I don’t usually add pictures to my blogs. I use Instagram to share pics and try to segment my life that way so it makes sense to me. But here we are on vacation and I was struck with the level of peace we are experiencing. Recovering from the loss of a few close people to us, we have been quite broken for quite some time. And here we are in St. Augustine and it feels like a healing balm has been placed all over us. God has blessed the vacation. I know I have beloved people praying for us. The effect and answer of tthose prayers is a peace. We have had great fun and experiences and just sheer enjoyment here. Ate at the best Italian restaurant ever (first pic), toured the downtown, went to the beach, played and the park, little things and time spent doing nothing. This has been a healing, enjoyable, blissful vacation and I and feeling more like my happy, strong and meld than I have in a very very long time. Praise God!!
I grew up in Michigan. So, Christmas happened there for me during my growing up years. Fast forward about thirty some years and we live in Florida, where Christmas happens now. There is a stark contrast between these two places and this is what I see as the biggest differences.
MI: cold, very cold, sometimes snowed, so stoked didn’t
FL: not cold usually at all, pretty much like the other seasons
MI: to keep food cold for get together, wrap it and put it out on the unheated porch, like an extra fridge or freezer
FL: try to cram all food into fridge or freezer because you put it on the porch it will melt or draw bugs
MI: all the family gets together and eats all day, plays games, watches the Macy’s Day Parade, eats more really good food inside
FL: those few family members here get together and go out to eat then spend time outside, maybe even hit the beach or swim
MI: gray skies
FL: blue, sunny skies
MI: scrape off the car and bundle up
FL: flip flops and shorts
MI and FL: lights, presents, Christmas programs or candle light services at church
Both are wonderful and both represent the birth of Christ well. No matter where I am I love Christmas! Happy Christmas, everyone!
The best beach in the United States, in my opinion, is Panama City Beach, Florida. It has clean white sand that is cool to the touch, even on hot days. You can walk barefoot on the beach and not get your feet cut up or burned. And I highly recommend Edgewood Beach and Golf Resort. We used a Groupon for this amazing place, and the room rate comes with kids activities, a 2 bedroom suite with fully supplied kitchen and a pool that is only shared with only 3 villas. There is also free tram rides over the bridge to the beach, spas, kiddie pool and ropes course for the kids, as well as the group pool that has islands and waterfalls in it. Beach chairs and umbrellas can be rented or you can bring your own or just go in short spurts so as to not need them. The club facilities has a workout room and 6 tennis courts and there is a 9 hole golf course on site. Our balcony overlooked a pond with a fountain and we counted 6 turtles. Within minutes is a Publix grocery store and Sonic and a few more minutes for everything else. We had a wonderful time and will go back for longer next time. If there was one drawback, it would be that our bed was not comfortable to sleep in. However, that was really the only downside. All in all,with the Groupon pricing, it was a lovely vacation value on the best beach in the USA. 🙂
There truly are hundreds of amazing places I have visited in America and abroad, and I have to say that my very favorite place to be is Saint Augustine, Florida. I base this love of the city on it being a fond memory of my childhood going there, but I agreed with it the last time I was there with my family now. The city radiates with history and reminiscences. From the old city with horse-drawn carriage rides over cobble stone streets to a quaint, art filled city square and central park. Last time we stayed in a bed and breakfast downtown and could walk everywhere in the old part of town, and I highly recommend that! There is much history to see there, from cannon fire from the beautifully preserved fort to drinking from the fountain of youth and everywhere in between. I highly recommend one of the historic tours there to see it all. And the beaches are amazing and beautiful! I have also never been disappointed when searching for dolphins in the intercoastal waterway. And a fabulous time is miniature golf. 🙂 There is so much to do and see and relaxation is plentiful as well. Fabulous place!
In Florida, we have these adorable little green tree frogs. A day before or the same day that rain is coming, these adorable critters bark. It sounds like a bark. Before I heard it for myself, I would not have believed it. I heard it and saw it and then knew for a fact that tree frogs bark to warn you that rain is coming. Barking frogs. Now, doesn’t that crack you up? And even better, tree frogs eat mosquitoes!! Score!! I just wanted to share that. Praise God for making barking frogs! What a hoot.
This supplemental installment of things I’ve noticed in my American travels brings me to vacation spots, places where I have stayed for one week on average and more touristy spots, so the experience does not reflect the area per say but the experience of being a tourist in that area. That being said, if you want to feel amazingly and dynamically put in your place, the Grand Canyon will certainly help you. The name does nothing to compliment its naturally majestic beauty and enormity. I have been there twice, hiked half of it once and the whole way once, each time in one day. Every time you go, you know that the rocks are still carved the same but it always looks different because of shadows, clouds and variances of reflections from the sun. It is spectacular! Both times I went, I drove there from across country. Once from Michigan and once from California, the road trip was phenomenal and insightful also. I would highly recommend driving there from where you are (so long as you’re not on the other side of an ocean) for the full experience. I also never did the donkey or helicopter thing because to me it takes away the rugged feel and experience of it on your feet. You remember better when you’ve worked for it some, I think. Life is like that too. St. Augustine, Florida is my favorite place on earth. Why? It is rich in history, beautiful, has wonderful beaches and is gorgeous. We stayed in a bed and breakfast there for a week right down town and it was incredible! I love the vibe there. It is culture rich but feels very intimate and very old time feel with horse and buggies available to ride in. So much to do! Loved seeing the fort and watching them fire the cannon, loved seeing dolphins diving along as you watch the waves go by. Excellent place, despite their stupid ghost tours they started at night. It is good despite that! Watkins Glen is a picture perfect and easily maneuverable waterfall heaven in upstate New York. It is gorgeous! Picture perfect at every turn and pristinely kept and manicured. If beautifully polished natural landscapes and amazing scenery is your thing, you would never regret going. On the flip side of that, if you love God’s amazing natural creation a little more natural and raw and challenging, you could alternately go across the border to the south into Pennsylvania to Ricketts Glen. This place has about 15 natural waterfalls, some a trickle and some rushing but all different and natural and beautiful! If you park at the bottom and hike up the moi gain to see all the falls, you have a real treat at the top of a lake and beach there. Then it’s all down hill from there. The high point about New York, New York for me was the pretty lady, the wonderful Statue of Liberty! What a wonderful piece of art and symbol of strength and freedom that epitomizes America and captures her greatness! Wow! Everything else was hustle and bustle and dirty and overpopulated, like all major cities. However, everything is right there. Better wear depends, though, or take extra money because unless you buy something, you are not getting into a bathroom! People there are very capable and helpful to tourists but wary at exactly the same time. It seems a pensive helpfulness, if that makes sense. Great place to visit! You could never pay me enough to live there though, but again, I’m a country girl. Another place I am fond of and again hiked and been several times is Yosemite National Park in California. It is breathtaking to see such natural beauty in the mountains and enjoy the waterfalls there. It is a healthy place and somehow you just breathe better there. Rewarding spot. And lastly but worth mentioning was Reno, Nevada. I don’t gamble but there is plenty to do there and the most interesting of which is to go to nearby Virginia City. You step back in time there to the old west, full of history and stories-some true and some with a flourish. There is an old store museum and cemetery of some well known names and celebration that the great Mark Twain ( Samuel Clemens) spent some time there. Ooo. There are certainly other places I have driven through and enjoyed and taken day trips and road trips, but these I know well enough to speak of them. I hope you’ve found it helpful and encouraging to know that our courageous forefathers and appreciators of God and His masterpiece here would still want us to cherish this country! We have a responsibility to know it better and honor it well. Happy travels!
Glendale, California (just a tad northeast of Los Angeles and right next to Burbank) was very different. The people there are truly brilliant or even if they are not brilliant, they hope and aspire to be. The culture there is rich and diverse and full of art and singing and life, busy, busy, busy. There is a sense that people are only important if they can get you something or somewhere. Hope is very high as is faith and drama and never have I seen so many people hoping to be discovered. I jammed with some folks on Sunset strip and wondered why everyone makes a big deal about it- studios are much bigger and cleaner elsewhere. Great musicians! No parking. Very expensive place, though, in many ways. I found myself alone though surrounded by scenery and people. I guess I like open spaces and time alone to think. Unique experience. Onward to Lakeland, Florida (half way between Tampa and Orlando). Here is where I hang my hat now. It is a big city with small town feel only Southern. There is a mix of snowbird (retired folks who come down to avoid winter and fly back north when spring comes), transplants and natives (of which I have maybe met 20 or so). It has a blend of redneck and non-redneck and I have never seen so many people driving trucks and large SUVs in my life. Inland enough to avoid most tropical storms, it is lovely year round weather, all things considering. Mosquitoes will about kill you and many more kinds of bugs are here than I’ve ever seen in my life. However, the non-fragrant flowers and tropical plants are colorful and amazing year round. And I get a kick out of seeing alligators in every lake. For that reason, you only swim in pools here. Big Bible belt here and you can find a church about anywhere. The best friends I’ve met here were actually old friends from up north. Funny thing really, most folks have their little groups established and you just can’t seem to get in. Bustles of activity and many people would rather go broke than miss a year of Disney annual passes. Large (hundreds of families) home school here, so there is a lot of support for that here. I need to go back to a couple places I missed on my travel reminiscences. I spent two summers at Beechwood Lake Camp in Bloomfield, Indiana, which is in southern rural Indiana. It’s beauty and clever trickery of the imaginative road designs boggles the mind. It is a place you would love to relax in but always are compelled to work in. There is peace and calm there. You don’t go there for the intensive busyness or intellectual conversations (no offense) but for stimulating natural beauty, getting back to nature and Spiritual roots. What amazing people are there! So loving and welcoming! On to Johnson City, Tennessee on my next installment. Continue reading “Things I’ve Noticed Across America 2”