The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds, the beautiful English countryside. It conjures up thoughts of lush, green rolling hills, picnics, punting, big floppy hats, beautiful manor houses, sheep, quaint idyllic villages, pubs and so much more. The beauty of the countryside will take your breath away.

The Cotswolds is one of the largest areas in England covering 787 square miles and borders Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. Located in southwest and south central England, this area is known for it’s rolling hills, meadows, valleys and quaint villages. In 1966, it received an AONB award, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And it is easy to see why, it truly is a gorgeous place.

Burton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Woodstock and The Slaughters were on our itinerary when we visited the area. Walking through these towns is like taking a step back in time. The original buildings have been amazingly preserved and are very interesting to see.

Burton-on-the Water is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds with it’s canals and narrow bridges, and is often voted one of the prettiest villages in England. Stow-on-the-Wold is a market town, located at the top of Stow Hill, it is the highest of the villages in the Cotswolds. Woodstock is the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The Slaughters is another charming old village to wander through and enjoy the scenery. All of these villages have much to do and see including parks, gardens, manor houses, shopping, good pubs and museums.

It was eerily quiet when we visited this old church and graveyard.

Bath Spa is one of the largest towns in the Cotswolds and is another lovely place to visit. I have written about this town on several occasions. Check out my previous posts on Bath.

I suggest renting a car when visiting the Cotswolds since many of the small villages are not easily accessible by bus or train. You will also find a wide variety of accommodations in the area. The quintessential bed and breakfast is my preferred place to stay in the UK. The full English breakfast will keep you going all day.

Travel enriches our lives in so many ways. Your mind will be opened by exploring other countries and cultures, and you may gain an appreciation for different values and beliefs. Whatever your reason for traveling, always be a polite and considerate guest when visiting. As my grandmother used to say, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar!

Happy travels!

Seven Things to do in Sydney, Australia

What do you think of when you imagine Sydney? The opera house may come to mind for some, Sydney Harbour Bridge might come to mind for others. You might also think of restaurants, pubs, street markets and some of the world’s most poisonous snakes and spiders. Thankfully, I did not see any snakes, but I did see some spiders!

Three days in Sydney does not do this amazing city justice, but that’s all we had so we made it work. Our first stop was the Royal Botanical Gardens. This 74 acre garden opened in 1816 and is the oldest botanical garden in Australia. It is divided into four sections all with an immense selection of plants, trees and statues. You will also find a restaurant, cafe, bookshop, visitor’s center, and, of course, spiders.

We worked up an appetite at the gardens so we headed to The Hero of Waterloo for lunch. This hotel and restaurant located on The Rocks has been in business for over 170 years. In addition to food and lodging, they offer live music and ghost tours. The hotel and restaurant have a rich history including a trap door in the bar floor where unsuspecting drunks were shanghaied. The ghosts are blamed for the faint, distant singing you may hear, and for rearranging the furniture.

The Rocks is an interesting and historical place to visit. It is where the first group of ships moored carrying convicts from England. Many Australians still joke that they are descendants of criminals.

The Sydney Opera House is possibly the most famous landmark in Sydney. Designed by Jorn Utzen, construction began in 1959 and was opened in 1973.

Sydney Harbour Bridge is another famous landmark. The bridge opened in 1932 and is often referred to as “The Coathanger.” Climbing tours are available for a steep price. 🙂

You will find buskers along the waterfront, and in other locations as well.

During our visit, we spent some time with a young woman who had lived with us as an exchange student some years earlier. The three of us visited Manly Beach and took a ride on a ferry to Parrametta where we had lunch.

In my blog posts, I often talk about the people we meet along the way. My husband and I are outgoing and enjoy meeting new people; Australia is a perfect place for that. I was absolutely amazed by the friendliness of the people there. From my experience, I found them to be the most friendly and helpful people I have met in my travels.

I’m not sure I will have the opportunity to go to Australia again, but I highly recommend visiting, you will not be disappointed.

As always, please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Happy travels!

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park, located in southern Oregon is a magnificent site to see. The lake was formed over 7,000 years ago during the massive eruption of Mount Mazama. The lake is the deepest in the USA, and one of the deepest in the world. There are no rivers running into the lake, but it maintains its depth through rainfall and melting snow. The lack of pollutants keep this lake amazingly clear and blue.

Crater Lake National Park was established 1902, thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt. Crater Lake Lodge was completed in 1915, and offers nice views of the lake, a restaurant, bar and other amenities. The lodge and campgrounds fill up quickly, so plan your trip well in advance. Rim Drive was completed in 1918 and is a good place to start your tour of the park. This 33 mile drive has many points of interest and places to stop to take photos.

Along the drive you will see the two islands in the lake, Wizard Island and Phantom Ship, as well as interesting rock formations.

There are many activities in the park including hiking, swimming, biking, fishing, boat tours, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Swimming is restricted to just one location which can be reached via the Cleetwood Cove Trail. We took several hikes including Watchman Peak, a short, but steep hike that ends at a fire watch tower.

It was a clear day when we hiked this trail and we were rewarded with a view of Mt. Shasta.

There are many places to take photos and stop to do a sketch.

We are fortunate to have an abundance of National Parks and Monuments in our country, and it is important that we protect the animals, plants and natural beauty in the parks. We need to preserve these public places and support conservation efforts to maintain these national treasures. If you visit, be a courteous and conscientious visitor.

Have you visited Crater Lake? If so, please leave a comment with your favorite activities there.

San Antonio, Texas

Texas has never been high on my list for vacation destinations, but then, as you may have observed from my previous blog posts, there are few places on the planet that I won’t visit. So, Texas; I had heard from friends and family that San Antonio is an interesting place to visit, filled with history, food, and art, all of which are an attraction for me. My husband was there on business and suggested that I join him there for his birthday weekend. So, one year ago this weekend, I found myself on an Alaska Airlines flight to San Antonio.

The River Walk is a good place to stay, it is close to shops, restaurants and many other points of interest.

After I arrived, we strolled along the Riverwalk to find a place for dinner. After a long stroll, we found ourselves at Biga on the Banks. It was restaurant week, and they offered a prix fixe menu. The food was quite good. When I look at a menu, I always look to see if the chef provides information about the source of the menu items. Is the beef grass fed, is the chicken free range, are there plant based options? I did not see that any of these questions were answered, but the food was good.

The missions in San Antonio are very interesting. The Alamo, is of course, the famous one, and is an intriguing place to visit.

Mission San Jose is a beautiful mission to see. This large Catholic mission was founded in 1720.

We worked up an appetite visiting the missions, so we had a delicious, birthday lunch at Oystra along the Riverwalk.

We also enjoyed a few the many speakeasies that are in the area. As you may know, speakeasies became popular during prohibition. They mostly disappeared when prohibition ended, but there are still a few around.

I enjoyed my time in San Antonio, it an an interesting place to visit, and the people are friendly and welcoming.

Have you been to San Antoinio? If so, please leave a comment with you favorite things to do there.

The Redwoods – Mighty, Majestic Trees

Sequoia sempervirens, also known as costal redwood and California redwood, are the tallest and largest trees on the planet. They once covered over 2 million acres in Northern California. Sadly, due to over-logging in the mid 1800s to early 1900s, they now cover only 131,983 acres. In 1918, the Save the Redwoods League was formed in order to preserve these beautiful giants.

I first visited Redwood National and State Parks as a child, and was awed by the trees. I visited again a few years ago, and found that childish amazement returning as I wandered down a path surrounded by these massive trees.

My brother, Kirk, and I, along with Babe in the late 1960s.

Located in Humboldt and Del Norte counties in Northern California, these parks draw thousands of visitors each year. The parks offer a variety of activities including hiking, backcountry camping, scenic drives and kayaking. If you have read any of my blog posts, you know that my husband and I love hiking, and that is what drew us to the park, along with the beauty of area.

There are many hikes to enjoy including Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, an easy, one mile, level loop through old growth forest.

There are many other hikes in the parks, and trees that beckon to be climbed.

I call this one “old man and the tree.” 🙂

We stayed at the Bishop Pine Lodge and Cabins not far from Trinidad. After a day of hiking, we enjoyed a delicious meal at the Larrupin Cafe.

Trinidad is costal community with much to offer.

The Save the Redwoods League is still active today, over 100 years later! Hopefully, their work will continue to protect these grand lords and ladies of the forest, for many years to come.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts and favorite activities in the Redwoods.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley, the name doesn’t sound very inviting. In fact, an immediate response to a suggested vacation there might receive an incredulous “why?!?” My husband and I visited a few years ago for our anniversary. Needless to say, we received a lot of teasing for our choice of our anniversary getaway location. However, it truly is a majestic place, with canyons, dunes, vistas, craters and so much more to see.

Death Valley, located in Eastern California in the northern part of the Mojave Dessert, received its national park designation in 1994, so it is one of the newer national parks. It boasts some other designations as well, including being the lowest point in North America, and being one of the hottest places on the planet. On July 10, 1913 it was a scorching 134 degrees, making winter a great time to visit.

A highlight of our visit was a hike in Golden Canyon. This beautiful hike starts off through a narrow canyon, with many smaller canyons on either side of the trail.

After about one mile, you will see a large, steep hill where the path cuts right into the side of the rock wall.

Photos above taken by theTravelsketcher.

It is a bit dicey getting across the hillside, with the rock wall on one side, and a drop off on the other, so keep your eyes focused on your footing. The trail twists down through some steep, rocky ledges and opens up onto what looks like an old, dry riverbed filled with large, loose gravel. It took about 45 minutes to work our way out of the riverbed. Then we came to some hairpin turns through more narrow canyons. At several points we had to navigate down some steep, stone walls, keeping a watchful eye out for scorpions as we used the rocks for balance. Once out of the canyons, the trail opens up at the base of the mountains.

It was about another mile to get back to the trailhead. This hike isn’t for everyone, but it was one of the more memorable ones we have taken. As we left the trailhead, we were ushered out by this critter:

Coyotes are abundant in the park, be careful not to get too close.

Artists’ Drive is another beautiful place to visit.

The beautiful colors in the rocks were caused by oxidation of metals.

I found the plants to be interesting as well, since they grow right out of the rocks.

Dante’s View is another point of interest in the park.

Photo above courtesy of theTravelsketcher.

Badwater Basin, pictured below is the lowest point in North America. It sits at 282 feet below sea level.

Photos below, courtesy of theTravelsketcher.

There are many other interesting places within the park to visit including Scotty’s Castle, Furnace Creek, Panamint Springs and Twenty Mule Teams. These teams of mules hauled borax from Harmony Borax Works. Note that Scotty’s Castle is closed until 2020 due to storm damage. There are many other things to do and see in the park as well, so do some research before you go.

I highly recommend visiting Death Valley, it’s an interesting and historical place to see. I prefer visiting in the winter, because the weather is cooler and I am not too keen on seeing snakes. Scorpions are active all year long in the area, and we were given guidelines on avoiding encounters with them when we checked into our hotel. But, hey, that’s all part of the adventure!

Wishing you happy and adventurous travels,


Arms Raised to Joshua Tree National Park

At the convergence of the Colorado and Mojave desserts lies Joshua Tree National Park. Its quiet, surreal beauty will draw you in, and you will find yourself lost in its distinctive landscape. The many hiking trails you’ll find here are an open invitation to roam, wander and experience its rugged terrain. The trails twist and careen around massive boulders, plants and the spiny, prickly looking Joshua trees. The trees were named by a group of Mormon settlers who thought the trees reminded them of the Israeli leader, Joshua with his arms raised to Heaven.

Located in Southern California, not far from Palm Springs, this almost 800,000 acre park has much to offer if you enjoy outdoor activities. There are many hiking trails to discover and rock climbing. At night, you’ll want to lift your eyes to the sky and take in the vast stars above. We visited a few years ago in January, and the weather was perfect, low 70s and clear, brilliant blye skies. Several of the hikes we took include Barker Dam, Hidden Valley, and my favorite, Fortynine Palms. This 3 mile round trip trail takes you to a secluded oasis with a stream. It is a relatively easy hike, but be sure to take plenty of water. The oasis is a gorgeous place to relax.

It was a hot day when we took this hike, and on several occasions, when we caught a glimpse of the oasis in the distance, I was beginning to think it was a mirage.

You will find some Native American petroglyphs along the Barker Dam trail.

Skull Rock is an interesting site to see. As the name indicates, this large rock looks like a skull.

I couldn’t take enough photos of the interesting rock formations and plant life.

Earlier this year, during the government shut down, there was much vandalism and destruction of the Joshua trees. Apparently, this happens on occasion, but the deliquients took advantage of the lack of park rangers during the shut down, and did a tremendous amount of damage. I don’t think they were ever caught, but I do hope that they are haunted by the trees in their dreams. What a completely thuggish thing to do. We have a treasure in our National Parks, and as citizens of this country, we have the responsibility of being good stewards, so be sure to tread lightly and leave no trace of your visit.