Maya Mysteries Revealed: Visiting Copan, Honduras

In the dark jungle night, the music of ancient flutes and drums swirled around me, along with pungent odors of fire mixed with forest dampness. Flaming against the black sky, burning eight pound rubber balls rolled down the sloping ball court wall. Muscular ball players wearing brilliant turquoise, green, red and blue quetzal feathered headdresses batted the burning disks with the Maya equivalent of hockey sticks, just as they had over 2000 years ago. I sat among the hundreds privileged to be experiencing a precise reenactment of important rituals of the greatest empire of the ancient Meso-American world: the Corn Dance, Pok Ta Pok Ballgame, and Fire Dance.

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Honduran Bay Islands’ Undiscovered Paradise

I was a bit apprehensive as the well-built young man lifted me up and hooked my harness to the cable. He smiled, warning me not to crash. Then he let me go and all at once I was whizzing through the jungle tree tops at Gumba Limba Park on Roatan, Honduras, alone with bird songs, and the cable’s whine. Even though, following my canopy tour, a discourteous monkey stole my water bottle out of my pack, I enjoyed this new adventure.

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Documentary Film on Colette and re-release of “Gigi”

Interview about author. 2008 DVD release.

Afghanistan: The Friendliest Country

The cover on an Afghan tourism brochure from the 1970’s that I found in a bookstore in Kabul states: Afghanistan, The Friendliest Country. Believe it or not, that’s what I’ve found during my visits there and with the continuing friendships I have made with Afghan people…

…Even though I travel extensively, I was never in a war zone before. There were a few things to get used to. As we left the Kabul Airport, my driver said, “Don’t worry that there is no seat belt,” as he saw me searching along the side of the seat. “I drive slowly.” With that, he floored it, and we raced up the wrong side of the divided street against the oncoming traffic. There are no traffic rules or stop lights in Afghanistan. Traffic when it moves, like spilled milk, goes anywhere there is a space. My driver Nabil’s technique suits the general sense of lawlessness in the air.

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In Colette’s Boudoir: At Home in a French Chateau

Article and images available about various Relais Chateaux luxury hotels.

“Love: the food of my life, and of my pen.” “Colette

On my way back to Paris after visiting friends in the Dordogne, someone mentioned to me that I’d be passing by Castel-Novel, the thirteenth-century castle where French writer Colette had lived with her second husband, the Baron Henri de Jouvenel des Ursins. Just east of Perigueux, near the town of Brive, I turned off the main highway, hoping to spend the night at Colette’s chateau.

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Diving Deep and Letting Go in Egypt

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed in seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,”  T.S. Eliot

It was shark breeding season. On my first dive in the Red Sea off of the Sinai Peninsula near Sharm el Sheik, we watched fifteen 10-foot black-tip male sharks circle one black-tip female. She seemed to ignore them and go about her business, which appeared to be the shark equivalent of running errands–poking in and out of crevices. Being a single female from San Francisco, I was amazed at the sight of fifteen males devoting their total attention to one female.

I was giving myself this Christmas/winter solstice gift of two weeks’ rest and diving aboard the Lady Jenny IV, an English owned and operated dive boat. It was part of a month-long trip to Egypt, a break from an unusually icy winter in Paris where I was living the ex-patriot American life and teaching.

Relaxing on the deck between dives, I was lulled by the Sinai, the islands of the Red Sea, the sea itself. Most predominant was the simplicity of the colors. In the near and far distance was the land–barren, gradations of camel tan from the palest off-white cream to a darker caramel-colored cafe-au-lait. Yet this same land seen from a distance becomes layered with grey-blue haze. All resembles the straight and curved lines of Arabic script. One saying goes that Arabic is so difficult to interpret that out of three people, one will say its meaning is one thing, another person interprets the same serpentine scrawl differently, and a third will say it is only the picture of the humps on a camel’s back. ………

Dancing on the Wine Dark Sea

dlb_036_440x600.jpgBATW Best Bronze, Essay in an anthology

My darling Aphrodite, I love you. Will you marry me? The handsome Greek restaurant owner on Santorini pleaded with my eighty-year-old mother as they line-danced to bouzouki music in a late-night bacchanal on a terrace overlooking the Aegean. My mother loved dancing, charming men, and living in general. After being widowed for the second time in her late seventies, she kicked up her heels and, in many ways, relished life to its fullest. During those years we traveled together frequently and had our own high-spirited odyssey around Greece.Dancing on the Wine Dark Sea

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Why I Don’t Stay Home

Straight out of graduate school, in my twenties I married a European and lived, taught, and traveled throughout Europe for several years. My love of traveling outlasted my marriage. I was hooked. However, meeting someone to do this adventuring with was difficult. Just finding someone with whom to go to my choice of movie who likes to sit as close up to the screen as myopic me does is hard enough. Finding a travel buddy compatible in time, money, wanderlust, choices of destination, and personality is one of life’s greater challenges.

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Seabiscuit’s California home

Ridgewood Ranch
By Diane LeBow

California_Home05.jpgIf you missed Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit: An American Legend and the movie based on the book, you can still visit the final home of the racehorse who stood for hope to Americans during the Great Depression. Seabiscuit lived with his owner, Charles Howard, on Ridgewood Ranch near Willits, Calif., from 1940 until 1947.

“It was here that Seabiscuit trained during 1939 for his last hurrah the following year,” says Tracy Livingston, president of the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation, which along with the Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule Association cares for the 5,000-acre ranch. Tours (private or group) take visitors inside the stud barn, where the knobby-kneed champion munched hay, and to the groom’s room, where old Glenn Miller tunes play on a vintage radio. In the dining hall of the restored arts-and-crafts home you can see period jockey silks, a racing saddle, 150 photographs, and a 1940 portrait of Seabiscuit. His unmarked grave lies outside amid old oaks. Information: (707) 459-5992, www.seabiscuitheritage.org.
Photography by Catharine Martin

©Diane LeBow

Published in Via (AAA) Magazine March 2005

This article was first published in March 2005. Some facts
may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

Sophocles Slept Here

I had long been fascinated by Khadafi and his band of female security guards. When I learned that our government was easing restrictions on American citizens visiting Libya, I quickly made arrangements to go. Intrigued by Greek and Roman history and culture, when I heard that Libya had such pristine Greek and Roman archaeological remains, I almost flew over to Tripoli on my own adrenaline.

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