I *heart* NYC

So blogging world…it’s been a while, huh….

A few weeks ago I went to NYC (for the first time) with my husband.  I was so excited about all the great pics I was going to take (and I think I got some good ones!), the great places I would see and restaurants I would eat at, providing so much content for the ol’ blog….then I fell off the wagon and just plain didn’t….blog….about…any of it.  #fail

Better late than never!

The first two days we were in NYC, we spent time at the Javits Center (a large convention center on the edge of the Hudson River), visiting a cousin who was attending an eyeglass convention.  So the real exploration didn’t start until a little later in the week.

First day highlights…..

We stayed at the Manhattan Club (it’s a timeshare).  The rooms are very nicely done.  I’ve stayed in some dog-timeshares in the past.  This isn’t one of them.  This place is nice!  (Don’t have a pic of the bathroom, but it had carrara marble tile on the shower walls, and was just beautiful!)

I just wish there was  a filter to straighten up those bed sheets!

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The views out the window were great!  Towering buildings everywhere…

We tried to take the subway as much as possible, because, well, NYC traffic is craazy (I got to be quite a pro at navigating between the different trains.)  These tile mosaics were out of this world.  Not what I expected for the “dirty nyc subway” everyone talks about.  Although full disclosure, these were in a new subway station, near the Javits Center.  Some of the other subway stations were a little grungy…but nothing bad.

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We had brunch Sunday morning at Tavern on the Green.  The place was closed down for a while, but has recently reopened.  The architecture and interior details were on point, and the food out of this world!!  (We ended up back there for dinner a few days later.)

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This chandelier was above the bar, and it rotated around like a carousel.  DSC03932DSC03938

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If the day is nice, you WANT to sit outside on the patio.  It’s gorgeous.DSC03952

After finishing up brunch, we walked through Central Park.  Weather was about 65 °, clear sky, no humidity, in short – perfect for strolling through the park.

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Isn’t this statue of Hans Christian Anderson so charming?!DSC04009

So, I promise not to be a dead beat..I’ll put out some more pics of the rest of the trip in a few days!

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flamingo gardens – part deux

While the first part of my Flamingo Gardens trip was lots of fun, and a lot more interesting than I ever expected, it was the second part of the visit where this sanctuary really impacted me.  The animals….

I mentioned in the previous post that Flamingo Gardens houses animals that may have been injured and as a result can’t be put back into the wild.  In addition to owls and possums (did you see my last post?), they also have a permanent exhibit of two Florida Panthers, two large alligators, a pair of bobcats, several turtles, a black bear, and river otters.

I realize this doesn’t sound like much (it’s no San Diego Zoo), but on the day of my visit, the bobcats were out walking around, the alligators were moving too, the bear was playing with a chew toy, and my personal favorite, the otters were playing like it’s going outta style 😉

This pair of beautiful bobcats, were awake, walking around and much smaller than I expected!  A bobcat’s average weight is between 13-30 lbs, so they’re not “large” cats.

DSC03899.JPGThese guys were the highlight of the visit.  If you’ve ever seen otters playing around, you know why.  They were so active, and SO playful.  Three adults and three pups ran back and forth, tussled above and under water, and played to the audiences’ hearts.DSC03766DSC03771DSC03772A pair of large tortoises fascinated me.  The rings on their shells!!!  DSC03812DSC03813DSC03821.JPGDSC03820Of the two alligators, one was 17′ long!  (That is HUGE folks….HUUUUGGE!)DSC03754DSC03763DSC03895I couldn’t get a good snap of the bear, but he (or she?) was really animated.DSC03829.JPGAfter walking through all the animal exhibits and through the botanical gardens, I went BACK to watch the animals again.  They were just so wonderful!DSC03760DSC03786DSC03887The other attraction I haven’t mentioned yet, is the Wray Museum House.  Floyd and Jane Wray originally purchased this land and developed it into a citrus grove (most of which had to be torn down due to disease).  When they passed away, they left instructions that the place be left as conservation land.  And their heirs have done just that!

The house is decorated in period furniture pieces, and docents walk you through, giving historical tid bits as they go.DSC03709DSC03710DSC03714DSC03720DSC03721If anyone is in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area and has a few hours to enjoy this place, I HIGHLY recommend it.  How can you say no to a place where the mascot is a 7′ high pink flamingo??DSC03911DSC03908DSC03849DSC03846DSC03866DSC03698DSC03879

Looking back through these photos put such a big smile on my face.  This is My Sunny Moment.  I hope you all have a great day!

 

flamingo gardens

I love being a tourist.  Especially in my own state.  And, (in my humble opinion), Florida has a lot to offer in that department.  Not just mouse ears, thrill rides and beaches, but interesting, educational, beautiful, fun things to see and do.  If you tell me about something fun to do in my own backyard, I’m in, full force!

I have read about Flamingo Gardens, located in Davie, FL, in guide books, and seen flashes on it on my Pinterest account (Pinterest knows I like to visit places around Florida), so it was natural for me to take the day and scout it out.  I left the husband behind, and had the whole day by myself to explore leisurely.  Located on the southeast side of the state, near Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, it’s an easy place to get to, located just two miles off I-595.

Flamingo Gardens sounds like a cheesy road-side-tourist-trap type place, and honestly, when I pulled into their parking lot, I was afraid that was what I was in for.  But once you get past the simple facade, what you find inside is truly wonderful.

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I was lucky enough to visit on a Wednesday, when practically no-one was there.  Well, except for these colorful guys who greeted me as I walked up to get my ticket.

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Flamingo Gardens is a not-for-profit wildlife sanctuary and botanical gardens.  Inside, they have a lot to claim for themselves.  To start with, they have the largest collection of Florida Champion Trees in the state.

Champion trees are the largest of their species, and this place has twenty of these babies.

DSC03609DSC03612A tram ride (included in your ticket) takes you around the entire gardens – a significant 60 acres of trees, bushes, flowers and shrubs.  One was leaving right as I walked by, so I hopped on and listened while the driver took us on a 20 minute tour of the place, and detailed the history of what Flamingo Gardens was and how it came to be.DSC03625.JPGDSC03621DSC03864DSC03624They have a HUGE banyan tree (not native to Florida, but still so pretty).  It was like something out of a fantasy novel with somewhat creepy tentacle-like arms stretching to the ground from all the upper branches.DSC03854DSC03850On the grounds, lots of flowers were in bloom.  This huge orchid plant hung from one of the large trees, which caught everyone’s eye, and camera.DSC03703DSC03872DSC03874After the tram tour was over, I walked over to the first wildlife show of the day.  Flamingo Gardens provides a home to animals and birds that cannot otherwise survive in the wild (due to injury).  Two times a day, you can see their Wildlife Encounter Show.  I got to see these three charming friends during the first show.DSC03649DSC03627I know, I know…a possum, but she was sooo cute!   I think my cat needs a sibling.DSC03629

This poor fella lost an eye to a gunshot.DSC03646

This king snake was pretty good sized as you can see, but was quite friendly.DSC03653After the show ended, I continued to explore.  Nearby the wildlife show pavilion is a free flying aviary, full of native birds.  Just watch where you step.  Free flying also means free falling (poop that is).DSC03660DSC03664I managed to make it through the aviary, untouched by falling fecal matter, and proceeded to check out where the resident owls were napping.DSC03678DSC03680DSC03675DSC03679And a bird of prey cage.DSC03684

I’m going to wait and tell you about the rest of the animal exhibits in my next post.  (I took so many good pics I want to share and talk about!)  This place was THAT cool, it warrants two posts.  Catch up with you soon!

 

 

life’s a beach

It’s been a busy last few.  Lots of fires to put out and people to make happy.

Times like these make me think of Blake Shelton’s song, Some Beach.  So, as an ode to that theme, here are some beach pics from my past travels to inspire your future travels, or just give you a few minutes in a happy place!

St. Lucia

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Tobago

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Guadalupe

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Dominican Republic

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California Coast

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And, of course Hawaii

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dinner in crystal river

After my most amazing experience at Rainbow Springs, I drove about 30 minutes south to the town of Crystal River.  Crystal River is well known for droves of manatees which populate the seaside waters in the winter.  There are several underwater springs in the bays of the Crystal River which the manatees flock to in order to keep warm when the temperature in the Gulf of Mexico drops below 68°.

South Florida has had a warm (i.e. HOT) winter in December and January.  In December it was a frequent occurrence that temps hovered around the mid-to-upper 80s (about 10-15° above normal), and January was very similar.  Thus the manatees were few and far between during the start of our winter, since the gulf waters were warm enough for them to hang out in.

I was hoping that manatees would be more abundant in March, since the temps had been dropping somewhat.  Weeelllll…I was mistaken.  Trying to see manatees in March in Crystal River was a non-existent-event.

A big tourist attraction in this area is actually getting on a wetsuit and swimming with manatees.  I had signed up for a snorkel trip to swim with these amazing, gentle creatures, and was GREATLY disappointing.  Not the tour group’s fault….more my fault for coming when the water was too warm for the sea cows to be near the warm springs.  We managed to see two of the lovelies, but they were sleeping and not active.

Here are a few snaps of my day in Crystal River.

BE WARNED. These pictures are not impressive.

If you look really closely, you can just barely make out the outline of a manatee tail in the middle of the image (near the top are snorkeler toes).

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See…not impressive photos.  But proof to Mom that I did see them!!!

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We went looking for more manatees at the Three Sisters Springs area (where manatees typically hang out when they need warmth.)  The springs underwater and foliage above water were so gorgeous!  The pictures I snapped do no justice whatsoever.  I could have spent all morning swimming around the springs area, the water was THAT clear, and the place THAT impressive.

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Nonetheless, still no manatees in this sanctuary space, so all of us snorkelers hopped back on the boat and went back to doc with not much to show for ourselves.

Crystal River does not have much to do other than a visiting a few nature parks, and the manatee viewing/swimming. With the manatee viewing exhausted, I decided to check out somewhere interesting for dinner.

Trip Advisor’s 600+ reviewers recommended I try Pecks Old Port Cove for great seafood.  I tell you what…getting to Pecks is half the fun!  It was a leisurely 25 minute drive from the main area of town to get to this restaurant.  The restaurant is located at the end of a very twisty, turney, windey road.  Save for a few houses here and there, unless you’re headed to dinner, you’re not on this road, which added to the ambiance of a nice drive in the wild.

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I sat down early (I was afraid there would be a crowd) around 5:30pm.  I mostly had the place to myself at that hour, but the place rapidly filled up.

My server recommended the crab rolls (kinda like egg rolls, but with crab inside), which were topped with a tangy sweet-and-sour sauce.  (The sauce probably was the best part of the appetizer.)

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For my main course, it had to be blackened grouper.  I love blackened fish, and grouper is a great fish if you can get it.  This did not disappoint.

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Served with typical uninteresting sides (hush puppies, fries, baked potato, cole slaw….I opted to forgo the fried sides for a lettuce salad.)  They send over the salad, but still included a set of hush puppies.  As you can see, this made me happy!  🙂

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I wouldn’t say the food was AM-azing.  But getting to the restaurant was a fun adventure, and the sunset view made it all worth while.

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They had a small dock out back with a few pub tables so you could take in the view.  I’d say it was a nice place to rest for a few beats before making the trek onto the next adventure.

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