Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tallahassee, Florida

For our first stop on our #PCSFL2CO move to Colorado, was to Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee has been on Drew's must see list. Why Tallahassee? Instead of heading to Atlanta, we decided to detour and go to Tallahassee for a couple reasons.

1.) No one wants to deal with Atlanta's traffic. (That should be reason enough) 
2.) My brother lives in Tallahassee--free place to stay. 

Drew is in his final semester at FSU and he has yet to step foot on the campus. It's a beautiful campus with lots of History. To us it just made more sense to go to Tallahassee. It didn't disappoint. In college I spent a lot of time in Tallahassee, so it wasn't new to me. Drew was so excited!

Our first stop of the day was to the Prescott Fountain--unfortunately the fountain wasn't on while we were there, but it was still a perfect photo opportunity. Drew and I joked about how we should have gotten him a cap and gown and taken his graduation photos while we were there, since he's FINALLY graduating in December! I guess we'll just have to plan another trip there.

We explored the campus for the afternoon and hit up every single bookstore. Luckily we were there a week before the college kids moved in, so we didn't have to fight with the other students. Unfortunately, Doak Campbell Stadium was under construction. :( We still got some great photos outside.

Drew ended up going a little crazy at the bookstore, with all the FSU merchandise but I figured since he wasn't on the campus, everything he would've spent over the years, he just spent in a day.
But our pit stop in Tallahassee was exactly what we needed!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Best of Venice

Venice is a popular and wonderful tourist destination in the world. Plenty of travel enthusiasts visit Venice every year. I have to admit, when we visited I left disappointed. Maybe we visited at on off time? Then again, we went for the opening weekend of Carnival! Maybe we just had a bad experience.  Looking back, I enjoyed Venice, not just for it's natural beauty. But also for the history that surrounds the city.

Here are my top reasons to visit Venice:

+ The canals

They are everywhere. It makes for the perfect photo op. You cannot go to Venice without running into a canal. Especially since it's the only way besides walking to get around the city.

+ Architecture

In Venice there are about 15,000 buildings, among them 900 palaces and 105 churches. They are all built upon millions of tree-trunks (10 - 30 feet long), which are driven through the soft material into the solid ground of the lagoon. These buildings spread over more than 120 islands. Some 400 bridges span the 177 canals that separate these islands.

+ Gondola Rides

Now this is a hit or miss. Some people love to bargain, others don't. To find a good deal you have to bargain with the drivers.  If you're willing to pay 80-100 euros to take a 30-45 min gondola ride around the city (if you're in Veince, just do it!) Gondola rides can be romantic, or scary depending on who you're with. Your guide will sing songs, point out important places and you get to sit back and relax. We chose to take a 45 minute Gondola Ride and paid 80 EUR. Our Gondoleer sang some romantic Italian songs and pointed out famous buildings. We saw all the best sights, and had a great time. Would we do it again? No. But it is something that is worth doing at least once.

+ A Sinking City

Venice is a very fragile city. Studies have showed the city of Venice is subsiding on average about 1 to 2 mm a year. Don't forget that the sea level is rising. While a hundred years ago there were about 400 incidents of "acqua alta" or flooding. Now days, the right mix of tides and winds drives the canals up into homes and shops in the lowers parts of the city. Back in the 1990s, there were ~2,400 incidents! You better hurry up and visit the city while it’s still above sea level!

+ Carnival

Love the Venetian lifestyle? In February for 2 weeks, Carnival takes place in Venice. Costume balls, parades, ceremonies, masquerades and festivities can be found in the city during this time. Tourists love to visit Venice during this time so that they can participate in the carnival and enjoy the Venetian culture. For us, we were expecting Carnival to be more like you would find in Montreal or some Latin American countries. You know... a big party! Haha. Unfortunately, Italian Carnival is not the "big-party-in-the-streets" of other Carnival's.

+ St. Mark's Square / Play with Pigeon (Or don't)

Pigeon's are basically the birds of Venice. You cannot walk two steps without running into a pidgeon. There are even photographers willing to take your pictures with pidgeon's on you or eating out of your hand, and print them out (for a fee) and people ask to take pictures with the birds. Me? I'm a sane person and know that pigeons are disease ridden birds. DO NOT TOUCH THEM. Haha.

Venice is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world for its celebrated art and architecture. The city has an average of 50,000 tourists a day and in 2006, it was the world's 28th most internationally visited city, with 2.927 million international arrivals that year. It is regarded as one of the world's most beautiful cities. If you ever get the chance, visit Venice.

Did I miss your favorite part of Venice? Let me know!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson, AZ

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but my wonderful husband Drew was thoughtful enough to guest post again! This time he talks about another state park he explored while in Arizona.

Kartchner Caverns is a state park in Southern Arizona, United States, featuring a cave with 2.4 miles (3.9 km) of passages. The park is located 9 miles (14 km) south of the town of Benson and west of the north-flowing San Pedro River on the east flank of the Whetstone Mountains.
Long hidden from view, the caverns were discovered in 1974 by local cavers, assisted by a state biologist who helped in its preservation. The cavers found a narrow crack in the bottom of a sinkhole, and followed the source of warm, moist air toward what ended up being more than 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of pristine cave passages.

Hoping to protect the cave from vandalism, they kept the location a secret for fourteen years, deciding that the best way to preserve the cavern — which was near a freeway — was to develop it as a tour cave. After gaining the cooperation of the Kartchner family and working with them for ten years, together they decided that the best way to achieve the goal of protection through development as a tour cave was to approach Arizona State Parks. In 1985, The Nature Conservancy acquired an option to purchase the land. The discovery of the cave was finally made public in 1988 when the landowners sold the area to the state for development as a park and show cavern. Prior to its grand opening in 1999, the state spent $28 million on a high-tech system of air-lock doors, misting machines and other equipment designed to preserve the cave. Careful and technical cave state park development and maintenance are designed to preserve the natural cave system.

The caverns are carved out of limestone and filled with spectacular speleothems which have been growing for 50,000 years or longer, and are still growing. The two major features of the caverns currently available to the public are the Throne Room and the Big Room. The Throne Room contains one of the world's longest (21 ft 2 in (6.45 m)) soda straw stalactites and a 58-foot (18 m) high column called Kubla Khan, after the poem. The Big Room contains the world's most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk; it is closed during the summer for several months (April 15 to October 15) each year because it is a nursery roost for cave bats
Other features publicly accessible within the caverns include Mud Flats, Rotunda Room, Strawberry Room, and Cul-de-sac Passage. Approximately 60% of the cave system is not regularly explored.

The cave is very cool! It is advertised as being rated the most impressive cave in the United States. They are HUGE and a very impressive sight, and the State Park has added nice pathways to it is very easy to walk on, there are no stairs (that I can remember), and there is decent lighting.
I heard about Kartchner Caverns from a friend who is originally from the Tucson area. She says that Kartchner Caverns is her favorite sight to see in Arizona. I can easy see why she says so. As soon as you walk in, you are in awe. You can see the original footprints in the deep mud at the bottom of the cave where the cavers who discovered the cave first entered.
The tour takes you from room to room showing the development of the cave and the guide gives you interesting facts and points out different highlights of the cave. One very cool thing about this cave is the “cave bacon”. Cave bacon is a rock formation officially known as layered flowerstone. The effect is created by the deposition of water-borne minerals traveling over and over on the same route. I have been to a few caves, and this was the first time I saw cave bacon. It really does look like bacon! Haha

The highlight of the tour is most definitely the “Throne Room”. In fact, the tour ends with a light show where various spotlights highlight the main attractions of Throne Room. The main attraction of the Throne Room is the Kubla Khan, and it is actually much, MUCH larger than it looks! It’s actually over 50 feet tall! It’s actually very cool.
Fun fact: the cavers who discovered the cave named almost all of the different sights within the cave.

The cave cannot be explored on your own. The only way to experience the cave is to purchase a ticket for the guided tour. Unfortunately, this option has a couple down sides; 1) tickets as $22.50 for adults, and 2) the tickets sell out quick! My friend told me it is best to get there first thing in the morning, because most of the time, tickets for all the tours sell out by 10:00 am.
If you arrive early and have to wait a few hours for a tour, don’t worry. There is more to do in the Park. There is a museum in the Visitor Center. The park also includes hiking trails above the caverns for public use. The longest trail, the Guindani Trail, is 4.2 miles, while the shorter trail, the Foothills Loop Trail, measures 2.5 miles. Be aware that there is a $2.50 per vehicle fee to enter the park.

Hours: Monday – Sunday 8:00am – 5:00pm
Address: 2980 AZ-90, Benson, AZ 85602