Craft the Travel, Worldschooling

England: The City of London

For the start and finish of our UK journey, LONDON!

I always forget how much I enjoy a direct, international flight on American Airlines. Crazy!?! No! Board, stow your items, set-up your footrest and complimentary pillow/blanket. Next start scrolling through the many, new release movies they offer and don’t forget your standard-jack headphones or they will offer you a free pair. Next, await your first meal. If you want veg/vegan, you do need to pre-request it by calling. Over an 8-hr flight they serve at least two full meals, plus endless drinks and free beer/wine. Between two full movies, two meals and a good nap, my flight is over! I actually look forward to the flights as they set me up for a little ‘me-time’ before and after the trip. No groceries to buy, no meals to prepare for my family, no one asking for help with anything…just hours of movies and being served! Bliss! My experience was in the main cabin, so fair warning if you book only basic cabin class and some of these features are not offered.

Lightning in a cloud during our flight to Heathrow

After landing with about 3 hours of sleep under my belt (darn movies!), I had been pre-trip administering and for about the next 48 hours a ‘jet-lag’ homeopathy to my family. I think it really helped us bounce back faster. My husband and I managed the adjustment well while my son took an extra day. He also complained of a sore throat, so I grabbed items from my Family Wellness Homeopathy kit and started up with ‘Immune Support’ and ‘Upper Respiratory Support’. 36-hours later he was fine, no more complaints.

While in London we stayed at the Crowne Plaza London – The City which was lovely. Next time I would prefer to stay in Kensington because it’s near Harrod’s and Whole Foods! But the Crowne was a good central location and literally across the street from a Underground station.

Bit of advice when planning to sight-see in London is to purchase a London Pass WITH Travelcard. This is going to get you setup to see all the main tourist destinations, one-day on a hop-on-off bus, river cruise and oyster card to travel around town on the underground tube. They mail this to you ahead of time, so plan accordingly and order at least a month out to allow time for mail. We opted to get the ‘dining book/card’ too, but it was difficult finding places to eat in the book there were where we happen to be when ready to eat. One restaurant didn’t even know about the card and it took a manager’s intervention to honor the discount. So hindsight, more hassle that the discount was worth. The only big tourist item NOT on the pass was the London Eye. Personally, I didn’t feel like we missed anything after taking in the views from St. Paul’s but that’s your decision. More photography of my ‘Views of London‘ from atop St. Paul’s.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is free on the London Pass and was very close to our hotel, so one of our first stops. Stunning architecture! You can tour the crypt, the main floor and climb to the The Stone and Golden Galleries to take in London’s views. Be ready to climb all the way to the top is 528 steps, but so, so worth it!

Inside the main floor is everything you would image it to be in an Anglican cathedral. To view more of this beautiful church, visit my photography site and page dedicated to St. Paul’s LoveCameraEarth.com.

Sebastian and I visited The Museum of London and specifically the exhibit, The Beasts of London. It was about the role animals played in London during different periods in time. Very visually entertaining for children and adults! More photography from the Beasts of London.

We had great weather for our Big Bus Tour that took us all around the sights of London. I love to do these types of bus tours anytime I visit a new city. You really get the ‘lay of the land’ this way. Using the map or the app made it easy to switch tours to make sure you covered all your areas of interest. This was free for 24-hours on The London Pass. More photography of ‘the Streets of London‘.

In case you have been under a rock your entire life, visit Harrods!! It is an amazing shopping center with my favorite floor being the food hall! There are rooms of options, so go with a enormous appetite! There are floors of shopping. You have to walk the floors just to see all the interesting clothes, jewelry and people! There was even an area to purchase a luxury yacht by Sunseeker! Just a few more photos of Harrods.

Just one of your many eating options.

No visit to London would be complete without a stop at Buckingham Palace. The royal palace is only open to the public July-September/October, so plan accordingly and buy your timed-entrance tickets ahead of time. These are not included on the London Pass. Sadly, photos are not allowed inside. Enjoy more of my shots of the grounds.

Buckingham Palace in the distance.

With my husband being a history and Churchill fan, The War Rooms was a ‘must see’ for us. While we enjoyed it, it was such a lovely day outside being down in the museum and bunker was a bit dreary so we made it a fairly quick visit. This stop is on your London Pass and we did not pre-book an entrance time. We waited maybe 10-15 minutes at the door, so pre-book for no wait. More of my photography from Churchill’s War Rooms.

One of my favorite afternoons was having Afternoon Tea at the beautiful Milestone Hotel. We did make a reservation in advance and dressed for the afternoon. We enjoyed the MOST exquisite sandwiches, desserts and hot scones PLUS a variety of teas! More of the Milestone Hotel.

Tea in the sun lite lounge.

One of the most iconic sites in London, Tower Bridge which is next door to the Tower of London are both excellent stops in a great walk-around area. We toured both and they were on the London Pass. Excellent history, Crown Jewels, views, architecture and more! This stop must be on your list. More photography of the Tower Bridge and inside the Tower of London.

Conveniently located near the entrance to the Tower of London is the river terminal for boarding the Thames River Cruise included on your London pass. We enjoyed the tour operator very much. His accent, narration and comedy were on point! Don’t pass up this chance to sit and relax for a bit while they drive up and down the Thames. The boat trip takes you down to Greenwich and back. Where you can see the GMT clock! We see GMT (time) all the time, but it was so interesting to see the clock that started it all! Just a few more photos of our trip down the Thames.

For more of our UK road trip. Visit: Scotland: The Lochs, Moray Coast & Edinburgh and England: Castles to Manors to Ruins.

Craft the Travel, Worldschooling

Scotland: The Lochs, Moray Coast & Edinburgh

Our journey took us across the border into beautiful Scotland. We visited four areas (#9-12) during our UK road trip. The English part of our trip is here: England: The City of London and England: Castles to Manors to Ruins

Stop number nine was outside of Glasgow on Loch Lomond in the small town of Luss at Lodge on Loch Lomond.

This lovely lodge was on Loch Lomond. Our room had its own dry sauna in the room with a beautiful balcony, glass barrier for a seamless view of the loch. We caught a little rain and were fortunate to witness a double rainbow emerge afterwards.

Just a stroll down the beach takes you into the little town of Luss. We walked all over looking at their beautiful old church, cafes, adorable house-lined streets and made a stop in at The Village Rest for a refreshment. More photography of Loch Lomond and Luss

From Luss we traveled North into the Highlands to Loch Ness, where we stayed at Loch Ness Lodge. We didn’t have a Nessie sighting but rather heard some of the local’s stories and took in sights of the beautiful Loch. More photography of Loch Ness.

After Loch Ness, we made our way up to Inverness and the Moray Coast. We stopped at Nairn Beach for a tea and sweet.

Then we drove into Findhorn to the most quaint and charming town and made our home at The Tipsea Cottage. Our hosts also own the Inn and Pub across the ‘street’ (literally the width of one of our American alleys). It could not be easier to grab a bite or some local company. The Tipsea Cottage is a completely renovated home where we enjoyed our nights stoking the fire together as a family in the living room. By day we walked the beach and all around town stumbling up The Findhorn Foundation Retreat Center and Grounds. I hope to explore this interesting place more in the future. Rainbows are plentiful in Scotland!

Findhorn is so quiet and peaceful, I was sad to leave and start our decent back South. Our journey took us to our last Scottish destination and I had NO IDEA what a treat I was in store for! EDINBURGH!

Edinburgh is a wonderful mix of old world, Gothic architecture and castles with a splash of fresh, modern glass. The Radisson Blu is on the Royal Mile (THE street to stay on) just down from Edinburgh Castle. Our family room was surprisingly large with 2 king beds and a corner wall of banquet couches. We were able to walk in any direction from the hotel to see sights, for shopping and restaurant options. The steep and windy streets reminded me of San Francisco, but in a much darker, ancient way. I could just see the horse-drawn carriages travel the cobblestone roads, men with long coats and top hats and ladies with long, corseted dresses. This city is fascinating and I must return one day to give it the time it deserves. For more of my photos on Edinburgh, visit my photography site, Love Camera Earth.

Our last stop out of Edinburgh took us to one of the most haunted graveyards, Greyfriars Kirkyard. During our road trip we were listening to an audible of Scottish ghost stories and discovered that the moratorium of Bloody MacKenzie was just a few minutes from our hotel! Click the link to read about this villain and what his unrestful poltergeist has been up to!

Otherwise the grounds where beautiful and tranquil. Filled with lovely Scots and tourists alike.

A friend mentioned that she intends to do the NC500 next summer….which of course I had to google. It is a road map/trip of the top North Coast of Scotland. Looks amazing! I know I have only explored a fraction of what Scotland has to offer, but I am so grateful I got to see what I did!

Worldschooling

Hawaii, The BIG Island!

This destination wasn’t one that had initially been floating around in my head, but when tickets came across my desk that I couldn’t pass up, the planning was on! We used United and had one connection in Denver going and one in LAX returning home. I have to say since I have been so devoted to Southwest Airlines, I haven’t considered anyone else, but I really enjoyed United and would fly them again. No complaints.

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We arrived in Kona Airport, which is on the West side of the Big Island. It was a lovely airport. Small & open air, but easy to navigate, gather luggage and find the car rental shuttles. I am a Hertz Gold member, so our car was waiting for us and all we had to do was walk out to it and get in. My boys were SO happy…exactly what they wanted a silver, 4×4 Jeep. I have a feeling our family may at some point acquiring a Jeep. (Again! Remember my Big Red one? ❤)

We made an easy drive up 19, North to the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. We walked into a beautiful open air, lobby with a direct 180-degree view of the pools and beach. Lovely!

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At check-in we were welcomed with passion fruit/orange juice and wet wash clothes for cleaning our hands. We were quickly assigned room 696 that had 2 queen beds, balcony, and ocean view. The room/space was very comfortable for our family of 3.  My son and I agree that our favorite and unexpected aspect to the room was the TOLIET! It was a bidet toilet seat (heated seat, various water temperature sprays, dryer, massage and of course night light). All I can say is see this link for every last AMAZING detail and that this little JEWEL will be delivered to my house in time for Christmas! Ok, I know that is a funny LOVE, but we also really enjoyed the balcony, comfortable, stylish seating areas, pools and beach access the resort offered us too! Ha!

They offered an adult-only infinity pool with hot tub and a second larger family pool with hot tub. The property included a gorgeous garden, fish/lily pond, and several restaurant options.

We were pleasantly surprised to receive a ‘welcome gift’ under our door for a $25 credit at one of the property restaurants as well as a discount card to area restaurants. The Westin does charge a $30/night resort fee, but it included our self-parking, bottled water, beach chair unlimited internet and shuttle service to the sister property next door, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

On day 2, we dressed in shorts and short sleeve shirts, but the drive in the open air jeep proved to be a chilly ride as we made our way from the Westin thru Waimea & Hamakua and on to Waipi’o Valley. I was happy to have left our vests and our travel blankets in the Jeep. Our first stop was in Waimea at the Parker Ranch. We enjoyed the history and learned about the deep and rich foundation the Ranch has on the Big Island and in their local community. Interestingly just being from Texas, gave me an affinity for the area’s roots in ranching and livestock. You would think you are on a ‘tropical island’ and while parts of it are…there are vast areas of grazing land for livestock. This is one of the trees on Parker Ranch and if you look closely you can see a tiny Sebastian at the base!

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On this tree right next to where Sebastian was standing he found this beautiful little fellow!

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Next, we stopped at a local health & organic foods store where we were able to stock up on some of our favorite foods. We continued on to Hamakua and made a short stop at Ahualoa Farms where we sampled various macadamia nut treats and took in the roadside flowers. Wild birds of paradise!

Our journey took us on to Waipi’o Valley. THIS is where it was REALLY valuable to have that 4×4 Jeep and BOY was it fun! “The road gains 800 vertical feet (243.84 m) in 0.6 miles (0.9 km) at a 25% average grade, with steeper grades in sections.” All traffic coming up the road has the right of way, so we had to be sure to watch the road ahead and pull over ahead of time or be forced to reverse! Thankfully, we weren’t in that situation as traffic was light. When we made it to the bottom, we found the most beautiful valley and black-sand beachfront. Further up the valley was Hi’ilawe Falls the tallest waterfall on the Big Island. SO GORGEOUS!

After we made the climb back up to the top of the valley, we started back to the Westin and made a brief stop at a roadside fruit stand. Coconut Mike cut us up fresh pineapple and coconut water/coconut meat. YUM! What a refreshing snack! We made the trip back in about an hour and enjoyed swimming and relaxing upon our return.

The next day started off easy. I knew it would be a late night, so we enjoyed the early morning in our room. Sebastian and I walked all over the property and grounds and did a mini photo shoot. After we worked up a sweat, we made our way to the pool to cool off and chill.

We set out just before 2pm for Mauna Kea. “Its peak is 13,802 ft above sea level, making it the highest point in the state of Hawaii. Most of the mountain is under water, and when measured from its oceanic base, Mauna Kea becomes the tallest mountain in the world[5] measuring over 10,000 m (33,000 ft). Mauna Kea is about a million years old, and has thus passed the most active shield stage of life hundreds of thousands of years ago.” We arrived at 3p and decided not to make the drive from the base at 9200 ft to the top. It requires 4-wheel drive, which we had, but the 40% reduction in oxygen at the top can cause nervous system damage in developing brains under 13yo. It is a 30-minute drive up to the summit and you will experience grades of 20-22%. At about 4pm we hiked up part of the mountain that overlooks sunset. I am very glad we went early because from about 4:45p to 5:20p we had beautiful, expansive views and then a large cloud came through and covered sunset. On my way up I had to stop 3 times and take several deep breaths and let my head acclimate. I am not fond of heights, so that plus the altitude was kicking in and making me feel dizzy. BUT it was well worth pushing through for these views!

Afterward, we warmed up in the car and waited for the sky to clear to take part in the star-gazing tour. I was doubtful that the sky and humidity would clear, but it did by 7p/7:30p. This was the second to last night that the star-gazing tour was held. After the 8th they are closing it down for 6 months to do some renovations. When it resumes I recommend adding it to your ‘to-do’ list while on the big island. You need to arrive early as parking is limited. You need to dress warmly or have blankets! We experienced temps down the 40’s. Take a red light or just let your eyes adjust…the white light flashlight and cell phone people were really annoying and constantly interrupting the experience. This will likely be the most stars you will ever see in one night. Absolutely gorgeous from horizon to horizon!

Day 4 started off my 43rd birthday! We started the morning off bright and early as it seems that my body’s wake-up time in Hawaii was 6a. I enjoyed chatting and messaging with many friends and family that reached out with well wishes for a happy day. Birds visited my lanai while I sipped my bday Kombucha and smelled the flowers my boys brought me.

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Lanai, Kombucha and Flowers

We started to make our way over to Hilo by 10a and arrived just after 11a. We parked and walked around the most delightful farmers market. We bought tea and fresh spring rolls, listened to a local ukuleleist, found Hawaiian clothes for the whole family and chatted with vendors. I would spend every Saturday in this type of environment; it was absolutely food for the soul.

We made a brief stop at local park with stunning views and then made our way to Hilo International Airport to meet our helicopter tour company, Safari.

This was Sebastian and I’s first time up in a helicopter and while a little intimidating, it was FUNtastic! We saw sights all over the Volcano Park and a brief drive-by of waterfalls. Mike, our pilot, and the land crew were all so helpful and friendly.

Once back on the ground, we made a quick stop at Saucy Dogs and Loved by the Sun for a snack and then headed back to the Kona side.

After changing to our Hawaiian clothes, we left for dinner at Manta on the Westin’s sister property, Mauna Kea, an Autograph Collection Resort. The property and restaurant were gorgeous and we finished the night off observing the natural Manta Rays that swim up near the restaurant’s edge.

Cliff, my husband, thought he was so funny in his Hawaiian shirt that he had me put together this mashup comparison of him and Russell Brand from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Ha!

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Day 5 we started with an early morning walk on the beach. The 4 hour time change backward has really worked in my favor as it has allowed me to enjoy several sunrises and early mornings. Times of the day I don’t typically encounter.

Later that day we checked out of the Westin and started to make our way South towards Kona. After brief stops in Kauila-Kona for provisions and lunch at Island Naturals Market & Deli, Kailua-Kona we arrived an hour or so later at the Sheraton Kona. While the accommodations here are a little more dated than at the Westin, the assortment of built-in activities and large family-friendly pool made the property a fun destination.

We enjoyed activities like lei making, a cultural tour of the property, early AM yoga, giant checker games, direct access to the Kona bay from small volcanic rocks and Ukulele lessons. The Sheraton Kona opened in 1970 making it the 2nd or 3rd oldest resort on the Kona side of the big island and farthest Southern resort on the Kona coast. The property itself has several archeological significant sites that have been preserved and maintained.

The large pool has tubes, slides, hot tubs, waterfall and even a ‘beach’ with sand and all.

The Sheraton features a small wedding chapel overlooking the bay and has several open lawns with beautiful scenic views.

Among all the daytime swimming and activities we also attended an evening luau and cookout at the Royal Kona. I got to wear the Lei Sebastian had made that day. ❤

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We were fortunate to witness the most beautiful pink sunset to backdrop the luau. Pork was cooked in a traditional Hawaiian sand oven and the buffet included other local Hawaiian specialties like Poi as well as other chicken & beef dishes with sides.

The dancers were talented and skilled. They performed 5 or 6 different Hulas and changed costumes with each performance. I recommend arriving early and upgrading to reserved seating. You get a closer view and first to the buffet line.

The next few days we enjoyed downtime at the pool and local excursions to various farms and factories. We visited Big Island Bee Farm and sampled Macadamia Nut Honey which is currently the blooms the bees are making the honey from. Another type is the raw Hawaiian honey made from the ohia lehua blossom. It known for being the first flowering plant to grow from new lava rocks. We also sampled the vanilla bean, cinnamon, and chili pepper infused honeys that they make.

There are several coffee farms in the area and just driving down the coast, windows down you can smell the beans being roasted…yum! At Royal Kona Coffee we sampled many flavors and various roasts of Kona coffee.

While at Royal Kona Coffee there was a jewelry vendor and she was selling oysters. You picked your oyster and she would open it for you to see if you were lucky enough to have pearls inside. Sebastian had two pink pearls in one oyster! Sounds like earrings for me! 😉

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Our last stop was at Donkey Balls, Chocolate Factory where they make many, many types of chocolate balls. White, dark, milk with various center fillings like dried fruit, malt balls, and macadamia nuts.

We ran into a few friends from Texas, Ziggy and Ally. Cliff and Sebastian had fun seeing their family’s beautiful property and swimming off the coast.

We finished our last evening with dinner at Rays on the Bay and another stunning sunset.

Our last morning we stumbled upon The Coffee Shack and their amazing 180-degree, Cliff-side view where we toasted our 100% Kona Coffee to our return to Hawaii.

Overall we, really enjoyed the diversity of the things to do, landscape and weather of the Big Island. We didn’t visit during a high tourist season and it did NOT feel ‘touristy’. I think it helped that we had our own vehicle to explore and leave resort grounds on our own time. I know I priced tours from the resorts and most all activities started at $100/person, so having our car was the more economical, private and enjoyable way to go. Navigation around the island was very simple and we had no issue with our American based, T-Mobile phone & data services all over the island.

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View of Rainbows from our room at the Sheraton Kona

In the future, I would stay a few nights in Hilo, visit Rainbow Falls, take a Helicopter tour of the Waterfalls, swim at green-sand & two-step beaches, have breakfast again at The Coffee Shack, hike down to Captain Cook’s monument, take surf lessons, and hike out some of Volcano Park.

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What’s at the end of the rainbow? Hawai’i!

Finally, I wrap up with a tip about booking a group event wedding or party outside on the big island. The island North of Kona Airport is windier than the South (and we experienced it!), the East ‘Hilo’ side of the Island is the wetter, rainier side of the island, therefore if you want to have the highest chance of perfect weather, I recommend booking somewhere South of the Kona Airport for your special outdoor event.

Are you interested in traveling to the Big Island of Hawai’i? Contact me to help plan the perfect trip! For all our day-by-day adventures while in Hawai’i, check out our Instagram stories found HERE. If you would like to see all the photos from Hawaii, check out my photography website, LoveCameraEarth.com. If you want a travel-along, family photographer, contact me! We travel!

Worldschooling

Salem, Boston & The Cape

Daily I receive emails about great prices on flights across the US. One day in early August I jumped on roundtrip tickets from Dallas to Boston and it clicked! October + Massachusetts = a visit to SALEM!

I quickly joined a few facebook groups on Salem, MA to learn about the must-sees & stays. Luckily I was still early enough to find availability at The Hotel Salem on Essex and what a great location that choice was. After arriving at Boston-Logan Airport, we used a pre-booked car service called BeDriven. They were waiting for us at baggage claim and dropped us in Salem about 40 minutes later. The Hotel Salem is located on Essex Street in the center of the ‘the pedestrian mall‘, so any car service has to drop you at one of the two ends of the mall, but the hotel is just a 2-minute walk from either end into the center of the mall.

The location is beyond perfect and in the absolute center of all the action! Within a 5 to 15-minute walk West you have The Witch house,

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Gallow Hills Theater, The McIntire Historic District, Life Alive, The Ugly Mug Diner, The Soup Factory,

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The Boston Hot Dog Company, The Melt Ice Cream,

and The Salem Haunted Magic Show. Then within a 5 to 15-minute walk to the East you have the Witch History Museum, Hocus Pocus Tours, The Witch City Mall,

Peabody Essex Museum, Red’s Sandwich Shop, Brew Box Coffee & Breakfast, The Burying Point Cemetery, The Salem Witch Trials Memorial,

Bambolina Pizza, Turtle Alley Chocolates, Scratch Kitchen and The House of Seven Gables. Sprinkled in all around are all kinds of local artisan shops.

Special to The Hotel Salem is a rooftop restaurant and bar and a basement bar. Some of the other local hotel choices would be the Hawthorn Hotel or the Salem Waterfront Hotel to the East of the pedestrian mall, while to the West would be the Salem Inn.  We arrived on the 30th of October, had the afternoon to explore to the West of our hotel and took our trolley tour with Gallow Hills that night.

The crowds were light to medium on the 30th (a Tuesday). On the 31st we explored East of the Hotel, avoided areas that were really crowded (saving those for the next day), attended a magic (mentalist) show in the early evening and watched the firework show from the rooftop in the later evening. The crowds were medium and grew to heavy on the 31st (a Wednesday). Overall I found the 31st in Salem family friendly as long as you keep in mind that the evening is Salem’s Mardi Gras. Lots of Police on the streets and clearly the city was organized and ready for the crowds. Our hotel allowed us on the roof for the 15-minute firework show, but that was an exception as the area is 21 and up. On the 1st we went back to the crowded areas (like the Burying Point Cemetary) and had the place to ourselves.

The lack of crowds on the 1st was GREAT for my photography of the area and buildings, but several restaurants and shops took the day off so may not be ideal if you missed them the day before.  The 3 days we booked for the area were the perfect choice for our needs, to celebrate Halloween in Salem, and to also see the local history and landscape. If you were an adult only group seeking the Halloween-Witch vibe you may prefer to arrive on the 29th and depart the 1st to have more time to see the town of Salem in its full Halloween action.

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On the 2nd, our trip took us down to Hyannis, MA. We had been studying the Mayflower, Pilgrims and historical settlement of America, so it was a natural progression to transition from Halloween and Salem to the time of Thanksgiving and Plymouth. Honestly, I didn’t know beforehand how hands-on, beautiful and well organized Plymouth would be. We learned about a place called Plimoth Plantations.

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I went online and purchased the package of tickets (3 places) for Plimoth Plantations, Plimoth Grist Mill and the ‘What would you do experience?’.  At Plimoth Plantations, you experience a living history Museum set in 17th century Plymouth. Actors play the rolls as if you are in that time. The environment was built as it would have existed in 1627.  These photos below in circles are from a postcard set I purchased in Plymouth. Click each circle for photo descriptions and details.

The setting is 7 years after landing on ‘Turtle Island’ which is what the Wampanoag called ‘America’. When you first arrive you watch a brief video explaining the experience and getting a little back history. You head out on the trail and first visit a Wampanoag site. A winter house, a summer house and the making of a canoe. Wampanoag natives are on site to talk to you about their lives. Fascinating insight about things like how the English thought they had ‘magic fires’ because their wood didn’t smoke and pop, but it was because the natives new to only burn seasoned wood or their homes would be filled with smoke. Their society was Matriarchal…but because the English were a Patriarchal society they felt more comfortable talking to sons or brothers of the female chief and recorded history to reflect that.

After spending time with the tribe, we moved on to the 17th-century colonialist’s village. Here you could enter any of the homes, talk to the inhabitants and learn about their lives. These people came mainly for two reasons. They were fleeing for religious freedom or for better work/financial opportunities in their lives. They committed to 7-year labor contracts in exchange for 20 acres of land.  The contract term and amount of land could vary but that was the general arrangement. Jobs were scarce and the opportunity at land ownership was small in England, so making this incredible journey to the new colonies gave them a shot at both. Half of the original settlers died the first winter, but numbers steadied after that and more colonialists joined the following years.

After the Plimoth Plantation, we left and headed about 10 minutes into downtown Plymouth. We parked at the Plimoth Grist Mill where we learned how a Grist Mill works to make cornmeal. Awesome place that not only manages the actual production of product for local eateries but shares the knowledge of the process for educational purposes.

From there you can take a 10-minute walk to town for lunch at a pub, tavern or cafe OR hike 10 minutes down a lovely path towards the waterfront experience and Plymouth Rock.

We opted for lunch first at Will & Co Cafe and then on to the ‘What Would You Do?’ waterfront experience.

There we played a character on the Mayflower and followed a storyline to learn about their life. We took in gorgeous views from the Plymouth pier and found Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims Memorial all in the area too.

We took the pathway back towards the Mill and our car through Jenney Pond Park adorned with gorgeous fall foliage and a babbling brook.  Plymouth is a JEWEL and a must visit for any history loving family.

We lucked out in finding a Whale Watching tour that was running its last voyage for the season on Sunday the 4th.

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We rode a 128 ft speedboat traveling about 30 knots (35mph) out of Cape Cod Bay just past Provincetown, MA.

This journey was about an hour out to sea and brought us to a spot where a few whale families were feeding before they leave the area for warmer waters. Several whales passed the boat and gave us their signature out-of-water tail flips.

We love boats and water and the whale sightings made it a special journey. We were back in the harbor just after 1pm, so we took the afternoon to drive all the way around the Cape to Provincetown. We made several stops along the way at scenic and beach lookouts.

We found the most beautiful, gothic memorial out in Provincetown, The Pilgrim Memorial.

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We climbed to the top and took in the 360-degree views of the area just before sunset.

Then we made the hours drive back to Hyannis to our cozy hotel, Courtyard by Marriott. The Courtyard was just what we needed, good quiet night’s sleep, friendly helpful staff (Hi James!), on-site breakfast and a place for me to do a load of laundry while Sebastian swam in the warm pool. I really contemplated trying to find a day to head over to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, but it just didn’t happen this trip…so I guess I am forced to return. 😉

On Monday, the 5th, we took the morning easy, packed up and made the trip back to Boston. We checked into the Sheraton in Copley Square, turned in our rental car and walked around Boston Common & Chinatown.

We enjoyed eating Hot-Pot at Shabu Zen (Thanks, Sherry!). Sebastian cooked the meats in a Miso Soup and I cooked the vegetables in a Spicy Thai Soup. We loved the fish paste and avocado smoothie too!

Tuesday, the 6th, was our final full day. We took a Duck Tour with Scott Milk. It was funny, entertaining and full of history and tidbits about Boston.

After we launched into the Charles River, Sebastian had the opportunity to drive the vessel a portion of the way.

After the tour, we grabbed a bit to eat and explored around Copley Square. We were starting to hit a wall of walking/trip fatigue and I wished we could have walked the Freedom Trail, we just didn’t have 2 and a half more miles in us. We went up into the Skywalk Observatory, but low clouds had come into the area and really diminished the visibility, so we made our way back to the hotel and spent the evening swimming & dining. We really enjoyed the location of the Sheraton. It is connected internally with a shopping mall, so despite the rain and cold, we could walk from our room and straight down to the mall and restaurants.

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My favorite part of the trip was Plymouth. It was a wonderful, beautiful surprise and I loved the way our trip transitioned from Salem at Halloween to Plymouth in November (honoring Thanksgiving). I highly recommend this trip to anyone with a passion for history, education and fall foliage!

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If you have Instagram and want to see our stories from the trip, look here at Salem, Plymouth, The Cape, and Boston. All the professional pictures I shot on the trip are HERE on LoveCameraEarth.com. If you want assistance planning a get-away to Massachusetts, email me at bookit@CraftTheTravel.com.

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This is not the Cancun I remember! It’s better. It’s the Riviera Maya.

The last time I was in Cancun, Mexico I was in my twenties. We did a typical ‘hotel zone’ stay off the strip, tanned on the beach and visited Mayan Ruins in Tulum. I remember getting off at a small airport and taking a small school-bus type van to our hotel. The guys on the van had a cooler full of iced down Corona and liberally distributed them during the ride. Long gone are those basic days for Mexico. It has clearly ‘grown-up’ in the world of tourism.

We flew on Sun Country.  I hadn’t used them since my 20’s but the tickets were a great price and I thought I would try them again. The flight going to Cancun was delayed twice, so they did rob us of having a real dinner at the resort our first night. We settled for room service after check-in. The airline did complimentary upgrade us to exit row seats and functioned on-time returning home. I want to note that with this airline if your flight is delayed – it does NOT mean you can check-in later than the 2-hr window from your original flight time. We did not know this and waited at home during the ‘delayed’ time. Come to find out we checked-in with 8 minutes to spare. Since charter, vacation airlines only fly a specific route/day/time they don’t keep a schedule like the majors (AA, United, Southwest) do. While this doesn’t mean all charters are late and all majors are on-time, I do think the fact that the majors have a schedule to keep helps them stay on time more often than not.  Just my two cents when choosing who to fly!

To my pleasant surprise, we stepped off our plane and into Cancun’s fully updated and modern airport. It was clean, air-conditioned, fast and efficient at handling the tourist. If you are ‘carry-on only’ you are through lickety-split. They have craftily created an area that you must pass through full of small lectern-type desks. It appears that these are here to help guide you or give information…..while they will happily give you info, it is not agenda-free. These are representatives of ‘Mexico Tourism’ and the Mexican-owned ‘time-share’ property Vidanta. They want you to buy/stay in Mexico-owned properties versus foreign-owned. They will entice you with all kinds of good freebies or discounts on tours/excursions for a mere 90 minutes of your time (try more like 5 hours). Just keep walking! If you have prearranged transfer or need a taxi, they will be waiting for you just outside the exit, so again KEEP MOVING.

We had pre-arranged, private transfer with Lomas Travel and they did a first class job at getting us to and from our resort. This was my first time to stay in an ‘Adult-Only’ property as I typically travel with my son. I was interested in staying here because of my desire to investigate the ‘Palafitas’ (which I will cover later), but the generous travel agent discounted rate on the suite helped seal the deal to take the trip. Oh, the demands of the travel business! 😉

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Continue reading “This is not the Cancun I remember! It’s better. It’s the Riviera Maya.”

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Leaving the Flock

Friends, Let’s Catch-up!

We are here in Orlando getting close to the end of our trip. This has been a well-timed trip.  Many things are in flux and changing in our world, so to take time to slow down and just enjoy ourselves in the company of family has been a nice change of pace. I will follow up with more on Orlando and Disney in a follow-up post.

I’ll catch you up on the last month or so of homeschool activities. We continue to tackle our basics (reading/writing/math/spelling/good citizenship) on a weekly basis and keep our schedule full of ‘field trips’ and ‘meet-ups’. The DMA continues to provide lovely, monthly art classes rich in both art education and hands-on fun. We gave a run at an ‘escape the room’ game with some of our homeschool friends and made it out with moments to spare. It was exciting for the team to work together and WIN! We worked a month on studying Picasso and cubism. This study finished with painting ‘Picasso inspired’ selfies. I guess my inner ‘she’ is Medusa! Ha! We have a new relationship with the director of Soar United, Lynn. She has REALLY stepped up to the plate and opened up the doors to Soar so our kids can have a fun, weekly place to be ninja warriors, play soccer and dodgeball. We are excited that this is continuing on and if you are Dallas local, feel free to join. (Tuesdays from 11a to 3p). Mention you are with the homeschool group for a discounted rate. We had heard about everyone visiting the Crayola Experience up in Plano, so we decided to try it too. We enjoyed the day, but for others considering it, we felt it was for younger kids or those really into coloring/crayon projects.

If you haven’t heard by now, we are making some big changes in our personal lives. We are selling our lake home in preparation of moving in a worldschooling direction.

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I have also affiliated with a wonderful, long-standing, incredibly connected travel company and taken on an Independent Travel Agent role. You will see changes as our blog evolves from just ‘homeschooling in Dallas’ to ‘Worldschooling and Travel Adventures’.  The deals, resources and inside info is TO DIE FOR!! I’m through the preliminary training and business set-up and really have not been as excited about my career since I launched Juxby in 2011.  I CAN.NOT.WAIT to share more info about this new journey and how it may help you too! CLEARLY a blog is coming about this.

Enoy the rest of your weekend and happy early mother’s day to all my fellow moms. Whether you homeschool, worldschool, public school or private school, we are all just making the best choices with the resources we each have available to us for the betterment of our child’s future. I salute you and hope you do something nice for yourself tomorrow! (like take a nap! 😉 ) 😘