breathtakebyways


About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.


Baskets of Yore

On a transatlantic cruise, an unusual crafter caught my interest.  Ann Shaffer had taken up thread basketry to keep her hands busy while traveling. Ordinarily she uses stiffer materials to make Nantucket baskets. My ears pricked at the promise salty heritage, and Nantucket baskets didn’t disappoint. As Ann wove, she told of the men who operated light ships—brightly lit ships that anchored on dangerous shoals to keep passing vessels clear. They passed the time by weaving baskets, a skill settlers had learned from Native Americans.     Over time, the lightship men developed a specific style, using a form—a salvaged […]


Knots…Who’d Have Thought?

I pounced on an early arrival to my Culture of the Sea presentation, hoping to recruit people to join me in crafting souvenir knots later that day. Jan Hanley, it turned out, was once a knot-tist extraordinaire. As a full-time mom, she’d supplemented her family’s income by sculpting massive knot artworks for display in shows and as book illustrations. Huh? How many strapped mothers even consider knot tying as a possible money-maker? Jan seems to specialize in inspired paths less trodden, and I cannot wait to read her latest travel book: “Today We Bought a Cow.” Such a privilege to […]


What’s to be Grateful For?

For over 10 years I’ve been pushing, pulling, pleading, and praying to get a gig lecturing on cruise ships. With a whole lot of help from some priceless folks, THE day finally arrived. Except, thanks to an ice storm/flight delay, I missed the boat. I stood at the Denver airport customer service desk and watched my dream go Titanic. I couldn’t rebook a ticket to the next port without approval from the cruise line. I couldn’t hold up the crazy-long line while I tried to contact my agent, and she tried to contact her contact. I couldn’t even get my […]


Treasure Trees

Tenerife Island, one of Spain’s Canaries, gets almost no rain. Though the Canaries lie along the African Sahara coast, Tenerife enjoys wondrous pine forests and a generous underground reservoir. That’s because wind and water currents bring dense clouds, and the pine trees help themselves. Their needles are so adept at sucking in moisture, excess water drizzles out through their roots—enough to support cities, crop lands, even passing cruise ships. These pine trees are also exceptional in that their wood is dark and strong. Fortunately, Tenerife is blessed with exceptional wisdom as well as trees. The first agenda item for so […]


Dogs, Canaries, Islands, and Confusion

No, the Canary Islands were not named for canaries. Canaries were named for the islands. That seems to be certain. Many claim that Europeans visiting the islands were surprised to see large dogs on Gran Canary so named it “big dog island” in Latin. Others say the name came from a tribe of people with a similar name or maybe a tribe that worshiped dogs. Whatever.  A Canary Island dog surprised me as well, though it wasn’t particularly big.  I just never saw one that looked quite like that.


Thanks Mom, but…

Mother Nature outdoes herself on so many of the trails we walk: trees, flowers, rock formations, waterfalls, stunning skies, sometimes even snacks. Her gifts warm my heart, but much as they tempt, I generally pass them by. I hope she and her other guests aren’t offended that I’m more comfortable sharing from a distance.


How Safe is Egypt?

I gulped at Mom’s suggested trip to Egypt.  The Middle East?  But many reputable companies were offering tours.  Also, the U.S. travel advisory site noted just a couple areas to avoid, which naturally weren’t on the tours.  Obviously, Egypt and the tour companies are highly motivated to protect us golden geese.  They’d be crazy to encourage visitors if they didn’t believe they could keep us safe.  And who would know better than they whether the situation was safe? “Safe” being a relative term, of course. So how safe was Egypt?  I was surprised at how welcoming the people were.  people […]


Tipping Egyptian Style

The tour company promised to take care of tips for every service they arranged other than the main tour guide.  That sounded wonderful.  No stress over who to tip how much.  …If only. Almost every restroom we used featured someone handing out toilet paper at the door.  The five pounds they expected in return was next-to-nothing, but a pain to keep handy.  Qualms crept in as well.  Shouldn’t the attendant who put herself out to be pleasant and keep the room nice, get more?   (Note:  Even when the five pounds was considered a charge rather than a tip, these generous souls allowed relief to folks lacking fives.) “It’s a tipping culture,” […]


Venturing the Souq

  I was amazed to find that the in-your-face vendors of the Egyptian souq calmed down and become hospitable when I stopped and told them what I wanted.  “Sit down.  Would you like something to drink?  Coke, tea, anything you like.” The first shop tender didn’t have a necklace Mom wanted, so he took us across the street to his brother.  The brother sat us down and brought choice after choice, much  appreciated since our tour’s pace was taking it’s toll.  Mom finally settled on two pendants and chains.  I bargained as best I could, and Mom helped by saying, “maybe we should go” a couple times […]