Schoodic Woods in Acadia National Park Maine

The National Park Service adds a campground, trails and vistor center to the Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia National Park, and it's a worthy 100th birthday present to all of us! 

image.jpg

About a year ago I went to Schoodic Penisula (see my trip report here: http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2015/8/12/acadia-national-park-and-schoodic-penisula ) see note* and reported that the National Park Service was just about to complete Schoodic Woods, a new campground with hiking and biking trails in the Schoodic Penisula part of Acadai National Park, a quiet area across the Mount Dessert Narrows in Frenchmans Bay from the busier part of the park on Mount Desert Island. Luckily, for GSIT readers, this time, I brought along my dear husband, Jeff, who is a far better photographer! Here are our impressions of the new "gift" to all of us for the 100th birthday of the National Park Service and the 100th birthday of Acadia National Park.   

*Note: in my 2015 report, I review a restaurant called Chester Pikes, I paid another visit this year and while it retains the same name, I learned it's under new ownership. There were fewer local cars in the parking lot, only one kind of pie in the pastry case and the menu seemed to be limited to primarily breakfast items.  I'll be looking for some new places to fuel up in the future! 

The wide gravel trails are pretty level with the exception of the climb up Birch Harbor Mountain and a few hilly curves headed toward the ocean. 

The wide gravel trails are pretty level with the exception of the climb up Birch Harbor Mountain and a few hilly curves headed toward the ocean. 

On a beautiful September Saturday we hit the new trails of the Schoodic Trail System. Our first stop was the new parking area near the Winter Harbor entrance. The parking lot is well laid out with plenty of handicapped parking, and no-backing-out areas for larger rigs. We visited the homey looking restrooms (what a nice touch putting screen doors on the restrooms!) with a separate family rest room to avoid any gender bender issues that come with the different family constellations who make up our great country! There is a water fountain with a bottle filler and even a dog water spot! The granite paved plaza includes a bus shelter- LLBean funds an extensive network of propane buses called the Island Explorer that can carry people and bikes, all around the National Park Areas (see the website here: http://www.exploreacadia.com )  There is also a new Vistors Center with a large relief map of the Schoodic Penisula and Park Rangers available to answer questions. A map of the new bike and hiking trails and the connections to the old paved two lane one way multi use route can be purchased or seen here ( https://www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/upload/Schoodic-Trails-map.pdf ) We found the signage excellent at each intersection, and it might not be neccesary to buy one. The campground is just beyond the vistor center, and while we didn't stay there,  I interviewed a couple who were among the first folks stay there in their old silver airstream trailer, last year after its soft opening and said it is spectacular, and they were back for more this year!

A view from the trail at the top of Birch Harbor Mountain

A view from the trail at the top of Birch Harbor Mountain

We were at the park to try out the new trails on our bikes. We've biked this part of the park in the past, but the 2 lane, one way only, paved mixed car/bike road always required cycling a few miles on public roads to return to the small, overcrowded parking lot. The new trails link a new huge parking lot, the campground and vistor center to the existing one way car/bike loop, allowing families to bike without having to be on busy public roads at all.

The new trails are packed with loose gravel on top. We found our hybrid bikes with fatter tires handled it well, but a road bike would be tough to manage. Also, some trails feature steep inclines and declines, that are well marked but may need to be approached cautiously by small children or folks with less biking experience. Because they are mixed use trails (bikes and hikers) there is no shame in dismounting and walking the steepest sections to be safe. 

A sailboat moored in Schoodic Harbor

A sailboat moored in Schoodic Harbor

We took the road less traveled, a rather steep switch back trail up Birch Harbor Mountain and looped back up to the beginning of the one way paved road at Frazier Point. But it's also easy to cycle easier trails right to the level paved one way road and go back on the gentle, level, gravel trails at the end of the one way section to get back to the parking lot. The gravel trails give a good view of the woodlands of Maine and blueberry land. Bring along a little plastic bag or containor in early August to pick a few wild Maine blueberries during a break! Once on the paved road, the ocean is the star attraction, in constant view along the right hand side of the road. 

The Winter Harbor Lighthouse on Mark Island

The Winter Harbor Lighthouse on Mark Island

We glided along the trail with views of lighthouses, rocky surf, islands and boats. We could see the mountains of Acadia National Park on MDI across the Mount Dessert Narrows. 

A piece of driftwood sits above the stone pier

A piece of driftwood sits above the stone pier

One of my favorite stops (just past the light house) is stone pier built up by the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The stones are pounded smooth and the pile has become a natural pier several feet above the ocean. The stones are fascinating to pick through, admiring the smoothness, and variety of shapes and colors. I love the way they squeak when you walk along the top of the pier. As tempting as it may be, stones should only be enjoyed in the moment; its illegal to remove anything from the National Parks! 

A huge pile of smooth stones are fascinating to examine in detail.  

A huge pile of smooth stones are fascinating to examine in detail.  

Visitors enjoy creating interesting cairns

Visitors enjoy creating interesting cairns

This area includes many spots to pull over and enjoy scenic overlooks. You can bring camp chairs or just settle on a boulder and enjoy the rocky coast and ocean views anywhere along the route. You'll likely be all by yourself! Interviews with other visitors led to the same consensus; they enjoyed this part of Acadia because it was always so much quieter, and less developed than the other more popular parts of the park on Mount Dessert Island. 

A lone sail boat moored in Schoodic Harbor.

A lone sail boat moored in Schoodic Harbor.

We made another stop at Schoodic Point. This bold granite outcropping jutting into the ocean often features dramatic waves crashing against the rocks. Care should be taken wandering on the rocks, as the waves can be unpredictable, especially during rough weather. 

On the two way road out to the point, there is the Schoodic Education and Research Center. This is a stop well worth making. The building itself is a fascinating piece of historical architecture to see and inside the building is an interpretive eductional display, with lots of hands on activities for the kids and a small gift shop.

Schoodic Point, with dramatic waves crashing against the granite outcroppings. 

Schoodic Point, with dramatic waves crashing against the granite outcroppings. 

We turned left onto the gravel paths where the one way paved road ended and headed back up to the Schoodic Woods visitor center and parking lot. Our ride was about 10-12 miles, but a shorter route could be planned easily. 

We enjoyed our visit to the new trails and facilities at the Schoodic Peninsula. We've always enjoyed Acadia National Park, but we really loved this new gift to visitors of Schoodic Peninsula for the 100th birthday of our National Parks! It's a beautiful addition, and we hope you get to "go see it", even though the families we interviewed begged us not to tell anyone else about this beautiful, remote part of Acadia National Park! But we had to share it, think of it as our gift to you! 

A Real Country Fair (a photo essay)

There is really nothing more American than real country fair.  These fairs were part of the United States agricultural past, bringing together farming families to show off their livestock, crops and handicrafts. A little fun could be had on the side, with fair food and games of chance and later mechanical rides.  Today, agricultural fairs all over the country showcase what is special about rural America and each State and County where they are held. For me, these fairs are not only a showcase of the goods and crafts of rural folks, but also tell us something about the people themselves!

The fair we attended is the Blue Hill Fair in Blue Hill, Maine. Linked Here: Blue Hill Fair  It goes on all Labor Day weekend...if you'd like to make the trip!  I can personally recommend the King and Queen's Fries!

(We hope you enjoy this visual "feast" at a country fair; Jeff's photo essay includes surprising details, if you look closely!  Did the farmer win a ribbon for his oxen or the squash at his feet?  A young boy lying on the ground next to the rides, seemingly mesmerized by the bright lights.  Photos by Jeff Klofft)

Livestock

The days when only ladies quilt and only men drive draft horses are over. During the 3300 Class Horse Pull, this young lady presented one of the best teams.

Jacobs Sheep

Double L Farm Llamas

A farmer sits with his prize winning oxen 

A farmer sits with his prize winning oxen 

The Games

"Yummy" tries to drum up business for his game of chance, made with painted muffin tins,  by taking videos of potential patrons. 

The Red Trouser Show, in the vaudeville tradition, relies on several willing volunteers.

The Chris Perondi All Star Stunt Dog Challenge

Agricultural displays

The annual dwindling display of flowers and plants and the ever growing display of digital photos in the craft area is a testament to the changing interests modern times. 

Warty Squash await judging.

Food

Rides

Attendants wait for more takers before running the Thunder Bolt, while a young boy, who lives in a town without a store, or street lights, lies on the ground to watch the dazzling light display. 

Staying Where I Am

Its possible to go somewhere and miss all or some of what there is to experience there. Worse, it's possible to travel with people and not be fully present to them!  There's a danger of overload when traveling; so many new experiences and things to see! I've learned a few things to help prevent missing out on truly experiencing the people and places I've traveled to and with and to be mindful during the experience of travel. Here are some ways I've failed to stay "where I am" while I've traveled:

 1-Ive got my head under a map

Google is my friend, I like to check out where I'll be, get familiar with the area where I'm staying in relation to what I want to see and do. You can even use street view to "see" the buildings and businesses in the neighborhood. Having this familiarity allows me to get my head out of the map and enjoy the sites I came to see. Every museum has an online gallery guide these days, so you don't make the mistake I did in France, of not knowing how to get around the gallery before I went. Another great way to avoid this mistake is to hire a great guide.  Let them take over the navigating and enjoy the ride! 

 

Knowing where I'm headed and being familiar with the map before I go allows me to relax and fully experience a place. 

Knowing where I'm headed and being familiar with the map before I go allows me to relax and fully experience a place. 

2- Im fiddling with a camera

Whether it's a giant DSLR or your cell phone, get to know the camera before you go so you aren't fiddling with the settings while you should be enjoy the setting! Don't buy a new camera before you go without practice. And save the editing and chimping for home or at least hotel downtime. Our photographer, Jeff, is great at this! He researches carefully what gear to take (and what to not bother with) He will take his camera on a shake down cruise at home in our local parks and cities to make sure he's got the equipment mastered so the trip can be all about the experience! I wish I was as thoughtful- but in the past I either took one of his cameras and wasn't comfortable with it and had to spend time trying to figure out how to use it, or I just left it in the hotel room. Lately, I've relied on a good cell phone camera- the pictures may not ever be museum quality, but I know how to use it and can get back to experiencing the destinations and the people I'm traveling with! 

Our daughter (in Cuba) is comfortable with her cell phone camera!  

Our daughter (in Cuba) is comfortable with her cell phone camera!  

3-I'm being too focused on the phone

There's that phone again...if it's blowing up with stuff from work or what Aunt Mildred had for lunch, you might miss important parts of your vacation! Despite live tweeting vacations myself, I make a real effort to confine my social media and communications with home to a few scheduled quiet times and focus the rest of the time on the destination and my travel companions and new friends. I have a friend who recently took a short break at a lake house and wisely shut down her work email account from her phone, so that if she was photographing beautiful scenery, it didn't go "unseen" because of pinging alerts about what was happening at work! Smart lady! 

This young couple has the right idea in Maine- focus on eachother and the scenery!  

This young couple has the right idea in Maine- focus on eachother and the scenery!  

4- I'm trying to do too much

Am I ever guilty of this one! If there are a hundred things to see and do, I'll want to hit at least 80! But I've learned if I dial it back and really focus on one or two top sites or activities, I can have a deeper more meaningful experience in the destination, and won't miss the other 97 things to do AND as a bonus, return more refreshed! During our recent, very short port stay in Cartegena, Columbia, I succumbed to the need to tick off the items in the guide book. I booked a tour and encouraged the guide to cram in as much as we could. It was hot, tiring day, and while we saw a lot of the city, we missed out on walking around the walls of the city and through the fort. My husband is a HIGE fort fan, and I've never regretting spending time walking anywhere. In one hot afternoon, we should have spent our time exploring the fort and city walls and just said "no" to all the must see churches and markets. Knowing what you like best and concentrating your activites and excursions on those,  is the very best way to experience a destination, rather than trying to do it all! 

With so many things too see in Cartegenga, we missed seeing the fort up close and walking the city walls, which is what we would have enjoyed doing most!

With so many things too see in Cartegenga, we missed seeing the fort up close and walking the city walls, which is what we would have enjoyed doing most!

I feel very fortunate to have traveled many places, and I try to do some planning ahead to ensure I get to see and do the things that matter most to me, and to enjoy the company of the people that matter most me. I'm learning to make sure I see the scenery AND stay fully present during my travels!  

A Bike Ride Around Manhattan

"You rode a bike in New York City?!! Are you crazy?!" We heard this more than once when we returned from a recent NYC summer weekend visit. We may, in fact, BE crazy, but you don't have to be to ride a bike in NYC.  Amazingly, it's not as difficult or perilous as it sounds! I had found this idea in a newsletter from the travel agency, Active Travels, (http://www.activetravels.com/explore/ ) which specializes in personalized membership travel planning services for people looking for active vacations. (Full Disclosure: I am a member, but receive no compensation from their business for writing about my experiences) 

 

image.jpg

When we decided to visit the city on a sunny June weekend, when nearly every NY resident was headed for the Hamptons, I knew the Hudson River Greenway (http://www.nycbikemaps.com/maps/manhattan-waterfront-greenway-bike-map/  ) ride mentioned by Active Travels would be the perfect way for us to see the city! I googled to find a bike rental shop within walking distance of our hotel and located Central Park Tours (https://www.centralparktours.net) which was well reviewed on Trip Advisor. The small store front on Broadway organizes guided tours, but it was also easy to go on our own and rent bikes for the day or by the hour. We reserved online ahead of time and our bikes were ready to go when we arrived at 10 AM. (I had contacted them ahead of time and received a timely response, and they had a bike big enough for Jeff, who is quite tall!) Although it's easy to use the Citibikes  (https://www.citibikenyc.com) stationed in various locations around the city these seem better for residents and visitors making point to point trips. We preferred to rent bicycles we could use for multiple destinations and also be provided a helmet and bike lock and a phone number for support should the bicycle break down. 

Its also possible to completely circumnavigate Manhattan by following dedicated bike trails and lanes along the East River and around Harlem. Since we wanted to make multiple stops, we only did a partial circle around the city from midtown to Battery Park on the Hudson River Greenway and back to Midtown via the East River Greenway. 

 

Navigating weekend crowds near Broadway on a bike can be challenging, especially when roads are shut down to traffic! The Hudson River Greenway, is a relaxing way to circle Manhattan, and explore many NYC sights. 

Navigating weekend crowds near Broadway on a bike can be challenging, especially when roads are shut down to traffic! The Hudson River Greenway, is a relaxing way to circle Manhattan, and explore many NYC sights. 

We fought our way through the crowds Times Square on foot and then made our way to the Hudson River Greenway at 51st street. One of the thing I told my incredulous friends was that because traffic is so thick, riding with the traffic isn't that difficult because all vehicles are traveling at about the same speed (about 10-20 mph)

My Tips for Riding in NYC

1- It's best suited for people who have some comfort with urban bike riding, although the the Hudson River Greenway is a dedicated bike path, it does have multiple traffic crossings, shares the trail with pedestrians. The East River Geeenway and Harlem River Greenways occasionally follows public streets where dedicated bike lanes that are not always clearly marked. While a short ride on part of the greenway might be suitable for children, a full circuit could be challenging with young children on their own bikes. 

2-It's not a crazy idea to wear a helmet! Bring your own water bottle, unlike other rental places, we weren't provided water bottles at Central Park Tours. 

3- NYC is easy to navigate with a clear grid of numbered streets and avenues.  Ride with a good map or plan your route on a map routing app. Be sure to move completely off the paths to check the maps and even though we saw it happen, it's not safe to use your phone while riding unless it's hands free.  Central Park Tours provided an excellent free map. 

4- Be sure to observe all rules of the road. Every city has different laws, and we were told that in NYC, bikes are not allowed on sidewalks and pedestrian walkways, except where clearly marked as allowed. We walked out bikes anytime we needed to be on the sidewalk and we were careful to lock the bikes anytime we stopped and stepped away from them even for a few moments.

After joining the Hudson River Greenway, we came upon the Intrepid Museum, located on an aircraft carrier.  

After joining the Hudson River Greenway, we came upon the Intrepid Museum, located on an aircraft carrier.  

Our first stop was the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum ( http://www.intrepidmuseum.org) although we didn't "board" this aircraft carrier museum, we took some time to explore it from the dock. 

We traveled a bit inland hoping to ride through Greenwhich Village and find Washington Square Park, with its arch, made famous by its appearance in many popular movies! 

The arch in Washington Square Park

The arch in Washington Square Park

A busker creates bubbles for children to play with in Washington Square Park

A busker creates bubbles for children to play with in Washington Square Park

We rode a bit further south to lower Mahattan to see the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorials built to honor the victims of the events of 9/11. It was our first time seeing this magnificently made memorial and we paid our respects at the walls and waterfalls which with the dark granite and waters falling into the ground, beautifully convey the massiveness of this tragedy while respectfully honoring the thousands of victims. Timed tickets for the observation area at One World Trade Center can be purchased (https://oneworldobservatory.com), as can tickets for the 9/11 Memorial Museum  (http://www.911memorial.org), but we just took time to see the outdoor memorial fountains in the footprint of the original buildings which are free and open to the public.

The dramatic 9/11 Memorial waterfall fills the foot prints of the original buildings.

The dramatic 9/11 Memorial waterfall fills the foot prints of the original buildings.

Black granite walls surrounding the falls are engraved with the names of those who were lost in each tower and the plane that hit the tower.

Black granite walls surrounding the falls are engraved with the names of those who were lost in each tower and the plane that hit the tower.

After the moving 9/11 memorials, we made our way to Battery Park. Bikes are required to be walked in the park, or can be locked up at the entrances. From here we were able to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The tour ferries to these attractions can be accessed from the park. we didn't take the ferries to the islands, but based on the lines we saw, it would be best to book timed tickets for these on a busy summer weekend. 

We weren't done with emotional memorials, we saw this one for the Merchant Marines in Battery Park.  

We weren't done with emotional memorials, we saw this one for the Merchant Marines in Battery Park.  

A view of the Statue of Liberty.  

A view of the Statue of Liberty.  

Throughout Battery Park, there are food carts of all kinds- this one appealed to me! 

The grilling crew at Luke's at the Battery

The grilling crew at Luke's at the Battery

Lobster by the sea! Like most of the food in New York, even when (maybe, especially when) it comes from a truck- excellent! 

Lobster by the sea! Like most of the food in New York, even when (maybe, especially when) it comes from a truck- excellent! 

After touring the park on foot, we carried on to the East River Greenway and took a harrowing bike ride across the Brooklyn Bridge. While the views were worth it, the pedestrian crowds made it challenging to use the dedicated bike lane. The little bell provided on our bikes got quite a workout! The attendant at Central Park Tours suggested an excellent route in Brooklyn to see the Manhattan skyline from across the Green River. 

Views from the Brooklyn Bridge

Views from the Brooklyn Bridge

At the UN, the trail joins public streets. This section requires some comfort with urban riding, as we were on streets in a bike lane riding with city traffic. Rather than continuing all the way around the north end of the island, we headed into midtown to bike in Central Park. (http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/ )

Quickly running out of time on our bike rental,  we didn't get to see much of Central Park. Most of the paths are dedicated for walking only, so we were only able to ride around exterior parts of the park. We didn't find many signs in the park to help visitors understand where they were and found it difficult to navigate inside the park. Because Central Park Tours offers biking tours of the parks, that might be something I'd like to try one day to see more of the park! 

The Bethesda Fountain- another iconic NYC site used as a setting in many major films.

The Bethesda Fountain- another iconic NYC site used as a setting in many major films.

Despite our friends concerns about biking in NYC, we found it to be a pleasant experience overall and an excellent way to see much of the city during a short period of time. NYC is certainly known as a walking city, and it is! But on a short, busy summer weekend visit, we were able to cover twice the distance on a bike than we could on foot, and probably moved at twice the speed of a taxi or Uber to get there! 

If you are planning a trip to NYC- I recently learned about a local blogger, The New York City Native, who shares her insider tips about the city (http://thenewyorknative.com) I found out about her 2 weeks too late to take advantage of her expertise for my trip, but her blog offers a variety of in-the-know entertainment options, including lots of free choices! Regular readers of my blog know how I love local guides, and a good local blogger can help with planning a visit that includes those special insider experiences you can't get from reading a guide book! 

Europe- don't make my travel mistakes!

I travel a fair bit, and I even write about it on a travel blog! So you'd think I'd be immune to "travel mistakes" - but on my recent trip to Great Britan and Paris, I made a few! I'm not too proud to share them with you, so that if you are planning a trip, you don't make the same mistakes! 

Tour d'Eiffel from Trocadero Fountains

Tour d'Eiffel from Trocadero Fountains

 1- Don't forget to adapt to the culture and customs of the place!

When I travel, I tend to bustle around trying to fit a lot into a day.  London suited me; it moves fast and since we started our trip there that's what we did! But every place in Europe has a different culture from the next place, and when traveling in Europe it's easy to travel an hour or two and be in a whole new country. I forgot how important it is to remember it can also be a whole new culture! After London, we went to Paris on the Eurostar train and we were in Paris in less than 2 hours!  And I was still hustling down the Rue de Rivoli like I had a train to catch. Except I didn't, and the French strooooooll along. I had to slooooooow down! Luckily, for me it was made easier by a few rainy days, because even the French pick up the pace in the rain! 

Our Context Tour guide had a route through the Louvre planned, but we got hopelessly lost at the Musee Arts Decoratifs on our own! 

Our Context Tour guide had a route through the Louvre planned, but we got hopelessly lost at the Musee Arts Decoratifs on our own! 

 2- Don't go it alone at the museum

Travel requires an investment - of time, of money. I like to save both, but don't make the mistake I made of spending money to go somewhere and then not getting the most out of the experience. My daughter is a design major, so we thought we could explore the Musee des Arts Decoratifs on our own. And while she was able to point out the Cameron Macintosh chairs and distinguish between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, neither of us could sort out the layout of this museum! We walked for miles trying to find exhibits! The Musee des Arts Decoratifs is in the same giant palace as the Louvre, but it's set up vertically with a small set of galleries on each of 9 floors. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get from one floor to next. One set of stairs only goes to some floors, another lift to the top floors can only be accessed from the 4 th floor. The museum is well staffed, and we asked the docents, but after the fourth explanation in French, I didn't know my troisième from my deuxième etage!

We decided to take 2 Context Tours in Paris, https://www.contexttravel.com/city/paris?page=1 which were recommended by Wendy Perrin on her WOW list http://www.wendyperrin.com/wow-list/ We picked the Louvre Crash Course and The Pompidou Center. Context provides local guides for walks in many European cities, and they are usually educated people with expertise in the area you are visiting. Our tours were led by artists and art teachers. We had skipped booking a guide for the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, and it took us twice as long to navigate the labyrinth of galleries as it should have and we only understood half of what we saw, with me reading the descriptions in my high school French and my daughter trying to recall her art history class. In contrast our Context guides got us to the front of the line, had a planned route through the museums that hit the highlights and still left time for us to explore things not on the hit parade. The Context guides also provided, well, context (with a small c) to understand how the works were seeing fit into the culture and history of the place. We couldn't afford to hire one for every museum we visited, but our experience show is well worth hiring a good guide for places that require a high level of expertise to navigate and interpret! 

While I relied on an "offline" app to navigate the Metro, it's also good to know how to read the map- technology doesn't always work!  

While I relied on an "offline" app to navigate the Metro, it's also good to know how to read the map- technology doesn't always work!  

 3- Don't rely on tech to bail you out

We brought plenty of tech on this trip, and generally I rely on technology as a travel aid.  I had paid for an international plan with my cell carrier; I could send texts, but inexplicably only received texts once I arrived at a rest area one day on a motorway in England! I never had cellular data in England despite paying for it.  My daughters phone charging cord was fried by the power outlets. At one point nearly every piece of tech we brought was broken, uncharged, or just plain ineffective!  My niece, who we met whee she was studying in Oxford, got a sim card in the country for her phone. That worked better for her than my hoping my carrier will play nicely with the carriers abroad. I'd get the SIM card for a long stay in Europe next time.

I did download 2 good apps that allowed me to route the public transit off line. (YR Creative Offline London Tube and Paris Metro Maps) These were invaluable for finding our way around the Tube and Metro, when we couldn't count on google maps. I also carried a guide book with street view maps which proved very helpful when standing on a corner wondering which way to go! (DK Eyewitness-  Paris, London) 

A young couple locks down their relationship status on Pont Sofferino where people from all over the world leave a lock to commemorate their love. This reminds me to keep things secure while traveling!  

A young couple locks down their relationship status on Pont Sofferino where people from all over the world leave a lock to commemorate their love. This reminds me to keep things secure while traveling!  

4- Don't get pick pocketed IRL or phished or scammed on line on wifi

In big cities anywhere, there will always be an element looking to take advantage of distracted travelers by trying to pick their pockets, or worse! We were lucky, with our cross body bags from PacSafe, we didn't encounter any trouble in real life (IRL) and our bags had RFID blocking pockets to prevent scammers from scanning our electronic info from passports or credit cards remotely. But we also had to guard against getting phished or hacked on wifi and sometimes using wifi in public places can be chancy! Don't enter personal passwords or important info over public wifi, where anyone can be skimming for that data. While we were away my daughter fell for a phishing scam (this was a coincidence and not related to our travel) where she clicked on a link to reset a college account password that was from a hacker, not her university! Luckily, the University shut her account down before any major damage was done! Try to use wifi networks that are password protected, where they change passwords frequently. And don't fall for phishing scams anywhere, never change a password with a "link" sent to you, always log in at the website first to make a change or enter data. My daughter knows this now! 

Also, remind people back home not to fall for travel scams. A popular one is to send emails or social media messages to loved ones in your name, asking for money because of an emergency abroad. While sitting in the airport in London, I had a FB message from a young cousin with a general statement saying she "needed my help". That sounded "phishy", and we hadn't been in touch in months, so I responded asking if her account might have been hacked. She responded with request for help with some general information she needed (not personal info) and used very specific nicknames for her grandparents, so I knew it was really her. Before helping loved ones when you receive a request for money or information, be sure that you are really hearing from the person you think you are. Check multiple sources of contact; text, email, call them in person. If they just instagrammed their breakfast, they probably aren't locked in a Tunisian jail! And remind your loved ones you'll use specifics if you ever needed to reach out to them for help, so they don't fall for a scam at home either! 

Trying to help my adult daughter pack reminds me of the saying "not my circus, not my monkeys" - artistically represented here by this Louis the 15th clock at Petit Palais, by multiple artisits, (ceramics by Kandler, Reinicke) depicting an overmatched ceramic monkey band conductor and his "circus". 

Trying to help my adult daughter pack reminds me of the saying "not my circus, not my monkeys" - artistically represented here by this Louis the 15th clock at Petit Palais, by multiple artisits, (ceramics by Kandler, Reinicke) depicting an overmatched ceramic monkey band conductor and his "circus". 

 5- Don't take the wrong (overpacked) bag

In a classic case of Maternal "I Told You So..." I had warned my daughter not to take a back pack she's had since middle school on our European trip. With no padded lap top section, a zipper that splits open at the worst possible times, it was too small and overstuffed.  Mother knew best; this was not the bag to take! I offered any of a dozen promotional back packs I have sitting in my closet, but these were rejected. So what could go wrong?! First, the bag fell from a hook in the loo at Kings Cross and the display on the lap top was ruined. Second, we made it almost all the way home, when the zipper split (in the bathroom again, this time in our home airport!) and she didn't realize a bag of chargers and a small sentimental gift from her boyfriend had fallen out until she arrived home. I did the good mother thing - empathized, even though you know I wanted to say it!

There are so many great travel bags (I'll be reviewing my pacsafe sling bag soon, which traveled beautifully on this trip!) and you can spend a fortune. But you don't have to! You just have to make sure the bag easily accommodates your things with extra room for souvenirs,  is secure and meets the guidelines for size and weight by your carriers, The most important part is to know you can access important things like your passport, or lap top, in and out of the bag without losing the contents and while keeping them be secure in crowds.

Planning an expensive purchase abroad? Be sure to get your VAT back, get the paperwork and save the packaging too!  A parfum store along Champs Elysses.

Planning an expensive purchase abroad? Be sure to get your VAT back, get the paperwork and save the packaging too!  A parfum store along Champs Elysses.

 6- Don't fail to get your vat back

There I was at the Customs desk at Gatwick trying to get my paper work stamped to get back my VAT (value added taxes added to goods for residents that is generally refundable to tourists at the end of their stay) I was arguing with the agent about what he would do if he bought a sapphire ring. (I wanted to say it might not look so good on his fingers, but I rightly decided snark wouldn't be the best tactic at that moment!) I spotted a ring in exactly the style I had been looking for for years in a shop in Cambridge. It was also my daughters birthstone and would be the perfect souvenir to remember this special mother daughter trip to Paris. I bought the ring, which in itself is shocking because I rarely buy things, I usually just go places! I got all the official paperwork from the shop to get the taxes back and took them to the airport. Because the ring was for myself and we were very overpacked going home, (see # 5 above) I left the "presentation box" with my relatives in Britain and just tucked the new ring in my jewelry pouch.

Well, big mistake. Seems there are people willing to scam, (see # 4 above) and one of those scams is to bring paperwork from someone who is staying in the country with the goods and tries to pass off an old ring and reclaim the VAT money. I would never be clever enough to think of that or brave enough to do anything so stupid!  But the agent couldn't know that about me, and he argued "if I bought a nice ring like that I'd save the box it came in". Well, I resisted the urge to yell, "well, I'm not you and I don't collect superfluous packaging" because I knew that would get me nowhere fast! I prevailed on him that shop keepers in his country sold these things making the promise of VAT returns and it would be disappointing not to get it back. I explained how we were overpacked, the ring was for myself, and as he inspected the new ring for age wear,  I explained I could call my sister in law and have her dig the box out of her bin, pick off the coffee grounds and banana peels and send a photo to my iPhone! Luckily, with enough obsequiousness and apologies on my part, the stamp hovered above the paperwork, then swiftly came down...punch, punch. Satisfied I wasn't a tax scamming tourist, he approved my paperwork, I queued at the money exchange booth to get my VAT back, (less their fee!) Lesson learned, have the paperwork, but also keep the article new and with all of it's packaging before heading to Customs!

 

Overall, we had an amazing trip, just two gals exploring in London and Paris and visiting relatives in England. We had a few stumbles and made a few mistakes, but mostly we learned to be patient and soak up the atmosphere and enjoy time with eachother! And that's what travel is all about! Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting my trip reports for Paris France,  London, St Ives, Ely, Cambridge and Oxford in England, with lots of photos...this time Kathy's own attempts to follow Jeff's photography instructions about how to get great travel shots. I hope you will follow along and enjoy the reports and photos from our special mother/daughter trip! 

Near Palais Royale, even the rain couldn't spoil a special mother daughter trip!  

Near Palais Royale, even the rain couldn't spoil a special mother daughter trip!