Thursday, October 23, 2014

Türkiye çok güzel - Turkey is very beautiful!

After traveling in Turkey for 14 days, we came away with much more than a 100-150 word Turkish vocabulary! Enough to appreciate and express (in the local tongue) the raw, rich sometimes divine beauty of this ancient and gorgeous country. Just the very mention undeniably brought a beaming smile on the mild mannered and simple local folks who are at the very core of Turkish heritage and culture and play a major role in defining the overall travel experience there.

When we mentioned Turkey as our destination for our travels, we almost always got 2 reactions...
(1) Turkey, whats in Turkey? Why?
(2) You'll love it!! Its fabulous, wondrous , a dream destination etc etc
...and the ratio between the two reactions was 20:1

We had shortlisted 3 options for our travel and due to the Arab spring uprising (at the time) had to drop a couple choices and Turkey surfaced to the top! After returning, I would say, there probably wasn't a choice needed at all. Hands down, this has been one of the most rewarding and memorable trips of a lifetime. Its also one where we traveled more off the beaten path, let the spontaneously happily happen, and marveled at how rich and extra-ordinary our experiences were because of it.

The country is modern while steeped in history, traditional while embracing the best from the west. The people are her most treasured assets. They are warm, hospitable, cheerful and laid back who take pride in their country and genuinely want you to have a good time. Its their repeated friendly gestures and generosity that enriched our travels and gave the phrase "Türkiye çok güzel" true meaning.

Friday, October 10, 2014

My love affair with Octobers...

I catch myself taking in a deep long breath (all the way from the tip of my nose to the end of my spine)...over and over again. Its finally October! The cool and crisp sun drenched air fill my insides with a mellow warmth wrapped in a cool blanket of freshness that beckons me to step outside, bask in the glorious autumnal splendor and feast on vibrant hues that define the season.
Octobers are ephemeral, if missed, its a loss you have to wait a whole year to compensate. Its when the skies are their bluest, the sunlight brilliant amber, the leaves a myriad of colors apt to describe a painter’s pallet. Its when the simplest of joys - rustling of leaves under your feet, birdsong heralding the changes to come, nestling of the wind, scurrying of squirrels as they fend for winter, translucent sumac that shine crimson gold and burgundy....matter. Its what make this time of year so special and dear to my heart.
So get out there, take in every opportunity to experience the perfectly cool air, late afternoon molten sun, the Monet-inspired picture perfect landscapes, that herald a time of renewal, and underscore the fleeting nature of life.
"I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." – L.M. Montgomery

Sunday, April 20, 2014

South Padre: Drive till the road goes no further...revel in the dunes!

Even though the island is only 30 some miles in length, its unfortunate that most people don't venture beyond the kitschy surf board shops, restaurants and high rise hotels. But the few who venture beyond the ordinary, come out richer on the other end (literally). This is where extra-ordinary happens!!

Head north on the island (don't worry, there is only one main road) you'll soon be able to drive no more. Here is where fine white sand covers the road and creates this man-made barrier that separates the north and south padre islands.

Its a surreal sight to behold, with soft undulating dunes on both sides of the road. Getting out and climbing the dunes comes naturally, it's pristine because you've effectively left those spring break partying crowds far far behind. Here is where you have the sun, sand, beach all to yourself.

South Padre: Another hidden gem...Kemp's Ridley

An inspirational and educational visit to the Sea Turtle rescue center will delight all age groups and raise your awareness around protecting and rehabilitating the Kemp's Ridley Turtle population amongst other marine Turtle species. It is a non-profit organization founded in 1977 by Ila Fox Loetscher better known as the "The Turtle lady of South Padre Island". Sea Turtle Inc is committed to rehabilitating injured sea turtles for their return to the wild. 

Inside the sturdy wooden hut that serves as the rescue center are tanks of all depths and diameters, to house as many injured and healing turtles as possible. Sea Turtle, Inc. has some turtle patients that are not able to be released to the wild. Sea turtles that do not have 75% of their flippers, have birth defects, cannot dive or are deemed unsuitable for wild life and permanently call the rescue center as their home. 

Allison tugs at your heart strings

Allison survived a predator attack in 2005 with one remaining flipper. For years, Allison could only swim in circles. In 2009, a STI intern designed a prosthetic device to help Allison swim! It was the first successful sea turtle prosthetic in the world. Since then, several iterations of prosthetics have been developed, each one improving on the last. Allison is undoubtedly the star attraction and loves all the attention as well!
The layout creates easy movement between tanks so visitors can peek into each, at the calm and lazy turtles inside. But be warned - just when you've given up hope at locating a turtle in the cloudy water, one just might come up for air and blow a giant bubble in your face; a pleasant, if not jarring, surprise :) 

To achieve its goals, they provide educational programs to schools, tourist bureaus, civic organizations and new media.  Each day, a volunteer meets visitors at the facility and talks about the different species of sea turtles, their importance to the environment, and what we as individuals can do to pull them back from the edge of extinction.

More Information

If you go
Getting there: Sea Turtle, Inc. and Sea Turtle Rescue Center are located at 6617 Padre Blvd. in South Padre Island. They are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; admission is free but donations of $3 for adults and $2 for children over 4 are recommended.
Info: Call 956-761-4511 or visit

Saturday, April 19, 2014

South Padre: Off the beaten path

Boating, fishing, diving, surfing, kite boarding, and simply lounging on the beach...all of these are perfectly apt to do when in South Padre....after all why else would you be there! Bear in mind that there are hundreds of others who flock to the island with exactly the same idea!! So if you are looking to do something off the beaten track, there are a couple options that are as rewarding as all of the above.

Laguna Madre Nature Trail  

One of the best ways to experience South Padre's wild side is to take a stroll along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, a boardwalk that meanders from the South Padre Island Convention Center out to the Laguna Madre wetlands covering nearly 50 acres in area. 

This is also a major spot for bird-watching. Throughout the year, more than 300 species of birds pass through the South Padre Island area, and the Laguna Madre Nature Trail is a great place for you to see them in their natural habitat. 

There are several bird watching blinds where bird watching enthusiasts can set up shop dawn or dusk to capture rare glimpses of Laguna Madre's endangered feathered species. Bird spotting is quite a fun activity to engage the entire family in! 

The Laguna Madre Nature Trail is open 24 hours a day and access is free. You can access it from the South Padre Island Nature and Birding Center. The center offers morning bird walks and interpretive guides of the center, introductory video cast as wells as programs/lectures by area naturalists. You can find more information here.

South Padre Island....kitschy, can be... except if you know some hidden gems!

The definition of a perfect weekend getaway should be one where you can unwind in precisely the same amount of time it takes a flashy sports car to rev up from 0 to 60! This just happens to be one of those destinations. 
Padre Island is the world's longest barrier island stretching from Corpus Christi in the north to South Padre Island in the south. Whats unique about the island though is that it is oriented north-south and 113 miles long and hardly a mile wide flanked by the Gulf of Mexico on the east and Laguna Madre on the west!! So if sunrises are your thing, you know which direction to head toward in the mornings, or if Sunsets are more up your alley, then views overlooking Laguna Madre paint colors in the sky that are mesmerizing! 

 Just a cautionary note, although it may appear so, Padre Island is different from South Padre Island and they are not connected through. Padre Island used to be 150 miles long many decades ago.  It stretched from Corpus Christi, TX.  south to Port Isabel, TX.  Approximately 4 or 5 decades ago a ship channel was cut through the barrier reef island approximately 36 miles north from the south tip of the island.  This cut is now called Port Mansfield, TX as you can see in the image to the left above. The isolated south tip of Padre Island was renamed South Padre Island;  Padre Island was reduced in length to approximately 120 miles long, which means SPI is only 36 miles in length - perfect weekend getaway!