Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Being a mom of a toddler has opened up a whole new world of discovery!

From bubbles to tupperware to butterflies and toes…it’s all new and exciting to my little one!

So when we venture outside of the home, it’s fun to see his wide-eyed reactions to his new surroundings.

Part of the challenge of being a parent to a young child is finding places to visit that are fun not only for him but also for us!

When we took a weekend getaway to San Diego recently, I read about the Keys Creek Lavender Farm and thought that would make a nice side trip on our drive back home.

Located in Valley Center, it’s a fun little adventure just getting to it!

Get ready to go off the beaten path…

…and enjoy the twists and turns along the way!

Don’t worry about getting lost – there are markers to direct you!

Welcome! You made it!

If you love the smell of lavender, you’re in the right place!

Where to begin? Well, that’s the fun part!
Just follow the arrow of your choosing…

or follow a self-guided tour…

or pay $15 per person for a private tour!

We opted to explore the grounds at our leisure.

Words of wisdom as we started our journey.

With over a dozen varieties of lavender to enjoy,
it was fun to just follow the path and immerse ourselves in over 8 1/2 acres of lavender splendor!


Sam loved breathing in this heavenly aroma new to his senses!

Did I mention the gorgeous views?

…and the bees?  Yes, there were buzzing about!
Surprisingly, they kept to themselves as long as we didn’t bother them.

A pleasant surprise were the various activities to enjoy on the grounds.
A crystal labyrinth and meditation zen garden were there for visitors to
reflect or relax.

Where the lavender is distilled to use in their commercial products!

Tah-dah!
This charming frame was the perfect photo op for guests to pose and
capture their visit!

Quality time with my boy!

Ready for a treat?
Well go check out Mrs. Jones’s Tea House & enjoy all things lavender!


You can’t go wrong with the lavender scone/jelly and lavender lemonade!

We all enjoyed it – even the wee one couldn’t stop reaching for another little nibble…

…or big nibble!
(Okay, YES, that’s my bite! Guilty as charged!)

The lavender lemonade was oh so light, floral and refreshing!
Simply delicious!

Try not to gulp it down all at one time!
It was amazing how quickly it disappeared!

Before we left, a stop at this charmingly decorated gift shop was in order!
We went home with lavender lotion and jelly.

There’s also bubble bath, sleep balm, essential oils, room spray, candles and
countless other goodies to enjoy!

Anywhere on the farm is really a photo op!




Open to the public in May and June, Keys Creek Lavender Farm is a fun, unique experience for the whole family!
Don’t forget to bring $5 for parking.


Keys Creek Lavender Farm
12460 Keys Creek Road
Valley Center, CA 92082
(760) 742-3844

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During our Carnival Cruise, I did a lot of reflecting while gazing out into the ocean, and one view that was particularly hypnotic was that of the ship’s wake.

Recently, I read a quote from Wayne Dyer that beautifully captures the essence of a wake and how it relates to life.

The past is a trail you leave behind, much like the wake of a speedboat.  That is, it’s a vanishing trail temporarily showing you where you were.  The wake of a boat doesn’t affect it’s course–obviously it can’t since it appears behind the boat.  So consider this image when you exclaim that your past is the reason you aren’t moving forward.  ~ Wayne Dyer

So whenever I feel stuck in life, I’m going to remember that hypnotic wake and remind myself that the past is behind me, the future is ahead of me…

…and I’m moving forward!  🙂

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James pulled his air conditioned van to the side of the road, reached under his seat, turned to face us and with a serious expression, held up his large machete.

“Wait here…”

Exiting the vehicle, James entered the dense brush on the side of the road and proceeded to hack the lush foliage with his sharp blade as we watched curiously.

“What is he doing?”

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Desiree, James’ charming and informative colleague, replied with a reassuring smile,

“It’s a surprise…”

James returned to the vehicle, handed me what appeared to be a piece of bark and smiled.

“Smell this.”

To my delight, this wasn’t just ordinary bark. This was fresh cinnamon bark sliced right from the tree. I held on to the bark tightly as if it were gold, trying to breathe in every ounce of the heavenly aroma before I had to pass it around to the five other passengers to enjoy. Little did they know that this was my favorite scent!

Cinnamon BarkCinnamon Bark

This was just one of the many personal touches that James St. Prix of James Touring Service offered his guests making our day in St. Lucia a special one filled with one surprise after another!

At 9:00am that morning, we disembarked the Carnival Valor and stepped outside the gates of the cruise terminal. Seeing a “James Tours” sign, we were greeted warmly by Desiree. As the other members of the tour gathered, James came to introduce himself with his friendly smile and fun personality.

A Pittsburgh Steelers fan to the core, James’ Toyota van was no exception. Proudly displayed on the hood of his clean and comfortable van was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ logo and wide receiver, #84, Antonio Brown. Although many taxi services have claimed to be James to draw business away, don’t be fooled! There is only one James St. Prix!

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After we introduced ourselves to the four other passengers including a newly engaged couple and two friends from Chicago, we piled into his Steelers van complete with free WI-FI and listened to James as he gave us a brief summary of the day ahead.

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Given the twisty roads of St. Lucia, James focused on driving and left the informative guiding to Desiree. If you succumb to motion sickness, don’t let this stop you from experiencing James Touring Services! James drove up those winding switchbacks carefully and with a seasoned hand. For those with extra sensitive equilibriums, consider taking a few ginger tablets beforehand like I did, and you should be fine.

The adventure began with a stop at a large and bountiful banana plantation. After James explained to us how bananas were harvested, three friendly young ladies who worked at a nearby souvenir shop treated us to samplings of banana ketchup, banana & honey barbecue sauce and banana rum! We even got to try fresh, sweet bananas picked right off the tree! Everything was so delicious, and my husband and I left with a bottle of the barbecue sauce to enjoy at home.

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When asked how he chose which local merchants to stop at, James said that it was based on their behavior and whether or not they pressure the tourists into buying their products. He ensured us that as long as he’s around, we will not be harassed. Each vendor we encountered was very pleasant and open to answering any questionsor even just having a friendly conversation!

ChristianaChristiana, a very nice lady with a sweet Grandmotherly presence, made cashew candy and sold it for $2.00.
It was a great purchase…and so delicious!

As we drove through the old fishing village of Canaries, James and Desiree discussed the local economy, pointed out where locals spend their free time and even showed us where laundry is washed on the banks of a river (where the juiciest gossip is shared!) As we passed the first church on the island, James stopped to ask a young boy who was selling shell necklaces why he wasn’t in school. After a brief conversation in Creole, he bought a necklace and told the boy to get back to school. In addition to being well respected in the community, it was obvious that James also cares about his home and the people of St. Lucia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACanaries

During the tour, James peppered the conversation with funny jokes which he confirmed are funnier when told in Creole, a “harsh” French-based language containing African and Carib words. He was also very generous when it came to photo stops and complimentary snacks where he would stop at local eateries and let us experience local treats like “Crunchy Cookies” and “Cassava Bread”. He even kept his van stocked with ice-cold beverages to keep us hydrated throughout the day. We learned that James had worked for Royal Caribbean for over 15 years, so he knew all about providing excellent customer service, and it showed!

The PitonsPhoto stop of the Pitons on our way to Soufriere.

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IMG_5475Cassava Bread

IMG_5540Crunchy Cookie

I was most excited about going to the oldest town of Soufrierie where we would experience Sulphur Springs Park, the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano and St. Lucia’s premier tourist attraction! Ask anyone on the island, and they will tell you that the mud is supposed to take ten years off your appearance! So with that in mind, my hubby and I did not hold back on this natural beauty treatment!

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IMG_5491ACheck out this long line of cars trying to get in! 

The mud bath was a 4-step process.

First, we bathed in a mineral rich thermal pool. If you like taking hot showers, this will be a most welcome experience. The temperature is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit!

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Next, we slathered ourselves in the age reducing mud. There were two types of mud – black & grey. They both have the same therapeutic properties but differ in that the black mud is from volcanic ash and could permanently stain your swimsuit. The grey mud, on the other hand, is thicker, less messy and won’t ruin your swimsuit. James had someone set aside a container of the special grey mud for us that we eagerly slathered ourselves with!

IMG_5503AI didn’t know getting muddy could be so fun!

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After letting the mud dry on for a few minutes, it was time to turn up the heat as we slowly reentered the mineral pool to rinse off as best we could. It helps to have someone with you to assist in those areas you can’t easily see or reach.

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The last step was the showeror what I’d like to callthe trickle. We basically stood under a spigot and attempted to rinse ourselves by contorting our bodies in a way so that the very light stream of water could reach those remaining muddy bits. As I rinsed off, I was baffled by what I sawfor someone who usually gets devoured by mosquitoes, I was bite free! It turns out that sulphur repels mosquitoesoh happy day!

The mud bath experience made us feel rejuvenated, and the pumice consistency of the mud left our skin softer than I can ever recall! My hubby’s sunburn was even less intense. As far as looking younger, I’m not sure if it took ten years off my appearance, but I’ll make any excuse to get back to Saint Lucia!

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The excitement was far from over as our next stop was to Toraille Waterfall, or as Desiree called it, the “Power Shower”!

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Toraille Waterfall, one of St. Lucia’s natural heritage sites, spills into a refreshing pool that visitors are welcome to swim in or in some cases walk in, scream upon the realization of the freezing temperature, and quickly exit the pool!

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Guests lined up to bravely stand under the “Power Shower”. A photographer was available to capture those special moments of being pounded by the force of the water!

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Desiree was kind enough to capture these romantic awkward moments for uslol!

Try to smile normallyI dare you!

IMG_5566ATake 1:  “Smile at the camera honey!”

IMG_5568ATake 2:  “Ok, let me just fix my hair first!” 

IMG_5567BTake 3:  Cover of Sports Illustrated here we come! LOL!

IMG_5570ATake 4:  When all else fails!

IMG_5571BYay, we did it! (Well, kind of…)

IMG_5578BDid I mention how fun that was?!

IMG_5572The water didn’t feel so cold afterwards…quite refreshing actually!

IMG_5588Tah-dah!

Words of advice – bring water shoes because rocks line the bottom of the pool and were slippery and challenging to navigate through. And be sure to reapply sunscreen immediately afterwards because after sloughing away a layer of skin at the mud bath, the sun can be very unforgiving!

After a thoroughly enjoyable morning learning about the island and trying new things, it was time to experience the flavors of Saint Lucia!

Tucked high above the bay with phenomenal views of the Pitons is La Haut Plantation Resort.

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It is here that we were treated to a delicious Authentic Plantation Gourmet Lunch that matched the glorious views before us!  This all-inclusive island luncheon consisted of:

  • Creole chicken
  • Breaded fish with lime ginger sauce
  • Caribbean Rice
  • Stew pink beans
  • Sauted freshly picked garden vegetables
  • Collis of tomato & onion on root vegetables (dasheen, plantain)
  • Local signature macaroni and cheese
  • Fresh market garden salad with a choice of mustard and balsamic vinaigrette
  • Banana ice cream

IMG_5625Hands down, the most delicious meal on the trip!
It doesn’t get better than this…

IMG_5628A…or does it?  YUM!

It’s easy to lose track of time at La Haut Plantation Resort. The grounds are so green and lush and filled with flowers of every color, a refreshing pool that guests are welcome to use, a breathtaking backdrop of the Gros and Petit Pitons and the volcano that was emitting steam, and gorgeous grounds to explore. I thought I was in heaven!

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IMG_5618A photographer’s paradise!

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The PitonsI think I’ll stay here!

The day was quickly coming to an end, and James had two more surprises for us. We stopped at a vista overlooking the gorgeous Marigot Bay. This is the site where several battles between the French and English took place, and it’s also the setting of where Doctor Doolittle was filmed! Today, it’s a peaceful haven surrounded by a mangrove of trees with a wide range of accommodations, restaurants, land and water activities, shopping and entertainment.

Marigot Bay

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IMG_5678The best tour team on St. Lucia – James & Desiree!

On our return to Castries, we even stopped to see a unique rock formation called the Natural Bridge that was featured in the popular movie Pirates of the Caribbean. 

IMG_5682Natural Bridge

The tour came to a close much too soon, and we all agreed it was a one of our favorite tours from our cruise!  Our tour mate, Art from Chicago, said, “It’s a beautiful island and worth coming to see. James gives a great tour.”

IMG_5686AOur tour group looking 10 years younger!

When considering a tour of St. Lucia, remember that you get what you pay for. According to James, taxi drivers who charge $20 may claim that they’ll provide an island tour with lunch, but what you will get is an impersonal drive from point A to point B with a simple lunch of bread and cheese on the roadside.

Pay $70.00 per person for James’ Tour, and you will receive an exciting, personal and quality tour of St. Lucia with two considerate, fun and professional tour guides whose goal is to treat people well and show them a good time while introducing you to their homeland!

IMG_5687I had the best time with this fun group!

When I asked James and Desiree how they’d describe St. Lucia in one word, it wasn’t easy for them because St. Lucia embodies so many things! James said, “It’s incredible, so lush and green, and the people are wonderful!” Desiree described St. Lucia as picturesque and simply beautiful. She also revealed her favorite things about St. Lucia including the freedom to walk wherever she wants, the delicious food, the friendly people and the relaxing evening mud baths!

James showed us everything he loved about St. Lucia and more!

On the back of his van, it states, “I ain’t no joke.”

Remember, there’s only one “Steelers” James St. Prix – he’s the real deal, and he will give you the time of your lives and a tour of St. Lucia that you will never forget!

I know I won’t!

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Have you ever been on a tour like James Touring Service?
What aspect of James tour would you enjoy to do the most?

 


James Touring Service
www.jamestouringservice.com
tourstlucia68@yahoo.com
1 (758) 712-6285
1 (758) 719-5836

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As we exited the San Juan Airport, a wave of humidity thawed us out after our chilly overnight flight.

We joined around 25 other people who were waiting in line to get a taxis. After filling out a form documenting the number of bags and people in our party, we were escorted over to a minivan where our driver assisted us and welcomed us to San Juan.

After a short 15 minutes drive to Old San Juan, we turned onto a very narrow cobblestone road and were dropped off at the steps of our lodging for the night. Airbnb.com is our favorite way to find accommodations when we travel, and Old San Juan was no different! With bags at our feet, we contacted Tony via the intercom system located at the front of the gated building. Within minutes, Tony greeted us at the gates with a warm smile and immediately assisted me with my luggage carrying it up the three very long flights of stairs. I knew gaining weight would not be a problem here with this intense workout!

As we climbed the stairs, I noticed the decorative tiles that adorned the sides of the walls of this beautiful and spacious building. After ascending the third flight of stairs, Tony welcomed us into his home and gave us the grand tour. I was immediately drawn to the open floor plan with high ceilings, exposed beams and a peaceful terrace!

Another winner from Airbnb!

Tony made us feel at home and even provided us with a complimentary bowl of bananas and granola bars. After showing us to our cozy room that was adjacent to the shared bathroom, he informed us that he would be away for the evening but would return the next day, so we had the place to ourselves. He gave us our set of keys, answered questions we had, gave us restaurant suggestions and left us shortly thereafter.

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We unpacked, changed into warm weather clothes and set out to find a place to eat because after our extended flight of only peanuts and chips, we were starving! We took Tony’s suggestion and decided to try one of his favorite eateries, Restaurant El Jibarito…and we were glad we did!

We were seated immediately and ordered beverages to quench our thirst – rum punch for me and the local beer, Magna, for my hubby. The menu was full of flavorful choices, but I decided on the chicken in creole sauce, friend plantains and salad. Let me just say, I left nothing on the plate!

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As we exited the restaurant, the streets were buzzing with locals and tourists. Little did we know that we arrived during the weekend of the Festival del Circo, an international festival that brings street art, theater, puppeteers and circus performances to the streets and plazas of Old San Juan for everyone to enjoy!

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Old San Juan was a joy to walk around with its’ cobblestone roads and European-esque charm.

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We strolled along the tree-lined (and sometimes pigeon-filled) Paseo de la Princesa and marveled at the gorgeous views of the bay.

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We came across the Puerta de San Juan (San Juan Gate), a massive, wooden gate built in the late 1700s that closed at sundown to protect the city from invaders.

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Our day ended with a visit to the stunning Castillo San Felipe del Morro (“El Morro”), a huge fortress at the end of a large green field, constructed to guard the entrance of the San Juan Bay and protect the city from seaborne invaders. A San Juan National Historic Site, it’s easy to spend the entire day here, but evening was quickly approaching, so we passed on the paid tour and admired the fortress from the outside.

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You can find locals and tourists alike hanging out on the massive field and around the fortress walls, having picnics and parties, resting, playing, taking photos, flying kites (did I mention how windy it is?), and spending time with family and friends. There’s something very special about this place.

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Looking out from the watchtowers, the views were spectacular! It was the perfect way to end our first day in Old San Juan, and I couldn’t wait for the next day’s adventures!

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Caribbean Bliss

Last week, I got a glimpse of heaven.

And it came in shades of blue, teal, yellow, green, brown, orange, red and purple.

And it was full of smiles, kindness, laughter, consideration, open arms and bliss.

And it made me feel warm and welcome.

And I want to go back!

Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks to read about our adventures in the Caribbean, or what I’d like to call…

heaven.

 

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Catalina Dreamin'

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Polynesian Cultural Center

I can’t believe it’s been one year since my husband and I experienced Hawaiian bliss!   Looking back through my photos, I discovered I have yet to finish writing about our wonderful adventures on the Big Island of Hawaii, so here’s a sneak peak of what’s to come!

Aloha!

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