Jerez de la Frontera

As our train finally glided into the small station in Jerez de la Frontera, or just Jerez, we gathered our backpacks, slung them tiredly across our backs and stepped into a new world. The train ride came immediately after the international flight (not recommended, I will say) to Madrid and turned into a 6 hour ride, where it was listed as just over 4 hours. As much as I enjoyed train travel – my first time! – I was exhausted!

View of the train and station.

View of the train and station.

My friends and I wearily detrained and walked through the station toward the bright afternoon sunlight. Though our bags were heavy and our brains mush from all the travel and so little sleep, we still looked around with interest at the attractive architecture and pretty mosaics as we walked. Now, to find our hostal…

Pretty blue mosaics decorated the outside of the train station in Jerez.

Pretty blue mosaics decorated the outside of the train station in Jerez.

I had opted to forgo the foreign SIM card or phone purchase and decided to use Wi-Fi only on this trip, which turned out to be more complicated than I’d assumed. But I digress. I downloaded maps for the various regions in Spain where we would be traveling and that was our lifesaver. I would definitely recommend doing that to save on data charges anyway. I had the address so I was able to map the location and, creepily enough, GPS location services still work even without Wi-Fi so I could track as we walked.  I printed out maps before I came, but I felt we looked less touristy using a phone on occasion than a paper.

A 15 minute (or less) walk later and we were in front of Hostal Fenix, our original plan for a night of rest. We found a triple room for around $73 USD on booking.com (no refund version), and split three ways it was quite reasonable. It was a great location for proximity to the station as well as the Plaza del Arenal – about 10 minutes walking – and was a lovely place. High speed Internet came with the room, as well as complimentary breakfast. Architecturally, the interior courtyard was quite pretty, though small, and the marble staircase was original from the 19th century. Overall, I would definitely recommend this as a place to stay.

Marble staircase - 19th century

Marble staircase – 19th century

At any rate, we eventually found enough energy due to hunger and a desire to see the town – our one chance because of schedule restrictions – so we headed out to eat and explore. The square (Plaza del Arenal) was our natural first choice so we headed that way. We were not disappointed for our first true European experience.

The town is on the small side so the square is nothing like what you would expect in Madrid or Barcelona, but it was comfortable and not overwhelming. There were temporary stalls set up around the square with vendors hawking their wares and people were everywhere. It was early evening and I think they were preparing for their evening paseo – or stroll – around the town. There was a statue in the center of the fountain with pretty flowers all around. The cobblestone streets and walkways appealed to our idea of Europe, though not to our feet after hours of walking.

One thing we did not research before heading to Europe: Restaurants. But we chose well for our first meal accidentally so it worked out well. We stopped at a restaurant just out of the square (I believe it was Bar Restaurante Don Tapa) and sat down at one of the covered tables outside. Expect to seat yourself on your travels to much of Europe, it saves them host/hostess costs. Also, tipping isn’t strictly necessary at restaurants because the workers are paid a decent wage; you can round up, however (or tip, they won’t complain). We all tried different versions of paella and it was excellent there. We found later that not all paella is created equal so I’m happy we had a great first experience with native dish.

Chicken Paella. Yum!

Chicken Paella. Yum!

It seemed that all of Jerez passed by us as we ate. There was a never-ending stream of people taking part in the evening paseo; entire families passed – even the dogs took part! We joined the crowd once our meal finished and did some sightseeing as the sky darkened.

We viewed the Alcazar de Jerez by streetlight and walked past the stone façade of the Iglesia de San Miguel on our way back to the hostal. I caught a glimpse of the Jerez Cathedral (de San Salvador) but it was completely dark by this point and we were expecting our ride to Rota, a small town on the southern coast, later that night.

What we would have seen of the Alcazar had we seen it in daylight.  Source: Wikipedia

What we would have seen of the Alcazar had we seen it in daylight.  Source: Wikipedia

My takeaway: I would like to visit when I can spend days here – especially if I could make it happen during a feria! I didn’t get to experience the old culture of Jerez and so that is definitely still on my list!  The three things the town is most famous for are sherry (‘Jerez’ actually means sherry), horses and flamenco and I experienced none of them on our brief stopover.  I must return!  If you like a small-town feel to get away from the bustle of the huge cities, be sure to visit this spot, tucked away so that many people skip it. Enjoy!

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Landing in Madrid

Madrid map view“I can’t believe this is really happening!” That phrase repeated over and over in my head and sometimes spilled out of my mouth at random intervals. It was with me as I checked in for the first leg of my flight from my hometown to the take-off point to lands unknown. It didn’t fade away even on the red-eye flight to Madrid, though it did slow as exhaustion set in from all those sleepless hours over the dark Atlantic (one simply cannot sleep well – or at all – in coach). And as we stepped from the airport onto Madrid soil, it stayed with me. I was really breathing Madrid air!

I’d done all the research to prepare me for this trip and we were bravely taking only a backpack as a suitcase – I traveled with two friends and met up with a future friend later that day. Even with the research we fell for a few tourist traps. For instance, we knew the airport was a bit out of the city but we didn’t want to take a taxi because of our very limited budgets. I saw a sign for the metro but we had no idea how to use it yet…so we were drawn into a van-style taxi that took groups. This option was cheaper than a taxi, but far more expensive than a metro ticket from the airport. We didn’t make that mistake again. We ended up coming back to the airport a couple times on the bus (for 5 Euros), as Madrid was our launching point, and at least once on the Metro. I recommend going straight for the Metro when you land; it’s quite easy to navigate, especially if you have a handy map with you as we did. By the end of the trip, I almost felt like a local. 🙂

Iconic metro sign.

Iconic metro sign.

We had a limited timeframe and wanted to see as much as possible, so our first day in Madrid was really just traveling from the airport to the Chamartin train station, where we boarded a train (our first!) south to Jerez de la Frontera. My advice: don’t load your first day with travel as you will be grumpy and hungry…and also tired beyond belief. We sat for six hours on what was supposed to be a four-hour train ride, but at least we were able to sleep a little. Unlike planes, trains usually have an outlet to charge your electronic devices and bring them back to life after hours of use on a plane ride and trying to figure out where to go in the city (paper maps are just so big and outdated). One note of advice: Be sure to purchase your tickets as far ahead as you can because prices can double the closer you are to the departure date. I’m talking buying even 60 days out. I would purchase directly from Renfe to save money (though you might need some knowledge of Spanish to make it through the site).

Train station in Jerez.  So cute!

Train station in Jerez. So cute!

I found a new love on that trip, however. Train travel is something I could get used to and I wish we had more economical (and faster) trains in the US as I would prefer to travel that way. I loved being able to look out the huge picture windows and watch the countryside go by. Plane windows just don’t cut it, you know? I was leaning over my friend to get a glimpse of the approaching land as we flew over the country, and I just couldn’t get enough of it. But with a train, you can look around on both sides and watch the countryside change from hilly and olive-tree-covered to rocky and mountainous. Spain is a gorgeous country!

Finally, we arrived at our first destination: Jerez. This fabled city was on my list of things to see because of its history as well as the culture that was still so apparent everywhere we looked. Flamenco dancing began in this region of the country so it’s famous for flamenco shows as well as sherry (the name Jerez actually is sherry) and fine horses. We just missed the famous feria (fair) where we would have seen all of those in action at one time. My one regret was that we didn’t have more time here in this city so that I could properly explore it. More on Jerez in a later post.

Overall, the trip was completely amazing, overwhelming, incredibly eye-opening and just whetted my appetite for world travel.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Coffee: the Gateway to New Experiences

I believe I may be one of the few people in this country who do not find the smell of brewing coffee a pleasant, welcoming aroma.  I’m probably alienating several of you as I write this, but it has been true for me.  Even people who do not enjoy coffee often tell me that they love the smell of fresh coffee.  Perhaps my aversion to it comes from growing up in a home where coffee was a rarity, though my parents did enjoy it occasionally.  It does not evoke memories of childhood when my parents would sit at the breakfast table enjoying their morning coffee because that never happened, even once, to my knowledge.  In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever tried the dark brew because the bitter smell had always turned me off, but recently I had that chance.

Cup of Coffee

This past Saturday some volunteer work I was involved in took me to a small town an hour away where my cousin and her husband live.  We decided it would be nice to combine the trip and have a short breakfast together at her house before the start of my event to catch up on everything since we’d seen each other during the Christmas season.  As it turned out, when I came in she was bubbling over about a Keurig® machine she’d received as a Christmas gift – she didn’t realize I do not drink coffee.  She was so excited that I would be able to share this experience with her and I wasn’t about to dampen her enthusiasm by saying, “Oh, I don’t like coffee.”   Besides, I decided it would be good for me to give it another try.  It was time for a new experience.

We moved to the kitchen where the modern, black machine was sitting in a corner, oddly not looking out of place in the retro 1950’s-era color scheme and design of her adorable kitchen.  The two aqua-accented mugs placed beside it seemed to mock me while the carousel containing the various K-Cups® challenged me to choose a flavor and begin the game.

Being the guest, I was given first choice.  Pretending to be a woman of the coffee world, I cautiously gave the carousel a spin and found an innocuous-sounding flavor claiming to be a light roast.  To my mind, that sounded like the best choice for a non-coffee drinker and with my cousin’s hearty endorsement of my selection (one of her favorites, she said), I felt I had my winner.

Next, it was time to choose a mug, normally an easy task, but since they were different sizes I tried to think strategically about it.  If I chose the larger mug, that would potentially mean more coffee I would have to drink.  But by the same token, the larger mug would allow more room for creamers, of which I was planning to use plenty!

After a second of deliberation, I selected the larger mug and placed it in position under the spout.  Then I was briefly stumped on a choice between 6 oz. or 8 oz. on the machine.  More strategizing.  The smaller doze would mean less coffee, but it would likely be more concentrated, thus stronger.  My choice was easy.  As the 8 oz. selection brewed and the odor filled the room, I attempted to prepare my mind for the new experience and intended to enjoy it fully as much as I could.  It isn’t often that a new experience presents itself so readily and I was prepared for it this time.  All this talk about traveling that I’d been doing lately made me realize that to be a great traveler, I would need to try new things, and frequently.  I was looking forward to it.

Finally, the last of the coffee sputtered into the mug and it was time to doctor it up.  Thankfully, my cousin had thoughtfully chosen a chocolate and caramel creamer, which I hoped would disguise the bitter flavor I was expecting.  As she started the Keurig® again, I stirred in a plethora of the creamer and raised the level of liquid nearly to the brim.

We chatted at the table enjoying our coffee (well, one of us was; the other of us was taking large gulps of coffee, discreetly, so as to lower the level of the liquid as quickly as possible) and I realized a little of what it must be like to be like many other people in the world who can sit down together and have a lovely chat over a coffee.  It was a nice feeling and I almost felt like one of the group, until I took another swig of the coffee.  I discovered that though I do not hate coffee after all, it will never be my go-to drink.  Perhaps I will always be an outsider looking in at the coffee-lovers group but, on the positive, at least I can avoid dependency on the drink this way!  I will stick to my mulled cider and hot chocolate K-Cups® at work. 🙂

All in all, it was a great experience and I look forward to trying other new things in the future.  Sometimes we have preconceived notions about things in this life, but we must get beyond and make discoveries by experience.  Even if your pre-judgment is right, you will at least be able to say that you tried it.  For a traveler, that is vital because there is a new experience around every corner when you visit new places and other countries.  Fake it ‘til you make it, as they say.  Get out there and explore.

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Across the Pond

Cordoba, Spain.  Roman bridge (from Wikipedia)

Cordoba, Spain. Roman bridge (from Wikipedia)

“I’m pretty much definitely probably going to go.”  That’s how this started a few months ago.  It went from “someday” to “maybe” to “definitely probably”, which isn’t exactly an “I’m absolutely going”…but it’s turning out that way. 

Right now I’m entirely focused on getting to southern Spain and a small part of that, I think, has to do with the fact that we’ve recently had what’s known as ‘polar vortex’ weather turn the Midwest into the Arctic Circle.  That’s what it felt like to me, anyway.  I’m ready to head to warmer climates!

My passport is practically begging for stamps and I’d really like to oblige it with an adventure of a lifetime.  I thought it would help keep me inspired if I wrote about my journey to Spain and maybe help someone out if they, too, are wishing to make it (whimsically) ‘across the pond’.

The first step is deciding where to go – southern Spain is rather vague, after all.  Certainly, just wanting to travel is a start, but one must have a destination in mind to make travel a reality instead of a code word for escape.

Spain Flag and Flamenco

I decided I would like to fly into Madrid because it is centrally located and has the cheapest flights from my location.  It’s the capital city of Spain and it would be nice to see it for a couple of days.  I realize it would take more time than that to really see it (yes, I did just split an infinitive; shame on me), but I’ll take what I can get.  I’ve listed the next cities I would love to see while in Spain.  Am I missing any that I should add to the ‘Must See’ list?

  • Córdoba
  • Sevilla
  • Jerez de la Frontera
  • Rota
  • Cádiz
  • Granada
  • Málaga?

In the next few months, I’ll probably have to cut some of that since I’ll probably only be able to spend about two weeks.  It stuns me to think that in the time it takes for a baby to be fully formed in the womb, I will be walking the cobbled streets of various cities in southern Spain (sans baby).   Wish me luck!

P.S.  I’m learning Spanish little by little so here’s a phrase for the day: Suena bien!  Which, being translated, means ‘Sounds good!’

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Light From Darkness

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The sun struggled out of the murky depths on the horizon, rising ever higher as it wove in and out of the dark purple billows.  The light was seemingly surrounded by darkness.  A dark tendril snaked across the face of the glowing orb and brought other slow wisps with it until the orange-juice-colored light fell under its gloom.  Suddenly, streaks of yellows, oranges, pinks and purples fell away from the clouds in all directions, piercing the night-into-day sky with new light and tugging the sun upward out of the darkness in slow procession.  A glow settled over the land and dispelled the mist hugging the ground in one last futile attempt to cling to the night.  Ethereal mists hung above the landscapes.  Storm clouds on the western horizon flamed in the fresh light and somehow looked almost friendly in the morning glory. The storm lasted the night but the sunlight chased away the turmoil in the heavens. Light is beautiful, but what is light without a darkness with which to compare?  

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The Bold, the Baffling, & the Beautiful (Pt. Lobos Part 2)

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The bare, twisted branches reached toward the chilly February sky, the trunk curved weirdly up and out overlooking the Pacific Ocean – there is no tree quite like the Monterey cypress, found only in this part of California (Pt. Lobos near Carmel California and Cypress Point in Pebble Beach).  Have you ever seen a more unique tree?  Where I’m from, trees simply do not grow like this.  I heard these trees described as “wind sculpted” and I think the creator of the wind is a great sculptor indeed to have molded these trees.  I can only imagine the site that would have greeted explorers as they sailed toward the coast and saw such alien shapes of trees twisting this way and that as the wind had shaped them.  Incredible.

In my opinion, on a ‘wonderment’ scale these trees are up there with the redwood trees that so captivated my attention on my short tour of a small part of California.  On our tight schedule, we wanted to see as much of CA-1 (the coastal highway) as we could, but we simply could not pass Pt. Lobos State Reserve up, as it is right off this road – just south of Carmel, CA.

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These trees are part of the Cypress Walking Trail in the park and it was filled with twisting, turning cypress trees – mixed in with a few large piles of rocks and a bit of grass here and there.  Suddenly, we come around a corner and I can see in the distance a bare, white tree, reminding me of the white tree of Gondor from the Lord of the Rings series.  🙂  It is stark in its color compared to the green treetops all around it with their dull brown trunks.  When I see this tree standing out in its difference from the rest of the trees, it rather reminds me of myself.  Difference is, of course, only outward as this tree would still have life-rings as do other trees if you cut it open, just as I look like everyone else on the inside.  But here it grows, completely conspicuous to all passers-by, and it stands tall and straight.  It is an example of how we should be, bold and unafraid to stand up to this world and some of the prevailing ideas found therein.  But I digress.  🙂

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The above picture was taken further along the trail on the way to the next portion of the park: the China Cove.  The China Cove portion of the park was a bit of magic hidden down a long flight of eroding, sand-blown stairs where two seals came to play on a day in early February when we were lucky enough to stop by.  I’ve had better views of seals in zoos and sunning themselves in the San Francisco Bay area…but never had I seen two seals play together in the wild as I did that day.  I was unable to capture the moment to its worth with my simple camera, but it is enough that I have the memory to look back on when I wish.  The two were frolicking about in the teal waters, their heads popping out of the water and gazing at the group of strangers watching them from the sandy shore – probably wondering what the two-legged creatures found so interesting.  They splashed about on that windy day and seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves in the chilly waters, popping out of the water and then quickly ducking out of site, only to appear a few seconds later in a different spot.

Honestly, that cove was beautiful and worth a visit even without the two seals for company, and in February instead of full spring or summer (when it was likely even more beautiful).  The silence in the cove was peaceful with the wind much calmer while we were down between the rocks and cliff sides.  It was almost like a world within itself, somehow separate from the rest of the park.

When we arrived at the bottom of the stairs, we stepped onto a short, sandy stretch of beach that showed evidence of several other sets of footprints.  Some scrub grew about the bottom of the cliff face behind us, not too far above us (I’m not good at judging distances, I’ll admit) – but far enough to do plenty of damage if one were to fall from it.  It was a small cove, and the water’s edge wasn’t far from the bottom of the stairs.  The rock walls near the water showed smooth where the waves had rubbed them time and time again over the many, many years.  There was an archway through the rocks to the left as we looked into the Pacific Ocean and the seals came and went a few times through that tunnel (pictured below from a different angle).

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Looking back on our short visit there (much too short with our schedule restraints), I’m glad we did take some extra time to see this, even though we ended up missing a couple other parts we really wanted to see.  There was one section I could see in the distance where several large rocks jutted out into the ocean, covered with seals all talking to each other – something I could hear across the wind though they were far enough away that it was hard to distinguish the seal bodies.  That would be on my list to visit if I am able to return to this park.  I remember we kept telling ourselves, “Let’s just look at this really quickly; we’ll run through the park.”  I can promise you that you will not want to block only a couple hours off to see this; it is worth a whole day or, at least, half of a day.  Happy travels!

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Adventure is in the Blood

Reading tales of adventure can be quite dangerous; it changes something inside or perhaps merely awakens something that was already there.  Either way, I am a different person today than I would have been if I hadn’t read voraciously as a child and, well, even now.  My favorite stories have always been ones with adventure – be it fantasy, western, historical, or modern. 

My top 5 adventure stories:

  • The Lord of the Rings series – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Walking Drum – Louis L’Amour
  • Fair Blows the Wind – Louis L’Amour
  • The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Riddle-Master of Hed – Patricia A. McKillip

And many, many more.  If you haven’t read these stories, you should add them to your list of books to read!  What stories make it to the top of your list?

I’m fairly certain that had I been born and of age during the time of the Lewis & Clark expedition, I would have been on board.  Maybe I would have been Lewis…or even Clark, I suppose.  Maybe I would have sailed on the Magellan voyage around the world or been with the crew when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  Can you image what it would have been like to have crossed the mountains and finally reached the great Pacific Ocean?  What a journey they made and what incredible views they must have seen!  I was born into a modern age when the world is basically ‘discovered’ as far as landmasses go.  However, most of the world is still uncharted territory on my personal map of discovery and I plan to discover all that I can. 

There’s something about the mystery of what is around the next bend in the road or over that next hill, something that calls to me to discover where that curvaceous road leads to or what lies beyond the unmarked wooded trail (of course, one knows to expect such dangers as snakes, spiders, tics – quite disturbing, I’m sure! – and various other wildlife…but that is another story).  I can only assume that the same feeling of needing to know the unknown must have driven Lewis & Clark and many other great people to make a journey that would take so much of their lives, yet give so much in return; and not just to them, but to the world that followed after them for generations to come.  Naturally, there was danger – but they made it through.

What would pumpkin pie be without spice?  Boring, that’s what.  The same cooking principle works for adventure and danger (or at least a good imagination so one can pretend one is being chased by cowboys or indians…or a bear, whatever suites your fancy 🙂 ).  I’m not saying that you should seek danger, per se, but that every time you step out of your comfort zone, you are a facing a sort of danger in the unknown.  But how can one grow without getting out of the familiar?  The great explorers did that in their day, we can do no less in ours.

Go out and explore your world, expand your horizons and extrapolate (I really wanted to use that word) what you will from it.  Meet your destiny and visit the world – even if only from your armchair.  You can make a difference; I believe it. 

P.S. – Pt. Lobos Part 2 is coming up next – stay tuned!

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Pt. Lobos State Reserve – California (Part 1 of 2)

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Magical, Intriguing, Fascinating, Enthralling, Astounding, Awe-Inspiring, Heavenly
These are some of the words I think of when I remember Pt. Lobos State Reserve.  Before February of this year I had no idea that such a place as this even existed in this world. It was radically different than anything I had previously thought of about California overall, but definitely enough to convince me to return one day soon.

The above-pictured trees in Pt. Lobos have an out-of-this-world look to them and, quite frankly, I would not be surprised to find that they have cousins growing on Mars.  I have never seen a tree that looked more alien than these; and yet, the haunting quality seemed to draw me to them somehow.  I think what drew me most was the wildness of it all.  The wildlife was near at hand and in February it was an excellent time to see seals hanging around.  Below is a picture of some deer not too far from the trail we walked.

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Pt. Lobos State Reserve is located in California – which is quite a large area, in fact, so I’ll be sure to narrow it down a bit further for you, reader.  It is just south of Monterey, California on coastal highway CA-1 (which, incidentally, is one of the most beautiful and amazing roads that I have ever had the chance to experience.  If you have never been, it should – most definitely – make your top road-trip list).  If my previous direction is not enough for you, the nearest ‘big’ city would be San Jose to the north; just follow the coast down and you’ll run into it eventually.  

I remember we were on a tight schedule the day we were passing Pt. Lobos and decided to stop in and visit quickly.  It was supposed to be a “get in, get out” kind of stop, but there was no way we could make it that short of a visit. It seemed that we met another “Wow!” moment around each bend in the trail and we were sorry that we had to rush.  An hour is not enough time to see even one part of this park – and there are three parts!  As it was, we were only able to visit one part, which included the Cypress Grove walking trail (a must-see if you have to choose) and the China Cove (another amazing place), where we saw a couple seals playing in the water and having an all-around good time in the cool waters. 

Walking the Cypress Grove trail is like entering another world.  I can only speak for the time of year that we visited, of course, but there were not so many people around that you couldn’t be alone to drink it all in if you wanted.  We found ourselves alone much of the time and ran from here to there in wonder at every amazing tree we found and every amazing view we glimpsed of the ocean waves soaking the rocky cliffs below.  It was truly an artist’s heaven.  Most views we saw were worthy of being painted or captured by a gifted photographer.  I took many pictures but cannot claim to be any sort of a photographer; as such, please forgive the quality of these photos.  The first picture below is one of an ocean view I glimpsed through some curvaceous trees by the trail’s edge.

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The above view is one I saw near the beginning of the trail and was a hint of what was to come as we entered the cypress woods.  Something about how this tree stands alone on that huge rock really resonates with me.  I can see it standing tall and strong, weathering the storms and feeling the ocean spray from the crashing waves below.  Although it is alone, somehow it doesn’t seem lonely.  I think of it as wanting to be as close as it can to life and the world; it holds its branches high and revels in the wind that rushes through its foliage in summer and caresses its bark during the cooler months.  There are no other trees near to cast a shadow as the sun warms it each day, while the moon covers it in a soft glow each evening.  It is solitary, yet it feels everything in full.  

There is so much more that can (and will) be said about Pt. Lobos State Reserve and I think I should break this into 2 posts to keep them from getting too long – though this might verge on that point even now….

As I recall, there was a nominal fee per car for entry to the park, but whatever it was…it was worth every penny!  For more info, the site is http://www.pointlobos.org/ and I have shared a photo here as well.

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Welcome

Travel is a passion of mine and something I’m constantly dreaming about.  In fact, if “Travel” were a major in college, I’m pretty sure I would have picked that over my staid business-focused major.  But, alas, I don’t believe that major has been designed yet.  Still, I can hope…and dream of my future destinations, which I hope will span much of the world.  Although no longer common practice, I like the idea of having a suitcase covered with stickers from locations across several continents and countries, languages, cultures.  I wonder if those types of stickers are even still available….

My first choice for an international destination is, hands-down, Spain.  I’m captivated by the history, the cultures, the language, the cities, the food (naturally), and so much more that I’ve yet to discover.  One day soon I will make it across the pond to visit this beautiful country.  But in the interim, I plan to visit every place that I can while in the good ‘ol US of A.  So many of the places I’ve seen already are amazing and I plan to revisit them, even if only in posts reminiscing the time spent there.

Well, reader, welcome to this blog and I hope my experiences can be a help to you if you ever end up at any of them.   A firsthand account and my own perspective on popular and unknown destinations in the world.

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