Category: Tourism

A Day at the Reagan Library

Father’s Day is always tricky for me. I never know what presents to buy for hubby and this year was no exception. So, I took a “page” from our daughter’s philosophy that experiences far exceeds “things” when it comes to present giving. I took that sage advice and gave hubby a pass to the National Presidential Libraries (NARA.org) with our first stop- the Reagan Library.

This summer the Reagan library is hosting the Da Vinci collection. In essence, it was a handful of his mechanical drawings of tools. From his attempts to draw prototypes for flight to weapons that could create massive amounts of injury or death. Yes, the painter of the Mona Lisa must have spent many hours thinking dark thoughts to create such drawings that were more like “Dexter” than the angels he depicted in his earliest paintings.

Da Vinci's Artwork

Da Vinci’s life and artwork have been long chronicled.  However, there remain many unanswered questions about his greatest works and the thought processes that were involved with his artistry and his mechanical drawings.

For example,  The Mona Lisa is one piece from Da Vinci’s portfolio that is veiled in continual mystery. Was ‘Mona Lisa” a woman or a man that captured the love interest of the reportedly homosexual DaVinci?

 Secondly, the painting of the Last Supper has kept the interest and populated many a question by art and theology aficionados. Why did Da Vinci paint the 12 disciples and Christ as he did? 

Also, at the Reagan library you will find Andy Warhol’s rendition of the Last Supper.  The two juxtapose exhibits presented an interesting mix of pop culture meeting ancient masterpieces! 

Below are the replicas on display at the Reagan library.

Don't leave without visiting other wonderful exhibits at the Reagan Library.

Allot two hours to really walk and enjoy the DaVinci exhibit. Then treat yourselves to lunch or a snack at the cafe on the grounds.  

I would recommend not leaving before you visit the other notable parts of this vast library, including Air Force 1, Marine 1 and the gardens.  

In the outside gardens you will find the burial place for the President and First Lady.  Surrounded by a vista that is simply lovely.

Roses bushes adorn the exterior and must have been a favorite of Nancy Reagan. 

You will also find a slab of the Berlin Wall.  The docent indicated that this particular section was chosen as President Reagan looked the butterfly drawing that was on the Western Side. The Eastern Side is blank.  Just concrete.

Inside, there are scores of exhibits that chronicle the two terms of the Reagan presidency and his life before and after.  If visiting expect to add at least two more hours to cover these exhibits and visit the actual Air Force One and Marine One aircraft.

  

A Driving Vacation to Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Sedona

If you ever want to feel small while delving in to nature –   drive to the many outrageously big canyons that grace our national parks. Including the Red Rock Canyon National Park  in Nevada. There is where Hubby and I started a week long vacation to visit the Red Rocks of Nevada followed by many places, including the Grand Canyon and Sedona, in Arizona.  

And, because I am often best telling a story through a lens versus the printed word, I offer you many a photo.

DAY 1

The excitement of the trip began days before we even packed when I was diagnosed with bronchitis and tonsillitis.  Should we go? Should we stay home? Well, I hate to be told I CAN’T do something, so we packed and went anyway.  By the time we hit the Nevada border I was glad I had stopped at my doctors for much needed prescriptions, including an inhaler. That little medication literally saved me later on in the journey. 

When you drive in to Nevada from California it is hard to not notice the billboards for Vegas hot spots  and note the lack of announcements for much of anything else. Yet after we found some quick bites to eat we  wandered in to the Red Rock Canyon National Park.  WOW! A mere 30 minute drive from downtown Las Vegas, it is a delightful place to spend an afternoon.

Tip #1 - When traveling with a cold be sure to bring all your "must have" sniffle supplies! Purchasing them on the road can be a hassle and also expensive!

 After I had seen about as many red rocks as I could handle, we ventured in to Las Vegas and parked for the night at the Westgate Resort and Casino.   This well appointed room was found on TripAdvisor who then connected me with one of their recommended third party sources. Easy as pie! Plus, I made some ‘dough” on both the cost of the room and  thanks to a quick trip to  the Quick Hits slot machine at this location. 

Bonus: A Youtube video to explain Quick Hits 

 

DAY 2

I never heard of Williams, Arizona before. But, it seemed like a place to stop given two factors, 1) The signs for Route 66 2) There was a Dairy Queen located in the town.  Now neither of those may be compelling reasons for you to want to stop. But, for me – it was worth it as Dairy Queen’s are not common in our part of California.  And, I am a sucker for any store with Route 66 tchatchkes. I loved meeting the local people,  many who gave us tips about visiting the Grand Canyon and Sedona.  

Tip #2: Sometimes the best photo is found off the highway.

Day 3

The majestic Grand Canyon!  Despite my feeling like a ton of red rocks were resting on my chest – I managed to still enjoy the mighty Grand Canyon.  (But, warning… it is up high! Like 7 thousand feet above  sea level. )  All the photos uploaded on this blog were snapped on my iPhone 8 plus.  They are unfiltered and uploaded as is. 

Tip #3: And, sometimes the best photo is found in the quiet of a canyon. But, remember to pack water to stay hydrated as you hike, snap photos and enjoy the vistas all around you.

Bright Angels - Grand Canyon
Mohave Point at sunset
Tip #4 - Spend at least two days or more in Sedona, Arizona. There is way too much to see and enjoy in a single day

DAYS 4 & 5

Sedona is like no place I have ever seen.  We entered this hamlet from a road that was recommended to us by a new “friend” from Williams.  He said to take this longer trek  to truly enjoy the scenery and be wooed by the mountains.  By the time we hit our hotel – The Bell Rock Inn – I was in love with this area. The rocks formations are like no other ones I had seen on this trip.  They seemed to be humongous towers from a movie set standing tall among the village. They were a backdrop to the town, the residences, the parks and schools. These mountains aptly called by appearance – The Cathedral, The Bell Rock,  Snoopy, etc. – were to this part of the southwest like the Pacific Ocean is to Southern California – the grande dame! 

When you visit Sedona be sure to go to the visitor center. There are several and each one is chocked full of great information.  Sedona itself is known for its’ artist colony, healers and diversity. Among the maps and tourist info I even found guides   for LGBTQ travelers and residents.

Sidenote: I always am curious as to the housing market in areas we visit. Compared to Southern California, most are cheaper than we are used to seeing. But, Sedona does present itself with a wide array of price points for housing, much of it pricey and some more affordable.  I can see why many retire to this state. Although I may need a lot more convincing knowing the heat index is well over 90 degrees much of the year.  

The food is also a mixture of Tex-Mex and “eclectic coffee house”.  Don’t expect to see a Starbucks on every corner – they are few and far between. But, do wander in to the several local coffee establishments that will gladly serve you a very fine espresso or latte. 

Without further adieu, I present you the sights of enchanting Sedona, Arizona…

Thanks for taking this journey with me. Oh, and in case you are wondering.. I am feeling much better! 🙂 

Pearl Harbor – a #MustSee

“YESTERDAY, December 7, 1941 a date which will live in infamy the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

Library of Congress: Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945. Address to Congress requesting a declaration of war, Dec. 8, 1941

It is hard to believe that the quiet port area of Oahu, known in Hawaiian as “Pu’uloa”or Pearl Harbor, was once the site of one of the most deadliest attacks ever to have occurred on this planet. It was December 7, 1941 – truly a day that will forever be emblazoned in the minds and hearts of many who still grace our world.  One way to be sure that the lessons of this era are not forgotten is to put Pearl Harbor on your #MustSee travel list!

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USS ARIZONA Memorial  (right) Photo: L. Sattler

There are many FAQs about visiting Pearl Harbor on their website. Click here for these.  In addition, I would like to add a few suggestions that may help make your visit easier.

Tip1: GO EARLY!  I mean arrive when the parking lot opens and plan on visiting more than one day, if possible.  I have been three times and at different times of the year.  It can be hot and crowded by noon no matter what month you visit, so I can’t stress enough the importance of arriving early (they open at 7am) and staying until lunch then leaving and coming back another day.  Also, wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot of walking involved if you visit the entire park.

Tip 2:  The actual memorial for the USS Arizona is under renovation due to a crack – thus it is not safe for visitors to actually walk around the memorial.  Instead, there is a very nice movie and boat ride (70 minutes total)  that includes audio commentary of the events of December 7, 1941 – when the Japanese navy  attacked the harbor leaving thousands dead, wounded and much of the US Pacific fleet destroyed.

Tip 3:  The website also advises people of the following if you wish to take the boat and video tour of the USS ARIZONA:

There are three ways to secure the movie/boat tickets to the Memorial:

  1. Two months out, 325 tickets are placed online at recreation.gov. The official National Park Service website for its Parks. Please note there are three choices to choose from in getting these tickets.
  2. Each day at 7:00am Hawaii Standard Time an additional 525 tickets are placed on recreation.gov for the next day’s reservations.
  3. If you were not able to secure your movie/boat tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial online, the National Park Service gives out over 1,300 free walk up tickets each day on a first come, first serviced basis. Be sure to arrive early for these walk up tickets, the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center opens at 7:00am.

Tip 4: Bring a tiny pocketbook / wallet / or  clear bag.  For security reasons, pocketbooks, backpacks, duffels, etc. are NOT allowed and will cost you $5 each if you have to check them in to their storage facility.  The rule of thumb is that if the bag is larger than your hand, it will not be permitted in the park.

The park rangers also advise you NOT to leave valuables in your car as the parking is not secure (although it is FREE to park!)  I learned the second day of my trip to bring a ziplock clear bag and stick my valuables in that followed by a $1.99 tote bag that I bought at the gift shop. Money well spent.

Tip 5:  Watch the movies to see authentic reel footage from World War II. And,  before you venture on your trip  watch their welcome video that you  can find here. 

Tip 6: Ask questions of the many experts and docents that are on the premises. They are a wealth of knowledge and some are related to Pearl Harbor as family members or ex-military.

Tip 7: Buy a Passport  to visit the other ships and submarine in port that are part of the memorial. The USS BOWFIN (submarine) was a great tour and given two thumbs up by my family members. Grab the free audio tape to listen- it comes in several languages.  For those who need captioning or interpreting – please see the information in the chart I found below.

HOW TO MAKE RESERVATIONS – FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT
USS Bowfin Submarine Museum www.Bowfin.org
USS Battleship Missouri Memorial www.USSmissouri.org
Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor www.PacificAviationMuseum.org
USS Arizona Memorial Tours www.PacificHistoricParks.org
Tip 8:  Food and beverage are available for purchase. They are not cheap and I would advise to buy water and then go elsewhere to eat if you want a nice sit-down meal.  Remember, two -half days are better than a long full-day , in my humble opinion.
Tip 9:   Support the memorial park by making a purchase in one of their gift shops. There are a lot of wonderful items available and they make very unique gifts for special occasions.
Tip 10: Kids are welcome, but in all honesty much of the importance of this day may be lost on young children.  I would recommend this park for ages 8 and up unless you just want to show “cool boats and a submarine” to your tots!
Tip 11: Take photos and share the stories about this hallowed site with others.
If you have a tip about visiting Pearl Harbor – please leave in the comment section below. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

All Photos by Louise Sattler

A Visit to One of the Last Remaining Blockbuster Stores

Update: Sadly after I ran this article the last remaining Blockbusters in Alaska announced they were closing.

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Original Article

This month my family ventured to the Pacific Northwest. We watched whales frolic and feed, walked glaciers and even explored villages and remote areas both by land and sea.  But, it was a little store in Anchorage that was deemed the “highlight” of our 12 – day excursion.  Yes, apparently one can relive their childhood by simply walking through the doors of one of the last remaining Blockbuster video stores in the heart of Anchorage, Alaska.

This Blockbuster store is under the management of Kevin Daymude.  “Blockbuster” as a corporation is long gone, due to the change of the video landscape.  Replaced by streaming services, such as Netflix, the demand for video and gaming rentals has dwindled to nearly “zip”.  However, in this part of the world, Blockbuster still holds relevance.  New and “antique” videos and games adorn the shelves and there is the requisite aisle of theater sized boxed candies. You can purchase older videos for under a dollar and don’t forget the popcorn and cotton candy!  The only “addition” to the Blockbuster of 20 years ago was a prominent display of movie memorabilia in the very front of the store, including some “goods” obtained from actor, Russell Crowe.

HUH?

There is a very interesting story about how Blockbuster of Anchorage and Kevin Daymude received Russell Crowe’s items from the actor’s “ART OF DIVORCE SALE”.  It would appear that the items were received via an intermediary who acted as a conduit for this Blockbuster store to receive these “treasures of cinematic history”.  Among the memorabilia were two director chairs from the movie American Gangster that were used and embroidered with the actors’ names – Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Plus, there was from Russell Crowe’s collection a  “jockstrap” that was placed in the display (and reportedly cost 7K!)

Who was the buyer of all these “artifacts” and what was the backstory? Well,  the person who purchased many of Crowe’s items would be none other than HBO talk show host, John Oliver. The reason why… well that is a whole other story. Let’s start with Oliver’s announcement via  Twitter from April 2018.

 

 And the reason why John Oliver bought these items?  I’ll let Time Magazine explain the “details” in THIS article.  


 

Why is this store still open while the vast majority have closed?  I had an opportunity to chat with Kevin  about the remaining Blockbuster stores in Alaska (and one in Oregon) and get more insight.   (There are two videos for easier uploading.)

 

 

 

 

 


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Lastly, if you do visit the DeBarr Rd. location of Blockbuster know that there are shirts and pullovers available for purchase.  My entire family bought one – how could we not!?! Plus, we walked out with a handful of those repurposed DVDs for 99 cents each!

 

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Traveling the Pacific Northwest: Alaska!

This is part two of a series on traveling the Pacific Northwest.  Part one may be found here.

 

“Wherever there were glaciers, the world was in a constant state of                        creation.”
John Muir, Wilderness Essays

 

First Stop: Icy Strait Point/ Hoonah

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Hoonah is located on Chichagof Island, less than 40 miles from Juneau. While once known for the canning of salmon,  only since 2004 has the town of Hoonah been known as a cruise destination.  The construction of an elaborate and “official” pier and tourist center known as Icy Strait Point has turned this fishing / canning port in to a great location for travelers to explore.

We were welcomed at the entry to “Icy Strait” by a group of teens singing and playing their ancestral instruments. (Little did I know that these teens comprised the majority of the high school students who remained in Hoonah for their education.)

HICCUP #1: WE NEEDED A PLAN B

One thing a person learns when visiting remote areas, even in the United States, is to be flexible with your plans.  Case in point – the  tour jeep company oversold their excursions so instead of a guided tour throughout the Hoonah area, we took our backpacks and hiked sans tour guide.   Getting to the town “center” was easy as the hike was only 1.5 miles over flat paved terrain. (Note: Bikes, strollers and wheelchairs could make this trek without problems as there are sidewalks and paths.)

Our initial stop on this impromptu hike resulted in us stumbling upon a small restaurant/ bar. The  Office Bar   is a lot like the infamous (albeit fictitious) pub, CHEERS – as you enter a stranger and leave with everyone “knowing your name”.    Jess, one of the bartenders,  was a fountain of information and on the “ready” to pour your beer and tell stories about the history and people of Hoonah.  Ask about snow accumulation and she will show you the “family album” of local residents helping each other during snowstorms and more. When you have had your fill of beer and peanuts, head on down a few more blocks to try local fare. Fish is the menu favorite and the Fisherman’s Daughter  is a fun little place with outside seating that attracts both local families and tourists.  When you leave this restaurant turn left and walk about two more blocks. There you will find the bald eagle’s nest across from the school.  There also is a totem pole demonstration.

Best of all…  whales grace the Icy Strait region in late May and June.  While we were at Hoonah we watched more than eight whales swim and feed right in front of us.  There is no mistaking that whales are a force to ‘reckon with.”  I held my breath, as a whale watching boat seemed drifted within a 50 meters of a pod of whales. But, all were safe! Below is a video of the whales eating from the strait gobs of fish! Apparently, one “lead” whale will catch in his/her mouth enough food to supply to the others in the pod.  The tell tale sign that they are involved in this activity is the “bubbling” that happens on the surface.   When you watch the video below look carefully for the bubbling formation in the water followed by four whales coming to the surface in almost perfect unison.

 

More about Hoonah and culture… 

The culture of Hoonah fascinated me.  The town is around 700 people and the depths of their pride is immeasurable.   Children are educated about their heritage by locals and their formal education occurs in the local public school until the 9th grade. Then they can opt to remain in Hoonah or go to high school school in Juneau. (Interesting fact: The graduating class of 2018 from Hoonah was nine students.)

Hoonah is a remote area and to access it means you either arrive by plane, helicopter or boat.  There are no roads that connect this village to another town across Alaska, including Juneau.  To view a map of the area click here. 

Hoonah residents are proud of their heritage and what the legacy they have built.  I thoroughly enjoyed our time and the gracious hospitality of all we met.  If you have an opportunity to visit – do it!

Related information: Princess Cruises

Juneau – The Land of Glaciers

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TAKU GLACIER

Do you remember the show “Northern Exposure”?  I swear it is about Juneau, Alaska.   Juneau is a small town with lots to offer and if you are like me, you will fall in love with it!  Cut off from other parts of Alaska, you can only access Alaska’s capitol by sea or air but there are a lot more amenities in Juneau than “nearby” Hoonah.

Juneau, perhaps, could best be described as quaint and mighty at the same time.  There are quaint small shops and restaurants, but then you have the mighty glaciers nearby.  Mendenhall Glacier is the closest and most famous of those available for viewing by tourists.  Our family ventured on a helicopter and went to Taku, a glacier that took about a  15 minute helicopter ride from downtown Juneau.  Kudos to Coastal Helicopters  for this educational experience, but first and foremost keeping us safe!    Our helicopter tour found us soaring high above the glacier field and parkland.  Nothing can quite describe what it feels like to view glaciers from above and then walk on one. We drank clear and clean “glacier water” and took a ton of photos. Our helicopter operator was knowledgeable, humorous and most of all – experienced!

 

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Want to really experience a glacier? Visit by helicopter!

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The thickness of the trees makes for a striking view from the air. 

 

Special Note:  I wish I had studied more about glaciers and icebergs before I traveled to one. I think it would have made the experience much more enriching.   Also, for those less adventurous, consider the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

 

Stepping back in time with a trip to Skagway!

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Skagway reminds me of a movie set.  Nothing seems real because it all looks so perfect and as if time stopped 60 years ago.  I kept thinking that I was in the backlot of a movie studio – that is how clean and perfect it is! Our intent was to walk the town and then hop on the Skagway White Pass and Yukon Railroad.  Mother Nature had a different idea as a rockslide prevented us from being able to make that excursion, so our family resorted to “Plan B”.    The guys went on tour of the area via bus, while the “gals” hiked the village by foot.

A few notable highlights… 1) Go to the SKAGUAY NEWS DEPOT! It is charming and IMG_1495also reminds me how much I miss establishments that sell printed material! I had a lovely conversation with one of the salesclerks and she told me that Skagway has over two-thousand residents during the Summer.  However, when the snow flies, so do the cruise ships, and the town shrinks to a mere 900 or so.  When the winter becomes a deluge of snowstorms all comes to a halt. Like Juneau, Skagway is dependent on ships to bring goods or planes.  Newspapers are flown in daily except during the winter months.

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2) Sweet Treats  is one of those stores that you walk in because it just smells so yummy!  But, once you clear the doorway you realize that you are on sensory overload!  Decorations from Mexico cascade down from the ceiling alongside Japanese lanterns and other “party decorations”.  I was curious if there was a “theme” to this place and was told, “It is meant to be colorful.”  My friends at Sweat Treats – you succeeded!

3) Be sure to visit the White Pass train depot.  Even though we couldn’t travel by train to visit the Yukon due to the rock slide, the depot itself was worth a visit! (Note: Railroad crews were working very hard to remove the rock and check the train track for any issues. They were hoping to open the White Pass railroad for business very soon.  Get updates here via their email.

 

GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK

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There are not enough words in the universe to describe the majestic beauty of the Glacier Bay National Park.  I awoke early to grab a “front row” seat on the cruise ship and photograph every glacier, iceberg, mountain goat, etc. that I could see!  What I learned from the park ranger who gave the passengers a very nice description and running commentary about Glacier Bay, was that we need to do MUCH BETTER in taking care of our environment.  The glaciers are receding at alarming rates and perhaps global warming is to blame.  If you do only ONE THING on a trip to Alaska – please see up close glaciers and icebergs.  And, if you are on a cruise, please don’t make references to the Titanic or sing the theme song from the movie.

Related; Here is a link to help learn more about the wonders of Glacier Bay.

And, this link will bring you to some terrific footage taken by photographers and videographers.

Below find my video of the ice pulling away from the glacier. There is a sound, similar to the rumble of thunder, right before the tumbling of ice and rock occurs.  I am certain that I didn’t try

 

BLUE ICE?

There is a phenomenon with glaciers that is called “caving”. That is when the ice starts to separate and fall in to the water below.  It is fascinating to watch.  The glaciers, by the way, often have a blue hue. Read here for an explanation about why this happens.

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FINAL CRUISE DESTINATION- WHITTIER

Our last stop was the small coastal village of Whittier, Alaska.  We arrive at midnight and there was still enough light to see across the region.  I was amazed that this part of Alaska truly gets nearly 20 hours (or more) of light during late Spring/ Summer.

Here is a photo I snapped about 12:15 a.m. from our cruise ship of the small village of Whittier. This photo is unfiltered / unretouched. Shot with an iPhone 8 Plus.

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LAST THOUGHTS and SOME RECOMMENDATIONS….

On a scale of 1-10, I would rate seeing Alaska by cruise a solid 8.  There were a few hiccups that impacted our cruise, but, overall the experience was very, very good!

Here are a few quick recommendations:

  1. Do read up about glaciers, fjords and the history of the region you are visiting in Alaska.  I wish I had and I couldn’t really “google” from the ship as we didn’t have an internet package.
  2. Prepare for rain and mud.  We were REALLY LUCKY to have had great weather for the majority of the cruise, but it could easily have been foul weather.  BOOTS are a necessity 12 months a year!
  3. Bring sunblock, bug spray/ ointment and moisturizer as you can get a lot of sun, bugs or dry air in this regions.
  4. Have a very reliable camera/ cell-phone and protect it from wet weather and breakage with sturdy cases.
  5. Be sure to take photos of important documents and your cruiseline card, in case of theft or loss.
  6. Consider tacking on a land adventure – such as visiting Denali National Park, Seward or Anchorage.
  7. Don’t sit in your cabin or stay on the ship. Go and explore, take excursions and make memories!
  8. I used a travel agent and highly recommend doing so.  Linda Kahn – Ferrell of the Travel Store in Malaga Cove was excellent! 

 

Coming soon from this blog:

  • We found the last of the Blockbuster Stores – In Anchorage, Alaska!
  • It Takes a Village to Make a Cruise Successful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling the Pacific Northwest – Part 1: Seattle and Vancouver

Family vacations can be exciting, exhilarating and sometimes exhausting.  But, with lots of planning, a spirit for adventure and a sense of humor – the family vacation can be a success.  I am writing this blog as our family completed the first part of our “vacay” and is about to journey on to “part 2” – a cruise through the inside passage of Alaska. I hope that my chronicles helps other families learn how to plan a successful trip and give insight to those who may need special accommodations when they travel. By all means add your “pearls of wisdom” in the comment section, too!

First stops: Seattle and Vancouver. 

I was expecting rain. Doesn’t everyone talk about the Pacific Northwest, especially Seattle, as being nothing but rain, rain, and more rain? Isn’t the reason Starbucks got its’ start in Seattle was to keep people warm when they were cold and wet from the damp weather?  Well, let me tell you – after nearly a week in Seattle and then Vancouver our family didn’t see ANY rain.  We did experience glorious sunshine, lots of delicious coffee shops, restaurants galore and a ton of fun!

Seattle is a bustling city that one can experience largely on foot or with the assistance of a very efficient rail system.  To get to our hotel (Hyatt Olive 8) from the airport meant an easy train ride and then walking about four blocks. The staff was extremely accommodating, especially since we originally were sandwiched between two rooms with screaming babies. They moved us quickly to a quiet floor and all was good!

Seattle is a fun city and there is no shortage of excellent restaurants (My favorite was a small French bistro on 1st Street – Le Pichet.)  We ordered a number of dishes and found all of them to be excellent! In addition to the culinary scene, be sure to check out these places if you find yourself in Seattle:

1. Go to the Space Needle but spend much more of your time at  Chihuly Gardens and Glass. The glass works by Dale Chihuly took my breath away.  His story can be found on his website.   As an accomplished artist, the state of Washington shows their native son’s prolific works of art proudly!   Moreover, his glass sculptures are exhibited in more than 200 museums and gardens worldwide.  The glassworks are so colorful that they seemed to dance in place when the light hits them “just right.”   Below are just some of the many photos I captured from this amazing place!

Special note for travelers: You can purchase a combo- ticket for both the Space Needle and the gardens. It is worth it,  but GO EARLY to BOTH.  The wait in line for the Space Needle for our 2pm ticket was an hour. While the view was spectacular, it was crowded and people were not “at their best”.  Plus, they are still “under construction” and that meant less room for all the people sandwiched in the viewing area.  My advice – make your trip to the “needle” during a weekday.

The Chilhuly Gardens, however, was an exhibit that offered lots of room to meander. It also was wheelchair friendly. With that said it probably would be a challenge for young children and those that need to “touch”.  This is definitely not a place that welcomes people, especially little ones,  who are accustomed to a museum that allows for a tactile experience.

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2. Next to see in Seattle… Pikes Place Market.  This is just a huge hoot! From flying fish to the gum wall. Yes, I said a GUM WALL. Apparently people have put thousands of pieces of gum on to a wall under the market.  While it is interesting, it also is gross. (Have a germ phobia? Stay away!) There is a Ferris wheel and plenty to keep kids occupied. The walking is fairly easy except for a few rough hills from the seaport to the Space Needle.  Don’t fret! There is Lyft, Uber and taxis to drive you. Plus, a monorail.  Most of all – there is a ton of food vendors with reasonably priced meals.

 

3. Travel from Seattle to Vancouver is great via AMTRAK!  The seats were very generously sized with power outlets. And there was WiFi on the train for those who needed to be “plugged in”.   Food and beverages are served on board, although I would bring your own coffee.  There is ample room for luggage (big bags are taken from you and given back at the end of the trip.) Have your camera ready as the ride passes through areas that make for great photos and video! Below is a snippet of video of the ride through Bellingham Bay. BRING YOUR PASSPORT!

 

3. Now let’s chat Vancouver!  Ah… this city has intrigued me for years as it is the place where so many TV shows and movies are filmed. The CW channel has made Vancouver their flagship “set”.  Again, we we visited when the weather was clear and temperate.  The people are super friendly and this town gets an A+ for walkability.  If you are tired of going up and down some of the hills – hail a cab – there are plenty of them! The only downfall – like Seattle, this city is not cheap.  Even with the exchange rate favoring the US dollar, Vancouver is an expensive place to vacation.  We spent quite a bit of time visiting quaint shops and eateries trying to stay away from the expensive restaurants. Our stay at The Burrard Hotel  was very good and the prices were reasonable. The staff was superb!  Our stay would have been “rated” excellent had there been a pool or hot tub/ spa on the premises.

 The waterfront area (where the cruise ships dock) is filled with fun little shops, but true finds are on the side streets and at the Granville Island Public Market. The cute  Aqua Bus  takes you from Vancouver “proper” to Granville Island in two minutes (no exaggeration!) You also are able to ride a bike across a bridge, but it would appear that cars are not welcome unless there was a distinct purpose – such as dropping off shop owners and their wares.  The Aqua Bus also can take you to other points around Vancouver.  While there is a ramp to get from the Aqua Bus to the dock, it does not appear to be accessible for those in a wheelchair.  You can obtain much more information regarding accessibility here.

       Special Note to travelers:  The Burrard has an elevator but not sure it is wheelchair sized. Laundry is at the hotel and there is parking.

 

The Skyline of Vancouver from Granville Island Public Market

 

Coming up next in this series… Discovering Alaska… the cruising experience. 

 

 

VISION GLOBAL WIFI – In search of bloggers/ influencers and those who love to travel! (Part 2)

I recently  penned a preview of the Vision Global WIFI   pocket systems.  Today, I will be sharing my experiences as a user of these products.

I first was introduced to the Vision Global WIFI  product line while attending the LA TRAVEL and ADVENTURE SHOW.  I had just returned from Japan, so immediately felt an overwhelming source of irony that I had spent ten days while in Japan seeking viable WIFI options would find them in my own backyard just a day after my return!

After several meetings with representatives from Vision Global WIFI, I agreed to take two of their products out for a “test run” and also have an affiliate account  if others were interested.  (Consider this my disclaimer, too.)

The two products I have been using are their G2: 4G Wireless Data Terminal for international and United States data needs and the MiFi device by Verizon, strictly for use within the USA.  Both arrived within a day of my ordering and were packaged with all the accessory ancillary pieces in one nice carrying pouch.

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The G2/4G is a hunk of a powerful tool.  It is a little bit hefty but, when you consider you are able to connect with lightening speed to WIFI it is worth the few extra ounces.  This device  came with international connections – to help with recharging, etc. I would definitely suggest this product to those “on the go” with their travels.  That includes bloggers and influencers who need to be “always on the ready” for their trips.

NOTE: Keep in mind that Global Vision WIFI is seeking bloggers/ influencers for their new affiliate program, so if that describes YOU – connect here.

 

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In all honestly, I have been toting around the MiFi device for a few weeks now and love it.  As you may know, I often am working as a social media correspondent in places that have little to no WIFI.  You would think that a major hotel or red carpet would come equipped with WIFI – but no such luck.  In lieu of eating up my data plan, I have been using this MiFi device and give it two thumbs up.  The cost is almost a “break even” if I was to increase my personal data plan instead of using this device. The advantage is that other media correspondents and myself could connect to the same device at the same time. Thus, we didn’t waste unnecessary data on five devices.

The plusses are many, but one of my favorites is the seemingly endless battery life.  I am not the best at recharging WIFI units, but this one seems to have an extra long battery life and that has saved me many times.  Here is an example, just this past week I was visiting at the magnificient Terranea Resort.  While my friend and her hotel room had WIFI we had so many devices going at once during our work meeting I was afraid we wouldn’t get super connectivity.  Then we heard a band playing outside her room.  What a concert?  Yes, indeed!  Apparently, One Republic was booked at the resort for a private concert and we had first row seats! Now I needed a stronger signal to record this impromptu event and didn’t want to use a ton of my data – so I popped out my Vision Global MiFi device and three of us were able to record and post to social media without any interruption in service or connection.  The device was still charged after being in purse for almost a week!

Takeaway- have this device in your pocket/ pocketbook for those times when you need WIFI and a strong signal without wanting to use your data plan.

 


 

I recently interviewed Luke Nakagawa, representative from Vision Global WIFI.  Here’s more of the scoop:

(Louise) How many devices can connect to these WIFI devices?

(Luke) One device can connect up to 5 devices. Great for family vacations.

(Louise) Where are users able to get services?

(Luke) The G2 can be used in more than 60 countries alone. (That is the device I mentioned above).  We cover more than 130 countries with all the devices available. 

( Louise) What about service in the United States?

( Luke) The US device is mainly for customers that visit US, not customers looking to rent for domestic use. 

(Note: I would almost have to add that US customers would like this device if they are going places where they don’t want to use their data, such as vacations, media correspondents, travel by Recreational Vehicle, sporting events, etc.)

( Louise) Any discounts or incentives?
(Luke) After 13 days our long-term discount kicks in so looking at a more affordable connection up until 30days.
The extra message from Vision Global WIFI is simply…  If you are a blogger or influencer and often travel – they want to talk with you. 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop: Kauai (Part 2 of How we made a loser year end like a winner with trips to Hawaii and Alaska)

In my recent blog  and part one of this series, I blogged about how hubby and I longed to search for a great ending to a year that sucked.  We ventured first to Oahu where we discovered some great local spots and learned much about Hawaiian history. The continuation continued with our second stop – Kauai.

Kauai is OLD Hawaii. Charming. Rustic. Enchanting. 

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A long time ago I read James Mitchner’s HAWAII.  It was the only book of his that I read cover to cover and didn’t give up half way through.  What kept my interest was the long descriptions of the lush and mysterious Hawaiian islands that rest thousands of miles away from the mainland of North America. I now have  visited three of the island and it has become apparent that each of the Hawaiian islands have their own personalities.

Oahu is the cosmopolitan island with nightlife and amenities that make you feel that you could be in Newport Beach, California.  Maui is the up-scale island. Quieter than Oahu but certainly full of vibrancy and beauty. And then there is beloved Kauai, considered by many to be the heart of Hawaii.  It is where the clock has been turned backkwards or has just stopped at a time that was simpler.  Wild chickens are everywhere and don’t be surprised to see feeding goats climbing in state parks. There is “the ice-cream place” (Lapperts) and each vista is prettier than the one before. Outdoor living is a must with paddle boarders and surfers enjoying the sea from sun up to sun down.  You relax because it is a place where the lights go out by nine on most establishments. Kauai has the “old” Hawaiian feel that  I longed to discover from the days of reading Mitchner. It feels like home the first day.

Kauai is for gentle hiking (And, some not so easy.) We trekked along many trails and saw everything from those chickens to wild boar.  As a person who loves to photograph everything, I couldn’t get enough of Hawaii’s waterfalls, rock formations from volcanoes that no longer are active, caves and beaches.  The sunsets are extraordinary and the people are some of the kindest I have met.

Christmas day found us at the Marriott Resort Beach Club in Lihue. Imagine my surprise to see Santa come to shore in a canoe to bring cheer to awaiting children and to wake-up  Christmas morning to stockings hung on each hotel door. Way to go, Marriott! (For the record, they also had a menorah for Chanukah.)

I could write a long blog about Kauai and all of its’ splendor or simply upload a slideshow to share.  Remember – I love photography, so slideshow it is!

Aloha and next stop on our journey to end 2016 positively – ALASKA! (Third series of this blog will be coming very soon.)

 

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If you are enticed to travel to Hawaii, may I suggest Linda Kahn-Ferrell from the TravelStore in Malaga Cove, CA.  She can help you by phone or email to get the perfect vacation experience. Connect with here here. 

 

A photo tour of Fallingwater

Not too far from Pittsburgh or the West Virginia border in a little town called Mill Run, Pennsylvania sits one of the most unique architectural treasures in the United States – Fallingwater.  This one – of – a  kind  home was built in 1935 by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufman family as their second home.

During a recent family reunion we all trekked to see Fallingwater – up close and personal.  It is off the beaten path – but no too far off.  The walk is fairly easy and well worth it, even during damp and rainy weather – as we saw it.

Be prepared when visiting Fallingwater.  No backpacks or large purses allowed. Photos are ONLY allowed outside unless you book the photojournalist tour. (Sadly, I missed that memo.)  However, I didn’t feel too cheated as the exterior of the home presents like a photo bonanza.

1- You are met by many signs reminding you of where you are. This is a historical site and was donated to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to be opened as a museum in 1963.  (The Kaufman family should receive major kudos for this!) 

 

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2. Walking to and from the home is a lovely hike. The trail is paved. Bring bug spray – just say’in.

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3. The waters flow beneath the home – yes I said BENEATH the home.  Windows of varying types can be opened to allow for natural air flow.  In the living room you can literally open a window and “fish” for dinner!  The rock formations are integrated in to the building of the home.  Walls are actually rock formations.  The furniture is largely “built in” and all has the classic Frank Llyod Wright signature.  

4.When you first see the home you notice there are three levels.  What you don’t see is that there is a separate guest residence in the back. This home was estimated to have cost in 1930’s economic times $25,000 ,but ,after the total project was completed in 1941 it racked up a final cost of $155,000!  On a positive note, many people who were unemployed due to the aftermath of the great depression and other economic downturns were given work. 

 

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5. When the formal tour is completed you are offered the opportunity to walk about the property on the hiking trails. 

 

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6. Using my i-phone 6 I snapped a set of photos from a different vantage point. I used different filters. Not sure which is my favorite,

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7. And, just when you think you have seen all the little treasures at Fallingwater you spot a bird nest nestled between the rocks of the home. 

 

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Want to learn more about Fallingwater or schedule a tour? Tickets and more info are available at this link:  Fallingwater.org

I will leave you with a last look at the stream that brings Fallingwater to life!

 

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