Archive | March, 2012
30 Mar

Great post by mutyang. Check out the blog at http://manila-citizen.com!

Manila Citizen

It’s not easy going there, especially if you don’t like dust, heat and getting your skin browner.

And since I am neither of those, I signed myelf up to my friend and former workmate, Melai’s, FB post of asking people to join her and her newfound Vietnamese friends to trek Mt. Pinatubo.

SLEEP WELL

Well, first you have to fight the urge of oversleeping because the bus ride from Manila to Tarlac is around two hours.

I had to drag myself off the bed and do a little of my early morning prayer at 2 AM because I could not afford to miss my schedule.

My dad dropped me off at Victory Liner Pasay and we had a small chitchat before my bus going to Dagupan was to pull out of the station at 4:20 AM.

He was half-awake all the time so he probably did not notice me getting…

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Universal Studios Orlando Ride Review

28 Mar

UNIVERSAL’S ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: Favorite ride of the weekend. Beware that at some points you will be upside down and there will be simulators.
  • Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man: Unfortunately this was closed while we were there, but it sounds great.
  • Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges: Fun. You will get soaked.
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls: Very fun. I think they said it was a 60 or 75 foot drop. You keep thinking that the big drop is coming, but it sneaks up on you.
  • Pteranodon Flyers: Why do they only let kids and their parents on this ride? I so wish I could have done this ride!
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure: Amazing. Must do. About a 9 story drop.
  • Jurassic Park Discovery Center: Great to explore if you are a fan of the movies.
  • Exploring the shops in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Highly recommend even if you have not seen the movies. They did a great job.
  • Poseidon’s Fury: Great show!
  • The Cat in the Hat: Fun/cute ride even for adults.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA:

  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit: I wish I had enough guts for this roller coaster. It looks amazing.
  • Shrek 4-D: Cute.
  • TWISTER…Ride It Out: Fun experience.
  • Revenge of the Mummy: Favorite ride of Universal Studios Florida. MUST DO.
  • Disaster!: Hilarious show/adventure.
  • MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack: A lot more fun than you think. It seems like a kid’s ride, but it is quite fun.
  • The Simpsons Ride: This is a simulator ride. DO NOT DO IF YOU GET MOTION SICK EASILY. If you can handle simulator rides, this is really fun.
  • E.T. Adventure: Super cute!
  • Terminator 2: 3:D: Fun show.

A Monumental Run Around DC

26 Mar

Last Saturday Matt and I ran 4 miles around the Tidal Basin and National Mall. We passed the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and the MLK Memorial. And, on top of that, we were lucky to run on one of the last days of the cherry blossoms. I had my Iphone with me to snap some photos of the beautiful scenery (see below). Despite the dreary weather, we had a great time and got some good exercise. I highly recommend taking a “monumental” run around DC!

Grand Cayman

24 Mar

Great post by LBcruiseshipblogger about Grand Cayman. Check out all posts by LBcruiseshipblogger at http://mycruisestories.com.

MUST READ: Rules of the Wild

22 Mar

“Rules of the Wild” by Francesca Marciano is a great read about the life of an expat in Kenya. This is a fiction story and should in no way be thought of as what it is really like – in other words, it is a romanticized version of the expat life in Kenya. However, it is a great read especially for anyone familiar with East Africa, anyone who has been an expat, or for those that just fantasize about living abroad. “Rules of the Wild” is truly a book I still think years after having read it. I highly recommend this book.

Disney World MUST DOs

20 Mar

MAGIC KINGDOM:

  • Haunted Mansion: Firstly, don’t do the graveyard if there are people in front of you. That will take way too much time. Also, I think the mansion is over rated, but if I were a first timer I would probably want to see it.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Used to be a lot better. I wish it were scarier, bumpier, etc. I was not a fan.
  • Splash Mountain: Lots of fun. I believe the drop is 50 feet.
  • Space Mountain: My favorite Disney ride. So much fun. HIGHLY recommend.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Super fun. MUST DO.
  • It’s a Small World: Iconic.
  • If you have time, see the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes (DO), the fireworks show. Arrive early to see a cool display on Cinderella’s castle.

If we had had more time, I would have tried Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.

EPCOT:

  • Soaring: Pretty cool, but I wouldn’t wait in line again for this ride.
  • Test Track: Fun.
  • Spaceship Earth: MUST DO. Why wouldn’t you want to be in Epcot’s ball?
  • Mission: SPACE: Do the orange line if you are up for it. Much more exciting and scary.

If you are not short on time, walk around the different countries, try the foods and drinks, and explore the sites and rides. For food, I highly recommend Italy (see yummy pizza below) and Morocco.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS:

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith: MUST DO. Amazing. Please note that you will be upside down at some points and it goes fast.
  • Star Tours: Very fun.
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular: Cool to see once.
  • The Great Movie Ride: Can skip.

If we had more time, I would have liked to have done Toy Story Mania, Studio Backlot Tour (closed while we were there), and seen Fantasmic.

LASTLY: DON’T forget to get pictures with your favorite Disney characters, like Mickey Mouse!

Samantha Brown at the Travel Expo

18 Mar

I met the Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown at the Travel & Adventure Show
in Washington, DC, on March 17, 2012. She is a personable entertainer. She signed autographs, took pictures and spoke individually to her fans. When I had the chance to meet her, I asked her about honeymoon destinations. She helped reaffirm Matt and I’s decision to go to South Africa for our honeymoon. When I asked her about honeymoon spots and told her that we were thinking of South Africa, she said that she had wanted to go to South Africa on her honeymoon, but they went to Key West instead. She indicated that we made a good decision. Patricia Schultz (author of “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”) also said during her speech that if there is only one thing you do in life, you need to go on a African safari (she said it a lot more eloquently). Yesterday was a very productive day for Matt and I – South Africa, here we come (in 1 1/2 years…)! 🙂

Sacramento and Clarksburg: The Crocker, Port, Wine, and Chocolate

16 Mar

Great post by Insightful Travel about Sacramento and Clarksburg!

Insightful Travel

As a last minute plan, we spent the day closer to home, visiting local sights.  Our first stop was the opening of the Edgar Payne exhibit at the Crocker Museum in downtown Sacramento.  For those who haven’t visited the Crocker recently, a new wing was added in 2010, greatly expanding and modernizing the whole museum.  We joined as members last year and have enjoyed the new wing expansion, exhibits, and events over the last year. 

Edgar Payne was an American Impressionist in the early 1900s.  Many of his works were of the Southwest and California, so we really enjoyed the exhibit, having visited many of the locales.  He also seemed to have a penchant for sailboats from his travels in Europe.  Wonderful exhibit, our favorites were some of the paintings of Canyon de Chelly, the eastern Sierra, and the coast of California. 

We enjoyed a breakfast sandwich in the Crocker’s cafe before…

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Three Full Days in Orlando

14 Mar

Two weeks ago Matt and I celebrated our five-year anniversary in Orlando, FL.  We arrived Wednesday night and left Sunday morning, which left us only three full days for activities.  We initially thought we would do Disney’s four parks in two days and Universal’s two parks in one day, but, to our surprise, there were no lines at the parks and we were able to get through three of Disney’s parks in one day.  So, the following is our itinerary with some suggestions:

Wednesday night:  Arrive.

Thursday:  (Start every day very early.  Matt and I finished our morning runs by 8am and then quickly had breakfast and headed over to the parks.)  Spend first day at Disney.  Park at Magic Kingdom.  Be done with rides by noon.  Head to Epcot.  Ride the rides there and have lunch at one of the country exhibits (I highly recommend Italy and Morocco).  Head to Hollywood Studios.  Finish rides by 6ish so you can make it to the parade at 7pm and then the fireworks at 8pm at Magic Kingdom (please note that times change daily so make sure to check Disney’s schedule).  If you do not mind missing the parade or fireworks you could park the car at Epcot, ride a couple of rides there (leave by 10-10:30 – there is not that many MUST rides at Epcot), head to Animal Kingdom (stay until 1pm), head to Hollywood Studios (until 4ish), then head to Magic Kingdom (you may actually be able to ride rides and see the parade and fireworks, but you need to be strategic).  Finish with taking the tram back to Epcot.  If Matt and I knew that we could do Disney in one day we would have done the itinerary I just laid out.

Friday:  Spend day at Universal.  We were at Universal Studios from 9am – noon.  We ate lunch at CityWalk.  We then spent the rest of the afternoon at Islands of Adventure.  We went home to change and then returned to CityWalk (DO DO DO spend an evening at CityWalk) for a late dinner, some mini golf (DO – see photo below of the crazy course), and a show at MargaritaVille .

Saturday:  Spend day at SeaWorld and Aquatica (SeaWorld’s water park).  We spent the morning feeding dolphins and sea lions, watching the Shamu and dolphin shows, and riding the rides at SeaWorld.  Around noon we headed to Aquatica.  We rode the rides there and then we went back to SeaWorld around 4pm to participate in Bands, Brew and BBQ where we ate bbq, drank some beer, and watched Sara Evans perform.

Sunday Morning:  returned back to DC.

Note about this itinerary:  Again, this itinerary can only really work if (1) you go off-season and (2) you plan very well.  With regard to planning, here are some tips:

  • Before you get to the park, research which rides you would like to go on or shows you would like to see.  Highlight the rides or show areas on a map.  Make sure you have the most current map.
  • Get to the parks early!
  • Wear sneakers and plan to run.  We pretty much sprinted between rides to make sure we could get to every ride we wanted to.
  • For Disney, plan to park your car at one of the parks that stay open the latest (Epcot and Magic Kingdom typically stay open the latest).
  • Many of the parks have a faster line.  Disney has FastPass, which is free and you just grab a timeframe and come back when your time has come.  I recommend grabbing FastPass for any rides that have a wait and riding all the non-FastPass rides until your time has come.  Universal has a similar program, but you pay for it.  If I was going peak season I would have bought this pass although I find it to be quite expensive: the price depends on the day, but for us it would have been $50 for both Universal parks per person!  SeaWorld did not have enough rides to need to buy its pass and Aquatica did not have any sort of express/fast lane.
Note about accommodations:  We found no need to stay on Disney or Universal property.  We  booked a room at Sheraton Vistana Villages and paid less than half as much as we would have had we booked a room at one of the hotels on Disney or Universal property.  And, we had much more room and many more amenities.  Our “room” was actually an apartment with a full kitchen, dining room, porch, living room, king size bed in the bedroom, and a super large bathroom with two large areas separated by a door.  Sheraton’s property also came with amazing amenities including many pools (see below), a gym, a grocery store, etc.  And, it was super convenient: about five minutes from SeaWorld and fifteen – twenty minutes to Universal and Disney.

Stay tuned to CourtneyMara.com as I will post reviews in the next week or so of the rides we rode in Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, and Aquatica!

Travel & Adventure Show

12 Mar

The Travel & Adventure Show is in Washington, DC, THIS weekend, March 17-18, 2012.  There is to be presentations by  Samantha Brown, Patricia Schultz (Author of “1,000 Places to See Before You Dies”), and other travel authors and agents; exhibitors featuring many countries and experiences; culinary and dance shows; giveaways, door prizes, and travel specials; and other adventure activities (e.g., rock climbing, scuba diving and more).

If interested in attending, TravelZoo has a deal until Thursday, March 15, for admission for 2 persons for only $9.  Click here for the deal.