January 2019
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The Croatian Scam?

It started simply enough: I was walking down the street when a young man stopped me and asked, “Do you speak English?”

He didn’t fit my profile of people to whom I say, “I’m terribly sorry, but no, I do not speak English! What a terrible misfortune. I wish you luck in finding somebody who does speak English.”

Instead he fit the profile of people who look vaguely lost and need directions, I said, “Yes.”

“Do you know any Croatians?” he queried.

“No,” I replied.

“So, you only know Germans?” he asked.

“I don’t know any Croatians,” I said.

We then started a brief discussion where I admitted I was an American and he wanted to know why Kansas and Arkansas were pronounced so differently – “I have family in Arkansas,” he said.

It was in this moment that I suddenly recalled that this wasn’t the first time I’d been asked if I knew anybody from Croatia.

The last time had been a very cold evening, as I was returning home from a party. Coming out of the U-Bahn station, it had occurred to me that I needed to pee. And pee badly. The multiple half-liters of hefeweizen were coming back to haunt me.

About 20 meters from my front door, a young man had stopped me – with the very same series of questions: “Do you speak English?” and “Do you know any Croatians?”

I don’t recall the exact tale of woe that I was told 18 months ago, but the young man who stopped me today was a construction worker who was going to get paid tomorrow, but last night his roommate had been too drunk and he’d had to sleep in a hostel. He now needed 12€ to pay off his hostel bill.

There’s no way I will ever pull out my wallet on the street to give money to somebody on the street so I lied: “Sorry, I don’t have any money on me.”

“How will I pay my bill,” the guy asked me.

“Good luck,” I answered as I started walking again.

May all the Croatians I don’t know, who live in Berlin, stop rooming with alcoholics.

Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide

Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide

Last Sunday I headed up toward northern Berlin, a part of the city I have not really taken the time to explore. This time I wanted to see the Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide, one of the three (that I know of) Soviet memorials to World War II in Berlin.

Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide

Surprisingly, the Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide is of human scale: unlike the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park, at Schönholzer Heide, it felt human. It had a bigger impact on me. According to Wikipedia, for what it’s worth, 13,200 out of the 80,000 Soviet soldiers who died during the Battle of Berlin are buried here.

Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide

My Sunday morning visit was peaceful — and thoughtful; as one is often given to reflection when visiting memorials.

Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide

For the complete photo set: Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide.

Don’t Be Stupid Fucking Tourists

I actually uttered this words on a bus earlier this year.

I was somewhere random and needed to go somewhere else random and, like magic, there happened to be a bus that connected the two points. You might think that this is a one off, but the professionals at BVG, the Berlin Public Transit Group, have strung together the most amazing collection of bus routes that connect places in a single seat ride that you wouldn’t think are possible.

Anyhow, I got on this bus, sat down and started reading, not really paying attention.

At the next stop, two people wanted to get on the bus, but the back doors were not opening – the front door was open. Then a woman on the bus, pressed the button to open the doors so that she could get off and these two people got on the bus and immediately sat down.

This I did notice and I knew immediately that these bozos were engaging in fare evasion, thinking to myself, “what assholes.”

Unfortunately for these two people, the bus was quiet enough that the driver noticed and he yelled at them over the PA system, in German, to come to the front and show their tickets.

These two geniuses remained seated and said back, “We don’t speak German.”

So I intervened.

“He wants to see your tickets, so go show them.” – or something like that — The guy got up with his backpack, went to the front of the bus, and started rummaging through his bag. Another clear sign of fare-evading assholes: my public transport ticket is something I show at least twice a day, so I keep it easily accessible.

The girl continued to look confused, and I continued to talk, “Don’t be stupid fucking tourists.”

Clearly It isn’t rocket science to figure out that when you’ve entered a bus in the middle or back and the bus driver starts yelling at you, you need to show your ticket. You do not even need to speak the same language to figure this out.

Perhaps my second comment was unnecessarily cruel, but it’s the basic truth: if you are a tourist, it is incumbent upon you to figure out how public transportation works in the place you are visiting. I’ve made it a point to study how bus systems work in different places – before I get there: Chicago, London, Washington DC, Lisbon, and Kiel – to name a few.

About the only place I’ve ever been completely stumped in advance (and in person) was Lund, Sweden. At the time, the only way to buy a single ride was to use your Swedish mobile phone and to do it via SMS. Otherwise, tourists from outside the country could only buy expensive day-passes and I wanted only one ride. (Even today, you still cannot buy tickets on the bus in most of Sweden unless you use a contactless card; it’s obtuse and confusing, trust me; this from somebody who figures it out in advance.)

Still, after not figuring it out in advance or in person, I approached the bus (mind you I do not speak Swedish) at the front, with the driver, and begged to be let on. I didn’t brazenly behave like an asshole tourist.

I have zero sympathy for tourists (and locals) who evade paying fares.

It gives me a thrill when I see ticket inspectors haul people off of the u-bahn or bus (and not frequently enough from the bus) and fine them for not paying.

What’s also funny is that even though I rarely ride the u-bahn, I have come to recognize some of the fare inspectors, already pulling out my wallet to show that I’m an honest customer, even before the doors to the train are completely shut.

Newfoundland – tick!

Cape Spear Lighthouse

After having flown over Newfoundland and Labrador more times that I care to count – even once stopping for fuel on a Continental 757 flying from Berlin to Newark – I decided it was high time to actually visit Newfoundland, specifically St. John’s.

I timed the trip to take advantage of Reformationstag, the day celebrating 500 years since Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the church in Wittenberg. This year – and only this year – Reformationstag was a legal holiday in every Bundesländer – so by taking Friday and Monday off, I had an instant 5 day weekend.

Getting there I flew on Lufthansa and Air Canada: first an A321 to Frankfurt, then an A320 to London, and then an A319 to St. John’s. At the time spent increased, the plane sized decreased, until, ultimately, I checked into my hotel in St. John’s, where I was assigned room 318.

Some quick impressions: St. John’s is a very understandable city; at least for me. I walked around downtown my first afternoon, looking in some shops and buying a new winter coat, which I was in the market for regardless. I bought it at The Outfitters, a local sporting goods shop, where a very helpful assistant assisted me.

Unfortunately, I put my foot in my mouth to some extent: his accent was nothing like what I expected. Somehow, I guess that I expected a heavier version of the Maine accent, but with Canadianisms thrown on at the end, eh? Instead, to my poorly qualified ear, the guy sounded like he was straight from Sydney – and not the one in Nova Scotia, but the one down under. I wish I’d kept my mouth shut, because I asked. Over the next 70 hours, I would hear his accent, or other versions of it, from different people. Seriously, it’s a charming accent and the way English is used is quite different from what I expected.

Happily, though, I found a terrific winter jacket that might actually be a shade too warm for what I want, but it is still fantastic – the assistant was patient and helpful, so I offer great thumbs ups to The Outfitters.

Beyond that I was proud of the fact that I managed to stay awake until 8pm, by walking around town, eating seafood for dinner, then looking at an art gallery opening. After that, I was pretty promptly out.

Morning from Cape Spear

Saturday, I woke up pretty early and headed out to Cape Spear to watch the sunrise. I got incredibly lucky: although the horizon was cloudy, the colors were magnificent. I probably spent about an hour wandering the grounds of Cape Spear, including visiting the monument marking Canada’s furthest east point.

Cape Spear Lighthouse

After that I visited The Rooms – a local provincial museum that is perched awkwardly on top of a hill overlooking the city. The museum is actually quite interesting (dried cod notwithstanding), but the actual museum is in a building that I think is excessively large and out of scale when compared to the city it oversees.

From there it was to Signal Hill, where I had a panoramic view of everything I had already done, including Cape Spear and The Rooms.

St. John's from Signal Hill

Newfoundland spoke to me in the way that Wyoming spoke to me. The specifics of the scenery are different, but they the people interact with the surroundings and the overwhelmingly rural nature of the province are similar to Wyoming. There are more people and more moisture, but I had this sense of independence and fortitude that resonated with me. I could actually see living in Newfoundland.

Dinner Saturday night was at Raymond’s, a restaurant that was recently reviewed in The New York Times – it was well worth the time and money. I’ve been to only a very few restaurants that are as attentive to details in both the cooking of the food and in the service as Raymond’s. If I ever return to St. John’s, I would happily eat there again.

Sunday way my Newfoundland road-trip day, and I had two destinations in mind.

Once the first one was out of the way, I had a few hours to kill as the Toutons and Tunes tour did not begin until 2:00, so I took a leisurely tour of region where both Dildo and Bay Roberts are located, heading to the city of Heart’s Content, where I discovered the first Transatlantic Cable Station, and a line marking where the cable from Europe came ashore.

Transatlantic Cable Crossing at Heart's Content

Then I wandered down to the city of Bay Roberts, where I took the Toutons and Tunes tour. Toutons are a fried bread dough pastry that is served with molasses. These were waiting for us at the end of the tour, along with local high school students playing traditional tunes. Further, as I was on the last tour of the season, both mussels and a seafood stew were prepared – talk about being incredibly lucky!

Bay Roberts seashore

The tour was charming: in addition to me, the oddball European resident visiting for the weekend, there was a German foreign exchange student, and about 6 or 7 locals. The first 15 minutes of the tour were spent understand where people came from and how they were related to everybody else. Once this was established we walked along the seashore to the red building where the toutons and tunes were awaiting. Along the way, there were a couple of stops, where local history was shared.

Berries along the coast

All-in-all, it was an excellent, densely packed, weekend. St. John’s is a charming city and the province is beautiful. I only have two more provinces and the three territories left to go before I’ve completed Canada.

19 years, but who’s counting?

Last weekend I was in Chicago, where I caught up with one of my early gay IU friends. We talked about a number of things – including the coming out process and what it was like to come out (whether to ourselves or to others) at Indiana University in the late 1990s.

But the thing that dominate my memories about my early years at IU is Matthew Shepard.

In October 1998, I had been living in Bloomington, Indiana, for a mere month and a half. I was finding my footing on a number of levels: figuring out what I was doing in school, figuring out how to be gay, figuring out my favorite hangout in Bloomington, and the myriad of other things that happens when you move to some place new.

I could go all maudlin and talk about how I felt – sitting in my office (which no longer exists), realizing that somebody had been brutally beaten in Laramie, Wyoming – reading between the lines for the scant information in the online edition of the UW Branding Iron student newspaper and realizing the victim was gay – feeling my world slowly shut down, going home to my one bedroom apartment, where I crawled into its large closet to cry and to feel safe.

Nineteen years later, these memories remain visceral. Palpable. Tangible in a way that few memories from that era remain tangible.

Sitting in my Berlin living room, roughly 4,500 miles from my Bloomington living room, roughly 5,000 miles from where Matthew Shepard was pistol whipped, tied to a fence, and left to die.

Wait, that’s an incomplete sentence: pausing to reflect, as I do each year in early October, and I regress in my emotions, my feelings, my thoughts, back to how I felt in October 1998: helpless, isolated, insulated, vulnerable.

Certainly, I have these moments as a grown-up, grown-up, but these emotions are acute and raw when I reflect upon and remember Matthew Shepard.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever stop feeling this way when I pause to think about Matthew Shepard. Sometimes I hope that I will. Other times I remember that it is important that I never forget how I felt as the Matthew Shepard story unfolded over the seven long days between the time Matthew Shepard was beaten and tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie and when he died at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Matthew “Matt” Wayne Shepard – *December 1, 1976; †October 12, 1998

For historical reference, see 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 20132014, 2015, 2016, or any of the many times he’s been mentioned on my blog via a search for Matthew Shepard.

My 2017 Western America Tour: Cheerful Colorado History (Not)

When initially planning my trip, I had envisioned going from the Great Sand Dunes to Laramie, Wyoming, taking the mountain route: The Rockies are a dramatic backdrop and there are lots of trails to hike and things to do.

The problem was, I couldn’t identify anything specific that I wanted to do – and instead realized that I could visit southeastern Colorado instead, a part of the world I’d never been to. There I quickly sketched out a trip that involved, as I came to think of it, Cheerful Colorado History.

Ludlow Memorial

Yes, I visited the Ludlow Labor Massacre memorial, the Hastings Mine Explosion memorial, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, and the Amache Japanese Internment Camp. Given that I was there, I also visited the Koshare Indian Museum and Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.

Ludlow Memorial

My first stop was the Ludlow Labor Massacre memorial, where, on April 20, 1914, the Colorado National Guard, along with company guards, shot up and killed a number of people. Including a 3-month-old baby, Elvira Valdez, and several other of the younger set, a total of 39 people were killed.

Ludlow Memorial

As I understand it, the memorial is located directly above a pit where 11 children and two women suffocated to death while the tent above them burned.

This is sobering stuff: man’s inhumanity toward man seems to know no bounds.

After absorbing the memorial, I headed a few miles west to the Hastings Mine Explosion memorial, which marks the death of 121 coal miners on April 21, 1917 – just 100 years ago this year.

Hastings mine explosion memorial

The memorial, a simple stone marker, is off to the side of the road, up a pretty canyon.

Hastings mine explosion memorial

Again, I paused to reflect on the advances we’ve made – and those we have not.

From there, I was off to La Junta – it’s a long, boring, drive, with not much to break up the monotony of southeastern Colorado. There’s a reason most of you have never visited or given it a second thought.

La Junta, where I paused for two nights, is an otherwise unremarkable city – functional in the ways it ought to be. The Koshare Indian Museum is an interesting collection, but, given that it forms the basis of a boy scout dance troop, I suspect Native Americans are not all that happy with its existence and cooptation of cultural traditions. Bent’s Old Fort was an interesting wander, killing an hour or so.

Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site

The next day was – for southeastern Colorado – action packed.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

After breakfasting at Copper Kitchen (has a great reputation; seemed fine to me) I headed out to the (nearby) Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site: 93 miles, 100 minutes, including about 8.5 miles of dirt roads.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

It’s the kind of place where people know you’re coming from miles – and so when I parked, the Park Ranger was waiting for me. A very nice woman, she introduced me to the site, told me I could drive up to the overlook, or I could walk – but that if I chose to walk, I needed to be aware of the rattlesnakes.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

I chose to walk.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

On November 29, 1864, and despite waving a white flag of truce, plains Indians were slaughtered and their bodies desecrated – and that’s a very limited, sanitized, outline of what happened.

Yet again, this is a case of white privilege and ego-centrism coming to the fore.

It’s sobering to realize that the US is not done creating sites that will one day be national memorials marking (yet) another occasion where somebody with excessive white privilege took it upon themselves to tell others that they are superior.

I left the site for Granada, Colorado, home of Amache. It’s an hour long drive where you can think about what you’ve just seen – 19th century white fear of Indians – and what you’re on your way to see – 20th century white fear of Japanese descendants. Unless, like me, you manage to kill a bird along the way, in which case you’ll spend 5 or 10 minutes wondering if the bird damaged your rental car (it hadn’t).

Amache: Granada Relocation Center

In Granada, I got lucky: the Amache museum was open; the teacher was showing the coming school year’s students around the museum. He left to drive them back to school and left me to wander the museum. It starts with a copy of the order excluding US citizens of Japanese descent from the west coast and ends with a copy of a speech by FDR in which he talks about everybody being Americans with equal rights, regardless of their ethnicity. Nice.

Amache: Granada Relocation Center

From there I drove over to the actual internment camp – listening to the audio tour that I had downloaded. I rolled down my windows, turned off the AC, and drove down streets, pausing to look. I was supposed to get out and explore the site, but wearing shorts and sandals, I decided that I didn’t want to fight the weeds to examine foundation remnants too closely.

Amache: Granada Relocation Center

America – despite its promises – can be an asshole.

Amache: Granada Relocation Center

There are so many low-lights in American history that we do not talk about often enough – it’s a stark contrast, in some respects, to Germany: Germany did wrong during World War II – and it acknowledges it. America did a lot of little things wrong, but fixates only on when it got things right instead.

Heading back west toward La Junta – and the Arkansas Valley Fair in Rocky Ford – it’s easy to want to forget. But with Donald Trump in office, it’s important that we never forget.

Eclipse: One heavenly body in front of another…

2017 Solar Eclipse: Totality

Last Monday, like many other people, I found myself in the path of totality – in my case, Glendo, Wyoming.

Glendo, population 200, is the first real city (ha!) one encounters driving north along I-25 from Cheyenne that was in totality. Thus, this is where we, and 20,000 of our closest friends got off the highway to watch the eclipse.

2017 Solar Eclipse: Looking up...

I could spend a lot of time talking about the spiritual experience of watching a total eclipse in person, but I’m not that kind of guy. It was an amazing experience, no doubt: the way the quality of light changed, the way temperatures dropped in the last 20-25 minutes prior to totality, and how beautiful it was to stare at the sun’s edges. My vantage point behind the gas station let me enjoy it with people nearby, but in an otherwise uncrowded area.

2017 Solar Eclipse: Totality

But the fact is, many people have written lengthy books about this experience and I lack the ability to convey the experience in a more meaningful way.

2017 Solar Eclipse: Howard's in Glendo

So, what I want to say is that Wyoming did an amazing job of hosting its visitors. I haven’t seen any final numbers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the state had close to a million visitors – an impressive number for a state that normally hosts about half a million citizens. Traffic was incredibly slow, but the state troopers and local police were out in force, directing it as efficiently as they could.

2017 Solar Eclipse: Totality

Although I read that one person was killed – nowhere near where I was – I never saw an accident: Wyoming’s guests were almost as well behaved in driving as its police forces were in hosting.

About the only thing I remain upset about is the fact that the Radisson Hotel Cheyenne cancelled my reservation.  It is, apparently, managed by an incompetent, lying, nincompoop. I’m also extremely disappointed in Booking.com’s inability to admit their incompetence and to apologize meaningfully.

Where I’m not staying because they cancelled my reservation: Radisson Hotel Cheyenne

Radisson Hotel Cheyenne - A Hotel to Avoid.

The Radisson Hotel Cheyenne: Cancels Reservations Because they can.

Normally I would not choose to visit the US during August, but this year, I am. Like thousands of others, I want to see the eclipse on Monday, August 21st.

But a wrench was thrown into my plans by the Radisson Hotel Cheyenne after they cancelled my reservation for the evening of August 20th — the night before the eclipse.

Understand that I planned ahead. I made my reservation more than nine months in advance. On November 13, 2016, I examined my options on Booking.com and chose the Radisson Hotel Cheyenne. As I am a frequent user of Booking.com, I was offered a “Booking Genius” rate of $86.90, including tax. The reservation was confirmed and guaranteed with a credit card. I was given the option to cancel for free, as long as said cancellation was made on or before July 20, 2017.

On July 18, 2017, Booking.com sent me an email reminding me of the penalty-free cancellation deadline.

Then on August 11, 2017, Booking.com informed me via email that the “Radisson Hotel Cheyenne is unable to accommodate your reservation” due to overbooking.

The alternative offered was the Estes Park Resort in Estes Park, Colorado, which is not really a realistic substitute for Cheyenne, Wyoming. The alternative hotel, in addition to be almost two hours from Cheyenne, is $319.49, with taxes, for one night. While Booking.com is willing to pay the difference in price between the two rates, this, of course, does not account for the additional expenses related to fuel and getting up substantially earlier in order to make it to totality in time.

I’ve complained about this on TripAdvisor in order warn other travelers about the shittiness of the Radisson Hotel Cheyenne and its propensity to cancel reservations – and the manager responded,

I am sorry for these circumstances. Your reservation wasn’t actually cancelled. Unfortunately, your reservation did not properly transfer into our system. There is an active investigation occurring between the booking channel and our brand to determine exactly what happened. The situation is beyond our control and as soon as we realized there was an issue, we reached out to all entities to try to resolve it as quickly as possible. I realize this doesn’t help you because there are no rooms available in the area but please know that we don’t cancel reservations based on rate and if I could accommodate your reservation, I absolutely would.

Yours in Hospitality,

Jennifer Walker
General Manager

So… short summary: never reserve a room at a Radisson – whether in Cheyenne or elsewhere – and never use Booking.com.

My 2017 Western America Tour: Great Sand Dunes

Great Sand Dunes National Park

I’ve been trying to route myself through the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve for a few years, but the trips have never quite worked out.

The goal was to find out if it is as awesome as an adult as it was when I was a kid.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Short Answer: Yes!

Long Answer: Next time I am going to time the trip so that I can get there when the sun is coming up and before it gets hot.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

I arrived at the park at about 10:00 on Tuesday – and although I had over a half liter of water on me, I decided to heed the warning signs that the sand gets hot. Because I was not wearing the recommended shoes – my comfortable sandals instead – ultimately I only hiked out to the first rise in the sand, where I watched people slide down and surf down the dunes for a while, before heading back to my car.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Along the way I got to listen to a woman and a man argue: she wanted to see the dunes, he wanted her to see the view from the top. He was carrying only a camera, she was slightly heavy and wearing a small backpack. They had quite the argument – I suspected she was right; the man appeared to have zero water on him. Later, as I started back to the car, I noticed that she was coming down, without the man; I thought about tell her that I admired her, but instead I kept my mouth shut.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

It’s easy to tell that the best times to be there are as the sun comes up (when it’s cool and you have time to hike to the top of the dunes before it gets hot) or in the evening as the skies turn red and shadows play across the dunes.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Next time…

My 2017 Western America Tour: New Mexico

I’m now just over a week into my tour of Western America – last Wednesday I flew from Berlin to Albuquerque. The day was long: I woke up at 04:00 for a 06:45 flight, connecting in Frankfurt and Houston, with a reasonable connection in Frankfurt and an excessively long one in Houston. Ultimately, I got to Albuquerque on time at 18:45ish, but then proceeded to argue with the car rental agency.

I’d reserved an intermediate car – and when I got there, I specifically told the guy I must have a trunk. I said it several times, but… alas, they were out of my type of car and they had exactly to options for me. The first was an “upgrade” to an SUV, the other was a Mustang – but the Mustang would cost me $17 extra per day because it was a lot better than the SUV. I pointed out that if I got an SUV, I should get a discount because SUVs have terrible fuel efficiency. I think the guy wanted to go on break so he finally offered me a Ford something – a basic car. Not knowing what it was, I accepted it went out and discovered it was a fucking hatchback. Something I specifically did not want. I went to a different person who typed on his keyboard for about five minutes and then gave me a VW Jetta. It had a trunk. It was perfect.

Albuquerque is an interesting city; I could say a lot about it, but I will keep it short. I stayed with a distant cousin and spent my days wandering alone (Thursday) and with a cousin-in-law (Friday). Both days were good: Thursday I did a bit of shopping and then wandered Old Town. I also visited a museum that was good, but the guy at the front desk told me it was impossible for me to see the museum without me telling him where I live. This caused me to blow my top and it probably took me 20 minutes to calm down – and since the museum is apparently run by an arm of the US Stasi, I won’t tell you which museum it was. Friday was a journey to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center – the visit was awesome – and the Turquoise Museum – which was stunningly good. More amazing, the Turquoise Museum has been in Albuquerque for 25 years and my (extremely well connected) cousins had never heard of it!

Pantry Restaurant: Huevos Consuelo

Huevos Consuelo at the Pantry Restaurant in Santa Fe; a great start to Sunday morning!

The plan for Friday night was killed by rain: I’d hoped to see an Albuquerque Isotopes game, but it was cancelled.  Then, on Saturday, after hitting up the Saturday Market, I headed north to Santa Fe in order to see art by Kent Monkman (if I had a spare $170,000, I’d be in heaven) at the Peter’s Project and to eat dinner at Maria’s, an amazing Mexican restaurant I first ate at in the 1980s.

Route 68 to Taos

I wish I could tell you exactly where I took this photo, but it was closer to Taos than Santa Fe and it was a picnic area by the highway. This is why I love The West.

Sunday marked new territory: Taos.

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo — Certainly a pretty setting.

I’m not quite clear how I’ve overlooked Taos. The city has a huge reputation for being a great place to visit, but my parents never took me when I was a kid and it just never worked into my previous travel plans. A slight mistake – I spent two nights wandering the area, having a splendid time. My hotel was across the street from Michael’s Kitchen, which is one of my Mom’s favorite restaurants and is as old as I am.

Taos Pueblo

One of the doors in the Taos Pueblo.

Monday, I started at the Taos Pueblo – paying $16 for the privilege. I then donated $5 to a tour guide who explained life in the Pueblo. It was a beautiful space and I am super happy that I got there when the place opened and took the first tour, before it got busy. There might not have been many shops open, but I did end up buying a pretty suave tote bag with a beautiful buffalo motif stamped on both sides of it.

Taos Pueblo

The changing light on the Taos Pueblo makes for fantastic photos. And art.

Later, after stopping by the Martinez Hacienda, I went to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge – which is, essentially, a popular bridge to walk across that is, perhaps, slightly too narrow (in my opinion) to carry both heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffics. I walked a short distance on to the bridge, holding on to the handrail before taking a few snaps over the edge and turning around to the edge. While I was walking back a heavy truck drove across the bridge and the resulting vibrations were a bit too much for me; I was glad I was close to getting off of the bridge and not out in the middle.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

That’s the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge!

With that, I went back to my hotel and got ready for Tuesday’s adventure: The Great Sand Dunes.

View from Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

This is what the bridge goes over….