My Best ShotSurprising ItalyBy Arline J. Calaby,...


My Best Shot

Surprising Italy

By Arline J. Calaby, Woodstock

Imagine my delight at visiting Italy for the first time and finding every site I had seen for years in books and magazines and on the screen even more overwhelming in real life. The Arch of Constantine, as seen in this photo taken from an upper level of the Colosseum, built in 313 A.D. to celebrate Constantine's victories, was as massive and impressive as I had imagined.


A lucky stop in California

By Nancy Emery Meanix

Special to the Sun

We happened upon it purely by luck. And it turned into one of the most memorable sites of our long-awaited California trip. Pulling off California's scenic Route 101 to look for lunch, we came across a gem -- Mission Santa Ines, 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

This mission is the 19th of 21 established by Franciscan priests between 1769 and 1823, and honors Saint Agnes, an early Christian martyr of the fourth century. Preserved treasures include the state's largest and most valuable collection of early vestments, ranging from the 15th to 18th centuries. These beautiful flowing garments are rich reds, pale golds and cool greens. They are made of oriental silk, satin, damask or brocade, some with gold or silver threads interwoven into the design.

Antique music manuscripts are also preserved here. Most are called "plainsong," another word for Gregorian chant. I could visualize the Franciscan monks years ago gathered together in the small chapel during simple but meaningful musical worship.

Many of the paintings and statues were done by Mexican Indians, especially depictions of Saint Agnes, Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Vibiana. Restoration work has been completed on red tile flooring, arches on the east side and a large, three-bell tower.

Pushing a button on the wall activates tapes telling visitors about the mission's history and artifacts. The chapel today is still an active parish, serving 1,000 families. The grounds are used for community events such as parades, cycling contests, story-telling festivals and the annual Rancheros Vistadores equestrian event.

The large garden behind the mission buildings lies in a formal hedge design shaped like a Celtic cross. When we strolled through, workers were cutting the grass and weeding the flower beds. I wonder if they appreciated spending each day in such a lovely, vital place. Beyond, different-sized crosses punctuated the cemetery area.

I sat down on the grass and meditated.

Was this merely luck that brought us here to Santa Ines? Some call coincidence "God's plan."

Nancy Emery Meanix lives in Pisgah Forest, N.C.



Mary Ann Christoffel, Ellicott City

"We traveled to the village of Kinderdijk in South Holland, which is well known for its 19 windmills dating from around 1740. Not only are there more windmills here than anywhere else in the Netherlands, they are also the largest and most beautiful. After taking a boat tour we were able to go inside the one windmill open to the public. ... Awesome!"


Barbara Bodine, Hampstead

"When I want to get completely off the beaten path, I go to Belize. There, the water is turquoise, ancient Mayan ruins beckon, and diverse cultural groups coexist peacefully. It is a time to drink in the peace and quiet of a lush, unspoiled tropical paradise."


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