Everything you need to know about Bagpipes and Bands

If you are a fan of bagpipes then the Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle has to be on your bucket list!

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

3 to 25 August 2018

If you have never experienced bagpipes it can give you goosebumps and cause your eyes to tear up with its mournful sound or it can sound like someone stepped on your cat’s tail and it is screeching for you to get the hell off it.  The bagpipes are one of those instruments you either love or hate.

bagpipe parts

The parts of a bagpipe are listed to the left but the main parts are the bag which you fill with air and then squeeze with your arm while blowing in the mouthpiece and covering the holes in the chanter (like a flute) to give you the notes and maintaining a hum through the drones while standing in a kilt*.

You do not start by playing the bagpipes as you will need to build up the stamina slowly in order to play more than a few minutes.

You will start with a practice chanter, which is a small oboe-like double reed woodwind instrument that is very affordable and quiet. You will begin by learning the fingering and grace-noting system required to play Highland Bagpipe tunes. This will take several months.  You can learn on your own but it is better to join a pipeband so that you can learn from others and improve.

Pipe bands consist of pipers and drummers, the number isn’t so important but you should have at least six pipers and a minimum of  two drummers and a bass to carry the sound you want.  You can have as many as 20 pipers or more and a solid line of tenor drummers and snare drummers but only one bass – that is the drum that usually has the band logo imprinted on it and the person is walking crablike sideways so they can see where they are going.

Cambridge Highland games

At competition level pipe bands are judged from Grade 5 through to Grade 1.   Moving to a higher grade requires a bagpipe band to consistently dominate their current grade, sometimes over several seasons. At present day, hundreds of competitions occur all over the world each summer as Grade 5 (the most amateur bands) through Grade 1 (professional-grade bands) compete in their respective categories for trophies, bragging rights, prize money, and prestige.

The World Pipe Band Championships is the most prestigious contest in the world. Every second weekend in August over 250 bands from a dozen or more countries gather on the Glasgow Green in the east side of Scotland’s second largest city. Combined with the other events the week proceeding, it is one of the largest annual Celtic festivals in the world.  Note:  When my husband and I were there, there was a band from Simon Fraser University in B.C. Canada that won.  It was pretty great!


Tartan samples

*A kilt is a garment resembling a knee-length skirt of pleated tartan cloth, traditionally worn by men as part of Scottish Highland dress and now also worn by women and girls. Tartan (Scottish Gaelic: breacan [ˈbɾʲɛxkən]) is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns which represent the different clans (groups of kinship) under a chieftain.

You won’t be an expert on bagpipes after reading this but it should help you take your first gingerly step into the world of bagpipes and if you want to try out something a little less traditional there is the Red Hot Chili Peppers to listen to!

Impressions of Claude Monet

The paintings and sculptures of Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Cassatt, Morisot, Pissarro and their contemporaries exemplify the Impressionist movement which began to flourish in the Paris of the 1880’s.  Likened to the glimpse out the window of a moving locomotive, these artists strived to convey light and movement and its effects on gardens, landscapes and vignettes of people; to get out of the studios and paint in the open air capturing the natural beauty of its subject.  For Monet this was key; it was the excitement of painting as directly as possible the visible, contemporary world that fired his imagination.

Though their paintings sell for millions of dollars now, when they had their first show in Paris the staid art society of the time scoffed and ridiculed them.  It is one of the ironies of history that their paintings were received with incomprehension and derision by many of the same sort of people who today find them so appealing.  Though Edouard Manet is regarded as “the father of impressionism” it is Claude Monet whose works are more familiar today.  His water lilies series alone are more renowned but Manet was also a master of the style and Degas’ ballerinas are superb.  You would be hard-pressed to say that Renoir was any less a painter than any of the others.  They all deserved and still do the accolades bestowed upon them then and now.

Since I have been following in the footsteps of my extremely lucky sister-in-law while she travels through Europe, I am focusing on Monet as she recently visited one of the towns in which he lived.

Less than 2 hours by train from Paris, Giverny is a village in the region of Normandy in northern France.  Impressionist painter Claude Monet lived and worked here from 1883 until his death in 1926. The artist’s former home and elaborate gardens, where he produced his famed water lily series, are now the Fondation Claude Monet museum. Below is a link to the organization.


If you are in France and have the opportunity to visit this quaint little village, I would recommend you go and see the inspiration for many of Monet’s masterpieces.  A great day trip from Paris.  C’est marvielleux!!

The Magical World of Jules Verne

If you are lucky enough to travel through France and have time to visit other cities as well as Paris and Versailles then I recommend Nantes, birthplace of the renowned author Jules Verne and Amiens where the “House with the Tower” is located and where he wrote many of his works.

Jules Verne is often described as the “father of science fiction,” and among all writers, only Agatha Christie’s works have been translated more. He is such a successful and popular author worldwide that many people forget that he was French.  Verne wrote numerous plays, essays, books of nonfiction, and short stories, but he was best known for his novels.

Part travelogue, part adventure, part natural history, his novels remain popular to this day.  You might even say that he was one of the first travel bloggers of his time.

Many of his novels have been made into movies, television series, radio shows, animated children’s cartoons, computer games and graphic novels.  

Jules VerneJules Gabriel Verne was born February 8, 1828 in the seaport of Nantes, where he was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer but quit the profession when he visited Amiens to be the best man at his friend’s wedding, he fell in love with the bride’s sister (and the city). And as the story goes, the rest was history – he died in Amiens on March 24th, 1905 of diabetes mellitus). Verne rests in the serene Cimetière de la Madeleine, beneath Albert Roze’s sculpture of him, which is titled “Towards immortality and eternal youth”.

After major renovation works, the “House with the Tower” in Amiens, where Jules Verne lived from 1882 to 1900, turned into a museum once again offers visitors a space where the imaginary world and the daily life of the author mix. This luxe 19th century mansion witnessed the success of the writer, who wrote most of his “Extraordinary Voyages” there.  The house reveals the personality, sources of inspiration and memories of Jules Verne and is well worth a visit if only for a small glimpse into the fertile machinations of his brain . Verne’s most famous and enduring novels were written in the 1860’s and 1870’s, at a time when Europeans were still exploring, and in many cases exploiting, new areas of the globe.  Exploiting cultures and land is still a popular pastime for many today!  Pity!



The first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus was named after Captain Nemo’s submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Just a few years after the publication of Around the World in Eight Days, two women who were inspired by the novel successfully raced around the world.  Nellie Bly would win the race against Elizabeth Bisland, completing the journey in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes.

Today, astronauts in the International Space Station circle the globe in 92 minutes. Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon presents Florida as the most logical place to launch a vehicle into space, yet this is 85 years before the first rocket would launch from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Again and again, we find the scientific visions of Verne becoming realities.


In 2007 a combined art installation and steampunk amusement park on the site of a former shipyard opened.  Île de Nantes is a 337-hectare island in the centre of the city of Nantes, on Brittany’s western edge.   Les Machines de L’île is a 21st century mechanical wonderland where visitors can catch rides on twirling sea creatures – Participants can choose to ride on three levels of mechanical creatures: squid and crab on the lowest level, suspended fish on the second and boats and jellyfish at the top – a breathtaking juxtaposition of old, new – and weird.

The island’s biggest showstopper, however, is a 48-tonne mechanical elephant. The creature, which carries 50 riders, stomps the entire length of the park – from the entrance, across the shipyard and past an old warehouse to the carousel, before looping back to discharge passengers and wait for new ones. The wild ride takes a half hour.  When this majestic beast emerges from its steel cathedral, it is a moving piece of architecture that sets off for a walk. The passengers on board can see what makes the engine and moving feet tick. A machinist will welcome you on board, tell you about its life and set off its trumpeting. As part of the crew, this is an invite for timeless travel in the birthplace of Jules Verne.

Mechanical elephant in Nantes

Quotes from Jules Verne

I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.

Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.

We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones.

The sea is everything.  It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe.  It’s breath is pure and healthy.  It is an immense desert where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides.

The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence.

Either of these cities would be worth a visit but both would be fantastic.  Happy Trails!

The best selling author of all time

Who is the greatest selling author in the world?  If you said William Shakespeare you wouldn’t be wrong as he is tied with Agatha Christie for that distinctive honour according to Google.  This forty years after her death in 1976.  Of course, William has been dead a few centuries longer than that (1616).

Why do I bring this up at all – because my sister-in-law has been gadding about Europe for the past two years mostly in France, Spain and Italy but with a few exotics thrown in for good measure like Morocco.  To say that I am livid with envy would be an understatement.  Naturally I comment positively on all the photos she posts on Facebook but the whole time I’m wishing it were me.  I am very proud of her for leaving the rat race, storing all her stuff and taking off to see all the places she’s read about for years… unlike her fine arts family member she is a history and literature buff so some of the places she has chosen to visit might not have occurred to me.  For instance, visiting the summer home of Agatha Christie as mentioned.  After seeing the pictures I decided to do a little research and thought I’d share with you.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on September 15 1890 in Ashfield on the northern edge of Torquay, a seaside town in Devon, England. The Victorian villa was demolished in the Sixties – a blue plaque marks the spot – but the town is replete with sites associated with the author’s life. Educated at home by her mother, Christie began writing detective fiction while working as a nurse during World War I.  It was due to this avocation that she developed a knowledge of poisons which she used quite liberally in a lot of her novels.  She did not like violence – a side effect I’m sure of seeing it first hand during the war.  When she married Lieutenant Archibald Christie, they honeymooned at the Grand Hotel.   Her marriage to Archibald did not last, perhaps yet another casualty of that devastating war. In 1930, Christie married noted archaeologist Max Mallowen.

She travelled extensively with both her husbands, and owned many houses during the course of her long life – including several in London, important homes in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and even one in Baghdad.

QuoteHer first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), introduced Hercule Poirot, her eccentric and egotistic Belgian detective;  Poirot is one of Christie’s most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels, one play, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975 before returning to Styles, where, in Curtain (1975), he died.  Believe it or not, this fictional character had his obit published in the New York Times, that’s how popular he was.  The Nicaraguan government put Poirot’s face on a postage stamp.

The elderly spinster  Miss Jane Marple, her other principal detective figure, first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage (1930).  She featured in 12 of Agatha Christie’s crime novels and in 20 short stories.

Dame Agatha Christie is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Bestselling Author.  Her books have sold over 2 billion copies in 44 languages.  Royalties are about $4 million per year.  Agatha Christie is also one of the world’s most prolific writers, or authoress (as she called herself).  She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1971.

Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap has the longest theatrical run, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952. It moved next door to the St. Martin’s Theatre on March 25, 1974, not missing a single performance. It continues to this day.

3,000,000 copies of Murder on the Orient Express (published in 1934) were sold in 1974 alone when the Albert Finney film adaptation opened!  Recently, Sir Kenneth Branagh brought the fussy detective Poirot back to life in his movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express which also starred Johnny Depp and a certain other grand Dame — Judi Dench and an all star cast.

Later on I will post some of my sister-in-laws photos of Agatha’s summer home with information on where and how it came to be on the National Historic register.  Right now I will leave you with a few quotes from the great authoress herself.

An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her.

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.

I’d go the whole wild world

Recently one morning on Facebook they had one of those quizzes where they listed about 50 places and then asked how many you had been to and people were saying 11, 15 etc and I don’t pay much attention to these because they then tailor ads to you based on your answers and I feel they know enough about me as it is.  But it did get me wondering, so I added up the places mentioned and I had been to 30 of them which I didn’t think was that bad (I didn’t put this answer down however).  This of course led me to wonder how many places I haven’t been to and would like to go which eventually led to me trying to figure out how many countries and continents there were in the world.  I’m sure your day starts the same way, right?

You don’t have to google this as I will provide the necessary facts.

There are seven continents:  North America, South America, Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa and Antartica though there is debate on whether Europe and Asia should be listed as one (Eurasia) as it is one large land mass.  There are also proponents of Oceania and New Zealand (Zelandia) but generally speaking just the seven.  Naturally, I was curious to see how many countries there were and unexpectedly opened a can of worms here!

For instance, my husband is from Scotland and they have been trying to become independent for centuries, the same applies to Ireland but they are not really countries but part of the U.K.  Taiwan, Tibet and Kosovo are similarly independent but tied to a sovereign country and not recognized by the UN – Greenland is not a country but a part of Denmark – who knew?  Geography is fascinating for me now but when I was in school I used to think what’s the point of studying this when I likely won’t ever leave Canada.  How wrong I was!

Below is a list of other places that lots of people consider countries but all belong to an actual sovereign member state.

  • Hong Kong (rightly or wrongly, China)
  • Macau (China)
  • Tibet (China)
  • Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales (the UK)
  • French Guiana (France)
  • Puerto Rica (US)
  • Lots of the Caribbean (BVI, Guadelope, Aruba, USVI, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, Saint Martin and more)
  • Reunion Island (France)
  • French Polynesia (France)
  • American Samoa (US)
  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Madeira (Portugal)
  • Faroe Islands (part of Denmark)
  • Gibraltar (part of the UK)
  • Greenland (part of Denmark)
  • The Arctic (belongs partly to Norway, Denmark, Canada, the US and Russia)
  • The Falklands (part of the UK)
  • French Polynesia (part of France)
  • Guam (US)
  • Tahiti (French Polynesia, and therefore France. Same for Bora Bora!)

To keep things simple though, you can generally say there are about 200 countries (including territories) in the world depending upon your source of information.

According to the UN there are 195 but the chart below shows other governing bodies with different criteria.   To see full explanations please click on link below
Countries in the World


How Many Countries Are There in the World?

After pondering on this for awhile, I realized I haven’t really been anywhere in the larger scheme of things but I intend to keep on travelling as long as I’m able and discovering the beauty, culture and peoples of other places different from myself in order to gain a better understanding of them and me.  If you are lucky in life you never stop growing or being curious.  As much as I may dislike change ( I prefer being comfortable and safe), it is ultimately more rewarding to take risks and embrace change.  I think that now I would get far better grades in Geography than I did in school.  To those who love travel – Happy Trails!  Good luck on working your way through this list!

Five days on the Cote D’Azur

The following notes are taken from a trip I took some years ago……

I decide to locate my base of operations in Nice which is somewhat in the middle of the French Riviera (or the Cote D’Azur) and then take day trips on the train to Cannes, Monaco, Antibes, and Villefranche.

In Nice, I find a cozy little room near the station with bath and shower for 100 francs per night.  I have a shower, do a little hand laundry and then map in hand I walk to the top of Colline du Chateau where you can get a panoramic view of Nice, which does not disappoint.  It is a beautiful, sunny day and the walk itself is pleasurable with most people you meet nodding or smiling as you pass by.

Colline du Chateau in NiceCastle Hill, or Colline du Château as it’s called in French, is more “hill” than “castle.” Most of it has crumbled away, but travelers and travel experts alike recommend climbing the nearly 300 feet of stairs to the top of the hill for the sweeping panorama of Nice and the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels).

After lunch, I buy some fruit and water on the way home and decide to have a relaxing night with a good book before an early start in the morning; not sure where to begin first but will let the train schedule decide.  The Nice Carnival runs from Feb 13 to March 1st but I have just missed it.


Monte Carlo

I am off to Monaco as this is the train leaving at the time.  I walked all day.  Went to the exotic gardens high above the town of Monte Carlo (like a suburb) of Monaco.  I am super stoked as this place has been high on my bucket list for years and I am now finally drinking it all in – and majestic it is – not to mention tres expensive!  I walked through the underground caves, had an orange, then walked along the harbour to a Musee National where they have the world’s largest collection of dolls, mechanical and otherwise.  I did not check out the casino but walked past the Palace.

Monaco is a constitutional monarchy run by the Grimaldi family.  Prince Albert II, son of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace who were married on April 18, 1956 (the original Prince and the Showgirl) is the current head of state.  Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican.  It is approximately 77 square miles or 1/2 the size of New York’s Central Park.


The next day I take the train to Beaulieu sur Mer at 9:30 am and walk around there for an hour and then take a 10 minute train ride to Villefranche sur Mer just down the road.  Villefranche-sur-Mer is a very picturesque Medieval fishing village on the beach just a few km east of Nice.  If you enjoy walking it’s an easy 30 minute walk to or from Beaulieu sur Mer and the Kerylos villa or else to Cap Ferrat, allow about 2 hours to get to the tip of the peninsula and the spectacular lighthouse.



When I reached Cannes I headed directly to the beach.  It was another glorious sunny day and I was prepared  I had my bikini on under my slacks and I walked along the boardwalk till I found a likely place; some people were playing what amounted to table tennis or paddle ball without the net and I parked my derriere for the day.  I enjoyed the warmth that spread through my limbs immensely.  I soaked it up while watching people and trying valiantly to understand their conversations.  My grasp of French is pretty pathetic though I can manage to make myself understood in it for the important things….like the toilet, restaurant, glass of wine, etc.  I had packed a picnic lunch of cheese, fruit, salami and bread so around 4:30 I sat out on the rocks and ate dinner while I watched this old fisherman prepare to fish.  It took him forever, especially since people kept coming down to the dock to talk to him.


Note:  Every year the population of Cannes triples from 70,000 to 200,000 during its annual film festival, and in exclusive hotels such as the Hotel Martinez, rates typically double.  The penthouse suite at the hotel is one of the largest in Europe at 1,000 square feet, and rates rise to $52,000 (£31,000) a night during the event.  The hotel was sold in 2012 and joined the Hyatt chain on April 9, 2013 and was renamed the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hotel Martinez.


As I sit here getting bombed on Spritzers I shall attempt to describe my day’s activities.  I slept in till almost 10 am.  Not usual for this trip but it is my vacation after all.  It was cloudy and dreary so I decided to stay in Nice for the day and visit museums.

I started with the Marc Chagall Musee which is definitely worth seeing.  The stained glass windows at one end and the mosaic at the other are worth the price of admission alone. If you are there on the first Sunday of the month you can get in for free!  The Matisse Museum is just a 15 minute walk further uphill.  You can also see Roman Bath ruins, a 2000 year old olive grove and a Franciscan Monastery with fabulous Italian-style gardens which are open to the public.

Chagall mosaic


Antibes is another coastal gem where I happened upon kindergarten children all dressed in fancy hats having a parade outside the chateau where Picasso spent a year painting and drawing and making ceramics.  Antibes children

This has been turned into a museum and I can see why he would have been so productive when you look out over the water and take in the beauty of the surroundings.  I am not a big fan of Picasso as I tend to favour his drawings over his paintings but the ceramics on display here are beautiful.  He was certainly a prominent artist of his time.

Museum Picasso in Antibes

It helps that I have an Eurail pass so that I can hop off and on trains at will.  You can purchase them for different periods of time.  The one I had was good for three months and was guarded much like my passport – neither of which I wanted to lose.  Five days wasn’t nearly long enough to absorb all that is the French Riviera but as a tapas it was delectable!

The WOW Museum in Nelson, New Zealand

While my husband and I were travelling through New Zealand in 2012 we happened upon this world where the lines of fashion and art blur and merge as one… the WOW museum which stands for the World of Wearable Art.

For a peek into this imaginative cirque du solheil of choreographed human art, please go to                                          www.worldofwearableart.com 

The museum provides visitors with the opportunity to view the permanent collection of past winners of the awards show (held in Wellington in September each year and celebrating 30 years in 2018) in a unique setting.  We were not allowed to photograph the garment displays but there was a travelling show in Christchurch where we were able to take a few photos.


Wed. 28th March, 2018 Step 1 (intention to enter) closes
Step 2 entries close for ALL international entrants
Sun 9 Sept Second Judging (provisional)
Mon 24 Sept Final Judging
Fri 28 Sept 2018 Awards announced
Sat 29 Sept Entries open for 2019 WOW Competition

Unless you are particularly motivated to show your own creative talents, you might possibly have to wait till this September to come up with a proper theatrical spectacle worthy of consideration as you only have till the end of March for entry to 2018 Awards show.  A kaleidoscope of dance, colour, movement, art and drama, the WOW awards show in Wellington ‘takes art off the wall and onto the moving body’.

If you are planning a trip to New Zealand and can attend the show in September in Wellington or going to Nelson anytime of the year, you have to stop in to see the WOW.  An added bonus is the world-class Classic Car Gallery in an adjacent building.  Over 50 cars and motorbikes on display.  My favourite was the Excalibur parked out front though the 1937 Cord was none too shabby.


The Trevi Fountain in Rome

Years ago, I embarked on an adventure as the culmination of study and hard work in completing my degree in Fine Arts in University; and I decided it was time to go to Europe and visit all these museums and cities that held the paintings and sculptures, etc. that I had been studying in books for the past three years – so I went – backpacking through Europe beginning in London and ending in Amsterdam after three months.  It was terrifying and exhilarating – sometimes both at the same time.

One of my goals was to see the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy as I was a big fan of “Roman Holiday” and Audrey Hepburn and had seen “La Dolce Vita” and “Three Coins in a Fountain” as well.

It is hard sometimes to fathom that although my country just finished celebrating it’s 150th year of being there is this Baroque masterpiece which took three decades to complete from 1732-62 that was built more than a century before we even existed.  So when people say the history is in Europe, they are not kidding.

The Trevi fountain is 85 feet tall and 65 feet wide.  Legend holds a coin thrown into the fountain will ensure a return trip to Rome.  You are to stand with your back to the fountain and throw it either with your left hand over your right shoulder or vice versa.  You are not to look behind you.   Throw in a second coin if you’re seeking love – even a third for wedding bells.  Coins are collected nightly and given to an Italian charity called Caritas which uses them to buy rechargeable grocery cards for the needy.

Trevi fountain map

Though there is some controversy here – The central figure in the Trevi Fountain is either the Greek Titan Lord of the Seas, often referred to as Father of the Waters –  Oceanus or it is the Roman god of the sea, Neptune… and since the fountain is in Italy I’m tempted to go with Neptune.   The triton (half man, half merman) on the left having trouble with a restless horse represents rough seas while the one on the left leading a calm steed is depicting tranquil waters.  On the left facing Oceanus/Neptune is a statue representing the abundance of water holding the horn of plenty with her toppled vase at her feet and the one on the right symbolizes health and water as nourishment.  All the statues are made from carrara marble while the facade and reef are made of travertine.

Did it live up to my expectations?  Surprisingly, after seeing the Coliseum and the Forum as well as St. Peter’s Square it was kind of disappointing but the romance of the fountain is appealing.  When in Rome!

Dinah Shore sounds a lot like Dinosaur, doesn’t it?

On a recent trip to Palm Springs (my first, and may I say the airport there is quite delightful) we visited the Dinah Shore Golf course.  Now no one under forty will likely know who she was but she was a very talented lady who could sing and act and had her own TV show beginning in the 50’s and ending in the 70’s though it changed names throughout.  Founded in 1972 by Dinah Shore, the first major tournament of the year on the LPGA Tour is played on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club.  Only the PGA Tour’s Masters at Augusta National has had a longer continuous run of any major tournament at a single venue on either the men’s or women’s professional golf tours.

Palm Springs has roads named after the first celebrities that had their winter homes there –  Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen, among others – google them if you’d like to find out their contributions to TV, the theatre and show business at large.  All these people have crossed to the great beyond but have left a legacy of film and TV credits behind along with the odd Emmy and Oscar thrown in.

Though now considered dinosaurs of the industry when Palm Springs first sprang from the desert, they were the elite or creme de creme of “Hollywood Stars” at the pinnacle of their success. Their homes were made to accommodate an indoor-outdoor lifestyle and there’s a seamlessness in the way one moves from inside the house to a large backyard and pool.

The two things that struck me most on my visit – it has the retro mad men look to it with a lot of the homes built with a space age feel to them  – and the fact that a lot of the golfers had golf carts which reflected their status in the community or the type of car they drove as shown below

Golf carts at Palm Springs Indian Wells golf course

I just found this so extravagant and flagrant one-up-manship!  It reminded me of the gold chains a lot of the sports superstars wear around their neck – it’s just such a cock on the walk kind of thing.  My brother told me they probably cost about $14,000 each.  For a golf cart for heaven’s sake!

The other thing that surprised me was that Bob Hope (whom I’ve always considered a kind of conservative guy for his day) had the most stunning home imaginable.  Very modern and futuristic and one I would never have associated with the down to earth love-able persona I’d seen on screen.

Bob Hope's Palm Springs abode

Looking more like a bandshell in a park somewhere or a flying saucer that just landed it could be viewed more as cold and impersonal because of all the cement but I found it quite fascinating as I could not match the man to the house.  I think perhaps his wife had more of the design influence than he but I don’t know for sure.  The architect was John Lautner who also designed the Elrod House prominently featured in the James Bond film “Diamonds are Forever” among several other modernistic structures in Palm Springs.

All in all we quite enjoyed our stay in Palm Springs as the weather was gorgeous every day; the food was delicious, and the drinks by the pool most life-affirming!  If you should find yourself in Palm Springs be sure to take a tour on Dinah Shore Drive or Bob Hope Drive and if there on a Thursday night check out the Villagefest street fair from 6-10 pm.  Park at the one end, stroll through the vendors and have a margarita (or dinner) at the Blue Coyote at the other end.  You’ll be able to walk off any calories going back to the car.


Nobody walks in LA

Like the lyrics to the Missing Persons song…..

I don’t know could’ve been a lame jogger maybe
Or someone just about to do the freeway strangler baby
Shopping cart pusher or maybe someone groovy
One thing’s for sure, he isn’t starring in the movies

cuz he’s walkin in LA – nobody walks in LA, etc

The one time I flew to LA with a friend of mine it rained pretty much the whole time.  Once, when we were sitting in the rental car watching the  wipers flip side to side in the fog enclosed front seat where we were playing tic tac toe on the windshield, I suggested water-skiing behind the car but no one took me up on it.

The Golden State they call it, land of sunshine, blah, blah, blah.  I began to think that it was a tourist scam in order to get suckers to come visit, that it was make believe like all the movies they produced there.  Or perhaps the sun decided to take a vacation of its own and moved off to China or Mexico.  Suffice to say that my first adventure in CALIFORN-I-A did not come close to living up to the hype.

It used to be unheard of to walk around LA but with the refurbishment of the downtown core, it has become a place to be and be seen much like South Beach in Miami.  Millions have been spent revitalizing the derelict hotels, old department stores and office buildings into a hip and happening scene.  Witness the re-development of the Ace Hotel and now the Garfield and Merritt Buildings.

That first time I visited however; I crossed the street to go to a gas station/everything store and everyone was honking at me, people stared from the other stores, etc.  I felt like an alien; once I got back to the motel we were staying in, my friend told me there had been a shooting in the parking lot just a few hours ago and I shouldn’t have been out walking by myself.  Go figure!

The second time I was in LA things were much better as the sun was shining and we had driven down the coast from Seattle stopping to camp one night, hotel the next and visiting sea lions, the Queen Mary, and Hearst Castle along the way.  We took in a ball game in San Diego and visited the zoo to say hello to the Panda bear as well.  Walked from Venice Beach to the San Monica Pier and delighted in all the characters we came across in our journey.  It was a much nicer visit.

Shortly we will be going to Palm Springs to stay with relatives with a short trip into LA for an art deco walking tour of downtown, a visit to the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory and partake in some retro cocktails and good grub.  Will be sure to give you an update when we get back.  As we will be Walkin in LA!!!