Tag: ultimate travel adventures

Tour Rhodes Greece!

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Rhodes City Walls

The Island of the Knights

Tour Rhodes, Greece and you’ll quickly see why many call it “the island of the knights!” The Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem controlled the island from 1310 to 1522, and they definitely left their mark on this amazing place. Massive stone walls surround the Old Town area in near pristine condition. This World Heritage Site has maintained the historical integrity of the area. You can take a step back in time, surrounded by history, untarnished by the modern sprawl. Stone pathways lead you through a labyrinth of peaceful passageways you want to get lost in!

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Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes

Medieval Castle Culture

The most prominent structure in town is the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. The Byzantines built this Gothic castle and fortress in the 7th century. Beautiful mosaics carpet the building. Meanwhile, a forest of archways, arcades, statues, and columns guide the way through. There’s so much to explore among this citadel of stone. The Palace is open to the public, and many guided tour options are available. So feel free to unleash your inner knight and storm the castle!

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Temple of Apollo

Tour Rhodes’ Ancient Ruins

The island of Rhodes is littered with ancient ruins. In fact, there’s everything from complete villages to single structures scattered throughout the island. During my visit, restorations were being made to the Temple of Apollo on the Acropolis of Rhodes, up on the island’s highest point. Aphodite, Zeus, and Athena boast their own temples on the island as well. And at Ancient Kamiros and the archaeological site at Lindos provide an even more comprehensive look at an Ancient Greek community.

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What’s Left of Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes

Rhodes was an important hub of activity in the ancient world long before the Crusaders. You can view what’s left of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Colossus of Rhodes at the port, and imagine the Greek deity Helios straddling the platforms and guarding the harbor. Wondering where the towering Helios is now? It’s thought he fell victim to earthquakes around 225bc. There are talks in the works of a possible rebuild of Helios, at five times the original height! I’m not sure how I feel about this prospect. Copies just don’t feel authentic to me, no matter how much research is completed or how true to the original concept the builders are. And, in this case, they’re looking at making a larger version, not a replica of the original. What do you think? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

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Incredible Panoramic Views

Tour Rhodes’ Panoramic Views

Just when you thought you’d seen it all there’s the incredible panoramic views Rhodes has to offer. I took a taxi from the port for a tour around the island, and one of the most memorable stops was the incredible overlook above the beach line and town. You can see the diverse geography of the island from here, and watch the cars drive by down below looking like the matchbox toy cars of your youth. For the bigger picture (where everything’s smaller!), make sure you visit the high points!

Greek Souvlaki. Lamb Skewer on a Plate with Potatoes and Tzatziki, Geece

Greek Treats

Cute Cafes along Cobbled Lanes

You may not want to return to the reality of the present, but when you spot the cute cafes, and smell the appetizing aromas, you may not be able to resist! Adorable cafes along cobbled lanes serve delectable Greek treats, like succulent grilled meat on the spit, mouth-watering moussaka, and the licorice-flavored liquor “Ouzo.” The tastes and scents of Rhodes are every bit as good as the sights, so consider a leisurely stop for lunch!

Tour More Rhodes, Greece!

For a full video tour of Rhodes, Greece, check out my YouTube video here!:

And more magnificent ancient sites await you in Ephesus!:

Tour Ephesus Turkey Treasures

And check out my YouTube channel for more great destinations around the world!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

Thank you for reading! Remember, there’s always more to explore on Ultimate Travel Adventures!

 

Tour Ephesus Turkey Treasures

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Ancient Main Road

Tour Ephesus Turkey

Welcome to another travel Turkey blog. Ephesus was one of the most vibrant major cities in the Roman Empire. Located on the west coast of Turkey near the port city of Kusadasi, it provides some of the finest examples of Roman architecture and civil engineering on the planet. Archaeologists continue to unearth more treasures to this day, as there is much more yet to be uncovered.

Ancient Roman Roads: Quality Construction!

When you tour Ephesus, Turkey, the first thing you notice is how well the main road through the town has stood the test of time. They don’t build them like they used to! Roads were vital to Roman trade, governance, communications, and military movement, just as they are today. The Romans constructed 250,000 miles of roads, many of them paved with stone like this one in Ephesus. Rome had many kinds of roads, from back alleys to major highways. These roads were critical to the explosive growth of the Roman Empire in the ancient world.

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The Building Blocks of Civilization

Building Blocks of Civilization

The columns and bricks here represent more than the brilliance of ancient Roman civil engineering. They represent the building blocks of civilization: the institutions that continue to shape our culture today. We have adopted many staples of Roman society, like public squares, government buildings, libraries, marketplaces, theaters, stadiums, bathhouses, places of worship, and more. These institutions are now an important part of our daily lives.

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Sophisticated Ancient Roman Plumbing

Very Sophisticated Plumbing

The plumbing system of the ancient Romans was highly advanced. The Romans built elaborate aqueducts to channel water from the countryside into the cities. Once in the cities, the water was delivered through a system of pipes, just like we use today. In Ephesus public toilets and their pipes are still intact. While it seems like there was no privacy, at least live music was provided in public restrooms to drown out the sound…!

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Cats on Mouse Patrol

Cats On Patrol

Many cats roam the ruins in Ephesus. I asked a guide about them, and he told me they feed the cats and encourage their presence. The cats keep mice away, and delight visitors! Cats are cherished all over Turkey, and you will find them friendly and frisky. For a wonderful film about Turkey’s lovable feline population, watch the film Kedi. Click here to learn more: Kedi the Movie. This critically acclaimed film is heartwarming, fun, and fascinating, and I highly recommend it!

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Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus

The consul Gaius Julius Aquila commissioned the Library in the 110s A.D. At the time this was the third largest library in the world after the libraries in Alexandria, Egypt and Pergamum, Persia. The Library of Celsus has impressively survived fires, earthquakes, and attacks by the Goths, not to mention centuries of time. This massive and exquisitely preserved structure is the highlight to any tour of Ephesus.

Tour Ephesus Turkey More!

Ancient Rome survives today, not only in it’s timeless ruins, but on the influence it continues to have in our lives to this day. Check out my video tour of Ephesus, Turkey on YouTube here!

And for another travel Turkey blog, check out my post on Sirince! More travel Turkey posts coming soon!:

Tour Sirince, Turkey

For more great destinations weekly, subscribe to my YouTube channel!:

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We have now joined the new social media site MIX! You can join and follow us here!:

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And don’t forget to check out the amazing film Kedi!:

Kedi on Amazon

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.

St. Peter's Basilica

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!

 

Necessary Travel in a time of COVID-19

International Travel

Airline Passengers in an International Airport

At long last, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that he will finally exempt spouses, children, and parents of citizens and permanent residents from the COVID-19 border closure with the U.S. Since my husband is Canadian and in Ontario right now, and I’m American and in Florida right now, this is news we have been anticipating in agonizing fashion. Immediate family is no longer “non-essential,” (note to government officials – THEY NEVER WERE.) So now that I have necessary travel to embark on the question is, in this time of Coronoavirus, how can I traverse across a continent safely? My car is stranded in Canada, so a road trip, which would be my first, and the safest choice, is not an option. One bit of good news is that ALL of the below options have ramped up deep cleaning measures on their modes of transportation.

Option 1: Air Travel

Air travel is the type of travel I’m most leery of right now from a health standpoint. Airlines originally promised to leave middle seats empty, but have proceeded to fill those seats and pack the limited number of planes they have running as full as possible to help recoup their losses – despite the danger they’re placing on their customers. I’ve never been one for flying, unless I was crossing an ocean and had no choice. Being crammed in a tightly cramped space with random strangers, some of whose behavior and hygiene left something to be desired, and dealing with endless lines at security checkpoints, was never my idea of a “good time.” And now, with the news being inundated with reminders of social distancing, staying six feet apart, and even laws requiring the aforementioned, it has made me wonder for a while now why airports are not closed all together. It is the single type of business still open where it is literally impossible to social distance. Do I really want to place serious risk on my health, and that of my husband, getting on a plane? Or risk denial of entry into the country because I’m “showing symptoms?” According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.” (cdc.gov) Airlines scoff at the idea that it isn’t safe – but it doesn’t take a PhD in rocket science to see the risk factors. Masks are required, but if people are allowed to take them off during food and beverage service, what’s the point?

PROS: Air is well ventilated and circulated. Travel between destinations is fast, reducing your exposure time-wise. The only option (besides car) that is currently crossing the U.S./Canada border.

CONS: Extremely close quarters, zero control over social distancing for the passenger, zero control over what other passengers are in near proximity (if you’re seated next to someone coughing, you’re out of luck!) Least amount of personal space and freedom to move about. The aggravation of dealing with airport security checkpoints.

Electric passenger train drives at high speed among urban landscape.

Bullet Train

Option 2: Train Travel

I have another option – train travel on Amtrak. Although Amtrak has temporarily halted service to routes crossing the Canadian border due to the limited categories of people currently allowed passage, I could take the train to Buffalo, New York and cross the Peace Bridge on foot, where my husband would be waiting on the Canadian side in his car. (Service to Niagara Falls, with a shorter pedestrian bridge, is also suspended.) On a train, you have the most freedom to move around. Even if you’re seated near people in the main cabin, you can try to find a better spot in the Observation Lounge, or head for the cafe or restaurant. And even if you remain in your seat, your “personal space” is greater than on a plane or bus. You also avoid standing in potentially crowded security checkpoints. Masks, again, are required – but, again, people are allowed to take them off while eating and drinking. The downside? LONG travel times. According to Google Directions, my train trip from Tampa Bay to Buffalo would take two days, as compared with a couple of hours on a plane. The route would require going up the Eastern Seaboard rather than a more direct route. And the layover point is in the COVID-19 epicenter: New York City. While a train ticket would be cheaper than an airline ticket, I would expect to be exhausted upon arriving in Buffalo – and would definitely reserve a hotel room for that point in the trip. This would jack the cost up beyond the cost of an airline ticket.

PROS: More room in your seat. The freedom to move around, and go to a completely different area if you find yourself near someone you consider a health risk (or annoyance!) Avoiding long lines at customs security checkpoints potentially with no social distancing measures. Most appealing option for my work as a blogger and YouTube creator.

CONS: Increased potential exposure due to long travel times. Long travel time to arrive at destination. No ability to cross the border by train. Short layover in the Coronavirus epicenter.

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Greyhound Bus

Option 3: Bus Travel

Greyhound Bus has also suspended travel across the border, so just like in the aforementioned train option it would be necessary to ride to Buffalo and traverse the Peace Bridge on foot. Greyhound is “encouraging” physical distancing on the bus, and requiring masks (again, while not eating or drinking…) But of all of these options, the bus is the most likely to experience delays, and long layovers, which they are notorious for. The bus takes a more direct route than the train, because there are many more interstates in the U.S. than train tracks. But there are other potential risks in taking the bus. The low cost of the bus can attract some individuals who may pose a threat to you or your belongings, and many bus stations are in more dangerous neighborhoods of town – a place you can be stuck for hours waiting on a late transfer. You do have more room than on the plane, but less room than on a train. It does not have the freedom to get up and move to a different area that the train offers. As with the train option, I would most likely get a hotel for the night upon arrival in Buffalo.

PROS: Lowest cost (besides car travel), more personal space than on a plane. Avoidance of airport security checkpoint lines.

CONS: Less freedom of movement than on the train, long travel times. Other potential hazards unrelated to health.

Conclusion

I was hoping that by the time I reached the conclusion, I would have made up my own mind! Alas, I have not. I am leaning in favor of train or plane, because the bus’ biggest advantage is price and that isn’t my highest priority right now. And while all three options involve a customs security checkpoint for crossing the border, the land crossing is likely to be far less congested, since very few people are allowed to cross, and there’s only one, compared with two at the airports. I plan to buy a ticket on one of the above five days from the date of this post – please leave your comments with suggestions below! What would you do? How has your experience been on these different modes of transportation? Remember, my car is stranded in Canada and “road trip” is not an option. Obviously, that would be the most convenient and safest way to travel, with unlimited personal space, total social distancing, and the ability to cross the border. Thanks for your suggestions!

 

Camel Riding Cabo San Lucas

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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

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship!

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Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

The Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas cruise ship is among the most majestic on the Royal Caribbean fleet. It launched in 2008, and has an occupancy of 6,296 maximum. This colossal vessel holds 16 passenger decks. So the Oasis of the Seas is really a city on the sea! And a voyage upon her many decks is an exciting treat indeed!

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The Atrium

A Different Kind of Ship

The Oasis has a very different layout than many of the mega-ships I’ve traveled on before. A signature design for this class of Royal Caribbean ship is a cut-out middle, interior as well as exterior balcony cabins, and “neighborhoods.” The neighborhoods are a variety of unique “destination” locations around the ship. Oasis of the Seas’ “Atrium” does not resemble those of most of the ships I’ve experienced before, either. Because in this case, it’s a long hallway filled with shops, restaurants, and much more beyond passenger services desks, rather being one centralized room in the middle of the ship.

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Lido Deck

The Lido Deck

The Lido Deck is expansive, and there are multiple pools and jacuzzis as well as an adults-specific deck under glass. Unfortunately I got very hot in there, because it starts to feel like a greenhouse or sauna in there when it’s a hot day outside! I prefer the breeze of the open decks, which is no problem. Fortunately, the Oasis hosts a multitude of decks facing both the ocean on the outside of the ship and the neighborhood lobbies on the inside of the ship!

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Central Park

Central Park

Central Park is one of the neighborhoods on the ship, replete with trees, plants, cobblestones, and relaxing benches. Many of the interior balconies have views over this delightfully green section of the ship. A classical quartet played here regularly in the evenings while I was here. I don’t know what I liked better – the relaxing music or the pleasant garden-like atmosphere. This outdoor park element is particular to Royal Caribbean, and I haven’t encountered it on any other cruise lines. I was reminded first hand that this area is not only wide open to the fresh air, sunshine, and stars, but to the rain as well! It’s something to keep in mind: check the weather report each morning!

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The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk is reminiscent of the historic and iconic Boardwalk at Atlantic City, New Jersey. It’s complete with a Johnny Rockets diner, Zoltar fortune telling machine, arcade booths, boardwalk food, and an operational merry-go-round. There are also interior balconies facing the Boardwalk, as well as a massive water-based stage at the back of the ship, complete with beach loungers for the seating area!

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Ice Show

Spectacular Shows

Entertainment is abundant aboard the Oasis, and “go big or go home” never seemed a more fitting description than aboard this ship! Unique stages include the ice rink – a stage for ice shows by night and available for guests to ice skate on by day. Olympic skaters perform spectacular stunts, and I was thrilled and amazed for every minute of it! This is another feature that I’ve found to be unique to Royal Caribbean – I haven’t encountered an ice rink on any other lines.

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Water Stage

Unique Stages

The other unique “stage” on this ship is the water stage, on the Boardwalk. Here Olympic divers perform death defying feats, complimented by synchronized swimming and other aquatic performances. With a backdrop of cotton-candy clouds by day and sparkling stars at night, the atmosphere is intoxicating. Oasis’ water stage is outdoors under the sun (or moon!) and the seating consists of splendidly colorful beach chairs. Whether you’re attending an ice skating show or a water show, book reservations EARLY! It is possible to get in line to take the place of no shows, but you’ll have a LOT of company if you do this. To be sure you get a seat you’ll need to be towards the front of the line.

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Balcony Cabin

Beautiful Balcony Cabins

I had a balcony cabin and found it to be plenty roomy, comfortable, and pleasingly decorated. I opted for the Oceanview, because I can’t get enough of the beauty of the open sea. But how great it was to have three balcony cabin view options at booking! Because there are so many balconies on this ship, I found them to be a better value than on some of the other ships I’ve sailed on. Interior balcony bookings come with perks like complimentary dinner at a specialty restaurant. And it’s important to bear in mind these balconies will also come with less privacy!

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More of the Atrium

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Cruise Ship Review

I greatly enjoyed my experience aboard the Oasis of the Seas. The ship is spectacular, well-maintained, and beautifully designed. It offers a dizzying array of great entertainment, fun activities, and diverse areas to dine, party, and relax. On the downside, I did not find it to be a particularly solo-traveler friendly ship – every time I entered the main dining room and asked for a table for one I was made to feel like Steve Martin in “The Lonely Guy” when a huge spotlight appears over his head and everyone stares at him like he’s psycho or something… And with no good promotion for the drink package on this cruise line I ended up drinking more than my fair share of ice water with lime. But all-in-all I had a fantastic time choosing neighborhoods to suit my mood, reveling in effervescent entertainment, and soaking in the sun on this special ship!

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Larger than Life!

For More Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

Tour Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas more! You can view a full video tour of the entire ship here!:

I visited St. Thomas on my Oasis of the Seas cruise. You can check out the article on St. Thomas here:

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Perfectly Paradisiacal!

And for more travel all around the world, check out the Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube channel!:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC91pXs3Ydbrw5Uc3EFSkO5Q?view_as=subscriber

Greyhound Bus Travel Tips!

Professional bus driver at steering wheel. Passenger transportation

Welcome aboard the bus!

Greyhound Bus Travel Tips

Time for more transportation tips: specifically Greyhound bus travel tips! A quick note to start off: this is not sponsored by Greyhound. More and more people are traveling domestically due to recent events impacting the economy, foreign government restrictions, and global health issues. I expect bus travel to become more popular in this environment. Greyhound is the most common and well-known bus operator, and there are ways of making sure you have a better experience traveling with them. Greyhound Bus can be a very cost-effective method of ground travel. (Note: this post is NOT sponsored by Greyhound.) As air travel security and health measures become more of a hassle, bus travel has become a more attractive option lately. If you’re not traveling too far it can be a more efficient and comfortable way to travel than air travel. And that’s not to mention much cheaper than air or train travel! So I’ll go over my top tips now. While I’m focusing on Greyhound, many of these tips will be applicable to other bus lines too.

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Toronto, Canada: Served by Greyhound

Greyhound Travel in USA, Canada, and Mexico!

Sure, it’s disappointing when you can’t travel the world for whatever reason, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an abundance of interesting things to see in your back yard, wherever that back yard is. Greyhound now services the USA, Canada, and Mexico, so you have an endless number of options! At this time destinations are more limited in Canada and Mexico, but hopefully more will continue to be added. Be sure to check on current entry requirements to visit any foreign country, and be prepared so you’re not turned away at the border.

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Greyhound Bus Website

Buying Your Ticket Early and Seat Selection

Buy your ticket as EARLY as possible. For some stations you’ll receive a boarding number on your ticket, and boarding will be permitted in order based on your number. Lower numbers, or those sold further in advance, will receive boarding priority – and have a chance to score a better choice of seat. Not all stations do this, but it’s worth a shot in case you get one that does.

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Waiting at the bus station

Save Money on your Bus Ticket!

Prices are lower if you can book 3 weeks in advance, when you can save a quarter or even more off the full price of the ticket. If you can’t, then it may help to at least book 2 weeks in advance, which is still better than last-minute. Whatever you do, don’t wait until you get to the station. Book your trip mid-week if possible. Prices are lower if you can hop on on hump day! Note that discounts are available if you are a member of Student Advantage or Veteran Advantage; go to “Discount Options” when making your reservation to choose this discount. Finally, do a search for promo codes – there’s a good chance you can score an additional discount that way. You will have a chance to enter the code before submitting payment. REMEMBER: There is a surcharge to “gift” a ticket to someone else. If at all possible, the traveler should be the one to pay for the ticket on their own credit or debit card, rather than someone else buying it for them!

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I used this 25% off code – and it worked

When to Arrive at the Bus Station

Give yourself plenty of time to check in and find your bus; it will mean a less stressful trip for you if you’re not hustling. And those that arrive first, can line up and board first, if the station does not board by ticket number (as described above.) Your bus may already have seated passengers on it if your station is a stop along another route, making this even more important if you want a good choice of seats.

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Let’s go!

Luggage Tips

Note that you are allowed 2 pieces of luggage at no additional charge: one checked bag up to 50 pounds and one carry-on that will fit in the overhead compartment. (Avoid placing fragile items in the checked bag – disturbance of bags due to potholes and bumps is not unlikely!) Be careful about leaving carry-on luggage on the bus when you disembark on breaks, and keep your eye on your bags in the stations. Don’t create a temptation for thieves! Instructions for claiming luggage at different stations varies – listen to the driver for directions each time you disembark. Place an identifiable marker on your luggage, such as a brightly colored tag, to help distinguish it from other suitcases that may be identical or similar in brand and color.

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Travelers Boarding the Bus

Ticket Management Tips

You will be able to print out a ticket or pick it up at will-call at the station, or have a digital ticket sent to your mobile device. Keep your ticket through the entire trip – you may need it to change buses and collect your luggage en route and at your destination.

Bus Travel Comfort

If you need an outlet for your electronic devices, try to get a seat towards the front; not all seats have outlets. Free wi-fi is available on the bus. Keep in mind it may not work 100% of the time. Travel pillows and blankets can be a welcome comfort on overnight trips – both on the bus and during long station transfers. Make sure you set an alarm on your cellphone to wake yourself up before your next stop – just in case! Finally, try to limit your restroom breaks to the bus stations if possible. You will find them cleaner and more pleasant to use. And don’t forget to pack some snacks! Whatever you bring will probably be cheaper than anything you can find at the rest stops and bus stations.

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Greyhound Bus

Bus Travel Safety Tips

It’s safer to sleep on the bus than in the stations. People are less likely to give you any trouble with the bus driver and other passengers so nearby. You may be more isolated in the station, particularly at night. That said, having a seat closer to the front will keep you closer to the driver for added safety. Keep your purse, cellphone, and wallet in a safe place. You don’t want to have a phone loosely in your hand and inadvertently fall asleep on the bus, or be walking around the station with a wallet in your back pocket. Keep your guard up and protect your valuables. If you really want to be on the safe side, invest in a money belt to store these in. I recommend this belt for your money/wallet, phone, and identifying documents… It includes RFID protection, so people can’t scan your card numbers: RFID Money Belt on Amazon.

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Bus Break Yoga!

Stay Healthy on the Bus!

The most important of my Greyhound bus travel tips may be to be conscious of your health. Remember to wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your face. Window seats are the best for minimizing contact from any potentially infected people, since you’ll be keeping your distance from people traversing the aisle and standing in the aisle managing their carry-ons. It’s also a good idea to carry along a small first-aid kit. You can pick up a good travel kit here: Travel First Aid Kit on Amazon. If you buy a pre-assembled kit, you’ll want to take an inventory before your trip to see if there’s any additional medicines or products you’d like to add. I always like to make sure I have some headache and antihistamine tablets. Also, make sure you get up and get some exercise during breaks!

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Greyhound Road Rewards

Join Road Rewards

Join Road Rewards on the greyhound.com website. It’s free to join, and you can earn rewards like: 15% off your ticket, companion pass for a friend, and 10% off food at greyhound stations.

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Greyhound App

Download the App

With the Greyhound app you can have easy access to your trip information, station location, and track your bus (and transfer bus) locations. And if your bus is running late and you may miss your transfer, you can find out when the next one is and make a bolt for the ticket window at the station to reserve a seat on that next bus before it fills up, potentially minimizing transfer time. Other customers may be clamoring to make the same alternate arrangements as you, in which case that next bus might fill up fast!

More Travel Tips

I hope these Greyhound bus travel tips have been helpful for those traveling by ground on a budget! When it comes to traveling on a budget by land, road trips and buses are by far your best options.

Need a money belt to protect your valuables? You can get one here:

RFID Money Belt

And for a travel first aid kit, you can head here:

Travel first aid kit

View more travel tips, tours of destinations, and hotel tours and reviews on my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

And check out my blog post on saving money on travel!:

How to travel MORE for LESS: Build Your Budget Travel Game Plan!