In-and-Out: Vermont

Bristol, Vermont, travel, photo, explore, charm, sky, silver

As part of my “In-and-Out” series (where I write about very short visits to places due to business trips), I am going to share about my visit to my 40th state.  This week, I got an opportunity to visit one of my employer’s offices in Burlington, Vermont, a state I had never set foot on before.  I heard the town was charming and that it was a relaxed kind of place.  It was.  In my short visit, besides the work aspect (which went well!), I managed to do just a small bit of exploring thanks to our local colleagues.  What did this small of exploring include?

1.  Walking around Burlington along the lake and in the heart of the town.  We had dinner at Farmhouse where I ate a delicious burger topped only by the amazing onion rings.  A couple of Brooklyns (rye whiskey based cocktail) also helped.  Interesting sidewalk-side bike and doggie stations…

dog, parking, Burlington, vermont, curious, red

Doggie parking!

bike parking meter, Burlington, vermont, curious, red

Bike parking meter!

2.  Drive through the charming town of Bristol (pop. 4,000-5,000) and stop for ice cream at Lulu’s.

Bristol, Vermont, travel, photo, explore, charm Bristol, Vermont, travel, photo, explore, charm, US flag Bristol, Vermont, travel, photo, explore, charm, sky, silver

3.  Hike in the Green Mountain National Forest along the Long Trail to watch the sun set above the Adirondacks.

Vermont, hiking ,Long trail , Green Mountains, nature, explore, travel Vermont, hiking ,Long trail , Green Mountains, nature, explore, travelVermont, hiking ,Long trail , Green Mountains, nature, explore, travelVermont, hiking ,Long trail , Green Mountains, nature, explore, travelVermont, hiking ,Long trail , Green Mountains, nature, explore, travel, sunset, sky

4.  Go for a short sailboat cruise on Lake Champlain on a phenomenal late spring day with highs in the low 70s and beautiful blue skies.

Lake Champlain, Burlington, sailboat, Vermont, blue sky, peaceful, beautiful

Our ride

Lake Champlain, sailboat, Vermont, blue sky, peaceful, beautiful, ilivetotravel

Captain ilivetotravel

Lake Champlain, sailboat, Vermont, blue sky, peaceful, beautiful, Burlington

Looking back towards the Community Sailing Center in Burlington

As a parenthetical, I got to enjoy Ben & Jerry‘s ice cream scooped by Jerry Greenfield himself!

Jerry Greenfield, Ben and Jerry, ice cream, Vermont, fun, yummy

There is Jerry!

I do not know whether work will take me up there again sometime but I sure plan to go back some day to enjoy nature be it skiing or hiking!

Great Drive Series – 17-Mile Drive in California

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

I have been to San Francisco once or twice for very short visits but have not gone further south than the airport.  That last year when I went to visit friends in San Jose, California. Even though the visit was only a few days, I wanted to see the famous coast in the area.  Additionally, I was hoping to see legendary Silicon Valley and just to get a sense for how this part of California feels.

Leaving San Fran – Caltrain!

I left San Fran on a Wed afternoon by taking the Caltrain down for the hour ride to San Jose for $9.25!  Note that the hour ride is for the “express” train that makes less than half a dozen stops between the two cities.  The express only runs at peak times which in the afternoon means from 4 PM until the end of rush hour.  I killed some time at the station to avoid taking the non-express with all the annoyance that that would bring with all the stops.  The 4PM was not packed but was pretty well “attended” with commuters from school-aged kids going home to worker bees heading back home.  The train is a double-decker so plenty of space.  Except I did not find a spot for suitcases so I had to place it on the seat next to me.  Maybe that was better as it was with me the whole time?

Caltrain, train, transportation, travel, San Francisco, California

The only photo I have related to the train… sorry! And the shades were given to me at the conference.

17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach

I am not a golfer but I knew, of course, about Pebble Beach.  To be honest, I really did not know where it was.  At least I had heard of it.  But I had never heard of 17-Mile Drive.  We left San Jose and drove through eucalyptus forests and passed by sand dunes as we approached Monterey.  Monterey has an awesome aquarium but I preferred to add Carmel to the itinerary so the aquarium will be for another time.

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic

The drive through the eucalyptus forest

Starting on 17-Mile Drive

Upon entering Monterey (or its outskirts), we took a left hand turn to enter the route that would take us to 17-Mile Drive.  We hit a gate where we paid $10 for the right to enter “The Drive”.  The drive seems to be in private property, hence they get to charge for driving through it.  It is not a park but the setup looked like one.

map, Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic

The route of 17-Mile Drive

There are quite a few stops along the way by the ocean which is quite nice.  You can get out of the car, eat something, walk on the beach, or watch the sea otters (or perhaps a whale?).

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic

The Pacific Ocean roaring against the rocks; we saw some seals

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

Instead of boring you with the actual shot, how about 2 of me getting ready for it??

The water is frigid so there will not be any swimming but I had to dip my toes just to feel it!

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

Into the cold!

Cypress Point

The most spectacular stops were Cypress Point Lookout and Pescadero Point.  The place was first spotted (that we know of) by a European as far back as 1542.  Over 200 years later, a missionary gave Cypress Point its current name.  Supposedly the cypress tree growing on the rocky point is like 250 years old – they are trying to get it to stay alive until 300 (according to the sign).  Wonder what they plan to do if it gets to 300.  Chop it?  It sure makes for a beautiful sight.

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

The Lone Cypress

During the drive we ran into Cypress Point Club and latter the Pebble Beach courses.  What a setting for golf!  Not that I play but if I did…

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

Cypress forest native to the area

I did not get to snap any good shots of these so I will leave you with some “sea art” from the Pacific coast:   no one does it better than nature!  From here we went on to Carmel and visited its famous Mission – you can read about that part here!

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

Marine vegetation imitates art?

Pebble Beach, 17 Mile Drive, California, Pacific, Cypress Point, ocean, sea, algae, travel, drive, scenic, photo

My favorite shot

It is neat when travel unexpectedly shows you something you had no real understanding of – or perhaps even knowledge of.  This visit qualifies under both – an unexpected enjoyable side trip!

 

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In-and-Out: The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7

I headed to Denver to see friends and as luck would have it, an afternoon in Estes Park was in the books for me.  I would have about 3 hours to spend in Estes Park so I checked TripAdvisor for some quick ideas on what to see while there.  I had driven through Estes Park multiple times a couple of decades ago when I spent two summers in Boulder, Colorado to get to the Rocky Mountain National Park but I had never stopped in Estes Park.  I had no memory of it.

So, The Stanley Hotel came up in the search and it offered a 1.5 hour tour.  My local friends briefly shared about the hotel so I made up my mind and bought my ticket ($23 since I was not a guest at the hotel) for the 11 AM tour.

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, facade, architecture, photo, tour, The Shining

Grand hotel indeed!

I made it with barely a second to spare before the tour began.  Scary Mary saw me walk in and asked if I was Mr. Pino.  I said yes and immediately asked her if I could run to the restroom – I could not fathom an 1.5 hours waiting to go…  (did I share too much?)  She allowed the extra minute and I was glad.

Stanley Hotel, Scary Mary, Estes Park, tour, The Shining, Stephen King, photo

Scary Mary introduces us to the tour

Scary Mary, her self-proclaimed name, was funny and quirky and made for a great tour guide mixing deep knowledge about the place with humor and the dramatic touch when it came time to talk about ghosts and other supernatural stories.

The Shining and The Stanley Hotel

The hotel is more famous not for the quaint story of its birth but because of its ties to the movie “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson.

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, facade, architecture, photo, tour, The Shining

Art based on The Shining

It seems the hotel was the inspiration Stephen King needed when he stayed at The Stanley back in 1974.  The hotel was about to close for the season but King convinced the staff to let him and his wife stay overnight.  Maybe they pranked him when they placed him in the haunted room 217… (We also hear Jim Carrey should be asked about his stay in this room…)

Room 217, Estes Park, Colorado, Stanley Park, The Shining

Haunted Room 217

While the hotel was the inspiration for the movie, it was not the actual location where that movie was filmed.  Most was filmed in a studio set and exterior shots were done at a lodge near Mt. Hood.  Of lesser fame than The Shining, perhaps, is that the hotel was featured in “Dumb and Dumber” – especially a run up its main staircase by the two principal characters of the movie!

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, architecture, photo, Dumb and Dumber

The main staircase

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7, Cascade, staircase

Looking down the main staircase

A little of the history of the place

The tour begins with the story with how Freelan Oscar “F.O.” Stanley and his wife Flora got to settle there.  The Stanleys were an East Coast couple who had taken a trip to Colorado to help F.O. recover his health.  He was pretty much almost at the brink of death as he left Denver for a time in the mountains at Estes Park.  He made an incredible recovery and proceeded to build the hotel there as a way to have something comparable to the East coast life they were used to when they came out West, a place they had grown to love.

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7, Cascade, lobby, keys

Registration counter in the lobby with photos of F.O. and Flora (I presume…)

There are a few stories about supernatural events but those are best heard from Scary Mary, not me :)  But I will say there is a special force right smack in the middle of this staircase on the 217-side of the building…  Some kind of vortex if I understood right.

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, architecture, photo, vortex, supernatural

The vortex staircase

The Stanley Hotel today

The lobby clearly retains a feel for the past with the heavy woods and furniture arrangements.  While the setting of the hotel is spectacular, and the lobby and its spaces feel special, the main guest room floors do feel a bit drab.

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7, lobby

Lobby

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7

Guest room floor

The maze in front of the hotel was an ‘add’ to the grounds after throngs of visitors kept asking about the maze that shows in The Shining.  The hotel owners, I suppose, decided to play along and installed one (in its early stages of vegetation growth at the moment…).

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, maze, architecture, photo, tour, The Shining

The maze at the front of the hotel

Back to the interior, the hotel has good touches in the decoration using vintage artifacts from an automobile to mirrors, large and small.  Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, photo, tour, mirror Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, photo, tour, lamp, light fixture Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, photo, tour, piano Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, photo, tour, automobile, vintage car

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, photo, tour, hose fixture

Old fixture for fire hose

The views from the front porch – and I presume, the rooms – are pretty spectacular with the town below and the mountains beyond.  A key selling point to the hotel, I am sure!

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7, Rockies

Views of the Rockies from the front porch

The bar is pretty cool in its design, decor and feel.  There is an outdoor restaurant in the back.  I did not get to try neither the food nor the drinks so that may be left to a future visit!  I would love to stay there in the dead of winter sometime!

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7, Cascade, bar Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7, Cascade, bar Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7, Cascade, bar Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7, Cascade, bar

I leave you with some other photos of the main building and the second guest room building.Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7 Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, lodging, architecture, photo, Samsung Galaxy S7

 

 

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My Grain of Salt in Atlanta Winning the 1996 Olympics

German Rieckehoff, Olympics, Atlanta, Raul Pino, bid, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech Olympic Coalition, Puerto Rico

My blog is about travel and this post may seem a bit off-topic but I hope you will indulge me because it is the 20th anniversary of the Atlanta Olympics and because my fascination with travel is related to all these places on Earth we call countries – which, in turn, get together every few years in peace for an event we call the Olympics.  And I am fascinated by seeing all those places…

A Georgia Tech student volunteering for the bid

As a college student at Georgia Tech in the late 1980s, I heard that Atlanta was going to bid for the right to host the 1996 Olympic Games.  It sounded a bit far-fetched but, at the same thing, it sounded so exciting.  I quickly learned that fellow students had created an organization to help greet the International Olympic Committee (IOC; they would choose the host city) members when they visited Georgia Tech which was suggested as the Olympic Village.  This was back in 1989 and the movement was grassroots way before social media existed and people developed hysterics about grassroots campaigns being enabled by social media.  The Georgia Tech Olympic Coalition (GTOC) was set up by students and was, initially, staffed by students getting ready for the first IOC visit to the Tech campus in May 1989 when IOC members from five countries would come to check out Atlanta and OUR campus (I only remember Japan, Sweden and Finland of the five but remember creating a massive banner in all the languages!).  We not only created the massive banner (an all-nighter) but had students in several locations with balloons ready to show the spirit, and a student from each of the visitors’ countries ready to greet them in their native language.

I left that summer for an internship out of town but when I returned faculty and staff had joined our student-launched coalition.  And we loved having the support -and wisdom- of our faculty and staff.  We got to work side-by-side, no patronizing the students, with amazing individuals from a EE professor, to the head of Registration (and her awesome staff), to the landscape and physical plant folks, and many more.  It was an incredible experience to continue to support visits by the IOC VIPs to our campus (even if some of them turned out to be corrupt as later scandals revealed…).

In any case, my main job consisted of finding students at Tech or at any university in the Atlanta area from the country of the IOC visitor and then get them prepped so we could be sure and deliver the personal touch.  That personal touch in everything done by the AOC (Atlanta Organizing Committee) and GTOC, I am sure, won the day after the first round of voting took place in Tokyo in 1990…  One thing I will say is that, while GTOC was still a student-only organization, we came up with the idea of selling bid t-shirts for $5 to raise funds to support our expenses!  (Namely, helium, balloons, banner raw materials, etc.)  Not even the committee organizing the bid had come up with the idea of selling t-shirts!  I like to think we were first in commercializing the Atlanta Games…

Olympics, Atlanta, Raul Pino, bid, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech Olympic Coalition, welcome

Working hard to prepare the grounds at GT for the IOC visits!

Olympics, Atlanta, bid, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech Olympic Coalition, welcome

Entrance to the Wardlaw Center on North Ave. with the flags of visiting IOC members

I personally got to welcome the IOC members from Puerto Rico (Germán Rieckehoff Sampayo; because I grew up in P.R.) and from Hungary (Pal Schmitt, a future president, because we could not locate any student from Hungary; thanks to Frau Venable, my German teacher, who spoke some Hungarian and taught me a greeting that made Mr. Schmitt think I was Hungarian!).

German Rieckehoff,IOC, ilivetotravel, Olympics, Atlanta, Raul Pino, bid, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech Olympic Coalition

Luckily for me, someone snapped and gave me this photo of Mr. Rieckehoff’s visit!

German Rieckehoff, Olympics, Atlanta, Raul Pino, bid, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech Olympic Coalition, Puerto Rico

Me giving Mrs. Rieckehoff a pin or something!

German Rieckehoff, Olympics, Atlanta, Raul Pino, bid, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech Olympic Coalition, Puerto Rico, IOC

Mr. Rieckehoff being greeted by GT President Crecine with Billy Payne looking on (me, front left)

Celebrating winning to be the host city of the 1996 Games

Anyway, fast forward to the day when the 1996 host city decision was being announced in Japan (September 1990).  The announcement was expected right before morning rush hour began that day in Atlanta.  I had been up most of the night inflating balloons (I actually can be seen in an WXIA Ch. 11 news clip that morning!) for the celebration should we win the bid at Underground Atlanta.  I went home for just a little bit and was back early enough to be on the steps of Underground Atlanta as the announcement was made.  It was an incredible feeling to see the dream of Atlanta hosting the 1996 Olympics come true!

Atlanta, 1996 announcement, Underground Atlanta, Olympics, host city, 1990, ilivetotravel, Raul Pino

Waiting, in the wee hours, for the announcement (me toward the left)

Atlanta, 1996 announcement, Underground Atlanta, Olympics, host city, 1990, ilivetotravel, Raul Pino

iivetotravel in the middle of the cheering!

Atlanta, 1996 announcement, Underground Atlanta, Olympics, host city, 1990, ilivetotravel, Raul Pino

A few seconds after hearing the news (me in the center, half-hidden)

As a reward for our work, when the victory parade took place, GTOC volunteers walked along the Georgia Tech Ramblin’ Wreck in our loud yellow t-shirts – and, again, I can be seen in video from newscasts about the parade (yes, I have those news shows in DVDs now that I converted my old VCR tapes!).

Atlanta, Olympics, victory parade, AOC, ACOG, GTOC, host city, 1990, Raul Pino, ilivetotravel

GTOC volunteers awaiting to start the victory parade!

Atlanta, Olympics, victory parade, AOC, ACOG, GTOC, host city, 1990, Raul Pino, ilivetotravel

With fellow GTOCers waiting to start the parade – always clowning around…

Atlanta, Olympics, victory parade, AOC, ACOG, GTOC, host city, 1990, Raul Pino, ilivetotravel

With fellow GTOCers waiting to start the parade. I think am the only student in this pic.

Atlanta, Olympics, victory parade, AOC, ACOG, GTOC, host city, 1990, Raul Pino, ilivetotravel

Atlanta, Olympics, victory parade, AOC, ACOG, GTOC, host city, 1990, Raul Pino, ilivetotravel

Me in the midst of the parade in downtown

Atlanta, Olympics, victory parade, AOC, ACOG, GTOC, host city, 1990, Raul Pino, ilivetotravel, Ramblin Wreck

GTOCers (me on left) parading along the GT Ramblin’ Wreck!

So, I end this write-up here but the best part comes when in 1994 I was selected, after interviewing, to be an Envoy for the delegation to the Games from Chile, where I had worked three years before.  The Envoy was a relatively new role in the Olympics and it was focused on being the liaison between a country’s delegation and the Games.  I would spend two years of weekly meetings preparing for the role and then 6-weeks around the actual Games as part of this role which afforded many, many wonderful experiences that will be with me as long as I have memory – or get to read this blog, as I plan to write about that in the near future.

It’s been twenty years since the Olympics transformed my city and left an indelible imprint in my mind.  Wow.

In-and-Out: Superior, Wisconsin

Superior, Wisconsin,street scene, City Hall, stone building

On a business trip last year to a place north of Duluth, Minnesota, we arrived late at night so we stayed in Duluth and then we would head north to our destination.  Not much time to do much before heading north was a bummer because every place has a story and Duluth is no different and no less interesting even if it is not a household name for the vast majority of folks.

The next morning, we were planning to leave 10ish and with the time difference I knew I had a couple of hours to spare.  I learned that Wisconsin, a state I had never been to, was just across the bridge from Duluth.  Not one to waste an opportunity to add one more state to the list, I informed by co-workers that I would be getting up early and driving to the town across the water:  Superior, Wisconsin (aptly named as it sits on the shores of Lake Superior…).  It sits on the westernmost tip of this huge (sorry, popular word these days) lake in pretty much the northwestern corner of Wisconsin.  Upon announcing that I was doing this, a co-worker said she would come – that’s the spirit!

I-535, Duluth, Superior, bridge, Wisconsin

Wisconsin or bust! Dark skies ahead were not an omen.

So, we needed kind of something to go see in Superior or something to do other than drive in and drive out.  So, in this world of smartphones, that was an easy thing to solve:  find a coffeeshop.  We lucked upon one right on the same road fed by the bridge (I-535) in a turn-of-the-century (two century switches ago:  1890) stone building labeled City Hall.  The building may or may no longer serve as city hall but it is impressive enough to be one.   Anyway, the coffeeshop was the Red Mug Coffeehouse and Bakery on the corner of Hammond and Broadway in the basement of the building.Superior, Wisconsin,street scene, City Hall, stone building

Superior, Wisconsin, coffeehouse, Red Mug, coffee, bakery

The scene at the Red Mug early in the morning

Technics, record, player, technology, vintage

I opted for coffee and a danish and enjoyed looking around this coffeehouse which seems to play live music at some point since it was set up for that.  The Technics record player was a bit of vintage quite appropriate to the place.  My co-worker and I used the opportunity to catch up on projects we are working on and just relax which was a good start to the day.

Superior, Wisconsin,street scene, traffic

Morning traffic. Just like L.A. or Atlanta…

Of course, I likely missed some good places to have seen (a church, a park, an old district, etc.) but that was all the time I had.  And despite the original intent of the “lake crossing,” the short hop made me wonder about the industrial and maritime past that drove the establishment of towns like Superior in this part of the U.S.  These parts of the U.S. were first explored by the French actually as part of the fur trade empire.  This then led to Jesuits coming to make new Christians out of the local tribes.  Eventually Hudson Bay Company and others also established trade with the local tribes.   Much later, these “city-ports” became the outlets for manufacturing and natural resources from the north and midwestern U.S. onto waterways that could get the goods elsewhere by sea or train).  In fact, I read that the twin ports of Duluth and Superior were the most important ports in the Great Lakes for a while.

If time and money were not an issue, I think I’d enjoy driving around the Great Lakes and explore this part of the American past that help build the nation with its industrial output.

In-and-Out: Brunswick in Coastal Georgia

Brunswick, Georgia, sunset, sun, cloud, silhouette, golden, sky, photo

While many of my travels allow me to spend time in a city or country for a long enough time, sometimes that is not the case.  And that is usually when I go on business trips.  It has been quite common for me to travel for long periods of time with work but, especially in the case of domestic travel, trips can be quite short.  That means either the ability to explore is limited to off work hours or to just one evening.  In the spirit of still sharing what I see, it makes sense to do an “in-and-out” series where I can share the small windows I get to see a place with you.  My hope is that it may show glimpses of places, however limited in scope.  So here goes the inaugural post – and please let me know if you like the idea.

Coastal Georgia – Historical… at least for Georgia

The state of Georgia does have a coastline, on the east along the Atlantic Ocean.  That coast is dotted with many islands like Jekyll, Cumberland, St. Simons, etc.  South of the middle of that coastline is the town and port of Brunswick.  Now, I know it may not be much to be excited about given Boston, Philly, Paris, London or Athens but in this part of the Southeast, Brunswick goes “far” back as 1738, depending on how you count.  Supposedly, around that time, the British set up something in the peninsula where Brunswick sits to almost face the Spanish who were in nearby Florida (credit Oglethorpe) AND who had laid claim to lands in this area too (the boundary between modern-day Florida and Georgia not existing back then). In the end, it is funny to think about that this all would have ended up being Florida has the Brits not initially colonized the area…  Brunswick as a town did not get founded until the 1850s but still, its history goes back to colonial times and that fascinates me.  It was designed, though, in the late 18th century in a layout similar to Savannah with many squares (14 of them, large and small) almost mathematically laid out in a grid of streets.

Brunswick, Georgia, parks, squares, layout, map

Map of downtown and its squares and parks

Brunswick, Georgia, parks, squares, layout, map

One of the smallest squares

Downtown , square, Hanover, Brunswick, Georgia

One of the larger squares: Hanover Square

I wonder if Savannah won some battle against Brunswick to become the premier coastal Georgia city.  Brunswick certainly is gifted in terms of its setting.  Perhaps Savannah had some edge with the river and better fit for a port?  But Brunswick was a very important port in the shipping of lumber abroad.  England, Cuba and Brazil were among the destinations for lumber that made it out of the continental U.S. through this port.  It is also incredible to learn that the largest blimp base during WW II was located in Brunswick since there was threat of German U-boats along the southeastern U.S. coast.

Approaching Brunswick – Golden Isles Airport

I had a choice to drive for 5 hours or take a short flight.  Because of the short duration of the visit, a 10-hr round-trip did not make sense.  Now, if the plane had been a larger plane, the flight may have been 30 minutes but it took about 50.  That’s OK.  On my flight in, I got some good views of the land around, with rivers or creeks and perhaps marshes.  I never got to see the ocean as the approach did not require to go past Brunswick towards St. Simons and a turn back.

Brunswick, Georgia, coast, window view, airplane, travel, South, trees, final approach

Lots of tree farms near Brunswick

Brunswick, Georgia, coast, window view, airplane, travel, South, trees, river, final approach Brunswick, Georgia, coast, window view, airplane, travel, South, trees, river, final approach  Brunswick, Georgia, coast, window view, airplane, travel, South, trees, river, final approach Downtown Brunswick

I did not have much time in the area and, because of closing hours, I could not visit places like Fort Frederica.  But I decided to, at least, make the short drive from my hotel near the tiny airport to the downtown area.  The town proper is quite small but it was very charming.   And the time of day for visiting, right before sunset was just perfect for the best light.downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, Coca-Coladowntown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, Ritz downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, sunset downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, rainbow, flag

Old homes in downtown Brunswick

I loved seeing old homes not immaculately restored but kept up.  Clearly, Brunswick is not a ‘happening’ place that pulls visitors in left and right but that, perhaps, has kept it more authentic or reflective of how places ‘used to be’ since it is not corrupted by out-of-control development nor by anti-septic ordinances that force artificial curbs, sidewalks, etc.

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The skies were a little dark because it had just rained.  You may appreciate in a couple of photos the rainbow coming out.  But the best was left for my drive out of Brunswick:  a beautiful sunset as a backdrop.

Brunswick, Georgia, sunset, sun, cloud, silhouette, golden, sky, photo Brunswick, Georgia, sunset, sun, cloud, silhouette, golden, sky, photo

2015 – A Year in Review

Torres del Paine, Chile, Patagonia, mountains, peaks, massif, outdoors, trekking, hiking, adventure, Olympus, landscape

2015 is almost over and it is time for the year in review which, I think, is an exercise not just in writing but in re-living the many blessings the year bestowed on me.  Here it goes and share with me some of the travels in your 2015!

In the city of brotherly love – Philadelphia, USA

My first trip of the year was to Philadelphia where family and friends live.  It is a place I love to visit though I do not get to do so often.  I welcome the opportunity whenever it comes though as I greatly enjoy spending time with my aunt and uncle who make me feel so at home whenever I go.  Though I got to see many, I did not get to see all my relatives nor all my friends which was a bummer – but good reason to go back!  As usual, my uncle likes to show me around places historical to both country and family.  I had not visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell since the early 90s and I enjoyed my visit there.  We also went to Valley Forge which had a special look since it was winter-time (and was also very cold!).

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Liberty Bell with Independence Hall behind it

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Independence Hall across the mall

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Valley Forge in winter – reminder of the cost of our freedom

Now, those places are not where the family history comes from :) instead this building served as their home right after they moved up there from Miami.

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House where my parents and relatives lived

My first hike of the year – Blood Mountain, Georgia, USA

My first hike of the year was a training hike as I was going on a trek to Patagonia with Trekking for Kids.  My friend Phil who also enjoys hiking and I decided to do a hike near Blood Mountain that ended up -accidentally- in a climb of Blood Mountain.  While it was unplanned, it was a fortunate ‘accident’ as it all ended well and we enjoyed great vistas and trails.

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Entering Freeman Trail from the Appalachian Trail

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Along Jarrard Gap, the start of our hike

An amazing metropolis – Buenos Aires, Argentina

The orphanage work related to my trek to Patagonia was going to take place on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina.  So I knew I was going to be spending time in this great city – and more importantly, eating the best beef in the world paired with great wine!  I enjoyed walking about town and having nice meals with my fellow trekkers (some which I knew already and some which I met there).

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The parrillada at Campo Bravo

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Don’t forget dessert: this beauty courtesy of Cabaña Las Lilas

But the best part was meeting the children and staff of the two homes we worked with on our projects which included repairing a very leaky roof and damaged walls and furniture.  Much as I loved spending time in BB.AA., this work was the highlight of my time there!

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Painting new furniture with the kids was an adventure onto itself!

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These kids were hard workers and also great with the soccer ball!

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At Temaiken, Buenos Aires’ zoo

Back in time – Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

When planning my Buenos Aires travel, I decided to add an extra day to cross the river by ferry and spend half a day exploring a town that was a good throwback to the colonial period of the region:  Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.  I sold three other trekkers on doing this short trip with me and we had a great time walking the streets of this easy-going town.  I highly recommend making the crossing if you ever have time in Buenos Aires!

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One of the MANY vintage vehicles in town – an Austin

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Basilica del Sagrado Sacramento

My favorite spot on Earth – Chile’s Patagonia

As I wrote earlier this year, I loved Patagonia when I first visited the Perito Moreno glacier and Chile‘s amazing Patagonia in 2010.  I’d always hoped I could return some day and that did happen… in 2015, much sooner than I’d ever thought possible.  I returned to hike around Fitz Roy in Argentina, re-visit the Perito Moreno glacier, and then trek through the Torres del Paine National Park – which I had not done in 2010.  And it was a rewarding effort for sure with great vistas and a glacier hike to boot.  Memorable is not a good enough word for the experience.  And, secretly, I hope I get to return a second time for my third visit!!  (click on the hyperlinks above to see more photos from each of the visits)

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Grey glacier, where we hiked

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On the trail to Fitz Roy

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The Torres del Paine massif

The great northwest – Portland, Oregon

Thanks to work, I spent five days in Portland, Oregon.  I had never been to Oregon so it was cool that I got to go there.  I arrived at mid-day on a Sunday and decided to take a walking tour of Portland as it would be the most effective way to see the highlights of the town while enjoying the great weather.

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Portland street

Mercifully, daylight went on late so I got to take advantage of it to take a drive along the Columbia River to see the waterfalls that dot the riverside.   I also got to enjoy dinners in establishments along either side of the river which was a phenomenal day to end the workday.

Family, friends and food fest (4 F’s) – Spain, olé!

Friends of mine were going to hike the Camino de Santiago, a hike I did in 2014.  I thought it would be cool to combine my wish to meet relatives I had not met who live in the outskirts of Santiago with my friends’ arrival in Santiago de Compostela.  My grandmother has two surviving cousins she never met in person who live in Bastavales.  I had met one of them last year when I finished the Camino walk but I had not met the other.  So I met María and her son, grandkids and great-grandkids for the first time and enjoyed their warmth and sharing special memories and photos of the family.  I also visited time with Flora, the cousin I had met last year.  It was really cool.

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With Maria, my grandmother’s cousin

I then welcomed my friends and their fellow trekkers as they arrived in Santiago at the end of their Camino.  It was wonderful seeing them glow in joy as they wrapped their long walk.  After they got their Compostela and going to Pilgrim’s Mass, it was time to celebrate with some cañas (beer) and tapas in one of the many beautiful old streets of this phenomenal city.  We also took a day trip to Finisterre on the Atlantic coast, a nice place.

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Beer and tapas in Santiago de Compostela

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The left side of the Cathedral

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With friends Phil and Tommy at Finisterre

The visit with my friends continued in Madrid and, after they left, I got to spend time with madrileños friend of mine, enjoying good drinks, food, and atmosphere around town.  It was fun spending more time in Madrid (check out “6 Cool Things to Do in Madrid“!).  I love Spain but I loved more the opportunity to be there with friends!

Reuniting with dear friends – California

In late May, dear friends left Atlanta to head to California due to a job opportunity.  It was hard to see them go as I spent many a Friday night over ten years hanging out with them pre-kids and after-kids.  So, it was great when work offered me the opportunity to go to San Francisco so I could spend the weekend after the conference with them in their home outside of San Jose.  They took me to two great Mexican restaurants, one of them right by where they live.  I enjoyed a drive down Pebble Beach on the famous 17-mile drive (which I still have to write about!).  And we visited the charming coastal town of Carmel – and its impressive mission.

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Glorious skies at the Carmel Mission

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Waters along the 17-Mile drive

Up-north (WAY up north) – Duluth, Minnesota

Work took me for a brief business trip up north, to a small town 45 mins north of Duluth, Minnesota.  Driving along the coast of Lake Superior was very nice and peaceful.  We only had one night in Duluth but enjoyed a nice breakfast at a mom-and-pop type of place and dinner at a pub.  Of course, being the traveler that I am, never having gone to Wisconsin, and realizing I was just a bridge-crossing, I just had to do it… We had mostly an open morning so, along with a colleague, I drove across the water to a coffee shop I found online in the town of Superior, Wisconsin!  A coffee later, we crossed the bridge again and back in Minnesota!

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Wisconsin, here we come!

Returning to one my favorites – Chicago, Illinois

I first went to Chicago in a bitterly cold January in 1991 with company for training.  And I kept returning over the years mainly in winter.  This year I got to go in August for pleasure, after spending a few days in Minnesota for work.  I got to enjoy walking everywhere, getting to the lake, which I had never done.  I also explored new parts of town thanks to friends (including little gems in terms of eateries).   Overall, what I enjoyed most about this trip was a first for me in Chicago:  going to a museum!  The Art Institute of Chicago was right up my alley as very much an amateur in terms of art.  It made it all approachable and enjoyable without overwhelming.  I highly recommend it.  I look forward to returning to Chicago and having more time to see all the friends who live there (this was practically a day-and-a-half visit) – and explore a new museum or two!Chicago, Illinois, skyscraper, cityscape, photo, glass. buildings, architecture

An epic trek to close the year – on the route to Everest Base Camp, Nepal

I was not planning any other hike on 2015 after having done Patagonia earlier in the year.  However, I found out that several folks I knew from prior treks were going to do the trek to Everest Base Camp and I started wondering if I could go…  I was generally fit even if not well-trained, it was a generally good time to go from a work standpoint, and though I did not have vacation time to be able to go to base camp, the trek offered a shorter itinerary.  So, I went for it.  I had a great time and was thrilled to having seen the Himalayas, Mt. Everest, and the hamlets and people of the highlands of Nepal.  I am still writing about the trek so I will just point you to a couple of the writings:  flying into scary Lukla airport to begin the hike, day one of the hike (you can keep going from there to later days), and one of the neat sites I saw in Kathmandu.  The best part of the trek was the work done before the trek in the village of Kumari.  Check out the work we did with Trekking for Kids here.

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The prayer wheels

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Kids from Kumari

Epilogue to a year that ends…

2015 was an epic year.  From great hiking experiences, time with family and friends, new destinations, and good food and drinks, it had it all.  I got to step in South America, North America, Asia, and Europe all in one year!  However, as the year came to a close, we lost my stepdad, Rubén.  It was a bittersweet time as he had been suffering from Alzheimer‘s and his last week was one full of suffering.  So his passing offered him rest that we were thankful for, sad as it was to not have him around us any more.  Rubén, as my Mom, loved to travel.  They traveled across Europe and other places many times.  I got to travel with them and my sister and her family in several cruises to the Caribbean, Alaska, and the Baltic Sea, as well as explore places like Copenhagen, Panama, and Paris (where they visited me in 1999 when I was living there).  Though we will sorely miss him in this final journey he has undertaken, I know I will see again at the final destination.  Until then, I will continuing journeying here.  Rest in peace, Rubén!

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In Panama in 2009

The Carmel Mission: Quiet and Beautiful

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During a recent business trip to San Francisco, I made a visit of a few days to friends who live near Campbell, CA.  I took the Caltrain down to San Jose – an easy and relatively cheap (at around $9 one-way) way to get out of San Fran towards Silicon Valley.

While their kids went to school, my friends and I made a trip to the coast where, among other things, we visited the town of Carmel.  No Clint Eastwood sightings – bummer!  But we decided to check out the Carmel Mission after having lunch in the charming downtown area.  I had been to the Santa Barbara Mission over a year ago so I was curious on how this one would compare.

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Entering the mission grounds

As luck would have (is it really luck??), this was two days after the canonization of Fr. Junipero Serra who worked, died and is buried at the Carmel Mission.  The timing was definitely great; I only wish Pope Francis had canonized him where he is buried!

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Fr. Serra is buried along with others in the altar area

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St. Junipero Serra looms large!

The Carmel Mission is smaller than the one in Santa Barbara but by no means less charming or interesting.  As with probably most missions, the center of the mission is the church with a cemetery next to it.  Usually there is a vast space or courtyard in the mission and buildings, many of them much newer used for different functions.

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Rudimentary graves

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Along the church’s wall

As you enter, you are properly warned that you could be at risk for an earthquake.  Only in California would the obvious need to be stated in the form of a warning!

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Be warned!

As you can see, it was a clear, beautiful day (I assume this is typical for California) and I am so glad we got to enjoy visiting the mission at such a historical time!

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Glorious skies!

Views of San Francisco from My Hotel

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On my trip to San Francisco this week, I picked the Marriott Marquis on 4th and Mission as my hotel while I attended a conference in the city.  It seemed well situated and nice, at least on the website photos.  I did not miss with this property and you can read my review in TripAdvisor (where I am very active as a Top Contributor!).  I did not have time to explore San Fran some more but I did get a couple of good eats at RN74 and Venticello.

I got a room on the 28th story and it was a corner room so I had views south and east (best I could tell).  Here are the views from my room at different times of the day.  They are not the best photos as the windows were quite dirty on the outside but they get the point across (I hope!).

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The Moscone conference center is the massive building lower left

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The San Francisco Giants stadium

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And below here are two pics of the same general view at different times of day – love the difference the sun’s position can make on a photo!

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The Art Institute of Chicago – A New Favorite

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Chicago is many things but dull it isn’t.  This city is rich in culture, architecture, outdoors fun (in the summer, at least!), food and many other things.  I love coming to this city but have rarely been here on my own to explore.  I have greatly enjoyed coming to Chicago with friends, whether to party in the early 1990s, or to get to know the best of the city in the last few years via local friends who know it well.  I wrote a couple of years ago about the architecture of the city.

When a business trip to Minnesota arose, I thought it may give me another opportunity to head to the Windy City on my way home and see more of it.  One of the things that I have NEVER done in Chicago is go to a museum so I decided my weekend would be anchored around at least on a museum visit.

And so it was.  After reading a little bit, and being quite torn on which one to attack, I decided for The Art Institute of Chicago.  It is one of people’s favorites (or so I read!) and it was close to my hotel.  Also, while I had studied about the Chicago History Museum and was curious to see it in person, I was not feeling historical this weekend.  I was more in the mood for art.  And, finally, The Art Institute featured in one of my favorite movies:  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!Art Institute, Chicago, art, travel, architecture, Samsung Galaxy

The museum has an old wing and a newer one with a cleverly built hallway/gallery that was built to bridge over the railroad lines separating the old building (right on Michigan Avenue) from the new building, behind the old building towards the lake.  The new building has an entrance on Monroe whereas the old building has its entrance on Michigan Avenue.

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The modern wing from Monroe St.

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To the right, the bridge connecting the new gallery (shown here) to the old

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And the bridge connecting to the old building over the rail lines

I like the newer building because it just feels “light” both in the sense of illumination but also on the sense of weight or heaviness of the architecture and the interiors.  Well done, whoever was/were the architect(s)!

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Lightness in space and materials

The museum has art from ancient Greece and China to the most modern sculptures (Charles Ray was a special exhibit).  I started at the Charles Ray exhibit mainly because it was right there after I entered.  The space was huge and the sculptures were distributed over the entire space creating what felt like vast spaces between the pieces.  I don’t know much about art (it’s been a while since I stayed at a Holiday Inn…) but I definitely felt the openness and emptiness of the galleries only added to the sculptures by truly making them stand out.  I also feel that it also made the people walking around almost part of the exhibit itself.  I took some photos that, now when I look at them, I am almost as interested in the people walking the space as in the sculptures themselves.  I wonder if that was the intent of the curators…

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Boy holding a frog seemingly holding a statue in the back…

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A crashed Grand Am sculpture with the Hancock Tower in the background

My favorites were the impressionist artists, as usual:  Pisarro, Cézanne, Monet, etc..  But I also was pleased to see several El Greco and more modern favorites like Miró, Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, and Roy Lichtenstein (am I a name-thrower or what?!).

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Van Gogh’s selfie (at least one ear is still there!)

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Roy Lichtenstein’s almost comic book-like imagery

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Jackson Pollock

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Monet’s foggy London

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Cézanne’s wife on yellow chair

I also enjoyed seeing American Gothic in person.  It truly is a brilliant piece, not because I know about art itself but because I certainly feel the emotion (or lack thereof) in the two characters!

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American Gothic

Oh, and here is the charmer that Ferris and his bud and girlfriend admired while on their escapade!

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You don’t have to be an art connoisseur or lover even – just have an open mind and go explore this incredible institution on the shores of Lake Michigan!

Exploring Old Philadelphia – Liberty and Independence

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This past January I traveled to Philadelphia to visit family.  It was BITTERLY cold but that did not stop my uncle from taking me around.  It had been a couple of decades since I had last seen Liberty Bell and my uncle told me the whole place had been re-done so off we went, from the Broomall area east towards the city.

Philadelphia grabs a hold of my imagination for two very important reasons:

  1. The history of this country is anchored to this city.  Just thinking of all the important conversations and events that happened leading into our independence and afterwards is mind-boggling.  The downtown retains some key spots that are just as they were but, of course, progress also has erased some of it.
  2. My family ended up in Philadelphia for a few years after leaving Cuba in the early 1960s.  I was born after they left Philly but the city plays a key role in my family’s history so, though I didn’t live there and have only visited a few times, it is close to my heart.  Just thinking all that my family must have gone through as recent immigrants moves me to no end.

Liberty Bell

The entire “mall” area around Independence Hall has been re-worked with the construction of a new visitor center and the National Constitution Center.

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Independence Hall and its more modern neighbors

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The National Constitution Center

But the belle of the ball is still Liberty Bell.

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Here she is with Independence Hall behind it

It is housed at the visitor center as opposed to its former home – originally the Pennsylvania State House which is now known as Independence Hall (thanks in no small part to the fact that Philly is no longer the capital of Pennsylvania!).  The visitor center is not overwhelming, in fact, it is very well designed and very informative.  It is not the type of place you speed through the space to just get to the star of the show (well, maybe some do it…).

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The latest home of Liberty Bell

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Well laid out and open space at the center

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Many informative displays

The bell, which weighs slightly more than 2,000 pounds, dates from the 1750s and is famous not only for being a key symbol of the United States’ nationhood but also for its crack.  It earned it first crack when it first was rung after arriving in Philly… not an auspicious start but goes to show that you can’t go by first impressions!  Anyway, the bell was recast to try to fix it but it cracked again in the 1800s and kept cracking over the years.  We sure hope that crack is stable by now!

Independence Hall

This building has had quite a life.  Built between the 1730s and the 1750s to serve as the colony of Pennsylvania’s legislature, it hosted the Second Continental Congress during which the Declaration of Independence was adopted.  Later it is where the constitution was drafted and signed.  Both documents were signed in the Assembly Hall which is set up as it was back then.   The building certainly has a special place in the history of the United States.

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Assembly Hall

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Court Room in Congress Hall

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House of Representatives Chamber at Congress Hall

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Senate Chamber in Congress Hall

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Senate Chamber in Congress Hall

Today, a good bit of what is there are reconstructions.  The central part of the building is original but the steeple and side wings are not.  The wings were last re-built in 1898 – a little disappointing that it is not the original space but inevitable in many ways.

There are many more sites in downtown Philly to review our past and celebrate our nation.  Make sure you make the time to explore one this birthplace of the United States’ birth!  Happy 4th of July!

Photo Essay: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

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My friend Bruce T., an outdoorsman and all-around nice guy, is traveling around the Grand Teton National Park (in northwestern Wyoming) with his wife, Sonia, and had sent out a few pictures of the sights he has encountered.  I have never been to the park and loved the landscape, wildlife, and color in his pictures.  So, I asked him if he would let me share his photos in this blog so you all could see them.  So, without further ado, here are the sights of the Grand Teton National Park!   Which is your favorite photo??

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A mule deer doe eating in the forest

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A bull elk with horns in velvet grazes in the late spring

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Flowers grace the foreground of the Grand Tetons

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A young bull moose along the Snake River (near Moose Junction visitor center)

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Flowers blooming in Grand Teton National Park

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Hidden Falls – neat discovery

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Lupine blooms in the late spring with the Grand Tetons rising in the background

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Storm clouds loom above the Grand Tetons

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A passing storm darkens the skies

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A passing storm drops rain and snow (high elevation)

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A passing storm in full force

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Scarlet gilia blooming with a great backdrop

 

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