Round Basket Boats-China Beach, Vietnam

I loved Vietnam. I loved everything about it including the people, the food and the scenery. But one of the things I loved the most was the round boats that sat on the sands of China Beach.

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I noticed my first one near sunset when we first stepped on onto the fine white sand. Something about the shape of it drew me in and I wanted to see more. So I walked over to a red one pulled up on the shore. It was full of fishing nets in the bottom with two simple oars resting on the top of the nets. A white plastic bucket fit in along the side of this beautiful red vessel that looked like something the Owl and the Pussycat surely would have sailed in.

These round boats are hardly unique in the world but they are abundant here. They are crafted of split bamboo which is dried in the sun, bent, woven into shape, and then tarred or varnished in order to waterproof the craft. They are excellent at repelling ocean creatures that bore into wood boats but leave these beautiful baskets alone. They are used because they are flexible, light weight, and are capable of carrying a heavy load. But one of their biggest assets is that they are able to pass through the rough surf that dots that Vietnamese coast allowing lone fishermen to get out to sea quickly and easily.

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I come from a long line of Nova Scotia and Massachusetts fisherman. My 2nd great grandfather, Angus McKay, was the captain of the Marsala, a John Pew and Son company boat. He accidentally stranded on a reef during a fierce snowstorm in 1889. Angus died from exposure and pneumonia leaving a young wife and family.  Mr. Pew hired my great -grandmother as his secretary and saved the family from ruin. Back then, fisher folk looked out for one another in that kind of way.

Fishing boats  and fishermen are in my blood. I see them both out in the waves working together to bring in the haul and I think there is nothing better than the sea and man working in tandem. And as I watched the slight old men pushing their round boats to the waters edge in Vietnam, I thought of the fishermen around the world that share a dream and a love of the ocean.

Undoubtedly,  Angus would have loved to have skippered one of these.

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Dragon’s Breath Zip Line-Labadee, Haiti

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Okay, I am cheating here because I am not following the idea of blogging about all the wonderful places I have been. Instead this post is about a place I have never been to but desperately want to experience.  It is the Dragons Breath Zip Line in Labadee, Haiti. I guess this is what happens when you challenge your fears as I did last week in the skydiving incident. It makes you want to test those fears again in the different way.

As you know I am desperately afraid of heights but when I saw this I immediately thought, “Now that it something I want to do!” So I researched it. And I found out I have to take a cruise to partake. A Royal Caribbean cruise in particular. This definitely is a problem. I get severely sea sick.

Once we took a three day cruise from LA – Catalina Island, Ca – Ensenada, Mexico. I literally couldn’t walk straight for two days and could not climb at ladder for a week. This on some of the smoothest seas known to man. SIGH. I swore then that I would never go on another cruise. And I haven’t.

But if you are planning on cruising around the Caribbean anytime soon you might want to put this adventure on your list. After all, if zipping over the seas surrounded by beautiful scenery doesn’t make your heart go BOOM then probably nothing ever will.

 

 

Mushroom Houses-Charlevoix, Michigan

In the beautiful resort town of Charlevoix, Michigan lie an amazing array of “mushroom” homes designed by Earl Young (1889-1975). For a span of 52 years this insurance man/realtor spent time designing and/or building over 30 homes in the area. Following Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy that a home should fit into the landscape of the area; Young crafted his “hobbit” or “fairyland” houses of local stone many with “hidden” doorways. He refused to remove trees in order to build, instead, incorporating them into his designs. He also employed the use of multiple curved lines in his masterpieces foregoing the traditional use of straight lines and angles.

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Many of Young’s houses can be found in the Boulder Park area of the city. Each home is unique; some large and ornate while others are more mouse-house sized. During the summer there are occasional tours of these homes but brochures which offer a self-guided walking tour can be had at the Charlevoix Chamber of Commerce.

But if visiting the inside of a Young building is on your bucket list  you can always head over to the Weathervane Terrace Inn and Suites. Located on the Pine River overlooking Round Lake it is the perfect place to explore Young’s sense of play in his creations.

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Today, new houses are springing up in the area reminiscent of the ones designed by Young. Below is a beautiful example that I saw being built last summer (2015). Utilizing thatch like many of Young’s early homes, it gives this unique and stately beauty the sense of being an old English manor located somewhere on that great Island.

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While there are many other things to do in Charlevoix  besides house gazing there are few places you will ever visit that has such a wonderful legacy available to anyone on a drive-by. So slow it on down and head into town. It’s definitely worth a stop.

 

 

 

Best Restaurant On The Beach-Cook Islands

Sure you can dine on many a swanky spot along the beach in many parts of the world but for spectacular dining at a decent price it is hard to beat Vaima Polynesian Bar and Restaurant outside Rarotonga in the picture perfect Cook Islands.

Arrive early for steps from the ocean seating with glorious sunsets and the lull of the waves lapping near your feet the ambiance doesn’t get much better than this. As night falls you may spot ghost crabs as they scuttle along in the sand and the stars will align to produce a spectacular natural show.

Vaima serves the best mango daiquiri I have ever tasted. Pair it with the establishments signature salt and pepper calamari served with hot and sour dipping sauce and you will be soon drooling for a second helping of both. Of course, you can never go wrong with the catch of the day which was plucked fresh from the ocean just hours prior. Orange glazed lamb was another favorite.

Come for the atmosphere and stay for the food should be the slogan of this charming eatery. And with the Cook Islands as your daily playground, well, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

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Money Saving Hint: From the United States if you fly with Air New Zealand you should be able to get a free stopover in Auckland. To get this you must book through the airline. It is a great deal if it is still available. Doesn’t hurt to ask!