Category Archives: Destination Inspiration

Beaches in Kauai, Hawaii

Going to the beach is an obvious activity in Hawaii. But, all beaches have ups and downs – and not just the waves and tides. Here are our favorites of Kauai and why (or why not).

Polihale Beach – I’ll start with this beach because it was my absolute favorite on the island. It is secluded and picturesque and the perfect venue to watch the sun sink into the water. It is secluded and a local favorite because you MUST have 4 wheel drive to access this beach. The roads leading into the beach and state park are sugar sand, or very deep sand, that a car with front wheel drive only just cannot make it through. Michael and I even helped a car who took the risk (and failed). We helped the couple to push their car out of sand. Meanwhile, the locals drove past and shook their heads. You can’t blame them though; there are signs posted in multiple locations along the road; so proceed at your own risk. Not to mention that they’ve likely helped their fair share of clueless tourists. So, the need for a 4-wheel drive vehicle is both a blessing and a curse, depending on how you look at it for this beach. A pitfall of Polihale Beach are that the waters are very rough. Polihale Beach is not a swimming beach, but the fact that it is not busy and so scenic made it our favorite.

Brennecke’s Beach – Brennecke’s Beach is the opposite of Polihale in that it is very busy and easy to get to from a busy road in Poipu. But, on the flip side, you can easily swim. Another plus is that you have the chance to see turtles nesting. This is a common occurrence on other beaches on the island, but this is the only place we saw a turtle on the beach while on Kauai. You also have the option of sipping a cocktail at Brennecke’s Beach Bar while watching the waves if you want. This kind of option is always good when you’re fed up with other tourists stepping over you and screaming children. Sorry! (Not really!)

Shipwreck’s Beach – Like Polihale, Shipwreck’s Beach is not good for swimming, but it is great for watching surfers and boggy boarders. The waves crash violently at the shore, making for dramatic wipe outs and impressive rides. Parking is also very close. The beach is next to a large resort, so you will not have the place to yourself, but it was not as busy as Brennecke’s when we were there around sunset.

Tunnels Beach– Tunnels beach is a long, curved shoreline, offering beach goers space to spread out and feel like you have a place to relax without hearing other’s conversations or music. It is also great for snorkeling, a long stroll on the beach and shell/rock hunting. The large black lava rocks against the bright turquoise water make for a beautiful view when on land too. We also saw a monk seal bathing on the beach, the only sighting during our week on the island.

Ke’e Beach – Ke’e Beach is known for its snorkeling, calm waters and sunset views. We experienced all 3 and agree with its reputation. The biggest downfall of this beach is the parking problem, and it is a problem. The beach is also at the trail head for the Hanakapi’ai Trail; the most popular trail on the island. Arrive early, or wait until just before sunset and hope you find a spot. Expect to walk at least a half a mile once parked. It’s a hike; before the hike.

Hanakapi’ai Beach – Speaking of hiking, Hanakapi’ai Beach is only accessible by boat or a couple of hours of hiking. But, oh man! It is so worth it! Pack plenty of water, hiking boots and snacks and enjoy a pristine beach while eating, re-hydrating and cooling off in the water. But, again, parking is an issue as you park in the same area for this hike and beach as you do for Ke’e Beach. So, again, get there early, really early.

All beaches are not created equally, but Kauai’s beaches are known around the world for a reason. Kauai is the perfect destination for beach lovers and for outdoor lovers in general. 

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.

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)!

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

My All American Travel Wish List

Happy July 4th! If you are an American (or even if you aren’t!) I hope that you are celebrating the fact that we are free to blog, protest, fight, love, pray, not pray and VOTE in this crazy country of ours.

All American Travel Wish List

Traveling the world feels like a need to me. I would like to think of it a nice little hobby, but I am inexplicably drawn to getting out of my comfort zone and seeing the beauty of this entire world. I get a high from learning, tasting, seeing, experiencing and touching the scary, the fascinating, the beautiful and the uncomfortable.

That being said, my own country is part of this amazing world. My vacations in America might not have the same “edgy” feel of international travel, but let’s be honest, that is sometimes nice. It is nice to drive and know the driving laws or eat at a restaurant and know the tipping amount. It is nice to not have to research the heck out of a place to feel like you fit in – or to at least not stick out!

Different from our Travel Bucket List of experiences, this wish list does have specific places to see, as well as general experiences to have. But, like our Travel Bucket List, this list is meant to inspire, ignite and inform! So, get out there and explore the world – your own backyard included!

The Grand Canyon – While we drove through The Grand Canyon when we drove in a zigzag from San Diego to Las Vegas, we did not truly experienced the canyon. I want to raft down the Colorado River, admire the layers of colored dirt and even (maybe, possibly, kind of) camp until the midnight stars. If anything, I’ll gaze at them for a while then head back to my comfy hotel room!

Grand Canyon American Bucketlist travel!

Ice Fishing – I am not sure why I want sit in the freezing staring at ice and holding a pole, but it sounds so completely different that what I know, that I am so curious. Fishing to me is a boat, sunscreen and as little clothing as possible. The fish we catch in Florida are colorful. None of this is true of ice fishing. I imagine there are belly warmer drinks too, which are always fun too!

Walk out on to a Skydeck (Sears Tower or The Grand Canyon) – While the views are drastically different, this item is more about getting over the fear of heights and walking out onto a ledge that is very (very!) high up. I plan to look down and then, most likely, weep with fear. I’m sure my legs will shake and I’ll need reminders to breath, but I want to do it!

Yellowstone National Park – Because why not? The geysers, hot springs, rainbow colored pools, roaming bison and more!

Explore Big Sur California (More!) – We drove from San Francisco to San Diego a few summers ago. Our vacation was filled to the brim with wine tasting, photo ops, hiking and lots of driving. We pulled to the shoulder of the 101 many times while driving through Big Sur because every turns offers a million dollar view. What we did not do, and what I want to do, is to explore more! I want to go to the water’s edge and into the forests. I want to take in a sunset over the Pacific and stay in an uber expensive hotel deep within in Big Sur. I want to do it the “right way”

PCH Road Trip Through Big Sur

Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C. – This might be the end-all-be-all is “All American” wish list items. The country’s capitol in all of its spring time grandeur. I’ve seen photos of DC while the trees are at their peak of blooming and it is spectacular. Can you imagine it in real life?

Skagit Valley Tulip Field – Speaking of flowers in bloom. If you are not sure why I want to see this just simply Google “Skagit Valley Tulip Field.” If you are not blown away and tempted to book your flight we cannot be friends. Just kidding. Kind of.

“All of Utah” – We’ve hiked The Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and skiied Park City, but there is So. Much. More! The Wave, Horseshoe Bend, Heber Valley, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon Zion, Bryce, Salt Lake City. UGH! There are so many places I’d like to see in Utah. Yea, I need to book that ticket now!

Mt Timp by Mark Anderson

Crater Lake, Oregon – I learned about this place in the 4th grade. More than two decades later and I still am curious. It is a lake at the top of a mountain, in a crater. Pictures of the lake look beautiful, but it has just always been a point of interest I would like to explore more.

Camp in Yosemite – In case we’re just meeting. I don’t camp. I will glamp; I do not camp. But, for Yosemite, I will make an exception. The non-humid air, ruggedness and relative ease of camping in a national park make me less apprehensive, and even a little excited, about the possibility!

One Tank Trip San Fran Yosemite National Park

America has a stigma of greed, ignorance and Disney World-obsessed people, but it is home. Yes, those are good descriptors, but I KNOW that we are more. We are canyons, rivers, oceans, lakes, cities, small towns, river walks and city side walks. We are home town charm, city grit, a rainbow of colors, ideals, faiths and opinions. We are not perfect, but we are the UNITED States of America.

Northern Utah Vacation Ideas

Utah was an accident. Utah was a means-to-an-end. Utah was not on our “list.”

Utah was an amazing discovery!

Northern Utah Mountains and Canyons

Our final destination was Grand Junction, Colorado. We could have flown into Denver, but Salt Lake City is a Delta hub and we’ve never been to Utah, as opposed to Denver and the Rockies which we’ve visited many times.

Grand Junction, Colorado is a dot on a map but now holds a very special spot in our hearts as we bought our adorable, lovable, smart, handsome and clever little pup there. Our adventures in Utah started as a mission to pick up our French Bulldog, but turned into an exploration of Northern Utah’s peaks and valleys.

Finley The French Bulldog Utah

We drove out of SLC to Park City, a picturesque mountain town with ski slopes, cutesy shops and cafes. It took us a few hours to figure out lift tickets, ski rentals and slope locations. Looking at a ski map is like looking at a map of Beijing; so many roads, errrrr slopes! Once (finally) on the slopes, we understood why so many are drawn to the peaks and slopes of the area each year. The views are beautiful and the snow was powdery and fresh – even in mid-March.

Park City Ski Slopes

We skied another half day the following morning, despite the sore feet, legs and butts. I complained the entire way to the lift, but was then happy to attempt skiing again. I admit that I have natural athletic ability with most sports, but skiing is just not one of them! Maybe we will splurge on lessons at some point?

Following a second night in Park City, we drove east to Moab through the barren deserts and valleys of northern Utah. The scenery looked straight out of wild, wild west movies! Droves of Jeep Wranglers greeted us in Moab. Mike was in heaven, but we were both confused! We later found out there was a “Jeep Safari” in town – that explains the expensive hotel rooms! Needless to say, every restaurant and bar and parking lot was packed, but the town was buzzing with energy.

Canyonlands National Park topped our list and it did not disappoint. The national park is so easy to see as you can drive and stop at different look at points along a paved road. There are easy, quick hikes to do at most of these parking lots as well. There were a ton of campers and people who were staying in the park for multiple days. In true “Mike and Diane fashion” we were there for only a few hours! (I know! It’s a beautiful place – but we have LOTS of beautiful places to see!) But, the hours we were there were magical as we watched the sun set over canyons that rival the Grand Canyon.

Northern Utah Sights

We spent the next day in Moab driving and hiking through Arches National Park. You will see why the park is so aptly named within a few minutes after you arrive.

That last stop in our trip was actually across the state line in Grand Junction, Colorado. We met Finley’s breeder, mom and sister before whisking him away to Florida. Mike is still my favorite travel buddy, but Finley is a natural travel companion and a perfect fit for our family. We are now a party of 3, and that’s fine by me!

Flora of Costa Rica

The animals of Costa Rica blew me away. We saw frogs the color of highlighters, ants that eat trees and, a personal highlight and bucket list experience, sloths hanging from trees. We truly kept our eyes peeled for wildlife everywhere we went. But, as our week in Costa Rica progressed we also started to notice that the animals were not the only show stoppers. The fauna and the flora were different from what we see here in The States and pause-worthy as well.

Flora in Costa Rica

Flowers

Pink Hibiscus Costa Rica Alpinia Flower Costa Rica Parrot Flower (Heliconia) Costa Rica Butterflies in Costa Rica Bird of Paradise Costa Rica Bamboo Orchid (Arundina Graminifolia)

Interesting Plants

Curly Boy Croton crazy Tree branches in Cahuita Coconut growing in Costa Rica

The jungles of Costa Rica are everything I hoped they would be. They are teeming with wildlife, both flora and fauna. Take care of their sensitive rain forests when you visited. Such a diverse and rich ecosystem needs to survive for everyone and everything’s sake.

Five Reasons to Travel in Indonesia

Admittedly, Indonesia is out of my travel comfort zone. Why? For one, the driving conditions leave a visitor completely and utterly overwhelmed. Based on our own personal experiences, driving in Bali leaves you breathless, white knuckled and stupefied. Secondly, I am a spoiled, suburban white chick and Indonesia has pockets of poverty. Seeing others with so little, and knowing you have so much is an uncomfortable truth. So now you know the truth. It is out there.

But, is being out of your comfort zone bad? Heck no!

Top 5 Reasons to Travel Through Indonesia

Traveling is about getting out there and exploring. Traveling is about getting honked at, getting yelled at, getting over your prejudices of poor people. Traveling is seeing true humility and need in the begging man on the street corner and then the feeling of true compassion and thankfulness when you give away the granola bar you were going to eat when you got “hungry.”

Yes, Indonesia is out of my comfort zone, but traveling to and through Bali, Indonesia has given me a case wanderlust for other islands in Indonesia, mainly the island of Java. Yes, it is hot and humid, but I am a Florida girl, so I feel right at home in that kind of heat. Yes, it takes a flipping long time to get here. But you know what? I want to go back. It might be because I like coffee, but here are some of my other thoughts on the matter.

Follow me as I list my top 5 reasons for traveling in Indonesia.

The Culture – Talk about culture shock! I am a white, Christian who has an advanced degree and owns my own business. Could I be any more opposite that most of the Indonesian women? While I do not believe in their gods, learning about their faith and touring their places of worship was beautiful. Seeing women dress in a very specific, traditional way made me appreciate my ability to wear whatever I want. Watching men doing the back-breaking work of harvesting rice made me appreciate my air-conditioned office. Indonesia is different from Western culture; it is the best kind of culture shock that I look forward to re-experiencing.

Culture Shock in Bali Temples

The Hotels – Oh em gee! You can stay in any kind of hotel you want in Indonesia. There are chain hotels in the big city of Jakarta like this one, you can go to this site for a great resort and spa in the city of Bogor, or here for yoga retreat in smaller towns like Yogyakarta (what a fitting name!), and bed and breakfasts in mountains of Malang. Y’all know my prissy feelings about hostels, but there are some of those too! Plus, with the currency exchange I feel like we Americans get a lot more hotel for a lot less cash. I am excited to splurge on a room somewhere swanky when we go back!

The Jungles – Indonesia is similar to Florida because of its beaches, humidity and cyclones (hurricanes). But, on the flip side, Florida has scrub brush and cypress forests. Indonesia has rain forests. Glorious forests home to exotic plants and animals that are, once again, so different from everything we see here in The States. The jungles are not far from the cities either, in most cases. This means you do not have to spend the night with the mosquitoes if you do not want to.

The Food – Chicken on a stick was foreign to me before traveling in Indonesia. Scratch that, I have made kebabs on the grill. OK, maybe Indonesians do it better. I throw BBQ sauce on mine. They have complex spices and herbs to season theirs in a way that packs so much flavor into every bite. And their rice? It is always perfect; mine is always sticky. And how do they get the rice to stay in the conical shape for Tumpeng? It is just fascinatingly delicious. Plus, you cannot forget about their coffee and tea. Do Sumatra and Java ring a bell?

Bali Coffee and Tea Java Sumatra

The People – I think the people of a certain place can make or break it. For example, a man legitimately followed us on the streets of Chiang Mai and as much as I loved the elephants and temples and food of that city, this fact completely tarnished my view on the city. On the other hand, the Indonesian people, when not driving a vehicle, are laid back, kind souls. We saw a big difference in just how laid back the people were when staying in the more rural areas, versus the cities. But I think that is true for most places. We had farmers smile and wave to us as we walked the rice fields. Our servers in restaurants were attentive and sweet. The staff at the hotels were so welcoming and helpful. Truly, the people of Bali are representative of the Indonesian people as a whole. Who wouldn’t want to explore more?

I think these 5 (stellar, awesome, honest and ridiculously great) reasons to visit Indonesia are true for most places. There is not a particular site or city I want to visit in Indonesia. I just want to experience their culture, hospitality, nature, cuisine, and people through walks, talks, hiking and biking. I want to return to Indonesia to face being slightly uncomfortable; just the opposite of what most vacationers want. But if I am completely honest, I will do this from the comfort of a resort like Pesona Alam Resort and Spa, just sayin’!

Hey! You can take the girl out of the suburbs, but you can’t take the suburbs out of the girl. 😉