My Favorite Adventure-Barcelona, Spain and Antoni Gaudi

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I choose my yearly adventures in strange ways. I chose Barcelona (almost embarrassed to admit it) because I saw this city on an episode of “The Bachelorette”.  It looked interesting and I wanted a change from the sometimes dark and ancient history of some of my previous trips. I really had no idea that this chance destination would become my favorite trip.

I loved the sunshine, tapis, great wine, outdoor cafes, and the bright colors of Spain. But what really made an impression on me was the architecture of Antoni Gaudi who lived from 1852 to 1926. His art is imaginative and diverse. One of his instructors stated he was either a genius or insane because his buildings were so ahead of their time.

 

The two pictures above and the picture at the beginning of this post are of an apartment commissioned by a wealthy citizen of Barcelona.

 

Palau Guell was an apartment complex.  The grey structures that look like space soldiers are chimneys.  Notice that many of the lines in the building are curved rather than straight.

 

Sagrada Familia is his masterpiece. Before the advent of computers, Gaudi used chains over mirrors to explain to his workers the stress points in the construction. He also incorporated elements of nature into his designs. Notice the treelike composition of the pillars in the bottom left picture.

 

Park Guelle was to become a housing development and is now a beautifully preserved tourist attraction.

100_4904The Cascada Fountain was designed and built for the 1888 World’s Fair.  There are many more of his works in this Spanish city.   Because of him, I was introduced to The Age of Modernism, a fascinating time in history that was never really covered in any of my classes. This is definitely a city I hope to visit again.

Copyright 2018 @ The Autonomous Traveler

Hints for Women Travelers #6-The Devil is in the Details

Try not to be picky. Please don’t evaluative every little detail of your trip. Think globally, life is a movie not a snapshot. Over the course of my life, I have come to realize that joy is enormous and being joyless makes us small. Joy is about getting out of  ourselves, being with people, trying new things, going outside, enjoying nature, exploring the world through travel. It pushes us toward creativity. It’s ideas and hope. It is seeing the big picture and realizing that all knowledge is connected.  History is shaped by economics, sociology, and psychology but also by art, music, literature, and philosophy. When you travel look for the bigger themes.  Be curious enough to ask “why”.  You may be amazed to find out how much you are a part of the beautiful grand design.

Traveling to the Past and Learning about The Present

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My trips sometimes don’t have objectives. I hear or read about a place and curiosity pushes me there. That’s how I got to Lily Dale, the Spiritualist Camp, in western New York State which was founded in 1848. I treated the experience with a lot skepticism and wandered through the little colony of houses with an air of amusement. I went to the shops that sold incense, books, and new age paraphilia. I went to The Stump, a outdoor gathering place with its tall, tall trees and long benches where mediums would make connections between people in the audience and their love ones who had died.  I even had a reading. I sat in a plastic chair in front of a small cottage until the medium summoned me in. She was nice but her vision of my grandmother as a tea drinker was all wrong. Coffee was definitely the drink of choice in my family. The medium, however, gave me excellent advice about letting go of some things in my life. Something I already knew but her pronouncement of it out loud was just the affirmation I needed.

During my winter in St. Augustine, the library system chose the book, Dead Wake, by Erik Larson as a community shared reading.  It was about the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. Since there was a reference in the book about a séance, the library invited two guest speakers to give a talk about the Spiritualist Movement. They mentioned a village in  Cassadaga, Florida established in 1899. Like a child who one day realizes the random people in his or her life have deep relational connections, I was startled that this village in Florida was an off shoot of Lily Dale.

I decided to visit the town.  This trip had a definite purpose, it was a fact finding mission. I made a two night reservation at the Cassadaga Hotel. It’s original structure burned down and it was rebuilt in 1927. My room had two doors, one in the hall and one opening onto a long southern style veranda.

Being an early riser, I could sit on this wonderful porch and read undisturbed.  I wanted to know why this strange place existed. I had found a book at the St. Augustine library about Cassadaga published by The University Press of Florida. The first chapter was a great historical overview of the era in which Lily Dale came about. It was founded during a time in history known as the antebellum period, the years before the Civil War.  I hadn’t really learned much about this in high school. Maybe because when I was a teenager I didn’t think people in strange clothes who were recorded in spooky brown tainted pictures were of any of significance in my life.

But I realized that earlier in retirement, I had stumbled upon this time in history in other places.  I had visited the Women’s Right Museum in Seneca Fall where suffergettes rallied in 1848.  I  had sat in silence on Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s porch and thought about her courage. Many of the suffragettes worked with abolitionists who felt “injustice to one, is injustice to all.”

elizabeth c nps.jpgNational Park Service photograph of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s House

I had once journeyed to Concord, Massachusetts and learned about the lives of Louisa May Alcott, Emerson, and Hawthorne who were great writers and thinkers during the antebellum era. I visited Thoreau’s Walden Pond where he wrote the book, Walden, or Life in The Woods in 1854

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As I walked around Cassadaga, I thought about how the first half of the 1800’s was a time of great change in our still new United States. The people of that era were innovative and inventive as they faced many social conflicts, new technologies and the ever expanding boundaries of our county.  And I think most of those people, like people today, sincerely wanted to make the world a better place.

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At the edge of the village of Cassadaga was a little lake. I sat there on a bench and was enveloped in the silence.  It gave me a sense of peace as it took me back in time, no sounds of cars or planes or lawn mowers or air conditioners. Did this kind of constant stillness allow the people of long ago to more easily contemplate what was important in life? Are we missing something in our noisy, somewhat staged existence?  I wonder.

Copyright 2018 @ The Autonomous Traveler  All rights reserved

Fitness Training for Old Age

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 Me,  March 2018
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Eleven years ago I had back pain. I think it was psychosomatic. I was mad at myself for staying too long in a relationship that wasn’t working. Once I got the man out of my head, the back pain was gone.  Two years ago, I developed pains in my legs. It was really weird. It was intermittent, jumped from leg to leg, and sometimes wasn’t present at all.  After months of suffering,  I realized that my problem was a pair of black flip flops that had become my shoes of choice. Once I started wearing shoes with more support , my problem disappeared.  One year ago, I started having discomfort in my shoulders. This really bothered me both physically and psychologically.  I was afraid it was the beginning of the end. I actually thought I might have to give up camping and traveling.  But with help from physical therapists here at home and in Florida, I won that fight, too. I have to do stretching exercises every other day but it’s worth it. When I drove home from Florida this month I realized that even after two hours of nonstop of driving, I could exit my mini van with no grunting and no pain.  Victory!

This week, I  heard someone interview Elon Musk, the founder of  The Tesla Car Company. He has been having some trouble at one of his manufacturing plants.  Mr. Musk said he had been sleeping at the plant to keep on top of things.  On his office wall was an interactive computerized wall chart that showed strengths and weaknesses on the assembly line. When asked why he seemed to never leave the factory, he explained he needed to solve problems in real time.

Real time. Not later, not in an hour, not tomorrow.  Real time, as in now! I have not been a real time person when it comes to my health.  I overeat and then promise to start a new diet the next day.  I pledge to watch my intake of sweets and then I cheat.  I  constantly make excuses not to get in my daily walk. Well,  I am now 69 year old.  Young enough to know I have some time left but old enough to know time is running out. My three recent experiences with pain were wake up calls. I want to be as healthy as I can be. I want to really work on healthy habits. If not NOW, when?

There is enough information out there, so I know about staying away from salt, sugar, and fat.  I know about smoking and excessive drinking. I have tried all sorts of exercise plans but I like walking the best. It’s free and it can be done almost anywhere. I want to be like Elon Musk and study the strengths and weaknesses of my approach to life. It’s not  about  about how I look anymore, it’s about being the healthiest I can be.  It’s time to solve my problems in real time with discipline and thoughtful reflection.  I want to be as mobile and pain free as long as  I can because I still have a lot of traveling  to do and a lot of life to live.

A North Country Love Affair

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Author’s note: Since I wrote this piece a few years ago, I have to confess, The North Country and I now have an open relationship.  I go to Florida during the winter months.  But this is home, my base camp and I always return.   I’m here now. Unfortunately, the weatherman is predicting ice and sleet for this weekend. Ugh!

A North Country Love Affair

Being involved with the North Country is like being in a bad love affair. The summer woos me with warm breezes off  one of  The Great Lakes and the river. It offers me lush greens and sunlit days. It entices me with a multitude of lavish experiences: picnics under the trees, quiet moments on the shore, spectacular thunderstorms topped off with rainbows, and romantic interludes under the stars listening to the crickets and watching fireflies. It presents me with fantastic gifts: the sweet serenade of birds, the beauty of diamonds reflecting off the water, and bouquets wild flowers from its fields. The skilled lover pursues me, seizes my heart, and convinces me of its unwavering devotion. I fall in love!

In the fall, my intuition whispers to me that things are changing but my beloved is so
magnificence in its bight reds, oranges, and yellows that I ignore the signs. I am caught up in the joy and exhilaration of the splendor. But its moodiness erupts suddenly. It frosts the countryside but quickly hides the evidence with a morning smile. I am bewildered but I am soothed by memories of earlier carefree times. The suitor offers me even more gifts: ripe fruit from its orchards, fat orange pumpkins, and an Indian summer ablaze with color and sweet fragrances. There is still warmth but the winds blow colder and the clouds turn from white to gray. I soon realize that the glow of my summer romance is gone.

The North Country turns irritable. It shows its sunny smile less frequently and the cold storms come. The leaves have been blown to the ground and the tress stand in shame. My body and heart feel the coolness. I wonder how such a beautiful entity could change so much. At first, I make excuses and rationalize that things are not that bad and this is a passing thing. But the weather becomes angrier and angrier and then there is snow. I groan when I first see it dust the green grass. The snow piles up higher and higher. Some days the rain tap, taps on my window to play a cruel game of freeze tag and I find myself alone in the dark and I am afraid. I feel like a prisoner unable to leave my home. My relationship with this part of the world becomes a lovers’ quarrel. I wonder how I ever fell for the false promises and I resent being tricked.

I turn away from the monster and go to my neighbors, family and friends to complain. And soon everyone in the North Country becomes part of an enormous support group seeking comfort and strength to endure the abusive demon. Day after day, the heavens crash down on us but it seems that hidden between the flakes of white are angels sent to help us learn patience. We stop resisting, accept the harshness, and against the power of the villain, we become one. We check on each other’s safety. Our homes and community centers open to strangers who happen to be captured in the storms. We gather together to ice fish, quilt or share a hot cup of coffee. Moving anyway from our raging disappointment, we move closer to each other and we survive.

But a deep bitterness remains and as the winter goes on and on, I start to wonder if I should leave and never return. I need a more stable companion because I can’t take the terrible fighting any longer. And then suddenly, as if my tormentor knows my limits, it starts to smile. It knows it must be loving again to thaw my frozen heart. It drops its frigid demeanor and begins to melt some of the snow. It calls back the geese and commands the sap to run through the trees. I spy the first buds, the trilliums in the woods, the red winged blackbirds. and my first robin. I smell the freshness of new beginnings. My transformed lover returns to me the things I cherish, the waters shimmer and the sky is blue and clear again. I have an extraordinary sense of hope and all is forgiven. I am in love again!
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People who don’t know the North Counter always ask me why I stay. My answer acknowledges that, yes, the harsh weather is at times unbearable. But it is the contrasts between the cold and the warmth, the struggle and the peace, the light and the dark that keep me here. They provide a breathtaking intensity of experience that cannot be described. Like the first drink of water after a day in the desert or a hug after a long separation, the beautiful moments in the North Country are incredible. Not one of these times are ever taken for granted and the joy they bring permeate through the hearts and souls of the people who live here. During spring, summer, and fall, we live in paradise and everyday in those wonderful seasons are savored in a spirit of gratitude.

I also stay because of the other people who stay, hardy souls who have accepted the unpredictable temperament of the North Country. They have adapted and call this place home. In our towns, villages, and neighborhoods we have formed an unspoken allegiance to each other that require no laws or charter. We have formed a culture based on the ability to weather storms and we know instinctively what needs to be done. This community spirit has developed so strongly that it not only appears in inclement weather but at anytime anyone suffers a loss or comes up against a challenge. The question is never,“Should I help?”, but rather,“How can I help?”

And so I stay in this sometimes bad love affair with the North Country. At times, the relationship is very rocky but I have learned to accept the inconveniences. And with this spirit of forgiveness, I have come to truly appreciate the extraordinary power of this wonderful place and its great people. And isn’t that what love is all about?

Copyright 2018 @ The Autonomous Traveler.  All rights reserved

 

 

Every Story Must Be Told

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On the way home from Florida, of course, I stopped to see my three grandkids.  After three months of being away I received a lot of hugs. We played and played and played.

My seven year old granddaughter said that she had a librarian in her room. I asked some questions about the meaning of that announcement and she told me that I needed to see for myself. On the window sill by her bed was a collection of tiny books.  One of them was a short story I had written about the birds I had seen in Florida.  The rest of books she had created with her drawings of fairies and creatures with magical power, labeled in her own handwriting.  She also told me the journal she had started was private. It stood tall in her little library, its pages secured with a pen ready to write down new thoughts and ideas. The librarian was a little butterfly who sat behind the books and, although she was very tiny, she guarded those books with an extreme sense of pride and duty. My granddaughter encouraged me to take a book home with the understanding that I was to bring it back in a few weeks when I visited again. Before bedtime we made a nest for the librarian so she would be warm in her corner in the window.

What a lovely existence to be a child with such imagination and an uninhibited eagerness to express her stories. So many decades older than my granddaughter, I had lost that freshness, that optimist that my stories were worth telling or writing down. In a class I took recently, we talked about writing resistance. I’m proud say I’m evolving. I am keeping my inner critic silenced and I no longer am worried about people not liking what I write on my blog.  And I have overcome my greatest fear, that no one will ever read what I write. Now I am confident I will always have at least one reader, my granddaughter.

Staunton, Virginia….WOW!

 

For eight years, on my snowbird travels to and from Florida I  passed Staunton, Virginia on Interstate 81 and thought that someday I should visit the Woodrow Wilson Library. I  love history.  Ever since my trip to Barcelona, Spain I have been interested in the events of the early  1900’s. The Spanish artists, Gaudi , Miro and Picasso, introduced me to Age of Modernism, a time of progressive politics , modern art, and new ways of thinking. This time period was also  marked by World War I and Woodrow Wilson played a big part in it.

The Woodrow Wilson Museum was excellent.  I took part in a tour of his birthplace and walked through the exhibit that told about his life. Part of the museum allowed me to stand in a replica of a WWI trench and gain insights into what it was like to be a soldier  in that war.

The added bonus of my stay was Staunton itself, a city filled with beautiful architecture and Victorian charm. I was amazed to find out about the community’s cultural events which included musical performances and Shakespearean plays every week through out the year. I loved the quaint coffee shops, art galleries, antique places, and  lovely stores. My obsession with books was satisfied at The Black Swan Book store where I bought three used books in excellent condition at a great price. But the thing I like most about  Staunton was its people. They were kind and welcoming. I am definitely going back next year.

 

The Travel Bug, A Gift from My Dad

On Saturday, if my dad was still alive, he would have turned 95 years old. On Sunday, as I headed home to The North Country, I stopped at a tourist attraction between North and South Carolina.  “South of The Border” is bigger but shabbier than the first time I visited  almost 60 years ago. Route 95 didn’t exist back then, just the two lanes of Route 1.  My mother, father, my two sisters and I  drove there from western New York State during our two week Easter break. We made the trip in a camper, the kind that fitted on the back of pick-up truck. The tall  figure with the sombreros holding the “South of The Border” sign is still there. He impressed me decades ago as he impresses me now.

I owe so much to my dad.  He gave me the travel bug. He was the inspiration and motivator behind the many trips my family took to New England, Florida, and Canada.  He is the one who introduced me to my beloved Adirondacks. We were poor but because of my parents’  problem solving and money management skills, our many wonderful adventures were made possible. My dad had a philosophy that wherever you go it was your responsibility to make the moment fun and enjoyable. He would talk to everyone and with his sense of humor and his genuine interest in people, he made instant connections with everyone he met.

Thanks, Dad for giving me the motivation to venture out into the world. Thank you for teaching me about the absolute joy of exploring distant places and connecting with new people.   Thanks, Dad.  I miss you.