Friday, April 21, 2017

Everglades National Park: Focus on the Details

Alligator lurking in the Everglades

Most U.S. National Parks wow visitors with the massive, awe-inspiring scale of its landmarks. Stand on the brink of the Grand Canyon and gaze down at its depth  Cast your eyes upwards to take in the height of towering Sequoia trees.  Admire how Yellowstone Valley is framed by Bridalveil Falls plunging downwards on one side and the imposing El Capitan on the other. Breathe deep and greet the day as the sun's rays touches the United States for the first time every morning atop Acadia's Cadillac Mountain. These are the grand vistas visitors expect from national parks.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Keeping it Real

Slumped on a bench instead of looking around

My friends tell me that my kids are lucky to be so well traveled. If you read my previous post about Villa Vizcaya - Old World Opulence in the Heart of Miami, then you know more about Vizcaya than my kids do. My daughter will most likely get around to reading the Vizcaya post, but my boys never read this blog because, as they claim, they experienced it in real life.

We had just disembarked from our cruise that morning after staying up late the night before for a special 10:45PM, Thursday night release of the live action Beauty and the Beast. If you've ever been on a cruise, you know that they kick you out of the cabins super early so that they can prep for the next round of guests. The whole family was sleep deprived.

In any case, the kids could not muster up any interest in all the elegance surrounding them. When we were upstairs in the villa, they parked themselves on a bench in the passageway and didn't move. (I suppose this is better than having them touch every single breakable antique which is what I had to watch for when they were younger.)

They perked up in the fresh air of the Formal Gardens, drawn towards a Maze Garden where the hedges only reached as high as their thighs. So, it wasn't a total wash. 

Entering the Secret Garden

I just wanted to keep it real in case if you envisioned my kids being completely enthralled by everything we visit. I suppose they did repeatedly thank us for taking them on the cruise, so that's something.

If only I had figured out the Iron Man 3 connection beforehand.

What do you do to keep kids engaged?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Villa Vizcaya - Old World Opulence in the Heart of Miami

Vizcaya as seen from the Boat Landing

The great Jay Gatsby would approve of Vizcaya. I can picture it as his temporary home when escaping the unseemly cold that wraps itself around Long Island and his mansion in West Egg during the winter months. Vizcaya was built to impress. It screams Old World opulence and money that has been passed down for generations. Its antique-filled rooms and stately formal gardens mentally transport visitors to Europe despite the fact that they are just across the bay from Miami's famed South Beach.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

36 Hours in Miami

On the shores of Biscayne Bay

Miami is a special place for me. It's where my husband and I spent our wedding night nearly 25 years ago. Our honeymoon was a Caribbean cruise departing from Miami followed by a week at Walt Disney World. We were the type of couple who literally left for their honeymoon directly from the wedding reception. We arrived in Miami late at night, checked into our hotel by the airport and then shipped out the next morning. For last week's Spring Break Caribbean cruise — this time with our 3 kids along — we decided to arrive early to spend a bit more time sampling what the Miami area has to offer.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

One night at Community Inn can change a life

Community Inn B&B and Alamo Drafthouse Outdoor Cinema

I could already tell that this was a different sort of bed & breakfast establishment as I drove down Hog Eye Road in rural East Austin and saw the cluster of teepees, Airstream trailers, RVs and tiny houses off in the distance. In their midst stood a large screen and amphitheater for the free outdoor cinema that shows movies every Friday night when the weather is warm. Pulling into the parking lot, a "Welcome to Community First! Village" sign greeted me. And even though the sky was drizzling rain and the temperature had dropped by 20°F since the previous day, I did, in fact, feel warmly welcomed.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sunset from Lendal Bridge in York

York, England, River Ouse
Sunset over the River Ouse in York, England

Vacations are supposed to be a break from the ordinary. A time to escape everyday life. A chance to do something different. Sometimes, that different thing isn't big or grand. It's not always diving with sharks or sailing through the sky in a hot air balloon. Sometimes, it's the small details. It's the altered way of approaching everyday events. 

Lately, life has been a whirlwind. The after school hours are a blur for me as I chauffeur my three kids between school, activities and home. On Tuesdays, I spend two hours in my car continuously driving around but never going further than 10 miles from my house as if I'm running my own private bus route. My legs ache as I exit the car, glad to finally be able to stretch them out straight. On Wednesdays, I shuttle my kids around, dashing into the house for a few minutes before setting off again in my car. Whichever kid happens to be home at 5:30 PM is assigned the task of doing the final steps of cooking our family dinner that night. Other days, I reach home, and no one has taken on the dinner prep task. That night's meal becomes a smorgasbord of various microwaved leftovers. Whomever shows up in the kitchen last gets the least desirable morsels.

That's why I find joy in how we dine when we travel. It's so much more relaxed (unless I'm yelling that I am HANGRY and need to eat immediately). Someone else does the cooking. Even better, someone else does the cleaning up. Yay! No one at the table is rushing off to do homework or take a conference call. Whereas we rarely order dessert while dining out in our hometown, being in a foreign country is the perfect excuse to explore the local cuisine via something sweet and decadent. 

Afterwards, we stroll back to the hotel. If luck is smiling at us, it's timed perfectly so that the sinking sun sends out its brilliant last hurrah for the day as we cross a Gothic style, Victorian era bridge. In other words, the experience of our nightly meal is transformed into something utterly different and out of the ordinary.

Long after the trip is over and done with, I hold onto these memories. That's what gets me through the regular, the mundane, and the whirlwind.

It’s Your Turn, Link Up Your Newest Travel Inspiration

I've joined up as one of the co-hosts of Weekend Travel Inspiration.
  1. Link one of your inspirational travel photos or stories to this post by adding your info.
  2. Copy and paste our badge and a link to this page.
  3. Visit some of the other wonderful travel bloggers, read their posts, and leave a comment.  It would be great if you could comment on 2-3 posts.
  4. Tweet it and include this hashtag. #wkendtravelinspiration .
  5. Follow all the hosts of Weekend Travel Inspiration who are working hard to spread the word on what wonderful work travel bloggers are doing.
  6. Don’t forget to check out my amazing co-hosts and their pages: Reflections EnrouteThe Crowded PlanetContentedTravellerAlbom AdventuresSafari 254, and FamiliesGo.

I've also joined with the following linkups. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Spy vs. Spy at the International Spy Museum

Afraid that someone had heard me, I froze in place. I felt a little claustrophobic hunched down on my hands and knees inside the air duct I was crawling through. Catching a glimpse of the people in the room below me, I hoped that no one would look up and notice my face staring out through the hole in the vent. I strained my ears to try and pick up threads of conversation from the cacophony rising up from the crowd, praying that I would not be discovered and my cover blown. World traveler, expat trailing spouse, mom to three kids, prone to occasional bouts of daftness. It's the perfect cover for a spy.
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