Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Best of 2015!!!!

Another year has gone by and it's time to wrap up my destinations for 2015. It started out as a big destination year for me and sorta, kinda fell off the rails in the middle and ended with a long road trip. Let's see where 2015 took us -

Western Caribbean Cruise
In January Mr. UR and I went on a Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Glory with his brother and his wife (Hi R and M!) to celebrate our 30th anniversaries. Leaving out of Miami, the ports of call were Belize, the island of Roatan off of Honduras and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. There was lots of fun and sunshine and we snorkeled the Meso-American reef in 3 different places. Mr. UR's favorite form of travel is cruising - sometimes you can only see water as far as you look, there is no driving involved once you are on the ship and you can't beat the cost. 


February saw me taking my first trip to Asia. I met my 2 daughters in Tokyo - one was heading to Korea to study abroad and the other was taking a week's vacation from work.  Everything about this trip was unique - the sights, the food, the people and the atmosphere.  I tell everyone who asks that it took me a long time to process Japan - it was familiar yet foreign. I don't know how else to describe it. I would  return in a heartbeat and would love to see more of the island.

Southwestern US

Mr UR and I headed to southwestern Utah to meet up with our oldest and his girlfriend and tour Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell. There was lots of driving involved and lots of beautiful scenery. Seriously some of the most beautiful places I've been to. Vastness and desolation. And I feel like we still didn't touch the tip of the iceberg in seeing all there was to see.

New England

In June we went to visit our oldest daughter in Boston. We took a long weekend and borrowed a friend's cottage in Connecticut and visited Block Island and Watch Hill, Rhode Island and Mystic and Stonington, Connecticut. Classic New England with lobster eating, Mystic pizza, boats in harbors and chilly temps - even in June. I always forget how much I love New England and it's unique version of itself - "it's so New England"

Southport, North Carolina

In September I visited one of my new favorite destinations - Southport and the Brunswick Isles area of North Carolina. Just outside of Wilmington, North Carolina this area is perfect for beach lovers with each town having it's own personality. Recently famous for the filming location of the movie "Safe Haven", Southport is enjoying it's own little tourism renaissance.  And Bald Head Island is beach and island perfection, though a bit pricey. 

New Hampshire's White Mountains

I visited my daughter in New England again but this time we headed north from Boston to New Hampshire's White Mountains. My first time to this area, I was blown away by it's beauty. I was also surprised how uncrowded it was for a Saturday in October. With very little traffic on the interstate, the drive up and back was fantastic.  We drove the Kanc (Kancamagus Highway), went up in the Cannon Mountain Tramway and visited The Flume. 

Colorado Christmas

In December Mr. UR and my youngest and I did a massive road trip across the US to Colorado for the Christmas holiday. My daughter flew in from Boston and we spent five days in Denver and three in the mountains of Breckenridge. And five days in the car! Lots of fun. We visited the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Botanic Garden, Colorado Springs,the Denver Christmas Market, Vail and went to an Oxygen bar in Breckenridge. Great Christmas trip.

So, there you have it. 2015. I am so  blessed to be able to do what I love - travel. Short trips and long - I enjoy them all (well, unless they involve weather delays or missed connections! ha ha) And I thank all of you for taking the time out of your day to visit and read The Unpaved Road. I love writing this blog and I love interacting with all of you who stop by here on a weekly basis. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

What does 2016 hold for me? I have no idea. I usually have all my travel planned in my mind by now - not necessarily booked but planned. And I have nothing planned right now but a few glimmers in my eye. We are in the midst of some family health problems and a possible move for my in-laws, so planning anything right now seems questionable. So I'm going with the flow - not easy for a planner! I'm thinking that most of our travel will be in the summer and fall this year. But maybe not - we'll just have to wait and see! Stay tuned!

I'm linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season! I am enjoying spending the holiday with my family in Colorado and I'll be back next week to wrap up 2015 and look forward to 2016.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Wright Brothers National Memorial

Tomorrow marks the 112th anniversary of the first successful airplane flight. Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, who ran a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, were the first in flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Today you can visit the site of the first flight at The Wright Brothers National Memorial.

The National Memorial, located in Kitty Hawk, contains a visitor center, a mock camp site like the brothers actually used, the memorial and a sculpture of the plane and the men at the first flight. The Visitors Center includes replicas of the 1902 glider and the 1903 flyer and you can stand at the site where the first flight took place. 

You can climb Big Kill Devil Hill to see the actual memorial and enjoy views of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

There is a sculpted replica of the actual moment of flight. All characters, including the plane, that were there on that fateful day are in place - and you can climb all over it! Plus, you can put yourself in each spot of each person to see what it was like. By the way, that first flight lasted 59 seconds and went 852 feet. There were 5 attempts that day but one was memorialized by Wilbur Wright's camera as John Daniels tripped the shutter on take-off.

When you visit the National Memorial you can learn all about the experimentation, the process and the frustrations of four years of trying to take flight. They were far from home and family dealing with the weather living in tents and dealing with the elements.  It's a very interesting story and I learned so much! ( Did you know they didn't call if flying at first? They called it jumping) If you're near the Outer Banks, or have an interest in the history of flight then you'll want to visit The Wright Brothers National Memorial.

Did you know that both Ohio and North Carolina have had a feud over The Wright Brothers - Ohio, where the Wright Brothers were born,  claims it is "The Birthplace of Aviation" and North Carolina claims they are "First in Flight"? What do you think? Who should make that claim?

I'm linking up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections En Route and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner! Go check em out!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Night of A Thousand Candles

Every December, Brookgreen Gardens, just south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, hosts A Night of A Thousand Candles. This event had been on my radar for several years and I finally decided I was going to make it happen. Brookgreen or bust!

Brookgreen Gardens is a sculpture garden and nature preserve founded by sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband Archer Huntington. Anna was a prominent American sculptor whose claim to fame was the first sculpture placed in New York City by a female sculptor (see her Joan of Arc at Riverside and 93rd Street) Well known for her animal sculptures, Anna and her husband designed and founded the gardens and lived nearby in their mansion, Atalaya, which is now part of Huntington Beach State Park. (You can roam the ruins of Atalaya at the state park)

I've been to a few holiday light exhibitions - and none were like this one. Night of A Thousand Candles is not kitschy, there are no animal characters and the background music played is classical. It's simply a very elegant holiday experience.

This event is continously ranked as one of the top 10 in the Eastern US so be prepared. Cars wait in line on Route 17 turning the corner to get into the entrance to the gardens. I saw license plates from all over the Eastern seaboard so visitors come from afar to see the lights! We arrived before dark - which I would highly recommend! - so that we could see the lights coming on and the candles being lit. Very cool.

Check out the guy in waders lighting the candles! That's how they do it!

There are actually 5,500 candles lit each evening along with a humongous Christmas tree and I don't know how many lights. There are several tents set up with different types of entertainers performing and a snack bar with food available for purchase - including hot cocoa, wine and beer. (No alcoholic beverages are allowed to be brought in) Dinner is also served nightly from 3:30 to 9:30 pm including shrimp and grits, crab legs and oysters on the half shell.  Admission to the Gardens does not include dinner - that is separate and is served a la carte in the dining tent)Not your average Christmas lights experience!

Some of the areas of the gardens are quite lit up - and some of the sculptures are just highlighted with spotlights.  All are beautiful no matter what the lighting is like.

The cream of the crop, the piece de resistance and the most famous section of Brookgreen Gardens is The Avenue of the Oaks. And lit up in Christmas lights that look to be dripping down the oaks - wow! they look beyond amazing!

And don't forget the lighting of the Christmas tree every night!

All I can say is if you get the chance, go! Go to Brookgreen Gardens for a delightful Christmas experience - you'll be glad you did! I'm so glad I did - in fact, I want to go back right now!

Tips for visiting Night of A Thousand Candles

- Tickets are sold online and there is a savings if you purchase in advance. The website is Tickets currently are $18 for adults and $10 for children. Members of Brookgreen Gardens receive discounts.
- Traffic can be heavy on Route 17 and near the entrance with long lines of cars. Arrive early if you can.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes. Parking is in pine needle covered dirt lots and walking can be hazardous after dark.
- Arrive before dark if you would like to see the lighting of the candles.
- Most exhibits are outdoors but there is also an indoor exhibit which changes yearly.
- Check the website for the entertainment schedule, directions and the dinner menu.

I'm linking up! Please check out my fellow travelers at Travel Photo ThursdayWeekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes & Beyond  and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Malaysian Meanders!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Florida Snowstorm at The Christmas on Third Festival of Lights

The legend of Santa Claus began in the cold  winter climate of Europe. In America, our ideal Christmas is portrayed as snowy, with a blazing fireplace inside and sledding outside. But that's not the case in all of the US. The southern part of Florida has a balmy, and usually, sunny climate year-round. Which just doesn't mesh with the ideal picture we have in our heads of Christmas.In the town of Naples, Florida they've taken to creating their ideal snowy Christmas - even if they have to make it themselves.

Every year, in the last week of November, the Christmas on Third Festival of Lights takes place on Third Street South. With the exception of Thanksgiving, every night the snow falls at 7:30pm and kids of all ages can take in the wonder of a snowfall in Southern Florida.

We arrived well before the scheduled snowfall. Third Street South is a shopping and eating street in the center of Naples. There were lots of people eating at the outdoor cafes and taking in the Christmas lights. Kids, families, extended families and even a few groups of teenagers who wanted to catch a Florida snowfall.

Some of us grabbed some gelato - cause even though it was about to snow, gelato is always a good idea!

And then we waited. There was an excitement in the air - and I was just beginning to wonder if it wasn't going to snow when started snowing! At first it was a few snowflakes, which turned to more until the car windows were covered with a layer of snow. 

If you can't tell from the photos, the artificial snow makers are attached to the light posts and the snow is blown from there. Similar to a snow making machine at a ski slope, only much smaller.

Snow on palm trees! Well, not real snow...but fun snow! Enough to put you in the Christmas spirit. If you're not a cold weather fan, like Mr. UR, then this is the perfect place to see snow. Warm and balmy and you get to experience a warm snow for about half an hour and then go home to your palm tree covered yard or hotel. Or even down to the beach. A perfect evening!

If you celebrate Christmas, is yours a warm weather one or do you get snow?

I'm linking up! Please visit Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Malaysian Meanders, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner!