I have always been afraid of heights. Still, that being said, I have always wanted to go rock climbing. I don’t know why. Maybe it was watching Tom Cruise hang on the side of a cliff in Mission Impossible and I became inspired. Of course when the camera panned out and you saw him just holding on with his hands outstretched I decided, maybe that isn’t for me after all. But I can’t help but come back to the idea of it and after seeing my cousin’s multitude of pictures of her doing the same thing as Cruise, I decided, why not. I only live once.
Morgan Bay is part of the Wild Coast in South Africa and rock climbers from all over come here to climb the sea walls next to the ocean. There are all kind of trails, whether you’re a novice like me or a trained rocker climber. Some of the trails are bolted routes with trad lines, that you can top-rope. Most of the routes you’ll be climbing have definite crevices in the rock for easy climbing. While there are seven bolted routes, you can find hundreds of trails all over the cliff wall. The more famous trails are named like the “ticket to ride,” “the feeling is tight” and “the carnival is over.” Each area is named, so if you’re with friends but want to rock climb solo (there are trails just for this) you can meet up at a selected place.
Down below at the beach you can use the campsite and enjoy the lagoon. At the lagoon you can go swimming and boating in its waters or instead just sit back and watch the wildlife that lives here. There are horse trails for one day or over-night excursions that can last up to two weeks. The trails will take you through villages, the forest, past waterfalls and the beaches. Which if you’re like me, might decide rock climbing is like skiing; I’m better off drinking hot chocolate in the lodge or if I’m at Morgan Bay, give rock climbing a try, realize as I’m dangling off the edge, horse-back riding or lazily wading through the water at the lagoon might be the better option; while I take pictures of my friends reaching the top of the cliff.
I don’t know where you are, but where I live there’s snow everywhere. And more is to come by next week! I love the snow, I do. But after the third or fourth snowstorm, shoveling my car out of the driveway and having to drive to work an hour early just to make sure I get there on time; well, I’m in need of a little sun and a beach. I could say any beach will do but that’s not completely true. I have beaches near me. Cape Cod is a great place to vacation during the summer but now I want the weather to be as hot as it can get. Or enough to warm me up and not think about hot chocolate and snow boots.
There are many beautiful places all over the world and I could list a bunch of them but of all of destinations, there is something about Bora Bora that is so completely beautiful it makes me want to jump on the next plane and stay until spring. The waters are rich in color; the sky is clear with big fluffy clouds in the sky. The sand is warm on your toes. Straw umbrellas to keep the sun out of your eyes as you fall asleep listening to the waves crash to the shore. Depending where you stay, you can be on the ocean in a water bungalow or stay inland in a garden bungalow. Some of the water bungalows will have glass floors so you want to watch the ocean while you’re relaxing in your home away from home. You can opt for ocean views, mountain views or both. All of the resorts have at least one restaurant and a bar. Depending on where you stay, you will have the privilege of having your own private pool, swimming in the lagoon or visiting a spa. If you have children, there are resorts that have kid’s clubs to keep your little ones as happy as you are. And to make you happy there’s snorkeling, golfing, a little hiking to explore the surrounding areas and of course shopping. But who wants to go shopping when you can put a towel over your face, lay flat on the sand, umbrella by your side and no traces of snow to be seen. Yea, I’m already there. Someone please feed my kittens while I’m away for the next two months.
Looking for a little quiet time this February with your loved one, where it’s only you and your significant, full of privacy and romance with no cares in the world about errands, work and everything else that comes with everyday life. A place called Maldives in India will be your personal sanctuary for the few days you’re there.
Step into another world as you’re transported to an island. You’ll have your own private bungalow with open wall and straw like roof. The bungalow stands on stilts on top of the ocean where you can wake up and watch the sunrise or sip island cocktails as you watch the sunset. Dive into the ocean and explore one of the many corals reefs. Swim in the crystal blue waters and by mid-day find yourself a hammock in between two palm trees to lazily bring in the afternoon. In the evening enjoy a picnic on the beach.
Maldives has all the luxuries you could ask for. Whether you want to grab a kite for the day or go wind-surfing. Scuba dive with hammerheads, snorkel in shallower waters or dine on a candlelight dinner on the beach. For those ready to experience complete bliss, bask in a private spa treatment in your bungalow and then take a dip into your pool. At night do a little fishing or take a romantic boat ride as you gaze at the moonlight rays cascading on the waves.
The best time to visit is December through March but of course you can visit during any season. Ready for some R & R after a long holiday season, this will more than make up for all the baking, shopping and wrapping you did over the past few months. So much so, you’ll be ready for December all over again. Well, maybe not that soon, summer is almost here and with summer comes some fantastic places to visit.
Love is in the air. Some of us will sit by a fireplace with our favorite book, a box of chocolates in a heart shape box and enjoy the sound of solitude. Other will be planning one of the most romantic days of their life; to propose or let their significant other know they are special. I always find myself wanting to find a secluded romantic restaurant that I will remember for a lifetime. This year I came across a restaurant that exceeded my expectations in one of my favorite countries, Italy.
In the southern part of Italy a city called Polignano a Mare hosts an enchanting restaurant set into a cave. The Summer Cave at the hotel Grotta Palazzese is a restaurant that opens from May until October and has been called one of the most romantic restaurants in the world. Depending on your preference you can dine right next to the water’s edge and look out into the ocean from the opening of the cave or take a table that’s not quite so close to the ocean water. The tables at the edge have their own hanging lights with the bases made of out white stone while the inner tables have candles to set the mood; the floors are made of beautiful wood. Sit on white cushioned chairs next to the bar and enjoy a glass of wine. The food is wonderful Italian cuisine. Whether you want a romantic getaway with your loved one or are planning a family trip, this is a once in a lifetime restaurant that should not be missed if you happen to venture into southern Italy.
The sparkling lights, presents under the tree, the smell of cookies baking in the oven, it’s that time again: Christmas has arrived. I admit it; I’m one of those people who wait all year for black Friday and goes out into the night to find gifts or just to be among the hustle and bustle of the season. I decorate my house with multiple Christmas trees, hang stockings for my cats and pretend I’m Martha Stewart for December. Anything that is Christmas brings a smile to my face. When I heard about a Christmas Village in Finland I had know all the details.
The Christmas Village has anything and everything you could possibly hope for. It has Santa and his own office where you can visit him. Sit down with elves at the post office to write letters to your friends and family back home. You can send a letter to Santa or have him send a letter to that special someone. Take a tour into the Santa cavern where you’ll meet all kinds of fairytale creatures while they do their chores for the day.
While you’re here you can stay in one of the Christmas village cottages or cozy up in an igloo. If you enjoy being in the snow there is an Arctic ice bar and restaurant. There is also the rustic feel of the Christmas house to get you through those cold days. Shop in the gift stores for a unique gift made of reindeer or find the silversmith where they will be making jewelry.
Depending on when you go you can see the Northern lights light up the sky. Whether you see lights dancing with the stars or Christmas lights sparkling the trees against a blanket of snow, there will be no doubt you’re in Christmas town.
This year is busier than ever and as much as I’d like to whip up a delicious pumpkin pie and roasted turkey for thanksgiving I find myself wanting to take the tradition someplace else. You can find places all over the country that have buffets overloaded with your favorite thanksgiving food. If you want to put a little history into your holiday this year, plan a trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts to where it all began. The festivities happen a week before actual Thanksgiving Day, so if you still want to heat up the ovens or head to your friend’s or families house you still can.
In Plymouth, Massachusetts during the weekend before the holiday, thousands of people gather to celebrate. There is food, parades and concerts just to name a few of the things that will go on. The parade depicts actual events of each century from the 17th to the 21st. At the Wampanoag pavilion you will learn the real meaning behind the dinner. Why we celebrate every year and why with turkey. Visit Plymouth Rock and see the Mayflower ll. Local farmers will be at the harvest market serving up all kinds of delicious food. Crafters from all over will be selling their creative items. As you pass the day away shopping and sipping on hot apple cider bluegrass music will be in the background. An authentic village will be set up with actors depicting life as it used to be. Even President Lincoln will make an appearance. Just like the parade, the village will depict each period of life from soldiers fighting to gain freedom from England to women’s rights. Along the way will be blacksmiths, leatherworkers, and candle-makers just to name a few, bringing to life how our country was. Concerts will take place every day. Friday night’s concert will be a dedication to the military. The concert on Saturday is by admission but well worth it and will also be a dedication not only to the military but to our country.
Even if you decide to spend Thanksgiving Day cooking your favorite foods and spending it with the people you love, create a new tradition and head to Massachusetts to witness the way life was lived years ago and why we celebrate this delectable holiday.
Fall is under way and the upcoming festivities are almost among us. That’s right, time to get out all the decorations, favorite recipes for the holidays and shopping. Lots of shopping. If you’re like me, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. I love the holiday season. I finally get to see those people close to my heart again that I haven’t seen in months. I bake my favorite pies and cakes and have small get togethers. It seems once the season starts it goes by in a blink of an eye. A little rest before the storm is always needed, whether it’s a day away or a few days. This year visiting a Zen Buddhist garden might be on my list of things to do.
The Ryoan-ji Temple located in Japan is a peaceful garden made with gravel, sand and stones. It is simple yet elegant with rocks placed throughout the garden. Each day the monks come out to rake the gravel around the rocks in precise rippling patterns. The patterns are for the most part the same every day. The garden consists of these fifteen rocks and the keepers of the garden say the longer you gaze upon them more you’re apt to understand their meaning. The number fifteen also signifies for Buddhist “completeness.” One cannot see all fifteen rocks no matter where they are standing while viewing the garden. According to the Zen masters the only way to see all fifteen rocks is to obtain enlightenment. Of course enlightenment is different for each person. That is the beauty of a Zen garden. There is no known reason why the original creator of the Zen garden placed the rocks in the pattern they now occupy, but it is known to be a spiritual place where one can meditate. It is one of the most famous in the world.
After visiting the garden you can walk down to the Kyoyo-chi pond. The pond was here long before the garden and boats used to wade across its waters. Now you can walk along the path and over the stone bridge. There is a temple that sits along the path Daishu-in as you make your way around the pond. Lily-pad and irises float on the water’s surface. Tortoises can be seen sunbathing during the day.
While this isn’t a vacation where you’re going from one place to the next, taking in all the scenery as quickly as possible, it is a time of quiet inner peace. A time to reflect upon the year that is passing and the new year that brings surprises and the idea dreams are about to manifest.
Quite a few years ago, I helped create a writing group. While our group consisted of many writing prompts and the need to tell our stories the two staples that had to accompany our classes were chocolate and tea. Our name was actually spun from the word tea where we claimed the name “The Teacup Writers.” I admit it wasn’t exactly creative but it did fit and when we get together we still have our tea and chocolate before we venture into our own fairytale lands we are more than willing to share. When I heard about a place where I could be surrounded by tea plantations and enjoy a tour or two I wanted to know all the details.
In Sri Lanka there is a plethora of tea plantations and tea factories. All of which are easily accessible and depending on which factory you go to you can tour the facility. One of the more famous is the Ceylon Tea Plantation. You are able to stay in one of the four bungalows, each offering a slight variation of their rooms. You will have your own butler, chef and manager during your stay. There are master suites with their own private gardens, other suites with private verandahs. You have the option of staying in the same bungalow or choosing to spend a night in each.
Each morning the butler will awaken you with tea and a drawn bath. What can be more fabulous? This is only the beginning. When you’re fully awake and ready for breakfast, it is waiting. The staff will use locally grown fruits and vegetables and incorporate tea into the recipes they will be serving. After breakfast treat yourself to a walk on the trails through the tea plantation. There are guides if you want a more structured tour or you can travel from one bungalow to the next discovering the area for yourself. There is also crochet to play, white water rafting, tennis and after a long day refresh yourself at the spa. If you want to venture into the surrounding areas there are more than one excursion you can participate in. You can visit the capital, Kandy or take a walk to the Horton Plains National Park.
Of course you’re here for the tea and tea you will learn all about. From the moment they plant the seed to when they decide to pluck the leaves and bud. How it becomes your favorite taste. By the end of the introduction you are able to sample different flavors. During the latter part of each day, Afternoon Tea is served with clotted creams, jams, finger sandwiches, all those specialty foods that make your mouth water just thinking about them. If you want to continue with your tea excursion the spa offers “tea” treatments. You can pick from a wide variety of treatments and choose the type of tea bath you want to luxuriate in.
If you’re a lover of tea as much as I am, this is heaven waiting on a hillside to come bask in all its richness while you relax in the gardens sipping your favorite tea with that book you’ve been waiting to read.
Who loves corn? Or should I ask the real question, who loves a good corn maze? I remember the first time I saw the sign for a corn maze. It was years ago and I wasn’t sure if I was seeing what I was seeing. I came back that evening and couldn’t wait to get my flashlight and map. I had a blast. I also got lost for hours. The maze was huge! Afterwards I went home and thought about the next time I was going to go. It wasn’t until the next year. This time I went on a haunted maze. It was me and a friend and it felt like we were the only ones there. And the ghosts and ghouls. What a great time I had. Since then I’ve been to all kinds of corn mazes, whether during the day or night. Some lasting an entire afternoon. And this year is no different. I plan to find a phenomenal corn maze and maybe I’ll even try for a haunted one again.
It doesn’t matter where you live, corn mazes are popping up everywhere. They have become a main attraction. You will even find the mazes are part of fall festivals with rides, homemade food stands and animal attractions.
I have come across a lot of corn mazes but one of the most impressive is the maze at Richardson Farms in Spring Grove, IL. It boasts to be 33 acres of maze! Now that’s a lot of corn. A corn maze that has been turned into a tribute to The Beatles; this is a dedicated farm. As with most mazes now, there are so many things to do here you might get lost before you even make it to the corn. There are pig races, hayrides, pumpkin picking and orbiting. What is orbiting? A huge ball you get into and go for a ride! Who knew? An area for food including hamburgers, hot dogs and those yummy homemade apple-cider donuts. There is even a day designated to bring your horse to the maze. Want to come back for Christmas; they even have a Christmas tree field where you can cut down your own tree. This farm has it all. Well almost…
Corn mazes and Halloween in my book go hand in hand. Not every farm does Halloween so shop around and don’t just sample one farm. Each one has its own unique spin to the maze and what it offers. Scream Acres in Atkins, IA doesn’t just have a maze it has a curtain chaos and slaughterhouse. Or in Glendale, AZ the AZ Field of Screams is a romp-roaring corn maze at night made to frighten.
Whether you want to go with family, sit back and chow down on a donut while looking at your map or going with your best friends and screaming for an hour it’s out there. You can always do what I do and do both. Why choose when both are so much fun!
In school I was always fascinated by pyramids and of course the most famous of pyramids are in Egypt. I was enthralled by those but what really caught my attention were the stone monuments in Guatemala or rather the Maya civilization and how they lived. The monuments and temples looked majestic in a completely different way than the Egyptian pyramids. Perhaps it’s because they are surrounded by the forest and hidden away. I’m not sure but they are just as extraordinary in their history as any other temple you come across.
The Maya, an ancient civilization that existed for a short period of time lived in Tikal, Guatemala. They constructed pyramids, temples and palaces for their people. They are known for their use of the number zero and the calendar. There are approximately 3,000 buildings that still remain but less than a dozen pyramids are still in existence; each having its own name from The Temple of the Masks to The Temple of the Jaguar Pries. Not only is the temple named after the jaguar, a select group that governed over the Maya called Jaguar Clan Lords ruled this area.
Depending on when you travel to Guatemala to see the temples will determine what your experience will be. In the morning you’ll see and hear the spider monkeys. Howler monkeys are also in the area but not quite as visible. The toucan birds and coatimundis can be seen everywhere and of course there are jaguars in the area but the odds of seeing one are very slim.
During your tour you’re able to explore the area and climb the steps of the temples. You won’t be able to climb all of them but there are still a few where you’re able climb the steps and see the view from the top. You’ll notice archeologists still digging in the area as they are still exploring and discovering temples and remains. Just like every destination where you stay is up to you but I recommend spending a few extra dollars and staying in the park where you will be surrounded by nature and hear the sounds of the forest.
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