Wednesday Wandering: Lake Tahoe

Travel Blog Post Series

Exploring Near and Far

I recently had an opportunity to visit wander around northern Nevada. My absolute favorite part of the trip was the loop we made around Lake Tahoe, which is technically both Nevada AND California. I have always heard how beautiful Lake Tahoe is, but I was not prepared. It seems the whole world turned blue – blue skies, blue water… with a glistening blanket of white snow added for good measure. Beautiful. Here is a panoramic view of the lake. The little cabins and docks gave it a bit of a nostalgic feeling.

Lake Tahoe Panorama

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2018 SuZan Alexander

We stopped for lunch and had the best Mediterranean food at Artemis Lakefront Cafe.  (The Artemis Salad was SOOOOO good.) Then we walked on the docks, looked at the boats, watched the ducks preen, and we were off again. It was such a lovely day, lovely company, and such special memories to bring home. I feel my blood pressure going down just thinking about it now.

Year in Review

I have spent some time this month reviewing 2016 and preparing for 2017. So, I thought I would share a quick overview of 2016 accomplishments:

JANUARY

I “assisted” my talented sister-in-law with a photo shoot for a magazine. Actually, one of her images became the cover of the magazine. I put assisted in quotes because I really just showed up for the party and watched her do her magic. I am so grateful for the opportunity. Did I say she is talented? Yes. Well, you can see some of her work here: http://www.cindyangerer.com/

FEBRUARY

I donated a framed version of this image to the Taste of Salado fundraiser for the Public Arts League of Salado.

New Season Fog, Digital Photography, Copyright © 2015

I am happy to announce that I did not have to do the “walk of shame” with the work under my arm at the end of the event. Thank you to the generous supporter who bid on my work, as well as supporting the Arts in Central Texas.

MARCH

I had the opportunity to visit friends in Las Cruces, New Mexico and my gracious hostess, Peggy, introduced me to some of the wonderful galleries in Las Cruces. It was such a fun visit with wonderful hosts. I love New Mexico.

APRIL

I think I already posted about participating in the 15-Minute A Day Creative Challenge in April. But, since this is a recap, here is a peek at the first thing I created, in 15 minutes (or more) per day. This old car did take several 15 minute blocks of time. And, while it isn’t what I consider finished or gallery-worthy, it represents my commitment to a daily creative endeavor.

Watercolor, Copyright © 2016 SuZan Alexander

MAY

I am shamed to report that there were not a lot of artistic endeavors worth sharing in May – unless painting the Master Bedroom counts. I did, however, continue with my daily/weekly/monthly goal for post-processing images.

JUNE

In June, I hosted my first give-away. I worked on a Watercolor Batik that I offered to my Newsletter “Tribe”. The beauty of watercolor batik is that each final work is unique. You may use the same paint, same paint colors, the same process, but each one takes on their own unique look.

Watercolor Batik, Copyright
© 2016 SuZan Alexander

JULY

I made a trip to Palo Duro Canyon and the Cadillac Ranch in July and I can’t wait to return.

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2016 SuZan Alexander

AUGUST

August was SERIOUS. I met with a CPA, as well as the Comptroller to set-up bookkeeping for the Studio so I could start offering my image for sale online.

SEPTEMBER

This isn’t art related, but, in September, I cut my hair so I could fulfill my wish of contributing my hair to make wigs for cancer patients and celebrate my own survivor status.


OCTOBER

The Texas Professional Photographers Association (TPPA) held an event in San Marcos that I was happy to get a chance to attend. What a great event and even better group of photographers. I can not wait to attend next year.

NOVEMBER

I participated in Flood the Streets with Art and left five images around Salado for shoppers to find.

DECEMBER

I am happy to report that I FINALLY completed organizing and post-processing images with a few days of 2016 to spare. Now, I can start 2017 “fresh”.

If you made it this far, thanks! Just so I do not write another long post like this one, I plan to be more consistent with my blog and social media posts in 2017. I even have a plan that I am very excited about and I look forward to sharing it with you.  Tomorrow is the second month of the 2017 party, so… Let’s get going!

Summer Reading: Travel Through Reading

Long May You Run: Detail Triptic, Digital Photography, SuZan Alexander, Copyright © 2016

Long May You Run: Detail Triptic, Digital Photography, Copyright © 2016

My birthday is in the latter part of May. Years ago, I was asked by my boss, very cautiously I might add, if my approaching birthday ended in a five or a zero. That has always stayed with me for some reason. He almost seemed frightened yet obligated in some way to ask. I tell you this story because, this year’s birthday did end in a five. I don’t usually let it bother me. It is just another day after all. But for some reason(s), this year has me waxing philosophical and I decided to immerse myself in reading John Steinbeck’s novel, Travels with Charley, because, well, isn’t that what every middle-age woman does for her birthday? Okay. Maybe not. But, that’s what I did.

I somehow missed reading this classic book in my youth. I think that was fortunate for me because I now have life experiences to make this book even more meaningful, or perhaps meaningful in a different way. Either way, I have to tell you that there were many times I said aloud, “Get out of my head.” And, as I was reading, I decided that I want my very own Rocinate to load down with books to read, and my very own Charley as my travel companion to accompany me on adventures. (Of course, I would have to include art supplies and photography gear which would further stress the tires of the vehicle, but that’s another story.) I also found myself laughing aloud, which I rarely do when reading books. And, by the end of the book, I was waxing philosophical again, but this time I was in good company with Mr. Steinbeck even though there is a fifty-six-year chasm of time between us. Nevertheless, by the end of the book, I wanted to return to the mundane everyday life much like I suspect Mr. Steinbeck longed for. I love my haven of home, and familiarity, and quiet, and safety to reflect. Avoidance? Maybe. But, the last few chapters returned me to my reflective status, and I don’t want it interrupted at the moment. Perhaps that is part of this season of life in which I am ensconced, this season that I now share with the author when he penned the book.

As the temperatures rise marking the start of our summers, and summer travel plans unfold, think about including this book on your summer reading list. And, if you are lucky enough to visit California, I hope you will be able to include the  National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California on your agenda. To pique your curiosity, the Center displays the real Rocinate (okay, not Don Quixote’s horse, but rather Mr. Steinbeck’s travel vehicle named after Don Quixote’s horse). If you do visit, I would love to hear all about it because I have not visited the Center… YET.

Wishing you safe summer travels. May your experiences last a life-time and, perhaps, change your life along the way.

I Got My Machu Picchu Passport Stamp!

Collage 4 Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Collage 4
Digital Photography,
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

Our train to Aguas Caliente left Ollantaytambo at 9:00 p.m. The train rocked along in darkness, which only added to the anticipation of getting a glimpse of Machu Picchu.

When we arrived in Aguas Caliente and made our way to the hotel in the darkness, the sound of rushing water filled the night. The only interruption was a sudden burst of celebratory fireworks on the other side of the river. We arrived at our hotel and the sound of the water outside became that white noise that lulls you to sleep.

On the first day in Aguas Caliente, as we ate breakfast waiting for the appointed time to meet our guide. The view was exactly what I envisioned with the morning clouds covering the tops of the mountains like cotton candy. Tomorrow. Tomorrow would be the day I capture that classic image. Today we would arrive at Machu Picchu too late. Today we hike.

The next morning we were in line for the bus to Machu Picchu by 5:20 a.m. and there was already a line blocks long. But, the que moved pretty fast and we were on the bus by 6:20 a.m. As luck would have it, the day was clear and warm. No classic clouds on the mountain for us today. After a little exploring Machu Picchu on our own, we headed back to the hotel with our passports stamped to memorialize our visit to Machu Picchu. On our way to the hotel, we stopped at a French Bakery and enjoyed coffee and a apple tartin that was DELICIOUS. We walked around the square and explored Aguas Caliente, which is not without its own special charm.

What a trip this was. I think the people of Peru are what stand out as the best part of the visit. But, it is time to head home and plan another adventure for another day. Thanks for “traveling” with me.

Happy Trails…

Sacred Valley Days 2 and 3 (or How I Now Own a New Explorer Status)

Days two and three of hiking the Sacred Valley are, quite frankly, a blur. I was trying to enjoy the experience and take it all in, but that proved to be difficult when you feel like you are neither seeing, nor experiencing, nor photographing when you are worried about safely navigating the climb/descent immediately before you. Many times, I felt like I was snapping photos from an automobile speeding down the Autobahn. I returned from the trip with very few usable photos, but hey, I got a torn hamstring as a souvenir. So, given the speed of our travels, I will consolidate these two days into one post. You are just going to have to trust me on this one.

Day 2, we traveled about an hour drive from Cusco and hiked the back side of Tipón, where we saw examples of the Inca water channels and impressive stonework.

Sacred Valley II Collage, Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

a Sacred Valley II Collage,
Digital Photography,
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

Senor de Huanca, Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Senor de Huanca, Digital Photography,
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

After that, we met the van and traveled toward Pisaq.  Along the way, we stopped at a beautiful church – Seńor de Huanca. So named after the person who owned the land.  The spot is famous because a meteor landed there.  The meteor remains to this day inside a special room inside the church. It is a magical place and well worth a visit.

And then we were on our way to Pisaq. The Pisaq ruins were difficult for me. As full disclosure about this part of our adventure, there was more than one time I wanted to channel my inner two-year-old child so someone would remove me from the trail. I managed to be an adult and push through…barely. There was one point where we were on a very steep, narrow trail, and, I admit, parts of the trail was navigated on all fours. But I DID navigate it. After what I THOUGHT was a difficult passage, Jay and I reached a somewhat level area where we hugged the mountain stopped to catch our breath (we were high five-ing and celebrating our safety) when we turned the corner and discovered that we had another steep hill to climb. Okay, so this is where I lost it and started chanting, “I can NOT do that!” repeatedly. Maybe even at a decibel level higher than I realized at the time. Did I say, repeatedly?  Jay finally broke the verbal panic-induced trance with the reality of our situation by stating the obvious, “We have to do this because there is no other way out.” For the record, I hate when he unleashes logic on me. And so, this is where the real “fun” began. Needless to say, I do not have pictures memorializing that part of the hike.

Day 3, we started the day visiting the ruins in Ollantaytambo. Sometime the day before, my Fitbit went dead, and I had no way to recharge it.  With all these stinkin’ steps I was taking, I was not even getting fitness “credit”.

In the afternoon, I finally got some quality time in Ollantaytambo to walk around and take pictures. Ahh! This is more like it.

Collage 3 Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Collage 3
Digital Photography,
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

Before I hit any of these trails, one of the books I read was Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams, in which he references “martini explorers”. When I read that, I scoffed, thinking, right-on brother. Then, it occurred to me that I might be classified as a “martini explorer”. Horror! I had justified not hiking the entire Inca Trail, theorizing, to assuage my guilt, that this was my reconnaissance of the trek. By the end of day two, when I enviously; neigh, covetously, sat in a restaurant all stinky, sweaty, hurting, exhausted, sporting hat-hair… watching a group of ladies load up on a Mercedes bus looking all fresh and put together with shopping bags in tow; I know I was looking at them like a puppy eyeing a piece of bacon. It was then I announced aloud, “I want a Mercedes bus. I NEED a Mercedes bus.” From here on out (and I feel a bit Scarlett O’Hara-ish about this), I shall be a “martini explorer”. And, furthermore, I shall make no excuses, nor be shamed by my new status as a “martini explorer”, for I have earned it.

LIFE LESSON: Before you unleash your hard earned money on a tour, make sure there is a Mercedes bus somewhere in the package. If there is no bus…RUN!! Run hard. Run fast. This is no time to power walk.

Next week, the reward is the end of the trail: Machu Picchu, so until then…

Happy Trails…

To Cusco and Beyond

Cusco Peru Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Cusco Peru
Digital Photography,
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

This week we are taking a quick airplane ride to the capital of the Incan Empire: Cusco. So, fasten your virtual seatbelts, because we are just beginning quite the “ride” as we explore the Sacred Valley high in the Andes. And, when I say, high in the Andes, I mean going from 280 feet in elevation to 10,800 feet in the time it takes to fly from Lima to Cusco. Since we are “flat landers” living at about 600 feet, we allotted a day to acclimate to the altitude before we started our hiking excursions. First up, the Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park.

Day 1 of the Sacred Valley:

Sacred Valley I Collage, Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Sacred Valley I Collage,
Digital Photography,
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

Tambomachay:

We traveled about 4-5 miles outside Cusco. Our driver let us out and, after an easy walk, we were at our first Inca ruins. Tambomachay is an example of the masonry skills of the Incas. The remaining walls are so precisely cut and fitted together without benefit of mortar, which is amazing in itself, but then when you see the series of fountains still providing water to the site centuries later, you say to yourself… Amazing.

 

Saqsayhuaman:

We continued our hike where we saw a herder with a flock of sheep and passed by a few adobe homes until we reached Sacsayhuaman. Our guide told us Sacsayhuaman is believed to be a Temple of Lightning. When you get a look at the big picture of the three-layered zig-zag terraces resembling bolts of lightning, it is not hard to imagine how that theory was born. Today, the large plaza is used for the annual Inca Festival of Winter Solstice (Inti Raymi), as well as other festivals. The site is located on a hill above Cusco which provides a perfect view of the valley below.

Qenqo:

Qenqo is located in the east part of the archeological park. There are two large monoliths and is considered one of the larges holy places in the Cusco region. It is believed that perfectly preserved mummies were housed in niches around the perimeter of the site. As you enter a cave in the center of the site, there is a stone slab table that seems to suggest it was a place where sacrifices took place.

Puca Pucara

The construction at the site is impressive, but lacks the precise details that are apparent at the other sites. This indicates that the use of the site was probably more pedestrian. The logical indication would be that of a military base to protect Cusco because it provides great views of the main plaza.

Plaza de Armas Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Plaza de Armas
Digital Photography,
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

The Inca palace was located on what is now called the Plaza de Armas. The palaces in Cusco were converted, or built over, to transform them into churches, monasteries, convents, or homes for the Spaniards, The stones used for the construction of the churches were harvested from the nearby Sacsayhuaman site. Today, the churches are central characters of the Plaza de Armas and keepers of art and history of the region.

San Blas Cathedral:

Church of San Blas is an understated façade that does not hint at the treasures housed within. The real jewel in the proverbial crown is the ornate pulpit carved from a single cedar stump. The artist, Juan Tomás Tuyro Tupaq, carved the pulpit using a drawing as his guide. His creation is something to ponder. He suffered from leprosy and the pain he must have endured to carve this stunning work of art is a visual testament to, not only his artistry, but his devotion. This may be the very definition of “labor of love” in the visible format.

Temple of the Sun:

The Temple of the Sun (Qurikancha) was the site of the great opulent temple in the Inca Empire. The accounts of the gold statues, ornaments, and plates make an interesting read. All of the gold has long since removed and melted down during the Spanish Conquest. It is still a beautiful place to visit full of history.

Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin:

We walked to the Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas. The Cathedral was originally built OVER the Inca temple (Wiracocha) in the 16th and 17th centuries. Interestingly, the Inca temples below the current Cathedral survived earthquakes – the “newer” structures did not fare as well and have been rebuilt. Nevertheless, it is still the centerpiece of the town and is beautiful. Today it houses several works of art attributed to the Cusco School of Art, including the painting of The Last Supper which features a cuy (guinea pig) rather than a lamb because that is what is familiar in the Andes.

Hang in there with me. The hiking gets a little more challenging, and you know I’m going to make you laugh with me. Okay, I’ll be honest. You will be laughing AT me not WITH me. Until next week…

Happy trails…

Lima at Night

Lima Water Park Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Lima Water Park
Digital Photography,
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

When we returned to Lima, we took a “Lima at Night” tour. The tour took us to The Park of the Reserve (Parque de la Reserva) which includes The Magic Water Circuit (Circuito Magico del Agua). The fountains are hypnotizing and a lot of fun, even if you choose not to participate in the interactive fountains or get wet on a cool evening. Many of the fountains are choreographed with colored lights, music, and even an educational laser show of Peru’s historical and cultural highlights. It really is something unique that can be enjoyed by all ages. 

Cathedral of Lima Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Cathedral of Lima
Digital Photography,
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

After the water park, we toured the Historic Centre of Lima. I would love to go back and spend some time exploring the buildings and learning about their historical significance. I hope the next time I visit Lima I will have an opportunity to explore more of the downtown and more of the museums because the Larco Museum (Museo Larco) was maybe the most beautiful museum I have ever visited.

Next week, we will start our trek along the Inca Trail, so start stretching now. 

Until then…

Happy Trails…

Paracas National Reserve

I have to admit that I had no idea what to expect, or what we would see at the Paracas National Reserve. We first stopped at the Visitor Center and Julio C. Tello Museum to learn about the area. It just so happens to be near the area where the Chilean Flamingos “winter”. We could see them from a distance, but, apparently, the pigmentation of the flamingos turn pink from their diet of crabs. Who knew? We also learned about the War of the Pacific, also called the “Guano War”. Again, who knew?

Next, we headed to some beautiful areas. I’ll let the images do the talking…

Paracas National Reserve Collage, Digital Photography, Copyright © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Paracas National Reserve Collage, Digital Photography, Copyright © 2015 SuZan Alexander

…except to explain that we climbed a small hill to take in the panoramic views. Our guide encouraged us to gather a rock from the summit to add to the apacheta (a stone cairn or small pile of rocks) that were started by other adventurers before us.

Apacheta Collage, Digital Photography, Copyright © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Apacheta Collage, Digital Photography, Copyright © 2015 SuZan Alexander

If the rock you place on the pile does not fall, it means you will have good luck. If, however, it falls, …. Never has so much been riding on the selection and placement of a rock. I am happy to report that when we descended, both of our rocks held in place. Good luck indeed. Whew!

Until next week, when will return to Lima…

Happy Trails…