Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Plan

Just found out this morning as my dad and I were leaving for the airport that my Mom had no idea where I was going. So I thought it might be appropriate to list it out. Mom, please see below, LOL:

Milan 1 night
Venice 2 nights
Rome 2 nights
Monte Carlo 1 night
Montpellier 1 night
Madrid 10+ days

And then I'm never coming back! Ciao!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fun in Ocean City, Maryland

The mid-Atlantic beaches may not have crystal blue water like the Caribbean with palm trees, but when I think of going to the beach, this is where my mind goes.  I've grown up with these beaches.  On occasion I have been to prettier beaches, warmer beaches, with fancier hotels and restaurants.  But Ocean City, Maryland is what I'm really familiar to.


For those of you who turn your nose up at Ocean City, I'd like to share what I think is fun about the place.  Maybe there are too many rowdy teenagers on the boardwalk at times, but Ocean City is a big place, with lots to do!



Enjoy the view from an ocean front balcony!  Share a couple drinks with friends and soak up the sun.  If you don't mind the sand, then go set up camp on the beach instead.  There's something about sitting at the seaside, watching the waves.  


Go fishing on the bay with friends.  It's pretty inexpensive to go out on a head boat on the bay or ocean, you just have to wake up early!  However, it's never too early for beer.  Whether you catch a fish, a stingray, or nothing but seaweed, the boat ride is a blast all on it's own.  


Wasn't allowed to keep this one...


Seeking some faster paced thrills?  Check out the rides on the boardwalk.  They have a mutli-loop roller coaster and a bunch of other rides that swirl you around and get you dizzy.  Day time has shorter lines, but at night you get to see all the lights.  Both times of day you can get a good view from some of the rides.  

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Drop into one of the corny hotel bars and dance the electric slide!  If you don't feel like waiting in line at Seacrets, there's nothing wrong with checking out one of these bars.  They usually have live music or a DJ.


But if you don't mind waiting in line, Seacrets is a good time!  Grab a seat at one of the many beach bars or bay side tables to watch the sunset.  You can also take your drinks out to their tables or floats in the water.  This place is fun no matter what time of day.  They have multiple stages and different music in the different areas.  I would say the crowd is younger at night, but in general everyone loves Seacrets!


Stuck in the Mud!

See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil... But Claire was evilly splashing us!  LOL


 
    Have you ever wanted to try the army crawl through the mud?  Neither did I, but when presented with the opportunity I tried it anyways.  I must have been crazy.

    Recently, a group of ladies and I took a road trip to ACE Adventure Resort in West Virginia.  This place is awesome because it has so many activities.  We've been there before to do white water rafting on the New River.  They also have a super fun activity lake with all these floating toys, like trampolines and water slides and a zip line that drags you into the water.  When you're tired of climbing on all the inflatable slides and see-saws, sit back and relax on the little beach.   We decided to take a stab at the mud course...



    We woke up Saturday and ate a big breakfast in preparation for the mud obstacle course.  I put on a T Shirt from middle school, my mud colored hiking shorts and an old pair of reeboks.  


    At the beginning of the mud course, the ACE guide splits everyone into two teams.  My group stayed together and we got the mom from a family on the other team.  The other team had a bunch of small athletic kids... never the less we thought we could beat them... Yeah Right! 


Playing in the mud afterwords
   First thing we had to do in the race, was fill a tube with water that had a bunch of holes in it.  I volunteered to be the one that jumps down into the pond to scoop water in a bucket and hand it up to my team.  As I'm watching my team plug the holes with sticks and slowly pour the water in, I realized that the bucket looked like it could hold more water than the tube.  So I filled it all the way up and yelled at my team to dump the entire thing in all at once.  It worked!  


    Next stop we had to slide down a black tube into cold muddy water.  As soon as I hit the water, the temperature shocked me.  So cold! Keep going! OMG...  Then we did the army crawl under beams covered in mesh... My helmet fell over my eyes and I couldn't pop my head up to see where I was going without hitting my head, so I just kept crawling, not knowing when it would end.  My knees were getting caught on pebbles and rocks in the mud, but I was too tired to lift them up and use my feet.  I still have scars from the rocks on this part...


    Next we did over and under on logs laying across the cold muddy water... Under was the worst cause your just trying to avoid getting that water near your mouth at the same time you're trying to move as fast as you can.  At the end of the over/under section there is a narrow slippery log that we need to cross, one at a time.  Only after you cross, can you go into the water and give a hand to your other team mates to get across.  I totally needed help the first time on this.  But later when we went back to take pictures, I did the log all by myself!  Total confidence booster..


    I hated the next obstacle... You have to climb up a slippery 4 foot slide, just to slide back down a slide on the other side into the mud.  It was really hard to run up or pull yourself over... Just too slippery and nothing to hang on to.  So of course, as a team we pushed each other over... resulting in face first dives into the mud on the other side.  Fabulous!  


Annie walking up the wall.. Piece of cake!
    I didn't even try the next obstacle.  You had to jump into a deep pit of muddy water and then climb up a wooden wall with a rope.  Upper arm strength is not me.  The one person in our group to rock the wall, was Annie who goes to climbing walls all the time.  It's tough climbing out of the water up the wall though, cause your feet are wet and it gets slippery.  Another girl in our group slipped while climbing the wall, face planted on the wall and then let go of the rope and slide down into the water.  She was not happy after that!


    Next we jumped through another large pit of mud and then had to cross a creek on a log, with all of us holding hands.  That was harder than doing it on your own and you could only go as fast as your slowest person.  But we made it on the first try, so that was good.  At this point, the kids on the other team are already done with the course.


Me and the first slide into the mud
  After crossing the creek we had to jump into the pond and pull all of us on to a float.  Once we were all on it, we had to dive back into the pond and swim all the way back to the starting line.  It was a long swim, and it turned into a slow back stroke while we all chatted and enjoyed the view of the forest.  


   Once we were all done, we walked back through to take more pictures and play around for a little bit.  We all felt a little bit more comfortable getting dirty at this point and I had a little sense of accomplishment.  After taking plenty of photos, we raced back to our cabin to fight over the showers.  Most of us threw away our shoes completely.  I tried to save the white socks I used, but they still have a orangish hue to this day.  


Going backwards down the slide due to technical difficulties.

   Overall, ACE has a bunch of fun things to do.  I know we'll keep going back and trying new things.  The white water rafting is amazing!  Make time for activity lake.  In general, I always have fun in West Virginia!


   

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Road Less Traveled: Southern Honduras


Southern Honduras is on the Pacific coast and doesn’t draw a fraction of the crowd of the Caribbean coast, but that just makes it more appealing!  Twinkle your toes on a quiet sandy beach, just you and the Pacific! 

To get to the towns in Southern Honduras, it’s just four or more hours on a bus.  If you’ve been to Central America you’ve seen these buses before.  Old American school buses decked out with colorful airbrushed names.  They are truly a lovely site!  On occasion you’ll sit next to a lady with a live chicken or various other cargos, but that adds to the ambiance. 

San Lorenzo
Catch a bus from Teguc to San Lorenzo and don’t pay more than 45 Lemps!  To find the bus stops in Honduras, you’ll have to catch a cab and ask, you’ll need your Spanish for this.  There aren’t signs for bus stops; the cabbies just know where different buses chill till they feel like leaving. 


San Lorenzo - Rumor was the sailboat belonged to an
Auzzie sailing around the world.







San Lorenzo has a handful of waterfront discotecas and cute little restaurants.  Pull up a bench on the palm leaf covered deck of one of the restaurants and order yourself a fresh grilled fish or lobster.  Be prepared to peel back the skin and eat around the bones.  Yum!  As you walk around San Lorenzo you will notice an assortment of sea statues, including shrimps and seahorses. 
View of Amapala from Coyolito

My favorite beaches in Southern Honduras are on an island called Amapala.  I think this used to be a volcanic island because the sand is very dark on the beaches, but it’s beautiful!  Catch the bus to Coyolito and then barter with someone that has a boat to catch a ride to San Pablo, the little port town on Amapala.  It’s a short ride, but it gives you a beautiful view of the coast and some other islands, so get your camera out.  I advise keeping your camera inside a zip lock bag, because this ride can be bumpy! 

Empty Secluded Playa Grande on Amapala
Upon arrival in the town, you’ll wander through the cute streets and hopefully you’ll find the main square where you can buy ice cream and meet some of the locals.  There are cute little motorcycles converted into cabs that can give you a ride to one of the beaches.  Or you can hitch a ride like I did on the back of a pick-up truck. 

The beaches are beautiful but this island is not very developed so you won’t have too many options on places to eat and such.  We had to walk most of the way back to San Pablo after playing on the beach all day, because there were literally no cars driving by for 30 minutes.  We finally squeezed into the back of a motorcycle cab with 2 small kids already on board.  But as you traverse this island, admire the jungle and the landscape.  It’s beautiful and untouched! 

Lobster shack on Amapala
As a safety note, I would like to advise travelers not to carry purses or use your expensive electronics when in the large cities of Honduras.  Save your digital camera for the southern beaches where it’s not a problem.  While in the capital, I kept my money in my bra and carried nothing else on me.  I took pictures from the safety of a cab on our way to the bus stop, but that was it.  Gringos stand out in this country like a sore thumb, so just be prepared.  Also, drink plenty of water!  Bags of water shouldn’t cost more than 2 lemps.  There’s no such thing as bottled water so just get used to sucking water out of the corner of a plastic bag. 

Dog trying to get out of sun on Playa Grande




But most importantly have fun!  The Honduran people are generally warm and friendly.  Say hello and they will say hello back!