Tag Archives: vacation

Time for a Family Road Trip! 

Time for a Family Road Trip! 
NOT JUST FOR THE BEACH

NOT JUST FOR THE BEACH

Deciding on a family road trips are often daunting challenges, not to mention an exercise in patience.  However if you prepare ahead of time, you will experience some of the most memorable experiences of your family’s life.

Here are some quick and easy tips for making your family road trip a fun and safe one.

First, prepare a checklist of items you will need.  This will include first aid kit, food, snacks, drinks, and lots of toys, coloring books, paper and crayons, a portable DVD player  so your kids can watch their favorite movies; and a cooler.

DESTINATION

DESTINATION

A good idea is to ask the kids what games they would like to take, within limits of course.

Ensure that the snacks are healthy snacks.  Too many sugar snacks can have the kids bouncing off the car seats.  Remember, this is a relaxing family vacation and you want to avoid the kids getting bored or repeatedly asking you when you are going to arrive.

Check online to print out games for the road that you and the kids can play along the way and don’t forget to bring puzzles and riddles, too.

In addition, if you have very young children you will need to take the diaper bag and wipes for the occasional spills, blankets and pillows if applicable and a favorite item or stuffed animal for the young ones is a good idea as well.

URBAN LANDSCAPE

URBAN LANDSCAPE

Second, decide on the destination and then contact AAA for a trip ticket.  Ask for the scenic route, one that is much more calming and pleasing to the eye, especially the driver!

Third, as you check out the planned route you may want to check online to find gas stations along the way that offer the cheapest gas.  Also if there are any points of interest along the route mark them on the map and plan to stop at these sites.

Fourth, while on the road make sure that you make pit stops regularly. This will allow the kids to run around and let off some steam, while allowing the adults to stretch and re-energize.  Bring along a football or soccer ball so that the entire family can have some fun while exercising at the same time.

Finally, it is very important to discuss safety concerns.  This includes having the car checked at your local mechanic or gas station.  Change the oil and filter; inflate the tires (don’t forget the spare tire, too); and replace windshield wipers (if needed).
Take these precautions and you will know that your  car is in great condition before you head out.

In addition, you may want to place the following items in your trunk: a lawn chair, extra blanket, emergency road kit, umbrellas, water, flashlight and batteries, a battery-powered radio, and windshield wiper cleaner.  In the glove compartment include a first aid kit and cell phone charger.  Keep all medications in a Ziploc bag in the glove compartment as well.

SUMMER MUST-HAVE

SUMMER MUST-HAVE

Another good idea is to take a list of telephone numbers including the hotel or motel where you are staying as well as those of family and friends you may need to contact.

If you enjoy scrapbooking, this road trip will be a perfect opportunity to add new treasures to the book.  As you make stops at some scenic sites, ask the kids to find an item they would like to include in the scrapbook.  Or if the kids point out something along the way that they find fascinating, take a picture of it to include in the scrapbook as well.

Engage the kids in the decision-making and allow them to decide what they would like to bring.  Have them pack their clothes (check the suitcases afterwards) so they feel part of the overall experience. Planning ahead of time for a family road trip will save you time, stress, and money.  And the kids will enjoy this adventure, too!

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Family Camping Fun

Family Camping Fun

While getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life is one of the reasons families choose to go camping, for kids – it’s the greatest adventure.   If you are planning a family camping trip this summer, here are some tips that will make sure your vacation is both a safe and fun experience.

FAMILY CAMPING WITH TENT AND CAMP FIRE

FAMILY CAMPING WITH TENT AND CAMP FIRE

Pre-camping preparation. If you have small children, you may want to select a tent that will accommodate all if you comfortably. On the other hand, if you are camping with older children, buy more pup tents to give them some sense of independence.

Another great tip is to practice assembling the tents in your backyard avoiding wasting time at the camp site.

CAMPER

CAMPER

  1. Selecting a campsite. Depending upon whether you decide to “rough it” or choose a campsite that is close to amenities, you can research the many campsites online that offer comprehensive information on the area. This will enable you to decide not only what equipment, clothing, and food you need to take, but the available hiking areas and points of interest as well. Ensure that the campsite you select is an official campsite area.  Moreover, when researching camping sites it’s a good idea to look for those areas that are on the high ground.  Thus, if it rains, your tent and equipment will not become water-logged.
CAMPING WITH CAMPFIRE AND TENT

CAMPING WITH CAMPFIRE AND TENT

  1. Make a checklist. This is very important so that you do not forget anything on your camping trip. Among the items on your checklist, some of the more important items you will need are:

* Cooking gear such as a frying pan, a few pots, a bucket, barbecue grill or stove, bags with a Ziploc, and cooking utensils.  In addition, food containers and canned goods are best.  It is also recommended that you prepare meals at home and package them in containers for the trip.  Also bring water, a can opener, hot water kettle and coffee pot, and a cooler with a block of ice.

* Packing proper clothing is also essential.  Depending upon the site, wearing light layers is a good idea as well as packing some sweaters and jackets for the evening hours.  Extra socks, hats, and gloves may also be warranted. If you intend to engage in some hiking, proper hiking boots are necessary.

* Sleeping bags, first aid kit, flashlights, cell phone, garbage bags, toiletries, sunscreen, ointments, a map of the area, insect repellent, games for the kids, and rain wear.

For a complete checklist on what to bring on a camping trip, there are many camping websites that offer a myriad of suggestions.

ARMY KNIFE

ARMY KNIFE

  1. When you reach the camp site, choose an area to set up the tents. Make sure there are no rocks or debris in that area.  Most campgrounds will post warning signs or instructions about specific animals and vegetation.
FIRE WITH LOGS

FIRE WITH LOGS

5.When preparing a campfire, set it up further away from the tents. After you have roasted the marshmallows, sang songs, and told ghost stories; douse the fire before going to bed.

Finally, enjoy the entire camping experience.  Sleeping under the stars, communing with nature, and relishing the time spent with family will not only bring a family closer together, but the memories of this experience will last forever.

 

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My Big Fat Greek Vacation Photos of Athens I

My Big Fat Greek Vacation Photos of Athens I

From a previous trip………..

 

 

 

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My Big Fat Greek Vacation Photos of Chios

My Big Fat Greek Vacation Photos of Chios

From a previous trip….

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My Big Fat Greek Vacation Photos of Rhodes

My Big Fat Greek Vacation Photos of Rhodes

From a previous trip……

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My Big Fat Caribbean Vacation Photos II

My Big Fat Caribbean Vacation Photos II

Click on any image to view the slide show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PHOTOS: MY BIG FAT CARIBBEAN VACATION

PHOTOS: MY BIG FAT CARIBBEAN VACATION

Click on an photo to view the slide show.

Christmas Tree Mariner of the SeasPool Deck Mariner of the SeasChandelier Mariner of the SeasShow Mariner of the SeasGlass Art Mariner of the SeasThe Port of Roatan, Honduras
Native Dancers Roatan, HondurasTropical Flowers Roatan, HondurasPier and restaurant, West End Village, HondurasDance performance West End Village, HondurasWest End Village, HondurasVegetable cart, West End Village, Honduras
Boats docked at the pier West End Village, HondurasOn the way to the Cameo Factory, HondurasCameo Art, HondurasThe floral beauty of the Western CaribbeanOn the way to the Mayan Ruins at Lamanai, BelizeThe critters of the Rain Forest, Belize
The Mayan Ruins, heading to the pyramidsPyramid at LamanaiMayan Ruins, Lamanai, BelizeAt the foot of the Mayan pyramid, LamanaiMayan Ruins, Lamanai, BelizePyramid, Mayan Ruins, Lamanai, Belize

MY BIG FAT CARIBBEAN VACATION, a set on Flickr.

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Mike and Marion’s Vacation

Mike and Marion’s Vacation

 Assateague Island, MD

Day 1: Arrival at campground on Assateague Island, Maryland.  Beautiful day.  Shop for groceries, sit on beach at night and watch for shooting stars. Children collect ghost crabs.  Eventually (and mercifully) release them.

Day 2:  Spend day on beach.  Develop tan. Thanks be to God for my Mediterranean genes.

Day 3: Rain. Go to Ocean City, Maryland. Visit boardwalk and Life  Saving Rescue Museum.  Museum more interesting than its title. Boardwalk more interesting than anything until return to island.  Much talk about nudist-sighting on beach and at campgrounds. No see nothing yet.

Day 4: Nudist arrested while walking on beach – a.m. Rain.  Remember lessons learned at Life Saving Rescue Museum. Go back to Ocean City to Phillips’ Restaurant.  Lots of sea food. Yum. Visit boardwalk. Upon return to island, sudden drizzle. While sitting in truck, husband and wife see nudist wearing only short jacket. Husband turns on windshield wipers to see better.  Nudist leaves.

Day 5:  Nudist arrested while walking on beach again. Go to Chincoteague Island, Virginia.  Some horses swam over earlier in the day to be auctioned at carnival. Quaint town. Go clam digging in late afternoon.  Husband gets stung by lots of mosquitoes.  Develops allergic reaction. Wife drives him to emergency room. Husband okay thanks to Benadryl.

Day 6: Go on a canoe.  Fun. Husband goes clam digging again with wife and kids. Fun this time. Wife goes boogie boarding on beach.  Lots of Fun!

Day 7: Bye, nudist. Bye, bye everybody else.

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My Big Fat Greek Vacation II

My Big Fat Greek Vacation II

The airport in Rhodes was crowded when we left. There were mostly people from northern Europe and a lot of chain smokers. I changed my seat in the waiting area a million times to get away from the smoke. Phillip Morris will never go out of business. Those of you who are from northern Europe on my email list, I love you all, but I’m allergic to the stuff.

Beach Chios, Greece

Beach Chios, Greece

By contrast, the airport in Chios was crowded with Greeks. Our driver met us and took us to a hotel in Vrondatos which is right outside of Hora, the capital. The drive through Hora was interesting because it was busier, bigger, and more crowded than I realized it would be. There is a paralia (coastline in Greek). Here it is a place where you can walk for the evening or whatever. The paralia runs the length of the coastline and passes by waterfront, hotels, tavernas, shops, and two Internet cafes. (Information provided by Mike.) There are many boats of all descriptions in the waterfront and some medieval ruins. My favorites were the three windmills standing together in a row. Further inland is the fortress that once encircled the town. It is not whole like the one in Rhodes and the old town apparently was not preserved.

We arrived on the eve of the Feast Day of Agia Markella, the patron saint of Chios. The hotel where we stayed was also called Agia Markella, and it is an old fashioned hotel. The front (which you access by climbing steps!) is filled with large clay pots of flowers and a small, very blue pool. I can best describe it by calling it Old World. Chios is like that, too.

Our concierge informed us that a rental car was not available even though the poor woman made a lot of phone calls for us. The cars were rented because everyone was going to the Monastery that night and the next day, to worship. Instead we secured a driver who agreed to take us to Kardamyla, my mother’s birthplace, Nea Moni monastery, and the Mastihohoria (the “Mastic villages”). We decided not to go to Agia Markella monastery because my husband would not have enjoyed the zoo atmosphere created by the swell of people.

We decided to walk the paralia and look for a restaurant. We found two that had no patrons (no one eats dinner early, that’s why) so we decided to keep looking. I asked an old man if he knew of any. Before he could answer a woman overheard him and offered to walk with us to the nearest one. We chatted about Kardamyla because her aunt lived there but we didn’t recognize each other’s family names. Anyway, we reached the restaurant and had a delicious dinner. The dessert was provided by the owner at no extra charge: fresh plums and miniature pears (home grown, I’m willing to bet). PS: The owners were not relatives of the woman who took us there. (Surprise! No kick back!)

Our driver, Vasilis, picked us up on time (another first) the next morning and drove north through Daskalopetra (the Rock of the Teacher). We saw the (big) Rock of the Teacher which is where Homer taught his students. He was allegedly born there.

The drive along the coast was just as breathtaking, in my opinion, as the drive around Rhodes. The mountains are rocky and stark in their beauty and the sea below was a true blue. The sky was clear and the sun was hot and getting hotter.

We drove past many small towns and saw the small island of Inoussa off the coast of Chios which is where my goddaughter’s family is from. We didn’t go there but some day……We finally reached Kardamyla from the top which is called Pano (upper) Kardamyla. It is your typical village with stucco houses and narrow, winding (paved) paths. We passed the church which was celebrating the liturgy. The windows were open so that the men in the coffee house across the street could hear the service and have their cup of java at the same time.

Then we entered Kato (lower) Kardamyla which is our neighborhood. It is by the waterfront and so picturesque with the boats bobbing in the sea and the cafenia (coffee houses) lining the paralia there. As always, as I came to realize, there is the requisite bust of Some One Important to the Town. I didn’t chance to find out who it was but I saw my mother’s family house which sits partly in the water and partly on land. I don’t see how eight kids plus two parents ever fit in that house. We didn’t linger but took some photos.

Among the many horia (“villages”) that we saw was the village of Anavastos which sits on a mountain top. It can be covered by fog in winter and it is invisible from down below. It is surrounded by mountain tops that are higher than it is and that probably contributes to the invisibility. On top of the mountain a medieval fortress and the town which surrounded it are still standing. The houses are not the worse for wear. We stopped to look and take pictures and I bought rose petal preserves and home made honey. There are a lot of honey bee hives in Chios – little boxes which are often painted blue.

We also a saw a monument built in memory of the villagers who were killed by Turks during the War of 1821. Another village is a popular weekend destination for Chians. The houses are not stucco but built out of the rocks and stones of the mountains.

Occasionally, we would see an old man riding his donkey. This is something that you just don’t see frequently anymore.

We saw Nea Moni (New Monastery) from the mountain top and entered the property as we descended. It is surrounded by tall fir trees. The monastery is not in the best condition but it has an interesting history and a collection of skulls and bones of our Chian ancestors from the massacre. These are real and are housed in a chapel near the church. The blood stains are still evident on the floor of the church, too. Andrea saw a stray cat and befriended it.

There are dozens and more stray cats and dogs in Greece. We got some holy water for a neighbor and continued to the Mastic Villages. They were a lot of fun for me. The mastic tree only grows in Chios. Mastic is used for making gum among other things including a liqueur called Mastiha. (The best way to describe it is mastic flavored ouzo. Good for various ailments.)

The tree’s trunk literally glitters because the mastic comes from the sap of the tree. The younger the tree, the better the sap, and you can only harvest the tree a few times. Then you have to move on to another tree. In these villages the old medieval streets are better preserved although smaller than in Rhodes. We ate at an outdoor cafe which gave us a shot of Masticha liqueur on the house which was fresh and excellent. I haven’t tasted it in years. We bought a handful of souvenirs and walked round the old town. More stray dogs and cats.

(BTW, American and Chinese scientists have been to and are returning to the Mastic villages to research the possible cancer curing properties of mastic.)

Then we headed for the ceramic villages but we didn’t stop. Our last stop was St. Minas which also houses skulls and bones and the blood stains on the floor to the old church. The original edifice was burned down during another massacre.

Our trip lasted eight and a half hours. We circled the whole island and I think Vasili, our drive,r was wonderful. I think we wore him out. He was so informative and very professional.

That night we went into Hora to see the parade of people along the paralia and to eat dinner under the stars. The coast of Turkey is illuminated cross the water. The breeze alone is wonderful considering we were battling 95 degree heat during the day. Upon reflection, Chios is the real Greece, not Rhodes which is beautiful but overrun with tourists. (Although who really knows?) I overheard an old man complaining about them in old Rhodes city and he was right. But Chios is unspoiled and is still the Fragrant Island. (Our hotel even had a small orchard in the back.)

I forgot to mention two things about Chios. The beach near our hotel had sand as well as rocks and no nude bathers (!) We passed a town, Pyrgi, which was once the (temporary) home of Christopher Columbus. He married one of his two wives there. The outstanding thing was the architecture of the stucco buildings. They were painted with geometric designs and I did not see this anywhere else on my trip.

The next day we left for Athens. I said goodbye to my wind mills but I promised myself I would return. Even Mike said so! To be continued…

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My Big Fat Greek Vacation I

My Big Fat Greek Vacation I
Mosque Old City Rhodes,Greece

Mosque Old City Rhodes, Greece

NOTE: My Big Fat Greek Vacation blogs were written in 2002. There’s more to Greece than its current economic problems. I hope my blogs will show readers not familiar with Greece another side of  the Greek people and their country.

Hi. I’m back. (I’m not sure I want to be back but that’s the reality I face.) We flew to Rhodes from Athens. Rhodes is beautiful.Unfortunately, we only had two days there. We got to our hotel and went straight to the beach; it was right in front of our hotel.

Andrea immediately became  “grossed out” at the topless bathers. Well, not everyone was topless. Some of them that were, shouldn’t be topless. I was struck by the fact that the tourists were rather reserved for all that. No one said hello if they didn’t know you even if some of them came from the same country. They were mostly from northern Europe.

I spoke Greek to the hotel employees and they seemed thrilled to find someone who knows their native language. They wanted to know when I left Rhodes to go to America. I told them I was never here in the first place. Mike and I rented a car and drove all over the island. He loved driving. It felt like a Formula 44 race the way they drive there.

 I was struck by the medieval history of Rhodes.  There is a castle on a promontory  near the town of Lindos. It is lit up in the evening.  The outline of the castle against the night sky and the sound of the Med washing on the rocks below is a visual and aural experience. The town of Lindos is composed of narrow, winding, cobblestone streets with  lots of shops and restaurants.  The native population is hidden away, I think.  We ate at a hole in the wall which had great food and smelled the jasmine spilling over the courtyard walls.

Jasmine and kebabs grilling…as Mike would say, it doesn’t get any better than that:)

We also saw the old city of Rhodes. The populace loves to ride their motorbikes through the narrow, winding, cobblestone streets. Everyone just gets out of their way. Walking through there is like going through a labyrinth. Many shops, tavernas, an Internet café, etc., but real people actually live in the small, windowless houses. It is a real neighborhood where the locals know one another. The houses open on to central courtyards which sometimes are visible from the front of the house (if the doors are left open).

There is a big old castle at the top of the hill and an old mosque (closed to the public). Actually there are two mosques. the second one is near one of the Internet cafes. The castle is now a museum and it houses antiquities from a site that was excavated somewhere on the island. There were mosaic floors similar to the ones I’ve seen in Cyprus. Great castle. Someone remarked that the fireplace would be a wonderful place to roast a whole lamb.

There is an Ottoman house under renovation that is open to the public for free. It was interesting to see because it had an indoor bathroom. The high walls and door open to a courtyard with an inactive fountain.

We also saw the new city of Rhodes located outside the old walls and surrounded by an empty moat. There is a casino and one of the most crowded beaches I ever saw. The beaches here have pebbles. I didn’t see any sand or seashells anywhere.

Another observation: the cicadas never stop their incessant “singing.” You can hear them very clearly on the islands and you can see them everywhere.

We also slept out on the beach on beach chairs one night. The sky is covered with stars. The dark mountains form a silhouette against the even darker sky and you hear the sea crash against the shore.

Next stop: Chios.

 

 

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