Dreams of Japan

Flashes of Japan’s backstreets filled my dreams until they were replaced with vivid images of Paris. (Two nights ago, after a Bourne-like sprint through the city’s streets and underground tunnels, I’d somehow ended up on a balcony in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.)

I wonder where my dreams will plant me next.

takayama2

Takayama, Japan

Takayama

Takayama

Takayama

Takayama

Shibuya, Tokyo

Shibuya, Tokyo

Tokyo

Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo

Tokyo Tower, Tokyo

Tokyo Tower, Tokyo

 

 

 

Gone for 24 Hours: In Search of Snow and Ice ~ Lake Placid, NY

I had planned to road-trip it to Lake Placid for two reasons: I wanted to see snow again (yes, I know, the Aussie was in search of this year’s hard-to-come-by snow…), and since The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival wasn’t in my immediate sights, I was looking forward to seeing those of the nearby Saranac Lake Winter Carnival.

A winter getaway to Lake Placid deserves more than the 24 hours I was able to dedicate to it, yet the break is well worth the drive. Blanketed in snow and with a thermostat reading of way below 32F/0C, the town delivers an abundance of sweeping vistas from the get-go. Located deep in the Adirondacks, along the edges of Mirror Lake and those of its namesake, and set against Whiteface Mountain – Lake Placid makes for a particularly picturesque village scene. Blue skies and birches, evergreens alongside bare deciduous trees, a warm sun splaying over a cute Main Street ~ the temps may not be as cold as those of previous years, though being able to participate safely and somewhat comfortably in outdoor activities is a bonus.

Though I had traveled with two things in mind, I came back to NYC feeling refreshed for completely different reasons: for breathing in the Olympic pride so honoured by the town; for appreciating the nature-inspired interiors so influenced by their surroundings; for taking pleasure in such simple activities as reclining in a hot spa, and warming up by a fireplace; for inhaling fresh mountain air; and, for meeting lovely people all along the way.

Here’s a blueprint to enjoying Lake Placid and its surrounds in a 24-hour period.

Day One

10am – 4pm: The Drive

It’s a pretty straightforward drive from NYC to Lake Placid. Travel a few hours along an evergreen lined Interstate 87 and the icy-rock-faced High Peaks Scenic Route 73, and you’re pretty much there. Enjoy as a brilliant sun sets slowly behind tall Adirondack Mountain peaks.

4.30pm: Lights, Cameras, Antlers

Be prepared to take a multitude of photos whilst checking-in at The Whiteface Lodge, located at the corner of Saranac Ave/NY-86W and Whiteface Inn Lane. Handcrafted antler chandeliers and cast iron pine cone light fixtures outfitted with rawhide lampshades illuminate the lobby, where a hefty George Jacques-built tabletop with a gnarled tree trunk base makes for a bold statement. Rustic-inspired floral arrangements add a touch of lightness.

The Whiteface Lodge was developed by Joe Barile, a former Olympic luger, and built in 2005. After three years of planning, the evidence is in the lodge’s details: from the wood paneled walls of its corridors, to the stairways’ log balustrades. The property employs a local artist, who is responsible for all the custom wooden accents throughout the Lodge. Dark leather couches and decorative Persian rugs exude an old-fashioned richness within the Adirondack-style lodge based on the Grand Camps of the wealthy in the 1800’s.

5pm: The Suite Life

There’s no choice at The Whiteface Lodge but to stay in a suite ~ which means a jet spa bath as well as a room with a view. Here, huge chocolate chip cookies at the bedside are the new chocolate on the pillow.

7pm: Icy Aliens

Before the temps get to a barely tolerable freeze, drive a few minutes along NY State Route 86 in the direction of the village of Saranac Lake to view its winter festival; the Alien Invasion themed ice castle and sculptures were built by community volunteers and placed along the Lake Flower’s shoreline (Lower Saranac Lake is actually located a ½ mile west of the village).

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, Feb. 3-12, 2012 is the longest-running event of its kind in the eastern U.S. …the Carnival began as a one-day event to break the monotony of the long Adirondack winter and has grown into a 10-day festival that includes sports, dances, performances, two parades and two sets of spectacular fireworks above the world-famous Ice Palace.*

The festival has run for 115 years, and whilst previous years may have exhibited larger constructions (the warmer temps have not been kind this year), you’ll appreciate the effort behind such an installation. Lake harvested ice-bricked palatial walls and aliens carved out of frozen blocks are illuminated by neon lights in greens, blues, purples and reds. Allocate about thirty minutes here: any longer and your fingers may become beyond-numb, and your feet – somewhat of the frozen variety.

Fun fact: Beginning in 1936, Albert Einstein had a summer home in Saranac Lake that he rented from a local architect.**

8pm: S’mores Break

Gooey marshmallow and melted chocolate sandwiched between two Graham crackers ~ need I say more? The Whiteface Lodge offers this Made-in-America treat every evening until 9:30 PM inside their Clubhouse Terrace. Though if you’d prefer to warm up with a pre-dinner aperitif of the alcoholic variety, head to the plush leather and wooded interiors of the Kanu Lounge.

9pm: Surf n Turf by the Fireplace

Grand opulence. The hotel’s Kanu restaurant takes size to another dimension. Its expanse is defined by a high wood-beamed ceiling, accentuated with an enormous cast iron chandelier. The dining room is watched over by a number of mounted moose heads.

The Modern American menu follows the farm-to-table trend. Indulge. Order the crab cakes – two robust patties made of jumbo lump crab meat accompanied by mash; and the braised pork cheeks – so tender, served atop a bed of root vegetables. Don’t let the healthy course sizes deter you from dessert. Recommended finale: Crème Brulee accompanied by a glass of prosecco.

10.30pm: Nightcap

If you can fit it in – well, that’s up to you. The lounge is open until 11pm and the cocktails are good.

Day Two

9am: Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

That’s how you’ll feel when waking up to a snow covered view. You’ll be itching to get outside; to feel the crunch of snow underneath your boots. Fill up on a big breakfast – coffee, omelet & toast, granola – whilst gazing at the view of Whiteface Mountain.

11am: Snow capped vistas

One of the best views of Whiteface Mountain is at the end of Whiteface Inn Lane, along the fringes of Lake Placid. At the end of the road (it’s a few minutes drive) you’ll come to the Lake Placid Inn. Descend the stairs to enjoy a panoramic view of the frozen lake and that snow capped mountain. Serene beauty – this is winter’s decadent offering. From this vantage point, images of Japan’s Mount Fuji come to mind.

12pm: Jumper-time

The town of Lake Placid is probably best known for its connections to the Winter Olympics; the town hosted the Games twice, in 1932 and 1980, and their legacy lives on. Many activities centre on those Olympic facilities, and make sure to take advantage of them. (Time may be a factor in having the ability to visit them all).

One of the coolest spots to experience pure adrenalin is atop the 26-storey, 120 foot high ski jump at The Olympic Jumping Complex. Located about 15 minutes from the centre of the town, prepare to be exasperated by the sheer velocity of it all. A chair lift ride and elevator ascent later, you’ll be standing on an open air viewing platform looking down the steepest incline ever…  A fear of heights gives way to shock & awe as you put yourself in the skis of those brave athletes; this is the site of their launch before veering off into the air, spanning the length of a football field! You’ll be able to take some overhead shots of the town and Adirondack Mountains from here.

These days, the site hosts year-round international ski jumping and aerial freestyle skiing competitions.

2pm: Snack time

Head back to the center’s Main Street, lined with boutiques, a cinema, library and mom ‘n’ pop shops. No fear, there’s a GAP outlet too. After you’ve dropped into the resident Starbucks or local café for a large hot chocolate and sweet snack, stroll to the water’s edge and watch life as it happens along a frozen Mirror Lake, noticing dog walkers and sledders. There are some great vantage points from which to take photographs, as noted to me by the passers-by, who were only happy to show their top spots.

NB: it’s all paid street parking here though spots are not hard to come by.

Apparently a good spot from which to take a photo

3.30pm: Miracle on Ice

A few minutes walk away from the retail strip is the Olympic Center. This is where the triumphant hockey game of 1980 happened between the less seasoned US team and their mighty Soviet rivals; Team USA went on to win gold, against Finland. The USA-USSR game went down as one of the finest in American sports history; it was a stunning win for the country and an inspiration for sport-enthusiasts all over. The movie Miracle, starring Kurt Russell, was released in 2004 to further cement this moment. These days, the indoor rink is grazed and razored by the US/CAN hockey teams, and pirouetted over during figure skating championships. Sit and enjoy the ambience… don’t mind its sweaty locker room smell. It’s part of the charm.

4pm: Amassed memorabilia

The Olympic Museum is a large room filled floor to ceiling with any association to the Winter Olympics of 1932 and 1980. Vintage posters; old New Yorker covers; team jerseys; newspaper cutouts; a wall outfitted with Olympic torches from every Winter hosting city; medals of various sizes, proportions and metal colours. History was made in this town and continues on within these walls, where the front desk staff is only too happy to chat even further.

5pm: Night driving

Surprisingly, you may find that the road home is slightly quicker than the drive in. There’s less gawking when it is pitch black outside, though you’ll be too exhausted and rested from the fresh air to even care.

(Read: I wasn’t the driver on this trip.)

OPTION: feel free to substitute all of the above afternoon activities with a long relaxing soak in the hotel’s hot tub.

For more photos, see my previous post: Into the Wild: Lake Placid, Upstate New York

****

In my preliminary research on Lake Placid, I came across this piece of information:

In 2010, U.S. News & World Report rated Lake Placid as one of the “6 Forgotten Vacation Spots” in North America.**

What are you waiting for – get out to Lake Placid and create some memories! Meanwhile, I’m planning to report on it again in spring/summer!

****

Getting There

If driving isn’t an option, Amtrak stops at Westport Depot – located approx. 40 minutes from the centre of Lake Placid. You may arrange for shuttle transportation if the hotel doesn’t provide it.

*http://www.saranaclakewintercarnival.com/

**Wikipedia

Bolt of Inspiration Series, Part Six (Rain)… and Thank You to…

Recently I came across a quote by Paulo Coehlo that r motivated me to curate part six of the Bolt of Inspiration Series.

I’d also like to dedicate this post to fellow bloggers, My thoughts, pics and personal opinions and thoughts and rainstorms. Both nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award – thank you! These two wonderful blogs make me smile, laugh and inspire with their words and insights. As I recently posted on receiving The Versatile Blogger Award from Victor Ho, I thought I’d spread the love by sharing a selection of inspiring quotes and images – many of the photographs taken by very talented and well traveled photographers in the blogosphere. I hope you check out all of these blog links!

Enjoy!

“If we only walk on sunny days, we’ll never reach our destination.” Paulo Coehlo

Rainy Day in Venice ~ Photograph by Jim Richardson via Nat Geo

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kyoto, Japan ~ Photograph via Jonathan Fleming’s Blog

Blog: Jonathan Fleming

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.” Louis L’Amour

Rainy Day at Bangkok’s Wat Pho ~ Photograph via Tricia A. Mitchell

Blog: Tricia A. Mitchell.

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” Jim Rohn

M.Barre’s Carousel 1955 ~ Photograph by Robert Doisneau

“Everything is as it was, I discover when I reach my destination, and everything has changed.” Michael Frayn  

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Liberty Square, Taiwan ~ Photograph via AsianinAsia

Blog: An Asian in Asia

“. . .the grand tour is just the inspired man's way of heading home.” Paul Theroux

The man and the sea, Wellington, NZ ~ Photograph via alicia scott photographer

Blog: alicia scott photographer

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

Bokeh in the rain, Brooklyn, NY ~ Photograph by Marina Chetner

“It is of course the nature of historical contraction that the shortest distance to a historical destination is never a straight line.” Ibrahim Babangida

Kyoto in Black and White ~ Photograph via Jonathan Fleming’s Blog

Blog: Jonathan Fleming

“Follow what you are genuinely passionate about and let that guide you to your destination.” Diane Sawyer

Notre Dame in the Rain ~ Photograph by Matt Naas via NatGeo

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” Christopher Columbus

Caught in the Rain, Day 9 in Japan ~ Photograph via Japan in 365 Days

Blog: Japan in 365 Days

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Miriam Beard

Tram passing the Kremlin on a rainy day, Moscow, 1956 ~ Photograph by Lisa Larsen

Bolt of Inspiration Series, Part Two

It’s been raining, it’s been overcast, it’s been that type of day, and a good dose of inspiration was required. There is nothing like a good quote or a fantastic image to get those wheels turning and the creative juices flowing. As a continuation of my previous post, Part One, I share with you Part Two.

Prepare to be inspired and enjoy.

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” Susan Sontag

Blue Pond – Hokkaido, Japan ~ Kent Shiraishi

Click for image source

“Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.” Chinese Proverb

Cheetah in Africa ~ Louis  © rights reserved

Click here for image source

3. “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller

At Western Qing Tombs in Yi County, China ~ Photograph by Danny Xu

Click here for image source

4. “The more side roads you stop to explore, the less likely that life will pass you by.” Robert Brault

Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco ~ Vlad Min

Click here for image source

5. “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” The Buddha

Street Scene, Rio de Janeiro ~ Photograph by Rasko Ristic

Click here for image source

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso

La Sagrada Familia, Spain ~ Photograph by Olivia-Rae

Click here for image source

7. “When you are everywhere, you are nowhere / When you are somewhere, you are everywhere.” Rumi

Masai Mara, Africa ~ Photograph by Daniel James Moore

Click here for image source

8. “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” Unknown

Bird on Tap in León, Spain ~ Eduardo Serrano © rights reserved

Click here for image source

9. “Those who follow the crowd are quickly lost in it.” Anonymous

Maples Leaves in Williamsburg, Brooklyn ~ Photograph by Marina Chetner

10. “Own only what you can carry with you; know language, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Adventure Challenge in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain ~ Photograph by Monica Dalmasso

Click here for image source

11. “I am convinced that to live is to travel towards the world’s end.” Ella Maillart

Water Ladder Binn Éadair in Howth County, Dublin ~ All rights reserved by Brendan Comey

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12. “Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.” Chinese Proverb

Summer Festival in Banyoles, Spain ~ Photograph by Tina Soriano

Click here for image source

In Japan – What a beautiful photo

I saw this on Twitter this morning. It’s such a beautiful photo.

“HHDL comforts a young boy who lost his parents to the tsunami last March in Ishinomaki, Japan, on November 5th. His Holiness traveled to Ishinomaki to meet with the survivors from the area most devastated by the tsunami.”

Photo/Kimimasa Mayama