Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December at the Columbia Gorge Hotel

A grand hotel decked out for the holidays always puts me into the Christmas spirit.  This year I chose the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Oregon, to immerse me with such magic. Under bright lights in the charming old dining room, we ushered in the holidays with wine and a delicious meal of  Cornish game hens.  Two weeks later we returned for lunch.  This time we could see the view:  the beautiful stone paths and the waterfall that flows into the Columbia.
This hotel was built in 1921.  It provided luxurious accommodations for travelers who were taking advantage of the newly built Columbia Gorge Highway.  In fact many of the stonemasons who worked on the highway also created the stonework for the hotel.  It is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow stayed here, and although the Jazz Era was its heyday, this grand old dame still takes the cake for inimitable charm.  Even in 2015.

Merry Christmas from Mimi and Me!
May the New Year bring
you lots of
magic and joy.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Buried Cadillac

Roadside Double Takes

Glimpsed from Interstate 84 west of Hood River, Oregon.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hood River's Big Art

Art in Public Places

I'm a walker.  I walk everyday.  In the mountains.  By the river.  Along old highways.  And, yes, even in cities and towns.  Urban hikes are a nice change from muddy boots and granola bars.  It's nice to be able to duck into a coffee shop for a cappuccino and lemon bar.  Or window shop.  And one of my favorite urban hikes is the Big Art Walking Tour in Hood River, Oregon.

The three mile walk takes you along the marina, the waterfront park and then under the freeway to the downtown streets of Oak and State.  There are fifteen large outdoor sculptures along this path.  Because the art is for sale, I've noticed that in the seven months I've lived here the art is always changing. Last week my favorite sculpture, the Dancing Girl, was gone and a Big Blue Cheese was in its place. It's what makes this hike so fun though.  I am always surprised.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Dubai Museum

Well, if I do win that sweepstakes, visiting the Dubai Museum is going to be my first stop.  It may be the one and only building in Dubai that I will recognize.  I'm so glad it's still there!  Unchanged.  Historical.  A glimpse into a world long gone.

The museum is housed in the old Al Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787.  It is the oldest building in Dubai.  Today it is surrounded by grand skyscrapers, glitz and blitz.

I read recently that the United Arab Emirates may become uninhabitable by 2050 if global warming continues.  The summer heat will be so intense, not even air conditioning will cool things down.  Hopefully, this won't be the case, but it does worry me.

One of the most fascinating exhibits at this museum was the wind tower--a replica of a house built in this part of the world before air conditioning.  A tower above the house caught the wind and forced it down to the living quarters.
Inside the museum are lots of displays showcasing pottery, jewelry and weaponry.  There was an interesting exhibit on falconry with exquisite drum-like perches for the birds to stand on.  I also noted in my journal a six foot skeleton from 950-550 B.C.

This museum gives the traveler a rare glimpse into a lost world.  Today, Dubai is right up there with London, Paris and Singapore as one of the most sophisticated, beautiful cities in the world.  The traveler no longer goes there to float down the river in an old wooden dhow or picnic with sand crabs and fishermen on the beach (like we did).  Today the traveler will sip cocktails by a pool.  Shop at Dior.  Dine at Wolfgang Puck's.  The traveler will be enveloped in a cocoon of unrivaled luxury.

So much has changed since I was last there.  And so much will change again.  What will Dubai be like in another thirty years?

 Will it even exist?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Free Trip to the Emirates

Every week my mail box gets crammed with sweepstakes to exotic locales.  As a traveler on a budget, how can I resist?  A week in Machu Picchu?  Click.  A cruise in the Caribbean? Click.  A safari in South Africa?  Click.  Click.  And double click.  But have I ever won?  NOPE.  All I get is more e-mails.  Yes, I can still go to Machu Picchu on a fantastic tour.  It will cost me only $6,000, and that doesn't include airfare.

So I stopped.

Until last week when another tantalizing sweepstakes popped up in my e-mail.  A free trip to Dubai, staying in a luxury hotel.  Click.

Why did I enter?  Because the Dubai of today is nothing (and I mean nothing!!) like the Dubai I visited in 1986.  Even the charming hotel I stayed at, The Chicago Beach, was demolished in 1997 to make way for a grander hotel on a scale I can only imagine.  It's hard for me to get a handle on the metamorphic changes.  It's only been 30 years, but from the photographs splashed across travel magazines and blogs, I do not recognize the place.  I want to see it for myself.

So with absolute confidence that I'm going to win this time, here are photographs of the Emirates of Yore.  Stay tuned for Part Two:  The Emirates of Today.