Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm Still Dreaming

By C. LaRene Hall
As a young girl, I often dreamed of marrying a prince and living in a large beautiful castle. Little did I know that someday a small portion of those fantasies would come true. I did marry, and I did spend an entire night sleeping in a castle.

The room wasn’t in the center of the castle. In fact, it was as far away from the Great Hall as you could get. My room was located under the Gatehouse. It was small, nothing fancy, with a small bed, and desk. It was quiet and I spent an enjoyable peaceful night.

The gatehouse

Getting to this castle wasn’t easy, although in England as we neared Durham I could see the top steeples. It reminded me of the many others times that I could see the place I wanted to go, but I couldn’t find a road to take me there. We drove up a narrow single lane path, but part way there I was sure we was going to the wrong way. No big castle would be up this tiny road. As soon as we could, we turned around and tried another direction. Finally, we stopped to ask for directions. A customer in the store said we could follow him. Much to my surprise, we were again driving on that same familiar small path. In full view, I saw what looked like a tall magnificent church. I knew it had to be the cathedral. So where was the castle? I knew we were close. There hidden behind a wall of stone stood this ancient building, the Durham Castle.

The following morning my sister and I went to the Great Hall for an authentic English breakfast. Afterwards, they took us on a tour of the castle that included the Norman Chapel built in 1078, and the Tunstall Chapel built in 1540.

The castle looked just like the ones in my childhood dreams. The kitchen was huge, the bedchambers elegant, and the ballroom magnificent. I was truly grateful that I had booked this wonderful room ahead of time so I could have the experience of a lifetime.

The one place I’m still dreaming about staying is at Camelot. I get emails frequently about that magical place, but I doubt I’ll ever get to stay there. England’s a long way from home.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Love Parades

By C. LaRene Hall

I guess I inherit my love of parades legitimately. For as long as I can remember my parents loved parades. As a young girl, I remember watching my father riding in the back of a pickup (a Boy Scout float) flipping pancakes as they moved down the parade route in Provo.

After we had a TV, every Thanksgiving Day our family watched the Macy Parade on television, and then on New Years Day we watched the Rose Parade. I never imagined I would be able to see either one of them in person, but in 1975, my three children, my parents, and I went to California to watch the parade. Two of my sisters were marching with the Kearns High School Cougar Marching Band. One played the bells and the other twirled a flag.

The Rose Parade was wonderful and the sixty-one flowered floats were as beautiful, as I had dreamed they would be. I found a picture of one entitled International Peace Garden depicting 200 years of peace between two great nations. As is the rule for all entries, thousand of roses, and other flowers covered the float.

Along the parade route the night before, hundreds of cars drove up and down the street, honking horns all night long. This was a parade in itself and though it wasn’t beautiful, it was entertaining. Later, I read that this was the worst behaved crowd they had ever seen. I thought it was great, although my small children had a hard time sleeping.

In Salt Lake City, we have a celebration with a parade every July 24th. After the city decided that people could stay overnight on the route, my father always took chairs and saved seats. Many memorable nights were spent visiting with him as we sat together to make sure our family could have a good place to watch as the parade passed in front of us. Every year I look forward to seeing the beautifully decorated floats in Salt Lake. I’ve help decorate a few and know all the hard work that takes place so someone can enjoy a great parade.

Last year while planning a vacation, I learned that in Shenandoah, Virginia we could see floats from the Rose Parades, Presidential Inaugurals and other national celebrations at the American Celebration of Parade. Inside the building are floats of all kinds. Some are funny, others beautiful, some amazing, others stunning, and some are for children. I took about 20 pictures of the floats, and I’ll include a few of them for you to see. If you enjoy parades, maybe someday you can go visit this incredible place.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Medieval Castles

By C. LaRene Hall

In 2006, my sister and I took a trip to Scotland. I had never been that far from home before. The day after our arrival, we headed out on the motorway towards the Isle of Bute, by way of the Dumbarton Medieval Castle.

The word Medieval enchanted me. I had never gone to a castle before and I could hardly wait to arrive. The first thing I saw was the high twin peaked volcanic rock. I had no idea what was in store, and how many stairs I would climb. Still it was a fascinating experience and well worth my time.

After entering the main gate, we climbed a hill. Once on top of the rock (not the very top) I looked over the stonewall, and watched the River Clyde and the River Leven below. I’m sure this was a safe place during war, and wondered how anyone could climb the steep rock to attack those inside. Behind me stood the remains of 13th and 15th century fortifications, and the 18th century Governor’s House, which stood on a volcanic outcrop of rock.

It’s tempting to tell you the history of this castle, but not everyone enjoys history as much as I do. I was standing in a place that dated back to the dark ages. The Romans and Vikings once stood here. We climbed and climbed, but never reached the top. Both of us decided we were too old to do this and it would take all day. Since we had other plans besides climbing stairs all day we left and drove to Calentravie to catch a ferry that would take us to the Isle of Bute.

Once on the island we headed toward the center of Rothesay where an early 1200s circular courtyard castle stood, surrounded by a moat. The fortress seemed out of place in the center of a busy modern town. Surrounding the castle was a large wall with a round tower in each of the four corners. The entrance was across a drawbridge.

Neither of the castles we visited that day were anything like those in fairytales, and they weren’t as elegant as those you see in books. To me they held a different sort of charm, and were magical in an unusual way. These fortresses were full of history and its fun for me to imagine the men protecting what they had worked hard to obtain.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stepping Through TIme

By C. LaRene Hall

I have always loved to travel. As a child my parents took us on many family vacations. After I married, my husband and I traveled every year. Sometimes we went a long way but most of the time we went camping or visited our own state. It wasn’t until 1977, and after we had four children, that I flew on an airplane. Jack was working out of town and decided for our anniversary that I should fly to where he was in Pennsylvania. My mother agreed to keep the children for two weeks and off I went. I can still remember how frightened I was to get on the airplane that first time.

Now, we sometimes take a car trip, but when money permits we go by plane. Occasionally I go alone, but I usually try to convince Jack to come with me. One of those long trips we took was in 1992, when we took a plane to Alaska for some deep sea fishing and then went on an Alaskan cruise.

In Ketchikan I rode a float plane to the Misty Fjord National Monument. It was a tremendous experience and I wrote about it with the following words:

It is one thing to see an impressive picture or read with simple words about the Misty Fjords and quite another to actually capture the spirit of it. No one could paint an authentic picture of the inconceivable vastness, the breathtaking heights or the overwhelming silence of this virtually untouched wilderness. As you are visiting this land of indescribable beauty it is as though you are stepping through time with one foot in the past and the other foot in the present.

In this secluded area the only way to Punch Bowl Lake is in a float plane. While being transported into this territory your eyes capture the extraordinary map of the land and the eerie misty clouds covering many of the immense Mountain Tops. If you listen carefully, you can hear nature singing her ancient songs. You can also hear the whispering breezes calling your name in the spellbinding silence.

Your closest neighbor is the abundant emerald green forest backdrop. If you are watchful, you can see granite cliffs rising towards heaven, snowcapped mountains and lofty towering peaks standing guard over these rugged mountain ranges. The waterfalls plunge into the tranquil transparent lake below.

In this remote wilderness the eagles dare to fly. It is a place where bears, wolves, mountain goats and other creatures of the land roam freely. This is truly a feast for your eyes, a land of secrets and a place of peace.

I hope this description makes you all want to catch the next plane to Alaska. I have many exciting experiences about traveling to tell, so come back soon for another visit.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Exploring History

By C. LaRene Hall

Last year I went to Williamsburg, Virginia for the second time. This time it was my mother and me and no little kids to keep track of. Before going, I researched the many things available so our trip would be worthwhile. I love history and wanted to grasp every piece of information I could concerning where America began.

Before our arrival in Williamsburg, I reserved several attractions for me and my mother to attend. The first evening, after dark, we took a walking tour Legends, Myths, and Mystery by lantern light and visited historical parts of the city such as the palace. At each place we visited, the tour guide told ghost stories that have passed down from one generation to the next.

The following day we watched a performance at the Crystal Concert, with the world-famous Dean Shostak, playing an instrument invented in 1761 by Benjamin Franklin called the Glass Armonica. This instrument consisted of tuned glass bowls mounted on a spindle. Mr. Shostak made the glasses spin by turning a flywheel connected to a foot treadle. He played music by rubbing his moistened fingers on the rims of the glasses.

Also featured in the show were many rare and antique glass instruments from all over the world such as the Glass English Hand-bells, an 1823 American Glass Grand Harmonicon, a Cristal Baschet from France, and my favorite, a glass Japanese violin.

That evening we attended a performance called Cry Witch. We went to the State Capitol and they chose my mom and me to be on the jury at a witch trial held in 1706. We observed the anguish of Grace Sherwood, accused of witchcraft. The rumor was that she had exercised supernatural powers to cast spells and she was bewitching people. The trouble started seven years ago – her neighbors said she cast evil spells upon them. They invited the jury to question the witnesses, weigh the evidence, and determine the guilt or innocence of, “The Virginia Witch”.

I loved watching the men and women dressed in costume as this trial took place. They brought forward the accused, a middle-aged woman, dressed in a black dress and a white apron. The accusers, Mr. and Mrs. Hill sat on the other side of the room with an attorney. They accused Grace Sherwood of casting spells, making cattle die, and destroying a crop of cotton. Elizabeth Barnes told everyone that Sherwood assumed the appearance of a black cat, and entered her sleeping room, drove her from her bed and whipped her, then disappeared. Grace Sherwood said she was innocent of all charges. After they presented all the evidence, much to my disappointment, the jury found her guilty.

The court sentenced her to a "trial by water". With a trial by water, they cross-bound (right thumb to left toe and left thumb to right toe) the witch and deposit her into the water. If the suspect sinks and drowns, they find her innocent of witchcraft. If the accused floats and survives, she is guilty of conspiring with the Devil.

Participating and observing these performances in Williamsburg made me understand and know how they did things in early colonial time. It made me appreciate the beautiful country that I live in and the many men who founded this free nation.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

End of the Road

In 1992, my husband and I flew to Alaska. We spent the first day looking around Anchorage, and the next day we drove 225 miles to the “end of the road town”- Homer. This town is as far west as you can drive and still be on the North American continent. The scenery as we drove on the Seward Highway was spectacular and we could see in the distance the Portage Glacier and the slow river of blue ice on the lake.

Once we reached Homer, moose were the first things I saw. I was so fascinated that I immediately had Jack stop the car and I climbed out and started taking pictures. Jack kept calling, “Don’t get so close.”

I ignored his words and crept closer and closer. They are certainly ugly creatures, but the pictures I took are impressive. After this experience I heard many horror stories of how these intimidating animals have attacked people. I had no idea they could be dangerous.

After checking into a bed and breakfast, we drove to the Pratt Museum. As we wandered around, the manager approached us and said. “I have something in the backroom that I’d like to show you.”

Reluctantly, I followed to see what he was up to. In a small water tank, there was a small soft-bodied sea animal with a round body. It was close enough to touch. He explained that if a hole was as large as its eye, it with all eight arms (tentacles) could get through to the other side. Never had I been this close to an octopus.

Jack and some friends planned to go deep-sea fishing the next day, and since Homer has long been known as the "halibut fishing capital of the world", this is where they wanted to come. After the men were off for the day, we women went shopping and strolling along the beach.

The time spent at the long sandy beach was incredible. I loved watching the breathtaking eagles flying up and down the shoreline as we sat on the seashore taking in all the beautiful sunshine. This beautiful creature never tired. Up and down it flew with its wings flapping and its body soaring through the air without a care in the world in a spectacular aerial show.

The three men returned with two halibut each (the limit) which we took to the processing plant. The plan was to have the fish ready to ship home by dropping the packages at the airport in the morning. We kept enough for a barbequed dinner.

If it weren’t for the prospect of going on a cruise I would like to have spent more time in this quaint quiet town. The beauty was magnificent.