Sunday, October 16, 2016

Budapest By Night

Hello Friends and Happy Mid-October!

My big trip for 2016 just finished last week (sniff).    This was my first foray into Eastern Europe and I visited Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.    There's lots to share, including cabbage festivals, river cruising and hiking dogs, but first:  Budapest.  

Budapest, Hungary, is beautiful by day, but at night it shines.     Walking along the Danube River or enjoying one of the many evening river cruise options is a great way to see all the buildings, monuments and bridges lit up.

A few glimpses of Budapest by night

Ready to plan your trip?    

Saturday, September 17, 2016

National Parking: Cabrillo National Monument

Is it just me, or did summer fly by?

August went so fast that between two trips out of state, a week long visit from Mom and the normal business of work, that I haven't shared my most recent adventure in National Parking.  

While Mom was visiting San Diego, we fully enjoyed being tourists together.    We went to an Elvis themed Steel Beach party aboard the USS Midway, sailed in the sun on a harbor cruise, sipped margaritas and beer, and jammed out at Bluegrass Brunch.    And that was just in the first 48 hours.

Steel Beach Party

Part of our weekend of exploring was our visit to Cabrillo National Monument.    Mom and I are always on board to watch educational videos in the visitor center.    One of the most interesting facts is that there weren't any paintings or drawings of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was leading the expedition that explored San Diego Bay.       Why is that interesting?   Because there is a statue of him at the park and I'm curious who they based his likeness on  

Cabrillo NM has two main sections,   the visitor center, scenic lookout and Old Point Loma Lighthouse on the top and the tidepools at the shore.    It's an easy site to visit in 1-3 hours, depending on if you're doing any hiking or tidepool exploring or just taking in the views.    Word is you can see Pacific Gray whales during their migration from December through March, so that will be my cue to go back and visit.  

Views of the city and the bay

Looking good lighthouse!

Visiting Cabrillo National Monument?

  • The park is only open during the day
  • There are entrance fees for cars, cyclists and pedestrians
  • The Bayside Trail and Tidepools close earlier than the rest of the park

Other National Parks to Love:

Klondike Gold Rush - Seattle
Mount Rushmore - South Dakota
Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming (home of my favorite summer job)

What National Park have you visited recently?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Wisconsin Week: Frozen Custard

This week I'm celebrating the state of Wisconsin, just because I can.   
There is ice cream and there is frozen custard.    Both are delicious.
When I'm Wisconsin-bound, I like to get my custard on!

Wisconsin Week:  Frozen Custard

Wisconsin can't take the credit for creating frozen custard, but I see it there more often in WI than anywhere else.     According to Wikipedia, a shop in Coney Island was the first commercial producer back in 1919.   It made its way to the Midwest for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.  

As you may know, it's not very far from Chicago to the Wisconsin border.
And it's not that far from the border to Milwaukee.    Milwaukee totally got on board the frozen custard express.

Milwaukee has highest number of frozen custard shops per capita.  

When I fly into Milwaukee, I'm committed to supporting these custard shops.    My sister lived in Milwaukee for years and she's partial to Kopp's.  So here I am, dragging from a red-eye flight from Hawaii to Wisconsin ready to take on the world now that I have custard in hand.  


Fun facts about frozen custard:

  • Per the FDA it must contain 10% milkfat,  why do you think it tastes so rich and amazing?  
  • 1.4% egg yolk solids....if it's less than that, it's merely ice cream
  • Butterfat and egg yolk give frozen custard it's creamy and dense texture
  • Most custard shops serve vanilla, chocolate and a flavor of the day
Trivia from Wikipedia

 If you can't make it to Wisconsin....other frozen custard spots I recommend:

Have you tried frozen custard?   Do you have a go-to spot?  

Monday, August 1, 2016

Wisconsin Week: Cheese

This week I'm celebrating the state of Wisconsin, just because I can.   
The love of cheese is real.   

Wisconsin Week:  Cheese  

Wisconsin is known for it's dairy.   Cheese in particular.    For me, no visit to Wisconsin is complete without multiple servings of cheese curds.  

For many people, cheese curds may be just a thing of whispered legend.
Are they fried bar food?   
Are they served at fairs and festivals?   
Are they fresh and squeaky?  

Cheese curds are all of those things.    Cheese curds are a part of the cheese making process.   Before cheeses like cheddar are formed into blocks or wheels and aged, they start out as curds.   And yes, fresh curds squeak when you eat them.

Enhance your cheese curd knowledge at Eat Curds.   The Wisconsin milk marketing board wants YOU to know and understand the wonder of the cheese curd.  

Fun Wisconsin cheese and dairy facts to impress your friends:

  • Wisconsin has 127 cheese plants, more than any other state 
  • It takes 10 lbs of milk to make 1 lb of cheese
  • On average, each American eats 34 lbs of cheese each year (that's a LOT of cheese)
  • More than 96% of Wisconsin's dairy farms are family owned
  • Wisconsin was named America's Dairyland in 1930
  • Wisconsin is nation's largest producer of Cheddar cheese
  • The first ice cream sundae was served in Two Rivers, Wisconsin (and yes, I've been there to celebrate that fact in person)

Trivia from America's Dairyland

Wisconsin makes it very easy to get your cheese fix.   Just look for a sign.  A big sign that says CHEESE.  

If you're in southern Wisconsin near Kenosha, perhaps a visit to the Mars Cheese Castle is in order?  

And when you're up near Door County, in Algoma or Sturgeon Bay?   A visit to Renard's is a must!

Or a mouse.

Let's celebrate with some cheese!

Wisconsin Cheese Curds for the win!

Do you love cheese too?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Wisconsin Week: Green Bay Sunsets

This week I'm celebrating the state of Wisconsin, just because I can.   
The love of water, among other things, runs deep in me.   

Wisconsin Week:  Green Bay Sunsets

I love sunsets and will hop up out of my chair, walk down to the water or step out of a restaurant to go and enjoy the moment.   Yes, I am that person.  In fact, I'll be that person again in just a few days.

Wisconsin is blessed with an abundance of water, so you can have your sunset shots at your choice of rivers, lakes and streams.   For me in the past 10 years, my favorite shots have been in Door County of the sun setting over Green Bay.

Fun Wisconsin water facts to impress your friends:

  • The Great Lakes contain a fifth of all the liquid surface fresh water on earth
  • Wisconsin has more than 15,000 lakes 
  • Almost 3% of Wisconsin's total area is lakes
  • Wetlands and abundant high-quality water make Wisconsin the nation’s top producer of cranberries and 10th-largest producer of trout
  • Wisconsin has more than 500,000 registered motorboats—about one for every 10 residents

Trivia from Wisconsin's Water Library

Let's celebrate with some beautiful Green Bay sunsets!


Do you have a favorite sunset spot?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

National Parking: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Hawai'i has so many unique and beautiful places to explore.   I was excited to have a chance to island hop over from Maui to Big Island this spring to finally see it!

Compared to Maui, Big Island is exactly that...big.   Big roads, bigger distances, and stretches of highway where you can't see the ocean (gasp!).     We flew in and out of Kona so that we could fly Mokulele.     Hilo is the airport that's closest to the park, though.   

Friends who visited me in 2015 stayed at the Volcano Inn and recommended it, so that's where we stayed as well.   It's in a perfect location for hiking the park and for going back at night to see Kīlauea at Hawai'i Volcanoes National ParkKīlauea Crater is an active volcano.   To see the glowing lava, you'll want to come back to the park at night.    During the day, its bright enough that you probably won't see anything, although you may smell it.   

Breakfast area at the Volcano Inn 

On the Kona side of the island, it's dry and hot.  If you are anywhere on the Hilo side of Big Island, you need to be prepared for rain.  At any time.   We hiked the Kīlauea Iki Trail and alternated between coats on /coats off, and hats on / hats off.   This hike is about 4 miles through the still steaming Kīlauea Iki Crater.   The visitor's center has a good video that shows the eruption in 1959.   

The Kīlauea Iki Crater from above
Part of the trail involves following the ahu.  There are stacked rocks that guide your way through the crater since the lava doesn't lend itself to an easily followed trail.  

You know what to do
Follow the ahu!
Rainforest all around the crater

Hiking into the unknown
After your hike, you're going to be hungry.   Good news, Ken's House of Pancakes is open 24 hours a day in Hilo.     Might I suggest corned beef hash eggs benedict?   Not pictured:  the pancakes with tropical fruit syrups that went with this.   But know that they were consumed with enthusiasm.

Heading to Big Island to visit Volcanoes National Park? 

  • You'll be renting a car, so plan ahead.
  • Volcano Inn has great rates, and partially because they don't take credit cards.  You'll need to mail your payment in advance to book your room.
  • A 7 day pass as of June 1, 2016 is $20 per vehicle.   If you're planning to visit both Volcanoes NP on Big Island and Haleakala NP on Maui, you can by the Hawai'i Tri-Parks pass for $25 and that's good for a whole year.   
  • Bring your beach clothes for the Kona side and your rain gear for the Hilo side.
  • If you're driving the whole island, you'll definitely want to stop at the Punalu'u Bake Shop for lilikoi malasadas.    It's the southern most bakery in the United States! 

So ono!

Other National Parks to Love:

Klondike Gold Rush - Seattle
Mount Rushmore - South Dakota
Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming (home of my favorite summer job)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hiking the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui

Every hike I've taken in Maui has been different and wonderful.    

What I can't believe is that it's taken me 2+ years in Maui to hike Waihee Ridge.  

Waihee Ridge is a part of the Na Ala Hele trail system.   There's a designated trailhead and the trail is easy to follow. 

Follow uphill, that is.    To get to the ridge, you need to climb up.    Legs burning, climb up.  

If it's rainy, the trail will be slippery and treacherous.      You'll also want to start early - not because you like getting out of bed, but because the views are better in the morning before the clouds come in....although walking in the clouds is an experience of its own. 

If you hike all the way to the top, the hike is about 5 miles round trip.     If you don't want to go all the way, hike as far as  the 1.5 mile marker.   You'll have beautiful views of the ocean, the green mountains, and maybe even a waterfall or two.   We enjoyed some wildflowers and baby ferns covered with dew on our hike as well.     It's a hike that showcases so much of the scenery that Maui has to offer.

How to get to the Waihee Ridge Trail:

Drive through Wailuku and then Waiehu.    You'll be on Kahekili Highway (340).    When you see the gate for Mendes Ranch  on the right hand side (ocean / makai) of the road, you know you're almost there.   The trailhead and parking is on the left hand side  (moutain / mauka) - you'll see a sign for a Boy Scout Camp.      You'll park, then walk through a gate marked with the trail sign.     

There's a steep cement road for the very first part of the trail and then it becomes dirt.     Mile marker signs  are clearly marked throughout the trail.    Bring your hiking shoes and water.  

After your hike, I'd recommend stopping at the Wailuku Coffee Company for coffee and a pastry or an early lunch.   Their food is ono!

Do you have a favorite Maui hike?


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