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My links for June 4th through June 6th

These are my links for June 4th through June 6th:

Spending the Holidays Three Houses Down from America’s Christmas Lights Display Winner – #sonyholiday

Whitis Family Christmas House in Tallahassee, Florida. Winners of the GMA Contest.
Semper Fi Christmas House, Tallahassee, Florida

I’m spending the holidays in Tallahassee, Florida, which happens to be the town from which the Whitis family, the winners of Good Morning America’s “Our Lights Are Better Than Your Lights”, hail. I’m not only in the same town as this Christmas lights attraction, but approximately three doors down from it. When my family and I arrived after a very long drive yesterday, we had to get a police escort to stop traffic so we could get down the street to my sister’s house. Cars were lined up for at least a mile to get a chance to drive by the GMA winners’ home.

So what does it take to earn bragging rights for the best Christmas lights in the nation? Apparently, it takes 17,000 LED lights and a patriotic, red-white-and-blue light show set to the techno remix of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American.” I can’t say it’s a beautiful display – the word “tacky” comes to mind. But it certainly took a lot of effort and the winners have asked visitors and online admirers to contribute to the Semper Fi Fund, an organization that provides “immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.”

I took a few photos* of the Whitis’ lit-up home, but you can’t really appreciate the audaciousness of this light display until you watch the video complete with music. Thankfully, for the neighbors’ sake, the family has purchased some radio spectrum (92.3 FM) for the duration of the Christmas light show so the neighborhood doesn’t have to endure techno music repeating on a four-minute loop for five hours per night. (I understand there’s currently a lawsuit against the family because of the light and music display, which is probably one reason why the radio spectrum was purchased.)

Here’s the full video of the Whitis’ family’s Semper Fi Christmas House, which will be on display through Christmas night. I promise you this is real:

 

 

*All photos (except featured photo) taken with the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-WX9 camera, which was provided courtesy of Sony.

Three Best Travel Secrets

I’ve been tagged by Robin Locker at My Mélange to provide my three best travel secrets. She actually tagged me on my Italofile.com site. But I had so many good secrets beyond Italy that I wanted to share my top three non-Italy secrets here. To see the Italy list, head over to Italofile. Have a look at both of them!

Of course, it’s not fair to really call these “secrets,” as there are plenty of other people who have gone before me and recommended the same places. So, just consider these as my current favorites among a bucket-load of tips.

Three Best Travel Secrets

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Lycian Coast, Turkey
The Lycian Coast of Turkey is awash in tourists, especially from Europe and particularly from the U.K. But Turkey, in general, has yet to take off as a destination for Americans, which is why I’m including it on my list. This ancient coast is the Mediterranean of my dreams, with dramatic cliff-framed beaches (the beach above is Kaputa? Beach) and ruins from ancient Greeks, Romans, and Lycians (an ancient tribe particular to this region) strewn about. In the off-season, from about October to April when it’s not blazing hot, you can hike the Lycian Way, a 500km trail from Fethiye to Antalya. For a beach holiday, consider staying in Ka? which has a lively, walkable downtown with bars, fish and meze restaurants, and organic textile boutiques.

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Kerala, India
One of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken was aboard a houseboat, adrift in the backwaters of Kerala, one of India’s most southernmost states. I wrote about my backwater trip at length way back in 2004 and, re-reading my posts from that time still give me blissful memories. If you are fortunate to go to India and have time to make it to the south, do not miss the opportunity to ride aboard a kettuvalam (rice boat). I’m sure that with 3G networks these days, you can take this trip without unplugging from your phone and internet. But here is a chance to disconnect completely, with only books and scheduled meals to interrupt your quiet contemplation.

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Apalachicola, Florida
When I started writing this list, I didn’t intend to have all beachy destinations. But so be it. Apalachicola is yet another place I have written about on this blog in a two-parter titled Long Weekend in Apalachicola Part 1 and Part 2. If you read those posts, you’ll see that this lazy beach town gets me back to my southern roots. Apalachicola is also part of what’s called Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” because it’s largely undeveloped, in that it is lacking in the over-the-top, on-the-beach high-rise resorts that characterize much of Florida’s shoreline. Apalachicola is also the Oyster Capital of the United States, so you can get the fattest, freshest oysters here, either on the half-shell or fried up for a po-boy.

So there’s my non-Italy list. I’m not going to tag a whole bunch of people like I did for my Italy list, but I will give props to Katie at Tripbase, who started this whole meme. It’s been fun!

If you’ve enjoyed reading my tips and decide you want to dream up your own list, tag me. I’d love to read what others have to say.

Photos © Melanie Mize Renzulli

Long Weekend in Apalachicola: Part 1

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The word “Apalachicola” ranks up there with Okeechobee and Massapequa as one of the more amusing Native American place names. It has a foreign air, but just enough grit that you instantly know that the town can be found somewhere on a map of America.

In fact, you can find Apalachicola on a map of Florida, in the central-western crook of the Panhandle about two hours south of Tallahassee. Some people call this area of the country L.A. – or, Lower Alabama – and, coming originally from Alabama, I know this to be true. This is the land of NASCAR, country music, and yellow flies. Nine out of ten times, this is the kind of place I avoid. But I was in for a surprise.
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