Monthly Archives: August 2014

8 High End Resorts in Tucson

It might not be a well known fact, but in Tucson, you get more for your money with Real Estate. You can get a multi-million dollar home (California standards) starting at $700,000 in Tucson. Resorts are not badly priced either, but prices are time sensitive. The beauty of Tucson, besides the Saguaros, Ocotillos, and other attractive desert plants is that it isn’t as hot as Phoenix in the summer. Tucson is generally about eight degrees cooler. The heat doesn’t seem quite as oppressive. Also, in my metaphysical opinion, the vibration there is much more mild than other parts of Arizona.

Luxury resort prices in Tucson range from $99 to $499 depending on the resort and the season. Summer time is a great time to get a great deal on a stay in Tucson. Prices are roughly half of what they are in peak season, and you can still enjoy most of the attractions of the metro in the blazing heat. You can still enjoy going to museums, restaurants, caves. Gardens might be a little more difficult on a hot day, but still possible. Hiking might not be a good idea if it is over one hundred degrees, but if you have lots of cold water and know you can handle it, put your sunscreen on and go for it!

(1) The Ritz at Dove Mountain – Most Luxurious & Best Nestled.
This is the king of resorts in Tucson and also by far the most expensive resort that is open to the public. Rooms are around $500 per night in the Winter and early Spring. I loved the staff near the pool. Their outfits resemble those at the Beverly Hills Hotel Cabana! Unfortunately, the parking facilities at this hotel are the farthest from the rooms, so call a golf cart to help you. This hotel is nestled in the hills of Dove Mountain inside a sort of a U-shape in the hills. If you like hiking, there will be a lot of places for short hikes. The menus at the restaurants were excellent with an impressive wine list as well. I appreciated the Cinnabun that I had as I am a man of simple tastes! I wanted to try some of the Cabernets, but I had to drive — maybe I’m not so simple after all. The drive up to the resort is quite an experience. The road goes on and on, and is very attractively laid out as well. This is by far the most beautiful of the resorts and by far the most expensive as well. But, try it out in the summer and see if you like it at less than half the normal cost!

(2) Loews Ventana Hotel – Most Traditional
The uniqueness of this hotel is that they seem to have a clientele of more traditional and old fashioned people. The crowd here resembles the understated old rich where the other resorts seem to cater to the new rich and upper middle classes! You are walking distance from hiking trails, and the food is excellent. I didn’t like how the building has so many perpendicular angles — not good for feng-shui! But, it is an attractive place, and the ancient tree they have in the front is a real icon! Although prices fluctuate, I would assign this hotel as being the second most expensive in the area!

(3) The Hilton Conquistador – Best Service
I was struck by how good the service was. The valets and bell-boys were very meticulously trained, and it showed! I had wine in the restaurant which had an innovative menu. The rooms here are nice, and it is right near the Catalina mountains which are a nice place to hike. Shopping in Oro Valley is upscale and there are a few good restaurants around as well, although the really reputed restaurants are down in various parts of Tucson. I enjoyed meditating at this hotel since the spiritual vibration was excellent — who would have thought! This is my personal favorite, but next time I will try out some other places so I can compare! Pricing here is average for a Tucson Resort and range from around $99 to $199 depending on the season.

(4) Westin Paloma — Best Views!
I stayed at this hotel once. It is nestled in the hills of Northeastern Tucson in a very affluent area. You can enjoy upscale dining and shopping in this area, not to mention proximity to some of Tuscon’s best hiking. I enjoyed desert and a mocha at their restaurant downstairs. I will note that rooms in their resort are in buildings three stories high. If you end up in the basement, it is not as nice in my opinion. Parking is a walk from the rooms which ensures more peace and quiet, but if you have a lot of luggage, it is a hassle. The pool was spectacular and the views were amazing!

(5) Omni National – Most Centrally Located
This resort offers golf and spa treatments and is right in Northwest Tucson not far from the 10. Enjoy a sauna, steam room, pool, cabanas, yoga, aerobics, zumba (sorry, but no catumba,) and many types of massage and body treatments. I haven’t stayed there yet, but it is on my list. I might just drop by and sample a massage and a glass of wine next time I’m in town!

(6) JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort & Spa – Most Picturesque Golf Courses
This resort is west of the 10 freeway near the hills. It is a quick drive to do some hiking in the Western part of Saguaro National park or see the Desert Museum or Old Tucson amusement park. Enjoy BBQ, steaks, grilled food, tequilas, Starbucks, patio and poolside dining! I think I’ll order a desert latte (not sure if that exists.) Unfortunately for me (and you) their website fails to list items on their menus from their six restaurants!

(7) Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort – Most Romantic & Nice Spanish Hacienda Architecture
Here is yet another Northeast Tucson resort that I haven’t been to. I’ll comment more once I have visited there! Enjoy sports, soother, or aromatherapy massage. They also have reflexology and prenatal, not to mention mud wraps! Did I mention couples massage? I told you this place was romantic! They have horseback riding as well, and you will not be far from hiking trails!

(8) Miraval Resort & Spa – Most Remote!
Note: This resort is closed to the public. You can only get in with a reservation or appointment to take a tour. Prices to stay there are around 700+ per night.

This resort is farther from the city than the other ones. It is an hour due North in the City of Catalina. You are near some great hiking here. This spa offers Ayervedic, Asian and other types of massage and skin care, not to mention stretching and other types of bodywork. It is in a remote and very scenic part of the desert, so you will be surrounded by palm trees, mountain views, unusually shaped pools, and beauty on all sides. Enjoy gourmet food too at their cactus flower restaurant! Also, enjoy a drink at the Brave Bill Lounge, Palm Court juice bar, or Oasis Poolside Bar! I’m a little disappointed that their elaborate web site fails to mention what their actual culinary offerings are, but I’m sure they’re good!

You might also like:

Corporate standards in a hotel chain
http://blog.meander411.com/2014/02/16/corporate-standards-in-a-hotel-chain/

Attention to quality makes so much difference at a hotel
http://blog.meander411.com/2014/02/01/attention-to-quality-makes-so-much-difference-at-a-hotel/

The benefits of astral travel. But, what is astral travel?

Don’t try this at home!

I don’t know if astral travel is considered safe or not, but I’ve done it while awake, and do it unconsciously while I’m sleeping. Don’t freak out, but the definition of astral travel is when your soul leaves your body and travels around. Your soul can go anywhere in the universe in the blink of an eye, and then come back.

What concerned me was: what happens to my body if my soul isn’t in it? Don’t you die if your soul leaves your body? It is the other way around. Your soul leaves your body when you die, but you don’t necessarily die when your soul leaves your body. Perhaps angels watch over your body to make sure that no bad spirits try to possess you — which is my worst nightmare. But, so far nothing bad has happened.

Spaceships
I took an interesting trip while awake. I meditated myself into a light transe. Then, I set my will to see spaceships in other parts of the galaxy. It was hard for me to do this. But, I saw a few. One had a huge domed ceiling. I moved around. When you move astrally, you are basically floating like a ghost. I saw some cubicles. There was an off-white being with a huge head in a cubicle operating some type of technology. I didn’t know what it was since it was not from our planet. It was some sort of communication or calculating device perhaps. The being saw me or sensed me. Keep in mind that my body was right here in Los Angeles. But, if you see an astral being, it might look like a ghost, or you might get a feeling you’re being watched, or sense something. In any case, this being started screaming in his alien way. I have never heard a scream quite like that. It was not at all human by any standard. I decided that I was intruding on these “people” and that I didn’t want to scare them. I had no idea they would sense me.

A few minutes later, the alien and some other guy in his ship astrally transported to my room and stared angrilly at me as I had intruded upon them. I was napping at the time. I psychically picked up their conversation. One of them said, “He’s just sleeping!” I guess they felt less threatened after they learned what a peaceful astral-travel blog writer I was! I just wonder why I was transported to their space ship, and not some other. Am I connected to these “people” on a certain level or was it just random. The world(s) will never know!

Rishikesh
I had a dream that I was in India. But, I was floating about thirty feet in the air. I saw a guy and girl in their early 20’s taking photos of each other. I figured they must be newlyweds. In India, affluent couples like to go to the mountains or hills for their honeymoons. I don’t know if I was in Rishikesh, Hardwar, Dehradun, or Benares. But, it was somewhere in India, and I didn’t have to take a rickshaw to get there. I had traveled astrally in my sleep.

New Mexico
I sometimes go to New Mexico while sleeping too. I once had a dream in New Mexico that I was watching my body sleeping. That is a bit disconcerting if you have never traveled astrally while asleep. But, another dream that tops all dreams was that I watched my body slowly walking to the bathroom. If I was out of my body, who was the pilot of my body that got it to the bathroom? Auto-pilot? I had to talk to my psychic for twenty minutes about that one. Talk about freaky!

I don’t know if it is safe or not to do astral travel, but if you run into some evil spirits, it might be bad. I don’t know what to say. But, I will say this: according to my guru, I’ve been to India dozens of times without paying for airfare. He prefers that I stay in my body, but I’m not doing this consciously!

You might also like:

He wrote a blog about appreciating life while facing death
http://blog.meander411.com/2014/05/11/he-wrote-a-blog-about-appreciating-life-while-facing-death/

Do people go to Bali to experience a simpler life, or to escape?
http://blog.meander411.com/2014/04/30/do-people-go-to-bali-to-experience-a-simpler-life-or-escape/

The quintessential India experience

It is so funny how travel broadens our minds. I remember as a child seeing completely Americanized second generation Chinese Americans and thinking of them as Chinese! Now, after traveling to Taiwan and living there, I see the very same people as pure blooded Americans! I remember my first trip to India. I had spent a lot of time with Indians in America. But, being in their country gave me culture shock for a while. The class of people you encounter in India is substantially lower than the people who are here. If you are Indian and have made it to America, by definition, you are middle-class even if you are a cab driver. The same guy back in India wouldn’t drive a rickshaw if his life depended on it!

I remember having a nice meal at the Radisson.
A five star oasis of cleanliness and manners in a smog infested raunchy boulevard in Southern Chennai. I remember seeing these Indian-Americans walk past the pool wearing shorts speaking English in a loud American accent. There is such a contrast between Indians, and even those who have lived in America for twenty years! If you want to experience the real India, don’t stay at an American hotel chain. Sure, you will still be in India, and the staff will still have Indian habits and manners, but it is not what real India is.

Stay at a regular Indian hotel — a nice one.
Experience being able to order a breakfast of freshly squeezed pomegranate, orange, or mango juice. Experience toast with jam. Have cornflakes with warm milk, but only have that once because it is horrible! The best part of India or breakfast in India is the chai and the coffee. Sure you can get either in America, but American chai has too much cinnamon and sweetener, and never tastes authentic. Madras coffee is very smooth, and no Italian macchiato or latte can compare. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but the real India experience has to include Madras coffee. It’s on the required tasting list!

Enjoy other Indian beverages
You can get Coke in any country, but the Coke in India is much sweeter and tastes so good. After you’ve had Indian coke, you will never be able to drink American Coke again — it will taste very bitter. Enjoy fresh sugar-cane juice by the side of the road. I read that street food will no longer be legal soon in India, but enjoy it wherever you can get it! Indian wine is actually up to par with American wines, although no match for Rhone or Bordeaux. Many of the Indian wineries have paired up with European wine makers, and their wine actually resembles the part of Europe where their partner is from even though the grapes were grown in India.

Drink water from a metal cup
But, don’t let your lips touch the cup. Recently, India is into wasting paper. But, traditionally, people would share the same metal water cup, and not touch their lips to it. It requires good aim, otherwise you will need to change your shirt!

Take a rickshaw ride
Smart people in India take a cab. Rickshaws try to rip you off, tamper with their meters, and are a headache, while cab drivers are much more civil and their companies have a reputation to protect. Rickshaws are also dangerous by the way, so don’t die on my behalf because you liked my article. But, a rickshaw ride is a quintessential part of life in India, as well as of life in many of the other nearby countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc. The experience of trying to communicate with the rickshaw wallas, bargaining, and having near-miss head on collisions throughout your trip are part of what makes India India! You should miss it for the world!

A bus ride says it all
Figuring out which bus to take is a real hassle in India. The buses are typically very rudely conducted and you have only nanoseconds to jump on and squeeze in. Personally, being a sardine is not my style, but this is what life is like for people in India. Do you want to experience India the way the locals do or not? Keep an eye on your wallet too. If you get pushed, always assume someone did it on purpose to distract you while they relieve you of your wallet.

2nd class local train rides
I like to travel first class on the train in India. You mingle with a better class of people, plus you have more room. During rush hour you have to squeeze even in first class. I think they need a new rail system in Mumbai. People hang out of the open doors of trains in India over tall bridges. Once in a while someone falls to their death. There are no safety precautions in India. Life and death of a human seem to be held as valuable as if a rodent lives or dies. Maybe in a few decades they will change their attitude. But, if you travel 2nd class, you can experience the sardine reality of existence that a normal urban Indian experiences regularly, especially if they live in the exciting and bustling city of Mumbai!

Dysentery and food sickness
You haven’t experienced India correctly if you haven’t had vomiting fits, blood in your bowel movements, or some other horrible gastro-intestinal disorder from something you ate. Sure, I drink bottled water, but something always happens. I blame it on potatoes. I always get sick from cooked potatoes, but never from samosas with potatoes. Odd. I once went to the bathroom completely without toilet paper (as the locals generally do) because I had to go all of a sudden due to food sickness. I experienced the real India. I didn’t like it much, but it was part of the traveling experience.

Try Indian street food
Indians love their street food. Even if they become millionaires, they still love the sensual pleasure of biting into a samosa chat, pani poori, or other local foods. They are always very simple, generally unhealthy, and everyone loves them.

Sleeping in a long distance train
This is a part of India that many of the locals don’t do simply because the few rupees that it costs to travel are more than what they have. Traveling first class is expensive, but 3rd class non-AC is not an expensive class to travel in. You see the poor people up front and get to know them in this class. When I say poor, it is not like poor in America who enjoy all types of pleasures unimaginable in India. Poor in India is dirt poor. Their skin tone reflects bad nutrition. They look unenthusiastic and tired. They will probably not have much to say either. It is bearable, but not a side of India that I like to spend much time in. For daily life, I like upper middle-class India. It suits me. People are more like me even if they don’t look like me. The types of jobs and lifestyle they have matches me better. 3rd class non-AC brings you to a very depressing and real version of India. You meet people who are not from the poche city that you are staying in. It is a different world. And traveling is about going into different worlds, even if they are not pleasant worlds. The best part of waking up in a long distance train after having a comfortable sleep with the soothing rocking of the train is to hear the calls of chai walla. “Chai, chai, chai, garam chai, achaya, chaha, ocha, chai, 5 rupees chai!” They say the world chai in all the dialects in a song. I immitate this song all the time!

Summary
There is the side of India that I am more familiar with. The world where affluent people go to their high-tech jobs, drive tiny new Hyundae cars, go out to eat, and generally speak English. Then, there are other sides of India, poorer and less pleasant sides. The “real” India could be rich or poor, but if you have not experienced a ride in a 2nd class train in Mumbai, used a squat toilet, or gotten dysentery, then you have not experienced the quintessential India.

Hey bubba!
Welcome to India, buddy!

(In Pune, everyone calls everyone Bubba. Maybe they had a past life in Georgia or Alabama, you think?)

You might also like:

Traveling to India — Hazards you are not thinking of
http://blog.meander411.com/2014/04/20/traveling-to-india-hazards-you-are-not-thinking-of/

A trip to Kerela with mishaps, elephants, and miracles
http://blog.meander411.com/2014/04/10/a-trip-to-kerela-with-mishaps-elephants-and-miracles/

Espresso & Liquor Pairing?

We have all heard of food and wine pairing. You need to be saavy to pick good wines, but to do pairings you need to be a sommelier, and a good one! In a recent blog, I wrote about pairing 80’s songs with Thai & Japanese food. To my surprise, that zany topic became popular on Twitter. I even created the idea of food and joke pairing. But, espresso and liquor have long been mixed together. Let’s take a more detailed look.

Coffee and alcohol are natural friends. It doesn’t have to be espresso paired with alcohol, but it could be.

Wine with chocolate!
In Napa, pairing Cabernets and chocolate has become popular. Many Zinfandels and Cabernets have subtle chocolate notes, but in Napa, many wineries took it to the next step. You can purchase small bon bons that are Cabernet infused in boutiques in Napa. You can even buy bottles of wine with heavy doses of chocolate. Interestingly enough, in New Mexico, the home of Green Chile, they have Hatch Green Chile Chardonnay. I tried it just to see what it was, and it was really good! Personally, I don’t like wine with any more than a subtle chocolate note. However, it is common for me to consume dark chocolate and wine together simply because both are on my antioxidant regiment!

Coffee with Kahlua
The Hawaiian coffee flavored alcoholic beverage goes well with coffee (not surprisingly,) but also mixed with milk, and in a vast variety of mixed drinks. I read online that you can mix Kahula, Vodka, and Espresso for a really potent concoction! (shaken, not stirred, and served in a Martini glass)

Coffee with Amaretto
Coffee with nut overtones, another popular choice.

Coffee with Baileys Irish Cream
I am a lover of Baileys, but it is off my diet. Nothing tastes better or gives you a more jovial feeling. I feel the luck of the Irish in every sip, but that’s after I’ve had way too many sips already! Some people add a little Frangelico in the mixture as well.

Coffee with Tequila?
You can mix other flavors with this one. Vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin, or whatever works. Add some whipped cream when you’re done. Mocha wouldn’t be hurt by a little tequila.

Espresso with Frangelico.
Mix this with Vodka and you are in business!

Espresso with Triple Sec & Vodka
Why does each recipe call for Vodka? I don’t even like Vodka!

Coffee with Coffee Liqueur
Not very original, but some people like it. Some people like to add nutmeg and vanilla as well.

Espresso with Gin, berries and orange juice.
I think we’ve crossed the line here, but to each their own!

Coffee with Vodka, Caramel, and Whipped Cream!
OMG, now we’re talking

Coffee with Raspberry Liqueur
Wait until the holidays for this one

Coffee with Rum and Schnapps
To bring out the pirate within you!

Coffee with Jack Daniels, Brown Sugar, and Cream
You might find this hard to believe, but I’m allergic to American Whiskey, so you’ll have to try this one without me!

Coffee with Chocolate Liqueur
You can add coffee liqueur as well to this one

Espresso with Orange Syrup and White Chocolate Liqueur
I’ve never heard of this before. Sounds like something to have on Christmas.

Thai style: Coffee with mint, rum or vodka, fresh lime juice, basil, and whipped cream!
This is based on a Thai mojito recipe. Not sure if this will go well with Espresso. Never tried it before, but it will be fun to find out! I would go easy on the lime and basil if I were you. Those are the questionable ingredients.

Many of these coffee & alcohol recipes can be improvised upon and many of these spirits blend well with each other and with coffee. You can sort of mix the recipes up a bit and see how it tastes. You could even go wild with freshly ground spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, vanilla and have a chai flavored alcoholic coffee beverage. The sky is the limit.

You might also like:
Pairing 80’s songs with Thai & Japanese Food
http://blog.meander411.com/2013/10/30/pairing-80s-songs-with-thai-japanese-food-am-i-crazy/

Food & Joke Pairing
http://blog.meander411.com/2013/11/21/food-joke-pairing/

Best places to visit in Koreatown, Los Angeles as a tourist

Best places in Koreantown Los Angeles

Most gringos don’t venture into Koreatown at all. They might drive through on their way to work, but they look at all the signs in Korean and get alienated. To be honest, Koreatown is not a safe place at night, and English isn’t spoken by all. It is not an uninviting place, it is what it is. You will quickly notice that Korean culture is substantially different from Chinese and Japanese culture which you might be more acquainted with. If you are English speaking, there is plenty to do, you just have to know how to select what to do.Korean cuisine is very different from other Asian nationalities. It could be considered an acquired taste.

Koreans love dishes with pickled flavors like kim-chee, pickled bean sprouts, radishes, and many other dishes. They also love BBQ on a metal plate. Koreans believe that having BBQ where the flame hits the meat directly can cause cancer, so they prefer their national form of BBQ. Although I am very comfortable and familiar with Asian cultures, I only know a few words of Korean. I feel at home in koreatown — at least to a point.

My picks for things to do in Koreatown!

(1) Sam Gyup Sal at Palsaik
Pork Belly is a food that is traditional in Korea. It was served to coal miners as the Koreans know that the fats in pork belly help to clear toxins from the lungs and also protect the liver. Don’t eat too much or you will gain weight. But, there are specialty restaurants that excel at cooking this popular form of meat. Palsaik is famous for having eight flavors of Samgyupsal including garlic and wine flavored. I went there once and enjoyed it. They give you lots of vegetables to eat with your meat, and you traditionally wrap the meat in a leaf and eat it. Fun! But, you need to bring a friend or two to share their large minimum order.

(2) The Prince
This is a very English looking interior. You might feel that you are in Britain in the 1940’s in this building. But, the food and guests are Korean. I went for my birthday. Popular dishes include Korean style chicken wings with rice balls in a chili sauce. The rice balls are actually elongated rice cakes and not balls, but I don’t know what else to call them. Putting semantics aside, the flavor was excellent and this is a fun basement pub and restaurant that is worth a visit!

(3) MaDang 621.
This is an upscale Korean restaurant near Western and 6th Street. I think they have changed their name since I was there last, and they changed it before I was there as well. But, the food is popular. When you have Korean food, they typically bring, “Pan-Chan” which are small dishes with kim-chee, tofu, pickled radish, rice cakes, and other goodies. You can drink at the bar here as well. This is a great place to bring your boss according to the internet. See if they have Mung Bean pancakes which is one of my favorite Korean dishes. I think they change the menu from time to time, so ask!

(4) Interchew
Sojutown Closed! How could they do that? They were so nice. But, you can visit Interchew for a similar experience with a less cool name. If you visit Koreatown, try some Soju at one of the other bars. There are many types of Soju and they will all put hair on your chest so you can be macho like Korean men (& women.) There is barley, rice, and potato Soju. The rice one tastes more like vodka than sake, but it is interesting. For me, I can’t handle my Soju, so I don’t drink it. But, you’ll enjoy tasting it at a minimum!

(5) Try a Korean coffee house
There are a dozen coffee houses in Koreatown. The one I’ve been to is Haus. But, on yelp you can see a ton of them. Koreans have very chic coffee houses and it is fun to go there and hang with them.
http://www.yelp.com/list/korea-town-coffee-houses-los-angeles

(6) Korean BBQ in general
I don’t eat Korean BBQ that much, but there are many places that serve this. It is a central part of the culture and you need to try it. Basically, they sell you some raw meat, and you cook it yourself on a hot metal plate or rock. They have vegetables too (lots of vegetables) and various alcoholic beverages. They even have an alcoholic drink that tastes like sweet potato which is their national flavor.

(7) Visit a spa
Korean spas are different. If you are not Korean, you will stand out. People have saunas, massage, and all types of things. There are a few decent spas in Koreatown. I have never been to one, but they are popular with the locals and would make a great tourist experience!

(8) Visit a Korean mall w/a food court.
There is a mall on Olympic and Western. They have all types of stores, a Korean supermarket that sells all types of Korean alcoholic beverages and foods. There is a food court in the basement, and lots of other fancy places to shop. If you have never seen this mall before, it is worth a shot.

What to do first & what to leave for last in London!

To my absolute surprise, the most popular things to do in London were reality games. One game had you try to escape from a locked room. How scary! But, I’m more of a touristy type. I have never been to London, but have spent a lot of time reading about it on the web. Here are my best ideas of places to go in order!

Note:
Theater attractions are quite popular in London. I will be mentioning very few of them. But, for those of you who like theater, you can browse the internet and find many very top-notch venues.

(1) Buckingham Palace
This is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. It boasts 775 rooms including 19 state rooms 52 bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms. The palace is also used for Royal ceremonies. If you want to see the changing of the guards, please look up their schedule online. They don’t change guards every day, so plan ahead!
It is possible to book a tour of the palace, but tours are expensive. It is 75 pounds to take an exclusive evening tour of the state rooms for example.
http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/
I chose this location to be first on my list since it offers the quintessental London experience!

(2) The Tower of London
This castle is the Queen’s abode. It comprises 12 acres and is located on the North bank of the Thames. The building over time has served as an armoury, treasury, and a menagerie, a mint, public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. I chose this location to be second since it played such an important role in history.

(3) Big Ben
Big Ben is a huge and world famous clock tower in London. Tours of the interior are not open to foreign travelers.

(4) Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is one of the most stately and picturesque draw-bridges in the world and well worth a quick visit.

(5) The British Museum
This museum hosts many different types of exhibitions including ancient Egypt and Sudan, Greece and Rome, prehistory, The Middle East, Asia, Africa, Coins, prints, drawings and more!

(6) Regent’s Park
A beautifully maintained garden park. You’ll have to see the pictures to see why I’m so enthusiastic about this place! England is a country that pays a lot of attention to gardening. There are many other gardens in the city. My advice is see the pictures first before you plan your garden tour!

(7) Victoria and Albert Museum
This is one of the world’s largest museums and has a collection of more than 4.5 million objects. They specialize in ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs. They also have some of the best Islamic and East Asian exhibitions in all of Europe! If you have several hours, or perhaps several days, you can enjoy this museum to the fullest!

(8) London Dungeon (Theater)
This is a venue that hosts ten shows about London’s 1000 murky past including Sweeney Todd which you might already be familiar with. Shows are affordable and this seems like an unusual and interesting place to visit.

(9) Brick Lane Music Hall
Enjoy traditional foods and great music for those of all ages. Tripadvisor names this the #2 most popular attraction in the city!

(10) Churchill War Rooms
An underground headquarters of the British High Command during WW2.

(11) The Royal Opera House
A great destination for Ballet and Opera, and a classic building built in 1732 as well!

(12) Palace of Westminster AKA The Houses of Parliament
This is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords which are the two houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom. Tours are held in this building, but they are not held every day, so plan far ahead!

(13) The National Gallery
Enjoy 2300 paintings from the mid 13th century until 1900.

(14) Sea Life London Aquarium
See sharks, rays, penguins, piranhas, jellyfish, clownfish, crocodiles, turtles, and even lobster (without the lobster sauce.) This seems to be a much more interesting aquarium than any others I’ve even dreamed of!

Places I would skip or put last on my list

(St. Paul’s Cathedral
This is the seat of the Bishop of London and is the mother church for the Diocese of London. It is located at the top of Ludgate Hill which is the highest point in the city. This cathedral has been used for many famous weddings and ceremonies for hundreds of years! Although this is one of the main attractions in the city, and the architecture is fantastic, it seems more of a place to see if you finished your itinerary of more interesting destinations and have a little left-over time!

The London Eye
This is a huge Ferris wheel on the banks of the Thames. Although it gives you a bird’s eye, well perhaps more of an eagle’s eye view of the city, it seems to be a bit of a time waster. Keep in mind that hotel prices range from $250 to $600 for average accommodations. Each hour you spend standing in line or on a slow attraction is costing you more than you think. If it were me, I would prefer to go to the top of a tall building with a panoramic view, where I can control where I’m looking, rather than have my viewpoint changed by the controllor of the Ferris wheel.

The River Thames
If you want to arrange for a cruise up and down the river, that might be an efficient use of time. You would be able to see many great buildings. But, a special trip to the Thames doesn’t seem necessary. Many of London’s main attractions, so you will see it as a matter of course even if you are not trying to see it.

St. James Park
St. James Park might be more centrally located than other parks, and has more reviews, and many positive reviews too. But, for garden lovers, there are many other parks in the city with more spectacular gardens. Shop around before you decide which gardens you want to see first!

The Gardens of Marrakech, Morocco

The Gardens of Marrakech

Personally, I romanticize over how wonderful Moroccan and Tunisian food is. We have wonderful places in Los Angeles where the architecture and decor transports you into a North African paradise, where you sit on cushions and enjoy course after course of spices and yum! But, what about seeing the real deal?

A city of gardens
Marrakech is known for its great cuisine, architecture, but also for its gardens! Sure, British and Italian gardens are more famous, but Moroccan gardens are also highly renowned and have a very distinctive style.

The style of Moroccan gardens could be said to be in the Islamic Moorish architecture with its glorious arches, shades of blue, and castle shaped turrets, combined with ornate walkways, palm trees, and geometrically shaped pools. If I could create my own tourist attraction in the United States, it would be a Moroccan hotel built in the style of a garden in Marrakesh equipped with coffee houses, restaurants and more. The environment would be hard-wired to be permanently at a very slow pace!

Below are some gardens selected for their beauty. You can click on the links to see photos. I personally have never been to Morocco, otherwise I would include personal commentary for all of these gardens. When I finally do make it to Marrakech, I will visit at least a dozen gardens once after the next to really see what is unique and noteworthy about each one. I’ll keep you posted.

Bahia Palace
Bahia Palace has spectacular decorated walkways, arches, courtyeards and trees.
Click on the link below to see amazing photos!
http://www.galenfrysinger.com/maroc_marrakesh_bahia_palace.htm

Riad Enjia
This garden has amazing courtyeards, palm trees, and more!
Click on the link below to see amazing photos!
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/95472856

The Palmery Museum
This garden boasts a naturally shaped pool, and a Sonoran style cactus garden!
http://www.theguardian.com/travel/gallery/2013/apr/24/gardens-of-marrakech-morocco-in-pictures#/?picture=407764491&index=7

Ksar Char-Bagh
Ksar Char-Bagh has a very long pool lined with palm trees and a medieval house hotel which looks like a mini-castle.
For photos, click below!
http://www.cntraveler.com/hotels/africa-middle-east/morocco/ksar-char-bagh-marrakesh-morocco

Jardin Majorelle
Enjoy the tropical color scheme with turquoise, bright yellow and pinks throughout the architecture and pots!
For a map of the garden an photos, click below!
http://www.jardinmajorelle.com/jardin/

Cyber Parc
Wide walkways, pools, trees, and more!
http://moroccotraveltourguide.blogspot.com/2011/05/cyber-park-koutoubia-islamic-gardens.html

Bali’s Beaches — how do you choose which one to go to?

Bali’s beaches are best during the dry season from April until October. Beaches are cleaner, calmer, and dryer during the dry season. From reading reviews and browsing the internet, it seems like the majority of Bali’s popular beaches are near Kuta or South Kuta, and very close to the airport which is convenient for tourists. North Bali isn’t famous for beaches, and their beaches don’t get very good reviews, although they are away from most of the hustle and bustle. What distinguishes one beach from another might be how crowded it is, how many pestering vendors are around, and whether you can swim, surf, or snorkle conveniently and safely. Even though most of these beaches are very close to each other, the character of each beach is quite different. I apologize for not having photos. I have not yet traveled to Bali, but it is at the top of my list. You can visit other travel sites for pictures.

#1 Best Beach
Balangan Beach (Western part of South Kuta Peninsula & near Dreamland — Southern Bali)
This is a place with very few tourists, but a great place to surf. Rocky cliffs. Many local cafes.
CNN travel, Tripadvisor and other reviewers recommend this beach first or high on their list!

#2 Best Beach
Amed Beach (Eastern Bali)
If you like black sand, and a resort that got fantastic reviews, this is a great place to vacation. Lots of fishing boats and diving, but not much surfing. This beach has a close view of a nearby volcano!

#3 Best Beach
Padang Padang Beach in Kuta near the airport
This is a small beach where you can surf. The water is clean and clear. This beach used to be a secret only known to the locals.

Other Popular Beaches all in Southern Bali

Jimbaran Beach (South Kuta just South of the airport)
This is a place with many fish vendors and seafood restaurants.

Nusa Dua Beach (East part of South Kuta Peninsula — Southern Bali)
Beautiful Blue Water, pristine white sand, and very few vendors! There is a parking lot, and you can rent chairs!
This beach got good reviews, but is not the best in town it seems!

Geger Beach (in Nusa Dua: Eastern part of South Kuta — Southern Bali)
Tripadvisor gave this beach good reviews mostly in the Excellent or Very Good range.
This beach is quiet, clean, and swimmable!

Sanur Beach (East of Denpasar)
Enjoy 7km of paved walkway along the beach.

Kutuh Beach (Southern part of South Kuta — Southern Bali)
This is a very remote area that looks like how Bali looked decades ago before the invasion of tourists!