Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Charleston, SC: Living time capsule, thriving city

March 3, 2013

I wrote a “36 Hours in Charleston” feature for the Boston Globe than ran on Feb. 24, timed to the first nonstop flights from Boston to Charleston, SC (Jet Blue). But any time is a good time to visit this vibrant city. Well, maybe not August. Start packing, and feel free to follow my lead.

By Diane Daniel

People stroll on the Battery, a landmark promenade along the Charleston peninsula

People stroll on the Battery, a landmark promenade along the Charleston peninsula

CHARLESTON — A visit to the Holy City, so named for its historic houses of worship, pulls you back in time. Horse-drawn carriages transport tourists along cobblestone streets flanked by centuries-old, beautifully preserved, and impeccably manicured gardens and homes, many open to the public. From land, you can gaze across the harbor to Fort Sumter, where Union soldiers suffered the first hit in the Civil War. But Charleston comes with a fast-forward button, too. Lowcountry cuisine keeps raising the bar, and a new wave of boutiques and bars buoy several neighborhoods. Mix it all together for heavenly results.

DAY ONE

Martha Lou's Kitchen has been dishing up soul food since 1983

Martha Lou’s Kitchen has been dishing up soul food since 1983

1:30 p.m. Meet Martha: Before you hit the highfalutin eateries, start simply and soulfully at Martha Lou’s Kitchen (1068 Morrison Drive, 843-577-9583), operating since 1983. Inside the pink cinder block building, savor a hearty, homemade Southern meal. Daily dishes ($8.50) might include fried chicken, lima beans, mac and cheese, and collards.

2:30 p.m. Uncivil acts: On April 12, 1861, the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, turning decades of conflict into what became the Civil War. You can trace the war’s path there and at Fort Moultrie, both part of Fort Sumter National Monument. Sumter can be reached only by boat — a scenic 30-minute ferry ride from Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center (340 Concord St., 843-883-3123, ferry $11-$18), while you can drive to Moultrie (1214 Middle St., Sullivan’s Island, 843-883-3123, $1-$3). While there, visit “A Bench by the Road,” a memorial placed by the Toni Morrison Society in memory of the estimated 300,000 Africans brought to the barrier island on their way to being sold into slavery.

Jlinsnider owner Jamie Lin Snider carries quality vintage clothing and her own fashion line

Jlinsnider owner Jamie Lin Snider carries quality vintage clothing and her own fashion line

5 p.m. King’s crown: Recently arrived independent shops, bars, and restaurants are transforming Upper King Street, above Marion Square. At Jlinsnider (539 King St., 843-751-6075) Jamie Lin Snider carries quality vintage clothing and her own fashion line. A block away, ethereal bridal wear creator Rachel Gordon hosts a range of designers at her One Boutique collective (478 King St., 843-259-8066). When it’s time for a refreshment, try tricked-out diner The Rarebit (474 King St., 843-974-5483) or Closed for Business (453 King St., 843-853-8466), sporting the city’s largest selection of craft beer on tap.

7 p.m. Anything but ordinary: Late last year, celebrity chef Mike Lata of FIG fame opened The Ordinary (544 King St., 843-414-7060), a locally sourced oyster bar and seafood restaurant housed in a former historic bank building. The massive vault door divides the raw bar from the kitchen. Start with New England Style Fish Chowder ($12), where meaty pieces of the daily catch take center stage in a perfectly seasoned broth.

9 p.m. Avondale after dark: Grab a pint at Oak Barrel Tavern (825 Savannah Highway, 843-789-3686), a cozy, laid-back bar with specialty drafts in hopping Avondale Point, 4 miles west of downtown. The reinvigorated shopping and eating destination includes a wildly designed Mellow Mushroom (19 Magnolia Road, 843-747-4992) housed in an old theater, and the boisterous Triangle Char & Bar (828 Savannah Highway, 843-377-1300), specializing in grass-fed burgers ($9-$15).

DAY TWO

Katie Wilson fills an order at Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts

Katie Wilson fills an order at Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts

8 a.m. Sugar fix: Energize your day with a sweet treat from Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts (481 King St., 843-577-5557), where you’ll find such delicacies as chai coconut, maple bacon, or plain glazed doughnuts ($1.50-$3).

8:30 a.m. To market: The historic Charleston City Market (188 Meeting St., 843-937-0920) reopened in 2011 after a $5.5 million makeover added wider walkways, skylights, and fans. Among the more than 100 vendors, you’ll find regional items including barbecue sauce, sweetgrass baskets, Gullah paintings, and framed ceiling tins. (more…)

Happy Valentine’s to my favorite travel mate

February 13, 2013

It’s fitting that I met my soul mate at an airport, and on Valentine’s Day (2003), no less. Since then, together we’ve visited dozens of states and countries by air, car, bicycle, train, boat, and on foot. Our passion for exploring and our insatiable curiosity about the world around us are part of what brought us together and keep us together. Here’s our “how we met” story, if you’re interested. I will add that each of us traveled extensively on our own before meeting, and would have continued on that path, I’m sure. However you travel — as a family, couple, with friends, or solo — carry on! A new adventure awaits just around the corner!

The Travel Writer’s Handbook will take you there

October 18, 2012

I’ve written a bit about what it takes to be a so-called travel writer. As I tell people, I’m a writer who travels and writes about it. I write about a lot of other things, too. For an upcoming trip to Greenville, SC, I’ll be working on a travel story, an arts story, and a bicycling story, or, more specifically, a profile about a women-centric bike shop.

But of course it’s the “travel” part that appeals to most people. I’ve taught several classes on the topic, mostly about how to find outlets and pitch ideas more than how to write, and I’m often approached by people who want to know how to “be a travel writer.” I have one all-time favorite book I recommend, and am thrilled that it was again updated – “The Travel Writer’s Handbook: How to Write – and Sell – Your Own Travel Experiences,” by Jacqueline Harmon Butler and Lousie Purwin Zobel. (Agate Publishing, $19.95) The seventh edition came out this year (last update was 2007). I’m sure we’d all get a good laugh comparing the first edition, in 1980, with the current one, as the markets and the technologies continue to change with lightening speed. Louise, who created the book, passed away in 2008 at the age of 86, but so much of her writing is relevant that she remains an author, at least for this edition.

Jacqueline Harmon Butler

Jacqueline takes readers step-by-step through pre-trip research and planning, marketing strategies and story approaches. She includes information on background research, query writing, finding new angles for tired subjects, and interviewing techniques. If you really want to be a travel writer, follow the tips in this book and you have a darn good chance of succeeding. If, on the other hand, you just want to write for fun – start a travel blog! If you’re more interested in getting paid to go on vacation, as so many people seem to be, I have no idea how that’s done. When you figure it out, please, please share the answer with me!

She can’t believe it’s accessible

June 30, 2009

I share my blog today with Candy B. Harrington, a fellow member in the Society of American Travel Writers, who is an expert on accessible travel, from people using wheelchairs to slow walkers. Her slogan: Have Disability, Will Travel, and she’s giving us a Top-10 list of little-known accessible places. I haven’t met Candy, who writes from California, but for years I’ve been impressed with her work and uncompromising dedication to her topic. In the world of travel, staying uncompromised is a major feat. She recently released the third edition of her classic book “Barrier Free Travel: A Nuts And Bolts Guide For Wheelers And Slow Walkers.” From the book site, you can check out Candy’s own blog. Photos (except Lake Powell)  are by Mr. Candy, aka Charles Pannell.

Heeeeeere’s, Candy:

Candy Harrington with her favorite chicken Agnes

Candy Harrington with her favorite chicken, Agnes

During the past 16 years I’ve traveled the world in search of appropriate vacation choices for my readers. Although they have a wide range of tastes, preferences and budgets, my readers all have one thing in common; for the most part they are physically disabled — slow walkers to wheelchair-users.

Over the course of my travels I’ve seen a good number of accessible hotels, attractions, resorts, spas and even bus tours, but I’ve also discovered some unconventional accessible finds along the way. These are the things, that really made me step back and say “Wow, I can’t believe they made that accessible.” And although I keep adding to my wow list, here’s my current Top 10.

View of Yaquina Head Tidepools

Walkways lead to Yaquina Head tide pools

Yaquina Head tide pools

Located just three miles north of Newport, Ore., this Bureau of Reclamation project features barrier-free access on paved walkways down into the Quarry Cove tidepool area.

 

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

These gardens in Richmond, Va.,  feature a cool treehouse with ramped access to all areas. Think Swiss Family Robinson on steroids.

White Water Rafting

In Northern California, everyone can enjoy white water rafting on the American River, thanks to the folks at Environmental Traveling Companions. This San Francisco based company can accommodate wheelchair-users (even folks who use a power wheelchair) and slow walkers on their exciting white water rating trips.

Aerial view from Lake Powell (photo Wikipedia)

Lake Powell (photo Wikipedia)

Houseboating on Lake Powell

Forever Resorts  offers a wheelchair-accessible houseboat on Lake Powell, in Utah. You can rent the houseboat for a few days or a week. The accessible model features level boarding, a bathroom with a roll-in shower, an oversized master suite complete with a portable hoyer lift, elevator access to the top deck and a beach wheelchair.

C&O Canal Boat

Docked at the Great Falls Tavern, near Potomac, Md., the replica Charles F. Mercer canal boat features incline lift access to both decks and an accessible restroom on the lower deck. The canal boat is pulled along by mules and offers passengers a colorful look at 1870s canal life.

Baja Sport Fishing

Larry Cooper designed his En Caliente  sport fishing boat with access in mind. Docked in Los Barriles, Mexico, it features removable lockdowns, hoist access to the flying bridge and custom tackle designed for anglers of all abilities.

Wheelchair-accessible back country lean-tos at John Dillon Park

Accessible lean-tos at John Dillon Park

Adirondack Camping

John Dillon Park , near Tupper Lake in upstate New York, features wheelchair-accessible back country lean-tos.

African Safari

Endeavour Safaris  offers wheelchair-accessible safaris in a ramped Toyota Landcruiser, through Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa.

In a Cavern

Billed as America’s only ride through caverns, Fantastic Caverns  features ramped access to their tour vehicles. Just roll-on and enjoy this cool site near Springfield, Mo.

Bungy Jumping

If you want a little adventure, the folks at Taupo Bungy  in New Zealand can accommodate you. It takes very little adaptive equipment, but a whole lot of guts!

Thanks, Candy. The world of travel (and beyond) needs you and your advocacy work!

I’d love to get paid to go on vacation, too

May 28, 2009
A peak behind-the-scenes of a travel writer

Does this look like a vacation?

I really appreciated this piece  “Frugal Traveler” Matt Gross wrote for his New York Times blog. Titled “Research: The Traveler’s Best Friend,” it’s an exhaustive list of his favorite sources, from books to online sites to friends and friends of friends. I could certainly relate to his strategies.

But here’s what I really liked about it. As someone who teaches travel writing, and as a writer who often has to respond to people who say: “You have my dream job!” Matt’s piece gives some insight into what a travel writer actually does. Namely, a lot of researching. Sure we travel, and I’m not complaining about that. But like every “glamour job” (actor, chef, TV anchor), there are so many misconceptions about the work involved. It’s hard work, crazy hours, and a lot of behind-the-scenes dirty work. It’s work! Fun work, but absolutely work.

Diane works on her notes during a camping trip in early April

Taking notes while camping in a swamp for a story on Roanoke River Paddle Trail

So the next time someone says to me, “I’d love to get paid to go on vacation!” (like you do, Diane) well, I’ll, I’ll … send them to Matt’s post and say, does that sound like a vacation to you? And Matt was just writing about before the trip, not the hours of interviewing during the trip, the photographing and sometimes taping, all the fact checking, and, oh yeah, sitting on your butt and writing for days on end. Also, many/most writers aren’t reimbursed for all or even some expenses. Having written for the Times, where I was in fact reimbursed fully, I assume Matt is. (While it’s true that some writers take freebies, there are also some of us who don’t ever, or rarely do.)

Taking of notes never stops

Writing while riding on Tammany Trace bike trail in Louisiana. (Oops, no helmet!)

A few other morsels from Matt, these during a Q&A with fellow career vacationer, I mean travel writer, Rolf Potts,  at his blog, Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding:

Rolf: What is your biggest challenge from a business standpoint?

Matt: There’s no way I could do this job if I weren’t married to a woman with a good, stable job. I’d be homeless. Seriously.

Diane (not that Rolf asked me): I don’t agree that travel writers need partners, but it would be a harder life, especially if you wrote only about travel. Which leads me to another thing Matt said, which I also disagree with.

Rolf: What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?

Immersion journalism for story on hot-springs pool in Glenwood Springs, Colo.

Immersion journalism for story on hot-springs pool in Glenwood Springs, Colo.

Matt: Go into travel before you go into travel writing. You should know how to cross a land border, book plane tickets in a language you don’t speak and befriend the old lady who squints evilly from the second-story window at everyone who passes by. In other words, if you’re just after paid vacations, then you’re going to have a tough time.

Diane: I shouldn’t say I completely disagree, but what I would say is: Go into WRITING before you go into travel writing. Travel writers are writers. Writers can (and often want to) write about most anything. During different points in my 25-year writing career, I’ve written about (and sometimes still do write about): music, art, food, personality profiles, environmental issues, and more. Learning the beat, in this case travel, is the easy part. Learning to research, interview, report, fact-check, write, edit, edit some more … not so easy. 

As for the paid vacation part, believe me, if you even attempt to write about a vacation for publication, it won’t feel like a vacation anymore.

I love my work, but it’s work! So if you figure out how to get paid to go on vacation, please let me know!

The roads traveled are two-way streets

April 27, 2009

I wrote the essay below for a special travel section in the April issue of Ode MagazineIt’s on their website as well.  If you don’t know Ode, I suggest you check it out. It’s at a magazine stand near you. (Borders, Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, etc. Or better yet, buy a subscription and keep Ode alive.  Its tagline is: For Intelligent Optimists. Hey, that’s me! And I’m guessing you, too.

This farmer in Lombok, Indonesia plows with an ox-plow

Farmer on Lombok Island, Indonesia, plows his fields the traditional way

The Eiffel Tower. Big Ben. The Taj Mahal. Only 20 years ago, these were the notches on the traveler’s money belt, which, incidentally, was stuffed with travelers’ cheques. Today we’ve been there, done that. Affordable airfare and Western wealth (yes, we’re still comparatively wealthy even now, in the midst of the credit crunch) have brought travelers to every corner of the globe. We hop on transcontinental flights armed with our debit cards, functional in cash-dispensing machines from Dubai to Denali.

But simply seeing the sights is no longer enough. We want to stray from those beaten paths, dig deeper, get a read on how the locals live, work and play. This can include eating at a restaurant favored by residents instead of Westerners, participating in an outdoor adventure or visiting sites not found in most guidebooks. In industry jargon, it’s called “experiential travel”-travel we live through instead of look at-and it’s never been more popular. It’s popular because it’s typically cheaper than traditional travel; money is tight but we still want to go on vacation, some of us to faraway places. And it’s popular because we want to tread more lightly during our trips, in terms of our impact on the environment and on the people we visit. We want to give something back.

The desire to experience a different culture through activities and people goes deeper than adding another notch to the money belt, though that plays a role, too. It’s as basic as life. It’s our fellow human beings who transcend us. At the end of the day, we recall the burka-clad woman on the train reciting prayers as much as we do the centuries-old treasures in the museum.

A polar-bear-shaped license plate from Northwest Territories

Diane's much-coveted gift from locals in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada

When I think back to one of my life’s highlights-seeing the northern lights in the Northwest Territories, Canada, during 2002-I also relive the hospitality of the citizens of tiny Fort Smith, who cooked for me, took me dog sledding and gave me a polar-bear-shaped license plate that hangs in my house today. The most lasting impression of my 11-week backpacking trip to Europe in 1982 is my still-enduring friendship with Federico, who lives in Vicenza, Italy. In my home state of North Carolina, as I travel to research a farm-travel guidebook, the farmers stand out as much as their bounties or the sweeping rural landscapes.

Diane (left) met Federico Lauro in the mid 1980s

Diane and Federico Lauro in Vicenza, Italy, in 1986. And, yes, they're still in touch.

My reaction is hardly unique. While I’ve done a fair amount of traveling of my own, I’ve also interviewed hundreds of people over the past eight years for a column I write for The Boston Globe called “Where They Went,”  about other people’s trips. Without fail, these travelers will recount adventures, sights, tastes, but almost always add: “The people were the best part. They were so nice, so warm, so welcoming.” Those people’s stories are the ones they recount to me again and again, especially if they were allowed a look inside a community or a family.

These days, even the most mainstream tour operators include experiential travel on an otherwise-standard tour. For example, in the 2009 Grand Circle Travel land and cruise tour “China and the Yangtze River,” participants will not only visit the Great Wall, Beijing and Hong Kong; they’ll tour a kindergarten or senior center and have a home-hosted lunch. “You’ll see local customs enacted first-hand as your gracious hosts prepare and serve a typical Chinese meal,” the itinerary reads. For the traveler wanting a less-staged version of hospitality and sightseeing, many cities have forms of community-based or locally led tourism, which originates with citizens instead of national or international tour operators.

A local guide prepares a meal for a 2-day hiking trek on Lombok

One of our local guides prepares an Indonesian meal during a hiking trek up Mount Rinjani (12,224 ft.) on Lombok.

Digging deeper also requires that we set aside our demands for a money-back-guaranteed quality and “safe” experience. That can be instructive in itself. I recall a community-based “ecotourism” hiking trek my husband and I chose on the island of Lombok in Indonesia. The guides lit our campfires with the help of splashes of gasoline from the jugs they carried and they littered along the way. I later reported these issues to the organizer, who lived in the capital of Mataram, miles and worlds away. He was extremely apologetic, as he’d been trying to get the villagers to understand tourism basics. On the other hand, I saw the real way of life there. It was worth the trade-off. And I was much happier to donate money to people in the village than to an international travel outfitter.

These school children on Lombok are excited to see two cycling tourists

Schoolchildren in a tiny village on Lombok are excited to see two cycling tourists

After hearing me speak about the virtues of getting off the tour bus, one African safari tour operator told me proudly how at the end of his luxury lodge-hopping trip in Tanzania, he takes his clients into the city of Arusha to visit poor neighborhoods and give trinkets to the local children. “Everyone came away deeply moved,” he said. “The crazy thing was, after seeing all that big game, what I heard from them was it was the most memorable part of the trip.” I suggested he consider moving the outing to the beginning of the tour, so it would be on their minds as they met Tanzanian workers along the way. “Oh no, that would be too much for them,” he said.

Perhaps our challenge as citizens of the world is to decide how much is enough-and then go soak it in. Even if the recession has wiped out a quarter or more of our wealth, we’re still rich by global standards. Experiencing how other people live, whether in Appalachia or Addis Ababa, will make us even richer. And likely them, too.

India: love, hate, and avoidance

October 1, 2008
The Taj Mahal in Agra, India was built by Shah Jahan as memorial to wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India was built by Shah Jahan as memorial to wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“Have you been to India?” asked an acquaintance who was soon to visit her husband, who’s teaching in southern India for a few months. I told her that I hadn’t. I also confessed that I have mixed feelings about traveling there, or to any country that is chaotic and has unsafe tap water.

It’s not that I don’t travel outside my comfort zone. I do. Such as to Morocco, Ecuador, Argentina, Indonesia. OK, yes, those places are pretty tame. See what I mean? I absolutely celebrate the rich diversity in all countries. But the older I get, the lower my “ick” threshold falls. My overly sanitized American standards interfere with my sense of adventure. I say this with shame, not pride. Of course the easy way to get around this is to stay in luxury hotels, eat in westernized restaurants, and stay off the ground and away from the common folk. But what fun would that be? What reality would that offer? I’m either going to travel sort of like a local, or stay home. So I remain torn.

Wanderlust and lipstick by Beth Whitman

Wanderlust and Lipstick: for Women Traveling to India by Beth Whitman

Someone who doesn’t shy away from India is Seattle writer Beth Whitman, whose book “Wanderlust and Lipstick” addresses women traveling solo. Beth recently published “Wanderlust and Lipstick: for Women Traveling to India,” a country she’s visited several times since 1989. Beth has seen many changes there over the years and says travel is now easier and more reliable. But still challenging. The challenges are what make it memorable, of course. Beth reports that the number of travelers to India rose from 3.5 million in 2004 to 5 million in 2007 (wow!), and that the government has launched a campaign to train hospitality industry folks about such things as hygiene, manners, integrity and safety. Of course if things get too hygienic, polite, and safe, there go the bragging rights. You can buy the book at Beth’s website, www.wanderlustandlipstick.com.

One of my favorite travel stories offers a different take on the country. In “Trying Really Hard to Like India,” writer Seth Stevenson starts his award-winning 2004 story in Slate.com with this: “It’s OK to hate a place. … Because my girlfriend wants to come back – I’m back. I’m giving this dreadful place a second chance. And this time I vow I will try really hard to like India.” And here’s the ending: “As they say in really lame travel writing: India is a land of contradictions. A lot of things to like and a lot of things (perhaps two to three times as many things) to hate. It’s the spinach of travel destinations-you may not always (or ever) enjoy it, but it’s probably good for you. In the final reckoning, am I glad that I came here? Oh, absolutely. It’s been humbling. It’s been edifying. It’s been, on several occasions, quite wondrous. It’s even been fun, when it hasn’t been miserable. That said, am I ready to leave? Sweet mercy, yes.”

A most-unpatriotic travel campaign

August 25, 2008

For better or worse, I read most travel-related press releases sent to me. This one was for worse. Straight from a PR firm in Williamsburg, Va., where you’d think people might be a little patriotic, the ad campaign is called “Escape the Election” and encourages Americans to leave the United States during the presidential election period to stay at a West Indies beach resort. 

It reads:  “As the conventions begin and the campaigns heat up, many may want to get away from it all.” Said resort, it continues, “provides a true escape from the election with no TV or Internet access in the rooms, allowing guests to completely unplug.” Why not just go stick your head in the sand?

Now, if these masters of marketing had simply said, “cast your absentee ballot and go,” I would have been fine. But instead, the campaign promotes ignoring one of the most important presidential races our country has ever seen by offering special rates at a beach resort.

And it gets better. Or worse. During elections involving our first-ever black presidential candidate, Madigan Pratt & Associates is urging us to stay with its client Nisbet Plantation Beach Club on Nevis in the West Indies. A plantation, you say? Yes, a former sugar plantation.

That word has such a bad connotation I cannot believe how many developments and resorts still use it — as a draw! Historically, plantations have been farmed by resident laborers, i.e. slaves.

So here’s my advice. If you feel the urge to travel during the election, don’t forget to vote first. And please skip any place that calls itself a plantation, unless you visit one that focuses on history, like our own Stagville Plantation in Durham, NC, to learn how life really was for Americans with dark skin during slavery. (And, yes, we still have a long way to go.)

On the road in Canada’s cowboy/girl country

February 22, 2008

I heart Calgary and Canmore. So far anyway. I’m in Canada for a travel-writing meeting in Banff (yes, it’s a tough life) and have several stories lined up, because that’s the way it’s done. Go one place and milk it for all its worth. (I really do work hard.)

Peaks of the Rocky Mountains as seen from Banff centerWednesday I landed in Calgary and headed for Canmore, with a quick detour to Banff. The drive was gorgeous.

Here are some first impressions.

A Welcome to Calgary host greeted us when we got off the plane. She was in her 70s, with a red and white understated cowgirl get-up and white cowgirl hat. I loved that! (In the US, I’m sure she’d be under 30 and showing cleavage.)

I felt left out because I was toting a skis in a bag.

The man at the Dollar rental car didn’t try to “upgrade” my economy car. This is a first!!! He did offer me extra insurance coverage and tank-fill-up option, but didn’t push either. This is a first!!!

Calgary has bicycle paths leading to the airport. Woo-hoo!

My little Toyota Yaris (like it a lot) comes with an ice scraper (of course) and an electrical plug-in to keep the battery heated (how heck do you use it?).

People here (including moi) are thrilled that the weather is in the 40s for a couple days after a frightening cold spell. Of course I saw a dude in shorts. The bad side of the warmth is it brings avalanches. Which makes me think of my seatmate on the plane from upstate New York. He’s with three buddies from Vermont and they’re off to ski downhill and backcountry for two weeks.

Road leading to Banff, AB, CanadaThe view driving from Calgary reminded me of Denver. Modern city with majestic mountain views in the distance.

You know how in places with harsh winters, cars get very, very dirty? Here, I’ve seen cars that are almost black with grime, so much so that I wonder how they can see out their windows.

Alberta has a great community radio station CKUA (93.7 FM), which was established in 1927.

On Highway 1A, the TransCanada Highway, I saw a fully loaded cyclist. (Not drunk, but laden with panniers.) Saw a couple racer dudes too. In February! Passed “Elk Crossing” signs but no elk in sight.

More on Banff and Canmore later. I gotta hit the slopes! (Nordic, that is.)

Love at Logan’s luggage carousel

February 14, 2008

Would you believe that the most romantic place in the world is the Wessel & Diane at Delta luggage carousel where they met a year earlier; CLICK ON PHOTODelta baggage carousel at Logan Airport in Boston? Well, it was for me, anyway. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I feel compelled to reprint this ditty, which ran on Jan. 7, 2007, in the Boston Globe to commemorate five years of my Where they Went column in the Globe travel section. I selected my 10 favorite columns and gave updates on them. Here was the final entry, referring to the column I wrote on March 16, 2003. Here’s what I said:

“Most of the trips I’ve highlighted have been from several days to several weeks long, but one lasted less than 24 hours. That was Wessel Kok and Frans van Dinther’s whirlwind visit from Boston to Lake George, N.Y., Frans & Wessel on Lake George in front of Hotel Sagamoreand back for a mere afternoon of ice-skating on the lake. I had by happenstance met the two Dutchmen at the Delta baggage carousel at Logan Airport, when Kok, working and living in the area, was there to pick up van Dinther. The fact that they drove five hours each way to skate around a big, bumpy lake in freezing weather still amuses me. But that’s not why their story remains my favorite. It’s because it became my story, too. After I interviewed Kok we started dating. We’ve been married for two years, and that indeed continues to be a wonderful journey.”

Well, now we’ve been married three years and today is our five-year anniversary of meeting. It’s been an adventure in so many ways, but since this is a travel blog, let’s keep it to that. Here’s some of the places we’ve traveled to since meeting, with me writing away and Wessel snapping photos: Ecuador, Indonesia, Chile and Argentina, England, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, California, Colorado, Arizona, Florida, New England, the US East Coast, and of course all over North Carolina, where we live. This year’s itinerary will take us to several US states, including Colorado, Texas, Vermont, and Florida; and to the Netherlands, as Wessel & Diane make a shadow heart at the beach; CLICK ON PHOTOusual. Our big trip will be to Norway in June. Our favorite mode of transportation is by bicycle, one of the things we connected over right off.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day to my favorite travel partner and the best life partner I could imagine. Lieve, jij bent mijn nummer 1! Jij bent mijn ideaal. Jij bent de beste!

A little Valentine’s Day update: After I posted this I saw that Wessel had put little messages to me in the Snap! photo function, which you can see when you move your cursor over the photos. Very sweet and sneaky. Which reminds me to add that this blog has been a labor of love between us!