Tuesday, December 20, 2011
It was then I understood what the Romans and Jews really meant when they referred to Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth”. They were basically saying, “Jesus of not even a one stop light town – and this guy from the middle of nowhere is going to save the world?” What a humble and patient God. He knew the power that would be revealed; he knew the plan that would save even those that mocked him.
Words nor pictures can describe the peaceful but overwhelming experience of walking into this place where it is believed that Mary lived when the angel came to tell her she would birth God’s Son, Emanuel – which means “God is with us”. What a small quaint rocky place, but this place is where it all began. This place is where an angel came. This place is where Mary was shown a piece of the plan. Wow. Can you try to imagine? Even more exhilarating, this place is where the spirit of God came down to become flesh to save me. To save you. What a holy place. My spirit knew that. I wanted to stay there all day and night. So peaceful. So calm. So secure to know that God finally gave man a peek of his plan and to know it would come to fruition. Some groups were singing hymns in another language I did not know, but I think my soul was singing as well.
I will try to remember during this special season this place and that God has a plan. I may not know every detail of it, but I know his plans are great and good and will happen and most of all more perfect than I could ever imagine.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Start your long weekend in Phoenix. Go shopping and eat in the old quaint western part part of town. Enjoy the beautiful views around you. Baseball junkies know it is the place to be for spring training, and if you go after, you can get great deals on resorts. We highly recommend the Hyatt. They have tons of interlinking pools with waterfalls and desert cliff views for those who want to relax. And for the active sports enthusiasts, there are plenty of hiking and biking trails.
Not too far away is beautiful Sedona. Sedona has tons of activities for all levels. Hiking, jeep excursions, shopping, or just driving around to take in the views. I bought a beautiful western jacket in a boutique there that I love to wear.
Just about an hour away, down a beautiful drive full of camp sites and scenic views is Flagstaff. There a a great pita place we ate.We then took a little nice drive on the famous route 66. While we were eating I asked how far we were from the Grand Canyon. Since it was just an hour and a 20 min away I said we had to go! Our leisurely vacation then went out the door!
After taking in the grand canyon sites, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be. Was it because I had made it bigger in my mind? Was it because the weather wasn't too clear? I could help but think the Kauai Wayamea Canyon was much prettier, not as big, but it has vibrant colors. As we were taking pictures of the sunset over the canyon, Uncle Map was staring at his phone. "What is going on?" I asked. He then informed me that he did not see a gas station the whole way from Flagstaff, and he was worried about our gas level. His GPS said that there was one 40 miles away,and our car showed we had about 30 miles to empty. It was then I realized how desolate and dark the desert is and started thinking about what wildlife was out and about. Uncle Map did all he could to coast down any hills and we turned off the a/c. Panic rose when the car showed 0 miles to empty and the trusty GPS said we were still a few miles away from the closest gas station even though we didn't see any evidence of human existence anywhere. Then I saw a soft glow in the distance.... we held our breath as we rolled into the gas station. I never fully appreciated how truly dependent we are on civilization! Our grand canyon trip got really close to a true desert wilderness experience!
So in short, go visit AZ, but always keep a full gas tank!
Friday, December 2, 2011
After talking with a friend who is sommelier, and browsing through a French vineyard catalog, I personally wrote to about 20 grand cru vineyards (majority in French) asking to set up a tour for the day that we would be in the region. Granted it was harvest season, very busy time for a vineyard to give tours, but only one responded yes.
A little history for those of you who like historical random facts:
Back in 1855, Napoleon II demanded that the French vineyards be classified (since all seemed great). This classification differentiated the premier grand cru (great first growth wines) which there are only 6 today (majority from the Medoc region in Margeaux in Bordeaux, the duexieme crus ect ect. There are only 66 classified as grand cru wines (great growths). After these classifications, the vineyard that got a classification of grand cru and especially premier or duexieme status were set for life. Since that classification, I do not think a wine had jumped up a level (maybe one - some may argue that it was a huge political reason act). In short, premier wines are tres tres expensive due to their status, duexiem are tres expensive and so on and so on. The good thing is even some of the ones that did not have a superb classification are excellent wines that you can get for practically nothing. Now you see why it was hard to get a private tour.
Now back to the blog - so we felt extremely lucky that one vineyard -Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou which is in the Sait - Julien region (which has 11 of the 66 1855 classifications) along the Girone estuary (which keeps the perfect atmosphere for the wines dry but access to water). It is 25 miles northwest of Bordeaux in Haut Medoc between Margaux and Pauillac. The vineyard is named after the stones in the ground that contribute to its flavor. It is also still owned by a family and not a well well known company like Channel.
We were able to get a private tour of the vineyard, cellars and a wine tasting. We even ended up buying a bottle of their cru in our wedding year. What a fascinating experience. Thanks to our friends at Ducru Beaucaillou for being such great hosts! We also bought about two cases of wine to get shipped back to the states to drink at their "premium" time. Shipping from Margaux saved us at least 3 levels of mark ups.
We even had time to do a quick tour of Saint Emellion, after taking a lovely leisurely boat trip, which was more of a touristy wine town.
Monday, November 28, 2011
When we landed in Bordeaux, we decided to check out the city right away and have dinner. The building that surround Bordeaux are magnificent white places built to hide the less visual builings on the interior.
Bordeaux is a bustling big city with nice walkways full of shops and businesses. I had planned to eat some traditional French cuisine from the region and even had a spot picked out, but after the celebration that morning, the overpriced exotic food on the menu did not seem appetizing. In fact, the pizza place down the street did! So, that is where we ended up - just to save cultural face, I did try a pasta dish that included some local French mushrooms that were delicious!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Park City Utah is a wonderful long weekend get-a-way point. An ideal time to go is just when a few slopes are open (end of November) so that you can get a great deal on cabins that are apart of resorts. We got a cabin on the outskirts of the Hotel Park City. It was absolutely gorgeous! We had our own living room, kitchen, bedroom, two baths and don't forget the private hot tub outside! Sitting by the fire with the snow falling all around while Christmas music is playing on the Bose stereo will really put you in the mood!
Shopping on cute main street is a must. There is also a large outlet mall near by the Olympic slalom. We recommend going to Squatters (great food and brewery - order the Polygamy Porter - funny name in the region, but actually a tasty beer).
One fun thing to do is to drive to Montage for lunch (about 15 minutes from Park City). The food is amazing - especially the burger, and the view are nothing short of awe inspiring. Make sure to bring a camera, as you can't take a bad picture. For sure you will take some mental ones!
Basically there is something for everyone, (calm and relaxing or athletic skiing) and the surroundings are surreal.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Our third day in France we drove the beautiful Route de Vin which stretches from Strasbourg to just past Colmar (no more than ~20 miles). As we drove through rolling hills covered beautiful vineyards that were screaming to be harvested, we stopped at adorable German looking villages that had a distinct French flair. As we drove we made a game of spotting castles on the hilltops. What a unique place to visit! Each town was gorgeous and had plenty of local wine to try from Rieslings to Gewurztraminer. Beautiful colored flowers hung in baskets out each window of the German style houses. Kaysersberg had a cute craft fair with a meandering stream that ran through the town. We ate crepes in the most visited town in France outside of Paris, a walled city called Riquewihr. The main drag was full of small cute shops with German/French knickknacks to buy as souvenirs. It even had a Kate Wofhart shop (German Christmas Heaven)! We ended the day in Colmar. What a wonderful picturesque day!
Monday, October 3, 2011
We recently visited our close friends who moved to Kentucky.
Continental was matching a 72 hour Southwest birthday special that ran at the beginning of the summer which allowed you to travel any where within 500 miles for $40 etc.
(Travel planning tip: Check out other carriers when someone is doing a special to see if there is a match that works better for you.)
Travel for Two Top Ten Reasons to Visit Kentucky at the Beginning of October:
10. Stay at an old historic hotel - Browns Hotel was known in the early 1900s as the place to be in Louisville. The decor and old memorabilia is quite interesting to see. The rooms are spacious too.
9.See a bit of history - tour honest Abe's birth place. It is amazing they don't have this little cabin preserved better.
8. The weather is ideal. It is nice and cool but lovely in the sun.
The leaves are starting to change color.
7. Drive through the beautiful rolling hills with the windows rolled down or better yet in a convertible. Beautiful birds and wildlife are all around - we saw cardinals, blue jays, and beautiful deer to name a few.
6. Its that time of year - Baseball play offs - Tour the Louisville Slugger museum - you can see the factory, which bats are about to be shipped out for the play off major league sluggers, and even get to hold some famous bats that have been used. We are Major baseball fans, but I think this museum is fun for everyone.
5. If it gets a little to chilly (or even if it isn't), take a bourbon tour to warm you up. Woodford Reserve is nothing short of excellent. Only $5 and you can tour this small distillery and taste this sweet buttery goodness from a bottle that the one and only Kentucky Derby calls its own. A souvenir bottle is only $43 with a personalized plaque.
4. Lyn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville - many food network stars have stopped by... I highly recommend the Cinnamon swirl french toast with bourbon custard topped with chocolate, strawberries and whipped cream. nuff said.
3. Horse races are starting up - Keenland is in Lexington quite beautiful track. Even if there is not a race scheduled for the weekend, take a stroll around the area and try to see the horses warm up between 6-10 am.
2. There is always another bourbon tour to go on...
1. Kentucky is perfect for visiting friends and making memories on a short weekend getaway!
Top Ten Reasons to Visit Kentucky in Spring:
So I went back to good 'ol Kentucky in spring. This time my father was my companion. so I decided to do a top 5 reasons for visit in Kentucky in the spring!
5. Churchill Downs is a must. The perfect weather is ideal to take a tour. You get the run down (no pun intended) on the fastest sport in the usa. From rules and legends to heros. Your apreciation on this fine taste for gambling will be enhanced guaranteed. I particularly enjoyed the glass replica of the track, the portrait wall of jockeys and trainers, the long list of winners and thier stories (especially secraitariat), how the horses get thier names and most of all the view from upstairs. I told the guide what my favorite spot was and he told me that was the very place Queen Elizabeth stood to watch the derby! I always knew I had exquisite taste!
4. Baseball baseball baseball. Catch a college game if you can.
3. Appreciate that there is a starbucks and jimmy johns on every corner in loiusville. Some how I missed this the first go around. ?
2. If you think you are missing out on the fall/winter weather ... you might get a taste like we did... freak ice and snow storm over night! Woodford reserve bourbon (my favorite ) will keep you warm!
1. Bowling Green. Nuff said. "Your dreams are made in Bowling Green!" Pick up your custom corvette there! Warning: If you don't drive a chevy they might make you park a few miles away from the museum. VIP tour of the factory is a must as it is any gear head's Disneyworld! I talked to the guy on the line that puts on the steering wheel and the guide told me. .. "now you have meet the nut behind the wheel! " if you pay enought they will let you build your own engine!
Next is the museum. Speechless. Did you know the original vette logo had an American flag as the corvette is deemed as "America's sports car"! Turns out you can t claim the American flag as a marketing logo so they had to change it.
We just happened to go at the time that they were pulling out one of the most priceless Corvettes (black 62) out of the sinkhole that swallowed 8 vettes two weeks before. Yes I think I was on the discovery channel as they were shooting live footage. Don't ask me why they decided to build the nations best sports car facility in a sinkhole ridden area or the nation's gold reserves that matter.
Monday, September 26, 2011
So I haven't blogged in a while, but with good excuse.... We took our trip to France!
Unfortunately my family has a traveling curse. This curse involves weird things happening on trips, but things usually end up good.
This trip started off shaky as I got in a car accident with a little ol' lady the day before we left when I went to get luggage...
It was super hot outside and the old lady turned out to be a real pill.
Needed less to say it took a couple days to unwind.
We had a friend take us to the airport which was nice not to have to pay parking for 18 days. The flight there was not bad at all.
We flew direct to Frankfurt via Lufthansa on points. They include a bus ride to Strasbourg. We like Lufthansa since they are very clean, detailed, and know where your baggage is at all times.
Our tv didn't work, and after trying to reboot a few times, the airline attendant offered us some euros to spend on the in flight magazine.
We took advantage of our brief time at the airport by going to our favorite chain German pastry place, Kamps. Germans rock at making the yummiest pastries. My hubbie snuck in a pretzel too. We slept on the bus which was a "no no" making our time adjustment a bit harder.
Strasbourg was absolutely beautiful and cute. We walked all around France's "little France." I enjoyed this town much more than I thought I would. After seeing ornate churches all over Europe, I was not expecting to enjoy Strasbourg's church as much as I did. It had an interesting astronomical clock inside.
We picked up our car and headed for Obernai which is the first town on the Route de Vin. This adorable walled city had a beautiful square, church, and well where we took lots of pictures. We learned here that The French like carosels in their towns. This cute town even has a WWII plack explaining when it was liberated. The Alsace region has been fought over by the French an Germans for centuries. The Germans specifically spared some towns from war destruction on the Route de Vin because they liked them so much. These towns resemble German towns, but have a French flair.
To end the day, we were referred to a restaurant called "Tete du Lard."
I told the waitress,"it was funny since your restaurant name translates to "fat head."
She told me that was their specialty... Pig's head....
And so our French adventure began......
Monday, August 29, 2011
As Hotwire.com ad's mention when hotels have unsold rooms they give them to Hotwire to liquidate at reduced prices.
Monday, August 22, 2011
We have tried every which way of baggage.... let me give you a recap.
Tahiti: Packed one huge cloth bag with wheels - we waited at baggage claim for a long time and never saw our bag?!?, but we did see a garbage bag that was duct taped up that no one had claimed. After everyone picked up all the bags, we went over to the garbage bag and duct tape ball, opened it up and sure enough it was our bag inside.
Lesson Learned: Don't trust cheap cloth with a big bag in an overseas flight, and never underestimate the duct taped bag that keeps going around and around....
Italy: Decided to pack 2 smaller bags. Took an Air Italia Flight (only 40 min flight from Rome to Nice...) Bags never made it. Still not sure how that happened. I don't think they even were put on the plane! We ended up backpacking across Italy not intending too (I think it was 14 days without our bags?)... I spent hours arguing with the baggage claim lady in Naples, who did not feel like helping. She kept telling me " you are American so you must call the US office to help you." Wow. My husband had to hold me back. I ended up just saying calmly, "Let me see the lost luggage room." She finally showed me and it wasn't there, so I asked to see the next room. It wasn't there either. I asked to see the next room, and she answered that was all of the rooms, but after seeing the lost luggage line, I insisted that there was another room, and sure enough, she finally showed me.... and there they were. After months of negotiating about the cost incurred while backpacking across Italy, I finally got a check for ~ $128.32 from them. I think I still have it, and am going to frame it.
Lesson Learned: There is always another lost baggage room in Italy!
Also, I have small carry on bag that can be worn on the side, as a back pack or actually put around me in front. I keep all essentials in this bag I need to survive if my luggage never comes. This bag can be unloaded during the trip and used trekking around for anything anywhere.
Consider taking a picture of what is in your luggage before you zip it up. This is easier to have proof if something happens.
China: I packed a bag that can zip up into a small 5" square patch into my larger bag. I put all of my travel treasures in this bag and bring it on the plane with me home to ensure nothing brakes.
Lesson Learned: Pack a carry on collapsible bag for souvenirs. Make a copy of your passport especially if you are going to a country that would like a passport. Never have your passport and your copy in the same bag.
Verona, Italy: We went to see a opera in an old Roman Colosseum. My hubby went to take a picture of the beautiful site, and when we went to go inside... no tickets.
He had put them in his back pocket to take the picture, and ... gone that fast. Never felt a thing. I think we ended up buying the same exact tickets twice. :(
Lesson Learned: Front Pocket Wallets - This is a must for guys. They are shaped like a front pocket to make wearing them comfortable as well as safe while still organizing things you want to keep on you with you.
Money Belts: Tried this too... This is just for emergency because we could only fit one paper bill in there!
Los Cabos: We bought a souvenier ceramic tequila decanter in the airport thinking we would carry it on home to ensure it was safe. What we didn't know was since we had to switch planes and we were coming from a different country, they make you go through customs at the stopping airport, and they insisted that we had to check the decanter since it had a small bit of tequila in it. We smelled our luggage before we saw it...and my beautiful decanter was broken.
Lesson learned: Tequila smell eventually comes out. Down your tequila before going through customs.... Then you can bring your decanter with you, and you will know your tequila will be in good keeping too.
Chile: My hubby wanted to maximize the amount of wine he wanted to bring home from this famous wine region of the world. When he came home he only had (4) bottles in a wine carring case (the max they would let him bring). I told him I was sorry he couldn't bring more home. He just smiled and opened his luggage. I took out a very heavy rolled pair of pants. Sure enough there was a bottle of wine in them. We ended up with (20 bottles).
Lesson learned: My husband is lucky and strong. I would have not risked my wardrobe on some wine, but I am sure glad he did. Oh, and clothes can be used as bubble wrap substitute. (Note: this was attempted before the tequila incident.)
As you can see, we are still figuring the whole baggage thing out.
I did have a fear of checking luggage for a while (tried to pack every thing in carry-ons), but after seeking help at Carry - Ons Anonymous, I am getting better.
Good luck packing!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
This is a great place to visit some Mayan Ruins, without the crowds at Chitzeniza (one of the largest and most popular Mayan Ruins). Bring a bathing suit as you might want to go swimming in the picture purfect waters below. No wonder the Mayans set up camp here! Wouldn't you? Travel tip: If you pack your own lunch with lots of cool water- which we reccomend, beware of bold Mayan birds who will try to take your food right out of your hand!
Monday, August 8, 2011
So with all the talk of debt, and financial crisis I thoght I would point out a picture from a trip a couple years ago to New York City.
Southwest just opened a new route to Newark from Houston, so there are lots of sub $200 flight deals out there which is especially good for a summer fare.
Tip: Reserve a ticket ahead of time, to go inside the statue liberty, otherwise you will just have to wonder the grounds till the next ferry comes. Link
Food: Grimaldi's pizza under the Brooklyn Bridge, worth the wait Link (p.s. there are locations across the US including (Arizona, Flordia, Las Vegas, & Texas so you can get a sneak peak before you go)
Monday, August 1, 2011
We try to have fun preparing and even make it into a date night - an inexpensive one at that!
1. Pop some yummy popcorn and top it with your favs
2. If you have comcast cable, they have a website called xfinity.com. After going there click TV at the top and type in Rick Steves.
3. Scroll through and pick from 85 different episodes where he goes all over Europe.
4. Have a note pad handy to write down things you want to make sure you want to see or do.
5. Enjoy the rest of the evening talking about what you liked and can't wait to see/do with your spouse at your next traveling spot!
Another thing worth mentioning that I did this week was download Rosetta Stone and brush up on my French which I learned many, many (and I think I need to add one more) many years ago. I have been impressed with the program and will do a few more and see what happens!
I also have been skimming trough the travel books that I bought at Borders the other day. I skim through it at night, or at the pool or even on my lunch break. It is important that doing your research is fun and enticing you to read up more and become excited about your trip. It should not feel like work or preparing for a final exam!
Thursday, July 28, 2011
During Hurricane Season (June 1st-November 30th) unplanned trips can happen in a matter of days. Here are a couple good resources for the people along the coast.
1) Prepare - the government has a nice website, ready.gov with lots of good preparation tips
2) Monitor - a great website for being informed or historical, a future servere weather condition include, National Hurricane Center, Flhurricane, and my personal favorite Stormpulse
Stormpulse's interactive website
3) Act - If you decide to "Hunker Down" or Leave, the earlier you act the better. You will avoid traffic, shortages of supplies, and more importantly the STORM!!
Monday, July 25, 2011
We can't help it; the itch starts and we start planning our next adventure!
To start with, when we begin to plan a trip we search for travel deals. Think of it as shopping for that special item you want to take home and treasure, but this is even better since you can keep your memories from this deal forever. This time in particular, we knew we wanted to go to France during a specific time period (maximizing holiday time, minimizing vacation days, and for other plans we have already committed to) and no crazy good deals were available, so we decided to book with our airline points.
One good thing about Continental now is you can book separate legs of a trip going to a particular destination, and along the way have a "layover" in a city for a few days to see the sights all for the price of a one way trip. For example, we decided to go to Frankfurt, get on a bus (covered also by continental) to Strasbourg, tour the Alsace region, go back to Frankfurt and continue on to Marseilles, our final destination for the first portion of the trip all for 30,000 miles. Lufthansa, a star alliance member, has a great interactive destination plot to help get you started.
My husband is the the detailed thorough deal and option finder. He scoped every way to get to Europe with saver points in the time we wanted with the least amount of stops (excluding the "layovers" we wanted). Sometimes getting to Europe is good enough, as you can book EZ jet cheap. In short, there are LOTS of options, but sometimes with limitations, you have to pick the route which has the least nuances.
Meanwhile, while he was routing every way you can imagine, I heard that Borders was going out of business. I was ecstatic and sad at the same time. You see, my main role in trip planning is activity coordinator. Our favorite travel book is DK Eyewitness traveler. We like the layout, pictures and the detailed information that is high-grated by region. They also serve as great collectors items and mementos from your trips. However, they come expensive, so I rushed out to try to get some on sale. I was in luck and proudly brought home the DK France book and Rick Steves' pocket book Paris. The man with two first names is known for his knowledge of Paris, and I have learned from other trips that you want to use a small but very informative book to keep on you when you are moving from sight seeing place to place in a city.
I got home to find that my hubbie found the best route for us. We would end in Paris and have one layover home on the day we wanted. Perfect! I quickly skimmed over the various regions in the book and we consulted with some French friends of ours to sketch out our rough draft travel plan. My husband went to book the trip, and an error sign appeared. NOT GOOD. Now what, after all that searching and a HICCUP? Ring, ring....the continental travel helpline was well the least bit helpful.. just said that the seats were booked even though they showed open online . It all depends on who you get to help you on the other line. We got frustrated and my husband tried again...MIRACULOUSLY it worked!
So as of now, we are booked to go to Frankfurt with one stop, catch a bus to Alsace region to start. Then our rough draft is to catch a train to Marseilles, tour Provence, then by car tour the Pyrenees up to Bordeaux. Then go to Loire valley, St. Malo, Normandy and end with a few days in Paris. This way we can get a strong taste of the different Provences of France. All this is a little over 2 weeks. Phew! Most of our friends say we are crazy! But that is the way we like it - crazy! Stick with us and you will see how we make it work, and have a blast!
I am going to try to post once a week, so if you like this let me know and until then ...Avior!