Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Family Travel-Plymouth, Massachusetts

One of our favorite Family destinations is Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Plymouth is located approximately 40 miles south of Boston and is best known for Plymouth Rock where in 1620, the Pilgrims first set foot in our nation after arriving on the Mayflower and the site of the first Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite pictures taken in Plymouth.

There are several hotel chains represented in Plymouth for every taste and budget.   When travelling with family, I always recommend one that offers breakfast, it is cheaper and so convenient.  The closer to the waterfront the better because it can be tough to find parking especially in the summer months.

One of the best things to do with the kids is a visit to nearby Plimoth Plantation.  The Plantation was founded in 1947 as a living history museum.  It shows the how the original village of Plymouth looked in the 17th century.  The "historical interpreters", as the staff are called, have been trained to speak, act and dress appropriate to that age.  They speak with visitors, in the first person expressing viewpoints of the Pilgrims of 1620.  They often represent actual people that once lived in there.  They loosely follow the actual timeline of 1627 from March until November, celebrating events, deaths, funerals, births as they really happened in the past.  The museum also recreates the nearby village of the Wampanoag, the native people of this area.  These interpreters do not interact in character but they are in traditional dress and answer questions and offer information about their people of that time.  Plimoth Plantation also manages the reproduction the Mayflower that is anchored in town.  The Mayflower II, also has historical interpreters that represent real crew members of the original ship.  This is a wonderful history lesson for the kids and an enjoyable day for the adults.

Plimoth Plantation

Perhaps the most unforgettable thing to do in this lovely town is the Whale Watching tour.  The memory of my first experience with humpback whales off of this coastal Massachusetts town, is still vivid and moving. The size of these beautiful creatures is something that must be seen to be believed.  The trip out of Plymouth takes you about 25 miles out to Stellwagen Bank, an 842 square mile National Marine Sanctuary, where the migrating whales feed.  There are whales there all year but because of the migration, May and November are the best times to be there.  I have done the watch several times and I have never been disappointed.  I was even blessed enough to see whales breach (come straight out of the water) on a few occasions.  These wonderful mammals are a wonder to behold and everyone should see it at least once.  Tours are available every day, one morning and one afternoon departure.

Humpback whale breaching.

Of course, you have to stroll down the main street to see Plymouth Rock, which has great historical significance but is a bit of a disappointment.  I expected a huge rock and in reality it is quite small and this is just their best guess where the Pilgrims came ashore.  Even so, take the walk, if only to get a chuckle about its size.

 My husband and twins with the Plymouth Rock historic Monument in the background,

You can also take a boat ride over to Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, for the day.  P-town as it is often called is artsy, home to some great beaches and a real favorite of the LGBT community .  While we were there, we took a dune buggy tour of the enormous sand dunes around this popular tourist destination. It was not only interesting but great fun.

My twins rolling down the sand dunes in Provincetown.

Plymouth, like most tourist towns, offers endless options for dining.  I encourage everyone to go with the seafood dishes because what you are eating was probably swimming less than 24 hours ago.  The endless options of seafood has something for everyone.  There are lots of shops along the main street to wander through after dinner and you might even want to take a Ghost Tour through this very old city or perhaps, just sit oceanfront and watch the stars over the Atlantic Ocean.

Though I have been here often, I do plan to visit again, this time with grandchildren.  I want to watch yet another generation in awe as they see the incredible humpbacks off the Massachusetts coast and their endless questions as they explore Plimoth Plantation.   There is nothing quite like it.

Until next time, safe travels!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ten Things For Your Bucket List

When, I was a young girl, growing up in a very small Canadian prairie town, I used to sit on the banks of a nearby lake.  As I watched the pelicans frolic, I would wonder where they would fly when they left the snowy north for their summer homes.  It was then that I began to make a wish list. Later, in my adolescence, now living in a suburban New Jersey town, I devoured everything that James Michener and others, wrote about different countries, their histories, their cultures and their people.  My list grew and grew. And, I confess, it continues to grow even now.

In my opinion, everyone should have a Bucket List.    It is so wonderful to imagine things for a very long time and then actually do them.   Below are some of the things that I have been lucky enough to do and they will remain with me for the rest of my life.  You might want to try them, too!

Watch the sunset over the Grand Canyon-I often tell people that everyone should see the Grand Canyon at least once in there lives.  There, quite simply, aren't words to describe the stunning views.  The sunset changes the colors in the Canyon and if I close my eyes, I can still see it.  I am told that the sunrises are equally amazing.  I chose sunset because I wanted to see the stars at night, something worth doing also and who wants to get up that early, especially on vacation.

Sunset on the Canyon.

Feel the mist coming of Niagara Falls-It doesn't matter what time of year that I visit the Falls, it still manages to take my breath away.  They are best viewed from the Canadian side and what a view!!  Forget all the souvenir shops and the other tourist oriented things, just stroll along the Niagara River Gorge and feel the mist and enjoy the lovely gardens.  They also freeze from time to time and that is a sight not many get to see.

See the Mona Lisa in person-Everyone should see this iconic piece of art that hangs in the Louvre. Though encased in plastic and surrounded by a crowd, most of the time, it is still quite something to view the mysterious smile in person.

Sit and watch the world go by on the Champs-Elysee-Who hasn't seen those old newsreels of the troops marching down the Champs-Elysee when liberating Paris.  This is an absolute "must do" in the City of Lights.  You won't be alone, many Parisians sit and savor their beautiful city on this beautiful street.

Stand below Big Ben in London and listen to Westminster Chimes-It was a great moment when I heard that very familiar tune from its original source.  I had pictured that moment since I first saw a picture of the Parliament Buildings in London, at a very young age.

Visit the Anne Frank House-Though a very sobering experience, I wanted to pay homage to the      bravery of a little girl under horrific circumstances.  It did bring tears to my eyes but it is something that will stay with  me forever.

The room where Anne pasted pictures from magazines
(this is the room that just moved me to tears).
Walk on a glacier-I have been lucky enough to do this twice.  The Athabasca Glacier on the Icefields Parkway in Alberta is enormous. They take you up in a vehicle with wheels that are taller than the average person and they do let you actually walk on the glacier.  It is said that when you drink the water from the glacier it adds 10 years to your life, so I guess I get 20 more.  People always ask if it is cold....of course it is, you are literally standing on a mountain of ice!

Stand on the top of the Rock of Gibralter-Wow, what a view!!  It is not hard to figure out why the rock is such a strategic piece of real estate sitting at the entrance to the Mediterranean.  What I didn't know when I imagined visiting here was that the rock is the home to wild apes.  No one is quite sure how they arrived, the most common theory is they stowed away on a ship but now they own the rock.  They tolerate humans pretty well and leave us alone but it was such fun to watch the babies.  

To walk the ruins of Pompeii-I remember the first time that I heard the story of Pompeii, I was just fascinated. It was a lifetime later before I actually got there but my fascination hadn't ebbed.  Though it felt a bit morbid to be walking around what is, in essence, a tomb, what remains of the city is a wealth of information. Standing in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius and knowing the terror that befell these people was another sobering yet memorable moment.

Walk across the London Bridge-I remember wishing I could do this when I was a child.  Today it is a bit trickier than it was when I was a kid because the London Bridge is no longer in London.  It now stands in Lake Havasu City, AZ.  So that is where I went to cross another item off my bucket list.  When the City of London was going to dismantle the old bridge to make way for a new one, a wealthy AZ businessman bought it and moved the bridge piece by piece and reconstructed it.  The bullet holes of WWII are still in the bridge.  A real piece of history.  

So, that is just ten of the items that I have been fortunate enough to cross off my bucket list, there are many, many more that I will happily share in the future but in the meantime, start your own list.  It is a big world with so much to see, so what are you waiting for???

Until next time, safe travels!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Five Favorite Short Getaway Cities

This morning I woke up with the itch.  That familiar restlessness that I know can only be resolved in one way, take a trip.   I am so grateful for this wanderlust, it has taken me to wonderful places where I have met warm, welcoming people.  I have eaten exotic foods and tried new and different things which only leaves me longing for more.  I know it is genetic as my parents are the only people that I have ever known that have walked on all seven continents and they instilled that desire to see, feel, experience in me, for which I will always thank them.

I have just a few days but I will open this computer later this afternoon and look for somewhere that I have never been before and start making my plans.  It is a process that is almost as fun in the planning as it is in the actual doing.  I will look for charming, different with great food and lots to do and believe me, this country is full of such places as is our beautiful neighbor to the north, Canada.   I have been blessed to travel to 45 of the 50 states and 7 of the 10 Canadian provinces and there is so much that I haven't seen just yet.  So today, we will talk about some of my favorite short getaway destinations (not in any particular order, I love them all.)

1.  New Orleans-I have blogged about this beautiful city before.  I often travel here for a 4/5 day getaway.  It is a very short flight from the East Coast and it offers accommodations of every variety and food that just defies description.  But the thing that I love most about this wonderful European flavored city is the abundance of music.  You hear it on every street corner in the French Quarter.  There are street entertainers every where and I defy you not to smile as you stroll the streets lined with ancient and beautiful Pin Oak trees.
Jackson Square, New Orleans

2.  Quebec City-Another French influenced city that offers so much to see, do and eat.  There are all types of accommodations but when I travel to this lovely city, I stay behind the walls of Old Quebec at the majestic Chateau Frontenac.  Opened in 1893, the Chateau (which is currently operated by Fairmont) sits atop a cliff overseeing the St. Lawrence Seaway and the views are spectacular. It is by far, the most prominent structure in the Quebec City skyline and is said to be one of the most photographed hotels in the world.  The Old City is full of shops and restaurants and Rue du Tresor or Artists Alley where you can buy an original piece of art as a souvenir.  I will blog further about this lovely place in the future but it is a great getaway from the east coast.
Rue du Tresor (Artists' Alley)

Chateau Frontenac, Old Quebec City

3. Charleston, South Carolina-This city is loaded with Low Country southern charm.  Again, there are accommodations of every variety but my favorite is the Embassy Suites that is the site of the original Citadel.  It is lovely and historic and in a very good location right down the street from the Visitors' Center.  Again, the food is wonderful.  If you want real Low Country Southern cooking this is the place to go.  The city itself is full of history and a ferry ride over to Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were fired is worth the trip. Take some time to see one of the many plantations and a city tour and learn about this charming southern city.  Again an easy drive or plane ride from the east coast.
Sunset in Charleston

The Battery, Charleston

4.  Baltimore, Maryland- This is a city that I really have come to appreciate over the past few years.  There are accommodations of every type available but stay down at the Inner Harbor or up at Fell's Point.  Again, there is plenty to do and see, but make the aquarium a priority.  It is the finest that I have ever visited.  When in Baltimore, you must eat the crabs.  They have it in every possible form all over this great city but  crabcakes are my favorite though my husband is a big fan of Crab bisque soup.  Fell's Point offers  restaurants and bars of every variety and on a warm summer evening it is a very busy place.  I will blog in greater detail about this great east coast city in the future but suffice it to say, it is worth a visit.
Baltimore at Dusk

Fells Point, Baltimore

5.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-In the interest of full disclosure, I live right across the river from this historic city but even I will cross the bridge and stay for a weekend.  Again, the variety of accommodations is endless but try to find something close to the historic district.  A trip to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the Constitution Center is a must.  Of course, every tourist wants to run up the Art Museum steps (until they actually see them) and do the Rocky dance at the top, so go for it.  The restaurants run the gamut also but you must try a Philly soft pretzel and a cheesesteak before you head home.  Pat's and Geno's have an ongoing battle over "Best Cheesesteak in Philly" but there a plenty of places that make great ones.  Don't leave without trying one.  For the more adventurous, try Scrapple or Pork Roll and Tastykake's Peanut Butter Tandy Kakes, other Philly favorites.  If you are looking for a 4th of July trip, this is absolutely the place to be, The Birthplace of America, because Philly really knows how to celebrate our nation's birthday.
Liberty Bell and Independence Hall

Philadelphia Art Museum

Hope this will give a start when you get that travel bug and only have a few days to spend.  I will add more to this list in the coming months but right now, I am off to find another hidden treasure.  So until then, safe travels.