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Diets while traveling

Diets while traveling

Ballerina & Her Family

What is their future? A photograph by Debashish Dutta, natural history photographer

Living Life in the Wilderness

Habitat Degradation and Its Threat to Wildlife

Publisher’s Note:

Debashish Dutta, a natural history photographer, employs his expert photography skills to highlight his expeditions. He returned to joanmatsuitravelwriter.com with “Ballerina & Her Family,” a story of tranquility and peace that will evoke sheer delight.

His awe-inspiring details and breathtaking photography convey the inherent beauty of biodiversity and why we are obligated to preserve and protect our planet. Join him on his expedition to Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. 

What is their future? A photograph by Debashish Dutta, natural history photographer
Wildlife and Natural History Photographer, Debashish Dutta, portrays the Indian Gazelle in his spectacular photos and detailed narrative from the Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, India. Photos by Debashish Dutta

I watched her intently as she moved around the undulating and at times rocky terrain with the subtle deftness of a ballerina. The lovely golden light of the early February morning glistened against her silky-smooth coat while her big dreamy eyes reflected the contentment she felt in her life.

For those who are tuned; the cradle of nature reminds them of the existence of God and the sheer greatness of his kingdom.  And the satisfaction visible on the faces of the denizens of the forest a reminder to mankind about how simple, beautiful and harmonious life can be on the same planet that also houses the humans whose destructive force knows no bounds.

The doe’s eyes were talking to the ones she loved – a small family that was happily munching on the fresh morning grass and a little fawn that was happily prancing around his mother. They were experiencing joy.

After my advent in Pune in 2015; I have been doing my bit of research on happy hunting grounds around town for passionate wildlife lovers and serious natural history photographers. That is how I discovered Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.

Debashish Dutta photography of Indian Gazelle, Chinkara, Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary India
The shy Chinkara gives a series of snorts if approached and prances away with a peculiar bounding gait.

Nestled in Baramati at a distance of 70km from Pune, it is arguably the smallest wildlife sanctuary in the country.  Officially that is – because in India we have enough and more delightful spots of nature still relatively or totally unknown to the marauding city crowds who would waste no time in destroying their peace and solitude. There is an unwritten but well-understood rule amongst nature lovers and that rule is to maintain the secrecy and sanctity of a natural hotspot.

Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is just about five sq. km in area. It has a big heart though and because it is relatively unknown; its peace and tranquility are still intact. The serenity has attracted a variety of mammals and bird species like the very rare Indian Grey Wolf, the Indian Fox, the Striped Hyena and the Indian Gazelle (Chinkara). The avian population on record has been the Indian Thick-Knee, White-bellied Minivet, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Laggar Falcon, Bonelli’s Eagle, Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse, the Indian Courser, and a few others.

When I headed for Mayureshwar; my main focus was on the Indian Gazelle. Locally called the Chinkara; Gazelles have always been one of my favourite ungulates because of their grace, charm, beautiful lithe structure akin to a seasoned athlete, flawless coat, lovely big and expressive eyes and the two-tone colour scheme of their coat. India, unfortunately, has been blessed with only one species of Gazelle. Africa, on the other hand, has a wide variety. In fact, of the 91 antelope and gazelle species in the world, the African continent is home to 72 of them. The Indian Gazelle closely resembles the Tommies or Thomson’s Gazelles visible in large numbers on the African savannah.

Back to the doe and family, I was watching. I had been on the same spot for over an hour. There was an obvious chill in the air reinforced by a relatively stiff northeasterly wind. The ability to be still, quiet, patient and watchful are good virtuous to have in the wilderness. They allow you to become one with the surroundings and enable you to soak in the unspeakable joy that only wilderness can offer to a human. The stillness allows the animal to relax and prevents a breach of the animal’s circle of fear.

Given the open terrain of Mayureshwar; it was possible for me to stay put inside my vehicle. The firmly planted bean bag on the window sill afforded my Nikon D750 a firm foundation for when it is coupled with the Nikkor 200mm-400mm/F4 VR II. The combined weight becomes substantial and a firm foundation is mandatory to avoid camera shake. My goal was to compose some nice frames capturing the doe in action solo and with her family.

Unfortunately, Mayureshwar has received some negative feedback from people who are obviously not tuned to the rhythm of nature. A simple Google search will reveal uneducated and half-baked commentary from visitors whose exposure to natural habitats and the sheer vastness of their variety is minuscule. Now, these are visitors who want to quickly see a few big animals and leave. Their heart is not in nature and their understanding of jungle craft zero. Thus, those who understand that the Earth is blessed with a myriad of forest types and terrains are able to appreciate the diversity. They are also able to appreciate the fact that nature has blessed the planet with an astounding array of wildlife and not just the big cats and mammals. Sadly, we have lost a large number of them due to our own callousness, greed, and lack of respect for the planet we live in.

The human mind is boundless and unstoppable. Sitting still and at least some distance away from the daily humdrum of life underneath a vast and beautiful blue sky; my mind had wandered to distant shores and days gone by. This is another unique state of mind of a person deeply in love with nature and one who always finds solace in jungles. While soaking in the natural beauty around and marveling at another inimitable creation of God; my mind reminded me that my beloved jungles are being destroyed cruelly all around and my heart started to lament!

Habitat destruction, ecosystem pollution, deforestation, species vulnerability and extinction, and such horrendous thoughts kept flowing in and out of my mind. Gut-wrenching photos of the recent burning of the Amazonia filled my eyes. Has the decay of the human mind reached such a nadir that those hands which set the Amazonia on fire did not tremble and hesitate? Were they not deliberately oblivious to the fact that the Amazonia supplies 20 percent of the world’s supply of fresh Oxygen?

Just then my driver whispered. We noticed that the Chinkara family had moved a certain distance uphill. To ensure that we were correctly aligned with the angle of light; we had to circumvent a bit to catch up with the doe and her family again.

In Mayureshwar; one can easily alight from a vehicle and scan around, however, that is likely to scare the animal away. The Chinkara is shy of human beings; if approached, the animal gives a series of snorts and prances away with a peculiar bounding gait. When alarmed, the herd takes off at a frantic pace, then stops 100 to 200 m away to discover the cause of the alarm. Therefore, stay put in your vehicle. Always wear camouflage clothes in a jungle except in Africa where camouflage clothing is restricted to forest staff and the rangers. Avoid perfumes for they too will scare an animal. They are not used to strong synthetic smells. Dark glasses are a no-no, especially when dealing with big cats, apes, primates and large herbivores. They can trigger an alarm and a retaliation.

Indian Gazelles mating in Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary
Gazelles copulate often and Debashish was lucky to capture the couple in action.

I noticed that the doe and her little one had been joined by a male. How do you figure if the Chinkara is a male? Size apart, consider its horns. They appear straight when seen from the front. In profile, the horns of an adult male have an S-shape. The females have much slenderer and smaller horns compared to the males. Like other gazelles, adult Chinkara males are territorial and have a clear perimeter of operations. Other males are not tolerated but wandering females from other clans are always offered an opportunity to join the male’s harem. The male marks his territory by fecal mounds and uses these spots regularly. A Chinkara male is always around his lady in estrus and guards her aggressively. They copulate often and I was lucky to get some good shots while the couple was in action.

The little fawn was around all the time making merry. Chinkara females like most living beings make for doting mothers. I saw many tender moments between mother and baby and those scenes were heartwarming, to say the least. The fawn is with the mother for about a year and then ventures out on its own. Chinkara families are like humans with a size typically not more than five to six individuals.

The corrupt human mind looks at development as an opportunity to make money and makes development a bad word. Unfortunately, this is a global truth and as a result of the warped sense of development; our planet has lost a multitude of species and innumerable biodiversity hotspots. Extinct species will never return and damaged natural ecosystems are almost impossible to reinstate because forest ecosystems develop over millions of years. They cannot be replaced ever by plantations.

Maybe there is still some time left. Therefore, people should look around. Nurture a natural spot that you chance upon or happens to be in your neighbourhood. Mobilise sensible people and ensure peace and tranquility of that little Garden of Eden. Debashish Dutta, Natural History Photographer

Startled Indian Gazelle and her family
Do your part to preserve the ecosystems that support our forests and the wildlife that call the habitats home. Debashish takes on the task of reporting on the challenges he has encountered while documenting wild species through his magnificent camera lens and narratives.

Getting There

Getting to Mayureshwar is simple once you are in Pune. Hire an SUV or MPV or drive down yourself. If you start at about 7 a.m.; you will be able to cover the 70 km distance in 1.5 hours. Google Maps is all you need for guidance. The entrance is at 8 AM and the fee is basic. Carry your own water bottle, tuck in a few sandwiches and munchies.

Please do not litter. Once inside; figure a tree by the side of the road where you can park your vehicle. Set up your equipment if you are a photographer or videographer. Settle down. Let the jungle take over.

Debashish Dutta is a BBC Earth and Nikon Asia recognized professional Natural History Photographer. Visit his website www.fromdawntodusk.in for a detailed insight into his wildlife portfolios. He is also Global Director & Head – Operational Risk for a major financial services firm.

Read a companion story by Debashish Dutta, Wild Girls Uninterrupted.

Planning a safari trip in the near future? You’ll want a camera to capture priceless photos.

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Diets while traveling

The Philadelphia Zoo

  • By
  • June 28, 2021
Philadelphia Zoo exhibits

An Afternoon at America’s Oldest Zoo

Celebrate Animals, Watch, Listen and Learn 

America’s oldest zoo has always been one of my favorite “go-to” places as a child, adult, and parent. I’m referring to The Philadelphia Zoo, an urban animal paradise that opened on July 1, 1874, in the city’s Centennial District on the west bank of the Schuylkill River.

Philadelphia Zoo Primates
I’m convinced large primates love to put on a show for their guests. The primate habitat is always one of my first stops. Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui

A visit to The Philadelphia Zoo is sheer pleasure. Even if you are not a fan of zoos, it’s a destination you and your child should experience together. After all, many children might never have an opportunity to catch a glimpse of and observe animals from around the world in a safe setting. The zoo houses at last count almost 1,300 animals and many are rare and endangered species. More than 1.2 million visitors come through the gates every year to watch, learn, and be entertained. One of the zoo’s primary goals is to educate children and adults about animal and environmental conservation. The world’s premier animal travel and exploration trail system, Zoo360, provides animals with ample space to roam and is one of the most thoughtfully-designed zoo attractions I’ve seen. If you go, small primates swinging from treetop to treetop, large primates eager to entertain and keep an eye on the crowds below, and the lions, tigers, jaguars, pumas, and other big cats are among the species you’ll discover. Need a break from the sun, you can seek refuge indoors in “The Reptile and Amphibian House,” opened in 1875 and regarded as the United States oldest zoo building.

Throughout the zoo’s 42-acre campus, you’ll find a variety of animal exhibits and each one is designed with a personalized experience in mind.  Many of the exhibits allow you and your children to stand within several inches – close enough to watch the residents interact with their peers. Children giggling at the primates’ shenanigans, lions basking in the sun, and the busy giraffe foraging for food are recurring scenes. 

What’s the best time to visit the zoo?

If you have young children, schedule your visit for late spring, early summer, and fall mornings. You probably won’t find the large crowds you might encounter during peak summer hours and you’ll avoid long ticket lines at the gate. You are guaranteed a top-notch learning environment any time of the year. From mid-day until mid-afternoon, you could find some or maybe most of the animals napping so you’ll need to plan your day with your own goals in mind.

Philadelphia Zoo Current Exhibits
Obey rules and policies established to protect you and the animals you’ll discover at The Philadelphia Zoo. Be prepared to meet the resident geese who aren’t shy about begging for food.

Two New Exhibits You Won’t Want to Miss

The Philadelphia Zoo has added, “Penguin Point” and “Water is Life” to its list of incredible new exhibits since my last visit. Giant otters, Humboldt penguins, and red pandas are among the characters you’ll meet in a natural setting.

“Monkey Junction,” “PECO Primate Reserve,” and the “Reptile and Amphibian House” are three existing exhibits I never miss during my visits to the zoo. A snake sighting sends chills up my spine but yet, I can’t keep my eyes off them. Watching them make their way from water to land is an opportunity to study their lifestyle.

FEED WHEN THE ANIMALS FEED

There is typically an on-site dining area within close proximity in case you want to break for a meal or snack while the animals are feeding or napping. Watching them graze or gobble down their meals might trigger your hunger pangs and zoo cuisine has evolved to include a wide variety of choices for young and old alike.

The name, “Mane Fare,” reflects the selection of eateries located throughout the grounds. Tiger Terrace, Eagles Roost, World Tacos are three of your food and beverage choices that offer palette-pleasing meals from pizza, burgers, chicken,  and tacos, and other staples most picky eaters will try.  Visitors who have not experienced the famous Philadelphia pretzel sold by street vendors throughout the city will find a slightly modified version in the pretzel bites sold at the “Philly Pretzel Factory.” You and your family should not leave the City of Brotherly Love before you experience a pretzel and cheesesteak.

Eating your meals with a clear view of an exhibit is part of the fun associated with a day at The Philadelphia Zoo.  Hours and availability vary seasonally so be sure to check the zoo’s website for more information.  Among other perks, zoo members receive a 10 percent discount on food and beverage throughout the park.

Let’s Talk Conservation

Zoos have gotten a bad rap over the years from organizations that believe animals should be allowed to roam free in their indigenous habitats but when conservation and preservation of species are the main focus, species that might otherwise be extinct due to illegal hunting and poaching are protected. A zoo offers a solution.  The Philadelphia Zoo has a conservation program that offers many of our world’s most endangered species a program that allows them to thrive, procreate, and educate visitors. You can learn more about conservation and protection plans in place at  https://www.philadelphiazoo.org/Animals/Most-Endangered-Animals.htm or visit the “Rare Animal Conservation Center.” 

What’s “in it” for older kids?

Even teenagers can learn a thing or two about animals and enjoy a day trip to The Philadelphia Zoo. You’ll hear a laugh or two or three from “big kids” as the You’ll have a lot of ground to cover so a morning visit is the best bet for families with infants and toddlers. Above all, a zoo is one of the best choices if you want to spend family time together while teaching your children to respect and appreciate animals.

Disclosure:

My admission to The Philadelphia Zoo was comped but my opinions are my own.

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Diets while traveling Lifestyle top

Desert-Inspired Yoga Practice

Healthy Ways to Release Stress and Find Peace

Noa Raman, a certified Yoga instructor, and StandWithUs.TV producer teaches participants breathing and postures

Dead Sea Desert-Inspired Yoga Practice
As a central location for health research, the Dead Sea offers several health benefits due to the water’s mineral and low allergen content. Researchers have found the mud is high in calcium and potassium, two minerals your skin needs to stay young and healthy. Photo by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

As the world recovers from pandemic fatigue, it is more important than ever to find a healthy way to release stress and find peace. Noa Raman, a certified yoga practitioner, and StandWithUs.TV producer led a desert-inspired yoga practice and meditation on Feb. 16, 2021, from her Tel Aviv studio. The session opened with a brief meditation that set the tone for the relaxing yoga postures that followed.

“During the pandemic, I have learned that sharing my yoga and meditation practice gives me and the students I work with a moment of stillness that is always there if we give ourselves the time and space to return to their breaths.”

Noa Raman

Yogis of all levels celebrated tranquility in the comfort of their homes as the wellness and beauty series came to a close. Israel Ministry of Tourism, AHAVA, Tamar Regional Council, and Israel Land of Creation presented the Zoom event as part of their third and final “Exploring Wellness in the Israeli Desert and Dead Sea” webinar. Representatives of Six Senses Shaharut, a new wellness resort scheduled to open in September 2021, and AHAVA, Dead Sea Mineral Skin Care Products, kicked off the webinar with an emphasis on the beauty of the desert and the Dead Sea.

Masada (“fortress” in Hebrew) is a mountain complex in Israel in the Judean desert that overlooks the Dead Sea.
Masada, a fortress on the mountain in the Judean desert, is a UNESCO world heritage site that overlooks the Dead Sea. Photo was taken by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Before moving to Israel in June 2018, Noa was a member of the StandWithUs’ campus team for three years as a mentor to college students in the Northwestern United States as an advocate for Israel and to combat Anti-Semitism. After making Aliyah, (immigrating to Israel by herself), she joined the StandWithUs Israel team as the Director of International Delegations and Birthright Israel Collaboration Enhancement Program (BICEP). She is the Producer of StandWithUs.TV, an educational platform that offers in-depth Israeli programming that viewers can access from the comfort of home or office.

The little things and moments matter so much. They take up more space than the big things. They create endless choices and possibilities.

Noa Raman
A girl enjoys the Dead Sea mud.
Spa and health treatments are available throughout the Dead Sea area. Photo taken by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Are you looking for a Yoga event to enhance your current practice, look into Yoga ARAVA, an annual event held in the Arava BeershebaIsrael settlements. The event offers in-depth yoga workshops amidst a breathtaking desert landscape with an emphasis on quality meditation and yoga practice. This year’s festival is scheduled for Thurs., Nov. 4, 2021, to Sat., Nov. 6, 2021.

Learn more about Yoga Arava events at https://www.carnifest.com/yoga-arava-2021/.

Read a yoga companion story here on joanmatsuitravelwriter.com.

Disclaimer: The Amazon link on this page is an affiliate link. I will make a small commission if you purchase an item using this link at NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU.

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Diets while traveling Florida destinations Lifestyle

A Journey Across The Overseas Highway

"A Journey Across The Overseas Highway"

Papa Dobles, Key Lime Pie, Papa Hemingway, and Key Lime Seafood Penne

What You’ll Find in Islamorada: The Fishing Capital of the World

Everything, Everywhere, Travel Writer Guest Series Marcella Nardi
By Dr. Joe Leonardi

Warning: “A Journey Across The Overseas Highway” spells out food descriptions that might provoke you to immediately book a trip to Islamorada.

This week, I welcome Dr. Joe Leonardi, a Chiropractor from Kingston, Pennsylvania, and the author of several books in the Historical and Realistic Fiction genres. Joe is a one-time candidate for congress, an educator, and his greatest pride, a non-combat United States Navy veteran.

Islamorada in the Florida Keys
Dr. Joe Leonardi is a Pennsylvania chiropractor with a love for travel. The Florida Keys rank high on his list of favorite Florida destinations. But there’s more…the Key Lime Pie, Key Lime Penne Pasta and other food selections every Florida traveler must experience.

Begin Your Journey to Islamorada

A jolt as the wheels touch down. The roar of engines as they go into reverse. The jetliner slows and taxis to the jetway. The flight captain announces for us to remain seated until the plane comes to a complete stop. I don’t think I’ve heard a more useless announcement because as we are rolling along, people spring from their seats and unlatch overhead compartments as if they can exit before the doors open.

We sit and chuckle at the hurried crowd. When those around us have finally moved away, we get up. I reach above and grab two simple duffels and we are last out the door.

One step across the metal threshold and the heavy, hot, close Miami air greets us with a welcoming hug. It feels good as it penetrates old bones that have been enduring a Northeast Pennsylvania winter.

We are not at our eventual destination, and because overpacking is not a necessity, we skip the throngs at the baggage carousel and head straight to the car rental place. Being a preferred member allows a straight shot to the garage. My old friend, whose name I do not know, who is here on each of my trips greets me with a broad smile and tips his hat to you.

Beaches in Islamorada in The Florida Keys
Florida has beaches that draw millions of visitors each year. While you’re in the Florida Keys, there’s a restaurant Joe ranks high on his list of favorite places to eat. Scroll down to read more about “Marker 88” and the BEST Key Lime Pie in the continental United States.

“Your car is ready.” He hands me the key, and we shake hands.

The top is already down. He knows me too well. We exit down an angled ramp and find our way to Florida’s Turnpike. Of course, as I have done on each of my ventures to the sunshine state, I have forgotten sunglasses. It isn’t long before we arrive at the same convenience store where I have purchased at least a dozen pairs of dark lenses to protect my eyes. I get you a pair, even though you were smart enough to take yours.  I always marvel that this is the only store I have ever been to which is on the left side of a highway.

Sunglasses – check.
Shirts changed to lightly colored tank tops – check.
Sunscreen applied – check.

A couple of bananas and a few bottles of water now occupy the back seat and we are ready to continue south. You see my friends, this installment is not about the destination, but about the journey. A journey along one of the most scenic roads one can ever drive and an interesting stop or two along the way.

But before we begin, we take a moment to just sit in the car taking in the warmth and sunshine. Scanning the radio for a Latin music station, we must set the proper Miami mood. Once I find one, the driving beat of Gloria Estefan Turns The Beat Around, so I turn the key and let the plugs spark fuel to fire, set my foot heavy upon the accelerator and roar back onto the turnpike.

Wind whipping.
Music blaring.
Sun beating.

I smile and joke, “Toto, we aren’t in frozen Pennsylvania any longer.”

We were not on the road for half an hour when I suggest we make a stop at roadside attraction I have often wanted to visit, but never before made the time. You are game. I put the Coral Castle in my phone’s GPS and after a couple of turns, we are on The Dixie Highway pulling up to the limestone structure.

Walking along the outside, my hand rubs the rough structure. It has weathered much in its nearly century of standing. Admittance is paid, and once inside, we are mesmerized by the tale of how a lone, slight man, with no advanced tools, nor anyone’s assistance, built this monument to a love who broke his heart. Every part of the structure is made from the limestone he magically moved and crafted. Chairs, a bed, stairs, and sculptures all the same coral. We are informed there are many myths as to how this solitary person put together this magnificent structure.

“He had an unrivaled working of physics, so much so, he was able to perfectly balance the heavy, revolving door that keeps the outside world from entering, but can be spun upon its axis with little nothing more than a solitary finger.”

It is fascinating, and while I would like to know more, I don’t think I will bother to research any of the truth behind it. After witnessing this man-made wonder, it is much more fun to believe the myths of its creation than try and find out what may be the truth. Who knows, perhaps the truth is not out there.

Before heading out I crack open a bottle of water which has warmed considerably in the Florida sun. A banana hits the spot and gives much-needed potassium before we head back on the road south.

A quick jaunt by Florida City and the end of the peninsula is near. The turnpike has melded into US 1 and much of the surrounding area is desolate, but the ocean is in view and we are crossing a bridge that is elevating above the water. Beneath us the sea is calm and tranquil, as we crest the top, the first of the Florida Keys, Key Largo, welcomes us and our journey upon The Overseas Highway. There is where it begins.

Here traffic slows as the small town is overflowing with tourists. This is a big area for diving. One day we must make a stop, but today our stomachs are growling so I keep on the road. Islamorada is but a mere 15 miles, but traffic is heavy, so it may take another 30 or so minutes to reach a favored spot for a late lunch.

A sign welcomes us to Islamorada and lets us know we are now in “The Fishing Capital of The World.”  At this time of day, the traffic is now light, most are out experiencing deep sea fishing, and the usual lunch hours have ended. I see Lion’s Lair, a specialty swimwear and intimate apparel business that has managed to take hundreds of my hard-earned dollars over the years for travel companions. Today we have no need, but it is a tell-tale sign that our eating destination is less than a few minutes away.

Or sooner. I have been to the “Marker 88” restaurant more than a dozen times, and yet, each time, the entrance sneaks up on me. I hit the brakes hard, downshift and make a sudden ninety-degree angle right turn onto the long driveway. My empty and rumbling stomach leaps into my throat and then settles quickly as it knows what to soon expect.

The car comes to a rest. The lingering smell of asbestos tickles the nose but does nothing to deter appetites. This is the best time to come. The lunch crowd is gone and there isn’t a soul in the place. Well, there is one soul in the place.

“Joe, is that you? I was just thinking it is time for one of your visits.”

It still amazes me; the people I see a handful of times a year know me better than many back home.

“Hi Lori, too cold up north.”

She smiles, “I know. When are you just going to up and move down here?”

I give her the same answer as always. “Soon.”

“Well, you know the routine, you have the place to yourself. I will bring out your Papa Dobles and menus.”

As we walk through the restaurant, we head out back to the beautiful body of water where the Gulf of Mexico forms the Florida Bay. Glider-style tables dot the sea. Lowering our bulk into one causes the metal to groan as it gently sways as we settle in.

The sea air is fresh and cooler and less humid than the air that greeted us at the airport. The beach is one of the few natural ones in the Keys. Most of the beaches require sand to be shipped in for the tourists to sun themselves.

Alongside a refreshing Papa Dobles is an appetizer of sweet potato fries. The deep orange potato, fried to a crisp texture, covered in salt, is giving off an enticing aroma.  We take a fry and gingerly bite into it.  It snaps as teeth break the surface.  The inside releases a small burst of hot steam warning us to blow on it before our next bite.

As we peruse the menu, the sun drifts from directly overhead and takes a temporary spot over the bay. In a few short hours, people will line all points west to watch her dazzling display of beauty as she sets beneath the ocean.

As we finish the fries, fresh Papa Dobles appear in front of us as well as plates of Key Lime Seafood Penne that we didn’t order, but Lori knew that was what we were getting. Honestly, what could be more Florida Keys than freshly caught lobster, shrimp, and blue crab mixed with penne pasta in a key lime-Tabasco butter sauce.

The savory scent of melted butter mixes with the tart tang bouquet of key lime. The heat from Tabasco opens our nasal passages in such a way that the fragrance overwhelms.  After another deep breath, we dig right in.  The sweet, tender lobsters melt in our mouths.  Not wanting to miss even the slightest morsel, both fork and spoon are a necessity.  We take a quick look around and we are still the only ones in the place. so bowls are lifted, brought to mouths, and with slurping sounds, we finish off the remaining sauce. Butter streaks our chins as the delicious broth passes our lips.

As our plates are cleared, a walk along a pier that juts out over the bay is a must. Standing out over the sea, the water is crystal clear. Various sea life is visible moving about. Not too far off, what appears to be a nurse shark taking a break from the ocean floor, is sunning him, or her, self. The sun’s light reflects at us at such an odd angle, we squint until the dorsal fin drops beneath the surface.

Dessert is the next order of the day, and there is no reason to ask what we are having. As we retake our seats, set on the table is truly the best Key Lime Pie in all The Keys, if not the world. This pie is more than simply a key lime filling atop some type of crust, no — atop this filling, made with freshly squeezed key lime juice, are several inches of snow-white meringue. The fluffy topping has a sugary coat beckoning us to plunge in our forks. As the tines pass through the filling and break the graham crust, the scent of that fresh key lime juice escapes its confinement. We raise a portion to our mouths; the sweet but tart bouquet tickles our noses causing us to immediately place the decedent dessert into our mouths. We allow it to sit on our tongues, the intense flavors reawaken our appetites. Slowly chewing, a loud pleasurable moan is all the expression necessary. 

I order up a pitcher of Papa Dobles. Lori asks if we are staying next door. I nod my head yes. She tells me I can leave the car in the lot; she takes my keys and will put the top up and tells me she will have them for me at breakfast.

The drink of Papa Hemingway continues to relax as much as the warm breeze blowing in off the ocean.

Our next installment will take us the rest of the way down The Overseas Highway where we will explore the Southernmost Point in the Continental United States.

Short Story Scribe by Joe Leonardi
Joe Leonardi’s website, ShortStoryScribe.com

Visit Joe’s website, ShortStoryScribe.com to get your hands copies of his books that reveal his fascination with storytelling.

Sponsor this post or a podcast episode. Get the details about how you can promote your business here at joanmatsuitravelwriter.com.

A Journey Across The Overseas Highway is one of many travel stories created for the Everything, Everywhere, Travel Guest series, a weekly feature that shines a light on travelers from around the world and all walks of life. Here’s a companion story you’ll love by Neil Patel, a digital marketing icon.

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Diets while traveling Lifestyle

Japanese Culture Before You Go

  • By
  • July 11, 2018
Japanese Culture Before You Go

“Japanese Culture Before You Go” gives you all the reasons you need to learn more about the Japanese and what to expect when you visit. This post is a work in progress.

Japan is a country that cannot be described in a few paragraphs. Japanese culture is complex and deeply rooted in traditions.

If a trip to Japan is in your future, you should set aside some time to check out  ThisIsAmericaTV. Watch host Dennis Wholey delve into a culture that’s both very modern but also deeply rooted in traditions. Wholey also covers a plethora of other topics related to other countries. In particular, Episode 1822 “ Japan: Tradition & Culture,” describes so beautifully Wholey’s “experiences with “the profound cultural depth of Japan.”

The show notes highlight Wholey’s accounts of what he refers to as “one of the most modern countries on earth.”

“Japan is still rooted in its traditions and culture. Segments focus on meditation in the mountain temples of Koyasan, traditional Washoku cuisine in Kyoto, and Shinto beliefs at the Meiji Shrine in the heart of Tokyo.”

On a personal note, with a name like “Matsui,” you can surmise why I continue to be so intrigued by Japanese culture. My husband was born and raised in Japan and on two separate occasions, I had an opportunity to experience the culture, food, and language firsthand. Plan your trip before you leave and be sure to schedule time for shopping in one of the world’s most fashion-conscious countries. You will be amazed at the selection of shops and department stores with some of the most courteous sales associates you will find anywhere.

As your plane prepares for landing at one of Japan’s airports, just before your aircraft lands, chances are you’ll see rice fields mingled with other crops or small crops tucked away between homes and businesses.

Visit my website https://chigirie.com to see examples of Chigirie, the Japanese art of painting with paper. During our month-long visits to the “Land of the Rising Sun,” we visited close to 30 temples and shrines. Japanese temples exude spirituality, harmony with nature, and a culture that is oftentimes mysterious. This video is a great place to begin your Japanese cultural immersion.

Did Wholey reinforce your opinions of Japan? If yes, why?

Japanese temples shrines
Experience centuries’-old architecture and culture in Japanese temples and shrines.

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