About Me

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I'm a 30 something who loves to travel.  I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels.  I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt.  I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney.  My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.  

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back from England and Scotland

I came back Monday night from my Contiki tour of England and Scotland.  The trip was a lot of fun.  I wouldn't say that England and Scotland were my favorite places, but they were both very wonderful in different ways.  My tour group was good, and my Tour Manager and Driver was great too.

I did get an opportunity to fly Business Class on British Airways out to London, which was great since I got some good sleep in!  I'll write about that later.  I saw everything on my list in London.  I saw Stonehenge, Bath, a Pencil Musuem, Hairy Cows in the Highlands and lots of sheep.  The trip was an obvious success!

The downside to the trip was that when I was in Edinburgh after my tour I was so lonely and sad without my tourmates.  It was much easier to be alone before tour in London.  So even though I think Edinburgh is a great city, it will always be the city I was sad in :(

You'll hear much much more about all of this, once I start to wrap my brain around it all, and go through the 1900 pictures I took.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Not all Doritos are created equal

Back in 2002 I took a cruise with my mom and my sister on Carnival and one of the stops was in Cozumel, Mexico.  I insisted on going to the Mayan Ruins at Tulum with my sister and I experienced my first bit of tourist scamming.  I should mention that at the time I collected key chains from the places I went.

The excursion starts with a boat ride to Playa Del Carmen.  It was about 30 minutes and the boat moved very fast and bumped on every single wave as it crossed the channel separating Cozumel and Playa Del Carmen.  It was not a good crossing for those who get sea sick, I saw a couple white bags around the boat.  Then we took an hour long bus ride through Mexico.  While I certainly wouldn't describe the area as ghetto, it certainly didn't feature nice homes of the locals.  More like small wooden houses a step above shacks.  We had one stop about halfway there at a souvenir shop offering cheesy Mexico souvenirs. 

Once we arrived at Tulum we were offered the choice of taking the tram (for a charge) or walking the mile or so to the ruins.  Since it was, as an old friend used to say, "Africa Hot," we took the tram. 

After we finished looking at the ruins we went to market/souvenir area to look around.  I was looking at the key chains when I was approached by one of the workers.  Apparently, the key chain was real silver and cost $80.  The guy tried to get me to buy this key chain.  When I practically laughed at $80 he asked how much I was willing to pay, it was real silver after all.  I offered $8.  I might have had a key chain collection at the time, but I doubt any of them cost more then $10.  The conversation didn't last long, but it was a nice try by the guy.

After that we went to buy some snacks, this was a fairly long day with no lunch break.  My sister and I decided on a small bag of Doritos and a bottle of Gatorade each.  But we were in Mexico so the Doritos flavors were written in Spanish.  We opted for the bags that looked like Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch flavor and in total paid about $7 for the Gatorade and Doritos, a bit of a rip off for the time.  When we got on the bus back to the ship we opened up our Doritos and quickly found out that not all Doritos are created equal.  The orange bag of Doritos was not Nacho Cheese and the blue bag was not Cool Ranch.  I believe one ended up being a jalapeno pepper flavor and was not very good.  I don't remember the other flavor, but it also was not very good.

I would have chalked it all up as a funny tourist mistake - except I was hungry at the time!  But it was a good lesson that when you travel things are not always what that seems - sometimes it works out and other times it does not.  And of course watch out for people trying to sell you overpriced crap.  At least the $80 offer was so insane that I couldn't take it remotely seriously.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Reflecting on London

A week or so ago I was discussing my upcoming trip with my boss.  He lived in London about 30 years ago, maybe more and told me a bit about his time there.  First, he almost never saw Buckingham Palace.  It wasn't until he was about to leave and mentioned it to a colleague who proceeded to turn the car around and take him to see Buckingham Palace.  Also, you couldn't find a good burger there, it wasn't until the Hard Rock Cafe opened up that you could find a good burger in the city.  I found that pretty funny since it's now considered a tourist spot.  But at the time that was the first and only Hard Rock Cafe and the only place with a good burger.

His reflections of London remind me of my short time there.  It's a city where I saw my own personal growth as a traveler.  My first day there I was terrified of getting lost, almost didn't hop off the hop on and off bus I went on.  At the end of a 2 week tour I was back in London and feeling much bolder.  I decided to go to the London Eye, bought myself a tube pass, mapped my route and did it, even put in a stop in Trafalgar Square to stop at a market.  In Trafalgar Square I had this realization of how far I had come and how much more confident I was.  I started to hyperventilate and it felt great!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trip Preparation, what to do in London and beyond

I've spent quite a bit of time over the past few weeks preparing for my trip to England and Scotland.  Since It's a Contiki trip I have spent most of my time preparing for London.  Though I should probably be spending a bit more time preparing for my 2 days in Edinburgh at the end of the trip.  So what have I done?

As I write this I'm watching Braveheart, for some historical perspective on the trip.  I might have to do a bit of research on the real William Wallace, at least check out what wikipedia says, you know how Hollywood can be.

I've mapped out London.  I figured out how to make custom maps in Google Maps - I have maps with specific icons for the different place I want to go to.
Giraffe (restaurant), hoping to meet Giddy
Churchill's War Room
Westminster Abby
St. Paul's Cathedral
British Museum

There area  few other things I would like to do, but they'll be secondary.  I would rather make a light schedule and not feel like I'm rushing around and maybe get a chance to get a feel for the city.  The secondary things are:  Harrods, a nighttime walking tour (Jack the Ripper?), and a cruise of the Thames.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Photo of the Week: Hawaii


From Hawaii this is a flower.  I would love to tell you what type, but my guide spoke about so many flowers that I can't remember which is which, but I thought it was quite lovely.  If you do know, please feel free to post in the comments section.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mr and Mrs. So and So - You are on the wrong flight...

When we left Disney back in May we flew home on Jetblue and had a bit of an interesting flight.  Once on the plane we all settled in and were waiting for the plane doors to close and the plane to pull out when I heard a strange announcement - "Mr and Mrs. So and So, you're on the wrong flight, you're flight is leaving in a half hour and going to LaGuardia Airport."  2 people did the walk of shame down the aisle and off the plane.  Seriously?  How do you end up on the wrong plane?  Yes, it was another Jetblue flight leaving around the same time and also going to NYC.  But it had a different flight number, a different airport destination, different departure time and was leaving from a different gate.  I can't imagine how that would happen.  Maybe wishful thinking?

Other then that the flight was going well until we started to descend almost an hour before landing.  My 4 year old nephew started screaming and screeching his head off because his ears hurt - he was THAT kid that everyone hates.  My sister did try food and drink to help with the ears, but nothing worked.  I could see a couple passengers were not happy about it.  I think his exhaustion from the trip played a big role in his reaction since he didn't act like this on the flight to Disney.  Once we landed he stopped screaming, but then started to cry - now he had to go to the bathroom and we were stuck waiting for a good amount of time to get to a gate, eventually my brother-in-law took him to the back to the bathroom.  Just a note - while you are not supposed to get up, a flight attendant is not going to tackle you in the ailse for getting up when you're not supposed to.  What does that mean?  If it's an emergency then do what you have to do, but if you get hurt know that it's your own fault.  After landing we waited an hour for our luggage, not good, but since our luggage actually came I guess we should be happy.

I thought all of this was the icing on the cake of a not very good vacation.  But, I woke up with a cold the following day.  Well at least I enjoyed our time in the parks!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and thoughts on Becco for lunch

After my visit to the King Tut exhibit I realized that it's time to get myself out and about and seeing more things in New York City. On my list was a visit to "The Met" or The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since I was meeting my friend from out of town for lunch in the city, I figured it was a perfect opportunity to see a museum.

I met my friend at Becco on West 46 Street and had a great lunch. Becco had really good food (the kind of food that the average eater goes, "Wow, this is why people love food," the service was great. My only complaint about it was that the restaurant was kinda loud.

After lunch I had the brilliant idea to walk to The Met. It was a nice walk, but by the time I got there I was already tired and my feet were already starting to hurt, not a good way to start a visit to a museum.

The museum does not have a required admission, they have a recommended admission of $20 for adults. It mental hurts to give money, but I know it's the right thing to do and is certainly in line with the cost of other museums so I did give the donation.

I first went to the Egyptian exhibit, it took me a few minutes to get into it but slowly I did. What I didn't like about the exhibit was the signage for the different pieces, some were hard to read, others I never found. I also found all the different little rooms made it hard to make sure you saw everything, I think for that reason (and the large amount of stuff they have) you either need to dedicate hours or you need to visit several times to see the whole exhibit. What I liked was the different pieces. There were a lot of pieces of wall, which really surprised me. There were a lot of sarcophagus's too, though not overly impressive ones like you would see in Egypt.

This was the first time I looked at Egyptian art in terms of time period, other then a few little things, I really never knew what might be the difference between art from different dynasties, until now. Unlike the King Tut exhibit I recently saw there were not too many smaller pieces from tombs, the pieces were more ordinary pieces - pieces of wall, statues, sarcophagus's, and pottery are what stick out. It seemed a little more like daily life type of stuff, not just the stuff of Pharohs.

After seeing the Egyptian stuff I headed to the American exhibit, which I really enjoyed. This is my type of museum stuff - stuff that tells me about American life. There was a giant house like exhibit with "rooms," the rooms were all very nicely decorated and gave a nice feeling for how people lived. To add to the experience there was a woman in one of the rooms talking about how the bed reminded her of her bed in her farm house from her youth. I like that real life image that I can picture.

After that I was exhausted and ready to go, but on my way out (since I couldn't figure out how to get out) I walked through the armor rooms - who doesn't like a knight in shining armor? It seemed like cool stuff in there, and I felt bad for the horses who had to wear armor, it looked really heavy!

Overall I enjoyed The Met. It's the type of place that if I lived nearby I could see myself stopping there every couple weeks and checking out a different exhibit.  For those planning a visit I would suggest planning a few hours to see just 1 or 2 exhibits, otherwise you might end up tired or overwhelmed by the museum.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Photo of the Week: Paris


In honor of Labor Day, here are some Parisian laborers writing parking tickets.

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Last day in Disney

For out last day in Disney I asked Mom if she wanted to go back to EPCOT to finish her shopping. Our flight wasn't until the evening so we had plenty of time. Heidi decided to come with us with the baby. Meanwhile Alex and Mike were going to stay at the hotel and swim.

I think this was the hottest day, the heat and humidity were stifling. We decided to walk around World Showcase since they have some unique shops there. Mom did find a few things there and although I really wanted a pretzel in Germany I was talked out of getting it during our initial walk. It was so hot that I had to put my foot down and insist we eat lunch somewhere with AC - the wait at Mexico was too long so we ate at the Electrical Umbrella. Then I took the boat by myself (and I had thought it was silly that there was a boat from Future World to World Showcase) from Future World to Morocco to cut down my walk back to to Germany, that boat was really handy! Heidi and Mom went back to the resort while I got my pretzel.  After that we all met up at the hotel again to get everything together for the flight home.

This was one of the ironies of the trip.  My sisters lack of action in regards to the reservation and Magical Express forced me go to the hotel Concierge, they were extremely nice and helpful and game Mom and I a complimentary taxi ride to the airport.  Meanwhile my sister, her husband, and the kids took Magical Express.  Which coincidently had plenty of room for Mom and I on it.  But Mom and I had a quiet peaceful ride in the taxi instead.  I find it very strange that they can comp a taxi ride, but not a Magical Express ride, now that is fuzzy math!  But I'll take it.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back from Las Vegas

Last week I was in Las Vegas with my sister, Kelly, and her family and her husband's family (this is not the sister I went to Disney with).  I have taken this trip several times in the past.  It's always a nice trip, but not a great trip.  This trip fell into the same category as the rest.  It's funny, everyone keeps going on the trip, yet no one seems to love it.  But it's cheap for my family so I guess that's a big part of it.

Here is a profile of the trip:  We stay at the Hilton Grand Vacations on the strip in 2 - 2 or 3 bedroom suites.  We go to the pool in the morning, do an activity with the kids in the afternoon and go out for lunch.  We have dinner out with the whole group (11 of us) to a child friendly restaurant.  We'll usually see 1 show during the trip.  After dinner most of the adults go out gambling for a few hours, the Dad's stay out later then the rest of us girls.

What I like about the trip:  it's pretty relaxing.  I have very little control over what we do, I just choose if there is something I want to or don't want to do.  Mostly, I just go with the flow and that's nice.  I enjoy relaxing by the pool with a drink and a book, chatting and watching the kids in the pool.  I also like exploring Vegas.  Since I have been there a few times I know the layout fairly well and have seen most of the casinos/resorts/hotels.  But there is always something new there and there are plenty of things I haven't done there.  But, I do sometimes have to make and find opportunities.

What I don't like:  It's a little over indulgent of the kids.  The afternoons often consist of trips to game rooms.  There's so much there to do that has a little more substance to it, but they seem to end up in game rooms everyday and sometimes more then 1 in a day.  And the game rooms aren't cheap.  I'm just glad I don't have to bank roll a kid on one of these trips!  Gambling, I'm not a big gambler and at night it's all about gambling.  I'll go out a few nights and play some blackjack but it seems if I don't feel like going out that there is something wrong with me and I don't like that feeling.  I don't think that it helps on this trip that my body was totally on the wrong hourly schedule to be gambling at night and I never adjusted.  On this trip I was a little frustrated with the eating arrangements.  Due to the surgery I had in July I'm a bit restricted on what I can eat - I can't use my front teeth so am forced to eat food on the softer side and I didn't feel like anyone other then my mother took that into consideration when choosing restaurants.

But in the end it was a nice vacation, I got to see a Cirque Du Soliel show which was on my things to do in Vegas list.