View of Innsbruck from above

Innsbruck Austria: Incredible History, Beauty, and Nature

Standing on Seegrubenspitze Mountain, at the top of the Hungerburg station (the name for the cable car), I felt like I was living inside of a postcard. Everything I had seen that day, from the world-renowned “Goldenes Dachl” (Golden Roof), to the lavish Innsbruck Cathedral was astounding, but the view from the top left me…

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The view from Neuschwanstein Castle

Bier, Brats, and Beauty in Munich Germany

I only spent two days in Munich, but it left a lasting impression on me. The grander of the Alps, the many shades of green, the opulent castles, the delicious food, and helpful people, all left me wishing I could stay longer. It may have only been a stop-over on my way to Austria, but the bier, brats and beauty of Munich Germany will bring me back.

The Alps

It took us about an hour until we were outside of the city and passing beautiful green farm fields, giant windmills and starting to see glimpses of spectacular mountains poking through the mist in the distance.  The closer we got to the mountains, the more excited I got. My heart was racing as I took picture after picture of the grand mountain peaks towering above charming Bavarian villages.

 

Dreamy Castles

I signed up for a day tour to visit two fairy-tale looking castles. The first stop was Linderhof, the smallest of the three royal castles built in the 19th century by King Ludwig II, who was known for being quite eccentric. He was never married and died a suspicious death at the age of 41. The palace was built in the French Rococo style and is surrounded by perfectly groomed gardens and picturesque landscaping. A large white swan swam elegantly around the glassy pond and colorful flowers lined the shore. Outside the palace was a gorgeous fountain that shot high into the air every half hour. The inside of the castle was even more impressive. Every nook and cranny was gleaming with gold plate atop extraordinary designs. The walls and ceilings were covered in murals honoring various legends or religious figures.  The color and detail was incredible! The king’s bed was especially lavish, covered in blue velvet and silk with real gold embroidery and accessories. I stared in awe and couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like to live as royalty in such a beautiful palace.

The Ne Pali Coast of Kauai

Enjoy the Magnificent Na Pali Coast of Kauai: By Plane or by Boat

If you ever visit the magnificent island of Kauai, make sure that seeing the Ne Pali coast is high on your list of things to do.The sheer splendor of it will leave a lasting impression.

Nepali Pirates

I’m still a little sore from the boat ride, but boy was it worth it! Nepali Pirates offers a fun day cruise up the Na Pali coast that is full of thrills and spectacular beauty. The whole trip took about 5 hours and includes a bouncy ride on their Zodiac, snorkeling, and snacks.

Paradise

Many famous films have been shot on the Ne Pali coast, including Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s easy to see why. The Ne Pali coast is simply paradise. Lush green valleys and huge waterfalls sit next to gorgeous sandy beaches and incredible coral reefs. Layers of colors fill the landscape, including red rock, various shades of green from the massive rain forest, black lava rock, soft beige sand and the clear turquoise sea water.

The rain forest of Kauai

Kayaking, Hiking and Adventure with Kayak Wailua

Standing next to the 100-foot waterfall, feeling the water spraying over me, the sound was deafening. It was the day before Mother’s Day, and I couldn’t help but feel blessed with the beauty of our dear Mother Nature, and the Kayak Wailua tour is a great way to see her at her finest.

What to expect

The day began with a meet and greet with the cheerful staff at Kayak Wailua. I was excited that my daughter, Jamie, would be our guide for the day.  She explained to our group what to expect on our expedition. The tour would take about 5 hours total and would include about 5 miles of kayaking through the Wailua River and an easy one mile hike (in both directions) up to Secret Falls, called Uluwehi by the Hawaiian people.

Kayaking

The only other people in our group was a family of four from Santa Cruz with two young energetic boys. We all loaded into the shuttle and headed for the marina. While our driver unloaded the kayaks, we received some last-minute paddling instructions from Jamie and loaded up our gear. Soon we were on our way up the river. The Wailua, which means Spirit in Hawaiian, is surrounded by beautiful jungle, with tropical trees, colorful flowers and lots of interesting birds. We paddled past the Sleeping Giant, known as NouNou Mountain and Mouna Kapu, then into a narrow and overgrown area where we disembarked and began our foot excursion.

Clam digging on the Washington pennisula

The Joy of Razor Clam Digging on The Washington State Peninsula

Razor Clam digging is a way of life on the Washington State peninsula. Many families have been razor clam digging for generations. They anxiously watch the Washington Fish and Game website for announcements of upcoming digs, they track the tides, clean their gear and plan their clam eating feasts. They look forward to the first time they can take their kids, or grand kids, out on their first dig, and when they do, pictures are proudly posted and joyous new memories are made.

I first went clam digging in 2005 in Ocean Park, Washington, which is just outside of the town of Long Beach. I had so much that I made an offer on a beach cabin that weekend, closed on it, and have been clam digging ever since! I’ve had the joy of introducing all kinds of friends to the experience and their reaction is always the same. They love it!

 

The gear

Razor clamming isn’t really all that hard. It only takes a few attempts to figure it out and each time you go you get a little better at it. The old timers will limit out much faster than the beginners, but there is always someone around to help you spot them and encourage you to keep at it. “Here’s one”, I’ve had a number of strangers call out to me, as they point to a divot down in the sand. It’s a time that the whole community comes together and new friends are made.

Sunken Garden at Buchart

Awaken Your Senses at Beautiful Buchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C

Butchart Gardens will always hold a special place in my heart. It had been 13 years since I was there last, and it was with my mother, just a couple of months before she passed away from cancer. Needless to say, I had stayed away too long. Within moments of stepping inside of Butchart Gardens, I was reminded of how truly spectacular it is! As I walked through the front gate, the delightful aroma from the blooming hyacinth hit me. It smelled heavenly, like a perfect Spring day. Butchart Gardens is situated on a bay, so when the breeze blows you can also get a hint of sea air. The two smells combined awakened my senses and made my spirit dance.

Pet Friendly

The gardens are also pet friendly, so I was delighted to be able to take Ozzie in with me. Visitors from around the globe bent down to show him some love and visit with me. There’s just no way you can be in a bad mood at Butchart.  The hardest part about going there is deciding which garden to visit first!

Kahneeta Resort

Food, Fun & Spirits on “Distilled Weekend” at Kahneeta Resort

Looking down from the balcony of our room, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beautiful view and tranquility of the valley below. Kahneeta Resort is situated on the Warm Springs Native American Reservation and is surrounded by expansive grassy fields, red rock formations, and the crystal waters of the Deschutes River. If you’re looking for a place to get away from it all and yet still have a lot of fun activities for the entire family, Kahneeta is the place for you.

 

Distilled weekend was one of their special events, put together by their Sales and Marketing Manager, Cruz Bocanegra, who was our host for the special weekend. The event highlighted the delicious spirits of New Basin Distilling and the tasty ice cream of Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt. Those partners, along with Kahneeta’s executive chef, Mike Pyell, provided us a fun filled and entertaining weekend I won’t soon forget. It also just happened to coincide with my birthday, so I, and two dear girlfriends celebrated in style and shared a lot of laughs.

Puerto Vallerta, Mexico

My Best Vacation Ever in Beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I was reclining on a lounger in the sand, watching the waves roll in, drinking a Pina Colada, and trying on jewelry when it occurred to me. It was my best vacation ever! Where else can you drink, eat, and shop, while lying in the sun by the beach without even getting off your butt? This is just one of the many things I love about beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Here are some other things to see and do while you are there.

Shopping

I spent about $150 on a bunch of amazing silver jewelry that I didn’t need. I Bought an enormous opal ring for about $15 USD. I then proceeded to buy matching earrings, a toe ring and bracelet. It would have cost 5 times as much in the U.S.  Local vendors, selling everything from t-shirts to wood carving to jewelry, wander by all day long. But don’t worry, if you don’t want to buy anything they will leave you and your cocktail to relax in the sun.

Sunrise

My Transition Home and Alarming New Observations About America

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been adjusting to life back in the USA for a while. Surprisingly, it has been every bit as difficult as my first few weeks in India. My time in India changed me, in every way possible. In fact, I’m writing a book about it. I’m not the same person that left here feeling anxious and lost a year and half ago.  I’ve grown tremendously, and as a result, I’m noticing things that I didn’t before. Here are some things that I’ve observed about Americans since I’ve gotten back, and they are some of the things that have made my transition feel a bit unsettling.

Americans are too damn busy

I came home with an extensive list of things to do because I had been gone for a long time. I had deferred maintenance stuff to take care of on my house. I had to file my taxes, get new eye glasses, go to the dentist, visit friends, etc.  But what has fascinated me most is that all my friends and family are even busier than I am. I’ve already been home almost a month, and there are many friends I still haven’t seen because they haven’t been able to squeeze me into their busy schedules. Americans are all on a hamster wheel, running around in circles checking things off their massive To-Do list. Rarely, do we just sit and enjoy each other’s company. In other cultures, people often start the day with tea or coffee and just visit with strangers.

We have become a bunch of human doings, not human beings.

In America, I don’t see many people just being in the moment, relaxed and enjoying the present. Instead, Americans are too busy thinking about what they need to do next. I find it alarming now. It causes stress and anxiety. It isolates us from one another. It’s the reason that I’ve decided to break the chains of corporate greed and work for myself again. It’s why I’ve decided to travel so much. When I travel, I feel like I am enjoying the present moment and engaging in this day, these people and this place. I’m not preoccupied with bills to pay and errands to run.

Killer Whale off San Juan Island

Beauty, Fun and Tranquility on San Juan Island

I’ve been visiting San Juan Island in Puget Sound for the last fifteen years, but every time I do I find something new to enjoy. There is a little something for everyone and I guarantee you, by the time you leave, you will never forget the beauty, fun and tranquility of San Juan Island.

The ferry ride

The journey begins on the ferry ride from Anacortes. You can now make reservations ahead of time, and I strongly recommend it. You can do it easily on line with just a few clicks. The ferry ride over is beautiful, so try to make it during daylight hours. If you get very lucky you might see some orcas.

Downtown Friday Harbor

There are many fun things to do in downtown Friday Harbor. Restaurants offer some of the best seafood in the Pacific Northwest. I especially like the clam chowder at Diggers and the delicious fish and chips at Cask and Schooner Pub across the street.