Category Archives: Travel and Leisure

Baby Boomer Realizes Dream of Visiting Africa

I had wanted to travel to Africa for a couple of decades. The trip was finally scheduled. My expectations were high. Could South Africa live up to this baby boomer’s vision?

Whatever I imagined was exceeded by far when my husband and I visited this magical place. I was moved and inspired in a way that is hard to describe.

The rugged and breathtaking beauty of this untamed land enthralled me.

I was enchanted by the smiles of friendly South Africans eager to share the wonders of their country.

As elephants, lions, zebras, and giraffes casually roamed by our jeep (the photo above was taken without a zoom lens), I had to pinch myself. When we watched hippos floating lazily down a river with a spectacular African sunset in the background, I felt like the luckiest girl alive. Not to mention the the surreal experience of seeing adorable African penguins waddling along the rocky coastline.

And my heart raced as sharks thrashed closely to our cage – oh yeah, did I mention my husband talked me into shark cage diving? (More on that later!)

The natural splendor of Africa is impossible to describe. The stunning views from Table Mountain in Cape Town, the spectacular waves crashing in treacherous waters surrounding the Cape of Good Hope, and the beauty and majesty of animals wandering the dry savanna grasses are priceless moments that cannot be quantified.

Yet, Africa is still a complicated country in tumult. Much like many cities around the world, parts of Africa are corrupt and dangerous. However, with some safety precautions, visiting South Africa can be an amazing experience. We traveled with a tour company and if you’re considering a trip there, I’d highly recommend you do the same. (You’ll also save money – this trip cost us much less than you would imagine – more details on how to find a good deal later.)

Stay tuned and I’ll share tips, photos, videos, along with my personal thoughts and experiences. Without further ado, prepare to be amazed.

DAY #1: CAPE TOWN

From the towering Table Mountain down to the brilliant blue waters of the bay, Cape Town is simply stunning. We started with a cable car to the top of Table Mountain with its spectacular views of the city and its beaches.

We were delighted while admiring the Colonial architecture and strolling through the city center to come upon these singers in the park. Be sure to put your sound on to enjoy their beautiful voices.

We ended the day by a visit to Cape Town’s famous V & A Waterfront.

To end a perfect day, we had a wonderful dinner at Belugas. The beef tips and martini dessert were sumptuous!

Note: Cape Town is absolutely gorgeous, but also known for its crime. You should avoid certain areas and take normal safety precautions as you would in any major city. Always use the hotel safe and do not leave valuables in your room. Do not walk outside after dark. Use purses that strap across your body or, better yet, leave them behind and put some cash in your pocket. When visiting Table Mountain, do not hike alone and stay in groups. Your tour guide can advice you about areas where you may be targeted.

DAY #2: CAPE PENINSULA TOUR

We had spectacular views of the rugged coastline and sweeping beaches on our drive to Cape Point at the southwestern tip of the Cape Peninsula.

Visiting Cape Point, the extreme southern tip of Africa, was a special moment. Watching the waves crash around the Cape of Good Hope, where thousands have died in the treacherous waters was moving.

Hiking to the top of Cape Point, we were warned about clever baboons that become aggressive when searching for food. Beware, if you have food in your purse or backpack. These monkeys are not too proud to pull your hair – hard – to get what they want, our guide instructed us. We listened to the advice and fortunately didn’t not run into any. But the views were stunning!

And finally, the southern most point in Africa.

The following video is our visit to the penguin colonies at Boulders Beach.

On our last stop, we visited the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, resting at the foot of Table Mountain. And yes, it was a long, action-packed day!

DAY #3: SHARK CAGE DIVING

When my husband said he wanted to go shark cage diving with me, my first reaction was, “No way!” But after some research and watching videos, I was reassured this was a fairly safe adventure.

To be honest, I’m so glad he talked me into it.  Seeing these majestic, powerful predators up close was an unforgettable experience.

The staff used fish heads to lure the sharks close to the cage – but thankfully didn’t chum the water with blood causing a frenzy. The sharks were so busy chasing the lures, they didn’t even seem interested in us.

My husband and I are scuba certified; however, you don’t need to be to participate. You’re not totally submersed in the water, in fact, the water only comes up to your shoulders. Yes, the water is cold, but you are in a full wet suit with a hood and booties. You feel a jolt when you first get into the water but, believe me, you don’t even notice once the sharks start swimming by. Using a snorkel mask you can grab a lower bar to go under the water to watch the sharks whenever desired. The cage stays attached closely to the boat. We mostly saw copper sharks (also known as “bronzies”) but one great white swam by while we were in the cage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a complete video of our experience for those of you interested:

 

As a bonus, on the way back we stopped at a place famous for whale watching along the rugged, gorgeous coastline and saw a whale in the distance breaching and two whales closer by mating.

DAY #4: GAME VIEWING RIVER CRUISE ON THE ST. LUCIA ESTUARY

After a flight to Durban, we were privileged to experience a river cruise complete with plenty of hippos – including cute hippo babies – crocodiles, and our first zebra sighting.

While it’s true hippopotamuses are dangerous and territorial creatures, we always felt safe in the boat. It should be noted that hippos are nocturnal by nature so, as you can see in the photos, they are mostly resting in the water during the daytime.

 

Watching a large pod of hippos with a stunning African sunset – who could ask for more?

DAY #5: GAME DRIVE IN HLUHLUWE-IMFOLOZI GAME RESERVE & SCHOOL VISIT

The first of two safaris, this game reserve is known for its rhinos. One advantage of visiting Africa in the spring (the seasons are opposite from here in the U.S.) is you get to see tons of babies. A wonderful bonus!

By the way, I never felt in danger while on safari. Our guide said that you’re more likely to die driving back to your hotel than while on safari and I tend to believe him. Although viral videos look terrifying, keep in mind, mIllions of people visit Africa and go on safari without incident – myself included. Deaths are so rare, it’s hard to find statistics. 

On the other hand, I don’t want to sugar coat the experience. Of course, there’s always an element of risk because of the unpredictability of wild animals. But many of the viral videos are the result of ignorant tourists or guides that took unnecessary risks. Most animals give a warning charge to give humans an opportunity to back off. if you have an experienced safari guide that can “read” an animals behavior and avoid dangerous situations by keeping a respectful distance, you don’t need to allow fear or anxiety keep you from an amazing and surreal experience.

Be patient while watching the video below and you’ll see the zebras cross the road right in front of our jeep.

We saw tons of other animals on our safari, like the warthog pictured below, but not any of the big cats. That came later on safari in Kruger Park.

By the way, much is made of seeing the “big five,” which includes the African lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and Cape buffalo. Between both of our safaris, I was fortunate to see all of these animals (I briefly saw the elusive leopard from a distance as it ran into the brush – the hardest to find of the big five – but wasn’t fast enough to get a photo.) If there is a sighting of a leopard or lion, guides let each other know and you’ll find yourself suddenly racing down dirt roads with much excitement to the spot. But I was just as thrilled to see beautiful animals like the Nyasaland big horned deer pictured below.

One of the special moments on our trip was visiting a rural school. We had the option of donating school supplies we brought from home, which we were happy to do. The children were so excited to see us, full of hugs and smiles, and curious about us (for example, they kept touching my hair which was different from theirs).

DAY #6: – SWAZILAND (eSwatini) SIGHTSEEING AND VISIT TO MATSAMO VILLAGE

After visiting a glass factory, where we watched talented glass blowers create African animals and glassware made from recycled glass collected by local children, we visited a cultural village to learn more about their traditions and customs.

Note in the video below how grandparents rule in a traditional village. Awesome!

We also enjoyed traditional dance and song performances.

Day #7: – Kruger National Park Game

Pictures speak louder than words when it comes to the wonder of a safari in this famous game reserve.

People ask if we used a zoom lens with the lion pictured below, and the answer is we really didn’t need one. Sure, we zoomed up a bit with our cameras, but in reality the lion was only about 15 feet from our jeep. Once again, we did not feel endangered. Our guide explained that the lion was injured, apparently from fighting over a female. On top of that, it was mating season. Did you know that a lion can mate up to 100 times in one day? Neither did I! Naturally, the lion was very tired and was actually asleep when we first arrived. After waiting for about 10 minutes, he awoke and lazily strolled off to lay down near a female. 

Check out the cute baby baboons on their parents’ backs in the video below. Adorable!

These monkeys were cute, but super aggressive when trying to steal your lunch.

Zebras were everywhere.

 

 

DAY #8 PANORAMA ROUTE TO JOHANNESBURG

This was our charming breakfast view from Hazyview before we started our long drive to Johannesburg (fondly referred to by Africans as Joburg).

We stopped at Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a series of waterfalls and distinctive rock formations. If you enjoy photography, like my husband in the photo below, Africa is paradise!

My sister, who knows me well, asked if I crossed this bridge. Yes, I’m afraid of heights, but this was a trip of facing down my fears. The only way to see the waterfalls was to cross the bridge. I did so, but very quickly, snapping photos along the way!

This waterfall was one of my rewards for braving the bridge.

Our last stop on the way to Johannesburg and what a view! Reminded me a little bit of Grand Canyon.

DAY #9 JOHANNESBURG

Ah, all good things must come to an end. Johannesburg was our last stop. Known for its glamorous boutique hotels, this is a photo of a sitting area near the bar.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU VISIT SOUTH AFRICA

Do these photos and videos tempt you to take a trip to South Africa? If so, here are some things you should know.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, we got a great deal for this once-in-a-lifetime trip. We paid $2,687.00 per person including airfare from New York to Africa, all our hotel rooms, two safaris, one river cruise, transportation, a flight from Cape Town to Durban, and most of our meals. (Only the optional shark cage dive was not included in the price.)

We subscribe to Travelzoo’s newsletter and saw the deal with Gate 1 Travel. This was the second time we’ve traveled with this tour company – the first time was while visiting China – and we were impressed both times. Just know, as you can tell from my photos, this was an action-packed trip with quite a few early morning wake-up calls. There wasn’t a lot of downtime. However, most of our group was aged 50-plus and all managed to keep up with the pace. By the way, I should mention that we were fortunate to have wonderful people, most of which were well-seasoned travelers, to share this awesome experience and compare notes. If you’re interested, keep an eye out for sales. We received an additional $400 off per person if we signed up by a certain date.

Everyone asks me how many shots I had before my trip. You may be surprised to learn that vaccines and malaria pills are not required if you are visiting South Africa from the United States.

The CDC recommends being up to date on routine vaccinations along with hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines for most travelers (which you can get through contaminated food or water). You can use this link to see all of their recommendations. Since we trusted our tour company to take us to safe places to eat (we were careful not to eat at any roadside stands) and alert us when it wasn’t safe to drink the water, we personally chose not to get these vaccinations.

You may choose to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans. Be aware, malaria pills can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and fever. Because of these risks, my husband and I chose not to take these drugs and instead took other recommended precautions such as wearing long pants, long sleeved shirts, socks, and using mosquito repellent on any exposed skin. This is a personal choice that can be discussed with your doctor.

So, the answer is that other than a tetanus booster and flu shot, I didn’t have any other immunizations before visiting Africa. In full disclosure, I’m a worrier and this choice caused me some anxiety. For example, I panicked after seeing mosquitoes in one of our rooms and practically drowned myself with mosquito repellent. A small insect bite also caused some worry. Then, the day after arriving home, I broke out in a rash. At first, my doctor thought the cause might be a parasitic infection. Of course, I was freaked out by the thought; however, my blood test came back normal. Apparently, the rash was caused by a fungal skin infection (a common type around the world including here in the U.S.) that was easily treated with a topical creme.

Of course, none of these things happened to my husband who skipped through Africa with nary a concern.

At any rate, yes, you always take a chance when you’re traveling. But the way I look at it, I could get bit by a mosquito right here at home in the California desert and get the West Nile virus – which has killed people.

In other words, I’m not going to let any of this stop me from traveling again. Seeing new places and experiencing exotic cultures is a passion of mine that luckily my husband shares. In fact, we’ve visited over 20 countries in six continents. People ask us which trip is our favorite. Our answer? Without question, Africa wins the prize. There is no other place in the world like it.

Summer 2019 Blog Hop: What This Boomer is Up To

Summer is just around the corner! As visions of sailing, road trips, and time at the beach dance around this baby boomer’s head, my writerly pals and I are sharing our summer dreams and inspiration in the C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y – Summer Blog Hop. (For more summertime fun, click over to meet the awesome #Gr8Blogs bloggers listed at the end of this post.)

What have I been up to lately? What have I been writing? What books am I reading? What’s making me proud? What am I anticipating?

And…will I go shark cage diving on our trip to Africa this fall?

Read on to find out…

* What I’m Loving

My family, of course, on an early summer road trip! We went camping on Pismo Beach – a drive-on beach in Central California where the cold wind blew, my daughter-in-law got her car stuck in the sand, and we took an exciting bumpy ride on the sand dunes. But a fun time was had by all! Next summer family trip – Catalina Island!

* What I’m Writing

After promoting my latest book, I’m happy to get back to writing again. Next up, a book to help those over 50 who are struggling to lose weight.

Confession time. After caring for my mother for a few years, I had gained a lot of weight stress-eating. Since I had neglected my health during that time, a check-up was in order. The doctor bluntly informed me that I had gained 10 pounds since my last visit. Okay, I already knew that, but it was still painful to hear!

So began my quest to drop the weight. The pics below show me before and after my weight loss.

Before

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me tell you, losing weight is a whole new ballgame as you age. This was a a learning experience as I mastered what worked – and found out what didn’t work anymore now that I’m older.

I’m ready to share my secrets. No dangerous surgeries, expensive weight loss programs, or crazy fad diets involved. I’ll discuss why it’s so hard to lose weight as you age and what you can do about it. I’ll share with you my personal struggles, tips so you never feel hungry, how to stop stress-eating, some of my favorite recipes, and how to keep the weight off. ​I hope to have it finished and ready to publish by the end of the year just in time for 2020 resolutions.

By the way, I’m so grateful that my book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia, published a few months ago, has been well-received with several five-star reviews including this one from Readers’ Favorite:

“…It is a caring, heart-filled story of a daughter’s journey with her mother, as they both face the monster of an illness that steals so much.”

The book, as well as other reviews, are available on Amazon.

 

* What I’m Anticipating

This fall, I will fulfill a lifelong dream and visit South Africa with my husband, Scott. I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that he was trying to talk me into going shark cage diving with the great whites in Cape Town.

One of the reasons I think our marriage works so well – even after 40 years – is because we support each other’s dreams and Scott was super excited about this idea. Oh dear! Although I consider myself an adventurer, visions of the scene of a shark attacking the cage in Jaws kept dancing around in my head.

Now, for the big question. Will I do it?

Drum-roll please….yes, we have booked this adventure.

Mind you, this decision was not made lightly. I did plenty of research and watched several videos so I’d know what to expect. I discovered that the companies in South Africa do not chum the waters or feed the sharks and closely follow safety regulations. I couldn’t find any reports of fatalities, but I did see a viral video of a cage dive gone wrong on Guadalupe Island in Mexico when safety precautions were ignored. Horrifically, the shark ended up thrashing around violently inside the cage with a man – who miraculously was unharmed. By the way, even though I am scuba certified, I would never go shark diving without a cage or try to feed the sharks. I have my limits and that just seems dumb and dangerous.

Now, if I could only stop hearing “duun-dun, dun-dun, duun-duun, dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun” every time I think about the cage dive.

Stay tuned, I’ll be blogging all about my experience.

* What I’m Reading

Ready to hit the beach or sit by the lakeside with a good book this summer? Here are a few books I’ve read lately that you may want to check out:

I was impressed with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The protagonist is a 30-year-old isolated, socially-awkward woman. Her unrequited crush on a musician, the way her workmates make fun of her, and her first experiences getting a manicure and a bikini wax – made me want to laugh and cry. Mostly cry. Despite Eleanor’s initial resistance, a man she works with befriends her. The book eventually reveals the mysterious event that left her so physically and emotionally scarred. This character touched my heart and reminds everyone that a bit of kindness and empathy goes a long way.

If you’re looking for a good thriller, a book that I couldn’t put down is The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn. Sort of a combination of Rear Window, Wait Until Dark, and Gaslight. I don’t want to give anything away, so that’s all I’ll say. But take my word, this is a gripping story that will keep you guessing.

I just finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and have mixed feelings about it. I was impressed with the lyrical, hauntingly beautiful writing as the author describes the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coastline. The murder mystery combined with a coming-of-age story drew me in. But some of the book didn’t make sense and although some people loved the controversial ending, without any spoiler alerts, let’s just say I didn’t.

* What’s Making Me Burst with Pride

So proud of my oldest son, Jonathan, who graduated last month with high honors. He earned his degree while working full-time and with three kids – who were delighted to decorate his graduation cap with their names!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* What’s In My Camera Lens

I don’t claim to be a photographer (sadly, writing is my one and only creative talent), but with the “super bloom” we had this year, how could I resist snapping lots of pics? They say it never rains in Southern California – but this year, it did in a big way with record-setting rainfall. The result? An eye-popping explosion of flowers on hillsides.

These first photos were taken at Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore where a poppy paradise drew massive crowds. Tourists from around the world could be seen on the trails enjoying the spectacular sight. The last two were taken near Hemet where I grew up – and yes, that’s my adorable youngest granddaughter posing in the flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What else this summer will bring remains to be seen. Hope you enjoyed sharing my life and a big thanks for stopping by! For more Summer 2019 C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y moments, please visit the #Gr8blogs below:

Cat Michaels on Cat’s Corner

Rebecca Lyndsey

KidLit Blog by Rosie

James Milson “Writing & Things”

Sandra Bennett

Carmela Dutra

Auden Johnson

Mackenzie Flohr

 

Summer Road Trip: Hidden Gems in Southern California

Summer is the perfect time for gorgeous scenic drives and road trips. With that in mind, join our blog hop for virtual road trips, weekend getaways, and day trips along with some insider tips for visiting exciting places in North America as far away as Australia.

I’m excited to share some hidden gems in my neck of the woods, Southern California.  Join me, then pop about the globe for more inspiring road trip ideas from other great bloggers, who are linked at the bottom of this page.

 

(By the way, I actually live in the California desert which I do NOT recommend visiting during the summer months. It is 121 degrees as I write this blog. No, I’m not kidding – or exaggerating. Unless you like feeling your eyes burn as if someone has a blow dryer an inch from your face and burning your hands on the steering wheel, save a trip to Palm Springs for the winter when you’re buried in snow and we’re having perfectly fabulous weather.)

During the summer months here in Southern California, many tourists flock to well-known destinations like San Diego, Disneyland, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara. These are all great places to visit, but if you’re looking for somewhere different that’s a bit off the radar, check out the following incredible destinations:

The Channell Islands

My husband and I have lived in California most our lives, but somehow missed these spectacular islands that are classified as one of the U.S. National Parks. After seeing some stunning photos on the Internet, we took a short boat ride to Anacapa Island from Oxnard as part of a weekend anniversary trip.

If you decide to go, be prepared and bring supplies. This trip is for adventurous people in good physical shape. You will need to climb 157 stairs to the top of this rugged little island where there is no food, services, water, or flushing toilets. Now, I HATE outhouses, but I’m telling you – the views of the rocky shoreline, massive cliffs, and jagged peaks were worth it. You can easily hike around the rim of the island in just hours with Inspiration Point a grand reward for your efforts.

We visited in June when bursts of bright wildflowers covered the small island and thousands of adorable baby sea gulls were to be found around every corner. Just beware of their protective mamas who will swoop at your head if you get too close.

We returned a couple of years later and visited the larger Santa Cruz Island for an exciting kayak tour of the historic sea caves. On the boat ride there we saw a whale and two large schools of dolphins. The waters can be rough at certain points, but the caves were amazing. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Some people consider these islands desolate, but if you have an adventurous spirit and love nature, the Channell Islands are considered the Galápagos of North America.

The Huntington Botanical Gardens 

This is yet another stunning place that we failed to visit for decades. Located in Pasadena, the magnificent estate is home to more than a dozen spectacular gardens spread across 120 acres. Hard to say which garden is the most dazzling, but the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the California Garden are a few of my favorites.

We didn’t even get a chance to check out the art galleries. The Huntington Art Gallery, houses 18th- and 19th-century British paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, and includes the famous Blue Boy. And to my shame as a writer, we did not visit The Huntington Library itself, one of the largest and most complete research libraries in the United States.

Next time.

Ventura County Wine Trail

Napa may get all the attention as wine country in California, but my husband and I enjoyed sipping our way through the coastal rolling hills near the seaside town of Ventura. We visited two of the nearly 20 wineries and tasting rooms.

You can book one of the many wine tours offered. However, we decided to get a map and explore on our own. Beginning in Ventura at the junction of Highway 1 and Highway 101, we drove up Highway 33 toward Ojai.

Surprises await on this somewhat lonely but charming road – from the “USA’s Smallest Post Office” to the last place anyone saw James Dean alive. Our favorite find was Old Creek Winery which felt like returning to a simpler place and time where friendly folk and dogs welcomed us. We enjoyed our purchased bottle of wine and a picnic outside on tables enjoying the Americana view.

By the way, both Ojai and Ventura are worthwhile stops with charming inns, luxurious spas, and bed & breakfasts along with a wide array of outdoor activities. In the summer time, the Ventura Harbor Village is a hubbub of activity with festivals and live music on the weekends.

Laguna Beach

This charming beach town is located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. With over 20 different scenic coves, this beach area offers everything from surfing, paddle-boarding, snorkeling, kayaking, and whale watching excursions.

Just beware, the surf can be rough in places. As a teenager, I decided to body surf despite the churning waters and wiped out on a massive wave (think Beach Boys’ song: Heheheheheheee wipe oooout!). You can read more about that delightful experience here. Actually, I blame the Beach Boys for this entire mishap since they went and romanticized this whole surfer chick thing with songs I grew up on like Surfer Girl. SO their fault.

However, the scenery can’t be beat. Add ultra-chic restaurants and shops and one-of-a-kind art galleries and you get the picture. There’s even a Baby Boomer Club with Saturday Night dances. Every summer, they host the Laguna Woodstock where baby boomers party like its 1969.

Heisler Park is a good place to start, located just north of the main beach, with an easy half-mile stroll along a paved path with spectacular views of the coastline and the soothing sound of crashing waves. You can take one of the paths to the beaches and tide pools. Benches, picnic tables, and barbecues abound where you can enjoy the magnificent views. Hubby and I had a picnic on one of the grass areas and it was perfect!

Treasure Island Park is another great spot, located on the grounds of the five-star Montage Laguna Beach, where the truly rich stay. Exquisitely landscaped, several lookout benches line the easy-to-walk winding path. Stairways and ramps lead you down to the beach, where you can walk through a beautiful rock archway during low tide, find a spot in the sand for sunbathing, and a large tide pool. In addition, there is plenty of grass areas for a picnic. I’d suggest bringing some wine and cheese to catch a romantic sunset.

Big Bear Lake

I live in the desert, so nearby Big Bear is a great mountain escape with its gorgeous lake and pristine forests. Boating, fishing, and hiking are just some of the activities in this small, laid-back village.

Last summer, my husband and I cycled around the lake, enjoyed a picnic, zipped down an alpine slide, drove go-karts with speeds up to 30 m.p.h., and took a ride on the scenic sky chair for terrific views. After watching people take the chair lifts to mountain bike down the trails, we put this on our to-do list for next time.

For the adventurous at heart, parasailing and ziplining are also available.

El Matador Beach

Looking for a spectacular shoreline with white sands, towering cliffs, crashing waves, and craggy rock formations in a semi-hidden location?

Look no further than El Matador, located north of Malibu off the winding Pacific Coast Highway. It’s easy to miss the small, brown sign pointing toward the small parking lot at the trail-head, so watch carefully between Broad Beach and Decker Canyon Roads. Once you find it, be prepared to hike down a 150-foot bluff with the help of some steep stairs.

Not for small children or those who are physically challenged, but if you can make it down the steps you’ll be treated with breathtaking views. The locals know about this beach and you may see some photo shoots taking place – we did!

There is blissfully little to do on this small but glorious stretch of beach, so bring a picnic lunch or some wine and find a hidden nook to enjoy an incredibly romantic setting.

Redondo Beach

By now, you’ve probably noticed that my husband and I are beach bums. We found this beach on accident while looking for a nearby place to stay the night before flying out of LAX the next morning.

The Redondo Pier is a landmark with panoramic ocean views and water activities that include harbor cruises, seasonal whale watching, kayaks, paddleboards, and pedal boats. Truth be known, we didn’t try any of these out, but we loved the views from Tony’s on the Pier where we enjoyed Happy Hour!

The pier is also home to a 16-foot great white shark affectionately known as Georgette, on display in a large tank at Shark Attack on the Pier.  If you have grandchildren with you or are young at heart, you may enjoy the semi-submersible yellow submarine (darn, now I’ve got the Beatles song stuck in my head) for underwater viewing of the local sea life.

Sure beats staying at an airport hotel if you’re flying to or from Los Angeles.

Catalina Island

This island is more well-known than some of my previous recommendations, but a sentimental favorite. My husband and I spent our honeymoon there 40 years ago and have returned several times. This is a small, quaint island, with no stoplights or fast food restaurants. A typical traffic jam involves two golf carts and a bicycle built for two.

On our honeymoon, we blissfully rode bikes around Avalon, went horseback riding, toured the famous casino, and sunbathed on the small beach. We also took a bus to Two Harbors, the only other village on Catalina Island. Snorkeling, parasailing, fishing, glass bottom boat rides, paddleboarding, Segway tours, golfing, and hiking are other popular activities.

Decades later, we sailed our boat to the island from Long Beach – which turned out to be one wild ride. My husband and grown children returned again for our open-water dives to become scuba-certified amid the famous kelp forests surrounded by the bright orange Garibaldi fish. Next time we visit, I want to try the new zip-line that’s 600 feet above sea level with one run that is 1,100 feet long with speeds up to 30 m.p.h. Wheee!

As you can tell, Southern California has so many great places to visit, it’s impossible to list them all. But hopefully I’ve given you some ideas to get started.

Thanks for your company!  What are favorite road trip must-sees in your corner of the world? Please share in the comments section. 

There’s more more fun and inspirational Summer Road Trips ahead!  Click over to your next destination with my blogger pals below.:

United States

Rosie Russell: Dust off your maps as Rosie guides you through her home state – Missouri.

Cat Michaels: Power up your GPS as Cat lists her top five family-friendly places to visit in North Carolina.

Kristen Lamb:  Buckle up as Kristen takes you through historical sites in California.

Rebecca Lyndsey: Check your tire pressure and take off on a virtual road trip through West Virginia.

Carmela Dutra:  Take a tour of family-friendly places in the San Jose Bay Area in California.

Rhonda Paglia: Rhonda is excited to guide you around her part of the world, Western Pennsylvania.

Lynn from An Encore Voyage shares a recent road trip in her beautiful home state of Idaho.

Australia

Sandra Bennett: It’s winter down under now, so Sandra takes us on a winter road trip to lovely Canberra.

 

 

A Baby Boomer’s Disappointment: “Just Getting Started” Movie Review

Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, Jane Seymour, Johnny Mathis, and Rene Russo – all starring together in the movie “Just Getting Started” set in my hometown – Palm Springs. A baby boomer’s delight, right?

Of course, I was excited to see this movie. The premise had some possibilities. Freeman plays Duke Diver, the manager of a luxury Palm Springs retirement community packed with retirees, who has some mysterious secrets from his past.

Some sight gags in the beginning of the movie, like Christmas carolers dressed in Dickensian clothes wearing flip-flops, made me smile a bit. But then “Just Getting Started” went terribly wrong. This movie was not just boring and unfunny, it slammed us boomers.  Pun intended, I’m just getting started!

Is anyone else tired of the elderly portrayed as horny, desperate, and lonely? The women in this movie are dismally portrayed as dejected, just waiting around for the attention of their male counterparts. Don’t they have anything else better to do?

There was a creepy scene in the beginning of the movie with Glenne Headly (who I remember from Lonesome Dove and sadly discovered died this year at the young age of 62) standing on a ladder with Freeman ogling her and making inappropriate comments.

This is especially sad since it was announced today that Oscar-winning Freeman, who starred in some of my favorite movies like “Shawshank Redemption,” has been accused of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment by eight women. Freeman apologized to anyone “who felt uncomfortable or disrespected.”

Another disappointment: Although the opening scenes were shot in my California desert, the rest of “Just Getting Started” was clearly not filmed here. I found out later that most of the movie was shot in New Mexico. They even ripped off the name of the famous atmospheric Melvyn’s restaurant here, once a magnet for Hollywood’s elite like the Rat Pack, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Marlon Brando, Rita Hayworth, and Jerry Lewis, and slapped it on a building that obviously was not the original restaurant.

Aside from my local umbrage, this movies was just sad. I couldn’t keep watching it. But I hear it only got worse. As a review on Roger Ebert’s website said, the movie “awkwardly evolves from being a horny oldsters on the loose caper to a macho one-upmanship contest and, finally, a crime film about foiling a mob hit beset with dreary car chases, a literal snooze-fest stakeout, a rather tame cobra stuck in a golf bag and perhaps one of the least-exciting bomb explosions ever captured on film.”

In a year that produced Oscar-winning performances of boomers that didn’t fit into the typical stereotypes, “Just Getting Started” is especially disappointing. Last year, Jeff Bridges, 67, starred as a Texas Ranger tracking down a pair of bank-robbing brothers. Viggo Mortensen, 58, played a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous education that challenged his philosophy about life. And Isabelle Huppert, 63, played a woman who turned the tables on her attacker. That seemed like a nice change since we baby boomers are not grumpy, over-sexed, old codgers cussing up a storm like we are often portrayed in Hollywood. We are active, productive, and vibrant members of society.

As I pointed out in a previous blog, “These days, if Hollywood ridiculed an ethnic group, the LGBT community, or the disabled in movies, people would be in an uproar. So why do people quietly tolerate the way movies make fun of older people?”

“Just Getting Started” is streaming now online, but my advice? Skip this one.

 

Fun Spring Activities for Baby Boomers

Who doesn’t love spring when longer days brighten the sky, birds sing joyfully, and trees begin sprouting bright new leaves? Even here in the California desert where I live, wildflowers bloom, jacaranda trees explode with purple flowers, and cacti burst with flowers in brilliant colors.

photo springSince a lack of sunlight during short, winter days can adversely affect older adults’ moods,  aren’t you baby boomers ready to celebrate this spectacular time of year? I’ve updated a previous blog to list six fun spring activities baby boomers can enjoy as weather permits, no matter your age.

Take A Spring Break

Who says college students are the only ones who can take a spring break? We baby boomers get itchy feet too and there are lots of sunny places to visit. U.S. News’ list of top five cheap spring break destinations included Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, New Orleans, South Padre Island, and Key West.

This is the perfect time to visit one of the National Parks before the summer crowds hit. According to AARP, baby boomers have seen more national parks than other generations – on average 14. But since there’s 58 in the U.S., there’s plenty more to see!

Need to stay closer to home? A weekend trip to a local beach or lake may be just the ticket. Or simply enjoy a Sunday drive on a road you’ve never taken before. Rent a convertible for extra fun and wind your way to a nearby town or park you’ve been meaning to explore.

Plant a Garden

One of my favorite activities is picking out seeds or plants at the garden center with my grandchildren and planting them when we get home. 

The joy of walking outside, enjoying the beauty of greenery shining in the sun, the sound of bees buzzing nearby, plopping an irresistible strawberry in your mouth, and then gathering vegetables and deliciously aromatic herbs for a recipe – what better way to celebrate spring!

If you don’t have space for a garden, visit a Farmer’s Market.

Eat Al Fresco

Spring is finally here and we have that precious extra hour’s daylight. Head outside, have a picnic at the park or some other scenic area, and enjoy eating fresh food with a view.

Or simply throw a bright and cheerful tablecloth on your patio table, add some fresh cut flowers into soup cans painted in spring colors, and a few floral napkins. Then enjoy a magical spring dinner with family or friends outside to welcome the season.

Feeling lazy? Eat outside at a local cafe. Or invite some friends over, get out your good china, and enjoy an afternoon tea party on your patio.

Bring the Outdoors In

Change out your curtains with a sheer, billowy, or natural fabric. You may even want to paint a room a vibrant spring color or bring new life to old furniture with a coat of fresh white paint. If you’re doing some spring cleaning, be sure and wash your windows so you can enjoy your view outdoors.

Install some window boxes and plant some herbs or bright spring flowers. Buy some showy tulips or daffodils with their bright, cheery colors or clip some spring blossoms and display them in your home. 

Be sure and open your windows to listen to a spring shower or simply enjoy a gentle spring breeze. Take a few calming deep breaths and enjoy all that fresh air.

Play Outside with Your Grandchildren

Oh, the fun you can have with your grandchildren during springtime! Ride bikes, play tennis, or jump on a trampoline. Enjoy some gardening or have a fancy picnic in the park.

Explore the neighborhood with a butterfly net in hand. Build a birdhouse together and attract wildlife you can enjoy watching together.

Or introduce your grandchildren to some old-fashioned outdoor games like Kick-the-Can, Red Rover, Red Light-Green Light, or Duck-Duck-Goose. They’ll love it!

Take a Hike

This is a no-brainer, but put on your hiking boots, pack up some water and snacks, and go discover the great outdoors. We all know that baby boomers need to keep moving to stay healthy and this is a fun way to do it.

As I pointed out in my blog, Hiking and Happiness, no big surprise, a new study shows that walking or hiking in nature can bring us inner peace, joy, and happiness. My husband and I have had many pleasant afternoons trying out some local hiking trails. I’d highly recommend it!

If your health does not allow a vigorous hike, take a gentle stroll on a deserted beach with your loved one or take a walk around the block. Just get out there and enjoy the sunshine!

These are just a few ideas, I’m sure you can come up with more. Whatever you choose to do, shed that winter coat as soon as the weather allows, grab a pair of scandals, and get out there and enjoy the fleeting glory of spring!

 

20 Best Reading Quotes to Inspire Baby Boomer Book Lovers

Summer is the perfect time for some relaxation and reading. All you baby boomer book lovers out there, it’s time to break out your Kindle, dust off your favorite book, or head for your local library. It just so happens that August 9th marks National Book Lovers Day and it’s time to celebrate!

Reading on BeachIn honor of the day, my writer pals are sharing all the ways we adore reading with a #BookLuvHop. You can visit the awesome bloggers listed at the end of this post who share their libre passion.

To mark the occasion – and simply because I absolutely treasure books of all kinds – I’m sharing 20 inspiring quotes that will remind you of the power and pleasure of books.

Enjoy!

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” – William Styron

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” – Anna Quindlen

“A good book is the purest essence of a human soul.” – Thomas Carlyle

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles William Eliot

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” -Cicero

“I never feel lonely if I’ve got a book – they’re like old friends. Even if you’re not reading them over and over again, you know they are there. And they’re part of your history. They sort of tell a story about your journey through life.” – Emilia Fox

Books Coffee“I love the smell of book ink in the morning.” – Umberto Eco

“The habit of reading is the only enjoyment I know in which there is no alloy. It lasts when all other pleasures fade. It will be there to support you when all other resources are gone. It will be present to you when the energies of your body have fallen away from you. It will last you until your death. It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live.” – Anthony Trollope

“A first book has some of the sweetness of a first love.” – Robert Aris Willmott

“What I see in the Bible, especially in the book of Psalms, which is a book of gratitude for the created world, is a recognition that all good things on Earth are God’s, every good gift is from above. They are good if we recognize where they came from and if we treat them the way the Designer intended them to be treated.” – Philip Yancey

“The world was hers for the reading.” – Betty Smith

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.” – Dr. Seuss

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” – James Baldwin

Books Travel“Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.” – Diane Duane

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” – Erasmus

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King

“I love books. I adore everything about them. I love the feel of the pages on my fingertips. They are light enough to carry, yet so heavy with worlds and ideas. I love the sound of the pages flicking against my fingers. Print against fingerprints. Books make people quiet, yet they are so loud.” – Nnedi Okorafor 

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” – Toni Morrison

“She sounds like someone who spends a lot of time in libraries, which are the best sorts of people.” – Catherynne M. Valente

Don’t you love these quotes that expresses our love of books so eloquently? So, thanks for visiting and I wish you a great summer as you delve into other worlds through the wonder of books.

Please visit these awesome bloggers next, who will inspire you and make you smile with more book loving in the #BookLuvHop:

Carmela Dutra

Rebecca Lyndsey

James Miller

Cat Michaels

Rosie Russell

Images courtesy of marcolm, amenic181, and jannoon028 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

 

Ready, Set, Jump Into Summer: 2017 CURRENTLY Summer Blog Hop

Sun screen. Kids playing “Marco Polo” in the pool. Family road trips. Summer is in the air!

summerThat means it’s time for a CURRRENTLY Summer Blog Hop.

My blogger buddies and I are sharing what we’re up to this summer to inspire you to have the greatest summer ever!

What are we thinking about, reading, watching, writing about, listening to, and anticipating? Please have a read and enjoy! Then visit the other #Gr8Blogs listed at the end of this post for some more summer inspiration.

Reading…

Looking for a couple of page turners to enjoy on the beach or by the pool?

I just finished the novel, I Let You Go, by Clair Mackintosh. The astonishing twist in the middle of the book had me glancing back to see how the author had fooled me! I guessed some of the other surprises toward the end of the book, but not all of them. A cunning psychological thriller that keeps you turning pages.

The other book I recently read, You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott, features the competitive and, yes, brutal world of gymnasts and their parents on track for the Olympics. The book begs the answer to the question – how well do we really know the people we love best? Let’s just say, they aren’t always worthy of our trust in this fascinating book.

sailingLoving…

Loving our sailboat, Jules of the Sea! Hard to point to one reason why sailing is so addicting.

As I wrote in an earlier blog: Is it the feel of brisk sea air in your face, the disconnection from all the stress, noise, and worries, the sounds of the gentle lapping of the water and the hum of the wind in the sails, or the deep connection with nature, peace, and serenity?

Whatever the reason, we’re hooked and have been sailing for more than 30 years. I’m looking forward to doing plenty more of it this summer!

Watching…

A couple of my blogging buddies raved about Poldark in our last CURRENTLY blog hop, so I decided to give it a try. All I can say is if you haven’t been watching this PBS Masterpiece series – you are missing out! I LOVE, LOVE it! They are filming Season 3 now.

Then, there’s Colony on Netflix. I can’t resist a good sci-fi and besides that, the sexy blonde from Lost, Josh Holloway, stars in it. Just starting Season 2. The otherworldly drones are ominously policing the humans since “the arrival,” the “red hats” are patrolling the street mercilessly, and the Sullivan family are caught in the middle. Pretty good stuff.

writingWriting…

I’ve got several irons in the fire right now.

Still not ready to reveal my latest writing project, but if all goes according to plan, it will include a book, new website, and an online course. Stay tuned…

I’m also putting the final edits in my book tentatively titled, I’m Your Daughter, Julie. The book shares my story about caring for my mother who had a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s along with caregiving tips.

Then there’s a humorous book about getting older and a book on finding your baby boomer bliss (based on this blog) that are in the beginning stages.

I’ve been a busy girl!

Thinking About…

Must be my age, but I’ve been dreaming about future plans. Retirement is probably at least a decade away, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it.

Most my life, I’ve been a freelance writer and feel fortunate to have made a living doing something I love. But I’d like to make a few changes. Although I’m captivated by words and can’t imagine not writing at all, like many independent baby boomers, I want to have more creative control over my career. Specifically, what I write and how much time I spend doing it. In other words, instead of writing for other people, I’d like to start writing for myself.

Hopefully, all my new projects will bring me closer to those goals.

concert 2Listening to…

Billy Joel! Check out my blog for details, but I was lucky to attend his concert at Dodger Stadium with surprise guests Pink and Axl Rose.

My favorite moment was when all the flashlights lit up like stars in the sky. We all swayed together joyfully and happily sang along as Billy Joel belted out “Piano Man.” So much fun!

My sister also bought me and hubby tickets to the play, Margaritaville, based on Jimmy Buffett’s music for our upcoming anniversary. The play is so much fun and heading to Broadway. If you are looking for a carefree, funny, and entertaining play, look no further!

Anticipating…

Going to the beach! The ocean has always been my peaceful sanctuary. I’m anticipating magnificent sunsets and the gentle sound of waves lapping on the shore.

My oldest granddaughter is learning to surf and has a natural knack for it. I’ll be merrily riding the waves alongside her on my boogie board. I’m looking forward to the giggles of my grandchildren as they play in the waves, build sand castles, and catch sand crabs in their buckets.

scott and julie gardensMaking Me Happy…

Got to say, it’s my hubby. My safe haven, my best friend, the love of my live, my biggest supporter, and my soothing comforter. Did I mention he cooks too? This month marks our 39th anniversary of wedded bliss.

So, there you go. That’s what I’ll be up to this summer. What are your summer plans? What are you reading, watching, listening to, or looking forward to? Please share in the comments below!

For more Summer 2017 CURRENTLY moments, visit the #Gr8blogs below. Thanks for stopping by!

Tracy Bryan: Tracy Bryan, Children’s Author

Cat Michaels: Cat’s Corner

Sandra Bennett: Sandra Bennett, Author

Auden Johnson: Dark Treasury

Carmela Dutra: Carmela Dutra, Children’s Author

James Milson: Writing & Things

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, think4photop, surasakiStock and ponsuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Baby Boomer Billy Joel Rocks Dodger Stadium

Billy Joel with PinkThe flashlights lit up like stars in the sky, swaying joyfully as Billy Joel belted out “Piano Man” at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 13, 2017.

The enamored audience filled with baby boomers sang along and, yes, I was fortunate to be one of them.

“It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday,” Billy Joel sang in the middle of the performance and we roared for the acknowledgement.

The concert included many of the classic Billy Joel songs baby boomers will remember. The two-and-a-half hour concert began with “Movin’ Out” from Joel’s 1977’s “The Stranger” album and went on to include “My Life,” “She’s Always a Woman,” “The Longest Time,” and “Vienna.” The 68-year-old can still hit and hold every high note, never wavering.

If that wasn’t enough, surprise guests Pink and Axl Rose showed up much to our delight.  Pink was up first, adding her powerful vocals in  a duet of  “New York State of Mind” and then belted out her own stirring song, “Try,”

Billy Joel with AxlLater, much to the audience’s shock, Joel introduced Rose for a rowdy rendition of  “Highway to Hell ” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Rose also sneaked onstage one last time during Joel’s encore performance to sing “Big Shot,” with Joel chiming in during the choruses.

In some easygoing banter, Billy Joel reminisced about his days in LA early in his career struggling to find success at the piano bar that would be the inspiration for his signature song, Piano Man.

“So this is where the Dodgers ended up?” he asked, looking around Dodger Stadium. “They used to play at Ebbets Field. Then they left and I became a freakin’ Yankees fan.”

The crowd booed and Joel grinned. He acknowledged how different it was to playing a massive stadium after those early days when he played at bars around Hollywood Hills, Studio City and eventually the Troubadour.

Billy Joel ConcertHumbly, with self-depreciation, Joel confessed the many geographical and historical mistakes in “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” and called “Allentown” an “authentic rock and roll” error. “I was still living here when I wrote this song,” he said introducing “The Entertainer.” “I was wrong when I wrote it, I was cynical. But I like to do this one because it reminds me what an annoying person I was.”

Joel paid tribute to artists singing “Take It Easy” by the Eagles and Randy Newman’s “The Natural.” Each member of the band was also given a moment to shine, including Carl Fischer on the trumpet, saxophonist and backing vocalist Mark Rivera, and the magnificent vocals of Mike DelGuidice whose voice soared on the Puccini aria “Nessun dorma.”

The encore included well-known hits like  “Uptown Girl,” “Only the Good Die Young,” and “You May Be Right” which had all of us on our feet dancing and belting out the choruses.

We were “all in the mood for a melody” and Joel delivered as our piano man. “You’ve got us feeling’ alright.”

Thanks to my son, Jonathan Gorges, for the photos.

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Boomer Bucket List Travel Destinations

Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it? Does it include an exotic travel destination?

TravelIt’s no secret that I love to travel, so a new survey from AARP that lists baby boomers choices for top bucket list travel destinations caught my eye.

Interestingly, it turns out that only about half of baby boomers even have a bucket list. In fact, Millennials and Generation Xers are more likely to have a bucket list than us boomers.

That was surprising, but maybe that’s because we boomers are getting older and the term “bucket list” conjures up the phrase “kicking the bucket.” Bucket lists seem to be made with the idea that death is just around the corner so we better hurry to check off the boxes on our list. Like the movie, The Bucket List, with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, about two terminally ill men on a road trip checking off a list of must-dos before they die. Was anyone else depressed by this movie?

However, bucket lists don’t have to be about dying, evidenced by the fact that younger people keep a bucket list more often than us older folk. A bucket list can inspire us to make the most of life and motivate us to experience new things. It can be a chance to write down our dreams to help remember what’s important to us. A way to bring more excitement and fulfillment to our lives. According to the survey, those baby boomers who had bucket lists said it also gives them something to look forward to which is always a good thing.

So let’s get back to that AARP survey. Are you curious what made the list of top travel destinations? Where do you dream about visiting? Does it agree with the survey’s findings?

According to the survey from AARP, half of boomers have domestic destinations on their bucket lists while the other half lists domestic locations.

Hawaii tops the list for a dream domestic destination followed by Alaska, California, Arizona, and Nevada. The top international destinations are Australia, followed by Italy, the United Kingdom/Ireland, France, and the Caribbean.

About 12,000 baby boomers were included in the survey.

Some other interesting findings:

  • On average, of those boomers who had travel bucket lists, they have already completed 25% of their trips. I like that! No time like the present.
  • Although only 11% of the trips have been booked, meaning boomers are still in the planning phase, almost 69% of boomers are optimistic their next bucket list trip will happen – most say within the next two to five years. Only 3% of boomers say their list is simply for dreaming.
  • Although many boomers continue to indicate a desire to travel more in 2017 than they did in 2016, a handful of barriers remain in the way; cost (43%), health (34%), and security concerns (28%) top the list.
  • That being said, 99% of boomers said they will take at least one leisure trip in 2017, with an average of five or more trips expected throughout the year. Most (51%) expect to only travel domestically, but a significant portion are hoping to travel both domestically and internationally (43%).
  • For boomers, bucket list trips are the most popular motivation for an international trip, while domestic trips are a combination of summer vacations, multi-generational trips, weekend getaways, and holiday travel.
  • Most boomers are looking for a laid back and relaxing trip to give them the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family.
  • Boomers enjoy dreaming about the trip almost as much as experiencing the trip itself. Part of the fun is planning!

If you’re interested in learning more about baby boomer travel trends, you can check out a past blog I wrote on this subject.

Where do I want to travel? While I don’t have a written bucket list, I do dream a lot about seeing the world. Although I’m not traveling as much as I’d like these days, in the past I’ve been lucky enough to visit most of the top places listed on the survey. For inquiring minds, Africa (which came in 6th on the survey) and sailing the Caribbean (number 5) are my top picks.

So, where do you want to visit? What’s your top three picks for domestic and international destinations and why? Please share in the comments below!

Image courtesy of digital art at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Baby Boomers: Celebrate America’s Top Ten Flower Festivals

The first day of spring is this Monday, on March 20th. As I write this blog from the California desert, with temperatures currently soaring to 90-plus degrees (too soon, too soon!), the northeast is being pummeled with a massive storm and blizzard conditions.

spring flowersBut, as we baby boomers all know from decades of experience, this crazy weather shall soon pass and we all have some gorgeous spring days ahead of us.

So, let’s think spring! What better way to celebrate this wonderful time of year than visiting one of America’s top ten flower festivals?

In Southern California, thanks to this winter’s abundant rain and snow, we’re looking forward to explosive colors as wildflowers begin to spread across our desert, coastline, and foothills. Other parts of the country, from grassland prairies to alpine meadows, are also anticipating nature’s colorful display of flowers, guaranteeing us delightfully longer, warmer days.

With that in mind, I’m sharing 10 popular spring flower festivals from different parts of the country. If you get a chance, don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy nature’s wonders at a festival near you!

DALLAS BLOOMS

Where: Dallas, Texas

When: Now through April 9, 2017

The largest floral festival in the Southwest features 66 acres of gardens at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Enjoy every spring color imaginable as 600,000 tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, Dutch irises, poppies, and other flowers bloom in a spectacular way.

This year’s theme, “Peace, Love and Flower Power” will appeal to you baby boomers as the festival celebrates the headlines, music, TV, fads, and fashion from the 1960’s and includes amazing topiaries built on a classic Volkswagen van and bug.

Click here for more information, a list of events, and to purchase tickets.

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FLOWER & GARDEN FESTIVAL

Where: Orlando, Florida

When: Now through May 29, 2017

If you have children or grandchildren, this is just the ticket for some whimsical fun. At Epcot, you can enjoy more than 70 Disney-themed topiaries from every era brought to life through flower sculptures and manicured trees.

Flower towers, wildlife habitats, and vibrant gardens add to the beauty. Exhibits, seminars, and how-to demonstrations, outdoor kitchens with pint-sized plates, and outdoor concerts add to the fun.

Disney horticulturists are onsite each weekend to help those interested in learning more about gardening. Admission to Epcot is required. For more information, click here.

cherry blossomsNATIONAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Where: Washington, D.C.

When: Now through April 17, 2016

One day I’m going to see this famous flourish of pink blooms in the nation’s capital. If you plan to go this year, however, you better hurry! According to its website, the National Park Service has updated its peak bloom prediction from March 19 to March 22 due to recent temperature trends and the weather forecast for the next seven days.

Today, on March 16, the annual Pink Tie Party, a fundraiser benefiting the festival, kicks off the season in style. Several events follow. The opening ceremony will be held on March 25 to celebrate the gift of trees from Japan to the U.S. The Blossom Kite Festival takes place on April 1. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, featuring lavish floats, giant helium balloons, and marching bands is on April 8. To wrap up the season, Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival will feature live music and entertainment on April 25 with fireworks at 8:30 p.m.

For more information, blooming updates, and/or tickets, click here.

DAFFODIL FESTIVAL AND PARADE 

Where: Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, and Orting, Washington State

When: The parade begins Saturday, April 8, 2017 in Tacoma at 10:15 AM; Puyallup at 12:45 PM; Sumner at 2:30 PM; Orting at 5:00 PM

Maybe this festival is not quite as famous as the ones I’ve listed above, but it’s one of my sentimental favorites. When I lived in Puyallup, Washington about 20 years ago and worked as a newspaper reporter, I covered this heartwarming traditional, family- and community-oriented parade.

This event features floats decorated with thousands of fresh-cut daffodils as well as high school marching bands in celebration of daffodil flowers that have grown in the Puyallup Valley for the past 80 years. Come on, who doesn’t love cheerful daffodils and parades! For more information, check out their website.

tulipsTULIP TIME

Where: Holland, Michigan

When: May 7 to 14, 2016

When Holland residents brag about tulip time, they’re not kidding! Nearly 5 million tulips are planted throughout the town which awakens in the spring with bright spectacular bursts of color.

Since traditional Dutch dancing is popular in this old-world town, the festival hosts dancing events practically non-stop throughout the weekend. Be sure and take in one of the three parades, where participants brave the pavement with wooden clogs and traditional Dutch outfits.

Their website has posted the following update regarding blooming time: “Tulips are on track for a typical bloom time here in Holland, Michigan (late April to mid-May.) While the weather here has been slightly warmer than usual overall, the forecast has us back to cold weather for the next two weeks. The early blooming varieties have just started to sprout but the cold night temperatures keep their development at bay. We will have a more accurate estimate of bloom timing (which is highly dependent on the weather over the next 2 to 3 weeks) by the first week in April.” For blooming updates, events, and tickets, click here.

DOGWOOD-AZALEA FESTIVAL

Where: Charleston, Missouri

When: April 20 to 23, 2017

Take a stroll along the six-mile Dogwood-Azalea Trail when Charleston glimmers with stunning dogwoods and azaleas at their peak blooms.

You can celebrate the floral spring beauty and enjoy the wholesome hospitality of this community with a candlelight tour, arts and crafts bazaar, one of the area’s largest parades, an old-fashioned ice cream social, art show, piano concerts, and an old-fashioned carriage ride. For more information, see their website.

THE 2017 WILDFLOWER FESTIVAL

Where: Crested Butte, Colorado

When: July 7 to 16, 2017

Surround yourself in the symphony of wildflowers in Crested Butte, dubbed as the wildflower capital of Colorado. The mountains and valleys brim with explosive colors in the late spring and summer as magnificent blue columbines, Red Indian paintbrushes, sunflowers, delphiniums, lupines, and other flowers bloom in full glory.

The week long festival offers over 200 events including hikes, art workshops, jeep tours, and photography classes. For more information, click here.

roses

PORTLAND ROSE FESTIVAL

Where: Portland, Oregon

When: May 27 to June 12, 2016

Portland hosts the largest rose show in the nation, overflowing with more than 4,000 blooms in all their glory and rich fragrances.

Enjoy one of three starlight parades with twinkling floats throughout its three weekends, thrilling rides, fireworks, live music, tasty treats, and much more. For more information, click here.

INTERNATIONAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Where: Macon, Georgia

When: March 24 to April 2, 2017

Dubbed “the pinkest party on earth,” The International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia celebrates all things pink, including the town’s impressive collection of hundreds of Yoshino cherry trees.

Festival highlights include a bed race, nightly live concerts, fashion shows, a street party, as well as the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. For tickets and more information, click here.

THE FLOWER FIELDS AT CARLSBAD RANCH

Where: Carlsbad, California

When:  Now through May 14, 2017

This festival is another one of my personal favorites since my father lives nearby and we visit often. Every spring, 50 acres of rolling hills overlooking the striking coastline are transformed into a dazzling display of blooms from early March through early May.

Wagon rides, live music, dinner tours, arts and crafts shows, exotic plant sale, and photography classes are available throughout the festival dates. For a schedule or to buy tickets, check out their website.

Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of twobee, pazham, criminalatt, and nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net