Fort Mose Historic State Park ~ St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine is well known for being the oldest city in the U.S and a popular field trip destination for all 4th graders in the state of Florida. Most defined by its Spanish architecture tourist to St. Augustine often spend time visiting landmarks such as Castillo de Marcos, the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth, its distillery, and may I mention St. Augustine's ghost tours, but less is known about Fort Mose Historic State Park, the first legally sanctioned free African American settlement in the U.S. The history of this site dates back to 1688 when Negro slaves from the English colonies in the Carolina found refuge in the Spanish St. Augustine close to the site of a Spanish mission for the "Indians" (Native Americans) left homeless after Queen Anne's war. In 1693, Spain's King Charles II proclaimed that any English slave who reached Spanish Florida would be granted freedom upon conversion to Catholicism. Originally named Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, on March 15, 1738, Governor Manuel de Montiano freed over 100 slaves in the name of the Spanish king in this religious sanctuary. It has been noted by several to be the precursor site to the National Underground Railroad Network for these slaves who would cultivate the land and learn Catholicism. For their security and protection a moated earthwork of a community was erected as a defense outpost two miles north of St. Augustine called Fort Mose. FORT MOSE I ~ A multicultural community, the inhabitants of Fort Mose were originally from West and Central Africa as well as some Native Americans. In 1759, militiamen at Fort Mose self identified as belonging to four distinct African ethnic groups: the Mandinga, Carabali*,Congo and Mina groups. Perhaps the most popular resident of Fort Mose, Francisco Menendez was a literate Mandinga who fought in the Yamasee War of 1715-16 against the English of the Carolina/Georgia. Another survivor of that war and resident of Fort Mose was Francisco Garzia…

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A Day in Savannah, Georgia – Visiting Telfair Museums and much more…

Savannah, the first city in Georgia has a recorded history which dates back to 1733. It had been 20years since I last visited this coastal city and last month we had the opportunity to visit Savannah for a junior USTA tennis tournament on a 3 day weekend. Savannah has such a charm and historic vibe as evidenced from the old oak and magnolia trees to the Spanish moss. Visitors come to check out this scene unique for its architecture, the parks and squares not to mention the southern cuisine. With only a few hours in a day and several children of varying ages we chose to visit Forsyth park and the Telfair museums in between tennis matches played at the Savannah Yacht club. Forsyth Park Named after the 33rd governor of Georgia, John Forsyth, this 30acre park has something for for every age and interest. We were fortunate to visit on a Saturday morning when it hosts several vendors and artists during its farmers' market hours. Food vendors from meats, to coffees and artists from painters to violinists gave a park a more than lively atmosphere as we walked through. The center of attraction for us was the water fountain not to far from the playgrounds. On first glance, this water fountain looks like one you would see in a European promenade but the striking difference was the water was green. After a lot of scientific guesses involving algae and bacteria we learned the simple reason was every year in celebration of St. Patrick's day the water is dyed green! There is a restaurant on park property, Collins Quarter at Forsyth, which is very popular with indoor and outdoor seating available. It is located in the same building where there are public restrooms. Recreation is the name of the game with basketball courts, wide open fields where one can play football, practice yoga or have a picnic spread. The girls immediately took to the tennis courts which did not require any reservations but limited use to an hour in the…

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Limbe, Cameroon – A stroll along the coast!

In writing this post I feel this post is incomplete. After 13 years, we revisited the coastal city of Limbe in Cameroon and a day trip did not do it justice. With the ongoing COVID pandemic, travel is not what it used to be and with Cameroon hosting the African Cup of Nations in a few days from our visit, there was much preparation with road construction between Douala and Limbe. Between the road detours and increased traffic after the Christmas holidays, a day trip was not enough time to revisit all those places Mark and I had enjoyed so many years ago. After hiring a driver and vehicle, we loaded up the van with all the kids and left Douala on a 90minute drive for an afternoon in Limbe visiting the beach and family. The drive was visually stunning particularly for the children as we drove past rubber plantations, palm nut farms, with the rolling hills in the shadow of Mount Cameroon and views of the coastline on the other side of the road. It was a great opportunity to talk about the processes involved in rubber and palm oil manufacturing. We went through Limbe town to the closest beach, down beach. Down beach is most popular for the outdoor restaurants where fresh fish is grilled along the shores accompanied by roasted plantains. We stopped here for a quick look around before meeting family for lunch at Hot Spot Restaurant which is located in the Limbe Botanical Gardens. This two minute mini vlog from our you tube channel brings these scenes to life. https://youtu.be/WIlITCKY3uc Day Trip To Limbe! LIMBE BOTANICAL GARDEN This botanical garden is home to a variety of plants and beautiful flowers. It is designed more like a park one can walk through. 13years ago Mark and I stayed at a lodge on the property which has since expanded to include a swimming pool and restaurant. We did choose to dine at Hot Spot where we would have a clear view of the Atlantic coast while we…

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Top Five Things to do with Kids in Nairobi
The Giraffe Center - Nairobi National Park

Top Five Things to do with Kids in Nairobi

Between January and June of 2021, Kenya recorded 49,000 tourists from the United States. Nairobi is a city well known for its National Parks, bustling way of life and developing infrastructure. For families traveling with young children, there are a lot of options for entertainment and learning. After our recent trip to Kenya's capital city we have a list of top 5 activities we recommend for children ages 5 and up. #1. The Giraffe Center Located 40minutes from the city center, the Giraffe Center (African Fund For Endangered Wildlife) is without a doubt a fun visit for children. Established 41years ago, the center focuses on protection of the endangered Rothschild giraffe subspecies, conservation of youth education programs and partnering with other organizations toward the conservation of flora and fauna in Kenya and East Africa. The center is currently under construction in phases but remains open to the public for a reasonable fee. The giraffes can be seeing strolling about freely about the park and occasionally stopping by the fence to be fed while they slobber all over their visitors. Right next to the giraffe center is the popular Giraffe Manor where guests who stay overnight can have breakfast on their balcony with giraffes walking up to the balcony to get fed - truly a sight to watch. There is a gift shop on site and educational building which can be toured for more information on the endangered species. Estimated timeframe to visit is 45minutes-1hour so get ready to get slobbered! #2. Nairobi National Museum In the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city is this well kept secret. The Nairobi National Museum could easily be three separate museums. You can do a self guided tour or have a tour guide with you. There are several sections within the museum. The first section we walked through was dedicated to Kenyan cultures and traditions. There is a section of natural history with taxidermy native to the country. The next exhibit gave an extensive history lesson on the history of currency…

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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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STOWING AWAY THE NON-TRAVEL COVID-19 BLUES

Travel gives us something to look forward to. The anticipation of going to a new place and learning new things is often elating. Travel permits a break from routines, hectic work schedules allowing for well needed rest and relaxation. Through travel we connect with others for business or pleasure. Our increased activity levels during travel can help lift our mood. Achieving goals like climbing a mountain at high altitude or scuba diving can give you a sense of purpose. The lack of all these can cause the blues or bring about wound-up anxiety and depression. This is yet another way the COVID-19 pandemic can trigger a sense of helplessness and the feeling of being trapped in the mundane. However, there are ways we can forge through the moodiness and stay afloat until the option to travel is safer and more feasible. Make home feel like a new destination. Take the time not spent travelling to re-organize, declutter, or redesign your home. Use favorite pieces from travel destinations to decorate and remind you of the trip you made. Making a collage or framing a piece of unfinished art you bought at a local market may not only bring back fond memories but also give a sense of accomplishment. Make it a family event with input from the kids how they may like to re-organize or decorate perhaps their rooms or play areas. Bi-Neh's Art Collage #1 (2020) 2. Explore as much as you can virtually. Instead of another family movie night, cast onto your screen a virtual tour of a world class museum, art gallery, or zoo. A short list of virtual tours of zoos and aquariums can be found here. We have visited the National Smithsonian Zoo several times and the Georgia Aquarium brings back nice memories. The British Museum, has a museum of the world tour which is interactive, and you can discover the ancient Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies.3D tours of Egyptian pyramids can be found here. Our favorite virtual tour is the National Museum of Natural History.…

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closer to home: Amicalola falls state park

Dawsonville, Georgia Sometimes you need to get out and take a hike. This has been truer since the dawn of the pandemic when physical distancing is advised and travel is restricted. This was the sentiment when the kids are out of school for the holidays and staying indoors all day every day is not recommended. Even though it is winter and there may be colder and rainy days in the Southern USA, there could not have been a better day during the holidays to take a hike in the North Georgia mountains, the day after Christmas, Boxing day. We drove up with the kids to Dahlonega, Georgia for a four-day break. On the days leading up to our trip, our five-year-old son kept praying for snow, asking “Mama, will there be snow in the mountains?”, “I hope we get snow for Christmas.”.  Living in Florida, the kids do not have memories of snowy winters unless we travel north which we have done a few times. Baby's first snow/Making "snowsicles "! It was Christmas eve when the first flurries graced the outdoor deck in the backyard of the VRBO cottage we rented for the break. The kids excitedly ran out to feel the flurries which were more like big wet dewdrops which melted on contact with their warm hands and faces. However, come Christmas morning, those dewdrops had consolidated into about a half inch of snow. Just enough snow to see the edges of the dark brown fallen leaves of the poplar trees on the ground peeking through, just enough to dust the pavements and some parts of the street with frost and cold enough to turn icy. It was Christmas morning when we stepped outside and took those “white Christmas” photos for the day got warmer and most of the snow melted with the afternoon sun. The next day, we were not returning gifts as is suggested by “Boxing day”, we were heading out for a hike at the nearest state park, a 20minute drive from our Dahlonega cottage. We…

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Air travel & covid-19 testing

Aerial view: Istanbul August 2017 It is a new year and after 2020 most of us would like to have flipped the switch to a new reality in 2021, but the covid-19 pandemic rages on. Even though the vaccine is being rolled out and distributed rapidly in many states and countries, the RT-PCR COVID-19 test is still required by airlines for international travel. It is also required for some domestic travel depending on the state you are traveling from and that which you will be flying to. It is certain the COVID-19 test will play a role in international travel at least until the desired results from a vaccine are realized. With that in mind, here is the information you need to incorporate COVID-19 testing into your family travel plans.  Several states and countries mandate quarantine and/or documented proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival. Some international airports such as JFK in New York have requirements for all traveling passengers to complete a health screening form before exiting the airport. State and local travel requirements vary and to see a detailed requirement on your desired location, the CDC has a link where travelers can find complete guidelines for every city and state before they travel. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-planner/index.html When traveling through airports, there will be long enough lines at airport check in counters, security checkpoints, and boarding gates. All passengers are required to wear masks aboard flights, and with recommendations for washing hands or using sanitizers, staying six feet apart when boarding a well-ventilated airplane, the last avoidable risk of transmission of the covid-19 virus is in sharing the space aboard the plane for the duration of your flight. For the protection of all passengers, pilots and crew members, most airlines have required COVID-19 testing on international flights where the flight times and supposed exposures are longer than most. Lastly, it is agreed by most health organizations that accurate, reliable and rapid testing eliminates the need for quarantine of COVID-19 negative travelers upon arrival. There are different types of COVID-19 tests:…

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TRAVEL Poll

Travel Destination 2021 The beginning of the year is always a great time to plan travel. Its a great time to budget and explore destination options. It is always fun to get the kids input and initial impressions because it gives us an opportunity to do some research. Traveling can sometimes confirm those impressions or we find out quite differently. Kids Travel Map 2021 - Colored = "Visited with Mom and Dad"; Circled or underlined = "Mom and Dad have been here and we want to go with them next time". The kid’s are reviewing the travel map for 2021. Their bucket list is long and ever-growing 😊. Help us plan our next trip by taking the poll. Click on the poll block above to edit it directly in this post. Add a question, and multiple answers and even change the styling of the block using the sidebar controls. Add new poll blocks by searching for "poll" or type "/poll" in a new block.

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Coming home – douala 2020

Aerial View Douala (Bonapriso) "Bonne anne! Bonne anne! Happy new year!" We were awakened on the flight from Casablanca to Douala to these phrases ringing through the plane. Festive passengers toasting champagne flutes and wine glasses aboard our flight cheering and ringing in a new year, 2020. Air hostesses skirted up and down the aisle at steady pace making sure the rousing travelers aboard this Royal Air Maroc flight were satisfied with the refreshments being served. Our four kids who had never seen such merry making on an airplane before were turning their heads trying to understand the shouts and laughter that carried through the air vessel. The older girls kept asking “What did he say?” “Mama, what’s going on?” as most conversations and interactions were conducted in French, the language communicated in by most in Cameroon. Soon enough the pilot announced over the intercom, “We would like to wish all passengers a happy and prosperous new year in 2020. We should be landing in Douala in approximately 90 minutes.” Our previous trip to Cameroon was in 2016 and so this homecoming was well overdue. Mark and I have both made numerous trips to Cameroon; both of our fathers were born and raised in Bamenda which is where most of our families used to live. It had been four years since we visited Bamenda and the conflict and political turmoil has rendered the area less safe. Because of the insecurity and various other reasons, several relatives of ours now live in nearby cities such as Yaounde and Douala. This visit would be less than a weeklong, it would take a lot of planning to get family together from different towns and cities, but this was Cameroon where most will candidly say in a tongue and cheek fashion “almost everything is negotiable”.     We landed in Douala International Airport and after the routine checkpoints with immigration and health screening (yellow fever card check point), we picked up our luggage and headed out to our meet our ride. The Douala airport is…

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Laying Over in casablanca

Duty Free Shop at Hassan V Mohammed Airport, Casablanca Most travelers will experience, every now and again, stumbling into unintended travel planning and end up exploring a destination unexpectedly. This was the case with our travel to Casablanca in January 2020. We were searching for flights to Cameroon for a long-awaited visit to grand and great grand parents with the entire family when we found rather affordable tickets from Washington, D.C. to Douala via Casablanca. Thinking such a deal could not last long, we quickly made the purchase and upon review discovered we would spend two days in Casablanca, one day on the way to Cameroon and the other on our return. We were “in transit” in Morocco for at least 10 hours each way! With four kids and another on the way, Mark and I ventured to explore Casablanca as safely as we possibly could within the allotted time. We figured a private guided tour was our best bet and so www.viator.com was my first stop and in no time, we were confirmed for Casablanca Layover Sightseeing Tour with Round Trip Airport Transfers. I related to our tour guide instantly via Whatsapp. We were able to review itinerary and confirm it was a private tour which would give us all the flexibility we needed with fatigued parents and kids’ schedules. We arrived Casablanca the morning of New Years Eve and our tour guide was specific about the meeting point where he was expecting us at noon. We were picked up in an air-conditioned van with refreshments and two children’s car seats were already in place for our younger two kids. Our driver was accompanied by our tour guide who was multi-lingual and our first stop was to have lunch at a local restaurant along the “corniche” or the coastline. We drove past Old Medina which is the oldest part of the city surrounded by a wall and our tour guide gave us a history lesson on the city and was ready to answer any questions we had. He shared…

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Returning to accra

"Akwaaba". Welcome. The year is still 2020 and travel is virtually at a standstill with the covid-19 pandemic. The month was November and after much consideration and adjustments, for good reason with constraint decision, we travelled with our oldest two children to Ghana. The girls were so excited, our nine year old, Bi-Neh, started learning Twi, the most commonly spoken language in Ghana besides English. After spending six hours learning on YouTube videos, she had memorized 25 most common conversational sayings. Before we knew it, our 5 year-old was spewing Twi words at the dinner table, his favorite being "Medaase" or "Thank you". Mark and I last visited Ghana eight years ago without kids and we would soon find a lot had changed in this bustling and fast-growing metropolis. We caught a direct flight from JFK International Airport to Accra. This was very convenient as we avoided stopping or laying over in Europe especially with covid-19 testing guidelines for travel requiring negative test results within 72hours of boarding all flights. Upon arrival we were impressed with the new Kotoka International Airport. Not only is it much bigger than the previous but it is much better organized and the process through immigration and baggage pick up was super easy. It maintains a great location and easy accessibility averaging between 20-30minutes from most of Accra during non-rush hour periods. We were picked up by family but with the touch of an app you can easily arrange for transportation using familiar services such as Bolt and Uber. Please note the vehicles typically used around the city by these services are small and holds a maximum capacity of four people. For a larger family, I would recommend renting a larger vehicle from a company such as Hertz or Avis Car Rental. Kotoka International Airport Happy kids. Arrived at last! Once in the city, we settled in for an early dinner. There are many options for dining especially with children. As a rule wherever we travel, we try to get a feel for the local cuisine.…

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