Winter wanderlust setting in…

Temperatures in the single digits.

Cars dirty with salt residue and road grime.

Three inches of snow last night.

I want to get away.

But, not to a beach. Not to warmer weather. To better winter weather.

I love winter. I need the change of seasons to keep my internal rhythms right with the world. But, Central Illinois is not my idea of a “Winter Wonderland”.

Switzerland, Colorado, Banff, Bavaria, Scottish Highlands… those are the winter wonderlands I want to visit. Now. Right now.

Sadly, it’s January. I’m a teacher. There’s no traveling for me in January; so, I’ll just have to settle for virtual travel. If you’re in the same boat, or sled (much more winterish), check out these photos and websites to cure that winter wanderlust.

St. Moritz, Switzerland

St. Moritz

St. Moritz, Switzerland; photo courtesy of MySwitzerland.com

Seriously. Isn’t that absolutely stunning?

Little villages nestled among forests. Trees with boughs sagging under the weight of fresh-fallen snow. Are you kidding me? That’s where I would love to be right now.

I’ve never been to St. Moritz. I’ve been to the Lake Lucerne and Mt. Titlis areas, but never the iconic St. Moritz. When I go (notice the optimism), I would love to go during the snowy months. I’ll take what I can get, but seriously – what could be better?
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Paris never disappoints.

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The skies in Paris have never disappointed me. Paris really is the “City of Light”. I’m not sure what it is, but on a sunny day the skies are the bluest blue. As the sun sets, the clouds filter light into mesmerizing patterns that bounce off of the Seine, the cobblestones.

I’ve heard many say that they really weren’t that impressed with Paris. I simply don’t get it. I cannot explain how someone cannot be enthralled with this gorgeous city.

Maybe it’s the lens.

Looking through the lens of a camera, I see more beauty, more play of light, more grace. The loud tourists mute. The dirty stone seems brighter.

The lens has never disappointed me. Paris has never disappointed me.

All photos ©Emily Coombe. Photos shown unedited.

Worried about losing your travel docs while away?

When you travel, no matter how well you plan your trip, there are several circumstances beyond your control:

  • Transportation strikes, especially in Europe where protesting is a sort of national sport
  • Lost or delayed luggage
  • Illness
  • Pickpockets, tramps and thieves – wait… is that a Cher song?

While you can’t fully protect yourself against these trip-altering situations, you can do your best to protect yourself with a few simple, and often inexpensive, steps.  Continue reading

Trash + Fashion = Trashion. Barcelona’s Vaho.

Souvenirs – the things you find in tacky tourist shops. Magnets, key chains, ubiquitous t-shirts made in China.

Souvenirs, Barcelona. Courtesy of http://www.virtualtourist.com.

I don’t buy souvenirs. I prefer functional reminders of a trip, made locally.

From the Cahors region of France, I brought back wine and a piece of pottery made by an atelier whose rustic, quaint studio was a shack built into the side of a mountain by a road. I also made it home with reusable shopping bags from the local grocery store, and over a thousand digital photos.

From Guatemala, a table runner handmade locally. For my mother, a hand-embroidered pillow cover. Well, that’s not true. The little old lady in the Chichicastenango Market showed me a hand-embroidered pillow cover, we haggled, I agreed to a price, she bagged the cover, I put it in my luggage back at the hotel, I brought it home, I gave it to my mother, I turned it over to show her the hand embroidery… the old lady had switched it out for a machine-embroidered, almost-identical pillow cover. Lesson learned.

From California, I brought back rocks. Yes, rocks. Not pet rocks. Just rocks. I use them around the house for vase fillers. And I don’t just pick up rocks in Cali. I have several bowls and vases with rocks from all over the world – Venice Beach, San Francisco, Galway, Lucerne, Dachau, etc.

But from Barcelona I brought back trash. Yes, trash. Well, sort of. Trashion.

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A 50th Anniversary Trip… (Not Mine)

It’s true. My parents will have been married for 50 years as of next month. In their 70s, they are finally starting to work on their bucket list. Or my bucket list. Or Mom’s bucket list. My father doesn’t seem to have one.

To celebrate their golden anniversary (50 is golden, right?), they are going to take their first trip to Europe… a Viking River Cruise on the Rhine. (To be fair, they aren’t homebodies. They lived in Seoul for a few years in the late 60s while Dad was in the Army, and we traveled the U.S. frequently growing up.)

Have you checked airfare lately? Outrageous!

I convinced them that if they were going to spend that much money on airfare, they had better squeeze more out of Europe than just a week. So, I have been “hired” (guess what the pay is… love and homemade pie) to fly over a week ahead of their cruise with them and give them a tour of Southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. And Lichtenstein. We can’t forget Lichtenstein.

What qualifies me as their tour guide? Absolutely nothing. I have been to the area once before almost 10 years ago on an educational tour with students; but, that was nothing like this. I was not the guide. We had Elena. My parents just get me.

My dad loves the mountains, but hates driving in them. He loves cruises, but gets seasick. The man is a walking conundrum. But, he isn’t letting that get in his way of traveling, which I guess is my point.

My parents are in their 70s and they have started to come around to my way of thinking…

  • Never wait for the perfect opportunity to do something, or you’ll be waiting forever.
  • God wouldn’t have created so many beautiful places and faces in this world if he didn’t want me to travel.
  • There are many beautiful destinations in the United States, but there is more excitement in traveling abroad.

We take off in July. We’ll see how it goes. In any case, I’m proud of my parents for taking that first trip to Europe.