Bella Vida by Letty


Visiting Starved Rock Illinois State Park Near Chicago

Visiting Starved Rock Illinois State Park Near Chicago

When I visit a place I really enjoy exploring and uncovering hidden gems. Since I’m a die hard road tripper this includes surrounding areas of wherever I may be. While I visited Chicago last summer I searched for things to do within driving distance of the windy city. Starved Rock State park turned out to be the perfect place to spend the day since I love exercising outdoors and being surrounded by nature.

Visiting Starved Rock Illinois State Park Near Chicago

Starved Rock State Park is only a one and half hour drive from the city of Chicago along the south bank of the Illinois River. It is a pleasant surprise since most of Illinois consists of flat prairies. It was formed thousands of years ago by melting glaciers. The water rushed and eroded everything except the sandstone. Today you can see steep rock walls, cool dark valleys, bluffs, gorges and canyons.

This beautiful park has many things you can do: hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing, etc. There are cabins and of course the Lodge for extended visits.

hiking tip

Planning your Visit

Before you go I highly recommend checking the website or calling the park for conditions. I visited on a very hot afternoon toward the end of July. The park had experienced lots of flooding, which meant parts were inaccessible which limited the things to do. Flooding is common in the area and some people even recommend hiking in rain boots. So call ahead and find out what to bring.

Upon arrival we parked near the lodge where there were plenty of empty spaces. Head inside and grab yourself a map. They have a visitor’s center, gift shop and dining if you need supplies. In addition there are many other lots to park at depending on how long or far you want to go and what you want to see.

Visiting Starved Rock Illinois State Park Near Chicago

Since we were only there for a few hours we chose the trail leading us to the bluff and gorgeous views of the Illinois River. It was very hot that day. You can experience all four season on any given day in Illinois so I recommend layers you can take off and put on as needed. Each person in the group had their own water and snack supply. These are not easy trails. If you do not exercise regularly you may find the trails challenging. The boardwalk has many many many stairs, which take you up and down for miles and miles. There are also dirt paths you can take all throughout the park. Some were quite muddy and we had to make many detours. Our trail led us through a lush green forest of oak and hickory trees, through the canyon and to a grand view of the Illinois River.

Visiting Starved Rock Illinois State Park Near Chicago


Hours: Visitors Center: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00pm

Prices: Free to Public. Prices for tours, activities and boat rentals vary.


This is one place I would love to come back and visit to explore the other trails. During the springtime there are waterfalls and during winter ice falls and that is something I’d love to see.

Have you been?



Inspire others. Share this!

Share this on Twitter

Visiting Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center is a great place to stop and stretch your legs.  Located in a beautiful setting in Key Largo beside the gorgeous Florida Bay is a maze of boardwalks taking you past an incredible amount of bird species.

What is it?

It’s not a zoo or a theme park but a bird rehabilitation center dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating ill, injured or orphaned birds with the goal of releasing them.  The birds at the center are either recuperating or unable to survive in the wild.

The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center is a charitable organization and relies on donations to keep the Wildlife Hospital running and all the associated expenses of caring for the birds.

Things to do.

Take a self guided tour along boardwalks and nature trails for a close up look at a variety of bird species like hawks, ospreys, spoonbills, owls, egrets, etc.  On the day I went they even had an adorable little hummingbird.  You never know what you might see.  The employees are very knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions.

The resident birds live in spacious creative screened enclosures but you will see free birds like pelicans and egrets hanging around as well.

Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

At the end of the boardwalk you will find an amazing nature trail along a wetlands area with some of the most beautiful views of the bay.  There are even places for you to sit.  It’s the perfect spot for photography lovers.

Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

The center is free to visit but you are welcome to make a donation.  You will really want to do so if you get the opportunity to visit.

Helpful Travel Tip

The best time to go is early morning.  There is a pond off the bay where you can photograph wild birds coming to feed.  Morning is also the best lighting for your photographs.  I went around four pm and had to deal with very harsh bright lighting.

Helpful Travel Tip

You cannot see the place from the road.  A medium sign directing you to the place is all you will see.  Drive down to the end of the road to reach your destination.

 Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

Have you been here yet?  What did you see on your visit?

Can you tell from the photos I absolutely fell in love with the bay?


Inspire others. Share this!

Share this on Twitter

One of the Most Beautiful Places in Florida Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs Florida State  Park

Florida has so many incredibly beautiful places to see.  It’s a treat to wander about the grand state in search of new surprises.  This time I decided to take a road trip to the north western area just under the panhandle.  We spent days zigzagging through hilly back roads where all you saw were cows, horses and farms.  You will find many wonderful state parks throughout that area.

Rainbow Springs Florida State  Park

Visiting Rainbow River State Park is a treat for the eyes.  Upon entering you will see the most beautiful crystal clear waters in shades ranging from jade to baby blue.  Crystalline clear blue waters flow from the springs which you can see bubbling in the white sand.

Rainbow Springs Florida State  Park

Yes you can swim here however because there are alligators you must remain in the designated area.  The water is clean, clear and very cold this time of year.  They say you get used to it once you jump in.  Go for it.

Rainbow Springs is the perfect place for canoeing and kayaking which are available for rent.  There are also many beautiful trails that will take you through gardens and more than one waterfall.  There are many places to picnic and camp.

Rainbow Springs Florida State  Park

Archaeological evidence shows these springs were used by people dating back 10,000 years ago.  It was an important place for clean water, food and fishing as well as transportation.  The springs are timeless and a wonderful way to spend the day.    There are plenty of picnic areas and pavillions for family gatherings.  The gorgeous scenic setting is great for spending romantic quality time.   Have you been?


“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”  Sylvia Plath

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”  Margaret Atwood

“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.” William Shakespeare

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein

Inspire others. Share this!

Share this on Twitter


“Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

No one can take your hope away.  Continue to dream big and take the steps to lead you there.


“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” President Barack Obama

“We dream to give ourselves hope.” Amy Tan

“Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
Emily Dickinson

“Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star…” E.E. Cummings

Inspire others. Share this!

Share this on Twitter

A Look at 2012 in Photos

A moment to look back at the photos I’ve taken this year and share some of the things I have learned.

South Beach Florida Sunrise
Sunrise in South Beach, Florida

The year began with this quote:
Today and everyday I will live a life true to myself, not the life others expect.

Everglades Florida Sunset
Florida Everglades
Florida Everglades sunset
Finding the courage to take action begins with loving yourself and knowing that you are good enough.
Altered Light Graffiti Photography
Altered photo of fire dancer
I encourage you to create content and share it. 
Altered Light Graffiti Photography Fire Dancer
Fire Dancer Light Graffiti
We are constantly building … destroying and re-creating our reality.
Blowing Rocks Jupiter Florida
Jupiter, Florida
Today what will be, will be and that’s okay.
florida sunsets
My goal in life is to be my truest best self. 

Sueno por que el alma necesita volar



May the new year bring you everything you desire.
Join me as I take steps to continue building, learning and growing.

Inspire others. Share this!

Share this on Twitter

Soaring With the Little Gifts I’ve Been Given

“Man’s hope can paint a purple picture, can transform a soaring vulture into a noble eagle or morning dove.” Ralph Ellison

Florida Beaches

We each have our own ways of dealing with tragedy and mine is to soar with the little gifts left behind for us. They are truly precious and I know I’m lucky to receive them. Little gifts gently shed the weight of sadness and negativity off my shoulders not allowing my heart to grow stone cold with indifference. Little gifts are the reminders of what we know to be true. Little gifts fill me with love and light. I rise. I rise until I’m soaring above it all because I already have the only weapon I need and that is love. Practicing and teaching compassion is the cure.

My little gifts are the reminders of what is true:
– Every human is valuable
– It’s okay to cry
– Crying is an outlet of intense emotions
– Love gives us courage
– We need each other
– We receive much more by giving
– Helping others always helps ourselves
– We are capable of so much love
– The future requires unity
– The future requires compassion
– I am love
– I’m not afraid to love
– Every positive action creates a reaction
– We already have the answers
– We are not alone
– I am capable of change
– I have so much love to give
– Emotions are universal

Thank you for my little gifts may you rest in peace.

Florida Beaches

“The higher we soar the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” Helen Keller

“When love has fused and mingled two beings in a sacred and angelic unity, the secret of life has been discovered so far as they are concerned; they are no longer anything more than the two boundaries of the same destiny; they are no longer anything but the two wings of the same spirit. Love, soar.” Victor Hugo

“The bird that would soar above the plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. ” Douglas Adams

Happy is he whose thoughts soar like the lark to sing,  As through the morning skies, in freedom, he ascends,  Who, gazing down on life, completely comprehends The language of the flowers and every speechless thing!” Charles Baudelaire

“The doubters said, “Man can not fly,”
The doers said, “Maybe, but we’ll try,”
And finally soared In the morning glow
While non-believers Watched from below.”  Bruce Lee


Sharing with Miercoles Mudo

Inspire others. Share this!

Share this on Twitter

Things to do in Jupiter

Things to do in Jupiter
I feel lucky living in the beautiful gigantic state of Florida where there are limitless places for adventuring.  I’m very spontaneous and there are days when I wake up needing to hit the road. One of the day trips I planned this year was to Jupiter Florida. To be honest I picked the town cause the name is funny.  I had to see it for myself.  I’m am really great at planning fun trips if I do say so myself.  Check out what I did.

The first stop in Jupiter was the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, a nature refuge center and wildlife hospital.  The sanctuary has beautifully laid out trails with native trees and plants with plenty of shade and places to sit.  In addition there is an absolutely perfect spot to have lunch, you can even bring your own, under a large shelter with covered picnic tables.  

They have an impressive wide variety of native animals from eagles to panthers, crocodiles, foxes, snakes, eagles, otters, bears, etc.  All of the animals are either being treated to be released or rescued and permanently in residence.  The staff is incredibly well informed and eager to share their knowledge.  They even shared where the animals came from and how they were being taken care of.  One staff member was substitute mom for possum babies which she took home with her at night for feedings.


“The Busch Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of Florida’s wildlife and natural resources.  To accomplish this goal the Sanctuary has a two fold mission of wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education.”

If you are looking for a great place to donate this is it.  They genuinely care about each animal brought into the facility.

For the next stop in the Florida town of Jupiter we headed to the beach and stopped at Blowing Rocks, an environmental preserve on a barrier island made out of limestone.  The perfect spot to relax, watch waves and get sprayed.  When I first arrived it was a bit stormy which made for fun, lots of spraying as the waves crashed forcefully into the limestone.


I literally spent the rest of the afternoon watching the waves and clicking away with my camera.   It was a family friendly relaxing day trip.

Inspire others. Share this!

Share this on Twitter

Mastering your Point of View

Maunabo Puerto Rico

Point of view:
A position from which something is observed or considered; a standpoint.

In photography you can change the way your subject is perceived by changing the camera position. The position, direction and height of the camera define the point of view of a picture.

In literature the narrative point of view determines through whose perspective the story is viewed.

In painting perspective is an approximate representation of an image as it is seen by the eye.

Tree Tops Park

As an artist, when I’m creating or brainstorming I’m constantly searching for a different point of view.  In each of my photographs I am revealing my style.  If you look at the photos above; they were each taken at different locations, different cameras and even different years but there is something tying them together.  It is my palpable point of view.

It’s my style = the brand I’ve created as: ©BellaVidabyLetty

When you are creating, painting, writing, etc. how do you decide upon point of view?


“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Henry Ford

“There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.” Goethe

“There are neither good nor bad subjects. From the point of view of pure Art, you could almost establish it as an axiom that the subject is irrelevant, style itself being an absolute manner of seeing things.” Gustave Flaubert


more examples of my photography

Inspire others. Share this!

Share this on Twitter