Sunday, December 14, 2008

TAOS & RED RIVER


Of all the things I enjoy, nature and the outdoors are on the top of my list. Maybe that is why Taos and Red River are so appealing. There is something year around for people like me.

In warm weather White water rafting, haven't tried this myself and have to admit to not even being tempted! Hiking, now that is more like it. Golfing, fishing, horseback riding, and camping by the Red River in the shadows of towering mountains.

Beautiful!

Winter: snowmobiling, skiing, fishing, and relaxing by a roaring fire while staying at the Hotel La Fonda in Taos, or the Woodlands on the River condos in Red RiverTaos is a slow-paced town with museums and art galleries to peruse through. Although I didn't eat there, I saw a lot of tasty-looking choices.

Red River is more about activity and exploring. Since we stayed in the Woodlands condo, we ate in most of the time. Once we ate at the only Mexican food resturant and will probably not go there again. But we had a great meal at the Lodge at Red River.


New Mexico is a beautiful, diverse, multi-textured, cultured, state no matter which area you visit. I'm looking forward to returning next fall!



Thursday, October 23, 2008

ENCHANTED IN NEW MEXICO

















I’m going to break from Branson Missouri for a few posts because I’m in New Mexico for a writers retreat and I cannot wait to tell you about it. My husband, Neal, and I decided to make this our vacation since he loves to fly fish and this is the perfect place for that. I love scenery and snow and during this time of year, I usually get both!

New Mexico is a state of many layers and textures. It is rich in Native American and Mexican culture, history, and flavors. From the desert southern region to the skiers dream in the northern there is something for everyone

SANTA FE

Our first stop was in Santa Fe, the second oldest city in the USA and the nation’s oldest capital. I’d been here once before and stayed in what some call Old Town Santa Fe or Old Santa Fe which is the original town. I liked it so much we returned there to begin our vacation. We stayed in the Residence Inn Marriott which was just a couple of miles from Old Town. The room was like a little studio apartment with a fire place and a full kitchen, which is nice because we saved money by cooking in our room. There are great natural food grocery stores. Whole Foods Warehouse is close by and is fascinating just to walk through. There is a Trader Joe’s in Santa Fe too! Love that place. As for breakfast, the hotel offers a full hot breakfast and a continental for a lighter fare offering and it is included in your stay.

Old Town Santa Fe has so many things to do and see. Shopping the plaza and side streets where you find antique stores, clothing stores, gifts, leather shops, art stores, and of course, Starbucks! There are nice places to eat, too! The food there is flavorful, and spicy, not heavy at all. Ask the locals for suggestions where to eat.
I had fantastic Sopa de Lima (lime soup) in the Ore House which is on the plaza. It had chicken, broth, blue corn which tastes like hominy, lime juice, cumin, and whole pepper corn. The chef wouldn’t reveal his recipe, darned him! I found a lot of recipes online that probably get pretty close. Great for a cold evening. They also serve great steaks and seafood. Visit their website: www.orehouseontheplaza.com.

There are several art galleries in and around Santa Fe. The picture to the left is just off the plaza. This town is well laid out and easy to navigate, however, there is road construction going on that can get a little tricky, but we found our way around . And if you have a question, ask any of the locals. They are the most delightful people. Friendly and helpful. We never encountered anyone who acted annoyed that we stopped them to asked a question!

If you are all shopped out, stuffed to the gills, and just need a place to chill and people watch go to the plaza park. I’m told this is the site of many celebrations. But while we were there it was a pleasant place to toss a football with the kids, eat from one of the food vendors, and chat with the locals.


One special attraction is the Palace of the Governors. It was constructed as the capitol of New Mexico in 1610 and is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the U.S.
And under its portal Native Americans from the surrounding areas sell their jewelry and art.

I spoke with one of the artist, Lori Hesuse, a Navajo jewelry designer, metal smith, and beader.

Around the Palace of the Governors is where members of the American Native Artisans Program members sell their craft. Everything sold there is made by them or someone in their family. Nothing is manufactured and resold. Her work is flawless and beautiful. I especially liked her bracelets and beadwork.

Sitting beside her was Dennis T. Ramone, also Navajo. He tells of how he watched his grandfather make jewelry until one day after returning from herding sheep, his grandfather gave him his tools and a small strip of silver and told him that Dennis must make something of that strip before he could eat. He didn’t get any supper but he did work all night to accomplish the task given him. From that night on, Dennis had to make a piece of jewelry before he could eat. His most popular piece is his Phoenix necklace. In the picture below Dennis is wearing the yellow hat.

On further down I spoke with Darrell Slim. He calls his business Silver Bear Diné
jewelry and Art. Diné is the real name for the Navaho. As you can see in the picture below he has a variety of offerings. His bracelets are hand stamped instead of lost wax casting. That explains the shiny brightness of his silver and copper bracelets.




We also visited the Farmers Market. What a treat. I always like visiting markets across the nation and try out the local offerings. Here you will find veggies, flowers, food, and music. Get there early and stay a long time! It is such fun!

If you have time go on the Santa Fe Southern Railway 36-mile roundtrip in a restored vintage passenger car. And the kids will really enjoy the El Rancho de las Golondrinas. This is a living-history museum that highlights Spanish Colonial period.


PRACTICAL TIPS:

Always stop at Visitor Centers. You can get brochures of all the attractions, speak with someone about where to go, what to do, places to stay and places to eat.
You will be at a higher altitude and the air is thinner. Drink a lot of water and take it easy for a couple of days.
Wear sunscreen even in the winter. The sun is bright and intense.

Our next stop is TAOS

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SERVER PROBLEMS

I apologize for not posting in a while. I've had the worst time with Hughesnet satellite services. I DO NOT recommend them at all! We live in the middle of nowhere, and this was my only choice, or so I thought. I have found other outlets and so after my last disastrous altercation with Hughesnet, I fired them. Just to let you know how slow and frustrating this server is, I gladly paid the several hundred dollar penalty for breaking our contract, just to get rid of them.

Hughesnet is 1 step above dial-up. That's all. They do not have the bandwidth to support the customers they have and yet they still keep taking new ones on. Pure greed. If you should happen to view too many youtube videos, you are relegated to dial up speed for 36 hours for punishment. I found that out while trying to find a video to use in one of my presentations. After about 30 minutes of searching videos my computer stopped to a crawl. I'd crossed what they considered fair use. I felt like a child being sent to the corner for using my computer!

To make things worse, the only time you will speak to an English speaking person is in sales. After that you will speak to someone in India who has a poor command of the English language and you will spend your time saying, "repeat that please?" When they put you on hold you will listen to the most irritating song possible.

So, until I get hooked up with a local company, I am without service unless I come to town at the local coffee shop.I will be leaving for Red River New Mexico on Friday. They will have Internet services there and I will catch up. Thank you all for your patience! Linda

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

BRANSON FAMILY FUN

Branson, Missouri, is a feast for the eyes and soul. No matter from where you come, here in the USA or from other countries, once you've visited you will want to come back. Located in the southwest part of Missouri, Branson is nestled in the mountains off highway 65. If you like history, especially Americana, fishing, hiking, camping, shopping, amusement parks, music shows, fine dining, fine junk food, or just simple "being," Branson is the place.

What I like best is that it is safe for the children. All the music shows have comedians, and they will have you laughing to tears. But not a single offensive word, not a single off color joke, not a single angry slap, will be made.

This is my absolute favorite time to visit Branson. The crowds have thinned, the colors are turning, and there is that delicious cool nip in the air. It is the start of an extending holiday season and everyday is a celebration.

There is so much to do there that it will take several installments to cover it, so the best way would be in logical order. Today I will start with places to stay.

There are hotels that fit every budget and I've stayed at a lot of them. Here are some of my favorites.

Big Cedar Lodge is a resort that can only be described as "rustic elegance." Surrounded by mountains, and lakes, the flora and fauna, it makes just staying there vacation enough. Throw in the fine dining, spa and fitness center, horseback riding, marina, golf, and special events, once I'm there I don't want to go anywhere else!

Visitors can either stay at the lodge, rent a cabin or cottage. We've done all three. This place is pricey, but well worth saving for.

Neal surprised me one anniversary with a romantic getaway at the lodge. The folks there couldn't have been more accommodating. A bottle of wine and two glasses commemorating our anniversary awaited us in our spacious room. the bed was luscious with its feather bed topper and down duvet. We strolled the many paths that were still beautiful even though it was winter. I highly recommend the champagne brunch.

The deluxe rooms have fireplaces and private balconies. The only draw back for some is that there is usually at least one deer head or a huge stuffed fish on the wall somewhere in the room. But Big Cedar is owned by Bass Pro Shops. So what can one expect?

The cabins and cottages are my favorite,and of course, the most expensive. But there is a kitchen and if you are traveling with friends, you could share the cost.

Chateau On The Lake is situated on Table Rock Lake. It looks like a castle. The atrium is breathtaking. It has an indoor stream that pools here and there, where I love to watch the Koi fish. There is a huge tree in the center, beautiful foliage and flowers. Birds sing from their perches. It brings the outside in.

There is a library lounge with a fireplace. It is the perfect place to find a comfy chair and read on rainy or cold days. There is a small bar in there and it is open in the evenings. It is so nice to sit by the fire with a glass of wine and friends.

There are several places to eat. I like them all. Especially the sweet shoppe. They have a small bit of shopping there, the usual souvenirs, and a small dress shop.

The rooms are comfortable. The only complaint I have is that the Internet isn't free. I can't quite figure it out. Cheap hotels = free Internet. Expensive hotels charge? Hmmmmmmm

The main strip where all the show are is Highway 76. There are many, many, resorts and hotels there. Just go to http://www.branson.com/ for ideas of where to stay. You will also find campgrounds and cabin rentals.

Neal and I love to trout fish and there are two fishing resorts on Lake Tanneycomo where we like to stay.

Ozark Trout Resort isn't fancy, but clean and comfortable. Lynn and Wanda Wilson, the owners, are friendly and very helpful with fishing advice and needs. The dock is open all year to fishing.

Lilley's Landing is next door to Ozark Trout. It is really nice, clean, comfortable. It has a great little store and a wonderful dock! It is a little more expensive than Ozark.

Both Ozark and Lilley's are close to the strip and so if the fishing is slow, there is always something to do. Personally, I like watching the water from the dock while writing.

Well, that should keep you busy deciding where to stay. Next up, what to do.

Monday, August 25, 2008

EPIPHANY


Hi Everyone.
I just returned from several speaking engagements in Missouri. While in Cape Girardeau my hostess took me a neat little place for breakfast called, "My Daddy's Cheesecake." A darling little place that isn't a chain! While enjoying a low fat Blueberry muffin and coffee, I told her that I couldn't wait to write about it. Then it dawned on me that I would have to wait a long time until I got to the "M" states. But if I waited the feeling of this place, the warm comoraderi of the locals, the eclectic mix of cultures drawn by the university here, would have lost it's freshness in my mind.
That is when it hit me. I can't continue to write about places to visit in the USA like I started out. First of all, you can read about anywhere in the states on the Internet. It is the personal experience that gives travel information its "sparkle."
I'd forget the charming interior, a great place to meet and catch up. The friendly staff that is attentive, but not intrusive. The fact is isn't a chain, but a real American success story that started as a daughter persuading her father to bake just four cheesecakes for the resturant she worked at and then persuaded her customers to try a piece of "my daddy's cheesecake."
The desserts became a local sensation and now in addition to having a successful store, they also ship desserts all across the country. And I can say in good authority that their food is yummy. I liked it so well that I returned for lunch before I left the Cape.
Visit their website at: http://www.mydaddyscheesecake.com/
So I've decided to change direction in this blog. I will write about places where either I have visited or a friend has recommended. Today I want to continue with the Cape.
I absolutely LOVE Missouri. Cape Girardeau is in the southeast part of the state just 118 miles south of St. Louis. If you happen to be visiting St. Louis, make some time to spend a few days in the Cape.
Cape Girardeau is on the Mississippi River. In the 1730's a Frenchman named Jean Baptiste Girardot established a trading post at a rock jutting from the bank which became known as Cape Rock. In 1793 the community was founded by Louis Lorimier, however, the town was named for Girardot and was called Cape Girardeau.
This place is full of history and that is exactly my cup of tea. The downtown area is a treasure mine of antiques. Shop after shop. And plenty of places to refresh yourself as well while resting your feet.
After many devestating floods, a flood wall was constructed to protect the downtown area. Along the wall are impressive murals depicting the Cape's history. Also on the wall is the "Missouri Wall of Fame," with paintings of the states famous sons and daughters. I was really surprised at some. Did you know that Walt Disney, Betty Grable, Bob Barker, and Sheryl Crow are from Missouri?
Nature is a big attraction. I visited in August. Although a little warm, they had plenty, almost too much, rain and the vegetation was dense and green. I could hardly keep my eyes on the road between the green fields and huge blue sky!
Be sure and visit the Trail of Tears State Park which is a memorial to the Cherokee who died on the forced march to Oklahoma beginning in 1838. This tragic part of our history is painful to even imagine. There is an Interpretive Center there and it really reminds us to treat our fellow man with compassion.
There is golfing and fishing, hiking and biking. And several wineries! For you shoppers there is a nice mall and the usual chains. For more information, visit the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau.

You will find some great bed and breakfasts there. Oh, and don't forget to visit My Daddy's Cheesecake!
.
NEXT UP: My absolute favorite place in the Show Me state of Missouri, BRANSON!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

METRO ALABAM!

I've never been to the metropolitian center of this state. So I'm relying on good information from the tourist board and the locals. For this part of the state I am going to focus on the city of Birmingham.

BIRMINGHAM:

It is estimated that the population is around 1,108,210. The city was founded in 1871 as a steel-making center and because of that the founders named the city after Birmingham, England, a principle industrial city.

Since that time Birmingham has evolved into an exciting cultural and historical destination. Yes, Europe, we consider 137 years a long time. ;)

You can spend a week or longer and not run out of things to do. Sports fans will enjoy the Sports Hall of Fame, art lovers will appreciate the Birmingham Museum of Art, history buffs will want to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Southern Museum of Flight. Music lovers be sure and go to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame,Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and for those of you who appreciate Ballet, Birmingham Ballet

There's a lot for the kiddos too! They will thrilled by the Alabama Adventure Theme Park and Birmingham Zoo.

There are golf courses, incredible shopping, and a broad spectrum of dining offerings from down home to world-class. And being a gardener, one of my fav attractions would be the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Where to stay?

If you want to save your money for all the fun and only plan to use your room as a place to drop off your luggage and a place to sleep, I highly recommend the Hampton Inn. Don't get me wrong, it is also a very nice, comfortable place to relax and unwind.

If I were you, I'd choose the sights I wanted to see and find a good central hotel.

What to wear?

Birmingham has a humid climate. Expect hot summers, mild winters, and abundant rainfall. January's average daily high temperatures of 53.0 °F (11.7 °C) and lows of 31.8 °F (−0.1 °C). In July the average daily high is 90.6 °F (32.6 °C) and the low is 69.7 °F (20.9°C). The average annual temperature in Birmingham is 62 °F (17 °C). Snowfall averages only 1.9 inches (4.8CM) March is normally the wettest month and October the driest. The spring and fall months are pleasant but variable as cold fronts frequently bring strong to severe thunderstorms and occasional tornadoes. The fall season features less rainfall and fewer storms, as well as lower humidity than the spring, but it is also a secondary severe weather season.


I hope this helps. All I know is that after researching this wonderful city, I WANT TO VISIT IT!


UP NEXT: The River Heritage area.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

SWEET HOME ALABAMA!






Hi Ya’ll! (Southernspeak for “all of you”)

Today is the beginning of my tour of the USA! Before I start I want you to know that I am not paid to do this in anyway. I simply do this for the love of traveling. If I omit a favorite place of yours, let me know. I will be happy to include your information. Either leave a comment or write me at lindacapple@gmail.com.

Today I’m beginning with our 22nd state, Alabama. From mountains to beaches, Alabama has it all! The Alabama Tourism Department divides the state into four regions: Mountain Region, Metropolitan Region, River Heritage Region, and the Coastal Region.

This is good. It will make my covering the state much easier. This morning we will visit the Mountain Region. I will highlight two places, Lake Guntersville and Huntsville, because my husband, Neal, has firsthand experience with both.

Huntsville

Neal’s parents once lived here while his father worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He was a rocket scientist. No kidding! J One of Neal’s favorite places to see was the US Space and Rocket Center. If you or anyone in your family is interested in aeronautics, put the on your “must see” list. This museum has an extensive collection of artifacts from the US space program and hands-on interactive exhibits and space travel simulators that the kids really enjoy, plus IMAX movies that take you on space walks and footage of astronauts living in space the spacecraft.
The museum is open 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Ticket prices vary depending on the package you buy. Prices are listed on their website: www.spacecamp.com/museum. Adult tickets start at $20.00 (£10.15/ €12.77) Children: $15.00 (£7.61/ €9.57)
Another fun museum is the North Alabama Railroad Museum, the smallest Union Station in the USA. It offers a museum plus a 1 hour train ride. Now I know that my friends in Europe have their daily fill of train rides. But this is a piece of our history, the way we traveled in the early 1900’s. Unfortunately, we do not have the wonderful railway system like the UK has today. Current admission is Adult: $4.00 (£2.03/ €2.55) Child: $2.00 (£1.01/ €1.27)

Where to stay? We stayed with the folks, however, in our other travels we really like the Hampton Inn Suites, http://www.hamptoninn.com/, They are reasonable, comfortable, clean and offer free breakfast every morning. A little more pricey but well worth it is the Hilton Garden Inn, http://www.hilton.com/

Where to eat? Well, as I wrote earlier we stayed with Neal’s parents, so we dined there. However, I’ve heard about a fabulous Italian restaurant, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and after visiting their site, http://carrabbas.com/, I’d like to try it the next time I visit.

You will find the usual chain restaurants in Huntsville. But let me recommend The Cracker Barrel for all of those outside the South. One complaint I heard from the UK folks who had visited the US is that the food wasn’t fresh, but canned. Well, at the Cracker Barrel you will find fresh food. And their pancakes! Maple, Pecan, Blueberry! To die for! And you can have them any time of day!

A word of warning to visitors from the UK – biscuits in the US is bread and on most southern breakfast menus you will find biscuits and gravy. In the US, what you call biscuits, we call cookies! Another thing, baked beans in the South are in a thick, sweet, sauce. What you call baked beans are like our canned pork and beans. You probably will not find beans on toast on most southern menus and bacon is thin, crispy strips of smoked pork. Not like your bacon which is more like our breakfast ham.

I’ve not had the pleasure of visiting other counties in Europe and beyond, therefore I am not aware of the differences in our cuisine. Hopefully, I’ll visit and learn one day.

How to dress? In the summer, cool! It gets really warm there. This week it will be 32C. What makes it so uncomfortable is the humidity. However, fall and spring is comfortable at 22C. Winter can be very chilly at 0.6C.

We in the South like comfy clothes and a lot of color. Don’t worry about standing out. You will see EVERYTHING here.

Situated on Alabama's largest lake, Guntersville Lake, with its 950 miles of shoreline, this small Southern town is a recreation bonanza. The city is renowned to anglers for its bass fishing and hosts various fishing tournaments year-round. Water sports include skiing, boating, jet skiing and sailing.

Guntersville

This town is situated on Alabama’s largest lake. Just imagine 950 miles of shoreline. Neal says it is a nature lovers paradise. If you like nature hikes, fishing, skiing, boating, or even golfing, this is the place for you. Guntersville lake encompasses 69,100 acres and stretches 75 miles.
.
Where to stay? Lake Guntersville Bed and Breakfast! I spoke with owner and innkeeper Carol Dravis this morning and I could tell right away that she is a warm and delightful person who loves what she does. She has owned the Inn for 14 years. The location of this B&B is ideal. It is on the tip of a peninsula so that the guest view of the lake is breathtaking. And for those of you who like to shop, it is a short walk to downtown. And if nature is your calling it is an equally short walk in the other direction to the state park. The best of both worlds!!!!

Carol read some of the comments she has received from guests. The consistent praise was that this B&B has a wonderful breakfast; the home was comfy, restful, and quiet.

I asked Carol what she served for breakfast. All I can say is WOW. She makes fresh squeezed juice, gourmet entrées that change each day, fresh fruit and breakfast breads, and sometimes a breakfast dessert. Woo Hoo! I’m all over that!
This place is so wonderful that people who visit actually plan to come live in Guntersville after retiring. Be sure and visit her website: http://www.lakeguntersvillebedandbreakfast.com/

For all of you anglers, Guntersville Lake is listed as one of the Pro Bass Tournament’s five favorite lakes. And I’ve heard that not too far away you trout fishermen can cast your lines, too.

Golfers, there is an 18-hole golf course at the Lake Guntersville State park. The course rating is 71.2. I’m not a golfer, so is that good? Probably is.

Where to eat? I’m sure that Carol will have great suggestions! J

Day Trip Suggestion:

Helen Keller’s Birthplace, Ivy Green.

One difference I noticed about the UK and the USA is how we celebrate our famous authors. While in Oxford, I had a hard time finding anything noting one of their most famous writers, C.S. Lewis. We finally found a fellow who gives tours and took us to C.S. Lewis’ home and haunts; however these places for the most part were not marked. And it they were it was hardly noticeable. Same for J.R.R. Tolkien.

If Mr. Lewis had been a son of the US, we would have at least preserved his home and opened it to the public, maybe throw in an annual C.S. Lewis Festival and have outdoor summer performances of one of his many novels. And maybe the wonderful folk in Oxford do just that and somehow I missed the information. I hope that is the case.

Alabamians certainly celebrate their famous daughter Helen Keller, author, activist, and speaker. When this amazing woman was nineteen months old, a serious illness left her deaf and blind. She was the first deaf and blind person to graduate college. Her home, Ivy Green, is just 70 miles west of Huntsville and 105 miles west of Guntersville. This sight is well worth the drive. Remember, in the US that is just a short distance away!

You will be inspired by Helen’s story, of how she learned to communicate with the outside world by a determined teacher and a water pump. Her home is preserved in its original state and the grounds are beautiful. I’ve been there twice and being the history buff with an overabundance of imagination I could stay there all day. Neal can’t, so I have to make do with a few hours.

The Helen Keller Festival is held in June and the summer performances run from June to the middle of July. For more information go to http://www.helenkellerbirthplace.org/index.html

NEXT UP: THE METROPOLITAN REGION

Remember! Suggestions and information are wanted! Questions? Write me and I’ll do my best to find out! Till next time!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

YA'LL COME OVER


Walmart had their yearly stockholder meeting a couple weeks ago here in Northwest Arkansas. I always look forward to this time of year because people from all over the world come to enjoy the festivities and have their vision for Walmart rekindled.

I stop and intoduce myself to people and ask where they are from, and chat a bit with them a bit, find out their life's histories. Sorry, but writers do that. We don't mean to be nosey, but we can't help it. Especially writers from the South!

This year I met three lovely people from the United Kingdom. One from Bath, one from Brighton, and the other from Manchester (I think) I told them about my blog and asked if they would be interested in reading about all the places of interest in the United States to visit. After all, it is a bargin here now for all of you with pockets full of Euros! They all agreed that they would like to come back and it would be helpful to know more about this country.


Soooooo, that is just what I'm going to do for a while.




To start off it may be helpful to get a feel for the size of the USA.
It is the 3rd largest country in the world measuring 9.83 million sq.km.

Some of the countries represented by my readers are as follows:
Croatia 56691 sq. km
The United Kingdom 243000 sq.km
New Zealand 270534 sq. km
Italy 301225 sq. km
Poland 312843 sq. km
Norway 323758 sq. km
Germany 356959 sq. km

Then there is Canada, the second largest country in the world at 10 million sq. km. I found these figures on the internet. If they are off, I apologize.

The USA is divided into five regions:

New England includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.



Mid-Atlantic includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C..



The South (woo hoo!) includes Alabama, Arkansas (my home state) Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.



The Midwest includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.



The Southwest includes Arizona, New Mexico, Okalhoma, and Texas.



The West includes Alaska, Colorado, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington (state) and Wyoming



As you can see seeing the USA would take a year (or more) and there is so much to see. The majority of world cultures are represented here.

I've decided to tackle this project in two ways. First, I will take a region and write about each state in that region and highlight notables places to see.

Second, for all who write expressing their interests and wondering where to go to in relation to that intereest, I will do the research and write about it. Or, if you have a specific area you are wondering about, let me know and if I haven't been there I'll find out.

Also, for those of you in the USA, write me about your area of the country and what it has to offer tourists including places to stay and eat. (gotta eat you know!)

Either comment on this blog or write me at lindacapple@gmail.com.

I'm going to begin with my roots first, The South! And I'll take each state alphabetically. So if there are any of you in Alabama who want to send me the must sees in your area, please do so.

Next week - ALABAMA!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ARUNDEL, That's in South England, ya'll


If you have a chance to stay in Arundel, do it! We visited here on our first trip to England in 2006. There is so much to do in this little town built on a hillside. Relaxing by the river Arun, antique shopping, rummaging through the book shops, eating, and of course the history. If you are a history buff, you will not be disappointed. Architecture buffs, you will be thrilled!

We arrived early afternoon and made the very short walk from the rail station to the Arundel Hotel where we stayed. A very comfortable and one of the most reasonably priced places in Arundel. The staff was incredible. I hope they are still there!



We walked up a flight of stairs to our room with our HEAVY luggage in tow (one of the best reasons to pack light)we found our room comfy and in suite (the bathroom was in our room)and stocked with a hot water pot, teas, and biscuits (cookies). Also remember, you most likely will not have an ice bucket or machine any where in the building. But I asked the sweet girl you see pictured here for ice and she gave me all I wanted. So just ask for ice if you want it.

We made the short walk to city centre and spent the rest of the day, browsing (since Arundel is on the hillside, make sure and wear comfortable shoes)and grazing at the pastry and sweet shops. When it came time for a real meal we ate at the Red Lion. I had the fish and chips, and Olivia ate the steak pie. Both were yummy!

The town closed up pretty early, can't remember what time exactly, so we went back to our hotel. The locals congregate at the bar inside and it's fun to sit and listen to all the town news. The internet is there too.

Breakfast is included in the room cost, and what a breakfast! Eggs, bacon (ham to us) beans, tomatoes, sausages, hot cereal, and toast served in a pretty sunroom. Eat big there and snack the rest of the day if you are on a budget. And that is exactly what we did. The second day was devoted to history. We toured the Arundel Castle, the Fitzalan Chapel, and the Arundel Cathedral. PLAN ON SPENDING THE ENTIRE DAY DOING THIS!

I'll start with the castle.

It is still a family home. Can you imagine that???? Therefore, it is closed for part of the year. Go to: www.arundelcastle.org/_pages/03_visitor_info.htm for the dates it is open, and more information.

There are no words for how incredible the castle is. Imagine being in the castle keep (where the king's treasures were kept)that was built a thousand years ago??? You will see the ancient part and the up-to-date family areas. Three are a thousand acres of parkland! Beautiful! The gardens are breath-taking, there is a resturant and gift shop. You will see incredible art, furniture, books, and learn so much from the guides. I learned that the steps in the keep were purposly made narrow on the right side when assending so the attackers would be hindered from sword fighting (as most were right handed. Lucky were the left handers)


The Fitzalan Chapel is on the grounds of the castle. It is actually split in two by a screen. One side is an Anglican parish church, the other the Fitzalan Chapel, the private chapel of the Dukes of Norfork which is Catholic. This chapel has quite a history. You will find tour guides there who will tell you how the chapel was once used as a stable while under seige. You will see where the horses chipped and broke the intricate carvings around the tombs.
The gardens around the chapel are simply lovely. The Arundel Cathedral is georgeous inside and out. While we were there a gentleman was playing the organ. I was told that it is one of the finest organs in England. Not bad for an 135-year-old instrument.

Arundel is a great place to make daytrips from. We went to Dover from there. However, don't make the mistake I did. Not being familiar with the train systems, I assumed that I could go straight from Arundel to Dover. Not so. The train went back up to London and down to Dover. There was several problems with the trains and the trip took hours to get there, cutting deep in our Dover time. Littlehampton is close by if you are interested in spending time on the beach.

All-in-all, I found a kindred spirit with all the "southern Englanders" The people were friendly and helpful. I'd love to go there once more.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Southern England



We have finally moved into our house in the middle of the woods. So deep in the country that we had to find a way to get hooked up to the internet. After much inquiry and searching we found Hughes Sattelite and are now reconnected the the world. My office is looking pretty sad right now. Everything is in boxes. That has been the reason for my delay on relaying my view of Southern England. Just a few more days and I will post on Greatham, Arundel, Dover, and a some of the villages in between.

After that blog, I will turn my attention to Central America for a bit.

I want to thank all of you for reading this blog. I have readers from eleven countries now and I appreciate everyone of you.

Since the dollar is so weak against the GBP and the Euro and who knows what other currencies, I want to invite you to continue visiting the USA. This is a vast country that is just waiting for you to explore. If you are interested in a particular region, or if you have a particular interest and want me to do some research for you, please write me and I will report back complete with pictures. I have friends all over this great nation who will gladly give the information that will make your visit to our wonderful country an excellent and satisfying one.

Either comment on this blog or write me at: lindacapple@gmail.com

Oh, I had to post my "Dover Sheep" pic. My hostess, Mandy, from Dover was kind enough to stop her car on a narrow road in the rain while I took this shot. I'm telling you, I love sheep. They are so much more interesting than the herds of cows I look at in the fields here in Arkansas!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Baaaath or Bawth







One of the most awkward words for me to say in England (and believe me I had trouble with a lot of them) was "Bath." You see, in the UK "a" is prounounced "aw." When I try to say "Bawth" I feel like I'm trying to be pretentious, but the lovely linguists in England look at me funny when I sound like I'm calling sheep saying "Baaath."



Oh well, no matter how you say it, Bath is a lovely place to visit. As I wrote in my last post, we couldn't find a place to stay in our price range in Bath, so we went to a B&B close to Gatwick Airport. From there we decided to make a day trip to Bath. Shortly after arriving, I realized we had made a baaaaad decision. No one can do justice to this incredible town in four hours. Especially if you are a dreamer like me. I could have spent four hours in the park imagining Jane Austin writing there!




Instead we walked every street. We didn't even eat! The first place we visited was Bath Abby (pictured at the beginning of this post) and the Roman Baths. The we toured every street of the town which was already being decorated for Christmas.







Exhausted we ended up at Parade Gardens Park where Pultney Bridge crosses the River Avon. There we collapsed and drank in the beauty. Bath is a lovely place to visit in the fall. (just make sure it isn't a bank holiday!)





Bath has soooo much to offer from nature, history, arts, and of course shopping. Plan on making it your home base and take day trips from there. For information on places to stay and all the wonderful things to do that we missed go to www.bath.co.uk.

I would have liked to have seen the older homes on the outskirts of town and experienced all the walking tours. But another time. I hope I may return there someday!

Up next, South England.




Thursday, February 14, 2008

GLAS"GLOW"







While on the train zipping to Glasgow I started a conversation with my seatmate. (If you've been keeping up with this blog, I know that doesn't surprise you! ) He asked where I was going and I answered, "Glasgow."

"Oh, wanting to do a bit shopping are you?"

"No, just seeing the sights. I'm from the US. Plenty of shopping there."

He nodded and went back to reading his paper. I thought his comment a little odd. But when we got off the train and hit Buchanan Street I understood. The shops were a lot how I remembered "downtown" before malls, only multiply it by ten! Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall Street, Argyle Street, are lined with fun shops, furniture stores, high fashion retailers. For all you "Mall Shoppers" there is the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre in the middle of Glasgow city center which boasts of at least 90 of the most popular retailers. All I can say is bring lots of money and comfy walking shoes.

Fortunately, for my pocketbook, I'm not much of a shopper. I eat, I like art, architecture, and history and Glasgow didn't let me down.

First order of business after leaving the station was to locate our lodgings. My sis-n-law had enough of hostel life so we reserved a room in the Smith Hotel on Sauchiehall Street. A Scottish angel noticed our clueless expression on where to find the hotel, took pity on us and gave us directions. So with our refridgerator size backpacks we trekked the 1 1/2 mile walk. Fortunately, it was downhill. I didn't even want to think of the return trip!

Smith Hotel was clean and secure. Our hostess was pleasant even though I couldn't understand a word of her English and she couldn't understand me. So we wrote each other notes. She put us on the third floor. Ugh, more stairs! The bathroom was right across the hall, so that was convenient.

Note: I've found no elevators in B&Bs or budget hotels. Think about that when you pack. Also, prepare yourself to see guys walking from the bathroom wrapped in a towel. Men! They don't have body image problems at all. Especially those who need too! Wish I were that liberated!
Included in the hotel price was a full Scottish breakfast which was enjoyable. I saw something new there. One offering on the menu was "beans on toast." It was literally what we in America know as canned pork and beans, poured over toast. A man next to me had a plate full and really seemed to enjoy it. Go figure.
After resting a while, we set out to find an internet cafe, our lifeline. Just around the corner was a tiny coffee shop named, Hal's Coffee Shop. He had one laptop but we seldom had to wait for our turn. The times we waited we enjoyed some of the best coffee I've ever drank.

Glasgow is more modern than Edinburgh. If you love art, this is the city for you. There you can peruse through the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, the Hunterian Art Gallery, and the Gallery of Modern Art. If you like the theatre, you will not be be disappointed. The only frustration you will experience is having time to visit them all.


If you love architecture, be sure and visit the University of Glasgow.

It is situated by a beautiful park, Kelvingrove. There are lush walks and jogging trails. The River Kelvin runs through it. There are many beautiful places to rest and reflect.


As I mentioned earlier, I like to eat! We came across Parker's Bar in the West End of Glasgow. It looked pretty busy, always a good sign when the locals are there, so we decided to give it a try. I was really hungry so I ordered the "tried and true" Steak and Ale Pie. It was really tasty, and I embarrassed myself by eating it all.


For the evening meal we chose Sutherlands Restaurant which was close to our hotel on Sauchiehall Street. And at Sutherlands I took the plunge and ordered Haggis. In case you don't know, Haggis is a Scottish dish that contains meats that would horrify my "food safety" husband.


Haggis usually contains sheep lung, heart, liver, onion, spices, oats, and is cooked in a sheep stomach. It is served alongside neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes)


I knew this, so the first bite was daunting. I found it to have the same mouth feel as ground beef and the nutmeg gave it such a pleasant taste. I liked it! In fact, I'd eat it again!


One other place I'd like to recommend is O'Neill's. This Irish Pub has great food. I ordered the Irish Stew, Olivia had the chicken breasts on colcannon, (mashed potatoes and cabbage) and Chee Chee had the Quorn Sausage Skewers. Oh, and when they "pull" your Guinness into the glass they form a shamrock in the foam. Kind of like swirling the top of an ice cream cone. Nice touch!
TIP:
A lot of our time in Glasgow was wasted trying to find lodgings for our next stop. We ran into a problem because it was a school holiday for the entire UK. Every B&B and hotel in our price range and beyond was full. If I had known this, I would have arranged for lodgings before we left the US. But we didn't want to be slaves to a schedule. Good idea, but bad results.
Make a note of the school schedules in the UK.
Academic year 2008-2009
Autumn term
Autumn Half Term: from 27 October 2008 to 31 October 2008
Christmas Holidays: from 22 December 2008 to 02 January 2009
Spring term
Spring Half Term: from 16 February 2009 to 20 February 2009
Easter Holiday: from 06 April 2009 to 17 April 2009
Summer term
Summer Half Term: from 25 May 2009 to 29 May 2009
Summer Holiday: from 23 July 2009 to 31 August 2009
If your trip falls into one of these holidays, make your arrangements before you come. That way you won't waste time at the computer trying to find a place to stay.
I finally found a B&B close to Gatwick. Since Chee Chee was leaving several days before Olivia and I we decided to stay there for her conviences and make a day trip to Bath.
We had a plan, and it was time to leave. I dreaded lugging that backpack on the 1 1/2 mile walk uphill. But I think what really made my steps heavy was because I was leaving Scotland.







Monday, January 28, 2008

LOVING EDINBURGH



“But to see her was to love her, Love but her, and love forever”~Robert Burns








The only thing I didn't like about my visit to Scotland was that I couldn't stay at least two months. Heck, I could have spent that long just in Edinburgh! What a beautiful city. So rich in history and such beautiful people.

We spent two days on the Royal Mile, a feast for the eyes, the senses, and taste buds! It is one Scottish mile long and is the main thorough fare through historical Edinburgh. You will see shops of all kinds, many Scottish souvenir stores complete with men in kilts playing bagpipes, dress shops, Kilt makers, woollen mills, wonderful eateries and pubs.

Of course, my weakness is history. I have a permanent crick in my neck from looking up at the beautiful architecture. It is a good thing the mile is pedestrian friendly because I didn't watch where I was going.







If you love history you will want to spend a lot of time at the castle. This place is amazing. It is like a little town of it's own and if you have an imagination as big as mine, you will want time to recreate what life must have been like there. Be sure and take advantage of the audio tour guide, better yet the guided tours. When I return I think I'll for that. It has great historical information. I had to laugh when I heard about the One O'clock Gun that is fired Monday through Friday. The reason it isn't shot at twelve, as one would think it should, is because of the famous frugality of the Scots. After all why shoot twelve shells when one will do?

And the Crown Jewels! Don't miss them. Don't miss any of it.

Walking in Edinburgh is a lot like walking in San Francisco. It seemed that we were always walking up hill, climbing steps, and walking up another hill. All that walking made us hungry, so we stopped in a pub called BUDDY MULLIGANS PUB. It was really roomy for a pub and the food was great. They have a soup of the day, jacket potatoes (we call them baked potatoes) fish cakes, Sandwiches, salads, all day breakfast, steaks, Irish Stew, Steak and Guinness Pie (yummmmmm) and, of course, haggis. I hadn't worked up my courage to try that yet.

We like Buddy's so much we went there for lunch and for dinner. It just so happened that the World Cup Rugby championship was being played that night between South Africa and England. We stayed to watch. I didn't know what I was watching, but it was exciting! Also try a place called The Malt Shovel. Ask for their Butternut Squash Soup.

Be sure to visit the National Art Gallery. My favorite painting was of Hagar crying. I could feel her emotion, her pain for her child. It is an incredible work.

Since we decided to extend the same courtesy to Scotland as we did in England by not driving, we walked everywhere. Being on a tight budget prevented us from taking taxies. This limited our tour of Edinburgh, but we managed to fill our days on and around the mile.

After a couple of days of city life, we escaped to the Firth of Fourth. I've already described our hostel experience there, but not the long, quiet, walks along this beautiful shore. The one thought that kept running through my mind was, I can't believe I'm here. We walked about a mile to a little harbour village called Cramound. On the way I noticed a building to my left. It was a Roman bath built centuries ago. It wasn't open to the public, but still, to see something built so long ago right there. What fun!

While we walked about Cramound we found a pub called Cramound Inn. We had fresh tomato soup, fish, fresh bread, oh, so good. The staff was friendly and went out of their way to serve us. We had a great experience there.

After only only four days in Edinburgh, we had to leave for Glasgow. Some day I want to return and prowl to my hearts content. Until that day arrives, I will relive my days there remember how much I love the town of Edinburgh.

Next up, Glasgow!


































Tuesday, January 22, 2008

SCOTLAND!

Hi Everyone! I apologize for the long time between posts. My husband, Neal, and I are trying to finish our home in the county and it has taken our time from dawn to dusk. Hmmmm, sounds like a vampire movie!

I hope to elaborate in a post aobut our time in Edinburgh sometime this weekend. We had such fun and ate a lot of great food. The National Art Gallery, Wow! So many things to do and see. In fact, I think my husband and I will return to celebrate our 30th anniversary which occured this January 15th. He is a Campbell and I am a Leslie. We need to go back to our roots!

Anyway, pictures and recommendations will be coming along this weekend!