Category Archives: Trips

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

During September 2018, Susan and I entered a lottery to be able to purchase tickets to attend a private party at Bubba Gumps in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Every year, Bubba Gumps sells 250 tickets. Since there is a high demand, the restaurant holds a lottery to determine who can purchase tickets. We entered the lottery the previous year and was not selected. Our names were selected this year! So with a few months notice, Susan and I scrambled to make arrangements to spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square. This was a bucket list event for Mike.

We decided to make a vacation out of the trip. We arrived in NYC on 12/27/18. On our first day, we went to the 9/11 Museum. Last time we were in New York, they were beginning construction on the memorial. We truly enjoyed the museum. It is one place where everyone seemed to understand the importance. The wall to the left (depicted below) was one of the original walls for the World Trade Center.

Looking down into the 9/11 Museum.

That evening we went to the longest running broadway show, Phantom of the Opera. The show was amazing. We see why it has been on Broadway so long. After the show, we went to Junior’s Cheesecake. Susan and I had a burger and enjoyed a slice of authentic New York cheesecake.

Outside the Majestic Theater on Broadway.

Our next day we started by traveling to a Jewish Community in Brooklyn. We went to Di Fara Pizza to try their classic pizza. I read several good reviews for the place. Get there early. The line went out the door shortly after 12. After enjoying a couple of slices of pizza, we headed to the Brooklyn Brewery. The Brewery was okay. It didn’t have that craft brewery feel. Every time you wanted a beer you had to get into a single line at the bar.

That evening we went to the Village Underground, which is a part of the Comedy Cellar. We sat front row for the comedy show. They had about six comedians scheduled to perform. They surprised us with a special guest. It was Tracy Morgan! Tracy was sitting just several feet from Susan and I. He was so funny. A bit drunk, but funny.

Susan and I with the MC of the comedy show.

The following day we went to Grand Central Station. We just wanted to see the station. I didn’t realize there was an Apple Store in the middle of the station. After walking around the station for a bit, we headed to our second show, Stomp. Stomp was better than I was expecting. The musicians interjected bits of comedy into the show that made it quite nice. From Stomp, we headed to Rokafeller Center to see the famous Christmas Tree.

Christmas Tree at Rokafeller Center.

On December 31st, we took it easy during the day. During the day we walked to Highline Park. Our AirBNB host recommended it. The park is an old train track that is built above the city. We enjoyed walking along the route. The train line was about two or three floors above street level.

We were suppose to arrive in Times Square around 8:45. We arrived at that time and started making our way through NYPD security. It rained the entire night. Getting through NYPD security was difficult because there was a lot of confusion. The gate we were at was only for ticketed guest. A lot of people without tickets thought they could get into Times Square through the same gate. The security line was chaotic at best.

Once we got through security, we were whisked into Bubba Gumps. The staff did an amazing job. There was tons of food (a seafood station, pass arounds, and a buffet). Around 11:45, Susan and I went out into Times Square and stood directly in front of the tower the ball was located on. The experience was everything we imagined. I am glad we were able to go! After the ball drop, we were walking back into Bubba Gumps and Bebe Rexha walked right passed us and said hi! That was cool. Not something that happens in Pensacola!

Our view the ball drop. The ball is above the lighted tower.

What better way to celebrate New Year’s than a Polar Plunge. We have done a couple in Florida, but never in a northern state. I found a polar plunge at Coney Island. This plunge was huge! There were so many people. The weather wasn’t that bad. The air temperature was in the 50s. The water temperature was reported to be 47 degrees. It stung going in! It was so much fun though. They had a drum core lining the entrance. I recorded a video of us getting into the water. You can view the video on youtube. After the polar plunge, we headed to the Coney Island Brewery and the Other Half Brewery to try and warm up. Other Half Brewery was an awesome brewery that had several beers that we loved.

After the Coney Island Polar Plunge.

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Chicago 2017

During the first weekend of October 2017, Susan and I visited Chicago for our first time. We visited our friends, Dan and Jen, who moved there about a year ago. We walked around downtown and took an architecture boat tour. The tour was on a riverboat that went through the middle of downtown. During the tour a lady passed out. We had to pull to the side and call an ambulance for her. She seemed to be fine by the time the ambulance arrived. The tour guide was very knowledgable with all of the downtown buildings. I am glad we did the tour.

We stopped at Giordano’s and had the best pizza ever! It was a deep dish, BBQ chicken pizza. I wish we had a place in Pensacola that served a similar pizza. Maybe it is best there isn’t though.

We also visited quite a few breweries. Most of the breweries were on the outskirt of town. We went to the Forbidden Root Brewery, which was probably our favorite.

We went to the well known Laugh Factory. There wasn’t any comedy shows while we were in town, but there was an improv show. The improv show was pretty good. It was a part of the podcast festival that was happening in town during that weekend.

Our trip was too short! We will have to return to see everything we missed. Now we have friends that we can stay with!

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Miami 2017

On July 25, 2017, Susan and I headed back to one of our favorite vacation spots: Miami, FL. As always, we stayed in Surfside at my mom’s timeshare. During most days we just hung out on the beach and then headed into town in the evenings.

On Thursday, we took a boat tour out of Biscayne Bay. The tour was called Millionaire’s Row Cruise because is took us by several houses on the bay. The photograph to the right was taken during the beginning of the cruise.

On the next day, Friday, we went to a Cirque du Soleil show. The show was OVO, which was an insect based show. The show was good, but nothing can compare to O in Las Vegas.

On Saturday night, we caught an Improv show at the Gramps Bar. This was our first Improv show. It was a nice intimate setting that was quite funny.

We also checked out several breweries while we were in town. The photograph on the left is our favorite brewery, Funky Buddha. We love their beers and the pub itself. We also checked out MIA Beer Co and Concrete Beach Brewery. Funky Buddha was recently bought out by a big beer company. I hope they don’t change this brewery.

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Cruise 2017

On June 3, 2017, we set sail on our longest cruise to date. This eight day cruise took us to Aruba, Curaçao, and Grand Turk. It took almost three days to reach our first port (Aruba). This was our first time in Aruba. Susan and Aaron did a snorkeling excursion. I wanted to dive while in Aruba. At the first wreck (the Antilles), Susan and Aaron were snorkeling above as I dove. The wreck was about 60′ at the deepest. After snorkeling, Susan and Aaron had a BBQ meal at a beach. Then they took a bus back to the port. The photograph to the right is Aaron and Susan at the beach in Aruba. Links to my dive videos are below.

Our next stop was Curaçao. This was probably our favorite stop. We took a taxi from the port to Cas Abou Beach. Cas Abou had good reviews online. The cab ride was about 45 minutes each way. It ended up costing $100 round trip. We did enjoy the cab ride. We saw a lot of the city. Where is uber when you need them? Cas Abou was beautiful. There were not a lot of people there. It definitely wasn’t touristy. We only saw a few other people from the ship. The snorkeling at the beach was incredible. There was a lot of coral at the beach. The photograph to the left is Susan and I next at the end of the beach. There is also a link to a video of us snorkeling below.

Our last stop, Grand Turk, was actually the only port we have visited during a prior cruise. We were impressed by the port last time. So we decided to just hangout in the port area. After shopping for a bit, we went to Margartiville. They have a large outdoor pool with bar service. Some of the friends Aaron

met on the boat were also hanging out at the pool. About two hours before we were to leave they kicked everyone out of the pool to treat it. Apparently someone threw up in the pool. So we went behind Margartiville to the beach until it was time to go. There aren’t many places you can swim next to the cruise ship. How cool is this photograph?

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My first dive video:

My second dive video:

Snorkeling at Cas Abou Beach:

Munich, Germany

At Munich, we stayed at our third AirBnB. This time, we stayed on the third floor of IMG_8468doctor’s house. It was lovely. An issue at every place was that none of the places had air conditioning. Most of the days we were in Germany the weather was in the 80s during the day. This equaled going to bed hot most nights. They didn’t even have fans available for us.

After getting settled into the condo, we headed to Hofbrau for dinner and a German beer. The restaurant just seemed a lot more touristy than I expected. I was hoping for a more authentic German brewery experience. The beer was good. A lot of people asked if they served the beer hot: no! 

In Munich we also decided to use the public DSCN3745transportation system. We had so many problems with traffic in Berlin and trying to find places to park we decided to try something different. I must say, using the public transportation system was a lot better experience. The bus stop and train stop were all within walking distance to our Airbnb.

On our second day, we went to a second concentration camp, which was Dachau. Dachau was the first camp in Germany. I found the tour of Dachua better than Sachsenhausen. Dachau also seemed to be a bit more DSCN3759personal to experience. The photograph above is the crematory at Dachua.

After the camp, we returned to Munich. We went to the Munich Residence. This was where several rulers resided in the past. The house was was huge. This was our first shot at walking inside of a very wealthy residence. The had a lot of fine jewelry on display. One room was dedicated to Christian artifacts as well. They had a section of the crown from the Passion of Christ. The photograph on the right is Aaron and I in the banquet hall of the Munich Residence.

After touring the residence, we went to Weihenstephan DSCN3791Brewery. This brewery is the world oldest brewery, which began in year 1040. I have actually had several of the their beers here int he U.S. I was looking forward to having a fresh one at the brewery. There was  a beer garden in the back of the brewery. This was the experience I was waiting for! It was an authentic beer garden. I actually think we were the only tourist there. It sat on the top of a mountain. The views while eating were amazing. The brewery was about 40 minutes away from Munich.DSCN3795

On our last day in Munich, we went to the German Museum. This museum was amazing. I think it was the largest museum any of us have been to. It covered a lot of science. There were six floors. We were worn out afterward! After the museum, we went to a German toy store, Obletter. Maria had her eye on a special German made toy for her nephews. We also bought packages of Haribo DSC02018gummies for 99 cents! They are so cheap because they are made in Germany. My mom also sent us on a mission to pick her up a pair of Birkenstocks, which are also made in Germany. We found some for about $83 USD. Mom was excited. I guess they go for quite a bit more in the states.

After visiting Obletter, we went to the English Garden, which reminded me of Central Park. There was a canal that ran through the edge of the park. There was a section where the water broke and caused a wave. The locals surfed in the area of the wave. The photograph below is the surfers lined up waiting for their turn to hit the water.IMG_8813

After watching the surfers, we went to the Chinese Beer Garden in the park. This was also a nice experience. No tourist, just hanging with the locals.

All of the beer gardens operated the same. You would get a tray and grab your food through a serving line. Then you would go and get your drink. There would be a cashier located at the exit, toward the tables. The setup was similar to a cafeteria. All of the food we had in Germany was very good. They do some things quite better than us. Aaron couldn’t get over their chocolate milk, Maria loved the yogurt, and Susan loved the DSCN3835sauerkraut.

On the following morning, we left Munich to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle was what Walt Disney based the sleeping beauty castle on. The castle was built for King Ludwing’s son. The castle was very impressive. First we visited the King’s castle, which sat on an adjacent hill. This is the photograph on the left. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs inside the castle. The family turned the castle over to the state to allow it to be viewed by the public. There were numerous gifts that the King received displayed in the castle. We opted to hike to DSCN3847the top of both castles. The walk to the first castle was not difficult. However, the hike to Neuschwanstein Castle left everyone a bit winded. We did take the bus to the bottom. Maria’s bridge was closed, which is suppose to give the best view of the Neuschwanstein Castle.

After the visit to the castles, we drove to Salzburg, Austria. We all expected to go through some form of border police and had our passports ready to hand over. It was hard to tell when we even crossed the border. There were no signs, no police, just notification on our GPS of the traffic law variances.

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Salzburg, Austria

While I was planning our trip to Germany, Susan asked to visit the filming location for theDSCN3888 Sound of Music. Since I have never watched the movie, I was less than thrilled to go to Austria to see where a musical was filmed. However, the women (Maria and Susan) won. So we ended our German Trip with a short trek across the border to Austria.

We stayed at a farmhouse that doubled as a bed and breakfast. The location was great. Right across the street from the bus stop. However, sometimes the smell was overpowering.

We only had one full day in Austria. We started the day with a Sound of Music bike tour. The tour was about 10 miles long. During the tour, we saw quite a few sites of the City as well as numerous filming locations for the movie. We really enjoyed the tour. Even DSCN3891though I didn’t care about the movie, the tour guide provided us a lot of information about the city itself that I appreciated. Our tour guide was actually from California! We saw Europe’s oldest restaurant (since year 804) as well as St. Peter’s Abby, which has been around since 696. The church is in the photograph to the left.

After the bike tour, we went to the house Mozart was born in. The house has been converted into a museum. They had several of Mozart’s instruments on display. We were not allowed to take photographs inside the DSCN3938residence.

We ended the night at a dinner and concert at a fortress. The fortress sat on top of a mountain, overlooking downtown. The concert was very good. Several violinist, a cello player, and a pianist performed for about an hour and a half. The photograph below is of the concert. I think Austria ended up being everyone’s favorite city. We wanted to see so much more, but our IMG_9187vacation was coming to an end. Hopefully, we can return another day. It just goes to show the importance of listening to the wife!

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Berlin, Germany

The night of the Ironman, we packed out bags, broke down the bike, and prepared to leave for Berlin.

DSCN3452On the following morning, we drove about six hours from Frankfurt to Berlin. Well, Maria drove as my legs were a bit sore from the day before. We reserved another Airbnb apartment in Berlin. This place was not quite as close to the town center, so we had to drive everywhere while in Berlin. Berlin was so much more busier than Frankfurt. More traffic, more people, more patience! Parking was such a pain. We should have taken public transportation even though we had a car.

After checking into our condo, we went to theDSCN3465 Topography of Terror. This was where we first saw the remnants of the Berlin Wall. After the Topography of Terror, we visited Checkpoint Charlie. We were surprised to see the checkpoint was in the middle of a road that was still active. We found a street side food stand and decided to grab a currywurst. Berlin is known for their currywust and it did not disappoint. After eating, we drove to the house my mom and her family lived in almost 60 years ago. The apartment still stands, but was recently remodeled. We also located the former Army hospital DSCN3499that my mom was born at. I took several videos to share with my mom’s family.

On our second day in Berlin, we went to the TV Tower to grab of 360 degree view of the city. The tower was huge! It reminded us a lot of the CN Tower in Toronto. After the tower, we went to the the Berlin Wall Memorial. At this memorial, we noticed a brick line that still remains on the ground where the wall once
stood. Almost like an outline of where the wall once stood. After the memorial, we headed to museum island. Museum island was beautiful. DSCN3520There were five museums on the island. We only had time to visit two of the five museums, the Pergamon and Nues Museums. Both museums had items that were older than anything we have ever seen. Some of items dated back to before Christ! After the two museums, we were worn out from all of the walking and called it a night.

On our third day, we went to our first DSCN3598concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. The camp was a sobering reminder of Germany’s past. It was sad seeing the experience some endured. After the camp, we went to the Holocaust Memorial, which was a series of graves in line with one another. We then walked to the Bradenburg Gate. It was difficult to get to the gate as much of the area was closed off for a soccer game. After checking out the Bradenburg, we headed to the Reichstag, which is the Capitol building for Germany. We were truly amazed by all of the old buildings around the city. The photograph to DSCN3672the right was just a random building we walked by on our way to the car.

The following morning we left Berlin and headed to Munich, which I will discuss in another blog. Click on any of the photographs to view all of the photographs from Berlin.

Frankfurt, Germany

For our 2016 family vacation we visited Germany and Austria. Since there is a lot of places we visited, I will break this blog into cities that we visited. For the vacation, our friend Maria joined us. She loves traveling Europe and offered to tag along while helping to pay some of the expenses.

Our first stop was Frankfurt. We arrived early in the morning. After getting our rental car (a DSCN3378minivan with a Diesel engine) we arrived at our first Airbnb stay, which was an apartment located on the Main River. Our visit to Frankfurt was centered around me doing the Ironman race, which I will discuss in a separate blog. On our first day, we just settled into our condo and tried to get groceries. By far, one of the hardest things we had to overcome (language wise) was grocery shopping. No joke, we bought three cases of water before we got it right. We kept buying sparkling water inside of still water.

On our second day, I started the day with a practice swim at the Ironman swim start. DSC00750The water was much warmer than I expected. After the swim, I checked into the Ironman race. After I got checked into the race, we went to Heidelberg Castle. The castle was about an hour away from Frankfurt. As our first castle, we were mesmerized. It seemed everywhere we went, crews were setting up for a special event, just like they were at the castle. We weren’t able to go into the castle, so we explored the grounds.

After Heidelberg, we were suppose to visit another castle. When I planned the visit, the two castles were suppose to be close in driving distance, but once there, they were very far so we just called it a night and drove home.IMG_0228

The next day we walked to the Frankfurt Zoo. The zoo was in the center in the center and was a bit smaller than zoos we have visited in the past. After the Zoo, went to the ironman briefing, which was located at the finish line for the race.

On our fourth day, we took a boat tour of the Main River. I planned this because I didn’t DSCN3283want to do too much walking on the day before the race. The boat cruise was nice, but the weather was not cooperating. It drizzled the first half of the boat ride. After the boat ride, everyone but me went to the Werthiem Castle, which is the one we missed on the third day. While everyone else was at the castle, I took a shuttle to check my bike into where the Ironman race started. Susan and Aaron loved the castle. The castle was just ruins for DSCN3352the most part.

The fifth day was showtime for Mike. Mike did Ironman Frankfurt. During the ironman, everyone else cheered for all of the athletes at the swim and the run. The run course passed by our apartment eight times! After the Ironman, we packed up everything to depart for Berlin.

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Buffalo, New York

Our trip to Canada, started and ended in Buffalo. Flying into Buffalo was much cheaper than IMG_5518other options. We had to depart of our condo in Niagara Falls about eight hours before our plane departed Buffalo. We visited Canalside in Buffalo. While at Canalside, we went to the Naval Park and toured two military ships and a submarine. The tour was nice, but seemed to be too much. Touring three different ships in one day is actually pretty tiring. Susan gave up midway through the second ship. Aaron and I had to move pretty fast through the second ship to leave in time to not miss a famous lunch.

IMG_5520After checking out the Naval Park, we had lunch at Anchor’s Bar. The bar is the birthplace of Buffalo Wings. We shared a platter of 50 wings, hot and medium. The wings were very good. The hot weren’t as hot I am use to though.

After lunch, we headed to the airport to catch our plane. If only we knew that our plane was delayed a few hours. We did not get into New Orleans until after 1am.

Thanks for reading. Click on any of the photographs to view the entire album.

Niagara Falls, Canada Trip

On June 8, 2015, we drove from Toronto to Niagara Falls. After hearing from several people that visited the area, we decided to stay on the Canadian side of the falls. We rented a condo about IMG_2461a mile and a half from the Falls. On Monday we checked into our condo, went grocery shopping and relaxed.

Tuesday was overcast and rainy. What better day to see the Falls, right? We headed to the Falls and took the Hornblower Cruise, Voyage into the Falls. The boat ride was amazing. It started along the American Falls and then journeyed to the Canada Horseshoe Falls. The force of the falls was very impressive. I brought my GoPro and was able to take some photographs and video while on the boat. WeDCIM100GOPRO all got soaked! After the boat ride, we decided go behind the falls. The Canadians dug a very long tunnel that goes behind the horseshoe falls. The tour, Journey Behind the Falls, started with a walk to the side of the Falls. Below is a picture of us on a platform beside the falls. After we went beside the falls, we walked through the tunnel behind the falls. They had two areas cutout where you could see the falls. The tunnel went about a third of the way behind the falls.

After walking around the Falls, we walked to Clifton Hill and played a round of miniature golf. Aaron and I get pretty competitive. I was loosing by eight strokes after hole nine. I was able to come back and beat Aaron by one stroke! The little guy scared me pretty bad for a moment.

On June 10th, we rented bicycles for the day. Aaron had a cruiser and Susan IMG_5336and I shared a tandem bike. We rode from Niagara Falls to Niagara on the Lake. The views were amazing. We went by the Whirlpool, which is an area in Niagara River where a sort of “whirlpool” occurs. We passed about five wineries along the route. The bike trip was about 15 miles one way. It took us a little over an hour to make it to Niagara on the Lake.

Niagara on the Lake is a small town, which reminded us of Fairhope, AL. It started to rain as we arrived. We stopped and had lunch and then started the return trip to Niagara Falls. The way home was a lot of uphill pedaling. Aaron and I got some triathlon training in after all! Susan wasn’t too pleased with the length of the ride though.IMG_5373

Fort George was along our way. We stopped at the Fort to check it out. The Fort kind of reminded us of the Pilgrim Plantation in Boston. There were several actors in the Fort that portrayed the roles of various people. They also did a firearms demonstration as we were leaving.

After our ride home, all of us were pretty tired. We stopped by the Taps on Queen Brewhouse to eat. The brewery was having a wing special. I think the wings were 22 cents each. After we ate, we headed back to the condo to relax. We wanted to see the falls at nighttime. Strangely, it doesn’t get dark IMG_5392until almost 10 o’clock.

At night, they light the falls up with high beam lights on both sides. It is almost surreal. After taking a few photographs, we went back to Clifton Hill. Clifton Hill was lit up pretty well to. It looked like a mini Las Vegas with all of the neon lights.

On Thursday, we visited Marineland Canada. Marineland was kind of a zoo and part of a theme park. We got there shortly after the park opened. We expected a large crowd like most theme parks. Hardly anyone was there this time of year. We had a blast. We were able to ride all of the rides with little to no waiting.

The park had Beluga Whales. I think this was our first time seeing Beluga Whales. They had quite the DSCN3014personality. They would stick there heads up to watch what you were doing.

There were several feeding areas in the park. We bought some food to feed the bears. The bears were funny. They would sit and wait patiently for someone to drop them a kernel. The deer, on the other hand, were quite aggressive. There was a fenced in area where you could buy some food to feed the deer. The deer would surround you once they knew you had food. Some would even nip at your clothes or a bag you were carrying. One bumped DSCN3062my arm to try and get me to drop the food. I didn’t like the deer feeding experience at all. Susan loved it and wanted to go back.

On Thursday night, we went back to Clifton Hill and played another round of miniature golf. I won again. This time I made sure that I did not let Aaron get so close to beating me!

On Friday, it was time to leave. We checked out of our condo and departed for Buffalo, NY. We spent half a day in Buffalo, which you can read about here.

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