Apple Hill, Camino, CA

Apple Hill Pumpkin Patch

Apple Hill Pumpkin Patch

Apple Cider samples at Boa Vista Orchards

Fall season is synonymous with apple pie, chili, cider, pine trees and cool temps.

Pumpkin Time

Pumpkin Time

Growing up in California we would head to Camino each year in October to experience Apple Hill. Apple Hill is much more than just apples, they have bake shops, ciders, pies, fishing, berry picking, pumpkin patches, trolleys, hay rides, train rides, wineries, and Christmas trees all in the beautiful pine tree setting. Our kids absolutely loved it, as growing up in Hawaii really doesn’t have any of those things. The only apple pie you will find here is at Costco over the holidays.

Apple Cider

Apple Cider at Boa Vista Orchards

Apple Hill is located in the western Sierra Foothills in El Dorado County,

Apple Hill

Apple Hill

about an hour drive from Sacramento. It is the perfect place to spend the entire day. Apple Hill is located in Camino, California off of US-50 past Placerville if you are coming from Sacramento. You will see several Apple Hill exit signs: the Schnell School Exit 48, Carson Road Exit, Camino Exit, Cedar Grove Exit 54, and Pollock Pines Exit 57. The orchards are pretty easy to find as each participating farm has a big, red apple on the sign. When you arrive at Apple Hill, grab a map!!! There are 48 growers and 7 Christmas Tree farms. The map will indicate the activities and shops offered at each farm.

Bavarian Hills Orchard

Bavarian Hills Orchard

Each orchard is numbered and the map will indicate how to get to each one. Obviously you can expect that there will be apples at apple hill but do you know about all the apples that you will find there? Visitors can enjoy picking their own apples from the tree or from a convenient container. Among the variety of apples available are golden delicious, granny smith, pippen, pink lady, rome beauty, fuji, gala and mutsu just to name a few.

Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples

We stopped off at Bavarian Hills Orchard #11- where they had great bratwurst. It was a small orchard with not a whole lot to do but each orchard is unique and offers different things. My daughter purchase a black and white sketch of a cougar that she still has in a binder. Apple Hill is a driving excursion. You can drive from orchard to orchard, park and walk around. There is a trolley that will take you around to the various orchards. Apple Hill is open on weekends year round, but most famous for the Fall and Winter season’s October Festivities, Christmas Tree cutting, and pumpkin patches. Some orchards do not open until Labor Day weekend.

Caramel Apple time

Caramel Apple time

Next stop- caramel apples!!! Many of the orchards have an enormous selection of  caramel apples. One farm that we stopped at even had a machine to slice each apple so that the kids could all share.

Apple Hill

Got our beanies!

My favorite was caramel apple pie which was an apple dipped in caramel, then half dipped in cheesecake and rolled in graham cracker crumbs. They even had apples with gummy worms on them. Sky is the limit for caramel, chocolate and candied apples at Apple Hill!!!

When we first arrived to Apple Hill, we were much colder than we had DSC05340planned for. It was breezy and with all of the pine trees, it seemed as though we were never in the sun! Fortunately, there are all kinds of crafts for sale so the first stop was to buy the kids beanies. I can honestly say- they never took them off!! I would recommend bringing extra change of clothes and jackets. We just had zip up sweatshirts and that really wasn’t warm enough.

Headed over to High Hill Ranch for some eats!! High Hill Ranch was the largest farm we went to that day. The restaurant was appealing because it was inside and we were cold. They had hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, wraps, nachos, veggie options, chili dogs, but the thing I remember the most- the smell of their hot pies. You can order pie by the slice but I must warn you-  choosing just one is impossible!

Pies

Pies

Pie, Pie, Pie!!! High Hill Ranch offers the following pies:

Sour Cream Apple Pie This pie is similar to  the Sour Cream Apple Pie except that sour

High Hill Ranch

High Hill Ranch

cream is blended in with  apples, cinnamon and sugar. Available baked fresh frozen and  baked.   This pie has walnuts in the topping.

Sour Cream Apple Berry Pie  A  wonderful delight you can enjoy for any special occasion or family  holiday meal. You can eat this pie cold at room temp. This pie has  walnuts in the topping . Available baked fresh frozen and baked.

Dutch Apple Pie This pie is covered with a streusel  topping. Apple filling is cooked up with a special blend of cinnamon and sugar. Available fresh baked or frozen baked.

 Caramel Apple Pie This pie is made with our Homemade High  Hill Ranch Caramel. This pie has a crumb topping with pecans in the  topping. Available fresh baked or frozen baked.

Sugarless  Apple Pie Our sugarless apple pie has no sweeteners added to it. Just tasty naturally sweet. Available fresh  baked, or unbaked frozen. Our apple juice is one of the flavors used in  this pie.

Pie Dough Balls If you like to make your own pies, we can  supply the crust. Comes in a bag of two balls, one for the upper crust  and one for the lower crust. Best kept frozen.

Berry Pies Our berry Pies are made with  fresh  Marion  berries. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, you have quite a treat.  Available baked, unbaked or unbaked fresh frozen.

Apple berry Pies Available baked, unbaked or unbaked fresh frozen.

My favorite thing about pies at Apple Hill is that you can order a slide hot to eat there and then take home an entire pie frozen, plop it in your

Fudge Factory Farm

Fudge Factory Farm

freezer and eat it later. We bought several pies.

Don’t miss the Cider Mill!!!!

The Cider Mill, also known as an apple press, at High Hill Ranch was started in 1960.  “We take pride in our Apple Juice. Our Apple Juice is made fresh and it is unpasteurized . We use the apples right off the trees which are hand picked. It takes about 10 pounds of apples to make one gallon of juice. We use about 4 bins of mixed apples which weigh about 900 lbs per bin. 700 gallons of Apple Juice is made many times through out the season it takes about 3 hours to make that many gallons.”

Find out more information about High Hill Ranch at http://www.highhillranch1.net/

The Fudge Factory is a family owned farm, like many of the farms at Apple Hill.  They offer customers over 75 different flavors of fudge, fresh baked cookies, homemade hot fudge and caramel sundaes, fresh peanut brittle, English toffee, a wide variety of chocolates, and over 15 brittle, English toffee, a wide variety of chocolates, and over 15 different kinds of candy coated apples.

High Hill Ranch

High Hill Ranch

$$ saving tips: Bring warm clothes and change of clothes and then you won’t end up purchasing clothing items like we did. Purchase a caramel apple and have it sliced there by the machine and everyone can share it rather than purchasing for each child and then throwing it away. There are free samples all throughout apple hill. We even had a sample of cider beer! The cider beer is very sweet – different than I expected. Apple Hill is a great place for kids to run around, pick up pumpkins, plop on a stack of hay, play in the pond- there is so much to do that doesn’t cost money. The food was pretty reasonable and you must try a slice of pie. Purchase a pie to bring home, it is much cheaper than eating slice after slice. Although when the pie is hot, it’s difficult to walk away. Check out the activities and map on line and plan your day in advance. Memories to last a lifetime.

http://www.applehill.com/

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San Francisco, California

Seals Pier 39 (2)

Pier 39, San Francisco

IMG_3215

Fisherman’s Wharf Sign

I was born and raised in Sacramento, CA not far from San Francisco. I really do love going back to the

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Bay Area to visit Pier 39 in the city. This time I was able to take my daughter with me so she could experience all the touristy things I did when I was growing up. Last October we visited the Pier and I forget how cold it can be. Maybe it’s living in Hawaii the past ten years that makes adjusting to the chill of San Francisco that more difficult. We were all bundled up and still freezing on the ferry- burrrrr!!!! Many tourists visit San Francisco every day just to see the sea lions. There is actually a story about how the sea lions began on Pier 39 Marina.

After the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco in October 1989, a few California sea lions began hanging around the PIER 39 K-Dock . Then in 1990 they began arriving in groups to the K-Dock, which frustrated the Marina tenants. The Staff at the Marina consulted The Marine Mammal Center to come up with an alternate solution for the sea lions home. After going back and forth on the issue, it was decided that the sea lions stay in their new home- the K-Dock. PIER 39 Marina is an ideal living situation for the sea lions due to the supply of food from the Bay and an environment which protects them from predators. As of November 2009, there are 1702 sea lions at Pier 39’s K Dock. The number will continue to rise and fall with the seasons but they will always have a home there.

Lefty's

Lefty’s

Lefty’s- The Left Hand Store

My daughter is left handed and was absolutely thrilled to see that there is a store at Pier 39 for leftys!! She literally went through every item saying, “Oh my gosh I need this”. You can find all kinds of gear at Lefty’s San Francisco – The Left Hand Store.

Left handed notebook

Left handed notebook

They have pencils, pens, scissors, notebooks, binders, coffee mugs, can openers and just about everything you could want designed just for the lefty’s in our world. The store even sells left-handed guitars and has the names of all of the famous lefty’s on the wall- mainly artists, inventors and musicians. It is a great store for gifts- since we all know someone who is left handed.

Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for all of their seafood restaurants which have views of Alcatraz, Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped off at the Franciscan Crab Restaurant which is on Pier 43, just a short walk down from Pier 39.

Franciscan Crab Restaurant

Franciscan Crab Restaurant

They offer seafood favorites such as Dungeness Crab, Crispy Crab cakes, Seafood Antipasto, fresh oysters, and steamed mussels. The Franciscan Crab Restaurant has freshly made  burrata (Italian cheese) and salumi (Italian cured meats). My daughter, who is not a big fan of seafood, ordered alfredo pasta and loved it, while I ordered a crab sandwich which was on fresh baked, crunchy bread. The Franciscan was originally built in the 50’s but has recently been remodeled. There are pictures of all of the famous people who have eaten there as you walk in. No matter where you sit, you can see the San Francisco skyline.

Dryer's Ice Cream

Dryer’s Ice Cream

When walking around the Pier don’t forget to grab an ice cream at Dryers!! Even though it was freezing that day, we still had to grab our ice cream in a waffle cone. We pretty much ate our way through the Pier. You will have to choose as there is also The Candy Baron, Chocolate Heaven, The Cup and Cake Café and The Fudge House!!! That is just to name a few of the sweet treats.

Wipeout Bar & Grill

Wipeout Bar & Grill

And of course, she had to pose in front of the Wipeout To Go window!! We actually did not eat there but it was a very cute place with long lines for pick up. It smelled great! Wipeout Bar & Grill is a California Surf-themed restaurant which includes indoor and outdoor dining and a variety of food from seafood to burgers.

San Francisco Carousel

San Francisco Carousel

Just catching a ride on the San Francisco Carousel at the Pier. This carousel was handcrafted in Italy and hand-painted with famous San Francisco landmarks which include the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Chinatown, Lombard Street, Alcatraz and the California sea lions. The carousel has 1,800 twinkling LED lights, 32 animals to ride and spinning tubs!!! While riding around the carousel, you can see the famous Pier 39 promenade.

Boudin

Boudin

I love Boudin Bakery Cafe!!!! The smell alone will literally draw you in- just follow your nose and it will lead you to the hot, sourdough bread baked daily. Stop in for clam chowder, chili or the soup of the day in a sourdough bread bowl or fresh sandwiches and salads. It’s just not the same to buy a loaf of sourdough at the airport on your way home. They had a lot of great gifts in their gift store such as: pancake and waffle mixes, spices, sauces, syrups, and more. Check it out.

 

Red and White Fleet

Red and White Fleet

Off to Alcatraz on the Red and White Fleet!!!! My daughter had read about Alcatraz but had not seen it up close. Due to time constraints we were unable to take the Alcatraz walking tour but we did take the Red and White Fleet around the island.

Red and White Fleet

Red and White Fleet

The historic Red and White Fleet is the first fleet adventure in San Francisco. The Red and White Fleet is the only tour boat to offer a head set in multiple languages. The family owned business started out offering bay cruises from Pier 43½.

We took a Bridge to Bridge tour which included views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Coit Tower, the Ferry Building, Transamerica Pyramid, Palace of Fine Arts and around notorious Alcatraz Island. It is so relaxing to sit there and listen to the tour while being able to take pictures. It is very windy and can be cold if you choose to sit on the outer deck. The boat tours are easy to just hop on as they depart up to 17 times daily from Fisherman’s Wharf. The Red and White Fleet offers a lunch tour at 12:30 where you can bring your own boxed lunch on board or a 5:45 p.m. sailing which offers a bar.

Golden Gate Bridge View

Golden Gate Bridge View

View of Alcatraz

View of Alcatraz

To find out more about pricing visit http://www.redandwhite.com/

SF Flower mart

SF Flower mart

Going to the City for a special event? Try stopping off at the San Francisco Flower Mart!! Martha Stewart named it “the best flower market in the country”. The flower market is open to the public Monday-Saturday from 10am-3pm.

 

SF Flower Mart

SF Flower Mart

The flower mart contains over 50 vendors who sell cut flowers, greens, foliage plants, blooming plants, silk product and all floral supplies. Walking through the flower mart is an experience in itself. We were overwhelmed with the aromas and colors of the flowers. It’s a great experience, even if you aren’t planning an event. I highly recommend visiting the San Francisco Flower Mart!!!

http://sfflowermart.com/

$$ saving tips: Parking in San Francisco is very expensive. Many of the parking garages charge by the hour. When exploring the Pier the last thing you want to do is monitor your time. Look at taking public transportation into the City or car pool with others to split the cost of parking. If you are not familiar with driving in SF, there are a lot of one way streets and most of the parallel parking fills up very early in the morning. If you choose to drive to the City yourself (Good Luck), there is a website that tells you about the best parking in the area at http://sanfrancisco.bestparking.com/. The Pier really doesn’t have a season, there are constantly tourists there and events happening. Most of the restaurants on the wharf are very expensive – so try eating there for lunch rather than dinner. The lunch menus are often more affordable. The Franciscan does bring complementary sourdough bread to the table. There are a lot of things at the Pier to do for free!! Walk around and window shop, take pictures, visit the sea lions and see the landmarks. We were lucky as the Blue Angels were performing the day we were there. The Red and White Fleet offers a complimentary Ghirardelli Specialty Ice Cream Sundae with every full price adult or youth ticket for the California Sunset Cruise. “The World Famous Specialty Sundae” features two scoops of vanilla ice cream overflowing with freshly homemade hot fudge, whipped cream, chopped almonds, and a cherry. The sundae is a $9.50 savings!

5wheelsto5star.com is Featured Monthly in Destinations Travel Magazine

Jack London Square, Oakland, California

Jack London Square

Kincaid’s at Jack London Square

Along the pier

Along the pier

While in the Bay Area, you must make a stop at Jack London Square in Oakland, CA.

Boats docked at Jack London

Boats docked at Jack London

I happened to be there in May on a gorgeous day, as I walked the pier and watched the boats sail by. There is a parking garage right at the square which is convenient to park in . All of the restaurants are on the pier and most of them have a view. While many of the places are pricey, we were able to find items on the dinner menu at Kincaid’s Bay House Restaurant for under $25.00, which is a great deal. Items under $25.00 include: Seafood Louis Salad, Seared Peppercorn New York Steak (petite), Char Broiled Chophouse Burger, Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Braised Short Rib, Smoked Chicken Penne, Rigatoni Bolognese, Fresh Herb Stuffed Chicken, and Roasted Chicken Dijon. All of their soups and salads are under $9.00 with the exception of the Seafood Louis.

Il Pescatore

Il Pescatore

When you first sit down, an herb crusted loaf of fresh, hot bread is brought to the table. As you eat the bread, more comes out! You really could order a salad there and just fill up on a glass of wine and their complimentary bread.

In the center of Jack London Square is the Jack London Market, a six-story building with ocean view on every floor. The first two floors will be a daily farmer’s market overflowing with the area’s best fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, coffee, baked goods, cheese and prepared foods.  The Market will also be a great place for lunch with a glass of wine, culinary shopping, events and education. The open date has not yet been announced.

Jack London is most famous for being an author of The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea Wolf. He was one of the first Americans to make a living from writing books.

The waterfront is known as Jack London Square because this is where Jack spent time as a boy where the ideas for the oyster pirate and sailor inspired stories like The Sea-Wolf came from. There is a life sized bronze stature of Jack London standing watch over the waterfront at the foot of Broadway. This bronze sculpture was created by the artist Cedric Wentworth.

Some of the fine restaurants at Jack London Square are:

• Bocanova
• Forge
• Hahn’s Hibachi
• Haven
• Il Pescatore Ristorante
• Kincaid’s Bay House
• Lungomare
• Scott’s Seafood Restaurant
• Yoshi’s Oakland

$$ saving tips: Many of the restaurants at Jack London Square are pricey. Be sure to preview the menus in advance if you don’t want to pay $50 per person for the meal alone. Since the restaurants are ocean front, it is a typical high priced menu. However, you don’t want to miss out on the experience of eating their amazing bread as the boats sail by. The first couple of places we went to had wait times of over 2 hours and then we stumbled upon Kindcaid’s thinking it would be way too expensive. Surprisingly, they have a very diverse menu and price range.  I ordered the Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Braised Short Rib which was so large I could have split it with someone. The rib was an entire boneless, rib served with a generous portion of ravioli. I highly recommend that dish.

It’s all about the Sangria, Barcelona

Sangria on Barcelona Wharf

Sangria on Barcelona Wharf

One of my favorite things about Barcelona is the Sangria!!!! I have been to Barcelona twice and both times, fully indulged in the Sangria. The picture above is at a restaurant on the Barcelona Wharf. Need I say more. What makes Spain’s Sangria so deliciously unique is…..the full body and character of the wines made in Spain. Sangria can taste like watery soup if made incorrectly.

Eons ago were the wine-loving Romans in Spain who wisely discovered when settling in the area that the climate was ideal for growing grapes. As time passed, Europe’s penchant for wine-based punches enhanced with fruit and often other alcohol.

Sangria at Barcelona Wharf

Sangria at Barcelona Wharf

There are all kinds of sangria, it can be made with red wine (my favorite), white wine or rosé (Rosado in Spain). Sangria by definition is a “fruity wine punch”. The Spanish word Sangre means blood. Sangria is a

Sangria on La Rambla

Sangria on La Rambla

wine from Spain, Portugal and Argentina. It normally consists of wine, chopped fruit, a sweetener, and a small amount of added brandy. Chopped fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, apples, peaches, melons, berries, pineapple, grapes, kiwifruit and mango are commonly added. The usual sweeteners are honey, sugar, syrup, or orange juice . You can really make sangria your own by substituting brandy for other liquids such as Seltzer, Sprite or 7 Up.  In some parts of Southern Spain, sangria is called zurra and is made with peaches or nectarines.

Sangria is served throughout Spain and Portugal during summer. Sangria is often served in 1-litre pitchers or other containers large enough to hold a bottle of wine plus the added ingredients. Among the Spanish and Portuguese, sangria is most typically served at informal social gatherings, much like punch, from a punchbowl. Sangria is often served with a wooden spoon, used to get fruit out of the bottom of the punchbowl or pitcher.

Sangria was initially introduced to the United States in 1964 during the World’s Fair in New York. Although many believe that this wine punch has been around in Europe in various incarnations for hundreds of years.

Sangria is so pretty!!! Traditionally sangria is served in a pitcher but at parties I have served it in a large, glass container with a spout because it looks gorgeous. If you serve it this way, be sure to have fresh fruits that were marinated in the sangria overnight, on the side so people can add them to their drink. Another fun idea is to make two sangrias- one for kids and people who prefer not to have alcohol and one for the adults. When making the sangria for kids, use white grape juice instead of wine and omit sweetener. It is a great party drink for all seasons. I have served sangria at winter parties with apples, cinnamon sticks and pears floating inside.

National Sangria Day is December 20th!! When making or ordering sangria, what you must know is that the main ingredient – fruit is what differs the types of flavors for sangria. In addition, whether or not spritzers are added.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Here is a recipe for authentic, basic Spanish sangria

1 Bottle ( 26 fl. oz) Spanish red wine

1 tablespoon sugar

Juice of 1 large orange

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise

1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise

2 cups sliced strawberries

1 liter 7-Up (add last minute)

1 cup of Grand Marnier

Refrigerate over night and add 7-Up at the last minute!!!

ROSÉ and SUMMER FRUIT SANGRIA
Rosé wines are popular and very delicious to use in sangria, particularly when combined with ripe, in-season fruit. Serve with small forks so you can pull out fruits swimming in the drink and eat them.
Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus chilling time
Makes: About 5 to 6 (2 glasses each) servings
2, 750-mL bottles dry rosé wine
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange liqueur
1/2 cup (125 mL) icing sugar, or to taste
2 medium, ripe apricots, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 large plum, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 medium ripe nectarine, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1 cup (250 mL) fresh blackberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh blueberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh raspberries
1 medium lime, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups (500 mL) soda water
Ice

1. Pour the wine and orange liqueur into a large bowl. Whisk in the icing sugar until dissolved. Taste and add more icing sugar, if needed. Add the fruit, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
2. When ready to serve, stir the soda water into the sangria mixture. Fill a pitcher or two, depending on size, half full with ice. Ladle in the sangria and serve.

This recipe was found at life.nationalpost.com

Atlantis Resort, Nassau, Bahamas

Atlantis Resort, Bahamas

Atlantis Resort, Bahamas

Paradise Island

There are two Atlantis Resort’s in the world, one in the Bahamas and one in Dubai. We were able to tour the Atlanis Resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas. We pre-paid a tour which included the casino (where they did not allow any pictures), the grounds, the lagoons, The Dig, and history of the hotel. We learned that the middle section which connects the Towers was named the Michael Jackson suite and goes for 25K per night.

The resort opened in 1998 and was created by South African hotel magnate Sol Kerzner and Kerzner International Limited. Initially, Paraside Island opened it’s Coral and Beach Towers as the Trump Plaza, then changed its name to Atlantis when the Royal Towers were built. In 2007 a 600-suite luxury hotel named The Cove Atlantis opened on Paradise Island. In December, another tower called the Reef Atlantis. Atlantis was heavily impacted by the crisis in the United States in 2008 and had to lay off 800 employees to face decline in occupation rates.

As you enter the casino you will notice an amazing crystal sculpture which is valued at one million dollars. It is called the Crystal Gate and was created by Dale

The Crystal Gate

The Crystal Gate

Chihuly. It contains more than 2,000 hand-blown crystals, the Crystal Gate reaches 20 feet to the sky. Dale Chihuly has also created glass sculptures for the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Lagoons at Atlantis

Lagoons at Atlantis

Aquarium

Aquarium

In 2007 the Aquaventure opened which includes slides, lazy rivers, and rapids into one large waterscape over 141 acres. The centerpiece of the attraction is the Power Tower which contains four waterslides. The slides include The Abyss, The Drop, The Falls and The Surge. Aquaventure also includes one of the Atlantis’ most popular attractions, The Current.

IMG_5543

The Dig

The Dig is a made up of aquariums which are located beneath the lobby of the Royal Towers. It is the world’s largest open air marine habitat. Hundreds of different aquatic species can be spotted in the Dig’s various tanks such as angelfish, sharks, manta rays, and various types of jellyfish. The guide explained that the goal of The Dig is to provide visitors with what life was like in the legendary destroyed Lost City of Atlantis. The Predator Lagoon is full of sawfishes, barracudas, stingrays, and sharks. There is a 100 foot clear acrylic tunnel which runs underwater, allowing visitors unobstructed views of the marine environment.

To find out more information about the hotel, check out http://www.atlantisbahamas.com.

Nassau Cruise Port

Nassau Cruise Port

Nassau is the capital and largest city of the Bahamas. The Bahamas are a country of over 700

Shops at Nassau Cruise Port

Festival Place Welcome Center

islands in the Atlantic Ocean just east of Florida. Nassau is has a population of is just over 210,000 people.

We sailed into Nassau Cruise Port on a hot, sunny day in June overlooking Prince George Warf. The port is huge!!! 7 cruise ships can dock there at once. Tourism is the mainstay of Nassau. Nassau is the largest cruise port in the Bahamas and attracts 3 million cruise passengers each year. Bahamas is the third richest country in the Americas after the US and Canada.

Nassau has a tropical marine climate varying yearround from low to high 80’s. I can honestly say this is one place that may have even better weather than Kauai!

Sailing into Nassau Cruise Port

Sailing into Nassau Cruise Port

$$ saving tips: If you are on Paradise Island for the day, book your tour of the resort in

Nassau Cruise Port

Nassau Cruise Port

advance. Our tour was $24 per person for three hours which is very cheap. It even included our transportation to and from the port. You can gamble in the casino with US dollars when visiting the resort. I highly recommend the tour for kids!!! Unfortunately, our kids missed the tour that day. The shops in the hotel are very pricy, inclusive of jewelry, hand bags, shoes and clothing. However, there is a gift shop that has small trinkets under $10. We bought my daughter an Atlantis snow globe as a souvenir. There wasn’t really time to eat on the tour, so I would recommend eating before you view the resort. In speaking with one of the guests at the hotel- their complaint was that the pools close down at 7 p.m. and the water park closes at 5 p.m., leaving nothing to do in the evening. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and we asked her questions the entire time. The tour is a great way to preview the resort and decide if this is a place you would want to return to.

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine

 

Vatican, Rome

Vatican

3 generations at the Vatican

We decided to explore Vatican City as three generations of girls!!! It was an extremely hot day and thankfully we purchased our tickets in

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Square

advance so we were able to bypass waiting in the long, hot ticket lines. The Vatican is a very high tourist area, as you can imagine and therefore, swarms of people gather around the outside and inside. The ticket lines looked like hundreds of people standing in the blazing sun. There are several parts to tour within Vatican City, so be sure to research what you want to do and see. There are tours which include several buildings or just one. I did not have the kids with me that day and to be honest, I think it would be too boring for them. The tours are long, crowded and require a lot of standing and walking. Please note, shoulders must be covered upon entering the Basilica. I brought a scarf because it was easy to carry around, provided coverage and was much cooler than a sweater.

Apostolic Palace

Apostolic Palace

The Papal Apartments have been the official residence of the Pope in his religious capacity since the 17th century. The Papal Apartments in Italian are called appartamento nobile and appartamento pontificio.

The apartments have ten large rooms including a lobby, a studio office for the secretary, the pope’s private study, the pope’s bedroom in the corner of the building, a medical suite, a dining room, a small living room, and the kitchen. In addition, the apartments have a roof garden and staff quarters for the nuns who run the household. The pope greets and blesses visitors to Saint Peter’s Square on Sundays from the window of his small study. The top four windows to the right are where the Pope resides. The pope lives there for all months except July to September, when Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo is the official summer residence.Three of the last five popes, John XXIII, John Paul I, and John Paul II, died in the Papal Apartments.

The Vatican is located in Vatican City also known as Vatican City State, in Italian is officially Stato della Città del Vaticano. The Vadicanis a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome.  The population in Vatican City is 836 in 109 acres and was founded on February 11, 1929.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is a Late Renaissance church located within Vatican City. It was designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. St. Peter’s is the most well known work of Renaissance architecture and remains one of the largest churches in the world. While it is neither the mother church of the Roman Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. St. It is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites and has been referred to as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Peter’s_Basilica

The basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter’s tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the time of Constantine. Construction of the present basilica began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626.

The Pope holds a number of services throughout the year, which audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people gather , either within the Vatican Basilica, or in St. Peter’s Square. The picture of the Square shows all of the seating present when the Pope speaks.

St. Peter's Basilica

Altar with Bernini’s baldacchino

Altar with Bernini’s Baldacchino: Bernini’s first work at St. Peter’s was designing the baldacchino.  The baldacchino is a pavilion-like structure 98 ft tall and said to be the largest piece of bronze in the world. The baldacchino is located underneath the dome and above the altar. Bernini’s idea for the baldacchino was for something other than the typical white marble and colored stone. Bernini designed four enormouscolumns of bronze, twisted and decorated with olive leaves and beesto represent Pope Urban.

The dome of St. Peter’s 448.1 ft high from the floor of the basilica to the top of the cross. This is the tallest dome in the world. When designing the dome, the architects of St. Peter’s looked to the domes of the Pantheon and Florence duomo. St. Peter’s is  the greatest dome of Christendom.

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Tomb of Pope Alexander VII

Next I took a picture of the Tomb of Pope Alexander VII. The color of the marble in person is indescribable. It is so vibrant with gold, orange and amber tones. At the age of 80, the Italian artist Gianlorenzo Bernini designed the sculpture Tomb of Pope Alexander VII. It is located in the south section of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. The piece was commissioned by Pope Alexander himself. Construction of the monument didn’t start until 1671 and then was finally completed eleven years after the Pope’s death in 1678.

Just as you leave the Chapel, you will pass the Monument to Gregory XIII on the rightIt was built by Camillo Rusconi in 1723 out of white marble. The moument was influenced by Algardi in its structural linearity and the expressive peacefulness. The monument is known as the Figure of Knowledge and represents the pope giving his blessing.

Monument to Gregory XIII

Monument to Gregory XIII

Let’s talk food!!! After a long tour of the Vatican, everyone is hungry. As we departed the Square, there was a cafeteria-style restuarant to the left with some of the best Italian food we experiencedDSC07833 in Rome!!! We were starving and just started walking and saw tons of people gathering outside in line, sitting in the outdoor seating and it was so noisy. You could hear espresso machines going and dishes clanking around. I think we grabbed one of everything and all shared.

IMG00079-20100913-1526$$ saving tips: Vatican City is located right off of a stop on the double decker bus in Rome. If you choose to take a cab, it will be more expensive and there are long cab lines. The buses have designated stops right outside of the Vatican Square which is easy access to and from shopping and restaurants. The double decker bus picked us up right in front of our hotel, Westin Excelsior Rome. Be sure to bring your camera to the Vatican, as they do allow pictures inside. I was quite surprised because many museums won’t allow flash photography. We saved money by eating outside of the Vatican, ordering food family style and sharing it all. Plus it’s a great way to try everything!! Look up information on the double decker bus stops at http://www.rome-tours.net/?event=offer.detail&offerId=2154&startDate=07/01/2013&endDate=07/31/2013

5wheelsto5star was featured in the March 2014 issue of Destinations Travel Magazine

St. Martin, Caribbean

St. Martin

St. Martin

St Maarten cruise port

St Maarten cruise port

 

Driving through the Dutch side of Sint Maarten

Driving through the Dutch side of Sint Maarten

Saint Martin in French or Sint Maarten in Dutch is an island in the northeast Caribbean. The island is divided 60/40 between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands and they are pretty equivalent in population. St. Martin is one of the smallest sea islands divided between two nations since 1648. The southern part is the Dutch side and the northern end is the French part. As of 2009, the population of the entire island was 77,741, with 40,917 living on the Dutch side, and 36,824 on the French side.

Sunken Ship

Sunken Ship

The Dutch side is known for its nightlife, beaches, jewelry, exotic drinks which are made with native rum-based guavaberry liquors, and casinos.

More about the guavaberry- it is exclusive to Sint Maarten.

Guavaberry Colada

Drink Ingredients:

  • 2oz Sint Maarten Guavaberry
  • 1oz Coconut Cream
  • 3oz Pineapple Juice or Pieces
  • Ice

How to mix the drink:

Put ice in blender, add Sint Maarten Guavaberry, Cream of Coconut, pineapple pieces or juice. Blend well. Garnish with pineapple, toasted coconut & fresh nutmeg.

Guavaberry Sunrise

Drink Ingredients:

  • 2oz Guavaberry Liqueur
  • 2oz Grapefruit Juice
  • 2oz Orange Juice
  • ½oz Grenadine

How to mix the drink:

In a tall glass of ice pour Guavaberry Liqueur. Add fresh grapefruit & orange juice. Carefully pour in  Grenadine. Decorate with grapefruit, orange & flowers. Grate cinnamon on top.

Guavaberry Margarita

Drink Ingredients:

  • 1oz SM Guavaberry Liqueur
  • 1oz Tequila
  • 1oz Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Ice

How to mix the drink:

Muddle ice. Add Tequila, SM Guavaberry Liqueur, 1/2oz Lemon/Lime, shake well. Use salt rimmed glass. This drink can also be made in the blender. Decorate with lime.

http://www.guavaberry.com/recipes.php

 

West Indies Shopping Mall

West Indies Shopping Mall

The French side is known for it’s nude beaches, clothes, shopping, outdoor markets, and rich French and Indian Caribbean food. English is the most commonly spoken language along with a local dialect. The official languages are French for Saint-Martin, and both Dutch and English for Sint Maarten. Other common languages spoken are French-based creoles, Spanish, and Papiamento.

 

View of St Maarten from ship

View of St Maarten from ship

We were in port for just a day and therefore did not rent a car. We booked a tour with a guide to take us from one end of the island to the other. The guide was hilarious and kept us laughing throughout the tour. He was clearly from the Dutch side, but covered the history and lifestyles of both sides.

The bus was air conditioned, very comfortable with huge windows to take great pictures all the way. We pulled off to view a sunken ship, future property of a resort, and the town of Marigot on the French side of the island. When we reached Marigot, there were a shopping area called the West Indies Shopping Mall.

Rental cars are the primary mode of transportation for visitors staying on island. A four-wheel drive is recommended if driving off road to get to beaches. Traffic on the island is a major problem, resulting in long traffic jams between Marigot, Philipsburg and the airport. Be sure to allow plenty of time to get to the airport or back to your cruise ship.

The neighboring islands include Saint Barthélemy (French), Anguilla (British), Saba (Dutch), Sint Eustatius “Statia” (Dutch), Saint Kitts and Nevis (independent, formerly British). All of these islands are easily visible on a clear day from St. Martin, except Nevis.

Saint Martin uses the euro as its currency, while Sint Maarten uses the Netherlands Antillean guilder.

Shops at St. Maarten cruise port

Shops at St. Maarten cruise port

Almost every store on the island also accepts the United States dollar, although sometimes a more expensive exchange rate is used.

We ended our day in Marigot with frozen yogurt, known as “yogart”. It was a very, hot and humid day and my daughter was a bit under the weather so frozen yogurt was a perfect treat!! We did not choose to spend the day at a beach, as we live on Kauai and have the best beaches in the world in our backyard. However, I would return to Marigot and spend more time. Passengers on our cruise ship were saying that the beaches were very nice. I highly recommend visiting Marigot, as it was a really quaint, little town tucked away with small hotels and beach front rentals. Marigot reminded me of a casual, laid back French Riviera. The French side of the island was definitely more resort-like and touristy, whereas the Dutch side appeared to be more local and residential.

Yogart in Marigot

Yogart in Marigot

Royal Caribbean has built shops at the St. Maarten Cruise Port which only passengers with a cruise pass card, cruise staff and tour guides can enter. There is music, bars, shopping and restaurants in the port area. The nice thing about this shopping area, is that vendors are not allowed in.

$$ saving tips: Shopping on St. Maarten and Saint Martin offers duty-free goods in numerous boutiques. Some of these goods include local crafts and arts, exotic foods, jewelry, liquor, tobacco, leather goods, as well as most designer goods. Most often the designer goods are offered at significant discounts, often up to 40% lower than US retail prices. We had a few hours to walk around and shop. My daughter collects snow globes from each place that we travel, so we picked up a nautical snow globe displaying the word Marigot. I found St. Martin to be rather inexpensive over all. If you are there for just a day and don’t know your way around, it is best to book a guided tour. Our tour was about 4-5 hours in length and only cost $24 per person! That’s a deal.

 

St Maarten Cruise Port

St Maarten Cruise Port

5wheelsto5star is featured monthly in Destinations Travel Magazine