Susan from This Day! asked in her Friday post: "What are some of your favorite vacation spots? Do you have an annual get-a-way spot. Do you vacation with other couples or with extended family? If you could choose any place to visit today, This Day, where would it be?"
That's all it took for my mind to be off and racing! God has blessed us with opportunities to do more traveling than we ever dreamed. Since we've been to four continents, I'm including my favorite pick from each one ☺
Being Americans we've obviously spent more time in the U.S. than anywhere and our country has some truly amazing places to visit. We loved the trip out west: time in the mountains of Colorado, the Badlands of South Dakota, Yellowstone National Park... Then there are the beaches in Florida, the mountains and lakes of Kentucky and Tennessee, and the rolling farmland of the Midwest. Don't forget fabulous cities like Chicago, Washington D.C. and San Francisco (to name just a few). Honestly, how do you pick ONE?
A very difficult task!
But for us that ONE spot is Ludington, Michigan. Specifically Epworth Heights, a small enclave right on Lake Michigan. Dear friends own a cottage there and have been so generous over the years, allowing us to use it for weekends and twice for a whole week. I think it means so much because the first opportunity to go there came at an important time for our family. We were pretty stressed out in our job as houseparents, a job that paid very, very little so it wasn't like we had a lot of money to spend on vacations.
That first time we went in late September and I think we were probably the only ones on site except for those who worked there. We rambled over the wooden and cement walkways that weave up and down amongst the cottages, took chilly barefoot walks on the beach, tried out the golf course (where our son did a great imitation of Happy Gilmore), played lots of games in the kitchen (which is the only room besides the bath with a wall heater)... It was a week of total relaxation and renewing our spirits. The sound of the waves lulled us to sleep and greeted us in the morning. We could turn over in bed and look out the big window to the lake that stretches far into the horizon. One of our absolute favorite places on earth ☺ Here are a few of the MANY, MANY photos we've taken over the years. Enjoy!
Let's go to Uganda next, where we spent a year working with a ministry to orphans. New Hope Uganda is "bringing the fatherhood of God to the fatherless." A pretty intense year where God stretched us in ways that were exhilarating and at times painful. Some of our older kids were at a vocational school in Jinja and one young man was attending the 6-month training program at the YWAM Hopeland base just outside of town. We'd go visit them and see how they were doing, and also enjoy a little R&R at a wonderful B&B ☺ Gately on the Nile is the most serene, comfortable, amazing place!
Our first night in Jinja we stayed at a regular style hotel. The bed was SO uncomfortable, sinking in the middle so we kept rolling into each other, that we finally took it off the bed and put it on the floor so we could sleep. After the party stopped, that is. The hotel had a restaurant/bar that was a hopping place and the party continued well after 3 a.m. with LOUD music that reverberated throughout the hotel, so you didn't just hear it, you felt it! We were so exhausted the next morning that we packed and checked out without having anything else lined up. We figured sleeping in our borrowed Nissan Pathfinder was better than remaining in the hotel.
I can't remember if we asked around or found Gately on our own, but a chat with Merryde garnered us a really nice room at a discount for the night. I think she saw the desperation in our eyes and had pity on us ☺ I don't have any photos to share (we left all our non-digital photos in the U.S.) but you can get an idea of how nice it is by checking out their website. Aside from being clean, well kept and comfortable, the restaurant was small and private and DID NOT PLAY LOUD MUSIC. A very peaceful, tranquil place to relax. Their food was great too. I still have dreams about enjoying their eggs benedict on the veranda overlooking the Nile. Jinja is where the Nile River begins.
It fit our budget too, since Merryde converted the old servant quarters into inexpensive hostel-like accomodations. Three small simple bedrooms shared a single bath. Unlike the luxurious baths in the main house, this was wee little and had a toilet, sink and shower head. Know where this is going, right? Yep, we'd line up and get showers over with since they got the whole bathroom wet. But clean and peaceful goes a long way in making up for a little inconvenience with the communal and tiny bath. Any wonder it was our favorite place?
We've been to Ireland twice, once with a group from our home church when we did some projects for missionary friends, and again on our way home from Uganda. Although we've visited only few places in the country (haven't even made it to Dublin yet), I'm pretty sure Tralee will always be my favorite. On our first trip we stayed in a hostel just kitty-corner from the gorgeous Rose Garden and not far from anything else since it's a small town.
I absolutely adore the Irish tradition of "morning coffee" -- taking a break mid-morning for a "cuppa" and something light and sweet to eat. My favorite, banoffee pie, is to-die-for-delicious!
Right in Tralee is Siamsa Tíre – the National Folk Theatre of Ireland – and we were highly entertained by a show that's a little like Riverdance offset by a humorous musical parady of life in Ireland of old.
A tour around the Dingle Peninsula is a must! We saw colorful gypsy trailers along the route, dolphins playing in the ocean not far from shore, enjoyed an excellent meal in a fishing village, and drove through some spectacular scenery.
County Kerry is chock full of places to visit. Some of us toured Muckross House and visited Ross Castle on another day. The hubby and I enjoyed a rainy afternoon wandering the gardens of Muckross House by ourselves. The teens in our group had a blast at the Aqua Dome.
You can't leave without a little shopping in the more tourist-oriented town of Killarney just half an hour away (I liked leaving the hordes of tourists in Killarney and heading back to the quieter Tralee at the end of the day). I still enjoy the Irish watercolor prints we bought on our first trip. We were totally broke on our second trip through and didn't buy a single thing. Except warm clothes in a charity shop (similar to Goodwill) because we were totally unprepared for the 50 degree weather in June after spending a year in sunny Africa.
I don't know if I've ever shared this here, but we came close to going to Ireland instead of Argentina. Our missionary friends there are some of the dearest people EVER and the visit on the way back from Africa was, in part, to see how we might fit into the team there. I'll be honest, I was praying hard God would call us to Ireland back then! I love, love, love the country!
But He called us here. And I love Argentina too ☺ I'm a slow learner in a lot of ways (Spanish especially ☹) but one thing God has taught me: the best place to be is where He wants you!
Again, we haven't visited much of the country yet. Taking into consideration the places we have visited, though, I like Sta. Rosa best ☺ Again, it might be because the place holds so many memories...which I won't get into again here since I've already blogged about it once. Besides this is the longest blog post I've done in a while and I've probably already lost half of you and don't want to lose the other half.
There you have it, our favorite places on four continents. And since all vacation (and missionary) slide shows must end with a sunset, here's one for your viewing enjoyment. It was taken at our favorite place in Ludington, Michigan, from the porch of the cottage looking out over the other cottages and Lake Michigan. It's also the place I'd choose to be right now, if I could be anywhere at all.