Category Archives: Vacation travel
Where did night sledding come from?
About that Outdoor Interlaken sled experience
The 2017 IAGTO Sustainability Award
The Executive Vice President and Chief Administrations Officer, David L. Stivers talks with Elaine Masters about the award and the long-term sustainability efforts at the Pebble Beach Golf Resort.
At the upcoming AT&T Pro-AM Tournament, thousands of pounds of recyclable materials will stay out of landfills. Pebble Beach Golf Resort is working with partners to make recycling a comfortable part of the event. It’s no simple task with tens of thousands of visitors arriving for the event.
Dirty Harry played here
Can anyone visit Pebble Beach Golf Resort?
What makes Longwood Gardens such a hot ticket for the holidays?
“Longwood Gardens is the living legacy of Pierre S. du Pont, inspiring people through excellence in garden design, horticulture, education and the arts.”
A Banana House for Philadelphia
To Pierre Samuel DuPont and presented by the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for his ‘generous and unselfish service.”
The main house was closed that evening but we spent a few minutes listening to an organist as he brought the historical pipes to life. The space inside the Conservatory was warm and rows of chairs inviting. As the music lifted up to the lofty glass ceiling above us, our spirits rose in kind. It was a bittersweet moment – remembering the lyrics and mumbling along, remembering loved ones gone and missing, remembering childhood and how special this time of year was and remains. Misty eyed, hearts full of the spirit of the season, we left soon after to drive back to central Philadelphia.
If you go to Longwood Lights:
- Miss the crowds at the ticket booth and purchase tickets online. (They do sell out!) Longwood Gardens Website.
- Be prepared to walk and dress in layers.
- Wear comfortable shoes and bring a little cash for hot chocolate or cider in the Gardens.
- Read a pleasant exploration of Pierre du Pont and the Longwood estate history on The Short History Blog
Visiting Switzerland solo was a leap for this tropics lover. I arrived in the midst of winter with my pack full of warm clothes and an over-flowing itinerary. Of all the places I looked forward to seeing, Chaplin’s World was high on the list.
Celebrities have always flocked to Switzerland. Charlie Chaplin ended up there almost by accident. While in Europe promoting his silent classic, Limelight, London-born Chaplin received a forboding telegram. America was in the midst of the McCarthy era. He would be banned from returning to the United States unless he testified before the House on Un-American Activities. He refused, saying, “I’m not going back.”
Eugene Chaplin remembers that his father was considering property in Southern France with it’s temperate climate. However he fell in love with the beauty of the Geneva region. After purchasing a 13-acre property facing the Alps, Manoir de Ban became the family home for the rest of Chaplin’s life.
“We love Switzerland more and more each day.” Charlie Chaplin wrote in a letter to Clifford Odetts, 1954.
More than sixteen years ago Michael Chaplin, the oldest son, told Yves Durand and Philippe Meyland, that the home was going to be sold. The architect and designer soon convinced the family to turn it into a museum. Today personal archives full of mementos, costumes and props are preserved in displays. The family dining table is set for dinner. Chaplin’s movie studio is intact and has been enlarged. Most innovative are the mannequins fashioned laboriously in Madame Tussaud style and placed strategically throughout. Charlie Chaplin is reincarnated. Wax actors stand in front of scenes from his silent films. Visitors can stand next to Oona Chaplin and Charlie in their private screening room. Everything is designed to be touched, to be photographed.
Video from the opening of Chaplin’s World.
Unfortunately, the museum opened after I left Switzerland, but on a chilly December night in Hollywood, I met Eugene Chaplin in the Raleigh studios where his father, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks worked under contract.
Eugene spoke about his father’s perfectionism. The piano where Chaplin composed music for his silent films, still sits in the living room. A folding movie screen was set up and scenes were projected repeatedly until Chaplin felt the music was a perfect match. It was a ground-breaking transcription process for film music.
Of all Eugene’s stories this one makes me want to explore Chaplin’s World more than ever: A visitor told Eugene that her young son was a big Chaplin fan. Eugene asked which movie was his favorite. It’s not the movies, she replied, “He’s a fan because of the museum.”
“The Tramp never had a home,” Michael Chaplin has said. Today he has.
If you visit Switzerland and Chaplin’s World:
- Tickets and events at Chaplins World
- Information about Geneva and Matterhorn Region
- Visit Switzerland with a Swiss Travel Pass which includes rail, bus, and boat as well as itineraries, tickets, regional tips and more.
Strains of the music from ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ swirled around me as I stepped into Knotts Merry Farm all decked out for the holidays. Memories flooded in. I’ve always loved theme parks. Riding rollercoasters, seeing shows and running around with family and friends was easy growing up in Southern California. Knotts Berry Farm was fun no matter what age and visiting the fun park kicked my holiday spirit into overdrive.
Snoopy and I go way back. As a young graphic designer I worked for Determined Productions adapting the beloved Charles Shulz characters for toys and accessories. Snoopy and Woodstock were the most popular and I met them once again in the fun park.
Knotts started in the 1930’s when Mrs. Knott started serving home-fried chicken and berry pies for pennies to locals. The home kitchen expanded, the hybrid Boysenberry was discovered and grown on the farm and Mr. Knott built a small ‘ghost town’ to entertain visitors while preserving local history. It’s all still there, if you look.
Boysenberries are still grown on a memorial plot inside the park but today kids run around Camp Snoopy, teenagers get their thrills on towering rollercoasters, adults do too when they’re not taking in the Ghost Town sights and shops. Trains, stage coach rides and saloon shows run all day.
During the holiday season a tall Pine tree stands decorated in the main square and each evening at dusk a small crowd draws near. Carolers, dressed in Victorian garb, cover the stage. A ‘sheriff’ steps up to the microphone to address the good people and signals the lighting of the tree. It’s a lovely ritual in the middle of the fun park.
Here’s a short video of the fun park:
Snoopy dances and serenades families in a holiday show running November 19th to January 8th. There’s hot cider and chocolate in Santa’s Barn (and a fortified version for the grownups!) but most families gather for snow. Each evening right on schedule it falls from overhead. Even in warm Southern California the wintry spirit of the holidays perseveres.
One thing I discovered is how affordable Knotts Merry Farm is compared to other parks. It makes sense that families and friends of all ages filled the fun park. Entrance is less than half of the other giant theme park near by and the experience is less crowded and more intimate.
Discount tickets can be found online and inside the California Welcome Center (see links below.) Housed in a historic building on the original stage coach line, it’s worth a visit on it’s own. There are tours, maps, brochures and ticket specials for all the Buena Park activities.
Whatever the reason or season, I look forward to visiting Snoopy again and eating more of Mrs. Knott’s famous berry pie in the fun park, Knotts Berry Farm.
Links for visiting the fun park, Knotts Berry Farm
Knotts Website: https://www.knotts.com/
Tickets at the Buena Park Visitors Center: http://visitbuenapark.reservedirect.com/da/knotts-berry-farm-buena-park
California Welcome Center: http://www.visitbuenapark.com/visitors/california-welcome-center/
El Paso, it was love at first bite. After arriving late and missing dinner, having breakfast was our first Texas task. We found deep mugs of coffee and a meal worthy of any hungry traveler at the Downtowner Restaurant. While I opted for a Rancheros Omelette, my sister ordered the Salmon toast. My tummy was jealous!
Food is a big part of any adventure. As I was soon to discover not all is Tex-Mex in El Paso. Here’s some of the best places to bite and sip when you’re in the area.
A relaxing and spacious dining room with just the right touch of elegance, the Downtowner became our go-to spot for meetings and snacks. The nooks and booths were tempting to linger in but we had much to explore in El Paso.
Camino Real Dome Bar
So lucky! We almost missed seeing the Dome Bar inside the historic Camino Real Hotel. Here’s a short video about the experience.
Yes, El Paso has it’s own craft brewery scene! I fell for the smooth, nutty Abuelita Stout that Dead Beach Brewery creates. Infused with Pecaho Coffee, it was spicy and sweet – just like hug from Grandma. The brewery is just a year old and unfortunately for me only open on weekends, but several bars carry their variations.
Ode Brewery is out in the University District. Bags of spent hops sat near the brewery door as we stepped towards the restaurant. The place is comfy, simple and authentic. There’s no doubt that the owners are fanatical about their passion. Loved the ‘Spoliated Barley Water’ Menu featuring seasonal beers and recent releases. La Gringa, their American Blonde Ale, is worth importing (Hear that, San Diego?) Look for the label across the country soon as the distribution ramps up.
No visit to El Paso is complete without seeing the Alligators in San Jacinto Plaza, the historic heart of downtown. The statue rises from a central pool and shifting lights flicker across the behemoths. In the 1950’s seven live Alligators lived in the pond. Shennaigans eventually led to them being moved to the zoo. Rumors continue about the Alligators showing up inside the Tap Room bar across from the plaza and other spots around town. Today the neighborhood hang out hosts live Jazz and a full bar. No Alligators in sight.
Craft and Social
A friendly spot around the corner from Hotel Indigo, Craft and Social hosts local and state wide brews, a tasting menu and live jazz. The happy hour specials are not to be beat.
El Paso has it’s own wine region and we sped out of town to check out Vin Valle Winery. The shop is hosted by the owners and the barrel room is worth seeing with the lengthy, hand painted table in the center. It matches the cheery and cheeky label designs too.
Finding local coffee hangouts is tantamount on my tourist list. Downtown, the Coffee Box rises from the edge of a parking lot. Made out of cantilevered box cars, a nod to the history of the railway in El Paso, the Box is open early to late. There’s WiFi and compact lounge areas indoors and out.
Monticello – Hillside Coffee
The University District has a new development brewing with housing, shops and restaurants. I found the Hillside coffee house a nice spot to cool off and check email for a few minutes. The shops carry local goods.
Best Breakfast in El Paso – Crave
With several locations in the city, we decided to visit the east El Paso location of Crave Kitchen and Bar. Chiliquilles to die for, a playful interior, patio and deeply upolstered bench seating and bottomless coffee – I only wish we were there long enough to dig into a meal at each location. The locations are open for breakfast through to dinner.
Dinner in El Paso
In the central downtown district, this elegant Bistro focuses on the finer things from table to decor. Cooling sprays keep the sidewalk diners comfortable. Wanting a light dinner I focused on the soups and breads. My sister had a salad and we were thorougly satiated. A mighty painting of the restaurant’s namesake, Anson Mills looms over the space. His local roots run deep as a United States Army officer, surveyor, inventor, and entrepreneur who even named and laid out the city of El Paso. There’s nothing stuffy about Anson 11 with it’s trippy artwork juxtaposed with a librarian’s sensibility!
Infused liquors, tapas and regional flavors kicked into high gear – that’s Tabla. Tucked into the warehouse district close to the stadium, generous servings and one of the best meals I had in the area.
Riviera Bar and Cantina
No visit to El Paso would be complete without enjoying Tex-Mex. We had platefuls at the east side restaurant, the Riviera. Satisfying, casual and full of locals.
Even though I’m not a big red meat eater, I couldn’t leave Texas without indulging in a bit of steak. I only wish we had more daylight hours at Cattleman’s Steakhouse. The ranch has had lots of media attention; you’ve seen it in TV shows and movies. There’s a petting zoo and odd animal collections to walk around. The sunset views are some of the best – especially enjoyed over dinner. I had an appetizer of tender ‘beef cubes’ and it was perfect. No salads though on the menu! How Paleo can you go?!
Where to dine and drink in El Paso
Downtowner: Comfort food in a chic decor inside Hotel Indigo
Crave: Three locations open for breakfast, lunch and dinner
Anson 11: Bistro and fine dining with regional, American cuisine
Tabla: Tapas, infused liquors from an award-winning team
Riviera Bar and Cantina: Tex Mex and local hangout
Cattleman’s Steakhouse: East of town but well worth the drive. Famous for steaks, movie sets and animals.
Coffee Box: Casual spot with WiFi, patios and lounge seating
Monticello: Shops, restaurants and the Hillside Coffee Cafe
El Paso Beer and Wine
Dome Bar inside the Camino Real Hotel: Historic decor and fine drinks.
Dead Beach Brewery: Promising new brewery in downtown El Paso.
Ode Brewery: Ambitious brewery with first location in the University District
Vin Valle: Family run tasting room in the panhandle vineyard region.
Tap Room: Neighborhood Bar with jazz nights across from San Jacinto Plaza Alligators.
This trip was made possible by the El Paso Visitor’s Office. I thank them for pointing me in the right directions and helping me discover El Paso. All opinions are always my own.
Brake for Turkey Vultures, Javelinas and Auodads
Trip Planner Tip 1:
Research your options. The best we had for our road trip was a loose schedule. Lodging was set but how to get there and what to see was left up to us. It’s too easy to say that West Texas has something for everyone. I look for the off-beat, the historical quirks, the local hangouts that are usually just off the tourist radar. I’ve learned to surrender to the fact that you can’t see everything but look for the things that bring you joy and you’ll return home the happier.
Dig into El Paso
Splash down in Balmorea
Trip Planner tip 2:
Don’t miss the drive from Balmorea to Fort Davis along Route 17. You could blast through in a half hour but leave time to meander and gawk. The canyon road is lined with rugged cliffs and on the afternoon we drove, sweetly devoid of big trucks that dog the main highways. It’s a short 32.4 mile drive but consider pulling over to hike or picnic.
Trip Planner Tip 3:
There’s an Ice Cream stop on the outskirts of town. The Red Caboose is a local favorite and came highly recommended, plus it’s pet friendly.
Trip Planner Tip 4
History buffs can explore the old fort where Confederate General, Jefferson Davis, held his ground. The managers of Wall Drug Hotel are distant relatives!
Travel Planner tip 5
Don’t miss the White Buffalo Bar in Marathon. The Gage Hotel nods to shotgun culture but the sophisticated menu and graceful layout make this spot worthy of a celebrity sighting.
Part 2 of the West Texas Road Trip Planner is the next post. Continue the road trip through Terlingua, Lajitas, a bit of Big Bend National Park and Marfa.
Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Links and other Trip Planner tips:
- We used GPS but there are other sites with ample route suggestions for drivers and bicyclists, like: Distancesto.com
- Plan your trip around weather. Check temperatures and weather patterns, then pack for comfort.
- This list isn’t exhaustive. There’s so much to explore in West Texas like the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis
- Balmorea State Park has camping, trailer options and hiking trails as well as the famous natural spring reservoir. Check the website for hours and reservations.
- Eve’s Garden in Marathon is worth a detour. The hospitality is warm, the organic cooking delicious and the space a unique, artful experience.
- The Gage Hotel in Marathon is listed as #1 on many noted travel lists.
- Fort Davis, – Spacious, comfortable and affordable. The upstairs room, with abundant WiFi, couches and tables is a great space for digital nomads!
- Fort Davis, Lumpia Hotel: Fully restored historic property with a garden begging to be enjoyed.
- El Paso Craft and Social – Jazz bar, beer on tap and Texas wines by the glass or bottle.
- Fort Davis Red Caboose Ice Cream stopna
- Fort Davis, – They don’t make them like this anymore. Family style cooking and a full service counter.
- Fort Davis, Hotel Limpia Restaurant – Blue Mountain Bistro a fine dining experience with a full bar menu or dining room. Tapas and much more.
This trip was spurred by an invitation from Visit El Paso and the Brewster County Tourism Offices. Many thanks for their arrangements and guidance. All opinions as usual are my own.
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Ban the thought of filling up on nachos, rice and beans when dining on a budget in Tijuana. You can save the bucks for fine dining, and there’s plenty of that here, and still explore the city through it’s more modest eating establishments. Here are five places with fine brews and some of the best food in Tijuana. You will eat very, very well!
After 9/11 it wasn’t easy to enjoy Tijuana’s culinary scene, but cross-border systems are being stream-lined and now heading over for a day or dinner is becoming simpler. Long before the 1970’s spring break bacchanals in Tijuana, the city was the west-coast Prohibition escape for celebrities and mobsters. During WW2, it was the drinking hole for the Pacific Fleet. Tourism dried up with terrorism fears as new passport restrictions were enforced. Recently innovations have made visiting Tijuana much easier (Border crossing tips here) and cartel business has moved south of Mexico City. The area’s opened up again to its glorious heart – full of feasting and celebrating life through serving the best food in Tijuana.
Here’s a few of the fantastico places to find great meals and drinks that will help you save money for shopping and more travel:
1.Mercado Hildalgo – The oldest open marketplace in the central city buzzes with activity every day of the year. It’s most fun to visit during the holidays, when sugar skulls and decorations abound for Dia de los Muertos and other Mexican Celebrations. Fresh fruit, cheeses, cafes and bakeries surround a central parking area where a permanent Chapel rises and seasonal altars rotate below. If you’re courageous, look for roasted crickets or Tequila imbued with rattlesnake!
2.El Taller, Baja Med Cocina – Not far from the Racetrack (now greyhounds rather than horses, and casino.) Their celebrated pizza innovations slice easily with the thin crust and fresh, original ingredients (escargot anyone?!) A bit trendy, the open kitchen and lengthy dining room is often packed.
3. Telefonica Gastro Park – Set up in a large lot at the base of the old Telephone building, this food truck/small business courtyard is packed with fresh, local and creative drinks and bites, many based on traditional recipes. Black Zapote tea anyone? Craft beers, long tables and hammocks make it a perfect hangout for a meal with friends. Save room for coffee and desserts!
4. Norte Brewing Company – Not everyone enters through the parking garage but it’s easier to manage than finding the Norte Brewing Companyentrance via a narrow passage set deep off Avenida Revolucion. The effort is worth it for the breezy space looks out over rooftops and the beer is stellar. Flavors rotate but inventive beers such as Foreign Club Robust Porter (Nitro y CO2,) Penthouse IPA and the thickly delicious, Sugar Daddy Chocolate Oatmeal Stout just might be on tap. If you’re a true craft beer afficianado, and very lucky, ask about Súpermash, which uses the nugget of the hop flower. The blooms come direct from Rancho Loza-La Casa Del Lupulo, precursors in the cultivation of organic hops in the valle de Guadalupe.
5. Hua Huis, Restaurante de Mariscos – Now that the Tijuana airport bridge is open you can walk in and out of the country, airplane reservation in hand, simply enough. It’s a great convenience but you miss visiting Tijuana. Should you be heading in or out of the U.S. at the Otay Mesa border crossing and find yourself hungry, stop at the blue storefront of Hua Huis. The seafood is traditionally prepared as ceviche, grilled, or marinated, and the meats are tender as well. A small bar keeps drinks flowing too.
Here’s a brief video on where to find some of the best food in Tijuana:
Where to find the best food in Tijuana for casual diners:
- Mercado Hildalgo – The central market isn’t far from the CECUT cultural center in the Zona Rio.
- El Taller Baja Med Cocina: Full bar, sauces and salsas, and famous for their Pizza Baja Med
- Telefonica Gastro Park: Full courtyard surrounded by food trucks and temporary vendors. Dog-friendly and open to all ages.
- Norte Brewing Company: In Zona Centro off steps from Avenida Revolucion.
- Hua Huis, Restaurante de Mariscos: Seafood specialties served minutes from the Tijuana Airport
Thank you to our Binational Liason, Juan Arturo Saldaña Angulo with Tijuana Tourism and Convention Bureau. The trip sponsors, Tijuana Tourism and Convention Bureau and Rosarito Beach Hotel. And the transportation provided by Ticketon and Turismo Express.
I hope that you enjoyed this post and will share! Three images to pin:
Riding a Segway through San Francisco:
- The Electric Tour Company has weekly specials and a detailed website. (Say hi to Aaron for me!)
- Use public transportation to get around San Francisco. Save anxiety about meters, tickets and finding parking places. I used my cell phone GPS and Google Maps to find the best routes and buses. There are numbers to call at bus stops throughout the city.
- If buses and trolleys aren’t your thing there are taxis everywhere plus…
- The Uber and Lyft community is huge in San Francisco.
Our road trip was packed full of adventure but unfortunately packed pounds on our waistlines too. We had three weeks to deliver the car to the East coast and started working our itinerary six months in advance. With all the planning however, we forgot about coordinating snack ideas.
Win a Hiking Backpack full of with snack ideas for your next trip (Details below)
My eating strategy whenever I fly has been whittled into a science, but a road trip with four adults in one car for days on end was in another league altogether. We took long hikes daily and expected that to burn calories but it wasn’t enough. Long, tedious hours of driving led to quick meals from limited roadside cafes and convenience stores. Too often that meant snack ideas of the high-carb, salt and sugar kind.
On the way to Mt. Rainier we stopped at the Viking Diner for burgers. Delicious and friendly, but low cal? Not.
When visiting cousins of course we couldn’t refuse to take their homemade sweets along.
My home breakfast schedule was demolished when the rest of the family needed a big meal before we hit the road. Too often hotel or road-side mornings started like this.
Fruit stands are a boon for summer travelers. Unfortunately, our rushed schedule kept us on freeways and off the smaller, country roads where fruit stands proliferate.
When you’ve endured long hours traveling in the back seat or driving, it’s too easy to ‘reward’ yourself with a big dinner or a few beers. When you do that over several weeks it’s no wonder vacation clothes get tighter and tighter!
The best road trip snack ideas include:
- High protein, low salt and sugar, fruit and nut bars. Pick up a box before leaving home to stretch the travel budget.
- Buy in bulk. Nuts and dates make satisfying snack ideas and travel well. Make your own mix and store in baggies or better yet, reusable containers.
- Drink water often and limit the number of sweet, high fructose sodas and caffeine drinks. Avoid plastic bottles and refill your own.
- Stop to eat well before you feel like you’re starving. Being overly hungry too often leads to impulsive and poor eating decisions.
- Find grocery stores with salad bars and pick up fresh fruit at roadside stands.
- Portion control. We were two boomers and two millennials driving together. Guess who ate most of the peanut butter pretzel crackers?! Take a few out of the bag and stick to that portion.
If only I had known about these Jerky packs for our trip. Most jerkies on the market are full of nitrates and preservatives. They’re overly sweetened with high fructose corn syrup as well. The Golden Island Jerky recipes are gluten-free and have no artificial ingredients. The unique flavors come from the founder’s Asian heritage and are available in resealable bags – perfect for travelers.
Win a Hiking Backpack full of with snack ideas for your next trip
The prize includes:
- Two packages of each variety of Golden Island Jerky ($65 value)
- Four popular brand name, highly insulated Rambler 18 oz. bottles ($160 value)
- $100 Visa gift card for gas
- Hiking Backpack ($40)
Pack your bag and go! Enter here. Good luck!
This giveaway was facilitated by Golden Island Jerky. I was not compensated for this post but did receive free product samples, all opinions are my own.
How do you eat well on long road trips?
A pair of pins to share!
A visitor seeing a new place for the first time has ‘Beginner’s Eyes.’ I was an absolute beginner when I stepped out of the airport and into the real Puerto Princesa. With dis-orienting speed, the tropical air filled with music and a group of dancers swirled and dipped into action in front of me. Pairs in ruffled costumes stepped and solo performers swished through routines. Costumes morphed and the music rose to final crescendo when they paused for applause. Then the dancers asked to take a picture together!** I’d just discovered the real Puerto Princesa – reflected in it’s people.
Many travelers miss Puerto Princesa entirely as they spin off to other parts of Palawan Island. The northern area is one of the most picturesque in the Philippines, but we didn’t venture to El Nido. We had been diving at Tubbatha Reef for days and wanted to see more of the local culture before returning home. Over four days we took several tours with the city as our base.
Where to find the real Puerto Princesa
While wandering on our own, we scooted around town in one of the ‘Tricycles’ that flow non-stop, 24 / 7. Often drivers would wait for us while we stopped at stores or restaurants and the service was very affordable. One driver helped us over several days. He waited for us while we had dinner, led us through the fish market, then took us shopping for medicine and souvenirs. I had a chance to talk with him about family and work, and cherished his kind openness.
Trim vans picked us up at our hotel for day tours. Filled with cooling AC, our guides would answer questions and regaled us with highlights of local history. Below are some of the spots we visited by van. Most of them were filled with tourists and well-rehearsed speeches but did offer glimpses of the real Puerto Princesa. We asked questions, made requests and listened, listened, listened.
Boardwalk and Firefly Tour
One evening tour took us across town to the city boardwalk. Families were strolling or riding bicycles. Food carts and small cafes filled one side; the bay sat darkening on the other.
Slim boats sat waiting for clients. Our group was motioned onto one vessel and instructed to put on life jackets. It was pitch black as we pulled up to a barge for a buffet dinner. The central table was piled with platters of seafood, stew, rice and salads. A small group of musicians filled the night with exotic rhythms. Soon after we slid into a dark mangrove forest where fireflies put on a nightly show. Floating into the shallows, lightning strikes sporadically illuminated the mountains above. Our guide’s banter was fashioned for the amusement of tourists but we played along and enjoyed meeting other visitors, most of them from Manila.
The Islands of Honda Bay
Tours of Honda Bay are fashioned with something for everyone on several of the small islands close to town. First we stopped to rent snorkels and masks. We were told it was a good idea to wear water shoes to avoid stepping on sharp corals or biting fish. The Pambato Bay park was disappointing with pens, murky water and few fish. Many boats went to the party island, Cowrie, with it’s water sports, bars, music and massages. We headed over to the quieter, Luli Island for lunch and swimming in the shallows.
Although it was late morning, I spoke at length with the bartender who introduced me to joys of Tanduay Rum. (A bottle came back with me to California.) He shared tales about the families who own the various islands. Finally, the excursion ended with a visit to Starfish Island where the roped off area sheltered dozens of unique starfish in the shallows.
Underground River and paddling through mangroves
The UNESCO site of the Underground River is the area’s biggest draw. It’s a 3 hour van ride from the heart of Puerto Princesa. The winding road led us to the Sabang wharf area where we joined scores of tourists while waiting for our turn to board small boats. The boats carry visitors to the Underground River launch area. It was a hot and steamy wait, but people-watching was fun and cold drinks were plentiful.
The River tour was worth every melting minute. Once given a neck-piece audio device with narration in English, we stepped into a rowboat and were taken into the caves. Bats and Sparrows dove above our heads. Everyone was hushed, listening and watching intently. The undulating, limestone cave surfaces are unlike anything seen elsewhere. The fragile environment is being delicately developed with an eye to the future.
After a buffet lunch at the sleek Sheridan Beach Resort, we drove to the small encampment where row boats take visitors up a narrow, mangrove river. It was a stunning contrast to the crowds we’d endured earlier. The only visitors at the time, our guide and paddler led us into the wild world where we spied exotic birds, monitor lizards and sleeping snakes. I especially loved our guide launching into a song on the way back. She was shy and kindly sang of respect for the natural environment. As we disembarked, a group of Chinese tourists began filling the other boats. We were so lucky to have had the river to ourselves.
Butterflies and Palaw’an Tribesmen
Our final city tour took us to several spots around the town. We walked through the private WW2 museum full of artifacts about the key role Philippine soldiers played in battles against the Japanese. A Crocodile Farm housed giants and babies, local animals and a huge souvenir shop. Driving up into the suburban hills, Mitra’s Ranch mansion was a pleasant spot to cool off for a few moments before stopping at the Butterfly Garden. There were few butterflies, but behind a wall in the back we stepped into another world.
Several natives from the Palaw’an tribe sat waiting for visitors. They shared their hunting prowess with blow dart demonstrations and, through an interpreter, we learned about their musical instruments. The tribesmen come down from the jungles to earn money to buy chickens, we were told. It was encouraged to help preserve wildlife, but I wonder who is preserving who! The outpost sold beautiful handcrafts and I think of those gracious, young men when I admire the trinkets we brought home.
Bakers Hill and Gardens
Bakers Hill and Gardens had a theme park ambiance with statues of cartoon characters, selfie spots, snack bars and climbing gyms for the little ones. We mimicked other visitors snapping up boxes of purple Ube in the bakery (More about the local foods in this earlier post.) The small, creamy cakes are filled with Taro and traditionally made with ‘pork oil.’ We passed them around inside the van, trading more stories as we rode back to the hotel.
Plaza Cuartel and the market place
The morning we were to return to the US, we took a tricycle over to the WW2 memorial, Plaza Cuartel. The Spanish fort is gone but what does remain is a reverential space spotted with signs commemorating the Japanese massacre of American Soldiers. (Read more about that in this earlier post.)
I played hide and seek with a young boy in the gardens. He was thrilled to get his picture taken and followed me across the street to the Cathedral where a funeral was taking place. His family were attending but his mischievous spirit was more interested in finding someone to play with!
Puerto Princesa is a bustling but modest town that is well worth exploring. Four days makes no one an expert but, while it’s easy to share pictures of the beauty and rich colors of the region, I found that the wonders of the real Puerto Princesa are found in its people.
**About that dance: We weren’t the only ones being welcomed to Puerto Princesa. There was a delegation of media from South Korea arriving at the same time!
A huge thank you to everyone who made our stay so special. I hope you visit Puerto Princesa one day and explore the Philippines. I look forward to returning one day. Disclosure: Our tours were hosted by iTravel Tours and Philippine Tourism offices in Los Angeles as well as in Puerto Princesa. As always though, all opinions are my own.
Proudly connected to these vibrant tribes of bloggers:
Nomads in the desert at the Road Runner Complex
Don’t miss these Filipino Foods in Puerto Princesa
Badjao Seafood Restaurant
A floating restaurant and fireflies
The adventure didn’t stop there as Dave ordered Chicken Butts. I don’t care for chicken skin or fried foods that much but these were crunchy, moist inside and well seasoned. Everything else that we ate at Haim was flavorful, well cooked and served with care. The beer was cold, service attentive and prices moderate. I’d stop by again to try more of the menu.
iToys Specialty Coffee Haus
It’s a tourist stop full of photo opportunities and selfie spots but the bakery is what made the hill a destination. The most popular items in the small shop are boxes of purple, bean-stuffed pastries called Hopia Ube.They’re made with ‘pork oil’ (lard) or a newer version with vegetable oil. The hill is covered with statues dotting the lush gardens including giant snakes and tigers, Snow White and entourage, and other variations on Disney characters. A winding viewing platform near the back of the property is worth climbing for views of the city. We bought a box of the Ube because everyone else was and broke it open in the van. So glad we did and yes, it was the ‘pork oil’ version.
Enjoying this post? check out more about our adventures in Puerto Princesca.
Flipino foods forever!
We wandered the city for four days and loved exploring the Filipino foods of Palawan. I hope that you’ll stop in Puerto Princesa to explore as we did and not simply pass through on the way to other adventures on the island.
Disclosure: The Firefly tour dinner and the stop at Baker’s Hill were provided through the Philippines Tourism office in Los Angeles and coordinated with the Puerto Princesa Tourism team. Our final itinerary and van tours were provided by ITravel Tours, Events and Consultancy.
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Since 2013 there have been more than thirty-six deaths from falling in Yellowstone Park! Most have been falls into canyons. At Uncle Tom’s Trail it would be relatively easy to plunge from the 328 step stairway. The metal stairs twist down almost vertically for several hundred feet. Admittedly the view of the Lower Yellowstone Falls through rainbow mists and up into the rushing waters is worth the challenge but the ascent has its risks as well. Everyone climbs up from the scaffold with their hearts pounding from heat and exhaustion.
Too close for comfort
The NPS.Gov site reminds visitors that:
- All of Yellowstone Park is bear country
- If you go hiking, travel in groups of 3 or more.
- Make noise while hiking. A surprised bear can be a dangerous animal.
- Bear Spray works. Carry it where it can be accessed easily and quickly.
Here’s a short video of my close encounter with wildlife in Yellowstone Park.
Close encounter of the wild kind
Ambivalence or Ignorance?
We react to wilderness as “an endlessly interesting mixture of sympathy and fear, of love and hostility, of the impulse to embrace and the equally powerful urge to flee.”
If you go to Yellowstone Park:
- Check out my post about National Park Passes and free days.
- Be sure to review the National Park Service website.
- Brace for crowds during peak months and the Park Centennial (2016.)
- Start reserving your lodging months in advance.
- Pack for hot days and chilly nights during spring and summer.
- Stay alert. Take signage seriously. Have fun!
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Visiting the war museum and plaza memorial
“History ought never to be confused with nostalgia. It’s written not to revere the dead, but to inspire the living.”
~ Simon Schama, A History of Britain.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”~ George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905.
If you go:
- Museum details – Learn more about the history of the museum.
- Museum hours and location: Details for planning your visit
Many thanks to Philippines Tourism and to the Puerto Princesca Tourism office for all their assistance in planning this trip and the complementary tours.
What happened to our cruise holidays?
It doesn’t get much sweeter than this; sun most days of the year, easy to get to and affordable. Oceanside always surprises me. It’s one California beach city that is too often overlooked, but that’s changing.
Perched between the military base, Camp Pendelton, and San Diego proper, it’s often just a blip on the GPS for drivers going north or south, but they’re missing out. I love spending a day or two walking downtown, visiting the beach, the museums and discovering new restaurants and happy hours. The harbor area is worth exploring too.
The city rolls out its best for events year round. A giant heart balloon is seen around town during Valentine’s week. There are multiple charity runs and organized bike rides. Cultural events abound from the Oceanside museum, the Surf museum, the Starlight theater and galleries. The craft brew and gastropub scenes are percolating. Some great sushi and seafood can be found from white tablecloth establishments to casual pizza, health foods and taco stands.
My favorite is the beach. The pier is long and worth a stroll whether it’s stormy or the sky is bright. Along the waterfront quaint bungalows line the sea wall. The wide open sand makes dipping into the water a must. If you love surfing or boogie boarding, the waves will make you delirious.
Where to stay for your California beach adventure in Oceanside?
There are several BnB’s in the area and a number of hotels. The fresh, Springhill Suites Marriott, just a block from the water, is one choice. The view from their roof top pool is stunning.
Where to eat in Oceanside:
- Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub is a culinary adventure you’ll savor long after the plate’s clean. Award-winning, Chef Davin Waite features local seafood, produce, and chef-picked ingredients.
- Zig Zag Pizza Pie lets you pick your ingredients, your drinks out of the cooler and chops salads just steps from the Oceanside pier.
- Hello Betty Fish House has a California beach theme and fresh eats inside or out.
- Swami’s on Mission Avenue is one of the first healthy eating cafes in San Diego
- 333 Pacific is a Cohn family restaurant with a bit more polish than most in the pier neighborhood. Stylish cocktails and sumptuous fare.
- Masters Kitchen and Cocktail is a few blocks from downtown on South Coast Highway. It’s one of many innovative brew pubs / casual dining spots in the area. (Of course I had to include my namesake!)
- Living Tea Brewing Company serves fresh, organic Kombucha in their storefront at 302 Wisconsin Avenue. It’s also available bottled around San Diego.
Getting to your California beach adventure in Oceanside:
Drive: The beach is just west of the Interstate 5 freeway and Pacific Coast Highway off Mission Boulevard.
Ride: The Amtrak station is close to downtown and the beach. There’s a great deal for weekend travelers from Metrolink. You buy a pass for Saturday or Sunday for just $10 to travel anywhere Metrolink goes. It makes visiting Oceanside even easier with the terminus there and access to the Coaster and Amtrak lines throughout San Diego County (a separate ticket.)
Here’s some of the views going into Oceanside along the coast.
Whether it’s a short vacation or a swim stop between destinations, there’s lots to do and explore on a California beach adventure in Oceanside.
Extend your California beach adventure and travel anywhere on the Metrolink system for just $10 on Saturday or Sunday with the Weekend Day Pass. More info:http://www.metrolinktrains.com/news/p…
The Travel Roulette #120 Winner – Rachel Heller
Congratulations, Rachel for this shot that captures the mind-bending cultural contrast of a traditional kimono on a young woman capturing her travels on her cell phone.
Rachel is the founder of Rachel’s Ruminations
Carole from Travels with Carole. Getting Lei’d in Fiji, taken in Lawai Village, Fiji
Vicki at Make time to see the world sent in this: Temple Meets Technology from Vientiane, Laos
Thank you to everyone who participated and make sure that you send in your pictures by the deadline for next month’s contest.
Winner Travel Roulette #119 – Elaine J. Masters
One bright day the message came in, “You won!!”
I’d entered a picture into the Travel Photo Roulette contest and there it was. My blog’s picture on the theme of BLUE had been chosen. Wonderful! Who doesn’t love to win a contest?
Now, as winner, it falls to me to pick the next contest theme and host the contest. I hope you’ll scrub through your travel pictures and find one that is your perfect reflection of this month’s theme:
Travel Photo Roulette #120: Cultural Contrast
HOW TO ENTER TRAVEL PHOTO ROULETTE #120
To enter the Travel Photo competition simply leave a comment below with a (publicly accessible) link to your image (whether Flickr, Picasa, Smugmug, etc. or your own site) along with a brief description or caption for the photo. You must have a travel/photography blog to enter. Be sure to send the blog link as well as the picture link. Send the country and place. Descriptions aren’t necessary. The explanation should be in the shot.
The TPR #120 contest runs from today, Friday, January 15th – until midnight PST on Monday, January 25th.
Check back here throughout the submission period to see all the entries as they come in, and feel free to comment on them.
When the submission period ends. I’ll then have the (no doubt super tough) task of choosing my favorite, and will announce the lucky winner of TPR #120 here.
TRAVEL PHOTO ROULETTE CONTEST OVERVIEW
The contest rotates through travel/photography blogs, so the winner of the previous round of Travel Photo Roulette hosts the subsequent round on their own blog. The new host then chooses the next theme (a generic keyword or phrase) and bloggers submit their interpretations of the theme over the course of the contest.
At the end of the submission period, the hosting blogger chooses their favorite photo from the submissions, displays it as that round’s winning entry, and then passes the TPR baton on to the winner for the next round. Readers can attempt to sway the host blogger into picking a certain photo via comments, but the host ultimately freely chooses their favorite. The game is repeated with the winner hosting the following month’s game and choosing a theme for new photo submissions.
Feel free to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media so more people can join the contest. And do be sure to use the hashtag #PhotoRoulette
TRAVEL PHOTO ROULETTE CONTEST GUIDELINES
- One submission per blog, so sites that have 2+ authors only get one entry.
- Post processing is permitted, but photo altering is not (e.g., using Photoshop to remove elements.)
- An abstract submission is welcome as long as it fits within the interpretation of the chosen theme. Remember, the hosting blogger chooses the winner, so if they can’t understand the submission, you might not win!
- Please try and keep your images medium-sized and web-optimized.
- If you win, keep these in mind when choosing a new theme: Keep phrases general so that all bloggers can participate. Specific items like “Eiffel Tower” should be avoided but rather made open-ended like “monuments.” For variety, it’s okay to say focused things such as “monuments at night” which most of us have pictures of. Phrases can be generic (e.g. “signs”), or abstract (e.g. “religion”).
- Use something that is able to be interpreted by all.
- After 1 year, phrases can be reused, however new photos must be submitted.
- No obscene pictures or phrases allowed. Suggestive phrases and photography can be accepted, but please keep it within reason.
- Keep the ideas and photos fresh!
- Pictures from your entire portfolio are fair to submit. You do not have to take the photo within the duration of the contest period to submit it.
- Most importantly, all photographs must be your own.
- One last rule, since this is a competition for travel and photography bloggers, you must have a travel/photography blog to enter. Sorry!
I’m such a sucker for great pictures and so look forward to seeing your entries. You can see more of mine on my Instagram feed @tripwellgal. I’m obsessed with Insta!
Oh and… share, Share, SHARE this post using #PhotoRoulette
See all previous winners at the end of this post.
I hope you enjoyed this and will take the challenge. Share with your friends, #PhotoRoulette and pin this!
Check out these other fine blog linkups: Photo Friday
Previous Travel Photo Roulette Winners:
- Nov 2010 Living the Dream: Animals
- Nov 2010 Skinny Backpacker: Road Signs
- Nov 2010 Dream a Little Dream: Street Art
- Dec 2010 Flashpacker HQ: Festival
- Dec 2010 Over Yonderlust: Landmarks
- Dec 2010 Don’t Ever Look Back: Beaches
- Jan 2011 ThePlanetD: Portraits
- Jan 2011 Travel with a Mate: Motion
- Jan 2011 Johnny Vagabond Water
- Feb 2011 Ken Kaminesky: Urban
- Feb 2011 Travels of Adam: Friday Night
- Mar 2011 Itchy Feet Chronicles: The Journey
- Mar 2011 Brendan’s Adventures Changing Seasons
- Apr 2011 Shutterfeet: Storytelling
- Apr 2011 10 Times One: Piousness
- Apr 2011 Beached Eskimo: Learning
- May 2011 Travel Junkies: Architecture
- Jun 2011 Destination World: Transportation
- Jun 2011 Living the Dream: Paradise
- Jun 2011 Vagabond Quest: Clothes
- Jul 2011 The Unframed World: Symmetry
- Jul 2011 Beached Eskimo: Home
- Jul 2011 BackPackerBanter: Inspiration
- Aug 2011 WanderingTrader: Darkness
- Aug 2011 Finding the Universe: Tranquillity
- Sep 2011 Fearful Adventurer: Food
- Sep 2011 Adventures of a GoodMan: City
- Oct 2011 Globe-Trekking.com: Reflection
- Oct 2011 Scene With A Hart: Framing
- Nov 2011 Vagabond Quest: Silhouettes
- Nov 2011 Hecktic Travels: Music
- Dec 2011 Globetrotter Girls: Love
- Dec 2011 Man on the lam: Humor
- Jan 2012 My Walkabout: Winter
- Jan 2012 The Art of Slow Travel: Blue
- Feb 2012 Ten times One: Depth of the Field
- Mar 2012 Nomadbiba: Sunshine
- Mar 2012 Travel With Kat: Local Character
- Apr 2012 The Travel Bunny: Street Scene
- Apr 2012 Adventure Crow Spirit of the Country
- May 2012 Food Travel Bliss: Evening
- May 2012 Matt Gibson Adventure
- May 2012 Flashpacker HQ: Once In A Lifetime
- Jul 2012 Skinny Backpacker: Surreal
- Aug 2012 2away: Smile
- Aug 2012 Bridges and Balloons: Excellent Splendour of the Universe
- Sep 2012 The GypsyNester: What the ?!
- Oct 2012 Runaway Juno: Sweet
- Nov 2012 GQ Trippin: Play
- Nov 2012 Life’s Little Victories: Friendship
- Dec 2012 Breakaway Backpacker: Face
- Jan 2013 Fly, Icarus, Fly: Serendipity
- Feb 2013 Travel Transmissions: Lost in Thought
- Feb 2013 Wanderlusters: The Natural World
- Mar 2013 Travel Junkies: Patterns
- Apr 2013 Living the Dream: Your First Time
- May 2013 Getting Stamped: The Sun Goes Down
- Jun 2013 The GypsyNester: Cheesy Tourist Diversions
- Jun 2013 Boomeresque: Revolution
- Jul 2013 Breakaway Backpacker: Colorful
- Aug 2013 Around This World: Mountains
- Aug 2013 Passports and Pamplemousse Hands at Work
- Sep 2013 TurtlesTravel Dance
- Sep 2013 Keep calm and travel The Sea
- Sep 2013 Travel Photo Discovery: The Market
- Oct 2013 Am I Nearly There Yet?: Travel Fails
- Oct 2013 The GypsyNester: Weird Regional Foods
- Nov 2013 Sophie’s World: Trees
- Nov 2013 SHOuTography: Party
- Dec 2013 Adventures of a Goodman: Ruin
- Dec 2013 Have Blog Will Travel: Light
- Jan 2014 This World Rocks: Crowds
- Jan 2014 Travel Past 50: Competition
- Feb 2014 The Working Traveller: Working
- Mar 2014 Travels with Carole: Umbrellas
- Apr 2014 Independent Travel Help Quirky
- Apr 2014 Quit Job Travel World Statues
- May 2014 Nomad is Beautiful People Sleeping
- May 2014 Backpack Me: Mouthwatering
- Jun 2014 20 Years Hence: The Face of A Nation
- Jul 2014 Two for the Road: Into the Wild
- Jul 2014 TurtlesTravel: Summer!
- Aug 2014 Adventures Around Asia: Candid
- Aug 2014 Travel with Kevin and Ruth: Hiking
- Sept 2014 Till The Money Runs Out: Transport
- Sept 2014 The Crowded Planet: Wild World
- Sept 2014 ZigZag On Earth: The 4 Elements
- Oct 2014 Travel Addicts: Heritage
- Oct 2014 Living the Dream: Your Grand Adventure
- Oct 2014 Getting Stamped: Inspire
- Nov 2014 Flashpacker HQ: Viewpoint
- Jan 2015 Adventures of a GoodMan: WOW!
- Jan 2015 ZigZag On Earth: Roads and Tracks
- Feb 2015 Where’s The Gos?: Street Art
- Mar 2015 Ice Cream and Perma Frost: Frozen
- Mar 2015 Journey Jottings: Detail
- April 2015 House Sitting Travel: What’s your Angle?
- April 2015 JetWayz: Spiritual Beauty
- April 2015 The Trading Travelers: Celebrate
- May 2015 Street Food World Tour: Epic
- May 2015 Next Stop Who Knows: Landscape
- May 2015 We Travel Together: Wildlife
- May 2015 Vagabond Way: Festival
- June 2015 Travel Addicts: Landmarks
- June 2015 TravelnLass: Wrinkles
- July 2015 Anita’s Feast: Food Markets
- July 2015 Dare2Go: Dry
- August 2015 Travel Past 50: Home
- August 2015 Barefoot Nomad: Door
- September 2015 House Sitting Travel: Shapes
- September 2015 Berkeley and Beyond: Cemeteries
- October 2015 Dare2Go: Reflections
- October 2015 Journey Jottings: Thirst Quenching
- November 2015 Not A Ballerina: Home Away From Home
- November 2015 Nibble, Sip, Wander: Holiday
- December 2015 Travel with Kat: Light
- December 2015 Let Me Be Free: Traditions
- December 2015 TravelnLass: Blue
- January 2016 Trip Wellness: Cultural Contrast