Friday, April 3, 2009

Ah... The Mist-Shrouded Moors...

I don't tan.

In fact, I don't even burn so much as 'spontaneously combust' upon the application of sunlight to my delicate alabaster epidermis.

I went to the Dominican Republic a couple of years ago... and sat in the shade for most of the time. Don't get me wrong - it was still awesome! - the beach was lovely, the scenery was terrific, the heat was balm to my always-too-cold extremities, but I was into triple-digit sunblock and swam a lot at night and in the rain.

Not a sun-worshiper. In fact, given much of a choice, I will seek out rainy climes. Not that I'm actually seeking out rain, itself, it's just that I adore places where it tends to do that. Hell - it rained last time I was in Vegas and I didn't even mind that much.

One of those places - Wales - is, in fact, my favorite place on the planet thus far. There were shades of green in that country that I didn't - prior to setting foot there - even know existed. Everything seemed recently rained-upon even when it had been sunny for a week straight. Dappled. Fresh. Fecund.

Also? Wales sprouts historical ruins like weeds. Castles, ruined castles, crumbling monasteries, Roman fortifications, ancient Celtic hill forts - you name it. And that is my passion.

Much as I love lazing around reading a good book (under an umbrella, thanks!) in a warm tropical breeze, I'm much more drawn to the places where I can take in ancient history as part of the scenery. I was in Britain once for three weeks - it rained for a good whack of it and I couldn't have cared less. Tuck the hair up under a cap, pull on a pair of boots, let's go. There's a castle to be explored on that there hilltop!

Strangely, today is a perfect day for me to be writing this post... it's raining. And misty. And I'm going to go see a Scottish pipe and drum concert tonight. I've yet to make it up as far as Scotland (and me being of Scottish descent!) but I suspect it will make me yearn for a couple of weeks scrambling about in places that look like location shoots of Braveheart! Places where I would remain pale and pasty and content. Och aye!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Traveling and Writing

At this point in my life, my favorite places to travel don’t really exist. See, traveling most places with a toddler and a pre-schooler is not exactly fun, especially if air travel or long car rides are involved. Last week we all packed up and traveled to Philadelphia – not my favorite place to travel at all, but the place where I grew up and where our extended family lives. As we trudged through the crowded airport, bogged down with kids, a double stroller, car seats, suitcases, and backpacks, somebody told my husband he looked like a mule. He sort of did. He was wheeling two suitcases hooked together with a car seat strapped on top, and a backpack on his back.

Before we had kids, our favorite places to travel were Las Vegas and San Diego. Las Vegas has everything, beautiful hotels, entertainment, great food, and is only a short flight and not too far drive from where we live. But it’s not what I would call a kid-friendly place. We used to love to visit San Diego in the summer, which is also only a short flight/drive away. When the weather in Arizona is miserably hot the weather there is gorgeous. We’ve been tentatively planning on taking a trip there this summer for the first time with the kids, but we’re torn between wanting to go on vacation again, and realizing that we will most likely need a vacation from our vacation when we get home. Kids off their regular nap schedule does not equal a fun relaxing trip. If you have small children, you know what I mean.

But somehow, I remember going on lots of vacations with my family as a kid, so I’m feeling hopeful that as my kids get older, we’ll be able to get away more. Once, we went on vacation to a ranch in Montana. We learned to ride horses, and rode with cowboys in the mountains, and it was so memorable that I always think of it as a favorite trip of mine, even though I can’t imagine it being something I would like as an adult. In my upcoming book, THE LIFE OF GLASS, there’s one character who owns a ranch and wants to teach the main character and her sister to ride horses. And all of that came from the few pieces of this trip left in my memory.

Actually, traveling always seems to influence my writing. Every time I take a big trip, I find myself filled with a story when I return. I wrote THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS after I went with my husband to Florida to visit his dying grandmother, and I was filled with such an overwhelming sense of loss that the book poured out of me when I got home. I wrote THE LIFE OF GLASS after going to Philadelphia last summer, and while I was there I found, in my childhood bedroom, a funny book my high school friend had made me as a graduation present. A lot of the sarcasm and characters in THE LIFE OF GLASS came from the ideas in there, and the high school memories it triggered.

This past trip to Philadelphia was a sad one – we were there for a funeral, and while we were away, one of our seemingly healthy cats died unexpectedly. I’m about to start working on my third YA novel, and I have a chapter and an idea for the book already, but also, there is the trip I just returned from, and not only the sadness that’s permeating my brain now, but also this sense of disbelief, this sense of life being snatched away so quickly and so easily. And whether I’m meaning for it to happen or not, I have a feeling, this is really what my next book will be about.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tiny Bubbles . . .

Calgon Take Me Away!

I'm in desperate need of a vacation. It's been way, waaaay too long. I hate this unfortunate fact, but what can I say - I have two sons in college. Well, I will next year . . . close enough, right? I'm talking - this girl needs a solid week, at least, of margarita sipping, pool dipping, and beach strolling. Oh let it be soon!

Over the years, I've been so very fortunate to have traveled to many wonderful destinations. Out of all of them - and this is a tough decision - but I think my absolute favorite place to travel would have to be Langdon, North Dakota.

April Fools! No offense to anyone in Langdon but I'm about as cold-natured as any girl you'll ever run across.

I once worked for a musician and have laid my head to rest in many a bus bunk. In fact, I almost fell out of a bus bunk one night on a winding road on the way up to Niagara Falls. That astounding place ranks high on my own list of wonders, no doubt, but it's hardly my favorite place to travel.

I reserve that pick for the one, the only . . . (close your eyes and dream with me now) Hawaii.

It's the perfect place to go if you're like me and crave adventure. Yes, this American island paradise keeps me very thirsty. I've jumped off cliffs, snorkeled among sea turtles, and bathed in hot spring pools heated by the active volcanoes on the Big Island. Twice I've left my hotel at 2:00 a.m. to watch the sunrise in a breathtaking spectrum of color over Haleakala crater in Maui. I've explored the rain forest on Kauai, even surfed the waves of Waikiki Beach. And the best part of all this is, nowhere did I have to pay an admission charge. Each attraction was absolutely free!

That's me, by the way, in mid-air. I have my friend Anne Marie to thank for getting the shot. It made my kids so proud . . . or embarrassed, I can't remember which!

I even took a hula dancing class, good for 2 credit hours, when my best friend and I spent the summer at the University of Hawaii, many a year ago. That, unfortunately, was not free.

I think I might even consider living there if it weren't for my fair skin. That's where I draw the line on island adventures. Even Hawaii is not worth the wrinkles!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kickin' It Beach Style

You all will have to forgive me if this post makes zero sense--I'm still a little jet lagged from this weekend. My entire extended family spent a long weekend skiing in Keystone, Colorado. Which was great, save for the few minutes of screaming from my toddler on the plane. All was made better, though, by the foot of fresh powder that fell the night we arrived.

So, for me, it's pretty appropriate that we're discussing favorite travel places this week. And while I do love me some chair lifts, black diamond runs and drinking hot chocolate, I'm going to have to pick a beach destination as my favorite place to travel. Specifically, one destination: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

My family has been visiting HHI for over twenty years. Miles of wide, flat, soft beaches, a relaxed island attitude and fabulous restaurants like the Salty Dog Cafe. It truly is like a second home to me, every corner occupying some memory of childhood. And I LOVE that I'm passing the tradition down to my son.

If forced to make a second choice, then I'm going to pick another beach destination--Port Douglas, Australia. My husband and I honeymooned there. We fell in love with the Great Barrier Reef, the easygoing "No worries, Mate" attitude and Bees Knees beer. We still crack up when we think about the three things any Australian mentioned when they heard we live in Chicago: Al Capone, Oprah and Jerry Springer. Hilarious, but a little frightening. We can't wait to go back someday. (Not likely to be soon--see aforementioned toddler scream-a-thon.)

Of course, we already have our week picked out for HHI this year. But there are a few other places I hope to visit soon. Here's my short list: Sedona, Arizona; Ireland (Like, all of it); Greek Islands; and Barcelona, Spain.

Bon Voyage!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The History of Boston

I'm a sucker for big cities: Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle - I love them all. There's an energy in these cities that you just don't find in small, sleepy towns. Each of these cities also have a feeling that no other city that's uniquely its own.

That unique modifier combined with the energy of the city is enthralling for me. And always, no matter what city I'm in, I can almost feel what it would be like living there. Or, at least, I *think* I can. Boston is probably one of my most favorite cities to visit. This is because it's a city filled with history everywhere you look. The sense of that history pulls at me whenever I'm there. I always leave Boston with the sense that I'm leaving something greatly mysterious behind, and wouldn't it be awesome if I could stay...

So yep, because of that sense of history, I'd have to say Boston is on the top of my "favorite places to visit" list. But whenever I visit any bigger city, I'm always in awe of the energy, the electricity of the place, and I always want to come back again.

Someday, I'll make it out of the U.S., and then I might have other favorite places. What's your favorite place to travel to? I'd love to hear!

Have a great Monday!