Friday, November 7, 2014

You Don't Want to Go to Paris? You Must Be Crazy!

Ever met someone who didn’t want to go to Paris? It seems unlikely, but that’s why true life is stranger than fiction!  Actually, I was flabbergasted. She didn't seem to know about the Louvre, the Eiffel power, the Marmottan, the Rodin Museum, or the Picasso Museum. What would you have said? Read the whole story:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Zuerich Window Cat

Does your cat ever stand in the doorway or sleep on the window ledge? For a quick trip to Zuerich, read the poem by this indecisive furball:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Greece Is a Wild Place!

For a quick trip to Greece (Athens, Iraklion, Hania), check out this new movie! Action, beaches, romance, regrets, and.... murder! (Oh, yes, and Oscar Isaac!)


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Orvieto Who?

I'm hosting this week's blog on my website. In it I cover some aspects of Orvieto, a town I'd never heard of before I went to teach there. The quaint town is an hour from Rome, two hours from Florence. It boasts Patrizio's Well, Luca Signorelli frescoes in the Duomo, a thriving community of artisans, and friendly people. I've been blessed to have the chance to work there!

For more about the Arizona in Italy Summer Study Abroad Program, please check out my school website:

I'll be teaching classes in Creative Non-Fiction, Film and Literature, and Shakespeare's Italian plays.

View from the Rupe

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Do Dingle!

(I'm hosting this week's blog on my website.)

Need ideas for traveling in Ireland? Check out what I learned about the Dingle Peninsula. Read about the stained glass windows of Harry Clark at St Mary's and other sites:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Things DO Go Better with Coke!

Sometimes the best things are in your own backyard, literally. Last summer when the State Journal-Register headlines in Springfield, Illinois, read “Collecting All Things Coke,” I stopped to read the whole article. Despite a health-nut boyfriend I used to have, I drink Coke. Sometimes two cans a day! But the article wasn’t about Coke drinkers. It was about Coke collectors. In fact it was about the national convention that was being held right in my hometown of Springfield at the Crowne Plaza on Dirksen Parkway.

On the last day of the convention, Saturday, July 19th, they were going to have a Coca-Cola Collectors Club swap meet. My mom and I decided to drop by. We couldn’t have been more surprised. There was a huge room full of tables that were piled high with Coke memorabilia. There were plaques and bottles and buttons. There were Christmas ornaments. There were toys and polar bears. There were items that went on the market last year and pricey items from decades ago.

The whole thing was amazing. I’ve collected a few Coke items myself over the years. But these people are serious collectors! They had the coolest stuff. As we walked around, surprised by the sheer amount of collectors and collectibles, we could hardly decide which displays to look at first.

 Another thing we noticed was that the collectors had come from all over. They were from Chicago and Miami and Philadelphia. They were from Texas and Wisconsin and New York. There were even participants from France, Germany, and Japan! I had no idea that people went so crazy for Coke. I thought I was the only one.

As I walked around with greedy eyes, a man selling Coke baseball hats chuckled. “You can always tell the collectors from the tourists,” he said. “The collectors walk around with smiles on their faces.”

I definitely had a smile. And I was glad I only had twenty dollars on me. If I’d had forty, I would have spent that too. I couldn’t resist the darling buttons from different countries or the Christmas ornaments with elves.

“How can you part with any of this stuff?” I asked a couple from the east coast.

“Believe me, we’ve got duplicates of all these things!” the man explained.

By the time I left, I had brochures for the national organization. Next year’s national convention? It’s going to be in Glendale, Arizona, which is just up state from where I live in Tucson.

If I make it to the swap meet, I’m going to bring more a lot more than twenty dollars!

Interested in starting your collection? Check out the organization:

D.R. Ransdell doesn’t just drink Coke—her characters drink it too. Check out her novel website at

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One Secret European Town I've Visited

When I encountered the delightful World of Wanderlust website, my eyes lit up when I saw the blog title “Twenty-Five Secret Small Towns in Europe You Must Visit.” I immediately went to the list to see how many of the towns I’d visited. I had to get to item 5, Bruges, before I found one I’d been to! But then I kept reading. I’d actually been to six of the towns, which means I have a lot more towns to explore. But I visited two of the towns this past summer. I wrote about Ljubjana in my previous travel blog, so today I’m detailing the other town: Annecy, France.

Annecy [pronounced ‘ahn-SEE’] is a sweet town near the Italian border. It’s close to Colmar, another famous town on the blog list, but it has a charm all its own. I wanted to visit Annecy as soon as I found out that canals ran through the town. Even without the water, I would have enjoyed the trip. (But when I reviewed my pictures, I found that I’d taken lots and lots of the canals.)

Annecy is a perfect tourist town. There’s not too much traffic. The people are friendly. The old town makes for a picturesque, historical stroll. But the town offers much more than that. It’s situated on a huge lake, Lac d’Annecy, that offers boat rides and swimming and walks around the lake’s perimeter. It’s close to mountains for hiking. It has large green areas near the lake that are perfect for picnics. It has benches and cafés that make for perfect angles for people-watching.

Even though the weather was cool, I was excited to find that my mid-June, the lake was a comfortable temperature for swimming. I only had to walk about ten minutes from the center to find a peaceful swimming area with changing rooms and fellow bathers.  Afterwards I spent a lovely afternoon walking on the peninsula near the lake. It was so beautiful I asked my friend to record Chapter Three from my new book Island Casualty with the lake in the background.

The final advantage I found to Annecy was that it’s a comfortable jumping-off point from Geneva. A two-hour train ride takes you right to town. Our charming hotel, Allobroges, was a five-minute walk from the train station. Our only problem in Annecy: we had to leave!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Loving Ljubljana

One of the joys of traveling is going to new places, sometimes ones you’ve never even heard of before. This summer I made it to Slovenia for the first time. My friend and I headed for the capital, Ljubljana. The very name of the place was so long that the whole prospect seemed intimidating! But of course the real city isn’t difficult at all; it’s a beautiful capital and a great place to hang out for a couple of days.

The city is full of museums, but because our time was short and the days were nice, we opted to spend our time on the streets. We went up and down the river and in and out of the center of town. We found great places to stroll and especially to people-watch. Many people were out with their dogs and in fact a few even brought them to the cafés. Once we saw a waiter bring out a water dish for the customer’s pet!

The city’s mascot is a dragon, and one of the highlights is The Dragon Bridge, with four metal dragons to keep an eye on all the passersby. The most famous monument in town is probably the Triple Bridge, designed by the town’s favorite son Jože Plečnik. We couldn’t figure out why a Triple Bridge was necessary, really. It’s a beautiful structure, and visitors to the city become fascinated with it. But was it really necessary? Wouldn’t a double bridge have done the trick?

Ljubljana offers unexpected pleasures though. One is the peculiar sight of shoes hanging from lines. What did these shoes signify? We didn’t know the answers so we started inventing them. Perhaps a freedom. Perhaps rebellion. Perhaps a way to clean out the closet! (My mother would approve.)

We also noticed a lot of graffiti. There were cats and dragons and sayings and scribbles. But the result suggested that this is one capital that does whatever it pleases. Its ice cream is fabulous, its cafés are full, its inhabitants are friendly. The downtown area is pedestrian and easily managed. Thanks to the mascot, you have the excuse to buy dragons on everything from magnets to T-shirts. 

We were sorry we only had a couple of days in this small capital, but we will look forward to going back. I know the best time: at the end of a long trip when all you want to do is sit!

Hanging out with Jože Plečnik

Monday, July 21, 2014

Best Garden for Impressionists

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to return to one of my favorite spots ever: Monet’s garden at Giverny. At first I was confused when I started reading about Monet’s life. Why would anyone spend decades painting a single garden? A decade ago I visited the site with another Impressionism nut. Between the two of us we took 6 rolls of 36 shots each! As I walked around I realized why this garden had become so important to Monet and why he was content here. He created his whole universe just inside.

D.R. at the Clos normand section of Monet's grounds

What struck me during this visit to Giverny was that each step I took made for a different impression, a different view, a different painting. It took me a couple of hours to walk through the garden! Granted, the flowers were in bloom and sometimes I had to stop to watch interesting people. But most of all, I was trying to think about Monet and how to understand his wonderful work.

The Japanese bridge in the water garden

I spent a couple of hours circling his water pond as well. The water lilies boasted flowers and the weeping willows spilled into the pond. Clouds hovered in the distance. Crowds perched on the Japanese bridge doing selfies or shouting at their friends to hurry up and take the shot.

Water lily reflection

I kept trying to notice as much as possible, anything I might have missed the first time through.

Every shot a different possible painting

The experience was delightful. I was thankful I had time to slowly examine the garden and to take picture after picture. After all, I had to take the garden home with me, didn’t I?

A gentle gift of nature

Here’s a good thing: these days Giverny is easy to reach by public transport.  From Gare St. Lazare you take the train to Vernon. Special buses cart people between the train station and the small town of Giverny.

Like to travel? I love to use foreign settings in my writing. Please visit my author website at

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