Made up of more than 400 islands and rocky outcrops, the San Juan Islands straddle the border between the US and Canada. Just 80 miles north of Seattle, the islands are part of the US state of Washington. Best known for their resident pods of orca whales, the San Juan Islands are also home to the greatest concentration of Bald Eagles in the continental United States.
The islands are a terrific spot for a family vacation or a romantic getaway. Full disclosure, San Juan Island was the site of my first vacation with my now husband and we consider it the place where we fell in love…so expect what follows to be a thorough San Juan Islands Travel Guide with perhaps a slight love-struck bias!Read More
I’m not usually one to geek-out over TV shows, after all, I spend a lot of my time out of the country without access to most US TV shows. But in the past year, during the process of selling my long-time “starter home” and buying a new house with my husband, I somehow developed a bit of an HGTV addiction. Of the many wonderful shows on HGTV, my favorite (and my husband’s too!) is Fixer Upper.
Set in Waco, Texas, the show stars talented married couple Chip and Joanna Gaines who help house-hunters find and renovate the home of their dreams. The show not only features Chip and Jo but also their adorable 4 children and many of the local artists and businesses they work with in the Waco area.
But the breakout star of the show has been Waco itself. Remarkably, during the past two seasons, this popular HGTV show has managed to put this sleepy central-Texas town on the map as a travel destination…and not just for Baylor football games. Of course, until recently, there wasn’t much of the show for Waco visitors to see, aside from Joanna’s small retail store.Read More
Spanning a length of nearly 600 feet, Dunn’s River Falls is one of the Caribbean’s top attractions and a must-see for any visitor to Jamaica. From its summit at 180 feet, tiers of cascading limestone meander down to the Caribbean Sea forming a natural staircase. The falls plunge in some places and plateau in others creating natural pools shaded by lush green vegetation on all sides. At its base, Dunn’s River Falls flows across a beautiful beach and straight into the sea. Climbing the falls is a popular activity for visitors to Jamaica. Guides instruct groups of climbers to hold hands for balance and several human chains at a time make the ascent from the beach all the way to the top. While proper footwear is essential on the often slippery rocks, the climb itself is easily manageable for most visitors and takes about 90 minutes assuming a few stops for photos. But for those not up to the task of scaling the waterfall, there are numerous paths alongside it that allow anyone to enjoy the view.Read More
Located in the shallow waters off Grand Cayman’s North Sound, Stingray City is a string of sandbars that passes through a natural channel just inside the island’s barrier reef. As the story goes, the area became popular with the rays decades ago when local fisherman would stop in the calm, shallow waters to clean their day’s catch. When they tossed the fish guts and squid into the water it attracted the stingrays who eventually began to associate the sound of a boat engine with a free meal. Over the years, divers realized the stingrays could be fed by hand and today a variety of boats ferry visitors to the area to let them feed the stingrays and get a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. It’s the rare chance to interact one-on-one with the friendly rays that makes Stingray City Grand Cayman’s most popular attraction. If you’re staying a few days on Grand Cayman, definitely try to visit when there are no cruise ships in port. Of course, if you’re visiting the island on a cruise ship like I was, well, you’ll likely have to suffer the crowds. But even with the throng of fellow tourists, I still felt Stingray City was well worth a visit.Read More
Built in 1851 in the Spanish colonial style, Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his greatest novels while living in this Key West home in the 1930’s and 40’s. Today, the Hemingway house is a Registered National Historic Landmark and still contains his study, furnishings and other items collected by Hemingway and his wife, Pauline, in their travels to Spain, Africa and Cuba. But the home is perhaps best known as the habitat to dozens of six-toed cats, the descendants of the author’s white six-toed cat given to him by a ship’s captain. More than 40 cats still roam the estate today and approximately half exhibit the six-toed trait, though all carry the gene in their DNA. Due to the estate’s large number of visitors, the cats are friendly and outgoing and likely to come right up and say hello when you arrive (as the one in this photo is doing to me!). A stop by the Hemingway home is a must for any visitor to Key West.Read More
Just 90 miles from Cuba, the island of Key West is the southernmost point of the continental United States and the most-populated island in the Florida Keys. Once a base of operations against pirates, Key West later rose to fame as an enclave for artists and writers including Robert Frost, Winslow Homer, Tennessee Williams and perhaps its most famous resident, Ernest Hemingway. The Keys became linked with the mainland in 1912 with the completion of the short-lived Henry Flagler’s railroad which was abandoned after a hurricane in 1935. The railroad was replaced a few years later with the 123-mile overseas highway that still stands today. The island’s small size makes it easy to explore on foot, especially for those just passing through for a day on a cruise ship (as I was recently). But the Conch Republic’s relaxed charm and fascinating history are likely to have you wishing you could stay much longer.Read More