OUR VISIT TO NORTH GEORGIA & AMICALOLA FALLS

Last week, Bruce and I took a break from the routine to head up to North Georgia.  Over the years, we had always passed through the northern part of our state on our way to other destinations.  This time, we rented a log cabin on Cherry Lake Mountain, halfway between Ellijay and Blue Ridge.

Bruce found us a cute cabin through Morning Breeze Cabin Rentals that had a beautiful view of Cherry Lake below.  We purposely booked it for a week before the crowds would descend on the area for the Ellijay Apple Festival and expected fall foliage color change.  The last thing we wanted to deal with were crowds right before our hectic holiday craft show season!

Our cabin (top floor, with hot tub and another deck below)
The view from the screened in porch of Cherry Lake was lovely!
This bear-themed cabin had black bears EVERYWHERE!
Bruce kickin’ back at the edge of the lake
Cherry Lake, located just below the cabin
This is a pond near our cabin that I discovered on one of my Cherry Log Mountain Hikes. Bruce and I returned with his fishing pole; however, the fish weren’t biting.
Another discovery on my mountain hike, just beyond the pond.

If we had written a wish list for the perfect week in North Georgia, it couldn’t have been any better than what we actually got:  Sunny and dry with daily high temperatures in the upper 70’s to low 80’s every day until we left.  Better yet, there were no crowds!  On our back-country drives, we often had the road all to ourselves—perfect for the loop from our cabin to the apple orchards in Ellijay, and then to Amicalola Falls, followed by Dahlonega, and then finally back to Blue Ridge via the curvy (and fun!) GA-60.  What an awesome day!

These were the highlights of our week:

Amicalola Falls State Park.  Don’t go to North Georgia and miss seeing these gorgeous waterfalls!  Located eight miles from the Appalachian Trail, the park is within the Chattahoochee National Forest, between Ellijay and Dahlonega, in Dawsonville.  At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the third-highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River.

Although there are longer hiking trails leading from the lodge to the falls, we opted to park at the Reflection Pool and hike in on the Appalachian Approach Trail to the observation platform.  It’s a short hike that parallels the creek running from the falls, and the sound of the water was so mesmerizing.  The first observation platform is at the base of the falls, and the views were spectacular!  The higher observation platform was just 175 steps up.  For those needing rest, there were small rest arears along the climb up.  The views were breathtaking!

Blue Ridge.  Located 90 miles north of Atlanta via I-575, Blue Ridge is located on the Georgia-Tennessee-North Carolina line.  A hiker’s and trout fisherman’s paradise, Blue Ridge was ranked by Southern Living Magazine as one of the 2020 South’s Best Mountain Towns.

The quaint downtown is the starting point for the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway; however, we opted not to ride the train to the Georgia-Tennessee border and just stay in Blue Ridge. There were a lot of nice shops, galleries, and restaurants in a quaint, but not too touristy-looking atmosphere.  Thankfully, it wasn’t ruined by tacky Ripley’s “attractions” like Gatlinburg, Tennessee was.  (We later drove on our own to McCaysville, GA / Copper Hill, TN; however, the journey was more enjoyable than the destination.)

For us, the highlight of Blue Ridge was visiting The Art Center, home to the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association.  Located in the former Fannin County Courthouse, exhibits are on display throughout the building.  Our favorite was the Contemporary Southern Folk Art exhibit (ending soon!) on display in the former court where trials formerly took place.  The association did an outstanding job turning the courthouse into a spacious and beautiful gallery!  Check out their website for upcoming exhibits and make sure to stop by to check them out.  We visited mid-week and had the entire place to ourselves!  There is no charge, but please drop a donation into the glass bowl as it is a non-profit arts association.

Whenever I research a travel destination, I always search the Trip Advisor website for recommendations.  Since the top-rated restaurant was a casual, locally-owned favorite with outdoor dining, it was a must for us.  We will definitely return to The Rum Cake Lady Cuban Food Café in downtown Blue Ridge when we visit the area again!  The food was delicious, and the restaurant offered vegan and vegetarian options.

This very fierce looking dog guarded The Rum Cake Lady Cuban Food Cafe.
If it’s fried, I ain’t eatin’ it! We passed on this restaurant…
This pig greeted us at Hillcrest Orchards.

Further south in Ellijay, the highlight was hitting the apple orchard trail.  Although Mercier Orchards back up in Blue Ridge has the most Trip Advisor reviews, our favorite orchard of the five we visited was Panorama Orchards, located three miles south of the center of Ellijay.  Both orchards are rated 4-1/2 stars on Trip Advisor; however, we enjoyed shopping for goodies at Panorama Orchards’ market much more than at Mercier.  The apples are priced the same at both markets; however, Panorama has an incredible selection of food items at better prices, including their homemade preserves, jams, apple breads (delicious!) and other bakery items. 

In the back of the market, there is a large window where you can watch them making fudge and other candies—all priced better than at any of the other orchards we visited.  The fudge (made with fresh cream and butter) is heavenly, so pick some up to bring home.

Panorama Orchards was also the only one that made their own ice cream, and it was priced better than any of the ice cream shops we checked out in Northern Georgia.  The Blueberry Cheesecake ice cream was delicious!

We picked up a ½ peck of Honeycrisp apples to munch on in the cabin, and then stopped by on the way home for another ½ peck to bring home with us.  They were the best apples I have ever had!

Here are a few more snap shots from our trip. (I still haven’t replaced my broken favorite camera, so all of the shots in this post were with my cheap, sub-par Fuji underwater swimming video camera.)

This not-so-humble 4-story abode (complete with boat house) was located across from Lake Blue Ridge Marina.
I roped Bruce into straddling the state line for the ultimate cheesy picture. SAY CHEEEEZE!
Hmmm, drugs and guns. What could possibly go wrong? This is so typically North Georgia…
I pondered over this shot debating with myself whether I should include this or not. There is just SO MUCH I could say about this that it could take up an entire blog post. Suffice it to say that I would never last a day as this guy’s neighbor. After all, McCaysville Drug & Gun was located just up the street, and I’m sure the owner of this banner is their best customer! I’d be a goner.

…AND, ANOTHER LITTLE RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS (Act 64)

The other day, this adorable baby penguin waddled her way to Sun City Peachtree and somehow managed to hop up onto the bench for a rest.  She had come a long way, after all!

Here’s a little fun fact about penguins:  They are incredibly fast swimmers!  Their wings function like wheels in the water, and they can have a speed of up to 15 mph.  On land, however, they’re not so fast.  They walk (or waddle!) at a speed range between 1.7 mph to 2.4 mph.

If you compare the swimming speed of penguins to Olympic gold medalists such as Caeleb Dressel or Michael Phelps, they race at less than a third the speed of penguins.

Yesterday, this kangaroo hopped with her joey all the way from Australia to join us up here in Georgia.  I wonder if they stowed away on a ship to get here?  Nah, they probably escaped from the Atlanta Zoo instead.  What a couple of cuties!

Have you ever wondered why Australia has a sporting flag of a kangaroo in boxing gloves?  The idea of a boxing kangaroo originates from the animal’s defensive behavior, in which it will use its small forelegs (its arms) to hold an attacker in place while using the claws on its larger hind legs to try to kick, slash or disembowel them.  This stance gives the impression that the kangaroo appears to be boxing with its attacker. 

The boxing kangaroo is a national symbol of Australia, and is often displayed prominently by Australian spectators at sporting events.  It rose to prominence in 1983 when the Australia II team won the America’s Cup, and the crew raised the Boxing Kangaroo (“BK”) as their sporting battle flag.  The image, a red-gloved golden kangaroo on a green background, was owned by Alan Bond (owner of the Australia II yacht) who licensed it for mass production.

The next animal to visit was Scooby-Doo, the pet and lifelong companion of Shaggy Rogers.  Although he’s a Great Dane, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy share several personality traits, mostly being fearful and perpetually hungry.  The pooch doesn’t say much, but every word he does manage to utter has an “R” at the front of it, due to a speech impediment.  One of his catch phrases is “Ruh-roh, Raggy” (Uh-oh, Shaggy).  He also howls at the end of every episode, “Scooby-Dooby-Doo!” or “Rooby-Rooby-Roo!”

A Hanna-Barbera creation, Scooby-Doo was a children’s cartoon on CBS.  Fred Silverman, the children’s programming director, came up with the character’s name from the syllables “doo-be-doo-be-doo” in Frank Sinatra’s hit song Strangers in the Night. Artist Iwao Takamoto took it from there and designed the character after first speaking to a Great Dane Breeder, who described to him the desirable characteristics of a pedigree dog.  Takamoto then drew Scooby as the opposite of this.  He said, “I decided to go the opposite [way] and gave him a hump back, bowed legs, small chin and such.  Even his colour is wrong.”  That’s what makes him so cute and loveable, I think!

…AND, ANOTHER LITTLE RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS (Act 46)

Last, but definitely not least, here’s Rosie the Robot!  She is the last remaining member of the family to visit us here at Sun City Peachtree.  Rosie was busy vacuuming up the mess Elroy made while eating snacks in the back seat of the Jetson’s aerocar, so it took her a while to catch up.

Rosie is the Jetson’s family robot, maid, and housekeeper.  Although she is an older model (an XB-500), she does a good job getting the work done.  Besides, Jane couldn’t afford a newer model, and this was the only one U-Rent A Maid could offer at the right price.

The robot is mostly made of blue metal, and she rolls around on wheels.  I’m thinking Rosie may need some WD-40 on her wheels, though, because she makes loud grinding and clicking sounds as she moves around.  That’s how I knew she was here!

Rosie’s other features include claw-like arms that can extend to play sports.  Cool!  That would have come in handy when my brother and I were growing up!  Her cylindrical head features lips that look like small doors and eyes that resemble dials and sometimes light up.  Although her eyes mostly point upwards, they can move slightly to show different emotions.  If they are pointed towards each other, that means Rosie is sad.  Watch out if they are pointed outward and horizontally, because that means she is mad!

Since Rosie is a maid, her uniform includes a maid’s hat, a dress, and an apron.  To complete the look, she has antennae on the sides of her head.

According to Rosie, her XB-500 model is wired for tape analysis, which means she is compatible to read magnetic tape that computers used.  When she is home by herself, she functions as a security system and house sitter.  Otherwise, she is a traditional maid that cleans the house with a feather duster, vacuum, and other conventional cleaning tools.  In addition, she operates the other household appliances.

When Rosie speaks, she has a Brooklyn accent, which evidently appeals to her boyfriend, Mac.  He is also a robot and Henry Orbit’s helper.  Rosie loves him dearly, but he isn’t very smart.  She is definitely the more intelligent robot.

I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t mind having Rosie come by our place once in a while.  She can do the vacuuming while I write about her!  (I’m wondering if I could reprogram her accent to a British one, though…)

The interesting thing about Rosie and so many other things happening in the The Jetsons world is just how much of their futuristic lives became a reality decades later.  Hyundai and other companies are making their own versions of Rosie, robotic vacuums now roam around people’s homes, we video chat on Zoom and other platforms, and homes are outfitted with all sorts of smart technology that people can control with their smart phones.  Aerocars may not be in existence quite yet, but self-driving cars are currently being tested by Tesla, Google, and several others.  Meanwhile, Branson and Bezos are preparing to fly into space in their private spaceships.  How long will it be before everybody is living in the Jetson’s futuristic world?

…AND, ANOTHER LITTLE RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS (Act 21)

An adorably curious owl flew in last week and took a rest here at Sun City Peachtree; and, today, it’s Tweety Bird!  I could have sworn I heard him say, “I tawt I taw a puddy tat!”  Sylvester was nowhere to be found, though.

Tweety (aka Tweety Pie), has been fluttering about for quite a long time.  The yellow canary with the big head was born five years before Sylvester came around.  He first appeared in A Tale of Two Kitties, in 1942.  Five years later, he joined his nemisis, Sylvester, in Tweety Pie, which won an Academy Award.  A star was born!

Now, about that big head of his.  Tweety’s design was based on a baby picture of Bob Clampett, the director of the canary’s first movie.  (Evidently, baby Bobby had a fat head!)

Tweety has mellowed over the years.  At first, he was an angry little bird with a short temper, but he has chilled.  Don’t let those long eye lashes and his sweet charm fool you, though.  When it comes to his rival, he’ll find a way to humiliate the cat in the end.  Besides, the pint-sized canary has Granny to protect him, when he lives at her house.  She keeps him in a cage and away from Sylvester who is always trying to eat the little fellow. 

Sylvester is just jealous.  He thinks Granny likes Tweety better and gives the bird more attention.

When he’s not (easily) escaping Sylvester’s claws, the star canary is off making appearances in other movies, such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Space Jam, and Looney Tunes:  Back in Action.

Recently, it appeared as if being a star had gone to Tweety’s (big!) head, and he turned a bit aggressive and angry again in Looney Tunes Cartoons

The star will be making some appearances in the near future, beginning with Tweety Mysteries, a live-action/animated hybrid.  Instead of living with Granny, he will be living with Sydney, a pre-teen girl.  He will also be appearing in the preschool series, Bugs Bunny Builders.  (I wonder if Bugs Bunny will try to eat the yellow-feathered canary, too!)

ST. PETERSBURG’S IMAGINE MUSEUM

St. Petersburg is such a fantastic city for so many reasons, but it’s especially fantastic if you enjoy seeing fabulous glass art works.  Between the Chihuly Collection, Morean Arts Center, and Duncan McClellan Gallery, which I previously wrote about; they exhibit (and/or sell) more top-quality art glass than most American cities.  There is still, however, one more glass museum I haven’t yet shared, which is the Imagine Museum.

Wow!  The Imagine Museum is another feast for the eyes that is well worth the visit.  Founded in 2016 by glass artist Trish Duggan, “her goal was to put together a collection of artworks and promote an experience that would inspire, uplift, and educate,” according to their website.  We definitely think she has accomplished that goal!

Imagine Museum features top glass artists from around the world, including America, Canada, the Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Australia, and others.  There are 1,500 glass art works on display from the Studio Glass Movement, which started in the 1960’s and continues to the present.

One of the things I greatly appreciated about Imagine Museum and the other museums and galleries we visited was that they openly encourage visitors to photograph their art works!  All they asked was to tag them on social media.  Done!

We were also pleased to learn the museum offered free tours with admission.  The tour we selected was, “Introduction to American Studio Glass.”  There were only six of us on the tour, and the guide did an excellent job keeping our attention with interesting stories about the artists and their works.  It was fascinating!

Following the tour, we roamed around the remaining exhibits that weren’t covered on the tour, including the entire second floor of the museum. 

Glass is often really difficult to photograph, so the pictures I took of many of the art works ended up in the recycle bin—especially since I wasn’t shooting with my best camera, which I left at home, due to a malfunctioning zoom mechanism.  These were all shot (without flash) with my inexpensive waterproof Fuji XP, which Bruce uses for shooting underwater video of my swimming for stroke technique feedback.

The pictures don’t do the art work justice, so you will just have to visit St. Petersburg and see it all for yourself!

Dale Chihuly
Toots Zynsky, a former student of Dale Chihuly
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“Nirvana,” 1000 Buddahs, by Imagine Museum founder, Trish Dugan. She was inspired by this quote by Buddah: “Though you can conquer a 1,000 men in battle 1,000 times, the one who conquers himself is the noblest victor of all.”
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It’s difficult to imagine from this picture, but I was actually looking through a very long tunnel of glass! This sculpture was approximately 12+ feet long! This photo was shot from one end.
This is just a small portion of a large glass sculpture by Anthony James.
This glass cube is balancing on its stand. The tour guide took one corner, gave it a spin! It was mesmerizing to watch, and this photo can’t possibly capture what we really saw.
This one was a trip! It looked different from every angle!
This life-size chair was on display in the front window of the museum. Don’t sit on it!

ST. PETERSBURG’S DUNCAN MCCLELLAN GALLERY: A FEAST FOR THE EYES

Trip Advisor has been a very useful travel-planning tool over the years, and this time was no different.  Checking out the site’s “Things to Do” category for St. Petersburg landed me here to read the reviews on the top-ranked Duncan McClellan Gallery.  Just knowing it was an art glass gallery was convincing enough; we knew we had to see it!  The fabulous reviews, however, sealed it!  Better yet was following the link to the gallery’s website to see the gorgeous photos of their exhibited glass sculptures.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the personable and friendly Danyell Bauer, the gallery’s manager.  She has worked at the gallery for ten years, and she is also a glass and multi-media artist.  We really enjoyed talking with her!

As we feasted our eyes on all of the beautiful works of art, we felt right at home in the relaxed environment—especially when we saw the food and water bowls on the floor for what turned out to be three cats that had free run of the gallery. (I guess they don’t make a habit of knocking over the art work!)

The 3,000-square-foot gallery opened up to a casual courtyard and deck in one direction, where two of the cats were taking a siesta; and, on the other side of the gallery, it opened up to a beautiful sculpture garden full of mango trees, plants, orchids, sculptures, art glass, a boardwalk path, and casual sitting areas where you could relax and enjoy the environment.  We were amazed that gorgeous blown glass pieces were on display out in the elements.  They were created by Duncan himself, and they were spectacular!

Duncan McClellan

We got talking with Duncan McClellan, and learned that he also loves to garden and grow orchids.  He created that 5,000-square-foot sculpture garden from what was once an empty dirt space behind the former fish and tomato packing plant.  Now, he is learning how to grow several varieties of mushrooms and showed us a bucket that had mushrooms growing on the side.

Duncan was as personable and friendly as Danyell, and he really made us feel at home.  Behind the gallery and sculpture garden is a huge glass blowing studio, so he led us back and showed us around.  Glass blowing demonstrations are open to the public; however, we were there on a Sunday afternoon, so there wasn’t much action going on. 

Since Bruce works in fused glass, we were interested in seeing his kilns, and we were amazed at the quantity and variety he had available there for himself, staff, the artists, and classes they teach.  One of them was the largest we had ever seen!  This huge piece was annealed in this approximately 5’ x 5’ kiln.

We look forward to returning to the gallery next time we visit St. Petersburg.  Since the rotating exhibitions feature national and internationally recognized glass artists, I am sure there will be many more amazing works of art; a feast for the eyes!

VACCINATION CELEBRATION! ST. PETERSBURG FLORIDA

April 27, 2021.  I was so looking forward to that glorious day:  Full vaccination!  The countdown started after my second jab, on April 13.  Bruce was already fully vaccinated, and we decided to take a celebration road trip the moment I qualified.

On April 27th, we hit the road to St. Petersburg, a Florida city we hadn’t yet visited.  The draw?  The Chihuly Collection at the Morean Art Center.

Glass blowing demonstration at the Morean Arts Center.

Dale Chihuly, an American glass sculptor, is one of the world’s most famous artists of blown glass.  We had enjoyed his temporary exhibits at the Mingei Museum, in San Diego, as well as the Atlanta and Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens.  In addition, we were in awe of his permanent installations at the San Antonio library, San Antonio Museum of Art, Las Vegas Bellagio Hotel, and Maker’s Mark Distillery, in Kentucky.

We decided to make our celebration a one-week vacation, so we could also enjoy the other art glass galleries, museums, and so much more that St. Petersburg has to offer.

Notice how Flipper is masked to keep us all safe!

Whenever I travel, I also look for a pool facility, so I can start off at least some of my days with a good swim training session.  I found it in St. Pete, at the North Shore Aquatics Complex, located right on the downtown waterfront at Vinoy Park.  I was in swimming heaven! The 50-meter pool was run short course the days I swam, so I always had my own lane in the perfect 80-degree water.  (The facility also has a 25-meter pool and kids water park. 

While I swam, Bruce walked along the waterfront park watching the dolphins and birds as he enjoyed views of the St. Petersburg skyline and marina.  One of his walks took him along Vinoy Park, past the marina, and to the end of St. Pete Pier and back, for a 75-minute roundtrip.  Nice!

Bruce was really impressed with the uniqueness of this pier—unlike anything he had ever seen; so, I had to see it for myself.

The new version of this pier on Tampa Bay opened in July, 2020 at a cost of $92 million dollars.  It includes five restaurants, a playground, an environmental education center, artwork, and sculptures, including this life-size pelican. 

Next time we visit St. Pete, we are going to make sure to return to the pier at night to see the “Bending Arc,” a net sculpture that lights up in bright colors.

We really enjoyed the downtown area of St. Petersburg.  It’s an easy city to navigate by car or on foot; however, if neither of those options sound appealing to you (or, you just want to relax and leave the work to somebody else), you can ride the Looper.  The ride is free, and there are twenty stops along the route where you can get off to enjoy one of the many restaurants with outdoor dining, visit a gallery, or shop ‘til you drop.  It even stops at the local hospitals, but I’m hopeful you will never need to do that!

St. Pete has an artsy vibe, and there is plenty of arts and culture to take in while you’re there.  My next two posts will give you a taste of it with visits to the Duncan McClellan Gallery and Imagine Museum.

Meanwhile, here are some of my favorite crafts from Florida Craft Art:

iFLY: I FLEW AGAIN

If you haven’t read my first post on iFly, this won’t make a whole lot of sense, so you might want to check that out if you are curious.

This time at iFly, Sani was my instructor; and, after quickly assessing my skills, he wasted no time in teaching me new ones.  I was taught how to move forward by bringing my forearms in towards my shoulders, and then moving backward by bending my legs and straightening my arms.

I was also taught how to move up, which entailed pushing down on my arms.  To go back down, I had to lift my arms and legs.

Turning involved a slight shift of my hands, turning the back of my hands towards the left to go counterclockwise, and right to go clockwise.  To stop, I had to flatten them back out and keep my palms facing the floor.

All of these maneuvers require subtle moves to keep from going out of control.  When I lifted my arms too far up, I landed on the floor of the tunnel.  And, when I pushed down too far, Sani had to grab me to keep me from heading to the top of the tunnel.

Throughout my flights, another instructor was in the booth outside of the tunnel flashing me signals.  At one point, he motioned to turn all the way in a circle, and then stop in front of him.  I managed to nail my 360’s a lot better than my ups and downs!  He flashed this on the computer screen:  I’M PROUD OF YOU.  That made me laugh!  I was having such a great time!

Here is one of the videos Bruce shot of my flights.

For my last flight, Sani took me for spins up and down the tunnel that were a lot faster than last time.  I screamed the entire time!  Although it was exhilarating, I was glad he stopped when he did, because I was starting to lose my sense of direction, thanks to having Meniere’s, an inner ear disorder.  My ears had reached their limit.  Next time, I’ll have to ask him to stop in one place periodically, so I can regain my sense of where I am in the tunnel.

Next time?  Yes, I’m going back!

 

FESTIVE HOLIDAYS IN NAPLES, LONG BEACH

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Although I was raised Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas, the highlight of every holiday season was going out with my family to see Christmas lights.  In Long Beach, California, where I grew up, the most beautiful light displays were always in the community of Naples, named after Naples, Italy.  The community is built on three islands divided by canals which open into Alamitos Bay.

Naples is an affluent community with large homes and accompanying private boat docks that line the canals.  Each Christmas, the community sponsors a themed competition for the best house decorations and light display.  This year, the theme was, “Under the Sea.”

Until I returned home to SoCal last holiday season to see family and friends, it had been several years since I had visited Naples.  I had forgotten just how beautiful it was, and I was in awe of the beauty of all the colorful lights reflected in the still water of the canal.  It was early in December on a weeknight, so it was uncrowded—perfect for doing photography with my brother and sister.  We had fun experimenting with our cameras and trying out different creative techniques to capture the colorful lights.

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Amazed at how completely over-the-top some of the light and decoration displays were, we gawked and laughed as we hunted for the next photo opportunity.  That time with my siblings was special; a lot of fun, much laughter, and some fun photos to remember it by.

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This year, we returned on Sunday, just a couple of days before Christmas.  As it gets closer to the big day, the crowds get larger, and the atmosphere gets more festive.  None of my pictures could possibly convey the joyous mood and energy that flowed all around me.  I found myself spending more time with my camera by my side rather than in front of my eye, so I could soak it all in.

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“Under the Sea” Sweepstakes Winner

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This was just a small section of the display by the winner of the Humor Award

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This swimming pig was one of many displayed by the owner of the Naples Rib Company, a local restaurant.

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There is nothing I had ever experienced during the holiday season that ever compared to the scene I was immersed in with my brother and sister that evening.  Although the crowds grew as we meandered through the canals, everybody was laughing, gawking, and so pleasant to each other.  Joy was in the air!  Musicians were playing Christmas carols, a youth group sang, some kids were selling hot chocolate, and a man passed out candy canes to all who passed by.  Meanwhile as decorated Long Beach Transit trolleys filled with spectators passed over the canal bridges, singing gondoliers below navigated through the canals as their passengers enjoyed the views up above.  There were SUP paddlers with lit up hats, decorated Duffy boats full of partiers, and all sorts of other watercraft passing under the bridges as we looked on at the spectacle.  My brother and I just stood and stared, remarking how beautiful the reflection of the lights was on the rippled water below.

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During this most divisive time in our country I have ever experienced, it was such a delightful reprieve from the anger and hostility that has permeated our lives all around us.  Joy to you all, dear readers!

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CHATTANOOGA: BLUFF VIEW ARTS DISTRICT AND THE NORTH SHORE

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While you are in Chattanooga, make sure to visit the Bluff View Arts District.  Why?  For starters, click on the link and check out the aerial shot, so you can get a feel for the location and views.  There are some nice views from the bluff, so the district was aptly named.  In the lower right corner of the photo in the link, there is a small park with sculptures.  It was really nice strolling around the park, enjoying the sculptures and views.  These are some of the things you may see while you are there:

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For details on the galleries, museum, restaurants, and shops; the website describes it quite well, so have a poke around the site.  I can tell you that when we were there, there was plenty of free parking, and it was a wonderful place to see on foot.

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Hunter Museum of American Arts (also located in the modern building to the left)

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This sculpture by Deborah Butterfield stands in front of the museum.  It looks like driftwood, right?  We thought so and actually had to touch it to believe that it was cast bronze, as was stated in the plaque.  Amazing!

We were also pleased to see that just beyond the Hunter Museum of American Art, we were able to access the beautiful Walnut Street Bridge, one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.  Built in 1891, it has such style and was quite photogenic!  Accessible only to pedestrians (and their dogs!) as well as cyclists, it was a safe and enjoyable way to get in some exercise while taking in the views of downtown Chattanooga and the North Shore while crossing over the Tennessee River.

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A view of Walnut Street Bridge from the Hunter Museum of American Art.

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We took this bridge that crossed over the street to access the Walnut Street Bridge.

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The view from the street bridge of both the modern building of the Hunter Museum and the Walnut Street Bridge.

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After crossing the street bridge, we came across this handsome fella.  High paw!

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A view of the Hunter Museum from the Walnut Street Bridge.  I loved this walkway they built to take pedestrians all the way down to the river!

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Bruce, checking out the view form the Walnut Street Bridge.

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A view of the North Shore from the bridge.

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The city did a fantastic job developing the area where the bridge begins, as you can see in these photos.  It is very pedestrian friendly!

Across the river on the other end of the bridge is the North Shore.  You will get a nice view of Coolidge Park.  Make sure you spend some time checking out the fountain and the Coolidge Park Antique Carousel before you head into town.  I’m willing to bet you have never seen such an interesting variety of animal and reptile species represented on one carousel!  Bring your cameras; it’s a hoot!

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The North Shore has a very hip, cool, and artsy vibe, so allow some time to poke around the shops and grab some lunch at one of the restaurants.  Although I am known in our household as the “Aqua Dog,” we passed on the hot dogs at Good Dog and opted instead for some unusual tacos at Taco Mamacita.  The various taco combinations offered on the menu were so tempting, but we ordered just two different tacos a la carte for a light lunch.  Delicious!

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Want to dance off your lunch or learn a new dance step?  If you don’t mind learning in the middle of the sidewalk as pedestrians pass by, there are instructions on five different dance steps located right in front of the shops and restaurants in the main part of town!

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Our time spent in Chattanooga was so enjoyable that we are planning to return in May when “Nightfall” (described in my previous post) starts up again.  It was a great getaway spot!