Arboretum in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a feast for the senses.
The North Carolina Arboretum is located on The Blue Ridge Parkway near the Asheville entrance at mile marker 393. The site offers acres of cultivated gardens and groomed trails featuring some of the most beautiful, native plants in the region. Admission is free but there is a $14 per car parking fee.
If you live near Orlando or are visiting from outside the area looking into the Audubon Birds of Prey Center located in within the city of Maitland in the small Town of Eatonville. Stop by and experience a bit of real Florida, and get an opportunity to view up close and personal Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Kites, Owls and Falcons.
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 quick tour of Chimney Rock North Carolina and Lake Lure.
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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.
Note: I am trying to post using the worlds slowest internet connection. Apparently wireless and the internet have trouble penetrating Hickory Nut Gorge. Will clean all this up in a few days.
We have reached the space maximum for our current plan and will not be able to add more than one or two more posts without upgrading our plan or moving to a new host. This has been a hobby and we have really enjoyed sharing our travels and tips but do not want this to become a major investment. We would really like to hear what others do and what providers we should investigate.
Please Contact us:
And let us know your experiences.
What We Have Done
Web Site – We passed our one year anniversary just a couple of weeks ago using the free hosting at WordPress.com. We bought a couple of domain names so our total initial out of pocket was under $25 (with another $25 to renew the domains last month). In the beginning I would reduce the size of photographs to web specifications to save space but stopped after a few months. It seemed I had plenty of space and I realized that there were visual issues with the reduced size pictures (I now see that this is the main reason we now out of space).
I have learned a lot about the WordPress platform over this year including work arounds to get features of plugins that aren’t allowed under our WordPress plan. The learning curve has been steep at times and I am not looking forward to starting from scratch.
Other Sites – We have set up other social media sites primarily to help promote the blog and have managed to pull it all together with four strongly related names. We are on Pinterest and twitter with the name Intent2Travel and facebook with the name Intend2Travel.
Email – Our emails are all with GMX for a number of reasons. First they are free, they also do not cause all the security issues when traveling internationally that happen with Apple, Gmail, Outlook… Doing this also allow us to maintain these addresses even if we change domains.
The Intentional Traveler site currently uses over 600 internal links mainly for indexes, that will ALL have to be redirected with a change in address (this may be unavoidable regardless of what we decide). We also have over a thousand incoming links from shared and other social media sites that would also have to be edited (this may also be unavoidable regardless of what we decide).
I am also concerned about continuity with followers and subscribers both on the site and also with the other social sites? In looking into WordPress it seems that I can set up a redirect using a plugin but the only way I can use these plugins is to buy an upgrade which doesn’t make financial sense.
What We Have Looked At So Far
WordPress – If we have to upgrade it doesn’t seem to make sense to pay for a service that still doesn’t allow services that we would really like to have. Some plugins are an important issue and WordPress currently would be $300 a year which doesn’t make financial sense to us.
Bluehost -This host offers a lot of what we want for less than $50 year right now. We set up a free 30 day trial with Bluehost since they use the WordPress engine and we exported and imported our site (have not published as yet). While all the posts and categories and menus seemed to have imported, about 20% of the photos are missing. Also headers, widgets and directories are missing so it will require hours of work to get ready to publish.
Again – Please Help we could really use some advice on this
Banzai Pipeline, Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head – these are all names we associate with Hawaii and they all are found on O’ahu. There are numerous reasons to visit all the Hawaiian islands but O’ahu is the real star. This island offers the excitement of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, the laid-back island style of Hale’iwa on the North Shore and historical sights at Pearl Harbor and a number of Hawaiian and Polynesian cultural centers around the island.
Thinking of a trip to the Hawaiian Islands? We recommend you start with O’ahu. There is just so much to see and do on this island while getting to other islands takes time and can get costly. Hotel rates aren’t as outrageous as you might think and you should plan on renting a car (oddly our rental car costs have been lower than average in O’ahu), you will save a lot by getting around the island on your own. Besides getting to see more of the island, having a car can help with finding economical places to stay, eat and shop.
The way we see O’ahu is to think of it as a number of regions:
Honolulu and Waikiki Beach – All the excitement of a major city with restaurants, nightlife and great shopping and it all stretches along one of the world’s greatest beaches. Nearby is also the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquar
Pearl Harbor – Visit American history at the Visitors Center, the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial (as of this writing the Arizona is closed for repairs).
The North Shore – This stretch of coast has a laid-back feel (maybe with a few tourists thrown in) with small towns like Waialua and Hale’iwa (be sure and visit Matsumoto Shave Ice), along with a few of the world’s most famous surfing beaches including Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline. Further to the east there is also Sharks Cove Park with great snorkeling and just across the street is a lot full of some of the best food trucks on the island. If you are looking for a nice hike visit Waimea Valley Park with a nice nature trail getting to Waimea falls.
Southwest Coast – West out of Honolulu about fifteen miles is the recently developed area of Kapolei with new shopping centers, several good golf courses, and the Wet n’ Wild park. Just four miles further out on the west coast is Ko Olina with another golf course, the Ko Olina Beach Park and a stretch of beach with resorts like The Four Seasons, and Disney’s Aulani.
East Coast – East out of Honolulu along the Kalanianaole Highway (Rt 72)
is Diamond Head Beach Park, KoKo crater and some of the most spectacular coastline anywhere (stop at Lanai Lookout to take in the scenery). Continuing on are a few more great beaches and the Sea Life Park of Hawaii.
Island Center– If you’re up to hiking the central island has a number of good trails and a couple of nice waterfalls like Manoa Falls and Likeke Falls. Be sure and check out the Dole Plantation and Visitors Center (try a Dole Whip) along with the nearby Green World Coffee Farm where they grow and roast their own coffee. Also not far away are the Wahiawa Botanical Gardens.
Lush tropical landscapes, a mild climate and the Pacific Ocean make this island a true American paradise. Make the best of your visit and try learning to surf or at the very least go snorkeling, there is nothing like swimming thru the coral reefs, tropical fish and Hawaii’s crystal clear waters. In the winter the islands are home to a number of species of whales and there are several whale watching boats available. Aloha…
O’ahu is a destination where we strongly advise getting a car. Hawaii has a good road system and while O’ahu has just a few major highways we find Hawaiian names difficult to follow. If you are not able to navigate using your cell phone be sure and get a GPS in your car.
If you are going to the North Shore be aware that traffic congestion is a major issue when the big waves come in (usually around October). We had spent a couple of days visiting the area with one morning spent at Waimea Valley Park and another day having lunch at the food trucks at Sharks Cove wand there were no traffic delays. A few days later we returned with a specific restaurant as our destination and didn’t realize that the surf was up. That afternoon it took us four hours to get back to the highway along coast road. Most cars were carrying surf boards and beach parking lots were so full they were stopping traffic from getting past on the road.
We were concerned about visiting Waikiki Beach and how difficult parking would be. A number of the beach resorts advertise really high rates for using their garages. Our first trip was late in the morning and we discovered that it wasn’t that difficult to find metered parking on the side streets, often only a block off the beach.
The Asian culture has a very strong presence in the islands and with that comes some really interesting finds in restaurants. There are a number of noodle and seafood fast food places that offer really good dishes at very economical prices. Look for Ramen Bones, Ramen-Ya, Sushiman and Original Roy’s. The well known American hamburger chains are everywhere but there are a number of Hawaiian fast food places that are favorites with locals like Painacafe and Fatboy’s.
We spent one day in the island center visiting the Wahiawa Botanical Gardens followed by a stop at the Dole Plantation. While Dole is a merchandising operation disguised as an attraction, it’s worth the stop just to get a Dole Whip. We were also impressed with the miles of pineapple fields lining the roads. Earlier we had stopped at the Green World Coffee Farm for coffee and pastries and would recommend a visit if you’re in the neighborhood. They’re only a few years old and their roasted coffee is worth packing a pound or two in your suitcase if you’ve got the room.
Another side trip that is worth consideration is a trip up Round Top Drive to the Tantalus Lookout. You climb up hairpin turns thru residential neighborhoods to a park with spectacular views of Honolulu and the south shore.
Also be sure to put at least a half day on your itinerary for a visit to Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial and Visitors Center. The exhibits, movies and displays really bring WWII into sharp focus. You can also visit the WWII era battleship USS Missouri where the Japanese surrender was signed along with a number of other historic ships.
General – This is a nature port on Chichagof Island which opened in 2004 and is only open when cruise ships are in. It was developed by the Native Tlingits and celebrates their culture. It is the ideal location for viewing wildlife and sea life. Hoonah, the only town on the island is described as the largest Tlingit Village in the state.
Where You’re docked – Depending on tides and number of ships, cruise ships either dock or tender (sometimes both). In either case, arrival is near the adventure center which is the starting point for land tours. Going in the other direction, the boardwalk takes you to the old cannery complex which now houses a museum, local shops, restaurants and a display of the original cannery operation. The Fish House is also located in this area and it is the starting point for marine tours.
Transportation – There are very limited car rentals or taxi service. A sightseeing trolley is sometimes operational. If you plan to do more then a walking exploration, it is probably best to book a tour.
Money – The US dollar is used here
The largest and highest zipline in North America is located at ISP. It runs 5330 feet and includes a 1300 foot vertical drop.
Hoonah Village is a short ride from where you come ashore. If a trolley is running it will be one of the stops. It is a very small community with only a few shops and restaurants.
The nature trail provides an opportunity to see native plants and possibly brown bears, bald eagles and the Sitka black tailed deer. If the weather is wet, trails can be very muddy so hiking boots are recommended.
Porpoises and whales have been sighted from shore and ship and several tours visit the Point Adolphus area, a prime location for whale watching.
NOTE: Cruise ships do not dock near town but do dock right next to the Adventure Center which is the major attraction at this port.
This is somewhat travel related but it is more a commentary on the nature of things in general.
A few years ago at an outdoor art fair in Ft. Lauderdale there was an artist showing watercolors of scenes in the Caribbean. One caught my eye as it was an old house that I thought I recognized and I asked if it was on St. Croix. She said yes and that she had lived there for a while so I bought it. In January of this year we made a trip back to St. Croix and without any real intent I found myself across the street from what I thought was that same house.
I can’t be sure it is the house as much of the house has probably changed over time and the architecture is common in the Virgin Islands, but it didn’t stop me from thinking about these kind of properties and how the island has failed to protect much of its history.
This house sits one street back from the sea on King Street in Frederiksted, St. Croix and is in an advanced state of disrepair. I have spent a lot of time in St. Croix over the past thirty-five years and can remember seeing this particular house a great number of times. I can never remember it being worthy of a spread in Architectural Digest but mostly it was one of the better properties on the street.
A major hurricane swept across St. Croix last September doing a significant amount of damage all across the island but the condition of this particular house appears more the result of time and neglect than that storm. The watercolor, which I believe was painted between ten to twenty years ago, shows it in much better condition than now.
Looking at this house from a historical perspective I am sure that a few hundred years ago this was a large and elegant townhouse in a thriving Dutch colonial town. Virgin Island towns were wealthy places with sidewalks covered with brick colonnades to protect people from the tropical sun and the frequent passing showers. Construction was mostly of locally fired brick with stucco coatings and upper floors were built of heavy wood with tall windows to catch the ocean breezes. Roofs we usually of hip-roof design to prevent hurricane winds from finding something to push against and windows and doors were protected with substantial shutters. Most townhouses also contained inner courtyards or rear gardens for comfortable outdoor living in the shade of mahogany trees.
Today as back than, St. Croix has two principle towns. Christiansted on the Northeast side of the island and Frederiksted on the West-end. Christiansted sits within a protective reef and features a good sailboat anchorage. In addition to housing the government buildings it also has a thriving tourist economy. Frederiksted, which is blessed with a deep water pier and a very attractive beach along the waterfront has struggled for decades just to stay alive.
On that January visit it was obvious that the island government had invested* in improving the pier, nearby support buildings, streets and waterfront parks. Unfortunately this seems to be just a facade on a crumbling town. Just one street back from the waterfront many buildings sit empty. There are few shops and restaurants, the streets are littered and there seems very little to engage cruise passengers when their ship docks here. If you look past the current decay you can catch glimpses of what this town once was and maybe imagine what it could become again but it is going to take a new plan and commitment by land owners and local residents to work a real change.
Consider cruise stops like Costa Maya, Sint Maarten, Roatan Island, and Willemsted. If other Caribbean locations can build cruise piers and entire visitor villages from scratch, why cannot St. Croix simply rehabilitate the town that is already there?
While cruise lines seem to be showing increased interest in St. Croix as a destination, we believe Frederikstead is now the biggest obstacle to developing this business for the island.
* I’m not sure I approve of thinking about government using the word investing when it relates to using tax dollars.