Enchanting Rainforest Hideaway in Pāhoa, Hawaii (February, 2013)

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While You Are There: Relax! Not all trips are about what you can go see and do. If you went all the way to Big Island only to rent this place and never step foot outside it except to go to and from the airport, it would be worthwhile. This place is magical. That said, Big Island is wonderful! There is so much to do: Volcanoes National Park (during the day and at night) and the Kilauea Iki Trail, snorkeling and turtle watching at Honaunau Bay, Lava Tree State Monument, South Point Park (where I got hit by a huge wave and was almost swept out into the ocean), the coffee farms on the west side of the island, and seeing snow on Mauna Kea.

Why It’s On My List: This house is paradise. Enough said.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

441 Days in Mountains: The (Long and Winding) Road

No, this post has nothing to do with Cormac McCarthy or the Beatles. It has to do with the impending winter and the requirements of living on a private, barely legal road. If you, like most of the sane and rational population of the United States, live on a paved road that is cleaned, plowed, and maintained by your town or county, you probably only consider the effort that goes into keeping your road pleasantly usable when it becomes unpleasantly usable, such as when a large pothole appears in the middle of it. My road, however, is a constant occupier of thoughts. Here’s what it means to live where I do:

  • Discovering your snow tires are useless and spending the whole winter creeping down the hill at two miles per hour, which was still too fast, terrified of plummeting over the edge and ending up like these guys

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Yankee

I suppose I myself am a Yankee, having been born in New York State. But the idea of calling northerners Yankees seems quite old-fashioned to me. My dad is a Yankees fan. He has to be – major league baseball is the one professional sport that Buffalo does not have a team for. It is baffling to me that a city that is so economically depressed and with such high population flight can support an NHL, NFL, minor league baseball, lacrosse, soccer, minor league basketball, and women’s hockey team. But it does. I guess since Buffalonians really have nothing besides crappy weather and high taxes, they cling to their sports and their NFL team that has never won the Super Bowl and their NHL team that has never won the Stanley Cup. I can understand why my dad needs the Yankees.

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My parents. Date unknown – probably around 1990, give or take a few years.

What else are people writing in the A to Z Blog Challenge? Check out today’s featured blog, sponsored by the letter Y: Your Daily Dose. It’s a participatory A-Z challenge. The author gives you a word and the readers post songs with that word. Fun!

Quebec

I love Quebec. Well, Montreal that is. Quebec City is lovely and I’m sure the rest of Quebec is too, but Montreal has my heart. It is almost the perfect city. First, it’s bilingual, and as I’ve written about before, I have a passion for languages. I love the idea that you can be walking down the street and no one knows if you are a French or an English speaker until you say something. Then, there’s so much culture, so many festivals, so much delicious food, Lake Ontario, good public transportation, affordable places to live, and a passion for the outdoors. Which brings me to that big almost. Montreal winters, thanks but no thanks. I spent 23ish years in Buffalo, NY. I spent several winters in Russia. I’ve done my time. But in the summer in Montreal, everyone is in the parks, bicycling everywhere, sitting on patios. It’s delightful. If I’m ever lucky enough to own a summer home, it will be in Montreal. In the French-speaking half of town.

I lived in Montreal for what was, in my memory, an entire summer, but in reality was only 3 weeks, give or take a few days. I went to UQAM’s summer French immersion program and got to town right in the middle of the International Jazz Festival, which was amazing! I literally just threw my bags in my dorm room, grabbed my new roommate by the hand and out we went into the streets to hear performers from all over the world. And so began three fantastic weeks. My classmates were a fun bunch, my teacher was professional and patient and kind, the coursework was just the right level and intensity, the excursions were entertaining and educational. Great memories all around. Continue reading →

Six Months in the Mountains: Snowpocalypse

Today marks our six month anniversary at The Sanctuary, and Mother Nature has chosen to celebrate by dumping 18 inches of snow on us since Sunday afternoon. After the stereotypically warm and sunny Front Range January, winter is back. The pure gravel road that I walked down on Saturday to meet my friends coming up in their little rental sedan to check out a lot for sale is once again a treacherous stretch of slippery snow that will turn to deadly, mile long ice slick next week as the temperature climbs back into the 50s. I have already seen my life flash before my eyes 11 times this winter as I’ve crept around the switchbacks at two miles an hour. I’m preparing for at least a half dozen more. Continue reading →

Fifteen and a Half Weeks in the Mountains: What Makes a House a Home?

I’ve lived in a lot of housing units in my life. 31 now, to be exact, if you count living somewhere as a stay of at least one month. Even if you think the threshold should be three months, I’m still at 26. And all but two of those were after high school. So it’s no surprise I’ve never felt much of a connection to the places I’ve lived. They never were much more in my mind than just what I called them – housing units. Or domiciles, quarters, lodging, a roof, a pad. “Home” is not a status I’d confer on any of them.

This number 31 on the top of a hill hasn’t reached “home” status yet either, but only emotionally speaking. Acquiring a new property is like dating. You see it once and it’s gorgeous and you become infatuated; you see it a few more times and realize it’s something you want to get to know better; and then your feelings grow from infatuation into something deeper, so you decide to make the relationship exclusive, but even then, a long time might pass before you really fall in love. Although I suppose the analogy kinds of breaks down at the end there because in the case of buying a house, you’re really getting married and moving in together before you fall in love. So I guess this was an impetuous wedding in a chapel in Vegas, although my partner would beg to differ given the months of extra special frustration associated with acquiring a mortgage and insurance for a property in an area prone to wildfires. But true love can’t be far behind the fascination we both still very much have with this house and property. Here’s why. Continue reading →

Two Days Shy of 13 Weeks In the Mountains: The Dead Season

Skeletons and carcasses surround us. No, not the spandex, rubber, and cake makeup kinds. Real ones. The dead season is here and while as a city-dweller I was largely insulated from it, I can’t help but pay attention out here.

The flies staked out the entryways the last few weeks, desperate to get into the warmth. They drove my partner crazy and even though I told him they would be gone very soon, he bought some flypaper anyways. He never had the chance to hang it. They are all dead now.
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The two aspens that preside over our front steps have been stripped bare. The glory of autumn is very short and limited in the mountains. Our canyon displays a range of golds, but none of the crimson and brick and auburn and merlot of an autumn in the Adirondacks or the Catskills. And now, even the mustard and the saffron and the dandelion are gone. Continue reading →