Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sailing Florida's Boca Ciega Bay

Boca Ciega Bay is ginormous. From it's northern border at Madeira Beach all the way to the tip of Pass-A-Grille and until it empties into the Gulf of Mexico, it's one big body of water. And it's a boater's paradise. We stayed on Boca Ciega on vacation this past summer, and I loved watching all the boats. We saw every kind of boat - from a dinner yacht to an old houseboat and everything in between. But what was really fun was sailing on the bay ourselves.

We sailed on the Dolphin, one of Dolphin Bay Charter Rentals, sailing yachts. We left from their port an hour before sunset on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It was hot - but still a nice day for a sail. Dolphin Bay Charters allows you to bring your own food and drink on board so we brought a cooler with salami, cheese, crackers and homemade bruschetta. With wine, of course. You can't do a sunset sail without something to toast the sunset with!

Our captain headed out onto the bay and we saw lots of palm trees, waterfront homes and the famous pink hotel, The Don Cesar. 

We passed under the Pinellas Parkway bridge - just barely with only inches to spare - and headed down to Pass-A-Grill to see the sunset. On our way, the weather started to turn. The wind started kicking up and thunder started rolling in. But our captain promised us a sunset and he delivered. We caught a glimpse of it just as the rain started coming down.

He requested everyone come in from the bow to be safe. It was quite a different ride back to port than the ride out. Some of us went down below into the hull - and some rode under cover watching the lightening show. 

We arrived back at the dock safely - if not a little damp. A fun adventure - a sunset and a storm.

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!

Friday, September 16, 2016

An Autumn Visit to Vail

During World War II, the US Army established a training camp near Vail, Colorado where the 10th Mountain division trained for alpine combat. That division fought in the mountains of northern Italy. One of those soldiers, Pete Siebert, returned to Colorado and worked at several ski resorts. He came up with the idea to create a new ski resort at the base of Vail Mountain with his buddy, Earl Eaton.  Construction began in 1962 and the town of Vail was incorporated in 1966. Built as a European resort village, Vail is now world famous for it's huge ski resort and it's celebrity filled apres ski. The name Vail has always conjured up some magical place to me - mountains, European looks and growing up in the midwest, it seemed like a place I would never get to. So when we were headed to Breckenridge's Oktoberfest, I thought what's another hour and a half to Vail?
Turns out that Vail was having an Oktoberfest that weekend also! So to Vail it was!

We arrived in Vail on a beautiful fall morning where the end of the Colorado Grand was happening and an afternoon Oktoberfest celebration. After inquiring at the visitor center, we found that buying a lift ticket on both the Lionshead Village lift and Vail lift combined, we would have our lunch included. So we headed up in the gondola to eat some lunch and take in the far reaching views, after taking in the charming alpine style village with it's Swiss style chalets and gabled roofs.

After enjoying the views and our barbeque lunch, we went back down the mountain and took the free bus into Vail proper.(The town runs a shuttle bus between Vail village and Lionshead ) We walked across the small bridge with it's famous view, and enjoyed a bit of the Oktoberfest celebration. There were yodelers and tables in the street for people to sit at and enjoy their food and drink.

Part of our lift ticket included the lift from Vail village. So we went back up the other side of the mountain and enjoyed sitting in some adirondack chairs watching the mountain bikers fly down the mountain. 

It was my first visit to Vail and I couldn't have asked for a better day. Sunshine, views as far as you could see and only a small crowd.It definitely exceeded my expectations! If you visit Colorado in the fall, I suggest a visit to Vail! 

Lucky me,  I visited again at Christmas - and I liked it just as much - but that's a story for another day!

How about you? Have you been to Vail? What did you think?

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This post is part of a link-up with: The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mountain towns south of Asheville

Asheville is having a moment. A very big moment. It has a vibrant arts scene, craft breweries popping up every minute, two new large breweries, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada, have opened for tours and tasting, and the food scene is out of this world. Add Biltmore Estate, the world's largest private home, and the Blue Ridge Parkway to the mix and it really hits it out of the park. But visitors to Asheville aren't always aware that there are some interesting small towns outside the city that are worth a visit. Last fall my sister and I visited two of them - Hendersonville and Brevard. Come along for a visit.

Hendersonville, North Carolina
Hendersonville is located about 30 minutes south of Asheville. A mountain community, Hendersonville is famous for hosting the North Carolina Apple Festival over Labor Day weekend every year. The Apple Festival is a 4 day event that includes free entertainment, foods featuring freshly picked apples (apple pie, apple cobbler, apple ice cream) and arts and crafts along Main Street. While some small towns have become economically depressed and have vacant store fronts, Hendersonville is thriving. There are restaurants, pubs, shops, patio dining and even a restaurant housed in an old bank. 

One of the most popular shops in Hendersonville is a branch of the famous Mast General Store. Started in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, Mast is an old time general store with penny candy, outdoorsy clothes and camping equipment. Stop in and grab an old fashioned soda or a North Carolina t-shirt.

Brevard, North Carolina
Brevard is located in Transylvania County, known as Land of the Waterfalls. Home of the famous white squirrel, Brevard hosts the White Squirrel Music Festival held at the end of May which includes a gallery walk, a 5k race, a parade , a beer garden and 3 nights of music. Also home to Brevard College, a 4 year college with a nationally recognized music program. 

The white squirrel is a white version of the eastern gray squirrel. There are various theories how they ended up in Brevard with the most prevalent being that a carnival truck overturned outside of Brevard and the squirrels were captured by a Brevard resident in the 1950's. 

Dupont State Forest, the only state forest in North Carolina, is next door. And one of the waterfalls there, Triple Falls, was used as a filming spot for the movie The Hunger Games. There are, however, 249 waterfalls located in Transylvania County so as they say "when it comes to North Carolina waterfalls, Transylvania County is Mecca."

So if you like visiting small, throw back, mountain towns with festivals, shopping, and idyllic main streets, then Hendersonville and Brevard are your kind of towns. And don't forget the surrounding mountains and the awesome fall color. Maybe I need to plan a trip for this year!

This blog is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Oh Savannah, you are a charmer!

Recently my two daughters and I paid a visit to the charming city of Savannah, Georgia. It had been quite awhile since any of us had been there - and it was a super quick getaway - but I always welcome any excuse to visit Savannah. 

Separated from South Carolina by the Savannah River, Savannah is known for it's tree-lined squares, southern hospitality and the cobblestoned River Street. It's also the setting for the book - and movie- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.(You can visit and tour Mercer House where the book takes place) Forrest Gump sat on a bench here in the movie of the same name. And you would be surprised to learn that Savannah hosts the third largest St. Patrick's Day Celebration in the world, hosting half a million visitors to it's parade and party. (I've never attended this, but I did get stuck in a traffic jam around it on the interstate once) 

Here are some things you can do in this charming city:

1. Forsyth Park
Another thing Savannah is famous for is Forsyth Park and it's famous fountain. (Every year the water is dyed green for St. Patrick's Day) Forsyth Park is a large city park, the largest in the historic district and the luxury hotel, The Mansion on Forsyth Park sits across the street from it. The park has a visitors center and cafe, some great people watching, bike riding and strolling.

2. River Street
River Street, the street running along the Savannah River, is quintessential Savannah. You can check out barges rolling down the river, eat at Huey's outdoor patio, get some famous pralines at River Street Sweets -and watch them being made - and just enjoy a stroll along the river. You can also catch a water taxi over to the South Carolina side to visit the large Westin hotel and catch some views of Savannah from there.

3. Visit the City Market
Billed as the place to shop, eat and drink in the city center, City Market has it all. There are several art galleries and an art center here where you can watch artists at work. 

One of Savannah's most famous native son's - Johnny Mercer - composer of "Moon River" and founder of Capitol Records

4. Eat
The food! Oh, the food! There's so much that we'll have to linger on this another day but Savannah is known as the home of Paula Deen and her restaurant, Lady and Sons. If you want some southern home cooking served family style  - since 1943 - then get to Mrs. Wilkes' House. But be prepared for a line - and lunch is the only meal served from 11am - 2pm. I've eaten there and it is fantastic! Fried chicken, butter beans, black eyed peas, okra and tomatoes - the list goes on and on. And Ye Olde Pink House is the place to celebrate a special occasion in Savannah. Housed in an 18th century mansion - that's pink - it is one of Savannah's most popular restaurants.

5. Wormsloe State Historic Site
Located about 12 miles outside of the city on the Island of Hope, Wormsloe was the first settlement in Georgia. Settled by Noble Jones in 1733, Wormsloe is the tabby ( a mixture of water, sand, oyster shells and ash) ruins of his plantation. There is a small museum with a short film about the site and the ruins you can visit but the most famous thing here is the breathtaking avenue of live oaks and spanish moss. Popular for weddings and photo shoots, you just can't miss this drive!

A day really isn't long enough! Plan for some time to explore the beautiful squares, maybe take in a concert at Forsyth Park, eat some delicious southern food and get a feel for the Hostess City.( And maybe avoid mid- August if you go - unless of course, you really love humidity. The city is dripping in it then!) 

Have you been to Savannah? If so, what did you eat there?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!