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North America Travel

    North America Travel

    A Visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon

    We spent a week in Central Oregon last month with my husband’s family, enjoying the beautiful city of Bend and the resort of Sunriver. It was our first time in Sunriver, but we had visited Bend several times. Bend and Sunriver are about 20 miles apart. The high desert area of Central Oregon is one of my favorite places in the Pacific Northwest. I wish we had more time, but here are some of the things we recommend on a visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon.

    Where are Bend and Sunriver

    Located about three hours from Portland Oregon and six hours from my summer home in Port Orchard Washington, Bend and Sunriver are in the high desert of Central Oregon, offering a lovely dry climate with warm days and cool nights in the summer. Winter brings snow and cold but still dry compared to the area we live near Seattle. Bend and Sunriver are year-round playgrounds for hiking, cycling, water sports, downhill skiing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing as well as many other activities.

    Bend Oregon

    The Deschutes River runs through Bend

    Incorporated in 1905 Bend historically was a quiet logging town on the Deschutes River. Today however, Bend’s population has grown to just under 100,000 with many newer residents moving to the region for its outdoor recreation and beauty amongst the ponderosa pines. The city has a historic downtown, with shops and restaurants, many parks and is known for its many microbrewery options.

    Golf in Bend

    Rivers Edge Golf in Bend

    Bend has many golf courses, but we only have visited a few with our favorite being the Rivers Edge Course right near town.

    Restaurants in Bend

    A huge variety of restaurants are available in historic downtown Bend as well in the surrounding area. We have not been to as many as we would like, but our favorites currently are Wild Rose for its amazing northern Thai Cuisine, Longboard Louies for a quick Mexican lunch, McMenamins for burgers and beer, El Sancho Taco for the best Mexican in Oregon, Sintra for breakfast and Pine Tree Tavern for the history.

    Wild Rose
    Longboard Louies

    Beer in Bend

    Because we love beer, we always make an effort to try some different breweries when in Bend, as we work our way through the more than 25 breweries in the greater Bend area. During this visit we enjoyed checking out Good Life with its great outdoor beer garden, Sunriver Brewing with some delicious looking food although we didn’t eat there, and The Yard located in the courtyard of the Bunk and Brew Hostel.

    Good Life Brewing

    Sunriver Oregon

    Swans on the pond, Sunriver

    The first explorers filtered through the area in the early 19th Century and homesteaders started farming the region in the late 1800s. Sunriver is located on the grounds of the former Camp Abbot, a World War II training facility. The U.S. Army camp opened in 1942, but by June 1944 the camp was abandoned and most of the settlement was razed.

    In 1954, state highway 97 was completed in its current location and four years later, the Mt. Bachelor ski area opened. Both served to make Central Oregon a prime vacation and recreation area. Portland land developer John Gray acquired what would become Sunriver in 1965 and transformed the landscape into a residential and resort community.

    Today about 1700 people are full-time residents of Sunriver, but the population expands on weekends, holidays and in the summer.

    Family dinner on the deck

    Raft the Deschutes

    Since we were on a family vacation with a total of seven people, renting a raft at the Sunriver Marina seemed like a perfect activity for the family. Our raft for seven was meant for as many as ten, but I think ten people would have been uncomfortably crowded. We enjoyed the leisurely drift down the Deschutes on a beautiful day. Ten person raft was $330 (about three hours and includes transportation back to the Marina) but many options are available including kayaks and tubes.

    Family goes rafting
    Old guys pretending to be teenagers

    Cycle and Run or Walk the Paths

    Our giant Airbnb (five bedrooms and six bathrooms) was located right on one of the main paths that meander through the Sunriver resort. So every morning at sunrise I was the first one up and after the obligatory coffee, I was out onto the path for a run. Flat, paved and absolutely beautiful, I loved having that available. The rest of the family enjoyed it for running and long walks as well.

    Several of us brought our bikes and a few rented bikes, and we enjoyed a couple leisurely rides through the forest and along the river on the safe and well maintained trails.

    Family goes cycling
    My morning run

    Golf and Activities in Sunriver

    We did not golf while in Sunriver but there are four courses available as well as several swimming pools, a Nature Center and Observatory, horse stables and a shopping and restaurant center with events, concerts, markets and art fairs.

    About seven miles away back towards Bend on Hwy 97 you’ll find the High Desert Museum. Fun and interesting especially for families.

    High Desert Museum
    MIL with horse art

    Nearby Hiking

    On our final day we did two easy hikes that were perfect even for my 88 year old mother-in-law. Both these hikes would be good for kids and families too. I recommend the Benham Falls hike and the Lava Lands State area hike.

    If you are interested in more strenuous hiking there are many options near Mount Bachelor.

    Benham Falls
    Lava Lands

    A Visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon

    We had such an enjoyable time in both Bend and Sunriver – a perfect place for a family vacation. I certainly would love to go again. You should consider a visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon for your family or for couples too. There is so much to do.

    On the river
    With the hubs

    Thanks for reading our post A Visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon. We love it when you pin and share our blog posts!

    See this week’s top performing pin Cyprus in My Heart Forever here.

    See last week’s blog post Golfing Around the Sound here.

    North America Travel

    Visit Door County Wisconsin

    Three Cheers for the Red White and Blue

    I recently spent a wonderful four days in Door County Wisconsin. Two friends and I based ourselves in Sturgeon Bay, with little or no expectations whatsoever. But we were so impressed. It was a perfect little get-away and I think you would like it too. Here are my Red White and Blue suggestions to Visit Door County Wisconsin.

    Door County Maritime Museum

    I met up in Chicago with two of my friends who joined from separate parts of the country. It was my friend Winnie who suggested I do this blog post with a red, white and blue theme. It was a perfect suggestion…a way to look at colorful Door County and Sturgeon Bay through the colors of summer and the lens of my iPhone. If you visit Door County Wisconsin you can complete the rainbow with your own beautiful photos and colorful experiences.

    Red

    Cherries

    We learned on arrival that Door County is one of the largest cherry growing regions in the USA. And much to our delight, we arrived at the peak of the picking season. We did not pick but we ate and bought lots of cherry products to take home!

    Sit and Sip

    Our sweet little Airbnb in Sturgeon Bay offered a perfect place for me to enjoy my daily morning ritual with the traveling mug!

    Great Lakes Maritime

    Sturgeon Bay is home to the Door County Maritime Museum where we enjoyed the spectacular view and learned a lot about the Great Lakes Maritime industry. We also explored the lighthouses of Door County, and enjoyed the ones we saw. However if you want to see lighthouses you should visit during the Door County Lighthouse Festival in both June and September.

    Farms and Barns

    My friend Cathy was our navigator and her research skills found us a fun little farm to visit called Waseda Farms. We purchased organic bread, cheese and vegetables and also met the goats and cows.

    Red and Delicious

    You won’t go hungry in Sturgeon Bay and we enjoyed great food and drinks, including this Cherry and Vodka cocktail and this warm cherry pie with ice cream. Both are from the Inn at Cedar Crossing where we ate twice because we liked it so much!

    White

    Unexpected Foods

    White is for unexpected foods including the Wisconsin version of “Torte” my friend Winnie is displaying in this photo. It was nothing like the torte I’ve had before – more like a custard pie with whipped cream. We also experienced fried cheese curds, very Wisconsin.

    Natures Painting

    Although the weather was nearly perfect during our visit we enjoyed a wide variety of beautiful clouds drifting through as well as lovely, long, white sandy beaches.

    Geology

    Well you CAN teach some old dogs some new tricks and we learned a new geology word on our visit to Door County. Escarpment. The photo on the right is the Niagara Escarpment which Google describes as

    “…a long escarpment, or cuesta, in Canada and the United States that runs predominantly east–west from New York through Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The escarpment is most famous as the cliff over which the Niagara River plunges at Niagara Falls, for which it is named.” I had no idea.

    The photo on the left is a beach we discovered near the Cana Lighthouse and these beautiful wind battered limestones are eroded to large rounded rocks. Pretty.

    Cheese and Wine

    Well, duh. We knew about Wisconsin cheese but who knew they also made good wine? One of our favorite stops on our Door County visit was at Wisconsin Cheese Masters facility in Egg Harbor. We chose to visit this cheese co-op because we could taste many of the award winning cheeses of Wisconsin all in one place. Did you know Wisconsin is home to every Master Cheese Maker in the United States? Wow!

    And lucky for us, there is a winery right next door.

    Let’s Get Cultured

    Now we aren’t talking about cheese culture here…arts and history are abundant. We were so glad we chose to see a live play in Sturgeon Bay at the Third Avenue Playworks (TAP) Theater. The play called The Book Club Play was hilarious, well acted and perfect for me and my friends who all are in book clubs.

    There are several history museums, and we enjoyed the interesting history display at the Bailey Harbor Visitor Center, housed in a historic home. So much to learn about the immigrants who settled in this beautiful region.

    Historic Buildings

    I love a good ole pioneer building, whether falling down or restored, and we saw all kinds in Door County. Here are a couple of photos I thought I could squeeze into the White category. The Blue Ox on the left is a restaurant in Baileys Harbor and the 5 & J on the Right is a coffee and scones shop in Sturgeon Bay. Both super cute.

    Blue

    Nothing But Blue Sky From Now On

    Blue sky…it’s everywhere in Door County in July. Picture on the left is taken through a lovely stained glass artwork at the Door County Maritime Museum. Picture on the right is my friend Cathy enjoying a cherry tree grove.

    The Blue Waters of Lake Michigan

    Lake Michigan is huge and for me being a Puget Sound girl I had to keep reminding myself this was fresh water. So big! There are lots of sandy beaches, as well as rocky ones too. But these two photos both taken in the smaller Sturgeon Bay area on my early morning run.

    Favorite Spots

    We had some really fun experiences including eating at the famous Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay. This family-owned restaurant has been serving Swedish favorites since 1949. And if you are lucky you’ll see the goats grazing on the sod roof of the restaurant.

    We also enjoyed a surprisingly good, and free, outdoor concert in Sturgeon Bay. Every Wednesday Destination Sturgeon Bay presents Harmony by the Bay in the park.

    Shopping Options

    We didn’t do a lot of shopping but we enjoyed strolling in and out of the many unique shops in Sturgeon Bay (left photo) where the shopkeepers were all welcoming and informative. My friend Cathy who is an amazing knitter enjoyed visiting Knit Whit Yarn Shop in Baileys Harbor. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

    Got the Blues

    I couldn’t end this blog without sharing these two beautiful blues. I love this old truck with the Ukraine peace symbol and this gorgeous historic home turned bed and breakfast located in the historic Sturgeon Bay neighborhood of Louisiana and Seventh Street.

    Visit Door County Wisconsin

    We really enjoyed Sturgeon Bay and we recommend that you Visit Door County Wisconsin. It was beautiful, sunny, delicious, interesting, friendly, inexpensive and colorful! I would definitely go back. Learn more at https://www.doorcounty.comDestination Door County here.

    Dinner at The Inn at Cedar Crossing, Sturgeon Bay

    More USA posts coming! Summer in the USA continues.

    See last week’s post Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest.

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    North America Travel

    Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest

    Summer and Fall a Great Time to Hike

    Location: Pacific Northwest

    Hiking is one of our most favorite activities and it is so good for you too. We love everything from walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain (almost 500 miles) to short day hikes close to home. Spending our summers in the Pacific Northwest where we grew up, we are spoiled by so many great day hikes close by. So I thought I would put together a list of my favorite day hikes in the Pacific Northwest.

    Olympic Peninsula

    Definitely one of the most beautiful places to hike anywhere in the world, the Olympic Peninsula is the closest to my home of the regions I’ve listed here. Located in Washington State’s upper Northwest region, it offers both day and overnight hiking options for the novice to the advanced. Listed here are a handful of my favorite day hikes on the Olympic Peninsula.

    South Fork Skokomish RiverMap it

    South Fork Skokomish River

    Beautiful and relatively easy with minimal incline (there is some but nothing too strenuous) this well-maintained trail skirts the South Fork of the Skokomish River in a region just Southwest of the lower Hood Canal. To walk the entire out and back it can be eleven miles or a bit more, or turn around at any point. Keep your eyes open for some beautiful and massive old cedar and Douglas fir trees. There are a handful of areas to access the river for your picnic or a place to rest and enjoy this peaceful location.

    Parking is available

    Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass Required

    Learn more about Lower Skokomish trail here.

    Storm KingMap it

    Storm King view of Crescent Lake

    We hiked this for the first time this past July and it is a climb! If you don’t want incline this one is not for you. But boy do you get some beautiful views from the top. The trail is steep and in places rocky as you traverse the 2 miles to the top. It’s popular on weekends so consider off season or mid-week. The last part to the peak requires use of ropes to conquer the top. Or just sit on the rocks and eat your lunch and let the young kids do that last part.

    Parking is available at the Crescent Lake parking area

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Storm King and Crescent Lake here.

    Lena LakeMap it

    Lena Lake

    I have hiked this trail all my life, since I was a little child and we used to hike overnight for our summer vacation. Some elevation to lower Lena, but it’s a perfect day hike at about 7 miles round trip. The incline is gentle and most anyone can do it. The trail does have some rocky areas and lots of roots but you will marvel at the beautiful old growth Douglas Firs. The turquoise blue lake is perfect for your lunch and then head back down. Overnight hikers can consider continuing on to upper Lena another xx miles.

    Parking available

    Northwest Forest pass or America the Beautiful Pass required

    Learn more about Lena Lake here.

    See more Olympic Peninsula Hikes here.

    Close to Seattle

    Visitors and locals in the Seattle area are lucky to have great day hikes a short drive or even a walk away. We often urban hike around Seattle and Ballard or head east of the city into the Cascade foothills for easy, accessible hikes.

    Discovery ParkMap it

    Discovery Park

    A hidden gem in the City of Seattle, Discovery Park is just that – a surprising discovery! Suddenly you find yourself in a beautiful wooded park, on a bluff high above the Puget Sound or on the shore of a driftwood-littered beach. If you are in Seattle and are looking for the perfect day hike close to the city, this is it. Multiple hiking options through out this beautiful 534 acre city oasis. Who knew day hikes in the Pacific Northwest would include one in the heart of a city?

    Parking is available.

    Free

    Learn more here about Discovery Park.

    Franklin FallsMap it

    Franklin Falls

    Less than an hour East of Seattle just off Interstate 90 is an easy little 2 mile hike to Franklin Falls on Denny Creek. This popular day trip from Seattle can get really crowded on a summer weekend. But check it out in the fall for a beautiful getaway with fall color, or in the spring when the falls are crashing from the winter melt. It’s a great multi-season destination and perfect for the whole family.

    Limited Parking

    Washington State Discover Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Franklin Falls and the Denny Creek campground here

    See more close to Seattle hikes here.

    North Side of Mount Rainier

    The North side of Mount Rainier is easily accessed from central and south Puget Sound and is one of my most favorite places to hike. There are many choices but the ones listed below are some of my favorite.

    Tolmie PeakMap it

    Tolmie Peak

    I love this hike, even though the road getting to the trailhead can be rough. Start at the Mowich Lake campground and hike the 7 miles round trip to one of the best views in all of Washington State. Passing by Eunice Lake and continuing up to an abandoned fire look out where you will not only enjoy a stunning Mount Rainier view but on a clear day you will also see Mount Baker, Glacier Peak and Mount Saint Helens.

    Parking Available

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Tolmie Peak here.

    Spray ParkMap it

    Spray Park

    This trail also begins at Mowich Lake on the south end. The first quarter mile your are walking on the Wonderland trail before the Spray Park trail branches off. This trail (6 miles RT) takes you through a beautiful and delicate sub-alpine meadows and along to Spray Falls. In late summer an abundance of wildflowers make the trail popular especially on the weekend. Gentle incline and this is easy for most anyone.

    Parking available

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Spray Park trail here.

    Summit LakeMap it

    Summit Lake

    On a clear day you can see forever. No joke. This hike is worth the elevation gain of about 1300 feet over about 3 miles. It’s just gorgeous. The road to get there is not so gorgeous though so be sure to have a all-wheel drive if possible. The road often has snow into June. The best time to hike here is June through October.

    Parking Available

    Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass required.

    Learn more about Summit Lake here.

    Crystal MountainMap-it

    Crystal Mountain

    The Mount Rainier gondola at Crystal Mountain ski resort is open in the summer and zips you up 2400 feet to the top of the ski area for a spectacular view. On a clear day you can see a succession of mountains including Rainier, Saint Helens, Adams and Baker through out the Cascade range. Hikers can hike down the mountain enjoying the wildlife and subalpine meadows, small lakes and creeks along the way or you can ride the gondola back down.

    Parking Available

    Gondola price ranges from $19-34. Online reservations are available.

    Learn more about the gondola here.

    South Side of Mount Rainier

    More remote than the North side of Mount Rainier, the Southside, including the Sunrise Visitor Center, has fewer visitors so is a good choice during peak season. But it does take longer to get there. Overnight in the Ashford or Packwood area makes for a nice multi-day visit.

    Sheep Lake and Sourdough Gap Map it

    Sheep Lake

    We just did this hike for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I loved it. The weather was not very cooperative however, so we did only about five miles. This trail, part of the Pacific Coast Trail, goes on and on, and I really would like to return and see more of it next summer. The first part up to Sheep Lake is very easy as the trail wanders along the ridge and then inland to the lake. Continuing on you have several options to Sourdough Gap as well as Crystal Lake. This hike skirts Mount Rainier National Park and falls within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

    We had the place to ourselves on a fairly stormy fall day, but this hike can be very busy on a nice summer weekend. Consider midweek or fall. The fall colors were excellent.

    Parking Available

    America the Beautiful or Northwest Forest Pass Required

    Learn more about Sheep Lake here.

    Burroughs MountainMap it

    Burroughs Mountain

    On this five mile hike that leaves from the Sunrise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park you will get as close as possible to Mount Rainier without actually climbing the mountain. There are three Burroughs peaks on this hike, and snow is often on or near the trail well into the summer months so come prepared. It feels like a moonscape, and yet a few flowers and plants flourish as do several small mammals.

    Parking Available

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass Required

    Learn more about Burroughs Mountain here

    Silver FallsMap it

    Silver Falls

    This very easy 3 mile round trip hike starts at the Ohanapekosh campground and leads you to one of the prettiest waterfalls in Mount Rainier National Park. Easy meandering trail through beautiful forest, offers a great option for families or those looking for less incline with a big impact. Spectacular hike.

    Parking Available although limited

    America the Beautiful or Day Pass Required

    Learn more about Silver Falls here.

    Grove of the PatriarchsMap it

    Grove of the Patriarchs

    One of the most magical hikes in Mount Rainier, Grove of the Patriarchs is a wonderland of old growth trees, some as old as 1000 years. This easy 1.5 mile round trip hike can be done by anyone, including children. It’s a remarkable oasis of nature’s beauty and a reminder of the importance of preservation and care of our natural wonders.

    Parking available but limited

    Learn more about Grove of the Patriarchs here.

    Summerland TrailMap it

    Summerland Trail

    This beautiful alpine trail is 8.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2100 feet as you traverse from wildflower meadows up into subalpine tundra admiring views of Mount Rainier along the way. Steady incline and occasional rough trail make this better for more experienced hikers. Snow can be present into early summer. Very popular on weekends and parking is limited so come midweek, fall or early in the day.

    Parking available on the road but limited

    America the Beautiful or Day Pass required

    Learn more about the Summerland Trail here.

    Learn more about all hikes in Mount Rainier National Park here

    And Many More

    mount rainier
    Hiking with the family Summit Lake

    There are many more hiking options both for day and overnight that I have not listed here including trails North and farther South. Two great websites to learn more about day hikes in the Pacific Northwest are Alltrails.com and Washington Trails Association wta.org.

    Be sure to check the weather before setting off on any hike in the Pacific Northwest, as even in the summer it can be unpredictable. Be prepared to encounter wildlife, bring bug spray and sunscreen and plenty of water. And always make sure someone knows where you are going.

    With a little preparation, day hikes in the Pacific Northwest are rewarding, invigorating and always stunningly beautiful. Go outside!

    See last week’s post Cyprus – Forever in my Heart

    See our blog about My Favorite Things in Washington State here.

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    North America Travel

    Back in the USA – A Brief Visit

    Back in the USA, the place we like to spend our summers. But this summer is going to be a bit chaotic, as we have several stateside trips planned and we head off again in the fall.

    Home

    As much as we love our travel life, it’s always nice to get back “home” to familiar things. Our house was painted while we were gone, and I’m very anxious to see it and my garden as well. We have a few tiny projects around the house this summer but not many, particularly since we will have so little free time.

    House getting painted

    Family

    Spending precious time with our sons, and our parents and other family is our priority this summer…time is fleeting and we are aware. We hope to have some free time to see dear friends as well.

    Family time

    Back in the USA – A Brief Visit

    We hit the ground running on June 30th, because we depart again mid July. My husband is off to Alaska with some college friends while I am off to Wisconsin to explore with some girlfriends.

    Back we both come for a few weeks at home before we head to Oregon for a week with Arne’s family in an Airbnb in Sunriver. That should be a fun time.

    We return to our home in Port Orchard briefly before heading to Jolly Ole England for a quick visit. In an effort to use the last of our vouchers from a trip cancellation due to Covid, we will have a quick visit to Guernsey and Jersey before an also brief visit to Normandy and Paris France.

    Returning from Europe we fly to Maine for another college reunion “camping”. Arne then heads back to Port Orchard while I head to Palm Springs for a high school girl friends reunion. Phew. This is gonna be crazy.

    All of that will happen between June 30 and October 4, and then on October 20th we head out for seven months of travel that will include Maui, Roatan Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Bolivia, the Carribean and a few stateside stops.

    Yep. We are on the go. I plan to keep the blog going as much as possible through it all, so thanks for all your love, comments, support, interest and encouragement. Our travel life is My Fab Fifties Life and we love having you along for the ride! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

    See last week’s post about our Marvelous Malta time! And watch for next week’s post about Israel.

    See this week’s top performing pin Morocco Three Day Tour Fez to Marrakesh here

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    North America Travel

    Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos

    A Review

    We had a wonderful ten day stay at the beautiful Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos a few weeks ago. It’s incredibly rare for us to stay in a resort, or even in a hotel. We usually are in an Airbnb or VRBO, with our hotel stays limited to one night here and there usually at an airport. But we gave this a try and we were not disappointed. Here is my review of the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos.

    Royal West Indies Resort

    Turks and Caicos

    Turks and Caicos is a small Caribbean country in the Atlantic only 736 miles off the coast of Florida. The country has a population of 39,000 within its collection of 40 small islands, of which only eight are inhabited. They use US dollars, drive on the left and are a British territory. Queen Elizabeth names a Governor for the country.

    Turks and Caicos

    Most of the population are descendants of slaves, who were forcibly brought here to work the salt flats and cotton fields. More recently many people have immigrated from The Bahamas. Today the economy is based on tourism and off-shore financing.

    Grace Bay, Providenciales

    We spent our time on the island of Providenciales, home ot the international airport (by the way, the airport is the worst thing about the island, sadly in need of an upgrade). Our lodgings were in a small town known as Grace Bay. Grace Bay has an astonishingly beautiful long white sand beach where the lovely resorts sit, including the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos.

    Grace Bay

    The town of Grace Bay seems to be fairly recently developed, with resorts, shops and restaurants spread out over a few miles and all easy walking distance from our resort. A really nice grocery store was less than a mile, dozens of restaurant and shops about a mile or less. Everything seems practically brand new. Sidewalks are good, and roads too. I felt very safe doing a five mile run each morning.

    Grace Bay

    Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos

    This resort was far better than I expected, which of course was a great surprise. We booked the least expensive room, a “studio” for $260 a night via Expedia. With all the taxes and fees, the actual cost was closer to $300. The “studio” is basically a large hotel room that included a table and chairs for two, small sitting area, small kitchen with fridge and microwave (see last week’s blog about hotel microwave cooking), a bathroom and a washer and dryer. Having a washer dryer was a big bonus we weren’t expecting. Our room also had a very large deck with table, chairs and lounge chair over looking one of the two pools.

    Our Studio Room

    The Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos also has one bedroom suites. In addition you can combine a one bedroom suite and a studio like ours to create a two bedroom space.

    Small Kitchen

    Made up of 8 buildings with 15 units in each, the buildings are spread out around beautifully landscaped grounds. All units either overlook one of the pools or the beach.

    There is no elevator, but a very nice and strong bellhop carried our bags up to the third floor on our arrival. Staff also secured the taxi for our return trip to the airport. Taxi’s are different here…usually shared vans.

    View from our room

    First Rate Amenities

    We were pleasantly surprised to find such beautiful pools as well as access to a beautiful beach area on Grace Bay that included lounge chairs and umbrellas just for the guests of our hotel. Beach and pool towels also available from the friendly staff.

    Enjoying the pool

    In addition the hotel offers guests the free use of Hobie Cat sailboats, kayaks and bikes.

    Enjoying the free bikes

    Dining

    Pelican Bay Restaurant and Bar sits poolside at the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos. It is highly rated and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition they had one of the most generous daily happy hours I’ve ever encountered offering half off all drinks from 5-7pm. Special weekly Fish Fry and BBQ are also popular. On Sunday nights they have live music and it was so good.

    Pelican Bay Restaurant and Bar

    We cooked in our room five of the nights we stayed and ate out four nights. In addition to enjoying the Pelican Bay Restaurant and Bar for breakfast we walked to four more dinner restaurants and one lunch that we really enjoyed.

    More We Enjoyed

    Coco Bistro and Coco Van – When we couldn’t get a reservation at the highly rated and very popular Coco Bistro we ended up having a really good meal at their food truck called Coco Van. We had Chicken Fried Burger, Duck Tacos, Egg Roll, two side salads and four beers. $80.

    Coco Van
    Coco Van

    Another highly rated restaurant we tried was called Caicos Cafe. I was expecting it to be Caribbean food but it actually was Italian with lots of pastas and other things too. I had a spinach salad and grilled octopus. Arne had the local specialty Conch Chowder and BBQ Ribs. With one beer and water $120

    Caicos Cafe
    Conch Chowder at Caicos Cafe

    A short walk down the beach we discovered The Flamingo Cafe, a tiny beach shake with great water view. Not much to look at but the food was great and inexpensive. Conch Salad and two Grouper entries $60.

    Flamingo Cafe
    Conch Salad at the Flamingo

    We ate lunch out one day at the local food truck called Roosters just a block from our resort. Fish Tacos and burgers on the menu but we also tried a local Caribbean pork dish called Griot. $18

    Roosters Food Truck
    Griot

    We splurged a little on our final night on the island and went to Coyaba, one of the highest rated restaurants in the area. Fantastic service. Cute space. Excellent food. Two fish entries, one salad, beer and water total was $160.

    Coyaba
    Coyaba

    Visiting Turks and Caicos

    We chose not to rent a car and not to wander beyond Grace Bay during our visit. But for those interested there are great beaches around the island (some remote), a national park, snorkel and dive tours, sailing tours, sunset tours, kayaking, parasailing, golf and more. Although groceries and dining out were quite expensive, overall we had a really positive experience and would definitely recommend it, as well as a stay at the Royal West Indies Resort Turks and Caicos.

    Relaxing

    Read last week’s post about Hotel Microwave Cooking on a Budget

    See this week’s top performing pin here My Favorite Things in New York City

    Watch for a blog about our adventures in Morocco next week. Thanks for following!

    We love it when you pin and share our blog posts. Thank you!

    North America Travel

    Birds of Antigua West Indies

    Amateur Bird Watching With Merlin

    Location: Antigua West Indies

    As we travel around the world on the Grand Adventure we have become amateur bird watchers. We didn’t set out to do this but it gradually happened as we marveled at the world’s amazing avian life. A few years ago we discovered the bird identifier app called Merlin. It quickly became one of our most used travel apps. Using it in the Caribbean we have really enjoyed the birds of Antigua West Indies.

    Bananaquit

    The Merlin Bird Identifier App

    The free Merlin app is created by the Cornell Lab, part of Cornell University in New York. My husband discovered this app, and it’s honestly amazing that it is free because it offers so many features. Our favorite features include the easy search function, excellent photos (most photos in this post from Merlin) and the super fun birdsong/sound identifier.

    Broadwinged Hawk

    As we travel we catalog the birds we discover around the world. And we discovered 13 new birds while on Antigua West Indies. Thanks Merlin!

    We spent ten days on this tiny Caribbean island. Here is a list of both the 13 new as well as several others that were repeats with a little bit about each one. These photos below are from the Merlin App.;

    Birds of Antigua West Indies

    Green Heron – beautiful blue green water bird with a rust colored neck and a crown that he fluffs up when he is agitated or happy.

    Green Heron

    Broad-winged Hawk – beautiful small hawk, multi colored with spectacular underwing color.

    White Winged Dove – usually on the ground or perched, smaller with gray and brown and white on the wings

    White Winged Dove

    Zenaida Dove – shy and keeps to beachy or scrub area, similar to Mourning Dove. Distinct white edge on wings when seen in flight.

    Zenaida Dove

    Green-throated Carib – large for a hummingbird, the fluorescent green color can appear black in certain light.

    Green-throated Carib

    Common Ground Dove – tiny dove dull brown color keeps to grasses and shrubby areas

    Common Ground Dove

    White-crowned Pigeon – large dark gray with white cap and pink legs, common in low coast areas and mangroves.

    White-crowned Pigeon

    Gray Kingbird – medium gray and white, primarily Caribbean and found in dense woodlands near the coast.

    Gray Kingbird

    Yellow Warbler – prefers brushy areas near water but easy to spot due to flash of color although females are duller in color.

    Yellow Warbler

    Carib Grackle – Black with yellow eye, long tail and rather obnoxious call

    Carib Grackle

    Bananaquit – Gray with yellow belly and black and white head, known for screeching call. Found in woodlands and gardens, feeds on fruits and at bird feeders.

    Bananaquit

    Laughing Gull, distinctive call that sounds like laughter, most common shorebird on Antigua, white and gray with full black head.

    Laughing Gull

    Common Gallinule – chicken-like marsh bird found near cattails, black with distinctive red face and yellow legs.

    Common Gallinule

    Lesser Antillean Bullfinch – tame and often seen at your picnic or on your deck, males are black with red throat and females are brownish green.

    Lesser Antillian Bullfinch

    Great Egret – Large, long-necked white heron found in marshy area, quick to startle.

    Great Egret

    Cattle Egret – common white stocky with short yellow bill, usually in dryer area than other egrets, splash of pink on the head.

    Cattle Egret

    Black-necked Stilt – fragile looking water bird with distinctive pink legs and tuxedo body. Forages in shallow pools and marshes.

    Black-necked Stilt

    Brown Pelican – large and gray brown saltwater habitat, very long bill with pouch for scooping fish. Often gather in groups.

    Brown Pelican

    Magnificent Frigatebird – huge seabird found in tropical ocean areas black with forked tail with inflatable red pouch on throat (males) and females white chest and gold bar on shoulder.

    Magnificent Frigatebird

    Apps Make Travel Fun and Easy

    There are several apps we use for travel on nearly a daily basis including Google Maps, Google Translate, Airbnb, Expedia, PictureThis Plant Identifier and The Weather Channel. But Merlin is one of our favorites for both the education and entertainment value it provides. Whether you travel or not, we recommend you check out Merlin Bird Identifier App.

    Thanks for reading our post about the birds of Antigua West Indies. See last week’s post about Exploring the Neighborhoods of New York City.

    See this week’s top performing pin My Favorite Things to do in New York City

    North America Travel

    Exploring the Neighborhoods of New York City

    New York, the largest city in the United States, is a collection of distinctive neighborhoods covering more than 472 square miles. Home to 8.5 million people, New Yorkers are proud and hard working, ambitious and love their city and individual neighborhoods.

    New York is made up of five boroughs; The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Within the boroughs are numerous neighborhoods. Below is a list of my favorites, but please note I was not able to visit all the boroughs or all the neighborhoods. My twelve days in the city were incredibly busy, but even so I didn’t see it all. I would love to go back for even more exploration. So with that in mind, here is what I discovered, exploring the neighborhoods of New York City.

    I’ll start in Lower Manhattan and work north up Manhattan Island before coming around clockwise to Long Island. Again please note, this is not all neighborhoods, just the ones I was able to briefly visit.

    Manhattan Skyline

    Lower Manhattan

    Lower Manhattan – lower Manhattan encompasses a variety of unique places including Wall Street, the September 11th Memorial and Museum, NYU and much more. Here I have broken out four neighborhoods from lower Manhattan; Chinatown, Gramercy Park, Little Italy and Greenwich Village. But there is much more to Lower Manhattan.

    Views of the Statue of Liberty, the free ferry to Staten Island, great restaurants, shops and museums; Lower Manhattan has a great vibe and should not be missed. It’s the jumping off point for most tours to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty

    Recommendation The Tenement Museum, Katz Deli, Wall Street

    Lower Manhattan
    Lower Manhattan
    Tenement Museum
    Lower Manhattan

    Chinatown

    Population 100,000

    Lower East Side covering 2 square miles

    Recommendation Spicy Village for handmade noodles and dumplings

    Manhattan’s Chinatown today is a bustling gritty area of businesses and restaurants. In the 1800’s it was a cluster of immigrants trying to survive. Unlike the European immigrants who arrived through Ellis Island, most of the Chinese arrived from the West Coast, fleeing from violence and discrimination there. The majority of those arriving in New York were males who took on jobs considered “women’s work” including laundry and restaurants still prevalent today.

    Worth a visit today to experience the amazing food, fresh fruit stands or shop in the wide variety of tiny stores.

    Chinatown
    Chinatown
    Chinatown

    Gramercy Park and Neighborhood

    Population 27,000

    Lower Manhattan about 172 acres.

    Some famous residents of Gramercy Park include Jimmy Fallon, Julia Roberts & Uma Thurman

    Recommendation – just take a stroll. Or if you can afford it, visit Gramercy Tavern. (I did not)

    In 1831 Samuel Ruggles purchased a swamp in farmland in lower Manhattan. He spent 180,000 to turn the land into a private park surrounded by 66 parcels of land. Residents of the 66 parcels still today are the private users of Gramercy Park, the neighborhood known as Gramercy.

    This is an upscale area with beautiful homes and even more beautiful people. Visitors are not allowed in the park but you can walk the sidewalk that surrounds it.

    Gramercy Park
    Gramercy Park
    Gramercy Park

    Greenwich Village

    Population – 28,000

    Lower Manhattan (nearly to Midtown) 0.3 square miles

    Famous people who live in the village are many including Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Radcliff, and Chris Noth.

    Recommendation – stroll, people watch, eat. In my opinion this is the most beautiful neighborhood in New York. Check out the Washington Square Park, art shops and music clubs.

    “The Village” is one of the oldest neighborhoods in New York, dating to the 1600’s. Visitors will notice the narrower, tree lined streets (some with cobblestones). Greenwich was laid out prior to the grid system the rest of the city has. It is one of the things that give the neighborhood such a quaint village feel. Once the home to a Bohemian scene in the 1960’s and today it retains its individual vibe with a young and vibrant scene. The architecture has the look of Alexandria Virginia with a colonial feel.

    Greenwich Village
    Greenwich Village

    Little Italy

    Population – 5000

    Lower Manhattan – 3 blocks of Mulberry Street with some surrounding blocks included

    Famous People from Little Italy include Robert DeNiro

    Recommendation- Zia Maria Italian was delicious. Come in the evening to stroll.

    Originally Little Italy was a much larger part of immigrant Lower Manhattan. Home to tenements and working class people. Today, it is a shell of it’s original self, mostly catering to tourists, with few Italians still living in the area. It is however a wonderful place to find delicious authentic Italian food, on the three block Mulberry area designated at Little Italy.

    Little Italy has been the setting for many iconic movies and films including the three Godfather movies. It has also seen its own real life Mafia. For much of its history the Italian Mafia operated out of Little Italy, including John Gotti.

    Little Italy
    Little Italy
    Little Italy (Zia Maria)

    Midtown

    Population 105,000

    Middle Manhattan 3 square miles

    Recommendations – Museum of Modern Art, Broadway Shows, Carnegie Hall, Il Corso Italian Restaurant

    Midtown is a thriving business district and home to Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Crysler Building, the United Nations and much more. Bustling center of retail and commerce, Midtown is home to a wide array of fantastic dining. Times Square and the Broadway theater scene is part of the Midtown neighborhood reach.

    Hell’s Kitchen, a small neighborhood of Midtown, is home to hundreds of restaurants, many with ethnic flavors from Greek to Cuban, Italian to Spanish, Vegan and Indian. Everything you might desire.

    Fifth Avenue, famous for Saks, Rockefeller Square and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is a great place to stroll and window shop and people watch.

    Midtown
    Radio City Music Hall, Midtown
    St Patrick’s Cathedral, Midtown
    Rockefeller Center Midtown

    Upper West Side

    Population 215,000

    Upper West Manhattan bordering the entire west side of Central Park about 2 square miles with the Hudson River to the west.

    Many celebrities call the Upper West Side home including Antonio Banderas, Jerry Seinfeld and Randy Rainbow (see more)

    Affluent residential area that is also home to Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University and Lincoln Center. High rise apartments and upscale hotels surround restaurants and shopping. The area was not developed until the 1800’s, although there was shipping and industry along the Hudson River.

    The development of Central Park and an elevated railway helped boost the growth of the area and it is today one of the most sought after neighborhoods in the world.

    Recommendation – Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center, Crave Fish Bar and many restaurants

    Upper West Side
    Upper West Side
    Upper West Side
    Upper West Side from Lower Manhattan

    Upper East Side

    Population – 125,000

    Upper Manhattan covering all of the east side of Central Park to the East River. 1.75 square miles

    Famous people born in the Upper East Side include Woody Allen, Elizabeth Arden and Herb Alpert. Today some of the celebrities who make their home there include Samuel Jackson, Drew Barrymore, Mariah Carey and Bill Murray.

    Early on the Upper East Side was a fashionable address, and was home to famous New Yorkers such as the Rockefellers. Developed earlier than the west side of the park and therefore it is home to many elegant post Civil War brownstones and apartments. The Upper East Side Historic District is a registered National Historic site.

    Today the quiet tree lined streets continue to house the cities elite and beautiful. The Museum Mile, 5th Avenue along the East side of Central Park, is home to several museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim.

    The Upper East Side has its own small neighborhoods such as Yorkville. Throughout the Upper East Side you will find designer shops as well as humble markets, five star restaurants as well as tiny diners and takeout.

    Recommendations – Metropolitan Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Central Park, Bloomingdales. Window shop and enjoy any of the amazing ethnic restaurants. For something fun, take the gondola over to Roosevelt Island.

    Upper East Side
    Guggenheim, Upper East Side
    Upper East Side
    Upper East Side, The Met

    Harlem

    Population 198,000

    North Manhattan Island 1.5 square miles

    Famous People from Harlem – Cicely Tyson, Sammy Davis Jr., Ed Sullivan, Lou Gehrig (more). Matt Damon is a current resident.

    Recommendation- Jazz Clubs, Apollo Theater and Sylvia’s Diner the Queen of Soul Food. Don’t miss the northern most part of Central Park also in Harlem, a less manicured, more forested section of Central Park.

    Founded by the Dutch in the 1600’s, the area was predominately Jewish and Irish in the 1800’s and until the Great Migration of Afro Americans began in the early 20th century. Harlem has experienced wide swings of boom or bust, depression and success. It is the home of the “Harlem Renaissance” in the 1920’s and 30’s as African Americans defined the music and art scene. Many legendary Jazz and R&B artists are from Harlem.

    Harlem has fought the “gentrification” of it’s name and neighborhood and all though it has changed, it holds onto its roots as a family and working class neighborhood.

    I wanted more time in Harlem, but I didn’t get it. I’ll see more on my next visit.

    Harlem
    Harlem
    Harlem

    The Bronx

    Population – 1.5 million

    Just across the Harlem River from Manhattan, The Bronx is the only borough on the mainland. 57 square miles

    Recommendations – Yankee Stadium, New York Botanical Gardens, The Bronx Zoo

    Famous people from The Bronx; Jennifer Lopez, Carl Reiner, Kerry Washington, Lauren Bacall, Billy Joel, Al Pacino (more)

    Once a violent and poor, gang-infused area of New York, today The Bronx is safer and more family oriented , although still home to one of the poorest congressional districts in the US. Just across the Harlem River from Manhattan, The Bronx is the home of the New York Yankees as well as the beautiful campus of Fordham University. As a visitor the New York Botanical Gardens are not to be missed or the famous Bronx Zoo.

    The name “The” Bronx (sometimes capitalized but not always) comes from Swedish born Jonas Bronck who is credited as the first settler and farmer of the area. One story goes Manhattanites headed to “The Broncks” as a weekend getaway.

    The Bronx history includes bootlegging center during prohibition and poverty and crime in the 1960’s. In the 1980’s the Bronx Expressway created even more poverty by destroying neighborhoods and housing. In the late 80’s and 90’s a revitalization plan by the city helped and today The Bronx continues to search for it’s place in this huge city and to deal with it’s social issues. That said, a visit to NYC should include a visit to The Bronx.

    The Bronx
    Yankee Stadium, The Bronx
    New York Botanical Gardens

    Brooklyn

    Population 2,800,000. If Brooklyn were it’s own city it would be the third largest in the nation

    West end of Long Island 71 square miles

    Famous People from Brooklyn – Barbra Streisand, Jerry Seinfeld, Anne Hathaway, Joan Rivers (more). Current residents John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, Daniel Craig and Spike Lee.

    Recommendation – Pizza, Bushwick Collective, Brooklyn Bridge

    Named after the Dutch village of Bruekelen, Brooklyn is a hub of New York life. One of my favorite neighborhoods for food and people watching, Brooklyn is connected to Manhattan by numerous bridges and tunnels including the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Once a working class area, Brooklyn has become “gentrified” with housing prices skyrocketing and entrepreneurs flocking to the community.

    The Dutch arrived in the 1680’s to find Native Americans (Nayak and Carnasee) growing corn and crops in the rich soil of the region. Over the next two centuries Brooklyn would attract immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Britain and after World War II Italians.

    I wanted more time in Brooklyn. It will definitely be a place I visit again.

    Brooklyn
    Brooklyn
    Brooklyn, Bushwich Collective
    Brooklyn Bridge

    Exploring the Neighborhoods of New York City

    Even if you lived in New York, you could never explore it all. It is one of the most unique, vast, interesting and most beautiful cities in the world. It is constantly in motion and always changing. I love it and I can’t wait to go back and see even more. I hope you will consider visiting and exploring the neighborhoods of New York City.

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    See last week’s post My Favorite Things in New York City.

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