sedona, arizona

red rock

red rock

I can tick off one more state in my list of visited states in America. The first time I came here, I told myself that I will try to visit each and every contiguous state since I can drive to each one of them.

I can say that Sedona, Arizona is far better than Las Vegas. I know this is debatable because different people have different opinions and different likes and dislikes. Yes I know there are a lot of things in Vegas if that is your kind of thing but personally, being with nature is far better.

GPS displayed that Sedona was about 4 hours from Las Vegas and I thought that we could get there faster, but it was not so. Just miles after Nevada-Arizona border changed the whole thing. The first scenic stop was amazing and next and the next, only to find out that it was getting dark. No regrets because it was once in a lifetime experience.

It was unfortunate with my passengers that they did not have a choice since they were not driving. We had to stop at every scenic stop along the way en route to Sedona. Well, I guess it also benefited my passengers so that they can take their obligatory shots and selfies for Facebook. As for my shots, I still have no idea when I can post them or even get to them.

Case and point, I am just posting this after months of taking them. Don’t get me wrong I still love to take pictures but I guess it is the work that takes most of my time. I need to get back to when I was feeling naked if I did not have my camera with me.

Back on this topic, the drive was not boring and if all the roads that I will be traveling on will be the same then I would not mind at all. What caught my attention along the way aside from the view was a young black girl carrying something on her back on the far right side of the highway. I did not know where she came from or where she’s going since there were no houses or towns that I can see for miles. Or was it just a mirage, may be my mind was playing tricks on me like some scene in a Western movie.

More to come about Sedona trip, for now click here for the first day of our Arizona trip.

 

hoover dam

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

It was hot when we got there, what can you expect in the desert. Surprisingly better than the summer wether in Philadelphia, I would take the 100 + degrees in Nevada over 90 + degrees in Philadelphia. I guess it was all about humidity.

This was my second time to visit Nevada but my first time to this modern marvel, the Hoover Dam. I just cannot imagine the engineering accomplishment as well as people’s hardwork in building such a structure. I have to admit that being there was an experience.

Of course, this involved a lot of walking and drinking lots of fluids. I did not take a lot of pictures not because it was noon time but I just like the walk and appreciate this structure, not to mention that there were a lot of people, excuses excuses.

Overlooking Hoover Dam was the Mermorial Highway bridge as you can see from the picture. You need to do a hike to get to the bridge and oh boy it’s vibrating when you are walking on the bridge. Unfortunately, due to my fear of heights that I wan not able to take the best position for the perfect Hoover Dam shot. Click here to see the gallery.

However, what stood the most was the story about the “Dam Dog”. There was a dog that strayed at the work site and the workers adopted him. The dog accompanied them at work and went home with them as well. Each day on their way to work, the dog carried his own food in a brown bag.  Unfortunately, the dog was run over by a truck. The dog was taking a rest under the truck for some shade and the driver did not notice. The dog was buried at the site and was given his own memorial at the Hoover Dam.

las vegas again

paris in vegasMy second trip to Las Vegas. We were only supposed to go to Sedona, AZ, however, my wife squeezed the points left for this year for a three night stay at Polo Towers. This location was better than Acapulco Resort because this was in the strip (just behind Planet Hollywood).

We rented a Kia Sedona at the airport and drove to Goldilocks for a late lunch. I thought we ordered so much food for 6 people. I would recommend the “crispy dinuguan” whenever you get a chance to get to Las Vegas and eat at Goldilocks. After our huge lunch we drove to our condominium, it was two adjacent rooms good for 8 people and full kitchen. We were on the 10th floor but not a good view since our balcony was facing the parking lot.

We settled in our rooms to get some rest before we pounded the strip. Did not have have to drive the rented car since we are on the strip. We walked from Planet Hollywood up to the LINQ (of course the obligatory pictures along the way). They have an attraction near the LINQ called “The High Roller”. It is like the “Eye of London”. Being afraid of heights that I am, I still went to ride it ($32 per person) and you don’t feel it move but you can see that you are slowly going up and over. Other people can ride on cabin with open bar for $50, I think. The ride is about half an hour long.

Since my company are tired, we took the mono rail for $5 per head. We are about 3 stops away but need to still walk to get back to our condominium. We called it a night since we have an obligatory time share meeting the next day.

longwood garden (winter 2015)

 

yellow flower macro

It has been months since I visited this website, funny thing, this is my website. I really thought that I would be able to put stuff up in here about photos I took and write up a little something, but it was easier said than done.

The picture above and the pictures in the gallery link were taken last year at Longwood Garden. We took my mother-in-law and her grandson to this garden last year when they arrived from the Philippines. It was my first time in a long time that I held my Sony A900.

Aside from the camera, I brought with me a monopod, an off-camera flash, and wireless trigger (forgot that I only took the lens that was on my camera at that time – 100 mm f/2.8 macro lens). I took obligatory shots of people I was with at that time. However, I was on my own most of the time and was taking pictures of anything that interested me. I hoped that I had brought my tripod with me to get tack sharp macro pictures of flowers and plants.

I only hope that after a long time of my hiatus that I can still take good pictures. I also hope that I will pick up my camera more often and practice more. I have heard that to be good at something, you need to do it a lot (say invest 10,000 hours).

I miss going to Gloucester County Photography Club, the people there are awesome. One of these days, I will stop by and pay them a visit to get motivated and boost to pick up my gear and just shoot.

williamsburg 2015

jamestown port

jamestown port

We went back to Williamsburg, VA again this year. The plan was to go to Massanutten Resort but I forgot to reserve. Apparently, I need 30 day notice to use my fixed time share. That policy was crap, when you have a fixed week that should be fixed whether you use it or not or traded it which should show up in their system. If it’s floating then that’s a different story. Sad to say I just forfeited our fixed week stay and my kids were looking forward to go back after more than five years.

It was a good thing that Diamond Resort, who was the new owner of Powhatan Plantation resort at Williamsburg, had an availability. I used up our points which was expiring this year for this vacation.

We have been to Williamsburg, Virginia several times in the past 10 years and stayed at the same resort. This resort to my opinion was situated in a perfect spot. It’s close to a church and it’s close to all the historical sites: Williamsburg; Jamestown; and Yorktown. If you want to go to the beach then Virginia beach is just an hour drive not considering traffic. Powhatan Plantation was also close to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.

After spending a few days visiting the historical sites, my wife and daughter wanted to go to Virginia beach. We visited Air and Space Museum at Hampton on our way to the beach but decided just to look in Hampton for beach instead of driving through traffic to Virginia Beach. We found one and it was very quiet and my wife and daughter swore that it was good, less crowd and the beach was awesome and it was close the parking.

Another common thing we always do in Williamsburg was to dine at “The Cheese Shop“. This is a nice store where you can order sandwiches and enjoy it inside the store or outside. I recommend this place. I tried different sandwiches every time we visited and sampled the local beer as well.

Click on the picture above to see the rest of my pictures I took.

ocean city 2014

boogie board

boogie board

The Alliance of the Two Hearts prayer group at Infant Jesus Parish usually plan beach outing each summer and this year we went back to Ocean City, NJ. The beach was just an hour away from us not to mention this seemed better than Wildwood. The group went to beach after we came back from Dominican Republic, which was great because we got to join them, coming from me who disliked the ocean or the sea. I guess, my reason going to the beach was my family first and then I got to relax and enjoy people watching.

We got to the beach early to get cheaper parking and to get a prime spot on the beach. We put up our umbrellas and tables, yes tables, for our food. If you could have seen our group carrying coolers and other stuff one would think that we were going tailgating.  The beach was not crowded when we got there but it did not take long. Click here or just click the picture above to see other photos.

 

punta cana DR day 5 vacation

sunrise at punta cana

sunrise at punta cana

Our last day in Grand Palladium at Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, had come to an end. It was a nice vacation, it was not long and it was not short either. It was just right. Yes we were going to miss the open bar and the smorgasbord but we had to go back to our daily grind and start saving for the next vacation.

Since we had packed most of the stuff the night before, they had time to go to the beach one last time and enjoy. I still did not swim and all I did was just to be their personal photographer. I enjoyed the sunrise and the nice cool weather.

After the swim, we headed back to our rooms and gotten ready to checkout. But before we checked out we went for breakfast one last time, picked up our luggages and settled everything at the front desk. We waited at the lobby for our shuttle ride back to the airport.

Goodbye Dominican Republic, it was a great time and we hope to be back soon. Click the picture above or just click here to see other pictures.

punta cana DR day 4 vacation

zip line

zip line

Our last full day at Grand Palladium Punta Cana in Dominican Republic. It was a busy day for us, zip lines in the morning then spa in the afternoon.

After breakfast we had to travel about an hour and a half to Anamuya Mountain where the zip line adventure was located. The travel was okay except for the last half an hour because the mountain road was not exactly a paved road. It was a bumpy ride. Our guide was so informative by sharing things about Dominican Republic. He said that they have the largest gold deposit in the world. Their share the island with Haiti. The gasoline price is outrageously high and they use motorcycles as some sort of taxi. They have rolling blackouts except for tourist spots and they use bottled water for drinking and cooking and rain water for everything else. You will see tanks on top of their houses for collecting rain.

The zip line adventure was awesome. There were 12 stages and the crew were so helpful, they even rigged my goPro to my helmet. However, the videos did not come out the way I want them because instead of pointing level or down it was pointing upwards, bummer. You can click the zip line adventure to check out their website and additional information.

When we got back to the resort, the girls have a spa schedule while mine was still 7PM for a massage. But I had a duty to reserve for the elusive Japanese restaurant. I chilled in the room and decided to stop by the restaurant by 530 PM. When I got there, there was a great number of people in line. I was able to reserve for 830 PM dinner. Went back to the room to get change for dinner but need to stop by the spa for my massage.

We had dinner at the Japanese restaurant, hibachi style, and it was actually a let down. It was not even close to what we were accustomed to back in the States. I really could not tell why it’s always booked every night.

After dinner, we went to lounge in the lobby and had a couple of drinks before heading back to start packing up and sleep. Click the pictures above or just click here to see other pictures.

 

punta cana DR day 3 vacation

stingray bay punta cana

stingray bay punta cana

The scheduled activities for that day was swimming with the sharks and snorkeling in the afternoon. That morning we were free to do anything after breakfast and I suggested to rent a speed boat as was suggested yesterday. We went to the beach to rent a speed boat, it was $100 for two hours, and we needed two. However, we were not told to make reservation, hence, we were not able to do so.

Why the heck did I suggest the banana boat instead? What was I thinking, I don’t like the water because I cannot swim. Minutes after into the banana boat ride, the guy running the boat made a quick turn then the banana boat being pulled by the boat tilted and down we went. We were all wearing a life vest but mine was a tad bigger and I thought i was still sinking. Panic set in and I was so afraid. The guy did not even know that we were already in the water. Got back to the boat and my wife, daughter and sister-in-law decided to go back again to the banana boat and I stayed in the boat. Again, minutes later the guy did the same mistake again and they all fell in. I decided to just go back to the shore and ended the ride.

That afternoon, we went to go swimming with the sharks but I told them that I will not join them snorkeling nor swimming with the sharks. We boarded the party boat and brought us in the middle of the ocean where they have this huge fenced in structure where they kept nurse sharks as well as sting rays. I only went to touch the sting rays and went into the water (it was just shallow). The belly of the sting ray was so smooth and slippery and it was the direct opposite of its top part which was rough (like sand paper). They went to another tank where they can snorkel while the sharks swim under them. I was just taking video of them  as well as submerging the goPro to get a look at the sharks.

Before the party boat went back to the shore, we stopped in the middle of the ocean and most of the people were led back to the open sea to snorkel. Then afterwards, the crew host announced it was an open bar and gave us some food to snack on. They opened up this big bottle of Mamajuana for us to taste. It was a mixture of rum, wine and honey, and it was strong. They claimed that it’s some sort of aphrodisiac. There were a lot of dancing while going back to the dock.

Click the picture above or just click here to see pictures taken during that day.

punta cana DR day 2 vacation

macao public beach

macao public beach

The second day was our first full day at the resort. I needed to give my resort voucher to the manager which I had to contact my travel agent. She was kind enough to email all the things I needed: the voucher for the resort and the voucher for the shuttle transportation from/to the airport. Went to the front desk after breakfast and sorted everything out.

We also talked to a travel agent at the lobby for other things we may want to do outside the resort. My wife and sister-in-law booked us for an adventure buggy ride that same day, swimming with sharks and snorkeling the following day, zip lining the next and for the last day a spa.

While waiting for the adventure buggy, they spent their time at the resort beach and used the kayak (included with the resort stay). After their kayak, they spent more time swimming and I just enjoyed my mojito strolling along the beach. If you want to save a lot of money, all you need to do is stay in the resort and avail of all that is included. All food, all drinks and all shows. Well you can eat the whole day and get drunk from sunrise to sunset if that’s what you want.

We ate lunch and grabbed some take out just in case we get hungry doing the adventure buggy. We got picked up outside the main lobby and we went out the resort and picked up several more people from other resorts nearby and we drove for half an hour. This was a case of getting something different from what was pictured or even stated by the travel agent. The buggy we used were not as great as in the picture, we thought we were able to get a decent buggy and drive it along the beach but no. We got to drive a crappy buggy and drove it along the DR public roads. Our first stop was the public beach called Macao. The beach was gorgeous, better than our resort beach. We parked the buggies and got to spend half an hour there, most of them swam. Then the next stop was the tobacco and chocolate plantation, we got to listen to a presentation then purchase some of their products. Then the last stop was to their self proclaimed best attraction, the underground river. This was a photo opportunity because they took pictures of you while you dove into the water which was dark and cold. Then we head back to where we started and board our shuttle back to our respective resorts.

We then prepared ourselves for dinner and it was an experience. There were buffet restaurants that you just need to walk-in while there were other restaurants that were sit-down, where you need reservations. The reservation was tricky, you needed to fall in line around 5:30 PM at a restaurant you wanted to dine in to get reservation. If the restaurant was popular then you need to be there earlier otherwise you will be fine.

We were unlucky to get seated at a Japanese restaurant hibachi style, it was one of the popular restaurant there. We just got lucky to dine in at a Greek restaurant, all of us in our group agreed that the only dish worth eating was the ceviche.

After dinner we went to the resort main lobby to listen to music and grabbed a few drinks before calling it a night. Click the picture above or click here to see other pictures. All the pictures were shot using GoPro Hero +.