St. Augustine, FLA

The historical town of St. Augustine should be on everyone’s travel plans.  This oldest historical coastal city offers plenty of activities and a rich enjoyable culture.  It has a pedestrian street,  St. George,  that has tons of shops, restaurants, and lots of  drinking establishments. It offers one of the best Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a crocodile farm that has nesting birds and foliage, Castillo de San Marcos, and a great lighthouse.  There are numerous historical sights, so check out this website St. Augustine Old City

Our visit was short but jam pack.  We spent the first night walking and shopping St. George St.  This street is commercialism at its best but what I liked about it is that it offered lots of variety.  Besides all the touristy shops, there was a tea shop, a spice shop, a nautical shop and more bars and restaurants then you could ever image.  It is great street just to stroll down, window shop, and finally stop for a cocktail and watch the sunset over the harbor at one of the many restaurants.

What made the evening perfect for us is that we happen upon a great and friendly wine bar that was doing a practice run for bridal tasting.  The owner welcomed us in and allowed us to be ginny pigs.  We tasted about 3 Malbec and 3 wines from South Africa along with the food pairings.  The conversation was good, food was delicious and the wines were most enjoyable.  Needless to say, we purchased a couple of bottle of wines.

Most of the next day was spent visiting some of the historical sights.  First on our stop was The St. Augustine lighthouse which is the site of the oldest navigation aid in North America.  The visit included an historical account of the lighthouse, an archaeological show and tell, and a fun gift shop.  I tried walking up the 219 stairs but only made halfway.  Check out the St. Augustine website St. Augustine LighthouseIMG_0164

Note: In planning for this part of our latest journey through Florida, I made a big mistake.  I requested a room on St. Augustine Island which would be great if I wanted the beach scene but if you don’t then when making hotel reservation you must request St. Augustine historical district.

The rest of the day spent between the St Augustine Winery and the St Augustine distillery. Both of these places was most enjoyable and the employees were very friendly.  The wines weren’t bad nor was the vodka and gin that we tasted at The Distillery.  The Distillery made its own Blends for drinks. Ee found that the old fashioned mix was superb. We loved it so much that we bought a couple of bottles.  I have to say when we returned home we had an old fashioned party and let me tell you people just love that old fashioned mix. So if you get out to Augustine it is definitely worth the time to visit both the Distillery and the winery.  Check out their website. http://www.sansebastianwinery.com http://staugustinedistillery.com

 

 

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Exploring Sites Through a New Lens

It is not often that one can say, “Wow what a great trip!”  But that is exactly how this vacation started.  We went to Kingsland, GA (a major naval submarine base) to visit family.  It was wonderful family gathering.

We actually stayed in the seaside town nearby called St. Mary’s, GA.  It was here in this small coastal city that the television show, Royal Pains, http://www.usanetwork.com/royalpains was filmed.  They created the park area along the waterfront into a New Hampton community.  Also, in St. Mary’s  ” The Kindness Rock Project” flourishes.  If you have not heard of it please visit its website http://www.thekindnessrocksproject.com20170422_203401

St. Mary’s sits along the Cumberland River.  We stayed at this old fashion Bed and Breakfast, the Goodbread House (www.goodbreadhouse.com).  It is decorated with antiques and have charming names for their rooms.  We stayed in the Scarlett and Brett room. It is quite charming and Mardga, the proprietor, is a character herself.  There is a full breakfast in the morning and wine and sweets at night. We have stayed there before and have loved it.  It is like being home.  An additional plus for us is that they accept pets.

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On this trip, we decided to visit Cumberland Island http://cumberlandisland.com which is noted for its feral horses and John F. Kennedy Jr. wedding chapel.  We weren’t sure how my husband would do with a lot of walking after having a couple of ablations for his  irregular heart rate so we took the land and legacy tour.  After a 45 minute ferry ride, you are greeted by your guide that assigns you to a nine passenger vehicle. Up front, you are informed about the bumpy roads and the dense foliage until you reach the various destinations.  The guide promises that you we see lots of feral horses.

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Most of the island is owned and operated by the National Park Service but some of the island is still privately owned.  All together, the trip is about 8 hours.  We thoroughly enjoyed our guide.  He was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the sites and of the island.  But if I was in charge of the tour,  I would give guest time to take the 20 min walk to the beach at the beginning or at the end near the “Dungeness” house (Lucy Carnegee’s fire destroyed home) where the van can pull up close to the beach line for those that want to walk out.  This is were most of the horses are and were you will see them in a unique setting.  At this time, there are several controversy about how the island should remain– a) should the private homes be bought out by the park services (even though some building Park owns are not maintained); b) should the present land owners be allowed to sub divide their properties and build more; or c) cut down on tourist and further development and remove the feral horses.

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We were very saddened by the horses.  Many people that I have met over my 3 trips to St. Mary went to Cumberland for the horses.  However, the island’s code is that all the animals are under the philosophy of self preservation.  No one cares for any of them.  However, we were informed that there are two hunting season to keep the deer and especially the wild boar population down.  Also, when the turtles are nesting, shields are placed around them to protect the eggs from the wild animals.  So why not drop some hay for the horses!!!!  Most of them were in poor shape but we did see a new born.

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As I stated earlier, the days were good, the people were friendly, our accommodations were great and our family gatherings were enjoyable.

So how could this vacation get any better.  but it did.  More later.  It is time to take my newly adopted dog, (Creole Poodle) Peanut for his afternoon walk.20170408_120215

Making Connections

Fitting in to another country culture and understanding  their nuances requires one to be more open and accepting of differences.  I find it is helpful to learn some basic greetings and to use them even though it may be said incorrectly. I think that the effort is appreciated — Bonjour, Bonsoir, C’est bon!

An interesting aspect of southern European countries, that I have found is their desire to be part of life and a sense of place. They enjoy conversation and being a part of gatherings. Life moves at a much slower pace. In other words, “Stop and smell the roses.” I was amazed when I looked this quote up that it is attributed to golfer extraordimageinaire, Walter Hager. Huh! never would have guessed that.

We did just that!  We stopped at a market and there were 100 of bouquets.  May 29 is mother’s day in France and flowers were in bundles throughout the markets and flower shop.

Besides learning how to form a relationship to a new country, I find when traveling with tour companies the same aspects applies to your fellow travelers.  Each person personality and knowledge adds another layer to the historical fact we are learning about thus, creating an additional dimension to what we are experiencing.  It is the human aspect both past and present that creates our stories.

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At this medieval church we visited was a French archaeologist who was in front of the church starting a dig  not only to find the foundation to the missing portico but to see if there are any human remains( Angers, France). Our conversation with her was impromtu but most fascinating

Anxious Moments

Why is packing such an ordeal. Is it just me? I try to do the right things. I search the weather apps for my destination cities weather conditions, I  select clothes that coordinates and easily interchanges and I try to implement suggestions from guide books. But for some reason I am packing and repacking and checking that  I included all that is needed. Then, I work with my husband. He is definitely last minute. He used to do it all on his own but last last year he forgot his medication so now we work together.

Have you realized now that Facebook (FB) knows everything we are interested in. Once you search for something on google you become a target for those topics.  Now, I am receiving suggestions  on the “how to of packing”.  The latest idea is to fold all clothes items together.  One website, ebags.com, shows the use of soft containers. It looks  interesting.  If you are not sure what I mean just google packing or search on FB.

For my husband and I there is apprehension and nervousness until we can print out our boarding passes which of course, cannot be done until 24 hours prior to the flight. This is because two years ago when we were checking in for our Italy trip, we were denied and told to contact the airlines. We were informed that our passport was 4 days shy of  the exiting requirement of Italy. You talk about Hysteria?  Our flight was less than 20 hours off. How were we going to make this? But it all worked out in the end,  the government, the airline, family, and the Lord all worked together and we were on that flight. So be sure you check your passports and the country you visiting requirements.

It is difficult to feel relax about traveling with all the discussion about the TSA problems. We thought for sure that it would be a hassle checking in but we were surprise. At MSY, the New Orleans International, we had no problem what-so-ever. Of course we did have the pre-check-in approval. Even at JFK there was no problem. Personally, I think that they were trying to impress people by getting everybody through the lines quickly and securely since all the bad press.

Finally, out travel anxieties slipped away once we made it aboard our final flight. Calmness is achieved once, we arrive at our destination city’s hotel. We relax, we have a toast to our new adventure, and some local cuisine. Now, we are ready to experience all that the country has to offer and in the process make some new friends along the way. SANTE! CHEERS! SALUTE!

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Getting Ready

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!  Where do we want to go? Do we do want to plan it ourselves or do we go on a Tour?  How much can we spend?  These things can be seen as a hassle or as Rick Steves says, ” it can be part of the experience.”

To me the hardest part is making the decision, once that choice is made, the planning kinda flows.  It comes down to your window of time, passport expiration date, and the airline choices. Then, it is selecting your itinerary–the places to see, the tours to take and selection of hotels or the researching of tour companies that best match the things and places you want to experience.  Don’t forget to use all available resources in your research (google, friends, bookstores (Barnes and Noble), travel agencies (AAA)).

Do your homework: check on travel insurance, passport expiration date, country’s weather, contact credit card company, check on your regular payments due date so you do not incur late charges, make copies of passport and other important documents, leave an itinerary and a contact number with family member, and contact your phone company for international travel service.   This is just a snippet of things that should be done prior to leaving.  A more detailed list can be found in travel books.

Whew, just writing this list takes my breath away.  And yes, my husband and I do want to travel.  As with anything worth doing, time and preparation are important.