Friday, October 11, 2019

John and Yoko's peaceful Dutch 'Love In' remembered 50 years later

Remembering the days of yore, Christene "Cookie" Meyers checks out the John and Yoko suite at Amsterdam Hilton. 


The hotel is a smart, stylish property and the suite pays homage to
the famous couple's peaceful protest there 50 years ago.


"You may say I'm a dreamer,
But I'm not the only one.)
I hope someday you'll join us,
And the world will live as one."
-- from 'Imagine', on its 48th anniversary
Stylish architecture and plush amenities are offered
for those who wish to pay $2,000-plus a night.

WE ALL REMEMBER the photos.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono in bed, surrounded by flowers, signs and musical instruments.
It was 1969 and the Vietnam War was raging.
The famous couple staged two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace, one at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and one at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.
We visited the first hotel on a recent trip to the Netherlands, spending a week in this quiet, peaceful corner of Amsterdam.
"Peaceful" is the key word here for the two hotel visits were intended to be nonviolent protests against wars and experimental tests of new ways to promote peace.
Our host for a tour of the famous suite was the hotel's delightful public relations specialist, Anastasija, who is too young to remember the time in which the non-violent events occurred.
Photographer Eric Koch faked a press card to gain
entrance to the famous "Bed In" and the couple
preferred his photos to others taken that week.
She smiled as she told the stories, though, including comments from journalists covering the event. "They remarked that the two were welcoming to visitors and the press, but that the room began to smell a bit toward the end of the week. As part of the protest, they did not bathe."
The Amsterdam property has enlarged the original John and Yoko room into a small suite which is in high demand at $2,090 a night (1899 Euros). The guestbook boasts signatures of happy couples from Japan to Australia, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. The couple had recently married in Gibraltar and many honeymooners stay there now.
Bruce Keller and Christene Meyers in the John and Yoko
suite, Amsterdam Hilton, overlooking a lovely canal.
THE BATHROOM  of 50 years ago was not as plush as today's expanded room with its large oval bathtub, separate walk-in shower, plush bathrobes and slippers, plus other VIP amenities.
  The idea for the 1969 event derived from the era's popular "sit ins" when protesters seated themselves in front of or inside an establishment until they were evicted, arrested, or had their demands met.
THERE ARE IRONIES and anecdotes to the famous visit.  The Hilton was not the first choice of the couple, but accepted their reservation knowing that the visit might attract international attention.  "We have certainly benefited from the event," Anastasija commented. And, she agreed, the other Dutch hotel which declined to host the couple has probably had regrets.
A sketch made by the pair is now used in advertising the suite which is tastefully decorated
with John and Yoko memorabilia. Among the nostalgic objects are a copy of one of his guitars, many photographs, sketches and notebooks.
A stroll from the hotel takes the tourist past lovely canals and many bikers.
We loved the location of the hotel, a 10-minute walk from  Holland's fabled Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Vondelpark.
If the couple had been hungry they could have feasted at Roberto's, 
or sipped a cocktail at the Half Moon Lounge, an inviting garden terrace with splendid canal views in a luxurious residential area.
INSTEAD, they ate little and when they did, it was a few spoonsful of cold Campbell's soup.
What did the peace-in teach us? Most believe it had little effect on the war, but its artistic contribution lives on.
Says one scholar of the period, "The idea that sitting in bed for a week might have caused Richard Nixon to revise his foreign policy looks a tad hopeful, to say the least."

London's Eating Europe tour offered a delightful
 mix of tastings from spicy curry to sticky pudding
 and fish and chips served in newspaper.
NEXT UP: Next time in Europe, try a delightful "taste and tour" opportunity.  We just did in London and happily recommend Eating Europe Food Tours now in many European cities.  The innovative concept combines eating and touring -- fine food at several stops with lively, expert guides sharing best-kept food and drink secrets with a learned nod to history. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a unique view of travel, the arts, nature, family, food and more.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Appealing Amsterdam: Something for everyone in a lively Dutch city

The canals of Amsterdam are legendary, and much loved and used by tourists and residents alike.


The colorful De Kat  Paint Mill of 1782, is one of the joys of a trip to
Zaanse Schans in The Netherlands, near Amsterdam and the oldest
and best preserved windmill area of the world.

AMSTERDAM is a city of many moods.  It is vibrant and varied, rowdy and rustic, cosmopolitan and contemplative, accepting and non-judgmental.
It is a delightful city to visit and be part of, if only for a few sunny, fun-filled days.
Our recent of many visits was  memorable because autumn was just coming to the Netherlands. We relished the crisp air, evening breezes and changing colors.
A few sights are on everyone's play list: the famous "museum pair" -- the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum and the house where the young Jewish diarist Anne Frank hid during WWII.
The iamsterdam offices offer several varieties of the excellent
card for one, two, three or four day access and savings.
TO NAVIGATE this beautiful city efficiently and economically, we highly recommend the "iamsterdam city card" which saved us more than 50 euros at a variety of  attractions and on the city's fine public transport system.  We didn't begin to touch the range of 70-plus museums, but in earlier visits toured Rembrandt's house, the world class Maritime Museum and the Frank family's touching upstairs apartment where two families hid until they were outed just before the ending of World War II.
Italian born Sergio gave us a lively and brisk three-hour walking tour of
Amsterdam, from the canals and shopping to the Red Light District.
The card also helps take advantage of Amsterdam's excellent bus and tram system and discounts at many shops, restaurants and more. iamsterdam offers convenient offices and pick-up centers for the one, two, three or four day passes. We picked ours up at Schiphol Airport before heading to our hotel, the Amsterdam Hilton.
AMSTERDAM IS a great walking city, but beware of the bikes which come zipping by at often alarming speeds. Bikes rule, too, so look before you begin crossing a street.
Walking in the famed Red Light
District of Amsterdam is safe.
Keller and Cookie relax at the Amsterdam Hilton.
We always take a walking tour in a city, no matter how many times we've been.  This time, we tried and enthusiastically recommend "Freedam Tours," which navigate the city on foot with lively, educated guides.  Ours was Sergio, Italian born and engaging.  He proudly showed us old Amsterdam, its famous coffee shops, historic buildings and his old neighborhood, the Red Light District. "Please treat them with respect."
We saw several of the women in their windows, and Sergio smiled as we admired windows of beautiful cheeses, souvenirs and pastries.  Cannabis is legal in Amsterdam, but it must be
Amsterdam's legendary coffee shops
serve a cannabis inspired menu. 
bought from certified distributors. We took my late mother to a coffee shop 10 years ago where we all chill out and passed a few pleasant hours. Most look like sophisticated bistros. Cannabis can be purchased, along with special brownies, cookies and hashish.
 A pretty little Dutch girl smiles for the photographer from
one of the country's many clean, efficient buses and trams.

THE NETHERLANDS is at the center of northwestern European commerce, home to people from 200 countries with an average life expectancy of 80. Only 17 million live in all of Holland, around three million people in the greater Amsterdam area and eight million in its four major cities.  Amsterdam is the official capital of the Netherlands according to the country's constitution.  But most Dutch consider The Hague the capital, since both the States General and Executive Branch have been situated there since 1588.
A visit to the Anne Frank House is a
moving experience, even multiple times. 
Amsterdam has a long, proud and colorful history dating back to 1275 when it was founded as a fishing village on the Amstel River. The name "Amstelledamme" occurs for the first time in a toll concession of Floris V, Count of Holland, dated Oct. 27, 1275.
 Besides cheese, clogs, canals and bikes, Amsterdam is known for its flat landscape, spring tulips and the world's best preserved windmills.
We took a day trip to Zaanse Schans, a vibrant working community dating to 18th Century Amsterdam.
 A canal trip is the best way to admire Amsterdam's graceful historic buildings, museums, bars and coffee shops.
The Van Gogh Museum is a high-tech institution with
beautiful displays and many of the artist's paintings.
Art is everywhere in the
parks of Amsterdam.
We were also thrilled with the location of our hotel, the lovely Hilton Amsterdam, in a beautiful neighborhood between the museum district and the Station Zuid business district. (More next week on the hotel's famous John and Yoko Suite, which we enjoyed. The couple staged its famous "Bed-in for Peace" at the hotel in 1969.  );;;

UP NEXT: Fifty years ago, John and Yoko Ono staged a  memorable "Love In" also referred to as a "Peace In" and "Bed In" in Amsterdam's Hilton Hotel.  Today, their suite is a popular honeymoon get-away enjoyed by Beatles fans from all over the world.  We visit, too, and take you there. Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays for a fresh take on travel, the arts, nature, family and more. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fun, fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, romance, food, family and more. Check out:, which has an international following.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Autumn Splendor: Around the world in a fall frame of mind

Autumn arrives in the northern hemisphere. Here, Norway's 
gentle slopes and hills resemble parts of Montana.


“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. “Albert Camus


The grass was just beginning to turn as autumn began
earlier this month with Cookie and Keller in the Netherlands.
WE LOVE to travel in autumn.
The kids are back in school, the evening air is crisp and cool. There's something about autumn that makes us appreciate being alive. Perhaps it's the leaves falling, snows coming, change in the air. The combination makes us grateful.
We in the northern hemisphere call it fall: the shedding of leaves from deciduous trees.
Autumn is around the corner. If you believe the chill in the air, the need for a fire and the disappearance of the hummingbirds from the northern Rockies, it's fall already.
Those vivid colors – the transition from green to light yellow, deep gold, orange, crimson and dark red – are inspiring, yet bittersweet.
On a fall pilgrimage to
southern Spain last fall.

The balmy nights of summer and hot days of July and August are a sweet memory.  We see 
The hollyhocks were late this year.  This one was
photographed two days ago.  Its many buds may not bloom.
grass growing golden, smell the sweet smoke of controlled burning and regret that summer flew by so quickly.
Autumn came early to these trees
on the West Fork of the Stillwater.
 Falling leaves and the colors of the season have fascinated writers and poets for centuries. One of my favorite writers, Albert Camus, had a soft spot in his heart for fall.  Skeptical about many things, he was sentimental about fall and embraced autumn above the
Autumn grass and a pair of strolling bison
in Yellowstone National Park last week.
Cookie takes time out to
admire a lemon tree rich
with autumn fruit in Crete.
other seasons. He defined the human condition as absurd, and struggled to understand the conflict between man's desire for meaning and clarity and what he called "the silent, cold universe" on the other.  Apparently he found warmth and meaning in fall when he wrote, "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is awakened."
WE MAKE an annual fall pilgrimage to Yellowstone National Park, Teddy Roosevelt's finest gift to the country and the world.  In autumn, it shines like a well loved tiara. Wildlife watching is prime.  We were thrilled to hear the elks' high-and-low pitch changing bugling. Musical mating calls in symphonic splendor. Haunting and memorable.
Engineer-poet-lecturer Stanley Horowitz has an autumn take I love: "Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” My vow: to embrace autumn, invite it into my orbit. Please join me.

The canals of Amsterdam are legendary, in this city below sea level.
Here, we explore the waterways near the Anne Frank House.
NEXT UP: Appealing Amsterdam.  Next week we begin a lively three-part look at one of the world's most engaging, progressive cities. We take you to  Amsterdam's canals and windmills, famous cafes and coffee shops, the red light district, and the famous hotel suite occupied by John Lennon and Yoko Ono 50 years ago during their "Peace In." Finally, a rijsttafel feast, that wondrous concoction of many small courses brought to Holland during its sailing years in Indonesia. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh spin on travel, the arts, nature, family, food and more.  Go to ; (official website of the city)

Friday, September 20, 2019

Romancing into our dotage -- light the fire of romance after tragedy

Happy in Barcelona, taking a chance on love. 
Excited to be touring New York City together.

Love is lovelier the second time around
Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground
It's that second time you hear your love song sung
Makes you think perhaps that love, like youth, is wasted on the young

--Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen


WHEN MY SECOND husband passed, I was still in my fifties.
Sad, confused and in mourning, I circled the wagons, looking at convent brochures. Perhaps I would sequester myself in a yurt in some remote village.  My belongings would be a spoon, a bowl, a single painting, a dozen books and a hair shirt.  I would be the world's first penitent comedienne because I would also take my sense of humor.
My sister Robbie giggled, "You are NOT -- definitely NOT -- convent material. "You still have 20 good years of travel, maybe more."
Enjoying Amsterdam with its historic windmills.
She coaxed me back into the world of dating and after a half-dozen disasters, I met by chance Bruce William Keller. While I was twice widowed, he was three years out of divorce, recovering from a near fatal car crash and an unhappy marriage.
In Sweden on a Baltic trip last week,
touring on an electric bus.
I SHARE OUR story to encourage others to take that chance.  Ladies, put yourselves out there.  There are so many wonderful LIVING, LOVING, LIFE GOES ON
ways to meet like-minded people --
book clubs, dance classes, theaters and concert halls (perhaps volunteer as an usher). Gents:  the same advice goes for you.  You may wonder "What if she turns me down?"  But what the hell; ask. What's the worst that can happen?
Looking forward to the future and relishing the present. Cookie and Keller
just returned from a month on the Baltic.  What if they'd never met?
When we cruise, which we love doing, we attend the on-board trivia contests and art classes during the at-sea days.  We also book a table for four or six rather than dining at a table for two. We've met many lovely friends around the world this way.
Of course, as with all things, one must put oneself out there.
MY BEST advice, having chosen not to enter the convent, is to be yourself, continuing to nurture your passions and look for someone who shares them. If you desire companionship -- someone to travel with, see a play or movie with, enjoy a dinner, hike or sports event, don't delay. Carpe diem.  Tempus fugit.
As Bobby McFerrin suggests, "Don't worry.  Be happy."

Autumn blankets the West Fork of the Stillwater River,
a serene place in south-central Montana.

UP NEXT:  Autumn around the world. Known as fall in the U.S. and Canada because of the shedding of leaves from deciduous trees, it's a magical time, the favorite of poets and artists and the two of us. We take you to some of our favorite fall corners of the world where the leaves drop and colors change from green to light yellow, deep gold, orange, crimson and deep red – inspired by a natural process. We share a few of our favorite fall quotes too, as we remember to explore, learn and live.  Catch us each Friday for a fresh take on travel, the arts, nature, family and more at 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

Harbors -- haunting, picturesque, serene -- capture the wanderer's soul

 Italy's Amalfi coast boasts winding roads with lovely views of the bay and water life below. 
Honolulu's harbor has beauty and history, dating back
to Polynesian times, and in 1941 the attack on Pearl Harbor.  




The fog comes in on little cat feet. It sits looking over the harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. --   Carl Sandburg

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT a pretty port.  A handsom harbor  speaks to the world traveler.
We hear the water call, "Sail away, come along, explore, enlighten, enjoy."
"Keller and Cookie," aka photographer Bruce Keller and
writer Christene Meyers on "their" San Diego Bay.
The Wailua River on Kauai empties into the pretty bay.

Some of our favorite ports and harbors include Hong Kong, Sydney, Auckland, Portofino,  Cape Town, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Rio de Janeiro and Dubai.  
Recently, we sailed out of Venice -- one of the prettiest ports for our travelers' money, with its grand waterways, colorful water life and elegant architecture.
Favorites on our home continent are San Francisco, Vancouver BC, Seattle, New York City, Boston, Providence, Quebec City, New Orleans and both Portlands -- Maine and Oregon. In Hawaii, there are a dozen lovely little harbors and bays and our favorite is on the Wailua River with a waterfall and fern grotto nearby. (Keller has water skied -- sans clothes -- on this 20-mile long stretch.)

Sydney, Australia, with its gorgeous harbor highlighting the world renowned
Sydney Opera House and the city's beloved Harbour Bridge.  

PERHAPS THE world's most recognizable harbor (harbour if you spell it the way the Brits and Aussies do) is Sydney, Australia. Its stunning Opera House and Bridge catch the light in a lovely, magical way. The world knows this famous view, with the striking Opera House in view from nearly every corner of the harbor. 
Malta's harbor is stunning in the gold of sunset.
Whale watching in the Chilkat Preserve
in Alaska's inside passage.
Argostoli's harbor in the Greek Isles boasts a beautiful harbor.
 New York's World Trade Center, the new
 "Tower One," is a lovely sight from the water.
We love Hans Christian Andersen's credo -- "To travel is to live" -- which captures our wanderlust belief. And to plant oneself for a few nights with a harbor view is the ultimate for us.  THE SOUND of the water, the sight of life, of the comings and goings of cruise ships and freighters, seems to connect us with the eternal.  Since man first settled the Earth,  harbors have attracted explorers, tourists, photographers and ship's captains looking for a place to shelter their fleet and provide security for their sailors. By definition a harbor is "a place on the coast where vessels may find shelter, especially one protected from rough water by piers, jetties, and other artificial structures."
But did you know that the shelter extends to one's brain? According to scientific studies, being by the sea has a positive impact on mental health. Minerals in sea air reduce stress. Negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain (they're also present around waterfalls), which improves alertness and mental energy. Hats off to harbors!

A trans-Atlantic cruise brought Cookie and Keller into a
circle of global friends and cemented their romance. 
UP NEXT:  When a spouse dies or a marriage ends, it's tempting to fold up the tent, enter the metaphoric convent.  But remember:  carpe diem, tempus fugit.  Life is short, so "cowboy up" as we say in the West.  Get back on the social horse.  Adventure awaits.  Travel, date, accept the invitation for dinner, a movie, a trip, a cruise. Connect with other humans and reap the rewards. We offer tips on surviving widowhood, loneliness or divorce from two who know: Keller and Cookie! Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh take on the arts, family, nature, travel and more at

Friday, September 6, 2019

Soothing surroundings of artists' home sets the tone for a creative day

The home of architect Wayne Gustafson and his artist wife Pamela is an oasis of calm and inspiration.


The Gustafsons hosted a recent Writer's Voice workshop for 12 writers
who used the grounds -- interior and exterior -- to sharpen their prose.
At far left is teacher Christene Meyers, next to Gustafson. Pamela
is at far right of the photo, surrounded by workshop participants. 



"A structure must be functional, but it must be inviting and inspiring, too." -- architect Wayne Gustafson
Lichen is integrated into the design.

DRIVING UP a discreet, tree-lined cul de sac, a picturesque scene comes into view.
The house and landscape seem as one.  Trees and flowers complement the lines of the home. Unique  artful touches abound.
Wayne Gustafson shares his architectural acumen
and the artful background of couple's home.
The home of Pamela and Wayne Gustafson is truly their castle, and a restful and rejuvenating playground for children of all ages.
Real stone is a crucial part of the 
Gustafsons' natural looking decor.

RECENTLY,  the artistic couple hosted a Writer's Voice gathering.  A dozen workshop participants spent the day writing, revising, sharing and creating in a half-dozen alcoves, patio spaces and welcoming niches.  The home and grounds were designed by architect Gustafson in the tradition of another great American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, whose environmentally integrated precepts changed the way people build and inhabit space both business and personal.
Attention to detail marks every aspect of
life in this home. Here, a beautiful alcove 
includes a bedroom fireplace and plants.
 The home and its soothing surroundings -- in the style of "form follows function" -- are a perfect  muse for writers, including Pamela, whose elegant needle art is displayed throughout.
GUSTAFSON IS known by peers for his attention to detail and skillful use of organic materials. The master artisan's
architectural eye blends light, wood and natural products as he has done for decades.  For he was light years ahead of his time -- "building green" from his early professional
An expansive lawn the size of a football field was a chipping green in Gustafson's golfing days, later a playground for grandchildren. Now he and Pamela invoke the muse and share creative inspiration with friends.
Pamela Gustafson and Christene (Cookie)
review the day's efforts in the cheery living area.
THUS AN invitation was extended to Corby Skinner's Writer's Voice national project to spend a day in workshop. (Full disclosure:  I taught the session, at the request of previous writing seminar participants.)
Wayne's hand chosen stone
and Pamela's needle art.
We gathered in the living room, on the north side of a  sandstone fireplace that rises from the lower level, lit by subtle, natural light.
Gustafson gave a tour, noting a skylight above the main fireplace. It channels the sun through slats of wood salvaged from a building in a coal-mining camp in southern Park County.
Lichen on the wood and horizontal stones lends an earthy detail.
Gustafson believes a structure must be functional, but invite and inspire, too. "It must be kept in context, especially when the effort is historical preservation or renovation."
Bruce Keller, left, and Christene "Cookie" Meyers in a
quiet corner of the Gustafsons' welcoming home and grounds.
Recycled barn wood on the fire place, hand selected rocks and boards, and subtle filtered light enhance the beauty of the wood.
Pamela Gustafson's
elegant needle art is
inspiration as she writes.
Impeccable detail in the moldings and mitered glass  corners create a stunning panorama, connecting the indoors and outdoors in the time honored style of Wright whose homes accented nature's beauty with meticulous interior design.
PAMELA'S NEEDLE art provides the crowning touch. Her delicate, detailed designs -- all original -- provide sculptural accents, tapestries  and wall hangings.
Those who have lived in Billings a while know Gustafson's other works, including the Security Federal Savings Building at 24th Street West and Grand Avenue, built in 1974, and Faith Chapel at Broadwater Avenue and 24th Street West, built in 1993. He used his own home for inspiration on his other design projects, taking his notebook to one of the alcoves, meditating beneath the fir trees.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge at the famous Sydney Opera House at night are
probably among the world's most recognizable landmarks and harbors.  
UP NEXT: Harbors. Or is it harbours? Whichever way you spell it -- and both are correct --  you're near restful water giving shelter to ships, passengers and the citizenry. No matter which side of "the pond" you inhabit, or where in the world you love to travel, you're probably attracted to water, ports, rivers, harbors. We'll explore some of the planet's most beautiful "water linked" cities. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays at