Wednesday, August 16, 2017

24 hours in Chattanooga, TN

A cousin and his wife were on a mission to show their grand kids America the beautiful. While on their 6-day road trip from Florida to Texas, they swung over to see us. With only 24 hours in Chattanooga and rain in the forecast, it was a challenge to show them this great outdoorsy city.

Hiking to the waterfalls was out of the question. We opted for Raccoon Mountain to learn about turbines and the generation of electricity.

The cloudy weather with a few sprinkles here and there created this gorgeous vista of the spectacular Tennessee River Gorge with fog enveloping the mountain and river.
do you see what I see? a barge appearing (viewed from Raccoon Mountain Visitor Center)
Around lunch time, we went to get pizza at our preferred pizza joint in Jasper. We had forgotten this town is on central time, so we were early. To kill time, the gung ho captain drove to nearby Foster Falls for a quick look. The rain had quit, and the sun tried to peek through every now and then.
Foster Falls
It was sprinkling again when we picked up the pizza. Back at the marina, the rain stopped and the sun appeared again, promising a good day.We could tell our guests were eager for a boat ride. And the captain happily complied.

Beautiful sight of osprey and cormorants hanging out together
As we were dropping the hook at our favorite cove, the rain started again. This time it came down hard. We moved our lunch from the flybridge to the salon (nice to have dual helm station for inclement weather). We had recently salvaged some old home videos and took the opportunity to show the kids their parents' wedding. Little did they know their grandfather can sing!

Half hour later, all was dry and the sun re-appeared. We cruised up river a little before heading back to the marina.

Next stop: Lookout Mountain. We drove past the touristy places like Rock City and Ruby Falls, and went up all the way to the top - Point Park, where battles between the North and South were fought during the Civil War. It was 6 pm. The Visitor Center was closed, so we just walked around to admire the scenery.

We went back to Chattanooga downtown to take some pictures.
Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge
Hunter Museum
We were now starving for some barbecue. In downtown, we usually go Sticky Fingers. How was it? Read my review on TripAdvisor here.

So that completes our whirlwind tour of Chattanooga. We hope they enjoyed it as much as we did showing them our adopted city.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Looking for Bargains at the World's Longest Yard Sale, Dunlap, TN

Living in Tennessee for 10 years has taught us a great deal about the south. No matter how much America has changed over the years, the south still retains its signature Southern hospitality. Their passions for college football,  music, gardening, barbecue and yard sales run deep and are infectious. 

Fleamarkets and yard sales are big in Florida too, but it's nothing when compared to the South. Case in point: if you lost your bags on a flight, chances are you might find your belongings at the Unclaimed Baggage in nearby Scottsboro, Alabama. A unique shopping experience for sure.

I was very excited to return to Tennessee, just in time for the world's longest yard sale, a fun event that takes place the first weekend in August. For 4 days (Thurs - Sunday), vendors set up all along Hwy 127 from Hudson, Michigan to Gadsden, Alabama, some 690 miles of yard sale shopping heaven. Some people drive quite far to hunt for bargains (treasures or junk, you decide). I was at Dunlap Friday, and met a mother and daughter who drove all the way from Austin, TX!
Bargain hunting in Dunlap, TN
Mother and daughter drove all the way from Austin, TX 
Horse drawn machine, anyone?

If you were hunting for bargains at the world's longest yard sale this past weekend, I hope you found what you were looking for. Enjoy your new found treasures!

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Friday, June 2, 2017

See you in July, Siesta Beach!

Just before the Memorial Day weekend, Siesta Beach (Sarasota, Florida) was named the #1 beach in America. We were thrilled! We have taken friends and family to Siesta Beach and they all loved it. Click on coastal expert Dr Beach's website to see his list of the top 10 beaches in America. Read more here.
Siesta Beach,Sarasota
Exploring beaches is our passion. Thanks to the Mai Thai, we've had the opportunity to explore many alluring beaches that are otherwise inaccessible (Caladesi Island, number 7 on Dr Beach's top 10 list, is one such beach). We are especially fond of the beaches along the Florida gulf coast, the stretch of fine white sand from Sarasota to Clearwater, and from Alabama to the Florida Panhandle (affectionately known as the Redneck Riviera).
Kayakers heading towards Caladesi from  Honeymoon Island
Shell Island Beach, Panama City, Florida (Panhandle) 
Beach in Carlsbad, Ca
Assateague Island National Seashore, Berlin, Maryland
A trip to Sarasota or the Tampa Bay area would not be complete without spending a day on the beach. Make your escape to Siesta Beach utterly perfect with a side trip to one of these attractions:

Bayfront Park is a lovely park complete with a marina, restaurants (read my TripAdvisor review on O'Leary here), playground, and swings. There are also lots of boats available for charter. Great place to soak up some sun and people and boat watch.

St Armand's Circle and Lido Key Unique shops, art galleries and many restaurants offering  alfresco dining make St Armand a charming place to visit. Nearby Lido Key has acres of  recreation area with playgrounds, public pool, picnic tables, nice beaches and spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico. Traffic in and out of this area can get quite congested, so plan accordingly.

Ringling Museum and the Ca d'Zan mansion - The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, one of America's greatest institutions, brought down its curtain last month after 146 years. Sad news indeed. The good news is you can visit the Ringling Museum to see haunting relics of the greatest show on earth and experience the magic of the circus all over again.

Myakka State Park -  Located on opposite end of Siesta Beach (on Rt 72 past I-75), Myakka Park exudes Everglades ambience, with alligators and birds galore. Kids would love to climb the Canopy Walkway to the Observation Tower. Because of drought conditions, the Myakka river may be too low for an air boat ride. Check their website before going.

The beach is calling. See you on Siesta Beach!

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Weekend Reflections: Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park

Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park, California
Can you believe this picture was taken 28 years ago this spring?

It was my first time visiting Yosemite National Park, and I fell in love with it. An outdoor paradise with countless trails and breathtaking landscapes and vistas at every turn! My article on Yosemite National Park: Tips for First Time Visitors was published in Yahoo!Voices in January, 2013.

One of our favorite hiking trails was to Mirror Lake; it's an easy trail with BIG reward - a mirror reflecting the stunning scenery around it. Making it a perfect image to share on this website where bloggers share photos of reflection.

Hope you like it as much as I do!

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Spring is the perfect time to explore artsy St Pete, Florida

Yesterday, a nor'easter wreaked havoc in the northeast (from Washington, D.C. to New England), bringing snow, sleet and rain to the region. Our weather in St Pete, Florida has deteriorated as well, with heavy rain Monday night followed by cloudy skies and 18-20 mph winds for most of Tuesday. Today's high is 57 degrees F, low is 47, and the wind hasn't abated much. Old man winter is not going away any time soon, even if Spring is less than a week away.

Not that we're complaining. We've had wonderful weather for the past three months. And we do need the rain. It's a good thing we had chosen to explore downtown St Pete this past Saturday.
Vinoy Basin (ferry to Tampa docked on the right)
stunning Sundial Shopping Complex
Downtown St Pete has grown leaps and bounds since we discovered this little gem about a dozen years ago. High rises continue to sprout all over town. There are restaurants galore. With a new ferry service connecting St Pete and Tampa, you can visit both cities without worrying about traffic and parking (call us biased, but boating on the Gulf side of Florida is the best!) We have fond memories of the iconic inverted pyramid at The Pier, which met its wrecking ball in 2015.
Inverted pyramid at The Pier
This past weekend, we were thrilled to catch a glimpse (albeit through the chain link fence) of the Grand Prix in action! The proof is in the video.

After strolling around the waterfront, we drove several blocks over to check out Chihuly's new location on Central Ave.

We wandered into an alley of cute shops and as we walked out the back, we were greeted with some creative murals.

Further up, we ran into some artists creating works of arts on dumpsters. Not sure if this was part of the Second Saturday Art Walk?
Mural artist at work
Every time we visit downtown St Pete, we come away feeling happy to have a neat place like this near us.

Hope you had a great weekend too!

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Rest and Relaxation in Orlando

Orlando is a great side trip from the Tampa Bay area. Filled with attractions and theme parks galore, it is a popular destination for families. But that is not why we came here. Thanks to my sister who's visiting from Canada, we're spending some time at her timeshare - the lovely Marriott Harbor Lake in Orlando.

We drove from St Pete, and our first stop was Ming Bistro, our favorite place for dim sum lunch. There was a line when we got there. A good sign, right? Unfortunately it was not, and we won't be going back again. Here's my review of the restaurant. A funny thing happened though. My cousin Jolene and her family, whom we haven't seen for years, were seated right next to us. This impromptu meeting was sheer coincidence. Here is a family who really knows how to travel, having spent last five years in Singapore and a month wandering around Europe before returning to Florida. Great to see you Jolene et al, and happy new year!
Then it was off to the Marriott Harbor Lake timeshare.
Key West cottage style timeshare (front desk and clubhouse)
Enjoying the pirate-theme swimming pool
gorgeous hot tub/spa
We were early and got our room right away - a lovely 2 bedroom villa on the 4th floor overlooking the lake. At the back of the building, a path leads to a BBQ/picnic area (complete with gas grills) and swings facing idyllic wetlands and lush flora and fauna.
Nice King size bedroom

After setting up the WiFi and Roku (for our Korean dramas), we went to our favorite supermarket Publix for some groceries. Our Super Bowl dinner party - NE Patiots vs Atlanta Falcons - was a simple steak and salad. To our friends in the South - you know we used to live in Boston, so y'all please forgive us for cheering for the Patriots. But seriously, may the best team win!
found this in the clubhouse of at 55+ community in the St Pete area
Both our steaks and the football game were outstanding. At half time, with the Falcons leading the Patriots 21-3, we thought the game was over. Lady Gaga managed to keep the excitement going; on Facebook, friends kept saying it's not over until it's over. True enough, the Patriots led an epic comeback in the fourth quarter, erasing a 25 point deficit to win the Super Bowl in overtime! One of the most exciting games we've ever seen.

The next few days found us lazing around the pool and the gorgeous hot tub, doing yoga exercise, and enjoying the beautiful sunny weather. Life is good!
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