International Writer of Mystery, Travel, and Wine

Category: Travel (Page 2 of 3)

My Summer 2019 Vacation in Italy – Part II

After my time in Rome, I ventured across Italy to Pescara. Pescara is a lovely town right on the Adriatic Coast. My only problem was that I was staying on the wrong side of the pedestrian bridge.

If you travel to Pescara, I highly recommend that you stay near the center and not far from the train station. There is a large pedestrian central square about two to three blocks from the seaside that is packed with restaurants, bars, and shops. There are also beachside restaurants and shops on the street that runs along the beach – Lungomare G. Matteotti – that has both nice restaurants, casual dining, and gelato shops.

Unfortunately, I stayed on the other side of the pedestrian bridge where there were only a few restaurants and not many shops. I was recovering from Rome though so I was content to stay around the hotel.

 

Travel further with me through Italy today as I revisit Pescara and Bari.

It was a perfect beach day – warm and sunny; the water was cool and refreshing, but not cold. Perfetto!


I took a walk before dinner and was mesmerized by the port side of town. 

I crossed the pedestrian bridge into central Pescara and discovered a whole new world! Beautiful beach with a long promenade and a charming piazza and shopping center.

The streets of Pescara

While in Pescara, I took a private wine tour of two family-owned wineries. The wines were fantastic. I met the tour leader in Scarfa, about 20 minutes away by train from Pescara.

The scenery in Abruzzo is stunning and breathtaking and the wines were delightful. We went to the Chiesa di San Donato where locals bring in their containers to fill right out of the vats for the week. Each container only cost a few Euros to fill. The family was very nice and the owner smiled and often repeated: “Wine is life.” With the views, the wine, and the ambiance, I can’t say I disagree.

The second winery, Castello dei Caracciolo, was located in Tocco da Casauria. We toured their 200-year old cellar and tasted their wines and olive oils. This was another wonderful winery and a thoroughly enjoyable part of the trip.

I would recommend this Private Wine Tour – which I booked through Viator. The tour leader was very knowledgeable and interesting and provided local meats and cheeses to complement the wines. We tasted Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano, Pecorino, and Cerasuolo – all lovely wines even fresh from the steel tanks!

After leaving Pescara, I traveled down the coast to Bari. I stayed in a converted Abbey which was rather remote and had terrible internet service, but it was modern inside and quiet.

Bari is a beautiful city – I even came unexpectedly on singing priests walking down the street. That doesn’t happen every day, at least not in my life!

 I took a recommendation and went to explore the Strada Arco Basso – this charming street where women sit outside in the street to make and dry pasta to sell in the local shops. It all looked delicious!

I hope you’re enjoying my trip through Italy – it certainly beats sitting through a slideshow! I welcome all comments on new places to explore in Italy. Come back next week to see what I did in Brindisi and Lecce.

Until then remember, wine is life!

My Summer 2019 Vacation in Italy (a little late) Part I

Last summer, I spent six weeks in Italy. They were experiencing a heatwave that was blowing sands from the Sahara in Africa. It was hot the ENTIRE time I was there – 90+ degrees. I think it rained only twice in six weeks and once it dropped to the mid-70s.

I traveled all over Italy last summer. I started in Rome. Crossed over to Pescara. I had never been to the heel of the boot of Italy so I decided to travel down the Adriatic Coast to Bari, Brindisi, and Lecce.

From Lecce, I thought I would try to escape the everlasting heat and journeyed north to Perugia – which has now become one of my favorite Italian towns. After Perugia, I stopped in Florence and picked up a tour of the Lake District in Milan.

After the tour, I rented a car – that was an experience – and visited Modena, Siena, and ended my vacation in the beautiful town of Pitigliano. A short drive down the Mediterranean Coast brought me back to Rome.

It was busy and beautiful and delicious and fun! I made some new friends and discovered parts of Italy I had never visited before. The next few posts will be a visual tribute to Italy and my tour. Most were posted on Instagram or Facebook so may look familiar.

Please follow me on those two sites if you don’t already. This summer’s trip is already being planned and it’s going to be AMAZING!

Enjoy my trip to Italy. I’d be happy to discuss any portion of the trip if you would like to leave a comment.

Rome

For a large city, Rome is incredible. It manages to be both modern and ancient at the same time. Every corner you turn, you have the opportunity to discover a ruin, a beautiful fountain, or even the Colisseum.

Frascati

I took a 30-minute train ride to Frascati for a pizza making and wine tasting class. It was amazing! Slightly cooler (maybe only 90 degrees) and absolutely stunning. Sampled some local reds and whites, nibbled on delicious appetizers, learned how to make amazingly authentic pizza, tasted wine donuts that are made to dunk in your wine, and met some fun people. A fun and worthwhile experience if you’re ever in the area. Our guide Max was interesting, fun, knowledgeable, and very charming. I can’t say enough nice things about this tour!!!

Stay Tuned

Next week, I’ll continue my mostly-visual, Italian travelogue with photos from Pescara, Bari, Brindisi, and Lecce.

Please share your favorite cities in Italy and tell me what’s not to miss in those cities.

Travel is life!

Hanging With Gibbons, or How I Spent My 2019 Winter Break

I hate the holidays. I suppose I always have. It is not a joyful time of year for me. Add the fact that my birthday is four days before Christmas and the feeling is exponentially intensified. Mostly, I could never celebrate my birthday on my birthday – or anytime near – due to holiday events and festivities. When I was younger and exchanged gifts with friends, inevitably a few friends would combine my birthday and Christmas gift and then exchange gifts with other friends, thereby diluting my birthday even further.

A few years ago, I decided to cancel my celebration of the holidays. I started volunteering at an animal sanctuary over the holidays and I have never been happier. The first few years, I volunteered at Save the Chimps (STC), a fabulous chimpanzee sanctuary located in Fort Pierce, Florida. Another year, I stayed home and volunteered at Our Companions Animal Rescue, a local dog and cat sanctuary to whose news magazine I submit articles. That was also great, but I still had to endure winter and a lot of downtime.

While I love the chimps at STC and the rescues at Our Companions, this year I wanted to volunteer a place that was warmer than home and within driving distance. Plane travel over the holidays is rarely enjoyable. I looked to my Facebook feed and found the International Primate Protection League (IPPL), a gibbon sanctuary located in Summerville, South Carolina, right outside of Charleston. I contacted the sanctuary and they said they would be happy to have me there for the holidays.

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
~Elizabeth Andrew

I arrived in South Carolina on December 22 and started volunteering on December 23. I was enchanted from the very first time I heard the gibbons singing to each other.

Click the link below to listen to the gibbons’ song:

https://soundcloud.com/stations/track/tammy-wunsch-794483567/primate-ln

 

That first day, Shala, the Sanctuary Director, took me on a tour to meet the gibbons, and I was enthralled. Each subsequent day, I fell a little more in love with the amazing gibbons who call IPPL their home.

 

Hello there!

The Facts About Gibbons

Gibbons live in tropical and subtropical rainforests in India, Bangladesh, China, and Indonesia. They have long arms and strong legs and are arboreal – meaning they live in the tree canopy. Following are some more fun facts about gibbons:

  • Gibbons are territorial, monogamous and generally live in bonded pairs.
  • They are part of the ape family but classified as lesser apes because they are physically smaller than the great apes.
  • Gibbons mostly move through the trees by brachiation – swinging through the trees by their long arms. They can move at speeds up to 34 miles per hour.
Val brachiating through his enclosure – look at him go!
  • If they do “walk”, they are bi-pedal.
  • Gibbons are not able to swim which keeps them isolated on some islands.
  • Females are the head of the family group and gestate for approximately seven months and usually only have one offspring at a time.
  • Gibbons usually stand about three feet tall and weigh between 10-20 pounds.
  • They are mostly covered in light-colored, ashy or tan hair to very dark brown or black hair. Some have a band of white hair surrounding their face.
  • Gibbons do not make sleeping nests like other apes and generally sleep upright.
  • They are omnivores but prefer mainly fresh fruit.
  • Gibbons modulate their vocalizations, making it sound like they’re singing. The singing is used to communicate and protect their territory. Different gibbon species make different vocalizations.
  • There are 20 species of gibbons. Unfortunately, all are threatened by extinction due to palm oil production, logging, and the illegal pet trade.

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
~Winston Churchill

The International Primate Protection League (IPPL)

Dr. Shirley McGreal

IPPL was founded in 1973 by Dr. Shirley McGreal when she became concerned about primates being captured, transported, and exploited. She has worked tirelessly to protect all primates, both big and small. Some of Dr. McGreal’s successes include:

  • Founding a gibbon sanctuary in 1977;
  • Publishing IPPL News and being recognized by the BBC as one of the world’s best wildlife publications;
  • Exposing and closing down many smugglers’ networks that were illegally shipping primates from Asia to the West;
  • Uncovering gruesome radiation experiments on rhesus monkeys and numerous inhumane medical and biological warfare research experiments on primates;
  • Lobbying worldwide governments to ban the practice of wildlife trafficking;
  • Fundraising for numerous worldwide primate sanctuaries;
  • Investigating the conditions of primates in zoos and other entertainment venues;
  • Rescuing and providing shelter to gibbons at IPPL headquarters in South Carolina.

Dr. McGreal was presented with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her “services to the protection of primates” in2008 and has also received numerous letters from Prince Phillip regarding her service to primates.

 

Sanctuary Life

Currently, 34 gibbons who call IPPL home. The sanctuary is located in Summerville, South Carolina, about a half-hour northwest of Charleston. It is set on 37 acres in a rural area of town and is surrounded by trees and land which act as a buffer between the gibbons and the local, human residents. There are 10 gibbon houses that are hurricane-proof and climate-controlled. Each house also has a television to provide enrichment when they cannot venture outside. Numerous outdoor enclosures that are attached to the houses by a series of aerial walkways that can be used to move the gibbons with less stress and no anesthesia.

All but one of the gibbons are members of the white-handed gibbon species. There is one yellow-cheeked crested gibbon, Tong aka Tiggy, which I must admit, quickly became one of my favorites. Not only does she look different from the other gibbons but her vocalizations are very different as well. Other favorites included Maynard, Val, Spanky, and Gideon, though they all had such unique personalities I feel I would equally love them all if I were able to stay longer.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

As most of the gibbons were born in captivity and never learned ape behaviors from their parents, they would never be able to survive in the wild. They are protected and loved at the sanctuary – a much better fate than so many others. Many of the gibbons do live in pairs, however, some bachelors who have learned to co-exist peacefully – to a certain extent.

Each morning, the gibbons wake up and are let out of their houses into their enclosures where they can brachiate, climb, and observe their surroundings. Their first meal of the day consists of about a pound of vegetables. The gibbons prefer fruits but need the nutrients of the vegetables to stay healthy. Feeding them their vegetables in the morning ensures they will be eaten when the gibbons wake up hungry.

At lunch, the gibbons get approximately one pound of mixed fruits. These are their preferred foods but gibbons are rather fastidious – they do not like to get dirty. If a piece of food is too sticky, they will drop it immediately.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss

The gibbons go to bed when it starts to get dark. Night rounds consist of walking throughout the sanctuary, picking up the food containers from each enclosure, ensuring the gibbons are locked inside their enclosure, and giving them a peeled banana for dinner. Sometimes the gibbons are stubborn and need to be enticed into their enclosure but it is for their health and safety. The temperature can drop to freezing and that would not be good for their well-being.

A Typical Day for a Caregiver

A caregiver’s job is never done. Besides preparing the meals and feeding the gibbons, caregivers need to ensure that they receive required medicines, monitor their poop output, ascertain that they are eating sufficiently, and that the enclosures are cleaned, both inside and out. There is also veterinary care to provide regular physicals and dental examinations.

As a volunteer, I frequently hosed down the outside enclosures, often closely supervised by my new gibbon friends. They would chat with me and show off by swinging acrobatically throughout their enclosure. Normally, the thought of traipsing around outside, unwinding hoses, and spraying food and feces out of an enclosure, and rewinding up the hoses would sound like a distasteful job to me, but I must confess, I relished the opportunity to be close to the gibbons. Hearing the gibbons sing and watching their interactions was peaceful and joyous. I left the sanctuary after ten days feeling sore but also entirely relaxed and serene.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” –Anne Frank

Some of the gibbons are playful and some are very friendly. As a volunteer, I was cautioned against any physical contact with a gibbon unless accompanied by one of the staff. The friendlier gibbons would press their backs against the enclosure and look at you beseechingly for a back scratch. Some would huff and puff at you if you didn’t scratch them as much as they wanted. One of the gibbons liked to have his feet held. I witnessed the playfulness and sneakiness of the gibbons – one pulled a Santa hat off a caregiver on Christmas day and tried to wear it, eat it, and tear it up before dropping it in a puddle and another would grab for the sanctuary director’s raincoat when she was passing out dried fruit snacks.

One of my favorite activities was helping with enrichment for the gibbons. One day we made and delivered popcorn which most of the gibbons enjoyed. We tried jell-0 another day molded into holiday shapes but that didn’t go over as well. The stickiness of the Jell-O was a definite turn off to some of the gibbons. Something they all seemed to enjoy was dried fruit which can be donated to them through Nuts.com. Dried mangoes appeared to be a particular favorite. Other types of enrichment they receive include PVC pipes filled with treats, mirrors, and stuffed animals.

Other jobs that must be attended to at the sanctuary such as picking up and sorting through food deliveries, groundskeeping, and general maintenance.  The sanctuary is not open to the public but there are member days when members can come and listen to an expert give a talk about primates and meet the gibbons.

How You Can Help IPPL

Are you intrigued yet by IPPL? Do you want to help them and their mission? What can you do?

You will not regret one single moment you volunteer at IPPL nor anything you provide for the gibbons. Explore IPPL’s website and Meet the Gibbons. Follow them on Facebook. You will soon find yourself beguiled by the amazing lesser apes. I know that I will be visiting IPPL to volunteer as often as I can and I hope to meet you there as well!

I forgot to mention…there are also six otters in residence at the sanctuary. Otters and gibbons – how nice!

Let’s Get Acquainted…

 I am a Content Writer and Blogger who promotes portable income opportunities (PIO), living, product, and service options for current and future expatriates to live successful international lifestyles. I write a travel blog which explores diverse destinations, PIO, wine tasting, and animal sanctuaries. As a former – and future – expatriate, I love to produce content which can make an international lifestyle attainable and enjoyable for everyone!

Let’s get to know each other! Post your favorite picture, story, or link relating to travel, portable income opportunities, a winery adventure, or animal sanctuary.

My favorite picture is posted as the featured image. I do not have enough superlatives to describe the beauty of the Alps. If you haven’t been, go. If you have been, you know what I’m talking about.

So, let’s get to know each other and maybe find some new places to go and things to experience. Post a picture and description of your favorite travel destination, winery, or animal sanctuary.

Costa Rica – A Tale of Two Sanctuaries

A few years ago, a friend and I took an absolutely amazing trip to Costa Rica. Ten days amid a variety of climates and landscapes: rainforest, volcano, and beach. We planned the trip to include everything from ziplining and hiking on the Arenal Volcano to relaxing on a sandy Tamarindo beach. I met friendly and incredible people, stayed in a beautiful B&B in Alajuela, lived among the trees at a remarkable treehouse in Santa Clara, enjoyed delicious, traditional Costa Rican fare everywhere, and was completely disillusioned by a beach resort. All in all, a memorable vacation.

As my interests lie heavily in the wildlife rescue and rehabilitation arena, I deliberately sought out opportunities to experience Costa Rica’s famed, eco-tourism, specifically animal conservation. My search brought me to two, distinctly different, animal sanctuaries. Both billed themselves as rescue organizations and claimed to release wildlife back to their natural habitats, but only one truly fit my strict criteria as a rescue organization.

After arriving in-country, we had a free day before we could check into our treehouse hotel in Santa Clara. The managers at the Treehouses Hotel of Costa Rica recommended the wonderful Casa Marin B&B in Alajuela and it was outstanding. My friend and I were the only guests. The owner picked us up at the airport, about ten minutes away from the B&B, and we instantly felt like we were visiting a favorite relative. We stayed in one of the cabinas around the pool and it was perfect. Quiet and tranquil, a pool, friendly hosts, and convenient to a lot of amenities. If you have a day, or more, to spend in Alajuela, I recommend the Casa Marin. The B&B was like a rescue unto itself – the owner had three dogs, four cats, and a horse! To this day, my friend and I are active Facebook friends with the owner of Casa Marin and I would definitely return there on my next trip to Costa Rica.

Casa Marin

While deciding how to spend the free day, we had researched a few local attractions. We didn’t want to travel too far as we knew there would be more travel in the days ahead. While researching, we received online recommendations to visit Rescate Animal Zoo Ave (pronounced zu-avay) and decided to go because of what we read. Zoo Ave seemed to be an actual rescue and rehab center that released animals back into their natural habitats. While Zoo Ave does actually release animals to their natural habitats, it is laid out and presents very much like a zoo. There’s even a small zip line, for an additional fee, that is supposed to bring you closer to the animals. One major drawback to me is that the number of daily visitors is not limited, exposing the animals to additional human exploitation. The day we visited, there were a few busloads of students. Everyone was very nice and very respectful, helping to find animals hiding within habitats, but I think we just got lucky that it was not too crowded that day.

Zoo Ave

The animals appeared to be well-cared for, however, there were a number of non-native animals, such as an ostrich, that made Zoo Ave feel very much like visiting a zoo. To be honest, most of the habitats were generous in size and provided plenty of cover for animals to hide from prying tourist eyes. There were also plenty of informational signs outside each enclosure, telling us the name and general information about the animal and informing us how many of that particular animal had been released. Regardless, it still felt very much like a zoo.

The largest negative aspect about Zoo Ave was that it boasted about their captive breeding program. I wholeheartedly agree with most wildlife conservationists that captive breeding does not contribute to reducing the probability of breed extinction. Many captive-bred animals are sold to less reputable, roadside zoos, pay-to-play attractions, or canned hunting facilities. If you are looking for a zoo, this is a moderately-sized and reasonably-priced attraction – it only took us about an hour and a half to explore the entire grounds. I won’t visit there again when I return to Costa Rica.

I understand that many animals who have been raised with humans are not able to be released to their natural habitat as they were not able to learn natural behaviors from their mother. I believe that those animals should be transferred to reputable sanctuaries that do not allow daily visitors and allow the animals to live as naturally as possible, without a forced breeding program.

Treehouses Hotel

After we had travelled to Santa Clara and our Treehouses Hotel, passing some breathtaking scenery of Lake Arenal and howler monkeys in a tree along the way, we confirmed that we would volunteer one afternoon at Proyecto Asis. Proyecto Asis was absolutely the highlight of the trip. They strictly limit the number of daily visitors, most of whom are volunteers who contribute in a variety of ways. Proyecto Asis has two aims: to educate the public about the issues in owning wild animals and rehabilitating rescued or injured wild animals.

When we arrived, our group of seven was first given a tour of the sanctuary. Our guide, Carlos, was very informative and entertaining. He introduced us to all the animals at the rescue and explained which animals could be released. He also explained the reasons why some animals could not be released to their natural habitats. Carlos shared the methods they use to wean animals raised by humans off of human contact. I truly learned a lot from the tour, and we were just getting started!

Proyecto Asis

Some of the animals currently residing at Proyecto Assis include parrots, macaws, owls, picarries, coati, agouti, a breed of porcupine I had never seen before, spider monkeys, and white-faced capuchin monkeys. They were all beautiful and provided with appropriate care. After the tour, we had a brief coffee break, sitting near a small pond where a mother caiman had relocated herself from the river alongside the rescue. She had given birth to seventeen baby caiman and they shared the pond with some tilapia and a rather large snapping turtle. The babies swam over to investigate us, with mama caiman not far behind. I would not have wanted to mess with that protective mama!

Our group then moved to the food preparation area where we prepared meals for all the animals. We chopped up fruits and veggies for all the animals and some chicken for the capuchins. Carlos then escorted us as we assisted in feeding the animals. Some of us actually went in to the enclosures to distribute the food. There was no direct contact with the monkeys though. While we were able to hand food to the spider and capuchin monkeys, we were instructed to stay arm’s length away or risk having hair or clothing grabbed. Carlos even shared how the monkeys will sometimes deliberately drop food in an attempt to get you closer so they can grab on to you. Tricky monkeys!

There really is nothing more enjoyable to an animal lover, especially for someone who really loves non-human primates, than handing a piece of fruit to a spider monkey and having him gently take it out of your hand. The sneaky capuchins were adorable, snatching bits of chicken and hoarding the bits to ensure they each received their fair share.

The afternoon flew by and our whole group wished it could have lasted longer or that we could have done more to help the animals. I purchased a cute t-shirt which read “High 4 Like A Spider Monkey”, knowing that my donations would be used for the greater animal good.

Proyecto Asis did not feel like a zoo. They do not breed animals. Both the capuchins and spider monkeys will remain at the sanctuary for the remainder of their lives as they were likely stolen from the wild as babies while their mothers were brutally slaughtered. They were not able to learn normal monkey behaviors. Additionally, having been raised with humans, they will always equate humans with food and will seek humans out, possibly endangering themselves further.

If you are in the Arenal Volcano area, I highly recommend signing up to volunteer at Proyecto Asis. There are a limited number of volunteer opportunities available, so plan ahead! While I thoroughly enjoyed everything we did in Costa Rica, from ziplining, to hiking, to climbing hanging bridges, to soaking in volcano-warmed hot springs, the experience at Proyecto Asis was the highlight of the trip. Next time I am in Costa Rica, I will seek out more animal rescues and try to volunteer for a longer timeframe. Until then, I will donate to reputable rescues and spread the word with this blog.

For more information on either  or Proyecto Asis, or to donate, please visit their websites.

Pura Vida!

A Visit to Il Rifugio degli Asinelli in Italy

A couple of years ago, a friend and I took a 10-day trip to Italy and Switzerland. When planning the trip and what we would see and experience in the Piedmont region of Italy, I began searching for an animal sanctuary to visit. The miracles of Google led me to Il Rifugio Degli Asinelli – The Donkey Refuge.

To say that The Donkey Refuge is in the middle of nowhere would be an understatement. We rented a car one morning in Stresa on Lake Maggiore and Google Maps informed us that the trip would take approximately 1.5 hours. We climbed out of Stresa on a winding, switchback-filled road that began to make me rethink the drive. We finally made it to the autostrade after a harrowing 20 minutes, and I relaxed into the drive. The car was a Fiat Panda, barely large enough to hold our two suitcases. It was also a manual transmission, and it had been awhile since I last drove a stick. I managed to do well, only stalling once in two days, so I felt successful.

We exited the autostrade after about 40 minutes and continued our journey on country roads through the Piedmont. As we turned onto one such road, with no town in sight, we noticed a strange occurrence. There were single women stationed along the road, spaced intermittently about every 100 feet. At first we pondered whether they could be waiting for a bus, but that didn’t seem likely as they were on opposing sides of the road. It finally occurred to us that the women were prostitutes, though we couldn’t imagine where they would actually ply their trade. They were literally surrounded by farmland. Stunned, we continued on, driving through picturesque towns with roads barely wide enough for one car, no less two. I became adept at pulling to the side for oncoming “traffic” and really began to enjoy the trip.

Finally, we pulled into The Donkey Refuge. It is located at Via per Zubiena 62, Sala Biellese, in the shadows of the Pre-Alps. I went into the gift shop and spoke with Hillaria (forgive me if it is misspelled). She was friendly and informative and I learned about the refuge and the donkeys. They do allow you to visit the donkeys, but you have to stay on your side of the fence!

Il Rifugio Degli Asinelli was founded in 2006 and is an offshoot of a U.K.-based charity that has been working on donkey welfare since 1969. The mission of the refuge is to provide care, protection, and permanent security for donkeys and mules which are in need of attention due to sickness, mistreatment, poor circumstances. They also strive to prevent cruelty and suffering among donkeys and mules in Italy.

The Donkey Refuge has five main activities to help them accomplish their mission:
• Provide care for donkeys and mules who are in need;
• A network of Welfare Officers who investigate public complaints of mistreatment or abuse;
• Education to promote donkey welfare practices;
• Donkey-assisted riding therapy program for children with special needs; and
• Fundraising to pay for the above.

Our self-guided tour of the refuge was wonderful. There are paths that lead up a hill toward the older donkeys and those with respiratory illnesses. There are also informational sheets near the donkeys’ paddocks, telling you a little about each donkey. The Donkey Refuge also houses mules, hinnies, ponies, and one horse, but they live together in harmony. I really liked that each animal had a loose collar with their name engraved, so you knew which donkey you were petting. The collars were color-coded so you would know which one were available for adoption or fostering. We concluded our tour with the younger donkeys who were free-ranging near the parking lot. All the donkeys we encountered appeared in good spirits and looked well-fed. Veterinarians were on hand, if necessary, and Il Rifugio Degli Asinelli would be a wonderful place at which any donkey would be happy to retire. I am grateful that sanctuaries and refuges exist to help care for the animals who suffer unnecessarily due to man’s inhumanity and cruelty.

How can you help Il Rifugio Degli Asinelli? Click on their name throughout this post. From their webpage, you can donate, adopt, sponsor, or foster one of the refuge’s residents. If you live locally, you might also want to consider volunteering. If you live anywhere in Italy and witness cruelty to donkeys or mules, you can report it on the site also and they will make sure the complaint gets investigated. There are a number of other actions with which you can get involved right from their home page.

My only complaint about The Donkey Refuge is that the gift shop did not accept credit cards. We were limited with our Euros, so only purchased a few small items. I will definitely add Il Rifugio Degli Asinelli to my end of year donation list though and hope you will, too!

Always remember, to use your voice to ensure that all animals are being treated humanely and without cruelty. Use your voice to speak for those who have none. I have a voice and I Speak for Paws (and feet and hooves and fins and…).

 

Run to Running Springs, CA

Running Springs is a mountain community in the San Bernardino National Forest and a gateway to Lake Arrowhead, Arrowbear, Green Valley Lake, and Big Bear. Running Springs’ is ideal for travelers who vacation year-round in the popular San Bernardino National Forest. Running Spring is also a bedroom community for commuters to the city of San Bernardino and a member community of the Rim of the World. Running Springs hosts several summer camps and an outdoor education program. With a mild climate and abundant wildlife, Running Springs has something for everyone.

Lake Arrowhead

Activities for every level of active traveler

Running Springs is the closest community to Snow Valley Mountain Resort which focuses on alpine skiing, snowboarding, and lessons for every skill level. Visit Nordic Rim, the only cross-country ski area in southern California with groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and mountain bike riding and trail running in the summer. Drive a short distance to Lake Arrowhead for boating and waterskiing. Jump on an alpine slide to whisk you down a mountain without snow. When you have built up an appetite, world-class restaurants and bars are ready to serve you.

Snow Valley

Attractions for every member of the family

Running Springs is conveniently located for fun and educational attractions. Keller Peak Fire Lookout is open from Memorial Day through mid-November. There are excellent views of the San Bernardino Mountains and Lakes Arrowhead, Gregory, and Silverwood. On clear days, you can see as far as the Pacific Ocean and Santa Catalina Island. The National Children’s Forest has trees bearing children’s names which were planted after the 1970 Bear Fire. There are two paved trails suitable for hiking with children. The Big Bear Discovery Center has eco-tours and events at their outdoor amphitheater.

Keller Peak

Mild climate for every season

Running Springs allows travelers to enjoy the slightly warmer winter temperatures than in Big Bear, which has a higher elevation. Running Springs’ climate is warm and temperate with rain falling mostly in the winter. There is relatively little rain in the summer. Running Springs is near alpine and cross-country ski resorts for winter sports as well as lakes for water sports such as swimming, boating, and water skiing. June is the driest month and July is usually the warmest month of the year. January is the wettest and coldest month in Running Springs.

Rim of the World

Explore the Rim of the World

Running Springs is located in the San Bernardino National Forest and is only 4.2 square miles in area. It is one of the member communities of the Rim of the World which is an inhabited stretch of the San Bernardino Mountains that extends 30 miles from Crestline to Big Bear. Running Springs’ name is derived from the natural streams and springs that run in the San Bernardino Mountains. Many of the springs feed into the Pacific Ocean. While enjoying Running Springs’ nature, be aware that there are abundant wild animals in the area such as bears, mountain lions, and coyotes.

Big Bear Lake Dam

 

Spring Into Springdale, UT

Springdale is a natural wonder.

Springdale is located in southern Utah, just outside of the boundaries of one of our national wonders – Zion National Park. Springdale grants you access to everything outdoor sports-related. Southern Utah’s mild climate lets you stay active all year long. Either individually or in a group, you can easily hike, climb, and bike your way through some of nature’s spectacular sights. Focus solely on hiking or learn how to rock climb and mountain bike. Marvel at the wonders of both national and state parks within a short drive. Spend downtime between activities at one of the local art galleries.

Zion National Park

Activate your competitive drive

Springdale is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Activities in Springdale cater to outdoor sports athletes and families alike. Start your day biking or running on the path through town. Attack an exhilarating rock climb and rappel in Zion. Mountain bike on Gooseberry Mesa. Fly with the birds on a thrilling helicopter tour. Springdale will satisfy the thrill-seeker in everyone. Bring your family to cool off and tube the Virgin River. Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail for outstanding views of Zion landmarks. Culture abounds in Springdale with art galleries and a photography tour.

Bryce Canyon

Springdale is park central

Springdale makes a great base camp for your southern Utah vacation. Springdale attractions include several National Parks, Monuments, and Forests located a short drive away. Zion National Park is closest with massive sandstone cliffs and unique array of wildlife. Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of hoodoos in the world. Visit Sand Hollow State Park where you can boat, fish, and ride the dunes of Sand Mountain. Families will be enthralled with the Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum, an all-natural habitat exhibiting wildlife from Africa, South America, Asia, and North America.

Sand Hollow State Park

Surprisingly mild climate

Travelers assume that Utah’s winters are harsh and snow-filled. Springdale climate will surprise and delight you. Spring has warm, sunny days with wildflowers blooming from April through June. Summer days heat up, but the nights cool down and afternoon storms often bring waterfalls. Autumn days are clear and mild with vibrant color changes beginning in September and peaking in late October. Winter is mild with only light snow in Zion Canyon – the average annual snowfall is only five inches. You will experience heavier snow at higher elevations, but clear days can reach 60 degrees.

Pine Valley Mountains

Amazing colorful mountains and spectacular vistas

Springdale allows travelers to experience incredible views. Springdale sits on the outskirts of Zion National Park and caters to travelers to Zion and other nearby National Parks, Monuments, and Forests. The town has a small footprint, measuring only 4.6 square miles in area. Springdale rests in the shadows of the red, white, and pink striped cliffs that symbolize southern Utah, between the Pine Valley Mountains to the west and Kolob Terrace to the northeast. Discover Springdale nature and delight in the mountains, canyons, and abundant wildlife which surrounds Springdale.

Kolob Terrace

Oh My! Omaha, NE

Omaha is overflowing with history, culture, and activities for everyone

Omaha is located on the Missouri River near the Iowa border. It is known for its pioneer history, cultural centers, and is a stop on the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail. There are abundant free WiFi spots located throughout the city and many activities and attractions to fill your days. Omaha allows visitors to feel a part of the city and to experience the diverse array of museums, activities, and attractions that it has to offer.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Excitement for all in Omaha

Relax in Omaha and treat yourself to a ride on a riverboat or gondola. Guide a paddleboard or rent a boat for more river fun and activities in Omaha. Hike along the river or discover history with bronze sculptures of pioneers. Explore underground caves or be amazed by the beauty of herons at a wetland sanctuary. Take a safari or ride the longest zipline in Nebraska. Baseball lovers can catch a game at the College World Series. Play a round of golf at an area golf course or celebrate an exciting festival.

Omaha caves

Delight in history, culture, and biodiversity

Omaha attractions have cultural diversity, exciting displays, and lots of animals. Escape to an urban oasis at the botanical gardens. Enrich your mind and spirit at one of the many area museums like the Durham Museum, the Joslyn Museum, or the Museo Latino. Bring your family to Omaha Children’s Museum which provides a hands-on experience with exhibits on science, culture, and the arts. Investigate one of the world’s largest desert, rainforest, and swamp at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Unwind at Old Market, a diverse mix of shopping, galleries, restaurants, and bars.

Omaha Old Market

Enjoy all 4 seasons

The climate in Omaha allows visitors to enjoy all 4 seasons. Summer in Omaha lasts from May through September and can typically be warm and humid with an average daily temperature of 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter lasts from late November through the end of February and is dry, windy, and cool with an average daily temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit. Omaha becomes colorful in the fall with changing leaves and cooler temperatures. Admire the blooming flowers and warming temperatures of spring in Omaha. Omaha can be a little wet, but that’s a great time to take advantage of the many interesting museums.

Omaha in autumn

Gateway to the west and full of nature’s wonders

Omaha is located on the banks of the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska and is surrounded by rolling hills. Enjoy Omaha vacation rentals and the “gateway to the west.” The Port of Omaha helped the city develop and it is the largest city in Nebraska. The highest natural point in the city is Belvedere Point. Omaha geography is diverse and at Glacier Creek Preserve, there have been more than 140 native species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals and more than 320 species of native flora identified.

Glacier Creek Preserve

 

Land of Lakes – Lakeland, FL

Lakeland is located almost halfway between Tampa and Orlando. Families will appreciate the convenience of Lakeland if they plan to visit Orlando’s theme parks or Florida’s sparkling gulf coast beaches. Active vacationers will stay busy fishing, bird watching, and boating on the many lakes throughout the area. There are many nature parks to seek out wildlife and hiking trails for every skill level. Lakeland allows travelers to appreciate world-class museums, major league sports, exotic wildlife, and tantalizing restaurants in the area. Lakeland is a family-friendly destination with abundant activities to satisfy every traveler.

Circle B Bar Reserve

Get up close and personal with nature’s wonders in Lakeland.

Popular pastimes in Lakeland include fishing, boating, and bird watching. Top Lakeland attractions include the Circle B Bar Reserve teeming with wildlife such as alligators, ospreys, eagles, and otters. Lake Mirror features a paved sidewalk for an easy walking tour. Bird lovers enjoy the royal swans at Lake Morton. Enjoy downtown Lakeland’s bike share program. If you are searching for a festival, Lakeland has cultural- and holiday-themed festivals all year long. Dine at the area’s variety of restaurants or shop for local produce at the Farmer’s Market every Saturday or the Dixieland Twilight Market every Wednesday evening.

Dixieland Twilight Market

Lakeland has something for everyone.

Whether your interests are sports or architecture, there are Lakeland area activities for your whole family. Catch the Detroit Tigers warming-up during spring training at Publix Field. Tour the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world at Florida Southern College. Airplane enthusiasts will love the Florida Air Museum where you can climb in a jet plane. Lakeland is within one hour of Orlando theme parks, so take a day trip or stay in Lakeland and enjoy the Family Fun Center. Stay connected with free WiFi at Munn Park or disconnect at the Silver Moon Drive-In Theater.

Frank Lloyd Wright – FSU

Enjoy Lakeland’s subtropical climate.

Lakeland is located in a subtropical zone where summers are humid and often accompanied by afternoon thunderstorms. Spring starts the rainy season and this is the perfect time to visit the Lakeland Family Fun Center or visit one of the many Lakeland museums. The temperatures begin to cool in the fall and it’s a great season to be active and outdoors. Lakeland is idyllic for those fleeing cold, blustery, northern winters. You can bask at the beach in the dry Lakeland climate during the winter months which are perfectly complemented by mostly sunny skies.

Lakeland Village Beach

Lakeland is truly a land of lakes.

The dominant feature in Lakeland is the city’s lakes – roughly 10 percent of the area is covered by water. You can’t travel far without coming across one of Lakeland’s nature parks. You will find that many residents use the lakes’ names rather than street names as reference points for giving directions. Popular lake attractions, and residents, include a number of descendants of a pair of royal swans which were donated by Queen Elizabeth. Wherever you are in Lakeland, you are bound to be located near one of the 38 named lakes or other unnamed waterways which provided Lakeland with its name.

Lake Morton Swans

 

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