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Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Bermuda’s beaches are extraordinary.  They make for an ideal vacation.  The most famous is Horseshoe Bay.  Given enough time, we could travel from beach to beach; each one is more spectacular than the next.  I actually brought a list of beaches, some with trails leading from one to the other, some small with quiet, seldom-visited coves, some with incredible rock formations, and some with long curved stretches of beautiful sand and magnificently colored water. 

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
This photo is NOT retouched.  These colors are REAL!  Gorgeous, isn't it?

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
Pretty Amazing!  I can lie on the beach and look out at this ALL DAY!

Unfortunately, we have time to visit just two: the famous Horseshoe Bay Beach, and Snorkel Park. 

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
This is beautiful Horseshoe Bay.  No question why it is so popular with tourists.

We take the bus from King’s Wharf to Horseshoe Bay, and that gives us another opportunity to see more residential areas.  This is the most popular beach, and I have read reviews complaining of crowds.  Maybe in early June we are not fully into high season, and the beach is not crowded at all. 
Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
Even the beach umbrellas add a colorful gaity to the day.  This is too beautiful.

We rent beach chairs and an umbrella, but we do a lot of walking along this beautiful curved beach.  The water is LOVELY.  It’s calm with a gentle fine, sandy slope, and the sand is soft underfoot.  Little coves by the rock formations are beautiful.
Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
These are incredible rock formations

We also take the bus back to Kings Wharf from Horseshoe Bay—a slight waiting line, but everyone is happy and pleasantly tired from a day at the beach.  Just look at these photos of Horseshoe Bay.
Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
The water is clear and spectacular
Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
The rocks are high, but the setting is so serene, people were not afraid to climb.
Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
The colors just continue to WOW!

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
Alas, it is time to leave this magnificent beach
On the day we are to sail, we stay in the Dockyards, stop at some of the shops and then head to Snorkel Park, only minutes from our ship.  We can't miss the sailing, and we don't want to worry about transportation or changing out of wet bathing suits.  Once again, I had read reviews complaining about crowds and costs at Snorkel Park, but the beach is not crowded and the entry fee is reasonable. I often wonder why people feel everything (when they have to be maintained) should be free. The rental costs for chairs and an umbrella are also reasonable.  The attendant carries the chaise lounges down for us.  We find a wonderful spot, uncrowded, and the water is calm and beautiful.  We have views out to sea, the beautiful fortress buildings, and here we were able to put on our snorkel gear and see some beautiful fish. 

Snorkel Beach Bermuda
This is Snorkel Beach, just a short walk from our ship.

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
This is a lovely gently sloping beachfront wonderful for a family too.

We have a nice, leisurely lunch in Snorkel Park’s restaurant, get in some last minute water time, and then, regretfully, it is time to board our ship, just a few minutes' walk away.  Cannot think of a better way to end our Bermuda stay.
Snorkel Beach Bermuda
Here's a view of the restaurant and shaded seating areas and more of the beautiful waterfront.

This is another wonderful trip.  It is for our 40th wedding anniversary, and we love it. 

I recommend our ship, the Norwegian Gem, for people who have not done much cruising.  Overall, we felt it lacked the kind of special attention we’ve experienced on other cruises.  While the ship offered all the amenities one could ask for, we felt crowded at some venues and oftentimes, particularly at some of the mealtimes, a lack of coordination between the staff.  On the other hand, the overall entertainment was superb—perhaps the best consistency we’ve experienced.  We chose this ship because it left from NYC and stayed at Kings Wharf, and I was probably remiss in not checking further.  Nothing bad, I add, but somehow something was missing.  Nothing that in any way spoiled the event.

We are not sure we’ll return to Bermuda.  During its high season, we’re doing wonderful things here at home, gardening, golfing, swimming, etc.  I long for that beach during our winter, and unfortunately Bermuda is not in season then.  I say this with sadness because it is so special.

It was nice coming back into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty waiting to greet us.  It was wonderful getting through customs, getting our car, and being on the West Side Highway in less than half an hour.  HELLOOOOOOO New York.
Statue of Liberty

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bermuda  Part I

Hamilton, BermudaEveryone should go to Bermuda!  At least once!  Before you ever set eyes on a tropical island, the one you imagine is Bermuda.  It is a place of pastel colors as well as of colors bright and vivid.  It is a place of beautiful beaches, sparkling waters, gardens and flowers, friendly people, colorful homes, British influences, Gombey dancers, and peaceful, beautiful nights.  It’s small enough to be easily accessible and big enough to offer diversity.  It really is a tropical paradise. 

But don’t think Bermuda and Caribbean; Bermuda is about 1,000 miles north of the Caribbean.  It is in the North Atlantic, and it is warmed by the Gulf Stream.  It has a second flaw.  It lies just about 600 miles east of the Carolinas, so it is not a year-round summer paradise.  Unfortunately.  Natives will tell you the swim season is from the end of May until September.  Sound familiar?  I’m afraid so.  So think about Bermuda as you would think about the Carolinas.   And go.  You will not be disappointed.

Rob and I sail from NYC for a week’s cruise on Norwegian Line’s Gem.  This cruise offered two particular plusses.  It sailed from Manhattan, and it docked at King’s Wharf, also known as the Royal Naval Dockyard, in Bermuda for the entire stay giving us total freedom of movement—a floating hotel.
New York skyline
Statue of Liberty
We could easily spend our entire vacation on Bermuda beaches—a new and beautiful beach each day, but the temptation to explore proves irresistible, especially when there is a Segway involved!  I love these things and wish I had one at home.
Rob & Wendy and Segways

After meeting our guide, we begin with the area right around the Dockyards and learn a little about the island’s background.  We visit the main fort, The Keep, and ride around much of the 24 acres.  It's beautifully done in stone, and many of the buildings have been converted into restaurants and shops featuring local artisans.  There is also the Bermuda Clay Works.  We actually visit these places later on during our visit, as we keep riding those Segways!

Kings Wharf, Bermuda Off we go, down the road past the walls where visiting ships’ crews leave their signs to let others know they’ve been there. 
ships' crews' insignia wall  Kings Wharf, Bermuda
Off into the country we pass one inviting beach after another, lots of flora and fauna, and wild chickens that roam the island.  We actually taste and/or smell some of the plants, and our guide makes it a fun guessing game to see if we recognize the very herbs we use at home but which grow here. 
Rob & Wendy and Segways Bermuda beaches everywhere
Bermuda beaches everywhere There is only one other couple on the tour; I guess Segways are still a bit off-putting for some people.  It certainly works to our advantage as we zip along the roads or follow nature’s unpaved trails through the garden-like parks.  We pass brightly colored homes.  Everything is sparkling clean and inviting.
Bermuda home
Even the cemetery has a beautiful view.
Bermuda cemetery with a view
When our tour is over, we walk back to the ship and pass a Moongate, a wedding band-shaped arch.  Couples who kiss under Bermuda’s Moongates are assured of a long and happy life together.  We, of course, seal our happiness beneath it.
kissing in the Moonstone    Bermuda
Snorkeling is a passion, and we book what seems to be a great tour, but unfortunately the weather turns against us, and it is too rough to go to the wrecked ships.  Our inventive guide takes us to another location as well as narrates a great tour of the island from the boat.  Again, we are with only one other couple, so touring like this is up front and personal.  We do get to do some snorkeling in the most beautiful sparkling teal water I’ve ever seen.  Of course I’ve said this before at other sites, but suffice it to see, this experience among the coral was memory-making. 

So we have toured quite a bit of Bermuda by land on a Segway and then by water on the snorkeling tour.  It is early Wednesday, and as we are heading to Hamilton by bus, we are going to see Bermuda from another vantage point.

Hamilton on Wednesday nights means Harbor Nights, a weekly festival of music, Gombey dancing, crafts, food, and fun.

The public bus ride from King’s Wharf is wonderful.  The uniformed school children are on the bus, many carrying their cricket bats.  We pass more residential sections and small stores and clubs as well as some lovely beaches, hotels and marinas.  B stands for Bermuda and also for boats. 

Our driver lets us off in the middle of Hamilton where another cruise ship is docked.  Hamilton is a pastel city for the most part, although some building are in the rich, deep colors we see in New England.  The contrast is strikingly beautiful.  All is immaculately clean and inviting.  We spend the remainder of the afternoon wandering around, stopping for a coffee, and people watching.  Motorcycle seems to be the preferred mode of transportation, and yes, Bermuda shorts are worn by many of the businessmen.  It is familiar yet different.  It is beautiful. 
Hamilton, Bermuda
Let's not forget Bermuda's British heritage.  This bobby is probably more for the tourists than for practicality.
Hamilton Bermuda policeman

Bermuda shorts We walk along the waterside and see lovely boats, and up into Storywalk Park where one can follow the signs associated with a children’s tale.  Here we spend some time sitting under shade trees and talking.  The leisurely pace is lovely.
Hamilton, Bermuda

As the afternoon slowly eases into evening, we head back toward the center of town past booths that have miraculously appeared, and we follow the music to a wide street.  Coming down in a serpentine dance are the colorfully costumed Gombey dancers, Bermudians of all ages in costumes resembling bird plumage. 
Gombey Dancers)
Gombey Dancers

Gombey is a mixture of British, West African, and indigenous new-world  cultures.  The dancers are accompanied by young men playing a variety of drums. 

As they reach the bottom of the street, they move into a plaza surrounded by the crowd where they perform interpretive dances, vigorous and thumping, all very intriguing.  Then, they make their way back up the hill into the night.
Gombey Dancers
We visit the booths along the wharf, and I do pick up a memento or two.  And then we take the ferry back to Kings Wharf.  What was nice about the ferry was the ability to bring your bicycle if that were your mode of transportation.  There are many bike trails on Bermuda.  As we leave the city by water, we have lovely views of Hamilton in the twilight as well as of boats coming home for the night.  Yes, it is paradise, albeit a bit crowded on the ferry, but not irritatingly so, just a lot of people heading home for the night.
Boats in Hamilton Bermuda

Hamilton Bermuda  harbor sunset

Here's a travel tip for Bermuda.  You notice that on the two tours we took, we were accompanied by just one other couple.  Normally when we cruise, we book our tours through the ship, but here we did not.  We were docked so we could conveniently get off the ship:  no tender and no waiting for the ship's shore excursions to leave.  I did a lot of research about these tours, consulting Trip Advisor, Cruise Critic, and Frommer's.  I know we had a far better experience doing it this way.  I don't recommend this method for every cruise, but I do for Bermuda.
Boats in Hamilton Bermuda
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Sunday, September 04, 2011


That sea of umbrellas protecting concert goers is an indication of how special The Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival is to those of us who love this type of music.

Singin' in the Rain
We're somewhere back under a huge tent--nice and dry!

BTW, you won’t see Rob’s or my umbrella.  At this, our third Festival, we came prepared.  We set up reclining chairs and our little Eddie Bauer table out on a small field with a wonderful view of the stage and at a distance where the music is clear and sweet.  Then, we set up a second set of chairs under the huge tented area parallel to our original setup.  So I write this as I listen, protected from the rain.
Wendy relaxing
Music, a recliner, and a cozie-covered bottle of beer.  I'm ready for plenty of bluegrass! 
Pretty crummy, you might think, to take up so much space when you can’t be in two places at once, but this is the most incredible venue.  It’s civil.  People can set themselves up any place they wish.  In fact, here at Granite Hill Camping Resort where the twice a year Festivals are held, if you are a camper and are here for the week, you can set up your chairs about a week in advance and no one will move them.  Here is the rule:  If your seat is empty, someone else can use it.  Then if you come, that person will leave.  Simple.  Civil.  Our seats are there for anyone when we are not.  And when I want to get close to the stage to take photos or to be really close for a particular act, there are places for me to sit.  In the three times we’ve attended this Festival, I’ve never seen any problem at all.
Rhonda Vincent
Rhonda Vincent & her son-in-law.  Close to the stage is no problem at all.
I might add that this civility and respect extends to all aspects of the event.  No one leaves so much as a piece of paper on the grounds.  Because there are many children, we are asked to use cozies for our cans and bottles of beer.  Yes, they sell them, but they’re not expensive.  Nothing here is priced for gouging!  Including the Festival.
This is for Rob
This is for me.
The Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival runs for four days.  Rob and I come for two, Friday and Saturday.  We cannot take advantage of the four or three-day passes, but our single day admission for each of the two days is only $35.00. 

Anyway, this afternoon, after a lovely morning, the skies exploded in thunderous, wet fury.  Some people up front simply opened their umbrellas; others put on ponchos, and others calmly drifted back to take empty seats here under the tent. 
We were here when today’s music began at , and we won’t leave tonight until after the last act which goes on at .  Yes, that’s for a $35.00 admission ticket.  We’ll take none of our things with us, and tomorrow morning when we return, a mysterious gnome will have straightened the makeshift rows and filled in any empty spaces.  Neat as a pin.

What about the quality of music, you might ask?  Fantabulous!  We see the finest bluegrass artists—grammy nominees and winners, artists given awards by Presidents, new and up-and-coming artists as well as seasoned veterans.  It is phenomenal.  If you are not a bluegrass fan already, go to Pandora or Jango.  Then come here next May or August.
Seldom Scene
The Seldom Scene is probably the oldest group here.  Ben (banjo) is 73.  Their name is based on the fact that the original members jammed in someone's basement.  They were all professional men enjoying their music.  They began getting calls to play but essentially they were "Seldom Scene."  And then they took off.  You just have to listen once to know why!
Bluegrass is WYSIWYG music.  What You See Is What You Get.  In a rare and unholy occasion, a musician uses an electrified instrument, but 99.9% of the time, this is pure acoustic music or a’capella singing with the most incredibly delicious harmonies.  No percussion, just strings.  In the best music, the vocals are allowed to shine while the accompaniment fades into the background only to come back as the vocal fades away.  The instruments are given an opportunity to shine individually, and the musicality is extraordinary.  If you’re thinking of some weird looking guy pickin’ on a porch in Deliverance—think again.  One group here, Next Best Thing, represents the seventh generation of bluegrass professionals.  Most have studied music in universities across the country.  There’s nothing amateurish in this crowd.  Microphones are used, though, because you have a huge, huge, crowd of bluegrass worshippers all around.
Next Best Thing
Next Best Thing, a relatively new group, includes daughters of Rhonda Vincent and son from Cherry Holmes

If you think for a moment that this is not a serious convocation, think again.  When they’re not performing, the artists run clinics for and schedule jams with attendees.  It’s wonderful to see so many people carrying string instrument cases with them. 
one of my favorite instruments is the dobro
Martin Guitar has a booth here.  In fact, there is a drawing for a $4,000. Martin guitar at the end of the festival.  The proceeds go to a bluegrass music school.  As I said, this is serious music.  Other booths sell mandolins, sheet music, and just about anything serious bluegrass requires. 
Doyle Lawson
Doyle Lawson is one of the bluegrass greats
OK.  I head to T-shirts, refrigerator magnets and the like, but last year I did buy a sweetgrass hat I’ve been using.  It has a lovely fresh grassy aroma, is crushable, and, therefore, packable. 

The rain is becoming torrential, and the wind is whipping the rain toward the stage.  They actually call an early 50 minute dinner break.  What will we do?  We check in at our hotel, but we are back when the music starts up.  The rain has stopped, and bluegrass continues as if the weather had been beautiful all day.  We stay until the end.

Saturday we'll be back. The music will be too but with a different lineup. The day runs the same time schedule, and once again it’s great.  Does not get much better than this.

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Thursday, August 04, 2011


My mind goes back to our trip to Sedona, Arizona, probably because I've finally had the photos printed and have begun to put that trip into my albums.  I went back to Third Age Traveler posts where I wrote about Sedona, (,  and once again, I was awed by the beauty of Red Rock Country and wanted to revisit the second part of the incredible GPS tour we took (for the first part of the tour, go to —a tour we rented at the Visitor Center in downtown Sedona.  The tour equipment plugs into our car’s speaker system guiding us and narrating as we go.  We can stop as often as we wish.  Our narrator is a fount of information. 

The second leg of our GPS tour of Sedona is quite different from the first leg.  This time we head south on Highway 179 to see the area in an entirely different way.

But before we get into the tour, Rob and I detour by turning up Schnebly Hill Road to the parking area at the point Schnebly Hill Road becomes a dirt road.  I'd read about this overlook, and it is definitely a MUST STOP.  We stay for about half an hour literally turning in circles and saying “Whoa!!!”  From each vantage point, we are treated to a breathtaking view.  Each movement provides a changing landscape of beauty as the sun dances across the rocks and tricks us into thinking what we've already seen is as good as it gets.  At our feet the cactus becomes part of the Nature’s pageant.

Red Rock


Red Rock


Eventually we drive down to rejoin Highway 179 and continue our tour.  We head toward the Village of Oak Creek.  As this is the road by which we came into Sedona but going in the other direction, we now see the rock formations from a different angle, and from the GPS tour guide we learn their names: Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Courthouse Rock.

Courthouse & Bell Rock
Courthouse Rock and Bell Rock

Cathedral Rock
Cathedral Rock

We take a left at the Chapel Road roundabout and head for the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  Once again, our destination is nestled in spectacular surroundings, and we wind up a hill to reach it.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross has an interesting history.  On a visit to New York City in 1932, Marguerite Bruswig Staude looked at the newly completed Empire State Building and felt that from a particular angle she could see a cross.  She envisioned creating a monument just as inspirational, and when she was struck by Sedona's beauty, she decided to build her monument there.  Completed in 1956, the Chapel is built on a twin-pinnacled spur 250 feet high jutting out of a thousand foot red rock wall.  Impressive?  You better believe it!

Chapel of the Holy Cross

The politics are interesting too as this land was Federal Land.  But oil the right wheels and.... She convinced Senator Barry Goldwater to pull enough strings to allow her to buy Federal land!  And so it goes.

Nonetheless, no matter your personal religious beliefs, this is an inspiring sight and should be on a “must see” list.  The Chapel rises dramatically, and the cross is magnificent as it is offset by the red rocks and blue sky behind it.  At quiet times I'm sure there is an enormous sense of wonder and spirituality generated.  The surrounding grounds are nicely kept with flowers and paths, and I can look down from these heights to see the valley and the most incredible home.  Later I am told that it is the home of a doctor who owns laser clinics.  I didn't Snopes this, but isn't this home something else?

Sedona is a spiritual community.  It boasts 25 churches and synagogues, and each one is architecturally interesting and unique.  These buildings could comprise a tour in itself.  Sedona is a relatively new community, and most of the architecture is modern yet inspired by the awesome natural area in which it is constructed.

In addition to a traditional spirituality, Sedona is home to a New Age spirituality.  My friend at the Chamber of Commerce said that approximately 10% of the members are concerned in some way with psychic powers or healing.

In fact, Sedona is famous for its vortexes—areas of energy that many claim to have healing or soothing powers.  Researchers from MIT have investigated, and some claim the spiraling growth of some of the juniper trees is caused by the swirling and healthful energy.  If you are in the area, you can even take vortex tours.

What these attributes do indicate is the wide, receptive, and harmonious atmosphere created as different ages and beliefs freely mingle in this beautiful environment.

Rob and I leave the Chapel, backtrack to rejoin Highway 179, and continue to the Village of Oak Creek, a bright residential community.  We drive past the Golf Club which is actually highlighted on the GPS tour, and we stop in the Red Rock Coffeehouse for a local brew.  Fresh?  They order locally to insure that the coffee is delivered within 48 hours of roasting.  The beans are ground just prior to preparation.  It is nice to sit outside under the awning and savor our coffee.

The second part of the tour ends here.  The third part would have taken us out to Boynton Pass—another “must see,” but that is also the route to Palatki Ruins, a destination we have later in the week.  We decide we've had enough for the day.  We have been driving and stopping and admiring and “Whoa-ing” for almost seven hours.  Our senses are overloaded, and it's time to rest.

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