushes.  There’s a groovy little cozy-ish, semi-organic-looking gazebo in the middle of the hedge maze, with all sorts of frilly plants at its border.  This is from that gazebo, looking over the hedge maze and capturing all sorts of greenness that abounds.

At the Eiffel Tower, Paris.

Remember how I said that the French like to use similarly-colored building materials?  Behold!  Paris, as seen from an observation deck of the Eiffel Tower.

Zinnia in the garden, Chateau de Chenonceau.

I got yer zinnia, riiiiight heeeeere.  Chenonceau also had a working replica of a 16th-century farm on its grounds, and they grow a tremendous amount of fruit and all the flowers used to decorate the chateau’s rooms.  This was on that farm.  It is one of the most perfect, most explodingly orange flowers I’ve ever seen.

. The Catacombs, Paris.

The average visitor isn’t allowed to use a flash in the Catacombs, since constant exposure to light could damage the structure of the remains of roughly 6 million people laid to rest under the streets of Paris.  So you’ve got to use your low-light setting instead.  This is what you get.  The quote is from Book X of the Aeneid translates as: Every man has his day, the course of life is brief and cannot be recalled: but virtue’s task is this, to increase fame by deeds.  More or less, of course, depending on how flowery the translator gets, and considering some of the translations I’ve read of this quote alone….hoo wee!  They can get flowery.

I really like this, partly because it reminds me that life is short and it is what we make of it.  And perhaps more importantly, it also highlights that we’re all the same color on the inside.  Can you tell if these bones belonged to someone black, white, Asian?  Yeah.  Me neither.

Some of these photos may be in the spirit of the photo challenge more than to the letter of it, but it was a lot of fun finding stuff.  Here’s the link to Cee’s challenge again, if you don’t want to scroll to the top of the page.  Check out the other photos!  Or you could, of course, decide to play along.

Thanks for stopping by!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

One of the fun things about traveling is getting to that point where you know that you’re not home any more.  Though you do have to be careful about becoming weirdly jaded–cities are cities and they all contain common elements–traffic, garbage, pushy people, great shopping–that can override your sense of appreciation for what’s definitive and amazing, though some cities do make their unique characteristics much more difficult to ignore.  I’m looking at you, Paris.  As for traveling through the countryside…well…I live in the country.  I know what a cow looks like.

See?  Weirdly jaded and not groovy at all.

Below are a few photos that represent for me the moments when I fully appreciated the impact of being somewhere new and different, that had much more to offer than a wide array of stylish shoe shops.

Inis Mór, Ireland

Staring out into the North Atlantic from the edge of Inis Mór (Aran Islands)

One of these days I’m going to go in and fix that white blotch on the picture.  This was a film camera, not digital, and apparently the film had a little flaw.  Anyway.  Inis Mór, one of the little fingertips of granite poking out of the North Atlantic off Ireland’s west coast, is quiet.  During the day Kilronan, the town we stayed in, bustles with activity.  Tourists come in from Galway and shop for Aran Island sweaters (I have one in green) and other crafter’s goods.  At night, many of them are gone, and the island falls profoundly quiet.  It’s a quiet I’ve rarely had a chance to experience and can be found if you wander only a short distance away from the center of town.  It’s well-nigh impossible to photograph quiet, but I can photograph empty and deserted.  We encountered a father and son pair of hikers on the way up to this spot–and that’s it.  To get here, you have to climb over uneven terrain, and as you can see by the clouds the weather isn’t always on your side.  There’s no easily-graded hiking path, there’s no handrails, there are no guardrails or warning signs to keep you from the ledge.  I was glad to be so profoundly out of my element.  It’s good to recognize the times that you stand on the edge of the world.  There are all sorts of ways we can stare into the abyss; this was just one of them.

Paris, France

Along the Seine, Paris

Keeping in line with my statement about being weirdly jaded, Paris shares a lot with other cities.  Its avenues are far more tree-lined and gracious, and the art and architecture you find everywhere you go…amazing.  It is a spectacular city and one of my top three (Venice and Boston also jockey for the top position, dependent on my mood) but again, it’s a city.  You can still get hungry and sweaty and cranky walking around, you can still get tired of getting jostled and just want to chill out in your hotel room.  What you can’t necessarily have, though, is someone playing sax along the Seine, at night, under a street lamp.  This was somewhere near the Île de la Cité, the island on which Notre Dame is located, and we came across him after a long day of walking and looking and stuffing ourselves full of food and sights.  I remember hearing the sound waft up, and I had to follow it to its source.  There he was, looking like he stepped off the set of a movie, under the light with a few nighttime listeners sitting around.  I was mesmerized as I realized just how far from home I was, and I loved every moment of it.

Rome, Italy

The Colosseum, Rome

We got to Rome on a Monday.  Monday is not the best day to be in Rome, if you’re a tourist, because a lot of museums and such are closed, unless it’s a biggie like the Colosseum.    Since visiting the Colosseum was on our must-do list, and it was one of the things that was open, it was the first thing we did once we got to Rome and dropped off our stuff at the hotel.  We took the metro, got off at the Colosseo stop and…stood blinking our eyes in slack-jawed disbelief as we walked up the metro steps and saw the Colosseum rise before us.  There it was, sitting in the middle of traffic, a feast for the eyes before you even step in the door.  (I’ve said this before but I can’t stress it enough.  FYI, if you do go to Rome, get the Roma Pass.  You’ll be in that door so much more quickly.)  The thing about the Colosseum is, it’s so well preserved and maintained, you can’t help but find yourself transported.  I found it impossible to not step outside myself and imagine sitting in the crowd, or find sympathy for the combatants waiting in the (now exposed) hallways under the main floor, who knew their likely death would serve as entertainment for the crowd.  The Colosseum didn’t just stress to me that I was in a different city, but it took me to a different time and a different mindset, and forced me into a humane and human exercise I didn’t expect.  And that?  Is not something you get every day.

You can see more of this week’s “Foreign” photo challenge here.

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