Sunday, December 16, 2012

New York, New York

It was by pure chance that I got the experience to visit NYC during the Christmas season. A work conference moved due to Sandy was rescheduled right in the midst of the most wonderful time of the year. I went to visit a few years ago during the summer, but honestly, nothing compares to going in December!

I stayed at the New York Hilton which is right next to Rockefeller and Radio City Music Hall. It was a great hotel, but I honestly wouldn't have picked it if my conference wasn't being held there. It was great to be centrally located though.



 
 
I got the great chance to meet up with my cousin who lives in NYC, a friend who was there for business AND go to the Rockette's Christmas show. It was a busy trip for sure!

I got the chance to wander around and see all of the beautiful store windows, dropped into FAO Schwartz and did a little shopping on 5th Avenue. My favorite area that I visited was Bryant Park. They have a Christmas market set up with shops selling apple cider, homemade gifts and Christmas treats. I wish I had time to skate on the rink, but it was fun to watch for a while.



 

 
St. Patrick's Cathedral was also completely decked out for Christmas. I especially loved the nativity scene. No baby Jesus - it's not Christmas yet!
 

 
 Last, but not least, I had to go get a glimpse of Johnny's new ad in Times Square. Whoop!

 
I was only in NYC for 3 short days, but it was great to see the city at it's best. The only thing that could have made the trip better was snow. It was actually warmer in NYC than it was in Dallas! I didn't see the effects of Sandy where I was, but heard from many people in the conference about the absolute devastation in some areas. Hopefully things can get back to normal as soon as possible for those people.
 
Travel updates: That's it for 2012! We're looking forward to getting some family time in and relaxing. In January, we're hoping for Orlando.
 
ALSO, news on the big trip front and it's looking like it's going to be Australia and New Zealand this year! Sorry, Southeast Asia, but you have really cheap tickets. It doesn't make sense for us to risk standby to only save $200/person. Don't worry, we will visit you soon...
 
So guys, until next year! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Take Me Back: San Juan, Puerto Rico

In honor of Southwest's new service to San Juan, Puerto Rico, I thought I would blog about the two times we have been there.

Our first trip was over Thanksgiving break in November 2010 with my parents. We stayed at a Mariott in the Isla Verde area. While the beach was very nice, it wasn't our favorite location. It was definitely the more touristy area; laden with Burger Kings and KFCs.

The second time we went was in September of 2011 for our Southern Caribbean cruise. We stayed at the La Concha Renaissance and we absolutely loved it. I would definitely recommend renting a car when you go to San Juan - it's relatively cheap, but completely necessary if you want to get to some of the further away attractions (and you definitely do!).

Our favorite parts:

Wandering around Old San Juan


 



Kayaking in the Bioluminescent Bay - Fajardo

You can't take decent pictures of the Bio Bay, but suffice to say, it was one of the coolest things I've ever done! The organisms in the water react to motion, so as you are kayaking through, you leave a blue trail in your wake. You kayak through mangrove trees to arrive at your final destination. When we went, it was sprinkling outside, so every time water fell through the trees, it sparkled when it hit the water. It was magical.

El Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal










Kioskos de Luquillo - There are about 60 different food vendors which serve anything from down-home Puerto Rican basics to gourmet burgers to ceviche. We also tried some delicious mojitos here, so it's really a foodie's paradise. It looks kind of shady, but it's local staple!



El Yunque Rainforest - ATVing and Hiking/ Swimming in Waterfalls




 
Our first time, we took an ATV tour and it was a BLAST! About 1/2 way through, you stop at a river to swim. You can also do a similar tour on horseback.

 




The Beaches



 


I really loved Puerto Rico and I'm so excited that we can now fly there for free with Southwest. I would definitely recommend putting Puerto Rico at the top of your travel wishlist. It's only a 4 hour plane ride from Houston and you don't even need a passport!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Santa Fe, NM

We took a trip to Santa Fe, NM to celebrate our 3rd anniversary. I have been before, but it's honestly been so long that I hardly remember. We were looking forward to relaxing and eating some good food - and of course, hiking! Southwest doesn't actually fly into Santa Fe, so we jumped on a quick flight to Albuquerque and rented a car for the 1 hour drive.

We arrived and checked into our hotel - El Dorado. By this time, we were starving, so we took a quick walk around town square and grabbed some food at The Shed. This was a pretty traditional southwestern meal. We sampled the green chile stew, enchiladas, and huevos rancheros. The food was yummy and the drinks were even better. Jason and I are both new fans of the Santa Fe Brewing Company!

 


Santa Fe is a cool little town. There are artisans selling their jewelry and art in the square and churches on every corner. It is definitely an older town and many times, Jason and I were by far the youngest people around. We chose a fun time to go as well! A cold front came blasting through on Friday night and gave these Texans our first taste of winter this year.




On Saturday, we stopped by the Santa Fe Farmer's Market. This was a great place for the locals to go get their locally grown/organic fruits and veggies. I know there is a farmer's market in Dallas, but the ease of access made this something special. You could tell this was a daily part of life for the people there. We then drove along the famous "Canyon Road" with hundreds of art galleries. Obviously, we couldn't afford a single thing, so we ventured back in town to explore.




We made a stop at the Loretto Chapel. This gothic church is famous for the miracle staircase. This chapel (modeled after Sainte Chappelle in Paris) was tiny, but they needed a way to access the upstairs choir loft. Building a traditional staircase was simply not feasible in the limited space, so they prayed to the saints to bring a solution. Miraculously, a still unknown carpenter came and fashioned a spiral staircase from one piece of wood to lead up to the loft. No engineers can figure out why this works - there is no center or side support and it was able to support 20 people at a time for over a hundred years. It was a beautiful little church, but looked nothing like Sainte Chappelle :) 

Those are plastic rosaries hanging from the tree.



After this, like good Aggies, we watched A&M BTHO Alabama! After the game, we went to an amazing little restaurant called Andiamo! to celebrate our anniversary. We had an excellent meal, made sweeter by the Aggie win and the profiteroles we indulged in after.

On the last day, we woke up early to climb the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The great thing about Santa Fe is that it is so close to so many hiking trails and SO many people are active. The hike to the top of the peak took about 3 hours. It was snowing for part of the way and we got to hike through 1-2 inches of snow already on the ground. We were rewarded for our efforts with a great view of the town and the surrounding mountains.






Why yes, we DID climb to the top of that!

View from 1/2 way up

All the way at the top




On the way down, we decided to pick up the pace and run down. This was great until I slid on some ice and landed face first on the ground. The good news was the camera was fine and we made it down in about 30 minutes!

We really enjoyed our time in Santa Fe. It was a peaceful town with a lot to offer. I can definitely see why so many people retire here. We had a little time to kill before catching our late flight, so we watched Argo. It was a really good movie!

Travel Update: I did not go to NYC because of Sandy. I will be going for my conference that was rescheduled for December though. It will be nice to experience NYC during the Christmas season!

I'm hoping to take a trip for my birthday sometime in January. Orlando would be amazing and I have been super obsessed with the idea of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and going on my 4th visit to Disneyworld (I can't get enough!). Also in the running are New Orleans and Key West. As always, it's up in the air :)

Thanks for reading guys!