I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
The Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park in Canada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been used as a training site for some NASA astronauts to train for missions to Mars and to the Moon. With the historic Dragon rocket launch yesterday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the first commercial space flight in history, launched with the first Americans on American soil in an American rocket in many years, I am thinking of my trip to this wonderful place a few years ago.
At this wonderful national park in Rocky Harbor, New Foundland, Canada, I walked along a section of orange rocks from the Earth’s Mantle, a layer of rock found normally deep beneath the Earth’s Crust that has been exposed to the surface of the Earth.
The Mantle is the layer just before the Earth’s outer core. How exciting it was to walk in the place where geologists proved the theory of Plate Tectonics, or the movement and collision of seven large “plates” (and several smaller “plates” of geological material), leading to the creation of geologic events such as earthquakes and volcanoes, as well as the many other processes that form, transform, and destroy rocks.
Most of the area at the Tablelands is made up of the rock peridotite, which is part of the Earth’s Mantle that was brought to the surface of the Earth by a large plate collision several hundreds of millions of years ago.
You may recognize the gem peridot, which is crystallized olivine. Olivine is the greenish area contained in the rock peridotite.
If you are a rock or geology lover, this is a great place to visit. I visited in September, which was cool but not too cold to hike. Click on the link below to find out the best way for you to get to the park:
If you are not a lover of geology, perhaps seeing fauna such as moose, woodland caribou, rock ptarmigan, arctic hare, boreal chickadee, Canada jay, or Newfoundland martins might interest you. If you’re not a big animal lover, perhaps some of the flora tucked in between the orange rock setting will interest you as well.
This place was an amazing place to visit, and I highly recommend it. In fact, two movies were even filmed at this park. If you recognize the setting, “Contact” (1997) with Jodie Foster and “Outlander” (2008) with Jim Caviezel were both filmed here.
Life is good. Travel as much as you can when the travel restrictions are lifted after the pandemic is under control. There is a whole wide world outside your window if you look for it.
I am always fascinated with the themes of perception and reality, ignorance and truth. In fact, when I was a young girl, I noticed some numbers adjacent to the inside door, close to the check out counter, in our local convenience store. These numbers were arranged in color-coded blocks, similar to those near the exit door at Lowes. I asked one of my parents about these brightly colored numbers, and one of my parents described that they were there to help identify the heights of any thieves that tried to steal from the store. The numbers represented the heights of the suspects, and the colors were designed to help the store clerk remember the numbers. Fascinating, especially to an older, inquisitive child. This really left an impression on me.
These numbers allowed me to see that everyone sees and remembers things differently. Our conception of reality is based on what we know or have seen, our personal biases, and our interpretations of what we’ve experienced. Fast forward to when I was young adult. Someone very dear to me and I went into a local field to fly a kite, believe it or not. College exams were over, and we were looking for a way to fly a kite as a way to unwind as I recall (based on my perception from many years ago, of course). We were laughing and joking, making a lot of noise, when out of the corner of our eye, we saw someone laying face down in the ground. Surely the person would have roused if asleep we thought. As we walked closer, we realized the person did not move at all, and the person’s calf was exposed and a bit mottled. We touched the person’s calf, seeking a pulse, when we realized the calf was cold. Stone cold. We looked at each other and came to the same realization at once. The person before us was dead. This was long before the days of the ubiquity of cell phones, so we RAN to call the police. Police arrived, and so did the local news reporters. I put my hood up, as it was cold in New England that day, the day we grew up, and I knew we would be there a while. More and more reporters arrived but were kept at a distance from the crime scene by the police while we gave our statements. The next day, reporters said a brother and his younger sister found the deceased person, likely due to the difference in heights between my companion and myself. Reporters said also that two young lovers were coming out from the woods that day, and nothing was further from the truth. Discrepancies upon discrepancies were reported to the public by the news media. We later learned that the poor deceased woman was an inmate from a local state hospital mental health ward and had ground privileges. The story that was told to the media by the police was that she fell asleep and died from exposure to the cold that day.
In Plato’s “Republic”, a story is told about a cave. In this “cave allegory” as it has been called by many people, there is a group of prisoners who have been chained since childhood in a cave such that they can face only one wall, and there is a fire burning behind them. As such, the fire casts numerous shadows in front of them, and they have come to accept that is what is real. This is the only stimulation these people have had in their dreary lives. The focus of their lives, in fact, are the shadows, which are the only things they have come to know.
One day, one of the prisoners escapes from the cave and makes his way out of the cave. Outside of the cave, he is shocked and afraid to learn that he sees numerous things he had no idea existed. He squints to see the sun, then focuses on the sights before him. He realizes there are other people outside the cave as well as real animals, too, and he delights in this knowledge. He returns eagerly to the cave, almost blind from the sun, and tries to explain to the others, with joy, about the world that exists beyond their little cave beyond the shadows. There is some suggestion in the story, too, that if the man tried to free the others from their confines, they would kill him, as they would rather remain in the cave with their eyesight healthy, just as it was.
So many of us live in a similar cave, surrounded by what we THINK is the truth, either metaphorically or in reality. Our versions of what we have come to know is based on our limited exposure and understanding to the events, people, places, and things around us. While some of us seek to see beyond the cave, despite the risks, others of us prefer to remain inside the cave among our own limited knowledge, perception, or ignorance. Of course, some of us prefer to live only sometimes in that cave, depending on the situation at hand. Sometimes we venture out of the cave, yet other times we are more content not to explore beyond our comfort zone. Human behavior and the motivations for such are fascinating.
On a separate note, I have never encountered a cave that I didn’t love. During this period of self-isolation, I am reminded of a few of my visits to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky during a moment of my own armchair travel. This cave is known as the longest cave system in the world and is over four hundred miles long. At time of this writing, the cave is currently closed due to the covid epidemic but is normally open 364 days a year, closing only on Christmas. Normal hours are from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM (Central Time) . Plan ahead before you go, as year round cave temperatures can be around 54 degrees Fahrenheit, so you likely might want a jacket. Reservations are strongly recommended, as cave tours often sell out in advance, but some self-guided walk up tickets are available at times. Ticket prices vary, depending on the tour you select, and there are many tour options to meet your needs. Some tours require passage through tight spots, and others do not. Other tours require long distances with hundreds of steps and steep inclines, yet others require limited steps through short distances. One way to experience something different might be the Violet City Lantern Tour, during which the only light for visitors is from lanterns. There is also an accessible tour for those with limited mobility as well.
It’s best to check the website below to plan your visit and to check on the status of any changes to park operations:
I love a cave, any cave. There is something magical about a cave. It almost feels as though I am in a mermaid’s grotto whenever I see the beautiful stalagtites and stalagmite formations around me. I find it fascinating, too, that most caves remain a fairly constant temperature year round, no matter where there are located.
Caves transport us instantly to another time where it feels as though time elapsed photography happens before our eyes, as these beautiful cave formations happened drip by drip over many many years.
Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is a beautiful example of a cave in all its glory. This area was surrounded by water approximately two hundred and fifty million years ago, and then most of the water in the area dried up. What was left behind is a bed of limestone now. Minerals have flowed over the limestone and collect to make the magical formations we see inside the cave.
The original cave was discovered by accident by a teenager named Jim White in 1898. He was riding his horse and saw many bats flying up from what appeared nowhere. He rode his horse closer and found a big hole into the ground. He left and brought a friend back with him, and they crawled through the caves with a torch and a ball of string to find their way back, according to the legend. Visitors can explore the cave through this natural opening (a 1.25 mile extremely steep trail which takes about an hour and is not recommended for those guests with heart or respiratory conditions) or take a seven hundred and fifty foot elevator to get to the bottom of the cave into the “Big Room” through the visitor’s center to walk along a 1.25 mile relatively flat trail, which takes about an hour and a half to walk. The Big Room is the only area accessible to guests in wheelchairs, and this trail can be bumpy. It is best for guests in wheelchairs to have help from another guest accordingly. Also, only guests with mobility issues are permitted to have a cane or walking stick in the caves, and the cane or walking stick must have a soft tip on the end.
Guests who enter through the visitor’s center have the option to visit a shorter .6 mile trail instead, which takes about forty-five minutes to walk. Apart from these “explore at your own pace options”, thrill seekers can go on a tour with a ranger into other, less explored, areas of the cave with reservations, as availability for these tours is very limited. Children under four are not allowed on any ranger-guided tours. Make sure you check the website ahead of time for any required footwear and other restrictions before you go. On these tours below, special equipment is normally provided by the park.
The Left Hand Tunnel Tour is a moderately difficult two hour candle lit tour
King’s Palace Tour – 1.5 hour tour requires walking up a steep hill where rangers frequently black out the lights for a few minutes in the cave
The Lower Cave Tour is a three hour tour, accessible by descending down sixty feet of ladders and a knotted rope that you need to hang onto as you descend backwards into the cave at some point (this tour is definitely NOT for everyone)
For adventure seekers, the four hour Hall of the White Giant tour might be for you if you are not afraid of confined spaces or heights, as in some parts you need to crawl through some tight openings, along with ladder climbings and free climbs as well. Minimum age for this tour is twelve, but anyone under sixteen must be accompanied by an adult.
The Slaughter Canyon Cave Tour is a five and a half tour into places without any electricity into narrow, uneven, and slippery areas.
In my opinion, the best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns is in August through September, where you can see baby Brazilian Free-Tailed bats fly out of and into the caves, along with adult bats, during pre-dawn or evening flights. The bats sometimes fly up to twenty-five miles an hour and are an impressive site. There is a ranger program that provides education about these fascinating creatures at Carlsbad near the “Natural Entrance” to the cave in the amphitheater. Make sure you check the website before going to Carlsbad during the Covid pandemic, however, to verify hours of operation, tour offerings, status, etc..
Speaking of bats, there is currently a huge concern with the bats at Carlsbad developing a disease called “White Nose Syndrome”, which has spread from the northeastern to central United States. This disease is caused by a fungus that causes the bats to wake up more frequently during their hibernation and to use up their fat reserves too quickly for the hibernating season, causing them to die. Visitors to Carlsbad Caverns, like many other caves in the US, will be asked to scrub their shoes on a special mat if they have visited other caves recently in order to help stop the spread of this bat disease, which is not contagious to humans.
Although Carlsbad Caverns is currently closed because of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, it is normally open during the following hours:
8:00 am to 7:00 pm daily – Summer Hours
8:00 am to 5:30 pm daily – Non-summer Hours
If you are looking for a good old road trip to an interesting destination once the pandemic is better and our travel restrictions have lifted, you might want to consider traveling to Carlsbad Caverns. There seems to be something for almost everyone here. “Holy stalagtites, Batman, ” said Robin!
Life is good; plan a road trip like no other in anticipation of when you can travel in the near future.
With “Safer In Place” restrictions lifting in Florida, “Teen Traveler”, my daughter, and I hit the road for the first time in many weeks for one of our day trips here in Florida. We are still self-isolating but decided we could go on a road trip IF we are not near other people. We thought we would try a trip to one of the eighty Florida State Parks that have re-opened on May 4.
We decided that we would pack all our water, snacks and everything we needed so that we could stay out of the stores and continue to self-isolate. We had a problem to solve, however. My proper upbringing normally leads me away from discussing things of this nature, but we had to think about what we would do once “nature calls, ” as we didn’t want to expose ourselves to people who might have Covid-19, even those without any symptoms by using the restrooms. We also did not want to give anyone Covid-19 in case we are also one of the asymptomatic carriers. “Teen Traveler” and I decided we could solve this problem and decided we would make our own “portable facility”. We turned to the net to see what others have come up with and built this from the supplies we had on hand.
The only modification I have to add to other models we have seen on the net right now is to put a large plastic garbage bag (13 gallon kitchen bags work well) OVER the pool noodle, as this pool noodle would be difficult to clean. So, one garbage bag UNDER the pool noodle, secured at the rim and one garbage bag OVER the noodle, too. Contact me if you want directions how to make this “portable facility”, but the picture is self-explanatory. I will also add that it it a good idea to place some disposable diapers or santitary napkins on the bottom of the garbage bag inside to absorb any effluvium prior to discarding this bag in the garbage after use. With a solution like this, we don’t have to stay cooped up inside any longer.
That being said, we decided we would be able to travel ANYWHERE now on a road trip. “Teen Traveler” and I always come up with a travel theme song to start our road trip. Today, it was “Life Is A Highway”. We also play a little travel game together to break up the time while we are driving, so she enjoys the journey. One of us comes up with a word, and then we both try to think of songs that have lyrics or titles that include that word. That way, I get exposed to “Teen Traveler’s” musical tastes, and she gets to hear some of the older music she might not get a chance to listen to from me otherwise. Music is such an important part of her life right now, and I need to listen to her music if I am to remain as an important part of her life as well.
We laugh, we bargain, and we enjoy the moments together while we have them. Today was a gift for me to be with my daughter, as time flies so very quickly. Before I know it, she will be off to college, but I have today. Someone once told me not to even think about the day that “Teen Traveler” will move out to college but to concentrate on this moment right now. Such sage advice.
We did not want to journey very far from home for our first outing in a long time while still maintaining social distancing. We took our masks, and we decided to travel to Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park to see some ruins of an old sugar mill, here in the “real” Florida, as the state park system advertises.
Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park is located in Volusia County, Florida, approximately five miles north of Ormond Beach, on the Eastern side of Florida. It is easy to find with signs on Route 95 at exit 270.
The park is open again, and there are self-pay envelopes at the entrance. The fee is four dollars per car, but bikers and hikers pay only two dollars. Take the envelope and retain a portion to hang from your rear view mirror. There is no one at the entrance, so it is very easy to continue to self-isolate here.
Bulow Plantation was the largest plantation in East Florida and was started in 1821 by Major Charles Bulow to cultivate indigo, cotton, rice, and sugar cane and eventually housed a sugar mill. Unfortunately the place was destroyed during the Seminole War in 1836.
The sugar mill on the property site was constructed of coquina, a limestone that consists of shells and shell fragments.
In addition to viewing the old sugar mill, visitors can rent canoes on the property (during non-pandemic times) and hike. There is a 6.8 mile trail that leads to Bulow Creek State Park, where visitors can see an oak tree, the Fairchild Oak, that is over six hundred years old. The land that houses Bulow Creek State Park at one time contained eleven plantations, each with their own stories to tell.
Hiking is beautiful in these parts, with flat wooded trails and beautiful trees and plants.
Paddling along the river would be beautiful once the canoe rental restrictions due to the pandemic are lifted.
“Life’s like a road that you travel on When there’s one day here and the next day gone Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand Sometimes you turn your back to the wind There’s a world outside every darkened door Where blues won’t haunt you anymore….
“…..There ain’t no load that I can’t hold A road so rough this I know I’ll be there when the light comes in Tell ’em we’re survivors Life is a highway Well, I want to ride it all night long….”
-“Life is A Highway” by Tom Cochrane
Life is good; find a way to get out of the house during this pandemic and live a little. Living a little with someone you love is even better.
Carpe diem, friends………….live life fully and live life well.
Butterflies have always given me reason to pause what I was doing in order to enjoy their beauty. They are such symbols for endurance, change, hope, and life, and their graceful flight is such a sight. We would do well to keep them in mind as we endure our current global pandemic situation.
One of the most beautiful butterflies I have ever seen was at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, which is normally open from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM daily but has been closed recently because of the pandemic. However, on May 6, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden will open for limited times during the day and will offer guests two-hour visits in order to keep the numbers of guests low at any given time for social distancing. They have a butterfly conservatory that houses such amazing butterflies. The Morpho butterfly, a bright big blue butterfly with wingspan of about five to eight inches, normally lives in South America, Mexico and Central America and is one of the largest butterflies in the world. It was here that I saw my first Morpho butterfly, and I marveled at its size and beauty.
Blue colored butterflies are said to be symbolic of healing, joy and happiness and are also seen by some rain forest natives as a “wish granters.” At Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, one can see the butterflies up close, and it is magical when they land on your shoulder unexpectedly. Legend has it when a butterfly follows you around, it means you have something in your life that you need to address. If it lands on you, legend tells us it may mean we will undergo some type of wonderful transformation or growth in our lives, some big change might happen, or something new or refreshing might happen in our lives. Some people even think that a Guardian Angel might be sending you a message or a deceased love one might be making their presence known to you when a butterfly lands on you. I’m not sure about the validity of those legends, but it surely is a peaceful and unexpected moment, filled with joy, whenever a butterfly lands on me. It is more likely, though, that the butterfly lands on you for salt from your skin, scientists tell us.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to see butterflies, as butterflies are released into the wild twice a day, an extraordinary experience. Beyond the butterflies, you can take a forty-five minute narrated tram ride around the eighty-three acre gardens to see some beautiful plants and trees.
This time of year the Brunfelsia, the Tahitian Gardenia, the Fried Egg Tree, Frangipani Vine, Siam Rose Ginger (in the Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House), and many other beautiful flowers are blooming there. This is a great place to take a book, find a quiet spot, and read a little while or sketch in a sketchbook. Of course, simply meandering about the property is a great way to spend some time there, too.
On a recent trip to a National Park, I picked up a bookmark about butterflies that caught my eye. This bookmark called “Advice From a Butterfly” (By YourTrueNature.com and written by Ilan Shamir) reads……
“Let your true colors show
Take yourself lightly
Look for the sweetness in life
Take time to smell the flowers
Catch a breeze
Treat yourself like a monarch.”
Life is good; “take yourself lightly and look for the sweetness in life”. Think about the butterfly and the healing, joy, and happiness it represents when you think of our future after the pandemic. I hope a butterfly lands on your shoulder soon, if for no reason other than for the magic moment it brings.
Carpe Diem, friends……………get out there and live life well.
While driving through New Mexico a few years back, we just HAD to stop in Roswell, New Mexico for a laugh or two and certainly a few great photo ops. Roswell is the fifth largest city in New Mexico, and the city really got on the map in the 1940s when a military balloon crashed in a nearby area. Residents were convinced that this was a UFO, but the military maintained that it was a weather balloon. Conspiracy theories were created and gained interest, especially in the 1970s, when some conspiracy theorists suggested that an alien was onboard the alleged UFO.
I’m not sure of the validity of any of these claims, but it sure seemed like a fun place to visit. I would suggest only driving through the place, as the alien/UFO area is pretty seedy at the present time. However, many things on this stretch of road, route 285 or Main Street, leading through the city have alien-themed photo ops. Even the McDonalds is saucer-shaped.
Even the lamp posts on the streets had alien-themed lights. This is the ultimate kitschy place and a hoot to roll through.
One place that was an interesting, albeit short, stop was the International UFO Museum and Research Center, where there were many displays about the history of the alien hype.
By far my favorite place in Roswell is the Alien Zone shop, however. For just a few dollars, you can go into this seedy (and frankly dirty) little place where you can take funny pictures with “aliens.” This place is priceless in my opinion for kitschy photo ops. Granted I wanted to go back to the hotel to take a shower after posing with some of these old props that could have used a good cleaning, it was worth the laughter thereafter.
There are several “scenes” where you can walk into and take pictures. Some of the scenes are better than others but definitely worth a few dollars (if you have some hand sanitizer).
Traveling through New Mexico, you just have to roll through Roswell for a few laughs if nothing else. It is out of this world.
Life is good; find somewhere kitschy to take photos and laugh thereafter, LONG after.
A few years back I remembered reading about a place where one can actually go “sledding” down a hill of white sand. Longing to teach my Florida child, “Teen Traveler” a bit about another kind of sledding, I couldn’t wait to go there. We planned a trip to New Mexico to see this incredible place of large dunes. I learned this white sand isn’t really sand at all but really is gypsum, a mineral that covers about two hundred and seventy-five square miles of desert in New Mexico. Gypsum is used for many things, I learned. It can be used as plaster in surgical casts, as an additive in many foods (ice cream and tofu among others), for brewing beer and mead, for creating drywall, wallboard, plasterboard, for binding tennis court clay, as molds for dental impression plasters, as a hardening agent in Portland cement, in chalk, in hair products and even in some toothpastes.
White Sands National Park, known as the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, is located approximately fifteen miles southwest of Alamagordo. Some time during World War II, the military started using this place for scientific research and missile testing in the area. Missile tests are still conducted near here from time to time. The dunes are sixty feet high in some spots and are breathtaking to see. The bright blue sky against the whitish dunes is remarkable, almost other worldly.
There are picnic areas and limited back country camping allowed in some spots here. At the visitor center, you can purchase a round saucer-type plastic sled along with some wax to coat the bottom of the sled to make it easier to slide down the dunes. You may also bring your own plastic sled from home, as this is allowed. Round saucer-type sleds seem to work best, though. Sledding is lots of fun here, and so is climbing back up to the top of the dunes afterwards. Although currently closed because of the covid pandemic, normally the visitor center is open 364 days a year (closed on Christmas). The visitor contains a gift shop with snacks and drinks, too, along with rest rooms. There is no water available on the dune fields, so plan ahead. It can get very hot out there.
Life is good. Go out and have some fun all over again. Sledding for both children and adults is a blast.
I am well on my way to finishing one of my “bucket list” items, to visit all fifty states during my lifetime. To date, I have visited thirty-eight states so far. That means only TWELVE states remaining to visit.
Not too long ago, we visited New Mexico because we had never been there. I was especially interested in visiting Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument because I love geologic formations. Located about forty miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico, in north central New Mexico, these breathtaking rock formations were formed by volcanic activity six to seven million years ago. The landscape here is breathtaking with its pointed cones, or hoodoos, of pumice, ash and tuff.
Stunning pinkish and gray stripes on the hoodoos are the result of layers of volcanic material that were deposited there.
If you are ambitious, you can hike three hundred feet to get to the top of the mesa for a spectacular view (of COURSE we did it).
Hours of operation are between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., with the last entry at 4:00 PM. Entrance fees are $5.00 for groups of up to eight people. While there are restrooms on site, it is important to bring your own canteen or water bottle, as there is no drinking water available there.
The hoodoos of the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico were worth the trip in my opinion. These pointed hoodoos were like nothing I’ve ever seen before and took my breath away.
Life is good. Try to find something that takes your breath away today and make a plan for the time when you can travel again. Armchair travel to places I’ve been or to places I want to go keeps me sane while living life through a lens and self-isolating during this pandemic.
This month, in about five days from now, I would have boarded a plane to Cairo if it weren’t for the Covid pandemic. I had decided earlier in the year that this was the right time to cross off one of my bucket list items, for a variety of reasons. I had always wanted to go to Egypt, and I decided that there is no time like the present. I did a great deal of research but was conflicted about going on my trip this month. I also was unsure whether it was a good time for me to go or to wait until later in the year when the new Grand Egyptian Museum was slated to open near the pyramids. This new museum is going to be huge, as it is planned to house the full collection of Tutankhamen artifacts for the first time because of the greater space available. This museum will be located right near the pyramids, will showcase over fifty thousand artifacts, and will occupy one hundred and twenty acres of land with an anticipated five million visitors per year (as estimated prior to the pandemic). Construction started on the new museum in 2002 but was delayed for a variety of reasons.
I had planned on staying at the historic Marriott Mena House with a pyramid facing balcony room for a few nights. This historic hotel is only about a half a mile away from the pyramids and has a fascinating back story. Originally built in 1869 as a hunting lodge, it is the site of the first swimming pool in Egypt in 1890. While the original house is still on the premises and is currently being renovated, there is a newer more modern section of the hotel on the property as well. Prince Albert of England, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, and Agatha Christie are among the many esteemed guests who have stayed at this hotel in the past. From there, I could have walked to the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, but for safety concerns, I was going to have a private tour arranged to take me there and into the Khan el-Khaliki bazaar, or souk, in Cairo, which dates back to the fourteenth century. I was thinking I might bring a lantern or two back from Egypt to hang in my tree near the pool at home. I decided I would also go to the current Cairo Museum of Antiquities as well, but really wanted to see the new Grand Egyptian Museum, had it been already opened, instead. Life is full of trade-offs.
I had also planned on going aboard a Nile River Cruise aboard the MS Esplanade, stopping in Luxor to see the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple (the largest religious building ever constructed). I chose the MS Esplanade, in part, because of the wonderful daybeds on the top sun deck that would allow me to relax and keep cool along the journey down the Nile. After Luxor, we would have sailed to Aswan to see the Temple of Horus at Edfu, a Nubian village, the Temple of Philae (dedicated to the worship of the Godess Isis), and the High Dam. A final stop on the itinerary included a visit to the Valley of Kings.
I remember seeing a fragment of the Karnak Temple as a young girl in the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, along with a sarcophagus and knew the moment I saw them I wanted to go to Egypt some day. It was so exciting to think I would actually walk in the Karnak Temple in May when I was researching my trip to Egypt earlier this year. Trip to Egypt. Goal Set. Trip to Egypt. Goal would have been met.
As part of my research, I learned that the only travel advisory in Egypt, prior to the Corona pandemic, was regarding the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert, two areas I had planned to avoid because of the greater possibility of terrorist activity. I knew I needed to be alert and aware of my surroundings in Egypt otherwise, which is something I normally am during any trip. I also had planned to avoid any mosque, church, or temple to keep my trip a little safer.
I learned a few things in my research that surprised me. There are very few crocodiles (maybe not any at all) in the Egyptian Nile any longer, despite them being worshipped in Ancient Egypt. Evidently the construction of the High Dam pushed them closer to Lake Nassar instead. Also, I found it very interesting, albeit disappointing, that there are no hippopotamuses in this section of the Nile either, as they are extinct in this region even though they were present there in ancient times. Hippo hunting and drying of the region has led to their extinction here in more modern times.
I am very disappointed that my trip has been postponed because of the pandemic, but I try to look on the bright side, even for this trip. I was hard pressed to decide whether to go to Egypt in the spring or to wait until the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo later in the year. It seemed the best option at the time to go in the spring of this year, as the political climate was a bit more settled than it had been in recent years since the Arab Spring in 2011 and the ouster of President Mubarek in the aftermath. The economy in Egypt had improved a bit last year, yet the American dollar was still strong. Incidents of terrorism were reduced in and around Cairo and the Nile valley than they had been in years, too. Tourists were beginning to return to Egypt in greater numbers, and it was finally a good time to return to Egypt again before the pandemic. However, at this time, flights have been recently suspended into and out of Egypt for the time being, so I am grateful I was not stuck in Egypt had I traveled there. Being quarantined and having difficulty returning home to the States would have definitely been difficult.
When I will head to Egypt is still up in the air, but one thing is certain. That is, I will get there, and it is only a matter of time. I have my heart set on riding a camel there, too. It’s all about the photo op, right? Maybe I might add in a layover somewhere special along the way, too. Swimming in the Dead Sea might be fun in Hurghada, which isn’t part of the Sinai Peninsula. Guess that’s the upside as well.
Life is good. Look forward to something you were planning before the Covid pandemic hit and start planning it all over again for sometime in the near future. Make it happen. Goal set; goal met soon.
There is always tomorrow to look forward to; carpe diem, friends………….
(I was going to book my trip through Memphis Tours, as they have been in operation for a very long time in Egypt and have great reviews. Another company, Liberty Travel Egypt is worth taking a look at as well. )
One of my favorite things to do here in Florida is to go Alligator hunting. Not REAL hunting, but hunting with a scavenger hunt. There is a wetlands near my house in central Florida where we drive along a loop road to play a little game like “Where’s Waldo” to see if we can find “Where’s the alligator” instead. The wetlands near our house is closed because of the pandemic, but the Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is open. Black Point is a seven mile drive where you can see all kinds of beautiful wildlife, including wildflowers, birds( including a bald eagle), snakes, river otters or bobcats if you are lucky, and the most beautiful alligators I’ve ever seen in the wild. Here in central Florida, we are in the midst of alligator courtship season, which typically runs from April to May, and mating season is normally in May and June. Eggs are laid in mounds of soil or vegetation in June or July, and the average alligator can lay around thirty-two to forty-six eggs. Eggs hatch from mid-August to early September, and during this mating season alligators can become territorial. It is wise to stay inside your car in this loop, as it is recommended to stay at least twenty-five feet away from any alligator in the wild. Florida is a great place to see alligators in the wild, as it is estimated that there are approximately 1.5 to 2 million wild alligators here.
The entrance fee is normally ten dollars per car and is payable with an honor system envelope provided at the little blue sign below at the entrance. Visitors retain a stub from their payment voucher in the car and deposit the remainder of the voucher in the envelope at this sign. Because of the pandemic, however, there is currently no admission fee necessary.
It always amazes me to see so many wildflowers in the midst of our “moderate drought” this spring in this part of Florida.
The vegetation (mangrove) grows in some of the most inhospitable substrates I have seen, and the landscape is literally dotted with young plants which grab hold of the arrid land as well as the brackish water to flourish.
One needs to drive VERY slowly to see the alligators swim silently in the waters or hiding among the reeds. Sometimes they are even on the banks of the water, laying out in the sun. At times, the alligator at first appears to be a floating log, but then you see movement or the swish of a tail.
Today we were fortunate enough to see an alligator near his den, which is cleared by the alligator’s snout and feet and can be up to twenty feet deep/long. Alligators are such formidable and amazing creatures.
On the way out of the Wildlife Refuge, you can see the Vehicle Assembly Building in Kennedy Space Center. This building is where the Apollo, Space Shuttle, and Saturn V rockets were assembled and completed. It is also the world’s tallest single story building.
There is nothing like the “thrill of the hunt” when looking for alligators here in central Florida, on the Space Coast. It is a great place to get out of the house, too, during this Covid pandemic and a wonderful day trip from most of central Florida.
Life is good; enjoy the sunshine and the day. Carpe diem, friends……..