Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nazca...One of the Many Mysteries of Peru

Is it a monkey, or is it something more cryptic?  Questions like these fill the minds of everyone and anyone who sees these amazing figures in the high elevation Pampa between the cities of Nazca and Palpa.  The figures and lines cover some 400 square miles of land and there are roughly 350 of them.  This desert area only gets about 20 minutes of rain a year.  It is one of the driest places on Earth.  Because of its elevation and location there is very little wind if any at all.  These are the conditions that make the figures possible.  If the conditions were not ideal, these figures would not still be there after all these centuries.  It is estimated that the Nazca people created these figures between 200 BC and 600 AD.

But yet the questions remain.  What are they supposed to be?  Why are they there?  Do they have a significance that we can't fathom? 
Some people see alien runways.  Is it possible?  Who knows?  Imagine what aliens would think about if they landed on the moon and saw our footprints there?  It is the closest comparison that can be made, given the simple fact that Nazca is the only place in the world that preserves markings this completely.

There is a school of belief that the Nazca people used them for irrigation purposes.  I'm not sure how that would get us a spider or a monkey.  But who knows how the ancient Nazca lived?

What most people don't seem to know, because it's hard to find out anything about the area other than the lines themselves, is that there are archeological sites in the area exploring the histories of these amazing desert people.  Cahuachi is what it's called, and it's believed to be an ancient city.  There are some pyramids, and a lot of holes that look like ancient wells.  Every year, archeologists come for a few months and work on the city.  Hopefully, at some point they will gain some insight into the people that will help us to understand the figures in the desert.


Nazca City, as it stands today isn't far from the area where the lines are.  It's not far from Ica or Lima actually, and can be reached by bus from all these locations.  Nazca is a small village, with a struggling economy.  Tourism is one of their best sources of income.  There are several hotels and restaurants that will make you comfortable.  The people are warm and inviting.  Just be careful of the others.  Crime is a problem in the Pampa.  Be aware of your surroundings and I wouldn't take a bus at night.  Not that anything will happen, but just in case.  Be practical.

This is one of those places where you can find resort hotels in the middle of nowhere.  It's like something out of Indiana Jones.  Talk with a tour company and make arrangements, and who knows what you might find?

There are a lot of things to see in the high desert of Peru.  There are aqueducts, pyramids, archeological digs, and small villages.  Going to see the sights of Nazca is a great addition to a Peru tour.  Just remember, you will pay.  The only way to get a good look at the 350 figures in the desert is to do it by plane or helicopter.  Plane is the better way, because there is less chance of disturbing anything on the ground with artificial wind.
There are many tour companies that will take you to see the lines.  Make sure that you check on your company to make sure that they are safe and reliable.  Make sure that you plan your visit at a good time of year which is usually from May through November.  This is one of those places.  It's wonderful and amazing, but you have to be practical.  However, it is something that you'll never forget.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I just realized that I've written over 100 posts for this blog, and I thought that I would take a moment and share some thoughts on the subject.  I started this thing as a simple writing project, and I think that it's turned out all right.  I wanted to work on my writing, and I think it's gotten better.  I must say that I'm thankful to the 28,000 hits on this blog, and I hope that the interest continues.  I love writing about wonderful locations all around the world, and I will continue to travel.

I do live here on the east coast, but I am getting ready as I speak to go on a jaunt to Europe, and I do get around.  I love the outdoors, but I like the city too.  It doesn't take much to talk me into going somewhere just for the experience.  I once traveled to northern Maine just to see a moose, but I also found Greenville which is one of the greatest towns on Earth.

As far as cities go, I know everyone thinks that their city is the greatest, but I am partial to New York and Chicago.  It's probably part of my history, but I love these towns.  I can't recommend them enough.  I can't help but think that if some of the other cities would look into the dynamic that makes these cities great, they could be better themselves.  That's not to say that other cities aren't interesting.  As a traveler, I love to visit pretty much anywhere.  It's just that if I'm going to back again and again, there has to be that certain something.

Now, any fool who's ever heard me talk or read my writing, knows I love waterfalls.  I've been to 12 states and 2 countries just to look at waterfalls.  Not to say that I didn't find anything else that I liked on those trips, but they were driven by the hunt for waterfalls.  I once spent five days in the highlands of Iceland just to see a waterfall.  Yes, it was worth it.

There is that something about Europe though.  I think that it is my favorite place on Earth.  Ever since I got to sit on the wall, I've been hooked.  Europe has history, adventure, scenery, culture.  I just love it there.  It never takes much of a suggestion for me to go back.

But my main motive for traveling is the adventure.  There are villages in the Grand Canyon.  There are crashed B-52 bombers in the wilds of Maine.  There is an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka.  There are icebergs sailing past beaches in Newfoundland.  There are so many adventures of so many kinds out there in the world that I can't imagine turning a deaf ear or a blind eye to them.

We only go around once.  Life is too short to waste it.  Don't spend your time on video games and watching TV.  Go out and see the world.  It's an amazing place.  Nature is amazing, whether it be at Crater Lake in Oregon...

or at Guillfoss in Iceland.  Mother Nature has done an amazing job out there, and we should be paying close attention to it.

Take the time on those layovers to discover the wonderful things there as well.  Don't overlook Cleveland.  They have a branch of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame right there in the airport.
So no matter where you go, country or city, take the time to enjoy all it has to offer where you are.  There's so much to see.  There's so much to do.  Why wait?
And if you need ideas, I'm not going anywhere.  I'll have adventures for you to try out.
Enjoy!  Thanks for all the support, and I hope you continue to read!

Mont St. Michel of Brittany

Rising out of the ocean, Mont St. Michel or the Mountain of St. Michael gives a truly mystical view of the world.  It's one of those places that I could easily visualize as the inspiration for Avalon and could easily seeing the once and future kind ruling there.  It's the type of place that such legends are made from, and it's one of the most fascinating architectural sites I've ever heard of.

If you like medieval times, or architecture, or historical significance, or religious sites, or quaint villages, or even if you like to study the work of God in the tides; this is your kind of place.

Mont St. Michel was built about 1500 years ago.  The natural island that rises out of the sea made a perfect location for a natural fort.  The causeway that is now interrupting the natural water flows around the island, didn't exist until modern times.  In the past, people had to make their way through the mud flats at low tide to get to it.  The walk itself helped to make it one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Europe.  The tides in this area are some of the most extreme in the world and come in with the ferocity of galloping horses according to quotes from the past.  The tides kept the island isolated and secure.  It also made a great location for monks who wished for solitude and tranquility.

So, the island went from one generation to the next, from one ethnic religious group to another, until the French Revolution.  Following the overthrow of Louis XVI, the abbey was shut down, the order outlawed by atheists, and used as a prison for many years.  Once France returned to it's roots somewhat and brought back religion, the abbey went back to being a monastery and was so until modern times when the island became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In the early 2000's the last of the monks moved out and now their former home is a tourist attraction.


Brittany, the region of France that most of the island sits in, is named because it's like Britain.  I don't know that this is true these days, but it was in the past.  The island was ruled by the Normans at one point in history, and as any other place in the world will attest to, it picked up some of their personality.  Today, you can see that in the buildings in the village more than anywhere else.  The narrow streets are from days gone by as are the half timber buildings in the village.  Remember, you will do a lot of walking here, because the parking is next to the causeway before you actually come onto the island.

Yes, there are steps, and lots of them.  If you don't want to walk up and down steps, then this clearly is not for you.  The adventure here for me is the architecture.  If you love ancient architecture, you will love this place.  The abbey that looms over the island and gives it it's picturesque, Avalon like image is a masterpiece.  This abbey was built, partially collapsed, rebuilt, turned into a prison, reclaimed, fortified, and has lived to tell all of it's past tales.


The typical description of the architecture of the abbey is Gothic, which makes sense with its buttresses, vaulted ceilings, and arch support style.  But, regardless of which term you use to describe the architecture, it is breathtaking.  Most of the original architecture is still represented as well.  It's survived well through thick and thin.  There are some missing carvings that were true works of art.  They were destroyed by the powers that turned this magnificent place into a prison during the Reformation.


No matter how you look at this abbey, the architecture is amazing.  The place balances on a giant rock.  That's the long and the short of the situation.  Not long after it was built, part of the building was facing collapse, because of the support system that it was built on.  Now, the building sits atop crypts with massive supports.  It has never collapsed again.

If you truly want the modern, yet medieval experience, you can stay right on the island.  There are some hotels in the village.  Remember, this is a huge tourist area with over 3 million visitors each year, but it's still a town.  50 people or so live in the village.  There are restaurants, hotels, shops, and even a post office.  Even though it looks like something that they would build at Epcot Center, it's a real medieval village.
Take some time, enjoy the surroundings, get a different view of the world.  Wander the streets and check out the shops full of medieval weaponry, souvenirs, and fine china.  There are all kinds of things to buy and save as mementos of an amazing place.

Go up to the abbey and take a look around.  The views are worth the climb.  Mont St. Michel has been developing over the ages.  One of the things that you will notice is that a large plain has developed between the island and the shore.  The French aren't too thrilled about that, because it was pretty much caused by the causeway that was built so that people could get to and from the island easier.  The land in this plain is salty, and the grass is maintained by the local sheep.  The meat gotten from these sheep is a delicacy in the area now, because of it's salt content.  It makes a flavor that you don't get with any other animal.

The French folks are trying to remedy this silt situation.  They are replacing the causeway with a bridge and dam system that they hope will restore the islands ecosystem.  It should be ready somewhere around 2014.

So, come take a walk on some ramparts, and picture yourself in a time gone by.  Check out the museum displays and learn something about the magnificent history of a place that still looks like a dream today.  Meet the people who still live in a tiny medieval village, and savor some amazing views.  If you love architecture, medieval villages, and enormous abbeys; you will love this place.  If you want to live in history, this is your place.  So, come and investigate Mont St. Michel and lose yourself in a dream.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fall River's Hidden Sights

Fall River, Massachusetts is one of the places in the world that I had never thought of until I met a really great friend of mine, who happens to be from there.  It sits not far from Providence, Rhode Island, on the Taunton River which separates the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  It's a beautiful city, full of Portuguese immigrants, which means great Portuguese food.

There are many Portuguese restaurants in town, but a local favorite is Gina's.  It's a small place, but the cooking is great and the Chourico is fabulous.  One of the other recommended restaurants is Estoril, who's seafood fare is well known throughout the area.

One of the truly great things about Fall River is the waterfront.  Heritage State Park hugs the shore of the river and is a beautiful place to spend some time.  There are walks along the bank, beautiful grounds to enjoy, and at the bridge end of the park, there's a wonderful building with a beautiful antique carousel.  I don't care how old I get, I'm never too old to ride a great old carousel.  New England has a lot of them in parks, malls, and theme parks.  They also have museums.  New England is a great place to find antique carousels.

Now, one of the adventures in Fall River is right next to Heritage State Park and right under the enormous bridge that brings you into Fall River.  It's Battleship Cove.  Battleship Cove is a marine museum of war ships.  They have the largest collection of retired warships in the world for public display.  They even have a Russian boat and a submarine.

The best part about Battleship Cove is that you get to wander all over the boats.  You can see where the torpedoes went.  You can try out a seat in the gun bays.  You can eat in the mess hall.  You can arrange to stay overnight with a group if you wish.  When I was there last, I spoke to a man on the submarine that had worked on that submarine in WWII.  He was the real McCoy, and if you ever wanted to know what it was like first hand, he's a great guy to talk to.

There are indoor exhibits too.  There's so much to see and do in this place that you could easily spend the whole day right there. 

I've been on boat museums.  I've been to most kinds of museums, and this one is unique.  Every where you turn is a different gadget to play with or a different room to see.  There are five major ships here, and several minor ones.  The volunteers who staff the place, or mostly volunteers, are wonderful.

You won't be bored here, and you won't see a lot of this stuff anywhere else.  The view is pretty good too.
Now, Fall River has more than one adventure for this blog.

One of the most talked about murders in history was the murder of the parents of one Lizzie Borden.  Reportedly she killed her parents in 1892 with an axe.  Today, the infamous house in Fall River is a tourist attraction and, yes, a bed and breakfast.  You too, can stay in the room where Lizzie supposedly committed these crimes.  If you show up on August 4th, you can see the murders reenacted.  It is on the macabre side, but it is a thrill for many people who are fascinated by haunted houses.
That's right, Lizzie Borden's House is supposed to be haunted, so if you make a reservation to stay in this place, you might want to bring some extra undies!
So, to sum this one up, haunted Lizzie Borden House, Battleship Cove, Heritage State Park, and great Portuguese food.  Fall River is one of those places that few but the locals here in New England really know about.  It's a treasure, and it shouldn't be missed.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Deerfield Massachusetts...Surprise!

Deerfield, Massachusetts is one of those overlooked places.  They don't have most conventional tourist attractions, but they will keep you busy, give you a lot of fun, and really surprise you.  The first surprise for me was the Deerfield Zip Line Tour.  This place is amazing.  I've been to these joints before, especially in the northeast, and most of the time they are just a place that tests you.  They have all kinds of ropes for you to try and walk on and trapeze type things high in the air for you to test your endurance and skill, but they normally have very few zip lines.  What I want when I go zip lining, is zip lines.  Normally, in my experience, New England drops the ball on that one, but not in Deerfield.  This place is almost all zip lines, and they're long ones.  It's great.  There are a couple of air bridges and a couple of places that you have to repel down to the next level, but other than that, it's zip lining heaven.

Another great attraction in the Deerfield area is the Magic Wings Conservatory.  This place is an indoor botanical garden, which is a great getaway in winter.  What makes it different than any other botanical garden though?

The butterflies are the big draw here.  This is a for profit home where they study butterflies from all over the world.  They study, and for a fee, we get to play with the subjects.  It's a great way to spend a day, especially with the kids.  There are also tropical birds and lizards running amok in the conservatory.  They only ask that you do not touch the butterflies and such.  Don't worry, the curious little devils will land on you to check you out.

Now, it may be a little hokey, but I defend the Rock and Dinosaur Shop.  This is in between all the well known attractions on Route 5 in Deerfield.  The silliness of this place is great, with all the fake dinosaurs around to look at.  But it's the rocks that are the fun.  You can step right up and look for fossils and gems in buckets that are provided buy the owners.  It's a lot of fun for kids, and you never know what you're going to find.
The possibilities really are endless!

Probably the most famous of all the attractions in Deerfield is the Yankee Candle Company's flagship store.  This place is like a mini trip to Disney Land, or the North Pole.  Here, not only will you find an endless choice of scented candles, but you can see Santa Clause pretty much any time of the year.

It's always winter and it's always Christmas here.  You can come in from a ridiculously hot day and forget all about it.  There are ornaments for sale all the time, and toy trains for your entertainment.  You can also visit Santa's workshop, and Santa.  It's a lot of fun.
But it doesn't end there at Yankee Candle.  They have a room that looks like a medieval castle with a drawbridge, thrones to sit on, and a waterfall.  They also have an indoor garden with a fountain and a live show performed by robots that are into bluegrass music.  You can eat here, buy just about anything you want, have some ice cream, see a show, learn how to make candles, and you can buy a candle too if you can find the time.  It's that one of a kind store that you won't soon forget.
 And last but not least is the unique thing that made me write about this area in my blog.  Welcome to Historic Deerfield.  That's what the sign says.  In my experience, this is where you enter the property, pay a fee, and see the things that the people in charge have set up to teach you about their past lifestyles in the area.  That is not the situation here.  This town is a museum.

 People live here.  They live in their private homes which are part of the town, and therefore, are part of the museum.  They intentionally preserve their homes to be part of the effect.  It's amazing.
They have a working post office that's hundreds of years old.
Their kids go to school there, just like kids have for hundreds of years.
They go to church.
They even have an operating hotel and tavern.
 They have an operating town hall.
They also have all the signs of a museum, like a visitor center, a gift shop, and an enormous museum about the area.  Historic Deerfield is unique.  They do have some historic homes that have exhibits and show you what life was like in the old days.  They have a meadow and an old cemetery that are outside exhibits.  The thing is that they also have a fire department.  They have it covered.  They are a town.  They are different, and they like it that way.  This town is a celebrated community, and it costs to live there.  You have to agree to keep things in stead with the atmosphere, and people pay dearly for the privilege.  It's an amazing little place to visit.  I highly recommend it.
So, let's recap.  Yankee Candle flagship store, Rock and Dinosaur Shop, Magic Wings, Deerfield Zip Lining, and Historic Deerfield.  Places that you pretty much won't find anywhere else in New England, and they're all right in Deerfield together.  So, take the time to take a step back in time, and come walk the streets of a living museum in Deerfield, Massachusetts.