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!