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Arriving in Florence

Our introduction to Florence – the center of Tuscany

Background

Our first trip to Florence was part of an Italy Tour in Fall of 2017. Florence is the birthplace of Renessaince, home to some of the best museums in Italy and the largest city in Tuscany.

Getting There

We arrived to Florence from Venice via Bologna in train. The trip took about 2.5 hours. We booked the tickets months before online back in our home in Atlanta, GA, USA. Train reservations are fairly easy via the train italia website.

Below is a clip of our train passing Bologna.

Passing Bologna on the way to Florence

Galleria dell’Academia

We stayed at a Air BnB rental in Florence. The city center was a 15 min walk and the train station was a 20 min walk. We could also opt for a taxi or bus.

Our first stop next morning was Galleria dell’Academia which houses one of the most famous sculpture – Michelangelo’s David. The lines at the entrance goes around the block, so it was good we did our reservation online a week before. Below is a picture of Glenda on the reservation line as some street musicians entertain us by the sidewalk.

Here are some pictures from the museum including the sculptures – David and ‘Sabine Woman’ .

The museum’s gift shop was pretty good. And just 10 minutes walk from the Academia Gallery takes us to the historic city center. More on that in the next blog! Below is the highlight video of our visit to this world famous museum. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel or add the Tuscany Playlist in your favorites to view all the videos from tbis region.

Academia Gallery in Florence

Crystal River, Florida – Manatee Haven

Florida wildlife trip

Florida is a state full of wildlife wonders and a choice destination for us on family trips. We live in metro Atlanta in the neighboring state of Georgia and visit Florida almost every year. So when some of my in-laws visited us in the December of 2012, we planned a group trip to Crystal Rivers area in the lesser known West Florida region.

Our group consisted of my wife Glenda, her cousins Kimberly, Jasmine and Christian; my mother in law, my Dad and our kids Saif, Joshua, Simone and Zak. While entering Florida we took the customary group picture at the rest area by the border!

After a good night rest near Crystal River, we headed to the wildlife State park famous for Manatees.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located near Homosassa Springs, Florida, a short drive from Crystal River. The park is one of the best places in the state to view manatees. Visitors can get close to the animals on a floating observatory. Black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American alligators, and river otters can also been seen in the park. There is a guided boat tour through the lake surrounding the park every few hours. The park is also home to the hippopotamus Lu, famously known for his performances in many movies for the past 40 years.

One of the fascinating attraction at the entrance to the boat tour is the fossil of a Megalodon jaw. This was an extinct species of shark that lived approximately 23 to 3.6 million years ago. Megalodon was the last of a lineage of giant sharks and possibly the most powerful due to its massive jaw. It had an average length of 34 ft but known to grow up to 59 feet! The picture below gives an idea of how massive this shark used to be!

The American Alligators are a big attraction at the park. After the boat tour we visited some Alligators up close.

The floating observatory connects a long network of wooden walkways, creating a nature trail offering great view of the wildlife in the park at their natural environment.


Lu is the oldest hippopotamus in North America, and the only animal in the park not native to Florida. Lu was born at the San Diego Zoo in 1960. He appeared in the TV shows Daktari and Cowboy in Africa. He has lived in the park since 1964.

The Manatee pool, the nearby indoor aquarium and indoor exhibits were a favorite for Zak, our 4 year old bundle of energy!

After our visit at the park, we stopped by a beach next to nearby Nuclear power plant! Watching the sunset at the Gulf of Mexico was a treat!

You can enjoy the highlights of our trip in the below video clip!

Blue Ridge Mountains – Pisgah National Forest

A trip through Pisgah National Forest on Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road noted for its scenic beauty. The parkway is America’s longest linear park.

It runs for 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountain, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains range.

In this video blog we travel through the scenic Pisgah National Forest in some of the highest points of the Parkway.

Smoky Mountains Tour – Chatuge Lake, Nantahala Forest & Blood Mountain

A video blog of scenic Western North Carolina Mountains

The smokey Mountain range is one of the most popular national park in North America, located in North Carolina and part of the Appalachian range. There are several access ways to the Smokey Mountain park from North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.

One such scenic route is through the town of Hayesville, North Carolina at the Georgia-North Carolina border. Together with Hiawasee on the Georgia side, the towns enclose the beautiful Chatuge lake, dotted with lakeside villas and picturesque mountains of the Nantahala Forrest.

Enjoy the scenic tour of this magical place in the video blog below!

Paris – First Look

A video blog of our first look at Paris, France

The first introduction to Paris, its historic and gorgeous city center and landmarks, is a special treat. In this video clip below we get our first look at Paris in the summer of 2018, as we head to our hotel from the Gare de Lyon train station. Enjoy the ride!

Versailles – First Look

A first look at Versailles Palace

The first time encounter with the Versailles Palace, one of the largest and most beautiful royal palace in the world, is a memorable experience. Check out the below clip for a sneak peek. We will be exploring more of the palace and its world famous gardens in subsequent blogs in next few weeks. So be sure to check back to the site. Enjoy!