Friday, October 11, 2013

International Dark Sky Park

The Headlands International Dark-Sky Park

I love reading good news about my home state, Michigan. According to, a dark-sky park was completed last year just north of Petoskey in Emmet County.

A dark-sky park is "an International Dark-Sky Park is a location of exceptional nighttime beauty, dark skies education, and preservation of the nighttime environment." as defined by the International Dark-Sky Association.  There are just a handful of these in the world, so I am thrilled that The Headlands International Dark-Sky Park is in beautiful northern Michigan. Besides dark-sky parks, the Dark-Sky Association also designates places as communities and reserves.

 A community is classified as "An International Dark Sky Community excels in its efforts to achieve a community-wide lighting code, promote responsible lighting, dark sky stewardship, and exist as an example to surrounding communities on the possibilities available with the proper lighting." Examples include Flagstaff, Arizona (since 2001) and Isle of Sark, Channel Islands, UK. 

A dark-sky reserve is a "public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment mission of a large peripheral area. 
The International Dark Sky Reserve consists of a core area meeting the minimum criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, and a peripheral area that supports dark sky values in the core and receives benefits from them as well. The International Dark Sky Reserve is formed through a partnership of multiple land owners and/or administrators that have recognized the value of the starry night through regulation and/or formal agreement and/or long term planning." 

The International Dark-Sky Association's website lists a scant 5 places as dark-sky reserves, including Aoraki Mackenzie in New Zealand and NambiRand Nature Reserve in Nambia. Both are gold level examples on their scale of bronze upwards to gold. 

It's too bad I am finding out about this after I have moved over 2000 miles from home. I was not anywhere near Petoskey (at least a 6 hour drive), but now I'm a 6 hour plane ride. If you are like me, you cannot go to Michigan, but check the list. There is an official international dark-sky place at least relatively near you.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summertime and the Living is Easy

Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena, Ibiza, Spain 
Image by: hotel

Summer is waning, but one important fact remains: It is still summer. So, let's not give up on it yet. I spent many of my childhood summers swimming in lakes in Michigan. It has been a while since my last swim, however.  Stumbling upon Architecture Art Design's list of "24 Amazing Pools You Need to Jump in Before You Die" made me think about my old seasonal pastime. Many pools on the list are so stunning, just taking a dip there seems worth the entire trek.

A favorite from the above list would be hard to name, but the pool at Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena in Ibiza, Spain seems to have an amazing view.

Marina Bay Sands Resort, Singapore
Image: Vivek Prakash/Reuters

Another member of the list is the Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore.  (Rated one of the top 10 rooftop pools by The Huffington Post). Just look at that cityscape from the infinity pool.  

I will leave you with a view of the pool at the Sarojin in Thailand and The Hotel Cambria in Switzerland. Just looking at them makes me relax; imagine what a trip there would do. 

Do you have any end of summer travel plans? 

The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand
Image by:
The Cambrian Hotel,  Adelboden, Switzerland
Image by:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Yoshitomo Nara Exhibits

Photo Credit: haley green

Years ago, a small postcard collection at Borders Books grabbed my attention. The title alone "OH! MY GOD! I MISS YOU!"  would have enticed me to buy it, but then I thumbed through the cards, and was won over by the illustrations. They were a collection of at once whimsical and slightly devious characters. They were smile-inducing. I quickly had a new favorite artist.

Over the years, I have run into the errant Yoshitomo Nara piece. Once, while working in Japan, I was in a store that was selling custom-framed Yoshitomo Nara prints. I absolutely had to have one, but I was on vacation, and they were not shipping them, nor selling them online. Alas.

I was cleaning yesterday and found my old postcard book. I had forgotten that he had sculptures in various places (as pictured in his book). Today's destination is seeking out his amazing pieces of art.

We will start with the Aomori Museum of Art. "They commissioned both 'Octagonal Chamber' and 'Aomori Dog' by Yoshimoto. They have many additional works; it is a permanent collection. As he is an Aomori native who went on to become a world-class artist, it makes sense that they would have such a collection." (Justin Velgus, 10-8-12, The Aomori Museum of Art,

Next, let's see the Museum of Modern Ceramic Arts in Gifu, Japan. Unfotunately, we have already lost a bit of time on this one, since they started on May 25. Do not despair. Yoshitomo's sculpture 'White Riot' is still visible until August 25, as part of the special exhibition 'The Magic of Ceramics – Artistic Inspiration.' (The Magic of Ceramics – Artistic Inspiration, n.d.

Stops outside Yoshitomo's home country include the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines, Iowa (home to the sculpture 'White Ghost'), the  Palm Springs Art Museum–where 'Your Dog' resides. Both are permanent collections.  If you would like to catch other international collections stored permanently, "MoMA, New York; CAC Malaga, Spain; and Queensland Art Gallery, Australia are all options. (Yoshitomo's "White Ghost" Coming to Park Avenue," 8-9-10,

I never need an excuse to travel, but if I did, I just got a new reason to go to the above places.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Tobogganing in Switzerland

Image by

I went to a diner in the middle of nowhere last night. A couple from Switzerland was at the next table; they were here in the US, traveling for a couple of months. My parents told them all about their travels in their home country, leaving me envious of the four of them. I told the Swiss couple how much I wanted to venture there. 

After returning home, I looked up some Swiss sites. Being from Michigan, as a kid, I had plenty of opportunities to go sledding. However, I have never done so in the summer. That is one amazing activity I found in Switzerland; summer tobogganing on Mount Pilatus.

What is more astonishing than summer tobogganing is that Mount Pilatus is not the only place to do so. "It is merely the longest run, at 1350 meters" (4429.13 feet). I can just imagine whirring through it, looking at that crisp mountain scenery. "Once you reach the end, an apparatus actually picks you up and lifts you back to the top for more speedy fun. If the quickness is a bit much, it is said that one may adjust the pace," but it does not say how. (Pilatus Luzern, n.d.,

Suspended rope course
Image by
There is a plethora of other activities there, such as hiking, biking and paragliding. There is also tubing down slides and a suspended rope course. Whether you want to take in some scenery, challenge yourself, or go play like a kid, Pilatus is where its at. I am game; are you?  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Atlanterhavsveien (Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway)

Do you ever notice the expression "oppressively hot?" Most days this summer have between 95° -100° (35°C-37.77°C) and up. In such weather, any hyperbole from the aforementioned saying twists into realism.

Excessively hot weather just takes it out of me. I have been dreaming of slightly cooler locales; with a view.  Look at what I discovered:

Photo Credit: Ernst Vikne

Photo Credit: Dave Fergusson

Photo Credit: Ernst Vikne

Photo Credit: Ernst Vikne

Photo Credit: Arno van den Tilaart

Photo Credit: Jørgen Vik
Touted as the "Norwegian construction of the century" and "the world's best road trip," Atlanterhavsveien was slated to be a rail line. Instead, it became an 8.3 kilometer/5.2 mile part of Country Road 64, which stretches across an archipelago in the Norwegian Sea.

If the cinematic views are not enough to entice one, perhaps take a look at the projected weather. It is supposed to be in the 60s and 70s for much of the next two weeks. The mere idea has me relaxing already.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Giethoorn, Netherlands

Image by CrazyPhunk
I have a list of places I want to visit. It's called the globe. While the colorful orbs neatly catalogue my travel list for me, sometimes it is nice to be more specific. I constantly catch wind of a place and I'd like to travel to, but before I know it, I have forgotten its name in passing.

Now I can keep a list of the places I want to see, as I happen upon them. Maybe this is the first step to getting me there.

Giethoon is often referred to as the Venice of Netherlands, due to its lack of roads. One travels by waterways through the most picturesque scenes. I am having trouble finding free images at the moment. I am sharing the ones I found and urge you to do a search for further info.

I look forward to kayaking my way though there one day.

Image by Michel Ehrenhard
Image by Gouwenaar