Karen Robbins's Blog

February 17, 2017

February 16, 2017

An article I found that was written a year ago spoke of a charge for taking pictures at Tulum in Mexico. The article made it sound like it was something new. Maybe it is in the way they are charging. Tulum is a world famous archaeological site that sits on the coast. There are great views with the ocean and the beaches and the coastline. Need I say more? Good stuff for a picture or two or three.

Tulum is not charging by the picture, which is good in itself. They are however charging for each device that you carry with you that is capable of taking a picture. Every iPhone, tablet, camera, etc. will cost you around $2.50 to take in.

This is not the first time I've heard of or seen charges for taking pictures at tourist destinations. We've run into this several times. It is rare that we pay the fee. We just usually put our cameras away. There are some exceptions though.

We have paid several times (or tipped) for a picture of something that is culturally significant. For example a lady was dancing her heart out for the tourists in one of the ports in Spain we visited. She was dressed in a beautiful red flamenco style dress and we dropped money into the tip jar for her.

In some of the South American places and islands we have visited there are often children dressed in cultural clothing of the region and will pose for a dollar or two. The one I had to smile at was a child who invited us to take a picture and as we were about to snap it the mother tossed the other child into the picture and charged us double. Two dollars for a picture and a memory.

Many cities have the "statues" that want a money donation for a picture and in Rome there are plenty of gladiators that will happily let you take that selfie with them--for a fee of course.

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Published on February 16, 2017 04:00

February 15, 2017

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Published on February 15, 2017 04:00

February 14, 2017

Each year that we winter over in Florida, we are close enough to the grandkids that we can see them often. We take each of the three older ones (one at a time) for a two-three day stay at the condo. The youngest we took for a half day to Monkey Jungle this year. Our six year old redhead was the last to visit. What would she want to do? We knew a movie was in order. So for the third time this year I got to see Moana--and loved it again. Then came the big one. Would she want to go to Theater of the Sea or our new discovery, the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounter.

When we got her in the car, she announced that she wanted to go to the aquarium and feed the sharks. Neither her older brother or sister had ventured there. We thought her quite brave and decided to accommodate her. It cost a little extra ($18) but included a picture as well. We had seen a girl about her size feed the sharks on one of our other visits so we knew she could do it.

She enjoyed all of the other places her older brother and sister had only with a different attitude. She named all of the rays and the animals in the tidal touch pool and then tried to arrange them so they would be friends with each other.

We spent some time tossing fish pellets to the rainbow parrot fish in the lagoon and fed the rays once again mostly because I wanted her to get the idea of feeding with a wand which I knew would be the process for the sharks. Soon it was time to head to Shark Bay.

The sharks in the tank are nurse sharks which are not terribly aggressive. They had put several letters and numbers on her wristband to indicate she was to feed the sharks. I told her that was in case she lost her hand they would know which one it was. She gave me an oh-grandma look and sidled up to grandpa for the shark feeding.

The video here tells it all. It was a great experience and one she will brag about for a long time. The only question is: How are we going to top this next year? Oh yeah. She did mention Disney World.

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Published on February 14, 2017 04:00

February 13, 2017

Looking to make a day special for our two and a half year old granddaughter, we settled on a trip to Monkey Jungle. Every time we make the drive from the Key Largo condo to where they live, we pass the exit sign for it. Now we can say our curiosity has been satisfied.

The day began around 9:30 AM just after the park opened. As a matter of fact, we may have been the first visitors in because after we purchased our tickets ($27.95/seniors and our granddaughter was free since she was under 3) I heard the lady use her walkie talkie to say there were visitors in the park.

There are several interactions between trainers and animals throughout the day and our first was at the monkey swimming pond. The monkeys, Java Macaques, will wade into the pond as the attendant throws pieces of fruit, vegetables and nuts to them. Once the feeding was started, they seemed to come from everywhere. The attendant talked about the monkeys and their history, native country, etc. but we were a bit more attentive to our youngster who was thrilled at seeing her first monkeys of the day.

Toward the end of the feeding, the attendant took out two hard boiled eggs and tossed them into the water a little deeper than the other food. Two of the monkeys actually dove to the bottom of the pond to retrieve their treat. It makes me question why they don't just swim to the open area where people view them and escape. But then I always wondered about that at Monkey Island at the CLEMet Zoo when I was a kid.

We next started down a screened-in walkway that extended into the jungle area of the monkeys. They climbed up over our heads and ran across the top of the screen and sat and watched us. When we saw the little dishes on the end of a chain hanging down at intervals we understood why. We took out the box of raisins we'd bought at the entry and put some in a dish. It immediately was pulled up to the top of the screen and a monkey hand reached through a small hole and snatched the raisins. The metal dish fell quickly down again, ready to be filled.

Our granddaughter delighted in filling the little dishes with some raisins as we continued our walk to the orangutan. It was a little too early for her feeding and she wasn't moving much so we wandered down another path that took us to several aviaries with birds and an iguana and turtle.

At a couple minutes before the set time for the orangutan to get breakfast (by now it seemed more like brunch) we returned and took a seat. The trainer came and began by introducing us to Mei (May) and telling us more about her. There were several trained behaviors Mei did all of which were rewarded with more fruit treats. Mei was a pretty good catch but if it fell, she didn't go down to pick it up. She did however retrieve the ones she missed as she made her way across her habitat at the trainer's direction. The interactions were all to show you her body movements, size, etc. to understand the animal better. I was impressed.

The same could be said of the gorilla experience. The gorilla was a male and was across a great divide from us. He had to have his food put in paper sacks to be tossed to him because he wouldn't eat it if the food got dirty. Smart guy. Again, the trainer explained his movements and what he would be like in his natural habitat and did it by making him move around to get some of his food. I'm sure though he wouldn't be drinking his juice from a plastic bottle and then putting it in the recycling bin out in the jungle.

The other area to experience was not quite as much fun. It was the Amazon jungle area where there were spider monkeys and Capuchin (remember Night At The Museum?). The attendants went into the rain forest area behind the screening and we watched as they fed the monkeys. It was difficult to take any pictures because of the screen but it was protection for us as well as the monkeys.

There are quite a few acres for all the smaller monkeys to roam. Joseph DuMond, an animal behviorist, arrived in South Florida in 1933 with six Java monkeys. Today there are 140 all descended from the original six. And of course the jungle has expanded to include the others. It was an interesting morning but by noon our young granddaughter was thinking McDonald's. Of course we accommodated her.

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Published on February 13, 2017 04:00

February 10, 2017

On our second trip to the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounter, this time with our granddaughter, I picked up another little tidbit of knowledge I hadn't had before. The touch tide pool was her favorite spot and one of the older attendants whom we'd met before was very patient in explaining to her and to others as they came along and wanted to touch what each animal was and what their importance was in the world.

Our granddaughter was especially fascinated with the horseshoe crabs in the pool. When you turned them upside down, remembering to keep them under the water of course, you could see all the legs scrambling to move. They are a unique sea animal with their armored outside that to me looks like it's related to an armadillo even though it's really related to the group that includes spiders.

While the long needle like tail looks dangerous it is only used to right itself if it is accidentally turned over. The shell-like armored body has been around for over 450 million years as evidenced by fossils. Apparently God didn't need to improve on this particular animal.

Horseshoe crabs are important to the ecology of the region because of their eggs. The eggs provide a food source for both birds and fish. Amazing that any would survive.

The truly surprising fact I learned however was that they have blue blood. This is because it is copper-based. It is used to test for the sterility of medical equipment and all intravenous drugs. The compound eye of the horseshoe crab has also been important in learning more about vision in the human eye.

Okay, now I'm ready for the Jeopardy show.

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Published on February 10, 2017 04:00

February 9, 2017

A few years ago we stood on the beaches in Normandy, France and marveled at the courage it took for those men to storm the beach through a hail of bullets. Our hearts were touched with knowing that many sacrificed their lives in the defense of the freedoms we enjoy.

Several days ago we had the opportunity to see another side of bravery in that war, the bravery of men who would climb into B-17s and B-24s and all sorts of other aircraft that flew during that time in the war effort. The Wings of Freedom Tour sponsored by the Collings Foundation brought a collection of planes that are still flying and touring the country giving the opportunity for many to appreciate the effort of those soldiers of the air.

We were able to board the planes and climb through for a look at the inside. It was amazing. Cramped quarters and seats next to huge bombs. While we could look below us through the open bomb bay doors and see the ground just a few feet below, those riding in the plane during the war would have had a much more frightening view.

I've visited battlefields, been on ships and a submarine, but crawling through the B-24 made me all the more aware of the raw courage of the men who fought in the war then. It makes me grateful for those willing to serve today as well. Thank you.

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Published on February 09, 2017 04:00

February 8, 2017

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Published on February 08, 2017 04:00

February 7, 2017

A stroll through the Laura Quinn Bird Sanctuary just down the road from where we stay in the Florida Keys always provides an opportunity for some good pictures. No Roseate Spoonbill this year though.

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Published on February 07, 2017 04:00

February 6, 2017

There is a nest high on the top of a pole that is for an osprey family. We watched the nest last year and saw several youngsters. When we needed to go north to pick up a grandchild for their stay at the condo with Grandma and Grandpa, we decided to check it out and see if there was anything going on this year.

The nest is right next to an exit off of US1. If you drive off on the exit and go half way up the ramp to get back on, you can actually look down on the nest. You really need binoculars or a telescopic lens on your camera to make out the birds in the nest.

Mama osprey was sitting on the nest so I'm guessing in a few weeks we will see some furry heads bobbing around in there waiting for the busy parents to feed them. We'll keep watch.

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Published on February 06, 2017 04:00