National Museum of Funeral History

A chance drive by led to a visit to the National Museum of Funeral History.  This museum is located on the north side of Houston just of I-45 at exit 64. The building itself doesn’t stand out and you might just drive by it without giving the industrial-looking facade a second glance. Instead, consider paying the reasonable entrance fee (around $10 or under with discount) and take in the some 35,000 items on display through this museum’s permanent and special exhibits. All of which focus on the history of funerals. Such exhibits include:

Some of the more interesting findings during my tour of the museum continues as follows:

Presidential Funerals Exhibit

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Copy of George Washington’s Funeral Bill and Eulogy

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News Clipping of Lincoln’s Death

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FDR’s Death News Clipping

History of Embalming

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The Museum Display of Egyptian Mummification

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Early 19th Century Embalming Supplies

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Coffins and Caskets

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A Glass Coffin

Fantasy Coffins from Ghana Exhibit

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Historical Hearses

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Hearse of Princess Grace of Monaco

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Website Refreshed

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You might have noticed that drnicktravels.com looks a little different as I recently felt like the blog needed a refresh. In taking advice from my fellow blogger, “Living The Q Life” on their Annual Website Review post, I decided it was time to do a refresh of the blog including the theme. Consider leaving feedback letting me know your thoughts on the new layout.

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A Visit to Monticello

Monticello

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During our visit to Thomas Jefferson’s historic plantation known as Monticello or ‘little mountain’ in Italian, we explored the house, grounds, and gardens. Monticello as a name sake does fit estate  sites on a hill with wonderful views rolling hills and distance views of Charlottesville. During our time at this historic southern plantation, I learned more about the life of our third president and the intertwined connection of slavery here. This is one of the most visited historic sites in the area. Monticello and the University of Virginia are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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Touring the Estate

There are several options to tour Monticello depending on the amount of time that you have to explore the plantation and area. In general, I would dedicate about 2 hours minimum to allow enough time to see most sites of this large plantation. You could spend most of your day here taking a “Behind the Scenes-Tour”, The Slavery-Walking Tour, the Garden Walking Tour, and enjoying time in the museum near the entrance at the foot of the mountain.  In addition, don’t miss the family grave site of the Jefferson.

We took time to do the ‘Behind the Scenes Tour” I do recommend booking tickets early as these sell out fast as a limited number of slots are available. You get to explore the house from top to bottom. Unfortunately, only certain areas of the home allow you to take photo.

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Doom Ceiling

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View from the Dome Room

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Doom Room

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The Cuddy

The Cuddy was a hideaway off ‘The Dome” room that Jefferson’s granddaughters often took advantage of using to get away from the noisy house. Learn more about the Cuddy.

Sally Hemings

Slaves were present and a part of daily activities on Monticello. One of these known enslaved individuals was Sally Hemings. You can learn more about her and the relationship she had with Thomas Jefferson by watch a video online and through exploring a moving exhibit at Monticello.

The Slavery of Monticello Tours is an outdoor walking tour that we took advantage of during our time visiting the UNESCO World heritage site. The tour is included with all ticket purchases and I highly recommend it. Of course, weather permitting.

Finally, we explored the gardens and listened in on the Garden and Grounds Tour , which is another outdoor waking tour of the gardens and grounds of Monticello. This tour is offered a couple of times a day and begins at the fish holding pond with tour hours posted here.

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Poppies in Bloom

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Views of the Lower Garden

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The Walk to The Family Cemetery

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St. Peter’s Fiesta, 2019

Festivals are an event on Cape Ann and one of the largest festivals in coming up from June 26 through June 30.

St. Peter’s Fiesta

The 2019 St. Peter’s Fiesta or Fiesta in Gloucester  is a 5 day event takes place June 26 through June 30. Find out more about it at St. Peter’s Fiesta.org

This 5-day annual festival is in honor of St. Peter, the patron saint of all fisherman. St. Peter’s was Jesus’ first follower and is considered the first pope of the Catholic Church. So, what is the significant of the Greasy Pole?

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View of the Greasy Pole-Pavilion Beach

The Greasy Pole

This is probably one of the biggest events and draws for visitors and residents during Fiesta and the most sacred test of all is known as ‘The Greasy Pole.’ The pole sits idle most of the time on a 4-story platform on 40 feet of wood piling a few hundred yards off Pavilion Beach.  It is totem to the glory it has brought and to the people it has broken. On the Friday of St. Peter’s Fiesta, the contest begins with a courtesy round-everyone is allowed to participant in the event that wishes–not allowed to capture the flag at the end of this very greasy 45-foot telephone hanging over the water. This is not a content for the faint of heart and expect some injuries through this 3 day event during Fiesta. A must see for visitors.

Rose Carlson

Taking Aim at the Greasy Pole

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Greasy Pole Image: st.petersfiesta.org

More about Fiesta

Fiesta is more than just ‘The Greasy Pole.’ It’s a religous feast that starts nine days before the festival with a daily novena to St. Peter, the patron saint of the fisherman. The women would pray for the safe return of the fishermen and to bless them with a good fishing trip. The women also pray for peace,  the sick, and anyone in need.  Once the festival begins,  there is the blessing of the fleet, an outdoor Mass on Sunday followed by the final day of th men’s and women’s Seine boat races followed by the Greasy Pole. There are also a Kid’s pie/watermelon eating contest and other games.

St. Peter’s Fiesta 2019

Where to Stay

Beauport Hotel (the old Bird’s Eye location)
*must check out the rooftop bar
Harborview Inn  This B & B is on Stacey blvd and directly across from the harbor. It offers a good option to be close to everything the Gloucester has to offer.
If a stay in an old Sea Captain’s house is your taste, this one may do just the trick.
Not as close as the others, but the views are great.
Other options can be found on Booking.com

 

Go and explore what Cape Ann has to offer this summer- The beach blog of Cape Ann is coming!

 

 

Travel Advice – Be Vigilance

Travel Safety

As a frequent traveler, I am careful with guarding my personal effects including my wallet, which is always placed in my front pocket during the warmer months. In the cooler months, I wear a coat that has inside pocket near the upper right or left chest. Throughout all my travels, I have only had one attempt at pickpocketing with someone taking the hotel key (what they probably thought was a credit card) that I placed in my back pocket.

Fanny Pack Wearer Be Warned

Fanny Pack

Photo by M. Garret

I have never been a fan of these fanny packs. They just mess with my style and are just too easy for would-be thefts to gain quick access to your valuable and move on to the next victim. Please avoid wearing such extra items that make you stand out as a tourist and potential victim of the next pickpocket.

Traveling by Train in Europe – My Advice

One of the benefits of traveling in Europe over the U.S. is the exceptionally connected train service. Please don’t let anyone tell you that train travel in Europe is unsafe. Indeed, it is intimidating with some language barriers to manage, but the agents are used to tourist and foreign travelers. When in doubt; just ask ONLY official agents at booth. This will make sense later.
Some of my advice to make your next European train trip make it even safer.
  • Advice #1 – Never Put Wallet in Back Pocket – I haven’t placed my wallet in my back pocket in over 20 years. Never do this while traveling. How will you know it is gone until you reach for it? Instead, move it upfront (front pocket). If you are wearing a jacket, inside the front zipper as most have these areas. While on the metro/train, keep your hands in your pants pockets or near it.
  • Advice #2 – Bring Only What You Need – Cash is often best, but don’t go overboard bring too much so that you stand out in the line when paying. You will also need a credit card. Bring more than just that favorite rewards credit card. I recommend at least two (one for main use-outings) and a back-up credit card (kept safe somewhere). Please look for a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transition fee. They are growing in number.
  • Advice 3: Keep to yourself – I know it might seem like strange advice, but the metro/train is where picket-pockets look for their next victim. It is often through casual, unexpected conversation in your native tongue. You get excited that someone speaks your language and next thing you know, something is missing. Avoid speaking to someone who STRONG wishes to talk to you.  Positively, state you are fine or a “no, thank you….”
  • Advice 4: Avoid High Traffic Hours – you don’t want grab that metro/train that is so crowd that you have to squeeze on like sardines. This is makes for prime grounds for pickpockets. Try and book/move to/catch the next train/metro. After all, you are on vacation and why rush?
  • Advice 5 – Why the Purse? – In packing for your European trip, the purse might seem like a wonderful idea. Think twice (if you can) and avoid bring such an easy target for pickpockets. If you must bring it, don’t bring your Hermès, bring something far less expensive. Pack only things that if snatched would not be end of the vacation. 
  • Advice 6 – The Line 9 of Paris – This Paris Métro Line 9 is known to have lots of pickpockets. If you must take it, keep this in mind.
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Not the Line 9, But Like the Photo!

Hope you find my list of travel tips helpful as you begin to plan your next trip. Enjoy!

Cathedrals Of France

A visit through France offers one the opportunity to explore this great European country from its rich history, wine regions, and food. During your tour, consider taking in some of the many beautiful cathedrals dotted throughout the country. Some are within city centers while others stand out as beacons guiding one safely from the sea into the harbor.

Bordeaux France

Bordeaux France

Inside Our Lady’s Church

Our Lady’s Church

Our Lady’s Church or known locally Notre Dame  is in Bordeaux offers some outstanding baroque facade that contrast the simple interior of this cathedral. The chapel features  various trompe-l’œil ornaments, which are a series of 10 religious paintings by Brother André from the 17th century. In addition there are a series of beautiful 19th century stained glass windows, attributed to the famous Bordeaux glassmaker masters Hutrel and Villiet

Mont St. Michel

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Mont St. Michel

Mont St Michael

The Abbey

The Mont St. Michel is very busy welcoming nearly 2.5 million visitors including both pilgrims and tourists. The location of this UNESCO World heritage site in the middle of the bay offers wonderful views. In addition, the entrance to the medieval town below is where you will find the Tourist office. This definitely worth a visit. Learn more about visiting Mont St. Michel 

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The Priory of the Sacré-Cœur

As you glance down the side street, you might notice the above building and wonder what this might be? This the Priory of the Sacré-Cœur, which shelters a monastic community of sixteen Benedictine Sisters, who fulfill their vocation of the spiritual and material facilitation of Basilica of Sacré-Cœur.

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Basilica of Sacré-Cœur

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris

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Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris

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I end this post with a image of the Cathedral Notre-Dame of Paris prior to the devastating fire earlier this year.

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Benefits of Traveling

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

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Travel should be a joyous experience. A journey in which one can captures the sense of wanderlust and you longing for more destination travel, cultural experiences, new foods to eat, and people to meet. You shouldn’t have to wait until your retirement years to begin traveling. Please read some benefits of travels and perhaps these will inspire you to book your travel locally or far away?

Finding a New Purpose

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” – Danny Kaye

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Photo by P. Apichodilok 

Exposure to new ideas, people, culture, and lifestyles makes you further understand your home country. You just might gain an appreciation that you are sharing a small portion of this larger planet we live on with others who often are seeking out the same purposes in life; careers and education goals. If you feel stuck in a rut, consider going on a trip to gain that new sense of purpose and direction.

Appreciate Your Home Even More

I can attest to the fact that being away from after a week or two, that I appreciate it even more and this is often two if traveling to locales that might not have the same luxuries as my place. For instance, a trip to the Serengeti National Park in which we camped in a tent that ran with generator power for a few hours during the day and bathing rain shower offer by a 5 gallon bucket.

We may take for granted our abundance supply of fresh clean drinking water. There are parts of the world, such as South Africa, India, and Ethiopia in which people don’t have as much access to clean drinking water.  Consider exploring water.org for opportunities to support ending the water crisis across the globe. It is through traveling to these areas that one is exposed to others plight and can appreciate what we do have. Sometimes this may one wish to support others to have a greater quality of life.

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

The more we travel, the more we realize that our home is so much more than the town, city, state and even country that we’ve grown up in; we realize that our home is the world, this planet, and we become more conscious of how we can harmoniously live and support one another.

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Do You Really Know That Much About The World?

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

You can watch all the shows, read books and magazines; but these are just concepts until you experience travel yourself. The world is often much different once you have experienced it. I still hear the myths that traveling is just too expensive and dangerous. You may realize that you can save more traveling, especially on lifestyle expenses while traveling this great planet of ours. There are many ways to save on travel through booking sites such as Booking.com  You have the whole world to see, experience, and learn. You can meet new people and experience new culture. Why not travel?

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A pleasure cruiser on the Douro River | Apexphotos/Moment/Getty Images

Life is a Wonderful Gift

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

A cheesy thought as I finish this blog post, but nevertheless. Life is a wonderful gift and we need to experience the most of it and travel. You won’t have many regrets realizing that you have seen this wonderful planet of ours rather staying shying in your hometown wonderful ‘why if I had?” Go on and travel!

A Plantation Home of George & Martha

Mount Vernon

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Mount Vernon Facing The Potomac

This plantation home of the first U.S. President and his wife Martha was built during 1757. Mount Vernon served as the home of George Washington for over four decades. You are able to tour part of the original estate, the gravesites of George and Martha Washington and other family members. In addition, the property includes the Ford Orientation Center and the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. Each of these newer additions to the grounds offer the opportunity to learn more about our first President through film, artifacts, galleries, and exploring what life might have been like during this time. Consider having lunch or dinner at The Mount Vernon Inn restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner daily except on Sundays.

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The mansion is going through some renovation as you might notice in the above image, but you are still able to enjoy tours of the home and grounds.

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View of the Potomac from Mount Vernon

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Reconstructed Buildings

Inside the Mansion

The public tour of the mansion can go rather quickly as this is one of the most visited places in Virginia and the world. So, there was not much time to shoot photos. Below are a few that I managed to grab during our walk through this historic site.

The tour we took allow us to explore the basement of the mansion, but honestly this was more of novelty for those who might have seen the movie “National Treasures.”

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Basement of Mount Vernon


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Exploring the Grounds

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The Necessary in the Lower Garden (not just for one)

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Slavery at Mount Vernon

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Slavery did exist on Mount Vernon and often during tours I hear individuals ask the docent such questions as “how were the slaves treated” or “did the owner treat them well.” The answer is often varied, but generally the summary is the same as they are enslaved and any form of bondage is cruel. Please click on the image below to watch and learn more about Slavery at Mount Vernon.

Tomb of George Washington

George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. As you walk down the hill toward the current tomb, consider taking a slight detour to the original location of the family vault nearer to the river. ‘The Old Vault” is still present here, but no longer contains any graves.

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The Original Grave Site Closer to The River

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The Old Vault

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Tomb of George Washington

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A Self-Guided Tour Of The White House

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U.S. White House (Photo by A. Kittredge)

In planning another visit to Washington, D.C., I wanted to attempt a visit to the historic White House. I was happy to secure tickets through our representative. I recommend planning ahead of time if you plan to visit the inside of the U.S. White House. It is recommended to secure dates about 3 months, but no later than 21 days from your scheduled visit. Explore Whitehouse.gov for more details on how to schedule a self-guided White House tour.

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The General William Tecumseh Sherman Statue (circa 1903)

The self-guided White House tours security checks begin front and just to the right as you are facing the Tecumseh Sherman Statue in Sherman Square. You will find a gate with a small white booth with two uniformed Secret Service guards and someone with a blue vest here to check your tickets and IDs. If you have purse or bag, these will be searched as well. Please read Whitehouse.gov  as to what is allowed and not allowed in the White House. We witnessed a couple that was turned away because they attempted to bring an item that was not permitted.  You will walk behind the statue and go through another ID check and then, airport style security and two more security checks prior to entering the East Wing of the White House. It took us about 25 minutes to go through this process. Please plan your schedule accordingly.

East Wing

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The Library

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China Room

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The Ballroom

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The State Dining Room

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The Red Room

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The Blue Room

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Staircase to Residence

Painted Presidents and First Ladies

As you explore the East Wing of the White House, the painted eyes of presidents and first ladies watch over you. It is a tradition to select an artist and have a portrait made to be placed in the White House. Enjoy the view of as you explore our famous landmark during your self-guided tour.

Painted Presidents

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George Washington

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Abraham Lincoln

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Andrew Jackson

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John F. Kennedy

The Painted Ladies

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Edith Carrow Roosevelt

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Laura Bush

 

 

   

The Apothecary Museum in Old Town Alexandria, Va

A short metrorail trip from the Ronald Regan Washington National Aiport (DCA) allows one to see one of the top smallest cities in the country, Alexandria Virginia.  I recently took the metrorail to the King Street stop to explore Old Town Alexandria.  You can take leisurely walk down King Street to see why this is such an attractive and historical city. Don’t let just explore this one avenue. Go beyond it and you will find more history as I did with the Apothecary Museum

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King Street View Toward Potomac River

**The Metrorail from King Street Station** is under construction and will be closed among other stations from May 25, 2019 through September 8, 2019.  I recommend exploring this link to learn more:

As one walks along historic King street, you can take in the sites and sounds coming from the local shops, restaurants, and antiques. Of course, there are some national chains present, but don’t let this discourage you from seeing some of the most historically preserved part of our history by visiting Old Town Alexandria. It is wonder Alexandria is often rated small-towns live. This is a very easy to walk city and commuter friendly to other major city.

The Apothecary Museum

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During our walk, we decided to explore the Apothecary Museum. The museum is located at 107 S. Fairfax Street just a half block off of King Street. They offer a 45-minute guided tour of the first and second floors of this historical pharmacy. This museum is now owned by the City of Alexandria and has been preserved for future generations.

Most of the contents of Apothecary includes original herbal botanicals, hand-blown glass jars, and medical equipments. Some well-known figures have appeared in documents, including Martha Washington and Robert E. Lee.

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Request from Ms. Martha Washington.

The Museum (circa 1792)

First Floor

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Mix of Medicines Used Here including Opium and Arsenic (old lace)

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Nursing Equipment of the 1800’s

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Forde’s Electric Razor

 

Second Floor

Exploring the second floor offers a look beyond the scenes to manufacturing of goods and products for the apothecary. The docent this day was informative and excited to show the group several unusual items on display.

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If you are interested in learning more and perhaps visiting this gem of a historical pharmacy, please visit the City of Alexandria’s website to learn more about hours and tour times.

Thank you for reading  and please do share your thoughts and comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Arlington National Cemetery

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A recent visit to the grounds that honors those who served our nation offers a sense of beauty and peace for visitors. The rolling hills dotted with trees of various ages truly complement this 624 acre cemetery. This is a tribute to the service and sacrifice of every individual laid to rest within these hallowed grounds. Please consider visiting Arlington National Cemetery.

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The Eternal Flame At the Kennedy’s Gravesite

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Tomb of theUnknown

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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Civil War Unknowns Monument

The inscription on the monument states: “BENEATH THIS STONE
REPOSE THE BONES OF TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN UNKNOWN SOLDIERS GATHERED AFTER THE WAR FROM THE FIELDS OF BULL RUN, AND THE ROUTE TO THE RAPPAHANOCK, THEIR REMAINS COULD NOT BE IDENTIFIED. BUT THEIR NAMES AND DEATHS ARE RECORDED IN THE ARCHIVES OF THEIR COUNTRY, AND ITS GRATEFUL CITIZENS HONOR THEM AS OF THEIR NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS. MAY THEY REST IN PEACE. SEPTEMBER. A. D. 1866.”

Spanish-American Nurses Monument

It was during the Spanish-American War in which American nurses were first assigned as quasi-military unit. The monument in the above image remembers these nurses who gave served and their gave lives during this war.

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As we move into the Memorial day weekend, I would like to end this blog with a thank you to all that have serviced and continue to service in our military. I appreciate your dedication and service to our Country.

 

 

 

Porto, Portugal Should Not Be Missed

Porto, Portugal

As the country’s second largest city, this more of a working class city offers a different vide than the more fashion focused Lisbon.  Portugal continues to grow as an affordable travel destination. Many first time travelers often focus on Lisbon, but don’t ignore adding Porto to your travel itinerary.

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São Bento Station

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São Bento Station, Porto

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During your visit to Porto, consider exploring the São Bento Train Station, which is located in central Porto. This gem of a train station is perhaps one of the most beautiful stations you will come across in Portugal. This is because of its mansard roof and the  Renaissance stone façade. The station was designed by  José Marques da Silva and completed in 1903.

The French inspired architecture of this station depicts the history of transportation in Portugal, the landscape of the country, and specific defining history events including the Battle of Aljubarrota (1385) and the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez (1140). There is over 20,000 tin-glazed blue and white tiles to view and visual the scenes.  One caution during your visit.  Watch for those who will take the opportunity of you being distracted to pickpocket.

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Outside the São Bento Station

Harry Potter Fans- May Enjoy A Visit

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The outside of what seems to be just another small seller bookstore is rather deceptive. J.K. Rowling once taught English in Porto and is said that this little bookstore is what inspired Hogwarts. Consider explore Livraria Lello  I would say that the staircase inside is well worth a quick visit, if nothing else.

Restaurant Choices

You will not be disappointed with the choice of evening and nighttime activities in Porto. These can include a visit Capela Incomum, a chapel from the 19th Century that has been converted into a wine bar.  If you want to take in the view of the city center, consider heading to the rooftop pub known as Guindalense.  This is near Gustave Eiffel’s great creation, the Dom Luis I Bridge.  If a dinner and a conversation is more for your liking, then consider Xico Queijo.

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Dom Luis I Bridge

Cruising the Douro River

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A pleasure cruiser on the Douro River | Apexphotos/Moment/Getty Images

I recommend taking a Douro River Cruise to explore further this UNESCO World Heritage  site- the Duoro Valley. If you have the opportunity to visit during the harvest season (September to early October), you may wish some old-fashion grade stomping (treading or lagar) barefoot in a large stone basin.

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The Montmartre of Paris

Exploring the 18th Arrondissement

A walk through the more hilly streets of Montmartre is like the village for New Yorker or at least, that is what I’ve been told. This part of Paris is where artists used to enjoy a more comfortable part of life and display their works, but the prices have increase. I am sure there are some truth to these thoughts, but this unique part of Pari is definitely well worth a visit just to find what you often won’t see on the usual tourist hot spot. Please let me share some of my photos during my visits to this part of the City of Paris.

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The Basilica of Sacre-Coeur

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Inside the Basilica

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Locks of Love-Montmartre

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Tips For Visiting

I recommend arriving at metro Blanche (Moulin Rouge) or metro Anvers and gradually enter the “village”.  This way you will feel like you are gradually approaching the place and can take in the atmosphere of artists and writers.  If you are handicapped, please don’t be deterred as you have an option for visiting the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur There is a small white train that drives up the hill winding through the narrow alleys giving you a sense of the neighborhood surrounding the Basilica.

Once you get off the metro, you just may wish to make a bullseye directly to the Basilica that sits atop the famous hill of Montmartre. You could also just treat yourself to an over-priced crepe at the Place de Tertre. Instead, consider taking your time to just explore the area walking through the maze of narrow cobblestone streets as you make your way to the Basilica. Don’t worry! You can’t miss it.

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Place de Tertre

Another option to visit via the metro is to take the Abbesses station and step out into the heart of Montmartre.  Because all the great poets have told us the journey is more important than the destination.

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Windmills in Montmartre

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The Radet Windmill in Montmartre (circa 1717)

There are a still a few windmills still standing and found in between homes. The above photo is of the Radet Windmill and it originally stood by the still functioning Bluten-Fin Windmill. The Radey Windmill now houses a restaurant and was moved to its present location at the corner of Rue Girardon and Rue Lepic in 1924.

Cool Finds While Strolling Montmartre

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Le Passe-Muraille (the Passer-Through-Walls)

If you are exploring the narrow cobblestone streets of the Montmartre, you may come across the great find of the Le Passe-Muraille (the Passer-Through Walls) statue. This is located in the place named after the writer of the story Marcel Aymé about Dutilleul who discovers that he can (you guessed it) walk through walks.

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La Maison Rose

Located just behind the iconic Basilica of Sacre-Coeur on the edge some steep cobblestone lanes, you will fine La Maison Rose. Another treasure in the Montmartre. This little restaurant sits on a corner of a Rue de l’Abreuvoir and Rue des Saules. It is said to have been once visited by the likes of Picasso. You can learn more about the history of this little Pink House by visiting SoloSophie

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Le Saint Jean – Cafe in Montmartre

There is more to explore in the 18th arrondissement of one of my favorite cities. These are just some of the more interesting finds during my many visits to this that keeps bringing me back for more to explore. Please do and explore for yourself and see what you can find. Please read my other posts on Paris for other ideas:

Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Paris

Paris’ Flea Markets-A Must See

Opéra Garnier or Paris’ Opera House

Paris’ Eiffel Tower

Christmas in Uneasy Paris

Reminding Us Why Recording of Our History Is Important.

Free Walking Tour Options

Discoverwalks offers free and paid tours of some of the major cities around the world including Paris. I have used them during my visits to Paris and highly recommend them. Please explore Discoverwalks.com  for more details.




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A Visit to The Currier Musuem

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My most recent visit back to Manchester, New Hampshire gave me the opportunity to visit the Currier Museum of Art  Through a  guided docent tour, one can enjoy the mixture of European and American art, photograph, and sculpture displayed in this art museum. These works include such renewed artist at Hopper, Picasso, Monet, O’Keffe, Wyeth, and LeWitt. In addition, a separate tour is offered of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Zimmerman House.  This renowned art museum offers rotating exhibits from around the world including the current exhibition of beadwork by the Ubuhle Women living in rural KwaZula-Natal, South Africa.

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Beadwork by the Ubuhle Women

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This rather new form of art uses beads on what is known as ndwango (cloth) to form decorative and visual scenes that often have specific meaning to the artist. This beadwork is being displayed by the Currier Museum of Art  through June 10, 2019.

Ethan Murrow Hauling Display (Ending Soon)

There is a room that offers a unique display of wall art around the room and done  by Ethan Murrow with help of Mic Billingsley and Ariana Lee. The images below were drawn on the walls using black sharpies and depict the Manchester area history of Native fishing, river dredging, farming, and of course, hauling. This exhibition is soon to be taken down (painted over) and replaced with a new one (yet to be determined per our  docent).

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Edward Hopper’s Last Painting

On loan to the museum Hopper’s last painting, The Comedians. This beautiful piece of work depicts both the artist and his wife, Jo, on stage. This is worth seeing in person while you can as well as other works by Edward Hopper.

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The Comedians

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The Bootleggers by Hopper

Other Works of Art

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Woman Seated in Chair by Picasso

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Max Pechstein (double-sided art)

Explore my other blog posts about Manchester titled  A Stay in The Granite State  Thank you for reading this blog and please share your thoughts.


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Cinco de Mayo – Ways We Celebrate The Day

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Cinco de Mayo or the fifth of May

This is an extremely popular holiday in the U.S. with its roots within Mexico. The holiday is a rather minor holiday in Mexico. In the U.S., Cinco de Mayo is a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, especially between Mexican-American families. This holiday dates back to the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War when the Mexican army claimed victory over France in May 5, 1862- Cinco de Mayo is also known as Battle of the Puebla Day.

What makes the celebration different in the U.S. and Mexico?  Here are some example of the differ ways each country celebrate this holiday each year. 

Cinco de Mayo in the U.S.

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Photo by © JIM Mourgos

The first records of Cinco de Mayo being celebrated in the U.S. was in Southern California in 1863 as way to demonstrate solidarity with Mexico against French rule. It was not until the 1930s that this holiday became more popular in the U.S. as means to share and celebrate Mexican culture and heritage.

Some people will use this day as just another excuse to party.  While others in the U.S. of Mexican-American heritage see Cinco de Mayo as a holiday and there are larger festivals across the U.S. Some cities that are know for their Cinco de Mayo festivities include: New Orleans, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, just to name a few…


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Cinco de Mayo has become more commercialized in the U.S. than in Mexico where it is more localized in its celebration. More on how Mexica celebrates this day next…

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Photo by © Nicole Law

Cinco de Mayo in Mexico

A minor misconception is the Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day.  Mexico’s Independence day is actually September 16th.  Cinco de Mayo is celebrating and remembering the Battle of Puebla  when Mexican forces confronted French forces, which were part of Napoleon III army during Franco-Mexico War.  The one day battle was won by Mexico.  This is not a major holiday in Mexico. The event is not even celebrated nationwide.  Cinco de Mayo is often just celebrated in the state of Puebla.

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Photo by © Ricardo Esquivel

Traditions in Mexico for celebrating Cinco de Mayo include military parades, recreation of the Battle of Puebla, and other festive events. The festivities are often celebrated without any alcohol.  This day has less of a commercial focus as it is not a federal holiday with offices, banks, and stores remaining open.

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Plan Your Next Trip to Experience the Culture Heritage unique to both Mexico and the U.S. Go explore this great planet of ours. Thank you for reading.


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Planning A Trip to The Tajah Mahal? Consider These Tips

The Taj Mahal

A visit to India is often not complete without a tour of the famous Taj Mahal in Agra. This mausoleum sitting on the banks of the Yamuna river was commissioned in 1632 and continues to be one of the most celebrated sites of India’s history. The Taj Mahal was planned by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.  It also houses the tomb of Shan Jahan, the builder. The complex is on approximately 17-acres. Visiting this UNESCO World heritage site takes some planning. Below are some helpful hints. I hope you find these helpful.

Plan Time for The Lines and Getting Into The Taj Mahal

You will need to consider that timing is often everything when visiting this often very busy attraction with crowds beginning to increase throughout the mid-morning. Please keep in mind that the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.  The following will add to your time and schedule, a) walking to the ticket booth, b) getting to the main gate, c) going through  the security check points, and d) potentially, checking a bag into a paid luggage storage locker while you visit the site.

Separate Lines for Foreigners and Indians

Don’t be overwhelmed by the swell of crowds as you first arrive to visit the site. One hint and please be advise that this just a way for them to get extra money. You can’t skip the line. You may be approached by a few locals who will offer you the option to ‘skip the line’ or go in front of the crowd. Don’t fall for this little ‘extra service.’ I recommend getting in the line as it often moves very quickly. There is often long lines for Indians and shorter lines for foreign travelers.

Reflecting Pool Taj Mahal to Main Entrance

Consider Leaving That Large Backpack Behind for this Tour

If you bring any kind of bag (purse included), this will add time due to need for an extra security screening to have your bag checked before you can enter the Taj Mahal. You may wish to just take some water with you, your camera, and other essentials that you can carry on your person. This way you can avoid this part of the process as you will have to move over into the longer line to wait and have your bag checked.

What if your bag doesn’t pass the security check? This means you will have to check your bag into one of the luggage lockers (not very expenses (under $1 when I visited), but do you want to really go through this process? It is something to consider. If you do take a backpack or purse, you will want only things in there that you don’t think twice about if stolen. Remember, they will not be as secure as you would like them to be during your visit. A real oddity considering the guards with automatic weapons once you are in the Taj Mahal.

Read the Do’s and Don’ts prior to visiting The Taj Mahal.

Take Water With You and Enjoy the Tour More

I can only recommend bottled water for the Taj Mahal as sometimes you risk security not allowing you to bring in a reusable bottle depending on size. Fresh water is a must and please don’t drink the local water. I also recommend keeping an eye out for your personal bottle water to avoid a quick exchange by someone. This happened to my friend and he ended up with the Delhi belly for the next half our trip. Please read more about the remedy for Travelers diarrhea by visiting Dr. Kohn’s post here

Agra Fort – Another Option for Visiting

A Visit to Agra Fort is an excellent option and I would recommend this other UNESCO World heritage site near the Taj Mahal. We visited the Agra Fort and this site was far less busy than the Taj Mahal. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers some time to quietly reflect or enjoy a walk around the lush grounds. Depending on the day, you can see the Taj Mahal in the distance. Don’t ignore the small marble palace at the top as this is quite beautiful inside and worth the climb up the flight of stairs.

Info About Agra Fort


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Views of the Interior of Musamman Burj


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Taj Mahal from Agra Fort


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Visting Bayou Bend in Houston, Texas

Bayou Bend

One can get away from what some may consider the urban jungle of Houston to find a tranquil and beautiful oasis just a few minutes away.  The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens was once a grand family estate of Ima Hogg from 1882 until 1975. The estate is now part of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and still houses some of the Hogg families collection of American furnishings, art, and decor representing the Colonial period to the late 19th Century. There are a total of 28 rooms in the Estate and touring the Estate is well worth your time.

In addition, you can enjoying the 14-acres of exceptionally maintained gardens and take time to explore the gift shop as you cross back over the Bayou to the parking area. A visit that I enjoyed for part of a day in Houston.

Bayou Bend Suspension Bridge

This Bayou Bend Suspension Bridge has went through a complete renovation and overlooks the Bayou. This bridge provides a scenic entry from Memorial Park to the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens. The unusual wooden suspension bridge, designed by engineer Walter P. Moore, is owned and maintained by The City of Houston.

The Massachusetts Room

In the Massachusetts room, all the furnishings in this exceptionally decorated room are from (of course) Massachusetts.

Foyer and Grand Staircase

You can also learn about the Varner-Hogg Plantation and find out about the connection between the two properties by reading my post- A Visit to the Varner-Hogg Plantation during a recent visit to Houston.

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Learn more about the Bayou Bend Collection by Clicking on the Image Below

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Travel Etiquette: What Not To Do While Onboard.

Airplane Etiquette

Sometimes the stress of travel can often lead to forgetting a few common travel etiquettes. Do you wish to have hundreds of people look to you as the enemy while in a long tube? I would think this would not be the case. Here are five common etiquettes to avoid violating during your next flight

Wrestling for the Armrest

If you are the ever left with the middle seat, don’t be the one next them who fights for the armrest. It is not worth wrestling for the space and please give the passenger next to some of the armrest. As a middle aisle passenger, they should have some armrest space and not wrestle for you for it. It is not not airplane etiquette. Have you violated this first etiquette in your flight experiences?

Reclining Straight Away

I personally don’t mind if someone reclines their seat, but be considerate in doing so. Unfortunately, the latter is rarely the case. I can count on my hands the number of times someone has glanced behind them to see if the coast was clear (i.e., no electronic or drink to go flying). Many passengers go straight to the recline position right after a smooth takeoff. Next time, try to consider your fellow passenger just for a few seconds and look behind you.

Hitting the On-Demand Screen A Little Hard

Many of the on-demand screens are starting to go away as airlines expand their wi-fi capacity cutting the cord in this manner as well. Another reason is that these setback entertainment screens receive quite a bit of abuse and use. Thus, the functionality of these little devices don’t often work as expected. The next time that you travel, please keep this in mind and don’t forget the passenger in front of you. Don’t go tapping on the screen too much or too hard trying to get it to work causing your fellow passenger’s seat shake so much they are solely experience their own period of turbulence in flight. Use the remote or get the flight attendant for assistance!. Better yet consider reading a book.

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Consider Those Feet

Indeed, I said feet. Have you ever been on a long international flight when your fellow passenger decided to take off their shoes. Now, I personally don’t mind that you do this for the comfort, but please don’t have smelly feet. We are in a closed environment with recycled air. Did something happen to your sense of smell? There are reasons for why one might have increased issues with odors during travel and a good article by Smartertravel identifies a few of them. However, don’t violate this etiquette during your travel experience if you can avoid it just to walk around barefoot.

Don’t Pinch The Overhead Space

Traveling by plane can be stressful just to get from point A to point B. One doesn’t need to worry about the rudeness and inconsideration of fellow travels who just take too much during airplane travel. There I said it. I am one who travels light or at least, keeps within my own dedicated space. The tiny overhead bins above the seats are meant for the individual assigned seat, but they are often far game to whomever can get to them first. A few major violations of this fifth and final common airplane travel etiquette are as follows: 1) walking down the aisle and just throwing your stuff in the first overhead bin you see empty (see my comment above about assigned seats), 2) taking advantage of the overhead bin for the small stuff (coats, gifts, hats, gloves etc.,) and 3) using the bin for your carry-on instead of the space under your seat. Please don’t violate this one during your next adventure.

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Animals Across the Globe

Earth day is fast approaching and during each trip we see many animals. The little critters we come across can be someone’s pet, a poor stray one, or an exotic creature that requires a second or third glance. The first photo is one of my favorites from our trip to Costa Rica. The bulging eyes just make me laugh. We came across this little guy during a raining and humid walk through a Costa Rican Rain Forest. Dividing the photos into countries and regions is challenges and of course, this is just a sample of what I have seen through my travels from North America, Central America, and South America; and the African continent. I hope you enjoy.

Central America & South America

The Red-Eyed Tree Frog

The Poison Dart Frog

Costa Rica has 8 known species of poison dart frogs or poison arrow frogs. We heard this misconception during our tour that if touch these frogs you will be poisoned and die. This little amphibians of Costa Rica do not carry enough toxin that is strong (poisonous enough) to penetrate unbroken skin. I do caution not risking picking them up if you think any tiny cuts. In addition, these frogs are small, fragile species. They are best left unhandled and viewed from a distance.

Hummingbird of Costa Rica

A Keel Billed Toucan

Iguana on A Bridge

Ecuador is a small South American country that is offers a paradise feel nearly the very near paradise feel and an amazingly relaxed culture expressed by the people. You can visit many historic churches, buildings, and heritage sites and cities. The animals I saw during my first trip here varied and this included bats, snakes, reptiles, and birds. I missed visiting the Galapagos Islands. This is not to be of a too much a concern as it offers me an excuse to return and see other parts of Quito and the country during my next visit.

A Bat in Ecuador or Perhaps Two (Hard to Tell)

Watch Out for the This Little Guy…

Llama in the Field in Ecuador

African 

Enjoying the Sun- A Lioness in Tanzania

Perhaps one of my favorite places to visit is Africa and this wonderful continent is on my backlist for a the next international trip soon. I just need to find the time and plan this next adventure. Love seeing the animals in their nature environments. Zoos are wonderful and offer the opportunity for those who may never be able to see the animals, but there is nothing like seeing the pride of lions, wildebeest, or a baby elephant with its mother at a watering hole. Go and explore this planet. 

Stork in Africa

Giraffes -Traffic Jam Not Often Seen

North America– The House-pet Review 

Enjoying the Morning in South Carolina

Little One Seems Sad

A Couple of Wild Critters in North America on Land and Sea

Humpback Whales

A Rabbit Enjoying an AM Snake

Kure Beach Pier—Don’t feed the birds!

I just realized that this could go on and on as I keep finding photos of animals. Seeing animal friends in photos gives me a different perspective of my travels. Until the next adventure and please do share your thoughts…. 

A final photo from India here. 

A Goat to the Slaughter

Historic Galveston, Texas

Galveston Island, Texas

Have you ever had the itch to travel and just booked something a couple of weeks or days in advance?  We recently did this for a trip to the great state of Texas. The historic island of Galveston is where we spent three of our five day adventure.

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Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier

There are many opportunities for exploration while on this Gulf coast historic island. The location is ideal at about 50 miles southeast of Houston, Galveston is an easy getaway for a weekend beach retreat, family adventure, of just enjoy what nature has to offer. In addition, you can explore the 32 miles of soft sands here. Check out the 2,000-acre Galveston Island State Park  for beach, fishing, kayak, or bird watching options.

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Fishing Pier

Two major hurricanes in 1900 and 1915 have changed the course of this town and island forever, but Galveston continues to be a major destination along the Texas Gulf Coast. The charming 19th-Century homes are worth just strolling along the historic neighborhoods or touring. These tours could include: The Moody Mansion, the Bishop’s Palace, or museums such as Galveston Railroad Museum and the Texas Seaport Museum, home to the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa, to discover how the city’s port.

Moody Mansion

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Incinerator at Moody Mansion

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Bishop’s Palace

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The Bishop’s Palace or Gresham’s house is a circa 1892 stone shaped with steel structure designed by Nicholas Clayton. This gorgeous home survived the Great Storm of 1900 and is worthy of a tour either with a docent (if time allows) or via s self-guided audio tour. We opted in for the the “Basement to Attic” tour and were not disappointed in this 2 1/2 hour explore of the home.

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Seawall Boulevard

You can walked along the Seawall. This protective barrier of the ever-changing tides of Gulf of Mexico began after the devasting hurricane of 1900. It stretches some seven miles and is about 17 feet tall. It is more than just a protective barrier offering the famous and historic Pleasure Pier  and the newer  Moody Gardens. with its pyramids and golf course.  The Moody Gardens are not to be confused with Moody Mansion as they are in two separate locations on the island.

Where did we Stay? 

Avenue O Bed & Breakfast

Jeff & Polly, the owners of this lovely 3 room (all private rooms) are the hosts that go above and beyond to make your stay enjoyable. Polly’s breakfast is worth waking up for as she is a top chef. You can enjoy a evening drink (if desired) on the front porch or in the living room. We highly recommend considering this well appointed B & B with free parking for your next stay in Galveston.

Please share your experiences when visiting Galveston. Did I miss anything?

Reminding Us Why Recording of Our History Is Important.

The idiom ‘here today, (and) gone tomorrow’ is a reminder of the tragedy that unfolded in Paris yesterday. This rings true even with such centuries old icon places, that can be damaged in such a short period of time either by natural disaster or man-made events. In fact, many of the places one wishes to visit today just may not be present in the future. This where the beauty of photography comes in. As a fellow traveler, I truly enjoy sharing with others these images just in case such wonderful treasure as the Notre Dame are lost forever.

Paris-La-Notre-Dame (2010)

Our Visit this Past December 2018

Pyramid in Egypt

Many events (hurricanes, earthquake, floods, tsunamis or other nature disaster) in ours lives will lead to changing the landscapes, places, and the world we visit today for future generations. Through the photos we share, we can re-live the past and potential learn from them. Enjoy the experience and please continue to travel.

Sphinx, Egypt

Gloucester, Massachusetts & the Cape Ann Museum by The Rose Journal 

Gloucester, Massachusetts & the Cape Ann Museum

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The holidays are over. Our roses are dormant, sound asleep for the next three months. This is the time when Angelina and I catch up on other things that we like to do, like frequent day-trips to somewhere — eclectic destinations that catch our fancy.

We recently drove to Gloucester, Massachusetts, a fishing port city on Cape Ann on  the North Shore of Massachusetts to visit the Cape Ann Museum. The 2-hour drive north was prompted by a Providence newspaper article that featured the museum and especially its extensive collection of marine art by Fitz Henry Lane. When we arrived we also discovered a rich trove of historical maritime artifacts, ship models, a restored New England lighthouse lens, and exhibits pertaining to fishing and genealogy from the Cape Ann/Gloucester area. An added bonus we hadn’t expected.

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Once in Gloucester, our GPS had us driving in circles unable to find the museum until we stopped and asked a local guy where it was. He pointed across the street to a handsome building and it was then that we spotted the tiny sign that said “Cape Ann Museum.”

The museum building is well maintained with three levels serviced by both stairs and an elevator. The Fitz Henry Lane Gallery takes up half of level 1 with Lane paintings on view along with many of his drawings. In comparison, a few pieces of Lane’s work hang in the Museum of Fine Art in Boston and a few at the Metropolitan Museum in New York but nothing like the 40 pictures in the collection at the diminutive Cape Ann.

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Lane, a Gloucester native, was a master of fine detail in his treatment of fishing and sailing vessels of the 19th century. So good was he at capturing every little detail, including the complicated rigging of 19th century schooners, that he was often hired by ship owners to paint portraits of their boats. Lane was well-known for his many paintings of Gloucester Harbor scenes, again bringing his attention to detail here as well as he did with ships.

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Lane also possessed an amazing ability to show glowing luminescence and accurate depictions of sea and sky. I especially liked the warm sunset glow of “Norman’s Woe” still radiant after 150 years. (Norman’s Woe, seen in the background of the painting, is a rocky reef 500 feet offshore of Gloucester’s outer harbor. It was the inspiration for Longfellow’s famous poem, “The Wreck of the Hesperus.”)

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A restored 13-foot Fresnel Lens from a lighthouse on Thacher’s Island is featured on Level 2 along with some fine scratch-built wooden models of sailing schooners. Our favorite was the model of the Andrea Gail, the boat made famous in “The Perfect Storm,” parts of which were filmed in Gloucester. (See photo below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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……..more at The Rose Journal on WordPress.com

 

A Visit to Varner-Hogg Plantation

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A recent trip to Houston and Galveston included a short drive to West Columbia to visit the Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site. The site is now part of the Texas Historical Commission site and there is a connection to the old Three-hundred settlers. These settlers received land grants from Stephen E. Austin’s first colony.

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An interesting fact about this former sugar plantation is that it is named for the first and last owner leaving out the middle owners; ‘The Pattons.”  The Pattons owned the plantation through most of the 19th Century until the Governor Hogg purchased the property in 1902 shortly after the Galveston Hurricane.  It remained in the Hogg family until his daughter Ima donated the property to the state in 1957 along with her collection of American antique furniture.  The furniture has since been moved to the other Hogg home in Houston (more on this other wonderful home in another post).

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Old Slave Bell

The Varner-Hogg plantation is a restored example of  Greek Revival Great House. The grounds are wonderfully landscaped. You can explore the 65+ acres finding a sugarcane mill ruin, the site of slave quarters, and a pecan orchard.  In addition, oil was found on the property and you can learn more about the history of oil production on the plantation. The plantation did have slaves and the above video does a good job detailing the history enslaved individuals on the property. Other areas to explore while visiting the historic site include: the Patton family cemetery, foundation ruins of the sugar mill, and the site of several slave quarters.

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A Picture with a Thousand Words

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Oleander Hotel’s Past Better Left Forgotten or Should It?

Galveston Island, Texas

Galveston Island has some wonderful historical sites including the Moody Mansion, the Bishop’s Palace, St. Joseph Church, and of course, the Pleasure Pier just to name a few. I will be exploring each of these in upcoming posts. There is still more to learn about this wonderful island.  Galveston Island has experienced its share of natural disasters through the years including the Great Hurricane of 1900, which stands as the deadliest hurricane in the U.S.

Oleander Hotel- Red Light District

Hotel Name Found On Current Stair Leading to Second Floor

During a recent visit, we were intrigued (only on the past- mind you) of this city’s history and came across what is now known as the Antique Warehouse. This form Oleander Hotel was once a 28 room Brothel with many other Brothels along the same 5 block area of the island.

In fact, it was the Hansons who purchased the 100-year old former Oleander Hotel (aka Brothel) who discovered that on the unused second floor were the 28 rooms sealed away for years was were the  prostitutes plied their trades. These rooms had been sealed away for decades at a top of a rotting staircase.

Door to the Men’s bathroom- aka for the Johns leading to the second story brothel.

The Antique Warehouse is located between the corner Postoffice and 25th Street in heart of Galveston’s former red-light district. In the past, dozens of brothels had lined Galveston’s Postoffice Street from 25th to 29th, forming a district known as The Line. You can learn more Galveston’s Red Light District Past by Reading this book by Kimber Fountain In addition, there are tours being offered of this district.

Licenses for Prostitution

These past happenings of Galveston is no different than many cities past or present and offers the opportunity for us to learn from the past to grow for the present and future. Please explore what Galveston has to offer including some great seafood, history, and people.

Why Did You First Decide to Travel?

The reason for why one first chooses to travel may be easy to answer and includes: taking the summer off from college, wishing to get out of that small town you grew up in, or having that adventurous spirit to see this beautiful planet.  Why did you first choose to travel? 

My Reasons for Traveling:

If I have to first pinpoint a reason for first wishing to travel, it would be wanting to understand the different culture and people beyond where I grew up in a small coal camp in WV. I knew there was this exciting planet to explore through reading books and I couldn’t wait to begin my exploration.  My first trip on a plane was during college to Salt Lake City.  I no longer have any pictures of this trip, but reminder the flight, the Lake, and a restaurant called; Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta. It may be time to plan for another trip here soon?

Great Salt Lake, Utah, United States (image courteous of: travelthruhistorytv.)

My first international trip was the following fall of that year to France, which I fell in love with this country for its culture and atmosphere. There is still more to see in France and other parts of Europe and beyond that I have yet to explore. So much travel and so little time to plan that trip or next adventure. Some of posts on France are below:

Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Paris

Normandy France- Juno Beach

Paris’ Flea Markets-A Must See

Christmas in Uneasy Paris

Eiffel Tower

 

Why did you first decide to explore this great planet of ours?  

Can you remember your first trip locally or internationally?

Are you planning a new adventure?

Travel, Trip or a Journey?

When you decide on a journey, do you consider this a travel, trip or journey? Perhaps something else? Today, travel is not often an easy adventure for many reasons. Many barriers often stand in your way including cost, the flight schedule, and sometimes the cultural at your new destination. I recommend the following as means to assist in travel insurance for international travel and a contingency plan. You will never be able to plan for every possible outcome that could happen during your journey, but enjoy the adventure.  

I look back out some of our travels, trips, and journeys through pictures thinking fondly of the times. 

Traveling in Southern U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking the Lodge in South Africa

View of NYC from Ellis Island

Ecuador

On the Napo River in Ecuador

Our Taxi for the Day in India

Fog Hanging over Gloucester Harbor

 

 

Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts…. 

 

Festival Season in the South

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Pink Camellia in Near Full Bloom

Spring has sprung and festivals planning is in full swing here in Coastal North Carolina. The largest and one my favorite festivals that is fast approaching this season of festivals is the NC Azalea Festival happening here in Wilmington, NC.  This years festival occurs the first weekend of April; April 3 through 7. Book your stay now.

2019 Azalea Festival Promo Video 

Expect a lively festival with a parade, street fair, fireworks over the Cape Fear,  concerts,  and so much more.. This festival offers the opportunity to get out and enjoy one of most beautiful of the four seasons here in Coastal NC. Come out and shake of some of your winter blues and warm up during this lively festival.

Azalea’s in Bloom
Azalea’s in Bloom



A Visit to Lisbon

A couple of years ago, we visited Portugal that included Lisbon and Porto. For one of our trips this year,  I have scheduled another trip back to Lisbon for a stopover option offered via TAP Air Portugal . I highly recommend considering this option to explore two countries and more during your stay.  Today’s blog post is reviewing this past trip, recommending some travel tips, and planning for the next visit.

Lisbon, Portugal

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Fast Facts: Lisbon wasn’t always the capital of Portugal. The city has a total of 53 districts with the Alfama district being the oldest. This district is still remarkably intact, surviving the 1755 Earthquake due to its many narrow streets and compact squares.

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There is quite a bit to see in such a large city that overlooks the River Tagus and the Atlantic Ocean.  So, please plan to wear one comfy shoes as Lisbon is very hilly, with some steep climbs up narrow streets for those wishing to capture stunning views over the city

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River Tagus

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Stairs and Fruit Trees In Lisbon

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Places of Interest– Rossio Square (Praca do Rossio)

The largest square in Lisbon is known as Rossio Square (Praca do Rossio). This nerve center of the city has been active since the Middle Ages and where you will find many of the Lisbon’s most famous restaurants, bars and shops. In this square, you will find various monuments and landmarks including the following:

Column of Pedro IV

In the centre of Rossio Square sits the Column of Pedro IV of Portugal or “the Soldier King”.  Examining the base of column, you will find four female figures. These figures represent the King’s various qualities: Justice, Wisdom, Strength and Moderation.

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Dona Maria II National Theatre

Founded in 1842, the National Theatre D. Maria II replaced the old Estaus Palace, headquarters of the Portuguese Inquisition since mid-fifteenth century. On top of the Theatre’s façade is a statue of Gil Vicente, a Portuguese playwright and father of the country’s theatre.

D. Maria II National Theatre

Dona Maria II National Theatre

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Fountain in front of Dona Maria II National Theatre

Rossio Railway Station

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One of the main wonderful  architectural wonders in Lisbon is the late 19th Century style building is the Rossio Railway station. The entrance way has these horseshoe shaped arches and a clock inside (wish I could find the photo….) and is main transportation hub for trains, buses, and taxis.

Coimbra university

University of Coimbra-  A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The University of Coimbra is one of the oldest universities in the world dating back to 1290 and is the oldest educational institutions in Portugal. It’s medieval structure and style makes for some viewing pleasure. The university’s location about the medieval city of Coimbra and that the city was once the capital of Portugal only adds to more interest to the history in this region. In addition, the University of Coimbra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Courtyard of The Royal Palace at the University

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The Courtyard of the Royal Palace at the University

Getting Around

We often take advantage of Uber or Lyft as a transportation option, if the city is not too large. The alternative is using public transportation. For the Lisbon trip, you will have two main options when arriving to the airport. These are as follows:

1) taxis to your stay option  for a very reasonable price or

2) Uber (Lyft was not readily available during our travel)

The Uber option was convenient and affordable costing around 3-6 Euros depending on traffic and distance.

Stay Option

Dare Lisbon House– is where we stayed during our last visit to Lisbon and we highly recommend this boutique hotel with it’s flare for contemporary and modern style. The hotel is located in the Rua dos Sapateiros, which is right in the heart of the Baixa district with your choice of restaurants, shops, and nightlife.

Other choices can also be found at  Booking.com for your next travel advantage.

Tour Options

Lisbon Guided Walking Tour

DiscoverWalk – Free Walking Tours

Lisbon Small Group Food and Wine Tours 


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Mosques Worth Visiting

As I remember the tragedy at the 3 mosques in New Zealand, this had me been thinking back to my travels and the many beautiful mosques we visited. One country that comes to mind is Egypt. This country has a wealth of beautiful, historical, and famous mosque that offer a chance under why this city is known as the city also known as city with a Thousand Minarets.

Consider supporting the victims and families of this shooting by donating to LaunchGood

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At the Bet She’an National Park; Israel

The Mosques of Egypts

A trip to Egypt would never be complete without a visit to some of its famous mosques including the Al-Azhar Mosque, Muhammad Ali Mosque, Abu Haggag Mosque, or the Sultan Hassan Mosque just to name a few that you can add to your itinerary of Egypt.

The Mosque of Ibn Tulun

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Right in the heart of Cairo, you will find the oldest and largest mosque.  The Mosque of Ibn Tulun still exists in in its original form and is the largest complex in terms of the property it covers. The construction of the mosque began in 879 C.E. with the commission of Ahmad ibn Tulun, Egypt’s governor at the time. Please don’t miss taking pictures from the historical staircase minaret built on Gebel Yashkur during your visit, which allows some wonderful shots of the city.

Mosque of Ibn Tulun

The Al-Azahar Mosque

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As one of the more famous mosques in Egypt, the Al-Azhar Mosque is unique for several reasons. One the main university is attached to the mosque. Also, this mosque belongs to the Sunni Sect, but also has many Shia sect influences.  Located in the city of Cairo, you can find more details about other Shia mosques around Egypt here.

This place is huge and do roam, but be cautious of pickpockets. Explore both the exterior and interior of this grand complex. This is worth your time during your trip to Egypt.

Sultan Hassan Mosque

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The Sultan Hassan mosque is often part of day tours and also located in the capital city of Egypt. If you have time to visit this mosque, do so for it interesting designs from the Mamluk era. This is one of the few Salafi mosques in Egypt.

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Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan

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Mosque of Muhammad Ali

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Inside Muhammad Ali

Inside The Muhammad Ali Mosque

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This mosque is also known as the Alabaster Mosque. This is one of the most beautiful mosques to visit while in Egypt. This is also one of the top tourist destination and please don’t forget to visit this historical place during your visit to this beautiful country. A couple of notes before you visit. This mosque is sits high above Cairo to give you a wonderful view of the city on a clear day. This means a little of walking is required to visit the mosque located at the top of the Saladin Citadel. The massive minarets of the mosque are 270 feet. If you climb up here, you can get an even more pleasant view of the city and the Giza plateau. So, how old is the mosque? The construction of the structure began in 1830 and continued up to around 1857. It was Muhammad Ali Pasha, the ruler of Egypt during this time who founded this mosque…

There you have it, m y brief total of mosques I have visited during my travels. I hope you have enjoyed reading. Please feel free to share your comments.

Touring these Mosques (in general)

Accessibility & Audience:

These sites are very friendly to visitors, tourist, and are family friendly.

Accessibility may be limited during worship service times (please check with your tour agent).

What to wear and what not to wear:  You should be respectful of local culture and cover legs and maybe asked to cover your head (if female). You may be asked to remove your shoes (most likely).

These are frowned upon:  Smoking, eating, taking pictures of someone without their permission, argumentative behavior, and intimate touching including kissing in the mosque. Please be respectful.

Atmosphere:

Please respect times of worship services. Some of the mosques will be more crowded then others and be cautious of your personal items,

There are many opportunities for photos due to these architectural landmarks both indoors and outdoors. I again remind you to respect these historical sites.

Enjoy the visit and take in the local scene. This is why we travel.

A Visit to Saint Francisville, LA

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Greenwood Plantation

During our visit through Louisiana, we drove to the town of Saint Francisville. A town of just under 2,000 people, is located about 30 miles north of the capital Baton Rouge. It is a hidden gem worth a visit.

Greenwood Plantation

Unfortunately, the original Greenwood Plantation from 1830 built by William R. Barrow in Greek Revival Style with its 28 columns burnt down in 1960. All that was left behind was the columns and the front steps. It was re-built based on original blueprint and style. The mansion now stands tall among the multiple alleys of mature, majestic, moss draped oaks. Of course, this home is a favorite of Hollywood serving as the location for such movies as:   “Louisiana,” “North & South,”  “GI Joe II,”  and “Jeepers Creepers III.”

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The Myrtles Plantation (circa 1796)

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Myrtles Plantation

The Myrtles Plantation claim to fame is that it is one of the most haunted mansions in history. You can learn about the history of this antebellum style home by visiting visit Myrtlesplantation.com

One can book a stay here for a night or more as this plantation serves as a bed & breakfast and who knows you may prove during your visit or stay?

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Entry Way

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Stairway Where William Winters Died and Presumedly Still Haunts.

Legends has it that a total of ten murders occurred at Myrtles Plantation. There is only evidence of one murder, that of William Winter, occurring at Myrtles Plantation. William Winter died on the 17th step of the house. According to historical records, Winter was shot on the front porch and presumedly crawled up the stairway to his death on the 17th stair.

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Rosedown Plantation (circa 1835)

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The third stop on our visit to  the small town of Saint Francisville was in West Felicia at the state owned RoseDown Plantation historical site. The original plantation compromised some 3,400 acres with cotton being the main crop production. Rosedown was built in 1835 by cotton planters Daniel and Martha Turnbull, it is one of the most documented and intact plantation complexes in the South and is known for its extensive formal gardens surrounding the house.

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Mural in Foyer of Rosedown- A Must See

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Oaks at Rosedown

 

Learn More about Saint Francisville and West Felicia Parish


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Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts.

Normandy France- Juno Beach

During my most recent visit to France, I wanted to visit Normandy and decided to visit the Canadian memorial to D- Day on June 6, 1944. The Juno Beach Centre is dedicated as a museum to honor the sacrifice of some 45,000 young Canadian men and women who fought alongside Allied forces to liberate France during World War II.

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The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, France. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War, of which 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 on D-Day. Opened in 2003 by veterans and volunteers with a vision to create a permanent memorial to all Canadians who served during the Second World War, the Centre’s mandate is to preserve this legacy for future generations through education and remembrance.” – from Juno Centre’s website

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A Plaque in the Centre

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First Aid Supplies

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Bunker from Outside

I wanted to tour this bunker, but tours were not offered during the time of our visit. Another excuse to visit the wonderful museum the next time we are happen to exploring this part of France.  I did happen to grab a a photo or two of the closed bunker, though.

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Inside the Bunker

The visit of the Juno Beach Centre will leave one with feelings of  mixed emotions and perhaps a heavy heart. I left teary eyed and needed to take a much needed walk along the shore. You must explore the beach just over the sand dunes, if weather permits.  I highly recommend this museum, if you are ever in Normandy.

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Houmas House Plantation

Houmas House Plantation & Gardens

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Adding to the list of plantations visited during our visit to the New Orlean’s area, is Houmas House Plantation.  This Greek Revival plantation that sits in lush gardens that are well maintained. The house is really two homes connected by a carriageway with the older home dating back to around 1775 per the docent during our private tour this evening. The private tour was not planned, but just happen that we were the only ones to be present for the hours tour time. Learn more about the history of the Houmas House and its connection to Native Americas, slavery, and why it is also known as the Sugar Palace here

This plantation stands out from the others we’ve seen because of the gardens, three restaurants, and the option for overnight accommodations. In 2015, this home beat out another famous home- Biltmore Estate according to the USA Today.  at #2.

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Pet Cemetery

Tour Options: 

Houmas House with Transportation 

Houmas House with Transportation in French

Houmas House Mansion and Gardens Tour

Stay at Houmas House:

The Inn

and of course, The Restaurants

Enjoy your visit to this historic plantation.  Please consider reading more about the reviewing on TripAdvisor


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Plantations Along Lousiana’s River Road

I recently read the Louisiana Plantation Guide as a means to assist me in planning a trip to New Orleans. We weren’t able to visit all of the plantations in this wonderful guide, but did manage to cover quite a few ground along Louisiana’s River Road, which parallels the east and west banks of the Mississippi River for about 70 miles (actually 100 miles of driving per Laurence and Jessica Norah). During the drive, we passed through Louisiana’s parishes of St. Charles, and St, John. I think we missed St. James….  This historic road was lined with some 350 antebellum plantation homes ranging from basic farm houses to grand mansions.

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Evergreen Plantation Entrance

These historic plantations served one main purpose to grow a profitable crop for the landowner. These crops included rice, indigo (a plant to create a distinct blue dye), tobacco, and the move to the most profitable crop; sugar cane. This wealthy part of our young nation’s history prior to the Civil War was all made possible through the use of forced labor of thousands of slaves. Each of these plantations now offer some historic prespective on the history of slavery. Some do this better than others.

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Below are the plantations we were able to visit during our stay in New Orleans with a mix of my thoughts and recommendations. There is so much to see in the south that a long weekend just isn’t enough time. This just gives us an excuse for another trip!

When to Visit?

This really depends on your preference for weather and crowds. The south is often known for is relatively mild winters and striking hot/humid summers. The best option for tours would be between November and May.  You would want to avoid festivals and events as these will make New Orleans the most crowded, increase the cost of hotels, and transportation. These are events to consider: the Sugar Bowl (early January), Mardi Gras (February/early March), French Quarter Fest (April), Jazz Fest (April/May), and Halloween. I would avoid the months of June, July and August. Do consider hurricane season that runs from June through the end of November.  Of course, if you wish for very  reasonable cost hotels and don’t mind the heat, the summer months would offer the cheapest rates.

Destrehan Plantation (original circa 1790, rebuilt ~1840)

The first stop on our drive out of New Orleans was the closest plantation (about 10 miles) known as Destrehan Plantation. This is one of the oldest and best-documented buildings from the state’s colonial period. It is worth a visit not just for ease of access, but for the nature beauty offer in and around the home. The tour guide offered a detailed history of the home past, including touching enslaved individuals. Actually, this is where you begin the tour. In the re-constructed slave cabin to the side of the home.

One interesting part of the tour is an historical artifact signed by  both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison assigning four men, including Jean Noel Destrehan, to the Orleans Territorial Council.  This is part of your admission ticket and you see this prior to visiting the inside of the home.

Other interesting facts include that this and many other plantations have and are still being used as filming location: This one was used for  Interview with the Vampire (main house interiors) and 12 Years a Slave (1830 mule barn).

Tour options:

Driving own vehicle and touring with the next group with tours beginning at 9:30 am and ending at 4:00 pm. You can purchase tickets at the gift shop located on site or online. We did not find it crowd during our visit, but I suspect during peak season this plantation could be very busy.  Other tour options for hotel pickup and drop-off from New Orleans include:

A Day tour with Swamp Boat

If you are a AAA member or senior, please be sure to point this out during your booking at the site or online 

Another unique option is to stay at one of the two self-catered Creole-style cottages that are often available for rent. Please explore this lodging option here

Destration Plantation

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Live Oaks of Destrehan

Whitney Plantation

We had planned to visit San Francisco Plantation, but alias it was closed during our arrival and so, we moved on to the Whitney Plantation. This plantation should be on your list of historic plantations to visit if not for the fact that it is truly a museum offering a story of slavery with a several memorials throughout the site.

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The Spanish style Creole main plantation home had murals painted. The property also had the only French Creole barn in the United States, and the oldest detached kitchen in Louisiana. If you are fan of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, this plantation was the setting for some scenes for Django Unchained.

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Reconstructed Holding Cell for Slaves

The tours here begin usually with time for you to see and reflect on the many quotes from parts of the Federal Writers Project where former slaves (mostly the children and young adults during the time of slavery) were interviewed and known as the Slave Narratives Collection

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Sugar Cane Bowel

Tour Options:

House Tour: You can drive to site and purchase a ticket at booth on site. This is the option we chose.  Expect this one to be a little on the $$ side and crowded as it rather popular.  Discounts for: AAA, Military, Seniors and Students

Whitney Plantation Tour: This tour options is available for visitors who need transportation to and from Whitney Plantation from New Orleans. It is great option if you do not plan on hiring a car.

The next three plantations on our list were very close to each and should all be visited (if time allows). These include: Laura Plantation,  The Oak Alley Plantation, and St. Joseph Plantation.  We explored each of these in this ordered and all offer a distinct feel for what southern live was during antebellum time and one is still a family-run sugar can plantation that adds that unique spin to your visit.

Laura Plantation

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Laura Plantation

Of the three below, Laura Plantation was one that felt rather rushed by the docent and we were not sure the rationale as it was midday. Perhaps they were just tired and needed a break? Anyway, you get the feel for another home from the antebellum era, but keep in mind you are looking at a restored French Creole plantation. Unfortunately, the main home suffered extensive damage during a major electrical fire in 2004. It has now since been restored except for the pantry area for historical reasons.  Other historical facts about this plantation is that is it known for Laura Plantation is for being one of the locations where folklorist Alcée Fortier (born at Petit Versailles Plantation) recorded the African stories of the trickster Br’er Rabbit from the slaves (known as Compair Lapin in French Creole).

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Fire Damage to Wall in Pantry

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Tour Options:

Self-Paced Tour: You can drive to site and purchase a ticket at a booth on site.  The outside of the plantation and property is self-guided with the purchase of a ticket. You will need a guide to explore the hour. This is the option we chose.

Double Plantation Tour This tour options is available for visitors who need transportation to and from Laura Plantation from New Orleans. It is great option if you don’t plan on hiring a car.

Oak Alley Plantation

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Oak Alley

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The Grand Dame or Oak Alley Plantation is perhaps one of our favorite Greek Revival style homes that we toured in Louisiana.  This plantation is famous for its 26 oaks dating back to nearly 300 years that were saved when the Arm Corps of Engineers put in the levy. Another home we visited Houmas House had a similar grand entrance that did not see the same result. This plantation property has also taken advantage of its popularity and offers a two restaurants, a bar area, stay options, and a nice gift shop. All of these are in addition to the wonderful grounds one can just get lost in exploring the history before taking in a tour of the main house. All well worth a visit here. If you only had time for one plantation, this should be the one.

You will also find that this plantation is definitely been seen in several films including: Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, Primary Colors, and Interview with the Vampire.

Tour Options:

Self-Paced with House Tour: You can drive to site and purchase a ticket at a booth on site.  The outside of the plantation and property is self-guided with the purchase of a ticket. You will need a guide to explore the hour. This is the option we chose.  Expect this one to be a little on the $$ side and crowded as it rather popular. Discounts for: AAA, Military, Senior 65+, First Responders, Teachers and Students 19+

Guided Tour This tour options is available for visitors who need transportation to and from Oak Alley Plantation from New Orleans. It is great option if you do not plan on hiring a car.

St. Joseph Plantation

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St. Joseph Plantation is still working 1,000 acre sugar cane plantation that is been in the same family since 1877. This property is next two the more popular Oak Alley. It is worth a visit to see a different perspective of southern life and a slower pace, perhaps. If you are lucky, you will be guided by one of the owners during the house tour as we were during our time here.  One thing to keep in mind is that this home is not completely renovated to period and you will notice this in several of the rooms as you tour the house.

St. Joseph

Of course, this plantation has been scenes for such films as 12 Years a Slave, and the 2016  Roots mini-series. In addition, some scenes were done at the family’s other property that is not open to the public known as Felicity Plantation.

Tour Options

Tours of St. Joseph Can can easily be purchased on-site or online 

There is also transportation option to visit St. Joseph Plantation

The plantation is open 7 days a week with tours of the main house offered at the following times: 10: 00 am, 11:00 am, 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, and 3:00 pm (last daily tour)

Cost of Plantation Tours

 We found that the cost varied from $12 to $22 per person (with discounts) and all prices included a guided tour. Tipping of your guide is truly appreciated and often expected if you enjoyed your time with them. Of course, tipping is not obligatory. 

Discount Options

If this is your first time visiting New Orleans or even you are planning to visit this part of Louisiana again, consider the New Orleans Pass  The pass option currently offers discounts and free visits to 25 sites (as of February 2019) including free entry to both the San Francisco Plantation and the Oak Alley Plantation.  In addition, don’t forget the optional discounts mentioned above if you are AAA member, senior, visiting with children, an active military (thank you for service), and a local resident. Many of the plantations offer discounts in various forms. When in doubt, just ask…

Travel Options to Louisana’s River Road Plantations

Public transportation is limited outside the New Orleans area and this includes the River Road plantations area. The best options are a) driving  or b) setting up a group bus tour, c) a private tour, or d) hiring a private car service to take you to each of the plantations of your choice.  Below is map of the several of the plantations we visited.

Map of river road

Map courtesy of https://i.pinimg.com

If you are interested in Tours of the River Road Plantations, please consider exploring Viator as this site offers many different day tours, ability to choose which plantations to visit and decide on a group tour from New Orleans.

I do not recommend using any of the taxi service or Uber/Lyft option for visiting the River Road Plantations. You would most likely be wasting time waiting for your pickup when you could have been visiting another plantation through a more direct route or guided tour option.

Learn more about the River Road Plantations by reading the Louisiana Plantation Guide




A Few More Essentials…

As promised, here is part two on my previous post titled: A Few Travel Essentials . Now, that you have planned and booked your trip. It is time to be sure to include some important items as you pack for the next adventure. Below are a few more essentials to consider as you begin to prepare for your next travel adventure. Please share your own essentials. Enjoy!

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Azaleas’ in Bloom-My Backyard

The Camera

I want to preserve my travel experiences and memories. So, I always bring a camera with me. In addition, I have my iPhone as a backup and often grab it to take a quick photo or two. You must include a camera (small is my preference) as as a travel essential to your next travel adventure.

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Hummingbird-Costa Rica

The Traditional Road Atlas

This next recommended essential item may seem rather odd with the world of google maps and GPS at our fingertips and via most Smartphones. I have been caught with the dreaded ‘searching for signal’ notice on my iPhone (T-maybe in rural areas) and thus, must either drive aimlessly or resort to following directions the traditional way. I would rather knowing how to read an atlas.  If you understand how to read a map, you will will be ahead of the game and understand when the GPS route just doesn’t make sense. Consider adding a Road Atlas as your next travel essential when heading out on your next road trip. Your local AAA office is an excellent source, if you are a member.

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Road Somewhere in North Carolina

Books and Other Reading Material

During the travel period, you will find that there will be free time. Books are an essential item to include when packing for the trip. I often update my Kindle with a few free ebooks from the local library for long trips or grab a book from the library for shorter trips. Books and other forms of reading should be part of your packing travel essentials.

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Extra Clothes in Carry-on

This next travel essential has saved me some frustration in a couple of long flights leading to some extending lay-overs. You will be thankful to have a fresh pair of clothes.  If you have the right carry-on such as what E-Bag offers and recommended by fellow blogger Living the Q Life, you may find some extra room for this essential item.

 

Food is Energy

You should not rely on the food offered by either the airport or plan. I often pack snacks and sometimes a small lunch (if the journey is short). You need food to keep you going, focused, and avoid any exhaustion. Pack snacks that are offer energy such as protein bars.

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Check your Passport and the Visa Requirements

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months during your travel period. In addition, you should check whether or not where you are traveling will require a tourist visa. A excellent site that I use is VisaCentral. Also, make a photo copy of your passport or add it to your smartphone device as backup just in case you ever loose your passport.

I highly recommend taking care of the visa requirements prior to leaving the U.S., rather than waiting to do these details at your final destination. There are risk of delays or possibility missing required documentation and thus, a disappointing travel experience.

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Photo by Jonathan Miksanek on Pexels.com

Register with the U.S. Embassy

This next essential item involves registering  your international trip with the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program or STEP). There are two main reasons why I do this and also recommend that you do the same: 1) once you do so, you will receive email alerts for the country that you are visiting for such issues as protests, local violence, or other issues  in specific cities or regions. 2) If something should ever happen to you, the U.S. embassy is aware of where you are at the time and can notify your family and loved ones because you have registered your trip with STEP

A Good No-Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card A Must

I don’t carry much cash during my travels. Instead, I rely on the local ATM  and two VISA credit cards that do not charge a foreign transaction fee. You will hear or read about the need to grab local currency prior to your international travels. I have rarely done this option, but for a select few countries.  The key essential here is to notify the credit card companies of your travel with date of travel, countries (including layovers). Don’t forget the layover! You would hate to have the credit card company to think someone stole your card and block all transitions. This happened once to me when I forgot to include a short UK layover to trip Italy.  Of course, the credit card may still reach out to you to confirm any transition even when you report the travel notice. So, please be sure to make note of your credit card companies contact number.  There should be a number to collect call for them to pay the cost on the back of the card.  Take note of this number somewhere else as well.

I may have mentioned that I do not keep much cash on me, but I do try to keep just enough for taxi and food; and if ever I need to as a secondary option to convert into local currency when not able to find an ATM.

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Of course none of my recommendations will guarantee the perfect trip, but offer you some opportunities to make that next trip a little less stressful. Thank you for reading and I hope you find these recommendations helpful.

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New Orleans’ French Quarter

French Quarter

Greetings, fellow travelers! After a long, exciting, and fun long weekend in New Orleans, I am back home.

If you have plans to visit New Orleans, Louisiana;  a visit of the French Quarter, also known as the Quarter, the Vieux Carré, or Vieux Carré; should be on your list. There is a wonderful history to this district dating back to 1718 that is worth exploring through a walking tour or visiting several of the historic homes.

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Corner of St. Peter and Burgundy

Bourbon Street

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View of Bourbon Street in the Evening

In what is often known as the heart of the Quarter there is Bourbon Street. It is a street full of nightclubs, bars, and trendy restaurants. This is certainty worthy of a quick visit, but don’t just see this part of the French Quarter. You will be missing so much of the history behind the mixture of colonial, French, and Spanish influences of NOLA.

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Things to Explore in the French Quarter

I continued my exploration of the French Quarter through strolling through the quaint streets taking in the sounds, music, and coming across great finds such as the Faulkner House Books. The Faulkner House Books  is located in the apartment where Faulkner lived in 1925. More details about the bookstore can be found by visiting the website.

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If you love taking in  historical mansions, the French Quarter offers several opportunities to step-back in time and enjoy a guided tour through history. You can take advantage of such offerings from  The Women’s Exchange, which continues to maintain and preserve several historical homes including: The Gallier & The Hermann-Grima Houses.  In addition, the Beauregard-Keyes House is not too far form the Gallier House (just around the block) and also, worth a visit.

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The Gallier House

The Gallier House was one of the first homes to have running h/c water and indoor bathroom during slavery. According to the docent, it would have been a challenge and potentially dangerous to heat the water and keep it running to avoid an explosion. The other images depicts one of the bedroom, a sitting room, and a means of allowing heat to escape to the attic via openings in the ceiling (pre-ceiling fans).

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The Hermann-Grima House

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The Cistern for Water Collection

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French Quarter’s Only Working Stable

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Beauregard-Keyes House

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Courtyard of Beauregard-Keyes House

Located at 1113 Chartres St. in the Quarter, The Beauregard-Keyes house is just across the street from the old Ursuline Convent and is now maintained by the Keyes Foundation. The house dates back to 1826 has many different residence, but thanks to the author Frances Parkinson Keyes, this historic home is preserved for others to enjoy. A short video on the house: https://youtu.be/YRwK3LbfL5U

Places to Grab Bit and Drink

The French Quarter has many options to for places to eat, enjoy a drink, and listen to some wonderful local music. If you have just three places to explore, I recommend the following (in no particular order):

Brennan’s * must try the Banana Foster here.

Court of Two Sisters. *steep in history and great for jazz.

Antione’s Restaurant  *hint–they have twenty cent martinis (limit is 3) during lunch hour – ask a local)

Brennan’s

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After a long walk exploring the Quarter, we had to stop into Brennan’s for a bit and of course, a drink (or two). They have happy hour with bar bit specials in the Roost Bar. This top restaurant is beautiful

Antione’s Wine Cellar

If you are looking for a place to eat that full of history and family owned for generations, Antoine’s Restaurant is the one to consider.  It is the oldest French-Creole restaurant in the French Quarter that is still run by the same family for 175 years. As you make your way to the establishment walking along Royal Street, you may find people looking through a small window with bars. This is Antione’s famous wine cellar. The cellar is 165-feet long ending with this little window looking into Royal Street.

Court of Two Sisters

I am torn between the two above just because of my love for history.  This place goes back to around 1726 with the present structure dating back to 1832. There is some history of royalty as well that is intriguing. This two floor restaurant should be explored just for the atmosphere and don’t forget to check out the Grand Marquis dining room on the second named in honor of former French governor.  Oh and the food and drinks are good too!

Places to Stay

Below of just some of the French Quarter stay options:

Lamothe House 

Inn on Ursulines 

Inn on St. Ann

Inn on St. Peter

Each of the above stay options are at varied locations within the French Quarter. You can  find a stay outside the French Quarter and walk into the district. The choice is yours and whether or not you are looking to stay in a traditional style hotel or bed and breakfast or in a more commercial hotel.  I chose the Inn on St. Peter as this stay option was off the from the main area of Bourdon Street, the noisy area, and offered a relatively quiet evening with a safe walk back and forth to my room.

More to come on my visit to New Orleans with the Plantation Adventure posts coming soon…


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A Few Travel Essentials

As I continue to travel each year, I find myself frequently doing the same routine things to pre-plan for these new adventures including: visiting key websites, developing my own itinerary, and following other bloggers advice.  Best of all of these this information is free. Please let me share some of my travel essentials and feel free to share your own with me.

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(Image credit: (Williams, G., 2013)

Essential 1: Knowing when to go

To know when to go is often a challenge if you are just wishing to traveling to a certain part of the world. This concern can easily be answered through exploring TripAdvisor and posting a question to the site. Of course, other concerns to consider include: allotted vacation days, if it is a special family or friend event that you must attend, or you have extra cash that allows for travel.

One true consideration that can quickly eat into your travel expenses is not considering local holidays, especially when traveling to Asia or South America. For us in the U.S., I would plan well ahead for Spring Break and avoid the usually locales for travel destinations such as the southern states.

You may find www.mycalendar.org helpful.  Not all countries are there, but it’s great tools to start with that will assist in identifying holidays.

Also, this site offers some good options to explore ideas when considering the climate and season for exploring a country.  You may find best time to go helpful.

Essential 2: Finding That Cheapest Flight

Turns out there is a best time to book a flights. According to Peter Greenberg, it is Wednesday at 1 am. He explains the reason for this time in his blog from 2014 titled: The Best Time to Book Flights, Airline by Airline

The catch is not time zone specific and is applicable to the airline’s hub. If you take Peter’s advice and I have a few times, you could save some $$ through some extra effort on the phone versus online. Below is an updated list of the best times to book flights and the numbers to all for the U.S. airlines based off the original list from Mr. Greenberg’s blog.

Eastern Standard Time

Central Time Zone

Mountain Time Zone

Pacific Time Zone

Hawaii-Aluetian Time Zone

Should you always call the airlines directly? One can still find very discounted flights or if you are member of any of the airlines awards programs (i.e., American Airlines or Delta) you can still grab some good deals through exploring.  My two main online resources are listed below:

skyscanner.com

momondo.com

Another good one is SeatGuru which allows you to check which are the best seats in the aircrafts of most important airlines.

Another good website to know when to arrive and leave from many of the world’s airports is ToAndFromTheAirport.com It is not just for air travel, but can be used for buses, trains, and other transit.

A Mobile App Must Have

Do you not like uncertainty in not always knowing if you are booking the best price? Now, there is an option you can add to your mobile to potentially predict with very good accuracy (around 95% per the site). It is known as the Hopper app. I have used several times and happy with the results. You log in the typical flight details and receive notification whether to book now or wait for a better price. You can request to be notify when the price drops.

Essential 3: Need a Place to Stay

Once you have your flight booked, you will need a place to stay. One of my favorite sites to explore for the best stays (hotels, bed & breakfasts, apartments, etc.) is Booking.com This is a community of contributors (including yours truly) from across the global who offer honest and often detailed reviews of their stays.  You can also use TripAdvisor  for other objective reviews, travel recommendations, and guides.

I always visit both of these sites in my planning for the next adventure either find a hotel from scratch, or check the reviews of a hotel I am considering staying. Why do I use both as a comparison? It is my way to decide between the mix of reviews present on both sites and to gain a better understanding for the true intention of the person reviewing the stay. Sometimes the ‘bad’ review was not so bad and was an isolated incident of someone expecting a red carpet treatment at a 2 or 3 star stay.  My advice: always read all of the reviews.

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Essential 4: Currency Convertor

One of most frequently used apps on my iPhone is the  Xe Currency app. You can also use their website to explore exchange rates at xe.com I don’t there is a currency on the site that they don’t detail or at least, I haven’t come across it, yet.

Essential 5: Time is Important

This often not a concern if you don’t need to communicate with your home country. However, there are two reasons to consider time zone difference when traveling internationally.

1) knowing when the Spring (the Spring Forward–thing)  time zone hour changes worldwide or don’t for some countries, and

2) Being able to call your bookings for questions that can’t be answered on their websites.

A good app to download is:

for IOS devices: Timeanddate

for Android devices: Timeanddate

The website for the above is timeanddate.com/worldclock

Essential 6: The Weather

I can attest to planning everything and just a couple of days before the trip was to occur, a hurricane is to hit the area. This is where another essential comes later. You may not be to predict everything all the time, but a good tool to explore the current weather and local forecast is weather.com  or weather underground

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Essential 7: Travel or Trip Insurance

 This next essential may read as if I am selling an insurance policy. Of course,  this is not the case. I have found the the need to cancel a few of our travel plans due to various reasons and without travel insurance, the expense would have shocking! I highly recommend travel insurance for any international trip. One of the main trusted sites that I have used is WorldNomads.com You can learn more about travel insurance by visiting Travel Insurance

Trip cancellation insurance is just some of the many perks now being offered by many credit card companies when booking travel, but be sure to read the policy as there are often more restrictions than the above travel insurance policy.

Essential 8: Vaccinations

I am advocate for vaccination and recommend the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s website and highly recommend that you download the Healix Travel Vaccinations app for your iPhone.


There is more to travel than these eight essentials and I plan to add my thoughts and perhaps fellow travelers’ recommendations as well into a quick reference. Some questions to consider:

Is Tuesday or Wednesday still the best travel day? Is Saturday catching up as the best travel day?

Is seasonal travel really the best means to plan your travel?

What other tools do you use when planning your trips?  

Please let me know in the comments.

 

 

Exploring Bruges in the Winter

Bruges, Belgium

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Our journey begins on a sunny, but cold day in Bruges. This quaint city that is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ due to its many canals should not be ignored during your visit to Belgium. This small city offers a relaxing vibe and a more leisurely pace than the larger city and more industrial looking city of Brussels. While in Bruges, one can stroll through cobblestone streets taking in the sites, sounds, and smells.  During my visit, I managed to see some of the major highlights of this jewel of Belgium. So what is there to do here?

Marvel at the Market Square

You can begin your Bruges exploration in Market Square (Grote Markt) with is majestic Belfry tower that looms over the beautiful and impressive Provincial Palace. This square has served as a marketplace since the year 958; you are walking through history here. Please take this in and enjoy some Belgian chocolates.

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Belfry Tower

Does the image seem slightly askew? It may as the  Belfry leans just under a meter to the east. So, yours eyes are not fooling you….

Explore Bruges from the Top of the Belfry

If you want to walk off some of the Belgian waffles, chocolates, or maybe a few too many beers, head up 366 steps to the top of the Belfry for a different view of Bruges. If you have clear day, the climb is well worth the effort. You can see why this medieval city attracts some many visitors. As of this posting, the fee for visiting the Belfry was around 8€. Please be aware that you must climb up a very narrow, winding staircase with people going both ways, so be prepared for tight spaces and a steep incline.

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Tour Bruges in a different way

If you wish to get a different perspective a Bruges, try touring the city by boat via one of the many canals. You can easily find a reasonable boat tour option with a guide who speaks your language. This is great trip through the city that often lasts around 30-minutes or so.

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Canals of Bruges

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Lake of Love

Minnewater Park

The above image is from Lover’s Bridge in the city’s Minnewater’s Park with views of the Lake of Love. If you take the train to Bruges, you can easily find this tranquil park with the Lake of Love in the heart of the park. Legends tells a story of a young and pretty girl named Minna who was in love with Stromberg, a warrior of a neighboring tribe. Her father did not agree with her love and arranged her to marry a man of his choice. Minna escaped and ran into the forest. When Stromberg finally found her, she died in his arms of exhaustion. The lake was named after Minna and the bridge by the lake is considered the bridge of love, in her honor.

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Indulge in Belgian chocolate, waffles and of course, beer

A trip to Belgium wouldn’t be complete without indulging in some of the local delicacies. Famous for its chocolates, waffles and beer, we made sure to sample ample amounts of delicious goodies! Please be sure to stop at The Old Chocolate House for a delectable selection of chocolates at reasonable prices and the best hot chocolate in the world (so they claim)!

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Beer Tape to Local Bars in Bruges.

Tours Options in Bruges

NiceDay Tours  offers free walking tours on specific days of the week and reasonability priced guided tours of the city. I chose a guided tour and this was with Danny who was entertaining and full of fun facts about his city. I highly recommend exploring NiceDay Tours for your next tour options the next time you are in Bruges or Belgium.

As one of Europe’s best preserved cities, Bruges is definitely worth a visit and has a historic center that is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  What are you waiting for? Add this one to your travel plans today!

Have you ever been to Bruges during the winter? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments section.  I would love to hear from you.

 Viator


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Aswan: Philae Temple & Nubian Village Dec 2018 — by BeatriceTravels

Original Post By: beatricetravels

This morning we set sail for Aswan which was the southern frontier of ancient Egypt and provided a gateway to Africa.  It is here that granite quarries are found and supplied the rest of Egypt in the building of temples and pyramids.  The Ptolemies ruled here from 323-30 BC and built the remarkable Philae Temple dedicated to the goddess Isis.  Isis was the goddess of fertility and motherhood.  She was the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus.  Her name literally means Queen of the Throne and she was often depicted with a headdress that was an empty throne chair belonging to her husband Osiris.  In ancient Egypt, the pharaoh was often portrayed as her child and sat on the throne she provided.  Philae Temple was built during the reign of Ptolemy II and continued by Ptolemy IV, V, VI, VII, and XI.  The temple was submerged after the first Aswan dam was built in 1906 and was later saved and moved by UNESCO to Agilika Island after the building of the Aswan High Dam in 1971.  Agilika Island was modelled after Philae Island and the temple was moved stone by stone and took 9 years to complete!

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Early this morning, we arrived at the docks to board a speedboat taking us to Philae Temple on Agilika Island

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The first 18-meter pylon of Philae Temple has two towers and an open forecourt leading to the second pylon.  The mamisi or birth house here has scenes depicting the birth of Horus by Isis and Horus as a falcon in the swamps of the Delta.  The second pylon leads to the hypostyle hall where you can find Coptic crosses carved into the walls when the temple became a Christian place of worship during the early Byzantine times.  From here the three vestibules lead into the inner sanctuary where a golden statue of Isis and her barque used to stand.  On the west is a door leading to the Gate of Hadrian with reliefs depicting Hadrian making offerings to Osiris, Isis, etc. as well as Marcus Aurelius making offerings of grapes and flowers to Isis.

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Forecourt of Philae Temple

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Birth House of Philae Temple

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