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.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Photo of the Week: Chicago

The Skydeck at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chicago, IL

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Contiki's Northern Adventure

Over the next few weeks I plan to go through my Contiki tour in great detail, but in the meantime I wanted to give an overall review of Contiki's Northern Adventure.  This tour starts in Chicago and is the second half of the Grand Northern tour offered by Contiki.

The tour is a 14 day tour of the Northwestern United States, here is the rough itinerary:
Chicago to Madison
Madison to Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls to Mt Rushmore
Mt Rushmore
Mt Rushmore to Cody
Cody to Yellowstone
Yellowstone to Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole to Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City to Kanab via Bryce Canyon
Grand Canyon
Kanab to Las Vegas via Zion
Las Vegas
Las Vegas
Las Vegas to Los Angeles

The first few days of the tour are heavy bus days, with the occasional stop at a Wal Mart, rest stop or a tourist trap.  After that we split our time with shorter bus days, and more time hiking in National Parks, a good mix of relaxing and seeing the sites.

As for the tourist traps, think Spam Museum, Corn Palace and Wall Drug.  It's not as bad as it sound, but it is a slow start to the tour. 

Nightlife at the start of the tour wasn't terribly exciting either - Hooters, Karaoke at a local bar, more local bars, hotel pools, and the hotel parking lot...  Then we hit Las Vegas where most people went clubbing every night.  Overall though it was a mix, some stuff was better then other stuff.  If you wanted a quiet night you could have had one almost any night and if you wanted to stay out late and party, you could do that. 

As for the under 21 year olds, they fared a bit better then I expected.  They did manage to get served at several bars and even got into a club or two in Las Vegas.  I still don't suggest US tours for those who are under 21, you basically had to rely on luck that the person checking your ID wasn't really paying attention when they looked at your ID. 

That National Parks we visited were really nice; Yellowstone was my favorite.  We had a few hours at each of them, enough for at least one decent hike, sometimes with multiple stops. 

One disapointement is that we didn't have much time in the cities.  The only thing I saw in Madison was a buffet and a Hooters.  However, in Salt Lake City we did have a few hours to see the city.  But more often we only saw a restaurant and a bar in the cities we visited.

I enjoyed this tour with Contiki, as with every vacation I have taken there is never enough time to do and see everything I want to.  But the pace of this tour was pretty good, after the first few bus days the bus days were shorter and broken up more with different activities and sites to see.  I would recommend it as a good tour for those who are interested in seeing the National Parks and making new 18-35 year old friends.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Indie Travel Podcast

In the Indie Travel Podcast episode # 237 - How Couples Can Stay Sane on The Road Craig and Linda discuss tips for couples.  As I normally travel solo, I didn't expect to get too much out of this episode, but I was wrong.  This podcast was chock full of information for couples and for any type of pair traveling together, ways to set expectations and divide the work and not blame each other and be mad about stuff.  It's a great episode, I recommend it to anyone who likes to travel.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dining in Chicago

While I was in Chicago I had the opportunity to eat at two notable locations - Weber Grill and Lou Malnati's.

Weber Grill comes from the maker of Weber Grills, shocking I know. It is located at Grand and State Street and is Delicious! I had Prime Rib, sweet potato and pretzel bread. The prime rib was well cooked and tasty. The mashed sweet potatos were also tasty and I just love pretzel bread. The wait staff friendly, and offered quick service.

I thought this was a good place for solo travelers, I saw several people dining on their own.

At the end of my dinner I asked the waiter where he recommended for Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, Lou Malnati's.

Lou Malnati's
There are several locations but I went to the River North location at 439 North Wells Street.

When I arrived I was told the wait would be 45 minutes, but I only waited a half hour for a table. They do have the option of pre-ordering your pizza to reduce the wait at the table.

My salad was excellent, lots of veggies in it and a sweet vinagret dressing. Pizza crust was a bit thinner then I expected, and had cheese then sauce. A lot of sauce. Overall, it was very tasty pizza, but I'll stick with my NY style pizza anyday.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

EPCOT Holiday Storytellers

During the holiday season one of the special events is that each country pavillion has a storyteller who tells the story of their holiday.  Most are Christmas centered stories, but a few are not related to Christmas.  Terye and I went to the shows in Mexico, United Kingdom, China, Morocco, and Italy.

In China we saw the story of the Monkey King, as I write this months later, I don't remember much aside from it was the story of new years.  But, I do remember it was hot sitting in the sun and the actor was sweating a lot.  But you wouldn't have known it from his performance, it was excellent.  Very lively and passionate.

Next up was the Three Kings in Mexico, this performance had 3 performers - the 3 kings and the story of Epiphany.  This was another great performance. 

In the United Kingdom there was Father Christmas.  He was very sweet and even brought a child up to help him ring his bells. 

In Italy we learned the story of La Befana, a witch and about Epiphany.  This was probably my favorite of the performances, La Befana was very animated and her story was fun. 

The show I enjoyed the least was in Morocco.  I'm not sure if the actor was maybe a little less intense then the others, if i was just tired and seated too far away or if it's because I already knew about Ramadan.  It wasn't a bad show, but so many of the other story tellers were so good thatt this paled in comparison. 

To find out about show times check the times guide for Epcot.  If would not be possible to see all the shows in one day, but they are often spaced that you could see 2 or 3 in a row.  There was not much seating at the spots where the shows are done, so be prepared to stand or sit on the ground for the show. 

I do think these are a nice way to learn about holiday traditions, the shows are typically only about 10 minutes, well performed and even the ones revolving around Christmas talk about traditions that may not be celebrated by all Christians. My suggestion would be to see at least one or two that are non-Christmas related, so as to branch out and learn about a whole different culture.

This year I hope to see a few more of these shows.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th Of July

I'm taking the holiday off, but wanted to wish everyone a Happy 4th Of July!