Along The Shore

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Along these shores,
keepsakes wait

Rescue from waves,
seashells dream

Cold sand dwellers,
stones seek warmth

Trinkets to some,
we hold dear

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Waterville, County Kerry, Ireland
Photo by: c.b.w. 2009

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I didn’t get to spend very long in this spot, but the few minutes I had left an impression. A walk along the shoreline in Waterville brings nothing but tranquility. Amid the waves banking the shore and the light wisp of rain overhead, the breeze is always there to greet you with a friendly and warm hello. Here, the real word is far, far away.

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c.b.w. 2013

Memory Stubs

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When I was a kid I saved ticket stubs from concerts, sporting events, fairs, festivals, and just about anything else that needed a ticket. I loved how one look at a date and time, seat number, or movie title instantly took me back to that moment in time. Memories that were normally invisible in the back of my mind came roaring to life as I thought back on who I was with, where I sat, and how much fun I had. Each ticket stub was my own personal time machine.

While searching for film negatives in box under the bed, I came across a stack of memories I thought were gone forever. When my home was burglarized eight years ago, all my so-called valuable possessions were taken, but what killed me the most was the loss of a lockbox that I used to protect keepsakes including tickets stubs.  In particular, I was sad to lose a set Star Wars 20th Anniversary stubs, (my step-dad and I saw those movies together and I’ve always treasured that time).  Imagine my surprise, when I flipped open a small box and found a stack of movie and concert ticket stubs I thought were in my stolen lockbox.

Movie Ticket Stubs circa 1993-2003

Unfortunately, the Star Wars tickets weren’t in the bunch, but I was still thrilled to find stubs for movies I saw almost twenty years ago when it only cost  $3.75 to see an afternoon movie and $6.50 for an evening show.  As I flipped through the stack, it was amazing to know all of my memories were still inside of me, waiting to be recalled.  I saw The Mirror Has Two Faces with my sister back in 1996. The film strip broke halfway through and we had to wait forever for them fix it so we could see the end.

Then, there are the ticket stubs from movies I saw with my first serious boyfriend, BraveheartBeevis and Butthead Do America, and Twister. My best friend from high school and I went and saw The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame together. We were the only “adults” without children in the entire theater, but we watched like we were kids.

These little memories are just a fraction of what these stubs hold for me.  They are priceless and I am so thankful to have found them again.

My weird habit of saving ticket stubs continues to this day. I keep all my movie stubs on a giant bulletin board in my classroom. It has over 250 stubs from movies between 1991 and 2012, including the ticket stubs from my first date with my husband and the most recent movie we saw together (last month). My friends and family are all over this board!

Movie Ticket Stubs circa 1991-2012

Some other tickets I’ve saved over the years come from sporting events and concerts.  My surprise under-the-bed stash yielded concerts I went to in high school with my sister and best friend. We were psycho country fans, which makes the Ryman Auditorium ticket stub one of my favorites.  My dad took my sister and I to that historic stage. I’ll never forget the fun we had or the patience and kindness of my dad for letting two obsessed teenagers go nuts over our favorite celebrities.

Concert and Museum Stubs

What history and art dork wouldn’t save her museum tickets? Van Gogh Alive and the Phoenix Art Museum are fairly recent, but I remember them as being absolutely beautiful days filled with beautiful things.

While in high school, I had a best friend that was kind enough to invite me to a few awesome basketball games.  I still have every stub and I love the memories they bring of us laughing and having a great time.

Basketball, Baseball, and Football . . . Oh my!

This collection also includes a ticket stub for a hockey game (Milwaukee Admirals) that was my first ever date. Sometimes, I wonder how that guy is doing.  He was nice and we had fun, but it didn’t work out!  My baseball stubs remind me of more time spent with my step dad and my husband. I love both major and minor league baseball even if it means getting a sunburn out on the lawn seats. If I can’t have my Star Wars tickets, I can at least have these. The San Francisco Giants ticket was in the stash I thought I’d lost.

Aside from my movie stubs, my favorite ticket stubs are from NASCAR races. I am a huge fan of fast cars and Jeff Gordon, but even more so of spending time with my Dad and stepmom. Every year for almost 10 years, I’ve gone out to Indiana to visit them and catch the Brickyard 400. Whenever I see those tickets I think of our race traditions, the noise of the cars, the smell of rubber, and the rivalry of Jeff Gordon fans (me) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, (my dad). NASCAR something we do together and it means a lot to me.  I keep these tickets on the wall behind my desk at work, so I can I have a little piece of my dad and stepmom with me every day.

NASCAR Ticket Stubs

Between the newer stacks of tickets and re-discovered treasures, I’ve taken on the project of organizing my stubs into a small scrapbook.  Clearly, I’m not the only one who saves these little mementos as I found a fantastic little binder made just for saving ticket stubs!

A scrapbook just for ticket stubs!

Silly as it may be, my ticket stubs are precious collectibles. Not only do they get me into movies, concerts, museums, and stadiums, but they are souvenirs to some of my favorite memories.

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c.b.w. 2012

Strolling Through Colorful Street Markets

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One of my favorite things to do when I travel is visit local open-air markets.  Whether I’m looking for a little trinket gift to give someone back home or a juicy piece of fruit for lunch, I’ll always dash towards a table display on the street rather than a shop.

On reason to love markets is that they are usually filled with incredibly unique items.  Sure, there are the mass market souvenirs, but there are also handcrafted one-of-a-kind items that really capture the personality of a place.  I always look for local artists or photographers as they can offer a wholly original perspective on the region.  I’ll usually buy something small and then ask for them to tell me about the inspiration for the image.  Even a small photograph becomes infinitely more valuable when there’s a story attached!

After more than a decade of traveling, I’ve learned to aim my camera at the markets I visit as they are bustling with vibrant color and glowing moments of humanity.   From busy flea markets to fruit stands in small neighborhoods, markets are filled with family, friends, and strangers all coming together in one place.  Different ethnicities, languages, and cultures all converge, making markets a lovely reminder that we are more the same than different.

In London, markets sell everything from books from antiques.  Several street markets set up shop at Covent Garden including one of my favorite, The Jubilee Market.  To get there, ride a train on the Piccadilly Line to the Covent Garden station.  When standing in front of the main pavilion, (you’ll see The Apple Market), head to the right and keep going.  A bright blue sign and a reference to Henrietta Street will help pinpoint the correct spot.

Souvenirs, crafts, and delicious snacks fill The Jubilee Market in London. Photo by: c.b.w.

Of course, London’s most famous stretch of marketplace fare runs down Portobello Road.  While the antique stalls are fun, I love the food kiosks above anything else.  Fruit, crepes, and pastries make for a delicious stroll!  To get there, the best way is to hop on the Tube and take a train to Notting Hill Gate, (Central, Circle, or District Lines).  This stop is my favorite because there are big signs that point towards Portobello Road, which makes it super easy to find. Follow your nose for the food!

Porotbello Road, London. Photo by: c.b.w.

In Ireland, Dublin’s cobblestone streets wouldn’t be complete without flower markets peddling everything from daisies to roses.  Amid the the gray clouds and brown brick, blooming bright colors sure liven up the place!  Some of the more colorful kiosks can be found on Grafton Street in the heart of Dublin.

Dublin, Ireland. Photo by: c.b.w.

Prague, however, takes the prize for having some of the most lively markets I’ve ever seen!  Tables are filled with colorful fruit, amazing handcrafted items, and spectacular artwork. A small market with a big personality is but a quick walk from the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square.  Head down a street called Zelezna and hang a right on Havelská.

Handcrafted wooden toys on display in a Prague marketplace. Photo by: c.b.w.

Wooden critters line market shelves in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo by: c.b.w.

It almost looks too good to eat! Fruit Market in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo by: c.b.w.

On a day when museums are closed or the weather is too good to stay inside, a few dollars and a leisurely stroll are all you need for a beautiful memory.

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c.b. 2012

A Little Luck From Italy

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Sometimes an old travel journal is as good as any other book on the shelf.  Its inevitable that memories will get lost along the way and I’m very thankful to have my journals to remind me of all the wonderful experiences that have enriched my life.   While reorganizing my bookshelf this week, I came across a journal I kept during my first trip to Europe.  Waaaay back in 2003, I took a whirlwind tour of London, Paris, Florence, and Rome, which I documented in full detail.

One of my favorite stories comes from Rome, where I met a funny old man on the main road leading into the Vatican.   I had wandered away from the group to explore the trinkets for sale in various kiosks and to take in the surrounding architecture without an annoying tour guide babbling in my ear.  A cart selling “silver” charms caught my eye, so I walked over and marveled at all the beautiful baubles.

The old man running the cart jubilantly greeted me, “Buongiorno!”  with his arms in the air and a smile on his face.  I was instantly delighted and returned the greeting, though horribly pronounced. Lucky for me, he thought it was cute. He then asked me if it was my first time to Rome, to which I answered yes.  I went on to explain how much I loved Rome and how I hoped to one day return.  He smiled and asked if I had tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain.  As it happened, I engaged in that tradition the night before, which pretty much sealed my fate that I would see Rome at least one more time in my life.

It’s funny how old men flirt with young women.  My grandpa does it and so did this Italian charm salesman.  He took a hold of my hand and asked if I was married with a twinkle in his eye.  I wasn’t wearing my promise ring, so I guess it was a valid question!  When I answered I would be soon, he pulled me closer and said, “Tell him he’s a very lucky man.”  Ha!  So Italian and so adorable.

He then reached into one of the boxes on his cart and flipped my hand so I could hold his gift.  In my palm, he placed a small silver charm and said, “This is for you.  For luck that you return to Rome. I give it to you.  When you come back to Rome, you can give me a kiss or you can give me one now.” Laughter filled the air, both his and mine.  What a little player!  I promised him I’d repay the debt on my next trip.

Along these streets, I received a special gift.

So far, I haven’t been back and sometimes I wonder if he’s still alive and still flirting with all the tourist girls.  I’m sure I’ll find my way back to Rome one day and I’ll likely look for him down that same street.  I keep the charm he gave me on a bracelet, along with a few others I’ve collected over the years.

The old man wasn’t lying when he blessed it with luck.  A year later, my house was burglarized and all my jewelry was stolen, except this charm.  While the burglary was horrific, I am quite thankful there was enough luck for one thing to remain untouched.

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c.b. 2012

Books Keep The Best Memories, Part 3

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Some people collect t-shirts and magnets, but I tend to place my travel memories in unorthodox objects that seem ordinary to anyone but me.  This is the third post in a series that documents a collection of books that hold special memories from my travels abroad.

I apologize for the gap between Parts 2 and 3.  My journal for China wandered off and I had to find it in order to get the name of the bookstore and other details from my trip.  It’s been such a long time since I read that journal and I must say it was really fun to relive the adventures I had in such an amazing place.

For previous installments please visit, Part 1 (Books From Ireland) and Part 2 (Books From London).

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Books From China

Six years ago, I spent three very enlightening weeks in China.  During the course of the trip I visited Beijing, Xi’an, Changchun, and Shanghai, along with a few rural villages (unfortunately I never got the names of these villages). I often refer to this journey as a life-altering one as it permanently changed many aspects of my personality and restructured my perspective on life.   This is where I learned to walk whenever possible, treasure my past on a level beyond historical study, and that a tough soul will persevere through just about anything.

However, China proved to be a challenge when it came to finding bookstores.  Books are expensive for most people and the idea of a national chain bookstore is non-existent.  In addition, there’s a pretty tight leash on freedom of expression and everything is censored by the government before it can be released to the public.  This slows the publishing industry to a large degree, which means far fewer publications reach bookshelves each year in comparison to the West. Books translated into English are even more difficult to find outside of a school or library, so my mission bordered on almost impossible.

It wasn’t until I arrived in Shanghai that I found a mecca for book lovers.  When the guide asked if anyone wanted to join her for an excursion to a bookstore, I was the first one to raise my hand.  I hopped off the bus with so much excitement, I must have looked like I had ants in my pants.  We entered a building called The Book Mall and I’m pretty sure my mouth fell open.  It was the largest bookstore I had ever seen in my life with seven enormous floors. Giant escalators shuttled customers from one level to the next and the whole place gleamed with brass and brightly colored books. There may not be a lot of bookstores in China, but those that do exist are simply spectacular.

I got on one of the escalators and took it to the third floor (I think), which was devoted to books in English.  For more than an hour I poured over the shelves, marveling at how different book covers looked in comparison to the U.S. and gravitating towards new writers I’d never encountered.  I bought a couple of beautiful books that not only capture the spirit and culture of China, but also reflect my life-altering experiences.

100 Wang Wei’s Poems in English Verse

Wang Wei writes beautiful and simple poetry that calls upon the beauty of nature and emotional connections between people.  His work reminds me so much of excursions into the countryside, most notably Hukou Falls. Rural China is so peaceful and the people are anchored to the land and their families with great reverence.  Those relationships are ones to learn from and emulate. My favorite is a poem entitled, “Autumn Evening in My Mountain Abode.” The first four lines are so beautiful . . .

Blank hills look pure as a recent rain refines,
As dusk is falling autumn is felt in the bones.
A silvery moon is shining through the pines,
the limpid brooks are gurgling o’er the stones. . .  

What I love about this book, aside from the poetry is that it shows Wang Wei’s work in both Chinese characters and in English.  It gives me a chance to appreciate his work the way he intended it, while also allowing me to fully read and understand each word.

The Collection of Gibran’s Poems

Kahlil Gibran obviously isn’t Chinese, but China is where I discovered his work.  When I opened this book and started reading random pages, I was instantly mesmerized by elegant language, powerful descriptions, and an honesty that challenged me to dig around in my own code of ethics.  My experiences China reminded me of how much the little things matter and how important it is to look beyond yourself. Gibran often writes with the same philosophical thread, which makes his words an almost spiritual experience for me.  In one of my favorite sections, he writes about giving:

And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life,
and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy,
and that joy is their reward. 

Everything truly does look different from half a world away and my trek through China changed me in ways for which I will always be grateful.

c.b. 2011