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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Adult Tree House

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       The summer is coming to an end and I’m not quite ready to grow up, head back to college and get back to responsibility. I can’t say I want to be a kid all the time but the thought of staying in a tree house and remembering younger years is a definite plus. Just like my child self, I still love animals, especially large animals; elephants, lions and anything else that isn’t the norm. 

       Africa, a place that doesn’t immediately come to mind for tree houses and relaxation, rather than four wheel drives and jungles, but on closer inspection is one of the most beautiful and romantic. Depending on where you stay, you will get a variety of options.  Chole Mjini in Tanzania is on the top of my list. With open rooms, four poster beds and your own private bathing area it is the place to unwind, relax and get back to nature. Each room is private yet open. You can walk around without feeling intimidated someone at one of the six other tree houses can see you. 

       When you’re ready to leave your room you can go down to the picnic area next to the ocean for an intimate dinner; dining on fresh fish, coconut milk and lemon papaya soup. During the day you can go to the sand bank “Funguni” and have a picnic. It is a sand strip only assessable by boat and only appearing every day for six hours. The perfect spot to swim, read a few pages in your favorite novel and admire sea creatures.  You can also learn to dive and swim with sea turtles. You will also share the sea with the Whale shark. It lives in these waters, eating as much plankton as his fifteen ton body can eat. Nearby the nest of Green and Hawksbill turtles are monitored by the Sea Sense Project giving guests an opportunity to watch baby turtles hatch out of their shell. There aren’t too many ways to get closer to nature than this. 

       As the days come to a close there are many possibilities of how you’d like to end it. You can travel to the nearby village for a stroll, head to one of the bars for an evening refreshment and watch the fruit bats, or for the ultimate experience go on a sunset sail. 

       While this isn’t your typical backyard tree house, this gives new meaning to sleeping under the stars, as the stars you see here will be among the brightest you’ve seen anywhere. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

The World

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       I am always in search of your not so typical vacation. While my family loves cruise ships I had yet to fully understand the intrigue until I stumbled across The World. The World Ship is more than your ordinary cruise ship it caters to the select few who can afford it. And if you can afford it, is beyond any expectation you may have. 

       Unlike other cruise lines, you purchase and own your apartment. Whether you want a studio, one, two or three bedroom apartment, it is yours for the taking; the apartments - while being luxurious -cost in the millions, but are well worth it. The idea is to travel for as long or as short as you like. The World has a yearlong itinerary, constantly going to a new destination. The apartments are fully furnished with bluetooth internet and satellite T.V. As serene as your apartment will be, it isn’t the only place you can spend the night. If you want to feel the ocean breeze while you sleep, you can sleep outside on a Bali-bed beneath the stars.

       In the morning the possibilities are endless. You can start your day off with a yoga session or play tennis on one of the courts. Perhaps golf is more your sport, where a professional will help you with your swing. You can go kayaking on the open sea, take a dip in the pool and have lunch at one of the restaurants on board. Enjoy the afternoon in the library reading one of the classics or take one of the classes being offered including learning a new language, dance or cooking style.  In the evening, meet at the bar for cocktails. After drinks indulge in sushi or put on your formal best and enjoy a romantic intimate dinner for two. Afterwards, the cigar room makes for a relaxing end to your day or a massage at the spa to end the night. 

       While all of this and more awaits you on The World this is only the icing on the cake. The true delight is traveling all over the world. Every year brings new places you will see and explore. Whether it be on the shores of Europe, the Caribbean or the coast of Ireland you will have plenty of time to go on land. The ship will spend three to five days at each port providing you with ample opportunity to explore each place The World stops. The itinerary is co-designed by the residents to make the most of each destination. 

       If you’re like me and the chances of owning an apartment are slim, there is hope. You can stay as a guest in one of the apartments. Along with booking the trip, you will also be responsible for any purchases you make at the restaurants aboard The World; as a resident dining is included but not as a guest. 

       Get ready to stay in a five-star hotel on the ocean complete with a casino, art gallery and more. The vacation will last as long as you like or if you’re one of the lucky few you can purchase a home away from home and travel 365 days a year.

Monday, 03 September 2012

Labor Day Weekend

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      Having traveled all over the United States, on holidays like Labor Day, I like to  go back home to spend it with friends, family and enjoy the Kipona Artsfest. The Artsfest is held at the capital of Pennsylvania. The city closes part of Front St. next to the Susquehanna River and sets up for a three day event. Blocks upon blocks are closed down for vendors lining the street. People from all over the state come to enjoy this spectacular holiday and I am one of them.

      Saturday morning I make some coffee, plan out the weekend and walk down to the festival. Having friends in the area I am saved from the burden of finding a parking spot but there is designated parking to help you from getting discouraged. As soon as I get close I can smell aromas of food from all ethnicities. I tell myself to wait until I’ve been here a few hours before I sample the deliciousness around me. It lasts for about five minutes. Between the cheesesteak, chicken on a stick, homemade fudge and lemonade, I’m in heaven. I start with strawberry shortcake, piled with strawberries and whipped cream. Delicious! Diet? What diet? Not only are my taste buds singing praises, the music coming from strategically placed stages is a delight to hear. Groups and solo artists come to play their music; bands just starting out and hoping this is their big break to singers who are well known in the area. You can hear anything from country to modern music. After spending an hour or two listening to the music I head over to the Artsfest, which is in a separate area. The fee is small but well worth it. Over a 100 crafters will be here displaying their finest items.  I have found one-of-a-kind treasures from pottery (bowls, goblets, plates, etc.), clothing and a wide variety of jewelry. The paintings and drawings are unique to each vender; from items of the Indian culture to someone who has traveled the world and is trying to sell their pictures. I have even found risqué paintings that the artist has since won awards for and sells at a significantly higher price. 

      There are many events planned throughout the three days. A chili cook-off is held on Saturday, fishing tournaments, bingo, the annual Native American Pow-Wow and Karate tournament. A small section of Kipona will be designated for children. They can participate in face painting or mix multi-colored sand to make designs in bottles. In the past there has been a wellness area including Zumba and Tai Chi.

       Boat races take place on the river throughout the day. You can sit on the steps leading down to the river and watch ‘til your heart’s content. Or you can take a walk across the bridge to City Island. Once there you can play miniature golf while eating a snow cone. If you are traveling with children they may like the train that will give them and you a tour of City Island. There is an area for volleyball and a beach to go swimming. Small huts line one side of the island selling anything from ice cream to kites. You can sit on one of the benches next to the huts, enjoy a snack and feed the ducks that have made a home here. The Harrisburg Senators play their home games on this island; while you won’t be able to walk on their fields you can still see a glimpse of their stadium.  Years ago Hollywood came here and filmed Major League II using this same field. If you do some exploring on the Island you’ll find secret passages in the trees.  

      As the evening winds down you can rent a horse and carriage and take a tour of the city.   The bridge lights up for the night making the Artsfest feel alive. The Festival continues into the night with more live bands playing their music. The smell of kettle corn being popped throughout the day and night will linger in the air. By the end of the festival and having watched the fireworks display, I’m exhausted but feeling happy. I have eaten more than a person should. Have stared at and spent too much money on art I fell in love with. Listened to wonderful music and reminisced on the fact, summer is over. And Fall is right around the corner. 

Monday, 27 August 2012

Neolithic Orkney

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      While I’ve heard of Stonehenge, I was fascinated to learn of a new place to visit and be overwhelmed by, Neolithic Orkney. I have always been in love with Scotland and this makes my wanting to go all the more appealing. Located on the Scottish Islands of Orkney, there are four monuments or sites dating back almost 5,000 years ago, the Scara Brae, Ring of Brodger, Maeshowe and the Standing Stones of Stenness; each one having its own characteristic and design. 


      The Scara Brae is a settlement built out of stone. It consists of stone beds built into the side walls, stone furniture and fireplaces. There is even a drainage system for toilets. Passages have been discovered that connect the ten clusters of houses. The village was found after a winter storm uncovered the settlement. It wasn’t until 1924 when another storm damaged part of the site that anyone took a serious look.


      The Ring of Brodger is a large circular structure (originally sixty stones) made up of twenty seven stones.  The width is approximately 341 in diameter. About a mile from here is the Standing Stones of Stenness which only consists of four stones (originally twelve). Many traditions were held at these stones including engagements by holding hands through the hole of the Odin stone. In 1814 the land owner was tired of people coming on his land and tried to destroy the stones. He was stopped by the time he got to the second stone. 


      Also near the Ring of Brodger is Maeshowe. Maeshowe is a grave and chambered cairn. On the outside Maeshowe looks like a small hill covered in grass. On the inside is one of the largest tombs in Orkney. During winter solstice the rear wall of its central chamber is illuminated.


       Each place has tours but only the Ring of Brodger and the Standing Stones of Stenness are free. There is a fee to visit Scara Brae and Maeshowe though easily worth it. 


      Archeological findings are always being made. One of the best ways to be in the know for these wonderful monuments is reading the “Stonechat.” An up-to-date online magazine that follows and reports on new findings of Neolithic Orkney. 


Saturday, 04 August 2012

Summer at the Beach

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I had been to the beach with friends and family every year but when I was almost twenty years old I had the notion to live there for a summer. I had been living on my own for a year but wanted a new surrounding to call home and Rehoboth Beach was everything I was looking for. 

When I arrived I found a place to stay at a campground. I lived in a camper with two bunk beds, a small kitchen, living room and a bathroom that had running water. It wasn’t the most ideal of situations but I loved it. Well, I loved everything but the spiders. On occasion I’d even see a snake, though snakes never bothered me. The beach was only a few miles away but my campground was immersed in trees, a small forest. I had the best of both worlds. I met people who came every year for the summer, some had boats docked down the road and would leave for the afternoon only to return to grill what they caught for the day. 

Unfortunately I arrived too late in the season, arriving at the end of June when most of the jobs were taken. The coveted job at the pizzeria Grotto’s on the boardwalk was booked solid. If I wanted a job there I should have applied long before beach season started. I wanted to work on the boardwalk but ended up finding a waitressing job at a crab shack next to the place I was staying. It was huge with fine dining on the inside and a deck on the outside. It was always busy. I never saw so many crabs in my life. As much as I enjoyed the job I made every excuse not to walk through the kitchen and see the crabs trying to escape the boiling pots. They were piled on top of one another, over-flowing and the ones on top were always trying to get out. I tried not to think about it when I had to serve them. Every Friday and Saturday night was band night. A local band would come in and play their music. Guests would be drinking and dancing and I would look in awe. Men would flirt with me. I never knew how to act or how to respond; most of the time I pretended I didn’t notice and walk away.

When I wasn’t working I would be at the beach getting a suntan or browsing the stores on the boardwalk. The stores were endless. The gallery became my go to store. I would pick out pictures I wanted to buy when I saved enough money. If I was feeling rich that day I would go into the exclusive area of the boardwalk that had specialty stores and imagine I could buy anything from the pricy clothes to expensive pottery or gifts. Of course the boardwalk had the typical stores too; a taffy store, jewelry, t-shirts galore and all types of restaurants whether you wanted breakfast or a full course meal. Once a week I would go to the used bookstore and browse the endless selections. 

       When my shift was over at the Crab Shack I would head back down to the beach and listen to the water. I never noticed the signs about not sitting on the lifeguard stand. Only when I was already up there with my cousin looking out at the ocean and the police officer flashed his light at me did I finally get the message. I was fined and sentenced to court. If I failed to show up there would be an arrest warrant and I would go to jail. Who knew? I was early for court. The judge took one look at me and realized I wasn’t the criminal type and let me go; my first and last brush with the law. 

       I only stayed a summer and never went back, at least not to live. I had planned on going every year but life always got in the way and there was always something else I was involved in. I have now set my sights on staying for a summer on the Amalfi Coast. But I never forgot my time there. I grew in ways I wouldn’t have had I stayed in my home town in Pennsylvania. I met people from all walks of life, such as the gay culture Rehoboth has embraced, and I learned to depend on myself. I had already lived on my own but there’s something about living away from the place you grew up and having to think on your feet when the going gets tough that I never experienced before, and at the beach I had to make it on my own. It was the first time I felt like I was in charge of my life and I liked it. 

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