Don’t Juneau? July 4, 2019

It’s the 4th of July and another town to visit – but first a scenic cruise through the Tracy Arm. I had talked to the boat guide before today and she had recommended getting up early to go sit on the deck and watch for wildlife.

I was up at 6am and out by 620 to claim a spot on the deck and grab a blanket (note: normally on decks they have “towel” areas – on this cruise they were blankets instead!). There werent many people on the deck so I did a few laps and then hunkered down. Shortly after I settled along a railing Julie came to hang. We went to an early breakfast to fill our staomaches before the scenic cruise really got underway. I found caramel rolls this day – and Julie found crab cake benefits – from now forward we believed “We are living our best lives.”

We sat under blankets on sun chairs to stay warm during the cruise. Shortly after we got back Becca joined us under more blankets and we just enjoyed the view and some small talk. Becca ended up treating us to some hot cocoa in these smoke stack mugs!

After the scenic cruise we went up to play trivia again. Of course we didnt win – but we had fun and a small gang of us had started to show up for each trivia event. After trivia we got the gang together for lunch. Julia believes she is getting a cold so she ended up sleeping all morning but joined us to fill her belly!

After our group lunch (we are now over 7 for the usual gang) we all went to get ready to get off the ship for the afternoon. Julia went back to bed and I got on my shoes – packed a full bottle of water and headed out. I didnt really have an agenda – but so many people were going on excursions I just wanted to go see the town.

I typed “hike” into google and found a peak called Mt. Roberts with a hike to the top. You can take a gondola to the top – but I opted to hike it….Im not quite sure what I was thinking.

It was about a 35 m inute walk from the boat to the trailhead through town. Most of the walk was up hill – luckily it was gradual. When I got to the trailhead there were a few people in cars who were getting ready to climb as well. I let them all pass me, they looked serious about this hike and that should have been my first sign.

I set off and the woods were just beautiful. However, after about 5 minutes I realized that even though it looked beautiful I was in for it. The amount of flies attacking me lead me to believe I was smelly and the hike just kept getting progressively harder. Google feedback had said it was about a 45 minute walk up – ALL LIES!! It ended up taking me about 1.5 hours. Slow and steady though! I was so darn thirsty. I had a full 32oz water bottle but stopping let the flies attack more easily so I just trekked along .

I had originally thought I would walk back down – and I would have if the flies werent attacking! I had finally made it to the top – came up the backside of the building of the gondola! I was very happy to see this building. I went inside the building to buy a ticket down, but ended up sitting down and drinking some water first. The ticket down was $10 OR you could spend $10 in the shop and get down for free – so of course, I spent $10.

The easy way down

I met a handful of cruise passengers from Olivia on the gondola down – we are everywhere! I had texted Julia to meet me so we could walk the town and she could get the millions of postcards needed to fulfill her list of people to send them to. After we acquired said postcards we headed back to the boat to relax before dinner.

She got off the boat!

Our group all got back together at 8pm for dinner. Some were late because their tours went late. I was pretty happy with this meal today – french onion soup!! Im pretty sure we all ended up crashing after dinner – it was a long exhausting day for all of us!

Ketchican, if you can: July 3, 2019

This our first stop since we left Seattle. Julia hadnt slept well so she was out on her own when I got up. I got ready and got off the boat. Here is where I met up with Becca (we met her on the first day) and her roommate. Everyone else in our group was doing excursions.

The town of Ketchican is super cute. The downtown area is quaint but completely supported by tourism. In fact, many of the tourist shops close down during the winter months. The town has about 3,000 people in the summer – about 1,400 during the winter (I should point out, these numbers change depending upon who you talk to). The cruise ships can bring up to 14,000 additional people during the port days.

Becca and I wandered around town checking out all the little shops. We found a little tram that takes you up to the top of a small mountain about the town. there is a restaurant and hotel at the top, along with a gift shop. After we checked out the top we ended up meeting up with some other cruise mates.

We all grouped together and continued to follow the elevated walk around town over the stream. We made it to the salmon ladder and I texted Julia to see if she wanted to join us for lunch. I ended up leaving the group to go back and get Julia at the ship. The two of us added Gina to our group and walked back to the larger group so we could all go get lunch together. We found a seafood place to sit and eat and chat. Of course I had to get crab legs – because when in ALASKA!!

We ate lunch and then continued to shop on our way back to the boat. Some of us just went back to the ship to hang out and the rest of us had to keep shopping – because we are tourists afterall!!

I decided to go get my cousin a Harley Davidson poker chip. He collects them from all the places he has been – but I feel like a little baby HD store in a little bitty town deserves a chip!

There was a card game meet up so Julia and Becky (who we met last night and I went to play. We played with about 5 people – playing UNO and SkipBo.

We headed from cards to a scavenger hunt. I was separated from all my friends – but man did I have a good time! We ended up winning! I love scavenger hunts!!

After the scavenger hunt we went to this Gen-O meet-up. Gen-O is what Olivia calls anyone under 40. It was just a get to know you meet-up – but we met some cool new people. There arent as many Gen-O ladies as over 40s – but everyone here is just so welcoming it doesnt even matter!!

Our group at this point became: Jess, Julia, Becky, and myself. We all went to this “fashion show” for Haute Butch – a female owned butch clothing company. We all left after the fashion show and went to play cards while we waited for dinner.

The rest of our group ended up meeting up with use for dinner (Julie, Becca, Lori, and Gina). After our usual dinner laughs some of us headed to karaoke – it was funny – but nothing really to write home about. Following karaoke – it was bedtime!

At Sea, not so sick: July 2, 2019

Julia and I woke up early (Ok, not that early, but it felt early because we were so tired) to play BINGO!! We were both losers but it was fun! I love BINGO!! I guess the usual Olivia trip goers are used to pajama BINGO – so some came dressed in pjs…..turns out that was later in the week.

After our losing BINGO session, I grabbed my book to go read and Julia went to do her own thing. The Olivia company was hosting a “See where we are going next” event and I decided to go see what that was all about. They were offering 2-for-1 give aways and of course I didnt win anything – but their upcoming trips looks pretty neat.

I decided to head to Trivia early so I could get a bit of reading in. Trivia is the thing I was most excited about on this trip. I played with all different people – a group that never ended up playing together again.

The women’s World Cup was on at noon and it was up in the air on whether the boat could get it until about an hour before the match was supposed to start. (I feel like this was the biggest drama on the boat!) I really wanted to watch the game, but I decided to watch it in the room. So Julia and I headed to the room so she could nap and I could watch the game. I ended up falling asleep with about 20 minutes left of the game. Luckily they WON!

After our wonderful nap Julia and I parted ways again. She went to color and I went to read again. I choose to read in a window seat. Looking out at the vast water you realize how little you really are compared to the ocean.

Reading off the back of the boat

Today was formal night; for many that meant getting dressed up and going to dinner. For me that just meat going to dinner. Julia and I headed to dinner to join our friends in the restaurant. I think there were like 7 of us tonight.

After dinner we all headed to the Crow’s nest for a dance party. We grabbed a corner spot and set up shop. We ended up playing cards for a while. Julie taught us euchre (a very mid-west card game) – but none of us really caught on enough to keep going.

Julie and I called it quits not long after 11pm – everyone else stayed to dance and hang out.

Our little stingray!

Muster Point 6: July 1, 2019

Today my friend Julia and I headed out of Sacramento on an early flight to Seattle to catch our cruise – heading to Alaska!!

Our day started early – we grabbed a LYFT around 4am. Once we had checked our bags at the airport, we breezed through TSA with plenty of time to wait at the gate. It was a very easy morning. Could this be the calm before the storm? Or will this trip really be a breeze?

Once in Seattle we grabbed our luggage and headed to the LYFT pick up spot in the parking garage.

Our LYFT picked us up and we headed to the city to have breakfast. I had looked up places on the way to Pier 91 where our boat was launching from. I settle on a place called 5 Spot. Their menu looked pretty good.

Turns out they are an ethical restaurant who does good things! Some of their menu items have a donation that go with them: Order plate A and 5 Spot will donate $1 to a charity.

We both settled on an egg dish, but then of course had to have the sweets: beniets and  cinnamon rolls!! The beniets were so good!! The cinnamon roll was not. I sent it back, and even the second time it wasn’t good. Hard as a rock. I love cinnamon rolls – they hold a special place in my heart from when I was young going to Saturday breakfast with my dad and grandma at the Fryin Pan in Fargo, ND.

After our breakfast we headed to safeway about 5 blocks away to get some candy!! From there we snagged another LYFT and headed to the boat early.

Our cruise is on the Holland America’s ms Amsterdam, however the whole boat was taken over by about 1,300 LESBIANS through the Olivia Travel company. We arrived before boarding so we checked in and hung out in the check-in building. About 30 minutes in I realized many of the people on the boat would be older than Julia and myself. I was actually really excited about that – the older groups tend to be ones I can relate to more.

Photo Credit: Julie A. Booher
Photo Credit: Gina Teddone

After about an hour we boarded, found our room, got settled in and were hanging out in the room to take a nap! After nap time, it was time to Muster!! this is when you have to go to your life boat station (normally with your life vest) so you know where to go in an emergency. Unlucky for me, I only took Instagram videos that disappear after an hour, so I have no shots for this….So Im stealing….

We headed out to the Lido deck for a sail away party.  The moment the boat took off from the pier I got queasy. Like, seconds. Luckily I had my patches and ginger snaps (thank you Mark!!) to get me through. I was super prepared for all the sea sickness I was expecting. I brought eastern medicine patches and Dramamine as well!! I really don’t want to get sick on this trip.

After the party, no actually I started feeling queasy, Julia and I headed down to the room to nap. (I know, party poopers, but we were so tired). When we woke up from our nap it was time to go to the Solos introduction meeting. The Solos are a group of people who are single OR traveling single. It lets everyone be part of a group – even if you came along. The first two people we met were Lori and Julie – how crazy right? Lori was sitting across from me and Julie was sitting across from Julia!! We also met Becca right around the same time. Little did we know, these would become our people.

After that Julia and I headed to the Spa because they were going to be raffling off gift certificates. The lady in charge says she loved us so much she offered us even more!! I volunteered to pick a ticket – and guess what?? I picked Julia’s!! Not many people figured out that I had picked hers – later on I think they did. (Sadly this gift certificate never got used – it was only usable during dock time, but we didnt realize that until it was too late).

Julia and I went to find food before going to a comedy show with Vicki Shaw. We discovered the Lido deck and it has pools, hot tubs and a buffet line. Most of the day the buffet line is open – things to note when traveling on a cruise ship! I ended up having pretty bland food to avoid upsetting my stomach (mash potatoes and mac n chz!!).

After dinner we headed to the show and sat in the Solos section. I found Vicki very funny, she managed to make a terrible horrible disease (Alzheimer’s) have some humor. It was a great fire night option. We were both really tired after and headed to bed early. I slept so well I could have kept sleeping – for much longer than I did!

Is my love for traveling increasing Global Warming?

I was talking with a friend for a brief minute yesterday, explaining how many of my flights have been delayed or canceled in the last week – and he said – “Oh, well thats climate change!” And thats when it hit me – I do so much to reduce my single use plastics, I recycle every last thing I can – BUT I fly, more than the average person. And guess what Google told me? Aviation travel accounts for up to 3.5% of carbon emissions world wide – well POOEY!! I LOVE to fly. I love to see the world and broaden my horizons.

I continued to research via my handy dandy Google search bar and discovered Im not the only person feeling this way and in fact the top 4 results were all written in the last 7 months – and that is almost proving my “Im not alone” theory. What I also thought about is “What the heck is the airline industry doing about this?” I can tell you for sure – not a whole lot!

If you look at their day to day activities – much of what they use on planes is single use plastic – the cups, the silverware, the little bags all that stuff is in, the plastic from the blankets, the plastic coated documents in the seat back, etc. Sadly, that isnt all. They also (maybe not Southwest?) reward you for taking the LONG way when it comes to getting status. Thats right, instead of trying to get people from point A to point B without waste – you are rewarded for the amount of segments you take and the amount of miles you fly. (And then most of the airlines now require you to spend a certain amount of money as well)

What if they changed something? What if they rewarded you for taking direct flights? And penalized you for taking a layover. I am often willing to take a layover because it means I get more segments and more miles because of the random place I have to stop. If American said “If you fly direct you will get a 25% bonus,” that to me would be worth the extra dollars it cost me to go direct. I mean, lets be real, if I hated that I could always book one way tickets to get around that – but it would cost me a WHOLE LOT more money. Someone could do some statistical analysis and find out that either “status” grabbers are booking layovers to get or keep status OR that it has no effect at all; but my guess is that the first would ring true. Many of my friends go for mileage runs, that now (depending on who they are trying to get status with) includes segment runs as well.

While the airlines are doing that – you would think that they could stop being so damn cheap with their baggage fees and fee based food systems and switch completely to canned only drinks (Southwest uses canned water). Removing the plastic cups from circulation would provide so much less waste. And “you can recycle plastic cups” is NOT the same as recycling aluminum. Aluminum can be made into cans a million times – plastic not so much. It doesnt break down and it doesnt recycle the same way that metals do.

So this little no named traveler is challenging the airlines to come up with something better. Do better. Be better. Challenge us to do better. We can do better!!

Other articles:

https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/1/11/18177118/airlines-climate-change-emissions-travel

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019/jan/26/why-i-only-take-one-holiday-flight-a-year-climate-change

What Im all about…

Lets be real. If you read blogs or follow traveler accounts on Instagram or Facebook – you dream of living your life through them. You want the followers they have, the experiences they have – but, you are a real world human who has to go to work on Monday morning. I am that person too.

I work hard and spend my money on traveling and seeing the world. I am often asked by friends if I can help them plan a trip or how I save the money to be able to do this. Honestly, its not an easy going thing – but I enjoy every minute of it. I love helping others plan trips, find deals, ideas for what to see, and how much it is all going to cost.

What I have learned about planning a trip, funding a trip and enjoying are trip are all found here on my blog. I share valuable tips to make your trips more exciting and less work – and unforgettable. Below you will see me having fun, laughing, taking in beautiful views – world wide! I am a real human! Im not financed by some company looking to sell items – if I promote it, I use it.

How can I help you?

Are you looking to travel? Do you need some tips? Dont know what to do next? Reach out! I am here for you – I am NOT kidding – I love traveling! I get excited FOR YOU, when I know you are planning or thinking about traveling to somewhere new. Dont worry, Im not going to charge you, in fact, Im not going to do anything other than share with you what I would do if I were in your position.

No such thing as dumb questions – and Im not looking to get rich off of this. Traveling is the reason I work so hard and I love every part of it (TSA and all!) I hope I can inspire you to adventure out (even if its just to another state or city!)

Dont forget to follow the Instagram and Facebook page for even more travel tips!

Money, Money, Money

Cash/Debit

As an inexperienced traveler – my dad helped me order Euro before I left on my first international trip. I thought – this is great, I have what I need to get by on this trip. I thought € 200 was the perfect amount of money for a month long trip in Greece and Turkey. Little did I know – my trip wasnt that cheap at all – AND I had overpaid for my Euro.

So what did I learn for the next trip? Well I didnt really. I decided against getting Euros before I left – and opted to get money at the airport. That seemed reasonable!! However, it wasnt and still isnt. I watched my classmates exchange USD for the Euro at the bank. While it offers a “Zero Fee” explanation – you get the worst exchange rate. But they get you – that “Zero Fee” gets everyone! I opted for the ATM near the exchange bank. Also – not a great idea – I paid a whole lot in fees! The international transaction fee from my bank at 3%, plus the ATM fee levied by my bank at $4, plus the ATM fee levied by the ATM at ~$3.50. All of that for $100. Needless to say – I was over that.

After my trials I decided to figure out the best way to get cash in a foreign country. Step 1: Get yourself a good bank! I ended up choose Charles Schwab. Charles Schwab offers ZERO international transaction fees. Most banks (Chase, Wells Fargo, local banks, etc) have a 1-3% international transaction fees on EACH and every transaction used with that card. If you use your regular bank – be ready to pay fees. Doesnt seem like much, but they all add up – and 3% is just mean! Using your regular bank is an option, you should first call the bank and let them know you are traveling internationally so they dont shut the card off on an assumption of fraud or theft.

if you need cash – get enough to make it worth your while. You will be paying the international transaction fee and an ATM fee. So taking out $10 could cost you $3.90 with ATM fees and transaction fees. If you want cash I recommend taking enough out for you to buy trinkets and snacks with for the time you will be using that currency. Say you are going to be in Paris, Rome and Munich for a week – then flying to London to end your trip for a few days. A week in those three countries (all on the Euro), I would recommend about € 200 for your snacks and trinkets. Some places only take cash (think side of the road trinkets) and small museums sometimes only take cash as well. That € 200 would only cost you about $10 in fees (transaction and ATM).

The final piece of advise on the debit card/ATM front? Cover your pin. This is actually the most common way of theft – a pick pocket will watch you and catch your pin, then steal your card from your pocket or wallet. Every ATM will instruct you to cover your pin, many now have a cover over the numbers to make it more difficult to have someone catch your pin being entered. If you are really worried about your cards/wallet getting stolen, I would recommend one of these: RFID travel money belt. Keeps your money safe under your shirt at belt level. You can also use it to hold your passport (though I would recommend the hotel safe for that.)

credit cards

The most important thing to remember is in industrialized countries – is that their security on using credit and debit cards is actually better than the US. So, dont panic using a debit or credit card at a small restaurant or shop. Over a DECADE ago, Europe (and actually most of the rest of the industrialized world) switched over to the chip. Ya know the fancy little chip that causes you to stick your card into the machine and have it yell at you to take it out? Yeah, that one.

So use your credit card (with ZERO fees) with the chip and your debit card with the chip and feel pretty safe doing so. If you are hesitant, use your bank app to verify your transactions – but in all my international travels, Ive never been hacked or had my information stolen – that has only happened in the US.

PARIS! And France….no underpants

Well I don’t actually know when I left off, so I’ll start with my train trip. Since I was able to change my ticket, I was a little nervous I would be with hoodlums, since I was leaving that night, but instead I was with 2 Koreans, a mom and daughter, the extent of their English was ‘ok’ and ‘thank you’. The mom was so funny, she wanted to be on the top bunk, but that wasn’t her bed number, but she really didn’t care, so she slept on the other top bunk, but at some point she left and went down to the bottom bunk, but in the morning woke up across from me again!! She was funny.

I found my hostel ok, Tara found this one for me, and she did good. Its a 5 minute walk from Notre Dame and the metro is one street over. This hostel has a 2am cuefew and no outside alcohol is allowed. I dropped my stuff off, but check in wasn’t until 4 so I headed out to site see. I walked to Notre Dame, went to the top and had a nice view. The church itself was free, the climb was like 4€. I like Paris because if you are under 25 you get a discount. After Notre Dame I got another bus tour, this one is the most expensive, but you get 4 different routes and it is actually pretty good. I rode one tour, then the classic tour. I got off at the Eiffel Tower and took a nap in the surrounding park. I really enjoyed my nap, and felt like a local!!

I headed back to the hostel to check in and get settled. I got settled, met my roomie from London who is going to school here, and was too early to check into student housing so she was staying at the hostel until Sunday. I went down to the street to get some food, and there are like 500 restaurants within walking distance. I picked one with a ‘full meal menu.’. I got french onion soup (it was so hot, it took 15 minutes before I could even eat it!! But it was very good!! I got salmon for my main course and thought it would be a tiny piece–but NO! This was a beautiful piece of salmon, potatoes, green beans and a tiny bit of pasta!! It was the best salmon I’ve ever had!! For dessert I got black currant sorbet–yummy!! What a great dinner–after my baguette and brie lunch, this was stupendous!!

After dinner I headed to l’tour Eiffel to take night pictures (non of which are very good). The tower sparkles every hour on the hour, and when I got off the metro it was already sparkling, so I only got about 3 minutes of shooting time. But it was a beautiful blue, and on one side has the EU stars, it looks cool!! I decided I wanted to climb the steps. (Apparently 700 some, but that must be all the way to the top, because I didn’t climb that many). I made the climb to the 2nd level, the farthest they let you walk, and wanted to go all the way to the top–but the top was closed. Apparently the top closed 2 hours before the rest of the tower. It was a cool site and worth the climb. I’m going back tonight to take more pictures!!

I got a tour of the D-day beachs for Monday–it goes from 7am to 9pm!! Goodness I’m going to be tired, I have to get up at 615!!

I got back around midnight and took a much needed shower. I had set all my stuff out so I wouldn’t make too much noise for my roomie, and she had left the bathroom light on for me! I passed out hard and slept until 930.

Today I slept through breakfast, so I was going to go to the supermarket right next to the hostel, but its sunday, and they are closed. So I went to a cafe across the steet and got a nutella panini instead 🙂 healthy, I know, but it wa so perfect!!

I grabbed my stuff and headed out for the day. So far I have been to the Louvre (I didn’t go in, because its way expensive and I only wanted to see the Mona Lisa and my roomie said if that’s all I wanted to see its not worth it) and climbed the Arc d’triumph and now I’m going to the Sacre Coeur (sacred heart church) for Heidi.

Haven’t had lunch yet, its 230 and I’m starving! Just can’t figure out what I want!! 

Next day….

Today I got up extra early, 615, to head to Normandy on a tour. We boarded the bus and headed out around 715. The bus ride was about 3 hours long, and our tour guide talked for 10 minutes and then said ‘now go back to bed!’. We were about 30 minutes from Caen and the Peace Museum, and she started talking again, filling us in on the history of the war and what the day was going to be like.We had about an hour in the museum, then a 40 minute video, and then lunch. The museum was neat, lots of artifacts and a tank and a few Jeeps. The videos were cool. One was a split screen, one side was the Allies one side was German. And it was just the video footage of the same things, happening from both sides. The other video wasn’t as good, it was computer graphics and then photos of how the Ally forces took over France.There was a September 11th exhibition in the museum and I wanted to see it, so I ate my lunch (chicken, potato and salad) quickly then headed to the exhibit. It was very neat, they had pieces of the planes, the buildings, personal items, etc. They put it together very well, but unfortunately I ran out of time, so I didn’t get to read everything, so I took pictures of stuff, and their descriptions and booked it to the bus!! I made it there just in time!!We then headed to Omaha beach. That was weird. They left it just like it was, so there are huge bomb craters and huge pieces of cement everywhere (from the German bunkers and stuff). You could tell where a huge piece of cement was thrown like 10 feet!! Crazy!! After Omaha, we went to the American cemetery. Its white crosses and stars of David and green grass forever! The upkeep is stupendous, and its very well respected!! I saw people’s stones from all over the US, North Dakota to Hawaii.We headed to Gold beach next. Gold beach is where the artificial port was set up in the bay. They had tons of cement blocks made to float, then anchored them into the sea bed and were able to drive on them, store oil, and supplies on there as well. Not many left, but it is clear from what’s left, this was a big port!!

We went to the Juno beach, this is where the Canadians landed. Sadly there is like nothing there, Canadian flags is it. Otherwise, it just looks like every other beach!!Now we are heading back to Paris, currently sitting in LOTS of traffic!! Ekkk!! Stopping in 2 hours to get food!! But I’m hungry now :(So I slept a bit on the bus and woke up to freezing air, and my vents were off. Apparently it was time to wake up. We stopped at a little shop off the road and I got a baguette and cheese for dinner! I’m going to have french onion soup when I get back by the hostel, cuz its just soooo yummy!!We are getting close to Paris, and its getting dark which is good. I want to get pictures of the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower tonight before I leave tomorrow!!I head to Brussels tomorrow!! New country! Yeah!! That’s country number 4!

So today I visited the Louvre (not inside, just out), Notre Dame (outside), Moulin Rouge (defiantly outside, its like €150 for the show!!), Sacre Cuoer (all the millions of steps to get the the church, then the 300 to get to the top of the church, Heidi!), Arc de Triumph (all the way to the top) and the laundromat!!

I had a great day, lots of sights and lots of nice people. Moulin Rouge area is scary, well weird. Its like 4 blocks of sex shops and caberneit (sp?) Shows and by 5 pm the tourists start leaving cuz its like the red light district at night. But I had to see it, and its a main street, I didn’t think it was, I thought it was like in a back street the way people talked about it, but its right there in the middle of many buildings.

I climbed to get to the Sacre Cuoer. It was worth it. I couldn’t take pictures inside, as there was service, but its very well kept and lots of fun people outside. The climb to the top was fun, only like 300 steps (I’m going to have to find out how many steps I climbed in all of my towers by the time I’m done with this trip) and worth it. Nice view of the city.

I climbed the Arc de Triumph, cool view and I was going to go back at night, but they don’t all tripods, so it would be difficult to get a good picture. I walked the Champs-Elysses after that and discover ‘Nike Paris!’. Today is ‘The Human Race’ by nike. Cities all over the world are doing big races, but if you just ran or walked today you could register your KM and they will have a grand total soon of how far people ran. Well, they had a shirt that had all the cities and a race number (every shirt is different, up to 1,000,000) so I had to get one, because A) I walked a lot today and B) because I’ve been to 1/3 of the cities!!

I road the tour bus around to get everywhere, its nice, drops you right off in front of everything you need to see, and you get information on the stuff. I got off at the Notre Dame and walked back to my hostel around 7. I needed to do some laundry and there is a laundromat right down the way. So I got back (I have 2 new roomies) grabbed my clothes put them in the wash and went to dinner.

I had again, for the 2nd night in a row, great food. Again, onion soup (sooo good last night, ok tonight), salmon with potatoes and green beans, and a fresh fruit salad!! It was so good. And now I’m in the laundromat waiting for my stuff to dry!

Tomorrow I’m up early and off to the D-day beaches in Normandy, then taking night pictures in the evening!!

Paris has lots to see! I like being busy!! 

Madrid

Oh golly where do I start with Madrid?

Well I’ll start off by saying I don’t like it. Not any one thing in particular, but just not satisfied with the city.

When I arrived I was excited, first because it was the nicest train I have ever been on (truly like a first class plane ride!!) And second because it was a new city, and new things to explore.

I found my hostel again, no problem. Its a very popular hostel and very well orgainized. It has a bar here 😦 and the bar crawl was the only city tour they offered really!! As soon as I heard that I knew that there wouldn’t be much to do.

But I thought positive and headed to the city center to see what there was to see. And again, disappointment. Algonquin has a bigger ‘city center’ than Madrid. I decided to do the bus tour of Madrid in hopes of finding something to see. I road the bus for one whole loop of the ‘red-old madrid’ line. Then I hopped off and got some dinner, a pizza at a nice little place in the ‘center’ of town. After that I hopped onto the ‘blue-new madrid’ line. And road that around for a while. There was a bike rally, like bicycle, through town, it was pretty fun to watch. It took 2 hours, and I actually didn’t see a thing! It was like a tour of Schaumburg!! What a waste!!

So what I’ve decided to do, is get up around 9, go to the train station, swap my ticket for the 30th, for tomorrow. If they won’t swap it, I’m rebuying, its not worth saving money to lose a day of Europe. My plan is to stay in Paris for 4 nights, go to Normandy one day and London another. Dad, I’m pretty sure I get a stamp for that!! That way, I have 2 half days in Paris to see the city!

Going to bed now, gotta be hard asleep by the time the drunks come back home!!

Pearl Harbor to Diamond Head

On Sunday I decided I was going to Island hop over to Oahu and check out the historical Pearl Harbor. I was able to snag an Hawaiian Air 7am flight for $29!! I also was able to grab a Southwest flight back to Maui.

My day started early, I had to take my rental car and fill it with gas before returning it for the trip. I got to the airport around 6am for the 7am flight. The airport at that hour is all inter-island hopping folks. There wasnt a single person in line at TSA when I got there, it was awesome. Made it to the gate nice and early, so early in fact that two other flights boarded and left in that hour before my flight!

The flight from Maui to Honolulu was a quick 25 minutes. On the flight they served snack-size juice or water in prepackaged containers. They immediately collected the trash and we landed.

I rented a car from National for today. Since I am Executive level with them I was able to pick any car I wanted, and selected a Mini Cooper convertible. I thought, yes, a convertible!! I kept the top up in the garage thinking I would pull over once I got out and put the top down, but when I drove out of the garage the rain started. I was so bummed. I thought “I only have this car for a few hours and its raining!”

I headed the 8 minutes to the Pearl Harbor memorial. I had read online that the tickets before 11am were first come, first serve. I got there around 820. I was excited to take my SLR camera with me and get some good shots. I put it in my backpack along with my water bottle and headed to the entrance. Security stopped everyone with any sort of bag bigger than a CD. You had to bag check everything. Sadly, because it was still raining at that point, I choose not to bring the Nikon in. I checked my bag and entered. I was handed a ticket for 845am for the movie and boat ride out to the Arizona.

I bought a poncho and the audio guide as well. The movie is a brief history of the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the movie you board a boat and head out to the Arizona. Normally you get to get off at the memorial, but due to some damage at the dock, it is currently closed. Instead, the boat moves slowly next to the wreckage heads towards the Missouri, turns and moves slowly next to it so each side of the boat can see the memorial and wreckage. They ask you to stay quiet and respect the memorial – I would say half the passengers on the boat actually remained quiet. None of them were American, so I am guessing it was a language barrier that had not been crossed to get the silence message.

After the boat ride, I continued walking through the park. So much history surrounded the location and the Naval vessels still in the harbor. I stopped and read and listened to every board of information. I headed to the bus line to head to the Missouri. You cross through the active Joint Base to get to the dock where the Missouri is currently housed. Fun fact: the Missouri is no longer owned by the US Government, instead a private non-profit owns and maintains it. You are not allowed to have cameras out on the drive from the Pearl Harbor memorial park to the Missouri.

Once at the Missouri you have a to buy a ticket in order to board the ship. It was like $30 – but that came with a 35 minute tour and historical context. I bought the ticket that also came with a discounted Bowfin ticket. I boarded the ship and waited a few minutes for the tour to start. My tour guide Jacob was a young guy, I would have guessed like 20, but turns out he was 32!! On this tour I learned that this was the last Battleship commissioned for the US Navy. It was also where WWII ended! The Japanese officially surrendered on board here!

After the Missouri I hopped back on the bus and headed back to the Pearl Harbor Memorial park. I headed over to the Bowfin submarine and was given another headset to get an audio guided tour. Touring the Bowfin really gave me some respect for Sailors. They live in some of the tightest quarters and somehow can stay sane.

After I walked off the Bowfin I headed to the museum because I heard there was a Styrofoam cup that showed what the pressure of being down 500 feet did to objects.

At this point its about 2pm and I was starving!! So I put the top down on the Mini Cooper rental car and headed over to the Spaghetti Factory! Its my favorite place. I think mostly because of the family ties and the memories of the family going to eat at the beach at the Newport Beach location every summer. I got my usual brown butter and Mizithra. I was able to enjoy my book (Becoming by Michelle Obama) and my food over the next hour.

After my lunch I went back to my car and headed to Diamond Head Park. It was only about a 20 minute drive from downtown – on the one little interstate they have. Ok, so its not that little – but why does Hawaii have an interstate? It doesnt go to another state?! I didnt do much reading up on Diamond Head – other than it could take like 45 minutes to hike up to the top. I figured it would be a good way to end the day. Another thing I read was that parking isnt free, if you want you can park on the street.

I arrived at Diamond Head and was on the driveway into the park when I noticed a spot that didnt have any signs about paying anything. I grabbed and noticed a group of people walking through the tunnel to get to the park. I left everything in the car but my wallet and headed into the park. Little did I realize I had about a half a mile walk to get to the park entrance and another quarter mile to get to the start of the hike. It cost $1 to hike – and of course – I had no singles. In fact, I only had a $100 bill. There was a sign that said “No Bills Over $20.” I thought for sure I would be turned away, but the lady manning the booth was amazing – she said since it was just me, it was fine to walk on in!! Woohoo!!

The path starts out all paved, handicap accessible. It was cool!! It doesnt last though – maybe about a mile of the hike – then it because rough travel. There are a lot of stairs and a lot of switch backs. So many stairs!! At this point I was really starting to question if this could only take 45 minutes. I had only 1.5 hours for the whole thing or I could miss my flight back to Maui. I continued to the hike (like really hiking up, via stairs but lots of them!) I had to stop and take a break at the lookout – ya know a rest with a view!!

I headed back onto the trail and continued to the hit the stairs. Im not sure I can say this enough but SO.MANY.STAIRS. When I got to the top of the hike, there was a wonderful breeze and a beautiful view!! And…..it only took me 38 minutes!! Seemed longer, but only 38!! I took in the views, enjoyed the breeze, snagged some selfies and headed back down.

I got to the bottom in 18 minutes! And I wasnt even trying – but going down stairs is less stressful on the lungs! I was able to get back to my car and head to the airport. Because the hike was so quick, I was early to the airport. My flight was at 730pm and I got to the airport around 615. I was flying Southwest back – and it was their inagural day of flights from Honolulu to Maui. We didnt get anything special – but the earlier flights of the day did. I enjoyed my 20 minute flight with my little cup of sealed water and pretzels.

Empty Southwest Lounge – there were only about 20 of us on the flight!

I grabbed an Uber when I got back to Maui and headed to the hotel. My Uber drive was great – gave me coupons for the Aquarium that I gave my cousins and a coupon for a restaurant – we didnt end up using, but it was the thought that counts!

It was a long, eventful day – and worth every minute of it!!