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Distant Horizons: Finding Semitas in Zacatecas

Distant Horizons: Finding Semitas in Zacatecas
January 21, 2014 3:00 am  • 

A soft dusk has settled over the cobblestone streets of Zacatecas and we can hear the sounds of the fountain in the small garden across from our hotel and smell the sweet Mexican tuberose which only blossoms at night. Petals from the purple jacarandas drift down, covering the sidewalk. It is a lush, full night and the garden entices one to linger.

But Liliana and I are on a different mission than just enjoying the sweetness of a spring night in Zacatecas. We have left the wonderful Meson de Jobito, with its ochre and yellow stucco walls, courtyards and winding walkways, to walk the streets of downtown Zacatecas in search for the ultimate in street food.

Liliana, who is from Puerto Vallarta but now lives in Chicago, speaks flawless English and Spanish (and passable Mandarin but that is a different story), has talked to all the hotel’s personnel in search of the best sweet tamales, semita (bread) and taquerias.

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Distant Horizons: Quebec holidays

Distant Horizons: Quebec holidays
December 06, 2013 6:49 pm  • 

With soft snowflakes drifting down on the cobblestone streets and the castle-like Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac set high above the dark harbor lit by the gleaming lights of the ferries as they make the early night crossings, Vieux Quebec, the historic portion of Quebec City, with its 17th and 18th century buildings, looks like a scene from a fairy tale.

We follow the winding streets which are crowded despite the frigid weather. Canadians know how to dress for the cold, and the snow, while heavy, is almost immediately cleared from the sidewalks and the streets. And for those who don’t want to walk, there are the eco-buses—electric buses that run about every ten minutes and are free. Dinner is at the cozy Le Conchon Dingue, a cozy warren of rooms near the quay where we feast on seafood pot pie loaded with crab, lobster, shrimp, salmon and sliced potatoes in a cream sauce, chicken Normandy and a killer double chocolate four layer cake with thick vanilla cream.

Using our hotel, Hôtel Loews Le Concorde on Cours du Général-De Montcalm with its magnificent views of Vieux Quebec and the St. Lawrence Seaway as a base over the next few days, we will visit such delights as Le Mache Vieux Port, which translates to The Old Port Market, a big sprawling indoor market next to the magnificent Chateau-style railroad station where a myriad of vendors including artisanal cheese makers, winemakers, farmers, bakers and candy makers sell their wares. Quebec is such a foodie paradise that one vendor offers a variety of eggs such as quail and pheasant and butchers stalls sell foie gras and game pies.

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Distant Horizons: Idyllic Green Mountains

Distant Horizons: Idyllic Green Mountains
October 15, 2013 9:12 am  • 

My first stop when I finally arrive in Stowe, Vermont, an 18th century village tucked away in the Green Mountains, is to travel on, following the aptly named Covered Bridge Road which winds and twists its way to Emily’s Bridge that spans Gold Brook in Stowe Hollow not far from Stowe. It’s an old bridge, built in 1844 and I wonder, as I park my car and grab my camera, who was Emily. As I go to shut my door, something stops me from leaving my keys in the ignition. That’s silly, I tell myself as I put the keys in my pocket, who would steal my car out in the middle of nowhere.

But later, as I talk to Carol Crawford, the concierge at Topnotch Resort and Spa where I am spending the night, I learn that maybe Emily wouldn't have gone for a joy ride but she might have locked my door with the keys inside. That, it seems, is one of the mischievous tricks that Emily likes to play, though others have reported more vindictive acts such as shaking cars with passengers in them and leaving scratch marks, first upon the carriages that once rode over these boards and now cars.

So who was Emily and why has she spent over 160 years doing these things? According to Carol, there are several tales but all have the same theme. Jilted – or maybe her lover died – Emily either hanged herself from the bridge or threw herself into the creek below. Whatever happened, it ended badly for Emily and now, at night, people can hear a woman’s voice on the bridge and see ghostly shapes and sometimes, Emily obviously being a spirit who has 21st technological knowledge, maybe their keys will get locked in the car.

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Distant Horizons: Sleeping Bear Bay's vintage charm

Distant Horizons: Sleeping Bear Bay's vintage charm
September 17, 2013 2:32 pm  • 

Almost a century and a half ago, a narrow gauge railroad connected a sawmill on the backwaters of Glen Lake in the shadow of a towering tree ringed sand dune with its vast vistas of Lake Michigan, to the docks of Glen Haven, a once thriving lumber and fishing town nestled along a sheltered harbor on Sleeping Bear Bay.

The railroad, built around 1870, though still pulled by horse power, replaced the wagons or sleds used to haul cut timber to the bay where it would be shipped to ports throughout the Great Lakes. 40 years later locomotives took over the work of horses, cherries from nearby orchards and freshly caught fish also became part of Glen Haven’s flourishing economy. The future seemed bright.

Alas, it wasn’t to be and bit by bit the village including the hotel and cannery were abandoned; the rail gauges dug up and its path overgrown with forest, In time, the land traversed between the sawmill and village became part of the 72,000-acre Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore recently voted the "Most Beautiful Place in America" on ABC's Good Morning America.

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Distant Horizons: Tranquil Samara House

Distant Horizons: Tranquil Samara House
August 20, 2013 3:10 pm  • 

When Linda Christian Davis was four, she moved into her dream home and now almost six decades later, her love for the house her parents built has never diminished despite her worldwide travels and the numerous moves she made for her job as global human resource manager for Exxon.

But then what could be better than a house designed by family friend and famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright?

Davis’s home, the 2200-square foot Samara House in Lafayette, Indiana, built in 1955, is one of only three or four Frank Lloyd Wright homes still occupied by the original owner. That would be 93-year old John Christian, former head of Purdue University’s school of bionucleonics (Davis earned a degree in that subject as well) who with his wife Catherine, a Purdue social director, first contacted Wright in 1950, wanting one of his Usonian-style homes – known for their flat roofs, interconnecting rooms, concrete floors, carports and a feel of serenity produced by the measurements and layout of the home.

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DISTANT HORIZONS Curacao has colonial charm in crystal blue

DISTANT HORIZONS Curacao has colonial charm in crystal blue
July 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The charms of Dutch Colonial Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its rainbow palette of gabled buildings accented with louvered shutters and white gingerbread trim, never lose their appeal. The winding cobblestone streets and alleyways of this 17th century city, located on Santa Anna Bay, are crowded with art galleries, restaurants, shops and little plazas shaded by acacia trees.

Enjoy a scoop of Lover’s, a super creamy island made ice cream or a slice of Dutch Apple Cake at the Iguana Café while watching the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge swing open and close letting walkers cross between Punda and Otrabanda districts of the city.

Stroll to the Floating Market, a Curacao tradition where boats from Venezuela, 38 miles away, tie up in early morning along the quay, displaying their wares of brilliantly colored fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers, mounds of glistening fish and such Caribbean specialties as tamarind candies and sugar cane. Take in the smells — and if you’re hungry, the tastes — of the foods cooked by vendors along the docks. Pause in Jo Jo Correa, a lovely plaza just across the street where artisans sell their wares. 

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Old Florida Charm

Old Florida Charm
June 25, 2013 5:45 pm  • 

After following the two lane road that runs parallel to the Gulf of Mexico and winds through the small beach towns and large swaths of woods that make up the Forgotten Coast—a stretch of old Florida with quaint seafood shacks, rickety stands selling fresh fruit and trucks with their back doors open hawking freshly caught shrimp, I arrived in Apalachicola, once the largest cotton shipping port on the Gulf but now a sleepy but charming small town brushed with the magic of time forgotten.

After handing me my keys and relaying the fact that Mr. Coombs, who died almost 100 years ago, sometimes visited female guests and taking the liberty to gently stroke their faces—he must have loved it when the models and crew stayed while shooting the 2013 swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, owner Lynn Wilson tells me how she discovered the inn.

“I had to climb into the dining room window to see what this place looked like after being empty for 70 years,” says Wilson, about this Grand Victorian built in 1905 and abandoned in 1911 after a kitchen fire and the owners’ deaths. “The doors were blocked by debris.”

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