Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New York's CityPASS is the ticket for making the most of a few days in the Big Apple


The new World Trade Center Tower One is a magnificent memorial to a tragic event.


action-packed CityPASS
maximizes precious time, gives options that show off a dozen of the world's most lively cities



Times Square is ablaze at night. CityPASS offers
money-saving admissions and you skip the lines.


IF YOU HAVE only five or fewer days in New York, and want to savor a large, tasty bite of The Big Apple, we recomend CityPASS.
Enroute back from Europe recently, we decided to enjoy New York with this nationally known money-saving booklet.
A trip to Ellis Island is a must for many visitors to New York, and a trip
and visit are offered through CityPASS, or you can choose a river cruise. 
Thoughtfully chosen, the tickets include the best New York has to offer -- from world famous museums to historic buildings and monuments.
A dozen cities and regions -- 11 in the U.S., and Toronto -- offer bargains on their town's best and most popular attractions.
Bruce Keller and Christene Meyers enjoyed both day and nighttime visits
to the Empire State Building, and the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center.
We loved it, not just because of the savings, but because once purchased, CityPASS offers a psychological advantage: You've invested in the city, paid your money, have your ticket book, so you don't want to waste it.  You get out of the hotel rather than squandering half the day lounging and drinking coffee (a temptation I succumb to, when I have a lovely hotel room with a view of one of the world's most amazing cities.)
You can visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, or have a
bird's eye view of both Liberty and the immigration museum
 from a Circle Line tour, part of your CityPASS options.
WE WERE NOT newcomers to New York City, but even seasoned Manhattan travelers can find the options for touring overwhelming.
CityPASS helps you sort, taking confusion out of the equation.
Experienced travelers and consultants who have lived in the cities pick the best attractions and present them in a user-friendly ticket booklet.
YOU HAVE six admission tickets, with entries good for nine consecutive days. From the Empire State Building to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a Circle Line cruise and a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, you will get your money's worth and more.
Adults save 42 per cent by paying $114 (rather than $196 if you purchased tickets individually) or $89 for kids 6-17, compared to $171 over-counter price if you just walked in and purchased tickets.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers antiquities
and a splendid collection of art through the ages. 
AND INSTEAD OF rushing about, spending money on taxis from Midtown to The Village, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Ellis Island or the Empire State Building, you can plan your time, set your own pace by lining up attractions in a sensible fashion. CityPASS makes the best use of time by subway, taxi or on foot, also referencing which way is best to get you there.
BESIDES CityPASS, we had tickets to five Broadway plays, in a 30-block area, ranging from Midtown Manhattan;s theater district to Lincoln Center, where we saw a fabulous production of "The King and I" at the Vivian Beaumont. We tied in the play with a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with time for a stroll and cocktails at Central Park's Tavern on the Green.
We loved seeing the city that never sleeps at our own pace, by-passing queues and making the most of our Manhattan time.
If you're sandwiching plays in, CityPASS is great, too. Having 2 p.m. matinees on a couple days -- and curtains at 7 and 8 p.m. each evening made us exercise discipline with CityPASS options. We planned at least one activity in the morning and one in the afternoon or evening, depending on our theater commitments.  On the same day, we visited the magnificent Empire State Building in the morning, then returned in the evening after our play, for the delightful 360-degree open-air view of the city lit up. The nighttime entrance is an exclusive CityPASS bonus.
You can also hook up with CityPASS in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California,Tampa Bay and Toronto.
 Last Best News features our bear break-in story

Large pools offer comfort to mourners and beauty and
 tranquility as international visitors pay homage to
those lost in the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

UP NEXT: A visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum left us sad and awed.  We'll share our morning there in the next blog. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us each Wednesday as we enter our fourth year of global arts and travel with photos and adventures at 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bear break-in: High Chaparral in Montana receives a surprising guest


Once inside, our bear searched for an exit and shredded bamboo blinds, and broke pottery, leaving paw prints galore.  
A buttery paw print tells the story.  Mr. Bear ate lightly,
but was anything but dainty in his exit. It is eerily

human-like, a la "Day of the Living Dead."


WE'D BEEN GONE just 50 hours from our home in rural Montana.
High Chaparral has been a family sanctuary for nearly a quarter-century.
Our guest scaled the countertop above the dishwasher,
pulled down the knives, broke a butter dish and
licked it clean.  He opened a few cupboards, too.
We've had raccoons, mountain lions, lynx, elk, the proverbial deer and antelope, and of course plenty of mice, squirrels, voles, moles and skunks. (Nick, the male Yorkie, has been "deskunked" almost as many times as he's been taken to the groomer.)
The 1881 Log Room was the scene of the most damage,
and the place of entry. Vintage photos were ripped from the
walls, glass shattered and paw scratches on hand-colored prints.
HAD WE BEEN at home when our bear (or bears) visited, Nick and Nora would would likely have frightened him (them) away with their sharp, terrier warning barks.
Now please don't accuse me of gender bias, but I'm going to call the intruder(s) Mr. Bear, to simplify the telling of the story.
WE PULLED into the drive-way, and I trotted up the hill, as is my custom, to change the hoses, leaving Keller to unlock the place and unload groceries, our usual division of labor.
"Cooks, come here," he hollered.
 "Can it wait?" I asked.
"No. Pronto."
"Are you alright?  Are the Yorkies okay?"
"Yes, but we've had a visitor."
After a melt-down from the destruction in the log room -- I picked myself up, dusted myself off,  guzzled the wine Keller poured, and started a list of damages and loss: the craziest, a cube of butter.
I CALLED 911 (only the third time I've done so in my life -- the other two were medical emergencies for my two late husbands.) Two deputies were dispatched and arrived from the Absarokee area, 28 miles away, in a speedy 25 minutes. Before they pulled into the drive, we called our insurance company and reported the incident, still not sure if it were really and truly a bear, as Keller speculated.
Gouge marks from Mr. Bear's talons.  There are dozens.
While the police investigated, we continued our list of damages: photographs, curtains, picture frames, walls, canvases of oils, a treasured lamp, several lamp shades flattened when Mr. Bear must have stepped on them. The woodwork damage is the greatest.  All three of the rooms Mr. Bear intruded bear his bear trademark: gouges, claw marks, ripped off door casings and trim -- accented with the buttery prints he left on windows.
Here's where  Mr. Bear broke in. 
WHEN THE law officers finished their investigation, they confirmed Keller's suspicions:  bear or bears, probably young (two or three years) and neophytes in break-in.  Mr. Bear did not go upstairs (thank goodness, no one was sleeping in our bed!), nor did he leave bear scat.  He did urinate on the beautiful carpets, in several places -- the Yorkies were fascinated by that.
Do we wish ill for Mr. Bear and his species?  Absolutely not.  He was being a bear. Period.
As Keller said, "We're unhurt.  The Yorkies are fine. Perspective, Cookie."
And as my sister Olivia and my friend Ruth said, "It's a helluva story, Cookie."

NEXT UP:  Where is Cookie takes to CityPASS in New York, grabbing all the gusto possible in five short days.  CityPASS offers savings for the major sites, including the new World Trade Center Tower, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Metropolitan Museum and more.  Start spreading the news and take a breathtaking look with us at the Manhattan skyline -- and more. Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us each Wednesday at 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Faroe Islands: Exotic, clean, captivating destination in the North Atlantic

Abundant, attractive sheep are a constant presence on the Faroe Islands, which also boasts exotic bird life.


Keller rests above a river after a muddy but beautiful hike above Klaksvik.

THE FAROE ISLANDS has an exotic appeal -- "far away from 'civilization' are we," our guide told us during a day-long venture.
We stopped on a recent trans-Atlantic crossing, and were delighted by the guide's wit and erudition, and his country's mountains, valleys and grassy cliffs. Then, even better, we beheld a lush variety of  birds and sheep -- a delightful bonus.
On a day-long hike out of Klaksvik, we slogged through a bog in search of  a stunning view from the mountain top.
AT LAST it came and we were rewarded.  It was a steep and challenging hike -- wet and muddy part of the way, but with splendid bounty for our persistence.
Klaksvik is becoming known as a  picturesque cruise port,
 between the Norwegian Sea and North Sea..
Cookie braved the wet to hike several miles above Klaksvik, Faroe Islands.
The  Faroe islands (although "islands" is usually plural, it's a collective, singular noun, our guide confirmed) is an archipelago between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Norway and Iceland, 320 kilometers or 200 miles north-northwest of Great Britain.
My grandfather Gustav's Norsemen forebears settled the islands around 800, bringing the Old Norse language that evolved into today's Faroese. To my ears, Faroese sounds similar to Icelandic, with the lyrical lilt of Norwegian-- singing to this Norsky-Irish hybrid.
ACCORDING TO Icelandic sagas, one of the best known men in the island was the brave and dashing Trondur i Gotu, a descendant of Scandinavian chiefs who settled in Dublin, Ireland. TrĂ³ndur took on the Norwegian monarchy and the Norwegian church, fighting bravely to claim the islands. The area is small -- only 1,400 square kilometers, or 540 square miles. Its popular is only is dwindling -- only 48,700.
Salmon are raised in these netted tanks near the cruise port.
"We're struggling to entice our young people to stay here," our guide told us. "Once they cross the waters to Copenhagen or Oslo, they go to university, meet people, taste city life, marry, and don't come back."
WE FOUND the people of Klaksvik open and welcoming, articulate and witty in an understated way, much like my Norwegian cousins.  Of course there's a connection:  We learned from our guide that 1035 and 1814, the Faroe Islands were part of the Kingdom of Norway.  The 1814 Treaty of Kiel granted Denmark control over the islands, along with two other Norwegian regions: Greenland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands has been a self-governing country of the Danish Realm since 1948. 
Puffins abound, above top, and hikers find 
a  bird's  eye view from the mountain top.
THE FAROESE control domestic matters; Denmark handles military defense, police, justice, currency and foreign affairs. As a self-governing archipelago, the Faroe Islands is represented in the Nordic Council, part of the Danish delegation.
18 rocky, volcanic islands make up the Faroe Islands, scattered between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean and -- connected by road tunnels, ferries, causeways and bridges. Hikers and bird-watchers are drawn to the islands’ mountains, valleys and grassy heathland, and steep coastal cliffs that harbor thousands of seabirds.

Who's been sleeping in my bed?  A bear visits our home through the screen,
smashed the glass and wreaked havoc within.  Wee share the true
but unlikely story with our readers in the next post.
                           *  *  *  *  *  
NEXT UP: You'll "bearly" believe our story.
We were away from our rural Montana place a couple days, winding up the Rockies portion of our book tour for "Lilian's Last Dance."  During our absence, we had an uninvited guest.  A bear broke into High Chaparral, avoided tripping the alarm system and did considerable damage to the place.  Broken pottery, shattered glasses, shards of the window through which he entered, were only part of the casualties. He tore strips of trim off the custom-made doors, scratched window frames, gouged hell  out of the counter tops and cupboards, and paused for a snack: a cube of butter.  He spared the refrigerator, thank the gods, because it is full of delectable items that would surely be caviar to a bear: meats, cheeses, pasta, eggs, veggies and fruit and, of course, more butter.  Find out more late Tuesday, when we post the Wednesday blog:  The Bear Facts.  Remember to explore, learn and live, and check out whereiscookie Wednesdays.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rungstedlund in Denmark: Famed writer Karen Blixen's home draws an international clientele

Rungstedlund, the estate where Karen Blixen lived most
all her life except the 17 years in Africa.  She was born
Karen Christence Dinesen and wrote as Isak Dinesen. 

'Out of Africa' author wrote 'Gothic Tales,' reflected on a life with lions and her lover after returning to her Danish homeland


Karen Blixen returned to Denmark after her
lover was killed in a plane crash in Africa.
WRITER KAREN Blixen might have stayed in Africa at her coffee plantation with her partner, writing about the lions she loved, had he not died in a plane crash.  After Denys Finch Hatton perished in his Gypsy Moth in 1931, the Danish born writer lost her spirit, and returned to her homeland to recharge and reflect.
The Blixen Museum's gardens provide
fresh flowers for the home.
Long fans of her writing, we decided to make the trip to Rungstedlund, the Karen Blixen Museum. On a warm but rainy Denmark day, we took the convenient fast train from our base in the coastal village of Vedbaek, two stops to Rungsted, where Blixen died in 1962.
BARONESS AND famous author Blixen was born Karen Christence Dinesen,at the family residence, Rungstedlund, on April 17 of 1885.
The property traces back to 1520, when it was owned by the Crown.
Blixen's love of birds inspired her nesting sanctuary with 200 bird houses.
Gorgeous beech trees -- some nearly 300
years old -- welcome visitors to stroll
to or from the Karen Blixen Museum.
The inn closed in 1803 and was owned by a wealthy farmer before Blixen's father bought it in 1879. Wilhelm Dinesen and Ingeborg Westenholz took up residency in 1881.  Dinesen was born in 1885 and became Karen Blixen after marrying Baron Bror Blixen, her Swedish second-cousin, in 1914.
The two were temperamentally unsuited, he was unfaithful and gave her syphilis.  They divorced in 1921 and she returned to Denmark for treatment.
Danish signs point the way to the museum and bird sanctuary.
A bust of Blixen is a centerpiece in the home,
which is open to tourists, part of the museum.
Karen Blixen's grave is beneath a lovely beech tree.
LEAVING THE station, we walked along lovely streets, directed by understated signs. We saw dozens of brightly painted bird houses -- with lots of customers flitting in and out.  These are among 200 nesting boxes attracting 40 different species of birds happily breeding where Blixen walked and wrote.
Her love of birds inspired her 1958 decision to make the estate into a bird sanctuary. Rungstedlund's 40 acres of gardens and groves are much loved by Danes and worldwide visitors.
We enjoyed the bird houses so much that we returned the same way, bidding adieu to Blixen on the estate's Ewalds Hill. She is buried there beneath a gigantic beech tree with a simple stone marker.
The grove boasts trees up to 300 years old, named after people with a personal link to the house, including Albert Einstein.
The 1985 movie, "Out of Africa," starred Meryl Streep
and Robert Redford, and was a whimsical reflection
on Blixen's life in Africa, where she learned Swahili.

THE SANCTUARY is supervised by the Danish Ornithological Society. We toured the house, which contains Blixen's art collection, furniture and a beautiful bust of her.  The oldest part of the home dates from 1680 when it was a combined inn and farm. Through the centuries, writers and artists visited. Poet Johannes Ewald Ewald lived there from 1773 to 1775, writing "The Delights of Rungsted, An Ode."
The Karen Blixen Museum was founded in 1991 by Blixen's descendants and the Danish government.
Hollywood made a movie about her life in Africa with her lover.  "Out of  Africa" starred Meryl Streep and Robert Redford and was a lyrical meditation on her 17 years at her Kenya coffee plantation where she communed with critters, earned the love of the people and learned to speak Swahili.

The Faroe Islands are up next -- as we arrive in Klaksvik for a hike,
fish and chips, some fine wine and a breathtaking boat ride.
UP NEXT: Faroe Islands? Where are they?  What language to they speak?  How does one get there?
 All that and more at the next whereiscookie. Stay tuned, and remember to explore, learn and live as we visit these obscure but thriving islands in Scandinavia.
Why has no one heard of these lovely islands?  Perhaps because, they are not easily accessible.  We're publishing whereiscookie on Wednesdays while we wind down our stay in the Northern Rockies.
We'll return to our "Wednesdays and weekends" traditions in three weeks. Explore, learn and live and remember, carpe diem.