Valentine’s Day.. A celebration of Love and Romance

Venus and Cupid

Valentine’s Day has origins that go back to the era of ancient Rome. Saint Valentine was a priest during the early Roman Empire and he was martyred February 14th 269 AD for marrying Christian couples who were being persecuted by the Romans. He was easily recognized by other Christians as he passed through the streets because of the amethyst ring he wore which was inscribed with a cupid. Today the amethyst stone is associated with the month of February. But it wasn’t until Chaucer started writing about romantic love in the 14th century that Valentine’s Day took on the idealized romantic meaning.

So to celebrate the romance in our lives and Valentines Day we are focusing on one of the most romantic destinations in Europe: Paris France.

Paris France is noted for being a romantic city and the setting of many famous novels. Two romantic novels that are set in Paris are Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, both of which focus on unrequited love set against the backdrop of famous Paris landmarks.

Phantom of the Opera and the Paris Garnier Opera House

The stage of the Garnier Opera courtesy Twister Sifter.
The stage of the Garnier Opera courtesy Twister Sifter.

The Garnier Opera House was built during the 1860’s and is named after it’s architect Charles Garnier. The style is one of opulence, and layers upon layers of ornate design surrounded by gilded ornaments and columns. There are similarities between Phantom of the Opera and the actual Garnier Opera House. When the land was cleared to build the opera house, an underground lake was found and it remains beneath the foundation of the building to this day; acting as a ballast for the structure of opera house. Underneath the the stage is labyrinth of passageways, 7 floors and a stable for the horses of the opera troupe, which is very similar to the depiction of the scenery in Phantom of the Opera.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame  and the famous bell towers

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The bells of Notre Dame have been a constant sound against the backdrop of the noise of Paris. They have rung during the daily lives of Parisians for centuries announcing the time and daily church services. The church, which was built during the 13th century, is famous for its Gothic architecture and  the bell towers that provide dramatic views overlooking the beautiful Paris skyline .  The largest bell is named Emanuel and weighs 13 tons and resides in the South Tower. It is the only remaining  bell, out of the  original 9 bells, that still hangs in the towers . The others bells were melted during the French Revolution and used as canon balls and ammunition.  In 2013 replicas of the original bells were created using historical methods and they now ring in unison about the streets of Paris.  But sadly, there are no bell ringers, or lovelorn souls,  roaming the towers as the bell ringing function has been automated.

Planning a Romantic Trip to Paris

Paris is a romantic destination no matter the time of year you plan on visiting.  History, food, culture, art all combine to a great destination for couples. This boutique hotel is located in the Champs Elysees near all the sights, attractions and restaurants.

Vintage Photos of Everyday Life in Paris during the 1950s

Atelier - An Artists Workshop

Chickens in Cages being inspected during evening walk.
Checking the chickens in cages during evening walk home in Paris.
Paris Street Scene - Flower vendor preparing his cart for the daily rounds.
Paris Street Scene – Flower vendor preparing his cart for the daily rounds.
Loaded down with groceries, my apartment should be close by; Paris in 1950s.
Loaded down with groceries, my apartment should be close by, Paris in the 1950s
Waiting for customers along the Seine River
Discussing life and business along the Seine River in Paris.

Paris street life has always been full of life and character. These vintage images give you glimpse of how styles have changed, or perhaps they haven’t changed that much.

Skiing off the beaten path at Mt Baker Washington.

I’ve skiied on a volcano, dude. Can you beat that? Photo courtesy OuterLocal

Mt Baker is a funky ski resort and an active volcano located in the cascade mountain ranges of Washington State. As an active glacial volcano it reaches 10,781 ft and is known for having more ice and snow than many of the other glacial volcanos in the area, with the exception of Mt Ranier.  The surrounding area consists of  2,561,454 acres of wilderness area known as the Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest. And the Mt Baker ski resort is found within that park.

Access to the ski resort is located 30 miles down a dead end road from the small town of Glacier Washington. If you are looking for glitz, glamor and fancy casinos to party after skiing all day, you won’t find them at the slopes of Mt Baker. And neither will you find accommodations in the ski resort.  Instead, you will have to trek back each evening to the metropolitan town of Glacier, population 330.  Relaxing in the evenings is limited to soaking in a rustic hot tub that comes with the chalet you rented and enjoying the starlit skies. And there is no cell phone service or internet access in the ski resort.  Now do we have your attention?

The Mt Baker ski resort is a snowboard haven and known for the Legendary Baked Slalom snowboard race. In snowboard lingo ” It is the mother of all snowboard races”. And on its list of winners are some of the biggest names in snowboard history. Each year in February the race is held in the resort and afterwards everyone gathers around a big bonfire to celebrate the winners, the event and being in Mt Baker.

The Mt Baker ski resort is not located on the Mount Baker glacier but it is located between the two glacial massifs; Mount Baker at 10,781 ft and Mount Shuksan at 9,131 ft. The uniqueness of the Mt Baker ski resort is that you are allowed to go back country and you are allowed to exit the ski resort for snow adventures in the surrounding wilderness with one caveat; you must take avalanche gear which consists of an avalanche transceiver and shovel plus always travel with a partner.

Advantages of Skiing at Mt Baker

Mt Baker Vacation Rentals

Average Snowfall: 701 inches
Ski Season: November thru April

Photo courtesy OuterLocal

Vintage photos of Scotland and the Scottish people

7th May 1955: Jean Reynolds performs the Highlands Scotland dance and caused controversy because mainly men wore the Scottish traditional kilt.

Scottish hunters and their dogs preparing for a deer hunt.   Taken in Perthshire, Scotland, 1869.
Scottish hunters and their dogs preparing for a deer hunt. Taken in Perthshire, Scotland, 1869.
Preparation of walk; source unknown.
Preparation of walk; source unknown.
John Brown and Queen Victoria at Balmora Estate.
John Brown, personal servant of Queen Victoria at Balmoral Estate.
Taken in 1933 of the famous English author and screenwriter Sir Compton Mackenzie who  was one of the founding members of the Scottish National Party.
Taken in 1933 of the famous English author and screenwriter Sir Compton Mackenzie who was one of the founding members of the Scottish National Party.

Ski Season Memories from Vintage Photos

St Bernards and monks rescuing skiers in the Swiss Alps in the 1950s.

The snow is falling and temperatures are dropping. These vintage winter photos capture the fun of ski season from years past.

Four Anes Brothers making wooden skis in their Norwegian ski factory.
Four Anes Brothers making wooden skis in their Norwegian ski factory.
Children sledding in Central Park New York.
Children sledding in Central Park New York.
Everyone's favorite winter past time is ice skating.
Everyone’s favorite winter past time is ice skating.
Automobiles Buried in Snow circa 1922
Automobiles Buried in Snow circa 1922

Fort Walton Florida Beaches, laid back, casual and perfect for family vacations

Waiting for Dinner

Fort Walton Florida is laid back, low key and very family oriented. It has none of the flashy highrises or gated communities that are found on some of the other Florida panhandle beaches like Destin.

The water is always a turquoise color which is a result of the white sandy beach reflecting the blue of the sky.   It is one of the first beach towns after you cross the Florida Alabama border and the beach section is located on the beautiful Santa Rosa Island, across from the mainland and downtown area.  US highway 98 passes through Fort Walton beach and extends along Santa Rosa Island down to Destin and then traverses further south through Florida.

Fort Walton consists of a few condo buildings  that line the beach and are surrounded by small residential neighborhoods with Florida style bungalows covered in sea salt. The downtown area is located on the mainland and the atmosphere is even more low key with tiny retail stores, yacht marinas, parks and honky tonk beer drinking establishments.  The town atmosphere is a typical laid back beach town with canals and boat docks running parallel to the city streets.   You do not go to Fort Walton for a sophisticated nightlife nor to dine in fancy restaurants or hob nob with the rich and famous.  You go to Fort Walton to take your family to the beach and do nothing but read a book and enjoy watching the sea gulls.

Part of Fort Walton is located on Santa Rosa Island which is a long barrier island that stretches down to Destin. The area surrounding Ft Walton is beautiful and relatively undeveloped because it is located within the Gulf Islands National Seashore.   This protected area means that there is plenty of  herons, egrets and sea gulls that can be found searching for food along the beach.  During high tide the shallow wading pools trap tiny fish where these birds take the opportunity to stuff themselves with an easy catch for dinner.

Planning a trip to Fort Walton? Check our vacation rentals

St Augustine Florida destination for beach lovers, art lovers and history buffs.

St Augustine Beaches

St Augustine Florida is not your typical beach town and it has a more complicated personality depending on whether you are visiting the beaches, the historic city or the inter coastal waterway.

On one side is Anastasia Island, which is a barrier island where you will find white sandy beaches, lots of funky beach restaurants and stores. The island is separated from the mainland by the Inter coastal waterway.     The town stretches from the beach across the Inter Coastal Waterway and the uniquely historical Bridge of Lions  to the narrow cobbled streets with horse drawn carriages, and sidewalks lined with art galleries and artists.

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The Inter-coastal waterway is a haven for boaters and wildlife.  Birds, alligators and numerous wildlife species love the protected marshes and parks that dot the landscape and as you drive along the main highway each day you get to enjoy not just the scenery but the local wildlife.  Flocks of egrets and birds perch on the tall sea grass waiting for their daily catch of fish to swim past them. The tides ebb and flow changing the scenery depending on the hour of the day.  All the elements blend together to form the experience that is St Augustine.

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Once you reach the city, or rather the historical center,  the atmosphere changes. You are surrounded by the history that was created by Henry Flagler, partner with Rockefeller,  when he decided to develop St Augustine into a top tourist destination and cultivated artists to come to St Augustine and they formed an art colony mainly for the entertainment of the tourists.  However, St Augustine history does not begin with Flagler as the city is surrounded with remnants from when the Spanish first colonized the region and established a fort on the inlet. And so today, St Augustine has the moniker of being  the” oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement” .

Need a place to stay in St Augustine, check our numerous beach properties

Sunset at Fort Walton Florida


Some days the sunset is just too beautiful for words and all you want to do is just watch the colors disappear and the night envelop the world.

Early morning on the beaches in Miami

Miami Beach in the morning.

The beaches of Miami stretch for miles and are known as a hang out for movie stars and fitness buffs.  Early morning and no one is on the beach yet; the hotels get ready for the tourists and position their umbrellas.

Huntington Beach South Carolina

Huntington Beach is a barrier island beach near Beauford South Carolina.

Huntington Beach is a barrier island beach near Beauford South Carolina. The Huntington Beach is lined with driftwood on one side and as the beach merges with the trees it gives the impression that you are totally isolated from civilization.

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