Friday, August 31, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I live and work in St. Augustine, Florida. The oldest, continuously occupied, European-settled City in the United States. (whew!) The town was founded by the Spanish in 1565 and the local joke is that by the time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, St. Augustine was already up for urban renewal. It's a little, big town with lots of charm.
We're celebrating our 442nd birthday (Sept. 8th)this week with lots of festivities, including recreations of the landing of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles to establish the town, the first thanksgiving feast, 16th century entertainment, arts, crafts and the "changing of the guard". Should be lots of fun. (I even get to dress up in period clothing!)
I've lived in St. Augustine over ten years now and always enjoy the festivities, activities and interesting people in our town. You never get bored here! I'm lucky to work for Historic Tours of America and participate in Old Town Trolley Tours, The Old Jail, The Florida Heritage Museum and Ghosts & Gravestones on their behalf. Through Trusted Tours and Attractions, I get to visit great attractions and sites here and elsewhere. St. Augustine is certainly worth a visit if you enjoy unique history, great beaches and eclectic, talented people. See you soon.
Monday, August 20, 2007
She is still sea worthy and takes occasional cruises in the Bay. On the 50th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion she sailed back to France for the ceremonies and is one of only two Liberty ships still in existence. Hundreds of volunteers keep her ship shape. It’s worth the effort to seek out this ship and remember the stories of WWII.
The staff at Electric tours is fantastic! They are funny, articulate and genuine. You feel welcomed and reassured no matter what your skills. The equipment is in great shape and the route is safe. The pre-tour safety session includes a short film and personal instruction until everyone feels comfortable. We then eased into the tour with lots of practice. Several stops included a nice café where you can grab a drink or snack. The experience is about three hours including 45 minutes of training. They also do a Sausalito tour and a Night tour. A great way to tour.
Soaring mountains on one side and plunging cliffs to the sea on the other. Rockslides are not uncommon and twice I was delayed by crews clearing boulders. This route is not for the weak of heart! You need to be alert and steady on this narrow road that often twists and turns thousands of feet above the ocean with no guardrails.
Some folks like to take 17 mile drive near Carmel in addition to the coastal highway but realize that they charge $8 to enter. (The 45 minute route is organized into about 20 stops and provides a more manicured version of the coastal highway.)
I was surprised at how many hiking trails are available on this stretch and many scenic pull-overs. This is not the fastest route since speeds can slow to 15 miles per hour in some places and rarely top 40. The rewards are worth it if you’re not in a hurry and can explore the coast and all it has to offer. Make sure to gas up since towns are few and far between here. This is a great driving experience.
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California just south of San Francisco, is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum surrounded by a mystery. It's bizarre and beautiful.
The story goes like this: Sarah Winchester outlived her husband, who made a fortune selling firearms. Soon she was told by a spiritualist that she was cursed because of the terrible loss of life these repeating firearms represented. So she did the only thing that made sense...she began construction in 1884 and never stopped 24/7/365 for thirty-eight years to appease the angry ghosts.
What emerged after her death was a 160 room mansion filled with modern conveniences and strange architectural designs. Tiffany stained glass, gold and silver chandeliers and three elevators are a tribute to wealth, taste and style while stairs that lead nowhere, doors that open into walls and repetitive patterns of windows stop you in your tracks. What is going on here? Only Sarah Winchester knew. My creepiest moment was in the Blue Seance room where we stood silently together looking for an exit. There seemed to be no knobs or means of opening the doors from the inside. Finally, our guide revealed the hidden latch and we were free. But for just a moment, I felt like I was back there with Sarah, calling the spirits forward and trying to figure out what to build next.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
The Monterey Bay Aquarium south of San Francisco, California is one of the best Aquariums I have visited. The layout is beautiful and encourages you to explore. The views of Monterey Bay are spectacular and the outdoor and indoor spaces blend so well that you move easily from one to the other.
The exhibits are wonderful! (I'm a sucker for Jellyfish.) I enjoyed the Kelp Forest, the Splash Zone, Sharks and Rays and the Outer Bay. They have one of the best Kids areas I've seen with lots of chances to get close and touch sea creatures. You can spend a whole day exploring here. Lots of feedings and presentations, too.
The biggest challenge is parking. Be prepared to hunt for a spot and grab any space you see near Cannery Row. The walk is worth it. Check the website for parking suggestions to ease the search. They also run a free trolley during the summer.
The real attraction here is Monterey Bay itself and the great views from the decks at the Aquarium allow you to spot many local inhabitants. This Aquarium is a real delight. Don't miss it.