One Last Stop – Wilmington

THE TRAVELING CHEFS TOOK A ONE LAST STOP BY WILMINGTON BEFORE GOING HOME

On their way home from one week of travel, The Traveling Chefs decided to take one more stop, this time by Wilmington. It was highly recommended by their children anyway and it’s not out of their way at all.

Two of The Traveling Chefs children have either lived or visited Wilmington, North Carolina. Both have endorsed its beauty and livability. One of them even said he will live there for good. That was before a big hurricane has submerged this beautiful city for days. But that is another story.

After they took the exit from the highway, The Traveling Chefs found a parking lot close to the Riverwalk, a top attraction in the city. Built along the edge of the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington, the Riverwalk offers visitors and residents alike, spectacular views of the water, of the river bridge and of the USS North Carolina Battleship which they toured the day before.

While seated on one of the many available benches on the Riverwalk, Chef Alicia got a call from Arlene who inquired about her guests’ whereabout. “We’re still here in Wilmington!”, declared Chef Alicia. “I can’t believe you guys!”, Arlene exclaimed. From then on, Arlene has no doubts left on how crazy The Traveling Chefs are about travel.

LUNCH AT PORT CITY JAVA

For lunch, The Traveling Chefs went to Port City Java, a coffeehouse franchisor based right here in Wilmington. It’s a specialty coffee roaster which serves coffee beverages, smoothies, shakes, teas, breakfast all day and sandwiches for lunch.

The Traveling Chefs enjoyed the casual ambience of Port City Java, their specialty coffee and sandwiches and above all, their courteous young associates.

Then, The Traveling Chefs took time to catch their breath at the Railroad Museum. There were two other families when they came in and both have children. They all got into the Museum while the Traveling Chefs opted to rest outside. They have read that the Museum is a great attraction for children.

“Let’s go home.”, Chef Pedro finally said. This time, Chef Alicia and he are exhausted.

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Savannah, You’re A Beauty

Chef Alicia At Forsyth Park in Savanah by Peter Nunez Photography

SAVANNAH, YOU’RE AN OLD CITY YET WHAT A BEAUTY!

Stephen, Kay and Michael have all vouched for the beauty of Savannah. They touted her old yet lasting charm way before The Traveling Chefs set foot on her. The three made them long for Savannah months before their visit.

And now, The Traveling Chefs find themselves in perhaps one of the most photographed sites in Savannah – Forsyth Park, a 30-acre treasure in the heart of Savannah’s Historic District. It is open everyday and there is no entrance fee. On Sundays, one can park on its side streets for free.

Savannah is Georgia’s oldest city. It was once its capital. Its Forsyth Park is lined by century old oak trees. Its famous fountain adds to its popular charm. Millions of tourists flock to this magnificent city every year.

BEAUTIFUL SAVANNAH HAS GREAT BUILDINGS

Like many great old cities, Savannah has great buildings. Its Historic District comprises mostly its city limits and is regarded as one of the largest districts of its kind in the US. The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, one of these buildings was dedicated on April 30, 1876.

Enamored by the Historic District, the Traveling Chefs lost track of time. It was already dark when they realized they still have to find a place to park their Expedition where they intended to sleep for the night.

They have read they can park in the city’s Welcome Center which they failed to find. The one they drove to doesn’t allow overnight parking. They learned quite late that there are several welcome centers there.

Once again, Walmart came to their rescue. Although they had to drive for a few miles from the Historic District, they were able to find its closest store and found many other travelers spending the night on its parking lot.

When they woke up the following morning, they saw a Class B RV on a Mercedes Benz chassis parked a few yards away. Two elderly couple emerged from it. They already dressed up and looked fresh from a shower. The Traveling Chefs made a promise to themselves. They will have their own motorhome someday.

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A Detour To Jacksonville

THE TRAVELING CHEFS TOOK A DETOUR TO JACKSONVILLE

From Savannah, Georgia, The Traveling Chefs were supposed to go to Asheville, North Carolina. They took a detour instead to the opposite direction – Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was closer from where they were and most importantly, they will be spending time with some loving people.

“Check the map, which one is closer – Asheville or Jacksonville?”, asked Chef Pedro. When they learned that the latter is closer, they decided to surprise Fred, Chef Alicia’s brother who lives in Jacksonville. Although they have visited Fred many times before, they still wanted to go there because they are close to him and his family.

They only planned to stay for the night. Asheville was likewise recommended by their children to visit. So, they planned to drive to Asheville early the following day. Fred however, had a different plan. He wanted to bring them to places they haven’t heard or seen before.

A TOUR OF THE U.S.S. North Carolina

One of them is the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship which saw action in the Pacific including the Philippines during the 2nd World War. Chef Pedro and Chef Alicia found the tour of the battleship informative and interesting. They took many photos.

Fred also brought the Traveling Chefs to Topsail Island Beach and to one of its piers where many people were fishing. There is an entrance fee to the pier.

Topsail Island in Jacksonville, NC By Peter Nunez Photography

For dinner, Fred and his wife Arlene invited them to eat in the former’s favorite Japanese restaurant – Wasabi Japanese Sushi and Cuisine, currently rated 4.7 stars. The wide selection of their menu and the quality of their food impressed The Traveling Chefs who have a liking for Japanese cuisine.

The Traveling Chef took a detour to Jacksonville to be with relatives

Instead of proceeding to Asheville, The Traveling Chefs embraced the unequaled hospitality of their hosts. They are fortunate to have relatives who care. Nothing is more essential to a healthy and happy life than the quality of our relationships, Chef Pedro recalled a Harvard study.

In life, The Traveling Chefs have found it’s not easy to say goodbye to the people they love who love them in return. So, even though they skipped Asheville, they had no regrets. Their one week vacation is over. It’s time to go home.

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They Drive By Tybee Island

The Traveling Chefs’ DRIVE BY Tybee Island

Going north from Amelia Island, Florida, The Traveling Chefs have initially thought of going to Asheville, North Carolina. They planned of getting there by way of Savannah, Georgia. They drove by Tybee Island first.

Before they reached Savannah though, they saw a sign to Tybee Island. Without a moment’s notice, they decided to drop by there. Chef Pedro has heard of its famous lighthouse, just one of the seven remaining lighthouses built during the colonial era.

They were not disappointed when they got there. Standing 144 ft tall, the lighthouse was first built in 1736 in the mouth of the Savannah river in the northeastern part of Georgia.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS MEET NEW FRIENDS Tybee Island

While enjoying the scene, The Traveling Chefs met a couple who are also residents of Florida. The couple told them they also love to travel and they own a trailer RV. Their new friend (the woman) took the above photo.

Whenever Floridians meet and their conversations become longer, sooner or later, they will talk about hurricanes. The couple mentioned whenever there is an approaching hurricane, they skip the state. Their trailer RV enables them to do so. Their revelation boosted The Traveling Chefs’ desire to buy one.

While there, The Traveling Chefs enjoyed a hearty lunch at Fannies On The Beach, a beachfront restaurant. They had quite a selection of seafoods in their menu. They can’t remember what they ordered for main dish but they’re pretty sure they had coconut shrimps for appetizer.

THE PIER IS PICTURE PERFECT

The early afternoon sun shone fiercely and the long sandy walk deterred Chef Alicia from going with Chef Pedro to take photos of the beautiful pier. He has previously seen photos taken by others in this very spot. Deprived of his constant model (Chef Alicia), he patiently waited for a stranger to pass by. Finally, a woman stopped at the spot he wished someone would.

Unknown Woman In Tybee Island Pier by Peter Nunez Photography

There it is. Picture perfect! A beautiful moment of an unknown woman framed for eternity. Now, the Traveling Chefs can leave for Savannah.

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To Catch A Sunrise At Fernandina Beach

WAKING UP TO CATCH A SUNRISE AT FERNANDINA BEACH

Have you waken up at 4:30 am to catch a sunrise? What if you’re going to wait for the sun to rise at Fernandina Beach, where they say you can view one of the best sunrises in the Sunshine State?

Fernandina Beach, the northernmost city of Florida on the Atlantic side is a little over three hours by car from Orlando. To get a good parking spot close to the beach, the Traveling Chefs have to be there by 4:30 am. This requires them to wake up at 1:30 AM.

That’s not going to happen Chef Pedro thought. “Why don’t we spend the night there?”, Chef Pedro asked Chef Alicia. “Okay,” she said, as long as they could save some money on lodging.

RETROFITTING THE EXPEDITION

The Traveling Chefs have been following some travelers on YouTube converting their vans into houses on wheels. So they had thought of doing the same to their Ford Expedition. They removed the 2nd row seats, folded the 3rd row as well as the driver and passenger seats, and voila, they have a bed!

Chef Alicia was initially against it. She thought the folded seats would be uncomfortable. “And where shall we park our car?”, she worried. “At Walmart parking lot,” Chef Pedro answered.

They’ve researched on how to make their converted bed comfortable and decided on buying sleeping bags which turned out to be a smart idea. The ones they bought are very soft and comfortable. And to shield the windows from inquiring eyes, they used the Thermal Shield Film from Home Depot. Builders use this to insulate houses. They cut it with scissors into the shapes of their SUV’s windows.

Earlier, he had verified with the store manager they can park there. They just have to park on the lots away from the entrance.

FINDING A PLACE TO SLEEP AT NIGHT

There were three other cars parked farthest from Walmart’s entrance when they arrived at 10 PM. One of the cars has its windows covered similar to theirs. They parked close to them in a lot under the lamppost. It will be safer there, they thought.

Before they slept, they made sure they knew where they kept their car keys. They also have their pepper sprays and their hunting knife ready for emergency. Shortly thereafter, he heard her snoring. Look at this lady, he thought to himself. Initially terrified of this whole idea, she is now asleep like a log.

At 4 AM, he nudged her to get ready to leave for the beach. On the way there, they spotted Starbucks and bought two cups of hot coffee. There were three other customers inside, two of them were police officers. This time, all his fears vanished. They took turns going to the restrooms to wash their faces and to brush their teeth.

READY TO CATCH THE PERFECT SUNRISE

Their red Expedition was the first car on the beach parking lot under the palm tree. They left their windows covered with the makeshift film which worked well to their amazement.

As the sun began to rise slowly above the water, he aimed his camera at it. Some people gathered close to the water. He decided to stay beside Alicia farther back.

He stood in awe. She glanced at his wife. She remained seated motionless on her chair.

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And We Stumbled Upon Yosemite

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing
while in pursuit of something else.”
~Lawrence Block

PAU AND RICKY GOT MARRIED

We stumbled upon Yosemite when we went to California for the first time to attend the wedding of our adopted daughter Pau. She is the same daughter of ours who went with us to Aruba. She was getting married to Ricky who lives in from California.

WE STUMBLED UPON YOSEMITE

After the wedding, our other daughter Joni, asked if we wanted to go with them to Yosemite. I heard of Yosemite a while ago because of my interest in El Capitan, a mountain made of granite, a draw to photographers. It is in Yosemite. Without a second thought, Alicia and I said yes! Had we known how far Yosemite is from Vallejo and how stiff the cliff is going up there, perhaps, we would have had some second thought.

Yosemite is about 217 miles by car from Vallejo, Ca., site of the wedding. Most of the trip to Yosemite was uneventful until we approached the cliff going to Yosemite. The road is very narrow and nothing separates it from the edge of the towering cliffs. This frightening circumstance drove Alicia crazy. Her fears of heights and death brought her to tears.

THE CLIFF TO YOSEMITE TERRIFIED US

“Stay calm, otherwise I will be frightened myself and we’ll tumble down the cliff”,  I told her.  Every time an incoming car approached ours, we had to drive slower and sometimes even pull over to the very edge of the cliff to avoid it. This exacerbated our fears even more. We were in jubilation when we reached the end of it.
Siri, our i-Phone assistant is good with directions except when there is no connections. We’ve lost connections more than a couple of times on the way to Yosemite. In fact, we were only able to talk on the phone with Joni on our second day in Yosemite and we agreed to meet in Yosemite Valley where 90% of the tourists congregate. El Capitan is also there.

We felt lost on our first night in Yosemite. We stumbled upon a roadside hotel overlooking a  mountain on its front and  a stream on the back. We had a great breakfast in their restaurant which was fully-booked.

WE GOT INSTANT FRIENDS  AND GUIDE TO YOSEMITE AND BEYOND

We met Joni and her family in the very foot of El Capitan. With them were Joni’s friends Dong and Rachel who guided us for free in all our wanderings there up to Lake Tahoe where Alicia and I had booked previously. 

Dong and Rachel led us to the Half-Dome, the Bridalveil Moraine, the Cathedral Rocks, and the Tunnel View. Each of these places we found amazing. El Capitan consumed most of my attention for its towering height, granite construction, and gargantuan mass. There were people climbing this vertical monster but they weren’t visible to the naked eye. They looked like ants in the binoculars.

On our way to Lake Tahoe, Dong and Rachel made it a point to let us stop on some scenic spots along the way. They pointed to us the Death Valley and other interesting spots which I can’t now recall. We remember though the mountains’ towering heights,  the tall trees, the green leaves, the smell of the pine trees, the visitors’ happy faces, the singing of the birds, the butterflies, the streams, and the lines of cars and buses.

Indeed, “…it’s not the destination. It’s the journey,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson said. That is why we talk so much about our travels. May our travel to Yosemite inspire you to do the same. Don’t count the cost. It’s nothing compared to the memories it brings.

And one thing more – while pursuing something as you’re traveling, allow yourself to stumble upon something else.   Thank you for reading. 

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