Girlfriend Field Trip! Relax…Refresh…RoadTrip!

Mt. Shasta Lavender Farm and Living Memorial Sculpture Garden


A good friend posted on Facebook that she and another friend were going to the Mt Shasta Lavender Farm the following Wednesday and anyone who wanted to join them was welcome!  I was free that day so decided to come along.  It was a fun day and reminded me that there are interesting things to see in our own regions and sometimes we just need a good ol’ fashioned field trip!!

The Mt. Shasta Lavender Farm is located outside of Montague, CA about an hour and a half drive from Medford, Oregon where we all live.  There were four of us, so we piled into one car but not before enjoying some homemade lavender scones made by good friend Janice Cox of Natural Beauty at Home.  For Sweet Lavender Scone Recipe click hereRead More →

Sweet Lavender Scones


Sweet Lavender Scones

 These sweet, fragrant scones are a great way to start your day or serve with tea when you need a relaxing break.  Make sure the lavender you use is 100% organic as you don’t want to ingest any pesticides.  If you don’t have lavender in your garden you can purchase culinary lavender at some supermarkets and natural food shops. Read More →

Last minute romantic getaway to Esperanza Resort in Cabo San Lucas


What do you do when your original plan for an anniversary getaway is looking cool and rainy in June?? Change gears at the last minute and head to guaranteed sunshine and heat!!  We just celebrated our 27th anniversary.  Not being a momentous (5/10) anniversary we had agreed to do something low key and stay at Black Butte Ranch near Sisters, Oregon for a few days of rest and relaxation.  But as the day to leave grew nearer the weather report of 60s and rain was not changing.  We were set to be gone Sunday-Thursday, and the Friday before I said to hubby, “I’ve been watching the weather and it looks grim until the day we leave, what do you think about going to Mexico!” His response was, “Let’s do it!”  We still had our $99 companion fare from our Alaska Airlines Visa so that helped a lot with the last minute airfare.  We had stayed at the Esperanza Resort before but it had been a few years.  However with only four nights available to be gone we decided we would go for the splurge and try to book there.  After checking Expedia,, etc. I found Esperanza’s website to have the same prices so I booked directly through them. Read More →

Experiencing Aqua Alta in Venice


This was our second visit to Venice but my parents were joining us and it was their first trip here.  I read quite a bit about aqua alta in Venice, but had noted that it mostly happened in the winter, particularly November and December.  For those who do not know, aqua alta literally means “high water” and is a phenomenon which causes exceptional tide peaks in the Adriatic Sea.   These peak cause major flooding in the Venetian lagoon, particularly St. Mark’s Square, as it is the lowest point in Venice.  I am always interested in experiencing something unique to a culture or city and I always considered that I would like to go to Venice during an aqua alta at some point.  However, this trip was in late March so it never occurred to me that it might be happening now.


We were arriving in the evening after a long trip with some longer layovers so I decided we would take a water taxi as our hotel had it’s own dock and entrance from a small canal.  I thought this way we would not be wandering at night with our luggage looking for our hotel.  Unfortunately, because the water was so high the water taxis could not travel on the small canals under the bridges so we had to be dropped off near the Rialto Bridge and guess what?  We had to wander through the streets with our luggage looking for our hotel.  Well, it would not be a visit to Venice without that I guess!

I noticed that night the gangplanks were set up near the Rialto Bridge and I thought – Oh my!  They must be having an aqua alta with all this rain!  The next morning we had a Secret Itineraries Tour at the Doge’s Palace scheduled.  We headed over there but stopped when we saw that St. Mark’s Square was flooded.  Now here is the tricky part.  When it is flooded you can only enter St. Mark’s Square from certain spots without having to walk through the ankle deep water- the two main entrances are up near the entrance to St. Mark’s Basilica.  The gangplanks set up are just wide enough for people to walk both ways, umbrellas can make this even more precarious.  Please note the gangplanks closest to the Basilica enter straight into the church.  The gangplanks located just a bit further from the church go to the campanile and then over to the Doge’s Palace.  There are no signs telling you this and we first got on the gangplanks entering the basilica when we needed to head to the Doge’s Palace.  We realized too late then had to turn around and go all the way back out from the square and enter again through the other set of gangplanks.  Luckily we made it to the Doge’s Palace only a few minutes late and only missed the first few minutes of the tour.


Keep in mind that the high water will only last for a few hours, by early/mid afternoon the water had receded and St. Mark’s square was dry again.

photo(10)So just try to avoid that area in the morning.  If I had known we might encounter this I would definitely have come prepared.  Probably would have worn cheap rain boots on the plane because having a pair would have made getting around very easy as we could have walked wherever we wanted with out having to worry about walking on the gangplanks.  I have read that some of the smaller B&Bs and hotels provide rain boots for their guests but ours was a larger hotel and did not.

The vendors would set up in any dry spot they could find.


The view of St. Mark’s square from the top of the campanile as the water starts to recede.


I know our aqua alta experience was actually a bit mild compared to other’s I have heard about but, while a bit frustrating it was also fun to experience something so unique to Venice.


Fantastic new hotel in Venice! Review of Hotel ai Reali


I usually plan our trips way in advance, but we were headed to Italy to visit our daughter who was studying in Rome and we had to wait until she arrived there and got her complete schedule so we would know exactly when we could visit.  That gave me just about 6 weeks to plan the trip.  I got very lucky though with all of our accommodations and loved the new hotel I found in Venice.  Hotel ai Reali is located in Castello very close to the Rialto Bridge but in a small campo next to an interior canal,  so tucked away and very quiet.  It had just opened in Nov. 2012 but all the reviews on it were excellent.  It was a perfect location easy to walk everywhere and close to the Rialto Bridge stop for the vaporetto.

The lobby as well as the rooms were decorated in the grand Venetian style with fabric wall coverings, chandeliers, and marble bathrooms.




I had booked a Classic room for my mom and dad and a Deluxe room for Stephen and I and Michael.  When we arrived they said they had upgraded us both to a Junior Suite!!  Our room was very nice and very large with a nice view of the canal.  Probably the largest hotel room we had ever had in Europe.  In addition to our king size bed they had a roll away for Michael and a couch, coffee table and round table.  Unfortunately, the roll away bed was not that large and Michael who is about 5’10” and thin,  found it quite narrow.  Probably best for smaller kids,  not an adult or older teenager.

Junior Suite bedroom Hotel ai Reali

Jr Suite Bedroom Hotel ai Reali

Bathroom Hotel ai Reali

Bathroom Hotel ai Reali

The closet was actually a small room so tons of space for us to keep all of our luggage.

Closet Hotel ai Reali

My parents room even had a fireplace.





The wifi connection in the room and lobby was excellent and the towels were nice and soft and fluffy – probably due to the fact that the hotel was new.  The hallways and landing areas were also very large and nicely decorated.

Large hallways Hotel ai Reali

Large hallways Hotel ai Reali

They also have a canal entrance if you are arriving/departing by water taxi.

Lobby Hotel ai Reali


Breakfast was served in the restaurant which was nice and the rooms had a view of the canal.  It was not one large room but several smaller rooms, and we never had a problem finding a table.  A nice breakfast buffet with the usual meats, cheeses, cereals and pastries but also scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and some yogurt that Stephen particularly  liked.  The ladies in the breakfast room were very nice and helpful.

Breakfast room Hotel ai Reali


Stephen did use the sauna and jacuzzi which is a nice addition to the hotel.  He said they were both nice, however, the jacuzzi was not hot enough and they would not let you turn the jets on because apparently they make too much noise and disturb the rooms below.  Too bad, because this is a welcome amenity to a hotel in Venice, and unfortunate that you can not use it the way it is intended.  They also have a spa which we did not use, but they generally were offering specials each day at breakfast if you made an appointment that day.

We do not usually eat in the hotel restaurant when traveling, but we arrived in the evening and by the time we checked in and got settled,  it was almost 9pm.  I had read good reviews of the hotel’s restaurant, Alle Corone, so we decided to just eat there.  Stephen and I shared a salad and Michael had a fish carpaccio to start.  Stephen and Michael had tagliata which was excellent and cooked a perfect medium rare.  I ordered the spaghetti with scampi.  When it came it did not look all that exciting, but the flavor was delicious and the scampi very sweet.



The servers here were also very nice and extremely helpful in explaining things on the menu.  These little treats came with our bill.


On our last night we had determined that our best meal by far was the meal at the hotel so we decided to return there and my parents joined us this time.  (The first night they were exhausted and just went to sleep).   Another wonderful meal – I had ordered the calf liver with apples and a side of creamy polenta.  The dish was quite large and I thought I will never be able to eat that much liver but it was so good that I finished it all!

We had a fantastic stay at Hotel ai Real.  I suspect next year at this time this place will be more popular so I would book further in advance!



What to do with a long layover in Salt Lake City – visiting Temple Square

Mormon Temple, SLC

We recently returned from a two week trip to Italy.  We had a painfully long layover in Salt Lake City – 9 hours!!  We had flown through SLC at Christmastime and knew it was a very nice airport, but 9 hrs was too long to be stuck inside.   I decided it made sense to rent a car and explore a bit of SLC.  There is apparently a free shuttle that will take you to Temple Square from the airport, but we always do carryon only and we felt renting a car was the easiest and safest way to have our luggage.  We left Medford, Oregon about 6:15am and arrived in SLC at 9am.   I had read about Park Cafe for breakfast – it got excellent reviews, so we headed there first.  It was Saturday morning about 9:30/10am when we arrived and was very crowded.  We had to wait almost an hour and a half to be seated it was so crowded, but have to admit it was worth the wait.  The menu is typical American breakfast fare but they really did do everything very well and the service was excellent.  The original plan was to do Temple Square and then drive up to Park City.  The breakfast took longer than expected so I did not think we could do both Temple Square and Park City.  Stephen and Michael dropped us off at Temple Square and they drove up to Park City to just drive around and see everything. Read More →


IMG_1248Even with the growth of internet maps and GPS systems I still find the need for a good old-fashioned map whether it is for planning a trip or for getting from place to place around a city.  When we first started traveling someone recommended the Streetwise maps and I have been hooked ever since.  They are the perfect size for sliding inside a small crossbody bag or even fit nicely in your back pocket. Read More →