"" Writer's Wanderings: August 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Counterfeit Museum?

Catching up on some of the newsletters I receive by email, I clicked on an article by the Independent Traveler.com that sounded interesting, 12 Great Museums You've Never Heard Of. I always like to see if I've been there, done that when I see these lists. I can safely say I'd never been to any of the twelve listed but as I was scrolling through, I came across one that caught my interest--Le Musée de la Contrefaçon or the Museum of Counterfeiting.

Now I was hooked. I had to find out more information than the little paragraph they gave so I went to the website which didn't offer a whole lot more. Basically they said it was a museum showcasing knock offs and counterfeits of art and fashion, etc.

Well, I thought, is it worth visiting? I went to my go-to site for recommendations, TripAdvisor. It was ranked 155 of 177 museums in Paris. At least it wasn't on the bottom but it was based on 25 reviews seven of which rated it poor or terrible and nine rated it good or excellent. The rest, nine, rated it average. One reviewer actually took the time to give a lot of information on the museum while rating it. My kind of reviewer. Here's what I found out:

The museum was actually inaugurated in 1951 by UNIFAB (a union of manufacturers) which was created in 1872 to protect commercial creations and intellectual property. It was done during the presidency of Gaston-Lois Vitton (yup, that one). The museum was originally just for the manufacturers but eventually opened to the public in 1972.

There are the usual things you would expect counterfeiters to try to copy from fashion designers especially but then according to the reviewer (MiaGlobetrotter who says she's from Paris) there are some surprising things like BIC pens. Apparently there are some self tests to see if you can tell the difference between original and fake and, in some cases, it is very difficult.

So will we put it on the list if we return to Paris? Hmmm.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Flashback Friday - Meet The Man

My boys (all grown now) have a knack for finding the most unusual places to eat. Here's a look back at one we went to in the Seattle area in 2008. I'm assuming it is still open. The most recent review I could find on it was from April of this year.

So where would you take your parents for lunch when they come to visit? How about an old automotive garage under a freeway?

When we recently visited our son and his family out in the Seattle area, he took us to the place where all the Microsoft geeks get together, Dixies Barbeque. It's actually a very popular tourist attraction and known for it's very, very. . .did I say VERY hot barbeque sauce.

When we pulled into the place, I figured he was just turning around because he'd missed the restaurant. But no, he parked the car and we all got out and ambled past the back porch--or maybe it was the front porch--that stretched across the facade of an old automotive garage. The porch had a couple of long tables covered in vinyl cloths with an eclectic collection of chairs including a rocker, some computer chairs, and various wooden kitchen chairs. Could this be where they put together the idea for VISTA?

We entered a tiny room brimming with smells of barbeque sauce. The limited menu included pulled pork, pulled pork over sausage, BBQ chicken, and side dishes of beans, beans and rice, and corn bread. You could purchase plain or sweetened tea or go to the vending machine near the exit door to buy your soda.

The lady I assumed was Dixie sat at the end of the serving counter pouring tea and taking money and all the while kibitzing with the customers. But the big question of the day was "Do you want to meet the man?" The man is how they refer to their hottest BBQ sauce. My acid indigestion was churning up just smelling it but my son said he couldn't go back to his office without "meeting the man."

Only a few drops on a small section of his sandwich was enough to redden his face, cause his neck to sweat, and send his father back in to get a second glass of tea hoping that would cure him. Once he could talk again, we sat back and enjoyed our sanwiches which, by the way, could have fed an army of computer techs, and wondered how in the world anyone would think to come here to eat. It just proves the power of word of mouth advertising and finding the right mouths to spread the word--that is if they can still talk after meeting the man.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Top Ten Places For The City Lover

A large city is not the number one place on my favorites list of travel destinations but there are some cities that have been fun to explore because of their history or their beauty or their people or all three. Here is a list of the top ten favorite places I've visited.

Sydney, Australia. If you peruse my blog it won't take long to know that Australia is one of our favorite places to visit and if we must be in a big city, Sydney is a great place to be. It's a pretty city with it's harbor area being the jewel. Easy to get around and the iconic opera house and bridge are must sees. Lots of great restaurants with every kind of ethnic food imaginable and plenty of entertainment venues as well.

Paris, France. We've visited Paris several times and always find it the romantic city it is advertised to be. Lots of history, art, shopping, eating. Parks and places to stroll arm in arm. And it definitely lives up to its nickname, the city of lights.

London, England. London was the first place that we ever ventured to out of the country (Canada not included). It's where we got infected with the travel bug. We've been back several times and always find it a delight. Easy to navigate the "tube" and find yourself in a variety of neighborhoods from the formal areas surrounding the palace to the eclectic theater district around Piccadilly Circle and the exciting area across from the Parliament buildings and Big Ben. Fun, food and fabulous people watching.

Cape Town, South Africa. While we didn't get to explore a great deal of Capetown since we were on a cruise, we did get a good taste of it and it was enough to make us want to go back. It is set on the coast of South Africa with a spectacular backdrop of mountains, the most famous, the Tabletop Mountain that actually looks like it has a tablecloth covering it when the clouds sit on top of it and spill over.

New York, New York. Frank Sinatra sang of this city for good reason. It is quite a place. We've been there for the Macy Thanksgiving Parade and again for the tree lighting at Rockefeller Plaza and several times in between. It's fun to take in a Broadway show and stroll Times Square now that its been cleaned up. A tour of the harbor and a peek at the Statue of Liberty is a must and of course a trip to the 9/11 memorial. We need to go back and take in the museum that opened a little while ago. And don't forget to stop into a neighborhood deli and grab one of those great sandwiches!

Tokyo, Japan. We have been to Tokyo twice and now that our son and his family are living there we will return again. Tokyo is a little like London in that there are different areas to explore and each has something unique to offer. While I wouldn't want to eat anything but Japanese food there (there are so many varieties), there are lots of other ethnic restaurants available as well because it is such an international city. The history extends back so far that it boggles the mind but walking through the temples you get a sense of ancient tradition that has carried on through the years. Contrasted with the amazing technology of today that is exhibited as well, it is quite an interesting city to explore.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While this is probably a one time visit for me, it is still a fascinating city to see. It sits in the middle of desert and on the shore of the Persian Gulf. The biggest, largest, widest, tallest everything seems to be there. A ski resort inside a mall, the world's largest piece of plexiglas that forms one side of a huge aquarium in another mall, and of course the world's tallest building,Burg Kalifa. I'm guessing that the tea we went to at the tallest hotel, Burg al Arab, was probably the most expensive as well.

Barcelona, Spain. Again a city with lots of history and one huge cathedral that has been years in the building and is not done yet. Bob always jokes that we're not going back until they finish the la Segrada Familia. The hop-on hop-off bus is a fun way to see the city but be sure to spend time walking the main street, Las Ramblas, and seeing the performers there and enjoying some tapas. Oh, and don't miss the churros with hot chocolate!

Venice, Italy. When we first arrived in Venice it was raining and it looked dirty and dull and I wondered why we were there. Then the sun came out and the buildings came alive. The architecture surrounding St. Mark's Square is amazing. History abounds and romance ignites with a gondola ride and or a stroll through the little piazzas that surround the main part of the city. Enjoy a cappuccino on the square but be sure to order enough that you don't get charged a cover fee if you are sitting in one of the little outdoor cafes that has musicians playing.

Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland? Yes. There will be lots of people discovering Cleveland as a destination in about 11 months as they descend on the area for the Republican National Convention. There is much to see if time allows. We have quite a history as well. Wonderful architectural examples of years past. A beautiful lake front by the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Museums. A fantastic ballpark. Aquarium. Lots of restaurants with many ethnic choices and new modern cuisine. And a premium theater district, Playhouse Square, that is the second largest complex in the country.

So that's it for now. While I favor little towns and open country, there are some amazing things the big cities have to offer so to be a well rounded traveler put a little of both into your itinerary.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Top Ten Favorite Places for the Nature Lover

Everyone always asks what is my favorite place of all I've visited. That's an impossible question to answer. I like different places for different reasons. So with that in mind and while there are still lots of places left to visit in this world of all the places I've been these would be my favorites for the nature lover in  me.

New Zealand. Almost any place in New Zealand you go there are trails to explore and beautiful scenes to take in as well as lots of animals. One of the things I like best is that there are no snakes. So, as I walk the trails, I can hold my head up and not worry about anything slithering across the path. But for a great mix of things to explore, the Dunedin area is probably my favorite. Albatross, penguins, seals, and lots of sheep in the green fields that make NZ such a pastoral landscape.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia. For easy access to the reef, stay in Cairns or on one of the outer islands in the area. A day's trip on one of the tour boats will get you out on the reef and most have snorkel gear, offer introductory scuba diving, glass bottom boats and even a "submarine" with viewing windows that give you eyeball to eyeball encounters with the marine life.

Norway's Fjords. We have been to the fjords of Norway several times and are always amazed at the beauty and awesomeness of the landscape. Cruising is the only way we've seen them but I wonder what it would be like to do a land tour and see them that way? Hey, Hon! Add that to the bucket list!

The Grand Canyon. I struggle with choosing this over Bryce or Zion but if you only get to see one canyon this would be the one to do. It's easy for anyone to navigate the upper level trails and if you want a real challenge, you can go down and cross the canyon floor. Early in the morning on the trails before they get too crowded from tour buses, you can enjoy the clean air, beauty of the landscape, animals who haven't scattered to their hideaways yet, and collect breathtaking pictures of more colors of earth and rock than you ever imagined. And don't forget the star-filled night skies. Amazing.

Antarctica. We braved the Drake Passage and were rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica. Penguins, seals, and lots of icebergs as well as the whitest snow I have ever seen. It is beauty beyond words.

Galapagos Islands. You really have to love iguanas because you will see thousands of them here as well as seals (sometimes close up and personal), albatross, flamingos, turtles, tortoises, and all sorts of birds including the blue footed boobie.

Kruger National Park, South Africa. Our first safari will definitely not be our last. The country of South Africa is beautiful--landscape like nothing I've seen anywhere else. And getting close up to the big five out in the wild was, well, wild!

Australia's Outback. I've mentioned the marine life already but there's much more to see on land as well. We've taken a few tours into the outback and enjoyed seeing kangaroos in the wilds as well as koalas and even the kookaburra. There are snakes though so I don't do much hiking here. Yes, I have a thing about snakes.

Papua New Guinea. While I would not recommend travel there right now, it was the best place we have ever been diving. Wonderful green landscapes were viewed from the dive boat and we did venture in to see some hot springs on one trip but mostly we enjoyed the marine life, large and small, from the giant manta rays to the tiniest seahorse smaller than my little finger's fingernail.

My own backyard. Now obviously I don't do tours for people through my backyard but I want to point out to you that sometimes you really don't have to travel far to see the beauty of nature. While all of you may not have deer, coyotes (on occasion), gophers, chipmunks, even a red fox and quite a variety of birds, most of you do have at least a park or zoo nearby that offers an opportunity to walk or sit and enjoy some of the beautiful things God has created in nature.

Well, that's my top ten for now. I still have many miles to go. ..

Monday, August 24, 2015

Books For The Road - Ruby, A Novel

Like a historical romance with a little modern twist? You'll want to tuck Ruby into your suitcase or download to your device before your next trip or even if you're doing a staycation with reading time at home. The story line involves a girl growing up in the 30s and 40s in Cleveland and falling in love. But it's wartime and her love must sail away. Will he return?

The modern twist is that Ruby's daughter is discovering her mother's first love as her mother lays seriously ill in a senior center. What secrets will she find among her mother's things and will they help her to understand her mother better?

Food for thought as you read: Our circumstances don't define us but what we do with our circumstances does.

I hope you'll enjoy this read. It may be the only historical I ever write. I'm back to working on my more humorous side of writing. The second in the Annie Pickel series.

Oh, by the way, if you're a Goodreads member, check out the free giveaway that starts on August 28. And if you are in the Cleveland area, click on the Launch Party tab above and stop in and celebrate with us.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Flashback Friday - The International Beach Project

Looking back to a post from the summer of 2008 I realized that it is just as relevant today as it was when I first wrote it. Our children are our greatest hope for a better tomorrow.

Yesterday we visited a beach on a lake near where our grandchildren live in Washington. The weather was sunny but a little chill was in the air. It didn't stop several kids who were in bathing suits from wading waist deep into the cold water. I shivered to watch.

What was truly fascinating however was the international beach project that took shape in a matter of minutes. I say international because there were Asian, Hispanic, Caucasian, and Indian children involved in the rather spontaneous construction of a river that began at the edge of the grass and ran through the sand about 50 feet to the lake. Several children started the dig and curiosity drew others. As the project escalated, some became dredgers, some supplied water (they owned buckets), and still others banked the sides to keep the water from flooding over.

One enterprising young lady formed a square with her fingers and proceded to interview the others on the project. Questions such as "What is the importance of this river?" were tossed at the workers who answered with surprisingly intelligent responses like, "It will help the lake."

One young boy must have been the ecologist of the group as he shooed the ducks away to keep the project from injuring them. The ducks obviously thought it was a feeding trough.

As the dozen or so children worked for a good hour on keeping the river running, I saw what gives us hope for our future--young people who can come together and work so well to "improve" the beach will certainly grow into adults with the same capabilities to improve our world. I pray no one spoils their enthusiasm.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dream A Little Dream With Me

Our son, one of the charmers we raised, managed to get his family upgraded to a suite once on a cruise they took. It came with a butler and plenty of space for the four of them. The butler would bring food for the kids' early dinner and then our son and his wife would get to go to dinner on their own later after dropping the kids off at the supervised children's area. They were pampered and made to feel really special and I'm concerned that it spoiled them for any future cruises.

We've been upgraded to what are considered suites a few times but they were nothing like the premium suites available on a lot of ships. The premium suites come with the standard butler service but then you can expect all sorts of other amenities depending upon the cruise line and the ship.

Premium suites usually range in size from about 1,000 to 2,000 square feet compared to a standard cruise stateroom that averages 250 square feet. They often include a grand piano, a whirlpool tub often on the balcony as well as in the bathroom, a small refrigerator and microwave, a dining room table, premium linens,--the list goes on.

Often there are special perks that come with booking a premium suite as well. Sometimes there are designated areas on the ship for suite guests only and special restaurants as well.

On one back-to-back cruise we took, our room was sandwiched between two suites. They must have had a space that needed filling and our stateroom fit there. On one side of us was the top premium suite and when we were in port for the turn around day, our cabin stewardess said we could take a peak. The room wasn't made up yet but it was still amazing. Gold fixtures, a little kitchen and butler's pantry, and of course, the hot tub on the balcony.

Sure we could always book a premium suite for a cruise but that would be it--a cruise. I just couldn't justify giving up several cruises just to be able to enjoy the luxury. Still, maybe someday for a special occasion. Even a practical girl can dream.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Old Ship, New Ship, Small Ship, Big Ship

No, it's not a new Seuss book. I found an article that compared old ships to new ships and explored the differences you might encounter. It's an interesting article and found on Cruise Critic if you'd like to read the whole thing.

Basically, newer ships are bigger than older ships. I think part of that trend is because the ships are becoming the destination more than the ports of call. The large new ships are fun if you are not particularly interested in exploring some of the smaller ports where a large ship cannot go. We took a cruise on Oasis of the Seas not long after it came out and thoroughly enjoyed the week. I'm not sure we even explored all there was to offer on the ship and we plan to go again on the Oasis or one of the other mega ships.

There are also more balconies on the newer ships. We used to go for a less expensive inside room but once we stepped up to a window and then to a veranda, it was hard to go back. As the article points out however the verandas tend to be smaller than on the older ships.

Of course there's all the new stuff, electronics, entertainment specialties, even a bumper car ride on the Quantum of the Seas! Wave riders and zip lines make the slides at the pools look tame now.

Older ships are not just old buckets chugging across the waters. Cruise lines do upgrades and makeovers on their ships that help to keep the older ships looking newer and in good condition on a regular basis. The best time to sail on an older ship is soon after it's been reconditioned. New carpet, new beds, new TVs, etc. can be expected and hopefully all the charm of an older ship.

There are some things to watch out for  though when choosing one over the other. We made the mistake of sailing on one of the very first voyages of a new ship a several years ago and found that most of the new electronics that were supposed to be available for cruisers enrichment didn't have all the bugs worked out. We don't book now until the new ship has been sailing a few months. And then there was the old ship we sailed that was not in the greatest of shape since it hadn't been reconditioned in a while and we were still to inexperienced to have checked it out--something our travel agent should have done. And yet there was another ship that we recognized as coming from one cruise line that had gone out of business and sold it ships. It was old but had been refurbished so nicely it was a joy to spend a week cruising in it.

Small ship? Big ship? Old ship? New ship? You decide. Do the research. Get the feedback from Cruise Critic or other cruise forums. Decide if you are cruising to see the ports or enjoy the ship more. Your cruise will be more enjoyable if you know what you want and find the best fit for you.

Ah, so many ships. So little time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Venezuela's Nightly Catatumbo Lightning Storms

Growing up and spending a lot of summers on South Bass Island in Lake Erie I saw my share of spectacular lightning storms. The water allowed for magnification of the lightning and the echo of the sounds of the thunder. Recently I found information on a spot in Venezuela where a spectacular lightning display takes place almost nightly.

The place is the Maracaibo Lake area where the Catatumbo River enters it. The combination of hot days, cool evening winds from the Andes and the moisture put into the air by the day's heat evaporating the water lends to a combination that is perfect for creating thunderstorms. They rage throughout the night and are said to happen around 260 days out of the year.

The storms are not unlike what occur in the midwestern states of the U.S. The fact that they occur with regularity is what makes them so unique. Unfortunately the area where they occur is near  the Colombian border and not a safe place to be due to the drug trafficking that takes place. Still one set of travelers took on the adventure and their trip is told at Slate .com . If you read their story, be sure to read this article from Storm Highway as well that dispels some of the myths that surround this phenomenon.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Flashback Friday - The Happy Parrot Fish

I've been at this blogging thing for a long time--since early 2005 when my son said it was something I needed to do if I was a writer. Where did he get so wise? Thought I would look back to some of my early postings. Here's one from August of 2006.

Diving in Cayman the other day, I couldn’t help but be amused once again by the colorful parrot fish of the Caribbean. They are brightly multicolored mostly on a turquoise blue background with a mouth that looks like a beak—thus the name parrot fish. They go along crunching on rocks and then excreting them. Know those sandy beaches you love? The parrot fish helps make them.

While this may seem like a mundane job, the parrot fish seems to be quite happy in his lot in life. With all that roughage, he’s probably not constipated which certainly helps his mood. When you see the parrot fish from the side, his eye looks bright and clear and his “beak” is shaped like a smile. Rather than swimming along, he seems to skip through the water making him appear carefree and happy-go-lucky. You can almost hear him singing, “Don’t worry. Be Happy.”

Ah, yes. The Caribbean. Even the fish are happy!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Walk In The Park. . .er, Zoo.

Please don't groan. Yes, it's another zoo post. Bob and I like to walk and one of our favorite places is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. We spent a morning last week walking around and since the weather was a little cooler, saw some new-to-us animal actions.

The wallabys were hopping around. The bears were all out and moving around. One grizzly went over to the other and batted at him until he woke up.

The new giraffe encounter was interesting and crowded. There were lots of people in line wanting to feed them. You don't have to feed them to get out on the observation platform but you do stand in line so that the platform is not overcrowded. The giraffes get right up to the railing. Only one seemed hungry enough but he was certainly getting his fill of lettuce leaves.

Cool weather also gets the wolves up and moving. One was circling the pond near the observation shelter and another was right up against the window. It's the first time I've gotten a real close shot of one. My camera was home but my iPhone did a great job. So that's probably the reason for this post. I wanted to show off my wolf picture.

Okay, now you can groan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Wednesday Filled With Words!!

Today is the day! Ruby is now available for purchase at Amazon .com. Please share the news!

Here's the back cover blurb to pique your curiosity:

Secrets can be cruel especially when they span generations. What Hope Morgan learns from her mother’s love story turns her world inside out. How many secrets did Ruby keep from her daughter?

Hope Morgan has always had difficulty understanding her mother, Ruby. Now as illness threatens to take her mother’s life she discovers that her family history is not what she thought. Ruby begins to reveal secrets that have been kept for generations.

Who was Edward Fields in her mother’s life, Hope wonders, and why has she kept his letters for so many years? What was the butterfly love story they shared? And did Hope’s father, George know about it?

While Ruby weathered the Great Depression as a child and the sorrows of World War II as a young bride, her faith grew and the promises Edward shared with her gave her strength to see her through. Will she have the strength to finally reveal the last secret she holds?

The paperback will be available in 2-4. Click here for paperback. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Vacation Rentals - Finding Your Special Place

A trip to the Smokey Mountains and a stay on the beach in North Carolina were our first experiences with vacation rental properties. They worked out well and we have lots of fond memories of those vacations.

When we wanted to take our kids and grands to Disney World we saved a lot of money by renting a house that would accommodate all eleven of us since one family had to stay home with a newborn. It also gave us the opportunity to have a home base to visit with each other. In addition, we could cook a few meals and make lunches to take into the park. The house was a short drive from the entrance to Disney and it worked out so well that we did it again several years later with a house that could accommodate fourteen of us (we've grown even more since then).

More recently we have rented several condos in Key Largo and yes, become snow birds for the winter.

Rental properties are available all over the world and are often a much nicer way to station yourself in an area and explore for less than a hotel or B&B especially when you have the opportunity to cook some meals. Several sites online are available to peruse properties: VRBO, Dwellable, Homeaway and Flipkey (owned by TripAdvisor). Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Not all pictures are the same. A good photographer or edit job can make something look a whole lot better than it is. Look for outdated kitchen appliances and other clues that it might not be exactly as portrayed.
  • Check out guest comments on a different site. Sometimes the comments are all from friends and family giving the place a good name or the opposite can be true--the competition tearing it down. Find the middle ground for something closer to the truth.
  • Call the owner if possible and ask lots of questions like how many beds and are they beds or pull out couches. Is there a cleaning fee? Amenities like shampoo, laundry detergent (if there's a washer/dryer), hair dryer. Much of that may be on the listing but if not, be sure to ask.
  • Get it in writing if you can. This past year, we had someone who said, "Oh, just send me the first month's payment and we'll be fine." We insisted on a lease agreement since we were counting on staying more than a month.

Happy travels!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Where Fiction Comes Alive

A UK site called Just The Flight has designed an infographic that lists many of the places inspired by fictional stories. We found Hobbiton in Matamata, NZ, fascinating but that's only one of several places in NZ that were used for the Hobbit or Lord Of The Ring movies. There are so many more spots to visit for some of your other favorite stories.

I've always been a fan of Superman. My voracious reading habit was fueled early by comic books. Wish I had known back then they'd be collectible. I could have financed a lot of travel with them. The list includes Smallville and points to Topeka, KS. Of course most equate NYC with Gotham City and Batman or with Metropolis for Superman.

While we are on comics and animation, a fjord in Norway is said to have inspired Disney's Frozen.

The popular Winnie The Pooh, by A.A. Milne, is said to have been inspired by Ashdown Forest in England. It is 30 miles south of London in the county of East Sussex. So if you're looking for a stroll through the Hundred Acre Wood, that would be the place to go.

 Jurassic Park or Lost fan? Travel to Hawaii for the places where those were filmed.

Check it out. There are 50 locations noted for movies, books, even video games. Maybe it will inspire a travel adventure.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Flashback Friday - Casa Loma

Back in 1955, my mother decided she was tired of making the long drive to Noelville, Canada, and passing up all the interesting sights along the way. I think that Dad may have bought her a car by then because he would have had to have transportation unless he and his fishing buddy drove together.

She invited his buddy's wife along and their two kids who were close to my brother's and my age. We headed north, crossed the Peace Bridge and stopped in Toronto to do some sightseeing. I'm said to say I don't remember a whole lot about the trip. Some yelling when we kids got too rambunctious--after all there weren't any electronics to keep us busy.

What does stand out is our visit to Toronto's Casa Loma. Maybe it was my eight year old imagination running wild as we toured the "castle" but it made a great impression on me. So much so that when Bob and I had the opportunity to visit Toronto a few years back, I asked that we stop there. It was very different seeing it through the eyes of an adult than a young impressionable girl but the visit renewed the memories and was very satisfying.

Casa Loma was built by multi-millionaire businessman, Sir Henry Mill Pellat over a period of time from 1911-1914 for a cost of $3.5 million. When things went badly with his business base, he was forced to auction off his prized possession and contents. After some attempts to complete and expand the castle, it eventually came to be the property of the city of Toronto in payment of back taxes. The Kiwanis Club of Toronto began offering tours of the castle in 1937 and that continued until 2011 when a new Casa Loma Corporation was formed. The Liberty Entertainment Group in 2014 entered into a long lease with the city and is now using it for special events as well as maintaining it as an attraction to see when visiting Toronto.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Road Trip!

In light of our upcoming road trip out west, an article by Wendy Perrin of Tripadvisor caught my eye: How To Make Your Great American Road Trip Even Greater. I agree with her on most of her points.

The first was to get lost. That's hard to do nowadays with a GPS in the car but I think her point was more to get off the highways and explore. When my mother first learned to drive, there were no GPS gadgets to tell you to turn right or left in one hundred feet. While we didn't venture far, she loved to put us in the car and "get lost." I remember her mumbling one day that if we didn't find our way back to familiar territory we'd end up at 1,000 Islands. Little did I know there really was such a place. One thing we did gain was an appreciation for the countryside and the little places to stop for a treat along the way.

And I so agree with her about setting aside the devices and making the trip time to connect. Adults as well as children should be limited to a set time for using electronics.

I like finding those gems along the way that are tourist traps. The largest, biggest, most amazing, etc., are funky stops and provide a little humor along the way. What? I missed the World's Largest Pistachio in Alamagordo, New Mexico!

For more of her tips, check out the article. 

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The 3 and 6 Month Passport Rules

Planning on going out of the country? Have you checked your passport expiration date? If it is due to expire within six months of your arrival in some countries you may be turning around and heading home before your holiday begins.

I did not realize until recently that there is a rule in many countries that you cannot enter if your passport is due to expire within six months of your entry into the country. Some countries are more lenient and make it three months. We have always allotted plenty of time for passport renewal but that has always been for our peace of mind. Now we will be checking to be sure our passports have plenty of lead time on them.

To find out what the requirements of each country are you can go to the US Department of State's travel site. Generally European countries require a passport that does not expire within three months and many Asian countries extend that to six months. South American countries vary. It's always a good idea to check each country you will visit. You may also need a visa which takes some time. Words for the wise: Plan ahead.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Staying Cool

 My birthday came around while we were on our World Cruise and my table mates had a little celebration for me. I had already ordered chocolate cake with chocolate icing and kept my fingers crossed that it would be real cake not chocolate mousse. It was and tasted great.

I was surprised though when our new friends came up unexpectedly with several gifts, one of which was a cool headband. I wasn't quite sure I would use it but once I got home, it came in pretty handy.

The band is paperlike but when wet becomes soft and pliable. You wet it and wrap it around your head to stay cool while you exercise or work out in the heat. The day the temps climbed uncomfortably high for working in the yard, I tried it out.

I don't like things around my head but I wet it down and wrapped it around my neck letting the length extend into the neckline of my shirt. It was amazing. I had to rewet it once but it kept me working much longer than I would have otherwise.

Recently Smarter Travel.com had an article about clothes that keep you cool when traveling. There was a similar towel mentioned and several items of clothing, including a hat with a built-in fan. Sometimes I feel a little behind the times. Who knew?

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