“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
I have 3 things to share this week:
1) Happy news: Capitol Prague, a new restaurant and cafe in Washington D. C. / Georgetown, has bought use of of one of my photographs of Charles Bridge in Prague for use as a mural inside their cafe.
Isn’t it gorgeous? And, illy is my very favorite coffee, the one we drank at our home in Prague. Na zdravi! (Cheers!)Read More»
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Now that I’m back in the US after 4 years abroad in Europe, I’ve noticed thousands of photos I’ve haven’t gone through from my travels there. So, each third week of the month, I’ll be posting favorite photos from the travel archives…
I’ve posted previously on Italy’s Lost City of Pompeii and separately on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, but often the two aren’t connected though they’re merely a handful of miles apart. Here, find photos from both, one of my favorite regions in Europe: Italy’s Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, south of Rome.
The Amalfi Coast is a gem with dazzling turquoise waters and steep, sheer cliffs that drop breathlessly into the Mediterranean.
“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” -John Steinbeck, Harper’s Bazaar, 1953Read More»
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here we will sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony. -Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
“To not see Europe during our years in Prague would be like sitting at arm’s-length from a dessert table and not ever taking a bite.
All of Europe is so accessible from the Czech Republic — Rome, Paris, Stockholm, Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Geneva, and Venice are all easily reached within a day’s drive. It’s been a terrific once-in-a-lifetime experience to live in Prague and get to travel Europe with our family. We are so grateful!”
I wrote the above words 2 years ago, when I visited Venice for the first time. And I can say in the time since, Venice has not let me out of its clutches. Venice enchants with its color and light, reflections and antiquity, lavishness and decay.
I have been working over the last year on my new novel, working-titled THE GOLDEN WILLOW, partially set in Venice and the Cinque Terre, Italy, and partly in New Orleans, Louisiana. I am enjoying it immensely, so much that the work in writing is still work, but also play. It is the vivid memory of my visits to Venice that fuels the creation.
So, this week, as I travel, I’m posting the images I love of Venice in February:
“The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.” – Terri Guillemets
The first time I saw Prague’s Charles Bridge, the weather was hot and the bridge was crowded. It had been the height of summer tourist season (August) and construction crews worked on replacing the cobblestones on over half of the width of the legendary bridge spanning the Vltava River in Prague. I remember thinking about taking a photograph, but with three children in tow and other tourists pressing in on all sides of us, there was no opportunity other than simply to make it across. Despite the heat and the crowds, my first time across Charles Bridge was a memorable experience.
Every time I’ve seen the bridge and had the opportunity to meander across it in the four years since then, I’ve walked across in wide-eyed wonder. There is so much to see: the saint statues and the river, the spires on each side of the river, the autumn changing leaves, and the soaring swans and water birds, the organ-grinder man collecting change in an old hat, the artists and vendors and jazz ensembles adding flavor to the air. The Charles Bridge is Prague’s most enchanting place.
In January, an unexpected snow fell overnight before I was to meet a friend at the Castle in Prague. When I woke, I saw this view and decided to venture straight downtown, to write near the bridge on that day, and take a few moments to capture the beauty I might find there.
And beauty blew me away.
I have never been the only person on the Charles Bridge. On that frigid, snowy morning, I was.
It was an experience that will linger for a long time to come …
For other photographs I’ve taken of Prague’s Charles Bridge, you can find them by clicking here.
For you: Have you traveled to Prague? What is your favorite place / time of year to come?
Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads. -Author Unknown
In Winter, there is no better way to spend the dark, bleak, cold days than to hop on a pair of skis and enjoy the snow. Growing up, I skied often at the Purgatory Mountain resort in Durango, Colorado, where my grandmother lived. It was fun, exhilarating, and delightful, but also dangerous beyond belief. I love to ski.
When my family moved to Czech Republic, we skied downhill in the Austrian Alps–great experiences filled with deep snow, steep slopes, and frequent stops at the traditional Austrian huttes. But back at our home in Prague, we had snow, and snow, and more snow. The community farms and public parks in and around Prague were covered in deep snow for months, and cross-country skiers were everywhere. It was after the first winter in Czech Republic that I realized I was embracing the wrong kind of skiing.
I asked for a pair of used cross-country skis for my birthday our second year in Prague, and the day after my guys gave them to me, it snowed. Since roads aren’t plowed where we live, I could ski right out my front door (no more lugging heavy boots and skis), and after the first time out on the new (used) skis, I was hooked. So was the rest of my family, who also tried out my skis. We bought 4 more pairs of cross-country skis the next week.
Since then, we’ve skied every time it snows enough to cover the ground. We’ve traveled and skied in the Italian Dolomites, and last month, we brought our skis to Switzerland, to the Engadin lake region of the world-renowned St. Moritz.
Without a doubt, St. Moritz and Engadin have the most beautiful, pristine, well-kept, well-groomed, first-class ski conditions I’ve ever seen in my life. The trails go for 125 miles around lakes, up and down hills, and are used by novice and professional skiers alike. My husband and I and our kids (ages 14, 11, 10) skied only 15 or so miles, and it was the most beautiful trail I’ve ever imagined.
If you enjoy being outdoors in the winter, I highly recommend trying cross-country skiing. And if you enjoy cross-country skiing, there is no place in the world like skiing the Engadin lake valley of St. Moritz.
For You: Have you skied Engadin / St. Moritz? Where is your favorite place to cross-country ski?
“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
During the holidays, in the changing of the calendars from 2012 to 2013, and in the pristine time of Christmas which is celebrated so lavishly in Italy, my family and I ventured from our home in Prague down into Northern Italy, to enjoy our final wintertime in Europe.
We stayed in a cozy stone chalet nestled in the snow-covered peaks and a 13th century village high above Chiavenna, Italy.
On the way from Prague to Chiavenna, we stayed the night in Milan and had the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of getting to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting.
We also traveled past our favorite castles in the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy.
On our way north from Milan toward Italy’s notch of land carved into the south of Switzerland, we traveled along the famous Lake Como and lake district of Northern Italy.
So much of historyhas happened in this region, as with all of Europe. We imagined as we drove through tunnels and wove along the gorgeous coastline of Como. The best part was seeing the sky-high mountaintops at sunrise.
The reflections, the morning pink rippling over inky nighttime black, the sawtooth Alps guarding over the beauty found there– all of it struck me and continues to strike me deeply.
In our lives, we need quiet moments; time for reflection, conversation, and reverie; moments for steep hikes and snowballs; mornings of skiing and immersion in the surroundings.
The time in the Italian Alps was such a gift. It was a beautiful, gorgeous, incredible place to spend time as a family around Christmas and the new year. If you ever have the chance to visit, I highly recommend it.
Next Wednesday, I’ll be posting photographs of the even-more-stunning beauty we found in the Saint Moritz lake region of Switzerland.
For You: Do you live near water? Do you enjoy seeing the reflections at sunrise and sunset?
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” -Pablo Picasso
If there were ever a time we need to wash the dust of life off, it is now.
I am so saddened by what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. A tragedy of that magnitude makes us all around the world consider how we should move forward, carry on, and still honor the vibrant lives and spirits that were cut short on that morning. Surely the answer is in helping the world heal and find peace, especially from the inside. Or as Miss Rumphius, one of my favorite children’s book characters, says: we need to help make the world a more beautiful place, soften the edges, and send out love.
One way to take part in hope is through art.
“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
In Prague, where I currently live, art is all around, in the architecture, in the jazz rifts echoing along the city streets, in the sculptures and performances and rich cultural history. Czech Republic is a country whose heritage is art.Read More»
“Through the window, the night air appeared dense, each snowflake slowed in its long, tumbling fall through the black. It was the kind of snow that brought children running out their doors, made them turn their faces skyward, and spin in circles with their arms outstretched.” -Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child
Isn’t that what happens when the first snow falls? We watch in amazement as the muddy autumn world turns a crisp winter white. It’s as if the lacy flakes dance and twirl and mimic our hearts during the first snowfall — we feel lighter, more joyful. Snow turns us all into children again, if we let it.
This past weekend, in Prague, we had our first gorgeous snowfall. Yes, we suffered through an October snow that snapped tree limbs and piled atop colored leaves still on the trees. But this snow was different. It was the kind I classify as pure magic.
My family and our dear friends’ family met at the National Theater for an afternoon Advent Concert. It was beautiful (next week, I’ve decided I have to blog about the Theater, which I LOVE). When we exited the Theater, a shimmering of pixie dust glittered in the air, stirring the Castle and the Vltava and the vintage trams rumbling by the legendary Cafe Slavia into a magical land.Read More»
”History teaches everything including the future.” -Lamartine
When I stand in Prague along the Vltava River and see this view, I can hardly imagine the hundreds of years of stories and history tucked into the walls and crevices of the buildings:
- Prague Castle (the long, horizontal building that stretches across much of this photograph) was founded around the year 880 and is made up of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architectural styles. The Castle has hosted the region’s ruling powers through countless wars, the Nazi occupation, the Soviet Communist rule, and the post-Velvet Revolution government — for over one thousand years.
- St Vitus Cathedral, with its high Baroque and Gothic spires inside the Prague Castle walls, was founded on the 21st of November, 1344, during the reign of King Charles IV. The beauty inside is astounding, especially considering the cathedral is approaching 700 years old.
- St Nicholas of Mala Strana Church, constructed around 1750 (the spires on the left of the photograph), was a favorite Nazi spying outpost, from the top of its bell tower. Also, famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played the organ in the church.
- Charles Bridge, the historic bridge that crosses the Vltava River, was constructed in the 1350s by King Charles IV. Its presence across the river helped make Prague an important trade route between eastern and western Europe.
There is so much to see, feel, and experience just by standing in one small spot in a historic city like Prague.
What do you think about when you experience something so much bigger than you and your time?
“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” -Giuseppe Verdi
When my family and I moved to Europe 3 1/2 years ago, one of our first travel goals was to explore Italy. Everything we had ever seen or read about Italy made it the destination that topped our travel wish list. We were seeking the famous Tuscan sun, the wines, the antiquities, the olives, the people and the food and the musical sound of the language. And now, even after ten trips into the country, we love Italy even more than we thought possible.
Friends often ask how we find the places where we’ve stayed in Italy. The answer is often simple. It’s the best kept secret to traveling and staying in and through Tuscany or the Veneto region near Venice: TrustandTravel.com.Read More»