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High Adventure in the Carrara Marble Mines

September 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Touring the Carrara Marble Mines  in Italy is a sensational, out of the ordinary travel adventure.  I highly recommend the tour and wrote an article about it for My Itchy Travel Feet, a travel blog for Boomers.  

View from the top.

View from the top of the Carrara Marble Mines.

At the summit!

At the summit!

Please read it here: http://myitchytravelfeet.com/2016/08/09/carrara-marble-mines/

 

France ~ Luminous Lyon

December 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

For four nights every December, the gastronomical capital of France is transformed into a breathtaking landscape of light and sound.


Lyon's Festival of Lights

Lyon may not be Paris, the City of Light, but it is definitely a city of illumination. Every night of the year, 325 historical and cultural sites and monuments glow in radiant splendor. And come December, the city beams forth with imaginative extravagance during the four-day Fête des Lumières. This year’s festivities start today and run through 12 December and are expected to attract 4 million visitors.  Videos of previous years’  extravaganzas (see YouTube video below) reveal why: The illuminated cityscape and scenes that surround you are in turn whimsical, fantastical, awe-inspiring, thought-provoking, sometimes a little odd and always beautiful. Walt Disney meets Salvador Dalí… and very little is what it seems.

The Festival of Lights dates to 1643 when the city was spared from the Plague. Believing the Virgin Mary was responsible, the residents wished to honor her by constructing a new bell tower topped with her statue. As with many municipal projects, plans were delayed–this one, for almost 200 years.

Finally, on 8 December 1852, the statue was ready for dedication. A gala was to include fireworks and flares, until a major storm arrived and church elders canceled the celebration. Come nightfall, the skies cleared, and grateful citizens spontaneously set out candles in their windows… and thus the festivities began.

The people of Lyon still maintain the candlelight tradition, while the new extraordinary lighting techniques have raised the event to a world-class phenomenon.

The combination of audio, video, and lighting effects transforms buildings, tourist sites, and historical monuments into a truly surreal environment. More than 60 “lighting scenes” created by lasers crisscrossing courtyards, snow-falling lights, and soundtracks pulsating in time to the city’s church bells convert ordinary street corners into interactive works of art.

Lyon’s Festival also draws artists, city officials, and lighting experts who collaborate during a congruent conference on urban lighting architecture. More than 20 years ago, Lyon’s city planners launched a Light Plan to illuminate artistically and aesthetically more than 200 buildings and public places, including l’Hôtel de Ville (the town hall), Hôtel Dieu (the hospital), universities, bridges, and parks. The project reinvented the city’s image, making it a leader in civic light installations and a year-round tourist attraction.

Surreal lighting in Lyon

The Tourism Bureau notes that the festival uses LED technology to enable low energy consumption. The electric bill for all the 2009 installations in the city center was less than €3,300–or about $4,400 at the current exchange rate.

As delighted (pun intended) as I would have been to behold this holiday celebration in person this year, I write this from my home in Florida. Still, I’ve been visiting the France Guide quite a bit lately, planning a future adventure abroad.

Lyons’ hotels are full this week, and the city’s 1,500 restaurants and 18 Michelin-starred chefs are busy serving their gastronomic specialties to crowds. Those fortunate enough to be attending are soaking up the holiday lights with a side of Lyonnaise sauce. Très magnifique.

This article first appeared in Automotive Traveler Magazine.

My photo taken of Luminous Lyon on a summer evening.

Scotland – Recommending Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo

July 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Imagine one thousand performers crammed elbow to elbow in a stadium or, in this case, the Castle Esplanade. Columns and columns of bagpipers, drummers, band members and dancers squeeze together for the grand finale.  The audience roars and claps their approval, then a hush falls over the crowd. Those seated reach out and grab hands with one another.  Music resumes and they start to sway and sing  Auld Lang Syne.  I remember that moment vividly, as it sent goose-bump chills through my body, raised unexpected emotion and a sense of national pride.

2010 marks the Diamond Jubilee Year of Edinburgh’s celebrated Royal Military Tattoo which will take place from August 6-28th, against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. This royal residence, atop a volcanic rock, has been around since at least 12th century. In 1566 Mary Queen of Scots gave birth in the castle to her only child, the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England.

I was fortunate to see the world’s most spectacular Tattoo in 2007 on a trip to Scotland’s capital city.  According to Wikipedia, ” The word “Tattoo” is derived from “tap toe” (“toe” is pronounced “too”), the Dutch for “Last orders”. Translated literally, it means: “put the tap to”, or “turn off the tap”. ”

The British adopted the practice, played by a regiment’s Corps of Drums to tavern owners, to turn off the taps so that the soldiers would retire. Later in the 18th century, the term Tattoo was used to describe not only the last duty call, but also a ceremonial form of evening entertainment performed by military musicians. So, today’s  tattoo is a performance of military bands and extras. In Scotland it calls for bagpipes and drums.

This year an expected 217,000 people will see the Tattoo live on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, and it has sold out in advance for the last decade. Thirty percent of the audience are from Scotland and 35% from the rest of the United Kingdom. The remaining 35% of the audience consists of 70,000 visitors from overseas. The Tattoo is televised in 30 countries and an additional 100 million people see the event on television worldwide.

I remember strolling alongside a tangled traffic jam toward the floodlit castle, perched on a massive crag. Near the top, I passed  through century’s old oak gates and took a grandstand seat. I could feel the excited anticipation of the ticket holders.  Soon, the swelling sound of hundreds of pipes and drums cracked through the air and a kaleidoscope of colors began to appear.

Military bands marched in formation, immense flags were unfurled and graceful dancers whirled. The highlight, for me, was the Lone Piper on the Castle ramparts.  Lit by a single spotlight and the flickering flames of the Castle torch lights,  he played a haunting lament that brought tears to my eyes. Why is the sound of a bagpipe so soulful?

As his melody faded away,  fireworks burst over the Castle hanging in the dark sky.  But the solemn mood continued as the crowd now joined together in song.  I remember glancing toward my Scottish neighbor’s face and feeling a sense of unity.  The Edinburgh Military Tattoo has become a recognizable symbol of the city, one that imparts a shared love of Scotland, her music and traditions.

Attending a live performance has been checked off my bucket list, but I encourage you to add it to yours.

Dancers perform

If you go, make your lodging choice from the hotels in Edinburgh city centre and plan to walk everywhere.  The crowd in the city resonates with  infectious cheer.

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