A Day Out on the Glen Burney Trail (Wednesday Wanderings series)

Glen Burney Trail

Happy Wednesday! My husband and I spent today hiking in the North Carolina mountains with our dog.  I love having these midweek adventures with him; it will be one of the things I miss most when he goes back to work!

Perfect pose!My favorite hiking buddies!

We chose the Glen Burney Trail because it showcases several waterfalls and was only about a 90 minute drive from Winston Salem. An extra bonus is that the trailhead is located a block from Main St in downtown Blowing Rock, so it would be super easy to add in some shopping, strolling and eating to round out your day! We didn’t spend any time downtown today, but I’ve loved my meals at The Speckled Trout in the past. And if you really want to indulge, Westglow Resort and Spa is just a few miles outside of Blowing Rock; my husband gave me a day package there for Mother’s Day, and it’s incredible!

hiking 4

But today we just hiked and enjoyed the gorgeous sunny fall day. The trail is an out and back 3 mile route, which goes downhill on the way out and then heads straight back up. I was definitely glad I had my trekking poles with me. It wasn’t super strenuous by any means, but the poles take some of the pressure off my knees when going down steep steps. We had to scramble a little bit crossing the stream, as the bridge is washed out, but some kind soul laid a plank in exactly the right spot to help us out!

crossing bridgebridge 4

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my recent post about being a “river through the forest” kind of girl, so today’s trail was just what I love – we meandered through the woods beside the stream and passed several beautiful waterfalls.

scooby 6

waterfall 5

Scooby enjoyed exploring as well and happily posed for multitudes of photos (be sure to check out the last photo – I caught him mid-shake and it’s hilarious!) So much fun to hike with this cutie!

Can I jump?Can I jump, Mom?

hiking 1

mid shake!

What are some of your favorite hikes in the Boone/Blowing Rock area? Let me know in the comments below!

 

My October Bucket List

blue glass front porchOctober is one of my favorite months…although it is 88 degrees today, I’m all about fall and am anxiously awaiting its arrival here in North Carolina (I got a quick little taste in Prague last week, where for three glorious days it was in the high 50’s).  Here are some of the things I’m excited for this month…

Digging out my fall clothes – I LOVE being able to wear clothes without sweating! It’s so much fun to play in my closet and say hello to my favorites from last year…I’m super excited to pull out my fall clothes this month! A huge closet purge will be happening – after living in Connecticut for five years before moving here, I have LOTS of winter clothes. But in the South, we don’t get super cold winters, and I’ve about given up on ever moving back to somewhere with colder winters. This year, I’m going to ruthlessly get rid of the thick sweaters I no longer wear and some of my heavier winter coats.

 

IMG_5975.jpgMy two favorite hiking buddies!

Hiking in the North Carolina mountains – Do you prefer the beach or the mountains??  I am a mountain girl all the way – I love hiking and our North Carolina mountains have some beautiful trails! Blocking out at least two or three days to head west and do some hiking with my husband and dog is a high priority for me this month.

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Working with my local party to Get Out The Vote – for those of us in the USA, midterm elections are November 6th. I spent all of 2017 being angry, then decided that working to help get out the vote was a great way to funnel my anger into positive action. Whichever party you belong to, please make plans to BE A VOTER this year – to paraphrase Barack Obama, “democracy works best when we ALL participate”!

purple reeds

The Chiluly at Night exhibit at the Biltmore – I have been so excited to see this exhibit of Dale Chiluly’s glass in the gardens of Biltmore Estate, but it closes this weekend.  So I spontaneously bought a ticket on Tuesday and drove to Asheville last night….the exhibit was AMAZING and I’m so glad I went!  If you are in the area and have been wanting to see it, I highly recommend it. The night tickets are sold out, but you can still see it during the day through Sunday.

glass ball front lawn**secret tip: You need a wristband to access the gardens after 7 PM, but if you have a daytime ticket, you can hang out in the shops and restaurants until dark and look over the wall to see a few of the pieces lit up in the front “side garden” – there’s also this beautiful piece on the front lawn that you can access up close without a wristband**

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Beethoven’s Fifth with the Charlotte Symphony – My husband introduced me to the joys of going to symphony concerts back in college – and now we go several times a year. This weekend we are heading to Charlotte to hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – I’m looking forward to getting dressed up and having a date with him.

Mornings on my porch – Even though it’s still in the 80’s here, the morning temps are a bit cooler and the humidity is lower, making mornings on my porch pleasant again. One of my favorite things to do is to sit on my porch in the morning with my dog, my coffee and a good book. if you happen to pass by, wave and say hello!

IMG_7921.JPGWith Marek, our running tour guide in Prague!

Running – After doing two runs in Prague (including our running tour), I’m looking forward to spending more time running once the temps are lower. Salem Lake and Tanglewood Park are two of my favorite places to run – they both have lots of shade and beautiful fall foliage. Once the leaves start to change, I’ll be out there a couple of times each week!

What are you most looking forward to this month?

Great October Events in Winston Salem, NC

tree-99852.jpgOctober is one of my favorite months in North Carolina!

Happy Saturday!  I’m back from my bike trip and have mostly recovered from jet lag. I have lots of great stories to share from the Czech Republic, but first comes the next installment in my monthly series “Great Events in Winston Salem”.  Lots of awesome happenings this month…the Dixie Classic Fair, PRIDE month, and Halloween, to name just a few! Here is a curated list of fun events in October (if none of these tickle your fancy, just check Facebook events for Winston Salem in October – there are thousands of listings)!

autumn-986343.jpgOutdoor events

October is one of my favorite months in North Carolina – the temps are finally cooling off, so I plan to spend as much time outdoors as possible! Here are some great choices…

Thursdays @ 5 PM – Innovation Quarter YMCA Trailblazers running group – run along the Long Branch Trail then head over to Incendiary Brewing for a post-run pint. Now that my bike trip is over, I want to do more running, so am definitely going to check it out!

Saturdays in Old Salem – Old Salem is beautiful in the fall and on Saturdays, it’s great fun to wander the Cobblestone Farmers Market then wander around Old Salem and walk the Strollway. They have special family activities on Saturdays as well.

Sunday 10/14 – Fall Foliage hike at Salem Lake – from 12:30 – 2 PM, enjoy a guided hike around Salem Lake to enjoy the fall foliage.  Free, but call 336-650-7677 to register.

Tuesday 10/23 – SECCA Slam for Art Charity Golf Tournament – if you love to golf and want to support SECCA, this is the event for you!

 

trivia night.jpgTrivia Nights

I love trivia nights – there’s just something fun about getting a team of friends together and racking our brains for those crazy tidbits of knowledge! Most trivia nights are on Monday and Tuesday, so it’s a great way to start the week with some fun.

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you won’t want to miss Joymongers Barrel Hall’s special trivia night in honor of the new season of The Walking Dead starting at 7 PM on Monday, Oct. 1st.

Geeks Who Drink Trivia  This event is held every Monday from 8-10 pm at Wise Man Brewing – you can show up in teams of up to six people or as a single player and they’ll help you find a team!

Finnigan’s Wake on Trade Street hosts Trivia every Tuesday at 8:15 PM. My husband and I won t-shirts one night for coming in last…but we had tons of fun and always enjoy the great selection of beer and the delicious food here!

Foothills Brewpub hosts Trivia every Tuesday (8-10 PM) and Thursday (9-11 PM) – and Tuesday is half price fish and chips night!

 

pumpkin-2327488.jpgHalloween events

Friday 10/5 (and other dates) – Mystery & Mayhem Segway Tour – Every October, Triad ECO Adventures offers our Mystery & Mayhem tour on various Friday and Saturday evenings. Only for gliders with prior Segway experience, these night tours are limited to six people – come hear stories of “Spooks and Specters and Mischief Makers”! (Full disclosure: I am a Segway Glide Guide for this company; book a tour and I might end up being your guide!)

Tuesday 10/23 – SECCA is showing a National Theatre Live performance of Frankenstein – with Benedict Cumberbatch. Perfect for Halloween week!

finnigan's wake hearseFinnigan’s Wake used a hearse in years past for their parties…

Saturday 10/27 – Finnigan’s Wake Irish Pub is hosting a Halloween Party with live music. Costumes highly encouraged – music begins at 10 PM! Finnigan’s gets my vote for one of the best patios in Winston Salem plus they have a great selection of beers on tap.

Friday 10/26 – Tuesday 10/30 – Old Salem hosts the Night Watchman: Legends and Lanterns Tours. Night tours by lantern light through Old Salem hearing tales of ghosts and night time mischief – I’m in!

 

oktoberfest-968232.jpgOktoberfest!

Festivals and Fairs

Sept 28 through October 7th – the Dixie Classic Fair is back for the 136th year (it began as a wheat exhibition in 1882). This will actually be my first year going to the fair – I’ll be working at the Democratic Party booth in the Annex helping to register voters, so pop by and say hello if you’re there on October 4th!

Lots of Oktoberfest celebrations on Saturday 10/6 – Foothills Brewing Company Tasting Room from 12-6 and Joymongers Barrel Hall from 12 noon to midnight.

On the 13th, the Triad German Club is hosting their Oktoberfest Party from 5-11 PM.  Bratwurst, apple strudel and German Beer – what could be better??

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Thursday 10/4 – Sunday 10/7 – OUT at the Movies Fest – celebrate PRIDE month with this film festival showcasing LGBT films at the ACE Theater on the UNCSA campus.

Saturday October 13th – PRIDE festival and parade downtown in the Arts District. Always a fun event!

grafitti wall.jpgArt and Home events

SECCA (Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art) has an exhibit through November 7th about Cuban Art – this looks super interesting so I’m definitely planning to check it out.

SECCA also collaborates with the Arts Council of Winston Salem and Forsyth County to host a series of screenings from the National Theater in London – click here for the full schedule and details, but October’s line up includes Hamlet, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, and Frankenstein.

Southern Home and Kitchen offers up a huge variety of fun cooking classes, from How to Throw a Cocktail Party to Cooking with Cast Iron. I just bought my first cast iron skillet, so I may have to sign up for that one!

Tuesday 10/2 –  Come join the fun and sing along to Grease at a/perture cinema! Tickets are $18 and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Wednesdays – Did you know that the Central Library on 5th Street has Blockbuster Wednesdays? They show movies for free in the auditorium – click here for the full schedule, but on 10/3 the featured film is Coco (a great family movie), beginning at 4 PM.

What fun things will you be doing this month? Let me know what I missed!

Our running tour of Prague

winged lion prague 2The Winged Lion Memorial – a thank you from Great Britain honoring the 2,507 Czechoslovak airmen who served in the Royal Air Force during WWII.

Hello from the Czech Republic! I’m currently biking around South Bohemia with two girlfriends (follow my adventures on Instagram here) – if you haven’t been to the Czech Republic, add it to your list! It’s a beautiful country with warm, friendly people – we’ve had so many great experiences! We flew into Prague and spent a couple of days there before we started biking. I found this running tour of Prague, and it sounded like so much fun that we booked it for our second morning. Our guide, Marek, met us at our apartment at 7:30 am, and took us around the tourist areas of the city, pointing out landmarks and good places to eat.  We covered about 4.5 miles, but Marek let us set the pace, which as a beginning runner I greatly appreciated. It was a great way to get some exercise, especially after being cramped in a plane for the overnight flight just a day or so before, and as a bonus, we saw the tourist areas when they were blissfully uncrowded! Here are some of the things we saw…

babies with face

The Babies – these sculptures used to be “climbing” up the side of the TV tower in Prague, but now reside in a park on Kampa Island. We never did figure out why they have no faces…if you know, please enlighten me!

lennon wall prague

The John Lennon Wall – a spontaneous tribute to John Lennon when he was assassinated, this wall became an expression of hope for freedom during the Communist years. Every night, the government would paint over the graffiti, and every day, new graffiti would appear. We saw it with one other tourist at 8 AM; later that afternoon, we returned and there were close to 200 people at the wall.

wallenstein gardens 2

The Wallenstein Garden – built in 1623, this geometric, early Baroque garden used to be private, belonging to the adjacent palace.  Now, open to the public, the garden is a peaceful place with free-roaming peacocks, including some rare white peacocks.

white peacock pragueThe white peacocks of Wallenstein Garden

radio memorial prague

Memorial to Dr. Milada Horakova –  a Czech politician, she was convicted of fabricated charges of conspiracy and treason, then executed by the Communist Party in 1950. The memorial is in the form of a microphone like the one she stood in front of during her show trial, where she was given 30 seconds to speak in her defense. It honors her and all those who stood up against totalitarianism.

fruit market pragueA local market, founded in 1232!

And last but not least…

Charles Bridge prague

The Charles Bridge – the most famous bridge and an iconic sight of Prague, the bridge was practically empty when we ran across. Later that afternoon, it was full of caricaturists, souvenir stalls, street performers and tourists!

We loved our running tour of Prague – if you’re a runner, I highly recommend it! If you’ve done a running tour somewhere, let me know where and whether you enjoyed it!

**This post is not sponsored; we just had such a good time we wanted to spread the word!**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great September Events in Winston Salem, NC!

bailey parkBailey Park is the site of so many fun events!

Of all the places I have lived (I have moved 20 times!), I think Winston Salem is one of my favorites! It’s big enough that it seems like there’s always something fun to do, but small enough that we don’t usually deal with major traffic. Today, I’m rounding up some of the great happenings in September. When I started searching, events just kept popping up, so I’m actually kind of sad that I’m going to miss most of these (I’ll be biking the Czech Republic)  – if you go, please let me know which events you enjoyed the most! I’m thinking of making this a monthly series, so let me know too if this is something you’re interested in seeing.

**I thought about titling this post “The BEST September events in Winston Salem”, but MY best may not be YOUR best; so it’s just going to be a list of some GREAT events in Winston Salem**

Here are some of the cool events I found, in chronological order:

This weekendBookmarks Annual Festival of Authors and Books runs through tomorrow, Sept 9th. Today is chock full of panels, book signings, author talks, and tons of other great stuff! I’m super excited to meet Anne Bogel, author and blogger over at Modern Mrs Darcy.  I’ve been a faithful reader of her blog for several years now and participate in her reading challenges each year. She’ll be talking about “What Do I Read Next?” at 1 pm in the Mountcastle Forum at Hanes Brands Theater – come join me and say hello! For full details and schedules, click here to go to the festival website.

Tonight  Looking for something fun for a date night tonight?  You’ve got a couple of choices! The second and fourth Saturdays of the month, AFAS (Arts for Arts Sake) holds a Salsa Social on the second floor of their building downtown at the corner of Liberty and Seventh St.  Cover is $10…click here for full details.

Your second great choice tonight is Viva Italia! The Piedmont Wind Symphony opens their 29th season with music from Italy at the Stevens Center on Fourth St, starting at 7:30 pm.  There are still some great seats left, and prices start at just $15! 

Wednesday, Sept 12thPicnic in the Plaza – Corpening Plaza is playing host to Simon 98.7 and the Make a Wish Foundation – for $1.98 you get a lunch and ALL proceeds go to the Make A Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for terminally ill children. For full details click here.

Stay downtown for the afternoon, because also on the 12th, Bailey Park hosts Sunset Salutations, a monthly free yoga class on the bottom level lawn of Bailey Park.  Class starts at 6:30 pm.

On Thursday Sept 13th, the United Way of Forsyth County is joining with A/perture Cinema for a showing of Homeless, a film about homelessness, filmed locally here in Winston Salem. A discussion and panel will be held after the showing…for all the details and tickets, head over here

The weekend of Sept 14-15 is full of awesome events, many of them free movies!

Friday evening 9/14  – Head back to Bailey Park for an outdoor showing of Zootopia! Bring a picnic or buy dinner at the food trucks. Food trucks open at 6:30, movie begins at dark. Full details here.

IMG_4014Movie nights in Bailey Park are one of my absolute favorite things to do in WS!

Saturday 9/15 – SO MANY GREAT CHOICES TODAY! You’ve got the Historic Bethabara Park’s Apple Festival AND the 2018 International Village Food and Music Festival during the day (why not hit them BOTH??) then THREE choices for a free movie night! You can choose Coco at BB&T stadium with the Winston Salem Police Foundation; Wonder at the Jerry Long YMCA out in Clemmons; or Field of Dreams, part of the new Films on a Farm series at Crossnore Children’s Home. The latter is a collaboration with A/perture Cinema – admission and parking is free; drinks and popcorn will be for sale to support Crossnore.

wsdashInstead of watching baseball, enjoy a movie in the stadium!

Wednesday, Sept 19thCommunity Yoga in the Atrium at the Innovation Quarter – a monthly free indoor yoga class in the Atrium of the Wake Forest Biotech Place! Click here for all the info.

Thursday Sept 20th – Historic Bethabara Park has a free Summer Nights Concert Series this evening at 6 PM…here are all the details!

Friday, Sept 21 – Friday Fun Day! How to choose –  you’ve got a Grape Stomp Harvest Party at Childress Vineyards, a FREE Fall Film Screening of the best short films produced by UNCSA Film Students on the beautiful UNCSA campus and the Moonlight Madness 5K at Bailey Park, the annual kick off Fundraiser for the United Way of Forsyth County.  I’ve done Moonlight Madness for the last three years and am sad to miss it this year – it’s always a fun event with music, beer and pizza for the participants after the run!

moonlight madnessMoonlight Madness is always great fun!

Sat, Sept 22 brings both Fiesta 2018, the Hispanic League’s FREE street festival – all day fun with food and music from many South American countries. Stop by the festival and then hit up Oktoberfest with Wise Man Brewing and the RamKat. If you’re still standing after Oktoberfesting, you can head over to the Salsa Social at AFAS!

For some midweek fun, check out A/perture Cinema’s showing of Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (Wednesday 9/26) or Pay What You Wish Thursday at Reynolda House Museum of American Art (9/27) – if you haven’t been to Reynolda House before, now’s your chance to visit for free.

Friday Sept 28thSunset Thursdays Free concert at Bailey Park, Mt Joy and Arlie are the featured bands. Don’t let the name confuse you – usually these concerts are on Thursdays, but September’s concert is on a Friday!

Celebrate the last Saturday of the month, and hopefully cooler temps, on  Sept 29th with a Whiskey and Wine Bar Crawl. From 2-7 PM you can wander downtown Winston Salem with a portion of the proceeds going to a local non-profit.

Wow! SO MANY HAPPENINGS in September! let me know if you’d like to see this as monthly series and which events you loved if you go to any of them! 

 

 

Three Days in the Dordogne region of France, part 2

burnt out car oradourHello again! If you’re still reading, I’m glad I didn’t scare you away with my last post! But these things happen, right? We have these images in our head about how it will be the perfect vacation, and it’s never quite the same…real life happens instead.  This trip was very different from others I’ve taken, and I ended up LOVING the differences! Because I wasn’t feeling well for much of the trip, and our son wanted to sleep late most days, we ended up moving more slowly than I normally do in Europe.  But it was so relaxing, and I enjoyed it even more than past trips where I’ve put pressure on myself to see more sights.

This time, I still did lots of research ahead of time, but we had a very loose schedule. Each day, we’d meet up with our son for a late breakfast/early lunch, and while at the meal, we’d discuss options for the day and make a plan based on what we felt like seeing that day.

danijela-froki-391486-unsplash.jpgDaily plans always involved cappuccinos!

We only pre-booked two activities, and those were the prehistoric caves with the cave paintings. My husband and son went to the Lascaux International Centre for Cave Art on the day I was sick in bed. They said it was fantastic and the interpretive center was amazing, although the actual cave is closed to visitors, so you walk through a replica of the cave instead. I was sad to have missed that, but on our third day in the Dordogne, we went to Pech Merle, another cave with paintings and a small museum. I studied the paintings in both Lascaux and Pech Merle during an art history class, and I have to say it was incredible to stand in the actual cave itself and see the prehistoric cave paintings from over 20,000 years ago. I thought they’d be faded and hard to see, but they are still vibrant – this was easily one of my favorite experiences of the trip (and probably on my top five list of all my trips to Europe). Pech Merle is very strict about controlling the number of visitors per day, so I highly recommend booking ahead, especially during the summer high season. I booked about three weeks out so that we could get an English tour, as there were only two or three per day. In order to preserve the paintings, they are very strict about no photos in the cave, so I don’t have any of my own to share with you, but you can click here to see some of the paintings

Gouffre di Padirac 2 Part of the underground river at Gouffre de Padirac 

After our tour at Pech Merle, we drove to Gouffre de Padirac, an underground cavern with a river and a lake. We did not book ahead, but were able to walk right up to the ticket window and get tickets for the next time slot. It is super crowded, but the line moves very quickly, so don’t panic if you get there and it looks like there are thousands of people in front of you! They have two options to travel down – you can take a lift (elevator) or hike it down (and back up) hundreds of stairs! We chose to hike down the stairs, after which you walk through the cavern (with an audioguide) until you get to a lake. Then you get into a boat with a guide, and travel across the lake to continue the journey through the cavern. The whole experience is otherworldly – you’re 130 meters underground and walking along a river…it was completely touristy but super cool at the same time (and a great stair workout)!

IMG_1911The stairs at Gouffre de Padirac – but don’t worry, there’s a lift as well!

**Day three in the Dordogne – Skipped my planned morning bike ride because I’d only had one light meal in the previous 48 hours. By end of day could eat normally again…yippee! 10,991 steps for the day, most of them up and down the stairs at Gouffre de Padirac**

Thursday was a travel day…we were leaving the Dordogne and driving to Poitiers to turn in the rental car and take the train to Paris. I FINALLY got to ride my rental bike, but we wanted to stop at Oradour-Sur-Glane on the way to Poitiers, so I rode from 8-9 AM, then turned in the bike and away we went. Added to the list for my next visit – schedule a full day to rent a bike and ride the entire trail, stopping along the way for coffee and lunch!

bike path sarlatThe Sarlat Voie Verte bike path – so beautiful!

Oradour-Sur-Glane is midway between Sarlat and Poitiers, so it made a perfect stopping point to break up the drive. The town lies along the line which divided Occupied France from Vichy France during World War II –  a few days after the D-Day invasion in Normandy, Nazi officers gathered up all the people in town, shot the men in the streets, locked the women and children in the church then burned the entire town, including the church. In all, 642 people died that day (I think only 1 person escaped). As a memorial and a reminder of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, the town has been left as it was the day the Nazis burned it.

church bell oradourThe remains of the church bell…

A new town was rebuilt just next to the old, and there is now a museum as well as a portrait wall with photos of most of the people killed that day. They are still collecting photos and hope to eventually have a photo of every man, woman and child who perished.

portrait wall oradour.JPGThe portrait wall at Oradour-sur-Glane museum; white squares represent victims for whom they don’t have a photo yet…

We spent about 90 minutes here, but could have easily spent four or five hours if we didn’t have a deadline to return our rental car. You first enter the museum, where the exhibits talk about the rise of the Nazi party and the history of the invasion in France. Exhibits educate visitors about other massacres committed by the Nazi’s – did you know that the Nazi officers were never held accountable for any of the massacres that were committed? Then you walk through the portrait gallery into the town itself.

cafe oradourCafe tables and chairs in the ruins of a cafe

Silence is requested, but a hush naturally fell over the crowd as we entered the town. It was hauntingly eerie and sobering to see cafe tables overturned, sewing machines sitting on ledges in houses, and burned out cars parked in the streets. It’s not an uplifting day, but oh so important to remember and mourn.

Have you traveled to any WWII sites? Which ones have you seen? I’d love to hear about your experiences….and as always, thank you for reading!

Three days in the Dordogne region of France, part 1

beynac 2The riverside town of Beynac-et-Cazenac, with the church and chateau perched at the top of the town

Happy Monday all! We recently got home from ten days in France –  this trip marked a transition for me, as it was the first family vacation we’ve taken without our two oldest children, who now work and live in different cities. I think our youngest may have missed the company of his siblings after spending ten days alone with his parents….

Anyway, I’m planning to write a blog post about each segment of our trip, plus a post about driving in France. I also have a few other ideas swirling around in my head, so if you have any questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Early in our trip, we spent several days in the Dordogne region. The Dordogne refers to both a river and a department (county) in the southwest/south central part of France. It’s a beautiful, mostly rural region with small towns, villages, castles, canoeing and prehistoric caves, many with cave paintings from over 20,000 years ago. The river itself is amazingly lovely, with some of the cleanest water in France. The villages rise steeply along the river, and chateaus and castles are dotted along the hillsides.

dordogne river 2The beautiful Dordogne River

We spent four nights at Hotel La Hoirie, just south of Sarlat la Caneda (the main tourist hub, often just called Sarlat), which I chose for two reasons. First, it had air conditioned rooms, and at the time I booked our trip, the temperatures in the area had been in the mid-high 90’s for several weeks (self-knowledge is a wonderful thing…I knew that without A/C at those temps, I wouldn’t be able to sleep and would be a total grump, thus negating the idea of a fun vacation). Second, despite being on vacation, I still needed to train for my upcoming bike tour through the Czech Republic, and the hotel is only one kilometer away from the Sarlat Voie Verte bike path, a 29 km railway line which has been converted into a pedestrian and bicycle route. I arranged a four day bike rental from Liberty Cycle, with visions of getting up early’ish each of the four days and riding 20-30 miles each morning before heading out to sightsee for the afternoon and evening. The path passes through several towns, so my husband and I had even planned to ride together one morning and stop for breakfast along the way.

**You can feel that there’s a story coming, right? RIGHT???**

We arrived at the hotel in the early evening, after stopping to pick up my rental bike. At that point, my stomach was a little upset, but I attributed that to being carsick from the windy roads. The hotel is GORGEOUS – it’s an old thirteenth century hunting lodge, with several old stone buildings, beautiful gardens, a swimming pool, and a restaurant with a lovely outdoor terrace. We had dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant (really good food, if a smidge pricier than other places we ate), so after checking in and dropping our bags in our room, we walked out to the restaurant. Before we even got a chance to order, my stomach started feeling worse, so I left without eating and returned to my room and went to bed.

**You KNEW there was a story coming – if you are easily grossed out, you might want to skip the next paragraph!**

Around midnight, I woke suddenly with that horrible feeling that I was about to puke. My side of the bed was about five feet from the bathroom door…but nope, I didn’t make it. If you’ve ever seen The Exorcist, it was like that – vomit spewed forth all over the floor, the walls, myself, and the bathroom. My husband is my hero…rather than running over to sleep in our son’s room for the rest of the night, he gamely got up and helped me. I think we finally got back to bed around 4 am, after which I fell into a restless sleep.  Once we woke up, my hubby ran and picked up ginger ale, Sprite, crackers and Rice Krispies for me. I slept most of that day…finally dragging myself into the shower around 6 pm, then venturing out to the hotel garden for a brief respite in the fresh air before taking the dirty towels (securely tied up in the plastic laundry bag from the room) to the front desk and trying to say in French “Please throw these towels away and charge them to my room; I was very sick and used them to clean up vomit” (Thank goodness for Google Translate!)

**First day in the Dordogne – no bike ride, no food, 719 total steps for the day, but successfully covered hotel room in vomit, showered and sat in garden for ten minutes before getting rained on**

hotel la hoirieJPGThe one photo I took that day, while sitting in the hotel garden

The next morning, I was able to get up and gingerly participate in the day’s activities, although I again wasn’t able to do my planned bike ride. We drove along the river to the town of La Roque-Gageac (considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, for good reason), where we tried to get tickets for a boat tour along the river. The tours were sold out for most of the day, (the months of July and August are high season) so we jumped back in the car and continued on to Beynac-et-Cazenac.

beynac crepe myrtlesBeynac had the prettiest crepe myrtles!

We were able to get an afternoon boat tour in Beynac, then wandered up the village’s steep streets to the church and the chateau. Once we got back down to river level, we sat and watched the multitudes of canoes heading down the river. Canoeing is a very popular pastime on the Dordogne…if I had been feeling better, I would have loved to float down the river in a canoe, but the one hour boat ride was fun and interesting – the narration was in French, but the guide gave us quick highlights in English and also gave us a copy of the narration in English so we could follow along.

beynac canoersCanoeing along the river is a great way to enjoy the region!

After our boat tour, we drove to Chateau Castelnaud-de-Chapelle, which is a medieval chateau/fortress with a museum of weapons. It was a fascinating look at medieval warfare and I learned lots of details about the Hundred Years War. From the tower of the Chateau, you could see three other chateaus/fortresses – they really could all keep an eye on each other! These are the kinds of things that get the history nerd part of me excited, so I loved our visit here.

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For dinner that night, we drove back to Beynac and ate at La Petite Tonnelle. The food was absolutely delicious, the staff was friendly, and we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner on the terrace.

**Second day in the Dordogne – no bike ride, stomach still queasy, ate one light meal, failed to get pics of restaurant, but sat on a boat and somehow managed to survive 12,350 total steps for the day without fainting**

Since I’ve reached 1200 words, I’ll stop here for now…stay tuned for the next installment in the adventure! As always, thanks so much for reading!

Best Summer Activities in Winston Salem

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Happy June!  School is out in Winston Salem, which means it’s officially summer! We don’t have any big plans for a summer vacation yet, so I’m going to make sure I take full advantage of everything on offer right here at home this summer. If you’re looking for ideas,  here is a short list of some of my favorite summertime activities in Winston Salem…

bailey parkSpending time at Bailey ParkBailey Park holds myriad summer activities in the Innovation Quarter. Whether it’s the Innovation and Cinema outdoor movie series, Sunset Salutations yoga in the park, Food Trucks at lunchtime or Ice Cream Tuesdays, there is always something fun happening in Bailey Park!

salem bikingRiding a Zagster Bike along the Greenways – I’m currently training for my next bike trip (through the Czech Republic in September) so I can often be found riding on one of the greenways around town. My two favorite locations to rent a Zagster bike are Bailey Park (jump on the Long Branch Trail from here – it connects up to the Salem Creek Greenway) or the Gateway YWCA (access the Salem Creek Greenway directly here). Both trails connect up to the Salem Lake Trail for a 20 mile roundtrip ride. 

IMG_8554Minor League baseball with the Winston Salem Dash – Minor League baseball is awesome… it’s family-friendly, you can get up close and personal with the players (some of whom may be the stars of tomorrow), fireworks happen on Friday nights, and kids can run the bases after the games. But the Dash takes it a step further with additional activities such as Pups in the Park, when your pooch can join you for the game, and Yoga in the Outfield, where a special ticket buys you a yoga class in the outfield before the game, a soda or a beer, and a lawn ticket for the game. Yoga, beer and baseball all for one low price – how can you go wrong???

Summer Music Series – Winston Salem has some awesome musicians, partly due to the fact that the UNC School of the Arts is located here (the ONLY publicly funded arts conservatory in the nation – think Juilliard but at in-state tuition levels – it’s part of the UNC system). During the summer, we have lots of opportunities to hear great music. Whether it’s Downtown Jazz at Corpening Plaza, Summer on Liberty with the entire intersection shut down for live music and dancing, or the Summer Parks series with concerts in local parks, there are tons of options for free outdoor concerts!

IMG_4014Movies under the Stars – This is probably my all time favorite summer activity…I love seeing a movie outdoors on a breezy summer evening, and am so grateful that Winston Salem offers lots of options! Bailey Park has an Innovation and Cinema series, Reynolda House has Movies on the Lawn, and Winston Square Park (pictured at top) is the setting for Sunset Flicks (I haven’t seen a schedule yet for this year, so am keeping my fingers crossed that it reappears). The neighboring town of Lewisville also has a series at Shallowford Square.

scooby sup salem lakeStand Up Paddleboarding at Salem lakeSalem Lake has just undergone a massive improvement…the city built a new boat house, playground, restrooms and a Zagster bikeshare station. A seven mile trail circles the lake for walkers, runners, bikers and equestrians. Pier and boat fishing is allowed and they also offer canoe rentals. Small boats, canoes, kayaks and SUP boards can be used on the lake as well. I love getting out on the lake for an hour or so on a nice summer evening. I’m even training my dog to SUP with me! He doesn’t try to chase the ducks and geese, but keeps falling in as he tries to eat the bubbles in the water from my paddle 🙂 The Salem Lake website is woefully out of date, so I highly recommend you call the marina for up to date info!

Taking a tour or SUP class with Triad ECO Adventures – Full disclosure here…I am a Segway Glide Guide for this company (although this post is not sponsored and I am in no way being compensated for this post).  However, I truly believe that our Segway tours, Electric bike tours and Stand Up Paddleboard lessons add fun options to Winston Salem.  You can even book a Glide and Dine event for a group – we’ll do the first half of the Segway tour on the way to lunch or dinner, let your group eat, then do the second half of the tour after your meal. If it’s your first time on a Segway, read this post for some tips!

western NC mountainsHiking in the Western NC Mountains – Okay, so this isn’t actually in Winston Salem. But when the summer heat starts getting to me (any of you who know me can attest to the fact that I am NOT a fan of hot weather!) it’s an easy hop skip and a jump to the mountains, where it is usually about ten degrees cooler. There are hundreds of hikes and I love to take my dog and explore!

Tips from a Seasoned Segway Tour Guide

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Summer, to me, means Segway season!  As a Segway tour guide in Winston Salem (I’ve been a Glide Guide at Triad ECO Adventures for almost four years now), Memorial Day marks the start of our busy season; kids are out of school, families are on vacation, and we have lots of visitors coming through our doors looking for a fun way to experience the city.  I’ve probably trained over five hundred people to ride a Segway through the years, and today, I thought I’d share some tips for those of you who may be taking a Segway tour somewhere soon!

I first rode a Segway at Epcot, in Disney World, many many moons ago. It was a tour around the World Showcase on a girls’ weekend with my family. We had a blast, and I remember my mom behind me, yelling out “excuse me” and “my bad” as she tried to navigate around (or bumped into) people, lamp posts, etc. ** Yes, she did yell “my bad” to a lamp post!**  My second tour was in Munich, Germany, where I was lucky enough to get a solo tour on a cold, rainy November day. Segways are a great way to explore a new place; you can cover more ground than a walking tour, and it’s actually easy to ride one – but the key is to relax! Here are my best tips, gleaned from hundreds of tours.

amigas on segways - bratislava

Remember how you felt when you were learning to ride a bike? How the first time your dad (or whoever taught you to ride a bike) let go, you wobbled for a second, and then all of a sudden you were smoothly riding away? That’s how you’re going to feel the first time you ride a Segway…you’ll feel a little wobbly for the first few minutes, but don’t let that deter you…it becomes intuitive after just a bit!

Flat, supportive sneakers are the best shoes to wear when riding a Segway. Your feet will get tired; you’re standing for the entire tour plus your feet will be gripping the platform for balance, both of which cause foot fatigue. Supportive shoes help prevent foot fatigue. Flat shoes are key to your weight being correctly balanced on the Segway platform. Heels, even an inch high, can throw off your balance and make it harder to ride. Closed toe shoes also protect your feet and toes from getting bumped as you step on and off the Segway. Every summer we have gliders show up in flip flops and sandals, not realizing they won’t be able to ride with that footwear; both Segway manufacturer guidelines and our insurance require gliders to wear flat, closed toe shoes. We actually keep a bucket of extra shoes and socks for just this situation, but if you’re traveling and think there’s a chance you might want to book a Segway tour, go ahead and throw a pair of sneakers in your bag!

Posture is everything! You are the brakes and the gas on a Segway; to speed up, you simply lean forward toward your toes. To slow yourself down, you lean back on your heels (think “toes to go, heels to slow”). But the key here is to keep your body straight and LEAN FROM YOUR ANKLES. When you bend from the waist, your weight doesn’t evenly shift forward or backward on the platform. You want to keep your body straight, like those ski jumpers you see in the Olympics, and think about leaning forward from the ankles. Another visual is to imagine a string coming out of the top of your head, pulling your body into a straight line, and then hinge at the ankles. If you imagine pushing your hips toward the steer stick, that helps to keep your posture upright when you are leaning forward.

Keep your movements smooth and steady. A Segway reacts to our body movements a thousand times a second; it’s reacting to the tiniest of movements, most of which we are not even aware of making. If your movements are jerky, so will be the Segway’s; if you are smooth and steady, you’ll have a smoother ride. It’s our instinctive reaction to jerk our body when we bobble on a Segway, so trying to fight against that is hard, especially for a new glider, but if you can relax while gliding, it makes it way easier!

traffic and cobblstones - segway bratislava

**Above: NOT an ideal place to Segway for the first time – cobblestones, traffic and road construction!**

It helps to glide the first time in a private group with friends who are experienced, and to do your tour in a less crowded city (and somewhere relatively flat – I wouldn’t recommend, for example, taking your first Segway tour in San Francisco). When I biked across Austria in 2016 with two girlfriends, we took a day trip to Bratislava from Vienna, and decided to do a Segway tour on the spur of the moment. I actually love to take Segway tours when I’m traveling – it’s always fun to see how other tour companies operate, and as I previously mentioned, it’s a GREAT way to see a new place. Our friend was gliding for the very first time, and she was a little nervous, so we tucked her between the two of us who are Glide Guides. She felt more secure and was able to relax a bit. She crushed it, even up the VERY steep, cobblestoned hill to the castle!

If you’re going on a cruise and planning a Segway shore excursion, it’s helpful to book a lesson from a local tour operator before you go, as I’ve heard reports that many shore excursions provide minimal training. (Europe as well – in Bratislava, our “training” consisted of a demonstration of how to step on and then being told to push our hips toward the steer stick – we asked for a few minutes to let our friend practice before we set out, but most groups didn’t get that!) Some tour operators will have a shorter “mini-glide” or “learn to ride” option, which is not a narrated tour, just a lesson and a little glide time – we had two sisters come in and do a mini-glide with us before they went on a cruise, and they sent us a lovely photo with a thank you note. They enjoyed their shore excursion more because they already knew how to ride!

Who should NOT ride a Segway? For safety reasons, people who suffer from vertigo or any other condition (or take medication) that affects their balance should stay off, as should women who are pregnant. Anyone who cannot stand for the duration of the tour should not glide; although when purchasing a Segway for personal use, you can buy an adaptive seat. Segway manufacturer guidelines say gliders must be 14 or older; some tour operators have smaller Segways for kids between 10-13, but call ahead to ask if you want to bring anyone younger than 14! Finally, we get calls every St Patrick’s Day asking if we do Segway Pub Crawls, but believe it or not, in the USA you can get a DUI on a Segway. So anyone who has been drinking or is under the influence of any drug should avoid gliding.

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**I have heard reports, however, that some islands in the Caribbean provide cup holders and a mid-tour stop at a bar – if any of you want to Segway in the Caribbean with me, I’m totally down for that!**

Where are your favorite places to glide? I’d love to hear about your experiences! And as always, thanks so much for reading!

P.S. This post is not sponsored in any way…I just mention Triad ECO Adventures because that is where I’m a Glide Guide 🙂

7 Great things about Rochester, NY

eastman Quad at UR

Before my son started graduate school at the University of Rochester, I had never visited the city. Now, it almost feels like my second home (well, at least in the late spring/summer/fall; Miami, where my daughter lives, is my winter/early spring second home – aren’t I a lucky woman to have so many climates from which to choose?). I just spent a week in Rochester helping my son unpack in his new house, and thought I’d write a post on the things I love about this city in western NY.

Letchworth State Park

Autumn – beyond anything else, I love fall in western New York! The reds, oranges and yellows of the trees are amazing and there are SO many spectacular places to hike not far from Rochester (Letchworth State Park is about an hour away if you want a truly beautiful hike through a gorge with several waterfalls). Orchards for apple picking abound in the area – we enjoy tasting “new to us” varieties and making apple pie with our loot!

The Genesee Riverway Trail – a 24 mile paved trail that runs from the Erie Canal on the south side of Rochester up through downtown, ending at Lake Ontario. The trail runs right by the campus of UR, so we’ve walked the trail from there up to High Falls just north of downtown Rochester. This trail connects to the Erie Canal Heritage Trail just south of campus, in Genesee Valley Park.

Erie canal heritage Trail

Erie Canal Heritage Trail  Part of the 365 mile long Erie Canalway Trail, the Heritage Trail is itself 86 miles long. One of my absolute favorite things to do in Rochester is to rent a bike from Towpath Bike in Pittsford and ride along the canal. It’s a scenic, mostly level ride, and absolutely spectacular in the fall!

Pittsford dairy

Pittsford Farms Dairy – Pittsford itself is an adorable town, particularly Schoen Place along the canal where Towpath Bike is located. But Pittsford Farms Dairy deserves a special mention – it’s a dairy, bakery, ice cream parlor and retail store, all in one. The ice cream is to die for, and they carry all kinds of baked goods and dairy products, as well as locally made jams, sauces, etc. We try to stop by every time I visit (alas, during my most recent visit we were so focused on unpacking that we didn’t make an ice cream run – next time!)

lilac bush

The Rochester Lilac Festival – For 120 years (it started in 1898!!), Rochester has celebrated the arrival of spring with a free festival in Highland Park, where thousands of lilacs bloom. Highland Park is beautiful all year, but during the festival there are concerts, art shows, booths selling hand-crafted soaps, lotions, and other wares, as well as 5K and 10K runs and many other special events, drawing over 500,000 visitors each year. Last year, I was able to run about 4 miles of the 10K, so my goal is to make it back in a year or two and run the entire 6.2! This year, it runs from May 11-20, so if you’re in the area, I highly recommend you stop by!

Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra – My husband introduced me to the joys of the symphony when we were in college. Now, it’s fun to watch our son enjoying the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra! Luckily for us, the RPO had a concert while we were in town last week, so all three of us were able to attend A Night of Symphonic Rock. The orchestra played classic rock and tunes from Broadway musicals such as Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, then a classic rock cover band played the second half of the show. RPO has tons of special events, including movie nights – the orchestra will play the soundtrack as they show Ghostbusters and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets later this year, among others! And as a bonus, they sell student tickets at a steep discount – some shows cost as little as $15 if you are a college student!

eletrical box art

Electrical box art  – this may seem like a small thing, but I love how the city of Rochester has turned the street corner electrical boxes into art! Each one is painted differently, but it’s a simple way to beautify a utilitarian item. My Scooby tried really hard to blend in with this one!

So there’s my completely random collection of things I love about Rochester…I’m sure there are tons of other things I haven’t discovered yet! If you’ve been, what are some of your favorite places or events???