In between trips…

What do restless hearts do in between trips?  They plan the next trip.  Prior to planning an upcoming  trip to Belize I happened to hear an NPR report on a website called AirBnb (www.airbnb.com).  I had heard of it before but more or less ignored it.  Having a little bit of trouble finding interesting hotels for less I decided to check out this website.

AirBNB is a pretty sweet little website full of entrepreneurial people renting their properties out, renting rooms to strangers, or sharing properties between people.  It was created by some folks in San Francisco who decided they wanted to make some money renting their couch out to travelers.   They wanted to create a site to encourage people to connect while traveling.  While my couch surfing days might be over I still love the website as an alternative to traditional hotel websites and even to www.VRBO.com which has been a mainstay for me for some time.

AirBNB has wonderful search features, low to high prices, great photos of the properties, and bios of the owners.  An app can be downloaded to your phone.  There is a sense of community on this website that is reminiscent of Facebook or similar sites.  I booked three out of my four properties on this site.  The prices were very fair and the houses we are staying in seem very interesting and fun.  Owners have already reached out to me with recommendations on things to do in the area, websites to visit for snorkeling tours, golf cart rental, water taxi times, etc.

Sites like AirBNB are the future of traveling.  AirBNB and Uber are exciting new inexpensive and convenient ways to travel.  Apparently using the code JSCHULTE26 will give you $25 off your first booking.  Check it out.  Even if you aren’t traveling anywhere check it out and look at some interesting properties and compare the prices to places you have traveled before.

I’ll let you know how it turns out after my first stay!

***Update***  Well, I am back from Belize and stayed at three different properties in the country.  My AirBNB stays were mixed.  I will start with the good.  I stayed at an apartment owned by Austrians in Placencia and had a glorious stay.  I wish I could have moved in with these people they were so nice and their place was so quaint and awesome.  They gave wonderful advice and even let us borrow their boat to go out on the lagoon.

However, the second place we stayed at was impossible to find, had bats living in the walls, had no drinking water, and the water to the house ran out while we were there.  We were forced to “dry camp” for two days while there with no shower water, water to wash dishes, or toilet flushing water!  Yikes!

The third place, greeted us with roaches on the day we arrived and another on the day we left.  The photos misrepresented the place entirely and it was a bit of a disappointment.  It was filthy and in a terrible part of town.

Having said all of that, I think I would still book an Air BNB again.  Only, I don’t think I would do it unless I am going to stay for an extended period of time.  It was hard getting in touch and meeting with the owners without a cell phone to contact them.  And sometimes having employees at a hotel is convenient or even coffee and breakfast at some can be nice depending on where you are staying.

Victorian Christmas in Nevada City

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. After what felt like a year without a single rain drop in California it seems all of the missing rain was dropped in only a few week’s time. Along with all this water the leaves have all dropped and the temperatures have cooled. The malls are full and the UPS drivers seem to go past the house five times per day delivering their joyful packages. Lights are up on the house and fire places are smoking. Bakes goods are plentiful, pot lucks are seemingly daily events, and consequently my pants are fitting tightly. All of these things mean one thing! Christmas time is here again!

While UPS drivers and pot lucks are certainly a sign of the season where, you ask, does one go in Northern California to feel truly in the holiday spirit? The gold country is often where I flock to if only because the gorgeous little towns are decorated in such a charming fashion. Placerville, Columbia, Angel’s Camp, Sonora, Coloma…all lovely spots worthy of future blog posts.

This year, I finally made it to Victorian Christmas in Nevada City. Clearly everyone else had the same idea after being cooped up indoors during the torrential floods of the last few weeks. Crowds were enormous and the energy was high. Children dressed up in various forms of Victorian garb were dancing, singing, and playing instruments. Lots of dogs were decked out in funny little Christmas outfits. Carolers were singing. Even Santa and Missus Claus delighted children and adults alike. A man walked around with mistletoe on a stick catching unsuspecting couples whether they came together or not…

Shops were busy and full of customers which makes me especially happy. The last several times I have been to Nevada City the shops were very slow making me worried that the economic downturn was desperately hurting local businesses. My favorite antique stores were thriving including The Toad Hall Book Shop, one of my favorite books stores of all time.

Street vendors could barely keep up with demand selling mulled cider, jewelry, candles, toffee, peppermint bark, handmade scarves and hats, and antiques. Traditional Victorian food vendors sold falafel, fried Twinkies, hot dogs, and BBQ. (Hey people have to eat, right?!)

Nevada City Victorian Christmas was a delightful way to spend the afternoon and get in to the spirit. This blogger wishes you and yours a wonderful Christmas and holiday season. I hope you find whatever puts you in to the Christmas spirit wherever you are.

May Santa bring all of us a sack full of frequent flier miles.

   
    
    
   

Winter Camping on the Beach in California

I have likely mentioned in previous posts how glorious living in California can be, politics, traffic, and just general weirdness aside. One reason California is awesome is that it affords us the opportunity to winter camp on the beach. Those outside of California will probably visualize me with braids in my hair and a flower crown. The reality was I was in rain boots, a Northface beanie, long underwear, and a rainproof jacket pretty much 100% of the time. Choose the visual you would prefer friends.

We tried something new this year and went to Doran Beach in Bodega Bay for crab season. Normally we camp at Wright’s Beach but we decided to shake it up a bit. Doran was delightful with a flat, dry, and convenient camp area. The ocean is on one side of the camp site and Bodega Bay is on the other. The ocean break wont break your neck on this beach so kids and dogs can play in the water if they are brave enough to tackle the cold.

Friends took over multiple campsites and had a good old fashion crab feed in the rain. Mother Nature was kind enough to make the days dry and the nights a sailor’s nightmare. The foghorn tooting every five seconds grew tiresome but eventually one fails to hear it any longer. Regardless, my rain boots and I had a great time getting out of town for some post-Thanksgiving camping.

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Giant’s Causeway – County Antrim, Northern Ireland

My brother Sean and I had long heard stories of Giant’s Causeway and driving all the way to Ireland’s Northernmost tip in County Antrim was a must for us.  The journey was half the fun but this geological wonder and UNESCO Heritage site was worth the travel.

Giant’s Causeway is made up of area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns which ultimately hailed from a volcanic eruption.  This natural wonder if amazing to behold and begs legends to be told of its grandeur.

Our grandmother had long told us the story of the Giant Finn McCool.  After we got old enough to do proper research I heard stories of Finn McCool in many different ways.  But legend has it that the stepping stones were created when Finn scooped up part of Ireland and threw it at an enemy causing a walkway between Ireland and Scotland.

One day Finn heard another Giant Benandonner was coming to fight him.  Unsure if he could fight off this giant he devised an ingenious plan.  Finn’s wife dresses him as a baby and hid him in a giant cradle.  When Benandonner arrived and saw the size of the baby he realized quickly that its father Finn must be of enormous size and stature.   Benandonner  ran scared back to Scotland via the causeway never having seen the Giant he came to fight.

   
   
Here are a few photos from the way back machine. If memory serves these photos were taken on Sean and I’s first trip to Ireland in 1999.