“BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED”

It’s no secret to those that know me that I never wanted to move to Florida. In fact, it was the LAST place I wanted to live, as I once told my parents in the arrogance of my youth that I would “NEVER” move to Florida. Florida simply is too hot for my liking, as I grew up in the cold New England weather and love the snow. I love the way the freshly fallen snow insulates the world somehow so that ever break of a branch or every crunch of our footsteps in the snow echos and gives me pause. It is as though one lives in a snow globe when the snow is falling ever so gently upon the ground.

The pandemic has created many changes in our day to day lives to be certain. However, not ALL of the changes are bad. During the pandemic I learned to embrace Florida for all its beauty, despite the hot weather. It was this year that I made an effort to get outside to begin to learn the Florida native trees and native flowers. It was during this year that I took day trips to areas that were right before me in years past, but I never knew about them. It was during this year that I developed a love for the Florida springs and all the beauty they provide. It was this year that I tried to shake things up by going the beach to watch a sunrise, when I normally prefer the sunset. Instead of planting my favorite flowers from my New England gardening days, I planted flowers that work here in Florida, like orchids on my trees.

I have never been much of an orchid lover, although they always remind me of happy times during my youth when we wore orchid corsages on Easter morning. I seem to remember some meaning associated with either the color ribbon or the color of the orchid one wore back in the day. It seems as though it was some sort of signal about whether or not your beloved Mother were still alive, such a quaint and touching tribute and custom. Maybe I am remembering a Mother’s Day custom instead.

And speaking of changes, yesterday while going for my daily bike ride (okay, it has been daily ONLY for a few weeks now to be entirely honest), I looked around and noticed the subtle changes that have happened since even the day before. One lawn was freshly mowed, one palm tree shed a frond on the grass, one house was being painted, the breeze was a little warmer, and so on. Then I began to notice that there ARE subtle changes in the seasons even here in Florida is one is quiet enough to notice.

Just last month when walking along the same path that I biked today, some of the trees had fewer leaves, and today many of the trees have buds. There is pollen everywhere, and the angle of the sun is just a little higher in the sky somehow.

It has been said that it is important to “bloom where one is planted”, and that’s exactly how I feel today when riding my bike. I am finally “blooming” in Florida, and it sure feels good. Maybe the hot weather is just a LITTLE bit of what Florida is all about.

Life is good; bloom wherever YOU are planted and enjoy all the subtle changes from day to day. Carpe diem, friends……

COUNTRIES THAT ARE OPEN TO COVID VACCINATED TRAVELERS

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Several countries have said they will allow international travelers who have had the Covid vaccine to visit without quarantine or a negative PCR Covid test. Don’t forget that all air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States (even on return trips for Americans). See the Conde Nast article below for more information about “open” countries:

https://www.cntraveller.com/article/countries-open-vaccine-travel

Life is good; carpe diem, friends….

A DAY TRIP TO WINTER GARDEN, FL AND “KINDNESS AFFECTS MORE THAN SEVERITY”

Tile mosaic fountain in Winter Garden downtown

Yesterday had been a perfect day in every way. I had the good fortune of spending the day on a road trip to Winter Garden, Florida with my family. Although it is early March when the temperatures typically rise here in Florida, the weather yesterday was sunny but cool. I love the cooler weather and was so grateful that it is here a little longer before the hot summer heat arrives, and the trees were dotted with bright spring green buds everywhere. I couldn’t help but notice how cool it was outside the car, and I needed a jacket. Yet, inside the car in the sun, I took my jacket off.

We at lunch outside at a PERFECT French cafe where the croissants were as good as those I have had in France. The other food was delicious as well and beautifully plated with an abundance of eye-appealing color everywhere.

Rosallie Cafe,  141 W Plant St, Winter Garden, FL
croissants, Madeleines, and other desserts inside Rosallie’s Cafe

We bumped unexpectedly into the town center with a pergola covered by what appears to be wisteria surrounding a beautiful tiled mosaic fountain and some swings hanging on the pergola. What an unexpected whimsical surprise.

And speaking of whimsy, we came to Winter Garden originally to start our search for some painted murals in and around Orlando, which are perfect backdrops for fun photo ops. One can squat and sit against the wall in this mural on the corner of South Boyd Street and Plant Street in order to appear to be sitting on this whimsical swing. Whimsy is always good, in my opinion. What a great way to start the day with more whimsy!

mural at the corner of South Boyd Street and Plant Street

After our little day trip, when I returned home, I was riding my bike later in the cold evening when I remembered one of my favorite Aesop’s Fables for some reason. I may have thought of the fable because of the cold day and how I had to take my jacket off and put it on all day long. It is the fable about the sun and the wind disputing who was stronger. They decide to have a little competition with a traveler walking along the road to see who could make the traveler take off his cloak first. The one who caused the traveler to take off his cloak would be regarded as the stronger of the two, they decided. The wind blew and blew relentlessly as strong and hard as it could, but this caused the traveler to wrap his coat around him instead of taking it off. The sun began to shine afterwards, providing a gentle persuasion somehow to the traveler to shed his coat soon, as the traveler found it too hot to walk with his coat on. It was a situation of pleasant warmth after bitter cold. It was a case of persuasion being better than force. It was a case of an impetuous wind versus a diplomatic sun. It was a case of gentleness versus force. However, it is now and always is truly a case of how kindness affects more than severity.

Life is good; find and show kindness whenever and wherever you can. Carpe diem, friends….

ROYAL CARIBBEAN GROUP INVESTIGATES HVAC SYSTEM FOR GREATER SAFETY DURING THE PANDEMIC

Photo by Matthew Barra on Pexels.com

With cruise lines resuming operations at some point in the near future, it impresses me that Royal Caribbean Group invested in research to determine the safety of their HVAC systems during this downtime for the travel industry during the pandemic. All over the world, travelers concurrently experience wanderlust AND hold their breaths at the same time, wondering and waiting for some indication when it is safe to resume travel again.

I am re-posting this article for those who are interested:

Royal Caribbean Group Releases Research on Cruise Ship HVAC Systems | TravelPulse

Life is good; carpe diem, friends……

THE WONDERS OF WAITOMO CAVES: BUCKET LIST TRAVEL ITEM

blackwater rafting in the Waitomo Cave

Wanderlust during the pandemic? Are you compiling your travel bucket list during the travel restrictions? Starting January 26, 2021, all air passengers aged two and older must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test that’s no more than 72 hours old to enter the United States. Travel abroad is possible but needs forethought. I am looking forward to the day on the horizon when we are free to easily move about the world again soon. This makes international travel a little trickier, but we still can dream about where to go once things settle down a bit during the pandemic. But that means you have some time to consider some place magical, like the wonders of Waitomo in New Zealand.

Waitomo is a village in the north Island of New Zealand. It is here that a species of glowworms, Arachnocampa luminosa, lives within the complex cave system there. At Waitomo Glowworm Caves, you can walk through the caves to see the magical lights emitted by the glowworms, which appear almost as though they are from Neverland and are sprinkled with pixie dust everywhere. They also remind me of Christmas lights or constellations all about the cave. These caves are amazing and are breathtaking. Imagine walking through this place, or better yet, taking a boat ride through this enchanted cave. The boat tours here last about an hour, so remember to wear comfortable shoes and wear something warm, as the caves are about sixty degrees Fahrenheit year round. Prices for adults are about $40.00 USD for the weekend price, and about $18.00 USD for children. They also offer reduced weekday prices and family tickets, which are $74.00 USD for two adults and two children (ages 4-14). They charge about $11.00 for extra children, and children under 4 are free.

Taking a boat ride sounds great to me, but it is really the blackwater rafting that catches my eye. Blackwater rafting is like white water rafting but in the dark! Imagine floating around this cave on a tube with only the lights from the glowworms and your headlight leading your journey. Here you travel about 80 meters (262 feet) below ground, jump off a waterfall with a tube, and get started. Does this sound terrifying or exhilarating? Maybe both. Maybe that’s the point? What’s better than jumping off a waterfall and floating in the dark cave on a tube? A zip line, of course! One of these experiences also includes a zip line. The company offers several options for exploration, but the blackwater tours are either three hours or five hours long. What an incredible experience for a bucket list adventure. The website claims that both tours are appropriate for all levels of fitness; it seems that one only needs a certain lust for adventure.

The water temperature in the cave is around fifty degrees Fahrenheit, so the Waitomo Cave provides helmets with headlights, a thick wetsuit, and rubber boots with admission. The Black Labyrinth Tour adult prices are $109. USD and children’s (ages 12-15) prices are $93.00 USD. Week day admission prices are less. Showers are available after the trip, but bring your own shampoo, towel, and soap. Participants on this three hour tour must be at least 12 years old for this three hour tour.

The five hour Black Abyss Tour, which is more intense, requires participants to be at least 16 years old. This tour offers the zipline and costs $190 USD, although week day prices are also reduced.

Why not get out of your comfort zone to experience something really different soon? The website for the Waitomo is below for more information:

https://www.waitomo.com/glowworms-and-caves/waitomo-glowworm-caves

“Shine little glow worm, glimmer, glimmer
Shine little glow worm, glimmer, glimmer
Lead us lest too far we wander
Love’s sweet voice is calling yonder

Shine little glow worm, glimmer, glimmer
Hey, there don’t get dimmer, dimmer
Light the path below, above
And lead us on to love”

-from “The Glowworm” song by the Mills Brothers, 1953

Life is good; dream big. Take that trip in the near future. Go where you always have wanted to go SOON. Carpe diem, friends……….

*photos courtesy of the Waitomo Caves Facebook page

A NEWCOMER TO THE EXPEDITION CRUISE CIRCLE

iceberg in the Arctic, viewed from the ship

Adventures by Disney recently announced they will expand their offerings to include an expedition-type cruise to Antarctica and Patagonia as well as to Equador/The Galapagos Islands.

An expedition cruise is a cruise for those who crave adventure and travel to far away places. This is not an ordinary cruise with assorted excursions. Rather, this type of cruise is usually a smaller, more intimate ship which offers expeditions, or smaller intimate outings, often in zodiac boats. This is a cruise in which one needs boots, as you can often have a “wet landing” in which you get your feet wet while landing on the beach after you climb out of the zodiac before exploring the area. This type of cruise is full of experiences that offer adrenaline, off-the-beaten track, on-land experiences, often ecotourism, and usually on-board naturalists, who are often armed with a rifle in case of the appearance of an unexpected polar bear. These naturalists guide the small group expeditions and lead presentations about the flora, fauna, and geology of the area. These excursion staff naturalists are truly experts in their fields.

Sometimes there is no internet access onboard the ship for a while, as you may be in such remote places that don’t get internet service for a while (such as parts of the Arctic Circle). This lack of internet from time to time evokes feelings of being a true explore in a time long ago without any electronics to guide you. How exciting it is to think that people once ago navigated through these remote lands without any electronic GPS systems and relied on the stars to guide them.

Besides Adventures by Disney, some other major cruise lines offer expedition cruises such as Quark, Ponant, Linblad, Viking, National Geographic, Silversea Expeditions, Hurtigruten, Hapag-Lloyd, Aurora Expeditions, Seabourn, Scenic, and Crystal Expedition Cruises.

The sights on an expedition cruise take my breath away. This might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you, or you may be bitten by the exploration bug and travel on several ships instead. It is a journey like no other, however. I have known people that go several times on the same ship with the same operator to the same destination, as no trips are like one another in terms of wildlife encountered and experiences enjoyed.

Life is good; try to find an experience on an expedition cruise in which you are “unplugged” all week but plugged into the world around you.

Carpe diem, friends…

CRUISELINES THAT REQUIRE COVID VACCINATIONS OR PROOF OF COVID IMMUNITY UPDATE

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

Saga Cruises recently announced they will require vaccines for all guests sailing in May, and now American Queen Steamboat Co. and Victory Cruise Lines will require guests to have been vaccinated prior to sailing on July 1 or after. These cruise lines have a high number of guests over 65, so they are trying to keep this population safe while cruising. Crystal Cruises will also require full vaccination, two weeks before sailing, for all passengers once operations resume for their company.

Beyond this, Norwegian Cruise Line and Regent Seven Seas is working to require their crew to get vaccinated before they resume operations. In addition, Royal Caribbean Group, which owns Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea will seek to mandate vaccines for crew and staff prior to resuming operations, if possible, as well. I hope this helps to increase traffic on future cruises after the pandemic has hit the tourism sector so hard.

Life is good; start making plans for your bucket list destination once the travel restrictions are lifted and you can safely resume travel again. Carpe diem friends…

DREAMS COME TRUE: NEW DISCOVERIES IN SAQQARA, EGYPT

photo courtesy of Archaelogy.org

While the world is in turmoil due to the pandemic, such wonderful things continue to happen in Saqqara, Egypt, which is located about nineteen miles south of Cairo and is a UNESCO site. Saqqara is a fascinating place and is known as the place of the famous “step” pyramid called the Step Pyramid of Djoser, one of the earliest pyramids in Egypt that inspired the construction of the Great Pyramid in Giza during the next dynasty. It is also here in Saqqara that archaeologist found multitudes of mummified cats, including mummified lions, too. Later archaeological digs in 2019 revealed the tomb of a man named Wahtye and his family, who may have been the first case of death by malaria ever documented.

“Book of the Dead Scroll” photo credit: KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images

Most recently, Saqqara was in the news again in January 2021 because of a new discovery of a funerary tomb of Queen Naert, over fifty wooden coffins, and passages from “The Book Of The Dead” by Dr. Zahi Hawass and his crew.

Artifacts from these digs will end up in the New Egyptian Museum, slated to open in June 2021.

Dr. Hawass is the previous Minister of Antiquities in Egypt and is a passionate archaeologist that reminds me of Indiana Jones in some way. He appears in many documentaries, and his enthusiasm is inspiring.

Life is good; travel to exotic places like Saqqara if you can after the pandemic lifts. Carpe diem, friends……

INSPIRATIONAL TRAVEL BUCKET LIST ITEMS IN AUSTRALIA TO SEE WHEN THE PANDEMIC IS OVER

I do like a good “pipedream” where my mind takes me away to a different place or time, where I think about the myriad of things I would like to see or do within my lifetime. “Pipedreams” keep me sane during the pandemic as I compile a list of inspirational travel destinations in my mind for a brighter day ahead when the travel restrictions are lifted.

  1. Lake Hillier or any of the “pink lakes” in Australia is truly a bubble-gum color pink lake on the northern shore “Middle Island”. This island is a remote area accessible by tours only. Contact the following site to get more information about how to book an aerial or boat tour to see the island from a distance.

https://www.visitesperance.com/contact-us

photo courtesy of HillierLake.com

It is thought that the pink hue in the lake is from the organism  Dunaliella salina, which thrive in salty environments like the pink lakes. The carotenoid red pigments secreted by Halobacteria and d. salina are responsible for the pink lakes’ otherworldly colors. These same algae also flourish in the Dead Sea.

If Lake Hillier is too remote a location to get to for you, you might try one of several other “pink” lakes in Australia such as those in this article below:

https://www.australia.com/en-us/things-to-do/nature-and-national-parks/australias-pink-lakes.html

2. See the wild kangaroos on a white sand beach in Lucky Bay near Esperence, Australia

photo courtesy of https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/lucky-bay (Steven de Geus)

3. Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef

Photo by John Cahil Rom on Pexels.com

Life is good; find some remote place you’ve always wanted to travel to and find a way after the pandemic is over. Life is short, and we have only “these five minutes” within our lifetime to make the best of it as I always say.

Carpe Diem, friends…………..

LAUNCHING YOURSELF INTO SOMETHING GREAT/THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.”

-Paul Coelho

Something to keep in mind today if you encounter adversity, especially during this pandemic.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends…