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Experience Eclipse 2017 in Charleston, SC

Planning to live in the “Dark Side of the Moon” for a couple of minutes? Interested in the “Moonshadow” live?

If you’re planning on taking a trip to a U.S. city, to take part in the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse experience, consider communities surrounding larger cities. Charleston is awesome. But, several communities surrounding Charleston, SC may be an easier bet to reach, to hunker in, and to explore. Among the sweetest is the Town of Summerville.

It’s estimated that, conservatively, the greater Charleston area will host between 60,000-80,000 visitors. Yet there have been several reports estimating over a million. According to College of Charleston Physics Professor, Dr. Chris Fragile, “This will be the most viewed eclipse in human history.” The South Carolina coast is the final place to view the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse before it heads out to cast the moon’s shadow onto the Atlantic Ocean.

The last coast-to-coast total eclipse to traverse North America was 99 years ago, in 1918. The next time the phenomonen of a total eclipse crossing our continent will occur is 35 years from now, in 2052. Why so seldom? The moon orbits at a five degree tilt. The earth and sun each spin on a separate axis. And, let’s face it; 70% of the earth is ocean, so our waters are much more likely to experience a total eclipse than we are.

HOW TO PREPARE:

Get Special Eye Protection

One cannot look directly into the sun on any occasion, and partial blockage of the sun does not affect its intensity, nor affect the ability to prevent eye damage. Sunglasses with UV protection will simply not cut it this time. Unless you have a welder’s shield collecting dust in your garage, you’ll need to invest a buck or two in a pair of eclipse glasses. When you wear a pair of eclipse glasses in a lit room, they will block out all light. Put them on to watch the sun and moon converge. Wear them, looking directly at the sun safely, to view the eclipse until totality. Only then, will you be able to remove the glasses briefly, to see the outer glow. Once the sun begins to once again emerge, you’ll need to don the glasses until you’re ready to, again, view the rest of the world around you.

You may also be fortunate enough to see “shadow bands,” explains Dr. Fragile. “They’re similar to the funny, squiggly shadows that appear at the bottom of the swimming pool,” he says. He suggests laying a white bedsheet on the ground to best view shadow bands.

Defer to your iPhone Camera

The amount of heat entering the lens and body of your 35mm SLR camera may be damaging. But iPhone cameras are designed to adjust to the amount of ambient light, making it safe to use. It may be time to purchase an iPhone tripod, or determine how to securely attach your selfie stick to your tripod.

Even through a telescope, a dense mylar filer is a necessity.

Plan for Chilly Weather

Yes, on August 21st, you are heading directly into the scorching summer heat of South Carolina. But you will need to pack a few items to keep you warm. During a total eclipse, the temperature will drop and the winds may pick up. Charleston Southern University Professor of math and physics, Dr. Fred Worthy, says that he experienced a partial eclipse during which the temperature plummeted by 30 degrees.

Escape the Crowded Interstate by Checking Out a Surrounding Community

I’m biased, because I lived in Summerville, S.C. for 12 years, and it remains my “home,” whether or not I live there. Totality  in Summerville will be experienced for between one minute and 40 seconds to two minutes. For additional eclipse stats, check out this link.  Summerville Dream has a great microsite highlighting the Eclipse happenings around Summerville. And, Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site will host events throught the weekend preceding the Eclipse. Check out the lineup at… http://southcarolinaparks.com/products/10004632

Summerville, S.C., The Birthplace of Sweet Tea, may be easier to access, because of its proximity to I-26, the main conduit into Charleston. One you’re settled in Summerville, check out the many things to do in the area both before and after the eclipse. Go to VisitSummerville.com to research and pre-plan your extra time. Visit private merchants in and around the quaint town square reminiscent of small southern towns, indulge in a game of golf, or take a walking tour of the town’s permanent sculpture collection – plus find Sculpture in the South’s more than twenty life-sized bronzes of birds perched on balconies, windowsills, shop signs and rooftops.

Also check out Summerville DREAM, the Summerville Visitor’s Center and Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce at 402 N. Main Street for recommendations on events, restaurants, or even that emergency auto mechanic you are not pre-planning to meet.

Buy the T-Shirt! The Greater Summerville/Dorchester Chamber of Commerce is selling a “totality awesome” glow-in-the dark T-Shirt. And a portion of the proceeds benefit the organization’s scholarship fund. You can pre-order your shirt and pick up at the Chamber – or stop in to purchase in person.

Need more information on visiting South Carolina? Check out  http://discoversouthcarolina.com/products/52.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Send Letters to the Universe

Consider something like this….

Dear Mother Nature,
Please do not send cloud cover on August 21, 2017!
With all due respect,
Mum

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Navigating Your Travel Treasure Hunt

The very first stamp, on my very first passport, was earned in 1994 as I passed through Customs in London’s Heathrow Airport. I had ventured beyond the U.S. alone, on a three week long business trip and felt compelled to find a small, yet meaningful memento to take home. Although I do confess to owning a Milton Glaser I LOVE NY t-shirt, I prefer to find something more lasting. Today, regardless of their monetary value, my travel treasures are among my favorite things.  What do I look for? And where do I search for cool stuff?

International thrift stores contain unusual things. I discovered a fabulous vintage vase at a charity shop in England, wrapped it in layers of clothing, and prayed it would make the trip home. It did. But I learned a valuable lesson about my travel treasure-hunt habits. Today, bubble pack is on my Top Ten Must-Pack List.

Locally produced goods are among my favorite finds. I’ve picked up small blown glass items in factories in Bermuda and in Mexico. These objets d’art transport me to the place and time where glassblowers created their work as we watched on.

A trip to the grocery store is a must. From unusual flavors of Tang, to salsas, sauces, herbs and oils, take the opportunity to come home and allow your vacation to linger in your home until you’ve shared your treats with others. Among my

all-time favorites were several pounds of Costa Rican coffee, and the treasured bottle of Garzón Olive Oil reminiscent of my trip to the Garzón winery/orchard.

 

 

 

 

 

Local wines and spirits are yours to discover. The local Costa Ricans introduced Li and I  to Guaro. They laughed. We later learned why. Guaro is, in fact, GRAIN alcohol! For fun, I still brought home a couple of small bottles. The local Ron Barceló rum and Mamajuana I carried home from the Dominican Republic are still favorites for sipping my way into daydreams of coconut-filled wagons, a quiet beach, and the fresh whole fish we ate at sunset, toes embedded in the silky sand.

Never understimate the value of FREE.  Wine corks are integrated into my décor. The Bouza cork in my plant pot is from a memorable dinner with my extended Uruguayan family.

Shells, coral, and sea glass pieces washed ashore have found their way into a display cabinet. Each glass container, filled with shells, and labeled by location, generates lasting tranquility in my home. I can almost HEAR the crashing waves!

Individual Ziplock bags contain a menagerie of tickets, receipts, menus, business cards and phone numbers from each trip. As I blog, it’s easy to track down names and dates, and match photos to exact places and times. These invaluable “pinch me” keepsakes serve as reminders to be grateful for my amazing travel experiences.

Bring home art! I find interesting work in small, local galleries, or at street fairs. I take the time to meet the artist and share my appreciation for their work.  I selected Carol Joy Shannon’s hand-painted guitar during a visit to Myrtle Beach, SC.  The golden-haired child hanging next to it is a find from Key West, FL. And the ballerina was acquired from a  gallery in Costa Rica. While all are paintings, I’ve chosen work of other mediums, like the pastel nude, the encaustic wax bottles of colour, and the watercolor/pen and ink drawing of New York City.  I have a backlog of framing to do – to showcase artwork collected in Uruguay and Argentina. And, each piece carries meaning, a story, and a flood of memories.

Jaco Beach, Costa Rica
Cooperstown, NY
Union Square, New York, NY
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A Phnom Oudong Outlook

On my final day in Cambodia I was in for a treat. S took the day off work, made a very tasty spanish tortilla for breakfast, and (along with A & Y) we  were off on an adventure. We hired a tuktuk for the day and set off for a long drive north through the countryside, destination:  Phnom Oudong.

Phnom Oudong, a mountain bordering the formal royal capital and Buddhist religious site, is about an hour dive north of Phnom Penh. Highway 5, which runs along the Tonle Sap river , isn’t yet fully paved, but will take you nearly to the gate. The dive north was something of an event in itself for me. From our tuktuk I would see the neighborhoods of the Cham minority (Cambodian ethnic muslims), rice paddies, fields of lotus flowers, factories, and tradtional khmer homes on stilts (so that they won’t flood during the rainy season). The sides of the roads are littered with trash throughout the country, as infrastructure hasn’t quite caught up with development yet, and at various points along the way there were small fires that were set to burn the collected rubbish. Cows walk on the shoulder, or sometimes in the middle of the road, prompting drivers to swerve around them.

just a few cows, in the road

 

You start walking up an incline past a number of stupas damaged by the Khmer Rouge, until you reach the start of the stone steps carefully set into the side of the mountain. There are a total of 509 steps up to the buddhist temple, and for the last section you need to take your shoes off out of respect (the white marble steps allow for you to not burn your feet). Along the way you pass baskets for monetary offerings, local beggars, and another stupa. We even encountered a few wise monkeys on our ascent.


The stupa at the very top is an incredible work of art. The white stone almost glows and every surface has intricate carvings and iconography. When you can finally tear your eyes from the structure and look out, the view is incredible from every direction. The country side below stretches  like a lush, green, patchwork quilt. From the southern view you can see the old city of Oudong below with its gold painted structures and temples.

Being so far away from the intensity of the city, looking out over the beautiful countryside, and hearing the buddhist prayers rise from a local center, its hard not to feel that this is something completely special. Thank you, Cambodia.

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Navigating Atlanta Airport

If you travel, you’ve probably experienced  Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Int’l Airport at least once.  The world’s busiest airport sees 90 million passengers a year and I’m one of them.   The surrounding area is a maze of parking lots and there’s a pick-up/drop-off area on both the North and South side of the domestic check-in to keep the traffic flowing. If you’re going to or coming from the city, I recommend considering taking MARTA. The local transit train has a terminating point at the airport and fares start at $2.50 one way. It doesn’t go everywhere, in town but will get you closer.

The layout of the terminals is linear, starting from domestic check-in and  then moving alphabetically towards the international terminal. Each lettered terminal is connected by the “Plane Train” as well as walkable corridors. While its fairly easy to navigate, there are a million stories of running down the long walk ways to catch connecting flights in other terminals. Once I  ran from the far right of Terminal D to the far left of Terminal A and barely made the connection! The gate agent closed the boarding door behind me, the flight attendant announced to the airplane that “the prodigal daughter” had arrived,  and I proceeded to have a small asthma attack in my seat.  All in all a memorable way to start a journey!

If you have a long enough lay-over or have arrived at the airport early, take some time looking at the guide. Each terminal as some unique shops or restaurants, and you can probably find something you have a taste for. There’s also a few different vegetarian options to be had!  I recommend walking between terminals instead of taking the train, if you have the time.  Each one has a different art exhibit and they do change occasionally. New this year is an immersive forrest experience between Terminals A and B.

If you’re traveling with your dog, like I do with Hondo, there’s a pet relief area outside the baggage claim on the far end of the South Terminal. Its double gate makes it secure for an off-leash moment and the astroturf provides a space for year-round doggie relief. The metal sculptures are probably better enjoyed by pet-parents who can sit on the provided benches while the hairy ones are having a good sniff.  There are currently no dog relief areas in terminal, but signs in Terminal C announced their intention for this in fall 2016. As of November, they are not open yet.

Update 12/13/16: the Atlanta airport kindly tweeted me to let me know that animal relief areas are now open by gates B33 and C21! I must have missed them my last time through. I blame the massive cold I had. 

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Walking in Memphis

When your a friend calls and says “Want to meet me in Memphis for a weekend?” you, of course,  say “yes” which can only mean that there will be a lot of laughter during and a good deal of exhaustion after.

Memphis, TN  is a little more than 5hrs drive time from home, so I decided to do it as a road trip, maybe stopping at interesting small towns along the way. While the drive happened, the stopping didn’t.  If you take US22 through Alabama and Mississippi you’ll quickly learn that there is very little along the way. So road trip ended up being about the destination while the journey was non-stop and keeping fingers crossed that a gas station would magically appear before the petrol gauge went to E.

Memphis is a nice little town. The city is smaller than you’d think, and nothing is too far away, especially in the center/downtown/tourist area. Its easy to park (lots of street and lot options) and walk to many of the museums, shops, and restaurants.  Our agenda took us little wider than Beale Street because after all, Memphis is all about its history and music, which was why we were there.

BB King's Guitar at Sun Studios
BB King’s Guitar at Sun Studios

Every day started with a song, and with Paul Simon’s tune of the same name, we were off to Graceland. Elvis’s last home and museum to The King is something you have to do once.  The house tour was thick with tourists and facts from the interactive iPad tour, but engaging and enjoyable. The home is nearly exactly as it was in the 1970s, with only the outbuildings altered to display tour costumes and awards.   A real portrait of the time and of a man.

Music day continued with Sun Studio and Johnny Rivers’s “Memphis, TN” The tour runs once an hour on the half hour and is totally worth the wait. Our guide was passionate, animated, and also works there as a sound engineer at night (they still do live recordings) and spins a good chocolate malted from the counter in the gift shop.  Of course the tour includes a good deal of Elvis talk, but they are very eager to talk about the past and future of the Blues, real Memphis soul.

National Civil Rights Museum
sit in sculpture and film at National Civil Rights Museum

History day in the city began with Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” and was focused mostly on the National Civil Rights Museum.  Built into the former Lorraine Motel, the museum is a powerful and intense look at the fight for equality in the US. Artifacts, films, and audio recordings of the experiences of individuals are arranged on a chronological journey from colonial slave trade to modern human trafficking.  We happened to be there on the anniversary of the march on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream” speech. In one room they had this playing on small television in the wall. Every person who entered the room froze to listen to the words and voice from 1968, barely breathing until the end. As my friend and I drove away U2’s  “Pride” began to play.

By the time I dropped my friend at the airport and drove the 5+ hours home, i only had enough energy left to pick up my dog from camp and pour a glass of wine. Memphis, you’re alright.

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Julie Andrews and Favorite Things

Art, architecture and wine. I cannot help but recall the songbird voice of Julie Andrews singing, “These are a few of my favorite things.” But indulging in my favorites while on a “Jolly Holiday” traveling to foreign lands is truly icing on the umbrella. And Uruguay is a new place to embrace and explore these things that invigorate me – even during the winter rainy season.

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casapuebloDriving along the coast from Montevideo to La Casa del Sol, the home and archive of famed abstract artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, was spectacular. The breathtaking view from the cliffs of Punta Ballena (pronounced bah-she-nah in Uruguayan Spanish) was nearly as spectacular as the opportunity to stand inside and in front of his original paintings, ceramics and sculptures spanning Vilaró’s 64-year career. Construction of his sculptural abode took 40 years to complete, one segment at a time. Creative energy seeps from the pores of this concrete live-in sculpture, and his life story is one of both art and compassion. You’ll want to learn more about this artist who pursued challenges spanning a wide range of artistic endeavors throughout his lifetime at http://carlospaesvilaro.com. You’re certain to appreciate his painting, sculpture, literary, screenwriting, film-making, architectural, and musical talents.

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About the vino. Over 15 years, I’ve learned tidbits about soil, sun and harvest, yet I was unprepared for the massive lands of Garzón winery, the high-tech production methods and the warm welcome we’d receive by Eduardo, the engineering manager. My new friend Mece (pronounced Meche), a member DickanDykesDreamRoof.smof a women’s wine club, arranged for our very own private VIP tour. Breathtaking architecture with a jaw-dropping 360 view from the highest point on the expansive property is as overwhelming as it is beautiful. The roof line boasts a dance platform on which Dick Van Dyke would certainly opt to kick up his heels.

Estate.smAlthough it’s not the only grape of the winery – or the country – I’ve fallen in love with Tannat. Vines originating from France were planted in this area of Uruguay, near Punta del Este, with similar growing conditions to where they thrive in Europe. Respect for the environment is evident, as inside of the winery facility you’ll find natural rock with a trickle of spring water always flowing. We stopped by the lab and met the chemist and intern as they’d finished testing the Mystery content of beakers. Countless oak, steel and concrete “barrels” hold liquid gold before it is bottled. Did you know that a movement to use larger barrels to lessen the strong “aged-in-oak” flavor is a growing trend? Or that some wines of a single grape are aged in half-American and half-French oak, and blended to create an oak finish that reflects the properties of each wood? Whether blanco or roja vino, my palate simply prefers oak. But I now pledge to pay more attention to the wood’s origin.

Deep in the bellows of Garzón winery lies a special dungeon where members of privilege can store their special collections in private cellars; where diplomats and people much more important than I may meet privately, uninterrupted, to discuss the woes of the world while sipping vino reserva ’til the cows Capibaras.smcome home. Or in this case, ’til the carpincho or capibaras (giant rats — seriously) living on the property emerge from the trees. A curved conference/tasting table nests in the center of the circular room exuding its own inner-circle presence. At the moment, the cellars each remain devoid of luxurious wine collections, awaiting the opening of this special wine retreat.

Interested in joining the soon-to-open exclusivo wine cellar? Or simply prefer to know more about one of the great wines of Uruguay? Visit http://bodegagarzon.com/en/

Allow me to declare that Mary Poppins’ spoon-full-of-sugar is no match for the medicinal quality of the fermented Tannat grape — aged in oak, thank you.

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The Calle Less Traveled (by tourists)

If you’re doing research into a trip to Cabo San Lucas there’s one place all of the guidebooks, websites, and bloggers will tell you is a must do: El Arco aka The Arch. This is a natural rock formation off the western side that is only viewable and reachable by boat. Everyday there are tons of tours that take visitors out to the landmark, some adding snorkeling, open bar, buffet lunch, access to Lover’s Beach, or a romantic sunset. We didn’t go. Here’s what mum and I did instead:

abandoned tuna cannery
We walked. Cabo San Lucas is a walkable town with sidewalks on both sides of nearly every street. The first two streets that run parallel to the marina are adapted for tourists. You’ll find a ton of bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops. This is also where you’ll find the infamous “Cabo Wabo Cantina.”  We stopped there once for coconut shrimp (best cooked all week) and a pair of over-priced margaritas.

The main beach is Medano Beach. Many of the hotels back onto its soft sand. Its fully of restaurants, bars, tourists, and locals selling small souvenirs. We went the other direction, past the naval station, to the beach that the locals use. It had a definite laid back feel and very soft sand. The bonus for Mum and I was that you pass by the abandoned tuna cannery. The ruined building behind a chain link fence is just the kind of thing we like to take far too many photos of.

blown glass artist
On the east side of town, about a 1.5 miles from the marina, is Vitrofusion Glass Factory. If you have the time its a place where you can watch the artisans making everything from figurines of dolphins to tableware. Its an amazing process and they might even let you take a try at glass-blowing.

If you dare to wander a few blocks off the tourist blocks on the west side you find some great things. The town square has the old church off to one side (still active today) and the museum on the other. Its quiet, calm place where children were playing tag.

A little further we found something that was not on any map we had seen: the botanical garden. Set on a hill in town and surrounded by homes, the large open gate beckoned us to explore. There are no green houses, but instead is a series of winding paths up and down the hill with a variety of unmarked desert plants left to grown naturally with little winding shrubs and saguaro cacti.  On the top of the hill is a real treat – sweeping panoramas of the city and surrounding desert.

While it would have been enjoyable to take a boat tour, do we regret not seeing the arch? Not in the least.