A Travellerspoint blog

Carnival Splendor - Mediterranean Cruise 2008

Greece, Turkey, Italy


View Europe in 3 weeks - France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Greece on jptablante's travel map.

2008 is the first year that the Carnival Splendor sails the Mediterranean. My boyfriend and I booked our tour with his family's reunion. His mom works part-time as a travel agent, too. So, we were able to book the tour with discounts. We boarded the Splendor for the Mediterranean cruise at the port in Civitavecchia, Italy. It's far from the train station so we split a taxi cab ($5/pp) with friends. You can also take a local bus but you might have to do a lot of waiting and figuring out which way it goes. I shared a room with his sister and grandma. Cruise ships are fun because you'll never get bored. There are a lot of activities and new stuff to check out. Each time you leave a port, they have themed bazaar and serve ethnic/international food. At night, you can soak in the hot spa, watch outdoor movies, join karaoke fun, go dancing or drinking with your friends, try your luck at the casino, watch a show, or eat more food at the 24-hour buffet! During the day, you can relax at the spa or work out in the gym, swim, play kiddie golf, join the deck's game/contest, or just read up and rest for you next day's tour. I love the towels they fold up into animals each day you get back from a day trip. During our dinner one night, we were surprised when the servers started singing and dancing and put up a number. They're super friendly and very entertaining.

Sicily was probably where we felt rushed the most. We

Posted by jptablante 24.06.2011 09:53 Comments (0)

Mazatlan, Mexico: winter break

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Friends from work and I decided to start the new year right by flying to Mazatlan, Mexico. I've been wanting to soak in the sun and enjoy a warm weather so it was a perfect get-away. We stayed near the Zona Dorada area, which has many interesting shops. I found a 3-floor high miniature pyramid ruin and decided to climb it for fun. The steps are very narrow and I was scared but, it was just what I needed for some cheap thrills. I love the Sea Shell City store, which also has a small museum on the 2nd floor. They have many types of sea shells and dried water creatures that I've never seen before. I got a couple of seahorses and cross sections of sea shells, which I'll make into pendants. I really liked the restaurant, across the street from it and at the end of a line of shops. It has a nice outdoor ambience right on the waterfront.

We frequented our favorite Rico's cafe and Panama restaurant and bakery. They have really good food, at least much better and cheaper than at the hotel. There's also this really good and super cheap taco Pastor near front of Holiday Inn and they're just delicious! They're cooking them right on the street so it's easy to find. We had some tortilla soup, which was really good but a little salty for my taste. I also like the Michael's art gallery and all the handmade crafts they sell. They're very unique and colorful, a little pricey but well worth it.

On Sunday, we took the bus to downtown and visited the town's cathedral. We did our own walking tour and stopped by the mercado central, the plaza, the Catedral de la Purisma Concepcion, Teatro Angela Peralta, the diving cliff, and the beautiful historic downtown. I wasn't able to hike the Lighthouse, visit Valentino's castle (although we drove by it), or do some island hopping just so we can relax more at the resort. A lady gave us a boogie board as she was leaving but when we went out to swim, there were signs of jellyfish warning. We even found couple of small dead jellyfish washed out to the shore. It wasn't worth the risk so we just hang out at the hotel's endless pool, which is right on the beach. The beach is quite a scene. You see mariachi musicians walking with their guitars, vendors selling toys, food, and souvenirs, and tourists trying on water activities. In the morning, I saw divers snorkling and diving by the shore for some fresh lobsters. There's so much to do in Mazatlan that I wish we could have stayed longer.

Posted by jptablante 20.01.2010 02:30 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Hawaii - Big Island and Honolulu

Big Island - Kona, South Point, Volcano National Park, Hilo, Puna, O'ahu / Honolulu - Waikiki and Diamond Head Trail

semi-overcast 76 °F
View Hawaii on jptablante's travel map.

We flew to Hawaii in February while airfare is still low, although it's supposed to be a peak season. Hotels are still reasonably priced at this time, too. I booked my flight through expedia.com and got a direct round trip flight to Honolulu (about 5 hours each way) for $420. Citibank was giving away a $50 credit for new card members so I was able to get the flight for less than $400. It got even better. It took a while for the bank to approve my credit card application and by the time I got my card, expedia will not credit me with the $50 offer. Citibank was offering bonus points through thankyounetwork.com but instead, I decided to accept the $100 hotel coupon that expedia was offering. The coupon got us a free one-night stay at Kona Seaside in Big Island. It's a great 2-star hotel and right in the busy town of Kailua-Kona. It's a walk to all the great shops, restaurants, bars, library, grocery store... everything and only a few miles away from the airport. They even allowed us to stay past our check-out time. You can check out as late as 5PM if there is no reservation made to that room that day.
In Honolulu airport, we took the free Wiki-Wiki bus to the inter-island flights waiting room. Our inter-island flight through Go! was about $80 per person. There are also direct flights to the Big Island (Kona or Hilo) from San Francisco but they're a hundred or more expensive than our indirect flight. The terminal has a night courtyard garden but it's a little chaotic and disorganized. We were all lined up in gate 34, as directed by this lady who checked our tickets. Then, there was a guy in the intercom who keeps on telling us to go to a different gate number. Everyone was confused and has this puzzled look in their face. Eventually, we were able to board from the same gate. One guy shook his head and said "Only in Hawaii...". And he was right. In Kona, a storekeeper asked us to come back later because she's going out to lunch with her friend and her dog (I think they were about to go surfing). When we came back later that afternoon, the store was open but she wasn't there so we waited. Another customer came and said the same thing - "only in Hawaii...". Gosh, this is such a laid-back town - it's sooo cool! Anyway, while waiting for your flight, do not miss out on the free magazines and booklets they have, which have coupons and lists of things to do and places to check out for each of the islands - Maui, Kawaii, Oahu, and the Big Island. My favorite was the "101 Things to Do" magazine. I remember how I picked one up in Napa, CA and I still have it to this day. I found some really cool tips and offers in this magazine. This is where I found out that we can check out the Manta Rays in Hilton hotel at night during their feeding (across the Crystal Lounge balcony). Also, we found a discount offer for our snorkeling gear at Boss Frog's in Kona with a 2-for-1 discount, which amounts to $4.50 per person for one week. We only had it for 2 days but it was cheaper than the daily $2.50/day regular rental. The magazine also has lots of coupons for tours like helicopter tours or Glass-bottom Catamaran tours.

Kona airport is very serene and pretty with its hut-like terminals. Our 3-day car rental with Budget costed us about $100. We were glad that we turned down all the extras that they were offering us and decided to go with the basic economy car. We actually got an upgrade maybe because they overbooked their basic economy car. They tried to get more money from us by charging us for gas (even though we opted out of it and refueled the car ourselves) but after disputing the receipt, we were able to keep our savings. One thing you need to watch out for in Hawaii is your speed. Police cars are unmarked and getting a ticket is very expensive and can be a big headache. The speed limit in the main road is usually 35-55 mph that sometimes what takes 10 minutes here can take 20 minutes to drive just because of posted speed limit. Plan ahead if you're planning to take the bus that runs from Kona to Hilo and back. There are no marked bus stops and no one knows what the bus schedule is like but there's supposed to be a bus every half hour until about 6 pm.
We booked our first night at Manago with a room and a shared bath ($25/person/night) and had dinner their. Their fried fish was delicious and they serve it with sides (macaroni, lima beans, and coleslaw). It's an old hotel so it's just right for sleeping. The next day, we got our snorkeling gear and headed to Hilo. On our way, we checked out the Southest part of US at South Point, which is 12 miles off the main highway. Afterwards, we stopped by Hawaii's famous Punalu'u Bakery (the southernmost bakery in US). I love their taro bread and their apple pecan bread pudding! There are a lot of must-see spots along the way. We checked out the Black Sand beach and watched the green turtles (named after the color of their meat) lazily sunbathing near the shore. The tiny, black sands that cover this area is just amazing! I was planning to take some sand with me but beware! There was a belief that taking any rocks or remnants of the lava from the island brings bad luck that there are several people who actually shipped back the rocks they took and pay high-postage stamps to break the curse. So, I decided to just take more pictures. Our next stop was the National Volcano Park. Here, we checked out the steam vents, sulfur build-ups, lava tubes, and several craters along the Chain of Craters road. We saw a full rainbow that ends in a crater near us. At first, it appears like an illusion but then another rainbow starts to form on top of it! This is probably the only place on earth where you can see full, endless rainbows - stacked in doubles! There was no live lava flow that day. We were able to get a glimpse of some of the gleaming lava during a night hike. At the end of Highway 37 is a dirt road and a small park covered with cooled, black lava. At night, cars can enter until 8PM and the park closes at 10 PM. After a 10 minute hiking in the dark with headlights and flashlights, we were able to see the orange glow of smoke and lava as the lava hits the ocean water. I think that if you really want to see a live lava flow, the helicopter tour will be your only option since they close most of the roads to protect the people. Unless one of the craters becomes active again during your visit, your chance of seeing one inside the park may be slim.

The weather in Hilo side is really unpredictable with several outpours of mild rain. After a while, we stopped running after the umbrella for every sign of rain and instead, we learned to just wait for a few minutes until the rain stops and the sun comes out again. In Hilo, we stayed at an international lodging place called Arnott's Lodge for ($20/person/night). The room is inside an apartment-like area with shared kitchen, bath, and living room (with an extra bed). This place is so lively with people from different places, age groups, and language. You can even camp for $20/night/tent in the front lawn area. This is also a good place to buy discounted tours to Mauna Kea or helicopter tours. Definitely check out Hilo's Saturday local Farmer's Market. I was in tropical fruit heaven with all the chicos (pear-like but sweet!), papaya, starfruit, rambutan (lychee-like), mangoes, and guyabanos I can eat! The have a lot of good food and fresh tropical flowers in banana-leaf covered pots. Hilo is great because it's where you can really be in the local scenes. Not far from the farmer's market is the Banyan Tree park and the Japanese garden where you can bring all that good food and enjoy a little picnic. In Puna, we passed by the lava trees park on our way to Isaac Hale State Park where watching surfing pros can be as thrilling as soaking in its hidden hot spring. The hot spring was small but very nice and warm. Facing the ocean, it's in the right side of the pier across the beach area where locals surf. There's a much bigger hot spring (looks more like a public pool) in another park not far from this park but the water there was not warm and it's more crowded, too. We tried snorkeling in this part of the island as well but the waves were rough and the underwater lava rocks can be sharp. But, it's definitely a good place to see the green corals (I even found a bright pink/red one).
We drove by the small town of Pahoa to get something to eat before we headed back to highway 11 and north towards highway 19 to head back to Kona. In the map, you'll find Saddle Road, which can take you up to Mauna Kea (the world's tallest mountain by measure, taller than Mount Everest - the higest mountain above sea level). Mauna Kea's summit houses the world's largest observatory and it's usually covered with snow in winter. Driving in Saddle Road is difficult and rental companies does not allow rental cars to be driven along this road. So, the best and safest road to drive between Kona and Hilo is highway 11 in the south and 19 in north. Highway 19 can be very rainy and foggy at times but the best route to catch a view of tall, lively waterfalls in your left and the beautiful coastline in your right.
Kona is the best place to snorkel and for beginners to surf because of its calm water. My most unforgetable experience here will be swimming with the Spinner Dolphins by Kelakekua Bay/Captain Cook monument for free! It's a little scary at first because the water keeps getting in my snorkeling mask and the water is a little cold in the morning. Also, the sea floor is bare - no tropical fish or anything, maybe a few corals and some rocks. I finally found courage when I saw a lady head out with her underwater camera. I forgot all the fears and worries after I saw a group of spinner dolphins swimming underneath me. I started following them around to take pictures. It's kind of hard to take pictures with a disposable camera when you're snorkeling because of its small view finder and the snorkel mask that keeps on getting in the way. Fortunately, I got some great shots! By the way, if you happen to have problems with your mask, just make sure it's really tight and keep pushing it towards your face to maintain some kind of vacuum and good seal.

The nightlife in Kona is wonderful. There's a lot of places to go dancing, such as Hugo's, and eat! I love the Monte Carlo sandwich I tried at Quinn's (next to Kona Seaside hotel). It's a turkey, ham, and cheese sandwich deep-fried in batter and served with confetti sugar and fries! Another food to try in Hawaii are the yummy Malasadas. We got some in Crisy's Bakery along highway 11 but the best ones are at Leonard's (a chain bakery). I tried some in Honolulu and the Malasada puffs stuffed with pineapple custard was the best! Before we flew back Honolulu, we decided to take a coffee plantation tour at Mountain Thunder. There we watched how hard and dirty making coffee can be. We tried some of the cherry-red coffee buds from the plants and they were a little sweet!

In Honolulu, we had some drinks at Duke's and listen to the outdoor live band as we watch the sunset. Unfortunately, there were some clouds and we didn't get to see any green flash. On our last day in Hawaii, we hiked the Diamond Head Trails (park entrance was $8/car) to get to the summit. It's an interesting hike along dirt roads, steep stairs, up to a spiral staircase and out to this narrow opening to the top of the tower. The 360-view up there was amazing. It has a great view of Waikiki and you can even see a part of Molokai. There is tram that goes around Honolulu that can take you to this park. Finally, we wrapped up our trip by hitting all the ABC stores along Waikiki beach. They have the best, cheap, and good-quality souvenirs and macadamia nuts! Surf board rentals in Waikiki is about $20/hour and it goes up with lessons. A lot of people just soak under the sun and enjoy people-watching and playing in the sand. There is also a zoo a few blocks away from the beach. There are so many more of Hawaii to explore that it gives you more reasons to go back and catch more rainbows!

Posted by jptablante 20.02.2009 12:54 Archived in USA Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

Living La Vida Loca - California-dreamin'

Best places and hang out spots around and near California

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The bay area is just so interesting. Each city offers so many different things to see and do. If you want to find great places to visit, eat, check out, etc - Yelp it! Go to yelp.com and see what other people has to say before you hit the road or open your wallet. Here's my own yelp reviews: http://jocel.yelp.com/

Other places to check out is the 2008 Webby Award Nominee: http://weekendsherpa.com/archives/. Find your next weekend adventure! For international travel or out of state travel, check out the newsletters at http://www.away.com/

Here are some of my favorite spots in the bay area:

  • North part, there's Napa and Sonoma - Cornerstone Gardens, Jack London's house, COPA and downtown Napa, shopping outlets.
  • By the coast: Fort Ross, Mendocino, Fort Bragg, Bodega Bay. I love the campsites at MacKerricher State Park, where you can go tide-pooling and whale watching. The Samuel Taylor campground is also nice and closer to Point Reyes and it's where you can actually see salmon swim upstream. Tomales Bay is the perfect place to go clamming and watch manta rays and tiger sharks swim.
  • Hike to Alamere Falls and jump into the Bear Lake on your way back to cool off.
  • Best places to surf are at Pacifica Beach, Bolinas, and Santa Cruz.
  • On the Marin County side of Golden Gate: Sausalito (bike and ferry to SF), Corte Madera's Ring Mountain, Muir Woods, and downtown Mill Valley.
  • Bike route from San Francisco Ferry Bldg to Sausalito - I look forward to sunny days when I can hop in and Bart to San Francisco and bike my favorite loop/route in the city. Get off Embarcadero and bike towards the Ferry Bldg, where you can shop their farmer's market and arts and crafts booths on Saturdays. Head to Fisherman's Wharf from here. On your way, you'll see Coit Tower and there are steps/stairs trails that can you lead up there. The steps start near Battery Street and across Levi's Museum square. Coit Tower marks the end of Lombard Street. If you decide to drive up to Coit Tower, follow Lombard Street and it'll take you to the some of the favorite spots in SF. The Crooked Road is actually part of Lombard Street, which eventually leads you to the Golden Gate. Just before getting into Golden Gate, you can get off Lombard and check out the Fine Arts, Exploratorium, Crissy Field beach, and the rest of Presidio. My bike route actually passes to this area. Anyway, when you get to Fisherman's Wharf, you can check out the sea lions (which migrate in July-August) and the classic arcade Museo Mechanique and hear the fat lady laugh! Behind this museum are other museums that exhibit submarines and torpedoes. After you get your clam chowder, bike past Ghirardelli towards the marina area where you'll find this small hill. On the other side of the hill is Fort Mason and from here, you can see the Golden Gate bridge. Head towards the Golden Gate bridge. Soon, you will see the Fine Arts' dome and exploratorium across the street and Crissy Field beach on your right. Follow the road adjacent to Crissy Field (entrance to the Presidio). Crissy Field is a good place to rest and watch dogs play as well as windsurfers launch. There's also a good view of the Alcatraz from here. If it's too cold outside and you want to get some coffee and be indoor and still be able to enjoy the view of the water, check out that little museum near Crissy Field (and next to Sports Basement - which I think is the best place to shop for outdoor stuff (backpacks, gears, etc) plus they have a ping pong table where you can play while you wait for your friends to finish shopping). From here, you can continue biking towards Golden Gate bridge (just follow everyone else). There's another hill that you need to climb up to get to Lincoln Avenue where you'll find the trail to the biking area (left side of the bridge) to cross the bridge. Once you cross the bridge, it's all downhill to Sausalito, which is on the other side of the freeway. Enjoy the rest of the day in Sausalito. The last Ferry, where you can take your bike with you back to the Ferry Bldg in SF, leaves at 5PM so make sure you don't miss it and always check the time schedule as soon as get to Sausalito so you can plan your stay around it.
  • If you feel like taking the Bart and Cable car to Fisherman's Wharf from Powell and Market, don't forget to check out Bloomingdale's fancy food court (across Briston Farms) and Westlake Dome at the top floor. Across the street, catch a 3D movie at Metreon and check out the waterfall in the garden and the Jewish Art Museum. Each year, they also have great car shows and exhibits at Moscone Center. Yerba Buena is fun - Ice Skating, Bowling, and more!. There's also outdoor ice skating at Embarcadero andUnion Square during the holidays. Bayanihan Cultural Center (6th and Mission) is the place to go in November for their free holiday lantern workshop. Powell and Market is where you'll find group of people (young and old) playing chess.
  • Inner Richmond: Irish bakery and European food market (as well as Russian Cinderella restaurant) off Geary. Yummy dumplings at Clement St. Philippine Consulate home is just around the corner.
    Golden Gate Park: California Academy of Sciences, top floor of De Young Museum (by the other gift shop), Legion of Honor, Japanese Tea Garden pagoda, and Stow Lake.
  • San Francisco Zoo and the Great Highway - Cliff House and the remains of the bathhouse
    San Mateo Convention Center, surfing at the Museum, South San Francisco target shooting range, El Camino Real Filipino restaurants, and Tanforan mall.
  • Glen Park
  • Daly City Lucky Chances Casino
  • SF Nightlife: 1984 CatClub, sfclubs.org, Mehjool at mission and 20th St. Broadway St. in SF. Boot-town /Little Italy. China town and Japan Town.
  • Eastbay (Concord/Antioch/Walnut Creek): Black Diamond Mines Regional Park, Waterworld, Mt. Diablo, Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Heather Farms, downtown Walnut Creek, Vasco Road caves. For kids, take them to Pixie Land (amusement park) and the Jungle. Indoor rock climbing at Diablo Rock.
  • Berkeley Indian Rock and Rose Garden, Tilden Park and Brazil Bldg.
  • Lake Chabot, Chabot Planetarium, Oakland Zoo, Mormon Temple, Jack London Square, Rockridge, Lake Merritt Boat Club, El Cerrito Plaza and Pool.

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  • South Bay - Hayward to Carmel
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  • iFly, Union City and all the Filipino food (Gerry's Grill)
  • San Jose - Santana Row and Winchester Mystery House. They're right across each other. Santana Row is the perfect place to hang out (but not to shop). Enter Valencia hotel and proceed to the 2nd floor lobby. Next to the elevator is a narrow hallway. On the right side of the hallway is a really nice lounge/bar with a balcony that overlooks the streets of Santana Row. On the left side is a beautiful courtyard with patio seating and outdoor heat lamps. There are also fire pits to keep you warm. The lighted water cascading falls are awesome at night. Then, grab some delicious desert at Cocola (a block away) and challenge your friends to some outdoor chess by the wine bar in the center isle and move that gigantic 2.5-feet pawn with your two hands across that huge floor chess tiles. There are so many places to check out around here, such as the Saturday farmer's market and pet parades.
  • Also, Rosucrucian Egyptian garden and museum (Naples Ave. - couple of blocks from the Rose garden and not far from Santana Row).
  • Nightlife in downtown San Jose - Spend the day at the Tech Museum and the Modern Art Museum and party all night club-hoping and bar-hoping at all these awesome clubs and bars that downtown has to offer.
  • Citybeach, Fremont - the place to be if you want a sporty-gym where you can play sports indoor with family and friends. Try your skills in rock climbing, volleyball, basketball, ping-pong, bouce or just lay back with playing pool/billiards, air hockey, foosball, and another one of those gigantic, floor chess. They also have a grill/bar where you can recharge with some delicious food and drinks.
  • Skyhigh, Santa Clara - trampoline/exhibition gym anyone?
  • Great America and Raging Water
  • Gilroy Garlic Festival
  • Santa Cruz - Lighthouse Beach (best surfing - W. Cliff Dr.), Boardwalk, Mystery Spot, Seabright Beach bonfires.
  • Carmel downtown, Mission Carmel, and the 17-mile road to Pacific Grove and Monterey.
  • Yosemite and Mono Lake
  • Bear Valley and Alpine Lake - outdoor rockclimbing.
  • Also, Saratoga Mountain Winery and Turtle Creek. Gold mining at Sonora. Dead volcanoes and caverns at Volcano, CA
  • Snow is just few hours away at resorts like Boreal, Heavenly, Alpine Lake, Bear Valley, and NorthStar. Then, cross over to Nevada and check out Lake Tahoe and casinos in Reno.

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  • On your way to LA or just outside LA:
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  • Santa Barbara (Old Spanish Days Festival), Pismo Beach
  • Hearst Castle in San Simeon (along highway 1), San Luis Obispo, and Solvang
  • Mission San Fernando, Mission Hills (north 5/405 intersection)
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Dana Point whale watching (75 milles south)

    Some of my favorite spots in LA (other than Disneyland, Hollywood, and Universal Studios)

  • Getty Museum in town off 405 (free admission). Cool Tram Ride and great view and gardens!
  • Getty Villa in Malibu (reservations). Also in Malibu, Zuma Beach, Paradise Cove, and Malibu Creek State Park for camping
  • Malibu ocean kayaking (also at Mothers beach - Marina del Rey)
  • Santa Monica 3rd St. Promenade, Boardwalk Pacific Park and Rides, Muscle Beach, Point Dume Beach. Cheap eats at S.M.
  • Segway rentals at Segway L.A. on 1660 Ocean Blvd. Santa Monica, Horse back riding (in the Santa Monica mountains)
  • Venice Beach (you can rent bikes), street performers, muscle beach
  • Beverly Hills Park at end of Rodeo Dr., the City Hall, Beverly Hills Hotel, Polo Lounge
  • Trolley tours of star homes Hollywood or downtown, Baldwin Hills or get a $5 map of star homes (Beverly Hills Rodeo Dr.)
  • Griffith Park and Observatory (reservations now required). The new Oschin Planetarium show is the best!
  • Near that area: Greek Theater, Bird Sanctuary, Los Angeles Zoo (parking site for Griffith Observatory/Hollywood Bowl)
  • Gene Autrey Western Museum + Travel Town (railroad museum)
  • West Hollywood, Walk of Fame/Stars (3 ½ miles round trip), Graumin’s Chinese Theater, and Hollywood Bowl concerts (arrange parking first)
  • Ford’s Theater (across the 101 from the Hollywood Bowl) smaller shows than the Bowl
  • Hollywood Wax Museum and Kodak Theater tour, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum (across from wax museum)
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Hollywood Park Race, Forum, horse racing, and casino.
  • Haunted Hollywood Tour
  • Museum of Tolerance
  • Hollywood sign hike and pics, L.A.pics
  • Paramount Pictures Tour (9AM), Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Walk of Fame
  • Studio tours: Universal/City Walk or Warner Bros., NBC, Disney, Dreamworks
  • La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum on Wilshire @ Fairfax
  • Farmers Market at the Grove. Go to Charley’s Café in the Farmer’s Market. Go the closest booth at Fairfax and W. 3rd.
  • Exposition Park Rose Garden (USC)
  • MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and LACMA
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall (downtown)—stunning architecture!
  • Downtown L.A.-Lummis house, Angels flight
  • China town, Korea town (karaoke), Little Tokyo
  • Dodger stadium baseball game, Home Depot Stadium
  • Lakers Basketball at the Staples arena
  • Huntington Beach Surfing and Surf Museum (they spend a lot of time and money on constant activities)
  • Foose Auto Design (See Overhaul’in TV Show) and Huntington Beach boardwalk
  • Petersen Auto Museum (car “rallys” from Huntington Beach - see the stars cars and the Ferrari collection)
  • Huntington library and gardens (San Marino)
  • Volley ball and tournaments (Huntington Beach)
  • USC and UCLA football, LA Coliseum or Rose Bowl
  • Redondo Beach and Pier
  • Orange County
  • L.A. barhopper mystery bus, L.A. Open at Riviera Country Club, L.A. Equestrian Center
  • Big Bear skiing
  • Palm Springs golf and tram ride
  • River Walk and L.A. River Gardens
  • Citadel Outlet Mall (Commerce, CA)
  • Commerce Casino Club (Commerce, CA) and Bicycle Club Casino (Bell Gardens, CA.)
  • Cerritos Titanium Library
  • Disneyland (Anaheim)
  • Knotts Berry Farm's roller coaster rides, 6 Flags/Magic Mountain
  • Water parks-hurricane harbor, soak city, raging rivers
  • Long Beach: Aquarium of the Pacific and Queen Mary (haunted ship/hotel)
  • Catalina Island, catamaran to Avalon out of Long Beach or Newport beach, concerts and the casino - service now available out of Marina del Rey (Helicopter Service $150. now available out of San Pedro)
  • Hike up Mt. Lee and visit Bronson (Batman) caves
  • Rose Parade in Pasadena
  • Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena)
  • Santa Anita race track, and L.A.. Botanic Gardens -Arcadia, CA.
  • Mt. Wilson observatory-(UCLA astronomy-Cal. Rt #2))
  • Gondola ride at Naples Island (Alimitos Bay)
  • Renaissance Festival
  • Rockwalk at the Guitar Center
  • Graumans Egyptian Theater
  • El Capitan Theater
  • Dominator ship wreck hike
  • Tilmann Japanese garden (San Fernando Valley)
  • San Bernadino Route 66 classic car show (Sept.13-16)
  • Descanso Gardens (La Canada)
  • Brand Park/Glendale library
  • San Antonio and Temecula winery tours
  • Lake Arrowhead

    Other places to check out or for dining:

  • Beach bonfire—monthly specials (free wood and hotdogs)
  • Helicopter tour of L.A, indoor skydiving
  • Fashion district-(11th St. + Santee), L.A. Fashion week (bargains)
  • Melrose Trading Post (Saturdays only)
  • Eat at Pinks, Pinkberry, or In-and-Out Burger. Pink Hotdogs is very popular with all different combinations.
  • Bob Morris’s Paradise Cove Café, Sunday Morning Brunch (North of Malibu maybe 5 miles—look for Paradise Cove signs)
  • Spago in Beverly Hills, great Wolfgang Puck restaurant. You might meet Wolfgang
  • Ivy, Kitson (on N. Robertson), Hotel Marmont,
  • Club at Hyde, Area, Teddy’s, Priviledge, Les Deux, Parc, Mood, Skybar, Roxy, Tryst, Whiskey (a-go-go), The Spyder Club, The Viper Room, House of Blues.
  • Beverly Hilton, Trader Vics, Sparkles
  • Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf + Tito tacos (Culver City)
  • Eat at Mr. Chow’s or Koi or Yamashiro
  • Fred Segal (this is mostly for women and gay guys I guess)
  • Papa Christo’s Thursday Greek Dinner (pico/normandie) - Real Store with restaurant attached. This authentic experience including belly dancer and classes for the ladies won’t last in it’s present shape too long as it is sold out on Thursdays. It’s inexpensive and Chrys’s Daughter graduates from business school next year and if she has any sense will turn this into something bigger. Make sure to make reservations for the Big Fat Greek Thursday Dinner and not just plain dinner.
  • Mel’s diner (Hollywood and highland)
  • Bob’s Big Boy—Toluca Lake-Riverside Dr.-(Friday nights only 5 to 10:00)
  • Marina Del Rey Dinner Cruise-Hornblower Co.
  • Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles Diner
  • Canter’s Deli or The Pantry
  • Eat at Mortons (Pam is closing at the end of the year)

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  • Trips I'll always Remember:
  • /u

  • El Paso Texas and New Mexico: White Sands, NASA Space Center, Rosswell UFO Center
  • Las Vegas and Grand Canyon: free shows and themed sights at Cesar's Palace, Bellagio, Paris, Venitian Hotel, Wynn, and mardi-gras like shows at Rio. Check out the Lion habitat at MGM, the flamingos at Flamingo's, and the tropical fishes and sea horses at Caesar's Palace. The best rides are at New York New York roller coaster and Stratosphere's XScream.
  • Tour of West Grand Canyon: skip Skywalk and head out to Guano Point (see previous blog on Grand Canyon). Camp and see Angels Bright trail in South Grand Canyon.
  • Washington: Tacoma's Glass Bridge and Chihuly's Glass Museum, Seattle's Pike's Place and Smith Tower in the Pioneer Square, Mukilteo Lighthouse and Boeing Tour, Tulalip Resort and Casino by Seattle Outlet stores.

Posted by jptablante 06.12.2008 11:27 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Thanksgiving in Washington state

Mukilteo - Seattle - Tacoma

overcast 60 °F
View Washington State on jptablante's travel map.

We had a road trip to Seattle for Thanksgiving. It took us about 14 hours to get there since we have to pull over every now and then for food, rest area, restroom, and we were also pulled over by a cop in Oregon for driving 80 mph at a 55 mph construction zone. Good thing he let us go with a warning. Fines are double in construction zone area. I think that if you can drive straigth up to Seattle, stopping only for fuel, you can get there in about 12 hours.
In Mukilteo, we've visited the light house, checked out the Ferry that can take you to Victoria, Canada, checked out the Boeing Tour by the Boeing plant where most of the residents work, and drove to Tulalip Casino and Resort. I really like their indoor, heated swimming pool in Tulalip. It was after Thanksgiving weekend when we went window shopping at the outlet mall next to it.
I was so excited when we visited Tacoma because that's when I finally get to see the Glass Museum and Chihully's Glass Bridge. It's free to cross the glass bridge, which connects the glass museum to the Union Station and downtown Tacoma. This is a definite must-see. Chihully's work were displayed in a number of glass shelves and there is even a glass roof covering a part of the bridge filled with his work.
Seattle was really the main highlight of our Thanksgiving. Early in the morning, we went to see the Space Needle and the Seattle Center, which is a campus around the Needle with museums, food courts, galleries, shops, fountains, and amusement rides. The Space Needle is really pretty at this time of the year, specially at night when it's all lit up with Christmas lights and holiday colors. The Space Needle ornaments that they were selling at the gift shop got me thinking. I can actually make ornaments out of the souvenirs I've collected from traveling and put them up in the tree on Christmas! This will definitely be in my project list.
We were planning to check out the famous Troll in the Fremont area but nobody knows how to get there so, we decided to check out an Underground Tour by the Pioneer Square station instead. You have to be really interested in history, engineering, or archaelogy to appreciate it. A lot of people think that it's like looking at a slum area filled with rusted wires, corroded pipes, water leakage, and walls that are falling apart. I liked it thought. Depending on your tour guide, this place can be as interesting as any ruins or forgotten city - filled with history and soul. There's a really good bakery in Pioneer Square called Cow Chip Cookies where people from everywhere go to buy their famous cow chip cookies. Price is as follows: chiplette .30, calf chip 1.50, cow chip 3.00, bull chip 6.00. Very rich and loaded with chocolate chips! My friends were picking up someone from the airport that day so, I decided to stay and meet up with them later. While in Pioneer Square, I went up Smith Tower's observation deck at the 35th floor to get a good 360 view of Seattle ($7 fee). It has an outside, open-air Observation Deck wrapped completely around all four sides of the historic Smith Tower providing breathtaking panoramic views of Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic, Cascade Mountain ranges, a closest view in town of Safeco Field, the wharf and the Colman Ferry Terminal, and the Pioneer Square. The Space needle is standing right at the end of 1st Avenue. It's such a great, breath-taking scenery from this tower - much better than the view from Space Needle, which I find really expensive ($17/person). Even the restaurant they have up there was too pricey. The crown jewel of the Smith Tower is the legendary 35th floor Chinese Room. The room’s name derives from the extensive carved wood and porcelain ceiling and the elaborately carved blackwood furniture that were gifts to Mr. Smith from the Empress of China. The observatory’s furnishings include the famed Wishing Chair, a product of the skill of a Chinese carver and incorporates a carved dragon and a phoenix, which when combined, portends marriage.
Hence the chair came with the sentimental- and sexist- legend that any wishful unmarried woman who sits in it would be married within a year. I sat on the chair, hoping the legent will come true and... we will see.
From the Smith Tower, I walked to the wharf and Ferry Station towards the Olympic Park. Then, I climbed up the Harbor Steps to get to the SAM (Seattle Art Museum). I didn't have time to check it out so I went to the gift shop instead. Afterwards, I went to Pike's Market Place to refuel. In the market place, I found this little store where they sell all kinds of spices and tea. I got some orange-spiced cinnamon tea and some BBQ marinate. There was a long line of people in this mini-doughnuts place, which I didn't get a chance to try. Instead, I went to get some ham and cheese piroshky at Piroshky Piroshyky. I've never seen as many different types of piroshkies as they have in this bakery. Next door is the first and original Starbucks and it was packed! Pike's Place is really big. I probably circled about three blocks to get a good feel of the place. There's just so many things to see and check out in each corner. Later that night, I meet up with my friends for the tree-lighting right outside Macy's, which is just a couple of blocks from Pike's Place. There are a lot of great stuff to check out in Seattle, specially if you're into art. I've seen so many really cool ones at the Olympic Sculpture Park and next time, I will definitely try to make it to the Fremont area to see the famous troll.

Posted by jptablante 28.11.2008 17:01 Archived in USA Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

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