2013 in Review

Looking back at everything I’ve done in the past year, makes me realize how lucky I am.  My year has been filled with lots of life!

Exercise always plays a big part.  Not only hiking…

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First Look at Central Park

Central Park holds a certain mystique for those who have never taken a stroll along one of its many lovely paths.  New York City was never on my list of “must visit” destinations, but I have to confess that I was pleasantly surprised.  I felt the same way about Rome.  Before visiting, I envisioned it to be somewhat dirty and more touristy than it was.  Anyway, back to Central Park…after exploring the Rockefeller Center area on my second day in New York City, I had enough time and energy left before heading back to my Couchsurfing host’s home to walk 9 blocks uptown to see for myself what Central Park was like.

What’s not to love about views like this…

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Couchsurfing New York City and Salsa Dancing

After my 2-day whirlwind walking tour of Philadelphia, it was time to catch a $10 Boltbus to New York City!  Upon my arrival, I knew to take the N train from Penn Station and what stop to get off of, but I didn’t even have the address of my Couchsurfing host…Maria.  She was picking me up at the train station at 9:00pm, so I had to have faith and trust.  It was a short drive to her family’s home in Brooklyn, where she is staying temporarily.  They are Italian and although her father is a Chef, her mother made some outstanding meals!  And she has a to-die-for Cappuccino maker!

I did most everything on my own in New York, but one evening, Maria and I went out Salsa dancing and to a neighborhood bar.  This is Maria…

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City Life in Philadelphia

I arrived in Philadelphia Monday evening to the home of my lovely Couchsurfing hostess…Claire.  She was still at work, so I had detailed instructions on where to find the keys to her beautiful City apartment that is located near Rittenhouse Square.  All of the lights were on when I arrived to welcome me.

This is her living room.  I love window seats!  She is a voracious reader and just outside of this photo on the left is another built-in bookcase with books!

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Weekly Photo Challenge — My 2012 in Pictures

2012 was a year of discovery and fun!

I participated in lots of activities…

Activities

Pinterest inspired me to make over 125 new recipes!  My husband gained a few pounds.

And…I made homemade Febreeze, carpet stain remover, deodorant, In a Pickle Bag, scarves made from t-shirts, and these beautiful Easter centerpieces…

Made

I attended lots of fun festivals, farmers’ markets, parties, and concerts!

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I was a tourist in my own hometown of Cincinnati and the surrounding areas…

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And–had so much fun seeing familiar places with new eyes through the lens of my camera!

Tourist2

In May/June, I camped for 26 nights of the 40 nights I spent touring seven AMAZING countries in Africa.  You can read the first post here!

Africa

Met unforgettable people and had once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

People of Africa

Strangers opened their homes to me in South Africa, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida–through an organization called Couchsurfing!

It is an amazing way to meet new people, make travel affordable, and get tips from locals on what to see and do!

Couchsurfing

My six week-4,200 mile-USA road-trip through North & South Carolina, Georgia and Florida was an adventure!  I left in late October and returned home in December.

I so enjoyed walking through all of the cities I visited!

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There is so much beauty in the USA!

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Florida was too pretty for words!!

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I took a wine painting class with girlfriends, went to Columbus, Ohio for a girls’ weekend, and had girlfriends visit me in Florida!

Friends

Last…but most importantly…had quality time with family!  I thank my husband for being a good sport concerning my passion for travel!

Family

My cousins and I had fun taking photos with Santa!!

Santa

I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve such a rich life…but I’m truly grateful and if 2013 is as good or better than 2012…then all I have to say is…”LIFE IS GOODGREAT IN YOUR 50’s”!

Distorted Reality

These are some photos from my recent trip through the Southern US.  I’ve given them a name.  If you’d like to play along, I’d love to know what your imagination comes up with…

Window Puzzle

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This was a wall in the kitchen of the first lovely Couchsurfing home I stayed in.

Field of Dreams

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Searching for Me

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Frozen in Time

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Behind the Glass

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Hope you can all slow down and enjoy the moments!

 

Sunset at the Yacht Club…Cape Coral, Forida

If you’ve been following my three-week adventure up to this point…you’ll remember I started in Cincinnati, Ohio…Couchsurfed through Asheville, N.C., Charleston, S.C. and Savannah, GA, and then visited the Panhandle of Florida, where I had rented a unit through VRBO for a week (but only spent five days because I was lonely there)–moving on to the Tampa Bay area, staying with fellow blogger Zully for four nights–and finally driving here to my brother’s ex-wife’s sister’s condo.  I was joined by my husband, who will visit for a week and then a couple of girlfriends will arrive for a week.  The condo is located 30 minutes from Ft. Myers beach…in Cape Coral.  Less than 10 minutes away is a small beach, marina, yacht club and restaurant.

Here are the beach and pier…

We arrived just before sunset…

I never grow tired of the sunsets!  As soon as the sun set…people started walking back to their cars and I thought…this is when it gets good…you shouldn’t leave yet!

This one looks to me like someone is painting strokes of color in the sky.

If you don’t mind being uncomfortable sometimes (sleeping on a couch) (relying on the kindness of strangers)…then Couchsurfing will afford you the opportunity to discover new places through the eyes of your host/hostess, make new friendships and be able to extend your trip because it’s more affordable!

My new motto…”Life is better at the Beach”!

 

Tybee Island, Savannah, Georgia

My second and final day in Savannah was spent taking a drive to Tybee Island with Sonya (my Couchsurfing host).

Located approximately 30 minutes by car from Savannah, with lots of shops and restaurants, it’s a great spot to spend the day!

As soon as we walked onto the beach, there were lots of birds!  Seagulls and Black Skimmers!  I started running alongside them so they would fly for our photos…

We walked onto the pier…

And under the pier…

It was a windy 60 degree day.  Here’s Sonya…

After leaving the beach, we stopped at some shops that had interesting items…

On the way home, our next stop was the grocery where I purchased ingredients for the dinner I was preparing!

Sonya and her husband Graham had booked an evening carriage ride in Savannah, so we had a nice tour of Downtown after dinner.  It was a little chilly, but they had blankets.  I had seen much of what we saw during my self-guided walking tour, but the Tour Guide had some interesting tid bits to share.  I didn’t know that most of Historic Downtown Savannah is built on top of a grave yard!  Unfortunately, none of my photos came out…it’s difficult to take night photos when you’re moving!

I hope you’ll keep following my adventures as I travel to the Pensacola/Destin/Panama City Beach area tomorrow!

Savannah in a Day

I left Alexa’s (my Couchsurfing host) at 7am to drive the 2 1/2 hours from Charleston, S.C. to Savannah, Georgia.  I parked at the Visitors’ Center (it’s free for the first hour and only $1 for each additional hour), spoke with a very nice lady about Savannah and started walking on my self-guided tour.  Before arriving, I was wondering how it would compare to Charleston.  Both are walking cities…if you don’t mind walking for a few hours.

This is the first photo I took at the Savannah College of Art and Design.  They own over 80 buildings in Savannah!

I walked about a mile down Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. to the Savannah River and turned right.  There are restaurants and shops lining the River and it extends about 10 blocks.

The weather started out in the 50’s and cloudy, but warmed up to the 60’s with some sun.  You can see the river in this shot…

This is the WWII Monument, “A World Apart“, symbolizing a world divided by war.

The steel globe is overlaid with bronze oceans and copper continents. The pathway lists the 527 Chatham County residents killed during the war.

This is the Waving Girl Monument…

I couldn’t resist asking if I could take a photo of the barbershop…(they looked at me oddly)!

A puddle of water…:)

Savannah has a variety of types of architecture.  In comparison to Charleston, the City seemed a bit run down, but still beautiful!  Historic Downtown Savannah has 22 beautiful squares with a statue or fountain and benches for sitting.

The Cathedral of St. John is massive and spectacular!  I’m not posting a photo because it’s difficult to take a photo to do it justice!  There are quite a few Churches in Savannah, but I’ll just post this one…

The Oak trees with the Spanish Moss hanging down are beautiful and are everywhere!

This stairwell caught my eye…

I drove to the home of my Couchsurfing host–Sonya, her husband Graham, and 16 yr. old son–Val.  Sonya is from Bulgaria and full of life!  We spent a couple of hours looking at her photos from Bulgaria and Belgium.  She was in the Bulgarian Army for 17 years and has only been in Savannah for two months.  Her husband is still in the Army and is leaving for Afghanistan after Thanksgiving.  I was in the Army years ago…so we all have something is common!

She made Chicken and stuffing for dinner.  Tomorrow Sonya and I are going to Tybee Island and she made a reservation for all of us to go on a carriage ride in Downtown Savannah in the evening!

See you then!

Charleston at first glance

I arrived in Charleston from Asheville, N.C. shortly after noon on November 2nd and stopped at the Visitor’s Center to pick up maps and information.  Finding a reasonably priced place to park can be a challenge.  Luckily, Alexa, the Couchsurfing girl I’m staying with told me about free parking at the Battery, located right on the waterfront.  I began walking from there and was so excited to begin exploring all of the beautiful architecture and landscaping!

Here are some of the treasures I found…

Paths are so intriguing…you never know where they’ll lead…similar to life!

I absolutely LOVE all of the pink hues in Charleston…

This photo is interesting to me because it’s a building with dead vines, a lit lamp, a reflection in the window and in the background to the left…a tree!

The gray, white, and black make a nice combo…

There were lots of large homes to take photos of…but more often than not…I was drawn to other buildings…

The Crape (or Crepe) Myrtle tree is found everywhere in Charleston.  They remind me of camouflage!

If you haven’t figured it out yet…I really like vines growing on buildings!

I love this outdoor lamp!

As I was walking along, a man in a suit saw my camera and commented that there was a lot to photograph in Charleston.  I agreed with him and asked if he was in real estate.  He said no, I’m an Attorney, but please don’t hold it against me.  He sounded just like Forest Gump.  When I showed him my walking tour and my next stop, he said he could walk with me part of the way, to show me where it was.  Like they say, people in the South are extra friendly!

I believe this first church is St. Philip’s Church…it had a nice cemetery!  Charleston is known as the “Holy City” because there are so many churches.  I’m told by Alexa that there are no buildings in Historic Downtown Charleston that are taller than the church spires, by City ordinance!

I had a self-guided walking tour map with me, but mainly referred to it for directions.  I’m not a big history buff, so for me it was more about taking photographs.

Alexa wasn’t getting home from her 2nd job as a dance instructor until 9pm, but I headed to her place to go through my photos, eat some soup for an early dinner and rest.  The combination of driving, walking a lot, and sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings contributed to me feeling tired!

I’ll be taking another long hike through the streets of Charleston tomorrow…see you then!

Couchsurfing Cape Town

If you’ve never heard of Couchsurfing before… based on my first experience… it’s a wonderful way to learn about a new place.  I stayed with a couple named Odette and Neal in Cape Town, Africa and they were so hospitable!

Neal and Odette

They picked me up at the airport and I even had my own bedroom in their lovely home!

Odette and Neal’s place

They enlisted their neighbor…Keith…to take me hiking to the top of Table Mountain—Amazing!

Indiavestner Trail–Table Mountain, Cape Town

Taking Cable Car down from top of Table Mountain

I ate wonderful home cooked meals with them and they even took me shopping!  I took them out to dine at a sushi restaurant as a token for their kindness.

A fellow blogger, Rory Alexander, met up with us while we were dining.  He has three blogs and I would link to them, but my link isn’t working correctly right now.  He’s an unbelievable photographer!

I’m definitely a fan of Couchsurfing now!