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Travel: The Private World of Monet’s Garden at Giverny

 

   To enter Monet’s private world you must first walk through a dark tunnel under the busy road that separates the house and front garden, the Clos Normand, from the famous water garden. Yes, that water garden. The place with mysterious, reflective, pools and graceful willows whose branches hang low over the water, where the elegant wisteria-covered Japanese bridge frames the view of the beautiful water lilies Monet painted time and again. 

 

   In Monet’s time, he could walk out the front door and cross a small footbridge to reach the gate, but tourists are another matter. With all the grace of migrating wildlife, they are a hazard on what is now a busy road, so the tunnel gets them safely to a space that draws hundreds of thousands each year.

 

   Stepping out of the tunnel and into the filtered light of the water garden is to step back in time. Thanks to the archivists, benefactors and a team of gardeners who have worked to restore the garden, the landscape is not much different than it was when the painter was there, when he walked the winding paths or sat on a bench to study the play of light and shadow on water. Turn a corner and the view is somehow familiar. You have the feeling you have been here before. 

 

   Monet’s gardens are as much a masterpiece as any canvas he created. He did not move into a house in the Normandy countryside in 1883 and simply settle down to paint what was there. Instead, he approached the land around the house he continued to improve and enlarge the way he created each painting, methodically, with layers and and an obsessive attention to color and light. He set out to create the garden he wanted to paint and it soon consumed him.

 

   As I strolled—I was there in early September, just after the height of the tourist season, and there were fewer people sharing the paths with me than might have been a few weeks before—I marveled at the construction of what surrounded me. What seemed to be a riot of plants was as carefully thought out and orchestrated as the brushstrokes on one of his paintings.

 

   Vine-covered arches over the central path, thick with trailing nasturtiums, frame the entrance to the farmhouse creating a vanishing point at the front door. Giant dahlias, with blooms as big as cantaloupes, towered over me. The garden welcomed me. It embraced me.

 

I stopped to watch one of the gardeners, almost hidden by the plants as she crouched to remove spent blooms, and a passing guide noticed. We chatted for a few minutes and then she said something that stays in my mind.

 

“For Monet the garden was not about any one flower. It was about the effect, the way the colors and textures and light worked together.”

 

   He called it painting with nature.

 

   Monet never stopped working. At the end of his life, his vision clouded by cataracts, his focus narrowed to the water garden. He built a studio for the purpose of painting large canvasses of the water lilies that covered the mirrored pond. The paintings that still hang in the Orangerie in Paris today.

 

   I have been to France a number of times, I’ve gazed at his work in museums all over the world, and yet I’d never visited Monet’s gardens just 50 miles from Paris. I’m sorry it took me so long to get there.

 

 

 

 

 

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

  

Norman Maclean had high perspective on lightning

MOUNTAIN STORMS — If you haven’t read Norman Maclean’s “USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky,” Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune recommends it, and so do I.

It is one of the “other stories” in his book “A River Runs Through It and Other Stories.” 

Recently I wrote a story about a backpacking trek in the Glacier Peak Wilderness during which thunder storms pounded my camp with the shock and awe of the bombing of Bahgdad.

Maclean says this about thunderstorms from the perspective of a forest fire lookout staffer at  Elk Summit near Powell, Idaho:

“In the late afternoon, of course, the mountains meant all business for the lookouts. The big winds were veering from the valleys toward the peaks, and smoke from little fires that had been secretly burning for several days might show up for the first time. New fires sprang out of thunder before it sounded. By three-thirty or four, the lightning would be flexing itself on the distant ridges like a fancy prizefighter, skipping sideways, ducking, showing off but not hitting anything. But four-thirty or five, it was another game. You could feel the difference in the air that had become hard to breath. The lightning now came walking into you, delivering short smashing punches.”

Travel: Feasting on King Crab in Kirkenes, Norway

   When I choose a port excursion while on a cruise, what they’re going to feed us on the excursion is usually not my first priority since food is more than plentiful on most ships. I almost always opt for some kind of unique experience I couldn’t have anywhere else, but the King Crab Safari in Kirkenes, Norway, a small waterfront town only 30 kilometers from the Russian border, offered as a Hurtigruten excursion, was intriguing. And not just  because it promised a feast of fresh crab.


    I was there in August, but the water can still be dangerously cold. First we had to put on heavy insulated suits, designed to protect us from the cold waters of the fjord if we were to fall in. On top of that went a life jacket and we were given gloves to wear.  After we were all suited up we boarded the boat. Instead of seats we straddled benches, holding onto the safety rails in front of us as our guide pulled the boat out onto the fjord and picked up speed.


    While touring the coastline and listening to the history of the area, after skimming swiftly over the surface of the water and moving slowly along the  cliffs where we could see the remains of a Nazi bunker from the German occupation of Norway during World War II, we stopped to check one of the numerous crab baskets that sit on the bottom of the deep fjord. Our guide attached a hook to the basket and used a motor to pull it up from the bottom. As it broke the surface we could immediately see the basket was filled with some of the biggest crabs I’ve ever seen. (Those that weren’t absolutely massive were thrown back to grow in the cold, dark water.)


    We pulled up to what looked like a small fishing shack on the shore. The small house, just big enough for the long table that ran from one end to another, was the place where we would have our meal. Our guide unloaded the dozen or more giant crabs from the trap and began to prepare our dinner while we settled around the table on benches covered with skins and pelts.


    When they were done, steamed to perfection, the giant crab legs were piled onto platters and placed on the table. The meal was simple: fresh King crab legs and slices of good bread. There was butter for the bread and lemon slices to squeeze over the crab if we wanted it. That was all and it was all we could want. 

   
    We turned on the platters of crab legs like we were starving. For a few minutes all conversation stopped and everyone around the table concentrated on getting to the delicious crabmeat in the shells. We ate until we could not hold another bite.  

   Fresh, simply prepared and served, the meal was good enough to be added to my list of favorites. There was no fancy dining room. No music. No upscale atmosphere. And the view of the fjord through the small windows reminded us with every bite that we weren’t just having a meal, we were feasting on a real Norwegian adventure.


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
 

  

Slides block North Cascades Highway; may reopen Thursday

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — It's been a rough summer for the North Cascades Highway, and travelers visiting the many trailheads and scenic attractions the route accesses through North Cascades National Park.  

A short stretch of the prized stretch of Highway 20 near Rainy Pass is closed by mudslides for the second time in six weeks.

  • Specifically, the route is closed between milepost 147 (10 miles west of Rainy Pass) and milepost 157 at Rainy Pass. 

This closure blocks through traffic from the East Side to the West Side of the state.

The Washington Transportation Department says it hopes to reopen the North Cascades Highway at noon on Thursday.

Late last week, rain-caused mudslides in several locations closed a stretch of the highway, also known as State Highway 20.

Transportation officials say crews are making good progress in clearing a half dozen slides.

The highway is the northernmost route across Washington’s Cascade Mountains.

Travel: Cruising the Coast of Norway with Hurtigruten

 

This is not cruising the way most Americans think of it.

 

There is no giant video screen flashing images of oiled sunworshipers sprawled on lounge chairs on the top deck. There is no driving, thumping, music always in the background. There is no casino and no Vegas-style entertainment.

 

The bar is a sedate corner, surrounded by deep, comfortable chairs and wide windows. The restaurant serves three good meals a day and there are occasional surprises such as fresh local shrimp steamed and delivered to the ship by the fisherman and then served to guests by the chef. But, unlike the floating party palaces that come to mind when most Americans think of cruising, there is only one star attraction on Hurtigruten ships and that is the view of Norway. Any season, and in the deepest part of summer, any time of the day or night, everything revolves around the stunning landscape.

 

I boarded the Hurtigruten ship Midnatsol in Kirkenes and for the next week we moved south, along the breathtaking coast of Norway.

 

It was August but the sun was still hanging over the horizon far into the early hours of the morning. The sky was never completely dark. Even knowing I wouldn’t sleep as well as I would in a dark room, I still didn’t close the curtains in my cabin. Instead, I surrendered to the midnight sun. I hadn’t flown across the world to dream. I kept my camera near the bed and when I woke, usually when we made short stops at small ports along the way, I frequently picked it up to snap a photo of the window. Small towns, jagged  peaks, brilliant skies striated by dramatic clouds, the view changed constantly but it was always beautiful.

 

For 120 years Hurtigruten Coastal Cruisers have been steaming up and down the Norwegian coast delivering people and goods to the cities and small towns that dot the coastline. And, as if the physical landscape is not breathtaking enough, the seasons add their own drama. In the winter snow covers the rocks and trees and the Northern Lights wash the dark night sky with colors that flicker and dance. In the summer the midnight sun takes over and one day becomes another without a sunset and the water is a smooth as glass.

 

Hurtigruten passengers are an interesting mix of travelers—mostly European and mostly German—and locals hopping from one port to another. Early one morning a young Norwegian woman and her newborn son boarded, saying goodbye to her husband as she traveled to introduce the new baby to her parents a few hundred kilometers away. We shared a quiet corner as she nursed the baby and I sipped my first cup of coffee of the day.

 

In the afternoon I stood on the bow, the wind on my face, chatting with two women from Chicago. They were on the trip of a lifetime, taking a voyage they’d dreamed about and saved for, and they told me it was everything they’d hoped it would be.

 

At night, my server told me she had family in Washington State (Interestingly, there are more Norwegian Americans than there are Norwegians) and she was hoping to visit them in Yakima and Spokane this summer. I gave her my card.

 

 

During the journey there were excursions to sights and attractions in the larger towns and cities. I traveled to the North Cape and watched Reindeer graze on the mossy rocks near the top of the world. I took a small boat to the Vega Islands and learned about the unique and complex industry of caring for the Eider Ducks and harvesting the down the females leave behind. I rode a gentle Icelandic Pony along the beaches of the Lofoten Islands, on the spot where Vikings launched their ships.

 

When we docked at Bergen at the end of the cruise, yet another UNESCO Heritage site, I was sorry to see the end of the line. That night, in a dark hotel room when I should have been able to sleep, my head was too full of images; dark mysterious fjords, small red cottages sitting on a rocky shoreline and fiery skies over a sun that never quite set.

 

My trip down the coast of Norway wasn’t a cruise the way most people I know think of cruising. It was something much harder to find. It was an authentic travel experience, making a journey the way people have been doing for more than 100 years.   It was everything I hoped it would be.

 

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: Family Travel Gives Children the Gift of Independence

 

 

   As we were driving across mountain passes and through a wide Montana valley to take her to college, my youngest daughter sat in the back seat, surrounded by the boxes she’d packed. The three of us fell into a familiar and comfortable pattern, with her teasing us, making us laugh, as the miles flew by.

 

   For a moment I managed to forget that we were taking her to leave her, to start her new life as a college student. I forgot that with her went our last child, leaving us with an empty house. I forgot that I have no clear idea of what comes next. For a few hours It was just the family off on an adventure. There was an easy affection in the way we spoke to one another and all of the stresses and irritations of the last few months disappeared.

 

   When we got to the campus we checked her into her dorm. We hauled the boxes out of the car and shopped for what else she would need. We went out to dinner and then shopped some more. We unpacked the books and bedding and keepsakes she’d taken with her, plugged in the small refrigerator, put her clothes in the closet and we were done. I realized she was being very patient with us but she was clearly ready to be on her own.

 

  Moving to college is a journey into the unknown, but watching my daughter I realized she was uniquely prepared for this new life. She is no stranger to foreign places. 

 

 I reminded myself that this is the girl who ran ahead, turning around to tease me for being a slowpoke as we climbed the Great Wall in China. This is the girl who stood up to and challenged the arrogant and vaguely threatening transit officer who bullied us in Prague. This is the girl who didn’t let the man on the flight to Budapest get away with taking an aisle seat that wasn’t his; he was in her father’s seat and she made him move. This is the girl who lost her way for a few minutes in Rome and managed to find us on her own before we even realized she was gone. This is the girl who led us through Vienna and this is the girl who ordered our meals on our last trip to Paris—in passable French—and who, judging from the way she walked blocks ahead of me as we moved around the city, would clearly have preferred to been there on her own.

 

I didn’t think of it at the time, when I was planning vacations and saving for tickets to faraway places, but our travels did more than open her eyes to other people and other lands. She came back from each trip with confidence in herself. She may not know it’s there, but I know she’ll find it when she needs it.

 

She may be anxious and a little unsure now, college is a big leap, after all. But I have confidence in her. This is the girl who can find her way.

 

 

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

  

Steens Mountain among Oregon’s top road trips

OUTDOORS TRAVEL — If you're looking for an outdoors-related road trip, complete with opportunities for hiking, fishing and wildlife watching, consider the drive to Oregon's Steens Mountain.

Zach Urness, outdoor writer for the Statesman Journal, notes that it's been called the most spectacular drive in Oregon.

The Steens Mountain Loop Road departs the tiny, historic town of Frenchglen and climbs Oregon’s eighth-tallest mountain on a tour of massive gorges, vast panoramas and one of the most spectacular lakes in the Pacific Northwest.

The 52-mile loop is the state’s highest road and found in its southeastern corner, rising above the high desert like an alpine island, he says.

Last year, Urness wrote a story about backpacking and hiking into the gorges of Steens Mountain.

This year, he's written a detailed report focusing on the family-friendly highlights that can be enjoyed right along the road.

Travel: Where Will Your Third Life Take You?

    Walking through a covered passage in Montpellier, France, I noticed a number of people going in and out of one of the businesses and I asked someone what kind of shop it was.

    Oh, it is not a store,” she answered. “It is a place for Third Life education.”

    “Third life?”   

   “Yes, for people who are no longer working but who wish to keep learning.” She looked at the sign on the door.

   “Today, they are learning more about the computer.”   

   I realized the place was what we might call in this country a “senior center.”  Most of the people I could see through the window were in their 60s or 70s, a few younger, a few older.  

    I walked on but the phrase “third life” stayed in my mind. It struck me as the perfect description for the way we age.    

   We have no choice in our first lives. We adapt to the circumstances into which we were born—quickly learning some are luckier than others—and we navigate childhood, school, and nascent careers.   

   Our second lives are the years we spend striving and reaching. We make choices—some carefully considered and some with careless abandon. We face difficult decisions. We work, we climb, we search for a mate. Some of us marry, pair up or partner. Some of us have children and either settle down to raise those children full time or shoulder the extra burden of both career and family. These are the years we sleep less, worry more, spend too much, save too little.   

   And finally, the third life. The last child leaves the nest. We retire or simply get tired of the rat race and decide to change careers or cut back. For some, the job or marriage or status they thought they would have falls apart and they discover they can not only survive, they can thrive.    

   Finally, for the first time, bolstered by experience, emboldened by wisdom and motivated by the knowledge that time will not wait for us, we realize we have the freedom to thoughtfully choose the life we will live. We have a few regrets. We still have a long list of things we’d like to do and skills we’d like to master. We want to make a difference.  

    Some waste these years with bitter extravagance, angry and self-absorbed, consumed by old grievances and lost opportunities.   

   Not me.  What’s done is done.  The past is quicksand and the more we struggle the faster we sink. 

   I want to see my children launched and successful in work and matters of the heart. I want to be a part of my granddaughter’s life. I’d like to learn to make a souffle without the damned thing collapsing like a parachute on the ground. Like the men and women in the classroom in France, I want to keep up with technology, to get the most out of what it has to offer.    

   I want to, at least once, beat my husband in a game of Scrabble.   

   There are so many places I want to see while I still have the good health and opportunity to get up and go. Or, with glaciers crumbling, poles melting and forests burning, while they are still there to see.   

   I want to write something worth reading.   

   Somewhere between the next five minutes and the next 30 years, my time will run out and I’ll be done. My first two lives are already behind me. But instead of looking back and mourning the loss of my youth, I know to keep my eyes on the horizon. This third life is a gift, a reward and benefit for making it this far. I want to get it right.

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
  

NYT Finds Middle Of Idaho Nowhere

Here's proof that the New York Times reports on something other than Idaho's Hard Right politics when it comes calling — a travel piece by Rachel Levin:

The “Entering Stanley, Idaho” sign seemed more like a friendly warning than a welcome. “Population 63,” it read, as if to say: Congratulations, you’ve made it to the middle of nowhere. Stanley is the entry point to the Sawtooth Valley, a time warp of a place with four saloons, five mountain ranges and not much else. My husband, Josh, our two children and I had driven three hours from Boise along an empty, winding two-lane scenic byway for a week of summer adventure. Still, as we strolled down deserted, dusty Wall Street looking for a lunch spot, it was hard not to wonder: Where is everyone? More here.

Question: If you described yourself “in the middle of nowhere” within the borders of Idaho, where would you be?

Travel: Start Your Croatia Tour with a Stay in Zagreb

   Travel, like fashion and pop culture, has trends. Places appear on the radar and soon they’re the hot new destination. And certain destinations just keep getting more popular. For the past decade Croatia has been in the spotlight. National Geographic, the New York Times and even Rick Steves have listed it as one of the places travelers should visit.

   Most people are introduced to Croatia through Dubrovnik, a busy port for the cruise industry.  I started my tour in Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia,.

   I don’t know what I expected when I landed in Zagreb, but what I found was a city as beautiful and elegant as any of Europe’s grand dames. The Hapsburg influence is strong and there are traces of Vienna in the architecture—Zagreb national railway employes work in what has to be the most beautiful building in the country.  When the sun is shining, the coffee houses and sidewalk cafes are full of locals and tourists alike and it’s not unusual for a conversation over coffee and pastries, another Viennese influence, to last hours.

   At the heart of the city is the green horseshoe, an urban oasis of parks and squares. Anywhere you walk you are only minutes away from one of these lush green spaces. Red and blue trams move briskly carrying passengers across the city.

   On a hill overlooking the city, reached by funicular or by narrow cobblestone lanes that wind through the old city gates, the oldest section of the “Upper Town” still holds the official government buildings.

   One of my favorite stop was the elegant Esplanade Hotel, the city’s grand hotel. Built in 1925 as one of the original stops on the luxurious Oriental Express as it traveled between Paris and Istanbul, the interior of the imposing building across from the railway is ornamented by marble, stained glass and ormolu. Just above the wide front door a row of clocks tells the time in cities across the world. Renovated in 2004, the hotel is once again a showplace.

   The city of Zagreb is easy to reach, only a short flight from Frankfurt or Heathrow, and worth a visit. From there, travel around the country is easy. Croatia boasts some of the newest and most efficient freeways in Europe.


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. This story was previously published in Spokane Woman Magazine.
  

Travel: How to Keep Traveling When Your Luggage is Lost

   I recently spent a week traveling through the beautiful countryside of southern France while my luggage stayed behind somewhere in Charles de Gaulle Airport. Fortunately, my make up and basic toiletries were in my carry-on bag but everything else, my clothes, shoes, shampoo and lotions were packed in my suitcase.
Needless to say, it wasn’t an ideal situation but I made the best of it.

   It helped that my basic travel wardrobe is made up of clothing that will go from daytripping through wineries and museums to dinner at a nice restaurant in the city. Most pieces can be washed in my hotel room and will dry overnight. Open my suitcase almost anywhere in the world and you’ll find two or three pair of black microfiber slacks, lightweight tailored blouses and one black jersey dress. When I need to dress up, I add a silk scarf or pashmina and change my shoes.

   To supplement what I had on my back while my luggage was AWOL, I stopped by a Monoprix and picked up a change of underwear, a white linen blouse, a very French-looking striped t-shirt (from the men’s department) and a pair of pretty leather ballet flats. It all fit in an extra tote bag I had stuffed in my carryon bag at the last moment.

   Luckily, the suitcase was found the day before I returned to the States and the whole experience was a good lesson on just how little we really need when traveling.

   While not having my things was inconvenient, it won’t cause me to stop checking my luggage when flying. My mileage status usually lets me check one bag for free and I like the extra room to bring home liquid souvenirs—wine, jams, sauces, etc.—that can’t be carried on.

  

Here are five tips for surviving when your luggage is lost:



Wash and wear fabrics: Leave the jeans at home. Denim adds weight to your luggage, is too heavy to hand wash and can be expensive to have laundered at your hotel.


Carry-on a change of clothing: Slip an overnight kit in your carry-on bag that includes a change of underwear and an extra set of clothing. (Full disclosure: I broke my own rule and forgot to add a change of clothing to the bag I carried onto the plane. Having that would have helped.)


Have a bag inventory: The first thing the airline agent wanted was a list of items in my bag. It helps to have a packing list or, better yet, a photo of the bag’s contents.


Know your rights: Check with your airline for their specific policy regarding reimbursement for (necessary) items purchased when luggage is lost.


Put your ID inside your luggage: Tags go missing. I slip a business card or two inside my suitcase with my phone number and email address. That way if my bag is recovered but unidentifiable, it can be traced to me through the card inside.

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: Holland America takes you Dancing With The Stars at Sea

   I think most of us harbor a secret belief that at the right time, with the right partner,  in the right place, with the right music, in the right costume and with a few good lessons, we could Tango like a pro.

   That’s the appeal of shows like Dancing with the Stars. He did it. She did it. If they can make it, we could make it. We just need a chance.

   This year, with its Dancing with the Stars at Sea theme cruises, Holland America Line is giving dance-loving passengers that chance. During select cruises, passengers get more than just a cruise. DWTS fans can take lessons from the ship’s professional dancers, watch the show’s celebrities perform, have a photo made with their favorites dancers during special events, participate in a Q&A session with the celebrities and even compete for a chance to perform onstage at the grand finale.

   To participate in the ship’s Dancing With the Stars At Sea competition, passengers attend free onboard dance classes where they learn steps taught by the ship’s dancers. At the end of each class, participants perform the routines they learned and are scored by the three judges. The winners are paired with a professional and go on to the final performance on the last night of the cruise. At the finale, each of the winning dance class contestants perform with their partner for the DWTS celebrity judges. The judges offer comments and score the performance and a cruise champion is declared.
   

   At the end of the season, judges will select a winner from each of the eligible Dancing with the Stars at Sea cruises. The 15 winners will get a free cruise and a chance to compete at the final competition for the DWTS at Sea trophy. Not bad.

   In June, my husband and I took a Dancing with the Stars at Sea cruise from Quebec City to Boston on the ms Veendam. Joey Fatone, Mark Ballas, Shawn Johnson and Chelsie Hightower were the stars on board.

   At each performance, the theater was packed. At the special passenger Q&A session with the DWTS celebrities it was fascinating to listen to the comments and questions. These were people who didn’t just watch Dancing with the Stars, they were involved. They’d followed every season and had more than a few things to say about the dancers, their costumes, specific personalities and some of the judges’ decisions. They'd booked the cruise specifically because the dancers were there and they were thrilled to get a chance to ask interact. Some, like a man sitting in front of me, just wanted to make a statement. 

   “I don’t have a question. I just wanted to say Dancing with the Stars is the one thing my wife and I watch together,” he said. “And I get ‘points’ for watching it!”  The crowd laughed but I noticed other men nodding their heads.

   As always, there was good food, a luxurious spa, onboard movies, plenty of time to do absolutely nothing and interesting ports to explore along the way—all the things that make cruising a wonderful way to rest and relax as you travel. The DWTS theme just added to the fun.

   We all came away with great photos and wonderful memories but some got even more than that. They got a chance to step into the spotlight and dance like a star.

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

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
  

Hikers in 3 national parks felled by lightning

HIKING — Thunder storms throughout the West this week took a heavy toll, setting fires and raising havoc in several ways.  

The strangest detail:   Hikers in three national parks were injured or killed within a 30-hour period.

See the stories about this week's lightning strike victims in:

Read this story about the serious threat lightning poses and precautions hikers and campers can take.

Noises in Peru traveler’s head caused by maggots

BUGS — A woman traveling in Peru brought back more than souveniers.  

Indeed, a fly had deposited eggs in her ear that hatched into flesh-eating maggots.  Yum.

Read the story.

I'm adding ear plugs to my equipment list for my next trip to South America.

Motorist has photos of wolf that chased Sandpoint cyclist

WILDLIFE — The photos show the wolf that chased the Sandpoint bicyclist in the Yukon last weekend as reported in my outdoors column.

The photos (click “continue reading” below to see them all) were snapped by Pennock, Minn., resident Becky Woltjer, who was in the RV that stopped to rescue William “Mac” Hollan from the wolf that had become obsessed with his bike, nipping and tearing at his rear bike packs even after Hollan dropped the bike and took refuge in the RV.

Alberta resident Melanie Klassen helped chase the wolf away by beaning it in the head with water bottle.

The photos also show Hollan saluting the RVers after the wolf had left and he resumed his Point to Bay bicycle tour from Idaho to Prudhoe Bay with his two cycling companions.

Read on for Woltjer's Facebook account of the incident, and why she felt compelled to give a stranger from Idaho a big hug:

Alaska Highway cyclists lauded for packing bear spray

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — “Credit them for having bear spray,” said Nancy Campbell, Environment Yukon spokeswoman in Whitehorse, referring to a Sandpoint bicycle tourist who, while separated from his companions, was chased on the Alaska Highway by a wolf.

As today's Outdoors column points out, short bursts of bear spray bought Mac Hollan time to be rescued by motorists even though the relentless wolf kept coming back to nip and rip his paniers and tent bag as they raced down the highway.

“We tell everyone to have bear spray with them and in a holster ready to use any time they go into the backcountry, which can be a few steps off your back porch in the Yukon,” Campbell said.

Hollan said he and his friends had fully prepared for encounters with bears by having bear-proof food canisters, keeping clean camps and keeping bear spray readily available clipped to their handlebar bags.

“I never dreamed I'd need it for a wolf,” he said.

WOLF OR DOG?

Some readers are pointing out that chasing a bicycle or motorcycle is abnormal behavior for a wolf but normal behavior for a dog, such as a husky or wolf hybrid that may look like a wolf.   

Indeed, no one, including a biologist, could verify this was a wolf involved in this incident or the June 8 incident with a motorcyclist in Kootenay National Park (photo above) without getting DNA documentation. That could be done from saliva on the packs, I suppose, but no one is likely to fund that effort.

The lesson, regardless of the animal's species, is that having bear spray readily available is a wise prepareation for muscle-powered travelers.

Life: Taking Baby Steps

   My granddaughter is suddenly a toddler. Over the last few months we’ve watched her crawl then, almost overnight, put one foot in front of another learning first to walk and then run. Her mother, my daughter, is trained to work with patients with mobility issues and she told me that learning to walk is really just overcoming a constant feeling that you’re about to fall. I watched my own four children learn to walk and I’d never really thought about it that way, but when you do, learning to walk becomes a very brave thing to do. The easiest and safest thing would be to simply sit down and stay where we are, but nature takes care of that and we come into the world with the drive to get up and move forward.


    My granddaughter is in constant motion these days, moving from one corner of the house to another, no longer unsteady and unsure. But those first stumbling steps have stayed on my mind. I noticed that while she was learning to walk, she never once looked down at her feet. She pushed herself up, put her eyes on the place or person she wanted to get to, and launched herself in that direction. She wasn’t thinking about what might get in her way—that was our job—she just had to move.


    Of course, as adults, we’ve learned to watch where we put our feet. We know that one wrong step could send us tumbling. When we set a target and move toward it, we do so consciously and carefully. You get smarter as you get older, right?


    The sad thing is that by growing up and growing older, most of us inevitably lose our inner toddler, the inquisitive, driven, risk taker we were born to be. We watch our steps so carefully, so determined not to fall or to fail, we risk never letting go and getting anywhere. We plant ourselves so firmly and deeply we take root. And one day some of us discover we’re stuck.


    I’ve heard the phrase “baby steps” countless times, but until I watched this baby learn to walk, I’m not sure I ever really understood its meaning. Baby steps aren’t small steps, they’re big leaps of faith and curiosity. They are the means to getting where you want to be, in spite of the risks. This is another of the benefits of being the grandmother, I think. Now, I have time to watch the process with just enough distance and none of the fatigue, exhaustion and worry of being the parent.


    Years ago, I threw myself headlong into into mothering. It was the most frighteningly wonderful thing I have ever done or will ever do. And the reward? Four unique adults who made their way confidently out of my nest just as this little one stepped in.


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

Sandpoint cyclist survives tense wolf encounter on Al-Can Highway

UPDATE,  July 14, 10 a.m. — See photos of the wolf attacking the bike and an account from the RVer who helped rescue cyclist Mac Hollan from the wolf's relentless pursuit. Also, I've interviewed one of the motorist heroes who drove the wolf away from Hollan's bike. Read her account of the story in today's Outdoors column. — RL

BICYCLE TOURING — A Sandpoint, Idaho, man and two companions riding bicycles on a 2,750-mile tour to Prudhoe Bay as a fundraiser for a school charity had a tense encounter with a gray wolf last weekend.

  • This is similar to a recent incident in Canada, except for one big difference: the man from Banff was riding a motorcycle.

Mac Hollan, 35, who will be student teaching at a Sandpoint elementary school this fall, posted this chilling detailed account on his Point to Bay Facebook page on Monday.

Two days ago I was attacked by a wolf while riding down the ALCAN. With all the planning for bears, road safety, and everything else, this scenario was something that none of us had ever considered. But, if you read on you will find out how I found myself alone on my bike being chased down and attacked by a Canadian Gray Wolf.

It was around 2:30, about 60 miles west of Watson Lake on the ALCAN, I was a bit ahead of the guys when I heard something to my right. Thinking Gabe or Gordo had caught up without me noticing I looked over my shoulder and was shocked at what I saw. The first thought that ran through my head was “that is the biggest damn dog I have ever seen!”. This surreal moment of shock and confusion passed immediately was the “dog” lunged for my right foot and snapped its jaws just missing my pedal.

WOLF!!! At this point I received the biggest jolt of adrenalin I have ever had in my life. Without so much as a thought I shifted my bike to the highest gear possible, started to mash the pedals like never before, and reached for the bear spray in the handlebar bag. I threw off the safety and gave the wolf a quick blast in the face which served to slow him down so that he was now 20 feet behind me but still not stopping. He hung back for maybe 20 seconds and then raced forward and attacked my panniers, in the process ripping my tent bag and spilling my poles onto the highway.

I gave him another shot of pepper spray, which again backed him off to about 20 feet behind. Despite pedaling like I have never pedaled before, the wolf kept pace with me easily. It was at this point that I saw an 18 wheeler round the corner and began to wave, shout, and point to the wolf frantically. As he slowed I began to breathe a sigh of relief, thinking if I could just get off my bike and into the truck fast enough I would be safe. After taking a good look at the scene the driver resumed his speed and drove on.

This same scenario would happen to me 4 separate times, with my desperation growing with each car that passed me by. Every time the wolf would begin to close on me again, I would shoot a quick blast of bear spray behind me to slow him down.

As I came around the corner, to my horror I saw a quick incline, and knew that I would not be able to stay in front of this wolf for much longer. I just kept thinking about all the shows I have seen where wolves simply run their prey until they tire and then finish them. It was a surreal moment to realize that I was that prey, and this hill was that moment. The only plan I could think of was to get off my bike, get behind it, and hope that I had enough bear spray to deter him once and for all when he got close enough.

It was also at this point that I realized I might not be going home, and I began to panic at the thought of how much it was going to hurt. About .2 mile before the hill an RV came around the corner, and I knew this was it. I placed myself squarely in the center of the road and began screaming at the top of my lungs “help me, there's a wolf, please help me” while waving frantically. Seeing the situation the driver quickly passed me and stopped on a dime right in front of my bike. I don't know how I got unclipped or off my bike, but I swear I hurdled the handlebars without missing a beat or letting go of my can of bear spray. When I got to the backdoor of the RV still screaming, the door was locked. In an absolute panic I began to climb in the passenger window, but the driver reached across and threw the door open to let me in. By the time I shut the door the wolf was already on my bike pulling at the shredded remains of my tent bag. I began to shake, and cuss.

More cars began to pull up and honk at the wolf, but he would not leave my bike, as though he thought it was his kill. It took someone finally beaning him in the head with a rock to get him to leave. At this point Gabe and Gordo showed up looking confused and concerned with a set of shattered tent poles in hand. While I know I got the names of the man and woman who saved me, for the life of me I can't remember them now. I do remember the woman giving me a hug that felt like the greatest hug of my life.

Still jacked on adrenalin, all I wanted to do was get out of that place, and get out fast. The folks in the RV were nice enough to watch our backs as we got a ways down the road before leaving, and gave one final wave as they passed by. I gave them a card for the ride and I hope they are reading this so that they know how much I am in their debt and how grateful I am that they stopped to save me. Otherwise I honestly don't think this story would have ended well.

We made it about 10 miles down the road before the full adrenalin rush wore off and then everything seemed to go into slow motion and I just felt dizzy and tired. We pulled over to a roadside creek where I stumbled down to splash water on my face and basically sat in the creek and lost my s%$t. The full implication of what had just happened to me sank in, and I just lost it for a good 15 minutes.

We have spent a lot of time talking about the incident since, and the only conclusion we can come up with is that the wolf was old, sick, or injured, to be chasing something down on the highway. I would not doubt I am the first cyclist ever to have this happen to them on the ALCAN. That being said I have tried not to let this experience change my positive feelings about being out here, but I do look over my shoulder more, and am a bit jumpy.

While other things have happened since the last update, this is all I can really remember. We're in Whitehorse, Yukon now, having pulled off a century before 2:30. We're planning on doing some bike work here and relaxing for the afternoon. That's all for now.

Point to Bay is a charity bicycle tour from Sandpoint, ID to Prudhoe Bay, AK supporting the Sandpoint Backpack Program. The Sandpoint Backpack Program provides students in need with backpacks full of food for the weekend to ensure they return to school on Monday fed and ready to learn. This ride is 100% self-supported, and 100% rider funded, meaning every bit of your donation goes directly to students in need. The 2,750 mile ride begins June 17th, 2013 and will take roughly 6 1/2 weeks to complete. For more information please follow the links to the Point to Bay website. Full bellies, full minds!

Followup:  

Travel: Truffle Hunting in Croatia


    Our small group, an assortment of travelers from the US, Canada and Germany,  gathered as Ivan Karlic, our guide, leashed up Blackie, the sweet, specially trained dog who would sniff out truffles buried at the base of oak trees growing in a small grove on a hillside near the village of Buzet. Most of us were visiting the Istrian peninsula of Croatia for the first time and none of us had ever been on a truffle hunt.


    Blackie knew what to do. Nose to the ground, she set out snuffling at the thick layer of leaves on the forest floor. Tail wagging, she moved quickly from one spot to another while Ivan whispered soft words of encouragement. We followed them both, stepping over roots and stones.


    Pigs were once the traditional truffle hunting animals, but as Ivan pointed out, it’s much easier to stop a dog from destroying or eating the truffle than a determined pig. So, these days, most truffle hunters have made the switch.


    Truffles are true buried treasure. Black truffles, the ones we were watching Blackie search for, average 30 to 50 Euros. When they’re in season, white truffles can go for many times that amount. That’s no small thing when you consider most are the size of a walnut or a small apple.


    As we walked behind Blackie, Ivan chatted with us about his family’s business harvesting the truffles from the small wood.  But suddenly he called out to the dog and rushed over to pull her away from where she was pawing at the ground. Using the tool he carried, a flat blade attached to a stick, he sliced into the dirt until the truffle was exposed. Gently, he scraped the dark soil away with his finger until he could gingerly pry the truffle free of the root to which it had been attached. He held up the prize and we cheered. Blackie got a treat for a job well done.


    While we were still admiring the find, Blackie went back to work. Once again we followed her zigzag path, talking quietly as we watched her stop, sniff, sniff again and then move on. When she started pawing at the ground, Ivan ran over to her and again, pulled a hard black truffle from the ground. Blackie moved deeper into the small forest and a few minutes later she hit paydirt again. While Ivan worked to free that truffle the dog started scratching at the base of another tree nearby. He called out for someone to help so I took his place and slipped my fingers into the hole he’d created with his spade. The dirt was cool and moist as I worked it away from the truffle. Like an archaeologist, I worked slowly, gently, scraping away the soil that concealed the truffle until Ivan came back and helped me pull it away from the root. I handed my phone to the woman beside me and asked her to take a photo. In the image, I am a blur. The only thing in focus are my hands, muddy, with dirt-caked fingernails cradling the truffle. It was exactly right.


    We carried the four truffles we’d gathered back to the farmhouse and Ivan’s mother, Radmila, met us at the covered patio. She exclaimed when she saw what we’d found. Apparently, it was a very good truffle hunt. Blackie, after being petted again by everyone in the group, was taken back to the kennel with the family’s other truffle-hunting dogs.


    Radmila broke eggs into a bowl, added thin slices of one of the truffles we’d found and made an omelet of our work.


    She sliced a baguette and topped the slices with butter and another sliver of truffle on top. With savory sausages and bottles of house-made wine, we had a meal so fragrant and delicious I will remember it forever.


    I’d expected the tourist treatment: a field “salted” with truffles that had been planted so we could have the (artificial) pleasure of watching a dog sniff them out. But my experience was just the opposite. I kept the photo and I’m going to frame it for my kitchen. The next time I make an omelet, I’ll think of that day; the feel of the dirt on my fingers and the unmistakable earthy fragrance of delicious buried treasure.
    



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

Dream on: RV’s for the ultra-rich top $3 million

VAGUELY CAMPING — How do the rich rough it?  

Check out this story about $3 million motorhomes for people who don't really want the status without the nature of venturing into the great outdoors.

They're calling this combo of glamor and camping "glamping."

Oh please.

Going to the Sun Road opens in Glacier Park

NATIONAL PARKS — The entire 50 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is open as of 8:30 a.m. this morning.

See map for highlights of the scenic route over Logan Pass.

Additional information on park roads, weather conditions, and visitor services can be found on Glacier National Park’s website, or by calling park headquarters at 406-888-7800. 

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
  

Finally! Plows make Logan Pass accessible in Glacier Park

NATIONAL PARKS – Access to Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park will be available to vehicle traffic from the east-side of the park the morning of Saturday, June 15, weather dependent.

Vehicles on the west-side of the park can travel as far as Avalanche Creek. All 50 miles of the road is anticipated to be open to vehicle travel by Friday, June 21 at the earliest.

Read on for details.

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

  

Travel: Tasting the Best of Apalachicola, Florida

   I pushed away my plate and picked up my purse to leave The Fisherman’s Wife and move on, but at the last minute I pulled out my phone and took a photo of the only bite left on my plate. One crescent of cornbread was all that remained of a meal of fried shrimp, cheese grits, coleslaw and hushpuppies.

    I took the photo because I’d already made one call to my husband telling him I’d found a place he might want to visit and he might never want to leave and I knew the hushpuppy—the Southern staple of seasoned cornmeal batter, fried crisp and brown—would strike its mark. But I also took it because I’d been trying to think of the best way to describe the unique personality of the north coast of a state that is probably best known for the broad beaches, busy theme parks and bustling cities on the lower half of the peninsula. Looking down at my empty plate, I found my answer. In a lot of ways, the food—the seafood—is the key.
    
    It’s impossible to spend any time in that part of Florida and not be offered a fresh Apalachicola oyster, pulled out of the bay that morning, shucked and served on a saltine cracker and dressed with horseradish and hot sauce. Afternoons become “Oyster Hour” when local restaurants serve up more fresh oysters with laughter, gossip and plenty of cold beer. Dinner might be Grouper or a basket of grilled oysters or fat Gulf shrimp, butterflied, battered and fried or simply boiled and seasoned and then served ready to peel and eat. Life centers around the bounty and it is served up fresh and simply prepared.

    The cluster of small communities in Franklin County, Florida, the largest of which is Apalachicola, or Apalach, as the locals call the small picturesque waterfront town, has shown a unique ability to reinvent itself to fit the times. At various points in its history the county was home to one of the busiest ports on the Gulf of Mexico. It was the site of a thriving sponge market and later an important Southern timber hub. Times and industry have changed but the one constant has been and still is the rich variety of seafood harvested locally by people who are deeply rooted in the community. People like the fisherman married to the fisherman’s wife who’d served up fresh-caught shrimp for my lunch.

    While there, I met people who’ve lived in the county for generations and others who moved to the area to get away from the larger and busier world. I met a few first-time visitors like myself. But I quickly discovered we all have something in common. We love the slow pace of life. We love the natural beauty of the coastline and rivers and estuaries, and all the wildlife that come with them. And we really, really, love the food.

 

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



  

Break in tradition: Good food in national parks

 
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Chief Jonathan Jarvis held an event on the Lincoln Mall to unveil new healthy food standards for national park concessionaires, with chefs offering free samples of such fare as bison tenderloin, free-range chicken breast, black bean sliders, sweet potato cakes, berry yogurt parfaits and rain forest coffee. — Washington Post
 
What? No hot dogs on a stale white bun?

Travel: Five Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

Nothing takes the shine off a travel adventure like finding yourself sick away from home.  Even the healthiest of us can fall—Colds happen. Germs find us. Stomachs revolt—so it pays to think ahead and pack for those unexpected headaches, troubled tummies and painful blisters. Here are five tips for staying healthy on the road:

Clean hands. Pack hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes and use often. I wish airports would take a tip from cruise ships and provide hand sanitizer stations at the entrance to all terminals and jetways. Everyone picking up a bin at the security checkpoint or boarding a plane should get a dollop. It couldn’t hurt, right? It’s not just germy handrails or contaminated food. Unexpected surfaces such as the airplane seatback tray or even your purse can—according to some sources—be as dirty as the bathroom floor.

Plan ahead. No travel first aid kit should be without the basics: Pain reliever, cold medicines (decongestant, antihistamine, cough suppressant, etc.) and anti-diarrhea medication can make the difference between an inconvenience and an unpleasant medical situation. Band-Aids and travel-sized antibiotic ointment are a given. If you’re going to more exotic locations make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist for the necessary shots and preventative medication. Don’t forget your vitamins.
Note: Keep prescription medications in the original container to avoid confiscation and to make it easier to get a refill on the road.

Write it down: If you have specific allergies— food or medicine— make sure your travel companions and tour operator are aware. Note: Carry the name and number of your physician in case of emergency and have a copy of your insurance card with you.

All things in moderation: Overeating, drinking too much, lack of sleep and jet lag can wreak havoc on your body and weaken the immune system. Some say the best way to beat jet lag is to start preparing days before a trip. Eat less, drink less and sleep more. Skip the inflight cocktail and opt for water or juice instead. While traveling, resist the temptation to abuse the all-you-can-eat buffet on the cruise ship and stay hydrated.

Exercise: Don’t forget to get up and move on long flights and don’t drop the workout routine when you arrive. Many hotels offer at least a basic fitness room. Even if there is excellent public transportation at the destination you’re visiting, hit the cobblestones whenever possible. Take the stairs when you can. Note: There are specific hotel room-friendly workout routines designed for travelers.


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
  

Farm Chicks Antiques Show this weekend

Spokane's homegrown vintage gala event happens this weekend when the annual Farm Chicks Antiques Show hits the Spokane Fair and Expo Center. With everything from rustic farm implements to shabby chic finds to one-of-a-kind handmade items, the sale is always a hit with Spokane vintage treasure hunters.

Here are all the details:

Where:  Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, 404 N. Havana Street, Spokane Valley, Washington.

When: Saturday, June 1st, 9am – 6pm

Sunday, June 2nd, 9am – 4pm

Admission:  $8 per day. (Note: There is no early admission this year.)

Details: Free Parking

Going to the Sun Road plowing opens route for bikes

NATIONAL PARKS — Now through the next couple of weeks or so will be prime time for bicyclists to explore portions of Glacier Park's Going to the Sun Highway.

While plowing is underway from both sides toward Logan Pass, motorized traffic is prohibited but bicycles are allowed.

Currently 29.0 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open for travel.
Visitors can drive 15.5 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche, and 13.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Jackson Glacier Overlook.

Get updates here.

See photos of the brave equipment operators plowing the steep avalanche slopes toward Logan Pass.