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Turks and Caicos, Paradise: Dream Destination Come True

Turks and Caicos, the dream destination

“It starts with a dream. Add faith, and it becomes a belief.

Add action, and it becomes a part of life.

Add perserverance, and it becomes a goal in sight.

Add patience and time, and it becomes a dream come true.” – Unknown

Turks and Caicos, the dream destination

I love to travel. It’s a known fact. But there are some travels which seem too far, too far-fetched, though I have traveled around the world. My dream destination has always been an island in the Caribbean, since I was a girl.

Turks and Caicos, the dream destination

I have never been able to visit a Caribbean island until a week ago, when after saving and planning and waiting and waiting, my sons and I set our feet in the powdery sand on the island of Provo in Turks and Caicos. It was a dream come true.

The trip turned out to be more than I expected. I never thought the photographs I’d seen of clear turquoise water would actually be real. I thought Photoshop had helped those photographs to look better than the scene is in real life. But I was wrong.

Turks and Caicos, the dream destination

The beach in Turks was pristine, with white sand and the clearest water I’ve ever imagined. I never thought nature could be cleaner and clearer than a perfect swimming pool.

Turks and Caicos, the dream destination

It turns out the color was not an exaggeration. It was incredible. I soaked it in all week.

The goals I’d set for the week: feet in sand, bathing suits only, no shoes, nothing but fun and watersports with my boys on the beach. The snorkeling was amazing — schools of multi-colored fish swimming alongside us. The sailing was action-packed and full of sea spray. The paddleboarding and kayaking and swimming and eating together was all perfect. It was the vacation I had always dreamed of having, together as a last spring break before my oldest leaves for college. I am so thankful.

Turks and Caicos

As for dreams, there is nothing as satiating as getting to do the dream after a long time waiting and working to achieve it.

Turks and Caicos

Here’s to dreams and the places where they come true. Have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Have you been to Turks and Caicos or another Caribbean island? Where did you visit? What is your favorite?

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A Time for Retreat and Renewal

Sunburst, Florida Gulf Coast

“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” – Albert Camus

It’s been 12 months since I’ve last unplugged and rested, so this vacation is much-needed and heavily felt. My motor has been running hard on every facet of life, and I’ve begun to feel a sputter. It’s possible that every year I say it, but this year I know I mean it more than all the rest: I’m grateful for the chance to retreat, to renew. My heart needed the break in view and routine. My mind needed the chance to unwind the tangles, and my soul feels lighter, happier, with the chance to breathe and renew.

Everyone has their happy place, and for me, it’s at the beach. Feet grounded in sand, toes brushed by saltwater, skin warmed by sunshine, and hair lifted in the breeze, I’m in my element. I love it here.

It’s easy not to get away and let the calendar fill with engagements and the checking account drain of funds. But sometimes, finding a safe haven and pursuing it is important–at least, it is for me.

renewal 

/rəˈn(y)o͞oəl/  re·new·al (noun): the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

Sunburst, Florida Gulf Coast
Sunburst, Florida Gulf Coast

retreat 

/rəˈtrēt/  re·treat  (noun): a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax; refuge, safe haven, sanctuary

Fog and sea spray, Florida
Fog and sea spray, Florida

 

“We say that flowers return every spring, but that is a lie. It is true that the world is renewed. It is also true that that renewal comes at a price, for even if the flower grows from an ancient vine, the flowers of spring are themselves new to the world, untried and untested.

The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid.

And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.”
― Daniel Abraham, The Price of Spring

Gulf sunsets are good for the soul.
Gulf sunsets are good for the soul.

Where is the last place you enjoyed a retreat? I’d love to hear what refreshes your soul, too…

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The Surprising Beauty of Crane Beach

Crane Beach

Castle Hill above Crane Beach derives its history from December 29, 1634, when a group of Ipswich town men voted “that the Neck of Land wheareuppon the great Hill standeth, which is known by the name of the Castle Hill, lyeinge on the other side of this River towards the Sea, shall remayne unto the common use of the Towne forever.” – Wikipedia, Castle Hill above Ipswich, Massachusetts

 

Crane Beach, Ipswich, Massachusetts
Crane Beach, Ipswich, Massachusetts

 

I missed posting here last week, but it was a busy week — two of my sons and I traveled to Boston to be with the closest of friends, ones who-are-like-family who live there now. It was a wonderful time.

We had the chance to travel to Crane Beach near Ipswich, Massachusetts for a day. There were so many other things we enjoyed during our week in Boston, including paddleboarding on the Charles River, and a U2 concert (which was out of this world), but my photographs from Crane Beach are ones I have to share.

Crane Beach, Massachusetts

We drove out on a Tuesday after July 4th weekend, a day which was forecast for rain. The weather turned out to be incredibly clear and sunny, until about the time we left in late afternoon.

I’ve spent a day on Crane Beach 15 years ago, and the experience was nice, but the beach was very crowded — probably the most crowded beach I’ve ever seen.

This time, however, Crane Beach was empty. And the skies were so blue. The sand, white. The water, warm-ish and clear.

Crane Beach
Crane Beach — isn’t it beautiful?

It all was unexpected, a surprise.

My boys and I enjoyed every minute, walking the sand, enjoying the color and the beach almost entirely to ourselves. When we returned, I had to learn more about it, and about the castle high up overlooking the beach. This is what I found:

The property changed hands from Winthrops in 1637, through several families until the property was purchased by Richard Teller Crane, Jr., in 1910. The Cranes built two successive estate homes, and in 1945, the Crane family donated their beach and estate to a conservation trust, which runs the beach and wildlife preservation land to this day. In 1998, Castle Hill above Crane Beach was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998.

The view from the sand dune, Crane Beach
The view from the sand dune, Crane Beach

The tidal pools and sand bars stretched far and wide when we arrived, but by the time we left at high tide, the beach shrank to 1/5 its original size at low tide. The tidal pools left a beautiful pattern of ripples in the sand at low tide:

Crane Beach, the tidal patterns
Crane Beach, the tidal patterns

The biggest surprise for me, now, a week and a half later, is looking at the images I took with my iPhone. All of the images above have been taken with my regular iPhone, and though I’ve added a watermark, I haven’t enhanced the color at all. The blues of the sky and water, the white of the sand–all are true to what we saw, but also far more vibrant than my memory recalls.

I loved Crane Beach this time …

Have you visited Crane Beach? Please share your experience with us in the comments below.

Thank you, and have a great summer-y week!

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Little Gasparilla Island, Florida: a Photojournal

Little Gasparilla Island, Florida: paradise

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. – unknown

This was me all last week (below). Toes in sand, sun overhead, aquamarine waters stretched out as far as I could see.

Little Gasparilla Island, Florida
Little Gasparilla Island, Florida

I spent a week on a small island south of Sarasota, Florida, for my boys’ spring break from school. When I planned it only weeks ago, I thought the island would be perfect, a way to get away from it all, a retreat. The island has no bridge, no stores, no restaurants — nothing but spread-out houses, sand, pristine water, a state park full of wildlife, and gazillions of shells.

We arrived by water taxi toting a week worth of food along with our other essentials. If my boys were worried about running out of food, I was even more nervous about getting it there — coolers, endless bags, enough to feed 3 teenage boys for the week — but we did it. It worked out. And truthfully, the week on Little Gasparilla was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever had.

The weather was dreamy: 75 – 85 every day, sunny, calm water. The sunsets were mesmerizing. And we even saw a manatee, who swam ever so slowly past my middle son as he stood on the sand bar. I am deeply grateful for the time there.

More than all of the aesthetics, though, the week was the retreat I needed. I’ve been going through probably the roughest patch of my life, and a beach, for me, is the place to begin to restore my soul.

So, enough words — on to the images, some of the favorite ones I took …

Little Gasparilla Island, Florida: a Photojournal

 

Little Gasparilla Island, Florida
The most tranquil beach

 

Little Gasparilla Island, Florida
Fishing

 

Black Skimmer birds, Little Gasparilla Island, FL
Colorful Black Skimmer shorebirds

 

Little Gasparilla Island, Florida
the sunsets!

 

Little Gasparilla Island, FL
a palm silhouette, tranquility

 

Little Gasparilla Island, FL
Unspoiled beaches

 

Little Gasparilla Island, FL
Shorebirds in Reflections and Shadows, Black Skimmers

 

Little Gasparilla Island, FL
Ribbons of Color

 

Little Gasparilla, Island, Florida
the boardwalk out the back door

 

Little Gasparilla Island, Florida
quiet evenings, serene waters

 

Have you visited Little Gasparilla Island? Where is your favorite place to retreat, regroup, and restore?

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Coronado, California: a Photojournal

the beach on Coronado
“And every day her loveliness, shines pure, without a flaw; new charms entrance our every glance, and fill our souls with awe!” -L. Frank Baum (author of the Wizard of Oz), on Coronado

 

I visited San Diego, California, in August this year, when I drove there with my oldest son as part of our mom-son roadtrip. Now, having visited, briefly, I can say San Diego is beautiful — but my favorite part was getting to see my friend Carrie and tour her beloved Coronado.

Coronado is resort city (island) located in San Diego County, California, across San Diego Bay from downtown San Diego, and is an island connected to the mainland by a tombolo, which they call the Silver Strand.

The Hotel del Coronado is a historic landmark on the island, built in 1888, and is famous for inspiring L. Frank Baum, who wrote The Wizard of Oz at the hotel on Coronado between 1904 – 1910.

I took many photographs, which say far more than words…

Coronado, California: a Photojournal

 

Point Loma, California
Sailboats and the view of Point Loma from Coronado, California
the beach on Coronado
the beach on Coronado
the beach on Coronado
the beach on Coronado
Bird of Paradise flower at the Hotel del Coronado
Bird of Paradise flower at the Hotel del Coronado
the Hotel del Coronado
the Hotel del Coronado
Plumeria, local tropical flowers
Plumeria, local tropical flowers
the View from Coronado across to San Diego downtown
the View from Coronado across to San Diego downtown
Me and my writing buddy and longtime friend, Carrie
With my writing buddy and longtime friend, Carrie

 

Have you visited California? Where is your favorite spot? (Mine might be Coronado, aka Paradise!)

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Half Moon Bay, California: a Photojournal

Half Moon Bay, CA, in fog

“It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.” ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

 

Two weeks ago, my oldest son and I ventured across country for a Mom-Son Road Trip. It was one of the greatest adventures I’ve gone on, and one I hope to make a tradition with my younger two sons when they’re 15-years-old (I wrote about why here last week).

One of the most beautiful places we saw while in California was Half Moon Bay, a legendary crescent moon-shaped beach just south of San Francisco.

The road leading west into Half Moon Bay winds with tight curves across a high ridge of mountains. We followed a lumbering truck up and around to the peak in the road, and from the east, the colors were brilliant–the blue of an inland lake reflecting a brilliant sky, the evergreen trees and brighter green farmland and the amber-colored hills. But when we reached the top, we expected Pacific blue, as far as we could see, and instead found it shrouded in dense fog, the whole landscape a pale monochrome.

After we arrived, we realized even with a wall of fog hugging the coastline, Half Moon Bay is still a stunning beauty.

Half Moon Bay
The Cliffs

The cliffs at Half Moon Bay are high, and run along the entire crescent beach–like no other beach I’ve seen. The color and layers of the rock are beautiful, and ice plants cascade over the edge.

Half Moon Bay, California, in fog
Half Moon Bay, California, in fog
Half Moon Bay, California, in fog
Pelicans

Instead of the legendary surfers, we watched pelicans glide across the waves, and a trio of dolphin passed by us a few meters from the shore.

Taken by my son, Me at Half Moon Bay, CA
Taken by my son: Me, at Half Moon Bay, CA

We were the only ones on the beach.

Half Moon Bay, CA, in fog
Half Moon Bay, CA, in fog

The fog, the absence of color and other people, made Half Moon Bay atmospheric, and lovely.

Half Moon Bay, CA, in fog
Facing south

Half Moon Bay was beautiful swathed in thick clouds, leached of color. I loved every moment there.

Have you visited Half Moon Bay? What were the conditions when you visited? Sunny with surfers? Foggy?

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The World’s Most Beautiful Beach

the Beach along 30A in Florida's Panhandle

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
― Maya Angelou, from Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

 Take Me to the Ocean

When my husband and I lived in New Orleans, many weekends, we drove past the swamps and murky coastlines in search of a beautiful beach. We had almost no money, but scraped together enough to pay for the gas to venture there and back in one day, wherever there would be.

We found the first nice beach at Gulf Shores, Alabama, and then Ft. Walton, Pensacola, and Destin, Florida. But to find a calmer, less touristy beach, we ventured even further. That was when we found what we loved, paradise.

the Beach along 30A in Florida's Panhandle
the Beach along 30A in Florida’s Panhandle

In the less known area where the local highway 30 splits to 30A, that is where the beaches are the world’s most beautiful. The road becomes a two-lane, no stop lights kind of scenic road which seems to take eons to drive even a mile. Grayton Beach, Water Color and Seaside resort communities, Seagrove Beach, and then Seacrest, line up along the Emerald Coast, a dazzling stretch of powdered sugar white beaches and a shimmering aqua coastline.

Gulf of Mexico sunset
Gulf of Mexico sunset

It is a quiet stretch where only two highrise condominium towers (there before the zoning) disrupt the horizon, where shells are impossible to find (the beach is so clean), and the sun seems to forever shine.

the beach at Seaside, Florida
the beach at Seaside, Florida

For years before my family and I moved to Europe, we made the annual trek from the Midwest to the beaches along 30A. It became the one big vacation we all looked forward to taking, for the free time spent soaking up the sand and sun and pristine waters together.

30A Beaches of Florida's Panhandle
30A Beaches of Florida’s Panhandle

In Europe, we found our own different piece of beach paradise along the coast of Tuscany, in Italy. It also was perfect, but in different ways — for the local cheeses, olives, and wine, for traveling into Rome by train, for the vacant beach and stunning view of the Mediterranean and the miles of darker water, coarser sand, and loads of shells the colors of the Tuscan sunsets. It, too, was paradise.

the Mediterranean Sea and the Argentario, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy
the Mediterranean Sea and the Argentario, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy

We saw other beaches all around Europe, from the southern tip of Sweden at Sandhammeren on the Baltic Sea to the stunning rocky coasts of Croatia and Montenegro, to the muddy flats of Belgium and Netherlands along the North Sea, the beauty along Barcelona’s beaches to the Italian Riviera. They were all beautiful, but none compared to the Florida beaches along the Panhandle along 30A.

Photo: Seagrove Beach, Florida
Photo: Seagrove Beach, Florida

The World’s Most Beautiful Beach:

The most amazing part about the beaches along 30A in Florida is that they are accessible, affordable, and for much of the USA, a tank of gas away.

My vote for the World's Most Beautiful Beach: Seagrove Beach, Florida
My vote for the World’s Most Beautiful Beach: Seagrove Beach, Florida

TripAdvisor has its exclusive list of the world’s top 25 beaches, and CNN.com has its own list of the top 100 beaches in the world. CNN lists the beaches at Panama City, Florida, as #51 — they are only minutes from the tranquility found along Florida’s 30A.

An everyday sight along 30A beaches: Dolphin
An everyday sight along 30A beaches: Dolphin

I’d love to someday travel to Bora Bora, to the Seychelles, and to Turks and Caicos, but until then, I’m enjoying a family budget friendly vacation at the World’s Most Beautiful Beach next door, in road-trip worthy, family-friendly Florida.

30A Beaches
30A Beaches

Where is your favorite beach? And, if you have a large family, where is your go-to place to relax and spend time together?

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At the Beach

Gulf of Mexico Sunset

“… so that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again…” — Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

At the beach walking the warm sand, watching pelicans and gulls glide above the surf, delighting at dolphin leaping above the waves, spending countless hours with my family building sandcastles, collecting shells, digging holes, and making memories. I’m at my favorite place on earth this week, with my family at the beach. Have a great week!

Gulf of Mexico Sunset
Gulf of Mexico Sunset
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Sailboats, Shells, and Sunsets: Photos from a Florida Beach

The Sunsets

“Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.” -from “The Princess Bride” – Wesley to Buttercup

I simply love being at the beach. Sometimes I wonder why or how I can love it so much, but then maybe the key to it is in the b-e-i-n-g. The beach is the perfect place to just BE. My ideal world is a universe of beaches.

The Dunes
The Dunes

Last week, my family and I returned to Prague from a couple weeks in the US, and ended our US time with a week on the Gulf coast of Florida. The beach there was dreamy — clear water, sugar sand, full sun, and calm waves. We were lucky, though. The week before we arrived, a Tropical Storm dumped rain on the Tampa / Clearwater area.

Shell Tree: shells left by high water along the Clearwater Beach
Shell Tree: shells left by high water along the Clearwater Beach

There is something about the luxury of having days in a row ordered not by the hour on a clock, but by the tides. About the sand wearing off rough spots on the feet and in the mind. About the days ending with the great sun bobbing into the sea, while dolphin play games just an arms length away, so close they could be touched. The beach is made of magic.

Here, some photos of my favorite things about the beach:

The Sunsets
The Sunsets

There is no more vivid painting in the world than each moment at the beach leading up to the sunset. The colors heat up from midday’s pale blues to the flaming blood reds and oranges as the sun melts into the sea. Heart-stopping, every time. Continue reading Sailboats, Shells, and Sunsets: Photos from a Florida Beach

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Finding Seashells

Gulf of Mexico Sunset

Finding Seashells

Come walk with me
Along the sea
Where dusk sits on the land
And search with me
For shells are free,
And treasures hide in sand.  -Author Unknown

Gulf of Mexico Sunset
Gulf of Mexico Sunset

This week, I’m vacationing with my family at the beach … one of my very favorite places and things to do in all the world. I love spending timeless days along the seashore with my loved ones, collecting shells and walking the powdery sand.

Have a wonderful week and time leading up to Independence Day! And enjoy your time with your family and friends.