Trip Reports

Shrmdougluvr

Lover of Sherman Douglas
Joined
Aug 26, 2011
Messages
1,952
Likes
2,549
#1
Just spent 7 nights in Florida during my kids February recess (an Upstate NY phenomenon).

Not going to rehash the whole thing, but will do it Stugotz's Weekend Observation style:
  • Flew Jetblue out of Albany. No complaints, except my TV didn't work. Can't imagine a more convenient flight process that mid-day ALB.
  • Pre-arranged for a driver to pick us up at MCO. Well worth it.
  • 5 nights at WDW Dolphin. Cost 40k points on SPG Amex and resort fees ($266). Really good value.
  • Nice lobby, but definitely not a hotel i'd pay a rack rate for. Rooms subpar. Double beds. Got kicked a lot.
  • Excellent pool area. Liked it more than Hilton Bonnet Creek and the WDW Yacht/Beach Club.
  • Extremely convenient as we visited EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. Walked everywhere.
  • Enjoyed the entertainers on the Boardwalk each evening.
  • Waited almost two hours to ride Frozen at EPCOT. Well done, but took my formerly favorite ride, and made it a soul sucking test of endurance.
  • Little Shrmdougluvr is almost 5, and finally hit 40 inches to ride the big boy rides. Awesome.
  • Disney is much more enjoyable when done in bits and pieces, as we have over the last two years.
  • Saw plenty of Syracuse gear, and our waiter at Shula's was a Syracuse native.
  • Spent last two nights at Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach. Transferred 40k points from Chase UR to Hyatt to cover the two nights.
  • Stayed last year also, but hotel had been nicely refreshed. Great rooms with kitchenettes. Lots of PB&Js and cereal the last couple days to save money.
  • Stopped at a Publix on way there (had rental car from the Dolphin). Elderly man at register recognized by Syracuse shirt, and apparently had seen the SU-Miami game. Was quite knowledgable about SU hoops and the ACC.
  • Beach is gorgeous, but a little bit honky tonk (more Ocean City than Ogunquit). Less SU gear seen than at Disney, but a young couple saw my shirt and commented. They went SU undergrad.
  • Did Memo's Pirate Ship cruise (sunset). Was skeptical, but it was a lot of fun and they really focus on the children, which is win-win.
  • Took the car down the coast on short drive (Sand Key, Indian Shores, Redington, Madeira, etc.). Stopped at Treasure Island Beach. Sand not as nice as Clearwater Beach, but actually liked the vibe. Little more unkept, kinda like Pensacola Beach/Perdido Key, which we found to be gorgeous.
  • Saw plenty of dolphins.
  • Flew back Southwest, using Chase UR points i transferred, out of TPA. Much more convenient than MCO.
  • A little boy on the flight was celebrating his fourth birthday. Apparently, he told his parents he wanted to see snow and make a snowman as his present, so his parents must have picked the convenient flight to ALB. I was nervous for them, knowing the unseasonably warm weather Upstate last week. We arrived in a bit of a squawl. Not usually happy to see the snow, but this made my day.
  • Last Florida trip for a while (we've been the last three years).
 

CuseFaninVT

Living Legend
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
21,832
Likes
25,802
#2
I've got a stupid busy week, but will try to post my Curacao report here later this week. Wish I was still there.
 
Last edited:

Guy Fawkes

2016 Iggy Winner
Joined
Aug 20, 2011
Messages
493
Likes
526
#3
  • A little boy on the flight was celebrating his fourth birthday. Apparently, he told his parents he wanted to see snow and make a snowman as his present, so his parents must have picked the convenient flight to ALB. I was nervous for them, knowing the unseasonably warm weather Upstate last week. We arrived in a bit of a squawl. Not usually happy to see the snow, but this made my day.
Love this, thanks for sharing. All around awesome by the parents and what a unique kid for wanting that on his birthday.
 
S

SwrldTrvlr

Guest
#4
The wife and I just returned from a nine day southern U.S. and Bahamas cruise onboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas. Older ship, well-maintained but a bit on the small side. The boat stopped in Charleston, Port Canaveral and three stops in the Bahamas.
Did a short tour of Charleston's historic district followed by lunch and some souvenir shopping. Not bad except the guide at one of the tour stops was a more nasal and annoying version of the daughter from "The Middle."
Went to the Kennedy Space Center in Port Canaveral. We've never been there before so that was cool. Rockets are large.
Didn't go out in town in Freeport except to browse the vendor stands at the pier.
Next stop was Nassau, Bahamas. Spent most of the morning and afternoon at the Atlantis resort water park. Worth the excursion money, imo. The River Rapids and The Leap of Faith slide through the shark tank were highlights. The LOF is essentially a near vertical drop on just a thin layer of water underneath you. I don't think I made contact with the slide until the shark tank section. Nassau has a nice shopping district; spent a couple evening hours perusing that. Managed to not get shanghaied in the too-dark Straw Market.
Last stop was Cococay, which is one of RC's private islands. Didn't get off the ship there. The island looked like it would have taken about five minutes to walk from one end to the other. I was as red as a lobster from Atlantis so the last thing I needed was another day in the sun. I'm currently peeling like a lizard.
Speaking of lizards, one of the most entertaining parts of this trip was observing the cruisers onboard. To say that the ship attracted an older demographic would be an understatement. The wife and I surmised that the patrons had cocoons in their rooms for rejuvenation purposes. Considering the proximity to Atlantis, it seems a likely explanation for hundreds of geriatrics getting turned up at most hours of the day and night.
Ran into some moderate seas on the way back to homeport. Twenty foot swells and heavy winds of 50+ knots. Nice.
All in all, a pretty good trip that was a little more oddball and entertaining than the usual Caribbean cruise. Thanks for reading, I'll be in the Schooner Bar, drinking a beer and watching a septuagenarian asian dude named Bob sing Frank Sinatra's "My Way."
 
Last edited by a moderator:

CuseFaninVT

Living Legend
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
21,832
Likes
25,802
#5
So, some notes from my trip to Curacao -
  • Flying out of JFK, while great for the direct flight, was a bit of a hassle, especially for this guy who really enjoys the small airport I normally leave from. The parking lot recommended was fine, but that Saturday morning was busier than I think they had prepped for. Took a bit to get the shuttle, but the driver did an amazing job navigating the ridiculous traffic at the actual airport to get us there in plenty of time.
  • We rented a small house in the Jan Thiel area. We ended up being about 1.5 miles from Jan Thiel beach. That was fine. The house itself, located in a gated community, was good for the family. Small pool for ourself, and the neighborhood actually bordered the Jan Thiel saltpans, which had an extensive trail system we ran twice while there. There is a nearby bike company that runs mountain bike tours on those same trails, as well as trails elsewhere on the island. Had I known that, I would have brought my bike stuff and done at least 2 tours.
  • Speaking of running, we did a couple great runs through Fort Beekenburg and the surrounding area right from the house. Safe, challenging, and interesting things to look at.
  • In terms of other exercise, we did a pretty challenging hike to the top of Christoffel Mountain. Pretty cool to be on the highest point of the island. They told us it would be about an hour up and an hour back. Pretty close to actuals. Very dry and warm. The trail system is part of the national park up on that side of the island. Some other parts of the park we visited while there are the bat caves, hieroglyphics, and the old plantation house museum.
  • Same day as the hike we went to the Westpunt (Westpoint) area of the island and did some snorkeling on two different beaches. The first one, Playa Piskado (also known as Playa Grandi) was really cool. The Piskado name refers to the fishermen that come into the dock there and use the adjacent hut to clean their fish. They toss the unneeded parts back into the water, which attracts tons of fish, pelicans and sea turtles. It's a pretty awesome spot. We also went to Playa Kalki. Snorkeling was okay here, but they had a bar, and that's really what we needed at that point. Nice day.
  • The day before the hike we did a catamaran snorkeling excursion through Bounty Adventures. Good snorkeling, great food, and the Polar beer was cold and free flowing. I'd do another tour with them again. They took us on a tour of Spanish Waters, which is an inlet with a ton of beautiful houses and some of the biggest boat lifts I've ever seen. Then we made our way to Tugboat beach and we did a 45 minute snorkel there. Interesting also were the oil rig and drilling ship that were docked there for maintenance. Enormous.
  • Also went to Playa Lugun to snorkel. Lots of fish, two morey eels, and a mellow atmosphere. Nearby Bahia Beach Restaurant was okay, not great.
  • We did a day in downtown Willemstad proper including the Kura Hulanda museum. Very interesting to see the story of slavery from a non-American slant. Went across the rotating bridge between Otrabanda and Punda. Very touristy here as this is the area closest to the Mega Cruise Terminal. Lots of americans here. Food was average at best right at the water.
  • Came back to Punda on Thursday night for a weekly festival. This was fun and we had a very good meal at the Bali Mixed Asian Lunchroom.
  • Other good places to eat include Rancho El Sobrino up near Westpunt (they had an awesome skewer - pincho in papiamento - special - I got the half tenderloin, half shrimp), Pop's Place and Zest Mediterranean in the Jan Thiel area. Tinto was good, but more expensive than it was worth.
  • The house we rented came with a car. A little snafu with the battery out of the gate, but other than that, it worked out nicely. The island is a bit confusing, but the driving is fairly simple. Same side of the road and steering wheel is same side of the road. Traffic signals are a bit different but google is your friend.
  • We got a ride from the airport to the house and back from a woman named Natalie whose company is called Dushi Taxi. I liked her. She also turned me onto texting using the WhatsApp app. Pretty awesome.
  • Another app that was recommended and highly useful was Maps.Me. Free and allows you to download very local maps to your phone.
I guess that's it for now.
 

CuseFaninVT

Living Legend
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
21,832
Likes
25,802
#6
I need to add two additional items to my post above.

  • We spent half a day or so at the Sea Aquarium - Home - Curacao Sea Aquarium. This is one of the nicer aquariums I've been to, and we've seen a bunch, because they use actual sea water for their bigger animals/fish. They have swim with the dolphins opportunities as well. My wife hates places like this normally because she hates seeing animals caged, but she did okay here.
  • The Jan Thiel salt pans are a great spot for less aggressive hikes. We saw lots of locals out walking their dogs here. The really cool part of this is that the salt pans are an excellent spot to see American Flamingos in the wild. Dozens every time we went through there.
 

shantydaze

Scout Team
Joined
Aug 28, 2011
Messages
275
Likes
222
#7
Went on an eight day Carnival cruise from March 17th to March 25th. Left from Fort Lauderdale, two days at sea, stop at St. Maarten, stop at St. Kitts, stop at San Juan, P.R., stop at Grand Turk, day at sea, port.

Background
This cruise has been a long-time in the works. Over two years ago my parents let my brother and I know that for their 50th Wedding Anniversary they wanted to take the whole family on a cruise. The family included my wife and I, my brother, sister-in-law, and their four kids (ages 17, 15, 12, 9). My wife and I had been on one cruise before, Royal Caribbean in 2006, and this was the first cruise for my brother's family. My parents have been on several cruises, Holland America?, but thought that line would not have enough for my nieces and nephews.

Mrs. Shanty and I really enjoyed our RC cruise and recommended it to my parents. They first looked at Disney Cruises and moved on really quickly because of the cost. It came down to Royal Caribbean and Carnival. For the same cost as a ocean view cabin on RC, my parents were able to get a balcony for us and still have enough left over to fly my brother's family and my wife and I from Wisconsin to Florida. So, the red-neck cruise line it was.

Flight
We booked flights in June, 2017 on American from our local airport in Appleton to Fort Lauderdale. Initially, we were scheduled to leave Appleton on March 16th at 1:30 p.m. connect through O'Hare and get to FLL around 8 p.m. American had different plans, however, as it cancelled the flight from Appleton and placed us on a 5 a.m. one instead. Now we arrived in FLL at 11:30 a.m. So, the plan to get a hotel with a shuttle from the airport, relax in the hotel bar or room watching basketball on Friday evening and then take a taxi to the port on Saturday morning went out the window. We rented a car, booked an Airbnb, and looked for things to do in Fort Lauderdale on Friday afternoon. While I was annoyed when they let is know about the change in November of last year, it worked out nicely as it gave my wife and I some time together before "family time".

There are several nice things about flying in and out of local airport. The first being that it is very close to our house (about 15 minutes). The second is that they do not enforce the no parking in front of the terminal very well. Both are very important at 4 a.m. As we were driving to the airport, I realized I forgot to grab some medication from the house. Rather than turning around, we drove to the airport first to check-in. We parked at the curb in front of the terminal, along with several other cars, went in and checked-in. I put both suitcases on the scale at the same time as mine was about 51 pounds and my wife's was 48 pounds (I already had clothes in my backpack just to get me close to the 50 pound limit). After checking in, it was back to the car and home to grab the medication before returning to the airport. Interestingly, a nice Range Rover Sport was also parked at the curb while the driver checked in. He left before us and was driving to the parking area. While I did not see it, I assume he had to slam on his breaks to turn into the not well marked entrance into the parking area. I assume as when we passed, he was parked just past the entrance arguing with the driver of an airport shuttle that rear ended him.

After our quick stop at home and return to the airport, we made it through security and to the gate just in time. We were the last two passengers to board and were off. All of the flights were on time.

As an aside, the flight from ORD to FLL was an older plane. There was an advertisement to download the American app on your mobile device to watch a free movie on the wifi. Unfortunately, one could not download the app without paying for wifi, so I just slept. The flight on the way home had a newer plane with televisions in all of the seatbacks to watch movies, television or play games, but if taking an American flight, I would recommend downloading the app just in case.

Fort Lauderdale
We landed in Terminal 3 and the car rental desk was in Terminal 1. The curb for the bus to pick up people to bring them to Terminal 1 was a mess, as there were also buses for tours, hotels, etc. also there. We took a chance and decided to walk to Terminal 2 to get on the bus before all the Terminal 3 people. We, then, realized we could just keep walking to Terminal 1. This allowed us to beat the crowd to the Alamo counter. There was a line in the garage for people waiting for cars. While we rented a standard car, they gave is a SUV instead.

We had lunch on one of the causeways and decided to drive to the main beach. Not a great idea as everyone was trying to do so and it took us over an hour to get there, a trip that later that night took us about 15 minutes. Interesting mix of people, from college age to old men in speedos, with young families mixed in. We ended up stopping at a state park to hike and look for geocaches, which is one of our main hobbies.

The airbnb was nice. It was our first time using one and we saved more than a $150 off the hotel prices.

Ship
We sailed on the Carnival Conquest. It is an older and smaller ship. We had three balcony cabins midship on the sixth deck. The divider between my parents and brother's cabin opened to allow one long balcony. We could not open our divider as it would block the door to the cabin.

The main pool area was crowded, as expected, and had very loud music piped in which made it difficult to hear the person next to you speak. We got the soda package, but not the drinks package. If doing it again, we would not get either. To get a soda, we needed to go to a bar and order it. My wife gave up several times and she got frustrated waiting for the bartenders at the busy bars. The cost of the drinks package was just under $1,000 and the cost at the end of the cruise for both of us was just under $500. Obviously, whether the drinks package makes sense would be based on how much you drink.

The food was good, but not great. Lunch seemed to be repetitive and the only late night food available was pizza.

St. Maarten
We docked on the Dutch side of St. Maarten and did a snorkeling/beach trip. The island stills shows a lot of signs of the damage from Hurricane Irma. There are still a lot of boats sunk in the harbor and the hotels were being worked on. The snorkeling was just okay. We went to a protected area that did not have a coral reef. Also, two other boats showed up so, there were a lot of people swimming in the area.

St. Kitts
We took an island tour on St. Kitts that brought us to an old sugar/rum estate, an old fort, and through several small towns. The tour took almost the entire time we were in port.

San Juan
I expected this to be my least favorite stop, but it ended up being my favorite. For some reason, we only had a few hours in San Juan. We took a tour around the capital area, resort area, fort and ended in Old Town. I had a Pina Colada from the hotel bar where it was first created. I would have liked to have more time to explore the shops and area.

Grand Turk
This was the only stop we did not have an excursion booked. My brother's family wanted to spend the day on the beach next to the dock. My parents, my wife and I were thinking about snorkeling, but wanted to wait to see what was being offered by the local tour operators instead of going through Carnival. Bad idea, as the port area was owned by Carnival and no local tour operators were available. So, instead, we rented a car for $60 and drove around the small island (8 miles by 2 miles) exploring and looking for geocaches. The most interesting stop was at a hotel destroyed by a hurricane sometime ago. The beach it was on was beautiful.

Fort Lauderdale
I learned something when we tried to check-in for our flight - they would not allow us to do so more than 4 hours before the flight's departure. Thankfully, we only had to wait 10 minutes to get to the 4 hour mark. Also, because of the number of people trying to use the wifi/cell data, it sucked. Because we had our flights changed on the way home as well, it was a long day of waiting at airports (we had a 5 hour layover in Chicago).

All in all, it was a fun week. It was a lot of fun spending time with everyone together. The last couple of years it has been difficult for all 10 of us spend time together as the kids are busy most weekends now in various sports and tournaments. My eldest niece will be off to college next year, so we will be seeing less and less of her as well. Also, seeing the the smiles on my parents' faces as my mom said to my dad one night at dinner, "this is everything I had dreamed it would be" was priceless.
 

Cusester

2nd String
Joined
Aug 26, 2011
Messages
617
Likes
1,296
#8
Currently spending a week in Savannah, Georgia. If you've never visited let me encourage you to do so. Just a beautiful, friendly, history packed city full of great restaurants.
 

CuseFaninVT

Living Legend
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
21,832
Likes
25,802
#9
Currently spending a week in Savannah, Georgia. If you've never visited let me encourage you to do so. Just a beautiful, friendly, history packed city full of great restaurants.
Hope you share a write-up of some of the restaurants you are enjoying. You weren't near the crash yesterday, were you?
 

Cusester

2nd String
Joined
Aug 26, 2011
Messages
617
Likes
1,296
#10
We stayed right in Savannah for the entire week so no, were not near the crash which I believe was between Savannah and Hilton Head. Strangely, the following morning there was an electrical accident of some kind in the neighborhood that produced a loud boom and loss of power. Turned out to be a minor problem that was quickly resolved but for a moment we were concerned.

We enjoyed almost every meal we had in the city, starting with J Christophers for breakfast, which we visited 4 times. If we were still there I'd go again tomorrow. Fox and Fig, with an all vegan menu, was delicious and happened to be right across the street from our condo. Was a nice change from my ordinary meat and potatoes diet. B Mathews and Flying Monk were both excellent, but my favorite was Crystal Beer Parlour. The only place I found in Savannah that had what I would call a good beer selection and their burgers and sandwiches were top notch. Be prepared to wait though as the lines can get out of hand. Zunzi's also has really good sandwiches with the rare extra benefit of giving out samples before you buy. For ice cream- Leopolds is hard to beat. We splurged on our final night at 17 Hundred 90 and had our only bad food experience of the entire week. Too bad. Beautiful room with a pianist quietly playing in the corner.

Walking is the best way to see the city and we walked an average of 7 miles/day according to my wife's fitbit, and were always ready for more. Safety was never a concern. The stories and the historical sites are second to none. Whether it's accidentally discovering the grave site of Teddy Roosevelt's great great grandfather or standing in the room where William Tecumseh Sherman considered burning the city down, every minute we spent there was fun and rewarding. If you are able to visit I highly recommend it.
 
Last edited:

Guy Fawkes

2016 Iggy Winner
Joined
Aug 20, 2011
Messages
493
Likes
526
#11
Kauai - Best trip I've ever been on. Thank you all for your suggestions. We tried to pack in as much as possible for seven days.

It rained nonstop for three days and they had a good amount of flooding. It didn’t stop any of the fun and adventure. When the sun came out it was amazing. Bring SPF200 or you will be fried in 10 minutes. Flights and rentals were affordable. Lodging is expensive. Family friendly too.

Lodging
· Grand Hyatt – Expensive but for a honeymoon it was worth it for two nights. Nice spa and massage center for me Mrs.

· AirBnb in Koloa. It was great to break up the trip and break free of the resort feel.

Rental
· Jeep Wrangler, took the top down and off roaded. Very fun and made sure to get the damage waiver.

Food
· Tide pools @ Grand Hyatt – Solid but $$$. The Koi fish are amazing and were jumping at us while eating dinner.

· Smith’s Garen Luau – My favorite piece of the trip. The performance, community seating, and atmosphere was great. It was pouring rain and the performers did an unbelievable job.

· Puka Dogs – Iconic. Order just one as they are large.

· Da Crack – Good Mexican Food

· La Spezia – Italian spot that could have been in NYC.

· Lapperts Ice Cream – Lactose intolerant and it was worth it. My wife disagrees.

· Duke’s – Nice spot to watch the bay and good food. Get the Hula pie.

· Street Burger – Craft burger place, soso

· Brennecke’s Beach Broiler – Ehhh on food, but convenient as it is on Poipu Beach

· Kalapaki Joe’s – Dive sports bar… but not sure it was supposed to be one. Drinks were good, food was bad, but the number of TVs was great. Unfortunately my wife and I were decked out in Syracuse gear as we watched our loss in the NCAA tournament.



Activities

· Kauai Museum

· Kauai Coffee - It was in full bloom. Made me appreciate the farming, skill and luck (mother nature) in our foods that we take for granted.

· Kilauea Lighthouse – Successful whale watching

· Secret Beach – Due to the storms, I slipped and slid down about 50 of the 100 ft decline. Embarrassing and completely covered in mud. Obvious tourist.

· Hanalei Surf - 20 ft waves day of the storms

· Poipu Beach Snorkeling – Really fun, never had done before and will probably take it up whenever I go to a beach now.

· Shipwreck Beach Hike

· Hiked Waimea Canyon and Waipoo Falls – Pacific Grand Canyon and it was amazing. We went there three times to hike and off-road.

· Manawaipuna Falls (Jurassic Park Falls)

· Lawaii Market – Mini Chelsea Market that we were able to buy knickknacks
 
Joined
Mar 12, 2013
Messages
1,206
Likes
3,616
#12
Short trip/race report:
After many years of being injured, my little sister, who lives north of Portland, ME, signed up for a half marathon. I told her that if she ran it, I'd fly out. We ran the Shipyard Brewing Half Marathon in Biddeford. The course wound around little points of land that extended out into the ocean, which were gorgeous. They gave out two free beers at the end and my age group winner's award happened to be a beer mug, so that worked out well (their Session IPA was very smooth for an IPA and went down nicely after a long race). After the race, we swung by the park around the Portland Head Lighthouse, which was laid back and beautiful. On Sunday we took a short ferry ride out to Peak's Island, which was mostly residential, but had a nice little beach and a great ice cream place for the kids. On the way back to Logan to fly home, we grabbed lunch at Fisherman's Catch restaurant in Wells. It was exactly my kind of beach restaurant: super casual with rolls of paper towels hanging above each table. I had a lobster roll/clam chowder combo that hit the spot. My son's bacon and fried scallop roll was also awesome. We gave our waitress an extra big tip because she was as likable as can be.

I visit Maine pretty regularly, but I clearly have lots more to explore there.
 

CuseFaninVT

Living Legend
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
21,832
Likes
25,802
#13
Short trip/race report:
After many years of being injured, my little sister, who lives north of Portland, ME, signed up for a half marathon. I told her that if she ran it, I'd fly out. We ran the Shipyard Brewing Half Marathon in Biddeford. The course wound around little points of land that extended out into the ocean, which were gorgeous. They gave out two free beers at the end and my age group winner's award happened to be a beer mug, so that worked out well (their Session IPA was very smooth for an IPA and went down nicely after a long race). After the race, we swung by the park around the Portland Head Lighthouse, which was laid back and beautiful. On Sunday we took a short ferry ride out to Peak's Island, which was mostly residential, but had a nice little beach and a great ice cream place for the kids. On the way back to Logan to fly home, we grabbed lunch at Fisherman's Catch restaurant in Wells. It was exactly my kind of beach restaurant: super casual with rolls of paper towels hanging above each table. I had a lobster roll/clam chowder combo that hit the spot. My son's bacon and fried scallop roll was also awesome. We gave our waitress an extra big tip because she was as likable as can be.

I visit Maine pretty regularly, but I clearly have lots more to explore there.
Love the report, as well as the humble brag about winning your age group. Well done!
 

Shrmdougluvr

Lover of Sherman Douglas
Joined
Aug 26, 2011
Messages
1,952
Likes
2,549
#14
Short trip/race report:
After many years of being injured, my little sister, who lives north of Portland, ME, signed up for a half marathon. I told her that if she ran it, I'd fly out. We ran the Shipyard Brewing Half Marathon in Biddeford. The course wound around little points of land that extended out into the ocean, which were gorgeous. They gave out two free beers at the end and my age group winner's award happened to be a beer mug, so that worked out well (their Session IPA was very smooth for an IPA and went down nicely after a long race). After the race, we swung by the park around the Portland Head Lighthouse, which was laid back and beautiful. On Sunday we took a short ferry ride out to Peak's Island, which was mostly residential, but had a nice little beach and a great ice cream place for the kids. On the way back to Logan to fly home, we grabbed lunch at Fisherman's Catch restaurant in Wells. It was exactly my kind of beach restaurant: super casual with rolls of paper towels hanging above each table. I had a lobster roll/clam chowder combo that hit the spot. My son's bacon and fried scallop roll was also awesome. We gave our waitress an extra big tip because she was as likable as can be.

I visit Maine pretty regularly, but I clearly have lots more to explore there.
We go to Ogunquit at least annually for a long weekend, usually Columbus Day. We tend to explore all up and down the coast up to Biddleford, but we venture beyond there from time to time (Freeport, Saco, Old Orchard, Popham Beach, etc.). Portland Head Lighthouse is really neat. Next time you are in Wells, i recommend checking out Laudholm Farm. It's a neat place to take a walk and one trail ends up at Drake's Island Beach.
 
Joined
Mar 12, 2013
Messages
1,206
Likes
3,616
#15
We go to Ogunquit at least annually for a long weekend, usually Columbus Day. We tend to explore all up and down the coast up to Biddleford, but we venture beyond there from time to time (Freeport, Saco, Old Orchard, Popham Beach, etc.). Portland Head Lighthouse is really neat. Next time you are in Wells, i recommend checking out Laudholm Farm. It's a neat place to take a walk and one trail ends up at Drake's Island Beach.
Will do. My wife's family has a place on Moosehead Lake so we usually head straight there, so I still want to see more of the coast. Last year we spent a couple of days renting a house on a little spit of land in Harpswell where we did some great kayaking. My little midwestern kids' minds were blown by the tides. I'm a biologist so I geek out looking for critters in the intertidal zone.
 

CuseFaninVT

Living Legend
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
21,832
Likes
25,802
#16
Will do. My wife's family has a place on Moosehead Lake so we usually head straight there, so I still want to see more of the coast. Last year we spent a couple of days renting a house on a little spit of land in Harpswell where we did some great kayaking. My little midwestern kids' minds were blown by the tides. I'm a biologist so I geek out looking for critters in the intertidal zone.
If you ever drive out, make sure to stop for a cold VT beer on the way. I'll buy!
 
Joined
Mar 12, 2013
Messages
1,206
Likes
3,616
#17
If you ever drive out, make sure to stop for a cold VT beer on the way. I'll buy!
That sounds great to me. I've been wanting to check out more of Vermont for years (Lake Champlain seems like the kind of place where I'd like to retire). The problem is that there's no way to drive across northern New England. A couple of years ago, we went through Quebec, which was a great trip. This summer, we're going to make some stops along the Connecticut coast, but every time I look into going north of Massachusetts it adds a ton of time to an already long drive.
 

chugg21

Gritty, High IQ, Scrappy, Gym Rat, Lunch Pail Guy
Joined
Apr 3, 2013
Messages
1,579
Likes
2,099
#18
Just got back from a quick trip to Tulum. Flew Southwest, believe it was somewhere around 9000 points RT for both of us as we have a companion pass. Have to each pay the fees though which I think was somewhere close to $250 total. Flew out of Tampa with a brief layover in Ft Lauderdale and then on to Cancun. Renting cars anywhere in Mexico is always a debacle if you are not prepared and just think you can book a rental car through Hertz or somewhere for the listed prices of like $10/day. You will definitely be in for a miserable experience. Luckily I've been to the country 20 or so times and have specific places in Cabo (Cactus) or Cancun(Easy Way) that are trustworthy and have never ran into an issue. My aunt and uncle however once flew into Cabo a day before me and thought they were all set from using their fancy travel agent despite me warning them. Their reservation was worthless and they instead had to take the shuttle and wait for me.

Anyway, 90 minute drive later through Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Akumal, we arrived in Tulum for the 1st time. Place is pretty crazy looking. There is 1 main road where the majority of the restaurants are and it is 1 small lane each direction and is the beach on one side and jungle on the other. Took my wife to Kitchen Table the 1st night for her birthday. Really impressive experience. It is on the jungle side and the place has no power. Everything is run via generator and all of the ingredients for the nights menu are kept in ice chests. The next night we tried out The Dining Experience which was a blast. It's pricey for Mexico but was 6 or 7 courses with drink pairings and makes for a really fun night.

There was plenty of other meals including numerous stops at every roadside taco stand that I ran into but those were the 2 most memorable ones. Our Airbnb came with bicycles so we could ride to the beach or out for lunch but it was 85ish out each day so the AC in the car was my preferred method of transportation.

We visited a few Cenotes as well. Did a backflip off one of the cliffs on one of the 1st days and landed a little crooked so my back ached for the next 2 weeks because I am an old 34.

Overall, I wish I was able to experience Tulum 5 or 10 years ago before the real tourist boom started to hit but it was a pretty incredible place to visit, especially compared to horrifically Americanized Cancun or Playa.

Next trip is in 2 weeks. Heading to Ísafjörður, Iceland, I've been to Iceland once about 10 years ago but this will be my Wife's 1st time. Used to traveling to places and being excited about the cuisine, but the food in Iceland is fairly terrible and ultra expensive. Not looking forward to $25 burgers and $12 beers. Might just eat street meat hot dogs and fish 'n' chips for every meal.
 

CuseFaninVT

Living Legend
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
21,832
Likes
25,802
#19
Just got back from a quick trip to Tulum. Flew Southwest, believe it was somewhere around 9000 points RT for both of us as we have a companion pass. Have to each pay the fees though which I think was somewhere close to $250 total. Flew out of Tampa with a brief layover in Ft Lauderdale and then on to Cancun. Renting cars anywhere in Mexico is always a debacle if you are not prepared and just think you can book a rental car through Hertz or somewhere for the listed prices of like $10/day. You will definitely be in for a miserable experience. Luckily I've been to the country 20 or so times and have specific places in Cabo (Cactus) or Cancun(Easy Way) that are trustworthy and have never ran into an issue. My aunt and uncle however once flew into Cabo a day before me and thought they were all set from using their fancy travel agent despite me warning them. Their reservation was worthless and they instead had to take the shuttle and wait for me.

Anyway, 90 minute drive later through Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Akumal, we arrived in Tulum for the 1st time. Place is pretty crazy looking. There is 1 main road where the majority of the restaurants are and it is 1 small lane each direction and is the beach on one side and jungle on the other. Took my wife to Kitchen Table the 1st night for her birthday. Really impressive experience. It is on the jungle side and the place has no power. Everything is run via generator and all of the ingredients for the nights menu are kept in ice chests. The next night we tried out The Dining Experience which was a blast. It's pricey for Mexico but was 6 or 7 courses with drink pairings and makes for a really fun night.

There was plenty of other meals including numerous stops at every roadside taco stand that I ran into but those were the 2 most memorable ones. Our Airbnb came with bicycles so we could ride to the beach or out for lunch but it was 85ish out each day so the AC in the car was my preferred method of transportation.

We visited a few Cenotes as well. Did a backflip off one of the cliffs on one of the 1st days and landed a little crooked so my back ached for the next 2 weeks because I am an old 34.

Overall, I wish I was able to experience Tulum 5 or 10 years ago before the real tourist boom started to hit but it was a pretty incredible place to visit, especially compared to horrifically Americanized Cancun or Playa.

Next trip is in 2 weeks. Heading to Ísafjörður, Iceland, I've been to Iceland once about 10 years ago but this will be my Wife's 1st time. Used to traveling to places and being excited about the cuisine, but the food in Iceland is fairly terrible and ultra expensive. Not looking forward to $25 burgers and $12 beers. Might just eat street meat hot dogs and fish 'n' chips for every meal.
We did Tulum a few years ago and stayed in town, not out on the beach like you did. I think we may have eaten at Kitchen Table now that I look at their pictures. Good stuff. Did you make it to the ruins at Coba? I really should do a trip report for that trip.
 

chugg21

Gritty, High IQ, Scrappy, Gym Rat, Lunch Pail Guy
Joined
Apr 3, 2013
Messages
1,579
Likes
2,099
#20
We did Tulum a few years ago and stayed in town, not out on the beach like you did. I think we may have eaten at Kitchen Table now that I look at their pictures. Good stuff. Did you make it to the ruins at Coba? I really should do a trip report for that trip.
We had planned on it but when it came time to do so, neither of us wanted to be out in the heat with 1000 other tourists piling off of buses.

Kitchen Table was really excellent, I had noted my Wife's birthday when I made the reservation and the host made sure to say Happy Birthday to her and they brought her out a little dessert with a candle. Really appreciated that kind of touch and tipped mucho pesos.
 

CuseFaninVT

Living Legend
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
21,832
Likes
25,802
#21
We had planned on it but when it came time to do so, neither of us wanted to be out in the heat with 1000 other tourists piling off of buses.

Kitchen Table was really excellent, I had noted my Wife's birthday when I made the reservation and the host made sure to say Happy Birthday to her and they brought her out a little dessert with a candle. Really appreciated that kind of touch and tipped mucho pesos.
Coba was so crazy. My son was young at the time, maybe 7 or 9, and we climbed to the top of that pyramid. I squeezed his little hand so tight... It was cool though.
 

shantydaze

Scout Team
Joined
Aug 28, 2011
Messages
275
Likes
222
#22
Renting cars anywhere in Mexico is always a debacle if you are not prepared and just think you can book a rental car through Hertz or somewhere for the listed prices of like $10/day. You will definitely be in for a miserable experience. Luckily I've been to the country 20 or so times and have specific places in Cabo (Cactus) or Cancun(Easy Way) that are trustworthy and have never ran into an issue. My aunt and uncle however once flew into Cabo a day before me and thought they were all set from using their fancy travel agent despite me warning them. Their reservation was worthless and they instead had to take the shuttle and wait for me.
Can you expound on this? Is the issue simply that the car rental companies will take more reservations than it has cars or are there other issues as well that people should be aware of?
 

chugg21

Gritty, High IQ, Scrappy, Gym Rat, Lunch Pail Guy
Joined
Apr 3, 2013
Messages
1,579
Likes
2,099
#23
Can you expound on this? Is the issue simply that the car rental companies will take more reservations than it has cars or are there other issues as well that people should be aware of?
It's more of a scam in which they will quote you a price of something like $8/day and when you arrive it is much closer to $35/40. If you go on priceline right now and just pick a random 3 or 4 days for the Cancun airport, you will get a quote of something like $40 for 4 days of car rental. It says that it covers taxes/fees etc and they have names that we recognize like Budget/National/Hertz etc...but then when you arrive you are hit with all of the mandatory Mexican insurance fees and your $40 rental quadruples. That's best case scenario, worst case is they say they don't have a car available in the class you requested and then that part doubles plus the fees and $40 turns into $250, while your at the hot ass airport with your luggage and family waiting impatiently.

If you read enough reviews on trip advisor or yelp, you can manage to find reliable places that people find that will send you a quote that is inclusive of everything and your are good to go. It will never be anywhere near the prices that you can find on your own of 10 bucks or whatever but you can usually find something for more towards the $30/day price you should expect most anywhere. Except stupid expensive Iceland where its $50/day for a tiny little economy car that you can't even go offroad with.
 

Ghost

Living Legend
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Messages
10,764
Likes
10,186
#24
I'll give this a shot - been to Budapest, Croatia, Slovenia, London the past couple months:
  • Flew out of Canada, using Air Canada. Toronto's airport has a terrible international terminal. Blah. Lots of iPads if you need to use one, not enough seating. Air Canada is like flying an Air Museum...pretty sure the food is leftover from the 1990s. Anyway, Air Canada sucks.
  • The worst airport in the world goes to Frankfurt though.....whomever designed that place is a buffoon. Nothing works. All outlets and charging stations are broken except for ones that are so far from civilization that they can't connect to any sort of Wifi. They have a TON of duty free shops, but not much else. Often they have a GIGANTIC duty free located immediately next to another gigantic duty free with the exact same stuff inside. What? I don't even enough time to eat my Kinder Bueno before reaching the next Duty Free...at least space them out a bit??????
  • Meanwhile there is hardly anywhere to eat. Luckily they have an official Camel smoking station every 150 yards - and believe me, if you have more than an hour or two to kill in that Terminal you WILL SMOKE. Every 20 feet there is an exit that looks like you're going to head out of the airport entirely or into some sort of airport prison purgatory. Security is super slow. At one point you have to take an elevator up like two floors, walk maybe 84 feet, and take an elevator down two floors to get to pretty much the same place you started. The moving walkways seem busted a lot. I don't know. That place is a mess.

  • Budapest. I was going to use Marriott points and stay at one of their hotels, but decided to go the Air BnB route since it was cheap as hell for a nice place.
    • Budapest is great - highly recommended. It's like a ruined version of Paris - it's far more interesting aesthetically and feels less pretentious. Paris is a beautiful city, but Budapest is cooler and seems similarly structured. Interesting history as well.
    • I'd been there before and it seems friendlier than it used to - the ruin bars, and the crap areas are all touristy and a bit more wholesome now. Which overall is a positive.
    • Plenty to do - definitely could spend a decent number of days there and not run out of things to explore. The Terror Museum is fantastic.
    • Escorts are great.
  • Slovenia!
    • Slovenia is boring, but sort of nice. Ljubujana is quaint (I can't spell it) - kind of like a crap version of Bruges or Ghent though IMO. I'd go with those options...the offshoot trip to Lake Bled is worthwhile, but I wouldn't devote much time to this tiny little country. I went right before Croatia.
    • Apparently they have lots of Melania Trump tours you can take......if that's your thing. :)
  • Croatia
    • Do it up. Croatia is beautiful - people are nice, Zagreb was much nicer and bigger than I expected, and the coast is just stunning and it's a cheap trip. The good people of Croatia also like graffiti more than any people ever...everything is spray painted. Weird. Anyway, Plitvice Lakes/Waterfalls is amazingly nice. Krka is amazingly nice. Split is great. Zadar is awesome. Sibenik is cute. I never made it to Dubrovnik...which was stupid as that was the original reason for hitting up Croatia, but I spent too much time in the other places. Anyway, go to Croatia. ASAP. Fun. Fun. Fun. Escorts are great too!
    • Rented a car and drove around to get everywhere - parking is a nightmare in some of those coastal towns, but otherwise driving about was pretty easy. Lots of cops standing around telling people to pull over on the backroads...weird seeing some of the abandoned towns and thinking that they have landmines in the houses still. Creepy.
    • Anyway, awesome country.
  • London
    • London is London. I don't know.
    • Went to Bath for the first time - that's a pretty stunning little place that's definitely worth a day trip IMO. I don't know - I lived in the UK for a bit and had never been before. Stayed at St. Ermins in London - that place is nice, but the service was crap. They tried to downgrade my room, sent my bags to the wrong room, didn't care much for the place, but the location was nice. Fairfield Inn provides better service.
I guess that's it....

* J/K on the escorts...just wanted to hold everyone's attention. :)
 


Top Bottom