Posts Tagged ‘TRAVEL

04
May
19

Norway: Lovely But Rainy Bergen


Bergen is Norway’s second largest city and the west coast’s largest port.  It is also one of Scandinavia’s busiest stopover for cruise ships. When we chose Bergen as our point of entry to Europe for our family summer trip we did not check much on its weather. Summer to us simply means sunny days and longer daytime.  We were in for a shock as we have just landed in one of the most rain-stricken cities in the world where it rains more or less 250 days a year! Nevertheless, in between downpours, we still enjoyed roaming around the city, visiting its beautiful sights.

 

Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf

DSC_1224The old Hanseatic Wharf features colorful wooden houses and it was once a center of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire.

 

 

DSC_1236It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.

 

 

FullSizeRender22Before a huge downpour we were able to get some photos in front of the famed wooden buildings.

 

 

DSC_1232The whole stretch is lined up with restaurants and boutique shops.  One just need to be very careful buying stuff here because the prices are really outrageous.  If we did not have the urgent need of buying our daughter’s coat (we wrongly assumed Bergen summer as hot &  humid instead of rainy and cold), we could have bought elsewhere.

 

 

 

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Here are more photos we took in front of the iconic wooden buildings.

 

 

 

FullSizeRender31The other side of the wharf gave us a different view of the colorful wooden buildings.

 

 

DSC_0022The buildings appeared more beautiful from afar with the mountain backdrop.

 

 

bergen1We needed to patiently wait for the rain to stop and the sun to come out even for just a few minutes to have a good snapshot. It did not continuously rain after all!

 

 

 

 

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Here are more snapshots of the wharf area and the houses high above Mount Floyen.

 

 

 

DSC_0021Finally, after being disheartened because of the rain, I was all smiles after that fulfilling photo shoot at the other side of the wharf when the sun came out for a short moment.

 

 

FullSizeRender32Here are some more photos we took as we were leaving the wharf area.

 

 

DSC_1235Indeed the area is dotted with impressive buildings.

Fløyen Mountain

DSC_1220Just a few blocks from the western section of the Hanseatic Wharf is the….

 

 

FullSizeRenderw….Floibanen Funicular lower station that takes you to a stunning view-point at Mount Fløyen. Aside from the panoramic views, there are also hiking trails. Although it was not in our original plan, we suddenly decided to go for the funicular ride, one of the most iconic attractions of Norway.

 

 

FullSizeRenderq 2Shown here is one of the cars that goes up and down the mountain.  We waited until everyone has disembarked and it was our turn for that thrilling ride to the top of Mount Floyen.

 

 

FullSizeRenderu 2The tracks going up the mountain.

 

 

 

 

There is a tiny building at the top that houses the Fløistuen Shop and Fløistuen Café close to the upper station of Fløibanen funicular. Souvenirs, gifts and useful artifacts are the main attraction of the Fløistuen shop. One can enjoy a hot cup of coffee or cocoa with freshly baked pastry or hot soup.

 

 

CSC_0027The views from the mountain top were really breathtaking.  Shown here is the Hanseatic Wharf and the surrounding areas.

 

 

DSC_0025Also seen from above is Lake Lille Lungegardsvannet in the city center’s public park.

 

 

DSC_0029Our climb to the top was indeed worth it.  The city views were simple amazing.

 

 

FullSizeRendert

A climb up Mount Floyen is a must when in Bergen especially in summer.

 

 

Market Square

DSC_1238At the southeast end of the city’s beautiful main harbor is Bergen’s Market Square.

 

 

FullSizeRender33Its busy quays are where local fishermen land their catches each morning and along with the 700-year old Fish Market, it’s a fascinating spectacle for early risers.

 

 

 

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This is also where the city’s best restaurants purchase their seafood daily; be sure to make note of the catch of the day, so you can sample it at lunch and dinner.

 

 

IMG_0982That’s exactly what we did.  We tried a restaurant just around the square and everything was impressive.

 

 

CSC_0013First, the high ceiling and cozy atmosphere.

 

 

DSC_0001Next was the impeccable interior.

 

 

DSC_0006Finally, the sumptuous fusion of Asian and Western food.

 

 

DSC_0009We would never miss the Norwegian salmon, saving the best for last!

 

 

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Here are more photos that show buildings near Market Square.

 

 

Central Train Station & Surrounding Areas

FullSizeRender 2The Bergen train station is 15-20 minutes walk from the Hanseatic Wharf. I took this panoramic photo of the train station facade at around 11p.m.

 

 

IMG_0984There are only two platforms so only a maximum of two trains can be in the station at any given time.  The capital city of Oslo can be reached by train from Bergen in 7 hours.

 

 

 

IMG_0790We were staying at a hotel adjacent to the train station so most of the time we would pass through it coming from and going to our hotel.

 

DSC_1218 2We basically just walked around Bergen all the time we were there.  Above is one of the streets we took going to the wharf.

 

 

FullSizeRender 3The train station is spotless and airy.

 

 

FullSizeRender5We enjoyed our proximity to the train station where we can people-watch or get the food and drinks we need from the reasonably-priced convenience store inside it.

 

 

IMG_0990Adjacent to the train station is the Zander K Hotel, Bergen’s most modern hotel, where we stayed. Above is the hotel lobby and the Foodbar where the buffet breakfast is served.

 

 

Dobbelt-romThe rooms were contemporary and minimalist in design.  I definitely liked the rooms and the hotel facilities but I was not impressed with the service though.  We had two bad experiences:  one was the ridiculously long check-in process considering we just came from an overnight transatlantic flight and then we were told the requested crib was already in the room but we arrived inside with no crib.

 

IMG_0805Here are more photos around the train station area.  Shown here are shops along the railroad and main street as we walked from the train station to the Bryggen.

 

 

FullSizeRender1This is the Bergen light rail transit.

 

 

Getting In and Out of Bergen

We took an inaugural Norwegian Air flight from T.F Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island (U.S.) to Bergen, Norway. It utilized the Boeing 737-MAX 8 instead of the Dreamliners that are used in other routes like New York JFK to Oslo that we took before. I was not impressed with the ground crew in Providence but the best thing is that it is way less crowded and closer to us than New York JFK or Boston Logan.  Check-in, security & immigration checks were done in less than thirty minutes! Awesome airport experience!

 

 

Here is a short clip of our approach to Bergen flying over quaint villages settled between spectacular fjords. Bergen is said to be rainy because it is surrounded by seven mountains.

 

 

FullSizeRender 4 2Our return flight was cancelled so we were re-routed to Copenhagen the next day where we took a flight to New York JFK two days after. Meanwhile, we were housed in Clarion Airport Hotel in Bergen for the night.

 

 

 

Dinner and breakfast were great in the hotel’s only dining option, Kitchen & Table.

 

 

FullSizeRendere 2The sunset was spectacular.

 

 

 

FullSizeRender(30)The beds were ultra-comfy.

Until we meet again, BERGEN! Probably, when we have the chance to go to Lofoten Islands to experience the Northern Lights, we can drop by Bergen, again!

 

 

 

 

29
Apr
19

Vietnam: Ha Long Bay Overnight Cruise


Ha Long Bay is one of the eight UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites in Vietnam. It was our main destination when we visited Vietnam for the first time.  To reach Ha Long Bay, we passed through the capital city of Hanoi as our initial gateway to the mind-blowing group of about 1,600 limestone islets. We spent overnight in Hanoi in a charming hotel and with the help of the hotel staff we arranged an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay.

DSC_0408The following day we were picked up at our Hanoi hotel by the tour bus that would take us to Bai Chay port in around three hours for the 150 km trip. The tour company that we chose was Halong Phoenix Cruiser.

 

DSC_0417We waited at the Bai Chay port departure area until we were told to take a small boat that would take us to the cruise boat.

 

 

CSC_0410My wife and I were more than ready for our first cruise together in this side of the world.

 

 

DSC_0416Here she is, our awesome, English-speaking tour guide, Trần Hồng Hạnh. Let the cruise begin!

 

DAY 1

DSC_0425 2The small boat took us to the area where small wooden boats were docked on the bay.

 

 

DSC_0430We reached the wooden boat that would be our home for the next two days.

 

DSC_0461The wooden boat’s main deck was designed to have a hallway around the private rooms and common areas. There were no private balconies.

 

 

DSC_0434This was our room with a private bathroom.  I believe all the rooms were similarly designed only differing in sizes.

 

 

DSC_0432Shown here is the dining area…..

 

 

DSC_0455…with the must-have bar!

 

 

DSC_0473We spent some time in the bow of the boat and took some snapshots.

 

 

DSC_0476Can you see in the background the thumb up islet?

 

DSC_0471Going up one level higher…

 

DSC_0479…..is the relaxation area that has a a few dining tables and some lounge chairs.

 

 

To An Island On Kayak

DSC_0376Around mid-afternoon, we were all dropped off in a kayak station and we were released to the kayaks in pairs.

 

 

CSC_0396 2Our mission was to row to a nearby island.  For kayaking first timers like us we had a hard time making a straight and smooth sail and the nearby was too far away! However, it was  an absolute fun to try kayaking for the first time! We did not need to drop those paddles as they ‘re worth $20!

 

 

DSC_0377Finally, we reached the correct island after five years! Ha ha! We got off from the kayak and were told to take a short rest after which we were free to do whatever we wanted: climb up the island for a stunning view of Ha Long Bay,  swim and laze on the beach or simply just relax at the resting area sipping a drink being sold at small stores lining up the area.

 

 

DSC_0382We decided to hike just halfway to the mountaintop to get this view.

 

 

DSC_0378Even in a gloomy weather the view of the towering karst islands far beyond as our eyes could see were so overwhelming.

 

 

DSC_0391After spending some time at the high viewing point we decided to descend back to the beachfront where we just watched the crowd at the beach and sipped some cold drinks. Then it was time to go back to the boat and refresh ourselves.

 

 

Dinner

DSC_0454Still reeling from the constant circling of our kayak, we finally diverted our attention to our dinner being served at the dining area starting with healthy salads.

 

 

DSC_0505_2One of seafood was uniquely set and we had a wide selection of beer too.  I chose Singapore’s Tiger beer.

 

 

DSC_0504_2One of the main dishes served was the hearty, deep-fried, breaded meat.

 

 

DSC_0457Exotic fruits like rambutans were also served.

 

 

DSC_0501Suddenly, it was evening!  After dinner we spent some time at the upper level of the boat having some drinks and then we called it a night.  Overall we had a very relaxing and peaceful sleep only awakened twice by some noise probably by flying creatures around the area.

 

 

DAY 2

DSC_0512_2Wakey, wakey! It is the second cruise day! After spending time at the tiny bathroom, we proceeded to the dining area to see an exciting breakfast waiting for us. Just as we discovered in Hanoi two days earlier, the venerable Vietnamese “pho” is available even during breakfast.

A Majestic Cave

DSC_0518_2After a relaxed breakfast, the boat sailed farther south passing mysterious fog-covered karst islands.

 

 

DSC_0588We arrived at our destination after around thirty minutes. We had to get off the boat and follow a wooden walkway to the entrance of…..

 

 

DSC_0527_2….Sung Sot Cave (Cave of Surprises)!

 

 

DSC_0539_2 2We climb around 100 steps and got inside through a narrow entrance leading…..

 

 

 

DSC_0541_2 2…to what looked like its main lobby.  To the right side is the narrow flight of stairs that took us deep inside the chambers of the cave.

 

 

DSC_0559The massive cave is well-lighted with different colors.  This is what they call a light show inside the cave.

 

 

DSC_0556_2The interior can be eerie at times but mostly I was in awe.

 

 

DSC_0555_2The lights definitely helped create a better visual effect inside the cave compared with no lights at all.

 

 

DSC_0567I have disliked caves before but this experience changed my mindset about caves wherein inside this breathtaking natural phenomenon pathways were clearly marked and lighted and the place was not …..

 

 

DSC_0558_2…….claustrophobic. You can see how this is one heck of a majestic cave with a 30-meter high ceiling and 500-meter long passage.

 

 

DSC_0569The cave covers a staggering 10,000 square meters of which its larger cavern can accommodate up to 1,000 people.

 

 

DSC_0563It was an amazing experience touring the cave which is just one of the caves in Ha Long Bay but is considered the largest and the most beautiful.  Thanks to the lights too!

 

 

 

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As we exited the cave chambers, we were taken back to the same area where we entered the cave.  It was a high viewing point overlooking the bay.

 

 

DSC_0590_2As we walked back to the boat we noticed some small boats selling food and all.

 

 

Lunch and A Cooking Lesson

DSC_0599_2As soon as we were back in the wooden boat, we were ushered to the dining are where our tour guide and one of the boat staff prepared us for the next exciting activity. We would be making Vietnamese spring rolls that would be a part of our lunch menu.

 

DSC_0596_2We were provided the steps and the list of ingredients.

 

 

DSC_0593The ingredients were already prepared and we just had to mix them.

 

 

DSC_0598Here’s the final mixture of the ingredients before wrapping and making them into tiny spring rolls.

 

 

 

 

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Everyone enjoyed the activity as the mixture were wrapped before deep- frying them.

 

 

Back to the Mainland

DSC_0613After lunch, the boat sailed for the mainland.

 

 

DSC_0633_2 2We did not have any other activities anymore except to immerse for the last time in the amazing scenery around the bay.

 

 

DSC_0614_2We passed by the kissing rooster and hen islets.

 

 

DSC_0625Certainly, my wife and I enjoyed the short cruise. There were other cruise options spending more nights on the bay with added activities like beach BBQ, visiting fishing villages and more but our schedule only allowed us to take the 2 days/1 night cruise which was already enough to see the bay.

 

 

DSC_0609_2This was my last shot of Ha Long Bay that I took as we neared the mainland. Tạm biệt (goodbye) Ha Long for now!

 

 

DSC_0637_2It was mostly overcast days and at short times it was raining when we were in Ha Long Bay.  It was summertime but during the season lasting from May to September, one can expect some rainy days and even typhoons. The best times to visit is during the months of April and May (spring) & September and October (fall).

Even in a not-so-good weather, Ha Long Bay indeed impressed me primarily due to the overwhelming and sheer abundance of those spectacular limestone islands. I love nature and the place was a sight to behold at any angle and at any time of the day. I am not sure though about the emerald water which appeared a bit murky if it clears up on sunny days. Also I have shockingly noticed a number of times plastic garbage floating in the “protected” area. Maybe irresponsible visitors, maybe not. I hope the proper authorities have already done something about it when we come back during its best season.

03
Mar
19

Italy: Giotto’s Campanile in Florence


CSC_0790The Piazza del Duomo is one of the most interesting places to visit in Florence and it is just a few minutes walk from the Florence central train station.

 

 

DSC_0792Florence’s main cathedral, the bell tower (campanile) and the Baptistery of St. John are all in the Piazza del Duomo.


 

 

DSC_0746Florence’s Duomo is the second longest church in Italy after St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

 

 

 

CSC_0755Ordinarily called Il Duomo di Firenze, this cathedral’s officially called The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower).

 

CSC_0751Standing right next to the basilica is the bell tower which is one of the great showcases of Florentine Gothic architecture designed by Giotto di Bondone or simply Giotto.

 

 

DSC_0745When you are in Piazza del Duomo, you probably would, at one time, need to decide whether to go up the Dome of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore or Giotto’s Campanile or do both or skip both.

 

 

 

 

DSC_0786My wife and I decided to go up Giotto’s Campanile instead. The tower would take us to a vantage point with a breathtaking view of the nearby cathedral’s dome towering over the city and the harbor.

 

 

 

We already bought the ticket to go up the campanile until we realized there was no elevator and we have to climb up 414 steps to the top of the bell tower!  We were not prepared but we did it anyway!

 

 

CSC_0761At the first of. five levels of the tower we got a view of the Baptistry of Florence, a religious building dedicated to its patron saint, John the Baptist. It was originally believed to be a Roman temple dedicated to Mars.

 

 

CSC_0766Halfway through our ascent we had this view of the dome, which dominates the cathedral exterior, and was engineered by Filippo Brunellesch.

 

 

 

DSC_0769We took from above snapshots of the place voted many times as the best city to live in……

 

 

DSC_0764….and the views were truly breathtaking.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0785Finally we reached the top of the bell tower and the cathedral dome (slightly higher than the campanile) is gloriously dominating the Florentine skyline.

 

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My wife and I took turns taking our photos with the dome. Unless one has a selfie stick, it’s rather difficult to take a selfie due to the narrow walkway at the top of the bell tower.

 

 

CSC_0759Going down the bell tower was definitely easier than climbing up.  When we reached the ground we explored the other side of the basilica.

 

 

DSC_0787We also checked the bronze door panels of the baptistery by Ghiberti.

 

 

DSC_0788It is said that when Michaelangelo first saw them, he supposedly exclaimed, “Oh door worthy of heaven!”

 

 

 

DSC_0791We walked away from Piazza del Duomo feeling awed and exhausted.

 

 

DSC_0793As we looked back I believe we made the right decision to climb up the campanile instead of the cathedral’s dome if we had to choose only one option.

 

 

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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DSC_5945

11080927_10206384113910260_1367326432260468311_nDSC_5931DSC_5930

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.




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