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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