A Travellerspoint blog

Puerto Rico

May 16-19

sunny 85 °F

Saturday, May 15h

Today was a really nice day. We spent almost the entire day at Luquillo Beach. The bungalow that we're renting is a close 5 minutes away. This beach is run by the government, so it's very nice. You approach a shady security gate, pay the ranger $3 and then wind through shady palmed lined pavement to the parking lot.

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It's a long cool walk to the ocean under an arcade of trees. There is a large bathroom/shower/lockers building and a small concession building selling fried Puerto Rican treats and coconut milk out of the coconut.

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Then there is a shady beach that leads out to the sunny ocean. The water is warm like bathwater and it is very calm, so this is a popular place for families to go.

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Renting a house was nice. We had a beach umbrella, beach towels and food with us. It was very convenient to have access to the things that a house has. The three of us settled in and enjoyed the ocean.
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D was afraid of the waves at first, but wuickly settled in and really loved the ocean (something we were very happy about). We lathered him up with sunscreen, put a rash guard and a hat on him and in he went. People remarked on what a beautiful baby he is all the time! Of course I am a little biased!

At one point, D had a sticky smile of coconut ice cream (this time) and in that moment I felt incredibly grateful for all the things I have.

When we got back, D took his nap. Right before dinner, we were just about to start yoga, when D woke from his nap, so Steve finished the yoga workout and I took D for a walk around the Solimar complex. It was soooo relaxing. It was breezy and warm and people were outside enjoying the weekend weather at what I presume are weekend rentals. There was Puerto RIcan music playing from people's houses, and young men playing pool, and people tending to their small gardens, children running around, and a myriad of tropical flowers and shrubs of all kinds welcomed us on our walk. When we got back, Steve made spaghetti at the house. It was quiet and nice.

Sunday, May 16th

This morning, we got up and checked out the rough Luquillo Beach to shoot some photos and check out these really neat murals they have painted there.

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In the afternoon, we spent our time in the ocean at Luqillo.

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Monday, May 17th

Today we go to the Wyndham Rio Mar. We called to see if we can do an early check-in and not only could they accomodate a 10:30 am check-in, but they upgraded us to an ocean view room. Apparently it is the low season.
This is the view from our room
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This place is so nice! We really enjoyed our time here. There were iguanas everywhere, and obviously used to people.
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The people were friendly, everything clean, grounds were beautiful, food was great.......this was paradise! The beach was windy, but the pool was perfect! Here are D's feet on their beach.
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We decided to check out El Yunque this afternoon, but we should have known better than to attempt a rainforest hike in th afternoon......it was raining of course! We got to see La Coca Falls.
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So we came back and enjoyed a twilight dip in an empty palm-tree lined blue pool, and then had dinner at a Latin-Asian fusion place here. What a day!

Tuesday, May 18th

Today was as perfect as a day could be! We ate great, enjoyed the pool and went for a hike at El Yunque. We left for El Yunque first thing this time. This is a photo from the trail head.
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It was the perfect hike. We took turns carrying Declan....I think he wants to walk for himself. At one point it started raining, and it was loud back there, but we were on Big Tree Trail and the trees were the perfect shelter from the rain. I love the rainforest - it was beautiful back there.

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Our reward at the end was La Mina Falls
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The water was cold, but refreshing.

We spent the afternoon at the Wyndham's gorgeous pool overlooking the ocean, with company of sleeping iguanas.
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We put D in the little sprinkler first
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At night, we had a phenomenal seafood dinner and sangria/wine at Richie's Cafe up the street from the Wyndham. What a nice place! We sat outside overlooking the ocean. Afterward, we took a twilight stroll around the Wyndham before putting D to bed. We orderd Tres Leches to be delivered to the room after D was all settled in. A perfect way to end this perfect day.

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Wednesday, May 19th
Today was our last day at the Rio Mar. It was awesome here! We wandered around, had a late breakfast and headed out to the airport.
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It was really hard travelling with Declan. I have mixed feelings about it. I think some trips would be better just the two of us and some trips would be better just the 3 of us....it really depends on where we are going. I am so grateful that we have a new person with us and that we are blessed enough to do this travelling. I can't wait to go on to the next place!

Posted by stevedana 09:25 Comments (0)

Puerto Rico: We're all settled in!

semi-overcast 93 °F

Yesterday was a learning experience......and it was a crappy day. The good news is that I had a travel epiphany.

I had this brilliant idea to take an "easy day trip" (or so I thought). A 2 hour ride was actually 3 hours each way, and once we got to Guanica Dry Forest, it was oppressively sunny and hot (93 degrees). Poor Declan was in the carseat for 6 HOURS yesterday and was completely miserable. The drive to and from was a strain. Our directions from Google Maps were completely wrong, so I put my emergency map-reading skills to use (which incidentally, are quite good).
Meanwhile, there is no law on the road (I privately joke that rules here are mere suggestions). No one has working brake or tail lights, no one signals, no one maintains their lane.....and so on. We have swerved out of the way probably about a 1/2 dozen times already. Puerto Ricans are by far the worst drivers we've ever encountered. Steve had to be "all systems go" the entire time. And it was draining for us all. By the time we got to the forest, it was 2 pm and we were all completely wiped. We did a short (hot) hike and decided to turn around and drive back.

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What a waste of a day.....sort of. Actually, it needed to be so miserable, that I needed to learn an important lesson about travel. I believe that travel is a learned skill. For example, when we went back to Ireland in 2008, we did so much more than we did in 1998, because we know how to travel better now. With Declan, we are novices all over again. And I vastly underestimated little D's needs. He was completely miserable in the car and it was entirely my fault, thinking we could pull off such a venture to the other side of this island (179 hard km away). It wasn't entirely a waste of a day, because I needed to hone my travel skills now that we have a baby in tow. It's a different kind of travel and I am getting it now, really getting it. We FINALLY got back here at 6:30 pm, I showered D, fed him and we put him to bed. Steve BBQed for us and we had BBQ chicken over spinach and feta cheese, and a glass of Shiraz.

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I quickly realized that the rest of our trip really needs to be focused on relaxing "us" time. And anyone who knows me, knows I rarely make the same mistake twice.

So today we spent the entire day at Luquillo Beach here. We came back to the house so D could nap and we could have lunch. Otherwise, we were out in the ocean all day long - all 3 of us. I repeatedly returned to our bag to reapply sunscreen to D. I hope his little red arms aren't burned. We tried to be so careful! As it is with motherhood (or so I am learning), I am so focused on meeting D's needs, my own needs are usually put aside. So I am sitting here with lobster red shoulders (I have yet to use sunscreen). Usually, on the rare occasion I burn, it's red at 1st and then turns to tan in 24 hours, so hopefully, I am tan there tomorrow........fingers crossed....I really tempted fate, failing to use any sunscreen here. Anyway, we had so much fun in the water. D was a little afraid at first, but quickly came to like the warm, calm ocean water. We would dunk his little heiney in the water and he'd smile and giggle and win admirers around him. He even found a little girlfriend there. LOL

This beach had a few tourists like us, but was about 90% Puerto Rican, which was nice. They set up hamocks and came with coolers and BBQed. They spend the entire day on the beach on weekend here, often with the whole family. The beach was surprisingly less crowded than we thought. The people next to us offered us soda. Everyone was just really friendly. We left valuables at home so we felt fine leaving our bag on the beach. We have a big beach umbrella here at the house and that has been helpful. We had the shade of a palm tree to settle under this morning, but when we returned in the afternoon, a family was under that palm.

Steve found a live sand dollar in the ocean. There aren't really any shells on the shore here. The ice cream man walks down the beach with his cart. We got passion fruit sorbets. Declan had a big smile on his face with passion fruit sorbet staining his mouth. So cute. I always enjoyed hanging out in the ocean, but it's a lot more fun with D.

And as much of a pain in the butt it is to travel with a baby, I love him more than it's a pain in the butt. Speaking of a pain in the butt, he is fighting his nap tooth and nail right now. For some reason, he doesn't want to nap on this trip. He's exhausted, but he doesn't want to nap. I can't figure it out? Steve's making us some pasta. Once D goes down, I can sneak out of here and we will eat and do some yoga. Maybe we'll stroll around the little neighborhood here after dinner. All in all, it has been an extremely fun day! I feel so lucky to be able to do this : )

The rest of the trip will be relaxing. In fact, I think the next few trips we take will be slow, simple, and relaxing. It's a new kind of travel. Actually, I think Steve has been wanting to travel this way for awhile now - I just always get these crazy ideas. In a few days, we're off to the resort and I think that's going to be really nice. (I guess I'll need to put D in his bathing suit on their beach? - I just realized I have a zillion hiney pictures). We'll spend a 1/2 day hiking El Yunque Rainforest. Everything is withing 20 minutes from here - no more crazy driving!

I hope the girls are OK. I miss them SOOOOOO much!!!!

Posted by stevedana 13:59 Comments (0)

Puerto Rico: Luquillo Beach

all seasons in one day 86 °F

By the way, our rental car is a lime green Ford Focus. Did I mention it was lime green? LOL

Today was a day of trial and error. In the morning we went to a beach......and no one was on it.

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That should have been our clue! We made up for it later today! We left the beach and took a ride. We found a cool marina with a relaxing place to sit down and eat (there are tons of fast food options here, but not much else). We were happy to find this place. They are extremely kid-friendly here. The waitress held D so we could eat! They just love babies here. There is a lot of poverty here and everything is run down, even the roads. It's weird, because it's a US territory, so you'd think it would be different. And the feral dog and cat population here is downright depressing. I am feeding a cat here in the yard. she's black with a little white and very skittish.....but I bought her a box of food and left her some water.

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I saw a bunch of homeless dogs while we were out. One was either pregnant or nursing and she was emaciated. So sad! Anyway, on to better topics.

We found an AMAZING beach here. The water is calm and the sand is soft and it is just so nice there. And it's so nicely maintained.....which is something you don't see much of here outside of a resort. There are places to eat there and stuff but it's still shady and clean. SO nice! We rolled in and it started raining so we were like, Uhhhhhhh. But we decided to nurse the baby and kill some time in the car and hope the rain would stop. (By the way, nursing the baby makes life a thousand times easier - we don't need to lug around as much stuff for him!) The sun started to come out. So we went out on the beach and it was still overcast but still hot so we went into the water. Declan was afraid of the waves at first (I guess they would look really big to someone as small as he is).

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Eventually, he started to like the water. There were tons of teenagers playing volleyball on the beach and other people, so it's obviously a popular place. We were talking to a couple that looked like locals, but were in fact from PA! That was funny. Eventually the sun came out and it was very hot!!! We forgot sun tan lotion, so Steve and I were out there baking once the sun came out! (We have special stuff for D). We have since gone and bought some lotion for ourselves. So far, no burn for us, keep your fingers crossed!

Tonight we went to the aptly named, El Conquistador resort and had a bite to eat there at a "cheap" eatery onsite. It's a GORGEOUS place! I took some pictures. It's ridiculous! It is huge, they have a casino, multiple pools, and so on. It was nice to sit back by the pools and have a bite to eat outside.

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Tomorrow we check out the Guanica dry forest. It's about 2 hours from here. At evening when we get back, we are BBQing at the house here and will take it easy.

Oh, if I can toot our own horn here, the only bag we checked, was D's pack n play. If there was a crib here, we wouldn't have needed to bring it and we would have packed for a week here for all 3 of us with only carry-ons. Impressive, eh?!?

I'll write back with news about the dry forest.....it's a UN Biosphere.

Posted by stevedana 19:00 Comments (0)

Puerto Rico 2010

I don't have anymore blog space left, so PR will go in this blog!

semi-overcast 85 °F

Gypsycat wants to come with us again!

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It was a long day, but we made it! Of course Declan charmed everyone at the airport. It was great having had the experience of traveling by airplane to FL with him. I felt like we were much more prepared this time. It is a world of different kind of travel with an infant - like pumping breastmilk in the bathroom again. But to be honest, I was looking at little D today and thinking how cool it was that we get to share this experience with him, and I was hugging him and telling him how happy I was that he was here with us as I put him to bed.

Pepe (the guy we're renting from) called us as soon as we got here. We met up with him at the house here. The Puerto Rican drivers are insane, by the way. We almost got side-swiped a few times! Anyway, we get to the house and Pepe is here. He's a heck of a nice guy and very helpful.....almost TOO helpful. LOL. We were tired and Declan was tired and we just wanted to plop down, but he wanted to chat for awhile and then give us a tour. Plus he had a guy here fixing the dryer. Anyway, the house is.......interesting. It's nothing fancy, which I wasn't expecting. It is clean enough, but is waaaaay too cluttered for our liking. He's got tons of stuff here.........3 TVs, for example. LOL. It's very hot, so we have the A/C on and lil D is in the Pack n Play......... in the bathroom. We need to keep the door shut upstairs here and the bathroom (attached to our room) is the only other cool room. So that's where D is.....in the bathroom. But it's cool in there and he has plenty of room in his pack n play. Of course if we need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, we need to run downstairs. Still, it works out well, we have privacy and D has the cool of the A/C and his own little quiet space.

Tonight we went to the local grocery store. We got so much cool stuff. Papaya, some funky fruit juice, guava yogurt, some cheese (we don't know what it is), and a bunch of other stuff to eat here at the house. Declan was sooooo good. He didn't really nap today (no such luck on the plane - he was up the whole time). He fussed a little, but was so good at the supermarket and traveling around and on Pepe's tour. So good! He was wiped out when we put him down at like 9:30 tonight.

Today was just a day of getting used to our new surroundings. The beach here is gorgeous - we plan on going there tomorrow. Luquillo Beach is what it's called. We may also check out Guanica Dry Forest, and El Yunque National Park, some caves, some waterfalls, MAYBE the bio bays, and all kinds of cool stuff. There is so much to do here. There really is something for everyone. I really like having this house and close access to the beach here. Steve will be running on the beach in the mornings. I'd love to do that too, but D needs me more. I'll have to settle for yoga in the leafy little yard here (we crammed a mat into the pack n play). The beach is lined with coconut palms and it looked super clean when we drove by. I can't wait t get there tomorrow. The water is a pretty blue and the beach is sandy beige. There are a bunch of fishing boats docked on the one end.

It's only 10:23pm, but Steve is already asleep and I am completely wiped and we're still not even unpacked yet. It was just so late by the time we got here and got to the store and then stopped at the Taco Maker for a (less than stellar) bite to eat. I am tired and this is sloppy, but I promise to write more while we are here. We have lots of down time on this trip with little D - which we really need - the down time. I don't have a set plan on things to do - just things I'd like to do while we are here. So it's nice to be free of plans, but to have options. I'll keep you updated on what we are doing!

Posted by stevedana 19:10 Comments (1)

Boston and Maine March 09

all seasons in one day

Since Declan was due on June 9, and it was my birthday, we decided on a little getaway to Boston and to Ogunquit, Maine.

We left in the morning on my birthday and met up with my folks for lunch just outside of Boston (they were catching a flight to Ireland from Logan Airport). It was a nice visit. We then rolled into Boston and checked into the Nine Zero Hotel, which was a VERY cool place to stay that I booked on cheaptickets.com. Here's a pic of the room
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It was so comfortable and a bit quirky and it was in an ideal location!! We decided to go into Cambridge for my birthday and listen to a lecture. We had never been to Cambridge and we totally loved it there!We even went to Burdicks for some hot chocolates!! It was a really nice night!

We were in Boston for a couple days and we checked out some museums, and did some shopping in Quincy Market/Fanuiel Hall, and we ate at nice restaurants, and we just really enjoyed ourselves. We decided that we wouldn't be running running during this trip, like we usually do, since I was pregnant.

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We even slept in at the Nine Zero, one morning and didn't leave for the day until noon! We used the subway and it was kind of hard for me to get around, since everyone in the city moves so fast, but all in all, it wasn't bad. It was much slower and less crowded than NYC, which is what we're used to. We walked to the movie theater at night and watched "Slumdog Millionaire" on the big screen. Man, was that an intense movie.....especially for a hormonal pregnant woman!

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On our last night in town, we went back to Cambridge, since we totally loved it there. We checked out an Underground Film Festival at a little theater there....it was very avant garde. We had eyed an Indian restaurant, so we went there and incidentally sat next to some other people who just left the film festival. I got the usual: malai kofta - but it wasn't nearly as good as it is at the Clay Oven!

In the morning, we ordered room service and then headed out to Ogunquit, Maine. We spent the night at the Juniper Hill Inn, but we headed to the beach and our favorite candy store first. It was a nice relaxing place to be after the big city.

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Here we are in Ogunquit.
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In the evening, we went out to a really nice sit-down dinner in town and then headed into the pool at the Juniper Hill Inn. What a nice way to end our trip!

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Posted by stevedana 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Acadia National Park, Maine 2008

June 10-15, 2008

sunny 80 °F

Tues, Jun 10: There's just something about Maine..............

We drove to Ogunquit in the afternoon and got there shortly before dinner. We checked in to the Dunes and they upgraded us to a nicer room since it was the off season. I think we will be staying there again. We could hear the ocean from our room (again). After parking the car by the police station (a public lot), we walked the Marginal Way to the Oarweed, where we've eaten before. In fact, we had the same server - I remembered her because the last time we were there was an animated group of older women there and it was an interesting night at the Oarweed. After dinner we ambled around a bit in town. I noticed that there was an absence of young people. That has become more apparent to me in Ogunquit. We're getting to know the place better. I still love it there- just not to LIVE there.......
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Wed, Jun 11
: We slept in a bit and enjoyed the beach in Ogunquit before heading out to Bar Harbor (about a 4 hour drive).
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We booked a room at the Belle Isle Motel for $45 a night. It was surely a money-saving thing to do, but it was "no frills" there. I asked for the quietest room and it was indeed quiet back there, and the place was clean so we had no complaints. It was around 3PM when we arrived, so we wanted to do a short, but challenging hike. We scurried over to Acadia National Park, got a park pass for $10 and made our way to Gorham Mountain Trail.
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It was nice - there was no one around. I did not have my A-game on this day, but made my way up the steady incline.

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Here we are on the trail.
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We made our way past Sand Beach
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At night, we headed into Bar Harbor for dinner. Bar Harbor is one of my favorite towns. It has an outdoorsy, progressive, artsy and vacation-y feel to it. I get a sense of well-being every time we're there.

On the way there, we saw a woman hitch hiking, so we picked her up (having hitchhiked, we knew her experience). She was a colorful character who worked at a natural food store in town and was traveling between Vermont and Bar Harbor and was originally from PA. She appeared to be in her early 20s. She asked us where we were going and I mentioned a vegetarian cafe I heard about in town and she knew of it immediately - said her friend works there - it's called Eden. So we went to Eden for a light dinner and it was amazing. It's a totally vegan place, so they need to be very creative with the food. If you're open to it, it is a really good meal. Steve loved it so much he insisted we go back for another dinner before going home. I was admiring the watercolors on the wall and evidently it's a local artist who has a gallery next door! I felt so at home at this pleasant little place.

Our server had an interesting tattoo that sparked a conversation and she recommended Rodick street in town as being a very cool little street. So that's where we were off to next! We popped into a tattoo shop there and Steve talked to the guy about getting another tattoo on Saturday, but we changed our minds. So next, we were walking down Rodick Street and noticed a crowd at the Lumpoc in their Bocce Garden Bar - that's right it is an outdoor garden bar with a bocce court! A bunch of guys were setting up a screen and talking about world premiering their video. The crowd looks like late 20s/ early 30s and I wondered if it was a private party as we stood on the street. I decided to jump right in on life instead of observing it and urged Steve to come in! So he did and the bartender said these guys were a local band with a strong following. They showed some avant garde homemade music videos - one was about a meatball, filmed right there on the bocce court I was now standing on, and the other was about a defunct go-kart track in town.
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These guys were so entertaining. It was serendipity that we stumbled upon them on Rodick Street. For a fleeting moment I felt like a local in this neat little oasis of a town in the middle of northern New England.

Here's a photo from the green in town.
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Thurs, Jun 12: [/u] Today we had a hearty breakfast at a little place down the road from us and headed back to the park. Steve said it was Beehive Trail Day. I was a bit apprehensive about this trail. It is a fairly short trail - about a mile straight up on cliff edges, using rungs to hold on to for dear life. I wondered if I could do it. A couple was leaving and I inquired about the difficulty level, feeling unsure of myself. They said it was more mental than physical. That actually brought me peace of mind. So we were off........
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We had to carefully place our hands and feet on the rocks and rungs to get up the trail.
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There was absolutely no looking down. In fact, Steve had to pass his heavy backpack off to me (I was behind him in the climb), as the weight was impairing his ability to make it up the cliff. I took some photos of the journey up, but eventually had to concentrate on what I was doing.

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It was so rewarding to make it to the top! Notice the sweat clinging my shirt to my back.
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Here we are enjoying the view.
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After the Beehive, we hiked down to "the bowl" a freshwater lake, where Steve jumped in to cool off.
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I was talking to a couple from Washington DC in the meantime. They were about to do the Beehive Trail themselves.

We decided to have lunch by the water - actually that's where I wanted to have our lunch. I just love being near water. We sat on a rock and had lunch.
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We unpacked the sandwiches and fruit we bought from the local Hannaford. I got a delicious "Rustica" sandwich of hummus and raw vegetables on ciabatta bread. It was so good that I convinced Steve to get one the next day for our picnic lunch. I found a shady spot next to a rock and Steve sunned himself - we are both getting some nice color at this point!
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We also did the trail around Jordan Pond, which is about 3 miles. We rewarded ourselves with blueberry smoothies and some brie at the Jordan Pond House (in the park) afterward. On the way back to the motel, we stopped in this cool mini golf place called "Pirate's Cove' 1/4 mile from our motel and played an 18-hole round. It was THE coolest mini golf place ever! It had huge fountains, a cool course, and reggae music playing from speakers at every hole. It was actually a very close game, but Steve came out victorious. So much for letting the girl win!; )

We showered and headed into town for dinner. I read about this cool place in town. It's a movie theater/pizza place/bar. Each seat has a table in front of it, and you know your pizza is done when your number lights up on the Bingo board on the wall! Our movie (Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull) wasn't due to start until 8:30 and I am afraid we didn't hold out! We ended up having dinner outside at Rupunini's and we rewarded ourselves after a long day's hike with a pitcher of red Sangria and some seafood.
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After dinner, we headed back to the cinema. While on line, we noticed a flier for the Slacks' video premier the night before. They ARE a local phenomena! We settled in and saw the new Indy movie. It did not disappoint!

Fri, Jun 13: This morning, we tried breakfast at another place we thought might be cheaper - the Log Cabin - but alas it was not! We wanted to fill up, since we'd have the hardest day of hiking ahead of us. We decided to do the Cadillac Mountain Summit. This is the first place where the sun rises in the morning in the USA (we have yet to discipline ourselves to get up for sunrise!) It was a long and arduous ascent, but it was fairly gentle ascent. I was just pretty tired at this point. It was a cool trip up and we met others at the summit (there's a car park up there and a paved walkway around-so you don't have to hike up the mountain, you can drive it). We were tired and sweaty at the cool and windy summit. Visitors had more layers on than I did (imagine that!). A man with his family asked us to take their photo and then asked us if we were hikers. I wasn't sure how to respond. I said "Yes, sort of". Then he asked us about the cairns he was looking at going back down the mountain - he wasn't sure what they were. After we explained them, I then FINALLY, felt like a hiker after all! Here we are at the summit (the timer on the camera and the mini telescoping tripod are THE coolest things to have).
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We decided that Cadillac Mountain would be the place for our picnic lunch on this day.
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So now it was time to make our way down the mountain and it was not for the feint of heart! It was very rocky and we were walking along cliff edges. I was concentrating so hard on where I was putting my feet - was the rock I was about to step on stable? - I wondered with every 10th step....... I was a steady decline and we thanked our lucky stars we didn't come up this way.

We slowly made our way into the forest on the Gorge Trail. We ran into a family from rural PA there. The husband joked that his wife was a Jersey Girl. She said she grew up in Clifton! I said I went to School 11 and she said she hailed from School 8! I heard the kids ask "How many schools ARE there?" and the dad said "Too many to name!" I thought that was funny. So here's one for Team Clifton Girls! So now we're in the woods and we encounter a small snake. Here is her photo. I tried to take her photo, but it's unclear since my legs were quivering after the hike. Steve took the camera and discovered his legs were also quivering! Here's the best we could do!
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The mosquitoes found us when we stopped for the snake and the rest of the hike was a hasty trek through a dried up river bed on river rocks seeking to outrun the seeming swarm of mosquitoes. We made it into a clearing, relatively unscathed, but we were pretty fatigued. We FINALLY made it back to the car and freshened up at the motel. So back into Bar Harbor we went. We sat on the green for awhile, listening to some local play music and watching the sun set over the Harbor. We went back to the Eden Cafe and the same server was there and she remembered us! We had another great meal there. Afterward, we went for ice cream at this neat little place. I got pop tarts-n-cream and Steve got chocolate jalapeno.

Sat, June 14: [u] Today we decided on light hiking and sightseeing, since we were so tired! We did the easy Ship Harbor Trail out to the ocean and did some tide pooling there.
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Here are some scenes from the trail.
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Our next stop would be the Abbe Museum in the park which has artifacts from the Wabenaki Indians. We also wandered around some gardens there. Here's a pitcher plant.
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Next we checked out the Atlantic Brewery which is a small microbrewery in Bar Harbor. We did a beer tasting and did a brewery tour. I knew Steve would love that. There was a resident cat there named Hops. She looked like my old cat, Mama. That was a highlight for me!

For dinner, we went to Gringo's, a burrito bar on Rodick Street and we made our way over to Cadillac Mountain to watch the sun set and the moon rise, as we had the 1st time we came up to Acadia National Park. The low laying clouds obscured our view, but it didn't take away from the charm of the place - people all sitting and admiring the feat of mother nature each night.
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Back at the Belle Isle Motel, we pre-packed, and began loading the car in anticipation of leaving early the next morning.


Sun, Jun 15:
We checked out and left at 7:30am, making our way back home. We finally rolled in at about 5:30 PM. This was an especially nice trip to Maine. Maine is a special place. Plus it's so EASY to travel within the US. There are a number of logistics you don't need to worry about when you stay in the US. Anyway, we were pretty tired when we got home, but amped about doing some running. We' ve been jogging every other day in an effort to be healthier. We're also on a diet of sorts - just trying to stay away from anything fried and eat more salad. So far so good. Inspired by Maine!

Posted by stevedana 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Ogunquit to Bar Harbor, Maine 2007

sunny 0 °F

August 2, 2007

I think we’ll be returning to Maine.

We packed the car, kissed our cats goodbye & left at around 10 AM and after a hot 5-1/2 hour ride in a non air-conditioned car, we rolled into Ogunquit, which apparently means “beautiful place by the sea” in Algonquian.

We got to the Puffin Inn around 2:30 PM - We like B&Bs particularly because you’re always staying in some cool old house (we like old houses) & you meet other travelers & the innkeepers usually give you the inside scoop on your destination. We quickly showered & headed out to Marginal Way (which is a seaside walk in Ogunquit). Ogunquit is moneyed so it’s impeccably neat, pretty, beautifully landscaped, & safe. We ambled along Marginal Way (which is the principal reason why I wanted to visit this “beautiful place by the sea”) and it was all that I hoped it would be. We followed the footpath past some seaside inns & made our way out to the sea. We found a nice alcove & the seawater crept over my feet, which was very refreshing. We ran into a couple from New Hampshire that was kind enough to take our photo.
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The seashore is very rocky and the sand is extremely soft & fine. There are no shells in it.

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Further along The Way, there was a rocky outcropping jutting out into the sea. We made our way out to the end. It got increasingly more difficult as the rocks were wetter & slipperier as we got closer to the end. Plus, there were snails everywhere & I didn’t want to step on anyone. I am SO clumsy that I was glad to have made it out and back without falling on the rocks! It was beautiful when we were out there. The sun was beginning her descent at about 5PM so the it cast a warm light play on the rocks.

We continued on Marginal Way, getting sweatier as the walk went on. It was a warm sunny day in Maine. This worked out for us, because it made the water that much more refreshing (and we were scouting out swimming areas for the next day). After emerging from the other side of the walk, we decided to eat at an outdoor burrito place (Bandito’s Burritos). It seemed like we were under dressed for some of the upscale restaurants in town. On the one hand, things are expensive. On the other, everything is beautiful & it’s safe - we had no problem leaving our belongings unattended on the beach, for example. After dinner, we had ice cream while wandering around the pretty little town. I saw an awesome soap store and I couldn’t pass it up, so we popped in & I made a few small purchases (same with another shop, where a bought a few little candles & some cat nip, naturally)

The tide here was interesting. It’s very dramatically high & low tide. You can almost watch it come in & out. During the morning, the beach is 1/3 mile out to the ocean. It’s really shallow also. As the tide comes in, everyone squeezes as the beach gets smaller. In the evening, it’s low tide again and the beach is palatial. At around 8PM we went to the beach & waded around in the warm shallow water after having walked out about 1/3 mile onto the beach. It was so peaceful.

My favorite time to be on the beach is at dusk, but this was pretty cool also. Everything in this town is walkable. We walked back to the inn & settled in for the night.

August 3, 2007

In the morning, we had waffles and homemade blueberry sauce that Mark (one of the innkeepers) prepared. We chatted with a couple from CT for a bit, checked out of the inn, loaded the car, & then headed back out to the ocean. The cool water was glistening in the sun & little waves rolled in over my feet.

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It was early morning, so the beach was still large. After a short stay there, we decided to head over to the rocky alcoves we admired the day before. We were able to walk through a tidal stream at low tide (about thigh high) to get there. In a few hours it would be impassable. We spent hours in the alcove cooling off & enjoying the ocean.

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After a while we walked down Marginal Way again to Perkins Cove to grab some lunch at Barnacle Billy’s Lobster Pound before returning to the ocean to cool off again. It was a HOT day. We made our way to a public restroom where we freshened up & made our way north to Freeport.

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At this point, I realized I hadn’t packed enough hot weather clothes & we needed to do a little laundry. We got to Freeport in the early evening & checked into the Village Inn. It is an old Victorian house, with a motel-style setup attached. An old couple runs the place & they haven’t updated anything in 20 years. It was a little tacky, but it was clean, neat, & a great value at 90 bucks which included a full breakfast. We’d definitely stay again. We were planning on meeting my parents there in Freeport & they weren’t expected for another hour, so we checked in, took showers, & headed down the street with a bagful of laundry. It was very convenient to do!

As we returned from one of the trips to the laundromat, we ran into my folks in the parking lot. We decided to go to Portland for dinner at a seafood place on the harbor. Then we walked around the city a bit. There was a cool store called Waterlilly & the owner & her boyfriend travel to Asia for 3-4 months every year to gather things for the shop & have a bit of an adventure! It was fun talking to her. It was THE coolest shop! Portland is a cool city. It’s small but has arts & culture, and it’s clean, safe & seems like it is in the middle of nowhere!
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We looked at some beautiful old houses & then all returned to Freeport for some Ben and Jerry’s.

August 4, 2007: After a hearty breakfast at the Inn, we ambled around Freeport a bit, hitting a bead store my mom wanted to check out and then off to the Desert of Maine, which is a Ripley’s Believe it or Not oddity. A farmer overcultivated his farm, so now it’s sandy due to the soil erosion.
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After the Desert of Maine, we picked up lunch from a neat deli in Portland, packed bags & headed out to Two Lights State Park, in nearby Cape Elizabeth.

From Maine’s Bureau of Park’s website “Standing high above the rocky coast and rolling surf, visitors have sweeping views of Casco Bay and the open Atlantic. Picnic tables situated on the hills facing the ocean afford visitors spectacular views of the ocean ..... Strollers and hikers can enjoy the refreshing sea breezes along shoreline trails ….”

After lunch overlooking the ocean, my mom settled in with a book & my dad filmed some stuff & Steve & I wandered off. We checked out an old WW2 lookout,

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walked by some people making (and selling) tie dyed shirts,

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hiked around and picked raspberries (Steve picked QUITE a few!) & then ended up on the rocks looking at the ocean hours later.
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We walked out by some other people marveling at the waves slamming into the rocks and then cringing as the cold water strode over everyone’s chilly feet.

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At one point, we observed the water pulling rocks back into the ocean. It was a cacophony of sound from the pebbles rolling over top of one another as the waves pulled them out.

For awhile I sat by myself looking into the ocean.
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After the park, we all grabbed a bite to eat at a Chinese buffet (The China Rose) & went to see "The Bourne Ultimatum" (in I believe, Brunswick – the town where Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”). Anyway, we love the Bourne series. I think it was opening weekend, because it was awfully full in that theater.

August 5, 2007

We had breakfast at the Inn, checked out, said goodbye to my folks & went our separate ways. We had a 3-1/2 hour drive to Bar Harbor. We got there around 2. It was a little cooler that day, so we weren’t sweltering in the car. We took the longer coastal road, because we weren’t in a hurry & wanted to see all the villages. We stopped off in Owl’s Head. The Lonely Planet book resting on my lap made no mention of it, but the name intrigued me enough to make the detour. So there was a little lighthouse there. We went up to it....

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Our next stop would be Acadia National Park on Mt Desert Island (pronounced "day-sehr" by the locals) One thing we noted about Acadia is that most of the visitors are people who have been going there for the last 15 years or 20 years. We can see why now.

As we got closer to Mount Desert Island (where both Bar Harbor and the park lie), in Searsport, we approached this tremendous suspension bridge. Apparently it’s the largest or longest one in the world. We drove into Bar Harbor & made our way to the Black Friar Inn. This was hands-down the coolest house I had ever been in. Apparently the previous owner outfitted it with funky antiques & lots of woodwork from old mansions and stuff. There were so many interesting elements to this house, from the windows in the ceilings to the funky doors & handles. There was a neat feeling there too. I wondered if it was haunted? We were in the upstairs (3rd floor, Room 6).

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We settled in and made our way to nearby Acadia National Park. We did the Shoreline Path out to Otter Cliffs. We stopped along the way to Thunder Hole, which evidently mimics the sound of thunder under certain conditions. We enjoyed the journey down the shoreline and the view from the cliffs.
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We watched the sun set at the top of Cadillac Mountain (at the Blue Hill pull off). We set up our lawn chairs and had some snacks with us. More people began to assemble. Apparently every Sunday at 1/2 hour before sunset, there is a church service. There were some scattered other people. One family brought a whole pizza with them. One couple set up a card table & had Chinese food! People clapped when the sun went down and after awhile it got chilly.
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We headed back into Bar Harbor. Everything there was within walking distance. We grabbed some pizza (but it’s not like pizza here) & walked around the town. It is a pretty town that revolves almost entirely around Acadia National Park & fishing/boating.
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August 6, 2007: In the morning, we asked Perry, one of the innkeepers, if he could suggest any lesser-known trails. We went with his suggestion to go to Penobscot mountain via the Spring Trail to the Penobscot Trail and later on to Sargent Pond and Sargent mountain before heading through the amphitheater, Atiscou trail, and then the carriage road back to Spring Trail to the Jordan Pond House.

After breakfast we walked to Hanneford (for non-New Englanders, it is a supermarket chain), got water & apples & sandwiches to put in our backpacks for lunch.

From Trails.com "At 0.5 mile from the trailhead, cross a carriage road at the West Branch Bridge, one of the unique stone spans that dot the Acadia landscape. Turn left and begin the climb up Penobscot. Switchbacks take you along a wooden split rail fence. You may need to scramble up on your hands and knees at one tight spot. "

From Yahoo Travel "...This trail offers views of many park features including Eagle Lake, Cranberry Isles, Seal Harbor, Frenchman's Bay and nine different mountains. At the beginning of the hike just after Jordan Pond, visitors will view a beautiful stone arch bridge crossing the largest and fastest stream in Mount Desert, Jordan Stream. Take the carriage road a few hundred feet to a foot bridge; you see trail signs. The trail enters a pine forest while paralleling bubbling brooks. The trail gradually ascends and you'll cross the carriage road. Continue your ascent following the blue-blazed rocks. Scenic vistas begin appearing as you ascend along a number of switchbacks. Farther down on the trail, the sites include South Bubble, North Bubble, the Atlantic Ocean studded with numerous islands. The trail opens onto a ridge with extraordinary views of Pemetic Mountain, Day Mountain and Jordan Pond to the east; Southwest Harbor and Somes Sound (only fjord in eastern US) to the south; shifting slightly westward, you'll see Greening Island and Cranberry Islands. Climbing affords more views including Northeast Harbor in the foreground to the Park Loop Road. When you reach the large cairn, look for Sargent Mountain Pond which will be southwest of Eagle Lake. "

Here were are in front of Jordan Pond on our way to Penobscot (so named after the Native American tribe that originally lived there)
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Here's just a photo of Steve on our way up. Every time we thought we were at the top, we'd see another little peak.
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The weather was perfect. There was a cool breeze in the air, especially at the top. So it was refreshing to cool off every time the breeze blew.

I wasn't sure if I could do Sargent too, but I wanted to at least try. And I did make it to Sargent! So, here we are at Sargent. There were some really nice people at the top who offered to take our photo.
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We took our time going back. We pulled off the trail to have lunch with a view and rest our feet. After the amphitheater, we climbed up to some carriage roads, to give our legs and feet a break. So we walked the carriage roads & it was overcast & felt like rain was coming in. It was nice walking through the woods. We spotted Spring Trail & took that back to the end of the hike.

We were pretty tired & as we were leaving the park, it began to rain. We returned to the Black Friar, cleaned up, chatted with some other travelers at the inn about where to have dinner.

We finally headed into Bar Harbor huddled under an umbrella & had a nice dinner at the Parkside. There is also a shore walk in town and it had stopped raining, so we walked along the shore/harbor in the mist and emerged on a quiet little side street as it was getting dark. We were back in town and we stopped into a "Life is Good" store before heading back to the Inn.


August 7, 2007:
Well, this was a long day of driving from Bar Harbor back home. We had a delicious breakfast at the Inn & headed out at about 8:44 AM and we made it home around 6:15 PM. It was a long drive, but we really enjoyed Maine. I liked the laid back attitude. I also liked the progressive political spirit along the Maine coast. It was very homey there, too. We’ll try to return to Ogunquit in the Fall, & we’ll surely be returning to Acadia. There is so much to do in Maine and we just scratched the surface!
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September 27-30, 2007:
We returned to Ogunquit during the last weekend of September. We hope for a longer trip in the summer again, but here are our pictures from our weekend in Ogunquit.

This time, we decided to stay at The Dunes in Ogunquit. It was a ncie little getaway and my parents met us there.
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Posted by stevedana 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Philadelphia 2007

all seasons in one day 0 °F

Philly March 21-24. 2007

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3/21/07:
We decided on a little getaway to Philadelphia. We got a great hotel deal via Hotwire, packed the car and headed down. On the way, in Bridgewater, we spotted an enormous and ornate Hindu temple off the road. We pulled in to see what it was, but it was closed at the time. We decided to check it out on the way home.

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We check in, change, get our bearings and head out to South Street. Everyone raved about South Street, so off we went. It’s compared to New York’s Greenwich Village, but it didn’t have the arty vibe of the village. Still, it was cool. There are legendary stores on South Street, like Condom Kingdom, for example. I also noticed a lot of mosaics around the area. So we hopped into a few shops, one new-“agey” one called Mineralistic caught our attention. We just people-watched and then headed into Copabanana for a bite to eat and margaritas (something our neighbor recommended).

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After an evening of eating, drinking and people-watching, we headed back to our hotel. We meandered around Headhouse Square eying all the restaurants there and checked out some beautifully lit cobblestone neighborhoods, reminiscent of Boston’s exclusive Beacon Hill. En route, we came upon a beautiful Korean War Memorial all lit up at night.

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3/22/07: In the morning, we decided to get up and head out early. We had a long day of sightseeing ahead of us. We first headed up to Franklin Square where we checked out the Academy of Natural Sciences - they had a “Scoop on Poop”exhibit and a special butterflies exhibit.
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There were schoolchildren everywhere! Needless to say, it was a high-energy place!

We decided to go to Rittenhouse Square to have lunch. We decided on a little place named Alfa. It’s sort of the yuppie part of town: very nice, with expensive shops and “shee-shee” eateries. After lunch we went to the Mutter Museum, which is part of a medical school and exhibits all kinds of medical anomalies and oddities. I mean, there were pickled fetuses in jars. Steve thought it was cool. It was an eerie place! After that, we went to the Civil War and Underground Railroad museum. The small museum was in an innocuous brownstone, in fact, we almost walked right past it. The folks working there are all REALLY into the civil war and I don’t think they get too many visitors, as they seemed excited to see us. We were approached 3 times by staff asking us if we had any questions. They had some interesting things. Steve particularly liked the logs with the bullets lodged in them! On the long walk back we decided to take antique row back to Penn’s Landing.
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We passed all kinds of small independently-owned shops. One stood out in particular. It’s owned by a local guy and he has all kinds of neat things done by artists he knows. We saw a whimsical cat clock in there and couldn’t resist the purchase. We shed layers as the temperatures slowly rose into the mid 70s. It was a beautiful day.

So we freshened up at the hotel and headed back to South Street for something to eat before the comedy show we were planning on going to. We came upon this Moroccan place called “Fez” and decided to check it out. We never had truly Moroccan food before (well, we had African food in Australia, so I don’t know if that counts).
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So we wander in and there is Arab pop playing and the ceiling and walls are covered with ethnic fabrics. The tables are round and you can sit on the floor if you like. There was a group of college students on spring break in there celebrating a birthday. I knew it would be fun. We decided on a 7-course feast of traditional fare.
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It was cool, you eat with your hands. Incidentally the other patrons on our side of the restaurant all ordered the 7 or 8-course meal and we were all on the same schedule. For those of us who didn’t know what was coming out next, we shared in everyone’s excitement. Then, a belly dancer came out and taught some of us how to belly dance. That was fun, and it looks a lot easier than it is!

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So we roll out of there and head over to Laff House for some stand-up comedy. The place was pretty full and we were the only white couple in there. We thought we’d get singled out for sure! But we sat in the back in the dark, so we could just enjoy the show on the down low! That was an experience and we laughed, so it was all good!

3/23/07:
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So we hit the road again, on foot. First, we went to Reading Terminal Market, a well known produce market. There we ordered fresh breakfasts that we watched Amish women prepare. We also bought pastries to go and some groceries that we stuffed in our backpack. Our next stop was the National Constitution Center. This place was cool. It was full of interactive exhibits. The place was filled with middle school students! First, they bring everyone into this round theater where there is a sound and lights show with an actor and film of dramatic moments in our history darting around the floor and walls. It was really cool. After the show let out everyone descended on the interactive exhibits.While it was a bit chaotic, it was also fun to be around all the kids. We sat outside the center and feasted on the pastries, seemingly burning a hole in the bag we carried them in!

It began drizzling and it was overcast. Our next stop would be Carpenter’s Hall and then the Liberty Bell and then Independence Hall.
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A park ranger led a tour (of mostly school children again) to the rooms where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was deliberated on. It was exciting to be standing in the exact spot trying to imagine George Washington sitting in his chair with the half-sun on it. Ben Franklin decided the sun was rising. There was a cool energy in that place! Before the tour however, our guide talked tour group about the cast of characters and she really brought them to life! She was so animated! And the children were so excited!
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After that, we checked out the frame of what was Ben Franklin’s home and went to an underground museum dedicated to Franklin where we watched a movie about him in the theater down there.

So we walked in the rain back to our hotel to freshen up for dinner. We decided on the City Tavern, an eatery that has been around for over 200 years! Steve tried a porter (beer) that George Washington himself crafted! The other menu items were the same things that our founding fathers ate. In fact, that tavern was the very site of Washington’s inaugural party. We had some little pecan scone-type things that Jefferson liked. So that was a hoot.

After a long, tiring, and rainy day, we decided to call it a night after dinner and headed back to the hotel, where we ordered an in-room movie. We chose “Bobby” a brilliant film!

In the morning, we took our time getting up and ate breakfast at a diner in the city. Afterward, we checked out and started our drive home. I was excited about checking out that Hindu temple! When we got there it was so packed there wasn’t ONE parking spot! There must have been a thousand people there! We decided it would be a better visit another time. So we ended up getting home a bit early, which was nice. We visited with Steve’s sister at the house, kissed our girls, did laundry and relaxed. It was a nice way to come down from our mini-adventure to Philly!

Posted by stevedana 16:39 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New Orleans 2005

sunny

March 18, 2005
My 30th birthday on Bourbon Street!

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At the House of Blues
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Jackson Square
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Scenes from New Orleans
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At Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville
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Mural in our apt.
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Cemetery Pics
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Posted by stevedana 15:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Miami 2003

sunny 0 °F
View Steve & Dana's Map on stevedana's travel map.

October 2003
Out hotel
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South Beach!
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Vizcaya

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Posted by stevedana 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New Orleans 2003

all seasons in one day 0 °F

Tuesday, January 7
We arrive at 11:30 AM

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Cafe Beignet
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Bourbon Street
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Wednesday, January 8
French Quarter and New Orleans Voodoo Museum.
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Le Monde Creole tour at 10:30 AM.
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8PM Haunted history tour of the French Quarter
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Thursday, January 9
Riverboat Jazz Cruise and Voodoo/Witchcraft Tour
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Friday, January 10
Longue Vue Garden and dinner
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Saturday, January 11
Slidell, LA - Honey Island Swamp
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Sunday, January 12
Day trip to Grand Isle State Park and the worst po' boy ever made.

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Last night at the House of Blues
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Monday, Janauary 13
Head home at noon.

Posted by stevedana 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

California 2002

sunny 0 °F
View Steve & Dana's Map on stevedana's travel map.

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Saturday, May 25, 2002 - Friday, May 31, 2002:

We decided on California, in part because so soon after 9/11, we didn't want to travel overseas. Plus we hadn't been to California and it's a place we both really wanted to check out. It was so exciting to get away from all the stress of the wedding planning and travel as "husband and wife" for the first time. It was the morning after our wedding the night before.

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We kissed Cleopatra goodbye and made our way to the airport. I am so grateful we got to experience this getaway.

So we get to the Warwick Regis Hotel in the theater district in San Francisco. It's a boutique hotel, so it was very European. We got our room at half price. When we entered we were amazed at how nice the hotel was for the price we secured. It was so pretty inside. I loved that hotel. It definitely spoiled us! This is a photo from the hotel's website, but it's exactly what our room looked like.
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So we went to the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate State Park. We took the Metro. I was surprised by how many homeless people there were in San Francisco! Maybe because the weather is so temperate there. That was sad to see. We were dropped off near the park and we started to wander around. It was a beautiful place.

From sftravel.com "San Francisco's Japanese Tea Garden was originally developed for the 1894 World’s Fair in San Francisco. It was conceived and designed by Baron Makoto Hagiwara, a wealthy landscape designer. It was in the Japanese Tea Garden where Fortune Cookies originated, and soon became increasingly popular. The Garden has now grown into a landmark of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park."
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Drum Bridge. From sftravel.com "It’s called the Drum Bridge because it looks like someone cut a large drum in half and used it as a bridge. The end result is something that looks beautiful, terribly impractical. The slope of the bridge is so steep that you have to literally climb it. Fortunately, it has footholds on it, otherwise you would need a pair of cleats. Still, once you get up to the top, be sure to have someone take your picture." Once I scrambled down the bridge, I took Steve's photo.
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Of course we had to take a cable car and check out their famed Chinatown. So we hopped on the crowded Howell and Mason line and as you know, San Francisco is VERY hilly, so as we started our decline down the steep hills on the cables, the tourists on the car gasped a little.

Chinatown was cool. We walked around, soaked in all the street activity and then went to The Grand Palace restaurant for some dinner. We found out later that it was where the locals eat.

We briefly checked out Fisherman's Wharf, and Pier 39 where there are a ton of sea lions barking away and lolling about. We didn't spend too much time at the Wharf, but it was fun watching the sea lions.

On May 27, we went to Alcatraz Island. That was an interesting excursion. We departed from Pier 41. This is the view of San Francisco from the boat.
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Actually, Alcatraz Island is quite beautiful and it's a national park. From the National Park Service's website: "Alcatraz Island offers a close-up look at the site of the first lighthouse and US fort on the West Coast, an infamous federal penitentiary long off-limits to the public (and despised by inmates), and the historic 18 month occupation by Indians of All Tribes. Rich in cultural history, there is also a natural side to the Rock - gardens, tide pools, bird colonies, and bay views beyond compare."
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When we got off the boat, we got headsets and took a walking tour with sound around the penitentiary. That was eerie and interesting. We ambled past Al Capone's cell! The tour explained that the inmates liked New Year's Eve, because they could hear the sounds from the city, being so isolated there.

So after the prison tour, a national park guide started us on an island tour explaining the history of island, mentioning the Native American takeover of the island during the "Red Power" movement of the late 60s and early 70s.

We explored the rest of the isolated island ourselves. It was very peaceful and scenic. We saw lots of birds nesting at the time. From SFtravel.com "Out in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, the island of Alcatraz is a world unto itself. Isolation, one of the constants of island life for any inhabitant - soldier, guard, prisoner, bird or plant - is a recurrent theme in the unfolding history of Alcatraz. Visitors can explore the remnants of the prison, and learn about the Native American occupation, early military fortifications and the West Coast's first (and oldest operating) lighthouse. These structures and the island's many natural features - gardens, tide pools, bird colonies, and bay views beyond compare, are being preserved by the National Park Service. The views from Alcatraz are incredible. "
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On the surface, it seems like a bizarre honeymoon excursion, but we thought it was really cool. (We tend to seek out the eerie and macabre as tourists)

On this night we went to a nice place called Fino's (in the Andrew's Hotel) that was around the corner from the Warwick, so it was convenient and it came highly recommended. So we enjoyed a romantic Italian dinner there.

The next day (the 28th), we hit the road. Here is Golden Gate bridge from a pull off of the main highway. We were headed to the Napa Valley.
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Things got prettier as we wound through the Sonoma and Napa Valleys.
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We passed lots of vineyards and decided we'd stop in one of them to see if they had a tour. So we chose Mumm Napa Valley and they had tours! So we went on a tour with a couple other people around the winery and they explained how they make wine and we could see each step of the process. Then we sat outside and sampled their wines in the middle of the vineyard. That was cool.

From their website:"Complimentary public tours are conducted daily from 10am to 3pm, on the hour.

* Guides use simple to understand terminology and walk you through each step in the process of making sparkling wine in the traditional French methods.
* You begin your tour in a demonstration vineyard, and then enter the state-of-the-art winery.
* Enhancing the tour are short video loops of activities one might not see unless you visit at the appropriate time of the year, in which case you witness activity first hand! Guides use the brief videos to show the action of harvest, bottling, riddling, disgorging, and labeling.
* In just forty-five minutes you become an expert in champagne method sparkling wine production!"
* The Wine Enthusiast Magazine calls Mumm Napa "one of the best tasting experiences in America." Taste in the glass-enclosed tasting salon, or enjoy table service outside on the terrace - the views are spectacular and our staff can provide a wealth of information on our sparkling wines

On the way out, we bought 2 of their local bottles of wine that you evidently can't buy on the East Coast.
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It was an interesting drive. You could see a lot of migrant workers in the vineyards. It felt so free and laid back there.

It was sunny when we rolled into the town of Napa. I loved Napa. I could live in the Napa Valley. It was sunny and temperate all the time. It was a beautiful little town. We had reservations to stay at the Napa River Inn, so we checked in.
This is a photo from the website
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This is our room:
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This place was really cool! We got his and hers robes in the room and the room was huge and we had a little balcony. The inn was very small. I understand that they've done a lot of work to the place since we were there. We got a notice telling us we were entitled to a free breakfast at Sweetie Pie's in the morning. Sweetie Pie's is the bakery next to the inn and is apparently where one of the old mill owners hung himself years ago......creeeeepy. We went in and got ourselves two mini cakes to enjoy later and put them in the mini fridge.

After settling in, we explored Napa. It's a cute little town. We came upon a bunch of outdoor shops and restaurants shaded under some trees. We decided to eat at Piccolino's. From their website: "The upbeat cafe offers a country Italian decor. The spacious dining room gives an open and inviting style to the restaurant."
This is a photo from their website:
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Here we are (I guess they changed the tables!):
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In the evening, we made our way back to the Inn. We got our cakes from Sweetie Pies out of the fridge!
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In the morning, it was time to say goodbye to Napa and to make our way up to Redwood National Forest (a 6.5 hour drive!). We came upon "Old Faithful Geiser" in Calistoga, so we decided to check it out!

From their website," Visitors of Calistoga's Old Faithful Geyser are calling it "utterly amazing". The Geyser is one of only three Old Faithfuls in the world, designated as such because of its constant and predictable eruptions. The Geyser is an all-natural phenomenon which tosses a scalding curtain of water anywhere from 20 to upwards of 75 feet into the air. "

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On our way up from Calistoga, we stopped off in some cool towns. Here is Steve in Trinidad (about an hour from Redwood)
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Before we rolled into Crescent City, we came upon "Tour Thru Tree" in Klamath. It was another roadside attraction that we wanted to check out. we drove our car through an enormous tree! It was a bit of a thrill for us.

Finally we made it to the Crescent City Travelodge, where we'd stay the night. It was overcast and drizzly. The Travelodge was a bit of a dive, but it was cheap. I remember seeing a broken down sign out front that read "Truckers Welcome". We carried our bags over Astroturf covered stairs to our motel-style room.

After checking in, we made our way over to the park. It was amazing to see how incredibly large these giants were.
Here's me in one of them and Steve in one of them!
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It was so serene there. We then trekked over to fern canyon. That was pretty.
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On our way out of the park, we saw an elk!
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The next day, we woke up very early, and quickly checked out of the motel and drove back to San Francisco. It took all day.

We took Pacific Coast Highway 1. It was a beautiful and exhilarating drive. All I could see from the passenger window was the Pacific Ocean. There were enormous drop offs and huge logging trucks barreling down the windy seaside road. We periodically pulled over to enjoy the seaside vistas. The sun miraculously returned!

When we rolled into the city with the car, we were anxious to unload it fearing they'd notice we did some rough driving. Even the roof was covered in mud! First, however, we wanted to drive down the famed Lombard street. You know, the "crookedest street in the world'? Well THAT was an experience!

We enjoyed one last dinner in San Francisco and the comfort of returning to Warwick (in a different room this time) and left the next morning.

We loved California! I am dying to go back. It was such a nice refreshing way to cap off our happy day. It was a stressful and hectic headache leading up to the wedding and then our day was a whirlwind and we left for our honeymoon. It was a sweet adventure. We'll have many more.....................
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Posted by stevedana 17:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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