RSS

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Someone in the family suggested that we have our family photo taken dressed in wild west old time theme.  I did not resist, although I laughed at the possibility of us landing an infamous status as internet memes circulating in all social media platforms.

Across the photo studio is the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. I thought this was the best idea of the day!  Having lived in Okinawa, Japan for three years gives me the tendency to compare any aquarium with  Churaumi Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the world in 2002 when it opened. Surprisingly, despite its compact size, Ripley’s Aquarium did not disappoint. This two-story facility houses over 10,000 exotic sea creatures in 350 individual species. Its website even claims to have more fish in this aquarium than there are people living in the entire town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  :)

 

At Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

At Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

 

Its upper level consists of the tropical rain forest with a tropical waterfalls that serves as a welcome, an ocean realm exhibit including a school of piranha, a shark lagoon and a touch a ray bay.

School of piranha at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

School of piranha at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

At Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

At Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Shark Lagoon of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Shark Lagoon of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Shark Lagoon of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Shark Lagoon of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

 

The lower level on the other hand, exhibits a coral reef, a discovery center, a gallery of the seas, a sting ray bay and a penguin playhouse.

At Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

At Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Tanks of jellyfish at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Tanks of jellyfish at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

At Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

At Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

DSC03344

At Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

DSC03337

Jellyfish at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

DSC03356

Giant Spider Crab at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

DSC03358

Nautilus at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

20151125_122951

The Penguin Playhouse at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

 

My favorite part of the experience is seeing Shark Lagoon through an underwater acrylic tunnel travelling on a 340-foot glide path. We had a shoal of sharks cruising right above our heads! This reminded me of the same concept used in S.E.A. Aquarium (South East Asia Aquarium) in Singapore.

20151125_114221

Enjoying the shoal of sharks and rays cruising right above our heads at Shark Lagoon of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies through an underwater acrylic tunnel travelling on a 340-foot glide path. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Enjoying the shoal of sharks and rays cruising right above our heads at Shark Lagoon of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies through an underwater acrylic tunnel travelling on a 340-foot glide path. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Enjoying the shoal of sharks and rays cruising right above our heads at Shark Lagoon of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies through an underwater acrylic tunnel travelling on a 340-foot glide path. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Enjoying the shoal of sharks and rays cruising right above our heads at Shark Lagoon of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies through an underwater acrylic tunnel travelling on a 340-foot glide path.  The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The shoal of sharks and rays cruising right above our heads at Shark Lagoon of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies through an underwater acrylic tunnel travelling on a 340-foot glide path. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Shark Lagoon of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies through an underwater acrylic tunnel travelling on a 340-foot glide path. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Shark Lagoon of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies through an underwater acrylic tunnel travelling on a 340-foot glide path. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The shoal of sharks and rays cruising right above our heads at Shark Lagoon of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies through an underwater acrylic tunnel travelling on a 340-foot glide path. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The shoal of sharks and rays cruising right above our heads at Shark Lagoon of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies through an underwater acrylic tunnel travelling on a 340-foot glide path. The aquarium is one of the most popular tourist spots in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

 

Did we get our wild west old time theme for this year?  Sadly, no. But this photo works, at least for now.

Family Christmas 2015

Family Thanksgiving 2015 in Tennessee.

 

 

**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 19, 2016 in Tennessee

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Last November, my husband’s family decided to spend our Thanksgiving celebration in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, just five miles north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Dad chose the location because it is halfway from Florida where they live, and halfway from Michigan where my brother-in-law and his family lives. My husband and I had just returned to the country from a three-year stay in Japan. I suppose Dad figured Jon and I will be happy wherever.

“So,why is it called the Great Smoky Mountain?” I asked.

My husband replied, “Because of the mist.”

DCIM100GOPRO

Family Thanksgiving Celebration 2016 at the Great Smoky National Park.

The Great Smoky Mountain is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mountain range in the Eastern US extending from West Virginia to Georgia. It is called the Blue Ridge because of the bluish color when the mountain is seen from a distance.

The Great Smoky Mountain is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mountain range in the Eastern US extending from West Virginia to Georgia. It is called the Blue Ridge because of the bluish color when the mountain is seen from a distance.

 

Growing up in the Philippines, Smokey Mountain (vs. Smoky Mountain) pertains to a Manila-based musical band. They were named after a large landfill in the city.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited US National Park and is one of the World Heritage Sites, half a million acre in size sprawling across two states, Tennessee and North Carolina. It is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mountain range in the Eastern US extending from West Virginia to Georgia. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited US National Park and is one of the World Heritage Sites, half a million acre in size sprawling across two states, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited US National Park and is one of the World Heritage Sites, half a million acre in size sprawling across two states, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountain.

The Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountain.

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

20151124_124812

View of the Smoky Mountains from Clingmans Dome. At 6,643 feet, it is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

 

What is now called The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the homeland to the Cherokee Indians.  When the Indian Removal Act was signed in 1830, most native Indians were removed from their home and were forced to go to Oklahoma while some remained. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is a perfect place to visit to explore and learn the Cherokee heritage, traditions and its own people story of trail of tears.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian at the Great Smoky National Park is a perfect place to visit to explore and learn the Cherokee heritage, traditions and its own people story of trail of tears.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian at the Great Smoky National Park is a perfect place to visit to explore and learn the Cherokee heritage, traditions and its own people story of trail of tears.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian at the Great Smoky National Park is a perfect place to visit to explore and learn the Cherokee heritage, traditions and its own people story of trail of tears.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian at the Great Smoky National Park is a perfect place to visit to explore and learn the Cherokee heritage, traditions and its own people story of trail of tears.

DSC03211

Models of three local Cherokee leaders at The Museum of the Cherokee Indian at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian at the Great Smoky National Park is a perfect place to visit to explore and learn the Cherokee heritage, traditions and its own people story of trail of tears.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian at the Great Smoky National Park is a perfect place to visit to explore and learn the Cherokee heritage, traditions and its own people story of trail of tears.

 

Why is it called the Blue Ridge?

Because of the  bluish color when the mountain is seen from a distance.

The Great Smoky Mountain is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mountain range in the Eastern US extending from West Virginia to Georgia. It is called the Blue Ridge because of the bluish color when the mountain is seen from a distance.

The Great Smoky Mountain is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mountain range in the Eastern US extending from West Virginia to Georgia. It is called the Blue Ridge because of the bluish color when the mountain is seen from a distance.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park at dusk.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park at dusk.

DSC03232

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park at dusk.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park at dusk.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park at dusk.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park at dusk.

 

What made this trip unforgettable? Time with family, yes.

But it was most unforgettable because of my first sighting of a herd of elk. That memory, my friend, is one of the many reasons why the Smokies is worth a visit.

Herd of elk at The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Herd of elk at The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

 

**

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 15, 2016 in Tennessee

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Universal Studios, Florida

In my previous post about Universal Studios Florida, I mentioned our remarkable circumstance on a soaking wet and chilly winter in Osaka, and how this Florida trip is a vindication of that day in Japan. Sure, we enjoyed Universal Florida, but we were simply most thankful that it didn’t rain while we were inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter World which we mainly came here for.

Daredevil rides is not my cup of tea, so is my husband’s. But amusement parks keep my eyes and my lens curious about the tiniest captivating details. While I confess that I had only read the first 4 of the Harry Potter book series but had watched the entire film series more than once at home, having a sense of familiarity and tons and tons of passion for the chronicle will make your experience of Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Express, Hogsmeade and all the wizard magic all worth every penny.

Beyond portkeys and floo powder, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is undoubtedly a magical ride. No wands and spells needed.

Or maybe an interactive wand or two at Ollivanders. And butterbeer, definitely a mug of butterbeer.

20151118_120507.jpg

The Knight Bus at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

 

Harry Potter World is made up of two unique universes requiring separate park-to-park tickets, The Diagon Alley (located at Universal Studios Florida) and the Hogsmeade Village (located at Universal’s Islands of Adventure). Both are connected by Hogwarts Express which is a huge attraction itself.

DIAGON ALLEY

Diagon Alley is the shopping district in London/Diagon lined with wizarding shops. What I remember the most is its iconic real-life fire-breathing Ukranian Ironbelly dragon that sits atop the Gringotts banks. We were also able to meet the Gringotts bank goblin that moves and talks, and although the meet-up was quick, it felt creepily real. Our lunch at Leaky Cauldron is an experience I want to recommend although the food was not too impressive. Some of its wand and novelty shopping icons that are sure not to miss are the Ollivanders, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Quality Quidditch and the Knockturn Alley.

 

DSC02498.JPG

The iconic Ukranian Ironbelly dragon sitting atop the Gringotts bank at Diagon Alley in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02505.JPG

Sirius Black’s motorcycle near the Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida. Rubeus Hagrid used this bike to bring Harry Potter to Albus Dumbledore in the movie.

20151118_130204.jpg

The multi-dimensional 3D thrill ride of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Diagon Alley in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02531.JPG

The hardworking goblin at Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02482.JPG

The Leaky Cauldron pub in Diagon Alley in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida serves traditional British food including cottage pie, fish and chips.

20151118_121735.jpg

Enjoying the cottage pie lunch at Leaky Cauldron pub in Diagon Alley, Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02481 - Copy.JPG

Enjoying my fish and chips lunch at Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_125559.jpg

Choose and own your wizard wand at Ollivanders in Diagon Alley, Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

Blog.jpg

Choose and own your wizard wand at Ollivanders in Diagon Alley, Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_124137.jpg

Stacks of wizard wand choices inside the Ollivanders in Diagon Alley, Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02534.JPG

The prankster twins’ Fred and George Weasley’s colorful shop specializing in magical jokes and tricks at Diagon Alley, Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_124819.jpg

Dark magic and sinister items at Knockturn Alley in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02508.JPG

Sinister items like skulls at Knockturn Alley in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02513 - Copy.JPG

The diary of Tom Marvolo Riddle at Knockturn Alley in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02485.JPG

The world famous Firebolt, a Quidditch broomstick, as displayed in one of the novelty shops in Diagon Alley, Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_140649.jpg

The cat made out of measuring tape at Gladrags Wizardwear wizard shop in Diagon Alley in Harry Potter World Potter in Orlando, Florida. Its tail moves.

 

HOGSMEADE

Hogsmeade or Hogsmeade Village is the only all-wizarding village in Britain in the Harry Potter book series. It is an enjoyable 4-minute train ride onboard the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross Station . Two things stand out in my memory: Hogwarts Castle and butterbeer.

20151118_132946

Hogwarts Express ride from King’s Cross Station to Hogsmeade Village in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02552

Hogsmeade Village with roofs of houses glistening in (fake) snow at Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02567

A must-try wizarding beverage called butterbeer which tasted like butterscotch at Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_142012.jpg

The Hogwarts Castle, home to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is one of the most popular attraction at Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02594.JPG

Hogwarts Castle at Hogsmeade in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_141044.jpg

At Hogwarts Castle, School of Witchcraft and Wizardy in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_140728.jpg

The Owl Post at Hogsmeade Village in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_163051.jpg

The Dragon Challenge Ride at Hogsmeade Village in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02697.JPG

Hogsmeade Village in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

 

HOGWARTS EXPRESS

Connecting Diagon Alley (located at Universal Studios Florida) and Hogsmeade Village (located at Universal’s Islands of Adventure) is the popular Hogwarts Express. It is a 4-minute ride through the British countryside with a view of Harry Potter characters like Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger talking on a window screen creating a perception of them just outside the train. There were even dementors flying!

A Park-to-Park admission ticket is required to board the Hogwarts Express in either King’s Cross Station or Hogsmead Station. Or you can visit either land with a Single Park admission ticket, without access to the Hogwarts Express.

 

DSC02557

Hogwarts Express replica welcoming everyone at the entrance of Hogsmeade Village in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02709

The famous 9 and 3/4 platform at King’s Cross Station in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida. The entrace to the station, which is a quarter-scale replica of the real London’s King’s Cross railway station is located close to Diagon Alley.

 

One top priority for my husband was to own a wizard wand. Fortunately, that is one item checked off his bucket list. He bought a Dumbledore interactive wand that has a receptor attached to its end that reacts at spell-casting locations. The wand also comes with a map. Spell locations are marked by medallions set into the pavement which serves as a stand point for wizards and witches to cast a spell. It was a bit pricey but I highly recommend it especially for kids. And oh, don’t forget to ring up the Ministry of Magic using a red phone booth located outside King’s Cross Station.

 

20151118_135534.jpg

My happy husband and his interactive wizard wand set that comes with a map of spell locations at Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

Blog1.jpg

Calling the Ministry of Magic using the red phone booth located outside the King’s Cross Station in Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.

 

 

 

**

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 7, 2016 in Florida

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Walt Disney Magic Kingdom – Florida, USA

It’s funny that I do not recall playing with princess dolls growing up. I did have one, just one, that I never really got to play with because I was afraid to break her and I was certain there is never going to be any replacement, ever. She wasn’t even a princess, just a regular doll except she has what I thought as a kid as the most mesmerizing blue eyes in the whole word. I suppose now when I look back, we simply couldn’t afford those pricey and fancy dolls.

I do remember vividly, however, loving Mickey and Minnie Mouse so passionately. Again, we couldn’t afford those but my Mom’s sister lives in Chiba, Japan, and her husband used to work at Disney. We occasionally receive Disney merchandises as gifts. One of those is a Mickey Mouse pencil, the story of which will be in a separate post about Disneyland Tokyo.

What I love the most about Disney Magic Kingdom is how they strategically set up the castle. Cinderella’s iconic castle is what immediately greets everyone coming through their magical gates and the feeling hit straight to your heart, where your childhood dreams are kept all these years. There is no Disney castle that will not impress you. Disney Florida is not an exemption. Disney characters were singing and dancing when we arrived. I never got to see Mickey and Minnie perform on stage, even in Disney Tokyo so vertically challenged people like me had to battle a crowd just to see a glimpse.

We couldn’t afford princess dolls growing up, but here I am enjoying Disneyland itself. Sniff.

DSC02800.JPG

Cinderella’s castle at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02813

The Swiss Family Tree House at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02824

Jack Sparrow of Pirates of Caribbean at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02825

The Splash Mountain Ride at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02830

The Harper’s Mill at Tom Sawyer Island at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02839

Tangled theme area at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02846

The Beauty and the Beast Castle as Be Our Guest Restaurant at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02875

Princess Ariel and Prince Eric of Little Mermaid at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

20151119_141322

Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Sandwich at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

20151119_175657

Cinderella’s crystal glass shoes / slippers at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

20151119_175954

Fairy Godmother working her magic pixie dust at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

 

What separates our Disney Magic Kingdom Florida experience from Disneyland Tokyo is our  chance to meet and greet Disney characters. It was first and foremost my idea but my husband gladly backed me up. We met Gaston of Beauty and the Beast, Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story, and friends Pooh and Tigger. I wasn’t too broken-hearted not meeting any Disney princess.

Note that we competed with kids in all those queue. :)

20151119_155426

Meeting Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02915

Meeting Winnie the Pooh and Tigger at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

 

I have read blogs in the past about Disneyland hacks. One of these hacks talks about what footwear to use when visiting Disneyland. Sure, girls would want to look like a princess but I would say wear whatever works for you, be it shoes, sandals, boots, or flipflops. Wear what you are most comfortable especially if you plan to do the rides, maybe crystal glass shoes as you please although not highly recommended. I wore my sneakers because it is what I am most comfortable wearing for an amusement park we plan to spend an entire day until evening at. It worked perfectly for me because we were able to stay to watch the “A Frozen Holiday Wish” castle lighting show without crying over blisters or ultra worn out legs.  We saw Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Kristoff and of course Olaf live on stage! The castle was also specially lit up to resemble Queen Elsa’s castle in the movie Frozen, complete with her iconic ice stairs.

DSC02982.JPG

The lit up Frozen themed castle for the “Frozen Holiday Wish” at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

20151119_184043.jpg

Frozen themed castle for the Frozen Holiday Wish at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02979.JPG

Frozen Themed Castle for the Frozen Holiday Wish at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02963.JPG

Cinderella’s castle lit up in Frozen Theme during the Frozen Holiday Wish at Walt Disney in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02955.JPG

Queen Elsa, Princess Ana, Kristoff and Olaf at their Frozen themed castle during the Frozen Holiday Wish at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

 

At this point, I am fully convinced I love Disney. Staying a little late at the the park and see the lights out for the entire Magic Kingdom was an entirely different experience. It was also nearing Christmas (November 19) and the lights truly added to that holiday and magical feeling.

20151119_180639.jpg

Walt Disney Magic Kingdom at night in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02923.JPG

The carousel ride at night at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02938.JPG

Cinderella’s castle lit up at night at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

DSC02989.JPG

The festive lights at night at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

 

We couldn’t afford princess dolls growing up, but here I am enjoying Disneyland itself. Sniff.

It was sad to see my Disney Magic Kingdom day to end. More pixie dusts please.

20151119_175954

Fairy Godmother signs at Walt Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Florida

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Universal Studios – Florida

It rains every time we go to Universal Studios Theme Park.  May balat ba ako sa puwet? :)

Back in mid-December of 2014, nearly a year before we returned to United States from Japan, my husband and I were overwhelming excited to visit the Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka.

While USJ is relatively young, having only opened its doors in March 2001 compared to its rival Disneyland in Tokyo which is about 18 years its senior, the theme park was jam packed. Our December visit to USJ park was just 3 days short to Christmas, which means we were perfectly synced for a huge crowd. My husband and I also lack fluency in Nihonggo which, as we learned, was crucial to understanding how express pass works. However, it was the rain then that ultimately stretched our patience.

It rained very hard. Non-stop. On a chilly December winter in Osaka.

I remember not feeling both of my frozen legs that day.

My husband said it was one of the most horrible trips we ever had and vowed to bring us to Universal Studios in Florida, where he said we won’t be freezing to death, to make up. After almost 2 years, in November of 2015, we finally had the justice we seek. :)

20151118_113442.jpg

At Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida in November 2015.

20151118_115620

The vintage Mel’s Drive-in at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, USA.

DSC02551

The Hogsmeade in Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, USA.

20151118_141247

The Hogwarts at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, USA.

DSC02600

The Jurassic Park at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, USA.

DSC02636

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, USA.

 

Remember that this trip was suppose to avenge that rainy day in USJ Osaka.

But we were wrong. Oh so wrong. I was in denial when it started to pour heavily in the afternoon but thankfully, the rainfall was quick. After a few minutes, we were back to our leisurely business. Whew.

20151118_144619

The Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls water ride at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, USA.

20151118_144757

The Comic Strip at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, USA.

20151118_145011

The Comic Strip Cafe at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, USA.

20151118_151843.jpg

The Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_145522

At Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, USA.

DSC02652.JPG

Woody Woodpecker at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_153315

Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida, USA.

20151118_154421

The Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous at Universal Studio’s Island of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_155048

Highly recommended Poseidon’s Fury at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_160832

A highly recommended Poseidon’s Fury at Universal Studio Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_162040

Eighth Voyage of Sinbad at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.

 

 

DSC02722

The Simpsons Krustyland Springville at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

 

20151118_173009.jpg

Back to the Future at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_174102.jpg

The Transformers at Universal Studio in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_174751

Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_180117

Thrill rides at dusk at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

 

DSC02781.JPG

The Cineplex at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_181559

Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida at night.

 

Did we get the justice that my husband wanted? We certainly did.

Who cares about balat sa puwet, anyway?

 

20151118_180728

Universal Studio Theme Park in Orlando, Florida.

20151118_181224.jpg

Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

 

 

Below is a little throwback from Universal Studios Japan (Osaka) which I will save for a future post. Maybe next stop is Universal Studios Singapore? Maybe?

10429413_10153033531839828_6081675529107414175_n

December 2014 at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan.

10933959_10153033543964828_562764690887657328_n

Uniquely Japanese is the Hello Kitty Cafe at Universal Studio in Osaka, Japan. Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida doesn’t have this cafe.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 26, 2016 in Florida

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Walt Disney World Epcot Center – Florida

It has been half a year since our visit but I am going to talk about Walt Disney World Epcot Center despite the unfortunate controversy its sister park is facing stirred by the alligator attack.

Epcot is not my favorite among Disney’s family of parks, but the moment I laid eyes on Spaceship Earth is the moment that will leave a mark in my memory forever. As a first-timer to the park, realizing that there is actually a ride inside this 18-story geodesic sphere blew my 30-year old mind. This is perhaps the busiest among all the other rides at Epcot. With some luck and express pass (wink), hubby and I found ourselves enjoying the 15-minute slow time travel ride in the dark aboard the Omnimover system showing the advancements mankind has achieved in the field of communications.

DSC02246.JPG

The iconic 18-story geodesic sphere at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

Epcot being an amusement of innovations, a visit to the Land is a must to every visitor. We tried the Living with the Land on a boat tour of a greenhouse showing the future of agriculture. I personally think that everyone, especially all children should be given access to a facility of this kind especially that climate change is on the rise.

DSC02260.JPG

One of the agricultural innovations inside the Living with the Land at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

 

If we have not experienced living in Okinawa, Japan and have not seen the Churaumi aquarium ourselves, I would have claimed Epcot’s aquarium  to be the best and the biggest. However, spotting the hidden Mickey Mouse was a cute idea and a good consolation, plus the interior looks like a TARDIS.

20151117_131137.jpg

Spotting the hidden Mickey Mouse inside the aquarium of Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

20151117_130849.jpg

The aquarium in Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida looking like the interior of a Tardis popularized by the British TV show Doctor Who.

We skipped the Journey Into Imagination but we took a quick snap.

20151117_132056.jpg

The Journey Into Imagination at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

 

And an instant world travel around World Showcase covering United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, Mexico and USA of course in just a couple of hours. :)

20151117_142108.jpg

The United Kingdom Pavilion at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

20151117_142846.jpg

The France Pavilion at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

20151117_143647.jpg

The Morocco Pavilion at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

20151117_145700.jpg

The Japan Pavilion at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

20151117_153021.jpg

The Italy Pavilion at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

20151117_153922.jpg

The Germany Pavilion at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

20151117_154631.jpg

The China Pavilion at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

20151117_155054.jpg

The Norway Pavilion at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida. Kids love to hear that Frozen was set in Norway.

20151117_160122.jpg

The Mexico Pavilion at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

DSC02332.JPG

The Great USA Pavilion at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida.

 

Do you know that there is a show about energy at Epcot Center named after Ellen Degeneres that she herself hosts?

DSC02379.JPG

The Universe of Energy where there is a show about energy named after and hosted by Ellen Denegeres herself at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida.

20151117_172442

Space Training simulation available inside the Mission:Space at Walt Disney World Epcot Center  in Florida.

20151117_173537

Deep Space Shuttle at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida.

 

The best time to visit any Florida Disney park, most people would say, is early morning, to avoid dying in a sizzling Florida weather. I agree. But make the most of the visit until it gets dark to see the park spring to life in colorful Disney lights. Every bit of attraction looks different at night in a surrealistically and magical way.

Of course, we expect nothing less from Disney.

DSC02457

Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

DSC02397

The Eiffel Tower at night at France Pavilion in Walt Disney World Epcot Center, Florida.

DSC02408

The Mexico Pavilion lit up at night at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida.

DSC02412

The German Pavilion at night at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida.

DSC02416.JPG

The Italy Pavilion at night at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida.

DSC02438

The Walt Disney World Epcot Center lit up at night.

DSC02448.JPG

The iconic 18-story geodesic sphere magically lit at night at Walt Disney World Epcot Center in Florida, USA.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 23, 2016 in Florida

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lowry Park Zoo – Tampa, Florida

I never paid much attention to animals growing up, not until I got married. Maybe it is true that marriage changes people. Maybe not.

My first time to visit a zoo was 22 years ago. I was only 8 and I was with my late maternal grandmother together with my aunt and her daughter. It was a trip that was what I think was a gift from doing well in school. I do not have much recollection from that memory but I remember a giraffe trying to eat my ice cream. That was surely something a child will never forget.

271059_10150257912614828_4285184_n

My first visit to a zoo (Manila Zoo) together with my late grandma when I was 8 years old.

 

Fast forward and here I am in my early 30’s, writing about a zoo. Having had two cats changed my perception about animals. How I have grown so fond of them in a span of only 4 years! Sakura, our cat we adopted while we were still living in Japan, has been such a darling. Whenever I stare into an animal’s eye, I think of my Sakura; cows and deer most especially. I have lost count of the times when I heard myself, or my husband heard me, meowing to a creature that is not remotely close to a cat. For the record, I am not a psycho. :)

12961419_10154174967149828_2935757019140825670_o

Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida with my husband and parents-in-law.

 

Lowry Park Zoo is a highly recommended place to visit especially with kids and maybe for the kids at heart. It is a 24-acre facility that houses more than 1,200 animals. The zoo especially exhibits the endangered and vulnerable species that are found in climates similar to Tampa Bay region like Asia, Africa, and Australia. Having my parents-in-law in tow, we arrived just before their opening time at 09:30 and we successfully toured the entire facility mid-afternoon. If you plan to visit in summer, make sure to bring extra clothes for your kids because the water play area and the fountain splash ground are irresistible. That will make the visit to the zoo unforgettable, more than a giraffe trying to steal an 8-year old girl’s ice cream.

12916783_10154174966739828_6402388476686823305_o

My husband, up close with a giraffe, at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

12976910_10154174968179828_8722496217384457242_o.jpg

The giraffes at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

12916931_10154174967514828_4321390968433153641_o

An eagle at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

12968137_10154174968149828_4337024388114870915_o

Horses at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida. 

12973339_10154174967054828_1215262598739858567_o

My husband up close with a Rhinoceros at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

12976945_10154174967539828_7352294848617132842_o

Manatee experience at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida. 

12983840_10154174968389828_584746459077251156_o

Komodo Dragon at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

12984016_10154174966824828_7936835846612891080_o

Elephants at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida. 

New folder1

Lowry Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

New folder2

Lowry Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

New folder3

Lowry Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

New folder4

Lowry Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

New folder5

Lowry Zoo in Tampa, Florida.

 

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 8, 2016 in Florida

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Kennedy Space Center – Florida

I will never forget the very first time I saw a textbook photo of Aurora Borealis. I was probably 11 years old. It didn’t dawn on me then yet, but that moment became my foundation for my passion for the cosmos. I started wondering about the dancing lights, and later on, dreamed of walking in zero gravity or watch a moon rise. I remember my mom telling me the day humanity first set foot on the moon as she watched it on TV like the rest of the world did. I dreamed of the stars and what is beyond.

What I didn’t realize however, is the challenge to achieve those dreams. Come on, we all dreamed of becoming an astronaut but we ended up somewhere, better or worse. But some dreams don’t fade; they linger.

I’m in my early thirties and the space dream is still elusive, maybe even remote. But perhaps, a geeky yet an exceptionally romantic date at Kennedy Space Center is as close I can get. This day, even for just a day, was the closest I was to the stars.  This date, courtesy of my husband, made me a different person, and yet, it reminded me of the kid that I was twenty years ago.

Or maybe, I still am.

20151115_103313.jpg

At Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.

 

ROCKET GARDEN

The rocket garden was my first vision upon arrival. The sight of Juno I, which was used to launch NASA’s first satellites, Mercury Redstone, Delta, Juno II, Atlas-Agena, Mercury Atlas & Saturn 1B, the powerful rocket used to orbit the moon, was an overwhelming welcome! Hubby and I also walked the very same launch pad gantry used by the astronauts of Apollo 11, the men who first landed on the moon.

dsc01694

The Rocket Garden in Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.

DSC01710

The  Rocket Garden in Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.

20151115_121508

The launch pad gantry used by the astronauts of Apollo 11, the men who first landed on the moon.

DSC01717

The launch pad gantry used by astronuats of Apollo 11, the first men who first walked on the moon.

DSC01722

The Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.

20151115_175725

The Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA is even more beautiful at night.

DSC01695

The mural of International Space Station (ISS) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.

DSC01697

A mock up of the Orion pad from the Space Launch System as displayed in Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.

 

IMAX THEATER

While waiting for our scheduled Kennedy Space Center Bus tour, my husband and I decided to kill time at the Imax Theater and see images of the Pillars of Creation taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. He is never a fan of the 3D glasses but I thought it was an enjoyable moment to just sit back and rest from all the walking :)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER BUS TOUR

My most recommended tour at Kennedy Space Center is the Bus Tour. It was a guided tour that let us experience parts of the space programs that are not open to the public like the actual sites where they view space launches. How awesome is that? We were not exactly at the actual launch pads but we were very close, so close that I thought of my Mom. She, like my husband, is one of the amazing people who fueled my love for science. She would be thrilled just as much as we were.

DSC01796 B.JPG

At NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building in Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA.

DSC01733

Launch Complex 37B, current home of the Delta IV Heavy at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

DSC01773

Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

DSC01746

The crawler-transporter which is used to transport spacecraft from NASA’s vehicle assembly to the launch complex at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

DSC01751

The SpaceX building in Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Perhaps, our favorite building.

DSC01783

Spotted what a metal piece looks like after testing a space shuttle exhaust at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

DSC01785

The crawler way at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

 

APOLLO/SATURN V CENTER

Part of the bus tour was dropping us off at the Apollo/Saturn V Center where I saw and touched a moon rock for the first time, which makes this tour my other favorite. Also part of their displays are the lunar rover and the space suits worn by the astronauts, which both, by the way, noticeably still has moon dusts. No doormats needed.

DSC01837

The actual lunar rover used on the Apollo missions as displayed inside the Apollo-Saturn V Center in Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

DSC01859

Gene Cernan’s space suit from Apollo 17 as displayed inside the Apollo-Saturn V Center in Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

DSC01842

A display of lunar sample inside Apollo-Saturn V Center in Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

DSC01838

Another display of lunar sample inside Apollo-Saturn V at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

DSC01833

An actual spacesuit from Apollo 14 still covered in actual moon dust as displayed inside Apollo-Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

20151115_145325.jpg

Saturn V, the largest rocket ever made, as displayed inside the Apollo-Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

DSC01858

Standing under Saturn V, the largest rocket ever made, inside the Apollo-Saturn V Center in Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

DSC01809

The marvelous exhausts of Saturn V, the largest rocket ever made.

DSC01839

The actual Apollo 14 Command Module as displayed inside the Apollo/Saturn V Complex at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

20151115_152327

Spacesuits display at Apollo/Saturn V Complex at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

DSC01856

Saturn V on display inside the Apollo/Saturn V Complex at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

 

SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS EXHIBIT

The actual display of the decommissioned Space Shuttle Atlantis was the most pleasant surprise of the day. Seeing it in person after it has been launched like a rocket, orbited space and returned like a glider is a kid’s imagination come to life. Aside from the actual shuttle itself, a full-scale, upright replica of the shuttle’s booster stack was also on display as a gateway to the Atlantis exhibit. If this doesn’t impress you, you should wonder what else will.

20151115_114941.jpg

An upright replica of space shuttle Atlantis’  booster stack is displayed as a gateway to the Atlantis exhibit at Kenny Space Center in Florida.

DSC01701

An upright replice of space shuttle Atlantis’ booster stack is displayed as a gateway to the Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

DSC01887

The actual decommissioned Space Shuttle Atlantis that has gone to space and back to Earth as showcased at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

 

Aside from the main exhibit Atlantis, there are also other displays that will surely catch your attention, most notably a mock up of the Hubble telescope,  a screen viewing of the Aurora Borealis and the Apollo launch experience inside a simulated NASA control room.

DSC01862

A mock up of the Hubble telescope inside the Apollo/Saturn V complex at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. 

12507361_10208485651959521_578972250388318530_n

A screen view of the Aurora Borealis inside the Apollo/Saturn V complex at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. 

DSC01806

The Apollo launch experience inside a simulated NASA control room at Kennedy Space Center. 

 

JOURNEY TO MARS : EXPLORERS WANTED

Our last destination before calling it a day is the Journey to Mars exhibit. It basically showcases the future of space exploration. There are also simulations and interactive games all over the exhibit but our favorite seems to be the mock-ups of exploration vehicles such as Curiosity Rover, Spirit/Oppurtunity Rover and the Sojourner Rover.

DSC01929

A mock up of Curiosity Rover inside the Journey to Mars exhibit at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

DSC01927

A mock up of Spirit/Opportunity Rover inside the Journey to Mars exhibit at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. 

DSC01926

A mock up of Sojourner Rover inside the Journey to Mars exhibit at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. 

 

DSC01942

NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida

DSC01696

NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

 

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 21, 2016 in Florida

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Castillo de San Marcos – St. Augustine, Florida

I grew up in Cebu, and when I talk about my city, I usually take pride in its warm and friendly people, although this describes us Filipinos in general. I could list thousands of reasons why I am a proud Cebuana. However, among those thousands, I am most proud of my city’s colorful history. Cebu is the first Catholic city in the Philippines and in Asia. When the Spaniards planted its Catholic cross in my island in 1521, it gave birth to a culture very distinctly and uniquely Cebuano evident in our food, language, religious practices and grand architecture.

Hence, it didn’t surprise me when I felt very comfortable walking around Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. It felt like Fort San Pedro in Plaza Indepedencia, only on a more massive scale! The structure, built of coquina which is a type of limestone made from seashells, is impressively well-preserved. The castillo’s walls were enormous and looking down, re-enactors and historians in period dress roam around the grounds.

DSC01611.JPG

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

20151113_135026

View of Castillo de San Marcos grounds from above. 

20151113_141441.jpg

The shops along the streets of St. Augustine, Florida.

DSC01615

One of the shops around St. Augustine, Florida.

DSC01616

The oldest wooden school house in St. Augustine, Florida.

DSC01617

The shops around St. Augustine, Florida has a distinct Spanish flare. 

20151113_131106

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida

 

The fort was packed with kids on a school tour the day we visited. While most people found that annoying, I thought it was incredible. It is always hopeful to see kids visiting museums and invest their interests in learning history and culture. Their excitement over the scheduled cannon firing was contagious.

20151113_132352.jpg

The cannons on top of the walls of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

20151113_133342

Waiting for the re-enactors and historians to fire the cannon at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

DSC01572

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

becauseiamuniquelyandwonderfullymade.com

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida

becauseiamuniquelyandwonderfullymade.com

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida

becauseiamuniquelyandwonderfullymade.com

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

DSC01605

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

DSC01566

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

DSC01605

becauseiamuniquelyandwonderfullymade.com

The fort walls at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

 

Castillo de San Marcos is said to be the oldest masonry fort in the United States. It was constructed by the Spanish to fortify the garrison town from English attacks. It is now more than 300 years old and is listed as a National Museum.

DSC01575 2

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

DSC01602

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

 

Traveller’s Note: What made this trip stood out from the rest was our barbecue lunch at Mojo BBQ. Hubby and I both agree that the barbecue tips we had was our absolute favorite and nothing yet had top that culinary experience.

12 - St.jpg

Barbecue lunch in St. Augustine, Florida.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 23, 2016 in Florida

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

St.Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, Florida

 

 

It was my first time to set foot in the state of Florida, and St.Augustine seemed the appropriate city to shower me with the  most welcome. The city has a lighthouse worth bragging about!

The Spanish originally constructed a wooden lookout tower in the area, but after the United States acquired the Territory of Florida from Spain, the old Spanish tower was then converted to a lighthouse. A light keeper’s house was then added years after.

 

20151113_111940

St. Augustine Lighthouse in St. Augustine, Florida.

DSC01507.JPG

St.Augustine Lighthouse in St.Augustine, Florida.

 

The current lighthouse, using its first-order Fresnel lens, is still in full operation. The top can be reached with 219 steps which we sadly didn’t try. The keeper’s house however, is now a gift shop and a museum and it is worth a look.

DSC01516

The light keeper’s house of St. Augustine’s  is now converted into a museum 

DSC01521

The light keeper’s house of St. Augustine’s is now converted into a museum.

DSC01522

The light keeper’s house of St.Augustine’s is now converted into a museum.

DSC01519

St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida is still in full operation using this first order Fresnel lens. 

DSC01517

Inside the light keeper’s house of St. Augustine lighthouse which is now converted into a museum.

DSC01545

St.Augustine Lighthouse in St. Augustine, Florida.

20151113_105851

St. Augustine Lighthouse in St. Augustine, Florida.

 

The Spanish colony of St. Augustine was established on the day of the Feast of St.Augustine, hence the name. I should know, I went to a rigid Catholic school.

 

 

 

.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Florida

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Fort Frederica – St. Simons Island, Georgia

Fort Frederica – St. Simons Island, Georgia

If I were to have a wedding, I imagine it to be on a beach. The beach is, has always been and will eternally be a significant aspect of my being. It has been a witness to family weekend gatherings, birthdays, friendships and life’s moments. It is my sanctuary when hearts and dreams go broken and it has unfailingly been my personal haven for mending.

It will be an intimate afternoon surrounded by oak trees cloaked with gently-swaying Spanish moss as amber orange sunset rays peek through. Violin, candles flicker inside lanterns, milky white and metallic gold shade everywhere, some orange accents, family and friends’ giggles, tears of joy, and a warm atmosphere of pure love and bliss.

We arrived at Fort Frederica nearly dusk still feeling elated, following a visit at St. Simons Lighthouse.  There were few other visitors at the Fort as well, all welcomed by a very happy and enthusiastic staff who hailed from Guam. She looked happy and simply contented. As we walked out of the Visitor Center, I understood why.

We passed through what I think is a porch (?) of the Visitor Center. I looked up and saw a streak of a jet stream across the sky right beside a palmetto from my view. As I looked behind, I saw these oak trees in all their majestic charm. I remember saying “wow” like a reflex. I remember my steps pacing quicker than the normal and wow-ed and goshed continuously.

This. This is my canvass brought to life.

 

20151112_152244.jpg

Fort Frederica in St.Simons Island, Georgia.

DSC01391

My unforgettable first view of the beautiful oak trees that captured my heart in Fort Frederica, in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

20151112_152505

Oak trees covered in Spanish moss in Fort Frederica, St. Simons Island, Georgia.

becauseiamuniquelyandwonderfullymade.com

Oak trees draped in Spanish moss in Fort Frederica, St.Simons Island, Georgia.

20151112_153125

Sunset beams peeking through the Spanish moss covered oak trees in Fort Frederica in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

20151112_155416

Oak trees covered in Spanish moss in Fort Frederica, St. Simons Island, Georgia.

 

 

Once in a while, we have this moment in our lives when everything just felt right. This was my moment as photographed below, captured for eternity. This is my favorite moment of this day. I remember taking this shot, and I felt something warm inside, something that belongs to me.

20151112_153345

My favorite moment in Fort Frederica in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

DSC01405

Oak trees covered in Spanish moss on a beautiful sunset in Fort Frederica, St. Simons Island, Georgia.

 

And this. Who can’t fall for this?

20151112_155257

A line of Spanish moss covered oak trees on a sunset in Fort Frederica, St. Simons Island, Georgia.

 

Historically, Fort Frederica was established to protect its boundary as a British colony from the Spanish in Florida. Its location on the Frederica River is strategic for ship travel. As one looks out to the river from the fort remains, one can only imagine how it felt like back then with these cannons firing throughout the day. Thankfully, we only have serenity to enjoy the place today.

DSC01408

Looking out to Frederica River from Fort Frederica remains in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

 

DSC01418.JPG

Fort Frederica in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

becauseiamuniquelyandwonderfullymade.com

Looking out to Frederica River from Fort Frederica remains in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

DSC01436.JPG

Fort Frederica, St. Simons Island, Georgia.

DSC01385

Fort Frederica Visitor Center in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

20151112_155955

Inside Fort Frederica’s Visitor Center in St.Simons Island, Georgia.

20151112_152402.jpg

Fort Frederica in St.Simons Island, Georgia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Georgia

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

St.Simons Island and Lighthouse, Georgia

After our short but worthwhile love affair with Savannah, Georgia, we have decided to finally head further south down to Florida to meet some family members. What I didn’t realize though was that my husband brewed all along a surprise (I assume) that was meant for me.  He actually had St. Simons Island in the Southeast Georgia coast in mind for a quick stopover.

ST. SIMONS ISLAND

I could easily and happily live in St. Simons. The island was how I picture Georgia to be! Unassuming, quiet, warm, maybe occasional rain, unpretending coastal villages of charming Southern style homes with white picket fences highlights, open porches, wide foyers, pergola covered entrances, and roads lined with live oak trees draped with distinctly quaint Spanish moss.  The island speaks of an invitation requiring no extra effort but a promise of a hospitality exceptionally and proudly Southern.

DSC01353

St. Simons Island in the Southeast coast of Georgia.

 

ST. SIMONS ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE

As we were driving around the island, my husband suddenly stopped the car to my wonder. What I didn’t know all along was behind those giant oak trees is a coastline crowned with a beckoning lighthouse! Needless to say, I was delightfully surprised.

This current St.Simons Lighthouse and the keeper’s dwelling in St.Simons Island was built in 1872.It is one of only five surviving light towers in Georgia. The keeper’s dwelling now functions as a museum.

DSC01358

St.Simons Lighthouse and the keeper’s dwelling in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

becauseiamuniquelyandwonderfullymade.com

St.Simons Lighthouse in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

 

20151112_144756

St. Simons Lighthouse and the keeper’s dwelling in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

DSC01373

The architectural plan of St. Simons Lighthouse in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

20151112_144905

The beach along the coast of St. Simons Lighthouse in St.Simons Island, Georgia.

20151112_144856

The beach along the coast of St. Simons Lighthouse in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

 

What made this trip most memorable is that unlike many other operational lighthouses, St. Simons Lighthouse allows visitors to climb the 129 steps and experience the amazing view from above.

20151112_142947.jpg

St. Simons Lighthouse in St. Simons Island, Georgia allows visitors to climb the 129 steps to the top and enjoy the view.

DSC01364.JPG

The view from the top of St. Simons Lighthouse in St. Simons Island, Georgia. It takes 129 steps to reach the top.

 

Ah, my obsession with lighthouses.  I can’t wait for the next one!

blog.jpg

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 17, 2016 in Georgia

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

My fascination over the South started when I read the novel “Message in a Bottle” by Nicholas Sparks. I was only 15 then. The story was set on a coastal town in North Carolina. Although I was only able to see the movie years after that, the fascination lingered. Sometime between 2003-2004ish, I got hold of his other novel, The Notebook. The story resonated in me for weeks, probably months, and I still carry it with me up to this day. When it was brought to life on a big screen in 2004, I was left daydreaming and musing like all hopeless-romantics would. The thought of losing someone as they deplete memories hit me big time. It’s like leaves of story pages falling without a sound.

And that fascination also involves oak trees. I dragged my husband with me to see Boone and Magnolia Plantation. While it was a remarkable experience, it left me wondering about Savannah, Georgia. Immediately upon our return to America after living some years in Japan, hubby and I found ourselves wandering around the charming city of Savannah, the “Forest City”. Despite the holiday road blocks and the city’s ubiquitous one-way traffic, the city proved to be worth all the fascination and daydreams. All those years of waiting and wishing, while aboard a city trolley and on foot, Savannah did not disappoint, not even a bit.

DSC01023

One of the holiday roadblocks we encountered during our visit to Savannah, Georgia, the Forest City.

DSC01028.JPG

Looking for a parking around downtown Savannah, Georgia. 

20151111_151939.jpg

The former cotton warehouses which have been converted to restaurants, bar and boutiques along the cobbled River Street in Savannah, Georgia.

GOPR0031.JPG

My husband and I waiting for our city trolley at the River Street in Savannah, Georgia.

20151111_171150

The Savannah Cotton Exchange now stands as the known as Factors Walk.

becauseiamuniquelyandwonderfullymade.com

Our lunch was at Boar’s Head, one of the former cotton warehouse turned restaurant. It was a lunch view to kill as it overlooks the Savannah River.

DSC01179.JPG

Some interesting sights along the River Street in Savannah, Georgia

DSC01207

Some random downtown Savannah, Georgia sights.

DSC01101

The Unitarian Church in Savannah, Georgia where James L. Pierpont, composer of “Jingle Bells” served as the musical director.

DSC01068

One of the charming Southern architecture in Savannah, Georgia that caught my eye.

DSC01065

One beautiful Southern neighborhood in Savannah, Georgia, right across the Forsyth Park. 

Savannah has 22 historic square parks to boast! It was called the Forest City for a good reason.

DSC01246.JPG

The monument of Tomo-chi-chi located inside Wright Square in Savannah, Georgia. He is called the co-founder of Georgia together with Oglethorpe. He was considered a friend of the English helping the colony fight the Spanish outpost.

 

Life is a box of chocolate. I just have to say it :)

20151111_162956

The centerpiece of Chippewa Square is the statue of General James Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony of Georgia. This is one of the most accessible squares as it is nestled right in the center of downtown. This square was made famous by Forrest Gump with its bench scenes where Forrest waited for the bus. Life is a box of chocolate eh?

 

DSC01231

Interesting architecture around downtown Savannah in Georgia.

DSC01230

Interesting architecture at downtown Savannah, Georgia.

DSC01232

The Six Pence Pub, located in downtown Savannah in Georgia, is one of the locations used in the film “Something to Talk About”, starring Julia Roberts and Dennis Quaid.

20151112_105343

The famous fountain in the center of Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia, perhaps the biggest park in the city.

20151112_101753

The oak trees lined the streets and parks of Savannah, Georgia. 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 16, 2016 in Georgia

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Savannah River Cruise, Georgia

While planning on our cross-country trip around America, I insisted on putting Georgia as one of the high priorities. Hubby did not seem too thrilled although he was not revolting to the idea.

Savannah looked promising even at first glance. The oak tree roads and the Southern-style homes will charm any passersby in an instant. There was, however, a slight problem: we visited the city on a national holiday when most of the city roads were closed for a parade and parking was a bit of a challenge. So we took the river cruise instead. Problem solved. Easy.

DSC01176.JPG

Savannah River Cruise aboard Savannah River Queen in Georgia.

DSC01133.JPG

View of the river front while waiting for the Savannah cruise to start.

DSC01135.JPG

View of the river front while waiting for the Savannah cruise to start.

 

The cruise aboard the Savannah River Queen lasted for an hour and a half. The Captain’s fascinating narration of some tales and historical facts the entire sightseeing was an absolute entertainment. He even made some remarks that left most of us passengers in amusement. While I prefer to discover the city on foot, the cruise also gave a different perspective on this Southern gem. Did you know that the basin of Savannah River defines the state boundary between Georgia and South Carolina?

DSC01140

Savannah River Front

20151111_145535

Savannah River Front

DSC01172

View of Savannah City Hall’s Gold Dome aboard the Savannah River Queen.

DSC01151

Talmadge Memorial Bridge in Savannah, Georgia

DSC01147

Industrial site along the Savannah River in Georgia.

DSC01160

Some hotel along the Savannah River in Georgia.

DSC01164

Savannah River, Georgia

 

My special favorite part of the trip was meeting the captain and showing us his cockpit (?) (Correction is welcome.) I suppose I always have this fascination over cockpits, even in planes. Don’t judge.

20151111_150644.jpg

Savannah River Cruise aboard the Savannah River Queen in Georgia.

20151111_145803_002.jpg

Savannah River Cruise aboard the Savannah River Queen in Georgia.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 14, 2016 in Georgia

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Nago Pineapple Farm – Okinawa, Japan

My husband and I have been married for a while now. So, imagine my surprise when I had just recently realized that he actually loves pineapples after trying it the first time during our trip to Cambodia. Marriage, huh?

And because summer in Okinawa is about to end, which is insanely hot and humid by the way, we decided to get some sun and visit the Pineapple Park in Nago City. It is one of the most visited places in this island and the expectation for this local attraction to be touristy is high.

TOURISTY expectation did not disappoint, which is not totally a bad thing.

Pineapple Park in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Pineapple Park in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Right past the entrance is a photo booth which we politely declined. We went straight ahead to experience what I think is the highlight of the park which is the automatic/electric vehicle that runs through the pineapple farm. There is a recorded guide played the entire trip but it was failingly inaudible. Maybe I am aging or maybe I was too excited. One of the two. The ride was short but for a ¥600 entrance fee that includes this ride, I think it was worth it.

The automatic/electric vehicle that runs through the pineapple farm in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

The automatic/electric vehicle that runs through the pineapple farm in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

FAMILY FRIENDLY

While I suspect this park is targeted for tourists, the park is most enjoyed by kids. Immediately after our automatic ride around the farm, we sat down to watch a pineapple show which was basically two robots singing and dancing the ultra catchy pineapple song. You will know when you hear it. Pa-pa-pa-pa-piiiiineapple. :) I could have sworn I was singing it in my dreams that night of the trip.

Robots singing and dancing during a pineapple show at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Robots singing and dancing during a pineapple show at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

SHELL PAVILION/MUSEUM

An exhibit of Okinawan shells are displayed in a small pavilion past the show hall. Most tourist skipped the modest display. I personally thought the exhibit is excellent and is worthy of a peek.

The Shell Pavilion at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

The Shell Pavilion at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

The Shell Pavilion at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

The Shell Pavilion at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

The Shell Pavilion at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

The Shell Pavilion at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

The Shell Pavilion at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

The Shell Pavilion at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

EAT and SHOP

What better way to feature pineapple than showcase it through something everyone can enjoy, right? FOOD. The park’s restaurant features appetizing pineapple menu. We sadly just had our lunch so here is another skip. We also didn’t buy a whole pineapple because none of us knows how to peel, or rather both of us are scared to try. My husband, however, bought a bottle of pineapple juice. The entrance fee that one paid for also covers an unlimited taste samples of their products.  And oh, they have pineapple wine :)

Restaurant at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Restaurant at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Samples of pineapple wine at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Samples of pineapple wine at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Pineapples sold at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Pineapples sold at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Wall of empty wine bottles at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Wall of empty wine bottles at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Shop of pineapple products at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Shop of pineapple products at Nago Pineapple Park in Okinawa, Japan.

Overall, for only ¥600 entrance fee, the park is worth a visit especially with kids. Touristy but worth it. Other than the farm tour, most park features are indoor. I have my two favorite memories of the park. First, singing the pineapple song with my husband, even on our ride back home. The song even stuck to us until this day! Second, the automatic ride around the farm with Jon laughing and singing. It was simply a beautiful memory.

My husband’s only concern was he wish there was a sitting area or a simple lounge where we can simply enjoy a glass of pineapple juice or buy slices of pineapple without having to sit down in a restaurant. I think he prefers it hawker stall style.

Did I also  mention that the drive to Nago City from Ginowan is breathtaking?

Breathtaking view as we drive from Ginowan to Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Breathtaking view as we drive from Ginowan to Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Pa-pa-pa-pa-piiiiineapple.

.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Okinawa

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 594 other followers

%d bloggers like this: