Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sanibel Island Lighthouse

The Sanibel Island Light is the first lighthouse on Florida's Gulf coast north of Key West and the Dry Tortugas. It is located on the eastern tip of Sanibel Island, and was built to mark the entrance to San Carlos Bay for ships calling at the port of Punta Rassa, across San Carlos Bay from Sanibel Island.

Residents of Sanibel Island first petitioned for a lighthouse in 1833, but no action was taken. In 1856 the Lighthouse Board recommended a lighthouse on Sanibel Island, but Congress took no action. In 1877 government workers surveyed the eastern end of the island and Congress finally appropriated funds for a lighthouse in 1883. The foundation for the new lighthouse was completed in early 1884, but the ship bringing ironwork for the tower sank two miles (3 km) from Sanibel Island. A crew of hard-hat divers from Key West recovered all but two of the pieces for the tower.
Punta Rassa became an important port in the 1830s and remained so up to the Spanish-American War. It was primarily used to ship cattle from Florida to Cuba until the railroads reached the area in the 1880s.

The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The Coast Guard leases the light station site to the city of Sanibel, Florida.

Sanibel Lighthouse Research

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Atlantis Bahamas

From water adventures, to casino gambling, upscale dining, and all around fun. Atlantis on Paradise Island the Bahamas has it all.

Guests can snorkel in this unbelievable setting in one of the exciting Sea Keepers Adventurers programs - Aquarist for a Day and Snorkel the Ruins - while viewing over 20,000 deep reef and pelagic fish.

The huge fish tank is visible from inside the hotels huge, never-ending lobby like area.

You can move from room to room and view many different areas of the tank and an amazing number of different fish.

In addition to the excitement of the main casino, Atlantis offers exceptional gaming experiences in tropical outdoor and upscale indoor locations.

You can jump in the pool and then stroll over to a gaming table and try your luck.

The Atlantis waterscape consists of 11 pools spread out across its lush property, each offering unique and refreshing experiences.

The lazy river happens to be my favorite.

The resort has added so many new features since I was first there years ago, it was exciting to see so much new stuff.

Caribbean reef sharks and nurse sharks can be seen from extraordinary vantage points: from an exhilarating ride on a water slide through the middle of the lagoon in a clear tunnel - or from the surrounding deck and panoramic windows, which offer a more leisurely look.

Aquaventure, is a thrilling 141-acre water park that is complimentary for all guests staying at Atlantis.

Featuring over twenty million gallons of water, this non-stop "aqua" adventure offers incredible Atlantean-themed towers with multiple high-speed water slides, a mile-long river ride with rolling rapids and waves, a spectacular kids water-play fort and 11 unique and refreshing pools.

The Current & Rapids offer tubers a mile-long river journey through waves, tunnels, rapids and other surprises.

Climber's Rush is a state of the art climbing facility with 12 climbing surfaces that offer a variety of options and difficulties to choose from.

There's a tour you can take if you're visiting the Atlantis for the day -- on our most recent trip, we were on a Royal Caribbean Cruise and were only in town for a day.  I knew my fiance would love the fish and the amazing size of the resort, it's casinos and some of the spectacular chandeliers and water features around the, we had to drop in for a few hours.

We ended up walking around by ourselves; however, you can't go into certain areas without a bracelet indicating you're a guest or on a tour -- but, we still were able to enjoy the casino, the aquarium and of course a cold one at the bar!

This post, nor these pictures can do this resort justice. Check out their website: Atlantis Bahamas.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CocoCay Bahamas

Surrounded by the gentle, translucent waters of the Bahamas chain lies the secluded island of CocoCay.

Craig and I cruised out of Port Canaveral last year on a long weekend cruise for his birthday in October. The weather was fantastic and it was so great to getaway!

Our first port was CocoCay...actually we tendered into CocoCay -- another adventure if you've never left a ship from a hole in the side of it, walked over a "gang-plank" onto a smaller bobbing and heaving boat that takes you to shore...All part of the fun as far as we were concerned.

With its white-sand beaches and spectacular surroundings, CocoCay is a wonderland of adventure. Reserved exclusively for Royal Caribbean guests, this tropical paradise has recently been updated with new aquatic facilities, nature trails and a ton of great places to just sit back, relax and enjoy a tropical drink.

While you're on CocoCay, don't miss the opportunity to take an exhilarating ride in the skies on a parasailing adventure. Soar 400 feet above the island and take in the spectacular scenery. You'll get a bird's-eye view of CocoCay as well as the surrounding islands. It's definitely a flight worth taking.

Take an adventure down the coast of CocoCay, aboard a waverunner, our most popular activity. Fly past Great Stirrup Cay Lighthouse, Slaughter Harbor and Starfish Alley.

While you're on the island, give snorkeling a try and check out the beautiful coral reefs, colorful tropical fish and sunken wrecks.

This private island doesn't have any restaurants or shops, but our private beach offers mixed and frozen drinks that are out of this world. Order yours from a shady hammock to capture the true spirit of CocoCay.

English is spoken here and everything on the island can be charged to your shipboard account, with the exception of hair braiding, which is paid for in US Currency.

Coco Cay is Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas. White sand beaches and bright blue waters surround this tropical paradise reserved for Royal Caribbean guests. This deserted island was once known as Little Stirrup Cay.

Located within the Berry Island chain of the Bahamas, about 50 miles from Nassau, CocoCay is the perfect setting for a beach adventure. Coco Cay has been recently renovated and now includes updated nature trails and Caylanas Aqua Park. There is an additional charge for entrance to this floating playground, however. There are numerous hammocks scattered in shady enclaves, plenty of lounge chairs line the beach and lots of remote areas to explore.

CocoCay enjoys a subtropical climate with mild winters, seldom dipping below 60°F. Average temperatures range in the low to upper 80’s; with water temperature never below 72°. With that said, however, just like Florida, these are averages and during winter months be prepared for an occasional cold front to cause drastic temperature drops.

If you wish to enjoy a little more restful adventure, rent a floating mat and bask in the calm ocean waters. Relax on the beach, play a game of volleyball, sip on a cool drink, listen to the steel drum band, or enjoy the aqua park.

An island-style seaside barbeque is the fare for the day. Water is free, but sodas and cocktails may be purchased. This is the place to try a “Coco Loco”, CocoCay’s signature drink and one of my favorite tropical cocktails.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The school was started in 1853 and grew from very small beginnings to a school of around 300 students. The campus covered a square block with 10 buildings. Through tuition’s for the girls schooling, donations, and from the sisters own inheritances from their families, they built their school and chapel.

Jean Baptiste Lamy brought architect Antoine Mouly and his son, Projectus Mouly from Paris, France to Santa Fe to be architect – builders for what is now St. Francis Cathedral. It required ten years to build. During the first period of construction, and as an apparent afterthought, Archbishop Lamy advised and encouraged the sisters to utilize the father and son to design and build their dream chapel. The older Mouly had been involved in the renovation of Sainte Chapelle, in Paris, in the early 1800’s. Mouly was encouraged to fashion the Loretto Chapel after the Sainte Chapelle. It was the favorite chapel of the archbishop from his early days in Paris, France. It is reported that the sisters pooled their own inheritances to raise the $30,000 required to build this beautiful Gothic chapel.

It was decided that the school needed a chapel. Property was purchased and in 1873 work began on the Loretto Chapel.

Undoubtedly influenced by the French clergy in Santa Fe, the Gothic Revival-style chapel was patterned after King Louis IX's Sainte-Chapelle in Paris; a striking contrast to the adobe churches already in the area.

Stone for the Chapel was quarried from locations around Santa Fe including Cerro Colorado, about 20 miles from Santa Fe near the town of Lamy. The sandstone for the walls and the porous volcanic stone used for the ceiling were hauled to town by wagon.

The ornate stained glass in the Loretto Chapel also made part of its journey to Santa Fe via wagon. Purchased in 1876 from the DuBois Studio in Paris, the glass was first sent from Paris to New Orleans by sailing ship and then by paddle boat to St. Louis, MO. where it was taken by covered wagon over the Old Santa Fe Trail to the Chapel.

The Chapel was completed in 1878 and has since seen many additions and renovations such as the introduction of the Stations of the Cross, the Gothic altar and the frescos during the 1890s.

The Miraculous Staircase, which legend says was constructed or inspired by St. Joseph the Carpenter, was built sometime between 1877 and 1881. It took at least six months to build, and has two 360 degree turns with no visible means of support.

The Loretto Academy was closed in 1968, and the property was put up for sale. At the time of sale in 1971, Our Lady of Light Chapel was informally deconsecrated as a Catholic Chapel.

Loretto Chapel is now a private museum operated and maintained, in part, for the preservation of the Miraculous Staircase and the Chapel itself.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ICE in Orlando, Florida

ICE! like you've never seen it - Two million pounds of it - is transformed into every imaginable Christmas icon as the star attraction at the Gaylord Palms, in Orlando Florida, during the Christmas season, beginning in November and and continuing throughout December.

The shaped, cut, illuminated and often colored ice takes over a large portion of the Gaylord Palms exhibition center as you walk through the chilly 9 degrees environment in the winter parkas provided by the Gaylord Palms.

(Although the parkas are provided, close toed shoes are a must and warm jackets, sweaters and gloves/mittens are highly recommended so you can enjoy the experience.) To give you an idea of the size and scope of the attraction, it boasts 1,500 fluorescent tubing lights frozen within the ice and uses three different types of ice: clear "glass-like" crystal ice; white "snow-pack-like" ice and colored ice.

The entire ICE attraction is carved by a team of 40 artisans from Harbin, China. If you are lucky, you will be able to see one of the artisans working on a sculpture during your tour. Harbin is best known for its annual Ice Park and International Ice Festival.

The tour of Ice begins with a very short five minute video that explains how the ICE show came to America and how it is assembled each year; what it takes to make these intricate creations and what it takes to preserve them in Florida's temperate climate.
Back to the actual tour, besides the opportunity to have their photo with a 10-foot tall ice sculpture Santa Claus, complete with red suit made of ice, the highlight for kids will be the slides made of ice. That's right, for youngsters, or the young at heart; ice has been crafted into a large ice slide. There is no sled required; you just glide down sitting on your parka. You can spend as much time as you want on the slides, but the 9 degree temperature will catch up to you very quickly.
Finally, the most dramatic and powerful ice sculpture is the crystal-clear life sized replica of the Nativity scene, which depicts the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger.

Here I am with my Mom. This was one of her Christmas presents this year...

We had a great time...and it was COLD!!

Here's Mom and Sara in the igloo...with the fisherman.

Sara going down the side!!

The pictures of the Nativity don't do it justice - it was breathtaking!

We all had a great time - be sure to wear gloves...they will provide a parka if you need one...but no gloves!