Friday, October 2, 2015

Dreaming of an Indian Summer

False store fronts hid the 5-foot-way of Armenian Street when it was transformed into the town of Simla, India.

Dreams are a weird thing. They can be familiar but with details thrown in that keep them from seeming completely real. Friends rub elbows with characters from movies. Scenes plucked from your memory are altered until they no longer seem like something belonging to you. And when you wake up, you find yourself grasping at the remnants as it drifts away and trying to decipher what in the world it means. As strange as it may sound, I fell into a kind of dream state watching television last night even though I was wide awake.

Indian Summers recently premiered in America on PBS Masterpiece. Originally broadcast on BBC Channel 4, it's been deemed the heir to the "period costume drama" crown currently held by Downton Abbey. Set in Simla, an Indian town in the foothills of the Himalayas, in 1932 as the British Raj is beginning to unwillingly loosen its hold there, the on-location filming is visually rich and enticing. Except, it was not filmed in India. Indian Summer was filmed in Penang, Malaysia. Simla had an overabundance of modern structures and a monsoon season that would wreak havoc with the production. So, the producers cast their sights further afield and decided on Penang instead. Sharing the same British colonial history, both cities have similar architectural influences. There's also a sizeable Indian population in Malaysia and plenty of white expats to serve as extras.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Camping Jitters and Outdoor Cooking

Into the fire

I'm about to embark on my biggest adventure yet in a few weeks, and frankly, I'm kind of nervous. What is it? Climbing Mount Everest? Free diving to the deepest depths of ocean? Wrestling crocodiles? No, I'm going camping... for the first time in 17 years... with a bunch of 10-year-olds.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Art Alley: Rapid City's Hidden Treasure

Protect the Sacred

Rapid City, you surprised me. I expected something small-town and folksy with plenty of nods to your gold mining, Old West history. I didn't know I'd stumble upon a hip, urban graffiti scene nestled in a city that's a gateway to the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore and the Badlands.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Wonderfully Wacky Wall Drug

South Dakota's #1 Roadside Attraction

Wall Drug Store starts announcing its presence miles and miles before you get there. All along Interstate 90, billboards proclaim things like "291 miles to Wall Drug," "Refreshing! Free Water, Wall Drug," or "#1 Roadside Attraction, Wall Drug." I had been planning on visiting, but I will admit that seeing the "Homemade Donuts, Wall Drug" sign got me particularly excited.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Great Day in the Badlands

South Dakota
Overlooking the Badlands National Park, South Dakota

I first read about the Badlands long ago, although I can't remember where. It seemed like the stuff of legends. A bleak and desolate place. A wasteland that surprised pioneers as they made their way west over the prairies filled with waving grass that suddenly dropped down into a strange landscape. A place where fugitives hide from the long arm of the law. Badlands. Even the name sounds forboding.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Badlands Door Trail: Short Hike with a Big View

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Finding our way on the Door Trail, Badlands National Park

A few days ago, the National Geographic Intelligent Travel blog published readers recommendations for "The World's Best Hiking Trails." Guess who was the first person they quoted? Me!! Other people suggested the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or long ones such as the Trans Canada Trail and Australia's Bibbulmun Track. North American hikes like the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail have been the setting and practically a character in popular memoirs and their resultant "based on the best-selling book" movies, Wild and A Walk in the Woods, respectively.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Wildlife Spotting on Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia is a treasure trove of wildlife. Separated from the rest of the continent for about 10,000 years, its natural wildlife has thrived without humans or other pests and predators that have struck on the mainland. Over the centuries, some animals have evolved into distinct sub-species, earning this place the nickname "The Galapagos of Australia." More than a third of the island is protected parkland, ensuring that it will remain a haven for the native plants and animals.
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