Oregon’s Coastal Cornucopia: Cape Perpetua

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Having a few days to explore the Oregon coast with Nana Five, we were looking for a place with great tide pools, beaches, and temperate rain forest trails to explore. We found all this and more at Cape Perpetua National Scenic Area in the Siuslaw National Forest. From anemones and sea stars to krumholtz trees and Sitka spruce, Cape Perpetua really has it all. Factor in an awesome visitor’s center with super-friendly and enthusiastic rangers (they took more time reviewing the Younger Fives’ Junior Ranger booklets than anywhere else we’ve been), and you have all the ingredients for a memorable coastal visit!

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A Spirited Valentine’s Day

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Five String and Five Spice are romantics at heart, and for Valentine’s Day we wanted to do something special. Although the thought of a candlelight dinner with the kids asleep in the other room was quite tempting, we decided to take a more, shall we say, adventurous approach to celebrate Cupid’s arrow. What could be more romantic than riding an hour and a half out to an uninhabited island with 3 kids on a 12-person boat ? 

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Love is in the air (and the sea).

For our trip out to the UNESCO-protected Isla Espíritu Santo, we decided to use Marlin Adventures. They offered a full day tour of the island, including snorkeling at the sea lion colony and relaxing on the beach, and we found their price to be one of the best in La Paz. Having spent a day out on the water with them, we could not have been more impressed. The ride itself gave us a chance to get a different view of La Paz than we ever could have gotten from land, and it certainly didn’t hurt for the kids to have a little down time before and after such an exciting day.

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Our two crew members really went above and beyond to meet both our needs and that of the surrounding wildlife. Our guide Arturo was very knowledgeable and passionate about the island’s wildlife and history, and he pointed out many interesting features in both English and Spanish. In addition, our captain maintained a great balance between being respectful of nature and getting us close enough to feel like we were a part of things. On our way back to La Paz a plastic bag flew out of the boat, and our guide and captain circled the water for 5 minutes, scanning for the litter, until they finally found it and brought it back aboard. This commitment to protecting the natural beauty of Isla Espíritu Santo really speaks volumes about the great service that Marlin Adventures provides.

Exploring the Sea of Cortez by boat has definitely been one of the highlights of our time in La Paz. It is fitting that here in Mexico, Valentine’s Day is known as  El Día del Amor y la Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship). We could think of no better way to celebrate our bond with one another and with the larger planet than by dwelling in the stunning natural beauty of Isla Espíritu Santo.

Words Fail Us: A Week in Pictures at the Fortress of Louisbourg

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The Fortress of Louisbourg is an spectacular place for families. We have seen, experienced, and learned so much this past week that we can’t really put it all into words. Why is this such a special place? The short answer is that life in a bustling 18th-century city lives and breathes here (literally). The great condition of the ruins and meticulous records kept of its construction and daily life made it possible to recreate the original port city of Louisbourg, and now it stands as the largest historical reconstruction on the continent. Louisbourg is also the only major colonial city in North America not to have a modern city built on top of it. So when you take the 5-minute bus ride from the Visitor’s Center to the Fortress, you truly are transported to another world with minimal intrusion from the present. Here is a glimpse into our magical week here.

Architecture: The buildings of Louisbourg are accurate reconstructions of the original 18th-century French seaport. From the lavish governor’s residence to humble inns for the common traveler, the walls and buildings themselves taught us about fortifications, food storage, metal working, and everything in between.

Archaeology: We were thrilled to be visiting during Louisbourg 300, a series of special activities celebrating the town’s 300th anniversary. In addition to all the regular demonstrations, we were treated to the opportunity to observe and speak with Parks Canada archaeologists who were recovering artifacts from the harbor, excavating around the walled city, and identifying and preserving artifacts for future generations to enjoy.

Residents of the City: The amount of knowledge the residents of the city (park staff reenactors ) have is truly impressive. Spending time speaking with the residents and learning about their world was one of our favorite parts of our time at Louisbourg. And not only do the residents “know” lots of interesting things, they also “do” lots of interesting things. We saw a ship being built, stew simmering over the hearth, bread baking in a brick oven, and even played a Basque bowling game and learned a period dance.

Beyond the Fortress Walls: The Historical Site is much more than just the walled city itself. We swam at the sandy beach where the attacking British launched their ground assault in 1745, explored the ruins of the town hospital, and posed next to the site of the first lighthouse in Canada, all without leaving the park boundaries.

Fun, Fun, Fun: At the Fortress of Louisbourg, we found surprises and delights around every corner for the young and not so young of us alike. For some of us, it came from climbing into a massive lime kiln used to make mortar. For others (High Five), it came from riding the bus to the Fortress and back. In the end, we could never have wished for a more perfect, fun, and educational week.