Archive for Travel Stories

Timeless in Olema

Olema - voices from the past on a moonlit night


Named after the Miwok Indian word for Coyote, the little town of Olema is a quiet outpost of rolling hills and green pastureland on the eastern edge of the Point Reyes seashore. It’s one traffic light, perpetually blinking red, stands as a sentinel at the intersection of Sir Francis Drake Drive and Highway One. An oasis of of aging hippies, ranchers, and refugees from the City, Olema is a force of serenity on a rushed and rattled world making its way to the red blinking light standing guard at the end of the road.

I lay quietly on a clear and cool autumn night, the sky choked with stars as soft patches of moonlight illuminate the bedstead near my pillow through the parted curtains of the cottage window. In the stillness, almost like an apparition at first, I hear a soft yet persistent wail reverberate through the valley. It is the town’s namesake, coyote, baying at the moonlit night.

I am lost in timelessness, as if out in the crystalline darkness the haunting sounds of the night echo through the centuries as the Miwok and I lay motionless in the still night, entranced and enchanted, listening as if in a half-dream, to the call of Olema.

Image credit: tomswift46, courtesy flickr

Exploring the Geyser Fields of Chile’s Atacama Desert: The Night the Gods Were Against Us

Guest Post by Vickie Lillo

Burbling geyser pool at El Tatio

It seemed as if the gods were against us that night, in the stark desert town of San Pedro, in Chile’s desolate Atacama.  We were on a three-day round-trip junket from Calama, and tomorrow was the final day of our journey.  We had been told–by everyone–that the best view of the El Tatio geysers was at daybreak, in the cold chill of the South American winter.  Our best-laid plans meant we had already set the alarm clock for 4:00 in the morning.

The bad luck had begun earlier in the evening, when we were trying to grab a quick bite to eat for dinner, so that we could get to the bed early.  The lights had unexpectedly gone out in the town.  Total darkness – the blackout was so intense that you could barely see your hand in front of you.  People were stumbling about, running into things, tripping over the cobblestones on the street.  My husband took it in stride.  Inside, I was screaming from sheer terror.  I felt as if the oppressiveness of night was closing in on me–maybe it was a claustrophobic response, I don’t know.  By the beam of flashlights, we found our way back to our rental just about the time the lights came back on.  So, we went to dinner.  Afterwards, as I was pulling the sheets back in the room of our hostel, my husband walked in with the bad news.

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Vancouver, Summer in the City – On a Bicycle

Exploring the city of Vancouver on two wheels…

Vancouver Skyline

I’d always heard rave reviews about the city of Vancouver— named both the “Most livable City” in the world, and “Best City in the Americas” to visit, so my husband and I, on our recent honeymoon, headed up north to check it out for ourselves.  We discovered that the raves were all true!  In our three-day visit, we got a taste of what the vibrant city has to offer, and that is plenty, in all the categories of fun—outdoor activities, great restaurants, natural beauty, cultural diversity and art, theater and safe biking!  And don’t forget breathtaking views of mountains and ocean–what doesn’t this city have?

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Touring Southern Oregon’s Artisan Creameries, Chocolatiers, and Farm-made Jams

the pennington farms rustic barn and bakery

When Tom Vella, owner of Rogue River Valley Creamery visited Roquefort, France in 1955, to learn the secrets of making blue vein cheese, he had no idea that he was sowing the seeds of today’s flourishing artisan creameries in Southern Oregon.

Clustered around sunny Medford, in Jackson County’s Rogue Valley, three artisan creameries are making some superb cheeses and chevres to accompany the marvelous merlots, cabs, syrahs, zinfandels, pinots, and chardonnays produced in the surrounding area.

Tom Vella had been making cheddars since 1935, but his Oregon Brand Blue Vein Cheese (later shortened to Oregon Blue) launched the platform that would make the Rogue Creamery renowned globally. At the time this was a bold move, and Tom’s Blue Vein was the first produced west of the Missouri River. His son, Ig, continued in the same vein, producing a zesty Gorgonzola, appropriately named Oregonzola, in 1988, using an Italian recipe, even using proprietary molds from Italy.

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Exploring the Castles of North Wales

Caenarfon Castle

The country of Wales may only be the size of Massachusetts, but just like its counterpart across the pond, every nook and cranny is full of history.  500-plus castles can be found in this part of the United Kingdom, in various degrees of disrepair and/or restoration, often seen on the hillsides as one speeds down the busy motorways.   I explored four unique castles, and came away amazed at the history and atmosphere of each venue.

A sense of déjà vu at Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle from a High Tower Credit Roy A. BarnesThe coastal city of Conwy, about 45 minutes drive from Manchester’s airport, proudly displays its old medieval walls, many of which can be walked on like that of the Great Wall of China.  And more conspicuous than the walls is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Conwy Castle.

It was built by Edward I from 1283-1289 at great expense (some £15,000 – equivalent to £15 million today) to help serve as one of his “Iron Ring” castles that helped to keep the English safe in Wales while fortifying his new empire there. The exterior and interior walls remain relatively intact, and I found them to be quite an experience walking through the various rooms from the king’s chamber, dining hall, kitchen, and prison.   I felt as if I were back in medieval times, especially when I went inside the castle chapel, where the soundtrack of Gregorian monks was playing in the midst of displays about Christianity’s role in that time.  I also was fascinated by the countless arrow slits carved into the walls, expecting a shooter to be taking aim.

Two fortified gateways and eight towers help make up the grandness of this place.  Four of them contain high towers where I got stunning views of the city, sea, and Conwy Mountain.   And as I walked up the spiralling staircases to get those views with only the help of ropes to keep me from falling, I could feel a sense of “home sweet home” in each part of the structure.

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