A Grand Adventure

Brussels streetChristina here. Have you ever travelled somewhere without any expectations whatsoever, just willing to go with the flow, explore and see what you find? That’s exactly what I did the weekend before last. Yes, I have been out travelling yet again – lately it feels as if I live out of suitcase permanently! – but this time it wasn’t for research or family purposes. My husband, elder daughter and I wanted to go to a specific concert which happened to be held in Brussels in Belgium. So we decided to take the opportunity to have a long weekend there to see the sights. Who wouldn’t?

I had never been there, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It was kind of freeing to not have an agenda or a lot of “must-see” items on the itinerary. I speak passable French and wasn’t worried about making myself understood, but I had no idea whether it would just feel like being in France or if Brussels was very different. It turns out it’s fairly unique.

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Alaskan Tour

Kenai fjord

Kenai fjord


Pat here: We’ve just recently returned from a cruise along the southern Alaska coast line, admiring glaciers and national parks, watching for wildlife, and resisting miles of jewelry. Mostly, I was looking for an easy trip involving little more than eating, drinking, and sleeping. We accomplished all that, although air travel is still a real pain, even from Southern California. If you ever have a choice, choose the Vancouver airport over Seattle!

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Nicola on the Grand Tour!

Giovanni_Paolo_Panini_-_Interior_of_the_Pantheon _Rome_-_Google_Art_ProjectNicola here. Back in the 18th century it was considered part of a gentleman’s education to take the “Grand Tour,” a trip through Europe with Italy as the main destination. The young, upper-class man of means and rank would set out, accompanied by a long-suffering tutor or family member, on this educational rite of passage and would return home supposedly with a greater understanding of classical culture and often with some works of art tucked under their arm.  The phrase “bear-leader” that you come across in Georgette Heyer originated with the poor tutor/chaperon/guardian who had to try to keep the youth out of trouble and instill some knowledge in him!

With the advent of mass tourism in the nineteenth century, these itineraries were opened up to the rest of us; women, families and those without a title (!) who would take a guide book along rather than a tutor. So, when we (my husband and I, to quote the late Queen) planned a holiday to Italy to see the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, we decided to take in at least a few other elements of the Grand Tour on our way – a journey through the Alps, some shopping in Milan and a stopover in Paris!

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East Meets West

Hagia Sophia Andrea here. As you may have noticed, some of the Wenches have recently been gallivanting around the globe, as the world begins to open up to exploration. I’m adding to the exotic travelogue, as I’ve just returned from an amazing journey through the ancient treasures of the Mediterranean, starting in Istanbul and ending in Athens.

Istanbul has always been at the top of of my To-Do List, as its exotic allure of East meets West, and its place as  such a special crossroads of history have always fascinated me. So I’m going to talk a little bit about the city, and my whirlwind impressions, though that won’t begin to do justice to the rich tapestry of its past and present.

One of the pleasures about taking a cruise on a Viking ship (the modern-day cruise line, NOT the longboat of one of Pia's fabulous heroes!) are the resident historians, who give evening talks on Astrolabeach destination. One of the basic points our professor made was that the city’s has three distinct “personalities,” reflected in its three different names throughout history. Though the site has been inhabited since Neolithic times, the first great city was said to be founded by by a Greek king named Byzas around 660 BC and became known as Byzantium. (Its acropolis was on the site of today’s Topkapi Palace. (Left: Hagia Sophia; Right: Islamic astrolabe from the Museum of Islamic Arts.)

 

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IMPRESSIONS OF EGYPT

CamelI admire avid travelers who can recount events, name famous places, and give a coherent travelogue on the spur of the moment. I am not one of them. Since I have never had a reliable memory, I experience travel. I might close my eyes and recall the scent of saffron and cinnamon, the lights on the mosque, the tune of a street musician—and inevitably, the cry of “One dollar, only one dollar, miss!” as a Marketvendor shoves an armful of bracelets at me. I will not be able to tell you the name of the market or the mosque. Although the one I’m recalling at the moment is in Cairo—and I didn’t take a single photo because I was living it, not recording it. Fortunately, my husband was not so lax!

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