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The Grand Southwest Adventure

ThelmaLouiseCar

First day to hit the road on the Grand Southwest Adventure! I’ve chosen to head to Barstow, about 325 miles away – the hotel prices are low and there are some museums and Route 66 things to do for Wednesday and Thursday morning, then I’ll leave to head to Las Vegas…then, on to the southwest for the Grand Southwest Adventure! I’ll keep you posted… 

Heading out from San Francisco through the farmlands – near Gilroy and Watsonville. The hills are alive – with poofy plastic poly tunnels covering strawberries and raspberries. Like a puff quilt of plastic, they follow the hillside’s terrain on either side of the highway. There are large farms ringed with cars and trucks, transportation for the many hunched over workers picking the berries in the open fields. Gilroy is known for garlic – hence, the annual Gilroy Garlic festival. One of the many delights of traveling solo is that I get to stop wherever I wish, without comment or discussion. The many fruit stands and produce markets along the roadside beckon and I hold out until I see…

The Casa de Fruta! It has a grand complex, filled with tourists and school groups and KIDS – a tipi, farm tractors, a merry go round, hay bales, animals and of course, a largGSWA_004e open market with fruit (naturally), nuts, grand bulbs and wreaths of Gilroy garlic, classic junk food treats and bins of salty & sweet goodies. Unbelievably, I resist the sweets and settle for some lovely fruit, some GGSWA_005ilroy garlic and a bag or two of seasoned almonds. I’d be tempted to get a big pumpkin to take to Las Vegas to carve – but I imagine with their temperatures, it’d look like a shriveled raisin in days.

Not too far down the road is a more rustic mom & pop fruit stand and while getting gas, I pop in there, too. There’s a vast selection of seasoned almonds, pistachios, dried fruits, pomegranates and other seasonal fruits. Deciding between tequila pistachios and garlic almonds – well, I went for the garlic and some rosemary pistachios. I’m stocked for the season! Spending the night on Route 66, in Barstow, California. More on that tomorrow!

 

 

In Memory of Agnes

Agnes Birthday

Agnes lived a beautiful life

Today a dear friend and kind lady, Agnes of Clausevignes in Valady, France –  who hosted both myself and countless others via HelpX.net has passed on. She affected so many lives with her love for art, music, culture and her graceful elegance was an inspiration to all aspiring artistas! Happy trails to you, my friend.

“It is not what you gather, but what you scatter,

that tells what kind of life you have lived.” – Anonymous

Agnes heads the dinner table - a family of friends!

Agnes heads the dinner table – a family of friends!

HOLI – the Indian Celebration Day of Color

holi-fest-india-590x442

Holi, the Indian Celebration of Color!

Holi commemorates the victory of good over evil, brought about by the burning and destruction of the demoness named Holika. This was enabled through unwavering devotion to the Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu. Holi got its name as the “Festival of Colors” from Lord Krishna, a re-incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors. The festival marks the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season.

Citizen of the World

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” St. Augustine

Who Am I? by Natalia Sarro

When I ask expatriates how they are adapting to their new life in Argentina, I often hear a subtle message hidden behind their words. When they complain, I can tell that it’s not about the bureaucracy of local government. And it´s not the dirty streets of Buenos Aires or the over-emotional demeanor of Argentines that creates all that frustration. There is actually a powerful, unsaid feeling that creates all the fear, anger and uncertainty. Can you guess what it is?

Bingo. It’s about identity. It’s those invisible roots, that make you know exactly who you are, where you are and where you’re going next along a path of time and space.

When you move to a new country, far from loved ones, transitioning from the known to the unknown, the journey is longer than you think. It’s more than a couple of thousands kilometers that you are leaving behind. Rather, you are creating an endless distance between you and your sense of belonging. You feel homeless. Detached. In between worlds. Did you ever hear that popular saying in Spanish “No soy de aquí ni soy de allá”? (“I don´t belong here nor there”)… Well, I guess that says it all.

You may be asking, “is there a way out of this feeling?” I would say yes. The common belief behind this sense of rootlessness is thinking of identity as a fixed, rigid structure that we were given when we were children: your hobbies, your possessions, your family traditions and habits, your neighborhood, etc. From this perspective, we get only one precious identity in life, so we can’t afford to lose it.

Now… What if you could think of identity and home as concepts under construction? What if your identity was something you create and re-create every single day of your life, and it is up to you to decide how it’s going to be? If it was up to you to choose the pieces of your identity every morning, treating it as a work of art that lasts a lifetime, then there would be no need to miss home anymore.

Because home is simply where you are.

When you start to believe your identity is in continuous evolution and it transforms as you grow and make decisions, then the big monster of rootlessness doesn´t make sense anymore.

Rather than a physical place, I invite you to perceive home as something you do (by yourself and with others), and therefore it can change because you are doing new things all the time.

You are not the same person you used to be yesterday, but you forget.

You can change jobs, but you think it is impossible.

You can move to a new country, learn a new language, wake up in a different place every day, but it is too scary for a well-established adult like you.

You can give up old activities that you don´t enjoy anymore. You can start a new career or live in a different way, but your family and friends say you are crazy, so you better stick to your routine.

Source: http://shop.holstee.com/pages/about

What new possibilities would you give to yourself if you dared to think of home as an action, rather than a noun? What if your life in a new country was the perfect excuse to take on that forgotten hobby of your childhood? Then, maybe the dusty dream of becoming a writer, an artist or a musician could become reality. Maybe, then the freedom to reinvent yourself during your experience abroad would be present in every step of the journey.

So… what underlying beliefs and old stories are preventing you from having the type of experience abroad you would like to have? What fixed identity is making it impossible to experience the new YOU that you want to become?

If George Eliot was right, then you could start to believe that
“It is never too late to become what you might have been.” 

Contact Email: natalia_sarro@yahoo.com.ar

 

Parisian Time Capsule

A Parisian apartment, left untouched for 70 years – intriguing!

http://www.messynessychic.com/2012/05/09/the-paris-time-capsule-apartment/

California Avenue of the Giants

Massive Redwood Giants!

Avenue of the Giants Day Trip
Giant Redwoods – Wine & Cheese Tasting – Victorian Architecture – Museums – Tourist Kitsch!
http://avenueofthegiants.net/Zoom/map.htm

Get an early start around 8 a.m. if you can! Heading north on highway 101 from Fort Bragg, California we hug the dramatic Pacific coastline and pull over a few times to marvel at the crashing waves. About 10 miles north of Fort Bragg is Ten Mile Beach, which during low tide is a great place to hike around.

A day long drive up the coast

Mendocino county coastline

A few miles more and we pass Pacific Star Winery on the left, a great spot for enjoying a wine tasting or just to take your binoculars and look for migrating whales. It was a bit early for a wine tasting, but we went on another day and saw gray whales in the distance.

Wine Tasting at Pacific Star Winery

We follow Highway 1 a bit longer and turn northwest towards Leggett, the home of the Chandelier Tree, a drive-through Redwood, a classic tourist stop. For $5 a carload, you can experience the thrill of driving THROUGH a grand old Redwood tree. The tree above seems healthy and unaffected, but it does seem rather awful to imagine someone hollowing out a living tree for our amusement, but indeed they did.

Drive-through Redwood tree

So, we slowly drove through and the path (of course!) leads right to the gift shop parking lot. Here is where I teach our international visitors a new word for their American vocabulary: “Tacky”. There are goofy hats, toys, souvenirs galore including candy Squirrel droppings, Big Foot postcards, even a fake Raccoon skin cap complete with the tail!

Move over Davy Crockett!

Back to Leggett, we head north up highway 101 toward the Avenue of the Giants. Just south of Garberville, look for the Benbow Inn, a beautiful old resort which sponsors an afternoon tea, should you be back by here later in the afternoon. Near Phillipsville, look for the signs for the Avenue of the Giants; which was the old highway before they rerouted highway 101 away from the Big Trees. There are several groves of giant Redwoods along this 31 mile stretch so pull over and point your camera UP. While you´re at it, just try to hug a tree – all five of us could barely cover the front of the trunk, fingertip to fingertip.
In Myers Flat there is another drive-through tree, look for the signs. Signs touting the Amazing Eternal Treehouse peaked our interest, so Redcrest was out next stop. Tucked behind a dinky café on the left was a little parking lot in front of the tree. It was just a tree that had been hollowed out at its base! The tree had managed to survive and you can walk down a few steps and stand in the center of the trunk base. I don´t think this was the kind of tree house we had all imagined, but it was a nice stop to stretch our legs!

Eternal Treehouse

Just another few miles and you´ll find the Immortal Tree, 33 feet in girth! Hug this big boy…
Exiting the Avenue of the Giants, we head further north on highway 101 towards Fortuna. About 4 miles south of Fortuna on the left side of the road is another great stop – Chapman´s Rock & Gem Shop and museum. The museum itself is really outstanding (free) – with gorgeous redwood and rock carvings, jewelry and other area memorabilia. Don´t miss it!

A rock for your finger

Just past Fortuna, we head west to the Victorian village of Ferndale. The setting for several Hollywood movies through the years including The Majestic with Jim Carrey, this little town is a wonderful place to eat, browse and shop. This town is so cute you just want to pinch it!

Ferndale Victorian

A walk down Main street isn´t complete without stopping at the Golden Gait Mercantile, full of reasonably priced gadgets and goodies from years past. If you have a hankering for a cowboy hat, classic candies, regional sweets and savories – here´s the place. They also have the displays done to resemble an old time mercantile, the packaging all a part of the charm. Upstairs, they have whole glassed-in rooms with the real deal – shop displays set up with turn-of-the-century goods including a Millinery shop, a Grocery, a Hardware store and more. There are also some good values up there in antique furniture to be had, including board games from days past.

Ferndale Mercantile

Another great shop is the Blacksmith Shop – (www.ferndaleblacksmith.com) which is a unique gallery of hand-forged delights including sculptures, lighting, furniture and anything else you can imagine.
If you have time, stop in Loleta – a tiny town on the way back towards Eureka. There is little to do in town but one thing – CHEESE. The Loleta Cheese factory is the only place in town to go – samples of a wondrous selection of cheeses await you! www.loletacheese.com

Mike´s Garlic Fries – Eureka, CA

North again on Highway 101 towards Eureka now, we pass an unlikely stop, but if you have the munchies, STOP at Mike´s Garlic Fries. It´s a little divey, but it´s been in business since the 1940´s . The Garlic Fries and chocolate malts are to-die-for. However, suffice it to say that the whole carload should indulge because of the lingering fragrance! The inside is worth a peek also as the owners are die-hard Republicans and proudly post classic Republican paraphernalia on the walls, including a Palin-McCain calendar front and center.

Republican Fervor

Drive by the Carson mansion, (M and Second street) probably one of the most elaborate and notable examples of Victorian architecture in these parts. The neighborhood surrounding it also has more homes to admire – most now B&B´s or owned by businesses or groups.

Carson Mansion – Eureka, CA

If you still have some walking in you, a trip to the Clarke historical museum in the old downtown district features displays from the Victorian period and a great Native American wing with collections of baskets, stoneware and other regalia. It is open until 5 p.m. daily. www.clarkemuseum.org
One final stop for us was the American Indian Art & Gift shop, downtown Eureka at 241 F Street. They have the real deal – jewelry, gifts, paintings, baskets and other goodies made by the area Natives. www.americanindianonline.com
If you have any time left, stop for a nightcap at the Benbow Inn before heading south back down the coast. www.benbowinn.com
Here are a few good guides for activities, maps, attractions and events –
So there you have it – a taste of Humboldt county and the Big Trees!

Just a Taste of Humboldt County, California!

Traveling the World Connecting Hands and Hearts

For the life of me, I cannot recall how I first was introduced to Meetup. I know it was several years back – before the popularity of Facebook, before Twitter, before CouchSurfing, before LinkedIn– all those great virtual meeting points where inquisitive folks connect, disconnect and reconnect. It was even before “Social Networking” became a commonplace word – now a necessity in every upwardly mobile executive´s lingo and skillset.

I´ve met European newbies on a party barge docked along the river Thames; young Persians from Tehran that were delighted and astonished when my distant recollection of Farsi was sufficient to welcome them and ask “How are you?” in their own familiar language. Alone and newly arriving in London, when my birthday fell on a weekday I was not to be deterred in finding a group to celebrate with.  Searching the web, I found a social networking group Meetup gathering that very night for a wine tasting near St. Paul´s cathedral. I joined the group and checked YES on the attendance roster, posting the message that “In America, it´s tradition to buy a drink for someone on their birthday.” Put it this way, my memories of this event are all happy, but the first half was much clearer in focus than the final few hours! Returning home on the top front seat of the double-decker bus through the late night streets of London was indeed a magical memory in itself.

Gathering in a central pub in downtown Madrid for a language exchange Meetup proved to be an amazing way to gain new friends and meet people. There I was, a blonde woman in a group of dark-haired Spaniards – a beacon, an exotic “pavo real” – drawing hopeful English speakers like a moth to a flame.  “Hello! Can we join your table and practice our English?” So while my Spanish conversation was not enhanced that evening, I might as well have been a dealer at a hot table in Las Vegas for the group of enthusiastic English speakers I was surrounded by.

Barcelona is a city of amazing architecture with a vibrant art & music scene – a city that knows the joy of living la vida calma.  Here in the land of the siesta, your sense of time is stretched and pulled and tweaked until eating dinner at 10 p.m. and going to bed at 2 a.m. seems commonplace. Meetups for The Night of the Museums (rambling with groups speaking English and Spanish while visiting the late night museums FREE), the Great Photo Challenge (a scavenger hunt with digital cameras in mixed language groups), Cinebar (Films In English on a pub wall), Gratitude Reading Circle (sharing universal spiritual inspirations), The Fat Lady Sings Classical Music  group (Oh, the beautiful cathedrals and the magnificent acoustics!), the Cheap Wine Challenge (picnic in the park with wine under 5 €), Live MusicSalsa or Tango dance groups – it is all there. You never need walk alone, unless it is by choice.

I´ve met great friends from every country and continent, spoken several languages and botched many, but always with a smile on my face, a willingness to try and a keen sense of humor. Those that can laugh at themselves shall never fail to be amused!

Sketching with SketchCrawlers

Just who have I met through Meetups? A shaman from Peru, oncologists and scientists, techno-geeks, George Clooney wannabes, a past life regressionist, salsa kings & queens, movie nerds, bloggers and photographers – everyone´s there! I´ve accumulated good friends from every continent and culture (joy!), interesting job leads and a few eager TEFL English students (work!), a rare date or two (like, not love!), dance partners (joy again!), fellow artists (creativity!) – a colorful worldwide tapestry of friends to share the joys and experiences of life with.

I wish I could say I found love through Meetup, but it’s truly the opposite. I lost my husband through Meetup, in a Meetup that I had organized – how´s that for synchronicity? He met a charismatic new buddy,  a lost boy whose ideas of luring him away from our marriage to the “Pleasure Island” of San Francisco´s glittery, upwardly mobile  social scene culminated in the disastrous destruction our marriage of nearly two decades. Yes, Pinocchio wandered off with stars in his eyes and hope in his heart, but any longings he had to return back  “home” were doomed. As they say in Las Vegas “Elvis has left the building.” – and of course, in this case I am Elvis. Wanderlust and an unquenchable desire to connect with others worldwide, coupled with a healthy dose of courage has replaced the sense of sadness and loneliness I felt after that life-altering course correction.

But honestly, meeting new people, sharing interests and celebrating our common humanity –  isn´t that really the juice? It´s the reason we get off the couch, the reason we dust off our conversation skills, tackle new languages, travel across town or across an ocean, stretching our boundaries to reach out to others in friendship and community. Sharing a laugh or a sorrow in meaningful conversations is always sheer joy, all made possible by a willingness to connect. Grief shared is sorrow halved – and a smile shared – well, it´s priceless! Whether you´re new to town or new to being single, or just aching to become a new YOU – let your fingers do the walking and MeetUp!

“Thou hast made me known to friends whom I know not.
Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own.  Thou hast brought the distant near
and made a brother of strangers.”  ~ R. Tagore

Poble Español

Poble Español is a classic 1929 “Disneyesque” village by village representation of many of the Spanish towns & villages. It is beautifully preserved, and the best thing about it is that after 8 p.m. it´s only 5€ to get in, and there are several romantic plaza cafés under the stars. Also, several pubs and cafés there have live music – or bring your own!

Poble Español is a classic 1929 “Disneyesque” village by village representation of many of the Spanish towns & villages. It is beautifully preserved, and the best thing about it is that after 8 p.m. it´s only 5€ to get in, and there are several romantic plaza cafés under the stars. Also, several pubs and cafés there have live music – or bring your own!

Flower Festival, Spain Style!

Girona Flower Festival 2011

Rambling all day until dark through the streets, cathedrals, plazas and hills of Girona for the annual Flower Festival…
Click here to join me for a walk through the festival –
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150232262261869.371599.756531868&l=6dad7b24b9

1929 World Exposition site – Barcelona, Spain

Poble Español on the site of the 1929 Int’l Exposition, the home of one of my other fav attractions, the Magic Fountain. Poble Español was made as a “Disneyland-esque” representation of the various cities and regions of Spain – you can wander through the Plaza Major in Madrid, see the Moorish tower of Zaragosa, the streets of Seville.

The Magic Fountain built in 1929

 One day, I went for a walk. Just above the main Palau are two gated entrances, but that day – they were surprisingly open! A new adventure awaits! The entrance leads past a guardhouse and into the grounds of the Palau Abeniz, which apparently is another building created in 1929 for the Expo – a palace, really – that now only houses the King & Queen of Spain when they’re in town. The grounds are peppered with statues, mostly of women in common poses, but not just typical statues – these gals have curves! (like me!) The grounds are lovingly cared for, with fountains gushing and flowing similar to La Granja.

This “remnant” of the 1929 Int’l Expo reminds me of why I lived here. When I lived in SanFran, it was always my obsession to imagine myself walking through the 1939 Expo on Treasure Island, and it made me sad to look across the bay at the island which had been denuded of nearly all of the trappings of the Expo – destroyed or removed by the Navy once they took over the island in 1940. But this Expo lies just across the road from me, and it’s buildings, sculptures, gardens – its essence – is still there. This is the attraction to this lovely city, this beautiful place. The romance and draw of the Expo and the energy of its past is still alive there, and it is magical to me. The wonder of seeing the Magic Fountain (an amazing techno wonder of its time!), wandering the hillside gardens, enjoying the tucked away delight of the café at the Font del Gat – it is all still alive to me. Now I am two blocks away from the site of the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition, held in the (then) newly created Balboa Park.

It makes the Time Traveler in me DREAM… I walk back home, sort of in fog of imagination wondering what it would have been like to have been here in 1929. How funny the circle of life is! To go from living just across the San Francisco Bay from Treasure Island, to this amazing place where the buildings, the wonder, the essence of a World Expo still lives. What joy! It makes me ponder if I indeed will ever need move again. I love to travel, but the connection to this place is ingraining itself more and more each day.

 

 

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