Commentary

Southern Wales

One of the most beautiful, serene places I’ve ever been. It’s elegant, peaceful, noble. A perfect place for codddiwompling (definition:  to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination). In fact, to travel in any other manner would do this exquisite setting an injustice. When you visit, take time to breathe, stand in awe, listen to the silence.

 As for driving in the UK: make sure you’ve exhausted every possible other option before getting behind the wheel. If you must drive, it is absolutely essential you have a very calm, yet very alert, navigator to give specific directions on maneuvering through intersections and roundabouts.

And in case driving on the left is not difficult enough, Wales does not believe in two-lane roads. Most of the county roads are only wide enough for one car, yet you will face oncoming traffic.  Let me just tell you that leaning to one side in the car does not help, though hysterical laughter after close encounters is somehow an incredible stress reliever. Mercifully, the natives know when and how to pull over.

Also, be prepared to feel confused when you return home (to the right side of the road). You may question whether you are driving correctly.  Driving on the left just messes with your brain. Try to avoid driving in a difficult situation for a week or two.

Lisbon, Portugal

One of the quirkiest things we noticed in Lisbon was the manner in which the transportation personnel would go on strike, which they did frequently. They would give the public several days warning, indicating the start and stop dates so everyone could make other arrangements. This is very kind and civilized but doesn’t that imply the strikers are really not that essential to the daily routine?

A word to the wise:  Never, ever, buy a raincoat at the National Carriage Museum. I’m pretty sure the plastic was created when the carriages were built. But I was desperate. The raincoat I packed was water ‘resistant’ and the torrential rain in Lisbon required water “proof.” The coat I bought, first of all, was the worst color of green,  and secondly, the material was very brittle. After the first day of wear, it started to shred. By the second day, there wasn’t much left and it went in the trash. Luckily the rain let up and the sun came out.

 

 

Alaska

I grew up in the Rocky Mountains and I’ve been to the Swiss Alps, so I thought a trip to Alaska would be similar to my earlier outdoors experiences.  It was not even close.  The exquisite and pristine beauty is like nothing I’ve experienced before.

There is a purity to the wilderness* in Alaska. It is an inconceivably vast expanse of nature untouched by man. One experience is especially memorable. As we were hiking along a stream in Denali National Park, the sun brilliant and a light breeze blowing, I suddenly stopped. I realized there were not ANY man-made sounds:  no cars; no airplanes (not even a contrail); no radios; no cell phones ringing; no construction noises; no a/c, furnace, or computer fans running; and no one was talking. There was silence, except for the sounds of nature. It was stunning.

I go there in my thoughts, from time to time, to revel in the perfection of beauty.

D savage river 2
Savage River, Mt Denali National Park

And, a little Alaskan humor:

*Disclaimer: even though I did not do any backpacking, I felt as though I had embraced a wilderness experience