Posted on October 21st, 2018 at 6:41 AM by admin

When you fly from the United States to Germany you are probably taking a “red eye” flight. This was to I’d spend the better part of my weekend starting on a Saturday night. I would first fly to Amsterdam where I had a few hour of layover an then to Hannover. From Hannover I’d get in my rental car and drive about an hour to my final destination, where I’d promptly get read to start the work week abroad. Before having to turn myself over to the work week, though, I thought there must be a way to do something exciting this weekend. Although I’ve traveled fairly extensively in Germany, I actually had never been to Hannover. Based on the time I landed, plus allowing some time for getting my luggage and rental car as well as considering that I didn’t want to arrive at my final destination too late in the evening, I determined I had approximately 3 hours to explore Hannover. But is 3 hours really worth it, you might be asking yourself? It turns out, it sure is!

 

During my layover in Amsterdam I went online and scoped out a few restaurants as well as things I might want to look at full aware, however, that I was going to have to play it by ear given the time constraints and my complete lack of knowledge about this city, whatsoever. Once I got my rental car, an orange VW T-ROC, I started the navigation towards what looked like a lake (Maschsee) in the middle of the city. This is probably a pretty area, I thought to myself.

 

Wow, was it? It certainly helped that somehow in the middle of October it was about 77 degrees but the path from my car to Masch Park was gorgeous. I passed by the Niedersächsischer Landtag (State Parliament of Lower Sachsony) as well as a gorgeous city square that I couldn’t help but photograph. In the park itself, the leaves were starting to turn and the entire path around Maschsee (the lake) was filled with slightly different, but equally spectacular views of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall).

 

Niedersächsischer Landtag (State Parliament of Lower Sachsony)

Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) from side facing Masch Park

Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) from the other side

 

Just a shot of a tree with some beautiful early fall colors in an open square!

Dinner at Zeitfuer with the ambience of the sunset over the Leine River

The famous German “Currywurst”

Posted on October 12th, 2018 at 6:20 AM by admin

Imagine sitting at home chatting with your significant other about your next travel destination. With a warm cup of coffee in hand, you both talk of exotic popular places that could be your next stop–maybe Hawaii, Aruba or even that European spot you want to experience for a first or even a repeated time. I get it, I’ve been there.  What you probably haven’t found yourself saying is “Gee honey, I really think the get-away we’d enjoy most would be to Chattanooga, TN.” But just yesterday, I told my wife that I wish she could join me on my next trip to TN, because it has way more to offer than I had anticipated. But <gasp> Chattanooga?

 

As Chattanooga is located in “the south,” as we Americans refer to the area that prides itself on old-ways and steep traditional values, I, as a very openly (and equally overtly) gay woman, would never think to choose it as a travel destination. But– I. Was. Shocked.

 

I felt surprisingly comfortable in this city and I’m excited to share all I discovered so that you can add Chattanooga to your bucket list of must-see destinations. Let’s start out with the restaurant scene. Are you kidding? There is everything you can imagine here from numerous ethnic cuisines, gluten free options, gastro pubs, and of course good ‘ole southern cooking. I ate at an excellent steakhouse the first night called Rodizio Grill. I think they must’ve thought I was a food critic because who eats at a Brazilian steakhouse alone?  The hostess told me I couldn’t sit at the bar if I wanted to order meat because it’s a safety hazard to bring flaming hot meat out on a stick to the bar.  Despite my desire to have someone at my disposal, for some entertaining banter, I said, “A table for 1 it is.” I mean, I certainly didn’t walk from my hotel to the Brazilian steakhouse to just have the salad bar! Let me just say that ate some meat that night. Let me clarify. I ate every protein they offered via a stick except for two variants of chicken that my expanding stomach told me “were not worth it.” What I have to say about this place is that the Lombo Com Queijo (applewood bacon wrapped pork topped with parmesan) and the frog legs are simply two of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Everything else was solid but if you happen to make it to Rodizio don’t leave without trying these two items. You’re welcome. Because you will thank me! Just ask the 4-some of unassuming people who were sitting behind me. As you might have already guessed I broke into conversation with this group around slab of slightly-different-cow-protein-number 4 when I finally realized I needed to find a bar-tender replacement to entertain me for at least a portion of the night. (Shout out to all my fellow solo travelers who figure this #*#& out!)

Rodizio Grill Menu

 

First plate at the salad bar of Rodizio before all the delicious meat on a stick arrived!

After a full night’s sleep, and all proteins either digested or stored, I was ready to try out the breakfast at my hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn. The quality of this breakfast would definitely dictate how I spent the mornings for the rest of the week. They had a pretty simple breakfast buffet with the usual staples of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and turkey sausage. They also offered omelettes made to order. I stuck to the basics on day 1 and returned a couple of other times later in the week to also try the omelettes. All in all? Solid grub for a hotel.

 

After my first day’s breakfast, I hit the streets, by foot, eagerly seeking out the best coffee I could find. There is just nothing better than “the perfect latte” and I seek it out just about everywhere go.  According to yelp, there was a highly-rated coffee house within walking distance from my hotel. Not only that but it was right in the middle of the Bluff View Art District. I walked into it unknowingly but I do remember thinking how beautiful everything was – landscaping, outdoor art, that cozy feel that only such an area offers. Anyway, getting back to that cup of Joe. The coffee at Rembrandt’s Coffee House doesn’t disappoint. Well, let me restate that: The flavor of this coffee doesn’t disappoint. However, for the first time in my entire life I walked out of a cute little joint and sipped my hot ..no wait…lukewarm latte. Have you every been served a lukewarm latte? Ambience: cozy. Flavor: exquisite. Temperature: barely above room?  Yeah – it was weird. Everything else was so right on that I decided to give this place a 2nd chance. I went back the next day and ordered “an extra hot whole milk latte.” I felt kind of silly until I got it and it was… wait for it…warm, but WOW, this place just needs to learn how to heat their milk.  No worries, though, later I did eventually find that perfect latte.

View across the street from Rembrandt’s Coffee House and the Bluff View Art District.

Tangent alert:

On day 2 I discovered something interesting. The electrical outlets are upside-down in Tennessee. Of course, this is my non-Tennessee-native perspective. Having said that, I’ve traveled all over the US and never seen such a thing. As an electrical engineer (at least by degree) I had to investigate this anomaly. Apparently this is a way to install outlets with a safety feature in case a hot wire falls on a device only partially plugged in. It’s actually so logical that I’m now asking myself why the rest of the country isn’t doing this yet?!?!

After returning back to earth from the electrical safety tangent,  I walked down the street to Blue Water Grill for some wine…I mean dinner too, but mostly wine. This place was slightly more average. Remember the comparison here is a high-end Brazilian Steakhouse. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the giant seafood cob salad and lobster bisque. Yes, I was really craving seafood when I decided to head to this place but the added benefit was that it is really close to the Hilton Garden Inn. I had a nice chat here with a lady who was also in town for work. The bar-tender was also particularly friendly. At one point he pulled out a 500+ page book that he clearly had to read for a class. In case you’re wondering he didn’t pull it out to read, but rather to show all his clients what craziness he had to contend with. “Who has to read all this in one night?” he contended. I couldn’t get over how he seamlessly went from serving food and drinks to each client to having as all engaged in this random exclamation. The shear multi-tasking involved was deserving of the 20% tip I gave.

Night 3 brought me to Sekisui to sample Chattanooga’s take on what is a definite cuisine of choice for me–Japanese!  This one was a little bit longer walk from the hotel. After about 15 minutes of downtown exploration, I was sitting at the bar with my glass of wine and contemplating the menu. I was very impressed by the sashimi and salad options (read: raw fish options without all the rice!) Everything here was speedy and delicious. I also enjoyed the intercultural exchange between the sushi chefs. One was speaking Japanese and the other responding in Spanish. The exchange was so natural that you almost couldn’t tell they were legitimately using two different languages to communicate with each other. It made me smile. I also contemplated saying “Arrigato y Buenas Noches” as I walked out but I chickened out.

On Thursday, day 4, I was determined to push myself beyond the boundaries of food and drink to see some sites. I was able to get out of work at a reasonable hour this day and drove straight to Lookout Mountain without a plan. I ended up at the entrance to Ruby Falls and was just in time for the next tour. This was not my first cave tour, but it was still an impressive one. I’m definitely a fan of stalagmite and stalactite formations you typically find in caves but at Ruby Falls I saw something  I had never seen before: a 145 ft waterfall that lies over 1000 ft below the surface. Wow!

These formations combined with the lighting were among my favorites in the Ruby Falls cave

 

This is the first cave I’ve been to where they interpret the formations. It did add some extra entertainment!

 

The famous underground waterfall at Ruby Falls!

After coming out of the cool cave my body was enveloped by the unseasonably warm 85-degree weather. Having not eaten much, I grabbed some hot dogs (yes hot dogs plural!) and then headed to purchase a souvenir from the gift shop. I asked the cashier casually where I should be when the sun set. She said without pause “Sunset Rock.” I got in my car, loaded the destination into my navigation app and I was off. When I got there, there were precisely 8 parking spots, and every one was taken. I was disappointed but saw that there was a nearby park, so I headed there instead. Point Park turned out to be a blessing in disguise because some of my favorite views of the Tennessee River came from this excursion.

View of the Tennessee River from Point Park

While there I stumbled upon what seemed like a native and asked him if there was any other way to get to Sunset Rock. He said I could hike there from Cravens House. I have to admit, Cravens House  was more than a little difficult to find. I looked it up several times on the internet before I finally found ‘the right address.’ By the time I got there it was about 6:45pm. I had looked up the sunset time earlier on my phone so I knew the sun was going to set at about 7:22pm. Without much time to contemplate, particularly as I saw a sign at the trail-head to allow 2 hours round trip, I started the hike at a brisk pace. As the sun got lower and lower I picked up my pace all the way to an ugly run–I was wearing sandals after all! I decided to put my phone in airplane mode to save battery in case of an emergency situation brought on by a poor decision to start hiking up a mountain shortly before dark.

 

To my relief, I ran into two other ladies who had made the same highly questionable decision. At least we were together in this. It turns out we just made it, or missed it, depending on your definition of “seeing the sun set.” It was gorgeous. I snapped a few photos and then asked another viewer if she could send me the pre-sunset photo that I missed. I mean, seeing it and taking my own photo would have been preferable but you never would’ve known it wasn’t my original if I hadn’t told you, right?

 

There were some nice looking college kids who offered to give me a ride back to where my car was parked because I certainly wasn’t going to press my luck and try to hike back in the dark. I didn’t want to leave the two ladies alone though because I knew they were in the same situation as me. They told me they were thinking about hiking back down to the car, and I urged them not to do so as it would get very dark very fast.  I suggested we take an Uber. One of the ladies took my cue promptly ordered a Lyft ride, and we were on our way.

Helpful tip: Although it looks incomplete this is the only address I could find that actually correctly routed me to Cravens House with my apple navigation app: Cravens Rd., Chattanooga, TN 37409

On the trail…

And some more trail pics that I barely had time to take as I rushed against the speed of the sun!

Almost at the top of Sunset Rock!

 

The sunset pic that I stole from the people who weren’t trying to hike to the top before the sun set!

I made it to the top of Sunset Rock (shortly after the sun set…but it was beautiful nonetheless

After the Lyft dropped me off at my car I drove back into the city to my hotel. Although a bit late, I still wanted to explore some night life, so I parked my car and took a short stroll down the street from my hotel and stumbled upon Hennen’s. I wish I hadn’t already scarfed those hot dogs earlier because everything on this menu was making my mouth water. I ended up ordering a cheese plate which came with a cranberry pecan spread and fig marmalade. The cheeses were not exotic per se but they were really fantastic tasting. Of course, I ordered a nice red wine to pair. We wont’ talk about how I spilled half of it before I could finish.

Hennen’s cheese plate w/ fig marmelade cranberry pecan spread paired with a rich Argentinian Cab 🙂

Friday morning was my last day in Chattanooga and I really wanted to find a superb breakfast joint to round out my culinary exploration in this city. I ended up at The Camp House. This place has a large open seating arrangement and even a stage for live music. I couldn’t help but think maybe I had missed out on a good night time place. As far as breakfast goes, it was an order-at-the-bar kinda place and then they bring you the food when it’s ready. I never quite know hot to “tip” this weird combination of restaurant services. I sat down and opened my computer to do some work, and my food and latte showed up about 10 minutes later. It was a simple dish of fried eggs over easy, bacon and greens but WOW was it good. The greens were arugula with a pesto dressing which was a real pleasant surprise because normally eating greens for breakfast is not that exciting. The latte was also excellent (and the right temperature!)

The Camp House breakfast that I so enjoyed.

So that rounds out my first full week in Chattanooga, TN. Let’s summarize. Food? High quality with something for everyone’s tastes. Climate? A bit humid but shorts and T-shirt weather even in October! Nature? A definite wanderlust haven! Atmosphere? Very chill yet super friendly. I’ll be back, folks!

Posted on September 24th, 2018 at 6:40 PM by admin

Thanks to my daughter’s athletic talent we get to travel a lot to see her play. This time it took us to Milwaukee, WI. The weather was a gorgeous 70-some degrees and sunny pretty much all weekend and her team kicked butt. What did we do other than watch soccer games you might ask?

 

Well, we had a team lunch outing to what I can only guess is a popular college sports bar. I take no blame for this one as it was my wife’s suggestion. The place is called Who’s on Third. When my wife publicized her suggestion almost every parent of my daughters’ teammates thought she meant “Who’s on First.” After clearing up that confusion we spent the usual amount of time trying to find parking in a major city and then eventually decided to pay $10 to park across the street. This place was clearly not prepared for 20 teenage girls and their parents at 11 am on a Saturday but we had no other place to be so we waited for them to process out ginormous order. In the end, the food was pretty darn good so I can’t complain too much that it took like an hour and a half to get my order of 2 eggs, bacon and a side of avocado slices.

Our entertainment while waiting for lunch at Who’s on Third? A large dog with pink glasses riding a motorcycle. Could hardly believe my eyes…

Afterwards we teamed up with another family and decided to explore downtown Milwaukee. I was in search of my standard “new city souvenir,” otherwise known as, a cheesy as hell shot glass with the city name on it.  Yes, I got into this habit 20 some years ago and I just haven’t been able to break it. I keep saying I’m going to display said shot glasses one day but for now they are all accumulating in a box. But I digress…

While walking along the Milwaukee river we stumbled upon what looked like a native Milwaukeean and asked her where we could find the object of my desire. I might was well stop saying “we” because everyone else was just along for the “Julie wants to buy a ridiculous shot glass” ride at this point. It turned out that this young lady was headed to a Public Market Place that had exactly what we were looking for and then some. Not only did I find a shot glass but they also had all kinds of interesting local foods to try and buy. The place was bustling and in addition to the pleasant ambience it also offered me one of the best lattes of my life. Who knows what kind of coffee it was but the locally sourced milk was, no joke, some of the best I’ve ever tasted.  As Americans we know that Wisconsin is known for their dairy but i’m here to confirm that the cheeseheads do not disappoint!

 

 

 

Just another boat on the Milwaukee River

Some art on the Milwaukee River banks

View of the Milwaukee River

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!

Beachside

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.

DeRedSnapper

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.

 

 

ShorelineTapas

The shoreline view from Tapas restaurant

HastingsBeachSelfie

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!

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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.

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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!

 

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Concorde cockpit

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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.

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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!

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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.
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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.
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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!
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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!