It’s been about four (very busy) months since I lasted posted and I’m far behind on sharing my trips to Spain and Disney World, as well as a road trip to Oregon. In addition to these trips, we’ve been busy preparing for our niece’s high school graduation and move from our home back to Alabama, and had an unexpected death in the family. All of this has kept me away from WordPress, but I will be back soon and I have a lot to share!
About a year ago, I took my niece to Florida during a February school break. Although the weather where we live is not cold by the standards of many places, Florida was warm and sunny while it was cool and rainy at home, so it was just the winter break that she was looking for. During our trip, we spent a day exploring Miami, with some time in Little Havana.
While walking around Little Havana, we came across some street art that caught my attention. I love the details that make a city or a neighborhood what it is, and this art was unique and added to the character of the street.
When I was young, I was a huge Disney fan and my dream vacation was a trip to DisneyWorld, which would include Epcot Center where I could see the pavilions representing many different countries. It was the closest I thought I’d ever get to visiting them. Well, I never made it to DisneyWorld, but I have made it to somewhere around 30 countries now and my passion to see more grows with every trip. But this year, I’ll finally be heading to the Magic Kingdom and I wonder if Epcot will be what I once thought it would be. I have a business trip to the Orlando area that ends just as our niece’s school break begins, so she and my husband will fly out to meet me. We have the trip booked now and I’m wondering if Epcot will be for my niece what I thought it would be when I was her age (17). I hope it inspires her to keep traveling long after she moves out of our home….
Recently, I headed “home” to Maui for a quick 4 days to attend my cousin’s baby shower and help out. The day before the shower, my other cousin (“K”) asked if I’d like to join her and her friend (“L”) on a ride out to Keanae to pick Pohole fern shoots to make Pohole salad. I was ready to help with whatever needed to be done, so I agreed. When “L” arrived, she suggested I change into long pants to protect myself from the mosquitos and suggested I find shoes that could get really muddy. (No one had mentioned this when I packed for the trip….) I borrowed old clothes from “K” after being advised that anything I wore might end up getting ruined, and also borrowed her old rubber slippers, and we headed off. I was ready for the adventure!
We stopped at the County building in Wailuku to get a permit to pick Pohole (permit was free, but had to have everyone’s name listed) and then took the road to Hana until we got to Keanae. We stopped along the side of the road, grabbed our bags, and headed into the “forest”. Our first stop was a little muddy and slippery, but not too bad, and it was relatively flat. The brush was thick and there were a fair number of fern shoots with relatively few mosquitos. However, there was not enough to make the salad, so we headed to our second stop, which required a climb down a muddy, slippery hill where my slippers kept getting stuck and I kept sliding. Fortunately, I was able to remain on my feet, but I found very few shoots and spent most of the time swatting away the mosquitos. This area was much wetter, hence the increased mosquito populations. I also ended up with muddy hands because I kept having to pull the slippers out of the mud. ”L” was quick at locating and picking Pohole, so we were out of there within a half an hour.
Thank goodness for the wipes that cleaned up my hands. My feet were still muddy and I was wearing clothes that were too big, looking like I was homeless, when “K” and “L” dragged me to several stores to run errands Up Country before heading back home. What a sight I must have been! Fortunately, neither had a camera and we didn’t run into anyone we knew or were related to.
I am fascinated by the detail that I find on the buildings, lamp posts, signs and doors in other countries. We don’t see so much of that here in the United States. On my recent trip to Spain, I found some interesting ones that I’d like to share. These were found in Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo and Segovia.
In 2003, I went to Prague in early December. I didn’t know about their Christmas markets throughout the city when I planned the trip, but discovered them during the week’s stay. There was an ice skating rink, roasted chestnuts, food and wine booths, and lots of Christmas crafts and gifts to buy. My sister and I had a great time in Prague and the Christmas market was an added bonus. We bought several gifts to bring home.
Last year, I planned an entire trip around the Christmas markets in Germany and Strasbourg (France). Most of the markets were large and filled with food booths, Glühwein, Kinder Punch, and lots to buy. There were Christmas ornaments, lights and decorations, gloves, scarves, candles, food items, etc. There was plenty of variety at each market, but much of what was offered at one large market was offered at others. During the day, they weren’t too busy, but at night, everyone came out to socialize, eat and drink. The atmosphere was festive and each booth was decorated in a unique fashion…some quite extravagant. Some of the smaller towns also held Christmas markets, but were such a small-scale that they were really focused on the eating, drinking and socializing, and not on the shopping. (See my previous posts on a number of these markets for more information.)
This year, a friend and I planned a trip to Spain and scheduled it to coincide with their Christmas markets. Barcelona held a market just outside La Sagrada Familia and Madrid’s large Christmas market was held in Plaza Mayor. We weren’t sure what to expect, but it was quite different form the markets in Germany. There was hardly any food or drink for sale, and very little variety of items for sale. Most everything were Christmas decorations for people who live nearby or nativity scenes. It seems to be tradition that when children leave their parents home, they start their own nativity scene.
These nativity scenes were pretty extravagant and were more like full villages. There were several styles to choose from, and you could purchase multiple buildings, villagers going about their daily lives, livestock, produce, etc. In Madrid, we noticed that the market had more of a carnival atmosphere with lots of cheap plastic toys for sale, along with balloons and colorful wigs. There were a number of street performers and people dressed up as cartoon characters. There were also lots of cheap, brightly colored wigs for sale, which were popular with children.
The bottom line is that the Christmas markets in each country can be quite different, even if the descriptions you find on websites make them sound similar. If you’re going to plan a trip around Christmas markets, especially for shopping, do your research to plan the trip that’s right for you.
When I tell people that my sister and I once got stuck in Venice, Italy due to the snow, I always hear the same thing. “I didn’t think it snowed in Venice!” Neither did we until we found out first hand. We spent a week in Venice in February 2005 and the first several days were cold but dry. Then one morning, we woke up and I hear my sister say “it’s snowing”. I got so excited that I took out my camera and took pictures of the little bit of snow on the roof top below our hotel room window.
By the time we finished breakfast and headed out for the day, it was still snowing, and it was sticking! It made for such a beautiful, magical sight. Unfortunately, this trip was just prior to the purchase of my first digital camera, so I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I do now, and I had no way to know if my photos turned out. Only a few did. the others have large white dots.
For those who have never seen Venice in the snow, here are two of my better photos. (Click on them to enlarge.)
I always find it interesting to see what’s being advertised in other countries and I’m especially interested in the travel ads. They often provide some insight into the popular vacation destinations for the people living in the region I’m visiting and sometimes I discover someplace I hadn’t known about before. I saw this ad on a taxi in London and it really stood out because it was so brightly colored among the other vehicles, especially the black taxis. I had to do a double-take because I hadn’t expected an advertisement for a U.S. destination when there are so many other sunny destinations in Europe so close by.
The colors really do represent the Florida Keys and brighten up an otherwise grey day in London.
Originally published on my private blog on February 28, 2010
On the fourth day of our trip to historic Virginia, we set out to visit the Yorktown Victory Center and the Yorktown National Battlefield, the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. The Victory center was a great museum of the history of the Revolutionary War up through the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It was worth spending a couple of hours and watching the brief video.
Outside, there was a replica of a military camp. Staff in period dress answered questions and made presentations about the doctor’s tent, cooking food, women and Native Americans who followed the camp to handle laundry, etc and a demonstration of firing a rifle. There’s also a replica of a farm from the period, showing how Americans lived during the period around the Revolutionary War.
By the time we finished at the Victory Center, we were hungry and headed to the nearby Yorktown Pub. We had a great view of the York River and after lunch, we walked out for a few photos on the most historic beach in America. It’s hard to believe that so many ships were sunk in that river and remain there today.
Our last stop was the Yorktown National Battlefield, where we took a guided tour by a park ranger who really loves his job and was very enthusiastic about telling the story of the Battle of Yorktown. He really brought history to life and we made it through an hour in the cold and wind without hardly noticing. I’d highly recommend that anyone visiting take advantage of the ranger tour, as you will get so much more out of the visit than you would if you make the trip on your own. When the ranger was finished, we had just enough time to drive through the battlefield route to see some of the sights, but not enough time before the sun set to take the audio guide tour in our car.
For those really interested in history, I’d suggest breaking up these sites over two days so that you can do the audio guide car tour to make the most of your trip. Tickets are good for seven consecutive days and there are multiple passes available that include combinations of Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg over seven days. We made this trip with our nearly 15-year-old niece and four straight days of history was as much as she could handle, but if you are taking kids and have more time, breaking up the sites over a week would work well.
I just got back from a short business trip to Indianapolis. In trying to make the most of my time out there, I booked a redeye flight (ugh!) out just after midnight Friday morning and landed in “Indy” at 10:30am. I picked up my rental car and headed off for a four-hour drive (that turned into a five-hour drive due to road construction) to the Bowling Green, Ohio area to visit some friends. After I got out of the city, I began to notice the beautiful Fall colors on the trees and wished I could snap a quick photo to remind me of how pretty it was. Of course, there is no place to pull over on the highway for a photo and I started to realize how rural the area was when I noticed that the exits were miles apart with nothing but farm land around.
I loved the farm houses and the barns, especially the ones that look like traditional red barns surrounded by corn fields. This time of year, they are even more picture-perfect with the Fall leaves in their shades of red, gold and green. I also noticed how flat the landscape was. I live in a state with lots of hills and mountains and am so used to seeing them that I don’t notice it anymore until I’m someplace flat, like the Midwest.
The weather was rainy off and on both Friday and Saturday, so we didn’t go out much, but I had a lovely visit with my friends and then it was Sunday and time to head back to Indianapolis for my conference. The weather was clear and had warmed up, and I was able to stop along the rural highway outside of Bowling Green for a few photos that don’t really do the landscape justice. They’re also taken through the car’s windshield, so there’s the occasional splatter from the bugs, but they serve my purpose to remind me of how beautiful the colors were.
For those who live in areas with real seasons, you may not notice the colors or be as impressed with them as I was (like the way I don’t notice our hills and mountains all the time), but in California, our seasons are mild and while some of the trees do change colors and many lose their leaves, it’s nothing like the Midwest or East coast. While the highlight of the weekend trip was visiting with friends, the drive with its beautiful landscape was a close second!