Disclosure: I received some free samples of Shutterfly products. All opinions expressed herein are my own and not necessarily those of Shutterfly, Inc. Photos contained in the photobook are Copyright Glennia Campbell 2011. All Rights Reserved.
Disclosure: I received some free samples of Shutterfly products. All opinions expressed herein are my own and not necessarily those of Shutterfly, Inc. Photos contained in the photobook are Copyright Glennia Campbell 2011. All Rights Reserved.
Internationally acclaimed circus-style show Cavalia by Normand Latourelle, one of the creators of Cirque de Soleil, arrived in San Jose, California last week amid a flurry of manes and tails and hooves, and local press. Cavalia combines beautiful trained horses, daring feats of riding and acrobatics, lights and music for a spectacular entertainment. It's a mash-up of horse show and circus, a "Horse de Soleil," if you will. I was there on their arrival with a number of bloggers, newspapers, and TV stations to cover the event. It's not every day a world-renowned show like this comes to town.
I was driving on Highway 101 near the airport week before last when I noticed a huge white castle-like structure on the side of the highway, normally reserved for empty lots and office parks. I don't go that way often, but I knew it didn't belong there. I wondered what it was and saw the sign that said "Cavalia" with a picture of a horse. I thought maybe San Jose was opening up some new Renaissance dinner theatre or hosting some kind of show pony competition. I looked it up and found out that it was something much more. When I received an invitation to attend the press preview, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to see it for myself.
The horses arrived on Friday, much to the delight of the trainers/performers who ride and care for the horses while they travel. The horses were back from two weeks of R&R at a large horse farm, a kind of horse spa, where I'm sure they enjoyed idyllic frolics through verdant pastures, pedicures, and plenty of fresh air. The performers also had time off, and were lined up outside the stable to greet their horses when they arrived by truck. The company had finished a successful run in Mexico City a few weeks prior, and were ready for prime time in San Jose.
Performer Fairland Ferguson came out to greet the members of the press on hand and answer questions about the show, the horses, and the performers. There were several young girls along with their moms in attendance, who all wanted to know how one trains to become a performer in Cavalia. Fairland noted that she had grown up around horses and after finishing college had learned trick riding in a dinner-theatre show in her home state of South Carolina. The performers hail from around the world, and we cold hear them speaking French, Spanish, and English as they milled around waiting for the horses to arrive.
The horses finally pulled up and the excitement was palpable. It was clear that the performers and the horses share a special bond. We were then treated to a tour of the stables and a short demonstration in the practice tent of various riding techniques used in the show.
On Tuesday, we were invited back to see a sneak peak of the show, with full costumes, music and lights.
The show is ostensibly about the evolution of the relationship between horses and people, so the opening scene is very austere: a beautiful horse running freely around the arena, and a man in simple costume giving hand an voice commands and befriending the horse. The segment ends with the man riding bareback on the horse, with no saddle, bits or bridles, just holding onto the horse's mane. It is a simple, gentle performance that was touching and beautiful.
Later, acrobats bound in from the sidelines and perform some amazing tricks, including a guy doing about 30 one-armed handsprings in a row that made me tired just watching him. A troupe of dancers whirled around while the acrobats performed gravity-defying flips and formed various human pyramids and towers.
In the following segment with a backdrop reminiscent of the Coliseum, Roman riders thundered in, circling the arena, with a rider standing atop a pair of perfectly sychronized, incredibly fast horses. How the riders kept their balance is a mystery to me, although performer Fairland Ferguson earlier told us that "you have to develop big thighs" to do this.
Probably the most enchanting portion of the show was what looked to me like a fairy tale sequence in which female aerialists, hanging by the thinnest of silver wires, dropped down to swoop above and around male riders and horses. It was a beautiful, ethereal scene, like colorful birds or angels descending into the theater to protect and guide both horse and rider. The women performed some lovely acrobatic dance moves in the air, while snow fell all around.
As the show progresses, the tricks and settings become more elaborate and fast-paced, culminating with acrobats, aerialists, and two dozen horses all performing simultaneously. It was a dizzying spectacle, and it was hard to know where to look at times with so much happening at once.
Cavalia runs in San Jose from July 18-August 12, 2012. Tickets are available through their website, and range from about $50-$250. VIP packages are available that include dinner and some special access. If you like horses, circuses, or just plain fun, go see it. You will surely be entertained and delighted.
Disclosure: I was invited as part of the media corps to cover the arrival of the horses and a complimentary short preview of the show. I did not receive any compensation for writing this review. All opinions are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cavalia.
Photos: All photos were taken by Glennia Campbell for TheSilentI.com. Sets, costumes, and scenes depicted are copyright of Cavalia and were photographed permission. All Rights Reserved.
During my trip to TWIN Camp, one of the trip highlights was a visit to the Toyota USA Automobile Museum in Torrance, California. Driving through a business district in Torrance, it would be easy to miss the museum if you weren't specifically looking for it. It's a fairly nondescript-looking gray building that appears more like a dealership than a museum on the outside. On the inside, it's jam-packed with hundreds of representative models of Toyota's unique and distinctive contributions to automotive history, or at least as it has evolved in the United States. It's like Alice slipped down the rabbit hole and right into Cars Land.
Inside, we learned about the history of Toyota in America. Toyota Motor Sales, USA was founded in 1957 in Hollywood, California. The first Toyotas to hit American soil were called Toyopet and were sold in a handful of dealerships beginning in 1958, along with the Land Cruiser. The Toyopet, which I thought was completely adorable, was smaller and more expensive than most American-made cars and didn't really fit the US market. Toyota decided to pull the line in 1961 and focus instead on the sturdy, all-terrain Land Cruiser until 1965, when the Corona arrived. Toyota introduced the economical Corolla in 1967, which has become the world's best-selling passenger car of all time, with over 27 million sold in 140 countries around the globe. The rest, as they say, is history.
Inside the Toyota Museum, you can see examples of all of these models from the past, and some special, futuristic eco-friendly cars as well. One car was so small that it looked like my eleven year old son could drive it. In fact, I think I have purse larger than that.
The Lexus branded concept car from the movie "Minority Report" is on display, along with some memorabilia from the move. The car was all sexy rounded shapes and slick design, in a dark red tone that I'm sure I have a lipstick to match. I'm not a Tom Cruise fan, but regardless of who would be driving it, this is one hot-looking car.
Along with a hundred or more cars, there are displays on Toyota's advertising history, with some familiar slogans like "You asked for it, You Got It...Toyota!" and "Oh, What a Feeling" with the famous "Toyota jump" in the ads. Jenny from Mommin' it Up and Jill from Diaper Diaries showed us how the Toyota jump should be done. Later, everyone else got into the act and demonstrated the Toyota jump.
About large bookcases line one wall of the museum and display row after row of quality and service awards that Toyota has won over the years, including JD Power & Associates Quality Awards. It was an impressive sight to see so many trophies lined up in one place.
After viewing all of these fine vehicles, displays, and awards, I was sorry that my husband and son didn't have a chance to join me at the Toyota USA Museum. I think my son would have loved the race cars, and my husband would have enjoyed seeing a pristine version of his beloved and dearly departed 1981 Corolla on display. During our visit, quite a few Facebook and Twitter followers of the TWIN campers expressed extreme jealousy at our being so near to some really special cars.
Maybe on your next trip to Disneyland to see Cars Land, you can stop in at a real land of cars and enjoy the view.
Note: The Toyota USA Automobile Museum is open by appointment only. If you are planning to be in Torrance, California, it's worth planning a trip to view the cars. For an appointment to see the museum, call Susan Sanborn at (310) 468-4728 or email her at susan_sanborn [at] toyota.com.
Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.
Photo Credits: All photos are © Glennia Campbell 2012.
One of my favorite places in our travels across the US has been the White Sands National Monument, near Alamogordo, New Mexico. This summer, our friends at Toyota have partnered with the Audobon Society to encourage everyone to exit the highway and visit beautiful, off-the-beaten-path places like White Sands.
Disney California Adventure' s new Cars Land opened recently, and I was fortunate enough to be part of the media corps of bloggers covering the grand reopening of the park as a guest of Disney Parks & Resorts. It was an exciting, memorable event that included a red carpet with celebrity guests, thousands of media folks from television, radio, print and online news sources, and a chance to experience Cars Land firsthand before the eager public arrived. As usual, Disney put on a thrilling show, featuring the opening of Cars Land, an entrance reimagined to look like Walt Disney's Hollywood of the late 1920's, and a brand new techno-night party called the Mad Hatter's T-Party.
The first night featured a red carpet with some of the voice talent from the movie "Cars", including the voice of Mater himself, Larry the Cable Guy. Larry is a very friendly guy, much like Mater in the movie, and joked around with everyone from the mombloggers to the TV broadcasters to the Radio Disney correspondent on hand.
Larry's co-star, Bonnie Hunt, seemed a little more shy, and was hiding under a baseball cap. I didn't realize it was her until she was halfway down the red carpet. Owen Wilson was nowhere in sight.
John Ratzenberger, the Pixar "good luck charm" who appears in some capacity in every Pixar movie, was seemed to enjoy the attention. Ratzenberger's date was carrying a very interesting Cars-adorned Prada bag. I didn't see these on sale in the gift shop. Apparently, only the Real Housewives of Cars Land know where to get these.
On Monday, June 25, from 9-10 pm Eastern (6-7 Pacific), I'm participating in a Twitter Party with the wonderful women of Traveling Mom, sponsored by Travel Guard North America a leading travel insurance plan provider. Travel Guard's Gold Plan covers kids 17 and under for free, and is definitely worth checking out for additional peace of mind for your summer and adventure travel plans. You can RSVP at Traveling Mom to register for prizes during the Twitter Party. Join us on Monday night to share your adventure stories or your dreams of adventures-to-come!
We're generally not the rugged outdoorsy types who enjoy rock-climbing, mountain biking, and other dangerous activities. To be honest, my idea of "roughing it" is a motel with no room service. Some of our trips have led to some unexpected adventures, and this story about our trip to Greenland in 2007, is one of my favorite examples.
On our second day in Qaqortoq, Greenland, we got up early to catch a boat to the Norse ruins at Hvalsey. I had been reading Jane Smiley's historical novel, The Greenlanders, which is set during the 14th century and the waning years of the Norse colony in Greenland. The book follows the fortunes and misfortunes of one family of Norse settlers, and the toll that disease, famine, and climate change take on them over the years. Most of the book takes place in the fjords near where we were staying, and I was curious to see how the modern scene compared to what was described in the book. It's a terrific book, one that I highly recommend if you are interested in what might have happened to the Viking colonies that settled Greenland for 500 years, then just disappeared.
We were supposed to meet our boat at the small dock at the bottom of the hill, and when we got there, there was a small cabin-cruiser waiting for us. We waited to see if a guide would join us, but didn't see anyone, so we just boarded the boat on our own. There was a thirty-ish Greenlandic woman on-board, a Danish man, and the captain, a handsome young Greenlandic man who looked a little like a weather-beaten Keanu Reeves.
As we were getting ready to leave, two older men wearing painting overalls came aboard with buckets of paint and tools. I wondered if they were doing some work at the ruins, or if we were dropping them off en route. No one except the captain spoke English. The three men had an animated conversation in Danish, as cigarettes dangled from their lips. I hoped none of the bottles of paint thinner they were carrying would burst into flames, but I tend to worry like that.
I asked Frank, "Are you sure this is the right boat?" just as the captain untied the boat from the dock.
"I guess so. It's 8 am, and this is the only boat here." He showed me the e-mail confirmation of the time and the name of the boat landing. We figured they would probably let us know if they weren't expecting us.
Captain Keanu invited us into the cabin and graciously offered us coffee. It was cold and misty outside, so we welcomed the chance to be inside the warm cabin. The Greenlandic woman stoically sat outside in the back for a while, but as we sped through the fjord, she got cold and came in. She didn't speak to anyone on the boat the entire time, so I figured she was most definitely not the tour guide.
We were on the boat for about an hour and made a turn up another fjord, this one full of ice chunks and icebergs of varying sizes. We could hear the ka-chunk ka-chunk ka-chunk of the boat hitting the ice. This sound scared me during the first boat trip we took through the icy waters of Ilulissat. By now, I was used to the sound and no longer feared that the ice was ripping the hull of the boat to shreds and that we were going to sink at any moment, like a mini-Titanic with no band.
As we got further into the ice-covered fjord, Frank noticed a town up ahead, so he asked the captain, "When do we get to Hvalsey?"
Captain Keanu looked at him blankly. "Hvalsey? This boat goes to Narsaq."
"Narsaq? Do we go to Hvalsey Church after Narsaq?" Frank replied.
"No. We never go to Hvalsey. Only Narsaq. I normally don't drive such a boat. I work on the passenger ship," the captain offered.
"When do you go back?" Frank asked.
"July 11. Next Tuesday," was the reply. Frank turned beet red and I thought he was going to have a stroke or a coronary right on the spot. Now I knew why we kept seeing ambulances parked at the docks. I started to worry. We pulled into the dock and the workers, the Greenlandic woman, and the Danish man got off, along with all the painting supplies.
I decided to pipe up,"So, when will this boat go back to Qaqortoq?"
"I don't know. You can get off if you want. Maybe the other captain will take you."
"Who is the other captain?" I asked.
"The other man who was here," he gestured to the seat at the table where the portly Danish man had been sitting. "Maybe he take you. Are you sure you won't get off?"
I said, "No, thanks." There was no way I was getting off that boat without finding someone to take us back to Qaqortoq. I had a vision of Captain Keanu and the Danish captain each grabbing one of my legs and trying to pull me off the boat while I dug my nails into the starboard side. At this point, hijacking the boat and ka-chunk-ing it back through the icebergs myself would not have been out of the question. Frank looked worried and mopped his brow.
Visiting coffee plantation tasting rooms on the Big Island of Hawaii is one of our favorite things to do when traveling there. On prior trips to Kona, we stopped at coffee farms and did some coffee tastings of island-grown Kona Coffee, and have been addicted ever since. Last week, Frank attended a conference in Kona, and before he left, my one charge to him was to bring back some coffee. He took that seriously, and this is his tale of finding a special family-owned Kona Coffee farm at Da Kine Coffee Bean. You wouldn't dream of visiting Napa Valley without tasting the wine, so you shouldn't visit Kona without a taste of the rich, wonderful coffee.
I landed on time in Kona, and after getting a grey Chevy Impala and a bite to eat, I headed down Highway 11 to Kona Coffee country. Before I left for Kona, I had tried looking for some places to try coffee online and found a website for Kona Coffee Roasting listing a huge number of coffee farms and plantations on the western slopes of the Big Island. The list was lengthy, and it was hard to pick a place. However, many of the listings boasted about “cupping competitions,” so I started doing Google searches for Kona coffee farms who won these, and stumbled across an old article that mentioned Terry Fitzgerald and his farm Da Kine Coffee Bean. It seems he was one of the Kona pioneers.
In the early 1970s, Fitzgerald took over a coffee farm that had gone wild, and helped cultivate Kona Coffee to be what it is today. This sounded like a piece of Kona Coffee history, so I e-mailed him through the website to ask if I could visit, and was told to “come on up”.
So, between milepost 105 and 104 on Highway 11 in Honaunau, I saw the small yellow sign for Da Kine, and headed up the mountain. 20 minutes and 1 mile later (yes, it’s a really rough road), after wondering if I’d made a wrong turn somewhere, I again saw a little yellow “Da Kine” sign, and parked.
Terry Fitzgerald came out to greet me a very friendly man with a beard in a sarong. His wife, Susan, peeked out and also said a cheerful “Hello”, and wanted to know if I wanted my beans dark or medium. They had some dark, but no medium, and I said I’d try both and so she fired up the roaster. At first I was honored at this special treatment, but they said the way they always do it - the beams are all stored green and roasted to order, even when ordering through the internet. While we were talking, their 7 year old son, Sonny, started poking out from behind the bushes, taking pot shots at me with his Nerf gun.
We traveled up to Redding, California last weekend to pursue one of our favorite family activities: viewing a solar eclipse. This time, we didn't need a fancy cruise ship or a trip to the Sahara Desert or even an airplane to get to the site. We just drove our trusty, dusty Lexus RX300 about four hours north.
An Annular Eclipse is one in which the moon covers most, but not all, of the sun. What's left is known as the "Ring of Fire". You don't get the same twilight effect or the diamond ring of a total eclipse, but it is still a pretty spectacular sight. The moon moves slowly over the sun, leaving only a golden ring shining through. The center line of this particular annular eclipse ran through Oregon, Northern California, Nevada, New Mexico, and the Texas Panhandle. It's a once-in-every-forty-years sight at any given location, so it was worth the drive north to see it in all its glory. The last annular we viewed was in Costa Rica when Alex was 18 months old.
We headed out on our 2012 eclipse adventure on Saturday, May 19, after a rushed packing job that left us without sunscreen, lawn chairs, or hats. As much as we travel, you'd think we wouldn't forget essentials, but it happens to the best of us. We made do with what we had, which included a golf umbrella in the car, and even a grocery bag that Frank fashioned into a hat so his head wouldn't roast. Thankfully, I found an emergency supply of sunscreen in my purse.
We met up with some local friends who are also eclipse buffs the night before for dinner. We weren't quite sure where the best viewing spots would be, so we debated the various spots that were recommended by the local astronomy club as good bets. We decided to play it by ear, waiting to see what the weather would be prior to making a decision.
On Sunday, we woke up to cerulean skies and little cloud cover. The news reported that it would be hot, so we thought that being near water would be a good bet. We spent the morning touring Redding, which is a lovely little town with view of Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta off in the distance, surrounded by lakes made from the hydro-electric dam nearby. The Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River is something of an architectural marvel, with a tall spire swooping above the river like a tall-masted ship flowing in the wind. We walked across the glass-tiled bridge and enjoyed the views of the river and hundreds of tiny birds swooping over and under the bridge.
When planning our December roadtrip, a stop at the Saguaro National Park was an absolute must-see for my husband Frank. Frank loves cacti of all shapes and varieties. He has kept a cactus collection for more than twenty years through moves from California to Texas and back, with only a few casualties along the way. He loves cactus so much that Alex and I teased him throughout the trip by pointing at every wilted, dried out cactus we encountered and saying, "Hey, Dad, look! A cactus! Don't you want to take a picture of it?"
We thought it was hilarious. Frank just rolled his eyes, and endured.
Ever hear of Country Inns & Suites? I hadn't until about a year ago, when they generously offered us a voucher to stay in one of their fine establishments. We were not able to take them up on the offer until our Christmas roadtrip to Austin, and I was pleasantly surprised by the accomodations they offer at reasonable prices. We enjoyed a complimentary overnight stay at the downtown location in Tucson, Arizona, during our long journey through the desert.
Like many of the better highway hotel chains, they offer free Wifi in the rooms, complimentary breakfast, and a pool. What sets Country Inns and Suites apart are the little things, like complimentary cookies and bottled water on arrival, a full hot breakfast (not just microwaved sandwiches and cold cereal, but bacon, eggs, the whole works), and a homey, charming decor. We found the staff to be friendly and efficient, as well as knowledgeable about the area.
On our December roadtrip, we left the Salton Sea Recreation Area and headed east on I-8 through the dusty California border towns toward Tucson. We were hoping to be in Saguaro National Park before sundown. Unfortunately, we arrived too late for the park. I dubbed this our "Too Late Tour," since it seemed like we always arrived at our destinations just after the sunset so we couldn't see anything. Frank said that he planned a perfect itinerary for summer, or anytime the sun stays up a little past 5:00 pm.
Anyway, we arrived in Tucson after dark and couldn't get to the Saguaro National Park on time, so we went straight to the Country Inns & Suites. We were welcomed with freshly baked sugar cookies in the lobby, a homey fireplace, and some bottles of water, which were great after a long, dry drive through the desert. The front desk staff was extremely friendly and answered all of our questions. There were some kids running around the lobby, and the hotel seemed to be extremely family-friendly.
Our room was nicely furnished and large enough for the three of us. The furnishings and decor were nicer and more traditional than some that we encountered later on our trip at similar hotels. It seems that the latest trend in hotel decor is blinding florescent lighting and migraine-inducing neon green bedding with fuschia accents and large black and white photos of doorknobs and exposed pipes in the hallway. I was happy to find the room to be comfortable and not over-done, with more muted colors and soft lighting. During our trip, we used Marriott and Hilton loyalty program points to stay at Fairfield Inn and Hampton Inn in different locations along the way. We liked Country Inns the best for food quality, service, and general ambience, although the three were pretty similar in locations, space, and pricing.