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Sept-Oct 2020: Bel Woodhouse




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The passengers struggle down, swaying on the rope ladder, rucksacks banging against the side of the ferry. They load awkwardly into a small boat which takes them – including me - to the pier. Big ferries from Piraeus had no docking facilities on the isolated, lovely, small island of Fourni in the eastern Aegean, but that was forty years ago. The disembarkation is much smoother this time round. I first arrived in Greece fifty years ago, exhausted from a three-day train trip. I have liked it ever since: visited much of it, lived in it once, and come back every so often. It sent me off in a new direction for my life and I went eagerly. I am more tolerant of its faults than I am of my own. Many of Greece’s island tourist destinations have changed radically but for those who don’t hanker after international cuisine or exotically-named…
Tuesday, 01 September 2020

Our Favorite Places in Rome

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Some time ago we lived in Rome for six months. We'd walked and bussed all the streets of the city and developed a list of our favorite places. When we had a chance to visit for a three night stopover we were astonished that our long-term memory of the city was still very much intact. I will spotlight the places we returned to – some very special sights: (1). The Piazza Mattei - Where in the past we spent many hours having coffee and admiring the Fontana delle Tartarughe, or the fountain of the tortoises. The fountain was designed by Giacometti della Porta in 1581: with 4 bronze youths and 4 bronze sculptured dolphins by Taddeo Landini is a real gem of Mannerist art; later on G.L. Bernini added the four bronze tortoises. Nothing without Joy; (2). The Church of Santa Maria della Pace, designed by P. Cortona in 1656,…
Wednesday, 01 January 2020

Seven Magic Mountains

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While taking a complimentary art walking tour inside the Park MGM Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, I learned that the multi-million dollar curated artwork and installations pay tribute to nature surrounding the Nevada desert and urban parks. The art pieces enhance the MGM park theme and beauty of the resort. We stopped at a model of renowned Swiss born artist Ugo Rondinone’s unique Seven Magic Mountains. His colorful art installation is located about 20 minutes south of Las Vegas near June Dry Lake. After the tour, I was inspired to hire a SUV to drive out to the exhibit to see it up close. My driver arrived before sunset and followed Google Maps for about 10 miles to Jean, Nevada, before driving off the paved road onto a dirt trail. As the drive became very bumpy, and we passed a mustang convertible car stuck in the sandy soil, I…
Friday, 01 November 2019

Hiking the Caldera in Santorini

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One of the stops on the eight day Galileo sailing ship exploring Greece's Cyclades is a day at the dramatic island of Santorini with an underwater volcanic crater. The rugged cliff landscape is shaped after an eruption in the 16th century. Clinging to the cliffs along the caldera are sugar cube whitewashed homes and picturesque blue dome roofs. Visitors can rent a car, motor cycle or hike from one village to another. Variety Cruises anchors at the old port Ormos, offering a few taverns and small shops and the option of three different ways to get up to the top of the picturesque village of Fira. The easiest way is to ride a three minute cable car up to the edge of the cliff. Visitors can also walk zigzag over 600 stone steps uphill or pay to ride a mule up to the top. Fira is the most visited area…
Monday, 02 September 2019

Taipei, Taiwan: Intriguing, Alive, Charming

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Taipei is seedy – a never ending red light district. Illuminated signs flash, studded lights line up in an arrow formation pointing to unknown places. Elegant, grotesque Banyan trees flank and frame streets. Blackened bark. Tendrils drool. Branches dance with one another – making contorted shapes with their bodies. Buildings are smothered in a layer of dirt that seeps into the cracks between the tiles, coating the thickets of wires that spew out of buildings: the guts of the city laid bare for all to see. But this is just an impression seen through a western, British lens. Relative to a place where streets are ordered, straight-laced, sterile: to pass through, not to be touched. Here, the streets are alive. The streets are workshops. Unfinished projects left out everyday: Brooms, fabric, nails, sinks, pipes. Protected by the city’s endless arcades – that extend shop units outwards. Find a well positioned…
Photo thanks to Humphrey Muleba With around 2.4 billion people in the world living with 60 miles of the coastline, according to information from the U.N.’s Ocean Conference, there are a lot of beaches that tend to be pretty crowded. While not all popular beaches are bad places to go, sometimes you want a more private, quiet experience to enjoy the wonders of the ocean. These are some of the best unique, secluded beaches you should consider checking out this year. Playa Arcos, Costa Rica The name of this beach translates to “arch beach” in English, and it’s a stunning ocean area that you can get to by hiking through Ballena National Park. Adventurous travelers will love that the beach is next to rainforests and rugged cliffs. Plus, you might see some amazing marine wildlife in this protected marine park, and there are even rock caves and hidden waterfalls to…
Photo by Rod Long There are currently 2,670 named islands in Alaska and several unnamed islands that make up the largest state in America. Although they have a population of fewer than 800,000 people, twice as many people visit Alaska each year for business and pleasure. These islands are so large that many of the mountains found in Alaska are scattered among them. On the mountain tops you will find snow-covered peaks and inactive volcanoes. Beautiful little houses are nestled in the valleys where you can spend the night. Chichagof Island Chichagof is the fifth largest island in North America with its terrain ranging from snow-capped mountains to white sandy beaches. This island offers plenty of tourist options, from the small towns near the docks on the northeastern coast to the Ziprider – the world’s longest zip line. Visitors from all over the world come to watch the humpback whales…
Tuesday, 01 January 2019

The Last Wild Miles of Glen Canyon

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I have dreamed of floating the Colorado River through towering red rock walls, past hanging canyons, and shorelines dotted with wildlife and petroglyphs. I did not want to have to spend a week camping or going through dangerous rapids or hiking down three thousand feet. Glen Canyon was the answer to my dream. The 15 miles of the Colorado River that stretches between the Glen Canyon Dam and Lee’s Ferry is a trip for everyone. This is the last wild section of the canyon that was mostly buried by the deep blue waters of Lake Powell. This stretch of the river is smooth and calm. It allows you to take in the towering walls of Navajo Sandstone that reach over 1000 feet up into the sky. You see how nature has used water and wind to carve its own rock sculptures into the cliffs. Wild Horses, Bighorn Sheep and several…
Thursday, 01 November 2018

“Pure Barry” Cycling in Scotland

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Just a few minutes earlier standing among the blooming foxgloves, bluebells, and buttercups and holding our bikes next to the path overlooking the lake (or loch as it's known in Scotland) I had remarked to my companions that if there was a heaven it wouldn't be much different than this. The sun had come out, there were a few puffy white clouds left in the brilliant blue sky, and it had warmed to around 70 degrees. It was a perfect day to cycle around Loch Katrine in Scotland's Trossachs region, a romantic area of sparkling lakes, tree-covered hills, and welcoming villages, and we had finished a delicious lunch and were enjoying a leisurely ride. It was turning into a fantastic day! As we turned to get back on our bikes we watched an orange and black butterfly flutter in the ferns next to the path. It reminded us of my…
Saturday, 01 September 2018

Comparing Tuscany and Provence

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We spent two months (October & November) driving about 3,500 kilometers in both Tuscany and Provence. After extensively exploring both we considered these questions: How does Tuscany differ from Provence? Conversely, how are they similar? Our unavoidable bias and unscientific observations are indeed noted. (1) We found the Provence countryside, landscape and topography much more diverse with more vineyards than Tuscany. (2) Missing in large parts in Provence towns and villages are the piazzas that are found in Tuscany. (3) The churches in typical Provençal villages were mostly near the top of the hill, not at a focal point at the center of Tuscan towns and villages. Provençal churches were always closed except on Sundays. Tuscan churches were open parts of the day and many contained some bits of fresco, paintings or sculpture. (4) Between French and Italian cuisine it is still a toss-up! There is such a wide range…

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