Category Archives: Adventures

So much snow~

This is our 2nd winter in New England.  Coming from Wisconsin, we’ve seen a lot of snow.  However, snow in Wisconsin is very different from a Nor’Easter in New England.  A Nor’Easter in New England will drive you crazy.  Especially when we have had 4 Nor’Easters since the last week of December.  Each time a Nor’Easter hits us, we are greeted by at least a foot of snow.  This is what the neighborhood looks like after 4 storms, aka Latte’s dream playground.

Check out this house with all the icicles

Look carefully at this photo below, you can see the shape of a car and the antennas of the car sticking out.

Another house with some impressive icicles hanging:

Look at all that snow on top of the little roof.  This is all from the most recent storm we had this week:

This is the snow pile in our yard and Latte, the yellow mountain goat:

The snow in the backyard is pretty deep as you can see Latte digging in:

In case you are wondering, no, she is not cold at all:

And yes, she plays in the snow like this every morning and afternoon after her walk.

This is probably also why she sleeps in the entire day just to recover.

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Last year we took a trip to White Mountain, NH to see the fall colors.  The trip was kind of last minute so I felt like I didn’t do my homework before going.  To make up for it, we decided to go up to New Hampshire on Friday after work and spend 2 nights in the Franconia Notch State Park area.

There aren’t that many decent hotels in the area, mostly motels and camping sites. Once of the nicer hotels I found was the Mountain View Grand Resort.  The hotel has a lot of history and they offer S’mores by a camp fire at night for hotel guests.  The grounds of the hotel was very pretty and has a barn and some farm animals.

On Saturday, our first stop was the famous Flume Gorge.  The line to buy tickets to get into the Flume Gorge was very long but we were rewarded with fall colors as soon as we entered the state park.

The fall colors along the way varied from red to orange to yellow to green.

As we walk further along the trail, we start to see the lower stream of the Gorge.

After about 20 minutes of hiking, we arrive at the bottom of the gorge with a great view up.

This is also when the foot traffic starts to get congested in the park.  Everyone wanted to take picture of the main waterfall.  This waterfall is probably the most iconic scene for Flume Gorge.

One more shot from the other side of the waterfall:

After the Flume Gorge, we decided to go to The Basin.  We weren’t sure what The Basin was all about but there were a lot of cars in the parking lot so there must be something to see.

The trail at The Basin was a very nice walk.  We found this rock formation:

Then we walked by this and thought it was The Basin as many people were posing by it:

On the way back to the car, we found a side trail and followed it.  This side trail finally lead us to the real basin:

Yes, the water is very nice but remember, No Swimming!

We had bought a combo pass when we were at the Flume Gorge to take a tram to go up Cannon Mountain to see the view from the top.  After lining up for the tram, we were greeted by this spectacular view:

We only saw this view for a very brief period of time because we were not prepared for the temperature on the top of the mountain.  The temperature felt like it was in the 20s.  All the pictures we took of each other showed purple lips and red faces.  We quickly jumped back into the tram and came back down for warmth.

Before ending the day, we had learned from the hotel brochure that Chutters, the world’s longest candy counter was located in Littleton, New Hampshire.  Out of curiosity, we had to check it out.

Yes, it was A LOT of candy and a very busy store.  I think this candy store brings in all the business for this tiny little town in New Hampshire.

This year’s trip to New Hampshire was great.  There are still more to see in this region so we plan on doing this again next year!

The Cliff Walk, Rhode Island

We have been talking about going to Rhode Island for a while especially when we live so close.  Our chance came when I saw a nice hotel on promotion in Providence that also accepts dogs.  The drive to Rhode Island took about 2.5 hours without traffic.

When we first arrived at the beach, we were debating whether or not to park on the street as many cars were already parked there.  Just to be safe, we forked over money to the official beach parking lot.  By this time, Latte was so excited she was foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog.

The Cliff Walk’s one way length is about 3 miles with about 2/3 paved very nicely and the last third with just rocks.

Along the walk, we passed by some of the famous mansions we heard so much about.  They were huge!  They do offer tours inside the mansions but we didn’t see too many people go inside.

The lawns were nicely maintained and provided some nice shade for Latte to cool off.  This is me chilling on the tree while Latte continue to foam at the mouth.

Along the walk were also some private residences.  These houses were also very big and they have put up fences to ensure their own privacy.

When we finally made it back to the beach where we started our walk, we were very happy with our decision to NOT park on the street.  Most of the cars were parked there illegally and are now getting towed!

Notice the sign above that says “No Parking ANY TIME.”

This mini-road trip was fun for all of us.  The weather was fantastic and Latte experienced the beach, stayed in a hotel, went to a real store besides a pet store, and visited the Outlet Mall with  us on the way back.

The Lincoln Walk

I found the directions of this walk online.  The directions were long but seemed easy to follow so we strapped Latte’s backpack on her and off we went.

To begin the walk, we drove to Lincoln, MA’s library and parked in the library parking long.  We then walked towards the cemetery  like the directions said.  The direction said after we pass the cemetery, look for a no Bike sign.  Yeah…this is what the sign looks like:

The sign was tiny, and about to fall down.

Anyway, we go through the sign and head into the woods.  When we exited the woods, we saw a very cute vineyard.

The next land mark was to make a left at the Conservation Land sign:

As one can see, it’s quite faded.

We then continued into the woods.  The trail was actually quite nice.  Some of the fallen leaves were there to remind us summer is near the end and fall is just around the corner.

We eventually ended up on the road we drove into Lincoln on.  While walking back to our car, we saw this very funny road sign:

This was a very tame walk but the scenery could be better.  I know Latte definitely had some fun.

Minuteman Trail

Early August, there was finally one weekend that the temperature was not in the 90′s.  We decided to take this opportunity and get outside, with Latte of course.

We found this Minuteman Trail about 20 minutes away from Ayer that has a nice trail and allows dogs on leash.  So we loaded up our gear (aka Latte’s water and bowl) and headed out.

Once we walked in, we were greeted by this big field which is also part of American history, the American Revolution.

And some more field the further we go into the trail.  The purple flower looks pretty but I am pretty sure it’s all weeds.

Besides these fields, there were some old houses that you could go visit but Latte much rather lay outside in the grass and cool down.

Yes, Latte wears a backpack when she goes out on a trip like this.  Her pack includes: 1 bottom of water on each side, one pink water bowl, a couple of poop bags in case of you know what, and 2 camera filters (because I don’t want to carry them).

Here is a shot of Luke and Latte after Latte has rested a bit.

In conclusion, this is a pretty good trail if you just want to walk.  If you want good scenery, you’ll have to search else where.  We do plan on trying this trail again come fall for the fall colors though.  All the trees along the trail will surely make a nice picture come early October.

Alaska Cruise 2010

After our cruise last year on Holland America‘s Noordam, we couldn’t wait to go on another one.  Luke has never been to Alaska and it has been 10 years since my last trip so we decided that our one big trip this year would be Alaska!

We went with Holland America again since the Neptune Lounge and the size of the suites were just fabulous.  The itinerary is called the 7 Day Alaska Explorer round trip from Seattle, WA.  I knew my brother and Regine were also interested in going to Alaska so we invited them along for the trip.  This is the route we took:

The first day was sea day.  We did see some fish jumping out of the water, 2 dolphins, and 1 whale.

The second day was a highly anticipated stop: Glacier Bay, Alaska. When we entered into Glacier Bay, we were met by the Glacier Bay park rangers and they boarded our cruise ship to provide detailed narration about the park for us along the way.  Not long after cruising into Glacier Bay, we saw a beached whale that had washed up a couple of weeks ago.  This is a very rare too see.  Too bad there weren’t any bears around feeding on it.

The first glacier we arrive at was Lamplugh Glacier.  After viewing this glacier for about 30 minutes, we moved on to the glacier everyone has been waiting for, the Margerie Glacier.  Margerie Glacier is very special because it moves very fast, in the glacier world.  On average, the Margerie Glacier moves 7 feet a day.  When you have a fast moving glacier like this, the chance to see glacier calve is very high.  When glacier is calving, you will hear thunder-like sounds as the ice is pushing against one another.  Luckily, we did see a big piece of the glacier fall into the bay.

After spending about an hour here in front of the Marjorie Glacier, we sailed back out on our way to our next stop, Juneau, AK.

For Juneau, I had heard that going glacier trekking on the Mendenhall Glacier was an option but the whale watching was also really good.  The cruise line tours only offered one or the other, not both.  I found a tour online that combined both activies into one.  This stop is also very long, we were docked for 14 hours.  We started our day at 8:30 in the morning.  We got to the parking lot around 9 and started to put on our gear: helmet, safety harness, cramp-ons, ice axe, food, and water.  Ohh.. and of course, our camera.  I have to admit, the gear wasn’t light.  I was a little worried but seeing that everyone else was carrying theirs…: P

We were able to see the glacier about 30 min in from the parking lot.  I took this picture after about 1 hour of hiking.

Then, as we get closer,

We are now finall close enough to put on our gear for the official glacier trekking part of the excursion:

After we started walking on the glacier, we arrived at our first cave.  Our guide took out a drill and secured a rope for everyone to hold on to going down to the cave and coming out of the cave.  The blue color of the glacier is just spectacular.

As we hiked higher and higher onto the glacier:

We found this small poud on the glacier by accident, first time for our guides also.

Some more trekking on the ice, about .75 miles in.  Notice the right hand corner of the photo, I think Luke left his ice axe there.

Towards the end of the trekking, we arrived at the second cave.  This cave was much bigger and actually connects to another cave system underneath the glacier.  This is what the entrance of the cave looks like:

This is what the ceiling of the cave looks like, pretty awesome:

This hike took us about 7 hour, or around 8 miles total.  I highly recommend this tour as it is well worth it.  However, if you are not fit, don’t even think about winging it.  The hike is at a pretty fast pace and most of the hike is not on a paved trail.

After the hike, we were rushed to the whale watch.  The captain had been waiting for us for over an hour!  Captain Greg has the fastest boat in Juneau.  His boat can reach 40 knots easy which became a huge advantage for us.  We saw a couple of hump back whales here and there.  However, Captain Greg was on a hunt for something much more exciting, Orcas!  He had heard on the radio that some boats were seeing Orcas way out in the bay.  Had we been on a different boat, we would not have the opportunity to even attempt to chase the Orcas.  Once we got there, we saw some fins sticking out of the water.  As we got closer however, the water was dead calm, not even a small fish let alone a whale or any kind.  Suddenly Chung scream pointing to the other side of the boat.  He “claimed” he saw a fin but he was the only one.  Just as we were all discussing throwing him into the water to lure the whales, we saw the whole pod of Orcas surfacing out of the water.

We counted 8  Orcas in this pod.  The leading male’s dorsal fin was huge!  Much larger than the rest of the pod.  We then saw an Orca come vertically out of the water to spy on us:

This is a very rare sight to see.  Our captain was so excited.  For someone who does this every day to get this excited, we knew we saw something very special.  This is by far the highlight of our trip.

We were tired by the end of the day but it was worth every minute and whatever sore muscle we are going to feel for the rest of the week.

Our next stop of Sitka Alaska.  It’s a very small town with a lot of Russian influence.  We went on the Sea Otter and Wildlife excursion which picked us up directly from the cruise ship to maximize the time.  The main focus of this excursion is to see Sea Otters.  Sea Otters are very shy animals and will hide at the faintest noise.  We saw a whole group of them rafting together.  Along the way, we also some sea lions and these birds that looked like penguins.  This excursion was much more relaxing and easy going compared to glacier trekking.

Our third stop was in Ketchikan.  We decided to go sea kayaking.  This was also an excursion we signed up ourselves instead of with the cruise line.  This is us dressed in the kayaking gear and being transported to Orcas cove to start the excursion.

While we were kayaking, we suddenly heard a loud blow made by a whale very close to us.  We turned around immediately and a whale was right next to us!  I was really excited until the wave the whale made started to rock our kayak.  Along the way, we also saw a bald eagle in the nest taking care of her eggs.  We also saw 2 sea lions hopping on a rock.  We were checking them out and they were checking us out.  The guide didn’t want us to get too close in case they started to follow us back to the cove but I didn’t see a problem with that!  They were so cute, I wanted to take them home with me.

Our last stop was Victoria.  This stop wasn’t very interesting since we arrived at 7PM.  There weren’t much to see in town except the Empress Hotel and the harbor area had Victoria Day decorations.

By the next morning, we were back in Seattle and ready to go home.  This was yet another great trip.  Hopefully our next big vacation isn’t far away.

Word of advice when taking this cruise: Get to the departure port a day early so you don’t have to worry about missing the boarding time.  Research your own shore excursion, it’s cheaper!  Book a car to pick you up at the port when you get back.  Do not take the cruise line’s bus, it’s mad chaos.  One thing I really like about Holland America, you can order dining room food as room service, not just the room service menu.  Yes, we had lobster, steak, crab legs, ice cream, cakes, shrimp cocktails….etc. delivered to the room and never went to either of the formal nights.

Enjoy the Go!

I’ve seen a lot of marketing tactics over the years.  I learned about them in business school and as a person who works in marketing now.  While I was in New York, I now have seen marketing taken to a whole new level.

Charmin, the brand that makes toilet paper rolls, rented out a building in Time Square.  There is a lady dressed in a toilet costume outside the building encouraging people to go inside.  The slogan is: Charmin, Enjoy the Go!

Enjoy the go

So you go up the escalator and there are lots and lots of bathrooms.  There is also a DJ there encouraging people to, well…go!  Drop it while it’s hot!

After you have made your attempt to go, successful or not, you arrive at a computer station to rate your “go.”  There are also 2 computer stations for you to tweet and update your facebook status on what you have just experienced.

There is a play area for kids to jump in a roll with toilet paper rolls!

Toilet Paper roll bin

Remember those graffiti you see when you use a public restroom?  Well, Charmin is letting you have the opportunity to “Leave your Mark” in one of their bathrooms, 21st century style.  How can I pass this opportunity up to market the company I work for? Go Vitasoy!  Remember to eat lots of tofu and drink our Fiber Fortified San Sui Soymilk to help keep you regular!

Leave your mark

Leave your mark 2

Then as a keepsake of the “go” you just experienced, jump on this big toilet and the staff there will take a picture of you and print the picture out for your to take home and show all your friends.

Charmin Big Toile

As grossed out as you might be right now, this is definitely one of the coolest marketing ideas I have ever seen.  Seriously, look at it like it’s a science.  People lined up and waited to experience this, other than just the convenient fact that they needed to find clean bathroom in Time Square.  Did this marketing experience make me want to switch my toilet paper brand from Cottonelle?  Absolutely not!  The use of the yellow lab puppy as the Cottonelle mascot is just too irresistible.  Cottonelle toilet paper is the official toilet paper for Latte’s House.  Think poopy thoughts!

New York Trip

Luke had the opportunity to go to New York for a conference so I decided to tag along.  We dropped Latte off to be a wild woman at the kennel and started our road trip.  For the first night, the number one thing on our mind was food….GOOD FOOD!

DAY 1:

We had dinner in   on 32nd Street and Broadway.  BCD Tofu house is a big Korean food chain specializing in…tofu!  More specifically, tofu hotpot, a popular dish for Koreans.

BCD Tofu House Tofu Pot

Luke had Korean BBQ Squid.  Luke loves squid!

BCD Tofu House BBQ

After our fabulous dinner, we walked two doors down to what would become our newest obsession in dessert: Pinkberry!

Here is there menu: notice the calorie labels since it is a requirement in New York.

Pinkberry Menu

So the idea is that you pick the flavor of frozen yogurt, in my case, green tea flavor, then you choose your toppings: mochi, mangoes, chocolate, and captain crunch!

Pinkberry Green Tea

Luke chose the passionfruit flavor with: mochi, strawberry, mango, and granola

Pinkberry Mango

This was delicious!  We talked about it for the next 4 days, none stop!

On this night, we bought tickets to see Phantomof the Opera.  If you are Broadway first timer, I highly recommend this show to start.  It’s the longest running show on Broadway.  Even though the show is old, the music is always wonderful and special effects are still great by today’s standards.

DAY 2

This day was a very rainy day.  Because of the rain, we canceled our plan to go to Chinatown and the World Trade Center memorial as their are quite far.  We decided to walk up 5th Avenue and look at all the stores and decorations.  Luke is a big fan of basketball which meant the NBA store was a must stop for him.

Here is Luke vs. MBA players in height:

NBA Store Height

Here is Luke’s hand size vs. Dirk Nowitzki’s hand size:

NBA Store Hand

FAO Schwarz had a huge store on 5th Avenue.  Check out this nutcracker soldier made of candy:

Candy Nutcracker

This was my favorite Christmas tree on this trip, inside the Westin hotel we were staying at:

Westin Christmas Tree

Tonight was also a very important night, we were going to a Japanese restaurant called En, recently reviewed on Food and Wine magazine.  I made the reservation 3 weeks in advance to eat here.  I was especially interested in this restaurant because their own hand made tofu got a very good review in the magazine.  Since I work for a tofu company and eat lots of tofu, I had to try En’s tofu at least once.  After getting there and looking at their menu:

En Menu

Luke and I decided on the Kaiseki set, which is a set menu based on ingredients that are in season.  Our first course was called O-Banzai.  It’s came in 3 little dishes.  The flavors ranged from very light (right) to strong (left) to start off our palettes.

En O Banzai

Then we had sashimi:

En Sashimi

Before moving on to the next course in our Kaiseki dinner, our special ordered tofu hot pot came: The tofu was made in the pot since it was in the pot’s shape.  The garnish included dehydrated seaweed, green onions, and radish.  The sauce was an acidic sauce, not very salty.  It was a very special dish, the tofu was very light, softer than silken tofu and had a nice beany flavor.

En Tofu Hotpot

Then moving on with our Kaiseki dinner to miso marinated black cod:

En Black Cod

The next course was also tofu, which En made themselves.  Instead of hot, this time it’s served chilled: the chilled version actually seemed a little firmer than the hot pot version, probably due to the time the coagulant had to set.  It was paired with light Japanese soy sauce as the only added flavoring.  Very very good again.

En Chilled Tofu

Next was the main course, which was pork belly in the original menu: I thought it was really funny that this dish came with a Chinese version of soy sauce marinated egg.

En Kakunni

Instead of pork belly, I traded for sea bass:

En Sea Bass

The next course is the traditional bowl of rice to end the meal.  Keep in mind by this time we were very very full already.  Usually in Taiwan we get a steamed bowl of sweet rice with fish roe on top.  En decided to do Ochazuke, which means rice in tea, or fish sauce.  This is the perfect dish to have on a warm day.   First it comes with the fish sauce on the side, a clear broth and the rice in a bowl.  You are suppose to pour the broth into the rice and mix everything together.

En Ochazuke Before

En Ochazuke

Last but not least, dessert finishes this perfect meal: pumpkin ice cream!  Even though I was really full and couldn’t finish my ochazuke, I had no problem finishing my ice cream here!

En Dessert

While we were there, I think we were the only table that ordered Kaiseki.  The other tables ordered individual dishes from the menu.  We’ll have to try that next time, definitely worth coming back again!

New York also has numerous cupcake bakeries.  I think Crumbs has the best cupcake though.  The Magnolia bakery cupcake was quite small for the price.  Crumbs cupcakes came in many flavors: Boston cream, Smores, Cappuccino, Red Velvet, Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Mint…etc.  Just remember, one cupcake is not for one person.  Eat only a couple of bites at a time as each cupcake has about 500 calories!  Even though cupcakes are a great dessert, we still like Pinkberry!  Pinkberry rocks!

Crumbs Bakery

New York’s night scene is also very beautiful since you get to see the Christmas decorations light up.  Rockfeller center had a huge tree and looked beautiful with all the lights.

Rockfeller Center Christmas Tree

Fall Colors at White Mountain in New Hampshire

Ever since we moved here, so many people have told us about the fall colors of New England.  A group of friends invited us to go to White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire to sight see.  Since White Mountain National Forest allowed dogs, we decided to take Latte along for this mini road trip.

Latte has an obsession with car rides.  She doesn’t care if the car ride ends at the Vet office or dog park, she just LOVES car rides.

Wind in Latte's ears

Yellow me with a yellow lab with yellow trees!  Say YELLOW!

We found this little path by a bridge that was lined with the yellow leaves.  Many have fallen already since it was considered peak of the season.  Me with yellow jacket, with a yellow lab, with the yellow trees.

 Even though the local map says we are on a mountain, the mountain is not very high at all.  There were quite a bit of rivers and waterfalls though.

Beautiful view by the river

 Latte was super excited by all the stops we made as mostly were next to some body of water.  She was really distracted.  This is us attempting to make her look at the camera:

P1010863

 No fall color trip should be complete without the view of a tree with leaves turned completely red.

P1010867

 After a whole day of driving, Latte and I found our dinner together!

P1010872

Honeymoon to Europe

Luke and I decided to wait until April to take our honeymoon so we can do a Europe trip.  We opted to take a 10-Day cruise for the convenience and relaxation that we know we’ll need for this long trip.  We went with Holland America’s Noordam, 10-Day Western Mediterranean Enchantment.

Itinerary as follows:

  • Day 1: Rome, Italy: We arrive in Rome early to spend 2 extra nights there before boarding the cruise ship.  We went every where, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Coliseum, Vatican, Palatino, Pantheon, and Spanish Steps.  Italy was interesting for sure.  The first thing we learned was commitment.  You have to commit when you want to cross the street.  We were just in awe of Italian gliding across busy intersections right in between cars, buts, and scooters without getting hit.  Most of the places we went were the major tourist spots.  Being in a city filled with history and Roman ruins every where you turn was truely once in a lifetime experience.  These places are places one just have to experience and see in person.  Pictures can only capture a small fracture of the beauty.  One thing I LOVED about Italy was the coffee shops every where and these coffee shops had amazing pastries.  I was addicted with these pastries made with Nutella.  I would drag Luke into every single coffee shop we pass to see if they had Nutella throughout this entire trip.  The gelato here were so good!  Unlike the ones sold in the US, you only get to choose one flavor per scoop.  So, my only solution to this was to get multiple scoops to try out all the different flavors.  What can I say, I do have a sweet tooth~  On our last day in Rome before we were to take the train to board the cruise ship, we decided to go to Galleria Borghese.  Little did we know, reservations are required and only 200 people are allowed in per day.  We were lucky that the group lined up behind us had extra tickets.  So we paid their tour price and joined them for the tour.  Inside the Galleria, we got to see marble statues carved by Michael Angelo.  I would list Galleria Bourghese as a must see in Rome.  The statues were stunning and the story behind it just made these statues come alive!  In the afternoon, we took the tain and on board we go to our cruise!
  • Day 2: Livorno, Italy: This is the first stop for the cruise ship.  We stop here as this is the closest port to go into Florence.  We did a cruise ship excursion for this stop because Florence is about 2 hours away from port and we didn’t want to worry about traffic.  Florence was a beautiful city, definitely a city we would want to go back and spend more time some day.
  • Day 3: Monte Carlo, Monaco: Monte Carlo was a beauty from the moment we sailed into port.  I loved waking up early every morning to go work out and watch the cruise ship sail into port.  The morning sun against the mountain and fog was stunning!  Monte Carlo is famous for the casino and its shopping.  We were more interested in sight seeing so we opted to take the cruise excursion to go to France.  France is just about 10 min drive from port of Monte Carlo.  We went on the excursion Nice and Eze.  When we went to Nice, we had the opportunity to go into a farmer’s market type place.  They had flowers, fruits, pastries, and spices.  At the market, I finally got my appetite for a snack since I didn’t have much of a breakfast that day due to motion sickness.  I saw a lady selling home made pastries and a woman with a stroller just buying pastry after pastry.  The woman with the stroller made a recommendation to me and it was a delicious bread!  After Nice, we went to the town of Eze.  I had seen pictures of Eze on the Travel Channel and it was such a cute city!  It was a town on a top of stairs.  There were restaurants and hotels up the entire stair way and we came across some workers that literally carried their supplies up those staircases.  The view from top of the hill over looked Monte Carlo border to France and the ocean.  Again, just another place that you have to be there to experience.
  • Day 4: Sea Day: Sea Day was fun.  We were in the deluxe suit so we went to the VIP lounge to get snacks, breakfast, coffee, rent DVDs, audio books…etc.  The service in the VIP lounge was to die for.  Sea day also meant formal nights in the dining room.  We don’t like to dress up for dinner so we ordered room service from the dining room.  I love Holland America for this service.  Without dressing up, I too can have lobster and duck in the comfort of my cabin.
  • Day 5: Barcelona, Spain: We toured Barcelona by ourselves by taking the Hop On Hop Off bus.  The big attraction here is to see buildings built by Gaudi.  We went to La Sagrada Familia, Casa de Gaudi, and Park Guell.  After touring these stops, we went to the famous The Ramblas for tapas.  We had squid with sangria.  I am a big fan of sangria because it’s sweet and mild.  Apparently, sangria in Spain is not a mild drink.  I was serious woozy after the sangria and I only had half a glass!  While fighting the alcohol effects, we went to another cafe to get the famous Spanish hot chocolate with churros to dip in.  The hot chocolate with churros was something I’ve always wanted to try ever since I saw it on the Travel Channel!  We spent about 12 hours in Barcelona overall.  The only let down was the local market was close since we arrived on a Sunday.  So yes, Barcelona is on our list of places to visit again!
  • Day 6: Palma de Mallorca, Spain: We opted to do a biking tour to see Mallorca.  We biked along the Maritime Promenade to the old walls of Palma to the Cathedral and through Old Down Town.  The tour was very brief and after the conclusion of the tour, I convinced the bike tour guide to let me rent the exact same bikes and return it later in the day.  This saved us time to go into town to rent another bike and the walk.
  • Day 7: Sea Day: this is the sea day that we took our cooking class.  In the class, we made Paella Salad and Green Gazpacho with Shrimp.  The sea was very rough on this day.  The officers on the cruise had given me a great advice on the first day when we met them at cocktail hour, eat an apple.  I was very deligent about eating my apples on this day.  At breakfast, I even made the waiter go find me an apple to combat motion sickness.  He was gone for quite some time but he came back with 2 apples!
  • Day 8: La Goulette, Tunisia: we originally were going to tour this city by taxi but they were charging ridiculous prices.  Instead, there was this bus outside the terminal that was charging only $10 per person and we decided to just go along for the ride.  This tour actually went to all the exact same places the cruise excursion tours did.  We noticed because we kept seeing people we knew from the previous excursions we took.  We went to Tunis, city of Carthage, and Sidi Bou Said.  We did not like this stop very much.  Tunisia is still a developing country.  I felt like I was in China.  I would not eat anything from the local cafes.  We had a great lunch though with our Paella Salad from cooking class the day before and apples and bananas.  Yes, I like to pack my fruit when I travel.  Our fellow tourists were so jealous!  The tour didn’t end until about 2PM and we had left at around 9AM that morning.  By the way, we also saw a “carpet demonstration” while we were there.  Luke (having not seen any touristy product demonstrations) thought that it meant the demonstrators would show levitating carpets, just like in Aladdin.
  • Day 9: Palermo, Sicily, Italy: We also toured Sicily on our own by foot.  It was a very walkable city.  By walking around, we got to see the local food markets.  They sold lots of spices, pasta, fish, and pesto.  We got a jar of pistachio pesto from the market and some sun dried tomatoes, authentic Italian taste.  We also went to the Catacombs on our own.  This Catacomb had about 8000 mummified bodies of monks, noblemen, and citizens dressed in their original 15th century clothes.  Very creepy for me but Luke thought it was great.
  • Day 10: Naples, Italy: In Naples, we opted to do a tour with the cruise ship again to see the legendary Amalfi Coast and Sorrento.  We rode along the Sorrentine peninsula to the Sorrento village.  We rode along the Amalfi drive and famous slopes overlooking Positano, which was one of the oldest maritme republics of Italy.  I did feel the affects of motion sickness on the bus tour as there were many turns on the ride.  One of the couples we came to know from the other excursions told us to sit on the right hand side of the bus to start to get the better view.  They were right!  The highway was built right along side the cliff and the sea walls just drop straight down.  One wrong move driving here would send you over the cliff.  The water was just so clear and blue with the Italian style orange and red building in the background.  No wonder this place was so famous.  Sorrento was more of a shopping stop before we turn around to go back to the ship.  It was a cute town but very touristy.
  • Day 11: Rome, Italy: we came back to Rome today from our cruise.  We will miss the VIP lounge and all the fruit, coffee, and incredible service that came along with it.  We spent one more night here and revisited the Trevi Fountain  before we joined a tour to see the Appian Way and another Catacombs.  This was by far the best cruise I have ever been one.  We are total ready to take my parents back on this cruise again ’cause we know they’ll love it!

It’s hard picking our favorite city out of this whole trip.  Italy and Spain were just beautiful everywhere we went.  Here are some of our most memorable sights:

Leaning Tower of Pisa Leaning Tower of Pisa
Village of Eze in Monaco Village of Eze in Monaco
Hmm... Spanish Hot Chocolate with Churros Hmm… Spanish Hot Chocolate with Churros
Huge lemons! Huge lemons!
Legendary Amalfi Coast! Legendary Amalfi Coast!
Luke went crazy over these snack carts. Luke went crazy over these snack carts.