Friday, February 26, 2016

More Bucket List Additions

These are some of the places and experiences that gave me such vivid and treasured memories.  Everyone should add them to their Bucket list.

1. Enjoy cocktails on the African plain- this is one of my favorite memories of my trip to South Africa.  We were parked on the African plain watching the sun go down behind the mountains.  The sky was a wonderful shade of pink and our new favorite South African wine, Pinotage was just perfect.  As we sat savoring the day and all of the amazing things we had seen, two giraffes emerged from the bush and sauntered by.  It was just icing on the cake and quickly became a treasured memory.

2.  Walk across a live runway while crossing an international border-There is only once place in the world that you can do this, Gibralter.  Still a matter of contention between Spain and England, it remains a British possession and the only way to enter it by land is to cross a live runway.  Traffic lights let you know when it is safe to cross.  As we stood waiting we watched a plane arrive.  It was an interesting experience.

3.  Eat a frankfurter in Frankfurt-This just seemed like a really fun thing to do, so we did it.  It was really good!  There are just some things that you have to do.

4.  Stand in the room where William Shakespeare was born-As a voracious reader and a lover of Shakespeare, this was a moving moment for me.  Anytime that I can reach out and touch history, I feel emotional.  I could imagine him toddling around the room, totally unaware of the remarkable contributions he would  give to the world.

5.  Run the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum like Rocky-Not an easy task, I assure you.  Take time at the top to savor the view down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  Then enter this beautiful building and spend some time in this world renowned Museum which hosts wonderful exhibits from all over the world. (I am local so I love to see the tourists as they recreate the Rocky scene, makes me chuckle every time.)

6.  See the amazing gardens in Keukenhof, the Netherlands-This is arguably the most amazing floral display in the world.  It is only open 10 weeks a year when the bulb growers of the Netherlands all gather and try to out each other with there massive displays of tulips, daffodils, crocuses and other bulb plants.  It is just gorgeous and their creativity knows no bounds.  It is truly a unique experience that every one should do once.

7.  Sit and experience the Northern Lights-As a child, I lived far enough north that I experienced the Aurora Borealis with some regularity.  I really took it for granted until I moved south and never saw them again.  They are visible in so many wonderful northern destinations like Alaska, parts of northern Canada, Iceland and the Nordic countries in the fall and winter.  They are just incredible to watch and I hope to do it again in the not too distant future.

8.  Stroll the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown-The largest Chinatown outside of China offers so many great little shops for every pocketbook and Chinese restaurants galore.  The one we chose was a rooftop restaurant.  It was not exceptional but the setting was with great views of the city and the water.  After lunch, we poked around in the shops and brought home some real bargains.  Plan to do again in the future.

9.  Whale Watch off the coast of Plymouth, Massachusetts-I never tire of this amazing trip and I wish I had $5.00 for every person that I sent to Captain John and Sons Whale Watching tour in Plymouth.  They go out twice a day, morning and afternoon for four hours.  I have never been disappointed and have seen some spectacular things, like a Fin whale breaching which is extremely rare.  But mostly, it is the Humpbacks that do all of the entertaining.  They slap there enormous fins against the water and roll over on their backs and sunbathe.  I swear that they people watch as much as we whale watch.

10.  Walk the beautiful beaches and wonderful boardwalks of New Jersey-The much maligned state of New Jersey has some of the loveliest beaches on the East Coast.  From the Victorian splendor of Cape May at the states southernmost point, to the retro architecture of the Wildwoods, to the glitzy bright lights of Atlantic city and all the little beach towns in between, you will enjoy a marvelous beach vacation on Jersey's coast.  The boardwalk's offer great entertainment and every kind of food imaginable not to mention souvenirs!  I visit at least once every year to feel the warm New Jersey sand between my toes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cape Breton Island

I just love this place, it is that simple.  There is a reason that Conde Nast and Travel and Leisure repeatedly pick this lovely destination as one of their favorite places in North America.   Cape Breton is located at the northern end of the province of Nova Scotia in eastern Canada, about a five hour drive from Halifax. At one time, you could only get there by ferry but there is now a bridge connecting the island to the rest of the the province.  Upon your arrival, follow the Cabot Trail, named in the 10 Best Motorcycle Trips is USA Today.

The vistas are spectacular.  You will never tire of seeing the cliffs meet the ocean as you meander through small fishing villages.  We drove the the most northern point of the island to a place called Meat Cove and crossed a shaky wood bridge to get to the top of the cliff where a small shack sat with a "seafood chowder" sign out front.  We purchased the thick, fragrant chowder and went outside on a beautiful October afternoon and sat at a picnic table.  I have never before, and probably never again, had such a wonderful lunch because as we savored the warm, tasty soup, we watched an enormous pod of whales swim below us on their way to warmer waters for the winter.  It was, quite simply, magical.

One of the most unique things about the island is that all the signs are in English and Gaelic.  Nova Scotia means New Scotland in French and this lovely place was settled by the Scots and some Irish and their influence is everywhere.  Cape Breton houses the only Gaelic College outside of the United Kingdom and it is a neat place to visit.  But that is not where the influence ends, Celtic music is heard everywhere and some of the most famous Celtic musicians in the world come from this tiny island.  Often when sitting in a pub, a spontaneous Ceilidh, which involves singing and dancing, will begin.  One moment you are sitting quietly eating dinner and in the next moment, the room comes alive with a delightful folk song, sometimes in Gaelic. The spontaneity of these very traditional Gaelic songfests makes the experience like no other.

Perhaps, one of the things that I like best about the island, is just how unpretentious it is.  Our innkeeper recommended what she called the "best restaurant" on the island.  When we arrived, we entered a bakery, the restaurant was in the back.  There was absolutely nothing fancy about it but the meal did not disappoint.  I had Lobster Mac-n-Cheese and it was memorable.  For dessert, I opted for a Butter Tart, which is a popular pasty in Canada, and it too, was really good (not my Grandmom's but I don't think any tart will ever be that good).  The meal was inexpensive and delicious, a wonderful combination.

There are a myriad of accommodations on the island.  There are a couple of resorts available.  They are very nice and a bit pricey.  We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast Inn that is owned, ironically, by a couple from New Jersey.  It was a lovely little place right on the Atlantic.  We had a studio room and our bed faced French doors.  If we left the curtains open, we could watch the sunrise over the Atlantic.  It was a lovely way  wake up each morning.  Our breakfasts were made to order and really tasty.  There was a hot tub on the deck overlooking the Atlantic which we put to good use.  We used the Inn as our base and traveled all over the island.

If you visit between May and September, take the time to visit the nesting grounds of the Atlantic Puffins at Bird Island.   The Puffins share the island with bald eagles, Great Comorant. Razorbills, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers and many other species of birds.

There are surprises around every corner as you explore the Cabot Trail.  You will pass a Buddhist Monastery in your travels which is open for tours.  You will also find a small town that doesn't speak English or Gaelic, they all speak French.  Also visit the town of Baddeck where Alexander Graham Bell had his summer home.  Here you can visit exhibits and interactive demonstrations at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.

We just loved the time we spent on the island.  The scenery, the wildlife, the food, the music and the people of Cape Breton made this trip a unique and treasured memory.

Until next time, safe travels!

Watching the sunrise from our room

One of the little fishing villages along the trail

Just one example of the beautiful scenery

The beaches are rocky but beautiful

My husband having some fun with Alexander Graham and Mrs. Bell

Quote of the Week:  All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. 
                                                                         --Martin Buber