A Travellerspoint blog

USA: Alaska: Top 20 Reasons to Visit Alaska!

(see more details in our other Alaska blog posts)

overcast 65 °F

==Top 20 Reasons to Visit Alaska ==
If you want more details about places to go/things to see, check out our other Alaska blog posts! :)

It’s a place where:

1. Bald eagles are more common than New York City pigeons

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2. You can feel like you’re on National Geographic while you listen to and watch huge chunks of glaciers calve off into the water (see the boat below for scale)

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3. You must be weary of a moose who may try to kick you in the head!

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4. Learn fun facts like Caribou and Reindeer are the same animal (reindeer are domesticated)

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5. The bears are huge and like to eat dandelions when they first wake up from hibernation. . but don’t be fooled, they would definitely eat you—not just make a mess of your garbage like in Jersey!

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6. You can see humpback whales take 3-5 breaths before showing off their tail fluke

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7. Seals lazily float around on ice floes

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8. You can be the low man on the totem pole
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9. Gorgeous blue-eyed husky puppies are training for the Iditarod race not just running around Central Park retrieving balls

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10. Seeing beautiful vistas can become annoying

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11. You can sit in a jacuzzi surrounded by glacier capped mountains

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12. You may see a porcupine, after all, where else are you going to see one?

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13. You can eat King Crab so fresh, you’re practically on the Deadliest Catch!

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14. You might see a lynx yawn!

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15. A friendly man may let you play with his pet ferret (for real)

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16. A mama otter with her baby might come floating right by you

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17. The goats live so high up on the mountains that they look like tiny white dots

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18. It’s almost impossible not to see a porpoise,dolphin, otter or whale every time you look out onto the water

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19. You could get into a staring contest with an owl—and lose!

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20. You can port into cute little towns with less year-round residents than staff on a typical cruiseship

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Canada: Sea Day to Vancouver!

May 31-June 1 2013

overcast 65 °F

If you've never been on a cruise you're probably wondering what do I do on a sea day?

Well, there's lots to do on the ship including explore the art galleries, drink champagne, eat delicious desserts, hit the spa or gym, play boards games, read, gamble, swim, shop, get dolled up for a formal night or just veg out for a day with nowhere to go and nothing you have to do. Cruiseships always try to make sea days fun by adding extra activities like an ice sculpting demos or serving moose chilli (yes, moose) on the deck to draw people out. . . and yes Bullwinkle was delicious! :)

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We love sea days so that we can take a break between port days (which we always fill with a hectic schedule hoping to explore every inch of whatever port we visit)! We save exploring the ship for the sea days.

On this last sea day we saw lots of wildlife as we made our way down to Vancouver, including a whale waving hello with his pectoral fin and more whale tails but most of all we just used it as a chance to slow down and enjoy the day for ourselves. . .the vistas weren't too bad either!

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The ship dropped us off in Vancouver, BC, and even though we've both been there before we couldn't resist a little visit to Stanley Park. We took a local bus to the park and walked around practicing taking photos of everyday things like a log, Canadian geese, a waterfall.

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At the end we just sat and listened to a woman play her (what-we-think was) a guqin or other asian string instrument before lugging our bags to the airport and heading on to our 2nd home--the SF Bay Area.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:09 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

USA: Alaska: Low wo-Man on the Ketchikan Totem Pole

May 30, 2013

rain 50 °F

Ketchikan was one of our absolute favorite stops on the cruise; it is the southernmost city in Alaska and unfortunately our last stop before entering Canada tomorrow. Oooooh how we hate the feeling of a vacation coming to an end :( This is a picturesque town with its main street practically built on stilts overlooking the Ketchikan River.

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Meandering through the city we saw a variety of tall totem poles and in fact it has the world's largest collection of standing totem poles. It all sounds pretty great but it’s also one of the rainiest places in Alaska. This place makes Seattle look like sunny LA! I would really like to see this place during the salmon run!

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To stay dry we stepped into the Fish House and had. . You guessed it! Crab for lunch : )

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No trip to Ketchikan would be complete without a ride up the funicular (a hillside elevator/train going up to the Cape Fox Lodge above Ketchikan)-- great views from up there, weather permitting of course! A city bus trip (about 30 min south of Ketchikan) to the Totem Heritage Center is also a must. We had so much fun practicing our photography up there! Ruby really was the low wo-man on the totem pole as you can tell by the pics.

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Of course Ruby couldn’t leave what is known as the "Salmon Capital of the World" without buying a box of Alaskan Salmon for Dr. Shalita.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA: Juneau we’re going to see some bald eagles! --- FOODIE

May 29, 2013

semi-overcast 68 °F

We arrived in Alaska’s capital and were ready for some action today. . .while walking off the ship we immediately spotted a bald eagle perched on a branch with another one flying overhead. It’s amazing what you can see just sitting on the ship—maybe a bald eagle soaring by or a whale coming up for air.
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You gotta take a boat or a plane because downtown Juneau is nestled at the base of Mount Juneau and is not accessible by roads because of the Juneau ice field. This huge ice mass is the source of about 30 glaciers including the famous Mendenhall Glacier and Lemon Creek Glacier we would get to see today.

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When you get off the boat in Juneau you can see the famous Mount Roberts Tramway and there are stands set up selling everything from helicopter rides to walking tours around town. We decided to go on a whale watching tour and do our own hike around the Mendenhall Glacier admiring it from afar. Don’t do the tour to Mendenhall unless you actually want to put on some crampons and walk on the glacier itself because there’s a cheap bus going from town every hour.

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After a short drive on a city bus we arrived at the Mendenhall glacier visitors center. This place is amazing and a must see if you're in Juneau. We decided to hike over and get a better view of the glacier but before we could even start our hike we spotted a porcupine just hanging-out next to the trail. After I took a few hundred photos of the little guy sleeping we started on our way.

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The hike is flat, smooth and easy with a few good photo spots along the way. If you have time you can take several longer hikes up and around the waterfall. There’s plenty of signs warning you about the bears on the trail but luckily we didn’t encounter any. We did however spot a few mountain goats up high on a cliff! After shooting photos and hiking around this gorgeous location we were ready for some whale watching.

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After boarding a small whale watching boat that would take us through Stephens Passage . We rode around searching for whale spouts in the water and luckily photographed several whales! These creatures are so peaceful despite their immense size. We learned that humpbacks typically take 3-5 breaths before diving down and showing off their tail fluke. We even had a curious sea lion came stick his head out of the water to check us out. Even if you don't see whales; this boat ride would be worth the stunning views with snow topped mountains and Lemon Creek Glacier in the distance.
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  • ***As a tip, we would definitely recommend taking a smaller boat with as few people as possible. You never know where the whales will be or what side of the boat they will appear on so the more room you have to move around—the better! :)

We arrived back to town with a little bit of time to sneak in a FOODIE ALERT. Last season’s Top Chef was filmed in Alaska and the chefs had to cook a crab dish at Tracy’s Crab Shack. Luckily, it was right on the dock and if you are a foodie or just like crab than this is a must stop! After a great lunch with “crab three ways” and a cool beer we were back to our usual dip in the jacuzzi before an amazing crab dinner—and NO, we were not all crabbed out! Lol
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Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA: Skagway, Alaska: Mini Bus Gold Rush

May 28, 2013

sunny 68 °F

One of the great things about cruising is while you’re sleeping the boat is on its way to the next destination. When we opened the curtains today we were greeted with the sight of a large rock wall directly outside our window-- not very glamorous but we had arrived in the sleepy small town of Skagway. It is located in a steep valley and is one of the main cruise ports in Alaska. There’s amazing history and hiking but not really a lot going on in this town with a year round population of 620 residents. They did have some shall we say. . . "interesting" t-shirts and bumper stickers though...
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Apparently this is a good place to see bears during peak salmon season but this wasn't peak season so our plan was to take a trip over to Haines for sea kayaking but after a short walk around town we decided on a Mini Bus Yukon Discovery tour following the White Pass Summit and just across the border into Canada. Skagway is at the start of the Klondike Highway and the main starting point of the Yukon Gold Rush of the 1890s. An estimated 100,000 prospectors migrated up to the Klondike region of the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1896 and 1899 in search of gold.
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On the drive we could see why the journey proved too hard for most and only between 30,000 and 40,000 managed to arrive. Beautiful scenery surrounded us on the drive but we would NOT have wanted to be out there hiking, mining or any other outdoor activity without all the high tech cold weather gear that exist today! You know we took waaaaaay too may photos of nothing…(nothing to us after a few days in Alaska= amazing snow-covered mountains).
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After several stops along the way we arrived at what looked like a tourist filled old western settlement called Caribou Crossing. It was a little cheesy and touristy but the BBQ was nice and the blue-eyed husky puppies made the trip worthwhile. In the summer they operate as a tourist destination but it’s really a dog sledding training center and what better training for dogs than pulling fat tourists up and down a dirt road! :)
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The drive back was fairly uneventful except for a stop at the Carcross Desert—a literal desert in Alaska! Unfortunately we didn’t see any large animals on the way-- the dandelions were still intact on the grass which means most bears were still hibernating (it's a favorite snack when they wake up from their long slumbers).
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When we arrived back in town we took a short walk around thinking about what to do with the next few hours before boarding the boat…I have an idea, let’s drink! I don’t know how Ruby does it but she managed to find a place to have a margarita and some chips and salsa…just about as far from Mexico as we could possible get. We then boarded our ship and immediately jumped into the jacuzzi to watch the town fade away as we slowly floated off into the sunset… romantic.
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Posted by Tony.Ruby 00:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA: Amazing Day in Glacier Bay with Ruby the Otter Spotter!

May 27, 2013 Alaska

sunny 65 °F

Another day up bright and early looking for whales, otters and anything else we could see walking around on the mountains. Today we would be entering the beautiful Glacier Bay! There are 8 glaciers in the bay and 11 total in the National Park. We are very lucky to have this opportunity to see this because Glacier Bay is one of the only places in Alaska with healthy and advancing glaciers, a rarity in today's world. In this first photo below you can see a ship next to the Margerie Glacier so you can get an idea of the enormity of this glacier!
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As we entered Glacier Bay Ruby's sharp eyes spotted several otters floating on their backs in the calm waters (even a mama otter with a baby on her belly), a grizzly bear walking along the beach and goats on the cliffs that look like little white dots in the distance…lucky we had the long lens for our camera!
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The highlight of today was definitely huge pieces of the Margerie Glacier calving into the bay!!! In the first photo of this blog entry you can see a ship next to the Margerie Glacier so you can get an idea of the enormity of this glacier and what it means to see huge chunks of it falling into the water. The weather was so perfect that you could even see the Fairweather Mountains in the distance (named because you can only see them in fair weather). It’s hard to explain the sounds that a glacier makes as is cracks, slides and crashes into the water. You can see the sequence of action the photos below! We hope you all have the chance to one day experience it! :)
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We got everything one could ask for in Glacier Bay National Park…clear blue skies, otters & whales in the calm water and yes, they even have Glaciers. We enjoyed the views from the jacuzzi as we left the bay at the end of the day. . .
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Posted by Tony.Ruby 14:03 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA: Alaska: . . and what will you be having sir? – Hubbard

May 26, 2013

sunny 58 °F

We were up early, excited to be on our ship and officially on our way! When at sea there really isn’t anything to do except relax, eat and repeat. One of the must do things on a cruse is to attend the naturalist talks. Our naturalist guide on this ship is a nice retired teacher named Sandra. She was very knowledgable, had personal experience in the area and would took time to be at the front of the ship when anything important was coming up (whales, porpoises, glaciers, bears and more)! So after listening to a great talk on what we would see today we grabbed a quick bite to eat and made our way to the front of the ship! This morning we saw some humpbacks and porpoises pretty early :)
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Today we got to see the largest glacier in Alaska—the Hubbard glacier which is 76 miles long and extends into Canada. We are really lucky because this location is known for bad weather and if it’s raining or snowing you won't see anything. For us the weather was so nice and the water so calm we could see gorgeous reflections of the mountains off the water. There is little we could say to describe the feeling of seeing such an amazing glacier… and with so many disappearing, this is something our children may not have the chance to see :(
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Since the water was so smooth and calm we were easily able to see that there were harbor seals lazily floating around on some of the ice floes!
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After a long day of shooting photos off the side of the boat we decided to eat dinner. We had a private table in the dining area and a nice waiter from Thailand. Everything looked amazing on the menu and Ruby started by ordering two appetizers, two soups, two entrees, two desserts and a bottle of wine. Without skipping a beat the waiter looks at Tony and asks “...and what will you be having sir?” This is why it’s nice to take a cruise…total indulgence, and by the way Ruby's order was for both of us! :)
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Posted by Tony.Ruby 02:22 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA: Alaska: 6 Month Wedding Anniversary!

May 25, 2013

sunny 65 °F

It’s a little crazy traveling this far from home and still having cell phone and email access. It’s also a little crazy that the weather is better in Alaska than in New York. We only have a few hours in Anchorage before our bus departs to Whittier (all cruise ships set sail about 2 hours drive or train from town). We were up bright an early today and started with a walk down the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Not really what we were expecting... it was a nice paved bike trail along the river.
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We walked around practicing taking photos with our new camera until we meandered our way to the Weekend Market. Lunch consisted of something called Halibut Cheeks (we think it was just Halibut parts), an amazing crab soup and some sweet potato fries (you know Ruby can’t pass up on that). We’re starting to notice that Alaska has some interesting people…nice, but interesting. As we were eating a guy sat next to Ruby and hanging over his shoulder was a ferret…yes a ferret on a leash. He was nice enough to tell us all about the little guy and Ruby even got to hold him for a few. Unfortunately we couldn't hangout with rodents looking at arts and crafts all day so off we went to catch our bus out of town.
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There are several ways down to the cruise port but we decided on a small local company for $35 each. This option was much cheaper than going with the ship's Cruise Transport (Around $60 each) or renting a car (one direction $300). There's also a train to Whittier but we’re about to spend a week with these old people and the thought of being stuck on a train for another few hours really wasn’t that appealing. Whatever option you decide there is only one road along Turnagain Arm. If you’re lucky you can see dall sheep and beluga whales but at the very least you're sure to see some amazing vistas. On the way we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center about 30 minutes outside Anchorage. We would definitely recommend stopping at this location. It's the perfect place for a photo-op of Bears, Moose, Reindeer, Bison, Musk Oxen, Deer, Elk and even a bald eagle. We wish we could have stayed longer but our bus only made a short 45 min stop!
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Fun Fact: Reindeer is the domestic name for Caribou, there is no such thing as domestic Caribou.
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Another highlight of our drive was the short stop at Portage Glacier valley. Our first Alaskan Glacier complete with an iceberg filled lake over 600’ deep. We wanted to stay at this location longer but it was our turn to enter a 2.5 mile-long tunnel (Anton Anderson Memorial) to Whittier. The tunnel was designed for the train and is only about 12’ wide so cars and the train can only go one direction at a time. This is the only way in or out of Whittier. There's not a lot to do in this small town so we just walk around Whittier Harbor looking at fishing boats. If we had more time we would recommend hiking up and getting a good look at a glacier but remember what the locals say “it’s always shittier in Whittier” so Anchorage may be your better bet to stay dry.
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We boarded our ship and started our long boat ride down to Vancouver. What a great way to spend our 6 month wedding anniversary. By the way, you really lose track of time when the sun is up so late. We thought it was only around 7 or 8pm but it was already midnight by the time we walked back to our room.
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Posted by Tony.Ruby 16:30 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA: Alaska: Talkative New Yorkers in Anchorage

May 24, 2013

rain 65 °F

We are off to Alaska for a cruise on the Princess Sapphire. With all the adventure travel we do one would think we wouldn’t like cruises but we call it “Forced Relaxation”. Once you get on the boat you’re along for the ride. Nothing too crazy to prepare for the trip, just the normal questions: how much should we pack, how many bottles of wine will fit in our bags and how many shoes can Ruby fit in Tony’s bag?

Ruby travel tip: If you don’t have an “always pack” list saved on your phone you should definitely start one (and add to it when you forget something).
Once again it was raining in New York and all flights got delayed out of JFK! We learned that there really aren’t that many flights going to Alaska and spent most of our delay frantically calling Alaska Air asking about their next flight tomorrow and thinking about another long night sleeping at an airport. . . Luck was on our side though and we made it onto our flight to Alaska! At about 3am we woke up to an amazing glowing red sky outside the window (btw the average hours of sunlight up this far North in May is 19:55-24).
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We retrieved our bags and remarkably they didn’t smell like broken bottles of wine so Tony’s packing job must have been good. The Anchorage airport is small but nice and our shuttle soon arrived to pick us up. It was late at night and both of us thought our driver had been up just a little too long today. Tony kept talking to him so he wouldn’t shut his eyes and swerve off the road! He must have thought “man... people from New York are really talkative”. After a long day of travel we arrived to our hotel: The Guest House Inn. It’s nothing fancy but it’s clean, people are nice and it’s located just a short walk from the Weekend Street Market.

Posted by Tony.Ruby 16:28 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Mexico: Cancun: Paradise and Ancient Ruins

Chichen Itza and Coba

sunny 85 °F

We love this region of Mexico! We have been to this area several times and it is always a predicatably easy and fun trip. It's very easy to drive here so we always rent a car so that we may have the freedom to visit places and not be trapped in a resort for the entire time. Friends have said that they have been pulled over and asked for bribes but that hasn't happened to us as of yet. We stayed in one of the more relaxed large resorts north of the airport and out of downtown Cancun since we are not into the clubbing scene anymore. Most of the all-inclusive resorts here are phenomenal with great food, drinks and of course that gorgeous aquamarine crystal clear warm ocean. . . and our resort was no exception. . .
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Of course we love to get away and do something adventerous so early one of the mornings we headed out to the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. It was a couple hour drive to get there but fairly easy with well-paved roads if you can read a map or splurge on GPS. Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city and we could see why so many people would come and visit. Apparrently it was built in the 5th century and it is still unclear why the city was abandoned by the Itzas around 1224. We were disappointed to find out the famouse: El Castillo had been roped off and we would not be able to climb the 80 ft high pyramid. Each side of the pyramid has 91 steps, with the addition of the topmost platform adds up to 365, one for each day of the calendar year. We walked around and explored the large site in awe.
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The tzompantli which was covered in carvings of skulls is where the bodies of sacrifical victims were displayed.
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We absolutely loved all the carvings of serpents seen throughout the complex-- the Toltec god Kukulcan or the plumed serpent can be seen carved all around.
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And the juego de pelota area is where Tony pretended to play basketball-- is was actually thought to have been some sort of playing field. Here if you stand at one end of the field and whisper, you can be heard on the opposite end.
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Oddly, there are lots of carved columns which reminded us more of Greece than Mexico!
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After a few hours at Chichen Itza we were getting hungry, we found a woman grilled chicken outside and since it smelled delicious that's where we stopped for an amazing grilled chicken lunch super close to the ruins--just off the main street. Tony's dad calls it "Chicken-Itza" LOL!
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We weren't satisfied after not being able to climb the ruins at Chichen Itza so we headed off to Coba. These ruins are in the middle of the jungle and happen to be ones that you can climb. The grounds close at 5pm so we were cutting it close but we made it there by about 3:30pm. The largest temple at Coba, Nohoch Mul is 138 feet tall (the largest and highest in the Northern Yucatan) and that's exactly where we headed. Next time we would rent bikes to check out more of this huge temple complex hidden in the jungle. Apparently you can also take a bus here from Playa del Carmen and Tulum twice daily.

WOW! Is all we can say is we scaled the hundreds of steps up to the top of Coba. Ruby clutched the guide rope with a death grip and did her best not to look back/down because with her fear of heights she probably would have stopped dead in her tracks. Unlike her, Tony easily scaled his way up to the top and waited for her. The view from above was incredible, jungle 360 degrees around us. We sat and took in the view for quite a while before CAREFULLY making our way back down the pyramid-- after all, there is a sign that says you are climbing at your own risk! Since we arrived so late, we were also one of the last people to leave the ruins. It was incredible to see it empty just as a the sun was setting. Lucky us!
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Afterwards we drove back to Cancun and enjoyed the next few days off at the beach resort sipping on cocktails and lazing on our cabana enjoying the view. . .
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Posted by Tony.Ruby 05:57 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Puerto Rico: Old San Juan: Sentry Boxes and Sangria

March 31, 2012

sunny 88 °F

Today would be our last day on vacation and we were dreading the return back to reality. We ate breakfast in the garden, packed our bags and took some time to explore the Gallery Inn in the daylight. Wow! There are some gorgeous views from the deck upstairs. . and yes it is very eclectic. We were enjoying looking at all the tropical birds when Tony thought it would be a good idea to hold one of them. Like most episodes of “when animals attack” it all started with a little peck. Next thing you know Tony’s getting attacked by the bird named Campeche. This bird is known as “The Social Director” of the Gallery Inn, but now it’s known as the White Devil!

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It’s hard to feel like you’re not in some part of a history lesson walking around this 465 year old neighborhood complete with stone walls 40 feet high and 45 feet thick at the base! We walked all around and couldn’t help but notice that the streets were paved with pretty blue cobblestones, these are actually made of adoquine, and brought over on Spanish ships years ago.

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Old San Juan was a Spanish military stronghold, and we really enjoyed exploring the Castillo San Felipe del Morro and San Cristobal. Ruby was obsessed with the iconic sentry boxes (you’ll see there are many pictures of them). We walked all around town, stopped for some cinnamon-spiced sangria and exploring the narrow streets with colorful buildings.

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Squeezing every little bit out of our vacation we had just enough time for some delicious Italian food at Cucina Del Ivo again. We waited until sunset before heading to the airport. We thought we had timed this drive just perfect but signs in Puerto Rico are not the easiest to follow! One will say airport to the left then as you drive past you see the airport on the right! We must have driven all over San Juan looking for the exit to the airport. I think this is how they trap tourists for another day! Well, needless to say we caught our flight back to New York and even thought the flight is only a few hours we feel the onset of some serious international style jetlag coming on!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 08:14 Archived in Puerto Rico Comments (0)

Puerto Rico: From Scuba to Old San Juan---FOODIE ALERT

March 30, 2012

all seasons in one day

Pedro Padilla, our dive master, boat captain, photographer and tour guide had a camera setup that was no joke and he has some amazing photos to prove it! Nyda and Pedro took us out that morning for a couple of dives along “The Wall” which is actually part of the intercontinental shelf that goes down thousands of feet. It was a little bit intimidating since our last dive was about a year ago in the Red Sea but we were up for the challenge. I don’t know if Pedro was just trying to freak us out but after we stopped he yelled “Look, Look a Shark”, followed by ok “Get In”. I don’t know if Ruby knew about this until after the dive but Tony let her jump in first just in case! :)

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Our first dive was at “Efra’s Wall” and involved us diving to a depth of 100ft. We were just amazed at the coral formations. Pedro had a spear and was busy whittling down the Lion Fish population in Puerto Rico (they are pests and out of place in the Caribbean). About 85 feet down, he gutted one of the Lion Fish and tried to feed it to a Giant Moray and when we say giant, we mean GIANT. This had to be the largest eel we’d ever seen, with a head the size of a basketball! We guess the Moray wasn’t hungry because we just caught glimpses of him coming out of his hidey hole out of curiosity :(

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After a short break with snacks and drinks we started our second dive at “Hatches”. This dive was also part of “The Wall” and just as beautiful. Just like the first dive there were huge multicolored coral reef formations including gorgonians, fans and tube corals. We also had the opportunity to swim with a sea turtle which is always a highlight. Afterwards we enjoyed the view of Guainica from the water as we rode back in.

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We arrived back to the guesthouse, and hung out with the owner's funny umbrella cockatoo, took showers and started our long drive up to Old San Juan. Looking at the map you would notice a direct route over the mountains but of course Ruby loves detours so we decided to go visit a lighthouse in Cabo Rojo (taking the long way around the island)! By the way, the views from the lighthouse overlooking white cliffs and beautiful blue water is totally worth the detour! If you do decide to do the Ruby’s EVERYTHING Puerto Rico Tour and end up at the far Southwest corner with only a few hours to get back to San Juan take the inland road through Ponce! There’s not a lot to see on the highway drive going around the coast because it stays pretty far inland. Our long drive did give us time to book a room at The Gallery Inn located in Old San Juan.

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This hotel and its owners are what we would call “eclectic” (or maybe just a little crazy). Everyone was really nice and the location is amazing, at the highest point of this 465 year old neighborhood! Before going out we decided on a quick shower in what looked like something out of The Starship Enterprise. Just for the record, it looked a lot cooler than it was!

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One of the best things about Old San Juan is walking around and exploring. We stumbled onto a church celebration for “Semana de Santas”. A ceremony that was so lavish we thought the Pope was here for a visit! After looking at just about every menu in Old San Juan we decided on Italian food at Cucina del Ivo. YUM!!! The caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella, pesto gnocchi and fried ravioli appetizer were delicious. We highly recommend this place and may be going back tomorrow! :) When we arrived back at the hotel we did some exploring and ended the night with a glass of wine on the roof. This is a pretty long blog post but it was a crazy day!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 07:37 Archived in Puerto Rico Comments (3)

Puerto Rico: Ponce: Diving for Skateparks--- FOODIE ALERT

March 29, 2012

all seasons in one day 83 °F

We grabbed some coffee and walked around Ponce checking out all the art and culture. There was an exhibition of lions painted by local artists and tons of little shopping streets going in all directions. Ruby picked out a new top and we had a great lunch at our hotel restaurant called Lola. We enjoyed the absolutely delicious coconut prawns and stuffed mushrooms before heading to Island Scuba in Guainica to get fitted for our dives the next day. We found a nice little guest house called Villa Bonita just a block away. They are owned by divers and let you check out late so you can take a shower or nap after your dive (and it was only $60)!

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Tony was itching to check out the skateparks on the island but unfortunately they are all on the North side of the island! A 2 hour drive led us to Aguadilla and Tony skated for a few hours while Ruby chatted with Alex and his wife Maria artist/teachers from Asheville, NC. We all had dinner at One Ten Thai. The locals kept telling us how great this place was but don’t set your hopes to high because it’s mediocre at best. After an exhausting 1 ½ hr long drive back down we called it in an early night in preparation for scuba diving the next day. .

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 11:09 Archived in Puerto Rico Comments (0)

Puerto Rico: Vieques: Snorkeling with Squid at Secret Beach

March 28, 2012

all seasons in one day

This was a total beach day. We stopped for some nature shots including wild horses and a bird that looked like a King Fisher on our way to the south side of the island.
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We never want to miss a thing so we started by going to Navio Beach and made our way to Blue Beach, and finally settled on snorkeling at Secret Beach. This was our favorite because of the wildlife in the water, we saw a pretty big barracuda swimming by us. Later on the far east side of the beach we spent almost a half hour swimming in the shallow water by the rocks watching a family of three reef squid change colors from purple to brown to white all while gliding effortlessly through the clear water. Tony also found a large conch shell which we decided not to take off the island and put it on the steps of the hotel for Maria and Joe, so if you go and see it let us know!

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We were sad to go but really wanted to go scuba diving and weren’t able to arrange it on Vieques so we were headed back to the mainland. At the ferry station Tony once again got charged the tourist price for a smoothie $5! Sucker! :)IMG_6389.jpg
We arrived back to our rental car parked on the street and were relieved to see that it was still in one piece luckily! Time for another road trip. . to the southern side of Puerto Rico. We got lost a few times on the 53, no the 3, no just go in a generally Southern direction! It all paid off because we found ourselves at Sabor Criollo a local bar along the side of a winding mountain road off the 53 (we think) where we stopped for sunset, dinner and a drink. The owner Berto made us some amazing fried chicken and plantains while Ruby finished off his bottle of homemade hot sauce. He also introduced us to the key ingredient in his specialty cocktail. . DonQ Limon Puerto Rican Rum. .. YUM! We ended up buying a bottle at the airport on our way home :)

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About another hour or so we ended up in Ponce, hopelessly lost, driving around the ghetto like a couple of tourists trying to get robbed! Well that’s what Tony thought, Ruby on the other hand was as cool as a cucumber, well she was . . . until her cell phone died and we had no map. By the way don’t trust Google Maps in Puerto Rico it may or may not work depending on the area. A quick stop for directions in the rain led us to the Ramada in Ponce. Ruby got us the best deal in town, staying in a super nice hotel—actually the Ramada in Ponce for $60/night on Priceline.com (Name Your Own Price) and they even upgraded us to a suite for free! This was by far the nicest Ramada we’d ever stayed in, perfect location in the center of the nicest part of Ponce. After that kind of a day we were pretty tired and enjoyed the skyline view from our huge hotel patio before passing out.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 12:32 Archived in Puerto Rico Comments (0)

Puerto Rico: Vieques:Black Sand and White Tony--FOODIE ALERT

March 27, 2012

sunny 85 °F

With limited public transportation on the island we decided to rent a car, it was $65/day which I think is the least expensive you can find on the island. We ate lunch at a local spot and shared some meats and rice and beans (habichuela) (which are staples in Puerto Rican cuisine). Ruby’s favorite was the home made hot sauce made of the restaurant owner’s special concoction of spices and oils-- YUM!

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We drove around the island of Vieques following the local recommendations from Maria and Joe regarding the best beaches. Our favorite was the deserted black sand beach we had all to ourselves for the afternoon. . except for the wild horses that run wild on the island and may just come walking onto the beach! This beach required a bit of a trek along a creek bed but was well worth it. It’s also hidden and not on most maps or signs. . . so you’ll have to ask a local how to get there. Blue Beach further to the east was also pretty amazing with clear, warm water and soft white sand. Be sure to bring your sunscreen because the sun is REALLY powerful down in the Caribbean.

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Ruby absolutely had to go the W in Vieques after her obsession with the TV show the Bachelor. So that night we sat around a fire pit and watched the sunset at the W Hotel while sipping complimentary sangria sun-downers. Who says nothing in life is free? We had a lovely romantic dinner at Next Course which our friend Claudia had recommended. We splurged and had not only the lamb but also the lobster! Another day in paradise on Vieques. . .

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 08:11 Archived in Puerto Rico Comments (0)

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