Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Quiet Side of Ibiza

World Heritage Sites

I haven't posted much about my big move, but next week I will be saying good-bye to California and moving north to Oregon.  Although it's been hectic, part of the fun has been deciding what to take and what to toss.  Although I am shocked by what I have actually thrown away, my old travel journals will accompany me through life.  I came across the journal I kept in Ibiza, one of Spain's Balearic Islands, from a summer long long ago and found this entry:

There are moments in life when you wish you could make time stand still and the drive thru the countryside to the little village of San Agnes was such a time. The countryside was so unspoiled with stone fences along the terraced hills.  Trees.  Sheep.  Red soil.  The scent of pine and anise.  We stopped for cafe con leche.  I wish I could have stopped time.

I didn't know it then, but this blog was given birth in that entry.

Although in the 1980's Ibiza was the Wild Child of Europe, we sought out its quiet side.  We avoided the bars and restaurants and set out to find its isolated beauty.  I wrote that we went to a different beach every day and sometimes were the only ones there.  At night we avoided the bars and restaurants and retreated to our villa high on a hill to drink champagne and watch the sunset.  We were far too young to be so reclusive, but my journal is filled with happiness.  And peace.

I can't seem to give away my travel books either.  Although my 4th edition of World Heritage Sites is now unhinged with wear and tear, it will remain by my bedside for (hopefully) many years to come.  I was thrilled to see that Ibiza was added to the World Heritage List in 1999 for its biodiversity and culture.  It is rich in history, especially the Phoenician-Carthaginian period when it played a major economic role in the Mediterranean.  It still has its original medieval architecture.

Toured fascinating town of Eivissa today--the oldest walled medieval city in existence.  Had a good time walking along the ramparts and enjoying views--the sea, cliffs and town below.

Took a walk along the cliffs and breathed in the incredible beauty of barren rocks jutting out of the turquoise sea.  R. has gone swimming but water much too cold for me.  Even the air has a chill to it.

I was only 29 years old when I wrote the above entries.  It seems so strange.  I sometimes feel like I have nothing in common with my younger self, but my travel journals prove me wrong.

As I say good-bye to my past, I look forward to my future.  Good-bye Ibiza.  Good-bye Santa Barbara.  Hello Oregon.  Hello Places Not Yet Seen.

The search for magical moments continues.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Changling Ming Tomb

World Heritage Sites

According to UNESCO, these tombs were added to the World Heritage List because they are "masterpieces of human creative genius by reason of their organic integration into nature, and a unique testimony to the cultural and architectural traditions of the last two feudal dynasties (Ming and Qing) in the history of the China between the 14th and 20th centuries."

Quite a mouthful I agree, but since I've been doing a lot of tour bashing lately, I wanted to end this China segment with our morning visit to this incredible site.  I don't regret going on this tour.  I think everyone who "attempts" China for the first time should go with an escort.  The second time?  (which I am highly considering).  No way!

This tomb is only 31 miles from Beijing so it is a popular stop on the touring circuit.  It is the tomb of the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and only one small part of a huge complex.  The gates, courtyards and richly decorated carvings make it a memorable stop.
Our tour guide talked a lot about feng shui  because these tombs were all situated according to these principles.  The cold winds blowing from the north needed to be deflected so they were built in a protected area at the foot of the mountains.  It is a tranquil, serene environment with all the elements of  feng shui included, like running water and long paths for the free flow of chi.

I took what I learned home with me.  The week after my return, I added wind chimes to my front porch and installed a water fountain in my back patio.  I could not believe the peace it brought to me almost immediately.

  Something had been wrong from the very first day we moved into our little cottage on its oddly shaped lot.  I now knew what it was.  That harmony between the house and the earth was missing.  Over the years we continued to make improvements:  To right the wrong.  We put in a large picture window.  Added roses, bougainvillea and birdbaths.  The spirits were happy.  And so were we.

 I end this post with one last photograph:  A glimpse of the Ming Tomb through the early morning fog.  This is why I want to return to China.  Alone.  I want to soak in these incredible views.  I want to take long walks in the mountains.  I want to see a more enchanting side to this vast country.  Study its arts.  With no time frame and no itinerary.  My only escort being the life force that binds us all together.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Ghosts of Tiananmen Square

I am writing about Tiananmen Square in Beijing, not to highlight its beauty (it's not) or its history (plenty of that) but the power of travel when it comes to conjuring up ghosts.  This has happened to me before, at the Colosseum in Rome, where thousands upon thousands of blurry faces escort me through a site.  Don't forget us, they plead.  We were here.  And we were wronged.

The Chinese government has tried very hard to obliterate June 4, 1989, from social consciousness.  The local tour guides are forbidden to discuss it.  It was up to me, therefore, to recount to my two sons the events leading up to that infamous massacre.  We were walking on the very stones that had been drenched with the blood of  hundreds of young students who died that day because they wanted democratic reform.

"The world watched in amazement as these kids began to occupy the square, week after week after week," I said.  "Their numbers kept growing.  And soon demonstrations were taking place all over China.  We were all glued to the t.v., wondering how this was going to end."

The government finally acted.  Ten thousand troops marched into Tiananmen Square.  Martial Law was declared and the demonstrators were ordered to return home.  A peaceful protest turned suddenly violent.  Some of the students started throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.  The order was given to shoot.

Back home, we watched in horror at the little footage that made its way to the air.  All foreign journalists were expelled and anyone in China who continued to broadcast the news, was quickly rounded up.  The next day, the square was empty and so was most of Beijing.  All political reform was halted.  The Chinese government stated that the "counter-revolutionary riot" had come to an end.
Walking across Tiananmen Square in the summer of 2005 was not a magical moment, but it was a powerful one.  When such a moment conjures up spirits, it resurrects history.

I took the hand of my youngest son and squeezed it.  That summer in 1989, I was in my third trimester of pregnancy.  My emotions were in hyper-drive then.   And they were in hyper-drive today.

 I will never ever forget.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

May Gray

by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

These melancholy mornings in May always remind me of this familiar and endearing poem.  Wanted to share with my friends at Patti's Visible Monday.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Betting on Butterflies

"Those are the ugliest sweaters I've ever seen," one of our sales associates said when I unpacked these turquoise and mustard sweaters and brought them out front to be sold.

"Just you wait," I countered.  "These sweaters will be gone within a week."

"Ya wanna bet?"


And so we shook hands.  The winner would get a Starbucks coffee.

One week later, she brought me an iced Vanilla Latte.

Every spring for the last ten years, I smile whenever I put this sweater on and think about that bet.  She was right, in a way.  The color combo is very odd.  And yet . . . it sold like hotcakes.  It's one of those jolie laide pieces-so ugly it's beautiful.  A lot of fashion falls into that category.  We buy something, not for its good taste, but for the emotion it elicits.  Humor.  Happiness.  Shock appeal.

"I'm really surprised you keep wearing this sweater," my travel buddy commented when I asked him to photograph it.  "It's so not you."

 "Just you wait.  By the time we walk back to the car, someone is going to compliment me on it.  I'll bet you a coffee."  We shook hands, but this time I raised the ante.  "And a brownie."

I won.  Again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Temple of Heaven

World Heritage Sites

As I continue to document World Heritage Sites, it occurs to me that their importance isn't necessarily about history, culture or great beauty, but rather as a conduit to bring the people of the world together.  This was certainly the case when we visited the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

Perhaps it was because the three-tiered Hall of Prayer was closed for renovation and we really only saw the Vault of Heaven that I don't remember the whole religious complex that well.  No, it was playing King of the Mound with hundreds of fellow global citizens that makes this historic site so special to me.  We all took turns standing in the center of the altar where sacrifices and prayers were made to the heavens by the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties.  People took pictures of us.  We took pictures of them.  My two sons, dressed in colorful Hawaiian shirts, baggy shorts and flip flops were in high demand as models.  I mean who wouldn't want their picture taken with two cute surfer dudes?

I've written a lot lately about why I travel and this is just one more reason--to make friends with complete strangers.  My sons were honored to be the focus of so much attention.  They couldn't understand a word people were saying, but the handshakes and smiles needed no translation.  They were both in high school and like most teenagers, thought their parents were idiots.  How they loved telling us what we were doing wrong!

But bringing them to China was one thing we did right.  We talk about that trip often when we are together.  Travel bonded us with our sons.  And they, in turn, bonded with the world.