EXPLORING OREGON – The Devil’s Punchbowl

The Devil’s Punchbowl is a breathtakingly beautiful natural wonder that will leave you in awe. Located on the picturesque central coast of Oregon, this incredible geological formation is a stunning sight to behold. As you approach the area, you can hear the sound of the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline, beckoning you to come and explore.

The Devil’s Punchbowl is a massive sea cave that has been carved out of the rocky cliffs by the relentless force of the Pacific Ocean. The cave is roughly 100 feet in diameter, and the sheer power of the ocean has created a natural amphitheater that is both stunning and humbling. The rocks around the cave have been smoothed over time, and the swirling patterns carved into them by the waves are a testament to the raw power of nature.

What makes the Devil’s Punchbowl so unique is its accessibility, or lack thereof. The cave is only accessible during low tide, which means that visitors have to time their visit correctly to see it. During high tide, the seawater fills up the cave, creating a turbulent swirling effect that is both mesmerizing and powerful.

To reach the Devil’s Punchbowl, visitors must hike down a well-maintained trail from the nearby parking lot to the beach. The trail offers stunning views of the coastline and is an easy to moderate hike that is suitable for all skill levels. Once you reach the beach, you can explore the tide pools and watch the waves crash against the rocky shoreline. The sound of the waves and the salty sea air make for a truly immersive experience that will stay with you long after you leave.

For the more adventurous, there are guided kayak tours available that take visitors inside the Devil’s Punchbowl cave. The tour guides are knowledgeable about the area’s history and geology and provide an unforgettable experience. As you paddle into the cave, the sound of the waves echoes off the walls, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. The experience is both exhilarating and calming at the same time, as you feel the power of the ocean all around you.

As you wander through the rocks the terrain feels surreal. There is so much to explore and so much sea life now visible at low tide. Shells, agates, muscles, sea urchins, starfish, and so much more ready to be discovered. There were many explorers this early morning, both young and old. We were surprised to find a young guide, a college student volunteer, who was a great source of information on the area’s eco system.

The Devil’s Punchbowl is not just a beautiful natural wonder but is also steeped in history and legend. According to local folklore, the Devil’s Punchbowl was created by the Devil himself, who, in a fit of rage, punched a hole in the earth and let the ocean flow in. While the geological explanation for the cave’s creation is a little less exciting, the myth adds to the area’s allure and makes it an even more intriguing destination.

Overall, the Devil’s Punchbowl is a stunning destination that offers visitors a unique experience that they won’t find anywhere else. The combination of natural beauty, history, and folklore makes it a memorable destination for adventurers and nature lovers alike. We will never forget this magical spot. It was my favorite, and I wish I had spent more time there.

Whether you choose to explore the tide pools or take a guided kayak tour, the Devil’s Punchbowl is a destination that should not be missed on your next trip to Oregon.

EXPLORING OREGON – Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake is a stunningly beautiful and serene national park located in southern Oregon. It is the deepest lake in the United States, with a depth of nearly 2,000 feet. It is also known for its crystal-clear blue waters, which are some of the bluest in the world.

The lake was formed over 7,000 years ago when the top of Mount Mazama collapsed following a massive volcanic eruption. Over time, the crater filled with rain and snowmelt, forming the deep, clear lake that we see today. Crater Lake was established in 1902, and is the only national park in Oregon.

One of the most popular activities at Crater Lake is hiking. The park has a number of trails that offer breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding area. Some of the most popular hikes include the Rim Trail, which offers panoramic views of the lake, and the Watchman Peak trail, which offers a challenging but rewarding climb to the top of the peak. We visited Crater Lake for one day, and we chose to hike the Cleetwood Cove Trail. This is the only trail with access to the shore of Crater Lake.

The trail is steep and strenuous, and not for the faint of heart. It is a 2.2 mile roundtrip trail that drops 700 feet in elevation through a series of switchbacks. There are a few shaded areas and benches to sit and catch your breath, or simply take in the views. Expect high traffic in the summer, and prepare for the heat. Once you’ve reached the bottom of the lake, take some time to relax and enjoy the view. The clear water is inviting, with great spots for diving and swimming, if you don’t mind the icy cold water.

Crater Lake is a great place for wildlife viewing. The park is home to a variety of animals, including black bears, mule deer, bald eagles, and my favorite, the chipmunk. The best time to spot wildlife is in the early morning or late evening, when the animals are most active.

I wanted to take this little one home with me!

Can you see the volcano in the middle of the lake? Wizard Island is a volcanic cinder cone forming an island at the west side of the lake. It rises 767 feet above Crater Lake’s surface. A boat will take you there in the summer months. You can hike the Summit Trail, a moderate hike that will take you to the top of the island in about an hour.

If you are planning a longer stay to fully explore Crater Lake, there are some in-park accommodations. Crater Lake Lodge, The Cabins at Mazama Village, and Mazama Campground are all excellent choices. You will have to plan ahead as these are usually booked months in advance. You can also opt to stay at a nearby campgound or hotel.

Crater Lake is a truly incredible place that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a hiker, boater, or wildlife enthusiast, you’ll find plenty to see and do in this beautiful national park.

Hiking Do’s and Don’ts

Hiking is a popular outdoor activity that allows people to explore nature, get some exercise, and relax. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or new to the sport, it’s important to follow some basic guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some hiking do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:


  1. Plan ahead: Before you head out on the trail, make sure you have a clear plan in mind. Know your route, the distance you’ll be covering, and the estimated time it will take. It’s also a good idea to let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
  2. Wear the right clothing: It’s important to dress appropriately for the weather and the terrain. Wear layers that can be easily added or removed, and be sure to bring a hat, gloves, and sunscreen for sunny days. Hiking boots or sturdy shoes with good grip are also a must.
  3. Stay hydrated: Dehydration is a common issue for hikers, especially on hot days. Make sure you bring plenty of water and drink often to stay hydrated. It’s also a good idea to bring a water purification system in case you come across a stream or other water source.
  4. Follow the Leave No Trace principles: These principles encourage hikers to respect the environment and minimize their impact on the land. This includes properly disposing of trash, staying on established trails, and leaving plants and wildlife undisturbed.


  1. Underestimate the difficulty of the trail: It’s important to choose a trail that is within your fitness level. Don’t push yourself too hard or take on a trail that is beyond your ability. It’s better to start with an easier trail and work your way up to more challenging ones.
  2. Go alone: While solo hiking can be a rewarding experience, it’s generally safer to hike with at least one other person. This way, you have someone to help in case of an emergency or injury.
  3. Neglect safety precautions: Always carry a first aid kit, a map and compass (or GPS device), and a whistle in case you need to signal for help. It’s also a good idea to let someone know your route and expected return time.
  4. Leave valuables behind: It’s best not to bring unnecessary valuables on a hike, but if you do, make sure you keep them secure. Pickpockets and thieves can target hikers, especially in crowded areas.

By following these do’s and don’ts, you can ensure that your hiking experience is safe and enjoyable. Always remember to respect the environment and be prepared for unexpected situations. Happy hiking!

EXPLORING OREGON – A Beach and a Hike in Tillamook County

Surrounded by the coastal rainforest and situated right on Netarts Bay is the small community of Netarts, in Tillamook County. We arrived in Netarts in the middle of the night, and settled in at our charming Airbnb, the Edgewater Cottage. I couldn’t wait for morning to explore this region of the Oregon coast.

Netarts Bay stretches seven miles along the northern coast and, like most coastal towns in Oregon, offers breathtaking views, crabbing, clamming, hiking, boating, and hunting for treasure along the beach. While the entire country suffered from the most extreme heat in history, we were lucky to enjoy temperatures in the 50s and 60s every day at the coast in late July and early August.

The view directly in front of our cottage was breathtaking.

Rising early every morning to explore the beauty of the Oregon coast was a perfect way to beat the crowds. We often had the beach and hiking trails to ourselves, allowing us to take it all in without distractions. On our first morning in Netarts, we explored the bay just steps away from our cottage. Descending steep stairs, we were greeted by a mystical and gauzy beach at low tide. To my surprise, we were not the only early risers. There were numerous couples and families exploring sealife and enjoying the ethereal landscape.

On this first morning, on this beautiful beach, I felt completely at peace in my surroundings. This was the beginning of a love of the Pacific Coast, and I knew that two weeks was not sufficient time to enjoy the natural wonders of this region. It was time to explore one of over 2,900 hiking and biking trails in Oregon.


Cape Lookout is a 4.7 mile in and out trail with an elevation of close to 800 ft. The trailhead offers plenty of parking, although we had our pick of the entire lot at 6:30 a.m. when we arrived for our hike. There are restrooms conveniently located at the parking lot.

Cape Lookout is a moderate hike that takes a little over two hours to complete. The trail is muddy at certain spots, with moderate inclines. You are hiking along a cliff hundreds of feet above the sea. About a 1/2 mile into the hike, the trail reveals a stunning view of the ocean. We were above the clouds.

This first viewpoint is near the site where a B-17 bomber crashed in 1943. A plaque set in a boulder, in memory of those who lost their lives, is visible right along the trail.

The entire trail surrounds you with lush forest as you navigate through tangled tree roots, rocks, and muddy terrain. Halfway through the hike, the trail is not well maintained and you need to tread carefully through large boulders until you reach several narrow boardwalk paths leading to a cabled off viewpoint with a bench to sit and take in the expansive views of the ocean.

This beautiful trail is also known as a great spot for whale watching during the whale migration to Alaska from March to June.

We finished our hike completely alone, and as we were coming to the end of the trail, a few visitors were beginning their hike. Cape Lookout is a popular trail that does get crowded in late morning and afternoon hours. I suggest starting early for a serene hiking experience that delivers spectacular views.

EXPLORING OREGON – Goonies Never Say Die!

As a diehard Goonie geek, this title seemed perfectly fitting for the start of our Oregon adventure. This is my first time traveling to the west coast of the U.S., and I am already in love on day one of our trip.

We begin our Oregon journey in Astoria. Founded in 1811, Astoria is known for much more than the home of the iconic 1980’s film The Goonies. Astoria sits on the Columbia River near the Pacific, and was named by its founder John Jacob Astor, a fur trader from New York. Astoria grew to become an important port city, attracting Swedish and Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century to work in fishing and cannery jobs.

Through the early 1900’s, Astoria’s economy depended on fishing, fish canneries, and lumber, with the North Pacific Brewing Company significantly contributing to Astoria’s economy as well. Today, logging and fishing are still strong, but Astoria’s growing art community, tourism, and light manufacturing are the main economic means of the city.

As you approach the city you are greeted by a charming view of hillside homes and the impressive Astoria-Melgar bridge. The Astoria-Melgar bridge is the second longest continuous truss bridge in the world and stretches from Astoria to Point Ellice, Washington.

We headed straight to the Goonies house. Imagine living in the house made famous by a popular film. The owners are kind to accommodate Goonie obsessed fans like me by allowing visitors to walk up to the house for a closer look.

I can almost see Mikey, Brand, Data, Mouth, and my favorite, Chunk scheming their pirate treasure adventure.

As a true Goonie fan, I wore a Goonie t-shirt (don’t judge) to properly explore Goonie movie sites. Next on the Goonie tour we visited the county jail, where Jake Fratelli planned his escape with the help of Mama and brother, Francis Fratelli. The movie jail is the old Clatsop County Jail that became the Oregon Film Museum in 2010 at the 25th anniversary of the film. For a $6 entry fee, the museum features exhibits and memorabilia from films made in Oregon. Visitors can also create their own short films in the exhibits featuring sets and green screens. At the end of your visit, you can purchase souvenir items at the museum shop.

Right next to the jail is the Flavel House Museum. This Victorian beauty was featured in the Goonies as the museum where Mikey’s dad worked as a curator. The Flavel house was home to Captain George Flavel, who built his home from 1884 – 1886. Flavel was a beloved man in the community for his kindness, integrity and support of Astoria residents. As a successful entrepreneur and bar pilot, guiding ships navigating through the mighty Columbia River, he was the first millionaire of Astoria. He lived in his stunning home with his wife Mary Christina Boeling, and two daughters, Katie and Nellie. The couple also had a son who had married and lived in his own home.

When you enter this magnificent house, you are welcomed by a majestic hall, with formal rooms on either side designed for entertaining. A music room features a grand piano and other instruments, with exquisite furniture pieces demonstrating the wealth of the family. A parlor, dining room, and library complete the front rooms of the house. The kitchen and a bathroom are at the back. A grand staircase leads you to the second floor with five bedrooms and a bathroom. Twelve foot ceilings, elegant fireplaces, carved wood mantels and doors built by master craftsmen have stood the test of time. The Flavel house was fortunately spared by a devastating fire that destroyed most of Astoria in 1922. Today, the Flavel house, along with the beautifully maintained gardens and carriage house, stands proud as one of Astoria’s treasured historical landmarks.

One of the things we are excited to experience on our Oregon adventure is the food scene. Known as one of the best foodie cities in the U.S., we look forward to our visit to Portland in a few days. Along the coast, we are getting our fill of some of the best fresh and locally sourced seafood in the Pacific Northwest. We decided on lunch at the SEA Crab House, where I began my quest for the best clam chowder in Oregon. Stay tuned for the Great Clam Chowder review! My husband has his own quest for the best raw oysters. Both dishes were delectable, and the panoramic view of the Columbia River was spectacular. The SEA Crab House is owned by Patta and Kim, foodies and Thailand natives. SEA stands for South East Asian, combining a fusion of Thai and Cajun flavor for a unique and delicious culinary experience.

In a true Goonie state of mind, we finished our visit at one of the favorite tourist destinations in Astoria. If shipwrecks excite you, visit the Wreck of the Peter Iredale in Fort Stevens State Park. The Peter Iredale ran ashore in 1906, and it has been there to delight visitors ever since.

The Peter Iredale reigns on this stretch of beach like a ghostly reminder of its deadly voyage. This awesome site is not part of our Goonie tour, but it does feel like a place the Goonies would explore to find One-Eyed Willy and his treasure.

Here’s a fun fact. One-Eyed Willy’s ship was The Inferno. It was 105 feet long and took 2.5 months to construct. The ship was kept a secret from the Goonies cast. The director, Richard Donner, wanted to capture the true reactions of the cast for a spectacular scene. The reaction was indeed completely real when a surprised Josh Brolin shouted “F**k!! upon seeing the ship, consequently ruining the scene.

You may wonder about the scene at the end of the film where the pirate ship is seen sailing among massive rocks jutting out of the ocean. This scene was shot at Cannon Beach, south of Astoria. We visited Haystack Rocks at Cannon Beach, but as majestic as these rocks are, they were not visible because of the intense fog. Although we were a bit disappointed, we had the opportunity of visiting a lovely beach town.

Visiting Astoria brought back memories of watching a magical film with my young daughters. The Goonies represents that sense of adventure innate in the fabric of our family, that childhood innocence that takes us to places unexplored, and fills us with excitement and wonder. I hope that whatever takes you to Astoria brings as much joy to you as it did to me.

A Morning Walk on South of Fifth

After months of sheltering at home due to the global pandemic, this weekend we ventured out to one of the beautiful neighborhoods right in our backyard. South of Fifth, known to the locals as SoFi, is a small and affluent neighborhood in South Beach, Miami Beach. Surrounded by water, modern and historic apartment buildings, iconic restaurants, marinas, and the beach, Sofi is a highly desirable place to live and play in Miami.

This “walkable” neighborhood goes from South Point Park, the southern tip of Miami Beach, north to 5th street from east to west. Once a dying area of Miami Beach, SoFi came to life in the early 1990’s when a German man, Thomas Kramer, envisioned creating a tropical version of New York’s Battery Park City. His vision transformed this once seedy and crime ridden neighborhood into a Miami gem.

You can live in a city for years and still be surprised by its beauty. I often take for granted that I live in a place most people consider paradise. This morning’s walk reminded me of how lucky we are to be able to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us. Walking on a serene path along the beach I felt a sense of peace and contentment. The beach, with its powdery white sand and tranquil ocean, was devoid of crowds in the early morning hours–just the way I like it.

Thoughts of the sadness, turmoil, and worldwide devastation that the year 2020 embedded in my heart and mind disappeared, if only for a moment.

At the end of South Pointe Park is South Point Pier. You can fish, enjoy a sunset, watch the cruise ships sail out to sea, catch a glimpse of dolphins, or relax and take in the view.

Standing 55 feet tall is the quirky “obstinate lighthouse” greeting visitors and locals with a choreographed light display. This lighthouse, by artist Tobias Rehberger, is the 18th art installation in the Art in Public Places Project started in 1979 with the Mermaid, by Roy Lichtenstein.

One of my favorite things in any urban hike is meeting interesting people. Although Covid has limited the opportunity to engage in friendly chatter with strangers, we managed to meet a couple and their unique pet. We met Jolly Roger, an adorable and friendly mini pig, who charmed and delighted my husband. Now to convince him that we don’t need an addition to our family! Though I must admit, Jolly Roger was very cute.

In a neighborhood where modern luxury high rises coexist in perfect harmony with historic art deco buildings, with the panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean, Biscayne Bay, Fisher Island, and downtown Miami, it’s easy to see why Sofi attracts locals and foreigners alike.

Jetty Park Campground, Cape Canaveral FL

On the road again on a Friday night, except this time, we left our Toyota Camry behind to ride in a 36 ft. Holiday Rambler Neptune motor home with friends. We’re headed to Jetty Park, a campground on a stretch of beach along the east coast of Florida in Cape Canaveral.

We are always up for a camping trip. With all of the preparation that goes into preparing for a camping excursion, the experience is easier when you’re camping out in a comfortable motor home. Some campgrounds tend to pack the motor homes too closely together to make better use of the available space, while primitive spots are more lush and private. Jetty Park offers both options.

Nicely tucked away, this primitive site is very cozy.

You can also rent small cabins that comfortably accommodate a family of four. The cabins are air conditioned with a queen size bed, a set of bunk beds, a half-bath, mini fridge, a small porch, picnic table, and charcoal grill.

Jetty Park is the perfect campground for beach lovers and fishing enthusiasts. With a 1,200 ft. long fishing pier, equipped with running water and fish cleaning stations, you can fish from sunrise to sunset. No need for a fishing license to fish off the pier. No bait, no problem. You can purchase bait in the Bait Shop right on site.

If fishing isn’t your thing, Jetty Park offers 4.5 acres of sandy beach where you can lay back, relax, and soak in the sun.

Kayaks, boogie boards, chairs, and umbrellas can be rented right on the beach. Bring your snacks or visit Fishlips to purchase food, beach, and fishing items.

About a half hour drive from the campground, an exciting experience awaits at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge Indian River Lagoon, between Cocoa Beach and Titusville, FL. The Bioluminescent Kayak tour with BK Adventures was the most exciting part of our camping trip to Jetty Park. Bioluminescence is light produced by a chemical reaction within a living organism. Plankton, a microscopic aquatic organism, cause the mystical bioluminescence in the waters of the lagoons we visited on our BK Adventure night tour.

Our tour began at 11 p.m., on a night with little moonlight, the perfect condition to experience bioluminescence. We booked the Clear Kayak Tour for $72 per person. The tour guides greeted our group of six, and after a short explanation of the tour, and a generous application of bug spray, we set out on our 1.5 hour kayak tour.

This tour was nothing short of magical, with the exception of arguing with my husband about which way to paddle. Our tour guide led us into the mangroves as we watched in amazement the glowing water around us. The illuminated fish beneath us, and the perfect starry sky above were breathtaking.

Towards the end of our kayaking experience we witnessed something unexpected. Our friends noticed a few large humps peeking through the surface of the water. Our guide shone a flashlight in the direction of the humps triggering an explosion of glowing water as startled manatees, disturbed from their peaceful slumber, offered us an exciting end to a unique adventure.

Although we didn’t have an opportunity to visit during this trip, the Kennedy Space Center is a must see.

Whether you prefer to relax in the serenity of a sandy beach, pitch a tent on a primitive site, enjoy the magic of a bioluminescent kayak experience, or explore our history in space travel, Jetty Park Campground offers something special for all who visit.

Discovering NOLA

When you start a bucket list in your twenties, you don’t really think about it much. At least I never did. Now in my mid-fifties, there’s a different sense of urgency as I get older to explore and enjoy the places and experiences I planned to live in my youth.

One of the places on that bucket list started long ago is visiting New Orleans. Today, via the Florida Turnpike, we hit the road to The Big Easy with great expectations, a detailed itinerary, and ready for a new adventure.

We arrived in New Orleans and immediately headed for the historic French Quarter. Our excitement was only trumped by the overload to the senses of the smells, sounds, and sights of this vibrant city. We couldn’t wait to explore; we couldn’t wait to savor some of Nola’s Cajun cuisine!


We arrived at lunchtime and found a charming restaurant on Royal Street in the French Quarter named Pere Antoine. This restaurant was not on my list of must see and visit, but we were hungry. We ordered Seafood Gumbo and Gumbalaya, a combination of Gumbo and Jambalaya. The food was tasty and spicy, exactly what we expected, and the service and ambiance were lovely.


The restaurant is named for a Spanish friar, Antonio de Sedella, lovingly known as Pere Antoine. He was the people’s priest, and his death in 1829 at the age of 81 was mourned by the entire city. If you’re into ghost stories like me, you should visit the street named for Pere Antoine, where his ghost has been known to visit. The main entrance of St. Louis Cathedral is on Pere Antoine Alley, right by Jackson Square.

We were off to explore the city before checking into our Airbnb.

Walking through the French Quarter we found by chance a must-see on my list, Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo.

As voodoo shops go, Marie Laveau’s is pretty touristy. With an array of religious and spiritual paraphernalia, tribal masks, charms, herbs used for sacred rituals, and more, this shop will immerse the curious visitor into the misunderstood world of voodoo. Spiritual private readings, as well as an alter with offerings to the high priestess of voodoo, Marie Laveau, are part of the experience.

Exhausted from the road trip we headed to our Air B&B to relax and get ready for dinner.

We have been staying at private homes through the many rental companies available like Air B&B, VRBO or HomeAway for years. It gives us the opportunity to experience all kinds of homes, with space and privacy that truly help us relax and unwind. This home is a remodeled shotgun. Gorgeous high ceilings, crown moldings, hardwood floors, and open living space, made this home the perfect home away from home to enjoy our short stay in New Orleans.


Since our house was Uptown in the Carrolton neighborhood, we chose a restaurant for dinner only a few miles away. Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar, located on St. Charles and Napoleon, is easily accessible by the St. Charles Streetcar. The restaurant’s old world charm with rich wood, brick walls, a bar imported from Paris, Parisian chairs and antique accents is only second to the cuisine. Oysters, a New Orleans staple, are offered in a variety of ways in the full-service oyster bar. The seafood was fresh, perfectly prepared, and a delicious ending to our first day in the city.


Day two promised to be a day of discovery, with a few planned activities starting with breakfast at the world famous Cafe Du Monde, where visitors line up all day to savor their Beignets and Cafe Au Lait. Even on a rainy day, you can see the line forming early morning. But here’s a secret, you really don’t need to stand in line. You can simply walk in and find an empty table and just sit down and wait to be served. Don’t tell, it’s our secret.

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Cafe Du Monde opened in 1862 and was part of the French Market. If you’re looking for eggs and bacon you’ve come to the wrong place. This coffee shop only serves the famous savory fried square doughnuts smothered in powdered sugar, coffee, and hot chocolate twenty-four hours a day.IMG_9269 - Copy - Copy

The French Market, with six blocks of shops, a flea market, restaurants, a farmers market and more, is a favorite gathering place to shop, eat, drink, and enjoy music and entertainment. You can find pretty much everything here–from art to pralines that come in all kinds of flavors–you can check off most of your souvenir gifts at the French Market.

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With satisfied appetites and some shopping done, we head off to explore the city.

To stroll the streets of the French Quarter is to go back in time. The rich Spanish and French history is visible in the city’s architecture, the names of the streets and businesses, and in the eclectic and diverse backgrounds of its residents. Street performers abound, and music fills the air.  And although Mardi Gras had long passed, hints of the traditional celebration was still everywhere with beaded necklaces hanging from balconies and trees.

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With the latter half of day two rained out, we headed back to our Nola home to relax and dry out.


The streetcar is a great way to get around in New Orleans, and for $1.25 you can purchase a one-way ticket.

On this rainy day, we headed back uptown on the St. Charles streetcar, which began transporting locals and visitors back in 1835. Immerse yourself in a time long gone, as you ride the St. Charles line past stately mansions in the Garden District. A walking tour is the best way to explore the beautiful homes of this historic neighborhood.

It was time for lunch, so we stopped at the Blind Pelican, right on the St. Charles line. Offering a casual ambiance and moderately priced menu, this restaurant was one of our favorites.

Famous for the oysters, you can order a dozen raw for $3.00, and $7.50 for a dozen chargrilled. Other southern favorites like fried green tomatoes, and shrimp, roast beef, or oyster Poboys are must haves.

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a tour of one of its unique and iconic cemeteries. Because New Orleans is below sea level, burying the dead below ground is not an option. Instead, above ground tombs and family vaults are spread across the city, with the oldest cemetery dating back to 1789.


Saint Louis Cemetery Number One is the resting place of Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau. It is also the home of a nine-foot tomb in the shape of a pyramid, the future final resting place of the tomb’s owner, actor Nicholas Cage. Some say that the unusual tomb is in honor of Cage’s National Treasure movie franchise; others believe that the pyramid is linked to the actor’s possible involvement with the secret Illuminati society.

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The best way to visit one of New Orleans cemeteries is to hire a tour guide. You don’t want to miss out on the interesting stories and history that lie within these cities of the dead.

The National WWII Museum was next on our list of attractions. This museum is worth the visit. You can purchase tickets to the museum at $27 for adults to free for veterans. For an additional $6 you may purchase tickets to see the movie “Beyond All Boundaries,” produced and narrated by Tom Hanks. This 4D movie is spectacular! It was my favorite part of the visit.

We continue exploring The Quarter, peaking into gardens, and enjoying the sounds and people of the city.


Here are some of the local colorful characters of The Quarter. 


We ended our visit to New Orleans with a fun Segway tour. This was a first for us, and I was a little bit nervous. However, just ten minutes of practice on the Segway was all we needed to feel completely comfortable. This is an activity we should have done at the very beginning of our visit, because the tour takes you through the entire French quarter and beyond; a great way to become acquainted with the city.

Every city has a bookstore you can lose yourself in. Right next door to City Segway is Beckham’s bookshop. I could have stayed in this bookshop for hours. Specializing in rare books, Beckham’s opened its doors to book lovers in 1967. Dogs are welcome, but have to play nice with Juniper, the resident cat. Check out Juniper’s blog at http://www.beckhamsbookshop.com.

Our Segway tour guide recommended the Gumbo Shop for our last meal in Nola.

A favorite with the locals, the Gumbo Shop was the perfect ending to our unforgettable visit to New Orleans.

Nola is now checked off my bucket list, but I’m not done with this fascinating city. We are already planning a trip back to the Big Easy.

Flattop Mountain Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

You know you’ve been in Miami too long when the sight of mountains literally takes your breath away. Our long awaited trip to Boulder promised to be one of our best hiking experiences. A weekend is not enough time to explore the many trails in this part of the Rocky Mountains. So many trails, so little time.

A scenic one hour drive from Boulder brings you to the quaint and charming mountain town of Estes Park, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park.img_2383


Not knowing the area we were pleasantly surprised to come across The Stanley Hotel, known to be the inspiration for Steven King’s, The Shining. We decided to take a moment to visit the hotel. Giant Bull Elk are an attraction at Estes Park, wandering through town and around the Stanley. What a sight to see these massive animals coexisting peacefully with people.




The views from the Stanley were breathtaking.


img_2468.jpgIt’s time to head to the trailhead at Bear Lake. We had decided on a moderate trail, but soon realized we were mistakenly on a challenging and difficult trail. Flattop is an 8.8 mile, in and out trail, beginning at an elevation of 9,475 ft. at the Bear Lake trailhead, and climbs approximately 3,000 ft. to the top elevation of 12,324 ft. We began our climb on a chilly 35° temperature day but quickly needed to peel away outer layers of clothing as our body temperature rose from the uphill climb.

A short distance into the hike we are at Bear Lake. Several trails, from easy to strenuous, begin at the lake.



You can expect many tourists in this high trafficked area since the lake is easy to get to, and is a scenic stop before heading on to your trail of choice. After a moment of reflexion and many photos later, we begin our hike to Flattop.


The most difficult part of this hike was the constant upward climb. For two Miamians not used to the altitude, it was also a slow climb. Most of the terrain at first consisted of a narrow smooth and fairly even trail. We were very excited to see snow on the ground, and in true tourist fashion, we had a little bit of a snowball fight.











After hiking about a mile, we came to this awe inspiring scene. We sat on a rock, let the pure and crisp air fill our lungs, and took it all in.


The physical strain on our bodies came second to the spiritual high of being surrounded by the beauty of the mountain. For a moment I felt all of my day to day worries and stresses dissipate on the trail.


The trail overlooks Dream Lake and Emerald Lake, seen in the picture above.

The higher we climbed, the rockier and more difficult the trail became. The steady steep climimg_2486b, and maneuvering your way around the rocks to get a secure footing can be challenging. After one wrong step, my husband’s knee gave out and we were forced to descend before reaching the peak of the trail. We were disappointed; we were so close.

Although not completed, our hike on the Flattop Trail was worth every step. This trail will challenge your body, heighten your senses, and nourish your soul. We will return someday to complete the journey.



Miami Hauntings

What do Miamians do on a Saturday when there’s nothing to do?  Visit haunting sites of course! Well, maybe this Miami resident, who also happens to be fascinated by all things ghostly.  October has always been my favorite month of the year.  Awakening memories of childhood birthdays, crisp autumn air, and spooky Halloween fun, I am always in the mood for a good ghost story.   Always ready to indulge me in my crazy adventures, my husband is happy to drive to each of the famously haunted Miami places on my list.

First on our tour is the City of Miami Cemetery, located at 1800 NE 2nd Avenue.  On the U.S.National Register of Historic Places, the cemetery was founded in 1897.  The 10 acre plot sold to the City of Miami by Mary Brickell for $750, is the resting place of some of the oldest and most prominent families of South Florida.  img_3278
We came across the grave sites of Julia Tuttle, known as the “Mother of Miami,” the department store Burdine family, and John Sewell, the third mayor of Miami.

On this beautiful October morning, there was no hint of the ghostly voices this cemetery is notorious for. But if you are in the mood for some local haunted history, History Miami Museum offers an annual Ghosts of Miami City Cemetery Night Tour every October.

img_3317Named the “most haunted house in Miami” by the Miami Herald in 1989, Villa Paula has a rich history of haunting activity.  Located in what is now Little Haiti, Villa Paula was built in 1926 for the first Cuban Consulate, Don Domingo Milford, and his wife Paula.  Paula died shortly after, due to complications resulting from a leg amputation.  The house has had several residents, later becoming a home for senior citizens, before falling into abandonment and overrun by vagrants in the early 1970’s.

Rescued in 1974 by Cliff Ensor, Villa Paula’s supernatural activity began to manifest itself, and was documented for the first time.  Apparitions of a woman floating through the hallways with only one visible leg, the smell of coffee and roses lingering in the air, the movement of items, the sound of footsteps and heals on the veranda, a chandelier suddenly falling from the ceiling, the sound of a piano playing, and the death and disappearance of cats were some of the reported incidents.  Ensor went as far as conducting regular seances to keep the spirits at bay, after learning from a psychic that five spirits occupied the house, including one of an abused maid who buried her illegitimate baby in the garden.

Current owner and art dealer Martin Siskind has restored the neo-classical mansion to its former glory, turning the home into an art gallery open to the public.  The stories of hauntings continue.

The iconic Biltmore Hotel, gracing the upscale Coral Gables neighborhood since 1926, has been through many transformations throughout its almost 100 years.  Built in the roaring twenties by Coral Gables founder George Merrick, the Biltmore was a place of lavish parties, golf tournaments and fashion events, and frequented by celebrities, influential personalities, and gangsters.  When a gangster named Thomas “Fatty” Walsh was murdered in the Al Capone suite on the 13th floor of the hotel, a ghost story emerged.
The Biltmore’s golden years were stunted at the onset of World War II, when the splendor of its golden years was halted, and the hotel was re-purposed as a military hospital.  The hospital continued to service veterans after the war, until it was closed and abandoned in 1968.

For years the beautiful landmark remained empty.  Stories of ghosts resurfaced, as neighborhood kids sneaked into the hotel and roamed through the scary rooms and hallways.  Could the spirit of the murdered gangster Fatty Walsh still haunt the 13th floor? Were the spirits of deceased soldiers still restlessly bound within these walls? The resounding answer is YES.

Today the Biltmore Hotel stands as a proud and elegant piece of Miami history.  The stories of ghosts continue to draw visitors, like me, fascinated by the mysteries of the spiritual world.  We weren’t able to go to the 13th floor, but we enjoyed an afternoon in one of the most historic and beautiful hotels in Miami.

Nothing guarantees a haunting like a mansion built on an ancient burial ground! Located on 444 acres in an idyllic setting in Palmetto Bay, the Deering Estate consists of a three-story cottage, once known as the southernmost inn in the United States, and a three story stone mansion built in 1900, and purchased by philanthropist and businessman Charles Deering.  Deering moved to the estate in 1922, and died a few years later in 1927, leaving the estate to his wife and children.


Now owned by the State of Florida Miami-Dade County, the estate hosts concerts on the lawn, moonlight canoe trips, art exhibits, family and children educational events, culinary events, ghost tours and spookovers.  In October of 2015, as a birthday present and pre-Halloween treat, my husband surprised me with an evening ghost tour.  My love of history and historical homes, together with my interest in the paranormal, made this ghostly adventure special. Their was an energy and excitement in the air as the group was ushered from room to room by our ghost tour guide.  She was colorful, animated, and knowledgable, producing spirit voice recordings and pictures of apparitions.

As our guide talked about Mr. Deering, pointing to a wheelchair he spent most of the last years of his life in, I took several pictures of the chair.  Later, when we uploaded the pictures to the computer, we noticed something in one of the pictures.  The mist that seems to be floating onto the chair may be an illusion created by a light or camera malfunction, but some may agree that we captured some sort of spirit form.  I guess we will never truly know.

In this month of spooky tales and trick or treating, consider visiting some of Miami’s famous haunted places.