Chinese Lantern Festival – Atlanta

Red Lanterns at the Chinese Lantern Festival

The Chinese Lantern Festival was the perfect way to spend a Saturday night. This event had been on my radar for a couple of months. I was pumped to be able to make it happen before it closed. It took place at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. The city view surrounding the park, combined with the colorful lights of the lanterns, created a cool ambiance. We met up with great friends and the kids had a blast playing and weaving through all the lanterns.

There were several walkways that all felt a little magical while walking through them.  I would like to have the red set below hanging in my living room.

Red Lanterns at the Chinese Lantern Festival
Heart Walkway at the Chinese Lantern Festival
Lantern Walkway at Chinese Lantern Festival
Lantern Walkway at Chinese Lantern Festival

This giant colorful peacock was a group favorite. If you look closely at the dragon, you can see the kids’ shadows. This helps to get an idea of the size of these massive pieces.

Peacock at the Chinese Lantern Festival
Another view of the Peacock
Dragon at the Chinese Lantern Festival
Dragon at the Chinese Lantern Festival
More Lanterns in Centennial Park
Large Red Lanterns at Chinese Lantern Festival
More Big Red Lanterns at Chinese Lantern Festival

There were also quite a few smaller ones scattered through the park.

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DSC_0490-blog

Mushrooms and Panda Lanterns

The different installations all worked together to send a colorful glow through the park. I will be on the lookout for more similar events to attend in the future.

National Naval Aviation Museum

While visiting Pensacola, I decided to break from the heat at the beach and take the girls to explore the National Naval Aviation Museum. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had heard good things, but the fact that it was indoors and had central air conditioning were the key selling factors.

For starters, it’s FREE! I did not even check into the cost before we went. Like I said, I was looking for indoor entertainment that included AC. The fact that it ended up being free was an added bonus. From the moment we walked in, both girls were in awe.

naval-museum3

Naval Museum

This is pretty much how she was the entire time.

Here’s a peek at what’s inside.

National Naval Aviation Museum
National Naval Aviation Museum
naval-museum4
naval-museum5
naval-museum6
naval-museum7
National Naval Aviation Museum
National Naval Aviation Museum
naval-museum8

There were quite a few places where kids could climb into different types of planes and experience what it felt like to sit in the pilot’s seat. My 7 year old had fun with each of these. She was also pumped to get a set of her very own personalized military dog tags.

naval-museum13

Here’s a shot I took from inside the restaurant in the museum, the Cubi Bar Café. The food was nothing special, but the restaurant was its own museum exhibit and had a cool vibe. You can read more about this exhibit, as well as the others, here.

Naval Museum Restaurant

Also, across the street from the museum is the Pensacola Lighthouse. We were only able to catch a glimpse from the outside this trip. Next time, we plan to climb the 177 steps to the top.

Pensacola Lighthouse

I’m glad we took a break from the heat and ended up at the National Naval Aviation Museum. It turned out to be much better than expected and made for the perfect day.

Chihuly in the Garden

Last week, while in Atlanta, we decided to visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden and check out Chihuly in the Garden. This proved to be a great decision.

The exhibit includes 19 installation pieces that fit organically into the surroundings. The colorful glass sculptures range greatly in size. Some are small and well disguised, while others are large, grande and impossible to miss.

Here are a few that are well disguised.

Turquoise Marlins and Floats

Turquoise Marlins and Floats, 2015

Green Hornets and Waterdrops

Green Hornets and Waterdrops, 2016, Neodymium Reeds, 2014

Black and Green Striped Herons with Icicle Clusters

Black and Green Striped Herons with Icicle Clusters, 2015

These three are large, magnificent and hard to forget.

Indigo Blue Icicle Tower

Indigo Blue Icicle Tower, 2015

Indigo Blue Icicle Tower, 2015 - Up Close

Indigo Blue Icicle Tower, 2015 – detailed view

Sol del Citrón, 2014

Sol del Citrón, 2014

Sol del Citrón

Sol del Citrón, 2014 – detailed view

Sapphire Star

Sapphire Star, 2010

Sapphire Star

Sapphire Star, 2010 – detailed view

Fern Dell Paintbrushes, seen below, wins my vote for the piece that is incorporated best into the garden. The yellow and red of the installation paired with the blue Hydrangea are a perfect match.

Fern Dell Paintbrushes, 2016

Fern Dell Paintbrushes, 2016

Fern Dell Paintbrushes

Fern Dell Paintbrushes – detailed view

The Atlanta Botanical Garden itself is worth a visit if you have not ever been. These are a few beauties that live there permanently.

purple-flower

Orchid

Blue and White, seen below in the Levy Parterre garden, is part of the permanent collection of the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Levy Parterre garden

Blue and White, Levy Parterre Garden

And this Earth Goddess? I really just want her to come hang out in my back yard for a while.

Earth Goddess

Earth Goddess

Chihuly decorated her nicely.

Earth Goddess

Earth Goddess dressed by Dale Chihuly

If you live near Atlanta or will be passing through, you will not be disappointed by spending your day strolling through Chihuly in the Garden. The exhibit can also be seen at night. Chihuly Nights is on my radar. I think a fall evening sounds perfect!

 

 

3 days in Barcelona, Spain

Arriving early on Thursday morning we decided to set out on foot to start exploring this beautiful city. We stayed at the Le Meridien located on Las Ramblas, so we were right in the center of many sights, making it easy to see much within walking distance. La Boqueria, or the official name Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, was our first stop. This was a perfect way to start our trip. I had heard about the amazing markets in Spain but wow. If I lived in this area, I would frequent this market often. Meats, fruits, nuts, candies, veggies, spices and so much more creating a visual overload of goodness.

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria


Amazing fruits at La Boqueria

Amazing fruits at La Boqueria


Mushrooms at La Boqueria

Mushrooms


Candy at La Boqueria in Barcelona, Spain

Candy at La Boqueria


Nuts and fudge at La Boqueria in Barcelona

Nuts and fudge at La Boqueria


Candies and more at La Boqueria

more deliciousness at La Boqueria


Ham at La Boqueria in Barcelona

Ham at La Boqueria

After visiting La Boqueria, we stopped to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant near the market. Casa Guinart was our first meal in Barcelona. We sat in a bar style area outdoors and were introduced to the food of the city quite nicely. This appetizer was so simple yet so delicious!

Delicious food in Barcelona near La Boqueria

Tomato and olive oil over toasted bread introduced my taste buds to Barcelona


Delicious food in Barcelona near La Boqueria

First meal in Barcelona near La Boqueria

Recovering from a red eye flight and no sleep, we took it easy for the remainder of the day by exploring Las Ramblas and the surrounding areas.

Street off of Las Ramblas in Barcelona

Street off of Las Ramblas


Al Fresco dining near Las Ramblas

Al Fresco dining near Las Ramblas


Columbus Monument at the end of Las Ramblas

Columbus Monument at the end of Las Ramblas

Kicking off day 2, one of the top sites on our list was La Sagrada Familia and it is a must see. The photos of this cathedral do not do justice to the unbelievable architecture that you see in person. The work on the cathedral began in 1882 and is still not complete. The design is based on the original designs created by Antoni Guadi. He worked on the cathedral until his death in 1926 and architects since then have continued the work based on his original ideas. If we would not have seen anything else during our visit, seeing this cathedral would have been worth the trip to Barcelona alone.

Exterior of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Exterior of La Sagrada Familia


Exterior detail of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

Exterior detail of La Sagrada Familia


Stained glass inside La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

Stained glass inside La Sagrada Familia


Stained glass inside La Sagrada Familia

Stained glass inside La Sagrada Familia


Inside Sagrada La Familia

Unbelievable architecture inside Sagrada La Familia


Ceiling in La Sagrada Familia

Ceiling in La Sagrada Familia


Architects working on La Sagrada Familia

Architects working on La Sagrada

After visiting La Sagrada Familia, we ventured through the Gothic Quarter. This neighborhood has such a medieval feel to it and we wandered around for hours.

Street shot in Gothic Quarter Barcelona

Street shot in Gothic Quarter


Bridge of Sighs Gothic Quarter Barcelona, Spain

Bridge of Sighs in the Gothic Quarter


Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Barcelona

Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Barcelona


Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Barcelona

Exterior details of Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Barcelona


Gothic Quarter street in Barcelona

Gothic Quarter street in Barcelona

Visiting Spain dictated that we must see a Flamenco show. I had read about Palau de la Música Catalana prior to our trip and had hoped we would be able to see the inside of this theatre. When looking for a Flamenco show to see for the night, we got lucky that there happened to be an true Flamenco experience showing in the theatre that night. The dancers were extremely talented and we were not disappointed. If ever buying tickets for a show at Palau de La Musica, opt for the floor seating or top of the balcony for the best views. The lower balcony seating was not ideal. We got one of the first few rows in the balcony but could not see the dancers on stage due to how the seats were set. It turned out that we could see much better at the very top row of the balcony. 

Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, Spain

Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona


ceiling details Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona

ceiling details


Exterior shot of Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona

Exterior shot of Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona

Our last day we decided to walk down to the water to check out the beach and Port Vell. This was an excellent decision and a great way to spend our final day in Barcelona. It’s amazing what a different feel this part of Barcelona has in comparison to that of the center of the city near Las Ramblas and other areas. We could not have asked for better weather. We visited the port area, walked through some local markets, strolled down the beach and enjoyed a delicious lunch by the ocean. I’m officially in love with the Mediterranean and counting the days until I can get back. 

Port Authority building at Port Vell in Barcelona, Spain

Port Authority building at Port Vell


Port Vell in Barcelona, Spain

Port Vell in Barcelona, Spain


View from Rambla del Mar at Port Vell in Barcelona, Spain.

View from Rambla del Mar at Port Vell in Barcelona, Spain.


Barcelona Beach on the Mediterranean

Barcelona Beach on the Mediterranean


Walking along Barcelona Beach

Walking along Barcelona Beach

Our final adventure in Barcelona included seeing FC Barcelona play at Camp Nou. This was a major bucket list item and we were stoked to have the opportunity to watch them play during our brief stay.

Panoramic shot from our seats at Camp Nou

Panoramic shot from our seats at Camp Nou


Messi and Neymar with FC Barcelona

Messi and Neymar with FC Barcelona


FC Barcelona

Watching Futbol’s finest dominate the field

Barcelona was an amazing trip. Three days was plenty of time to get a taste of such an incredible city and see much of what it has to offer. There were a few high points we were unable to squeeze into our trip but that just gives us more reason to visit again soon. Finding out I am fully capable of traveling to and from Europe in just 5 days is probably not the best for my bank account. I plan to hit Spain and Europe again in the very near future.

Trover

Have you heard of Trover? I found this app/website a few weeks ago and I will be using it often while traveling. Apparently, it’s been around a few years but it has just entered my life, so I thought I’d share in case you have not heard of it.

trover

Basically, you upload photos, either from the website or the app, and identify the exact location. This will then share the photo and location with the Trover community. If you are traveling, or know you will be traveling somewhere, you can search the location and it will find places that others have loaded that are worth visiting.

For instance, if you are standing on the corner of 21st and 7th in New York City, you can open the app, let it find your location, and then it will show you places that are around you that might be of interest. The best part about this app is that these are not always your typical spots. It’s a great way to find a graffiti wall, flea market, small coffee shop or something else that might be a bit obscure and that you may not be able to find elsewhere.

If you like to travel and find new places, definitely check it out. Also, add me! I would love to follow you and find the cool spots you have found during your travels and adventures.

View Wandering Direction’s photos on Trover

5 Reasons I Fell Madly in Love with Costa Rica

After visiting Costa Rica the first time, I knew it would not be my last trip. A little over a year later, we took another vacation to a different part of Costa Rica and I only fell more in love with this wonderful country. Their motto is”Pura Vida”, which means pure life. The people truly live this motto and you can not help but feel it. There are many reasons I love Costa Rica, these just sum up what truly won my heart.

Monkeys

Depending on where you stay will determine, to a degree, how much monkeys will play a part in your trip to Costa Rica. We have visited twice, each time staying in different areas. The first trip we stayed in Tamarindo, Arenal and San Jose. The only time we encountered monkeys on that trip was while exploring the Arenal Hanging Bridges, which is located in the canopy of the rainforest. The monkeys seen this trip were Howler Monkeys. We saw quite a few, including a mom carrying a baby, but had to look carefully into the trees to see them. Hearing these guys is a completely different story. You can not miss the howl/barking sound that they make.

Howler Monkey and baby

Howler Monkey Mom carrying baby in Arenal

Our second trip was much different. We stayed in Manuel Antonio, much higher into the trees in an open concept style house. Our house was a playground for monkeys. On the roof, on the balcony rail, in the trees, on our couch, in the living room, the monkeys were in no way afraid of us. We saw Howler Monkeys this trip, but mostly we saw Squirrel Monkeys and Spider Monkeys.

Spider Monkey Costa Rica

Spider Monkey came into our living room and was checking out the scene.

Monkey stealing beer in Costa Rica

Hey! That’s my beer!

monkey hanging out in the trees in Costa Rica

Squirrel Monkey chillin’ in the trees

Mom and Baby Monkey Manuel Antonio

baby Squirrel Monkey hitching a ride with mom

Birds

More than 800 species of birds call Costa Rica home. The vibrant colors of some of these birds are truly incredible. After seeing so many beautiful varieties while visiting, many other amazing birds have now made my “must see” list. Getting photos was not easy, but I managed to catch a few shots.

bird Costa Rica

Blue-Crowned Motmot

Motmot Costa Rica

Motmot

Blue Macaw Costa Rica

Blue Macaw

Red Macaw

Red Macaw

Great Kiskadee - Costa Rica

Great Kiskadee

Adventure

Whitewater rafting, ATVs, hiking, surfing, zip lines, rappelling, hanging bridges, kayaks, there are endless opportunities for adventure in Costa Rica and options for all ages. My entire family aged 3 to 63 did a zip line tour in Manuel Antonio and everyone had a blast. My father even tried out surfing for the first time (at age 63) and decided that he is too old for surfing and that he can officially check that off his bucket list.

zip line in Manuel Antonio

zip line in Manuel Antonio

zip line Costa Rica

zip line at age 3

ATV on beach near Tamarindo

checking out the sunset while on ATV at a beach near Tamarindo

Arenal Hanging Bridges - Alajuela, Costa Rica

Arenal Hanging Bridges – Alajuela, Costa Rica

Details

It’s the details that can really make or break a place. In Costa Rica, the details are plentiful. Flowers are bright, trees hold bananas and mangos, monkeys greet you for breakfast, Red Eyed Tree Frogs lurk in the trees and when you least expect it, you may see a Toucan flying across your path.

Banana Tree

Banana Tree

Flowers in Arenal

Flowers in Arenal – Anyone know the name of these?

Red Eye Frog on rain forest night tour

Red Eyed Tree Frog on rainforest night tour

Views

Whether you are lying on the beach or swinging through the jungle, incredible views are to be enjoyed all over Costa Rica. Sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the views and sounds might be one of the best parts of this country.

sunset on Playa Langosta - Tamarindo

sunset on Playa Langosta – Tamarindo

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

beach Costa Rica

beach

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio

Have you been to Costa Rica? I would love to hear your thoughts and what you did or did not like about it. It’s a matter of time before I make my way back to this fascinating country.

Smoky Mountains Camping

Each time I visit the Smoky Mountains, I fall in love with them a little more than the previous trip. There is always something new to discover and new adventures to experience. When many people go to the beach for summer getaways, we head to the mountains or somewhere to get a break from the sweltering southern heat.

My daughter begged for months to go camping again, so we decided to go back to Mile High Campground, which we found about 10 years ago, by accident, while traveling with some friends. It is a gem to just drive by and discover. After revisiting this campground, it is a mystery as to how we ever just came upon this place. It was, however, even more beautiful than remembered. This is a view from our campsite that greeted us as we awoke.

view from site #4 at Mile High Campground

view from site #4 at Mile High Campground

Mingo Falls and Soco Falls were both close to the campgrounds with doable distances and terrain for a 4 year old.

Soco Falls is near Cherokee, NC. The path is a short .3 miles, maintained and although a little rocky in spots, it’s an easy hike down to a viewing platform that overlooks the falls.

Soco Falls

Soco Falls

Mingo Falls stands about 120 feet tall and is stunning. There is a short but steep hike up many stairs for about .4 miles to reach the falls but is worth the climb.

stairs to Mingo Falls

stairs to Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls

After a couple of waterfall hikes, the girls were ready for a swim. We found the perfect stream to make that happen.

stream

heading to the stream to swim

stream in North Carolina

perfect stream for swimming

flowers surrounding stream

flowers surrounding the stream

There are many scenic views while driving the Blue Ridge Parkway and surrounding areas. Plott Balsam Overlook is on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mile High Campground, so we decided to stop and absorb the beauty.

Plott Balsam Overlook - Blue Ridge Parkway

Plott Balsam Overlook

Plott Balsam Overlook - Blue Ridge Parkway

Plott Balsam Overlook

After a fun day, chilling at our campsite with this sunset view was quite peaceful and relaxing.

Sunset from Mile High Campground site #4

Sunset from Mile High Campground site #4

Sunset from Mile High Campground site #4

another sunset shot from Mile High Campground site #4

While on our way out of town, we stopped to check out Juney Whank Falls, which is close to Bryson City, NC. There is a short .4 miles moderately difficult hike to see the falls. It wasn’t until we were parking that we realized we came to this waterfall 3 years ago. It’s not big and spectacular but it’s a short hike and worth seeing if you are in the area. There is also a great spot for swimming or wading near the parking lot.

Juney Whank Falls - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Juney Whank Falls

Juney Whank Falls - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

back down the trail after seeing Juney Whank Falls

Leaving Juney Whank Falls, these beauties were hanging out near our car. A great last view before driving home.

flowers near Juney Whank Falls

flowers near Juney Whank Falls

Do you know of good camping spots near the Smoky Mountains? What about good hikes? With another trip already on my mind, I’d love to hear your ideas.

Airplane Food

Airplane food seems to be a thing of the past. Some domestic airlines now provide food to purchase in flight, but it would be pretty awesome to think there would be a delicious meal waiting on board the next plane. This sure would beat finding your gate, only to realize there is no time to eat before your 3 hour flight, that passes directly through lunchtime and only offers peanuts or pretzels.

JetBlue Mint seems to be thinking about airplane food, as well as other flying comforts, and what that experience means for domestic flights. Teaming with Flying Food Group, a new food concept was created for their recently released JetBlue Mint. In this video, Stephen Parkerson gives some insight as to what this means for the food aspect of the experience.

With food like that, travelers will look forward to the meal that awaits. The service is currently limited and JetBlue does not serve all markets. Although, this has to make one think, what could this mean for the future of domestic airline food? Will there be additional changes in our future flying experience? We shall see.

If interested in reading more about JetBlue Mint, this article goes into a little more detail.

Daytona Beach, Florida

The beaches in Daytona Beach are large, the sand is compact and the waves are big enough to surf. With sand being compact, it provides opportunities not accustomed to having grown up going to beaches in the Florida Panhandle. Running is enjoyable, bikes are easily ridden, if it’s windy you don’t eat sand and using a stroller is actually an option.

Sunrise greeted our trip. Since adding our little early bird to our family, we now see more sunrises than ever expected. This turns out to have advantages. Watching the sunrise always seems to start a day in such an energetic and positive way. This started our week in Daytona Beach perfectly.

Daytona Beach, FL sunrise

sunrise Daytona Beach

Before sunrise Daytona Beach, Florida

Perfection.

Daytona Beach, Florida sunrise

sunrise Daytona Beach, Florida

sunrise Daytona Beach

Hello sunrise!

Luckily, the weather was great to enjoy the beaches. Flying kites, throwing frisbee, building sand castles, boogie boarding, surfing, there was plenty to keep everyone entertained.

Daytona Beach, Florida - Frisbee

throwing frisbee

flying a kite on Daytona Beach, Florida

flying a kite

Did I mention that since cars can get permits to come on the beach, this also means that ice cream trucks parade continuously back and forth? My daughter thought this was absolutely the coolest part about Daytona Beach. Although, I must admit, if there was a variety of food truck options, they would really be on to something.

ice cream truck - Daytona Beach, Florida

ice cream truck on the beach, Daytona Beach, Florida

Ponce Inlet is just south of Daytona Beach and the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Marine Science Center are definitely worth a visit. Standing as the tallest lighthouse in Florida, we climbed 203 steps to get a view from the top. Climbing to the top with 4 children under the age of 8 was possible. The last flight was extremely steep, and the kids needed a little help getting to the top, but we were able to do it without a problem.

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

stairs Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

looking down the stairs of Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

view from the top of Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Crabby Joe’s came highly recommended. The restaurant sits on top of a long pier with beautiful views and waves crashing underneath while you eat. The experience was enjoyed, as well as the delicious po’ boys.

Crabby Joe's - Daytona Beach, Florida

Crabby Joe’s

pier at Crabby Joe's

view from pier at Crabby Joe’s

A few things to take note about Daytona Beach: Some areas are cleaner and nicer than others, the Ferris Wheel seen in iconic photos is a bit sketchy and may or may not even be in working order (we never saw it move), there are lifeguards on patrol and alcohol is not allowed on the beaches.

Daytona Beach was a great experience and lots of fun memories were made. With so many places to visit, who knows if we will ever make it back but it was definitely worth the visit.