Friday, November 25, 2011

Everything-But-Black Friday

Today is Black Friday here in good ole US of A and as such people came out in droves to shop for super deals.  Not me.  Nothing against shopping, but I don't have the stuff that makes the hardcore Black Friday shopper.  Instead, every Black Friday I find something to do where I could avoid the malls.  On past years, I opted for staying home and/or watching a movie.  I know the vampires can wait another week so I did this instead.  I went for a drive to Napa Valley and Lake County.  This drive reminded me how scenic Highway 29 is, which may mean that our leaf peeping drive each may be a little closer to home. 

Here is my very scenic road trip.  Round trip was roughly 300 miles.














Now that I've indulged in fall color photography, I'm off shopping tomorrow :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Be Thankful (author unknown)

Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don't know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you're tired and weary,
because it means you've made a difference.
It's easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.

[all photos are from my garden this summer]

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Whether you're celebrating Thanksgiving or not, surely everyone has something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Art Deco

I can't remember how or why or even when I got interested in architectural designs. I have no background in either architecture or engineering. I do however have a passion for photography and doors and windows are some of my favorite things to shoot. I suppose that's where it all began. And looking at all the pretty pictures online, that too.

Afer leaving the beach, we took a leisurely stroll along the length of Ocean Avenue in order to see up close all the bars, restaurants, cafes, hotels, and gift shops and photograph the ART DECO buildings were the activity that followed. This side of the street was where people watching was at its best. However, I didn’t indulge in people watching as much as I wanted to. It was hot and humid and the combination was getting the better of me and my mood. I needed a little AC/cooling and some sustenance to power me up for the rest of the evening.

Walking around and peeking at the menus, we found nothing that we liked to nibble on. Exasperated, I made an impulsive choice. I entered this one restaurant/bar that boasts Cuban food in their menu.

The waitress asked if I wanted to eat outside – sidewalk by Ocean Drive – or inside, I chose the latter. Who would say no to AC after the walk on the beach?

But the minute we got inside and was seated, we knew we made a big mistake. All we wanted was a little bite to tide us until dinner where we have already made advanced reservations.

The place was fancy, nice table setting, vibrant color scheme, very Hispanic/Latin, Gloria Estefan on the wall, nice cozy alcove seating area. The hubs looked at me and I looked back and we both say. Okay, we’re not paying $40 for this little snack are we? We definitely did not pay just $40.

Curious about what we ordered? I had a little Cuban appetizer that was a mashed up plaintain made into a ball and fried and there’s something else in it. This particular appetizer is a miss for both of us. Then we ordered a Cuban sandwich that included a side of french fries. Both the sandwich and the fries were hits. Worth the price. A bottle of beer and a glass of sangria completed our meal, one that wasn’t $40. I overpaid for AC. My bad for not showing the food pics here, it was intentional as I have many pics to post.

Art Deco is an eclectic design that originated in Paris in the 1920s. Eclectic because it's a combination of different architectural/artistic designs. It is the mutt of architectural styles.
The Miami Beach Architectural District (also known as Old Miami Beach Historic District, and the more popular term, Miami Art Deco District) is a U.S. historic district (designated as such on May 14, 1979) located in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Florida. The district is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Sixth Street to the south, Alton Road to the west, the Collins Canal and Dade Boulevard to the north. It contains 960 historic buildings. ~ Wikipedia

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Miami Beach

When we were preparing for our few hours in Miami I penciled in Art Deco district as my must-see. The hubs on the other hand had Miami Beach/South Beach as his - which didn't raise an eyebrow. Who would have thought that both spots were located in the same neighborhood. We got a two-fer here, saves so much time in our already limited stay in this hop-pening city.

It was a substantial distance away from our hotel in Doral, although we enjoyed the drive. The hubs and I felt a Vegas vibe while we were cruising the city roads/freeway of Miami. At one point, we both say to each other how that exact scene in front of us reminded us of Vegas so much.

The traffic crawled painfully as we neared the end of this road and the road turned into Ocean Drive - one side is the beach and the other is a line of shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels, etc. This is is the place to be if one wants to imbibe the local color.
Patience was the key here. The vehicles that crammed the entire length of this one-way avenue were inching their way into I don’t know where. While I was all bug-eyed looking out the window, I was also peeking at any available street parking spot. More minutes passed and as we continuously inched our way down the road, I spotted a car leaving its spot. We swooped in and we knew we got lucky.
We parked the car. Paid the parking meter and mapped out our plan to see this place. First we need to take a gander at this beach famous all over the world for beautiful people and good time.
The heat was unrelenting but the beach was full, lovely beautiful people who doesn’t need Jenny Craig’s guidance sunning themselves, playing, swimming, walking. The beach area was massive, never seen a beach this wide before. The sand was white, is this how Boracay’s sand looks like?
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Impressive beach scene. The heat won and I had to concede defeat. I cannot stay out under this scorching rays any longer and the stomach was grumbling. Nothing to eat after McDonald’s breakfast after leaving the airport and munching on the drive to Everglades this am.
~ to be continued~

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Florida's Natural Beauty

Preface: This post begins my documentation of my September 2011 ecotourism vacation to Costa Rica. We had to fly out of Miami so we alloted a day for sightseeing in Florida/Miami.
You just missed the tram tour. There's another one in one hour. That's what we were told as we paid our entrance fee to the Shark Valley entrance - the closest one from Miami. The next one is another 1.5 hour drive away we were told. That wouldn't pan with our plans. We weren't planning on spending most of our 34 hours stop in Miami driving around. No sir. We wanted to see as much of Miami as we could before embarking on our Central American vacation.
By missing the 10 am tour, we had an hour to stretch our legs, visit the loo, load up on the necessities which were readily available at the gift shop - things like bug spray and full size sunblock. You're asking why we didn't buy one at home? Post 9/11 as you know liquid items are restricted to 3 oz on carry on bags.

The hour seemed long when waiting as you all know, which gave us time to look around the parking lot and visitor center and its surroundings and photograph everything.

It was hot - as could be expected - although the humidity didn't factor into my total mood yet - just wait *grin*.

There is a canal just off the visitor center where lotus plants were growing. We spotted different fishes, one of them the "enemy" Florida gar. I could identify that one because its image was on the signage.

At some point during the wait, I had to step into shade because the sun was bearing down really hard on me. Although if you look at my pictures, I didn't look miserably hot. Yes, pictures do lie.


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Florida Gar
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They are not the rounded platter shape, but heart shaped, which I have only seen here for the first time.
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The tram, very airy.

A woman named Sylvia introduced herself to us and asked us if we could sit on the benches. She proceeded to give us the background of Everglades National Park, which you can read here. Midway through her intro, the 10 am tram was inching its way back to the parking lot. I guess that was the signal for Sylvia to commence her own tour.
The Shark Valley Tram Road is a 15 - mile long paved loop. The slow speed of the tour gave us access to the subtle landscape, different wildlife including migratory birds and alligators. We stopped several times where Sylvia went down the tram to point out something of interest or pick up an algae to show what she's been lecturing on.

It was a peaceful ride, looking out in the vast flat landscape with bushes and shrubs and occasional trees and grasses galore.
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Borrow Pit
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Saw anhinga for the first time. We saw plenty in Costa Rica afterwards.
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Crane? She stands out anywhere.
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Yes the place used to be where they dug/explored for oil.
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A baby gator in one of the borrow pits.
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Midway through the loop, we stopped to visit the Observation Tower which is equipped with bathrooms. Lonely Planet describes this as, "Halfway along the Shark Valley trail is the 50ft-high Shark Valley Observation Tower, an ugly concrete structure that offers dramatically beautiful views of the park."
I have to disagree with Lonely Planet because I don't find this tower "ugly" per se, even though I can't say that it's a thing of beauty either. But I am one with Lonely Planet in saying the views from up there are truly dramatic. You can see for miles in a flat landscape. I saw walkers and bicyclists. We passed by many bicyclists along this road for there is a bike rental in the visitor center. I'd love to bike here, but may be around 6 am would be the ideal time to explore this massive place.
A few feet before reaching the tower we spotted an alligator blocking a walking trail. We were instructed not to go around a gator, sleeping or not, just so one can hike that trail.
The bug spray was useless as mosquitoes were having a picnic atop the observation tower, which made me cut my time up there. I wonder why I wasn't bitten on the ground where I'm closer to stagnant water?
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This trail is closed by a gator.
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We continued with the tram tour and I was definitely thanking my lucky stars that took me here. I wasn't keen on visiting Florida. Nothing against the state, because someday I really really would love to go see the Harry Potter spot in Universal Studios. However, the heat is really a deal breaker for me, most of the times.
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He's got lunch between his beaks, can you see?
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What a lovely way to start our Florida/Miami sightseeing. Next stop: find the hotel and get checked in and wash away the bug spray, sunblock and sweat off my body.
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Next time btw, I'd take this airboat ride. It looks fun. It's the one you see on tv when they show the Everglades.

I'm linking this post to Lesley's SIGNS, SIGNS.