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13 Jun

Weekend Away to Carmel California

Carmel California Weekend Getaway

 

Ready for a weekend away? Who isn’t?! Last weekend Greg and I were excited to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and explore the beauty of the coast in Carmel, California. Carmel is just about a 6-hour trip including stops from Los Angeles up the 101. It’s an easy drive with plenty of places to stop along the way. We usually stop in Buellton, and then again in San Luis Obispo for some rest and refreshments. And we listen to audio books so the time passes very quickly.

 

We had reservations at the Hofsas House in Carmel – this is a lovely family-run hotel that provides the highest level of hospitality, for people as well as their pets! The hotel has just 38 rooms and is Bavarian inspired in its theme, including charming Dutch doors. There’s a sparkling heated swimming pool, European style dry saunas, many in-room amenities (our room had a kitchenette and a fireplace!) You get a continental breakfast every morning, and personal concierge services. Carrie Theis, the owner of Hofsas House, gave us an overview of Carmel and set us out on a day of fun and romance!

After our delicious breakfast of fresh locally-made pastries, we walked through downtown Carmel to the California Coastal trail. We walked part of it on the beach, and part through the town. The whole place is so pretty – and the ocean is absolutely breathtaking. In Carmel the homes don’t have street numbers, instead they are named! It was sweet to look at some of the names of the homes and admire the beautiful landscaping throughout the town.

Most tourists ask if Clint Eastwood is still the mayor of Carmel. He actually served just one term as mayor, from 1986-1988. The restaurant he started, The Hog’s Breath Inn, is still there doing great business on Ocean Ave, the “Main Street” of Carmel.

We worked up an appetite on our walk/hike but couldn’t resist stopping in for a quick wine tasting before lunch! Wineries open up at noon, and there are quite a few very nice little tasting rooms in Carmel. We especially enjoyed “Dawn’s Dream” at the corner of 7th and San Carlos and we got to meet Dawn herself! Dawn created the business to help create dreams for others by donating product, money, or time to support nonprofit organizations. Her wines are delicious! She has 3 different Pinot Noir’s that we tried, each named for one of her daughters.

We picked up a picnic lunch from the 5th Ave Deli and it was amazing. They have plenty of great vegan options. I got a Falafel Pita sandwich with avocado and artichokes. Wow!

After lunch it was shopping time! The beautiful colors and lights in the Turkish Fine Art Gallery drew me in. It was hard to decide what to get as everything would have gone great in my house! And, of course, we had to stop by Thinker Toys to get some unicorn things for our little granddaughter. We also spent a lot of time in the Secret Garden and the Pilgrim’s Bookstore. Every shop in Carmel is just so charming and welcoming. We got a fancy coffee at Café Carmel and limited ourselves to just one in their amazing array of pastries.

We made our way back to Hofsas House to freshen up, then set out for dinner in nearby Pacific Grove at the Beach House restaurant. There’s no such thing as a bad table at this place. It is RIGHT on the beach so there are views all around. I started with a chilled Castroville artichoke – yummy! They adapted one of their pasta dishes to be vegan just for us and it was fabulous! The service was wonderful, great ambience, this is a terrific place.

After dinner we had time for a movie – such a treat, we rarely go out to a movie anymore. Monterey is right next door to Carmel and there are plenty of movie theatre options to choose from.

 

We left Carmel feeling refreshed and inspired. Nature, good food, some shopping, some rest… what more could we ask for? We will definitely be back!

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14 May

Weekend Getaway to Pechanga Resort Casino!

Just a short drive from the heart of  Los Angeles there’s an amazing resort and spa that gives you the feeling that you are on a luxury vacation! Pechanga Resort Casino is located in Temecula, California and includes a casino and golf course along with its spa, swimming pool and other amenities. Greg and I recently spent the weekend there and had a fabulous time!

We arrived Friday evening, checked in, had a quick bite and then went to their Comedy Club for some drinks and entertainment. Lots of laughs! Then we hit the hay early because we had an early wake-up time to go hot air ballooning!

The van picked us up at 5:30 am and drove us to the Europa winery, where A Grape Escape (HotAirTours.com) whisked us off to the field to meet our balloon. We watched the balloons fill up, and climbed into the basket with the rest of our group – and away we went! Up, up and away! I had no idea what to expect, but honestly, it was totally relaxing. Everyone had a great time. There’s no wind up there because you’re going with the breeze! The scenery was beautiful – lots of vineyards, and we got some amazing pics. The hour flew by quickly – it was a bright blue sky day and we enjoyed every minute of it.

ballooning over Temecula

Hot air balloon ride while staying at Pechanga

Back at Pechanga I checked into the spa for my 10:30 appointment. The spa is all new, and totally GORGEOUS! They served me some orange-passionfruit-ginger infused water while I waited for my massage in a cozy white robe. This is the life, right? I got my choice of aromatherapy for the massage and it was delightful. Then a reflexology massage for my tired tootsies, and then a Sound Wave Massage on an anti-gravity recliner that took me off into a deep meditation. I could have stayed there all day – they have a beautiful whirlpool, sauna, steam room, sun porch, snack and hang-out room – very inviting and so refreshing.

Then it was off to lunch – Greg and I are vegan and the restaurants at Pechanga are super flexible and accommodating so we always had delicious meals. We split a strawberry salad with citrus vinaigrette and a taco bar -perfect food to eat while hanging out by the pool!

After lunch we participated in a cocktail class on the lawn where we learned how to make a margarita (it was Cinco de Mayo after all!) and a Mint Julep (it was also Kentucky Derby weekend!) and a Banana Colada. Good stuff to know! Greg is a big margarita fan, so this was likely his favorite part of the day.

Then we indulged in a little personalized, home-made aromatherapy products from Body Bliss back at the spa.   Oooh – la- la!

We had just about enough time to shower and change for a lovely dinner in one of Pechanga’s 13 restaurants. When the chef heard that we were vegan he came out and said he’d create a special meal for us. We of course took him up on the offer and were not disappointed. We started off with a crunchy salad with quinoa and apples – and then a beautiful pasta primavera dish with kale pesto. Paired this with a delicious rose from one of the local wineries.

For dessert – the dessert bar was set up outside and included a variety of home-made sorbets – the mango was my fave! They also had decadent macarons in every flavor you could imagine, and a variety of ice cream sandwiches.

The next morning, while the rest of our group golfed, Greg and I opted to sleep in, then take in the view of the course during a hearty breakfast. Strawberry and blueberry waffles… yummy!

We got so much fun into such a short amount of time! If you’re looking for a weekend getaway for romance, or with family or friends, Pechanga has a lot to offer. Oh, yes, they have a casino, too! 😀

About Pechanga Resort & Casino
Pechanga Resort & Casino offers one of the largest and most expansive resort/casino experience anywhere in the United States. Voted the Number One casino in America by the readers of USA TODAY and rated a Four Diamond property by AAA since 2002, Pechanga Resort & Casino provides an unparalleled getaway. Offering more than 4,000 of the hottest slots, table games, world-class entertainment, 517 hotel rooms, dining, spa and championship golf at Journey at Pechanga, Pechanga Resort & Casino features a destination that meets and exceeds the needs of its guests and the community. Pechanga Resort & Casino is owned and operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. For more information, call toll free 1-888-PECHANGA or visit www.Pechanga.com. Follow Pechanga Resort & Casino on Facebook and on Twitter @PechangaCasino. Pechanga Resort & Casino is open 24-hours. Guests must be 21 and older to enter the casino.

 

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06 Sep

Secrets of the I Ching

Secrets-of-the-IChingIn her documentary, THE SECRETS OF I CHING, filmmaker Bettina Wilhelm goes in search of the life and achievements of her grandfather, Richard Wilhelm, by following in his footsteps through China and Europe. She combines historical exposition with pictures of China today in pursuit of the essential theme of Richard Wilhelm’s life: to discover how the great truths and wisdom of mankind can outlast historical change and continue to retain their relevance. Richard Wilhelm was fascinated by the cultural heritage of the universal wisdom he discovered in the Chinese classics. With his translations he tried to impart these Chinese cultural treasures, so that Europe and the West might meet together, eye to eye and on a par. Wilhelm’s indefatigable efforts and the fascinating texts he made available, give the film a longlasting vibrancy.

Richard Wilhelm came to China as a young missionary, where he soon set up a mission that went against conventional expectation. He did not baptize a single Chinese. Instead he strove towards an understanding of Chinese thinking. China was being bled to death by the colonial powers and Richard Wilhelm experienced at first hand revolts against foreigners, the passing of the imperial-dynasties and the First World War. During a time of such turbulent upheaval, he searched relentlessly for the deepest truths that might enable people to deal with the changes and to shape their own lives. He accomplished some of the greatest works of translation of the 20th century: CONFUCIUS, LAOTSE, other classical texts of DAOISM and, most importantly, the I CHING, THE BOOK OF CHANGES. This book has served as an inspiration for many readers. Even today, Wilhelm is considered one of the most distinguished mediators of Chinese culture in the West.

Whilst Wilhelm’s translation of Confucius and Laotse arose from his own personal quest, it was a Chinese scholar who drew his attention to the I GING, THE BOOK OF CHANGES, one of the most complex works of Chinese culture and philosophy. Like other imperial magistrates in 1911 after the decline of the empire and China’s transformation into a republic, the scholar had taken refuge in the German leased territory of Qingdao. Wilhelm was both fascinated and worried by the tremendous changes taking place in China and in the world at large. Like C. G. Jung, with whom he was friends from the 1920s, he searched for universal wisdom that could withstand historical change. It was Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ging, transcribed from German into English, which lead to the wide circulation in the West of The Book of Changes and to its being held to be one of the greatest and most relevant of classical Chinese texts.

BIOGRAPHY RICHARD WILHELM

Born in Stuttgart in 1873, Richard Wilhelm went to Qingdao in 1899 as a young missionary with the East Asia Mission at a time when the territory was leased to Germany. He founded a school there, which still exists today and bears his name, as well as a hospital.  He was an unusual missionary for throughout his entire life he never baptized a single Chinese. Instead he allowed himself to be converted to Chinese wisdom. The times he lived through were turbulent. In 1900 the so-called Boxer Rebellion broke out against foreigners who had colonised the country. During this period, Wilhelm was no mere observer. When German troups attacked Chinese villages he, together with a Chinese doctor, intervened as negotiator thus avoiding further bloodshed.  In 1911 he experienced a tremendous turning point in Chinese history when the country became a republic after more than two thousand years of empire. During the first World War, Germany had lost its Chinese colony and Qingdao was occupied by the Japanese. In the face of dire conditions, Richard Wilhelm retained his ironic sense of humour, enabling him to observe events as they unfolded with relative objectivity.
In 1920 he returned to Germany for a short period, where he met with C. G. Jung, Albert Schweizer, Hermann Hesse and Count Keyserling. Once more he spent two more years in China, this time not as a missionary but as scientific advisor to the German embassy and a visiting professor at the Beida, the University of Beijing.  In 1924 he assumed the first chair of Sinology at the University of Frankfurt, where he also founded the China Institute to further cultural exchange and research into the most profound truths that unite different cultures and periods of time. His friendship with C. G. Jung deepened, with whom he published the book, THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER.

Richard Wilhelm died in 1930 at the age of 56. He is buried at the graveyard of Bad Boll in Swabia. The eight symbols, which make up the cornerstone of the I Ching, surround his grave.

I CHING – THE BOOK OF CHANGES

For some time the I Ching has not only been known by experts, but from the 1970s in particular by a broader public as well. The I Ching is one of the oldest books of mankind, whose oracle was consulted by Chinese emperors since more than three thousand years ago whenever important decisions had to be made. In the course of succeeding centuries it was augmented by the flower of Chinese wisdom in the form of added commentaries by great scholars. Thus it became the fundamental philosophical text of Chinese culture. One might compare the significance of the I Ching in China with that of the Bible in Christian cultures. In the West Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the Book of Changes influenced a whole generation during the 1970s, who were seeking a deeper understanding of life. It remains a “perennial,“ which is reprinted over and over again.

 

THE SECRETS OF I CHING, is narrated by internationally acclaimed award-winning actor, Jonathan Pryce, known for his outstanding performances on both stage and screen, including the lead in Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross and Age of Innocence, as well as James Bond villian Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies, and most recently The High Sparrow in HBO’s Game of Thrones. 

THE SECRETS OF I CHING is currently available on VOD at DirecTV and Dish; Digital platforms include Google Play, Amazon, MicroSoft, Vudu, Vubiquity and Hoopla.

 

Connect with us:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SecretsofIChing

For more information, please visit: http://www.wisdom-of-changes-i-ching-the-movie.com

 

 

TriCoastLandBlackPR CONTACT:

Maggi Simpson

Tricoast Entertainment

Maggi@Tricoast.com

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16 Jul

Detox & Disconnect at the Four Seasons!

Detox and Disconnect – the Taste of Wellness Package at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, California.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta get away. You know? Life can’t just be all about sitting at a computer and making phone calls. But now that we carry our technology with us we can’t really go anywhere and leave the world behind. Even if we’re “off the grid” we’re still stressing about what we’re missing, or should be doing. Except there is one place that helps you put “you” and your health first… and I found it!

The California Health and Longevity Institute at the Four Seasons Hotel is an oasis of first class healthy fabulousness. Yes, that’s a word, and there’s no other word to properly describe this place.

There is everything under the sun at CHLI to help you take care of you in style. You can get anything from a full comprehensive physical, your teeth cleaned, a mammogram, and a massage. You can take cooking lessons in the Wellness Kitchen, or partake in one of the fun “Wine Wednesday” tastings with a variety of wine and food to sample. You can hang out for fitness classes or yoga, or enjoy any of the amazing amenities at the hotel, including the beautiful garden.

To give you a sample of all they have to offer, The Four Seasons Westlake and the CHLI have just launched a program called “Taste of Wellness.” If you just want to spend a few hours getting away and focusing on yourself for a bit – this is for you! Sounds like a great idea to me, so I gave it a try – and here’s my report:

I chose the “Detox and Disconnect” package. The title alone had me intrigued… I definitely need to do both of those things! And don’t we all? I have a healthy diet and lifestyle, but I could really use a detox from all the stresses that have built up. Those things get into your cells and weight a person down. And disconnect? Of course. But possible? Let’s see.

The day started off at noon at the beautiful lobby restaurant. Everything on the menu looks yummy and health, with the healthiest options highlighted to help with your selection. I modified the vegan salad that is made of quinoa and greens – they are very accommodating at the restaurant – and it was absolutely delicious!

Next up, I had a “life strategies” consultation with Dr. Ilana Kukoff. Wonderful conversation with a smart and savvy woman, and I came out smiling and empowered with new ideas and possibilities.

Then, off to the spa where I changed into a comfy robe and slippers and put everything else in my locker. Yep, phone went in there, too! The spa is the most gorgeous spa I’ve been to – and I have been to many spas in my time. There are orchids everywhere – absolutely breathtaking! I spent a few minutes enjoying the “Tranquility Room” before my next appointment with the “SomaDome.”

The SomaDome is really a meditative experience. It looks like an egg shaped, sci-fi lounge chair. You sit inside, pull down the top, and choose a meditation from a number of menu items like “love,” “heal,” “manifest,” and more. Headphones on, a combination of music, sound, and words guide you into a deeply relaxed state. A fan pipes in wonderful oxygenated air whenever you want it. And color light therapy adds to the multi-sensory experience. The whole thing lasted about 20 minutes, but I could have stayed there for hours!

Fully relaxed I was now ready for the “Detox Body Wrap.” Massage Therapist Theresa met me in the Tranquility Room and escorted me over the red bridge into a lovely massage room, complete with a private marble shower. Part I: Full Body Exfoliation with a sugar-ginger-lime scrub that smells so good it could be in a cocktail! Ginger-tini, anyone? There’s definitely some aromatherapy going on with this intoxicating fragrance. Once thoroughly scrubbed I was told to shower off, towel off, and then suit up!

The “suit” in question is a thin white plastic-y material that fits neck to toe, super baggy, and zips up the front. Feet are fully covered, but hands are free. Once zipped up, you get tucked in to a super heated sleeping bag-like blanket to comfortable sweat it out.

While you’re laying there, your body blissfully releasing all those nasty toxins, your friendly massage therapist indulges you in a collagen facial. Yes, please, do take those years off my face! And if that’s not enough, you also get a head and neck massage. Ahhhhh, deep sigh of contentment. I didn’t want to get up off that table. But alas, I was only in for the 50-minute session. There is an optional 80-minute session – I will do that one next time for sure!

While at the spa you can soak in the whirlpool, spend time in the sauna or relax in the steam room. You’re encouraged to take your time and enjoy the amenities. When you’re there, look for me, I’ll definitely be back!

For more details on all the terrific Wellness Packages available at the Four Seasons Westlake Village: www.fourseasons.com/westlakevillage/wellness

To check out all the offerings at the California Health and Longevity Institute:

www.CHLI.com

SomaDome FSspa3FSspa FSspa2

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30 Jun

What’s the point?

People have asked me why i like to travel. In fact, one relative, who shall remain nameless, even insisted that there’s no point to travel when you can stay home and watch the Travel Channel.

“It’s all the same experience, isn’t it?” he asked.

If that’s the mindset, it’s pretty difficult to answer that question.

I’m not sure when I first got the travel bug, but I remember thinking that it’s what you do when you grow up. Both my parents traveled quite a bit — my father at first because of work, and later, when their 11 children were old enough, my parents went together. I also remember hearing my father’s stories about World War II and the South Pacific, and my mother was a WASP (Women’s Air Service Pilot) during the war, which took her all over the country. She was an adventurous woman and a great role model.

I remember saving my nickles and dimes so I could spend a week or two at a camp in upstate New York. It was probably all of an hour’s drive away, but to me, it seemed like a world away. There were the trips on the train to visit my grandmother in Indiana,and a drive to Canada with my best friend and her father. I got carsick and threw up all over the back seat of his new car. He must have been really angry, but I only recall that I felt really miserable.

Almost anyting can happen while traveling and I’d still insist that I had a good time – and most of the time it is true.

My husband and I realized we both loved to travel not long after we met, and have spent most of our lives together planning for the next trip. All our adventures have created friendships, expanded our worlds and given us many great memories.

This blog is meant to share some experiences beyond what I’m able to relate in my regular travel features that run in The Coast News (San Diego County), published weekly in print and online.

 

 

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07 Jul

Flight 93 National Memorial: Where America Remembers

On September 11, 2001, terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda hijacked
four planes.  Two struck the towers of the World Trade Center in New
York, one at 8:46 a.m. (American Airlines Flight 11) and the second at
9:03 a.m. (United Airlines Flight 175).  At 9:37 a.m., a third plane,
American Airlines Flight 77, crashes into the Pentagon.  Thirty minutes
later, United Airlines Flight 93 crashes into a field in Somerset
County, Pennsylvania, after passengers unsuccessfully attempted to take
control of the plane from the hijackers.  It is supposed that Flight
93’s ultimately destination was the U.S. Capitol building in Washington,
D.C.

Flight 93 National Memorial, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania,
commemorates the heroic efforts of passengers and crew members to stop
the hijacking.  Administered by the National Park Service, it is the
only federal property that "remembers" what happened that fateful day.

DSCN1499

Park entrance

I
have visited over two dozen national parks (most of them historic
properties), and I worked at one as a seasonal ranger for three
summers.  By far, this was the most moving experience I have ever had at
a national park.  It’s one thing to go to the Assembly Room at
Independence Hall and see where our nation was founded.  It’s something
entirely different to visit a place where our nation’s freedom was
defended by ordinary people who didn’t want hijackers to attack our
nation.

Flight 93 is distinctive among the four hijacked flights
that day because it’s the only one that did not reach its intended
target.  The flight’s departure from Newark was delayed because of
normal early morning traffic at the airport, which means that its
passengers knew about the attacks on the World Trade Center when
terrorists took control of the plane at 9:28 a.m.  The passengers
formulated a plan to retake control of the cockpit from the hijackers;
ultimately, the hijackers chose to crash the plane rather than let the
crew and passengers regain control of the aircraft.



Boulder marks the crash site for Flight 93.

The
aircraft exploded upon impact, releasing over 7,000 gallons of fuel in a
fireball that rose higher than the hemlock trees surrounding the area. 
Debris scattered over the field.  Today, the walkway from the Memorial
Plaza to the Memorial Wall is lined with black concrete, black because
of the coal in the region.  The black wall also separates the debris
field from the walkway; in other words, it provides a barrier between
tourists and where the human remains rest.

Sloping edge of the black wall marks the northern edge of the crash site and debris field.

Sloping edge of the black concrete wall marks the northern edge of the crash site and debris field.

Park
visitors occasionally leave tributes in the small niches in the wall
and at the Wall of Names.  Visitors also have an opportunity to leave
expressions of gratitude at the Memorial Plaza.

Tribute left at niche in wall

Tributes left at niche in wall

The
Wall of Names follows the flight path of Flight 93 toward the crash
site.  It identifies crew members with their position (flight
attendants, etc.), along with naming the passengers who were not
involved in hijacking the plane (there were 44 people on board that
flight, but only 40 names are included on the Wall of Names).  One thing
that struck me when I visited the Wall of Names was how somber it was. 
Typically, at a national park, you hear people talking and
laughing–not at Flight 93 National Memorial.  Park visitors truly
respect what happened at this site, and they treat it with proper
reverence.

Section of Wall of Names

Section of Wall of Names

At the site, several wayside signs provide information on the flight and what happened that fateful day.

One of the wayside signs, with photos of the crew and passengers of Flight 93.

One of the wayside signs, with photos of the crew and passengers of Flight 93.

One
thing is obvious when visiting the site–it is designed to honor those
heroes who prevented the hijackers from achieving their goal.  It does
not memorialize the hijackers by name on the Wall of Honor, not does it
include their photos on the sign identifying the crew and passengers of
the flight.  Some might consider that to be sanitizing the history of
the events, but since the park is a memorial to those who prevented the
attack on the U.S. Capitol (especially since Congress was in session
that morning), then I support their interpretive focus.

Flight 93
National Memorial is in the process of building a Visitor Center that
will include a Learning Center, and it is scheduled to be completed in
late 2015.  If you travel there before its completion, you can view the
progress of construction from the Memorial Plaza.  In any case, it is
definitely worth the trip to visit this national park–and you are
encouraged to leave a note expressing your gratitude for those who gave
their lives that day or just write your thoughts about the site.

Park visitors are encouraged to leave a message in the Visitor Shelter.  The large note in the top right was written by someone who was working in the White House on 9/11/2001.

Park
visitors are encouraged to leave a message in the Visitor Shelter. The
large note in the top right was written by someone who was working in
the White House on 9/11/2001.
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06 Feb

The 5 Things I Always Remember To Pack!

The 5 Things I Always Remember To Pack!

I’ve always lived by the rule, don’t stress about packing ‚¬Â¦. whatever I forget to pack, can be bought!  In fact, I’ll make a confession here: when I was a little girl, there was a time I “forgot” to pack a sweater just so I could get a new one.   This said, there are a few things that I would never travel without.

5. Comfortable walking shoes. 

The comfort of my feet has everything to do with how much I’m going to enjoy my surroundings. I can be walking along the most beautiful path, but if my feet hurt, it’s impossible to completely relax and enjoy the moment.   An important tip is: never pack a brand new pair of shoes!  Test them out ‚¬Â¦ walk at least a mile, and wear them around town at least an hour or two. And do this a few weeks prior to your trip.  After all, if you find they’re not going to fit the bill, you’re going to need time to repeat the process.   My favorite pair of travel shoes?  My solid black Keens ‚¬Â¦ sturdy soles for cobblestone streets and they look great with pretty much everything I wear.

it_is_like_a_small_city_with_cobblestone_streets.jpg

4. My pillow. 

What’s the sense of comfortable feet if my day is going to be spent battling a sore neck and a migraine?  I sleep on a pillow that’s filled with a combination of millet and buckwheat.  There’s no hotel or cruise ship pillow that can replicate my usual sleeping comfort, and I have to admit, I like knowing where the pillow I lay my head on has been.  It’s that little piece of home that makes my sleep time optimal.

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3. Personal identification.

Whether traveling domestic or internationally, it’s crucial to carry proper documentation. Sometimes all you need is a driver’s license, often you’ll need a passport and occasionally a Visa is required.   Make sure you are fully aware of what’s required for each trip you take, and don’t wait till the last minute to find out.   A professional travel consultant (that’s me!) will make sure you have all required documents in place, and will even monitor your passport expiration date over time, and let you know when it’s time to renew.  

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2 & 1. Flexibility and a good attitude.  

These two undoubtedly go hand in hand.  Planning is part of the fun of travel.  Personally speaking, the more the planning falls into place, the more my anticipation grows. But the results will never be exactly as planned.  Perhaps your flight will be delayed (by minutes, hours or even days), perhaps your transfer driver will be waiting at the wrong door, perhaps your room won’t be ready when you arrive because the prior guests were late to leave, perhaps that restaurant you had heard so much about was a farther walk than you anticipated, perhaps your day tour unexpectedly was cancelled ‚¬Â¦ the list could go on and on.   The best travelers go with the flow, and do it with a smile.  Each vacation happens but once, and life has a nice way of surprising you, if you let it.  Perhaps you replace that restaurant with a closer option, and it just so happened to have the most amazing, romantic atmosphere, or the best tasting soup ever!  Perhaps you replaced that cancelled day tour with time to wander and you discovered the most beautiful park in the center of the city!  Perhaps it took you 10 minutes to find your driver, and on the way to your hotel you drive by an accident that had just happened ‚¬Â¦ wouldn’t you be glad you were a bit delayed and it wasn’t you?!    Okay, you get the idea. Take life as it comes and enjoy the moments.  There are parts of your vacation that should definitely be pre-planned, but remember ‚¬Â¦ as Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road ‚¬Â¦ TAKE IT”.

What’s on your list of things you always remember to pack?

__________________________________

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24 Nov

Mitchell Lake Audubon Wetlands Walk, San Antonio, Texas

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Birds, Dragonflies and Spiders, Oh My!

My 10K Volksmarch today was at Mitchell Lake Audubon Wetlands in
south San Antonio. I would have started much earlier than 8:25 a.m., but
the wetlands don’t open until 8 a.m. When I arrived at the Audubon
Society, I had to go into the office to pay my $2 admission fee and sign
in for the Volksmarch. The man working at the Audubon Society was very
chatty and that took another 15 minutes or so.

A tour
of two people was ready to head out for a bird survey. I guess they try
to identify as many birds as they can on the survey.

Upon leaving the building and passing by beautiful, butterfly-attracting flowers, I had to photograph a butterfly or two.

Monarch butterfly (danaus plexippus)
Monarch butterfly backlit by sun.

The first birds I encountered were a family of purple martins on a line.

Purple martins.

Today was enjoyable because I could take my time,
listen to bird calls, and try to spot elusive birds (not too successful
on the elusive birds). Here are interesting finds along my path…

Hairy-looking seed pods.

A couple of wild rabbits darted across my path, but they were too fast; no chance to get my camera in position for a photo.

Silver-leaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium)
Wild petunia (Ruellia sp.)
Carolina wren.

When the Bird Pond appeared on my right, I started
looking for water birds, but didn’t see any other than the great egrets.
As I walked, a casual glance to my left almost made me wet my pants. I
am petrified of spiders and what I saw was a HUGE orb spider sitting in
the middle of a web that was, I’d guess, four feet across. The spider in
the middle, including legs, was as big as my palm.

Golden orb spider in the middle of its web.
Golden orb spider.
Golden orb spider.
Northern rough-winged swallow.
House finch.
House finch.

While walking near the Bird Pond, I met a man and asked him what birds he had seen. His name is Jim and he writes a blog called Jim’s Assorted, Usually Photographic, Ramblings.
He said he wasn’t looking for birds but was looking for dragonflies.
That’s his specialty. In fact, in front of us was an Eastern Pondhawk
dragonfly, perched beautifully, waiting for its photo to be taken. You
can find his photos on his blog. I was able to capture the Eastern
Pondhawk as well. Jim explained to me that this particular dragonfly is
very mean to other dragonflies and bugs. I would have missed it if it
wasn’t for Jim pointing it out to me.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly.

Once he pointed out that Mitchell Lakes is a good
place to spot dragonflies and damselflies, I was on the lookout and you
will find a couple more photos of dragonflies today.

Identification, anyone?
Four-spotted pennant.
Roseate skimmer.

As I rounded the corner from the Bird Pond headed for
East Poulder, it was full sun ahead: 85-90 degrees with relatively high
humidity. My best birding of the day took place in East and West
Poulder ponds. The black-necked stilts are in residence and they are
gorgeous. They also make quite a racket when a threat comes around.

Black-bellied whistling duck family.
Black-necked stilt
Least sandpiper and killdeer.
Four black-necked stilts in a row.
Black-bellied whistling duck.
Black-bellied whistling duck and willett.

Every once in a while you find something you don’t
see everyday, like a turtle or armadillo remains. The turtle below was
trucking along the trail until I came along, then it got all shy.

 

Armadillo remains.
Snowy egret fishing.
Neotropic cormorants.
Orb spiders were everywhere today!

Self portrait. Don’t you love the hat?
Cacti ready to bloom.
Orb spider in front of cacti.
Beautiful blooms outside the visitor center.

By the end of this walk (which lasted three hours), I
was beat. Couldn’t wait to get inside the visitor center. The desk
person helped me identify the birds in the photos, although he wasn’t
sure about the sanderling because the photo was so small on my camera
screen.

I really enjoy my alone time on walks like this
when I can go at my own pace, look for birds and photograph to my
hearts content. I would love to learn the songs of different birds to
identify them as it isn’t always possible to spot them.

 

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24 Nov

Howl at the Moon, San Antonio, TX

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tonight Bob and I had a date to Howl at the Moon (no not like
wolves), a dueling piano bar in downtown San Antonio. We
got there a little before 7 p.m. and were early enough to snag a table.
I enjoyed listening to all the music they played…everything from
Beatles to Elton John to Journey to Neil Diamond to more recent tunes.

We had beer and what was left
of the appetizer buffet. (It closed at 7 p.m.) Basically, we kicked back
and listened to music for two hours. Then we hit Sonic Drive-In for
dinner around 9 p.m.

Here are some photos taken with Bob’s SmartPhone. Not high resolution, but hopefully you can see them well enough.

At Howl at the Moon rock ‘n’ roll dueling piano bar
The two pianos
The crowd.

That’s all folks.

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24 Nov

Hamilton Pool Swimmin’ Hole, Texas

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 (continued):

The drive to Hamilton Pool Preserve from Austin takes 40-45 minutes
and is really outside of Bee Cave, not Dripping Springs. We hoped we
would be one of the 75 cars allowed into the preserve. After the 75 cars
are in, for each car that leaves, one car can enter. That is how they
manage the property so it isn’t overrun with people.

When
we arrived at the entry gate, there were five cars ahead of us and they
were moving. Good sign. The entrance fee is $10 per car.

We
made it in and found parking under a tree. (In case you haven’t heard
me say it before, shade is a plus – as is a swimmin’ hole – when the
temperature is forecast to be 99° F.)

We parked,
slathered on sunscreen, and headed down the quarter-mile trail to
Hamilton Pool. When we got there it was quite crowded on shore, but the
swimming hole is big enough to hold lots of people.

Being
that we were mighty hot, especially after hiking in, we immediately got
in the water. Brr! This pool is a lot cooler than the swimmin’ hole at
McKinney Falls. After we got in, though, it was quite pleasant and
refreshing to hang out in. We liked that we could swim either in the
shade or, if we got too cool, we could move over a few feet and be in
the sun.

Hamilton Pool Preserve swimming hole.

After we cooled down and soaked our weary bones, we
hiked the trail through the natural grotto behind the swimming hole.
There is a trickle of a waterfall coming over the top, but not much.
People thought it was fun to sit where the water comes off the rock
above.

Loving this place…reminds me of Oregon.
Natural grotto.
Where the “falls” come over.

 

Must be under the falls!
Another view of the beach and pool.
Ladder on trail around back of grotto.

Hamilton Pool trail.

The family we had met at McKinney Falls yesterday was
here today. Their boys were dying to show us the big catfish close to
shore. The boys threw little dried leaves in the water and the catfish,
thinking the leaves were food, would come to the surface. A couple of
those fish were over a foot long. No fishing allowed in the Preserve.

A
park ranger was on duty at the swimming hole to make sure no one breaks
the rules. There are a couple of life rings on ropes that can be used
to rescue people from the deep parts of the pool. We stayed about an
hour, and then headed back to our lovely campsite at McKinney Falls.

Both
of us were exhausted from getting up early three days in a row, so we
napped away the afternoon. To prepare dinner, we made another campfire, ate roasted
hot dogs, coleslaw, left-over chicken breasts and cooked another veggie
skewer in a foil packet on the hot coals. For dessert, we wanted
S’mores but had run out of chocolate. Oh well, we’re mellow, we made
S’mores without the chocolate and they were good anyway.

We
had a wonderful time on our five-day getaway to McKinney Falls State
Park in Austin. It’s hard to believe all the things we crammed in, but
that’s why we chose this state park – it is very close to downtown
Austin so we could easily drive into town. The park is well maintained
and well patrolled by the park police and rangers.

Our only wildlife sighting was this morning; a skunk waddled through the dump station at the park.

Tomorrow, we head back to San Antonio.

Travel Bug out.

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