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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The Presidential Palaceis the official residence of the President of Lithuania. It dates back to the 14th century and is located in Old Town.
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.
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.
If you’ve been to Vilnius, what did you enjoy most in this lovely 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!
With over 40 restaurants and bars, Bricktown is not lacking for food options. Here are a few places to grab a bite for lunch.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Airport Rail Link (ARL)
The Airport Rail Link provides an inexpensive connection from Suvarnabhumi Airport to downtown Bangkok.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
House and Barn
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Traveling overseas generally means an international flight. Over the years, I have had my share of these long haul flights. Luckily, I have picked up tips from fellow travelers and would like to help you make your flight more comfortable in the cramped quarters of the economy section. Hopefully, some of my advice will help you relax, stay healthy and pass the time on your flight.
Here are some of my tips for surviving a long flight:
Book Early – By booking earlier you have more choices with your seat selection.
Seat Guru – Enter your flight number into Seat Guru before or during the booking process of your flight. They have a great website that will show you the best and worst seats to select. Also, you can check to see other options available on the flight, including if you will have personal entertainment and power adapters. It will help you decide where you want to sit.
Seat Selection – A window seat means nobody will wake you up when they go to the bathroom, and you can wedge yourself against the wall of the plane to get more comfortable. But you will have to climb over others when you have to go. I prefer the aisle so I can get out and move. If you are prone to motion sickness, sitting over the wings gives you the most stable ride. The back of the plane has the most motion and will bother some people.
Beware of Exit Row and Bulkhead Seats– Exit row seats have more leg room but have the drawback of having nowhere to stow luggage except overhead. These seats are also narrower due to the tray tables and entertainment being stowed in the armrest. Seats that sit in font of the bulkhead also are set up like exit row seats. These seats also will have passengers using that space to cut across the plane. Seats in front of a bulkhead benefit because there is no seat behind you so you don’t have people pushing on your seat when they get up and down. But you will have traffic due to the location close to the galley or bathrooms.
Comfortable Clothing Choices
Layer, Layer, Layer – Make sure you have dressed in light comfortable layers, you can always remove and add clothing dependent on the cabin’s climate.
Slip-on shoes – Not only will slip on shoes make it easy to get through security, you will be taking your shoes off and on many times during the flight. Make sure you wear shoes that are loose, your feet will swell on the flight.
Compression Socks – these socks simulate good circulation in your feet and legs and help reduce the risk of blood clots, they also help with swelling a bit as well.
Warm socks – to slip over your other socks when you are in your seat. Remember to slip your shoes back on to go to the restroom. Always wear your shoes, never go to the restroom in just your socks. Turbulence people, Turbulence. People miss their marks. It’s just plain gross.
Pillow – I always pack my own travel pillow. I have a U-shaped one that supports my neck. Taking my own also means I can wedge the airline pillow behind my back for lumbar support.
Large Scarf – To avoid using the itchy airplane blanket, take a large scarf. You can use this later in your trip for layering or a sarong.
Eye mask– If you’re planning on sleeping on the flight, you will want to have something to cover your eyes. Not all people shut their window shades and depending on when you are flying, it might be light out. Help you body adjust by wearing an eye mask.
What to Pack for Entertainment
Smart Phone and / or Tablet – load these with digital books, your favorite music and some non wifi games. Possibly download some podcasts, tv shows or movies. Don’t forget to download your airline’s app, if they offer streaming service and choices.
Chargers/USB cables– Bring your chargers/ USB cables to charge your electronics.
Noise Cancelling headphones (or earplugs) – yours will be better than the ones that the airline provides.
Power Bank, Power Bank, Power Bank – most long haul flights now have seats with a USB charger or old school power outlet under your seat. But don’t count on it working if it does have one. Planes get swapped out due to mechanical issues – bring that power bank or 2 and make sure you have your electronics charged up before boarding.
A good book or magazines – in case you get tired of your screen or you are running low on power.
Puzzle Book – Pack a Sudoku, Crossword or Word Search book to occupy some time
Toiletry Kit – Make sure your liquids and gels are packed according to the TSA liquids rule. The toiletry kit will stay with me in the seatback pocket. To counteract the dry cabin air, keep applying your moisturizer during the flight. I pack my toiletry kit with the basics: toothpaste, lip balm, hand cream, contacts, deodorant, face moisturizer, dry shampoo, foundation, concealer, toothbrush, eye glasses, hair brush, tissues and lots of hair ties.
Medications – I pack all of my prescriptions in my carry on, but make sure I have what I need to take on the plane packed in my toiletry kit. I also have some ibuprofen in there as well just in case of any aches.
Water Bottle – Don’t forget that large empty water bottle to fill up with water after security.
Pre Booked Meal – When booking your flight, try to preorder a low salt or vegetarian meal. This will help avoid as much salt as you can, sodium just makes you retain more water and you will be puffy from the altitude and cabin pressure. You’ll also be served first which will get allow you to get settled in a bit sooner
Anti-bacterial wipes– wipe down your tray table and armrests. Airlines do have cleaning crews but they are on a tight schedule. Not sure how many times I have found surprises in my seatback pocket.
EmergenC – I take packets of EmergenC to put in my water. There isn’t any scientific proof that they help, but it doesn’t hurt.
Fight off dehydration – You need 1 liter (33 oz) for every 4 hours flying – that means 3 liters (99 oz) on a 12 hour flight.
Avoiding Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – DVT can develop if you have certain medical conditions that affect how your blood clots. Deep vein thrombosis can also happen if you don’t move for a long time. The airline magazine may have an illustration of in-seat exercises to follow to help your blood circulation. Make sure you are stretching, and walking around the cabin. This is also where those compression socks help as well.
More Tips for Your Trip
Anxiously Waiting: the Pre Board
Get to the airport early – or at least on time. Travelling is stressful enough without having worrying if you are going to make the flight. Airlines require a two-hour check in before an international flight, allow yourself a bit more time to get around and to get through security.
Move – Don’t sit while waiting at gate for you flight because you’ll be sitting on the plane for 8+ hours. Use this time to stretch your legs and get your circulation moving.
H2O- If you haven’t packed a large water bottle, buy one now. Yes, it might be $10.00, but trust me you are going to want to have water rather than waiting on the cabin crew to come by every few hours.
Use time to Charge – power up your electronics. Take a mult USB charger to share with other travelers so you don’t fight over the outlets.
Avoid caffeine if possible sometimes this is hard depending on your flight time
Early in the Flight: Getting Comfortable
Observation Pays Off – Always be on the lookout for free seats – sometimes whole rows are empty on the flight and three seats are better than one. You will be able to possibly lie down across a full row. So keep your eyes open and ask the cabin crew if you can move.
Change your watch or phone clock to your destination’s time zone. Do this as soon as you board. Try to pattern your sleep vs wake time on the plane to the time at your destination. If it’s evening at your destination when you board, try to sleep through the first half of the flight. That way you won’t be exhausted and sleepless when you arrive there in the morning.
Get your feet comfy – Slip off your shoes, put on your extra socks
Gain some leg room – Stash everything that you need for your flight in the seat pockets if possible, and stow anything else in the overhead bin. Everything that is under the seat in front of you just means less leg room and a more cramped space. More room = more leg room
Keep on Hydrating – Drink your water (remember that 32 oz rule per every 4 hours) again avoid caffeine. Dehydration makes it more difficult for the body to adjust to the new time zone and prolongs jet lag. You can ask the cabin crew to refill it with drinking water mid-flight.
Middle of the Flight: Relaxing & Sleeping
Avoid Alcohol – Even though airlines are returning to complimentary beer and wine, alcohol will only make your sleep worse on a long haul flight.
Relax – listen to some calming music, do some breathing exercises, stretch, or meditate
Sleep – pull on that eye mask and fix you pillow and blanket and try to get some sleep
Read – make some progress on that novel you brought
Watch a movieor two with the inflight entertainment or some that you downloaded
Play a game – either on your smart device, inflight or one in a puzzle book
Exercise – Because of all that water you have been drinking you should have gotten up a few times to go to the restroom. Use some of your time to stretch, stand by the galley and in the aisle if not bothering others.
Last Hour: Are we there yet?
Freshen up – Get out your tolietry bag, pop in those contacts, throw on some makeup and brush your teeth. You will feel a little less grungy.
Be prepared – Make sure you have a pen to fill out arrival forms.
Drink up– Time to have some coffee if you need a little perk up
Get organized Time to prepare your documents ready for Customs and Immigration. Pack everything back in your carry on and stow your bag
Almost There – Put your seat in the upright position and get ready to land!
Hopefully these tips help you survive your flight. If you have any tips to add, please comment and let me know! Happy Travels, Tava
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Not far from our breakfast stop we found Bigfoot. Of course we had to take a picture!
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.
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.
Our destination was the Johnston Ridge Observatoryat mile marker 52. This observatory is operated by the National Forest and only five miles from the north side of the mountain.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
What to do?
Visit El Arco, Land’s End and Lover’s Beachon 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Thanks for taking the time to read! If you have any tips for Cabo, please comment and let me know! Happy Travels, Tava
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.
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.
Now that you have arrived in Macau:
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.
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.
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 canorder 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.
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 is a spacious old Hollywood themedCasino. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have any travel tips for Macau, please let me know! Thanks again for visiting! Happy Travels, Tava
Take a snack or make a meal: food ideas that you can take though the TSA security points at the airport.
My husband and I are budget travelers located in the Midwest. Due to our geographical location, we always have the earliest flights out of Kansas City to catch connections. Always. Also, with us booking the lowest fares possible on airlines, it means we get the craziest the flight times. Getting to the airport before the ticket desks are even open does pose a problem if your stomach is grumbling. Also, with budget cuts on airlines, some airlines either don’t provide a meal or at best provide a snack for purchase.
We have another early morning flight coming up so I started researching different snack ideas for the plane. It’s not that we don’t like the free pretzels provided on flight, but I think we need something more substantial for our journey. The grab and go stand at the gate at MCI has some healthy choices but I don’t like paying premium prices for a bottle of water and a piece of fruit. Other travelers may want to pack their own snacks because they have special dietary needs, or are traveling with children.
What is allowed though TSA airport checkpoints?
Below is a list of TSA approved items you can toss in your carry on. Remember to take items that are good to eat at room temperature. Don’t forget to pack an empty water bottle for fill ups after security. Drink lots of water. Pack food in a clear plastic baggies to avoid extra screening at the checkpoints, it’s easier for TSA to see what you have packed. Please be respectful of other travelers and try to avoid any items that have strong smells. Other travelers really don’t want to smell your garlic pita chips.
Cautions for Customs
If you are taking any of the foods that are considered of an “organic nature,” they are not allowed to be taken from one country to another, regardless of how they are packed. Examples of these are: meat, dairy, fish, honey, seeds, fruits and vegetables. These items can carry pests and diseases that may destroy crops and livestock and cause problems to public health. Do make sure you eat or toss any items before leaving the plane.
Easy Snack Ideas
Carrot and Celery Sticks
Cut up Cucumber slices
Peeled hard-boiled eggs
Baked goods: muffins, banana bread, cookies
M&M’s – or other chocolates that don’t melt easily
Energy Balls – a couple of our local supermarkets sell these, or you can make your own
More Complex Snacks
Some items below are approved but must be packed according to adherence of the 3-1-1 rule. The rule that containers must be 3.4 ounces or less; stored in a 1 quart/liter zip-top bag; 1 zip-top bag per person, and placed in the screening bin.
Dry oatmeal cup (ask the flight attendant nicely for hot water)
Tea bags for making hot tea (ask the flight attendant nicely for hot water)
Hummus – needs to comply with 3-1-1- rule
Nut butters – needs to comply with 3-1-1- rule (pack bread & have a PB sandwich)
Tortilla Chips & Salsa – Salsa would need to comply with 3-1-1- rule
Salads – The dressing must comply with the 3-1-1 rule and pack a plastic fork.A regular metal flatware fork can only be in your checked bag.
Sandwiches and Wraps: Choose fillings that keep well at room temperature for a while: cheese, cured meats (think prosciutto), vegetables, and greens. To prevent soggy bread, stay away from sliced tomatoes. Mayo packets are fine, if packed with your liquids for the 3-1-1 rule.
Bagel and Cream Cheese – the cream cheese would need to comply with the 3-1-1 rule
I hope these ideas help keep your hunger at bay, save a bit of money and give you more tasty options than a typical airline meal. Also don’t forget to drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated.
As always, if you have any tips or ideas on what food items you have taken through airport security, please comment and let me know. Thanks, Tava