WHERE WOULD YOU TRAVEL?

When Your Destination Is Not A Place, Rich Paschall

Where would you go if you could travel anywhere at all?  Where would your sense of adventure lead you?  Would it be around the world or around town?  Perhaps it would have to be domestic.  You could go to St. Louis and see the Gateway Arch and the mighty Mississippi River.  You could go up river to Hannibal, Missouri and see Mark Twain’s home.  From there you could head east to Springfield, Illinois and see Abe Lincoln’s wonderfully preserved home, maintained by the National Park Service.

You might have one of the great wonders of North America in mind.  So you could head north of Buffalo, New York to Niagara Falls and ride the Maid of the Mist right up to the Falls, or you could climb down the cliff to a point where the water falls between you and the land.  On your way home you can stop in the Anchor Bar, home of Buffalo Chicken Wings.  Yes, that’s the place that started what is now a full-blown food craze.

If this does not suit your taste, perhaps you would run up to the northwest corner of Illinois and stop in Galena, the “town that history forgot.”  You can walk through the mid 1800’s.  You can stop at the spot of a Lincoln-Douglas Debate or visit the home of President U.S. Grant.  At this time of year, you could travel down to the Mississippi River, just west of Galena and, with any luck at all, see the proud American Eagle.  The very site of the bald eagle, waiting to come down from the cliffs to fish or even sitting on a junk of ice on the Mississippi waiting for dinner to swim by, will make the trip worth it.

If none of these northern stops are what you desire, then perhaps you could fly to Orlando, Florida, take in a Magic game and drive to Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, down to Miami and onto the Keys.  A stop in the Everglades means you can see alligators up close, REAL close.  The Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast can be a playground.

Seeing a rainbow over Germany from France
Seeing a rainbow over Germany from France

If Europe is your adventure you can fly to Frankfurt and go on to Stuttgart for museums and festivals.  You can visit Strasbourg, France or cross the Rhine into Allemand (Germany).  You can visit the magnificent ancient notre dame cathédrale de Strasbourg or ancient castles of Alsace.  There are vineyards and wine festivals and if you like, you can visit the Statue of Liberty in Colmar, France.  It is in the middle of a busy traffic circle so you have to run fast and dodge the cars if you want to get over to it.

If Germany or France are not on your list, how about London?  It is one of the great international cities.  In 1777, author Samuel Johnson, writer of an early English Dictionary, stated words that are still true, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  A few days or even a few weeks are not enough for the sights of London.

Why do I bring up all these travel ideas?  It is because this week I am on another journey.  It may lead some of my friends to say, “Are you going there again?”  I am off to the northeast of France.  It is the sixth year in a row my trip will end up there.  In 2010 we made a trip to Stuttgart for an Oktoberfest type celebration, then on to France.  In the  summer of 2013 I went with some friends to Paris, and then on to Strasbourg.  In 2012 I met my friend in Baden-Baden, Germany so we could fly together to London for the Summer Olympics, then we went back to France.  Last year I made it all the way to Selestat, France on my own.  These trips were all at different times of year.  Some years my friend came to Chicago as well.

In all of these years we had some specific plan in mind, but we did much of the trip spontaneously.  When I reflect on these trips I realize there was no destination.  I could have been going anywhere.  We dreamed and we went, but it didn’t matter where.  The ultimate destination was never a place.  It was a friend.  Yes, we will visit new places and familiar places this week.  There will be new adventures, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t matter where we go.  We enjoy our trips, large and small, because we are doing them together.  Every stop is fun, every place is exciting, everywhere is new, even if we have been there before.  It is because I am with a great friend.

Good wine and good friends, the best destination

We have been together on all the adventures I have mentioned above.  Of course, we often set off to see great sites or experience great things, but they were made special by the fact that we shared these adventures.  So this week I have gone to Frankfurt, Germany to catch a bus to Strasbourg, France.  From there I will take a train to Sélestat, France. “J’arrive à la gare de Sélestat à 17 heures, 10 minutes.”  The final destination is friendship, the best destination of all.

 

OUR IRISH HONEYMOON

We surprised everyone — except ourselves — when we announced our plans to honeymoon in Ireland. “Neither of you is Irish,” they said, foreheads wrinkled. I’m not sure why everyone here and there assumes the only reason to go to Ireland is to look for “roots.” While we were there, we were often asked why we’d come and on hearing neither of us is Irish, would get looks of puzzlement. Then, they’d look again and ask “Are you sure?”

Somewhere in Ireland
Somewhere in Ireland

It was a great place for Americans. There’s strain between the Irish and English for longstanding historical reasons, but they have nothing but smiles for Americans. From Dublin to Sligo, Shannon, Galway, Cashel and all the lovely towns in between, people were friendly and welcoming. When they learned we were honeymooners, we were treated to rounds of drinks and offered the best accommodations. Avoiding big hotels, we stayed in bed and breakfasts which we found using the National Tourist Board guidebook and a map.

We’d zero in on a destination and phone ahead. After a while, it began to work the opposite way. Wherever we landed, we’d see who had a room and stay there. We always found someplace nearby and each home was spotlessly clean and comfortable, although tiny by American standards.

Cong and Garry
Cong and Garry

Our first stop after Shannon was Cashel. The bed-and-breakfast was a little pension. In the shadow of the Rock of Cashel, adjacent to the ruins of a medieval Dominican church, the location was perfect. We stayed two nights, then headed for Dublin.

Dublin was magic. Once we found our feet,  it was a city of music and wonderful company We’d been planning to stay two nights, but stayed five. There were evening’s at Foley’s, where Irish music played every night and we all joined in, each in our own key. There were the pubs, where the Irish Coffee was always strong and the folks eager to wish us well and advise us on our itinerary. We shopped, sang, and drank, not necessarily in that order. (Note: Probably you should shop then drink.)

We listened to stories, told some of our own, and would gladly have stayed another week or more.

From Dublin, we drove cross-country to Sligo. As we entered Sligo, the rain began to pelt down. For perhaps five minutes, it poured. Then, as the rain slowed to a drizzle, in front of us appeared a brilliant double rainbow. Welcome to Sligo. Our destination was a bed and breakfast called Rathnashee, which we learned means “fairy ring.” There’s an earthwork fairy ring in the field adjoining the house. I chose it because it had a room with a private bath, was on a main road (we never stopped getting lost, but we did learn to enjoy it), and had a library. Books are my weakness. Maybe my strength too.

Dublin, September 1990
Dublin, September 1990

The parlor of the house was a library, mainly the history of Ireland and Sligo in particular. Evenings, by the warmth of a peat fire, we settled in with a pot of tea and a plate of cookies. We read about Yeats, the Great Hunger, and the long, often tragic history of the north. In the course of events, Garry discovered he did, after all, have Irish roots, while I dreamt of fairy circles and magic mountains.

GarryInnisfree
Garry at Loch Gill, at the Isle of Innisfree

Sligo is bursting with magic. You can feel it as you explore the ancient earthworks, standing stones, cairns, and castles. I became convinced that the “Little People” live there still. Loch Gill, “where lies the Isle of Innisfree,” has its own magic.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

by W. B. Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

We spent a grand afternoon exploring the recently restored Park Castle. The crystal waters so clearly mirrored the sky that those viewing the pictures we shot that day have trouble telling which is water and which is sky. Later that same day, while heading toward Knocknarea, the mountain top cairn of the legendary Queen Mab, we met Gordon Winter, ex-spy, author, and local character. We were photographed in close encounters with his pet chickens, sipped tea in his kitchen, and bought an autographed copy of his latest book “Secrets of the Royals.”

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens
Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Throughout our vacation, the weather never stopped changing. The sun shone, disappeared and reappeared in rapid succession. Wind blew, and clouds rolled in, and it rained. A few minutes later, the rain stopped, the wind died, the sun came out, the temperature rose, and just as you had taken off your jacket and put on your sunglasses, you’d realize it was raining again.

We took our sunglasses on and off twenty times an hour, and took our jackets on and off almost as often. The second morning in Sligo, we awoke to pounding rain. I peeked out the window to see another rainbow, even brighter than the one we’d seen on arrival, in the field across the road.

Rainbow over Sligo
Rainbow over Sligo

By the time we went to breakfast, the sun had come out, but by the time we finished breakfast, it was drizzling. Irish weather. It never rained all day, but rained a little almost every day. We learned to ignore weather and so whatever we had planned, counting on the ever-changing skies to give us enough clear weather to tramp through a ruin, scale a castle wall, or walk down by a riverside.

Marilyn at Loch Gill
Marilyn at Loch Gill

After three days in Sligo, we traveled down to Connemara. One afternoon, we drove to Cong, where John Ford shot “The Quiet Man.” Ardent movie buffs, we literally climbed over fences and wended our way through sheep pastures.

Garry always greeted the sheep by reminding them how good they would taste with a bit of mint jelly. I thought in terms of sweaters and tweeds. We tramped through the pastures until we found the “quiet man’s cottage.” We recognized it by the little stream the runs in front of it … the location, the picture perfect location. But the cottage was a ruin.

Nowadays the Irish Tourism folks are advertising it as “restored.” Having seen it in 1990, there was nothing to restore. The foundation was barely visible. A few pieces of wall, but otherwise gone. They may indeed have rebuilt it, but it was no restoration. Hey, we’re talking Hollywood, so you don’t care, right?

The setting is as idyllic as ever, though, and the stream still flows past the cottage door and under the little bridge. Clearly the movie was the biggest thing to ever hit the town. Cong is full of Quiet Man memorabilia, and the local residents full of anecdotes and memories.

Cong, September 1990
Cong, September 1990

Our time was almost up, and as we continued down along the coast, we began to realize that we would really have to go home. The idea was so depressing that we stopped in the nearest pub for solace.

Cong and Garry
Cong and Garry

The only part was driving. Keeping left was a problem. The roads were another. Narrow, a terrifying mix of blind curves, roaming sheep, and meandering cattle, locals drive these narrow roads at supersonic speeds. On roads hardly wider than our tiny compact car, we were passed, after which we felt obliged to check if the door handles and mirrors were still attached.

Irish Signs
Somewhere … but where?

Eventually we stopped worrying where we were or how to get someplace else. We let the road take us where it would. We knew whenever and wherever we stopped, we’d find a good pub and friendly faces.

We hoped we’d go back again, but other places called and the years ran faster than I believed possible. But we remember.

Post Script:

Yeats' Grave in Sligo
Yeats’ Grave in Sligo

When we got home, we were visiting Garry’s folks, showing the photos to Garry’s Dad until he stopped us. It was the pictures of Yeats’ burial site. “Those are your people,” he said, pointing to a group of stones slightly behind Yeats’.

“Our people?” asked Garry.

“Your grandparents were from Sligo,” he said. “My mother,” he clarified. That explained the very light-skinned red-headed grandmother Garry remembered.

“When were you going to tell me?” he asked his father.

“I was waiting until I thought you were old enough,” his father explained. Garry was 48 at the time.


Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap – What’s your dream tourist destination — either a place you’ve been and loved, or a place you’d love to visit? What about it speaks to you?

WHICH WAY PHOTO CHALLENGE WEEK 6 – A GALLERY OF EVERYTHING

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2015 Week #6

A little of everything, this week. Paths through snow, through woods, on city sidewalks.

WHICH WAY? IT’S A NEW YEAR!

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2015 #1

Which way indeed. Right now, with one car not running and the other in need of service, which way is just this side of a moot point. Hopefully we’ll get it sorted out soon and it won’t require expensive solutions.

Meanwhile, a retrospective of roads.

A WALK IN THE WOODS – SYMBOLIC JOURNEY AND PHOTO GALLERY

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2014 #27

My favorite road pictures. From different places, different times … and for a variety of reasons. Since I started taking pictures, I’ve been searching for the perfect path, the one that symbolizes life. Over the past 40 years, I’ve expanded my search from woodland paths, to roads of all kinds, including canals and railroad tracks. There is something inherently symbolic about a path.

There used to be a game we played. Not really a game, more like a mental imaging exercise. I originally heard it in the 1960s when I was in college. I was told it wasn’t psychology, but rather drew on symbolism, images out of mythology and folklore. And, of course, our subconscious.

If you feel inclined, come along with me. The meanings, to the degree I understand them, are at the bottom of the page after the photo gallery. I’m pretty sure if you Google this, you’ll find other versions.

1. Imagine you are going to take a walk in the woods. What kind of day is it (sunny, cloudy, raining, warm, cold, summer, winter, autumn, spring)? It can be anything, whatever you see.

2. There is a path ahead of you. Describe the path (open and clear, full of rocks and other hazards, overgrown, etc.).

3. What is the woods like? Pine? Hardwood? Does the sun filter through?

4. As you walk along the path, you see a structure. What is it? It can be any kind of structure — house, shed, ruin, church, modern — anything. Describe it, please. Does anybody live there? Are they home? Do you go inside? How do you feel about the place?

5. Now it’s time to leave the house. You are back on the path and you come to a body of water. What kind of water (stream, river, ocean, lake, puddle, creek, swamp, etc.). You need to get to the other side. How do you cross the water? (Let your imagination roam free!)

6. Having crossed the water, you rejoin the path. As you stroll or stride along the path, you look down and see a cup. What does it look like? Do you pick it up? Keep it or not?

7. Further down the path, you spy a bear. What is the bear doing. What do you do about the bear?

8. You have passed the bear and you have walked a distance until you come to a wall. What does the wall look like? Can you see over it? Do you know (or can you see) what is on the other side of the wall?

What it means, as I learned it:

1. The walk is life and the day is how you see life — dark or bright, shadowy or sunny. All that you see is part of your vision of life. Whether or not there are obstacles in the path, or the path is clear is also part of it. The nature of the woods is also descriptive of how you see life.

2. The structure is your childhood. Many people see a storybook house, gingerbread or the woodsman’s cottage out of Hansel and Gretel. Some people find it terrifying. Some people go inside and don’t want to leave.

3. The body of water indicates how you feel about the challenges in your life. The body of water can be just a puddle that you step over, or an ocean that requires you conjure up an ocean liner to cross. It can be deep and dark, scary or someplace lovely into which you want to wade or swim. How difficult (or easy) it is to cross the water talks about how you feel about overcoming obstacles you {did, are, will} face.

4. The bear is responsibility. Some people run, others freeze. Some people make friends with the bear and it accompanies them on the rest of the walk. It’s all in your imagination and there are no limits.

5. The wall is death. The most common things to see on the other side are a beautiful mansion (heaven?) … more forest (reincarnation or just a continuation?) … the ocean … One guy saw a burning forest (ouch). What you see is what you see and it may not be what you expect.

I have done this several times at different ages and stages of my life. My answers were different each time, reflecting the current me.

What little I know of this is its origins are probably late 1890s, England. Hope you enjoyed your walk!

A GALLERY OF WAYS

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2014 #24

Welcome everyone to Cee’s Which Way Challenge. This challenge is about the roads, walks, trails, and rails we travel as we move from place to place. You can walk, climb, drive, ride, as long as the way is visible.


Trains and tracks, trucks and roads. Boats on rivers, in harbor, on the ocean. Planes in the air. Going every which way.

OH! THE PLACES YOU’LL GO, THE THINGS YOU’LL SEE!

Share Your World – 2014 Week 48

What is your favorite toppings on pizza?

We eat a lot of pizza these days, which is funny because Garry didn’t used to like it much. Times have changed. Mostly, I prefer veggies. Mushrooms, onions, peppers. Extra tomatoes and a lot of cheese. I think Garry would prefer something more carnivorous, but he’s being nice to me (and our hearts!) these days :-)

I want to learn more about …

Everything! History, science, art, literature … I love learning and with rare exceptions, everything is interesting. Moreover, my motto remains:

Knowledge is never a waste of time. 

What are three places you have enjoyed visiting?

Loch Gill from Park Castle
Loch Gill from Park Castle

Jerusalem. Dublin. London. But to be fair, I’ve enjoyed pretty much every place I’ve ever visited, from the most obscure little towns in the middle of nowhere, to the biggest cities on Earth. Knowledge is never a waste of time … and travelling is always fun as long as you dwell on the adventure and not the hassles.

Do you prefer eating the frosting of the cake or the cupcake first?

I don’t like frosting. Too sweet. I usually scrape off frosting on pretty much everything. When I bake cakes, I put a little powdered sugar on them for decoration, but usually won’t ice them.