Lions and Tigers and Budgies?

Leaving my little prairie dog friends I returned to my quest to get back to the first exhibit. I made a slight detour to see what was in a large barn like building. This is the “Little Critters” exhibit. It includes a Boa Constrictor, green tree frog, a sugar glider and a tortoise.

At first I thought the Amur leopard exhibit was closed because it said it was under construction but apparently they are building a new enclosure because as I passed the new one I came upon a lush, shaded enclosure and there was the leopard. It was a truly beautiful animal even if it was just waking from a nap.

I passed a fake termite mound and the Red Panda enclosure but I didn’t see the panda and then I was back on the main path. Coming right at me was the “little engine that could” or at least a little red train. The train was headed to the other side of the zoo with a load of parents and kids. It looked like fun but I wasn’t ready to start riding around yet.

I was headed to the Serengeti Crossing. In this large exhibit you will find Plains Zebra, Ostrich and Wildebeest.

The wildebeest also had a baby. The enclosure had 2 observation decks. For the size of this enclosure I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could see all of the animals listed. The ostrich was front and center drinking from a mud puddle.

 A small group of wildebeest including the baby were relaxing in the shade of some trees and the zebra was patrolling the fence at the rear of the enclosure.

Now that I was back on track I moved on to the Giraffe Savannah. Sure enough, front and center were two marvelous giraffe.

It’s amazing how such gangly animals can move so smoothly and gracefully. The giraffes share their enclosure with another kind of zebra, the Grevy’s zebra.

 I spotted just one enjoying some shade right across from the carousel.

Just past the carousel and the zebra was another enclosure named Butterfly Landing.

Like  Magic Wings in Deerfield, this enclosure was home to butterflies and moths. There were Painted Ladies and Monarch Butterflies to name just two.

There weren’t as many as at Magic Wings. The attendant said they try to keep the numbers down because some people “freak out”. I mentioned that I remembered seeing loads of Painted Ladies gathering on the mud of puddles after a summer shower when I was growing up.

The attendant said yes, that is how they absorb minerals they need from the dirt. Unlike Magic Wings which is open year round, this display is seasonal only.

Leaving the Butterflies to their dirt, I passed the playground with its bungee jumps and the Things Wild Gift Shop to enter the Aussie Outback. I passed the emus, and red Kangaroo and in a separate enclosure, a tree Kangaroo.

 That was a treat because they were very active actually climbing the tree and then coming back down and hopping around their enclosure.

Back outside I saw 2 black swans outside the Aussie Aviary.

 I paid $2.00 for a feeding stick and headed into see the Budgies. This was fun! First of all I knew these birds as parakeets when I was growing up and just like my pet parakeet, they came flying when they thought there was food!

 I finally passed my seed stick to some of the kids so I could free up my hands to take pictures. It was win-win for us all. I spent quite a bit of time here. I think this was my favorite exhibit.

I moved on to Bird World which was a bit of a let down after the aviary and walked through the Flight Cage of the Andean Condor. If there was one, I didn’t see it. The Flamingos were having a party in their enclosure.

Seriously, no sedate standing around for this bunch. They were splashing water, making hooting noises and calls and flapping their huge wings.  They smell! But according to the signs that’s not dirt, it’s just their odor and since they like to be in groups the scent is multiplied by so many bird bodies…kind of like a locker room after a big game.

I had reached the Giraffe Entrance and now it looked familiar. There was a statue outside the gates. There didn’t seem to be as many people over here. It was time to make the swing back.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Franklin Park Zoo

Another wonderful day, sunny and warm. I had to go to work for just an hour for a mandatory meeting. The meeting was at 11:00 in the morning so it kind of limited what I could do for the day landing right in the middle like that. So after the meeting I decided to run some errands while I reviewed my options for the afternoon. As I was driving up Rt 128 I saw a sign for the Franklin Park Zoo. That is on my bucket list but I hadn’t planned on that for today…still there was the sign…maybe that was where I was meant to be today.

So I wrapped up my last errand and headed north on RT 28.

Franklin Park Zoo is another Urban Zoo. This time within the confines of Boston. Rt 28 becomes a main road known as Blue Hill Avenue though Mattapan into Dorchester, both subsections of Boston. They are neighborhoods similar to the boroughs of New York City.

Traffic was heavy and I missed the entrance to the Zoo the first time and had to turn around and retrace my steps. When I found parking it was in a secondary, unpaved lot. That one was almost filled too.

The paved path from the parking lot to the zoo entrance was marked by stencilled “hoof prints”. The kids ahead of me on the path were finding these stencils a lot of fun.

I was at the Franklin Park Zoo a couple of years ago but so far nothing looked familiar, not even the entrance which I seemed to remember had a large statue in front of it. I was wondering if I was having a “senior moment” as I paid my admission and asked for a map.

Admission is a bit pricier than Buttonwood Zoo and their senior discount starts at 62 so I paid the full fee of $16.00. As I looked at my map I began to understand why it looked so different. This was the Zebra Entrance. I was at the Giraffe Entrance when I came here before! I wasn’t losing my mind.

Franklin Park is much larger than Buttonwood and has many more exotic animals. They have some fun interactive exhibits too but first things first. It was almost 2pm so lunch was on my mind. There’s an indoor-outdoor  snack bar call the Giddy-up grill.

As far as I know that’s the only option for food. You can get candy and snacks at the gift shop but I wanted  something a bit more lunch-like. I hesitate to say more healthy!:)

I ordered a cheeseburger and onion rings and a bottle of juice. Nothing was cooked to order. It was all in warming  ovens. It showed in the taste, the hamburger was warm but the bun was hard, very hard. There was a wilted lettuce leaf , a tomato slice topped with a pickle  slice. I only ate a few bites as it had a strange flavor that I just couldn’t put my finger on. I chose to sit outside so the little birds appreciated my “fussiness”. I had better luck with the onion rings which were very good.

As I sat at the little table under an umbrella I watched the carousel revolve and a couple of male peacocks with tail feathers trailing that would make a bride’s train look short! They never displayed but they were still beautiful.

The Franklin Farm was on the other side of the tables. Here are farm animals, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, to name just a few,  some of which are available for petting as long as a staff member was present.

After lunch I started to work my way back to the entrance so I could go through the Zoo in an orderly fashion but I kept getting side tracked.

My first detour was to an aviary. Here ducks were swimming around and although there was a feeding station, they weren’t too interested in the offerings the kids were throwing into the water. As you crossed the bridge you soon saw why, there was a big feeding tray and it was freshly filled so it looked as if everyone had already eaten their fill.

As I exited I saw a dirt mound off to my right. I decided to check that out before I went back to the entrance. What a nice surprise.

 There were those little prairie rodents! Yup, a small colony of prairie dogs. As I approached the sentinel dog went on alert but he didn’t “bark” or whistle. It was pretty clear that these guys were used to people and didn’t consider us a threat. It made taking pictures at lot easier than in the wild. That little sentinel dog was quite a ham. It was as if he was posing for you. Then he ran down into a hole , popped back out and threw him self down on the dirt, little paws stretched out as if to say…I’m done..too tired.

He was such a little drama queen.

That’s a good place to break for today. More tales from the Franklin Park Zoo and pictures coming up next post.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was just thinking

I was just thinking the other day that sometimes I don’t take time to fully appreciate what a beautiful area I live in. Since I started writing this blog I’ve been going at top speed to try to find new material, places and experiences to share. It’s awesome to be finding out so much about the area I live in but it occurred to me the other day that sometimes I get so caught up in all that “exploring” that I forget to appreciate the everyday moments.

For example, I was driving to work a couple of weeks ago. It was a Sunday because it was very early, around 6:15 am and the soft, golden light was enough to take my breath away. I remember thinking to myself that this is what photographers mean when they talk about the “Golden Hour”.


On that drive I also saw turkeys, several turkeys as a matter of fact, on the side of the highway as well as on the side road to the office. I also spotted a red tail hawk. It swooped right in front of the car so there was no mistaking it.

The blue heron was in the river at the Herring Run. It was a “Bambi” kind of morning.

And speaking of “Bambi” the same day at the end of my shift as I was on the on ramp to the highway I spotted a deer! It was standing in the middle of the sand and gravel pit. It’s white tail was whipping back and forth like mad. In fact I don’t blame it for being mad. More and more of the fields and forests around this area are being raised for construction. But I am getting off track.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the sunsets. We don’t get those brillent sunsets every night but there are enough to really get your attention . My Sunday drive home at shift end has given me some awesome sunsets.

I was just sharing how nice  southern Massachusetts can be. It’s days like that when I see the beauty of my surroundings that I don’t ever want to move. On the other hand, ask me when it’s snowing and freezing and I’m shoveling a pile of that white stuff and I’ll tell you that Hawaii is in my future! 🙂

When I retire I hope I’ll be able to get a trailer and hit the road to see all the things I’ve missed. I’d like to spend time in every state  staying as long as needed to fully see the hidden treasures of each area. One week vacations just are not long enough.

 In the meantime I am going to try to appreciate my own area more. Take a minute from my busy life to look around at the nature and flowers that surrounds me every day and of course, share those moment with you!

Alaska~ Land of the Midnight Sun

I finally made the first call to start the process for our 2012 trip to Alaska. I don’t think it went too well.

Let me back up. My sister and I have been talking about going to Alaska for a couple of years now. Part of the delay has been the cost. Sis wants 2-3 nights in Denali along with a cruise. That adds up to a lot of money. While we were in Sedona we talked about it some more and basically made a decision to just go for it. If we keep waiting we won’t get there…or by the time we do the glaciers will be melted, the mountains eroded and the polar bears will have moved some place colder. 🙂

The other stumbling block is which cruise line do we want to go on. We had been looking at Holland America but then Sis heard from a neighbor that they weren’t very good. That’s surprising because Holland America has tons of Alaska cruises. Seems to me if they weren’t any good that they wouldn’t be able to have so many choices.

I suggested Royal Caribbean. They have a big, fairly new ship doing the Alaska Route, Radiance of the Seas. I have only been on 1 other cruise and it was a short one from Port Canaveral to Nassau, Bahamas. That was on Royal Caribbean and we had a very nice time.

I know people who have taken an Alaska Cruise and they raved about it. We also met some folks  at the Grand Canyon that flew into Alaska, rented an RV and toured that way which would have been fine by me too. I just want to see the country and the animals. Cruise, drive, train…any of them are fine with me.

But back to my first call. I blissfully called Royal Caribbean with the mistaken idea that they would willingly offer any available discounts. That was what I was told by the Holland America rep at the AAA Travel Marketplace this spring. Well, I even mentioned AAA and Senior discounts and as far as I can tell got nada. I pointed out that the price I was being quoted was higher than their published price in their brochure and was told that was “just the starting point.”

The only good part is that you can book your cruise for a very small deposit. I told them I would have to get back to them. Within 24 hours I had both a phone call and an email trying to “close the deal.” That’s kind of putting me off right there.

I emailed Sis and got back an email that seemed to have the hair standing on end! How much ..for how long etc , etc.  So I have mailed the cruise info so Sis can go to her travel agent and see if they can do better.

I can see this is going to be a bit trickier than I expected. I am not a fan of travel agents. Most of my experiences with travel agents have been disappointing but in this case, if they can get a better deal, I’m all for it.

I will keep you all updated as this saga unfolds.

Wine Trail New England

I don’t know about you but when I think about wine country I think of France or Germany or domestically, California. I know a lot of other places are getting into the wine making business. I’ve enjoyed wine from Australia and South America but I just didn’t think of New England for wine.

Maybe I should just say that I didn’t think because we had grape vines  that were always covered with big purple grapes each summer where I grew up in the Adirondacks and my neighbor made his own wine from them. When I visited Peace Field House in Quincy there was a grape arbor so the signs that grapes grow here are all around me. Of course I have no idea if these grapes make good wine.

I enjoy a glass of wine occasionally with meals or with cheese and crackers. When I vacation with my sister that is one of our rituals, kicking back with a glass of wine after a long day of sight-seeing but I would never pretend to be an expert. I read descriptions about a note of this, a hint of that. Fruity vs dry, and I don’t know what it means. I just know what I like. The wine must be light (if white) and smooth and not too sweet. If a red it can be heavier but again, not too sweet.

So imagine my surprise when my friend Jay told me about the Wine Country in my backyard…literally!

I headed for the internet and there was the Wine Trail which winds through southern New England from the tip of Cape Cod through southern Rhode Island to Connecticut. 9 Vineyards make up the stops on the Wine Trail promoting Coastal wines of New England. Like the Passport program for the National Parks, these Vineyards promote the Coastal Wines of New England with a Passport Program of their own. For more information head to

 The common thread that ties these 9 Vineyards is the Atlantic ocean. With the southeast facing coastline, warm gulf stream in summer and fall, a cool grape growing climate results in a section of fine wines, mostly of the white and sparkling variety with a few reds sprinkled in.

Since I was heading to Dartmouth anyway I thought I’d try to see one of the wineries. I’m not sure what I expected. I’ve never been to a wine tasting nor have I ever set foot in a winery. When we were in Sedona we thought about a wine tour but there were so many other things to do that we never got to that. I guess I imagined driving through the vineyard with rows of grapes rolling by until I reached the winery. With that vision in mind I headed off to find one of the Dartmouth wineries.

There are 2 located in the Dartmouth area, Sakonnet Vineyards and Running Brook Vineyards. The Web page for Sakonnet said they were open Friday, Saturday and Sunday so that eliminated them. Running Brook gave their hours as daily Noon- 5pm. so that’s where I headed.

Running Brook Vineyards is located at 335 Old Fall River Road, North Dartmouth. Their web page is

I left The Buttonwood Park Zoo and headed off to  find Old Fall River Road. It took me all of 10 minutes to get to Running Brook from the zoo! That was a little mind-boggling …from Urban Zoo to rural Winery in 10 minutes. The Winery is clearly marked with an attractive sign.

I took a right through the open gate onto a dirt track and drove slowly up to a large building.

 There was a tent set up outside with tables.

 I didn’t see any grape vines. The “road” continued on around the building but I thought it might be better to stop here first. A car had just driven off around the building and another man in work clothes was just getting into a truck. I stuck my head out of the car window and asked if I was in the right place for Running Brook.

The gentleman got back out of his truck and asked me if I’d seen the sign at the gate. I said yes. His response was , “Well you’re here.”

I pulled into a spot next to the tent and got out of the car. My host wasn’t the most talkative so I tried to think of questions to ask. Since I had nothing to compare  this experience with I’m sure he thought I was asking really stupid questions. I think he took pity on me because after a few minutes of my babbling he asked me if I wanted a tasting. It was afternoon so , why not? I said yes.

He told me to follow him and we went into the big building. A rough wooden counter  separated customers from the rows of big, wooden barrels. Almost immediately I noticed the aroma. It smells sooo good! Getting my nose back inline I noticed labels on the barrels indicating the type of wines apparently aging or fermenting or whatever wines do in each of the big casks.

 As I was looking around my host was setting out a row of wine bottles , a package of oyster crackers, a wine glass and a ceramic pitcher.

I confessed that I didn’t know what to do. Was I supposed to hold it in my mouth and then spit it out or  could I drink it. That finally got a smile. He explained that it was personal preference but that he’d suggest drinking  it. Now I was laughing and beginning to relax. I told him as long as I could walk out after the tasting then drink it I would. I was looking at the line of bottles he’s set out and wondered if I would be walking by the end of this experiment! 🙂

We started with the whites. The bouquet was wonderful. The wines varied from mellow and smooth to one that made me say ” it was having a party in my mouth. ” It wasn’t a sparkling wine yet it made my tongue tingle like a sparkling wine. I even tried a white Merlot. I’m not a fan of white Merlot and this was no exception but that’s just me. If you like white Merlot you would probably like this wine.

I tried the red Merlot and that was pretty good. We finished the tasting with a sweet dessert wine that was a little too sweet for my taste but that I am sure would hit the spot if you like that kind of wine.

I bought a bottle of the Pinot Gris to take home with me, picked up my passport  brochure and collected my stamp.

The tasting was well worth the $7.00. The wines ranged in price starting at around $15.00.

Running Brook Wines are not available in stores. You need to stop by the winery to pick them up. You can also buy them by the case. I never got to see the Vineyard but my host pointed out a lovely picture in the brochure of green grapes, not purple, on the vines. He said those were the Running Brook grapes.

There was a sign at the entrance that said wine tours and events on Sundays 1 pm but the winery itself is open 1-5 daily so stop in, have a tasting, buy a bottle ( or 2) and spread the word!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now I’ve only 8 more Vineyards to visit to complete the Coastal Wine Trail!