Tag Archives: travel

I’m baaaaaaack!

Thank you dear readers for your patience and support while I took a little time off from blogging. The Complete Package and I took three weeks off to explore Europe on what could easily be classified as the “trip of a lifetime.” Wondering where we went? Okay, I’ll tell you anyway {wink}.

First, we went here:

The Peace Palace - Den Haag (The Hague), Netherlands

The Hall of Knights - Den Haag (The Hague), Netherlands

Inside the Hall of Knights - Den Haag (The Hague), Netherlands

As a special bonus during our week in The Netherlands, I got to meet and spend a day with one of my blog readers, Claudia. Together, we spent a fabulously fun day in Rotterdam. It’s a day I will never forget, and I’ll be sharing more about it in a later post. (Hi, Claudia! Love you!)

Then we went here:

The Hagia Sophia - Istanbul, Turkey

Inside the Blue Mosque - Istanbul, Turkey

Shopping at the ancient Spice Market - Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul was a revelation. It has been on The Complete Package’s travel wish list for years. I’ll admit, I had some reservations but I was not going to let them stop me from going. And now that I’ve been? Well, let’s just say I couldn’t have been more ignorant or wrong. Istanbul was fabulous and friendly and ancient and fascinating, and I LOVED it. My heart breaks for the victims of last week’s earthquake in eastern Turkey and my prayers are with them all.

And finally, we went here:

St. Nicholas Church, Bridge Tower & Castle - Prague, Czech Republic

Senate Building & Gardens - Prague, Czech Republic

A Sunset Walk below Prague Castle - Prague, Czech Republic

Prague was gorgeous. There is something lovely and ancient around every corner. I don’t think I’ve seen a better collection of fabulously ornate churches since Paris, and I’m not sure some of Prague’s aren’t better. Take the St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle, for instance. Holy cow (pun intended). Words can hardly describe it, so I’ll be sharing more photos later. Lots of photos.

Speaking of photos, we took over 7,000 of them in our three weeks away. I’ll need some time to go through them all, but once I do I’ll be posting separate stories for each of the cities we visited and I’ll also be sharing my day with Claudia in Rotterdam.

Which brings me to one last point I want to share. Blogging gives me the opportunity to share some of the craziness that floats randomly through my brain, and I love that you not only allow me to do it, you seem to enjoy reading along. But my favorite thing about blogging, hands down, is the friends I’ve made along the way. You, my dear readers, are why I keep writing. I love your input, your comments and your support. So thank you for sticking with me, for allowing me to take a few weeks off to enjoy some very special time with TCP, and for coming back again and again. I love you more than chocolate. And you know how much I love chocolate.

So stay tuned, kids! I’m going through photos and trying to wrap my head around the past three weeks. Once I do, we’ll be off to the races with tons of photos and stories to share. It’s good to be back!



Filed under Travel Tales

Musings on Austin, Motorcycles, Grandkids & Sleep Deprivation

Well, it’s Tuesday and I’ve just wrapped up 10 action-packed days with the grandbabies, Jonah Bear and Lilly Bug. I thought I would feel bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after a recuperative night’s sleep, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I was up until 3:00am, and I’m feeling totally wiped out. So instead of crafting a dazzling literary recap, I’m opting for a random run-down of what transpired. I apologize in advance for taking the lazy way out. Forgive me. I beg of you.

1. Our adventure started June 10th when The Complete Package saddled up the motorcycle and Ziggy and I manned the “support vehicle” for our trip to Austin. It was our annual pilgrimage for the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally. TCP attends the bike rally; Ziggy and I spend the weekend with the kids. The ROT Rally is said to be the largest in Texas and one of the biggest in the US. Approximately 200,000 participants were expected. This year, TCP entered his new motorcycle in an open division contest and took second place in the Metric Custom category. Got a trophy and everything. My Baby and I took the kids downtown to watch the motorcycles parade past the state capitol and down Congress Avenue on Friday evening. Have you ever seen a motorcycle parade that runs for 11 uninterrupted miles and takes more than 30 minutes to pass? It’s pretty awesome, even if you’re not that into motorcycles. The kids were enthralled, and seeing their Papi ride by in the parade was a highlight. In their minds, Papi (TCP) is now a rock star. You go with your bad self, Papi. Here’s a shot of his bike, or as I like to refer to it – “the other woman”.

2. Bama Boy, our son-in-law, introduced us to his favorite meat market. It’s called Johnny G’s and it’s located in Manchaca, just south of Austin. It is best described as a small, family run meat palace. We bought two hand-cut ribeye steaks for Bama Boy and TCP (about 1.5″ thick) and two smaller steaks for My Baby and I. Then we snagged some smoked jalapeno cheese sausage and some spices. It’s a great little Mom & Pop shop, and those ribeyes were Uh-May-Zing.

3. Turns out Peter Pan is alive and well and recruiting Lost Boys in the Austin area. Who knew? If I could bottle Jonah Bear’s energy, I’d be a guhzillionaire.

4. If you take two kids and two adult women, put them in a car in the dark of night with a multi-colored flashing disco ball light stick and a cool blue light saber, add vintage rock music and park them at a Sonic Drive-In, you’re bound to draw attention. It may or may not have been a coincidence that a police cruiser pulled in just as we were leaving. Look, kids! It’s the Fuzz!

5. There’s no such thing as “too many pancakes” or “enough donuts.”

6. Behold the power of cheese! (Remember those commercials?) Hi, Lilly Bug.

7. After spending 6 days in Austin, I brought the kids back to Houston to spend the weekend at our place. My Baby and Bama Boy were celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary, so a kid-free weekend seemed like an appropriate gift. It was a total win-win for all of us. We wore those kids out. Wore ’em out good!

8. This weekend, Jonah Bear and TCP made homemade cherry pecan ice cream and lasagna. There’s nothing better than men who cook, except for men who cook and then do their own dishes. At 4 years old, Jonah is really getting into the cooking part. We’ll work on washing dishes another time. As for TCP, the man can scour a pan. And no, you can’t have him. And no, he doesn’t have a brother.

9. If I’ve seen Disney’s Tangled once, I’ve seen it a millions times. Jonah Bear usually pretends to be the hero. Lilly is the leading lady. I’m usually the villain (totally against type, I know) and Ziggy is the sidekick. This time, Jonah decided the bad guys were cooler, so he played the roll of the Stabbington brothers (twins). That’s right. Just when you think one bad guy’s enough, Disney produces twins. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a really cute movie. My favorite character – the little old cupid dude at the very end. Makes me laugh every single time.

10. Jonah Bear cried when it was time to head home. I cried when he started crying. Then TCP started crying. I’m telling you, we were one hot mess. Everything you’ve heard about being a grandparent is true. There is such joy in watching your babies grow up and have babies of their own. There is such freedom in enjoying your grandbabies without the stress and anxiety you felt with your own children. You really do learn a lot with age, and there’s a great sense of peace that comes with knowing you didn’t screw it up. Our daughter is amazing. Our son-in-law is a blessing. Their children are the greatest gift ever, and in all seriousness, we couldn’t love them more. Life is good. Really good.

Now if you’ll excuse us, Ziggy and I could really use a nap. A really long nap.


Filed under Family Stuff

Travel Tip: Hit the Street Markets

One of my favorite things about travel is exploring street markets. No matter where we go, you can bet I’ll be looking for a good market. If you’re a regular reader, you know we hit the German Christmas markets HARD in November.

I’m no expert, but I think Paris has the most beautiful shopping stalls. So lovely.

The Complete Package is a big fan of the Petaling markets in Kuala Lumpur. He likes to spend quality time browsing there when he travels to KL for business.

I loved the markets on Amsterdam’s canals and squares. Oh, the glorious cheese!

And I have very fond memories of a farmer’s market in McMinnville, Oregon and the dry-roasted hazelnuts, huckleberry syrup and artisan cheese I bought directly from the hard-working farmers who produced them. Let’s not forget the Pike Street Market in Seattle. Give me a grande Starbucks vanilla latte and a tub of Beecher’s cheese curds, and I’m a very happy camper. I really love Seattle.

But one market we BOTH loved was Camden Lock northwest of London. If I had to choose a favorite street market right now, this would be it. Hands down. It’s indoors and outdoors. It’s old and new. It’s also fun, funky, and wildly popular.

There really is a lock at Camden Lock. It regulates boats along the Regent’s Canal as is runs through the heart of Camden Town. The markets can be found along several streets, along the canal, and in the old Camden Stables. The heart of Camden Town has been home to one type of market or another since horses pulled boats to the Thames in the 1800’s. Old meets new here in an exciting way.

While you browse, don’t forget to take advantage of the food stalls. We followed our noses to a small stand where morning orange juice is squeezed to order while you wait. Then we followed our stomachs to this little Chinese food vendor for lunch. And a few days later, we followed them back to eat there again.

Camden is also known for its dynamic music scene and numerous pubs. If an English pub crawl is on your “to do” list, you may want to consider jumping the Tube for the short ride from London. Think of it as your public designated driver. While you’re there, keep an eye out for Amy Winehouse. She is known to frequent the pubs of her hometown. Who’s surprised? Anybody? No? {crickets} Here’s a photo of my favorite resident of Camden Town. Little tough guy.

The thing I loved most about the Camden Lock market is the atmosphere. It’s so far removed from the sedate, conservative lives we live at home. It’s not just fun, it’s funky. And it’s not just outrageous, it’s totally over the top. Camden is exciting, and gritty, and exotic, and fascinating. If variety is the spice of life, the markets of Camden are a multi-sensory feast. And this is one party you’ll want to attend over and over again (if you’re of age & behave responsibly, of course).

I'm pretty sure Sexy Goth are two words that will never be used to describe me.

I'm confused. Are they selling scorpions or shoes? It's Camden, so it's probably both.

I'm not going in there, but that facade is definitely a work of art.

There are so many markets I haven’t seen yet – the grand bazaar in Istanbul, the wet markets of Bangkok, the historic downtown market in Philadelphia. There are far too many to list. It’s a big, wide world out there, and I intend to see as much of it as I can before I ring the bell at the Pearly Gates, if I get that lucky. So, please share your suggestions. Where do you go when you “hit the streets”? I’d love to add your favorites to my list!


Filed under Travel Tales

Travel Tip: See the Bison at Yellowstone

I love to travel, and this is one for your bucket list. One of those “things to see before you die” adventures. Everyone should go to Yellowstone National Park at least once in their lifetime. And while you’re there, say hello to one of their most impressive residents, the American Bison. They are magnificent. And the beautiful thing about seeing them in Yellowstone is that you not only see them in a completely natural habitat, you see them up close. I mean really up close. Once in a lifetime up close. And when you do, you’ll fall head-over-heels in love with bison. Furry, mangy coats and all. These beasts are awe-inspiring.

See that gray bar in the bottom left corner? That’s the frame of our car window. This guy was in the middle of the road and close enough to touch. We would never do that (without wetting our pants), but that’s how close he was. Oh, and for the city slickers – never fear! You can still enjoy encounter traffic issues. Sometimes it’s due to the number of tourists in the park, but sometimes it’s due to a more specific type of traffic issue – a bison jam. And no, I’m not kidding.

And as if that wasn’t enough, those park rangers go ahead and throw in some spectacular scenery. Just for your viewing pleasure. They’re friendly like that.

NanaBread’s Yellowstone travel tips:
1. To beat the crowds, go in mid-May. As a bonus, it’s “baby” season in Yellowstone, and you’ll get to see all the new additions to the park.
2. We preferred the north and south entrances, but it doesn’t really matter how you get there. The important thing is to get there.
3. When you go, try to stay for at least a week and plan to spend each day driving a different section of this enormous national treasure. You should see it all.
4. For stunning mountains, stay near the south entrance and Jackson, Wyoming. For incredible vistas and bountiful wildlife, stay near the north or northeast entrance to the park. For shopping, museums and tourist attractions, stay near the west entrance of the park.
5. Pack your camera, your zoom lenses, and a spotting scope (if you have one) every time you venture out into the park.
6. Pack a picnic and a cooler of drinks each day; you never know when the perfect spot for a picnic may arise and it can be hours before you get to the next store or restaurant. That goes for gas stations, too.
7. Take advantage of the ranger talks, visitor centers, and locals for information on weather, animal sightings, photography gems, etc. Information is invaluable in a place this large.
8. Pack layers of clothing and rain gear; temperatures can drop and rise with elevation and storms. Always be prepared.
9. Invest in a good book or fold-out guide on the animals and plants you may encounter in the park; it helps enhance your experience, especially when traveling with children.
10. Take your time. Relax. Enjoy the gorgeous scenery and the clean air, and take a million photos. Once you’re gone, you’ll miss this magical place, and you’ll want to remember it forever.


Filed under Travel Tales

Travel Tip: See the Oregon Coast

Years ago, my in-laws took an RV down the coast of Oregon, and for years after, they shared stories of that trip and how beautiful it had been. Two years ago, The Complete Package and I decided to follow in their footsteps and drive the Oregon coast. We don’t own an RV, but a rental car works just as well. You see, it doesn’t matter how you get there, you just need to get there. Give yourself at least one week. Two would be even better. You’ll understand why when you get there. Don’t try to rush it. Scenery like this should be savored and deeply appreciated. And you will definitely want to linger.

This story is dedicated to my father-in-law who passed away 2 years ago. Thanks for encouraging us to get out and see the world while we still can.


Filed under Travel Tales

Things I Love, Volume 6: Lighthouses

I can’t explain it, but I am inexplicably drawn to lighthouses. I’m pulled toward them like a ship in the night. There is no real explanation for this. I did not grow up anywhere near a large body of water or a lighthouse. And yet, when I travel I am drawn to them like my brain has been hard-wired to seek them out. Maybe it’s the romance of being alone in the mist, calling sailors home. Maybe it’s the allure of a solitary life on the coast with a simple purpose. Maybe it’s those ornate glass lenses and the powerful light they create. Or maybe it’s just that they’re pretty and I like to stare at them. Whatever the reason, I’ve seen some beautiful lighthouses and thought I’d share a glimpse of them with you.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse - Bass Harbor, Maine

Cape Blanco Lighthouse - on the Oregon coast

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse - Washington state

Cape Meares Lighthouse - Oregon Coast

Umpqua River Lighthouse - Oregon Coast

Yaquina Head Lighthouse - Oregon Coast

Kilauea Lighthouse from the overlook - Kauai, Hawaii

Kilauea Lighthouse with Hula Dancers - Kauai, Hawaii

View of Kilauea Lighthouse from Secret Beach - Kauai, Hawaii

Heceta Head Lighthouse - Oregon Coast

View of Oregon Coast from the Heceta Head Lightkeeper's House

My favorite - Heceta Head Lighthouse - Oregon Coast

This last one is my personal favorite. We got to spend one night in the Lightkeeper’s House (a B&B) during our trip down the Oregon coast. It was fabulous. We had a room with a view of the lighthouse, which made the best nightlight ever. We walked to the lighthouse late at night with our flashlights and laid on a bench watching the light beam circle around and around, bouncing off the trees and rock cliffs as it circled toward the coast. We had the most spectacular 2 hour, 7 course breakfast the next morning – I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was a magical, wonderful place. And it just cemented my love of lighthouses. I’m smitten. Bewitched. Addicted. Entranced. And I just can’t imagine ever getting enough.


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And now, a word from our sponsors…

Rick Steves, Burt Wolf & Joseph Rosendo - the best travel show hosts on PBS

Okay, I lied. These guys did NOT sponsor our vacation in any way, but they did influence it. Heavily. So it’s their fault. Really and truly, I blame them. If it weren’t for these three guys, I would never have known about the German Christmas Markets. I could have lived my life in ignorant bliss, but they wouldn’t let me. They had to put it out there on television and taunt/haunt me with it.

For starters, The Complete Package and I do not have cable. I know it’s barbaric, but we don’t support being voluntarily robbed of $80+ a month for 1,600 channels of crap. Sorry for the language, but that’s how we feel about it. Instead, we enjoy the “basic 10” channels, and are lovers of all things PBS. That’s how all of this got started, and that’s why I’m calling out these three guys for planting a seed in my head that I just couldn’t shake. For example, if I say “brownies” you’re going to spend the rest of the day craving brownies. It’s the same principle. Ooooo…brownies. Ahhhh…Christmas markets.

These three gentlemen produced three separate shows about German Christmas Markets, and my obsession was born. And that’s where my beloved, The Complete Package, stepped in. Since he had to go to The Netherlands for a week on business, he invited me to tag along. And since the German Christmas Markets were only an hour away by plane, he said we might as well take another week to hop on over there and check them out. Wow, honey. I love you so much right now! And so that’s exactly what we did. After our week in The Hague and our weekend in Amsterdam, we jumped a flight to Stuttgart and started a week-long adventure I call “ChristmasMarketPalooza.” See, kids? Sometimes dreams really do come true. You just have to keep believing. And watching PBS. Especially Rick, Burt and Joseph. Thank you guys. Really, I mean it. This trip never would have happened without you and your travel shows.

So stay tuned, readers. Next up is Germany, and you won’t want to miss this!

German Christmas Markets - my travel dream come true!


Filed under Travel Tales

How I spent my Thanksgiving vacation…

The Complete Package and I just got back from an awesome 16-day trip. I can’t wait to share more with you in the coming week, but first I need a shower, a good night’s sleep, some Boston Terrier lovin’ and a large pot of really good coffee. Until then, I’ll leave you with this. We went somewhere I’ve never been beforeand saw beautiful places and remarkable things I’ve always wanted to seeand did a little shopping and lots of walking and sight-seeing while we were there. Any guesses? (And yes, family members and close friends, you are exempt from guessing.) I can’t wait to tell you all about it, but right this very minute I’m jet-lagged, blurry-eyed, & a little funky from a long plane ride. We’ve been up for 22 straight hours, and all I can focus on is my tempurpedic mattress. I’ll admit I’m a little depressed that we missed Thanksgiving with our families, but it was worth it…just this once. I hope yours was filled with family, friends and fabulous food.
PS – I took a buhzillion photos on this trip, so stay tuned!


Filed under Travel Tales

Dishin’ Some Dirt on Great Gardens

When I travel, there are always three things I look for as entertainment – museums, old churches and gardens. Today, I’m focusing on gardens. I love me some gardens. There’s a true art and beauty to a well maintained garden. I love and appreciate the people who toil in them every day seeking perfection and accepting that they probably won’t get it. When I visit a garden, I like to take my time and enjoy it slowly. Sometimes I’ll meander and take pictures for hours. It makes me a happy girl. I’ve been fortunate enough to see some really great ones. Here are a few I love. I hope you get the chance to see them, too.

The Japanese Gardens in Seattle:

Walking Path at The Japanese Gardens in Seattle, Washington

This small garden is a gem. It was pouring down rain the day I visited and I still enjoyed every minute of it. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have a serious crush on Japanese maples. I tried to grow one here in South Texas, but it just gasped and died and broke my heart. I strolled in this garden for 2 hours and only saw one other person. Maybe it was the rain, but I didn’t care. I was alone in a living piece of art, and it was spectacular. If you’re going to Seattle, put it on your list.

Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia:

The Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island

Oh, Canada! Words can’t begin to describe this remarkable garden. Privately owned by the Butchart family, it was started in 1904 by Jennie Butchart to beautify an old abandoned rock quarry. It easily wins my vote for best and most creative make-over of a giant hole. The sheer volume of dirt and plants it took to make this 55 acre masterpiece come to life are mind-boggling. It’s a top attraction in Victoria, and continues to stun and enthrall visitors year-round. There are many gardens within the grounds – a bog garden, a sunken garden, a rose garden, an Italian garden, etc. When you go to Vancouver Island, save some room in your schedule for Butchart Gardens. You won’t regret it.

The Gardens of the Palace at Versailles, outside of Paris:

The Gardens of Versailles and the Grand Canal

Most people visit Versailles to tour the palace and without a doubt, it is palatial. The Hall of Mirrors, the art collection and the lavender glass chandeliers alone are worth seeing. But it’s also miserably crowded with tourists who try the patience of even the kindest soul. For me, the real treasures are the gardens which date back to the 1660’s. They cover 800 hectares of land (that’s 8,000 acres). If this is on your bucket list, pack your walking shoes and your camera, buy a tram ticket to get out to the far ends of the property, and prepare to spend a full day taking it all in. Here are my favorite gardens at Versailles.

The Orangerie:

The Orangerie at Versailles - Part of It, Anyway!

It is exactly what it sounds like – a formal garden for Louis XIV’s 3,000 orange trees. Built between 1684 and 1686, it was one of the earliest structures at Versailles and was carved out of the southern slope of the palace to provide oranges in the winter. The formal design and its sheer size make this garden a stunner. I love how orderly it is. If you’re a neat freak, this is your garden. There’s not one thing out of place. This photograph shows less than half of this remarkable space. I found it hard to comprehend the history of this place. This garden is 350 years old. Wrap your head around that for a minute. Incredible!

The Botanical Gardens at the Trianon:

The Botanical Gardens at Petite Trianon, Versailles

In 1750, Louis XV commissioned the botanical gardens at Versailles. The Petite Trianon was built as a residence for the king so he could be closer to his new botanical garden and his long-time mistress, Madame de Pompadour, who died before it was completed. Eventually, it became the exclusive playground of Marie Antoinette, who (it is said) much preferred the peaceful gardens to the palace at Versailles. The botanical gardens of the Trianon and the adjacent hamlet became her refuge. It is said that no one was allowed to enter the gardens or grounds of the Petite Trianon or the hamlet without her permission. And it’s the hamlet that became my favorite garden at Versailles.

The Hamlet of Marie Antoinette:

I love this rustic arbor with its peek-a-boo garden view

I know why she escaped here. It is the anti-Versailles. While the palace was formal, grand and political, the hamlet replicated a small peasant village. Made up of small thatch-roofed houses and barns, it’s like a trip back in time to a rural French, well…hamlet. There are no palaces, no ballrooms, no pretense or snobbery. It is so peaceful here. There are barns with animals and gardens filled with vegetables and a vineyard that still grows grapes for the wines bottled in Marie Antoinette’s honor. I can’t describe it all, but I fell in love with it. If I had to choose between the palace full of fancy-pants politicians or the gardens with goats and cows and milkmaids, I’d choose the hamlet, too. If you do make it to Versailles some day, buy a tram ticket out to the hamlet and spend some quality time there. It will provide a remarkable contrast to the crowds inside the palace.

Cottage Garden in the Hamlet, Versailles

For me, gardens are magical places. It doesn’t matter if it’s a formal garden, a butterfly garden, a park or a small patch of dirt in your own back yard. I love them all. You never know what’s going to happen when you plant something. You could get something spectacular, or all hell could break loose. All it really takes is time, determination and hope, which reminds me of my pineapple plant that looks fabulous but won’t produce a baby pineapple. I don’t understand it. I’ve loved and nurtured it for 5 years, and I refuse to give up. I just want my baby pineapple! Okay, so gardening can sometimes require patience, but it can also be very rewarding. My motto for gardening makes a great motto for living: “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and fertilize” (credited to Emily Whaley). Some days it’s more about working like hell…some days it’s more about fertilizing, if you know what I mean. What do you think, dear readers? Post a comment. I’d love to hear more about your favorite gardens. Let’s dish some dirt!


Filed under Travel Tales

HomeAway Ruined Hotels for Me

I’m not a spokesperson for HomeAway.com, paid or otherwise. But I am a fan and a frequent user of their service because it has provided me with some of the best vacation experiences ever. Have you seen the site? It and VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) have changed the way we vacation. We’ve had so many great experiences that I am forever ruined where hotels are concerned. You can search for vacation rentals worldwide and find places that suit your preferences – like air conditioning, a laundry room, king size beds, waterfront or downtown locations, and much more. They post photos so you can see the homes in detail, and I always pay attention to the comments from previous renters to see what they thought of each place. You have to do your research on these sites, but the results can be fabulous. Like this house in Hanalei on Kauai’s north shore:

NamiNori House in Hanalei, Kauai

Wow. It’s a great house in a fabulous location – just off the historic Hanalei Pier on beautiful Hanalei Bay. Dr. Beach named this the best beach in the world in 2009. And now I know why.

Hanalei Bay and Pier, Kauai

We spent 9 glorious days on this beach in May, and it was stunning. Hanalei is a wonderful laid-back surfer town on the lush, mountainous north shore of Kauai. It’s quiet, beautiful, and it’s worth adding to your bucket list. A walk on the beach here is like a walk through warm powdered sugar. And sunsets over the bay are spectacular and only a few steps from your door. One week here is not enough. Yep, this beats a hotel for me any day.

Children Enjoying the Sunset in Hanalei

Then there’s the fabulous house we rented in Paradise Valley, Montana. This beauty is north of Yellowstone National Park, and we enjoyed the house as much as we enjoyed the park. Let me tell you something – they call it Paradise Valley for a reason. And this beautiful place is my idea of paradise. The house is three stories built into a rolling hill overlooking the Yellowstone River, and everything about this beautiful home was perfection. This was such a wonderful vacation. And after long days in Yellowstone National Park, this living room with its rock fireplace and its stunning view of the mountains was our refuge. Laying on that sofa looking out over those mountains is good for your soul.

Loch Leven Living Room - Paradise Valley

And I would be happy forever if I could use this kitchen every day. I mean it.

The Kitchen - Paradise Valley House

And imagine having access to this view of the Absaroka Mountains as a sunset storm blows through the Yellowstone River valley. Words can’t explain it.

View of the Absaroka Mountains

Nope. No, sir…I am not missing those hotel rooms. Not one little bit.

And let’s not forget the farmhouse in Southwest Harbor, Maine, outside of Acadia National Park. This place has very special memories for me, since my daughter and her family joined us on this vacation. Little Jonah Bear was only two. It’s a lot of fun seeing the world through a two-year old’s eyes again.

Farmhouse in Southwest Harbor, Maine

This farmhouse built in the 1880’s has so much history and charm. It’s only 900 feet from the Atlantic ocean and you can pick fresh apples in the fall in the back yard. I know this because I baked a pie with those apples. Again, it’s another example of what HomeAway has done for our vacation experience. Southwest Harbor, Maine is located on Mount Desert Island along with Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. It’s on the “quiet side” of the island, away from the crowds that flock to Bar Harbor. It’s a working fishing village, and it’s so peaceful and quaint here. It’s like something out of a storybook.

Southwest Harbor, Maine

Fall in Acadia National Park is crisp and colorful and magical. Once you’ve been there, you’ll never forget it. Especially if you love fall leaves and fishing villages and the ocean and sailboats and lobsters.

Somesville Bridge on Mount Desert Island

And I’ll never forget the cabin on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in Montana. We loved this place more than words can describe. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a view like this from a hotel room.

Lake McDonald from Fox Run Cabin

This place had to have been built back in the 1930’s or 40’s and is one of the few private residences inside the park. In fact, it was built before the park was created.

Cabin on Lake McDonald, Glacier Natl Park

It was on the southwest shore of the lake and had a spectacular view of the mountains. Glacier is one of my very favorite places on earth. It’s gorgeous, pristine, rugged and endangered. There are very few glaciers left in Glacier National Park. I’m glad we got to see them before they’re gone. This place is magical if you’re a nut for mountains and water like me. Those glaciated lakes with their unnaturally blue water just knock me out. And don’t get me started on bear grass. I love bear grass so very much. It speaks to me. It says, “Come run through the fields with us and sing ‘The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music!’

Bear Grass in Glacier National Park

Can you see now why a hotel room holds no charm for me? I have discovered that I don’t need room service, or valet parking, or overpriced mini-bar peanuts. I need peace and quiet, and breathtaking scenery, and all the comforts of home, and a significant absence of crowds. Yep, HomeAway.com is one of my favorite things about the internet. And I’ll never get excited about a hotel room ever again.


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