“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” ~ Susan Sontag
Mmmm… We are already up to M and in fact winging our way to another M destination right now. Yes, we’re probably somewhere near Miyajima, stalking out the perfect location for the Miyajima-on-the-Sea Fireworks Festival on Sunday. Yes, us and 300,000 new photo-lovin’ friends. Bring it on. So looking forward to the temperature being well over 35C. At least. We’ve been to The big M before but never for the infamous fireworks which are lit from the sea silhouetting the iconic floating Torii gate. And we’ve driven all the way, so it will be an epic road-trip in the middle of Obon. For sure. Which means just one thing… an indulgent excursion in finding the perfect road-side rest-stop/attraction. This will all feature the next time we re-visit M. Because you can be sure we will. So off we go. Scouting the spot the day before. Definitely melting and having a marvellous time.
But for the best M news of all time… Tracey’s brother MATT got engaged this week and we couldn’t be more excited. Matt + Corts... congratulations!!! (Coincidentally, they themselves are in ‘Mexico’ so it’s M magic all over the world…). Love you guys x
Utah, USA. Delicately carved arches, lonely windswept buttes, forbidding cliffs, and mesas covered in sagebrush. Proud Navajo gazing out across their land, herding sheep, weaving a beautiful rug. Monument Valley is the Old West. We’ve seen it dozens of times in movie theaters, on television, and in magazines. This all started in 1938, when Harry Goulding, who had been operating a trading post for local Navajo, convinced Hollywood director John Ford that his current project, Stagecoach, should be shot in Monument Valley. Stagecoach not only put Monument Valley on the map, but also launched the career of a little-known actor by the name of John Wayne. This is the genuine, untamed American West, with a simple, unspoiled beauty of carved stone, blowing sand, and rich colors, all compliments of nature. The vast emptiness of the land gives the towering stone monoliths an unequaled sense of drama. Memories: sunrises, sunsets, undies drying in the front window of the car, Navajo jewelry, Navajo flatbread, power outages, renting, John Wayne movies, dust, the sense of awe while photographing this amazing landscape.
California, USA. One of our favourite places along Highway 1. California’s constitution was drafted here in 1849. In fact, many buildings from the early colonial era still stand. A major whaling center in the 1800s, Monterey eventually became the sardine capital of the Western Hemisphere when the first packing plant was built in 1900. By 1913 the boats were bringing in 25 tons of sardines a night to the 18 canneries. The gritty lives of the mostly working-class residents were captured by local hero John Steinbeck in his 1945 novel Cannery Row. Had dinner at the famous Sardine Factory – one of our most delicious and memorable dinners ever. We were just so thrilled to be in Steinbeck country. Plenty of history and heritage remains along Cannery Row along with the world-class aquarium and beautiful Monterey Bay, where sea lions and otters still frolic in abundance. Memories: the jellyfish in the aquarium, Cannery Row by night, the Victorian architecture, a sense of history.
Utah, USA. Named for a biblical kingdom at the edge of Zion, the promised land, Moab is the gateway to Arches National Park. Moab sits in a green valley among desert and striking red sandstone cliffs, a setting that has lured Hollywood filmmakers for hits such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Thelma and Louise, and City Slickers II. Our journey to Moab was make even more memorable by our visit to one of the 7 Wonders of Roadside America – Hole N’ The Rock. Hand-carved suites of rooms cut out of a natural cliff face in the 1940s by Albert and Gladys Christensen. Albert blasted and drilled for 12 years, then moved in with his wife Gladys in 1952. Today, the cliff is covered with huge painted white letters that scream out “Hole N’ The Rock,” letting passersby know there’s something here that’s wondrously unnatural. Memories: a Rushmore-like head of Franklin Roosevelt, toilet in a tomb, magnificent taxidermy (including Albert’s pet donkey, Harry), religious paintings. Gladys’s creepily untouched doll collection, Albert’s & Gladys’s graves, the best ‘worst tour guide’ we’ve ever encountered, Roadside America at it’s best.
Normandy, France. 324km west of Paris, 129km southwest of Caen. I’d been wanting to visit Mont St-Michel for as long as I can remember. I used to get lost in a large poster of it in Madame Smythe’s French class high-school in the 1980’s. It was much better daydreaming of this wonderful historic place than trying to conjugate French verbs. On a rainy day in April, a friend took us on a road-trip through Normandy to see what I’d been waiting for all these years. Massive walls measuring more than half a mile in circumference surround one of Europe’s great attractions, the island of Mont-St-Michel. Connected to the shore by a causeway, it crowns a rocky islet at the border between Normandy and Brittany. The rock is 78m high. Nicknamed the ‘Wonder of the West’, the Gothic-style Benedictine abbey is dedicated to the archangel St Michael, and the village that grew up in the shadow of its great walls. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, the abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Memories: the rain, the car park warning of flooding to come, the showers stopping for a short time while we snapped photos, the narrow streets, the cafés, getting to the top and having an amazing view of the beautiful patters at low tide, a yearning satisfied.
Montana, USA. With its alpine glaciers, jagged peaks, teeming wildlife, lakes, lush forests, wildflowers, and many waterfalls, Glacier National Park is often referred to as “North America’s Crown Jewel”. One of Glacier National Park’s crown jewels is the fabulous Many Glacier region. Swiftcurrent Lake with its wonderful vista is the heart of the area. Many Glacier Hotel sits on it’s banks. The craggy, snow-covered peaks on the Continental Divide provide a spectacular background. The Many Glacier Hotel, the largest in the Glacier National Park, is one of the lodges built by railroad man, James Hill, in the early 1900′s. Built in a Swiss-chalet style the central fireplace and columns in its great room have enchanted generations of visitors. The huge picture windows in the dining room overlook the lake and its vista. Memories: breakfast overlooking the lake, reflections and an amazing sunrise, horse teams, Mt Grinnell, glaciers, blue skies, spectacular scenery in every direction.
The name ‘Mongolia’ has always stirred up visions of the untamed – Genghis Khan, camels wandering the Gobi Desert and wild horses galloping across the steppes. Stepping off the plane we definitely got the feeling that we’d stepped into another century rather than another country. Why did we have such a burning desire to visit such a remote country, filled with vast expanses of nothingness, no roads, no public transport and people who, for the most part, are still living the way they did 500 years ago? Where better to spend a few weeks than somewhere that’s not just another country, but another world. Two thirds of the population are nomadic, transporting their ger and their family to a new place when the food supply starts running low. Democracy had just pushed aside the Communism of the last few decades when we had arrived. It was a country learning to walk again, and felt so amazed at watching it in progress. Memories: dining with Julia Roberts (yep, the real one), Bars the guide, the Trans-Siberian Express, the museum, the smell of mutton everywhere, the desert, the nature, another world, gassy horses, wild herds running through gers in the middle of the night, stolen pants and adventure of a lifetime.
Oh – back in film days… so haven’t scanned anything very much. We will get around to it. One day…
Have a magnificent, slightly mad, always memorable weekend.