Summer Fun by @PatriceWilton

It’s that time of the year again when we can get outdoors, enjoy the summer sunshine and warm weather—hit the beach or pool, national or local parks, and get plenty of family time. I’m thinking of sweet corn-in-the-cob, grilled steak, chicken, sausages, practically anything on the grill.

The mellow, golden days of summer. Life has changed over the years, but we still have those good times to bring a smile on your face.

I know times are hard, but being with family is one thing we need to make time for. I have two families who don’t live near me, my daughter and family in New Jersey, and my second daughter and family in Virginia Beach. We are trying hard to make sure we see each other for 4-5 days every year and make this a new tradition.

Last Year’s Summer Adventure

Last year, we were trying for Maine and ended up in Vermont. Near Stowe, and high on a mountain, but such a great place, the brave of heart could go ziplining from the top of the mountain to the half way point. After a five-minute lesson, off you go! They all loved it and made it safely back! The hotel offered many activities and we might end up going back there again.

This year, the working girls managed to get the same time off and we are going to Ashville, N. Carolina. Everyone is enthused about white water rafting and ziplining once again. We will enjoy the beautiful town, and the grounds of the Biltmore.

Both of these trips, not one of us have been to before, so making new family memories is the best way to enjoy life, keep close and connected, for as long as we can. The children will be off to college soon, but until then, we will capture as many moments as possible.

Wishing you all a great summer full of sunny days, laughter, and love. Hope you enjoy some of the pictures below of my summer fun!

Patrice's Family and Nessie

Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation

 

 

My Favorite Place on Earth: Siesta Key, Sarasota

It’s summertime, and I am currently in my favorite place on earth: Siesta Key, Sarasota! I fell in love with it back in high school when I lived in Sarasota for four years. The day my parents and I moved away, I cried for hours in the car. I was able to come back once, a few years later, for a friend’s wedding, but then it was years before I stepped foot back on the white sandy beaches.

For my 50th birthday, I brought my husband and my daughter to Siesta Key to see it for the first time. Both of them fell in love with the soft powder sand and beautiful greens and blues of the ocean. Now, today is my 53rd birthday, and we are back again. The older I get, the more I want to listen to the waves, kick back, and relax.

We have driven around town and checked out some places that bring back many memories. We have enjoyed shopping around St. Armand’s Circle and taking the trolley into Siesta Key Village. We also visited Turtle Beach and drove down to Venice, where we checked out Caspersen Beach, the home of shark’s teeth. We didn’t find any, but we found many beautiful shells! We hope to try again later in the week.

Each night, we watched the sunset and walked on the beach. It’s time away from the world’s stress and the chance to reconnect with my family.

If you are a beach person and enjoy reading on the beach, check out my short story series: Finding Love in Special Places.

Travel with Mona to New Zealand

While some parts of the world are at war, and many countries face political upheaval, let me take you to a region where we can find peace and serenity.

We cruised around New Zealand in January, supposedly the warmest summer month of the Southern hemisphere, but it was way cooler than I expected—62o F—and I used my free day in Auckland, the capital of New Zealand, looking for a warm jacket to buy. Here are two pictures taken from the penthouse restaurant of the hotel.

The harbor and high-rises of downtown Auckland.
The Sky Tower is a telecommunication and observation tower in Auckland.

We started our New Zealand cruise on January 16 from Auckland. Here are two pictures of Auckland taken from the ship as we departed the harbor under cloudy skies.

From the ship logbook that I saved, here is a description of our departure in marine terms: “We swung the bow to port and started to make headway at 19:02, setting various courses through Waitemata Harbor, then through the Rangitoto Channel towards the pilot station. At 19:43 the local pilot disembarked. The captain rang “Full Away on Passage” and the ship entered the Hauraki Gulf en-route to our fist port of call, Tauranga. We sailed all night and arrived in the morning to Tauranga, our first stop, where we met with strong winds.”

A view from the Tamaki Maori Village
We visited the temple and discovered the history and culture of the Maori people. They sent a warrior to meet us and make sure we have come in peace.
They welcomed us with a traditional greeting, the touching of noses and foreheads. Then they gave us a colorful performance, singing and dancing on the sound of ancient Maori instruments.

After two days at sea, we arrived at Port Chalmers, located on the South Island on the Otago Peninsula. It was settled by Scottish pioneers, and the temperature was only 57o F.

We visited the train station and the Cadbury factory, where we tasted our favorite chocolate.

Our guided tour led us to the Larnack Castle. Set on 35 acres, this neo-Gothic castle was built in 1870 by a prominent banker. It is now owned by the Barker family who restored it to its initial splendor. The ballroom can be rented for weddings, balls, conference dinners, and other functions.

Larnach Castle
The magnificent gardens with a view over Otago Peninsula
The back of the castle
The local Scottish band.

The ship headed south to Fjordland National Park, dominated by the Southern Alps, and started a scenic cruise through many fjords. Most of the passengers were on deck admiring the scenery.

We continued the cruise through the Tasman Sea, the large body of water between New Zealand and Australia. The British explorer Captain Cook extensively navigated the Tasman Sea. We visited his house in Melbourne, Australia.

Calm, serene and awe-inspiring, New Zealand seems to be the perfect place to relax. But the trip is so long!!!

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Travel with Mona to Beijing, China

We left home on Friday, at 4:00 am to reach a 6:00 am flight, the first flight of a very long trip, two hours to Philadelphia with a forty-minute transit and a flight to Chicago, two hours transit and then the thirteen hours, yes THIRTEEN hours, long flight to Beijing. I was blissfully tired and lucky enough to sleep during most of the trip. We arrived in Beijing on Saturday, at 5:00 pm. There is a twelve hours difference in time between Florida and Beijing.

Of course, we lost our luggage. While we ran down the Philadelphia airport to catch our connection to Chicago, our suitcases procrastinated and missed the connection. We met a couple from Seattle who were in the same predicament. Very nice people, so friendly, they couldn’t wait to start their vacation and enjoy it. Unfortunately, their dream cruise ended in a horrible way as the man had a heart attack at the end of the cruise on his way home.

For our first day in Beijing, my husband had booked a private tour with an adorable guide very . Our guide was a lovely young woman, fluent in English, answered my unending questions. She explained, the government was still communist but more open to the West. Years ago, she was living in a small apartment with her father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, uncle and aunt and a cousin in a two-bedroom apartment. Notice one child per family. They all shared one kitchen and one bathroom with the rest of the building and they all had to dress the same way. Now she is engaged. Competition is encouraged. She and her fiancé worked hard and saved money to buy a one-bedroom apartment.

The 2008 Olympic Nest
One of many high rises in Beijing.
Notice the TV screen.

She showed us the Olympic Nest, downtown Beijing and the Summer Palace. We had a delicious lunch in the adjacent restaurant.

The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace
An imperial boat on the lake
In the Summer Palace gardens

I was agreeably surprised to discover that Beijing is a clean, modern metropolitan capital with more high-rises than Manhattan. I am not kidding. Not at all the idea I previously had of China.

For our second day in Beijing we joined the official cruise tour. We visited the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The square is a huge place overcrowded with a million tourists every day. To cross the large avenue and reach Tiananmen Square, we had to go through a tunnel. It was here that one of the tourists in our group panicked and said she couldn’t find her mother. The poor old woman was separated from our group. We spent half an hour looking for her, while taking pictures and then the group had to continue. Two hours later, both women finally joined us.

We spent three hours touring the courtyards, pavilions, and palaces of the forbidden city. Each of the emperor and empress had their own palaces. There were pavilions for the guests, for the officials, for the empress’s family…The yellow color was reserved to the imperial family. No one else could use it in China. The various servants serving in the Forbidden City were carefully chosen. It was an honor to serve the imperial family. But once chosen, the servants could never leave the Forbidden City and the parents could not visit.

On our third day in Beijing, we went to the Great Wall of China built in the 3rd century BC. I was surprised to find out that the Wall is formed by stone stairs framed by two walls interrupted by towers. I walked up to the first tower. It was almost like climbing three stories. The steps were at least one-foot high and irregular. My husband felt challenged and kept going to the second tower as high as eight stories. Apparently, the view is breathtaking from there.

As you can see it was cold on the Great Wall. This picture is taken from the first tower. The third tower visible from far.

People rarely walk beyond the third tower, although the Great Wall completely surrounds China and is the only man-made artifact visible from the surface of the Moon.

The statues of soldiers from the Ming Tombs.
And here, a picture at the Cloisonné factory where they manufacture gorgeous vases and plates.

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Christmas Papa: Who’s my Papa, Mommy?

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