Daddy's Christmas Angel

Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Z" Is For Zorachs, Unforgettable Artists from Maine

It's hard to believe that an entire month has passed, and the A to Z Blog Challenge is at the final letter "Z" which at first seemed difficult for the Passenger to Paradise. But it wasn't difficult after all because I remembered the famous American Modernists, Marguerite and William Zorach, and their home on Georgetown Island in Maine.

When our daughter attended a summer program for gifted young writers, she met and became friends with one of the Zorach great-grandchildren. We later took her to Maine to visit her new friend and had the unique opportunity to see where Marguerite painted and where William created his pieces of sculpture. Original art was on view all over the grounds and in the home of their son and daughter-in-law, Tessim and  Peggy Zorach. We got to see the wall murals, created by Marguerite, as well.

As an artist, I especially appreciated the opportunity to see original works by artists I had studied in college. Over the years after that, I corresponded with Peggy and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her. Seeing the Zorach art gave me a new appreciation for Maine and for the contributions of the Zorach family there.

Thanks to all of you who made the A to Z Blog Challenge possible. Although I was able to visit only a few blogs each day, I plan to keep the list and continue my visits. Thanks to all of my new blog followers. I was delighted to almost double the number and cross over the 100 followers milestone.

Friday, April 29, 2011

"Y" Is For Yellowstone

"Falls" MM Sikes
A two-week stay in Yellowstone National Park may be the highlight of travels for the Passenger to Paradise. Four years ago, one of our daughters planned a special family trip to Yellowstone, and it was unforgettable. We discovered a photo op in every direction no matter where we were in the park.

Along the way we found that buffalo actually roam free and block the roadways as everyone stops, gets out of their vehicles, and takes pictures of the big lumbering animals. We learned that might not be a good idea because of the danger of being trampled or gored by one of the wild creatures.

Old Faithful MM Sikes
We spent part of our time at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, a beautiful and delightful place with its own resident artist displaying work painted on site. We also stayed at the Old Faithful Inn with a view from our window of Old Faithful geyser which actually erupts every 90 minutes or so.

Among the highlights of our trip were the cowboy trail ride with a BBQ dinner that featured unlimited steaks. We enjoyed the Yellowstone Grand Canyon and Mammouth Hot Springs.

"A Mudpot" MM Sikes
Touring the amazing mudpots was yet another unforgettable experience.

I would love to return to Yellowstone, but for now I'll just enjoy looking at some of the many photographs I took on this fantastic journey.

"Y" has to be for Yellowstone.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"X" Is For the Temple of Xtoloc at Chichen Itza

"Pathway to the Ruins" MM Sikes
For the past few weeks, as the Passenger to Paradise, I've been researching the Maya ruins in Central America. During that investigation, I came across the Temple of Xtoloc. The remains of this small temple are located on the edge of the famous cenote at Chichen Itza known an the Well of Sacrifice.

According to my research, this cenote is quite large, covering a surface of about one acre. The well was used for perhaps as long a period as 500 years and contained not only treasures but also the skeletons of people of many different ages, including children, who were sacrificed in rituals. This information came from A Guide to Ancient Maya Ruins by C. Bruce Hunter which shows a photograph of the well with the temple in the background. From the Internet, I found a description saying that there are actually two cenotes at Chichen Itza and that the one the temple is on is not the sacrificial one but may have served as the source of fresh water supply for the people.

Chichen Itza is a Maya ruins site we visited a few years ago. The well was one of the locations on our tour. I later created a large series of paintings from photographs taken of the many excavated buildings. The painting on the right is one of the series. I made a very large painting of the Well of Sacrifice but not of the Temple of Xtoloc.

Jungle Jeopardy, my WIP set in the jungles of Central America, includes exploration of some of the Maya ruins. Copan in Honduras, where many of the most intriguing ruins are found, may have been settled as long ago as 2000 BC. Stela B, a large stone carving found at Copan, contains images some people believe are elephants. Sad we know so little of the true history of this part of our world.

Have you visited any of the Maya ruins? If so, what was your reaction?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"W" Is For Williamsburg, Virginia - Land That I Love

"Williamsburg Inn" painting by MMSikes
Williamsburg, Virginia is the community of my heart. For many years, it has been a central location in my life. As an art student at the College of William and Mary, I commuted to the school at least three times a week, studying painting, sculpture, printmaking, and ceramics. I've exhibited art in exhibitions and in galleries in Williamsburg. As a correspondent for the Newport News Daily Press, I covered Williamsburg and wrote feature articles for several years. Now I play tennis there three times a week.

"The Historic Area--stretching from the College of William and Mary at one end of Duke of Gloucester Street to the Capitol building at the other--attracts droves of admiring visitors from all over the world. Nearby, at the edge of the restored area, the Williamsburg Inn offers gracious accommodations, graceful decor, and delightful gourmet dining."

That's what I wrote as part of my entry in Hotels to Remember featuring the historic inn. My painting on the left is actually of the back of the inn as seen from the golf course. I love this side of the inn because it seems more like old Williamsburg to me.

We are fortunate that in 1926, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. decided to support the project to restore the historic area to eighteenth-century glory. Now every year thousands of people flock to the community to tour the colonial buildings and absorb the history. Those who retire here often serve as guides for the tours or become interpreters.

As the Passenger to Paradise, I cannot think of a better destination for travelers. Have you ever visited Williamsburg? If not, it's a worthy place to add to your travel list.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"V" Is For Vienna, Austria

Right before my senior year in college, I spent a summer working on building a kindergarten for a church in Linz, Austria. During that summer we took a side trip to the city of Vienna (Wien). As soon as I saw the ornate building facades, the church spires, and the art I felt at home. The streets seemed familiar to me as well. This was my first experience with deja vu.

Years later, when I returned to Vienna, I had a similar sense of great familiarity with the old city that I was visiting with two of my daughters. While one of them flew an airplane between Vienna and Istanbul, Turkey and the other recovered from a cold, I explored the streets alone. Although I was by myself, I felt comfortable and secure. From that experience, my interest in reincarnation grew, and I eventually used that interest as I developed the plot of Hearts Across Forever.

For me, "V" must be for Vienna, Austria. Perhaps the spark of the wanderlust for the Passenger to Paradise was born there.

What do you think about deja vu? Ever had any experiences with it?

Monday, April 25, 2011

"U" Is For Union Station St. Louis

St. Louis Union Station MM Sikes painting
As the Passenger to Paradise, I enjoy viewing the beautiful St. Louis Union Station among the photographs shown prior to the Cardinals' baseball games on satellite television. This picturesque structure that first opened in 1894 is also the subject of one of my paintings included in Hotels to Remember. Of course, it was my choice for "U" in the final week of A to Z blog challenge.

As I was completing my coffee table book, I was amazed to discover a complex with a similar appearance in the south of France. We were visiting the medieval walled city of Carcassonne and were fascinated by the relationship in design between it and the architecture of Union Station. On our return home I learned that Carcassonne, a fortified town that has stood in some form for 20 centuries, was indeed the basis for the Union Station design. At that point, I decided to use two of my Carcassonne photographs in my book.

Because Hotels to Remember is a "snapshot in time," it is not surprising that when my book was published the hotel that occupied Union Station was a Hyatt Regency. Today that hotel is a Marriott.

Change is certain. Nothing else is. We only have snapshots in time!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"T" Is For Thomas Jefferson, A Hero in Virginia and America

Jefferson statue, Jefferson Hotel - MMSikes
In considering my post for the letter "T", I thought of a lot of possibilities. As the Passenger to Paradise, I've gotten quite involved with "T" words researching the Maya Ruins at Tulum and Tikal for my WIP set in the jungles of Central America. But I kept coming back to the man who meant so much to both Virginia and American history.

Thomas Jefferson attended one of my alma maters, the College of William and Mary. He was the founder of the University of Virginia, and he designed and built historic Monticello.  He drafted the Declaration of Independence, served as the nation's third president--the list goes on and on. One of the most interesting facts in Jefferson's life was the date of his death, July 4, 1826. Jefferson and John Adams, second president of the United States, both died on that date. Both were deeply involved in creation of the Declaration of Independence and were signers. They died on the nation's 50th birthday. How ironic!

Friday, April 22, 2011

"S" Is For Sedona

"Stormy Rocks" MM Sikes
The Passenger to Paradise has found that exotic destinations inspire the creative spirit. As a child I dreamed of travel to far away places, and I read everything I could find with picturesque settings. As an adult I still crave the discovery of magic destinations and am delighted when I find the unforgettable like the amazing Red Rock Country of Sedona, Arizona.

In the early 1990s we made our first trip to Sedona. It was amazing to drive through the awesome scenery I had viewed only in movies as a child. With my 35 mm Minolta dangling from my neck, I trudged over dusty trails searching for medicine wheels along the way. Then, I viewed with reverence those that I found, and I watched, entranced, as a few fellow wanderers chanted softly into the quiet calm of vortex sites.

The rock formations such as Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Rock and other fascinating views rose high against a clear blue sky, and we took amazing photographs that I used later to create paintings. Just being in the midst of the vortexes and on the sacred land was a spiritual experience. Although we did not see the flying saucers others have claimed to view over Bell Rock, the sight of that magic formation did inspire a fantasy print I created of saucer images above a rocky landscape. It also inspired my novel, Eagle Rising.

In addition to the "S" for Sedona, I have to claim also the "S" for my novel, Secrets by the Sea. Characters in that book have been revived and are part the book I'm now writing--Jungle Jeopardy. It's fun to be caught up in all sorts of discoveries related to the ancient Maya as I travel with my characters through the jungles of Central America.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"R" Is For Rose Hall Great House

"Rose Hall" pastel by MM Sikes
"An odd misty haze hung over the porch, obscuring some of it from her view. The filmy fog held particles of smoke-like dust that glittered in the diminished light. Stranger yet, the sun had shifted in the sky to signal the onset of early evening twilight.

"The large porch exuded elegant splendor, as the fog around it dissipated. Lavish floral arrangements proclaimed opulence and wealth, and lighted candles in the center of each table projected wispy shadows all around..."

This is from my novel, Hearts Across Forever, when Kathryn visits Rose Hall Great House and suddenly finds herself shifting in time and viewing a scene from another lifetime in Jamaica.

When I first saw Rose Hall Great House, I was captivated by the charm of the beautiful old mansion and I was intrigued by the tale of the "white witch" who murdered her husbands and intimidated all those around her. I had to connect that story in a book. Thus Hearts Across Forever was born.

If you go to Jamaica, don't miss a side trip to Rose Hall Great House. You won't soon forget your visit. Thank you A to Z blog for bringing back my memories.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Q" Is For Quebec

"Chateau Frontenac" MM Sikes
Several years ago, we spent a marvelous vacation in Quebec. Everything about that trip was different and memorable. Because the Passenger to Paradise is intrigued by old hotels, we had to make a side trip to the Chateau Frontenac, a hotel I'd heard about over the years.

According to history the location of  Chateau Frontenac was discovered long before the 1892 first construction of the hotel that now stands high on a hill overlooking the city of Quebec. Samuel de Champlain built the first Fort of Quebec on the site in 1620 and so began a long and storied history of what has become a beautiful luxury hotel.

Another famous landmark, the Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupre lies 19 miles from Quebec City. The first church was built on this site in 1658. Although I am not Catholic, I was especially drawn to this cathedral that attracts a million and a half or more visitors and pilgrims each year. In fact, an angel prosperity metal, a souvenir of that trip, sits at the base of my computer screen to inspire me.

Inspirational trips, unforgettable journeys--what trips do you remember most? If another Hotels to Remember book ever comes about, Chateau Frontenac and the related side trips will be a part of it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"P" Is For Paris

As the Passenger to Paradise, I have to have a little of the bohemian artist in me. That's why I love Paris. The last time we visited the city, we took a bus in from the airport and got off at the Opera stop. From there we pulled our roller bags (Passenger to Paradise style) for several blocks along the streets to Hotel Opera Cadet. This is a lovely little hotel located a short distance below Montmartre, a destination filled with art lore and history.

The art museums and galleries may be what I love most about the city. Sadly because of a strike La Louvre was closed most of the time we were in Paris. But the art galleries were open, and it was wonderful to visit them. We also enjoyed strolling along the River Seine and using the train system which became another problem later due to the strike.

Paris is truly the "City of Light." I look forward to another visit and the inspiration it will bring.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"O" Is For Oahu

Moana Surfrider MM Sikes
As the Passenger to Paradise, it is difficult for me to leave the Hawaiian Islands, so "O" must stand for Oahu as a fabulous destination in my journey through the alphabet. When we first arrived in Honolulu on Oahu, I was terribly disappointed because where we were booked to stay for a week overlooked the top of a Jack-in-the-Box. Although I have nothing against this fast food chain, it was certainly not the image I had for Hawaii. However, after contacting RCI they were able to relocate us on the top floor of a high rise with a view of the ocean.

Because the famous Waikiki Beach was overloaded with tourists, I was again disappointed. However, the Moana Surfrider, built in 1901, and the Royal Hawaiian, constructed in 1927, and both located on Wakiki made the trip to Oahu worthwhile. We spent several days in the Royal Hawaiian, affectionately called the "Pink Lady".  I created paintings of both the Moana Surfrider and the Pink Lady and plan to include them in More Hotels to Remember which has not yet been published and would be a coffee table book with hotels I wanted to have in Hotels to Remember but did not have room.

"Pink Lady" MM Sikes
The Polynesian Cultural Center provided an outstanding side trip for us, and on another visit to Oahu we went out to see the USS Arizona Memorial on December 7. Oahu is a great beginning point for a visit to the Hawaiian Islands. Thank you A to Z Blog Challenge for the chance to remember.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"N" Is For Night Watch Set in Trinidad

"Pounding Waters" MMSikes
As the Passenger to Paradise, I discovered Trinidad and Tobago a couple of decades ago. Trinidad, an exotic island with ancient caves that once served as hiding places for Caribbean pirates, became the setting for my last book, Night Watch. There was so much to remember about my journey to Trinidad that I had to use our adventures in my writing somehow.

Our arrival in Trinidad was unlike anything I'd experienced before. We were met by two unlikely resort escorts who took us in an old car down a dark, remote road all the while using walkie-talkies to communicate with their base on an off-shore island. The two of us then traveled in a small leaky row-boat equipped with an engine and a flash light over rough ocean waters to reach the island resort.

Much of what happened is woven into the plot of Night Watch which is available in paperback, Kindle e-book, and Nook Book from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It was truly an exciting time, but we've never gone back to Trinidad. I wonder what it's like now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"M" Is For Maui

"Hawaii" - MM Sikes
You must know by now how much the Passenger to Paradise adores the Hawaiian islands, so "M" has to stand for Maui. And the most memorable adventure for me on that spectacular island was the journey on the Road to Hana.

We took the long scenic drive from Kapalua to Hana without suspecting until we were well along the way how dangerous this little trail actually was. When we began to see white crosses, it was already too late to turn back. I'm not sure that was even possible because the road was so narrow we wondered how any car traveling from the other direction would be able to pass us.

From seascapes to waterfalls to volcanic ash, Maui has it all. We enjoyed the visit to Hana but decided to return a different way and visit the volcano.

Lahaina, full of upscale art galleries, was a special treat for me. And for golf fans, there are 14 courses from which to choose.

What's your favorite Hawaiian island? Do you want to go back? The Passenger to Paradise longs to return and see more of the islands.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"L" Is For Los Cabos

"Los Cabos" Photo by MM Sikes
As the Passenger to Paradise, I have discovered some of the most amazing scenery in the world. However, none of it surpasses the beauty I found while visiting Los Cabos on the Pacific coast of Mexico. After taking this photograph, I was surprised to also discover the angelic formation in the sky which only added to the magic of our adventure.

"By the Beach" MM Sikes
The beaches at Los Cabos have the whitest and, when we were there, hottest sands of any place I've visited. Still, wearing tennis shoes or sandals, walks along the beaches are glorious and unforgettable. And who would ever forget the glowing blossoms coloring the edge of this Pacific coast beach?

So for the A to Z Challege, "L" is for Los Cabos. It is the only destination choice the Passenger to Paradise considered making.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"K" Is For Kauai

"Bali Hai" MM Sikes
"K" is for Kauai, the favorite Hawaiian Island for the Passenger to Paradise. Of course, it's my duty to love to travel. The first time I saw Kauai, my experience was magical. From the Princeville Hotel with its impressive golf course, I saw the glorious mountain formation known as Bali Hai that was made famous in the musical production South Pacific.

Kauai is truly a fantasy place. Not only does it have its own Grand Canyon, but the Na Pali  can only be reached by boat. There are some trails, and we started up one but found it pretty rugged. It was shocking to discover a Grand Canyon almost as awe-inspiring as the one in Arizona.

If you want photo ops in every direction, make your destination Kauai.Thanks A to Z Blog Challenge for a chance to showcase the destinations I love as the Passenger to Paradise.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"J" Is For Jupiter

Albert Pujols bats in Jupiter
"J" is for Jupiter, not the planet but the beautiful little community in Florida that comes alive each spring when two big league teams descend on the town to begin practice for the coming baseball season. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins are the teams that share Roger Dean Stadium.

For baseball fans, this should be the most exciting time of year. So much hope lies with the teams. The potential is there among enthusiastic players who may or may not make the final cut. Fans are close to the players. They can talk, get autographs, and take hundreds of photos as they wander from one practice field to another.

The Passenger to Paradise looks forward to her journey to Jupiter each spring to see the St. Louis Cardinals. There's no time better than spring training when hope reigns supreme!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Meet Marilyn Meredith, Guest Blogger and Author of Angel Lost

 Today, Marilyn Meredith is my guest on Notes Along the Way. Since meeting Marilyn as a fellow author at Oak Tree Press, I have been impressed with her knowledge of the publishing industry and also by her willingness to help other authors. Despite her busy family life, writing several new books every year, keeping up her Web site and blogging, she always has time to plan conferences and answer questions. Marilyn even  attends several conferences each year where she is a speaker and/or panel member. I am delighted to know this amazing woman and to have her as my guest to tell about her latest book, Angel Lost.

Where the Angel Inspiration Came From for Angel Lost

That was the question Monti asked me to address for my visit here to her blog. She probably wonders what place an angel has in a crime novel.

One night while I was driving home from my writers’ critique group, I spotted a large
crowd gathered around a store that I knew sold floor coverings. It was dark out, yet, people jostled for a space around the plate glass window. Some of the folks held up cell phones and cameras taking pictures. Two police cars with their emergency lights on were parked in the middle of the street and the officer leaned against their cars. Vehicles filled the adjacent lot, and more were turning in.

I couldn’t tell what was going on and didn’t find out until I read the morning paper. An angel had made an appearance in the store’s window. People came to view the angel every night and the crowds grew bigger and bigger. No, I never got to see the angel myself. Ultimately, it turned out to be a reflection from the street lights on the window—or so that was the decision. Maybe it was, but maybe it was a miracle put there to make people draw closer to God. Certainly the people who actually saw the angel felt that there was a spiritual reason behind the angel’s appearance.

I knew that I would one day use a similar manifestation of an angel in a book—and of course that’s what happens in Angel Lost. There is a double meaning for the title, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is.

Frankly, I think we tend to brush off these miraculous sightings instead of embracing them as a gift from God.

F. M. Meredith, author of Angel Lost, who is also known as Marilyn.

Bio: F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of nearly thirty published novels. Her latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, from Oak Tree Press, is Angel Lost. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter , Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit  her at and her blog at  

Here a Blurb about Angel Lost - As plans for her perfect wedding fill her mind, Officer Stacey Wilbur is sent out to trap a flasher, the new hire realizes Rocky Bluff P.D. is not the answer to his problems, Abel Navarro’s can’t concentrate on the job because of worry about his mother, Officer Gordon Butler has his usual upsets, the sudden appearance of an angel in the window of a furniture store captures everyone’s imagination and causes problems for RBPD, and then the worst possible happens—will Stacey and Doug’s wedding take place?

Thanks for visiting, Marilyn!

My A to Z Blog Challenge post for "I" follows:

"I" is for islands especially the tropical islands of the Caribbean which have fascinated the Passenger to Paradise since my first visit to Jamaica in 1980. The light, the sweet fragrances of sand, sea, and flowers all intrigued me. Visits followed to St. Thomas, St. Johns, St. Croix, St. Martin, Antigua, St. Barts, Anguilla, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Trinidad, Curacao, the Bahamas, Hawaiian Islands, Key West, and many other beautiful tropical islands. We have never been on a cruise, so all of our visits have been stays on the islands. 

Not only have I written about these fantastic destinations in travel articles and books, but I have painted them as well. During our travels, a camera has never been far away. I have thousands of 35mm color slides stored in my art studio which I've used as resort materials for hundreds of drawings and paintings. Sadly 35mm slides are a thing of the past, but I love the convenience and quickness of my digital camera.

Do you love the islands as well? Do you have your own special island or retreat?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"H" is for Huatulco, Exotic on Mexico's West Coast

For the Passenger to Paradise, Hualtulco became a dream destination. It's been more than 20 years since I visited this resort location, but vivid memories remain etched in my mind. The light was clear and crisp. From our bed we could view the dark starry night sky and watch star formations I'd never before seen.

Huatulco is actually a scenic nine-bay area located well below Acapulco on the Pacific coast of Mexico. We spent a week there at a Club Med that later closed. Some of our most memorable experiences came from side trips taken by air and by bus. A two-hour bus trip took us to the quaint fishing village of Puerto Escondido which was wonderful for shopping and local color. The more important side trip was to the Mayan ruins at Palenque which was reached by flight on a six-passenger Cessna 414.

What travels have left the most vivid memories for you? What places would you like to revisit? I'm happy the A to Z Blog Challenge has given me the chance to recall so many travel memories!

Friday, April 8, 2011

"G" Is for Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe is a Caribbean island with which I have a love/hate relationship.The Passenger to Paradise has spent two long vacations on this scenic destination and has a lot to write about both these trips. One of the most memorable events occurred when a thief entered our resort bedroom in the middle of the night and made off with all our valuables including our passports. Imagine being in a French-speaking country without your passports and with no money.

Another traumatic experience there occurred when my husband blew out his knee playing tennis. After that, he spent almost all of our two-week vacation hobbling around on crutches.

Although the scenery is lovely, like that of the others islands we've visited, I don't plan to make another trip to Guadeloupe. After all something even more traumatic might happen the next time around.

Have you had a vacation trip you'd rather forget?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"F" - La Fonda - Another Old Hotel

Along the lines of famous and fabulous old hotels, La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico is a memorable choice. For me, Santa Fe is a special place to visit. I went there to see the art in the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and I found the La Fonda as well.

In 1610, the year Santa Fe was founded, an inn (fonda) was already located there. A fonda has been on that site near the Plaza ever since. The current La Fonda was built in 1923 on the original site and in 1926, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad which had acquired the property leased it to the famous Fred Harvey Company. It became a prized location for the "Harvey Girls" until 1969. The hotel is worth a visit if only to see some of the art housed there.

The historic old hotel and my original painting of it became part of my Hotels to Remember coffee table book. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum not far away is also worth a visit. La Fonda was destined to be part of the A to Z Blogfest!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"E" -- The El Tovar, On the Edge of Wonder

Years ago, my husband and I took a cross-country trip from Virginia to California, and one of the stops along the way was the Grand Canyon where we stayed at the El Tovar. More trips followed for the Passenger to Paradise who never stopped being amazed by this rustic old hotel that opened in 1905 and sits right on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Sunsets viewed from the dining room of the El Tovar are dramatic and unforgettable.

I have visited the Grand Canyon and the El Tovar other times over the years and have taken many photographs, some of which I used to create working drawings for large acrylic paintings. The El Tovar became one of the 20 hotels in my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember.

A few years ago, a newspaper that carried an article I wrote about the El Tovar used the headline--"On the Edge of Wonder." I loved that headline which is so appropriate for this unique destination. Everyone should visit the Canyon one time and walk through the hotel to the dining room where magnificent windows reveal an unforgettable light display across multiple canyon facades..

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"D" - Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica

"Budding Falls"  MM Sikes

Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica is another destination that the Passenger to Paradise loves. The first time we visited Jamaica, we took a side trip to the falls. I took dozens of photographs from the walkway and steps that border it. Then I developed a series of paintings from the photographs. I also wrote several travel articles later published in newspapers and magazines. Two of the paintings are 4 by 6 feet. One of those was purchased by the Marriott Hotel in Richmond; the other hangs in our bedroom. "Budding Falls" is smaller, about 42 by 54 inches, and from the same painting series.

We have visited the falls on subsequent trips to Jamaica and have been disappointed to see the commercialization growing all around. This is a unforgettable place of amazing natural beauty. It is a destination worthy of more than one visit.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"C" - Cozumel, the island of the Swallows

Cozumel (Mayan for island of the Swallows) is a favorite destination for the Passenger to Paradise and provides interesting and wonderful memories of crystal clear waters and a time of adventure. On our first trip there we visited Mayan ruins on the island and took a small plane to Chichen Itza to tour those Mayan ruins. I took lots of photographs at that site and later created a series of large acrylic paintings based on our visit there.

One of my most vivid memories from the trip came soon after we boarded the airplane in Cancun to fly over to Cozumel. Although people was still standing in the aisle and there were not enough seats for everyone, the airplane started to taxi for take-off. That was when I realized that safety is not important everywhere, especially in Mexico.

I have long had a fascination with silver jewelry created by Mexican jewelrymakers. During our week on the island, I found a cute little shop and purchased several silver bracelets and a necklace for gifts and souvenirs.

Cozumel is a destination the Passenger to Paradise would like to visit again.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

"B" - Butterfly Conservatory in Key West

Beware of hitchhikers
As the Passenger to Paradise, I travel whenever possible to gather ideas for my books. One of my favorite trips was one last summer to the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West, Florida.

I know there are lots of butterfly conservatories around. On many occasions I've passed signs for one in St. Martin, but this is the first one I've actually visited.

Not only did I get some wonderful photo ops  for the beautiful and colorful butterflies, but the conservatory was filled with exotic birds and amazing tropical flora as well. Near the end of the day, most of the visitors left, and I enjoyed the opportunity to sit on a butterfly metal bench and meditate with the sounds of falling water in spectacular tropical surroundings.

So my travel "B" is for the Key West Butterfly Conservatory. Wonder what "C" will be?

Friday, April 1, 2011

"A" What Do You Remember from Your High School Days?

The Blog Challenge got me to thinking about posts to go with the letters. No one could be more surprised than I was when the first thought I got for the letter "A" was the title of a play I was in years ago when I was a sophomore in high school. The play was Now That April's Here. Although I don't recall any lines from the play, the significant point for me was that I had the role of Mrs. Harris and my husband (now) had the role of Mr. Harris.

Even then I enjoyed the excitement of drama and the thrill of opening night. Now that excitement has been replaced by the unforgettable experience of the release of a new book.

What unique or special memory do you have from your high school days?

As the "Passenger to Paradise" for the remainder of the A to Z Blog Challenge posts I plan to select travel destinations I've visited and loved or places I've dreamed of visiting. My blogs will tell you where and why.