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Orlando Fringe Festival

Orlando Fringe Festival

TEDDY’s RATING: 

The Orlando Fringe Festival has been held for 22 years now and I have never been before. Just another event in Orlando I had yet to discover. But now that I have, I definitely plan to return. Come to find out, the Orlando Fringe is the longest running Fringe Festival in the US.

Posters of ShowsMore than 20 years ago, I visited the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. I loved it. Plays, performances, comedy acts, you name it, they had it, and lots and lots of it. (So, why did I not attend the Orlando Fringe Festival in all this time? I’ll never know!)

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival started in 1947 when a group of performers, who were not part of the official Edinburgh International Festival, decided to put on their own performances in empty store fronts, basements, anywhere they could find space. They were staged “on the Fringe” and the idea was a huge success, now making the Edinburgh Fringe Festival the largest festival in the world.

The 14-day festival in Orlando, like in Scotland, offers all types of performances for all types of ages, and all of it uncensored. So, keep that in mind when choosing shows. They do have ratings Shakespeare Centeron each. In the beginning, the festival took place in empty storefronts, but now it takes place in lovely Loch Haven Park, utilizing the Shakespeare Center and other buildings.

Since this was my first year going to the Fringe, I chose two performances to see out of the hundreds offered. Like in Edinburgh, you kind of have to make your choices based on limited descriptions of each. (In Scotland, I made my choices based on titles, some of which had nothing to do with the actual content of the show.) I was, however, able to find more info about each online.

Jett Backpack

Jett Backpack and the Battle at the End of the Universe:

The Earth has been kidnapped and it’s up to dashing Jett Backpack and his crew to save the day! This comedy sci-fi play had fun costumes and props and over the top B-movie acting that made it quite entertaining. I also liked the references to Star Trek and Star Wars, including the pre-show audio of William Shatner singing David Bowie’s “Major Tom,” an all-time classic.

The Mud Flappers Variety Hour:

They billed themselves as “an entire hour of music, comedy and vaudevillian antics, combining music and sketch comedy into a spectacular never before seen on stage or screen.”  Okay. Why not give it a go? I watched their music video online and really liked their sound and I wasn’t disappointed by the music. Plus, I Mud Flappersliked the fact that they were a local band from Lake Mary, Florida. The variety part, short films and sketches, were not as great, but some of them were clever and amusing. And there was some unexpected full frontal male nudity. One of the lead singers came out wearing only shoes, socks, a bow tie and his banjo, and strummed a song about liking to sing in the nude. And the banjo revealed more than it concealed. This is why they rate the shows. They really are uncensored.

Ticket prices ranged from free to about $11.00, all of it going to the performers. (The Fringe itself makes money from selling mandatory Fringe buttons to each patron.)

I wonder what next year’s Fringe will offer. I’m anxious to find out and will definitely check out more performances.

Dates of Visit:  May 2013

http://orlandofringe.org/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Pure Naples: Into the Sunset

Teddy on Sunset Cruise

TEDDY’s RATING: 

One of the great things about Florida is that you can watch the sun rise in the east over the ocean in the morning and then drive a few hours across the state to watch the sun set in the west over the Gulf of Mexico.

While in Naples, Florida earlier this year, we took a wonderful sunset cruise on Pure Naples’ Double Sunshine.

Sunset cruise          Sunset cruise

Departing out of Naples’ historic Tin City, this 90 minutes, fully-narrated tour sailed out through Naples Bay into the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout the cruise, the tour guide pointed out all the stately homes in the area. Now, the tour has been criticized by some because the narration is mostly about the huge, luxurious homes that are along the bay, but that’s what Naples is all about, luxury. I found some of the back stories about the houses quite interesting. And our tour guide was very entertaining and knowledgeable.

Sunset cruise          Sunset cruise

Sunset cruise          Sunset cruise

The cruise culminated with the lovely sunset over the ocean. When there are more clouds in the sky, the sunsets are even more gorgeous, but this one was beautiful nonetheless.

Sunset cruise         Sunset cruise

In addition to the sunset cruise, Pure Naples also offers several other types of tours: Dolphin watching, sightseeing and kid’s scavenger hunt cruises.

Tours depart daily at different hours. Check their website for times and tour pricing. Bathrooms and cash refreshments are available on board.

Dates of Visit: January 2013

http://www.purenaples.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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A Wild Ride at Corey Billie’s

Corey Billie's sign

TEDDY’s RATING:

I’ve lived in Florida for over 30 years and I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to go on an airboat ride. I have always wanted to, but just never got around to it. What an absolute blast it was!

While visiting southwest Florida, just 15 minutes from Naples, we found Corey Billie’s Airboat Rides.

Airboat ride          Airboat ride

The 45 minute ride took us through Corey Billie’s 200-acre private piece of the Everglades which is surrounded by Collier Seminole State Park, National Wildlife Refuge and Panther Preserve.

Captain Dan          Teddy on airboat

Our guide, Captain Dan, piloted the airboat through a type of racecourse around the swampland, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes up to 60 miles per hour. And at the end, spun the boat around over 360 degrees!

Airboat ride          Birds

Throughout the ride, Dan pointed out different plants, birds and animals, including several huge alligators. He was very knowledgeable about the surroundings and had an excellent sense of humor.

Alligator    Baby alligator

And if you’re brave enough, you can even hold a baby alligator at the end of your tour.

I’d definitely do this again. There are airboat places all over Florida, many of them down south in the Everglades, but there are a few closer to my home in Central Florida as well.

Dates of Visit:  January 2013

http://www.cbairboatrides.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 6

Breaching calf

The last part of our Alaska adventure took us to three ports:  Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Skagway          Skagawy

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://skagway.com/

The first port was Skagway, home of the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 when thousands of prospectors came to find their fortunes. Many of the buildings here look like they might have back in those Gold Rush days.

          Teddy at Red Onion          Teddy in Skagway

It was an overcast and windy day. We just strolled around town, went to the Klondike Museum and had lunch at the Red Onion Saloon. The Red Onion is a bar, restaurant and brothel museum.

Juneau          Sea lions

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.traveljuneau.com

The second port was Juneau, Alaska’s state capitol. We started our day early because we were on a whale watching tour. On the bus going down to Auk Bay where we would catch the boat, we drove by Mendenhall Glacier, one of the few glaciers you can get to by car. But we were there to see whales. And did we ever see whales!

Whale watching

It was a beautiful, clear day and we were so fortunate to see so many whales, including a calf who seemed so happy he breached like 5 or 6 times. We were told that is very rare. What was also rare was seeing a pod of five humpback whales feeding. They usually feed alone. Next to seeing the majesty of Mt. McKinley, seeing the whales was my favorite part of the Alaska vacation.

Ketchikan

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.visit-ketchikan.com/

The third port was Ketchikan, Salmon Capital of the World and home of the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles.

Ketchikan          Creek Street

It was a normal rainy, drizzling day in Ketchikan. We walked around town and went to the Visitor’s Center, did some shopping at the Creek Street shops. Then, before heading back to the ship, we had what was supposed to be the best clam chowder in the world. Though it was good, I found it quite peppery.

Vancouver          Rioting crowds

The cruise ended in Vancouver, Canada, where we stayed an extra day. And what a day it was! That was when the Vancouver Canucks lost the NHL Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins. Riots broke out in the streets! And we were there to witness it. What a way to end our Alaska vacation!

 

Dates of Visit:  June  2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 5

Teddy and Glacier

TEDDY’s RATING: 

Cruising through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve was like being on another planet. It’s 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, fjords and even temperate rainforest and is the highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage. And while there are no roads through this National Park, more than 430,000 people visit it each year, many on cruise ships like us.

Margerie Glacier          Vista

It was a beautiful, silent, clear, bright day. The cruise ship was able to get very close to the glaciers, one of which was the Margerie Glacier. Margerie Glacier is one of Alaska’s most photographed features and one of the most active glaciers in the park. The silence was broken by the sounds of “calving,” when large chunks of ice break off the glacier into the water.

Vista with Ship          Vista with ship

Ship and Gull          Vista

More than 240 species of birds make their homes in Glacier Bay National Park. Other wildlife includes humpback whales, sea lions, harbor seals and sometimes black bears and grizzly bears. Although we didn’t see any bears, there were quite a few sea lions bobbing around and a lot of humpback whale spouts were visible.

Teddy and Glacier          Margerie Glacier

Vista          Vista

Because this is a preserved area, the National Park Service allows only two cruise ships per day inside Glacier Bay. This was a great way to see the area. We ordered room service and watched the calving glaciers from our balcony.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

http://www.nps.gov/glba/index.htm
http://www.glacierbay.org/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Naples Depot Museum

Naples Depot Museum

TEDDY’s RATING: 

The history of Naples and the railway industry in Florida is in full display at the Naples Depot Museum in downtown Naples, Florida. Train enthusiasts and history buffs alike will enjoy the interactive exhibits and artifacts at this small, but entertaining museum.

Interior          Interior

The museum is set inside the restored Seaboard Air Line Railway passenger station which originally opened in 1927. But more than just trains are showcased here. The museum tells the story of Naples and Southwest Florida and “how trade and travel transformed Naples from a small village of 300 into the Gulf Coast resort city it is now.”

Interior          Interior

The museum is free, but donations are welcomed. On Saturdays, kids can ride the miniature train around the property.

Kid's train          Interior train car

The Naples Depot Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of a group of five museums in Southwest Florida. The others are the Collier County Museum in Naples, the Marco Island Historical Museum on Marco Island, the Museum of the Everglades in Everglades City and the Immokalee Pioneer Museum in Immokalee.

Dates of Visit:  January 2013

http://www.colliermuseums.com/locations/naples_depot.php

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 4

Denali Express

This day we boarded the Denali Express train taking us from Denali National Park down to the cruise ship port in Whittier.

You would think that a 10 hour train ride would be boring and uncomfortable. But this one wasn’t. The seats were very plush. Everyone had a great view of everything with the glass-domed observation railcars. And there was a Princess Cruise Line “guide” of sorts who told us a lot about the area. His name was Paul. And as it turned out, he was celebrating his 48th wedding anniversary that day. His wife, Doris, was a cruise line employee as well.

Train Interior          Teddy on train

I saw probably the most moose I’ve ever seen in my life while riding on the train. Besides the moose, there was quite a lot of beautiful scenery traveling the almost 300 miles from Denali to Whittier.

Train around bend          Train-scenery

The train had a nice dining car where I tried another unusual meal: macaroni and cheese with reindeer kielbasa. It was quite yummy.

There are two different itineraries for cruise-tours on Princess (and I’m sure other cruise lines do the same thing) where you can either cruise before or after your land portion. We choose after so that we could relax on the latter half of our vacation. The land portion did tend to be hectic, changing hotels every night. So we were glad to be able to have the last seven days be onboard the Island Princess.

Island Princess

TEDDY’s RATING: 

 http://www.princess.com/

At this point, I have to say that I wasn’t all that happy or impressed with Princess Cruise Lines. I had been on a Princess ship way back in the early 1990s on a cruise of the Mediterranean. But since I’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean, I much prefer that line. But Princess had more offerings in Alaska, so we went with them. There were just a lot of little things about Princess that annoyed me, things that I wouldn’t have encountered on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Ship-Atrium          Ship-Pool

The first was that embarkation was unbelievably slow. We got on the ship much later than expected, which meant we got to dinner much later and in turn missed the first stage show that night. Then when they had the mandatory muster (drill in case of emergency, wearing your life jackets, etc.), the audio didn’t work where we were so we had to wait until it got fixed and then listen to the entire presentation again, all while standing cluttered with about 100 other passengers in a hallway.

Teddy-desk          Teddy-balcony

But anyway, we were onboard the ship looking forward to seven days of cruising to Glacier Bay and the three ports: Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Paradise at Naples Botanical Garden

Naples Botanical Garden

TEDDY’s RATING: 

There’s nothing more relaxing on a beautiful day than strolling through a lovely, peaceful garden. And one of the most lovely that I’ve been to so far is the Naples Botanical Garden in Naples, Florida.

This 170-acre site is located between the 26th latitude north and the 26 latitude south allowing it to showcase some of most diverse plants from around the globe, including those from Asia, Brazil, the Caribbean and, of course, Florida. And throughout the gardens, there are some amazing sculptures done by a native from Zimbabwe.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The garden is comprised of 7 areas.

In the Children’s Garden, kids can interact with the environment, water plants, play, and explore the incredible Butterfly Garden.

Teddy at Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The Brazilian Garden, with its bold colorful flora, pays tribute to Roberto Burle Marx, known internationally as the “father of modern landscape architecture.”

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The Caribbean Garden features tropical forests, exotic plants and even cactus.

The Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden displays sabal palms, bougainvillea and silver palmettos, as well as Florida’s grasses, wildflowers and citrus trees.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The Lea Asian Garden is divided into several different “rooms” depicting the cultural diversity of that area of the world. It’s not just rice paddies and coconut groves. You’ll find ferns, palms, hibiscus and bamboos throughout this area.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

Cross the boardwalk over the Water Garden and see water lilies, lotuses and papyrus.

And The Preserve is a 90-acre nature sanctuary that is home to pines, oaks, marshes, mangroves and hundreds of animal species from eagles to otters, bobcats to tortoises.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

There are also 2.5 miles of walking trails on the property where you can lose yourself in the peace and quiet beauty. It’s also a perfect place for weddings or other events.

The Naples Botanical Garden is open 9-5 daily, 8-5 on Tuesdays.

Dates of Visit:  January 2013

http://www.naplesgarden.org/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 2

Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge sign
The second leg of our Alaska cruise-tour didn’t start off all that well, but it ended up being great. We were told that the bus would pick us up to take us to the Mount McKinley Princess Lodge at 10am. Well, were waiting in the room and got a call at 9am asking where we were! We were told the wrong time. Luckily, we were ready to go and ran down to get the bus.

It was a three hour drive from Anchorage to Mount McKinley. Of all the sites and experiences I had in Alaska, seeing Mount McKinley is one of the best. We were very fortunate to have had a crystal clear sky, no fog, no clouds obstructing the view of the very top of the highest peak in North America.

Teddy at Mt McKinley          Mt. McKinley

Here are some facts about Mount McKinley:

Mount McKinley is also called “Denali,” which means “The High One” in the native Koyukon Athabaskan tongue. It is the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve.

The summit is 20,320 feet above sea level.

The first recorded attempt to climb the mountain was by James Wickersham in 1903. He climbed the Peters Glacier and the North Face which is now known as Wickersham Wall.

The first ascent of the main summit was on June 7, 1913. And the first man to reach the summit was an Alaska native, Walter Harper.

In 1947, Barbara Washburn became the first woman to reach the summit. And her husband, Bradford, became the first to reach the summit twice.

The first solo ascent was by Naomi Uemura in 1970. Sadly, she died upon returning in 1984 to make the first winter solo ascent.

Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.princesslodges.com/mckinley-lodge.cfm

The Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, though affiliated with Princess Cruise Lines, is not exclusive to the cruise line. You can stay there even if you’re not booked on one of their cruises. (But I’ve read that you get a better room with a better view if you are.) The rooms were nicely appointed and large, but the property is so big you have to take a shuttle from the main building to many of the outer buildings where the rooms are.

When we arrived we had a nice lunch at the Grizzly Bar which had a great view of the mountain. Then we walked around a nature trail on the property.

Teddy-McKinley window          McKinley Room

We had booked a horseback riding excursion at 5pm. We were picked up at the hotel and taken to the horseback riding place. Our guide was Laramie – what a character! We were the only two on the trail ride and he told us some colorful stories about his life as a rodeo performer. He was only 26 and already had an artificial hip. The trail ride lasted about an hour and we got even closer to Mt. McKinley. The view was like something from a John Wayne movie.

Horseback Riding          Horseback Riding

For dinner, we ate at the 20,320 Alaska Grill, named after the height of McKinley.

The next day we would be exploring Denali National Park.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 1

AnchorageThere are a lot of people who have said that a trip to Alaska will change your life. Now, I know they are referring to experiencing the majestic beauty of our 50th state, snow-capped Mt. McKinley, Denali’s population of amazing animals, glaciers, whales and more. I did greatly enjoy all those things, but not to such an extent that I’d rush right back there anytime soon. The major life changing experience I had was how much the trip depleted my bank account. But don’t get me wrong. I am very glad I went. It’s a trip I had always wanted to take and one that I did enjoy very much.

I’ll be posting about my trip to Alaska in several parts over the coming weeks. Part 1 is about the first leg of this 10-day cruise-tour which started in the city of Anchorage.

Though Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, it’s not the capital. (The capital is Juneau.) Over 40% of the population of the whole state lives in Anchorage. More than 60 glaciers, 6 mountain ranges, 300 miles of wilderness trails, and the nation’s 3rd largest state park are all around Anchorage. There’s even a salmon stream downtown!

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://captaincook.com/

Hotel Captain Cook          Teddy-robe

We arrived around 11pm and it was still light outside. For this first night, we stayed at the Hotel Captain Cook, a very nice, nautical-themed upscale hotel. Unfortunately, arriving that late meant that no restaurants were open. So, room service was the only option for any food. Chicken pot pie for a midnight snack?

The next morning we wandered around town, stopped at the Anchorage Farmer’s Market and then visited the Anchorage Museum.

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.anchoragemuseum.org/

Anchorage Museum          Anchorage Museum

Opened in 1968, the Anchorage Museum has a great collection of artifacts and exhibits about the unique history and culture of Alaska and its people. We spent several hours in there and didn’t even see all the museum had to offer.

Anchorage Museum          Teddy at Anchorage Museum

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.flyrusts.com/

Rust's          Rust's

After a quick early dinner, it was time for our flight-seeing “safari” over the city. A bus came to the hotel to pick us up and take us to Rust’s Flying Service. I was a little apprehensive about flying in such a small aircraft, but it was a fantastic experience.

Rusts Flightseeing          Mountains

The half hour tour took us over Anchorage, the Chugach Mountain range and Cook Inlet. Unfortunately, there weren’t any sheep, bears or moose in sight during our flight. But it was very picturesque and the pilot, Andy, very entertaining and knowledgeable. And you wouldn’t believe how smooth a floatplane’s takeoff and landing are. I highly recommend this type of sightseeing tour, in Alaska or anywhere.

Early to bed that night for the next day we were to begin our cruise-tour, starting at Mt. McKinley.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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