Awash with memories, this one’s about a special lady

My latest on hypeorlando is about the fantastic Harriett Lake. Settling into our new (old) neighborhood is bringing back a bunch of memories. The memory narrative I refer to is well worth a read, especially if you’ve lived in the area as long as I have.

Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

Another move for the Youngs!

Newly married in our new condo

It’s been a busy summer (now almost winter) which has included a move. We’re known for our tendancy not to sit in one place too long…here’s our history of selling and buying houses during our 41 years together. Stayin Alive in Yet Another Home

A tour of Quantum Leap Winery…the only one in town!

Further exploring Quantum Leap Winery, Orlando’s (not so well-kept) secret… Forever Young but Growing Old.

Our town might be growing in breweries but there is still only one winery in the city. Located on 1312 Wilfred Drive, in the Mills/50 District, it’s not far from the Track Shack. A great place to taste a vast collection or pick up the perfect gift. Now with extended hours open to the public, it’s easier to do just that. Enjoy!

Pull off Orlando’s Main Roads for These Fun Spots

Craft beer, independent winery, fried green tomatoes and camellias…Orlando has it all but you have to find them! Check out my latest post in TravelPulse about these hidden treasures.

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

A couple of weeks ago, Charlie and I were in New York City checking out some alternative lodging options in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Here’s a link to my TravelPulse blog post…enjoy and hoping the holidays are a happy time for all!

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Travel the world with these bloggers and photojournalists…eye-candy for the armchair traveler

A break in the daily cruise travelogue to praise our fellow writers and photojournalists. Check it out on hypeorlando…8 Global Journalists who take you to foreign lands without leaving home.

Vid and Savi, BruisedPassports.com

Vid and Savi, BruisedPassports.com

Next Stop Skagway and the White Pass & Yukon Railway

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Our next port of call would be Skagway, a small town developed when it was discovered there was gold in them thar hills…or mountains of Canada. We took the White Pass & Yukon Railway up to the Summit, learning of the rich history of the land along the way.

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Our tall conductor

Our tall conductor

The train climbed past expansive vistas, colorful wildflowers, through tunnels and over bridges. The cloud cover was low which gave the scenery a spooky feel. Along the way there was constant narration describing some bizarre stories about the lives of railroad builders and gold diggers. The White Pass & Yukon Route climbs from sea level to almost 3,000 feet over a course of 20 miles. It’s amazing that this kind of construction could occur around the turn of the century in such harsh terrain.

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A ghost bridge to nowhere...looking even more ghostly in the clouds

A ghost bridge to nowhere…looking even more ghostly in the clouds

The trip takes several hours, returning from the Summit covering the same route but everything looks different traveling the other way. At the top, the engine is moved to the other end of the train and the seats are flipped to face the other direction. Once back in Skagway we returned to the Nieuw Amsterdam and then, later explored the town.

A refresher in The Crow's Nest before heading back out to explore the town

A refresher in The Crow’s Nest before heading back out to explore the town

 

View of downtown Skagway from the Crow's Nest on the ship

View of downtown Skagway from the Crow’s Nest on the ship

 

Ready to head out to Glacier Bay

Ready to head out to Glacier Bay

Mountain Update and new posts on TravelPulse and hypeorlando

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Taking a break from cruise blogging to write about early Christmas shopping on hypeorlando and a post about the upcoming Fall Farm and Artisans’ Tour in conjunction with local B&Bs on TravelPulse (just click on the links).

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We’ve been busy, up here in NC, exploring Asheville and the surrounding mountain towns. The temps still remain 75 or under…some evenings drop to low 60’s and even high 50’s the other morning. This is why we’re here.

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Deer sightings are in abundance this month, as are squirrels terrorizing us by sitting in trees, high above our metal roof, using us as target practice with these round objects which sound like cannon balls. They hit the roof and then roll down…honestly, if not cannons they sound like bowling balls!

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Yesterday this was a nice mound of colorful impatiens…last night they were a deer’s appetizer

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Visitors arriving in a couple of weeks…will head home mid October, hopefully, after a gorgeous display of fall leaves.

More cruise news and photos to follow…

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Holy Sh*t moments in Juneau

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After two nights and a full day of cruising, we arrived in Juneau. Surprised at how small this town is, especially since it’s the capitol of Alaska, we were told that most of the jobs were in state government or tourism. Of course, fishing is a major industry here, also. Our ship docked just after lunch and we had an excursion planned a couple of hours later.

Our floatplane

Our floatplane

We bravely, but with a fair amount of trepidation, chose a Wings Airways seaplane (or floatplane, as they’re called in Alaska) touring five of the glaciers of Juneau’s massive icefield. Strapping into the 10 passenger De Havilland Otter was scary, to say the least, especially on such a cloudy day but we just sucked it up, donned our headphones and held our breath.

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Will I need this?

Will I need this?

Side note: You WILL be asked to divulge your weight and it WILL be written on your ticket in big red figures. If you choose to lie about your weight, you might feel a bit of panic as the plane takes off, worrying that everybody else might have lied, too. Not that I have any experience in this, just sayin…

Bye, bye, Nieuw Amsterdam - hope we make it back!

Bye, bye, Nieuw Amsterdam – hope we make it back!

To say this was a #HolyShitMoment is an understatement. From the moment our bush plane’s floats left the water until we drifted back to dock, the views were exhilarating and we were glad we chose this adventure. Observing the glaciers from above offers an amazing insight into how these huge structures are formed.

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The 40-minute adventure covered five glaciers, most of which are receding. The Taku Glacier, however, is the largest in the ice field and the only one still advancing. Wearing headphones, we listened to educational narration throughout the flight with oodles of photo opps as every seat has its own window.

My intrepid photographer!

My intrepid photographer!

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There were a few anxious moments when we were buffeted about a bit but the experienced pilot kept us level and before we knew it we were gliding into the bay for a smooth landing, wishing the flight wasn’t coming to an end.

Flowers of Juneau

Flowers of Juneau

Afterward, we strolled the streets of the town and ducked into the infamous Red Dog Saloon. During the mining era, the owner would meet tour boats, with a mule wearing a sign stating, “follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon.”  Now, modern tourists and cruisers fill the sawdust-floored bar looking for a brew and a raunchy song.

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Tomorrow finds us in Skagway…

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An unexpected treat…cruising through Alaska!

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Waiting, waiting…

An incredible opportunity opened up for Charlie and I to join a press group, cruising Alaska’s waterways with Holland America Lines on the ms Nieuw Amsterdam. The offer was last minute, as in 2 ½ weeks, but the calendar was clear and, luckily, we brought our passports to NC, so we were in. The key to a happy retirement is flexibility and spontaneity. No moss growing on our rolling stone!

The plan was to fly from Asheville to Vancouver and back via Chicago. It takes an hour to get to the airport from the mountain house and the flight was on time when we left. Arriving at the airport, however, we discovered our flights, in both Asheville and Chicago were delayed. We started sweating bullets when our originating flight wound up 3 hours late but managed to find our terminal and gate in Chicago in time.

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The Pan Pacific, overlooking the terminal

The rest of the trip was seamless as we were picked up in Vancouver, driven through the streets of the city and dropped off at the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, atop Canada Place’s cruise ship terminals. Arriving around 6 pm we had time to walk a few blocks to dinner at Original Joe’s on Robson Street. Of course, our brains were telling us it was 3 hours later so we were disinclined to imbibe in the local beer offerings as we were afraid we wouldn’t make it back to the hotel.

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The Pan Pacific is gorgeous and next morning our ship was in dock waiting for us to board. We met our fellow journalists for breakfast and were amazed at how far some of them traveled…Australia, Holland, London, Austria, Belgium and a few more from the states…all lovely people who were a joy to accompany on this trip of a lifetime.

Leaving beautiful Vancouver

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View from our deck

The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is one of HAL’s larger ships, much bigger than the ms Maasdam, on which we cruised through New England and Nova Scotia last year. The comfort level and beauty were the same, however, this time with a touch of Manhattan and NYC art deco touches. Our Verandah was roomy, located at the back of the ship, which proved to be a perfect place to view all that Alaska had to offer.

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We met our group again at the Crow’s Nest on the Observation Deck, for a welcome cocktail and then dinner in the Manhattan Dining Room. The food on these cruises is just phenomenal and the champagne was flowing that night, along with perfect wine pairings. We were reminded that we needed to take it easy and not eat our way through the trip…not an easy task!

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Next morning, we met for a private Galley tour. What we saw was a well-organized effort to feed over 2,000 guests and more than 900 crew members. The kitchens were spotless and we saw smiling faces and beautiful culinary creations. Here are some stats…a typical 7-day cruise goes through 23,000 eggs, 1,675 pounds of butter and 137,500 pounds of fresh vegetables. It’s mind-boggling the amount of work that goes into storing, preparing and serving this much food. And they do it cheerfully and meticulously.

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Working so fast, his hands are a blur

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The final taste test

That night we met at The Pinnacle Grill, one of three fine dining choices, which will cost extra but are well worth the price. The menu highlights Pacific Northwest steak and seafood along with an ample choice of wines. Looking out the window we spotted the backs of a few whales cruising alongside the ship. I should mention that the other dining choices, which are included in the price of the cruise, are top of the line. You can choose the Lido buffet which changes offerings every day, along with the Manhattan Dining Room, which is a 2-level, formal dining experience.

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Pepper?

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Vid and Savi, Bruised Passports

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Delectable crab cakes

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Captain Edward Van Zaane and his lovely wife, Apollonia…yes, that Apollonia!

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Here are a couple of links to my blog posts on hypeorlando about this trip… Sushi virgins no longer and What the rest of the world thinks of Americans – Next up, Days 3 and 4, sailing through Tracy Arm, arriving in Juneau and Skagway.

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3 Reasons to visit Asheville

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North Lodge on Oakland

I just want to share some of my recent posts about Asheville in hypeorlando and TravelPulse. We were invited to stay in 3 lodges which are indicative of the hospitality and beauty of this city.

TravelPulse is a newsy travel industry site which is heavy on words, but not photos. Here’s the link to that one… Click here for TravelPulse

I broke down each of the Inns on hypeorlando as more of a pictorial:

The North Lodge on Oakland is a small B&B, close to the Biltmore Estate, operated by a lovely couple who take pride in their home. Click here for the North Lodge

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Gary and Cindy Broaddus, Innkeepers

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Library Room at the North Lodge

Our next stop was the Reynolds Mansion where Billy Sanders treated us like royalty. This home was built by slaves and has undergone massive renovations with the intent to restore it to its original beauty. Click here for The Reynolds Mansion

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The Reynolds Mansion

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The Reynolds Mansion Guestroom Lila

I can’t believe I had never heard of the Omni Grove Park Inn. An NC neighbor recommended it and I was amazed by the history and architecture of this lodge. Click here for the Omni Grove Park Inn

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Photo courtesy of The Omni Grove Park Inn

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Sunset over Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains

We’re now in the last week of a month-long visit by 2 of the grandkids and will be heading back to Florida to deliver them to mom. After a short stay in Orlando, we’ll be returning to Wolf Laurel with Ali and James in tow.

So far the weather has been the reason we moved up here for the summer. The temps have risen in town but when we drive back up the mountain to our house, we’re back in the 60’s or low 70’s. There is definitely something to be said for high elevations!

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Home sweet NC home

Wolf Laurel Update

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The view when we arrived April 13

It’s been a little over a month since arriving at the mountain house for the summer. One thing we’ve learned is, next year, we’ll head up this way later in the spring/summer. Although it has been fun seeing the wildflowers of spring, the temps are chilly…just this morning we woke up to low 30’s, brrrr. Hopefully, this is the last cold spell and we won’t have to turn on the heat again. Our rhododendrons are about to bloom, much later than those in town and toward the bottom of the mountain…I’m guessing the low temps play a part in that.

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What a difference a month makes!

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Mayapples are everywhere. Each one only produces one tiny flower under an umbrella of leaves.

We’ve been busy fixing up the house, painting, patching, hauling stuff we don’t want to Goodwill. We enjoyed bonding with the Bonds last week during their visit after nephew, Andrew, graduated UCF. They are experienced hikers so we had our hands full keeping up with them while visiting their old vacation haunts. Checking out the stars on Andrew’s telescope in the pitch blackness of the mountain was a high point. The night sky provides quite a show when light pollution is not an issue. Looking forward to more visitors…Jess, Chris and the grandkids are arriving mid June, then Ali and James in July. We’re feeling a bit like empty-nesters since sis, Patty, and her crew left, though.

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Snow on Big Bald

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Missing the Bond’s boots on the porch

Critter sightings include deer, turkey, chipmunks and, we think, a big fat groundhog. No bear scares but we are always vigilant.

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This little lady charged toward Patty and I on our walk. We were the “deer in the headlights” til she darted away.

We enjoy our visits to Mars Hill, Weaverville and Asheville, when we need a dose of civilization. One thing that stands out, everybody is so friendly and happy up here, whether at the grocery store, restaurants, shops…always a smile and ready to help. And highway driving is way more civilized than what we deal with in Florida. Missing our newspaper home delivery and still can’t find where the Sunday NY Times is sold. We’re old and old-school…getting our news online is just not the same.

This is a whole new world for us and it’s been a bit of a learning curve. We’re happy with our choice of house and area, we just have to become more accustomed to the harsh terrain. We’re so spoiled in Florida…bitch as we might about the heat and humidity, it’s an easy environment in which to live, with all its flatness.

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Every night the sunsets are phenomenal over the ridge

The Barns of Burnsville

The town of Burnsville is a favorite of ours when we’re in the mood for BBQ – Bubba’s is our first choice. There’s a back gate off the mountain in Yancy County, which we checked out for the first time yesterday…nice alternate route when you don’t feel like getting on the interstate. What we found, in just a 5 mile stretch of road, were a bunch of barns in all shapes, sizes and state of disrepair…

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Most of the time we were the only car on the road so stopping wasn’t a problem. Some of these barns looked like they’d topple over but must’ve been made of strong stuff to withstand harsh winters. I’d love to know their histories.

Check me out on TravelPulse.com

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Gotta blow my own horn here, so to speak, with the news that TravelPulse.com has published one of my blog posts and I am in contract with them to write further content. Most will be based in Orlando but I’ll be writing about Asheville this summer, also. First post is about the rise of the craft beer industry in Orlando…research was great fun!

It’s a major step for me as I’ve been slooooowly working towards this kind of validation as a writer, focusing on travel, and it feels good to be validated. Thanks to Kim Warrner for informing me about the Orlando Sentinel‘s blog platform,  hypeorlando.com, right after we moved back to Orlando. Writing for them has been a wonderful exercise in discipline and the support really helps, as sitting at a computer, hoping to get noticed, can be very isolating. Just when you feel like giving it all up, someone in the hypeorlando group will pat you on the back, come up with a few words of encouragement and spur you on.

Geez, this is sounding like an acceptance speech for an Academy Award! Actually, it kind of felt that way when I saw my name under the TravelPulse banner yesterday. More to come…

When Plan A fails…make sure you have Plan B, C and D available

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So the deal wasn’t done and the papers weren’t signed, lucky for us we had an honest inspector who immediately saw structural issues and did not continue the process. Inspections are pricey in the mountains and he saved us quite a few bucks by not going any further. He said a structural engineer needed to see the damage and go from there. It was enough for us to cancel the contract and move on. Very disappointing, especially since the owner is a structural engineer and should have disclosed the problems on the contract.

We’ve learned not to become emotionally attached to anything we attempt to purchase so we weren’t envisioning family holidays on the deck quite yet. There were others on our short list and some more popped up on the MLS, so we kept shopping. Our criteria and must-have list was short – 3,000 feet in elevation, a view, high ceilings (we want to feel like we’re in a mountain house, not sitting in a subdivision somewhere with low ceilings), and a location that doesn’t need a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Elevation is a must as our main reason for purchasing a summer home is to get out of the heat and humidity of Orlando. Our research has shown that 3,000 feet pretty much insures not having to turn on the a/c all summer. A panoramic mountain view is fleeting. The house that failed inspection had a killer view off the deck but that deck might be sliding off the mountain in the future. Another house had a great view but was too small and, inside, felt like we were anywhere but in the mountains. Another one had a death-defying drive-way and a larger car would have to back out of it without being able to turn around.

In the end we’re losing the view with the chosen abode, but it’s just a short walk away, along with the Appalachian Trail, and the size and location make up for it. Check out my hypeorlando.com blog at Forever Young but Growing Old for details on our last visit. Hopefully, we’ll close in early December and have more to report with pictures. But those photos might include snow!

 

 

 

Tijuana Flats…not just good food but good people

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Recently I was invited to a blogger event at the Tijuana Flats on East Colonial, in Orlando. These events are one of the many perks of writing a blog, especially with hypeorlando (the Orlando Sentinel blog platform). We get to taste-test new menu items and get an insider view of house local restaurants operate.

I’m including a link to my recent Tijuana Flats blog post with hypeorlando…”Tijuana Flats, superb Tex Mex and giving back to the community

It’s heartening to know that local businesses play such a big part in helping our community by giving back in ways we might be aware of. And the sangria is awesome!

Chamois surprise

After 10 hours on the Goldenpass train, the day before, it was time for a hike. Charlie’s been talking about an area, he’s seen running, called Monteret. Just up, down, up again and over the mountain, are two large buildings which include group houses, owned by a couple of Presbyterian churches. They serve gatherings of children, adults, weddings, etc. One is a modern building which sleeps 50 people, the other is a castle-like house which was the original group home.

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Our new friend, Joy, told us about the chamois gathering there to munch on the grass, so I was hoping to spot one or two along the way. Reaching the field in front of the houses, sure enough, I spotted two at the bottom of the hill. They took notice of me but did not run off and continued eating. The sun was behind them so photos were impossible. Only thing to do was head down the hill to the side of them, far enough away as not to scare them, but close enough to get a couple of pictures. This plan worked and they weren’t too nervous, but kept an eye on me while they munched the grass below.

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After taking advantage of the photo opp, I decided it was time to head back up the hill. To my shock, upon turning around, there were a dozen more chamois behind me…they had silently come out of nowhere and my presence didn’t seem to bother their search for food. It was a surreal moment, standing there watching these beautiful animals forage in the ground. They are also called goat-deer and goat-antelope as they resemble both. The two I saw further out were much bigger than this group and had large horns…must’ve been the males off on their own.

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I could have stood there all day but then Charlie came running around the bend and, when spotted by the chamois, they started to move on in a pack, walking across the grass onto a large patch of snow. This is a sight and experience I hope to remember forever…the cold, crisp air combined with the view of Mont Blanc, a thick, white layer of cloud hanging over Lake Geneva, and a herd of chamois grazing right in front of me. Life is good!

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