Have a Jazzy Thanksgiving on a Mexican Riviera Beach

Playa Mamitas in Playa del Carmen, site of the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival

Thanksgiving is a lovely family holiday, but sometimes, it’s nice to do something a little different. Why not think about spending this Thanksgiving in the Mexican Riviera? It’d be a last-minute trip, but there are lots of last-minute deals flying around at the moment to encourage people to travel. And, if you’re a big fan of jazz, the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival is definitely something to at least check out.

Just imagine…instead of getting stuffed to the brim with turkey and stuffing, you could spend some time with the family in paradise while listening to some fantastic jazz musicians. And the best part? The music is free for four nights — November 25-28. The second best part? You’ll be enjoying the music on stunningly beautiful Playa Mamitas. This is only one of dozens of gorgeous beaches in Playa del Carmen. And there’s so much to see and do during the day near Playa del Carmen. Snorkeling, visiting Tulum and the extraordinary ruins and water park at Xcaret Water Park and learning about Mayan history.

Tempting, isn’t it? Maybe this could be a new family tradition.

Earl Klugh performing at Riviera Maya Jazz Festival

Photos: GersonGC, noticaribe

Oregon Beaches That Allow Bonfires

Cape Blanco State Park

Last week, Sebastien Tobler wrote blogged about Los Angeles beaches that allows bonfires. Being from Southern California, I got very reminiscent of my bonfire days in San Diego. It’s just such a lovely thing to do year-round. The problem is, I now live in Georiga, and apparently, there isn’t a beach for thousands of miles that allows bonfires (as far as I can tell — if you know differently, please let me know!)

It looks as though in the U.S., very few beaches allow bonfires these days, which is sad. I understand it – the safety, trash and maintenance issues – but I don’t like it. Those of you living in Oregon, however, are luckier than most. From what I understand, many Oregon beaches and state parks still permit bonfires and fire pits. Jealous!

Here’s a short list of some of the state parks and beaches in Oregon that allow fire pits. Make sure you call them ahead of time to double-check, as laws do change.

Cape Blanco State Park

Sunset Bay State Park

Cannon Beach

Nhealem Bay State Park

Sand Beach

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Photos: Clinton Steeds, semarr

Top Five Places for Winter Surfing (Coastal Living)

Black's Beach in San Diego

Those of us who haven’t yet learned how to surf (like me) often think that the best time of year to surf is summer. For me, part of the problem stems from the movie The Endless Summer that I must have watched about fifty times as a kid. As it turns out, though, summer is often the best time to go surfing in most of the world. In places like Hawaii and California, that’s from November till March, when the storms are more intense and the waves much larger. No wet suits are required in Hawaii, but you’d better put one on in winter in California!

Coastal Living put out a short list of the best winter surfing spots, and I was surprised to see that I was very familiar with two of them and I’d heard a lot about a third. I’ve from San Diego, and I’ve watched the surfers on Black’s Beach many a time. Man, the waves here are huge! The beach at Oceanside Harbor is indeed super wide, and the surfing competitions there are something to see. They happen in summer and in winter, but in winter the competitions are entered only by seasoned pros — you’ll understand why when you see the size of the waves. I would love to visit Hanalei Bay sometime. A friend who went there said she tried surfing for the first time and she said it was amazing, though a lot harder than it looked.

The winter surf season is coming up. Maybe it’s time to take a lesson, put on a wet suit and try something new!

Photo: Edgephotos78

Atlantic Beach, Florida Finally Approves New Dog Park

Playing Pooches at La Playa

About two weeks ago, the City Commission of Atlantic Beach finally approved plans for a dog park. The funny thing about this is that dog owners have been using this park for months now already. The dog park should be fully functional (and legal) by the end of November.

The fact that residents have been using this dog park already for some time now shows just how much dog parks are now in demand, including those at the beach.  Beaches should provide areas that can be enjoyed by all, including our furry four-legged friends. It doesn’t have to be a huge area, and obviously it has to be sanitary, but offering dog parks at beaches is a wonderful way to encourage communities to enjoy their beaches even more. My dog loves to dig in sand, and it’s hilarious to watch!

Florida has some fantastic dog parks at the beach. Hopefully more are to come!

Photo: Mike Baird

It’s Warming Up on Australia’s Beaches

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, most of us have stored away our summer clothes for good (unless you live in ridiculous Southern California — last week was very warm.) However, in the Southern Hemisphere, the weather is now very late Spring, which means that beach season is right around the corner. Admittedly, Australia is a bit far for most to go just to enjoy beach weather year-round, but the steadily slowing down economy means that great fares can still be found.

Need some more convincing? Step 1: Take a look out your window. Step 2: Look at this picture:

Noosa Beach in Queensland, Australia

That’s Noosa Beach, in Queensland. Gorgeous, right? Australia doesn’t have too many beaches that face North, also called the Sunshine Coast, and this is one of them. Great swimming and snorkeling year-round.

Or how about this one?

Whitehaven Beach, Australia

Definitely not a place I’d want to spend my winters! Just kidding. Look how clear and inviting that water is. And that sand…I can almost hear the lapping waves.

One last one to help convince yourself you need to take a trip to Australia (take me with you):

Kirra Beach, Queensland

Well hello, beautiful. How have I not met you before? Kirra Beach is now on my bucket list.

Photo: Kevgibbo, kevgibbo, kevwhelen

Storms rage

Safe and sound, a Seal pup on the Farnes
Grey Seal pup on Brownsman
Woodcock – one of several moving through today
Tuesday 9th November comments: Its been an epic day as the storm raged and the sea boiled, whilst the warden team stood back and admired the chaos around them. The North Sea is the last place anything or anyone wants to be at this moment in time and for those newly born Seal pups, they must wonder what kind of crazy world they have been born into. Its a fact of nature and the brutal realism of the Farnes, but not all will make it but we’ll not know the extent of the damage until we return to the colonies, but that may be some time….the gales continue….
On a positive note, passage of seabirds kept us entertained with good numbers of Little Auks alongside a few other noticeable highlights, including a returning wintering Black Guillemot and our first Glaucous Gull of the autumn. However the star bird of the day was a little Siberian waif, a Pallas’s Warbler, which graced Inner Farne. the bird, found early in the morning, is our second of the year and 17th ever.
Tuesday 9th November highlights: Little Auk 1,731 south, Great Northern Diver 2N, Red-necked Grebe, Sooty Shearwater 4N, Common Scoter 226N, Velvet Scoter 8N, Scaup 8N, Long-tailed Duck 20N, Tufted Duck 1N, Goldeneye 5N, Goosander 1N, Red-breasted Merganser 3N, Great Skua 5N, Arctic Skua 1N, Little Gull 1 south, Glaucous Gull immature, Black Guillemot 1N, Merlin 2, Peregrine 2, Woodcock 7, Chiffchaff 2, Pallas’s Warbler 1 on Inner Farne all day – our second this year! and Common Redpoll 2
Monday 8th November highlights: Long-tailed Skua 1 juvenile north (a late individual), Little Auk 6N, 13S, Goldeneye 15N, Long-tailed Duck 14N, Woodcock 7 and Jack Snipe.

Fright night…

Staple Island with a difference… (Graeme Duncan)
Keeping pup safe – a mother on Brownsman with Longstone in background (Graeme Duncan)

Monday 8th November comments: If you’ve seen the forecast, you know what is happening. For those who haven’t, look away. Its fright night.
Its storm season and this one is brutal and it couldn’t be happening at a worse time. The wind cranked up to ‘storm force’ overnight from the south-east and by dawn, the sea was raging. Mother Nature was moving through the gears and the Farnes were feeling the full affect. The storm raged all day and the forecast isn’t pretty. The radio crackled into life as darkness fell…
“Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover; easterly backing northeasterly 6 to gale 8, perhaps severe gale 9 later. Rough or very rough, but high for a time. Rain or squally showers”
I’m not sure what ‘high‘ means, but it doesn’t sound good. We’re in for a rough ride this week, there is no doubting that. As for the Seal pups, well, we’ve got trouble ahead….

Deer Island

deer-island-florida-1Florida’s island market presents many excellent opportunities to purchase a tropical island within the confines of American Laws, which are often more friendly toward ownership and development than other island regions.

One of the newest island to come on the market is Deer Island,  a beautiful barrier island with elevations as high as 15 ft above sea level. Standout features include a sandy beach facing the open Gulf, wooden dock, water well and storage tank/tower with treatment system, and small storage building. A small RV is on the island for overnight stays.

The island is located inside the Big Bend Aquatic Seagrass Preserve and adjoins the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. The historic fishing villages of Cedar Key and Suwannee are 8 miles south and north, respectively. Gainesville, home of the University of Florida, is 50 miles to the east. Access is by boat only, with deep water access on the northeast corner of island (the existing dock is on the southeast corner in shallower water).

Redfish, black drum, trout, and blue crab are abundant. The bay side of the island is fringed with salt marsh and oyster bars. The island is covered with large oaks, pines, cedars, and palms with an understory of coonties, wild coffee, palmettos and more.

For more information on this property visit Private Island Online

Islands Under a Million

helena-island-2Today marks the first in a series of islands I will be featuring of islands under a million dollars. The first island is Helena Island located in prestigious Muskoka Ontario.  The private 1.25 acre island  with wind swept white pines, pink granite offers 360 degree views of the scenic landscape. Deep water, sensational sunsets and privacy abound. Charming cabin with large deck for entertaining to use while you create your own dream cottage. Once done you’ll have a lovely family compound.

The island is covered with wild blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Five minute boat ride to fabulous Taboo Resort and Spa for fine dining, golfing and any spa treatments you desire. Tour the lake with your guests on the famous Steamship the “Segwun” just 10 minutes away at the Muskoka Wharf

The island is currently on the market for $850,000. For more details visit Private Islands Online.

Close to the town of Gravenhurst for all your amenities and within 15 minutes from Gravenhurst airport. Easy development potential through Gravenhurst Townshi

Low Impact Island Rental

eusLuxist recently featured Eustatia Island on their website. An amazing 26-acre private estate, Eustatia Island is lovated in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). This remote, environmentally friendly island property is situated near the North Sound of Virgin Gorda and one of only a few private island properties available for rent in the Caribbean.

Luxist notes that the island rental provides exclusive use of the entire estate which encompasses all but four leased acres on the western tip of the island and is inclusive of gourmet meals and watersports equipment. The estate accommodates up to ten guests; six in the hilltop three-bedroom Villa Far Niente with pool and hot tub, and four in the two-bedroom beachfront Casa de Playa.  A third beach cottage can be rented for an additional fee, adding room for another six guests. The rentals come with a hospitality staff including a personal chef to address any guest needs. The island also has its own private fleet of luxury yachts and boats available for charter.

To read more about this exclusive rental visit Luxist.

Kiwi Knights

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Earlier this year (2010), two guys from New Zealand set out on a hike. Okay, not unusual for “Kiwis”. They seem to like hiking. But, this trek is somewhat unique as it follows the path of the Templar Knights which is not your normal modern-day quest. They’ve had their ups and downs – but, the real question is – will they succeed?


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Teaching the Rich in Moscow

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Moscow - Souvenirs
Moscow – Souvenirs by Sabrina Kammeier

I was met by two large security guards and asked to walk to the house.

I did some teaching at a mega rich Russian family a few weeks ago. A driver collected me and drove me to the house outside Moscow. After some forty minutes we arrived, I got out the Mercedes, was shown to a big metal front gate with security cameras on each side and I was led inside. I was met by two large security guards and asked to walk to the house. I made my way along a red winding brick path that cut through pine and silver birch trees through a silent landscaped garden. As I approached, I was met by a vast house rising out of the ground in between the trees. It was made of glass and wood and looked as if it was growing out of the raw forest ground. I went inside through the glass front doors and waited nervously on the marble steps. I was greeted by a maid who took my coat and gave me some slippers. She showed me to a seating area and I followed her silently across the marble floor to a sunken reception area that had three vast six-seater sofas and a white grand piano. I sat down on the soft royal cushions and waited to meet my young student. He arrived and shook my hand.

Teddy Bears
Teddy Bears

I was to teach a very confident seven year old boy, we went upstairs to his round play room and he told me he wanted to just read for half an hour and that we would then play. His playroom had more toys in it than a small toyshop. We read, then he led me down a big marble spiral staircase to his indoor football pitch. We played soft football, then ping-pong, then snooker, then darts. After an hour or so of games, he said he wanted to draw, so we went back up to his play room and drew pictures with dot-to-dot.

I felt like one of his many big teddy bears… A silent friend without an opinion.

He asked me if I was hungry, I said yes, (I am always hungry) so he phoned down to the kitchen and a maid quickly came to us with a big tray of freshly made cakes and fresh tea, we ate them in silence, while he drew more pictures. After eating, he coldly announced that he wanted to play Nintendo. So he played Nintendo, while I watched, he did not offer me a go, which annoyed me, I felt like one of his many big teddy bears sitting next to him on the bed, looking ahead without a word or a sound. A silent friend without an opinion.

After two hours, the time was over, I said goodbye and the driver took me back to the city. I was paid very well and it was an experience I will not forget. I enjoyed it. I have spoken about wealth before here in Moscow, Russia, but now I have seen it with my own eyes.

…it was an experience I will not forget.

The young boy I taught (if you can call it teaching) was very confident, in charge and very matter of fact about everything, he was years ahead of a seven year old boy in behavior and personality. I found it a bit disturbing. He had no smile and just seemed to function, perhaps a symptom of his situation. The house was beautiful, big and surrounded by Forest where the air was fresh, sweet and clean. It was good to breath in fresh air outside the city. The work was fun, easy and very well paid. Please can I have more English lessons like this!


© Gretchen for TravelBlogs, 2010. |
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Love & Paella

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Love & Paella was “done birthed” by Sarah Gonski (her words) while she and her husband (The Mister) spent a summer traveling around Africa in 2008. After returning home, it did not take long to hatch a new travel plan – teaching the English language in Spain. The inclusion of food and humor add a great flavor to this site.


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Post tags: Africa, couples, cultural experiences, education, Europe, living abroad, Spain, United States

Partying with oldies

In Granada the overnight temperature got down to about 1 degree and I was the coldest I’ve ever been My sleeping bag was super cheap and is not very warm. My toes were so cold and numb that I thought I had frost bite. So we headed to the coast where it is much warmer We’re been in a small villiage called La Marina which is full of retired English and German’s. On Friday we heard live music so we

14 Nov Port Macquarie

well we arrived in Port Macquarie to broken sunshine and was intrigued seems this is meant to be one of the most popular tourist destinations on the NSW coast and evidence of the convict history……..although the first night was dedicated to getting straight on the old faithful goon once again Since we thought we were been spoilt with this place having 9 or more beaches our first day was sp

Rajasthan Continued….

Thursday 28 OctoberWe leave Jaisalmer this morning and head out through the dusty desert towards Jodhpur a city of approximately 500000 inhabitants. The desert I see from the road is a lot different to the desert in Morocco the Indian desert has a lot more scrub than sand. Our itinerary includes a Jain Temple but this is fairly average and should be missed. Back in the car I plug in my Ipod

Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie

well we left the colourful mix of the Byron Bay culture and laidback village ambience behind and arrived in Coffs Harbour were we were picked up by the hostel and taken to this amazing look out over the bay mind you it blew the cob webs off Although we only stayed there for three nights we felt that was enough and managed to spot wild koalas on our walks and also sht ourselves when we came ac

Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest

Well I spent the last few days in Cape Tribulation with the Contiki Tour. It was pretty cool. We stayed in a resort in the Daintree Rainforest It was absolutely beautiful. We went on a few more hikes through the forest and saw lots of different wildlife and trees including a large bird called a Cassowary which is aparently pretty rare to see We also swam in some neat freshwater swimming holes