Category Archives: Green

Green Flash at Sunset

Have you ever seen a GREEN FLASH  at Sunset? 

I heard about this for the first time last year in a movie that mentioned it.

Green flashes and green rays are optical phenomena that sometimes occur right after sunset or right before sunrise. When the conditions are right, a green spot is visible above the upper rim of the disk of the sun. The green appearance usually lasts for no more than a second or two. Rarely, the green flash can resemble a green ray shooting up from the sunset (or sunrise) point. Green flashes occur because the atmosphere can cause the light from the sun to separate out into different colors. Green flashes are a group of phenomena which stem from slightly different causes, and therefore some types of green flashes are more common than others.

Green flashes are enhanced by mirage, which increase refraction. A green flash is more likely to be seen in stable, clear air, when more of the light from the setting sun reaches the observer without being scattered. One might expect to see a blue flash, since blue light is refracted most of all, and the blue component of the sun’s light is therefore the very last to disappear below the horizon, but the blue is preferentially scattered out of the line of sight, and the remaining light ends up appearing green.


Playa Del Carmen and Xcaret Mexico

I have spent plenty of time in Puerto Vallarta, and this year decided to explore the Caribbean side of Mexico and the Riviera Maya.

We have all been to or read about Cancun. It’s been growing in popularity every year it seems.  And with that seems to come more and more “bad tourists“.  But as you go down the coast, more and more travelers are discovering the beauty of Riviera Maya, attracting  many  LGBT travelers  as well as  Europeans and Canadians.

South of Riviera Cancun, Riviera Maya is home to many of Mexico’s best hotels and all-inclusive resorts. Stretching 70-80 miles, from just south of Puerto Morelos to the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, the area offers endless white sand beaches, lush jungles and ancient Mayan cities including Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba. Enjoy trendy shopping, wining and dining on Playa del Carmen’s Fifth Avenue, and amazing watersports in the quaint towns of Puerto Aventuras and Akumal. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is just offshore. Be sure to visit Xel-Há, the world’s largest natural aquarium, and Xcaret, where you’ll see fascinating indigenous wildlife and can snorkel in underground rivers.

Our travel agent ( Dave @ 1-800-942-1280 – he is the BEST! ) suggested we stay  at  Occidental Grand Xcaret and right next door is  Xcaret Park.  GREAT SUGGESTION!  We flew in the first week of December, just  before rates started climbing for high season. The cost was about $1200  each. That included airfare from Chicago to Cancun, transfers to and from the hotel, 7 nights accommodations, all meals  and  ALL DRINKS including all  alcohol.  That came out to about $115 pp  per day for room, food and drinks. Pretty amazing deal! Of course, January and February those rates go up to  $140-$170  per day, so watch when you go to get the best deal, and Dave will be happy to advise you and help you plan your trip.

I could write pages about Riviera Maya and the resort and all it had to offer – but the focus of this article is  XCARET PARK.

Xcaret (pronounced ESH-cah-ret)  is a Maya civilization archaeological site located on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the modern-day state of Quintana Roo in Mexico. It is south of Cancun about 40 minutes. And just South of Playa Del Carmen by a few minutes. The site was occupied by the pre-Columbian Maya and functioned as a port for navigation and an important Maya trading center. Some of the site’s original structures are contained within a modern-day tourism development, the privately owned Xcaret Eco Park.

Xcaret Park is a  “theme park“, resort and ecotourism development. It is named after the nearby archaeological site Xcaret, a settlement constructed by the pre-Columbian Maya some of whose structures lie within the boundaries of the park’s 81 hectares (200 acres) of land holdings.
The land was originally purchased by a group of Mexican entrepreneurs, led by architect Miguel Quintana Pali. 5 hectares of the land was purchased in 1984.

When he began to clear the land, he started uncovering cenotes, sinkholes formed by collapsed cave ceilings weakened by 3 million years of erosion from underground rivers running through them and flowing into the sea. He saw the potential for tourism and formulated the idea of an Ecological Park open to the public, and soon joined forces with Oscar, Marcos and Carlos Constandse, achieving this goal in December 1990.

At the same time, contact was established with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) with the objective of rebuilding the remnants of the Mayan pyramids and buildings that were found in the area. The park’s administration subsidized all the operation and the INAH put in charge a team of specialists.

The nature-based attractions of the park include a river that goes through the Mayan village, a subterranean concrete sluice in which people can swim and snorkel with a life vest. Near the inlet there are recreational activities at the beach, snorkeling, Sea Trek and Snuba in the nearby reefs, or swimming with dolphins.

(There are about 400  Macaws  in the wild, in the world. Xcaret has nearly 1000  on their property. Couples live together in lush surroundings  and  frequently mate and on average the park is able to successfully  raise  100-150  babies every year, to be released back into the wild. )

The park also has a coral reef aquarium turtle nesting site. Next to the inlet there’s an area for manatees. The park also has a bird pavilion, butterfly pavilion, bat cave, orchids and bromeliad greenhouse, an island of jaguars, and a deer shelter, among others. The park is focused  on conservation. From allowing Macaws to couple off and breed, butterflies to flourish, and constantly growing new greens to be planted and make their forests more lush.

The cultural attractions include an open church, replica of a Mayan village with real artisans at work, a Mexican cemetery, a museum, an equestrian show, Mesoamerican ball game, an open theater with performances of pre-Hispanic dances, Papantla flying men and the Gran Tlachco (theater with a six thousand people capacity) where the Mesoamerican ball game is represented, as well as the meeting of two worlds, the Mayan and the Spanish, and the presentation of several Mexican folklore dances. Other demonstrations of Mexican traditions include Day of the Dead celebration and the “Travesía Sagrada Maya” (Mayan Sacred Crossing), an annual rite when Mayans would cross the sea from Xcaret and Playa del Carmen to Cozumel to pay homage to the lunar goddess Ix Chel. The park truly offers an amazing way to enjoy its natural beauty and cultural richness.

I especially loved the Mexican cemetery.  So much work and detail went into creating this gem!  Discover the trails of the Mexican Cemetery in Xcaret where ancestors are remembered with respect, but also with hints of humor and the typical Mexican mischief step into the Bridge to Paradise!

Explore a spiral architecture that reveals a large number of tombs and expressive personalities. There are multiple passages and entrances to the cemetery, but we assure you that there will always be something that will surprise you … do not be afraid! This is a place of great value to the Mexican culture and its relationship with the traditional Day of the Dead.

This unique architectural work has a special significance that simulates a hill with seven levels, referring to the days of the week. On the outside you can find 365 graves that symbolize each day of the year, and finally at the main entrance is a staircase with 52 steps representing the weeks. Additionally, its spiral shape refers to a conch shell, as used in ancient times to communicate with the gods through their breath, the wind.

The park also has a Temascal (house of heat) and Spa, numerous restaurants, dressing rooms, souvenirs and handicrafts stores with items from all over Mexico.

1 day admission  is  $89-$99.  (Purchase 21 days in advance online for the best savings). There are over 40 attractions here – if you really want to see everything and explore the entire property without being rushed, I would add on a second day, which is half price.  At first glance, this might seem a little expensive; but think of Walt Disney and Disney World and EPCOT…Xcaret is lush and gorgeous and educational and full of Mexican history.


There is not a lot of  gay nightlife in Riviera Maya but there are a couple clubs here and there – but we found almost every where accepting and gay friendly.  Gay marriage is legal  in Mexico City and Quintanaroo! Visit the Portal Gay Quintanaroo   and Facebook for updates on the LGBT community in Quintana Roo (Cancun, playa del Carmen, Tulum, Chetumal).  There is great info for locals and visitors from all over the world!


 Experiencias Xcaret operates several great attractions in the area!  Experiencias Xcaret has the best Parks and Tours in Cancun and Riviera Maya. Endless adventure and fun for all our guests like swimming with dolphins and diving into underground rivers at Xcaret and Xel-Há; challenge your senses at the zip lines of Xplor and admire great treasures of nature with Xenotes tour; live an authentic Mexican fiesta on board colorful trajineras at Xoximilco and visit amazing archaeological sites with Chichén Itzá, Tulum and Cobá tours.


Ohio’s Hocking Hills region offer breathtaking scenery and quirky lodging options

Antique train caboose, old school house, general store, yurts and more among Hocking Hills’ accommodations!



Not only does Ohio’s Hocking Hills region offer breathtaking forests, waterfalls, scenery and
unforgettable experiences, but it also boasts a host of lodging options
that are truly one-of-a-kind.  Travelers can spend the night in a historic train caboose or an old-fashioned gypsy wagon as they experience first-hand just how special a visit to southeast
Ohio’s Hocking Hills can be.  Incredibly affordable, some of these offbeat options are available for as little as $50 per night. Complete accommodations booking and visitor information is
found at

Intrepid travelers can “Sleep in History” — literally — thanks to the creative
preservationists at Historic Host Vacation Rentals. Among this unusual
lodging company’s offerings are a restored general store/post office, with its original scale, shelving and other vintage touches. The old Dunkle Schoolhouse, a 1926 B&O train caboose and an Ohio early farmhouse are also available for overnight accommodations. Historic Host’s
Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum, two historic B&Bs and several  charming little cottages and cabins in its Fiddlestix Village round out the offerings.  Each is lovingly restored so guests enjoy a
comfortable yet authentic overnight stay that carefully preserves the
rich history of not just the shelter, but the Hocking
Hills region itself.

At Boulders Edge Cabin and Tipi Retreatallows visitors to experience the magic and tranquility of
camping in traditional Sioux Native American tipis, reminiscent of
“Dances with Wolves.”  Each tipi sleeps 10 comfortably, sits on a wooden
deck and has a wood-burning stove inside.  Guests provide their own sleeping gear cot or mattress, sleeping bag and chairs.  But picnic tables, fire rings and a solar shower are provided.


Monkey Orchids Dracula simia from Peru

This is the rare Monkey Orchid, found only in high elevations of Ecuador
and Peru, especially the Peruvian Cloud Forest.  The primate-esque flowers are formally known as Dracula simia.

The orchid was only named in 1978 by the botanist Luer but is in a
family containing over 120 species mostly found in Ecuador.  Up in the
cloud mountains the monkey orchid can flower at any time – it is not
season specific. It scent resembles that of a ripe orange.

The Monkey orchid (Orchis simia) is an orchid species of the Orchis genus.

It is known for its pungent odor, which some  say is similar to that of feces!  Nice right?!

Its scientific name is Dracula simia, the last part nodding towards
the fact that this remarkable orchid bears more than a passing resemblance
to a monkey’s face – although we won’t go as far as
to be species specific on this one.

 The Dracula (genus) part of its
name refers to the strange characteristic of the two long spurs of the
sepals, reminiscent of the fangs of a certain Transylvanian count of
film and fiction fame.


Best Conservatories and Floral Exhibitions

Ahhhhhh, Spring is in the air!  Tree’s are busting out of their buds and flowers are popping up everywhere!

If you love flowers and appreciate the beauty of nature –  here are some MUST SEE Conservatories around the country:

Franklin Park Conservatory – Columbus Ohio.

Built in 1895, Franklin
Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a botanical landmark two
miles east of downtown Columbus. It is a premier horticultural and
educational institution showcasing exotic plant collections, special
exhibitions, and a signature collection of work by glass artist Dale

Set within the 88 acres of Franklin Park, the Conservatory houses 400
species of plants from a variety of global climate zones and features a
Victorian Palm House with more than 40 species of palms. It is
surrounded by botanical gardens and floral displays.

RIGHT NOW you can see  – 

Blooms & Butterflies: Now on view
Central Ohio’s iconic sign of spring returns! Get an up-close view
as hundreds of newly emerged butterflies are released into the Pacific
Island Water Gardens— a tropical haven where exotic butterflies of all
sizes and colors fly freely and feed on nectar from colorful blooms.
Learn about the fascinating life cycle and ecological importance of
these amazing insects during daily educational presentations and related

Orchids! Vibrant Victoriana
Awaken your senses on a dreary winter day and take a stroll
through a warm Victorian garden. Hundreds of orchids of all forms,
colors and sizes are artfully displayed in the Dorothy M. Davis
Showhouse. Explore the Victorian collectors’ fascination with the exotic
species through displays emphasizing the form, color and pattern of
individual blooms. Learn more about orchids in these special programs.

Cocktails @ the Conservatory

Spice up your humdrum work week with an evening visit to the
Conservatory. Stroll through warm, tropical plant collections and view
current exhibitions while enjoying live music, specialty cocktails, and
delicious appetizers. Reserve a table for your friends and colleagues!
Call 614.645.1800 for more information.

Thursdays, 5:30 – 10pm         21 and over
Full bar, featured cocktails, small plate menu
$11 admission, in return each guest receives $10 in tokens that can be used toward the purchase of food and drinks.

*It’s also the 200th Bicentennial Anniversary for Columbus this year!  Lots going on!  A great time to visit!

Read more about Gay Columbus and see they  have been voted a hot new LGBT destination!

  Golden Gate Park- San Francisco CA.

The largest and best known park in San Francisco is the
1,017 acre (411 ha) Golden Gate Park. Its history goes back to
1870 when the site was an area of wild sand dunes. At
the time, the area, known as ‘outside lands’, was well
outside the city’s developed limits.

main attractions of the park are located at the eastern
side. Here you find the Conservatory of Flowers as well as the
Japanese Tea garden and the adjacent M.H. De Young Museum.

The Conservatory of Flowers, a Victorian-style
greenhouse is modeled after the Palm house at the Kew
Gardens in London. It was
built between 1876 and 1883 and houses a collection
of tropical plants and flowers.

The M.H. De Young Museum has its origins in the
1894 Midwinter International expo. The Fine arts Museum,
temporarily built for the expo, was so successful that it was decided
to establish a permanent museum. The museum has a very
diverse collection, including paintings from the Laurence
Rockefeller collection.

Another remnant from the 1894 expo is the Japanese
Tea Garden
. Following the success of the expo’s
Japanese village, a Japanese Tea Garden was constructed
to display the Japanese lifestyle. The garden, covering
5 acres, features a teahouse, sculptures, ponds, bridges
and many native Japanese plants.

Chicago, IL  –  There are actually 3 great gardens and conservatories in Chicago.

Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Dr., located in the heart of the city and  connected to the Lincoln Park Zoo – Step inside and be transported to another place and time!  Take a journey to the Lincoln Park Conservatory where you will find
tropical palms and ancient ferns right in the heart of Lincoln Park.
Designed both to showcase exotic plants and grow the thousands of plants
needed for use in the parks, the Conservatory offers visitors a
tropical experience within its four display houses: Palm House, Fern
Room, Orchid House and Show House, which is home to the annual flower
shows. This historic facility continues to provide an escape to nature
to the millions that live in and visit Chicago. No matter the time of
year, Lincoln Park Conservatory is always green and lush. Come take a
stroll and let yourself be transported away. Admission is free.

Chicago Botanic Garden –  is located just outside the city limits. Take a walk and discover early spring trees and shrubs in bloom,
including Joel bush cherry and Appalachian Red redbud, as well as
Autumn flowering cherry. Joining the host of narcissus and early tulips
in bloom are Lenten roses and Virginia bluebells. 

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Garden! Today, 2.5
million plants, 24 display gardens, and four natural areas thrive here.
Visit our anniversary website to view Garden milestones since the 1972 opening.

Located  at  1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022  •  (847) 835-5440
Admission is free – However, it costs  $20 to park.

Garfield Conservatory is just west of the city a mile or so. Visit one of the nation’s premier conservatories — six
multi-faceted greenhouses and two grand exhibition halls.

The Garfield Park Conservatory sustained catastrophic damage in the June
2011 hailstorm, shattering approximately half of the glass panes
in the roofs of the historic Fern Room, Show House, and
ten propagation greenhouses. The glass panes in the Desert House
also sustained significant damage. The pathways, ponds and plants in
the Fern Room, Show House, Desert House and propagation houses are
covered with broken glass, and shards of glass hang dangerously from the
roofs. Until the roofs are repaired, rain will cause the ponds to
overflow, and direct sunlight will destroy and kill the plants that have
been so carefully and lovingly conserved for so many years. – It is still open to the public and the rebuilding continues.

Garfield Park Conservatory is open every day of the year. Located at 300 N. Central Park Ave., 10 minutes west of
downtown Chicago and easily accessible by automobile or
public transportation.



Stunning Tower Design for Summer Olympics 2016 Rio de Janeiro

You may remember we told you about  the  spiralling sculpture designed by Turner Prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor has been chosen as the monument to mark the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The 115m tall piece, named the ArcelorMittal Orbit, will be placed in the Olympic Park and will be 22m higher than New York’s Statue of Liberty. The £19.1m design incorporates the five Olympic rings and will offer visitors panoramic views of London.

They are also now preparing for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with a Solar Powered Waterfall.

An innovative Solar Powered Water Fall – ” Solar City Tower”, located atop the island of Cotonduba is said to be the welcome symbol to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

This 105 meter tower is meant to supply energy for all of the Olympic city, as well as also for part of Rio. It pumps up water from the ocean to create what appears like a water fall. This stimulates turbines that produce energy during the night. The Tower will consist of an amphitheater, an auditorium, a cafeteria, boutiques, and a top floor observation deck with a 360 degree breathtaking view of Rio. Oh, and for thrill seekers, they say there will be bungee jumping too!

This renewable energy generating tower is created by RAFAA Design. They say, “At night, the water is released to power turbines, which will provide nighttime power for the city. On special occasions water is pumped out to create a waterfall over the edges of the building” and it is  “a symbol for the forces of nature.” Info on the size of the solar and pumped water storage system is not available yet.

Cost?  A LOT!