castillo de san marcos
You might think that the oldest masonry fort in America would be somewhere in the Northeast United States, but it’s actually a Spanish fort in Florida: El Castillo de San Marcos, constructed in 1672 to protect the critical Spanish port city of St. Augustine, itself the oldest city in America, dating back to 1565. And what a fort it is!  The Spanish built it out of a local stone called cocina, which is a sedimentary rock made up of compressed seashells.  It was available locally and easier to cut and shape than regular stone, and it turned out to have a unique defensive benefit: when cannonballs hit the fort, they bounced off, rather than absorbing the impact like stone and shattering. Repeated attacks by the British did little to damage the fort, while the defenders would simply bide their time and take carefully aimed shots at the attacking ships.  Unique among forts in the…Continue Reading
Most families think of Orlando when planning a family vacation to Florida.  But they are missing out on a real gem, only 90 minutes up the Atlantic coast in America’s oldest city: St. Augustine.  It was founded in 1565 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Spanish conquistador, and owned in turn by the Spanish, the British, the Spanish again, and finally the United States in 1819.  The city boasts Spanish colonial architecture, historic sites, a hopping art and nightlife scene and gorgeous beaches. We love St. Augustine and had the pleasure of living in the area for a few months.  It’s an amazing city for families. Here is a sample of the fabulous things to see, eat and do when visiting. Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine Established in 1565 and later re-built in the 18th century, the Cathedral Basilica is the oldest church in Florida.  The architecture is beautiful and it’s worth a…Continue Reading
To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour. -William Blake White Sands National Monument in New Mexico is one of the most beautiful places that we have ever visited.  Imagine 275 square miles of pure white dunes set against a bright blue desert sky, surrounded by jagged mountains. White Sands is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.  Gypsum is not a typical sand made of quartz, but is instead a soft mineral consisting of hydrated calcium sulfate.  It’s not only soft, but also cool to the touch, which is remarkable on a hot August day.  We walked in our bare feet! Hours vary by season, so check the US Park Service website before you go.  The monument is surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, where the US Air Force conducts missile tests 1-2 times per week,…Continue Reading
After visiting with Jen’s parents in Cayucos, it was time for our annual family trip with Rich’s family.  This year the choice was the stunning Catalina Island, a jewel of an island only 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.  Catalina is one of the eight Channel Islands, and the only inhabited one, known for its “Old California” vibe and well-maintained Art Deco architecture.  The island became popular in the 1920s as a playground for Hollywood, and the Wrigley family famously built mansions and the “Casino”. Getting There Unless you have a private plane or boat, the best way to get there is by taking The Catalina Express, which runs from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point to the port of Avalon.  The boats are comfortable with air conditioning, bathrooms, and a snack bar.  The ride can be choppy so be ready if you are prone to motion sickness.  We have found that sitting outside…Continue Reading
St.-John-U.S.Virgin-Islands
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Jacques Cousteau “Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.” Unknown Author “The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.” Henry Beston “The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.” Robert Wyland “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” John F. Kennedy “Visual surprise is natural in the Caribbean; it comes with the landscape, and faced with its beauty, the sigh of History dissolves. ” Derek Walcott “One’s destination is never a place, but…Continue Reading
After returning from Costa Rica we decided to spend some time in California visiting our family.  Our first stop was Cayucos for a little time with Grandma.  Cayucos is an adorable beach town on the central coast of California.  It’s a wonderful place for families, with beautiful beaches and a relaxed California vibe. We started the day off with an early lunch at Duckie’s Chowder House.  Duckie’s is a small casual restaurant by the Cayucos pier, serving up yummy chowder, fish and chips, fish tacos, bowls and burgers.  They have a to-go window, so you can grab lunch to eat on the beach.  We chose to sit down in the restaurant and enjoy a long lunch and a beer. The food was great!  We loved the clam chowder and the garlic fries. After lunch, the kids ran to a playground on the sand at Cayucos State Beach.  The beach is beautiful and it’s a great place to relax…Continue Reading
Times Square, New York City
We love New York!  We are here for only 2 days, so we are staying in the middle of the action.  Our hotel, the Doubletree Suites, is in the center of Times Square and the kids love it!  Today we went shopping and hit all the big stores.  Rich and I enjoyed Rockefeller Center.  The boys loved H&M, Lego Store and Toys R US.  The twins got pulled in front of the crowd for a Hacky Sack demonstration so we had to buy a few.  New York seems like a great way to spend some time on the road.   We took the subway down to 34th St and back up to 49th.  The twins’ favorite thing of the day was riding the subway!  Go figure… We ate lunch at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where every waiter is an aspiring Broadway Star.  The boys loved it and it built up their…Continue Reading
Sunset over the Pacific in Albion, CA, on the Mendocino Coast
  We survived our first long drive of the trip.  The drive from Tahoe to Albion was long and winding, but was well worth it when we finally took in this amazing coastline.  Our vacation rental is in a small housing development perched on a cliff overlooking the sea.  The neighbors are set back so it feels like our little house has the meadow to itself.  Deer are grazing in our yard and seagulls are perched on our deck.  It’s breathtaking! Fort Bragg We drove up the coast to Fort Bragg to shop and have lunch.  We decided to eat at a little fish and chips shack on the harbor.  The Sea Pal Cove is a small funky place surrounded by fishing boats.  It has a bit of an odor from the fishermen cleaning their daily catch but the fish couldn’t be fresher.  The seagulls attempted to steal Rich’s Salmon…Continue Reading
Tahoe Keys, South Lake Tahoe, CA
We rented out the house, packed our bags and are heading out on a family adventure.  Our destination is Europe but our first stop is our annual family vacation with my husband’s family in beautiful Lake Tahoe.  We have rented a house in the Tahoe Keys complete with speed boat, paddle boats and a kayak.  The kids are having a blast.  Rich and I are still recovering from our preparations, as moving the family household into one POD was quite the challenge.  It’s nice to sit back and relax while the kids play with their cousins.    We think Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in the United States.  It’s a wonderful place to visit year round with water sports in the summer, skiing in the winter and casinos year round.  Usually, we spend time on Tahoes’ north shore in Nevada.  But for this trip we choose…Continue Reading