Tag: Helpful Tips

The Best Travel Souvenir

The Best Travel Souvenir

After many years of traveling and looking for the perfect memento from our travels, I think I’ve determined the best souvenir possible: Christmas ornaments.

Think about it. First of all, they don’t take up space on your counter, shelf, or desk. They aren’t so big that you have ship them home. And finally, because you only bring them out once a year, they don’t become just another thing that you see so often it loses significance. When you pull a Christmas ornament souvenir out of storage, you are instantly transported back to the time and place you bought it. As a result, it really is the perfect thing to buy as a souvenir.

Here are some of mine:

best souvenir grand canyon Christmas ornament
We bought this at a Native Americans’ roadside market outside the Grand Canyon National Park. Every image on the ornament has a symbolic meaning (which I can’t recall off the top of my head, but they did provide me with a sheet explaining what they are).

best souvenir Michigan Christmas ornament
I bought this at the Wild Blueberry Festival in Paradise, Michigan.  The five points of the star are seed pods of some sort. The person who was selling these showed us how she took a tree branch and carved slivers of wood so thinly and precisely that they curled into the shape of a flower bloom.  That’s what decorates the center of the ornament.

best souvenir Vermont maple leaf Christmas ornament
We were in Vermont in October last year, and everything they say about the autumn foliage there is true. What better souvenir than a maple leaf preserved in all its autumn glory?  (I wrote Vermont and the year on there with a permanent marker.)

Maryland Renaissance Festival best souvenir blown glass art of fire Christmas ornament
This ornament was a souvenir from the Maryland Renaissance Festival. They have an amazing glass blower there who does live demonstrations of his craft and sells beautiful blown glass wares. Sometimes I think I probably should have gotten one with more color to it, but I do like the way the lights on the tree shine through and reflect off of this one.

Tower of London Beefeater best souvenir Christmas ornament
I bought this cute little Beefeater and four other ornaments at the Tower of London. The others were King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, a Tudor rose, and a palace guard. I love them because they have such fine details.  Also, they are completely fabric, so they were super-easy to pack without fear of breakage.  These will always be some of my favorite ornaments.

Peru gourd Christmas ornament nativity best souvenir
I got this nativity scene ornament on my trip to Peru. The ornament is a gourd, with nativity figures inside it. The outside of the gourd is painted a beautiful dark blue with carved stars on it.

Tangier Island Virginia best souvenir angel oyster shell Christmas ornament
This angel is made from an oyster shell. I bought her at a tiny museum on Tangier Island, Virginia, when we took a day trip there.

Westminster Abbey Christmas Ornament Elizabeth I best souvenir
Very similar to my Tower of London ornaments, I got this Queen Elizabeth I ornament at Westminster Abbey about eleven years later. She’s lovely, isn’t she?

I love shopping in new places.  But most of all, I make a point of looking for an ornament (or something that I can use as an ornament).  So in twenty years, maybe I will have an entire tree full of travel mementos!

How about you:  Do you have any Christmas ornaments from your travels?

A Tale of Two Airbnb Stays

A Tale of Two Airbnb Stays

My Experience:

When planning our recent trip to England, I had to find accommodations in three different parts of the country:  Northumberland, Yorkshire, and London.  There is no shortage of places to stay in London, but Northumberland and Yorkshire proved to be more challenging.  Our planned destinations were all over the place, and we were not hitting any of the bigger cities, like York.

I got on Airbnb to see what I could find.  I had never used Airbnb before and I was more than a little leery.  Questions of cleanliness, privacy, and truth in advertising kept running through  my head. Then again, I reasoned, those issues were just as risky with booking a hotel. I forged ahead and began searching.

The thing about staying in a hotel on a family vacation is that your child is in the bed next to yours, no more than a few feet away. Unless you cough up big bucks for a suite, you won’t get the sort of privacy that you would in a multi-bedroom house or apartment. So, step one was selecting a two bedroom minimum with the entire house/apartment at our disposal.

And, since we’re going to live like a resident, we might as well pick a really nice location. I have spent most of my life in tidewater Maryland, so I am naturally inclined to want to be near the water. While I didn’t make a waterfront view a search term, it turned out that every property on my short list had a view of either the North Sea or a river. And why not? A waterfront view is a luxury I can’t afford to make mortgage payments for, but I can afford it for a few nights.

I had a strong favorite for the Yorkshire locations, but not so with the properties near our Northumberland destinations. I showed Hubs & our daughter what I had narrowed it down to, and asked them to choose. They selected this modern apartment in South Shields, UK.

I could not have asked for a better first experience with Airbnb. The immaculately clean apartment was well appointed with little necessities that we might have forgotten (Q-tips, shampoo, even a couple of diapers for those traveling with small children). The hosts had left us snacks, a bottle of wine, and even milk in the fridge. The welcome packet of instructions told us everything we could possibly want to know. It included the names, addresses, and hours of grocery stores, hospitals, gas stations, and so on.

The view was, as the listing promised, amazing.  From the living room window we could see the North Sea, a large grassy area for sports, a lighthouse, and far to the left, the ruins of Tynemouth Priory. The immediate neighborhood included a small grocery store within walking distance. Our first morning there, Hubs got up early, walked to the store to buy a freshly made baguette, and came back to make breakfast. The next morning I got up and walked out to the beach, then came back and fixed breakfast while watching people walk their dogs outside.

For the second leg of our journey, in Yorkshire, I chose a charming little 200-year old cottage that overlooked the harbor in the picturesque town of Staithes. I had fallen in love with it the moment I saw it because it reminded me of Port Isaac in Cornwall, which is pretty much my most favorite place on the planet.

I’ve already written about my experience in Staithes… suffice it to say that it was a bit of a let-down. The cottage was indeed charming, but it was not comfortable. There was a pervasive fish smell in the second floor hallway and steps to the third floor. We never did discover the source. The charming decor featured local items, but the furniture was neither comfortable nor practical. The washer/dryer (which we had hoped to use) was buried under a mound of miscellaneous items in a storage closet.

What did I learn?

Airbnb Tips for a Perfect Stay

  1. If possible, stay at a property that is also someone’s home for at least part of the year. If it’s strictly a rental property, it may not have “all the comforts of home” simply because it isn’t a home.
  2. Do not become emotionally attached to a place.  Do not invent fantasy scenarios in your head. (I’ll have coffee on the terrace every morning while watching the sun rise, for instance). Your risk of being disappointed increases in direct proportion to your level of expectation.
  3. Be sure to read the reviews of people who have stayed there previously.  I was skeptical of the “Amazing Sea Views” at our South Shields Airbnb. I didn’t think that the photos really represented what I would call an amazing view.  However, several people who stayed there also commented on the great view. I figured it was a case of poor photography rather than false advertising. Happily, that was indeed the case.
  4. Consider your parking accommodations if you will be driving. If we had known that we would be parking at the top of a hill in Staithes and hiking down to the cottage every time we went somewhere, we might have booked elsewhere. Because when you’re tired from sightseeing and being on your feet all day, there is nothing you want to do less than walk down a steep incline. Except, perhaps, walking up that same hill. Other properties may require you to park on the street.  Still others may have no dedicated parking space at all.
  5. Likewise, consider internet access and/or cellular phone service. In Staithes, there is virtually no cell phone service at all. This was not a major issue for us, as we had no need to call anyone. It could have presented a problem for a local, though.
  6. If you’re on the fence, consider your budget. Believe it or not, Airbnb can be much less expensive than staying at a hotel. In addition to paying a lower nightly rate (for more space!), we also had the ability to prepare our meals rather than dining out, which saved us a lot.  Plus it was nice to not have to rush out first thing in the morning because we were hungry.
  7. Communicate with the host(s). Feel free to ask the host of the property any questions you may have, either before or after you book.  Not all hosts will be as thorough with providing information as my South Shields host. However, most are happy to answer any questions you may have and will respond quickly.
  8. Consider the location in its entirety, beyond the four walls of the space you’re renting.  If I had known that Staithes had no good restaurants, nor any grocery store to speak of, I might not have considered staying there. In all likelihood, I would have booked in a more practical location instead.
  9. Look at the photos in the listing carefully. If the photos in the listing feature tourist attractions and/or scenery more than the actual property, it’s a red flag for me.  I’ve already decided on the area I’m traveling to – I don’t need to see pictures of that.  I want to know what the host is offering me as far as potential accommodations.
  10. Read the property description thoroughly. Very thoroughly.  I would recommend reading it at least twice and asking yourself if the pictures match the written description. Has the description addressed all of your questions? If not, ask the host before you book.

Airbnb can be an amazing way to add to your travel experience.  It will give you a non-touristy look at the place you’re visiting, while also giving you more space.  My daughter loved having her own room so much that she asked if we could do vacation with Airbnb from now on and never stay in a hotel again.  I highly recommend Airbnb as an alternative to expensive, cramped hotel rooms.

Travel Products to Pack Every Time You Leave Home

Travel Products to Pack Every Time You Leave Home

Whether visiting another continent or staying in your own state, there are three essential travel items that I consider absolutely vital when traveling away from home. Without them, I spend too much of my vacation time being worried or cranky.  And who wants to spend their hard-earned vacation feeling like that?  Not I!   So here are three products that I consider absolutely indispensable when I am traveling away from home.

Earplugs.

earplugs.gif

They are absolute lifesavers when spending a night anywhere other than my own bedroom.  They block out the sounds of traffic, people talking in the hallway outside your hotel room door, noisy plumbing, and the like.  However, loud noises such as fire alarms, alarm clocks, and the like will still get through, so it isn’t unsafe to wear them.  (If traveling alone, I might think twice about using earplugs.  But if traveling with another adult, there is no question on how valuable they can be to ensuring a good night’s rest.)

And the best part is, they’re inexpensive and easy to find.  You can get a pack of several pairs for under $5 at any drug store or retail superstore.  I am partial to the ones that have the rounded end and are made of soft foam.  You give them a squeeze to compress them, stick them in each ear, and then wait for them to expand for a snug fit.

Travel Pillow

But not just any travel pillow.  For starters, it has to actually work.  And second, it can’t make you look ridiculous.  I can’t stand those semi-circular neck donuts.  This one, the Trtl Pillow, is so much better!

essential travel item trtl pillow

If you have ever fallen asleep while riding as a passenger on any form of transportation, you know how it feels to have your head bobbing forward or to one side, usually waking you up in the process.  At best, it’s irritating.  At worst, it’s painful.  The Trtl Pillow supports your head and neck in such a way that you can fall asleep comfortably, even sitting completely upright.

There are strengthening ribs inside the pillow that cradle the head and keep it from lolling to the side or falling forward.  The ribs are covered in a soft foam and fleece material.  It can be placed on either side of your head or, if your head tends to fall forward when sleeping, it can also be placed in front, under your chin.

The fleece fabric wraps around your neck and is secured in place with a strip of velcro. It’s also machine washable.  Best of all, it looks way better than one of those neck ring pillows. The Trtl Pillow costs $29.99 and is well worth the investment.

A Place to Stash Your Cash

My third must-have product is the Bandi, which comes in two sizes: belt or headband.  (I have the belt.)

essential travel item bandi money belt

 

The Bandi is made of a stretchy material, and each Bandi item has a pocket concealed within so you can easily and safely carry your essentials (money, phone, house key, ID card).  The adult belts have a divided main pocket so you can separate what you carry into two sections.  Headbands, by necessity, have a single smaller pocket and hold just tiny items.

These are mainly marketed as being for individuals who run/walk for exercise.  However, I used mine on our recent trip to England and I loved the way I was able to carry my cash, credit card, and ID without having to worry about becoming the victim of a pickpocket.

Bandi Wear comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns.  Headbands are $11 and belts are $28-32.

The above is an honest review based on my own experiences with these products.  I purchased these items myself and have not received any promotional consideration in exchange for sharing my opinions.

Are there any special items that you are sure to pack every time you leave home?

The Picturesque Village of Staithes

The Picturesque Village of Staithes

One of the Yorkshire places I fell in love with on Pinterest was the tiny fishing village of Staithes. (Probably because it reminded me so much of Port Isaac in Cornwall.)  When I found a cottage there through Airbnb, I quickly jumped on the chance to rent it.

History in Brief: A staithe is an old English word that means “landing place.” The village got its name because it has two landing places, one on either side of the stream that brings water down from the moor into the sea. Staithes was once one of the largest fishing ports on the northeast coast of England, as well as an important source of minerals such as jet, iron, alum and potash. (We drove past a potash mine every time we left the village, and jet seemed to be the claim to fame of many jewelry shops in nearby Whitby.)

Geologists love Staithes for researching the Jurassic strata in the cliffs surrounding the village. In the early 1990s, a rare fossil of a seagoing dinosaur was discovered after a rockfall between Staithes and Port Mulgrave to the south. This fossil has been the focus of an ongoing project to remove the ancient bones of the creature. Visitors often look for ammonite fossils, which are common in the area.

staithes-cliff

Captain James Cook was the most famous resident of Staithes. Cook became famous for making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. He was not, as I mistakenly thought at first, a pirate. (That would be Captain Hook, not Captain Cook.  LOL)

We arrived in Staithes near dusk, after a busy day in County Durham. We were allowed to drive down into the village to unload the car, had to go back to the top of the very big hill to park. Before we took the car back up to our designated space, I got to see the sunset over the harbor.

staithes-harbor

Since it was dinner time, we decided to eat at the Captain Cook Inn, at the top of the hill near the parking area. I would describe the food as bland at best; if you ask my daughter (who is not a picky eater), she would tell you it was flat out awful. (I saw her turn into Gordon Ramsey before my very eyes. Amusing, but I wish we could have avoided it.)

The cottage we rented was on the High Street (or as we would call it in the US, the Main Street), across from a quaint little butcher’s shop.

butcher shop.jpg

butcher shop window.jpg

The street itself was gorgeous, with cobblestones and colorful cottage doors.

staithes-street

staithes-door

staithes cottage.jpg

While Staithes may have once been a prosperous fishing village, it is now mostly a tourist destination. Very few of the cottages seemed to be permanently inhabited, and most shops opened only a few days a week. There is no cell phone service at all in the village.

We had dinner the second evening at The Royal George, a pub closer to the cottage where we stayed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t any better than the Captain Cook Inn, and the menu was almost identical. It occurred to me that in a town full of tourists, restaurants don’t have to be good, just open. There is no need to build a loyal customer base because the customers are always temporary and changing. I don’t believe the stereotype that the British don’t cook well, but in the case of the Staithes restaurants we tried, it was certainly true.

My best advice for anyone going to this lovely little village – and you should – is to go for one day. Get there early in the morning but leave before dinner time. It’s a great place to visit, but with the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t want to live there.

Staithes lies on the northeast coast of England, within the North York Moors National Park.  

Panoramic Photo Prints

Panoramic Photo Prints

On our recent trip to the UK, I often found myself blown away by the vast beauty laid out before me.  On those occasions, I took a panoramic photo with my phone, even though I have never been able to get panoramic photo prints.  Every time I’ve tried, the prints I got back were either wildly distorted or severely cropped. So eventually, I just stopped trying to use that feature on my phone’s camera.

HOWEVER, this time I figured even if all I could do was look at it on my computer monitor, it was still better than trying to capture the scene before me in a 4×6 print. I’m sure you can see why:

rsz_panorama_1
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
rsz_panorama_3
Staithes Harbor, Yorkshire
rsz_panorama_4
North York Moors National Park
rsz_panorama_2
Flamborough Lighthouse & Cliffs, Yorkshire

Once I was home, I Googled panoramic photo prints in order to find a vendor who could print them correctly.  The first few that popped up were cost-prohibitive.  Then I found AdoramaPix, which only charges $1.19 for each 4″ x 12″ panoramic photo print.  I was so pleased with their service!  I ordered my prints on October 11, received notification of shipment on October 13, and received them on October 17.  The prints were exactly as I ordered, including the custom cropping I requested.  I’m happy to say that in the future, I will take more panoramic photos now that I know I can trust AdoramaPix to print them.

This is NOT a sponsored review.  I have received NOTHING from AdoramaPix other than the prints, which I bought and paid for.  I am just a happy customer.  🙂

Same Language, Still Foreign: How to be a good traveler in the UK

Same Language, Still Foreign: How to be a good traveler in the UK

Over the years, I’ve made three (soon to be four) trips to the UK. There is a great degree of comfort in going there, because even though it’s a foreign country, there is no language barrier.  Going to the UK is easier than going to say, Germany, or China.

However.

It is not wise to get lulled into a false sense of security. Just because we speak the same language does not mean that we use the same names for everything. Nor does it mean that there won’t be cultural differences. Through doing some preparatory research before I traveled and making some mistakes, I learned that there are a few things one shouldn’t do in the UK if one wants to stay in the good graces of the natives.

  1. If you choose to wear one, do not refer to your waist pack as a “fanny pack.” On this side of the Atlantic, fanny is a rather adorable word for butt. On that side of the Atlantic, it’s a crude name for female genitalia.
    guide to uk travel fanny pack
  2. Likewise, do not gasp when you hear someone in the UK mention “fags” or “faggots.” They could be talking about a cigarette, a bundle of sticks, or even a meal.
  3. A zebra crossing in the UK would be called a crosswalk here. Hopefully you won’t actually see a herd of zebras crossing the street in London.
  4. If someone is spelling a word for you and they say zed, it’s a Z.
  5. Do not ask someone where the rest room or bathroom is. Instead, use the British term toilet or lavatory.
  6. When making a V or peace sign with your index finger and middle finger, take care to ensure that your palm is facing out, not toward yourself. If you make this gesture with the back of your hand facing out, it is the American equivalent of giving someone the finger. Particularly when combined with a flicking motion. Hubs made a motion for someone to pass us on the road in this fashion and the other driver was quite insulted. Former President George HW Bush made a similar error when visiting Australia in 1992.
    guide to uk travel peace sign
  7. Don’t tell a Brit that you love their accent if you are both standing on British soil. If you’re both on British soil, you are the one with the accent. Come to think of it, it’s probably not the greatest thing to say on American soil, either.
  8. Be aware of the geography. The UK consists of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. The latter three, sharing the same land mass, can also be referred to as Great Britain. Do not refer to someone who is from Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales as English. Only people from England are English.
    guide to uk travel united kingdom great britain england
  9. While I hate to make generalizations, I think most people would agree that Brits are much more reserved than Americans. In British culture, you are likely to raise eyebrows if you do any of the following: shouting, kissing, laughing loudly, shaking hands outside of a business setting, talking loudly on a cell phone, and talking about the value of your possessions.
    guide to uk travel cell phone use
  10. Because Brits drive on the left side of the road, you should look right-left-right before crossing a two-way street. This is the exact opposite of what we typically do here, and it’s hard to break that habit. Bigger cities such as London actually have instructions/reminders about which way to look painted on the ground, so that helps. But it less densely populated areas, you’ll need to concentrate on which way to look before stepping off the curb.

By observing these subtle but important differences between our country and the Brits’, you won’t have to worry about committing a faux pas when you are traveling in the UK.

The Safest Countries in the World

The Safest Countries in the World

If the thought of traveling to another country seems daunting, you may want to consider traveling to one of the following places, deemed the ten safest countries in the world in the 2016 Global Peace Index:

  1. Iceland (safest)
  2. Denmark
  3. Austria
  4. New Zealand
  5. Portugal
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Switzerland
  8. Canada
  9. Japan
  10. Slovenia

This was happy news for me, as several of my bucket list destinations are there (New Zealand, Denmark, Portugal, Czech Republic and Slovenia).

If you’re wondering about the bottom ten, they are:

  1. Libya
  2. Sudan
  3. Ukraine
  4. Central African Republic
  5. Yemen
  6. Somalia
  7. Afghanistan
  8. Iraq
  9. South Sudan
  10. Syria  (least safe)

And where does the United States fit?  Out of 163 countries, we were ranked at 103.

To see the entire list (without having to read the full report), or to see the countries ranked by individual criteria, visit The Institute for Economics and Peace.

 

How to Shorten Your Wait in Airport Security Lines

How to Shorten Your Wait in Airport Security Lines

Hurry Up and Wait

TSA lines at the airports have become ridiculously long, and travelers are getting sick of the delays.  There have been horror stories about people arriving at the airport two hours before their flight and still missing it because they got hung up in the TSA lines.

airport security lines
Look familiar?

If you fly more than once or twice a year, there is a service that may well be worth the $85 it costs.  It is called TSA Pre-Check, and it gives you five years of being treated like a VIP traveler.  You still have to go through security, but you will not have to remove your shoes, laptops, belts, jackets, or carry on liquids that comply with TSA size restrictions.

airport security lines tsa pre check

Another benefit is that TSA Pre-Check lines are usually significantly shorter than regular TSA lines.  In June of this year, 95% of the people who utilized TSA Pre-Check reported waiting in line five minutes or less.  (Can you imagine?!??)

But before you rush into enrollment, there are a few additional things to consider:

  1. Some of the airports in this country do not accommodate TSA Pre-Check. If you’re at one of them, you will have to go through the normal TSA screening procedure anyway.
  2. Some of the airlines at the airports that do accommodate TSA Pre-Check are not participating in the program. If you’re flying with one of them, you would have to go through the normal TSA screening procedure anyway.
  3. You cannot apply for TSA Pre-Check online.  You can fill out an online form with your basic information, but you will have to go to a TSA Enrollment Center to complete the process.  They say it takes about 10 minutes and includes a background check and fingerprinting.
  4. Enrolling in TSA Pre-Check will only cover you and your children under the age of 13. Your spouse (or anyone else traveling with you) would have to apply TSA Pre-Check status as well.

To see if your airport/airline participates in TSA Pre-Check, click here.

To locate a TSA Enrollment Center near you, click here.

For a list of Pre-Check FAQs, click here.

 

Driving in Cornwall

Driving in Cornwall

I could sum up the experience of driving around Cornwall with three little letters — OMG — but that wouldn’t make for good blogging, now would it?

So, first… OMG!  The countryside was beautiful, just stunning!  Rolling hills, breathtaking views of the sea, pastures dotted with cows and sheep, trees arching over the roadways to create a romantic little tunnel.  It was lovely!  See for yourself:

On the other hand, OMG!  I have never seen such treacherous roads in my life.  At one point I commented (in all seriousness) that driving on those roads was like riding a roller coaster.

The smaller roads that connected the villages typically were flanked on both sides by 10-foot high stone walls overgrown with greenery.  We had no idea what we were driving past. Could’ve been a house.  Could’ve been the sea.  Could’ve been a herd of cattle.

Whoever laid out these roads was apparently unfamiliar with the concept of  “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” because there were no straight lines.  The roads twisted and turned, rose up and went down.  You could never be sure what was around the next bend because, well, you couldn’t see that far.

Also, the roads were quite narrow.  I think that maybe two itty bitty smart cars could have passed each other without any difficulty, but for everyone else, it was almost like playing chicken.  Who’s backing up?   Who’s going forward?  Do you need to fold in your rear view mirrors before passing?  On our first full day of driving, we backed up to let another car pass us, and edged right up to the aforementioned 10-foot high wall.  When we started moving again, we heard a hissing sound every few seconds.  Apparently one of the stones in the wall had punctured our tire.  Fun.

Here’s a picture of a typical country road in Cornwall.

Even the major highways were a bit strenuous to drive on.  Instead of having exits like we do in the US, there is a “roundabout” (traffic circle) at every town.  For Americans who haven’t driven in Washington DC before (and even those of us who have), traffic circles can be somewhat bewildering.  Particularly in unfamiliar surroundings.    Add to that the frustration of having to slow down when you’ve just gotten up to a nice speed, and the roundabout came to be something we dreaded.

Thankfully, Hubs did ALL of the driving for us while we were in Cornwall.  He had to get used to driving on the left side of the car, on the left side of the road, and using his left hand to shift gears.  I have to give him props for that.  I would have been terrified.

Bushkill Falls, PA

Bushkill Falls, PA

While visiting friends in the Poconos, we had a small excursion to Bushkill Falls, which prides itself on being the “Niagara of Pennsylvania.” Frankly, I think the nickname does it an injustice. Bushkill Falls, while smaller than Niagara, offers a lot more to the sightseer.

Upon exiting the visitor’s center, a cryptic sign read “CAUTION: You are beginning a mountainside nature trail. All paths and walkways have been left in their natural state to enhance your viewing pleasure. Please use caution! Those visitors with health or heart conditions are recommended to use the main falls trail only. Please refer to your trail map at all times.”

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you that a more accurate sign would have read something like this: “CAUTION! The pathways you are about to tread upon are uneven, steep and/or narrow. Hold onto the hand rail – which may be loose – for dear life. If you are overweight, old, or just plain out of shape, take the shortest route possible.”

hahahaha.

So, without benefit of my alternate truth-in-advertising style sign, we headed on down the trail to see what we could see. But first we had to consult the map and decide which trail to take.

There are four trails – marked on the map in blue, red, yellow and a very hard-to-see green. The red trail, as you can see from the above, is the largest. It promises views of eight different waterfalls and is supposed to take 2.5 hours to complete. The yellow trail is the “popular trail” because it only takes 45 minutes but still offers views of the major waterfalls. The two trails overlap for a large section of their routes – seen there in the middle of the map.

After a brief discussion, we decided that we would all travel the yellow/red trail until the point where they split, then the ambitious, nature-loving men would continue on the red trail while the women and kids would complete the yellow trail and head back to the house.

We heard the waterfall long before we saw it, of course, and when we did get to see it it was nothing short of breathtaking:

We stopped to ooh and aah and take pictures, then headed on down the trail toward the lower gorge falls. At one point we came to a bridge that had a sign reading “LIMIT 6 PEOPLE.” I almost didn’t go on it because, frankly, I just don’t trust other people to be very meticulous about following rules like that. And lest you think I’m paranoid, look what I turned around and saw right after we passed by the bridge:

And let me tell you, my friends, it was a loooooong way down!

So, moving on… we realized that somehow, the yellow/red trail we were on had become the red trail. This left us with the unappealing choice of either traveling back up the way we had just been (a long, mostly uphill hike with scenery we’d already passed) or continuing on the red trail (a longer, somewhat less uphill hike with scenery we had not already passed). We opted for the latter.

Moving on down to the lower gorge area, the water was calmer but no less scenic:

bushkill falls mossy rocks

So beautiful. So calm. The red trail will be fun after all, I thought. But then my newfound serenity was shattered when I saw this sign:

bushkill falls sign

Oh, have mercy! “For hikers only?!?!?!” Never in a million years would I describe myself as a hiker. In fact, look what I was wearing…

And yes, that is the so-called “trail” that my foot is on. We meandered along, carefully watching our step as we went up to the Bridal Veil Falls, which was smaller but just as pretty as the main waterfall. People were so enthralled with the smaller falls – and, I’m sure, the notion that they were on a more secluded trail – that they were wading into the waters at any opportunity.

After viewing this fall, we went up, up, up. Finally at the top, we were on flat land. I have never been so happy to be walking on flat land in my life! We were treated to an extraordinary view of the valley below, but I didn’t bother photographing it because in my limited experience depth is something that is really hard to capture in a photograph. Also, I didn’t want anything to slow down my progress toward reaching the end of the trail.  🙂

We stumbled off of the red trail some three hours or so after we had started. It was quite an accomplishment, and the scenery made it worth every ache and pain.  I highly recommend this scenic spot… as long as you wear sensible shoes.

Bushkill Falls is located on Bushkill Falls Road in Bushkill, PA. Telephone 570-588-6682. The falls are open for visitors March thru November. Hours vary by season, so check the website or call when planning your visit.