Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Planning for Cali

Well if it hasn't been made abundantly apparent yet, I'm maybe not the most prepared when it comes to packing and planning trips more than 48 hours out. BUT! My google calendar currently has a mess of links to articles that seemed like things I should remember to check out while Mr A and & I wander our way up the West Coast. I was going to spend today narrowing it down but, look what I found!!!

A) GREAT song, B) cute puppies. Yeah, not getting much else done today.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hong Kong

Talk about a distracting city! If you don't have ADD, you will while you spend time walking around the streets of Hong Kong. We were only there for a few days but we were able to squeeze in a lot.

|*| We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong (snazzypants, but we found a certificate online that gave us a great rate) We had great views overlooking Victoria harbor and into Kowloon

Kowloon across the harbor
rough monday morning

|*| Wandering the streets of HKG without a plan is both overwhelming and exhilarating.
Make sure to check out the parks you stumble on!

|*| Take the Peak Tram up to the top of Hong Kong island for some amazing views
of the urban landscape

|*| If you're starting to get claustrophobic in the city, spend the morning
visiting Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery  (you can grab lunch here too!)

|*| After you visit the Big Buddha, do some shopping at the nearby Ngong Ping Village (we picked up a great chopstick set). If you're looking for a fun way to get back to the city, 
take the glass bottom cable car!

yes, I had too much fun in this thing

|*| And lastly, make sure you get a great spot for the evening Symphony of lights. 40+ buildings on both sides of the harbor light up synchronization with the music and it's a fantastic show :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Misc Moscow Memories

A few more pics from the trip I wanted to share!

Ice skating rink in Red Square


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

домой из Москвы (home from Moscow!)


With only 72 hours in Moscow I was determined to soak in as much as possible, and mission extremely accomplished! The city of Moscow has so much history to offer (not to mention window shopping) that you constantly have something beautiful to look at. A note for the boys, the women aren't bad either (okay, they're amazing).  We visited a lot of the major landmarks and a few tailored to us...

First up was obviously Red Square. Despite the red of the buildings, the name actually translates from Russian (Красная площадь) as beautiful square. But the word Красная can also mean red, pretty convenient coincidence right? Okay so there is a LOT of history about red square itself, and the different ya know, military things that happened, and if I were to try and tell it to you, I'd royally mess it up. So! Let's just talk about how pretty it is yes? 

The style of the buildings is Moscow Baroque which dates back to the 16th century. St. Basil's Cathedral is a great example of this and what I was most excited about seeing. I had been looking at pictures of it since playing Candyland and couldn't believe I was actually there! On the square you will see the Kremlin, St. Basil's Cathedral, GUM department store (a large mall which was scheduled to be torn down until the wives of the men who worked in the Kremlin had their say), the restored Kazan Cathedral, and Resurrection, or Iberian Gate.

St. Basil's Cathedral

Iberian Gate

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Quick hello from Moscow!

Whew! We did an all day walking tour (10:30am - 8pm) that I can't wait to write about and tell you how amazing they were. Unfortunately my cell phone and the hotel wi-fi aren't getting along very well so I only have one photo to share (but it's one of my favs!)...

Tomorrow we're hitting the market, my favorite part of any trip! Fingers crossed for a fuzzy hat and matryoshka doll. For now, the champers we got is calling to me :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Moscow here I come!

How I wanted this post to go...

Well it's less than 24 hours now until we're on a plane to snowy Moscow and there are just a few last minute items to pack, snacks for the plane ride to pick up and then we'll be all ready to go!

How it's actually going down...

I don't even have a suit case out. I don't have any clothes picked out, heck I don't even know where my winter gloves are.

I'm putting in my last 8 hours of work before the long weekend and trying to keep track of everything that still needs to be packed and prepped. It seems we need so much stuff even for just a weekend away (okay, it seems I need so much stuff for even just a weekend away). Eiks! Time to get back to work so I can get out of here and start getting everything packed up!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentines Day Gift Guide

Valentine's day is one of my favorite holiday's so getting to travel this year has me lusting for some cutesy valentine-y travel accessories!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Puerto Rico

I think Puerto Rico should come with a little back story, as it sets the stage for what has become one of our (okay, maybe moreso my) favorite traditions -- Brithday Travel! Every October since 2010 we've gone on a long weekend; thus far we've been to Puerto Rico, Iceland, and Miami. As with most things, this trip was mr OMG's idea though this one started off a surprise. Granted, the surprise was only kept for a few weeks but that's the longest I've seen him keep one!

We spent most of the time wandering the streets of Old San Juan, me hunting for churros, and mr A playing with his new camera...

beach at night

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

So. Much. Snow.

Even when going about my (what turned into extremely busy) day, I do my best to keep up with twitter (I hate being out of the loop!). This tweet by Capital Weather Gang immediately caught my eye...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blue Lagoon

Ah, the Blue Lagoon. Thus far I'd say it's been my favorite spot in the world and I hope to one day go back. Luckily, it's close enough to the airport (8 miles away) that you can book a tour that picks you up and drops you off at the airport. So maybe one day I'll make it back?

If you spend any time on pinterest, you're likely to have seen snapshots of this place and for good reason! The fog coming off of the water provides some pretty beautiful photos. Nearby the Blue Lagoon is a geothermal power plant (most of Iceland runs off geothermal power) and after it's done with the hot water, it's channeled into the Blue Lagoon. This keeps the water at a deliciously warm 100 degrees. All around the lagoon there are buckets of silica that you can slather onto your face for a nice face mask (and of course you can then buy it, which yessss, I did, and no, I don't regret it!)


Over the past couple years I've had my (more than fair) share of trips so I'm often asked, "where was your favorite?". The answer is easily Iceland. In 2012, only half a million people visited this magical location. I use the word magical as the Icelandic Tourist Board claims that 80% of Icelanders are willing to believe in fairies or elves. I'm telling you all of this because after going to Iceland, I see where they're coming from.

Iceland is the root of my wanderlust. Before Iceland I had been to a few places but they all felt comfortable and predictable. Iceland was the first experience I had where I was blown away by what I saw. The landscape went from lush to volcanic in only minutes.  Iceland is often overlooked for more exciting and popular locations but I can promise you no time you spend in Iceland will be a waste!

Getting There
We flew IcelandAir into Keflavík International Airport (KEF) and easily booked a seat on the bus to Reykjavík which dropped us off at our hotel, Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura.

we saw the northern lights from the airplane,
unfortunately, that's the only time we saw them =(

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Trip Guide - Peru

In April 2012, mr A, two friends and I took a trip to Peru. We we're lucky enough to explore a little off the beaten path. Below shows the details of where we went, where we stayed, and what we did. Feel free to comment or e-mail me any questions you may have. I'd love to help :)

Part 1: Haucachina Oasis, Nazca Lines & Paracas National Reserve
Part 2: Puerto Maldonado/Amazon Rainforest
Part 3: Cusco
Part 4: Machu Picchu

Peru - Part 4 (Machu Picchu)

Machu Picchu. You can't say the words without pictures of grandeur popping into your head. Having been, I can promise that it lives up to those pictures and more. Being at Machu Picchu was one of the most memorable experiences of my lifetime and I highly suggest everyone make the trek. This is truly a location where words cannot do it justice...

Travel Tips (before I lose you to the beautiful pics)
  • Take the early train. Seriously, give yourself as much time as possible to spend at the top
  • Buy your tickets before going. The government recently restricted the number of visitors allowed each day, and you don't want to go to Peru without seeing Machu Picchu!
  • Buying tickets is going to be a hassle. The system isn't great. We all had to try different cards until something finally took. Be Patient.
  • When booking your train to Machu Picchu, I suggest using PeruRail and booking the Vistadome car. The scenery is beautiful and this is one of the best ways to see it (it also comes with breakfast!)
  • If you are fit, hike up Huayna Picchu, If you are really fit, hike up Wayna Picchu (you're going to have to make sure you get there in time, they stop letting people climb after 11am)
  • Go for the hike to Intipunku
  • Knowing the history, we explored without a guide and LOVED being able to roam at our own pace
  • You can get your passport stamped after completing the hike up Huayna/Wayna Picchu, and you can get a second stamp at the welcome center at the entrance to Machu Picchu

PERURail to Machu Picchu

scenery on the way (see, i told you that the vistadome cars we're awesome!)
getting ready to go up Huayna Picchu

stairs on the way up to Huayna Picchu
view from Huayna Picchu of Machu Picchu (or as I call it, Pikachu Mountain)

view from Intipunku

Machu Picchu

Thoughts on hiking the Inca Trail
We were unable to hike the trail as our schedule did not allow it. If you are thinking about doing it, do not be discouraged by the idea of hauling around backpacks full of camping equipmen.! A lot of tour companies have extra employees go with you who will carry your items, set up your tent, and make your food. If the opportunity ever arises for me to do it, I would hike the trail in a heartbeat!

 Peru was an amazing place to visit and one that I suggest to anyone who brings it up. Going to Machu Picchu on the last day was an excellent way to end our Peruvian adventure. Viva la Peru!

Part 1: Haucachina Oasis, Nazca Lines & Paracas National Reserve
Part 2: Puerto Maldonado/Amazon Rainforest
Part 3: Cusco
Part 4: Machu Picchu
Overall Trip Guide

Peru - Part 3 (Cusco)

As Frank Sinatra sings, 'come fly with me, let's float down to Peru'. I'm not sure why he uses the word down, as the elevation in Cusco is 11,200 ft (higher than Machu Picchu I was surprised to learn).

left: mr A taking a break, the altitude differential hits you as soon as you walk off the plane
right: the common Peruvian cure? coca tea

The city of Cusco is very pedestrian friendly and I suggest putting a day aside to just roam the streets. There are many local vendors (I got a great wool sweater) that sell everything from art and clothing to touristy knick knacks.

A note on the altitude: I was personally very worried about how I would react to the altitude given that I also have asthma. I spoke with my doctor and received pills (Diamox) specifically designed to aid with altitude sickness. The best way I can describe the effects is that you feel a little drunk, and winded after walking around a bit (doesn't help that Cusco is hilly!) A common Peruvian treatment for altitude sickness is coca tea. This works since the coca leaf is the base for making cocaine. Pro Tip: If you have any sort of job in the security/government realm, I suggest checking with your security officer before indulging.

Viva El Peru!

Cathedral of Cusco located in Plaza de Armas

mr OMG and I at Plaza de Armas

streets of Cusco

From Cusco, you can take many day trips to the sacred valley nearby

you get beautiful views from every angle

factor in lots of stairs for any Inca ruin

our group <3

there's a lot of Peruvian culture going on in this pic

One of the best views of Cusco is from the Cristo Blanco. It's easily accessible by cab.

Getting a cab: You're cab driver can easily become your guide to the city. If you find a cab driver you like, ask him to show you around to a few of his favorite places! They'll likely wait while you explore whatever locale you're at so it's like hiring a personal drive (for way less!)

Cristo Blanco

Cusco at night as seen from Cristo Blanco

After exploring the city, seeing the nearby ruins, and talking with other we meet along the way, we were so ready to go to Machu Picchu.

Part 1: Haucachina Oasis, Nazca Lines & Paracas National Reserve
Part 2: Puerto Maldonado/Amazon Rainforest
Part 3: Cusco
Part 4: Machu Picchu
Overall Trip Guide

Peru - Part 2 (aka my favorite part)

Okay, seriously? I could go on for HOURS about my experience at the Refugio Amazonas Eco Lodge and the exploring we did in the nearby rainforest. First off ...

Getting there
Landing at the airport in Puerto Maldonado is probably like landing no where else you've ever been before. It's one open-air building where the airline agents not only check you in, but also direct the plane once it's landed.

In order to get to the Regufio Amazonas Lodge, you take a 4 hour boat ride up river. Many of the others on the boat slept but I was too enthralled with the scenery! You pass by small villages and locals transporting their goods (usually fruit) to bigger towns to sell. Along the way you stop at a research center where you have to sign in so they can keep track of visitors to the protected area.

Tip: You can get your passport stamped here!

boats to take you up river

messing around with the fancy lens we got for the trip

Along the way your guides will point out many of the interesting plants and animals that you pass while on your trip.

this butterfly is known for eating the turtles tears

macaws kissing (that lens really came in handy!)

the capybara aka gross monster

Refugio Amazonas Lodge
Okay really? This is my idea of paradise. You get off the boat and start an uphill trek to the lodge. You walk for about 20 minutes through dense forest and then all of a sudden, BAM! The lodge is right there in front of it. It's BEAUTIFUL.

me seconds before my life was changed
When you first get there you get a short introduction to the lodge. There is only electricity for a few hours a day, you are provided three meals, oh and there is a bar and a spa. The best part about the lodge is how open it is. The main lodge has very few full walls, most are open to the forest surrounding you. Even the rooms have only three walls! Each room is missing a fourth wall and is open to the forest. Because of this, each room also has a safe to put any snacks you may have on you in case some cheeky monkeys come into your room.

Tip: During the introduction they'll ask if anyone has any food allergies (I have a dairy allergy). They take note of this and are extremely accommodating. That night for dinner, everyone was served lasagna, and I got a different dairy-free meal. 

eating at Refugio is the closest I'm ever going to get to Hogwats

missing fourth wall, aka best hotel room ever

they may not have electricity, but they have beer!

looking into the main lodge

walkway to the rooms

 Early in the morning we left for a canoe ride at a nearby pond where we were able to see a lot of wildlife

After the canoe ride it was off to explore the forest!

mr OMG & I fit inside this massive tree!

we visited a local farm where we tried local fruits right off the branch!

one of my favorite activities of the day

view from the top with the sun setting

well deserved beer after a day of forest trekking!

Unfortunately we only spent two nights here so it was time to go way earlier than I would have liked. I would suggest spending at least two days in this awe-inspiring place, more if you have the time! It was a quicker 2 hour ride back to Puerto Maldonado and then a bus ride back to the airport and we were gone. Though, we did meet one more friend ...

talk about a cheeky monkey

Part 1: Haucachina Oasis, Nazca Lines & Paracas National Reserve
Part 2: Puerto Maldonado/Amazon Rainforest
Part 3: Cusco
Part 4: Machu Picchu
Overall Trip Guide