Posted in lorieb.com, nature, travel

Tropical Sightings

Recently returned from a vacation, I cannot help but notice how quickly reality reinstates itself.  In fact, today the sight outside my window is decidedly whiter and frostier, my tropical view has disappeared…

 

There were lots of tropical sightings throughout our two weeks immersed in the warm weather of Casey Key and its surrounding area on the gulf coast of Florida.  These included the vegetation, local beaches, wildlife, sunsets, Christmas decorations and of course the margaritas.

Vegetation

As I’ve said before, you can take this gardening girl out of her gardens, but you can never take the (love for) gardens and plants out of this girl!  Wherever my travels lead me, I cannot help but notice the variety of plants and the design of gardens.  Succulents are my favourite, here in Canada and anywhere else I find them, although most plants do seem so much more spectacular in tropical climates.  For example, I have planted yuccas (Adam’s Needle variety) here in my local gardens and their 4 foot stalks of white, bell-shaped blooms are beautiful. I did not witness their tropical cousins in bloom, but am willing to bet they definitely outshine (and outgrow) the northern varieties…

 

Wildlife

I love all wildlife, but I find the tropical species especially interesting. The variety of birds alone kept my camera clicking, from pelicans to gulls, terns, ibis, sandpipers, egrets, herons and osprey.  Their antics and routines were fascinating. The saying “birds of a feather flock together” was evident, especially at sundown.

 

I realize that some of these birds are not exclusive to tropical locales, but I have never before seen an osprey patiently waiting for fishermen to donate their catches.  Apparently osprey were just removed from Florida’s endangered species list in January 2019.  This particular beauty would perch on a nearby pole, emitting a piercing chirp occasionally to let his donors know he was there, and wait for the fishermen to leave a fish on the jetty.  Much to their chagrin the more common pelicans and egrets hovering nearby were shooed away so the osprey could literally swoop in to retrieve the offering, then soar away…

 

Other tropical wildlife species included dolphins, sea turtles and even more birds, all beautiful in their own way…

Sunsets

A great argument for preferring the west (Gulf) coast of Florida to the east (Atlantic) coast is the abundance of gorgeous sunsets.  Every single night we watched the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico, with the cloud formations making each sunset unique…

 

Beaches

The plentiful beaches along the Florida gulf coast are all spectacular, each featuring something different.  Siesta Key, near Sarasota, offers an extra wide expanse of soft (my granddaughter called it “squishy”) white sand, with a firmly packed strip close to the water’s edge perfect for walking, biking, jogging, and even strollers or wheel chairs. This beach is lined with miles of hotels to choose from.

Nokomis Beach on Casey Key (20 minutes south of Sarasota) boasts miles of sandy shoreline, a rock jetty at one end, lots of seashells and spectacular waterfront homes to admire.  We looked up one (smaller) home that is up for sale. A 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom fixer-upper located on the inland waterway side of the road with deeded access to the gulf is going for a cool $2.2 million USD.  I can’t afford that, but if any of you can, I will promise to come visit! Many of these gorgeous homes were damaged in a 2018 storm, so many are still under renovation.  One of the best features of Casey Key (we think) is that it is largely non-commercialized. Family owned homes and motels are restricted to two stories, supporting a more natural feel.

Venice Beach, 5 minutes further south, also sports miles of sandy shoreline as well as a massive wooden fishing jetty.  It too is dotted with high rise apartments and hotels, but offers a quainter shopping district nearby.

 

Christmas Decorations

Even the Christmas decorations have a tropical feel, although I had a hard time conjuring up any Christmas spirit without snow and cold weather.  A Santa Claus parade featured decorated boats, ranging from tiny sailboats to huge luxury yachts, floating down the intracoastal waterway one evening.  Many businesses, including our favourite Mexican food restaurant, are lit up for the holiday season too.

Weather

We were fortunate on this vacation as the weather was awesome, with the daytime temperatures hovering between 20 and 26 degrees Celsius.  Definitely more tropical than the weather here in Canada.  As you can see from some of the pictures, we did see lots of storm clouds, but only experienced rain on the very last day and even then only for a few moments.

 

 

 

Posted in loreeebee.ca, nature, travel, weather

Storm lashes Florida’s gulf coast, again

On December 19th, 2018, another storm hit the gulf coast of Florida. Unlike storms Gordon and Michael that hit in September and October respectively, this storm had no name. At least none that I could discover.

We heard the storm warnings on the radio and TV, so the ominous clouds, lashing rain and rising ocean swells were no surprise…

storm lashes Florida gulf coast
Nokomis Beach

Named or not, I was a witness to this particular storm. Any of the locals I spoke to that day claimed they had never seen the waves so high. A stranger sent me this copy of a video he shot. That is my husband checking out the waves crashing on and washing over the jetty as the rest of us huddled further back from the action.

The news spread fast, locals and visitors alike flocked over the drawbridge that connects Casey Key to the mainland of Nokomis. The road to the north jetty was well-traveled with those wanting to witness the wrath of Mother Nature. The level of the water rose so high with the wind and rain that most of the jetty was underwater and the beach was barely walkable…

storm lashes Florida gulf coast
crashing waves
storm lashes Florida gulf coast
water level rising to grasses

Later that day, the waves subsided somewhat, the skies cleared and a spectacular sunset promised better weather the next day…

storm lashes Florida gulf coast
here comes the sun!
storm lashes Florida gulf coast
flooded beach
sunset after the storm
beach sunset

drawing the shell collectors to the beach and the (rather bedraggled) wildlife to the jetty the next morning…

storm lashes Florida gulf coast
shell collecting after the storm
storm lashes Florida gulf coast
collecting shells after the storm

Although the beautiful beach and spectacular ocean front homes had already sustained an incredible amount of damage in the previous storms, we saw more the next morning…

storm lashes Florida gulf coast
steps buried in sand

Everywhere I travel, I cannot help but stop to admire (and snap pictures of) the local plants. That’s the gardener in me I guess…

storm
variegated yuccas
storm lashes Florida gulf
beach access

The stormy weather lasted around 24 hours. As much as it was spectacular to witness it, I prefer walking the beach with calmer waters and sunshine.

Posted in Canada, lorieb.com, nature, travel

Free admission for 2017 to Parks Canada

What a great idea! I grew up in Cornwall, Ontario very close to the Long Sault Parkway which is on the St Lawrence River.   My family spent lots of time at the beautiful campsites and beaches there….  There are thousands of parks along this river that separates Canada from the USA,  as well as throughout the rest of Canada. It is no wonder that Canada is recognized globally for its forests, lakes, and rivers.   Plan your summer vacations now!

Lifeology 101

Parks Canada Free Coupons, Parks Canada, Hiking Ontario, Places to Visit in Ontario, 2017 Ontario Attractions Coupons, Coupons Canada,In celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary Parks Canada is giving everyone a present …. Free admission to Canadians and visitors from all around the world to all Parks Canada Locations from coast to coast to coast.

To order your 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass Click HERE.

For all of 2017 this pass gives you unlimited opportunities to enjoy National Parks, National Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic Sites across the country!

Please note:

  • You only need to order one pass for your group or family if you are all travelling together. A 2017 Discovery Pass is valid for everyone arriving in the same vehicle at a national park, or arriving together at a marine conservation area or historic site.
  • The Discovery Pass is only accepted at national historic sites which are operated by Parks Canada.
  • Activities such as tours or parking that normally carry a separate fee may not…

View original post 4,496 more words

Posted in family, loreeebee.ca, travel

Relinquish the reins

google-maps0004

Is it time to relinquish the reins?  For over 30 years our family vacations have had my husband as the driver and me as the planner, navigator, and organizer.  That changed recently when my family travelled to New York City from Ottawa for my niece’s wedding.  Our eldest son drove and his fiancèe was the navigator for the entire drive.  Our son also planned our (extensive) walking tour throughout Manhattan including subway connections to and from the home we rented in Brooklyn for the weekend.  All I did was choose and book the house through Airbnb and offer a few suggestions from the back seat when the directions on the GPS differed from the printed directions from Google maps.

Our family vacations are getting less frequent due to the fact that our three sons have grown into (wonderful) adults with commitments and plans of their own. For this reason, these vacations have become increasingly special to us as parents. Needless to say, three whole days of hanging out with my favorite people made me a happy woman.

So, are we ready to relinquish the reins?  You bet, in a New York minute!

Posted in family, lorieb.com, travel

A weekend in New York City

This past weekend my family travelled to New York City for my niece’s wedding.  We left Ottawa before the sun came up Friday morning and arrived at the townhome I had rented through AIRBNB a little over seven hours later. As there were six of us staying together, it was less expensive to rent a home than to book several hotel rooms.  I chose a place in the Park Slope neighbourhood of Brooklyn so we could walk to and from the wedding and still have access to subway lines for site seeing in Manhattan.  Once we got over the fact that we were staying in a stranger’s home, and past the tricky door lock, we all loved the coziness of the typical New York BROWNSTONE home and would use the service again.  Use this link for your Airbnb travel discount

 

I had prepaid for an overnight, covered parking spot for my son’s oversized truck with ParkWhiz for the weekend, but when he tried to park his truck, he was told they had no room for him.  After speaking to several people at that lot and another lot the company recommended, we were told that my original payment would be refunded if he paid for the new spot.  I still have yet to see a refund on my visa statement, but have contacted the company and was told (very good response time) that my refund will take a few more business days to process.  The bottom line is we did get parked and did not have to worry about further parking issues or driving in the city.

After unloading our luggage and a quick change out of our travel clothes, we headed to Manhattan via subway to take in some New York sights.  The architecture of the sky scraping buildings is magnificent. The clear blue sky as a backdrop was perfect for picture taking.  I especially loved the combination and contrast of the new with the very old…

 

My eldest son had mapped out our journey and we walked for miles and miles, trying to see everything in Manhattan.  We visited New York’s harbor, aka Battery Park, to view the Brooklyn bridge and the Statue of Liberty, strolled down Wall Street, to the ground zero site, through Tribeca, Greenwich Village, Times Square and Rockefeller Center…

 

Throughout our travels, we picked out and snapped pictures of many iconic landmarks and familiar (from TV) sites including Trump tower, Tiffany’s, Madison Square Garden, NBC’s news room, and Rockefeller Center …

 

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring of all the sights we saw, at least to my family, was the memorial site for the victims of the 9-11 tragedy where family members place flowers on the names of their lost loved ones on their birthdays.  It is incredibly beautiful; heart warming and sad at the same time.  The large, white, bird-like building in the last two pictures is the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, an architectural masterpiece

tt1tt6tt7tt8

 

Believe it or not, we took all of the above (and more, as I know I forgot to mention a few hot spots we visited) in Friday afternoon and evening, then headed back to Brooklyn on the subway.  Saturday morning we were able to walk through a beautifully verdant Central Park (at least a small portion of it) before it was time to get ready for the wedding…

 

The wedding we attended was beautiful, and lots of fun.  I have not seen my brother for several years; reconnecting with him was awesome and long overdue.  My parents had six children and fifteen grandchildren, but as they are currently living all over the USA and Canada, rarely (never) are they all in one spot at the same time.  Having four of us siblings and ten of “the cousins” (as they now call themselves) present at this event was nothing short of miraculous, but very touching.  At one point I overheard the cousins reminiscing about and toasting/roasting their beloved grandpa (my father).  They barely remember their grandma (my mother) as she died many years ago when they were all very young.

Our return trip to Ottawa from NYC seemed longer (it always does, doesn’t it?) than the journey to get there.  The trip took us over bridges, through tunnels, scenic neighbourhoods and lots of traffic, eventually winding through the mountain ranges towards the Canadian border, where we were met with a delay on the 401 due to an earlier accident.  Back to reality!

 

My father’s birthday is today; I know he heard his grandchildrens’ toasts and their plans to stay in touch and get together more often.  I could feel my parents’ presence that whole day; I know they were smiling down on the wedding and their family.

 

 

 

Posted in family, loreeebee.ca, relationships, travel

A busy birthday week in Corpus Christi, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas is a beautiful city to visit, especially when the weather is cold in my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  Last week I surprised my sister for her birthday, spending a whole week with her visiting all of the popular tourist spots and catching up on sister stuff. The surprise party was held at Talon’s Sports Bar, owned and operated by friends of my niece, and a great location for the party to kick off the birthday week…

As mentioned in my previous post, I did manage to get some gardening in by planting a garden in my sister’s front yard.  I do love seeing the different varieties of plants that grow in the places I travel to.  I knew that succulents and cactus are prevalent in Texas, I just never knew there were so many varieties of each…

Another great thing about vacations is that I don’t have to cook.  This past week I experienced most of the culinary delights Texas has to offer.   At restaurants, a few of which are located right on the water, I feasted on seafood, including delicious crab cakes and gumbo, Mexican, Italian and Thai food,  and of course steak, a Texan favourite.  Home-made, deliciously spicy, chicken tortilla soup, pico de gallo and guacamole prepared by my niece, as well as jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese, then wrapped in bacon, grilled to perfection and served with sausage wraps on the beach by her husband.  I think I will stay away from the scales for a few days…

To wear off some of the calories, I was coerced into dancing, Texan style, at my sister’s favourite nightclubs Whiskey River and  Ropers . Thanks to her very patient and kind dancing friends Sinoel, Martin, Benny, Ray and others, I had lots of fun and many laughs trying to master the art.  One-two-three and quick-quick-slow are still echoing in my head…

Of course, when heading south to escape a Canadian winter, you have to go to the beach. The beaches in the Corpus Christi area of Texas are spectacular and plentiful.  Padre Island National Seashore, McGee Beach, North Beach, Packery Channel and Mustang Island are just a few popular spots.  Even though this was my fifth visit, I still find the waterfronts confusing.  Bay, gulf, channel, port…

My last day in Texas was the only one warm enough (78F or 26C) to hit the beach.  Although I found the water was too cold for anything more than dipping my toes, there were a few brave people playing in the waves.  It is winter in Texas too, although winter temperatures there are much more enjoyable than those here.  We walked the beach during the day and then enjoyed a bonfire on the beach using dried out Christmas trees collected from curbs in my sister’s neighbourhood…

We spent a few hours shopping for bargains too, and even though the Canadian dollar is currently so low in value, I was still able to get a few good deals on clothing.  Although we did not venture across the border into Mexico, I picked up a few Mexican inspired souvenirs in Texas, including an adorable ceramic gecko for my garden and some tequila…

The best part of this trip to Texas was the opportunity to spend quality time with my sister, her children and grandchildren.  I kind of put her on the spot by showing up, not just for her surprise party, but also announcing that I was staying at her place for a week.  I had already made arrangements with her son to use his bedroom in her home for the week.  Thanks to Facebook messaging, I was able to make plans with my niece and nephews before my visit without my sister suspecting a thing.  The only time she was suspicious that something was going on was when her son got up early the morning of my arrival to clean up his room.  Also fortunate, and much appreciated, was the fact that she was able to play hooky from work all week to spend time with me, thanks to her staff Cristi, Chrisy and others.

The birthday week in Texas was a huge success and tons of fun, but over much too fast.  Reality has called me back home to Canada and my sister back to work.  Arriving back in Ottawa via Houston and Toronto, I was greeted by snow and missing luggage, both indicators that all good things must come to an end…

Oh, by the way, my gardening website can be viewed at GARDENS4U