"Milestones" GentleSpirit's Profile

New/Updated pages

New Pages
October 2013-new page- Rennes le Chateau, France. Mysterious place
October 2013- New Page- Alet les Bains, France
October 2013- Updates- Paris, France. updates from recent visit.
September/October 2013- Lourdes, France. place of pilgrimage
September 2013- New Page- Carcassonne, France. The magical castle
September 2013- Quillan, France. Good base for Cathar Country
September 2013- New Page- Toulouse, France. Wonderful city with great art
July 12- New Page- Arcos de la Frontera, Spain
June 5-New Page- Humahuaca and the Humahuaca Gorge, Argentina
May 25- New Page- Tilcara, Jujuy Province. Argentina- town in an amazingly colorful gorge. Archaeology
April 3- New Page- Cachi, Salta Province, Argentina-
-A small place with great archeological sites nearby.
Mar 15- new travelogue- Orchids
Mar 3- New Travelogue- Stained Glass
Mar 2- new page- Rockville MD (USA)- a suburb of Washington DC
Feb 16- new page- San Antonio de Areco (Argentina)
- great visit to an estancia from Buenos Aires.
Feb 10- new page- Provincia de Jujuy (Argentina)
--spectacular scenery, indigenous culture, way off the beaten path mostly
Jan -Rome (Italy)
-some of what i saw in the Eternal City
Jan 6- Kutna Hora (Czech Republic)
-a delightful day trip from Prague. Wonderful town full of surprises, one of the most beautiful churches in the Czech Republic

Page updates-
-Cachi (Argentina) updates and translation
-Krakow (Poland) updates on the Jewish Quarter
-Arlington VA- updated Arlington Natl Cemetery
-Prague- czech food!
-Washington DC added travelogue-Cherry Blossoms 2013
-Washington DC-added some about the Cherry Blossom Festival, President's Park.
-Rockville- added historic sites, 9/11 monument and photos

** for further updates/additions please see the Update History travelogue below.

A Bit about me...

I was fortunate enough to have grown up in several different places- Central and South America, Asia and the U.S. Along the way I gained exposure to many cultures, ways of life, religions and philosophies. That perspective changes your entire outlook on life and how you experience things.

I was born in Washington DC but my father's career took our family overseas. First was Latin America-Honduras (3 times, once during a war), Guatemala, Costa Rica, Bolivia Chile (we were there for a major earthquake) Later we were moved to Asia-Thailand and the Philippines. Along the way we got to stop to see other countries, a zillion museums (or so it seemed at the time), amazing landscapes and a few of the world's wonders, large and small.

I have never gotten tired of traveling. It is always enjoyable to see the grand and breathtaking places and things you find in the guidebooks and photographs. Just as enjoyable to me are the smaller, out of the way places with their unique traditions, folk art, and especially the warmth of its people. Most memorable to me are the small acts of kindness others have offered to me in my travels....the daily acts of courage i have witnessed.

It is always a pleasure to hear about other people's experiences. Having lived in some places, I never got to experience them as a tourist. I love seeing the major sites but I have a special attraction to places with lots of history and opportunities to go out and enjoy nature.

How I Travel

Because of work and pet care, I usually only have about 2-3 weeks to travel at a time. Though I like to do and see plenty during my vacations, this does NOT mean that I try to cram too much into a limited time. I've seen people running themselves ragged while on vacation trying to see 5 or 6 major European cities in a week and a half, ultimately seeing little and feeling unsatisfied. That sort of thing seems more like a matter of endurance instead of fun. I have always felt travel is a time to discover, relax, learn and experience new things..to have fun.

Like many of you, I get a real charge out of planning my vacations (and have planned vacations for others as well from time to time). I try to figure out the thing i most want to see or try to arrange my trip around a certain theme or interest (castles, for example). I enjoy regional differences...as expressed in architecture, language, customs arts. I read up on the place I'm visiting...a bit of history and local customs where possible..and try to prepare myself for communicating in a totally different language as best I can.

Language- A lot of people are really scared of going somewhere that they don't speak the language. One of the neat things about living overseas was that I was fortunate to develop a facility with several languages, and learning to get along well when i don't speak the language. Learn a few phrases and words before you leave home, it will make a huge difference!

Accommodations- As much as possible, I like to stay close to the center when choosing accommodation. For a short stay, especially an overnight stay, just about anyplace that is reasonably clean will do. Usually, the longer I'm staying in a place the more important comfort is. If the place I'm visiting is a particularly spectacular setting I will be more willing to splurge on nicer accommodation.

Access to public transport is as essential to me as location is. A very nice hotel in a difficult to reach location requires additional time and expense that is very often not worth it to me.

Is price important? Well sure, to an extent. I am not tied to staying in a 4 star hotel nor a hostel. I look for somewhere that is clean, comfortable and easy to reach. I stay in the nicest hotel (or whatever) that i can for the price, but bear in mind that nicest doesn't necessarily mean luxurious. Especially in places where there is lots to do, I assume that I will be spending the largest part of the day doing stuff, thus not spending much time at the hotel anyway.

Likewise with restaurants. I'm not a food critic or some high society dude that needs to only eat at the most fashionable places in town. I want a culinary experience that will expose me to the local food. I have had great meals from street vendors and from highly rated restaurants.

A great vacation- What I enjoy doing on holiday

It can be so hard to settle on just once place for vacation, with all the great choices available.

I love museums. They don't have to be huge, often a smaller more manageable museum is far more enjoyable to me than some gigantic treasure trove that will take you a month to see well. I particularly love ethnographic, folk art museums that give me a good idea of some of the special things about life in that country..past or present.

Ancient Sites. I was blessed to have grown up in several places that offered the unique ruins/remnants of ancient cultures. Some I was able to see long before they became known on the international tourist circuit. I remember being shown archeological sites by archeologists rather than tour guides.

Going out into nature. For me it is always a joy to get away from the city and go out into nature. My personal preference is for mountains and hiking. It is always a special thing to see wildlife in its own element

Recent Journeys

2013- Toulouse, Cathar Country, The Pyrenees and Paris
I started in Toulouse with its great historic churches and great art. From there I went to Cathar Country to see Carcassonne and the Cathar Castles. Back to Toulouse before heading on to some magnificent hiking in the Pyrenees. 5 days in Paris at the end of the trip before going home. Side trips to Chartres and St Denis. Merci to VT friends for great tips and guidance and the wonderful people I met in France for being so welcoming.

2011- Krakow, Slovakia, Olomouc, Prague
This year I started in Krakow before hiking in the Tatras and seeing some of what Slovakia has to offer. From there I crossed the border into the Czech Republic to spend a few days in Olomouc before ending the trip in Prague.

Besides the great religious art, history there were more opportunities to get away into nature. It was also a chance to go farther away from the usual tourist stops. I feel particularly blessed that I got a wonderful chance to meet more locals this year- I was impressed by their warmth and generosity in showing me a glimpse of their lives and their countries.

2010- Budapest, Prague, Berlin, Garmisch
There was something magical about Budapest, I loved the too brief time I spent there and can't wait to go back. Prague- everything i expected and quite a bit more. Where you stay and when you go makes a big difference.
Berlin-some of the greatest museums in the world, got to spend some time with my aunt.

2007-The Canadian Rockies
For many years I had gazed in wonder at the lovely pictures of the Canadian Rockies and hoped to one day put aside the time to see it for myself. It was every bit as magnificent as i had imagined. There were two days in Vancouver at the start of the journey..then across British Columbia to Alberta and the exploration of Banff and Jasper National Parks. The scenery was just breathtaking and I can't wait to go back for a longer trip.

Argentina- 2 1/2 weeks exploring Northern Argentina. Landing in Buenos Aires I went on to Cordoba. Just outside of Cordoba was the PN Quebrada del Condorito where one can view the magnificent Andean condor. After seeing the Jesuit missions of Cordoba I took the bus to Salta. Took two tours of the area, one exploring the southern reaches, the other going all the way up to San Antonio de los Cobres and the Puna. I stayed in Purmamarca and explored Tilcara and the Humahuaca gorge before going back to Buenos Aires for a few days at the end of the trip.

Places I most want to go back to

Bariloche, Argentina
Yosemite National Park, California
New Zealand
The Canadian Rockies
Turkey- crossroads of cultures

Places I've always wanted to go to

1. Macchu Picchu- to hike the Inca trail and photograph this awesome place.
2. Petra, Jordan
3. The pyramids of Egypt- a fascinating culture
4. Tikal, Guatemala
5. The Great Wall of China
6. The fjords of Norway
7. Angkor Wat
8. Mont St Michel, France
9. Loire Valley Chateaus
10. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

  • Intro Updated Oct 9, 2013
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Comments (294)

  • Updated Comment
    skywalkerbeth's Profile Photo
    Mar 7, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    Lovely pages and philosophy! I like travel themes too.

    Other comments
  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Mar 24, 2015 at 3:36 AM

    Just went on Regina's page to wish her a happy birthday and checked out some of her t'logs about her visits with you. So I thought I would stop by and say "Hello" to you and Buena. Big hugs for you both. xx

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Dec 25, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Merry Christmas and for 2015, a happy, healthy year with some interesting travels!
    Thanks for the Christmas wishes.

  • wabat's Profile Photo
    Dec 24, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Hi Val, wishing you a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2015.

    • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
      Dec 25, 2014 at 6:16 AM

      thank you Albert. A very Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! Hope all is well

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Nov 2, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    Hey Val, just stopping by to say "Hallo". Lori

    • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
      Dec 25, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      hows it going Lori? Best wishes to you and Hans. where are you travelling to this year?

    • LoriPori's Profile Photo
      Dec 26, 2014 at 3:07 AM

      We'll be going on our usual one month to Torremolinos Spain in February and then the VT Meet in Aachen, Germany in May. Any plans for you in 2015??

  • CDM7's Profile Photo
    Oct 23, 2014 at 1:53 AM

    Val,thank you for taking the time to visit and rate my Albi tips,and your nice comments

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Oct 22, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    Thanks for visiting Sandakan. Borneo is a great island if you like wildlife, relaxing and cheap shopping.

  • wabat's Profile Photo
    Oct 16, 2014 at 12:52 AM

    Val, thank you so much for your postcard from Lyon, so thoughtful of you.

  • LaurenAnita's Profile Photo
    Oct 6, 2014 at 7:25 AM

    Happy late birthday!!!! :)!!! It's a super late birthday wish but still super special ;)!

  • wabat's Profile Photo
    Sep 26, 2014 at 6:30 AM

    I trust you are enjoying your trip if you havn't finished by the time you read this. If you have I hope you had a great time and I will be reading your latest additions soon.

    Just wanted to let you know that I have finally finished by North Korea pages - a bit of a marathon exercise but enjoyable. They are all linked to my general intro page

    "And now for something completely different" - North Korea by wabat

    on which you commented in early August (in addition to your ever so kind comment below here on this page).

    • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
      Sep 26, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      Hi Albert
      am in Cassis at the moment, a short way out of Marseille. Gorgeous water, superb hiking. Already have been to Annecy, Lyon and Avignon this trip. Im writing a bit about each on the road, Ill do more when i get home. with varying wifi signals its not all that easy:)

    • wabat's Profile Photo
      Sep 26, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      Sounds wonderful. Just enjoy it while your there and leave writing till you get back though its easier to do while you go .. Ill certainly be reading about your trip,when i get a chance. Enjoy.

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