Sunday, January 21, 2018

Where to stay in Paris!


I've been to Paris several times and have stayed in hotels as well as apartments.  On this last trip back in late 2016, I was only going to be there one night and I was meeting some friends from Chicago who where there for a family gathering.  I decided it was simplest to just book into the hotel they had already booked.

It was a small boutique hotel called Jules and Jim located on a narrow little side street in the Marias area of Paris only a few short blocks from the Pompidou Centre.















My room was spacious and modern with some very eclectic decorative features.  That bed was so very comfy that I hated getting up in the morning.  Since this was my second night in Europe, a good night's sleep in this room helped to resolve any lingering jet lag issues I was having.



However, my favorite feature of the room was this fantastic shower.  That rain-shower head was so wonderful, I probably took the longest shower here of my whole trip.  I really should get one of those for home.


























At the very heart of the hotel was a little courtyard and a common area where breakfast was served along with light snacks and drinks in the evening.



On my second day in Paris, I had scheduled my return trip to London for around 3 in the afternoon so after a morning of sightseeing, I headed back to the hotel around 1:00 pm and decided to relax for a while before I headed back to the train station.  That courtyard patio was the perfect place to relax and rest the feet.


I would pick this hotel again on another trip to Paris.  It had everything one could need, a comfortable bed, a fantastic shower, friendly and accommodating staff and peace and quiet from the hustle and bustle of the busy Paris streets.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Italian Alps


The town of Canazei in Italy is located in the far north of the country in the beautiful Dolomites or the Italian Alps.  When my friends and I were driving through this stunning region we stopped in Canazei to stretch our legs and indulge in some sightseeing (and a gelato).


The town is a true Alpine resort town full of hotels, restaurants and ski shops.  Wandering its streets, we found beautiful things around every corner.



This carved log was stationed in front of one building.  It has a weathered look making me wonder how long it has been there and how long ago it was carved.





























Another turn in the road brought us to a bridge over the rushing water of a mountain stream.  We were tempted to dangle our feet in the water for awhile.





























Around another corner we found this elaborately decorated building adorned with murals and lacy woodwork.


On the corner of the building was a sign that read "Misteri e Magie" which I believe translates to mystery and magic.  It certainly is a magical looking building.


After a nice walk around this pretty place, we followed the little mountain stream back toward where we left our car.  There is something truly rejuvenating about a walk in the mountains.  I bet this town is buzzing with winter sports fans about this time of year.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Urge for Sunshine and Warmth


This is the time of year when many northern dwellers are thinking about escaping to someplace sunny and warm to escape the frigid cold.  I know this because where I live in Arizona is one of those places that fills up with sun seekers during these winter months.  Maybe because I live in a desert, my thoughts of escape would tend to include large bodies of water.  Luckily, I live pretty close to California so it's easy to pop over to the coast for a refreshing view of sailboats skimming by.


Some people might think that a January break might be a good time to exercise off some of that holiday weight gain.  Water exercise with the sun beating down on you is much better than in one of those indoor pools.



Or maybe you would like to do your exercising in a little more daring way.  You could rent a water board and paddle around the bay for a while.




























If you have an artistic streak you could set up your easel and paint the beautiful scenery before you.






























Or if you are the curious type, you might want to find a "Tidepool Educator" and learn all about the creatures who live in the cracks and crevices along the beach.


I tend to enjoy a long walk along the beach where I can enjoy the vast variety of nature's offerings.  A rock full of water birds offers quite a lot to observe.



You never know what you might encounter walking along the beach.  Besides the plentiful wildlife, there might be some interesting human activity to observe.  I stumbled on to a photo shoot on one walk.


But most of all, I think almost everyone would be happy with a brilliant sunset and a skyline dotted with palm trees.  Besides my wonderful Arizona, I think the California coast offers just about everything needed for a winter break.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Way Out of Africa


About 90 miles north of Phoenix is a wild animal park called Out of Africa.  It's a little different than most zoos in that most of the animals roam a large space and guests are driven through that space to get some close up looks.


Some get closer than others.  The driver of the open bus and another keeper have developed a good relationship with the animals and they come right up to the bus to greet the guests and of course get a little treat while they are at it.


The area where the bus runs contains all kinds of African animals.  There is a large group of zebras and they come over to the bus for a little hand out.


And as they go after the offering, there striped coats make beautiful patterns.


Even the young ones come over to see what is on offer.


This Gemsbok antelope watched us from a distance.


































I thought the Emu was coming over for a treat.....


....but, what he really wanted was a hug.


In the walkable area of the park I saw lions, bears, hyenas and wolves but, I was mesmerized by the beautiful Bengal White Tiger.  


In another section, there was a selection of reptiles like this gila monster.  Just like a little kid, he had to stick his tongue out for the camera.

Out of Africa is an interesting place to visit where guests can get some up close animal experiences.  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Windows


Retailers used to go to great lengths to decorate their store windows for the holiday season.  Where I live, I don't see that happening very much any longer.  But, when I travel to London during the holiday season, I can always depend on some wonderful window decorations.  I think the place that does the best job is Fortnum and Mason.


The last time I was there at the season was in 2013 so these aren't the windows you would see if you passed by the store today.  However, if you don't happen to be in London for the season, these photos will give you an idea of the things they do.  In my opinion Fortnum and Mason does Christmas window displays better than anyone else.


The theme for 2013 was a nostalgic one.  It was called "When Dreams Come True."



Windows full of carolers, tree trimming and holiday baking certainly are very nostalgic and dreamy.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Salisbury Cathedral


The first time I visited Stonehenge some 17 years ago, I took a bus tour from London.  Last year when I visited again, I knew I wanted to see a bit of Salisbury and the beautiful Salisbury Cathedral so I took the train there. Walking toward the church gives you a good image of its massive scale.  The cathedral boasts a lot of "bests" including the tallest spire in all of the United Kingdom.


The cathedral is constructed in what is called Early English Gothic Architecture.  The outside contains 130 niches, 73 of which contain statues.


The inside is long and narrow and unusually light.  The light grey stone of the walls helps to give the inside a bright, well-lit look.


One of the things that caught my eye inside this massive church was this new and modern Baptismal font that was designed by a British water sculptor, William Pye.  It was added to the church in 2008 in celebration of the cathedral's 750th anniversary.  The reflections on the smooth surface of the water seem to perfectly meld the old with the new.



In addition to the tallest spire in England, the church is also home to the oldest working modern clock in the world.  Looking at this box of gears and pulleys, you ask yourself, where is the clock face?  There isn't one.  Back in 1386 when it was built, clocks didn't have faces, they simply rang out the time with bells.  This one was originally located in the old bell tower but was removed when the tower was rebuilt.  It was fully restored to working order in 1956.

















There was beauty in every direction inside the cathedral.  From inspiring chapels to beautiful monuments to notable men and women, there was something to see in every corner.


There was even the added attraction of a beautiful glass exhibit that was going on while I was there.  The colorful glass on display almost drew as much of my attention as all the historic elements.


Superlatives abound when describing the notable aspects of Salisbury Cathedral.  I've already mentioned the tallest spire and the world's oldest clock now I bring your attention to the best of the  the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta.  The document is protected from light under a tent-like structure located in the Chapter House on the cathedral property.  Obviously, photographs of the actual document are not allowed but, I can say that viewing such an important and ancient document is a moving experience.


Yet another Salisbury boasting right, is the Cathedral cloisters and cathedral close.  It is the largest in Britain. All of these import "bests" and "oldest's" and "largest's" make Salisbury Cathedral a place well worth a visit.  I am so glad I made a point of seeing it for myself.