A Journal, with Pictures

Singita Saturday July 20th

by on Jul.31, 2019, under Family

The word was that a lion pride had killed a Cape Buf­fa­lo next to Kruger Game Reserve, so we head­ed there first thing in the morn­ing. We were not dis­ap­point­ed. The pride was still feed­ing on the sec­ond day with the dom­i­nate male doing the eat­ing with two cubs and the moth­er and oth­er females still there.

We crossed the riv­er each day on our game dri­ve and saw the more aquat­ic species at the crossing.

The after­noon dri­ve serves up a big vari­ety of species.

A great day of game view­ing and enjoy­ing San­gi­ta incred­i­ble ameni­ties and hospitality.

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Singita Sunday July 21st.

by on Jul.31, 2019, under Family

Sun­day turned out to be a leop­ard high­light day. In the morn­ing our amaz­ing track­er Vusi spot­ted a lone leop­ard in a dense bush, it then decid­ed to pose for us. In the after­noon we fol­lowed a male as he walked along the river­bank near our camp. In the evening, again our track­er spot­ted a female near our camp who had killed an ante­lope and had hye­nas steal the kill. When we came upon the scene the hye­nas were fight­ing over the kill, and we pro­vid­ed enough dis­trac­tion for the leop­ard to steal back part of the kill. With a few more inter­est­ing ani­mals to pho­to­graph it was quite a day.

Tomor­row will be our last day and as usu­al, Our Sin­gi­ta Host, Chef and Staff pre­pare a great din­ner, with great wine to cel­e­brate a great trip.

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Final Day and Return Home Monday July 22nd.

by on Jul.31, 2019, under Family

We were nine­ty per­cent packed and had our nor­mal six A.M. wake up call and sev­en A.M. depar­ture for our last game dri­ve. One of the nat­u­ral­ists had spot­ted a lone male lion so that was our chal­lenge for the morn­ing. Vusi our track­er picked up the tracks on a road and start­ed track­ing on foot in the bush and we cir­cled to try to inter­cept our quar­ry. We soon spot­ted a mag­nif­i­cent young male trav­el­ing fast. The ear­ly morn­ing sun was low and behind the lion but we still man­aged to cap­ture some halfway decent images of this mag­nif­i­cent creature.

As we head­ed back to camp we stopped to pho­to­graph two Zebra who turned to say good­bye as we leave this incred­i­ble place. We enjoyed one last Sin­gi­ta lunch, then fin­ished pack­ing and head­ed for the airstrip. Our flight was a lit­tle over an hour and we checked back into the Inter­con­ti­nen­tal where we had a day room. Lunch, show­er and relax until our eight P.M. fif­teen-hour flight to Atlanta. We cleared cus­toms and then caught our last flight to our home air­ports. We all arrived home before noon on Tues­day, July 23. Enjoy­ing two fab­u­lous loca­tions, unbe­liev­able hos­pi­tal­i­ty and unfor­get­table safari expe­ri­ence with our fam­i­ly is a trip of a life­time. We will be shar­ing mem­o­ries for months and years to come.

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COPA Mayan Adventure, Gautemala

by on Mar.30, 2019, under Flying

This year COPA Cen­tral Amer­i­ca Adven­ture Trip focused on explor­ing Mayan his­to­ry and cul­ture and includ­ed vis­its to two UNESCO World Her­itage sites, the first in Tikal, Guatemala. We again had Caribbean Sky Tours (CST), orga­nize and escort our trip. We had a full com­ple­ment of COPA air­craft this year includ­ing an SF50 Cir­rus Jet along with Cir­rus SR20 and 22’s. Groups depart­ed the U.S., one from Brownsville, Texas the oth­er Key West, Flori­da. Joyce and I flew with the five planes fly­ing the 650 miles across the Gulf of Mex­i­co land­ing in Guatemala, near the vil­lage of Flo­res. The Key West group met for din­ner at a COPA favorite restau­rant, Louie’s Back­yard for a great din­ner under the stars. The next morn­ing, Sun­day, March tenth,  we flew to the north of Cuba, then over Cozumel, down to down to Belize City then west to Flo­res. We are met by CST han­dlers whisked through cus­toms and immi­gra­tion into vans and off to our hotel.   Our hotel is the fab­u­lous Las Lagu­nas resort with rooms over the water and the cen­tral build­ing over­look­ing an infin­i­ty pool and the lake. We start our vis­it with a cool cerveza, relax then meet with our total group for our inau­gur­al cock­tails and dinner.

The next morn­ing we enjoy a great break­fast pre­pared to order with a stun­ning view of Quex­il lagoon. We meet our guide then depart for the one hour trip to Tikal Nation­al Park a mag­nif­i­cent arche­o­log­i­cal site. This was the cen­ter of the Mayan civ­i­liza­tion. There are 4000 struc­tures iden­ti­fied, most remain cov­ered by the jun­gle. We will vis­it the cen­ter and most impor­tant struc­tures. Our guide reminds us that the Mayans built these struc­tures with­out met­al tools or any ani­mals to assist them. We explore the ruins with our guides in a trek through the jun­gle end­ing with an out­door lunch of local dishes.

In the after­noon there are lots of options includ­ing the spa, a muse­um at the hotel, the pool or the hot tub in your room over­look­ing the lake (our choice). We meet for cock­tails and anoth­er great dinner.

The next day there are a num­ber of options includ­ing explor­ing the lake and vis­it­ing mon­key island. Being inter­est­ed in nature pho­tog­ra­phy I had a great time pho­tograph­ing mon­keys. After the boat tour, the major­i­ty trav­el into the vil­lage of Flo­res which is on an island on the near­by lake Peten Itza which is acces­si­ble by a cause­way. This is our sec­ond vis­it so we just enjoy the muse­um, resort pool and our hot tub after a great lunch at the hotel.

That evening after our flight brief­ing by Rick Gard­ner, our leader from CST we have cock­tails and yet anoth­er great din­ner at Las Lagu­nas. In the morn­ing we are off to Campeche, Mex­i­co. With all of our air­craft togeth­er its a pret­ty impres­sive flight line, with the SF50 right up front.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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COPA Mayan Adventure, Mexico

by on Mar.30, 2019, under Flying

Wednes­day morn­ing we bid farewell to Los Lagu­nas, after anoth­er great break­fast over­look­ing Quex­il lagoon. Our han­dlers have us through depar­ture quick­ly, flight plans in hand for our first leg to Cozumel where we will clear Mex­i­can cus­toms. Its a beau­ti­ful flight along the coast on the route we were sup­posed to take com­ing in. We see the inlets where fresh water from under­ground rivers mix­es with salt water that was used by pirates as a hid­ing place dur­ing the Span­ish peri­od. Cozumel turn around is unevent­ful and we are on to Campeche, where no ATIS, gusty quar­ter­ing winds, plus low-lev­el wind shear make for an inter­est­ing land­ing. We are quick­ly off to the Hacien­da Puer­ta Campeche which is inside the old walled city and very quaint. We meet for din­ner after set­tling in and cock­tails in the hotel bar.

Thurs­day after break­fast we meet our guide Felix who starts his descrip­tion at the city land gate across the street from our hotel. We then take the one hour trip to the Edz­na Mayan arche­o­log­i­cal site which dates back to 600 BC and was a cen­ter for cer­e­mo­ny and trad­ing for the area. Unlike Tikal, this site was built in an arid region and did not have to be exca­vat­ed from the jun­gle so it is bet­ter pre­served. We make a brief stop to taste local corn­bread made in a char­coal oven, very tasty. The Edz­na ruins are very impres­sive and Felix edu­cates us about all aspects of Mayan his­to­ry. After the ruins, we stop for lunch at the Hacien­da Uaya­mon an estate dat­ing back to 1700. After we return we have time to explore Campeche on our own or relax at our hotel, before din­ner on our own. In our case, we dined at an excel­lent local restau­rant, Mar­gan­zo, serv­ing tra­di­tion­al region­al cui­sine and Mayan dishes.

Fri­day after break­fast we do a walk­ing tour of Campeche, walk­ing through the local mar­ket, not nec­es­sar­i­ly your super­mar­ket at home. We also vis­it church­es, the square, and both his­to­ry and arche­o­log­i­cal muse­ums. We have lunch at a local street restau­rant and then relax, pack, before the brief­ing for our flight back and our final din­ner together. -

This was a great group of COPA pilots and part­ners from all over the unit­ed states includ­ing Ore­gon, Cal­i­for­nia, Texas, Wash­ing­ton DC, South Car­oli­na, and Flori­da. We had a great time, saw some amaz­ing things and beau­ti­ful places. The first group depart­ed for Brownsville, Texas and beyond and the sec­ond to Key West back across the Gulf of Mex­i­co. In our case, after clear­ing cus­toms, we overnight­ed in Fort Laud­erdale to cel­e­brate our old­er daugh­ters birth­day before return­ing home on Sun­day. Real­ly an out­stand­ing trip thanks to COPA, Caribbean Sky Tours, a great group of COPA peo­ple plus the excel­lent warm hos­pi­tal­i­ty of Las Lagu­nas in Guatemala and Hacien­da Puer­ta Campeche in Mexico.

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Jordan Revealed

by on Jan.26, 2019, under Happenings


Jan­u­ary 13, 2019


We flew from Cairo to the Jor­dan­ian cap­i­tal of Amman which was an exten­sion of the Wendy Pang­burn’s (PI) YPO Egypt trip. Twen­ty-eight of the orig­i­nal group plus a cou­ple who joined us made our group thir­ty in total expe­ri­enc­ing the Hashemite King­dom of Jor­dan. We were met by our two excel­lent Jor­dan­ian guides, Zak Salameh and Maj­di Saleem. Amman is a clean, more mod­ern city with more order­ly traf­fic than Cairo with one-sixth the pop­u­la­tion. Our first stop was the Citadel which is at the cen­ter of the city on one of the hills upon which Amman was built. The Citadel is impor­tant because it has a his­to­ry of being occu­pied by many great civ­i­liza­tions. There is evi­dence from pot­tery exca­vat­ed of use dur­ing the Neolith­ic peri­od (12000 years ago). Mon­u­ments show the his­tor­i­cal names of Amman includ­ing Philidel­phia. The promi­nent struc­tures include the Tem­ple of Her­cules, a Byzan­tine church and the Domed Umayyad Palace.





Jan­u­ary 13, 2019


We then trav­eled by bus to our hotel the Kempin­s­ki Ishtar Resort on the shore of the Dead Sea. The hotel com­plex is amaz­ing and we enjoyed a lit­tle down­time although the windy cool con­di­tions pre­clud­ed a float on the famed Dead Sea. We worked out in the hotel gym which shocked our bod­ies back to real­i­ty before of course more cock­tails and dinner.



Jan­u­ary 14, 2019


After break­fast, we board­ed our bus with the first stop being the site on the Jor­dan riv­er where accord­ing to the bible Jesus was bap­tized by John the Bap­tist. The Al-Maghats ruins are locat­ed on the Jor­dan­ian side of the Jor­dan Riv­er that includes ruins of church­es, bap­tism ponds, as well as pil­grim and her­mit dwellings. Thir­ty yards across the riv­er is Israel and a bap­tism loca­tion which was in use at the time of our vis­it. There is also a new church on the site for wor­shipers on the Jor­dan side of the river.



We then trav­eled to Mount Nebo the high­est point in this part of the ancient king­dom of Moab. In the Bible, Mount Nebo is the moun­tain where Moses was grant­ed a view of the Promised Land. This is also the place where Moses died and was buried. The Fran­cis­cans have exca­vat­ed the site and in 1993 com­plet­ed the Memo­r­i­al Church of Moses. They have incor­po­rat­ed mosaics from the ancient basil­i­ca that occu­pied the site. There is a cave stone used to close cave dwellings from bib­li­cal times on dis­play on the approach to the church.



From Mount Nebo we con­tin­ued the short dis­tance to the City of Mad­a­ba, known as the “mosaice city”. The city is on the site of a very ancient set­tle­ment. In 1881 set­tlers dis­cov­ered mosaics buried beneath the rub­ble. The most famous is the unique par­tial map of the Holy Land in the Greek Ortho­dox Church of St. George. We vis­it­ed the church pri­or to hav­ing a fun lunch at a Jor­dan­ian restaurant.



After lunch, we trav­eled to the ancient city of Petra and checked into our unique hotel which was orig­i­nal­ly built by the Bedouins. The next morn­ing we got an unau­tho­rized 5:00 AM wake up call with the call to prayer from the near­by mosque.


 



Jan­u­ary 15, 2019


After break­fast, we vis­it­ed one of the new Sev­en Won­ders of the world. Petra is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock faces by the Nabataeans, who set­tled there more than 2000 years ago. The Nabataeans, pros­pered tak­ing advan­tage of the loca­tion at an impor­tant junc­tion for the silk, spice and key com­modi­ties trade routes that linked Chi­na, India, and south­ern Ara­bia with Egypt, Syr­ia, Greece, and Rome. The entrance to the city is through the “Siq” a nar­row gorge, which is flanked on either side by soar­ing cliffs. The Siq has tombs and tem­ples carved on the cliff sides as well as an amphithe­ater and advanced water con­trol and dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem. With sea trade sup­plant­i­ng over­land trans­port Petra fad­ed, but it was redis­cov­ered in 1812 and has become Jor­dan’s num­ber one tourist attrac­tion. The film “The Last Cru­sade” with Indi­ana Jones that was filmed in Petra did­n’t hurt tourism, but the place exceeds its hype. Petra is tru­ly a won­der­ful wonder.



Faces of Petra



 


Jan­u­ary 16, 2019


After break­fast, we left Petra and head­ed south towards Aqa­ba, a city on the Jordan/Saudi Ara­bia bor­der loca­tion of the world-famous Wadi Rum. It is an amaz­ing desert land­scape made up of mono­lith­ic rock for­ma­tions that rise up from the desert floor to heights of 5740 feet. It was made famous by being the place where Prince Faisal Bin Hus­sein and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Ara­bia ) head­quar­tered dur­ing the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans. This where the movie Lawrence of Ara­bia was filmed as well as the recent film “The Mar­t­ian”. We explored by four-wheel vehi­cle and saw the nar­row gauge train like the one that Lawrence tar­get­ed and viewed the unique land­scape. We had tea in a Bedouin tent and lunch cooked in the tra­di­tion­al Bedouin style under the sand.



After lunch, which got a lit­tle grit­ty when a sand storm start­ed, we began our dri­ve back to Amman. The sand storm inten­si­fied, then turns into a thun­der­storm, then a hail storm and final­ly as we entered Amman a snow storm. We checked into the Four Sea­sons and show­ered the sand out of our hair, had din­ner and then after a lit­tle weath­er based uncer­tain­ty took four-wheel vehi­cles to the air­port to catch our one AM flight back to the Unit­ed States through Paris. What an incred­i­ble adventure!


 

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Egypt Revealed

by on Jan.22, 2019, under Happenings


We trav­eled to Eyg­pt as part of a trip spon­sored by the YPO group and orga­nized by Wendy Pang­burn prin­ci­ple of Pang­burn Inter­na­tion­al (PI). The peo­ple on the trip and the PI team were absolute­ly great, with out­stand­ing guides (Egyp­tol­o­gist), lec­tur­ers and infor­ma­tion resources. This was not just a fab­u­lous sight­see­ing expe­ri­ence it was an in-depth edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ty. We arrived a day ear­ly, and checked into the famous Mena House Hotel. The next day (nor­mal arrival day) we had a bonus excur­sion to the vil­lage of Saqqara. There we saw the old­est stone struc­tures in Egypt, the Step Pyra­mids 2700 BC, the tomb of Pharaoh Zos­er, the Saqqara tem­ple com­plex and a local rug weav­ing school. That evening at the open­ing recep­tion and din­ner the keynote speak­er was Dr. Zahi Hawass, for­mer Egypt­ian min­is­ter of Antiq­ui­ties and world-renowned archaeologist.


Jan­u­ary 6, 2019



January 7, 2019


The next day we vis­it­ed the Pyra­mids of Giza, the Sphinx and got a pre­view tour of the new Grand Egypt­ian Muse­um. We start­ed at the largest pyra­mid the tomb of Pharaoh Khu­fu built between 2560 and 2580 BC. It is 481 feet high and the base is 756 feet square. It is con­struct­ed of 2.3 mil­lion blocks of lime­stone and gran­ite. There are three oth­er small­er pyra­mids in the com­plex, tombs of son and grand­son of Khu­fu, Khafre and Menkau­re as well as pharao­h’s wives.



We then vis­it­ed the Khu­fu ship which is an intact full-size ves­sel (143 feet long 19.6 feet wide) from ancient Egypt that was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyra­mid com­plex at the foot of the Great Pyra­mid. The ship now is pre­served in the Giza Solar boat museum. 



Next Stop the Sphinx



The new Grand Egypt­ian Muse­um (GEM) under con­struc­tion will be 5,000,2000 square feet, hous­ing 125,000 arti­facts. We did a pre­view tour of the con­struc­tion and some of the exhibits under development. 



Final­ly we toured the cur­rent Egypt­ian Museum



The first day end­ed with din­ner Nile river­side with Pro­fes­sor Sal­i­ma Ikram and stu­dents from Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in Cairo. Quite a first day. 


Jan­u­ary 8, 2019


We checked out of our hotel and go by bus through the chaot­ic Cairo traf­fic to the air­port. On our way, we pass by miles of blight­ed build­ings, evi­dence of a weak econ­o­my and/or failed gov­ern­ment pro­grams. We board­ed our char­tered Jet for the short flight to Lux­or (Thebes in ancient times) on the Nile. We board­ed our home for the next few days, the Sanc­tu­ary Nile Adven­tur­er. After lunch, we explored the Tem­ple com­plex of Kar­nak. The com­plex cov­ers over 200 acres and was in con­stant expan­sion and use for over 2000 years. It is con­sid­ered one of the most sacred sites in Egypt. We vis­it­ed the main restored area, that is con­nect­ed by the avenue of the Sphinx. Oth­er parts of the avenue are being exca­vat­ed that con­nects to a sec­ondary com­plex that we vis­it­ed as the sun sets. The com­plex is across the Nile from the Tombs of the Val­leys of the Kings and Queens. 



Jan­u­ary 9, 2019


We crossed the Nile in local boats for our vis­it to the Val­leys of the Kings and Queens. Specif­i­cal­ly, we will vis­it King Tuts and Rame­ses VI Tomb as well as Queen Nefer­tar­i’s Tomb. We passed by Queen Nefer­tar­i’s Tem­ple and the Colos­si of Mem­non. Where­as the Pharaohs in the north built pyra­mids to house their tombs in the south, they dug the bur­ial cham­bers into the sand­stone moun­tains. There are 62 tombs iden­ti­fied in the Val­ley of the Kings, num­bered in the sequence of dis­cov­ery. For more infor­ma­tion about the Tombs go to http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/ The most famous is num­ber 62 King Tuts, which con­tained a trove of arti­facts, pri­mar­i­ly because it was over­looked by tomb rob­bers. King Tut was his­tor­i­cal­ly a minor king since he lived only to age 19. In the after­noon we cruised south on the Nile to the next stop which is the city of Esna. 



Jan­u­ary 10, 2019


On our cruise to Esna, we got a good view of the Nile riv­er val­ley, two things that strike you is how nar­row the fer­tile area is adja­cent the riv­er and that every vil­lage has a mosque with a minaret usu­al­ly broad­cast­ing. In Esna, we focused on the Gre­co-Roman Tem­ple of Khnum. The Tem­ple was com­plet­ed around 250 AD and fea­tures 24 beau­ti­ful­ly dec­o­rat­ed pil­lars and the walls cov­ered with reliefs. On the west­ern exte­ri­or facade, we saw reliefs show­ing the god Horus (god of Vic­to­ry) as well as Khnum (god of cre­ation). The sur­round­ing site is being dug out and there are mar­kets cater­ing to tourists around the exca­vat­ed tem­ple site.






In the evening its dress like an Egypt­ian night, and after cock­tails and din­ner our boat crew intro­duces us to Egypt­ian danc­ing. FUN!!



Jan­u­ary 11, 2019


Overnight we cruised to the city of Kom Ombo and in the morn­ing vis­it­ed the Tem­ple with the same name. This Tem­ple is for the wor­ship of two gods, Sobek: the croc­o­dile god, and Horus the fal­con god. This is a clas­sic tem­ple design of the Gre­co Roman peri­od but made up of two par­al­lel tem­ples. The design starts with huge entrance struc­tures, open­ing into pil­lared court­yards, lead­ing to the cer­e­mo­ni­al cham­ber at the back of the complex. 




We then had lunch as we sail to Aswan our last stop. After lunch, we go by bus to the Phi­lae Tem­ple, which was res­cued from under­wa­ter. After a cof­fer­dam was built it was dis­man­tled (40,000 pieces) and moved then reassem­bled on near­by Agilkia island. We then expe­ri­enced a sail on the tra­di­tion­al Egypt­ian sail­ing boat called a feluc­ca. After the sail we had tea at the famous Cataract Hotel at sun­set before return­ing to the Nile Adven­tur­er. That evening we heard from Ambas­sador Karim Hag­gag regard­ing Egyp­t’s per­spec­tive of the U.S.






Jan­u­ary 12, 2019


We left our float­ing hotel and board­ed our char­tered Jet to Abu Sim­bel, the site of the Abu Sim­bel Tem­ples. The Tem­ples were built by Ram­ses II one of the longest rein­ing Pharaohs in 13 cen­tu­ry BC. The walls depict the pharaoh in his var­i­ous exploits and next door is the tem­ple ded­i­cat­ed to his favorite wife, Nefer­tari. The tem­ples were orig­i­nal­ly carved out of the moun­tain­side. The com­plex was relo­cat­ed in its entire­ty in 1968, to an arti­fi­cial moun­tain high above the Aswan High Dam reser­voir to save it from sub­mer­sion in Lake Nass­er, once the dam was complete. 




We re-board­ed our jet and flew to Cairo for our last night in Egypt. On the way in from the air­port we had a spe­cial treat, a pri­vate tour of Abdeen Palace. The palace was built in 1863 by order of King Ismail. It was the scene of the blood­less Coup staged by the mil­i­tary that oust­ed the last Egypt­ian king Farouq I in 1952. The refur­bished 500 room palace has been vis­it­ed by heads of state and is not open to the pub­lic. Our group was the first, non-gov­ern­ment group to receive a tour. 



After the tour, we had our last din­ner in Egypt at the U.S. Embassy. The next day some returned home or con­tin­ued else­where on their own and we join the part of the group that con­tin­ues on to Jordan.

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Thanksgiving 2018

by on Nov.23, 2018, under Family

Spring Island from the Cottage

The fam­i­ly start­ed gath­er­ing at the Chechessee cot­tage on the Mon­day before Thanks­giv­ing with Jen­nifer, Mike, and Alexan­dra arriv­ing from Flori­da. Tues­day Caitlin and Kin­sey arrived with Gil and Joyce and Hei­di, Gary and Brenn com­plet­ed the gath­er­ing Thanks­giv­ing morn­ing. Thanks­giv­ing day was typ­i­cal with lots of activ­i­ties, start­ing with some work­ing out at Spring Island, games, cook­ing, eat­ing, addi­tion­al games, foot­ball watch­ing, more eat­ing, more games, talk­ing, relax­ing, more eat­ing, more cook­ing, giv­ing Thanks and then feast­ing. It was a great Thanks­giv­ing day sur­round­ed by sev­er­al days of fam­i­ly fun.

Black Fri­day activ­i­ties start­ed with exer­cise for every­body with some head­ing to the gym and oth­ers enter­ing the 5K at Spring Island. Once that was done we resumed the eat­ing, games, foot­ball watch­ing Mis­souri won big, and there was some shop­ping. Gary left to coach his foot­ball team, who are in the play­offs. All but Gary went to the Oys­ter Roast at Spring Island for dinner.

 

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2018 October Flying trip

by on Oct.27, 2018, under Flying

We had planned a fly­ing trip in August but Joyce had an acci­dent that side­lined us, so we made up for lost time with a trip to the Green­bri­er in West Vir­ginia and then on to Williams­burg, Vir­ginia. Hur­ri­cane Micheal blocked our return to Hilton Head so we made an unplanned trip to Day­ton for two days before return­ing home. It all worked out just fine. We start­ed by join­ing our fly­ing friends at the 2018 Green­bri­er COPA fly-in. This was orga­nized by Rhon­da and Mike Thom­lin­son of the COPA NE Region and was well attend­ed. Joyce and I toured the cold war bunker on Thurs­day, Octo­ber 4th, there was an open­ing cock­tail and din­ner par­ty, lots of things to do, includ­ing a cave tour, plus the great ameni­ties of the resort. We took advan­tage of the gym to counter the ample calo­ries being con­sumed and just enjoyed the cama­raderie with oth­er COPA pilots. The weath­er was beau­ti­ful and a good time was had by all.

 

On Sun­day we flew on to Williamburg, Vir­ginia and stayed at the fab­u­lous Williams­burg Inn. The colo­nial town of Williams­burg has been restored to its orig­i­nal con­di­tion and peo­ple in peri­od cos­tume tell the sto­ry of life in those times. It is extreme­ly well done and you expe­ri­ence that time in his­to­ry, on loca­tion in the tav­ern, tin­smiths shop, shoe­mak­er, bar­ber, sil­ver­smith shop and all the places of dai­ly life.  We then viewed oth­er parts of the town includ­ing the armory, where a can­non was fired, and the local fife and drum unit march at sun­set. We also vis­it­ed the Colo­nial Gov­er­nors man­sion and the then Colo­nial Cap­i­tal of Vir­ginia. Over­all it was inter­est­ing, edu­ca­tion­al two days with a lot of walking.

On Wednes­day morn­ing we decid­ed that the weath­er in South Car­oli­na due to then trop­i­cal storm Micheal was­n’t going to be fun so we flew to Day­ton, Ohio to vis­it friends and hang out while the weath­er past. On Fri­day we flew back to Hilton Head with a good tail wind and beau­ti­ful weath­er. It was a fun week and due to our mag­ic Cir­rus car­pet, we did it in com­fort and style.

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Florence/Tuscany 2018

by on Jun.13, 2018, under Happenings

Since we decid­ed to got to the Cir­rus Own­ers and Pilots Asso­ci­a­tions Euro­pean Migra­tion in Rome we added a week in Tus­cany. We arrived in Flo­rance on Fri­day after a long flight with two stops, so the rest of the day was relax­ing and do a lit­tle sight­see­ing then din­ner at the hotel.  We stayed at a fan­tas­tic small bou­tique hotel right on the Piaz­za S. Maria Novel­la, and a short walk to the incred­i­ble Piaz­za Duo­mo (Reli­gious Cen­ter). We had vis­it­ed Flo­rence before so we did­n’t have to see the must-see tourist sights, so the plan was to soak in more of the cul­ture and of course, par­take of the great Tus­can food and wine. On Sat­ur­day we start­ed the process with a “Culi­nary Tour of Flo­rence”. Our delight­ful guide Bar­bra intro­duced us to every­thing from local truf­fle sand­wich­es, to final­ly Gela­to, with lots of inter­est­ing things in between includ­ing tripe and local wines, olive oil, pas­try, cheese, and on and on. We passed a steak restau­rant where the min­i­mum thick­ness is four fin­gers (three and a half inch­es) and rare is the only choice.  We con­tin­ued our tour through the Medici seat of gov­ern­men­t and viewed the famous stat­ues in the Piaz­za Sig­no­ria then over the famous Ponte Vec­chio, once a meat mar­ket known for its smell and final­ly on to our gelato.  One inter­est­ing site is the Medici Jus­tice stat­ue, no blind­fold, and a sword. The plaque essen­tial­ly says “I’m Cos­mos Medici and jus­tice is in my eyes and I have the sword to car­ry it out”. We spent the after­noon walk­ing off the morn­ing calo­ries doing more sight­see­ing includ­ing the Medici chapel/museum. The evening we dined at Il Cibreo a very spe­cial Flo­ren­tine restaurant.

Our next day adven­ture start­ed with a “Flo­ren­tine Cook­ing Class” with our chef/teacher Lau­ra of www.cookinginflorence.com. This turned out to be great fun and we learned and pre­pared bro­chette, Pici pas­ta, chick­en breast stuffed with moz­zarel­la, and Ter­ra Ma Sue. Then we added a lit­tle Tus­can wine, music by Boclli and we ate the whole thing for lunch. Deli­cious, edu­ca­tion­al and great fun.

A lit­tle more walk­ing off the calo­ries, then a tour “off the beat­en path” by golf cart. Our guide, who was a delight­ful char­ac­ter, enter­tained us with lit­tle-known his­tor­i­cal facts and hid­den trea­sures of Florence.  One piece of Medici gos­sip was the fact that one mar­ried a Haps­burg daugh­ter and they made sure every­one knew by dec­o­rat­ing the city hall with Vien­nese scenes. We fin­ished the golf cart tour high above Flo­rence with a breath­tak­ing view of the city, from S. Mini­a­to al Monte. We then board­ed a boat on the Arno for a sun­set cruise. We fin­ished the day with din­ner at the 100-year-old fam­i­ly run restau­rant, Bucas Mario, fea­tur­ing tra­di­tion­al Flo­ren­tine recipes.

The next day our dri­ver guide Simon picked us up at the hotel and drove us into Tus­cany. We first toured the love­ly medieval hill-town of San Gimignano. We explored this walled town with per­fect­ly pre­served tow­ers and build­ing with a won­der­ful view of the coun­try­side. We then dri­ve to a win­ery for a relaxed lunch and wine tast­ing, (and buy­ing) expe­ri­ence. After lunch, we meet our local guide in the beau­ti­ful city of Siena who takes us on a walk­ing tour of this fabled medieval city, includ­ing the remark­able shell-shaped Piaz­za del Cam­po-home of the famous Palio horse race and Unique Goth­ic-Romanesque Duo­mo. Final­ly, we dri­ve out into the coun­try­side to our hotel/castle, Castel­lo di Casole, where we will stay while in Tus­cany. Our hotel turns out to be a real gem on a hill over­look­ing the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side of Tuscany.

On Tues­day Simon picked us up at the hotel for a day of learn­ing about Chi­anti wine. We Began with an excur­sion to Pan­zano, then a vis­it to a his­toric abbey cel­lar. We then had anoth­er light Tus­can lunch accom­pa­nied by Ital­ian wines.

Wednes­day our great driver/guide picked us up again and we were off to the town of Mon­tal­ci­no. Mon­tal­ci­no is impor­tant in that it is the cap­i­tal of the leg­endary Brunel­lo wine region. We explore the wind­ing streets and medieval walls and fortress with a great view of the Tus­can hills. Brunel­lo is made from Chi­anti grapes, but they pro­duce a very dif­fer­ent wine in this region. We then vis­it a local win­ery for a tour, tast­ing, and lunch. We add some Brunel­lo to our cel­lar to accom­pa­ny the Chi­anti we pur­chased ear­li­er. After lunch we decide to vis­it one last vil­lage in Tus­cany, Pien­za, fin­ish­ing our Tus­cany explo­ration with a cel­e­bra­to­ry Gela­to before head­ing back to our hotel for our last night din­ner of real piz­za and Tus­can wine.

Tus­cany was won­der­ful, Cul­ture, Food and Wine and won­der­ful places and peo­ple. Tomor­row we dri­ve to Rome to meet fly­ing friends and vis­it a great city. It will be hard to beat the unique ambiance and char­ac­ter of Tus­cany. If it’s not obvi­ous by now, we love Italy, Ital­ian food, and Ital­ian wine.

 

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