Friday, September 18, 2020

Sample a taste of Europe right here on the North American continent

  
A mother whale and her calf in flowers draw the eye to Victoria's famous Hotel Fairmont Empress.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
Japan Center in San Francisco, offers
shopping, museums, restaurants, artwork.

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

WITH TRAVEL outside our continent limited by the virus scourge, it's time to look for the exotic without leaving North America. Do come along.
It's possible to sample a bit of Europe, Asia or South America, right here in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
WITH A VISIT to Victoria, B.C., you'll enjoy the feeling of the British Isles. The city's British connection is time honored in the lovely Hotel Fairmont Empress, opened in 1908 as one of Canada's grand railway hotels.
Its central downtown harbor location on Goverment Street offers a dazzling view of the city's Parliament, and its Chatequesque style reminds of Switzerland.
Since its opening, the hotel experienced two expansions, in 1910, and again in 1928. The building received designation as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981 and underwent a $60 million restoration in 2015.
THE CITY'S Colonial past shows in its Victorian architecture, including stately Craigdarroch Castle mansion. Butchart Gardens, with 55 acres of vivid floral displays, statuary, ponds and a carousel, is one of many formal gardens near or in the city.
A street in Solvang -- complete with windmill -- could be
a street in the Netherlands, with all manner of Danish goods.
Restaurants have a continental feel. You'll find fish and chips as tasty as any in merry olde England, bakeries with yummy scones, pubs galore and tea shops including decades old Murchie's, with an array of all things British for a stylish afternoon tea. You'll feel you've crossed the pond in British Columbia.                      SAN FRANCISCO is home to a huge Asian community and nowhere is it more alive than in the city's artistically designed Japan Center. Pagados, hotels, shrines, galleries, restaurants and the beautiful Japan Center Malls display authentic cultural icons and excellent, reasonable shopping.  New York City's Chinatown is world renowned for its shops, its bustling feeling -- much like Hong Kong or Shanghai, and its authentic Chinese food, shops with herbs and remedies, and temples. It's a unique, lively and expansive neighborhood full of people, scents and the feel of China.
New York's Chinatown is bustling, authentic.

SOLVANG, in southern California's pretty  Santa Ynez Valley, is known for its Danish-style architecture and fine wineries. The Elverhøj Museum of History and Art explores the city's Danish heritage through stories and photos. The Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum exhibits dozens of classic American, Japanese and European motorbikes while the Old Mission Santa Inés is an early-1800s Franciscan church. Solvang's nightlife is exciting -- with a cosmopolitan feel. Many Danish Americans consider Solvang their cultural home, visiting regularly, even purchasing second homes in the quaint town and pleasant valley.             HERE'S A FEW other places where we've felt   connected to our ancestry. So much of culture carries on its time honored links with our motherlands -- in architecture, historical sites, dining, museums, clothing and grocery stores, souvenir shops and more.   
A charming hotel, the Queen Mary, is
permanently docked in Long Beach,
reminding of cruising days abroad.

NASHVILLE'S Parthenon was built for Tennessee's 1897 Centennial Exposition. It stands proudly as the centerpiece of Centennial Park, Nashville's premier urban park. The re-creation of the 42-foot statue Athena is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Greece. The building and the Athena statue are both full-scale replicas of the Greek originals.  
   
Nashville's Parthenon is a full-sized
replica of the one in Athens.

 



THE QUEEN MARY, docked in Long Beach, is the place to go if you are a fan of cruising and miss sailing the oceans and high seas. Now a beautiful hotel,, the Queen Mary set a new benchmark in transatlantic travel, which the rich and famous considered as the only civilized way to travel. She quickly seized hearts and imaginations on both sides of the Atlantic, representing the elegance and spirit of an era known for its class and style.  
MEXICO OFFERS Latin feel in its music, architecture, food and the pulsing mix of cultures.  Try Mazatlan, Mexico City and Guadalajara for history, museums, cathedrals and old-fashioned Mexican spirit. Cancun, Cozumel and Cabo San Lucas offer modern hotels, beaches, fine contemporary restaurants and an interesting mix of tourists from Europe and both Americas.  
This church in Mazatlan is one
of many popular for weddings.
San Miguel de Allende is a lovely mile-high oasis in the central Mexican mountains.  Its history dates to 1542 and it is famous for its fine Mexican cuisine and luxurious hotels -- one with a cooking school.
ALSO CONSIDER Leavenworth, Washington, 200 miles east of Seattle, which looks as if it were plucked form the Bavarian Alps. New Orleans offers Creole and Cajun treats, spectacular dining and food reflecting the mixed cultural bag -- from beignets to gumbo and spicy po boy sandwiches. When seeking European atmosphere in North America, consider Quebec City, where you'll hear French and find an array of cultural, historic and gastronomic attractions -- cobblestone streets, lively arts, fun-loving people.
 From France to Scandinavia, Italy, Greece, England, China, Japan and South and Central America, we can find the trappings of other cultures in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Safer than international travel right now -- and most of us are within driving distance to at least one of these.

UP NEXT: Yellowstone and the Tetons in autumn.  Come along with us to two of our country's most beautiful national parks.  They're no prettier than in autumn, when the golden and reddish tones of 
Bison graze on fall grasses while geyers steam.
fall blanket the valleys.  Wildlife viewing is splendid in autumn, and we're on the lookout for bison and bears, swans, elk and moose.  Perhaps even a wolf or two in the beautiful Lamar Valley.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a unique look at nature, the arts, family, travel, health and more.
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Friday, September 11, 2020

Awesome Oslo: Norway's capital, handsome hybrid of old, new, arty


If you enter Oslo by boat, you will transit Akershus Harbor and its Renaissance Fortress.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

A statue honoring playwright Henrik
Ibsen invites one to the National Theater.
MY NORWEGIAN is showing, so indulge me, please, as I wax affectionately about Norway's capital, Oslo.
It's a proud city, which grew from a rustic 9th Century village to a bustling region of nearly a million people.
Cookie and Keller in Akershus Harbor.
Norwegian wood escape

Oslo is also a city of graceful architecture, scenic landscapes and rich history, proud of its artistic heritage and long legacy of maritime life.

For art lovers, it's a place to honor Norway's great dramatist, Henrik Ibsen, and its most famous painter, Edvard Munch. Both men's accomplishments are featured in many places in the city -- from galleries to concert halls, parks to museum exhibits.
FOR FANS of the sea, Oslo offers world class maritime museums celebrating Norway's centuries old shipping history.  The country has long been a major player on the world's oceans.  In 1875, Norway was the world's third largest shipping nation with 60,000 sailors. The first regional shipowners association was formed in Norway in 1899. The Norwegian Maritime Museum is rich in experiences and activities with indoor and outdoor exhibitions in a unique maritime environment. The waterside Viking Ship Museum displays impressive Viking ships from the 9th century.
Oslo's Radhus, Town Hall is a striking
building with twin red brick towers.


THIS BUSTLING
 capital of Norway sits on the country’s southern coast at the head of the Oslofjord. It’s known for its green spaces, many on picturesque Bygdøy Peninsula.
If you're feeling athletic, the Holmenkollbakken is a ski-jumping hill with panoramic views of the fjord and a world class ski museum. 
A word about safety.  Unlike other European cities, you'll have little to worry about in Oslo. Crime is nearly non-existent, people are helpful and speak beautiful English, city streets are clean. Norwegians proudly tell visitors that they're more likely to fall off a cliff or be hit by a meteor than be attacked in Oslo.
Oslo's maritime history is celebrated in a pair
of striking museums along the water.

Oslo is also a wonderful city to navigate -- whether solo or with a family or group.
WE'RE BIG FANS of city passes and the Oslo pass is a nifty one, offering entry to more than 30 museums and attractions, free travel on all public transport and other attractive perks.
If you enjoy museums and public transportation, it's cheaper to get the Oslo pass before your trip.
You'll likely want to buy some Viking art, also known as Norse art. Viking souvenirs abound,  because since the 10th Century, my Viking ancestors adorned myriad objects with carving and fine metalwork. 
Oslo's Nobel Peace Center is a proud testimony to Sweden's
generous inventor, Alfred Nobel, and his ideals. 


The Viking symbol is found on everything from bedspreads to tablecloths, coffee mugs to plates and pajamas.  I love my sterling silver earrings -- shaped like Viking helmets.
WHILE STOCKHOLM is home to the Nobel prize hall, Oslo is proud of its Nobel Peace Center. One of the five Nobel prizes, the Peace Prize, is awarded in Oslo. The recipient of this coveted prize is chosen by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Inside the graceful building is a permanent exhibit about Swedish born Alfred Nobel, who -- like his native country -- had deep ties to Norway. Two Americans, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barrack Obama, won the Peace Prize, given annually to someone who has “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Sculptor Gustav Vigeland donated his collection. 

FINALLY don't miss Viegland Park, with its 212 enormous sculptures by Gustav Viegland, the country's most prolific and generous sculptor.  He worked in granite, bronze and wrought iron over a period of 40 years, donating the lion's share of his imaginative work to Oslo.
The Park is one of the most popular attractions in Scandinavia.
visitoslo.com/en/activities-and-attractions/oslo-pass/




The culture of Japan is celebrated at San Francisco's Japan Center,
where an entire neighborhood features all things Japanese. 
UP NEXT: Perhaps you're missing international travel.  You're not alone. So if you'd like a taste of Europe, South America or Asia without leaving the continent, join us next week for a special column on "foreign pleasures close to home." The piece will feature ethnic neighborhoods, with museums, restaurants, architecture and attractions that reflect the influence of other cultures, but on our own continent.  We have suggestions for visiting U.S. and Canadian cities with a European feel -- San Francisco, New Orleans, Montreal, Victoria and more. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, nature, family and the arts: whereiscookie.com  

Friday, September 4, 2020

Sprint over to Skagen for color, art, boating, dunes, laid back R&R


Skagen's distinctive yellow houses always sport orange tiled roofs, an artistic tradition.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Fishing is an important part of Skagen's economy.

WE'D VISITED Denmark several times, but never its picturesque port town, Skagen, sitting peacefully at the north end of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula. Its population of 8,000 people increases by 2,000 during the summer months.  We visited in September, a year ago, when travel was safe and unencumbered.  Slowly, Denmark is reopening to tourism and this northernmost township on the east coast of the peninsula, welcomes travelers. Because of its prime seaside location, the town of Skagen is the main fishing port for all of Denmark. Another reason for Skagen's popularity, we discovered, is its beautiful turquoise blue waters and the vast expanse of the sea.
Skagen's yellow houses and orange tiled roofs.

We were among a couple hundred tourists who came to enjoy the town's scenic views, old-fashioned streets and charming waterfront.  The unique Skagen architecture is a draw, too -- yellow houses with orange tiled roofs.
The picturesque little town of Skagen owes its popularity to an artists' colony which settled there in the 1880s. Known as the "Nordic Light Painters," their work was prized for the shimmering light.  A Nordic Light exhibition celebrates the movement each August and several museums exhibit works by these eccentric and talented Skagen painters, who were inspired by Skagen's light and landscape.
TODAY, SKAGEN is both a fishing port and a tourist destination.
An oil by Michael Peter Ancher of Skagen.

The characteristic yellow and orange roofed houses are still occupied by fishermen and painters. A few are b&bs, and the town also offers several pleasant hotels.
The people of Skagen are proud of both legacies -- their expert fishing fame and stable of famous artists.  The Local History Archive in Skagen's former courthouse, exhibits town history, artistic tradition and maritime heritage. 
Skagen's shifting dunes provided a pleasant hike for us. 

A main attraction is Grenen Beach, on Skagen’s northeastern outskirts.  It boasts the convergence of the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas. The trick -- we couldn't resist the temptation -- is to stand with one foot in the Skagerrak and the other in the Kattegat. One body in two seas!
The shifting dunes are another attraction.  These migrating wonders are pushed by the wind and sea, moving and changing each year.  The shifting sands have covered entire buildings, including a church known, literally, as Den Tilsandede Kirke. Now only the steeple is visible on this buried 17th Century house of worship.
SKAGEN IS also home to some of the world's great eagles, who fly free in the Eagle Sanctuary. We listened to folk music, too, with Skagen's street buskers doing a brisk business. 
 If your idea of a holiday means watching the sun setting over the water, enjoying a panoramic view of the sea, strolling a welcoming village, visiting  its beaches and waterfront, and eating freshly caught seafood, Skagen's your place for laid back R&R.
And don't worry if you aren't sure how to pronounce Skagen. Three acceptable pronunciations are listed in a local guidebook: Skah-guhn,” “Skay-gen,” or “Skay-en" as in "just sayin'."

Sculptor Gustav Vigeland gave his many statues to Oslo. 
UP NEXT: We end our salute to Scandinavian capitals with a visit to the Viking land of Oslo, Norway, and a trip to a farm near the city. Founded in 1050, Oslo sits on the left bank of the Akere River and is an intriguing blend of modern and historic. The Viking influence is felt everywhere, and the country's noteworthy artistic heritage is celebrated in Vigeland Sculpture Park, which hosts Gustav Vigeland's impressive sculptures. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at nature, travel, family and the arts: whereiscookie.com