Thursday, February 28, 2013

Photo Thursday: Paris' Père Lachaise Cemetery in Black and White

We visited Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris last fall and I'm still playing around with the photos. Most recently I've tried some in black and white. I like how the lack of color highlights the structural elements of the cemetery, which is sharpened further by the contrast between light and shadow. It seems right for a cemetery! 
This is my contribution to Travel Photo Thursday at Nancie's Budget Traveler's Sandbox. Head on over and see what she's posted this week as well as links to images from her friends all around the world.

Nearly All Saints Day at Père Lachaise Cemetery
Crosses in Père Lachaise

All Paris posts 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Seychelles by Air - You are being transferred to the updated version of this post at

- You are being transferred to the updated version of this post at

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Photo Thursday: Paris Metro View

I always think of the Paris Metro as an underground system (with those classic Art Nouveau entry signs), but sections of the system run above ground . . . and some of those are pretty artistic. 
This station, near the Eifel Tower, frames a classic Paris streetscape with brilliant glass and guarantees a bit of blue sky every day!

Not a bad way to start any journey.

This is my contribution to Travel Photo Thursday at Nancie's Budget Traveler's Sandbox. Head on over and see what she's posted this week as well as links to images from her friends all arouond the world.

More of my Paris Posts

Friday, February 15, 2013

Winter in Phoenix

      I love Arizona.

Sure, I hate the boring developments, the wasteful use of water, the conservative political climate, the lack of walkable neighborhoods, the long drive to get anywhere . . . but there is something about the landscape that speaks to me.

I love the way the mountains pop up in the middle of city, the way you can tell you've reached the Sonoran Desert because suddenly there are saguaro raising their arms all around you, the way you can be driving down the freeway - with the windows closed -- and suddenly be surrounded by the sweet fragrance of oranges. I just love being here.

Luckily I have friends and family in the Phoenix area, which provides a built-in excuse for visiting.

This month I took advantage of that excuse to make a too-quick trip to see my folks, catch up with a few friends, and soak in some sunshine. 

I’ve never been in Arizona in the winter before, so, while I expected it to be chilly (it was), I wasn’t expecting rain. But that is what we got – tucked between a few perfect sunny hours – there was plenty of cloudy skies and rain, real rain, not just drizzly mist. It provided a new perspective on this place.

There was a wealth of activities to choose from during our visit, including a hoop dancing competition, museum exhibits, craft fairs, Chinese New Year’s celebrations, and more. We did a few things, but we spent most of our time visiting and eating.

And that made for a relaxing trip.

My travel journal:

America’s Taco Shop (February 9, 2013)
In a Small Cactus Garden

Recreating the Past at Superstition Mountain (February 10, 2013)
A Bit of the Apache Trail 

Basha’s Almost Secret Gallery (February 11, 2013)
When Snowbirds Land
Sunset: Apache Junction

Zen Yard Guest House (February 12, 2013)

All Arizona posts 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Zen Yard Guest House, Phoenix, Arizona

On what was a bit of a whim, we booked the Jerome Room at the Zen Yard Guest House

To be honest, I was a little uncomfortable with the new-age-spiritual-spa connotations of “Zen Yard” (just not my thing) and the fact that it wasn’t clear from the pictures that the Jerome room (the only space available at the time) had a real window (I hate dark rooms). However, the location was excellent (located near some of our friends), the price was right (further improved by a discount through, and every review on TripAdvisor raved about the place  (including the Jerome Room).

Any worries vanished the moment we arrived. Eddie cheerfully greeted us (materializing out of the darkness as we approached the building) and led us into a warm and welcoming living/dining area stocked with the little extras a travel might want – tea, coffee, energy bars, beverages (alcoholic and not), with instructions to either leave some money in the tip jar or let them know at check-out. How convenient!

(A large range of specialty tea is provided free of charge, which was fabulous for a tea-lover like me.)

From there he led us through a series of courtyards to the Jerome room – our pretty room with a large window looking out onto a pleasant little courtyard complete with serene sculpture and a grapefruit tree (with ripe grapefruits that we were encouraged to pick). It was everything I could have asked for and more.  
Daylight exploration showed that our courtyard was only one of several, most with sculpture, hummingbird feeders, water of some sort (fountains or hot tubs), comfortable seating, and gardens. 
Unfortunately, a recent cold snap had killed off some of the more tropical vegetation, leaving the gardens looking very much like winter had arrived. I’m sure it will soon be overflowing with greenery and blossoms again. 
Along with the hot tubs, the property has a pool – unheated, so not in use this time of year – but atmospherically lit at night and a reminder of how nice it will be here in warmer weather.
(Although I was pretty entranced by the patterns the leaves made as they floated around on the surface. Who needs to actually swim in a pool to enjoy it!?)

Homemade breakfasts are served in the main house. A small number of specialties are available and guests place orders the night before, assuring a tasty hot breakfast each morning. Seared oatmeal with blueberries (which is delicious) is available, along with more traditional fare and Dale’s banana bread.

The Zen Yard Guest House has four rooms, two in the main house and two in the courtyard area.  It is easy to reach and located in a very safe area of Phoenix. The entire property is also fenced (which is pretty common in Phoenix), further increasing security.  
We found it to be a good base for getting around the Phoenix area, with quick access to the city of Phoenix, as well as Scottsdale.

Previous post: Sunset - Apache Junction

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Sunset: Apache Junction, Arizona

Next Post: Zen Yard Guest House

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Where Snowbirds Land, Apache Junction, Arizona

Apache Junction sometimes seems like one large RV and trailer park for northern snowbirds seeking winter sun (my parents among them), but there are palm trees overhead and the mountains are ever present.

Next post: Sunset - Apache Junction 
Previous post: Bashas’ Almost-Secret Gallery
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Bashas’ Almost-Secret Gallery in Chandler, Arizona

There is a treasure trove of western art tucked away in a non-descript office building at the headquarters of Bashas’ grocery in Chandler, Arizona.

The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American and Native American Art, is a public display of a personal collection. Reflecting the artistic passion of Bashas’ chairman, Eddie Basha, and his Aunt Zelma, the collection focuses on contemporary art of the American West and the Native Americans of the southwest.  
Cowboy art is not really my thing, but the work on display is all of high quality and many of the bronzes are amazing.  Even if you aren’t a big fan of this type of art, wander back to the far corner of the collection, past the collection of presentation pistols, to the display of letters various artists have sent to Mr. Basha. These are works of art, each adorned with a miniature sketch or painting. It would be a real delight to find one of these in the mailbox along with the bills and junk mail!

The Native American part of the collection includes a large number of incredibly intricate carved kachina figures.    
The walls around them are covered with sketches that seem to have served as a model for the final carving, each of which is a work of art itself.  (It would have been fun to see a sketch displayed with the corresponding kachina, but there didn’t seem to be any sets like that.)

There is also a relatively small (in comparison), but exquisite collection of southwestern pottery on display. 
 A separate room houses an absolutely remarkable collection of Native American baskets.    
The museum is organized, to the extent possible, by artist. (Depending on the amount of work in the collection, a shelf, wall or a whole room is generally devoted to the work of one artist.) This makes it an excellent place to see a full range of work by a single artist. It would be an amazing classroom for any student of western art!

The museum is a little overwhelming and busy, with seemingly every surface covered, and not all objects are displayed at an ideal height. (The small amount of jewelry in the collection includes display shelves that are too high for an average-height woman to see.) On the other hand, very few pieces are behind glass, allowing for an unusually close examination of these precious objects.

Please keep collecting, Mr. Basha!

Next post: Where Snowbirds Land
Previous post:  A Bit of the Apache Trail

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Bit of the Apache Trail, Arizona

The day has become clear and beautiful, so I convince my family that we should take a drive along the striking Apache Trail
We go past Canyon Lake and turn around Tortilla Flat to check out the scenery from the other direction.
Even without wildflowers, it is a beautiful drive. . . besides, having a snow capped mountain backing up the desert scenery is pretty cool.

Next post: Bashas’ Almost-Secret Gallery 
Previous post: Recreating the Past at Superstition Mountain 

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