Saturday, December 9, 2017

Seize the Moment

Unbeknownst to us, a winter storm was sweeping across the Deep South, making its way from Texas to Georgia, and into the Atlantic states and north to Boston. We happened to look out the window yesterday morning and were excited to see snow flurries. Seizing the moment, the first mate quickly grabbed the camera and ran out to take some pictures.

Eventhough it's freezing outside and cold inside the boat during the winter, we still like living aboard. We just love the boating lifestyle - the impromptu potlucks with boaters, the freedom to run out any time to take pictures, and the fascinating wildlife on the river. We've seen lunar eclipses and shooting stars in the middle of the night, taken sunrise pictures early in the morning, picked seashells on uninhabited islands, and watched ducks select a safe place to lay their eggs. There is never a dull moment on the river.
Reflection of Mai Thai (2nd from left) and snow flurries (yesterday morning)
Seagulls on the river
Coots, not our favorite bird. They signal winter
The storm blanketed most of the Deep South. Atlanta got nearly a foot of snow. Tennessee missed the brunt of it; we hear a sigh of relief from all who are participating in our favorite Dickens Festival in Franklin this weekend.

Stay warm and be safe out there, y'all!

This post is shared on Weekend Reflections and Through My Lens

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Fort Lauderdale's Christmas Boat Parade is legendary, but where's your favorite?

Thanksgiving came early this year, giving us more time to celebrate and shop. With online mega retailers like Amazon taking the lion's share of the holiday business, more and more retailers are getting defensive and offering huge discounts. There's nothing like shopping to get you into the holiday spirit.  After Thanksgiving, we even put out some Christmas lights on the boat.

We love this time of year when holiday festivals and celebrations are in full swing, from holiday parties to tree lighting and boat parades. Our most memorable holiday celebration is hands down Fort Lauderdale's Winterfest Boat Parade. We happened upon this fabulous event on our first year of cruising. We had picked up the boat in Fort Lauderdale and cruised north, spending the summer in the Chesapeake Bay. What amazing experiences! By Halloween, it was getting cold. We turned around and headed back south.

Our destination was Fort Lauderdale. We rented a slip at Isle of Venice for the month of December. It was an excellent location, within walking distance to the beach and Las Olas Boulevard shops and restaurants. The boat parade was icing on the cake. The theme was "On a River of Dreams," but because of the horror of Sept 11, "the parade had a special tribute to our nation and its citizens and continued commitment to patriotism."

Since that year, we have discovered many other holiday festivals. Here are some of our favorites:
Nov 24, 2017 - Dec 31, 2018 Holiday Lights in the Garden, Largo, Fl
Dec 9 Fort Lauderdale's Winterfest Boat Parade, Fl
Dec 16 Christmas Boat Parade in Cape Coral, Fl

Nov 10, 2017 - Jan 1, 2018 Gaylord Opryland's A Country Christmas, Nashville, TN
Dec 9 Dickens Festival in Franklin, TN

Where's your favorite boat parade or holiday festival?

This post is shared on Our World Tuesday and Through My Lens.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Falling for New England: Longfellow's Wayside Inn Grist Mill

This holiday season, when you reach for that package of Pepperidge Farm stuffing, frozen puff pastry, cake or cookies to prepare for your Thanksgiving dinner, take a close look at the logo. Do you see what I see? 
You're looking at the Wayside Inn Grist Mill. From 1952 to 1967, it produced stone-ground whole wheat flour to Pepperidge Farm for the company's products. The mill is still in operation today, producing 5-15 tons of flour a year for the gift shop and the restaurant at Wayside Inn.
Longfellow's Wayside Inn Grist Mill
Longfellow's Wayside Inn, the oldest operating inn in the United States
Wayside Inn's Grist Mill is located in Sudbury, Massachusetts, where the captain used to work years ago. We stopped by the last weekend of October, in the hope of seeing some fall foliage before we left town. 
Nice reflection of the grist mill, but foliage was past peak.
Fall color is much better in 2015, when this and the next picture were
 taken, also in late Oct.

a pair of pretty swans frolicking in the pond
This place is a magnet for taking pictures. We saw two wedding parties and many families dressed in holiday clothes (pictures for holiday cards, we presume) as we ambled around the property.
A wedding party making their way to the grist mill
Did you know? 

I learned so much about the company's history writing this blog post! Margaret Rudkin, the founder of Pepperidge Farm was quite an entrepreneur, acquiring many companies over the years. She sold Pepperidge Farm to Campbell Soup in 1961, and became the first woman to serve on the Campbell Soup board.  I'm a die-hard fan of the Puff Pastry product, and now I'm a fan of the remarkable founder as well. Read the rest of her story here.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

This post is shared on Weekend ReflectionsThrough My Lens and Our World Tuesday.
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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Rome: St Peter's Basilica and The Vatican

No doubt Rome is on many people's bucket list of places to visit. Which would explain why the city was so mobbed, even in the supposedly off-season month of October. How visitors survive the notoriously long lines at the Vatican museums and St Peter's Basilica (and other popular attractions) in the heat of the summer season is beyond me.

Our recent trip included three days in Rome, and one day was spent at the Vatican. We had bought our Vatican Museum tickets online for 11 a.m. and were pleased to skip the long lines at the entrance. Little did we know that once you get through security, you'll be greeted with throngs of tourists, and group tours aplenty. It was so crowded we gave up using the audio guides; there was simply no room to linger and listen to a specific piece of artwork. We just kept moving along from one section to the other, grabbing the opportunity to take pictures of the impressive artworks here and there.
We love this stunning spiral staircase!
Where we descended and exited the Vatican Museum
Marble basin at the Sala Rotonda
ambling down the Gallery of Maps

As we entered the Sistine Chapel, we noticed tourists were already packed like sardines in the room. Security guards were on hand to usher people along. Standing and gazing up at the 68 foot ceiling to admire Michelangelo's famed masterpieces is no easy feat. There were benches all along the sides, if you're so lucky to get a seat to contemplate the biblical frescoes. As I sat there, I realized I'm slowly becoming my aunts. Why go there when you can watch it on TV or YouTube? We're not religious. Nor are we art history fans.
The grand St Peter's Basilica
At St Peter's Square, the line was fairly quick on a Tuesday afternoon. The splendor of St Peter's Basilica awed us as soon as we entered. It is an immense building rich with history, arts and architecture.

Baldacchino is a solid bronze canopy, designed by Bernini
Michelangelo’s most famous sculpture the Pietà
We joined another line to go up to the dome, not knowing that there would be a fee of 8 Euros (6 if you prefer to walk) cash only. We saw the sign after lining up for at least 30 minutes or more. You ride up the elevator, then climb some 161 steps up a narrow passageway that winds around the dome.  This was exciting for us. The reward was a close up look of the dome and a spectacular view of Rome. We had explored the city the day before so we could identify some of the buildings and places.
The Dome
The crowd atop the dome
View of St Peter's Square
Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (white building in the distance)
View of buildings in Rome
See the railings above the dome? We were there a few pictures earlier
(4th picture above this one)
A 2015 article in The Economist said the Vatican Museums attracted 5.89M visitors in 2014, almost as many as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, except the Met is 5 times bigger! No wonder we felt so cramped. Perusing the pictures (over 500 of the Vatican alone!) of our trip, we're glad we visited, even if it was stressful at times. Traveling to a new destination is an eye-opener (don't laugh - the McCafe in the Piazza Spagna area is not only the biggest and most stylish we've ever seen of a McDonalds, it also serves decadent desserts and excellent coffee!) and help us create new memories. And stories to tell.
Fabulous desserts and excellent Americano coffee in a McCafe in Rome 
If Rome is on your bucket list, do it as soon as you are able. Walking the centuries-old cobblestone roads will take a toll on your feet. Know that lines will be long. Come prepared with a plan to minimize wait times, and you'll have a less stressful vacation.

This post is shared on Through My Lens and on Our World Tuesday.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Falling for New England: The Berkshires

So happy to be in New England for the foliage season! Not knowing this October would be the hottest on record (just our luck). We spent our first week in the Berkshires, where fall colors were spotty, with pockets of vibrant reds and yellows here and there.

We stayed at a timeshare called The Ponds at Foxhollow. Sitting on a 223 acre estate, the grounds were impressive, with a narrow meandering entrance drive lined with towering pine trees. The original property owner was Westinghouse who later sold to Vanderbilt, and had changed hands several times since. The condos/timeshare were developed in 1977.
Entrance to The Ponds at Foxhollow, Lenox
Meandering drive
Reflection of the timeshare condo
View from our bedroom
A beautiful sunset on our last day
About the only foliage we saw at Foxhollow
Arts and culture abound in the Berkshires, with the Boston Symphony performing at Tanglewood every summer. There are museums (Norman Rockwell, Mass MoCA, to name a few), art galleries, and plenty of shops and restaurants. We had fun exploring the cute small towns of Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge and Great Barrington, and hiking to Campbell and Bash Bish Falls. We even did a day trip to Albany, New York's capital (which deserves a blog post by itself).
a reflection from a storefront on main street in nearby Stockbridge

The real McCoy, at over 1500 lbs, at the entrance of the Red Lion Inn

We trust Mother Nature will put on a show, if not now, then later this month. We wait patiently. How are the fall colors in your neck of the woods?

This post is shared on Weekend Reflections and on Our World Tuesday.

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