Take me to Tillamook

Last weekend we decided to take advantage of the sunshine and unseasonable warmth with a drive up to Tillamook. The scenic drive took us a little over two hours. We made it to the Tillamook Cheese Factory shortly after 11. I’ll share more about this fun experience in a separate post.

After lunch at cheese heaven, we started on the Three Capes Scenic Route. Our first stop was Cape Lookout. The state park was a very popular place on this gorgeous day.

Cape Lookout CrowdsWe started with the beach. Our walking sticks were in the trunk of the car and we really could have used them as we scrambled down the rocks to reach the sand. One day we’ll learn.

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After nearly breaking both my face and my camera on the walk back up the rocks, we decided to follow the north trail. The trail is constructed in a way that the climb is relatively gentle. Seeing the Pacific from a dense forest is something that I’m still not quite accustomed to. It’s glorious but still not something I expect.

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Our climb stopped when we reached this part of the trail. Without our walking sticks and my hiking shoes, this wasn’t even in the realm of possibility.

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We decided to head back to the car and head on to Cape Kiwanda. We arrived to find very little available parking. I let Mr. McB out of the car and then navigated to a little market where I could grab much-needed water and park for a few minutes. He walked over to the beach to get a few snaps of Haystack Rock.

After a short stop, we headed toward Cape Meares. The road to the park has seen better days. I am certain that these potholes have claimed a tire or two in their day.

After reaching the park, we started out in the lighthouse for the brief tour. We learned that much was expected of lighthouse keepers. In addition to the demands of their regular duties, they also had to appease the inspectors.¬† One keeper’s wife received a demerit because she did not finish folding laundry before she began dinner. Your house was to be pristine at all times; I am so glad that I am not a lighthouse keeper.

We enjoyed a walk after the tour.

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We also saw the Sitka spruce known as the Octopus Tree.

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Our next stop was the Girabaldi House, our home for the night. It’s a comfortable, clean hotel with niceties like an evening reception, popcorn machine and indoor pool. It’s close to the bay, which provided a gorgeous setting for our evening walk.

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The activity of the clamers added something special to this stunning sunset. It was a perfect evening.

On Sunday morning, we began at Rockaway Beach at low tide.

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This intriguing pattern covered large expanses of the beach.

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We climbed back in the car and stopped briefly to see the Three Graces before driving back to Tillamook.

DSC_0941We stopped at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company. Before noon, we owned a wheel of rich creamy brie and I learned just how quickly a goat can bite and just how much that hurts.

I was sorry to see this superb weekend end but I am thankful for its restorative powers. This little getaway gave me the calm and clarity needed to face a challenging week.

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The McB’s went down to Georgia. Part I

Last weekend Mr. McB and I hopped in the car and headed toward Waycross, Georgia and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Preserve.

The drive takes somewhere between six and seven hours. The interstate features unremarkable scenery, limited dining options, and infrequent exits but you can legally zoom along at 70 MPH for most of the trip. We left just after 8 a.m. and made a lunch stop about 40 minutes after crossing the Georgia state line. Shortly after lunch, we decided to make a detour and visit St. Simons Island and Fort Frederica.

fort frederica national monumentWhen Fort Frederica was established in 1736, the Spanish controlled nearby Florida. The fort was build in what was known as debatable land with the goal of keeping the new colony of Georgia and its port of Savannah under English control.

Georgia’s founder James Oglethorpe, decided to take things a step further in 1739 by conducting small raids on the Spanish forts west of St. Augustine. Oglethorpe had success in these conquests but failed to take the heavily fortified St. Augustine in 1740. He and his men returned to Fort Frederica.

In time, the Spanish decided it was time to return the favor and came north to visit St. Simons and the fort. The English won the battles of Gully Hole Creek and Bloody Marsh in 1742. These battles were small but significant because the Spanish never again mounted an offensive campaign against British colonies in the east.

There is a charge of $3 per person to visit the national monument. Visitors can see exhibits and view a film in the welcome center before exploring the ruins of the old fort.

fred1 Spanish moss clings to the trees surrounding the fort. This air plant is generally full of chiggers so resist the urge to touch.

fred2Street signs help visitors understand what the fort’s layout would have been in its heyday.

fred3The ruins of the barracks

The structure also served as a prison. One inmate, Charles Priber, urged the colonists to seek independence from Britain. He was a man ahead of his time.

fred4The ruins of an opossum

I don’t believe these date back to the 1700’s. With two turkey vultures circling the area, I’m not sure the remains date back 17 days.

fred5The king’s magazine

fred6A cannon provides defense against traffic along the river.

fred7This monument stands away from the water on a shady path.

fred8A cascade of dogwood blossoms surrounded by Spanish moss

After exploring the fort, we took the short walk to Christ Church. This structure was built in the 1880s to replace the house of worship that was destroyed by Union soldiers. There has been active worship on the island since 1736. John and Charles Wesley helped shape the ministry efforts here.

christ church fredericaVisitors can see the inside of the church Tuesday-Sunday from 2-5 p.m. The church and its grounds are not open to visitors on Mondays, Easter, or Christmas. There is no charge but donations are accepted. The inside of this church features a number of beautiful stained glass windows.

ssi6This window details the history of the church.

ssi4Tomochichi and Oglethorpe
Tomochichi was a Yamacraw chief who is credited for his mediation skills and facilitating peaceful interactions between the native people and the settlers. Without Tomochichi’s efforts, Georgia might not have been a successful colony.

ssi3ssi5This is the church’s largest window.

ssi2Confederate soldiers are buried in the church cemetery.

ssi7After leaving the church, we took the woodland walk to the park that honors the Wesley brothers.

ssi8Fragrant azalea bushes lined the path.

I did not think about applying bug spray during this excursion. There are a number of hungry gnats on the island and this is a mistake I would not make again. We returned to the car and decided to visit the St. Simons lighthouse before getting back on the road. The route includes a couple of odd traffic circles which made both the GPS and me cranky. When we finally made it, we realized that the lighthouse was closed to visitors due to an event at the historical center. It was a bit of a bust but still nice to see the shore.

ssi9ssi10High tide

ssi11The park was full of boisterous grackles. I wish filmed a little of their loud chirping.

We were soon back to the car and off toward Waycross. There is a lot to cover in the swamp and surrounding area so I’ll save that for another post.

The Grand Journey – Return to Rome

romrrMr. McB mentions “the dream that was Rome” in his recap of our visit. Ah, the sweet naivety of a first-time visitor; that was me before 2010. I also had a dream that was Rome but that fantasy was dashed by the reality of this frenzied and often frustrating metropolis. After that visit, I echoed Gracchus, “Rome is the mob.”

Admittedly, I was working at the time so instead of just keeping an eye on my own belongings, I was responsible for watching over the wallets and purses of a group and that’s no small feat in Rome. There are pickpockets, gypsies, and aggressive street vendors surrounding the tourist attractions. Despite all of this, Rome is still home to many famous sites that you really should see for yourself if the opportunity is presented.

We chose the “Rome on your own” excursion which included a bus ride from the port in Civitavecchia to the drop off point at Piazza Del Popolo. We had a guide on the bus who spoke about Rome, gave suggestions for our day, passed out maps, and consulted with passengers one-on-one to be sure they were prepared for the day. We could have saved money by taking the train but that has its own dangers. Should the train schedule have been disrupted, and that’s a definite possibility, we would have shelled out $300-400 to cab it back to the pier. If we took the train, we would have also missed out on the helpful tips provided by our guide.

Shortly after arriving, we went straight to the metro stop at Flaminio which is just around the corner from the drop-off. We got a little twisted around in the tunnel and needed the help of a nice Italian man to operate the turnstile but we were soon on our way to the Colosseum. The trip involves a transfer but that couldn’t have been easier. Termini station was easy to navigate with all sorts of signage. We were both stunned at just how simple it was to take the metro in Rome.

As we walked toward the Colosseum, we started to encounter those street vendors I mention earlier. These were pretty tame but it was a good reminder to be alert.

We purchased tickets online before leaving home. The Disney Fast Pass has nothing on a prepaid admission to the Colosseum. The ticket line was terribly long, even early on a day in November but we didn’t even stop; we just moved forward in the special row for those with prepaid tickets. Buying a ticket at the Forum is also an option since it includes the Colosseum but that line was at least 30 minutes long. If you have one port day in Rome, you don’t have time to waste.

On my last visit, I wasn’t able to see the Colosseum from the inside. I was very eager to explore this site but wasn’t prepared for how it would make me feel. Built in the 1st century AD, the Colosseum held 45,000 spectators and was the largest Roman amphitheater in the world. The structure was built for gladiatorial competitions and other “games” meant to win the favor and allegiance of the Roman populus. I knew what happened inside the Colosseum but I still wasn’t prepared for the feeling of sorrow that resonates through the ruins. For me, there was nothing that spoke to the glory of Rome. Yes, the structure is remarkable but it was built to make a game of death and suffering.

rom11It is estimated that 500,000 people, including gladiators, and over a millions wild animals were slain on the sands of the Colosseum. The death toll for a single festival in 240 A.D. includes 2,000 gladiators, 70 lions, 60 wild horses and donkeys, 30 elephants, 30 leopards, 19 giraffes, 10 elk, 10 hyenas, 10 tigers, one hippopotamus, and one rhinoceros. The festival may have lasted for several months but does that make it any easier to comprehend?

rom1rom3It is also believed that early Christians might have been martyred here. There is proof that Christians were slain in other arenas in the Roman empire, including one that stood near the present day site of St. Peter’s so it is not unrealistic to think they were also killed in the Colosseum. For this reason, it is considered a holy site. The Pope conducts the Stations of the Cross outside the structure on Good Friday.

rom2The bodies of fallen men and animals were taken out of the death gate and dumped into a common burial pit. When workers excavated the site in the 1800s, they had to take frequent breaks because of the overwhelming stench that remained centuries later.

rom12rom10It’s easy to condemn those who created and watched this spectacle. As we walked through the site, I thought about football and the current state of player safety and head injuries. It was uncomfortable to think about this and draw the natural parallel between these games and those that we enjoy today.

rom24Gladiatorial games were outlawed in the 5th century. Games involving animals continued for another century but by 523 those were gone and the arena was unused and fell into centuries of disrepair. rom5rom20

The Colosseum was once covered in Travertine marble. This was removed after the arena fell into disuse. Much of the marble was used in the construction of St. Peter’s and other churches.

rom8Temple of Venus and Roma from the Colosseum

rom7This view of the Arch of Constantine is visible from the upper level of the Colosseum near the gift shop. After winning a key battle against Maxentius and attributing his success to a vision of Christ, Constantine converted to Christianity and declared that the religion was to be tolerated in the empire. This allowed for the end of persecution and the start of Christendom.

rom22After leaving the Colosseum, we made our way to the Roman Forum. Again, we avoided the main line and were inside the site in just a matter of minutes.

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I regret not having an audio tour or guidebook as we made our way through this sprawling site.

rom27The Arch of Titus commemorates the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The Arch de Triomphe is modeled after this structure.

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rom29rom30rom32Part of the Basilica Aemilia and the larger Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Built in honor of a deified emperor and his wife, the temple is now a Catholic church.

romantoninofaustinaromromulusAnother former temple that went on to become a Catholic church. In this instance Emperor Maxentius devoted the site to his son Valerius Romulus, who died in 309. Maxentius is the emperor who lost in battle to Constantine. While trying to cross the Tiber during that battle, he fell into the water and drowned.

After leaving the Roman Forum, we set out for Capitoline Hill or Campidoglio. Our research told us this was a great place to get a view of the city and to see statues created by Michelangelo.

romcapoPalazzo Senatorio
The fountain features the gods of the Nile and Tiber rivers.
Minerva stands in the middle.

rombigstatueThe Nile

rom40I’m not sure who that fellow is but as you can see, he is enormous.
If we go back to Rome, I want to visit the museum here.

romcapstatueThis is a bronze copy of a statue of Marcus Aurelius. The original was saved because it was mistaken for a statue of Constantine. It is the only fully surviving bronze statue of a pre-Christian Roman emperor.

rommich1Michelanglo’s statue of Castor

rommich2Here’s Pollux with his arm outstretched.

Before heading to the Panethon, we stopped at Il Vittoriano or Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), a national monument.

rom41The monument is home to the Tomb of the Unknown. It also honors Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy. The structure is interesting architecturally, though not well-loved by most Italians as it is seen as a bit overwhelming given its proximity to the ancient ruins.

We made our way through the increasingly crowded streets and arrived at the Pantheon.

romfountrompant Now a Catholic church, the Pantheon began its life as a temple that was devoted to all gods (Pan-theon). The Pantheon is best known for its dome and oculus. Made of cast concrete, the dome is a perfect hemisphere resting on a solid ring wall. Michelangelo studied this dome before beginning work on the dome at St. Peter’s.

romocculusInside you will find a number of notable tombs including Raphael, the artist not the turtle, and Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s easy to forget that this is a church but keep it in mind and behave accordingly.

romvittorioemanueleWith an ever-growing rumble in our tummies, we soon sat off for the Piazza Navona to grab a bite. Our guide highly recommend this area of town and the tartufo, an ice cream specialty. After a short walk, we were greeted by a lovely square filled with artists and restaurants. Our guide said this is a spot frequented by Romans, and not just tourists.

romnav2romnavoFrom the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers

romtartM chose a vanilla gelato while I chowed down on the tartufo. This treat features a maraschino cherry and what tasted like a bit of rum surrounded by chocolate ice cream that is then coated in a hard fudge shell. It’s rich and really unlike anything I’ve tasted before.

After a nice sit, we were off to Trevi Fountain. After 20-25 minutes, we made it and found ourselves amongst hundreds of tourists. With a little patience, we were able to make it down the steps and sit by the fountain for a while.

romtreviromppTrevi Fountain is a pickpocket’s paradise especially with folks getting into bags and pockets to get coins for the fountain. If you go, have your coins ready before approaching. If you are wearing a backpack flip it around so the bag is on your chest. Be alert.

After seeing the fountain, we followed our noses to Pizza In Trevi, a pizza joint around the corner. These slices were fresh, delicious and a good value. I had thin strips of eggplant on my pie. Oh so yummy!

rompizzamromeggplantInstead of sitting down, we decided to keep walking toward the Spanish Steps. I missed them on my first trip and really wanted to see them. As it turns out, I didn’t really miss anything the first time. They are steps covered by crowds of people. It was interesting to see how people behaved (making out, leaving their iPhone unattended so it could be stepped on, lying on the steps…) but I wouldn’t go back. I cannot recommend them, especially if your time is limited.

romspanishWe continued on toward the Piazza del Popolo as our meeting time was drawing near.

rom45We stopped in to Santa Maria del Popolo. It is said that Nero is buried nearby and that his ghost haunted a particular tree that used to grow on the site of the church. After chopping down the tree, and evicting the devilish crows that lived there, the church was constructed.

Our guide recommended this place and I’m so glad she did. On the outside, the church is nothing special but the inside is very interesting. It also houses two Caravaggio’s. You cannot photograph these works but they are worth soaking up with your own eyes and forgetting the camera for a while.

rom47The high altar and the Madonna of Popolo

rommarFuneral monument of Giovanni de Castro

rommariagraverommary2With 45 minutes to kill, we walked away briefly to see the Tiber River. If we had enough energy, we could have hoofed it to St. Peter’s but by that point, we were both more than a little tired.

romtiberI was much happier with this trip to Rome. It’s still crazy and you have to be on guard, but there are many sites worth seeing including those that won’t make it to the “must” list in every tourist guide. Don’t be surprised if you’re a little disappointed with the famous attractions (Spanish Steps, Trevi) but there’s bound to be at least one little treasure (Piazza Navona, Maria del Popolo) that will make up for it.

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