Posted by: Mary | August 11, 2013

Decorative Doors of Germany

One of the things I love best about traveling is experiencing places that are different from my home.  I love the thrill of discovering a new place, experiencing a different culture, trying new foods, and meeting new people.  I also love the architecture – all of the little details decorating the buildings, the signage, and even the doors.

As I wandered through several cities and towns in Germany, I started noticing some unique doors.  Some of them had great door knockers, too!

Posted by: Mary | July 30, 2013

Pakalolo in South Africa

A few years ago, my husband and I were driving around in South Africa, and had to pull over in Hout Bay to take a photo when we saw the Pakalolo restaurant:

Pakalolo in Hout Bay

Most people probably wouldn’t think twice about it, but if you’re from Hawai’i, the name would surely catch your attention.  Why? Because “Pakalolo” is the word for Marijuana!  We wondered if the owner had any idea but, after a quick web search, it turns out that it’s his last name….

Posted by: Mary | July 18, 2013

Art or graffiti?

When we see paintings on buildings in the U.S., it’s usually graffiti – some kid or gang has decided to leave their mark and it’s unattractive, usually done hurriedly with spray paint.  But other times, it’s a mural that has been commissioned as public art and enjoyed by the community and visitors.  When I run across them, I’m usually surprised because we have so few, but I see them all over in Europe and other countries.

Take this mural that I saw in Ecuador:

Ecuador Bridge Mural

Ecuador Bridge Mural

It was inspired by this bridge, right across from the building:

Ecuador Bridge

Ecuador Bridge

How about this colorful one in Strasbourg, France? It looks like a mix of art & graffiti.

Strasbourg Mural

Strasbourg Mural

Or these colorful and artistic ones that look like illustrations from a children’s book?

Switzerland Mural

Switzerland Mural

Switzerland Mural

Switzerland Mural

And if you get lost wandering in Otavalo, just check out this map mural to figure out where you’re going:

Mural Map of Otavalo

Mural Map of Otavalo

And here are a few others of interest:

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Posted by: Mary | July 16, 2013

Disney World Tips

Cinderella's CastleDuring Spring Break, we spent a week at Disney World with our teenage niece and had a wonderful time, in spite of the fact that the parks were packed due to the school break.  We knew they would be when we planned the trip, so it was no surprise, and we planned to take advantage of the first few hours of each day to do the highlights.  We also knew that, coming from the Pacific Time Zone, we’d have a hard time making it until the park closed, as we were getting up at what were really early hours for us until everyone adjusted to the new time.

I’ll post about the highlights from each park separately, but this will serve as some general observations about Disney World with some tips that we discovered or were shared with us.  We stayed “off property”, which meant the need for transportation to/from the parks.  We opted not to rent a car, as our condo was only a few miles driving distance and we could use a combination of the free hotel shuttle and taxis.  The hotel shuttle did not always run at convenient times, so we used it less than originally anticipated, but taxis were convenient and cost less than the combination of car rental and parking fees.  However, had we not traded our time share and had to pay for accommodations, I would have opted to stay at a Disney resort for its convenience.

Living in California, I’ve been to Disneyland and California Adventure a number of times, but we heard that dining at Disney World is much more difficult to find a table, so advanced reservations were highly recommended.  This has its positives and negatives because you need to decide where you plan to be (it can take up to an hour to get from one park/hotel to another via Disney transportation) and what you would like to eat…and when you think you’ll be hungry.  Knowing that we’d be on our feet all day, I opted to make dining reservations for four of the six days so that we could ensure we’d have a place to sit in the air conditioning and rest.  Three of the four reservations were for dinner and one for lunch.  We ended up canceling one because we weren’t hungry, but used the others and they worked out well.  By dining during off peak times for our other meals, we were almost always able to find a place to sit without having to wait or share a table with another family, but it was not always inside with air conditioning (and it was hot).

Mango Pie

Disney dining has come a long way over the years, with some excellent table service restaurants.  One of our favorites was the Yak & Yeti at Animal Kingdom, which had good food and a mango pie to die for! However, prices aren’t cheap and for three “adults”, we were typically over $100 for dinner after tax and tip.  Some of the restaurants cater to children more than others (usually you can guess based on the cuisine served), which means you shouldn’t expect a quiet, peaceful dining experience, but hey, you’re at Disney World and it caters to families, so that’s to be expected.  If you expect this and expect to pay the high prices, you will be less disappointed that your “expensive” meal wasn’t the relaxing experience you thought it might be.

We used the Disney World app on our smart phone to keep track of wait times at the park when making decisions on what to do each day during the busiest times.  The app also keeps track of dining reservations and you can add parades or shows listed in the app to your schedule for the day.  It makes it really handy to keep track of the must-do items for the day.  The parks have free Wi-Fi, so you don’t even need a data plan.  Our niece used it on her iPod Touch.  Each day, we started off at our must-do rides and as the lines got longer, we used Fast Passes for the other high priority attractions or to re-ride favorites.  Then we used the app to find things with the shortest waits to fill the time and it all worked well.  Disney World also has lots of good shows, which were great for getting off our feet for a bit and into the air conditioning.  The exception was the Beauty and the Beast show, which was outdoors in the hot sun.  Note that people start lining up for the shows at least a half hour before they start, and more than an hour for some, so if you must have good seats for your kids (or yourself), plan ahead.

One last tip for today.  If you’ve seen those magic shots taken at any of the Disney theme parks and want to get one for yourself, look for the Disney photographers who roam the parks, not the ones with the tripod.  Those with the tripod will take your photo, but they don’t have the magic shots set on their cameras.  Different photographers have different shots, so ask what they can do.  Then check them out on your photo pass early enough to have them retaken on your trip, if needed.  We had a great one with a bouquet of balloons, but unfortunately, they covered my husband’s face!  Apparently, the photographer didn’t line it up correctly.

I’ll be posting more about each park soon, but would love to hear your feedback on your favorite attractions or tips.  Feel free to leave a comment!

Yak & Yeti Restaurant

Posted by: Mary | July 16, 2013

I’m back!

Well, my time away from this blog was longer than I anticipated, but we’ve been really busy with the last few months of our niece’s senior year in high school, graduation, the celebration, and helping her to move back home, which is out-of-state.  But all of that is done now, and we’re starting to get back to life as it was four years ago before she moved in.  That means more time for this blog, and boy, do I have a lot of catching up to do! Next up, a brief report on our trip to Disney World with our niece over Spring Break!

Posted by: Mary | June 12, 2013

I’ll Be Back Soon….

It’s been about four (very busy) months since I lasted posted and I’m far behind on sharing my trips to Spain and Disney World, as well as a road trip to Oregon.  In addition to these trips, we’ve been busy preparing for our niece’s high school graduation and move from our home back to Alabama, and had an unexpected death in the family.  All of this has kept me away from WordPress, but I will be back soon and I have a lot to share!

Posted by: Mary | February 5, 2013

Little Havana Street Art

About a year ago, I took my niece to Florida during a February school break.  Although the weather where we live is not cold by the standards of many places, Florida was warm and sunny while it was cool and rainy at home, so it was just the winter break that she was looking for.  During our trip, we spent a day exploring Miami, with some time in Little Havana.

While walking around Little Havana, we came across some street art that caught my attention.  I love the details that make a city or a neighborhood what it is, and this art was unique and added to the character of the street.

Posted by: Mary | January 27, 2013

DisneyWorld Dreaming

When I was young, I was a huge Disney fan and my dream vacation was a trip to DisneyWorld, which would include Epcot Center where I could see the pavilions representing many different countries.  It was the closest I thought I’d ever get to visiting them.  Well, I never made it to DisneyWorld, but I have made it to somewhere around 30 countries now and my passion to see more grows with every trip.  But this year, I’ll finally be heading to the Magic Kingdom and I wonder if Epcot will be what I once thought it would be.  I have a business trip to the Orlando area that ends just as our niece’s school break begins, so she and my husband will fly out to meet me.  We have the trip booked now and I’m wondering if Epcot will be for my niece what I thought it would be when I was her age (17).  I hope it inspires her to keep traveling long after she moves out of our home….

Posted by: Mary | January 27, 2013

Picking Pohole in Keanae

Pohole

Pohole Fern Shoots

Recently, I headed “home” to Maui for a quick 4 days to attend my cousin’s baby shower and help out.  The day before the shower, my other cousin (“K”) asked if I’d like to join her and her friend (“L”) on a ride out to Keanae to pick Pohole fern shoots to make Pohole salad.  I was ready to help with whatever needed to be done, so I agreed.  When “L” arrived, she suggested I change into long pants to protect myself from the mosquitos and suggested I find shoes that could get really muddy.  (No one had mentioned this when I packed for the trip….)  I borrowed old clothes from “K” after being advised that anything I wore might end up getting ruined, and also borrowed her old rubber slippers, and we headed off.  I was ready for the adventure!

We stopped at the County building in Wailuku to get a permit to pick Pohole (permit was free, but had to have everyone’s name listed) and then took the road to Hana until we got to Keanae.  We stopped along the side of the road, grabbed our bags, and headed into the “forest”.  Our first stop was a little muddy and slippery, but not too bad, and it was relatively flat.  The brush was thick and there were a fair number of fern shoots with relatively few mosquitos.  However, there was not enough to make the salad, so we headed to our second stop, which required a climb down a muddy, slippery hill where my slippers kept getting stuck and I kept sliding.  Fortunately, I was able to remain on my feet, but I found very few shoots and spent most of the time swatting away the mosquitos.  This area was much wetter, hence the increased mosquito populations.  I also ended up with muddy hands because I kept having to pull the slippers out of the mud. “L” was quick at locating and picking Pohole, so we were out of there within a half an hour.

Thank goodness for the wipes that cleaned up my hands.  My feet were still muddy and I was wearing clothes that were too big, looking like I was homeless, when “K” and “L” dragged me to several stores to run errands Up Country before heading back home.  What a sight I must have been!  Fortunately, neither had a camera and we didn’t run into anyone we knew or were related to.

IMG_2331

After Picking Pohole

Posted by: Mary | January 6, 2013

Door Knockers of Spain

I am fascinated by the detail that I find on the buildings, lamp posts, signs and doors in other countries.  We don’t see so much of that here in the United States.  On my recent trip to Spain, I found some interesting ones that I’d like to share.  These were found in Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo and Segovia.

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