Saturday, April 18, 2020


The biggest collection of hot air balloons in the world congregates in Albuquerque, New Mexico! In October over 500 hot air balloons compete to be the best, the wildest and the most amusing shapes imaginable. It is a must see!

One of the best times I've had recently was attending the International Balloon Fiesta last October. My best friends and travel buddies, Kay and Tom, who live in Albuquerque, invited my family and I to stay with them for a few days during the festival. Now, I can't stress just how big of a deal this was! Hotel rooms for this event are booked months in advance as well as airline tickets etc., and the cost of going can get very prohibitive.  So, this was a dream experience for us especially for my daughter-in-law, Pam, a passionate balloon enthusiast, who thought she would never be able to afford to go. True angels, Kay and Tom provided not only first class accommodations (they have a lovely home) rides and meals, but the pleasure of their company so that we could enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

The festival takes place in Balloon Fiesta Park, located in the north side of Albuquerque with hundreds of thousands of people attending so just getting everyone there is a logistical feat of huge proportions! But, the city of Albuquerque has it down to a science, with hundreds of volunteers working together like pros transporting people to and from the event. Every day Kay drove us to a central pickup area in a nearby shopping center. From there we caught one of the hundreds of buses continually going back and forth to Fiesta Park. We bought our tickets in advance on line, which was a huge time saver, but be prepared for the extra time it takes to get there.

The first evening, we walked for miles through hundreds of balloons watching the process of them being unfolded, to the burners slowly filling them with hot air and slowly rising to an upright position where they were kept tightly tethered. The wind was too high to release them that night.

The bees are three separate balloons linked together. They were my favorites!

The activities of the Fesitval include a fun event each day and/or evening and as you might imagine it is all a photographers dream! Pam took at least 1,000 pictures and I stopped counting mine. As night falls and the gas flames light them from within, it becomes magical!

As we walked through them, it felt like Christmas; the beauty and cleverness of each balloon was delightful. What a wonderful gift this was to have this experience!

The next morning, we were there to see them lift off!

The view from Kay and Tom's back yard!

The Balloon Museum is nearby and is well worth seeing!

On September 19, 1783 Pilarte De Rozier, a scientist, launched the first hot air balloon called "Aerostat Reveillon". The passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster. The balloon stayed in the air for a grand total of 15 minutes before crashing back to the ground.

Daughters Audrey and Pam
Thank you, Pam, for the use of many of your photos!

Sunday, April 5, 2020


If you read my past couple of postings, you'll know I didn't get to see much of Amsterdam, but what I did see was fabulous! It is a visually beautiful city with an impressive history and a very colorful present. On our second day there, we were able to see examples of both...


As most of you probably know, Anne Frank lived in Amsterdam, and during the German occupation of the city in World War II she and her family hid to avoid being sent to concentration camps.  On December 1, 1940, Anne's father, Otto Frank, moved his offices and spice factory to a central location on Prince's Canal. There was a 450 square foot secret annex on the property which was concealed from view and where the Franks and several others hid for two years. The factory remained active during the day time which provided perfect noise concealment for the families in hiding.
They remained hidden until they were raided by the Nazi authorities, arrested, and deported to their deaths in concentration camps. Of the hidden group, only Otto Frank survived. All of their belongings were seized except for Anne's papers and books that had been rescued by those who had concealed the families. Her writings became "The Diary of Anne Frank".

It is one thing to read about this terrible time in history and another to witness the reality of what Jewish families and many others had to endure just to stay alive. It felt like sacred space, standing  in the same rooms as these innocent people. I tried to imagine what it may have felt like to be in a self-imposed prison for 2 years, living with the constant fear of being discovered. Yet, Anne and her family and friends managed to live in love and dignity there. A lesson for us all.
Anne Frank 

Anne Frank was only 11 years old when she first moved into the Annex. She had always wanted to be a writer.

The Frank's factory, second from the left

Backside of the hidden Annex.

The entry to the annex hidden behind
a book case.

Anne Frank's room, recreated by her father, Otto Frank.
Like any teenager, she pinned pictures of famous movie stars.
(Photos courtesy of Google Images)


I didn't get to see the Van Gogh museum (darn!) but my friends and I did get to see where beer in gigantic vats is made! The Heineken Brewery is a fun place to visit and to sample their wares.

Kay, the Brewmeister! 

Tom and I sampling the wares--sort of!

Moving on, we sampled some delicious Holland cheese and Kay even tried on a wooden shoe...

But, probably the most jaw dropping for us was what we saw when on our way to visit Old Kirk (where I fell). Literally in the shadow of the church spire was the infamous red light district. And around the corner were shops to buy all manner of ingenious condoms, plus mind altering drugs. Goodness! I guess Amsterdam would rather regulate than prohibit. Apparently it works for them!

Down this narrow street we find....

Holy cow!

And, around the corner...

Condoms galore!

And, tasty treats!

The rest of the trip after this was a bit of a blur. My daughter, Audrey, flew in and joined us right after I fell in the church. I was determined not to ruin their trip, so I went on the Viking Cruise up the Rhine anyway. I waved goodbye to them everyday and they, thank heavens, enjoyed the trip.

I waved goodbye to them everyday as they saw the sights on land.

My darling daughter, Audrey! I will be forever grateful for her 
excellent care of me both on the trip and at home.

Double click on any picture for a slide show!