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Cool, amazing, whimsical or mystical places I have travelled to

When I was a girl, we went on road trips. Once, maybe twice, we flew to PA, where the rest of the family lived back then, but mostly we drove, or sometimes in the summer we would all go with my Dad on his sales trips through the southeast or we would just go on a family vacation, camping or staying in Howard Johnsons. The most memorable ones were around the Appalachians - the Great Smokies in Tennessee, the Blue Ridge in North Carolina and Virginia, the Alleghenies in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. From one vacation, I vividly remember ...

the Natural Bridge in Virginia. Note how tiny the guy standing under it is.

I remember one year we were in Pigeon Forge, TN for Easter. I only remember this because there is a picture. But it's a picture of our Easter finery and a pretty, sunny day, not a picture of the majestic beauty of the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains. Unfortunately, Pigeon Forge today is so tacky and commercial that there literally is no decent picture of it. So here's a picture of the mountains a few miles away.

And this is Ohiopyle. I visited this wild and beautiful place at the age of 14 with my Aunt Nancy, who was 16, and a distant male cousin, age 19, whose name I have forgotten. Which is really rotten, because I very nearly died at this very spot, and he saved me. It looks kind of tame in the picture, but trust me, it isn't. 
When I was 16, in the summer between junior and senior year, I had the life-determining experience of an eight-week long tour of Europe, with a strong cultural emphasis and classes in art, history and politics, taught by university professors. I had led a very sheltered, family-centered life up to then, and I could hardly believe my parents either permitted me or could scratch together the dough for me to take this trip. But it really did set the course of the rest of my life, for good or ill. The first place we landed was Rome. Within the first week I sawMichelangelo's Pieta. This was three years before Laszlo Toth smashed it with a hammer, requiring extensive restoration. I was enthralled. Many of the other students on the trip were Catholic, and I was a member of a Catholic Girl Scout troop and had Catholic friends. But I was raised a pious Methodist, and knew nothing of Mariology, or any of the mystical threads of Christianity. But I was riveted by the Pieta, and sketched it for several hours, and would have spent another week or two just hanging around it if I could have. I am sure it is a tinder spark to my later obsessive interest in the more exotic threads of Christian theology. I was already obsessed with art, and at the time probably thought my whole interest was simply aesthetic, and then that thing that John Wesley said about ones heart being strangely warmed. 

From Italy we went on to Austria, with side trips to Southern Germany. 

One of the many day trips was to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. I visited it again on my honeymoon at age 19. This is the usual tourist eye-candy shot, but my favorite part was actually the kitchen. When I returned to the Germanophone countries with my Germanophile first husband on a honeymoon in 1973, we visited a village in Austria called Kiefersfelden (my family name is Keefer.)
The kitchen at Neuschwanstein
Austrian village of Kiefersfelden

We visited many, many chapels and cathedrals on the European study tour. Through Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Belgium, and Holland, and ending our trip with eight days based in the famous English pilgrimage destination of Canterbury. One of the few I remember by name is Chartres, or the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Chartres, as it is properly known. Unfortunately, I remember only a little about it. I have totally forgotten the Labyrinth. I have a wispy visual memory of the Rose Window, which can be teased to life by a good photo of it.

St. Simons Island, GA. I visited here on a road trip when I was an 18 year old college student. I have always wanted to go back some day.

Sea grasses St. Simon's Island
Live oaks and Spanish moss
Oldest church on St. Simon's Island

Road trip to the Rockies, Montana, & Yellowstone

Washington DC

Mark Twain birthplace

Rosslyn Chapel. I saw this three times "before it was famous" (i.e., before The Da Vinci Code came out). These pictures show the Apprentice Pillar, the window frame with "Indian Corn" (the chapel was finished several decades before Columbus went to America), and one of the many, many weird little carvings, this one apparently depicting Lucifer's fall. 

The Orkney Islands
My husband-to-be at the time, Lewis, treated me to a tour of the British Isles prior to inviting me to come and live with him, which I did a year later. One of the places I longed to go was the Orkney Islands. We were booked to stay there five days, but only lasted half that time because he was struck by that strange island affliction (similar to claustrophobia) and was miserable. I loved it. I have even considered moving there! Not very practical. I got NO pictures from that part of the trip, so all these are Googled.
Skara Brae
The Orkneys are a small archipelago of some 70 islands, most too small to live on. It's north of Scotland, west of the Shetlands but east of the Western Isles. The largest island is called Mainland and has the main city, Kirkwall, which is where the ferry lands and where more than half the tourist attractions are. People go there for archeology and history, arts and crafts, fishing and bird-watching, and just to escape to a rural, simple place. In the archeology area, the main attraction is the neolithic settlement Skara Brae. The Orkneys had no native trees (and still has very few) so early peoples were forced to build everything from stone. This means lots of surviving artifacts. Even their beds were stone boxes filled with hay and furs. And they were sort of hobbit-sized. Very interesting. Other archeological sites are the Ring of Brodgar, Midhowe Broch, Broch of Gurness, and the Standing Stones of Stenness.
Italian Chapel 
 Historical sites include St. Magnus Cathedral and the ruin of the Bishop's Palace, both in Kirkwall, and the 20th century Italian Chapel, built by WWII prisoners from Italy. Another favorite site to visit is the single malt whisky distillery Highland Park, also in the town of Kirkwall.
St. Magnus Cathedral
Boat tours are popular, where you can see seals, and puffins and other sea-birds, and the many smaller islands and rock formations such as Sanday and the Old Man of Hoy. 
Old Man of Hoy, Orkney

Sanday, Orkney

England - the Midlands, the Peak District, Yorkshire, Northumberland

England - Cornwall

Wales - three memorable trips


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