Category Archives: Italy

Horse Haven

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Aubrey & Bo

It all started with Aubrey and Bo. Two gorgeous trail horses. When Aubrey showed up as Christmas gift outside Tami Marler’s ranch home, and she in turn surprised her husband with Bo, the couple didn’t have the slightest inkling about the bumpy ride ahead.

After moving into a cozy country home on the outskirts of Coweta, a 40-minute car ride southeast of Tulsa, Tami made her longtime dream a reality. And then, while scrolling through Facebook one January day, Tami’s eyes landed on the “Save a Slaughter Bound Horse,” page. Jake, a stunning lookalike of Aubrey popped up, set to be slaughtered that Jakeday. Tami couldn’t bare the thought. Her heart melted. Horrified, she searched the Internet for more info as time was running out. Taking a chance to save the stallion, Tami dished out a total of 1,200 dollars unaware that this would lead to her newfound purpose. From that day forward, keeping a close watch on the “Save a Slaughter Bound Horse” page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/147827545655597, Tami made it her mission to rescue a horse bound for slaughter. So far, she has taken seven horses from slaughter to salvation.

To make a bigger impact in saving these horses off the kill lot, Tami founded “Swingin’ D Horse Rescue,” www.swingindhorserescue.com. First and foremost, this non-profit saves horses from slaughter with the goal of finding them loving homes for the remainder of their days.

Visiting the ranch one sunny afternoon, watching Tami feed, brush, and pet all her horses, I realized how much time and resources it takes to care for these equine beauties.  Tami Grooming Large

Besides food and boarding, veterinary check ups, dental and hoof care are continuous necessities that require ongoing funding.

It’s been a most unusual ride for this former beauty queen. The first time I saw her, I was newly married to her father, Bob Marler, and we admired her wowing the crowd with her bluesy rendition of “Since I fell for You.” After winning the Miss Oklahoma title in  Tami Miss OK

1989, a successful career in television broadcasting followed until Jake showed up on her computer screen, launching this feisty Red Head on a path she’d never imagined.

 

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The Manhattan Project

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Heading north out of Santa Fe, curving around a rugged canyon,

the unusual town of Los Alamos beckons after a scenic 33-mile drive. www.visitlosalamos.org.hx_losalamos_6_425x303_fittoboxsmalldimension_center

Tucked away in the Jemez Mountains of Northern New Mexico, this sprawling community once housed Pueblo Indians and the Los Alamos Ranch School until the early 1940’s.

Today, the world renowned Los Alamos Science Laboratory, www.lanl.gov, dominates every aspect of life around this progressive science hub that changed the course of world history in 1945. Cruising down modern boulevards, it’s hard to picture the immense transformation that took place here after government officials scouted the area for a top-secret mission, The Manhattan Project, www.ushistory.org/us/51f.asp, in the summer of 1942. This remote mesa offered everything for a central laboratory: west of the Mississippi, far away from both coastlines, a suitable climate, isolated for safety, and sparsely populated. So, once the ranch school and surrounding land was purchased in November 1942, things snowballed. The school closed in January 1943, bulldozers arrived, serenity was shattered, and in the blink of an eye, an entire town rose from the dirt. Scientists from every corner of the globe descended on Los Alamos with one common goal: to develop the first atomic bomb that would put an end to the German war machine’s conquest during World War II. Spearheaded by General Leslie R. Groves, physicist Dr. Robert Oppenheimer directed the scientific developmentsimg_1710-1and designing of the two atomic bombs that came to be known as Little Boy and Fat Man.

The story about the Manhattan Project is an astonishing one. The many exhibits at the Bradbury Science Museum www.lanl.gov/museum, depict a vivid narrative of the challenging times between 1942 and 1946. img_1698-1Watching the historic movie offers another fascinating glimpse into the lives of the thousand men and women who tirelessly worked in this town unlike any other. img_1701-1There were no poor, no jails, no unemployment, no sidewalks. The area was kept in total secrecy. Access in and out of Los Alamos was limited. Tight security checks were the norm whenever leaving or returning to the secret city. All newcomers had to report to an office on 109 East Palace Avenue, www.atlasobscura.com/places/109eastpalace, in Santa Fe for processing. Secrecy required everybody to share the same mailing address, Post Office Box 1663, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and that address also appeared on all birth certificates issued during those years. By the time testing of the atomic bombs was completed in April 1945, the war in Europe was over. So the bombs were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which brought about the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II in 1945.

Sky on Fire

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Sky on Fire

Have you ever dropped everything to step out into the stunning aftermath of a thunderstorm? When the scenery prompted you to take a twirl in the moisture-tinged air?The last time I did, the clouds and blue banner of sky had transformed into a ferocious twirl of ominous shades, spewing across the horizon like a dragon. As you may know, Santa Fe is quite the place for the most spectacular mountain vistas, deep blue skies, and bold orange red sunsets. But that late afternoon as I stretched my arms skyward, the monstrous cloud train colliding with the setting sun left the sky on fire.

 

 

Soon On The Road Again

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Hello to all of you out there who have been following my travel. I will soon be on the road again, this time taking you to some spectacular sights within the USA. However, I have started a second blog, californiacruizin.wordpress.com which will be featuring my road trips around California. I can’t wait to share my stories.

Diamond of Light

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Diamond of Light

That’s what they call this floating vessel, our home for the next nine days. Almost brand new (built in 2009), this swimming city stretches across twelve decks and boasts a three level show theatre, a Las Vegas style casino, ten bars, three restaurants, two swimming pools and Jacuzzis, a top notch spa, state of the art health club, a running track, a golf putting course, a multi lingual library and a fancy shopping galleria. With a capacity of 2,826 passengers and a crew of 921, there isn’t a moment of privacy except in your own cabin. Italian, French, German and English snippets of conversation collide in the many frequented areas but middle aged Italians make up the majority of vacationers. And although the ship sails under the Italian flag and is manned by an Italian crew, it is under the umbrella of the Carnival corporation and a member of the worlds leading cruise lines like Holland America, Princess Cruises, Carnival, the Yachts of Seabourn and Cunard Line.  They know how to make a buck. Especially on those land excursions, spa treatments and internet use. And the drinks at the bar aren’t cheap either. Not a pleasant realization. I have wondered what some of the brown skinned waiters might be thinking collecting hefty sums for the drinks they serve. That thought sat in my mind as I enjoyed the distant hills of Mallorca we cruised past during lunch today. Watching swift waiters clear tables and lean cooks balance loaded food trays, an odd fact struck me. I had noticed that exact same thing on our first cruise on board the Norwegian Star. I don’t know if those of you who have been on cruises have made the same observation but all the service personnel (waiters, cooks, room attendants) I spoke to on this ship comes from India and the Philippines. We have come a long way since Christopher Columbus set sail from his native Savona to change the course of history, but not much has changed about the light skinned man’s use of the darker skinned folks to do the menial labor. Like it was back then, more than six hundred years later today right here on this polished cruise vessel, the poor brown skinned folks are still serving the more privileged fair skinned. (Those poor third world country natives could never afford this kind of cruise we are on). And considering the staggering amount of money that will change hands during the next nine days, I wonder how much will actually trickle down to those brown, swift hands laboring long hours.

Into the Blue

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Into the Blue

Taking our first cruise (Mexican Riviera) in 2009, we learned about the Italian Costa Cruise line. So we decided to give them a try for our next cruise. After several visits with Mr. Fritz Reichetseder, a travel industry veteran and the owner of Reiseoase, http://www.reiseoase.at, Gallneukirchen’s only travel agency, doing business the old way by paying cash, we finally left his office with our cruise package to sail the Western Mediterranean. So after crossing the Alps and Dolomites on Air Dolomiti, and spending a night at the charming 100 Euros a night including buffet breakfast Hotel Coccodrillo, http://www.coccodrillo.it in Savona, we boarded the Costa Luminosa in the Italian port Genoa. Already into our second day on board the mega ship, we are cruising into the blue horizon towards Malaga.

Sun Kissed Gems

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Today we got on the regional train, paid a return fare of five Euros and after riding through a fairytale land of medieval castles and fortresses overlooking sprawling apple orchards, we arrived in Merano after a smooth forty minute ride. With the snow capped Dolomites looming in the distance, Bob and I caught the bus outside of the Merano train station. While strangers smiled at us on the ride to the city center, I reflected on the fact that all over Europe you can basically go anywhere you like without owning a car adding a bit of zest to your travel. Regional trains, intercity speed trains, public buses and city trams and undergrounds take you to any destinations of your choice with the absence of stress and worry. What a great way to travel.
Nestled in a basin surrounded by 3,335 m (11,000 feet) tall mountains, this popular spa resort of about 35,000 is favored with a mild climate and known for its wines, vineyards and delicious apples that are exported throughout Europe. Throughout the years several scientists, literary people, and artists have made Merano their home. But one of the most famous guest of this sun kissed city was the Austrian Empress Elizabeth, affectionately known as Sissi, who holidayed twice in Merano for several months in the 19th century at the Castle Trauttmannsdorff. Back then Merano was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until it was annexed and given to Italy after World War I.
Like Bolzano, Merano boasts a lovely pedestrian zone with charming street cafes, restaurants and fancy store fronts. After a yummy cappuccino and warm apple strudel, Bob and I climbed on another bus up to Castle Trauttmannsdorff. The most popular tourist attraction in town along with the Botanical Gardens that opened in 2001. And so, like the thousands of tourists descending on the castle grounds every year, we drove past grand villas and noble residences  behind iron wrought fences before we climbed towards the imperial castle gleaming on the hill like a crown.  We entered the gardens of the former royal residence through an arched walkway covered with vines. Ambling along terraced pathways, we admired exotic flowers and plants as well as local plants, herbs and fruit trees.  As I savored the fragrant air on our way down to the Lilly pond, a beautiful maze nestled into this natural amphitheater caught my attention but the pull of the Palm cafe skirting the Lilly pond was stronger.  And so Bob and I headed for another cappuccino and enjoyed the spectacular views of this exotic Mediterranean landscape  against enchanting mountain vistas.

30 Million Years in the Making

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A visit to South Tyrol or Alto Adige is not complete without admiring the stunning beauty of the majestic Dolomites dominating the region. So, this morning we played tourist. On a tour bus driving out of Bozen, our skilled driver soon navigated the huge vehicle up through narrow valleys, past steep cliffs and gushing rivers. After a daring ascent of 27 monster curves a gasp went through the bus as we climbed to the top of our first destination, Passo Pordoi (Pordoi Pass). From up here at 2,200 meters (7,200 feet), a breathtaking panorama stretched across the horizon. Indeed a grand sight. Mogul ski slopes, still green, falling against a dramatic scenery of massive peeks and valleys. It’s almost impossible to find adequate words for describing such beauty and grandeur that formed 30 million years ago. As I stood there, my gaze wandering across Cathedral like peaks, vertical cliffs and wind eroded plateaus, it became again clear to me how short and insignificant our human lives really are considering the bigger scheme of creation. As we continued our tour, snaking again downhill and up another nerve wrecking pass, I reflected on my life and how fortunate I am to be able to travel and enjoy such spectacular sights unfolding beyond my window.
Leaving this ancient white wonderland behind, we stopped in Sankt Ulrich, a  charming town in the famous Groedner Valley famous for its scenic beauty, world cup ski runs and wood carvers. On our way back to Bozen, we took the highway that paralleled the Brenero Autostrada or Brenner Autobahn. This particular stretch of freeway begins on top of the Brenner Pass, the border crossing between Austria and Italy, and runs all the way to Bozen. When it was built 50 years ago this freeway, cutting through the Eisack Valley, was lauded an engineering masterpiece. Eighty percent of the 87 kilometers (54 miles) of highway traverses valleys and gorges as it runs on top of viaducts and long tunnels through the mountains.