It’s that time again, the time when we turn the calendar to a new year. While in many ways it is an artificial time period – my friend Paul refers to January 1 and December 31 as “markers” – it’s as good a way as any to mark the passage of time, and if we wish, to reflect back and look ahead.
A lot of people seem to be expending an awful lot of energy worrying about 2017, but that’s mostly wasted on things that can’t be changed or controlled. Kathy & I take a more positive view and look at every new year as a new opportunity for adventure. We get a new allotment of vacation days (yay!) and replenish our vacation budget (yay!) and start looking for interesting ways to spend them both.
We started off the new year with a trip to the NC mountains. The threat of possible snow and ice eliminated our plans for a quiet midnight at one of our favorite spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but we still made the best of a damp and dreary weekend.
I hope everyone’s 2017 is off to a good start and look forward to sharing a new adventure this coming year!
About a month ago I received an email from Marriott telling me that my points were going to expire because I hadn’t stayed at a Marriott branded hotel in almost two years. What – how could that be? As it turns out it was right. Our last stay at a Marriott was early December 2014, which is when we took our last cruise. For some reason the only place we seem to favor Marriott hotels is in Florida. Most other places we go either don’t have them, or we have choices that we like better.
I didn’t have too many points to lose, but I never like giving up points. And it gave us a perfect excuse to travel – what a deal! We looked for something fairly close to home that wouldn’t cost too much, and ended up deciding to head to Winston Salem, NC. We had been there before, but it was quite a long time ago, so it was as good as a new destination for us. So we went.
We had no idea ahead of time, but as we walked around town on Saturday afternoon we noticed that the police were blocking off Fourth Street, which ran near our hotel. We asked a few questions and found out that they were getting ready for their Christmas parade that evening. Cool! So we did the sensible thing and found a place to watch right outside a craft cocktail bar, so we would be able to head inside as soon as the parade was over. While not “cold” by a lot of people’s standards this time of year, the temperature was in the upper 30’s, and the bourbon was calling!
Since the parade didn’t start until 5:00 it dark pretty fast. I knew I was going to have a problem with shutter speeds, so I decided to go with the flow and capture the motion by making intentionally blurry photos. It took a lot of attempts to get a few that captured the mood, but I think I got enough to make a reasonable representation.
Kathy & I found ourselves in Winston-Salem, NC this past weekend. Sunday turned out to be dark and rainy, which made it a perfect chance to slip into something more monochrome. Story to follow in a future post, but I did shoot some in color, too!
One of the things that Nevis is known for is being home to the Green Vervet Monkey. The population of monkeys is said to exceed the population of people by at least 2X. They have lived on the island since being brought over by the French as pets in the 17th and 18th centuries. Over the years they have formed wild colonies and exist throughout Nevis, St. Kitts and Barbados.
One of the most reliable places to spot monkeys is on the golf course at the Four Seasons. During our visit, we took a golf course tour hoping to see the monkeys. And see we did!
While generally harmless, they are wild animals and can become aggressive when there is food around. As is too often the case, someone on our tour decided to bring bananas and managed to feed some to the monkeys before our guide noticed. She was not pleased.
The biggest problem with the monkeys is that they tend to eat crops, especially favoring mangos and other fruit. And instead of eating the whole fruit they’ll take a bite and throw the rest away. We were told that farmers will go to great lengths to protect their crops from these invaders.
So while these are mostly tourist photos, they help illustrate the story, and provide another educational element of travel! 😉
Kathy & I just returned from a week in Nevis, a Caribbean island that along with St. Kitts is part of the West Indies. This was our second visit there, after thoroughly enjoying a visit there last year. It is a small, quiet and friendly island, with great people, a number of nice restaurants and plenty of scenic views.
This is photo is one of a number of blog-worthy photos that I will share as I get them processed. In the meantime I wanted to get something posted to break my drought!
The most-looked-forward to distillery on our visit to Kentucky was Buffalo Trace. Not just because they make some darned good bourbon, but because based on the research I had done it looked like a very historic and photogenic location.
One of the things we found interesting about the distilleries is how open they are with their operations. I suppose there are few “secrets” in the industry, so the willingness to be open and welcoming is just part of the tradition. We booked three separate hour long tours at Buffalo Trace that took us behind the scenes from the point at which the corn was unloaded, through the barrel selection and preparation, filling, bottling and packing. When we showed up for the first tour, the guides wanted to be sure we were aware that we only got to taste once – at the end of the third tour! 😉 It made for a long morning, but since we didn’t taste between each one it was not hard to do because it was so interesting!
I mentioned in an earlier post that every distillery has it’s own “claim to fame,” and Buffalo Trace has theirs. According to Wikipedia, the company claims the distillery to be the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States. Burks’ distillery, now used for production of Maker’s Mark, claims to be the oldest operating bourbon distillery. The difference is that Buffalo Trace’s predecessor was able to process bourbon throughout Prohibition, making whiskey for “medicinal purposes”. It’s all part of the friendly competition, and just a little bit of marketing. 😉
I feel like I got some very interesting photographs here, partly because we spent a lot more time here, but also because it was a very engaging facility and because it was in fact so photogenic. For me it was the highlight of the trip, along with the carload of “souvenirs” that we brought home!
I’m finally getting back to looking at some of my photos from our visit to Kentucky in …. oops, September!? How did that happen? Our first stop was at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky.
Every distillery seems to have their own “claim to fame” in terms of being first, longest, oldest, etc. But it’s hard to argue with a company that can say “Jim Beam is the World’s No. 1 Bourbon.” And you would be hard pressed to find a distillery in Kentucky that doesn’t trace it’s history back the Beam family line in some way. In fact many and perhaps most of the Master Distillers at Kentucky distilleries today either have the last name of Beam or are somehow descended from the family.
For many people, Jim Beam is synonymous with Bourbon. In fact, that’s what we drank almost exclusively until we started exploring other brands. Like anything, there are lots of choices, but ultimately it comes down to preference and choice.
When we last visited about 10 years ago, Bourbon had not become mainstream like it is today, and the visitor areas consisted on a small tasting room and gift shop. Today, the company has built a huge gift shop, tasting room and museum and is very user friendly. The tours are let by very knowledgeable guides, and very little is “off limits.” Photos are encouraged and welcome, which is a refreshing change from some of the places we visit.
I didn’t end up taking many “artsy” photos, but between my phone and my camera I did end up with quite a collection. These are just a few of my “blog-worthy” photos.
For anyone interested in Bourbon and just a nice, friendly old fashioned place to visit, you can’t get much better than Jim Beam!
Shelby, NC is a town about an hour or so west of Charlotte along I-85. While I knew a little bit about the town and it’s history, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in all the time we’ve lived here I mostly regarded Shelby as someplace to get through on the way to or from the mountains.
Friends of ours recently moved to Shelby, and we spent a recent afternoon and evening walking around downtown, having dinner and listening to some live music. The downtown area is a far cry from the Shelby I previously knew, and as the county seat for Cleveland County is quite a bustling place.
Shelby is the birthplace of a number of famous people, including country songwriter Don Gibson, legendary banjo player Earl Scruggs, and country music singer Patty Loveless. Throughout town are a number of statues in the form of record albums that commemorate a number of Gibson’s more famous creations.
No small town would be complete without a number of interesting restaurants. We only tried one, but plan to return often to try some more.
“A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.”
Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31, January 1, 1788
Photo and quotation are unrelated. I recently finished reading the biography of Alexander Hamilton and have been reading some of his writings.