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 1, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Changes Coming

I have finally made the decision to make some major changes to this site.  In the next few weeks I will be working on transitioning to a Wordpress site.  Due to the complexities of migrating everything and then resetting up some of the pages, I expect this will take me a few weeks to make it presentable.

My planned launch date is August 1, though I am hoping it will be sooner.

However, I am transferring my domain from one company to another and if that causes issues with the ability to view this site on it's current Blogger platform, then I will launch sooner, even if it's not quite ready.

During this time I will not be creating any new content (though I do have a few rough drafts waiting for the launch), except maybe the Photo of the Week.

See you in a few weeks!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Zion National Park

We finally left Kanab, the location of my falling and cutting my leg going to the POOL!   We were headed to Zion National Park on the way to Las Vegas.  Yes, this park is an easy 1-2 hour drive from Vegas, incase you feel the need to exercise some of sin city out of yourself. 

Unlike Bad Lands, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon, our primary point of visiting Zion National Park was from the floor of the park, not from the top.  While Zion wasn’t quite as beautiful as Bryce Canyon or as grand as the Grand Canyon, the vantage point from the base gave it a different feel. 

Most of the tour group did a hike to a small waterfall, most had planned on going further, but the trail stopped there due to construction so it was the end of the line.  We got some great photos and headed back to the visitors center there for some shopping and snacks.

On the way to the hike I noticed our coach driver and tour manager inspecting one of the tires, it turns out we had developed a leak in one of the tires.  What’s a tour to do when that happens?  Go to the main visitor center so the driver can find the National Park bus driver guys and try to get the tire fixed. 

The only problem with this is that when you’re waiting for your bus to be fixed and you already have seen a nice piece of the park, you don’t really have time to do much more then shop at the bigger store and soak in the experience. Oh, and don’t go to far incase the tire is fixed sooner then you thought. 

As I recall, it took less than an hour and then we were on our way to fabulous Las Vegas!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Falling Down

To set the scene for this post you need to know that I have a fear of hiking down hill, it’s a fear of falling and breaking my leg in the wilderness.  It’s not necessarily a reasonable fear, but it’s not debilitating either.  After hiking in Bryce Canyon and almost dying (walking uphill) I had taken it easy at the Grand Canyon.

Later that night we did have a good old fashioned BBQ in a local park in Kanab near our hotel.  Hamburgers, chips and smores!  We even got to play on the swing sets and jungle gym.  Sometimes it’s fun to relive your youth.  I survived all that fine.

When we returned to our hotel a bunch of us decided to go to he pool, which was across the street and down the block at another hotel.  As we’re walking I managed to slip on gravel. Turned my ankle and fell to my knee, on GRAVEL.  I cut up my entire left leg from my foot to my knee.  It was gross and it hurt and I didn’t have anything really appropriate to care for it.  I did borrow some band-aids and bacitracin and cleaned it out at the hotel room.  But the irony that I was afraid of falling while hiking, but actually fell walking to the pool was NOT lost on me. 

I have not changed my stance on hiking!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

More Holiday Storytellers

In 2011 I had my first Disney World Christmas experience, and one of the treats of the season are the Storytellers Around the World.  In 2011 I saw about half of them and when I returned this past December I saw a few more.  This is a review of the news ones I experienced.  I will give one disclaimer though.  I had gotten sick at the end of this trip and was at my best when I saw some of these.

I did revisit the Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings) in Mexico and La Befana in Italy.  Los Tres Magos seemed to be the same as the year before, still not my favorite, but still very good.  La Befana also seemed good, but not quite as good as I remembered from the year before, but I was feeling pretty sick at that time and I had just seen another really good one that day too.

Germany - Helga
With a name like Helga I expected an older woman, but I was wrong, Helga is a pretty young woman and this was a nice story.  Here we learned about the tradition of Christmas Trees and the first Nutcracker.  Even with German heritage I didn't think this was the best one, but it's a bit more contemporary then many of the others.  I think it did have the best setting though,  at least in terms of atmosphere.

The American Adventure - Hanukkah
This show has the best setting, it's inside.  No dealing with hot or cold or sun in your eyes.  As for the show, it was just ok. The woman was nice and the story had an intimate feel to it.  But, I grew up with a lot of Jews around me and I felt like I knew more about Hanaukkah then I learned here. I suspect if you've had little contact with Jews this would be more interesting.  I did think it was a nice touch that the story teller played with dreidel with the kids after.

France - Pere Noel
Pere Noel tells the story of Christmas in France through a letter from a girl.  It's a sweet story about believing in Pere Noel and santa figures.  But Pere Noel is too skinny!

Canada - Nowell
Nowell is a lumberjack, what?  How can you make all those gifts if your cutting down trees.  Or maybe you need the wood for all those toys?  I don't know. But this was another good story, reminds me a lot of how Christmas in the US, as much as it's the same for many, it can also be quite different depending on your heritage.

Norway - Sigrid and Christmas Gnome, Julenissen
This was my absolute favorite and you can tell the word is out, this story had the largest crowd of all the ones I have seen.  Sigrid tells the story of Julenissen, which she doesn't believe.  Julenissen is a gnome who plays tricks on boys and girls.  And so Julenissen plays tricks on Sigrid, but since she doesn't believe in him she doesn't understand what is going on. It's quite entertaining.

Even though Christmas is 6 months away, it is time to start planning your trips there!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Foreign Transaction Fees

Last week Chris Elliott ran a great article about currency conversion and foreign transaction fees - dynamic currency conversion and the pitfalls.

If you've been traveling I'm sure you've had someone at some point as if you want your transaction to show as dollars or the local currency.  Of course they don't mention the rate or the fee they add on, maybe not even if you ask for it.

What's a girl to do? (or a guy). Well, it seems the best course of action is to have a credit card with no foreign transaction fee and to pay in the local currency.

Which cards don't charge a fee? Here is a quick list (some do have an annual fee) of some that I'm aware of, as of the publishing of this post:
Chase, Marriott Rewards, Sapphire Preferred
American Express Platinum
Capital One - Venture, Cash Rewards

Here is an even more extensive list of cards from Nerdwallet.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When Friends Get Flakey

Earlier this month I traveled to Colorado to visit with a friend.  While I was visiting one friend, I had another friend who lived in the area that I wanted to meet up.

I had loose plans with friend #2 and when I tried to firm up plans he would push back or not answer emails.   I really appreciated when he told me what he thought I should do, instead of hearing what I wanted to do.  I started to wonder why we were friends.

Then I spoke to a colleague about it and he told me an even crazier story.  A friend was coming to visit with another friend and a couple friend, a total of 4 people.  He set up hotels, cars, excursions and then never heard anything for weeks.  2 days before he cancels everything.  Later that afternoon she calls and says they'll be in tomorrow!  WHAT?  Well apparently she changed all her info due to a crazy ex-boyfriend.  But still, you wait until the day before to confirm you plans.

Friend #2 and I worked out our differences.  He can be stubborn and so can I; but, once we spoke on the phone and committed to working something out we found all the issues before had gone away.

So, how do you handle it when your friends get flakey when planning a trip?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Grand Canyon's North Rim

Our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon started with an early drive from our hotel in Kanab and a time change. Of course we were staying in Kanab that night so our return from the Grand Canyon would include a time change. 

At the North Rim there is a nice visitors center that includes facilities, maps, a restaurant and beautiful views.

From the visitors center there are some shorter walks along the ridges (they’re perfectly safe for the average person) and offer AWESOME views. If you’re visiting this area follow the trails to the Bright Angel Point.

If you’re looking for something more strenuous you can do the Bridle Trail, which I did.  The good thing about the Bridle Trail is that it is shaded and easy for the average visitor. The bad things is that most of it has absolutely no view.  So why do it? It leads to the trails that go into the canyon.

I opted not to go down into the canyon because I was afraid it would be too much for me and I would find out too late. But I hear the trail was not one of the nicer ones we would have done in the National Parks due to the donkeys.  Apparently the trail was not as clean and pristine. 

Instead I opted to relax and take a nap inside the visitor’s center while looking out at the Grand Canyon.  I’ve got nothing against the outdoors and all that nature stuff, but sometime it’s better to sit and be in it rather than doing as much as possible. Today was that kind of day.

We did have lunch in the restaurant, it was a bit pricey, but it was good.  And after I had just enough time to take my favorite wildlife photograph ever!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One Year with Disney World

When I took my trip to Disney World in December 2011 I decided to get an annual pass.  The plan was to see if I could find some good deals on trips in 2012 and hop on a plane and go.  The plan worked in some ways and not in others, but it was still a good year.

I never really found good deals, but I had some vacation time and took several shorter trips.  Actually, one of my trips was not only not a "good deal" but included expensive hotels and plane tickets, but was a great experience.

My first trip was with my sister and her two kids.  It was a fun trip, but the 4 of us in one Polynesian hotel room was a bit much for me at times.  As usually happens with kids, the trip revolved around them, we went on lots of rides, and I loved the Polynesian.

The rest of the trips I took that year ended up being about experiences more then about rides.

On one trip I actually decided to ride the rides that no one talks about, the ones you can't ride with other people because they want to go on the good rides.  It wasn't one of my better plans, but now I have a list of rides I never need to go on again.

Another trip was all about the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Fantasyland.  While I did do some other things, having already been 3 times in less then a year, I didn't feel the need to do much more then that. There's no line for the new Little Mermaid ride, better ride it lots before the lines grow! I can ride Peter Pan, Space Mountain and shop another time!

Tour a resort, who has time for that? When you go 5 times in 12 months, you have time to tour an interesting resort (Art of Animation), you probably even have time to tour a boring one (as though they exist).

The biggest thing I got out of these 5 trips was that every one I had a slightly different goal, explore a resort, experience a new party or event, ride new rides.  The goal was not to see as much as possible in as short a period of time as possible. With that, I got to spend time with the charming lesser known things, instead of on lines. I got to experience the whole of Walt Disney World.

After that year though, I did get a little bored.  The average attractions that you might do because you don't get to do them often, they lost there thrill. You run out of new experiences to have, or at least the list gets shorter. So yes, the thrill wore off a bit, but the ability to relax on a Disney vacation started to exist, and I really never thought that was possible.

A lot of people asked when I was going back, or commented that I wouldn't be able to give it up.  But I have no plans of going this year.  While it would be easy to go back, the desire to explore something new is stronger.  I'll be back there, but it might not be until 2015, GASP! But I wouldn't be opposed to doing it with an annual pass again.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bryce Canyon

After seeing Salt Lake City and having to prove myself for a drink (I was 35 at the time) it was time to head south to see some National Parks.  Bryce Canyon was our first stop.  If you havne't been following me for a while you should know, I have a fear of hiking downhill.  It's been near paralyzing at times.

With that, we arrived at Bryce Canyon in the afternoon and were given 2 hours to explore.  We were given the choice of a couple different trails and although I was hesitant I took the longer hike.  Oh, not only do I have a fear of hiking downhill, I was also in terrible shape having had bone taken from my right leg 3 months before for a bone graft. But then, nothing like a little exercise to get your body back. 

The hike actually only took an hour and 15 minutes and I did manage to hike down without killing myself.  The hike up however... it was strenuous.  As in, switchbacks like I haven't seen since I was in Norway going to Geringer Fjord, except instead of riding in a bus I was walking it.  Ugh, I thought I was going to die.  Ok, maybe it wasn't that bad, but I was hurting at the end. And my shoes were coated in a lovely layer orange dust. This is one of those place I would suggest bringing your old shoes too.

It was worth it though, Bryce Canyon is beautiful.  The colors are fabulous, I'm sure it helped that we had a bright sunny day to contrast with the deep earthy browns and oranges of Bryce.  The formations of the hoodoos make the landscape unique from all of the other National Parks I have visited.  And as much as the hike sucked, it was also fun, there were a lot of quirky formations there, the kind of things a writer could make an interesting story out of.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Trying to Drink in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is known for it's Mormon and Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints (LDS) influence, so when I went there I had to learn a bit about the church and break the social norms and have a drink.

My first stop for the was afternoon was the The Museum of Church History and Art.  I have to admit that being raised Catholic much of what I saw was similar to what I might have seen growing up, but with the subtle differences that separate the religions. 

The museum is quite large, spacious and the staff was friendly.  The museum was self guided, but you could also talk to any of the staff there to get more information. The information wasn't too heavy, a good level for a casual visitor.  You could go and spend a half hour there or two hours if you're more dedicated.  There are also several different displays to learn more about the history and the current state of the church.  It was a good museum to stop at if you're in Salt Lake City and want to learn some local history.

After the museum my group immersed ourselves in the Salt Lake City anti drinking culture at an Olive Garden.  My group was a mix of men and woman and only 4 of us ordered drinks.  Two guys ordered drinks and were no asked for ID.  The a woman ordered got "carded." They would not serve her a drink because she had an Australian Drivers License, but no Passport.  I then ordered my drink and was "carded" and served with no issue.

If we were anywhere else I would chalk it up to a female waitress giving preference to guys.  However, we were in Salt Lake City, a city known for strict and sometimes strange drinking laws.  Of course it may have been an anomaly, but it did feel a little suspicious to our whole group. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Abandoned Ship - Book Review

I recently finished the book Abandoned Ship: An intimate account of the Costa Concordia shipwreck by Benji Smith.  The book is the author's first hand account of the sinking of the Costa Concordia.

He starts out at the beginning, how he and his fiance, Emily, came to book this cruise as their honeymoon vacation.  He tells a little bit about his family and life before the cruise, it helps set the stage for the experience. His story ends with his writing of the book and includes everything in between. 

Their experience was in some ways probably pretty typical, and in other ways unique.  No, they were not on one of the first lifeboats.  They were on the rope bridge down the hull of the ship waiting to be rescued.

The book is authentic, told from the first person and expressing as much of the emotion from the time of the incident as possible.  For some, it might seem overly critical, or as though their was an agenda in writing the book, beyond telling the story. However, when you survive a ship wreck I think you're entitled to have an agenda against those who wrong you, if you so choose.  You're also entitled to fixate on whatever details help get you through that time.

I enjoy how he gives credit to everyone, not matter their role.  So whether all they did was keep someone else from panicing or if they arranged the rope bridge and saved hundreds of lives, he gives them credit for the work they did. Everyone has a role, and no judgement on what role was more important.  But, if they didn't contribute anything, he called them out. 

The story Benji tells is a good one for travelers and for Emergency Managers.  It's a cautionary tale about the difficulties you'll face during a major emergency, even when there are people who should be helping you. It will remind you to have copies of your passport and credit cards.  It will remind you to be empathetic and compassionate to those in need.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rafting the Snake River

On Contiki's Northern Adventure after our night in Jackson Hole we had the opportunity to go white water rafting on the Snake River.  Never one to miss an adventure I jumped at the opportunity.  I did go white water rafting once before on the Delaware River years before so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into, but this was still FUN!

Our morning started with a ride to their shop and getting fitted with wet suits and shoes for the day.  I do recommend both, particularly earlier in the season when the water is colder as they will help keep you a bit warmer.

My boats guide was Alex and he was great!  He gave us all the directions on where to sit, when to row and when to relax.  He told us fun stories about his history as a guide, and a few of his friend's funny stories too.  He encouraged us to all jump in the river too, and my boat was the only one where everyone jumped in.  Oh, and no one fell in by accident either!

We did have class 3 rapids, which is what I experienced on the Delaware River.  I would suggest that for most people class 3 rapids are just fine.  If you have young kids or less mobile people then it might be a bit much.  But for the average person class 3 will be fun, but not too hard.  Spring is the best time for class 3 rapids, because of the melting snow in the mountains.  Unfortunately, melting snow makes for cold water.

And so for the bad part of white water rafting.  It's COLD!  When you're floating along the river all is well, but then you start hitting the rougher water and you get splashed.  Eventually you get soaked and it's cold.  But then the sun comes out and warms you up.  Once you're warm, you get soaked again.  It's a cruel cycle...  But it's fun and invigorating.  And just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, Alex told us we were going to pull over and get out.  Our ride was about an hour and a half. Perfection!

I don't remember the name of the company we used.  I tried looking on the internet, but still couldn't find it.  And since we never got our pictures or our bracelets for jumping into the river, I decided I wasn't going to kill myself over it.  I'm not sure whose fault that is, Contiki or the rafting company.  It was only the second trip of the season that Contiki used this company and obviously they hadn't worked out all the kinks.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Betty In the Sky With A Suitcase

Betty In The Sky With a Suitcase is a podcast I've been listening to for about 6 years.  Betty is a Flight Attendant for a major US airline and she does a (usually) monthly podcast about flight attendant experiences and her travels.

Her podcasts consist of interviews with other flight attendants and pilots about their experiences.  They range from crazy passengers to silly things that the crew does to each other, throw in an occasional bad experience (emergency landing with a happy ending) and she's covering all the bases.

She also tells some stories of her own experiences traveling, and she covers a lot of ground. From Easter Island to well, really after Easter Island do I need to expand on more on exotic places to go?

Betty is an absolute sweetheart, I hope I meet her on my flights one day.  I know she'll take good care of me, and maybe give me a laugh too.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Dislocated My Hip on a Horse in Jackson, WY

After finishing up in Yellowstone National Park it was time to head to Jackson, Wyoming.

We arrived at our hotel late so we had to head straight to our trail ride and cookout.  The setting was marvelous, in the valley at the foot of the Jackson Hole Resort.  We quickly lined up to mount our horses and set off in groups of about 8 people.  My horse was Pepper and he was very good.  Gentle and well behaved.  He just liked to rub up against some of the trees from time to time.  About halfway through my hips were killing me, every step of the second half of the hour long ride hurt.  But the view was fantastic as we climbed up and back down a trail through the hills of Jackson.

After our ride I did manage to get off Pepper under my own power, and managed to walk around a bit too.  I guess I didn't really dislocate my hip, but it felt like it.  We waited for all the groups to finish their trail rides and then took wagons to a secluded area for a cook out, complete with Cowboys.  They made us chicken, corn, tomato salad, corn bread, lemonade, watermelon  some beef and a fruit cobbler for dessert.  The food was good, and it was served on tin plates, and we sat at picnic tables.  It was a lot of fun.

But it only got more fun, we then had the chance to learn how to rope a steer (not a real steer, that's cruel), chop would and play horse shoes.  Wood chopping, not my thing!  But if I tried I could make a career roping steers.  I think I'll stick with my day job though.  It was a lot of fun and as a group activity, allowing us to bond in a different way then you do while riding a bus.

Later that night we decided to hit the town.  We wanted to go to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, but it was closed for a special event.  Boo!  We did go to another random bar and some of the underage girls did get in, which was good for us.

But the gem of the city was the taxi drivers, yes, the taxi drivers.  I had different ones going to and from the bar, but they were both nice friendly guys happy to talk about Jackson.  We learned a bit about the economy, the price of houses and life there.  It would be a great place to live, but I can't afford it.  I'll have to find myself another place to live. :(

As a place to visit though, even just the small glimpse we had said a lot about the place, it was beautiful, but still had the large town/small city feel.