Ames Free Library

"Where the Community Connects"

LIBRARY CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC

We are available by phone at 508-238-2000, Ext. 3, Monday - Saturday between 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.;

or email us at info@amesfreelibrary.org. Check out our list of online programs here!

Travel Tuesdays

Welcome to “Travel Tuesdays,” a resource for those whose plans have been deferred and a distraction for people who enjoy armchair travel.  Each week we’ll suggest a virtual destination for you to visit.

All of these ideas are curated and brought to you by Lorraine Rubinacci!

 
Travel Tuesdays, July 7, 2020
 
Your trip this week will take a little effort: get ready to climb Grand Teton!  Or, at least, learn what’s involved in scaling this 13,770 foot peak.  The National Park Service has produced an excellent eClimb that recounts the history of mountaineering in the Tetons, the development of techniques and equipment, and the training and skills you will need to accomplish this goal.
 
 
 
Imagine yourself hiking through mixed-conifer forest, crossing the boulder field, camping in the meadows, making the ascent . . . and then rappelling and climbing back down!
 
This is an interactive presentation whose text clearly describes how to get the most out of each section.  There are historic photos; audios of animals, rockslides, and weather; and videos of climbers negotiating different sections of the ascent.  Much more can be found by mousing over the images and the information icon (i).

Don’t be put off by the technical language describing climbs at the beginning of the article, or by the scary photo on slide #2 showing a fellow dangling off the cliff.  Overall, the text and images are accessible to a general audience and offer a nice overview of the mountain and its people:  geology, weather, animals, plants, equipment, views, history, safety, etc. Chart the progress of your “climb” with the inset map and the elevation and distance icons on the bottom left.


Travel Tuesdays, June 30, 2020
 
This week’s post is inspired by a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine that highlights the homes and studios of seven prominent American artists.  These historic properties are now museums that are “dedicated to preserving and interpreting the places where art was made.”   The article provides background about each artist and links to each property’s website and a virtual tour.
 
Some studios, like Winslow Homer’s home on Maine’s rocky shoreline, clearly demonstrate the relationship between art and place.  Others, like the studio at the Jackson Pollock/Lee Krasner house, also provide insight into the artists’ work habits and creative process.

And, in some situations, the home is the work of art.  Henry Chapman Mercer - archaeologist, collector of artifacts, ceramicist - designed and constructed his totally unique, concrete Fonthill Castle . . . then adorned it with thousands of tiles of his own creation.

As a group, the studios enrich our understanding of the individual artists, the process of transforming ideas into art, the working conditions, and the historical and cultural environments. 

Each of these sites is part of the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program, a coalition of 44 independent museums “that have come together to celebrate and investigate creativity.”  The museums, which range across the country, preserve the studios of well-known artists such as Andrew Wyeth, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Frederic Church, as well as those of less-familiar artists like sculptor, Elisabet Ney.

Nearby, one can visit Chesterwood in Stockbridge, MA or the home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Cornish NH.  That is, one can currently visit the grounds.  Many of the buildings remain closed until health conditions improve.  Until that time, you can expand your interest by reading the newly-published Guide to Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios by Valerie Balint, available as a downloadable book through the library’s Hoopla app.


Travel Tuesdays, June 23, 2020

Few forms of media capture the grandeur of a place better than aerial photography, especially high-quality, 360 degree panoramas. And that is exactly the mission of AirPano, a team of Russian photographers who utilize drones, helicopters, and other “flying machines” to document wonders around the globe. Their subjects, which span all continents, include cultural sites and celebrations as well as spectacular natural areas. Some are familiar; others less so such as this video of the Uzon Caldera in Kamchatka. The Kamchatka peninsula is a remote, wild area in eastern Russia that is renowned for its volcanoes, rivers, snowfall, and wildlife -- especially brown bears and salmon.
 

 

AirPano has a number of videos of this area (a commission of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve) including some fine footage of “The Land of Bears.” But these folks get around. In fact, they publish a new 360° video every 10 days. So if you’d like an overview of Petra or Victoria Falls or some other place before your trip, take a look at their selection. 

Note: these are short videos, averaging 5 minutes in length. You have the time!

Along with videos, AirPano publishes thousands of 360° photos such as this image of the lovely Detian Falls, on the China/Vietnam border.  Just remember that you can rotate these views with your mouse or keyboard.

 
Travel Tuesdays, June 16, 2020
 
Recently I’ve been surprised to realize how much of my “internal map” is based on driving. At driving speed, and with the concentration that safe driving requires, it’s easy to miss that waterway, or historic site, or the boundary between two towns.  So this week I am suggesting a different mode of transportation:  walking.  While not practical for some parts of our hectic lives, walking can offer the richest experience, the best opportunity to observe and notice one’s surroundings.  You’ve probably heard of the “slow food” movement; well, here’s “slow travel”!
 
Walkers in eastern Massachusetts have a wonderful resource called the Bay Circuit Trail, a 230-mile path encircling Boston, which begins in Newburyport and ends at Kingston Bay.  This greenbelt links conservation properties and rural roads to provide “close-to-home” recreational opportunities for walkers, bikers, equestrians, and cross-country skiers.  There are maps and directions for fourteen sections of the trail system.

Chronicle produced a nice 4 ½ minute overview of the Bay Circuit project. Next, explore a brand new “story map” called Welcome to the Bay Circuit Trail and Greenway.  This is a virtual tour created by the Appalachian Mountain Club with tabs for history, nature, indigenous experience and stewardship.  It’s one of those elegant presentations (based on ArcGIS) that combine, maps, photos, text and multimedia.

If you want to see the trail as a walker experiences it, try the YouTube videos by Chris Rich.  Each one shows a section of the trail, along with some laid-back commentary.  Here’s a clip from the Hockomock.


Travel Tuesdays, June 9, 2020
 
After a long and difficult haul, New York City begins reopening this week.  Until you and the city are ready for an in-person visit, this delightful and informative podcast brings New York to life.
 
Greg Young and Tom Meyers, aka “The Bowery Boys,” are friends whose passion for the city’s history shines as they discuss lesser-known events, places, and people.  In a conversational style laced with humor and camaraderie, they guide the listener past both familiar and overlooked sites, imbuing each with new layers of meaning.  Much of their focus is on the city’s history prior to 1940, though their topics clearly have contemporary relevance.
 
The most recent episode, “The Silent Parade of 1917: Black Unity in a Time of Crisis,” calls our attention to an all-but-forgotten event, an early civil rights march in protest of violence towards African Americans.
 
Underwood & Underwood
 
This latest podcast is the 330th in a series which considers a wide range of topics.  Recent subjects include “Chop Suey City:  A History of Chinese Food in New York,” “Nickelodeons and Movie Palaces: New York and the Film Industry 1893-1920,” and “The First Ambulance: The Humans (and Horses) That Saved New York.”

The Bowery Boys is available through many podcast services but, if you start at their website, you’ll also be able to access the companion blog that augments each topic with text and archival photos.  Be warned:  once an episode whets your curiosity, you might be hooked.

Two technical details to note:  one must click on the title of each episode to see both the blog and the podcast; and, upon clicking the podcast, wait a moment for the recording to begin.


Travel Tuesdays, June 2, 2020
 
What a wonderful world! Yes, I know that might not be your first thought during this troubled time.  But here’s a chance to celebrate some natural gems and human accomplishments.  Since 1972, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has been evaluating cultural and natural sites of “outstanding universal value” to add to their list of World Heritage Sites . . . and what a list it is!  Despite omissions and biases, the range of sites is dazzling. Now you can explore thirty of them using Google Earth’s 360 degree “street views.”  Here are two examples.
 
The Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout in the Netherlands is a complex drainage system that converts wetlands for settlements and agricultural use.  Developed in the Middle Ages, and in continuous use since, the site includes 19 windmills, channels, dikes, and pumping stations. Ten thousand mills once drained the Dutch lowlands; this complex at Kinderdijk demonstrates the process.
 

Next, let’s tour the otherworldly Borobudur Temple, in Java, Indonesia. This famous Buddhist temple built in the 8th and 9th centuries was rediscovered in the early 1800s after centuries of abandonment.  Cleared of vegetation, excavated, and renovated, the temple can now be seen as a three-tiered structure that reflects the stages of Buddhist cosmology. Google Earth’s directional arrows and 360 views allow the virtual visitor to walk the terraces, descend stairways, and view the stories communicated through the extensive low reliefs.  Find a quiet corner, pause at a Buddha statue enclosed in a stupa, and absorb the misty mountain setting.

If you enjoyed these “trips,” be sure to visit UNESCO’s website for complete descriptions of each of its 1121 properties, along with maps, photo galleries, and videos.


Travel Tuesdays, May 26, 2020
 
If your nerves are frayed and you’re ready to zone out, Travel Tuesdays recommends a visit to explore.org’s huge collection of live cams.  First stop should be the sheep barn at Watkins Glen, New York.  Here, Farm Sanctuary provides a safe and comfortable haven for the sheep and a 24-hour camera for you to enjoy their peaceful lives.  And they really are placid.  Of course, if you’re ambitious, you could notice all the different breeds and note their behaviors. But it’s OK to just stare at them. 

After your farm vacation, check out the tropical reef exhibit at The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach California.  This large tank contains over a 1000 animals and is modeled on the extraordinary reefs of Palau, an archipelago in the western Pacific.  Initially, you’ll be impressed by the number and diversity of fish.  Then, new fish will appear.  Then, you’ll want that particular fish to swim by again. Well, maybe just another five minutes...
 


Travel Tuesdays, May 19, 2020
 
If you are feeling a little stir crazy, then climb aboard!  These two train rides offer high adventure in far-flung places.

The first is a “Train Journey to the Norwegian Arctic Circle” on the Nordland rail line.  Savor the beautiful countryside, small villages, and snow-covered evergreens -- from the unimpeded view of the train’s cab.  

The video, like the train excursion, lasts 9:56 hours, so you’ll need some serious time on your hands to watch it all, but that’s not necessary to enjoy the ride. Pick a few sections to absorb the atmosphere of this remote area.
 

If you’re not fond of snow, try an adventure on the Ferrocarril Central Andino, the world’s second highest railway, running from Lima into the central Andes.  This 19th century engineering marvel offers tunnels, bridges, deep river gorges, sheer cliffs, and thrills.  There’s a station at 15,673 feet above sea level, and, according to a Fodor’s review, oxygen is available for passengers with elevation sickness!

The videographer split the adventure into four sessions, each running less than one hour.  Part 3 ends with this scene.


 
Beginning in mid March, the New York Times travel section began offering a terrific photo essay series, The World Through a Lens.  “With travel restrictions in place worldwide, we’re turning to photojournalists who can help transport you, virtually, to some of our planet’s most beautiful and intriguing places.”  With exceptional photography and distinctive perspectives, the series lives up to its ambitions.
 

I was particularly taken with A Glimpse Inside the Secluded World of A Georgian Convent, which vividly portrays an unfamiliar place and set of people.  Set on a stark, high-elevation plateau, the Phoka Nunnery looks like an archaeological site. Yet it houses a small group of determined women whose hard work is benefiting the local Armenian population.  Both highly-educated and down-to-earth, they have restored the church, started a school, created a cheese-making business, and revived local handicrafts.  The photographer’s fine black-and-white images are otherworldly.

And, then, there is Reveling in the Enigmatic Beauty of Easter Island which portrays the moai, the ancient statues for which the island is famous.  The photojournalist, to his credit, also observes the local population and the impacts of tourism.

Here’s a link to five more essays in the series.


Travel Tuesdays, May 5, 2020
 
Get ready for some pure escapism via Travel Tuesdays.  This week, we encourage you to take a virtual, luxury vacation in one (or both) of these five-star hotels.  First, check in to the Park Hyatt Tokyo -- elegant, relaxed, dare I say, zen-like.  Soft lighting, live jazz, and graceful architecture surround you as you gaze on Tokyo’s dazzling skyline. And, yes movie buffs, this was the setting for Lost in Translation.

Or, for pure over-the-top extravagance, visit Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai where Islamic architectural motifs meet theme park entertainment. Here you will find waterslides, palm trees, light shows, ziplining, celebrity chefs,  and underwater suites!



Travel Tuesdays, April 28, 2020
 
Are you ready for an adventure?  This week, let’s visit the spectacular Carlsbad Caverns of New Mexico. Although this National Park is temporarily closed, we can still experience an excellent tour with ranger, Pam Cox, as she shares the site’s history and leads us underground.
 
 

Like any good explorer, you will need to poke around: click on the “bubble” symbols to move to the next topic, click on the circular “speaker” to hear the narration, and don’t skip the extra photos and video clips available for your pleasure.  Like other Google Earth experiences, this tour provides a 360-degree view simply by dragging your cursor. Now that’s not nearly as strenuous as donning a harness and descending by rope!


Travel Tuesdays, April 21, 2020

Well, this week let’s meander through some gardens. Not just any gardens, mind you, but two of the world’s loveliest. 
 
First, watch The Top Ten Attractions at Kew Garden in southwest London.  There is something for everyone at this UNESCO World Heritage site: striking architecture, a great library, royal history, and plants, plants, plants! See palms, water lilies, alpines, orchids, bonsai, trees -- over 50,000 varieties, some of them dating to the 18th century.  This short YouTube video offers a nice introduction to the garden’s features.
 
 

Then, watch this very atmospheric short on The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on the Big Island.  This preserve for tropical plants began as a restoration project undertaken by one determined man with vision.  Savor his “garden in a valley on the ocean.” Who can resist a tree fern?


Travel Tuesdays, April 14, 2020

 

This week’s Travel Tuesday suggestion requires thought:  yes, let’s keep those brain cells working! GeoGuessr is a game that tests your knowledge of geography and your memory.  For each round of play, you are shown a “street view” of a particular location.  Your job is to discern where this location is and to pin a map with your guess. The closer your guess is to the correct answer, the more points you earn.  It’s not easy. 

One can choose to play “World,” “US,” “Famous Places,” “Ghost Towns,” “Where’s that McDonald’s?” and many more.

You do need “sign up” for a free account which lets you play one five-question round per day.  If this doesn’t satisfy your curiosity, you can purchase the “Pro” option for $2/month.

For years, I’ve played my own version of this game:  guess the location of scenic calendar photos. GeoGuessr is more challenging and really interesting because it requires very close observation. This ability to notice small details will make all future travel more rewarding when we can, once again, explore the world.


Travel Tuesdays, April 7, 2020

So, the wildlife trip of your dreams was cancelled.  Here’s temporary consolation until you can reschedule:  a long-distance visit with some of South Africa’s spectacular animals.  First, observe endangered African penguins through the San Diego Zoo’s webcam.
 

Their new fynbos exhibit highlights these endangered (and very cute) birds that live south of Capetown.  They are active and gregarious which makes for lively viewing. The zoo’s website provides good information in the “learn more about” section.

Next, take a virtual safari at Tembe Elephant Park, a wildlife reserve near the border of Mozambique.  This morning, an elephant, giraffe, and birds were at the watering hole. And, the camera rolls day and night.  Just remember to account for the time difference.

 

Travel Tuesdays, March 31, 2020
 
Welcome back to “Travel Tuesdays.”  I hope you enjoyed last week’s visit to America’s National Parks.

This time let’s try some indoor entertainment: visiting some of the world’s best museums.  Start with “10 Top Museums You Can Explore Right Here Right Now.” 

With the help of Google street view, savor Dutch masterpieces at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.  Or see this dazzling installation at Seoul’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art:

Or, perhaps, visit the Sao Paulo Museum of Art, whose distinctive building floats above ground and whose prestigious collection appears to hover in mid air:

And, if that’s not enough to quench your thirst for fine art, Google Arts & Culture provides tours of 1,200 other international museums -- slide shows, interpreted exhibits, and more.

‘Til next week, happy travels!

 
Travel Tuesdays, March 24, 2020
 
Today, we spotlight America’s National Parks which can be explored through Google Earth.  Toggle between the aerial view and street view to get the most out of your trip.  Surely these thirty-one parks can delight, inspire, and, for some of us, elicit good memories.

Check out the photos below of Wind Cave National Park, courtesy of our own intrepid traveler, Lorraine Rubinacci.

‘Til next week, happy travels! 

 

 

 

Blog Category: