Tag: travel

TOUR Kusadasi Turkey!

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Turkish Patriotism in Kusadasi

Touring Kusadasi, Turkey

A tour of Kusadasi, Turkey treats you to many exotic delights! Kusadasi, (or Kuşadası in Turkish), is a vibrant port city on Turkey’s west coast. It’s a popular stop on cruise ship itineraries. It makes a great launching pad for exciting attractions in the region. These include the poignantly preserved ancient Roman metropolis of Ephesus, which I covered in another blog post here Tour Ephesus Turkey Treasures. Ephesus is a 12 mile trip. Sirince, which I cover in another blog post here Tour Sirince, Turkey, is about a 35 minute drive. If you’re not adverse to a road trip, the spectacular thermal pools of Pamukkale are just under 3 hours’ drive. I’ve marked Pamukkale a must for my next visit to Turkey!

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Tepe Neighborhood

Tepe Neighborhood

Mayor Özer Kayali promoted the Tepe project, which involved painting over 400 homes on this hillside in a rainbow of beautiful shades. He strategically selected this location directly on the port of Kusadasi, because here cruise ships and other tour boats would get their first glimpse of this up-and-coming city. It’s a brilliant sight to behold. It’s on a high perch, visible from much of the downtown area. The Tepe neighborhood stands as both a colorful symbol of the colorful personalities of the Turkish people, and creative spirit of the city.

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Okuz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai

Öküz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai

Öküz Mehmed Pasha, military commander in the Ottoman Empire, commissioned the Öküz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai. It was built between 1615 and 1618 and is still standing strong. Today this former customs building for port commerce serves as a hotel. You will feel very safe and secure in this robust fort-like structure! It stands out like an exclamation point a couple of blocks from the port, and is the most noticeable structure in town.

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How Turkish Coffee is Served

Turkish Coffee Tasting

Turkish coffee is, admittedly, an acquired taste. It’s like an extra-strength espresso on steroids. So many Turks add sugar to the brew to tone down the bitter notes. When you order a Turkish coffee, you’ll be asked how you want your sugar. I asked a local what’s the most popular request for Turks, and he suggested “medium sugar.” I’m a firm believer in the old “when in Rome…” adage, so I always want to try the local specialties anywhere I go, and preferably in the most authentic form possible. With my “medium sugar” Turkish coffee I received a bowl of delicious candies and fresh water. I enjoy strong flavors, so I liked the coffee. There was a lot of residue at the bottom of the cup – I added some of the water to it so I could finish it off, which worked well!

Cafe Cats in Kusadasi

The cafe I visited was right on the port. I enjoyed beautiful views of the harbor, ships, Kusadasi Castle, and the Tepe neighborhood. I made a new friend – a local cat joined me, sitting on the bench right next to me. There’s a lot of cats out in public areas here, and they’re not afraid of tourists! Shopkeepers and restauranteurs feed them, because they keep the mice away. Do you want to learn more about Turkey’s cats? Check out the amazing film Kedi: click here.

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Turkish Carpet Demonstration

Turkish Carpet Demonstrations

Many merchants in town will tell you no visit to Kusadasi is complete without a Turkish Carpet Demonstration. You can experience this visual stimulation all over town, and it will often come with a delicious pastry, Turkish coffee, and a licorice-flavored alcoholic drink Raki. The show was quite the spectacle, but no amount of Raki could have convinced me to spend the thousands of US dollars these merchants wanted for the carpets. They were extremely impressive though, so even though the demonstration was a “sales pitch,” I greatly enjoyed the artistry of their work nonetheless.

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Touring around the Port

More to Tour in Kusadasi, Turkey!

There’s much more to tour in and around Kusadasi, Turkey! You can view my full video tour of Kusadasi, Turkey in my YouTube video here!:

And if you still have an appetite for Turkey, check out my other Turkey blog posts here!:

Tour Ephesus Turkey Treasures

Tour Sirince, Turkey

Finally, if you don’t want to miss out on Turkey’s fascinating cats, check out the amazing film Kedi! Click here for Kedi!

Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come!

 

Tour Sirince, Turkey

Sirince, Turkey streets

Steep, cobblestoned hills

It’s time to tour Sirince, Turkey!

Time to tour Sirince, Turkey! Sirince has many surprises in store. Sirince is the epitome of a quaint, charming village. This adorable town is a short hop from the port town of Kusadasi, Turkey on the West coast. The ancient Roman city of Ephesus (coming soon in a future post) is also nearby. Give yourself a great variety of Turkish culture by touring these three destinations. You’ll experience the ancient and modern, along with the big city and countryside. You can board a tour out of Kusadsi to both Sirince and Ephesus in a one day trip. Sirince, Turkey is rippled with hills covered in cute little houses, which are adorned with beautifully detailed wood trim. Rusty orange terracotta roofs shimmer in the glimmering sun. Traveling to Sirince, Turkey is truly a pleasure.

Meet Sirince’s four-legged residents!

The narrow streets are lined with cobbled paths, which are traversed by many a friendly furry friend. You’ll find many cats in this area of Turkey! A native of this area told me they keep the mice away and delight tourists! So stop and say “meow” (translation: thank you!) for their hard work patrolling for the kinds of critters you’d probably rather not encounter…

Sirince, Turkey houses

Authentic architecture

What can I do while touring Sirince?

Sirince is a sleepy little village, but there’s plenty of shopping to be had. The cobbled streets, which are lined with shops and stalls, sell mostly local, homemade crafts, clothes, and foods. Prices are outstanding in Turkey. My favorite souvenir has been some handmade olive oil soaps that I picked up for a couple of dollars each. They have a fabulous scent and have lasted me for months after the trip. They remind me of the wonderful sights and smells I enjoyed here each time I use them!

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Cute cafes

Tour the culinary traditions of Sirince!

Bring an appetite! If you do, you will find many good deals! There is an abundance of delightful little cafes where you can enjoy mouth-watering local specialties, such as strong Turkish coffee, succulent kabobs of grilled meat, and delectable Turkish delight candies. And the best thing about the cafes here may be the people watching. You can also bring the delight of Turkish delight home with you, so haggle with sellers to get six boxes for less than $20! I particularly recommend the strawberry flavor. Pistachio is another popular flavor.

Sirince homes on a hill

Whitewashed homes on a hillside

Most memorable moment touring Sirince

Venture to the top of the hills, where Incredible views are to be had! From here you will gaze upon whitewashed homes descending down the slope, brilliantly bright in the shimmering Turkish sun. I had my most memorable moment when I reached the top of the tallest hill, where I could survey the whole amazing town from my high perch!

Conclusion

I highly recommend a stop in Sirince on your next visit to Turkey! At the bottom of the hill where the tour buses arrive it can be tackily touristy, but make your way to the top and you will encounter quiet side streets and spectacular views!

For more touring, Sirince, Turkey, and cats…!

Want to see more of Turkey’s amazing cats? Then I highly recommend this endearing film about them (notice the well-deserved 5-star reviews!):

KEDI the movie

Tour Sirince, Turkey virtually today! You can view the full tour of the charming town of Sirince, Turkey on my YouTube video!:

Video visit to Sirince!

Tour Turkey some more, with my post on Ephesus!:

Tour Ephesus Turkey Treasures

Traveling somewhere soon and want to learn how to order in a restaurant, check into a hotel, and ask for directions in the local language? Check out my Fluenz language review here!:

Fluenz Language Program Review

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come!

 

Tour Radiant Rome, Italy

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The Colosseum

Tour Rome, Italy

Rome is a delightfully diverse city. Whether you’re seeking painstakingly preserved ancient ruins, beautifully boisterous baroque buildings, or significantly spiritual structures, Rome is the city for you! I spent four amazing days in Rome. This turned out to be just enough time to get a small sample of all this incredible world-class city has to offer. Geographically, Rome is a sprawling expanse. It’s best toured by double-decker tour bus or public transportation. Even if long walking distances don’t bother you, there’s so much to see in so little time (no matter how much time you have…!)

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Colosseum Interior

Rome’s Magnificent Colosseum

The Colosseum is often considered the symbol of Rome, and for very good reason. Brilliantly restored, it’s a step back in time to death-defying gladiator fights, bouts with wild animals, massive sea battles. (Yes – they filled the stage area with water and brought in boats…), and more. As I touched the timeworn stones and imagined the pageantry, I could almost feel the vibrant ancient energy of the place.

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The Forum

Rome’s Formidable Forum

The Forum is where the ancient Roman government conducted their political business. It was a system which inspired scores of modern political systems. As such, it’s another amazing place to reflect on our collective past. The might of the Roman Empire is apparent in these monoliths still standing centuries later – both physically and symbolically. So much of the way our societies function today we owe to the innovative thinking of the Romans.

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St. Peter’s Basilica

The Vatican: Rome’s Country within a Country

A trip to the Vatican lets you explore a tiny independent country, and seat of spiritual superstar the Pope. You can check online for days and times when the Pope will make an appearance. Be advised, reservations are highly, highly urged for the sites of the Vatican to avoid long lines. The Vatican is a wonderful area in which to ponder the beautiful brilliance of baroque, and the magnificent works of Michelangelo and other renaissance masters. It is a Rome must-see for spiritual and secular visitors alike.

Rome. Cityscape image of Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy during sunrise.

The Spanish Steps

Strolling the Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps are best visited in the evening, where you’ll encounter many locals out for their evening walk – and after the day tourists are gone. Otherwise you can expect to encounter large crowds. The romantic glow of the fountains make this spot a favorite stop for couples. These massive stairs are a great way to work off the gelato you’re going to enjoy later…

Trevi Fountain by night, Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain: the Perfect Nightcap to your Rome Tour

The best way to cap off a day of endless marvels in Rome is to enjoy the Trevi Fountain by night, delectable gelato in hand. The lights enhance the allure of the fountain, and the surrounding traditional architecture. Sit under the stars and soak in the ambience! Relaxed and refreshed, you’ll be ready for sound sleep and an exciting day full of inspiring sightseeing tomorrow!

More ways to tour Rome!

There’s so much more to Rome! You can see a lot more of the city and my time there by clicking the links below:

Video tour of Rome, Italy:

Video tour of my hotel in Rome:

Rome Hotel Blog Post

It’s hard to see a big city like Rome in limited time. For efficiency and convenience, a quality tour in a big city or out to the countryside can’t be beat! I’ve had very good experiences with Viator. They have many Rome options:

Get the lowest prices on Skip-the-Line Tours in Rome

Get the lowest price on Rome Day Trips

Get the lowest price on Rome Multi-day Tours

And visit more great destinations on my YouTube channel here!:

Visit my YouTube channel here!

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come!

 

Rome, Italy Hotel Review!

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View from Window

Rome, Italy Hotel Tour: Hilton Garden Inn Claridge

Welcome to my Rome, Italy hotel review! When I had a cruise leaving from Rome, Italy last winter I stayed in Rome a few days to explore. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Claridge in downtown Rome, and can provide a review here.

Location

The location is in downtown Rome, but in a quiet residential neighborhood, not in the immediate vicinity of the tourist sites. But it’s still fairly convenient, about a 20 to 25 minute walk to the nearest double-decker bus stop. The walk to the stop is confusing – a problem I easily resolved by using Google Directions and choosing the “walk” option. My phone carrier did not charge me, as they considered this activity “low-data” usage. There is a delectable restaurant right next door servicing delicious authentic Italian specialties, including pasta dishes, pizza, tiramisu, and more. Because this hotel is downtown, it is easy to find a shuttle service that will pick you up in the hotel lobby to go to the airport or cruise port.

The Staff

The staff was extremely courteous and friendly, and while I enjoyed having the opportunity to practice my broken traveler’s Italian, I also appreciated their fluency in English. I also appreciated their fluency in Italian when my shuttle van to the cruise port was late, and I asked them to call the company on my behalf! They were happy to do so, and shortly after my van appeared outside the lobby. Maid service was also professionally accomplished, and the servers in the dining room also polite and pleasant. (Breakfast comes at an additional charge if you are not Hilton Honors Gold or higher, but the spread was delicious and diverse, so I recommend it either way.)

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The Guest Room

The Guest Room

The decor in the room consisted of beautiful wood paneling and modern design. The room was very spacious, especially by European standards. There were separate bedroom and living room areas. The living room included a leather couch and table with coffee and tea maker, as well as a large closet. The bedroom had a television, desk, and window that wasn’t sealed shut. I greatly enjoyed both the view and the fresh air. The bathroom included one sink/mirror section and another section with a toilet, bidet, full-size tub, and Jacuzzi shower. You read that right – the shower was made by Jacuzzi and had jets to surround your entire body as well as a radio. It was very refreshing!

More Rome, Italy!

Thank you for reading! A big thumbs-up on the Hilton Garden Inn Claridge as a great place to stay during a visit to Rome, Italy! To view my blog post on the city of Rome, Italy, click the link below!:

Tour Radiant Rome, Italy

Here you can view my full video tour of my Rome, Italy Hotel:

It’s hard to see a big city like Rome in limited time. For efficiency and convenience, a quality tour in a big city or out to the countryside can’t be beat! I’ve had very good experiences with Viator. They have many Rome options:

Get the lowest prices on Skip-the-Line Tours in Rome

Get the lowest price on Rome Day Trips

Get the lowest price on Rome Multi-day Tours

Also check out my YouTube channel for many other destinations and hotel tours!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

 

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come!

 

New York City Hotels: Two Tours

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Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area Lobby

A Tale of Two New York City Hotels

New York City hotels are abundant. How do you find a good one? I have two recommendations, one downtown and another on the outskirts. On my last visit to New York I stayed at two hotels, one downtown (Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South in Manhattan), and one easily accessible to downtown in the suburbs (Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area in New Jersey). Depending on your priorities, one or the other may be more suitable for you, but either one is a great choice!

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Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South Exterior

Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South

The Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South is a stone’s throw from the Port Authority, and very centrally located to all of the action. It’s a short walk to the nearest subway, double decker bus stop, Theater District, and heart of Times Square. The neighborhood is abundant with great restaurants in all price ranges, and felt safe to traverse by night or day. The staff was professional and friendly. The room was small, but comfortable.

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Views from Hilton Garden Inn Balcony

I was fortunate to get one of only two rooms in the hotel with a balcony, where I enjoyed soaking in the city sights and sounds bird-like from my high perch. The refrigerator was smaller than usual for a Hilton room – rather than “dormitory” size it was very narrow. Normal size water bottles or soda cans wouldn’t fit – but the mini size soda you can sometimes find in the store would have. Not a suitable fridge for dining leftovers, either. Fortunately (or unfortunately!) the weather was cold in March and I used the balcony as a fridge…

The bath was trendy, and shower provided good water pressure and temperature. There’s an ample closet, as well as a desk for working. I had a great nights’ sleep on the very cozy bed.

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Hilton Garden Inn Guestroom

Amenities

Breakfast at the Garden Inn brand of Hilton is available but there is an extra charge if you are not gold level or higher in their rewards program. But if you are gold, or pay, it’s made to order fresh and delicious. The menu was not as extensive as I’m used to, but that may have been due to the timing (pre/early COVID in mid-March).

There’s no parking on-site, but there is a public parking garage across the street charging $50 per night. Room rates vary depending on your timing… but usually run relatively steep due to the incredible central location in Manhattan. If location is your top priority, I highly recommend this hotel. If price is your highest priority, I suggest another property…

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Homewood Suites Living Room

Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area

The Homewood Suites Edgewater-NYC Area in Edgewater, New Jersey may not be in Manhattan, but it’s extremely convenient to it for prices usually well below what you’ll pay in Manhattan. It’s also situated in a charming neighborhood of its own, next to lots of interesting shops and restaurants along a pedestrian boulevard.

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Homewood Suites Kitchen

Like other properties in the Homewood Suites brand, this hotel is all suites. Each room has a full kitchen (full size fridge, small stove, microwave, sink, dining table, and dishes and utensils). There are also separate lounge and bedroom areas, and an extra-spacious bathroom. There’s two televisions – one in the “living” room and another in the bedroom. Consistent with other hotels under the Hilton umbrella, the bed, furnishings, and showers are very accommodating here.

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Homewood Suites Bedroom

Some rooms have New York City views – in my opinion worth the splurge. Breakfast is free for all and consists of a small buffet. Socials are held in the evenings on some days of the week where snacks, beer, and wine are offered. Parking here is free for hotel guests. As for the location – if you want to get into downtown Manhattan it’s no problem. There’s a local bus that picks up across the street that goes straight to the Port Authority in the Times Square area. The ride takes about 10 minutes, and only costs a few dollars each way (seniors also get a discount). I suggest buying a roundtrip ticket when you board in New Jersey – it’s easier than waiting and buying a return ticket at the station when you’re ready to return.

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Homewood Suites View

More on New York City Hotels, and More!

Thanks for reading my review of New York City hotels! Both of these options are great places to stay if you visit New York City. If you’re willing to pay more, the Hilton Garden Inn can’t be beat for location convenience, but for a more-budget friendly option easily accessible by bus to downtown, try the Homewood Suites! For a full visual tour of each, view my YouTube video here:

Take a virtual tour of New York City here!:

Read my New York City blog post here!:

New York City Tour! (Pre/early COVID)

And for more travel destinations and hotel tours, visit my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

 

New York City Tour!

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Times Square at Night

New York City: COVID-19 Edition

I did a New York City tour right around the outset of the Coronavirus pandemic in March. It was before it was really clear what was happening. These are tough times for all of us, no thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. New York City in particular faces many challenges. I know a lot of us can’t wait until the “city that never sleeps” wakes up again. So in the meantime, I can share some images with you from my visit in mid-March, when news was beginning to surface about COVID but the city wasn’t in full shutdown mode yet.

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Times Square by Day

Times Square

Times Square is arguably one of the most iconic locations in New York – and usually one of the most crowded, too. But auto and pedestrian traffic was a little lighter, and became even lighter day by day during my visit. The sea of people I encountered on previous visits to Times Square was noticeably absent this time. But the square was still alive with its signature rainbow of bright neon lights and colorful characters in costume, though…

Views from the Empire State Building

Empire State Building

We managed to visit the Empire State Building observatory two days before it closed due to COVID. What a lucky break for us, not to miss these incredible views. Here is a view of downtown, including the towering One World Trade Center standing guard over the rest of the city, symbolically. In the background you can also see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. We enjoyed the art-deco decor of the structure as we proceeded through the lobbies on our way up to the observatory. Once up top you can walk all the way around the building to see the spectacular panoramic scenes.

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South Street Seaport Pier

South Street Seaport

South Street Seaport is one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York. Here you can inspect historic ships on the pier, or catch the New York Water Taxi for a tour of the harbor. And along cobbled streets stand the South Street Seaport Museum, as well as many opportunities for shopping. There’s a convenient stop for the double-decker bus tours.

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South Street Seaport

New York City Water Taxi

I recommend an outing on the New York Water Taxi from South Street Seaport. I enjoyed outstanding views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan skyline, and Statue of Liberty from the boat. In addition to giving you a tour of the harbor, the taxi will also take you to additional stops where you can disembark and explore, like Midtown and Brooklyn. It’s a hop-on-hop-off experience, just like the double-decker bus. It was windy and chilly in March, but well worth it!

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Brooklyn Bridge

We managed to catch the very last Water Taxi running, because as soon as our trip was over it was shut down due to COVID. It was a relief to have caught the last boat, but sad to see it have to shut down. This is one of the best experiences for visitors to New York, and I highly recommend it when the outbreak subsides.

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Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Ordinarily the Statue of Liberty would be swarmed with huge crowds, but not on this day… apparently it was already closed. Still, we got up-close and personal with her from the boat, which swung around to allow passengers on both sides of the boat to catch a glimpse. Possibly one of the most iconic structures in the world, it’s an absolute must-see. If you prefer not to pay, the free Staten Island Ferry will give you a view of her too, albeit slightly more distant.

Double-decker Bus: Great Way to Tour New York

Although the Water Taxi closed after this run we took, we were able to enjoy the double-decker bus for another day. This allowed us to explore downtown, midtown, uptown, Harlem, and Brooklyn, for a couple more days, with the ability to hop on and hop off at various sights. The double-decker bus is a very convenient way to get around the city, and offers great views. I highly recommend getting around New York City and getting a bird’s-eye view from the top of the bus.

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M & M’s World

M & M’s World

If you have a sweet tooth, no visit to New York is complete without a stop at M & M’s World in Times Square! Here you will find rows and rows of tubes of a rainbow of these delights, and samples are available! Many varieties are available here that you won’t find at your local grocery or pharmacy. And you can also shop for an array of branded merchandise. So leave your diet behind and let your inner “kid in a candy store” out!

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Junior’s Diner Cheesecake

Authentic New York Treats at Junior’s Diner

I recommend trying out Junior’s Diner in the Theater District. Here you can indulge in delectable and authentic New York specialties like a Brooklyn Egg Cream, Pastrami Sandwich, and world-renown New York Cheesecake! It’s a little pricey, but portions are huge – take a friend and share and you’ll both be satisfied!

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Central Park

Central Park

No New York City tour is complete without a visit to Central Park. And what better way to shed off those calories than a stroll through this iconic landmark? It’s a relaxing oasis amid this bustling concrete jungle. Horse and carriage rides are another fun way to get around the park, but are a better value in a group of travelers sharing the cost. These rides were running about $50 for 20 minutes when I visited.

Tour More of New York City, and More!

First a disclaimer: I realize that this post may be controversial – that there may be some who feel it was irresponsible of us to visit New York in mid-March, 2020. And I’m sure there are others who applaud our determination to keep living our lives. We were in New York anticipating a cruise on the 15th that ended up being canceled two days before embarkation, so we remained in the city a couple more days before departing. At that time, there was a lot of confusion, and news of the virus was newly surfacing. The extent of the danger was not yet clear. To those who may be distressed by this post, know that after our visit we returned straight home and quarantined for 14 days. And to anyone wondering, no, we didn’t get sick.

Thanks for reading my New York City tour; catch my New York City video tour here!:

If you’re looking for places to stay in New York City, check out my blog post here:

New York City Hotels: Two Tours

And for more video tours of many destinations world-wide, check out my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

When you visit a big city like New York, I highly recommend taking a tour or getting a City Pass so that you’re able to save money and skip the lines! I like the way you can visit several attractions at a discount, without buying tickets at each one. Check it out here!:

Save up to 50% on combined prices for admission to must-see attractions! Shop Now at CityPASS.com!

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of New York!

Disclaimer: ultimatetraveladventures.blog is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. There is absolutely no cost to readers, and all proceeds will be strictly applied to covering the costs of maintaining this blog so that it can continue to serve readers for years to come! And at ultimatetraveladventures.blog we do not promote ANY product or service we do not endorse and personally use.

 

Michigan Vacation Cabin Tour!

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Michigan Cabin, April

My Michigan Vacation Cabin!

I can now cross “Michigan vacation cabin” off my bucket list! After a month of being astounded by the spectacular scenery of Michigan last fall I was hooked. I knew I needed a place up here. It was the same feeling I had about Florida before I got the condo there. And despite extensive traveling, and having an incredible time in so many places, I never quite felt this way about anyplace else. I was home. Twice.

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Beach by Florida Condo, November

Michigan-Florida Snowbird?

Since I got this cabin in Michigan people have constantly declared “Oh, so you’re a snowbird!” But it’s not that simple. Growing up in Boston, I realized winter can provide a powdery paradise… in moderation…! I suppose the origin of this assumption is that, perhaps, these people themselves would prefer year-round summer, so it makes sense to them? (Is this you? Please leave a comment!) After being in Florida for a year I actually missed the seasons, especially my favorite – autumn. Just so happens autumn is, at least in my opinion, the most spectacular time of year in Michigan. The trees are blazing with vibrant color, and the most succulent, delicious apples await your selection at the vast pick-your-own orchards across the state. A drive through the “tunnel of trees” and visit to the peak of Brockway Mountain in the Upper Peninsula provide the perfect immersion into this fall fiesta of firey shades.  Sometimes change is good…

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My Michigan Street

Still Enjoying some snow!

And then there’s the oft-shunned winter season. I get it – growing up in Boston the first snowfall was always welcome, but that welcome usually wore out fast. And by mid-January, true, I was so over it. But imagine my delight closing on this cabin in Michigan, in April, and experiencing the snowfall that had eluded me after spending most of the season in Florida. The dazzling sparkle of fresh, clean snow, the brilliant bounty of white trees, the powdery sift of snowflakes sprinkling through the sky, the pleasing crunching sound the snow makes when you step through it… This isn’t the warm, tropical, ocean-breeze paradise of Florida, but it’s paradise in its own way. Diversity of experience makes life more interesting. I find this applies to the seasons as well. I admit – I doubt I’ll be spending the whole winter in Michigan, but I definitely won’t be following a snowbird schedule, either!

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Living Room

Authentic Log Cabin in the Woods!

The cabin is in a peaceful location in the woods, but ten minutes or so from town, convenient if I need to shop for anything. There’s also a state park nearby at the lake, where I can go for a rejuvenating swim, take a sail on a pontoon boat in the shallow water, or jump on a jet ski. Back at the cabin, I can park a snowmobile or ATV. They are road legal here, so you can just jump on and go, no trailer needed!

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Kitchen

Rustic and Remodeled Vacation Cabin

When I acquired this cabin it wasn’t suitable for living. There was no heating system, no hot water, no bathroom door, and no shower. I hastily installed all of the above, as well as a washer and dryer. I also replaced the bathroom sink unit and range. The antique kitchen sink and countertop is entirely ceramic. It’s very unique – exactly the kind of thing the American Pickers would get very excited about! It’s a very charming, and now very comfortable, place to stay! I hope you enjoyed this tour of my Michigan vacation cabin!

View my tour of the cabin, before and after, here!:

Read more posts about sightseeing in Michigan!:

Outdoor Delights in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan!

Magnificent Mainland Michigan: a Convivial Road Trip!

I have video tours of Michigan, and many more destinations, here on my YouTube channel!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

 

Camel Riding Cabo San Lucas

camel riding cabo san Lucas

Epic desert journey

Camel riding… in Cabo San Lucas Mexico?

It’s true – you really can go camel riding in Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsula of Mexico! I had a really unique adventure embarking on a camel ride out in the Mexican desert. Tours are available out of Cabo heading deep out into the desert, where you’ll feel transported to an Arabian desert-like wonderland. Bring a book for the bus – it takes a couple hours, but is well worth the trip! It’s truly a peaceful oasis, and I felt refreshed and rejuvenated after my visit!

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Camel introductions

Preparing to Ride the Camels

This is a three phase experience. First, you meet the camels and learn about them followed by a photo op (and, if you’re camel’s feeling frisky, a Casanova-like kiss!) If you’ve always wished you had long eyelashes, prepare to get jealous! The camels are very friendly and serene, and are decked out in colorful accessories! They make quite the fashion and beauty statement…

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Staging area for mounting the camels

Second, you mount the camels in groups of two (solo traveler? no problem, you’ll share with another solo). Third, you embark on an enlightening journey along the beach and through the desert. I had an easy time getting on the camel. I was able to step on a platform, and then I was helped by one of the friendly guides. Each camel passenger is given a headscarf to adorn for protection from the desert sun during the journey. I was feeling very Lawrence of Arabia.

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Camels on parade

Camels are Comfortable!

I found riding a camel surprisingly comfortable and relaxing. Before mounting, I was warned that since the camels are wider than horses some people consider them uncomfortable. That was not my experience. My camel felt a lot more sturdy and the ride smoother compared to the horseback rides I’d been on. My camel was better behaved than any of the horses I’d ridden, and refrained from any jerky motions. Given the choice, I would choose a camel over a horse any day. It was a wonderful way to travel!

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The Mexican Baja desert

Incredible Desert Views

The landscapes of the desert were beautiful. I was there in January, when temperatures were mild. This dazzling desert wonderland is flanked on one side by beach and the other side by mountains, a breathtaking pleasure to behold! And it was so peaceful, so far away from the bustle and commotion of the city of Cabo. Yep, this place has it all!

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Alfresco dining a-la Mexico

Delicious, Authentic Lunch Break

The last experience of the tour was an authentic, alfresco lunch buffet with a wonderfully rustic ambience. Fabulous food in an amazing atmosphere – what more can you ask for after an exhilarating ride? (And, yes, camel meat was available… and optional!) A variety of choices were served… each one of them more delectable than the last!

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Delicious authentic Mexican lunch!

Tequila Time!

Also on the menu: a tequila tasting, featuring abundant varieties of tequila! What a great way to quench your desert thirst…! Non-alcoholic Mexican beverages were also available. It was a fun treat to cap off what was an incredible day, one I will cherish for a lifetime!

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Too much tequila?!

More on Camel Riding in Cabo San Lucas

Camel riding in Cabo San Lucas was a total blast! You can see a video of my experience here (note – filming while riding was not allowed, but I was able to purchase drone video and film the rest of the time):!

Visit my YouTube channel for more videos of exciting destinations!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

Check out more of Mexico in my Chichen Itza blog post!:

Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico!

Chichen Itza, Mexico: Ancient Mayan City

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El Castillo (“The Castle”)

Chichen Itza, Mexico: Great Mayan City

Chichen Itza, Mexico is on the Yucatan Peninsula. This ancient city boasts some of the most spectacular Mayan ruins in the world. Chichen Itza has stood the test of time superbly, considering it dates from 600-900AD. The phrase “Chichen Itza” means “the well at the mouth of the Itza.” Although remote, Chichen Itza is frequently featured in bus tour excursions from Playa del Carmen (2 hours, 7 minutes), Cancun (2 hours, 15 minutes), and Cozumel (3 hours, 25 minutes). If that sounds like a long trek, don’t be discouraged. The treasures to be found once you’re at Chichen Itza make every second on the bus worth the journey!

The Castle

El Castillo is, perhaps, the most enthralling architectural marvel of all here. El Castillo, Temple of Kukulcan, or “the castle,” is a 98 foot high enormous ziggurat temple. (Art History tip: when there are steps it is a ziggurat, not a pyramid.) Sacrifices were performed on the platform at the top. This structure may be the most iconic symbol in the world of the ancient Mayan civilization.

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Templo de los Guerreros (“Temple of the Warriors”)

Mayan Warrior Tradition

The Temple of the Warriors is near the castle, where a forest of columns is adorned with depictions of the most honored fighting champions. The Mayans took pride in their fighting prowess, and they’ve immortalized this tradition here. Polities fought over limited natural resources such as obsidian, water, and land for farming. The capture of sacrifices, which is now considered a gruesome part of their spiritual traditions, also sparked violent conflict.

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“Great Ball Court”

Mayan Athletic Skill

Athletes were champions, too. And a favorite structure with visitors here is the Great Ball Court, the largest (551 by 230 feet) and most well-preserved Mayan ball court in the world. The court is surrounded by “stands,” or audience seating areas. Different classes were assigned to different seating areas, becoming increasingly more lavish and “with a better view of the action” as the audience member elevated in social class. It reminded me of the seating structure of the amphitheaters of Ancient Rome, although a whole ocean away. Notice the donut-shaped carving (top left on the photo above.) The ball had to get through this hole, and seeing this, you contemplate the tremendous skill of the Mayan athletes!

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Carvings on the wall of the Ball Court

Sport in Art

Carvings on the walls of the ball court are extremely detailed, and tell the story of the ball game and its athletes. The “winner” had the privilege of being selected for sacrifice through decapitation (also depicted here!) The artwork at Chichen Itza is extremely well preserved and maintained, so it’s a joy to ponder the Mayan culture here! For example, it’s fascinating to consider how much ancient Mayan culture differed from cultures of today!

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“Venus Platform”

More to Explore!

There are many other buildings here to explore, so take your time to notice the intricate detail on many of these structures. There is absolutely no better way to learn about a time and place in history than from the original people, who, here, eternally tell their first-hand story through their artwork. No modern tour guide can tell it so well. The crowds can be enormous here, but there’s lots of room to spread out, making the experience more comfortable than smaller ancient sites. But be sure to bring some sunscreen and cool clothing, because there’s little shade here and it tends to get stiflingly hot, even in shoulder season!

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Overhead view*

*Open source (credit: dronepicr, http://www.commons.wikimedia.org)

In conclusion, you can explore more of Chichen, Itza, Mexico in my full video tour here!:

For videos on more destinations, as well as hotel and cruise ship tours, check out my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

And for more Mexico, check out my camel riding in Cabo San Lucas blog here!:

Camel Riding Cabo San Lucas

Amazing Mazatlan, Mexico!

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Cliff Diver

Mazatlan, Mexico: Captivating Contradictions

Firstly, Mazatlan, Mexico is a bustling metropolis on the Mexican Riviera. It’s one of Mexico’s most interesting west coast cities. Moreover, you’re never far from the laid-back pleasures of miles of beaches. And oceanfront pedestrian pathways are abundant here. So put on your poncho; it’s time to explore!

Mazatlan’s Cliff Divers

While there are many pleasures to pursue, the most popular attraction may be Mazatlan’s famous “cliff divers.” If you’re up for some real excitement, catch these daredevils in action! These guys make the death-defying leap all day! You can reward their bravery with a voluntary donation. The show is well worth the “price of admission!”

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Big city, big beaches!

Beautiful Beaches

The beaches seemingly are endless here. Enjoy views of the city skyline, and tiny islands in the distance. Warm waves wash over you. The vibrant cobalt waters crash along craggy cliffs along the coast. Mazatlan boasts over 20 miles of beautiful sandy beaches. Some of Mazatlan’s high rated beaches are Playa Olas Altas, Playa Cerritos, and Play Brujas. So have fun finding your favorite!

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Miles of oceanfront walkways

Mazatlan’s Esplanade

Swimming’s not your thing? There are miles of pedestrian pathways sporting the same spectacular views! Statues and other art guide the way like cultural signposts. On the esplanade, you can have a leisurely stroll with the sights, smells, and sounds of the sea. There are many opportunities to stop, sit, and soak it all in. And for people-watching, the esplanade can’t be beat! So set your sights on this seaside paradise!

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Mazatlan Cathedral, exterior

Mazatlan Cathedral

Mazatlan’s most striking architectural highlight may be the  Mazatlan Cathedral, although its more formal name is the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. This baroque revival style building was finished in 1899. The interior is truly inspiring. The sunlight glow beaming through the stained glass windows bathe the sanctuary in brilliantly bold color. And towering pillars line the aisle like exclamation points paying tribute to the undeniable beauty of this place. The building is exquisitely decorated and brilliantly restored, and a Mazatlan must-see. It’s a welcome sanctuary of peace compared to the bustling city outside.

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Mazatlan Cathedral, interior

More of Amazing Mazatlan, Mexico!

In conclusion, Mazatlan is at once old and new, and peaceful and exciting. It is a city to experience contradictions. While it’s a major city, it’s not without its peaceful pleasures.

Check out my full video tour of Mazatlan here!:

And for more great destinations, as well as hotel and cruise ship tours, check out my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

Want more Mexico? If so, check out my Chichen Itza Mayan ruins blog post!:

Chichen Itza, Mexico: Ancient Mayan City