Retreat Into the Southwest of France

Ariege
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Land of hay bales, local cheese and more animals than people, this region stole away my heart.

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La Vie En Rose dans La Ville Rose

toulouse

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Per Tolosa totjorn mai.
Occitan for  “For Toulouse, always more”

Known as the Ville Rose (Pink City), Toulouse is aptly named for the rose-colored bricks that make up the facades of the city’s oldest buildings, even as l’ancien meets with the new.

For me, it was a city with a certain well-understood charm – a getaway for French natives in the North in search of a pause from a more pretentious Paris perhaps, or a badly needed kickstart to the everyday routine from those in the surrounding sleepier southwestern towns.

Modernity sits side by side with history as you stroll from the busy midtown walkways to duck into tiny pink cobblestoned backstreets leading towards the river. Everyone headed perpetually towards the river. The site of “Toulouse Plage” for the month (sand and beach games brought in for August), the riverside makes for a cool antidote to the August heat. I loved the outdoor markets, the streetside booksellers, the waterfront cafes, and quiet confidence of the folks there. No in-your-face-flash required, they understood well what their city has to offer.

Hong Kong, You Make It Easy to Love You

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Vibrant city-scapes? Lively mix of Eastern and Western tradition and culture? Hundred-year-old temples sandwiched between skyscrapers? Hong Kong – you really do offer a little bit of everything.

Never have I fallen for a city so fast. From first arriving and crossing a bridge into what appeared to be an amalgam of all great metropolises combined, to discovering the islands that make up this energetic hotspot – Hong Kong hooked me early and kept me wanting more.

Travelogues: Cross-Country Traveling Through Good Ol’ Americana

As part of preparations for See Rock City and Other Destinations, a musical travelogue about people’s stories at various American destinations, we’re talking to real folks about their travel experiences around the U.S. Giving people a taste of others’ authentic, fun, and hard-to-believe stories one interview at a time.

Today, we’re talking to Lisa about her exploration from Alabama up to the frozen north via car.

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What inspired your cross country travels? How did you select the destinations you knew you had to see?

The cross country trip (Alabama to Montana) came up due to my former fiance being reassigned to Montana for his next 3 years in the Air Force. The destinations kind of just happened, depending on how tired we were, what time it was and how the weather was (we were driving in December with a cat and dog).

What was your favorite stop of the expedition? Why did this one stand out for you?

My favorite destinations were: Mount Rushmore, mostly because it’s amazing and we had fun there. We took goofy pictures. The second would be Sturgis, South Dakota. The people there were so amazingly kind and helpful. One woman even offered us a room in her home and gave my ex his food for free since he is in the service.

Most ridiculous thing that happened on your trip?

Here’s the ridiculousness: we got to Missouri and got stuck in an ice storm. We sat in one spot on the highway for three hours (seriously. We watched all of Green Zone on his Droid).

Was there any point on the trip when you had to rethink your original plan? 

Needless to say, sitting that long, you get antsy and eventually…you “gotta go”. Since there was ice all over and we were literally in the middle of the highway-cum-parking-lot, there wasn’t anywhere to go. My ex wound up using a Vitamin Water bottle and I used the dog’s water bowl! You do what you gotta do on the road!

If you would pick three words to describe the trip, what would they be?

Eye-opening, fun and unforgettable!

What do you do when hit with a case of wanderlust?

I start looking at magazines, blogs and other websites when wanderlust hits.

Where’s next on your travel itinerary?

Next trip is a road trip a few hours away for a half marathon I’m running, then the “big trip” is volunteering at Yosemite for 5 days in September!

All photos courtesy of Lisa. Thanks!

Travelogues: The Charm and Craziness of Coney Island

As part of preparations for See Rock City and Other Destinations, a musical travelogue about people’s stories at various American destinations, we’re talking to real folks about their travel experiences around the U.S. Giving people a taste of others’ authentic, fun, and hard-to-believe stories one interview at a time.

Today, we’re talking to nouveau-Brooklynite Abigail’s visits to the age-old wonderland of Coney Island.

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I’m Abigail. I’m a graduate student in creative writing and book publicist, and I moved from Wisconsin to Brooklyn in 2009 after taking a two-month trip around the country on Greyhound buses. I love travel and languages, and I studied in Spain and Japan as an undergrad. So far, the highlight of my travels has probably been learning how to ride an elephant in Chiang Mai, Thailand, then lying on the ground as it walked over me.

What inspired your move from Wisconsin to Brooklyn?

Brooklyn felt like where I needed to be. To quote Calvin & Hobbes, “They say the secret of success is being at the right place at the right time. But since you never know when the right time is going to be, I figure the trick is to find the right place, and wait around.”

 What was your first experience with Coney Island?

My first trip to Coney Island was with a few close friends who had all moved to the city after graduation. I loved seeing the glimpses of olden-day carnival Coney Island, and the experience of walking along the boardwalk eating a corn dog from Nathan’s. We spent the day taking turns lying on the beach and braving the water, which was still freezing because it was so early in the summer.

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 How did your trips there change over time? 

I think it’s more accurate to say that the feeling I get from visiting Coney Island and putting my feet in the ocean has stayed constant — even though the past few years of my life have involved a lot of flux. Since I’m from the Midwest, I wasn’t used to living close to an ocean — and in most of New York City, it’s strangely easy to forget how close you are to the water. I recently moved further south into Brooklyn to Bath Beach — just a few subway stops away from Coney Island — so I’m hoping I’ll begin to feel even more like it’s “mine” now that I can get there in less than 15 minutes on a bus or train.

 Strangest thing you ever saw at Coney?

I’m not sure if I could pick just one. Every year, Coney Island hosts the Mermaid Parade, which typically involves a lot of glitter and naked people. So, basically like liberal arts college. I’m kidding. There are so many amazing costumes: mermaids with octopus pasties, transformers, giant birds, circus performers on unicycles. I recommend Google-imaging “Mermaid Parade” if you’re not at work.

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Off-season photos of Coney look like a deserted wonderworld. Have you ever visited when no other tourists were around?

I have! I remember one unseasonably warm day in early March a few years back, and I decided it would be fun to go out to Coney Island by myself and take a walk along the beach, and maybe go for a swim. I got there and immediately realized that I had totally misjudged how cold it would be with the wind, but because I didn’t want to feel like I’d made the trip for nothing, I sat on the beach and read, even though it was freezing. There were maybe two other people on the beach, and it felt almost post-apocalyptic.

Do you think America will always have nostalgia for its beachside communities (Coney, Atlantic City, etc.)?

America loves nostalgia. I don’t think it’s necessarily specific for beach communities, though I think there is something special about places that simultaneously encompass two different worlds (one for the people that live there, and one for the tourists). The coast is also a place where fun and danger can easily meet, so maybe there’s a glamour factor in that, too.

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How does Coney Island play into the modern day notion of New York? (Escapism, a much needed retreat, danger zone, etc.)

I think it’s a place where there’s tremendous tension between the old and the new. This is true for a lot of New York, but it seems especially palpable on Coney Island.

Any other fascinating finds in NY that you would recommend folks visit if they’re near the city?

My favorite thing to recommend to visitors is the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free, you get to be on a boat, and you get a great view of the Statue of Liberty. My biggest recommendation, though, is to spend some time people-watching. New York has the best people-watching in the world.

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All photos courtesy of Abigail. Thanks!

Join Along for the Road Trip

“Americans have always been eager for travel, that being how they got to the New World in the first place.”
– Otto Friedrich

Thrilled to be working on See Rock City and Other Destinations, a musical travelogue that tells the stories of folks across the U. S. of A. This show is made up of a set of short vignettes, small American plays that attempt to answer the questions of what are we seeking and what holds us back from realizing the things we want. It’s told through story songs and feels akin to a particularly good episode of This American Life on NPR.

Today we’ve started our Meet Rock City series to allow folks to meet the cast and wanted to share the fun with all y’all.

MeetRockCity(click to visit)

These folks are an incredibly talented bunch that are telling these honest stories in some inspiring ways. And while the show keeps up the pace with its humor, the takeaway seems to make us question our basic anxieties or fears – of connecting, of missing out, of seeking, of believing or no longer being able to believe.

Welcome to the journey. Glad to have you along for the ride.

Portrait of Portlandia

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. ”
– John Ruskin

1467Touch down

1468Trainside Poetry: “I believe in the rule of opposites…”

1505The Good Mod

1511Coffeeshop Reads

1543Inside the Japanese Gardens

1547And then, the rain

1553One of the many reasons why Powell’s Books was top-notch

1581Sun peeks through

1594Relative to everywhere

I never thought a city could make me fall in love with the rain. I had always been ambivalent to its indecisiveness, halfway between a clear sky and a snowstorm. But the people of Portland welcome every drop. Instead of rushing inside when the leaking starts, they continue about their days, aptly pointing out that yes, “it’s just water.”

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: A New Look, New Category and New Series!

Thoughts on Theatre went in for a touch up last night and now the blog is sporting a whole new look!

In addition to a new streamlined look, there is also a new category to present: Travelogues. As more and more content popped up in the realm of travel, it seems appropriate to give it a home. This is especially true as we will feature more travel stories in the future as we delve more into the world of See Rock City & Other Destinations.

The musical takes place in the following six locales:

1. Rock City 2. Area 51 3. Glacier Bay 4. Alamo 5. Coney Island 6. Niagara Falls

And I’m looking for insight from all of you! Have you traveled to one of these destinations? Do you have wild story about your time there and pictures to match?

I will be doing an interview series in the next few months on these places as well as other notable American landmarks (Route 66! Grand Canyon! Yellowstone!).

If you would like to share your memories and be a part of the fun drop me a line at:
colorandlighttheatre [at] gmail [dot] com with the subject line See Rock City Interview.

 So that’s the update! Thanks everyone for all of your support, thoughtful comments, and wonderful questions thus far. Here’s to making more memories together!

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Travel Expectations Meeting Reality

How much of your travel dreams are made up of the ideas promised from advertisements,  pages ripped from the travel mags and pinned up for another day?

Recently sat down for a chat with the composer of See Rock City to talk travel and our expectations from trips we take: what we search for, hope to experience, and try to cross off of our list. We all are united in our journeys towards destinations, both real and imagined.

Have your travels always lived up to your expectations? Tell your story below.

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Spotted: The Artist Formerly Known as Le Petit Prince

One certain French novella is so prolific and so well-loved that the world continues to celebrate it. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Saint Ex’s Le Petit Prince is both the most read and most translated book in the French language, available in over 250 languages and dialects. Its story of love and truth is universal. And now a handful of artists have taken this classic tale to the streets. Take a look at how they have memorialized the little prince and his visit to Earth.

“I feel out of place like the Little Prince on Earth”, Montmartre, Paris, France

Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia

Havana, Cuba

Buenos Aires, Argentina

San José, Costa Rica

Lyon, France

“We only see clearly with our hearts. The essential is invisible to the eye…”, Canada

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Taking it to The Streets

Even in different cities, there exists the universal idea of leaving messages strewn across walls. Whether in the form of street art or just a notable quote, these little messages offer a glimpse of the messenger, giving a sense of community to even the largest of metropolises.

Santa Monica, CA

Paris, France

San Francisco, CA (detail below)

Relentless Compassion

Bike Rack
Cleveland, OH

Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand

And the Banksy back before its removal
Westwood, CA

Melbourne: Paint by Colors

Melbourne easily earns the title of one of the hippest little cities I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Artsy, intellectual, sprawling, and fast-paced, this place is truly world-class. A pal of mine moved to Australia earlier this year, and she has since made Melbourne her home.

We ran all around trying to jam pack the “true Australian experience” into a few days and she was an absolutely phenomenal host. We fed wallabies, caught some awesome films at the St. Kilda Film Festival, watched the tiny blue penguins (600 of them!) come in at dusk on Phillip Island, took in some contemporary galleries, noshed on scones while discussing countries’ “Gross National Coolness” at the Next Wave Festival, and got entirely too little sleep. But oh, it was worth it.

And because photos sometimes tell the story better than words can, I give you the full spectrum of Melbourne – in technicolor!

Kiwis and Cafes and Raptors

Home again. What a whirlwind of a week – full of hiking, exploring, getting lost in, and falling in love with two new places: New Zealand and Australia.

Wellington, heart of New Zealand

First off, let’s chat about New Zealand. Can I just say how incredible the little city of Wellington is? A town bursting with brilliant culture and knowledge-hungry individuals, this waterfront treasure is also New Zealand’s capital.

-Must Do’s-

Te Papa: Usually I won’t spend too much time in museums when travelling abroad since I think diving into the country itself is the best way to learn about its history. But for someone who knew very little about the Kiwi culture, the national museum, Te Papa,  was the perfect crash course to bring me up to speed. It gives you a run down on the native Maori people vs. Europeans, explains that a pretty giant fault line bisects the North and South islands (that’s led to about 4 earthquakes in the past two weeks), and shows that the people take great pride in their gorgeous land. That last one was learned through discussions with people at the museum, not off the notes lining the walls, but needless to say, this place was rad. Oh, and don’t miss the Collosal Squid!

Cafe Culture: Wellington’s well-known for its love of good food and even better places to eat it in. Every cafe has a feel all of its own and serves up everything from delicious mochaccinos with fresh homemade marshmallows to breakfast burritos with ridiculously fresh ingredients. Never a shortage of good places to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or grab a bite to eat.

Wellington’s Waterfront: Vibrant both morning and night, the waterfront is the star of the town. Couples stroll together in the early morning, kayakers make their way into the water by noon, buskers come out to entertain with a song or two by mid afternoon, and runners keep the boardwalk alive well after sundown. And as if that’s not enough, the walk is also dotted with these quotes from writers carved into giant blocks of stone. Finding them all along the waterfront was a fun and wonderful challenge.

Botanical Gardens: At the top of the city sits these gorgeous sprawling gardens. You can take an hour or a few to wander through them and catch some of the best views of the entire downtown Wellington below. Little pink flower stamps mark out the way down the hill so you can find your way through the numerous paths.

Zealandia: Guys, this place was essentially Jurassic Park…minus the raptors. A billionaire botanist decides he wants to turn back the clock and restore New Zealand to what it was thousands of years ago, so he creates a park in order to do so. Did you know all the life on the islands evolved without mammalian predators? Neither did I. What this means is that the birds, reptiles, insects, and plants were the only ones duking it out until the Europeans dropped off a few rats and other hairy creatures on their first voyage there. Meaning the birds here, while not super capable in a possum fight, are some of the most intense and unique I’ve ever seen. And only a degree or two away from raptors.

Wellington stole my heart, but it wasn’t the only one. Stay tuned tomorrow for more about Australia!

Bite-sized Wisdom: Hughes

Still on the road, but thought I’d leave this tidbit here for you. And remember this one applies to more than just travel. Enjoy the weekend all. 

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

– Langston Hughes


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