Paris Ooh la la!

I have had many opportunities to go to Paris over the years and for one reason or another decided not to go. The single most common thread keeping me from Paris was that I heard time and time again, “Parisians are not very friendly or helpful to Americans.” I admit I heard  ~ wrong ~ wrong ~ wrong! My experience now is Parisians are wonderfuly to this American!  So what got me to go this time? A friend in need! A friend needed a dog sitter in Paris or as I like to say ~ I am now an International Paw Pair! It is a very good life long friend!

image Left from DCA (Washington Dulles)image To CDG (Charles de Gaulle)image Love the business class on Air France!image Leg Room! Comfy!

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Biking at Rehoboth, Delaware

Early Morning Biking

Early Morning Biking

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is go to the beach. While I love sitting in my comfy beach-chair with a good beach read, I love to bike as well. Why do I love biking at the beach in particular?

I am a leisure biker and am working on getting in a better state of fitness. That said, the beach becomes a favorite simply because it is mostly flat and beautiful! There are many parks and scenic places to bike in the beach area. However, many beach towns are very bike friendly, as is the case with Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

I have friends that can bike from Lewes to Rehoboth and on to Dewey in Delaware. I can bike from Rehoboth to Dewey very easily, although there is often traffic to deal with most of the way their are designated bike lanes. I recommend using the bike lanes when ever you see them. I enjoy biking in the parks and around Lewes as well.

I also wear a helmet when ever and where ever I bike. I am a nurse and have seen the results of not wearing a helmet – enough said – wear a helmet! You also need to remember to follow the same rules you would if you were driving a car when you are riding your bike in traffic. Remember, car drivers are at the beach and easily distracted driving in unfamiliar surroundings. Therefore, stay alert to cars!

There are some beautiful nature areas to bike near Rehoboth. One of my personal favorites is Cape Henlopen State Park. There are well maintained bike trails and the scenery is fantastic! I hope this will inspire you to take your bike to the beach next summer!

Cape Henlopen State Park

Cape Henlopen State Park

View from the bike!

View from the bike!

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My first iBook!

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Reading my first iBook! I am reading “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk.” Love the book and really do like some if the iBook features – like making a note, hi-lighting, no book to store. I miss the feel of a book in my hand – but then I can knit and read. I was a skeptic as may friends can tell you as I am an avid “reader” of books. I say “reader” because I listen to books on tape and CD – yes my nurse-mobile has both – lucky me! Then I read traditional books as well. While I do not think I will give up any of my other methods I believe I have found a new addition to my “reading” methods. I know it will be great for travel – I tend to read two to four books on a vacation, add the ever present Bible and my Journal and that is a lot of weight for flights. So I have a Bible on the ipad, can journal (by not paint so will keep my other journal on hand) – end result will give up some of my books for my upcoming trip to KY.

 

 

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 790 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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“15 Miles” by Rob Scott

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On a recent trip to Maine I decided to take along the book “15 Miles” by Rob Scott. It was an interesting summer vacation read to say the least. Generally, on vacation I stick with some light historical romance. This book is as far from my norm as I could have imagined. It is a plot twisting tale of a double murder 15 miles from Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia State Police Detective, Samuel (Sailor) Doyle, is quite a character. He is rough and rugged and this is his first homicide investigation as lead detective. This homicide is anything but “cut and dry.” Every time I thought I had it figured out there was a plot twist. Another gruesome detail, a drug induced hallucination or a new detail about the victims. Carl Bruckner, was a decorated Marine, lost his leg in Vietnam. Carl and his wife Claire Bruckner have been found murdered at their family farm.
Did I mention the lead detective, Sailor, has a drug and alcohol problem? As if that is not bad enough he has a wife and a mistress to juggle with the murder investigation. Rob Scott is able to weave a story that keeps the pages turning with a mystery that will keep you guessing. Scott grew up hearing tales of gruesome murder from his dad, a New Jersey homicide detective. Scott must have listened well to these stories as he wove this gruesome, murderous tale expertly. One thing is for sure you will never know what is next in this crime thriller.

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First Landing (Seashore) State Park, VA Beach, VA

 

DSCN4598In my humble opinion this is one of Virginia’s Treasures. It was the first “Natural Wonder” of Virginia I declared as a child. The Bald Cypress trail was what led me to declare it a “Natural Wonder.”

In my childhood this park was known as Seashore State Park. It is now known as First Landing State Park as per the Park Ranger, “There are several Seashore Parks up and down the east coast so we changed the name. Also the new name commemorates the 1607 landing at Cape Henry of the settlers that eventually moved west and formed Jamestown which was the first permanent English settlement in North America.”

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I say there are two sides to this park, the beach side and the cypress side. Let’s take a walk on the cypress side first. This is a magical world that for me really confirms that God has a very vivid imagination. The topography changes are so vast and great that you feel like you stepped into another planet. There is the cypress swamp, a salt marsh, dunes, freshwater wetlands, maritime forest and the Chesapeake Bay beach all in a short distance from each other. A topographical buffet for sure!

 

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Sounds quickly change from birds chirping to an occasional scampering of some critter. In our short three hour visit we saw; turtles, lizards, numerous birds, and my favorite an opossum.

The opossum was a rare sighting indeed as I had never seen one in the wild. Fascinating Fact: The Virginia Opossum was the first opossum written about in 1610 – and here I see one in the First Landing Park from 1607, the park not the opossum! You just have to keep your eyes peeled in this unusual habitat as you never know what you might find.  There are dragon-flies a plenty and depending on the time of year some mosquitoes, so be prepared with some bug spray.

The swamp naturallDSCN4522y has murky water in which the Bald Cypress grows. The Bald Cypress is also unique in that the trees have these “knees” that protrude from the water. They are part of the root system to give stability and provide oxygen for the tree. These “knees” are a great place to spot dragon-flies and turtles.DSCN4570

 

 

 

 

My favorite trail at First Landing Park is the Bald Cypress. This trail is really a long board-walk through the swamp. There are times when you are on dirt around the swamp but I really like walking the board-walk through the swamp. It is truly a multisensory experience. You can smell the air is humid and clean as the trees make for a natural air filter. The sights and sounds abound too numerous to detail. The sandy soil is easy to walk on, there are steps in some places but there are some areas of the swamp specifically handicapped accessible as well.DSCN4696

Now you literally cross the street into the campground beach section of the park. Admission to the park is $4 weekday and $5 weekends per car and includes both sides of the park.  On the beach side there is a boardwalk to the beach over the dunes. There is a mile and a half beach on the Chesapeake Bay side of the park. There are no lifeguards and swimming is at your own risk.

There are numerous trails in the park for hiking and some for biking too! There is a 6 mile bike trail but most of the trails are for hiking. I was there DSCN4703before Memorial Day, the traditional opening beach season, so the beach is not crowed in my photos. Come summer there will be many campers enjoying the beach. Camping is available at the park and they have all the necessary amenities for  campers and tents. I spent many a childhood family vacation in this campground. I have continued to come back and visit this “Jan’s First Natural Wonder of Virginia” – albeit my personal declaration and endorsement. I hope you will take the opportunity to visit the area for yourself and enjoy!

 

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The Great Dismal Swamp

On a recent trip to Virginia Beach, Virginia I was looking for someplace to go for a bike ride. Of course I goggled parks and came up with the Great Dismal Swamp.  So I asked my friend, “How about a bike rDSCN4308ide in the Great Dismal Swamp?”

Oh the reaction, “DISMAL swamp, why would  I want to go to the DISMAL swamp?” To wit I replied, “It is the GREAT dismal SWAMP you are focusing on dismal, focus on GREAT SWAMP. It will be GREAT!”

So we decided to load up and tackle a ride in the Great Dismal Swamp! I have been to First Landing State Park (formerly called Seashore State Park, more on this one in an upcoming post) and so I knew a little about what to expect. I anticipated murky water, mystery and if we were luck unusual wild life.DSCN4344

I was not disappointed. It was as if we biked into another planet. The landscape quickly changed from the gravel parking lot to murky water tree filled expanses. The reflections of the trees in the water was stunning. The forest, thick in some areas, suddenly opened up into water filled areas.

DSCN4333The bike path appeared to be a berm of packed dirt topped with some gravel and grass that had been trucked in. I later learned from my Dad, who grew up in the area, that when he was a teen the Dismal Swamp was off-limits for the most part except some small areas for Scout Troops to visit and camp. They were only able to go on guided tours as there were no roads. He told me a friend of his father had gotten lost and they searched for him for a week before they found him. Thankfully, he was fine as he was a very experienced outdoors man.

Today, the Dismal Swamp has many bike paths, boardwalks and roads all with scenic views of the swamp. There are some areas after heavy rains that can become a bit muddy. They had such a rain two days before our arrival and we were able to bike six miles into the swamp before we were stopped by too much mud. DSCN4452

I was also not disappointed in the wild-life. We saw some unusual birds, I especially liked the blue heron.  I was able to capture photos of several turtle families sunning on logs. We did see one snake while biking, it was as stunned seeing us as we were it and it squirmed away before I could get a photo. I never felt threatened by it.

 

As always in the woods there are beautiful plants, unbelievable ferns, some wild flowers and unusual trees. There are many wonderful sights to see. HDSCN4358owever, if you are like me you do need to be vigilant to watching for Poison Ivy. For those who do not know what it looks like I took the photo that shows not only the leaves of three but also the hairy vine. The plant can grow in small plants which can be seen growing along the ground; I learned the rhyme “leaves of three leave it be.” For the vine type of poison ivy in the photo I learned, “Hairy vine no friend of mine.” I am highly allergic to poison ivy so I have learned to spot it at a distance in all forms, both plant and vine.

At the end of our bike ride we decided to take one of the roads back to Lake Drummond. This is a 3,100 acre lake with an average dept of 3 feet located in the Dismal Swamp. This was where we saw a large Blue HDSCN4420eron.

All in all we had a great day and a great adventure at the Great Dismal Swamp. It is a unique ecosystem that is located on the Virginia North-Carolina border. We entered in Suffolk Virginia and totally enjoyed our visit. If you are in the area I highly recommenced it!

 

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Had a Ball Biking in Virginia Beach!

DSCN4167I had a ball biking in Virginia Beach on the Boardwalk!

     I love the separated boardwalk in Virginia Beach, VA.  It is unique in that it has clearly marked individual lanes for walking and biking. They are both excellent surfaces and have an exceptional view of the beach. While the photo here is obviously early in the season before the area becomes filled with beach goers the dual areas make going to the boardwalk all day long a pleasure.

I have been a fan of Virginia BeacDSCN4219h since childhood. Primarily because I had two sets of grandparents that lived at the beach. Many years, as children, we would go for one week with one set of grandparents and the next week with the other set of grandparents. That meant two weeks at the beach! So Virginia Beach holds many special memories for me to begin with.

I recently went for a week back to this childhood treasure. It is still a joy to go to the beach, enjoy the sun and fun. I still love setting on the beach feeling the warmth of the sun while I read and people watch. I know we all do it – see the folks on the beach and make up snippets of stories about those strangers. You know, you see a guy and girl in the water playing in the waves, turn to your friend and say “look at the cute honeymooners.” We see people on vacation and make a momentary connection… the old girl friends, oh maybe sisters who have plastic bags in their hands looking for shells… the father and son digging sand to make a hole to china… we love to catch snippets of their conversations. We find enjoyment in the joy of others having fun! The beach brings this sense of community out in me for sure.

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I really like seeing the families having fun! Dad’s and Mom’s playing with their kids, that is joy! I watched this Mom and Dad help their child learn to ride a bike. It was amazing, it has been years since I have seen that simple common act of parents teaching a child to ride a bike. I have always loved to ride a bike and watching this gave me a walk down memory lane. I found myself cheering inside for this boy to succeed in his solo bike ride. It was fun to have time to take joy in the success of others.

I found myself wanting my photo taken at many of the places along the boardwalk. I do not recall the giant beach balls, turtles or fish along the boardwalk for photo shoots as a child. But they sure were fun on this trip! We all need to have fun and call up our inner child from time to time! My family tells me I am the oldest 12 year old they know because I like to have the fun and remember the wonder of childhood.

 

DSC00053      I saw the fish and I had to have my picture taken just so I could say “fish you were here!” So where is  your favorite beach? Why? What makes it special and fun? Let’s have some fun and share our beach memories!

 

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“How Did They Do That?” by Deborah Tompkins Johnson

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In her book, “How Did They Do That,”  Deborah Tompkins Johnson has interviewed a wide range of very successful people. She pulls inspiration out of each person’s life and shares their stories. We hear from such notables as Actor, Blair Underwood and former Governor of Virginia, Douglas Wilder to name just a few. In their stories of success we can find some common “can do” themes. I found some to be expected, such as having someone early in life that encouraged them to believe they could do anything. Conversely, some were self motivated by being told they could not do something.

Deborah has a wide range of very successful careers in her book which are all named on the cover. I believe this book would make an excellent gift if you know a student that aspires to greatness.  It would be an especially meaningful gift book if they aspire to be in one of the mentioned fields: Songwriter, Actor, Diplomat, Entrepreneur, Politician, Soldier, Teacher, Coach, Corporate Executive, Minister, Dancer, or Fashion Stylist.  For those of us that have been in our careers awhile it is an excellent reminder on finding inspiration in others. Deborah gets some great stories and inspirational moments out of those she interviewed. I totally enjoyed the story telling format of this book and was inspired by those who shared their life successes and inspiration with us. There are many more shared common experiences to success and I would encourage you to read this book to explore these commonalities.

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“Did I Say That Out Loud?” by Kelly McDermott Hartman

 

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In her book, “Did I say that Out Loud?” Kelly McDermott Harmann shares hilarious “conversations about life.” Kelly has a wonderful story telling style that will make you laugh out loud, side splitting, belly laughing out loud! You will feel like you are sitting in your favorite local coffee shop overhearing a hysterical conversation. This book is a great vacation pick me up for your mind. Kelly shares stories about her husband, work and everyday life. You will find yourself laughing about some of these stores long after you read them.

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