Cruising to Barcelona

There is nothing ordinary about sailing across the vast Atlantic Ocean!

We are traveling on Royal Caribbean’s ship Vision of the Seas which left Galveston, Texas almost two weeks ago.  Our first stop was San Juan, Puerto Rico where we had a lovely day wandering the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan.  After another five days at sea, we arrived in Ponta Delgado, Azores, an island off of Portugal! I have to say this was one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places I’ve ever seen!

The experience of crossing the Atlantic has been totally amazing, relaxing and so peaceful.  There is something so calming about listening to the gentle sounds of the waves as the ship glides through the ocean.  The waves have been mostly between 4 to 6 feet, which our magnificent vessel glides through luxuriously!

Most days the skies have been delightfully blue, with occasional clouds.  The air temperature has ranged between the mid eighties in San Juan to the mid fifties as we travel north to Spain.  

As we traveled from San Juan to The Azores, I was overwhelmed by the unspoiled beauty of this magnificent ocean!  When traveling in the Caribbean, you occasionally see other vessels. Perhaps freighters passing by or other cruise ships as you travel along your journey.  However, in the middle of the Atlantic, we went for days with only seeing the sky and sea, no other vessels!  Water depth was about 15,000 feet or 3 miles deep.  We traveled along at about 20 knots. We have currently traveled 5013 nautical miles towards our destination in Barcelona.  

Tonight we will pass through the Strait of Gibraltar and tomorrow we arrive in Malaga, Spain.

I wish I had more photos to share with you, but I seem to be having some technical difficulty!  I’m looking forward to sharing more with you soon.

Thank you to all for your well wishes for this journey. Р Gerri

 

Dreams Can Come True!

As you are reading this, I am leaving on a ship for my dream of a lifetime trip! This trip has been in the wishing and planning stages for years.  My husband and I have saved our pennies, hoped and dreamed, and it is finally coming true!

We leave out of the Port of Galveston and our destination is Barcelona, Spain!  Some may call us crazy, but we will be spending sixteen nights on a cruise ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  I have to admit that although I am totally excited about this grand adventure, I am feeling a bit nervous about so many days crossing the Atlantic.

Along the way we will stop in the beautiful and historic San Juan, Puerto Rico before many days at sea.  Eventually, we arrive in Ponto Del Gado, Azores which is a small chain of islands off of Portugal.  Then, three more stops in Spain before we arrive in Barcelona.   After that we will be doing a bit more traveling around the Medeteranian Sea. 

During this time, I will be taking a bit of time off from blogging.  However, I hope to post some pictures for you on my Instagram page @tocreatesunshine.  I also have a Facebook page of the same name.

While I am away, I will be journaling about the experience and look forward to sharing with you upon our return.

Until then, wishing you many blessings…..Gerri

Spring is Upon Us in Tapatio Springs

Fall may come late to Texas, but Spring typically arrives early and we are thrilled with the warmer temperatures and blue skies!  My husband and I have just returned from our semi-annual trip to Lubbock to visit our daughter.  After a fabulous visit with her sweet family, we headed over to  Boerne, in the Texas Hill Country,  to see my brother-in-law and his lovely wife.  After what seemed like a rather frigid winter, ( at least for Southeast Texas )  it was perfect time of year to schedule a little getaway and enjoy the warming temperatures.

The drive through central Texas was fabulous with rolling hills and so green after all the rains. ¬†Although the trees were still mostly¬†bare and brown, there were some Flowering Pear and Redbud trees scattered along the roadside that signify in Texas that Spring is truly on it’s way!¬†¬†

Visiting the Texas Hill Country is always a delight for me.¬† I have been captivated by it’s rustic beauty ever since I was young and I always look forward to returning for a visit.¬† The rugged, rolling hills covered with live oak and cedar trees never fail to soothe my soul and allow me to wallow in the joys of nature.¬†¬†

Of course, while visiting in Boerne, my husband had to play a round of golf at the amazing Tapatio Springs Golf Course.  Tapatio Springs is on 220 acres in the heart of the hill country.  Several years ago an investment group which includes country music star George Strait purchased the resort community and have been making improvements on the property ever since.  You can read more about Tapatio Springs here.  Sadly, the newly renovated club house burned to the ground in early November, but the golf course and other facilities are open and they will be rebuilding the club house in time.

Although I’m not much of a golfer, I do enjoy riding in the cart and taking in the beauty of Tapatio Springs.¬† I always take my camera along with me so I can snap a few shots of the lovely golf course and the amazing homes surrounding it.¬†¬†

To Create Sunshine Tapatio Springs, Texas Hill Country
View from the golf course of Tapatio Springs.

A visit to the Texas Hill Country never disappoints me.  There is so much to see and do in this region of the country.  The Hill Country has something for everyone from antiquing in one of the charming towns such as Fredericksburg, to enjoying the music scene in Austin, or taking in the beauty of one of the many rivers that meanders through the rustic, rolling hills such as the Guadelupe or the Comal.  

As always with out visits to the Hill Country, too soon it was time to make out way back to our home in Cypress, but I look forward to another visit to the amazing Texas Hill Country soon!

Sending many blessings your way today! – Gerri

Magnolia Market at the Silos

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If you are a fan of HGTV‚Äôs Fixer Upper, chances are you’re already familiar with the Magnolia Market at the Silos.¬† It seems that everything that Chip and Joanna Gaines touch turns to gold, and the market is no exception.¬† If you happen to be traveling anywhere near central Texas, and you are a fan of shiplap and farmhouse style, the Magnolia Market is quickly becoming a definite must-see in the heart of Texas.

For our visit, we arrived around 11:00am on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and there were already crowds buzzing around the grounds.  However, there is so much more to see than just the market, the crowds really didn’t bother us.  

The first place we headed was the large grassy field with artificial turf that is perfect for tossing a soccer or football, ( which are provided with a few other games.)  Since, we were traveling with a two year old, it was a great place to allow her to run a little energy off!  It’s also the perfect spot to drop off Dad or Granddad with the kids while Mom shops at the market.

Surrounding the play area are plenty of food trucks providing everything from crepes to pizza and hot dogs.¬† There are plenty of picnic tables, lounge chairs and over-sized swings for a picnic lunch or just relaxing while the kids play.¬† Of course, the decor is in Joanna’s sweet style filled with hanging baskets of flowers and plenty of reclaimed wood.

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The market itself is a shoppers paradise filled with everything farmhouse that you could possibly want for your own home.  There are lots of Joanna style vignettes displaying the goods which makes the store itself a bit unique.  Although the store was extremely crowded, the line to purchase moved very quickly which was a present surprise.  

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I have to admit, my favorite part of the Silo’s was the Magnolia Feed and Supply filled with live plants, seed packets, garden style decor and even a section for your own personal fairy garden!¬† The garden area is truly an inspiration even to the most novice of gardeners.¬† The raised bed are filled with Snapdragons and Sweet Alyssum.¬† The gardens were so sweet and charming that I was eager to get home and add some more flowers to our own garden!

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Most importantly, Magnolia Market is more than just a place to shop.  With the large grounds, seed shop and bakery, it truly is meant to be a fun stop for the whole family!

If You Go …..

Waco, Texas is located in Central Texas about a 90 minute drive from either Dallas or Austin.¬† About twice that if you’re coming from Houston.¬† It’s best to get there early when they open or after 3:00.¬† The lines for the bakery were quite long the day that we visited.¬† We opted not¬† to wait.¬† There is free parking in the back by the food trucks.¬† You will see signs to pay for parking, but check the back first.¬† There are usually spots available.¬† Check the Magnolia Market website for store hours for they may vary seasonally.¬† They are always closed on Sundays.¬† There are lots of cute vignettes for photo ops so make sure your phone is charged!¬†

Hope you enjoy your visit!  xxoo Gerri 

 

Chacchoben Ruins, Costa Maya

If you are a lover of nature and history, the Chacchoben Ruins are surely not to be missed!  Located about 100 miles from the Costa Maya port, south of Cozamel,  these three excavated pyramids are surrounded by a lush, tropical jungle filled with an amazing variety of trees and plants.

You can follow a well maintained circular path that leads you to these ancient structures, while a guide gives you a wealth of information about the Mayans ancient religion and customs.  You cannot climb the pyramids, but there are stairs to climb to a raised area with a very impressive view of the area below.

Truly, I was as fascinated by the beauty of the massive trees and lush jungle as I was by the ancient pyramids.  The Spanish moss and Palm trees not only offer inviting shade, but also enhance the majesty of the pyramids.  The combination of nature and history creates an awe inspiring harmony that leads you to imagine what life would have been like for the Mayan civilization of so long ago.  

I think I would have been content to just wonder the path and relish in the magnificence of this amazing, tropical, jungle.  I am not aware of the age of some of these trees, but by the size of the trunks, I would think they had been there quite awhile.

If you choose to visit these amazing ruins, remember you are in a jungle and you might want some bug repellent for the mosquitoes.  There is some walking involved, and I think it would be rather warm and humid in the heat of summer.   Our visit was in October, and while there were a few mosquitoes, I found the weather to be fairly comfortable.  

Being an avid nature lover, history buff and photography fan, this magnificent archeological site turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.  

“Wherever you go, Go with all your heart.”¬† ¬†–¬† ¬†Confucius

Hope you all have the opportunity to satisfy an adventurous spirit.¬† –¬† xxoo Gerri

 

Cruising to Roatan, Honduras

I am so excited to share with you the events of last week.  I had the opportunity to cruise the Western Caribbean with my husband and other family members and I have to say what a wonderful trip it was!

We took Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas ¬†leaving from Galveston and cruising to Roatan , Costa Maya and Cozamel. The ship itself was amazing with an incredible shopping mall, ice skating rink and magnificent shows and entertainment.¬† For the younger crowd there were some fantastic looking slides, a zip line and even a Flowrider which is a surf simulator.¬† I cannot imagine anyone being bored on this astonishing ship!

Personally, I spent most of my time relaxing and reading in the adult area pool and spa.  However, if I had been traveling with children or teens to cheer me on, I think I would have ventured out and at least tried one of the slides. I am really just a child at heart!  

Our first port was Roatan, an island off Honduras, known for it’s beautiful, pristine beaches and magnificent snorkeling, coral reef and dive sights.¬† The morning we pulled in to port, I awoke to the most breathtaking sunrise!¬†¬†

I am rarely one to leap from my bed at sunrise, but that’s exactly what I did as we were pulling into port, with camera in hand ready to capture every moment.¬† Perhaps if I awoke to this kind of beauty every morning it would be easier for me to hop out of bed!

Our plan had been to zipline though the jungles of Roatan, but as we departed the ship the skies opened and the rains poured down, and our excursion was cancelled.  I have to admit I was a bit relieved as I was feeling squeamish about the prospect of ziplining.  I have a definite concern for heights! 


We regrouped, grabbed a taxi, and headed to the northwestern end of the island to West End Village.  West End has something of a bohemian vibe and is filled with restaurants, bars and scuba shops.  This area is where a majority of the scuba diving, fishing and water-based outfitters are located.  It is a fun area to visit and wander around, however the better beaches are up the road in West Bay.  

Our next stop was West Bay Beach, a dream location filled with beautiful, white sandy beaches.  West Bay is surrounded by the second largest reef barrier in the world and is considered to be one of the best beaches for snorkeling.  My husband and I visited this spot a few years back and it definitely features some amazing turquoise, blue water and excellent snorkeling full of marine life. However, since it was a cloudy day and we had planned to zipline, we opted not to snorkel and just enjoy the laid back beach vibe.

I really wish we had a bit more time to explore West End and West Beach.¬† It’s my second trip to Roatan, and if you are a beach lover and especially if you’re interested in the incredible marine life it is a spot not to miss!

I will return soon with more on our cruise.  Up next the Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya!

Until then, happy cruising!  xxoo Gerri

 

The Peaceful Banks of the Medina River

August is upon us, often known as the dog days of summer.  In the southern United Stares, August can be uncomfortably warm with relentless heat and humidity.  Southerners are growing ever so tired of the heat and yearning for the slightly cooler temperatures of fall.

The best place to spend these warm summer days is at the beach or the lake…. or at least in a cool refreshing swimming pool. ¬†Another option is to visit one of the many rivers that wind through the Texas Hill Country. The water can be quite chilly and many rivers offer the cool relief of tubing or rafting.

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While we didn’t get away to the beach or lake last weekend, we did stumble across this pretty spot on the Medina River near Bandera. ¬†It was peaceful and quiet, the perfect spot to take a moment to relax and take in the quiet beauty of the river banks. ¬†Huge¬†Cypress trees lined the banks offering plenty of shade from the hot Texas sun. ¬†Actually, we were quite lucky¬†that the recent rains had brought cooler temperatures, a huge improvement to the mid nineties of most August days.¬†

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I couldn’t get over the amount of birds that were wondering the banks and frolicking in the water. ¬†I did a little research and to the best of my knowledge they were Graylag and Swan Geese with a few Muscovy Ducks mixed in. ¬†(Thank you RH for your assistance on this!) ¬†I went crazy trying to capture as many photos as I could of these amazing creatures. ¬†

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We came to the river after having a late breakfast in Bandera, also known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” ¬†Why it’s called that I’m not really sure, but I did find some hard to resist western boots in one of the local shops. ¬†Another interesting tidbit about Bandera is that Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie visited Bandera while taping their reality show The Simple Life. ¬†If you happen to be a country music fan, Bandera was once called home to country musician¬†Robert Earl Keen.¬†

 

We stopped for breadfast at the OST Restaurant in downtown Bandera.  O.S.T. stands for Old Spanish Trail, a route that was designated to improve highway access back in 1915.  The OST Restaurant opened in 1921 and today is one of the last original restaurants along the route.  It features a John Wayne room which features, of course, a plethora of John Wayne memorabilia.

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No trip to Bandera is complete without visiting the General Store. ¬†If you want to experience a bit of Texas history, this is the place to be. ¬†The store is filled with local treasures and there is even an authentic 1950’s ice cream fountain. ¬†we did not sample the ice cream as we had just finished breakfast, but I’m sure it would be a delight!

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Overall, I really enjoyed out quick trip to Bandera, Texas and the Medina River. ¬†Bandera is filled with a rich Texas history and left me with a desire to return and explore a little more. As they say in Bandera…..

When Life Gets Tough,

Cowboy Up…..

Maybe next trip, I’ll wear my boots! – xxoo Gerri

 

 

Colorful and Exotic Isla Mujeras

To Ceate Sunshine Isla Mujeres

Beautiful and tranquil Isla Mujeres is a slice of paradise in the Carribean Sea. ¬†A small island, only five miles in length, surrounded by amazing turquoise blue water and filled with pristine¬†white sandy beaches. ¬†Isla Mujeres is just a brief ferry ride across the Bay of Mujeres (Bay of Women) from Cancun, yet so very different from Cancun. ¬†If Cancun is Miami, than Isla Mujeres is a smaller, more quaint version of Key West. ¬†Cancun is a huge, metropolitan city filled with beautiful beaches, shopping and nightlife. ¬†Isla Mujeres offers a much slower, laid back island pace. ¬† Imagine your days lounging on the beach or snorkeling in the nearby coral reefs. ¬†Evenings are spent wandering Avenue Hidaigo with it’s many Mexican marcados and street cafes.

To Create Sunshine Isla Mujeres
Marcado on Hidalgo Avenue, Isla Mujeres.
The Mexican Marcado on Avenue Hidaigo

Many visitors come from Cancun each day, but Isla Mujeras is truly a destination in itself. If you plan to stay on Isla Mujeras,  there is a wide range of luxury hotels, all inclusives, and villas to choose from.  For our visit this year, we chose a charming casita near downtown complete with a pool area and incredible view of the Carribean Sea.

GETTING THERE

If you are flying into Cancun, and plan to stay on the island, you will want to prearrange for transport from the airport to the ferry that will take you across the bay to Isla Mujeras.  Have your transport take you to the ferry, where for $10 US you can purchase your ticket to cross the Bay of Mujeres to paradise.

The ferry will drop you off right in the heart of downtown. ¬†You will find yourself on the main boulevard filled with red taxi’s, scooters and golf carts zooming by. ¬†From there, you catch a taxi to your hotel, or if you’re staying downtown, you can transport your own bags the short distance to your hotel. ¬†Some hotels are right down the beach within easy walking distance. ¬†Others are a bit further. ¬†I would want to have a pretty good idea of the location of your hotel if you are planning on walking with your bags, however, you see many people doing this all the time.

To Create Sunshine Isla Mujeres

View of the downtown area from the ferry

One of the fun things about Isla Mujeras is zipping around the five mile island in your rented golf cart. We had prearranged to rent our golf cart for the length of our stay.  One of our party walked to pick up the golf cart while the rest of us waited at the ferry with our bags. Once we had our cart, it was less than a five minute ride to our little casita.

To Create Sunshine Isla Mujeres

Villa San Miguel

Thank you for stopping by for a quick view of Isla Mujeres.  I will be returning with more to share about this beautiful island across from Cancun and more photos of the beautiful beaches.    xxoo Gerri

*Original photos by To Create Sunshine  Р For more photos of the beautiful Isla Mujeres you may follow me on Instagram @tocreatesunshine

The Hills of Tapatio Springs

If you are a lover of rustic charm found in nature, the Texas Hill Country is the place to go.  A few years ago my brother-in-law and his lovely wife moved into the exquisite resort community of Tapatio Springs.  This was a double blessing for my husband and me because not only do we get to visit with them more often, it gives us more opportunity to explore one of our favorite regions in Texas.

To Create Sunshine Tapation Springs, Texas

Tapatio Springs hosts the perfect mix of Texas nature with deluxe resort. ¬†This awe inspiring golfing community is nestled in the heart of the hill country, just outside the charming town of Boerne. ¬†I have to tell you the brief ten minute drive on Johns Road from I-10 to get to Tapatio Springs is just as sweet and charming as the lovely community itself. ¬†Once you exit I-10, the road twists and winds¬†through the rustic and hilly countryside that gives the area it’s name. ¬†As you drive be sure to keep your eyes open for deer, sheep, goats and various other wildlife you might see as you drive.

As you take one last turn around the bend at the top of the hill you get your first breathtaking view of Tapatio Springs. The resort was bought several years ago by the country/western singer George Strait and a group of investors and they have been making improvements to the resort ever since.  The 18 hole golf course has recently been renovated by architect Tripp Davis and Associates and features an amazing panoramic view of the rolling Texas hills that surround the golf course.

I’m honestly not much of a golfer, but I do enjoy riding in the cart and taking in the beauty of the surroundings. I also enjoy photography so this seemed the perfect¬†opportunity¬†to practice my amateur photography skills while Dear Husband practiced his amateur golfing skills.

To Create Sunshine Tapatio Springs, Texas Hill Country
View from the golf course of Tapatio Springs.

As you tour the golf course, you get an amazing view of not only some of the highest hills of the area, but also some of the beautiful homes surrounding the golf course.

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The 18 hole golf course offers a spectacular venue and is filled with auspicious live oak trees, rolling terrain and abundant with water features.  This serene Hill Country Resort offers both a photographers and a golfers delight!

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As always, when it’s time to pack up and return to our busy lives in the city, I’m thankful for the opportunity to have spent some relaxed time in the serene beauty of the Texas Hill Country!

Until Next Time – xxoo- Gerri

Estes Park Beauty

After being home in Cypress for two weeks, I am still reveling in the delight and memory of our Rocky Mountain getaway.  Today I am sharing photos with you from the town of Estes Park.

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Estes Park is nestled at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park and is surrounded by the most auspicious views everywhere you turn.  Mountain Peaks rising around you range in height from 8500 feet to 14,000 feet.  Mix this backdrop with the beauty of changing fall colors and you have a recipe for beauty that is hard to beat.  The town hosts numerous cabins, condos and hotels all sharing amazing views of the glorious Rocky Mountains.

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Estes Park offers an abundance of shops, galleries, boutiques and restaurants to enjoy during your visit.  Main Street has a small town atmosphere where you can enjoy the beauty of the Riverwalk while browsing the many shops and local artists galleries. You can even throw a line in and try your hand at fly fishing.

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One of our favorite dining spots while visiting Estes Park was Ed’s Cantina and Grill. Although we had a bit of a wait ( they do take reservations ) the food did not disappoint. The menu is diverse and flavorful with plenty of fresh ingredients featuring items such as Squash Stuffed Poblano Chile and Bison Tacos. My personal favorites included the Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas and the Veggie Taco Salad. The diversity of the menu satisfied both the vegans and carnivores traveling in our group.

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When you step outside the backdoor of Ed’s Cantina, you are greeted by the surprising beauty of the riverwalk that meanders through the town. ¬† Here you can enjoy a stroll or simply sit and take in the peaceful beauty of the river. ¬†Many restaurants offer outdoor seating to take in the glory while you dine.

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I have been fortunate to visit the wonders of Colorado a few times. ¬†Each time it has left me in a state of awe and wonder at it’s incredible beauty. ¬†There is so much more to see and experience in this great state that I look forward to hopefully many more trips!

Hope you are enjoying the beauty that surrounds you                                     where ever you may be today!

xxoo  Gerri