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Posts tagged: Home Planet Travel

Travel: Riverboat Cruise Brings Columbia River History to Life

    For history lovers, like me, there is something deeply important about following the footsteps of the men and women who came before us. That’s often what compels us to travel, to put ourselves in the place where important things—significant events that shaped the world we live in now—happened. 

 

    Here in the Northwest we are especially fortunate. With vast undeveloped stretches of plains and prairies, dense forests and ranges of jagged mountains, much of the landscape is no different that it was when the first explorers moved into the area. Here, you can step into a landscape that, in places, has changed very little since the first people, and later the first explorers, arrived. 

 

    That’s why I boarded Un-Cruise Adventures S. S. Legacy in Portland for a small-ship heritage voyage up the Columbia and Snake rivers. This was a bucket-list trip for me. I’ve driven along the Columbia, taken the train through the gorge, flown over it by plane and helicopter. But I’d never explored the area the way it was originally done: by river. 

 

    It’s hard to imagine the Columbia River, although known and deeply important to Native Americans, was not discovered until the 1700s. and it was almost another century before a fur trader by the name of Robert Gray first sailed into it and named the fierce river for his ship—the Columbia Rediviva. And that it was still a mystery when Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery in 1804. 

    

    From the moment we boarded the replica coastal cruiser, before we even cruised out of Portland and the greenness of the Pacific Northwest, we were steeped in history. We were met by costumed guides and interpreters and they continued to bring to life the stories of the men and women who settled the area as we moved upriver. 

    

    At the first dam, the Bonneville Dam (there would be seven more locks and dams on the journey) we are still surrounded by forest and miles of fertile land rising up to meet mountains that look like giant thorns piercing the low clouds. We leave the ship to tour the dam and fish ladders.

 

    At The Dalles, the end of the Oregon Trail, things began to change. We entered the high desert that covers so much of central and south-central Oregon and Washington. Green gives way to gold. 

 

    My husband and I spent hours on the top deck, taking it all in, watching freight trains wind along tracks beside the swift, opaque green water of the river, long ribbons of cargo shuttling goods between ports and cities. The sun was high and hot in an endless blue sky laced with contrails and dotted with fat white clouds. 

 

    Each day we saw more and learned more. We read books from the ship’s library and listened as our guides put human faces on the stories of settling of the West, the area’s importance in wars and commerce. 

 

    We ate well, gathering for gourmet meals, and socialized well, gathering again for cocktails. We made friends and shared stories with the other passengers, many of whom have led fascinating lives.

 

    We rode jet boats up the Snake River, deep in the gorge that still bears the evidence of the geological turbulence that created it. 

    

    We visited Walla Walla, the small city that was once considered the “Paris of the West” delving into the personal stories of the men and women who lived, loved and died there. We tasted the sweet onions that put Walla Walla on the map and the outstanding wines that have reinvented the area and put the wine world on notice.

 

    We climbed the Astoria Column for a spectacular view and visited Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark rode out a stretch of bad weather so miserable it became part of the history of the area.

 

    By the time we’d made the round trip back to Portland—back through the series of locks and dams—like Lewis and Clark, we’d made a journey of discovery.

 

    We live in the Northwest but walking down the gangplank, heading back home, we knew much more about this beautiful part of the country than we did when we’d set out. We’d seen familiar territory with a new view, from the deck of the beautiful ship that carried us, and we’d followed the footsteps of the first people and the wagon trails of those who paved the roads and opened the doors to let us follow.

 

   

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Travel news: “Dancing with the Stars:At Sea” Alaska cruises from Seattle

    When Holland America Line launched “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” in 2013, the dance-themed cruises, featuring up-close-and-personal access to the performers and celebrities of the long running ABC show, were an immediate hit. The cruise program was so popular it will return in 2014. 

 

 

    While all 15 of Holland America’s ships will include some elements of “Dancing With the Stars” programming, with free dance lessons from the ship’s dance professionals and a dance-off competition to compete for a chance to be one of the 15 ship champions to sail on the 2014 Champions Caribbean cruise, the good news for Northwest “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” fans is that four of the six special 2014 theme cruises featuring dancers and celebrities from the popular show will be 7-day Alaska cruises sailing out of Seattle, WA and Vancouver, B.C.  

 

 

    The ms Zuiderdam will sail June 14 and June 21 from Vancouver, BC.

 

    The ms Westerdam will sail from Seattle, WA., on July 26 and Aug. 2,

 

    These “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” theme cruises will feature special performances, dance lessons with the ship’s professional dancers and meet-and-greet and photo opportunities with the celebs. At this time, DWTS dancers scheduled to sail on all six theme cruises are professional dancers Tristan MacManus and Kym Johnson, with television personality Carson Kressley and actress Sabrina Bryan.

 

    The Dec 6, 2014 Champions Cruise will bring the 15 winning guests (one from each ship) from the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” competitions currently being held on all ships in the Holland America fleet through Oct. 22, 2014, for a final dance competition and the chance to be named Holland America Line’s “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Champion. 

 

 

For more information about Holland America “Dancing with the Stars at Sea” cruises go to www.hollandamerica.com or contact your travel agent.

Note: I was on the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” cruise on the ms Veendam last spring, sailing from Quebec City to Boston.  You can read about that voyage here.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

 

Travel: A Day in Carcassonne, France



    When you first see the medieval walled Cité' of Carcassonne, depending on the direction from which you approach, it can appear unexpectedly on the landscape.  Like the magic castle in a storybook.

    The high stone walls and tall towers wrap ribbonlike around the rocky top of the hill and the Pont Vieux, a 600-year-old bridge, connects the old Cité' with the 'newer' town below with a series of graceful stone arches. 

    The Romans laid the first stones of the walls—some of which are still visible. By the 13th Century Carcassonne’s gates were protecting a castle and, later, the architecturally significant Basilica Saint-Nazaire.

    Surviving countless sieges and wars, the old Cité' of Carcassonne eventually fell into disrepair, eventually becoming a source of stone for newer construction, and by 1849 was slated to be demolished. But the influential mayor organized a monumental and controversial effort project to rebuild and preserve the cite, hiring a noted architect to oversee the project. Some creative license was taken, slate tiles were added and things were not put back exactly as they had been, but the oldest part of Carcassonne was saved. (And, interestingly, it was specifically designed to draw tourists.) Work continued until 1910.

    In 1997 Carcassonne was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and that same year the city’s most prestigious hotel, the Hôtel de la Cité which offers a spectacular view that stretches to the distant Pyranees, was opened by the Orient Express Group.


    In the high season the crowd in Carcassonne can be shoulder-to-shoulder, but in mid-June I had all the room I needed. It was the last day of school and children on an end-of-the-year class excursion laughed as they ran from one thing to another. Someone spotted a pop star in town for the annual Carcassonne Music Festival and they flocked to wave and peer through the windows as they watched as his chauffeured Lamborghini edge through the fortified city’s double gates.

    Shops of all kinds line the narrow cobblestoned streets and I stopped to buy colorful espadrilles, the iconic flat rope-soled canvas shoes made in the South of France, for my daughters. I bought a pair for myself and a bag of sweet French nougat to bring home.

    As I spent my day in Carcassonne, I watched the personality of city change and shift, first gleaming in the bright sun and then at night, Illuminated by lights placed strategically along the outer walls, become shadowed and mysterious.


    A couple of weeks after my return from France, browsing through an antique store, I stumbled upon a “Lady’s” travel book written in 1907 about the Languedoc region of France that was written. It is the highly-romanticized story of two young female travelers, flowery and feminine but, in a way, also a bit radical. At that time, at the turn of the last century, few women had the freedom to travel so independently and the adventures of the two cousins as they toured the countryside must have been appealing to readers. In the chapter on Carcassonne one of the young travelers is inspired by the ancient towers and finds a spot sheltered by the old walls to sit and write in her journal.

    What made me smile was a notation in the Rick Steves guidebook I’d read prior to my visit. In it he mentions a day spent in Carcassonne when he was a teenager, and he included the notes he’d made that day while sitting on one of the ramparts. It seems no one is immune. English author, Kate Mosse, whose 2007 bestselling novel Labyrinth was set in Carcassonne and still draws thousands of readers to the Cité' each year, has a house in the area and she admits to falling under its spell. Walt Disney is said to have visited, coming away with the inspiration for his Sleeping Beauty castle.


    Sure there is a touristy side to what has become of the old Cité'. Toy swords and refrigerator magnets abound.  But beautiful, evocative, places like Carcassonne, imbued with an ancient and intimate history of the men, women and children who once lived there, draw us in. And in that way Carcassonne is impossible to resist. Romance is mortared into the very walls of the place

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Travel: The Cure for the Common Life

     My friend called to say she’d just put a ticket to London on her credit card.  

     “Is the card you’re trying to pay off, the one you were going to cut up?” I asked. There was a long pause and then a deep sigh.   

    “Yes.”

   But, she could explain. She’d found one of those impossible-to-resist fares and she had a friend from college who would let her spend a few days in her flat. “All I have to worry about is getting there and meals, and, you know, other expenses,” she told me. “It was such a deal I couldn’t say no.”   

   I laughed at her flawed logic even as I recognized the reasoning. Meals and “other” expenses in London add up quickly, but that’s the kind of thing you tell yourself when you’re hooked. And we’re both hooked.    

   Travel is a drug like any other opiate. It triggers all the right responses. It alters your mood. It gives you a jolt of energy. For some of us, it only takes a taste and we’re goners. From that point on we crave it. We abuse it. We swear off and then, just when we think we’ve kicked the habit, we succumb again. The younger you are when you start, the worse the addiction is.
    

   Of course, travel has medicinal qualities, as well. Literature is filled with stories of men and women who flee to mend a broken heart.   

   Travel helps us grieve. When a friend died last year, I booked a trip to Iceland and spent a week facing the harsh wind, staring into bubbling thermal pools, gazing out at ash-covered glaciers until finally, standing in the wide rift valley between two of the earth’s tectonic plates, I could bring myself to say goodbye and let her go.        

   Travel distracts us. My last child is heading off to college in the fall. She is the youngest of four and her brother and sisters are already out on their own. One night several months ago, in the deepest part of winter, I couldn’t sleep because my mind kept trying to wrap itself around the idea that after 28 years of full-time mothering, I am about to shift into being a consultant. Never mind the fact that I travel often and don’t mind going off on my own, and that most of my children are avid travelers, for a moment I felt adrift. Like a balloon without ballast. Without a child in the house, what will I do? My husband’s job keeps him tied to a schedule. As a writer, especially with no parenting routine, what would hold me back? A deadline can be met anywhere. I don’t have to be in the office.     

   For a moment I considered buying one of those round-the-world cruise tickets and spending a few months at sea. I plotted what I could cash in, sell off or trade. (I could have a garage sale!) Then I would shelter in a tiny cabin, comforted by the rolling waves, distracted by the parade of ports until I made my way back home. I would, in other words, go on a deliberate travel “bender” until the worst was over and I could come back soberly ready to accept the the fact that my babies are really and truly all grown up. 
    

   So, with that kind of reckless secret plan, who am I to rebuke a woman who spends to her limit chasing some kind of chance-of-a-lifetime British museum travel buzz? (Travel educates and enriches, right?) Besides, she was right. It was a great fare.
   

    “I know I shouldn’t do this right now. ” she said before hanging up. “But after this trip, I’m done for a long time. I mean it.”
   

    We said goodbye, but before I could end the call she called out, “Oh, by the way, I’m having a garage sale this weekend. You should come by.”

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Travel: Five Cheap Tricks for Packing Like a Pro



   It’s easy to spend a fortune on suitcase accessories, but you’d be surprised how many items you already have around the house can make traveling easier and cheaper. Here are five of my favorite 'recycle and reuse' packing tips:

Read and Recycle: I usually pack two or three pair of shoes or boots for each trip, and not just for my wardrobe. Changing shoes can prevent blisters or foot-fatigue while traveling. To keep the contents of my suitcase clean, I save the narrow plastic bags wrapped around my newspaper especially for this purpose and slip each pair in a separate bag. They’re just the right size, easy to see through so I know what’s what, and can be recycled on the road.

Bag Your Gear: I have expensive packing cubes to help me organize my luggage, but I also use a cheap alternative. Often, linens like bedding and curtains are packaged in heavy-duty clear plastic bags. These bags usually have a zipper on the top. I save these sturdy bags because they’re perfect for separating and organizing clothing and accessories in my suitcase. I can see what's in each bag so I don't have to dig around searching for what I need and they hold up well. If a bag tears, I simply recycle (if possible) and replace it when I get home.

Reuse the Freebies: You can buy travel-sized toilitries but hotel amenity containers are also TSA-sized and perfect for reuse. I refill the empties with my favorite shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. Tip: Save screw-on tops only. Other containers have a tendency to pop open in flight.

Tiny Bubbles: I usually pack a padded wine bag because there’s a lot of wonderful wine in the world and I almost always discover a bottle I want to bring home with me. But, I also pack a piece of bubble wrap as well. It comes in handy for any extra wine bottles as well as protecting fragile souvenirs.

Stay Wrinkle Free: The easiest way to arrive with wrinkle-free clothing is to hang shirts and wrap each garment in a plastic dry cleaning bag before layering in your suitcase. This tip really works. I save the bags and wire dry cleaner’s hangers from my husband’s shirts and reuse them. I leave the bags and wire hangers behind and dirty shirts go into my laundry bag for the trip home.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

  

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About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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