Friday, April 13, 2018

CELEBRATING SEVEN YEARS OF TRAVEL at THE INTREPID TOURIST

With my family at Gettysburg, PA, July 1997
Seven years ago today, on April 13th, 2011, I published the first post on THE INTREPID TOURIST. Since then there have been more than 300 posts, published once a week, usually on Monday. My first post was inspired by a family trip to Gettysburg where we witnessed a reenactment of the Battle of Herr's Ridge, complete with all the noise, smoke, (no actual ammunition), soldiers and their families. I had written the article shortly after our visit in 1997 but it had never been published. So, I decided to use it to launch the blog.
Reenactors at Gettysburg included families of the soldiers dressed in clothing of the time
I thank all of you, my loyal readers, for your encouragement and interest through the years. And I thank all my guest posters for adding their unique experiences and trips to far away places.
Happy Traveling for another year!
Our tickets gave us a close-up view of the battle (the year on the ticket is incorrect--it was 1997)

Monday, April 9, 2018

BIRDS, BEACH AND SUN: A Spring Weekend in La Jolla, CA

Surfers and gulls at La Jolla Shores, California
Until I moved to California I never knew how to pronounce La Jolla, the beach town just north of San Diego famous for swimming, surfing and beautiful ocean views, not realizing the “j” sounds like “h” and the two “l’s” are like a “y”. The correct pronunciation is “ la hoya”.
Hang gliders above La Jolla
Brown pelicans
Recently, on a warm weekend in March we spent a weekend at La Jolla Shores and enjoyed walking along the sand, exploring tidepools, and observing birds and seals from the cliff top path at nearby La Jolla Cove.
Cliff top path at La Jolla Cove
On our first day we headed north along the sand toward the Scripps pier. (The buildings of the Scripps Research Institute are on the bluff above.) Fleets of pelicans zoomed overhead, sharing the sky with hang gliders, who had launched themselves just up the coast at Torrey Pines. The tide was out and flocks of gulls and shorebirds patrolled the water’s edge looking for tidbits in the sand.
Marbled Godwits
Beyond the birds, where the waves were breaking, surfers in wetsuits waited for the next big wave.  We stayed dry. It was early spring and the water was cold--although apparently not for swimmers we saw making their way between the buoy markers.
It was a great day for photography. Broken shells, bits of seaweed, and even a jellyfish had washed up on shore, creating nature's own abstract compositions.
Nature as artist--one stone with kelp washed up on the sand
On the next day we went in the other direction, following the path along the top of the cliff at La Jolla Cove. Hundreds of cormorants perched on the rocks below, many of them tending nests.
This Brandt's cormorant has three hungry chicks to feed
We continued around the point and walked to Children’s Beach, now taken over by seals and sea lions. 
Sea Lions enjoying the sun. (Sea lions have external ears; seals do not.)
People are no longer permitted to use the beach but a walkway along the breakwater provides a close look at the animals–who were mostly sleeping and enjoying a warm day in the sun--just as we were.

For my report on a previous visit to Jolla Cove, see my post for February 10, 2014.
Our shadows from the walkway above the tidepools on the other side of Children's Beach

Monday, April 2, 2018

SPRINGTIME IN WALES, from the Memoir of Aunt Carolyn

Clwydian Range from Cileaire, Wales
Perhaps the original intrepid tourist was Carolyn Arnold, my husband’s aunt.  A single school teacher in Des Moines, she began traveling abroad when she was in her forties, beginning with a bicycling trip through Ireland in 1950.  She went on from there to spend a year as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Wales, to more trips to Europe and beyond, and eventually became a tour leader, taking all her nieces and nephews (including my husband Art) on her travels.  When she retired from teaching, she wrote of her experiences in a memoir called Up and Down and Around the World with Carrie.  Today, as I read of her travels, I marvel at her spirit of adventure at a time when women did not have the independence they do today.  The piece below, from her book, describes a typical weekend driving excursion from Mold, the town where she taught in Wales. 
The national flower of Wales
Spring comes early to our valley. Children come in with arms full of daffodils, which grow wild in the woods. The daffodil is the national flower of Wales.
On Saturdays I often rented a car with Muriel and a few friends and would spend the day driving through the beautiful mountains and valleys of North Wales. We would picnic at some scenic spot.
From Mold the road rises gently to the Twlch (the top) which overlooks the lovely Vale of Clwyd. This is a land of green valleys and stonewalls ringing tiny farms. Most areas of the countryside are good only for grazing and pastures for sheep and cattle. The Clwydian Hills are the highest point between Mold and the Snowdonia Range.
We pass through the small village of Ruthin (pronounced Rithin), which boasts a castle, now transformed into a tourist hotel.
Farther on is the town of Denbigh, also with the ruins of a castle. Charles I was born here. Another interesting site here is the cottage where Stanley, the explorer who found Livingstone in Africa, once lived.
Swallow Falls near Betws-y-coed
Crossing the Conway River, we often turn south to Betws-y-coed. Remember the “w” is an “oo” and “y” as in “it”. “Coed” is all one syllable. Now you can say it! Betws-y-coed is the most famous beauty spot in the Snowdonia region, the area surrounding Mount Snowdon, a national park. The falls here tumble beneath a leafy overhang of many trees and are bordered by lacy bracken, a large wild species of fern.
We continue on to Capel Curig and then to Llanberis Pass. Here the dark hills are barren on either side. We can hear the sound of bleating sheep and the rush of streams falling from the hills. Stone walls follow the line of the road. It is a sad and lonely place, especially in the rain. At the top of the pass two small inns stand near each other. We are grateful for a cup of tea and the sandwiches we have brought along. When we leave, the sun comes out and a great valley sweeps down before us, and the brown hills are outlined against the sky.
Llanberis lies at the foot of Mount Snowdon. At 3,500 feet, it is the second highest peak in Great Britain. One side is very rugged and steep. It is said that Hillary of Mount Everest fame practiced on this side. Many climbers use the other more gentle slope. A small cog railway steams to the top during tourist season. The view is fantastic when the weather is bright, but the top of Mount Snowdon is often hidden by clouds, even in fine weather below.
Conway, above the estuary
Not far from Llanberis is the town of Caernarvon and its famous castle, the most impressive and largest of the Welsh castles. The quickest way home from Caernarvon is back across the Menai Straits bridge and along the coast road bordering the Irish Sea, passing Bangor, Conway and Llandudno and on to Colwyn Bay and the town of Rhyl. There we must turn inland for home.
Mold is only ten or fifteen miles from the coast. We can always tell when there is a storm at sea when the gulls come sweeping in from the coast.

Monday, March 26, 2018

ROME, ITALY: Guest Post by Tom Scheaffer

Rome, Italy. Romulus and Remus Statue,"the Capitoline Wolf". Traditional scholarship says the wolf-figure is Etruscan, 5th century BC. The figures of Romulus and Remus were added in the 15th century
My brother Tom loves to travel and Italy is one of his (and my) favorite places. In December 2017 and January 2018 he went to Europe, stopping on his way to Montenegro in Rome where he visited a variety of ancient sites, including perhaps the most famous–the Colosseum (also spelled "Coliseum".) Other highlights included a "living history" demonstration of ancient Roman times, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and a special Monet exhibit. Here are some of his photos of his visit to Rome and a few facts about the Pantheon.
At the living history exhibit I befriended a Roman Centurion
The Pantheon, one of the oldest Roman buildings, was built by Hadrian in 126AD. It is one of the best preserved of  all ancient Roman buildings in large part because it has been in continous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century has been used as a church.
Roman ruins illuminated at night
Claude Monet exhibit--many of these paintings were lesser known works and most were of his garden at Giverney
Monet's palette
The Colosseum -- at night many of the ancient ruins are illumined with lights

Monday, March 19, 2018

SRI LANKA: Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Part II, Guest Post by Gretchen Woelfle



Reclining Buddha at Anurhadapura
My friend and fellow children's book writer Gretchen Woelfle recently returned from an exciting 16 day cycling trip in Sri Lanka. Here is the second of two installments she wrote about her trip. 


Legend has it that the Buddha visited Sri Lanka three times during his lifetime. History offers no evidence, but Buddhism did arrive in the 3rd century BCE. And the Pali canon – the Buddha’s teachings that were transmitted orally for four hundred years – was first written down in Sri Lanka around 30 BCE. Today 70% of the population are Buddhists. (The other 30% are Hindu (Tamil), Christian, and Moslem.)
Monastic ruins at Anurhadapura
A cutting of the Bodhi tree, under which the Buddha became enlightened, was allegedly brought to Sri Lanka, and today that tree is venerated in the World Heritage site at Anuradhapura, an ancient capital. Our group circled the Sri Maha Bodhi (the sacred tree), each of us offering flowers to a monk and receiving a blessed string bracelet. We then cycled through the vast site to see restored monastery foundations, stupas, temples, and sculptures. 

Abhayagiri Stupa at Anurhadapura. Built in 1st century BCE, restored in 1997
Stupas are solid dome-like structures. The important ones hold hidden relics of holy monks and teachers. Devotees circumambulate the stupas, chanting, meditating and leaving offerings.
Images of dwarves were seen as guardians of sacred items
Our group saw only a few of the countless historic temples in Sri Lanka. We hiked into the forest to the ruins of the Ritigala monastery complex where an orange-clad monk addressed a group of devotees.
Sculptures carved into a cliff-face at Polonnaruwa
We cycled to Polonnaruwa to the restored ruins and two enormous Buddhas carved into a cliff-face, my favorite artworks of the trip. These sites are more than tourist destinations; they remain pilgrimage sites for Sri Lankans.
One of many altars at the Tooth Relic temple in Kandy
The city of Kandy contains the country’s most precious relic – an alleged tooth of the Buddha, kept in a golden casket in the fabulously ornate  temple. Each evening monks open the doors to reveal the casket while drummers perform in a courtyard below.
Behind the curtain lies the precious Tooth Relic of the Buddha
Many other rooms contain an abundance of sculptures and paintings of the Buddha. Marble, gold, and painted images abound.
Offerings left at a Bodhi tree at Kataragama
The temple at Kataragama honors Buddha and the Hindu gods Ganesh and Shiva. Buddhists make offerings at another cutting of the Bodhi tree and Hindu priests perform daily pujas. Even on an ordinary week-day the site was filled with the faithful. An extravagant summer festival draws huge crowds. All through the country we cycled past modest village temples, tiny roadside shrines, and small altars in shops and cafés.
Small Buddhist shrine in a café
Sri Lanka has recently emerged from a thirty-year bloody civil war which pitted the Hindu Tamil Tigers against the Sinhalese Buddhist government troops, and current riots between Buddhists and Moslems threaten the peace. Sampath, our Buddhist guide (whose entire life has been touched by war), recounted stories of his best friend and neighbors who were Tamils (Hindus). As with so many conflicts, the causes are political, rather than personal. One can only hope that the tolerance exhibited at the Kataragama temples will win out in the end.
 
Intrepid Travel offers eight tours of Sri Lanka, from two to fifteen days. https://www.intrepidtravel.com/us/sri-lanka

Book recommendations:
The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka
Romesh Gunesekera, Noontide Toll. A novel of contemporary linked stories of the lingering impact of the civil war.
Romesh Gunesekera, Reef. A compelling coming-of-age novel about a servant boy (1960s-90s).
Leonard Woolf, Growing: An Autobiography of the Years 1904-1911. Before he met Virginia, Woolf spent these seven years as a British bureaucrat in (then) Ceylon.
Leonard Woolf, A Village in the Jungle. This 1913 novel is a powerful but gloomy portrait of village life.
Restored shrine with ancient sculptures and fresh offerings