“F” is For Fern Grotto-Our Hawaiian Adventure

Today marks the 8th day of our 55 days of world exploration. Since leaving home on January 17, 2023, we have already played in Los Angeles and on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Alan and I would begin the day early again, so we started the morning with a breakfast on our balcony. The sunrise was beautiful as we arrived in our second port of Hawaii, the island of Kauai. We were Malahini, or newcomers to these lands and we were once again refreshed and ready to explore.

Kauai is a small island at just 33 miles wide by 55 miles long. There is only a single road which only accesses about 1/3 of the small island. After much studying I had learned that the best ways to view this island was by boat or plane, so I had booked tours for us to do both. Our first stop would be the Fern Grotto.

A grotto is a cave which occurs naturally or is man-made. The pictures which I had seen of the Fern Grotto were spectacular and I was very excited to see it. The tour was touted as a visit to a geological wonder of Kauai promising an ampitheater, where ferns grow upside down from the roof of a grotto, which had formed millions of years ago.

There is only one way to get to the Grotto and that is via boat! In fact, The Wailua River is known as “the only navigable river” in all Hawaii, which would make the adventure even more exciting. I felt as if we were discovering hidden places.

There are a couple companies which offer tours on the 22.5 mile long river. We would be traveling with the Smith family for just two of those miles. This family has been navigating the river since 1946. Our boat for the day was called the Whitney K. She was one of several on the river that day.

Besides the few boat companies, the only other way to get to the grotto (which is owned by the Smith family) is by kayak. These could be rented or one could take the half hour journey up the river in their own kayak. Except for the rain which was falling off and on, I think we would have preferred this mode of travel.

Instead we had chosen what I affectionately refer to as a cruise ship “Granny tour”. These are the kinds of trips which are sedate and slow. perfect for the elderly, which we are not yet quite there. This was a float trip down a winding river, while relaxing, it was boring. Don’t get me wrong, the river is pretty enough but the view doesn’t vary much and powering under our own efforts would have at least given us something to do.

The saving grace to our boredom was that we were treated to a pretty spectacular rainbow, which spread across the river as the sun peaked out for a moment after one of the many showers on this day. It was a short lived reprieve from the gloomy day and we soon found ourselves back in our soggy conditions. Thankfully we could remain under cover on our boat while being regaled with the history of the river, as we made our way to the Fern Grotto.

We learned that the water which feeds the river comes from Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale, one of the wettest spots on the planet receiving about 465″ of rain a year! Kauai is the forth oldest of the Hawaiian islands. I was interested to learn that lands along the river were the sacred capital of ancient Kauai and the birthplace of the island’s ali‘i, or royalty.

After about half an hour we reached the dock to disembark for the short walk to the grotto. Normally there would be a performance of The Wedding Song and a hula dancer at the Fern Grotto where they would perform The Wedding Song at the amphitheater, but the rains were preventing it on this day, so the musicians performed on the boat, as we waited out yet another shower.

I had seen spectacular images of the Fern Grotto, so it was disappointing once we finally arrived. There was a lot of greenery but I was very disappointed to realize much of the old grotto had collapsed leaving only a fraction of the original glory. A little creative photography and I was able to capture a piece of the former glory.

In fact, the decline of the Fern Grotto’s began when it was hit by Hurricane Iwa in 1982. It was then nearly destroyed as Kauai was hit by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Most of the ferns hanging from the grotto were torn from the rocks, With nothing to hold the ground together, the roof of the spectacular amphitheater began collapsing. In 2006 a woman sued the Smith family after being injured by falling rocks. The grotto is no longer accessible by foot and may only be viewed from a distant wooden platform. Although much of the plant life has rebounded, the grotto has had a difficult time recovering as new plant life has sprung up with increased light which now floods the gully.

All was not lost on this tour. After viewing the gully we were able to return to the boat via a flower lined walking path. My camera clicked from one flower to the other, as I attempted to capture the beauty of the native Hawaiian plants which surrounded us. Walking among the colorful exotic tropical plants sproting from the floor of this rain forest I realize I am in my most perfect element of serene peace. It was in this way that I would come to continue recommending this tour for others to enjoy. Perhaps the float trip had been more fabulous than even I had imagined it could be. Perhaps “Granny trips” are exactly what my soul needs as I learn to relax into this sixth decade of my life.

“E” is for Eternal Flame-Our Hawaiian Adventures

While on our Pacific Island Tour, our first stop after departing Los Angeles was the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  The cruise ship docked at Pier 2.  We would be in port until 11pm.  Our first tour wasn’t scheduled until noon, where we had a 10 1/2 hour exploration at the Polynesian Cultural Center planned to fill our afternoon and evening hours.   Never ones to waste time, this meant we still had a couple of hours available to explore the capital city of Waikiki, before the tour began.

A scout around the internet had given me a historical/architectural walking tour, which I figured we could complete in a couple of hours. After being at sea for four days, we were more than ready to explore.  Waving over our shoulders to the ships camera, with the hope of our family seeing us, Alan and I were off the ship by 9am.  With the time changes, we had already been up for several hours as we had watched the ship pull in.

Hand in hand we began walking, our goal was to see any of the 8  historical landmarks in Hawaii.  Many of these are Heritage Sites. These locations provide cultural explanations and the history behind them.  Today we had a goal of seeing the Kawaiahao church, the Capitol Building, the beautiful Iolani Palace, the Parliament building and the King Kamehameha Statue and finally the Eternal Flame monument. This is how the Eternal Flame Memorial became our letter “E”.  It was a 30 minute walk and we had a lot to see before getting there, so we stepped up our pace.  The flame is located directly across from the Capitol Building at 420 So. Beretania St.

The original Eternal flame has burned since 1944, in memory of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but this sculpture was re-dedicated in 1972 to all the men and women of Hawaii who have bravely served.  A palm lined path gently guides the visitor past the homeless population which often hangs out in the area.  It makes sense that they find the area inviting as this area overlooks the beautiful land which is Hawaii.  With the capitol of Waikiki behind us, the Eternal Flame lends a quiet, contemplative air in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

The flame is protected from the elements by an interesting metal sculpture which shields it from the wind, ensuring that it burns non-stop.  Perhaps this is the same embrace we should offer to all our vets.

Many of the homeless here are former vets.   As they huddle beneath the statue, I can’t help but be honored to be in the presence of those who have protected us.  After all, isn’t awareness the real reason that this flame burns endlessly?

 

 

“K” is For Korean Friendship Bell-Our Los Angeles, California Adventure

Arriving two days before we would set sail on our partial World Cruise Adventure, afforded us the opportunity to explore the Los Angeles area. With an eye toward nature, scenery, history and culture in all of our research, I had feared we would have to spend the day by the hotel pool. How very wrong I had been! My sleuthing had uncovered a plethora of activities which would meet our desires and keep us busy from morning until night. Our first stop on Day 2 of our trip, would be the Korean Friendship Bell.

We were momentarily lost as we looked for the entrance to the bell. Indeed, we soon discovered that many locals have never even been to this beautiful location. The GPS had given us the location only as far as old military barracks. As we looked out over the San Pedro harbor, we realized that the Korean Friendship Bell was actually the next entrance over and up a steep roadway which lead to the most beautiful open park and stunning views of any area that I have seen.

A plaque at the entrance describes how the US had acquired such a gift. The pavilion took ten months to be built by Korean craftsmen “to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. independence, honor veterans of the Korean War, and to consolidate traditional friendship between the two countries”. From the tree which had been planted by the Korean President himself, to the carefully curated landscaping, and the concrete circles which once held cannons, I wanted to explore everything.

I also felt the spiritual connection of this special place and the friendships which had been born between two nations. This seemed to be a location for quiet contemplation. I witnessed a quiet reverence as many approached the bell.

Build atop old bunkers and resting peacefully on a high knoll, overlooking the sea gate from which U.S. troops once sailed into the Pacific, the bell site affords an unsurpassed view of the Los Angeles harbor, the Catalina Channel and the sea terraces of San Pedro hill.

The 17 ton bell sits inside a beautifully painted pavilion.

Also known as an Emille Bell, the bell is patterned after the Bronze Bell of King Songdok, which was cast in 771 A.D. and is still on view in South Korea today. This bell remains among the largest of its kind in the world.

With a height of twelve feet and a diameter of 7-1/2 feet, the bell is made of copper and tin, with gold, nickel, lead and phosphorous added for tone quality.

Four pairs of figures, each pair consisting of the Goddess of Liberty holding a torch, and a Korean spirit , are engraved in relief on the body of the bell. Each of the Korean spirits holds up a different symbol: a symbolic design of the Korean flag; a branch of the rose of Sharon, Korea’s national flower; a branch of laurel, symbol of victory; and a dove of peace.

The bell is rung each year on: Independence day, July 4, National Liberation Day of Korea, August 15, 9:00a.m.-12 Noon and New Year’s Eve, September 17 to coincide with bell ringings around the country to celebrate Constitution week, also on January 13 for Korean-American Day. The Bell is also rung 13 times on the 1st Saturday of the month at 11:30 a.m. There is no clapper inside the giant bell, instead a large wooden log is pulled back and allowed to strike the bell’s side.

The bell is set in a magnificent pagoda-like structure which was constructed on the site by thirty craftsmen flown in from Korea. It took them ten months and costs $569,680. Everything about the pavilion is symbolic. There are twelve columns representing the twelve designs of the Oriental zodiac. Animals stand guard at the base of each set of stairs leading to the pavilion.

Bring a picnic, revel in the beauty of the open ocean and plan to spend some time exploring the walking paths which surround the pavilion. Be warned though, it is always windy at this location.

Korean Bell of Friendship and Bell Pavilion
Angels Gate Park
3601 S Gaffey Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
(310) 548-7705

“C” is For Crown Plaza-Our Los Angeles, California Adventure

We originally booked a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport in preparation for our cruise departure. After reading extensive reviews, I switched our hotel booking to the Crown Plaza,

Once I realized that we were due to sail out of San Pedro, about 30 minutes south of the airport, it seemed easier to get ourselves there for our two night stay.

We arrived later in the evening on the first of a two night stay, too tired to explore the amenities but a fresh room awaited our exhausted bodies.  Forgive the photo of our room, I forgot to take the picture when it was all put together.

We wouldn’t realize how very close to the cruise terminal we were, until the light of the next morning. Many of the upcoming World Cruise passengers were also staying there.  It was a great way to meet them before setting sail.

We chose to rent a car so we could do some sightseeing on the way to the hotel. There was a drop off point just outside the hotel, which made it easy for us to have a one way car rental.  It is also possible to get an Uber or Lyft from the airport for about $35 USD.

The main draw of this hotel is the approximation to the cruise terminal.  We could walk a mile to get there if we chose,  but handling 6 pieces of luggage across several roads might have been a challenge.

Even though the cruise terminal is within view and walking distance, it is far easier to take the shuttle. I knew that we ourselves had 6 suitcases to handle for the trip, so I imagined how challenging luggage was going to be for the many passengers who were doing the entire world tour!

When cruises are in, it is highly recommended to book your time slot the evening before or as soon as you check in.  You will be given a departure time if the shuttles are very busy. The cost of the shuttle is $5 a person and runs every 15 minutes.

When I asked about handling all of the luggage, I was told the 35 passenger busses had had 10 seats taken out to accommodate the extra bags.  There was plenty of room for all of us and since the cruise terminal is only 1 mile away, the shuttles make quick delivery of passengers to the terminal.

There are many amenities within walking distance, including a great restaurant called the Green Onion.  How could I say no to some of the best Mexican food ever?  Especially when it was only 350 feet from the door of the hotel! The area appears safe both day and night. Of course for those guests who don’t want to venture out, there is also on-site dining in the elegant hotel restaurant if you so choose.

All in all, this was an adequate hotel for our needs for the couple nights before we set sail.

If you are interested in this location, I would suggest booking through booking.com.  We were able to get our room for under $200/night (including taxes).

“B” is for Blimp-Our Los Angeles, California Adventure

Blimps, they are the most fascinating feats of air travel! In its most simplistic explanation, blimps are helium filled balloons, with a basket attached to the bottom.  They carry over 100 gallons of water to weigh them down since helium is literally lighter than air! They are navigated by a pilot.

As the Goodyear blimp hovered over our heads while visiting Los Angeles, we were racing against the clock to catch a photo.  We had to find a parking place near Redondo beach and hope that the sun wouldn’t cast the last rays of light before I could spring from the car all while while whipping out my camera.  No my photo isn’t perfect but that isn’t the entire purpose of playing the alphabet game is it?  We were having an adventure!

Knowing there are only about 10 blimps remaining in the world, I knew we were very lucky to be seeing this one so close to us!  To put it in perspective, there are more astronauts than blimp pilots!  The ones flying this craft tonight seem to be toying with me as they hovered overhead, then looking out to the Pacific ocean, that we would soon be embarking on for our upcoming cruise.

With such a fascination for the blimps, it is a wonder we don’t see more of them but then the most notable blimp in history was the Hindenburg and most of us still remember that tragedy which happened in 1937.  After about 60 flights that one eventually caught fire, killing 35 people and dooming the entire industry for future development.

Today the most iconic blimp remains the Goodyear blimps.  Originally developed over 100 years ago, the blimps continue to be one of the most interesting branding mediums for the company.  Goodyear has cornered the market with their blimps.  Mostly they are brought out to hover over major sporting events and offer the spectators a birds eye view as the event is broadcast from overhead.

Seating only 10 people at a time, riding in a Goodyear blimp is by invitation only and is usually reserved for charities.  Seats are auctioned off for a cost of $14,000 for 2 people!  With a 10 year waiting list, It is the rare person who will ever have an opportunity to ride in one.

The last true blimp to fly was decommissioned in 2017,  Goodyear has replaced their fleet with semi-rigid dirigible though they still refer to them as blimps since they are powered in much the same way and the term is much easier to say.

The new blimps are quieter and more easily navigated meaning they can be more readily used at major sporting events such as golf championships ensuring the Goodyear legacy will continue;

On this cool winter evening, I will revel in keeping my feet on the ground while still being close enough to this icon to see the pilots!

“A” is for Averill Park-Our Los Angeles, California Adventure

We would have only 1 1/2 days to explore the Los Angeles area as we waited to embark on the first leg of our World Cruise Adventure,  set to depart from San Pedro, California on January 19, 2023.  We had arrived two days before we were due to set sail, to ensure there were no last minute challenges.

We chose the Crown Plaza for our accommodations since it would be easy to get to the ship and also offered a nearby drop off for our rental car.

I am not generally a fan of big cities and prefer the quiet of the countryside and nature.  It was in this way that I had come to discover a hidden gem known as Averill Park, as I sought some refuge from the concrete jungle and traffic of the city of Los Angeles.

San Pedro is best known as a busy cruise and container port.  Located about 30 minutes south of Los Angeles airport, on first appearances, San Pedro doesn’t appear to have much to offer but since we had the rental car, getting around was fairly simple.   I was determined to find the beauty.

After arriving by plane, we had spent the first day stopping at the beaches which dot the coast between the airport and San Pedro.  Today our adventures would carry us from the hotel, to the Korean Friendship Bell, then to Averill Park and all around the Palo Verde area.

I chose Averill Park as our letter “A” because it had been described as offering spectacular views of the city and harbor.  It sounded like a delightful place to practice with my camera.

The neighborhood park was created by Herbert Averill an early developer of the Vista del Oro area of San Pedro, and was deeded to the city of Los Angeles in 1920. It has remained a peaceful oasis for local residents ever since.

Parking for our hike through the park was a little interesting. The 10 acre park is set among steeply rolling hills and the paths challenging.  We tried to guess which would offer the least resistance.  It was futile.   Since this is just a neighborhood green-space, there are no fees to park.

As we set out on our walk, I enjoyed seeing families perching their children in the gnarled wood of the amazing trees.  I imagined the memories which have been made in this over 100 year old park.

Holding the hand of my love, Alan and I enter the park along the rose lined path.  The roses were not in bloom this time of year but I could visualize the amazing colors which lead to the gazebo at the end.  In the summer, this is considered one of the top wedding venues.  I can feel the love here.

San Pedro is a neighborhood of Los Angeles, not a separate city.  With a population of over twelve and a half million, green space is at a premium. Word has been getting out about this special place. Today is a weekday but the park is still alive with activity as people breath the fresh air and escape the hustle of the nearby city. I can only imagine the droves of people who make their way here during the summer.

As we make our way down the steep hillside we round a bend in the path and I pause to take yet another photo of the amazing trees.  Arriving at the babbling brook, I breath in the newly sprouting greens of spring and gaze into the small stream  which meanders through the valley.  I think of the countless reflections of the people who have been photographed on the little stone bridge which crosses over to the other side.  Today a turtle is the only thing I see in the water.

My ears follow the sound of rushing water to the little waterfall cascading down the hillside.  This is a reminder that the path back to the car, is all uphill!

It is time for us to move to our next location.  As the sun shines bright upon my face and the turtles rest quietly on the rocks of the stream, it is hard to tear myself away from the tranquility but our adventures for the day have only just begun.  There is still much to explore, so we begin the trudge upwards.

If you would like to discover this quiet neighborhood park for yourself,  it is located at:

1300 Dodson Avenue San Pedro, CA 90732

Los Angeles-An ABC List of Adventures

ABC EXPLORATION OF LOS ANGELES AND SURROUNDING AREAS

Use this list to spark ideas of places to visit, experiences to create and photographs to take.  Keep building your own word list.  Check back often to see if we complete a whole alphabet!

Missing  J, X, Y

A

  • Abalone Cove (San Pedro Area)
  • Abandoned LA Zoo (Griffith Park)
  • Accomodations
  • Afternoon Tea ( Millennium Biltmore DTLA)
  • Amoeba (Large independent record store)
  • Angels Flight Railway
  • Annenberg Space For Photography
  • Animal-Hipster restaurant with an extensive menu and unique dishes.
  • Aquarium (Manhattan Beach, Aquarium of the Pacific, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium)
  • Arclight Cinemas
  • Art Walk
  • Averill Park

B

  • Beach (Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach)
  • Betegga Louie-pizza and macarons are always popular at this busy restaurant.
  • Bergamot Station
  • Betty B Dearing Trail Hike
  • Blimp
  • Bluff Cove (Palo Verde area)
  • Boardwalk (Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica Beach)
  • Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater-oldest children’s theater company in LA.
  • Book Soup
  • Brennan’s Pub Turtle Race

C

  • Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
  • California Science Center
  • California sign
  • Capital Records Building
  • Cargo containers
  • Carousel
  • Castle Peak Hike
  • Cave of Munits
  • Chorizo
  • Chinese Theater
  • Chateau Marmont Hotel-Popular amongst celebrities. Loosely resembles the Chateau d’Amboise in France’s Loire Valley.
  • Coast
  • Cove
  • Crown Plaza (hotel)

D

  • Dodger Stadium/
  • Disney Hall
  • Disneyland
  • Downtown LA
  • Descanso Gardens
  • Donut Snob-With flavors like Blueberry Earl Gray Tea and Pistachio Orange, there is something for everyone.
  • Donut Man

E

  • Exposition Park Rose Garden
  • Exposition Park
  • El Capitan Theater
  • Eaton Canyon Waterfall
  • Echo Park Lake

F

  • Father’s Office Burger (at In and Out Burgers)-don’t dare to ask for ketchup!
  • Ferris Wheel
  • Fishermen
  • Food

G

  • Getty Villa
  • Griffith Observatory
  • Grand Central Market
  • Gibbon Conservation Center

H

  • Hollywood Blvd
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Hollywood Bowl
  • Hollywood Sign Hike
  • Hollywood Forever Cemetary
  • Huntington Library
  • Hike
  • Hermosa Beach

I

  • Inspiration Point
  • In and Out Burgers
  • Ice cream (Manhattan Beach Creamery)

J

K

L

  • Lakers Game
  • LA Lakers
  • LA Waterfront cruise (cargo ships, containers, Vincent Thomas Bridge, USS Iowa and sea lions)
  • LA Zoo
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art
  • Lost Sunken City-aka the “Atlantis of California”
  • Leo Carrillo State Beach
  • LA County Fair
  • Lighthouse (Point Vincent-Palo Verde area)
  • Lucha Vovoom Burlesque Show-
  • Lookout Point Park (Palo Verde area)

M

  • Muscle Beach (Venice boardwalk)
  • Magic Castle
  • Mugu State Park
  • Melrose Trading Post Flea Market-Sunday open-air market where you’ll find antiques, vintage goods and collectibles.
  • Museum of Jurassic Technology
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Madame Tussauds Hollywood
  • Manhattan Beach
  • Mahhattan Beach Creamery (Ice cream)-try the signature ice cream sandwich made with artisan cookies
  • Malaga Cove (Palo Verde area)

N

  • Nightlife
  • Night Gallery

O

  • Outdoor Concert

P

  • Pacific Ocean
  • Pier
  • Pelicans
  • Pelican Cove
  • Portuguese Point
  • Point Vincente Lighthouse-not open to the public but can be seen from the shore. (Palo Verde area)
  • Palo Verdes

Q

  • Queen Mary

R

  • Rodeo Dr.
  • Red Car Line (trolly system)
  • Runyon Canyon Hike
  • Rodeo Drive
  • Redondo Beach

S

  • Starfish
  • Sacred Cove
  • Santa Monica Camera Obscura-self guided walking art tour of galleries and exhibits.
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Sea lions
  • Ships
  • Show Taping (Conan, Ellen Show, Jimmy Kimmel)
  • Shopping (The Grove, Rodeo Drive)
  • Silver Lake Meadow
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Space Shuttle Endeavor at California Science Center
  • South Coast Botanical Garden
  • The Strand (Manhattan Beach)- is a 22-mile paved path extending from Pacific Palisades (close to Santa Monica) to Torrance.  Keep in mind some people refer to The Stand as the “Manhattan Beach Boardwalk.”
  • Staples Center-where the LA Lakers play

T

  • Tide pools
  • Third Street Promenade
  • Traffic
  • Trolley cars (red car line)
  • “The Rainforest”-Betty B Dearing Trail Hike
  • The Last Bookstore-check out their amazing tunnel of books.
  • The Grove-Tons of stores, dining and pop-up shops.
  • The Grammy Museum
  • Traffic

U

  • Under
  • Union Station
  • Up
  • USS Iowa Battleship
  • Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

V

  • Venice Beach Boardwalk-outdoor skate park, BoHo boutiques and trendy restaurants
  • Venice Canals-Man made canals built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney.
  • Vincent Thomas Bridge
  • Vineland Drive-In Theater

W

  • White Point Beach
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall
  • Waterfront
  • Wayfarers Chapel
  • Wacko Soap Plant
  • Wildlife Learning Center
  • Watch the Room (Don’t forget your plastic spoons)
  • Watts Towers Arts-Public art sculpture that is a California Historical Landmark and National Historic Landmark.
  • Whisky a Go-go
  • Whale watching

X

Y

Z

  • Zuma Beach

“I” is For Island Princess-A Cruise Ship Review

One of the most important things about cruising is choosing the right ship for your personal needs.  From amenities to cabins, itineraries and passenger capacity, knowing what your ship offers can have a big impact on how you enjoy your vacation.

Every cruise line has a brand.  Some are party boats, others offer upscale luxury.  Some ships specialize in their food, others focus on entertainment. Some cruises cater to families, others to retirees. Princess is an American-British company, owned by Carnival Corporation, which is the second largest agency by net revenue.  Carnival owns 10 different sub agencies, Princess is one of them.  They are an experienced cruise line and cater to a middle to upper income crowd.

Princess is a classic line, offering an Old English/European feel.  I have consistently found the brand to be slightly elevated and catering to an older clientele. There is less emphasis on poolside parties and more on educational lectures and cultural experiences.   With this cruise line we can expect nice staterooms, decent food, great entertainment and amazing itineraries.

It is important to define what you are seeking before shopping for a cruise.  If you are looking for a party boat, Princess is likely not your brand (however Carnival does offer several other companies which would meet your needs).  While there are enough poolside activities and bars to keep the ship interesting, the focus tends to be on providing an upscale resort-like experience.

Princess offers 16 ships ranging from 2,000 passengers up to 3660, so there are a nice variety of size options. Island Princess was one of the first.  She is a relatively small vessel.  In general, smaller ships are able to navigate to more destinations but larger ships may offer additional amenities and activities.

When we chose to embark on the Island Princess, it was the itinerary, size and price which attracted us the most.

Princess ships sail to over 700 ports. The Island Princess is one of the smaller ships in the Princess fleet. With a capacity of 2200 passengers it is a very intimate ship.   She has a twin sister called the Coral Princess.

Island Princess is narrower than many other cruise ships and her small size allows her to explore the fjords of Norway and Alaska (which is how we discovered the cruise line).  She is also able to dock at smaller ports.  Of late Island Princess has been doing mostly world tours.  Of interest might be that she is one of the few cruise ships which can sail through the old Panama Canal locks, larger ships must use the new ones.

Perhaps one drawback to the smaller ship would be that passengers should expect to feel more wave action, so if you are prone to seasickness, the Island Princess may be less appealing than one of the newer (larger) ships in the fleet.

Having been built in 2003, Island Princess is one of the oldest ships in the Princess line.  She was completely remodeled in 2017 and put back into service with a brand new itinerary. Our Pacific Island Adventure is one leg of a 111 day around the world cruise.  This feature in itself is unique, since Princess allows passengers to purchase various segments along the itinerary, if they are unable to commit to the entire trip.

World cruises can mean a lot of days at sea.  From bow to stern, Princess put a lot of effort into creating a luxurious environment.  The European flare is represented in the Italian styled Piazza located at the center of the ship and the beautiful Sabatinni restaurant.   Polished brass and rich wood work brings an Old World style to many of the bars and lounges including the Wheelhouse Bar and a New Orleans styled Bayou Steakhouse.

The entire ship is always a hub of activity, but with a nice variety of spaces, it is able to be as active or as serene as you need. By day there are a variety of shops and plenty of lounges and gathering places for activities such as trivia challenges and guest lecturers.  There are numerous options of where to eat including the above mentioned restaurants, two main dining rooms, a grill, a pizzeria and a buffet.  We might pass the time with a wine tasting, pub lunches and/or afternoon tea.  When we need a quieter pace we could choose to visit the adults only sanctuary at the top of the ship, a well appointed library or indulge in pampering in a small spa. We might lounge by one of several (freshwater) pools situated both indoor and out, or we might decide to walk around the promenade deck or exercise in the fitness center.

By night Princess continues to entertain with a variety of Broadway style shows, magicians, comedians, piano bars, jazz bands, a casino and more.  Unique to the Princess brand is the Champagne Waterfall, offered on one of the formal evenings.  This is yet another nod to the elevated luxury we find aboard this ship.  We also find people dress up more on these evenings than they do on other cruise lines.   When we seek quieter activities, we might choose to snuggle under provided blankets, while eating popcorn or cookies and milk and taking in a Movie Under the Stars.   This is one of our favorite ways to unwind when we are on the seas.

After all of this activity we are often ready to retreat to our stateroom.  The entire Princess line offers some of the most comfortable mattresses and linens of any cruise line.

We always book a balcony cabin.  For us, this little piece of heaven offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the ship.  Being able to step out into fresh air and watch icebergs, sunrises/sunsets, whales and scenery from the privacy of our balcony offers the unique luxury that we equate with cruising.   We often order room service and enjoy a private picnic from this space.

Other people may not be that bothered about their stateroom, especially if they are only using it to sleep.  Interior cabins can offer deep discounts and Ocean view cabins may offer a similar views without the fresh air.  We have been spoiled by our balconies and this is now one feature our ships must always have.

One of my few complaints about the Island Princess is that she has some of the smallest showers ever, but you will always find good water pressure and hot water on demand, so it is (almost) something which can be overlooked.

This is our fourth cruise with this company (and its former company, P &O).  My favorite things about cruising with Princess are the consistency across the ships, the all inclusive options and the amazing itineraries. Being a little older, I also appreciate that the ships cater to (mostly) adults.

The Island Princess may be old, by ship standards, but she is well equipped to navigate the world and provide an outstanding and immersive adventure.   In the coming days we will continue to explore in depth, some of what this stately Princess has to offer.

“L” is For Los Angeles-Day 1 of Our Pacific Island Adventure

Today is day 1 of our Pacific Island Adventure.  For our own sanity, we prefer to arrive at the port the day before we set sail on a cruise, which means that we have some time to pass in this location.  Normally we would only have 24 hours to fill but a couple of months before we set sail, the airlines changed our flight arrangements which means we would have about 48 hours to occupy ourselves before our cruise set off.

Los Angeles, would not be my first choice of a destination to travel to.  As the second most populated location in the USA, it is busy. Personally I prefer the serenity of a forest, to the bustle of large cities, but that is just me.

Normally I would have been content to spend our time in a hotel room or lounging by a pool, because cities just aren’t my thing but this was too much down time, so I needed to find something meaningful to do. I challenged Alan to an ABC adventure which we will be sharing in its entirety during the month of March.  For today we offer just a sampling of what we explored.

Los Angeles is the largest city in the state of California. It is rich with ethnic and cultural diversity, giving us plenty of interesting foods to try and fascinating people to observe.  Under normal circumstances this might have been enough to occupy our short visit here but our research had revealed a plethora of exciting options and they were just miles from the airport.

Initially we had planned to take a transfer to the hotel in San Pedro but we wondered how we would juggle the extra supplies we wanted to purchase. We will be cruising for a month followed by 2 weeks of land activities.  I didn’t want to carry all of our consumables, so a shopping trip was in order.   A few minutes of scouting on the internet revealed we could rent a car through Budget Rental Cars.  There was an option to pick up at the airport and drop off at the hotel for about the same cost as paying for a transfer but a car would also give us enormous freedom.

This is how our first stop on our Pacific Island Adventure became Target, a large department store/grocery store, located just beyond the airport. It was an added bonus that we would be traveling down Pacific Highway 1, considered one of the most scenic roads in the USA and convenient to get our errands out of the way.  Where should we go from here?

Like all big cities, there is plenty to do in the Los Angeles area.  There are galleries, museums and performing arts to experience.  There are zoos, sports games and educational opportunities.  From Disneyland, to the World of Harry Potter and Universal Studios, it seems there is a theme park nearby to fill every interest. While not all are located in Los Angeles, they are all accessible within a reasonable distance from the airport.

The Mediterranean climate attracts millions to discover the city, the waters, the beaches, the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Fernando Valley.  The word beach has caught my attention.  This was more my idea of a vacation than the towering skyscrapers of the megalopolis of Los Angeles, which sprawls for miles.

After realizing we would be sailing out of San Pedro, just 30 minutes South of the Los Angeles airport, we decided to head that direction.  We crave nature and beauty.  The entire coastal drive held promise.   This area would lead us to beaches and some of the most scenic overlooks along the coast.  We set our sights on visiting the Palos Verde area which sits between LA and San Pedro.

This is the area the stars and starlets call home.  “Star gazing” is a sport in this city.  We are not star struck people.  In fact, the only stars I will be looking for today will be starfish!   In Los Angeles, Hollywood Boulevard and Rodeo Drive are just two of the places you might run into your favorite A-list celebrities.  Often they can be seen going about their normal errands, a cell phone in one hand and a triple shot machiatto in the other.  On our adventure, we would be keeping an eye open for them along the boardwalks and piers of Manhattan Beach instead.

Manhattan Beach

Just 5 miles from the airport and 19 miles from downtown LA, we quickly discover Manhattan Beach.  This short jaunt to the coast has us busy as we explore an amazing pier, built in 1929.  Many consider this pier to be among the prettiest in Los Angeles county and I am in my photographic glory trying to capture it.

As we stroll out over the water, we should have been able to see the entire Santa Monica Bay, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and Catalina Island but there is a haze.  It feels like a different world from the city which lies directly behind us.  At the end of the pier is a beautiful two story octagonal roundhouse which has been converted into an aquarium, offering both fresh and saltwater tanks, a touch pool and many educational exhibits.  Best of all, its completely free!

Coming off the pier I realize we are so close to the airport and city that we can still see the planes arriving and skyscrapers which occupy LA!  We took a few minutes to explore the underside of the pier.  The recent rain in this area has created a high surf which is now fascinating to watch.

Our next decision was whether to play a game of volleyball on the 2 mile long beach, watch the surfers or take a stroll along “The Strand”.

The Strand

The Strand is a 22-mile paved path, extending from Pacific Palisades (close to Santa Monica) to Torrance.  Some people refer to The Stand as the “Manhattan Beach Boardwalk.”  Some of the countries most expensive real estate is situated in this area.  This pathway is so long that it actually connects to our next destination, which is Hermosa Beach.  Since it is only two miles, we could walk along the Strand but the day is drawing to a close so  we will drive there but many choose to run, bike or skateboard.  First we have a little more to discover in the Hermosa area.

Farmers Market

Before heading in that direction we take a little time to explore the downtown area of Manhattan.  We have arrived on a Tuesday, which lucky for us is the one day of the week that the Farmers Market is open.  From 11am-4pm, 45-50 vendors sell their goods. There is a wide variety of products to choose from including cheese, vegan cheese (made from cashews), dates, honey, berries, orchids, olive oil, ice cream, hummus, fish, and prepared foods. They  even have activities for the kids such as a mini-train and  face painting!   This is one of the best markets I have ever been to.

Shopping

Following our trip to the market we did a bit of shopping in the downtown area then wandered along Manhattan Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue.  This is one of the wealthiest areas in the LA area, yet this beautiful beach town offers an inviting welcome to all.  There is something humorous about spotting a 20 year old driving a Ferrari.  We are all enjoying the same beautiful views, even though our experiences might be slightly different!

Ice Cream

As we finished the day in Manhattan Beach we decided it was time for an ice cream.We never pass an opportunity to sample the local recommendations, so when we heard about Manhattan Creamery, we knew we had to find it.  The store has a party-like vibe.  They are famous for their signature Cream’wich ice cream sandwich made with artisan cookies.  In addition customers  may choose macrons, caramel apples, candy, cupcakes and other frozen treats.  It is a sweet lover’s paradise.  After loading up, it is time to move to our next location.

Hermosa

As we make our way along the coast we quickly come to our second stop.  Hermosa lies just a few miles from Manhattan Beach. There is a different vibe in this community, it is more relaxed than Manhattan.   This town is filled with art.  We set out on a walking tour to locate some of the decorated utility boxes which line the street.  Murals cover numerous buildings.  The one below was visible for miles and we had to take a close up look to prove to ourselves that it was indeed just a painting!

The Strand continues through this town.  Palm trees guide us towards the open space.

The surf was so high today, they have closed off the pier.  We watch the sunset as a flock of birds takes flight.   We take a final walk along the Strand, a lone volleyball player practices in the blaze of orange.  The first of many beautiful sunsets we hope to see.

 

Redondo Beach

As the sun begins to dip along the horizon we hop to our last beach of the day.   This beach is filled with romance. The sea beckons as light scatters diamonds across the surface of the water and waves swell to propel surfers toward the shore.  Gondolas line up ready to whisk lovers to embrace a sunset. Tour boats sit ready to embark on dinner cruises and whale watching tours.  Overseeing it all are the seals and sea lions barking their orders to embrace the moment.  At least this was what we had expected to find from all our research, but none of that was here!  We suspect that many boats were moved as a series of strong storms passed through the area for the past couple of weeks.

What we did see was a beautiful pier filled with every variety of eateries ranging from fair foods to fine dining.

We chose to eat at Tony’s where pub food and bar are located upstairs and fine dining is in the lower level,  So our evening came to a close over a glass of wine, next to a roaring fire, looking over a beautiful surf.

During our two days in the Los Angeles area,  our days have been packed with beaches and beautiful views  Some of the most valuable real estate in the USA exists along this California coast.  So many of our adventures are completely free and absorbing this stunning beauty leaves me contemplative.   Sitting high upon the cliffs, these amazing homes look out over the Pacific Ocean.   There is a world of discovery ahead of us.

Visiting the cliffs, beaches and hiking trails, we can almost imagine that  we are far from civilization but then we hop on another highway and are quickly reminded that nearly 4 million people call this area home.  Like our circulatory system, I can almost feel the coursing of life running through society.

As  night approaches, the city takes on a whole new vibe.  Searchlights arc through the air, announcing the latest silver screen premier. Like a heartbeat there is a pulsating sound which seems to resonate atop every rooftop bar, as the music, pools and alcohol draw slinky-sexy crowds to come out and play.

The last 48 hours have already been filled with travel and sight seeing.  We have even made a final shopping trip to purchase the last of our cruise supplies. Tonight, safely tucked back into our hotel room at the Crowne Plaza in San Pedro, California we are happy enough to begin to wind down.   We can’t resist one last adventure as we head to the Rainbow Lagoon, where the illuminated Swan Boats guide gracefully across the surface of the water.  As we cuddle together on this January evening we are wrapped in a hug by the warm lights of this shining city.  Los Angeles hasn’t turned out to be so bad after all.

How would your ABC Adventure look in the LA area?

This is city life.  With so much to offer, there is no excuse for boredom.  We are happy enough to have been able to play in this area for 48 hours.  As with most of our adventures, we have filled every moment.  We are now exhausted and ready to spend the next 5 days at sea before our next stop which will be in Oahu, Hawaii.

The sea is calling, my bags need repacking and we are suffering from the time change.  We need an early night before embarking on our cruise tomorrow.

Tomorrow we set sail on our 42 day Pacific Island Adventure!  We invite you to continue to follow along.

 

“A” is for Arranging an ABC Adventure

The ABC Adventure is meant to encourage you to explore deeper and is intended to assist you with documenting your journey,  You are using your camera and language skills to document a story while adding some creativity to both.

An ABC Adventure is part personal guidebook, part word game, part photography challenge and part Scavenger Hunt.  It is all  fun.

“Rules” of the Game

  1. The first rule is that there really are no rules!  There are however a few missions.  The purpose of the ABC game is to live more deeply and to document the journey, but mostly to have fun along the way.
  2. The game is similar to a Scavenger Hunt.  It may be played by yourself, with a group, or in teams. You will take one photograph representing a word or phrase (that you choose) for each letter of the alphabet. You do not need to complete the alphabet in order. There is no time limit to the game (unless you choose to set one).
  3. Begin by choosing an anchoring theme for your game.   Put your anchoring theme at the top of the page.  This offers a little confinement to your mission.  ABC games are not limited to travel. Here are a few themes we have used:
  • Art in an Airport
  • Birthday Celebrations
  • Date Nights
  • Exploration By Country
  • Exploration By the City

You could also do an ABC food tour, an ABC cruise ship tour, an ABC art in the airport tour, your ABC Adventures are only as limited as your creativity.

  1. Write out the alphabet leaving blank space next to each letter.  Each letter will represent a single word or phrase. Once you assign the word or phrase, you will take a photo to represent it (or you can take a photo first and then assign it to a word). There are no limits to how creative your photography  or word choices may be.  In fact, the more creative, the more interesting the game becomes.

The choice of creating a guide before you begin a game is entirely up to you.   You can follow our process below, or jump straight to the Scavenger Hunt section.

 

Creating a Guide  (Wordplay and Personal Guide)

  1. The value in making a list is to see where you are going to be challenged.  Some letters are more difficult than others to represent.   Write out the alphabet leaving blank space next to each letter. We generally create our lists on the computer because the word list can become very long.  By having all the options, you can quickly see where an alternate word or phrase choice might exist.  Mostly the guide is a long series of questions.
  2. Where are you going?  What is the mission of this ABC Adventure? If you are doing a travel themed ABC Adventure, this may be continents, countries, states, cities, towns and/or villages.  If you are limiting your exploration to something like the cruise ship, then you might  write “C” for cruise or “I” for Island Princess (or whatever specific ship you are on).  If you were looking just for art in a museum then you might just record the name of the museum.  In our example below, My theme is ABC’s By State.  We knew we would be visiting several Hawaiian islands but I began with H-Hawaii then added K-Kauai since I knew we would be experiencing at least that much.  My list will eventually expand to include Maui and Oahu as part of an overall Hawaiian Adventure.
  3. Next ask yourself who is going to play the game/travel with you.  In our case, it will just be Alan and I, so I will add and “A”-Alan and “D”-Deb to my list.
  4. How will you get there? (example A-airplane, C-cruise, “R” Rental car etc).  Do you know of any other transportation you would like to experience? *Since much of Kauai  inaccessible by road, it is recommended to see from a sailboat “S” , “C” catamaran and/or “P” plane.  Do you already know if certain tours use a specific kind of transportation? You could use “K” for kayak.
  5. Next, begin to research tours or activities you might be interested in.  This is your “what will we do question”.  I often visit Trip Advisor or Pinterest to find fun things to do.  We knew we wanted to take a flight tour over Kauai so our abc list  began to look like this… A-airplane, F-flight tour  etc.  Always list multiple terms for each word, this is how you will eventually fill the entire alphabet with options.  Move from broad to specific.  You could also begin to get creative here…what about the letter “U” for Up (as in up in the air).  Each guide will be personal to your interests, activities and goals.
  6. Begin to fill in things you will likely see on the tour. For example,  as we researched the flight tour we knew we could use  “N” for Na Pali coast and “W” for Waimea Canyon. These were both included on the tour. As we read about  these places we noted that Waimea Canyon was also referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  We cross referenced the list with a “G”.      We knew these areas would be “L” -lush.  Our words were beginning to get a little more descriptive.  We knew that we would be seeing “W”-waterfalls and “R” rainforests.  We noted that the Na Pali coast was undulating. We added these words.  Hint, words spark creativity of photos and vice versa.
  7. Stay open to discovering new things to explore.  As we researched our options, we also discovered many other things we might be interested in exploring such as “F” for Fern Grotto and  “R” for Riverboat cruise, if we had time.  My mind raced with the possibilities of how we could spend our time.  What restaurants are recommended?  What sites are top to see?  You likely won’t “do” everything on your list but writing down everything which interests you, means that you will have numerous options  when it comes time to actually going on your personal journey.  If it were raining, you might need to move an activity indoors, you will already know where to go.  This is the personal guide portion of the game.  Think of it as a travel guide.
  8.  Now imagine the culture.  What foods, games, dances, music, language etc do you want to discover.  Your abc list might begin to look like “H”-hula and  “U”-ukelele.  Is there a traditional dress which people wear?  For example, “A” Aloha Shirts.
  9. Begin to add other categories which interest you such as A-architecture, animals, B-boats, beaches C-churches etc.  Continue to move from broad to specific for example you could add A-animals but research showed that we would likely see C-chickens and W-whales on this trip, so they were also listed.
  10. Keep asking questions and adding to your lists.    What foods are eaten?  Example “M” Macadamia nuts, “S”-shave ice.  How do they taste or smell? Sweet, sour, pungent?  What time of year is it? What season are you in? What month is it? Is it dry, arid, wet or humid? Sunny or cloudy?  What do you hear? What colors could you add? What emotions are triggered?  Do you expect to stand in awe?
  11. *The more descriptive terminology you add, the more interesting your writing will become when it comes time to tell your story.  This may also give you some interesting ideas for photography.
  12. Keep building  your alphabet lists with creative exploration of language.  For example “C” could be coffee (which Kawaii is famous for) but perhaps you already have a “C”, you could also use “J” for Java.
  13. Add some colors to your list.  Kawaii is very “G”-green but dig deeper and add interesting words like  “V”-verdent.
  14. Did you know the “Y”-Yellow Hibiscus is the state flower?   Build, build, build on the ABC/word list before you begin playing the game.  The more time you spend here, the more options you have once you begin the game.

Scavenger Hunt

  1. Use your blank alphabet list.  The goal is to try to represent each letter of the alphabet with a word or phrase and a photo.  Hint: take more photos than you think you need.
  2. You are using your camera and language skills to document a story.  Add some creativity to both.  How do you document words like yellow?   Did you know that the  state flower of Hawaii is yellow? Since my theme is ABC’s By State (Hawaii), this would be a great way to document my “Y” for yellow.  This can often be a tough letter to find, so it will be high on my list to get this photo.  if I see the word pineapple, I might choose to photograph a pineapple plantation, a single pineapple growing, or a wonderful pina colada (or all of the above).  I might also try to experience the local pineapple french toast with coconut dressing, all would be wonderful ways to represent the word pineapple.

Detours-Sometimes you won’t have an idea for a letter.  This is your chance to become very observant.  Words and opportunities are everywhere.  Detours are what create the adventure, don’t be afraid of them.

  1. Did you see a sign which begins with your needed letter?  Detour.
  2. Could you find a quote which begins with your desired letter and fits the theme of your adventure?  Detour.
  3. Could you rearrange your photos/words to be able to use something somewhere else?  Detour.

Share Your Story

By the time you finish this game, you are sure to have had some grand adventures. It is likely that you took more photos than just those that you selected for the Scavenger Hunt.  It is likely that you imagined more words and phrases than you used (you did save your list didn’t you?).  I know that I will have tried to capture every single word on my list.  I will have let my creativity flow through my photography and word choices.  It is now time to use these to put the words and photos together because a photo without explanation is left to interpretation and words with no pictures means it never happened.  By the time you complete an ABC adventure, your photos and descriptive writing should represent who, what, where, when, why and how of the adventure you set out to enjoy.

We experience the world one letter at a time and discover our world one word at a time, but we write our legacy by one story at a time.

 

The Overall Kauai ABC List

Here is how our Kauai, Hawaii list eventually shaped up.  (Yours may look different based on personal interests/goals).

  • Allerton Gardens/Aloha shirts/ Aloha/Airplane/Alan/animals/Awe
  • Blow Hole (Spouting Horn)/Beaches/Botanical Gardens/blue
  • Chickens (thousands occupy the island)/coffee (see also java)/coconut/crater/chocolate/cruise
  • Deb
  • Eucalyptus trees (Tunnel of trees on way to Koloa Town and Poipu Beach)
  • Fern Grotto (lava cave overgrown with ferns-about 2 miles up the Wailua River-accessed by kayak or boat trip)/Flowers/Forbidden Island (Ni’Hau)/Flight
  • Grove Farm Sugar Plantation Museum/Grand Canyon of the Pacific (Waimea Canyon Park)/gardens/ green
  • Hanalei (shopping)/Hanalei Bay/Hanakapi’ai Beach/Hawaii/Helicopter tour (Island Helicopter Tours are the only one which land at a waterfall)/Hula Dancers (Sheraton Kauai Resort, Grand Hyatt Kaui and Kilohana Plantation estate)/humid
  • Island Plane Tour
  • January/Jurassic Park Falls/Java (see also coffee)
  • Kalaheo Coffee Co (breakfast/baked goods)/Kawaii/kayak/Kilohana plantation/Koke’e State Park/Kalalau Trail (first half mile)/Koa wooden bowls/Kauai coffee/Kilauea Point/Kilauea Lighthouse/Koa wooden bowls/Kipu Kai/Kalapaki Beach/Kalua (the act of cooking a pig in the ground for hours)/Kauai/Koloa Town
  • Lighthouse (Kilauea Lighthouse)/Luau/leis/Lanai/Larsen’s Beach/lava cave/lush
  • Mountain tube/monk seals/Moreton Bay fig trees/McBride Gardens/Mount Waialeale-(wettest spot on earth)/Mahaulepu Beach (monk seals/beauty/hiking)/Macadamia nuts/ Moloa’a Beach/music/ Mountains/mango/mai tai
  • Na Pali Coast/Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens)/Ni’Hau (Forbidden Island)
  • O
  • Pineapple/Pineapple French toast with coconut dressing (at the Kalaheo Coffee Co)/Passionfruit/Pupu Platter (cross between tapas and bar food)/Poipu Beach (Tunnel of trees and spouting Horn)/Pu’u O Kila Lookout (Kokee’e Park)/pottery/passionfruit/Polihale Beach/palm trees
  • Queen’s Bath (Kalapana)/Poke (Hawaiian sushi)
  • Rainforests/Red Dirt Falls (Grand Canyon of the Pacific-located in Waimea Canyon Park)
  • Shave ice/Spouting Horn/Shop/surfing/seashells/Shipwreck Beach/Smith Family Luau/Sticky rice pudding/Spouting Horn (blow hole)/sunset
  • Tunnel of Trees (see also Euclyptus trees)/Tidepools
  • Ukulele/Undulate
  • Vintage train (Kilohana plantation)/volcano/verdent
  • Waterfalls-Wailua Falls& river/Waimea Canyon/Wailua River/Wai’oli Hui’ia Church (Hanalei)/Whale watching (winter only when Pacific humpbacks migrate to mate and give birth), wasabi mustard, wooden bowls/ Wai-ale-ale Crater/wet/winter
  • X
  • Y yellow
  • Zen/Zipline (Skyline Hawaii)

 

The words above words also give me an opportunity to expand my language as I write the descriptions and stories of each experience.   How interesting does a story about cooking a pig in an underground oven (Kalue) become when I use local terminology and/or language?  How much more authentic does the experience become when local culture is infused into the adventure?

The ABC’s give us structure but this is your adventure to design in any way which you choose.  Enjoy the journey!

 

“A” is For Art at the Airport-ABC Air Travel

Airports are busy places.  Often we rush around and miss much of what is offered there.

Have you ever been stuck at an airport and/or had a long layover and wondered how to pass time?   Why not design a self paced art tour while you are waiting?

This was how we created our next ABC Adventure.   Our mission would be to see as many art installations as we could, while traveling through airports. We wondered if we could complete an entire alphabet. The next time we find ourselves with some time, it will be a great excuse to walk around and get some exercise.  On this day we passed 2 hours walking from terminal to terminal at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

In our quest to complete the alphabet, we have found paintings, sculptures, fiber art and so much more.  Airport art rivals that of any gallery.  The long walls, high ceilings and open spaces lend themselves to bigger installations of art.

The next time you are stuck in an airport, take a look around.  Can you complete a full ABC adventure with art as your theme?

As we try to complete the alphabet tour, we will continue to add photos as we travel and the airport locations which we find them, so be sure to check back often.

A is For

Adler Planetarium Exhibit (Chicago O’hare Airport)

The Adler Planetarium has an exhibit in the Pedestrian Walkway on the way to the CTA O’Hare Blue Line Station. The Exhibit features many posters such as the one above offering views of beautiful constellations in the night skies.

After School Matters Benches (Chicago O’hare Airport)

Located throughout the Terminal 1/2 Bridge and Terminal 5, the After School Matters Benches depict various designs. All benches are hand painted by teen apprentice artists in the After School Matters art program. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM.

 

B is For

Beacons by Steven Heyman

A large square “Blue Beacon” and a large circular “Orange Beacon” suspended above the “Meet and Greet” area in the lower level of Terminal 5. Illuminated with fluorescent lamps, they measure 16′ x 16′ x 4′. The artwork was commissioned in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program.

Boeing Mosaic

This mosaic piece, created by After School Matters teen apprentice artists, celebrates aircraft manufacturer Boeing’s 100th anniversary in 2016. The piece hangs in Terminal 3, in the hallway between the Rotunda and H1. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens innovative out-of-school activities through science, sports, technology,creative writing and the nationally recognized gallery program.

 

C is For

Chicago Sister City Flags (Chicago O’hare Airport)

Representing the nations of Chicago’s Sister Cities, the flags are presented with help from Chicago Sister Cities International. Public art in and around Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport; January 2020.

City Windows by Qiao Xiaoguang (Chicago O’hare Airport)

Created using ancient Chinese paper cutting techniques, City Windows depicts iconic sites from Beijing and Chicago. The piece commemorates the friendship and cooperation between China and Chicago. It is located near Terminal 1 Gate B19.

 

D is For

 

E is For

The Evolution of O’Hare (Chicago O’Hare Airport)

This gallery of aerial photos offers travelers a look at how the O’Hare airfield has evolved since it opened in 1945. A timeline of historical events accompanies each photo. The gallery can be found in the Terminal 3 L Stinger (Gates L20-24).

 

F is For

G is For

H is For

Here and There by Mitchell Egly (Chicago O’Hare Airport)

Created as a part of the City of Chicago’s 50 x 50 Neighborhood Arts Project and initiated during the Year of Public Art, Here and There is a visual representation of the many neighborhoods that comprise the 41st Ward, the Ward O’Hare is within. This piece was sponsored by by 41st Ward Alderman Napolitano’s office. It is located within the airport’s Bus Shuttle Center.

 

I is For

I’ve Known Rivers by Alejandro Ramero and Gallery 37  (Chicago O’Hare)

A 208-foot long mural painted in acrylics, that brings to life the words and spirit of the Langston Hughes poem of the same name. The mural, created by teen apprentice artists from After School Matters, is located in the CTA Pedway. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM.

 

J is For

Jet Trails by Guy Kemper (Chicago O’Hare)

This sculpture measures 50 feet in length and 12 feet in height and consists of hand-blown painted glass in cool shades of blue, green and violet. The sculpture is suspended onto the window mullions directly across from Security Checkpoint 3 in Terminal 1 (past security).

K is For

L is For

M is For

N is For

O is For

On The Wings of Water (Chicago O’Hare)

A 35,000-piece Venetian glass and tile mosaic shows how air travel and water link cultures across continents and between cities, towns, and rural areas. It was completed with the help of After School Matters student artists and can be found in the Rotunda between Terminals 2 and 3 (past security). After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM.

 

P is For

Palimpsest by Nick Cave (Chicago O’Hare)

A dimensional tapestry constructed of hand-strung, beaded shoelaces woven with memory-steeped iconography and patterns through a nylon fishing net base layer. The piece represents a travel to understanding, the web of humanity, and future memories. Its colors come directly from Chicago’s unique skyline and is a continuation of the greeting a visitor takes in through their airplane’s window as they begin their decent for landing. It is located within the airport’s Multi Modal Facility.

 

Q is For

 

R is For

The Runners by Theodoros Papagiannis (Chicago O’Hare)

The Runners, a 16-foot sculpture, is located along the I-190 south side embankment and can be seen by motorists and CTA Blue Line riders exiting the airport. Donated by the Athens Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International and supported by Chicago’s large Greek-American community, the sculpture depicts five runners emerging from antiquity into the modern world. A maquette of this same piece is located within Terminal 5, behind the Arrivals Level information desk.

S is For

77 Neighborhoods (Chicago O’Hare)

This photo exhibit, located in the Terminal 5 corridor approaching the US Customs and Border Protection Federal Inspection Services area, showcases architecture, life, and popular scenes from across Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.

Skies The Limit (Chicago O’Hare)

A multi-sensory sculpture which extends above the walkway connecting concourse B and C in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.  The artist, Michael Hayden was commissioned by the airport in 1987 to design the 744 foot-long, neon kinetic sculpture which changes color in time to music.

Sister Cities by After School Matters (Chicago O’Hare)

Inspired by Chicago’s numerous Sister Cities, the mural depicts scenes from cities across the globe. Teen apprentice artists from After School Matters created the piece. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. It is located in the hallway between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Student Frontiers by After School Matters (Chicago O’Hare)

Teen apprentice artists participating in After School Matters programs created this mural in 2016. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. This mural is located in the CTA Pedway.

 

T is For

Treasury of Petra by Sonia Twal (Chicago O’Hare)

A limestone and marble mosaic donated to the City of Chicago from its sister city Amman, Jordan.  It can be found in Terminal 5 near Gate M14. The mosaic was inspired by the carved rock and stone facade of the red-rose city of Petra in the southern Jordanian desert. The limestone and marble used in Twal’s representation were obtained from the Petra region.

U is For

V is For

W is For

X is For

Y is For

Youth in the Loop by After School (Chicago O’Hare)

Teen apprentice artists participating in After School Matters programs created this mural in 2015. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. This mural is located in the CTA pedway.

Z is For

“H” is for Harbor Springs, Michigan

   

Sometimes it is just important to get off the beaten path, which is how we discovered the quaint town of Harbor Springs.  I would like to say we took the road less traveled, but the popular scenic corridor along Highway 119 is located just north of Petoskey, Michigan and the pull of nature and beauty is great.

The waterfront community sits in a sheltered location on the North shore of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.

Harbor Springs lies just 7 miles off US 31, yet feels like a step back in time as travelers seek the views of Lake Michigan and the many activities offered during all four seasons.  There is also an abundance of culinary and cultural attractions available in this area.

With a population of just 1200 people, some might be tempted to roll right through the sleepy little village of Harbor Springs. The tiny downtown area seems to have stood still in time but closer inspection reveals a thriving art community.  Benches scattered throughout town invite you to slow down and savor the moment.

   

The real treat is tucked quietly behind the main road, it is almost hidden and if you don’t allow yourself time to wander, you might just miss it.  A short walk reveals a beautiful waterfront area, complete with two beaches, a green space, picnic facilities and a dock to walk on.  Luxurious homes and huge yachts reveal there is more to this town than meets the eye.

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“G” is for “Gorgeous Gardens”-Gaylord, Michigan

 

Flowers and gardens are often part of our ABC Adventures.  As I researched things to do in the Gaylord area, I was more than just a little curious about the description of the Demonstration Gardens, since it had been described as having been created from a waste area.    I wondered if it would be worth a visit.  We had already explored the little town of Gaylord for our “G” but we had a little time available and the gardens are free, so we decided to add a little detour.  We asked several locals, but no one seemed to have heard of them.  Thank goodness for google maps.

We found the park at the edge of a very industrial area.  Concrete and asphalt seemed to be more abundant that flowers.   The small sign located at the edge of this area offered little inspiration for the beauty which lay beyond.  We followed a path which passed under an arch of orange berries, inviting us into the gardens.  This turned out to be a best kept secret type of adventure and I hope the locals will one day realize what a gem they have.

   

The three acre garden was developed to heal the land and “educate the public on the importance of native plants for preserving water quality and supporting ecosystems”.  Since replanting with natives was something I have been trying to do in my own gardens, we decided it was worth a few minutes exploration.

The city began removing refuse from an old dump site in 1997.  Over the years, the area was replaced with plants native to Michigan.  Native plants tend to need less care.  Their roots can grow up to several feet as they reach deep for water and nutrients.  Some people call them weeds but seeing a native garden in a structured format we are reminded how very beautiful these plants can be.  Native plants will always attract butterflies and wildlife as they work to create a full circle of life.

Visiting in the fall and toward the end of the day, we had the place to ourselves as we meandered through each of the 11 gardens.  With hoses strewn across the paths instead of in-ground sprinklers, in many ways it was like visiting a neighbors garden.  Unlike touring a Botanical Garden, the structure is loose but great care has actually been taken.  From songbirds, to hummingbirds, to butterflies many of the gardens have been planted specifically to support a particular type of wildlife.

   

Other gardens such as the herb garden and the Seed to Harvest garden have been planted to support a youth education program and grow foods for the less fortunate.  This area also features a home compost demonstration site geared toward educating people on how they can compost kitchen scraps and yard trimmings in their own backyard.  We had arrived at the end of the harvest season, so didn’t see a lot of the food which had been grown but the tender loving care given to each garden is apparent.

Some areas such as the Children’s Garden are planted to invite you to play in a riot of colors, smells and textures meant to stimulate the senses.  We embraced our youth as we hid from each other in the arborvitae maze.

     

We notice a stage set along a forest edge, we can only imagine the family memories waiting to made in this special place.  What a great setting for a picnic.

With the sun beginning to set, our adventure comes to a close.  As we head towards the car, we reflect on the beauty we had seen in the Demonstration Gardens.  This had been a terrific way to end the day.  The colors, patterns and variety had indeed made us pause and  play.

As I hold my husbands hand I  also reflect on taking time to do this activity, it would have been easy to skip it.  I am filled with “gratitude” for this man.  We have been married 38 years, marriage can grow very routine over time.  I marvel that Alan is so willing to play the alphabet game, to continue to explore and discover together.  I hope  there are still many memories to make.  We have both come to realize that every day can be an adventure, if we choose to make it that way.

Today we had gained a greater appreciation for what others call weeds.  I guess it is all in the way you look at the world. Marriage and relationships are like gardens, they must be nurtured and tended.  Some will see weeds, others will find beauty, it is all perspective.

Holding hands, we pass under the berry arch on our way back to the car.  We are once again thrown into the reality of urbanization but like these gardens, I realize it is up to us to always strive to remove the toxins from our lives and replace them with beauty.  We need only to plant the seeds.

   

 

The gardens may be found at:

Corner of Cross St. and Livingston Blvd.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Gaylord, MI 49735                                                                                                                                                                             (989) 732-4021

“F” is for “Finding a Fabulous Farm Market”-Petoskey, Michigan

F

Farmer’s Markets have always called to me.  I am not sure if it is the bright colors of the produce, the smell of earth, or the gratitude I have, knowing what it takes to get this food to a table.  Perhaps it is genetic, stemming from the deep farming roots which run through my father’s side of the family.

I don’t know why specifically I seek these attractions out, I just know that I could spend hours lost in the discovery of everything which a Farmer’s Market offers.  Fresh produce, herbs, flowers, jars of homemade produce, all seem to ground me a little, to the earth which they are grown.   It was no surprise then, that while researching things to do in the Petoskey area, I was drawn to “Bill’s Farm Market”.  It had been rated 17 of the top 37 things to see/do in this location. Sometimes small towns are limited in what they offer, so I didn’t have high expectations but we were determined to fulfill our alphabet goal on this trip, so we selected the “Farm Market” as our letter “F”.

Driving along the quiet lane, the popular city soon turned into the rolling fields of farmland, which surround the area. It was easy to imagine that we might have taken a wrong turn.  With just a touch of fall chill in the air, the fields glistened under the morning dew. Here, there was no traffic.  It was so peaceful and was proving to be a beautiful drive, along a yet another road we wouldn’t normally travel if it wasn’t for an ABC Adventure.

Still, I couldn’t imagine how this site had gained so much popularity, every review on a popular travel site had sung the praises, still I was a skeptic.  Surely this market, located nearly 8 miles away from any town, didn’t attract nearly the population which went out of the way to rave about it.  As we crested the final half mile, traffic came to a standstill.

F-TrafficI have been to many Farm Markets over the years.  I never imagined that we would find a traffic back up, waiting to enter the popular location, especially on a Monday!  I was like a child heading to an amusement park as we waited for a parking space to free up. This place promised to be something extraordinary! 

I had read that the high hoop tunnel, holding the market was directly attached to the farmhouse. “Bill” had taken it over in 1982.  He and his brother Don still reside in the home where they had been raised.  In fact, the farm has been in the family for over 100 years!

 

F-Flowers 003The market bustles with activity from June through December.  It quietly moves through the seasons as it offers over 20 varieties of fresh flowers, 10 kinds of herbs and too many varieties of foods to mention, all grown in front of the house and in the beautiful valley which wraps around like an embrace, dotted only by cows quietly grazing on the hills.

 

 

 

F-Produce

On this August day, the smell of fresh peaches mingles with the cow manure, drawing throngs of people into the covered high tunnel. I am transformed to student, determined to learn the secret of the super sized produce filling the bins.

 

 

 

F-Flowers

I stand transfixed, marveling at the 20 varieties of fresh flowers recently picked from the farm.  Cow poop and clean air, I am told are the magic which makes this happen. Soon the fields will be full of pumpkins and gourds as the season moves into fall. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

F-Flowers 002

Perhaps we will take a fall drive to see the pumpkins and gourds which will soon fill the fields. A hay ride might just be the way to pass a few hours.   Or maybe, as the snow begins to turn this setting into a Currier and Ives postcard, we will return for a Christmas tree, wreath or sleigh ride.

 

 

 

 

 

F-FieldsWith a final glance out over the valley, which surrounds the farm, I imagine the snow beginning to fall here this winter, transforming the scene to a Currier and Ives postcard.   Each season offers its own unique adventure of food, flowers, hay rides, sleigh rides, wreathes and trees. For now, I will simply revel in  the beauty of this location, content to have discovered this fabulous place.

As I file my letter “F” away, this adventure now complete, “We will be back”, I whisper, to no one in particular.

 

Bill’s Farm Market  4450 East Mitchell Rd., Petoskey, MI 49770  (231)-347-6735

“D” is for “Discovering Delectible Delights” in “Delicious” Tiny “Doughnut” Bites-Traverse City, Michigan

Sometimes we don’t know where to begin an ABC adventure, so we will start by letting our fingers do the walking through a Google search.  This will often turn up a location to explore, or a great restaurant or shop to visit.  Such was how we “discovered” the “doughnut” shop in Traverse City, MI.  But which letter to assign to it?  Peace, Love and Little Donuts could give us a P, if we went with the name of the location, an E if we threw it together with all the other wonderful places we would eat along our 400 mile mini vacation, or a D for doughnuts.  We would photograph all three and decide later where this fit in with our overall journey. Whatever letter we chose, tiny doughnuts just sounded like a fun way to start a day! D-Donuts

Food is always a big part of our trips.  We couldn’t imagine how we had never heard of this tiny shop, after all, we live here!  We were very surprised to find that this hole in the wall business, is a franchise and there are actually two of them in the state of Michigan!  The other location is in Portage.

Because education is such a part of all of our adventures, we diligently read the story of how this franchise had first begun.  Like many small business owners, success had been by accident.  It started with the purchase of a doughnut maker, which led to making the tiny treats for a hockey tournament.  The size of the doughnuts had been an accident, after a piece of equipment failed to produce full sized doughnuts.  The event had begun, so they were out of time.  Choosing to go with what they had, they decorated the mini doughnuts. The bite size was such a hit, that the idea for a small business had been born.  The shops are now spread across 14 states!

 

E-Our order

 

Alan was skeptical, feeling the doughnuts couldn’t be that good if we didn’t already know about them…the line out the door on a Sunday morning, at 9am, told a different story!  As I joined others, drooling over the 60+ options, I realized it would be hard to choose just one or two of the delectable delights. There are all manner of flavors to discover.  We needed to narrow it down to a dozen.  We each chose our favorites, Peanut Nutter and Salted Pretzel for me and Chocolate Chip and Oreo Cookie for Alan.  The rest, we agreed to split, so we could sample more.  With an employee dedicated to the frier, the doughnuts churned out almost as fast as they were ordered. A second team decorated them.     For less than $20, we left the shop to find a beach to “devour” our “delights”.  We headed to one of our favorites, Byrant Park.  The doughnuts were still warm!

 

D-DelectibleD-Delicious 2D-Decadent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After working our way through about 6 of the doughnuts, our favorite flavors remained our favorites, but we mutually agreed that the “drizzled”  Strawberry Shortcake doughnut was our combined favorite.

D-drizzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D-donut sign

 

We were quickly getting full.  I dared not start counting calories at this early stage of our trip.  I remembered a great sign hung in the shop.  Perhaps this was why it had been there!  All in all, we enjoyed this little shop.  We will be back to devour more of these “decadent” little treats!

 

 

 

 

Peace, Love and Little Donuts 441 E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49686  231-421-5255

“C” is For a “Calming Chapel in the Woods”-Grayling, Michigan

Chapel in the Woods

Hartwick Pines State Park is the only place in Michigan which still holds the towering White Pines, which once covered the entire state and built the wealth of countless lumber barons.  Today, there are just 49 acres of the  trees, in the entire state!  This area, was the third city along our 48 hour Michigan tour, which is why we dedicated the third letter of the alphabet, “C”,  to discovering the tiny “chapel” which sits in the middle of the forest.

 

 

 

 

C-chapel

The chapel quietly appears after a short walk through the towering pines. I was so excited to see this cabin-like structure, which was a big reason we had gone so far out of our way to include Grayling in our adventure.  The chapel was intended to be a place of spiritual reflection and meditation for “all who walk the trails of Hartwick Pines”.  The first thing I noticed was the beautiful curved glass, which makes up the window and forms a “cross”.

 

 

 

 

 

C-sign

 

A brief history informed me that this is actually a fairly new structure, having been built and dedicated in 1953.

 

 

 

 

C-cross

 

Making our way to the entrance of the church, the light filters through the window.  I imagine how spectacular this space might be in the morning, as the sun rises and floods the tiny chapel. I think of the married lives which might have begun here.  I can visualize the light washing over people, flooding them with warmth.   For now, the sun has already moved beyond the window so there is just enough light to see the pews.  I take my place amongst one of the tiny benches, which line both side of the chapel.  The chapel only holds 18 people.  I am the only person here at the moment, Alan waits outside as I spend a moment in silent meditation.

 

 

A plaque positioned under the window reads:

Our Heavenly Father, Creator of all that is nature,
We humbly come to you in the midst of nature’s splendor,
To thank you that as Americans we are free
To worship as we please, work as we please,
And move about as we please to enjoy all that is nature:
Its mountains, its hills, its valleys, its lakes,
Its streams, and the living things that dwell therein;
We pray unto You that someday the world may be at peace
And all men be free to enjoy nature’s abundance.
We ask you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
That we be guided to protect this priceless heritage
Which we, in America, are privileged to enjoy. Amen.

C-calm

 

Following the Covid outbreak, which has so divided this country, what a year (or two) it has been.  Uttering this small prayer of hope,  instantly fills me with a sense of “calm”.  I step from the chapel feeling just a bit lighter, as I return to the forest for the remainder of our walk in the woods.

 

 

“B” is for “Beautiful Boyne City”, Michigan

BWhen Alan and I take on an ABC Adventure, we don’t limit ourselves to doing the letters in any particular order.  By the time we got to the letter B, on our 48 hour mini trip, we had already visited Kalkaska, Grayling and Gaylord!  We had explored many new places, tasted several fun foods and immersed ourselves in nature.  The letter B might have also been utilized at the “bakery” as we filled up for donuts at “breakfast”.  We might have used the letter when we went to the “beach” to eat that breakfast, or as we explored many of the “buildings” we had already seen along our journey.  Instead, we had safely guarded our letter “B”, knowing that we would soon arrive in “Boyne City” where there are only a few specialty stores, a couple of amazing restaurants and a number of condominiums.  In this seemingly tiny town, which appears to spring up from nowhere, the beautiful Lake Charlevoix takes center stage.   This area has been attracting people to its shores for many years.  From skiing in the winter, to the Morel Festival in the spring, sailing in the summer and enjoying the colors of fall, there is something to explore here year round.  In fact, 3500 people call this place their permanent home.  The population swells in the warmer months as people flock to the natural beauty of the area.

B-Boyne flowers B-Boyne Fish

I don’t know what intrigues me the most, the waterfront, or the flowers. The old and the new   combines seamlessly.  Everywhere I look radiates a personal pride in the area.  Even the little log cabin, which has served as the visitor center since the 1940’s, is awash in carefully tended flowers.

 

Sadly, I am unable to find out anything about this little building but the careful preservation has ensured its safety  as industry develops around it.

B-Boyne-my baby

More flowers are planted along the riverfront.  These are carefully tended by volunteers, providing me a fun place to play with my photography.

B-Boyne riverfront B-Boyne-flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we make our way down Main Street, which is really no more than a few businesses, we are pleased to see that it is enough to attract plenty of shoppers and people looking for a great waterside meal.

B-Boyne downtown B-Boyne development

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sunset Park was a great place to end our adventures for this day.  We purchased an ice cream, then sat upon a “bench” to enjoy the “beauty” of “Boyne City”.  It had been a “busy” day of exploration!

“A” is for “Accommodations at the Apple Tree Inn”-Petoskey, Michigan

Since Covid restrictions and lock downs, it has been a while since Alan and I have traveled, let alone stayed in a hotel, about 2 years to be exact!

A-Apple Tree

On our most recent ABC Adventure, we chose to stay at the Apple Tree Inn.  There were likely more modern places we could have chosen, but we wanted to stay here because it had always been Alan’s parents favorite hotel, when they had traveled to this area.  We arrived just as the sun set.  The day had been hot and very humid as we explored Kalkaska, Grayling, Gaylord and Boyne City, before finally arriving in Petoskey, Michigan.  The twinkling lights, which welcomed us as we approached the property, gave an inviting and magical glow to the trees surrounding the property.

Before our arrival, I had messaged the staff that we were retracing the steps of my in-laws, who had stayed here some 15 years before. I find that this personalization often leads to room upgrades. As the clerk handed Alan our keys, he said, “I thought that name looked familiar.”  I like to imagine that he had remembered these two very special people. Entering our room, we were pleasantly surprised to find a large Jacuzzi and king size bed. 

I am not sure if the room had been an upgrade, but the room was lovely.  While perhaps a little more worn than its glory days, it was easy to understand how Leslie and Josie had fallen in love with it.  The air conditioner, pre-set by the cleaning crew to a frigid 60 degrees, soon forced me out to the balcony to warm up!  It was also a great opportunity to enjoy a wine cooler and appreciate the bay view.

A-Amazing A-Alcohol

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alan’s parents have always been two of my favorite people.  Their love for each other reflected daily, in the 54 years of marriage, which they had shared.  As Alan and I settled on the balcony, we reminisced about this love and our shared passion for travel.   These people had taught us the value of play in a marriage. Perhaps this is why Alan is always a good sport about embracing every adventure with me.  He has always held the best qualities of both of his parents.  My Father-in Law passed away over a decade ago, but I can still picture him sharing a quiet waltz with his “girl” as they dance across this balcony under a rising moon.  There’s was a love to admire and the memories will always be the jewels I carry as my greatest possessions.

Following our own waltz on the balcony,  we finally return to the room, ready to settle in for the night.  Simultaneously Alan and I begin to laugh, sheets, blankets, mirrors and wall were all dripping wet with the humidity which had built up as soon as we turned off the air conditioner!

So what is one to do?  Crank the air conditioner, pull back the blankets and laugh at ourselves for being so foolish.  Even after 38 years of celebrating our own marriage, we try to end every day with a smile, another lesson we had been well taught.

Apple Tree Inn 915 Spring Street, Petoskey, MI 49770   (231) 348-2900

S is for Sault Saint Marie-Michigan

Michigan’s First City:

The Ojibway people call it “Bahweting” (or gathering place).  Father Jacques Marquette called it “Le Sault de Sainte Marie” (the rapids of St. Mary), when he established a settlement here in 1668.  Folks in tourism business call it the “Twin Saults” community — taking in both Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with its 80,000 residents, and Sault Ste Marie, Michigan with 15,000 residents.?  Locals simply call it “The Sault” or “The Soo”.  It is not pronounced salt but rather “Sue”.

In the 1700’s, the village by the rapids, (The Soo), was almost deserted.  Chippewas had moved to De Tour at the foot of the river, or to Detroit, the place by the straights. For trade, a long river and portage route was worked out between Lake Superior and Green Bay.

Their furs went to markets by the Lakes from there. It was not until 1751 that France, hard-pressed by the British, decided to build a fort at Ste. Marie de Sault, and to reopen the Lake Nippissing-Ottawa River Route.  This gesture, and the fort itself, recalled some Native Americans to their French ties.

The Treaty of Parisin 1783 gave the newly formed United States all the lands south of the Great Lakes, British officials did not withdraw from the upper peninsula for several years.

In 1820, the Governor of Michigan territory came to the Sault to raise the American flag, and take down the British.  Many Native Americans were in favor of British rule; this action caused some bitterness, but a treaty was signed, without a fight.  As a gesture of appreciation, the governor included a sentence for the Chippewa people to include fishing rights at the rapids for all time.

“A” is for “Addictive Alpine Chocolate”-Gaylord, Michigan

Renowned for its distinctly German heritage, Gaylord is a small town with big charm.  As I researched “what to do” in the area, I came upon the business “Alpine Chocolate”.  It was the word chocolate which had my attention, which could have easily steered me to the letter C.  Instead I assigned it the letter A, intent on making it my first stop.  My addiction for chocolate began long before I needed to fulfill the letters on our most recent exploration!

Opening the door to the area business, my senses were in overdrive. Giddy with anticipation, I felt like Charlie in “Charlie in the Chocolate Factory”!  What to explore first?  Should I sample the famous chocolate covered potato chips, or the chocolate covered strawberries?   As I moved carefully up the curving paths, meant to steer me towards every single temptation, the visual feast of handmade chocolates lining glass filled cases had me as giddy as the day I shopped for my wedding ring!  Samples were offered  at each location, meant to ensure I slow down and savor the confections.  I can tell you that caramel corn takes on a whole new meaning when drizzled with chocolate and peanut butter!

From the friendly staff to the blue, Tiffany style box used to package your confections, everything about this business is deliberate.  Chocolatemeister, Bruce Brown was the son of a factory worker.  After decades of tinkering to find the perfect chocolate blend, he has now opened several of these stores, located throughout Michigan.  They can be found in Boyne City, Plymouth and Sault St. Marie.  His grand vision of covering us with sweetness, is evidenced in his attention to detail.  I can’t wait to visit the other locations but for now I will be content to enjoy my Chocolate covered rice crispy treats and specialty chocolates.  Alan has found his favorite too, in the form of Sea Foam, the closest he has come to his beloved Crunchies from England.  Knowing these goodies are homemade makes them that much more special.  We will savor the treats and the memories made today.

Alpine Chocolate House  208 W. Main Street Gaylord, MI (989) 732-1077

“K” is for “Ketchikan”-Alaska

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Looking for information about Creek Street, my reasearch about this famous location in Ketchikan, Alaska, quickly led me to a sordid history of protitution and bootlegging!  Today, along the banks of Ketchikan Creek, there exists only a quaint collection of historical buildings, boardwalks and wooden palings,  Tourists have replaced the bootleggers and now flock by the thousands to the brightly painted buildings which contain galleries, restaurants and specialty shops.  Some of the earliest buildings date back to 1903.  Back then, this area looked vastly different, containing only a few brothels as well as a shingle mill, a cooperage and several water wheels which used the power of the creek to generate electricity.  From the 1920’s to the 1950’s, prostitution was so popular that the there were 20 bawdy houses in this area alone!

 

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“B” is for “Brown Bear, Black Bear, Big Bear and Babies”-Alaska

             Brown Bear, Black Bear, Big Bear and Babies

Copy (1) ofDSC_0779While on our vacation in Alaska, I didn’t expect to see the bears. All the reading that I had done said that the bears usually don’t appear until July and August, when the salmon begin to run.  It was early June when we saw the first bear, a Grizzly or brown bear.  They are actually one and the same. She appeared on our first day in Alaska, during a flight seeing tour of the Misty Fjord.  She was large, weighing in around 300 pounds. She had three cubs, which is somewhat unusual for this species.  Although they have been noted to birth as many as six, it is most common that they will have just two cubs at a time. The cubs seemed a good size, so I think they were about a year old.

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A is for Awesome Alaskan Adventures

I’ll admit it, when Alan said that he wanted to take a tour on a float plane, I was more than a bit apprehensive. I don’t like flying at the best of times, so I wondered how different I would feel in a floating tin can. Every time I board an airplane, I marvel at how such large objects defy the laws of gravity, the odds never seem in my favor. My brother is a commercial pilot. I know the rigors of training that he has gone through to be called such. This and the safety statistics are about the only things that bring me comfort as I rationalize the odds of dying on any given flight.   It was Alan’s turn to choose how we would explore by the letter “A” . On each adventure we have an agreement to go along with whatever is chosen by the other. Besides, the buffet on board the cruise ship would be boring on my own! Weeks before this trip, I had extensively researched the various tour companies and the best possible ways to see the monumental, Misty Fjord, near Ketchikan, Alaska.  After extensive research into safety records, I booked our tour with a privately run company called Island Wings. Our pilot, Michelle’s name came up continuously on travel sites and the comments were always favorable. Because of her record, she is one of only a few pilots, given permission to land directly at the remote landmark. Hers was also one of the only tours that would allow us to step off the planes pontoons and on to land, for any period of time.

As was normal for this area, it had just started pouring with rain when our driver Shona, picked us up in front of our predetermined point; the local landmark, better known as the “liquid sunshine rain gauge.” Located in front of the Visitors Center, it stands about twenty feet tall. It was hard to miss but as the drenching rain continued, it became easier to believe that they receive about twelve feet of rain in Ketchikan each year! Alan and I were just thankful to discover that our newly purchased raingear, was in fact waterproof! As we were selecting it, we wanted to make sure we would always be able to find each other in a crowd, so we had chosen matching, bright red jackets.  This was a change from our comfort colors of black or tan.  We hadn’t really considered how many tour operators also have the same idea in mind. The jackets were now acting like beacons on this grey morning.  Maybe that is why we kept being approached by other travelers for directions!  Shona located us quickly, then laughed apologetically as she announced that the plane was actually parked directly in front of our ship, now a mile away! Since this had been the designated meeting point, Alan and I had walked into town to meet her. Passing the three other ships docked on the waterfront, our walk had not been in vain. It gave us time to admire the beautiful flowers along the pier. Then, as we approached a large memorial statue, aptly titled, “The Rock”, we contemplated the seven life sized figures, each reflecting the pilgrimage that was required to settle the great state of Alaska! Soon we would meet the four other people that would join our tour; a pair of teachers from Georgia and a brother and sister from California.

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