Archive for the 'U.S.A.' Category

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!

28
Apr
17

U.S.: Siesta & Bradenton Beaches


Coming from an unforgettable trip to lovely Key West and the remote yet jaw-dropping  Dry Tortugas National Park, we moved on to visit the beaches of Siesta and Brandenton, a 3.5 hours drive west of Miami.

SIESTA BEACH

SIESTAWe finally stepped on Siesta Beach after moving around the huge parking lot for 15 minutes trying to find a spot. One doesn’t have to pay for any parking fees here but since the beach is magnificent and it is insanely crowded,  the parking lots are always full so arriving early in the morning is highly suggested. This beach has been adjudged as the #1 beach in the U.S.A. in 2011 by Dr. Beach.

 

 

 

DSC_5959The entrance area has shower and changing rooms, drinks/food dispenser and picnic tables and benches.

 

 

DSC_5968We spotted some security personnel on horses.

 

 

 

DSC_5950We only brought in a very unique nylon beach mat from the Philippines and we settled ourselves one crowd row away from the shore.  Can you spot me sitting on the mat with a white cap and blue shorts?

 

 

DSC_5936This is how crowded the beach was.  As you can also see the water appears crystal clear and the white sand looks sugar-fine.

 

 

DSC_5949Indeed this beach is unique. Unlike beaches elsewhere that are made up mostly of pulverized coral, Siesta Beach’s sand is 99% quartz. Even on the hottest days, the sand is so reflective that it feels cool underfoot. It’s estimated that the sand on Siesta Beach and Crescent Beach on Siesta Key is millions of years old, having its origin in the Appalachians and flowing down the rivers from the mountains until it eventually was deposited on the shores of Siesta Key.

 

 

DSC_5935Here are more photos of the beach.

 

 

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11013529_10206384114630278_7658242733079957749_nDSC_5923This is me just sitting on our unique beach mat from the Philippines with the busy crowd as background.

 

 

DSC_5933That is my beloved wife after taking a swim in the gorgeous waters.

 

 

DSC_5921This beach proved to be really magnificent but disappointingly crowded.  We promise we’d be back someday hoping there would be lesser crowd or we would try to base ourselves farther from the crowd either to the left or right side of the main entrance.

BRADENTON BEACH

From Siesta Beach we drove up north to Bradenton Beach in Ana Maria Island.  Compared to Siesta this place proved to be less spectacular based on the beach sand and water clarity.  What it lacked on the whiteness and fineness of its beach sand were easily covered up by the amazing choices of the dining places especially during sunset time.

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The beach is wider and less crowded.  I did not even see people swimming on the beach.

1797367_10206385784672028_9165763336539045116_nThis was taken from the Beach House restaurant where we checked in to have dinner watching as the sun would disappear into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

11081180_10206385785432047_340022473850304856_nAs we waited for our table to be ready, we walked unto the shore and took some photos.

 

 

11081311_10206385785072038_2551777463119039881_nA very nice and somewhat tipsy lady offered to take a snapshot of my wife and me.

 

 

DSC_5969As we waited for our dinner to be served, we enjoyed the scenery around the al fresco and seaside area of the restaurant.

 

 

bradenton sunset2Sunsets are amazing and our sunset experience here in Bradenton Beach would become one of the best we ever had.

bradenton sunsetThe restaurant ran a sort of a contest for all its customers to guess what time exactly would the sun actually disappear from the horizon.  I did not win. Someone else did.

DSC_5971Ahhhh we were just amazed at the breathtaking sunset unfolding before our eyes.

 

 

DSC_5975 2Indeed it was a a day well spent.  A few more minutes after the sun had set, we drove back to our base station in Fort Lauderdale to prepare for our flight the next day back to New York.

25
Apr
15

U.S./Florida: Dry Tortugas Nat’l Park


As we were planning our Key West itinerary, we came across a stunning photo of a beach located at the Garden Key. We never knew that almost a hundred miles west of Key West there’s a place that is out of this world! Our minds were already framed on what to expect from the beaches on the Florida Keys that are located in the world’s third largest coral reef that makes the area excellent for diving and snorkeling. Key Largo, one of the keys, has even earned the title of the Diving Capital of the World. However, this means that because of the coral reefs filtering the waves before they reach the shores on the islands, there would be less pulverization of the sand so there are less fine, white sand beaches around the islands. That captivating scenery of the Dry Tortugas National Park’s South Swim Beach convinced us to make the place one of the major destinations that we will be visiting during our first trip to the Florida Keys.

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Situated between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the remotely located Dry Tortugas National Park is 70 miles west of Key West, Florida which is the southernmost city in the continental United States. It is composed of six pristine islands of which the Garden Key is the centerpiece island.  It is also where Fort Jefferson is located.  It is America’s third largest and most spectacular coastal fort.

 

reaching dry tortugas

Access to the Dry Tortugas National Park is only possible from Key West. You can fly to either Miami or Fort Lauderdale and take a scenic four-hour drive to Key West. You can also fly direct to Key West but I would not suggest this option because you will be missing the breathtaking views of the ending stretch of U.S. Route 1 that terminates at Key West. From Key West you can either take the ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park which is exclusively offered by Yankee Freedom III  (US$190 per adult person for a return trip including breakfast and lunch) or you can take a sea plane which can be chartered at this link (US$299 for a half day tour or US$525 for a full day tour per adult person).

 

things to do at dry tortugas

We just opted for a full day tour so what I will be presenting here will just be activities for those who are on day tour, except for the camping tips.

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We took the ferry that left Key West at 8 a.m. and reached Dry Tortugas National Park at around 10:30 a.m. For the day tour you have exactly four and half hours to spend on the island. Upon arrival you can either join a free one-hour tour of Fort Jefferson or you can just do your own thing. We did the latter and we immediately went to South Swim Beach.

1. relaxing at South Swim Beach

South Swim Beach was my favorite place on the island. From the docking area, you can proceed to the left side and walk past the entrance to the massive fort for about 2 minutes and it will bring you  to what I consider the most picturesque area in the Dry Tortugas National Park.

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You move further south and walk past the amazing white sand beach.

 

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You will end up at this stone structure that also houses the helipad.

 

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From the stone structure, one can have this stunning scenery.  This area is also one of the designated snorkeling places.

 

 

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Visitors would spend most of their time just lazing on this white sand beach and swimming in the turquoise waters.

 

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From this beach, one can also chance upon sea planes passing by.

 

2. going around the fort via the moat wall

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From South Swim Beach you can start walking along the south moat wall and start going around the entire structure from outside.

 

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Then you will come across your first turn to the west moat wall.

 

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We took some photos on the west moat wall.

 

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And then on the east side as well.  It took us around 12 minutes to go around the fort via the moat wall.

 

3.  spending time at North Swim Beach

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Either by going the entire walkway along the moat wall outside the fort from South Swim Beach (described in the preceding section) or taking right from the docking area to the pathway (shown above), you will be led to the less crowded North Swim Beach.

 

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This beach is shorter, less crowded and less charming than South Swim Beach. Nevertheless, this beach also has crystal clear blue waters.

 

4. snorkeling & fishing

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As I have stated earlier the Florida Keys sits on the world’s third largest coral reef and it should just be fitting to do some snorkeling around designated areas in the island.  The protected waters are home to an array of extraordinary sea life. Snorkeling gears are provided free by the boat, Yankee Freedom III.

Fishing on Garden Key is also allowed at five designated areas. Fishing license is required unless you are under the age of 16 or a Florida senior resident over the age of 65.

 

5.  camping

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There is an option to camp on the island up to three nights and that’s what we wanted to do but we did not get camping slots anymore as they only limit the number of campers per day to around sixty-six campers at the eleven camp sites in the island.  So be sure to book in advance if you want to camp.

 

6. touring the inner side of the fort

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Welcome to Fort Jefferson.  This fort was 30 years in the making but was never finished.

 

DSC_5843This is harbor light as seen from the ground level.

 

DSC_5835This is the ground level of the fort from inside.

 

DSC_5832The ground level of the fort has walkways that lead to the entrance to the second level of the fort.

 

DSC_5844 DSC_5845Also on display at the ground level are the boats used by sailors.

 

DSC_5858This is a part of the second level.  Imagine, you are inside one of the largest brick structures in the western hemisphere. There are 15 million bricks that make up this enormous fort.

 

DSC_5857From the second level, the view of the inner part of the fort is just haunting.

 

DSC_5852 DSC_5856Glancing outside from the second level, the view of the blue-green sea is just calming to the eye.  If you have time, you can stay put at any of the windows overlooking the waters and read a book.

 

7. enjoying the view from the boat

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From the boat you can enjoy the view going to the adjacent Bush Key while having lunch.

 

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You can also enjoy views of the harbor light and part of the eastern part of the fort from the boat.

 

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The four and a half hours was really short and I wished we could have camped there for a day or two as I also wanted to experience sunsets and sunrises on the island. We left the Garden Key at exactly 3:00 p.m. and reached Key West after two and a half hours.

 

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This has been my best island experience so far in the U.S.A.!  The scenery was something I have never seen before.

 

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Above all, the beach was incredibly beautiful!

01
Mar
15

U.S.: A Winter Experience


Living through an entire winter season is basically a new experience for me. Being a tropical guy who loves warm weather and goes for gorgeous tropical beaches, moving to the U.S. northeast was a big switch for me.  I have never actually stayed long in places during winter visits unlike my recent stay in New England where I have lived with snow storms and all. Nevertheless, this winter experience is an unforgettable moment for me and it came after one of New England’s most colorful fall seasons yet featured in another blog.

Here are some memorable winter snap shots taken in New England and nearby New York.

 

NEW ENGLAND

Snow came late this season but it came with a force with the first major snow storm dropping almost 30 inches of snow around New England.

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Time to shovel and turn on the snow blowers!

On sunny days, the neighborhood is indeed an enjoyable sight as we roam around seeing the colorful houses amidst the snow-covered lawns.

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And sunset time is lovely too.

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NEW YORK

A recent snow storm dumped almost a foot of snow in New York City and it was just timely as the following day we had a business transaction in the big city giving us the chance to stroll along Times Square, Midtown and Central Park.

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Our first stop was Bryant Park where the Winter Village is also located.

 

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We then briefly stopped at Herald Square.

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Our last stop was the captivatingly beautiful Central Park and we spent our time there until sunset.

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Then it was dark in Central Park.

DSC_5381 DSC_5399Indeed it was another white night in the big city.

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The Empire State building’s spire was lit up as we bade the big city goodnight.

24
Oct
14

U.S. : A Weekend in New England


It has been one of my dreams to spend a weekend in New England and to spend it during fall would be an added bonus giving me the best time to do leaf peeping.  It all happened one weekend in October 2014 and everything was unplanned. Just as we arrived around midnight at the tiny but efficient Worcester airport in Massachusetts from a quick Peruvian holiday, my fiancée decided to drive me to Vermont. I realized then that I was actually living my dream spending the weekend in New England with the fall foliage at its peak!

My fiancée, who’s based in Connecticut, planned to tour me around the six U.S. northeast states comprising New England namely Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.  Boston serves as its financial, cultural and educational center. It played a significant role in U.S. history as the expulsion of the British authorities from New England in spring of 1776 led to the Declaration of the Independence in July 1776.  

VERMONT

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We arrived Vermont early in the morning after a long drive and we proceeded first to Burlington to check out Lake Champlain.  There was not much exciting foliage to see around the lake so we roamed around town.

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The maple trees were the most colorful ones and they have started to give up their leaves.

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We then chanced upon trees of stunning colors just at the back of Burlington’s famous brunch rendezvous, Skinny Pancake, where we had breakfast.

DSC_0719Further uptown we saw the same sceneries and we stopped to take some more snapshots.

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Pastel-coloured buildings matched the stunning display of fall.

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As we were about to exit Vermont, we stopped at Waterbury for some ice cream experience to cool ourselves off from the red-hot sceneries.


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I had mint chocolate chunks.

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It’s Ben&Jerry’s ice cream!

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We drove out of Vermont into neighboring New Hampshire in search for Lake Winnipesaukee.  The sight along the way was a never-ending display of the different hues of one of the most colorful fall foliage in New England in recent times as confirmed by a number of friends who live in and around the region.

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The hills seemed splashed with colors.  Imagine driving for hours on end with the amazing views.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

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Our next stop:  the live free or die state, New Hampshire!

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No, not yet.  We have not arrived at our final destination in New Hampshire yet.  We had a detour!  Yes, a magnificent detour! We saw a lake, stopped by and searched for that legal (read: no trespassing) spot to view the stunning, colorful sceneries mirrored on water that I could only see on the internet and magazines.

DSC_0768Welcome to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire! My jaw dropped in awe as the entire stretch of the opposite side of the lake was a brilliant display of colors.  I have never seen fall foliage like this.

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I wished I owned one of those tiny houses on the banks of the lake fronting the magnificent display.

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Tilting our views by another 45 degrees, we gazed upon another spectacular view of the lake. I was truly speechless!

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I could only do the thumbs up….
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….and smile!
Onwards to our final destination…
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 …we passed by white houses with colorful trees next to them.
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 We finally reached Lake Winnipesaukee which was our original destination in New Hampshire.
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Because of the unexpected detour earlier, we were less impressed with the scenery here as it was less colorful.
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 The lake was still lovely, though.

MAINE

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We entered Maine with more of the those lakes with beautiful sceneries.
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We even had a classic airplane to go along with the view.
As expected the roadside scenery still amazed us.
We encountered more colors or l would say more reds, along Maine’s highways on our way to Portland which would be our dinner location.  My fiancée already decided we were going to dine at DiMillo’s situated on Long Wharf.
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DiMillo’s was full house and we did not have any reservation.  What a miss out as we realized it was Columbus Day weekend!  We still took a queue number and we were told that the waiting time would be around 90 minutes. To our surprise, we were called in 20 minutes!
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We sat back, relaxed and enjoyed fresh seafood and steak with a pinot noir.

CONNECTICUT

Even if my fiancée was based in Connecticut, we were hardly inside the state and we were mostly roaming around New England.  Finally, on this particular day, a brunch experience at Mohegan Sun was the day’s first major activity.  Mohegan Sun is one of the two major casino resort complexes in Connecticut.
DSC_4333A 10-minute drive from my fiancée‘s place, we ventured into this vast casino and hotel complex when lunch was about to be served.
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Seasons Buffet was our first destination.
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There was a wide selection of delectable cuisine and the place was huge, full of excited weekend crowd.
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Afterwards, my tour of the vast casino started with the glass sculpture….
DSC_4300..then to the Casino of the Wind….
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…where The Mist was located…..

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DSC_4309…and to other parts of the casino showcasing native Indian-inspired designs.
The casino also has a lot of dining choices:
like burger joints…
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 …and other restaurants.
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Our time at the Mohegan Sun finally ran out and we had to leave.
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See you again soon, Mohegan Sun!
We had to be in Truro in Cape Cod, Massachusetts by sunset.
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 As we were driving, we saw another lake within Connecticut and we had to stop.
Calm waters, vibrant golds, blue skies, afternoon sun and a jolly mood ended our day in Connecticut.

MASSACHUSETTS

Driving from Connecticut through Rhode Island into Massachusetts, it was getting dark when we got into the Bourne Bridge crossing the Cape Cod canal.
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We reached Truro in Cape Cod hoping to catch the sunset but we were late for half an hour so we just decided to spend the night further up the cape in Provincetown.
And it was dinner time.
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DSC_4339We comfortably situated ourselves in Bubala’s By The Bay and tried its famous food for the famished. This dining spot is a favorite among Provincetown visitors.  We had mouthwatering orders of stir-fried scallops on pasta, grilled halibut with cilantro sauce and fresh oysters partnered with my favorite pinot noir.
We roamed the city after dinner.
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It took us to nice little boutiques, cool restaurants and bars, art galleries and all…..
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…then to the historic town hall…
…and the Pilgrim Monument, the highest all-granite structure  in the United States.
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We originally planned to go back to Connecticut but we ended up spending the night away at Cape Colony Inn.
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We woke up the next day to a bright, sunny day and we directly went to the beach.
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A day shot of Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument area from the beach.
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More colorful snapshots on the beach….
…in and around town.
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Provincetown or PTown is definitely one of America’s coolest little towns.
We then had an unplanned detour to an Atlantic Ocean-facing beach.  We had to hike half a mile to reach the beach.
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We finally reached the beach!
 
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A deserted beach where we spent some time.  

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DSC_0920There were gray seals a quarter of a mile from us on the beach.  I was actually interested to check on their resting activities but as the signage showed, we should not disturb them.
Next: The Boston Dinner.
top of the hub
We chose Top of the Hub because of its amazing views of Boston.  It is situated at the top of Prudential Tower.
With no reservation, the waiting time was around 45 minutes on that weekend night.
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Jazz music soothed our ears.
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A pinot noir was an exciting pre-starter to the senses.

The food was simply delectable.
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my steak
It was a great way to end a busy day.
Oh wait! How could I almost forget the breathtaking 270 degrees night views of Boston from the top.
The Top of the Hub is indeed the ideal out-of-towners stop in Boston.

RHODE ISLAND

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Rhode Island was the last state we checked out.
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It was equally stunning with vibrant display of colors.
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 Again I was attempting to get that classic shot of a mirrored image on the waters but it was a bit windy causing ripples on the waters.
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However,  I was still amazed by the view here….
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….there…
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…..and everywhere!

And on we went to lovely Newport.
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Newport was our day ending destination as we would be watching sunset which we missed to do in Cape Cod.
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We briefly stopped at the city center. Shown here is the International Tennis Hall of Fame flags.
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 Rochambeau’s statue.
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King Park.
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Some yachts, a medium-sized cruise ship and a bridge graced the bay.
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 We finally arrived at the Castle Hill Inn.
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The Lawn and the Terrace Bar were the places where we would spend most of the time while in the mansion.
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We stayed for a short while at the Terrace Bar as we ordered a caffeine-inducing drink and a chardonnay.
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 We then transferred to the edge of the terrace……
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…then to the lawn…
…watching sailboats go by…
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 ..and waiting for the sun to set.
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 Finally, the sun was about to set.
It was a surreal moment watching the sun slowly disappeared along Narragansett Bay.  Another day had ended. It was a weekend like no other, my first weekend in New England.   It was indeed one of my most unforgettable and definitely the most colorful.  Thank God for the beauty of fall and for someone special who was willing to do so much to make this dream come true.  I pray that I will be back next year.  Same season, same place.
07
Dec
11

U.S./Mammoth: Skiing on the 4th of July


This trip was smoothly planned.  After a quick summertime peek at America’s favorite playground, Lake Tahoe, we would try skiing in one of North America’s top skiing destinations, Mammoth Mountain.  It is a favorite training place for Olympic champions such as Shaun White, the 2010 Winter Olympics gold medalist. I am not a professional skier. This would be just my 2nd time to ski after my first in Minakami, Japan. I just wanted to do the unusual: skiing, not during winter, but during summer, on the 4th of July!

The almost 3-hour drive from South Lake Tahoe to Mammoth was indeed scenic.

Snowcapped mountains.

Yellow-green fields.

Breathtaking lake vistas.

Flashy car(s).

And a rodeo.

Yes, we had a brief stop at Bridgeport, CA…..

…where an average crowd was gathered…

…leisurely watching the rodeo.

In fact it was the eve of America’s birthday and a weekend.  Everyone wanted to relax and celebrate.

After the almost 3 hours drive from South Lake Tahoe, my friend Ron and I finally arrived at our hotel, Mammoth Creek Inn.

Yes, a charming boutique hotel.

5 miles to the main ski area, Mammoth Creek Inn is conveniently located along the main road.

A moderately sized room with twin single beds was enough to serve as our headquarters in Mammoth.

Free wi-fi access was an added bonus.

We immediately paid a visit to the Mammoth main area for us to be accustomed for the next day’s activities.

This is the main building in the Mammoth ski area.

The parking lots were almost empty as the place was already closed except for some open restaurants.

We just toured the area…..

….and so we thought this was the main ski area.  We were not aware that behind this mountain is the way to the towering summit of  Mammoth Mountain and the great expanse of its ski area.

We capped the day with tacos and beer at the Mammoth grounds wishing America an advance happy birthday.

Going back to the hotel, I roamed around the 3-storey building. It has a cozy common relaxation area.

Still in the living room area is a single Mac available for free for those who have not brought laptops to access the free wi-fi connection.

I went up to the second level which has a sofa set leading to the balcony that stretches the side of the entire second level.

The stairs leading to the 3rd level.

In the basement is a small jacuzzi.


The next day, after breakfast, we rented ski accessories and immediately went into the ski grounds.

There were already a lot of skiers (I believe 99.99% were Americans) who queued up for a ride on the lift up to the mountain summit to ski down the slopes.


There was only one open lift station, Broadway Express 1.

And yes, it was summer and the day to celebrate America’s freedom and everyone could wear anything!

Some were wearing shorts and some had absolutely absurd skiing outfits and some almost had nothing on top.

Some wore jeans like me and the ladies behind me in this pic.

Well, it was just actually a fun ski.

After one hour of skiing we were down on chairs just watching people ride the lift repeatedly.

Watching the crowd get thin….

..and thick again.

After we have rested, we took the cable car to the mountain summit.

The view was indeed breathtaking as we were on our way to the top.  It was not a completely white scenery, understandably because it was summer but it was still beautiful.


We reached the summit after 15 minutes.

 At the top of the sierra was a relaxation area and a cafe.

It was pretty crowded at the top.

The crowd was a combination of skiers, bikers and just plain mesmerized onlookers.


Yes, the biking area was already cleared of snow for the biking season to start.

Even children took their bikes up to the summit.

This is me at the top of Mammoth Mountain, 11,053 feet elevation.

I just became one of the spectators as I’m still not an expert skier who could ski down from the mountain summit down thousand feet below.

Picture-taking was our main business at the top.

Yes, it was definitely a thumbs up for me.  It was a sizzling summer alpine experience…..and it was time to descend after our quick lunch of pizza and soda in the cafe.

And that’s the mountain summit where we came from, where expert skiers would ski down thousand feet below. The slope has a steep inclination and I was just amazed by the bunch of experts gliding with fun and ease.

We went down to the ski area grounds still feeling high.

Obviously, since it was summer time and there was no fresh snow, the ski area was not in the best condition for even intermediate skiing.  They had to maintain the snow/ice and it was already very slippery and hard. Anyway, there was a time in years past that the resort extended its opening days until mid-August after receiving  more snow in that season. For this season, the resort was open until 4th of July to accommodate those who really want to experience the “4th of July Skiing” which was one of my 2011 dream activities. The ski resort closed the next day and opened again late November this year.

We had to take the long drive from Mammoth back to Sacramento/Stockton area cutting through the mostly long winding and scenic roads inside Yosemite National Park. For everyone’s information, there are now flights from San Jose, Los Angeles and San Francisco going to Mammoth via Alaska Air/Horizon Air or Skywest Airlines.  Yes, the flights are a bunch of saving alternatives for the punishing ~5-hour drive from San Francisco and San Jose and the ~6-hour drive from L.A.

Mammoth really means huge! Whether it refers to the woolly elephants or the enormous ski area size, it aptly defines both!




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