Sunday, July 26, 2009

Photo of the Week: Fannette Island

A helpful cloud shadowed the shore in the background, allowing a good look at what Fannette Island, in Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, looks like without losing it in the nearly identical background.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hundredth Post - My Five Favorites

After 99 previous posts, I have a few I particularly like, so I'll just list them here.

I'm not sure if I like them for the merit of the writing, the subject matter or from remembering the experience, but they stick out to me as my favorites. Click on the bold text for the original article.

Paris Throws a Party
This was my first blog post, and I originally wrote it as an assignment for my column and review writing class in college. I had a habit of procrastinating, and that assignment was no different. I wrote it an hour before it was due in The State Hornet newsroom while the fire alarm was going off over my head and my editor was interviewing me for a copy editing position (no joke). It worked out, since I got an A on the assignment, I got the copy editing job and the school didn't burn down.

Bruges: Belgium's Jewel
In the movie In Bruges, the characters hate this canal city that was the financial capital of Europe in the past. I happen to love it, and I plan on returning. It's tied with Rothenburg ob der Tauber for my favorite small town in the world.

Prague at Dawn
I really enjoyed Prague. It had a special appeal as it was my first trip to a former Communist Bloc country. Wandering around the city by myself an hour before dawn and watching it wake up was a unique experience, and one I hope to replicate the next time I'm in Paris.

A visit to Normandy
Having minored in European history in college, and having been interested in World War II before that, Normandy always held a special fascination with me. Growing up, I never thought I would get the chance to visit the battlefield.

The Mad King's Fairy Tale Castle
Schloss Neuschwanstein is the epitome of a fairy tale castle, and it should be at the top of the list for anyone visiting Germany. Disney based a castle on it, and it has graced thousands of postcards, TV shows and movies. The views from the top of the Alps and the nearby lowlands are fantastic, and a walk across the wood-planked bridge nearby isn't for those with a fear of heights.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Photo of the Week: Art in Ranthambore

Since India's Ranthambore National Park is ranked among the top places in the world to see a tiger in the wild, all the shops in the tiny nearby town cater to tigers. The man in the plaid shirt paints all day, and I bought the painting with the black background above his head for the equivalent of $10, which hopefully represents a decent profit to him.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Meeting Matisse

Every once in a while, when I'm traveling, I meet someone who simply can't be classified.

That was the case with a German man I ran into in Colmar, France, a week before Christmas in 2008. Colmar's Christmas market was in full swing, and part of that market was a display of various farm animals.

When I saw a man walking a donkey on a leash down the street, I made the assumption that he had been involved with the display.

I was completely wrong.

The donkey was being ornery, as they often are, and the man stopped to pet his muzzle and calm him down. We stopped a few feet away and asked if he spoke English.

His German accent wasn't a surprise, as Colmar is in Alsace and is very close to the German border, but what he told us was surprising.

The donkey was named Matisse - after the French painter - and he wasn't in Colmar as part of the Christmas market.

"I take him to the city because he likes to see the lights," the German said. "He really likes to go on walks."

I kind of thought he was kidding, but he was quite serious.

I've seen men walking elephants through the streets of Jaipur in India, but I had expected that. I never would have guessed that men would just hook a rope up to a donkey's bridle and lead him on a leisurely stroll through a French city.

This particular German - I wish I'd gotten his name - said Matisse was 14. Donkeys live into their 40s, he said, adding that they and their owners develop relationships every bit as meaningful as those between dogs and their owners.

We petted Matisse while the German kept beaming and sharing his experiences, and when Matisse looked at the lights, the German nodded in his direction, as if to say, "See, he loves them."

After my mom and sister posed with Matisse for the photo, the German led him off down the street, and not a single person even gave the odd pair a second glance.