Posts Tagged ‘‘sunset’

04
Jun
17

Mexico: 23 Hours in Mexico City


Mexico City is the largest metropolitan center in the western hemisphere. With its third world modernism, colonial spirit and Aztec vibe rolled into one, it is one of the most interesting urban centers in the world so I did not think twice about stopping there briefly. My recent Cuba trip gave me the chance to explore Mexico City as I chose to take Aeromexico.  As I was comparing the prices and timing of the flights in Aeromexico’s website and third party travel websites, I chanced upon a flight in cheapoair.com with good connections giving me exactly 23 hours to spend in Mexico City on my way back from Havana to New York.  This is how I spent it.

Day 1 08:25 Airport Arrival

MEX AIRPORTArrival at the Aeroporto Internacional de Benito Juárez from Havana was fast and efficient. I was out in 15 minutes. I bought coffee and a breakfast sandwich from one of the fastfood outlets in the airport terminal and then called the hotel where I would be staying requesting for the free shuttle.  In 10 minutes I was on my way to the hotel.

Day 1 09:00 Baggage Drop At The Hotel

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I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Mexico City Airport, which is less than 15 minutes drive from the airport and to the city center. I arrived several hours before the allowed check-in time so I left my things at the hotel, rested for a few minutes in the lobby and took a hotel taxi to Zócalo, the city’s main square.  I would later learn that the hotel taxi was almost double the price of an Uber ride.  Lesson learned: Do not take any hotel offers on taxis.  Book via Uber or Lyft.

Day 1 09:20 Entrance to Zócalo

DSC_0953It was an early Sunday morning so offices around Mexico City’s main square were closed but it was teeming with visitors like me and locals spending their time in and around the square. This was my first glimpse of Zócalo, the city’s main square  The giant CDMX in the southern part of the square stands for its Spanish name, Ciudad de México.

DSC_0948I spent around 15 minutes at this signage as visitors took turns to have their photos taken.

DSC_0951A visitor from Turkey obliged to take several shots for me.

DSC_0955I then walked across the square into and past the giant Mexican flag which is ceremoniously raised and lowered each day and carried to the National Palace. It would have been better if it was windy and the giant flag was stretched out, flying high.

Day 1 09:40 Checking Out The Cathedral

DSC_0956The Roman Catholic cathedral is one of the plaza’s most significant structures and it is the largest cathedral in the Americas.

DSC_1027It was built in sections from 1573 to 1813.

DSC_1025To the cathedral’s right is the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

DSC_0964As I veered into the right of the tabernacle, its side became evident. At this vantage point is where I did the next activity.

Day 1 10:00 Watch A Street Show

DSC_1023As I stepped away from the cathedral area to the right I chanced upon a group of five people donning Aztec customes doing a drum-beating show.

DSC_0973Their customer were colorful indeed!

DSC_0974And donations were accepted.

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DSC_0971I spent around 15 minutes watching the show and taking photos and then I moved on.

Day 1 10:15 Exploring A Stretch East of Zocalo

CSC_0961I walked eastwards where the Templo Mayor Museum and the Nacional Palace are located. I did not enter these places as the queues were very long.

DSC_1022I continued to traverse the long stretch of Calle Moneda.

DSC_0980Taking snapshots of the scenery on both sides of the street.

DSC_1020There were a lot of shops selling really good and cheap items.

DSC_0996The murals did not escape my camera.

CSC_1004Even underpasses were filled with murals.

DSC_0998Restaurants also abound.

DSC_0993There were also some smaller kiosks selling food that were bought by locals munching on them with their bare hands sitting along the street.

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DSC_1006This was how I far I have walked from the dome of the cathedral in the square center.

DSC_1011I made a turn to discover a compound that was attracting a tour group. Honestly, I chose not to take a travel book with me or use my phone to check where should I go. I just wanted to stroll leisurely and took photos.

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DSC_1013The white statues surrounding the east portion of the compound were eye-catching.

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DSC_1016Colorful buildings…….

DSC_0992….and schools too.

Day 1 12:00 Back to the main square.

DSC_1036As I was back in the square center, my attention was focused on the transportation above ground.  Of course there were the basic taxis but the modern ciclotaxis reminded me of the coco taxis in Havana, the tuktuk in Bangkok and the tricycle in the Philippines.

DSC_1035To the left of the cathedral is the station for tourist trolleys….

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DSC_1032….and double-decker buses.

DSC_1028I walked a few steps to the west of the square and suddenly I was approached by a restaurant staff promoting a place overlooking the square at the top of the building shown above.  I just followed the guy and I was glad I did.

Day 1 12:30 Brunch With A View

DSC_1040First, the food truly had Mexican flair.

DSC_1038Secondly, the view of the square from above was breathtaking.

DSC_1037The view of the cathedral also took my breath away.  Mostly, the Catholic locals would come here after spending time in the church.

Day 1 13:30 Back At The Hotel

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I was back at the hotel before 2 p.m. and the front desk finally checked me in. The Holiday Inn Express Mexico City Airport Hotel has huge rooms and reasonable prices so I chose this during my overnight stopovers going to and coming from Cuba.  Since I was already awake at 3 a.m. early that day as I left Cuba I felt I needed to take a couple of hours of siesta.  Well, if I have been well-rested that night I could have used the two hours for other activities such as taking one of the exciting city tours or shopping.  I woke up before 4 p.m. and I booked an Uber ride back to Zocalo.

Day 1 16:00 To The Palacio de Bellas Artes

DSC_1041From the cathedral, you can take Calle 5 de Mayo or Francisco Madero westwards as the imposing Torre Latinoamericana would come into view and serve as compass. The two streets represent the modern Mexico City and they both lead to….

Museo_Palacio_Bellas_Artes_1_2….Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts).

9373486666_32219e09d1_oCalled the Cathedral of Art in Mexico, the Palace of Fine Arts has hosted some of the most notable events in music, theatre, dance, opera and literature and has held important exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography.

Day 1 16:30 At The Best Western Hotel Penthouse

DSC_1042My day-ending plan would be to spend at a place overlooking the main square during sunset.  From the internet, I learned that the Best Western Hotel located next to the square has a top floor restaurant with sweeping views of the square.

DSC_1044So I went inside and asked the front desk about it and I was told to go to the 7th floor.

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As soon as I got my table, I noticed everyone’s attention was on the square.  I peeked and I saw the daily ceremony of lowering the giant flag in the center of the square. Click the video link above.

DSC_1045The place offers a buffet of Mexican food and I feasted on anything my palate could take.

DSC_1049It started to get dim, the square was lit up and the night mode was on!

DSC_1053The cathedral right after sunset looked haunting.

DSC_1059Palacio Nacional, the seat of the federal executive in Mexico, looked shimmering as its lights were turned on.

DSC_1060This is the south side of the square.

DSC_1068I spent half an hour more at the restaurant after sundown. As I walked to the elevator I saw this Mexican flag with the lady sculpture.  Mexico, I did have a wonderful day indeed!  Gracias!

Day 1 20:30 Back At The Hotel

holiday-inn-express-mexico-4653979396-4x3I  went back to the hotel past eight in the evening as I had an early morning flight back to New York the next day.  I truly enjoyed the night zzzzzzz.

Day 2 05:00 Departure

IMG_8330.JPGAfter a quick breakfast at the hotel, I took the hourly complimentary hotel shuttle to the airport to board my flight back to New York.

plane-at-benito-juarez-mexico-airportIt was a unique experience for me having to maximize a limited amount of time to check out one of the world’s biggest cities in both population and land area.  Adiós Ciudad de México!  I will be back to explore you more!

[I actually wanted to skip Mexico City and instead go to San Miguel de Allende but the trip would cost me more time and resources so I stayed in Mexico City. I am more than convinced that I made the right decision.]

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.

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…..

DSC_4281
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.
DSC_4336 DSC_4342 DSC_4343
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.



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