Nairobi – Sights Beyond the City (2014)

I have found one of the best ways to explore a new place is to visit when you have someone living there. In 2014, Mark and I had an in- law living in China when we visited Shanghai. Later that year, I would do the same when I visited Nairobi, Kenya and stayed with my sister who lived there at the time. That November, while visiting family in Cameroon, I traveled from Douala to Nairobi for a short 4day visit with my sister. It was a direct flight and 4hours later, I landed at the Jomo Kenyatta airport where I processed through health clearance for Hepatitis A/Yellow fever and was issued a single-entry visa. It was so lovely getting to visit with my sister, and she had a few days and a fully booked calendar to include much tourist activity. There are so many positive things I could highlight about my trip and many memorable moments we shared but I will highlight three attractions in this blog post. Crescent Island Game Sanctuary This wildlife reserve is located on Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. It is home to a variety of birds, hippos, zebras, giraffes, impalas, and wildebeest. To access this walking safari, one must cross the lake by boat. The sanctuary is about 10km from the town of Naivasha and a 2hour drive from Nairobi. The drive was quite scenic with a stop in route at the beautiful lookout point of Mount Longonot. Once we arrived Crescent Island and paid fees for entry and boat ride, we had a guided walking safari of several wildlife present. This safari allowed us to get a close as possible to the animals and birds. There was a covered patio and one could take a break and have some refreshments after the walking tour. Crescent Island is famous for being the filming location for “Out of Africa” and the sequel to “Tomb Raider”. Check out the pics below. Mount LongonotViews of Lake NaivashaSanctuary And yes, we found the jawbone and…

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High bluffs and scenic views! Torreya State Park~

Four months after the 2020 pandemic “shut down”, we visited Torreya State Park. Located about 65miles from home, this park is accessible off Interstate-10 and FL state route 12, both of which we had driven multiple weekends on our way to track meets and tennis tournaments mostly in Tallahassee. I had been told the park had trails of varying difficulty and high bluffs for scenic views of the Apalachicola River. With no tennis tournaments or track meets happening due to the “lock down”, one Saturday morning, we decided to go for hike at Torreya state park with our family friends, the Dunlaps. Park entranceBesties ready to goHiking crew of 14! Torreya state park is approximately 13,700 acres big located north of S.R. 12 overlooking the Apalachicola River, 13 miles north of Bristol in Northwest Florida. The park is named after an extremely rare species of the Torreya tree which grows only on the bluffs over the Apalachicola river. The park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1930s. It is a National natural landmark and historic site with the Gregory House which was built in 1849 overlooking the river. During the period of the Civil War about 200 Confederate soldiers called these high bluffs home for about two years. At the time of our visit, the Gregory House was closed but as of May 6, 2021, it is open to daily tours at 10am on weekdays and 10am and 2pm on weekends and state holidays. It is limited to 8 persons at a time and physical distancing is required between households. For more about the historical significance of the Gregory House click here. The Gregory House The park is open from 8am to sunset and the entrance fee is $3 per vehicle. It is very popular for camping, kayaking, birdwatching, and picnicking. There are campgrounds for tents and RVs but also yurt camping and cabins are available on site. After hurricane Michael, the landscape of the park has changed. There are fallen tree trunks and felled wood along the…

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BEYOND AFRICA – MEXICO TWO WAYS. THE FOLK ART AND MYTHIC ON LAND….. Part 1!

RE-POST from January 2021............It is another Google photos moment when you get those pics from this time of the year so many years ago. And so it was two days ago when I received collages of our whereabouts in January 2015. It was this weekend 6years ago, we made our first trip to Mexico. I found some interesting research on the African diaspora in Mexico which suggested there was a small number of the population identify themselves as part of the African diaspora mostly in Veracruz, Costa Chica Guerrero, Costa Chica Oaxaca and some smaller cities in northern Mexico. There are varying accounts as to the most likely ways the diaspora migrated to the area with some accounts involving the relocation of blacks from North America and other Central American countries. In any case, we had decided toward the end of 2014, we were ready for some rest and recreation and once we came across a great deal on tickets and accommodations, we were going to Mexico! It was the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in 2015 that we visited the Hacienda Tres Rios Resort on the Maya Riviera on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. All packed and ready the night before, we left town the following day after work with our oldest two children and a third "bun in the oven". This was a 3 day, 4-night vacation. Our itinerary had us laying over in Mexico City from Atlanta and then onward to Cancun. Navigating the airport in Mexico City on a layover felt like following directions on a busy street in New York City before the pandemic. It was clearly one of the most populous cities in the world. Yet another short flight and we were in Cancun that evening and with prearranged transportation we arrived safely at the resort in approximately a 30 minutes. Late that evening at the resort, we checked into our suite and retired for the night. The next morning, we were up early to explore the grounds. The Hacienda Tres Rios has guided…

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Of Gold, Bravery and Nobility ~ Discovering Puerto Rico

Most of us who live in the coastal United States are familiar with the planning and preparation involved during hurricane season every year. More than 41% of all hurricanes which make landfall in the Unites States are in the state of Florida. Florida is so prone to hurricanes such that it gets twice as many hurricanes than the next hurricane prone state which is Texas. By sheer numbers, most of us who live in the sunshine state will at some point experience the impact and consequences of a devastating hurricane as we did in the Florida Panhandle on October 10, 2018 with Hurricane Michael and those living on the island of Puerto Rico a year earlier with Hurricane Maria. Florida panhandle post hurricane MichaelPuerto Rico post hurricane Maria  Six weeks after the hurricane hit Panama City, still in shock from the extent of the devastation around us, we traveled to Puerto Rico for some well needed R & R. We would travel from Panama City, Florida to meet with some family friends, the Jimenez family, who also live in Panama City and were vacationing the same week as we were in Puerto Rico. I was curious to see how much recovery had taken place on the island which experienced a similar event as we did on the Gulf Coast of Florida only 13 months earlier. In addition, I was interested in visiting this island whose name and history conveyed its richness centuries ago when discovered by the Spanish settlers who sought after its gold or in bravery and nobility as demonstrated by its original Taino settlers from which the word “Boriqua” used to describe a person native to Puerto Rico is derived. We took a direct flight to the island from Orlando and our friends were ready to pick us up at the baggage claim section at the airport.  Once we picked up our luggage and cleared customs, we drove west from the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport to the Santurce neighborhood where we were immediately immersed in the artistic…

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The Tamarind: A tree well-traveled

When the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind - African proverb Having spent most of my childhood in Africa and acquired a fair knowledge of African cuisine and culture, I was blown away by what I did not know about the most widely distributed fruit tree of the tropics, the tamarind tree. Indigenous to tropical Africa, Tamarindus indica, has been cultivated for centuries on the Indian subcontinent and is often reported to have originated there. From India, it spread to Persia and Arabia where it is referred to as the “tamar hindi” (Indian date) and it derived its specific name “indica” which further lends to the illusion of Indian origin. It is now understood to be native to Africa and grows wild in sub-Saharan African countries such as Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Malawi. India remains the largest producer of tamarind in the world at present time. The Tamarind - Fruit within shell (Photo credit: Taste of Home) The tamarind fruit hanging from tree (Photo credit: souschef.co.uk) The tamarind has a vast array of uses world over from cooking, baking, juices and drinks, with cultural and spiritual rituals, and beliefs surrounding this peculiar tree, fruit and seed. With a sweet and sour or tangy taste, I learned it is a key ingredient in Worchestershire sauce! I must confess I do not remember seeing a tamarind tree or its fruit used for any of these purposes in Cameroon, but given my Caribbean roots, my curiosity was peaked when I learned the tamarind drink is popular in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. Even though I remember drinking a locally made tamarind drink while in Senegal, I had never seen it made or knew what ingredients were used in making this drink. The tamarind is called "daahar" in wolof, the most commonly spoken language in Senegal, and it has been suggested this word is associated with the origin of the name of Senegal's capital city, Dakar. This tree has long been naturalized in…

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A walk in Conservation Park

This year, spring break was anything but ordinary. Without any concrete travel plans, we defaulted to a "staycation" where we visited different sites and establishments in our hometown. With Panama City Beach being a top beach destination, we have always found a lot of options to recreate and entertain closer to home. I was therefore not surprised to find TripAdvisor named Panama City Beach as the No.2 “Emerging Destination” in the world as its Travelers Choice 2021 Best of the Best Awards. Naturally, most tourists come for the emerald-green water on the sugar white sand beaches but not to be forgotten are nearby state parks which provide a wonderful break for an early or late afternoon walk or bike ride away from the crowds. One of my favorite of these is the Panama City Beach Conservation Park. This park is perfect for cyclists, nature lovers, bird watchers and trail seekers with over 24miles of trails on 2900acres. With 12 different trails as short as 0.6miles and as long as 11miles, it provides a family friendly option to accommodate physical activity for all ages including furry family members 😊. Located off Panama City Beach Parkway also known as Back Beach Road, is easily accessible to tourists and locals. There is no entrance fee at the park and there is ample parking on arrival at the visitor’s center. The visitors center is located at the southeast corner of the park and has public restroom facilities, garbage disposal and drinking water station. It does not have attendants, but the park rangers and staff are available and often seen maintaining the grounds. There are maps available at drop boxes and a larger map on the wall with pictures which tell the history of the park. Conservation Park was established by the city of Panama City Beach in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Made up of mostly pine tree and cypress domes, it was founded with the dual purpose of protecting and balancing the natural resources while providing outdoor recreational opportunities. In…

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Soulful Senegal

(This blog post is updated and revised to include Covid-19 specifics) It is another rainy evening in Florida as I start writing this blog post. I had always wanted to visit Dakar. I had a few Senegalese friends and was always intrigued by the new reporters who got assigned to cover West African news and would often report from a location in Dakar. Growing up we talked about getting our hair braided "Senegalese style" which often indicated a microbraids or micro twists at the time. My initial impressions of Senegal were later reinforced by my husband who had visited a few times before. I looked forward to this trip and meeting his Senegalese friend of whom he often spoke. They met one summer in Paris during a semester studying abroad and had remained great friends for over 25 years now. In the fall of 2019 we were fortunate to have mom stay with the kids while I seized the opportunity to visit and experience Dakar for the first time. We arrived in the afternoon on a direct flight from JFK, New York. We typically try to stay at a locally owned hotel when we travel and because it was just the two of us, we chose a modest option located downtown, Le Ndiambour hotel et residence. It attracts all kinds of visitors as it has standard rooms and suites with kitchenette options, conference rooms, full-service restaurant with an amazing breakfast buffet (pre-pandemic), a rooftop gym and swimming pool. It can accommodate short or long term stay with standard wi-fi accessibility and friendly, helpful staff. It is located 2blocks from the corniche heading west and is within walking distance to several restaurants, coffee shops, and open markets.  When traveling with children, the resort Terrou Bi would be my choice for a relaxing and fun stay. Located along the corniche on Boulevard Martin Luther King in the Fann Hock neighborhood, it is conveniently located on a private beach and has more amenities than one could wish for.  It has rooms with seaside…

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Travel Through Sound: A fresh “tune in” to not so fresh technology.

In a world of sound bites where every media outlet is vying for just “15minutes” of your time on a YouTube video, and after a year of zoom calls, podcasts, virtual conferences, meetings, and presentations, I was far from enthusiastic when a friend shared with me a link to check out. He is not one to share everything he comes across and so it was not hard to check out this technology which, has been available for the last 5years, was completely new to me called Radio Garden. I clicked on the link and instantly I was looking at a world globe and listening to “Sunday Best” by artist, Surfaces but my cursor was over Leicester, UK. Out of curiosity I headed straight to where I supposed was Cameroon, Central Africa. The circle hovered over a green dot which turned yellow and on the left side bar a list of radio stations popped up. I was listening to Bikutsi on “Balla Radio” in Yaounde, Cameroon. I noted there was a short list of nearby radio stations and another list of popular radio stations in Cameroon. After a mini dance party with the kids, we travelled to Kalaburagi, India and listened to “Retro, Bollywood” radio station. From India to Columbia, Alaska to Australia, the tunes continued. Every now and again we stumbled on a local news station, commercial or talk show which gives the listener an arguably more authentic experience than one would experience as a tourist to one of these locations. All this got me wondering how this technology came about. Radio Garden was born of the idea that one’s access to local radio stations should not be limited by their geographic location. It is a product of a digital research project between 2013-2016 by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Transnational Radio Knowledge Platform and five other European universities. The service is internet dependent and the site interface is a 3D globe with the user navigating through geolocation around the globe. Tuning in to a local radio…

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Step into Ancient History – Four Days in Egypt (2016)

Family vacations without kids anyone? When Mark and I first got married we took a couple of vacations together. However, the more kids we have, the less “couple's” vacations we take. Wonder why? Lol! The main reason has been that we have always thought it more enriching to travel together with the children, sharing experiences, bonding, and making memories. However, whenever we were ready to travel without the kids, we have been fortunate to have a grandparent or aunt or another family member happy to babysit in our absence. Thank God for them! As our family has grown, there have been more times when we have had both grandparents or more than one adult with nanny available to cover all our bases and attend to the needs of each child accordingly. Family has always been a blessing to us in many ways. It was no different when we decided to squeeze in a last minute trip to Egypt. Mark was scheduled to travel to West Africa for work that December, and I was 6 months pregnant with our 4th child. The children were soon to be out of school for the holidays when I called an aunt to help watch the kids and we stole away for a 4day break that December. Ready to go! Mark was no stranger to Cairo. He had lived there a couple years while his parents worked with the foreign service. He graduated from The American International School in Egypt where he spent most afternoons playing basketball after school. Over the years, he had shared with me stories around beautiful memories of scuba diving in the Red Sea and the infamous excursion he took with his father hiking up Mount Sinai. At the time of this trip, his mom was back in Egypt on assignment and his brother would also be visiting for the holidays. Without ever visiting Egypt my impressions of this North African country was limited. I could only imagine a place I had read of and learned about in school. We got…

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BEYOND AFRICA – MEXICO TWO WAYS. THE FOLK ART AND MYTHIC ON LAND….. AND SEA! PART II

Mexico…..My last post on Mexico recounted our first trip to Mexico, the Maya Riviera to be precise. Our second time to Mexico would be in the company of our great friends, the Dunlaps, who were a cruising party of 8. We had four children at the time and with our party of six, this was going to be our first cruise as a family. Mark and I had gone on river cruises within cities such as River Vltava (Prague 2017) and I have cruised the Rhine River twice (2017 Dusseldorf, 2002 Cologne) but never had we cruised internationally. We booked our cruise with the help of our most knowledgeable cruising friend and travel agent, Misty. Our cruise ship left from New Orleans which was an easy five-hour drive from home and in five days, we would have two stops: Cozumel and Yucatan (Progresso). "All aboard!" Balcony viewWe ready Misty recommended adjoining suites with a balcony view, a recommendation I was grateful for our entire trip.  Our youngest were 2 and 4 years old and so having two fun days “at sea” gave us a chance to rest and enjoy the amenities aboard without any planned excursions. Having a history of motion sickness, I was certain to pack my scopolamine patches. However, I soon learned I did not need to use these as I had no symptoms while aboard the ship. Our suites were located on the second to the top deck at the front of the ship. The ship was large enough that I hardly felt any movement while at sea except for one night heading back to the Gulf Coast we experienced some turbulent waters. Time well spent together The amenities on the ship were adequate with one of the highlights being the kids club where they spent a couple hours a day with their friends (the Dunlap kids) in supervised play, art and crafts. We also participated in a couple of “Mommy and Me” activities. Having the kids club afforded Mark and I some time together during which…

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