Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor


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My Spirit Animal: The Sleep-18-Hours-a-Day Sloth

I love animals. It’s ridiculous how much. Enough to spend a lot of money to feed sloths at a wildlife conservation center.

Yes, sloths. Let’s face it: sloths aren’t the most lovable animals. Most people seem to think they’re gross.

Thankfully, these sloths didn’t have moths or moss on their backs. They were friendly, cute and moved so slowly and carefully, it felt like being surrounded by a group of lovable geriatrics. I half expected one to start telling me a story from the old days.

Why don’t sloths play the wise old one in cartoons more often?

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(The last one is a baby monkey. Sloths are not primates. They have more in common with anteaters and armadillos, species-wise.)

Typically, I’m against animals in a for-entertainment setting (see my kangaroo farm post). But the sloth center is a research and education center and only allows small groups to visit a select few of their animals ambassadors. The animals aren’t asked to perform; there’s no glass to bang on and no parade of tourists. Most of the animals are never seen by humans. You can feed wolves, walk exotic cats, play with lemurs.

This could get expensive.

Things I learned: 

  • Sloths pee and poop out the same hole.

    Three-toed sloths can’t be kept in captivity because of their specialized diet. (We encountered the two-toed variety.)

    Sloths French kiss to exchange bacteria

    Sloths come down from their trees every three days.


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Detroit: Got a Good Feeling in a “Bad” City Tonight

Got a good feeling in bad city tonight. Got a good feeling it’s going to be alright…(Detroit, Rancid) 

I passed through Detroit a couple times, once during a raucous road trip I took to Niagara as a teenager, two other times when driving to/from Quebec City. Each time, we zipped passed, the skyscrapers tall and strong against a gray winter sky.

This time, I got to experience the city for real, visiting close friends who left Seattle for Detroit. (There’s a giant hole in my heart now and I fill it with reruns of The Office and glasses of cabaret).

I wanted to walk inside blighted buildings, snap trees winding around staircases.  I wanted to capture misfortune, the ruins of a cultural hub. Peeling wallpaper. Graffitti. Empty museums. People in big coats bracing against the bitter cold.

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But that’s one story of Detroit. It’s not the whole story. Detroit denizens remind me a bit of kids I grew up with in Chicago: Tough. Prideful. All survivors of something. Also, friendly.

I snapped photos of empty, dark mansions that line the streets like abandoned doll houses. I tried to capture the sun filtering through punctured glass of factory windows. I took a photo of a calico stalking prey in a vacant lot.

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But there’s fresh paint on Comerica. There’s the jack-hammer buzz of construction. There’s Greek Town and Midtown and they look just like every hip town in America. There’s brunch in the haunted Whitney Mansion—an impossible experience in Seattle. Our brunch places are overcrowded and definitely don’t include bottomless mimosas. In the Detroit Public Library, there’s a whole floor dedicated to illustrated car manuals. Not something I’d ever read, but I loved the vintage car posters on the walls and the ornate details.

I charmed my way inside the Detroit Opera House. I buzzed the door and walked to the box office, fully expecting to get the boot. A guy wearing a hard hat asked what I was doing. I said I just wanted to take a few photos. That’s it. No mention of this blog or my mediocre rise to travel writer stardom or any press of any kind. He let me in and gave me a behind-the-scenes tour.

Detroit Opera House

“Usually they want people to be on the tour. But go ahead. If anyone asks tell them you’re friends with D*, the Head Electrician.”

When I opened the door to the stage, I actually gasped in awe. Hundreds of lush velvet chairs await for the derrieres of fur-clad opera-goers. Intricate suns curve up the dome ceiling. The balcony made me nostalgic for something I never experienced.

The workers were blasting Papa Roach (yes, seriously) and I still felt transported to the 1920s. D* led me to the lobby; chandeliers dazzled from above, candelabras glinting orange and gold. He told me to take a picture of one of the fixtures while lying on the ground with the camera pointed up. “This will be your best shot. It looks just like a doily.”

I don’t know enough to comment on the city’s financial health or whether it will turn around. All I know is that I spent a lovely few days in the city and I saw a glimmer of possibility.

Sometimes to find the beauty of a place, you just have to change your angle.


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So Many Tulips

I went to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival over the weekend. It confirmed my hunch that Washington State is the best state. Not only do we have islands off the coast, rolling hills, and a city where you can take a ferry to work, we have valleys and valleys of tulips. And legal pot, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Pro travel tips: bring multiple lenses. Wear rainboots. Watch out for running children. Don’t bring your dog, they are forbidden. Tulip fest will be running until the end of the month.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest Photos


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My Statue Pic for a Travel Photo Challenge

Thank god it’s not statutes. Am I right? Ha, ha. You’ve probably seen this one before because I am so proud of it.

Travel Challenge-Statue

What can I tell you about this photo? I looked out the window at the Louvre and clicked the button. I have started to really more into photography, which means three things:

1. I don’t use auto settings anymore.

2. I’ve become kind of annoying to my friends.

3. I will post more photos on here.

Statues are so easy to photograph because they stand there and look pretty and don’t even get mad when you take a selfie with them. Statutes are noticeably more difficult.

Where’sMyBackpack, thank you for such a great travel challenge.


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Super Seattle Photo Essay

The Seattle Seahawks won the SuperBowl. As if you hadn’t heard.

I will not jump on the bandwagon and say I’ve always been fan while shoveling a handful of Skittles into my mouth. On Sundays, I watch/root for/cry for Da Bears and Da Bears only, ya hear? I love the Bulls, the White Sox, the Blackhawks, hot dogs with neon-green relish all that Chicago stuff.

Sports and food loyalties are like family loyalties and I stick to them.

That said, no one can refute my love for the PacNorthwest. I loved it enough to come back after the Great Quebec Adventure. I loved it enough to put half a country between me and my family for a second time, when I could have settled into a nice brick house somewhere in Illinois. That’s right. I could be freezing my butt off right now.

I am not supposed to talk about how fantastic/gorgeous/incredible Seattle is because we want to keep it our little secret. Did you hear that: *we*? I think that is the first time I have ever “we’d” Seattle.

There’s no rule against pictures, so here you go:

Seattle in (my) Pictures


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Paris Travel Photo Essay, Film Noir Edition

Paris is pretty.

Sure, it smells of urine in some spots and there are piles of dog merde everywhere, but I barely even noticed because there is so much pretty to take in. It is so gorgeous, I broke my rule about living through the lens and filled up my camera’s CF card the third day in.

This is the first of my Paris photo essays, the Film Noir edition, otherwise known as the day I tried to be artsy by snapping photos of statues and strangers in monochrome.

Paris travel photos


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Travel Pictures: Put a Bird on It

You know what turns a boring, mediocre travel photo into something beautiful? A bird. It doesn’t even have to be a rare bird, a scrappy seagull or downtrodden pigeon can make your travel pictures stunning.

Below is a travel photo narrative of bird photo bombs.

Travel photography tips

My number one travel photography tip: the best photographs happen by mistake.

I learned this while walking through London in shoes that pinched my feet. The clouds parted and a rainbow arched over the city. Freakin’ magical. I turned all the way around on a crowded street, snapped off a few pictures of the rainbow.

The he man behind me asks, “Blimey, don’t they have rainbows where you’re from?” his lips curled in an I-Hate-Tourists sneer. He looked so mad, I feared he would reach out and smash my camera. I felt like the biggest rube. There I was in my holy jeans and stupid shoes with a giant camera strapped to my neck getting called out by a real Londoner.

But it was worth it because I got a bunch of really great photos of a rainbow over London, including the one above with the bird flying across the square. My point is this: take a lot of photos. Don’t live through the lens, be in the present moment, but be ready to snap away the moment a great scene reveals itself.


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Hello Victoria, So Long Summer Photo Essay

I said goodbye to summer by traveling to Victoria, British Columbia by boat with my sister and a friend.

There’s a nip in the air, brown-tipped leaves, a carpet of acorns in the park next to my house. One last summer outing had to be had.

But that’s ok. Fall is around the bend and we all love fall. The fashion. The leaves. The lattes.

Fall is my favorite travel season because I prefer empty museums to museums filled with sweaty tourists in cargo shorts. That’s just me.

If you want to look like an amazing photographer, take a million pictures of flowers. Big, bright and beautiful, flowers sit still and are happy to pose. Novice photographers should start with tranquil gardens before street photography, where everything moves, the light is low and there’s a wastrel wearing KEDS who wants to spit beer into your lens.

Pro tip: The BlueFox Cafe in Victoria will have one of those obnoxiously long lines, but it’s worth the wait. They make breakfast poutine. Enough said.

Victoria travel, in pictures


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48 Hours in Las Vegas, A Photo Narrative

In the past two weeks I flew from Vegas back to Seattle and from Seattle to my sweet home Chicago to be Matron of Honour in my best friend’s wedding. It was two weeks of summer dresses and giant sunglasses. Two trips, two weeks of fun. Finally feels like summer.

Lots of posts to come, including my flight from hell: how I discovered a plane full of teenage girls is far worse than a plane full of babies.

But for now, enjoy this photo mosaic.

What happened in Vegas

Vegas

Vegas

Neon sign at Vegas Neon MuseumIMG_1508 IMG_1511 IMG_1464 IMG_1478 IMG_1501

It’s already a neon blur.  The red desert sun hung in the sky like a giant ornament. 

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Desert sun

I learned about Vegas’ sordid past through neon signage at the Neon Museum. I am now a Vegas neon sign expert. That was a trick. The signs aren’t neon anymore, they’re actually LED. I can’t wait to correct a stranger.

Actually [thought-gathering pause] they’re not neon anymore. They’re LED. And the sign designers own them, not the casinos. And Moulin Rouge was the first casino that allowed black performers. Just to let you know.

Vegas-travel-jackpot

I won $200 in slots/craps. If you want to squeeze the most fun out of Vegas, start with the free craps lesson (the Monte Carlo has one) and learn how to bet beyond the pass line. It’s a super fun, thrilling game and has a special vocabulary: the shooter, hard eights, aces, crapping out, playing the field. It’s rife with nickname material, but the game moves fast and so does the money. I start with $20 and see how fast I can double it.

I went to Michael Jackson’s One. I highly recommend it. I had forgotten how much I liked MJ. When he was a kid, he was perfection and the world twisted that perfection into something horrible. It’s a fantastic tribute, well worth the money. My only criticism is I want more Jackson5 or 80’s Jackson, less of that slower new stuff he did in his getting-naked-with-Priscilla phase.

Unseen Vegas

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There’s a tarnish just beneath the bright lights and if you’re observant, you’ll witness some sad things. A woman strutted through our hotel lobby in nine-inch heels and a pair of daisy dukes completely unzipped like it was a fashion statement.

I walked past a homeless lady on the bridge who held a cat.  It wore retro sunglasses and looked near death. I closed my eyes and half-prayed it was fake. It couldn’t have been.

Later, I encountered another woman who sat with her child and had a sign that said, “my other job is better than this.” I contemplated kidnapping or giving the girl a wad of cash. But I just shook my head and kept walking. No one gave them a second glance. We were all onto the next glittering casino.

PRO TIP: There’s a pizza place on the third floor of the Cosmos that’s so secret it doesn’t have a name. I call it The Clandestine Crust, though it really just goes by Secret Pizza. Delicious, fast, perfect after-midnight bite.


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Wild & Free: Adventures in Eagle-Watching

Wild and free is the way I want my life…nature’s way for me without pain and strife ~ Curtis Mayfield

quebec winter carnival, expat blog, washington state winter

I am convinced all black specks are eagles. See it?

Like most sane people, I have complaints about winter. It’s cold. It’s dark. I want to do nothing, but consume morsels of dark chocolate and glasses of wine while in a nest of blankets.

But when the alarm rings at 5:50 am, I get ready to face the day. A decent jacket, good attitude, and eight cups of coffee help.

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So do moments like this.

My fondness for winter started in Quebec. I had to make the best of the worst weather. I danced under an ice palace at Winter Carnival, tumbled down small hills on cross-country skis, and rolled popsicle sticks in maple syrup taffy. I miss real winter, miss the rumblings of snow plows at night and the crunch of ice under my boots.

I didn’t think I would ever miss these things. Maybe what I really miss are mid-day field trips and singing French songs on a bus with the rest of the second-language students.

Nothing lasts forever, but I can’t help but to feel a touch of Cube Fever after being so wild and free.

Here’s how I am dealing with the first winter as a re-patriot:

Winter in Washington State

Washington travel images, fir trees, Seattle travel

I half expected this tree to touch my hair to compare notes.

After a Wii Mario jamboree that lasted until 1:00 in the morning, I woke up early to photograph eagles in Skagit, two hours north from my house in Seattle. I had errands to do that day – taxes and such, but The Sister convinced me it was a good idea. Continue reading