Powered by Blogger.

Stonehenge: Getting Up Close and Personal

Stonehenge: Up Close and Personal | CosmosMariners.com

Back when I was working at a homeschool program here in Charleston, I had the opportunity to head to London for three weeks with four of my students, their parents, and my fellow teacher. One of the places that we were visiting was Stonehenge, something I wasn't super excited about since I'd been twice before and had disliked just anti-climatic visiting this world-famous site was.

However, this visit surprised me and completely changed my thoughts on Stonehenge. For how that happened--and how I managed to get really up close and personal with the inner stone circle, read on!

In the program, I taught these four kids (all siblings) English/ Language Arts; that entire school year, we'd worked towards mastering some of the most important classic British literature within my capacity as a full-time English tutor. I was so excited to share one of my favorite places in the world with these children whom I'd grown incredibly close to over the course of the school year. 

A few caveats about this trip:
  • While I helped plan some of the trip, most of the tours and logistics were finalized by the parents. Until myself, they are far from budget travelers and spared no expense on this trip. It was fun to see one of my favorite places (London) from a five star travelers' perspective!
  • Whenever possible, I haven't included pictures of the kids because they aren't my kids. Just trust me when I say that I usually had four pairs of little hands clinging me to 90% of the time. 
  • I tried to take decent pictures, but between teaching on the go and supervising four kids under the age of 11, my camera work is definitely sub par. Forgive me.
As I mentioned, I'd been to Stonehenge before this trip, having visited with my roommate while I was studying abroad in London. We did the usual tourist version of Stonehenge as we walked around the stones at a distance while wearing our audio tour earphones:

Stonehenge: Getting Up Close and Personal | CosmosMariners.com
Hey, look! It's college Natalie at Stonehenge! (Don't worry--both my personal style and sunglasses have been replaced since this photo was taken.)

This visit, though, was different. 

The family decided to book a private tour with one of the archaeologists that works the site; he and a colleague drove us around the Stonehenge site in 4-wheeled-drive vehicle, giving commentary and theories as we got to different spots. 

The Stonehenge site is actually much larger than most people realize. If you're inside the tourist area (where the stones are), look back over the road to the higher ground. Where that ground peaks and has tree cover, there are several grassy burial grounds that archaeologists believe are linked to the rest of the site.

Stonehenge: Getting Up Close and Personal | CosmosMariners.com
You can't see it, but the stones of Stonehenge are just beyond the dip in the field. 

Our tour took place at dusk, and it wasn't hard to imagine people gathering around this important site thousands of years ago. 

After visiting the burial site, we headed back into the vehicles and drove over to the more recognized part of the Stonehenge site. 

Stonehenge: Getting Up Close and Personal | CosmosMariners.com
DO YOU SEE HOW CLOSE I AM!?!?

There, the guide let us right up next to the rocks, where we were treated to fun facts and theories about the cutting and moving of the rocks.

Stonehenge: Getting Up Close and Personal | CosmosMariners.com

We even saw a carving that the guide said was basically ancient graffiti--something that you'd never be able to see from where the normal tour takes you!

Stonehenge: Getting Up Close and Personal | CosmosMariners.com
I am touching Stonehenge. STONEHENGE, people! (But only with the tip of my finger very, very lightly. I don't want to be the cause of one of them falling down.)
As the sun set, there was a mysterious, almost creepy feeling that hung in the air. We were standing in the middle of the Stonehenge circle, and we watched the sun go down between these massive, ancient pillars. For once, the kids I was traveling with were quiet, seemingly aware of what a unique moment we were experiencing. 

Taking a private tour isn't anything that I'd ever considered because I'm the queen of budget travel, but the experience was definitely one that I will always remember. If you're looking for a cool way to experience one of the world's most recognized landmarks (and you're willing to shell out some cash), I'd highly recommend the sunset tour of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge: Getting Up Close and Personal | CosmosMariners.com

______________________________

Have you visited Stonehenge yet? What did you think? What's one travel experience that you're glad you splurged on?
______________________________

Want even more travel goodness? Sign up for the newsletter and get the latest Cosmos Mariners updates, giveaways, and travel news right to your inbox!

Newsletter Signup Newsletter Signup

Sky Zone Charleston

Sing with me now: I believe I can flllyyyyyyyyy...

I thought that's what we were going to do. (Fly, not sing.)

Turns out, groveling on the mats while sweating profusely was closer to the truth.

Bricco Bracco

When you've been nearly scared to death by a snake and you're preparing to jump for joy (that's part II of the anniversary day, so check back tomorrow!), you need some sustenance to keep you going.

For our anniversary dinner (or lunch for all of those of you out there that aren't old school Southerners), Landon and I headed to one of our favorite restaurants in Mount Pleasant, Bricco Bracco. It's a new-ish Italian restaurant to the area (note: I call anything that's arrived since I moved back after grad school new-ish. That was four years ago.).

6 Tips for a Successful Summer Trip


I hope all of my American readers had a wonderful Memorial Day (and for everyone else, I hope your Monday was awesome!). We spent the long weekend working on building a new closet downstairs and adding more built-in bookshelves downstairs.

Bulls Island: Charleston, South Carolina's Pristine Barrier Island


Just above Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, in a tiny place called Awendaw, there's a ferry that runs year round to a protected barrier island: Bulls Island. Among other things, it has the largest concentration of alligators north of the Everglades, and its biodiversity rivals that of a rainforest.

I've grown up hearing my parents talk about going out to Bulls Island, but, for whatever reason, we never did. My dad, who's a local businessman, even had ferry tickets through his business last year but gave them away (I think someone in the family was sick).

Putt-Putt with Alligators


Sniff.

This post brings me to the last of my St. Petersburg/ Clearwater posts. I've had a grand ol' time reliving my favorite moments through these posts.

I saved one of my most favorite moments for this last post.

It's about spontaneity. It's about personal triumph.

It's about putt-putt.

St. Pete Eats: The Columbia

Technically, this should be titled "Ybor City Eats: The Columbia," but that doesn't have quite the same ring. So, we're going with the more melodical but erroneous version instead. 'Tis life.

If you can overlook the fact that I'm playing fast and loose with my geography for the sake of a title, I'll take you for a virtual tour of one of the most delectable and entertaining meals that I've had lately.

Indian Shores, Florida

Indian Shores, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

My one wish on our recent St. Petersburg trip is that we'd had more time to enjoy the beautiful beaches there. Our hotel was right across the road from the beach, so Landon and I decided on a romantic walk on the beach one day at sunset.

Welcome!

Today is a day worth celebrating!

Many new followers have found their way over to my little blog, and I'm so excited about connecting with each and every one of you. If you haven't already, leave a comment introducing yourself. I'll check out your blog, too (if you've got one. Otherwise, I'll just send some love into the universe directed at you).

How to Spend a Day at Busch Gardens Tampa without Kids

How to Spend 1 Day at Busch Gardens Tampa without Kids | CosmosMariners.com

(Alt. title: How We Realized We Were Officially Old)

I'm the most cautious adventure seeker out there. I'll jump off that cliff, climb into that parasailing equipment, and strap on my scuba gear, but you better believe that I'll think about every possible negative scenario there is before I do it.

So, it's no stretch of the imagination that I gave the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens Tampa the old hairy eyeball...before clambering to get in line.

St. Pete Eats: Bella Brava


After an intense morning learning about Salvadore Dali, Landon and I headed a few blocks away from the museum into the heart of downtown St. Petersburg for lunch.

Barefoot Beach Resort, Indian Shores, Florida: A Review

Barefoot Beach Resort, Indian Shores, Florida: A Review | CosmosMariners.com

Anyone who's ever traveled and had to stay overnight at a hotel knows that a lot rides on a good night's sleep. If you're not comfortable, you won't be at your best to drive another long stretch, put up with your crazy aunt at the family reunion, and/or make some great memories. (And yes, I know these are all first world problems. 'Tis the life I live.)

I was excited about our home away from home in St. Petersburg and had big hopes that it would be everything I needed it to be. Because if you haven't notice, we packed A LOT into those three days that we were there, and I needed to be relaxed, well-rested, and happy.

No pressure, hotel. No pressure.

St. Pete Eats: Toucan's


The first night we were in the St. Pete/ Clearwater area, Landon and I wanted to eat at a quintessential little beach place. We wanted to eat outside since the weather was gorgeous, and we wanted to be near the beach so we could watch the sunset.

Seeing as how we were on one long, skinny island, we figured that we shouldn't have too much of a problem fulfilling our requirements.

We'd heard great things about Frenchy's Rockaway, so we headed there first. It had an hour wait (on a random Wednesday night at 6:30--I don't know what was going on there), so we figured we could just walk down Mandalay Avenue and find something there.

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Over the next week and a half, I'll be diving into parts of our trip since I couldn't cram everything into my daily overviews. On the agenda: reviews of the places we ate, tons of pictures, and recaps of our favorite places, so get pumped!

First up is a look at the three amazing art collections that we visited. Seriously, if you even have a passing interest in the arts and you're in downtown St. Petersburg, make time in your schedule for these three art museums: the Dali Museum, the Chihuly Collection, and the Morean Arts Center.

The DalĂ­ Museum

I love all things modernist and post modernist, so you can imagine my glee when I discovered that St. Petersburg had one of the largest collections of Salvadore Dali's works outside of Spain. Landon, who minored in Spanish in college, is also a huge fan of Dali, and both of us were looking forward to experiencing the museum.

The museum absolutely did not disappoint. From the moment that we walked up to the building, we knew we were in for a treat, since it combined elements of nature, concrete, glass, and geometry into a unique, Dali-esque structure.

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com
Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Once inside, we wandered around the Dali portion of the museum, learning about his paintings and changing philosophies. I learned several things while listening to the audio guide:
  • Dali had an older brother who died before he was born. Creepily, the brother's name was also Salvadore Dali, and Dali's parents often treated the living boy as if he was the same person as his dead brother.
  • Dali is known for his surrealist works, but he actually broke with the Surrealist group due to their political differences. 
  • His later works reflect his growing interest in science and religion. The paintings from this period are still very symbolic, but don't have that dreamlike quality of his early works (i.e. he'd left the dripping clocks and oozing figures behind at that point).
Oh, there were a million other things that I learned, but I will spare you the full on art lecture. (Unless you're interested...)

My favorite painting was called "The Holographic Toreador" which had this trompe l'oeil quality to it, since the subject shifts between Venus de Milo and a bullfighter when you stare at it. It's also a giant painting, and, for some reason, I really love huge, room dominating artwork.

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

After our jaunt through the wild mind of Dali, we headed over to the Andy Warhol exhibit on the other side of the museum. When Landon and I were first putting this trip together, we were disappointed to find out that the Warhol exhibit was closing before we would get there--BUT! we were delighted to see a billboard as we drove to the Dali Museum that said that the Warhol exhibit had been extended!

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


I found it exceedingly odd that Warhol and Dali knew one another and ran in the same social circles in New York in the '60s and '70s. Plus, I found out that Dali was only 24 years older than Warhol--for some reason, I thought Dali was MUCH older than Warhol.

We enjoyed looking at collection, which included sketches from his Pop Art period (including the Campbell's soup can and the U.S. dollar bill), videos he shot, excerpts from his T.V. show, personal photographs, and prints.

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com
Warhol (in the chair) and Dali (standing)


I love interactive exhibits, so I had to participate in the screen test part of the exhibit. It was reminiscent to the three-minute-long screen tests that Warhol recorded: he even had one for Dali! Warhol would slow down the final tapes so that the pieces had a dream-like quality.

After we'd tinkered with all of the fun bits at the Warhol museum, we took a quick run around the gardens outside the museum. I would love to go sit out there, next to the water and the marina, and just read or write. It was so pretty!

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com




The Chihuly Collection

Next up on our jaunt of culture was the Chihuly Collection. I LOVE Chihuly's works, and I was so excited about seeing some of them up close. If you've ever been to the lobbies of the Bellagio or Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, you've seen just a taste of what Chihuly can do.

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

The Collection was pretty great--and I was allowed to take pictures, which was even better.

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com


The Morean Arts Center

The Morean Arts Center, which runs the Chihuly collection, also runs a Hot Shop that does daily glass blowing demonstrations (which we had to do, of course!). I loved seeing how these skilled glassworkers turned a lump of molten glass into a gorgeous red bowl.

The demonstration lasts for about half an hour and is $8.95 per adult. The glassblowers were personable and explained every step of their process, which made the experience much more in-depth. You'll also get access to the hot shop store to purchase some of the works of these talented artists!

Dali, Warhol, and Chihuly: A Trifecta of Arty Awesomeness in St. Petersburg, Florida | CosmosMariners.com




Even if you have smaller children, the museums would be interesting. The Dali had cute art backpacks that the young attendees could use, and the Chihuly has so much color that any kid would enjoy it (just don't touch!!). The Hot Shop would be especially cool (ha--not literally!) for kids to see since the process is quick and gratifying for short attention spans.

Have you visited St. Petersburg's art museums? Which would you be the most interested in?
______________________________

Want even more travel goodness? Sign up for the newsletter and get the latest Cosmos Mariners updates, giveaways, and travel news right to your inbox!

Newsletter Signup Newsletter Signup

St. Petersburg, FL: Day 3


Before you read any further, you have to go an enter my giveaway for two round trip airline tickets! Don't worry--I'll be here when you get back.

Done? Good. (And good luck!)

Let's talk about day 3 of our lovely jaunt through St. Petersburg, Florida.

Giveaway: Two Round-trip Airline Tickets!

Thanks to Allegiant Airlines and Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Landon and I had a fantastic mini vacation last week. You can check out my overviews of day 1 and day 2--make sure to come back all this week for even more gorgeous pictures and fun times as I recount day 3, review some of the restaurants we visited, and give you a tour of our hotel rooms.

But, before I get to all of that, I've got something just as exciting to share with you! (Don't worry--it's way more exciting than some pot and pan organizer or something.)

Allegiant Airlines and Cosmos Mariners are teaming up to send one lucky winner on a trip to one of Allegiant's many destinations.

St. Petersburg, Florida: Day 2


SOOOOO tired...so this will be short. (Don't worry--when I get home in a few days and have a chance to organize myself a bit better, you'll be bombarded with more pictures and even a couple of videos. Oh, yeah.)

Today, we went to Busch Gardens and had a BLAST.

St. Petersburg, Florida: Day 1


What an insanely great day. Landon and I hit the ground running, and we're just resting for the first time now. But I wouldn't have it any other way!

After throwing our last few things in our suitcases this morning, we packed everything in the car and headed over to my parents' house. My dad has taken off the next few days from work so that he could take care of Britton. Leaving her was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Other than one night away from her when my grandfather was very sick in the hospital, I haven't ever been more than twenty or so feet from her. She and my dad waved and waved as Landon and I pulled out of the driveway.

Living Vicariously Through Our Vacay


Landon and I are on our way to St. Petersburg today, so our fun is just beginning!

I'll be sharing our vacation, so you can pretend that you're there with us. :)

Of course, keep checking this blog, as I'll try to do as many posts as I can manage during our trip.

I'll also be sharing pictures and fun times via my other social media accounts:

Any last minute suggestions on what we should do or where we should eat while in St. Pete or Clearwater?

Packing for St. Petersburg!


I cannot believe that it's already time to start packing for my St. Pete/ Clearwater trip. I feel like it was just yesterday that I found out that I'd been selected to go!

Usually, I'm really good at packing, but this time around I have been puzzling over what to take. I don't know why I've had such trouble--maybe because I'm still in shock over the trip?!?!

11 Months Old!

Britton's still growing (funny how that happens) and she's now hit the 11 month month.

I will not lie: I love this age so much more than the newborn stage. Britton sleeps through the night, she loves playing, and she smiles all of the time.