Tag Archives: travel

Las Vegas Trip (3): F March 28, 2015

We slept in the next morning and then rented a car. First, we drove towards the south end of The Strip, where the famous “fabulous Las Vegas” sign is. I love how this selfie photo turned out!

Photo of the Day

Then we drove to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about a half-hour away.

20150327_121237 SONY

We hiked all afternoon in the wonderful sun. The rock was beautiful.

20150327_171718 SONY small

We enjoyed the flora and the fauna, too. We saw lots of pear cactus, a rattlesnake, a little gecko, and little wildflowers.

20150327_172908 SONY

We weren’t successful in avoiding sunburn, but it was totally worth it!

20150327_181349 SONY

For dinner, we decided to visit a buffet. Vegas once had a reputation for having very inexpensive buffet restaurants. This is no longer true. Our buffet dinner was not cheap, nor were most of our meals!

20150327_172339 SONY

Here is a view of another of the huge themed hotels on the Strip, this one with a New York City theme.

20150327_200551 SONY

Our flight home the next morning was supposed to leave at 8:30am. Our flight was mysteriously delayed until 2pm, however; so we ended up spending the entire day at the airport or in the plane. We landed in Detroit around 9pm. On the upside, I finished reading an excellent book on piano teaching, and Paul and I spent time dreaming about how we are going to use the travel vouchers that Southwest gave us.  🙂

It was a fun trip! Three days was the perfect amount of time to see the city and do some tourist-y things. Next year’s MTNA conference is in San Antonio — and I’m already looking forward to that!

Las Vegas Trip (2): Th March 27, 2015

In the morning, Paul’s internal coffee meter was running low as usual. We went to a great little coffee place attached to the Monte Carlo hotel.

20150326_101330 SONY

I enjoyed a huge blueberry scone.

20150326_101357 SONY

We walked back to the hotel to get a few hours of sunshine and reading by the pool. It was lovely. 🙂

Photo of the Day

When we had enough of the pool, we walked around for a few hours again. The Bellagio is another huge, fancy hotel, this one with an Italian theme. Out front, there is a pool with a fountain show synced with music that plays every half-hour in the evenings.

20150326_110352 SONY

The lobby features blown glass art on the ceiling.

20150326_110917 SONY

The Bellagio also has a indoor conservatory.

20150326_175929 SONY

Here is a panoramic view:

20150326_111322 SONY web

The Bellagio hotel has an art exhibition which was currently hosting a Fabergé exhibit. Paul has always wanted to see this, so we went. The detail work on the Fabergé eggs, frames, and other art is amazing.

For dinner, we ate at a Spanish tapas restaurant called Jaleo. The food was absolutely incredible! We were floored by every dish we ordered.

20150326_184923 SONY

After dark, we went back to the Ballagio Hotel to see the fountain show at nighttime.

20150326_200349 SONY

Outside of the Mirage hotel, they have a “volcano” that spews fire and water every half hour.

20150326_203212 SONY

Then it was time to catch the “Beatles Love” Cirque du Soleil show. One of my adult students was generous enough to buy us tickets for Christmas when he heard we were going on this trip. Photos were not allowed during the performance, but here’s a selfie photo before the show! The athleticism and grace of the performers was incredible, and the costumes/acts were very fitting to the Beatles songs we heard.

20150326_211055 SONY

It was a full day!

Las Vegas Trip (1): W March 26, 2015

I thought I’d do a little bit of travel blogging about our mini trip to Las Vegas following the MTNA conference. Paul flew to Vegas on Wednesday, the last day of my conference, and we stayed through Saturday.

Paul took a taxi from the airport to meet me at The Rio, which is the hotel where my conference took place. Together, we walked to “The Strip” as it’s called (Las Vegas Boulevard, the main street through downtown) to find some lunch. We ended up eating at a French restaurant called Mon Ami Gabi.  I ordered a ham and cheese crepe and Paul ordered an ahi tuna burger. We were starving, so we also ordered an appetizer: warm brie with honey, roasted chestnuts, and garlic.  Everything was delicious. And we got to eat outside in the sunshine.

20150326_121501 SONY

Next, we checked into our hotel, The Carriage House.  This was a great place to stay because it was just a block from The Strip — so it was quiet, but still within walking distance from everything. There was a nice outdoor pool and our room even had a kitchenette.

20150326_141119 SONY

We spent quite a few hours walking around The Strip, exploring and admiring the huge, themed hotels. For example: The Eiffel Tower replica (part of the French-themed hotel where we ate lunch) shown below is half the size of the original, but cost over $40 million to build!

20150326_110614 SONY

For dinner, we went to Yusho: a Japanese restaurant. I ordered a chicken wings kabob and Paul had pork shoulder fried rice with caramelized kimchi. This restaurant was very affordable but the food was absolutely incredible!

Stay tuned for Day 2!

Travel Journal: Puerto Rico DAY 2

DAY 2 – January 27

Trivia:  Puerto Rico is a commonweath of the United States.  Puerto Ricans can vote in the presidential primaries but not in the general elections.  The currency is the U.S. dollar and the primary language is Spanish, although English is frequently used.  San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico

Day 2 was a big day.  In the morning, Paul and I took a taxi from our hotel in Condado into Old San Juan.  Old San Juan is one of the oldest and most historic areas in Puerto Rico.

Map Old San Juan

In the greater San Juan area, the taxis charge a flat rate depending on which “zone” you are traveling to and from.  Including the 10% tip, we paid about $20 for a 15-20 minute trip.

The taxi dropped us off at the Plaza Colon, one of the lovely squares in Old San Juan.  Plaza Colon means “Columbus Square,” in honor of Christopher Columbus for discovering Puerto Rico in 1493 during his second voyage.

DSC_20140127_075335

Puerto Rico was first colonized by the Spanish in 1508 by Juan Ponce de León.  In 1509, the original settlement moved to the area now known as Old San Juan in order to be able to better protect the San Juan harbor from other jealous countries.

In 1539, the king of Spain authorized construction to begin on a fort to defend the entry to the San Juan port.  The fort, which is today known as “Castillo San Felipe del Morro” or simply “El Morro,” covers 70 acres including the open “killing grounds” around the exterior.  (More info/photos about El Morro is to come.)

OldSanJuanMap1

In 1680, the governor of Puerto Rico began construction on city walls to surround the entirety of Old San Juan.  It took 48 years to complete the city walls.

After the taxi dropped us off, we walked southeast towards the city walls along the ocean.  There is a lovely walkway running along the ocean outside the city walls, leading down to the exterior of El Morro.  The city walls are as tall as 42 feet and 45 feet thick at the base in some places.  At the top, the wall is about 2 feet thick.

DSC_20140127_082705

Walking along this path, we passed by local joggers as well as many feral cats.  These cats are supposedly descendants of the cats the Spaniards brought to Puerto Rico.

DSC_20140127_082918

The walls are studded with garitas — sentry boxes.

DSC_20140131_171404

DSC_20140127_083651

When important visitors came to San Juan, they entered through the red gate known as the San Juan Gate.

DSC_20140127_083030

Along with Spanish rule came the Roman Catholic faith.  The inscription above this gate reads: “Benedictus Oui Venit In Nomine Domini” — “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

DSC_20140127_083415

Inside the gate.  Notice how thick the city walls are here!

DSC_20140127_090735

The other side of the gate, inside the city walls.

DSC_20140127_090815

Next, we walked to El Morro, the fort.  El Morro is a National Historic Site administered by the U.S. National Park Service.

DSC_20140127_091938

Notice the dry moat on either side of the entrance.

DSC_20140127_092853

DSC_20140127_102832

The plaza within the fort has been renovated to appear somewhat as it looked during its heyday.

DSC_20140127_102142

The park ranger we talked to suggested starting from the lowest “level” of the fort up to the highest level.

Some areas of the fort have ramps instead of stairs.  I suppose they needed to be able somehow to bring big things like cannons to various levels of the fort!

DSC_20140127_093802

Since its construction in 1539, El Morro has served a number of purposes throughout the centuries.  During Spanish rule, it survived an attack by the English led by Sir Francis Drake in 1595.  The English attacked again in 1598 led by George Clifford and were partially successful through attacking by land rather than by sea — but they were forced to leave the island during a breakout of dysentery.

Here, you can see a few of semi-circle tracks for El Morro’s many cannons.

DSC_20140127_094829

The Dutch attacked in 1625.  Although they were successful in ransacking and burning much of the city, they were unable to penetrate El Morro.

DSC_20140127_094617

During the Spanish-American War, the U.S. bombarded El Morro in 1898.  During the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded the ownership of ownership of Puerto Rico to the United States (along with the islands of Cuba, Guam, and the Philippines).

El Morro then became part of a U.S. military post called Fort Brooke and was active during World War I and II.  The concrete bunker in the photo below was added during World War II to keep watch for German submarines.

DSC_20140127_095819

In 1961, the U.S. military retired Forte Brooke and El Morro became part of the National Park Service.

On the highest level of the fort, there is a lighthouse.  The first lighthouse was built on El Morro in 1846.  The second lighthouse (1876) was struck by U.S. artillery fire during the Spanish-American war.  The third lighthouse was rebuilt a year later but demolished in 1906 due to structural problems.  The current lighthouse was constructed in 1908 in the Moorish Revival style.

DSC_20140127_100606

The view from Level 6 overlooks the “field-of-fire” and the rest of Old San Juan.

DSC_20140127_100503

This big guy was hanging out on Level 6!  We have no idea how he got up this high within the fort.

DSC_20140127_101416

Stay tuned for the rest of Day 2!

INDEX:

Conference Fun

Last week, I attended the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP) — an awesome conference for piano teachers that takes place in Lombard, Illinois (which is about 30-minutes west of Chicago).  Here is a photo of me with my 3 roommates (including my cousin and a friend from grad school) plus a new friend from Vancouver.

DSC_20130725_202026

One evening, we had dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant.

DSC_20130725_190005

During one of the sessions the next day, I ran into the same two ladies again.  They are familiar with my blog about piano teaching and have even used my music history curriculum for their own music history camps!

collage

The next night, my roommates and I ate at a Greek Restaurant.  Yum!

restaurant

In the exhibit hall at the conference, I browsed lots of books and games for piano teaching and even was able to meet some composers of music for students to play.

DSC_20130727_122152

I learned so much at the sessions I attended.  I have already started using some of the things I learned as I taught lessons so far this week!

My roommates and I are hoping to attend this particular conference again when it is held again in 2015.  🙂

Trip to Cali PART 6:

March 17-19
Our last few days:

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Exploring the golf course some more…

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Eating lunch at The Willows country club.  What a menu!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Fresh lemonade.

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

It’s nice to be outdoors!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Lemonade.

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

My hubby’s salad came with a pretty orchid.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Such a gorgeous view!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali
From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali
From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

I put the orchid in my hair.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali
From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Back home, out on the patio.

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

The view out towards the golf course.

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali
From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Paul found the fruit picker could also be a vicious weapon.  :]

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

We spent quite a few afternoons soaking up the sun by the pool.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Another flower!  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Another sunset!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Another trip around the golf course!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

The door to grandma’s.

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Another outdoor shopping center, where we ate lunch before we headed back to the airport.  They have OUTDOOR escalators!!  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Palm trees and mountains.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali
From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Inside the airport.  It’s refreshing to be indoors yet outdoors at the same time, especially in a busy place like an airport!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Looking up at the airport…cool!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

What a trip!!!!  We hope to come back soon!  :]  

Trip to Cali PART 5: The Aerial Tram

On 3/15, we drove to the Palm Springs Aerial Tram.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali
From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali
From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

It was a little bit of a drive…

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

I didn’t get very many good pictures on the way up the mountain….too crowded.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Here we are at the top!  What a view of the valley!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

My hubby admires the view.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

There were trails to explore too.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

I found a great big pinecone!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

And a big tree.

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

My hubby is so strong, he was able to push that big tree….just a little!  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

It was a little chilly up there on the mountain, but the sun helped keep us warm!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

There was snow up there too……ahhhhhh!  Reminders of winter back home!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

I walked between this giant log.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Awwww, my happy hubby.

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

He’s showing off more of his strength.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Mountain flowers.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Rocky. 

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Back towards the building/tram.

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Now we’re on our way back down the mountain on the tram!  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

I was able to get much better pictures this time.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Pictures just don’t do it justice. 

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

You can see the entire valley from up here.

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Wind farms.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali
From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali
From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali
From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

The tram has a floor that slowly moves, allowing everyone to get a 350-degree view of the scene!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

We’re almost back to the bottom!  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

This is the tram.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Safely at the bottom once more, we got a picture together using the camera’s timer.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

See the little salamander??

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Driving back down the mountain.  

Trip to Cali PART 4: Squeezing Oranges

A STORY:  Squeezing Oranges

One day, my hubby decided to make freshly squeezed orange juice.  I decided to help — mostly by taking pictures.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

We picked lots of oranges and tangerines.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

We brought them inside.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Mmmmm!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

We did it the old-fashioned way — by hand. 

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

After lots of hard work….look how much we made!   

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

And look how much of a mess we made!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

It was lots of hard work, but let me tell you, it was sooooooo delicious.  :]

Trip to Cali PART 3: the great outdoors

At grandma’s country club:

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

This is “The Wash” – where all the rain water drains from the mountains after a heavy rain (which only happens about 4 or 5 days out of the year).  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Palm trees!  What a wonderful sight.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

More oranges…..this time, using the fruit picker.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Sunset!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Country club building. 

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Pool of water on the golf course.  Do you see the crane?

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

You have to watch out for those sprinklers when you’re walking around the golf course.  It’s hazardous out there!  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Flowers were blooming everywhere.  I love pansies!  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

I don’t know what this is called.  Yellow flower, I guess.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Snapping dragons are so fun.  

Trip to Cali PART 2: Airport, picking oranges, and shopping

Here’s our first view of sunny California, outside the airport:

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Let me tell ya, it’s love at first sight!!!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

My hobby is reaching to pick an orange.

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

And there it is!  He’s so proud.  

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Palm trees!!!!  :]

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

This is an outdoor shopping mall.  I wish all malls could be like this!

From 2008 03/14-19 Trip to Cali

Just beautiful.  (p.s. – not a real crane)