HAE DONG YONG GUNG TEMPLE

Serenity is elusive. We search for it but often come up empty-handed. Some climb mountains. Some listen to the birds. And some search the word over never understanding that they hold it in the palm of their own hand. BUT…let’s face it there are some places that just make it easier to feel that overall peace that we are so desperately looking for. One of those places where it is within reach is Hae Dong Yong Gung Temple in Busan which is also known as the Dragon Temple. After traveling with three children overseas for a week… peace… was what I was seeking.

This temple first came into existence in the mid 1300’s. You can read a little about it. It was destroyed during the Japanese occupation but was rebuilt in 1970. Yes, fairly new but still spectacular.

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Our trip started when we took the #9 bus from the subway station. We were dropped off about a 10 minute walk from the temple. This Hae Dong Yong Gong is known as the Zodiac temple and upon entering you see huge marble carvings of each of the astrological signs behind which stands a huge pagoda.

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Then comes the interesting trek down smoldering granite stairs where you pass several buddhas. The belief of those who trek here is that “at least one of your wishes will be answered here through your heartfelt prayers.”

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We crossed over the bridge where the sea rode waves to just below the cliff. It was amazing.  But frankly I don’t have time to write anymore as I head to Mokpo tomorrow. So instead I will leave you with pictures.

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Getty Center

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The Getty Center in the Brentwood section of Los Angles is an amazing feat of architecture. Designed to allow maximum viewing along with introspection from all areas; it is a place to go just to enmesh yourself in the soul of a building. Screw the art!

The Getty was built in 1997 and designed by Robert Meier. Bountiful gardens and vistas open up throughout the facility giving visitors a chance to be one with the glory of nature. With outdoor sculptures and numerous lavish fountains dotting the 24 acre complex it makes for a full-scale outdoor art experience.

Of course, the Getty, viewing one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world  by artists such as van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Delacroix; is an amazing experience.

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For those with an interest in illuminated manuscripts and old photographs; the Getty Center doesn’t disappoint.   But for the kids, the best part of the trip to the Getty will be riding the tram up the mountain from the subterranean parking garage.

The Getty Center is closed Mondays and on Thanksgiving, Christmas and January 1. Parking is $15. Admission is free. There is also a lovely restaurant that offers expensive food served up with incredible views.

 

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Point Cabrillo Lighthouse

If you are like me lighthouses hold a deep fascination. It’s not just the buildings themselves that pull at my heart but its also the people who dedicated their lives to ensuring that passing ships were not swallowed up by the sea.

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse on the Mendocino Coast is nothing short of breathtaking. The lighthouse hugs this wild and windy shoreline like a blanket, warming and protecting the boats which pass by headed to distant ports around the world.  Wildlife is abundant. Walk quietly and you will see the deer grazing, some eagles soaring, and most likely you will be able to hear the seals bark; as the Fresnel lends patrols the outer coast for a distance of 13-15 miles, 24/7.

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This lighthouse was constructed in 1908 and was lit for the first time at midnight on June 10, 1909. The point was chosen to increase and protect maritime travel as boats picked up loads of timber that were harvested from the Redwood forests which stretched from mountain tops straight down to the sea. When you visit today you will be able to view the lighthouse as well as the three keepers residences, the Oil House, the Blacksmith and Carpentry shop along with various outbuildings.

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Personally, I think that the best time to visit this beautiful piece of the world is in late November – February or Mid-February to early May. This is when the Gray Whales migrate from Alaska down to Baja, Mexico to birth their young and then make the trip back with their calf in tow. Watching them spout and breach from the lighthouse sends a “HAPPY” chill straight down your spine and a sense of awe exploding throughout your brain.

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One of the many things I like about lighthouses and their grounds is that they are often available to rent for short stays and Point Cabrillo’s accommodations are amongst the best. The Head Lightkeeper’s House, The 2nd Assistant’s House and two cabins, all of which have been historically restored, are ideal for family vacations. Best of all they are reasonably priced, not cheap, but in-line for this type of experience.

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The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse is open, like most state parks from sunrise to sunset, but many of the exhibits are only available from the hours of 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.  To rent the houses contact:DSC03920

 

 

Ahwhanee Hotel in Yosemite

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One of the great United States Park Service hotels is undoubtedly the Ahwahanee located in Yosemite National Park. Opened in 1927 it is considered to be a masterpiece of U.S. Park Service Rustic architecture and hospitality but it has also served its troops well too. Back during WWII the Ahwahanee served as a rehabilitation hospital for Naval troops with a skiing program put into place to help the soldiers regain their strength. But its greatest honor occurred in 1987 when it became one of the premier destinations on the National Historic Registry.

It really doesn’t matter what season you visit you will always find the service impeccable and the views breathtaking. Yet, if I were planning a vacation here I would avoid the summer when the place is packed and the weather is often uncomfortably hot.  Personally, my favorite time to venture here is in the winter when the Ahwhanee is all decked out for Christmas. Using ornaments and decorations from a bygone era it is step back into history.  And perhaps the most coveted ticket in this neck of the woods is the one to the annual Bracebridge dinner held during the holiday season.  Here fortunate guests travel back to Christmas past, feasting all evening on delicacies and local wines while enjoying entertainment that might have been served up in a manor in the 1600’s. So alluring is the show that people sign up years in advance for a part in the production and famed photographer Ansel Adams was once one of the performers.

One thing I love to do while here is to sign up for the Ahwahnee Tour and History walk. Here hotel experts will fill you in on how the hotel was constructed and you’ll learn interesting Hotel tidbits like the fact that the chairs in the drawing room were made to purposely tip you up towards the windows so you always have an amazing view.

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As you can plainly see the  Ahwahnee Hotel is an amazing place of natural beauty and even if you cannot get reservations you can certainly stop in for a stroll and a cool glass of ice tea. But more importantly, take the time to wander outdoors. Cross over a bridge or two and watch the mist from the waterfalls soar into the sky. And if you are lucky, you might just see some of these beautiful creatures…but don’t get too close… because Momma bear is near and she would be happy to have you for breakfast.

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Finally, one of the biggest disappoints regarding the Ahwahnee is the despicable behavior of the Delaware North corporation which operated this park until it lost its lease bid to a rival company. Unfortunately, this greedy corporation is claiming rights of ownership to the names of all of the buildings in the park and today the Ahwahnee is being renamed after almost 100 years. It is a disgrace and I refuse to refer to this hotel by anything but its original name. In fact, I urge you to join me in a boycott of Delaware North properties and airport concessions. You can also let this malicious corporation know about your displeasure of their name grab of our historic buildings by contacting Victoria Hong Director of Corporate Communications at the corporate headquarters at this email address:vhong@delawarenorth.com

Strausbourg Canals

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One of my absolutely favorite places for strolling along the canals is Strausbourg, France. These waterways are alive with small boats trolling their waters and swans gliding along. The occasional big-gun tourist boat also enters the locks,passing by the many outdoor patios that line the canals.

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Of course history plays out everywhere you turn. In the heart of Strasbourg lies the Petit-France district where you will find the half-timbered houses that centuries ago were occupied by millers and tanners but are now home to fabulous restaurants and shops.

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From old bridges that cross the city and  ancient houses that line the waterways there is always something of interest along the way.  And the flower boxes strategically placed here and there make the canals burst with riots of color. Of course, one cannot forget the magnificent Strausbourg Cathedral which sits just forward of the canal.

 

During the summer Barrage Vaubin (part of the city’s ancient ramparts) are transformed into giant works of art that change as music plays through loud speakers lining the venue. From trains and clocks, sea monsters and spectacular buildings this light show is just plain amazing.

The canals of Strausbourg should be on your “must-see” list. Unlike the canals of Venice, which are dirty and strewn with litter, these canals are pristine and even more picturesque. These waterways are the heart and soul of medieval France so be sure to take advantage and follow the canals to find the place of your dreams.

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Most Beautiful Covered Bridge-Lucerne, Switzerland

Undoubtedly, the most beautiful covered bridge in the world is located in Lucerne, Switzerland. The Chapel Bridge, is also the oldest covered bridge in Europe as well as the oldest surviving truss bridge in the entire world. Named after nearby St. Peter’s Chapel, the bridge crosses the Reuss River in the heart of old Lucerne and its a landmark that cannot be missed.

The bridge was first constructed in 1333 as a form of protection for the city against enemy attack. In the 17th century, Catholic painter Hans Wagmann, began painting scenes which depicted the city’s history and the Catholic Churches influence on it in the interior triangular frames of the bridge. These works of art have been revered by the inhabitants of the city for centuries, so, in 1993 when a major fire occurred on the bridge and many of these paintings were lost, the city was devastated. Lucerne spent millions of dollars reconstructing parts of the bridge but the missing paintings are obvious and seem to haunt the bridge like a ghost in the night.

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Ultimately, the Chapel Bridge is the most beloved symbol of this beautiful old city. Flower boxes line the entire bridge and bustling swans float nearby waiting for hand-outs by the thousands of people who cross it daily.  In addition, there are a few small shops located on the bridge itself selling primarily Swiss products like the world famous Swiss army knives.

When we were planning our trip to Europe, Chapel Bridge was one of our “must-sees” and it was definitely worth the trip. An ancient and beautiful city with a beautifully preserved covered bridge…it doesn’t get much better than this!

Hint: This is a free site. Be sure to take advantage of it by crossing both in daylight and during the night. A nighttime crossing gives Lucerne an entirely different look and vibe with the reflection of the lights off the water. 

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The Great Salt Lake-SLC, Utah

The Great Salt Lake is the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere and it is huge. It is actually the biggest lake outside of the Great Lakes region in the USA. Depending on weather conditions its size ranges from 950 square miles all the way up to 3,300 square miles. When we were there last summer the drought affecting the western United States had reduced its size considerably and vast swaths of salt lay crystalizing in the hot desert sun. All that gleaming white salt made it almost impossible to look at without hurting your eyes making the entire area appear like one colossal mirage.

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While you would think little wildlife could inhabit this area many birds live in the salt water and fresh water marshlands. The Bald Eagle, gulls, pelicans and swans either live in the area or migrate through it. If you are in the area Antelope Island State park offers unprecedented views of the lake, wildlife viewing and hiking/biking trails.

When visiting the GSL I found it very interesting that we had to wash off our shoes due to the high salinity of the salt just resting on the ground. The kids were amazed by this great salt body and I was too. A very interesting site if you are headed to Salt Lake City…in fact, you really can’t miss it!DSC08285

 

My Absolute Favorite German Town-Gernsbach, Germany

Okay, I will admit that I am a little biased. I may even be more in love with this town than just about any I have ever been to but it has nothing to do with the fact that my 2nd great grandparents emigrated from here and that their parents and their parents parents lived here too. No, this town is a true historical gem and it deserves any accolades it receives. Each and every one of them.

The day we came we had visited a town 10 miles away that my SIL’s family had emigrated from. It was small, desolate and looked like much of it had been destroyed during WWII. New buildings stood on a main street lined with them. It was a real disappointment to her because there was no character in the town. None. Needless to say, I was afraid that I would be bitterly disappointed to have come all that way to see Gernsbach and have it just be a shell of a town. Thankfully it wasn’t.

Gernsbach is located 7 km from Baden-Baden in the Black Forest.  The town was established in the 12th century and paper is a huge part of its economy as it has been for centuries. My 2nd great grandfather worked as a Joiner while living here in the early 1800’s. His mother, Elizabeth Lippert, was born in this town in 1792.

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The first clue that this would be a grand place to explore was the huge stone bridge that stood as an entrance to the town and divides it in half. We made a quick right and began climbing up the hillside streets where we had views  that stretched for miles of the surrounding mountains. It was breathtaking. This has got to be one of the most romantic spots in all of Germany so take advantage of it.

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Another era of the past were the cobblestone streets filled the town square and stretched out beyond meandering throughout the city.  But the most impressive thing were the row upon row of beautiful timbered houses that have stood for hundreds of years.

One has been around since the 1600’s and tours are given of this outstanding building which is in the process of being restored. We climbed throughout the building venturing here and there and when we reached the top the views of the church on the hill were unmatched. I have to confess I ran my hands along the buildings outer and inner walls just sure that my 5th Great Grandmother had once done the same and that somehow we were touching each other’s hands.

Besides the numerous timbered houses there are also charming fountains that dot the city. Filled with baskets of flowers surrounding the water they are some of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.

There are also two churches, the protestant St.-Jakobskirche with its beautifully tended cemetery. It is an interesting thing that in Germany that you will rarely find old tombstones. This is because a family will lease the burial plot for a period of thirty years and if the family does not pay to have the plot renewed, everything is removed including the headstone. That said, this churchyard does have a few old stones that are worth looking at.

 

The other church is the Catholic church which was re-built in the 1800’s. The town walls surrounds it along with the early history of the place. We happened upon the church when the organist was practicing and the music was as enchanting as the building was beautiful. Hearing the organ explode throughout the church is something I will never forget.

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Part of me hates to write about Gernsbach. It is an undiscovered gem. I am afraid that the next time I go back it will be swarming with tourists because with all its history and  beauty this town is worthy of the biggest and  best bus tours. This place is an undiscovered treasure. Selfishly, I hope it remains one.

Altes Rathaus, or Old Town Hall, was once a palace built for a rich timber merchant in 1671-1618.

 

Pikes Peak-Colorado

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Ever since Zebulon Pike failed to summit Pikes Peak in 1806, mountaineers have come to this grand spot in the Rocky Mountains to have their own go of it. At 14,110 ft this is one of 53 mountains that are greater than 14,000 feet in Colorado and a challenge to climb.

There are several ways to reach the summit of Pikes. The first is just plain old hoofing it up the mountain via Barr Trail which is considered a Class 1 trail. It is a 13 mile climb to the top with an 8,ooo ft elevation difference from start to finish.

Another way to reach the summit is The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway which operates out of Manitou Springs weather permitting. It is a cog railway and is the highest railway in North America. This is an expensive way to summit at $38 per adult but the views are stunning and it is an unforgettable experience.

Since 2011 Pikes Peak Highway has been opened to the top. It is a 19 mile drive from Ute Pass and is maintained as a toll road so there is a fee to use it. At the top you will find a Visitors Center and gift shop but it is the things you will see along the way that you will long remember…the alpine woods, three magnificent lakes and the historic Glen Cove Inn. These are the things that come to mind when I think of Pikes Peak.

As always when you are at these altitudes be sure to bring along plenty of water so you keep hydrated. Altitude sickness with its attending headache is often experienced by visitors who do not take the time to acclimate. And remember it is COLD at the top so dress accordingly.  At Pikes the scenery is vast and the climb is one of those once-in-a- lifetime things you must do. So go and enjoy Pikes no matter how you get there!

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Dave climbing near Pikes Peak in Colorado

 

Free Entrance Days

Almost all National, State and local Parks have annual free or reduced price entrance days. Museums usually do to0. Here is a list of some of my favorite free admission places to visit this year.

 

Because it is the 100th birthday of  National Park Service there are several days this year where no admission is charged. These include:

  • April 16 through 24: National Park Day
  • August 25 through 28: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 24: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day
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CHICAGO

Art Institute of Chicago: Free for all Illinois residents from 5-8 p.m. Thursdays. Kids 13 and under are always free.

Chicago Children’s Museum: Free 5-8 p.m. every Thursday and the first Sunday of every month for kids 15 and under. Always free to children under 1.

The Field Museum: Several days have already come and gone this year but June 21-23 remains

Museum of Science and Industry: The following days in 2016 remain

June: 1-3, 6-8; September: 6-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30; October: 4-6; November: 3,10 December: 1

Several other Chicago attractions also have free days.

NEW YORK CITY

New York Aquarium: Friday 3 pm-closing (pay what you wish)

Whitney Museum of American Art: Friday 7-9:30 pm

Bronx Zoo: Wednesday (pay what you wish)

Metropolitan Museum of Art (always free or pay what you wish)

There are plenty more attractions in and around NYC that offer these deals.

SAN FRANCISCO

Asian Art Museum: First Sunday of every month

de Young: First Tuesday of every month, first full weekend of every month for Bank of America Card Holders

San Francisco Railway Museum: Always free

Bat Area Discovery Museum: Great for kids. First Wednesday of every month.

BALTIMORE

The Walters Art Museum: General admission is free

National Aquarium: Dollar Days are December 3 and 4 this year. Admission is just $1. 1/2 Price Nights after 5 p.m. on Fridays. There is also a Pay What You Want Day every year.

DENVER

Denver Museum of Nature and Science: April 23, May 9, June 5, August 29, September 11, October 24, November 13, December 12

Denver Art Museum: May 7, June 4 and other days throughout the year

Children’s Museum of Denver:May 3 4-8 p.m., June 7 4-8 p.m.

SEATTLE

Seattle Symphony: Various dates. Check schedule.

Museum Of Flight: Free 5p.m.-9 p.m. the first Thursday of the month

Museum of History and Industry: First Thursdays are free and have extended hours (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.).

Washington State Parks: May 8: Sunday Spring Day, June 4: National Trails Day, June 11: National Get Outdoors Day, Aug. 25: National Park Service Birthday, Sept. 24: National Public Lands Day, Nov. 11: Veterans Day

ST. LOUIS

St. Louis Zoo: There is no entrance fee. It is FREE. There are some charges for special events like the sea lion show.

Contemporary Art Museum: is free for all visitors on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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As you can see there are plenty of free things to do in and around where you live. Just google FREE DAYS in your area for a list of adventures.

*All information provided is subject to change. Verify details before going.