Summer Time and the Living Is (Not) Easy

Hello once again! This will be a quick blog telling you all that I am still active! Unfortunately my laptop has passed on from this world (RIP) and I am in the process of getting a new one. Because of this, I have not posted in some time and I am currently writing this on a friend’s computer so I do not want to make a huge post!

Here’s what I have been up to these last couple of weeks:

  • Kayaking trip down the Muskegon River
  • Working
  • Schooling
  • More working
  • More schooling

As you can see, it has been VERY exciting! The kayaking trip was for my birthday, and was a LOT of fun. I plan on renting kayaks more often as it is a great source of exercise, a way to hang out with friends and a place to get up close and personal with nature! 

Kayak

 

Until next time, my friends! I’ll be up and running (relatively) soon! 

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Slow But Steady

Hi everyone, I’m back…..again. I swear, one of these days I’ll actually stick to my timetable and post more often! It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks consisting mainly of working (yay for two jobs!), going to classes, sleeping and seeing friends and family.

My blog has been getting some attention, although I received an email a month late.  AIFS, the wonderful study abroad agency I went to Granada wit, has asked to use my blog on their blog site!  How exciting! I’ll be writing a more in-depth post on Granada in the coming weeks…so stay tuned for that!

This week I thought I’d just update with what I’ve been doing around my home state of Michigan. Summer is now (almost) in full-swing and that means I am outdoors a LOT more often. This past winter was brutal, so summer has had some catching up to do. I’ve gone to beautiful Lake Michigan, but the water is still too cold for swimming.  Instead, I’ve been taking advantage of hiking the pristine dunes and forests. Though I have a serious case of the travel bug, it is amazing how beautiful my home state can be.

Where to be outdoors on the west side of Michigan:

1. Hoffmaster State Park, Muskegon MI

This state park offers good trails, camping and a phenomenal beach. Though I have only gone here for a quick weekend trip and for day hikes, I go here daily for it’s beach. Hoffmaster offers a great stretch of sand that is almost always clear from other beach-goers who tend to flock toward the more popular Grand Haven Beach or Pere Marquette beach (though these beaches offer other perks).

2. Kal-Haven Trail, Kalamazoo and South Haven, MI

This trail, an old and unused railroad converted into a sleek paved trail, connects the cities of Kalamazoo and South Haven. If you want to do the full trail, allow for around 3 to 4 hours one-way on a bike. The full trail is 33 miles, so walking would be doable too…it would just take a LOT longer. Taking the Kal-Haven trail during the summer months to go to Lake Michigan beaches in South Haven is a popular activity, though it is just as popular for winter enthusiasts as well as it offers cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Just make sure you leave yourself enough time as you don’t want to get caught on the trail after dark — it is not lit!

Backpacking the Manistee River Loop Trail

Backpacking the Manistee River Loop Trail

3. Manistee River Trail Loop

This 23-mile loop is a great option for backpackers and people who love the outdoors. One side of the Manistee River is a portion of the North Country Trail.  This side has considerably more elevation.  Beware, it seems like you will be continually moving upward without any downhills.  This side of the loop also has no water sources, so be prepared and plan accordingly. The other side of the loop is the Manistee River Trail.  This has less elevation and greater views of the river.  It is exceptionally beautiful in the autumn when the leaves are changing.  There are two campsites – one at Seaton Creek and the other at Red Bridge as well as a few scattered campsites just off the trail on the Manistee side.  I stayed at Red Bridge the night I was there, and personally did not like it. Though it offered a bathroom (no running toilet or sink or anything), it was located right off of a busy road.  There were a lot of cars that passed by – especially after dark which made getting to sleep rather difficult when headlights would pop up every couple of minutes.  Next time I go (which will hopefully be later this summer!) I will be pitching my tent in one of the more secluded trail sites. These; however, are first-come first-serve – so be sure to get one early before others snatch them up!

4. Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

This is a great area for hiking, camping, swimming, beach-combing and more! I went here last May for a long weekend and loved it. The area is gorgeous, the views of Lake Michigan and the North and South Manitou Islands are absolutely stunning. I plan on going back to backpack on North Manitou Island and will have a more in-depth post about my experience then.

5. Pere Marquette Beach, Muskegon, MI 

Pere Marquette Beach, Muskegon, MI

Pere Marquette Beach,
Muskegon, MI

I go here for the beach days when I want to hang out with friends and have more activities available. Pere Marquette has a great boardwalk and pier that leads to the lighthouse, beach volleyball and a playground for kids to use.  It also has a number of food trucks that offer great sandwiches, tacos and other items.  A new BBQ boardwalk restaurant will also open this coming summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright Bridget M Walsh 2014

Liebster Award!

liebster-award-

Hello everyone! I am honored to announce that I have been nominated for the Liebster Award! This is a recognition for travel bloggers from other like-writing travelers to show appreciation for their dedication to their site and to the art of traveling. I received my nomination  from Undertaking Travels. I met Cole on the new and information- packed forums that Nomadic Matt has recently started (another great blogger, where I got my inspiration!) . He has a knack for travel writing and I can’t wait to see where he goes!

Rules of the Liebster Award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back up to his/her blog.
  • Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
  • Nominate other bloggers for the award.
  • Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer
  • Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.

Here are my answers from Cole!

1. If you could be any specific place other than where you are now, where would that be? I would be in Granada, Spain. I lived there in 2011 and fell in love with that city. I miss it every day.

2. What is number one on your bucket list? Though my “number one” destination varies day by day, I would have to say one of the top places I want to see is Machu Picchu in Peru. I want to hike the Inca trail and see the ruins.  Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams is a great read if you’re interested in going there.

3. In one word explain what travel means to you. Education.

4. What is the best thing that has happened to you through traveling? I have become more outgoing. I am still an introverted person, I enjoy reading and “alone time” but through travel I have been able to step out of my comfort zone confidently and have great experiences.

5. Worst thing? I have a depleted bank account. I am in nursing school now and have a degree (with a mountain of debt) in health administration but I’d rather spend my money on travel.

6. What is your favorite aspect of blogging? I like reliving my travel experiences and giving advice to others based on my background.

7. Do you know any foreign languages? If not, which one would you love to learn? Hablo español un poquito. I studied Spanish throughout my undergrad and had the wonderful experience to study abroad in Granada Spain for a summer. I am by no means fluent, but I am still learning! I would also love to learn French. I have always admired the French language — I think it is beautiful.

8. If you could drive any car/motorcycle/bike across the US for an extended road trip what would you choose? I would love to do a bicycle trip across the United States. I think it would be an adventure that is both economical and better for the environment. I’d love to go from coast to coast. I just need to get in shape first!

9. What is one piece of advice you wish you would have known before you set out for your first adventure? DON’T BRING AS MUCH AS YOU THINK YOU NEED. I ended up not using half of what I brought and buying more. I had to pay the overweight baggage fee on my way back. Always anticipate that you’ll buy things once you get there. Thinking about bringing a lot of clothes/shoes? Don’t. It is SO much better buying them once you get to your destination. Not only will you look less like a tourist, when you get back home, you have a better wardrobe!

10. Where are you going next? This is a tough question. I am currently starting nursing school in the fall (then finishing up in two years). So nothing is for sure on the books yet but I am looking into working in either the United Kingdom or Ireland once I become a certified nurse.

Now here are MY nominations!

A Wayfaring Canuck

I Sign. I Wander.

These wonderful people I also have had the pleasure of talking with on the Nomadic Matt Forums. They are experienced travelers and have a LOT of information about where they’ve been.

Here are my questions for them!

1. What was the best place you have been to recently?

2. Of all time?

3. If you could travel with anyone in the world, who would it be?

4. What is your preferred accommodation setting? (hostels, hotels, camping, etc)

5. What was the craziest thing you have done while traveling?

6. What is one thing you cannot travel without?

7. Where do you want to travel next?

8. What would you recommend to new travelers?

9. What inspires you to travel?

10. How would you define travel to someone who has never experienced it?

Thank you so much again for this nomination. I am truly honored to receive this when I am just building up my site.

7 Things to Do in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Hi everyone! Sorry for the lapse in posts…I got caught up with working, studying, computer problems and binge-watching Orphan Black (which, I might add, is an AMAZING show…but I digress)– but I am back now! I hope to update once-a-week or so to start out with and then more frequently once I get the hang of this whole “writing” thing (and once I figure out a template for my blog. It’s changed again, what do you all think?).

This week’s topic is something a little closer to home. A great way to start out traveling is to explore your own surroundings. I have been a resident of the state of Michigan (the lower peninsula) for my entire life and have the privilege to travel to the upper peninsula (or as Michiganders call it, the U-P) every year for the Labor Day weekend. This is a dazzling landscape with a vast array of flora and fauna. Here are a FEW (and let me stress the word FEW as the U-P has a lot more to offer than these seven amazing experiences) things to see and do while traveling the upper peninsula:

Michigan

Tahquamenon Falls

Tahquamenon Falls

7. Tahquamenon Falls: Hiking and exploring this state park is one of my all-time favorite things to do in the U-P. These falls are located near Paradise, Michigan — about an hour and a half from St. Ignace, Michigan (a good base area for perusing the Upper Peninsula).  There are two waterfall areas in the state park; the upper falls, which is one of the largest falls east of the Mississippi River (it falls around 50 feet!) and the lower falls that is comprised of five smaller falls. You can get up close and personal with nature in this park. The lower falls you can actually get IN the water and walk around! It really is a neat experience.

6. Whitefish Point: Wander around this rocky beach on the shores of Lake Superior and you will not be disappointed. Along with a lighthouse and shipwreck museum, Whitefish Point offers spectacular views of multicolored rocks against a shockingly blue lake. Doing Tahquamenon and Whitefish in the same day is doable as they are only about 40 minutes away from each other.
5. Mackinac Island: This is a BIG tourist stomping ground. That being said, it is still a great place to see for a day-trip.  Ferries come and go from both sides of the peninsula in St Ignace and Mackinaw City from 7:30 am to around 10:00 pm daily. Prices on the island can build up as ferry tickets range from $25 to $75 depending on how many people you are going with, if you’re bringing bicycles, etc. Once you’re on the island, you can meander through the streets either on foot, by bicycle or on horse-drawn carriages. One of the big attractions to the island is the lack of motorized vehicles. During the 19th century, the United States wanted to preserve some of America’s land from development and so laws were created to protect the territory. While enjoying a slow(er) pace, explore the Grand Hotel, Fort Mackinac and Arch Rock.

View from the top of Pictured Rocks

Pictured Rocks from Above

4. Pictured Rocks: Beautiful Lake Superior aquamarine waters, towering cliffs, hiking, and waterfalls are why many are captivated with this national lakeshore. View the amazing colored rocks from one of the many boat tours that are available; it is definitely the best way to see what makes this national lakeshore so amazing.  Hiking to the shores (what I did) was breathtaking and awe-inspiring, so whatever way you decide to view, you won’t be disappointed.

3. Seu Choix Lighthouse and Museum: Located in Schoolcraft County and pronounced Sis-Shwa, this lighthouse and museum are a great way to learn more about the history of the state. It was built in 1892 by French traders who had nowhere else to dismount –  it literally means “only choice” as it is the only safe harbor on a dangerous stretch of land.  Legend also has it that this particular lighthouse is haunted. When I went in 2012, my sister recalled a time when she went before that she felt very sick after smelling an overwhelming smoke stench and had to walk outside. The story goes that Captain Joseph Townsend died there in the early 1900’s and was not put to rest for many months due to various reasons (I read because family was waiting for everyone to come in from various locations around the US or that it was winter and the ground was frozen).  The tour guide said at the end tha many people smelled cigar smoke (Townsend was an avid cigar smoker) in the house and had reported seeing him in windows and mirrors. It is a definite haunt for those who love the supernatural.

Crisp Point Lighthouse

Crisp Point Lighthouse

2. Crisp Point Lighthouse: Another lighthouse located about 13 miles away from Whitefish Point in Newberry, Michigan. Built in 1875, it was one of the five US lifesaving service stations between Munising and Whitefish Point.  It is a great location to climb up into the tower and observe the beauty of Lake Superior. It also has a great beach to relax on during the hot summer.

1. Mackinaw  Bridge Walk: This event is done every year on Labor Day and is one of the best things about being in the U-P for this weekend. Walking the “Mighty Mac” is truly spectacular. The Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere with a total length of 26,372 feet (5 miles long!) and the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world! Opened by the governor, the walk generally hosts upwards of 50,000 people. One of the best (but most nerve-wracking) parts of the bridge walk is the wind. Being a suspension bridge, it is built to move slightly. Feeling the bridge moving beneath your feet is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time!

(I'm in front!)

Bridge Walk

Copyright 2014

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”

10 Amazing Details You Don’t Know About Travel:

Lagos, Portugal

  1. The feeling you get when you start your journey… Everything is new and exciting!  Even a walk down the road feels like an adventure.
  1. Travel makes you more confident.  You know for a fact that you can adapt to a different culture and step out of your comfort zone. Asking for directions and interacting with others no longer seems like a daunting task. Travel makes you feel that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to — and you can!
  1. You become more open-minded and respectful. Travel not only expands knowledge, it expands self-knowledge. This is a process that cannot be accomplished solely through reading or watching videos or movies but through interactions you have with others from a different culture. You will become more approachable and observant of various peoples, religions and cultures.
  1. You learn to live your life to the fullest. You live in-the-moment and cherish your life and everything that is in it. You realize life is indeed, short and needs to be lived thoroughly.
  1. You have amazing stories to tell to your friends and family. Travel stories will not only sound amazing, they encourage others to travel and experience this wonderful world we live in. Many of the stories I tell are of my day-to-day adventures I had while living and traveling abroad.
  1.  Travel teaches you to live with less. You will learn to be less materialistic and enjoy where you are, instead of enjoying a new pair of shoes or a new outfit. Traveling light will make you realize how little you actually need.
  1. Travel chills you out. Traveling not only makes you happier, smarter and more approachable, it also makes you less stressed. You learn to accept things that are not in your control and make the best out of any situation.  In my case, I was unable to see the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican because of the ridiculously long line (it was seven hours…seven..whole..hours). Instead, I went walking through the city of Rome and ended up seeing more Roman ruins that were not touristy at all!
Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen, Morocco

  1. Travel makes you more courageous. You will do things you never dreamed of doing back at home.  Whether it is trying a new food or skydiving, travel opens you up to different opportunities you never knew you had the guts to do.
  1. You become more sociable. This ties in with the stories you will have to tell your friends and family. But you can also tell these amazing stories to strangers and people you are just meeting! A great place to meet new people (future friends?) are in hostels and B&Bs around the world. They are travel fans like you and have travel-tales of their own!

10. Travel makes you hungry for more. Once you’ve had your first amazing trip, you are already planning your next.  For me, after I came home from Spain, I was already planning a trip to visit my sisters in Phoenix and Seattle. I am itching for another international trip sometime in the near future, but money and schooling have a different timetable in mind!

 

Copyright 2014 Bridget M Walsh

 

España

Granada Spain, Part One:

Back in 2011, I had the wonderful opportunity to live and study in Granada, Spain. I went through the amazing program of The American Institute of Foreign Study (AIFS).  This is one of the best things I have ever done.  Granada is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to, so I obviously can’t put all of its grandeur into one blog post! Expect more soon!

Granada is rich in both Spanish and Moorish culture and history.  It is located in Andalusia, a region in southern Spain.  Tapas, the Alhambra, flamenco and – most importantly – the siesta, are just a few of the amazing opportunities I experienced. 

Me overlooking the Alhambra

Me overlooking the Alhambra

Things to do in Granada:

Fried eggplant with honey

Fried eggplant with honey

Tapas: Where else in the world can you get free, yes, you read correctly, F-R-E-E- food with the purchase of a drink? That’s right. Granada.  Dinner in Spain is generally not served until 10 or 11 in the evening.  Therefore, the main thing to do after work (or in my case, getting out of class) is to go for a quick drink and a free bite to eat.  ” Bite to eat” can vary from a small basket of potato chips, to a sandwich of jamon serrano, to delicious mussels with a garlic butter sauce.  Going out on the town? Go tapas crawling! It is a great way to catch up with friends while eating on a budget!

Siestas: Seriously, why doesn’t every country abide by Spanish hours? Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Everyone – and I mean just about everyone – closes shop and heads home for a feast of a meal (I’m talking paella, stews, bread with olive oil, salads, kebabs, and more. Every. Day. It’s fantastic) followed by a nap or relaxation time. It gives you just enough time to re-set for the day and head back out to enjoy the city.  You can always spot the tourist if you go out between the hours of 3 and 5 (it’s actually quite entertaining once you’ve lived there for a while!)

Intricate carvings in the Alhambra

Intricate carvings in the Alhambra

The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens: This magnificent structure was built in the 9th century as a citadel for the Moors then updated by the Moorish king Mohammed ben Al-Hamar as a palace and fortress in the 13th century. When the Spaniards drove out the Moors during the era of the Reconquista, it was converted to a palace for the Christian king Charles V. Extensive history surrounds the Alhambra and the Generalife (pronounced hen-er-ah-lee-fay) gardens.  This, in my opinion, is one of the best places to visit in Granada. Located near the Sierra Nevada mountains, there is always a cool breeze at the Alhambra (don’t get me wrong, it’s still hot – it can get over 100 degrees Fahrenheit!) Taking a stroll through the gardens is well worth your time.  The best time to go is in early summer (late May or early June) to see the flowers in full bloom!

079-2Flamenco: This type of dance shows off the Andalusian culture.  A mix of guitar, voice, castanets, and intricate footwork will capture the essence of Andalusia and Spain. If you can, go to a traditional flamenco show (many tourist agencies have too publicized and not as authentic dance shows) and you will not be disappointed.

Copyright 2014 Bridget M. Walsh