Posted on August 28th, 2018 at 6:46 PM by admin

Where is Moran, MI you may ask? Well it is in the UP! A place that I admittedly have not explored much even though it is a part of my home state! It was only a 4 day trip but it definitely hit the perfect ratio of relaxation, exploration, and laughs…many many laughs!


The cabin style house we stayed at was right on a lake. Although we did have a considerable amount of rain while we were there, the view was both beautiful and peaceful. Most of the time we cooked food and socialized at the house but we had two very entertaining excursions. One of them was the mystery spot. I thought this was going to be kind of disappointed but it actually delivered. This spot had some weirdly altered gravitation force that leaned to the east (or at least that was how it was explained). They built a house with a bunch of weird angles to illustrate the strangeness. I felt woozy after this excursion but it was interesting enough to make it worth it.


The next day we went to Tahquamenon Falls. I’ve seen falls all over the world and these are definitely up there in majesty. It was a rainy day but still a lot of fun to walk through the park and take lots of pictures. Walking through parks is one of my favorite vacation activities so I was really happy to check this box.

My favorite pic of the Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Since this friends-trip is starting to become a tradition I forced this group for what is our 2nd annual commemorative photo. Can’t wait until next year’s trip!

“The Group”

Posted on February 26th, 2018 at 8:41 PM by admin

Friday we went to the Big Beach. At this point in the trip our daughter was really getting into the boogie boarding and we thought let’s give her some big waves at the Big Beach. Unfortunately, she came back after just a few minutes as one of the waves had pummeled her. A few minutes later someone came on a portable loudspeaker telling the beach-goers that the waves are breaking hard at the shore and it was unsafe to board. Whoops! That was a bit of a bummer but we hung out on the beach for a while anyway and watched the crazies that chose to ignore the warnings.
For lunch we hit up a food truck that was literally sitting in the beach parking lot. I think it was the first time I’d ever tried fish nachos. Pretty much anything with fish or seafood in it on this island was phenomenal and the fish nachos were no exception to this rule.  In the evening we took the kids to a traditional Luau in Wailea. I will admit that this was the only meal I ate the entire 9 days on Maui that didn’t quite settle in my stomach just right. And that’s saying a lot as I have what you might call a sensitive digestive track and I was eating raw fish nearly every day!  Anyway, the weather, the gorgeous sunset and the talented dancers at the Luau made for a very enjoyable evening

Luau background at sunset

Luau dancers 🙂

Since we’d been eating breakfast at the condo most days on our last full day on Maui we decided to go out to breakfast not far from our condo at 808 Bistro. Here I got a deliciously savory dish with banana bread french toast on the side. Afterwards, you might have guessed that we went back to the beach. But this afternoon we did actually do something else. We hopped on a boat and went whale watching! A woman came up to me before we even left the dock asking if I was ok. I might as well have had a sign on my forehead that said “I AM MOTION SICK.” Luckily I’ve learned know hot to keep it in check for the most part. The area we went into was a whale sanctuary. We saw lots of big tails waving to us, baby whales learning to jump (just thrusting up their heads) and adult whales making full leaps. The adult leaps were few and far between but the 3-4 times it happened it literally took my breath away.

whale watching doesn’t necessarily lend itself to whale photographing but we tried

View as we were docking after whale watching

On day 7 we could’ve rested for what was bound to be a very long day (red eye flights back to the continental U.S.), but instead we decided to hit as many additional tourist sites as we possibly could in the daylight hours. First we drove up the Haleakala crater. I was worried about how cloudy it was but Maui guy said you always have to drive through clouds but that at the top it usually clears up. Boy was he wrong. Well he was right that we’d drive through them but nothing cleared up at the top. So I guess that hour and a half that my wife was hugging the steering wheel because the road was so close to cliff was all for nothing. I did take a few very cloudy pics here and there but I can’t say I have much to show for this adventure.

I looked up online what this view should’ve looked like and cried a little :-/

After the somewhat disappointing Halekala trip my wife and I figured we should sooth our souls with some wine from Maui’s only winery! We did a tasting of several different wines including a delicious syrah. But most unique were the pineapple wine offerings and the raspberry desert wine that was like 20% ACV. Dizamn that was strong! Luckily we were able to soak up some of that alcohol right across the street at what was clearly a cute little store and farm to table pub!?! We had fresh lamb and bison burgers with kimchi on the side. I can still taste it…yum yum yum!
After lunch it was off to a lavender farm. This adventure was on my wife’s list to do and while I wasn’t against  I figured we’d just see blankets of purple, take a few pics and call it a day but there were so many more interesting plants to see. Many stunningly unique views provided a plethora of photo ops.

beautiful view

utterly cool lookin’ tree

love these plants

My and my daughter at the lavender farm

Posted on February 21st, 2018 at 8:39 PM by admin

Wednesday was day three on Maui for us and something very rare happened that day. Both my wife and I cooked a meal together. Our daughter was quick to take a picture of this obviously noteworthy moment. Unfortunately I had to go to the dr due to an infected hang nail and sat out of the going to the beach with my family this day but I did make a turn around for evening festivities. I just needed a little treat to make me feel better. If you’ve been to Hawai’i maybe you guessed that the treat I’m talking about is called “shave ice.” I will say that there was day’s of arguing with my wife whether the correct term was “shaved ice” or “shave ice” but in the end I was atypically right with “shave ice.” Sometimes grammar loses.

OMG – we are both cooking. AKA – I am cooking too!

shave ice!!

In the evening we had some excellent drinks and dinner at Pi Artisenal Pizza in Lahaina with my friend and her destination wedding guests. After all, it was my friend’s wedding invite that brought us to Maui and this welcome dinner was a fun night for all. I even got to see the US Women’s National Hockey team win the Olympic gold medal when we got home from dinner. The day definitely turned around for the better!
The weather on day four was a bit odd. The morning was just a touch cloudy but the afternoon brought some light but long lasting rain. Since we had to get fancied up for a wedding in the evening we decided to stay close and literally walked across the street to Charlie Beach. After some sun bathing and boogie boarding we got changed and went to the wedding at Olowahu Plantation House. The rainy mist continued through the ceremony but cleared up during the reception. I  will never forget drinking fresh coconut juice right from the the coconut nor will I ever forget the dude who hacked the coconuts open for like 1.5 hours straight. What a job!!

Posted on February 19th, 2018 at 8:23 PM by admin

We arrived Sunday evening to some rain and really only had time to pick up some take out and head to the condo we rented in North Kihei. Monday morning was our first full day. With the 5 hour time difference we were waking up naturally at about 4am which lent itself nicely to watching the sun rise over Haleakala from our balcony.


Sunrise Over Haleakala

We elected to spend the rest of the day a bit further north up Maui’s western coast at Hanakao’o Beach The journey to this beach was absolutely stunning.

View from the road on the way to Hanakao’o

Beach time!

After laying around at the beach for the afternoon we headed back towards Kihei and stopped at Keawakapu Beach to watch sunset.

Sunset at Keawakapu Beach

After having a relaxing first day we wanted to take on the famous Road to Hana on day two of our trip. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience some motion sickness on the 600 and some hair pin turns over one way bridges with blind entries. But it was certainly worth it. I will just highlight a few of the many beautiful stops along this journey.
The first site, which our app guided tour actually said we could pass up if we were short on time, was Twin Falls. It was a short hike in from the road to these stunning falls. We left wondering what must be to come if the app didn’t consider this stop a “must see.”

Twin Falls

Shortly after Twin Falls Maui guy pointed out that we’d see some rainbow eucalyptus trees. I was struggling to understand what this was going to look like but the bark actually looks painted. I’ve never seen anything like them.

Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree

The Ka’anae Peninsula was truthfully one of my first OMG moments. The ocean, volcanic rock cliffs next to super green trees and plants in Hawai’i is simply unparalleled. I could’ve stayed here all day, but the Road to Hana travels on.

Ka’anae Peninsula view 1

Ka’anae Peninsula view 2

We saw at least 3 or 4 sets of falls on this day trip, but the Upper Waikani Falls, also known as 3 Bears Falls, was one of the most majestic. The falls were very close to the road so my daughter and I even climbed the rocks right up to the water. We didn’t have bathing suites in hand to join the swimmers who looked like they were freezing, but just getting that close was an awesome experience.

3 Bears Falls

Next major highlight? Wai’anapanapa State Park. Black sand beaches, caves, a blow hole that threw water at me from like 20 ft away! This park was nothing short of amazing either. Every time I thought I had seen my favorite thing the next site blew me away again.

Wai’anapanapa State Park

My son and I at Wai’anapanapaState Park

After the state park we had another gorgeous beach to visit called Koki Beach.

Koki Beach

Our app tour guide, who we affectionately nicknamed, Maui guy, told us that many people reach Hana and turn around but he advised us to go a bit past Hana to visit ‘Ohe’o Gulch (7 Sacred Pools). It was a bit difficult to capture the beauty of this place even with a DSLR wide angle lens but I definitively decided this was my favorite site of the day. What a great day to show my daughter how to use her new DSLR camera. Her extraordinary efforts to capture the right perspective for her pictures can be appreciated in the picture below!

Just a fraction of the 360 view at ‘Ohe’o Gulch (7 Sacred Pools)

My daughter getting a pic from the volcanic rock ground view

Posted on March 21st, 2017 at 7:23 PM by admin

Our first morning was nearly a picture perfect Caribbean day. After waking up we went directly to the balcony to see the view. Since our hotel was situated on a corner, every room had an ocean view. Some rooms faced the hotel beach area while ours faced the bay and also gave us a nice view of the capital, Bridgetown. Eager to get some color we brought books and sun tan lotion down to the beach. We sat, laid, lounged and swam a bit with a few tasty rum drinks here and there. For the most part it was a wonderfully lazy day. The most exciting part of the day was in almost losing my Maui Jim sunglasses. Being an expensive gift, I only really wear them on vacation thinking that will make me less likely to lose them – ha!  We searched for them, catching glimpses now and again in between the waves, for about a half an hour. At the point that I was about to give up we heard another tourist say “What an unlikely find!” We quickly ran to him as he was trying on what he might have thought were to be his new sunglasses. He was right about one thing, though. They were an unlikely find indeed. Very glad he was there and that I hadn’t given up yet!


The view from the hammock on the beach at our resort…pure bliss!

That evening we headed north to Oistins for the amazing fish the taxi cab driver told us about. We decided to take a ZR van, one of the public transportation options available on the island. This turned out to be quite an experience. These little white vans are not even as big as an American minivan but boy were they optimized to pack in passengers like sardines. Even the aisle ways turned into seats once the van was nearly full. I couldn’t see the speedometer but the driver took turns like this thing was a little race car, with his colleague standing at the sliding door opening and closing while the vehicle was still in motion. $2 Barbados, or $1 US, takes you anywhere on the island. On the way there the door master, as I’m going to refer to this position, let us know when we were in Oistins but on the way back we were not quite sure where to get off. I looked up, though, and noticed there were doorbells wired into the ceiling of this minivan so that you could indicate when you needed to get off. I got a good laugh at this surely aftermarket creativity and told my wife to give me her best guess at when I needed to “chime in” that we’d like to get out because she is a far superior navigator to me! Managing to keep down my exceptionally fried fresh marlin dinner I was able to enjoy the ZR van adventure. Before turning in we grabbed a few bottles of the award winning local brew, called Banks, and retired to our balcony for a unique night cap.


We had our fresh fish dinner at De Red Snapper. They pronounce the like de and so it shall be written that way too!

The homemade bus stop bells in the ZR van- awesome DIY if i don’t say so myself.

After having already tried the hotel breakfast buffet, on day 2 we decided to just grab a quick pastry from the Cuppa Cafe coffee shop. From there we took a cab to Harrison’s Cave for a tour. The cave was quite a bit inland so we got to see more of the island on the way. At the cave we learned that Barbados, in contrast to all the other Caribbean islands, was not formed from any volcanoes but rather from the collision of the Caribbean and Atlantic plates. This also explains the caves that were formed. Conveniently the limestone caves serve as a natural water purification system for the island. We took many pictures of the stalagmites and stalactites that we were told formed over many thousands of years. Simply amazing to imagine how long this work of art has been creating itself.


Harrison's Cave

Some amazing cave views…

After the cave tour we decided to check out a Spanish named restaurant, Tapas, in the nearby city of Hastings. We had shark, along with some of our other seafood and fish favorites. Everything was super fresh and simply delicious. I had a mango rum drink that was to die for and the ocean side location didn’t hurt one bit either. Being only about a mile north of the hotel we decided to walk back on shoreline to our hotel to meet my parents who were just arriving on the island.




The shoreline view from Tapas restaurant


Walking back to the hotel from Tapas on Hastings beach….Maui Jim’s in tact!

That night we treated my parents to one of the favorite restaurants of our initial cab driver. The restaurant was called Brown Sugar and it was everything you’d expect in a restaurant with home cooking. According to our cab driver, it was a true representation of what the locals eat at home. We had a creole chowder, a grapefruit papaya salad and herb crusted snapper. We even opted for a banana crepe dessert!


Dinner with the parents at Brown Sugar


On our last full day on the island we went on a tour of Bridgetown followed by a rum tasting tour.  I have to say that while there are plenty of tourists on the island at all times there are almost no “tourist shops.” We walked blocks and blocks until we found what I believe to be the one and only place where i could buy a shot glass for my collection. This is the first time I’ve ever had to try so hard to find one. It was almost exciting for it to be such a rarity! After some shopping and your typical downtown monuments we were on to the rum tour! Now by day 3 we had already sampled various rums, learning that rum can be made from cane juice as well as the molasses by-product. Our tour was of the island’s most popular rum, Mount Gay. Mount Gay rum is made from molasses and in contrast to many other rums it’s flavors come only from the traces of what’s on the island combine with the flavor that can be infused by the reused bourbon oak barrels. And just as any fermentation process, the yields depend on how long the rum is aged. Although, the climate in the Caribbean, we were told, ages the rum much faster than a cooler climate would.  I have to say that rum is probably one of my least favorite alcohols but that was before I tasted some of Mount Gay’s offerings, but then again with a name like Mount Gay, how could you really go wrong?!!?!?  The top two rums we sampled were the best I’ve ever tested. We were so impressed, in fact, that we broke down and spent a small fortune in order to bring a few more samples home.


Mount Gay Rum Distillery

That night we were to attend a dinner event with my parents. Little did I know that this event was in a hanger that was storing none other than the famous Concorde. I had heard about this plane that flew so fast it caused sonic booms. We ate dinner under one of its giant wings and even got a quick tour of it. It was a uniquely cool experience and of course there was no shortage of rum or more good food this evening.

All in all we were really impressed with the climate, landscape and authentic, yet still charmingly sarcastic, Barbadian people.  I highly recommend a Barbados visit to all!



Concorde cockpit


Dinner in the concorde hanger

Posted on July 30th, 2016 at 7:22 PM by admin

Clearly it has been quite some time since my last post. I appreciate more and more each day the years of travel I was able to pull off in my 20s before settling down to a more grounded and stable existence in my home country, which I, by the way, also treasure. I miss traveling sometimes but also love not having to do the hard work of constantly moving and adjusting to different culture norms all the time. Ok, back to the post at hand. I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Panama City, Panama with my family. If you’re familiar with the weather in this region you might be wondering why we decided to go there during the rainy season. Our primary purpose was not a vacation but rather to take our son for his second round of stem cell treatments to help treat his cerebral palsy. His first round was back in 2009 in China. Although the China trip was very successful we wanted a closer and slightly less time consuming option which turned out to be in Panama.


Our first several days were our vacation. We attempted to walk around the city but there is a very real lack of sidewalks in this city as well as many areas of pavement that are so damaged that they might as well have not been paved at all. Having said that, there is a beautiful boardwalk that we walked down on the first day. One day we decided to do a tour around the city and the Panama Canal. We got to see the new locks that were recently opened in order to more than double the capacity of the canal. This new portion had just opened about a month before we arrived! One of our favorite parts in town was called Casco Viejo and we returned there on another day in order to see the museum which outlined the history of the Panama Canal. We also walked around the streets and bought some souvenirs and saw some traditional dancing in the center square. We had a reasonably priced lunch with some of the best mojitos I’ve ever had! We managed to pick the one day it didn’t rain to rent a car and drive slightly north to a beach called Santa Clara. The water as very warm and the beach was very clean. It was a wonderfully relaxing day. I also wanted to mention that we found the Panamanians to be incredibly hospitable. One of the servers at our hotel practically treated us like family each day at breakfast!




After a few days of relaxing and lots of sleeping our son started his stem cell treatments. He was not feeling so great the first day but tolerated the next 3 days of quick IV injections quite well. On the third day he started showing advancements. Before the treatments he was able to get off of couches or low beds by scooting off to his knees then falling to his butt. On this day, however, he scooted off a very high bed right on to his feet and was able to stand at the side of the bed as long as he stayed leaning on the bed. Later that day he picked himself off the floor and onto his knees and was leaning on the bed again, also something he has never been able to do unassisted.

I’ve been lucky enough to raise this child for the past 5 years or so of his 10 years of life and seeing his breakthroughs is truly one of the happiest things I’ve ever experienced. He’s such a beautiful soul. Thank you, Naji, for making this vacation such a memorable one. I probably won’t remember where we ate dinner or the facts I learned at the Panama Canal museum but I will never forget watching that video of you getting out of the bed to stand on your own two feet. I can’t wait to see your continued advancements. A special thanks to everyone who donated and/or otherwise lent support for this trip and his treatments. You have played a huge role in Naji’s life and we are all eternally grateful.

The trip ended a bit early for my daughter and I who returned home before my wife and son to get back to the day to day…work…soccer try outs…life!

Posted on March 6th, 2014 at 10:40 PM by admin
Day 4 was a special day. Our group rented out the resort’s private island: Palomino Island. I’ve never been on an island with so many fun activities available. Not only could you rent kayaks and jet skis but you could also play ping pong, basketball, volleyball, paddle ball, chess, bean toss, and mini golf. I might even be missing some activities since there were so many! We also had free drinks all day and lunch. Ahhhh…..that was the life I tell ya! I got my butt whooped as usual playing Dad in ping pong. Then Naomi and I decided to try out the jet skis. Before this occasion I had only ever been on the back of one so I was excited to try out driving one. It was a blast at 30 mph. Unfortunately Naomi got a much slower jet ski but didn’t seem to mind too much as I drove circles around her.

Love the human sized chess boards!


Jet Skiing!!!

Another cool thing about the island was all the iguanas. I got up real close to take many pictures and they didn’t seem the least bit scared or interested in my presence. Despite having so many activities we did spend some time just laying out. Our beach chairs were only 7-8 feet from the waves rolling in and there was a nice strong wind that made us blissfully unaware of how much our skin was burning. The fairy ride out had some roller coaster like moment but the ride back was smooth sailing and what a beautiful view of the island it was from the fairy.

View of Palomino Island from the fairy

Two happy ladies!

That night we had cocktails and dinner outside on a beautiful terrace. Another wonderful vacation day had by all. Although we have another day left in Puerto Rico I will spare you all the details as it is the one day I have to spend in meetings. All small price to pay for such a wonderful vacation!
Posted on March 5th, 2014 at 8:49 PM by admin
That night we had cocktails and dinner outside on a beautiful terrace. Another wonderful vacation day had by all.

For our first full day with the parents we decided to rent a car and venture to the capital city of Old San Juan. The drive was only about an hour and it sure was worth it. Old San Juan is pretty small and we walked through just about the entire city in one afternoon.The highlights? The fortress that still stands around much of the ocean front was very scenic. The cute little houses and cobblestone streets also brought a level of charm that is surely hard to find. At a local restaurant we had our first taste of Mofongo, a Puerto Rican dish that stuffs various meats and/or seafood into mashed plantain. After a leisurely stroll through the city we had some exceptional cocktail at El Toro Salao, a Spanish-Puerto Rican fusion of a bar restaurant. I had a Summer Thyme – nothing beats fresh herbs in a cocktail. Nothing!


So much beauty in this city!

Loved the view uphill this cute little street!

Spanish-Puerto Rican Fusion at El Toro Salao

Mom and Dad enjoying drinks at El Toro Salao


Posted on March 4th, 2014 at 9:36 PM by admin
On day 2 we were ready to explore. We got up early had breakfast with cafe con leche, of course, and then headed to the lobby to meet up for our tour to the El Yunque Rainforest. As soon as we got on the bus and heard our very lively tour guide speaking English with a strong yet totally understandable Puerto Rican accent, I know it was going to be a good time. This was the kind of tour guide that is clearly entertaining enough to himself that entertaining us is a mere bonus. He told us his name but quickly told us to just call him Tooouer Guyyyyde. Typing doesn’t really do the accent justice but I think you can catch my drift. I really enjoyed his Spanglish in many sentences. It was like he didn’t even realize that he was switching between the two languages. It occurred to me that I’ve never been to a country with such impressive bilingualism. Whenever we got out of the bus he said “Vengan guys!” with which he meant “Come on guys!”

On the bus ride we were quizzed about the most common and most popular fruits and given lots of information about local sites. He also had us guess whether or not it was going to rain in the rainforest while we were there. I have to admit that this made me a little nervous as I hadn’t brought a rain jacket or a my water pouch for my $1500 camera. Luckily we determined by the humidity, the clouds and the lack of cows that it was not going to rain. Phew!! The hike we went on was about an hour. We walked down the La Mina trail to a small waterfall and then back up and out through a different trail. Many of our fellow tourers went swimming in the waterfall but I was not feeling that adventurous. Throughout the hike we saw many lizards and lots of awesome views. Being on an island the Puerto Rican Rainforest didn’t really have any mammals, which was interesting and also much less scary than say the Amazon (see my Iquitos post). At the end of the hike we went up the Yokahu Tower and had another beautiful view. On the bus ride back the tour guide suggested we stop for some local street food. Naomi and I got very excited and quickly opted in for the fried meets, rice, beans and tostones (fried plantains). Yum!

Hello little lizard!

Toooouer Guyyyyyyde does tarzan!

love the rocks, water and colors


As we arrived back at the hotel a frantic young man handed me a piece of paper and said “Here, take this. Its for two free drinks.”  Who could say no to that? We promptly went to the poolside bar and ordered our drinks. Afterwords we put on our suits and hung out poolside. It was a nice bit of relaxation time before my parents arrived. They were visiting some friends in Florida and were finally arriving in Puerto Rico to join us for the rest of the trip. The ended up getting in a bit late but still made our reservation at the resort’s seafood restaurant called “Stingray.”  I took the chance to try a fish I had never had before and it was delicious! Just another day in wonderful sunny Puerto Rico.
Posted on March 3rd, 2014 at 9:24 PM by admin
We took our time getting out of bed the first morning and were stunned at the beautiful view out our terrace (see banner picture above). After facebooking our view to make all of our friends jealous, we leisurely headed down to a buffet breakfast. Still tired from the previous work week and our travel day which turned out to be a little longer than expected, we decided our first day in Puerto Rico should be one of pure relaxation. So after taking a few pictures of the surroundings of the El Conquistador Resort we booked a couples massage!! Wow, we both agreed that the two masseuses that worked on us did the absolute best job of releasing our chronic back pain. They were amazing and I wanted to take them home with us so that I don’t have to deal with so much back pain. We definitely took advantage of the foot soaking after the massage which was accompanied by white wine and candied fruit. There we met a nice couple from Atlanta with whom we exchanged exciting travel stories and even some professional tips as the guy was a chef by trade and has been in the restaurant business for 20 some years (opposed to us in our first year!) After that we headed back to the concierge to book a tour to the El Yunque Rainforest the following day.

View of the golf course located at El Conquistador Resort


For dinner we chose the Asian steakhouse which was one of several restaurants the hotel had to offer. It was Benihana style where they cook your food at the table in front of you but instead of the shrimp trick we got spinning eggs. The guy spun an egg and then lifted it up on his metal spatula and flipped it in the air several times while it was still spinning and then he turned it to the side and let is land on the side of the spatula so it split it open – hello chicken fried rice! We were so hungry that we ordered sushi as an appetizer and then got a chicken and shrimp dish on top of it. We ended bringing most of it back to the hotel room – oops!

View from the Atlantic Terrace of the hotel


After dinner we could not help but head over to the ginormous game room that the resort was taunting us with. With only a few people there the cupid shuffle and Karaoke left a lot to be desired but we did enjoy the FREE air hockey and fussball (even if the table was not quite level). We also bought some tokens to shoot some hoops and take some photobooth pictures. Our first day was wonderfully relaxing and fun.