The Thunderbird Lodge at Lake Tahoe

While visiting the north shore of Lake Tahoe, we had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Thunderbird Lodge.  This property was built in 1936 as the private residence of George Whittell.  George Whittell originally purchased 40,000 acres on the east shore of Lake Tahoe and possessed 26 miles of its shoreline.  It seems that George was quite a colorful character, and developed a love of wild animals, booze, poker and women.  He built a separate enclosure for his pet Sumatran elephant, Mingo, and kept a full grown lion, Bill, as a pet.

Thunderbird Living Room

Living area in Thunderbird Lodge

His Thunderbird Lodge home is fascinating to tour, primarily because of its situation among enormous granite boulders on the property, along with its 600-foot underground tunnel which connects his boathouse to the residence.

Thunderbird giant boulders

Giant granite boulders surround the lodge

During the home’s construction, Whittell hired Native American boys to construct a series of intricate stone paths, which later became known as “the Dragon’s Tail.”

Dragons Tail

Dragon’s Tail Walk

Thunderbird Beach

Private beach, surrounded by huge boulders.

Whittell summered at Thunderbird, and while there commissioned the building of Lake Tahoe’s most recognizable speedboat, The Thunderbird.  It’s mahogany hull and huge twin V-12 engines are currently in restoration in Incline Village, and will be returned to the Lodge in the near future.

Thunderbird Poker Table

This poker room had a door through which he could sneak away when he wanted privacy!

While Whittell’s original plan was to build a resort and condominium complex, along with a ski resort, his later lifestyle altered those plans.  He became more and more reclusive and his privacy was highly valued.  Ultimately, he sold off vast pieces of his property to the Nevada State Parks Department and other agencies.  After his death, Wall Street maven Jack Dreyfus purchased the remaining estate and ultimately sold most of it to the U.S Forest service.

It is the result of George Whittell’s reclusive nature that the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe remains largely undeveloped today.  Hubs and I were fascinated by the careful siting of the original home, and the use of materials to marry the residence to its site.  If you happen to visit the Lake Tahoe area, it’s worth it to take a tour of this historical home.

Lynn

The Other Tahoe

Hubs and I have traveled to a conference last week at Lake Tahoe.  Not the Lake Tahoe that everyone thinks about when they say they are going to Tahoe.  That would be the community of South Lake Tahoe that sits right on the Nevada-California border.

This conference was at the north shore of Lake Tahoe at Incline Village.  While it is still as exorbitant and expensive as the other Tahoe, it does not have quite the level of commercialism that reigns supreme on the south shore.

Tahoe Beach

While we were there, the weather fluctuated from sunny and calm, to downright windy, and even included some snow flurries.  When it’s windy like that, the lake looks more like the ocean than an inland lake at 6200 feet.

Tahoe Waves

Our stay brought us to the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino in Incline Village, NV.  We were greeted by these three bears and a glass of champagne.  What could be bad about that?

Tahoe Bears

And the resort has all of the high end amenities you’d expect of a Four Diamond Resort.  Heated pools and hot tubs, fancy schmancy spa, fire pit, gift shop and sports shop, and several restaurants and cafes where I spent too much money and ate too much. And because you are in Nevada, you can also indulge in games of chance in a well-appointed casino, um, and have a cocktail or two (or three) in one of several lounge areas.

Tahoe from Window

I’d have to say that if you are going to hang out with a spouse at a conference, overall, this was not a bad place at which to do it!

Lynn

Beautiful Basseterre, St. Kitts

When you explore St. Kitts, especially if you arrive via cruise ship, the first thing you encounter is the monkey peddlers.  Here’s the warning:  They will want to take your picture (Their monkeys, your camera).  Not a bad thing, a guy’s gotta make a living, right…but if you want to hold a monkey, as I did, be sure to negotiate your terms in advance!

Monkey Head

As you wander into town, away from the cruise terminal, you will come across Independence Park.  Notice the old stone buildings, where slaves were once held prior to being sold in the slave trade.  And if you are lucky, like we were, beautiful bougainvillea will be in bloom.

Bougainvillea St. Kitts

Across from the park sits the Immaculate Conception Co Cathedral Catholic Church. This cool and stately church, flanked by palms at the front entrance, welcomes all travelers and is beautiful in its simplicity.

St. Kitts Cathedral

Also on the park is the Gallery Café, a gem not to be missed. Enjoy the art, but be sure to wander all the way to the back, for a brunch snack and a little rest in the quaint garden seating area.

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If you get an opportunity, hire someone to take you up to Romney Manor (originally owned by Thomas Jefferson’s great, great, great grandfather) and now the site of Caribelle Batik. If you are a fabric hound, as I am, watching these talented women draw in hot wax is not to be missed!

Caribelle Batik

We barely scratched the surface of St. Kitts.  After meeting some of her warm, friendly people, I can only hope that we get the opportunity to return someday!

Batik photo credit: Caribelle Batik, St. Kitts

 

A Gem in St. Kitts

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While exploring the heart of St. Kitts, the hubs and I were fortunate to discover this little beauty.  Always attracted by the pastel colors of the Caribbean buildings, add the two words “gallery” and “cafe”, and I’m so there.

Anyone who allows the street dog to snooze in the middle of the gallery floor is alright in my book. And Leah Cameron-Blake is just that type of person, and her Gallery Cafe is oh, so special. Open Mon. – Saturday, 10:00 – 4:00, the sign says:  Sometimes a bit earlier, sometimes a bit later. (What’s not to love about that!) The lovely art offerings left me trying to figure out how to get them into my suitcase or ship some home.  But when we ventured a little deeper inside, we discovered a cozy cafe counter, and a cool inviting outdoor seating area.

Gallery Cafe 2

On top of that was our freshly made caramelized onion and goat cheese quiche, the pastry crust of which was so flaky and tender, it crumbled under my fork.  And when Ms. Cameron-Blake brought out about a half dozen grapefruits and freshly squeezed them, hubs was in heaven, and, it was then that we knew this place was one of those hidden gems we seek when we travel.

Gallery Cafe Yummies

I asked her permission to link to her Facebook page, but no one paid me for this endorsement.  I just like to share the discoveries that delight us!

A Wanderer’s Digital Packing Tricks

Digital Packing List

Whenever you travel out of country, you start to read about all the precautions you need to take (or at least I did) regarding personal information and documents.  Be sure to take this, pack that, make extra copies of this or that and keep them with you, or not with you, in your checked luggage, or not….

What’s a girl to do????  Sorta freaked me out a bit.

So I wanted to share a few tricks I’ve learned which involve some technology:

  1. The digital boarding pass is our friend. Downloading the app for whatever airline you are flying provides lots of information, right along with the digital boarding pass.  Handy, handy, handy, and some airlines have better apps than others.
  2. Once you check in and have your digital boarding pass, take a screen shot of it on your phone. If you don’t know how to do that, Google your model of phone. Your boarding pass then becomes part of your photo gallery.  It has happened us that the app for an airline has suddenly gone down, and we were so happy to have a screenshot.
  3. I use a cloud based Notebook to store lots of things. (I use One Note, other people use Evernote, or some similar app.)  The beauty here is that you can access this information from any device.  Should you lose your phone, you still have access to those files.  Trust me here, I have experience!  I lost Our List when I upgraded my old phone!  Dang!  This way, if you need to log on from a hotel computer, or a tablet, you can do so.  On One Note, I keep:
  • My packing list
  • A scanned copy of our passports
  • A copy of airline, hotel or rental car confirmation numbers and information
  • The emergency contact phone numbers for each of our credit cards. These numbers can be found on the back of the card.  Having that information in One Note is insurance in case your card is lost or stolen while traveling.
  • A list of the prescriptions we are taking, along with physician contact information.
  • Our rewards program membership numbers
  • Our vehicle license plate numbers (I know, others just memorize theirs!)
  • If traveling out of the country, you may want to consider including consulate contact information

4. I have a page in One Note called, “When We Go.” That page contains a list of all the things I need to remember to do prior to our leaving, like arrange for mail pickup, stop the paper, pay the bills, vet requirements if the dog is going to the kennel, etc. Makes a quick getaway possible!

5. After I finish packing (or as I pack), I use my phone to photograph the contents of each bag, checked or carry-on. That way, if anything gets lost, I have a record for insurance purposes. I know that’s a little anal – but someday it’s going to save us!

6. Inside the checked luggage, put your contact information. We put a business card on top.   Even better is the recommendation from fellow bloggers, Tim and JoAnne over at A Note From Abroad. They say to put a copy of your complete itinerary inside your luggage – That way it has some chance of catching up to where you are!  Brilliant!

I do not put actual credit card numbers or any financial information into any cloud based documents.  Perhaps I’m paranoid, but that’s just me.  I’m also sure to take portable chargers with me, so I can keep everything up and running.

So there you have it.  That’s how this voyager uses her digital tricks.  If you have other technology travel packing tips that I haven’t thought of, please be sure to let me know in the comments!  Anything to make wandering easier!

Lynn

Just Book It – Seven Steps Toward Adventure

You ever look around and notice that it seems as if everyone else is doing more exciting things than you are? I have friends who have been on 4 or 5 cruises. Another couple has been to Italy, and yet another friend of mine just spent several weeks in Asia! My Facebook News Feed is loaded with my friends’ check-ins from places far and wide. Seems like this one is headed for Disney World with the kids, and that one is on a bicycle, riding through the Redwoods of California. I find myself thinking, “How are they doing that??

I don’t like to believe that this is just the green-eyed monster rearing her ugly head (and I really do have green eyes, just sayin’). I’m genuinely happy for all my friends’ adventures. But I sometimes find myself thinking, “How do they find the money?”, “How do they get away from work?”, “How are they able to do that with xxx going on?”

Jeremy and I have always had Our List, but until recently, we haven’t made a whole lot of progress in crossing the items off. I think that’s because, up until now, we have always seemed to approach the list with an attitude of “someday, we’ll…”

Well, DUH!!! It’s taken us almost four decades, but I think we’ve finally figured it out. In our effort to live with more intention, we have finally learned that meaningful living does not just happen by accident. If we wait for “someday”, it will never come. We have learned that if we want a rich, fulfilling lifestyle, then we need to

Just Book It!

Here are some of the things we’ve learned on the Voyage:

1)  Negotiate the next big thing – Pour yourself a couple glasses of wine and have the discussion about what you want to do next.  Sometimes it’s his “thing”, sometimes it’s mine. Every time will involve compromises.  We figure out ways to make certain that each of us will enjoy the journey.  (For example, while we went to Chicago to explore its architecture, yours truly had a blast doing so on a Segway.  I loved swimming with the stingrays – him, not so much!)

2)  Mix it up – Not every pursuit needs to be a two-week vacation.  We have started looking for little things that will enrich our day to day lives.  In the past month, we have been to our local museum and to our local science center.  We have a couple of picnics planned where we will put the dog and some munchies in the pickup, and head into our state’s beautiful mountains to explore roads we have not yet traveled. Big adventure or small day trip – both deserve to be planned.

3)  Put it on your calendar – Ever notice how you never miss a dentist appointment or a haircut because it’s scheduled on your calendar or planner?  We’ve learned that our adventures deserve the same amount of respect and planning.  Next Saturday, we will head downtown to explore our local farmers’ market.  It’s on the calendar – If it were not, I’m pretty sure laundry could get in the way.

4)  Figure out how to budget – For some adventures, a little financial planning is in order. The point is to not adopt the notion of, “I’ll go when I can afford it.”  If you do that, you’ll never, ever go.  There will always be some other use for your money.  That being said, you also don’t want travel to leave you in the poor house.  You need to figure out some way to finance the adventure you have planned.  Maybe it’s a dedicated travel fund to which you contribute regularly.  Maybe it’s planning the trip enough in advance that you can save for it before you leave.  For us, we booked the cruise and airline tickets enough in advance that they were paid for before we left, and had saved up for other expenses prior to our departure.

5)  Do some research – The interwebs are our friends. Google your destination to find experiences that will add depth to the adventure.  Remember how I mentioned above, SEGWAYS!!!  Soooo much fun and something that would never have occurred to me had I not found them on-line.  Which cruise to take was based on my research about the islands I wanted to visit.

6)  Leave some time in the plan – This one is still quite difficult for me, as I like to go, go, go, go, go.  What I have learned is that if you kill off your husband with the adventure, he is less likely to want to travel with you…(remember that compromise thing, well this is it.)  And it’s not such a terrible idea.  We found that leaving unplanned time allows for serendipitous discoveries, reading, writing, reflecting, or even just a plain old nap!  Fight the urge to try to see everything and do everything.  Be intentional about how you spend your vagabond moments.

7) Just book it – At the end of the day, the really important step is to commit to the journey. Put it on the calendar.  Purchase the airline ticket.  Book the hotel room.  Whatever.  If the adventure is somehow “booked”, with commitment and a plan, we will figure out how to work around it.  We’ll take those vacation days.  We’ll arrange other appointments around our plans.  We’ll make it happen!

So starting right now, we’re busy deciding what NEXT adventure will be. Perhaps even the next couple of adventures! How about you? Are you planning your next wander? Then just pull the trigger and book it!

St. Lucia, The Jungle, and Me!

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One of the things on Our List was to go on a zip line.  Now, being the picky wife that I am, I told the hubs that I did NOT want him to take me 20 miles north of town, to one of our small local zip-lines which has been set up in conjunction with the ski area.  NOPE – NOT ME!

I wanted to zip-line somewhere exotic!  Somewhere where there was the possibility of seeing parrots or monkeys!  We found the right place at Treetop Adventure Park in St. Lucia!

I do not know whether it was the 12 lines cut through the top of the lush forest canopy, the speed, the height, or the ridiculously fun demeanor of the guides – but I’m pretty sure this was my favorite part of our 10-day trip!  The guides at TreeTop made even me, a confirmed chicken, soar through the trees like a hawk.  (Our guide Melvin gave our group the nickname, “The Chicken Hawks!”) After the first line, there was nothing scary about it.  See for yourself:

Nobody paid me to write this post.  I just wanted to share one of the most stinkin’ fun things we did on our wandering!

Adventures of Caribbean Cruise Newbies

Cruise coffee on balcony

So I got a little bit ahead of myself with the Sting Ray post.  What I neglected to tell you is that Jeremy and I just returned from a 10-day Southern Caribbean cruise.  Now don’t go getting all judgey on me – I recognize that there are some, for lack of a better term “travel snob” bloggers who don’t consider cruising to be “real travel.”  But we had never been on a cruise before, so out of a sense of obligation, we just really needed to check it out for ourselves!  You’re welcome.  Here’s the scoop:

Cruising, at least of the 10-day variety, could be considered expensive – Until you look at it as separate hotel accommodations, travel cost, food, entertainment, touring…all rolled into one.  If you were to try to do this on your own, and calculate it on a per day basis, it would be much more expensive, especially if you take advantage of the on board activities.

We saved up.  We paid for the cruise on our credit card, a year in advance, and by the time the cruise arrived, it was, for the most part, paid for.  Same for the airfare to Ft. Lauderdale.  And we were considering this our trip to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary – Kind of a big, damn deal!

I did lots of research in advance.  I first started with a list of all of the cruise lines leaving the US.  Then I decided when we wanted to go.  I quickly learned that there were still waaaayyyy too many options.  So I started researching the different islands in the Caribbean.  I made a list of places that intrigued me, and whose cultures I was curious about.  THEN…I figured out which cruise lines had a ship going where I wanted to go.  Since we were probably not going to do this again any time soon, better get it right.

Different cruise lines have different cultures – I chose the Royal Princess for us.  Very, very, few children or teenagers.  On board ambiance included string quartets and bands playing “older” music.  For a minute, we thought, “Dang – We’re the youngest ones on this ship” …and then we considered the alternative.  Also important, once you decide on a ship, a YouTube search will usually yield a video tour that someone has posted, so that you can look around. The Royal Princess is a huge ship, and while she holds a gazillion passengers, we never ever felt crowded.  Well maybe a little in the scramble for deck chairs on sea days.

You can choose shore excursions…or not – We chose to do some excursions, because, as I said, we are newbies.   Folks on a shore excursion will never get left behind.  The tour guides, while locals, provided lots of information and history about each place.  That said, in each port were locals who were offering the same types of services for a bit less.  We hired a private tour in Barbados, and were given a delightful tour of the island, by a local in a taxi.

How you dine is not as much an issue as I thought it would be – We chose “Anytime Dining” because I thought it would be a pain to be told when we had to be to dinner, and I didn’t want to have to make idle chitchat with a shoe salesman from Poughkeepsie. (No offense, Poughkeepsie shoe sellers!)  Turns out, each day you are back on the ship in plenty of time to shower and change for dinner, no matter when or how you choose to eat.  It really is not that big a deal, and many people say they’ve made lifelong friends of dining companions.

Getting a stateroom with a balcony was worth it – At least for a first time cruiser.  We completely enjoyed both waking up early in the morning to watch as the ship came in to port, as well as stepping out to look at the full moon and feel the Caribbean air.  Many people say that they choose inside (less expensive) staterooms because you don’t spend that much time in your room – but I LOVED having my coffee and breakfast delivered to me so that I could enjoy it on the balcony.

Cashless Cruising – The cruise card = How the ship makes money!  Someone told me, “You can tell how much you enjoyed the cruise if you end up getting off with a $2000 bar bill!  Ours was not that bad, but I could see how it could happen.  Just hand them your cruise card, and it goes on your bill.  You’ve. Been. Warned.

The cruise lines have got embarking and disembarking down to a science – Yes, they know how to get you and your luggage on, off, through customs, and on your way in a ridiculously efficient manner.  You don’t really need to worry about how much stuff you have.  They handle it all with ease.

But the best part of it all:

The floating motel moves from one destination to the next, while you enjoy exploring the people and their culture in the places you’re visiting.  We saw and did so many amazing things.  Too long to share in this post, but I’ll keep writing.  I’ll also post them at our companion blog, An Encore Voyage.  Look for it.  We did some CRAZY FUN STUFF!  Can’t wait to share with you guys!

Lynn

Antigua and My Stingray Hickey

Stingray & The Girls II

 

Can you get a love bite from a stingray?  Yep, you can.  I found this out recently when Jeremy and I had the chance to go feed these velvety creatures at Stingray City in Antigua.  You board a quick little speed boat for an eight minute ride out into the Caribbean to a dock where the stingrays have learned that the sound of the boat motor = dinner time.  (Pavlov’s big floppy fish dogs!)

The water is beautiful, and shallow enough that you can stand on the bottom.  Stingray City guides are plentiful enough to guide all of the visitors in the ways of feeding and interacting with the rays.  Put a small squid in your hand, tuck in your thumb, hold your hand under the water, and the stingray will swim up to you and suck the squid from your hand.  Unless you’re like me. And hold the squid too tight. And don’t let go quick enough.  In that instance, the ray is GOING TO GET THE SQUID!  He sucked my hand hard enough to leave a stingray “love bite.”  It didn’t hurt, but boy, what a memento!  Yes, I came back with a stingray hickey!

And yes, I had the conversation with the guide about whether or not they are dangerous, given the Steve Irwin situation.  I was enlightened about what happened (a freak accident), and that the barb is not poisonous (it contains a protein), and that the ray uses his tail only for defense, and that they really ARE just like soft velvety puppies.  The staff have given them names.  So if you ever get a chance to visit Stingray City in Antigua, please say hi for me to Samantha, Floppy, Spongebob, Blacky, Gray Boy…and let go of the squid!

Lynn