Thursday, December 25, 2008

Home for the Holidays

This is the same image I have up on my Hart & Soul blog for Christmas tomorrow. Can you imagine this being the home you go to for Christmas each year!

While on our Sedona trip over Thanksgiving weekend, we had the privilege of visiting Montezuma Castle (above) near Camp Verde, Arizona. Talk about breath-taking! I'm still trying to get my head around cliff-dwelling. What happens to people who are afraid of heights...or does that just not happen, at 100 feet above the valley floor! (Montezuma Castle photo album)

Now segue to another dwelling, Tuzigoot (pronounced two-zee-gute), approximately 15 miles west of Montezuma Castle, as the eagle flies.

This isn't a cliff dwelling but it has a similar kind of amazing feel to what it would be like to go "home for the holidays." Its summit is 120 feet above the Verde Valley. Both places were dwellings of the Southern Sinagua farmers in the 1100-1400s CE and both had clusters of rooms where individual families lived. (Tuzigoot photo album)

Hopefully you're home for the holidays, wherever home is for you this year. We had a wonderful celebration with our kids (Amy, Mark and Nicholas) this past Sunday. Donica is with her extended family south of Atlanta tomorrow. And I will be with my dear sister Ruth and hubby Don in Michigan starting next week, over the New Year. Maybe I'll get my fill of snow?! I sure hope so.

In case I don't post again before January...

Merry Christmas
Happy New Year!

Let's count our blessings!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Apache Trail Loop

The "problem" with taking wonderful trips, as we did over the Thanksgiving weekend, is that I always have so many photos to get ready for albums!

This time I decided to do it in bits-n-pieces to make it easier to tackle...for me more than anything. So, we'll start with what we did while in Phoenix on Thanksgiving Day, with the afternoon before us.

We decided to drive the 40-mile Apache Trail loop from the east of Phoenix, driving clockwise from Apache Junction through the Superstition Mountains towards the Roosevelt Dam and around back to Phoenix.

Talk about rough but beautiful terrain! Most of the trip we thought the skies would open up and drench us, but we were lucky and stayed dry. Here's the photo album.

Along the way, we saw lots of cacti! In fact, it was like a forest of cacti, most of which was the Saguaro variety.

What we didn't know, however, was that for the rest of the week, once we drove north out of Phoenix, we would not see any of it again! That maybe surprised us more than anything.

Towards the end of our looooong drive, sometimes traveling at only 5 mph because of the treacherous, dirt roads, filled with ruts and gullies from a recent rain, we reached Roosevelt Dam. It was starting to get dark, so thank goodness the road became paved again for our return to Phoenix.

The last part to Phoenix was mostly barren desert like what you'd expect in that area of the country. But I had my eyes peeled open and was glad to catch this copper mine through the car window as we sped by. It nicely went with the territory in what I think of the wild, wild west.

So, this is the beginning of the Sedona trip from almost a month ago! I'll keep working on the rest of the photos, of course, in between the holiday events. But now we're getting ready for our Christmas celebration with the kids here on Sunday. The gifts are wrapped and the house is cleaned. Just have to go buy the groceries for the festivities! On Christmas day we'll be with Donica's family.

As you are probably doing the same, please take time to rest and pamper yourself with peace and quiet. And just breathe!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Zürich Loop

Okay. There's no such thing, of course. I made it up for this post!

After FINALLY finishing my Zürich Album yesterday, I saw a repeating loop theme in my 3 days of walking around: from the hotel I would walk to the Swiss National Museum, the Hauptbahnhof (train station), then St. Peter's Kirche, the Fraumünster, cross the Limmat River to the Grossmünster, then the Predigerkirche and back to the hotel. A loop. On one day I walked to the Zürichsee (Lake Zürich) in between the Frau and the Gross.

So, here's the loop:

1. The Swiss National Museum
As a rule, I never go inside the museums I pass unless I have oodles of weeks and weeks. But I sure do like to capture the outside architecture from every which angle. I was an architect in one of my past lives...I'm sure of it!

(One of the things you'll notice with almost all my photos in the Photo Album is that there's no sun...because there wasn't!)

2. The Hauptbahnhof (train station)
After crossing the street from the Swiss National Museum, you're at Zürich's main train station. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the big train stations of Europe and this one is no exception. For one thing, you may remember that one of my soulful passions is the art work of Niki de St. Phalle, which I first saw in Hannover, Germany. It so happens that her Guardian Angel is flying overhead inside the station, reminding one and all (who notice) that she is there to protect our comings and goings.

3. St. Peters Kirche
With the largest clock face in the world (on a tower), a diameter of 28 ft (8.7 m), how could you possibly miss it...or get to work late! It was built in the 8th or 9th century and since 1706 has been under Protestant rule. Interestingly, the steeple is owned by the city of Zürich and the nave by the parish of St. Peter.

4. The Fraumünster Abbey (our lady's minster)
I chose this image to show the proximity of the the abbey next to St. Peter's. CLOSE. Just a hop, skip and a jump away. She was founded in 853 and today is one of Zürich's 34 Reformed churches. The stained glass windows in the choir are by Marc Chagall (but no photos allowed).

5. Zürichsee (Lake Zürich)
Take a break now from the churches and go along the Limmat River on the St. Peter's and Fraumünster side to the end where the lake is. Actually, the Limmat River that you see in so many of the pictures in my Photo Album is an overflow through the city from the lake. One day I broke out of the loop and spent a couple of wonderful, gray hours there.

6. The Grossmünster ("great minster")
From Lake Zürich it's time to cross over the Limmat River to the opposite side from St. Peter's and Fraumünster to see the "twin towers." If you were at the Fraumünster, you would just cross the bridge from there, where this picture is taken. This church was built in 1100, vying for precedence with the Fraumünster across the river from it in plain view. It's one of the most recognized landmarks in Zürich.

7. Predigerkirche (preacher's church)
Last but not least, on our loop back to the hotel, is this lovely church built in 1230. It's one that you can see quite well from a distance, as in this image from the bridge over the Limmat River at our hotel. But once you come upon it up close and personal, it almost jumps out at you from in between the trees. It was one of my favorite stops before going back to the hotel each day. Sometimes the back towers of the churches are more soulful for me than the bigger front towers!

So, that's it. A slice of Zürich that probably no one else will show you exactly the same way. It's just the way I saw it, especially since the landmarks for me in Europe are almost always the churches.

OH, and I must give credit where credit is due! I did NOT take my tripod with me on this trip, so all the night photos are with Donica's assistance...things from her purse that had to be added to prop up the camera exactly right for the time-lapsed shots. So THANK YOU, Donica!

As a Gemini (whose reputation is to never finish things), I am glad to say I did indeed finish Zürich and can now start to finish the Sedona trip. :)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

It seems like it's been forever since I posted here...was that Thanksgiving? Yes! Wow. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then...and while I work on the photos from Sedona and the Grand Canyon, here's a pause as we prepare for Christmas!

We had been thinking about this a long time and finally asked Nicholas about two of his main boyhood toys: was he too old for them, and if so, would he be willing to give them away to some other boy for Christmas? The answer: YES.

So this morning Donica and Nicholas dismantled his toy train set in the basement....

...and then rounded up his 2-speed Jeep...

...and loaded them both onto the truck.

Nicholas then carried out all the train bits-n-pieces for Donica to take down to Aunt Sari's for her grandson, Joey, who is 4. The only stipulation is that when Joey is too big for them, he, too, will pass them on to another lucky boy.

I like that about Christmas...and any other time of the year when we can rummage through our stuff and give away what we no longer need or use. Besides, it helps to clean up the house and get things in order. That, too, is a gift that keeps on giving!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

This is the same image I have on my Hart & Soul post as a way of saying Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Actually, it's the same image but in full color, instead of muted.

I was lucky enough to see this Münster reformed protestant church in Basel, Switzerland, when we were there a couple weeks ago. I was amazed at how accurate the time was on the sundial. I took the picture at 10:45 a.m. (click image to enlarge)!

Anyway, Thanksgiving best wishes to one and all! It's ALWAYS time to give thanks, no matter what our situation. Isn't that the key to happiness?!

Donica and I fly to Phoenix early tomorrow morning and then will drive to Sedona on Friday for a long weekend in the Red Rocks till Tuesday. We've always wanted to experience the vortexes there! I'll let you know if we come back as new/renewed women. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Basel and Bloggers FIRST

As I mentioned in my last post, Donica and I flew to Zürich, Switzerland, last week and worked (Donica) and played (me). Actually, Donica played, too, when she wasn't working!

Her main business was in Zürich, where I took most of my pictures (still working on them!), but she had to take the train to see her boss in Basel on Friday, so I tagged along and was out on my own all day, walking my feet off. In my own heaven!

Within yards of the train station, guess what I first saw! Yup. Starbucks! It was still too early to be open but I sure did take notice! They're everywhere, even in Europe.

Eventually, I tackled the old town, bordered on the east by the St. Alban gate (1400) above and the Spalentor gate (1370) on the west, below.

All the churches in between became my target for the day!
I'm such a glutton for them.

The first one was near St. Alban's gate and is called (of course) St. Alban's church (above)! I liked the coziness of all the trees on the grounds, with the old walls (below).

And there was the landmark Münster Church (above) with its cloisters (below) where I spent most of my time.

Then there were churches I saw from afar, while standing at other churches, not yet figuring out their names. I didn't care what they were called. They called me and that's what was important.

This one is Peterskirche (above), which I do remember because I was able to go inside (below).

I knew from the get-go that Donica and I would end up around 5:30p at the Town Hall to meet up with bloggers Canadian Swiss (Sandra) and husband Orange-X (Mark). But by then, it would be dark, so I had to get my pictures earlier in the day. It's one of the most colorful town halls anywhere in the world. Trust me!

By the time 5:30 rolled around, I was one tired puppy and was so ready to see Sandra and Mark, again. I had already met them in Amsterdam last March!

We met for before-dinner drinks across from the Town Hall.
Then we walked to our dinner restaurant at the Besenstiel = Broomstick. It just so happened that a couple hours earlier, I had coincidentally captured this image (below)!

Then it was time to say Good-Bye to some of the best of bloggers anywhere and walk to the train station for our one-hour ride back to Zürich.

At this point in time, we're talking about midnight! No wonder I was so tired. But it was that GOOD tired, of course, full of happy memories I'll never forget.

And that was just one day out of four! Hold your horses while I get to work on Zürich. It, too, was wonderful! In the meantime, here's the Basel Album.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

North Georgia Mountains

Most people would never guess that just a few miles north of where we live in our Atlanta suburb is the North Georgia mountains where the Appalachian Trail begins/ends, depending on where you're coming from.

And just one hour from our house, we drove this past Sunday into those mountains, to one of Georgia's most popular state parks: Amicalola Falls. Amicalola is the Cherokee Indian word for "tumbling waters." That's because they do!

And if you're willing to take your eyes off the falls and do an about-face, there you see from whence you came!

The falls themselves are 729-feet high, the tallest east of the Mississippi. You get your choice: start at the top and walk down the 425 steps (with views of the falls all the way down)...

...or start at the bottom, the base of the falls, and walk up. We decided to do both, parking at the top and walking down and then turning right around and walking back up.

The sweetest thing about walking back up is that we were behind a 6-year-old boy who has non-paralytic cerebral palsy. Because he was a bit wobbly (but still very energetic!), his pace ended up being exactly the right pace for us 50/60-something women! And the interchange we had with him and his parents was more than enough to make us forget we were climbing back up the 425 steps. It was wonderful.

I wonder if these boys, back at the top, know how lucky they are!

After the falls, we went into another part of the state park to find a spot to eat the fabulous picnic lunch Donica had packed for us. After that, we continued along a one-lane gravel road to find the High Shoals Baptist Church we kept seeing signs for. We eventually found it and were glad we persisted. It's as "country" as they come, with services held every 3rd and 5th Sundays of the month at 3p. 5th?? How many of those would there be in a year, I wonder!

Then it was time to head back home and catch even some more sights.
Always be cautious of pumpkin pickers!

Just a few yards away from that sign was this 1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria, enjoying its retirement in the woods. Donica was the one who did the research to find out exactly what year and model it was! When I retire from everything, I'd like to live in the woods, I think! OH! That's right...I DO! :)

On the way up, we had made a mental note of this little treasure by the side of the road, selling ice cream treats. So, yes, we stopped on our way back.

Eat, drink and be Merry.
Relax and Enjoy Yourself

We did. I couldn't have said it better myself.

What a great day in the Georgia mountains! You know what they say about your own backyard....


Later this afternoon Donica and I will be flying to Zürich, Switzerland, returning on Sunday...just a quickie. She'll be there for business meetings on Thursday and Friday and I'll be there on...a PHOTO HUNT, of course! I'm so excited because it'll be my first time ever in Switzerland. Not only that, on Friday we plan to have dinner in nearby Basel with CS and O-X, blogger friends for a long time now. YAY for when the virtual world becomes REAL!