Author Archives: Wife with Baggage

Waimea Canyon – Kauai, HI

We spent a day at the Western Rim of the Grand Canyon during a whirlwind road trip from San Diego to Las Vegas. It was an out of the way “pit stop” and made us realize canyons are dramatic, colorful and beautiful land forms to explore and adore. We treated Waimea Canyon in Kauai with more “respect” and admired her from more than one angle!

waimea-canyon-kauai

Waimea Canyon is located on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It is an easy day trip from Lihue or Poipu and lives up to its name “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” It is not quite as big as The Grand Canyon, but seeing the canyon from as many different angles as you can is bound to satisfy your thirst for nature and beauty, adventure and exploration.

We drove the rim and flew over; both were a great way to experience a canyon. We also hiked, some, but saved our energy for hiking the Napali Coastline Trail a few days later.

Our first day on the island started with a helicopter ride around the island, focusing on the canyon. What an incredible way to start our trip. We flew with Mauna Loa and splurged for the private “doors off” tour.

doors-off-mauna-loa-kauai

One might balk at the price ($287 USD per person). However, after reading reviews that mentioned middle seats and horrible views on the larger helicopter, we agreed the money was well worth it. We were so right! Mike and I had unobstructed views the entire time. The wind hitting your skin and the sound of the routers and propeller, coupled with the views, was an incredible visceral experience.

mauna-loa-helicopter-tour-kauai helicopter-flight-over-waimea-canyon

Two days later we found ourselves back at Waimea Canyon, but this time we were on solid ground. The place is just as beautiful though!

driving-waimea-canyon-kauai jeep-wrangler-rental-kauai

waimea-canyon-small-waterfall-uluru

We drove, stopped for photo ops and even hiked at Kalalau Lookout. Although there wasn’t much of a view as the peak was heavily shrouded in a dense cloud. It was an eerie feeling to not be able to see more than about a hundred meters ahead, even though you should have been able to see for miles!

kalalau-lookout-cloud kalalau-lookout-standing-in-a-cloud wettest-place-on-earth-kauai hiking-near-kalalau-lokout-kauai

From up above or ground level, either way you look at it (pun intended), Waimea Canyon is impressive. Thousands of years of wind and water have carved pathways through rock. Our world is an amazing place. I’m so happy I was able to explore this little corner of it.


How to Choose the Clothing for a Short Break in La Plagne, France

I have always liked the mountains better than the sea. The air is fresher, and the view is more inspiring. But, there is one problem: finding the right clothes to wear can be a challenge. It seems easier to do that when the weather is really hot. After all, you just need a dress and a pair of comfy sandals.

But what happens when it’s freezing outside and you want to go skiing?

Photo Credit : pexel.com

Say you have planned a short ski break in La Plagne, a resort with over 50 years of fame. You bought the tickets, you know where you’re staying, but do you know what to wear? If you don’t, do not worry, you are about to find out soon.

Picking your equipment is essential if you want to enjoy skiing rather than struggle with it. And to make the most of it, what you should remember is this: keep warm and stay dry.

It is what you should keep in mind, whatever piece of clothing you plan to wear while skiing.

But let’s focus on the main things you should wear:

  • First and foremost, you need a base layer. It is extremely un-absorbent and actively transfers water away from your skin, experts say;
  • You should also buy a comfortable jacket that lets you breathe and move properly. But, before buying one, pay attention to the details: the added features of the jacket can make a world of difference.
  • Of course, don’t forget about the trousers. They should also be breathable and waterproof, as well as the jacket. So, avoid wearing jeans, for instance. They get wet and are inflexible, especially when it’s really cold outside.
  • Socks are as important as all of the above. Trust me; you don’t want your feet to freeze. From my experience, it hurts so bad that you can’t focus on anything else, except the fact that you want to feel warm again. So, while skiing, you should wear socks made of wool or silk, for example. These are materials known for their heat retention;
  • Remember the gloves! It’s the same thing as with the socks. Both hands and feet are extremities, and it’s important to keep them warm because if they are, your whole body is. On the contrary, if your hands and feet are freezing, it doesn’t matter what else you’re wearing, because it seems like your whole body is freezing;
  • And last, but not least, you need a hat and a helmet: the first one will keep your head warm, while the other will protect you from getting injured;

Photo Credit: RomGuig at English Wikipedia

Ok, enough about the main clothing. What about other accessories?

  • Goggles may prove to be useful, especially if it’s a really snowy or sunny one. You need to see where you’re going if you want to stay safe and enjoy the view. So, make sure you pick a pair that fits you properly and doesn’t fog up;
  • Sun cream may also be a good idea. I know, it might sound surprising, but the sun may hurt not only your eyes but also your face, even if you might think it cannot be as intense as if you were laying on the beach, in high season;
  • You will also need a backpack, in case you want to spend all day skiing. You need something to carry supplies, such as water or food. As I’ve said before, make sure that the backpack is not too heavy.

All in all, make sure you organize well, before leaving on your ski break. That is if you want a stress-free vacation on the slopes in La Plagne. Otherwise, it would be such a shame, don’t you think?

A Note from Diane : Tim Baker is a freelance writer and author of this guest post. If you are interested in contacting Tim to learn more about his awesome travel adventures or writing, please email him at tim_bakers@hotmail.com.

Travel Lessons: Just Keep Paddling

Michael and I have kayaks that we use almost monthly. We load up the boats on the top of our car, pack a cooler, get Finley’s life jacket and head out to the water. It is a favorite pasttime of ours.

Exuma Kayaking

Without fail, I always look to book a kayaking excursion when we travel. We’ve paddled cold dark waters in New Zealand and warm, crystal clear water in the Bahamas. We kayaked with a group, with a guide and by ourselves. We love to be out on the water. We do not have to have an agenda, just sunshine and a paddle. But, no matter the conditions, Mike and I have one rule – just keep paddling. I always smile when I think about Mike encouraging me from behind. “Don’t stop Diane!” “Just keep paddling Diane?” Water currents, waves and the wind all force you in their directions. Paddling your kayak keeps you on course for your destination. Sometimes these forces work in your favor, but other times they don’t. Just keep paddling!

I thought our kayak in Exuma would be easy, but as lucky would have it, it wasn’t’! We had to cross a busy channel. Of course, Mother Nature was against us and we fought an outgoing tide, wake from passing boats and a decent head wind. Mike handled it well. I, on the other hand, struggled to keep up. Half way through the channel I felt a pop in my rib cage and knew something was wrong. After a few not-so-lady-like words, I started to feel my muscles cramp. The, my hands lost grip. I wanted to stop and catch my breath so badly, but, I couldn’t. If I stopped paddling, even for a few seconds, I’d loose “ground” and just have to work that much harder and longer. I just had to keep paddling.

I ended up with a strained intercostal muscle from that experience. Breathing hurt. Laying down hurt. Laughing hurt. It was not a fun recovery, nor a short one. But, I can say with certainty, it was one of the most exciting paddles we have ever done.

Cathedral Cove Kayak New Zealand

Travel Lesson: When kayaking or canoeing, just keep paddling.
Life Lesson: Do not give up; life is about the ups and downs.

Doesn’t life seem like this every once in while? You take 3 steps forward, relax for a moment to enjoy successes, maybe even try to set your life on cruise control and then bam! Life smacks you down – a big project at work, family arguments, financial hardships. Life can come at you in full force sometimes. But if you stop trying, caring or hoping that negative momentum just carries you deeper in.

I think we forget that sometimes that struggles are life; not a time out of life, but actually a purposeful, meaningful, needed part of life. I wouldn’t like kayaking if I just sat in the boat and floated along – that is called a lazy river. Yes, I like moments of calm, but paddling is kayaking. Going through tough times is life. It is not a punishment, it is just life.

So don’t stop paddling; keep going. Sometimes the rough rides are what makes life different, unpredictable, fruitful and worthwhile.

Travel Interview: Call of Travel

Jure Snoj is the creator and editor at Call of Travel, a blog aimed at introducing readers to spectacular landscapes, cuisines from around the world and socioeconomic concern and aspects of places around the globe.

If not traveling, what is your 9-5 life like?
I’m currently enjoying an indefinite break from a 9-5 life :). My wife and I have just recently relocated to India, having worked and lived in Qatar for the past four and a half years. In Qatar, we worked for a business magazine, she as the editor in chief and me as the online editor & digital lead. We are currently figuring out what our next stage in life will be, so given the free time I (and I’m trying to drag my wife into this blogging thing as well) am focusing on my travel blog – Call of Travel. Our next travels will definitely be around India, as although I’ve been here eight times before, there are just so much places still to be discovered. The blog will therefore see quite a lot more material about the country popping up.

call-of-travel-interview

Who, or what, inspired you to travel the first time?
Honestly I can’t remember any particular enlightening moment that made me travel for the first time. What keeps inspiring me is the need to break away from the routine and go into the unknown. Also for me it’s the unexpected that makes travel special.

How have you changed your life to travel more?
Travel is always a priority for me, I’m addicted to it and just like any self-respecting junkie, I will do anything to make sure I get my fix :). I’ve gone through different stages in my life when it comes to finances. I’ve done extreme budget travel as a student – think 10 days of Costa Rica for 250 Euros, 14 days of Corse, France for 200 Euros, 7 days of Croatia for 70 Euros. Those are some of the best travel memories I have! Then I became a bit better off and my style of travel changed somewhat. Here I need to highlight that I come from Slovenia, so while it’s not a poor country, we don’t exactly enjoy Western standards of income. I could afford to travel somewhere far away once a year. I suck at saving money, so I usually took a loan and then gradually paid it back. It was still budget, just not to the extreme that I described above. Later on I moved to Qatar and salaries are quite high there, which afforded me with more flexibility and I started taking my sister and mother along. Currently I’m living off my savings, so naturally I’m again more careful with regards to how I travel.

How has travel changed your life?
It’s been an evolving thing, not a crazy revelation or radical change from one particular trip I’ve been on. Every time I go travel somewhere new, I understand more about various societies and places around the world and that changes me, to an extent, every single time. If I were to pinpoint a big change in my life connected to travel, it was moving from Slovenia to Qatar to live and work there. A higher income afforded me with pretty much unrestricted travel (apart from time constraints) and most importantly of it all, I met my wife Priya there. I wouldn’t be here typing these words if it wasn’t for me accepting a job offer, moving to Qatar and then eventually to Mangalore, India.

What is your main purpose/goal of your travel blog?
I’m still kind of finding my way with the blog, so you’ll find the articles can be categorized into inspirational, practical and informative categories. I’m mostly interested in spectacular landscapes, cuisines and socioeconomic aspects and issues of the places I visit. So sometimes you’ll find me straying into topics that might not be seen on your typical travel blog. One of those will definitely be the upcoming series about Qatar. Now that we have moved out of the country, a lot of things can be told without being worried about getting into the clutches of the authorities there.

unexpectedly-getting-to-carry-a-bride-in-a-traditional-budhist-wedding-in-mokpo-south-korea-1

This or That:
Backpack or rolling suitcase? Backpack
Cities or Open Spaces? Open spaces
Salty or sweet? Salty
Sandals or Snow Boots? Sandals
Comedy or Drama? Drama

You can contact Jure via social media or his blog.
Website: http://calloftravel.com/
Email: jure@calloftravel.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CallofTravel/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CallofTravel
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/calloftravel/

Alternatives to Riding Elephants in Thailand

I grew up loving and riding horses. I cleaned stalls, bathed horses and swept barns at 12 years old in exchange for riding lessons. I loved being around the animals and others who loved the clip-clop of hooves and smell of hay.

During my many hours in the barn I watched young horses become accustomed to having humans touch them, place saddles on their backs and eventually, have those humans climb into the saddle. Most resisted at first, but all horses came to trust the humans. Trainers gained the horse’s trust through positive reinforcement – treats, head scratches and kind words. There is a stark contrast between this process and the process used on elephants.

Alternatives to Riding Elephants in Thailand

We spent 7 days in Thailand. Elephants were on my “to-do” list while in the country. Initially, I assumed I would ride one; it sounds amazing actually. I loved riding horses, why wouldn’t I love riding an elephant and feeling close to it. Just one hour of research while planning the trip changed my mind, immediately.

Some elephants work in forests, helping to drag trees for lumber production while others live their lives with tourists climbing onto their backs. Neither of these “jobs” are particularly horrible at first glance; but there is more than meets the eye.

There are host of reasons not to ride an elephant in Thailand, or elsewhere. Here are my reasons:

  1. Harsh and cruel methods are used in order to “break” an elephant so they can be “saddled” and ridden. “The crush” is the method used on baby elephants. The calves are taken too soon from their mothers, kept in a solitary place too small for them to move and then, they’re beaten by humans. The process is called “the crush” because the purpose is to crush, or break, their spirit. The goal is to force them into submission through starvation, seclusion, physical punishment and fear.
  2. The mistreatment does not end after the elephant is “broken in.” Bull hooks are still used to control the animals as they age.
  3. Asian elephants are endangered species. Some experts believe there are only 2000 wild elephants left. Illegal capturing and trade for tourism purposes happens far too often to meet the demand of tourists and therefore further diminishes these numbers.
  4. Spine injuries are common among elephants that are ridden.

Thankfully, tourists have alternatives to riding elephants.

An Alternative to Riding Elephants in ThailandThese alternatives can lead to much more positive interactions between humans and elephants and honestly, a much more “close up” encounter with the beauties. These alternatives are healthy and sustainable options for the elephants, mahoots (elephants handlers) and tourists.

These alternatives come in the form of rehabilitation or retirement centers. These centers offer visitors close up and personal experiences with the animals. There are safety parameters, but visitors are allowed to feed, wash and in some instances, touch the animals. Positive reinforcement (food) is used by the mahoots, and the animals are free to roam large areas of land. There are not any cages or bull horns in sight. Luckily, no matter where you are traveling in Thailand, you are likely near one of these great facilities and have an alternative to riding and elephant.

Notable centers in Thailand include:

  1. Elephant Nature Park – Chiang Mai
  2. Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary – Sukhothai
  3. Elephant’s World – Kanchanaburi
  4. Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand – Petchaburi

Elephant Rescue Centers in Thailand

Elephants are working animals in Thailand, and other countries in the region. I see nothing wrong with an animal working; I do think it is one of the reasons animals exist. That being said, humane treatment of animals is paramount. Can humans ride elephants in Thailand? Yes. Should they? I think the answer is no based on the methods of “breaking” the animals and the health risks associated with riding elephants. Humans should never wield their power without regard to the animals’ physical and emotional well-being. Sadly, this is the case for many elephants in Thailand. Choose an alternative to riding elephants when in Thailand; there are plenty to choose from!

48 hours in San Francisco

Michael and I have popped in and out of San Francisco 4 times now. I say “popped in” because the longest we have stayed in the city is 48 consecutive hours. We seem to fly in, spend a little time exploring and then head out of town for a road trip; there are so many places to explore in and around of San Francisco. Nonetheless, despite our quick trips here, it is my favorite American city.

48 hours in San Francisco

Click the photo for a live Google Map

I am not a city dweller. I am typically overwhelmed by the traffic, one way streets, smells and litter; San Francisco is different. Don’t get me wrong, the city has all of traffic, litter and odors one can tolerate, and then some, but I am inexplicably drawn to the city.

One thing that I have learned from our brief trips to San Francisco is that you can pack a lot into your time there, even if it is only 48 hours. The perfect quick trip, layover or weekend in the city by the Bay would go like this!

Day 1
8:00 am – Workout at Arena Ready Crossfit. Duh! You guys know we love to drop in to other CrossFit gyms while on the road.

9:30 am – Since you’ve worked out, do not feel guilty, at all, for enjoying sunshine, coffee and breakfast at Martha and Bros Coffee Company in Noe Valley. Their lattes and breakfast burritos are amazeballs!

Martha and Bros Coffee Comany Noe Valley San Francisco

10:30 am – Alamo Square Park and The Painted Ladies. Take in the view, snap pics and sing the theme song from Full House.

11:30 am – Catch the Trolley at California and Van Ness. Ride (one way) over Nob Hill, through Chinatown and end in the Financial Building. This line in less “touristy” and drops you a few blocks from the Ferry Building!

San Fran Trolley Ride California and Van Ness Line

12:30 pm – Stroll around the Ferry Building and find lunch looking at the water, boats and hustle and bustle. There is so much to see in the city, but this a must while in town for 48 hours.

2:00 pm – Coit Tower is a mile walk or ride away. Visit this tower for bird’s eye views of the city and bay.

3:00 pm – Pier 33 is a few blocks away and where you will depart for your Alcatraz Tour. Book these tickets ahead of time and enjoy!

6:00 pm – Head down the pier to Pier 39 to wander shops and take pictures of seals.

6:30 pm – Leave the mayhem of the pier behind for the Marina District, via Lombard Street (aka the curviest street in the US). Wander the Palace of Fine Arts Gardens and day dream about living in one of the multi-million dollar mansions near by.

Palace of Fine Arts 48 Hours in San Fran

8:00 pm – Sushi during your short trip to San Fran is a must! Saru Sushi Bar is a favorite of ours, and critics!

9:30 pm – It is time to go back in time and enjoy Bourbon and Branch. Do not forget the house rules. Don’t worry, we will believe you go, even if there is not a picture on social media to prove it! (*Note: Contact Bourbon and Branch prior to arriving in the city to set up your experience.)

Day 2 –
8:30 am – You are only half way through your weekend in San Francisco. Start your day right with a little caffeine and yumminess. A breakfast pastry and coffee will fuel your morning. Stop at Henry’s Coffee House on Noriega between 25th and 24th Ave to fuel up

9:00  – Get your coffee in a to-go cup and climb the 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs to Grand View Park.

10:00 am – Rent Bikes to explore the relatively flat park paths of Golden Gate Park at your leisure. Strawberry Hill, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Bison Paddock and the Conservatory of Flowers are a few favorite spots in the huge park.

11:30 pm – Admire the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Fields. You can walk, fly kites, picnic, open a bottle of wine or just snap photos.

12:30 pm – Drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin Headlands. Roll the windows down and enjoy the ride over the GGB; it is amazing. Exit the highway quickly for the best lookout points in Marin Headlands.

1:00 pm – Continue to Sausalito for lunch at Bar Bocce for lunch. Their outdoor space and menu are both top notch.

3:00 pm – Cross the Golden Gate Bridge back into San Francisco. Head west to Baker’s Beach for a walk in the sand, maybe a swim in the water and a great view of the GGB.

Baker's Beach Golden Gate Bridge

4:00 pm – Keep driving along the coast to Land’s End. You can walk trails in this park, check out the Labyrinth and yes, take more picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. The views of the bridge are all beautiful! Do not miss the Holocaust Memorial or the Legion of Honor either!

6:00 – Are you tired yet?! Good, you should be! You only have 48 hours in this great city! But, take a moment and relax with a drink and delicious dinner at the Cliff House. Your view will be worth a million bucks. Depending on the time of year, you might even get a sunset over dinner. If you don’t, you can always walk the beach before of after dinner to watch the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean. (*This restaurant is semi-fancy pants, so you might consider having a change of clothes in the car with you, or freshening up at your hotel if it is convenient.)

8:00 – If you still have a little gas in your tank and are up for one more little adventure, check out Smuggler’s Cove for a craft cocktail. It is well known, so it might be busy, but the menu is funky and the drinks are delish!

There is no time for sitting around when you only have 48 hours in San Francisco. I hope this post gives you an idea of how to manage your time and where to spend it. I love this city. I cannot wait for another 48 hours (or more out there)!

A Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Road Trip

Hitting the road to explore a new, or familiar, area is our favorite way to travel. We might fly to a region, but then we are back in a car to explore. We’ve investigated Iceland, navigated Namibia, searched Switzerland and plowed down the Pacific Coast Highway in California. We loved renting a car, or using our own, to see, do, taste and experience the world around us.

How to plan a road trip

If you are leery about driving around while on vacation, or driving as a vacation, here are tips for planning a road trip. This is your guide, as a beginner or seasoned traveler, to making it an easy planning process and a wonderful vacation.

This is first, because it is the most important to any road trip: Pick your car wisely. This car will be your home away from home, your constant and your home base for the duration of your road trip. Here are some guidelines:

  • Pick a car that has room for you and your luggage.
  • Pick a car that you are comfortable driving. Can’t drive a manual? Do not think saving a few bucks will make ii worth it, pay for the automatic.
  • Pick a car with decent gas mileage.
  • Make sure to go with a reputable rental car company.
  • Splurge when and if you can. For example, you HAVE to rent a convertible when driving the PCH, it’s a non-negotiable.

Tahoe Rental Car

Budget your MONEY for a few more details than you typically would when staying in a small area. Road trips tend to be a little more spontaneous. Gas stops turn in to snack stops. Random signs that point to a waterfall require 20 mile detours and muddy back roads might warrant a car wash.

  • Gas
  • On the road snacks
  • Car washes
  • Spontaneous stops at random road side attractions

Budget your TIME with more flexibility. As mentioned above, road trips are about spontaneity.

  • Spontaneous stops are a given. You will stop more than you expect. You will drive less than you expect. Plan accordingly.
  • Hotels can be a factor too. If you book your hotels ahead of time, make sure that they are not entirely too far apart. The last thing you want is to miss a great coffee shop, hike or town square because you have to make it to your bed and breakfast that is 100 miles away before they close.

PCH Road Trip in a Convertible

Navigating the trip can be fun, but also stressful. Having a rough idea of your route will help in picking hotels, stopping points and points of interest.

  • Map apps are great for road trips.
  • Good ol’ paper maps still work and can be fun to use for navigating.
  • Use road signs more than maps. There were more times than I can count when we’ve gotten out of sticky situations just by following the highway signs instead of the map.
  • If you are a party of two, the “co-captain” should use clear language. I can’t tell you how many arguments I have had with Mr. Wife with Baggage because I say things like “turn here.” I am learning to say “you will turn right in 1 mile.” Then, “turn right at this stop sign.” “Now we are looking for Saltwater Lagoon Road.” Seriously! I am like Google Maps navigating us through foreign roads … I was not always this thorough, but 27 fights later, I am learning! 🙂
{Note: Mike and I turn off cell service when traveling abroad and rely on paper maps to navigate. It is sometimes scary, but hugely beneficial to our overall communication and connection throughout the vacation. You should try it too; but that is just my two cents!}

Plan for physical activity throughout your day. Sitting in a car all day can cause lower back pain, stiffness and lethargy. Plan to move around at a few points each day.

  • Whether it is a stroll down to the beach, around a park, down city sidewalks or even at a rest stop, make sure you move around a little bit each day.
  • Stretch, walk, even get in some push ups. Keep your blood pumping and muscles relaxed.

Stay comfortable. Road trips do require sitting, a lot of sitting. 

  • Wear comfy clothes; nothing too tight or restrictive.
  • Wear shoes that you can slip on and off for quick exits at the random places you pull off to see.
  • Consider packing an ice pack if you know you will experience pain.
  • Consider packing nausea remedies if you get motion sickness.

Beautiful Deserts in Namibia

Stay fueled – you and your car.

  • Consider packing a cooler in your car with water and healthy snacks.
  • If your route takes you through desolate areas, buy a gasoline can that  you can fill with gain case the worst happens and you run out of gas during your road trip.
  • Use apps to locate the closest gas stations in your areas.
  • Fill up before leaving a populated area, even if you are not close to being empty.

Stay entertained.

  • Create playlists for when the radio signals fade
  • Download audio books.
  • Write a list of 10 questions or conversation starters to use throughout the road trip.
  • Play games such as the license plate game, I spy or others to pass the time.
  • Look out the window, not at your phone. (This one is hard for me! But what is the point if you aren’t looking at what you’re passing?)

Stay safe by asking yourself these questions:

  • What side of the road do people drive on?
  • Can I drive on the opposite side of the road?
  • Does the car have a spare tire, and tire changing tools?
  • Do I need to have an international drivers license to rent a car here?
  • Is this a safe place to drive?
  • Can I drive in city traffic? snow? mountainous areas?
  • Can I parallel park?
  • Do I know this country’s driving laws? Can I read their road signs?

CrossFit 9 Drop In Review

Even a quick weekend away can wreak havoc on my diet and exercise routine. I am not fanatical, but I like eating a certain way and maintaining an active lifestyle because I feel better when I do. I sleep better. I have more energy. My skin is brighter. I’ll stop; you get it. And, if you’re reading this post, I’m likely preaching to the choir!

CrossFit 9 Drop In Review Nice Facility

We spent this 4th of July with friends and family in St. Petersburg, Florida. We ate, drank, swam and laughed. Finley and I also worked up quite the sweat at CrossFit 9. He laid there, I did muscle ups and snatches and loved the whole vibe of the gym!

Pricing: A+
$15 dollars gets you a class here. Phenomenal value!

Depth of Knowledge and Quality of Coaching: A+
I, personally, love when a chick (ahem! lady) kicks ass as a coach. That was the case during the class at CrossFit 9. Despite being sore she walked us through a warm up, barbell movement specifics , technical movement requirements and modifications for a very varied class. Not many coaches can coach a muscle up or snatch, well. She did.

CrossFit 9 is Dog Friendly

Intensity of the WOD: A+
I am not sure if it was the noon time July heat, but holy heck! CrossFit 9’s WOD kicked. my. butt. In the best possible way. I totally went for it and did RX … 3 rounds in I questioned my choice. But, I appreciated the weight and the toughness of the workout – especially as I downed my fair share of margaritas and chips later that weekend!

First:
10 Minute EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute):
ODD: 5 Muscle-up (2:1 Dips)
EVEN: 20 Pistols (10/10)

Then:
12 Minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds as Possible):
30 Double Unders
5 Squat Snatch
RX: 105/75

Appearance and Function of the Facility: A+
As with most CrossFit gyms, from the outside they are nothing special. CrossFit 9 has a large sign outside, so you know you’re in the right place, but the real magic is inside. Lots of rigs, open space, and “toys” for everyone. There were over a dozen people in the class I attended, but we all seemed to have plenty of space. CrossFit 9 and their community take care of their space and equipment and it shows.

CrossFit 9 in St Petersburg florida drop in

Overall Impressions: A+
Clearly with perfect scores across the board, you can tell that I am a fan of CrossFit 9. I think my favorite aspects of this gym are 1.) they are dog friendly and loved on Finley! and 2.) they are close to family, so returning for another workout in the future is a good possibility. I also recommended the gym to a fellow Gardens CrossFit member who will be in St. Pete for work. Not that I am the end-all-be-all for recommendations, but if you feel strongly enough to recommend a box, you must be impressed. And I am!

CrossFit 9 Drop In Dog Friendly

Belize or Costa Rica

Small, but uniquely different countries, make up Central America. They share borders, but that is about it. We have traveled in two of these countries and since then have answered countless questions about which is “better.”

Belize or Costa Rica Vacation

That is a tough question.

Rather than pick a favorite, here is a side by side comparison of Belize and Costa Rica. Slightly similar, but mostly amazing countries that offer food, fun, sun and adventure in their own way!

First up is cuisine. The food of a location is paramount to Mike and I when we travel, so I will just assume we are not strange and others share our same views. There are definitely some cross over in the cuisine with their strong Aztec, Mayan and Caribbean influences. However, the mountains of Costa Rica gives them coffee and the islands of Belize lend to more seafood in their diet.

Belize

Costa Rica

Diet Staples: rice and beans, seafood, poultry, tamales wrapped in plantain leaves Diet Staples: Gallo Pinto, rice and beans, local tropical fruit, pork, beef
Unique Dishes: Gibnut meat (small rodent), ceviche, boil up, black dinner Unique Dishes: Casado, Arroz con Pollo, Olla de Carne
Local Drinks: Belikin Beer, fresh juices, Belikin locally produced Guinness Stout, seaweed shake Local Drinks: Refrescos (fruit smoothie), Agua Dulce, Horchata, Guaro Sour, Imperial Beer, coffee

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The next most important feature, for us, of a location is its capacity to entertain us. While museums and city lights attract some, adventure and outdoor activities are king for us.

Belize

Costa Rica

Jungles: Cave Tubing, Mayan Ruins, jungle walks Jungles:  waterfall repelling, ATV rides, jungle hikes, hanging bridge walks,
Water: snorkeling, SCUBA diving, fishing, Water: white water rafting, surfing, hot springs of Arenal, zip lining, fishing

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When beginning your research, you will face the daunting task of narrowing down your exact destination(s) for your vacation to Central America. Here are some top locales within both countries for your to learn more about.

Belize

Costa Rica

·         Ambergris Caye

·         Caye Caulker

·         Placencia

·         Cayo district

·         Monteverde /La Fortuna

·         Jaco

·         Tamarindo

·         Corcovado National Park

Costa Rica Colorful Frog

Both countries offer jungles, beaches, culture, great food and friendly people. A few other general observations include:

  • Costa Rica can feel “Americanized” but it can also be wild and rural.
  • The official language of Belize is, get ready, is English.
  • Driving your own rental car is easy in most parts of Costa Rica as much of their infrastructure near popular destinations is new(er).
  • Getting to and from the mainland of Belize is easy and you have options. Just plan ahead.

Why Traveling to Washington DC is on Top of My Wish List?

Today’s article is a guest post from Frank Lee of Artful Club. We “met” via the internet after he featured Wife with Baggage on his website as travel blog to follow. He obviously knows his stuff, so I jumped at the chance to feature some of his writing! This guest post is written by Frank Lee, he works at Rebates Zone, and you can follow him on Twitter at @franklee84.

Founded in 1791, Washington DC is the capital city of the United States. The city is named after George Washington, one of the founding fathers and the first president of the United States so it should come as no surprise to anyone that the city is mired in history. The area is under federal jurisdiction so it is not a part of any state of the United States. Owing to the delicate mix of history and government, Washington is a great place to visit throughout the year.

Travel Wishlist The White House DC

Apart from being a place of history, Washington DC is also a great place of culture and learning. There is so much more to the city than what meets the eye. There are different reasons why anyone would want to visit the city of Washington DC; this is my list of why it is on top of my list.

United States Capitol – The Capitol is recognized as the symbol of United States Democracy for others all around the world. This beautiful white structure with a high dome holds the sessions of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. All 540 rooms are connected by a swarm of hallways and tunnels. You can also the house or the senate in action by getting a pass, US citizens can directly get a gallery pass by contacting their representative or the senator, though. More than viewing a session, it is the building itself which is worthy of the visit. The Hall of Statues has a great sense of grandeur attached to it.

Library of Congress – The library of Congress is the best place on earth for any bookworm. This largest library in the world holds more than 150 million items in its vaults, though most of which are not accessible to the general public but some of the important documents have been put on the display for the visitors such as one of the original copies of the Gutenberg Bible of which only three are known to be in existence in their original condition.

Library of Congress Visit in DC

National Archives – Any bookworm or a lover of history who has visited the Library of Congress must head to the National Archives. From the outside, it is a pompous monster – an example of neoclassical architecture which hides great truths behind its majestic façade. The importance of National Archives is that it is the place where all documents related to the American history are collected at one place. Three of the most important documents, in the history of mankind, which furthered the cause of democracy more than anything else, are housed in this building – Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

Georgetown – Georgetown is one of the areas of the city which predates the city of Washington itself. The area is filled with high-quality restaurants and handsome Victorian houses made of red bricks have a distinct look of their own. The refined atmosphere of the area makes it particularly stand out from the usual destinations. There are some amazing places for shopping in the area. Wisconsin Avenue is one of the most visited areas as it houses many classy boutiques. It is a great place for a sunny afternoon stroll. Groupon can provide you with great discounts at many of these fantastic locations.

Visit Georgetown near DC

The Smithsonian Museums – In 1829, a British scientist with the name of James Smithsonian left his estate for the establishment of an institution which would serve the purpose of diffusion of knowledge among the masses. This happened nearly two centuries ago but the Smithsonian has been growing ever since its creation and every year millions of people enter the gates of 19 museums of the Smithsonian Institution, without any fee, and learn about the world’s history, culture, arts, and the sciences.

DC’s Spring – Visiting Washington DC during spring is a great sight to behold. The city, especially the Tidal Basin, turns pink during springtime. The reason behind this change of color is the Japanese gift of 3000 cherry trees they gave to the US in 1912. When the springtime comes, all 3000 of these cherry trees blossom in all their glory and warm the hearts of the onlookers. This window of around two weeks between March and April is often celebrated like a festival which makes it the best time to visit the great city of Washington.

Spring in DC

The White House – No visit to Washington can be complete without mentioning the White House. 1600 Pennsylvania Street is arguably the most famous address in the world. Even though the White House doesn’t look as huge in real life but it is every bit as impressive as it looks on the television or the movies. The visits to the inside of the White House have become difficult ever since the 9/11 took place but visitors can stare from the gates. The White House visitor center is a great place to know about the history of the place and the changes different presidents made.

Frank has piqued my interest for Washington, D.C. I know I’ve always wanted to go back after spending one day here during a family vacation as a small child. Frank is right, the ideal time of year is spring, when those famed cherry blossoms are in full bloom. At least now I have a game plan of what to see, and why, after I’ve taken one million pictures and walked under those blooms!