We’re taking advantage of being so close to Europe and Asia and planning trips every few months abroad. The history and beauty of the countries is amazing and wonderful. Escaping Israel gives us a chance to see green and feel some cold, so we do so eagerly. Currently our travels include:
- We caught up with my mother on her honeymoon in Paris for two weeks. We toured all the major galleries and tourist attractions, enjoying the Louvre and Versailles and all points in-between. A favorite was a day tour of the Normandy countryside visiting the last home of Van Gogh and the country estate of Monet. Monet’s garden was in full bloom with so many different kinds of tulips we were overwhelmed with color after so long in Israel with so little color.
- Rhodes, Greece
- Known to the locals as Rhodos, we spent a weekend exploring the island, visiting the old town of Rhodes and the ancient town of Lindos, a wonderful village of white and blue built on the cliff sides. I collect unusual lace, especially tatted lace, and we found some incredible handiwork in Rhodes. Brent went crazy photographing the amazing array of wonderful doors in both Rhodes and Lindos. We rented a car and drove all the way around the island, stopping off for lunch in a small one road village and wondering through ancient villages along the way. It was a perfect relaxing weekend and a great break from the craziness of Israel.
- Prague, Czech Republic
- We were stuck in hotels for the first few hours of our stay in Prague, then a mad taxi ride into town to see one of the famous puppet shows. Exhausted, we wandered out of the theatre and just started walking blindly down the small alleys. We came out into a huge open square and gasped with amazement. The old town of Prague is lit up like a fairy tale with lovely churches and castle-like buildings. It is a magical place, beautifully preserved architecture from the days when people took care in amazing the senses with their buildings instead of confining them to harsh geometrics.
- Istanbul, Turkey
- We spent a few days exploring one of the oldest cities in the world, Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, the gateway or link from Europe to Asia to the Middle East and Africa. We explored the ancient mosques and the beautiful palace, many buildings still being refurbished and repaired from the horrible earthquake last year. Our hotel was smack in the middle of one of the Russian immigrant sections of town so we heard more Russian than any other language. Felt like we were in Israel sometimes. You can buy ANYTHING in Instanbul from cheap rip-off software by the truckload to fake identification to furs, jewelry, and fashion fakes of all kinds. It is an amazing shopping place. In general the prices were the best we’ve seen anywhere, but you can’t always trust the authenticity. It was an amazing glimpse into the massive captialization which has hit Istanbul in recent years as it is flooded with immigrants from Russia, Pakistan, and other struggling countries, and they struggle to cope with their devastated economy. A place of true contrasts and dicotomy from ancient history to new technology. And yes, we got preposterous on the Bosphorous!
- We got a chance to be COLD again! December in Budapest was a step back into freezing temperatures of ancient memories (ours) and into the “holiday season” of Christmas, something rarely seen around Israel. The sounds of Christmas, the smells, the magical lights and decorations, not to mention the snow and sub-zero temperatures, it was a fairy tale step into a long forgotten part of our memory since moving to Israel. We spent some time exploring the shopping areas and the ancient part of the city. We spent even more time just looking at CHRISTMAS. Brent and I attended the Nutcracker Ballet at the famous Budapest Opera House and a delightful Christmas Classical Concert at the unique St. Mathias Cathedral atop the old city.
- While we just stepped across the border for the day, we stepped back in time to the ancient Nabateans and ancient Arab civilizations which created the amazing structures found in Petra, the “stone city.” The bus ride from Eilat, Israel, is a form of transportation that not only goes back in time as well, it takes you through another world, far from all that is familiar to most. The mountain desert area we passed through was rugged and harsh, beyond imagination, helping us understand a little more about the harshness of life for the ancient Arab people. The town of Petra is grown totally out of the tourist industry, building up on the rugged hills at the eastern entrance to the stone city. The carved entrances to “buildings” along the deep wadi of Petra are not “homes” but were actually burial chambers. The religion’s main purpose while you were alive was to prepare yourself for your death, which meant building great burial chambers – the more glorious they are, the better your experience in the after life. We only saw a small part of the area which is open to general tourists. We long to go back and spend a week or so exploring some of the more rarely seen constructions deeper within the wadi.
- A long-time dream of mine came true when we returned to a favorite spot of mine along the Aegean Sea, Dubrovnik. Still recovering from the horrible devastation of the Yugoslavic wars, much still in evidence, the ancient walled city is slowly recovering and starting to become revitalized again. We only spent a couple of days there, and really loved exploring the ancient city, photographing the red tiled rooftops (over 80% of them were damaged during the war and most have been replaced with bright red tiles) and the incredible wall around the city. We also took a bus tour up the coast to visit a winery and the ancient boat building island of Korcula. They have just opened up to tourism again and their new museums in the small walled city are delightful in their novelty and “newness” on the history of the island and their fame for boat construction, building some of the most famous yachts in the world for hundreds of years, most still in use today. We also rented a car and drove south along the coast, entering Yugoslavia. We had a wonderful lunch along a lovely bay in an old mill house, seated right next to one of the ancient mill wheels and paddle wheels.
- London, England
- We spent a lovely weekend in London with a friend of ours, staying in her apartment. We saw Phantom of the Opera and walked all over, exploring St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Museum, the Tower of London, and more. We even took a day trip up to Oxford, home of the famous university and the author of Alice in Wonderland.
- Antalya, Turkey
- We had been wanting to get to this interesting resort town in southern Turkey, mainly to get to some of the fascinating areas around the south, but we ended up there for only a couple of days, trying to explore and relax, escaping some of the stress of living in Israel during the current situation of the Intifada and the threat of war with Iraq. Unknowingly, our neighbors, Naomi and Leslie, also planned the same trip for the same weekend. We kept running into each other and ended up having a lunch and dinner together, really having a blast. They made it so special for us. We enjoyed the old city area and photographed the boats and seashore, paying attention to the old buildings, doors, windows, and streets.
- We finally made our dream trip to Spain, after over seven years of trying. Escaping the threat of war with Iraq, we rented a small Class C type motor home (small truck with a big camper-style on back) and traveled for several weeks all over the north of Spain. We arrived the end of February when many campgrounds were still closed for winter, but did manage to find a few, and did what we could as we were self-contained when we lacked campgrounds. We begain in Madrid and made a quick trip to Toledo, a favorite of mine, and then north to Santiago del Compestella, home to one of the most amazing cathedrals in the world (pure overkill) and destination for thousands every year who make the pilgrimage across the north of Spain. A couple days there, enjoying the wonderful city and sights, and then on to A Coruna and the northern coast of Spain.
We thought we would see more “oil” along the northern coast, but actually saw little or no evidence, until we had passed the far northern city of Aviles, more than a couple hundred miles from the oil spill. At our wonderful campground at the Playa del Tourenzo, we were right out on a point above a lovely isolated cove, the waves crashing below us. We went for an evening stroll along the beach and found the rocks and cliff walls caked in black gunk. We spent the evening and the next morning photographing the black splatter, shocked at the thick coating. I got some on my feet and hands, taking off my shoes to race through the surf, and it took at least twenty minutes of scrubbing with dish soap and dish scrubbing brushes to get it off of me. Imagine cleaning it off the rocks. We saw a lot of “Nunca Mais” posters and signs everywhere and eventually found out that this is a country-wide project to raise money, gather petitions, and more to put an end to the ancient oil tankers throughout the world, not just those passing along Spain’s northern coast. It means “Never More” or never again, and they put together a music CD of famous and not-so-famous entertainers from all over Spain and the local region to help raise money. Paying closer attention to details, further along the coast we spotted men in white plastic-like disposable suits cleaning the beaches. We had thought they were just “cleaning” the beaches in preparation for tourist season, not “cleaning” the oil off the beaches.
We headed up into the famous “Picos de Europa”, a great mountain range surrounding Asturias which many sailers believed were the great peaks of Europe, but they are just a small range visible from the water. The road up to one of the peak areas twists along steep cliffs and through amazing green valleys. Spain is so beautiful, there is just too much to see. We’ll be back.
- Czech Republic
- When Brent got an opportunity to participate in a fingerstyle guitar weekend workshop in Prague with the highly acclaimed artist, Woody Mann, he leapt. And a return to a much enjoyed city was a highlight for me, so we decided to see even more of the area than we did the first time. We spent the first four days in Prague at the workshop and wandering around, then rented a car and drove the countryside to the east and up around through the northern mountain foothills, experiencing our first brush with snow which fell the night before. We camped, returning to our roots in the tent, and had a great time. Brent loved the food. Since the concept of “smoke-free dining” isn’t even a thought, Brent would go into a restaurant as we traveled around and order two meals to go. Explaining “to go” when no one spoke English, Spanish, or Hebrew, was entertaining, but he got his point across and the small cafes and restaurants were delighted to help these two helpless tourists. He would bring out the meals to the car and we’d eat in smoke-free car comfort, while the restaurant workers and owners would wave at us from the back porch making sure we weirdos were happy with our meals. At less than USD$10 a meal (for both of us), with salad, rice or potatoes, vegetables, drinks, meats, etc., Brent was thrilled and the food was incredibly wonderful! We also thoroughly enjoyed the incredible fall colors, with gold, yellow, green, orange, and bronze trees like clouds of colors all over the hillsides. Amazing! We needed the break and the rest, so we mainly “vacationed” instead of locked behind the camera. A pleasant change.
- Brent found another guitar workshop to attend in Amsterdam featuring one of his favorite guitarists, Peter Finger. During the introduction to the five day workshop, Peter Finger gave a little example, along with the other teachers, of something they would “mess around with” in his classes, and when he finished, there was dead silence. Finally, someone exhaled a long “shit”, a worshipping whisper. Brent was totally intimidated and fretted and debated over attending Peter’s course, but in perfect VanFossen family pride, he told himself that Peter Finger was the main reason he signed up for the course and Peter Finger was who he wanted to learn from. He showed up the next morning and there were only two other students there. Everyone else had given into their intimidation. Brent got one-on-one time with his new mentor and the two became good friends. Brent’s learning curve spiked, but he handled it.
Lorelle explored Amsterdam and nearby towns with one of the wives and relaxed and recovered from two months in the United States racing all over the place with family and friends and business.
One of the main highlights of their visit was a day long exploration of an annual home building and remodeling exhibition at the convention center in Amsterdam. Eager to begin plans for building their new home on Lorelle’s family property in Marysville, Washington, and slowing down their travels a little, Brent and Lorelle opened every drawer, lifted every lid, and poked and prodded and asked as many questions as they could from anyone who spoke even a smidgeon of English about kitchens, dining rooms, bedrooms, garages, windows, roofs, floors, ceilings, storage, bathrooms, and more. Then they headed to Israel to begin padding to move to the next destination.
- Coming Soon
- We are planning trips to Egypt, Morocco, Switzerland, Russia, and who knows where next!