Wigwam Village #2 – Historic Roadside Motel Preserves Classic Americana near Mammoth Cave National Park

To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I’d be writing a post about our stay in Wigwam Village #2.   I felt uneasy about the unobscured cultural appropriation.  However, within minutes of meeting one of the new owners, my doubts fell away.  He easily brought up the topic and began educating us about what the original inventor/entrepreneur, Frank Redford, got right as well as what he got wrong with his roadside venture. 

A short drive from Mammoth Cave National Park, Wigwam Village #2 is the type of Americana you’d expect to find along Route 66.  In fact, although the first two villages were built in this southern Kentucky community, the only other remaining villages are actually along Route 66: the #6 in Holbrook, Arizona and the #7 in San Bernardino, California.

Turning off of Highway 31W, you’re welcomed by the newly restored neon sign that invites you to “Eat and Sleep in a Wigwam.”  (Among the things Redford got wrong was his preference for calling the structures wigwams instead of teepees.  What he got right was creating a sense of community among overnight guests!)

The owner met us at the office and invited us to sit on the porch while he shared a short history of the wigwams and answered our questions.  Other guests joined us as they arrived as well as a man who stopped by looking for souvenirs.  Learning the history at check-in really helped us to appreciate the details during our stay.  We were also immediately struck by the passion that the new owners are bringing to its renovation!

Cozy wigwam #14 provided a great night’s sleep.  The original bed, chair and vanity table took us back to 1937.  Luckily, the new mattress helped us sleep in the modern age!  A heater quickly warmed up the space and there is an air conditioner for summer.  The shower surprised us with great water pressure, lots of hot water and a drain that works.  Taking a close look at the red and white tiled floor and the red wall tile designs gave us an appreciation for the detail that went into the original construction.  

Encircled by the teepees is a large communal play area with fire pits and a playground that encourages fireside conversation just as it happened 80 plus years ago.  There’s also a grill area and lighted picnic pavilion with tables.

The largest teepee sits in front by the neon sign.  Currently closed, it formerly housed a lunch counter and gift shop.  The new owners plan to renovate it and open it as a coffee shop.  Can’t wait to return for a latte!!!

More to know…

To read more about the history and architecture of the village, go to their website at Historic Wigwam Village or look here for the information they provide in each guest room.

For authentic New York style pizza, try Cave City Pizza.  In Horse Cave, Farmwald’s Dutch Bakery and Restaurant makes light, yeast doughnuts … caramel glazed, cream-filled, jelly-filled and more! 

The boardwalk loop trail at Sloan’s Crossing Pond Walk is perfect for an above ground stroll in Mammoth Cave NP.

Yucatan Adventures – Tulum and Bacalar

A mid-December holiday beckoned us to sun and fun.  Wanting to explore the Yucatan Peninsula, a friend from Mexico said, “Let’s go to Bacalar!” 

Relatively quick and cheap flights from the southern U.S. to Cancun make travel easy.  Leaving the Cancun International Airport, it’s about an hour and a half drive to Tulum barring delays due to construction or accidents.  New to us were roads having a lane and a half going each way.  Luckily, our friend was driving, but you quickly learn how to drive and pass by watching the other cars navigate. 

Larger and busier than expected, Tulum still offers pleasurable walking.  Bicycle paths through much of the city provide a great way to avoid the traffic and to see life passing by at a slower pace. 

An early morning start to see the Tulum Ruins pays off in avoiding the crowds that arrive by mid-morning.  Spectacularly located overlooking the rolling, blue ocean, paths lead you around different ruins that you view from a distance. We stumbled (almost literally) over several iguanas here.  They are masters of camouflage!  

As part of the fee to the ruins, you can also buy entrances to the cave tour and cenote at Aktun Chen.  To find this nature park, you drive a dirt road through a jungle for about 20 minutes.The guided cave tour is an easy, dry walk with an underground lake as its grand finale.  

Another short drive leads to the cenote.  Upon arrival, locker rooms, showers and life jackets await.  Step down a few stairs and, voila, you enter a pristine lake nestled within a cave.  For some, it takes a bit to get used to the cool water, but once you do, exploring the two large caverns is exhilarating!  Visits are not time limited.  We spent over an hour with just our group and one other couple.  Another small group joined us just before we left.  (TRAVEL TIP:  Bring a small dry bag for your camera.  It will make taking pictures more enjoyable.)

Nearby, Los Primos in Chemuyil delivers a welcoming atmosphere and excellent ceviche and tacos for a late lunch. 

A recommendation by our waiter, the tranquility of Akumal beach creates a perfect setting for a memorable sunset walk.

Vibrant nighttime streets in Tulum buzz with street food vendors, fruit stands, restaurants and shops.  We bought glazed clay bowls for guacamole and small musical instruments for patio fiestas at home.  The Argentinian restaurant, El Sudaca, charms with a breezy vibe to go along with its tasty chimichurri! 

On the drive south, the Muyil Mayan Ruins let you feel like Indiana Jones discovering lost civilizations.

Also at Muyil, book a boat to take you into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This saves time for those who don’t want to drive to the bioreserve’s main location in Punta Allen. A twenty minute jungle walk on a boardwalk takes you to the embarkation point on Laguna Chunyaxché.  Once on the boat, the captain smoothly navigates across the lagoon and into the mangrove canals.  Ultimately, you can jump into the canal and let a slow current take you and your life jacket for a 30 minute ride through the mangroves where the Captain meets you at the end.  (Although a small crocodile was spotted along the way, the Captain gave assurances that “most” don’t come out until nighttime!) 

Driving another couple of hours south takes you to the town of Bacalar, about 50 kilometers north of the Belize border.  For our stay with a group of six, our rented house also included a guest house and a private dock with kayaks.  Only a ten minute drive to the plaza made for a convenient location. 

The town of Bacalar welcomes with a large central plaza for strolling and admiring the blue-green lagoon.  Busy restaurants and cafes line the streets.  We didn’t venture  far while taking nighttime strolls but were able to find everything in close vicinity to the plaza.

In the mornings, stop at Mercado Municipal de Bacalar to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade tortillas and fresh fish from Pescaderia del Guero.  (They also have a second larger store that is not in the center of town.)  What a treat to cook and eat fresh fish!

We packed ceviche, guacamole and maduros from El Taco Loco for our boat outing on Laguna Bacalar, known as the Lagoon of the Seven Colors,  The boat picked us up at our dock for two and a half hours that included swimming at three locations and visiting three cenotes.   Unlike the boat trip at the protected biosphere reserve, this lagoon had several boats and jet skis although not overwhelmingly so.  If you visit Bacalar, you’ll definitely want to reserve a boat excursion!

Walking through the forests at the Mayan Ruins of Kohunlich rewards the visitor with canopies of large, vibrant tropical foliage.  Amazingly, we experienced these ruins practically by ourselves with only a handful of other guests in the whole area.  Walking through these timeworn structures inspires awe.  We almost missed the Temple of the Masks when we were trying to outrun the mosquitos  Glad we didn’t!

To access the ruins at Dzibanche, it’s necessary to pay locals for use of the road.  The government still maintains the ruins and its nearby roads, but the outer road between the main highway and the park road is not maintained and makes for slow driving.  But, it is more than worth it!!  Again, we found ourselves as adventurers stumbling upon undiscovered treasures…crossing paths with practically no one at the whole site.

Closeby at Kinichna stands the tallest pyramid in the area, the House of the Sun.  It’s built in four levels which means you climb for a while then have a grassy terrace then more steps to climb up to the next level.  Standing on top of this towering, hallowed pyramid, with the vista of the jungle encircling you, is one of those moments you breathe slowly and try to capture the image to last a lifetime.

Stops Along the Way:

Yes to Puerto Moreles!  A 30 minute drive from the airport, this cute and lively town invites you to spend more time.  We stopped by both times that we passed by it.  Check out the restaurant El Merkadito Seafood and Beach Club.  Hope to return to Puerto Moreles on future trips!

No to Mahahual!  What probably used to be a quaint seaport now welcomes cruise ships and its throngs.  While we were there, four ships were docked.  The walkway with a beach view is comfortable, but the constant contact with vendors selling souvenirs, massages or places to sit is not relaxing.  From here, our friends hired a boat for an incredible snorkeling trip to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world. Find a less touristy location to depart for snorkeling and avoid this stop if you can. 

Serendipity Notes:

Unplanned, joyous moments always pop up during travels.  To wait out a downpour before visiting the Mayan Ruins Kohunlich, we backtracked to the only sign of civilization we had passed.  Luckily, The Explorean Kohunlich welcomed us to watch the FIFA WorldCup finals with guests, coffee and croissants.

Travel Indiana – Road Trip to Columbus, Brown County and Bean Blossom

For those enchanted by modernist architecture, a pilgrimage to Columbus, Indiana rewards with multiple gems.  Add some fabulous food and a side excursion to Brown County and Bean Blossom to complete a memorable long-weekend getaway.

Thanks to the forward-thinking, industrialist couple, Joseph Irwin Miller and his wife, Selma, Columbus attracted world renowned architects such as Eero Saarinen and I. M. Pei.  Many of the structures are within a few downtown blocks while others are only a short drive away.

The Visitor’s Center offers tours of the Miller House.  When the tour van pulls into the driveway, you’re  immersed into the collaborative masterpiece of Eero Saarinen (structure), Alexander Girard (interior) and Dan Kiley (landscaping,) The furniture, rugs, decorations, books, etc. are all original thanks to the family’s donation.  From the suspended fireplace to the pillowed conversation pit, the home invites you with its playful refinement.

Sitting above the grassy “void” below, the structure sits prominently on a hill.  Various horizontal allées (walkways lined with trees) separate outside rooms although there is no real fence on the property. The nearby road is buffered only by horizontal plantings of arborvitae.  The couple desired to not separate themselves from the community and had no gates to close the driveways.  (Our tour guide laughingly recounted that children rode their bikes through the property and in the 1970s she even went so far as to drive her car up to the garage in curiosity…until she saw the owners and their driver preparing to leave the house.  They all politely waved to each other before she made a quick departure.)

Although we luckily reserved tickets for the house tour, we weren’t so lucky with the downtown walking tour (book as far in advance as possible!)  With a $3 map from the visitor’s center and the Columbus IN Tour online app, we successfully explored on our own.  Fortunately, the town seems comfortable with visitors walking into and around buildings with no purpose except to enjoy the design elements.

I. M. Pei’s Cleo Rogers Memorial Library
The First Christian Church designed by architect Eliel Saarinen, father of Eero Saarinen.
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church – exterior
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church – interior
North Christian Church by Eero Saarinen
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church – exterior
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church – interior

For Chihuly fans, the Visitor Center’s installation displays his typical forms.

A short drive takes you to another Chihuly  exhibit.  This one features a flat circular panel suspended in a silo.  Read more here about his works in Columbus.

In downtown Columbus, it’s easy to find local dining options. 

Fine dining with friends at Henry Social Club.  Roasted cod, homemade ravioli and tofu with vegetables were all winners.  (So good, in fact, that they were eaten before we thought about pictures!)

Find casual dining at Upland Columbus Pump House.  Fish-n-chips, pizza, burgers and wings… a peaceful evening on the deck overlooking the river.

Forget about the calories at Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor … an authentic soda fountain from 1900.

We found our coffee winner for this trip at Lucabe Coffee

An easy 20 minute drive to the west of Columbus takes you to Brown County State Park.  With miles of paved drives overlooking forested vistas, the park is a particularly popular destination in the fall.  (We first stopped by the Farmhouse Cafe and Tearoom in nearby Bean Blossom for a BLT and potato salad to go.  A tranquil autumn picnic in the park.)

Closeby, a still driveable covered bridge transports you not only across the water but to a different era.

More to know…

The Miller House Garden designhttps://www.gardendesign.com/indiana/columbus-miller-house.html

Architecture in Columbus – https://columbus.in.us/architecture-story/

Joseph Irwin Miller – https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-cathedral-builder-in_b_7033742\

Our AirBnb was only a couple of blocks from downtown.  It was quiet, comfortable and well-equipped.

Try this link to search for the AirBnb.

Cultural Alchemy in Louisville, Kentucky

Cultural alchemy…The magical process of transformation through combination.  We thrive in this place of being in and between cultures.  Food traditions from Asia and the Caribbean along with some musical dashes from around the world enriched the southern culture of Louisville during our 24 hour visit.

The food offerings in a locale often provide the most transparent expression of cultural alchemy.  During our visit to Louisville, we sampled three distinct restaurants with dishes and drinks rooted in long embraced traditions.

Frankfort Avenue’s District 6 combines Vietnamese flavors and techniques with local ingredients.

La Bodeguita de Mima in Nulu welcomes with a lively ambiance and an authentic Cuban menu.  “Every culture has an affectionate name for the matriarch of the family. Mawmaw, Nonna, Yai-yai, and in Cuban culture it is MIMA. This restaurant is our letter to Mima!”

Home to its namesake sandwich, the hot brown, The Brown Hotel remains a Kentucky cultural icon…pure southern charm.

Music created in different landscapes also transforms when combined.  Pink Martini’s performance at the Brown Theatre provided our impetus for visiting Louisville.  Our first “almost post-pandemic” concert!  Pink Martini embraces this musical mash-up of cultures.  Their songs in Spanish, Croatian, Japanese, Farsi or 20+ other languages link everyone together in the shared struggles and celebrations of life.

More to know…
Louisville is the US city with the second largest population of Cuban immigrants per capita outside of Florida. Read about it here.

Quill’s has various locations around town to enjoy coffee in a relaxing setting. Great lattes and chai lattes!

Follow us on Instagram @paellanpie

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff in New York

As Frank Lloyd Wright aficionados, we’re always looking for his creations along our travel routes.  On a recent trip to Pittsburgh and the Finger Lakes, we added a stop 25 minutes south of Buffalo.  Graycliff in Derby did not disappoint. 

Wright designed this summer retreat for the same family as the Martin House in Buffalo.  Situated on a large bluff overlooking Lake Erie, the “cottage” incorporates stone sourced on the property.  Previously, a stair tower connected the clifftop to the beach below.

According to our tour guide, the garden and landscape plantings are as originally designed by the architect, including a vegetable and flower garden located at the entrance of the property. The tennis court may seem like someone’s awkward addition years later.  In fact, it was requested by the family as part of the original plan.

When approaching from the front entrance, you can see through the large windows lining the structure to the lake beyond. A desire to show his interpretation of the lake water running through the house resulted in the large pool of water in the front.

The interior welcomes with a mostly open floor plan.  A large hearth separates the living area from the dining area.  Stone materials continue to have a prominent role inside.  These include several that Wright selected to showcase their encased fossils.

All of FLW’s houses display quirks.  This one includes a window that seems to be built in the chimney.

An adjoining structure was originally designed for the chauffeur but was later transformed for family members’ living quarters.

We were impressed by the work and dedication of the Graycliff Conservancy.  A labor of love preserved this masterpiece.  Sadly, a look over the fence shows what can happen without vigilance.  A similar cottage was leveled and replaced with aesthetically bland condos.

Want to know more about FLW or see more of his designs?  Look here:

 @apielage on Instagram – ongoing project to photograph all remaining FLW structures.

https://www.thoughtco.com/frank-lloyd-wright-interiors-inside-architecture-177552 – terrific article about the interior themes used by FLW

https://flwright.org/ – information about Oak Park and Chicago FLW designs, including his studio.

Asheville, Weaverville and Black Mountain (Western North Carolina)

Asheville is a city for enjoying the outdoors, Appalachian culture and eating!  Its new-age vibe melds well with its mountain past.  A Spring visit provides flowering dogwoods and vibrant green leaves along with smaller crowds than other seasons.

Asheville is home to at least 20 breweries.  (Check here for a list.)  It looks like there is always a party at the New Belgium Brewery.  Patios and greenspace for picnics provide a great place to chill.  Each day there are food trucks cooking up delectables like bao buns, kimchi or gourmet grilled cheese.  

The arts and crafts continue to thrive in Asheville.  The best place for meandering through streets of galleries is the River Arts District. Hundreds of artists are located in its collection of restored buildings along the French Broad River.

While gallery hopping, we found one of the best pizzas we’ve ever eaten at Fresh Wood Fired Pizza.  The Chevre with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red pepper, local goat cheese, mozzarella and fresh basil on a red sauce was expertly cooked in their wood fired oven.  This pizza on their colorful patio made for a delightful lunch!

The Southern Highland Folk Art Center provides traditional craftsmen a beautiful space to showcase their works.  Everything is for sale although it’s also a great place for browsing.  Handmade treasures include colorful quilts, intricate pottery and whimsical furniture.

It’s not a trip to Asheville without some outdoor adventure.  Near Black Mountain (“The Little Town That Rocks”), Catawba Falls Trail rewards with its magnificent cascading waterfalls.  The hike is fairly easy with a wide trail that usually follows alongside the water.  As this is a very popular hike, it’s important to go before 10 a.m. to avoid the crowds.  The last 100 feet are more challenging with some rock scrambling.  To see the entire cascade, the best vantage point is from large rocks in the middle of the water below the falls.

The vendor stalls at WNC Farmers Market showcase fresh produce, canned goods and local crafts.  As part of the farmer’s market, The Moose Cafe offers farm-to-table southern classics for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

On our travels, we often seek out areas designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. He envisioned The North Carolina Arboretum as part of his plan for the Biltmore Estate. While walking through, you can appreciate the insights that went into the design.  Unfortunately, we missed the unique Bonsai tree exhibit by a few weeks.  They were still inside “hibernating” for the winter.  

Read Fine Gardening’s Field Trip to the North Carolina Arboretum for specifics on what to do when visiting the gardens and hiking/biking trails.

Enjoying a beautiful sunset in a spectacular setting is always a perfect way to end a day.  Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, we savored the view from the aptly named Sunset Terrace at the Grove Park Inn.  Walking around the inn was a treat as well.  It’s large stone fireplaces and open great rooms remind you of the amazing National Park lodges of the west.

From this short visit, a few of our favorite local eats: 


Bonfire Barbeque – Recommended by an Asheville based friend.  (He tried the Ghost Pepper sauce.  We stayed with the traditional mustard sauce!)  Everything is delicious and the service incredibly hospitable.

The French Broad Chocolate Lounge – Handcrafted ice cream and cold, thick sipping chocolate made our day… but there’s also bonbons, cookies, brownies, cakes, mousse and brulee!

The Hop Ice Cream Cafe – Even on chilly nights, there can still be quite a line waiting for ice cream.  The cafe offers almost as many vegan selections as traditional ice creams.  Can’t help but love their slogan “Happiness through ice cream.”

Weaverville – (Cute small town with a walkable Main Street.) 

Well Bred Bakery – This bakery looks to have won lots of accolades.  We started our Asheville adventure here with a decadent combo – the Petite Eclair and the Lemon Poppyseed Cake.

Twisted Laurel – While there is a downtown location, the Main Street location in Weaverville provides a relaxing, lowkey ambiance. Their varied menu makes it hard to choose.  No regrets with the Greek Platter!

Black Mountain

Black Mountain Doughnut Factory – Made with all natural ingredients, these doughnuts are incredibly light.  Our favorite flavors…Smoked Maple and Orange Twist.


Things we’ve discovered that make us smarter or happier…or both!

Maybe we are interested in the Olmsted landscapes because our area in Lexington is so influenced by him.  A historical marker  gives a good synopsis:

In 1904, descendants of Henry Clay hired famed landscape architects, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and John Charles Olmsted, to design the Ashland Park neighborhood on the 600-acre estate. Constructed over a 15-year period, development was completed around 1930. The brothers designed U.S. Capitol & White House grounds, and the Chicago World’s Fair 1893.

This landscape design firm from Brookline, Mass. helped design the park system in Louisville and the grounds of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. In Lexington, they consulted on the master plan for the University of Kentucky, Ashland Park & Transylvania Park neighborhoods and Woodland Park.

Read more at Architectural Digest’s 9 Great Frederick Law Olmstead Designs That Aren’t Central Park.

The French Broad River is an ancient river (the 3rd oldest in America and 5th in the world), which winds through Asheville as it runs north to Tennessee.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rivers_by_age

Sometimes you just have to laugh….when the women’s bathroom is out of order and everyone now uses the men’s room….

The Golden Isles – Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, Brunswick, Darien

Warming spring weather provided the perfect opportunity to head south and explore the Golden Isles of Georgia.  Pink, orange and white azalea blossoms signaled the beginning of a great retreat!

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Colonial Coast Birding Trail, contains several ponds and other wetland areas to welcome migrating birds. The loud, bellowing sounds of male alligators echoed around the ponds to ensure that everyone knew that this is their territory.  Several visitors toted professional cameras and snapped photos of wood storks and other wading birds.  (Unfortunately, we missed the chance to go to the nearby Old School Diner.)

The streets of the vanished settlement in Ft. Frederica National Monument (St. Simons Island) are now grassy boulevards lined with large oaks.  Signs tell the history of the remaining building foundations.  A small part of the original fort remains near the water where it defended against invasion by the Spanish from St. Augustine.  Next to the park is Christ Church, an Episcopal church established in 1736.  You can walk through the cemetery that was blooming with azaleas when we visited.  Hopefully, the church will soon be open again for visitors to take a peek inside. 

The main commercial area of SSI can be congested.  We did easily find a public parking space close to the beach.  Watching fishermen waiting patiently for a bite on their line and walking by the lighthouse helped us to forget about the crowds.  

One of our favorite experiences on this trip was biking around Jekyll Island.  We rented two bikes from Beachside Bike Rentals ($24 for 4 hours.)  This was plenty of time for a 12 mile loop that was mostly flat and entirely on a bike path.  Most of the time, oak and pine trees separated the bike path from the road traffic.  When stopping at sights, we did not even have to lock up the bikes.  As the rental guy said, “We don’t have any problems with that here.”

At Driftwood Beach we took a short walk among bleached out, massive pieces of driftwood.  Most are entire trees.  If you like taking photographs, this beach is comparable to no other.  At one end of the beach, the entrance has a couple of ponds where you can take a quiet break and watch the birds.

The Jekyll Island Club, where the Morgans, Vanderbilts and Rockefellers gathered, still welcomes vacationers.  The bike path weaves around the club and in and out between their cottages (i.e. mansions) and gardens.  

A turtle hospital is not often on the vacation itinerary.  At the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the staff cares for turtles hit by cars or boats, attacked by other animals or suffering hypothermia.  Several “patients” come from zoos and other nature centers throughout the country.  We watched them care for two turtles and also a baby owl that had fallen out of its nest.  An amazing stop to see the efforts taken to help these animals return to their natural homes.

For a quiet picnic, St. Andrews Beach provides shaded picnic tables and a nearby beach (but not for swimming.)  This is also where you can find a trail commemorating the 1858 landing of The Wanderer, the penultimate slave ship to the United States.  

Brunswick provides the best daily shopping in the area.  Publix offers a larger selection of groceries than the other options.  A Target and Walmart are also available.  The town is laid out with a grid of public squares similar to those in Savannah although on a smaller scale.  (Read here for more info on the efforts to revitalize them.)  On Newcastle Street,  Richland Rum distills the only single estate, single barrel rum in the U.S.  It grows and harvests  its own sugarcane closeby.  After a short tour, take a few sips and decide which expression of rum you like best!  (We went for the unaged Virgen Coastal Rum to share with our patio guests.)

With a quick stop at Fort King George State Historic Park, you can see the interesting design of the oldest remaining English fort on the Georgia coast.

You can learn about rice growing, dairy production and malaria at the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation.  The opportunity to walk through paths lined with so many huge, moss-draped oaks is by itself worth the admission. Some of these trees are at least 500 years old!  This plantation story tells more of the struggles encountered by owners and slaves than many other similar sites.  

Where to stay?

The small waterfront town of Darien provides a quiet, small place to truly feel like you’re away from it all while still being a short drive to all of the Golden Isles.  We stayed at the AirBnb Fern Dock River Cottage which was one of the most relaxing rental properties we have stayed at.  Many nights, we cooked dinner on the balcony’s grill while enjoying the sunset over the river and the Altamaha Waterfowl Management Area.  A few steps behind the cottage is a dock with a hammock.  There are also fishing poles and tackle boxes for those who like to fish as well as a launching dock if you bring your own kayak.  Hosts Serena and Dwight greeted us and made sure that we had everything that we needed. Serena is an artist too!  Her artwork is displayed in the cottage.  We now have one of her dancing lady paintings in our home.  Art from travel brings joy each day! 

A Few Darien Food Notes:  

Smith & Son’s Seafood offers a small retail shop with fresh shrimp and seafood to prepare at home.  

Skipper’s Fish Camp is a local seafood favorite. The hushpuppies and coleslaw are delicious too!

Spartina Grill opened in 2020.  It has a Happy Hour each day from 4-6 and not only a large outdoor deck but also a large screened porch with heaters.  You can’t go wrong with a Shrimp PoBoy, Red Fish Tacos and excellent service.

Zio Carlo Cafe prepares  incredible hot lattes and cold Chai teas.  The homemade Pecan Biscotti is a must try!

For delicious made-on-site chocolate, caramel and toffee in coastal shapes (think turtle, seahorses and shells) stop by the Sugar Marsh Cottage.

Some of the places we visited are part of the Parks on the Air program that David enjoys.  He activates them communicating with radio operators around the world.  (It’s like a scavenger hunt for parks with awards for completing different challenges!)  Map below shows his 553 contacts from this trip.

Three Bridges Trail in Carter Caves State Park (KY)

We took advantage of 40 degrees and blue skies to hike in Carter Caves State Park.  This park is an hour northeast of Natural Bridge State Park and the Red River Gorge area.  (See our previous post about these areas here.) It shares many of the outstanding rock features of these other parks.  However, while the other parks are more well known and have more visitors, Carter Caves allowed us to have the trail almost to ourselves.

Although Mammoth Cave National Park in southern Kentucky is home to the longest cave system known in the world, Carter County has the highest concentration of caves in Kentucky.  We decided to skip the subterranean features this time and enjoy a sunny, crisp hike.  We chose the easy/moderate 3.5 mile Three Bridges Trail.  Although this trail doesn’t take you far from the center of the park, you walk through three natural bridges.  This trail also takes you to the rappelling and rock climbing area which is available by permit.  

We parked in the Welcome Center where we picked up a map.  The trailhead was across the main road and up a few stairs.  We decided to walk the loop trail counterclockwise in order to save the largest bridge for last.  Red trail markers painted on trees helped us to easily navigate and stay on the trail which was usually leaf covered.  

Kentucky’s limestone outcroppings, forests and lakes make for a pretty fabulous place to ride out a pandemic.  Happy trails!

Celebrating the New Year in Valencia, Spain

Spending the last few days of 2019 in Valencia, Spain included just the right mix of museum hopping, serious eating, coffee stops and meandering the decorated plazas and narrow streets of the Old Town. The history of Valencia is a fusion of cultures.  Founded by the Romans in 138 BC, it was invaded by German and Iranian tribes before a Muslim conquest and a later Christian Reconquest in the 13th century.

We started the explorations with some artsy fun at the Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM)  before enjoying an outdoor lunch at the nearby Convent Carmen.  This 400 year old convent, San José and Santa Teresa, is now a cultural space with films, performances and workshops.  Restaurants in its gastronomic market serve from cargo containers while patrons dine at tables throughout the large open courtyard.

To take in views of the neighborhoods, we climbed the two remaining medieval gate towers (Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart) which were part of the defensive wall around the city.  For more on the history of the gates, read this.

A stop for a cáfe con leche at Almalibre Acai House found this inspirational quote:

Move away from known places. Explore, dream, discover. Experiment like it was the first time. Your destiny is not a place, it is a way of life. –Almalibre–

As always, some of the best vacation experiences evolved from unplanned encounters.  We luckily happened upon the Corpus Museum of Valencia – The House of Rocks. The museum houses the large figures and other religious objects used in the annual Corpus Christi procession.  (See photos from this amazing event here!)

The Valencia Cathedral and its bell tower (“el miguelete”) links two of the city’s large plazas – Plaza de la Reina and Plaza del Virgen.  

From the outside, La Almoina Archaeological Museum doesn’t reveal it’s underground secrets.  Below the calm water of the outdoor fountain is an excavation of early Valencia.  You can see the two main streets from Roman times, 2nd century baths, the courtyard of the old Muslim city and various excavated artifacts.

Visiting during the holidays allowed us to partake in some of the celebrations.  As in many Spanish cities, several places displayed traditional nativity scenes.  The Spanish word for these displays is belén which literally translates to Bethlehem.  Here is one we admired in the City Hall.

The  Church of Santa Catalina provided a simpler backdrop to enjoy its nativity scene as well as other beautiful art. 

We always try to visit food markets wherever we are.  These markets give insights into the daily lives of locals and we always see interesting and different culinary delights.  The Central Market housed in a 1914 Art Nouveau building is one of the larger markets in Europe. It had its own towering nativity scene. For more on this market and others in Valencia read here.

Valencia is the birthplace of paella.  Our local friends did not hesitate to recommend the Alqueria del Pou for our long awaited paella lunch.  You could tell from the dining families and comfortably elegant decor that this is an establishment that is part of the fabric of the community.   After already indulging in paella and dessert, the waitress then gifted us a plate of traditional bizcocho (cake) with mistela, a sweet dessert liquor.

The City of Arts and Sciences  lives up to its beauty seen in photographs.  The futuristic white buildings seem perfectly suited for this city by the beach.  While here, you can explore the Museu de les Ciències or the Oceanogràfic which has Europe’s largest aquarium.  We decided on a more leisurely choice, the Hemisfèric, to watch a 3D IMAX movie about energy.

Even in December, a trip to Valencia wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the beach.  A short bus ride to Malvarrosa allowed us to breathe the Mediterranean air while taking a short, sandy stroll.

We ended the holidays ringing in the New Year with the locals.  With fireworks and music we welcomed 2020, not realizing that it was going to be one of our least favorite years ever!  In retrospect, we are grateful that we shared that night in a crowd of happy revelers.

If you want to be transported to this sunny city on the sea, follow our friends @lovevalencia for beautiful photos each day.

There is nothing like planning a trip where you can reconnect with old friends over a homemade dinner in their home.  (Marcos, Ali and Nico…seeing your smiles and hearing your laughs were the true highlights of the trip!)

Giant Trolls and Shakers

We are continuing to explore more cultural fusion in some of our favorite Kentucky places.

While walking through the knobs and meadows thirty miles south of Louisville, we’re greeted by trolls from Danish lore.  Artist Thomas Dambo from Denmark created the troll family of Mama Loumari, Little Nis and Little Elina using recycled and repurposed materials.  The three giants in Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest are part of an installation with currently more than forty trolls around the world.  (There is even a troll map to see the locations.) 

To learn more about Dambo’s project and to see photos of his other trolls, read this National Geographic article.

While hiking to find the wooden giants, we also encountered an edible garden, honey bee and bird houses, lakes and an exhibit about Kentucky women suffragists. 

About an hour and 15 minutes east from Bernheim is Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. The Shakers were 19th century America’s largest communal society.  Originating in England in 1747, the group sailed for the United States in 1774 and  established various communities such as this one, founded in 1808.  When visiting, you can feel yourself welcomed into the Shakers’ peaceful life that was based upon sustainability and simplicity.

The cool October evening included watching the full moon rise around a crackling fire pit. Chris Sullivan, one of our favorite local musicians, not only played guitar and sang but also shared his personal connection to each song. 

Our outdoor dinner could not have been more comforting…a Kentucky hot brown that was authentic with oven roasted turkey breast,  applewood bacon, slow roasted tomatoes and a smoked gouda mornay sauce yet also spiced up with the use of jalepeño bread.

We stayed in the East Family Dwelling which welcomed us with a delightfully comfortable bed, Keurig coffee and first floor living areas that we had to ourselves for relaxing and reading.

And…other fun and curious sights caught our attention.

Although there is only one active Shaker community that remains in Maine (with two elderly members), their belief in freedom from prejudice, pursuit of simplicity and pride in craftsmanship can continue to be a guide for all of us.