Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sights to See: Ayutthaya Historical Park, Thailand

Ayutthaya Historical Park  Ayutthaya--pronounced “a-you-tat-ya”--was named after the city of Ayodhya in India, the birthplace of Rama.  Once the capital of Siam, it was one of the world's largest and most sophisticated cities before being ransacked in 1756 by the Burmese. Today it a historical treasure and UNESCO World Heritage Site.  More than 300 historic temples dot the city and encircling rivers.

Wat Rajburana  Daily 8:30am-5pm.  50 Baht/US$1.39.  This beautiful stupa dates to 1424, when King Boromaraja II built it to hold the ashes of his elder brothers, who killed each other in a battle for the throne.
Wat Rajburana stupa at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

Wat Rajburana stupa at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

damaged Buddha statue at Wat Rajburana at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

Wat Phra Mahathat (Temple of the Great Relics)  Museum 8am-4:30pm.  To enter courtyard of giant chedi, 30 Baht/US$0.83; museum, 20 Baht/US$0.55.  Located almost right in the center of the park, this important temple is believed to date from the 14th century.   Don’t miss the Strangled Buddha--a Buddha statue head embraced by the roots of a banyan (bodhi, pho) tree.  In addition to holding Buddha's enshrined relics, this temple was also the residence of the leader of the Thai Buddhist monks. 
Wat Phra Mahathat at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

Buddha statue at Wat Phra Mahathat at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

Strangled Buddha at Wat Phra Mahathat at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet  Ayutthaya’s most important site was established as a center for important religious rituals and ceremonies.  It served as a model for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.  Three Sri Lankan-style chedis built in the 15th century hold the ashes of three Ayutthaya kings.  In 1767, invading Burmese attempted melting the gold off a Buddha statue and started a fire that destroyed both the statue and the temple.  The Buddha seen today is a replica.  A large covered market holds stalls selling souvenirs and street food.
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

Golden Buddha at Wat Phra Sri Sanphet at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

worshippers at Wat Phra Sri Sanphet at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

chedis at Wat Phra Sri Sanphet at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

Wat Chaiwatthanaram  Daily 7:30am-6pm.  50 Baht/US$1.39.  Located scenically on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, this large, peaceful compound is southwest of the old city and can be reached by road or boat.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Modeled on Angor Wat, it has a central high prang (tower), four smaller prangs, and eight chedi-shaped chapels.  Most of the 120 Buddha statues are, unfortunately, missing their heads through looting. 
Wat Chaiwatthanaram at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

Buddha statues at Wat Chaiwatthanaram at Ayutthaya Historical Park in Thailand

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images and video ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sights to See: Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs Air Museum 745 N. Gene Autry Trail/Vista Chino, (760) 778-6262.  Located near the airport, this collection of flyable World War II aircraft is one of the world’s largest.  Displays include art, photos, and continuous movies and videos chronicling the war’s European and Pacific Theaters.  The primo exhibit is a tour of a B-17 Flying Fortress.  Many of the docents are veterans who actually flew the planes, and they are happy to share their personal experiences.  One of the most famous “warbirds” here is a P-40 that starred in the Disney film, Pearl Harbor.  Children’s programs and activities are scheduled regularly, and “A Wild Goose Hunt” activity sheet appropriate for grade-schoolers encourages kids to open their eyes and use their imaginations to find the answers.  Flying demonstrations are scheduled October through June, and events related to the Young Eagles program are scheduled.  

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images courtesy of venue

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sights to See: Guilin and Yangshou, China

Though I have not had the pleasure of visiting either Guilin or Yangshuo in China, the beauty of these two UNESCO World Heritage Sites is obvious via this drone-captured video. Both are convenient to Hong Kong.  

Things to do in China.  

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Great Sleeps: Casa Cody Inn, Palm Springs, California

Casa Cody Inn  175 S. Cahuilla Rd., 2 blocks to downtown, (800) 231-2639, (760) 320-9346.  27 units, including 5 cottages.  Some fireplaces and private patios. 1 solar-heated pool; 1 unheated pool; tree-shaded hot tub.  Continental breakfast.  Pets ok.  Opened in 1920 by Harold Cody, who is believed to be a nephew of Buffalo Bill, this small inn is the town’s oldest lodging.  Located in the desirable area known as the historic Tennis Club district, which was once upon a time the playground of the stars, it snuggles up against the San Jacinto Mountains and sprawls out over almost an entire block.  After passing through decorative black-iron gates into a quiet courtyard, my husband and I stepped into the lobby inside one of the property’s single-story, adobe-style structures painted pinkish with a deep-turquoise trim.  To help pass the short wait, I nibbled from a bowl of tiny jelly beans and contentedly petted one of the property’s three friendly cats.  Our very spacious room had a rustic décor featuring lovely Mexican saltillo paver-tile floors and hand-painted accent stencils above doorways as well as some funky faux plastic and ceramic cacti.  We preferred the cooling ceiling fan to air conditioning and did not light the wood-burning fireplace.  We made use of the full kitchen for cutting up fruit we harvested from the property’s various citrus trees, and gorged on the sweetest grapefruit imaginable.  The bed was made simply but adequately with cotton sheets and a quilted down blanket.  Though the bathroom was dated--with vintage tiles in a yellow and orange combination of times gone by, it was clean and functional and had an extra vanity conveniently outside near a large walk-in closet.  Nights were quiet, and we awoke to birdsong.  Should I be so fortunate as to return, I would book Casa Cody’s best--the two-bedroom, authentic adobe home where long ago Charlie Chaplin slept and frolicked.  It is a surprisingly well-priced option and boasts a formal raised dining room that doubled as a stage for Chaplin plus a large stone-tiled bathtub.  For the bountiful continental breakfast served outside in the garden, I positioned us so that we could gaze at the adjacent mountains.  Our afternoons were spent sunning by the pool, where we enjoyed being amid the property’s garden of colorful flowering plants and shady mature palm trees.  At dusk, tiny lights strung across bushes turned the premises into a fairy land.  We liked leaving then to walk the two easy blocks to downtown and dinner (some guests ordered out and enjoyed dinner by the pool).  

pool at Casa Cody Inn in Palm Springs, California

pool at Casa Cody Inn in Palm Springs, California

interior of guest room at Casa Cody Inn in Palm Springs, California

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sights to See: The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Palm Springs, California

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens  47-900 Portola Ave., (760) 346-5694.  This spectacular, beautifully landscaped zoo exhibits animals from the deserts of North America and Africa, and you’ll get a close-up view of bighorn sheep, which are native to this area but rarely spotted by visitors.  The noteworthy Indian Ethno-Botanic Garden displays and explains how various plants were used in the daily lives of the local Indians, and Village Wa TuTu is an authentic reproduction of a trading village in Northern Kenya that includes two dromedary camels and a petting “kraal.”  The zoo's premier exhibit, Eagle Canyon, displays mountain lions and a golden eagle in a state-of-the-art habitat designed with the actual desert as a backdrop.  Personally, I was most impressed by the opportunity to walk out of the searing dry desert heat into the dramatic, cooling shade of a real oasis.  Note that in the hot, hot summer this zoo opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 1:30 p.m.

zebra at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Springs, California

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sights to See: Indian Canyons and Tahquitz Canyon, Palm Springs, California

Indian Canyons  Located at end of South Palm Canyon Dr., 5 miles from Palm Springs, (800) 790-3398, (760) 416-7044.  You can take a hike through these lush, scenic canyons that shelter the world’s two largest palm oases and are also the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.  The birthplace of Palm Springs, its waterfall-fed streams quench the thirst of more than 5,000 Washingtonia filifera palms--the only palms native to this continent.  Pack a backpack picnic and plenty of water.  Palm Canyon has a museum and well-stocked gift shop with some snacks—it is a modern oasis, with air conditioning and cold drinking water--plus an easy 1-mile round-trip hike.  Some of the palms here reach more than 100 feet high.  Easily accessible--you can drive right up to the stream and picnic tables--Andreas Canyon is popular with picnickers and artists (many painters set up here).  It features stunning rock structures and also has an easy 1-mile round-trip hike.  Murray Canyon has a 4-mile round-trip trail to the Seven Sisters Waterfall.

Tahquitz Canyon  500 W., (760) 416-7044.  A sacred place to the Cahuilla Indians, this beautiful desert spot starred as Shangri-La in the 1937 film “Lost Horizons.”  The interpretive center has a sweeping view of Palm Springs.  A 2-mile ranger-led hike from here follows a creek-side trail that winds through red rock canyons and leads to a 60-foot waterfall.  One weathered ranger warns that “everything in the desert sticks, stinks, bites, or stings,” so take extra care.

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sights to See: Bridge at Q’eswachaka, near Cuzco, Peru

The Bridge at Q’eswachaka near Cuzco, Peru is made out of grass.  Every year since the time of the Incas, it has been rebuilt across a canyon high above the Apurimac River  This annual job takes three days. 

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Sights to See: Castle Howard, York, England

Castle Howard  One of the great historic houses of England, this Baroque masterpiece broke ground in 1699 and took more than 100 years to build.  The Howard family has lived here almost continuously since it was built.  During visiting hours, they have their own private area, but after hours it becomes all theirs to roam at will once again.  It might look familiar because it has been a setting for many movies, including Lady L with Sophia Loren in 1965, Barry Lyndon directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1975, Brideshead Revisited in 1981 and 2008, the Garfield movie A Tale of Two Kitties in 2006, and BBC's Death Comes to Pemberley in 2013.  You must take a guided tour of the house, but you can meander as you like through the surrounding 1,000 acres of gardens.  In addition to spectacular groomed areas, it features extensive woodland walks, temples, lakes, and fountains.  Especially dramatic annual displays include daffodils, rhododendrons, bluebells, and roses.

exterior of Castle Howard in York, England

china cabinet at Castle Howard in York, England

interior art at Castle Howard in York, England

exterior fountain at Castle Howard in York, England

garden at Castle Howard in York, England

garden at Castle Howard in York, England

mushrooms in garden at Castle Howard in York, England

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Things to Do: My Five Favorite Fun Things to Do in Iceland

It’s been almost a year since I visited Iceland, and I still so enjoy reminiscing about the exciting things I did there.  When people ask me about the best of it, I answer that these five things are the don’t-misses.  I could easily turn this into a Top Ten list by adding in a drive around the island with stays along the way.  And then there is doing a cave tour, seeing the Northern Lights, and eating some pristinely fresh Iceland fish.  As much time as you have, there is that much more to do that is worth doing. 

1.  Soak in the Blue Lagoon 
This was the number one thing I most wanted to experience in Iceland.  I love hot springs, and this one, described as large and hot and manmade, did intrigue me.  In advance I was concerned about privacy in the changing rooms, which turned out to be a breeze to maneuver and to secure a private spot in a restroom for a quick change.  I also was able to go in the shower in my bathing suit, though I had heard you couldn’t.  I certainly didn’t want to be there in my birthday suit among the many giggling 20 year olds!  The lagoon itself was heaven.  I loved sipping a cocktail while I steamed, and I know that the free goo from the silica pots made me look several years younger, at least while it was on my face.
Blue Lagoon in Iceland

2.  Ride an Icelandic horse 
Although I didn’t exactly ride my horse, I did mount it and pet it and get my picture taken with it, and I enjoyed watching the rest of the people in my group experience the unique tolt gait trot the horse is famous for.  On the farm visit that was included with this horsey experience, we also were introduced to a charming “sunshine tea” in the farmer’s own home.  It consists of crepes served with blueberry preserves and whipped cream, plus and round donut-hole-like “love balls.”  This tea celebrates the return of the sun after the sunless few months that occur here every winter. 
two Icelandic horses

3.  Take the Iceland Golden Circle tour 
I took a basic group bus tour from Reykjavik that stopped at the major sites along this route:  Þingvellir national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where we walked through the separation caused by the slow drifting apart of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that meet here; Gullfoss waterfall, where we were almost blown away by the strength of the roaring falls’ mist; and the Geysir geothermal area, where we walked among bubbling mud pools and watched the predictable eruptions of Strokkur geyser, and where I think my camera met pending doom from the resulting steam (be careful here and cover your camera!).  Lunch was included.  I liked that this expedition was guided because I didn’t have to do any planning—just go.  Some tours add on extras, such as riding an Icelandic horse or soaking in the natural geothermal baths at a wellness center, or visiting one of the farms to meet locals, pet animals, and sample some Icelandic delicacies.  Do a little research and then settle on the tour that adds in what you personally don’t want to miss.
walking between tectonic plates in Þingvellir national park on Iceland Golden Circle tour

4.  Stroll Reykjavik and select a souvenir  
Reykjavik--pronounced “Ray-kah-vik”--is Iceland’s biggest city but it is small enough to stroll through in a day.  Downtown, you’ll walk along winding cobblestone streets see colorful architecture and street art graffiti.  Try to fit in a visit to the Hafnarhus art museum located in a refurbished 1930s fish warehouse and the architecturally interesting Hallgrimskirkja Church, which  can be seen from almost everywhere in town.  In between, you’ll come across some of the unusual shops where you are bound to find the perfect locally made souvenir.  The Handknitting Association of Iceland is the place to find a well-priced knit sweater or a red knitted Santa (which I still regret not buying).  Visit the Kraum Centre for Icelandic Craft inside the city’s oldest wood house to select from an intriguing collection of Icelandic pottery, jewelry, household utensils, and clothes, plus whimsy in the form of a fuzzy sheep-fleece topped stool (I also regret not buying this!).
Reykjavik scenic in Iceland

5.  Eat an Icelandic hot dog 
Bæjarins Bestu Pylsur is located downtown by the bus station and is probably the most famous spot to eat the famous Icelandic “pylsur,” or hot dog.  Usually made with free-range, grass-fed, organic, hormone-free Icelandic lamb, locals like them with “everything”--ketchup, sweet brown mustard, remoulade sauce (a mix of mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs), raw onions, and crispy fried onions.  When I walked by here, I wasn’t hungry, so I finally ate my dog at the last minute at the airport and it wasn’t bad.
Bæjarins Bestu Pylsur hot dog stand in Reykjavik, Iceland

Note:  I was asked to share my Iceland experience here by Guide to Iceland.  All opinions and comments are my own.

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Sights to See: Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, California

Joshua Tree National Park  On Highway 62, 1-hour east of Palm Springs, Headquarters and Visitors Center at 74485 National Park Dr. in Twentynine Palms, (760) 367-5500.  Daily 8-5.  $20/car.  Note that it is usually 10 to 15 degrees cooler here than in Palm Springs.  Stop in at the Visitors Center to get oriented.  The namesake trees—which, by the way, are technically not trees, but instead a shrub--begin growing at 2,500 to 3,000 feet and continue up to 5,000 feet.  Featuring a beautiful desert landscape, this park covers 794,000 acres and encompasses two diverse desert ecosystems:  the Colorado and Mojave deserts.  Be on the lookout for bighorn sheep, golden eagles, and snakes.  The Hidden Valley trail is an easy 1-mile, self-guided loop (off Route 12), and the Wall Street Mill trail is an easy 1½-mile trail leading to an old mine and stamp mill (1¾-miles east of Hidden Valley Campground, off Barker Dam Rd.).  Some of this park’s fame is directly related to its attraction to the world’s rock elite--U2, Keith Richards, Gram Parsons (who died of a drug overdose at the Joshua Tree Inn).

world’s largest living Joshua tree, 45 ½-inches tall with an 8-foot circumference
travel writer Carole Terwilliger Meyers in front of world’s largest living Joshua tree, 45½-feet tall with an 8-foot circumference. 
Joshua Tree National Park

desert view from Joshua Tree National Park

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images c2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers; photographer of first image unknown

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Great Sleeps: Canal House, Amsterdam, Holland

Canal House  Keizersgracht 148, 20-6229987.  26 rooms.  Breakfast included.  Located on a canal in a quiet neighborhood, this atmospheric 17th-century house is furnished with period antiques and is just a 5-minute walk from the Anne Frank House and West Church.  A great big breakfast is included and served in a wonderful back room facing the garden.  I stayed here many years ago when it looked like it does in the first image.  The rest of the images depict it as it looks today, with a more contemporary style.

grandma and granddaughter writing in trip diaries at Canal House in Amsterdam

exterior of Canal House in Amsterdam

guest room in Canal House in Amsterdam

breakfast room at Canal House in Amsterdam

interior garden at Canal House in Amsterdam

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.

first image ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers; other images courtesy of venue