Category Archives: Vacations

Bavarian fun in the middle of Washington State

If you read this blog regularly, you know that my family goes away on a winter cabin adventure each year. Well, the women in my family also do a summer weekend of wine-tasting. Okay, it started as a wine-tasting event, and we really do test wines.  But it’s kind of evolved into a “sit by the pool reading and chatting” kind of weekend. Relaxing, and a great catch up time with my sisters, daughters, and nieces.

This year was our sixth, I think. For the past three years, we’ve been going to a wonderful little Bavarian village in central Washington State called Leavenworth. It’s pretty commercialized, but it’s also, well, just plain beautiful and fun.

In the 1960’s, trying to turn a failing community around, Leavenworth remodeled an entire town into a Bavarian motif to accent the alpine hills surrounding them. All businesses have to follow the Bavarian theme, even the McDonald’s. And that idea took off. Boy, did it ever. These days, it’s busy any day of the year, but that doesn’t stop us. They make it work well.

It’s easy to walk around. In fact, we park our cars and don’t get back in them until we’re ready to leave. Our hotel is about half a mile from the center of town, and easy stroll. The area is full of shops, places to get bratwursts, beer gardens,  and there’s live polka music in the park. Oh, and you can raft the river, too.

We always have fun. Sometimes, maybe a bit too much. Lol. But this year, we actually did some wine tasting again and I found some excellent wines to purchase.

It’s a fun weekend. Bonding as a family, relaxing before the end of summer. (I did not just say that phrase, did I?) And winding down from life, just for a couple days. I love my entire family, but I cherish this time with the women who carry on our mother’s rich heritage of love and family.

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Sedona and Jerome Arizona

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This was my first trip to Sedona and there is simply no words or pictures that can do it justice. We came down from Glendale and stopped at Jerome first so came in from dessert like terrain.  One minute bare … Continue reading

The Allure of Snowbirding

Snowbirding is the art of moving with the climate. Heading south, to warmth, for the winter months, then north when the heat of summer hits. I’m not sure if snowbirding is a worldwide term or a West and East coast North America term, but this year, I finally understand the allure of it.

Lavada has been giving us an excellent look (here and here) at what snowbirding is all about. Being warm, when home is rainy and cold. Getting sunshine to feed the soul, while friends are mired in gray muck. And getting to know a new locale better than a few days vacation allows.

I’ve never really understood the need to fly south for the winter. I like my seasons. Rainy and cold makes me appreciate warm and sunny. And you may or may not have read one of my many posts about how I love to see snow falling.

This year, though, I got a taste of snowbirding. In early March, we went to Peoria, Arizona to catch a couple Seattle Mariners baseball spring training games. It was 40’s and cold and rainy here at home. And my sister in Philadelphia was all but buried under a Nor‘easter.

And here we sat…

Within half an hour of checking in, we were at the pool. Being lazy, soaking up sunshine, and watching balloons fly overhead.

We did make it to a game. Here’s the proof.

But only one of the two games we planned to attend. That second full day, we were right back where we started…

Then we got on a plane for cold and rainy home. We didn’t do any touring while in Arizona, so I can see how being there for a month or so would be nice. You can get the pool time out of your system the first few days, then see the sights.

Now, we were happy to be home when we got here, but the cold did seem colder and the rain did seem a bit excessive. Maybe, just maybe, there’s some snowbirding in our future.

I hope your Easter was happy and your Spring abounds with color and sunshine and warmth. 🙂

Hawaii!

We recently returned from a vacation that I call one of my top three best vacations. A year ago, we booked a fifteen day Hawaii cruise. Not fifteen  days in Hawaii. This one was round trip from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Five wonderful, relaxing days at sea getting over to the islands, four islands to visit, and five wonderful, relaxing days at sea coming home.

I found something out. I LOVE at sea days. I woke up and went walking on the Promenade deck each morning with beautiful ocean all around me.  (I may have mentioned once or twice that I LOVE the water.) I went to line dancing classes, walked again with my husband. I swam in the pool. I read FIVE books in two weeks. Five. Haven’t done that in quite a while.

My husband immersed himself in shipboard things, too. We watched fruit carving, ice carving, beer pong. We watched football. Got to watch  our Seattle Seahawks on the big screen by the pool. We proudly wore our “twelve” shirts and there were a lot of Hawk’s fans on board. In fact, that’s one of the things we love about cruising. Meeting and talking to so many people.

In the islands, we didn’t do much on Oahu. It’s a little too much like the big city and we get that at home. On Kauai, the Garden Island, we saw the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon. The pictures don’t do the rusts and verdant greens justice. It was beautiful!

On the Big Island, we went to the Kilauea caldera, the large crater and active steam vent that is huge and spectacular.

And look at the picture my husband got of the moon. Wow!

On Maui, I got to check off another bucket list item. We were in Hawaii once before, 27 years earlier, and I didn’t get out to Molokini to snorkel. We did this time. I was very worried about climbing up that swim ladder back into the boat, but I DID it! Twice! The water was warm, the fish and coral beautiful, and, just for a little while, I felt young again. It was awesome.

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Then came the homeward bound trip. I have to say that about two days from our return port, we both were feeling the tug to be back home. We’d left our Dude in good care, but knew he would miss us. Of course, the fact that, after an entire cruise of calm waters, we had two days of Gale Force winds and 10-15 foot seas might have helped us be ready to disembark.

All in all, it was amazing, restful, and beautiful. My husband and I danced, went to shows, held hands, and just enjoyed each other and the scenery. A perfect anniversary present to ourselves.

Now home, the weather’s changing. We even had a touch of snow yesterday. I’m okay with that. I like my seasons. It was nice to be tropical for a couple weeks, but even in 35 or 40 degree weather, I’m up, dressed and out the door for a walk around 8am. It feels good to be home.

Have a wonderful November, everyone! And Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it!

 

 

 

Surprise!

I love surprises; giving them, that is. And in October we pulled off a cracking one. My brother Bob lives in Spain in the Costa del Sol, and with his 70th birthday rapidly approaching, my sisters and I decided to surprise him for his birthday, after checking with my-sister-law Lesley what their arrangements were for this day. After all, we didn’t want to arrive and find they had gone away on a trip themselves to celebrate.

As the three of us hadn’t had a holiday together for two years we agreed we would make this trip a week long, instead of just a couple of days. I’ve been to Spain on many occasions – staying with my brother, Lesley normally arranging flights and Bob meeting us at the airport; and the last time booking through a travel agent ­– but this was the first time we were “going it alone” which meant I had to find a suitable apartment for the three of us; not an easy task. Then there were flights to book, and arranging a taxi from the airport. I found the whole thing very nervy and stressful and couldn’t relax until we were finally in our apartment. The apartment was disappointing in that it was shabby, not at all looking as clean and fresh as the photos showed, but the linen was clean and the beds comfy and we did have a lovely view out over Benalmadena Marina in one direction, and mountains, town, and busy main road and 24 hour bars in the other – very noisy all night. Still, it was only for one week and we were close to the beach and promenade.

Room with a view of Benalmadena Marina.

Bob’s birthday being the next day, we spent a lazy morning, grabbed a bite of lunch then made our way up to the venue. We peeked around the wall to where we knew they would be, spied Lesley who pointed that Bob was inside the bar and in the three of us walked. “Surprise!”

“Surprise!”

“Happy Birthday To You…”

Oh and how it was. The look on Bob’s face, at first disbelief, then confusion, then utter joy at us being there for him was pure magic and a treasure to behold and remember. One of the bar staff, realising who we were, grabbed Bob’s camera and began taking photos; we were too engrossed in our hugs and kisses and tears (mostly Bob’s!) to notice or even think of taking a picture. Everyone (apart from Bob) at the party along with all the local bar owners knew we were coming and made us most welcome. A good time had by all.

After a fabulous day we fell into bed exhausted but woken up a few hours later by lightning. No thunder, just a marvellous nature light show out across the sea. The flashes continued until daybreak when torrential rain came down and thunder like I’ve never heard exploded all around. One clap was so loud, the building shook. We later found out it woke the whole town. Apparently some 1,200 lightning bolts were recorded in the Malaga region that morning. (News report detailing the storm)

The rain stopped but the morning overcast so we ventured by bus into Malaga to explore the city, hoping to take the open-topped bus tour. Bob joined us. When we reached Malaga the rains came again. A quick dash into a restaurant for a coffee whilst it eased. It didn’t, so we made for a shop selling pac-a-macs and thought to explore the magnificent cathedral close by. The queues were horrendous so we decided to take a bus up into Mijas, our favourite town, and have lunch there. There was an hour wait for a bus so instead we went back to Benalmadena to enjoy a meal there. We found out later that most of Malaga had been badly flooded due to the rain, and nearby Torremolinos and Mijas without electricity for most of the day. Good job we didn’t go.

The next day, and for the remainder of our visit, the temperature was back up to 28 degrees, the sun shining gloriously and we managed to spend three days relaxing on the beach ­­– bonus! ­­– as well as partaking in our favourite things when holidaying­­, such as food and Sangria – of which we’ve now become experts.

Enjoyable lunch at Marina on our 1st day.

It was a tearful and sad farewell when it was finally time to take the taxi back to the airport and home but a week I’m sure our brother will look back and remember with love and fondness. As will we. And I will certainly miss the sunrises over the Marina!

Not a bad view to wake up to each morning

The more things change…

When AJ and I travel, we almost always carve out time to visit the local art gallery and museum. During a few days in Derbyshire, we found a small art gallery in the city of Derby virtually dedicated to a famous local 18th Century artist, Joseph Wright. We didn’t know much about him or the art of the period, but we were lucky to visit at a quiet time which meant we had what amounted to a private tour of the room housing his paintings.

Our guide was incredibly knowledgable about Joseph Wright and pointed out many things in the paintings that I’m sure we would have missed if we hadn’t had the benefit of his expertise. Here’s a link to the gallery if you’d like to see some of the paintings.

Joseph Wright was considered the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution and was famous for his use of light and dark in his paintings, especially favoring subjects portrayed by candlelight. Some absolutely stunning work.

But what caught my attention was the artist himself. An amazing creative, with absolutely incredible talent, he was prone to fits of depression and doubts about that talent. During one period of his life, after he had produced paintings such as A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (see link above), and having received bad reviews for some of his work, he became really disillusioned with himself and his art and stopped working completely.  He wrote:

“I have heard nothing but humiliating observations on my paintings. which have tended much to the inactivity of my pencil for sometime past. What a mere machine I am become. Depressed and renedered useless by a little censure and put into motion again by a little flattery. I really believe my enemies might persuade me I have no pretentions to paint. What a thing have these weak nerves made of me.”

Food for thought for all the creatives out there, because I’m sure we can all understand these feelings. How many times has a bad review or negative response to our own work made us put down pen, pencil, brush, needle, etc? It’s comforting to know that we’re in good company, and that even the greats suffered through periods of procrastination when they felt their work just wasn’t good enough.

Some things, it seems, never change.

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Mt. Rushmore – Bucket List Item – CHECK!

I had the awesome privilege of visiting Mt. Rushmore in May. I have wanted to take a road trip for the longest time, and this stop was top of my list.

Late last year, I started writing a young adult fantasy series and I set it around Mt. Rushmore. My husband swears I used that setting to get him to go there with me. Personally, I thought it was a great place to set a post-apocalyptic fantasy. It had nothing to do with how much I wanted to visit and now had a reason to. Really. Well, sort of.

Hubby, who doesn’t like road trips, gave me the greatest gift this year. Nine days on the road. Different sights every day. We combined a couple things. First, he spent 3 years in the Air Force stationed in Glasgow (Northwest Montana). So we went there first and I finally got to see all the things he’s been talking about for thirty years. Like Fort Peck dam, which is an almost 4 mile long earthen dam.

Then we headed south. To Sturgis (motorcycle museum)…

To Deadwood (Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane’s graves)…

Caving (where we got a flat tire driving out of the place)…

And finally, to the mountain that made it all possible. There isn’t a single picture that does this site justice. It’s larger than life and I loved it!

We also found the picturesque little lake (Horse Thief Lake) near Mt. Rushmore that my fantasy village is set near. It was so cool to see it come to life. And as soon as I got home, I started updating descriptions in my story. I even changed my hero’s eye color to match the deep green of the lake.

After wonderful weather all along, a storm caught up with us as we drove west to come home. First, in the form of pounding hail, then in snow. It made for some crazy driving conditions and we got stopped for a couple hours in a pass due to jack-knifed semi-trucks.

Even that didn’t diminish the fun I had on this trip. Hubby’s back did okay (not great, but okay) and he’s really glad he went. The only regret I have is that I realized an author friend I admire, Allie K. Adams, lived near our route home, but the snow meant cancelling the hastily set up plans to visit.

We’ll just have to plan that visit for next year. After all, we did start talking about Yellowstone National Park on the way home. I wonder if I can tweak my series so it encompasses that area, also. Lol.

I ❤ road trips! I hope you get to do something you ❤ this spring or summer, too!