Frequent flier

For the first time in my life I arrived home from New York, unpacked my bag, and left the suitcase out because I’m going to start packing for my next adventure this weekend. Incredibly grateful.

This is day 156 of Photo 365.

Venice goes digital

In October I sent 515 images to ScanCafe. I have two three-ring binders of very organized negatives and slide film, mostly of travel from nearly a decade ago that I want to save forever. Honestly? Most of the pictures are complete garbage, and that’s being nice. I can’t believe I took 13 pictures of a cliff side. Come on! Crashing waves aren’t that interesting. But I saved them all, fearful of deleting some sort of memory or place in time that I will never see again.

Of the 515 scans that now sit on my hard drive, the people of Venice, Italy are a favorite when looking back at what I had captured so long ago. The pictures made me realize that I’m not as adventurous with my camera as I used to be because I have developed an adult conscience. I’m too concerned about being nice and not offending and being respectful and not acting like someone who just points their camera at anything.

I have altered my photography because of limitations. Yes, I used to center everything instead of putting a picture into thirds, but I caught a few elements of life of Venice by not knowing the rules. Maybe in 2011 I need to remember to throw the rules out once in awhile.

The Portland alternative to a Holiday Inn

When you travel, there always seems to be one experience that brings the entire trip together. Not necessarily an “ah ha” moment when the planets align, but that experience which makes you think, ‘I understand this place.’

There are 100 things I could list about Portland to explain why it’s one of my favorite cities in America,  but it’s a hotel that made me think, I understand this place.

Located just 15 minutes from downtown Portland in Troutdale, Oregon stands McMenamins – Edgefield, a whimsical hotel/resort unlike any lodging facility I’ve ever stayed at.

The McMenamin family has seven hotels throughout Oregon and one in Washington. The concept? Restore old buildings and make them thematically cool. There’s the Kennedy School, a restored elementary school where the guest rooms retain their original chalkboard. There’s the White Eagle, a restored 1905 pub with lodging on the upper level and live music on the main floor every night of the week. But if you are looking for the most unique of the McMenamin hotel concept, McMenamin’s – Edgefield is the grand lady.

Edgefield was originally built as a poor farm and provided food and shelter to the residents for over 70 years. In its next life, Edgefield served as a nursing home and rehabilitation facility until it was abandoned in 1982. The main house and farm buildings began to rot and were vandalized. But thanks to the McMenamin brothers, Portland pub owners who had a vision for an artistic community with lodging rooms, the Edgefield property was saved and began to take shape in the 1990s.

When I arrived at Edgefield, grapevines in the front of the main lodge were the first thing I noticed. Then the playful signs, the 1930s farm houses and gently restored sheds. The guest room husband and I had was located in one of the farm houses, and we shared the house with about six other couples, each having their own private room. Never one to mind a shared bathroom, it was quaint and clean.

So what do you do at a typical resort? Hit the spa? Edgefield has one but I did not partake. Play golf? Yup, there are two par-3 courses. But what most resorts don’t have, Edgefield does. Live concert venue? Check. Movie theater? Check. Brewery? Check. Winery? Check. Restaurants and bars abound like any resort, but only Edgefield has converted the original ice house into psychedelic Grateful Dead bar.

McMenamin’s – Edgefield is a great stopping point for couples or a place to gather friends and hang out for the weekend. You never need to leave the grounds if you don’t want to. But if you stay at Edgefield, I do recommend you try several of Portland’s restaurants, see the sights, visit a few breweries and and check out night scene. When you come back to Edgefield to see a concert, listen to the Irish fiddle player on the lawn or catch a independent movie in the theater you might think, ‘I understand this place.’

The countryside of Ireland

Fishing boats in Howth


On the road to Trim.

Abandoned cottage.

Roadside Jesus.

Conor Pass, outside of Dingle.

At the bottom of Conor Pass, these horses were leisurely grazing.




Travel 10 days in one bag: the ultimate packing list

When you travel overseas the last thing you want is a lot of luggage. Drag a big suitcase on wheels over a cobblestone street in Italy and you will get stares and snickers. Take that same large suitcase on any train in Europe and pray for a spare seat next to you. Luggage compartments on the railways are typically not big enough to hold more than a large backpack unless you’re lucky.

I travel 10-12 days with a Rick Steves convertible bag. It’s dimensions are listed as 14 x 9 x 21. It allows me to put my Think Tank Speed Demon camera bag around my waist in the front, carry my clothes on my back, while keeping me completely hands free to fiddle with train tickets, maps, etc.

Think it’s impossible to put everything on your back? Think again. Here is my packing  list that I follow every time I leave home for a few weeks, plus my personal pre-travel to-do checklist with handy hints.


  1. Alarm clock, jewelry, sunglasses, European adapter, sporks for picnics
  2. Make-up bag and toiletry bag
  3. Hair dryer (if needed)
  4. Under garments (total days travel plus one for insurance in case of travel delays)
  5. Socks (total days travel)
  6. Sleeping t-shirt and shorts
  7. Shirts (total days travel)
  8. Jeans and slacks (one of each)
  9. Scarf
  10. Extra travel books and necessary confirmations, plus maps

Where are the shoes? Don’t need them. Wear the same pair on your feet everyday. It will save a lot of space. Dress-up clothes for fine dining? Not my style, plus it adds several additional layers to the suitcase for a one-time event. Packing light means prioritizing.

I’ve also gotten into the habit of slinging a carry-on sack for the plane that can be easily packed away once I arrive at my destination, and then brought out again for farmer’s market shopping or a place to put books for a long train ride.


  1. Money belt (which you need to put on once you arrive at your destination!)
  2. Passport and wallet with essentials needed
  3. Airline tickets/EuroRail tickets
  4. Travel books you want to read
  5. Neck pillow (Like the American Express card, don’t leave home without it)
  6. Sweater for chilly plane ride and chilly European nights

I carry more camera equipment than many, but here are the items that I find necessary for my camera bag:


  1. Digital SLR with lens attached
  2. Point-and-shoot camera
  3. Polarizing filter
  4. Extra memory cards
  5. Battery chargers
  6. Lens cleaning cloth

Finally, I keep a pre-travel list handy that makes a great reminder checklist to click-through before I holiday for a few weeks.


  1. Arrange care and feeding instructions for any pets at home
  2. Water plants
  3. Stop mail
  4. Call credit card companies and alert them of travel plans in specific countries (Note: In Europe most establishments accept MasterCard Euro, which is not the same as MasterCard as we know it in the U.S. Make sure you have a Visa card packed. Medium to larger establishments also accept American Express.)
  5. Compose “out of office” e-mail alert
  6. Pack plan baggie for the best hygiene feeling (travel toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, face wipes)
  7. Pack liquid security quart sized baggie to appease TSA, if necessary
  8. Photocopy your credit cards, passport and list out credit card emergency numbers. Hide away in your suitcase, far from your wallet
  9. Compose travel card with flight information for wallet

As much as I resemble a pack mule in this photo, this is a side view of me with all of my travel luggage exposed, just prior to jumping on a train for my next destination. It ain’t pretty, but it works. In the end, less is more.

The days of the travel journal

Not so many years ago I traveled with 20 rolls of film and a travel journal. I ditched the film in 2006 and the journal in 2008. I wouldn’t trade my digital camera for anything, but I regret not keeping up with my travel writing.

Documenting where you have been is a great way to relax at the end of a busy day of hard-core touring. Are you going to remember the unique characteristics of the Michaelangelo you saw 15 years from now? Probably not. And what about that unique encounter with a local that made you shudder or made your day? Write it down.

The other way of journaling about your travels is to photograph. I’m not talking about the perfect scene of Paris that is hung on a wall. While getting those types of shots can sometimes make your day on a trip, snapshots are what jar memories for me.

When I was in Florence one afternoon, I took the picture on the left. I wanted to show the massiveness of The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo) from a side street. As I was photographing, the man on the right walked up to me and said, “I am as beautiful as this street. Don’t you want my picture?” And then he gave me that grin. When I look back at my pictures from that trip, I am always reminded of that moment when I see this silly grin.

Do you have a special travel memory or encounter with a local you want to share? Post your stories and photos at the Travel Snapshots Group Flickr page!

Hit me with your best shot

The 4th of July holiday weekend is upon us, and many of you will be traveling to grandma’s house in Texas or watching fireworks in Washington, D.C. No matter where you go over the weekend, I want to see your travel snapshots.

I’ve created a new Travel Snapshots Group on Flickr – so this is your moment! Upload pictures of your 4th of July weekend and I will post the best entries on this site. The theme? “America Celebrates.” Pictures of parades, children with sparkers, your mom’s apple pie – whatever you feel is a great representation of the 4th of July celebration. You will be given full credit for your photograph(s) and all pictures are allowed – SLR to camera phone shots.

Entries are due by Wednesday, July 7.

And where am I going over the weekend? Stay tuned. I’ll post my Travel Snapshots as well!

Paris six feet under

The majority of people who look at my pictures from the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris say the images remind them of the Saint Louis Cemetery in New Orleans. The Big Easy is definitely on my travel list, but until I get there, Pere Lachaise is still the mecca of cemeteries that I’ve seen in my lifetime.

You might think that touring a cemetery is morbid, but I visit cemeteries with the same attitude I would at any memorial. It is a place to honor the lives of those who have passed, learn some history about the era in which they lived and admire the architecture before you.

Pere Lachaise is steeped in history.  The brainchild of Napoleon, the cemetery opened in 1804, and there are over 300,000 people buried there today. The cemetery was considered too far from the center of Paris when it first opened, so a campaign emerged to get more funerals on the property. The strategy was to move the bodies of famous Parisians to the cemetery, beginning with Jean de La Fontaine, a French writer and poet, and Moliere, a popular French playwright and actor. The marketing worked, and common Parisians clamored to be buried near the rich and famous.

Oscar Wilde’s grave was a favorite, with lipstick kisses firmly planted on every inch of his memorial. Edith Piaf’s grave was laced in flowers and photographs the day I was there, which put “La Vie en Rose” in my head for the rest of my walk. Max Ernst, Gertrude Stein, Frederic Chopin – many of the greats are laid to rest in this picturesque place, making it a definite stop on your Paris tour.

I’m probably the only person who has been to this cemetery and not visited Jim Morrison’s grave. It wasn’t because of my disinterest in paying homage to The Doors lead singer. I just got lost trying to find it. Pere Lachaise is over 118 acres and easy to get turned around in. If you decide to visit the cemetery, I highly recommend checking out the online virtual tour at the cemetery’s website and buying a map from one of the shops across the street from the cemetery before entering. You can also preview Rick Steves’ walking tour of the cemetery in addition to his Paris iPhone and iPad apps.

Note: Another great resource of traveler’s comments can be found The New York Times Paris Travel board.

As I see it …

As I see it, the world is simply an amazing place. So amazing, it’s beyond any meaningful and intelligent definition that I can come up with. My fascination with the various aspects of the world is one of the driving factors of why I travel. I love the smell of moldy cheese coming from the fromage shops in Paris. I love listening to the students practice their songs at the open-air music school in San Juan. I love talking with Belgians about their beer. And I love hearing Slovenians explain why they love America. Every place I go, near and far, the people and sights of the world thrill me. And this is my way of sharing those experiences with you. I hope you enjoy.