Chimney Rock North Carolina

Chimney Rock North Carolina and Lake Lure

The town of Chimney Rock NC
The park entrance

In the mountains of Western North Carolina is a lake fed by a river that runs thru Hickory Nut Gorge. Standing high above this gorge is a rock formation named Chimney Rock which also gives its name to the town below. Chimney Rock is a North Carolina State Park which features a number of attractions the foremost of which are stairs and an elevator taking visitors to the top of this rock formation. From that perch you can see for miles down the gorge and across Lake Lure nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park also features miles of hiking trails which go to the top of the mountain and over to the top or the bottom of a four hundred foot waterfall called Hickory Nut Falls. Take a photo tour of Chimney Rock, North Carolina:

Broad River

Hickory Nut Falls
Chimney Rock looks down on Lake Lure

The area is a popular tourist, weekend and vacation destination and claims a connection to a couple of famous movies. Lake Lure was the setting used in Dirty Dancing and Chimney Rock was the backdrop for The Last of the Mohicans. While the area has all the trappings of a tourist town the trails and views surrounding Chimney Rock are also really amazing.

Lake Lure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you love the mountains and like to hike this is worth a two or three day visit. If you are looking for a good B&B you should check out our review of The Broad River Inn located in Chimney Rock.

Some convenient links to follow:

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Changing of the Guard in Copenhagen

A Short Story

During a short visit to Copenhagen, Denmark a group of our friends went off to see the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace. We had plans to find the little mermaid and stroll the canal district.

Sometime a little after eleven we were window shopping along Dronningens Tvaergade when flashing police lights caught our attention.

Walking down to the corner we were surprised to see the Danish Royal Guard marching down the center of the street led by a police car. Traffic was backed up behind them and crowds followed down the sidewalk. They came to our position just as the traffic light turned red and they halted. Once the light turned green their commander gave the order to march and they moved off.

It seems the Danish Royal Guard march from Rosenborg Castle to Amalienborg Palace where the Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place daily. The guard leaves Rosenborg Castle at 11:30  am to arrive at Amalienborg Palace for the ceremony at 12:00. When the Queen is in residence the guard is accompanied by the Royal Guards music band.

A Room With A Bath In London

A Short Story

Stow-On-The-Wald

Some time ago we were visiting England and had rented a car for a few days driving around the Cotswalds. The countryside and the villages were spectacular and we had a great time. Our two favorite locations were Broadway and Stow-On-The-Wald. Who wouldn’t want to stay in Stow-On-The-Wald just to be able to say the name. While The Lygon Arms in Broadway was recommended to us it was not to our budgets liking but we’ve been told it is extraordinary.

We spent our time in the Cotswalds staying in B&Bs and the people we met and the meals we shared were delightful. But after a number of days of stumbling around in the middle of the night looking for the bathrooms we were looking forward to getting back to London

Lygon Arms Hotel, Broadway

We had been staying in Kensington and when we returned we went searching for a hotel in the same area. At that point my wife was really looking to have a room with a private bath. I parked in one of those cul-de-sacs that was completely circled by small hotels and headed off in search of a room. The forth hotel said “yes” they did have a room with a bath. We dropped our bags off in the lobby and went off to return the rental car and get something to eat.

Hotel Row, Kensington

When we returned the hotel said the room was ready and we went upstairs. Opening the door we were confronted with a small room with a bed, a dresser and in one corner a clawfoot tub. That night my wife got her room with a bath but I wouldn’t refer to it as “private”.

 

TSA and the Little Sequined Top

My wife has a sequined top that she has worn while traveling a few times. I don’t believe there is anything seriously metallic in the sequins and it has made its way thru a number of metal detectors. On a recent trip all hell seemed to break out over this top.

While we have never paid for pre-clearance we usually get pre-cleared on our boarding passes (not really sure why). Last October while passing thru the TSA Pre check my wife was directed to go thru the scanner. Feet on the marks, hands above your head and wait, something has gone wrong. It seemed the agent scanned her several times and now she is pulled aside for a thorough search. What went wrong? She was wearing that top!

After a little research we have discovered that TSA screening devices have a lot of issues with some types of women’s clothes. That splash of gold print on a T-Shirt can contain enough metal to set off the metal detector. The same with attached beads. Sequins can literally blind a scanner. Since often these things are part of the fabric, passing a wand over you cannot determine if it is the top you’re wearing or something concealed under it. Time for the pat-down.

A comment Submitted by Cindy M found on the TSA blog from Jan 2018 – When the scanners were introduced I believed they were an improvement. Now however, I see that the machines don’t spot real problems. Instead they seem to be confused by a variety of normal things such as sequins, metal, or other sorts of embellishments on clothing.

Why is it I\we have to dress for the TSA?! Actually you don’t but you can expect to be delayed and/or inconvenienced.  Especially if you ignore some simple tips that help TSA do their job efficiently. They do post a lot of information online that can help avoid these sort of issues. Unfortunately as of now sequins aren’t one of those tips.

 

 

Cruise Port of Call Barbados

The Barbados Cruise Port is a popular cruise port of call on southern Caribbean itineraries.

General– Barbados is in the Lesser Antilles, the eastern most island in the Caribbean. It is an independent British Commonwealth nation, bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Caribbean Sea.

Where You’re Docked– At Barbados cruise port cruise ships dock at the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal and free shuttles take passengers from the ships pier to the terminal building. There are lots of shops inside the terminal and WiFi is available but not free. A walkway into Bridgetown runs along the waterfront. The distance into town center is approximately two miles. Most stores are open during the week but close at noon on Saturday and are not open on Sunday.

Boardwalk heading into Bridgetown

Transportation– There are lots of taxies available from the Barbados cruise port  area. The fares are regulated by the government but it is still important to agree on a price before the trip. The Georgetown Bus Terminal is located two blocks outside the port area, behind Pelican Village. Exact fares must be paid for bus rides and tokens can be purchased at the bus terminal. Rental cars are available but the rates are fairly steep and you will have to pay for a Barbados tourist driving license. Driving is on the left side of the road and, once you leave the city areas, many roads do not have name signs

The coast at The Crane, Barbados

Money

The official currency is the Barbados dollar (BBD) but US dollars (not coins) are widely accepted. The current exchange rate is US $1.00 = BBD $2.00.

Nearby trips:

Bathsheba, Barbados on the Atlantic coast

There are many beautiful beaches in Barbados but the easiest one to get to is Boatyard Beach on Carlisle Bay. It is about a 20 minute walk from the terminal or an inexpensive taxi ride. A fee of $20.00 is charged to use the facilities which includes a beach chair, shared umbrella, one cocktail, WIFI and free transport back to the ship.

 

Mount Gay Rum Distillery (web site) in Brandons, St. Michaels offers tours Monday to Friday and sometimes on Saturday. The current fee is $20.00 which includes a presentation on the rum’s history and a tasting. Tickets can be booked online.

Harrison’s Cave

Harrison’s Cave (web site) in St. Thomas is a network of caves, waterfalls, lakes and streams approximately 170 feet below ground. Tours are offered daily for a fee. The area above ground is a good place to spot green monkeys.

Earthworks Pottery (web site) is located mid island in St. Thomas Parish. It is an opportunity to view local potters at work and purchase some hand made souvenirs. Closed Sunday.

Bridgetown Harbour

George Washington House in Bush Hill welcomes visitors Monday through Saturday. It is the only place outside the United States that George Washington ever visited.

Bathsheba on the rugged Atlantic coast (eastern shore) is a great place to see surfers and enjoy a lunch at one of the local restaurants.

Black Pearl Party Cruises (web site) provides a 4 hour trip on the Jolly Roger which includes a buffet lunch, swimming, snorkeling, dancing and unlimited house drinks. The price is just under $90.00 with discounts for online booking and groups.

IMPORTANT – Do not wear camouflage clothing as it is illegal in Barbados; Only smoke in designated areas; Avoid touching or standing under the big shady Manshineel Trees as they are poisonous. Most of these trees are marked in red or banded in red.

Port of Call Roatan Honduras

The Caribbean Island of Roatan, Honduras

The main cruise dock and visitors village
Sailing into Mahogany Bay

Roatan is the largest of the Honduran Bay Islands in the Caribbean and is becoming a popular cruise itinerary destination. Like many Caribbean destinations it is recognized for its beautiful beaches, water sports, including premier scuba and skin diving, and modern resorts. It also has a growing number of American and Canadian ex-patriots and seasonal residents. To accommodate the cruise ships the Honduras government helped develop Mahogany Bay with modern docks, a well equiped duty free village and a beautiful beach recreation area.

Where You Dock

Most Cruise ships now dock at the Mahogany Bay facility on the southwest coast. The beautifully laid out area includes piers, a duty free shopping area and a beach area. In addition there is also the Port of Roatan located a bit farther west past Barrio Loma Linda and occasionally cruise ships may still dock there. It is about five miles between the two port facilities.

Transportation

The best way to get around Roatan is by hired taxi or a rental car. Taxi’s are inexpensive and you can usually negotiate an island tour at a good price (share with other passengers).

Money

The local currency is the Honduras Lempira with one being worth about US 5¢. US Dollars are usually welcome and most major credit cards are accepted.

Mahogany Bay beach area

Attractions

Outdoor recreation is the focus on this Caribbean island with sandy beaches and clear, warm water being the central attraction. There are also several zip line facilities on the island and a dolphin encounter at Anthony’s Key Resort that’s very popular.

If your ship docks at Mahogany Bay you can spend the day right at the ports beautiful beach. It’s equipped with water sports equipment, beach loungers and umbrellas with a number of excursions leaving right from the cruise port.

A little over a mile from Mahogany Bay is the town of Barrio Loma Linda. It is not a resort area but a typical small Honduran town with stores and restaurants along with a couple of crafts facilities working in leather and wood.

 

An Unusual Blarney Castle Adventure

A Short Story

Blarney Castle Caution

If you are not up the the challenge of climbing six stories of steep stairs – don’t start the tour…

I think that one of those requirements for first-time visitors to Ireland is visit Blarney Castle. It was way up on our list of must see.

When you tour Blarney Castle the first thing you are confronted with is a six story, narrow spiral staircase. Everything is rough stone and there isn’t enough room on the stairs for more than a single file line. Someone getting past another in line would be a serious challenge. In touring the castle and getting up to the rock of eloquence (better known as the Blarney Stone) you must ascend on one staircase and descend on another equally narrow staircase. While on the ascent there are a couple of side rooms attached to the stairwell there is no way out until you climb the full six stories. At the top you walk over to the Blarney Stone and afterwords cross over to the other corner and start down the second staircase.

Before you enter the actual castle itself there is an attendant that clearly explains the issues with the spiral staircase and that if you don’t think you are up to the climb you shouldn’t continue.

On our visit last year as we entered the grounds we became aware of a couple in the group that stood out. He was, it turned out, in his 90’s and walked with a Hurrycane. It’s that foldable walking cane with the hand grip at the top and the four footed base as seen on TV. As we entered the castle the elderly gentleman was ahead of us with about six people between us and him in line. Just ten feet inside we were at the foot of that spiral staircase. At that point we commented to ourselves that we were impressed with his courage if not his judgement.

To his credit he made it up almost three stories before he couldn’t take another step. At that point the people below on the stairs couldn’t do anything to help because we were stuck in a single file. There was a lot of discussion up and down the line and eventually the line above him managed to get into an alcove and one gentlemen came back to him. With his wife behind him and help from the man above they managed to help him crawl up a number of steps to that alcove. After that the line started moving up again – there was no other choice. There was no way we were going to get a line three stories up into the castle to back up. When we got to the top of the castle several people explained to the attendants helping people kiss the stone* about the gentleman’s problem.

Maybe Blarney Castle has experienced this problem before but the logistics of stopping the line, getting help to him and than getting him down three flights of steep, narrow, spiral stairs does seem like a daunting task. That doesn’t even take into consideration the tour buses that are on a schedule and have significant distances to travel.

I’m sure there are a number of morals in this adventure but I’ll leave them to the readers imagination.

*You lay on your back while the attendants hold you as you stick your head through an opening at the top of the castle, six stories above the ground while you kiss the stone protruding from the wall above you – try that on a wet and rainy day. Also there doesn’t seem to be any Purell in use and you start speculating about all those people ahead of you that day?