Ice Cream


January 11, 2018, Prescott-

I ended my work day by being reminded that today was the 11th, after a fatigue-based brain fart.  That gave rise to the inevitable concern from Lead Teacher, about the onset of dementia.  Umm, no.  I was tired, exhausted.  I know tomorrow is January 12th.

Now, on to the reference in this post’s title.  On the podcast, this morning, one of my mentors was accenting an aversion to success, using ice cream as an analogy.  If one were to go up to a counter, see a flavour of ice cream that appealed, and was asked what would be your preference, and then dithered, thinking about whether one deserved ice cream at all, even while knowing that thousands of other people enjoy ice cream, each day, what would that feel like?

I have long dithered about enjoying life.  I have long felt that I did not deserve success, even having a hard time accepting, initially, that Penny found me attractive.  I have come to the conclusion that it was my autism talking.

The fact is, she DID find me attractive.  I was not the dregs with which she had to make do.  So, we had our ups and downs, for 29 years, but they were years of love.  I have been amazed at finding myself in places like Neah Bay, downtown Portland, San Francisco’s Russian Hill and Fisherman’s Wharf, Paris, Versailles, Utah Beach, the Dom Sector of Frankfurt, Iolani Palace, Bruges and Sitka’s Mt. Verstovia.  I really DID walk the length of Prescott Circle Trail and Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, albeit in sections. I am amazed, also, by the beautiful lady who now calls me friend.

So, all those bowls of ice cream later, I am looking at a huge sundae, and preparing to nibble a spoonful at a time.  I have spoken of giant steps being on my horizon.  I still need to convince myself that I am not the family’s hood ornament, or an appendage to the two-woman team in the classroom where I work.  It’s these very giant steps that will do this, for me.  The mentor cautioned us to not falter.  I won’t, having come all this way.

New River’s Wilds, Part I: Finding the Boy Scout Loop


January 8, 2017, New River-  I did it right, this time; I found, and walked, the Boy Scout Loop.  Taking the northbound route, from New River’s Emery Henderson Trailhead, the next to last such springboard to Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, as one gets towards Phoenix, it was a non-taxing 5.75 miles, each way, including the Loop itself. Starting with the trailhead itself, there are five covered ramadas and BLM-style restrooms, greeting the bicyclists, hikers and equestrians who flock to this part of the Sonoran Desert, for a fair guarantee of a satisfying day in lush mesquite and saguaro forests.


The first 1/4 mile is marked by what had been a developer’s road, complete with blue-staked gas lines marking either side of the trail.  There is no gas hook-up, nor are there any further signs of prospective development.  This project was one that went belly-up in 2008.


Once past this bladed wasteland, the cacti, succulents and hardy desert trees take over.  The terrain is not as rugged as that further north, with the washes and creek beds of the New River and its tributaries generally dry, even with the goodly amount of rain we had, the first few days of the new  year.



The rock above had been struck by lightning, some years back, thus showing the bright sandstone, under its veneer of gray.


Near this crossroads, I came upon two runners- husband and wife.  The lady had been injured, whilst running, and fortunately, the driver of this truck came back from target shooting, nearby, and was able to give them a ride back to the trailhead.


It’s always wise, even in easy terrain, to keep an eye out for the triangular Black Canyon Trail markers.  Numerous ATV and shooting range roads cross the trail.  I must add that target shooters have been uniformly careful, and respectful of those whose day in the desert is more oriented towards fitness.  Younger shooters, and off -road drivers, are well-supervised by older family members.  The teams are very careful, in my experience, to pick up their shell-casings and other trash.


After 1 1/2 hours, and 4.8 miles, I came to the southern end of Boy Scout Loop.  I took the western route, going another 1.5 miles to the Loop’s northern terminus.  The west side uses a BLM road, and features a moderate ascent, the only remotely challenging part of this segment.  A Boy Scout troop  from Cave Creek, about ten miles east of here, is said to have built this trail.

There are a few low mountains rising, north of Boy Scout Loop.  One of these, at the base of which I stopped, the day after Christmas, turns out to be just across a wash bed from the BSL’s northern tip.  The fence below marks a boundary between BLM land and State Trust property.



Above, is the rather well-hidden northern terminus of Boy Scout Loop.  A single track leads back to the other end, going around a small mountain and through New River’s dry bed, on its way.



This segment, as indicated earlier, is a more leisurely, non-taxing route than its counterparts to the north.  Nonetheless, it, and the remaining Biscuit Flat segment, which I will visit at the end of this month, are good indicators of the fragility of the Sonoran Desert, and of the special relationship the residents of New River and Table Mesa have with their surroundings.  Indeed, on the way back, near where the runners were rescued, a man was coaching his daughter on proper shooting, cleaning a rifle and policing spent shell casings.  I feel safer among such folk than I do in some shopping malls.

I topped off the day with a unique Jalapeno Ranch Burger, the pride of New River’s Raodrunner Saloon, which was, suitably, packed with locals this evening.  Waylon and the kids are always gracious to those from near and far.

This was a fitting end to a well-spent Christmas-New Year’s.  Tomorrow, it’s back to work for nine weeks.  We will do well.





Looking Back- Part 2


December 31, 2016, Chula Vista- As the Year of Upended Routines winds down, and has already passed, in the areas immediately west of the International Date Line, I find it meet and seemly to give 2016 its due.

The goodness of it all:  I was embraced by Prescott Unified School District, and brought into a position where positive differences can be made, in the lives of troubled children.

One car served me well, then died, on the road.  Two members of my family stepped up, got the first car through its final duties and the next car into my possession.  Thankfully, I am able to repay these kindnesses, in full.

It was an amazing series of  visits, with friends in Amarillo, Enid (OK), Columbia (MO), Indianapolis, Oley (PA), Knoxville, Boulder (CO) and Dana Point (CA); family in Avila (MO), Saugus and Wakefield (MA),  Newnan (GA), Brooksville (FL) and Loveland (CO)- to say nothing of my Baha’i family in Carson City and Reno, and all who nourish and support me, throughout Arizona.  Most important of all, though, is the strength and constancy of my closest:  Mom and siblings, in Massachusetts, brother, in Georgia, in-laws, in Florida and son, here in southern California, but soon to be in Korea, the land of his birth.

The warmth of new friends, in Fallon and Pioche (NV), Fort Sumner (NM), Ponca City (OK), Salina and Hays (KS),Florissant (MO), Wilmette (IL), Francesville and Kokomo (IN), Bedford and Bushkill (PA), Port Jervis and Middletown (NY), Newtown and Danbury (CT), Martinsburg (WV), Harrisonburg (VA), Register (GA), Chattanooga, Nashville, Marion (IL) a Colorado Springs and Mancos (CO) just reinforces my belief that there is a universal love, which only needs to be tapped and nurtured.

How blessed the natural beauty of the forests, deserts, plains and mountains that gave me solace, this year:  Prescott Circle Trail, which brought the totality of my adopted home into focus; Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, which transcends Arizona’s Central Highlands and the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert; Arcosanti, an intriguing blend of ancient desert rock, seasonal water flow and nouveau architecture; Juniper Mesa, a stand-alone promontory, which once sheltered Yavapai warriors; the shimmering lakes above Zion National Park, a reminder that the Earth is a changing creation, which will outlive us, despite our illusions to the contrary; the tall grass prairie outside Boonville, MO, a fine place to just lie down and think of childhood days, spent in the grasses of summer; Bushkill Falls, PA, as amazing and comforting to me, on a cool, drizzly July day,as it was to my parents-in-law on their honeymoon, in the winter of early 1949, and on so many wedding anniversaries, thereafter; Lake Redwine, and Serenbe, GA, which brought family together, and  help to keep my Georgia relatives so well-grounded.

How eternally comforting it is, to visit the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, and to gather with my fellows-in-faith, at Baha’i Centers in Phoenix and Scottsdale, as well as the Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.

So,many thanks, 2016. There were breathtaking changes, coming from all this, and from the winds sweeping our nation and planet.  These will impact me, along with everyone else, in the next few years; stay tuned.


Clearer Vision


November 29, 2016, Prescott- Now that my backlog of stuff has cleared up, somewhat, it’s time to consider what 66 has in store for me, or I, for it.

Fitness:  I like going to Planet Fitness, as there is a place for everyone, with a feeling of community and non-judgement.  People of all ages, sizes and ability levels exercise together and support one another, either silently, or as “spotters”.  My current plan has me there, three days a week.

Hiking:  Related to fitness, and to photography, my hikes vary in length and in difficulty.  They have sustained me, in many ways, for nearly 58 years.  The next twelve months will take me to:  Prescott Hotshots Memorial State Park, in Yarnell;  the southernmost three segments of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, in New River; Spur Cross Ranch, Cave Creek; McDowell Mountains Desert Preserve, Scottsdale; the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff; the Grand Canyon and who knows where, in AZ and elsewhere.

Work:  I was asked to consider being lead teacher in my current classroom.  I respectfully declined, preferring to see a younger person have a shot at that opportunity- as I am not devoting more time to the courses necessary for re-certification, and  given that I plan to work full time, for 4 1/2 more years, then go on to other pursuits, at the end of May, 2021. Children, and their well-being, will always be one of my highest concerns, though, wherever I am.

Family:  This means both biological and of choice.  Thankfully, there is no one in my biological family who would not be in my family of choice.  The former consists of about 140 people, including my mother, siblings, son, maternal and paternal relatives, and in-laws.  The latter has grown to at least 300, including many who will read this, over the past twenty-five years.

Travel:  My main immediate priority is time with Aram, after Christmas and before he heads to Korea for his next Navy assignment.  Between now and the end of May, I will be mostly in the Southwest and southern California, as work and my Baha’i activities keep me close to Home Base.  Mid-March may find me in west Texas, re-connecting with old friends.  The summer’s focus leans towards the Northwest, and possibly the Great Plains, but much could change, in the interim.  My Back-East visit looks to be in December, 2017.

Spiritual:  As most of you know, I am a fervent Baha’i.  We will observe a significant anniversary, on October 22:  The bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, Founder of our Faith.  A committee is planning a dignified and welcoming commemoration of the event, here in the Prescott area.  I will support and take active part in the event that is put together.

I also support the ecumenical event, known as Hope Fest, which will also occur in October, for its sixth year.  We all are living under the same blessings, coming from One Heavenly Source, in my view.

Writing:  I still very much plan to put together, and publish, a volume of mixed short prose and poetry, between January and March of the coming year.  Online, a series of posts on this site will be called 66 Days of Sixty-Six, being a random group of days that celebrate this age.

It’s going to be a great, if often challenging, year.  Stay tuned.



In Utmost Isolation


April 30, 2016, Black Canyon-  This is a few days late getting to print, but here is what happened today. I started out in mid-morning, stopping in for breakfast at Flour Stone Bakery, a lovely little spot in the old mining town of Mayer, some 30 miles southeast of Prescott.  It has authentic challah, and finely baked rye and other loaves of bread.  I am inclined to stop here on future forays along Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, which I started walking, in segments, about 15 months ago- just north of Mayer.

Here is Flour Stone Bakery, inside and out.

It seemed that the entirety of western Yavapai County, from Prescott to Mayer, was hopping, with one form of mass entertainment or another- Bicycle Marathon, Antique Car Show and, here, just plain Antique Shows.

I needed to get back into the wilderness, though, at least for several hours.  So, on to Black Canyon it was.

The segment I hiked today extended from Black Canyon City’s trailhead to Cottonwood Gulch, about 6 miles one way.  It is roughly 3/8 of the Black Canyon-Table Mesa Road section of this amazing high desert system.  In a nutshell, that means I have hiked a bit more than half of the entire trail (44 of 81 miles), over the past 15 months. Manageable segments work well for me, in this regard.

Here are a few scenes from along the trail, which alternates between hugging the Agua Fria and exploring the rugged hills and mesas, west of the river.


Here is a view of Horseshoe Bend, about two miles south west of the trailhead.  A family was enjoying the water of Agua Fria, at this serene spot. They were among the few people I encountered this afternoon.  Six bicyclists, here and there, rounded out the “companionship”.  Mostly, though, it was the desert and me, alone.  Plants, though, were quite prolific.


Flowering barrel cactus, Black Canyon


Emerging cholla, in basalt field


Mr. Sandstone

He didn’t bring me a dream, but his presence was oddly reassuring, in the quiet of the afternoon.


Hilltop bench, Cheapshot Mine region

I chose this little redoubt, atop Cheapshot Hill, to rest and write a bit in my journal. After a brief interlude here, I kept on going to Cottonwood Gulch, just shy of an intriguing Thumb Butte-like mesa, whose name escapes me.  I will check that one out on my next segment hike, from Table Mesa Road, probably next Fall.  Here is where I chose to turn around.


This bush reminded me a bit of mimosa, though I know it is something different- just don’t know its name.  It looks like a four-wing saltbush, but the flowers resemble those of saltcedar.


Desert lily, Cottonwood Gulch

Well, those last two gave me a reason to pick up a wildflower book, which was actually part of a map of Death Valley, of all places.

This trail was certainly the most isolated I’ve experienced since Seven Falls, northeast of Tucson, and it was every bit as satisfying a challenge- 12 miles in a day.

.Upon returning to community life, a poetry reading and a lively jazz-funk concert rounded out this last day of April.


Heart-shaped Prickly Pear colony


Black Canyon Trail: The Elusive K-Mine and More Agua Fria


Cactus Wren nest, in ocotillo plant.

January 24, 2016, Black Canyon City-  I returned to the Black Canyon National Recreation Trail,  this afternoon, with a long-time family friend and her dog in tow.  This hike was 5.5 miles round trip, not as intense as last week’s jaunt, but exactly what I had in mind.

We parked in the spacious Trailhead Lot, just north of Black Canyon City, and were treated to a taste of the lushness this section of the Sonora Desert offers.


Blooming creosote, Black Canyon City Trailhead


Ocotillo and sahuaro cacti, Black Canyon City Trailhead

We headed out, up a 1.1 section of trail called Horseshoe Bend, being on the south side of the feature of the same name, which was my stopping point last week.  It is not a strenuous trail section, and offers a few anomalies, such as the Pharaoh’s Face.  At the 1.1 mile point, Horseshoe Bend meets two other segments:  K-Mine and Skyline.  We took the K-Mine Trail, which took us close to the spot where I stopped last week.


Pharaoh’s Face, with a barrel cactus keeping watch, Horseshoe Bend segment, BCT


Friends along for the afternoon, junction of Horseshoe Bend and K-Mine Trails

The K-Mine Trail features mild switchbacks, down into a vast valley, outside Black Canyon (the natural feature).  The cacti and succulents here take full advantage of the water wealth proferred by the Agua Fria and its tributary streams.


K-Mine Trail, west of Black Canyon City


K-Mine Trail, west of Black Canyon City


Desert valley, west of K-Mine Trail

The K-Mine Trail offered striking vistas, before taking us down to the Agua Fria, southwest of last week’s fording spot.

We explored a bit along the Agua Fria, but my intuition said it would be best for the three of us, that we turn back.  This did not happen, though, before we checked out a small cataract, a bit upstream from the K-Mine Trail.


Edge of box canyon, along Agua Fria, near the K-Mine Trail


Agua Fria River, north of Black Canyon City, with small cataract in the background.

We met three young ladies, riding a quad and a small motorcycle, and watched as they gingerly negotiated the river.  After returning to the trail proper, we found yet another crossing place, but again I had a feeling in my gut to turn back.  So, up the K-Mine Trail we went again.  The short section of trail to my last stopping place can wait for another day.  Everyone’s well-being mattered more.

On the way up, we spotted a couple of cactus wren nests.  One was wedged in between the arms of a sahuaro.


Cactus wren nest, K-Mine Trail

With such confirmations as these, and several heart-shaped rocks along the way, we called the day a success.  More exploration of the Black Canyon Trail, and other such routes in Arizona, await, over the next several months.




The Road to 65, Mile 57: Back Among the Saddled, Again


January 24, 2015, Bumble Bee, AZ- I found, late this morning, that I had previously reached the trail head of Antelope Springs- Hidden Treasure segment of the Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, which I am determined to complete, in segments, during this calendar year.  Gleefully, I headed out from the large water tank that marks Antelope Springs.


The first mile, or so, of the trail is easy, flat and distinguished only by what is probably the northwesternmost sahuaro in Arizona.  All was quiet, too, which gave me the solitude I craved this noon, after a week of earnest service to a homeless veteran and a class of Special Needs students.

While the trail stayed sanguine, the rocks were the star attractions.  Smooth quartz, mostly milky white, was dispersed along the way- with a couple fields of shattered shards.  Other pieces were marbled with granite, or infused with iron.SAM_3766



A surprise came, around the first mile point, in the form of a large boulder of blue granite.SAM_3772

Then there were lots more broken bits of silica.SAM_3785

The trail began to get more rugged around the area where Hidden Treasure Mine was supposed to be.  I found no indication of the mine, which is probably just as well.SAM_3787

I did find an ominous hooded figure, but it was merely a standing bit of granite.SAM_3793

In Government Canyon, where I took a brief rest, around Mile 4, I saw a marbled granite gem.SAM_3800

The trail kept on rising, then began to descend towards Bumble Bee and Bland Hill Road, around Mile 5.SAM_3805

Sahuaro are a bit more numerous in this area, and face the ravages of being approached by the occasional errant horse, or human.  There were plenty of both along the trail today.  It was a gorgeous day, and about two dozen horses, with both Western and English riders, happened along.  I picked up a shoe that one of the animals had lost, and the group later gave it to me as a souvenir.  About eight bicyclists also enjoyed the trail.SAM_3806

I took note of the next starting point, at mile 6.2, just a mile or so west of Bumble Bee, an old mining town that is now home to about two dozen intrepid families.SAM_3811

Off to the southeast, and up on a steep hill, I could see Sunset Point, the major highway rest area, on I-17, between Phoenix and the turnoff to Prescott.


Heading back to the water tank, I spotted twoformations, in different light.


This outcropping contained a marker for stockmen to keep their animals in single file, as if they needed any such cue, on this trail.SAM_3817

So it went, that I completed not one, but two, segments of this well-worn trail.  Next segment will take me from Bumble Bee to Black Canyon City, sometime in late February.

The Road to 65, Mile 55: Challenges


January 22, 2015, Prescott- I got a call at 5:38 AM, got out of bed, fumbled with the phone, hit the wrong button, and ended up with no work today.  It always goes the way it is supposed to go, though.  While I won’t earn money from today’s activities, I did reassure a transient friend that he has allies in this community, got him where he needed to go, and spent some time with a friend in Prescott Valley, at a restaurant on the north side of the sprawling town.  The place is called The Chalk Board.  It’s a breakfast and lunch spot and has an inventive, well-prepared menu- like Soldi, here on the hilltop.  Several of us will probably gather there on Saturday morning, for breakfast.  I want to look for the trailhead where I left off of the Black Canyon Trail, last Spring, so a hearty breakfast, en route, will be a great start.

Slow days like this are a good time to look at challenges that lie ahead.  So, between now and the end of May, I have these:

Work- The full-time job will happen, if it’s meant to, by the end of February.  Otherwise, I will show up at every charter school in Prescott and Chino Valley, give them each a copy of my sub certificate, focus on building my Essential Oils business (which I’ll do, anyway) and sock money away.

Service- I am with the Red Cross as a volunteer, regardless.  American Legion? My continuing there, past May, will depend on the political climate.  Right now, it looks iffy.  Prescott Family Shelter is on my volunteer radar screen, also, unless I get full-time work.

Recreation and Travel- Colorado, next weekend, is my most immediate focus- for a  Winter Summit.  Texas, the Gulf Coast and central Florida follow, from Feb. 6-17.  My MIL has a birthday during that time, in Leesburg.  Weekend hikes will be many, from mid-February until late May:  Continuing down the Black Canyon, McDowell Mountains’ Pemberton Trail(Scottsdale), Spur Cross Ranch (Cave Creek),Kendrick Peak (west of Flagstaff), Tucson’s Sahuaro National Park-West Unit, a few more places in Sedona and the rest of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park’s trails.  Then, there are the hikes I will no doubt take, on the spur of the moment.

Faith- Baha’i, like random acts of service, makes up the built-in cabinets and shelving of my Life House.  My growth, and that of the community, will continue in tandem with all of the above.

These may seem like trifling challenges, and they are.  Then again, I’m autistic.  Everything is a challenge.

The Road to 65, Mile 33: The Gate Swings Backwards, and Then……


December 31, 2014, Prescott- I woke up around 6:30, on New Year’s morning, 2014, and knew that this would be the year I would hop on board a plane and head over to Europe.  Exactly where, and for how long, remained subject to the vagaries of substitute teaching and my investment income.  All year long, though, things that were meant to happen did, and other things had to be consigned to a later time.

January- The Boot dropped, on Whiskey Row, right at 12 Midnight, as I sipped the hot chocolate I had bought, fifteen minutes earlier in Devil’s Pantry.  The rest of the month brought lots of hiking: Tucson’s Bear Canyon and Seven Falls, the depths of Kartchner Caverns,Casa Grande Ruins, Cave Creek’s Go John Trail, the northern portion of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, a march through downtown Prescott on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  It was a rather dry month.

February- I started the  month by presiding over the Four Chaplains Commemorative ceremony, at our Legion post, went most of the way up Harquahala Peak, visited Desert Rose Baha’i Institute, studied my Faith a lot, and prepared for the sale of the house where I had lived for the past 2 1/2 years.  We said goodbye to the unofficial “greeter” of Willow Creek Gardens.

March- Three years had passed since beloved Penny left her pain behind.  I moved. Then, I went on an errand of mercy and tribute, to Denver-in a U-Haul, and made it safely through the blizzard that greeted me, just north of Pueblo.  It was a fabulous little impromptu community, first at Walsenburg, then at Colorado City, which made things a whole lot easier.  We who had to negotiate the snow, stuck together.  On the Ides of March, I learned about a Loyalty Rewards Program; how ironic.  The next day, we Legionnaires paid homage to those who left us since last March.  We refer to the departed members as ” Post Everlasting”.  Aram headed out on deployment, for seven months, on the last day of Winter.  I saw him and the ship off, then joined other Baha’is, in San Clemente, for Naw-Ruz, the Baha’i New Year.  Blue Herons and Egrets were plentiful at Dana Point and on Doheny Beach.  History abounded in San Gabriel and Redlands.  An International Dinner ended the month, at home.

April- My little apartment began to feel homey.  I did not stray far, this month.  The next several will be peripatetic enough.  Prescott held the photo session for its Sesquicentennial.  I would miss the real deal, on June 30, but one can’t be everywhere.  Affairs of Faith dominated, as they do every April, on the Commemoration of the Declaration of Baha’u’llah, as to His mission.  We  call it the Festival of Ridvan, after its venue.  It last twelve days, April 21-May 2.

May-  My father-in-law, Norman Fellman, had been getting progressively weaker.  He passed away, on May 7, at the age of 90.  Few affected my life in so powerful a way.  Pop held the bar high, but he’d occasionally help us over it, either with encouraging words, or his left foot- whichever he thought best for the situation.  Mother’s Day was surreal- a silent breakfast with my heart-broken MIL, followed by the flight back to Phoenix.  I would come back, three weeks later, to catch a flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  In the meantime, more heartache struck.  A little Baha’i child drowned, and a large gathering honoured his life, in the western suburbs of Phoenix.  The month ended with my landing in Frankfurt, and getting a good day’s rest at the Q-Green Hotel.

June- This was a dizzying, dazzling and endearing month:  Paris, with Tuilleries, Louvre, Tour d’Eiffel, Hotel Monte Carlo,Versailles- both palace and town, the  residence of ‘Abdu’l-Baha during His 1911 visit to Paris, Montmartre, and Champs Elysees, the Roma along the Seine and the various refugees in the Metro;

Rouen, home of my paternal ancestors, prison cell and execution place of Jeanne d’Arc, Hotel Morand,Vieux Marche, my first glimpse of a great cathedral, Roman fortifications, hungry swans in a pond behind a church, Feast with local Baha’is, Palais de Justice;

Utah Beach, and the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, tanks on the beach, hordes in the village square of St. Marie-de-Mont and a couple of roundabout taxi rides;

Mont St. Michel, every bit as inspiring and cacophanous as I’d been told, a place of legends;

Rennes, capital of Brittany, more remparts, the great House of Brittany’s Parliament,  more grand churches and forts, Hotel Grande Bretagne, a sad and lonely teenager, sobbing for her friends, engaging street people;

Vannes, great showcase of Breton culture, fascinating walks in the hills above town and along the quay, a large duck pond-off the beaten track, and cuisine lovingly prepared and served by Madame Virginie, side trip to magnificent Carnac;

Brest, the American Memorial,  Le Chateau de Brest, “Speak Breton, forget French!”, the exasperated Cyber cafe proprietress, the helpful hotelier, leaping onto the early train back to Rennes;

Amiens, the canals, the great botanic gardens, bright nights, Jules Verne’s memorial, the helpful student, Restaurant Kathmandu, the Peace Church, the great cathedral, no one there named M. Foucault;

Lille, Hotel Balladins, the Cyber Laundry, the grand Arts Palace, one of the biggest City Halls ever, Paris Gate and Tournais Gate;

Bruges, a welter of medieval streets, Historium, first time dipping French fries into mayonnaise, flinty-eyed Flemish householders;

Ghent, officious train conductor (reminded me of Anthony Perkins, playing Inspector Javert), lovely Hotel Sint Pieters, more canals, saucy but adorable Flemish schoolgirls, Gravensteen, the Old Butcher’s Market, Turkish emigres in the New Quarter, interplay between hills and riverfront;

Brussels, chaotic, graffiti-ridden, bilingual, snarky coffee house baristas, inquisitive German schoolkinder, World Cup Victory Gathering at the Bourse, Hotel George V, vibrant Algerian neighbourhood, sweet-natured Italian couple and their Pizzeria Bella, Palais Royal, the Central Square, the Baha’i Centre near an apartment complex;

Bastogne, Batttle of the Bulge  Memorial and Museum, Place McAuliffe, Hotel Leo, the train car as restaurant, vibrant teens at a music festival, happy young family at dinner, tough British motorcyclists with hearts of gold, the helpful drunkard at the bus station, Loup Garou;

Luxembourg, astonishing fortresses of two time periods,bustling Financial District, quiet neighbourhood of the Baha’i Centre, Monument to the Martyrs of World War II, Place Guillaume II, Hotel Vauban, Dani Kohll and Felix Schaber, the Luxembourg Philharmonic Plays Disney, a Sunday brunch in a Baha’i family’s garden, a great small nation honouring its sovereign;

Metz, Residhotel, Jardin de L’Eau, teen lovers seeking solitude, people eating lunch along the river, on a busy workday, everyone out in force on a Sunday evening, boys teasing an Arab girl and getting their comeuppances, a little boy’s first encounter with ducks, the German Gate, the enchanting woods, Bellecroix, the disaffected North Africans and their high rise ghettos;

Strasbourg, modernistic train station,hipster hotel manager, venerable cathedral and chateau, spacious and vibrant central park, supremely welcoming Baha’i community(They all were, but this one especially so), interesting city tour by night;

Heidelberg, three hour wandering through University District, walk along the Neckar, Robert Bunsen,gazing upward at Heidelberg Castle, pleading housewife seeking directions;

Frankfurt– The Dom, the bustling, enjoyable Main Walk, delectable Bosnian lamb chops, the long-suffering clerk at Penthostel,   the Baha’i House of Worship at Langenhain,bratwurst  and friendship in a small wurst haus, a night walk around the Messe and ignoring the working girls along the route;

Gera and Berga– Resurgence in the once downtrodden East, bumbling while trying to exit a city bus, engaging drunkards in a surreal conversation, a view of the mine where Pop worked as a prisoner, standing in front of the V-1 Rocketwerks, eating frozen yogurt in a quiet section of Neu Berga, a small memorial to those held captive in the Nazi Era, the POW barracks.

Part II of this retrospective:  July-December