Author Archive for

16
Feb
19

Aruba: One Happy Island


Endowed with an all year round warm, hurricane-free weather with average temperature in the 80s, any time of the year is always a perfect time to visit Aruba and laze around its stunning beaches.  The island, which is one of the three Dutch Caribbean islands together with Curacao and Bonaire, has a tagline “One Happy Island“. Yes, everywhere you go you can feel the happy vibe in one of the most celebrated tropical islands in the world.

DSC_0620 However, its geographical location positions it far from the U.S. mainland. Compared with Bermuda, for example, which we frequently visit because it is just less than two hours flight from New York’s JFK and Boston’s Logan airports, Aruba is almost a five-hour flight from those two airports. Still we decided to visit Aruba for the first time as we would be using our timeshare points and the airfares going there from Boston were at an all-time low ($110 or 11,000 miles plus tax, one-way on Delta Airlines). Coming back to the U.S. from Aruba, the fare is always ridiculously higher.

 

 

20180818_180551At Aruba’s tiny airport our arrival experience was indeed a very happy one: short immigration lines and efficient officers. The line to get pass through customs was a bit long though but was fast moving.  Just across the street from the arrival area were the rental car companies where we got our car and drove away to our resort.

 

Baby Beach, Aruba’s Gem

Before we get drowned in the many happy details of our Aruba experience, I will start with our best experience in Aruba, the remote Baby Beach in a little town called San Nicolas, a 30-minute drive south from Aruba’s capital city of Oranjestad.

20181214_200354After passing by the pastel-colored houses of San Nicolas……

 

 

img_8809….and an eerie, large swath of land filled with cactus,…..

 

 

img_8813….we finally reached the entrance to the stunning Baby Beach.

 

 

20180821_090337It was still mid-morning so the beach was almost empty and the views were gorgeous and relaxing.

 

 

 

DSC_0611There were only less than five people in and around the beach excluding workers of the only establishment there.

 

 

DSC_0583The early morning drive was worth the effort to reach a beach that was almost to ourselves.

 

 

DSC_0587Before we dipped in the shallow and calm turquoise waters, we took some time to have family snapshots.

 

 

DSC_0584Our best Aruba experience: the secluded and beautiful Baby Beach.

 

 

LRM_EXPORT_20180822_111610Shown here is the One Happy Island sign on the beach right next to the only restaurant in the area that also houses locker rooms and bathrooms.

 

 

DSC_0597Then it was time to spend some moments in the immaculate beach.

 

 

DSC_0594This is the northern view taken from the center of the beach.

 

 

DSC_0599This is the southern side of the beach that leads to one end of the rocky wall protecting the shore from the big waves of the Caribbean Sea.

 

 

DSC_0608The stretch of a wall or rocks is the main reason why the beach is so calm and the waves almost non-existing that makes the place perfect for toddlers and babies, thus the name Baby Beach.

 

 

DSC_0606This is certainly one of the best beaches we have been to.

 

 

 

DSC_0613Wildlife abounds in the beach area too.

 

 

DSC_0618And I could not wait to lie down on the beach too!

 

 

DSC_0615As we were leaving the area, covered beach chairs (the colored ones above) have started to be setup along the shore. Since the beach shore faces west, it is also an excellent place to watch sunset if driving back to Oranjestad in the evening is not an issue.

 

 

Holiday Inn Resort in Palm Beach

20180819_072823For most of our days in Aruba we based ourselves in the massive Holiday Inn Resort in Palm Beach area. It is one of the resorts in Aruba where we could utilize our timeshare points.  There is always quite a long check-in line anytime of the day in this resort but because of our status with the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) we were able to use a priority lane, thank God! We were given a room with partial sea view as shown above.

 

 

DSC_0496A few steps from the resort lobby is the beach dotted with hundreds of palm trees, thus the name Palm Beach.

 

 

DSC_0497Again, our IHG status gave us the benefit to reserve a beach hut solely for our own use during our entire stay that nobody else could use.  So we chose one that was directly in front of the beach.

 

 

20180820_092959It is an advantage to be at the beach early in the morning between 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. as the beach is not very crowded yet.

 

 

DSC_0503 2Some are still doing the morning beach walk.

 

 

 

20180820_082838Early in the morning kids can already start enjoying the beach’s calm and clear waters…..

 

 

DSC_0511….and the white powdery sand on the beach.

 

 

DSC_0505 2One can also do the early morning dip.

 

 

DSC_0524It is truly rewarding to be at the beach early.

 

 

 

DSC_0521 2It is also a perfect time to just sit back and relax on the beach enjoying the views and the morning breeze……

 

DSC_0514….and spend some time with family.

 

 

DSC_0527Retreating from the beachfront and venturing farther to the middle of the resort we found a beautiful scenery.

 

 

DSC_0532 2The resort’s main pool area with the swaying palm trees rising high up to the blue, spotless sky!

 

 

DSC_0547This is the center of Palm Beach!

 

20180820_090150My daughters enjoyed the kids’ pool.

 

 

Sunset in Palm Beach

DSC_0446With our dedicated beach front hut we were always ensured of stunning sunsets as long as we’re staying in the resort.

 

 

DSC_0442 2Sunsets in Palm Beach are to die for.

 

 

 

 

DSC_0444With the resort beach directly facing west, we have the sun setting in front of us as we lounged on the resort’s beach chairs or be simply on the beach.

 

 

DSC_0456My wife and two daughters at sunset.

 

 

20180818_190520Just a random couple on the beach during sunset.

 

 

DSC_0467Here are some of the few sunset shots I took.

 

 

 

DSC_0469There are some tours offering sunset cruises.

 

 

20180818_190605The sun vanishing halfway through the horizon.

 

 

 

DSC_0473 copyAnd another happy day has just ended in Aruba.

 

 

DSC_0495 3The resort turned on its magical evening spell as the sun set on the horizon.

 

 

Around Palm Beach Area

DSC_0537The Palm Beach area is the most touristy of all the Aruba beach areas.

 

 

DSC_0539It has lots of shopping malls…..

 

 

DSC_0536…and souvenir shops…..

 

 

DSC_0535….restaurants, convenience stores and many more. Knowing the area, we tried to avoid it unless necessary to refrain from paying prices higher than anywhere else. We just drove 5-10 mins away from the area if we wanted cheaper groceries and other stuff.

 

 

 

Arashi Beach

DSC_0544Arashi Beach is also another great place to watch the sunset.  We drove around 10 minutes from Palm Beach to Arashi Beach.

 

 

 

DSC_0542Arashi Beach is actually a public beach mostly frequented by locals.  Beach huts and chairs are available for use on a first come, first serve basis.

 

 

DSC_0543It is only a short stretch of beach but it gets pretty crowded especially in the afternoon going into sunset.

 

 

DSC_0545Before sunset, one can actually visit the California Lighthouse a few minutes drive up a hill near Arashi Beach.  One can also watch sunset from the lighthouse area. We ran out of time and we decided to stay on the beach for the sunset.

 

 

Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort

20180820_210818On our last days in Aruba we moved to Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort, one of the few resorts where we can use our timeshare points at very shockingly low rates. We vowed to be back at any Divi Resorts using our timeshare points after the experience.

 

 

20180820_210511I booked a studio unit.

 

 

20180820_194908It has one queen size bed and another queen size pull-out sofa just enough for my wife and me and our two daughters.

 

 

20180820_194720It was a very nice place for a few days stay near the beach.

 

 

20180820_210454The resort offered unlimited punch rum as welcome drinks redeemable everywhere there is a bar or a restaurant.

 

 

 

IMG-364eb0a07a73d8430fc0c0674bc95d64-VThe best thing for us was the fully-equipped kitchen that we heavily utilized during our stay as the package I took was not an all-inclusive one as I wanted to cook our own food.

 

 

20181214_200151The resort is actually huge and shown above is just one of the pool areas near our unit which was also walking distance from the resort lobby.

 

 

Sunset at Divi Beach

DSC_0576Just a few minutes walk from the resort across the street is Divi Beach (and farther to the right is Eagle Beach).

 

 

DSC_0549The sunsets there were amazing too but still the ones we experienced in Palm Beach were the best for us.

 

 

DSC_0552The area is not crowded during sunset.

 

 

DSC_0560Nevertheless, it is still a beautiful and relaxing place for the family to watch sunset.

 

 

DSC_0565My daughters loved the place too!

 

 

DSC_0566Indeed all of Aruba’s stretch of white sand beaches are all facing west so whatever beach you are in you’ll surely experience a unique sunset.

 

 

Our Food Experience in Aruba

20180820_174838The food experience in Aruba is not something we begged for more but the best thing that got my discriminating palate’s attention was the Aruba-made ginger extra hot sauce we had inside Super Food.

 

 

 

20180820_164204Speaking of Super Food, it is a huge supermarket in Oranjestad just a few minutes drive from Divi Village.

 

 

20180820_164319Since we decided to cook our food on our last days when we were in Divi Village, we came here to buy  something we could cook.

 

20180820_204455One of them is the marinated pork belly that tasted so good.

 

 

20180915_150305On one occasion when we were not munching on KFC or McDonald’s we tried a restaurant inside Holiday Inn Resort called Sea Breeze.

 

 

20180915_150403They were offering a reasonably-priced steak + lobster combo for dinner that sounded so irresistible.

 

 

20180915_150332We also had the fried fish topped with fried plantains.

 

 

20180819_201729The best Aruban-Caribbean bouillabaisse experience we ever had was probably this magnificent broth chock-full with fresh seafood in Sea Breeze.

 

 

Conclusion

img_8785Aruba’s beaches rank among the best in the world, no doubt about that.  The place has tropical weather all year round with no dangers of hurricanes. Its people, fluent in English, Spanish and Dutch, are very friendly and exude a lot of happiness. There is no reason why one cannot fall in love with Aruba.

 

 

DSC_0621Aruba’s capital city of Oranjestad is also an attraction.  However, traffic is not the best in the city center especially on those one-lane areas. Parking is a big headache too if you are not familiar with the city’s layout.  We even had difficulty finding a parking area to take the above shot at the Ike Cohen Monument, dedicated to all those who contributed to the development of the tourism and hospitality industry in the island. We parked farther from the monument and my wife and I alternated going to the site as our daughters slept in the car.

Despite the cons I have listed above, we vowed to visit the place at least once every two years. Aruba is one of the more interesting islands in the whole of the Caribbean.

 

26
Aug
18

Italy: Roaming ‘Round Rome


Coming from Italy’s stunning north where we stopped for a few days in the usually frequented cities by travelers like Venice, Pisa and Florence, we disembarked from our late afternoon train ride from Florence in Rome’s central train station. Just as we stepped outside the train station, the area was reeking of urine smell worthy of a vomit.  I then realized we were entering the real, current Rome beneath the old glory of the powerful center of the great Roman Empire. Aside from that smelly experience, I enjoyed Rome with all those classic sights and great food. Here are the places we visited.

 

THE COLOSSEUM

DSC_2284Located in the center of the city of Roma and east of the Roman Forum is the Colosseum which is the largest amphitheatre ever built. We stayed the whole afternoon until after sunset to get snapshots taken during different times of the day.

 

 

COLOSSEUMHalfway circling the compound counterclockwise past the entrance to the Roman Forum we chanced upon a hill overlooking the colosseum.  And this jump shot was made.

 

 

CSC_2350We rested, hydrated ourselves, people-watched and circled the colosseum compound trying to find the best vantage point for the sunset shot.

 

CSC_2383We finally settled on a hilly area outside of the colosseum compound but just right across the street.

 

 

DSC_2403Sunset came and I waited for that moment after sunset that the blue hue of the sky would be very prominent in photos. Amid the blue sky the lighted colosseum appeared majestic.

 

 

CSC_2455 2Just the street below separated me and the colosseum.

 

 

DSC_2413One last round and one last shot of the colosseum and we called it a day.

 

 

THE PANTHEON

CSC_0889Part of Rome’s historic center is the Pantheon with its dome still considered as the world’s  largest unreinforced concrete dome.

 

 

DSC_0874As you can see on the left side of the photo there is the circular part of which above it is the dome which is not seen from ground level.

 

 

DSC_0875This is the dome taken from inside. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 feet or 43 m.

 

 

CSC_0881The Pantheon was originally built as a Roman temple.

 

 

DSC_0882 It is now a church.

 

 

DSC_2446For me, the Pantheon is more beautiful at night (I love night photography).

 

 

DSC_2449 2There are still a lot of people in front of the Pantheon taking photos in the evening and you just have to get the right timing to get solo photos when there is no one around you.

 

 

DSC_2441The small piazza in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.

 

 

DSC_2451The piazza is surrounded by restaurants and bars that are very much alive until late.

 

 

THE ROMAN FORUM & PALATINE HILL

DSC_2286Just next to the Colosseum, is the Roman Forum which was the political, administrative and religious center of  ancient Rome.

 

 

DSC_2421Foro (Forum)  was the name that the Romans gave to the central square of the urban settlement. There were a lot of temples inside the forum but not all were dedicated for the gods but to people too.  The Romans believed that by building a temple and dedicating it to themselves they became deity.

 

 

DSC_2422Shown here is what remains of the Tempio dei Castori.

 

 

THE TREVI FOUNTAIN

CSC_0840Good for us that our lodging was just a few steps away that every morning and every night we would pass by the famous Trevi Fountain. It is always crowded so it is rather difficult too to get a good snapshot of yourself with everyone wanting that photo memoir.

 

 

DSC_2470The Trevi Fountain is one of the oldest water sources in Rome dating back to ancient Roman times, since the construction of the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct in 19 B.C. that provided water to the Roman baths and the fountains of central Rome. As you can see, in the centre of the fountain is a statue of Oceanus, standing under a triumphal arch. His chariot is being pulled by two sea horses, one wild and one docile, representing the opposing moods of the sea.

 

 

 

THE SPANISH STEPS

CSC_0848 2From our hotel we just walked for less than thirty minutes to another famous place in Rome, the Spanish Steps, which are a series of 135 steps from its base at the Piazza di Spagna to the top where a church is located. Again it was almost a perfect shot with only one person on the side of the stairs I was sitting on.

 

 

II VITTORIANO

DSC_0926Il Vittoriano is located in Piazza Venezia and was only built between 1885 – 1925 to honor Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.

 

 

DSC_2432Dubbed “The Wedding Cake” for its gleaning white marble and tiered levels, this large altar was built. Replete with stairs, columns, fountains and sculptures, it was controversial because it destroyed the area of the Capitoline Hill and dominates the skyline.

 

DSC_2431Nevertheless, it lies at the heart of Rome and is a focal point of the city.

 

 

ST. PETER’S SQUARE AND BASILICA

DSC_0960We arrived in St. Peter’s Square in the morning of our last day in Rome.  The line going inside St. Peter’s Basilica, one of Catholic’s holiest site, was expectedly long but it moved fast.

 

 

DSC_0942 2Before lining up we checked the square grounds and took photos like this.

 

 

CSC_0996That is St. Peter’s Basilica from afar near the entrance to the square. The dome designed by Michelangelo was inspired by the Pantheon and the Duomo of Florence.

 

 

DSC_0994Looking up close to the columns lining up around the square.

 

 

DSC_0972Entering the basilica, we were stunned by the magnificence of the structure and intricate details of the interior.

 

 

DSC_0979People, probably not all of them Catholics, were all over the inside of the basilica most of them looking up.

 

 

DSC_0976 2Moving closer to the altar we found something very weird and eerie.  That dark brown thingie jutting upwards. The basilica was actually built on top of the burial site of Peter the Apostle of which the dark brown thingie marks.

 

 

DSC_0981Moving past the dark brown thingie we moved closer to the altar.

 

 

DSC_0967After a while, we decided to leave the basilica.

 

 

PIAZZA NAVONA

CSC_0905Piazza Navona is part of Rome’s historic center together with the Pantheon, a few blocks away.

 

 

CSC_0908Piazza Navona is the place that has the three Bernini fountains.

 

 

DSC_0896A closer look at one of the fountains.

 

 

DSC_0918At the plaza center is a stretch of art works and souvenirs for sale.

 

 

DSC_2457Day and night, the restaurants and bars are filled with mostly tourists. I have been warned that it is not practical to dine in this area as food and drinks are overly priced. One night as we were leaving Piazza Navona, we walked back three blocks toward Pantheon and we found a good restaurant where we tasted, what else but Italian food.

 

 

PIAZZA DEL POPOLO

DSC_0864Piazza del Popolo is a large urban square in the center of Rome. The name in modern Italian literally means “People’s Square”, but historically it derives from the  poplars after which the church of  Santa Maria del Popolo in the northeast corner of the piazza, takes its name.

 

 

CSC_0863The entrance of the Tridente from Piazza del Popolo, defined by the “twin” churches of Santa Maria in Montesano (left, built 1662-75) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (right, built 1675-79). The Via del Corso exits between the two churches which we came from coming in to the piazza.

 

 

 

DSC_0859An Egyptian obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis stands in the center of the piazza.

 

 

 

A DINING EXPERIENCE 

DSC_0919We skipped Piazza Navona area for dining as we were advised and walked a few blocks going to the Pantheon. We passed by this tiny restaurant offering, what else but Italian food.  We decided to try it.

 

DSC_0921 2

An Italian rose wine was paired with…..

 

 

DSC_0925…lasagna and…

 

 

DSC_0924….spaghetti in tomato sauce.  We enjoyed the great, inexpensive food.

 

 

MORE AROUND ROME

DSC_0844As we roamed around the city we passed by colorful alleys…

 

DSC_0858…tricycles….

 

 

DSC_0853 2…more alleys….

 

 

DSC_2263….restaurants with alfresco dining…..

 

 

DSC_0891….guards of government buildings….

 

 

DSC_2462…..more alleys at night…..

 

 

DSC_0856….Manila-named places…..

 

 

DSC_0843…and more authentic local ristorante.

 

 

WHERE WE STAYED

We stayed in Cenci Bed & Breakfast just a few steps from the Trevi. Fountain A very reasonably-priced bed and breakfast with very accommodating owner and pleasant staff.  The website is http://www.cencibedandbreakfast.it/#home.

 

 

camere-cencibb-28camere-cencibb-10Included in the room rates is a light breakfast in a tiny dining area.  Juices, coffee, breads, boiled eggs, pastries and fresh fruits are offered. My stay in this place has been one of my most cost effective travel experiences ever. We were out all day and a part of the night when we were not sleeping so we did not need a luxurious and expensive hotel in Rome.  Yes I am a frugal traveler.

 

DSC_0942 2Bye for now Rome!

 

25
Jul
18

Latvia: Riga, Baltics’ Liveliest Place


Riga, the capital of Latvia is the largest of the three Baltic capital cities and it is considered the party place in the Baltics. Its airport is the largest and busiest in the Baltics offering more direct flights to the rest of Europe than Tallinn, Estonia or Vilnius, Lithuania, the two other Baltic capital cities. Riga was our second Baltic and fourth European city destination during our summer escapade. We have already explored earlier the beautiful cities of Bergen, Helsinki and Tallinn.

FullSizeRenderj

 

 

 

Entering Riga

FullSizeRenderOn a clear sunny day, we took a one hour Air Baltic flight from Tallinn, Estonia to Riga, Lavia.  I was seated next to a South African guy who would be taking a transit flight in Riga from Tallinn to Budapest where he is based. Indeed, Riga has more direct flights to more European cities compared to Tallinn, just a two-hour ferry ride from Helsinki, Finland and to Vilnius, Lithuania which is a lesser active city.

 

 

FullSizeRendereWe touched down in Riga International Airport, one of the three international airports in Latvia.

 

 

FullSizeRendercThe airport’s rather tiny and the hallways are narrow but it looked new, organized and easy to navigate probably due to recent renovation works.

 

 

IMG_1655Welcome to Riga!

 

 

IMG_1662The city center, specifically the Old Town of Riga, is less than 20 minutes away by taxi from the airport. The airport taxi service is centralized and you have to buy a coupon near the final exit door before you can board a taxi.  It is an efficient service they offer. Drivers were nice and helpful too.  You can opt to take the train to the city center but I believe the taxi is the more convenient option that is why we took it.

 

IMG_1663From the airport we chanced upon classic train coaches plying the suburban areas near the capital city. They looked very Soviet-styled.

 

 

 

Where We Stayed

It is the usual balance of our desired location (Old Town in this case) and reasonable cost when choosing our lodging in Riga. We also took into consideration that we had two babies so every place that we must visit should be within walking distance from the hotel. The Rixwell Centra Hotel inside the Old Town was our perfect choice.  It truly did not disappoint.

IMG_1668This is part of the hotel lobby and just right outside are the restaurants, bars and shops.

 

 

IMG_1681As I usually do when traveling, I did try to send a request for a room upgrade to the hotel manager. We were given a top floor, corner suite. How generous of them!

 

 

IMG_1682It was indeed a spacious suite where my toddler could run around forever.

 

 

IMG_1684Just as we went inside the room,  the views out of the windows took our breath away.

 

 

riga2The red roofs of most of the surrounding buildings truly impressed in us the Old City aura.

 

 

riga1Churches and all.

 

IMG_1764The views are even more beautiful at sunset.

 

 

IMG_1765As shown in this photo taken at sunset, just below us across the street are tons of restaurants and bars starting to come alive at twilight.  Some are even open until 7 a.m. so one of the disadvantages of a room in a lower floor in this area is the noise coming from the bars that open until the next morning even with double glazed windows.  We were located in the highest floor so the noise was almost a non-concern.

 

 

Roaming Around Riga

The Old Town & Historic Center

FullSizeRendervThe beautiful Riga Town Hall Square was a just a few minutes walk from our hotel.

 

 

FullSizeRenderIt was almost 10 p.m. and it was still a good time to take photos.  Indeed it’s summertime!

 

 

DSC_0157

 

 

 

DSC_0175Riga’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0163Beautiful buildings and lots of restaurants, shops and bars are everywhere.

 

 

DSC_0167Medieval churches are greatly preserved too.

 

 

 

FullSizeRenderWhether at sunset….

 

 

FullSizeRenders….or on a clear, sunny mid-day Riga’s Old Town is beautiful.

 

 

FullSizeRenderbThis was taken just a block from our hotel of which the church tower accentuates the aerial Old Town view as seen high above from our top floor hotel room.

 

 

IMG_1927It was not hard to fall in love with Riga after all.

 

 

If you are a party–goer, you would love it more there.  Watch this video of a mobile bar.

 

 

The Parks

FullSizeRenderkWhile on our way from the Old Town to the Art Nouveau area of Riga outside the Old Town, we cut across beautiful parks and one of them was in Bastion Hill.

 

 

IMG_1789It’s a place of beautiful, blooming flowers and….

 

 

 

DSC_0210….people suntanning or having picnics.

 

 

IMG_1787Bridge love locks abound too…..

 

 

IMG_1888…..and a lock can be solitary too.

 

 

IMG_1791The area covered parts of Bastejkalna and Kārļa Ulmaņa piemineklis parks.  The greens are amazing and in good weather there are a lot of activities that can be done inside the park like kayaking.

 

 

IMG_1889There is actually a boat tour that starts from this park using a large ferry that goes around the Old Town but we skipped it.  I thought it was wonderful to see the Old City from afar.

 

 

FullSizeRenderqWe also encountered a bunch of students rehearsing for a show.

 

 

IMG_1800A walk in the park can be an opportunity to taste a Latvian ice cream…..

 

 

IMG_1794….well the best gourmet ice cream from Latvia.

 

 

 

IMG_1877As we crossed the street from the parks we came into an area where there were a lot of flowers on display.

 

 

IMG_1879Yes beautifully arranged, real flowers.

 

 

IMG_1876A pyramid.

 

 

IMG_1912And the #SingInRiga group singing competition. Ironically, when we went inside the competition hall, the Israeli group was singing!

 

 

FullSizeRenderoWe then came to another park called Kronwalda Park.  It has the monkey statue in a spacesuit.

 

 

IMG_2360The statue is dedicated to animals that participated in exploration of outer space and it was made by artist Denis Prasolov.  It was worth a group-fie.

 

 

The Art Nouveau Area

DSC_0199From the park we finally entered the Art Nouveau area of Riga. This Baltic capital city has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture anywhere in the world!

 

 

DSC_0197Our first grand stop was at the Museum of Art Nouveau.

 

 

IMG_1845This is the famous staircase inside the Museum of Art Nouveau leading up to its tower.

 

The following are the snapshots taken in the area of the decorative new arts applied to buildings that was popular in the late 1800s until early 1900s.

DSC_0198

Immeuble_art_nouveau_(Riga)_(7568195240)

DSC_0184

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DSC_0188

DSC_0192

DSC_0193

DSC_0191DSC_0194

 

 

Food in Riga

27072320_10215402361640817_1509631548771949073_nOur breakfast moments in Riga were well-taken cared of by our hotel.  This is the first and only hotel where I have stayed that offers complimentary, unlimited champagne during breakfast. We had our other meals in low-key restaurants and fast-food chains.  However, in every trip we take, we make sure to taste the local gourmet offerings.

 

 

20245581_10213782249699031_4327947262718295568_nThe closest we had to experiencing local cuisine was our dinner spent in an awesome place called Garden Restaurant just a few blocks away from our hotel.

 

 

20246017_10213782253579128_4103698983856419920_nThis is where I initially drank the famous local drink, black balsam, that the restaurant was giving complimentary.

 

 

20245476_10213782252939112_9059758374257878717_nMy wife just took a sip of  her black balsam so I finished the two glasses.  It was flavorful, strong and a bit sweet.  I liked it!

 

 

20155727_10213782250579053_7463809804359393260_nWe ordered calamari as our starter.

 

19989682_10213782251459075_9197408986896938830_nThe traditional Latvian bread was served too.

 

 

20228964_10213782250899061_1280012536784584324_nWe ordered the pork knuckle thinking it would be similar to the crispy skin variant of the Philippines only to find out it is somewhat similar to the German version.  It was juicy though and it tasted unexpectedly good.

 

 

20246520_10213782252539102_6395466902400332454_nI am a fish lover so wherever I am I would try to order fish.  The restaurant was only offering a fried Dorado so we ordered it.

 

 

20229281_10213782249859035_1599356938223628368_nThe black balsam was sort of an appetizer drink for me and so my favorite red was the main drink. We enjoyed our dining time in this place and we were glad at least we have tasted a bit of the local cuisine.

 

In another occasion when we were in the Art Nouveau area of Riga we dined in a place called Alberta just across the Museum of Art Nouveau.

IMG_1852

We had beef stroganoff…..

IMG_1857…and Asian-stlye dumplings.

 

 

LEAVING RIGA

The hotel gave us two breakfast bags as we informed the front desk the evening before that we are leaving for the airport on our last day early in the morning. The driver that they arranged to pick us up was prompt, helpful and pleasant too.

IMG_1657From Riga, we took our flight back to Bergen, Norway on the way to the U.S. I was seated next to a couple of guys who smelled alcohol looking like they just got out of a bar and had a long night taking Stolichnaya shots.  Riga party fever indeed!  If I was twenty years younger I could probably have done the same thing.

 

IMG_1720

Ardievas, Riga!

19
Jul
18

Denmark: Ultra Cool Copenhagen


Our stop in the vibrant city of Copenhagen, considered the coolest kid in the Nordic block and is usually voted the happiest place on earth, was unexpected and unplanned.

Our Norwegian Air flight from Bergen, Norway to Providence, Rhode Island in the U.S. was cancelled so we were rerouted to Copenhagen then on to New York’s JFK airport. It was indeed a very disappointing redirection considering that my wife and I had our 6-month and 17-month old babies in tow but instead we chose to focus on the positive side that we would be able to visit Copenhagen for two days all-expense paid by the airline.

Welcome to Copenhagen!

 

Where We Stayed

The airline booked us at the contemporary AC Hotel Bella Sky Copenhagen which is a 10-min drive away from the airport. A complimentary airport shuttle runs between the airport and the hotels near it.

ZCOP4From the proudly Danish-branded Bang and Olufssen TV to the minimalist yet artistic room design and furnitures, the 4-star hotel was indeed a fresh lodging experience for us.

 

ZCOP23This is the hotel room almost in its entirety taken using a panorama shot.

 

ZCOP2The room was spacious enough for my wife and my two little babies.

 

 

ZCOP1I just loved the tiny living area.

 

 

Around Copenhagen

Our hotel was located just roughly thirty minutes away from the city center so it was easy for us to roam around the city.

FullSizeRenderThe hotel where we were staying was located in Bella Center and there was a nearby metro station just less than five minutes walk.

 

 

FullSizeRender4Surprisingly, only debit cards were accepted to buy metro tickets at the automated kiosks in the station.

 

 

FullSizeRender3Our only metro stop for the day was Nyhavn.

 

 

FullSizeRender5This was the view when we went up from under the metro station on our way to Nyhavn.

 

Here are some snapshots as we walked our way to Nyhavn.

FullSizeRender1

IMG_2100

FullSizeRender2

 

Finally……

DSC_0223….we reached the busy, touristy area of Nyhavn.

 

 

DSC_0235The colorful facades of 17th and 18th century buildings that house restaurants, bars and cafes lined up the river.

 

 

 

DSC_0220My wife and my daughter in the Nyhavn area.

 

 

DSC_0238The famous Nyhavn building.

 

 

DSC_0236There’s also a love lock bridge in the area.

 

 

DSC_0228DSC_0231I sure do loved the tourist boats and historical ships docked in the river.

 

 

DSC_0221We also witnessed the breathtaking and heartbreaking act of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei as he barricaded the windows of the Kunsthal Charlottenborg museum with more than 3,500 salvaged life jackets worn by migrants and collected on the Greek island of Lesbos temporarily to celebrate World Refugee Day.

 

 

DSC_0237The artwork was named “Soleil Levant” – French for “Sunrise” – and was inaugurated on World Refugee Day.  Ai Weiwei wants to put attention to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, or as he calls it, the human crisis.  The beautiful thing about this piece is that every one of those life jackets, 3,500 life jackets, represents a human story.

 

 

FullSizeRenderzNext are some photos of the yellow buses plying around the city…….

 

 

DSC_0233…..the hop-on, hop-off tourist buses…..

 

 

 

CSC_0242…..and finally the amazing bicycles and their protected cycle tracks.  There are more than half a million bicycles in Copenhagen, more bikes than people.

 

CSC_0244A staggering 36% of its residents prefer bike as the mode of transportation in going to work and school.

 

 

FullSizeRendercCopenhagen is probably the most bicycle-friendly city in the world.

 

 

The Dining Experience

The dining experience in Denmark has been redefined largely by NoMa chain of restaurants that started in Copenhagen. We did not have the time to dine on a NoMa outlet (yeah as if we could beat the waiting list) but I could say the food scene in Copenhagen is truly one of the best in the world. If a Japanese city embodies a meticulously-prepared Asian food, I could say that Copenhagen does the Western food to perfection.

FullSizeRenderbAt our hotel, a simple dish of tatar of hay smoked salmon, tarragan mayo, pickled onions and crispy herbs was presented perfectly not mentioning its awesome taste.

 

FullSizeRendernThe pasta was prepared un-Italian, tasting like a five-star new dish. This was just fettucine with creamy mushroom sauce, roasted mushrooms, asparagus, North Sea cheese and watercress but it tasted heavenly.

 

 

FullSizeRenderuEven a simple chicken salad took our breath away!  Grilled chicken (really out of this world taste!), heart lettuce, anchovy mayo and North Sea cheese sour dough crumbs.

 

FullSizeRenderFinally, this was my favorite although the picture does not justify the taste. ‘Nordic Beef’ Burger, brioche bun, bacon, smoked cheddar, spicy aioli, pickled red onion relish at the AC Hotel Bella Sky.  Even my wife agreed that this burger tastes very good!

 

FullSizeRendermSome drinks in Danish version.

 

For desserts we had them in the city center in Restraurant Vita near Nyhavn.

FullSizeRenderFirst we had the Gateau Marcel. Just a simple chocolate mousse cake that’s perfectly done. The dark chocolate probably did the trick! 

 

IMG_2140My daughter obviously loved it!

 

 

IMG_2139Next we had the Cre’me Brule’e, The brittle topping of the contrasting layer of hard caramel over the rich custard base was just too tooth-inviting. Either paired with my wife’s coffee or my red wine, this was simply perfect!

 

Back to the hotel food….

IMG_2062Our breakfasts were complimentary at the hotel and the choices were one of the widest I have seen in a 4-star hotel.  Well, enough for the food but yes food has been one of the most striking things that we experienced in Copenhagen in addition to the Nordic hospitality. No wonder why this has been voted the happiest city in the world!  Great food makes everyone happy! Chomp, chomp, chomp!

 

See you again Copenhagen!

28
Feb
18

Estonia: Medieval Old Town of Tallinn


Beautiful Estonia became one of our 2017 summer European travel destinations because of the successive terror attacks in some of Europe’s biggest cities that prompted me to revise our itinerary as my wife and I were bringing with us our two daughters, both less than two years old. Parts of Scandinavia and the Baltic states were the easy choices. We found a tempting inaugural flight offer from Norwegian Air flying directly from Providence, Rhode Island to Bergen, Norway, a much more convenient route than the New York City to Oslo we took previously since we live in southeastern Connecticut. From Bergen we flew to Helsinki, Finland (via Stockholm) and then crossed the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia which was our entry point to the Baltic states.

OLD TOWN OF TALLINN

DSC_0091Most of our time in Tallinn was spent inside the Old Town. The imposing Viru Gate with its pair of picturesque, ivy-covered towers at the entrance to Viru Street was the first glimpse we got of the Old Town. The gate fascinated me so much that we took time to take photos at different times of the day.

 

DSC_0101Yes it was July and mid-summer yet chilly just like most of Scandinavia and the Baltics so we had to take off our jackets for the “summer” photo.

 

 

CSC_0095At the left side of Viru Gate is a small park atop a hill that overlooks the gate. We discovered it as we were walking along the main road.

 

 

CSC_0084There was less of the normal crowd above the hill so we spent some quiet time enjoying the views.

 

 

CSC_0081The two towers are actually only the foregates of what was a much more complex gate system built in the 14th century. It included a large, square tower that stood farther back along the street, close to where the city wall can be seen.

 

 

CSC_0088Most of the gate was pulled down in the 1880s to make room for traffic, but these two towers remained and have since become a symbol of the town.

 

 

FullSizeRender85This was taken as we entered the Viru Gate into Viru Street. Anyone passing between those two towers couldn’t be blamed for thinking they’ve left the 21st century behind and landed smack in the middle of the 18th.

 

 

FullSizeRender81After entering Viru Gate one will pass through the usually packed Viru Street.

 

 

FullSizeRender82A lot of shops, restaurants and cafes dot Viru Street.

 

 

FullSizeRender83Side streets are awesome too!

 

 

IMG_1360We entered a souvenir shop and we were surprised to see Trump and Putin souvenirs being sold together.

 

FullSizeRenderwFrom Viru Street we walked toward the Old Town square.

 

 

FullSizeRender4The main area of the Old Town is its square and this is the southern part.

 

 

FullSizeRender93On our first visit to the square, there was an event going on.

 

 

IMG_1429We took our own photos at the square.

 

 

IMG_1433The restaurants around the square were already bustling with local and foreign visitors alike.

 

 

FullSizeRender3Then we circled another block or two that brought us to the back of the Old Town Hall.

 

 

FullSizeRenderyThe route brought us back to the place of the square tram with authentic Estonian atmosphere.

 

 

FullSizeRendertI could never resist the temptation of having my photo taken with an Estonian girl……

 

 

FullSizeRender…or taking a photo of an Estonian girl. Yes I did ask her permission.

 

 

FullSizeRenderThis is my daughter at one of the doors of the Old Town Hall.

 

 

 

FullSizeRender2As we took another block tour we came upon this tri-cycle and to its back is where we would have a dinner like no other.

 

 

 

A UNIQUE DINING EXPERIENCE 

IMG_1426It was our first night in Tallinn so we decided to experience the irresistible call of a medieval dinner. There  was no obvious choice but Old Hanse, a restaurant we discovered as we were strolling near the Old Town Square.

 

 

IMG_1370Tucked near the center of the Old Town it has both outdoor and indoor seating.  We chose outdoor even if it was chilly because of the babies.

 

 

FullSizeRender92We were given the menu and the staff spoke with medieval flair.

 

 

DSC_0055Blankets were provided for those sitting outside as it was a bit cold summer night.

 

 

DSC_0051The weapons for dining.

 

DSC_0056I had two pieces of wild boar and a piece of elk.

 

DSC_0058My wife had a piece of salmon.

 

 

IMG_1428I tasted both our orders and they tasted so different. Well, medieval.

 

 

FullSizeRender91Yes 1400 A.D. :-). It was indeed a very unique gourmet experience something we never had before, challenging our palette and reasoning even after we have left.

 

 

NIGHT MODE OF TALLINN OLD TOWN SQUARE

FullSizeRenderDOn our second night in Tallinn, we spent some colorful times at the Old Town square.

 

 

exif_temp_imageAs we waited for darkness to set in I took this photo of my beloved with the Old Town Hall and the beautiful buildings as background.

 

 

IMG_1491I also tried the iPhone portrait camera setting as I took another photo of my wife with my firstborn who was 18 months old then.

 

 

IMG_1512We finally decided to have dinner at an Italian restaurant just inside the square to experience the moments of the day turning into night with all those lights starting to turn the square into a magical place.

 

 

IMG_1525A closeup shot of the Old Town Hall at dusk.

 

 

FullSizeRenderBA view of the buildings west of the square accented by the square stones that turned reddish due to the lights from a nearby establishment.

 

 

FullSizeRenderCA part of the north side of the square.  The left end is where the Italian restaurant was located where we had our dinner.

 

 

FullSizeRenderGSome dining options abound too in the east side of the square.

 

 

FullSizeRender(23)A panoramic shot of the square that covered the north, west and south sides.

 

 

FullSizeRenderEFinally, a monochromatic shot of one of the most exciting squares in Europe.

 

MORE OF TALLINN OLD TOWN

FullSizeRenderccOn our last day, we explored the area of the Old Town nearest to our hotel.  First stop was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, an Orthodox Christian building similar to those found in Russia. Well, Estonia used to be part of U.S.S.R.

 

 

FullSizeRenderxxAfter some time circling the cathedral grounds, we finally found a spot to take a snapshot of the side of the cathedral with more of us and less of the irritating crowd.

 

 

FullSizeRenderbbThe facade of the cathedral that was not free of Filipinos taking photos.

 

 

FullSizeRendervvThe Orthodox Christian church was truly an architectural marvel.

 

 

FullSizeRenderNext was the Maiden Tower, a less than 10-minute walk from our hotel.

 

 

FullSizeRender111It is one of the more famous of Tallinn’s medieval defence towers.

 

 

FullSizeRender2It was recently renovated and reopened a museum, complete with an exhibition hall in its vaulted cellar.

 

 

FullSizeRender444What puzzled me inside the Maiden Tower complex was these creepy monks.  There are actually three creepy monks, Ambrosius, Bartholomeus, and Claudius.

 

 

FullSizeRenderThese monks in the Danish King Garden. Their creation was funded by a shady Estonian businessman Toomas Annus.

 

 

FullSizeRender555Veering away from the creepy monks, one can have the beautiful view of this part of the Old Town from the Maiden Tower complex.

 

 

FullSizeRenderLastly as we left the Maiden Tower complex, we passed by Kiek in de Kök, an artillery tower built in 1475. It gained the name Kiek in de Kök from the ability of tower occupants to see into kitchens of nearby houses. The tower is 38 m high and has walls 4 m thick.  A defense passage actually connects it to the Maiden Tower.

 

 

OUTSIDE OF OLD TOWN

DSC_0110Even if our hotel was geographically outside of the Old Town, we never ventured its neighborhood until our last day as our main focus was what was inside the Old Town  It was awe-inspiring to see outside the Old Town medieval architecture blending with modern design.

 

 

IMG_1469This is one of Tallin’s museums.

 

 

IMG_1478My wife and one of my daughters.

 

 

DSC_0097Just outside of Viru Gate, there is a nice place to go for street shopping especially for authentic Estonian handicrafts.

 

 

DSC_0098It has an extensive choices of locally-designed clothing and souvenir items.

 

 

DSC_0109Also, outside the Old Town were Hop -On, Hop-Off tour buses…..

 

 

FullSizeRendeqr….the modern transportation system of the Estonian capital…..

 

 

DSC_0099…the trike business for tourists…

 

 

FullSizeRender…..interesting buildings…

 

 

IMG_1443…and sex shops 🙂

 

Also, we had to visit a supermarket as we needed some things for our little baby.  We were directed by the hotel staff to a shopping mall less than 10minutes walk from our hotel located outside the Old Town.  It has a huge supermarket at its basement.

IMG_1463What made our day complete though was a restaurant that satisfied our craving for Asian food.  It was the CHI Restaurant located at mall’s basement, a food place of Thai-Asian fusion.

 

 

IMG_1448The place was not that crowded anymore when we had our mid-afternoon dining.

 

 

IMG_1462We ordered pad thai…..

 

 

IMG_1460….fried rice….

 

 

IMG_1451…green curry chicken….

 

 

IMG_1457…and sweet and sour fish.  It was indeed a food fest for us who have been deprived of Asian cuisine for almost a week.

 

 

GETTING INTO ESTONIA

Compared to Riga, Latvia, Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn has less direct flights from major European cities probably because of its proximity to Helsinki, Finland’s capital which is just 2 hours ferry ride away via the Gulf of Finland. We chose to cross the Gulf of Finland from Helsinki to Tallinn and it was truly a breeze.

FullSizeRenderfThe Viking Line ferry terminal was just a 10-min taxi ride from the center of Helsinki.  Although there were a lot of passengers, our check-in took us less than 10 minutes.

 

 

FullSizeRenderThere was also an automated checkin area but very few people were using it.

 

 

IMG_1271This was the massive ferry that took us from Helsinki to Tallinn.

 

 

IMG_1261With two babies in tow, we decided to book a private cabin so that we can all easily take a short nap during the sea crossing.  This is the hallway to our cabin.

 

 

IMG_1252Adding a bit more to the regular fare without cabin, one can have this cabin with three sleeping beds tucked into the wall and a fixed sofa bed!

 

 

IMG_1255This was the lower part of the sleeping area.

 

 

IMG_1260With all the beds set up the cabin looked like this.  We were able to take a short nap during the travel………

 

 

IMG_1265……especially that I took my wine inside the cabin which was not allowed.

 

 

IMG_1274We arrived in Tallinn at the Ferry Passenger Terminal where we took a taxi to our hotel.

 

 

WHERE WE STAYED IN TALLINN

IMG_1289After so much consideration with the price and location of the hotels, I booked a room at the Hotell Palace Tallinn in the Estonian capital.  It was way cheaper than the hotels of the same category inside the Old Town and it was just a short walk (less than 10 minutes) to any entrance to the Old Town.

 

 

DSC_0074Shown here is the small lobby of the hotel.

 

 

DSC_0073To the right of the lobby is the area leading to the elevators that would take you to the rooms.

 

 

IMG_1281Our room had two double beds that we later joined together.

 

 

IMG_1279We were provided promptly with the crib. The room had a desk with a Samsung tablet that guests can use freely and is connected to the ultra fast and reliable hotel Wi-fi.  Did you know that Estonia is the most wired country in Europe and probably the world?

 

 

IMG_1282The bathroom was spacious but there was no tub, only a shower area.

 

 

IMG_1283At the other end of the bathroom was a single sink with a large round mirror.

 

 

IMG_1435I think the most captivating thing for me in the hotel was the buffet breakfast included in the hotel room rate.  Fishes and eggs and everything healthy I wanted to eat in the morning.

 

 

IMG_1530And some meaty stuff too: bacon, sausages and pork ribs!

 

 

IMG_1643Tallinn summarizes and showcases what Estonia has gone through the several years of its tumultuous history.   Shown here is the Cross of

02
Jul
17

U.S.: Breathtaking Bryce Canyon


The Bryce Canyon National Park, a spectacular reserve of deep red, spire-shaped rock formations in southern Utah, was part of a number of stops my family took as we traveled by road from Phoenix to beautiful Sedona to the Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks and onward to Las Vegas to cap our family day.

We arrived at our Bryce Canyon hotel way past midnight after spending a late afternoon stop at the Grand Canyon to tour members of my family who have not seen the canyon yet.  Most of us agreed to wake up early the next day to catch a glimpse of the stunning Bryce Canyon ampitheatre at sunrise. Three of us made it. Only the men.

 

sedona6One of the perks of experiencing the prime viewing sunrise time of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater is you won’t pay the park entrance. You can enter the park and the counter is not yet open for the day.

 

 

10369_13360_Inspiration_Point_Bryce_Canyon_Park_lg.jpgWith a lot of possible viewing points, I chose Inspiration Point (yes, over Sunrise Point, Sunset Point and Bryce Point) to experience sunrise at the Bryce Canyon amphitheater. From the hotel staff to internet reviews, everyone would always recommend Inspiration Point. Indeed, the amazing point did not disappoint.

 

 

DSC_0287From the parking lot it was just a few steps to the base of the amphitheater enclave.  We ascended to the first level where we could already catch a glimpse of the crimson spires.  I have never read from any article on the web that this was as easy as I could imagine to get a spectacular view of the amphitheater.  I thought we needed to hike miles to be in the best vantage point.  Later I learned that hiking would be for those who would want to come closer and face to face with the hoodoos following established trails.

 

bryce8My father, who is almost 80 years old, stayed at the first level taking videos and photos.

 

 

DSC_0286My brother and I climbed up to the highest viewing platform of Inspiration Point.  The experience from there was simply awesome.

 

 

Here is the video that I took as the sun rose in the east.  I was lost for words.

 

 

DSC_0276Facing east, these are the hoodoos on the left side zoomed in.

 

 

DSC_0275This is the less crimson, nonetheless still splendid right side when facing east.

 

 

DSC_0277Down toward the center you can see trails where people are allowed to walk and climb the buttes.

 

 

DSC_0279Another angle of the spectacular area.

 

 

DSC_0283Another shot of the more stunning  right side.

 

 

IMG_6658What an awesome experience it was!

 

 

bryce2This has been one of my top five travel experiences so far! Simply awesome!

 

Bryce9From left that is my brother, my father and me as we prepared to leave the Bryce National Park.

 

 

BryceLater in the day just as we were leaving for Zion National Park, the ladies finally decided to visit the viewing points.  From left is my wife, who is carrying our 6-month old Ava in the womb, my awesome mother and then my two beautiful sisters. If blessed with a clear sunny day, an almost midday photo shoot would be simply breathtaking.

 

 

Bryce6Their decision gave me and my wife and our 9-month old daughter to have this photo near the park entrance.

 

 

where to stay

Staying overnight is recommended if one wants to experience the prime viewing times of either sunrise or sunset at the amphitheater. There are so many options for lodging and most hotels would be in one area which is  just near the the park entrance.  Only one hotel is inside the park but I do not think it really matters a lot because the park entrance and the viewing points are just less than 10 minutes drive away from the hotels outside the park.

Bryce-View-Lodge-Sunset-feI have chosen Bryce View Lodge as our sleeping quarters for the overnight stay as we only needed…..

 

 

bryce-canyon-hotel2……the basic rooms.

 

 

hotelWe got the rooms in the lower level shown above.  Parking space is directly in front of the rooms.

 

 

bryce-hotelBy staying at Bryce View Lodge guests gain access to all facilities across the street at the Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn.

• Free wireless high-speed internet in lobby and conference center.
• Guest laundry. 6:30 am – 10:00 pm
• Business center
• Free airport shuttle
• Complimentary on-site parking
• Indoor pool and whirlpool

The lodge was inexpensive, basic and the staff was great.

bonus: red canyon national park

redcanyon5On our way to the Zion National Park and onward to Las Vegas, the Red Canyon National Park would be on our way and we took a quick stop to gaze at the red rocks and all.

 

 

redcanyon4We had to stop at the gorgeous red rocks.

 

 

redcanyon3My sisters enjoyed the stop too!

 

 

redcanyon1What a journey it had been.  Yes an incredible thumb up for an extraordinary display of nature!

12
Jun
17

U.S.: Sedona’s Enchantment Resort


Our late summer family getaway began in scorching hot Arizona as we flew in to Phoenix from Boston via L.A. and met up with my West Coast-based parents and siblings.  We hurriedly drove northwards to beautiful Sedona where it was comfortingly cooler by 10 degrees and the stunning Enchantment Resort was chosen as our base for our quick stay in the town famous for its marvelous red rocks.

 

 

first impression

IMG_6436We arrived at the resort in pitch black darkness so we did not have any idea of how close and how stunning the red rocks would be from our room.  Early morning the next day I woke up before sunset and I was amazed by the view of the red rocks surrounding us just as the rising sun was turning the sky into fiery red orange.

 

 

IMG_6464I enjoyed gazing at the amazing red rocks and  it was indeed an incredible experience.  I immediately woke up everyone……

 

 

DSC_0197…..including my wife and 9-month old daughter.

 

 

DSC_0202Coffee time.

 

 

DSC_0211I checked the balcony next door.

 

 

 

IMG_6518With my parents at the balcony of their room that has a better vantage point to view the red rocks.

 

 

resort layout & rooms

SWFIMG_141024_15191416_NRW19Set on 70 acres of breathtaking natural terrain, the resort has its casitas and rooms spread all over the area surrounded by red rocks.

 

 

DSC_0217Our casitas were on one of the highest locations in the resort offering breathtaking vistas.  We were less than five minutes walk to the main building housing the receiving area, the pool and the restaurants.  We never utilized the complimentary resort carts except during check-in and check-out as everyone enjoyed walking and enjoying the views.  The resort also offers free parking located  just beside the main building.

 

 

DSC_0214To compliment its stunning red rock backdrop, the casitas have been painted in red too.

 

 

sedona1This became my favorite photo of the resort.

 

 

HI323562311There was nothing incredible with the Southwestern-style rooms but they were spotlessly clean, very spacious and well-appointed.

 

 

Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.The bathrooms were huge…..

 

 

IMG_6519..and had great views too!

 

 

food and dining

IMG_6423We had a room service just once and it was on the night we arrived at the resort.  We ordered salmon, chicken and pasta.  A standard tip was automatically added to the bill.  The food was a bit on the expensive side but everything tasted so good so I did not care about the price.  Also, we did not have any other option except the town center a few miles away.

 

 

sedona-restaurantsDuring lunch only the Che Ah Chi restaurant was open so we had to contend with just one option.  The amazing views of the red rocks made up for it.  The food was good but the service really needs improvement.

 

 

IMG_6544Oh, it was rather difficult to take a group-fie using a smartphone and a stick even with the white balance on. Anyway, at the other end of the table is my brother who was celebrating his nth birthday.  Muchas gracias for the lunch, bro!

 

 

IMG_6536This is part of the restaurant’s romantic patio offering the perfect backdrop for a family portrait.  Obviously no one would like to sweat and melt while dining so the area was completely empty.  This area would be crowded during late afternoon till early evening for tapas and wine. The hotel has two other restaurants, View 180 and Tii Gavo, that can satisfy one’s hunger.

 

 

the pool area

DSC_0220The resort pool with its spectacular views  is where we had so much fun taking our photos and swimming, of course. Ever since I saw the pool area as I was browsing about the resort, I was already decided to book it for our Sedona getaway.  The pool area just blew me away!

 

 

DSC_0225That’s me with my parents and two of my six sisters.

 

 

DSC_0221Then it was my turn to take the photo of my parents and my siblings.  We tried to get a family photo through a kind English guy but he focused more on our feet than the red rocks above so we took turns in taking the photos.

 

 

IMG_6533A family portrait.

 

 

IMG_6549A family group-fie.

 

 

IMG_6646My parents enjoyed the resort too!

 

 

IMG_6523Another view of the pool area from a different angle.

 

 

DSC_0230I really wished we could have stayed longer.

 

 

IMG_6538We spent some time in the pool.

 

 

DSC_0243My dear wife and my bubbly 8-month old daughter enjoyed the pool.

 

 

other resort facilities

000287-16-Mii amo pool-1Mii Amo Spa is perfect for those who want to invigorate and relax with its indoor and outdoor pools, heated whirlpool, steam rooms and a full menu of Native American-inspired treatments.

 

 

8360DE30-BA6C-07F1-8BB7588B8D172CF4One level lower and next to the pool area are the tennis courts for the outdoorsy and physically fit if the gym gets too boring and containing.

 

ending

DSC_0213Overall, this has been one of the most enchanting resorts we have been to. Secluded, amazing views, incredible showcase of nature at every turn and exceptional service (except at the restaurants). We were offered with a needed late checkout of 4 p.m. on our last day for all rooms because we booked the resort on AMEX Travel.

Too sad we did not have the time to check more of the town center but we have concluded that Sedona is one of the most picturesque places in the world. We promised to be back!




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