• All Toll Roads Lead To Miami

    Welcome to Little Havana! Miami street art!

    Welcome to Little Havana! Miami street art!

    When I planned my Florida escapade it was for the sole purpose of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! But after I realized how much time I had, I decided to explore what else the Sunshine Stae had to offer. Without a full minute’s thought, the first answer was Miami!!! So what if it was 3.5 hours away from where I was staying… so what if I could only be in the city for about 6 hours? It would be worth it right? RIGHT? Yes… and no.

    NO

    1. The 3.5 hour drive turned in to a 5 hour drive because of the terrible rain. And YES! It was my idea to power through the rain, but who knew it would be so scary?

    A quick glance of that crazy Floriday rain!

    A quick glance of that crazy Floriday rain!

    2. TOLL ROADS! TOLL ROADS! TOLL ROADS!!! Goodness gracious. Be prepared to pay at least $15 EACH WAY when driving from Orlando to Miami. Be prepared to pay toll roads in general when in south Florida. It was stupid how many there were and some even need exact change!! AHHHH! Be warned!
    3. If you’re not going for the party scene… arriving in the evening can be kinda underwhelming.. womp womp…actually arriving late in the evening was a bummer regardless because I didn’ even get t see the beach. *SIGH*

    YES

    1. I can say I’ve been to Miami and experienced Little Havana. (And see some of Calle Ocho street art.)
    2. Some of the food at Versaille’s Restaurant was underwhelming, but their Cuban Coffee (colada) and flan delivered!

    Cuban Flan and Cuban Coffee aka Colada from Versailles Restaurant.

    Cuban Flan and Cuban Coffee aka Colada from Versailles Restaurant.

    3. I love looking at pretty houses and Miami and South Beach have a bunch of those!
    4. Even though I wasn’t there to party, it was a Friday night and you can totally get a feel for the vibe of the city! It’s definitely enough to make you want to give it another chance.
    5. I got to use my (limited) Spanish skills in Little Havana and felt totally local and boss.

    So overall… I have no opinion on Miami and that’s rare for me to say. I didn’t experience it long it enough to love it, hate it, or judge it. I think given more time and maybe better conditions (both weather and mental preparation of toll roads), I would have a clearer idea of what Miami is and what it has to offer.

    So tell me! Am I missing out on the Miami madness? Or did I dodge a bullet?

  • Cathedral Gorge

    Isolated Photo Op in Cathedral Gorge

    Isolated Photo Op in Cathedral Gorge

    The sun is starting to shine again in Las Vegas, while I know most of the United States has some snow falling to the ground. However, just because Las Vegas is on the verge of a heat wave doesn’t mean all of Nevada is warming up. Just under 2 hours north is Cathedral Gorge State Park. Now, Cathedral Gorge is usually very dry and is colored red and pink from the ground to the top of the rocky peaks. It also usually features some slot canyons that are ideal for exploring and hiding from the sun. HOWEVER…. I didn’t know that in the winter there it snows… a lot. This wouldn’t sound like such a crazy idea… (snow.. in the winter?? Who would have thought?!) except for the fact that it only snows in southern Nevada maybe… once every two years if we are lucky. So I was shocked to think that a place like Cathedral Gorge, that didn’t feel much higher in elevation had their ground completely covered in the white stuff.

    The drive out of Las Vegas to Cathedral Gorge is easy enough. You drive north. Simple. I noticed on the drive there that there weren’t many people heading the same way. That was totally cool with me since I love an open road and less people in my photographs. Also fun perk, I can take all my middle of the road photos that I love so much! See below to know what I mean. 😉

    Photo of me taking a photo of snow. Middle of the Road, outside of Cathedral Gorge.

    Photo of me taking a photo of snow. Middle of the Road, outside of Cathedral Gorge.

    The drive takes you through so many small towns and I loved it!! And when I mean small towns.. I mean if you blinked or sneezed, you would miss it. However, the snow made it look lost in time and I love moments like that. My favorite part was the park… .no soul around to show you someone was there except for tiny foot prints.

    Somewhere in Northern Nevada.

    Somewhere in Northern Nevada.

    After you soak in the small town liife, you will finally find a small sign that directs you to Cathedral Gorge State Park.

    So… I mentioned snow earlier… well at the park there was so much snow we couldn’t get much further than a mile within the entrance because we lacked snow chains and wanted to err on the side of caution since it’s been over an hour since we located another human.

    Cathedral Gorge 3

    It was of course a bummer we could not explore further in to the park… it was another bummer that the snow was so deep I couldn’t get to the slot canyons!! 🙁 🙁 🙁 I was highly disappointed that I came all that way and couldn’t even snap a good instagram pic. BUT that was all left at the wayside when I stopped to apprciate the beauty of the snow and the quiet of my surroundings. The white snow looked exceptionally white against the pink rocks and the snow was undisturbed with the exception of bunny snowprints. <3 … oh and my phone marks in the snow as I tried to set up my camera phone for a photo… and then I failed. But I think it still turned ok…

    Accidental Photo when trying to have my phone stand up in the snow!

    Accidental Photo when trying to have my phone stand up in the snow!

    After some time of trying to walk through the snow and taking tons of fun photos, it was time to move on. I didn’t want to get caught in the snow in the dark… the drive home was just as lovely and allowed the opportunity to stop next to some lakes for a snack.

    The Road Leading out of Cathedral Gorge.

    The Road Leading out of Cathedral Gorge.

    Overall, even though I did not have a chance to hike the area as much as I would like to, I think seeing it in such a way that can only be described as rare made the day completely worth it. Sometimes magical things happen when nothing goes as planned.

  • Stay Awake On A Road Trip

    RoadtripLiving in the United States means that many amazing destinations are within driving distance. For me, the downside is that I have a difficult time staying awake on lengthy drives. I am actually notorious for doing so. Recently though, the road trip to Colorado and the Four Corners became a possibility and I needed to stay awake for an 8 hour drive… each way. So… the sleeping beauty that I can be needed a plan to stay awake the whole time. Most of it was trial and error but below is a formula of what I realized works best for me.

    Sleep

    Roadtrip SleepIt seems like common sense to get sleep before a road trip… but I figured I should add it to the list since I have been in a situation where I got NO SLEEP and completely hated life the whole time. So… get some sleep. Take a nap. Make sure you get sustainable shut eye. If you need to pull over and sleep…. do so!

    Food

    Roadtrip FoodSnacks! Tons and tons of snacks. It not only keeps you fed but it entertains you. It forces you to multitask and stay more engaged while driving. For me personally, I discovered that hot cheetos are magic. They are crunchy and spicy. It’s hard to fall asleep if your mouth is on fire!

    Caffeine

    Roadtrip CaffeineI love coffee. I love caffeine. I tend to go crazy overboard when driving. I like to start with a coffee before I leave or as soon as I start driving and I tend to pick up an energy drink or two for every 3 hours. It seems excessive, but as I said, I fall asleep.

    Music

    Roadtrip MusicWhatever you are listening to needs to be entertaining. Happy music makes for a happy driver. I spend plenty of time creating a playlist but if I’m feeling lazy, Disney movie music is a solid go to. I also occasionally enjoy listening to stand up comedy and audio books.

    Timing

    Roadtrip TimingAs they say, timing is everything. That goes for long distance driving. I find that for myself, leaving mid morning and driving into the mid afternoon OR leaving mid afternoon into early evening works best for me. There is definitely more traffic but those are the hours of the day when I am most alert.

    Friends

    Roadtrip FriendsHave a good friend with you! All the above does not compare to having a buddy with you while you drive. They are entertaining and keep you alert. It’s also a great time to bond and reconnect with them. Just make sure that the friend you choose isn’t a sleepy human. 😉

    Roadtrip SafeI’m excited I have finally come up with a list for myself that actually works and I hope someone out there finds this interesting and helpful! Now I can’t wait until my next road trip. The possibilities are limitless now that I can keep my eyes open for hours on end. Where is your favorite road trip worthy destination? What is the longest you have driven?

  • Four Corners & Shiprock

    Shiprock 2

    Ever feel so crazy busy that you think “I wish I could be in four places at once?” I have! And even better yet, I have been in not only one place at a time, not two places at a time… not even three places at a time but FOUR places! Four Corners to be exact! The Four Corners are a place in the United States where Four States all meet. Those states are Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

    Four Corners

    Four Corners

    Located on private Navajo land, there is an entrance of $5 per person. When inside the monument is fairly straight forward. It shows the location where the four corners meet. It’s a little cheesy to be sure, but you still have to get a photo in Four places at once. It’s also a blast to people watch and see how everyone else tries to place body parts in four different locations.

    Once you are finished with that, you think to yourself… ok. That was 20 minutes… anything else in this area? Well the answer is YES! Just about 30 minutes away is a rock formation in New Mexico called Shiprock. To be fair.. it’s not a park or anything like that. It’s a massive rock formation in the middle of nowhere. The beauty of it to me is how it looks so oddly out of place. Taken at the right angle with no one around, it looks like another planet. Something out of a Martian movie or maybe even a chance to imagine what it was like to be an explorer of the west.

    Shiprock, New Mexico

    Shiprock, New Mexico

    Over all, if you like the strange and different this is for you. What a better way to compliment the silliness of the Four Corners than the random of Shiprock. So tell me, have you ever been to any of these locations? What did you think? Worth the trip? Let me know!

  • Mesa Verde Colorado

    Mesa Verde 6

    On my road trip to the Four Corners and Monument Valley, my friend and I thought it would be fun to stay the night in Colorado. We chose the small town of Cortez, Colorado. Upon check in, we were informed almost the whole town was sold out! It was shocking and asked why, to which I was told “Mesa Verde.” What is that, I wondered? Well! It’s another National Park! If you have been reading my blog, you know me and my National Parks.

    Mesa Verde 3

    Mesa Verde is home to some of the best Ancestral Pueblos in the United States. Now, to be honest, I did not get a chance to spend much time at all in Mesa Verde. Just about an hour and a half to ball park it. It was enough time to see the pueblo known as Step House. The pueblos are located by access of a downhill trail, that will take about 10 minutes to walk down and 15 minutes to walk up. The pueblos were interesting to see. I don’t think I have ever been as close to an actual archaeological site. Pretty neat to see. I wish I could have spent more time there! Maybe next time.

    Mesa Verde 5

    Since Mesa Verde is up high in the mountain and hills of Cortez, it did offer some beautiful view points that were just a quick hike from the parking areas. The height of the park serves as an excellent vantage point.

    Mesa Verde

    The views were so lovely and the fresh air made it that much more enjoyable. On my way out of the park, I also had to stop and take some pictures near their field of burned trees. It was too beautiful not to! The contrast of the sky and earth were perfect. It was a delightful ending to a quick visit.

    Mesa Verde 2

    If you have been to Mesa Verde, let me know what else I missed out on and if I should go back. 🙂 I’m just happy I spent SOME time in Colorado.

    Mesa Verde 4

  • Monument Valley

    Forrest Gump sign at Monument Valley

    Forrest Gump sign at Monument Valley

    I enjoy visiting cities and places that I’ve seen in movies and television. Monument Valley is the location for one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies… Forrest Gump. If you’ve seen the movie, the pictures should all make sense to you! If you haven’t, I suggest you watch it ASAP. There is a part in the movie where Forrest runs across the country and then comes to a sudden stop, right here. He looks at the crowd and says “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.” Simple, funny and powerful. I adore that part in the movie and I was willing to make the 4.5 hour drive from Las Vegas to see it.

    View of Monument Valley from the Navajo Park

    View of Monument Valley from the Navajo Park

    Located near the border of Utah and Arizona, Monument Valley is on Navajo land. There is a Navajo park close by where you can see some of the rock formations up close. I accidentally ended up inside of one, thinking that’s where the Forrest Gump spot was. I was wrong. However, the $10 was still worth it to see some of the sights. If you have more time than I did, they also offer tours (for an additional fee I’m sure.)

    I'm pretty tired. I think I'll go home now. - Forrest Gump (Monument Valley)

    I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now. – Forrest Gump (Monument Valley)

    My priority was Forrest Gump. I learned it is located near markers 13 and 14 on Highway 163. If you are driving AWAY from the monuments, you will miss it. I did. The easiest way to find the exact location is to drive towards them and get a feel for the view you are looking for. There is a pull out near 14 and if you look to your left… you will know you are in the right spot. The view will look perfect but this cute sign will let you know you are right!

    Me and the coolest roadside sign.

    Me and the coolest roadside sign.

    Finding this sign made it all worthwhile. I almost gave up when I was first driving and missed the marker. I am so happy I turned around and tried to look for it one more time. If you blink, you will miss it on the road. There were no other tourists there when my friend and I found it, but as soon as we pulled over and began to take pictures, I think they knew what we were doing. If you can’t find the sign on your own, keep driving in the general area until you see cars pulled over. Just don’t give up! The sign is there! Just be careful when recreating your Forrest Gump pictures. Cars drive about 90MPH on the road. Stay safe and have fun! I know I did.

  • 17 Mile Drive

    17 Mile Drive 3

    17 Mile Drive

    Many people know about Big Sur in California. Not as many know about the 17 Mile Drive. It’s an area just north of the famous Big Sur drive, located after Carmel but before Monterey. It’s 17 miles (big shocker!) of coastal driving and picture taking. Super straight forward, but still worth the moments it will take to experience it.

    Stopping to enjoy the beaches of the 17 Mile Drive

    Stopping to enjoy the beaches of the 17 Mile Drive

    The 17 Mile Drive passes through the extravagant gated community of Pebble Beach. The road serves as the main access road for the area, so non-residents have to pay a $10 entrance fee per vehicle to drive the 17 Mile loop. At the entrance, tourists receive a map to help guide them and point out some noteworthy stops. The drive passes from inland towards the coast. The beaches along the way are gorgeous and it almost seems like the water becomes a darker shade of blue! It’s all very California. There are rocky beaches and white sand beaches that are accented with fabulous golf courses and multi-million dollar homes.  (Sorry, I didn’t have pictures of the homes… they were too beautiful for my camera to capture. 😛 But we’re here to focus on the drive anyways, right?!)

    Lone Cypress in the 17 Mile Drive

    Lone Cypress in the 17 Mile Drive

    This drive won’t make you feel at one with nature… There are many of tourists and residents alike on the road. The hills are also alive with gorgeous homes and the trails are well paved. However, it’s still gorgeous. How gorgeous? One of the most popular attractions is the “Lone Cypress” which is referred to as the most photographed tree in North America. Even though it’s being held up with cables, it’s still iconic and beautiful to behold. It’s a wonderful combination of man and nature that’s truly worth seeing.

    17 Mile Drive

    17 Mile Drive

    The 17 Mile Drive can be completed in about 25 minutes without stopping or it can be an average of 1 hour if you stop at all the special spots. I recommend that you take even more time if you can spare it. The rocks make a great location to sit and listen to the crashing waves. I have yet to go to Big Sur, but it has a lot to live up to!

  • Searching for Hollywood

    Hollywood Sign, CA

    Hollywood Sign, CA

    In all my travels to Southern California, I have seen the Hollywood Sign looming in the distance on more than one occasion. I know it is possible to get closer, but I have never tried. I decided, that this was the time to try! I did the research, I took the time to read about it online, I looked at maps and I asked by word of mouth.

    Not going to lie, even during the research portion, it seemed like finding the hike would be complicated. However, I was hopeful that a car full of well traveled adults (and Concierge by profession, no less!) would be able to locate this elusive hike. The drive started out well enough but that didn’t last long. Although we were traveling uphill towards our potential destination… that was not the direction our search was taking. While trying to find the hike, we hit many dead ends in expensive neighborhoods where locals have erected their own barriers! It also didn’t help that we were led in circles by our GPS and There seemed to be an extreme lack in a reliable address available online to use as a landmark.

    View of Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles

    View of Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles on a gloomy day

    Although at times frustrating, the hunt for Hollywood wasn’t a complete waste of time. I ended up on random hills with awesome views of the surrounding area.I had the chance to look at stunning homes in the Hollywood Hills! Who doesn’t love to look and day dream at these California Castles? Talk about getting inspired! I was also given the opportunity to take the long way around the popular Griffith Park, and accidentally end up at Griffith Observatory.

    Griffith Observatory

    Griffith Observatory

    The observatory was not only free, but really cool to walk around, especially if you love anything space related. Interesting exhibits and telescopes for the public to enjoy. The outside area also offers a great view of Los Angeles. I was able to SEE the Hollywood Sign and appreciate the moment I was in. Even when I decided it was time to *temporarily* give up on “Operation: Searching for Hollywood”, I still had time to see Urban Lights at the LACMA in downtown Los Angeles. Which was another landmark I wanted to see.

    Urban Lights at LACMA

    Urban Lights at LACMA

    Moral of the story is, not all adventures turn out as planned, but that’s ok! Half of the excitement is the journey. I may not have accomplished the original goal of hiking the Hollywood Sign, but look at all the other cool things I had the opportunity to do. This was a simple example of “you never know where the road will take you”! I WILL hike the Hollywood Sign some day. Stay tuned for that when it happens! Better yet, if you know where this hidden hike trail is, please let me know! 🙂

  • Lower Antelope Canyon

    Lower Antelope Canyon

    Lower Antelope Canyon

    Lower Antelope Canyon is located in Page, Arizona even though it looks like it’s from another world! This slot canyon is located on Navajo land, so you can not just freely hike the area. I opted to go with Ken’s Tour. Conveniently located right next to Lower Antelope Canyon, the guide’s from Ken’s Tour were all very helpful and informative about the canyon trail. The tours leave every 20 minutes with groups of about 15 people and takes roughly 2 hours to complete. I would recommend calling a few days in advance to see if a reservation is needed. For a low cost of only $28 per person, the tours tend to fill up fast!! And it’s easy enough to see why! It is a photographer and travel junkie’s dream come true.

    Lower Antelope Canyon ... Even the rocks have a reason to smile!

    Lower Antelope Canyon … Even the rocks have a reason to smile!

    The canyon walls are very high and you have to take a series of ladders down to get to the bottom. During flash floods it can fill with water all the way to the top, so I suggest checking the weather before embarking. 🙂 Once finally in the heart of the canyon, you will be blown away. (And if you are not, I don’t know what’s wrong with you!) Antelope Canyon is simply stunning. Formed by sand, water and wind, it’s spectacular to see what nature can accomplish all on it’s own.

    Lower Antelope Canyon, Twin Peaks

    Lower Antelope Canyon, Twin Peaks

    Antelope Canyon is beautiful from all angles. The guides are great at pointing out particularly beautiful view points, such as the one above, called Twin Peaks. I had to get down on the ground and look up to capture it. The uncomfortable angle was worth the shot.

    Antelope Canyon ColorsEven though it was mostly sandstone, the colors in some areas are truly mind blowing. It’s like a desert Alice in Wonderland. You can’t help yourself, you want to keep going!

    Clearing in Antelope Canyon

    Clearing in Antelope Canyon

    In some areas it is easy to believe that it fills up with water during flash floods, especially since it looks like something under the sea. The clearings are eerily beautiful.

    Light in Lower  Antelope Canyon

    Light in Lower Antelope Canyon

    Even though Upper Antelope Canyon is known for the light beams, Lower Antelope Canyon has it’s areas where the light hits just right. I can’t say it enough that you feel like you are in another world. It truly is magical.

    Candid of myself getting lost in Lower Antelope Canyon

    Candid of myself getting lost in Lower Antelope Canyon

    Most tour guides want you to stay close to the group. I was fortunate enough that my guide let me wander off a bit with Ashley. Who doesn’t want solo pictures in this beautiful place?

    The sky from below in Lower Antelope Canyon

    The sky from below in Lower Antelope Canyon

    I know I say this often but you HAVE TO GO HERE. I can not stress this enough. If you love nature, if you love beauty, if you love life… you owe it to yourself to see this place at least once. I am already planning a return. It’s a little life changing.

     

  • What no one told me about Baja Mexico

    Rosarito1

    I’ve never spent more than about an hour or two over the Mexican border until recently. I was inspired by my proximity to it. Since I was in the San Diego area as well as the pictures I have seen on social media and this longing desire I have to go on a Mexican cruise. With all that said, I figured it would be a grand ol’ time! Which it was. My mediocre Spanish was being well received, the food scene was awesome and the people are super friendly. Also, the beach side views I had from my hotel room were beyond relaxing. At face value it was everything that I was expecting from a border town. Although, there were a few things I wish I would have known ahead of time.

    Rosarito3

    Translation: Through this door pass the most beautiful women in the world

    They take American Dollars however have plenty of change
    The nice thing about Baja is that they are very used to American’s coming through. Most places accept USD and you are better off actually using cash than debit or credit, since most places are cash only. Great tip though is to have many small bills like $5s and $1s since sometimes they are unable to make change.

    Beaches in in Baja are PACKED
    To be honest, I don’t like to go to the beach during peak times in the United States. I don’t like crowds, I enjoy being able to layout on a beach and relax or frolick as I see fit. You can’t really do that in Rosarito. There are people, horses, ATVs, food vendors and some police vehicles everywhere. It’s best to enjoy the water from your room, the pier, or early in the morning before everyone and their mother shows up.

    Stay close to the beach so you can easily walk to it in the morning or see it from your room.

    Stay close to the beach so you can easily walk to it in the morning or see it from your room.

    The police carry some big ol’ guns
    I understand that I am in a foreign country, but I guess I’m used to visiting the peace loving nations who view the USA to be too extreme with their guns. This is not Mexico. Mexico does not give a F**K about guns. Their police walk around with what look like ARs and it’s a little intimidating. Although I imagine they are just there to help…I can’t imagine why there would ever be a riot when they have those bad boys on patrol.

    Intimidation, much?

    Intimidation, much?

    You can walk right into Mexico with no problems, but getting back into the USA sucks.
    The car lines can take hours. The pedestrian lines can take hours. Neither sound overall very pleasant. However, I discovered a nice loophole! If you walk into Mexico, on your way out pay $10 to take a bus to the boarder. You only end up waiting about 1 hour in the traffic line and then hop out and form your own pedestrian line. From there is only about 30 more minutes before you are in front of customs. It still sounds like a terribly long time, but it is so superior to the potential 3 – 7 hours you could have spent waiting.

    Pedestrian walkway from San Diego

    Pedestrian walkway from San Diego

    In general, it was still an enjoyable experience and I’m glad I went. All of these little “no one told me” or “good to knows” will only make my next visit to Mexico that much more enjoyable. Hasta luego!

    Rosarito6