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Thanksgiving at Circle B
Michael and I headed to Florida over Thanksgiving week to spend time with both our families. We celebrated Michael’s side of the family in Inverness on Thursday and then with my family in Auburndale on Saturday. Sunday morning, we decided to spend a few hours at the Circle B Bar Reserve on Lake Hancock.
Named after the cattle ranch that once existed on the property, Circle B was restored to its natural state by Polk County, beginning in 2005. The restoration that has occurred on this marshland in just ten years is pretty impressive.
The visit brought back many memories and images of the Florida that I grew up in back in the 1970’s.
Here are a few images I shot during our visit:
I’d return here to Circle B over Disney any day.
Travel 2016: Day Two – King’s Cross to London’s Camden Market
After a good night’s sleep, we decided to head out on foot with only a tentative itinerary in mind. We had two shows booked and about six hours for exploring before then. We wanted to try and catch a boat ride at 10:30 am so we started walking that direction; up through King’s Cross and Marylebone to Little Venice.
Our friend George, highly recommended the phone app Maps.Me and so I’d downloaded the map of London as soon as we arrived. It’s a life-saver. What’s great is that once you have a map downloaded, you don’t need phone service to use it since it is GPS powered. We used it to get our bearings, locate points of interest and find the nearest Tube stops, never needing to worry when we’d wander off track.
We arrived in Little Venice early, giving us time to explore around the Regent’s Canal and grab breakfast at the Waterside Cafe. The restaurant itself, was a boat on the canal.
After breakfast, we boarded Jason’s Canal Boat Trip using our London Pass for a leisure ride around Regent’s Park (which covers 395 acres) to the Camden Locks. Jason’s has been operating since 1951 using a boat that’s over 100 years old.
The boat ride takes about 45 minutes. In addition to plenty of natural scenery, you glide past old and new estate homes, jogging paths and the London Zoo which flanks both sides of the canal.
There are many bridges crossing the narrow canal allowing only enough width for one boat to pass through at a time.
At the end of the line, we reached the Camden Locks that are still manually operated to this day. The twin locks were originally constructed in 1818 and 1820. They now have Grade II historic designation and protections.
We got off the boat and found ourselves in a wonderland of food and unique treasures. The Camden Market started out open only on weekends but became so wildly popular it is now open daily.
Camden Market is an indoor and outdoor marketplace housed in multiple buildings and connecting streets. It’s a must-visit destination requiring anywhere from a couple hours to a full day of exploration.
Whether you are a treasure hunter, tourist or window shopper –there are multitudes of unexpected gems to taunt the senses. You can find food and trinkets here from all over the world.
New and perfect-condition vintage clothing, steampunk accessories, old records, lamps, artwork, new and heirloom jewelry– it’s all here. If you can dream it- you’ll probably find it.
London has a truly first-class zoo. With a little time before our matinee, we used our London Pass for fast-track entry and a rather rushed but enjoyable visit.
Opening in 1828, the London Zoo is the world’s largest scientific zoo. Today, the zoo features 756 species of animals. It’s as much a park as it is a zoo. Large green spaces, well constructed exhibition grounds and something to appeal to all ages.
We headed back to Covent Garden for the matinee performance of the musical, Matilda. Based on the popular children’s book, it made for a colorful and entertaining afternoon. I’m really glad we waited to see it here in London.
We had just enough time between shows to catch a nice dinner at Cote Bistro, in the theatre district.
Our evening performance was what might be considered standard British farce. The Play That Goes Wrong is funny, funny stuff. The plot centers on a community group putting on a play. As the title suggests, everything that can go wrong does so hysterically.
For my theatre friends– every single thing that could possibly happen, or you have ever experienced going wrong in a show, is included. I couldn’t think of one possible thing they left out.
After the show, it was back to Shake Shack at Covent Garden Market for a chocolate-peanut butter concrete, then headed underground for our Tube ride back to St. Pancras.
Spring Has Sprung at 321 Division St.
We’ve really been enjoying the many colors of spring. Every year the show is a little bit different so we never quite know what to expect. Blooming started a little earlier than some years and most of the more brilliant colors are gone; replaced now by the beautiful, rich green of new leaves and fresh grass.
Mulching, overseeding and spring clean up are done but there’s always more planting and weeding to do. Working on the yard is one of my favorite things to do in the spring and the fall. It’s great exercise too.
Here are some of the images I was able to catch over the past month.
VIDEO: Eighteen Days in South East Asia with Mike & Jeff
I finally finished the video montage of our South East Asia trip with Broadway On the High Seas 5 through Playbill Travel in November 2015. You can watch it here but I highly recommend watching it full screen to get the full effect of the incredible scenery.
If you haven’t already read my daily blog posts from the trip and want to know more– start reading my previous posts at the end of October 2015.
I hope you enjoyed it!
The Haunting Faces of Angkor Thom: A Photo Essay
Angkor Thom was probably my favorite location of all that we visited in Southeast Asia. There’s an aura that is simply magical. I found myself standing– high up amongst the faces in the ruins– and I got kind of emotional. How incredibly lucky was I to actually be standing there? It was one of those moments that words fail. Hopefully, these images will explain it all.
Angkor Wat in Black & White: A Photo Essay
Here are some more images from our visit to Angkor Wat, Siem Riep, Cambodia. I did filter them to age them. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world– visiting here is a must! Photos can only go so far in bringing the awe-factor through the lens.
The Majestic Beauty of the Angkors
Southeast Asia Travel Day Four: Michael and I were both up and wide awake way too early this morning. Not that unusual for me but Michael is usually a good sleeper. Between jet lag and the exciting day ahead, it was difficult to go back to sleep.
We were the first ones at breakfast and there was an incredible spread. So many choices from traditional breakfast to local cuisine– everything that Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor does is first class.
In regards to this trip, today was probably my most anticipated day. That can be dangerous this early in a long vacation but there are also so many unique and exciting things ahead. As a precaution, I try not to allow my expectations to be too high; just to avoid any chance of disappointment.
Today did not disappoint.
Today was one of those few days in your life you’ll remember forever. A whirlwind of experiences that totally consumes you. Every sense heightened and challenged. Memories indelibly imprinted in your mind.
I have a bit of an obsession with history and what was left behind. I’m not as consumed by the facts as I am the aura of the experience. To put it bluntly: I like old things.
History not only connects us from the past to where we are now; it connects us metaphysically to all the people that came before us. For me, it’s magic. It gives me chills. There’s nothing else like it in the world.
On the Road to… This was our first opportunity to meet some of the people that would be continuing on with the Broadway On the High Seas 5 (BOTHS5) cruise. About 80 of the nearly 300 BOTHS5 participants came to Siem Riep for the 3-day pre-cruise adventure. As we’d find out later, the group was pretty evenly divided between three choices of hotels; then split again into groups of about a dozen for our tour experiences in Siem Riep. This gave us a perfect opportunity to meet new friends, more intimately; prior to the whole group coming together in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in a few days.
We all boarded tuk-tuks for the short ride to Angkor Wat. What a fun and relaxing way to travel!
Some tuk-tuks are bicycle-driven but most are now powered by motor bikes.
We were all connected to our guide, Jun, by headset so he was able to narrate the sites along the way.
Angkor Wat. Depending on the source, Angkor Wat is frequently called the unofficial 8th wonder of the world. It’s often on lists of must see places in your lifetime. I think all the Angkor temples (as a group) should be included.
Angkor Wat was built in the early part of the 12th century, over a 30 year period. The workmanship is almost impossible to comprehend. From a distance, it looks like a massive, crumpling stone ruin. As you get closer, the impressive detail begin to be revealed. There are so many elements to be appreciated. The bas reliefs alone contain more than 12,000 square feet of intricate sandstone carvings. What stands out most about Angkor Wat from the other temples is the size. It’s pretty incredible that it has survived the centuries and much of the detail is in such good condition.
Tomb Raider, Jungle Temple or Ta Prohm? Here is a spot that nearly everyone is familiar with, even if they don’t realize it. Most famously recognized from Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm has survived from its origins in the mid 12th century.
The famous Banyan tree root snakes its way through the temple. There are hundreds of statues in the complex. Ta Prohm is under a long, delicate preservation and restoration process. Primarily, this involves structural strengthening to prevent any further, rapid deterioration.
Angkor Thom. It means the great city. It is the temple of faces. Each tower has four carved faces so they can be seen from any direction. Angkor Thom was the final capital of Khmer Empire. The city was surrounded by a wall with causeways lined with 54 statues on each side leading to the entry towers. Inside the ruins is the magnificent Bayon Temple… a sight to behold.
I took nearly 800 photos today. In an effort to try and keep up with posting here, I’m only sharing a few now. Later I’ll do a couple photo essay posts with many more pictures of the Angkor temples. This was such an incredible experience.
Bermuda: A Photo Essay
It’s a chilly 47 degrees here this morning in Elgin, IL. Hard to believe that a week ago I was enjoying the beautiful warm sunny weather in Bermuda. I thought I’d share some of the pictures I took on our trip. All photos were shot at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, the private Princess Beach Club and the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo.
Afternoon At The Fen
Thursday was sunny and hot. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon, visiting the Bluff Spring Fen. I was treated to a nice breeze blowing through the fields and the sky provided a spectacular cloud show.
A fen is defined as a type of wetland. This 160 acre, mineral-rich, spring fed fen is part of a larger 225 acre nature preserve managed by the Forest Preserve Districts of Kane and Cook Counties and the City of Elgin.
Nature preserves have a higher degree of protections and regulations than parks and forest preserves. There are no picnic tables or shelters. It is not a playground. No cycling, dogs or horseback riding are allowed. With extremely narrow paths and an occasional footbridge, it is the perfect place for a tranquil walk and to view rare and protected plants and wildlife.
Here are a sampling of the photos I took on my first visit.
I look forward to visiting again and capturing the change of seasons in the months to come.
Exploring the Fox River Trail
Whether you live in a rural or urban setting, and whether you know it or not; there are some amazing walking and biking trails near you. I found sights, sounds and smells that can dazzle to extremes, just a short distance from my home. I can experience the city, farm and fields, beautiful river and forest views; all in a relatively short distance. The sounds of traffic, babbling brooks, chirping birds… even silence. Stale city smells, pungent livestock, fresh forest air… are all there waiting for you to explore.
Last week, I took my longest ride so far, traveling south from Elgin down to the heart of St. Charles. There and back, my ride clocked in at just over 22 miles, round trip. To date, I’ve covered about 16 miles of the Fox River Trail (FRT) between St. Charles and East Dundee.
In total, the trail is approximately 43 miles long from Montgomery to the south, to Algonquin on the north end. The trail links in multiple locations with other Illinois trails branching out in other directions.
Here are some highlights, as well as some tips to help you avoid getting lost and to work around some trail closures. I’m sharing some photos I’ve taken along the path over the past few weeks.
Detours. I was naive enough to believe once you were on the trail, you’d stay on a clearly marked trail. It’s not the case. There are some closures and detours you’ll want to be aware of along the trail.
Traveling north from Elgin on the Fox River Trail. There are really only two minor considerations you’ll want to know about traveling north of downtown Elgin. The first, is a pretty simple jog that takes you a few blocks east of the river, around the Gail Borden Library, to allow you to cross near the Kimball street bridge. There are green bike signs that help get you across this busy street. You then have the option of taking the sidewalk around either side of the library until it reconnects with the trail. This is a permanent part of the path. I should note that once you cross Kimball, you should take the side walk south of the library back down to the river or you’ll miss a beautifully maintained section and the Veteran’s Memorial. Otherwise, you just continue straight ahead, passed the library and a large (currently) vacant piece of land, back to the actual trail going north.
The second spot is at I-90 about a quarter mile passed Trout Park. The path is not closed there. I saw one post online stating it was closed. You are crossing through a construction zone– and there are signs requesting you walk your bike through the short stretch, although most cyclists I’ve encountered, ignore the signs. The bridge that crosses the river at I-90 (taking you off trail) is closed and under construction.
Traveling south from Elgin on the Fox River Trail. A couple miles south of Elgin the FRT is closed. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll suddenly find yourself traveling along the Illinois Prairie path, and not know how you got there, or how to get back on the FRT. Forking off to the west is a closed path that appears to dead end at a train trestle. There is actually supposed to be a bridge
going under the trestle that connects the trail. This spot tripped me up my first ride. It is not marked as part of the FRT and there are no signs anywhere that instruct how you can detour back to the trail.
The best work-around I found, is to take the Illinois Prairie Path to Middle Street and go west, into South Elgin, go north one block on South Gilbert Street to State Street and then taking the State Street Bridge west, putting you are back on the trail again.
On my return trip, I did investigate the ‘skipped’ portion of the FRT and it is walkable but not easy to ride– up to where the bridge is out. That portion of the path is in extreme disrepair, lots of steep and bumpy, twisting spots that need to be redeveloped– if and when the bridge is replaced.
Seba Park on the west side of the Fox River is currently under construction but you can follow the path through, staying on the trail. From there, the trail is quite beautiful and unobstructed. Following the shoreline of the Fox River, along side a railroad track for some distance, is a nice peaceful ride.
There is one long, fairly steep incline that I find too difficult to ride and walked it instead, when heading south. It’s fun riding north though— but you need to use your breaks.
As you get close to St. Charles, there are a few spots where you have to ride main roads and residential streets between gaps in actual dedicated paths— so you’ll need to use extreme caution if walking or cycling. Some spots aren’t marked, you just continue straight ahead and the trail will become clear when it picks up again. I used the TrailLink app and GPS just to be sure.
I stopped when I reached downtown St. Charles because I was confused where to go. The map shows the trail forking and following both sides of the river through downtown. You cannot ride your bike on the sidewalks in downtown St. Charles though. The narrow roads and traffic congestion make riding in the streets a little daunting as well. Signs are posted requiring cyclists to walk bikes on sidewalks. Since I was out for a ride, not a walk; I decided to turn back towards Elgin at this point. I found out later, there is an actual riding path on the west side of the Fox River, which after some distance, must cross back over the river to the east side, before heading south towards Aurora.
On my way back, a work crew on the path forced me on a bit of a detour through a small portion of Tekakwitha Woods. I was rewarded with a stunning bridge view I would have otherwise missed.
I’m looking forward to more exploring this summer. My next goal is to ride from Elgin to the northern trailhead in Algonquin. A friend of mine just told me yesterday that north of East Dundee, is a beautiful scenic ride.
There are thousands of miles of trails across the United States and some are bound to be near you. Some you never knew existed. Get out there and explore!
- Trail Link- Fox River Trail
- Kane County Forest Preserve- Fox River Trail
- Fox River Bike Trail
- City of Elgin- Biking & Walking