Sunday, February 28, 2016

February 2016

And another month gone by - February 2016! Let's move on with our recap - 

Travel this month was limited to a weekend visit to the Outer Banks, the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. I always forget how much I love this area until I return there. We started in Wilmington, North Carolina and worked our way to Morehead City where we caught the ferry to Ocracoke and then caught the next ferry to Hatteras. We made the drive along Cape Hatteras National Seashore - one of the 10 most beautiful drives in the US - and ended up staying in Duck, North Carolina. More of this trip to come on the blog.

My favorite food that I ate for the month was a donut - or two- from the famous Duck Donuts in the Outer Banks. You order how many donuts you would like and they then pop the dough in the oil and make them fresh right there. They put the drippy toppings on and voila! They're yours. I had a chocolate iced vanilla cake and a maple bacon - they're most popular donut - and yes, I had them for dinner the night that I bought them. Donuts for dinner - why not?!
But there is also an honorable mention for the month - and that was the fried pickles at Front Street Brewery in Wilmington, North Carolina. I don't like pickles but I love fried pickles and have been trying them everywhere we go. And Front Street Brewery has some of the best fried pickles!

I read two non-fiction books this month. For some reason, I didn't have any fiction books on hold at the library. So non-fiction it was. I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert who is the author of the best-selling Eat Pray Love (and the movie of the same name). This book is about tapping into your creativity and making room for it in your everyday life. I loved this book and I read it in a coupla days. Might even re-read it. Gilbert writes as if she is talking to you and giving you a pep talk to tap into your own creativity. Really good read for me. The second book I read was The Power of Habit by Gretchen Rubin who is the author of the famous The Happiness Project. Rubin is always analyzing and looking for ways to make her life more meaningful and efficient. This book deals with different personality types and how to own your own habits. It goes into a lot of detail and analysis so it took me longer to read but I enjoy Gretchen Rubin's books and her suggestions for real-life use of ideas to make your own life more meaningful.

So once again, another month gone and here comes March!

What about you? Did you travel somewhere or eat something unique or read a great book? I'm always looking for suggestions!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pikes Peak - The Winter Version

My first visit to Pikes Peak was in the fall. We paid the admission fee and drove the 19 miles to the top. We saw a few snowflakes and managed to catch an adult tricycle ride on the way down. On my most recent visit it was December and I wasn't even sure if the road was open. But we were in Colorado Springs anyways, so we decided to give it a try.

Pikes Peak from the highway

It was open and the admission fee to drive it was discounted to $10. The catch was that the road was only open to Mile 13 due to high winds. But we said, "why not?" and decided to do it. 

Pikes Peak was wearing quite the different look this time around. But it was still just as majestic - maybe even more so in the snow. There were maybe two or three other cars on the road and it was nicely cleared so we had this winter wonderland pretty much to ourselves. 

This is at the reservoir at Mile Marker 6.  There were signs warning of the danger to stay off the ice. She's standing on a rock above the lake, not on the ice.

We got out of the car at Mile 6 at the Crystal Creek reservoir and the visitor center, which was closed.The wind was whipping like crazy and it was cold! We took some very quick photos and took a bathroom break along with one other family who was braving the wind also.

We happily got back in the car and kept driving up and up until we hit Mile 13 and the Glen Cove Inn. The Glen Cove Inn was originally a cabin built in 1886 which was then turned into a traveler's way station on the "road to the clouds". We stopped at the gift shop there and by now the wind was really fierce. I could see why it was closed at the top! And we turned around and went back down. We did stop for a few more photo opportunities - they were also very quick!

At the entrance to the road to Pikes Peak is the Pikes Peak Winery. We thought we would stop there for an afternoon glass of wine but they were closing for the day. So we went around the corner to The Wines of Colorado - an eatery with a wine tasting room. We tried the house specialty of French Onion soup - it really hit the spot after (almost) climbing a mountain, albeit by car!

How about you? Have you been to Pikes Peak? In the winter?

I'm linking up once again with : Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Charleston's Magnolia Plantation

Charleston, South Carolina has 4 major plantations to visit - Drayton Hall, Middleton Place, Boone Hall and Magnolia. My goal is to visit all four - and I've made it to two, Boone Hall and now, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
Known for their gardens, Magnolia is the only garden in South Carolina voted one of "America's Most Beautiful Gardens" by Travel &Leisure. Even though I was there "off-season", it was still quite a treat to visit.

I visited Magnolia because I had a groupon to visit the gardens. Yes, a groupon. (A groupon is a group coupon purchased online offering daily deals for different services)  It was for the gardens only and the day I picked to visit was "cut the air with a knife" humid. Like " hair curling, clothes stick to you" humid. But it was a chance to visit their beautiful gardens, so I did.

According to their website, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is the oldest public gardens in America opening to the public in 1870. Founded by the Drayton family in 1676, the gardens have survived through the American Revolution and the Civil War. The gardens are "Romantic Style" meaning they are not formal and do not seek to control nature, but rather cooperate with it. And there is a calendar of what is blooming each month so you can schedule your visit with your favorite blooms.

Dripping in Spanish Moss, the gardens weren't in full bloom during my visit (hence the groupon) but they were still beautiful. Birds, a few blooms, and history all rolled into one made for an interesting afternoon.

Like many gardens, the plantation is divided into different areas with meandering walkways to take you through them. There is a family crypt, a dock area where the goods produced at the plantation were floated to market, a bamboo forest, a couple different ponds with bridges (the white bridge and the red bridge) and the oldest part of the garden, which is being redone.

If you're a history buff, you're gonna want to visit. The plantation has been around a long time surviving a coupla wars -  there is even a photograph of Abraham Lincoln visiting here. 

Then there are the camellias. Magnolia Plantation is an International Camellia Garden of Excellence. Native to Asia, camellias are perfect for the Carolinas. And Magnolia is apparently the place to go to see them as they have the "oldest and largest collection of camellias in America." They hold a winter camellia walk everyday from November to March. (Unfortunately, they were not blooming when I visited.) It's a pretty big deal here.

My ticket was only for the gardens but you can purchase tickets for the historic house (be prepared: it does not look like Tara), the nature train, the nature boat and the Slavery to Freedom tour which includes the original slave cabins. There is a cafe, a swamp garden and a gift shop. And peacocks. Lots and lots of peacocks wandering the grounds.

The main house
The nature boat leaving for a tour.

Those peacocks!

So there you have it. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in all their Romantic style finery. I'm going to have to return for azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas. The color should be amazing!

I'm linking up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Denver Art Museum

I don't remember going to museums when I was younger. I probably went to one on a field trip in elementary school. But my family didn't make a habit of visiting museums. I've since been to several museums as part of my travels - I saw Dolly the cloned sheep at the National Museum of Scotland, the Medici paintings at the Louvre and the artwork of the Wyeth family at the Farnsworth Museum in Maine. Sometimes it's not just the artwork or pieces in the museum but also the building itself. The Denver Art Museum, or DAM, was offering free family passes over the holidays so we traipsed on  down to downtown Denver to check it out.

I broke the supreme rule of travel and didn't do my research beforehand - I must've been blinded by the word free. I had no idea how large the Denver Art Museum really is. Comprised of two buildings, the newer one is 4 floors and the older one is seven stories tall, DAM is one of the largest museums between Chicago and the West Coast.( A docent told us that it houses one of the largest collections of Western Art in the US) My feet knew it by the end of our visit and we didn't even see half of what there was to see!

Entrance to the museum is located in the newer Frederic C Hamilton building so that's where we started. Modern and airy, this building housed the Super Indian exhibit, which was an exhibit of 40 rarely seen pieces by the American Indian artist Fritz Scholder, some cubism pieces, some more modern pieces and an interactive exhibit on social media and art. 

There is a glass pedestrian bridge connecting the two buildings which houses the Western Art pieces. And then you can take your pick of 7 floors of art that you want to see! I think my favorite was the Asian art floor - it was organized by country with everything from pottery, to tapestries, to scrolls, to ink drawings to ceremonial robes. Here are some Wyeth paintings on display -

One of the coolest things they have done is present the Rocky Mountains as art. There are horizontal windows which frame the mountains perfectly as if they are a painting. There is also a rooftop area, which wasn't open when we were there, that also uses the buildings to frame the surrounding landscape.

This is obviously just a general overview  -  I know I've left out quite a bit but if you'd like more information on visiting the Denver Art Museum, click here. And if you do decide to visit, make sure you have plenty of time and good walking shoes. You're gonna need both!

Have you visited the Denver Art Museum? If so, what was your favorite part?

I'm linking up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner!