Traveling during Covid

We have bad wanderlust, bad! I’m having trouble focusing at work and home since I have worked all thru Covid and hard. I had to get away, so Orlando here we are! We are headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico , we like to be last minute.

But this is what we have learned with covid travel… so far early into our trip.

  1. To go to Puerto Rico and fly on some airlines you must have a negative Covid test within 72hours negative, or you cannot go!
  2. Getting a rapid Covid test requires some real work and investigation. We barely go it done.
  3. Spirit airlines does NOT social distance at all, there is NO separation between seating, zero. All seats were filled, 100% occupancy.
  4. The hotel websites might say breakfast and free shuttle, but Covid probably shut that down, do not expect any extras.
  5. Extras including cleaning your room with housekeeping daily, that is apparently not happening at any hotels. No beds made when you come back after a long day of just relaxing at the beach.
  6. In Puerto Rico, you must wear your mask ALL the time, even on the beach, even when walking down the street, even if no one is around, if the police pull up, they will make you mask it! Pretty much everyone does wear a mask everywhere.

Bacardi Tour, Puerto Rico

What should we do other than eat, swim, sleep in late, enjoy each other, and hang out on a Beach…. we decided to Tour the Bacardi Distillery. We Uber it over… and David says as we pull into the Bacardi complex, they should name a building after you. I do love Bacardi Silver Rum!

The Sunrise, a sweet orange tropical drink we could purchase upon arrival.

We decided a history tour of the distillery, a mixology course on three infamous Bacardi drinks. All super delicious and what a fun experience, we were laughing thru the entire mixology course. We are sharing a few pictures of our time here. More to be added as soon.

Coins we were given to purchase one drink upon arrival, we both choose the sunrise drink. Orange, Lime, Grendine, Rum – Delicious!
My finished product of a Bacardi Mojito at our Mixology course.

More pictures to add this afternoon, awaiting David’s photos to add, and lets face it, his are superior to mine.

Trip to Puerto Rico

Ok, finalized a trip to Puerto Rico. We wanted to donate supplies while there, but can find nothing online about donations when visiting, so I am going with a trip to a local church and then dropping off kids toys and school supplies. Wish we had a real list of what is needed, so if you have suggestions, let us know. No China for now, but Puerto Rico and a Cruise while visiting.

Lobby at the FireKeepers Hotel – 7 pillars of the Tribe Battle Ck, MI

The Lobby at the FireKeepers hotel is a Huge entrance with a light up tower at the center, and seven pillars of the Tribe and humanity surrounding it.

– Humility, Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty. Love is my favorite. David’s favorite is Bravery.

Love the local Indian tribe history and will be sharing a book I purchased on the history of the Casino Indian Tribe the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi in the gift shop as soon as I am done reading it. You can read more on the Hotel History at this link: https://firekeeperscasino.com/about/our-story/

Huge center tower
1sec video of the light tower

Chateau d’If – Count of Monte Cristo – Marseille France

David and I have both been working so hard over the last two week, and trying to catch up at work from all our summer travels. All this hard work has us reflecting on our past travel and working hard toward our current travels.

We are sharing a previous trip we took a few years back to Marseille, France and Chateau d’If. David insisted we go to the prison where the Count of Monte-Cristo (a mythical book published in 1844) was based. David loves the book of the man, Edmond Dantes, who makes a wonderful comeback from prison to a Count with revenge. David loved the book so much he insisted I watch the movie together prior to our trip, and I was impressed as well.

We purchase our tickets and take the taxi boat over to the island, it is a crystal aquamarine blue and green Mediterranean sea, contrasted by a harsh rock island.
David and I soak in the surroundings and stop for a conversation of the site and to enjoy each other in the moment. We toasted the sea, the prison and how blessed we are to be together.
Marseille, France in the background with a toast of coffee and wine.

3 Best things on our Ruby Princess Alaska Cruise Trip

If you have followed us for even just a few posts, you have noticed we like to keep our posts nice and short and to the point. On our recent trip to Alaska we enjoyed these three things the most:

1- The peaceful, spiritual feelings when out in nature. Whether we were staring at a glacier, hiking thru the woods, or out in the bay watching whales. We loved the outdoor time. Alaska is truly the last frontier feeling for us and we absorbed it all in. So the walk over to the Mendenhall glacier/Nugget fall, the Whale watching tour and the time off the bus ride that took us up the mountains – were all the best. Laura was truly not interested in going to Alaska, and agreed for David, who wanted Alaska for years, but Laura became a true believer in Alaska and we both cannot wait to return.

2- The Ruby Princess Cruise ship was beautiful with many high end accents everywhere. Compared to Holland America it was decadent. There was a greater cross section of people on the Princess Cruise, all age ranges and style and we preferred that over Holland America significantly older cruise ages. The Food was superior on the Holland America Ship, but both ships were really tasty.

3- The time together. We are still really in love and find each other interesting to be around, we are each others best friends and playmates. When we are at home, we are so busy with work and kids and household chores. It was nice to enjoy each other again.

We are back to real life, and going to catch up on a few posts, but still enjoying our trip and the memories.

Local Alaskan Products we love and did not love

I am sure you have experienced this, your on vacation, you check out the local stores, and tend to see the same items over and over again. No matter where you go, there they are, so must be what everyone wants. No pictures of T-shirts, but as you imagine, every kind of T-shirt was available. We saw these unique items while in Alaska, and bought few.

We bought a mini totem pole to put in with our Christmas tree, these are hand carved by local Indians, and mid priced, but we don’t typically buy things on trips so splurged.
There were a variety of locally made products for natural healing and we bought this soothing rub made from Devils Club, we have used it several times since this purchase and it worked for David’s sore arm. We love natural products – so will be ordering more from their website in the future.

We did buy some blueberry jam – we like to have our family parties, and thought that this with stories of the Alaskan frontier served with cheese and crackers would be perfect.

You can find smoked Salmon EVERYWHERE. We were told if it is in a can, it is probably Chum Salmon, and that is salmon for their dogs, so be careful when buying (we opted out of this purchase).
For David to shave Boldly!

Kelp Salsa and Kelp Pickles, curry flavored. I tried the kelp pickles on the whale watching tour, so would have bought these again, but doubt any body but me would try them, so did not get any of these kelpie foods.

Unique Alaskan Store products we typically saw while on our Alaskan Cruise.
You can find Blue Berry and Huckle Berry everything in stores. We bought a Huckle Berry Chocolate Bar and when we got home and tasted it, it was … well we would give it a 3 out of 10.

We also bought an ULU – What is that? Check out our Next post….. to find out.

Raptor Sanctuary – Ketchikan Alaska

We walked around the corner and – there was a bald eagle, sitting in the enclosure. We are from Michigan and have seen maybe two bald eagles in our life time (outside of a zoo). In Alaska, it is more like – there is an eagle, there is eagle, there is another. This location, took in injured birds and gave them a home if they could not be returned. I consider that one of the highest honorable things a person can do, care for those who cannot. (guess that is why I am in medicine). Check out these wonderful birds.

Another bird and the handler, explaining the incredible work they do at this facility with birds of prey.
This poor little guy was rehabilitated, but then could not make it on his own in the wild, so they brought him back, and he seems happy here.
One of the many, many Eagles saw in the wild.
A few totems at the site just outside the raptor sanctuary.

Totem Pole Carving in Ketchikan, Alaska

After our delicious crab early lunch, we headed over to check out some totem pole carving at the Alaskan Rainforest Sanctuary.

https://www.alaska.org/detail/rainforest-sanctuary-totem-park-eagles

We walk over to the totem carving shed to see this beauty in progress.

The Totem artist explaining what step he is on now.

He says the whole process will take him about 4 months and he is 3 months into it right now, and this is his first independent project, but has been an apprentice for many years now.

What his final project will be. Notice the hidden Mickey in the corner of this picture!

David and I are both amazed and while we have no real artistic capabilities, we feel inspired. This totem is planned for the raptor center, which is next door and where we are headed next, the bird sanctuary.

Alaska License plate

We are going to try and start something new – post license plates from places we have gone, so here is ALASKA! Who knows maybe we will start a trend! Like posting beautiful Doors photographed on Travels, we will post Travel License Plates!

I did check and see if this is allowed, and a lawyer commented this is because they are public and there is no malleus or personal information attached.

Glacier Bay – Alaska – Part 2

This location was so incredibly beautiful we had to make it into two posts. We heard Princess Cruise line is the only cruise line to float into the Bay and get a close up view of the Glaciers. Glacier Bay is a National Park with seven glaciers to view, we saw two and they were amazing!

Check out this link for more details on this incredible location:

https://www.nps.gov/glba/learn/nature/overview-of-selected-glaciers-in-glacier-bay.htm

We did not have a balcony, but if we did we would have had gotten a room on the port side – as the boat enters the bay, stays there for about 30minutes, then completely turns around 180degrees and takes off.

TIP: Get a balcony for this cruise to Glacier Bay on the Port side for the best views!

There are several glaciers on the way floating in, but our favorites and best to view are at the end of the bay, where there is an ice glacier to the left (Margerie Glacier) and a glacier in the front (the Grand Pacific, but it is covered in dirt). We were on the deck and it was almost silent, as people stood, stared, took pictures and admired the glaciers. It was brilliantly sunny, and crisp in temperature, the very perfect day to sip on hot chocolate with rum and lean into the deck overlooking what felt like a spiritual site. Every once in a while there was a crash of ice falling into the water and a loud thunder roar to follow. Birds and sea lions were in the bay, unaffected by our presence. It was Magic!

Boating toward the end of Glacier bay, the pinnacle of the views on the way!

“It’s an irritating reality that many places and events defy description. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance, seem to demand silence, like a love affair you can never talk about. For a while after, you fumble for words, trying vainly to assemble a private narrative, an explanation, a comfortable way to frame where you’ve been and what happened. In the end, you’re just happy you were there- with your eyes open- and lived to see it.”  – Anthony Bourdain.

This is the Margerie Glacier, it was our favorite.

This is Grand Pacific glacier above is covered in Dirt

Say goodbye to Glacier Bay!

Glacier Bay, Alaska – Part 1

These were our views from the deck of the Ruby Princess, it was so breathtaking, I am posting in two parts. Few words, mostly pictures

In my mind this is the entrance to Supermans secret layer….
He was floating by on an iceberg.

Skagway, Alaska

Just a few pictures of the town of Skagway. After our Helicopter tour was cancelled, we walked to town and did some shopping while waiting to go on our Gold Panning Tour. We also thought about doing the railway Yukon route – but there was a landslide, and the railway was shut down for the day, and we learned some were stuck up on the mountain waiting for bus trips back down. So we learned this town has ~500residents during the winter, and ~1500 during the summer, the local campsite is booked two years out during the summer and empty in the winter. We really enjoyed just hanging out in town. These are some of the high lights.

Check out the Cruise ship at the end of the street! It looks like a building, but this is the view from the front.

Some signs in Skagway.

Back to the ship.
Skagway, Alaska Visit for a day
Skagway view from back at the Ruby Princess Cruise Ships.

Radiation Detectors at the Skagway Canada Boarder

Ok, most probably only I find this interesting, on the bus ride back from the boarder, we stop at customs and I “detect” some radiation detectors as we drive through. I work in Physics and Radiation Safety, so this to me is awesome cool. I completely understand if it is not for anyone else. Radiation Nerds in the house, speak up!

The yellow and white panels are the detectors.

Welcome to Alaska Sign

Were at the edge of Alaska and Canada on a bus tour. We make a quick stop to take a picture of Welcome to Alaska, and Welcome to Canada!

Welcome to Canada on the other side of this roadside stop.
A few pictures of the view

A view from the bus up the hill.

Stop at the side of the road.

Glacier Gardens – Alaska and spoken native language Video

A series of unfortunate events = Glacier Gardens, Juneau Alaska. This is how they described it in our tour. An interesting place, so lets check it out.

We take a ride up the mountain to see the recovered garden from the landside (unfortunate event) and have a wonderful tour from our guide who wishes us the best in his native language which is not a written language. There are least 17 original major Tribes that are Native to Alaska and of course, over the centuries they branched apart into separate Tribes. Some of the predominant Tribes are the Inupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian and the Northern Athabaskan. Today, there are 227 Federally recognized Tribes in Alaska that live in separate Indians Villages as opposed to the Reservations in the lower 48 States.

Our Guide speaking the unwritten language of his clan.

Gardens at the base.

We were only here a short time

The owner – Steve – decided to take fallen trees and make them into sculptures of upside down gardens – the hanging flowers are on top of the root structure of a tree base. Unfortunate the tree has fallen, but beauty has taken over (we do not have any pictures that were post worthy, so this picture is a from Yelp review.
The resident Eagle at Glacier Gardens, there is even a video cam showing the nest and babies inside the greenhouse.

Salmon Hatchery – and Seal eating them all up – Alaska

Sharing a few pictures of our visit to a Salmon Hatchery, they hatch baby chum Salmon and then release them into the wild and after years of living out there, they return to the hatchery and mate and then die. The guide we had said their death is the beginning of new salmon and they fertilize the ground. Plus they are food for so many Alaskan wildlife, including this cute sea lion, eating his fill.

Sea Lion scouting salmon

These are the Salmon returning to spawn.

A million baby salmon in the hatchery – jumping out of the water.

Mendenhall Glacier & Nugget Falls, Juneau Alaska

A bus ride from the cruise dock to Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls was only a few minutes from our Port. We had three choices when we arrived at our destination, check out the small museum movie and gift shop – walk over to the river to watch the salmon spawning, or a hike over to the Mendenhall Glacier & Nugget Falls. We choose to hike over, just over 20mins one way. We were really glad we did.

I must admit, on the hike over, I kept thinking we could be eaten by a bear. We had a saying – Bears don’t like surprises, so we talked while walking, nice and loud.

Smells like Heaven

The plaque says – Romeo, the spirit of Juneau’s friendly black wolf lives on in this wild place.

End of Road, Juneau Alaska

On our tour in Juneau the bus driver told us about the one and only road that leads to no where in Juneau. The road only goes from one side of town to another, and connect to nothing, the only way in our out of Juneau (the capital of Alaska) is by boat or plane. He laughed when he told us, they always recover a stolen car, because there is no where to take it.

End of the Road 24 miles ahead, 36 total miles of road is all there is in Juneau, Alaska.

Whale Watching in Juneau, Alaska

Were in Juneau Alaska – On the excursion agenda – Whale Watching, with Allen Marine Tours – and guess what we saw …Whales, lots of them. First lets set the stage, they pick us up in a bus from the pier, and it is overcast and raining – a lot of rain. But when I see the boat I am excited, it is covered and at least we can stay inside. I am not a cold weather girl, so am dressed warm and ready for this.

Heading on to our ship for whale watching, lets Go!

Inside the boat it is warm and we are headed out to look for some whales…

Babe did you get that, nope missed it, but here is a great picture from my husband!

Yes, we saw this!
A whale tail. We were told if you see a whale tail, you are blessed with another year or two of life. Well we saw dozens of tails, so glad to live to 90!

There was a guarantee, if you do not see a whale you get back $100, no worries there, we saw lots of whales.

We also had a wonderful buffet dinner on the whale watching boat and it was all Alaska based locally made foods, we loved it!

A Yummy dinner of everything delicious from Alaska.
The Blueberry dessert was my Favorite, but David loved the Reindeer.
Honestly, I am falling in love with Alaska, and this was supposed to be a trip for David and me just tagging along. One day in and I am enjoying this A LOT!

Chihuly Glass Art Garden, Seattle Washington

I first heard of Chihuly, when visiting Kalamazoo, MI and they had a show of his art at the local Glass art shop. One of the reasons I starting working in Radiology was the cool way you could look thru the film – it was translucent and how every image was different. I have now been working over 30 years in Radiology and film no longer exists, but I still love looking at the images on the monitor. I feel drawn in to Chihuly glass in the same way I do when I was first attracted to Radiology imaging, both have a depth and detail and I am fascinated. These pieces are huge in scale, which makes it fun like a giant animal or sea creature.

Neon Yellow Blown Glass next to the space needle nestled in a black grass garden.

How amazing!

I loved this place, David, he was more interested in checking out the bees in the garden and testing his theories of electric charge and bees on flowers. Oh well, we both had fun!

Space Needle – Seattle, Wa

Second on our list while in Seattle, Wa for one day on our way to Alaska is the Space Needle. We honestly do not know much about the space needle, except it is tall and cool and we want to check it out. I did just learn today that the space needle was built in 1961 for the world’s fair. The glass floor is new from a recent renovation – which is good, because it turns out the glass floor is our favorite part.

Walking up to the Space Needle after a quick Lyft ride over.
We bought our tickets – and did not realize thought we would not have enough time to make it over to Chihuly gardens, and turns out the gardens are right next door, so missed out on the shared deal you can buy as we purchased these tickets at the base of the space needle.
TIP: Really look into a joint deal on travel sites, prior to dismissing the option.

Video (from the top) of the elevator we just rode up to the top of the space needle.

Picture from the top and the glass bottom, people love to lay on the floor and snap a picture of the suspended look. It is for sure an uneasy feeling walking over the glass portion for the first time.

David having fun with the glass bottom from the top of the space needle.

You can buy at drink of wine or beer or a soda/water at the top or a light snack meal. We did not, but instead just reviewed the views from the top.

Wait a minute: “This will be to Seattle what the Eiffel tower is to Paris” – then we have back to back seen Both the Seattle and Paris towers… this is us in June. (wait it was late July, time sure does work weird when your on vacation).

https://daveandlaurasdream.com/2019/07/10/eiffel-tower/

From Tokyo to Seattle, Washington

This trip is just David and myself, our kids are back at home safe and sound. We flew to Seattle to travel to Alaska, but first stopped in Seattle for the beginning of our travels.

David and I have never been to Seattle, so we researched as we always do a TripAdvisor search, a WordPress search for blogs on the area and last – when we arrive, we ask as many locals about everything fun to do within a short period. We narrowed down our less than 24 hours in the area to a visit to:

1. Pikes Place Market

2. Space Needle

3. Chihuly Gardens

Straight off the plane, we head to our hotel – Seattle hotels are expensive ($230-300/nite) down town, but since we only have one day, we want to be where the action is and stay at the Motif Hotel (just purchased by Hyatt this very week). It is a clean and cool hotel. In fact the entire ride from the airport over in our Lyft, the town looks young and hip – we see many people walking around with dogs and lots of public art. Our first thought is – this town might be too cool for us – lol, so we will soak in the youth and try and learn a new trick or two.

Our view of Seattle coming in from the airport. We head straight from the hotel with an early check in to Pikes Market.

Pikes Public Market is a huge fish, art, collectibles, dining & farmers market – where you walk for what feels like miles up and down and lengths, both inside and outside. It is a wonderful sunny day – warm and perfect for walking. We are only 0.6 miles to the market from our hotel. As we approach the market we realize it is busy, really busy – but we love these types of out door/indoor markets. The first thing we see is….

There are flowers – huge long stalls of flowers. I want to buy some, the flowers are fresh and different from anything I have seen, and really well priced, but we are only in town for one day, so no flowers for us.

Walking around Pikes Place Market.

We buy a cup of hard pressed apple cider at a vendor. Then a BBQ Pork bun and pork meat stick at Mee-sum pastry – the lines were long at Mee-Sum, so that had to mean it was a good place, and it was the bun was fluffy and the BBQ pork stick was perfect.

We looked at so much – I will add in more pictures here as soon as David gets his together, we are in transit today so posting while moving can be hard, but nice to remember while still fresh.

Late Nite Pokemon MagicKarp snack in Tokyo

Late Night snacking – we come across this pokemon Magic Karp snack made of a warm cake filled with pudding (choices are chocolate or vanilla) we buy one of each and they are incredible. Just perfect for a Tokyo Late night snack.

210 yen or approximately $2.10. A deal for this warm delicious treat.

Tokyo Sky Tree at Sumida district

We thought we were at Tokyo Tower, but were recently corrected this is Tokyo Sky Tree at Sumida district an Eiffel Tower inspired lattice communications and observation tower in the Shiba-koen district of Minato, Tokyo, Japan. It is huge, actually 332.9 meters and is the second-tallest structure in Japan. When we visited Tokyo Tower, we had no idea what to expect, but it is like a HUGE mega mall. So pictures of what we were up to at Tokyo Tower! We walked in and first saw a huge food market, with so many choices, of everything, then later a food court, and then shops, so many many many shops. We were there for over 3 hours and had to start walking faster, just to get to the stores we really wanted to see – Pokemon’s second store, and some clothing stores the girls wanted to look at.

Totoro character – we bought quite a few gifts at this store.
Moomin House Cafe – ran out of time for eating here, but fun place.
Pokemon store at Tokyo Tower

Japan Wendy’s Fast Snack

The kids wanted a quick Wendy’s Hamburger while in Tokyo, Japan. David and I figured we could eat a Wendy’s Hamburger right around the corner from our house just like the ones here. Nope, there is a difference… Check out this Tokyo Wendy’s.

TIP: 550yen is approximately $5.50 US.
So a single Wendy’s Hamburger, is $5.50, pretty close to the prices we pay at home. The hamburger looks the same, but it tastes slightly different – but check out the rest of the menu, pasta, shrimp, green tea drinks….
There is even a hamburger bun hamburger, and the funniest thing of all, a Jim Beam mixer.
David, had to try one, I took a sip, it was cold and frothy.
Sabrina loves this green melon soda, and her Corgi stuffed animal from the crane game earlier in the week.

Gundam Cafe- Akihabara Japan

Garion more than anything else wanted to buy as many Gundams he could while in Tokyo. He wanted to buy a super large one, but it would not fit in our suitcase – he did purchase five normal sized model kits. So we decided to surprize him with a Gundam Cafe Visit. Gundam’s are a Japanese science fiction media animation series that features giant robots (mecha).  

Tip: Check out web sites before heading over to a special tourist cafe, as sometimes you HAVE to have a reservation, or they open at weird times.

Gundam Cafe website: http://g-cafe.jp/akiba/menu/food/

I can’t stop smiling!

In his complete Glory of happiness!

So we had a snack and Garion ate, everything – a blue soda drink a Hamburger and fries. He could not be happier, and that makes all of us super happy.

Nakamise Shopping Street, Sensoji Temple – Asakusa, Tokyo Japan

Our family left the Confucious Temple and walked toward our goal of Nakamise Shopping street and Sensoji Temple. We heard this was a great tourist location, and we are tourists and want to shop.

Check out the serious number of little stores here – like a tourist shopping paradise!
We buy a lot of little gifts.
High five a statue, and head on over to the temple
Katrina, David and Sabrina posing in front of the Sensoji Temple Entrance.
David and Garion in front of the temple entrance

Lets go In!

Sometimes I stand in awe – thinking how lucky I am. During this trip it is probably my 100th time of just thinking how Blessed and lucky I am to be here with my family. Even when looking at these crazy demons in a temple. Inside the temple it is even more interesting things. I buy a health charm for my mom and say a quick prayer of safety and health for everyone in my family and the world and we walk around the grounds next. We see a Prayer/Fortune area, will check that out in the next post.

Shrine of Confucius, Tokyo Japan

We stumbled across the Shrine of Confucius while walking around Tokyo, toward Nakamise Shopping Street and Sensoji Temple. Confucius Temple is hidden away behind a gate and greenery. We walked in and looked around the peaceful garden grounds. Were sharing a few pictures of our time and the treasures we saw while there. We were told, this is one of the few non replica temples in all of Japan. Now, we are a Christian family, and all Strong believers, so we enjoy learning about all other religions without worry of waiver in our faith. So check out what we enjoyed. Nakamise Shopping Street We stumbled across the Shrine of Confucius while walking around Tokyo, toward . Hidden away you can walk into the gated temple and walk around the peaceful garden grounds. Were sharing a few pictures of our time and the treasures we saw while there. We were told, this is one of the few non replica temples in all of Japan. Now, we are a Christian family, and all Strong believers, so we enjoy learning about all other religions without worry of waiver in our faith. So check out what we enjoyed.

I read this is the largest statue of Confusion in the World. It was big, but not overbearing big, but that makes since as he was wise and simple, not extravagant. I loved the exposed tree roots, and I felt drawn to this status. We continued walking thru the garden toward this large dark temple.
Its raining and we are enjoying the rain, because it is super hot and humid.

It is a $4.00 donation to see inside the temple, so David and I go in, but the kids wait outside in the rain. Inside we learn about a water drinking well that captures rain water to drink later.

There is a lot of very interesting artifacts inside. It feels dark, peaceful, ominous and fascinating. We stay for about 25 minutes, just looking around and imaging what each of these items history. I have a huge imagination, so there is a lot of Indiana Jones and zen ninja fights going on in my mind while walking thru this temple.

We end our tour and collect the kids and walk on to the next adventure.

Mario Cart Competition & Crane Games – Play Videos Akihabara- Tokyo Japan

Were at the Sega Video Game Building in Akihabara, Tokyo Japan. This building is FILLED with all kinds of AWESOME crane games, Video Games and Virtual Reality Games. Next to the escalator, you can see there is 7 – yes 7 floors of arcade games here!
Many Stories and Two separate SEGA Buildings, so many Games, so little time!

Crane Games Everywhere!

At this point he has spent more than the item would cost…. but so close – so by the end of the trip he could have bought two. I love how animated he is after this.

Sabrina wanted this puppy and lost, but her sister won it on the next try. Lucky, not many winners around.

Our family loves to go to our local Utica, MI Dave and Busters to play Mario Cart. I typically loose, David and Sabrina are up at the top, Katrina second, Garion third. But lets check out our game in Toyko, Japan.

Get Ready to Battle Drive!

The Winner of this Round – David! So for the finally, we went up to the top and the boys played Virtual Reality shooting and horse riding bow and arrow competitions, it was funny to see how they walked around with their headsets on – and when they were done, they said it was so real, they could not get their minds to believe it was not. They were shaking after the first round.

Hedge Hog Café – Tokyo Japan

On the Way to the Pokémon Café, we see a Hedge Hog and Cat Café. The Café is on top of a puppy store – yes they sell Puppies there – really tiny teacup puppies, that are on display in a fish tank style shop, these puppies are honestly the cutest I have ever seen, but they are $$$ in price, starting at $1000.00 was the cheapest I saw. But I cannot take pictures, because it is posted everywhere not too. But this post is about Hedge Hogs – Because we decided we had to go and we pay for 10mins at 350yen or $3.50.

Tip: In pet café, the clock starts when you are at the bottom of the stairs, it seems they all were upstairs – all that we saw, and they don’t give you a clock you have to keep track yourself.

We jog up the stairs, we are seeing hedge hogs, the kids went to see cats – I don’t know why – we have two cats at home, but its their money, I am going to pet a hedge hog! I open the door and there they are – Two Hedge hogs sitting in there little habitats. I’m headed to pet one.

I pet one, but realize I should wear a glove. He is spiky and does not like to be petted.

Hedge Hog Happiness!

Hedge Hogs are Fiesty!

There were also Rabbits there, but I grew up on a farm and raised Rabbits, so it was only the Hedge Hogs I wanted to see.

Hedge Hog Paradise

We saw two, but you can put them in any habitat they have, I was not going to move him, but enjoyed this for sure for the price!

Around Tokyo – 1st Day

We learned the subway system really quick, you have to – my main goal was to NOT get separated. We did have the plan of if you get lost, stay there for 2hours, if still no one comes back, get a taxi back to the house.

We wanted to go to Tokyo Disney the first day, but it was Raining pretty hard, and by the time we got our luggage we realized we only had a half day, so we decided to check out the area after the mall visit and here are a few pictures from the first afternoon.

We had Shabu Shabu, Pork Loin. Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water and served with dipping sauces. Apparently we were eating it so wrong, we were drinking the dipping sauce like a soup and dipping the vegetables one at a time and eating them. Some one from the next table came over to explain how to eat it correctly. You take the vegetables and put in the boiling pot for 5mins, then add the meat strip in the boiling vegetable water for 1min, pull it out, dip it in the sauce and eat it, eat the vegetables in between. Honestly this was a delicious meal and we LOVED it, wish I could have eaten this everyday.

Delicious, so Good

TIP: In Japan, people will stop and help you if you look confused or lost, this is a wonderful benefit for a tourist.

This is our street where our AIRBNB was, it was filled with little stores for shopping, pets, a mini grocery store, 7-11, wine store, and about 10 restaurants. We checked out everything we could.

We played a little Pachinko – a Japanese form of pin ball, but combined with a Video Game.

Tomorrow is Disney Day!

Train to Toyko from the Airport

Ok, lets head to Tokyo!
Pasmo Card – Best travel plans! – You have to pick up one of these in the train station, it cost 5000yen, or $5 to get one (you get your money back at the end if you ask for it – bargain). Then put money on the card, this is actually very easy, click on the English version of the card machine and just like using a simple ATM back at home, there are multiple YouTube Videos on how this works, but it is easy enough to figure out as long as you know you will need it. We put on $100 for each card and made our way to the AIRBNB.

Tip: You really have to use the subway and train in the Tokyo, so figure it out prior to getting there and the rest you can solve when your there as it is easier than you might fear.

Tip: The PASMO Card and whatever you put on it can be refunded, just ask when you return to the airport prior to leaving the train station and get all your money back.

So, now we have to figure out how to get to our AIRBNB

So when we were on our honeymoon we figured out you can go ANYWHERE with Google maps, as long as you have internet and we picked up our router, so we were good. We have the address we just follow Google Maps, and it looks something like this – EASY.

Notice you will loose signal a lot, but find your way, then keep following the steps, do not close the ap, or you will have to find it again. We are on AirPlane mode – you can see that above, but still using our portable internet router.
Look at the top, Walk 8 mins to the KO pink station….
There is always someone around – ok, they probably can not speak English, but they might know a word or two. Plus they had a universal translator when my card would not work.

We Arrive In Tokyo!

A Twelve and a Half hour flight, over Russia to Tokyo. Low priced and tight seats, argh, but we are here. It takes about 1 hour to get off this flight and thru security, collect our luggage, pick up our phone router, so we can have internet and leave our phones on airplane mode, then figure out how to get to the train. Were off!

Were Here

Oh no, we have about 4 hours to check into our Airbnb, but not enough time to visit Disney Tokyo like I thought we might, and we have all this luggage and so we decide to check in our luggage at the airport holding area – it cost 1000Yen, or $10 to store three pieces for 4 hours and we hit the local mall.

Narita Airport Welcome!
Bus stop to the Local mall from the Airport – spend our time seeing something while waiting to check in our AIRBNB.
Busses in Tokyo Run EXACTLY on time, NEVER late – Notice the English

While we figure out what is going on, a local TV Station interviews us on why would you vacation in Japan! Super cute – I hope to find that one day. We buy a bus ticket to the local mall – and check out this plastic food that helps us figure out what to eat.

We might not know what were eating, but we can get an idea from the plastic examples of the food. Notice the English. The pictures match the food pretty closely – and you can kind of figure, that meat looks like pork.

So we choose a place to eat- the girls want Italian – yep first meal is Italian in Tokyo!

The pictures and some English on many menus, make things easier. A Set is a complete meal, so you order just the food, or if you want a set, that would include a drink and some kind of side. Prices are reasonable, the girls ate a Pizza Margarita at the Italian Mall with a Salad and Soda, they shared and the entire price was 1150yen, or $11.50 – very reasonable, and different than what we were told prices would be – we were told to expect this meal to cost about $25.00 – Glad it was cheaper!

Grocery Store Fish Market in the Mall. So many choices I am overwhelmed

Eiffel Tower

So we saw the Eiffel Tower from a far and walked down to it! Stopped and took a bunch of pictures, had an ice cream, and bought Katrina an Eiffel Tower sucker.

Garion showing off his mini Eiffel Tower he bought!
Katrina showing off her Eiffel Tower Sucker!

Next Post – Under the Eiffel tower and then….. Off to Toyko, Japan!

Paris Pictures

There are so many beautiful pictures from random areas we saw in Paris, these are a few. Some from a top the Hop on Hop off, some just from wandering around. Enjoy!

A wonderful eating and shopping street near Notre Dame.
The busy streets near the Seine river
Notice the Bride entering the building.
Gift from Egypt to France.
There was a protest going on at this area – peaceful and childrens medical rights based.

Arc De Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile or Triumphal Arch of the Star in Paris, France. It is a monument to the fallen solders of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

The name of all French Victories and general are inscribed on the inner and outer surfaces.

You can walk under the circle intersection of twelve roads and pop out in the center – and walk around checking out the twelve roads surrounding – you can take the elevator up to the top – but the line was HUGE – or you can book this in advance and skip the line – remember the tip of doing these at least 30 days in advance.

Hop on Hop Off Bus – Paris

Hop on Hop off bus

On the Hop On Hop Off Bus – Paris

You see them all over the place in the major tourist towns – Hop On, Hop Off Buses.  We love them.  This is probably our sixth time using a Hop on Hop off, but we have no favorite.

Tip:  Use the HopOn HopOff Bus service at the time and place you are in.

Tip:  Buy your tickets online (best your phone in hand) – it is always saves money and time.

We have checked into it from every way, waiting in line at the location, buying from the bus driver, buying online – the cheapest and quickest way is buying right off your phone.

We did learn something new this trip – buy the service you are standing in front of.  We bought one we saw driving by – but then could not figure out where the stop was – looking at a map on a website of stops and trying to find it was – ARGH!  After a 30 minute lesson of figuring out a stop and standing at several other service stops that we did not buy (3 services with three different stops location made a difficult morning for us).  Finally after a lot of back and forth and we were on our way.  Even with the bus service app downloaded we could not find the stop quickly.  Follow a bus, find the stop, buy the tickets.

TIP:  Get to the stop, buy your bus passes for the service at the stop – even if you miss that bus, another will be back shortly.  Trying to figure out even on a map from your phone exactly where a stop is at is much harder than you might think.  Follow a bus, Find a stop, then buy the tickets. 

Tip:  Sign up for PayPal prior to your trip, link it to a credit card – this will making buying things online so much quicker, and you won’t have to put in a credit card while standing on a street corner. Plus your safe if your account is compromised.

Notre Dame – still standing just like us!

Notre Dame is still standing – battered and in renovation, but she is still standing despite what we all thought was the end of her and the fire that was so devastating only just 2 months ago.

This month David and I will be married 3 years and together 5 years. We are winning against the odds of a second marriage succeeding. Our marriage and my life is testament that regardless of your current situation, you can fight hard, and win – in a big way. Our children are thriving and growing up surrounding by love and we are a family. Six years ago, my life was so different. I was in the middle of a divorce and thinking my life was over, I was fighting for my health, my finances, and my children. I was devastated and burnt down to my core. At the time I could have never predicted that point of my life was just the beginning of things to come. I still have to pinch myself to believe this is my life. I feel so blessed and grateful, it can be overwhelming.

Seeing the Grand Dame was also a memory of 2008, and my last visit to Paris with my parents and children. When we were there, we went to Palm Sunday Mass, which was crazy busy with mass mobs of people – in fact we were separated by the crushing crowds. I was just laughing about that with my parents last night – what wonderful memories of this trip, and the memories are still strong.  

Six years from now, I would love to visit Notre Dame and see her completely re-built, toast her and myself for both over coming against the odds.

Paris Date Night

We like to date, even when traveling, we think it is part of what keeps us together – grown up time to re-connect. My daughter recently asked David, what was he looking for in a date when he was first dating me – he said companionship – he wanted a companion to do things with, talk with, travel with, enjoy his time with. That is part of what Date night is for us. So we date.

Were exhausted, after 20 hours of traveling, but we make time for a date.
Date night dinner of roast beef with mushrooms and au gratin potatoes for me with a glass of cabernet – 20Euros.  David had cheese and bacon risotto with a coke – 23Euros.  A wonderful meal at the little café about 2 blocks ~5mins walk, from our Airbnb.

TIP: Wine is cheaper in Europe than a Coca-Cola (soda pop).
I say go with the local lifestyle and drink wine!
We sit and talk away the evening, people watching and amazed at the beautiful buildings that surround us. I love this man and our time together.
Parisian buildings that surround our dinner.
The view all around us
Liked this wall posting we saw on our walk home. David, Architecte, 1821 – lol!

Next posts: Notre Dame and The Louvre Museum.

Arrive in Paris

We arrived in Paris, France after a long and tight (economy) flight – we drove to Toronto, Canada from Detroit, Michigan only 3 hours in good traffic from our home – this will save us about $1000 per ticket using this method.  I recommend this as an option for considering any travel.

Tip:  Check airports within a few hours of your home for potential flight discounts. Driving a few hours can save thousands.

We Arrive!

Room check in was at 3pm, we asked to check in early, but they said the room would not be ready, so we had to keep busy from 10am until 3pm. We decided to separate – as everyone in our group – except our youngest son Garion had already been to Paris, and he wanted to see the Catacombs.  So the girls and myself took off for the ….. Zoo a favorite from out last trip and a side trip to the Curie Museum.  We each purchased a subway ticket and left Charles De Gaulle (CDG) airport, with our luggage.  David and Garion, never made it to the Catacombs – too long of a line for their patience.

Tip:  Book Paris Catacombs online in advance  – 30 days if you really want to see them.

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David and Garion stop at the Arc De Triumph, when the Catacombs were busy and a long line.

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile – means Triumphal Arch of the Star. I heard there were a lot of recent riots in this area, but a quick check of the recent news showed those were over months ago, so lets go! The Arc de Triomphe was built to honor those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. It is HUGE. More picture to follow in future post. ††

Zoo in Paris Jadin des Plantes - heart of Paris.
We visited this Zoo in 2008 when traveled there with the kids, they loved it and wanted to see it again. We walked with our luggage to the Zoo, it was hot, and hard to drag around the luggage, but we really enjoyed it!

TIP: Figure out what you will do with yourself, and where to put your luggage between the time you arrive in Paris to the time you can check in. Wish I would have checked the luggage, and saved the long haul to the zoo carrying our luggage.

We read that the zoo is the second oldest in the world, and was built in 1793 with the animals coming from Versailles after the revolution – instead of killing the animals during the revolt, they saved them and they eventually ended up here.

We wanted to visit the Marie Curie museum, but honestly we were beat tired and it was 3pm, so we skipped it and headed to the Airbnb for a rest.

Next post: Date night in Paris with my handsome husband & Notre Dame, she still stands – and under repair.

Notre Dame, still stand!

Epic Adventure Before it begins

Epic Adventure – Before it Begins

Our family trip to Paris, France – Tokyo, Japan – Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The Airbnb’s are booked.  In Paris we will stay at:

In Tokyo we will stay at:

Let us compare afterward – what we booked and what we got.  So this is the before, same post after the trip with the details of each location.

We have the exchanged moneys, we used a credit union, which had no fees according to my husband and his mother – Wings Credit Union.  Next time we exchange I will for sure ask a lot of questions on this no fee, same exchange to assure this is true, as I want to report back to each of you.  It seems too good to be true, as the airport charges the best fees I have found, and my current bank has large fees associated with foreign money exchanges. 

Tip:  Check with a Credit Union or a friend who could exchange $ for you at a credit union for great foreign money exchange fees.

We have the credit cards – we are bringing two, one each with no foreign exchange fees (this could cost you upwards of 10% per transactions, so very important to have this in place). 

Tip:  ALWAYS bring two credit cards when traveling – as I will read about in a future post, if one is compromised you will have a back-up.

We have our luggage picked out, our three largest suitcases, with another in each (for bringing home gifts).  We are traveling with three of our five children and sometimes we question why we would ever do that, but I already know the answer, I love them unconditionally and cannot wait for this Epic Family Adventure.

Flying out of Toronto Airport on Air France.

Chinese Lantern Festival – Philadelphia, PA

At the end of our visit with our Son in Phily, PA, Brett had to head back to his job at Dover Air Force Base for a 6am Shift on Sunday. While we only had Friday and Saturday to be with Brett, the visit was wonderful and this left a date nite for us parents. We chose to visit the Chinese Lantern Festival -which was at Franklin Square, within walking distance from our rental apartment. The festival moves from town to town and is in downtown Philadelphia thru June 30, 2019. This website has more information: http://historicphiladelphia.org/

Walking into the Festival

The Festival has these Extreme oversized light sculptures, some that move and change colors. There is also food, alcohol, acrobats, snacks, vendors and these incredible visual explosion of color and showmanship of what looks like paper or silk lighted lantern art. I loved this and would recommend it with a 10 out of 10. The price was $20 each, and even though it rained the entire time, I did not even notice I was so memorized. Fun night, and my husband is wonderful company.

David with Angel Wings – he says – see I told you I was an angel
In front of the mouth of a dragon!
Panda Tree that Changed Colors, it was Magical!
As it became darker it was even more magical.

Black Sand Beach – Iceland

It is cold (32-40 degree F) and rainy and icy and snowy in Iceland, mostly overcast, EVERY DAY. BUT it is incredible and If you have a good coat and weather proof gear, your in for a treat. Dress in layers, because inside buildings are kept really warm. Day trip to the Famous Black Sand Beach in Iceland.

Sushi, Saki, and the Chicago Field Museum

What an enjoyable evening with my husband at the Hitachi Buffet at the Chicago Field museum. We walked 3 blocks over from our Fair Field Inn Ontario street hotel to the AAPM, American Association of Physicists in Medicine cocktail party at the Chicago Hilton. Then to the Hitachi Party. All the Japanese Sushi and Saki we could want, then tours of the museum at our freedom. An incredible night!20181127_205830

I love this Sexy Man at the RSNA Hitachi Field Museum Event.  I feel so lucky and blessed to have these incredible times with him!20181127_195807

Ray Carlson my Boss toasting with my husband a Saki Special!20181127_192626

The Shrimp were so tasty, but I loved the Bai Bun the best, like a cloud of tasty!20181127_190843

An RSNA event at night with over 1000 people at the Hitachi Dinner with Sushi, Saki and at the Chicago Field Museum. 2018112795174758

David, Me and My Boss Ray Carlson!201811279517545420181127952013012018112795174754

Y-12

20180417_072218As I am driving thru Oakridge, Tn – I see atomic symbols everywhere – so my interest is peaked.  Following signs to the Y-12 museum – I have to investigate what this unusual atomic symbol is with the name of Y-12.  I learn Y-12 is a national security complex tucked away and rarely heard and the small museum is a wealth of interest to a physicist and history buffs.

Y-12 itself is a National security complex with three primary national security missions that protect our country.  They maintain the US nuclear Stockpile, reduce global threats, and fuel the US Nuclear Navy.

The museum show cases instruments and stories of Radioactive history.  My favorite part of this museum is this newspaper article.  This is the site the Atomic Bomb was made!  For some reason… Manhattan Project, made me think the WW2 Bomb was made in NY, but nope, it was made here.

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A few more interesting pictures to share:

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A “Moon Box” manufacturered here at Y-12 that was used Moon lunar geological samples to Earth.

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Sample badges and ID for Y-12 workers, looks just like the badges I recall from Manhattan project workers, although these are just samples.

Interesting side trip for a Radioactive Geek Girl!

 

Gatlinburg, TN

I am spending a few days in Oakridge, Tennessee for Work training, and our group decided to take a quick trip to Gatlinburg.  1.5 hours on the back roads and we were there – an explosion of all tourist trap style shopping, drinking, eating, and things to do you can squeeze into a small area.  We walked around downtown, which is right around the corner from DollyWood.    We stopped in the Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine store and for $5, you get to sample 13 mini shots of liquor of every kind and a $5 coupon for anything over $5 in the store.  I bought my husband a T-Shirt our group pooled our money and bought a fifth of our favorite Moonshine – Caramel Apple Pie.    We shared our fifth with a few fellow students in the hotel lobby after class, then ate at Calhoun’s on the Water in Oakridge.  A delicious meal at a beautiful location for a fair price.   Love Gatlinburg!

 

5 things I wish I knew before I went to Cuba

 

20180409_213740I knew you cannot use credit cards in Cuba, and they have cigars and rum, but I did not know….

 

  1. We were told we had to have a cultural tour booked or we would not even be allowed to step off the Cruise ship (or if we flew in – not step off the plane).  This is not true.  The threat is empty.  We saw several couple walk off the ship (they were Americans) they said they had nothing booked and were unconcerned and when we were back on the ship they said they had a wonderful day.

2.  Everyone in Cuba, LOVES Che Guevara!