The Missed Connection

It happens. If you travel, every now and again, you’re going to miss your connecting flight, and yesterday, my number was up! A cheap airport hotel in Atlanta and a little travel humor :-).

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport
Missed Connection and an Overnight at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Photograph, iStock Photos.

It happens.

If you travel, every now and again, you’re going to miss your connecting flight, and yesterday, my number was up!

I was headed home from an anniversary party in Ohio, and the Delta flight to Atlanta was late arriving to the Akron-Canton airport. We were due to leave at 5:59 p.m., and I was at an itty-bitty concourse bar having a burger and a drink. The bartender knew about the delay first — we were set back to 7:00.

I looked at my watch, then my boarding pass. I was still good — I never fly through Atlanta with less than a two hour layover.

USA-drinking-team-tshirt
If you feel the need to join Team U*S*A, Drinking Division, here is their official t-shirt. I’m warning you though. If your silver-headed team mate from Detroit finds you, you may never get away!

The group at the bar was fine and companionable until an old woman walked up sporting a USA Drinking Team shirt. It was evident this team member had been training hard earlier in the day. Her speech was slurred and she was loud.

I finished my supper, paid my tab, and headed for the gate — the drunk’s voice seeming to go up another few decibels.

I felt sorry for the person who’d soon be shut up on a plane next to her. Thank god Team USA was heading to Detroit, not Atlanta, and her flight was on time.

When I took a seat at Gate 5, the Delta agent announced our flight time was pushed back to 7:42. That was it — we’d hit no-go. I wasn’t going to make the Houston flight.

Here’s where you have a decision point as a passenger. Re-book yourself now and find a hotel, or wait until you miss the connection and stand in line with everyone else to do the same thing — with fewer seat options. I chose now, no line, and an earlier bedtime. The Delta agent at Akron-Canton got me on a 8:00 a.m. Atlanta-to-Houston flight the next morning, and I got on Expedia to find a room near the Atlanta airport — figuring I’d see whether I could get a room credit from Delta the next day. One way or the other, I was not sleeping in the airport.

With this in mind, I looked at the options. There were everything from flea-bag motels, to Hyatt and Westin, to a Renaissance Hotel on the tarmac in Atlanta with mixed reviews and a high price tag. I went cheap/middle — the Red Lion for $104 — they had a restaurant, an airport shuttle, clean but basic rooms, and good reviews.

By the time our flight was finally wheels-up, it was after 8:00 p.m., and I was feeling self-satisfied about my decision.

I make it to my Atlanta Airport Red Lion hotel room — clean, very comfy bed, but thin walls, and my neighbor’s television is blaring. I settle in to do email and a little social media.

Blam, blam, blam — on my neighbor’s door. She is not pleased. “F*@k you, Tyrone! You go back to your room! I don’t wanna see your ugly f*@+**g face again tonight!”

It’s eleven o’clock. I sigh. Tyrone leaves.

I edit a few photographs, do a little writing, and finally turn off the light around midnight. Thirty minutes later, another loud knocking out in the hallway.

“I done tol’ you, I don’t wanna see your face again . . . go AWAY!”

I look at the clock and consider calling the desk. And I’m thinking, “F*@k you, Tyrone. GO to BED!”

Yeah, the $104 hotel was a mistake, but there’s no whining on Team Fisher.

That wake up call to make the 8:00 a.m. flight came mighty early, but I was on it.

Delta flight leaves Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Photograph, iStock Photos.
Delta flight leaves Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Photograph, iStock Photos.

Do Airlines Have to Pay for a Hotel If I Miss a Connecting Flight?

The answer to that question is NO.

I did get $100 credit for use on a future flight with Delta. When I called the following day, the agent put me on hold, researched the reason for the delay of my flight, and then issued the credit to my Delta Skymiles account.

Be aware that airlines are NOT REQUIRED to cover hotel expenses AT ALL, even when a delayed flight/missed connection is considered their company’s fault. 

D.O.T. (Department of Transportation): 

  • Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting in the airport terminal.
  • There are no Federal requirements regarding these amenities or services.  If you are delayed, ask the airline staff if they will pay for meals or phone calls.  Some airlines may not offer amenities if bad weather or something else beyond the airline’s control causes the delay. — from the D.O.T. web site

You must refer to a specific airline’s contract for carriage (also called conditions of carriage) for accurate information concerning what that company will do in the event of a flight delay. Policies vary widely. Delta’s domestic contract for carriage is over fifty pages long. You might want to read your airline’s contract — so that you understand exactly what their policies are.

Links to Airline Contracts of Carriage
Alaska American
Air France Alitalia
British Airways  Delta
Frontier  JetBlue
Iberia  KLM
Luftansa  Qantas
Southwest  Spirit
United  Virgin Atlantic
Minute Suites in Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
Minute Suites in Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. An option when you want to crash for a couple of hours.

Parting Thoughts

Stuck in the airport, but not long enough to get a hotel?

I did see an interesting option at the Atlanta airport on my way to Ohio called Minute Suites: The Traveler’s Retreat. At Minute Suites, you can rent a room with a daybed, a pillow, and a desk for as little as an hour. I was intrigued, and stopped to chat with the man at the desk. Currently, Minute Suites are only in three airports: Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Dallas-Fort Worth, but they are expanding to others.

This is not an inexpensive option, as you’ll see if you click through to the Minute Suites website (Minute Suites Pricing). The first hour will run you $42, and then another $10.50 for each fifteen minute increment. Eight hours? That’ll be $160, please.

My $104 overnight at the Red Lion, even with soundtrack by Tyrone and Friends, is looking like a bargain. After all, I did get about 5 hours of quiet sleep, once the ruckus was over :-).

But you know, when you’re dead tired, and you only have a couple of hours — a solid nap can be priceless . . .

Ghost Ranch

In the great wide open places, I can see the forever.

The sky enfolds you, and then you are inside it. Whatever small place you came from is no more because you are part of that sky and the big beyond, and the rest isn’t important.

When the Spanish first rode into this valley in northern New Mexico, they called it Piedre Lumbre — the shining stone.

Behind Chimney Rock, looking across the valley towards Cerro Pedernal. Photograph, iStock Photos.

In the great wide open places, I can see the forever.

The sky enfolds you, and then you are inside it. Whatever small place you came from is no more because you are part of that sky and the big beyond, and the rest isn’t important.

When the Spanish first rode into this valley in northern New Mexico, they called it Piedre Lumbre — the shining stone. Ghost Ranch is a part of territory known as the Piedre Lumbre land grant.

In March, I visited Ghost Ranch on a day trip from Santa Fe. I was so immediately taken with the physical beauty of the valley that I stayed two days, then returned a month later for a full week. Once the red rocks are part of you, you will always go back, always seek out these places.

Panoramic view, looking towards the red rock formations at Ghost Ranch.
Panoramic view, looking towards the red rock formations at Ghost Ranch. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

On my first night back, I spent time thinking about where I wanted to shoot at sunrise, and decided on the cabin which has been used in a number of films. I set my alarm for early — then made the mistake of hitting the snooze button. Twice, I think. Then it was rush, rush, rush!  Make quick coffee, grab my gear, and hit it.

Grey morning light, coffee threatening to splash out of the paper cup, and I drive down off the mesa. But I want to see that first warm light break across the grass. To see the light on the little cabin and the Pedernal.

It was a damned cold morning, but you can’t manipulate camera controls with your gloves on. Just doesn’t work. Oddly, after shooting for thirty minutes, my fingers were so frozen they didn’t work anyway. I sat on my hands in the car for a few minutes and drank cold coffee.

I got back out, and went back at it for another twenty minutes before heading to breakfast.

Early morning sun hits the cabin, the mountain Cerro Pedernal in the distance.
Early morning sun hits the cabin, the mountain Cerro Pedernal in the distance. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
City Slickers Cabin on Ghost Ranch at sunrise, Pedernal mountain in the distance.
Here’s the cabin again, this time in color. Photograph, Ann Fisher

This shot was my favorite. I liked the way the cabin’s roof line and chimney ran along with the Pedernal and the mountains lining the horizon.

The black and white version (above) worked best for me, but the color image is good as well, the grass golden in the morning light — and the whole thing seeming much warmer than it felt!

I love the editing process — dumping everything into the computer and having a look in LightRoom.

But here’s the trick. You only get to pick one picture. Maybe two. I remember the days of watching a neighbor’s slide show from a trip. Some of you know what I’m talking about — when you had to sit and watch 200 slides. Seemed like 20,000. Let me slit my wrists with a dull butter knife! No one wants to see all of those pictures — I don’t care where you went! Pick a small group of images that tell the story.

So, what is Ghost Ranch?

It’s surprising how few people know anything about Ghost Ranch.

I was talking to someone the other day who didn’t know who Georgia O’Keeffe was. “I’ve just come back from Ghost Ranch.”

“Was it scary?”

I cocked my head to the side. “No . . . you know — it’s the place that Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted.”

“Who is Georgia O’Keeffe?”

I blinked. As someone with a degree in Art History, I forget that knowledge of artists, even major ones, isn’t a given. So I told her, and looked up several paintings on my phone so that she could see.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve seen that one before.”

Seen that one before . . .

Ram's Head with Hollyhock-Hills. Georgia O'Keeffe. 1935.
Ram’s Head with Hollyhock-Hills. Georgia O’Keeffe. 1935.

The history of Ghost Ranch is a rich one — whether you want to talk about the dinosaurs that roamed here in the Triassic period, the native peoples who lived here before the arrival of the Spanish, or the murderous, cattle-rustling Archuleta brothers of the late 1800’s when the property was known as the Rancho de los Brujos — Ranch of the Witches.

Ansel Adam's photograph of O'Keeffe painting inside her car on Ghost Ranch.
Georgia O’Keeffe painting in her car at Ghost Ranch. 1937 photograph by Ansel Adams, who was a good friend of O’Keeffe’s.

The two museums on the ranch, Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology, and Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology, help tell the stories of the dinosaurs and the native peoples who lived on this land. For the soap-opera stories of the cattle rustlers, you could take the History Tour, or pick up the Ghost Ranch book by Lesley Poling-Kempes from the trading post.

By the time Georgia O’Keeffe first found her way to Ghost Ranch in 1934, it was owned by Arthur Pack and operated as a dude ranch, much to O’Keeffe’s chagrin.

Georgia was so taken with the landscape that she put up with the dudes and dudettes, renting a little cottage the first year, and then the house called Ranchos de los Burros which was further removed from the other guests. O’Keeffe finally bought the house and the few acres around it from Arthur Pack in 1940.

Later in his life, Arthur Pack donated Ghost Ranch (over 21,000 acres) to the Presbyterian Church, and it has operated retreat center for more than fifty-five years.

The House I Live In. Painting, 1937. Georgia O'Keeffe.
The House I Live In. 1937. Georgia O’Keeffe.

So, you’re making a trip to New Mexico, and you want to tour the house where Georgia O’Keeffe lived?

Which one? There is definitely some confusion about the difference between Ghost Ranch, and the O’Keeffe houses.

You can visit O’Keeffe’s house in Abiquiu, but only on a guided tour through the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. If you want to do the Abiquiu house tour, contact the Museum the minute you know you’re going. I’ve been to New Mexico twice in two months, and still have not gotten to see the house.

O’Keeffe’s house at Ghost Ranch is owned by the O’Keeffe museum as well, but is not currently open to the public. At some point in the future, the Museum indicates it will be, but there is no firm date set. You can see her Ghost Ranch house from a distance on one the the O’Keeffe tours.

Photograph of the real landscape O'Keeffe used for Red Hills with Pedernal
O’Keeffe walked through the red hills in her “backyard” almost daily when she lived at Ghost Ranch. Following in the artist’s footsteps is a wonderful experience. Red hills with Pedernal in the background. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Red Hills with Pedernal, White Clouds. 1936. Georgia O'Keeffe.
Red Hills with Pedernal, White Clouds. 1936. Georgia O’Keeffe.

O’Keeffe Landscape Tours

In 2004, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum put on an exhibition called Georgia O’Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Place. A book by Barbara Buehler Lynes of the same name was also published in 2004.

Public interest in being in the landscapes that the artist painted grew.

Suddenly people were showing up at Ghost Ranch wanting to walk into the painting landscapes, which was both good and bad. Great because Ghost Ranch needs the income that visitors bring, and dangerous in the potential for destroying the red hills O’Keeffe painted.

The solution? Restrict public access to the O’Keeffe portion of the ranch. Why? If thousands of visitors go tromping up, over, around and through O’Keeffe’s red hills, they will no longer look the her hills. Footprints in this dry landscape take months, sometimes years to disappear.

O'Keeffe Landscape tour
Walking into O’Keeffe’s landscapes and having a chance to photograph her painting locations was an amazing experience. This is my favorite tour at Ghost Ranch.

I applaud Ghost Ranch for working to preserve this special place. There are only three ways to see this part of the ranch: on horseback, on a small shuttle bus, or on a walking tour. These tours limit impact by either staying on the gravel road (shuttle bus), or following two standard, single file paths. The walking tour is limited to eight guests, and when I was there, only ran twice a week.

O'Keeffe Landscape tour looking towards yellow cliffs
O’Keeffe Landscape small bus tour at Ghost Ranch. This tour takes you closer to the yellow and white cliffs that O’Keeffe loved so much.

Each tour is a little different — obviously — but so is what you’ll see. I went on the shuttle bus tour three times. Yes, three. The light and clouds were different each time. Then I took the walking tour. Maybe next time, I’ll saddle up and head out on the trail ride . . . Read more about the O’Keeffe Landscape tours and horseback trail riding on the Ghost Ranch web site.

If you are only at Ghost Ranch for the day, the bus tour or the trail ride are your best options, since they run every day, and in the busy season, several times a day. On the bus tour, guests get out at several stops to take photographs

Georgia O’Keeffe and her relationship with her lover/mentor/husband/promoter Alfred Stieglitz is a fascinating part of the artist’s life.

Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O'Keeffe. c. 1939. Ansel Adams
Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe. c. 1939. Ansel Adams

If you don’t know much O’Keeffe and Stieglitz, there are a couple O’Keeffe biographies from which to choose. Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe by Laurie Lisle is my favorite. Another to consider is Full Bloom by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp; this one a very full biography, but I find the writing style dull.

I also recommend watching the 2009 film Georgia O’Keeffe, starring Joan Allen as O’Keeffe and Jeremy Irons as Alfred Stieglitz, and partially filmed at Ghost Ranch. It is as well done as a two hour bio-pic could be, in my opinion. O’Keeffe lived to be nearly one hundred years old, and this film would arguably have made a better mini-series to do justice to her life. I found Jeremy Irons particularly brilliant as Stieglitz.

Joan Allen as O'Keeffe and Jeremy Irons as Stieglitz in the 2009 film, Georgia O'Keeffe.
Joan Allen as O’Keeffe and Jeremy Irons as Stieglitz in the 2009 film, Georgia O’Keeffe.

Ghost Ranch Goes Hollywood

If you think that parts of Ghost Ranch seem familiar to you, well, you’re probably right.

Between 1985 and 2016, ten major motion pictures filmed in New Mexico used Ghost Ranch as a filming location. This doesn’t mean the entirety of each film was shot here; the amount of Ghost Ranch footage varies in each picture.

Movie Poster from all the movies filmed at Ghost Ranch
Ghost Ranch is a popular filming location. Here are the movie posters for Silverado, Young Guns, City Slickers, Wyatt Earp, All the Pretty Horses, Missing, 310 to Yuma, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Cowboys and Aliens, and The Magnificent Seven.
Byung-hun Lee at the Ghost Ranch City Slickers Cabin. Magnificent 7 film.
South Korean star Byung-hun Lee, shows off his mad knife throwing skills in The Magnificent Seven. Note the Ghost Ranch cabin in the background.

Movies that used Ghost Ranch as a location for for scenes include: Silverado (1985), Young Guns (1988), City Slickers (1991),Wyatt Earp (1994), All the Pretty Horses (2000), Missing (2003),  310 to Yuma (2007), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Cowboys & Aliens (2010), The Magnificent Seven (2016).

If you’re a movie buff, Ghost Ranch does give a Movie Location Tour, but it is by reservation only. Be sure to call a week or more before your visit to make the arrangements so you don’t miss out while you’re there. Summer is Ghost Ranch’s busiest season, so I’d plan even further even out if that’s when you are going to visit.

You do not need to go on the Movie Location Tour to see the City Slickers cabin (in the photographs above). That site is right off the dirt road leading into Ghost Ranch — so very easy access.

Day Trip

Ghost Ranch makes a great day trip from either Santa Fe or from Taos. I warn you, it’s very hard to leave Ghost Ranch after spending a single day, but it’s better than not seeing this beautiful place at all. From Santa Fe, it took me about one hour and fifteen minutes to reach Ghost Ranch. Google Maps show a drive time of 1.5 hours from Taos to Ghost Ranch. You’ll pay a $5 Conservation fee at the Welcome Center that gives you access to the ranch and the museums.

I’d plan on a full day. Read about the hikes, tours, and museums, and call ahead to reserve space if you choose to do a tour. Plan to have lunch (12:00 – 1:00) at the ranch, and possibly dinner as well, to give you as much time as possible to explore this special place.

View toward Kitchen Mesa from the Matrimonial Mesa hike at sunset, Ghost Ranch New Mexico
View toward Kitchen Mesa from the Matrimonial Mesa hike at sunset. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Hiking

Hiking at Ghost Ranch is a favorite past time for many people. Read about the different hiking trails on ranch’s website, and choose one that suits your abilities and time. Use the sign in sheet at the Welcome Center before you go and after you return. Borrow a walking stick.

Retreats and Workshops

Ghost Ranch has a full set of retreat and workshop offerings that run all year long. Whether you’re interested in spiritual retreats, an art, photography, or writing workshops, outdoor adventure, you almost certain to find one that you’d enjoy.

Accommodations and Food

You can stay at Ghost Ranch overnight — which I heartily recommend. There are a range of room types, some with shared restrooms, many with private restrooms. They also have a campground with spaces for both RVs and tents.

Room in the Coyote building on the upper mesa at Ghost Ranch.
Room in the Coyote building on the upper mesa at Ghost Ranch.

What are the rooms like? They are basic, but clean and comfortable. You need to remember this is a retreat center, not a hotel, and certainly not a resort. There are no televisions or in-room phones, and the only wi-fi at Ghost Ranch is in the Library. When you come here, it is to be with and in the amazing landscape.

One important thing to note: the rooms have heaters, but are NOT air-conditioned. In the summer, temperatures in the day are hot, but cool down to around 60 °F (15.5 °C) the evening (check average temperatures and rainfall for Abiquiu here).

What did I think about the rooms? I stayed two nights in March (Aspen building), and loved Ghost Ranch so much I returned for a full week in April (Coyote building, upper mesa). I had a sitting room and a bedroom. I was very comfortable, and I loved sitting outside my room in Coyote on the upper mesa and watching the sun go down while I had a drink. I will certainly return and stay again.

View of the Coyote building on upper mesa, Ghost Ranch.
View of the Coyote building on upper mesa, walking back up from breakfast. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Personally, I would have a difficult time handling the heat in the summer. I like to retreat to my room during the afternoon, particularly in hot climates, to read, edit pictures, and write. I couldn’t do this here in the summer. I think the evenings would be fine, since the temperatures drop to near 60 °F, the windows are screened, and there are small fans. If lack of AC is a problem for you, then consider staying at the Abiquiu Inn.

The Dining Hall at Ghost Ranch serves three meals a day in a cafeteria set up. The menu changes daily. You buy meal tickets at the Welcome Center, and you can eat at the Dining Hall, even if you’re just at Ghost Ranch for a day trip. Meals are served for ONE hour only. Be sure you get the schedule at the Welcome Center, and be there, or be square!

The food is good, and there is plenty of it. The menus change daily. At dinner, the hot food line includes two main meal offerings, one of which is always vegetarian, along with vegetables. If you have problems with gluten or soy, or are vegan, please call Ghost Ranch directly to find out what options there are. At lunch, the main food line may have sandwich makings, or it may be a hot meal. There is always a good salad bar, and I saw vegetable proteins and cheese available each day I was there.  At breakfast, the hot food line may feature an egg dish, or perhaps pancakes. There is always oatmeal, and cold cereal. At breakfast, the salad bar turns into a fruit bar that also has yogurt.


What more can I say? I found Ghost Ranch to be one of the most beautiful parts of New Mexico. I know I’ll return many times to this special place.

View towards the mountain Pedernal from the Kitchen Mesa hike at. Ghost Ranch. Photograph, Erin Vanelle
View towards the mountain Pedernal from the Kitchen Mesa hike at. Ghost Ranch. Photograph, Erin Vanella.

** It’s important to note that while the Presbyterian Church owns Ghost Ranch, it no longer contributes financially to support it. The Ghost Ranch Foundation is now responsible for care, preservation, and maintenance of the ranch and its facilities. Through out this article, I have linked to books at the Ghost Ranch trading post. If you are thinking about purchasing books on Ghost Ranch or Georgia O’Keeffe, please consider buying from the ranch website. To find out more about the Ghost Ranch Foundation, link here.

Luggage Drawing for Email Subscribers

Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 21 Inch Express Spinner Suiter
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 21 Inch Express Spinner Suiter

I’m pleased to announce a second quarter give-away for my email subscribers in the USA and Canada. Thank you for following my travels and my writing! 

My July 2017 drawing will be for a Travelpro Platinum Magna 21 inch Spinner suitcase. Travelpro has a great reputation for making quality luggage, and I’ve chosen it because, hey, I’d enjoy having it this bag.

What do you need to do to enter?

Simply be an email subscriber to my blog: either via the bright green button below, or by clicking Follow Ann Via Email in the sidebar to the right. What’s the difference between the two? The green “subscribe” button will put you on Mail Chimp list, which I’ll email once a month. Follow Ann Via Email is a WordPress email list which automatically gets an email whenever I post a new article.

WordPress Reader followers will not be included in this drawing. Why not? As I move towards earning money from my life and travel blog, the email following is an important metric for me.

Already an email subscriber? Great — then you don’t need to do anything :-), you’re entered.

I typically publish posts four times a month, so don’t worry, you won’t get over-emailed. Also, I will never sell or give away my email list, and of course, you may unsubscribe at any time.

When is the drawing?

Promotion ends Saturday, July 8, 2017 at 12:00 a.m. (Central Time (US & Canada)). I’ll conduct a random drawing and notify the winner via email within two weeks of the end of the drawing. Once I’ve heard back from the winner, have a mailing address, and have shipped the Travelpro spinner via Amazon, I’ll publish a blog post announcing the winner. If I do not hear back from the winner within a few days of my email, I will re-draw. See official contest rules for full information. Travelpro contest rules.

Click image to connect to the full rule .pdf

 


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

Thank you for visiting! 

I’m writing and traveling full-time now, and if you like my work, please subscribe to my blog via email.

The Year of Last Holidays

If you were dying, but still felt healthy now, what would you do with the time you had left?
This question is the premise for two films entitled Last Holiday. In 2016, I lived the plot line.

Sunrise, Atlantic Ocean. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Sunrise, Atlantic Ocean. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

If you were dying, but still felt healthy now, what would you do with the time you had left?

This question is the premise for two films entitled Last Holiday.

In the 1950 version of the story, Alec Guinness plays George Bird, a salesperson of modest means and ambitions. During a routine physical, his doctor delivers a terminal diagnosis: he has Lampington’s disease, rare and very deadly — and he will die soon.

Bird wanders into the street in a daze, winds up in a second-hand shop where he purchases a Duke’s wardrobe, then takes himself off to a posh seaside resort. No longer hampered by his “keep-my-head-down attitude,” Bird starts to say exactly what he thinks.

Alec Guinness played George Bird in the original version of Last Holiday (1950).
Alec Guinness played George Bird in the original version of Last Holiday (1950).

The wealthy are charmed. A captain of industry seeks his advice. Bird finds himself the center of attention, and his whole life begins to change. Near the end of the film, his doctor discovers he’s given Bird the wrong diagnosis.


Expedia.com

The plot may be familiar to you, even if you haven’t seen the Guinness film. Last Holiday was remade in 2006 with Queen Latifah in the lead role, playing Georgia Byrd, a mild-mannered salesperson selling cookware in a New Orleans department store. Her boss is rude and thoughtless, and he regularly demeans her.

Queen Latifah plays Georgia Byrd in the 2006 re-make of Last Holiday.
Queen Latifah plays Georgia Byrd in the 2006 re-make of Last Holiday.

Georgia spends her evenings cooking complex recipes and dreaming of being a chef. When she receives her terminal diagnosis, she heads off to the Grandhotel Pupp in Czechoslovakia where her hero Chef Didier works. Freed from her regular constraints, Georgia blossoms.

I like both versions of the film. I first saw the original film over thirty years ago; I have to admit, I’ve always thought about it as Obi Wan takes his last holiday . . . since I was twelve when Star Wars came out, Guinness will always live in my imagination that way.

When Latifah’s version of the film came out, I went to see it. I love the re-make. It’s positive, it’s fun — and I love the premise, the “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Little did I know I would get to live the plot line myself.

SO . . . if you were dying, but still felt healthy now, what would you do with the time you had left?

The answer is different for each of us.

I have always dreamed of traveling the world and writing. There were so many years that I couldn’t — no money, then no time, job constraints, a small child at home. But I always thought that one day I would, that I had  to, that I wanted to with a large part of myself, my soul.

Royal Clipper near Soufriere, St. Lucia
Royal Clipper near Soufriere, St. Lucia. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

2016: My Year of Last Holidays

I should mention that my husband Drew, love of my life, died in the summer of 2013 after a 2.5 year fight with terminal cancer. We managed his last holiday — his dream, to go to London and Paris about six months before he passed.

In 2014, I had emergency surgery for a fully obstructed bowel. The Stage III colon cancer had spread to one of eighteen lymph nodes removed along with the tumor.

I started chemo in September 2014, and finished at the end of March 2015. As anyone who has had cancer knows, we live scan to scan.

My oncologist, my surgeon, and I spent the first half of 2016 thinking my cancer had metastasized, but could be cured after two lung surgeries and chemo.

Following a scan in June, things were worse. Based on conversations with my doctors, I expected I might live two years, and none of it was going to be pretty.

In March, I downsized from a large house to a two-bedroom condo; I figured I’d better do it while I still felt strong enough to do the work.

After the bad scan, I quit my job of 24 years.

My daughter and I watch Joe Versus the Volcano that night, another film in keeping with the Last Holiday theme. It’s one of those that people either really, really like or really, really don’t. I kind of love it. Catherine and I kind of loved it together.

Joe Versus the Volcano.

I took five last holidays in 2016.

The first trip was impromptu. I got the bad news, and took my daughter Catherine on a first-class Delta flight to New York for New Year’s Eve. We museumed, and shopped, and walked, and ate amazing food, and saw Broadway shows from the very best seats.

Afterwards came two last holidays before what I expected to be a very bad year of surgery and chemo.

The final two were the last holidays I ever expected to take. Where were these five trips? You know about the Big Apple. Three journeys involved tall ships. One was a trip to Alaska and Puget Sound.

And then something magical happened.

The spots in the pleurae of my lungs disappeared.

In January of 2017, I quit worrying about cancer. I’m staying on my path, to turn my writing and my blog into something bigger.

And you know what? If I hadn’t had the living daylights scared out of me last year, I wouldn’t be here . . . I’d still be sitting in my office, afraid to leave.

 


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

Thank you for visiting! 

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There are two posts having to do with my cancer, you’ll find them here. I’ll post another shortly, for those who want to know more about the scans, etc.


You’ll find four of my “last holidays” here, broken up into six different blog posts:

Royal Clipper sails near Soufriere in St. Lucia.
Article about my cruise in the Caribbean on the Royal Clipper.

Photograph of Royal Clipper
Article about my voyage on Royal Clipper in the Mediterranean.

Classic Fiat in Rome
Visiting Rome in the summer? Tips for seeing the sights while avoiding the crowds.

Screenshot from Inside Passage Alaska, Minus the Cruise Ship
My trip to Juneau, Skagway, Haines, and Sitka using the Alaskan Marine Highway.

Article about my westbound Atlantic crossing on Star Flyer.

Screenshot from Land of Tall Trees and Fat Fish
On Golden Pond on Puget Sound. My daughter joined me for this peaceful time watching the great mountain, Rainier.

A Wind Surf Cruise: Yachtsman’s Caribbean

Private yachts flock to the smaller British Virgin Islands and St. Barth’s. There’s a reason for this: they are home to some of the most beautiful beaches and water in the Caribbean. Floating in crystalline water and watching the clouds pass overhead is deeply relaxing. I’ve just returned from St. Martin and a week-long cruise on Windstar’s Wind Surf on their Yachtsman’s Caribbean itinerary. It was perfect.

White sand beach at Savannah Bay in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. iStock Photos.

Private yachts flock to the smaller British Virgin Islands and St. Barth’s. There’s a reason for this: they are home to some of the most beautiful beaches and water in the Caribbean. Floating in crystalline water and watching the clouds pass overhead is deeply relaxing.

Windstar's Wind Surf yacht at sunset. Photograph courtesy of Windstar.
Windstar’s Wind Surf yacht at sunset. Photograph courtesy of Windstar.

I’ve just returned from St. Martin and a week-long cruise on Windstar’s Wind Surf on their Yachtsman’s Caribbean itinerary. It was perfect.

We spent seven days in small harbors the big ships cannot get to — how nice to be so spoiled!

On the larger islands of Antigua and Tortola, the ship dropped anchor in Falmouth and Soper’s Hole — far from the madding crowd at the cruise terminals.

At Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and St. Barth’s there were only yachts and sailboats.

I loved  this itinerary – very destination focused! We had one day at sea, then every day afterwards, it was a short hop to the next island.

On Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda we moored the night before the main day on those islands — making it possible to go ashore for supper. When I’ve been on sailing trips, this is just what we’ve done — it allows people stay onboard or go ashore to experience the evening. After all, it’s vacation! It should be about the freedom to make personal choices instead of being regimented.

I had a wonderful trip, and came away very impressed with Windstar as a company. The ship is beautiful, and the crew is outstanding. Windstar is in a sweet spot in the cruise industry — small ship cruising, up-market from the big lines, but significantly less expensive than the ultra-luxury lines.

Windstar carted home the awards this last year! After my cruise onboard Wind Surf, it’s easy to understand why.

I had such a great time on Wind Surf, and I’m excited about Windstar. I think the quality of the itineraries, the food, the ships, and the service, at their price point is outstanding.

It was lovely to return to the yacht each day, clean up and head out to the Compass Rose Bar on the stern of Wind Surf to have a cocktail and watch the sun go down. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Sunset in Falmouth, Antigua onboard Windstar's Wind Surf ship. Photo taken from Windsurf ship
A glass of champagne and an outside table at the Compass Rose bar on Wind Surf: the end of a perfect day. Photograph, Ann Fisher.


Expedia.com

Wind Surf’s Yachtsman’s Caribbean Itinerary and Excursions

If you’re looking for a cruise review of the Wind Surf cruise ship (or sometimes people are searching for Windstar Windsurf because they think the ship’s name is one word), I’ve given a detailed account of my trip in the Caribbean below.

The Yachtsman's Caribbean itinerary on Wind Surf.
The Yachtsman’s Caribbean itinerary on Wind Surf.

I chose this itinerary because I’ve always wanted to visit Jost Van Dyke and the coral atoll of Anegada — and while Wind Surf did not moor there, I could visit it on an excursion.

Whenever I go on a cruise, I mix excursion and non-excursion days.

I did things on my own in English Harbour Antigua, White Bay Jost Van Dyke, lunch in St. Barth’s, then I took three Windstar excursions in Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and back in St. Martin.

The Copper and Lumber Store at Nelson's Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua.
The Copper and Lumber Store at Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua. Photograph, Ann Fisher



Falmouth, Antigua

A Bananaquit clinging to a yellow poker plant at Nelson's Dockyard in Antigua.
A Bananaquit clinging to a yellow poker plant at Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

This was my fourth visit to Antigua, and my two snorkeling excursions on previous cruises were underwhelming. I’ve always found Lord Nelson interesting, and since Wind Surf anchored at Falmouth, the Nelson Dockyards were a short, ten minute walk away.

The British began using English Harbour in the 17th century because it offered protection to British warships from hurricanes.

The dockyard was developed in the 18th century to spare the navy the expense of sailing to the American colonies for refitting ships.

The buildings date from 1725 – 1745, and the dockyard most significant period of activity and importance was 1775 to 1810. With the end of the Napoleonic wars, it diminished in importance. English Harbour was too narrow to accommodate steamships, and in 1889, the navy left and the yard was closed.

In 1784, Captain Horatio Nelson was stationed at English Harbour for several years. He was very unpopular with the Antiguans for enforcing the Navigation Act that prevented trade between British islands and America. The feeling was mutual, and regularly expressed in his letters back to Britain, “English Harbour I hate the sight of.”

The Nelson Dockyard has been beautifully restored, and I had a great time exploring it.

 Soper’s Hole, Tortola: Snorkeling at Norman Island

Initially, I was concerned with the size of the Windstar group for this trip – over twenty people. It ended up being fine, because they put us on a boat that could have carried twice that number — so it was spacious for the group and not overcrowded. Yes, I would have preferred a smaller boat with fewer people.

The snorkeling at Norman Island was outstanding. I saw more different species of fish at our two snorkeling spots than I’ve ever seen together at one time in the Caribbean. A long time ago, I had a 110 gallon marine aquarium, so I’m able to identify many kinds of fish — and I was in fish heaven that morning. A big deal at Norman Island is to swim into one of the caves, but I had no interest. I just hung with the fishes. I loved watching the tiny fairy basslets and the blennies. And I swam along with an entire school of blue tangs. I would have stayed with the fish all day . . .

It may be time for me to learn to dive.

Fish I saw that morning: sergeant majors, a variety of parrot fish, blue tangs, royal grammas, blennies, jewel damsel fish, small angel fish, blue stripe, yellow stripe jack fish, pipe cleaner fish, fan coral, yellow tail snapper, surgeon fish, cleaning goby, four eye butterfly fish, French grunts, a variety of wrasses, squirrel fish, feather duster worms, black spiny sea urchins. *** Please! Be mindful that you use reef-safe sunscreen especially when you snorkel, dive, or go anywhere near the the ocean. We need to quit using products with oxybenzone, a major culprit in bleaching coral.

Four-eye butterfly fish, blue tangs, royal gramma
To give you some idea of the fish I saw on this snorkel at Norman Island, I bought some stock photos. Enjoy! I love looking at fish :-). Left to right: Four-eye butterfly fish, blue tangs, and a fairy basslet — a Royal Gramma. Photographs, Shutterstock.
Invasion of the noodle people.

Since Wind Surf moored at Soper’s Hole, we were closer to Norman Island than the excursions coming from the big ships docked at the cruise terminal in Road Town. Our early morning snorkeling trip got us to Norman Island before it was busy.

Just as the noodle people arrived, we headed back to Soper’s Hole to hit Pusser’s for conch fritters and a Pain Killer.

Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke

Wind Surf yacht in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke. Windstar Windsurf sailing ship.
Wind Surf yacht moored in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke. This is why you travel with Wind Star. The ability to visit the perfect, jewel-like islands of the Caribbean without 3,000 – 5,000 shipmates. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Ahh, what a fine day it was. Two new friends from the Wind Surf came with me, and we headed to the beach at White Bay on Jost Van Dyke.

White Bay Beach is where the famous Soggy Dollar bar is — and the taxi dropped us off there without even asking. The three of us took a look around and decided to ditch Soggy Dollar.

WAY too crowded. Not what we were looking for . . .  After a nice wander down the beach away from everyone, we found One Love. No one there.

Now this is what I’m talking about . . .

White Bay on Jost Van Dyke.
White Bay on Jost Van Dyke, hanging out at One Love. It’s the kind of beach you just never want to leave. Interesting to stitch this panoramic picture together – caught as a cloud was starting to pass over. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

I spent the day lounging and swimming and lounging and swimming and drinking Carib beer and swimming and dozing. The lobster quesadillas were perfect finger food. And One Love makes a fine, I mean a super fine Pain Killer.

As the day wore on, we were joined by a catamaran, a sailboat, and at least one motor yacht; the occupants would jump off and swim over for some lunch at One Love. It was pretty perfect.

I didn’t want to leave.

I think in my mind I may still be sitting on a lounge chair up under one of the sea grape trees . . .

One Love Bar on Jost Van Dyke.
I loved sitting in the shade of the sea grape trees at One Love Bar on Jost Van Dyke. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

 Virgin Gorda: Escape to Anegada Excursion

Panoramic image of the beach at Anegada.
Panoramic image of the beach at Anegada. This is the epitome of isolated and perfect. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

I heart Anegada.

This excursion was marked as strenuous, and it lived up to its description. For the Escape to Anegada excursion, two pontoon speedboats picked up the fourteen passengers directly from Wind Surf, and we were off!!

Traveling at speeds ranging from 19 knots to 30 knots, we flew over the water on our thirty minute trip out to the low-slung island of Anegada. I LOVED it! It was an exhilarating, kick-ass ride!

Queen conch in sea grass
Queen Conchs are herbivores, and there were many living in the grass beds at Anegada. Photograph, Shutterstock.

One of the passengers was unhappy with the excursion because she hadn’t read the description, so I’ll say it again here: it’s a rough, fast ride. You sit astride the seats — it it feels like riding a fast horse. And yes, you are going to get wet. Probably soaked at one point or another. If this doesn’t sound like fun, pick another experience! Don’t complain to the cruise director that this wasn’t your cup of tea.

Transportation met us at the dock at Anegada and transferred us to the Anegada Beach Club.

Anegada: pristine beach. No people. NO PEOPLE!! Amazing water and the sound of distant breakers hitting the reef. Patches of sea grass and Queen Conchs munching their way along the bottom. Little palapa-like sun shades with loungers.

My only complaint– we had only one hour on the beach. This needs to be longer — it should be a two hour beach break. I could have skipped the trip out to see the flamingos and the pile of dead conchs. When you get to a spot this perfect, why in the world rush to leave it?

But — I’ll be back. I was intrigued with the posh tent accommodations at the Anegada Beach Club, and staying here is now on my bucket list. Thank you, Windstar, for getting me out to this beautiful, remote place!

Beach at Anegada
This is one of the emptiest, most beautiful stretches of beach I’ve ever seen. Staying at the Anegada Beach Club is now on my bucket list. Photograph, iStock Photos.

Our high-speed ride took us directly to the Beach Barbecue that Windstar had set up in Virgin Gorda. After a good lunch and another swim, I spent some time relaxing under a seagrape tree.

And then it was time to head back to Wind Surf.

Windstar Wind Surf cruise ship anchored on Virgin Gorda. Windstar Windsurf in the Caribbean.
Guests enjoyed a great barbecue on the beach, then swam and played with the equipment brought ashore by the sports team. It was pleasant to look up and see Wind Surf floating on the horizon. Photograph, Ann Fisher.


Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy

St. Barth’s lived up to its reputation of being lovely and pricey: the yacht-styles of the rich and famous. Being a little over-sunned, and frankly still tired from Anegada and the swimming at Virgin Gorda the day before, I was looking for something low key. I wandered the town and had a lovely lunch with one of my ship mates. It was the end of a wonderful week with Windstar cruises Windsurf.

Another day, another sunset from the stern of Wind Surf, this time moored off St. Barth's.
Another day, another sunset from the stern of Wind Surf, this time moored off St. Barth’s. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

St. Martin and the America’s Cup Racing Yachts

Canada II yacht in an America's Cup regatta in St. Martin
What fun!! I participated in the America’s Cup Regatta with a crew of Windstar passengers. Our Canada II yacht placed second in a field of three.

When we disembarked back in St. Martin, I took one final excursion — the America’s Cup Regatta. Very exciting! I would love to do this again — and will, when I’m in St. Martin the next time. This is another active, strenuous excursion, and was so much fun!

This is a regatta with three twelve meter yachts that all competed in the America’s Cup races in the 1980’s.

Our group of fourteen people crewed the Canada II in a race against the Stars and Stripes and True North. I started out in a primary grinder position which I managed for the first two legs of the race before pooping out — the young guys grinding with me were too fast, so I move forward for the final leg.

Wind Surf, Windstar's flagship yacht. Windstar Windsurf ship
Wind Surf, Windstar’s flagship yacht. Photograph courtesy of Windstar.



The Wind Surf Yacht

A suite on Wind Surf. Windstar Windsurf ship suite
A suite on Wind Surf.

Wind Surf was built in 1990 at the French shipyard Societe Nouvelle des Ateliers et Chantiers du Havre, and most recently refurbished in 2012.  She originally sailed for Club Med Cruises (as Club Med I), and was then purchased by Windstar in 1997.

When Wind Surf was refurbished, they created thirty suites on Deck 3 by combining two regular staterooms. Because of this, all the suites have two bathrooms, in addition to a bedroom area and sitting area. There are no verandahs on Wind Surf, and all cabins have porthole windows, in keeping with the style of the yacht.

I really like the upscale, clean look of the interior design choices that were made for Wind Surf when she was updated.

Wind Surf Specs:
CAPACITY: 310 Guests

STATEROOMS: 122 deluxe ocean view staterooms

SUITES: 31 deluxe ocean view suites

BRIDGE DECK SUITES: 2 deluxe ocean view bridge suites

DECKS: 6 decks

CREW: 201 international staff

SHIP’S REGISTRY: Bahamas

LENGTH: 535 feet (162 meters) at waterline; 617 feet (187meters) including bowsprit

DRAFT: 16.5 feet (5 meters)

TONNAGE: 14,745 gross registered tons (grt)

BEAM: 66 feet (20 meters)

SAILS: 7 triangular, self-furling, computer-operated sails with 26,881 square feet (or 2,600 square meters) of Dacron surface area

MASTS: 5 at 221 feet (67.5 meters)

ENGINES: 4 diesel electric generating sets, 2 electrical propulsion motor

SPEED: 10 to 12 knots with engines only; up to 15 knots wind and engine assisted

Care to go for a swim? In addition to the pool and hot tubs on the stern, when the Wind Surf is moored, the Watersport Platform lowers down and you can take a dip in the ocean, go paddle boarding, or try your hand at wind surfing off the back of the yacht.

Windstar cruises windsurf with its marina platform open
Cool off with a dip in the ocean right off the back of Wind Surf from the Watersport platform.


Expedia.com

But are you sailing?

On this cruise, there was not much of a sailing sensation on Wind Surf. Part of it was the itinerary. We made short hops, island to island, so the ship wasn’t going far on most days. This is one reason I chose this cruise.

Also, I didn’t expect to feel like I was sailing; when you look at the size of Wind Surf versus the square feet of sail — in my opinion, this just isn’t what this ship is about — on Wind Surf it’s about the overall cruise experience versus sailing.

This is a positive thing for someone who likes to see the sails, but perhaps doesn’t have the sea legs or stomach to handle a windjammer or clipper ship.

If you are wanting more of a sailing experience, I’d try Windstar’s two smaller yachts — Wind Star or Wind Spirit. These two ships have a gross tonnage of 5,300 – 5,700, and 21,500 square feet of sail — smaller, lighter and more likely to give you a feeling of flying before the wind.

Windstar Windsurf Deck Plan
Wind Surf Deck Plan, courtesy of Windstar.

Cabin

My Wind Surf cabin was lovely. I had stateroom #205 which was 188 square feet (18 square meters). The design was very clean and modern; storage was ample and well thought out. There were two long closets, one of which held the safe,plenty of drawers and cubbies, a fully stocked minibar, and a narrow drawer with hard liquor selection.

The bathroom was as roomy as standard ship bathrooms get, and well appointed: granite counter top, plenty of storage, and nothing looked worn or dirty. I was particularly pleased with Windstar’s L’Occitane en Provence amenity line — I loved the soap and lotion.

I’ve included the Wind Surf deck plan (click above image to enlarge) which has the sizes and configurations of all the cabin types.

My cabin had a DVD player and stereo that could several connection options so that you could play music from an iPod or phone. There were outlets for both 110 volt and 220 volt plugs. Room service was available continuously. I only used it once for coffee early in the morning, but the waiter was right there – johnny-on-the-spot.

My steward was considerate and quick to smile; he gave exemplary service. My ice bucket and glass bottles of filtered water were always full, the minibar restocked. Oh, and of course a zoo of towel animals appeared over the course of the week.

Thank you, Fauzi!

Cabin 205 on Wind Surf
My cabin was perfect. The decor suited me, the bed, linens and pillows were lovely. A tranquil place to relax after a long day of swimming and exploring. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Windstar WindSurf sailing shipThe Wind Surf Experience

My fellow passengers on this cruise were almost all either American or Canadian. I did see one couple from France.

Windstar really shines in the service arena. I found all of their crew attentive, happy, and quick to help. Many knew my name within the first twenty-four hours. With 201 crew to a passenger capacity of 310, the ratio is nearly 2 crew for every 3 passengers. This is so important. It allows Windstar to provide a high standard of service without wearing out their staff.

Wind Surf has everything you might need onboard. The Wind Spa offers full spa services, as well as hair and nail salon services.

The cruise director gave the most thorough port talks I’ve ever heard — with PowerPoints: an overview of the local history, followed by points of interest, favorite cuisine and drinks, and possible things to do. It wasn’t a shopping advertisement for stores the cruise line is paid to promote! How refreshing!

The two bands provided our onboard entertainment were both talented, and for those wanting some dancing and nightlife after dinner, the main lounge is the place to be.

Breakfast is served in the open-air Veranda restaurant on the upper deck, weather permitting. Passenger have a choice of the buffet, an omelette/egg station, or ordering from the menu.



The regular dining room onboard Wind Surf is AmphorA, and then there are two specialty restaurants: Candles and Stella Bistro. At AmphorA, the chef’s menu changes each evening, although there are standard favorites (like steak) that are always available.

In the evening, the Veranda restaurant transforms into Candles, with a steakhouse themed menu. Having dinner under the stars on this beautiful yacht was very special. Stella Bistro, Wind Surf’s French restaurant is also located on the top deck, just behind Veranda area. There is no additional charge for dining in the specialty restaurants, always a nice thing.

Each week, Windstar is famous for putting on their Deck Barbecue. It’s all chefs, cooks, and waitstaff on deck to pull this off, and it was impressive!

Deck barbecue on Windstar cruises Windsurf
The weekly Deck Barbecue onboard the Windstar ships is an event for which the cruise line is justifiably famous. The paella was outstanding and the grilled lobster perfectly done!

What did I think about the food on Wind Surf? It was very, very good. And — very exciting — Windstar and the James Beard Foundation have announced a partnership! Windstar is now the official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation; I expect really fine things to come in the culinary area on this cruise line.

It was hard to leave Wind Surf! As with all great vacations, the time went by too quickly, and I found myself back in St. Martin for a couple of nights at the end of the cruise.

This was such a wonderful week!  I am looking forward to traveling with Windstar again — I think sailing with them to Alaska on Star Legend would be outstanding, or perhaps to Tahiti and the Society Islands on Wind Spirit . . .

Tahiti next? Star Spirit sails near Moorea . . .

Looking for a review of the cruise ship Windsurf or Windstar Windsurf? Well, you’ve found it! People often think the ship’s name is one word, but it’s actually two :-). 


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

Thank you for visiting! 

I’m writing and traveling full-time now, and if you like my work, please subscribe to my blog via email.

 

Embracing Santa Fe

Each time I return to New Mexico, my affection for this state grows . . . Doc looked like he came straight out of central casting. Film order: we need a quirky old man to play a part in a Coen brothers film set it Santa Fe.

Doc Murray of Santa Fe
I met Doc on my first trip to Santa Fe in 2009. He was a kind and quirky man, and we had a wonderful afternoon with good coffee and interesting conversation. RIP Doc. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Each time I return to New Mexico, my affection for this state grows.

It really started on my second trip in 2009, when I visited Santa Fe and did many of the standard things one does around the square. Saw the Cathedral, had lunch, hit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

During one long summer afternoon, I tucked into a coffee shop to get out of the noon-day heat and to do some writing. I was the only customer there, and before long, I was visiting with the barista who looked to be in his late thirties, a native American named De.

An old man swung in through the door.

“Hi, Doc. How’s the day?”

“Good enough, De. But I’m wanting some coffee.”

Doc looked like he came straight out of central casting. Film order: we need a quirky old man to play a part in a Coen brothers film set it Santa Fe.

Check. Enter Doc Murray.

Doc’s grey-and-white beard was lush and his eyebrows had a life of their own. He wore a neat chambray shirt and jeans. A wide leather bracelet on his left wrist was secured with three buckled straps, and he had heavy silver rings on his fingers. A fur hat-band and a tail adorned his felt hat. It may have been a fox’s tail. I don’t remember, and it doesn’t really matter anymore anyway.

He paused and tipped his hat to me. “Seems the neighborhood is improving.”

“We’ve been invaded,” De said. “She’s from Texas.”

I laughed, shook his hand, and introduced myself.

We passed a couple of hours talking about the state of the world, Texas, and New Mexico. About tourism and Santa Fe, and how the city had changed over Doc’s lifetime. About De, working as a barista to make some extra cash, and what he might do next, and about the difficulties that came along with being Native American.

Doc and I had another coffee, and De joined in. The two told me about the best route to drive to Taos, and talked about the high mountain meadows, and how pretty they’d be covered in grass flowers.

Near the end of our visit, Doc turned his head to look at someone passing on the street, and I saw the picture — his profile lit.

I have a hard time asking people to pose. But I did ask, and Doc, quite accommodating, looked at me and smiled. I have that picture, and it’s not bad. But then I asked him to turn just slightly towards the window and to hold very, very still.

So here is my Doc Murray. On a quiet afternoon in the heat of the summer, there was this moment, and I was honored to capture it.

By the end of the afternoon, Doc and De said I’d be welcome to move to Santa Fe anytime I wanted. And they wouldn’t even hold it against me that I was a Texan.

I found the wildflowers on my way to Taos.

Expedia.com

Santa Fe, Again

I might have stayed in many places in Santa Fe. I chose to stay in a Tiny House in an RV park, right next to my good friend Joyce.

I’ve been to Santa Fe before and done the whole nice-hotel-near-the-square thing. For this trip, I looked at renting a casita near the square through VRBO — and there are some lovely ones . . . but in the end, I wanted to visit with my friend above anything else. Besides, I’ve been intrigued with the whole Tiny House movement, and I thought it would be fun.

My cabin at the Los Suenos RV Park. Always fun to try something new.
My cabin at the Los Suenos RV Park. Always fun to try something new. So, what did I think? The cabin was cute and comfortable, and the folks at Los Suenos were friendly. Here’s the thing, though. If you are planning to stay in Santa Fe for a month, the rate is very good. Anything less than that, and frankly, I would rent a house in closer to the square. You can get something more interesting for the same price.

Joyce and I cooked, visiting back and forth in our tiny houses. We tried new recipes out on one another. I rose early in my tiny house to write while she slept late in hers. Then  we would convene for a museum visit or a ramble downtown, followed by a great meal. I love green chile sauce.

We spent two days on Museum Hill, exploring the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of International Folk Art. Both of these museums were outstanding: great collections beautifully displayed. We had two meals at the Museum Hill Cafe that were outstanding — and what beautiful views across the valley towards the mountains!

What was I most excited about? Returning to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum.

I See You

Tony Vaccaro’s 1960 photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe, holding her Pelvis Series, Red and Yellow, painted in 1945.

“Art can die of overfamiliarity.” — Jay Tolson

What happens when we can no longer see a painting, because it has become as common as the McDonald’s logo?

In a 2005 article for U.S. News and World Report, Jay Tolson makes the point that O’Keeffe’s flowers and skulls are “images that have been ‘posterized’ to the point of invisibility.”

Humans filter out noise – both visual and aural. We have to — otherwise we’d be overwhelmed. O’Keeffe’s flowers and skulls, Monet’s bridge at Giverny, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa . . . pick any over-reproduced work of art you’d like — all of them can turn into background wallpaper.

I was guilty of this with Georgia O’Keeffe’s work.

In an undergraduate class in 20th century American art, I had studied several of her paintings, but I didn’t know very much about her. Frankly, I wasn’t that interested.

I hadn’t looked closer – I’d just written her off.

Verandah of the Adobe and Pines Inn in Taos New Mexico
I sat for hours on the verandah at the Adobe and Pines in reading the O’Keeffe biography. Photograph, Ann Fisher

My first visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum changed my perception and understanding of the artist — and made me come into her work in a visceral and meaningful way I had not anticipated.

That first day in the O’Keeffe Museum, it was her abstract paintings that were the initial hook in for me. I simply and suddenly saw all of her work with new eyes, and I was excited.

I left the museum with Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, which I took to Taos and read for long hours. This book by Laurie Lisle is well-written and an easy read, and I found myself immersed in the stormy and passionate relationship between O’Keeffe and Stieglitz.

I realized that I had never really known Georgia O’Keeffe. And the woman I came to know, I like so very much.

I feel a kinship with her, with her passionate feelings about the big, western landscape of Ghost Ranch, seeing in it all of the feelings I’ve had out in Big Bend west Texas — a compulsion that drove me out to the big sky time and again over the last twenty-five years.

It was a great joy to return to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, which is an intimate space, all simple white.

When it opened in 1997, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum owned fewer than 100 works by the artist. In 2006, the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation dissolved and transferred all of its artwork to the museum. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum now owns 1,149 works by O’Keeffe, which represents more than half of her artistic output, as well as 1,840 works by other artists and photographers. Only a fraction of the collection is on display at any time.

Additionally, the museum owns both of her houses — the house at Abiquiu, and the house at Ghost Ranch. Visitors can see O’Keeffe’s house at Abiquiu, but only by reserving space on a limited number of tours. The house at Ghost Ranch is not currently open to the public, but will be at some point in the future. Those wanting to see the house at Abiquiu MUST plan ahead; go to Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Tickets and Tours to read about the three different options.

Georgia O'Keeffe in chemise, 1918. Photograph, Alfred Stieglitz.
Georgia O’Keeffe in chemise, 1918. Photograph, Alfred Stieglitz.
Two galleries at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum owns more than half of all work created by the artist. Photographs, Ann Fisher.


Expedia.com

Finding Ghost Ranch

We took a day trip to Ghost Ranch, and I got my foot caught in the door —  I had arrived at one of those unexpected places that just blew me away and that I didn’t want to leave.

When we dropped down from the plateau at Abiquiu, the Pedernal lay to my left, quiet and blue. An orange, yellow, and purple rockscape stretched in front of me. Before we reached the gravel road for the ranch, the road turned us through towering red rock cliffs.

Cerro Pedernal Abiqui New Mexico

It caught my breath. My heart expanded and I thought I might cry.

When we stopped at the Visitor’s Center at Ghost Ranch, I immediately booked a room for later in the week. Before we left, I stopped again and asked if I could stay two nights instead of just one.

Panoramic view, looking towards the red rock formations at Ghost Ranch.
Panoramic view, looking towards the red rock formations at Ghost Ranch. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

At the end of my two days, I was not ready to leave, but the clock was ticking.

I had reached my furthest point out, that point where you can go no further, stay no longer, and still make it back in time. In time for whatever holds you.

All road trips have those points.

With Ghost Ranch in my rearview mirror, I began my way back, then stopped in the post office in Abiquiu and sent a tiny O’Keeffe to a friend.

O'Keeffe Gift Card

 


Ghost Ranch is an Education and Retreat Center that has been owned by the Presbyterian Church for over 55 years. They offer many different kinds of workshops and retreats, but visitors can also simply book a room. There are two museums, trail riding, hiking trails, and guided tours — one of my favorites being a tour through many of the landscapes Georgia O’Keeffe painted.

My return is already planned. I go back to Ghost Ranch in seven days, and yes, I will share that visit with you in my third article on New Mexico, focused on Ghost Ranch.

Embracing Santa Fe is the second in a series of three posts on New Mexico.

The first is Road Trip to New Mexico:

Screenshot of post Road trip to New Mexico

And you’ll find the third part in the series here:


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

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Miami In, Miami Out

I like airports. This is a good thing, since I seem to be spending more and more time in them. I arrive early, often very early. I have a meal, I watch people, and I write. Often I chat with one group and then another, kind of like Forrest Gump on his bus bench.

Picasso line drawing, The Camel.

I like airports. This is a good thing, since I seem to be spending more and more time in them.

Forrest Gump on bench
Forrest Gump in transit.

I arrive early, often very early. I have a meal, I watch people, and I write.

Often I chat with one group and then another, kind of like Forrest Gump on his bus bench.

Why? I like a quiet transition time as I move from one place to another. I hate rushing. I aim for serenity.

I’ve been in an out of the Miami airport a number of times in the last fourteen months or so because there are no direct flights from Houston down to the parts of the Caribbean I’ve visited.

I would have to say that the airport code MIA is, well, interesting. But I’ve found it a pleasant airport — plenty of shopping and restaurants, good way-finding, and a distinctive decor. The people are nice. I like nice people.

When I was having lunch at the Miami airport this morning, I saw myself on my way back from Barbados; I was tired — it was just after that Atlantic crossing. Then I saw myself following my sister on our way down to our first cruise on Royal Clipper. Not long afterwards, I saw myself on the way to Sint Maarten — I had just bought those Ray-bans that I didn’t know I was about to lose on the floor of the airplane.

I believe that airports are wormholes.

Well, really, I think all places are wormholes, but the ones we live in have so many tracings back and forth we often don’t see particular memories with such clarity. Think of it as comparing a Jackson Pollock painting to a Picasso line drawing . . .

Number One. Jackson Pollock.

So, I am here with my line tracings in and out of MIA.

It may be time for a margarita . . .

Signing off  — Ann

MIA. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

Thank you for visiting! 

I’m writing and traveling full-time now, and if you like my work, please subscribe to my blog via email.