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5th Wedding Anniversary: Honeymoon Edition

Posted by on May 23rd, 2013

Five years ago today, Lisa and I tied the knot in front of our family and friends.  Yup.  Been five years.  Crazy.  We’re both pretty shocked at how quickly the time has gone.  So far so good.  :)  Last year we posted about the ceremony and the reception.  This time I thought I’d share some photos and stories from the Honeymoon.

The Monday after our wedding, Lisa and I flew out of Philly to Toronto on the way to Paris.  With a good 6 or 7 hour layover, we took some time to walk around Toronto and grab some lunch.  Nice town (their hockey team is just so-so ;) ).

Lisa suggested we check out that CN tower.  This is as close as we got.  Not a fan of heights.  I blame a bad experience at the Space Needle in Seattle (that’s for another post).

toronto tower

After landing in Paris, we stayed four nights in the Left Bank in an American style hotel since the rooms are bigger.  It was wonderful.  Paris is… Paris.  It’s such a unique experience.  The food, the architecture.. amazing.  I’ve never eaten as well anywhere in the world.  The coffee and croissants are perfection.  You haven’t lived until you’ve had a cafe au lait and a croissant in Paris.  Even the truck stop food in France is unbelievable.  It’s a joy to be there with nothing to do.  We would bum around, grab a beer, have something to eat.. just sort of wander.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses though.  For Americans, the experience can be a bit maddening at times.  We’re used to prompt service in restaurants with waiters that beam polite and grateful smiles at us as we order a half dozen items on the menu.  In France, the people are warm and polite, but if you’re eating in a restaurant, expect to be left alone for long periods after your meal arrives.  It’s just the culture there.  The French don’t hustle in and out of meal time.  That’s an American thing.  So, if you have a tourist agenda with lots of sights to check out and you include dinner or lunch at a restaurant, expect it to be longer than you’d think.  They can get a little frustrated with long customized orders too, although that may depend on the waiter, I don’t mean to generalize.  Word of advice: go with the flow.  Oh, and skip the steak tartare

The sights:

We loved the Eiffel Tower.  How can you not?  As I mentioned, I hate heights.  Lisa was all about going to the top even if I stayed on the lower levels.  After she got to the first level though, she nearly had a heart attack too.  The steps from the ground to that lower level are all open views.  You can see the ground the entire walk up.  The views even from that first level are pretty spectacular.

view from eiffel towerview of paris from eiffel tower

It’s breathtaking at night.

eiffel tower at night

Notre Dame offers some primo history and great views of the city as well.

view of Paris from Notre Dameview from Notre Dame

Also had a mini-heights freak out here too.  lol.

Paris has the Louvre, where you can find some hugely famous sculptures and artwork.

Like the Mona Lisa…

Lisa and Mona Lisa

There’s also Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

winged victory of samothrace

Huge museum.  You can easily spend a few days in there.

We also made plenty of time to goof off… we have more than a few ‘awkward tourist face’ photos.

sacre coure

I also took up smoking because… I was in Paris, obviously and that’s just what you do.

john smoking

After our first few days in Paris, we drove down to Lourdes to see the Blessed Mother Shrine, which is associated with Saint Bernadette.  It was about an 8-9 hour drive from Paris.  Lisa and I are practicing Catholics and I’ve also been to Fatima in Portugal, so that was a treat.  The town is a bit packed with the second highest number of hotels per capita outside of Paris.  We arrived into town very late at night and departed shortly after visiting the shrine.  We thought the hotel was sorta gross so it soured our view of the town a bit.

Lourdes Shrine

From Lourdes we made the 7 hour drive East to Cannes and stayed two nights there.  Beautiful little seaside town on the French Riviera.  It was cold and breezy considering it was early June.  I think the weather might actually have been more ‘beachy’ in New Jersey that time of year.  Nice place.  Nothing to write a blog post about for me.  I enjoyed the Algarve in Portugal a little more.

After Cannes, we drove back up to Paris for another 3 nights and then flew home.  We had our last coffee and croissant in Charles de Gaulle airport.

We’ve been hoping to go back to Paris since we left, but it’s a bit pricey and it’s not a destination where you’d want to do a quick weekend, especially if it’s your first time there.  Quick story:  One day on the Champs Elysees, after we saw the Sex and the City movie, we grabbed two beers.  They were 10 Euro each, which after converting it to dollars was roughly $30.  So, we payed $30 for two Heinekens.  Oy.  But then again, that’s the Champs Elysees.  You can find the same beer much cheaper elsewhere.

I’d prefer to go back for a good two week stay, but then again, I’d love to go back to Portugal and Ireland.  Still need to see the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy… so we’ll see. One day.  Oh, and I’d love to win the lottery too.. just sayin.

So, Lisa and I are going to enjoy our anniversary by hanging out and cooking.  Maybe I’ll catch a smoke… you know, to relive the memories. 

 

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Lisa and John Take DC: Part Deux

Posted by on August 16th, 2012

In our last post, we talked about the first day of our Washington DC trip.  Today, we’re going to show you the great time we had on our second day.  Amazingly, we pretty much did everything Kristen and Joe did from Popcorn on the Stove, just a day earlier!!  Can’t believe we didn’t run into them.

After gorging ourselves on room service Thursday night, we awoke refreshed and marched over to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum just as it opened.  Our daughter slept in her stroller the entire hour we were in there, which made it easier.  If you’re a sci-fi or air and space geek like me, this place is pretty much the place to be.  I could’ve spent DAYS here.  There is a ton of interesting displays and historical pieces.  The gift shop was awesome.

Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis?  Check.

NASA Apollo 11 and Gemini capsules?  Check.

Now apparently there are two Air and Space centers.  The one we visited on the National Mall and another in Virginia.  I believe the one in Virginia has larger items, like the Space Shuttle Discovery.  Must. go. there.

After we left the Smithsonian, we headed over to the National Archives building and saw the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  Worth checking out.  No photos were permitted, so we obviously don’t have any.

Across the street from the Archives is the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Lisa wanted to show our daughter some dinosaur fossils.  The only dinosaurs she’s seen to date are on Dinosaur Train, so this was a rude awakening.

Mission accomplished.

Our last stop was one Lisa was dying to check out for a while.  We went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.  While the gallery of presidents can be mildly educational, the rest is just media personalities.  Lisa thoroughly enjoyed herself.  She pretty much goofed off for a half hour.

There’s no way Tom Cruise is this tall in real life.  Uh uh.

As for me, I got to poo-poo the people I’m not a fan of and thumbs up the one’s I like.

Not a fan of the Capitals.  Not even a little.

Since I don’t want this to be a political blog, I think we’ll leave it at that.  ;)

We had a great time in DC and are hoping to get back down there again sometime soon. There are a bunch of sights we didn’t get to see that are still on our list.  Amazing how many things there are to do there.

Have you ever been to a wax museum before?  Did you take stupid pictures too? 

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Lisa and John Take DC

Posted by on August 15th, 2012

Yes, it’s true! John actually took a few days off from work and the blog and we packed up our gear and headed to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. It was great and a fun time was had by all. Since we took so many photos and went to so many sights, we’re going to split this into two posts. Buckle up!

We decided to plan this trip last minute and after a lot of debating we decided to take a train instead of driving. I have to say I would definitely do it again. The worst part about the train is packing light so everything would fit into two backpacks. We also knew we would still be seeing some attractions after we checked out of our hotel on day 2 so we’d still have our backpacks with us for half a day. It was still better than driving, in my opinion.

We took a Wednesday evening train and checked into our Marriott hotel, which was two blocks from the White House, and ordered room service – one of my favorite things to do on vacation. Yes, I am sure DC has some great restaurants but with an 18 month old, eating in bed seems like the best option. She had a ball jumping on the bed, too.

The view from our hotel room was pretty sweet.

The Attractions

1. The Capital Building: We woke up early on Thursday and hoofed it over a mile to the Capital Building. We were able to schedule this visit through our State Representative’s website and were able to get a tour from one of his staffer’s on pretty short notice. No strollers, large bags, or food and drink were permitted in the building so we traveled extra light. The House gallery also prohibits cameras, so we left our SLR in the hotel for this portion.

The Capital is filled with about 4000 statues (not the real number). One of the cooler statues is a mock up of the one that’s on top of the building. It’s a lot bigger than it looks from outside.

The outside of the building has a huge courtyard. Perfect place for pictures.

2. The White House. After the Capital building and lunch, we headed over to the White House, which is on the other side of the National Mall. We would have loved to see the inside, but you need to book tours six months ahead of time. Oops. We did get some pretty sweet photos though. The White House grounds are impressive. Makes me realize our grounds at home need a little work.

3. The Lincoln Memorial. Just around the corner from the White House is the Lincoln Memorial. It was HUGE in person. I always thought it was smaller. By the time we got there it was really busy. Luckily, even the Lincoln Memorial had an elevator for a baby stroller.

4. The FDR Memorial. Further down the road is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Since I had Scotties when I was young, I HAD to see this one. People rub the dog’s ears and FDR’s knee for good luck. We stuck with rubbing the dog ears!

5. The WW2 Memorial. I think this is a new monument. It’s HUGE and a very fitting tribute. Definitely worth a stop. There is a large reflecting pool and a plenty of places to stop and reflect.

That was our first day. We capped it off with room service again back in our hotel. That may have been the most enjoyable part of the day. The second day we went to the Smithsonian and Madame Tussaud’s. We have plenty of fun photos of that whole day to share with you tomorrow.

Have you every been to DC? What did you do when you were there?

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How to Stay Classy in San Diego

Posted by on October 25th, 2011

Stay Classy San Diego!

So, over the last twelve years, since I started working at my current job while in college, I’ve had the opportunity to travel fairly regularly.  Sometimes I get a less than desirable destination, say like Winnipeg in January for cold weather testing.  Most of the time though I get to go to a pretty decent town (Winnipeg is very nice btw, just too cold for me in the winter).  My favorite locales are San Diego and Seattle, but I haven’t been to Seattle nearly enough to have a list of recommendations.

This list is what I like to do when I’m in town and it’s mainly written from my East Coast sheltered perspective.  There are probably tons of native San Diegans that will take issue with this list, but that’s OK.

1.  Where to Stay

This one is pretty easy.  If you enjoy the night life and culture only an urban environment can offer, then stay in the Gaslamp section of downtown.  If you’d rather be outside of downtown but still want a San Diego experience then consider Old Town or Mission Valley.  Old Town has a nostalgic feel, a few hotels and a good number of classic restaurants.  Mission Valley is close to Sea World and the Fashion Valley Mall.

2.  Where and What to Eat

Maybe it’s just me, but when I get to the southwest, I generally eat Mexican three times a day.  I literally turn into a pinto bean.  You just can’t beat the Mexican in San Diego.  So with that in mind, I recommend the following places:

El Indio Restaurant

El Indio is a classic Mexican joint near the airport that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Is it the best in the city?  I don’t know, but it’s some of the best Mexican I’ve had.  One of the cool features of this place is the tortilla machine they have in the kitchen.  This tortilla machine gun throws out fresh tortillas nearly continuously.  In addition to eat in or take out, they offer fresh tortillas to go as well as tortilla chips.  They were also featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

The mark of excellence…

Chorizo and eggs at El Indio…

Another place worth checking out is Kansas City Barbeque. Not so much for the food or the ambiance, but simply the experience. For those of you born before 1980, this bar is where certain scenes from Top Gun were filmed. Remember the jukebox and the Righteous Brother scene at the end? Yeah, that’s here. It’s definitely not what you think it will be if you’ve only seen it on the movie. Just sayin…

You’ve lost that lovin feelin…

Other places I like to stop in when I’m in Ron Burgundy’s neighborhood are In-N-Out Burger, El Torito, Fred’s Mexican, Colima’s, Chloe Cafe. There are really too many to mention. In-N-Out is not really specific to San Diego, but it is a real California experience.

3.  What to Do?

Other than the obvious entertainment options like the beach, Sea World and Tijuana, there are a few places that I think are worth a visit.

Cabrillo National Monument

As soon as you get your rental car, head over to this scenic overlook.  The lighthouse  goes back to the 19th century and features a museum and that’s enjoyable, but the real draw is the ridiculous view of San Diego.  I don’t think this is where Ron Burgundy first courted Veronica Corningstone, but it’s still a treasure regardless.

The San Diego Zoo

Awesome zoo, but try to get there early or late. If you get there around lunch, I swear, every animal in this place is asleep. They must have a really good union or something.

Here are some of the animals that slept through our last visit.

No, don’t get up Lion, you’ve had a long day of laying around and licking yourself for four hours after getting fed a big pile of meat without having to even wander five feet for it. We only paid $30 to be here, but don’t worry about us, you need a nap.

Here’s a lazy Panda.

Here’s a dead beat Polar Bear.

Here’s the bear that nearly killed Ron.

 

Take a Drive

There’s quite a lot to see outside the city.  If you’re up for a drive, I strongly recommend Mt Laguna and Borrego Springs.  Mt Laguna is due East of San Diego by maybe 30-45 minutes.  The peak is 6000 ft and is reachable by car fairly easily.  It’s all paved so no off roading is necessary.  Along the way up, there are a few places for pictures.  The views are breathtaking.

Here is a shot on the way up.

and near the summit…

Borrego Springs

This small town is even further East than Mt Laguna and consequently is in the desert. The roads from Mt Laguna to Borrego Springs are a lot of fun and are very deserted road type stuff. Very cool. After sitting in your air conditioned car for 45 minutes or so and you get to Borrego Springs, the first thing you notice is the heat. In July and August, it can be around 115 F. It really hits you. Definitely a unique experience, especially if you’re from the East Coast and you’ve never experienced this kind of heat. Borrego Springs has a little museum on the edge of town that’s a great place to stop into. They do have AC there. If you get into the museum, you can ask about the passability of a certain scenic overlook about five miles due East. The overlook can be a little treacherous in the summer when the creek bed is mostly soft sand, but if there’s been a recent rain, it hardens up a bit. We took an SUV when we went. Don’t attempt it without 4WD.

The road to Borrego Springs.  Like something out of Knight Rider.

At the museum, you’re basically in the desert.

The creek bed to the overlook.

The view. BOOM.


So that’s how I do San Diego. How do you do San Diego? Oh and thanks for stopping by, but mainly stay classy.

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My Trip to Japan

Posted by on September 28th, 2011

Reminiscing week continues here at OHFS with this post.  Lisa and I were looking through some photos on our laptop and we were laughing and remembering the good times, thus the Finnie post Monday and now this one.

Last June, while we were waiting for our home to be built, I had the opportunity to take a work trip to Japan… for 30 days.  Yikes.  I went to a city called Yokosuka (pronounced Yo-Koo-skuh), which is about a 1.5 hour drive south of Tokyo.  It’s around a 5 hour drive to Fukushima from Yoko and as I understand it and they are doing OK after all the devastation further north.

There are a lot of challenges of flying to and staying in a locale this far from home.  The first challenge for me is the flight over there.  I think I flew through Chicago on the way out.  So, it’s 2 hours from Philly to O’Hare and then around 12 to Tokyo.  But wait, there’s more.  After arriving, going through customs and getting my luggage, I still have a bus trip for nearly 2 hours.  AND I don’t sleep on planes.  So, needless to say, I’m a walking zombie by the time I get there.  The good news is though, if you plan accordingly, you can get to Japan in the evening and then just goto bed right away and wake up refreshed and in sync with the time zone.  Coming back is AWFUL though.  You get home at around noon and you’ve been up for 30 some hours. I’m usually jet lagged for a good 4-5 days on the way home.

The food and drinks weren’t a challenge for me.  Ordering food and drinks, however, is a different story.  Here’s a photo from the plane in Chicago..

I’m pretty sure that’s a coke.  But, you never know….

Since Yokosuka is a big American town (bonus points if you know why) there are a lot of “aids” in the restaurant windows to help tourists such as myself.  They have most of their dishes dipped in polyurethane to preserve it and show it off as potentially appetizing.  Unfortunately, these dishes end up looking like large kids toys from some messed up little tykes set.  They straight-up look gross.  Here’s a picture of what we’re going to call a “calzone.”

Umm, no thanks.  Although apparently, according to Lisa, the dish below is also eaten in Italy.

The town itself is pretty and very typical “Japan” with tall, narrow buildings covered in small tiles.  The streets are generally more narrow as well.  Towns in Japan seem to have a pulse that I don’t quite notice in the states outside the bigger cities.  Here are some shots of the streets.

The nightlife was interesting.  They have, get this… a country western bar.  They would only play country music and they would even download country songs they didn’t have if you requested it.

The bars in Japan have a popular drink called a Chuhai (pronounced Chu-High) which is like a highball.  Most bars make them on the spot, although you can get them canned.  They come in a spectrum of colors and flavors, with my favorite being lemon.  I’m not really sure how strong they are.  I think they are closer to a beer, but maybe a touch stronger.  If you plan on going to Japan, they are worth a try.

Some of the other alcoholic drinks can be questionable, like this Habu Sake.  This is sake (Japanese rice wine) with a dead pit viper in the sake jar.  The story here is the venom from the snake enhances the potency of the drink maybe providing some hallucinogenic effects.  I didn’t have any.  I prefer my drinks reptile free, but that’s just me.

One of the more humorous things I found in Japan are the menus written in English.  I’m not trying to be ignorant here, because whoever wrote these are bilingual and that’s hard to do, but they are still funny.

The orenge is good, but you want to avoid the pain apple.

Potato, Poteto let’s call the whole thing off.

The restrooms are also worth showing.  So what’s so weird about that photo?  Looks like a regular urinal stall, albeit in metal, with a saloon door.  You’ve seen these before right?  Wrong.  I’m not standing in the bathroom.  I’m standing in the bar.  Yep.  Weird.

After a night of drinking chuhai’s and listening to Kenny Chesney, it’s time for some late night snacks.  In the strip near the bars, they had a really decent kabob stand and one bar had corn dogs aka stick dogs.

Here is my favorite post-bar menu photo.  Franch Flies?  Really?  Because you know you spelled fries correctly in the item directly below…

Last but not least… for my Philly peeps.

There’s nothing wrong with this photo… other than the fact that someone is selling Philly Cheese Steaks 7000 miles away from where it should be sold.

That’s all I got on Japan.  I’ve got more photos of some other interesting places there, but maybe I’ll save them for another post down the road.  If you’re remotely interested in visiting Japan once all the nuke stuff clears up, I highly recommend it.

So have you traveled anywhere exotic?  Any funny stories?  Please share them so we can all laugh at people who don’t speak well English…

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