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10

A Focus On Gratitude Can Improve Your Health

With the Thanksgiving frenzy just past, I decided to take a quiet, post-holiday moment to contemplate what I’m thankful for. I want to stay healthy, even through stressful, uncertain times, and know that a focus on gratitude can help improve my health.

Rainbow over Breisach

Rainbow over the German town of Breisach, taken from the hilltop church above the town.

While contemplating the many things for which I’m grateful, I got a brain flash (like a brain fart, but good), and realized that the most obvious answer is sometimes hidden in plain sight because it’s so normal, standard and everyday. Even you, dear readers, see the “thing” for which I’m especially grateful for every time you come to our site. Have you guessed yet? It’s my co-blogger, aka my sister Kymberly.

Rainy day in Heidelberg

Visiting Heidelberg Castle during our AmaWaterways cruise. Kymberly had the most colorful umbrella.

I challenge you to improve your health by showing gratitude for something in your life.… Click To Tweet

When people are mean to me, she’s got my back. When I want something, she wants it for me too. When I want to talk about my boys, including my hopes and worries, she lets me ramble on.

Griffin fountain in Basel

Don’t make her have to chew you up and spit you out! Griffin fountain in Basel, Switzerland.

She has taken on the huge task of managing our mom’s affairs as our mom ages; all without pay or thanks. On the contrary, sometimes she gets a lot of grief for doing what’s best for our mom.

open air market in Strasbourg

Kymberly bought a few old maps at this open air market in Strasbourg, France. Shop, shop, shop.

She has kept herself up to date on research that’s relevant to active aging, and she shares that information in her classes, seminars, conferences, and articles (including this blog). Even when the places she works for take her for granted and consistently fail to recognize her contributions, she keeps doing her best.

We argue a lot (well, a lot less than we used to), yet any of you with siblings know that’s how it works. Yet I know 100% that I can trust her. Not everyone can trust a sibling the way I can trust mine, so it’s worth a shout out to her. And you know what she does behind my back? She talks me up. She lets people know she’s proud of me.

She’s a warrior, and she uses that trait to protect my back (or whatever metaphor you prefer).

church statue, Hamburg

This is a true-to-life photo of Kymberly the last time someone tried to mess with me. Just a friendly warning.

And she’s fun. We went on an AmaWaterways cruise together in October, and had a blast. We hiked, biked, ate, made friends, laughed, climbed hills, descended stairs (castles have a LOT of those), stood in the rain, and even shared a cabin and got along famously (except for one argument about her snoring – shhhh).

Bike riding in Köln

Taking a water break during our 11-mile bike ride in Köln (which is free to all AmaWaterways cruise passengers).

I challenge you to improve your health by showing gratitude for something in your life that’s so obvious you missed it. Sunsets, your dog, a car that works, the best parking spot in your complex, food security, a high credit score… you get the picture.

AmaPrima double cabin

We shared this cabin for our 8-day cruise on the AmaPrima with AmaWaterways.

And now that I’ve written this post, I hope my sis doesn’t expect me to suck up to her. Though I do still hold out hope that she’ll suck up to me by giving me her red KitchenAid mixer.

Text and photos by Alexandra Williams, MA

If you want more travel pictures, follow my Instagram account. If you like beach and dog photos, subscribe to my sister’s. Be daring – follow both.

4

Bike Riding in Cologne Along the Rhein River

The Romans probably settled in Cologne (Köln in German) in 50 BC because they’d heard about the fantastic bike riding views along the Rhein River. Or because of its natural harbor. Either way.

Hohenzollern Bridge, CologneOne of the highlights of our October AmaWaterways cruise was the 11-mile, 2 1/2 hour guided bike ride along both the west and east sides of the river. We had two fluent English-speaking guides who took about 8 of us on an easily-managed bike adventure (everyone else was either part of the walking or beer tasting tour). We started our ride along the Rheingarten, a riverside park where pedestrians and bicyclists were out in force on a sunny (yet cold) weekend day. At first, we were riding fairly quickly, but when I said I wanted to stop for more photos, the guides were quite amenable. This I appreciated, or I would have gotten cranky.

We pedaled past the Chocolate Museum, which my sister noticed. Yes, we went back later to learn the history of chocolate, though we didn’t stop in the museum café to eat any of their 9,866 chocolate items. Um, I have no idea of the exact number, but I sure saw lots of options.

Cologne castle towerCologne is Germany’s fourth largest city, with over 1 million people, 45,000 of whom are university students. One fact I really liked was discovering that 18% of the inhabitants come from over 180 nations. Hmmm, probably easy to find a correlation between that and the reputation Cologne has for being a major cultural center.

You can take a bike tour of Cologne, Germany as part of a Rhein River cruise w/ @AmaWaterways?… Click To Tweet

crane buildings, CologneThough I prefer old buildings (castles are my thing, perhaps related to my Medieval Studies BA), I found the three “cranes” interesting. Two of them are office buildings, while the one with the balconies is apartments. Who wouldn’t want riverfront living, even if it’s shaped like a giant piece of machinery, eh?

Our guides stopped for a while on the Rodenkirchener Bridge so we could take pictures and drink water. When you’re on a bike, it feels like the vista is really expansive. We could see barges and pleasure boats going north and south beneath us. When we were onboard our ship, the Ama Prima, it always felt like we were moving at a leisurely pace, yet when standing on a bridge above the ships, they appeared to be speeding along.

locks of love, CologneOn the east side, away from the main part of the city, we felt like we were in the woods for a bit, as we rode by a fairly extensive campground. It’s probably jam-packed in summer, though we saw just a few campers in October. Perfect time to travel if you own a jacket and like to go when the city is not so crowded. From the east side, with its tennis and soccer (call it football if you want to sound truly cosmopolitan) fields, we had unimpeded views of St. Martin’s Church, the Cathedral, the Innenstadt, and Hohenzollern Bridge, which is where the Locks of Love are, and which leads to the Dom Platz.

St. Martin's, CologneAfter we crossed the bridge, our guides asked if we could figure out why security guards were preventing people from walking on the plaza. We had no idea. As it turns out, the Cologne Philharmonic is just below the plaza, and when they are performing, they keep people off the plaza to prevent extraneous sounds. So the floor is also the roof.

Cologne Cathedral interiorNear the end of the ride we stopped to admire the Cathedral. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visible from fairly high up, which presented some issues during World War II. According to our guides, the Allies respected the history and cultural significance of it, so they intentionally avoided bombing it to ruins. Another story is that the pilots left it (for the most part) intact because it was an easy landmark for bombers to use to calculate their various targets. As well, the guides said that church representatives removed all the glass from the windows, which lessened the destruction from the bombs. On a cheerier note, the Cathedral was the tallest building in the world until the Eiffel Tower came along in 1887.

Bike riding, CologneThriller dance on Ama PrimaWe got back to the Ama Prima just in time to change for dinner (and an impromptu performance of “Thriller” by moi for all the passengers). No muscle soreness after 11 miles, either. Or should I say 18 kilometers, as that sounds even more impressive?!

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Williams, MA

photos by me

Have you read our post about all the castles and riesling in Rüdesheim yet? Better yet, have you subscribed to us?

 

4

Rüdesheim with AmaWaterways: Riesling, Castles and a Musical Cabinet Museum

Even if you cannot pronounce “Rüdesheim,” you’ll want to visit this picturesque German town that sits at the south end of the Rhein Gorge, a 41-mile section of the river that has the world’s greatest concentration of castles. A town of 7,000 people, all of whom apparently grow wine grapes, Rüdesheim’s history dates back to Roman times, as evidenced by some of the ruins in town.

Rudesheim on the Rhine

The medieval town of Rüdesheim on the Rhein

As part of our Rhein River cruise with AmaWaterways, we had an evening tour of Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum (itself situated in the remains of the 12th century Brömserburg castle), followed by a 3-hour morning hike through family-owned vineyards that produce Riesling so popular it can command over 1,000 Euros per bottle.

Viola music instrument

These cabinets opened up and the violins began to play of their own accord. No other instrument in the museum was similar to this one.

One thing that is appealing about going on a river cruise with AmaWaterways is that you get loads of activity choices, all geared toward a variety of fitness levels and personal interests. When we docked in Rüdesheim after dinner, we had a choice of touring the music museum (which we discovered means the instruments are all self-playing) or relaxing in a cafe that serves Rüdesheimer coffee, known for its cream and brandy. AmaWaterways included a short sightseeing train ride from the ship into town, and if it’s raining, as it was when we arrived, you’ll be glad to hop aboard. In fine weather, it’s a short 10-minute walk.

Rüdesheim w/ @AmaWaterways: wine, castles and a musical cabinet museum Click To Tweet
Clown musical instrument in Rudesheim

One of my favorite instruments at the Mechanical Musical Instruments Museum

doll carousel music box, Rudesheim

This is a very small doll carousel music box at Siegfried’s Museum in Rüdesheim

door and wall at Siegfried's, Rudesheim

A well-preserved, colorful door and wall in the museum, built in 1542.

Arabian musical instrument, Rudesheim

Housed in the cellar, this wonderful floor-to-celing music box still works. All tours are guided, as the tour guide plays these instruments for guests.

Siegfried's Mechanical Musical Kabinet

Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett on a rainy night in Rüdesheim

In the morning, the rain was no longer pouring, though it was still cloudy, so we stuck with our plan to hike to the ruins of Ehrenfels Castle via the vineyards. During the hike, we passed under the gondolas that took most of the group to the top of the hill to view the town and river. On our way back to our ship, the Ama Prima, we were passed by the people who took the third option – a 13-mile bike ride. One advantage (of many) of the hike is that the vintners keep a small fridge stocked with free wine along the hiking trail. So thoughtful. If it’s sunny, bring water and sunblock, as there’s little shade. We hiked in cloudy weather, and it was perfect, as we stayed warm without getting hot. Our tour guide was a retired civil engineer who owns a potato farm in Wiesbaden. Not only was his English fluent (as are all the local guides), he knew the history of all the families who owned the vines. He also admitted to being a bit of a snob who only buys Rüdesheim Riesling, not the Riesling made on the Bingen side of the river.

hills of vineyards in Rudesheim

Yup, we hiked up hill and over dale, through the vineyards of Rüdesheim.

grapes for Riesling

Riesling grapes in Rüdesheim

Riesling producers in Rudesheim

One of the families that owns wine grapes in Rüdesheim. Sadly, the bottle was empty.

bird in vineyards

This lovely bird was supervising us as we hiked through the vineyards. If you know what type of bird (falcon?) it is, please let me know.

Ehrenfels castle, Rudesheim

The ruins of Ehrenfels Castle, Rüdesheim, on a rainy day

Part of what made the meals served on the Ama Prima extra special is that the meal is based on the local specialties. So besides wine, those of us who huddled under blankets up on the sun deck (it was cold and rainy) to get pictures of the many castles we passed after leaving Rüdesheim were offered some of the Rüdesheim coffee. Remember how it has brandy? That helped keep me warm enough to stay up top to get pictures of every single castle we passed as we cruised downstream along the UNESCO World Heritage designated gorge. Those pictures will be in an upcoming post, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already.

We were guests of AmaWaterways on the 8-day “Enchanting Rhine” cruise. They made no requirements of us, except to enjoy ourselves, which we did, oh so much.

 

What’s Your Super Power?

Super power on the AmaPrima ship

The ship we’ll be on. Not because we’re Prima Donnas or anything…..

“What is your super power?”

Have you ever considered where your powers excel? When guest instructing recently at Rancho la Puerta fitness resort, another guest posed the super power question to our tablemates and me at dinner. Pretty interesting conversation starter, n’est-ce pas? Nicht wahr? Si, como no? (You’ll find out in a minute why foreign phrases play out in this context).

What is your Super Power? Think you don't have one? Read this. Click To Tweet

The first respondent said she had no super power. Was that also your first mental reply? If so, reconsider once you hear the examples that came up. I’ll bet you are able to select at least one super power by the time you finish reading this post.

The next tablemate said her super power was being of service to others. She went on to clarify that she particularly excelled at caregiving. Turns out she was caring for both her aging mother and father and relishing the time with her father more than she’d expected.

The guest across from her decided her super power was a willingness to try new things. Being at Rancho la Puerta for the first time was an example she gave to back up her claim.

My Super Power(s) Revealed — to You and Myself

When it became my turn, I’d had time to think about the answer. Still, it was hard to refine my choice so I went with paired powers: Teaching and Learning. (Claiming two answers as one could be a secret power). After 35 years teaching fitness, English, writing, and more, I feel gifted with teaching skills. It’s always nice to have a match between what we love and what we do well, don’t you think? I thoroughly enjoy leading learners of all ages and types.

Which brings me to the Learning Super Power: I love acquiring new knowledge, skills, and experiences. Turns out I am pretty good at it too, which is quite fortunate since I am keen to keep my body and brain active and agile as I entrench myself in midlife. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, three of the top ten ways to keep your brain in shape  include:

  1. Being physically active
  2. Learning new things
  3. Challenging the brain

Learning a Language Leads to Learning Better Overall

Map for AmaPrima Super power

Look! A chance to speak German, French, English, and Dutch!

Most dramatically, learning a foreign language not only boosts brain plasticity, but also makes us better at learning across the board. As a Medical News Today article summarizing this new research from Finland and Russia puts it: “The more foreign languages we learn, the faster the brain responds and processes the data it absorbs during learning. In other words, the study suggests loading the mind with more knowledge boosts its ability to acquire more.” Language learners have an easier time learning altogether. Need more reason to travel if you want to age actively?

Why am I particularly excited about this confluence of Learning, Boosting my Brain, and Being Physically Active? Because my sister and I are about to embark on our first river cruise, thanks to Amawaterways.  After we ply the Rhein River from Basel to Amsterdam, we both decided to extend our stay and visit European friends and former stomping grounds. (DISCLOSURE ALERT: Yes, we are VERY fortunate that Amawaterways is sponsoring our adventure on the AmaPrima, though they did not ask us to write this post or any. We just want to take you with us on our journey in the ways we can!)

Talk about the ultimate in active aging! We will be taking advantage of the many hike, bike, and explore options the Amawaterways cruise offers. I will be able to relearn German (after living in Berlin for two years back in the 80’s teaching at the very first aerobics studio in Europe), practice my French which I studied for 11 years, AND gain new experiences. Nothing like building memories while boosting my memory!

Amawaterways scene Rhein

Images courtesy of AmaWaterways

Three decades from now I want to remember these adventures and languages and still have my Learning and Teaching super powers. What about you? What is your super power? Heck, make it plural and go for the gusto — what super powers do you claim? Tell us in the comments.

ACTION: Travel, exercise, enjoy aging more when you sign up for our twice weekly posts. Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes and claim your bonus while you’re at it.

Photo Credit for all three images goes to AmaWaterways.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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16

Packing the Right Outfit for Travel

I need your help choosing the right outfit for our upcoming trip to Europe.

AmaWaterways Rhein Cruise

AmaWaterways Cruise Ship

In less than two weeks, Kymberly and I are going on “The Enchanting Rhein River” cruise with AmaWaterways. For 7 days we’ll cruise the Rhein River, hike and bike the pathways of Switzerland, Germany, France and Netherlands, and go on city walking tours. We’ll be posting about our adventures on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and sharing longer posts after our return, so we hope you enjoy this fantastic adventure with us vicariously.

As we want to pack just one suitcase each (we plan to take various train trips after we disembark from the cruise), we are packing clothes that are easy-care, casual and semi-formal (simultaneously, no less), roll up into small balls for the suitcase, and attractive. The obvious brand that comes to mind is Chico’s, especially their new Travelers and Zenergy lines.

What 2 pack when U need 2 pack stylishly, yet sparingly? #MidlifeBlvd Click To Tweet

Here’s where you come in – I need to pick just one outfit. But I’m having trouble narrowing down the choices. Please can you help me decide? Help me pick one top, one jacket, and one skirt or pair of leggings. I’ve already spent over an hour on their website and this is my shortlist. To help you pick what might look best on me, I’m 5’5″, long torso, with fair skin and red (and grey) hair. This is me:

Chico's red vest

Red hair and a red Chico’s vest. And some very pale skin.

Soooooo, can you please help me choose the outfit that will look best on me? Thanks in advance.
Jackets

Chico's red hoodie

Zenergy Red Hoodie

Chico's duster jacket

Travelers Open Front Duster

Chico's hoodie

Zenergy black and white hoodie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tops

Chico's brown top

Travelers classic brown top

blue pullover top from Chico's

Zenergy off the shoulder blue top

black top from Chico's

Travelers studded black tunic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skirts & Trousers

black leggings from Chico's

Travelers Classic Slim Pant

Chico's flare skirt

Travelers Classic flare skirt

black Chico's leggings

Zenergy pocket pull-on pant

 

In the words of Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I have to say about that.” Except to say I appreciate your help choosing the best outfit for me to take on the cruise.

Alexandra Williams, MA

This post is NOT sponsored, though I will get the Chico’s outfit you help me pick.

Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley and Highway 1

Last month I was part of a group that got to visit Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley in California. Located at the northern end of the Pacific Coast Highway Scenic Drive, and just 12 miles inland, it’s a combination of rolling hills and vineyards, estate wines, wedding-perfect landscaping, and architectural history.

statue at Holman Ranch, Carmel ValleyHistory
Back when California was still part of Mexico, the ranch lands were bestowed to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmel. By 1928 it had changed hands several times, and a hacienda was constructed. Nicknamed “Hidden House,” it was a hideaway for Hollywood celebrities. You can see many pictures of them on the walls of the still-standing building.
In the 1940’s it was expanded to include guest rooms and one of the first swimming pools in Carmel Valley. Fast forward to 2006, and the current owners brought it back to its original splendor, while adding vineyards, olive groves and wine caves.

wine cave, Holman RanchWine and Food
On our tour we got to taste a number of their estate wines, which have been rightly listed by National Geographic as one of the “world’s 10 best wines.” What appealed to me was their organic, high end Jarman varietals because they were created to honor co-owner Hunter Lowder’s mother, with a portion of proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

Listed by Nat'l Geographic as having 1 of the “world’s 10 best wines,” Holman Ranch has that… Click To Tweet

wine barrel, Holman RanchMy dad, a former wine connoisseur, would love their estate wine club. Besides getting exclusive access to some of their limited-production wines (which I found out means you cannot buy them elsewhere), club membership is also one of the ways to gain access to the ranch grounds, events and guest cottages. My dad also would have loved the offsite Will’s Fargo restaurant (which is owned by the same family) where we got to have dinner as their special guests. I had a favorite waiter. He noticed I was a bit cold on the outdoor patio and brought me a folded up tablecloth to put around my shoulders. I think he liked me best!

guest cottage, Holman RanchThe Buildings
Even if you care nothing for wine, you’ll still want to stay on the property. Weddings, retreats, special events, (we were a group of 14 bloggers, though the property can accommodate 38 overnight guests), or corporate dinners are all options for staying overnight in one of the 10 “cabins.” I have it in quotation marks because my so-called cabin had a kitchen, living room, and two separate bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. It was divine, actually.

tall poppies at Holman RanchAfter touring the wine caves, we got a thorough tour of the – are you ready for this – game room, carriage house, great room, conference room, chapel, lawn and veranda, garden courtyard, rose patio, and stone terrace. We were also given complete access to the swimming pool.

bespoke cushion at Holman RanchWe had spent the previous night in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which was a few miles away, yet completely different. I was trying to decide which place I preferred, and came to the conclusion that they were tied for first because both places were amazing in their own right. The main thing they had in common was superior hospitality.

bay at Point LobosHighway 1
If you want scenery, take Highway 1 along the California coast instead of the inland freeway choices. After leaving Holman Ranch, I wasn’t in a hurry to get home, so I took this route for the first time in quite a few years. Even though it was foggy for much of the drive, I managed to get some great photos, and go on a few hikes. One warning – your nose will let you know when you’re at the elephant seal rookery just north of Hearst Castle.

lighthouse on PCH

Bixby Bridge, Highway 1

Pfeiffer State Park

Tunnel on Highway 1

elephant seals, Cambria

Text and photos: Alexandra Williams, MA

1

Redding: Kayaking, SUP Yoga, Hiking, Aqua Golf & Lorikeets

Does kayaking on a lake with a park ranger sound enjoyable? Or hitting golf balls into a river? How about practicing yoga on a stand up paddle (SUP) board in a quiet bay, or hiking to the top of a waterfall? Perhaps you’d prefer to stay still and become a landing pad for butterflies and lorikeets.

Crystal Creek FallsThese are the activities we had planned for our final two days in Redding last month. To learn about our adventures for the first two days, please read our recent post about Redding.

Whiskey Creek Lake
SUP yogaWhen we woke up Sunday morning, the sky was drizzly, but not too bad, so the SUP yoga class with Audrey was still on. Swimsuits on and towels packed in the car, we drove out to Whiskey Creek Boat Launch to find a few hardy souls ready to brave what had now become a very strong, cold rain. A quick vote was taken and it was decided to cancel class, a rare occurrence. We hope you’ll give it a try when you go to Redding, and say hi to Audrey.

Of course, as soon as we drove away, the weather turned sunny. Isn’t that how it always works? So we gathered up our good attitudes and hiked to the top of Crystal Creek Waterfall. By the time we came back down to the main pool, kids were swimming in it, and splashing under the falls. We imagine it’s a perfect spot to cool off when it gets over 100 degrees in the summer. On the way back to town we stopped at the Tower House Historic District to check out the former hotel, gold mine and cemetery.

Tower House Barn, Redding

Aqua Golf
Aqua Golf, ReddingIn the afternoon, we went to the Aqua Golf Driving Range, where you get to hit golf balls into the Sacramento River. Or, in our case, in the general direction of the river. The area is enclosed by a net, and the golf balls float, so it’s a recyling-friendly event.
We laughed so hard, and had a really fun time. We also discovered (my 19-year-old beat the pants off us) that being athletic has no relationship to golf swing skill. Face it, we were awful. Even the geese were impertinently walking right in front of us, daring us to hit a ball near them.

Turtle Bay and Sundial Bridge
Turtle Bay lorikeetsMost people who have heard of Redding know about Turtle Bay and the Sundial Bridge, and for good reason. We were at Turtle Bay at the right time to see the lorikeets and butterflies start their day, before the crowds arrived. butterfly Turtle BayWe even saw ducklings drop from the sky onto the ground just in front of us. Or at least that’s what it seemed like. Later we learned from Ranger Jim (see below) that they were probably wood ducks dropping from their tree nest. Wood ducklings, Turtle BayWant to know a secret about the Sundial Bridge? If you go during nesting time (we were there in May), look down through the glass partitions where the bridge supports attach to try and spot the swallow nests. We saw all kinds of nest-building going on, with the sparrows going in and out with their building materials. Super cool.

Sundial Bridge, Redding

The National Parks Service is celebrating its centennial, and Redding is the perfect base for… Click To Tweet

Kayaking
kayaking on Whiskeytown LakeWhiskeytown Lake has 36 miles of shoreline and 3,200 surface acres for recreation, and I think we had that entire space to ourselves. Park Superintendent Jim Milestone was our private guide, and he even spotted a bald eagle with two chicks waaaaaaay up in a tree. (Note to self: Get a really good zoom lens for future kayaking adventures). bald eage with chicks, Whiskeytown LakeThe kayaking (they also have SUP) is free, though they do have a donation box, so be a good citizen and put in a few Tubmans.  Besides showing us the lake’s treasures, Ranger Jim also shared stories about the history of the lake and President Kennedy’s visit in 1963.

The National Parks Service is celebrating its centennial this year, so we encourage you to hie thee hence to the area, using Redding as your base. And if you spot Ranger Jim (or bald eagle chicks), you’ll know it’s your lucky day.Ranger Jim, Whiskeytown Lake

by Alexandra Williams, MA

photo credits: Alexandra

6

Redding: For Those Who Enjoy the Outdoors

Lakes, dams, rodeos, bridges, caverns, waterfalls, hiking and biking trails, and gold rush ruins – these can all be found in the Redding area. What?! You’ve never heard of the place? Once we share all there is to do, you’ll be packing your bags for this Northern California city.

Crystal Creek Falls

Crystal Creek Falls in Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area

Always on the lookout for affordable destinations that appeal to active Boomer women and their families, we were the sponsored guests of Visit Redding this past weekend. And boy, did we pack a lot into a few days, though we never felt rushed. Probably due to the proximity of everything. Really, it’s only a 20-minute drive from the Fairfield Inn & Suites to Whiskeytown Lake.

On the lookout for affordable destinations that appeal to active Boomer women and their families? Click To Tweet
Glory Hole at WhiskeyTown Lake

The Glory Hole in Whiskeytown Lake has a 260 foot pipe diverting overflow from the dam.

In this post we’ll share our adventures from the first day two days, then share the last two days in an upcoming post (stay tuned for kayaking and lorikeets). If you like travel adventures that combine nature, new activities, free and low-cost sightseeing and sight-doing, then tour with us through this post. Then book your own active adventure to the Redding area.

Whiskeytown Waterfalls in Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area
Park rangers first knew of these falls in 1967, but kept quiet, as they didn’t have the resources to protect them, even though President Kennedy had proclaimed the 42,000 acre park a national recreation area in 1963. In 2004, a park biologist was examining aerial photos and rediscovered the falls.

Bottom of Whiskeytown Falls

Does this waterfall make me look younger?

The trail to Whiskeytown Falls is 3.4 miles round trip. Steep in parts, it’s worth the hike. Be sure to take the stone trail to the left of the falls to get some extra special views. Pack water and a snack too, as you’ll get thirsty watching all that water. Fair warning that this hike will give you a serious glute and anaerobic workout.

Whiskeytown Falls hike will give you a serious glute & anaerobic workout #VisitRedding Click To Tweet
Kymberly at Whiskeytown waterfall/ Redding

Does this waterfall make me look stronger? Photo credit – Kymberly

Shasta State Historic Park & Museum

Shasta State Historic Park

About halfway between Redding and Whiskeytown Lake you’ll see these ruins from the gold rush days. Across the street is the former courthouse and jail, including the gallows. Don’t “hang around.” Or do. Only $3 to visit the museum.

Shasta Dam and Powerplant
Want to be impressed by the former generation and your fellow humans? Take the tour of Shasta Dam. It’s free. Regardless of your views on dams, you have to marvel at the human ingenuity and vision that engineered and created this structure. One of us (Kymberly) almost skipped the tour, professing a desire to bike ride along the Sacramento river trails instead. Given that we southern Californians seem to have brought the mist and rain on our last journeys, off we all went instead to Shasta Dam. And was it ever a highlight. Hot tip: When the brochures and guides tell you to leave everything but your cell phone and keys in the car, they mean it. Security is tighter than our lips about what happened when someone in our family (not Kymberly) tried to bring “security contraband” past the security checkpoint and guard.

 

View from atop Shasta Dam

Shasta Dam from the top, looking down at the Sacramento River. The tour is absolutely worth your time. If you get Jo as your guide, you’ll have an especially good time, as she is a delight.

 

Redding trip Shasta Dam

Damn, we loved that dam tour more than we expected. You will too. Photo credit: Kymberly

Lake Shasta Caverns: Three Adventures in One
We promised ourselves on frequent drives between Santa Barbara and Oregon that someday we’d stop and visit the caves. This trip was that someday. Like Whiskeytown National Park and Shasta Dam, the caverns are easily accessible — about 20 minutes north of Redding. You take a 10-minute boat ride across the lake (bring your camera for spectacular views), then a 10-minute shuttle ride up, up, up, then you are in the cave. As for coming out of the cave, well … that’s on you and those several hundred stairsteps. You want out? Keep climbing. That’s the beauty of living an active life. You’re able to see and do more when you travel.

Lake Shasta Caverns

These limestone stalactites hang high above visitors inside the cavern in a huge room. When you hear the word “cavernous,” it probably originated from a place like this.

 

transport vehicle at Shasta Caverns

This WWII transport is now used to bring the buses back and forth when they need repairs. Yes, the buses can actually fit.

Redding Rodeo
Alexandra: This got a strong thumbs-up from my 19-year-old son, so off we went to our first-ever rodeo. It was actually quite exciting, with guys getting thrown off broncs that buck, and calves getting roped and tied (trussed?) in under 10 seconds.

Redding Rodeo

Horse said “get off me,” so the cowboy obliged. After he stayed on for the full 8 seconds. Not sure where he left his spine.

My son wanted to stay for the entire event, but I was hungry, so talked him into leaving early. We looked on Yelp and found Cafe Paradisio, a classy, comfortable place that’s run by a husband and wife who just happened to have two of their children about to graduate from UCSB. Eat here for sure – excellent service and intentionally underpriced for items such as Honey Stung Shrimp, Baked Salmon and French Press Coffee.

view from Lake Shasta Caverns

The view as you ride the bus up to the entrance of Lake Shasta Caverns. Breathtaking, isn’t it?

 

Flying to Redding- cloud view from plane

How Day 1 to Redding started. Super early o’clock plane to catch. Photo credit: Kymberly

 

Redding trip Shasta Lake

How Day 1 ended. Super enriching for brain and body. Photo credit: Kymberly

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photo credits – Alexandra, using a Canon. Kymberly where noted.

by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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Carmel-by-the-Sea Might Be Cooler than the Beach Town Where I Grew Up

I went back home this past weekend to a town I’d never actually visited. In other words, I went to a place that took me back to my childhood. It so happens that Carmel-by-the-Sea is similar to my hometown of Hermosa Beach, which means I felt right at home and nostalgic, as well as being transported back in time.

Carmel-by-the-SeaBoth are beach towns with lots of morning fog. Both are about 1-square mile big. Both are full of poets, painters, actors, writers and photographers.

plein air show in Carmel

A plein air painting juried exhibit in Carmel.

Carmel was incorporated in 1916; Hermosa in 1907. Both attract surfers, though the water is definitely colder in Carmel. And both have small cottages that were built generations ago sitting next to award winning, “to the lot’s edge” architectural wonders on every street. Don’t ask the prices unless you aren’t daunted by California real estate.

homes in Carmel

Old and New Carmel homes

As part of a bloggers’ weekend, I drove up to Carmel with the simple expectation that I would have a good time. Since so many of you are similar to me in that we like history and the personal touch, I’ll share some of the things I did and discovered that I think YOU might also enjoy.

Hofsas House
A gutsy, go-getter woman founded the hotel where we stayed – Donna Hofsas. In 1947 she lived in the cottage where I stayed while adding more rooms over the years. In a town that only allows two-story buildings, she talked the city planners into letting her build a 4-story hotel. How’s that for moxie? Then she commissioned the same female painter who did the fresco at Coit Tower, Maxine Albro, to paint several murals and other works at the hotel.

Hofsas House Carmel

The living room in Donna Hofsas’ original cottage.

Donna’s granddaughter now runs the bright pink Hofsas House  (as well as being on the city council), so ask her for the hotel’s secrets when you stay there. Hofsas House is on San Carlos Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue (see below to discover why I’m not giving you a numbered address).

bed in Hofsas House cottage

My cozy bed nook in the original Hofsas House Cottage.

On the details side, Carmel is more affordable than I expected. Even in high season, room rates range from about $150 – $275, with no stupid ***@** resort fee snuck in. Wifi, breakfast and parking are free.

Town Quirks
Did you know it’s illegal to wear heels higher than 2 inches in Carmel? You won’t get a ticket: the law was created in the 1920s to protect the city from lawsuits from people who tripped on the sidewalks. Great excuse to put on sensible shoes, eh?

Carmel shoe shop

These definitely count as sensible shoes. I should have gotten them.

The town has no street light or addresses. Walk around and you’ll notice that homes all have names. Keep in mind that the town was founded by creative types. They wanted a forested, European feel to the town, so bourgeois things such as number plates were verboten. Everyone has to go to the post office to collect mail. Certainly means all 3,700 inhabitants get to know each other.

home in Carmel

This is the “address” system in Carmel: all names; no numbers

For now, you can still have fires in certain locales on the beach too. This was exciting for me to hear, as we used to dig sand pits and have fires on the beach in Hermosa in the 60s. They were banned by the time I hit middle school.
No big box inns or stores are in Carmel either. It’s mom and pop all the way. Actually, the town is so friendly, even your dogs are welcome. Even in the inns, restaurants, wine-tasting rooms and shops, where you’ll spot water dishes and treats everywhere. Annnnnd, free parking.

dogs at the beach, Carmel

Dogs are welcome and encouraged in Carmel

Shopping, Hiking and Dining
Compliments of the Hofsas House, I received four Wine Walk Tasting tickets, each good for a wine flight at any of the 14 wine tasting rooms in town. Yup, I left Santa Barbara County’s wine country and landed in Monterey County’s. I also discovered two designer consignment shops, an Alice in Wonderland shop, a chocolate shop, and enough bakeries to keep my bread-baking, carb-loving self happy.

designer sunglasses in Carmel

I wanted these designer sunglasses from Foxy Couture soooooo badly

Alice in Wonderland store, Carmel

White Rabbit Store, where I bought a load of Christmas gifts. I was in this play as a child. And my late older sister played the White Rabbit. Very nostalgic store for me.

For lunch or a snack, I recommend Carmel Belle on San Carlos Street between Ocean and 7th (get the ginger apricot scone, stat!), or the Cheese Shop on Ocean and Junipero.

Carmel Belle, Carmel

Get the apricot ginger scone. And wine to go with it, of course.

For dinner, a friend and I went to Beach House Restaurant at Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove (an 8-minute drive). It’s right on the beach, and our service and food were excellent. Plenty of options for vegetarians, too. FYI, the portions are huge, huger, hugest, so come hungry.

Pacific Grove

The view of some lovers from our seats at Beach House Restaurant at Lover’s Point

mud pie at Beach House Restaurant, Pacific Grove

I only ate half of this mud pie – the half above the plate.

Hiking is my meditation, so I walked along the beach, around town on the residential streets, Point Lobos, Big Sur, and about 20 different pull-out stops along Highway 1 as I drove south. On my next visit I might take one of the History Walks, though I could also be persuaded to do the art walks or food tours. I also want to hike along the Mission Trail Preserve. For those of you into birds, one of the secrets I learned from Carrie (co-owner of Hofsas House) is that the Carmel River is the place to be.

Final piece of good news that you will never think about in advance, but makes a big difference – Carmel-by-the-Sea is a safe place for women to walk alone, day and night. I went walking early in the morning, and felt at ease and quite peaceful. Even though I had my iPhone and Canon out (major tourist alerts), the locals out running and dog-walking all said hello. I truly had to resist the urge to say, “I grew up in a town that used to be just like this. Can we please chat about the good ol’ days?”

I want to go back soon. Preferably on a romantic getaway, but another girls’ getaway would work too.

by Alexandra Williams, MA

Photo credits: Alexandra Williams – Canon and iPhone

9

Milan: The City of Beautiful Design

Two days in Venice convinced me that every single bit of it is photograph-worthy. So when I joined my fellow Design Hounds for the train ride to Milan, I was a bit afraid I’d be in for a letdown. My most recent visit to Milan was in 1973, so I was in desperate need of updated memories. And this time I had my very own credit cards. And camera.

Moss covered building in Milan

This building is across the street from Villa Necchi Campiglio, on Via Mozart in Milan.

garden in Milan, Italy

Bunch of talking heads, perhaps? These fellows were hanging about at Palazzo Clerici.

entrance to Vittorio Emanuele shopping gallery

Entrance to Vittorio Emanuele II Shopping Gallery in Milan, named after the first king of a united Italy.

Not only did the sun shine on us for the entire visit, so did the design gods, as I saw enough to keep my status as “She Who Pauses Every Few Steps to Take a Photo.” Luckily, my friends were good sports (and also camera owners).

Selfie at the Duomo

World’s best (or most frightening) selfie in front of the Duomo. Click on the pic to meet Mary, the woman to blame (credit) for the photo.

From big (the Duomo is so big I couldn’t get it all in the frame without serious distortion), to small (a Gessi faucet shaped like stones), I was just as happy to roam around all day playing looky-loo as I had been in Venice. In front of Biblioteca Ambrosiana just blocks from the Duomo, I came across a placard for a walking tour of the area’s buildings of interest. Now I MUST return, as I love walking, history, and “old stuff.” The tour looked like it could take several days, so maybe I should return in the Fall or Spring when it’s not too hot or crowded. No matter, as a friend and I spent the morning in the Brera district, which I totally recommend you explore when you get to Milan.

Duomo, Milan, Italy

The front of the Duomo. Look very, very, very closely and you’ll see people at the top left, climbing the stairs to the top. Those people are not us.

Gessi Equilibrium faucet

It looks like two river stones, but it’s actually a working faucet from Gessi

Miessen in Milan

My back patio (or a Miessen display in Milan). Whatever.

I was especially looking forward to our visit to sponsor Gessi because I’d heard their showroom was a former movie theater, with an underground secret garden. How cool is all that, especially when Gessi’s bathroom fittings and fixtures focus on private wellness and the in-home spa experience?

Gessi sink and faucet

I don’t understand how MY sink ended up in THEIR showroom.

After spending most of the day in the sun, my descent into the cool dark of the Gessi showroom was enough to make my shoulders relax. I might have sighed too. Italian hospitality is pretty darn good. I was ushered into a lounge area where the other Design Hounds were seated. The top management people all came out to introduce themselves, and thanked us for coming. Then we were offered coffee (Italian coffee, not vending machine swill that tastes like used motor oil), champagne, water, and prosecco.

lighted Gessi faucet

Anyone with vision issues need a lighted Gessi faucet? #HandGoesUp

This was followed by a demonstration by artist-philosopher Marsel Lesko. He balanced large stones on smaller ones. We also watched a video of Lesko standing in the middle of a river, surrounded by numerous stones that he had balanced. What did this artist have to do with the company, I wondered? As it turns out, this is how Gessi works. Their mission is “to make everyday life more pleasant with objects of extraordinary beauty and functionality.” They want their faucets to be objets d’art, aspiration and decoration, so they look to nature as a source of inspiration.

Marsel Lesko at Gessi, Milan

We held our breath as artist Marsel Lesko balanced a circle of large stones on smaller ones.

After the demo we had a tour of the Indonesian, Scandinavian, and Moscow rooms. My favorite (nope, not the Moscow one even though I did Russian Studies at university) was the Scandinavian because it had the simple lines that I like. Besides, the Scandinavians like outdoor exercise and spas; I like outdoor exercise and spas. They value simplicity; I value simplicity. They are all tall and good-looking; I’m… good at side planks.

Scandinavian bathroom, Gessi

The Scandinavian in-home spa is so nice, there’s no need to leave the room, even for side planks.

I considered hiding in the showroom, knowing they had snacks, drinks and running hot water, but we had a farewell pizza dinner to attend, so eventually I came out of the shower (did you know Gessi conceived the first ceiling-mounted faucet) and took the metro home, resisting the urge to slip my number to Marsel.

Duoma close-up detail

Close-up of some of the details on the Duomo. Look for the griffin’s expression.

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