Colleen’s Down in New Orleans – Blog 4

With our trip wrapping up, we are sorry to leave New Orleans.  It was so much more than I expected.  It was never on my radar but had always been my Mom’s dream to see the Mississippi river and I am so glad that we did.  We have had such a great time, from the music to the food to the people.  We met such great people all the way through our trip.  The French Quarter is such a great part of the city to walk and lots of places to shop and people watch.

Here are some tips to make your trip easier.

  • Book your tours in advance, there were many people getting turned away when we were picking up our tickets.
  • If you are taking the River  Boat Cruise on the Natchez sit on the left hand side of the boat.  As they leave the dock, they will talk about what you are passing.
  • When you get off the river boat, turn left and take the Riverwalk to the outlet mall.  This is the only place you can walk on the river in New Orleans.
  • Go for a drink in the courtyard at Pat O’Briens.  It’s great to get away from the crowds and listen to the fountain.  The Hurricane cocktail originated from this restaurant.  They also have a dueling piano bar.
  • Check out Bourbon Street, it’s like Spring Break every day.
  • If you want to listen to good New Orleans jazz go to Frenchman Street and stop at the Spotted Cat.  Small venue but some great musicians.
  • If you want to get a good picture of Jackson Square, go across the street and you can get a great picture of the church and the square.
  • If you are looking for art work, check out Jackson Square.  Here you can talk to the artists and buy your favorite piece.
  • If you are interested in history check out the 1850 house on Jackson Square.  It costs $3.00 to go into the house that has been setup as a small museum to see how they lived in 1850.
  • Take a plantation tour.  If you love history, it will be worth the trip.  It will take you out of the city to see the bayou and Lake Pontchartrain.

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I hope that my blogs have sparked your interest in New Orleans.  We will definitely be going back! If you want to plan your own vacation to this wonderful destination please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

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Colleen’s Down in New Orleans – Blog 3

Alligator bites

Alligator Bites

This place is a foodie paradise!   We have been doing so many things while we are in New Orleans but everywhere you turn there is food and something to drink. We have tried the seafood, a Po’Boy sandwich’ a Hurricane drink but nothing says New Orleans like Cafe Du Monde.  There is always a long line no matter the time if day but the lines move quickly because there is only beignets and coffee. If you come to New Orleans you must try a beignet. The come warm and covered in icing sugar. Outside there is always some music playing. This is a great New Orleans experience.

Want to see more photos from this trip or any of our team’s other travel experiences?  Check us out on instagram!

Colleen’s Down in New Orleans – Blog 2

Home on the Garden District

Home in the Garden District

Whenever we get to a new city we always ride the Hop on Hop off bus. It gives you a good idea where places are located and the guide will give you great information. Our guide Dustin was no different. He knows the history of the city and all the stories. We went to the Garden District today and had a quick tour of the area. The houses here are amazing and there is also great shopping on Market Street.

We are loving exploring New Orleans!

Parasols on the ceiling at Traceys on Magazine Street

Parasols on the ceiling at Tracey’s on Magazine Street.

Colleen’s Down in New Orleans – Blog 1

This year, my girls trip with my sisters and mother brings us to New Orleans.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square

We were up early for our flight and arrived in New Orleans around 1pm. We took a quick trip to the French Quarter and into the madness. The French Quarter is not that big but the amount of people is just crazy.  The first thing we notice is that the people are great. They are so friendly. The second is that you can drink anywhere and they have quite a few bars. Everyone is walking down the street drinks in hand.

TIP you must have picture ID to get a drink.

The drinking age is 21 and if you don’t have ID – no drink. My Mom who is a senior couldn’t get a drink without ID.   Bring your driver’s license as you don’t want to be carrying your passport.

Went to our local bar crazy who they let in

not too sure if these guys are over 21…

If you are a party person you have come to the right town. There is music playing all over the Quarter and it’s a great mix of people music and the smell of great food.

TIP bring a good pair of walking shoes as you will put on miles when you are here.

Out of 4 we already have 2 with blisters.

Here are a few photos that we took around the French Quarter.  Stay tuned for more updates from our week in the Big Easy.

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ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 33

December 15, 2018 – Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Our last port of call on this incredible 82 day journey we have been on.  Lahaina is a location that is experienced by two million people, or approximately 80% percent of all of Maui tourism per year. Lahaina has over a thousand years of rich history and was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1820 to 1845. From beaches to restaurants, Lahaina has some of the best attractions Maui has to offer.

Lahaina’s Front Street has been ranked one of the “Top Ten Greatest Streets” by the American Planning Association. Enjoy a relaxing stroll, and if rest is needed, please take a break under the massive Banyan tree located in the town square.

Maui, known also as “The Valley Isle,” is the second largest Hawaiian island. The island beloved for its world-famous beaches, the sacred Iao Valley, views of migrating humpback whales (during winter months), farm-to-table cuisine and the magnificent sunrise and sunset from Haleakala. It’s not surprising Maui has been voted “Best Island in the U.S.” by Condé Nast Traveler readers for more than 20 years.

Maui is also where a recreational investment group we belong to, called Tropica Properties, has a condo!  We typically come to Maui every year, so we have seen most of the worthwhile sights on the island.  Instead, we went to our condo to do an inspection and to measure up our lanai space (patio) as we are going to replace our outdoor furniture soon.

As mentioned before, I lost my driver’s license somewhere in Australia and so Karen had to drive.  Our condo is not far from the car rental station and so it wasn’t too bad for her.

Our condo is unit G106 at Papakea Resort.  If you would like to see pictures of the condo or if you are ever interested in renting it, you can see it at https://www.vrbo.com/279543.

All is good at the condo and ready for our winter bookings.  We are back to Maui at the end of January, so looking forward to spending more than a day there.

Well, that’s it for our ports of call on the Holland America 82 Day Grand Asia and Pacific Cruise aboard the ms Amsterdam!

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It seemed like such a long voyage and now we are just a few sea days from ending back in Los Angeles where we will fly home immediately and give our kids and grandchildren hugs and kisses. While we have had a blast, as Dorothy said…”there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home”!  No magic red slippers, just a reliable WestJet flight home.

Thank you so very much for reading our blog!  We hope you have enjoyed it.  Until our next travel blog, in the words of Hans Christian Anderson – “To TRAVEL is to live”.

If a cruise like this sounds like your dream trip, reach out to the team at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel.  They would love to help get you on your way!

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ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 32

December 14, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii

We’ve been at sea for a few days and welcome our next port.  Many of you have visited Honolulu before, but for those who haven’t or those that are thinking about it, here’s some background information.

Sometimes called “The Gathering Place,” Oahu certainly lives up to its name. The third largest Hawaiian island is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population, a fusion of East and West cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people. It’s this fundamental contrast between the ancient and the modern that makes discovering Oahu — from bustling city life to laid back surf towns — so enjoyable. You’ll find plenty of different options for exploring Oahu.

Spam, surfing, hula, ukulele – these are some of the touchstones of everyday life on O’ahu, an island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  People are easygoing, low key and casual, with genuine aloha and fun.  O’ahu proudly maintains its own identity apart from the US mainland.

If you like outdoor adventures, Oʻahu has so much going on, especially if you like sun, sand and adventure. Playing in or on the water could keep you happy for months. Learn to surf, and if you’re already good, hit the big waves on the North Shore; dive into Hanauma Bay’s giant fishbowl, or windsurf or kayak in Kailua Bay. On the land, hike up Diamond Head or atop knife-edged pali (cliffs). Circle the island in a helicopter. It’s all there waiting.

Oʻahu, like the rest of the Hawaiian islands, is a melting pot and proud of its multicultural heritage. Mix in the descendants of European explorers, American missionaries and Asian plantation-worker immigrants with the Polynesian ancestors, plus recent arrivals from all over the Pacific, and you have one of the most multicultural communities on the globe.

While on O’ahu, there are plenty of things to see and do.  We have been here several times before and done many of the sightseeing attractions.  We would have liked to rent a car and drive up to the North Shore but as I lost my driver’s license somewhere in Australia, I can’t legally drive without the card and Karen would rather not drive, so this time we opted to walk from the pier to Waikiki Beach.

Located on the south shore of Honolulu, the world-famous neighborhood of Waikiki was once a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Known in Hawaiian as “spouting waters”, Waikiki was introduced to the world when its first hotel, the Moana Surfrider, was built on its shores in 1901. Today, Waikiki is Oahu’s main hotel and resort area and a vibrant gathering place for visitors from around the world. Along the main strip of Kalalaua Avenue you’ll find world-class shopping, dining, entertainment and resorts.

Waikiki is most famous for its beaches. With Leahi (Diamond Head) as your backdrop, the calm waters of Waikiki are perfect for a surfing lesson. In fact, legendary Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku grew up surfing the waves of Waikiki. This Olympic gold medalist in swimming taught visitors how to surf at the turn of the century and was later known as “the father of modern surfing.”

Walking along Ala Moana Beach, this beach is mostly made up of locals wanting to get away from the crowds and bustle of Waikiki Beach.  The sand is not as nice, but you certainly can enjoy the surf and soak up some sun.  It seems like it is a popular place for wedding photos as we saw 3 separate wedding couples having pictures taken.

Across the way is the Ala Moana Shopping Mall, once the largest shopping mall in the world and while it lost that title several years ago, it is a well-known shoppers paradise with all the main high-end stores catering to O’ahu’s many tourists and residents.

As we continue our walk to Waikiki, we finally arrive at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, a property that we have stayed at for a convention.  It has a beautiful, sheltered lagoon as well as all the amenities you would expect a Hilton Hotel to have, including a great little outdoor, poolside, ocean view restaurant.

Time for lunch!  Fish tacos and a massive plate of nachos complete with Kalua pork fit the bill.

We continued (dare I say waddled) down Waikiki beach stopping for some beach time to soak up the sun, surf and sand.  It truly is a spectacular beach albeit it very busy but you can rent chairs and an umbrella, water sports such as kayaks, surfboards, boogieboards, snorkel gear and the like so there is something for everyone.  There were lots of kids of all ages building sandcastles or splashing around in the water.  It was a fun atmosphere and everyone was enjoying their time.  I think that’s why it is so popular, everyone is relaxed with so much to do, with so many restaurants and bars, catering to every budget.

To finally get out of the sun and the heat, we walked up to the “Westin Moana Surfrider”.  As mentioned above, this was one of the first hotels on Waikiki.  It also happened to be the very first hotel we stayed at in Hawaii and the hotel we brought our kids to on their first trip here.  The beach side bar/restaurant had some live music and we could overlook not only the ocean but also Diamond Head, so it was a natural place to sit and have a cocktail.  I can highly recommend their 1944 MaiTai as being one of the best MaiTai’s I’ve had.

Unfortunately, it is time to make our way back to the ship.  We walked all the way back to the Ala Moana Shopping Mall but by that time we were very hot and weary, so after a stroll through the mall, we opted for a taxi back to the ship.

There are many, many sights and activities to do while on O’ahu, so if you are interested in going, don’t hesitate to let us know and we can steer you in the right direction! 

So, Aloha from Hawaii and Mahalo for reading along.  Next stop…Maui!

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Disneyland Tips & Tricks – Jamie’s Magical Birthday Getaway

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Disneyland tips and tricks:

  1. If you stay onsite at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, you get an extra magic morning every day.  This alternates between parks.  There are some exclusive benefits – if the magic morning is at California adventure, you can go on the Radiator Springs Racers ride in that first hour.  This is only for hotel guests.  If you have a hopper pass that includes one magic morning, you can get into the park early, but you can’t go on the Radiator Springs Racers until the park opens to the public.  There are also random meet and greets with Disney Characters in the hotel lobby – and no lineups.  The Grand Californian hotel has direct entry into California Adventure park – again no lineups to get into the park in the morning and very easy to go back to the hotel if you need a change of clothes, a nap, a swim or a break from the crowds.  The Grand Californian hotel is currently undergoing some renovations and the Whitewater Raft casual dining/takeaway restaurant is closed.  They serve pastries, fruit, yogurt and coffee in the Hearthstone lounge as an alternative in the mornings.  Coffee is complimentary to hotel guests and breakfast of pastries, fruit and yogurt for 5 of us was usually $25 – a pretty good deal.
  2. Even if you are not a morning person – it’s worth the early wake up call to get to the parks early.  The morning is the best time at the parks – it’s not busy, there are no lineups and you can go on a lot of rides or meet a lot of characters in a short amount of time.  The afternoons and evenings get a lot busier.  As an example, we went right to the Fantasy Fair to meet the princesses at 8am and we only waited 10 minutes.  Later in the day, it was over an hour.  You can get on Big Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion or Splash Mountain with only a few minutes wait for the first hour…maybe two.  After that it would often be an hour or longer for a wait.
  3. If there are popular rides that do not offer a FastPass option, do those first.  You can always get a FastPass for popular rides, so you can experience them without waiting later in the day.  Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, Incredicoaster, etc….all offer Fast Passes and we found the Fast Passes via the MaxPass to be plentiful.  Rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan’s Flight do not offer a Fast Pass option.  We could ride Pirates twice with no wait at all first thing in the morning.  By lunch time it was an hour wait and by dinner time it was almost a two hour wait….with no possibility of a FastPass.
  4. Have a plan.  I’ve mentioned it before, but it really is important to make the most of your time.  Know which area of the park you want to do first and which ride you want to get a FastPass for and which one you want to go on before it lines up.  Know where and when you are going for lunch so you don’t waste time looking for a restaurant that you like and waiting in long lineups to order food…either use the mobile food order or make a dining reservation in advance.
  5. If you want special dining options, character dining, large group dining, etc…book well in advance as popular ones fill up fast.  Even if you want a regular dining reservation, don’t expect to make a reservation on short notice or to walk up and get in.  Restaurants are often full and there was usually a 30-60 minute wait for a table without a reservation.  Finding ways to avoid lineups is key to making the most of your time.
  6. If you are up for a later night, rides are often quieter during parades/Fantasmic show times and for the last hour or two that the parks are open.  We were able to walk right on rides at the end of the night – same as we could first thing in the morning.
  7. Spending the extra few dollars on the “park hopper” option for the parks is well worth it.  If you only have a few days and want to make the most of your time, it’s great to be able to go between the parks.  The parks are right next to each other, so hopping is very quick and easy. Our last day was a prime example of why you would want to do this.  We made a list of all of our favorite attractions that we wanted to do “one last time” on our last day.  We started our day at 7am in California Adventure Park for our Magic Hour.  We were able to go on the Radiator Springs Racers, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree , Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters and get some family Photo Pass photos taken with the Cars Characters all by 8am.  At that point, we headed across to Disneyland Park for opening and were able to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and the Jungle Cruise all by 10am.  We headed back to California adventure for a 1040am fast pass at Guardians of the Galaxy…a full day’s worth of fun that we managed to fit in before lunch time.  That meant during the busy afternoon hours, we could head back to the hotel for a swim and a nap and return with fresh kids for Toy Story Midway Mania and Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses, dinner at Wine Country and ended the night with a few more rides when the lineups died down during the parade.

 

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If you have questions about Disneyland or would like to start planning your own magical getaway please reach out to our team!  They would love to help get you on your way.

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