too much beauty!

this post is also featured on Travel. Write. Repeat.

Twice, in as many months, I have heard the title of this post uttered and have now adopted it as an essential descriptive phrase to use when beholding beauty that nearly hurts my eyes.

I first heard it in the British Virgin Islands when the transparently blue/green water and the scores of rainbow fish got to be just too beautiful to see over and over again (yeah, I am really not complaining here...) and one of my travel partners on that trip longed to see "the grayness of Newark" (well, she said that, but of course no one longs to see Newark)... anyway... I uttered the same phrase again while in Zion.

I'd like to think I have visited epic locales-- oceans, cities & mountains known for their beauty-- but I had not yet seen anything like Zion National Park.
Let me tell you now, any pictures you see, even the professional ones do not capture, in the slightest, what you will witness in person.

The Park, that welcomes three million visitors a year, is divided into 4 sections--all with gorgeous views, scenic drives and hikes for every level of mountaineer.

1.Zion Canyon containing: the Emerald Pools (that Jean, Rachel and I hiked), Angels Landing (the steepest hike in the entire park and upon your completion, if you have the energy to to make it back down, can buy a t-shirt proclaiming your victory ascent and The Narrows which has been voted by National Geographic as in the top 10 of their best 100 hikes in the Nation.

2.Kolob Canyons known for the famous Kolob Arch that is shown in many Zion pamphlets.

picture courtesy of First Light Photographs

3.Kolob Terrace: with the well known, yet challenging Subway hike. Parts of this hike travel through naturally made mountain tunnels and in some parts require partial or depending on the time of year (like last week while I was in Zion) total submersion and swimming into cold water.

photo courtesy of

4. Highway 9 that includes the Tunnel-- a spectacular scenic drive that leads to the South side of the Park.

Zion is a massive area and my time there was for exploring the park, but also for my friend's wedding (which was IN the park and was GORGEOUS) which did not allow me excess time to get all of the hikes in I had wanted. Next time I go back, the Subway hike is first on my list.

Now that you know a little bit about Zion, and my original purpose of the trip... let me display some of my favorite pictures and accompanying stories.

Hiking around various areas of the Canyon we found ourselves in dry river beds full of ... sand? Yep. Some of the softest sand to ever have passed in between my toes! The mountain rocks are all Sandstone (some of the largest amount anywhere in the World actually) and the Virgin River, over time, has eroded parts down into, well, sand.

We came across a family of Mountain goats while hiking and I didn't zoom on this shot--we were this close.

This was the lodge we stayed at, just outside of the Park. The views were incredible and a free shuttle ran every 10 minutes to take you either into town or into the Park (of course we had our stealth Hybrid (see part 1). Us 3 girls shared a giant room with 2 queen beds, a queen sleeper sofa a nearly full kitchen and a deck overlooking the heated pool.

On one of our hikes...

Scenery shot! Too much beauty!!!!

I swear-- it was not easy to climb up here even though it looks like it'd be pretty easy...

This concludes part II of the Zion trip... but there is more to come... and take a read of part I if you haven't yet.

this post can also be found at Travel. Write. Repeat.

Last Thursday I caught the early flight to Salt Lake City to meet up with two of my old high school buddies, Jean & Rachel. We three had a reunion road trip planned to Zion National Park via Park City to attend our friend Melissa's wedding in Zion.

When I got into Salt Lake (an hour early--thank you Delta) I had some time to kill before Rachel flew into town. I had been to Salt Lake about 10 years ago for a Husky game and had a chance to see some of the city and surrounding area. Salt Lake is small, but it is surrounded by mountains pretty much entirely which makes it look even smaller when viewing it from above--which is exactly what I did!

After picking up my hybrid rental car and taking like hours to start it (word to the wise---hybrids make NO noise until they are going like 25 mph. Who knew?) I drove to the highest point I could, within reason, and found a hike up to Ensign Peak. This place, as many places in Salt Lake, has religious significance to the large Mormon population, but to me it offered a spectacular view of the mountains and city.

After the hike and the wheezing, breathless reminder that Utah is at a much higher elevation than I have been used to on the East Coast, I caught my breath at a Starbucks then toured the city --drive by style--and saw the highlights.

Below is the Capital building that lies at the foothills of the mountain i had just climbed--near the University of Utah.

After picking up Rachel, we headed North to Park City-- the ski mecca of Utah. Of course, skiing wasn't really going on while we were there, although snow was in the forecast. We were much more interested in gabbing and cruising the town--and what a cute town it is!! The "Main Street" had art galleries, restaurants, shops and outrageously expensive pet clothing stores; needless to say--we were in heaven!

Rachel & Di hanging out on the lift chair

Main Street

Absurdly long staircases which have got to be damn near impossible to climb in the snow

One of 3 enormous resident Park City dogs at the doggie boutique

Rachel scoping out some night spots for when Jean meets up with us.

We drove back to Salt Lake to pick up Jean (only 30 minutes away) and then back to Park City to have some dinner and start our reunion! We ate at what we heard is THE hangout during the ski season: The No Name Saloon. The food was awesome and while we were outnumbered by like 75 to 3 in a men to women ratio-- we had plenty of time for ourselves to visit and laugh before stopping off at Lindzee O'Michaels Mixologists (see above pic) for $2 Ladies Night. Did I mention that driving is not necessary in Park City. Everything is within walking distance to the hotels!

At the No Name Saloon we got our first taste of Polygamy Porter: Why have just one?

Relaxing at Mixologists. The place had some interesting people... & I don't mean just us!!

Rachel dancing to, what else? The Beastie Boys! Its as if the Girls Trip Reunion Gods were smiling on us!!!

to be continued...

Sorry everyone for not posting lately. May was a busy month for us and with work demands, my website taking up more time (not complaining there!!) and travel-- its been hard to find time to post.

BUT-- June should be relatively calm except for a visit from Gretchen and a trip for me to Seattle, so I will have more time to post--starting tonight! Stay tuned for our latest adventures some which will feature one of the most beautiful locations I have ever visited.

Here is a photo hint:

this is a really cool video on youtube courtesy of my twitter friend @gotsaga
This rider isn't going far, 59th (around Central Park) down to Herald Square (near Macy's)... but still. Pretty cool.

Gives me some ideas on making my own videos... stay tuned for that. Now where did I put that helmet cam...

This post also appeared on Travel. Write. Repeat. I hope you enjoy it!

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"All the World is a Stage", so get thee to a Shakespeare festival!

It is that time of year again; the flowers have bloomed, the birds are singing and the sun warms your t-shirt wearing arms. Its time to pack your blankets, your wine & cheese and hop in the car to begin your road trip to the nearest (or furthest) Shakespeare festival to enjoy theatre at its best!

Now stop your internal nay-saying and hear me out.
Even if you were not an English major (as I was), Shakespeare has appealing qualities to everyone, well- except maybe my mom. When she helped me study my lines for the very amateur Shakespeare plays I took part in during my undergrad I remember her saying multiple times "how can anyone understand this"?

In retrospect, my response to her then of "Mom! It's not that hard! Just help me!" didn't add her to the number of Shakespeare fans out there. Since my future career of theatre has gone the way of Hamlet's father and my frustration of one not understanding "the craft of the language" has subsided, I can see how the complexity of the language can seem as approachable as snuggling a hedgehog.

Of course, one could buy cliff notes or watch the many movies that have been made from the plays (and I have to say, Mel Gibson's Hamlet is not bad), but I suggest instead to try taking in a live show in a true festival format. In my opinion, seeing the actors express the words make them easier to grasp and gives an unanticipated appreciation of this old language full of modern day messages.

Nearly every major city in the US and Canada have a Shakespeare Festival--as well as in Europe, but here are the ones that make the top of my list:

1. The Globe Theatre, London, England
The original Globe Theater was opened in the 1570's and here, Shakespeare got his start. After a few tragedies, namely the Bubonic Plague, a demolishing fire, the English Civil War and finally the destruction of the Globe (and theaters in general) by the Puritans, The Globe laid dormant for 350 years before a man named Sam Wanamaker had it rebuilt in the early 1990's.

Today, Shakespeare's Globe is THE Shakespeare festival to attend and their 2010 schedule is packed with some of the Bard's greatest hits.
With the gorgeous setting, the history and the nearby sights of London--this festival is hard to beat.

Plus, you can buy these cool mugs at the gift shop.

2010 Schedule
Macbeth until June 27, 2010
Henry VIII thru August 21, 2010
Henry IV Part 1 (my favorite) from June 6- October 2, 2010
Henry IV Part 2 from July 3- October 3, 2010
The Merry Wives of Windsor August 14-October 2, 2010

2. Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Oregon
When I was last in Ashland, a town near the border of California, for this festival, 2 friends and I camped at the local campground was fun and saved us quite a bit of money--as the bed-n-breakfasts and hotels here can get pricey and fill up quickly. The campground was great and truly added to the wonderful memories I have of Ashland.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has always been known for having cutting edge plays showing alongside the most popular Shakespeare plays in their 3 theaters.

This year 'Hamlet' is featured and the last time it was featured here was 10 years ago (when I was there)!

'Henry IV, Part 1' must be a big one this year because its showing here too (as well as in London) and other than 'The Merchant of Venice' and 'Twelfth Night', the rest of the line-up is non-Shakespeare. Here are my recommendations playing through the end of October (and 'Hamlet' also playing through the end of October, is a given):
'Pride and Prejudice'

After seeing some shows and strolling amongst the other Shakespeare buffs in Ashland-- drive just 90 miles away and see the truly take-your-breath-away vision of Crater Lake. The blue in this picture has not been doctored. The lake is seriously that blue.

3. Santa Cruz Shakespeare Festival, Santa Cruz, CA

Ahhhh, Santa Cruz: my favorite city in Cali. Close to San Francisco, but such a beach town with awesome surfing waves, boardwalk amusement parks (with the country's OLDEST working wood roller-coaster) and a very cool Shakespeare Festival!

the author & her brother with the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk in the background

Although a short season and with only three plays each summer, the festival on the campus of University of California at Santa Cruz ("UCSC") is quite popular and always sells out. My favorite showing here was the classic 'Romeo and Juliet" played out in the UCSC outdoor theatre surrounded by a canopy of evergreen trees and complete with 2 story stage so you could really see Juliet searching for "Romeo, Romeo..." as intended, from her second story balcony.

photo of the outdoor theatre during a showing of Julius Caesar in 2009. courtesy R.R. Jones

The 2010 Festival Season runs from July 20 - August 29 and the shows featured this year are:
Love's Labour Lost
and The Lion in Winter (a non-Shakespeare play)

4. Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, Ontario

My Aunt, a University English Professor, travels to Stratford each year from the West Coast for this Festival--- known as the most popular in all of North America.

For more than 50 years, this festival has provided, according to their website, "stimulating, thought-provoking productions of Shakespeare’s plays, to examine other plays from the classical repertoire, and to foster and support the development of Canadian theatre practitioners".

Stratford is just outside of Toronto and aside from reaching here by train or plane, the festival has round trip bus rides for just $30 Canadian from Toronto to the Festival.

The festival here runs from April through October (but check individual plays for their running time). There are a dozen plays this year and including Peter Pan that has an emphasis on an all-ages audience and Evita, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber (both running through October), the key Shakespeare plays are:

'As You Like It' through Oct 31, 2010
'The Tempest" June 11- September 12, 2010
'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' July 12-September 19, 2010

See the entire playbill here.

Hopefully you can get to one of these festivals or many of the others that are going on around the country this summer!
Have any Shakespeare recommendations? Please leave a comment and let me know!

This is going to be a good week and a good Monday tomorrow! Positive attitude goes a long way!

This weekend we headed to the boat to get it ready for the summer. It was 90 degrees yesterday and got to 92 today!

side note: yesterday was also the first day of boating season in my hometown of Seattle and it was in the 50's.

Yesterday at the boat Tom cleaned the outside (which was not an easy task after the tough & snowy winter) and I cleaned the inside (bathrooms, kitchen, put the bedding on etc.) After I finished my chores, Lisa and I hopped in my car (top down) and went for a much needed break to the beach. The sand felt sooooo nice! The water was still pretty cold, but it seemed like summer was finally here! After, we browsed the local shops in the town of Bay Head. Fun.
Afterwards we met back up with Tom and John and went to dinner.
Frank & Ollie were in heaven as they were reunited with their best friends, Snickers and Reeces. It was so cute to see them all run around together.

Today, as I mentioned, it was nice weather again but Tom and I stayed at home. I am feeling better so I went to kickboxing for the first time in like 8 days--it was tough, but I was glad I went. We ran errands and just hung out. Today was the first day this year that we felt the HUMIDITY!! Even the weaher forecasters said it was more like mid July than early May.

Here is a picture I took yesterday at the Shore. Hello beach days; I have missed you.

We have a full week coming up (thankfully with good weahter to last) but we'll be in touch as always!

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