Month: April 2019

Officially a Florida-Michigan Anti-Snowbird!

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Michigan Cabin, April

After a month of being astounded by the spectacular scenery of Michigan last fall I was hooked. I knew I needed a place up here. It was the same feeling I had about Florida before I got the condo there. And despite extensive traveling, and having an incredible time in so many places, I never quite felt this way about anyplace else. I was home. Twice.

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Beach by Florida Condo, November

Since I got this cabin in Michigan people have constantly declared “Oh, so you’re a snowbird!” But this couldn’t be further from the truth. I suppose the origin of this assumption is that, perhaps, these people themselves would prefer year-round summer, so it makes sense to them? (Is this you? Please leave a comment!) I grew up in Boston, and after being in Florida for a year actually missed the seasons, especially my favorite – autumn. Just so happens autumn is, at least in my opinion, the most spectacular time of year in Michigan. The trees are blazing with vibrant color, and the most succulent, delicious apples await your selection at the vast pick-your-own orchards across the state. A drive through the “tunnel of trees” and visit to the peak of Brockway Mountain in the Upper Peninsula provide the perfect immersion into this fall fiesta of firey shades.  Sometimes change is good…

And then there’s the oft-shunned winter season. I get it – growing up in Boston the first snowfall was always welcome, but that welcome usually wore out fast. And by mid-January, true, I was so over it. But imagine my delight closing on this cabin in Michigan, in April, and experiencing the snowfall that had eluded me after spending most of the season in Florida. The dazzling sparkle of fresh, clean snow, the brilliant bounty of white trees, the powdery sift of snowflakes sprinkling through the sky, the pleasing crunching sound the snow makes when you step through it… This isn’t the warm, tropical, ocean-breeze paradise of Florida, but it’s paradise in its own way.

Diversity of experience makes life more interesting. I find this applies to the seasons as well. I admit – I doubt I’ll be spending the whole winter in Michigan, but I definitely won’t be following a snowbird schedule, either!

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Camel Riding in the Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Desert!

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Riding off on tequila sands

For a really unique adventure during your Cabo San Lucas, Mexico visit, embark on a camel ride in the desert!

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Kissing camel!

This is a three phase experience. First, you meet the camels and learn about them followed by a photo op (and, if you’re camel’s feeling frisky, a Casanova-like kiss!)

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Ready to embark on the adventure!

Second, you mount the camels in groups of two (solo traveler? no problem, you’ll share with another solo) and embark on an enlightening journey along the beach and through the desert.

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Epic desert journey!

I found riding a camel surprisingly comfortable and relaxing. Before mounting, I was warned that since the camels are wider than horses some people consider them uncomfortable. That was not my experience. My camel felt a lot more sturdy and the ride smoother compared to the horseback rides I’d been on. It was a wonderful way to travel!

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Desert landscapes

The landscapes of the desert were beautiful. I was there in January, when temperatures were mild. This dazzling desert wonderland is flanked on one side by beach and the other side by mountains, a breathtaking pleasure to behold! Yep, this place has it all!

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Rustic, authentic alfresco dining!

The third portion of the tour was an authentic, alfresco lunch buffet. Fabulous food in an amazing atmosphere – what more can you ask for after an exhilarating ride? (And, yes, camel meat was available…!)

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Delicious authentic lunch!

Also on the menu: a tequila tasting! What a great way to quench your desert thirst…!

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Too much tequila?!

 

You can see more of this unique experience here:!

 

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Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico!

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El Castillo (“the Castle”)

Chichen Itza, on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, boasts some of the most spectacular Mayan ruins in the world. Dating from 600-900AD, Chichen Itza means “the well at the mouth of the Itza.” Although remote, Chichen Itza is frequently featured in bus tour excursions from Playa del Carmen (2 hours, 7 minutes), Cancun (2 hours, 15 minutes), and Cozumel (3 hours, 25 minutes). Although that may sound like a long trek, the treasures to be found once there make every second worth the journey! Perhaps the most enthralling architectural marvel of all here is El Castillo, Temple of Kukulcan, or “the castle,” a 98 foot high enormous ziggurat temple. (Art History tip: when there are steps it is a ziggurat, not a pyramid.) On the platform at the top sacrifices were conducted.

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Templo de los Guerreros (“Temple of the Warriors”)

Near the Castle is the Temple of the Warriors, where a forest of columns is adorned with depictions of the most honored fighting champions.

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“Great Ball Court”

Athletes were champions, too. A favorite with visitors here is the Great Ball Court, the largest (551 by 230 feet) and most well-preserved Mayan ball court in the world. The court is surrounded by “stands,” or audience seating areas. Different classes were assigned to different seating areas, becoming increasingly more lavish and “with a better view of the action” as the audience member elevated in social class. It reminded me of the seating structure of the amphitheaters of Ancient Rome, a whole ocean away. Notice the donut-shaped carving (top left on the photo above.) The ball had to get through this hole! Seeing this, you contemplate the tremendous skill of the Mayan athletes.

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Carvings on the wall of the Ball Court

Carvings on the walls of the ball court are extremely detailed, and tell the story of the ball game and its athletes. The “winner” had the privilege of being selected for sacrifice through decapitation (also depicted here!)

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“Venus Platform”

There are many other buildings here to explore. Take your time to notice the intricate detail on many of these structures. There is absolutely no better way to learn about a time and place in history than from the original people, who, here, eternally tell their first-hand story through their artwork. No modern tour guide can tell it so well.

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Overhead view*

*Open source (credit: dronepicr, http://www.commons.wikimedia.org)

You can view my full video tour of Chichen Itza here!:

 

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

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Captivating Contradictions in Mazatlan, Mexico!

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Cliff Divers

Mazatlan is a bustling metropolis on the Mexican Riviera, though you’re never far from the laid-back pleasures of miles of beaches and oceanfront pedestrian pathways here. There are many pleasures to partake in here, but if you’re up for some real excitement, don’t miss the “cliff divers,” one of the city’s primary tourist draws. These guys make the death-defying leap all day in exchange for your voluntary donation. Well worth the “price of admission!”

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Big city, big beaches!

The beaches are seemingly endless here. Enjoy views of the city skyline and distant islands while the waves wash over you.

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Miles of oceanfront walkways

If swimming’s not your thing, there are miles of pedestrian pathways sporting the same super views! Statues and other art guide the way to the tropical delights all around you.

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Mazatlan Cathedral, exterior

Mazatlan’s architectural highlight is Mazatlan Cathedral, or, more formally, the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. This baroque revival style building was finished in 1899.

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Mazatlan Cathedral, interior

The interior is inspiring. The sunlight glow beaming through the stained glass bathe the sanctuary in brilliantly bold color, and towering pillars line the aisle like exclamation points paying tribute to the undeniable beauty of this place.

Mazatlan is at once old and new, peaceful and exciting. The contradictions are a joy to experience!

You can view my full video tour of Mazatlan here!:

https://www.youtube.comwatch?v=iFkr1Z25res

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

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Magnificent Mainland Michigan: a Convivial Road Trip!

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Fort Michimilackinac

My Michigan road trip changed everything. Previously not on my radar, it didn’t take long to reach the conclusion that Michigan is, in my opinion, the most underrated destination in the United States. The scenic beauty up there was well beyond what my wildest imagination could conceive! I could easily spend a lifetime there… and that’s no exaggeration… I literally put my money where my mouth is on the topic and put an offer on a vacation cabin in Michigan last month. (No, I’m not relocating out of Florida. This will be a recreational getaway!) But I digress… more on that in another post!

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More Michimilackinac…

Fort Michimilackinac is a National Historic Landmark in Mackinaw, Michigan. Built in 1715 it served first as a fort, trading post, and supply depot for the French and later for the British. Today you can explore the myriad of brilliantly restored buildings contemplating a much different way of life in an era lifetimes away. Among the buildings are a blacksmith shop (complete with re-enactor), barracks, officers’ quarters, a medical clinic, a chapel, Native American teepees, gardens, and so much more. Old cannons, weaponry, and artifacts are also on display. Get lost in history at Fort Michimilackinac – you might not be able to pronounce it but chances are you will be able to appreciate it!

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Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

Built in 1889, the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse remained in operation until 1957. Durable and resilient, it served many a hard-bitten sailor in the treacherous waters and fierce fog of the Straits of Mackinac. This lighthouse is located next to Fort Michimilackinac in Mackinaw, so it makes a convenient stop during your day at the Fort. You’re welcome to head inside and browse the museum.

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Petoskey

One of the reasons that road trips are such a great way to travel are the unexpected pleasures you stumble upon just exploring – or, better yet, getting lost on purpose! I have enjoyed some of my most rewarding travel experiences ever this way. Petoskey has an attractive historic gaslight district in town with many buildings from the 1700s and 1800s and quaint cobbled streets and gas lamps, but the most fascinating neighborhood in Petoskey is off the beaten path. When you get back up into the residential areas you stumble on stopped time – a Victorian village of summer cottages (more like mansions) with the most intricate and ornate detail on each and every colorfully endowed house. The entire neighborhood is completely closed off for the winter, but blooms in all of its beautiful brilliance again every spring. Don’t be afraid to get lost in Petoskey, and have the chance to enjoy this hidden gem!

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Crane’s Orchards

One of my favorite things about Michigan are the apple orchards. The landscape is dotted with miles of rows of apple trees, cider mill barns, and wineries. Crane’s Apple Orchard in Fennville is one of my favorites. Here you can pick-your-own apples, and you have a choice from many different varieties. My favorite are the Honeycrisp! It was here that I picked the most delectable, delicious, sweet and juicy fresh apples I’ve ever tried in my life. You haven’t had an apple until you’ve picked one fresh in Michigan!

 

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Local delicacies!

When you’re done filling up your apple sack, head over to the restaurant, where you can try a flight of pie (think flight of beer or whiskey – only with fresh-baked pie varieties instead…), fresh milled apple cider, piping hot apple cider donuts (a Michigan specialty!), and many other local delicacies, grown and produced locally, including a cheese selection from local farms, local fruits and jams, and farmhouse breads. I always advocate experiencing a travel destination with all five senses – and this is the perfect place to do that. The sights, sounds, scents, touches, and tastes are all here to delight.

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Apple orchard

Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns, Michigan is another great stop on the apple hopping trail. Here you can indulge in a hard cider tasting (or, if you prefer, wine) for free! All of the delicious ciders and wines are produced on-site. I didn’t want the experience to end, so I got some to go!

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Traverse City

As enthralling as Michigan’s countryside is, you’ll want to venture out into some of the bigger cities, too. Traverse City is the largest city in the northern area of the state, and the largest cherry producer in the country. TripAdvisor has named Traverse City the number 2 “small town travel destination in the U.S.” While I wouldn’t call it a “small town,” more of a small “city,” I would agree it’s a travel destination worth venturing to. The older buildings and quirky shops and pubs are bursting with character, and a stroll along the lake is a great pleasure indeed.

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Higgins Lake

Another media favorite, Higgins Lake was rated 6th most beautiful lake in the world by National Geographic. The shallow waters are ideal for wading near the shoreline, and pontoon boats and jet skis provide playful pastimes here. On the shore is a state park with public access, where you can just enjoy the views from swing benches or delight in a peaceful picnic (hopefully with some local Michigan wine!)

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Chocolates by Grimaldi

Chocolates by Grimaldi is a chocolate factory and shop in Grand Haven, Michigan where you can call ahead for a tour of the factory and see how the chocolate is made from scratch. The irresistible aromas will have your mouth watering long before the end of the tour… luckily it comes with a scrumptious goody bag to reward you for your patience at the end! For a fascinating, fun foodie experience be sure to check it out!

As I’m sure you’re well aware by now, I just can’t get enough of marvelous Michigan! If you haven’t had a chance to check out my other blog posts on Michigan, you can do so here! (And don’t be surprised to see more soon!):

Outdoor Delights in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan!

A German Christmas in Frankenmuth, Michigan!

And you can view the video of my Mainland Michigan Road Trip tour here!:

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored! A dollar may not be a lot, but every dollar counts!

$1.00