Category Archives: USA

Valle de Bravo

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There couldn’t be a more picturesque setting for a wedding than this utterly charming lakeside community skirting the scenic shores of Lake Avándaro. Version 2 www.lakelubbers.com/lake-avandaro-1121/ This quaint colonial town in the pine-covered mountains of central Mexico was my destination last weekend to celebrate my friend’s son’s nuptials.

After overnighting in Mexico City, we headed out of its busy madness; people, houses, cars, all morphing into each other. Zooming into the rolling hills on fancy highways, we cruised through the mega development of Mexico City’s rising district of Santa Fe, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Fe,_Mexico_City (quite the contrast to Santa Fe, New Mexico, https://santafe.org/

Speechless, I didn’t expect to find this display of modernization and wealth here in one of the most populated megacities on the planet. Mexico CityThe gleaming skyscrapers, sprawling shopping malls, and residential towers lay universes away from the glum houses and street vendors we passed in the taxi from the airport to our hotel, the elegant Camino Real Pedregral. http://www.caminoreal.com

As we drove west, speeding through modern tunnels and high-tech tollgates, I couldn’t believe the effective infrastructure and the ease at which we got from A to B. Two hours later, we found ourselves sipping cappuccino overlooking the lush greens of the Avándaro Golf Hotel & Spa Resort, hotelavandaro.com.mx/ the misty layered hills stretching across a blue horizon evoking memories of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Today, Valle, as it’s commonly known among locals, is home to roughly 60,000 people. Prior to hosting the world-famous auto race Circuito Avandaro and the huge Latin rock music festival Festival de rock y Ruedas in early 2000, this small mountain community was just a typical small Mexican town. Over the years the clean mountain air, balmy weather, and breathtaking scenery have drawn water sport enthusiasts, nature lovers, and history buffs alike. And Mexico City’s elite.

Taking a drive down to the lakeshore, the posh mansions behind bougainvillea-draped walls and modern villas clinging to the rocky lakeside cliffs gave way to historic dwellings along narrow cobblestone streets.

At the Embarcadero, www.visitmexico.com/en-us/valle-de-bravo, the point of interest where all the action was, taxis and street hagglers vowed for customers, while I somehow tried to wrap my mind around the huge gap between the haves and have-nots.

Later that day, watching the sunset over a dreamy landscape, I wished I could stay a bit longer. There’s so much more to explore around here, most notably the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarch_Butterfly_Biosphere_Reserve, whc.unesco.org › Culture › World Heritage Centre › The List
Each November, millions of migratory butterflies from Canada and the United States arrive here for escaping the cold. That’s when I need to come back too.

 

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Christiane Von Linz

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Christiane Von Linz

Dear Travelsonataincmajor Followers,

I am thrilled to announce the launch of my new website, christianevonlinz.com. Featuring a brand new look, this website offers tons of information and is easy to browse around. From now on I will post my travel stories here, so stay tuned for news by signing up on the bottom of the site.

Thank you and enjoy my new adventures at Googlewood Castle…guglwald_hotel

 

Alamo City

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The stifling heat couldn’t stop my adventurous self, trading my air-conditioned hotel room for a stroll along the famous River Walk right in the historic heart of downtown San Antonio. www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com.2016-07-20 23.21.55

The call from the river below my window was just too strong. Heading downstairs and out the cool lobby, I stepped up to the river’s edge. A postcard perfect setting nestled between towering hotels, tall church steeples, and historic landmarks took my breath away. The majestic Cypress tree branches bending over a quaint stream, people lingering, strangers holding hands, and happy folks riding tour boats, www.riosanantonio.com, induced a laid-back feeling. It was love at first sight.
2016-07-20 23.41.24Elated, I took a quick look at the map and headed off into the hot, muggy air. Winding and looping my way under idyllic bridges and along beautifully landscaped patches of flowers, cute little shops, picturesque dining patios, and charming cafes lining both sides of the banks San Antonio River.

The coolest thing about San Antonio is that all major tourist attractions are located within close proximity to the River Walk. So, after we parked our car in the hotel garage, despite the pelting sun and temperatures way in the nineties, my husband and I ventured out on foot, exploring this five-mile long system of meandering walkways.

Amidst a bustling vibe and fellow visitors, wandering around the river’s southern bend, the historic La Villita Arts Village charmed. http://lavillita.com. Browsing specialty shops and galleries along shaded walkways, I could still see relics of Spanish heritage in every façade, establishing San Antonio’s first and oldest neighborhood way back in the 1700’s.

A visit to San Antonio would be incomplete without visiting the Alamo, San Antonio’s most famous historic landmark. www.thealamo.orgIMG_1508

First established as a Spanish Mission, this notable edifice holds the epic story of one of America’s bloodiest battles on March 6, 1836 in which about 160 brave soldiers defended the fort against a strong Mexican Army under the ruthless General Santa Anna. Considered the cradle of Texas liberty, over the years, the Alamo has gone from Mission to fortress to battlefield to warehouse to shrine and to the current Alamo.

The fortified compound dominating the Alamo Square stands proud just a block from the river next to the historic Menger hotel, http://www.mengerhotel.com, the most beautiful post office guarding over a quint line of historic buildings and the River Center Mall. www.shoprivercenter.com

I’m not much of a history buff and don’t really get much joy out of wandering around museums either, but touring the Alamo was quite a different story. Stepping into the shrine, the original church, I was humbled and touched. IMG_1500A feeling of solemnity spread amidst the crowd of hushed visitors. I thought about these 160 young men; their unshakable courage, determination, and independent spirits. Their desperate, yet heroic struggle for freedom. Even if it meant the ultimate sacrifice: Giving their lives for a bigger cause. Contemplating this, I made my way around the hallowed ground, the fallen heroes’ pain, anguish, and tears etched into every crevice of these stonewalls I ambled past.

As I wandered around the serene gardens, admiring the immense oak trees, I reflected on the pivotal battle in the Texas revolution. Today the Alamo is a symbol to the unyielding power of the human spirit and the heroic struggle against overwhelming odds.

 

Daring Streaks, Eye-Popping Curves

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Famed Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico. visitcanyonroad.com. There’s a new kid on the block in this artsy town nestled in the Sangre de Cristo foothills of Northern New Mexico. santafe.org. Visual artist Christopher H. Martin, www.christophermartingallery.com. A self-taught Florida native, Chris, as he prefers to be called, recently opened the door to his new gallery putting Santa Fe on the map of his impressive enterprise with galleries in Dallas, Texas and Aspen, Colorado. IMG_1264With  rock star looks and a charismatic smile, this innovative artist welcomed art connoisseurs into his airy, lit-up gallery to wine and hors d’oeuvres before offering a personalized tour of his exceptional body of work.

IMG_1261Shown amidst eye-popping sculpture by Michael Enn Sirvet, sirvet.com, the unusual curves, shapes, streaks, and color hues brushed across acrylic panels showcased his unique technique.

Inspired by Verre Églomisé, Reverse Glass Painting, a method that first emerged in the 14th century, Chris describes his succinct process as Organic Expressionism. To create his paintings, he applies heat, wind, water, brush, and sheer pigment in a reverse order onto a clear acrylic panel. Coaxing layer upon layer, interlacing ovals, arcs, lines, and color patterns, Chris seeks to create poetic visual expressions of natural patterns.

Modern and abstract, bold in their shapes and designs,these equally stunning creations blend well with many architectural styles, tastes, and interior décor.

Chris Martin’s creative output over the past twenty years has been remarkable. Many of his paintings have been highly sought for corporate and private collections nationally as well as internationally.

IMG_1250Maybe his most famous creation is Velocity, a 120-ft. art installation that was completed and celebrated in 2012. Installed on fifteen consecutive panels around the Formula One Racetrack, Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas, this supersize painting is the only one of its kind in the world.

So, next time you’re planning to explore Santa Fe, the “City Different,” as the locals like to call America’s oldest capital city, pay a visit to the Christopher Martin Gallery up on Canyon Road and indulge your mind and senses, feasting on a visual smorgasbord of daring streaks and eye-popping curves.IMG_1254

Into the Deep Blue

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Next time you descend on Los Angeles, consider a visit to the California Science Center http://californiasciencecenter.org housed in Downtown LA’s Exposition Park. http://www.expositionpark.orgIMG_0629

Entering the modern, airy structure, one is greeted by a suspended Humpback whale replica, two slick fighter jets chasing its monstrous tail.
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Entering the modern, airy structure, one is greeted by a suspended Humpback whale replica, two sleek fighter jets chasing its monstrous tail.

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A fascinating array of interactive exhibits, live shows, and demonstrations presented across this state-of-the-art facility offers something to discover for everyone. Open all year round with free general admission, children and adults alike can immerse themselves in the wonders of our world, discover amazing ecosystems, learn about human inventions and innovations, and peek deep into space.IMG_0637

For a fee, breathtaking 3D movies can be watched in the IMAX Theatre next door. Dive into the fascinating blue world of Humpback wales, or take a Space shuttle ride up to the Hubble telescope. http://hubblesite.org/ And if you rather prefer to stay on firm grounds like me, you can enter Jerusalem’s ancient gates, wandering in the footsteps of Jesus, feeling the power of this holy pilgrimage site where Jews, Christians, and Muslims have been worshipping since biblical times.

The big pride of this entertaining and educational facility is no doubt the Endeavour Space Shuttle. http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/shuttleoperations/ From its first space launch in May 7, 1992, to its final take off on May 16, 2011, this amazing flying machine flew 25 space missions, orbited the earth 4,671 times, and travelled 122, 883,151 miles in space, until it retired here in October 2012.

Now, before you move on, let me tell you about the center’s professional event planning team. Whether you are a studio exec premiering your next movie, a proud mom sending your daughter off into married life, or someone who likes to party big, consider the huge home of the floating Endeavour. How cool is that? _DSC3698And if you are a space junkie like I am, don’t miss the special upcoming exhibitions and 3 D movies starting October 29: Journey to Space and Mission 26: The Big Endeavour.

Photographs of the Endeavour Space Shuttle, courtesy of the California Science Center.

Decolores

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Summer in Santa Fe is all about colores, colors. A rich palette simmering in every event across the “City Different.” This dazzling rainbow of hues arches over the streets, sidewalks, and adobe buildings in all its splendor; shining in the bustling markets, music festivals, world-class restaurants, cozy cafes, and eclectic crowds. It’s almost blinding; the colors and creativity, stunning talent and superb craftsmanship. One of the biggest events of the season is no doubt the International Folk Market, its’ magnitude and prestige attracting art collectors and connoisseurs from near and far.IMG_0382

So, that particular weekend in July, along with three ladies friends I headed up Museum Hill to experience the buzz myself. Once we entered the area among a throng of people from near and far, we were in for a treat. Not culinary but most of all visual. Artists from every corner of the globe displayed their prized ware in the most dazzling way under white-canopied tents overlooking the city.IMG_0383

From baskets, carpets, hats, scarves, pillowcases, and tote bags to porcelain masks, clay pottery and tableware, walking through this array of creativity was a feast for the senses.IMG_0385
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IMG_0406IMG_0413 IMG_0412Breathtaking. That’s how I felt as I ambled through this beautiful array of handmade creations, not knowing where to look first and what to pick for a souvenir. After several rounds, and revisiting booths, I finally bought two lovely woven baskets from Indonesia as well as two bright-colored handmade pillows from Turkmenistan.

IMG_0267Relaxing that night under the wide open desert sky, admiring the magnificent color burst of a red-yellow-orange streaks, the many faces, smiles, and beautiful things I admired at the International Folk Market danced in and out of my mind, and across this truly Enchanted Land. 

 

 

Valle Grande

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Did you ever behold the sight of an ancient super volcano? If you haven’t, let Valle Grande in Northern New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains be that place to take your breath away.IMG_8390

That’s what I experienced overlooking this grandiose valley, spreading like a monstrous carpet across the Valles Caldera National Preserve. These 89,000 acres of the National Park System was established after President Clinton signed the Valles Caldera Preservation Act in July 2000.

Gazing across the ancient land, I was sure glad he did. The dome-like hills ringing an enormous grass expanse rendered me speechless. IMG_8780

And so does the multitude of chirping prairie dogs scurrying across this vast caldera. IMG_8778Thirteen miles across, that’s what it said on the Historic Marker. I tried to imagine the titanic explosions that rocked the Jemez Volcanic Field about 1.2 million years ago; the mega volumes of red-hot lava streams, fiery boulders, and flaming smoke plumes creating this dramatic landscape until around 60,000 years ago.

Can you imagine? Gigantic explosions piling up 150 cubic miles of rock and blasting ash as far away as Iowa? It’s further believed that these explosions have been more than 500 times greater than the May 1980 eruptions of Mount St. Helens.

In the quiet of the valley, I couldn’t wrap my mind around such violent forces of nature of which some are still at work. IMG_8764The resurgent lava domes dotting the golden caldera floor landscape are evidence of magma below this dormant fire giant, which feeds the flourishing hot springs in the surrounding red-hot Jemez Mountains.IMG_8797

IMG_8799If you love the outdoors, every season has plenty to offer. From cross-country skiing, moonlight snowshoeing, and sleigh rides in winter, to hiking, stargazing, mountain biking, horse riding, trout fishing, and elk herds viewing in the summer, there’s something for everyone.

So, why wait? Put on your hiking shoes and let the melody of these ancient mountain meadows carry you away.Panaromic B with Logo

Southwest Chief

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Have you ever thought of exploring America’s western frontiers on railroad tracks? If the travel bug bites, why not ride the Southwest Chief from America’s Heartland to the Pacific Coast? 2,256 miles of spectacular scenery. That’s what one of my nephews did not long ago. Out of Chicago’s Union Station, riding across the wide-open plains of Kansas, under Colorado’s open skies, and down into New Mexico’s red painted desert, he finally hopped off the train in Lamy 24 hours later. Named after Jean-Baptiste Lamy, who became Santa Fe’s first Archbishop in 1853, the unassuming train stop in the middle of nowhere is just 18 miles south of Santa Fe off highway 285. IMG_8698Arriving in the muddy parking area steps from the tracks, I look around. Remains from recent rain showers are still dripping off the red-tiled train station, its sun-faded yellow paint having seen better days.

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Stepping into the terminal feels like going back in time.Wood-carved benches crowd the lounge, departure cum arrival hall.

IMG_8646Two restrooms, men, women, sit opposite an old-fashioned ticket counter, the grey-haired ticket agent peeking through bars from his cage. Quite an amusing sight! Like out of old movies. Back in the 21st century, waiting on the one and only platform, I look up and down the endless tracks. IMG_8641No train. But then, a whistle blows, the earth trembles, and the sky blue Southwest Chief crawls into the station. IMG_8704Oh, no! It’s the wrong one, from the City of Angels to America’s Windy City. IMG_8642Loaded luggage carts drive up, people scramble to get on..

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However they can… IMG_8656

Minutes later, the train pulls out of the station, a whistle sounds and another Amtrak train rolls in from Chicago. Doors fly open, passengers disembark, but where is my nephew? My heart races. The train starts moving again. Then it stops again, more doors open…and then I see him. This handsome young man, tall, broad shoulders, and a head of blond wavy hair. 31 years old. Finally. We hug. It’s the first time we meet in person. But that’s another story. IMG_8706

The Red Kimono

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I was taking an easy hike along the ridge overlooking Santa Fe when I stumbled upon an interesting place: a memorial site telling of the internment camp that used to occupy the beautiful park now spreading before me. http://www.manymountains.org/santa_fe_marker/020420.sfemonument.php Taken aback, I just stood there contemplating the fate of so many innocent Japanese men after the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941,

PEARL_HARBORwho were off loaded here at the gates one cold Spring day in 1942 facing some desolate terrain. train

A Japanese woman walked up to me, staring at the plaque for what seemed an eternity. Then she turned to me with a smile, saying hello. A lengthy chat ensued in which we both learned that we had one thing in common. Like me, she had recently written a book. Not a memoir but The Red Kimono, a historical novel, chronicling the heart-warming and heart-breaking account of a Japanese American family whose members ended up in three different internment camps.

In the course of our conversation author Jan Morrill, www.janmorrill.com pointed out that about 120,000 people of Japanese decent, many of them Japanese Americans on the IMG_0368West Coast were uprooted and separated, as World War II was about to unleash evil across the lands. Husbands, fathers, men from all walks of life ended up in this maximum security camp in New Mexico’s high desert. Those who arrived here for an uncertain future were classified as “The dangerous ones.” Doctors, lawyers, bankers, ministers or anyone that could be considered a community leader and pose a threat to the US government.

That’s what happened to Papa, one of the main characters in The Red Kimono, while his family was shipped half way across the nation to Rohwer in Arkansas.

Told through the eyes of eight-year old Japanese girl Sachi, mom_sachiThe Red Kimono is a poignant portrayal of the bitter fate of the Kimura family Moms familytrying to find meaning, hope, and identity through one of the darkest periods in American history.