Cal-Neva in Crystal Bay, Lake Tahoe

Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I got married at Cal Neva in Crystal Bay, Lake Tahoe. The resort and casino straddles the border between California and Nevada. A painted line marking the border between these two states was evident in the lobby of the hotel. As you exited the back of the hotel, steps led down to the white chapel which is where we were married. The huge picture window overlooking the snow dotted mountains and crystal clear lake was the perfect backdrop to our perfect day. Afterwards, we exited the chapel and took pictures outside in the snow.

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The hotel was originally built in 1926 by real estate developer Robert P. Sherman. In 1930, the hotel was made nationally famous when actress Clara Bow cancelled checks to the hotel totaling $13,000. Various owners have been associated with this property through the years, most notably, Frank Sinatra in 1960. In its heyday, elaborate parties were held with celebrities attending such as Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr., Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, and Tony Curtis, to name a few.

When we married in 1992, the hotel was already showing its age. My husband and I wanted to renew our vows in the white chapel, unfortunately, it is closed. The new owner, Larry Elison of Oracle, bought the property out of bankruptcy. It is our wish, among many others, that he will restore the property to its former glory.

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We attempted to take a couple of pictures of the hotel, however, it is fenced off. We tried to drive around to either side of the property but the vegetation and trees were an effective screen in preventing any pictures. A security guard also told us that there is a black bear who now resides on the grounds of the property.

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The Acropolis of Athens

Athens was one of the cities we visited a couple of years ago. The acropolis of Athens is one of the famous sites that tourists flock to view. The word acropolis means “high city” in Greek.  The acropolis consists of the ruins of several ancient buildings. The most famous of these is the Parthenon. The Parthenon was built for the goddess Athena in 447 B.C.

We visited this site in the middle of July, which is the worst time of the year to visit. The hordes of tourist, the heat and the inflated prices will attempt to dampen your enthusiasm. The best time of year to visit Athens is early spring or autumn.

That being said, we trekked up the path with other eager tourists and were amazed at the views from the hilltop. A word of warning, do not drink the water. Bring bottled water along, especially in the summer. I brought bottled water and my trusty parasol. My husband and son neglected to heed my advice and paid for it over the next couple of days.

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After we explored the ruins, we descended the hilltop and went in search of food. Our guide took us to the Plaka district which is the also known as the neighborhood of the gods. This area is supposedly the most beautiful in Athens with its narrow lanes, neoclassical homes, museums, restaurants, taverns and shops. You almost feel as if you stepped back in time  Here, we dined on traditional souvlaki street food which consists of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer.

We finished our day with mouth watering baklava and some shopping in this picturesque area.

 

Before Hallmark Movies

Growing up, I was inundated with movies heralding from the 1940’s and 1950’s. My mom’s love for these movies was unabashedly shared with me. I knew more about past celebrities than I did about the current heart throbs on the face of every Tiger Beat magazine. In the pre-Internet world, teenagers devoured teen magazines for info about current stars. Instead of reading about the latest Hollywood break up, bright colored musicals and optimistic stories occupied my world, notably Christmas movies.

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As I watched Christmas in Connecticut, White Christmas, The Bishop’s Wife and Holiday Inn, among many others, my mom shared recollections of an earlier time. The stories she shared occupy a special memory in my heart. I’ve been fortunate enough to share these tales with my own children.

Every Christmas, my grown children beg to watch these movies with me. As we watch these warm/comforting films, we reminisce about moments we shared with my mom. This is our special holiday tradition which has evolved by incorporating Hallmark Christmas movies. Feel free to include special holiday traditions that you share.

Merry Christmas!

Finding Balance

Ever since we moved a few months ago, I have struggled to adhere to an exercise routine. I finally decided to sign up for some type of physical activity. My husband, facing the same struggle, agreed to join me. Due to my health issues, we decided on Gentle Yoga and Tai Chi.

The first Tai Chi class we attend, I quickly discover that I am by far the youngest person in the class. This should be so easy. The instructor begins the class with breathing exercises. No problem. Next, it’s time to balance. I danced for years, so this is my chance to shine. As I lift my foot off the ground to rotate my ankle, I start to topple over. I quickly put my foot back down. Hm. I lift my foot again. I am determined to do these simple ankle rotations. I wobble in an alarming fashion. The instructor with a concerned expression on her face informs me to stand close to the wall.

I move next to the doorway. I lift my foot and start to fall over. I grab onto the doorway with both hands. It takes all my strength to keep that one foot in the air. I glance behind me. Everyone is easily balancing on one foot. Really? I’m working as hard as I can to balance on one foot with a death grip on the door frame. Thankfully, the door frame is well constructed. The instructor tells us that we can teach our brain to help us balance. I vow to practice every day.

A couple of years ago, when we were in Hawaii, the hotel we stayed at offered a yoga class on surfboards out on the water. We watched the people in the class perform various yoga poses, including standing on their head. I consider that class a challenge in balance, not standing on one foot on a solid surface.

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The next day, I convince myself that my lack of balance was an anomaly. I assume a Tai Chi stance in the bedroom and lift my foot. I am able to lift my foot an inch off the ground before I start to fall over. My cat, who has been watching me, runs for shelter. At this moment, I envy her four feet and tail.

I move next to the door frame and discover my new best friend. I lift my foot and discover that I still need two hands to stand erect.

Next up is Gentle Yoga. If this is Gentle Yoga, I would hate to see what advanced yoga is like. I discover muscles I never knew I had. Warrior 2 and I’m struggling to find balance using two feet. Time to balance on one foot. Joy. The instructor tells me I can use a block to help me balance. I choose a stylish purple foam block, instead of the boring tan cork block. I lift my foot and knock the block over. Hm. I lift the block and knock it over again. I lower the block and finally get my foot on it. At this point, everyone has been balancing for a couple of minutes with one foot in the air. The purple stylish block is bending in half because I’m putting all my weight on it. I start to topple over. My foot goes down to the ground and telepathically informs me that is where it’s going to stay.

I realize that over the past few years, my ability to balance has been diminishing. This explains my inability to prevent myself from falling if I trip. For the past six weeks, I have been diligently working on balancing each and every day. My brain is a slow learner when it comes to balancing, however, I am no longer affixed to the door frame. I can hold my foot in the air to the count of four.

I have also discovered that my ability to balance life’s day-to-day activities have improved as well. I feel more in control of my body and that has translated into my ability to handle other situations. My husband and I encourage each other to attend classes and practice balancing. The classes we attend are welcoming and non competitive. I never dreamed that the simple act of balancing was such an integral part of my life.

The Lavish Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is located in Versailles, France, which is located approximately 20 kilometers southwest of Paris. The Palace was initially constructed as a hunting lodge and private retreat for Louis XIII. Under Louis XIV, the Palace was transformed into a complex that was intended to glorify the King.

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This was my second visit to Versailles. The first time I visited this showcase, I neglected to purchase tickets ahead of time and I went during the height of the tourist season. The result was that I encountered lines that were two to three hours long in the blazing sun. I briefly considered standing in line, but instead I took a couple pictures of the Palace exterior.

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This time, I arranged for a tour and purchased tickets well in advance. We also arrived fifteen minutes before the Palace opened. These preparations ensured that we were able to thoroughly explore the palace and the beautiful grounds. We rented a golf cart to explore the gardens, although you are more than welcome to walk if you so desire.

Construction on the famous Hall of Mirrors began in 1678. The Hall is flanked by the Salon of Peace and the Salon of War. During diplomatic receptions, the king would sit on a throne at the end of the Hall, in front of the Salon of Peace. Diplomatic leaders would walk down the hallway with courtiers on either side until they reached the king. This ostentatious display must have been awe inspiring. Walking down the Hall of Mirrors with other tourists was overwhelming.

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The 12 Days & Nights of Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas is on display at the Dallas Arboretum from November 4-January 7.  Twelve Victorian-style gazebos are elaborately decorated and can be viewed by following a gentle paved path through the park. In addition, a beautiful nutcracker collection is located in the DeGolyer House at the arboretum. This display features scenes from the Nutcracker ballet.

The 12 Nights of Christmas features over 500,000 lights and is on display from Wednesday through Sunday from November 9-December 30. My first visit to this arboretum was in the evening. It is situated by White Rock Lake in Dallas.  I recommend purchasing tickets online prior to visiting this holiday spectacle. Any changes in date or time will be listed on the site plus additional information regarding Holiday Tea, Elves Workshop, miscellaneous concerts and more.

When we arrived at 6:20 p.m., the parking lot was almost full. If you want a premium parking spot, arrive early. If you don’t mind waiting until 8:00 p.m., the crowds are greatly reduced. As we entered the arboretum,  we were treated to a sparkling lighted entrance. As we followed the twinkling tree lined path, a lady playing a harp provided soft music to accompany us on our way to the first gazebo.

Prior to reaching the first gazebo, there was a stand selling Christmas drinks, sodas and water. I had a hot apple cider which was delicious. They also serve mulled wine (I didn’t care for this one at all), hot chocolate (yum) and hazelnut coffee (weak). After refreshing ourselves, we concentrated our attention on the Partridge in A Pear Tree gazebo.

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This was one of our favorite displays. We were amazed at the detail in each gazebo. Various strains of Christmas music also accompany each gazebo.

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Nine Ladies Dancing was my favorite exhibit. The costumes, hair, makeup, jewelry, accessories plus the Christmas tree, made me want to join this festive party.

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Ten Lords A-Leaping was also a popular gazebo.

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We spent approximately two hours enjoying  the lighted displays. Located by the Nine Ladies Dancing gazebo is a cafe and the Restaurant DeGolyer. We didn’t dine at either location, so I can’t comment on the food.

We enjoyed an enjoyable, festive evening. If you’re in the Dallas area, I recommend you visit the Dallas Arboretum.

Paris in the Summer – Day 5

Our first stop this morning was Laduree on the Champs Elysees. I read that Laduree is known for macaroons. I love macaroons. The exterior of the location on the Champs Elysees coupled with the gorgeous interior makes this an opulent tea room/shop experience. Having missed breakfast, we enjoyed a delectable brunch. I felt like a member of royalty dining at this tea room. Be aware that the prices for dining at this beautiful establishment on the Champs Elysees comes with a steep price tag. After brunch, I purchased a couple boxes of delectable macaroons.

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Next on our list was the Musee D’Orsay which is located in the center of Paris on the banks of the Seine. The museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station. It was built for the International Exposition of 1900. The building itself can be viewed as the first work of art.

The national museum of the Museum D’Orsay opened on December 9, 1986. This museum features art primarily from 1848 to 1914. Artists such as Degas, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Courbet and Bazille, among others, can be viewed.

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We spent approximately three hours exploring this museum. We were able to see everything without feeling rushed. I highly recommend purchasing tickets ahead online, unless you relish standing in line.