Happy Trails in the New Year of 2015!

After a relaxing and fun-filled holiday season, I am refreshed and re-energized for another year of blogging! Travel plans are already underway for Canada, Spain, South of France, Alaska, Montana and Cape Cod. And if I know my family, there will be more additions to that already great list of travel destinations.

According to an article in todays New York Times, What a Stronger Dollar Means for the Economy, the Euro is trading at the lowest it has in 9 years – which means a strong US dollar for travel to Europe. So there may be a need to add an extension to the list of European locals.

The start of a new year is a time to think forward, make resolutions, plan. But it is also a time to reflect on the year we recently gave closure. Revel in the highlights, learn from the lowlights, and be grateful and happy for all of the new memories made to savor in the years to come. My nephew and his girlfriend started an in person chat session at our New Year’s Even gathering asking everybody what their personal highlight of 2014 was and what their family highlight of 2014 was: my personal highlight was accomplishing the one year anniversary of my travel blog – and still going strong; my family highlight was flying my kids home to surprise their father for his 50th birthday.

For myself and my travel forays, 2014 was a year that saw me sticking closer to home. Which is something I intend to build on. All corners of the US and points in between behold scenery to rival any place outside of the US and I plan to make a concerted effort to add a few of these amazing locations to my 2015 travel bucket list.

I live within a 6 hour drive of some of the most incredible rock formations showcasing some of the most vibrant colors – swirling red and tan sands, stoic red rock, and azure blue watering holes. Inclusive of the Grand Canyon, The Wave, and the Sedona Red Rocks. So add Arizona, Utah and New Mexico to that growing travel list.

I will also take the opportunity to continue to expound on features I implemented in 2014 – i.e. monthly restaurant reviews and writings by guest bloggers. I plan to expand my ‘Favorite Author/Artist‘ section by adding links and writings of several favorite travel writers, and artists of all genres, I have begun to follow over recent years.

For now I am off to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I will share the beauty of one of the most remarkable large cities in the world – where the waters of the Pacific Ocean flow into the Salish Sea on the west end of the city and the mountains of Whistler provide a dramatic backdrop to the North.

Happy New Year and all the best to my readers for a great 2015!

Happy New Year! Cheers to a great year ahead in 2015!

Happy New Year! Cheers to a great travel year ahead in 2015!

Architectural and Engineering Marvels

I spent the last two months recuperating from rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder, which has greatly impinged upon my traveling, made writing almost impossible for this righty, and challenged my typing skills.

But it has given me time to reflect on all the great traveling I have done over the years and gleam from them some experiences worth sharing. When I think back on many of the places I have been, one thing that really stands out for me are the works of architectural geniuses, both past and present. Followed by the brilliant abilities of engineers who can bring architectural plans to fruition.

If I had my life to live over again, I would have become an architect. I have a degree in ‘Landscape Design’ and spent many rewarding years designing exterior living spaces. I tend to see things in black and white and straight lines, so I love the act of drafting plans, but design is so much more than that. It involves all levels of critical thinking. I have attempted to roll this training over into my time spent traveling and become an experiential traveler – observing and absorbing what I see.

I marvel at architecture from all eras, but the older the structure or building the more in awe I am. To think back to renaissance era and the construction of some of the most amazing cathedrals still standing today. Or a medieval castle perched upon a hilltop. Truly man-made as there were no cranes, no back-hoes, no dump trucks to help man to create these amazing structures.

A medieval castle sits perched atop a rock outcropping in the Slovenia countryside

A medieval castle, parts built back in the 11th century, sits perched atop a rock outcropping in the Slovenia countryside

No one can deny the monolithic feat of constructing new age buildings like One World Trade Center in New York City. Or the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai. Or the Bow, in Calgary, Alberta. Or bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge. Or the Brooklyn Bridge. Or the Hoover Dam. Or any roadway like Highway 1 a/k/a the Pacific Coast Highway. Or the desolate mountain road that winds down the spine of the central mountain ranges in Jordan.

Hoover Dam, built in the 1930's straddles on the Colorado River on the Nevada-Arizona border

Hoover Dam, built in the 1930’s straddles on the Colorado River on the Nevada-Arizona border

Most of these have been completed in the industrial age where we have cranes that reach 500 feet in the air and can move unimaginable tons of material; dump trucks as big as houses – their tires alone standing 13+ feet tall; or back hoes with hammers so large it can break through granite like it’s puddy.

A large tractor with a hydraulic hammer is used in present day construction to hammer through hard rock like granite

A large tractor with a hydraulic hammer is used in present day construction to hammer through hard rock like granite

I can sit for quite a while staring at a masterpiece from the world of art – like Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies,’ but I can stare for hours at the buildings that store many of these works of art. Between New York’s Metropolitan Museum of ArtGuggenheim MuseumAmerican Museum of Natural History; Paris’ The Louvre’, Museum d’Orsay, Museum de l’Orangerie; or Vienna’s Belvedere’s Museum…….the artistry of these buildings is as amazing as the works of art they house.

The Louvre in Paris, France - part of the museum originated as a fortress in the 12th century, then a palace in the 16th century, and finally the museum it is today in the 18th century.

The Louvre in Paris, France – part of the museum originated as a fortress in the 12th century, then a palace in the 16th century, and finally the museum it is today in the 18th century.

But back to pre-industrial era architecture and construction. How did they get the lines so straight and the face of the stones so smooth? How did they get those gigantic pieces of stone up the hill, let alone to the stop of the edifice? How did they build arches that have stood the test of time? How did they create such perfect symmetry in the details that define these highly ornate structures?

There are a multitude of resources to give us the answer to these questions and many, many more. One person who has done the research for us is Ken Follett. In his novel, “Pillars of the Earth,” Follett describes in detail the construction of a gothic cathedral. The book is set in 12th century England, and takes us step by step, day by day, over a 30-year period showing us what was entailed in building a cathedral – from the manpower, to the craftsmanship, to the cost, to the hierarchy, to the delays from war or lack of funding.

Through the years Mother Nature has provided us with amazing scenery, but man has done an admirable job of creating eye-popping structures that not only is appealing to the eye, but often serves a tangible purpose to our daily living – roadways to drive on, cathedrals to pray in, museums to house artwork. So next time you are out and about think about what goes in to each and every man-made structure you come by!

Museums/Galleries: the artist behind the artwork

How often do you go to a museum to marvel at the works of art showcased and wonder about the artist behind the art work? As I travel the world, I find it revealing to check out the museum listings. It gives me a sense to the cultural awareness and interest of a place. The museum may or may not reveal the actual culture of a given area, but more that the city has a healthy curiosity to the multiple ways people look at life in the world around them.

A museum is defined as a place where important things are preserved. This place may be created for the specific display to share with the public like The Metropolitan Museum of Art or The Louvre. Or it might be a gallery in a private home. The medium can be anything from painting to sculpture to photos to artifacts. These pieces are the brainchild of an individual and their desire to create a tangible form of passion.

Passion is the catalyst of every artist I have had the pleasure of meeting, and others I have read about. Very seldom does an artist set out to create with the sole purpose to make money. Hence the starving artist mantra we so often hear. Even those who set out to make money from their artwork, create from a passion or deep interest in a process. An artist is born with an innate desire to craft something that speaks to them. It often isn’t until a friend or colleague see’s a piece of artwork, is wowed and convinces the artist they need to share their work with others.

Artists are often a school teacher or doctor by day and an artist by night. Or it’s their weekend anecdote to their hectic weekday life. Of course there are those artists who set out to be artists very young in life and are able to achieve a level of success early enough they can rely on the income from their artwork to live comfortably.

I believe there is an artist in all of us, and that is a major reason I am so drawn to museums or seeing artists in the throes of their passion. It is inspiring to see such commitment and desire and release of emotions into an object. And no piece of artwork has the same reaction to every person. I love watching people sit and ogle over a piece of artwork. If you ask them what they see it is often something that had not dawned on you as you looked at the same piece.

Evolution seems to be a constant for artists. One element of design leads to trying something new. Creating a new texture or color or light. Or even creating new tools to achieve a certain look or quality. I love looking at artists work tables to see everyday utensils turned into tools of the trade. Or going as far as designing and building equipment to allow the artist to take their craft to another level. I think it is all these elements why true artists are artists for life. It is generally not a passing fancy, even if you just “…dabble in it…” you usually dabble throughout your whole life.

Following are some artists I have had the pleasure of meeting and watch them create:

Seguin Poirier: born 1949; learned metal enamel artistry at age 17; designed the world’s largest kiln to bake his enamel on copper pieces. With exhibits in Rockfellar Center, NYC to collections at The Bank of Montreal, Montreal and a Royal Palace, Saudi Arabia, Monsieur Poirier has earned an international mark with his work.



Seguin Poirier working on an original for our group

Seguin Poirier working on an original with ideas he got from the audience.


Seguin Poirier enamel original made especially for our group with our input

The Seguin Poirier finished enamel original from above.

Specially designed kiln, created by Seguin Poirier to fire oversized pieces. Only kiln like it in the world.

Kiln designed by Seguin Poirier so that he could expand his work to large format pieces.

Randy Strong: started off in photography, having worked with the likes of Ansel Adams, Strong moved on to glass blowing in the 1970’s where he has worked with Dale Chihuly. His work has been on display in The Corning Museum, in New York City and The Louvre, Paris. Strong still creates, designs and teaches this waning form of artwork.


Randy Strong, world renowned glass blower, San Francisco

Randy Strong, world-renowned glass blower, San Francisco

Some of Randy Strong's masterpieces for sale at the demonstration.

Some of Randy Strong’s masterpieces including his famous flower where different colored petals are interchangeable.

Vicki O’Connornew to the world of public art display, O’Connor has been a passionate artist her whole life. But it was a bout with the often debilitating disease, Valley Fever, that Vicki gave a focus to her love of creating art on a level that finds her showcasing and selling her art with 500 other artisans (booth D-11) November 14th-16th at the Fountain Festival of Arts and Crafts (http://www.fountainhillschamber.com/festival-of-arts.asp), Fountain Hills, AZ. Her works have found their way into public locations, Starbucks, Fountain Hills, and private homes.


See more of Vicki’s growing gallery of artwork: https://nomadicnarrator.com/category/favorite-authorsartists/vicki-oconnor/

Budding new artist Vicki O'Connor may not have exhibits and collections all over the world - yet, but her passion for the art creates is no less passionate than those have achieved widespread acclaim.

Budding new artist Vicki O’Connor may not have exhibits and collections all over the world – yet, but her passion for the art creates is no less passionate than those who  have achieved widespread acclaim.

The key to Vicki's works of art are her one-liner or one word messages. She says what we all think, or what we should all think more about.

The key to Vicki’s colorful works of art are her one-liner or one word messages. She says what we all think, or what we should all think more about.

Following are the listing of museums I have visited and artists I have learned about because of these visits:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York City; classic architecture; one of the expansive and diversified exhibits in the world; historical to modern. Check out the Cloisters in Harlem.

The Guggenheim Museum: New York City; modern architecture; exhibits displayed from the ceiling and/or along walls of this multi-tiered spiral walkway overlooking an open center; modern and contemporary art.

The Frick Museum: New York City; Frick residence turned into a museum; Renaissance to the late 19th century artwork.

The Neue Galerie: New York City; once a Vanderbilt residence; now a museum to early 20th century German and Austrian art and design.

Museum of Modern Art: New York City; modern architecture; the name says it all – generally showcases some the most thought proving exhibits in the city.

American Museum of Natural History: New York City; classic architecture; natural exhibits and scientific collections; great place to take the kids.

New Museum: New York City; modern architecture; new work by living artists; five plus floors of open floor plan that encircles the freight size lime green and mirrored elevator.

The Morgan Library and Museum: New York City; classic architecture and once private library of Pierpont Morgan, father to J. P. Morgan, Jr.; collection of rare printed manuscripts and works of art, Egyptian to Renaissance to Chinese art and artifacts.

Whitney Museum of American Art: New York City; modern architecture; 20th and 21st century American art – many living artists. Whitney is presently closed while they prepare to move into a new building in 2015.

Brooklyn Museum: Brooklyn, NYC; classic architecture; diverse collection and exhibits ranging from ancient Egypt to cutting edge modern.

Walker Art Center: Minneapolis; modern architecture; modern concept art pushing for creative expression of art, some with audience participation. Check out the outdoor Sculpture Garden.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Minneapolis; classic and modern architecture; one of the finest wide-ranging art collections in the country – from Matisse to Monet, from Africa to Asia, 40,000 year old artifacts to world-renowned pieces.

SmithsonianWashington D.C.; classic and modern architecture; inclusive of 19 museum and galleries – what doesn’t it include? Obviously a great place to take kids – of all ages.

Montreal Museum of Fine ArtsMontreal; classic and modern architecture; diverse forms of art from antiquity to today.

The Louvre: Paris; classic with a small touch of modern architecture; one of the world’s most renowned museums because of it’s history and collection of Masterpieces such as: the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and King Louis XIV.

Musee de l’Orangerie: Paris; classic architecture with simple oval interior galleries. Claude Monet designed this museum to showcase the huge panels of his Water Lilies collection.

Belvedere Museum: Vienna; classic architecture for this one-time palace that is a piece of artwork in itself; Austrian art dating from Middle Ages to present day, most notably Gustav Klimt.

Some of my favorite artists are: Claude Monet, Gustav Klimt, Edouard Manet, Vincent Van Gogh, Renoir, Dale Chihuly. I’ve always been drawn to the traditional painter whether from the Renaissance era or Impressionist era, but I am learning to appreciate some of the modern forms of art that really make you think and imagine. So turn off the TV and head to your local art museum or gallery and expand your horizons! And take time to get into the passionate mind of the artist!