Category Archives: Travel Destinations

Hiking around the Indian Mounds

One Hello World!

Recently, my husband and I took advantage of the lovely spring weather in southwestern Tennessee, where we are currently camping, to get out in nature. I laced up my hiking boots, and we loaded up our dog, Chewie, and headed to Shiloh National Military Park near Savannah, Tennessee.  In addition to Civil War history related to the famous battle fought there in April 1962, the grounds of the battlefield also encompass the mounds that remain from Native Americans who lived there until about 800 years ago. You can read more about that here.

Hiking boots on and ready to go

Hiking boots on and ready to go

Jim and I have enjoyed this park several times, so today we went there specifically to hike the Indian Mounds trail, which is a little bit over a mile loop. Here are some of the beautiful shots we got while out and about.

Jim and Chewie in front of Interpretive Building for Mounds

Jim & Chewie in front of Interpretive Building for Mounds

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Scattered along the trail are this signs that help explain the people and the sites seen.

One of the smaller mounds near the largest mound

One of the smaller mounds near the largest mound

We're making our way up to the larger mound

We’re making our way up to the larger mound

Now, here are some shots from the view from the top of the largest mound, built on the high banks of the Tennessee River. We had to climb a set of stairs, located on the southeast side of the mound, to get to the top.

Information at the top of the largest mound, riverside

Information at the top of the largest mound, southeast and riverside

Looking across the top of the mound toward the river

Looking across the top of the mound toward the river

On the northeast corner of the mound, it drops rapidly and almost straight down to the Tennessee River.

Looking down from the northeast edge

Looking down from the northeast edge

Looking to southeast corner of the mound from northeast

Looking to southeast corner of the mound from northeast

We were about half way through our hike here. The three of us enjoyed the walk through woods and over bridges back to the starting point. By the time we were done, it was getting warmer, and Jim and I had both worked up a sweat.  We stopped briefly at the book store; Jim wanted to see if they had a book on a subject of interest to him. They did.  Here we are – tired (and I’m flushed) but happy – heading home.

Angela, Chewie, and Jim (L to R)

Angela, Chewie, and Jim (L to R)

BTW, I forgot to mention that not too far from the Mounds hiking trail is a tree with a family of bald eagles. That is something else one can enjoy viewing at Shiloh.

 

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Nostalgia, Romance, and Adventure – Take a Trip Down Route 66

Route 66 is classic America. Dubbed the “Mother Road” by novelist John Steinbeck in his work The Grapes of Wrath, it has also been commemorated in popular culture through songs such as Bobby Troup’s “Route 66” and movies like Pixar’s Cars.

What is it about this passage way that linked Chicago to Los Angeles prior to our current interstate system that fuels a sense of adventure, romance, and nostalgia for so many Americans, especially car enthusiasts? Driving a vintage car the entire distance between Chicago and L. A., following as closely as possible the original path of Route 66, is on the bucket list of many people. If not traveled in a vintage car, then certainly it must be done in a “muscle” car that is a modern descendant of those that actually crossed the country on this famous highway. What makes this experience so loved and desired?

My husband, like many people, has this trip on his personal “bucket list,” and if all goes according to plan, we will take this journey beginning in just slightly over six weeks. Practical me suggested we drive my car, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, that gets about 40 mpg, but the HH was offended.  “One cannot drive a hybrid on Route 66.  We must drive the Mustang!” After all, this is the 50th anniversary of the Mustang.  What was I thinking?

Jim has spent hours and hours planning this exploit, so I know it will be an amazing journey into the past while also enjoying the present. Upon our return, I look forward to sharing with you the nostalgia, romance, and adventure of the “Mother Road,” Route 66. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to tell you why I think this experience is wanted by so many others. Who knows?  You may decide to make your own pilgrimage down Route 66.

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Partly What I Expected, Mostly Not

New Jersey was a planned but unexpectedly nice adventure. From Tarrytown, New York, my husband and I drove down to New Jersey, and these are our experiences and my impressions of the Garden State.

Since my husband and I chose to cross the Hudson River via the Tappan Zee Bridge at Tarrytown, we didn’t enter New Jersey over any well-known bridge like the George Washington Bridge, infamous now for Bridgegate.  We did, however, travel through the heart of Fort Lee, and it seems to be a nice residential area that feeds the work force of NYC.

Then, we made it to Newark, and it was the epitome of what I envisioned New Jersey to be: old, dirty, industrial areas.  I did not like the Newark area, and even the road system in the Newark area was difficult to follow, which is why we ended up on a freeway when we wanted to travel roads that took us through communities.  Certainly, Newark is a center of commerce and travel with the port, the trains, the airport, etc. Had I gone no further than Newark, though, I would have had no desire to ever return to New Jersey.

Lucky for us, we did not stop our exploration in Newark.  For some unknown reason, I had felt drawn to make our hotel reservation for Saturday night close to or along the Jersey Shore, and since were wanted to use Priority Club points, it was to the Holiday Inn at Manahawkin we were headed. We could have booked closer to Atlantic City, but my step-mom warned me of the realties of that area, and we decided is was the Jersey Shore we wanted to see, not the gambling joints and slums.

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Playing on the Jersey Shore, Long Beach Island, NJ

To stay where we did was a good decision. After a quick nap, we went exploring and found ourselves on Long Beach Island.  It was beautiful even if mostly cloudy, windy, and on the cool side.  At the beach, we found people flying kites, jogging, playing in the sand, and walking their dogs. The tide was coming in, and the waves were magnificent.

Waves on the Jersey Shore, April 2014

Waves on the Jersey Shore, April 2014

Driving the full length of the island north to south (at least I think it was north to south), on the utmost end we found a lovely old lighthouse. Barnegat Lighthouse and the surrounding park were lovely.  Then sun was fully out by this time, and we found people fishing, walking dogs, and tourists like ourselves exploring here.

Barnegat Lighthouse

Barnegat Lighthouse

We retraced our tracks and headed south the full length of the island.  The whole time we had been looking for signs of Sandy’s damage. In the middle and northern areas, while it was obvious there was some new construction and some repairs, it was not enough to make us say, “This is because of Sandy.” When we reached the most southern third of the island, the opposite was the case. In fact, the most of the beach area was gone, and the bulk of what was left had warning signs and were barricaded.

We walked were we could, an too our surprise, when we looked off in the distance from this end of Long Beach, we could see faintly in the distance the high rises that we assumed belonged to Atlantic City.  It may not have been, but it was some large city with high rises near/on the beach of the Jersey Shore.

Is that Atlantic City in the background? Is this damage Sandy's doing?

Is that Atlantic City in the background? Is this damage Sandy’s doing?

As we had driven the full length of Long Beach, we watched closely for restaurants that were not only open but also busy as it was almost dinner time.  We stopped at a seafood place. It was busy but small, and we were not wanting to wait for 45 minutes to be seated.  Lucky for us, there was take out, so we ordered and took our food to the hotel to eat.  My husband, the seafood lover, was thrilled with his “catch.”

Sunday morning, we began our drive back to Tarrytown, New York.  This time we did not get on the freeway; we drove the road closest to the shore, and enjoyed this immensely.  A diner caught our eye at Twin Forks, and we turned around to go back to eat breakfast.  The food was delicious, and once again, we found that the servings were huge, especially for the price paid.

It was this drive that made my husband and me agree that perhaps New Jersey did deserve the title of Garden State. I’m so glad that we did not allow Newark “be” New Jersey for us because this state is much more than that city. I look forward to seeing New Jersey again now.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Visit to New York Debunks Myths

Yankee Stadium - Photo Angela Johnson

Yankee Stadium Photo Angela Johnson

This past Thursday, instead of my husband coming home to Nashville, I flew to New York. We spent about half of the time we were together in the gorgeous Hudson River Valley of New York state and one evening at Yankee Stadium. It was better than I even dreamt it would be.

Jim knew that one of the first things I wanted to see was Sleepy Hollow, the setting of Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Having worked in the area for about a month, he had already done some reconnaissance. As a result, he showed me several places relative to the story and the author, including Irving’s grave. Not far from where we stayed was Irving’s home, but unfortunately, we did not get to go there.

Headless Horseman Statue Photo by Angela Johnson

Headless Horseman Statue
Photo by Angela Johnson

After his work on Friday, we drove up the Hudson River Valley.  Even though there was only the faintest hint of green on bushes and trees, it was evident that the river valley is amazingly beautiful.  I am so happy we did this because my only impression of the Hudson River had been made in New York City itself; I saw the river as nasty and uninviting there, so seeing its beauty was wonderful. Crossing the river, we drove back down on the west side and made it across the Tappan Zee Bridge at Tarrytown before dark.

Saturday, he and I headed to New Jersey, and that is a story for another time.  We returned to Tarrytown Sunday afternoon.  After a quick shopping trip in downtown Tarrytown (I needed a new NY sweatshirt) and a nap at the hotel, we rode the train from Tarrytown to Yankee Stadium.  Again, it was an amazing experience. Yankee Stadium is, as someone said while chatting as we waited on the train, “a cathedral.” As far as baseball parks go, I have to agree.

It was our experiences at the hotel and as went to various local places to eat that one of the biggest myths I had been told and believe was eradicated. I’d heard that New Yorkers are rude and not friendly.  Based on my long-weekend experience, this is so wrong. As we walked to our hotel room the first night, I think a half a dozen people smiled and said hello. After settling into the room, my husband and I went in search of New York pizza and a local pizzeria.  We found our spot on the west side of the river.  Our server was so friendly, and the pizza, which was huge, – Oh. My. Gosh! It melted in our mouths.

The next morning, Jim and I walked across the road from our hotel to a diner Jim had found pleasing to him for dinner, but it was his first time there for breakfast. Again, everyone was extremely friendly and accommodating.  When our food came, I had to pick my chin up off the floor; there was SO much yummy food, and it had been extremely reasonable. There was no way we could eat everything served to us. You see the pattern?

Food in Eldorado Diner, Tarrytown, NY Photo by Angela Johnson

Food in Eldorado Diner, Tarrytown, NY
Photo by Angela Johnson

We had planned to eat dinner at Yankee Stadium. I mean, how could we not have a New York hot dog while there? Since we had plenty of time before the game, we stopped on our way to our seats to get our food.  The two ladies who waited on us were lovely! There were gracious and friendly and helpful.  Later on, Jim went back to see the same two ladies for popcorn and a pretzel, and they went above an beyond.

What I learned:

  1. The Hudson River Valley is beautiful.
  2. Food in New York State is delicious, relatively inexpensive, and you get your money’s worth.
  3. People in New York are very friendly.
  4. The history in the area is mind-blowing for history lovers
  5. I want to go back!

 

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Explore and Experience on Weekends

This morning, my husband had the television on some program; I’m not really sure what it was.  It was the history of some pilot’s military life – perhaps more – but that is all I heard of the program.  I keyed in on the portion where the wife/widow (?) relayed how their family, while stationed in Germany, toured different places in Europe almost each weekend over the two years they were stationed there.

I’ve said over and over that it would be wonderful to live in Europe for a while so that the HH and I could do the same thing because it is so easy to travel to different countries from almost any point in Europe. Listening to this program, all of a sudden, it hit me.

Photo Credit

Photo Credit

Although a good number of places within a day trip, or even a weekend trip, of where we live have already been explored, that does not mean that the HH and I cannot start taking weekend getaways from our home in Metropolitan Davidson County (Nashville), Tennessee. The chances of us living in Europe are extremely small, unless we should decide to retire there. Instead of dreaming of potential future European weekend explorations, why not act now and take weekend getaways that let us explore and experience all of the wonderful and quirky things that are a part of the culture of the United States?  It is kind of akin to the idea of “blooming where you are planted.”

Photo Credit

Photo Credit

I challenge you to plan day trips or weekend getaways to explore the world around where you live now. Get a real map and compass and draw a circle around where you live that indicates the potential area for day trips and another for potential weekend getaways. Pick a spot and plan (or not) and go!

Have a fun year exploring and experiencing your part of the world in 2014.

Angela

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Filled with history, beauty, and graciousness: This is Dresden, Germany

Dresden was the stop we almost didn’t make.

Dresden was our favorite location of the entire four-city trip.

A city nestled between Berlin and Prague, the HH and I made a 24-hour stop in Dresden as we traveled between Berlin and Prague, mainly because I had read that it was a must see as the home of Saxony.  If I had to do it again, I would have taken one of the days spent in Munich and allocated that time for Dresden.

Historically, Dresden, which is located on the Elbe River in the heart of Europe, was the central city of ancient Saxony.  In the 15th century, Saxon monarch’s, or electors, made Dresden their central residence.  It was not until around 1918 that Saxony joined the current country of Germany. During WW II, Dresden was bombed heavily during a two or three day period late in the war – just three or four months before the end of the war in Europe.  The result was that 85% of the city was destroyed, but the artistic and cultural treasures had been safely concealed and survived.

The city has been beautifully re-established, and even historically significant buildings, such as Zwinger Palace, were carefully rebuilt.  As we walked the steps of Zwinger, my husband and I discussed the fact that visitors can see where the broken pieces of the steps had been gathered from the rubble, pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle, and used to rebuild, losing none of the splendor.  Unfortunately, we lost one of our SD cards, and it was this card that held the  pictures of Berlin and Dresden; the pictures from Dresden would have been the most beautiful record of our trip. Only eight pictures from that day survived, but these were made near the rail line and do not give a true view of the beauty of the city. Here are a three of them.

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Grossmarkthalle, Dresden, Germany

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Art under rail/tram line in Dresden, Germany

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More art under rail/tram line in Dresden, Germany

Today, the city is breathtaking, and like most of the places we saw, construction continues. Food in Dresden is delicious, and the people are delightful.  While we were there, every single person with whom we talked was gracious and friendly.  In fact, when HH and I spent the  morning walking the city and making pictures as we explored and saw the sites, I had no less than five people stop us to ask if I was not cold. Folks were worried that I did not have a jacket.  Their concern was kind, but you see, I am a hot-natured.  Still, in three hours of exploring the city, I was the only person we saw who did not have on a jacket, including my husband. LOL

If you ever have a chance to visit the city of Dresden, Germany, do it! You will not regret it.

Have a blessed and happy day!

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Anticipation of Berlin, Dresden, Munich, and Prague

Hello World!

Yippee!  It is almost travel time again.  You have no idea how excited I am. This morning I booked our major activities for our trip to Berlin, Munich, and Prague.  We plan a day in Dresden, but nothing is scheduled in advance there. Here is what’s planned in advance.

Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Berlin, Germany

“Berlin hop-on hop-off tour allows you to hop-on and off as many times as you like aboard open top double decker buses. There are 20 stops around Berlin, and buses departs every 10 minutes in Summer or 15 minutes in Winter. The continuous route without hopping-off is approx. 2.5 hours and a guided commentary in 13 languages is available. Tickets are valid for 48 hours from first use. Many must-see Berlin attractions are easily accessible enroute including Checkpoint Charlie, Berliner Dom (Cathedral), Pergamon Museum, Brandenburg Gate and the enchanting Charlottenburg Palace.”

Full Day Tour to Prague Castle and Vltava River Cruise:

“Combine history, art, and architecture on this full-day tour of Prague. See Prague Castle, one of Europe’s largest medieval castles, and take a cruise on the Vltava River. Discover Prague’s top attractions, including the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lesser Town, the National Theatre, Wenceslas Square and more! Enjoy a 3-course lunch at a luxury restaurant offering fantastic views of Prague. Then, enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Vltava River, accompanied by refreshments and informative commentary from your guide.”

Munich, Germany, Hop-On Hop-Off Grand Tour

Itinerary

1.Train Station / Bahnhofplatz in front of department store KARSTADT
2. Pinakotheken for Museums District
3. Odeonsplatz
4. Max-Joseph-Platz for Opera House and Residence with Treasure Chamber
5. Marienplatz / Tal for City Hall, Cathedral, Church St Peter, Viktualien Food Market, Hofbraeuhaus
6. Karlsplatz / Stachus for Pedestrian Zone
7. Nymphenburg Palace for Royal Gardens, Amalienburg, Botanical Gardens
8. BMW World & Museum
9A. Olympic Park for Oympic Stadium, Olympic Tower, Sea Life Aquarium and Shuttle Bus to
9B. Allianz Arena FC Bayern Munich Football Stadium
10. Schwabing / English Garden for Artist District, Open Air Cafe

 

Royal Castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Day Tour:

“Hidden in the seclusion of the Bavarian mountains, King Ludwig II built two of his dream castles, Neuschwanstein and Linderhof. This trip from Munich shows you both of these extraordinary castles, the legacy of Bavaria’s fairytale King. Capture the grandeur of these castles and the picturesque mountain scenery of Bavaria in one magical day.”

Highlights

  • King Ludwig II’s Royal Castles tour from Munich
  • FairytaleNeuschwansteinCastle – the model for Disney’s SleepingBeautyCastle
  • Four hours to explore Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castle and grounds
  • Linderhof hunting lodge castle
  • One-hour visit to Linderhof

In addition, we plan to visit Hofbraeuhaus. I emailed the restaurant this morning to find out about potential reservations, and I received a response in minutes! Very impressive.

There are only two things left to do before leaving on our trip: book our last three rooms for the trip (waiting on hotel points to post so I can book all three in Munich at the same time) and order our rail passes for Germany and the CzechRepublic.

How cool is this?!

Have a blessed and happy day!

Angela

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Plans for Germany and the Czech Republic in October

Hello World!

In less that six weeks, the HH and I will be making our first trip to both Germany and the Czech Republic.  With our departure date fast approaching, it was time to nail down our anticipated itinerary and major things we hope to do on our trip, so this was an important topic of conversation this past weekend.

If all goes well, we will spend two days in Berlin, one day in Dresden, and three days in Munich, Germany.  We will spend two days in Prague, Czech Republic. The length of our stay in each city is rounded to the nearest whole day. Full travel days to Germany from the U. S.  are not counted, and travel between cities is absorbed in the rounding method used.

Organized activities we have chosen are as follows:

  • Berlin:  Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour, spending more or less time as desired at the places of interest there
  • Dresden:  One day exploring the city on our own – no organized activities
  • Munich:  Royal Castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Day Tour and a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour
  • Prague: Prague Castle and Vltava River Cruise with Lunch tour

The rest of our time will be to explore or shop as desired.  As far as food goes, one of my former students gave me a list of food items we need to try while in Germany, and I know the HH is waiting with expectation to try some of the beer. The HH and I are so totally pumped with anticipation!

Do any of you have suggestions or recommendations for our trip?

Have a blessed and happy day!

Angela

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Germany and Prague

Hello World!

When my husband and I married, I told him that I have suitcases, a passport, and will travel.  If he wants to keep up with me, he’d better get a passport. He did, and the travels have been great!

Our current travel adventure being planned is for an October 2013 trip to Germany with a few days in Prague, Czech Republic. Yay! Have any of you been to either of these countries before? While we have looked at travel books and online and have some ideas about what we want to do, we are still planning, so share your thoughts and ideas.  For this trip, we plan to stay in southern and more eastern Germany.

We booked our flights as soon as HH’s PTO was approved.  American Airlines is flying us free, except for taxes (thanks to frequent flyer miles), from Nashville to Berlin round trip with only one change of planes each way.  Parking at the airport is also free thanks to HH’s frequent parker points.  Our entire cost of air travel for this European Getaway is $210.80 for the taxes.  Oh, yeah!

A couple of weeks ago, I started booking hotels.  For me, it is important to know we have a place to sleep on our first night in the country and a place to sleep near the airport on our last night in the country.  Using Priority Club points (Holiday Inn chain of hotels), I found a nice and well-rated Hotel Indigo in downtown Berlin for our first night’s stay in Germany.  I booked a Holiday Inn Express near the airport, also using points, for our last night in Germany.  What falls in between has yet to be decided, but we need to decide and book soon. So far, our cost for lodging is $0, and if all goes well, that will be our final cost for lodging, and I have my eye on the Intercontinental Hotel in Prague.

It is the in-country travel, food, and attractions on which we plan to spend our money.  At the moment, I feel that we will spread out 9 days of actual on-the-ground time between three cities:  Berlin, Prague, and Munich.  Still, this is not written in stone, so please share any suggestions, especially as relates to things to do and see in one of these three areas.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Have a happy and blessed day!

Angela

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This work by Angela C. Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at livingandlovinglifeafter50.

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