Monday, December 25, 2017


Nativities from around the world displayed in the Connecting Cultures Mobile Museum remind me of our own collection, gathered over the years, often as we have traveled around the world. As we celebrate this holiday season with its message of joy, hope, peace and goodwill, we send best wishes to all of you for a very

Monday, December 18, 2017

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA:: A Walking Tour of the CBD

Sydney Opera House viewed from The Rocks, with one of the many harbor ferries passing by
I recently spent two weeks in Australia, beginning with three days in Sydney. Our hotel was in the CBD (Central Business District) near Chinatown, not far from many of the places I wanted to see. 
Hyde Park, Sydney, Australia
So, while my husband was attending his conference, I took myself on a self-guided walking tour.  I headed first for Hyde Park, anchored on one end by the War Memorial and the other by a large fountain bordered by a plaza where a bubble-man was surrounded by children as he created streams of giant bubbles. In one of the trees along the path I spotted a possum curled up in a hole taking a nap--possums, like many Australian animals, are nocturnal.
War Memorial
On the other side of the park was the Australian Museum (subject of a future post on this blog) and a view over the Botanical Garden. I then walked down George Street, in some ways the equivalent of 5th Avenue in New York, with crowds of people making their way to upscale stores and arcaded shopping malls. Since many of the buildings in the CBD are apartments where people live, I wondered where they went shopping for food. Then I spotted a sign for Coles, a large supermarket, with a stairway down to the store below street level. Further down the street I stopped in Dymocks bookstore, packed with Christmas shoppers. It had a huge selection of children's books on the lower floor and I enjoyed browsing, especially books by Australian writers. It also had a large display of books by English author Enid Blyton, whose books had been among my favorites when I was a child.
This historic arcade has shops on three levels bordering a central atrium
From there I made my way to The Rocks, site of Sydney's origins and earliest history of European settlement. The museum details aboriginal life in the area and its ancient history. 
Exhibits inside the Discovery Museum show Sydney from its earliest beginnings
The Rocks are a mixture of historic buildings on cobblestone streets and modern high rise buildings.
View of the city from the harbor
From The Rocks is a spectacular view of the Sydney Opera House on the other side of the harbor. As I walked along the esplanade I found myself underneath the massive Harbor Bridge.
People beginning their walk over the top of the Harbor Bridge
Then I headed back to my hotel, not far from the Chinese Friendship Garden. By no means did I cover all the sights of Sydney, but my tour gave me a good taste of the flavor of the city. 
Lion statue at entrance to Chinese Friendship Garden in Chinatown

Monday, December 11, 2017

SAILS IN THE SUNSET, Sydney Opera House, Australia

Opera House, Sydney, Australia
The white “sails” of the Sydney Opera House, soar over the entrance to the harbor and are the iconic image of Sydney, the largest city of Australia. Like a giant, earthbound ship, they greet boats entering the harbor and provide a focus for visitors.
At the Sydney Opera House on a warm summer evening
We arrived in Sydney in early December (the beginning of Australian summer), and despite our jet lag after the 15 hour flight from Los Angeles, decided that going to the Opera House to view the sunset was the perfect way to start our trip. The plaza below the Opera House was filled with people taking pictures and enjoying the view while partaking of food and drinks from the tented concessions that lined the lower level.
To the west, we watched the sun sink behind the towering skyscrapers that dominate the modern city of Sydney, while across the bay, dramatic clouds filled the sky over the bridge, another famous Sydney image. Along the top of the span, tiny figures were silhouetted against the sky as they climbed to the top. (This is a popular tourist activity–but not for one for me.)
People appear as tiny ants as they walk across the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge
The Opera House was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, winner of an international competition in 1957 to design a ‘national opera house’ for Sydney’s Bennelong Point. His vision for a sculptural, curved building on the harbor was unique and broke radically with the cube and rectangular shapes of modernist architecture up to that time.
Tiled surface of the Opera House "Sails"
The grand opening was in October 1973. As we circled the point to view the opera house from another angle, we encountered a Canadian tourist who told us that he had been at the very first opera performance in 1973. Soon after the sun set, many of the people who had been lingering on the plaza streamed inside for that evening’s program.
Moonrise over Sydney Harbor, viewed from the Opera House
Meanwhile, we watched the moon rise to the east and waited for dark and the light show, Badu Gili, to begin at the top of the Monumental Steps. Badu Gili, meaning “water light” in Gadigal language, explores ancient stories in a seven-minute video projection of colorful images derived from the traditions of the local aboriginal people.
Badu Gili light show

From birds to sea creatures, people to abstract designs, the brilliant images moved across the curved surfaces like giant kaliedescope designs. They were spectacular. (Click above to see a 24 second clip of the Badu Gili light show.)
When the show finished, we descended the steps, took one last view of the Opera House and bridge, now lit up against the dark sky, and made our way back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep. It was, indeed, the perfect beginning of our trip to the land Down Under.
Harbor Bridge at night, with Luna Park amusement park below

Monday, December 4, 2017

SOUTHERN ITALY MINI PHOTO TOUR: Guest Post by Steve Scheaffer and Karen Neely

Vieste, Italy, and view of the Adriatic
My brother Steve and his wife Karen toured Southern Italy in September 2017 on a thirteen day Rick Steve's tour featuring ancient ruins, local culture, delicious food, beautiful scenery and much more. After touring the wonders of Rome, they experienced the wild beauty of the Gargano Peninsula and Adriatic Coast, the Puglia and Basilicata regions, followed by historic sites at Paestum and Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, and ending in Naples.They came home with more than a thousand terrific photos and have graciously agreed to share a few of them at The Intrepid Tourist. Here is a mini photo album of their trip.
Rome. Victor Emmanuele Monument

Tivoli. Hadrian's Villa, 16th Century
Hadrian's Villa
Vieste, ancient fishing platform
Alberobello. Trulli Houses
Matera. Looking out the door of our cave room
Matera at Sunrise
Dried peppers and garlic
Sorrento "Beach"
Roman ruins in Pompeii
Naples. Masks
Steve and Karen, view of Mount Vesuvius from Sorrento

Monday, November 27, 2017

SICILY PHOTO ALBUM: Guest Post by Steve Scheaffer and Karen Neely

SICILY: Palermo, Italy, looking toward Monreale
My brother Steve and his wife Karen toured Sicily in September 2017, traveling to Palermo, Trapani, Agrigento, Syracuse, Taormina and Catania. Their eleven day trip, a Rick Steve's tour, took them to ancient ruins, local culture, delicious food, beautiful scenery and much more. They came home with more than a thousand terrific photos and have graciously agreed to share a few of them at The Intrepid Tourist. Here is a mini photo album of their trip.
Palermo. Piazza Independenza
Palermo. Cheese and Sausage Market
Ancient Patron Genius of Palermo
Greek temple, Segesta
Hill town of Erice
Taormina. Note railroad at base of the mountain
Trapani salt pans
Trapani transport
Mount Etna Benanti Winery
After lunch coffee under the olive trees
Steve and Karen, Monreale
For more views of Sicily by other Intrepid Tourist travelers take a look at posts by Tom Scheaffer on 2/1/16 and 1/25/16 and by Gretchen Woelfle on 11/4/13 and 10/28/13.

Monday, November 20, 2017

CANADA’S BAY OF FUNDY: Watch a Tidal Bore Crawl Up a River, Guest Post by Caroline Hatton

Bay of Fundy: Tidal Bore on the Salmon River near Truro, Nova Scotia
My friend and fellow children’s book author Caroline Hatton visited the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada, in October 2014. She took the video in this post.

Water moving upstream in a river bed? Yes! During some earth-reshaping cataclysm, geological eons ago? No. It’s happening as you read this, every day, twice a day at high tide, in a few places on this planet, including at the Bay of Fundy in Canada. It’s called a tidal bore.

The Bay of Fundy is home to the world's highest tides, rising and falling up to a record 53 feet (16 meters) a day. Because of the size and power of the tides, different, extraordinary phenomena occur around the bay. Among them are tidal bores.

A tidal bore happens when the leading edge of the rising tide forms a wave that moves upstream, against the current of a river. This is likely to be seen when tides push a huge volume of sea water into a funnel-shaped bay, such as the Bay of Fundy, and up a river mouth. The sea water has nowhere to go but up the river.

Weeks before traveling to the Bay of Fundy, I had researched which river mouths present good tidal bores, picked the Salmon River near the town of Truro, and googled Truro Tidal Bore Times (the bore times don’t necessarily match the high tide times).  Armed with directions to auspiciously-named Tidal Bore Road, I arrived 20 minutes in advance.
Truro tidal bore location in the Bay of Fundy
Credit: Wikipedia map with red dot added by Caroline Hatton
Before the arrival of the tidal bore, I moved into position among the tourists dutifully lined up along the shore with cameras at the ready. Very little water flowed downstream (from right to left), in only one of two channels separated by a sand bank in the middle of the wide, shallow river bed. Here's a video of what we saw:

When the tidal bore arrived from the left, I caught the first glimpse of its front edge rounding the river bend and heard the murmur of the wave despite the steady roar of the wind. Then the sea water filled the channel on the far side of the river, leaving the sand bank in the middle dry for now. The frontal wave in the far channel traveled to the right, out of sight. Next, the sea water filled the channel on the near side of the river, as seen in the video. Finally, the sea water covered the sand bank in the middle of the river bed. The whole show had lasted less than ten minutes.

After I left, the sea water should have kept flowing upstream for hours. The fish must have been confused.

Although the magnitude of the incoming wave wasn’t exactly a surfer’s dream, I found the notion of the high tide going up river, mind-blowing. Little did I know that I would witness a similar phenomenon on a massively larger scale later in my trip. But that’s for another blog post.

For more info:

The link in the above text, about rivers with good tidal bores, also provides info about tidal bore rafting.

Read another blog post by Caroline Hatton, about the collapse of The Hole on Long Island in the Bay of Fundy.

Read another blog post by Caroline Hatton, about the Bay of Fundy’s Joggins Fossil Cliffs.

Monday, November 13, 2017

CANADA’S BAY OF FUNDY: About a Hole that Disappeared, Guest Post by Caroline Hatton

Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia. The Hole in Long Island as it appeared in 2014

My friend and fellow children’s book author Caroline Hatton visited the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada, in October 2014. She took the photos in this post. Caroline's latest book, C'est pas marrant, is in her native French, for ages 8 and up. It's about humorous sibling antics and it practically takes readers on a trip to Paris! Here is her account of what she saw on her trip to Canada.

The Bay of Fundy is home to the world's highest tides, rising and falling up to a record 53 feet (16 meters) a day. But even when and where the tide doesn’t reach such extremes, waves erode rocks, islands, and cliffs, constantly reshaping the landscape. The changes range from imperceptible most of the time to colossal proportions once in a while, in which case they make headlines.
Red dot: location of Five Island Provincial Park
Along the shore around the Bay of Fundy are many natural highlights as different as they are extraordinary. In some locations, tides rush in or out violently. Elsewhere, hikers traipse across mud flats at low tide to visit rock towers and arches, and at high tide a few hours later and a few meters higher, kayakers paddle around and through the same spots.
Five Island Provincial Park. Note hole in Long Island
When I visited Nova Scotia in 2014, a point of interest on my itinerary was Five Island Provincial Park, advertised as a lovely spot for family picnics and beach strolls. It is so named because five islands grace the horizon not far from the shore: Moose, Diamond, Long, Egg, and Pinnacle Island. Having looked up the low tide time on an online tide table weeks in advance, I planned to take a walk on the beach.
It was nice and quiet in the late afternoon sun, sharing the dry sand with only a few dog walkers and watching two clam diggers out on the vast, wet expanse. The closest island was Long Island with its charming, beloved, postcard-perfect arch, known as The Hole or The Eye. I wasn’t about to slosh across all that mud to see The Hole up close, so I took a picture (above) with a telephoto. Then, on the display on the back of the camera, I admired the hole’s smooth, regular shape, and its dainty look in contrast to the massively thick rock above it.

I imagined kayaking at high tide, paddling through the hole, out to the bay and back toward the beach, or maybe around the point of the island. But not on this trip. Maybe some other time. The Bay of Fundy was fascinating enough to have made it onto my bucket list, so I didn’t exclude re-visiting it in the distant future.

Which is why I felt like I had missed something special when a year later I came across news that the arch had collapsed overnight on Monday, October 19, 2015. No one got hurt. No one saw it collapse. Some locals reported hearing noises through the night. The last photo before The Hole disappeared, taken the day before, and the first photo afterwards, on the day after, are shown in a local news article.

I am left with the bittersweet excitement of having seen The Hole before it vanished forever. As for kayaking through rock arches, I can go do it elsewhere in the Bay of Fundy. At least as of now.

For more info

Go to for a good map of the three ecozones: “Aquarium” (whale watching), “Sea Cliffs and Fossils,” and “World’s Highest Tides.”

Read another blog post by Caroline Hatton, about the Bay of Fundy’s Joggins Fossil Cliffs, at

Monday, November 6, 2017

EUREKA, CALIFORNIA: The Heart of Humboldt County

Bald Eagle at the Sequoia Park Zoo, Eureka, CA. 
Every two years in October, I go to Eureka, California, in Humboldt County, for a children's book author festival. While my focus is work, there is also time to enjoy the beautiful northern California coast, the surrounding hills and forests, and to explore the shops, parks and restaurants of historic Eureka.
Coast near Trinidad, CA, north of Eureka in Humboldt County
Eureka is Humboldt's county seat and has a population of about 27,000. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was a booming port city, transporting lumber from the surrounding forests all over the world. Many of the downtown buildings date from that time. A number of them are covered with colorful murals painted more recently.
Mural on building in historic downtown Eureka
During my visit I stayed at the historic Eureka Inn, originally built in 1922. (The rooms have recently been renovated.) The walls of the spacious lobby are lined with portraits of some of its famous visitors through the years such as Sir Winston Churchill and past president Ronald Reagan making one feel a part of history. The hotel is a short walk from downtown Eureka, which is filled with restaurants, craft shops, a bookstore, an art and historical museum and more. One of my favorite restaurants is the Waterfront Cafe, featuring fresh seafood caught locally, across the street from the boardwalk by the water.
Boardwalk in Eureka
From the boardwalk one can view the boats moored in Woodley Marina, which include both fishing and pleasure boats as well as commercial vessels.
Woodley Marina, Eureka
Not far from the center of town, in a beautiful redwood grove, is The Sequoia Park Zoo. It has a small but interesting and varied collection of animals, including a rescued bald eagle, red pandas, orangutans, musk oxen, ostriches and much more.
Red Panda, Sequoia Park Zoo
Arcata, California, just north of Eureka, is home to Humboldt State University and a variety of businesses including  Fire and Light Handmade Glass, a company that makes colorful glassware from recycled bottles. I came home with one of their beautiful glass redwood trees, now propped in a window to let the light shine through and remind me of my trip.
I always enjoy my visit to Eureka, discovering something new each time!
Tree from Fire and Light Handmade Glass