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On My Travels

On My Travels The Great Outdoors and Nature

Things to Do While at the Beach

There is nothing like a day at the beach, no matter where that beach might be. Who doesn’t love the song of seagulls, the smell of the salt air and the soothing sound of the waves rolling onto the shore? I know I love it, it’s one of those places that simply brings my soul peace and harmony within minutes.

The beach however, isn’t just for strolling down, as much fun as that can be, but it can also be an adventure or even a mini-vacation depending upon how long you plan on visiting the beach. There are a lot of different things you can do while visiting the beach.

One thing you can do is take a pair of binoculars with you and while strolling down the beach use the binoculars to look out at the horizon and see if you can spot any dolphins or whales. How exciting it can be to see such beautiful creatures and if there’s a chance of seeing them, you don’t want to miss out.

If the beach you are visiting has a boardwalk I highly recommend that you spend some time walking it and play games in their arcades and if they have rides on it, make sure to hop on a few and don’t forget to eat some delicious food while walking around and exploring.

Often beaches also have trails that are close by and you should consider taking a hike while there. This is great exercise and you will get to experience more nature along the way and you might even be able to catch some great views of the ocean and surrounding area.

If you aren’t into eating food from available vendors then why not pack yourself a nice little picnic. You could include a variety of cheeses, fresh fruits, crackers, whatever else you might enjoy while lounging on the beach. Make sure to bring plenty of water and other beverages.

Consider bringing along a little bit of fishing gear if the beach you are going to has a pier so that you can dabble a bit in fishing. Fishing can actually be one of the most relaxing things that you can do while at the beach and who knows, you might even catch something good to eat too!

If there are little seaside shops on or near the beach you are visiting why not take time out to do some window shopping while you’re there. Most of these little shops are very quaint and extremely fun to go in and explore, even if you don’t want to buy anything you’ll have a lot of fun looking at all the cool things they have to offer. This gives you some time out of the sun as well, and who knows, you might run across a bargain or two that you can’t live without.

If you are with a small or large group of people at the beach consider having a bonfire party. These can really be fun sitting around a nice fire especially on a cool evening, just sitting around talking and maybe even singing a few songs and roasting marshmallows. Just make sure before you do this that the beach allows bonfires.

Bring a journal with you and sit down and relax on the beach and write about your experiences on the beach and surrounding areas or if you feel inspired consider writing some poetry. The ocean has a way of sometimes bringing out the creativity in people so take advantage of some down time and let the sea speak to you.

Last but not least, look for seashells that you can take back home with you that will remind you of your trip to the beach.

On My Travels The Great Outdoors and Nature

Things to Know In Order to Enjoy Hiking

Hiking can really be a wonderful way in which you can get out and truly enjoy what nature has to offer you. If you really have never been on a true hike it’s something that you should consider doing. If the word hiking scares you off just realize that if you can walk, you can hike. Honest. What hiking is, is simply going for a walk but instead of walking in the city or in a mall you do it in the wilderness. When it comes to hiking it isn’t much different from plain old walking except that the surfaces you’ll be walking on are more than likely going to be more uneven than what you will find at your local city park. Plus, if you are really going out some place out there, you need to be more prepared than you need to be when going on a walk.

Here are a few things you should know before you go hiking if you are a newbie at this kind of activity. The first thing I suggest for those who truly have never been on a real hike, is this; start taking walks in parks. This is a great way to get started. It’s a good idea if you try to find parks that have some walking paths that are not paved and that have some open areas where you can walk also. To be honest with you, you may discover that walking on unpaved surfaces actually is more pleasant than when you walk on concrete. Those hard surfaces in the city can give you blisters a lot faster than the softer surfaces of an unpaved path.

There are some very important differences between taking a walk in the city and hiking somewhere out of town. One is that you really need to be a lot more aware of the circumstances around you in the wilderness so you can take care of your body. Remember, when you are out hiking usually you are not going to find a car, bus, store or any other kind of shelter to take cover in if you get too hot, cold, tired, or hungry. Also, depending upon where you go, you may not see any other people around either. This is why it’s important to start off with short hikes in case you misjudge something about the hike, with a short hike you can quickly get back to shelter for warmth, food and water.

Be smart about hiking, make sure that you go hiking during the year when the weather is going to be the nicest. Hiking means you are going to be outside the whole time and you don’t want to get caught in some awful weather. Of course it does depend upon where you live. For instance if you live in a desert area then you may want to go hiking in the spring or fall when temperatures are for more tolerable. By picking “friendly” weather you are going to have a much better experience hiking.

If it truly is your first time hiking I really don’t recommend that you go alone. It’s a better idea to ask someone to go with you and it’s even better if those you invite already have experience at it and they already know what can be expected and can help you out if something comes up that you don’t know how to handle. If you can’t find anyone who wants to go with you then consider checking to see if you city has any local hiking clubs that you might be able to join.

This is very important, your footwear! One of the biggest mistakes that newbies commit is wearing the wrong kind of shoes. You need to pick shoes that are designed to make your feet feel comfortable when you are walking and not shoes that just make your feet look good. Another really big mistake that newbies to hiking commit is buy a brand new pair of shoes and wear them on a hike before they have been broken in. You need to let your feet get use to the new shoes so you should try to break them in by wearing them around the house for awhile and for short walks in a park. This way when you go hiking for the first time your feet will be used to the shoes.

Another thing that is really important when you go hiking is the clothes that you wear. Your feet are not the only things that need comfort on a hike but your whole body. This means that it is best to wear loose fitting clothing and not something that is super tight. Your clothes also have to be appropriate for the weather. So make sure you know what the weather is predicted to be like before you set off on your hike.

When you go hiking as a newbie always make sure that you find areas that have designated walking trails so that you can follow that same trail back to where you started, the last thing you want on one of your first hikes is to get lost. Whatever you do, never stray off the path.

If you think that your hike is going to be a couple of hours or longer it’s a good idea to take a few things with you such as a lighter or matches, a knife, a simple first aid kit, anti-itch cream and sunscreen, a flashlight and even a little toilet paper, you never know.

You also need to make sure that you take water or a sports drink with you because you will be losing a lot of fluid when you go for a hike and you need to replenish what you lost in order to avoid dehydration or a heat stroke because both can kill you.

Most importantly, use your God given common sense and don’t tempt fate. No matter how beautiful Mother Nature is, she is very indifferent to hurting you, especially if you do stupid things.

On My Travels

Creative Ideas for Those Seashells You’ve Been Collecting

I don’t know about you but any time I have an opportunity to visit a beach, I’m always looking for some great seashells to pick up and take home with me. I like doing this not only because they are a beautiful reminder of strolling along a warm sandy beach but, they can also be turned into some nice gifts if you want to be creative with them.

Here’s a few crafty ideas for your seashells:

A really simple and elegant item you can make with seashells are seashell candles. All you need are a variety of different sized deep shells such as scallops, clams and quahog shells. Then just get whatever kind of candle wax you want and some wick string found at craft stores. Melt you candle wax, cut wick to the size you want, dip the wick in the warm wax, place it in the shell and pour the rest of the wax into the shell making sure you leave just enough of the wick above the surface of the wax to be able to light it when your candles are ready. These are great to use on coffee tables, end tables, patio tables and even for a nice look on your dining table.

Soap dishes are neat gifts to give and you can easily make them with a couple of different sized shells. You should have one big shell and then one small shell for the base of the soap dish. Take some newspaper, crumple it up and form into a ring. Then take some two part epoxy and epoxy the big seashell to the small seashell, make sure it’s back to back. Once that is done put the shells in the newspaper ring with the small seashell down, this is to help support the top shell while the epoxy is drying. Easy as that, as soon as it’s dry you have a lovely little soap dish to keep or give as a gift.

Another simple and elegant gift you can create with clam shells or shells similar to clam shells is a shell wreath. All you need is a 12 inch metal wreath that is form packed with straw. Take some wire and tightly wind it around the straw and frame at one inch intervals. Then take some tacky craft glue and put it on the inside edge of your shells. Now arrange your shells kind of like a puzzle on the wreath form. Put medium sized shells in the center of the wreath and along the outside of the wreath then add smaller sizes to fill in any gaps there might be. Once it’s dry the wreath is ready to hang.

One final idea is to make seashell flowerpots. Here you will need a variety of different sized Terra-cotta pots, same sized seashells or close to same sized for each pot, some tacky glue and tweezers. Take whatever size pot you want to work with first and then get the shells you want to work with, add some tacky glue to the shells and then add them all around the rim of the pot. For smaller shells you can use the tweezers to help glue them onto the pots. That’s all there is to it. If you want to make the pot looked weathered, you can buy some powdered milk paint and then combine one part milk paint with one part water and paint pot. Let it dry one hour. Next you’ll need one part lime powder, this can be found in most garden centers and combine with two parts water, brush over the paint and let dry one hour. Take some sand paper when dry and sand down the pot with medium grit sand paper until you get the look you want.

On My Travels

The Culinary Delights of NOLA

Earlier, I posted about my wonderful trip to New Orleans and promised I’d post more about this incredible city and well, I’ve kept my promise. When writing about NOLA it would literally be a crime if one did not talk about the food. Oh my, the food in New Orleans is incredible and they offer a vast variety of absolute culinary delights! I have a friend that lives in the area and she once told me that if the food you serve in a restaurant in NOLA does not meet or rise above the “above average” mark you will not survive in New Orleans.

Food in this great city is one of the most important things to the people there, not only for nutrition and enjoyment but for socializing and brotherhood. My girlfriend told me that right after Katrina hit the city the first places that reopened their doors in the city were restaurants and they didn’t open up to make money, they opened up for the people who needed a place of comfort and food.

When it comes to variety in foods, you can pretty much expect to find just about anything you can think of when it comes to food in New Orleans and it’s all good.

One of my favorite places to eat was my very first experience with “real” Cajun food. Mind you, I had never in my life had true Cajun food before so I was really sure what to expect. We went to a really quaint little place locals like to hang out at called Dot’s Diner and decided to be adventurous and try a Cajun omelet. Okay, I generally add a little Tabasco to my omelets to add just a little bit of kick to it, so I didn’t think that this time around was going to hurt, never has before. Hold the horses, shut the front door, whatever, was I ever in for a shock! But the moment I started sprinkling the Tabasco on my Cajun omelet and noticed how a few of the locals were kind of looking a little strange at me, I should have known I was in trouble. I took one bite of that Cajun omelet with Tabasco and felt like I needed to call 911 and get the fire department there immediately. My mouth was immediately set on fire, must have been a five alarm fire to boot! Good lord, I had no idea that true Cajun food was that flipping hot! So, I quickly proceeded to grab a napkin and rapidly wiped off the Tabasco to try and save my omelet from exploding into flames!

Once the fire in my mouth was put out I was able to continue eating my omelet. I then was able to taste the real flavors of this omelet and I fell in love. It was one of the best omelets I’d ever had and big, goodness it barely fit on the plate it was so big. Not only is the food at Dot’s Diner outstanding in flavor and portion sizes but the service was more than good it was like your mom was serving you breakfast. And the locals there, besides getting a kick out of my reaction to the omelet they were some of the friendliest and most helpful people I’ve ever come across. They overheard me talking about trying to find the historical visitors center in New Orleans from the diner and before you know it there were several different people trying to explain how to get there, however, each person had a different viewpoint on how to get there. In fact, I thought they were going to get into an argument over whose way to get there was best. Finally, our waitress came over and told those “good ol’ boys” to pipe down and stop trying to confuse me and she gave me her own directions and shut them up real quick. It was all just too funny and entertaining. (By the way, we did find the visitors center quite easily thanks to the waitress.)

If you are looking for some good BBQ, well, New Orleans is definitely the place to find it. There are so many places that serve up some incredible barbecued meats that it is really difficult to pick just one that stands out. The one I felt was incredible is called VooDoo BBQ, only in New Orleans. It’s a little tiny mom and pop shop with an order counter and a few small tables, again something the locals flock to. They offered so many different kinds of barbecued items that I think it took longer to order than it did to fix and eat. So, I tried to make it easy on myself and simply ordered pulled pork. Oh my, my, my. First off, there was so much of it, I knew that it was going to supply me with more than one meal and was glad my hotel room had a microwave! Then the flavor, nothing like it, it was spicy yet sweet, a little tangy and a little sour, don’t know how else to describe. And the meat itself literally melted in your mouth, no lie!

Cafe du Monde is another must go to place if you are looking for some great coffee to drink with the original beignet. That’s it, that’s all they serve is beignets, which happens to be the, get this, state doughnut of Louisiana. You can’t go to NOLA without experiencing incredible coffee and beignets. The coffee is coffee mixed with chicory and served mixed with half and half with hot milk as cafe au lait. Nothing better.

Here are just a few memorable places to please your taste buds:

•    Bayou Burger (best burger I’ve ever had! They raise their own beef and grind their own meat. They even serve alligator burgers. I didn’t get that adventurous.)
•    Annunciation Restaurant (Cajun, Seafood, Creole)
•    Antoine’s (Creators of Oysters Rockefeller and been around since 1840)
•    Deja Vu Restaurant and Bar (Open all the time and the menu features their own Eggwich, ½ pound burgers, po-boys, gumbo, red beans and rice plus much more)
•    Emeril’s Delmonico and Emeril’s Restaurant (Contemporary and Creole)

There are hundreds of places to eat in NOLA that it would take an entire book to cover them all. Just know, you will experience no matter where you go some of the best food in the world.

On My Travels

Santa Barbara, CA – The American Riviera

Have you ever been to Santa Barbara? If not you’re really missing out. There’s a reason why it’s nicknamed “The American Riviera” and I should know because I was lucky enough not just to visit several times but I had the opportunity to live there for nearly eight years and what a wonderful eight years it was, had it not been for circumstances beyond my control at the time, I’d probably still be living there, because it’s the kind of place that is extremely hard to leave behind.

They call it The American Riviera because of it’s gorgeous coastline, beautiful public beaches and it’s extremely moderate temperature all year round. The average temperature in Santa Barbara hovers around 70° F with an average low of just 53° F. I remember one year that there was a week that was over 100° F every day and everyone freaked out because 99% of people who live there don’t have AC in their homes. There was also one single year that we woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground. Other than that, the temperature and weather is near perfect!

Santa Barbara is probably one of the most beautiful cities in all of California, with its pristine beaches with the mountains as their backdrop there’s not much of a greater view anywhere. On top of that the charm of this old Spanish city with it’s Terra Cotta tiled rooftops is something one doesn’t forget easily.

There is a lot of pride in this city for it’s beauty and for it’s commitment to the environment. Santa Barbara was “green” before people even knew what it meant to be “green”. They have always led the state and the nation with their love and care for the environment and it shines through the beauty of this wonderful city.

There is so much to see and do in Santa Barbara and surrounding areas that there is no way anyone could ever get bored there, I know I never did. The beaches to begin with are simply awesome and let’s not forget the parks, there’s plenty of those to experience as well.

Arroyo Burro Beach is a great place to stroll along the sandy shore, enjoy whales passing by, surfing, fishing and enjoy a picnic on their grassy picnic area that has BBQ grills, picnic tables, benches and easy access restrooms. They also have equestrian trails.

Butterfly Beach is west facing and this is where you can see some of the nicest sunsets. This beach is close to a very exclusive neighborhood in Santa Barbara and it also attracts a somewhat interesting crowd that you might like watching if you are a people watcher.

East Beach is the beach that sits right in the middle of everything that’s happening in Santa Barbara. It is ideally located so that if you get tired of bathing in the sun, playing Frisbee or volleyball, you can easily find a restaurant nearby to enjoy, hop on over to their nice little zoo or take a nice stroll on Stern’s Wharf. Only issue with this beach is the parking and you usually have to park a ways away because this is the most popular beach in Santa Barbara.

Both El Capitan Beach and Gaviota Beach are also State Parks and both are quite lovely with their gorgeous clean sandy beaches, great views, where you can even see whales and dolphins if you are lucky enough. Gaviota is about 20 minutes away from Santa Barbara but is worth visiting.

Other beaches available are Goleta Beach, Leadbetter Beach, Refugio Beach & State Park and West Beach, all have their own personalities and should all be visited if you have time.

If you don’t want to go to the beach, no problem, there are plenty of parks you can visit as well.

There’s Alameda Park which is a very family oriented picnic and playground spot. There’s Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden which is great for strolling through some interesting low water gardens. Chase Palm Park is great for outdoor music events, has a cool carousel, playground, stream side walking paths and great for a picnic. Douglas Family Preserve is a great undeveloped park that is perfect for walking your dogs without a leash and has great views from the bluffs of the ocean. Other parks include Elings Park, Franceschi Park, Lake Los Carneros, Oak Park, Orpet Park, Parma Park, Rocky Nook Park, Tuckers Grove, Shoreline Park, and Stow Grove Park.

It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention both the Mission Rose Garden and the Botanical Gardens that are both incredible and located in the same area as the Santa Barbara Mission. These gardens are simply breathtaking and are a must see when you visit. But what you really shouldn’t miss is the mission itself. The Santa Barbara Mission is part of the mission system that runs all through California and is considered by historians and many others to be the most beautiful of all the California missions! Mission Santa Barbara is officially called “Queen of the Missions” because of its graceful architecture and beauty. It was founded in 1786 and still functions as a Catholic church to this very day. It’s a must see because words can’t do it justice.

Other neat places to see when visiting Santa Barbara are:

•    The Carriage Museum – Dedicated to restoring vehicles from the past.
•    The Waterfront – This is the heart of Santa Barbara with three beaches, restaurants, the wharf, a museum, harbor and even a skate park.
•    The Courthouse
•    Santa Barbara Zoo
•    Santa Barbara Museum of Art
•    El Presidio State Historic Park – Probably one of the most significant historical structures in the city.
•    Casa de La Guerra
•    Santa Barbara Historical Society Museum
•    Stow House & Railroad Museum

And if that’s not enough for you here are some of the activities that you can find to do while visiting this lovely little city:

•    Trolley tours of Santa Barbara
•    Kayaking
•    Whale & Dolphin watching
•    Horseback riding
•    Surfing
•    Golfing
•    Tennis
•    Camping
•    Hiking
•    Fishing

Santa Barbara is an incredible gem on the West Coast of California you don’t want to miss out on.