Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois!

My very dear friend has now moved from WA state to Massachusetts.  She wanted to get her car there and of course, how do you do it?  Yes, you drive it all the way over I-90 to its new home.   She asked me to join her on the adventure and away we went.

My final stop along the way was going to be Chicago as she went on to meet her family in Decatur Illinois a family because she was adopted that, thanks to ancestry and DNA, she just found,  and then on to Boston she went. Decatur has come up a lot in my household lately just by coincidence, or is it?  hmmm   (Yes, a funny side note, my husbands very unstable X wife is now living in Decatur Illinois because she is friends with my husbands X girlfriend.   I guess she has run out of places to run or people to take advantage of.  Anyway, I digress. )

So we started out on a Monday morning, had things planned along the way, the only restriction was that we needed to be in Chicago by Thursday afternoon.   The driving would, in the end, be 34 hours.   We stopped along the way in hotels and we saw some great things.

Mt. Rushmore for one, Mt. Rushmore!  I had never seen it before and was very excited about it.  It was as cool as I imagined.   It’s pretty neat driving on the road around the mountains in anticipation of where it will be.  And you do literally come around a bend and there it is.   It’s huge and so amazing.  Thinking about how long ago it was built, the trouble it took, the mapping of it, the tools they used, no safety features and how many people died carving it.  It’s pretty crazy.

RED_5047It’s only 10.00 to park your car in a secure lot, to see the mountain.  It’s a very short walk up through a new layout that has all the state flags and dates.  You can pretty much see the mountain from the second you come into this particular area.  There are small places to get ice cream and sodas, etc.  Plenty of places to get great photos.  It’s worth the trip.  And it was fun to hear families and kids talking about the Presidents and getting some real history instead of just sitting on their devices.

We also stopped and saw The Badlands in South Dakota The Badlands.  Now that is some impressive scenery.  We drove through just looking and admiring and taking photos.  This is also a must if you are on a cross country road trip.

There was so much to see along the way, the HUGE Wind Turbines in South Dakota, the constant land beauty of Montana and the rolling green hills of Wisconsin. I crossed the Mississippi River for my very first time in a car and MAN was it just beautiful.

I-90 will literally take you from Seattle to Boston.  Most of the speed limits are 80 and though there was a lot of construction along the way, we did very well and did make our destinations every evening, checked into hotels, had dinner, slept, got up early the next day to continue on our way.   I was SO excited to get to Chicago.   I had never been and its where my husband is from and most of his family still lives.

A few random photos along the way of rest stops, the land, structures, etc.  I have more on my phone to share at some point.

Then we got to Chicago around 3:00 on Thursday afternoon, exactly when we needed to be there.  I said goodbye to my friend and she was off, back into the Chicago traffic, which was as bad as we were told,  to go meet her family in Decatur, for the first time.

I checked into the Blackstone Hotel and the photo you see on the front page, that beautiful room with a full view of Soldier Field, the fountain, The navy pier, The fields museum, the Planetarium, and Lake Michigan, that was the very room I had for my three-night stay.  It was the best room in the hotel I am told. And it was really fantastic. The service was great, the hotel just beautiful and it was so convenient, right at Grant Park.

I was ready to see everything while I was there.  I walked to Grant Park that morning and the first thing I saw was Buckingham Fountain and of course lots of weddings!  Buckingham Fountain

 

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The city was a bit hard to see for both days, because of the haze and a couple of thunderstorms that came in.  It was hot, but not terrible to walk around in.   I loved all the Pride Flags on the buildings, the Pier, the Ferris Wheel.  There was going to be a Pride Parade on the Sunday that I was leaving.   And there was a huge community of LGBTQ people who lived there, who had come in for the parade etc.  I met a lot of them and it was so great to be present with such a diverse crowd of people.  Also, it was very different than Seattle.  People would literally just come up and start talking to you, sitting at your table asking where you were from, etc.   I really loved it!  I was so glad I was able to experience this entire trip.

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I got to spend time with my friend, the weather was great and I was able to drive through 5 states that I had never been to before.   So now that puts my count of states to 25 that I have seen myself.   Now just 25 more.  Pretty sure that will come with Brad’s retirement in a couple years.

Cheers, all I hope you get a chance to see some great places this summer.   Now OFF to Africa again, looking forward to those posts later this summer.

 

French Polynesia, Tahiti and Master Liveaboard

Once again we find ourselves in the airport off to a new adventure.   French Polynesia on the Polynesia Master Live-aboard.   It’s relatively easy to get here, we took Alaska Airlines to LAX, then we took Air Tahiti, to Papeete.   A little more than ten hours of flying, and there is only a two hour time difference between Tahiti and Seattle, so no jet lag.  Win, win.

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We stayed at a resort for three night before getting on the boat.  Since we had never been here before Brad thought it might be nice to experience the beauty of the place.  The Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort was the name of our accommodations.  Our room was pretty nice, large.  Two stories, with a large bathroom and king size bed on the top floor, a couch, bar, fridge, bathroom on the second floor.   AC, clean, a bit older so it had a few updates it needed like the paint, some of the tiles on the floor, the curtains.  But otherwise, it was a nice place.  This is a large resort.

We had dinner our first night, at the restaurant, the food was really nice, the service was decent, the prices were not terrible, though French Polynesia is a very expensive place to visit, so be prepared for that if you are going anytime soon.

There is a nice pool, and the resort is right on the ocean front, you can walk on the black sand beach and hear the waves crashing as you sleep in the evenings.

We got a cab to and from the airport, it was not hard to do and it was not expensive.  Most people speak English here as well as French so you are pretty much guaranteed to get around and find what you need.

After three nights we were ready to go back to the airport and catch a plane to meet the boat for a week of diving.   We took a small commuter plane it was about a 45-minute flight.

We were met at a VERY remote small airport by the crew of the Master boat we were going to be on.    They tagged our luggage for our rooms, gave us water and put us on a bus to take us to the boat.

This Master Liveaboard was very nice.   We had a very bad experience on the Bahamas Master so my expectations were kind of all over the place.   BUT this boat was NICE.  The rooms were very big, large bathrooms, full shower, clean, well kept, etc.   It didn’t even smell like a dive boat, which some of them do.

The dive deck is very well planned.  I believe in the end it was 24 divers in all.   You use a zodiac to go to the dive sites and the back of the boat has a nice huge back platform.  They put the gear in the center of the zodiacs and you gear up when you arrive at the site.   It can be a bit rough to take a big camera but after a few dives you get it figured out how to maneuver it on the zodiac etc.

They do not dive in pairs because the French have special diving rules.  So you have to dive in groups.  Usually groups of 4 or 5 with a dive master.  And if someone in the group has to abort the dive, then everyone has to abort the dive.  It seemed to work for most of the dives.  There was only once or twice where a whole group had to come back because of one divers equipment issues, or air problems.

Brad said the diving was good, not the best he has ever had but decent.  The water is very warm so swimming and snorkeling are very easy.   We had a lot of choppy days so sometimes the visibility was not great and there was no way to snorkel because it’s just too choppy on top.

But in the end I did get to snorkel with the dolphins, they came right up to me and played and I saw Baracuda and giant clams, and plenty of schools of fish.   It was a good break and a fun trip.

I am not sure we would go again, there is an odd vibe from the French people and how they treat the Polynesians.  And though it’s their country we were not super excited to see the arrogance and the rudeness to their own Polynesian people.  And in some places, like hotels and bars, it’s very expensive.  This is most surely not a trip on a budget kind of place.

Next for us is more places in Africa this summer.  I will update when I can. As always reach out about anything.   Travel, it makes you a better human.

 

Master Liveaboard, Bahamas Shark Diving

Off to the Bahamas again.   We love it there so much.     As it will probably be our retirement spot for winters in a few years we are trying out most of it now.  🙂  Its clean and lovely and the water is so warm and clear.   And it’s not overcrowded in places like Grand Bahama.

Sunsets

Bahamas sunsets are the best

This time to Freeport, Bahamas.   We took AA from Seattle to North Carolina and then on to Freeport.   Delta airlines which we prefer over AA, canceled their routes to this area.  Which makes this trip a bit longer than it needs to be.  You have to take a red-eye to North Carolina, not my favorite.   We had a 7-hour layover in that airport.  But then home we came through Miami.  Miami is a really busy but modern and well laid out airport.   Their business/first class lounges are pretty good, shower, full bar.   But usually pretty full.

We were once again on a liveaboard.  This is a trip that Brad has wanted to do for a very long time.   Diving with the sharks.  And no this is not cage diving, this is actual diving in the water, with the sharks.   Tiger sharksGreat HammerheadsReef Sharks and Lemon Sharks.

 

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Great Hammerhead 2018, Bahamas,  Brad Wright Photographer 

 

The divers are trained for a couple of days on how to sit in a formation on the bottom of the ocean, how to be alert, how to listen to the dive masters for oncoming sharks, to be aware and alert at all times.   The sharks are fed by one or two dive masters and they will come right up to you as you can see in the photo above.

The diving is never deeper than 6 or 7 meters.  You can see the divers and the sharks from the boat deck.

Brad said that its a heart-pounding, exhilarating experience.  These creatures are large and fantastic.

There have been very few accidents on these trips.  But they do tell a couple of tales of people not following instructions and getting bit or hurt.

The boat is part of the Worldwide Dive and Sail fleet, which includes the Masters and the Sirens.

This was not the best liveaboard we have been on.  It was run down, needed a lot of work.  We did have one of only two large cabins on the boat.  But it was in need of great repair.  The bed did not fit in the space that they allocated for it, the curtains were hand towels duct taped to the windows, the tiles in the shower were coming up and sticking to our feet each time we took a shower.   There was rust along the shower head and the soap dispenser.

It did have working AC and the room was a good size.

There were a few concerns by the divers.  There was rarely a safety diver on the boat deck and no one was ever ready with the zodiac for a real emergency.

I think that they have some real issues to clean up on this particular dive boat.

The food on the boat was good, the staff was good sometimes but its the first time on a liveaboard that I saw so much flirting between the staff and sometimes even getting our dinner late because some of the staff was too busy making out.   LITERALLY!

They were not always prepared to serve the boat.  Most nights we had to pour our own drinks and get our own snacks.   All things I have already complained about.  But….

We met some really great people on this trip, from all over the world.  Canada, The Netherlands, Spain, France, Malaysia, and Missouri, California, Florida.   It was the first liveaboard I have been on where we ALL got along the entire trip and had a splendid time and lots of laughs.   Usually, there is at least one asshole on a boat like this.  One guy or girl who thinks very highly of themselves or is a very unsafe diver.  But we were like family and it was great fun!!

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Met great people on this trip. Jill Jurgens, Paige Stewart

  • NOTE:  There were a couple of cooler evenings so bringing a light sweater or jacket is a plus.
  • There are crossings where the water is rough, so motion sick pills are a plus.   We prefer these as they have no side effects, don’t make you tired and don’t affect your ability to dive.   Motion sickness pills.
  • Brad dove with his Shark Skin which is equivalent to a 3M suit.  The water is pretty warm.
  • There are sharks on every dive so swimming or snorkeling on this particular trip is very unlikely.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, always a must

I always recommend the Bahamas for a family trip, a couples trip, retirement, etc.   It’s a beautiful place.  Still has fresh clean water with plenty of sea life.   It’s not outrageously expensive and its fairly easy to get to.

We will be on another master liveaboard in February in French Polynesia so here’s to hoping it will be better in all ways.  The photos look better, but you never know.

As always if you have any questions or complaints please feel free to email me, or find me on Twitter, or Facebook.

Cheers and happy travels.

The Philippines, Bohol. Magic Oceans Dive Resort

Another adventure!  We left Seattle on Delta airlines to Seoul Korea, 11 hours.  Then we flew from Seoul to Cebu Philippines.   Stayed the night in the Waterfront Aiport Hotel, overnight.   It’s a comfortable place to have cocktails, get a good nights sleep.   You can get a quick shuttle from the airport to the hotel.   It’s not easy to just walk there from the airport but you can see the hotel from the airport.

On the way home, we flew through Narita.

Then the next morning we took a 1.5-hour drive to a ferry, a 2-hour ferry ride, another 1.5-hour drive to the resort.

Magic Oceans

Magic Oceans Resort, Bohol Philippines

Magic Oceans is the name of the resort.   This is a very nice resort.  Here are a few features.   The resort is small, only 14 bungalows.  There are 5 of them right at the pool, the others are just down a bit.  But they are all the same size, king beds, and another single bed in the room that is also a lounge to sit in.  The rooms are big, a nice table for your laptop and camera or what not, side tables, a closet-like space, with shelves to hang things and store things.   It has s small refrigerator for whatever you choose and it is stocked with soda, water, snacks, all for the buying at about 90 pesos a piece.  They also have a coffee maker and coffee and tea in the room for you.   There are plenty of plugs, AC, hot water showers.

They will provide water in the room for you for drinking and brushing your teeth.  They do not recommend using the tap for those things.

The restaurant is really good.  Fresh food, soups, bread, noodles, meats.   You get shrimp, chicken, and pork as your meats, no hamburger or steak.  The hamburgers they do serve are pork patties.   The menu is very large and there is plenty to choose from.  Even snacks during the day and plenty of things to drink.   The chef and kitchen staff were very competent.

The scuba diving is pretty good I am told.  Lots of frogfish and small things.  They did see a whale shark one day.    But the dive resort needs a few upgrades both in the way they run things and the dive operation.

First of all, you have to pay 8.00 a tank for Nitrox since they do not have their own mixing stations at the resort.   They do not label the tanks and they do not even tell you when the tanks are filled or not.   They do not wash your gear for you and they rarely if at all clean and or rinse out the rinse tanks.  Some of the washing equipment is rusted so you cant use the hoses, for example, to wash off your camera gear.

If the weather has been bad they take down the Jetty so you have to either walk through the iron shore to go diving or you have to take a long hot open truck ride to the boat or the dive site.   You have to wear your wetsuit on the ride.  They do take your fins, BC, tank to the boat for you in another vehicle.

The boats are wood and they are not equipped with any emergency gear.  There is no oxygen, or first aid kit, or defibrillator on these boats.   I find this very disturbing especially considering that I noticed there were more than a few new or beginner divers on this trip alone.

And I do not think that any resort or any certified place should allow scuba divers to take a course if they do not know how to swim.   If you can’t swim, you cannot SCUBA, that should be the rule.   Not being able to swim puts everyone around you in danger.   But this resort seems to have some lax rules on some things like this.

The dive masters were good, Brad had an O-ring failure on one dive 20M down, and the dive master he was with did exactly as she should have, giving him her Octo and helping him get safely to the surface.

However, the boat crew does not seem to see much urgency sometimes in taking care of things, or people in the water.     This is really something that should be addressed.

All in all, we had a nice time.   The resort is remote enough to be off the beaten path, but it had some great guests and we made some great new friends and had wonderful diving and great evenings drinking and laughing with people from all over the world.

This resort is not expensive as you will find in most places in The Philippines.

I think you will enjoy it!  Now go, travel!

 

Komodo Indonesia, Indo-Siren & Amed

Here we are home from another adventure.   We drove to Vancouver then took Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, from Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific to Bali.  Then a one hour hop from Depensar to Bima.

We then were on our way to the Indo Siren, our liveaboard boat for 10 days.  This is without a doubt the best dive boat and operation I have been on in ten years.  The Indo fleet is the biggest dive fleet in the world.   The owner of the boat is Frank Van Der Linde from Worldwide Dive and Sail.  He and his daughter were actually on the boat with us this trip.   He is a great guy and his boats and staff are top notch.

You get three full meals a day on the boat, plenty of snacks, tea, coffee, water, and booze.  The sodas and beer and water and sparkling waters are all included in the price of the trip.  The wine is very expensive but that is because it is so hard for them to get.   But you are fully taken care of.  You can even get massages on the boat.  There is place to hook up your music.   The cabins are big and comfortable.   You will not be disappointed in this operation or these boats.

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We had a friend with us this time.  He got SCUBA certified about 2 years ago and now he is Brads dive buddy.   He said he could not have had a better time.  The diving was incredible and they had a wonderful time.

Brad and Shawn

SCUBA diving in Indonesia. Indo Siren.

The dive sites are Bima Bay, Sangeang Island, Gilli Banta, Gili Lawa Laut, Current City, Rinca Island, and Komodo Island.

At each place there were at least four dives a day.  One in the morning, then breakfast, one in the afternoon, then lunch, one after lunch and one in the evening.   Most people did all four dives each day.   But that is a lot of diving so for some they would skip the evening dive.

We actually got to get off the boat and walk on Komodo Island and see the Komodo Dragons.  They are spectacular creatures.  Very dangerous.   We had several guides.  But if you ever get to see them outside of a zoo, you will be fully impressed.

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After the dive boat we took a flight from Bima to Bali.   Then we took a 3 hour drive to Amed.   We stayed in this incredible Villa.  Villa Candi Matahari

This place was spectacular.   The owners Paul and Staci were such gracious hosts.   The rooms are large and comfortable with outdoor showers and amazing beds.   There is an infinity pool that you wont ever want to leave.

pool

You get breakfast included in your stay.   There are several restaurants around the Villa where you can get fantastic food.  Fresh seafood, steaks, salads and wines to die for!

Indonesia is one of our favorite places in the whole world.   It takes a while to get there, but once you are there, you wont want to leave.   Your dollar goes very far here, things are very inexpensive, even the everyday living.   The locals are kind and easy going.

If you are thinking of taking a trip here, and dont know where to start, reach out to me and I would be happy to help you figure things out.

Cheers and Happy Traveling!

The British Virgin Islands 2016

So here we are another adventure under our belts!

Brad and I had a Tekdive show to attend in Miami so we met our friends in Tortola on a Sunday evening.

It was a pretty easy flight for us, Seattle to Miami and Miami to Tortola.  You can land there at the tiny airport and then take a morning ferry to the docks where you boat is waiting.

Let me go back a bit.  In 2004 my husband and I had decided that living on a Catamaran sometime in our retirement years, would be something to consider.  So we went to DC the next year for the Boat Show.  There we fell in love with Catamarans.  Especially the  Lagoon Catamarans.  We have seen them, walked on them, become familiar with them and have been watching them grow and change over the past 15 years or so.    Last year we went back to the boat show to see the Lagoons again, along with 100’s of other catamarans.   This time we knew which boat we loved, its the one we first fell in love with, the 42 foot Lagoon.  What a great boat!  Plenty of room, not to big, built to order.   🙂

We then decided to go ahead and charter this particular boat from The Catamaran company.   We got a great deal!  We spoke with 5 of our friends and when they were all in, we chartered it!  7 days in the BVI’s.   We paid $1200.00 extra the week for a captain, but otherwise we decided that we were all competent adults and didn’t need a full crew.   So for the 7 of us, with a captain and food, it was $4000.00 a couple for the 7 days.  Great deal!

BVI girls

So back to where I was… The Catamaran company handles most everything for you, you decide what food you want on the boat, what booze you want on the boat, and the day you arrive they deliver it all to the boat.   Then you and your friends put it in its place.  Brad and I had a   TekDive USA show to attend in Miami so we met our friends already on the boat.

One couple flew from their home in Texas, to Miami and then to Tortola.  Our other local friends flew from Seattle to Miami and on to Tortola.  You then take a cab to the ferry dock and the ferry to where the boats are docked.

The boat is roomy, with a large kitchen, sitting area.  There were 4 full cabins and 4 full heads on this boat.   It was the perfect size for the 7 of us.  The fly bridge was large enough for the captain and for 4 or more friends to sit with the captain and gab and keep him or her company.  When Brad was captaining the boat, he loved having people hang out with him up there.   And it has a great view.

Then we sailed each afternoon, usually to a place where we tied up to a buoy, and then we could swim, snorkel, swim to the beach, etc.   Most days we snorkeled, floated on rafts, swam, etc.  Then when we were done we would sail to the island that we would anchor or tie up to for the evening.

Brad and his friend Shawn did some open circuit diving three mornings out of the 7.  The captain arranged for a SCUBA boat to meet us and take the guys and bring them back in the afternoon.  Easily arranged at the Dive shop where your boat is docked.

We had ordered enough food on the boat to be able to have three meals a day for all of us. Plus snacks, fruit, etc.  So we only ate out to dinner one evening on land.  Otherwise the boat is equipped with a stove, an oven, and a grill on the back deck.  Two freezers and two refrigerators.

We all pitched in with the cleaning, the cooking, the chopping, the grilling.   We were a great team.  The 7 of us got along great on this trip and we had a blast.

I totally recommend doing this trip with your friends.   Its easy, inexpensive and you see some of the most beautiful places.

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NOTE: The BVI’s are clean, modern and beautiful.  Remember you will need your passport as it is partially British property.  As I always recommend, take your passports wherever you travel, its just the smart move.   Also, this time of year was not too hot, it was just right.  We did have one nasty day of rain, but it was our last day sailing back.   There were minimal mosquitoes.   But take bug spray and or wipes.  Take sunscreen, take a good hat, and bring your own beach towel or towels as they do not provide that.   There is minimal marinades on the boat, if you want to marinade say your meats, bring stuff for that. Otherwise the boat is pretty well stocked with everything.   You can get long hot showers when you dock if you prefer that over using the showers on the boat.  But there is plenty of water as long as you are cautious about its use.

Its also a great way to bond with people.  You get time to talk, play cards, lay in the sun, drink, eat, etc.   I am so glad we decided to take on this adventure and so glad we got to share it with some of our very dear friends.

Cheers!!

 

Chuuck state (Truk Lagoon) The Federated states of Micronesia

Well here we are done with another adventure.  Wreck diving in Truk Lagoon, or Chuuck state as the locals call it.

We left Seattle on Delta airlines, 10 hours to Narita Japan, another 4 hours to Guam and then 1 1/2  hour flight into Chuuck.

Lets talk about the resort.  http://www.bluelagoondiveresort.com, this is a hard core divers resort.

This is not Wakatobi, https://www.wakatobi.com/resort/intro/ or the four seasons.  It does not have luxury, or fancy meals.  But, its clean, cool and comfortable.  And the ocean views from every single room/balcony, are to die for.

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A little about the resort.  They support both open circuit and CCR diving.  The dive shop is well equipped.  But be warned it does not have AC so setting up, gearing up, cleaning up, is HOT!

We were with Pete Mesley and his group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/258762027472938/

The resort does NOT have a pool. Which might seem like a silly thing to add, but its DAMN hot and the ocean water is very warm.  So having a cooler temperature pool would be nice.  But of course its expensive to maintain, so, no pool.

The rooms usually have two double or full beds, full balcony’s, with a table and chairs, AC units in the room, a large bathroom, linen closet, dresser for your clothes, closet to hang things up.   A small table and chairs in the room a television and phone that do not work, but for some reason are there.  🙂

The AC is a bit cranky, its either to hot or to cold in your room.   We just managed it the best we could.  There are ceiling fans in every room, but they do not work.

They provide a hair dryer, shampoo and soap.

The rooms are cleaned each day and you are given fresh towels.  The linens on the bed are changed once a week.

The resort is well maintained, the grounds are cleaned and mowed each day.

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Blue Lagoon Resort, Chuuck

There are hammocks that you can lay in all around the resort, for a leisurely day of reading, or napping.

The resort needs a few repairs, the tiles in the rooms are coming up, the tiles in the showers are very bad, some of them are coming out, there is some mildew in the showers, but its a hot, humid place, where supplies and repairs are limited.    All in all I was very happy with my stay.

The restaurant serves three meals a day.  The menu is pretty large and they will make you most anything.   But after a week or two you will get tired of eating fish, and what I called “meatloaf burgers”.  They also offer many Japanese choices on the menu which were quite nice.   All in all, the fish is fresh, the coffee hot and the staff very kind.

*NOTE:  You need to be respectful of the locals when you are at the resort.  Try to stay covered up while in your bathing suit.  There is no need to wear a skimpy bikini.  And when you are in the dining room you need to have shoes, and be covered up.  Its inappropriate to go shirtless, (men), or shoe less, or wear your bathing suit in the dining area.  Wearing a tank, or a dress over your bathing suit is fine.  But if you are not dressed appropriately, they will ask you to leave and or change.  Just show respect.  

There is wi-fi in the lobby.  As you can imagine it is “the coconut telegraph”.  Its very slow and if there are multiple people using it at the same time.. well, good luck.

The water is safe to drink, BUT they do give you filtered water in your rooms in Tupperware containers.  You do have a small refrigerator in your room so you can put that in there and keep it cold.   I recommend using bottled water for brushing your teeth, drinking etc.  You never really know…

There is also a small “store” near the front desk. You can buy items like gum, Tylenol, toothpaste, etc. they do have a few bottles of booze for about 60.00 a piece.

You are allowed two bottles of liquor a person into Chuuck.  I highly recommend buying those at Duty Free in the Guam airport.  That way you can have it in your room for cocktails, or after dinner.

There is an outdoor bar at the resort, and for some reason those drinks are a bit cheaper than the dining room.

There are a few mosquito’s, but surprisingly, not as many as we expected.  You might do well with some bug wipes, or bug spray.  But there is no need for malaria medicine or anything like that.   There are tons of birds around and they do a pretty good job of gobbling up those nasty bugs.

Have fun, relax, get in some great dives and you might even meet some new people and make new friends.

Cheers!  Now enjoy my slideshow!!

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Hotels & Bed and Breakfasts

Lets talk about Hotels and what each of them offer you depending on the country and city you travel in.  You can easily stay at a 4 or 5 star hotel without breaking the bank.  If you are traveling to places like Egypt for example, staying at a 5 star hotel is highly recommended.  Mostly because you cannot drink the water in Egypt, you should not even let it touch your lips in the shower.  You should not eat the salad, or fruit that has not been peeled, or unpasteurized cheese just to name a few… To ensure that your food is healthy and wont make you sick,  staying at an upstanding hotel will help to make your travel experience better because the likelihood of you getting ill from eating the food in one of these hotels is highly unlikely.

Egypt

The Mena House is a 5 star Hotel in Cairo Egypt.  Its fantastic, the rooms are nice, the service is good, the food is wonderful and you can trust that is has been prepared so as not to make you ill.  The best part of this hotel, if you get the right room you can actually see the Main Pyramids of Giza right out your balcony.  And not just a small part of them ALL of them, they are so close you can practically touch them.  * side note* At this hotel for some of the restaurants you may want to have a dress or slacks with you and your significant other needs a dress shirt and slacks to enter the restaurants. 

http://www.oberoihotels.com/oberoi_menahouse/index.asp

Scotland

Scotland is a magical place! It has the feeling of old world, castles and pubs, hand shakes and smiles.  It is one of my favorite places to visit.  When you travel here we have found it best, and more cost-effective to stay in B&B’s.  They are homey, they are lovely and they include FULL breakfasts.  You get to meet the locals, families that have owned land for centuries.  They can tell you the best places to travel, and they like to sit with you in the lounge in the evenings and share a drink.  Its marvelous.  You can go online and choose from so many, you will find it hard to stay in just one.

http://www.scotlandsbestbandbs.co.uk/

Canada

We went for a quick weekend and stayed at this new hotel on the Pier.  FANTASTIC!  The hotel rooms are lovely!  The service is to die for and you have a great view of the water, the whole pier, the other side of the city and you can catch the water taxi right down the street from your room.  There is a gret bar/restaurant downstairs and you can walk to almost more restaurants than you can imagine.  There are local bars, breakfast joints, Starbucks, everything.  This place is very new so everything is clean and modern.  You will love your stay here.  And, at least for now, its not very expensive either. 🙂

http://www.pinnacleatthepier.com/

The Dominican Republic 2001

Amazing!  Kite boarding, inexpensive, beautiful beaches.  It was a short trip and not very expensive.  Easy to get too, and though it is third world, the people are very friendly, and the hotel we stayed in was not only clean, it was beautiful.  The food was so cheap and good.  We could go out on the beach in the morning and have beers for a dollar and Mai Tai’s for a dollar.  And we sat and watched the Kiteboarding all day. 

My husband tried his hand at Kiteboarding, well needless to say, though he gets a gold star for trying, it’s a hard sport.   Many very young and very hard bodied people do it.   Some people work all fall and winter to just spend the summer Kiteboarding.  And we did see a girl get her legs broken and a guy get bounced off the beach when his kite went out of control.  Its not a sport for the faint of heart…

Since this trip we have been to many places where we see many kiteboarders.  Its become a huge sport and the equipment is so much better and safer these days.  But still it can be dangerous and in some areas it is illegal.

The rooms were very nice, the beds were comfortable and the service was great.  This was a very romantic place to go and it felt nice just hanging out and then being together during those rare occasions that we were alone.

I love it, and I would go back here again and again.  I think if you want an easy, fun, sunny place to go.. The Dominican Republic is it.

I think at least one of our travel companions really enjoyed this place too.  She was always the kind who loved the beach and just hanging out and reading in an easy laid back environment.

*I don’t know how anyone can not have a good time in this beautiful place. The people are friendly, its laid back and its a great place to fall in love, be in love or just enjoy companionship.  Have fun, take it all in, enjoy life. 

Spain & Italy 2008

 I had heard a lot about Spain and Italy both.  How lovely they were how people could spend weeks there just soaking up the scenery etc.  I however did not find either place to necessarily be unique or exceptional in any way.    

The Gaudi cathedral in Spain was one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture and awe I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.  As you come up the escalator from the street and as soon as you pique the top you will be engulfed by the enormousness of this particular building.  It is worth going inside and just standing around the pillars, the craftmanship the unique vision that was Gaudi.  It is still in the process of being built, finished, and to watch them work and to see the details, the thought process of this amazing structure is worth the time.    

We did not go up into the elevator to see it from the top down, because even in non-tourist season it was a two-hour wait and you were charged another fee to use the elevator.  But I imagine, and have heard that it is worth the wait and the trip to the top.   

Take your time here, see all that you can see inside and out.  Take photos and take it all in.  It is spectacular.  But during tourist season you will find a very long wait to even get into the cathedral, so be prepared for that.   

Florence Italy 2008

Red in Florence Italy 2008

 

Spain in itself was not necessarily the spectacular place that others had made it out to be. The food was good, and the wine was very inexpensive and tasty.  But the people were not very friendly and if you were not dressed like them with all their furs and expensive jewlery (honestly who brings that stuff on their travels)  or you seemed like an outsider in any way, you certainly knew by their looks and whispers that they were not exactly excited to have visitors there.  I had heard there was dancing and singing in the streets and people were happy all the time, but we walked and rode and traveled all through Spain and never got a sense of this at all nor did we see it anywhere.  Perhaps it was a bad time, or perhaps we had a bad experience.  Either way it was what it was at the time.   

But we did fall in love with the Iberian ham, so much so that we had some shipped from a vendor in Virginia for our wedding reception.  It’s very expensive but it is some of the best meat we have ever eaten.   Here is a small look at what this ham is:  http://www.ibericofoods.com/about_iberian_ham.php   

We did enjoy the small appetizers and wine that you got before dinners.  You could go to the restaurant and for a small charge, order up some wine and ham and bread and just sit and enjoy each others company before going to a dinner.  But dinner isn’t usually eaten until around 9:00 and most restaurants don’t open until 7:00 or so, so if you are used to eating early it might be good to get yourself some appetizers.   

In many countries they actually turn off the AC during the winter months.  And when I say turn off I mean the whole country turns things off so it’s not possible to get AC in your hotels.  So be prepared for it to be warm even late in the year.  In the evenings as you are walking its cool, but your room will most likely be hot, sometimes too hot to sleep.  And many hotels do not have windows that open or that open very much, so that you even get a small breeze.  We just got used to being too hot to sleep…   

We rented a car and drove all over Italy.  The people there drive like mad men, so be prepared.  We saw some nice scenery but nothing to write home about.  The hotel rooms were small and the beds were not very comfortable.  The people not as friendly as you might think and be careful they say they all speak English, but that is not the case and you can have trouble with language even in places like Venice and Florence.   

Venice was one place I was very excited to see but then somewhat disappointed when we finally did arrive.  It was not tourist season but the city was so packed it was hard to walk through it.  It has a funny smell, like mildew.  It is sinking and so there is a lot of water on around.  People just throw their garbage in the streets, and let their dogs do their business on the streets and alley ways.  It smelled terrible because of the garbage and the mold from the stagnant water.  It was not very well cared for, the structures are falling down, they are leaning and they are dirty.  It takes hours to get into any structure like a church or museum.  The restaurants are packed and you have to stand even for a bite of pizza that takes an hour to get.  The people were rude,  they don’t look you in the eye and they don’t say hi they just keep on walking and if you are in their way, you better move because they are going to run you over.    

My husband really like Venice and had a little different vision/sight of it.  I prefered Florence.  It was old, but cleaner, the structures were somewhat more modern and it was not as tight to walk around and take photos etc.  There is so much shopping there, leather esp.  purses, jackets, wallets, its nuts! 

A friend of mine loves Italy so much she says she would go back year after year.  But I disliked it so much I probably wont go back.  I did get some good photos and we did have a good time being together experiencing what we did.  But on a scale of one to ten, I give Italy a 4.  And this was my second time in Italy, I had previously in 2004 been to Rome and my experience was much the same as you will see in one of my other posts.