NYC: One World

NYC: One World

I haven’t been able to spend much time in New York City in the last several years, and never experienced the powerful scene of the post 911 tragedy in person. Print media and images broadcast on television portrayed the horrific impact of the event, but I would have liked to have seen the rebuilding progress in person to offer my respect to the lives lost and to the thousands of people who worked so hard to give aid and rescue.

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My arrival fourteen years later to the World Trade Center depicted a completely different scene. As I write this today I am still humbled by the beauty of the site, and moved beyond words by the memorials to the victims. A peacefulness cloaks the sounds of construction and traffic, yet it still pulsates with a quiet energy.

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In the space where the Twin Towers once stood, waterfalls cascade into two enormous square memorial pools. The pools are surrounded with bronze panels inscribed with the names of all the 9/11 victims, as well as those who were killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

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Beneath the tree-shaded memorial plaza is an underground museum with multimedia exhibits that tell the story of 9/11 and its aftermath.

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An impressive observatory on the 100th floor of the newly completed Freedom Tower provides 360 degree views of the city and beyond.

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Views of the three bridges that connect Manhattan to Brooklyn, the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges.

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Freedom Tower

The new World Trade Center area is lovely. An area designed for reflection and grieving also provides hope for a better world. There is an energy and excitement pulsating throughout the 16 acres of the former Twin Towers. It bounces off the sparkling panes of glass of Freedom Tower, the memorial waterfalls and the dramatic new architecture ringing the area. I love this city, New York, and I’m deeply proud of my country.

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Please do visit One World Trade Center, the Memorial, the Museum and the rest of gorgeous Lower Manhattan. Official website links are found below, for information and tickets. I recommend buying your tickets to the Memorial and Observatory in advance, as the lines do grow very long.

911 Memorial Museum

One World Observatory

Crossing the Celestial Equator

Crossing the Celestial Equator

On Wednesday, September 23rd, the sun’s rays began to shine directly over the Earth’s equator marking the beginning of the Autumnal Equinox in the northern hemisphere. Fall’s arrival reminded us here in the U.S. that the days are growing cooler, that it’s time to dig out sweaters, find the forgotten rakes, and to pick fresh apples and start baking them in pies. It’s the season of leaf peeping, pumpkin carving and cheering through hours of football. It is a time for counting blessings and gathering our families to celebrate all that is good in life, for cherishing our friends and remembering those who passed. This year, remarkably, the sun’s rays also guided a humble man of the cloth to our country, a Pope named Francis, who taught us that kindness and humility, acceptance, and caring for those less fortunate than us remains our daily priority. This year, when the sun crossed the equator, it delivered hope.

Los Angeles Daily Life

Los Angeles Daily Life

Yesterday, our daughter shared that the L.A. area was finally drenched with much-needed rain, and then of course came the funny stories. Everyone walking around campus soaking wet because no one owns an umbrella, athletes puddle surfing on the wet practice fields, the freeways coming to a standstill because water was falling from the sky. You get the picture. The thought of rain quenching the parched area inexplicably made me miss the ocean and the balmy breezes of Southern California, and the people who live there who are wise to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds them. And of course hearing from her made me miss her very much, our little firecracker, who when she walks through a room, laughter isn’t far behind.

Malibu Blues

One of the highlights of Malibu is the Point Dume Nature reserve, a truly stunning stretch of coast featuring a rocky promontory that juts into the sea. The vast and beautiful Zuma Beach lies to its immediate North. Sea lions dot the rocks, and in the winter months (December through April) Point Dume is the best beach in Los Angeles to spot the Pacific gray whale annual migration from the Bering Sea in Alaska to Baja California Sur, Mexico. There is a cliff side hike with ocean views that my daughter and I wanted explore after reading that the experience will take your breath away and soothe your soul at the same time. A Yelp reviewer described it best:

“Ah, it never gets old to drive up the 1 and bask in the serenity that Mother Nature has blessed the California Coast with. Easy parking. Easy Walk. So much 360 degree beauty, you’ll want to put it on your bucket list.”

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Point Dume is a California State Preserve located 18 miles west of Pacific Coast Highway, along Cliffside Drive. Operated by Los Angeles County, it is overseen by the lifeguard branch of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and was named after Padre Francisco Dumetz of Mission San Buenaventura by George Vancouver in 1793. The beach was officially named “Dume” after the misspelling of Dumetz’s name on an 18th century map was never corrected!

Trailhead Address:

27807 Pacific Coast Highway

Malibu, CA 90265

The Courtyard Less Traveled

The Courtyard Less Traveled

Beyond the Louvre Pyramid lies a courtyard that few people notice during their stay in Paris. It’s just steps away from the crowds lining I.M. Pei’s modern glass entrance, but the Cour Carrée sits nearly empty even during the peak tourist seasons. This section of the museum called the “Old Louvre,” is the original site of a 12th century fortress, and later, a larger royal residence. The handsome buildings surrounding this courtyard were built between the 16th and 17th century, replacing the last external remnants from medieval times.

It’s the perfect place to enjoy the architectural history of the Louvre, especially at night, when the lights enhance the majestic Renaissance structure and interesting sculptures. Take a stroll one evening and study the details, or bring a camera and photograph the nighttime moment. If you’re lucky, you may be serenaded by a roaming musician or two. Luckier still, a night bicycle tour may glide through your photo shoot with their helmets aglow and surprise you with a laser-like light show through your photograph, adding another enchanting memory to your memory book  (above).

Related: Six Things You May Not Know About the Louvre

Big Sur and the Fabulous Mr. Fog

Big Sur and the Fabulous Mr. Fog

My husband and I  woke up in our cozy hotel room in Carmel, California to the clamor from the heating unit under the window, and to a sunless gray sky beyond the checkered window curtains. A single day was our allotted time during a side trip from San Francisco, and our plan to spend it on the coast in Big Sur was threatened by a persistent drizzle and a fog that seemed to float in and out on a blanket of whispers.  A travel article I had read advised not to rush when driving along the stunning stretch of coastline between San Simeon and Carmel, that Big Sur should be explored leisurely so as not to miss the many sites between the curves and valleys.  We  had time constraints, but with this scenic stretch of coastal wonderland at our doorstep, the alternative of choosing another spot for the day was simply not an option. BIGSURBIXBY3There is a certain freedom that comes with the realization that you have 90 coastline miles of one of the most popular and beyond beautiful tourist destinations in the world to yourself, an aloneness that was almost guaranteed by the early hour and gloomy weather. Each mile driven further into “el sur grande” or “the big south” that morning defined the beauty of the area despite the mist that clung to it. The landscape’s tumble toward the sea was so captivating that my husband and I became victims of what I call the stop and go syndrome, the uncontrollable act of pulling over, jumping out of the car, running around in circles in wonder, and repeating every half mile or so. We spent a full day there, which is enough to experience the greatness of Big Sur, but two days would have been perfect.  Here are a few thoughts if it’s on your trip list:

  • Plan ahead. Get to know the area and the highlights. If you’re a hiker, there are a variety of hiking trails, (see Hiking Big Sur) or a tree lover, the Redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park are a must. If you love the ocean…you’ll feel as though you’ve come home.
  • Leave as early as your body clock will allow. Big Sur gets crowded, and if you’d like a little alone time on a bluff overlooking the Pacific you’re more likely to get it at 9:00 am vs. noon.
  • The weather is generally moderate year round, and I can’t imagine the area being anything but gorgeous no matter what the day throws at you.
  • Cell phone service is non-existent for many miles along the Big Sur Coast.  Print out hard copies of directions for your wish list, or screen shot them so you’ll have them handy on your phone.
  • The top attractions are the tops for a reason: Mcway Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Bixby Bridge to name a few.
  • Pfeiffer Beach was my favorite, but the most difficult to find. The long dirt road to the sea is hidden, and we had to pass by the turn off a few times before we realized where to go. Parking is limited and there is a fee, but the amazing views, purple streaked sand, and giant rock formations were awe-inspiring.
  • For lunch, the charming Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant served the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever devoured, and the bakery goods reminded me of a weekend at Grandma’s.
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McWay Falls

“The details, that’s what the world is made of.”

BIGSURLIGHT2 My feature header picture is of Point Sur Lighthouse located on the Northern end of Big Sur. It’s retro vibe reminded me of the 70’s styling of a Wes Anderson movie, one of my favorite filmmakers.  Tours of the park are available on scheduled days of each week. For more information see Point Sur Historic Park and Lighthouse.

We Are Golden

We Are Golden

It’s hard to imagine visiting San Francisco without the great anticipation of a sighting of deep orange steel from the Golden Gate Bridge from almost anywhere you turn. Like the iconic Eiffel in Paris it teases, playfully peeking around street corners and waiting patiently for admirers to view it from the hilltops or from the hazy windows of the tallest of buildings. If I played a game where the rules read to avoid looking at it for an entire visit, I would come up losing. Have I seen it a hundred times? A thousand? I couldn’t possibly keep track. Generous, the structure’s form and color bring out the best of its natural surroundings, and as it reaches gracefully over the bay, the bridge completes the city and makes it whole.  It is timeless.

WP Blur Challenge: Or, How I Learned to do this on Purpose in Photography Class

WP Blur Challenge: Or, How I Learned to do this on Purpose in Photography Class

The ability to enhance your blog with beautiful photography seems like a no-brainer, until you actually attempt to master beautiful photography. After gamely trying to self-teach myself over the last few years, I finally caved-in to taking a few classes after someone innocently remarked that I had a good eye, but needed to master the technical. Shortly afterwards I was standing in the middle of a busy parking lot in downtown Atlanta adjusting my shutter speed for Lesson 2 on “panning” of my Photography class. It’s hard to adequately describe the visual of our cute young instructor gamely running from one end of the lot to the other encouraging our small group to freeze her motion with our cameras as we moved our bodies side to side, all in unison. After several attempts no one was successful, but I’m pretty sure it was due to mutual concern that our instructor, for all her enthusiasm, was going to hurt herself. Two weeks later, after lesson 4, I stood alone in the dark next to my car and started panning the cars passing by, trying not to focus on the fact that I was standing alone in a parking lot in the dark. My first three attempts were fine. I was relaxed, feeling the motion, and following through with my body just like your arm should after hitting a tennis ball. About to call it a night, a saw the flash of red before I saw the car, a red Porsche driving down the street fulfilling my dream of photography Nirvana. Not a technical masterpiece, but not too bad for a mid-session Photo2 student. Photo Challenges the Daily Post: Blur