Pensacola Beach, FL | Part 1

I haven’t written anything here lately, because, well, I haven’t traveled anywhere is a year! How sad is that?

This past week, the family and I traveled to Pensacola Beach, Florida for my ‘lil sister’s wedding. Can I get a “whoohoo!”?

This post will be in two parts. Part 1: the hotel and beaches; Part 2: area attractions.


Let’s begin with the first thing you check out when traveling…your hotel. We stayed at Quality Inn and Suites in Gulf Breeze. Gulf Breeze is a quick trip from Pensacola (15 minutes from the airport), over the bridge, situated in the Bay. From the hotel it’s a quick drive over another bridge (this one is a toll of $1) to the infamous Pensacola Beach.

quality inn at gulf breeze

The huge swan on the beach, view from the lobby, view from the beach, the cafe and the marina

quality inn at gulf breeze

On the beach at sunset, in the pool at sunset, first time in the water and a view of the private beach

We choose to stay at one of the Choice Hotels® when traveling, but  this Quality Inn was a bit of a let down. It’s just your average hotel. There are no bells and whistles here. It’s a room with double beds and  a small bathroom. The room was clean. Am I the only one who checks the mattress for bed bugs upon walking into a hotel room? Anyway, clean is always good, but it was dim and small. But, we are in Florida…we were just sleeping there, so what else do you need? I felt the price was a little high considering you don’t get a free breakfast, which is almost standard at other Choice Hotels® franchises. There is a restaurant with good breakfast (we only ate breakfast there) and you receive a discount when staying at the hotel.

The view from the hotel is really what you are paying for here. It sits right on the bay with its own private sandy white beach. Seriously, take a drink to the beach and watch the sunset.every.single.night. The water is calm for the little ones to build sand castles, look for seashells, and frolic in the water. The pool overlooks the bay and was clean. My kids enjoyed it very much.

If I have to pick apart the hotel then this might sound pety…The wifi was spotty. The password and username didn’t allow for continuous log in. Once your device goes to sleep, you must log in again and again. For teens and tweens trying to post to Facebook or Instagram it can be aggravating. Our cable TV didn’t work. We only had local channels. Maintenance tried to fix it but couldn’t. They offered us a different room but for the inconvenience of moving all our stuff we chose not to. And, how much TV were we really watching? Not much. They have an on-site washer and dryer, but the soap dispenser was out of order requiring a trip to Walmart for detergent.  If a hotel offers an amenity, they should make sure it works, or don’t advertise it.

Pensacola Beach

pensacola beach, fl

The infamous Pensacola Beach sign

pensacola boardwalk

Pensacola Beach boardwalk

pensacola beach, fl

In the sand dunes

pensacola pelican

Acting goofy at Island Authority

Pensacola Beach is famous for its white sand and night life. You will know it by the huge beach ball sign high in the air. We were there Memorial Day weekend (Sunday). It was crazy busy. I was told by locals that this beach is always like that on weekends, not just holiday weekends. That being said, we still had fun. My girls have never been to a beach, or swam in an ocean, or in this case, the Gulf.

The water, well, I expected it to be crystal clear blue water. It was not. It had a brownish tint. Locals told me it depends on if there were storms recently. Some days its blue and other days, not so much. It wasn’t gross or anything like that. It just wasn’t what I envisioned.

This area is where the large, bells and whistle hotels are located. This is also where you can find 1500 different t-shirts with the words “Pensacola Beach” stamped across the front. Souvenirs? They got ’em.

Navarre Beach

navarre beach 3

Bring your sand toys

navarre swimming

Best. Day. Ever.

navarre sand dollar

found sand dollar

navarre beach

Let’s pose

navarre beach

This was the wedding day, a red flag warning, no swimming in the gulf

navarre beach wedding

‘Lil sis and hubby, just wed

Need a little slice of Florida heaven away from the crowds? Try Navarre Beach Park. Just a short and scenic drive down Gulf Boulevard (past Pensacola Beach) is this little gem. This is where the locals know to go. We were there Memorial Day. We pulled into the Navarre Beach Park. Normally it cost to get in by the car load ($8), but it was a holiday, so it was free. There are pavilions with picnic tables to get out of the hot sun and have lunch. Now, there are other park areas that do not charge a fee and have pavilions. We just happened to be there on a free day. Also, located there is Navarre Beach Pier, the longest pier in the Gulf. There is a charge to stroll the pier. You can get a fishing license and rent a pole to drop a line.

The water is crystal clear blue. Beautiful! Collect seashells, maybe find a live sand dollar, or spot dolphins jumping in the water (we did!). My sister was married on Navarre Beach later in the week. We packed lunches and drinks to spend pretty much the whole day there. It was the best day ever. If we had time in our schedule, and it hadn’t rained for two days, we would have been back to this beach. Truly, this is a great beach for families. And, there are plenty of condo rentals in this area of Navarre beach.

Word of caution about the beaches: Respect the water and pay attention to the flag warnings. There were several water related deaths reported while we were in Pensacola.  Oh, and use a lot of sunscreen! If you think you are using enough sunscreen, add more.

* * * * *

Later this week…attractions in Pensacola, FL and Mobile, Al.

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Aspens Gold

Photos from a recent trip to Guanella Pass for a little Aspen viewing:











Photos available for at Redbubble. Photos by Jeri Stunkard, all rights resrved. If you like it, Pin it, but don’t copy it. Thanks!

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Tanganyika Wildlife Park | Wichita, KS

This past weekend we headed to Wichita to visit family. My little sis was very excited to take us to Wichita’s newest zoo, Tanganyika Wildlife Park.

Although Tanganyika is small compared to many zoos, it is packed with wildlife that you can get eye-to-eye with.


Gibbon Island is so much fun to watch!

During our visit the Gibbons were having fun swinging around and had no problem voicing their pleasure with the beautiful weather. At least that is what I believe they were “talking” about.

Tanganyika is a 100% private zoo supported by visitors.

red kangaroo

Red Kangaroo

Many of the Red Kangaroos had joeys in their pouches. Of course, these are wild animals and you must be cautious and take care that your children are not touching or petting the animals in a way that would aggravate them. We were instructed to only pet the kangaroos on their back.


Who doesn’t love goats?


I want a goat…


…and a bunny rabbit (or two)!


Lemur Island

The zoo highlight is the ONLY Lemur feeding island in the United States. Although you can not touch or pet the lemurs, just have a seat on the rocks and a lemur is sure to climb up into your lap!


Don’t pet the lemurs!


You can chat with the lemurs.


Giraffe having a snack.


Feeding the giraffe lettuce.

And, feeding the giraffes are always fun for kids. Be sure to grab some tokens beforehand to buy lettuce from staff members.

This is one of the best zoos we have been too. It’s small and compact, so you don’t spend too much time walking before you see some animals. There was also an opportunity to ride a camel; not one of our kids chose to do so. Also on exhibit is white tigers, pandas, penguins, lions, leopards and birds, oh my!

If you are in the Wichita area,  this zoo is a mush see. Other zoos in the area are the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita and Rolling Hills Zoo located near Salina, KS. We have been to both and they are worth the visit.

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Craving Greek. Opa!

It’s been awhile, I know. Well, I haven’t been anywhere worth writing about lately. It’s cold, and it’s winter, and I was busy playing nursemaid to hubby who had back surgery. But, then it was my birthday…and I got my choice of dinners.

I am Craving Greek, baby.

You may be thinking, where do you get great Greek food in Denver? Two words: Axios Estiatorio.

Located on 39th and Tennyson, Axios Estiatorio is so much more than Gyros wrapped in foil. Oh, they do have Gyros, sans foil. You have to know that hubby’s one and only experience with Greek food was with a Gyros.

Hubby and I both found Axios’ food to be a delightful mix of traditional Greek dishes with a modern twist. The staff was super friendly and quick to educate us on Greek cuisine. The waitstaff was obviously proud of the menu. The decor is modern and trendy without being pretentious.

Opened in fall 2011, Axios Estiatorio is the sister restaurant of Jake and Telly’s Greek Taverna in Colorado Springs.

Our Mezze (Starter) was Keftedes Meatballs (Lamb-Tomato Sauce, Kefalotiri Cheese, Pita $9).

greek meatballs

Keftedes Meatballs

These meatballs were served with warm pitas. Hubby ordered an extra order of pitas to finish scooping up the tomato sauce! Although the meatballs were a little spicy for both of us (probably not that spicy for most people), the sauce was excellent. Oh, hubby never had a pita in his life…except on that one Gyros.

greek halibut


It was a tough choice but hubby surprised me when he chose to order the Halibut with salad and potatoes. He has never ordered fish in a restaurant, unless it was fried. Again, excellent and perfectly cooked.

We both agreed that we should return to try the Rabbit Stifado (Braised Rabbit, Rabbit Sausage, Quince, Chipolini Onions, Orange Marmalade, House-Made Pasta, Kefalotiri Cheese $17), and the Lamb Giouvetsi (Slow-Braised Lamb Shank, Roasted Tomato Lamb Sauce, Orzo Pasta, Squash, Swiss Chard $24).



I came into Axios with my mouth ready for Spanakopita, I was talked into the Kreopita (Spanakopita’s cousin with Lamb). I am so happy I tried it! It was a perfect combination of spinach, feta, lamb, and Filo pastry.

Although the Baklava was calling my name, we opted for saving desert for birthday pie later in the evening with friends.

So, if you’re in the mood for Greek, looking for some place new to try, or never tried Greek…give Axios Estiatorio a go! You won’t be disappointed.


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Golden, Colorado Holiday Lights

christmas lights, golden colorado

My old friend, Ray, let me in on a little secret: Downtown Golden is the place to be for Christmas lights.

christmas lights

He told me of a very large tree where each delicate branch is wrapped in lights like a canopy of brightly colored stars.


christmas lights

christmas lights

christmas lights

golden colorado

christmas lights

golden lights

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First snow of the season.

  • Yesterday Denver got its first snow of the season. Only about 3 inches in the city. The mountains got more. Which got me thinking: why not head to the high country to shoot the snow?

rocky mountainsFirst stop: Red Rocks Park in Morrison, Colorado.

morrison coloradoRed Rocks in black and white.morrison, coloradorocky mountainsOn a whim I headed up Hwy. 285 through Turkey Creek Canyon to Confier, Colorado. Then, I took a hard right and followed the signs towards Evergreen.evergreenI came to a screeching halt when I saw this red barn. Don’t you think it would make a cute, wintery Christmas card?christmas card ideasI stopped at Evergreen Lake. It was peaceful and serene. Hardly anyone was out walking expect a few lone dog walkers.rocky mountainsI then meandered home over Lookout Mountain above Golden, Colorado.rocky mountainsThis is why I live here.


Do you like my photos? Check out my store at Redbubble.
© Jeri Stunkard

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The trip that changed my life…

In this month’s issue of NatGeo Traveler magazine this question was posed to readers:

“What travel experience changed your life?”

I was a teenager living in rural Missouri, desperately wanting to explore the world. I dreamed of seeing Paris, London and New York City. But, it was a trip to the Rocky Mountains that would win my heart.

It was the mid-80s, Bryan Adams was blaring through my headphones, and we were headed to Disneyland in California via I-70 through Colorado.

Any other teenager would have displayed a variety of angst being locked up in a car for over 1,700 miles with her little sister, mother and mom’s live-in boyfriend. (Thanks to the afore-mentioned Canadian to keep me company!) However, I don’t remember any teenage angst, although I am sure my mother would remember it differently.

I remember the excitement and sense of adventure I felt seeing states I had never seen before. At 15, I had never been out of the state of Missouri.

With adolescent exuberance my lil’ sis and I made a sign that said, “California or bust!” to display in the back car window. Our mother popped our bubble and told us to take it down. She may have popped that bubble but she couldn’t squash my excitement.

This trip changed my life in two ways.

First, the road trip was full of mishaps—too many to post here—but it taught me to have a it’s-not-the-destination-but-the-journey-attitude.

These mishaps were a crash course on adapting to sudden and unforeseen changes in travel plans. Sometimes (most times) a trip doesn’t go exactly as planned, or how you envisioned in your mind. And, although it’s not a perfect trip, it’s okay. These trips are likely to become some of the most memorable trips. The kind you can laugh about later, much later.

Secondly, we drove to California through Colorado. I was mesmerized by the majestic Rocky Mountains, the splendor of the tree-lines interstate, the rambling pristine rivers running below, and the fresh air.

Oh, how the air smelled fresher somehow.

Thus, my love for the mountains was born. I would travel through Colorado two more times in my teen years, and each time I would greet the mountains like a long lost friend.

Although, at the time, I dreamt of going to school in NYC, the mountains were calling. I had to go.

It was four years after that first visit that I moved to Colorado to attend art school. It was the ultimate journey of leaving the only home I had ever known and finding the home I can’t imagine ever leaving.

I have called Colorado home for 21 years now, and in a short 30 minutes I can be in the mountains hiking a trail along a stream and breathing in the fresh air.

And, there’s not place I’d rather be.

So, what travel experience changed your life?

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Rainbow Lakes, Nederland, Colorado

Finally, I got out-of-town and into the mountains I love! This past weekend was possibly the last chance to see the Aspens in all their glory of gold and orange. Taking the advice of a friend we headed up Hwy 119 from Boulder to Nederland, Colorado.

iPhone photosOn the way, we stopped at Boulder Falls. The falls are a short hike from the highway but could be slippery, so watch your step.

lake reflectionsRainbow Lakes is located in the Glacier Travel Zone in Indian Peaks Wilderness of Rosevelt National Forest.

The Details:
Round Trip: 1.9 miles moderate hike (However, if you are not used to hiking at this altitude, be sure you are physically fit to attempt it.)
Elevation: Start at 10,010 feet, gain +270 feet
Pets: Dogs are allowed on leash
Related Trails: Sourdough Trail at Brainard Lake, Long Lake-Jean Lunning Loop Trail and Lost Lake
Camping: Campground June 1 through Sept. 15 with permit

roadThe road to Rainbow Lakes is washboard gravel. A high profile vehicle is recommended although we drove up in a mini van without a problem. We just had to go slow in some places.

hiking in coloradoHiking through heavy spruce and some Aspen. I was really proud of my 5 and 10-year-old. The hike stepper than they are used to. But they were little troopers. And the reward was the lake and skipping rocks!

hiking trails

Rainbow Lakes is a series of nine connected lakes and beaver ponds that lie beneath the Continental Divide. Note: The main trail does not reach every lake, although well-defined trails and a good map will help you explore the area.

Above is the first of the lakes…looking more like a pond, with the Continental Divide as a backdrop. (.35 miles from trailhead, 10,202 feet elevation)

aspen treesAbove is the second lake (.6 miles from trailhead, 10,230 feet elevation). The trail continues past a marshy meadow. The girls were done with the nature time at this point, so we didn’t continue up the trail.

Coming back down Hwy. 119 there are plenty of Aspen photo opportunities:

autumn colors

Aspen grove. Even though my lens hood is showing in this photo, I love the color!

autumn color in colorado

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Chargers, Mustangs, GTOs, oh my!

Do you plan your family vacations around a stop to the closest muscle car museum? Does the sight of a rare Mopar get your heart pounding? Does muscle cars from the 50s, 60s & 70s get your engine running? Does the words “450 HP 454 cubic inch engine” make you drool?

If you answered “yes” to one, or all, of these question then I have a place for you!

Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville, Tennessee. Sevierville is just 35 minutes from Knoxville and approx 30 minutes from Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains.

muscle carsWall-to-wall legendary muscle cars, although ,sadly, there was one star missing…A Plymouth Superbird. But, that didn’t stop my husband from oohing and aahing all the way down the isles.

camaroExperience the golden era of “muscle cars” featuring over 9o cars totaling over $8 million.

hemi$9.75 (adult) gets you admission to the showroom, and you’re allowed to take all the pictures you want.

gto judgeThe cars don’t disappoint, however, the gift shop does. My husband, who owns almost every muscle car t-shirt known to man, didn’t even find something to purchase. But, really, you’re not going there for the t-shirts, so I can let that one slide.


mustandFor the record, my husband answered “yes” to all the above questions. And, because I am the most awesome wife ever…I tagged along and played photographer.

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Trip of a lifetime alert

Who: Enrichment Voyages

When: December 2012

How long: 4 glorious weeks

Where: To Central and South America and the Caribbean, more specifically: Nassau, Bahamas; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Cartagena, Colombia; Colon, Panama; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Callao, Peru; Manta, Ecuador; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Corinto, Nicaragua; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; and San Diego, California.

How: Camels and Chocolate

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