10 Reasons You Should Visit Vilnius

Named as the Culture Capital of Europe in 2009, Vilnius is a great place to visit. This walkable city is a the right balance of quirky and traditional. The mix of historic sites, great shopping opportunities and fun bars and pubs appeal to lots of visitors.  You can spend a few days visiting just to enjoy the sights and shopping to your heart’s content.

Below is a list of the 10 best things to see and do in Vilnius, Lithuania

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The Cathedral of St. Stanislav and St. Vladislav

Vilnius Cathedral

The Cathedral’s formal name is Cathedral of St. Stanislav and St. Vladislav and was built in 1251, and is the most important Catholic building in Lithuania. The Neo-Classical Cathedral is home to eleven chapels, among them the High Baroque Chapel of St. Casimir , Lithuania’s patron saint. Built in 1636 to house his remains, the chapel is one of the country’s national treasures.

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Gates of Dawn 

 

Gates of Dawn

The Gates of Dawn is the only remaining gate from the city’s original defensive walls which was completed in 1522. Of the original nine city gates, only the Gate of Dawn remains, while the others were destroyed. The Chapel in the Gate of Dawn contains an icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy, said to have miraculous powers. Many pilgrims come to pray in front of the icon for healing powers.

 

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Gediminas Hill 

 

Gediminas Castle & Museum

You can climb up or take the funicular up Gediminas Hill for spectacular views of Vilnius. The castle dates from the 13th century and over the years it was also a prison. The tower houses a museum that has exhibits on the history of the castle and some archeology exhibits from the surrounding area.

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St. Anne’s Church 

St. Anne’s Church

St Anne’s Church is one of the most famous landmarks in Vilnius. This pretty Gothic church was built between 1495 and 1500 by Benedikt Rejt , who is most famous for designing parts of Prague Castle.There is a legend that when during his conquests Napoleon came to Vilnius and saw this church he said he would like to take it on his palm and bring to France

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Old Town 

Old town 

Vilnius’ Old Town, which is  a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is Europe’s largest baroque capital. Many of the old buildings have been converted into restaurants, bars or shops, and you can spend a day wandering and exploring the area.

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Angel of Uzupis

Uzupis District

The Uzupis District is part of old town and in 1998 the residents unofficially declared the area to be an independent republic, with its own president, anthem, flag, and constitution. The district has been popular with artists for some time, and has been compared to Montmartre in Paris due to its bohemia atmosphere.

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Sign in front of the Museum of Genocide Victims 

Museum of Genocide Victims

The Museum is set  in a former KGB building that was used in the Nazi and Russian occupations from the 1930’s until 1991. The basement was used as a prison from the KGB and still has the original execution chamber and still has bullet holes in the walls.

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Presidential Palace 

Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace is the official residence of the President of Lithuania.  It dates back to the 14th century and is located in Old Town.

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National Museum

National Museum of Lithuania

The National Museum of Lithuania houses a large collection of Lithuania’s historical and archeological artifacts. It dates back to 1855 and is the oldest museum in Lithuania.

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Pilies Street 

Shopping

Vilnius is known for its amber, woolen & flaxware. Pilies street is full of little shops with Lithuanian souvenirs, ornaments, clothing, also cafes and restaurants. Head on over to Stikliu street for boutiques owned by local designers.

10 Reasons You Should Visit Vilnius

If you’ve been to Vilnius, what did you enjoy most in this lovely city?

Thanks for reading & Happy Travels, Tava

 

 

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A Guide to a Great Weekend in Bricktown, Oklahoma City

The Labor Day Weekend was upon us and we decided a little road trip was in order. But where to? After much debate we finally decided upon Oklahoma City’s Bricktown area. It is a rejuvenated warehouse district that has been turned into a new entertainment area.  Bricktown is centered around a man-made canal with many restaurants, bars, entertainment, sports and some shopping. It is a lot like the Riverwalk in San Antonio, although a bit smaller.

Here are some tips on how to make your weekend getaway to OKC unforgettable!

 

DAY 1

Lunch Decisions

With over 40 restaurants and bars, Bricktown is not lacking for food options. Here are a few places to grab a bite for lunch.

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Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar & Grill

Grab a Fried Bologna Sandwich or a steak at Toby Keith’s I love this Bar & Grill. This Bricktown restaurant is named after Oklahoma native and country music superstar Toby Keith. The portions are large, the atmosphere and food are casual, and there is live music on the weekends. Don’t forget to order the cheese fries.

or 

Try some of Oklahoma’s finest BBQ at Earl’s Rib Palace. Try the ribs with the hot or not sauce or just one of their great “Smokestack” sandwiches. Don’t forget to add some homemade cobbler for desert!

or 

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Massive Nachos!

Experience some authentic fresh local cuisine at Yucatan Taco Stand, where they use locally sourced ingredients and keep bottles of salsa on the table. The tacos are great and the nachos are massive. Try a margarita made with one of their 100 different tequilas in stock, or a local craft beer.

 

 

 

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Murals on the canal 

Ride the Water Taxi

One of the first things you need to do in Bricktown is to take a tour of the Canal on the Water Taxi of Oklahoma. On the 40 minute tour, your guide will tell you the history about the Oklahoma City buildings they pass, as well as fun facts along the one mile canal. The water taxi ticket is a bracelet that acts as an all day pass that you can use to hop off at various parts of the canal.  You will also see lots of art including the Centennial Land Run Monument. The Centennial Land Run Monument features participants of the iconic land run commemorating the opening of Indian land in Oklahoma territory in 1889.

Do Dinner at Tapwerks Ale House & Cafe

Start off the night right at TapWerks. Tapwerks is Oklahoma’s oldest and largest tap house, with 212 taps and more than 100 bottled beers.  If you love beer it’s a must! Try the Monte Cristo Sandwich or the Jalapeno Jack Burger.

Test the Pianist at Michael Murphy’s Dueling Pianos

Another fun option is to experience Michael Murphy’s Dueling Pianos. The show consists of a few piano players who perform songs by request. The entertainers are funny and have a repertoire of over 1000 songs!

Get Wild at Coyote Ugly

Wrap up your night at Coyote Ugly.  It’s a saloon chain that likes to have audience participation with dancing on the bar, body shots and dance routines.

Stay at  Homewood Suites by Hilton

We had a great stay at the Homewood Suites by Hilton. The beds were comfortable and we enjoyed having free WiFi.  There’s also an indoor pool, a whirlpool, an exercise room and a lounge with a pool table, plus a 24/7 business center and convenience store. The staff was great and helped us with questions and directions. 

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Centennial Land Run Monument 

 

Day 2

Get your Brunch On at Fuzzy’s

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop is known for their Baja-style Mexican Tacos, but not well-known for their great breakfast items. Start your day off right with the Huevos Rancheros and a Bloody Mary Schooner.

Time to Shop

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Bricktown Candy

Stroll the canal for some sightseeing and window shopping. Stop in at Bricktown Candy for some old time favorites, the Painted Door for specialty gifts and the Red Dirt Emporium for Oklahoma collectibles.  One of the main shopping attractions is the huge Bass Pro Shop for hunting, fishing & outdoor gear.  The store also includes an archery range, laser arcade, and a 15,000 gallon aquarium.

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Brickopolis 

Things to Do

Brickopolis offers a fun miniature golf course right on the canal, but also video games, and you can even play laser tag.

or 

If you are visiting in the during Baseball Season, don’t miss an opportunity to see the Oklahoma City Dodgers, the metro’s AAA affiliate of the LA Dodgers, play at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

or 

Visit the American Banjo Museum, which contains the largest collection in the world of banjos on public display. The museum’s collection contains more than 400 instruments, recordings, film, video, printed music, instructional materials, and memorabilia associated with the banjo.

Eat at a Legendary Steakhouse

For a great steaks, seafood and a large wine list head over to Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse.  The restaurant is named after the famous baseball player and Oklahoma native and it’s filled with memorabilia from his family’s personal collection.

Kick Up Your Heels with Some Live Music

If you’re looking for live country music and dancing you have to go to the Wormy Dog Saloon. It is noted as being the best honky-tonk bar in Oklahoma City. Grab a beer and saddle up at the long bar for a great night of country music.

Day 3

A Quick Breakfast

Stop in at All About Cha, and try one of their exotic tea blends and a warm muffin before you leave Oklahoma City.

 

BrickTown

 

All the food, shopping, a water taxi and live music that we experienced made for a lively weekend in Oklahoma City. I hope that these tips help with your planning a great getaway. If you have any comments or tips for visiting Bricktown, please let me know! Happy Travels, Tava

Getting Around Bangkok

Getting Around Bangkok

A Guide to Transportation in Thailand’s Capital City

Bangkok is notorious for traffic jams and it’s something you need to factor in to your travel plans if you need to get across the city. It has been rated one of the top cities with the most congested rush hours. The rush hours are from 7am- 9am and 5.30pm-8pm. However, with a little planning; you can take advantage of the easy and rapid public transport systems. The Skytrain (BTS) and Subway (MRT) systems connect the main areas of the city, while river taxis and express boats can be used to explore many historic sites and attractions on the river.

Below are some of the options you can use while exploring the city.

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Airport Rail Link (ARL)

The Airport Rail Link provides an inexpensive connection from Suvarnabhumi Airport to downtown Bangkok.

  • 6am – Midnight
  • Website: http://www.srtet.co.th/index.php/en/
  • Fares: 15 – 45 baht
  • You can buy your tokens from one of the Automatic Dispensers located at each station. Simply select your destination and the number of passengers, and the fare will be calculated. The machine accepts both coins and bills. Keep your receipt, you may need to show it if you have any issues.
  • The Rail Link makes six stops between downtown’s Phayathai Station and the Suvarnabhumi Airport
  • Phayathai Station is on the Skytrain (BTS) System, so you can take the light rail into Bangkok and connect with the BTS and then the MRT
  • Travel time is about 30 minutes

 

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Skytrain

Skytrain (BTS)

An elevated train that runs though central Bangkok. It is very quick and convenient and runs very often, with little or no wait times. Many hotels are located just a short walk away from stations.

  • 6am – Midnight
  • Website: http://www.bts.co.th/customer/en/main.aspx
  • Fares start at 15 baht
  • Tickets are bought from machines at the stations. Payment can only be made by coins but change is given at the service desks. Tickets are currently only valid within the BTS system.
  • Trains arrive every 3-6 minutes
  • The 2 Lines that connect at Siam Station
  • The Silom line runs west to south, between the National Stadium in the Siam shopping area and Bang Wa in Thonburi
  • The Sukhumvit line runs north to east from Mo Chit to Bearing.
  • To connect to the MRT  there are two stations at Sala Daeng Station on the Silom Line and Asok Station on the Sukhumvit Line
  • Connects at  “Central Pier” or Sathorn Pier, which is under the Saphan Taksin BTS station. The Central Pier is connected to the Chao Phraya Express Water Taxi.
  • The  BTS Skytrain Stored Value Cards are not compatible with the MRT underground’s or Airport Rail Link. You must purchase the passes separately.
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Automated MRT Ticket Machine

Subway  (MRT) 

The Metropolitan Rapid Transit or MRT is Bangkok’s effecient subway system.

  • 6 a.m. – Midnight
  • Website: http://www.bangkokmetro.co.th/map.aspx?Lang=En&Menu=8
  • Fares start at 15 Baht
  • Magnetic chips and cards can be bought at the counter or at automated machines. Cards can be recharged at the counter once they are used up. Currently they are only valid within the MRT system.
  • Trains arrive every 5-7 minutes
  •  2 Lines: Consisting of the Blue Line (18 stations) and the Purple Line ( 16 stations)
  • The link to connect the two lines should be completed later this year.
  • To connect to the BTS there are two stations at Sala Daeng Station on the Silom Line and Asok Station on the Sukhumvit Line.
  • The MRT chips and cards are not compatible with the BTS or Airport Rail Link. You must purchase the passes separately.
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Bright Taxis

Taxis

Taxis are a cheap and convenient way of transport. But you will get stuck in traffic jams if you use them during morning and evening rush hours. When you take a taxi, make sure the driver is using the meter, some will try to negotiate a fare instead. If you have a driver that is not wanting to use the meter, get out and find one that does.

  • 24 hours per day
  • Fares start at 35 Baht
  • All taxis have a meter that runs on distance and time
  • Available taxis are the ones with the glowing red vacant sign.
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Motorcycle Taxi

Motorcycle Taxi

For short distance travel, a quick solution is to hire a motorcycle taxi. They are found on many street corners, you just walk up to the driver and tell them where you need to go.

  • 24 hours per day
  • Prices start at 15 Baht
  • Negotiate Fare
  • Driver should supply you with a helmet
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Conductor taking tickets on Chao Phraya Express

Chao Phraya Express Water Taxi

  • 6am to 10pm
  • Website: http://chaophrayaexpressboat.com/en/home/
  • Fares start at 14 baht
  • The Chao Phraya Express Boats make stops at both sides of the Chao Phraya river.
  • The boats run about every 20 minutes, but in the rush hours they run about every 5 minutes.
  •  “Central Pier” or Sathorn Pier is directly in front of the BTS Skytrain Station. Take the escalators as you walk from the pier and you are at Saphan Taksin BTS station.
  •  There are cross river ferry boats from several of the piers to visit Thorburi and Wat Arun.
  • There are 5 different types of Express Boat River Taxis:
    • No flag (Local Line) – Stops at every Pier
    • Blue Flag Line (tourist boat) – Stops when you want but fares are higher
    • Orange Flag Line – Stops at the main piers
    • Yellow Flag Line – Large express boat for commuters
    • Green Flag Line – Express boat for commuters

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Tuk-Tuk

Tuk-Tuk

A tuk-tuk is essentially an open air motorized rickshaw. If you come to Bangkok you really need to ride in one, although it is more of an experience rather than a practical way to get around.

  • 24 hours per day
  • Fares normally start at 30 Baht
  • Negotiation is the key
  • Avoid taking a tuk-tuk during rush hours. You don’t want to be stuck in traffic for hours breathing traffic fumes.
  • Be careful of the tuk-tuks around tourist areas,  especially those who want to  offer sightseeing tours and unsolicited help to take you places. It’s just a scam.
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Bangkok Buses

Buses

  • 6am – Midnight
  • Night buses run 24 hours per day
  • Website: http://www.bmta.co.th/?q=en/bus-lines 
  • Fares start at 12 Baht
  • Fare is collected by the bus conductor
  • Make sure you have small change for bus, sometimes they can’t break large bills
  • They run every 5-10 minutes
  • Pick up a bus map at one of the bus terminals or look up your route online
  • Destinations on the majority of the city’s buses are written in Thai, the best way  to figure out which bus goes where is by the bus number, the type of bus and its colors.
  • Buses in Bangkok normally do not have a sign stating the direction it is currently traveling in. Ask the driver before you board if the bus is going the correct way to your stop.
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Canal Boat

Khlong Saen Saep Canal Boat

The Express Boat service operates on the Khlong Saen Saep canal, providing fast and inexpensive transportation through the city.

  • 5:30am – 8:30pm Weekdays and 5:30am – 7:00pm Weekends
  • Website: http://khlongsaensaep.com/ 
  • Fares start at 20 Baht
  • To connect with the MRT disembark at the Asok pier.  As you leave the pier, walk straight for about 100 meters and Phetchaburi MRT station is on your right.
  • To connect with the BTS you can change at Hua Chang Pier. Walk either straight forward after you have left the pier to National Stadium BTS, or cross the bridge and walk to Ratchathewi BTS station.

 

 

If you have any tips, comments or stories about Bangkok Transportation, please let me know.  Happy Travels, Tava

Bangkok

 

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10 Things Not to Miss in Bucharest

When I traveled to Bucharest, I wasn’t sure of what to expect. The only things that I knew was that Bucharest,  used to be part of the old Soviet bloc and is home to the second largest building in the world.

I later found out that before World War II, the city was known as the “Little Paris“, because of its Art Nouveau architecture. When the war was over, the Soviet Union gained control of Romania. The old world architecture is now mixed with soviet style buildings left behind from decades of communist rule. Now Bucharest is experiencing a rebirth once again. The city is becoming known as the “New Berlin.”  The past and present coexist in this unique European capital.  There are interesting historical museums mingling with new trendy bars and cafes.

Here are a few of the places not to miss:

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The Worlds’s Second Largest Building

The Palace of Parliament

This is the second largest building in the whole world. It is located in the center of Bucharest, and was built in 1984 by Nicolae Ceausescu. It spans 12 stories with over 3100 rooms. We took a 45 minute tour of the building which included some extravagant rooms with lots of marble, massive chandeliers and handmade carpets.

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Arcul de Triumf

The Arch of Triumph  (Arcul de Triumf)

There have been three arches on this site. The first arch (made of wood) was inaugurated in 1878 when Romania gained its independence. The second arch was rebuilt on the site in 1922 after World War 1.  Then in 1936 the current arch was erected.  Each year, military parades are held underneath the Arcul de Triumf on December 1, which marks Romania’s National Day.

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The cobbled lanes of Lipscani

Lipscani (Old Town)

The Art nouveau, Baroque and neoclassical buildings in Lipscani are filled with art  galleries and cafes.  Make sure when you are exploring to take some time to linger at some of the great cafes, browse the many shops and spend a night listening to music in the bars in old town.

Caru’ cu Bere

This restaurant opened in 1879 and is also one of the oldest breweries in Bucharest.  The Caru’ cu Bere is worth a visit just to  see the painted ceilings and ornate woodwork. But make sure you order a meal, the food is amazing and their beer is tasty. It is a popular place so be prepared to wait for a table.

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Front of the Museum

Museum of the Romanian Peasant

The Museum of the Romanian Peasant is dedicated to the traditional way of life. It houses exhibits of traditional clothing and artifacts. The gift shop is filled with handicrafts. Also there was a local market at the back of the Museum where we were able to purchase some tasty treats and souvenirs to take home.

The National Village Museum

The National Village is located on the shores of Lake Herastrau and has exhibits of architecture from all over Romania. There are over 300 different types of dwellings; including houses, barns, churches, and windmills. The Museum also has a large gift shop.

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Romania has been a member of the European Union since 2007

Revolution Square

Originally called Palace Square, its name was changed after the Romanian Revolution in 1989, which marked the end of a decades-long communist regime.  The Square houses: The National Museum of Art, Senate Palace, Memorial of Rebirth and Kretzulescu Church.  the Athenaeum, the University of Bucharest Library.

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National Museum of Art

The National Museum of Art

The museum is in the grounds of the old Royal Palace in Revolution Square. There is the National Gallery of Romanian art which includes medieval to modern Romanian paintings. There is also European Gallery with collections dating as early as the 14th century.

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Senate Palace

Senate Palace

The  building  was the headquarters of the former Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party. This was where Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife fled by helicopter on December 22, 1989.  In 1990, the building became the seat of the Senate and since 2006 it houses the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform.

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Memorial of Rebirth

Memorial of Rebirth

The memorial complex was inaugurated in August 2005. memorial commemorates the struggles and victims of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Communism. Under the pillar there is a plaque with the names of the 1058 victims of the revolution are engraved.

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Pretty Kretzulescu Church

Kretzulescu Church

Kretzulescu Church is an Eastern Orthodox Church Built between 1720 – 1722. It is located on one of the corners of Revolution Square, next to the former Royal Palace.

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Taking a cafe break

This is just a few of the highlights of our stay in Bucharest.  We had a fun time walking around and seeing the city. Bucharest has plenty of places to explore, many wonderful places to eat and some great shopping opportunities.  If you are planning on visiting Romania, make sure you have a few days to see this vibrant city.

If you have visited Bucharest and have any places to add, please let me know! Happy Travels, Tava

 

10 Things Not to Miss in Bucharest

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An Oregon Coast Road Trip in 4 Days

We had four days of vacation to explore the Oregon Coast back in 2015.  Quickly our road trip down the Coast became one of our favorite holidays. There are tons of things to see, so make sure you are not rushed. Plan extra time so you can wander off the highway and make unplanned stops. All of Oregon’s beaches are open to the public. All the way down the coast there are lots of trails in the state parks that you can hike and explore. Oregon also has some great small beach towns with historical sites, fun shopping and great restaurants. If you are planning a road trip down the Oregon Coast, here are some of our favorite things that we saw driving south on Highway 101.

An Oregon Coast Road Trip in 4 Days 2

Day 1  – Portland to Seaside

We started our trip in Portland and drove down to Newport before we had to drive back to PDX to catch our flight. We left Portland early and stopped at Elsie at Camp 18.

IMG_20170327_192303_865Breakfast at Camp 18

On the way to Seaside we stopped in Elsie at the Camp 18, restaurant and logging museum.  The restaurant is in a rustic log cabin style building with a fun little gift shop. We ate a tasty and filling breakfast of biscuits & gravy. Make sure you leave room for one of the famous cinnamon rolls. We had to take our to go! After breakfast we explored the logging museum outside with many great exhibits on the logging history of the Northwest.

received_10155048857003886Sunny Seaside

Seaside is a popular destination spot on the coast. We checked into our hotel at the Shilo Inn Suites Hotel. The hotel has a great location and is right on the beach. Once checked in we made our way down the promenade to the historic Seaside Aquarium. We had fun feeding fish to the seals.  We spent some time exploring the small shops in downtown including buying at least a pound of  saltwater taffy and a beach blanket. After our retail therapy we took our new blanket, taffy and some snacks to the beach and watched seagulls and the surf.  For dinner we ate at the Seaside Brewing Company. We tried a beer sampler and ate some amazing street tacos.  After dinner we took stroll on the beach and then stopped in at the Boardwalk Lounge and tried some oyster shooters. We asked out bartender about the rules for a beach bonfire. We found out as long as you follow the rules, bonfires are legal on the public beaches.

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Day 2 – Seaside to Cape Kiwanda

After making a list, we headed out to find a grocery store to pick up bonfire supplies.  We stopped at RiteAid. We lucked out because they had everything from marshmallows to firewood.  So after purchasing our items, we had a short drive to Ecola State Park.

received_10155048858683886Ethereal Ecola State Park

The entrance winds you though a forest of trees opening onto a plateau with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The vista is perfect for a picnic, and we split our cinnamon roll from Camp 18 and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery.

received_10155048980128886Captivating Cannon Beach

No stop on the coast is complete without stopping at the lovely town of  Cannon Beach.  Cannon Beach is home to Haystack Rock, which is famous for being a location from the Goonies Movie. This monolith rock towers 235 feet and during low tide you can access the many tide pools. After exploring the beach and some of the fun shops we stopped at Bill’s Tavern and Brewhouse. The restaurant is a busy place, the food there was great! (try the Blackberry Beauty Beer, you won’t regret it!)

IMG_20170327_202558_483Historical Hug Point

After lunch we continued on to Hug Point State Park.  Before roads for automobiles were built, wagons used this part of the coast to travel. People traveling around the cliff in wagons had to ‘hug’ the rock even at low tide, hence the name, Hug Point.  We were able to see the old wheel ruts that had been carved into the rock.  Also on the beach were a few sea caves that we had fun exploring.

IMG_20170327_200912_987Outstanding Oswald West State Park

Back on the road we stopped at Oswald West State Park, which is about a half mile walk through the woods from the parking lot. At the end of the hike, we were rewarded with pretty ocean views and we watched some surfers trying their luck on the waves.

IMG_20170327_213945_203Tasty Tillamook

The first place we stopped at in Tillamook was the Country Smoker Outlet.  It is a small outlet store attached to the factory smokehouse. Our stop was rewarded when we were able to purchase super long (2 ft!) pepperoni sticks.  We also picked up more jerky and sticks to take to friends and family back home. The second stop was at the popular Tillamook Cheese Factory.  The factory has a self guided tour, shop and a cafe to try a some of the tasty ice cream. We couldn’t leave withour trying a few flavors.

received_10155048980628886Perfect Time in Pacific City 

We arrived in late afternoon at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda.  Across the street was the Pelican Pub & Brewery, which we enjoyed dinner while the sun was setting.  After dinner, we loaded up our firewood, and s’mores fixings and built a bonfire down by the beach.  Coming from Kansas, we had a great time listening to surf, and our s’mores were pretty tasty too!

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Day 3 – Pacific City to Nye Beach

We woke up before dawn to get some coffee and pastries from Stimulus Espresso, the coffee shop attached to the Inn. Coffee in hand we walked back down to the beach to take some photos and enjoy the morning.  After trying to talk the desk clerk into hiring us for only room and board, we reluctantly got back into the car to continue our journey.

received_10155048857413886Nice views at Neskowin Beach

Looking on the map we decided to make a pit stop at Neskowin Beach,  and rewarded with spectacular views.  We were also only the only people on the beach which as really nice. It was very serene place. We could have hung out there all day.

received_10155049060193886Delightful Depoe Bay

Depoe Bay is the “World’s Smallest Natural Harbor.” We had wanted to stop at the Whale Watching Center, but it was closed on the day we drove though. Due to the weather, which was a bit chilly and windy we opted not to go out on a whale watching boat ride. When we visit again we hope to be able to go on the tour. Getting a bit hungry we walked to Gracie’s Sea Hag, a fun little restaurant on main street. Only in Oregon, will you have bartenders playing the spoons on bottles to the tune of Sweet Caroline.

received_10155048857803886Newport  & Nye Beach

Once checking into our hotel,  The Inn at Nye Beach; we drove out to the Yaquina Lighthouse. This historic lighthouse is Oregon’s tallest at 93 feet tall . After visiting the visitor center, we walked down a path to the beach. We were stopped by a park ranger because there was a baby harbor seal on the beach and due to Federal Law you have to be 100 feet away. We were able to talk to the ranger about the seals and take a few photos.  Later that night we met up with Mike’s sister & brother-in-law at Rogue Ales Public House for dinner. It was great catching up with them! We took a walk around the harbor, heard the Sea Lions barking and said our goodbyes. It was too short of a visit!

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Day 4 – Nye Beach to Portland

received_10155048858053886Our Last Day

After checking out of our cute hotel, we walked down to the shops on Nye Beach.  It was fun browsing and we were able to purchase some Christmas presents at the little beach shops. We  drove through Dutch Bro Coffee to get coffee and make a quick stop back at the harbor to view the Seal Lions in the day light.  We had enough time to stop at the Roadhouse 101 in Lincoln City for lunch.  If you stop there make sure to order one of their wood fired pizzas.  From there we headed over Salem and got on Interstate 5 to the airport. We turned in our rental car, grabbed a snack and headed back to Kansas.  It was a great trip! When we come back, we hope to have more time to road trip further down the coast.  The Oregon Coast is spectacular, and I advise everyone to take time to drive down Highway 101. You won’t regret it!

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Thanks for reading! If you have any tips on places we need to see for a future road trip in Oregon, please let me know! Happy Travels, Tava

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A Day Trip to Mount St Helens

At 8:32 Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, Mount St.Helens erupted.

A 5.1 earthquake triggered a massive landslide, that caused the entire north side of the mountain to give way, and that sent a giant cloud of ash and gases more than 12 miles into the air. The skies were darken up to 300 miles away. Everything within eight miles of the blast was wiped out in an instant. The volcano continued to erupt for more than nine hours, depositing ash across Eastern Washington and 10 other states. It killed 57 people, and damaged roughly 230 square miles of land around the volcano. It also destroyed 200 homes,  158 miles of roads and countless wildlife.  The eruption is the most destructive volcanic event in U.S. history.

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Sign at start of the monument

The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was established in 1982 and it is administered by the National Forest Service.  It is located in the Cascade Mountain range in Washington state, about 55 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon, and about 95 miles south of Seattle, Washington. If you are visiting the area, it is an excellent day trip or side trip if traveling between Portland and Seattle. One note: the monument is only open from mid-May to October, so make sure to visit during these months.

When planning our trip to the Pacific Northwest,  seeing Mount St Helens  was at the top of our list of places to visit.  Both  of us remember being in grade school when the eruption occurred in 1980 and our classmates bringing in ash for show and tell. Below is our account of our day trip to visit Mount Saint Helens.

Our flight from Kansas City landed at PDX at 4PM. Where we then rented a car and drove to Kelso, Washington. We rented a hotel room at Super 8 then ate diner at Bugerville.  We also enjoyed stopping by Ashtown Brewing Company to try a sampling of their local beer. Kelso is about 50 minutes north of Portland. Anxious to start exploring, we were up early to get going on our adventure. We stopped by Dutch Bro Coffee, and got some coffee for the road.

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Map of the area
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Early Morning Iced Latte
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Plan on at least a 90 minute drive

We turned off Interstate 5 at Castle Rock, onto Highway 504. From the turnoff it takes about 90 minutes to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is the closest visitors center to the crater. There was a bit of fog that morning which made for an eerie but  pretty drive.

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Foggy Morning Drive

There is also the  Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake at mile marker 5. It is operated by Washington State Parks and has exhibits on the eruption and its effects on the region.  The center wasn’t open yet when we drove by and we were going  to stop on our way back out but, our GPS had different plans for us. It routed us on a different road to take to Seattle. If we are back in the area, we do wish to visit the Visitors Center at Silver Lake.

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Patty’s Place, a picturesque breakfast stop

Our first stop was for breakfast at  Patty’s Place at 19 Mile House . We ordered the Tater Tot Casserole, Biscuits and a pot of coffee. The portions were huge! We didn’t have enough room to sample any of their famous fruit cobbler.  The restaurant and gift shop sits overlooking the Toutle River, we walked around after breakfast taking in the pretty views.

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Menu
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Tater Tot Casserole
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Toutle River
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We found Sasquatch!

Not far from our breakfast stop we found Bigfoot. Of course we had to take a picture!

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Posing with Mount St Helens

We stopped along the road at a scenic overlook to try to see Mount St Helens for the first time. On highway 504 there are a few overlooks so you can pull your vehicle over and take photographs.

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Highway 504
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Tree Stumps

The the landscape kept changing the closer we got to Mount St Helens. You start to see a variation of the trees on the mountain ridges. There are parts of the forest that were planted after the eruption where all the trees are the same height.  Then you come upon the stark landscape where the land was allowed to recover naturally, where there are just the tree stumps that were all that was left after the explosion.

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Barren Landscapes
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We made it!

Our destination was the  Johnston Ridge Observatory at mile marker 52. This observatory is operated by the National Forest and only five miles from the north side of the mountain.

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Mike looking at an exhibit

There are many wonderful exhibits to explore, rangers will give talks about the recovery of the plant and animal life in the area.

There is also a movie about the eruption, which concludes with a dramatic view of Mount St Helens. The observatory also houses the equipment that is still used to monitor activity within Mount St. Helens.

Outside of the observatory,  the viewing deck provides spectacular views of the crater. You can also walk on lots of trails to observe the volcano from different vantage points. We were amazed that you can view the steam vents on the crater. It was a great reminder that Mount St Helen’s is still an active volcano.

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The Crater
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Uprooted Tree
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Blast Path

Not long after the eruption, new life started returning to the area. Wildlife is roaming the land and new trees and plants are covering the area where the blast had left a barren landscape.  We were reminded on our visit that after a destruction there is always rebirth.

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Majestic Mount St Helens

Thank you for reading about our adventure to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and have if you have any comments, please let me know. Happy Travels, Tava

A Day Trip to Mount St Helens(1)

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Cabo San Lucas: A Surprise Birthday Trip

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Cervezas and Beaches: What more to love?

To celebrate my husband’s 40th birthday,  I came up with a crazy idea. A surprise beach birthday trip to relax and get away.  We had never stayed at an all-inclusive resort before, so this quickly became the focus of my plan.  But where to go? When I was researching airfare, flights to Los Cabos were the lowest fares for early May. Also, Cabo San Lucas is home to all inclusives, beaches and  famous bars,  what better place to celebrate that milestone birthday!


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Where is Los Cabos Located?

Los Cabos ia on the southwest part of Mexico, known as “Land’s End” for being located at the tip of the southern Baja California Peninsula. Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are the two towns that make up Los Cabos. Cabo San Lucas (where we stayed) is the more touristy of the two and home to the marina and close to the famous arch ‘El Arco’, whereas San Jose Del Cabo is a smaller and less touristy town. Both have lots of hotel and resorts to choose from.

The weather in Cabo is nice year round, ranging from the mid-70’s in the winter to the mid-90’s in the summer. The exception is that Cabo is prone to hurricanes. Mexico’s hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, but the country is at its highest risk of strong storms from August through October.


How to Get Around?

Some resorts offer free airport shuttle service, if your resort does not; you can take a taxi, shared airport shuttle or the local bus. Taxi service is pretty steep.  We opted to use the shared airport transportation with TransCabo. The prices were $45.00 per person for a round trip from airport to our resort. If you are on a very tight budget, it is possible to take the bus from the airport.

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Where to Stay in Cabo?

We stayed at Riu Santa Fe, which we booked though hotels.com after comparing various hotels in the same budget. It appealed to us for the pool complexes, the location and the price. Pricing came out to be about $200.00 per night.  A bonus was a fully stocked mini bar, with water, soda, mixers and beer.

The Riu Santa Fe is a large resort and it has 2 main areas. One area is oceanfront whereas the other sits behind thar part of the property and it’s sister property, the Riu Palace. The oceanfront area has one large hotel building and also includes the lunch buffet, steak and mexican restaurants. If you want an ocean view make sure you book your room in this area.  The lobby sits on a large square plaza where the main buffet, shops, the Italian/Asian restaurant, the lobby bars, sport bar and the theater is located. After dinner every night we would end up in the plaza for drinks, live music and entertainment.

The Riu has two very large pool complexes one in each area of the property. The quieter pool is closer to the lobby with a large swim up bar area.  The other pool complex is oceanfront with 3 pool areas, two of which have swim up bars. This pool was the ‘party’ pool and where the daily pool activities were scheduled.

While the beach is gorgeous, it is not swimable. The waves are large and the undertow is pretty strong which makes swimming difficult. Also, the area is prone to riptides which are dangerous. Just take advantage of the 2 large pool areas for your swimming.

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The staff was great! They always professional and ready to answer any questions. Our housekeeper kept our room spotless, our minibar stocked, flower and towel art decorations daily.  They even left a bottle of tequila for Mike on his birthday. The bartenders are friendly and make some great frozen drinks.

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What to do?

Visit El Arco, Land’s End  and Lover’s Beach on a Glass Bottom Boat 

This is the best way to see all the major sights. We went to the Marina with the intention of hiring a water taxi to Lover’s Beach. Upon negotiating we were able to pay $12.00 for the two of us down from $40.00.  We were later told that was a great price. To our surprise we also ended up with a glass bottom boat tour of Land’s End, the Window to the Pacific and about 1 1/2 hours at Lover’s Beach. Our boat driver also fed the fish tortillas so we could see them though the glass at the bottom of the boat. He was also great in pointing out all the sea lions lounging on the rocks.

Lover’s Beach
Lover’s Beach is nestled on the Sea of Cortez side at the base of the rock formations of Land’s End. Its sister beach, Divorce Beach is located on the Pacific Ocean side and has turbulent waves. Swimming off of Divorce Beach is dangerous because of the rip currents.  The best way to reach the beaches are by a water taxi from the marina or your hotel.  You can also access Lover’s beach by kayak or stand-up paddle board. Bring whatever you’ll need for the day as there are no services.  We did have a few vendors selling beverages. It was a timing feat to get on and off the boat, so keep that in mind.
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Sunset Catamaran Sail                                                                                                                        One of the prettiest sights of Cabo San Lucas is the sunset over the Pacific Ocean behind the  ‘El Arco’. There are a few companies that offer sunset catamaran rides.  We booked though Cabo San Lucas Tours.  They offered us light snacks and drinks during the cruise. I liked that they had a photographer on board that took photos that we could purchase if we wanted, but there was no pressure to do so.

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What to Explore

The Marina                                                                                                                                                 With tons of shops, a large mall, restaurants, and bars, there is something for everyone at the Marina. Vendors  wander the are trying to sell you their services for diving, paddle boarding, jet sking, catamaran snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours. If you decide you want to sign up make sure you negotiate for the best prices.  The Puerto Paraiso Mall is a great place to pick up souvenirs in the air conditioning. There is a nice brewery called Baja Brewing Company located in the mall, great for a little stop during shopping.  There are lots of open air restaurants that you can people watch and grab a bite to eat.

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Cabo’s Famous Bars                                                                                                                                         A few blocks away from the Marina, you will encounter shops and also some of the famous bars of Cabo San Lucas’s lively nightlife. Some of the bars are: Cabo Wabo, El Squid Roe, and the Giggling Marlin. Cabo Wabo is owned by Sammy Hagar, it’s a massive complex with multiple bars and stages where bands perform, often with Sammy making a surprise appearance. El Squid Roe is a one of the largest nightclubs in downtown and has three floors and keeps the party going. The Giggling Martin offers buckets of beer and you can be hung upside down like a catch of the day.

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Best Beach Restaurant                                                                                                                                  If you are wanting an ocean view, with a great vibe, head past the Marina and towards the beach. You have to try the restaurant called the Office.  Tables are placed on the beach under tented awnings and your toes are in the sand. You can go our to the beach and also barter with vendors selling items on the beach. Order up some chips and guac and a bucket of cervezas.


Travel Tips

Don’t drink the tap water. Make sure any water and/or ice you are served is safe to drink.

Bathrooms are a bit differnet than in the States. In most places you don’t flush toilet paper; it must be neatly thrown away in the trash can in the stall, this is due to the lack of modern drains and sewage systems. Also carry some change with you, most public bathrooms will require a few coins to use the facilities.

Just remember Los Cabos may be on the ocean but it is also is in a desert and it is dry. Keep hydrated, and apply lots of sunblock regularly.

The streets are relatively safe, just watch out for the uneven pavement and sidewalks. Pickpockets are an occasional problem around town so be mindful and exercise caution. Use common sense if you are bar hopping at night.

Order a specialty coffee from the bar at your resort to take with you for early morning beach walks.

Plan on wanting to go back. You can never have enough beach relaxation!

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Thanks for taking the time to read! If you have any tips for Cabo, please comment and let me know! Happy Travels, Tava

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Wow, Macau! Why you need to visit now!

Cheesy intro, I know. But seriously, if you are in Asia, Macau is a great place to spend a couple of days exploring. You can try your luck at the casinos, eat a wonderful meal of Chinese-Portuguese fusion food, and see wonderful old colonial European architecture in a UNESCO world heritage site. Macau is truly a blend of the  Oriental and European culture.

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Sign in Senedo Square

Macau was the First & Last European Colony in Asia

In 1557, Macau was leased to Portugal from China as a trading port, and stayed a Portuguese territory until 1999, until it was returned back to China. Macau is  officially known as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Macau still maintains its own legal system, monetary system, customs and immigration policy and China oversees its military defense and foreign affairs. The economy since then has continued to prosper with the sustained growth of tourism from mainland China and the construction of some of the largest casinos in the world. That is where Macau earned its nickname the “Las Vegas of Asia.”


Location and Transportation

Macau is situated 37 miles southwest of Hong Kong across the Pearl River Delta and has a land border with China. It is composed of a peninsula and the islands of Taipa and Coloane.

Finding and Using the Ferry

There are two ferry terminals in Hong Kong, one located at Hong Kong Island and the other in Kowloon. If you purchase tickets online make sure you know which terminal you need to use to depart.  

Ferries to Macau leave from two terminals in Hong Kong: the Ferry from Hong Kong Island sails from Sheung Wan Ferry Terminal every 15 minutes. The Kowloon Ferry departs from the China Ferry Terminal at 33 Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui every 30 minutes. There are 2 main Ferry Companies in Hong Kong: Cotai Water Jet and Turbo Jet. Both operate at both ferry terminals.  The journey from Hong Kong to Macau takes about 1 hour. Leave your hotel no later than 45 minutes prior to your ferry departure time to make sure you can check bags and clear Hong Kong immigration. Don’t buy ferry tickets from anyone other than the person behind the ticketing window, you might get sold tickets for a ferry that has already departed.

Now to get even more confusing; there are also two ferry terminals in Macau. Again, when you purchase your ferry ticket, try to book your arrival at the closest terminal to your hotel. Never fear though, there are shuttles and taxis at both to take you to your destination.  The ferry terminals in Macau are: the Macau Taipa Ferry Terminal located by the airport and closest to the Cotai Strip. and the Macau Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal located  by the Fisherman’s Warf on the peninsula of Macau. Just make sure when you leave Hong Kong or Macau you go to the correct terminals to board your ferries.

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Old Macao

Now that you have arrived in Macau:

Immigration Procedures

Macau has a separate immigration regime from mainland China and Hong Kong. All travelers from mainland China , Hong Kong and all foreign countries have to go through immigration and customs checks on arrival in Macau. Most visitors do not have to get a visa upon arrival. Upon arrival in Macau, immigration clearance can take anything from 5-30 minutes.

Hop on that Free Shuttle bus

Shuttle buses to big hotels are available from both the Macau Ferry Terminal and Taipa Ferry Terminal.  Some of the hotels are share shuttle buses. Follow the signs from customs outside and look for the shuttle bus bay.  Signs and buses are marked with their destinations.

Hotel Check-In 

Depending on when you arrive, 1pm is usually the check-in time of hotels in Macau, so do expect to store your luggage. A great way to use this time is exploring your hotel and getting some lunch. When they give you the time to come back for check-in, you are probably going to join a long line in a queue.

Some of the largest Casinos in the world are located on the Cotai Strip, so Macau does have a lot of hotel rooms to choose from.  Pick a resort one that suits your needs, the resorts offer great amenities, different entertainment venues, shopping arcades and fabulous pools.

Traveling around the Cotai Strip

The easiest way to get around Macau is simply using the  complimentary shuttle buses operated by all major casinos and hotels. The casino shuttle buses can be used by anyone. Simply find the sign with the destination that you want to go to get into queue. The buses run about every 15 minutes.

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Food Choices

Taipa Village

Taipa Village is one of the few areas in Macau where you can step back in time and walk pedestrianized lanes to browse shops that offer Macanese specialties, such as the city’s famous almond cookies and egg tarts. Don’t forget to try the pork jerky offered by many vendors offering you samples. Generally most stores are open daily from 11AM – 9PM

Taipa Houses Museum

The museum complex consists of five houses, of which display various artifacts and exhibits on life during Macau’s colonial era. The houses were built in 1921 and restored to  recreate houses of Portuguese families living in Macau during the early 20th century.

Lord Stow’s Bakery

You can’t leave without trying the signature Macau delicacy, the egg tart. Lord Stow’s Bakery is the orignal creator of the Macanese egg tart.

Gelatina Mok Yi Ke 

You can order durian ice cream and sawdust pudding (made of ice cream and crushed biscuits) from this famous desert stand.

Tai Lei Loi

A cafe selling the famous pork chop bun, expect a  long queue.

Taipa House Museum

was built in 1921 and served as a residence for the Portuguese governor and other high-level civil servants and their families.

Pak Tai Temple

Built in 1844, back then most people used to earn a living by fishing, and thus they followed the precepts of Pak Tai, the Northern Emperor. He is believed to have the divine power to withstand floods and fire which led to the temple’s establishment.  A worship pavilion is set up for followers to pay tribute and offerings, which is rarely seen elsewhere on the island.

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Golden Reel Ferris Wheel at Studio City

Cotai Strip: The Mega Casinos

Each casino in Cotai has a theme including hotels, restaurants, entertainment and shopping areas. Macau in total has more than thirty casinos, Cotai has: – The Venetian Macao, the Parisian Macau, the Four Seasons, City of Dreams, Wynn Palace, Studio City, Sands Cotai Central and the Galaxy Macau. 

Studio City 

Studio City is a spacious old Hollywood themed Casino. It has a large food court and shopping arcade. The main attraction is the Golden Reel – the world’s first figure eight ferris wheel built right into the middle of the building.

Venetian Macau

This massive resort not only has ornate decorations transporting you to Venice but you can also ride a Gondola on the canals though the resort by a singing gondolier. 

City of Dreams

A trio of hotels comprise the City of Dreams. The “House of Dancing Water” is one of the world’s most expensive theater shows. The show features actors performing in and around water with daredevil dives into the colossal pools.

Wynn Palace

The main attraction is a performance lake that has fountain shows every 15 minutes that are choreographed with music, water and light.  To get to the entrance of the casino, you board a gondola that will carry you across the lake and fountains with amazing views.

Parisian Macau 

With a  half-scale lighted Eiffel Tower outside, the interior has a large fountain and atrium giving a feel of Paris patrolled by street entertainers.

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Ruins of St Paul

Exploring Macau Peninsula

After your breakfast, you can do an early check-out, make sure to store your luggage at the baggage service of the hotel and claim it before you depart for your ferry.  Next, Taxi or use free shuttle bus to the historic center of Macau, and a UNESCO world heritage site. The old heart of the city is small and extremely walkable.

Churches, Temples and Tarts

Starting at Senado Square wind you way up Rua da Palha to the Ruins of St Paul. Explore the different Churches and Temples and stop in the open-fronted shops selling souvenirs and street food. This is a great place to try the famous pork shop buns, jerky, egg tarts and pick up some almond cookies to take back home.

Senado Square (Largo do Senado)

This is the traditional heart of Macau, Senado Square is paved with Portuguese mosaic tiles and surrounded by classical colonial buildings  Sitting on the square is St. Dominic’s Church. It was founded  by three Spanish Dominican priests from Mexico in 1587.The bell tower at the back of the building has been converted into the Museum of Sacred Art with around 300 artifacts dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

Lou Kau Mansion 

The former residence of Lu Huashao, a prominent Chinese merchant. The historical house was built in 1889. It is open for tours 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is free of charge.

Macau Museum  

The Macau Museum is located on the hill of the Fortaleza do Monte.  After touring the museum, be sure to exit from the top floor, which takes you to the Mount Fortress Mount Fortress was built between 1617 and 1626 by the Jesuits, and housed barracks, arsenal and storehouses to allow it to withstand a siege lasting two years. You can get good views of the inner harbour and the Macau peninsula from there. 

Ruins of St. Paul

Built in 1580, St. Paul’s Church was plagued by fires. The first was in 1595 then another in 1601. Reconstruction started in 1602 and was completed in 1637, at that time the church became the biggest Catholic Church in East Asia. Unfortunately, a violent typhoon hit Macau in 1835 and the church caught fire for the third time leaving only its facade. It has become Macau’s most photographed tourist attraction. Beware of the selfie sticks on the stairs.

Na Tcha Temple   

The Na Tcha Temple, built in 1888, is a Chinese temple dedicated to the worship of the deity Na Tcha. Na Tcha is the child god of war. It is believed that the temple was built to put an end to the plague ravaging the region during that time.

Macau Tower

You can perform the world’s highest bungee jump from the 1,108ft  Macau Tower.  It also has observation decks, restaurants, theaters, shopping malls and the Skywalk X, a thrilling walk around around the rim of the observation deck.

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Making Almond Cookies

Leaving Macau

Don’t forget to have your taxi take you to the correct ferry terminal if you booked online. Going back to Hong Kong or Kowloon is just like your journey coming to Macau. You will go though immigration to leave Macau and when you arrive in Hong Kong/ Kowloon you will go though Hong Kong immigration again.

Macau to Hong Kong Airport 

It is possible to take a ferry from Macau to the Hong Kong airport, but keep in mind that sailings are not 24 hours a day, check with TurboJet and CotaiJet for schedules. Buying the ticket beforehand is highly recommended to avoid not getting on the ferry that you need. As the journey takes about 1 hour, it is a safe bet to choose a ferry that is leaving Macau no less than 3 hours prior to your scheduled flight departure time. The ferry takes about one hour for the trip.


Macau Tips

Money Matters

You can use Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) or Macau Patacas (MOP), in Macau. If you get Patacas will want to make sure to spend this while in Macau as it can’t be used back in Hong Kong once you leave. You do pay a slight overage by using HKD as it is slightly more valuable than MOP.

Customs and Etiquette

Visitors should bear in mind that English is only spoken well by a minority of locals and sometimes there may be a language barrier. I have found that the Macanese are very friendly and will find someone to help with the translation.

Weather

The climate in Macau is often hot and humid from May to September. Plan your travel accordingly and make sure you keep yourself hydrated if traveling in the summer months.

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Taxi to Ferry Terminal

 

If you have any travel tips for Macau, please let me know! Thanks again for visiting!    Happy Travels, Tava

Our Irish Road Trip

A Drive around Ireland in a Minivan

It all started in late 2013 after talking to Mike’s parents (Mary and Jerry) about Mary’s ancestors that first came to America. We decided plan a trip Ireland. This was Mary and Jerry’s first time oversees, and Mary was excited to find out about her Irish heritage. They made plans to get their passports that night.  After telling my parents (Bill & Jean) about our plans, they thought it sounded like a great vacation and decided to join us.  In order to be able to visit all of the places we wanted, we knew we would need to rent a car. But to be able transport everyone in one vehicle we were going to need a large car. Like a minivan.

A minivan. In Ireland. With narrow roads & hedgerows. And don’t forget about driving on the left hand side. 

Mike said he would be up for the driving challenge on one condition: there must be a pub by the hotel so he would be able to get at least a pint of Guinness each night.

Compromise accepted.

A Map of our journey:

Map: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1CqEEreHzjBX6f0Z9bivj2qLqFz4&usp=sharing

Travel Dates: October 15-25, 2014

 

Challenging Day(s) – DAY 1 & 2 , Departing and Arriving

The original plans were to have everyone meet up at the Philadelphia Airport for our layover flight to Dublin,  whereas Mary and Jerry were flying from Salt Lake City to Philadelphia; and the rest of us out of Kansas City. BUT Mother Nature had other plans for us.(problem #1)

 After being delayed in KC we knew we weren’t going to catch up with Mike’s folks in Philly. But we were able to get a hold of them during their layover and made plans to meet us in Terminal 2 at a fast food restaurant, when we landed. At this time we didn’t know what flights we were going to be on, nor what time we were going to land other than it would be in the afternoon. Mary & Jerry made it out of  Salt Lake City and into Philly and arrived at the Dublin Airport around 9:30am, on schedule. We ended flying from MCI to ORD to LHR to DUB, and arriving at 3:20PM . They had been waiting in the Dublin airport for 6 hours.

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Mom & Dad arriving in Dublin

We may have landed but our luggage did not. (problem #2)  Delayed luggage is a headache, but ours was going to be a migraine. There was some doubt if our luggage was going to catch up with us due to that we were driving from the airport to Waterford and then continuing around Ireland. We gave the baggage claim girl our itinerary and hotel list and crossed our fingers. But we mentally prepared for the fact we might be without luggage until we arrived back in Dublin a week later. Luckily, between the four of us we had packed the necessities in our carryons and we would need to just pick up a few things if it came to being without luggage for a week. Travel Tip: Checked luggage gets delayed occasionally, pack all your absolutely necessities  items in your carry on!

Not only was our baggage missing, but so were Mary & Jerry!  (problem #3)

In the mayhem of all the flight changes, they were told to go from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 to wait from a desk clerk.  We searched for hours looking and enlisted the help of a very nice policeman.  They even paged for us a few times. Finally, Jerry finally found us at 6:45PM. We were searching in the wrong terminals. We were all pretty frazzled by this time.  I was concerned because we had no way to contact them (no sim card, and no WIFI access), and it was their first time out of the USA. Travel Tip: if you are split up traveling make sure that there is only one possible meeting point.

Once we were all reunited, we went to the Europcar to pick up our rental vehicle for the next 5 days. And there it was…THE VAN. It was a compact van but still a van. Mike quickly was relearning how to drive on the opposite side of the road.  We got on the road about 7:30pm. The drive was about 2 hours to Waterford. During this time we realized that we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast (problem #4).

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The VAN

We arrived at Treacy’s Hotel in Waterford about 9:30PM and we were able to check in and clean up a bit. I remembered that I had to pay the M50 toll online for using the ring toll road around Dublin. Which normally would be ok but I had problems with my credit card and international charges – even though it was under $5.00 (problem #5) After a chat with card services the charge went though. We then went down to the restaurant in the hotel but by this time, the restaurant had quit serving dinner, but the really nice bartender threw together some sandwiches and crisps for us.  (things were looking up!) By the time I ate, and tried my first pint of Guinness (!) I was finally able to appreciate that we had landed in the emerald isle.

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My First Guinness

Travel Times from pillow to pillow:

Mary & Jerry:  49 hours

Bill, Jean, Mike and Tava: 43 hours

Our First Full Day – DAY 3, Waterford to Cobh to Blarney

After filling our bellies with a full Irish breakfast, we started exploring Waterford. We started with Reginald’s Tower across from our hotel. It was constructed around 1253. We had fun taking pictures inside and around the tower. The Medieval Museum was nearby and we checked out the exhibits on the history of Waterford.

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Medieval Waterford

Then we started our road journey for the day.  First was Midleton,  for a visit to the Jameson Irish Whiskey Experience. It was a fabulous tour! The grounds and buildings were neat to photograph, and Jerry was able to participate in a taste test. This was comparing Jameson Whiskey, Scotch whisky, and American whiskey, to become a “Qualified Irish Whiskey Taster”. The rest of us, except for Mike,  were able to sample a signature Jameson Drink. (I being the nice wife that i am, accepted his beverage)

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Jameson Whiskey Experience

After a small rainy drive we stopped in Cobh, a major historic port in Ireland. Our stop was at the Heritage Museum. The museum had exhibits about the emigrant vessels to America, the convict ships, the Titanic that stopped in Cobh and the story of the Lusitania which sank off Cork Harbour.

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Cobh

When the rain let up a bit we then drove to the hotel in Blarney. The Blarney Woolen Mills Hotel is next door to the Blarney Woolen Mill, the largest Irish Store in Ireland. We ate a great dinner at the restaurant at the hotel. The best part of that night was our luggage was waiting on us after coming back into the hotel from dinner. Yay, British Airways baggage claim!

http://www.cobhheritage.com/

http://www.jamesonwhiskey.com/us

Kissing the Stone – DAY 4, Blarney to Limerick

We had breakfast in the cafe at the Blarney Woolen Mills and then shopped for awhile. My dad purchased a great woolen hat. Then we visited the famous 15th century Blarney Castle. Mike, myself, Mary and Jerry opted to climb the up to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. My parents explored the grounds and took photos. Mary and I were the two that were hanging upside down to kiss the stone.   We spent a little longer in Blarney than we expected, and Mike wasn’t feeling to hip on a long winding drive around the Ring of Kerry. So after some discussion we went ahead and drove to Limerick instead. Lunch was a stop at Supermac’s which is an Irish fast food restaurant chain. This is where we started our obsession with taco chips. (Thick, cut french fries loaded with taco meat and cheese) We made it to Limerick in the afternoon, checked into Limerick City Hotel then explored the neighborhood. We stopped by a small grocery store to pick up dinner.  Jerry was surprised when we had him come down to our room, where we had a small birthday celebration. We had packed a small cake in our suitcase  for his birthday, and got cards at the grocery store that day. It was a fun evening.

http://www.blarneycastle.ie/

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The Majestic Cliffs of Moher -DAY 5, En Route to Galway

First on the agenda was visiting King John’s Castle in Limerick. This 13th century castle has very informative exhibits on a castle during a siege. We all had a lot of fun climbing around and exploring. There were some great views of Limerick from the top of the castle walls.

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Views from the top of King John’s Castle

Later that afternoon we drove to visit the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher, an impressive wall of rock that towers some 700 feet above the Atlantic ocean. It was a bit windy, so if you go keep that in mind and don’t blow off the cliffs! I wish the weather would have cooperated with us a bit better, it was a bit misty, but the views were still gorgeous.

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From there, we drove through the burren, stopping at the Burren Smokehouse  to try the famous smoked salmon. My dad, of course, bought a variety for us to share in the van. We checked into the Galway City Hotel. That night we skipped going out for dinner  because we were a bit tired  we ended up ordering a tasty local pizza.

https://www.shannonheritage.com/KingJohnsCastle/

https://www.cliffsofmoher.ie/

The Charming City of Galway -DAY 6, Galway Exploring

On our way to downtown, we stopped for a quick bite at McDonald’s (please don’t judge) It was actually a nice fast food experience.  The McDonald’s in Ireland try to use as much Irish ingredients as possible. So it was pretty tasty. We then drove around trying to find a parking spot. Parking is a bit tight in the city center so we ended up walking a bit.

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Yum!

It was a bit chilly, but that gave us an excuse to try some authentic Irish Coffee. After we were warmed up, we enjoyed stopping in at many shops; including Sherdan’s Cheesemongers. Dad again stocked us up on some tasty cheese sampling

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More Cheese Please

After our snack we stopped at the Church of St. Nicholas. It is a large church that Christopher Columbus visited back in 1477. By this time we were getting a bit hungry so we stopped at the The Kings Head for a bite of lunch. This was a good choice. The pub itself is over 800 years old and has live music as well.  After lunch we shopped and picked up some items for dinner. 

 

Driving in Dublin – DAY 7, Early Morning Drive

We had a very early drive from Galway and drove to Dublin, the capital of Ireland.Our plan was to get everyone checked into the Jury’s Inn Dublin Christchurch then Mike and I were going to drop off the van at the downtown Europcar location.  Mary and Jerry were able to get into their room so the rest of us went on a 2 hour adventure of trying to find the rental car drop off. Things were getting a bit frustrating because we could see where we needed to go on the map (the GPS kept trying to take us to the airport) but we couldn’t get there due to road construction and one way streets. Finally we found it and we were able to park a block away, and with the help of an agent we drove the car to the proper drop off spot. We caught a taxi back to the hotel.

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Christ Church Cathedral

After we got back we ventured out to explore the medieval Christ Church Cathedral. Mike and I stopped at Leo Burdock’s for some Fish & Chips.Wow! The parents ate at the restaurant in the hotel. I am sure that they had great food, but we had Taco Fries. After lunch, Mom and Dad and myself decided to walk over and visit Dublinia.  It’s a Viking Historical Exhibit adjacent to Christ Church Cathedral.

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Mom made a friend

Mom and I had fun reading the exhibits and posing with the historical mannequins. Once we were done, my parents retired and Mike and I went out. We were about 4 blocks from Temple Bar so we decided to bar hop and listen to some great music (we got in a bit late that night.)

http://christchurchcathedral.ie/

http://www.dublinia.ie

Trinity College and National Museum – DAY 8, Dublin

That morning we  caught another taxi to Trinity College to visit the Library; the home to the Book of Kells. Trinity College is a pretty campus but the Library is out of this world gorgeous.

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Shhh!

Photos do not do it enough justice, it is amazing!

After viewing, we walked to Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street for a tasty brunch.After eating, we walked to the National Archaeology Museum of Ireland, which was just a few blocks away.  It is a great museum, our highlight was learning about the peat bog mummies. After leaving the museum we stopped back by Leo Burdock’s for some more chippies!

http://www.museum.ie/Archaeology

Pouring a Pint – DAY 9,  Dublin Drinking

Mike couldn’t wait for this day, we were touring the  Guinness Storehouse that morning. Yes, it’s a bit touristy but it was fun learning how to pour a proper pint. We thought the free samples were great too!

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Pouring the Perfect Pint
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Gravity Bar

Afterwards, we stopped at the Brazen Head Pub for lunch; it is Dublin’s oldest pub established  in 1198. In my opinion they serve the world’s best Beef and Guinness Stew!

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One Great Pub
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The World’s Best Beef & Guinness Stew

After lunch we took a tour of  the crypts of St Michan’s Church, even getting to shake a mummy’s hand.

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Exploring Crypts

We walked back to the hotel with a slight detour to pick up some to die for pastries  from the Queen of Tarts. After a bit of a rest we all ventured to Temple Bar to listen to some music, souvenir shop and grab a light dinner.

www.guinness-storehouse.com/

We go to a Football (Soccer) Game –  Day 10, Dublin

One of Mike’s and my goals for our trip was to try catch one of the Bohemian F.C.(soccer) games.  We knew that we could purchase tickets at a store by Temple Square once it opened in late morning. We all walked to Dublin Castle and did the self guided tour.  We still had time to kill until the store opened. To pass time until it did, we dropped the sets of parents off at the Spar Store for breakfast and we popped into the Foggy Dew pub for a pint. We had a really good conversation with the bartender. We then headed out with hopes the store would be open. And it was. We procured our coveted football tickets.

Game On!

We picked up the parents, and hailed 2 taxis to take us to The Jennie Johnson famine ship. Unfortunately, it was not in dock.  We then taxied to St George Arcade and wandered the arcade, shopping and snacking. On our way to the hotel we stopped at The Old Stand Pub for a late lunch. We spoke with the owner who proceeded to gift us all with free tee shirts. Once the parents were settled in, Mike and I grabbed a cab and headed to Dalymount Park, Home of the Bohemian F.C. 

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Entrance

We weren’t sure that the taxi driver was correct on our location, because it just looked like a strip mall. Once we asked a store clerk where to go; we were given directions to head down a suburban street to an alley. After walking down the alley, we found the stadium. The stadium was built in 1901.

Not exactly sure where we needed to enter, we spoke with a steward.  He was delighted that we came all the way from Kansas to watch the Boh’s so he took us to the Member’s Club Pub and got us some pints.

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Happy Fan

During the game we bought some souvenirs and some chips. The Bohemian’s won the game. We walked back though the alley and caught a cab, not wanting to go back to the hotel just yet, we stopped at the Brazen Head for a bit. Then we went back to the hotel to pack.

 

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Leaving on a Jet Plane – Day 11, Going back home

We had a pretty early start because we needed to leave the hotel by 7am to get to the airport and check in. Our flights were smooth and we parted ways with Mike’s parents upon arrival in Philly.  We got back to Kansas about 7Pm that night. 

Summary

Even though the trip started out a bit rough, we had a great time in Ireland.  I met some of the kindest, nicest people and reveled in the beauty of the green landscapes.  If Mike and I ever move out of the States; Ireland is now on that list of places.

We did have a chuckle, because after an inquiry at the Irish Heritage Display at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center, we started to question if Mike’s relatives came from Ireland. We decided to do a bit more research in Dublin.We stopped at a Irish Heritage Shop in Dublin and confirmed that the relatives were in fact from Scotland not Ireland. The Irish Heritage research was the whole reason that we chose to travel to Ireland at this time.  I wouldn’t have had the wonderful experiences and wonderful memories with both sets of parents had we not gone. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. And we have a Scottish Trip on the agenda now.

Thank you for reading about our adventures, and if you have any questions or comments, please let me know, Thanks, Tava

 

Our Irish Roadtrip

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