New England 2013: All Hallow’s Eve

I love Halloween, always have always will. Always been more than candy and costumes for me. As someone who grew up New England, USA and loves fall, where we seem to have a link to the seasons that cannot be denied, this day is the line between fall and winter. The earth outside my window is going to sleep, the harvest is in and it’s time to get ready to hunker down, snuggle in and get ready for the next season.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from the Keene, NH  2011 Pumpkin Festival I was lucky enough to go to last year. Imagine… thousands and thousands of jack o lanterns, candy apples, delicious food from great vendors, really not to be missed. Here’s their website

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Staying put, what happens when you cannot go…

I have started and deleted this post so many many times. My update was going to be all about what happens when you don’t get to go on a journey you’ve planned and dreamed about for months….but how do write about that without sounding like a spoiled baby? To be able to travel for pleasure, whether it’s beyond your own borders or at all is an incredible gift, a luxury in this world. Somehow, I lost that plot for a bit and no one likes someone who’s feeling sorry for herself. Recently, circumstances beyond my control (okay, my day job and yet another world economic crisis) have postponed my month long journey to India – which would have included the Pushkar Camel Festival and Diwali, the festival of lights, the Taj Mahal and so much more.  I have spent the last month since I found out that it all wasn’t happening being grumpy and mopey, really horrid company for anyone (sorry, friends, it was true).

I had been counting on this journey – 2011 hasn’t really been my year . And not for nothing, it’s been sort of hard to find my place in the travel blogging world with out RTW credentials. Know I have traveled round the world thousands of times all these years on paper and have logged thousands of actual air miles, just not in one long year long stretch. It doesn’t help my day job is a constant reminder. I have worked in travel for almost twenty years – and for the last eight, what that means for at least 40+ hours a week, I problem solve on how to get someone from Ulan Bator to Johannesburg without spending a million dollars and flying on twenty flights (don’t do it unless it’s absolutely necessary – the trick is explaining to the client why one shouldn’t even be thinking of doing that in the first place and all the places one could go on the way instead of fast tracking oneself across the world). In my off hours, I eat and breathe travel – following the trends, the tips, the stories of my fellow travelers as much as I can – I love reading why a certain airport is the best one in the world, all the sunrises and sunsets you’ve all seen, crazy modes of transportation…. I could go on and on.

The blessing in not going has been that everytime I have sat down, cleared my head and started writing, my mind is flooded by all the times, places, journeys of when I did get to go and how much that changed me, redirected me and refocused my life in ways it’s taken me years (if ever) to fully understand. How lucky I am to have even had the chance to travel at all and then even though I feel like someone has taken my toy and broken it, I know that I’ll find the glue to make it work again.

Visiting Southeast Asia and leaving behind  the safety of western sanitation & safe water (favorite: American Standard brand squat toilet), hearing the call to prayer in Egypt, being kept up all night by the noise of the Serengeti in Tanzania….. after all of those trips, after my bags were unpacked and my jet lag was conquered, my heart knew that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of this planet and I realized how many many roads, deserts, rivers and oceans were going to have to be crossed if I was ever to claim I was a real traveler, to ever feel like I knew this planet of ours and all of the people, places – that it would be a quest that would never end.

My sister is a social worker and since she started her career, I have always felt she was called to helping people. Religion can be whatever you, my reader, wants it to be but something bigger than any of us drives people to want to help each other – to know each other. Somehow, if it can make sense, I feel I was called to explore, to connect, to always be looking beyond the next horizon. Whether that actually helps anyone other than me… well, I have some years yet to puzzle that out. Traveling is being humbled by the difference, the strangeness of the new place and then finding the many connections to what I have seen, experienced to the life I live back at home or sometimes finding no connection and realizing that’s okay too. That’s the theme of this blog. And as I get more and more connected to the various online boards, twitter, Facebook pages and all other social media that swirls around the common experience, it is what links us all together…. humans do want to connect with each other, help each other on the journey that is this crazy life. We all do want to share all that we have seen and done in the world, to listen and learn from what others have seen and done…. it’s  that endless cycle of goodness that drives me forward. To think that can be limited by whether I am getting on a 15 hour plane, well, that’s just ridiculous.

New York 2011: A New York state of mind

Sometimes, small town living is just that…. small…. slowly, everything is just too predictable and the sameness of every day begins to dent my wanderlustful soul.

When I can’t hop on a plane, what better way blow out the cobwebs than a road trip north (and a smidge west) to bask in the glory of the fiery fall leaves. I live close enough to Vermont that I could have just looked out my own window but sometimes, irrational I know, I just want to see someone else’s leaves. Fall in New England amazes me every year with it’s beauty – I could write and write about how I search the trees for the perfect orange red blast. It’s almost if Mother Nature gets her best paints out before the world goes brown and colorless.

Besides the need to get out, I know in my heart part of me needed to really take a trip somewhere so this travel blog could actually be a travel blog and not just me musing aimlessly about past glories…. a travel blog has to involve traveling somewhere other than the supermarket.

Where better to get some air than the mighty and vast Adirondack park in upstate New York. Formed in the late eighteen hundreds (became official in 1892), the park is made up of ten million acres of lakes, pine forests and craggy peaks. At one point, in 1761, the area was referred to as “deer hunting territory”. The actual name is cited in one place as a translated Mohawk word that means “they eat trees”. I’ll leave that alone and for my scholars, that was just one definition I read. Suffice it to say, there are still lots and lots of trees to eat.

The reason the park exists at all was because of what we would now call urban sprawl of the turn of the last century. Disease made the city in the summer a dangerous place to be – even at the best of addresses and so out into the wilds they went, with their many servants in tow; Americans, never ones to do anything subtly. The captains of industry also needed summer get out of town spots  that could combine the grandeur of Europe with the wonder of America’s forests. And so the hodge podge of what is called the Adirondack style was born. (take to your search engines and see all the things people did with birch bark and some twisted twigs). Today, the grand old camp style of vacationing only exists for the very few –  the Point Resort in Saranac is an example of what $2000.00 a night can get you.

For the rest of us normal folks, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, hiking, trekking, tramping (whatever you might call it), rock climbing, fishing (fly, ice and lake), skiing, snowshoeing, ski jumping, skating to name a few. It’s an adventurers paradise…. some of you could spend time earning bragging rites by climbing the 46 peaks, journeying to all the cascades and waterfalls but maybe the rest of you could spend some time sitting in the splendor and vast emptiness of much of the landscape.

This time, I decided I needed a balance of both and so I stayed in the very touristed unofficial capital of the park – Lake Placid which is better known for it’s miraculous Olympics of 1980 than much else.  I like food so I did enjoy the local restaurants (ate at the Brown Dog Cafe & Wine Bar, the Cottage, Tail of the Pup BBQ). There’s a mix of tacky – the normal coffee mug & t-shirt places (my friend from school calls those type candles and fudge shops – here you could adjust to say candles and stuffed moose shops) but also some gems selling antiques of the old great camp style.  There’s also the very lovely Mirror Lake to look at – aptly named for it’s ability to reflect the sky – and walk around.

Just a sweet simple weekend away – a few hours drive from Canada, Albany NY – it’s a spot that’s easy to get to (just head north on RT 87 for most of you) and offers so much to see and do…. or not to do…. at a number of price ranges. For me, all I needed was a simple cup of coffee and a morning sunrise, a chance to listen to the loons (the birds for once not the people) = magic.

dreams of other places

Just the rainy, cold kind of gloomy cow town morning that makes me wish I were elsewhere and yet again the deep debate in my heart rises up – to travel more of the year and work to make that happen, or to continue on the path I am on… because if I were elsewhere, at least there’d be the promise of lions…. sometimes, when it’s been a while, being with the cows takes some patience.

Happy Sunday, friends

A rainy afternoon in Tanzania

A rainy afternoon in Tanzania

2011: New England, apples and more apples

Fall has arrived in these green hills – the leaves are turning and even though the days lately have been global warming humid, it would never really feel like summer to a local. The mellow golden sunsets of August have absolutely given way to cold nights and I have been watching the twilight creeping earlier and earlier each day.

Some people dread the winter – not me. Really I’d take the northeast USA in all her seasons and have a place in my heart for all the rituals and happenings of each one but there’s something magical about September and October.

Doesn’t hurt my favorite color is orange or that I love apple picking. Doesn’t hurt that as the child of people who worked for colleges and schools all my growing up life, that the year never seems to start for me in January but right after Labor Day. And don’t get me started on Halloween… promise to cover that soon.

In grade school, every year we’d go on this apple picking, apple cider making day – like a rite of passage for a true Yankee child. We’d all head out up in the big old yellow school bus in the freezing morning and spend the day at the orchard with the excitement of rickety ladders and weird claw like things with baskets. Once started, we’d pick our little six year old hearts out and have some crazy apple fights (think apple swapped in for a snow ball kind of fight). That only went on until someone got a black eye or cried (most likely me – not the black eye, although am a clumsy accident prone kind of gal but probably the crying ’cause, well, I was a wimpy kid at times – nothing like a virtual confession).

The best part of the day was taking our haul over to someone’s parents house where we’d press the apples into cider on a press from 1735 (not really, but I have a feeling these were Mayflower Society folks – real deal old New England) – the thrill of turning the giant wooden screw and watching the juice get squeezed out, being beset the whole time by the drowsy bees who are just trying to get the honey in before it snows. I’d arrive home, sunburned, sticky and happy. And my poor family would have to eat an apple or 20 a day for weeks and weeks.

By the time I was twelve, I’d made apple cake, pie, sauce, butter, doughnuts  and these weird and creepy apple headed dolls that would whither and get more creepy and weird until my father would demand they be thrown away.

So…. that’s my first “cow” post – I do promise when I board a plane for more exciting shores that I’ll write about that – in the meantime, eat an apple in my honor…. soon I’ll learn how to post pictures too.

Happy Fall friends.

beginning at the beginning

When I was eight, my family spent a month and a 1/2 in France and England. It was the first international flight I could remember, drank my first orangina, learned my first French word – which was STOP (aggressive foreign speaking children + pool ) and slept in an overnight train berth.

My mother kept telling me to keep a journal so I could remember what we were doing, what we saw. I should have reminded her that I was just eight, about to be nine and had just learned sentence structure, forget spelling.

I found that journal a few years ago in my family home and it had one perfect entry. “In France…. went out for dinner. Goat ran by dinner place. Mom said to rite this down. ”

I do remember that day. We arrived to a gray summer dawn in Paris, proceeded to friend’s house where were staying for a few days. I took a nap and woke up thinking it was the next day and became incensed when told it was still Tuesday/whatever day of the week it was – declared I wanted to go home. (Hello, Jetlag – 10 years later we would meet again and again). My father’s friend took us out to a cafe in Montmarte for dinner – all kinds of staying up too late, exotic grilled cheese sandwiches with ham and tables on the sidewalk.

In the middle of dinner, a white goat ran up the street, chased by it’s owner. A goat, in the middle of the street, on a random summer evening in the city of light. Conversation paused and then we all returned to eating.

The next day, we went to the Louvre for eight hours…. but that’s a story for another day.

The trip was glorious… we were like gypsies – only staying where my parents had friends or family, drinking it all up, until it was time to return to real life. Even so, when I sat in the plane on the tarmac on the eve of my ninth birthday, I was thinking I can’t wait to go home.

I didn’t realize it then but that was the beginning of a life long love story of being somewhere else exotic and other , being enchanted and changed by being there and then coming home only to remember it over and over again.

That next March, all dismal and muddy, I would be able to close my eyes, and I’d be in Paris again, a white goat would run by, the summer sun would still be up at 10pm and I’d be tired and wide awake all over again, my skin shivery, my eyes wide. Moments like that can comfort me until I am able to see the brave snow drops that bloom first and spring really arrives – all electric green in her glory.

Many travel bloggers are really out there – years have been logged with no permanent address, true global citizens, could tell me hours and hours of stories. Oh how I deeply respect their journey and envy all of them. Maybe someday that could be me but right now, my life balance comes with a glorious gallivant to a far flung place (towards the top of my list…. the safe ‘stans of Central Asia) with a triumphant return to my green hills of New England, going to my local coffee spot and running into my neighbors.

Please read and share your own stories here and thank you joining me on my life’s adventure.

PS 1st international flight was taken when I was a toddler – father taught a semester in Italy – was 18 months – lots of me, Sante Croce and pigeons, beautifully made purple leather shoes.