20170110 Honolulu – Good Eats!

With our friends headed to Oahu this month I thought I’d compile some of our favorite places to eat and visit on the island for them and for you who might stumble upon this site looking for some Hawaiian style adventure! So here’s part one covering the most important part of any great vacation… the food!

Ono Seafood – 747 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu

Ono Seafood

Poke is available at a lot of places in Honolulu and I advise trying them all, but that’s just me as I love poke when I’m on the islands. Poke here in Los Angeles can run the gamut of chewy and tasteless to the highest compliment, “almost Hawaiian”. In fact, so far we really can only recommend Pokinometry located in Anaheim, although our friends have recommended a place in Chino Hills that we’ll have to try out. Anyway… there are a lot of places that sell poke, and there are many places that have been touted as the best. But really the best in our book is Ono Seafood. The real difference here is the fresh fish and the fresh preparation. Most places have their poke made in advance and so if you don’t get it immediately after it’s made the marinade tends to toughen up the raw fish. Eventually, the moisture in the fish is drawn out by the salt in the sauce and dilutes the flavor. Ono Seafood is a hole-in-the-wall store located immediately next to a non-descript apartment building on Kapahulu Avenue. Easily confused with Ono Hawaiian Food which is just a block away towards Waikiki on the same street. Upon entering you’ll notice that the place is very small, in fact, it’s downright tiny! To your left is a refrigerator variably stocked with dried and smoked seafood pupus but ignore that for now. First check out the menu and select your fish and then choose one or all of the following to mix in: white or green onion, hawaiian salt, chili pepper, kukui nut, sesame oil, ogo or shoyu. The last time we were there I went simple with the Ahi, green onion, sesame oil and shoyu while Irene went with the Tako, hawaiian salt, chili and kukui nut. You really can’t go wrong, try a few different combinations! Forget trying to eat it there, take it to go but remember that this stuff definitely has a limited shelf life so enjoy quickly!

Leonard’s – 933 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu

Leonard’s Bakery

Although Malasadas arrived with Portuguese immigrants in the late 19th century, the doughy treats didn’t gain popularity until 1946, when Leonard Rego began selling his Portuguese Doughnuts in Honolulu. Deep fried and rolled in sugar and either left plain or filled with your choice of cream, haupia (coconut), guava or dobash (chocolate). They are slightly crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside and when you can get them warm, they are heavenly…



Goofy Cafe and Dine – 1831 Ala Moana Boulevard, Suite 201, Honolulu

Goofy Cafe and Dine

The wooden paneled walls, ceiling fans and racked surfboards make you feel like you’re hanging out at a beach house so you really start to get the feel for the islands here. They offer both healthy and hearty breakfast options and feature locally grown and sourced menu items. I loved their loco moco which is a local dish of a ground beef patty on top of rice topped with gravy and a fried egg. The French toast here was definitely Instagram worthy! Parking is tough here just like anywhere else in Waikiki so be prepared to walk a little.



Loco Moco
Hazelnut and chocolate banana french toast


Eggs N’ Things – 2464 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu

Macadamia nut pancakes
Acai Bowl

The pancakes here are not to be missed and when you are on the islands you really only have the one choice, macadamia nut everything! The other item we tried was the acai bowl, very popular here on the islands. Its basically a super tick acai berry smoothie topped with a generous amount of fruit and granola and are very refreshing! This location has an upper seating area that provided an excellent morning view above the street if you are lucky enough to grab a window table. This place is busy so be prepared for a wait even at off times.


Fast Food
Zippy’s – 22 locations on Oahu
Offering local comfort foods like the loco moco and teriyaki cheeseburgers, alongside staples like their famous chili, as well as a Zip Pac bento, filled with your choice of teriyaki beef, Spam, fried chicken, or mahi mahi on rice, sprinkled with furikake and a slice of daikon. These stores are found throughout Oahu and are a much better choice than your typical fast food. While the smaller mom and pop lunch places can have better food, Zippy’s offers convenience and consistency and some nice local plates.

Katsu Curry Plate

Musubi Cafe Iyasume – 5 locations on Oahu
Spam Musubi can be found at almost every Hawaiian plate lunch restaurant on the islands. Consisting of pan fried slice of spam on top of rice with a wrap of roasted seaweed. These little handheld snacks are perfect for a quick bite on the go! Musubi Cafe features more than 35 types of musubis including 10 different kinds of spam musubi! They have more on their menu than just musubi, including bentos, beef, curry and salmon bowls, miso soup and more. Don’t wait for one of their few tables, take your order to go and eat at the beach!


Shiso and Spam Musubi and Sour Plum Onigiri

Marukame Udon – 2310 Kuhio Ave #124, Honolulu
There is almost always a line out the door but this casual self-service style restaurant is well worth the wait. These aren’t your typical udon noodles either, prepared in the Sanuki-style known for its backbreaking process that results in a delicious noodle with a great tooth. As you wait, watch the cooks prepare the fresh dough into thick noodles. Pick from an assortment of unique dishes, including curry, niku, kamaage, or zaru udon.  Once you’ve ordered your udon pick from an array of tempura and find a spot to quickly slurp down your noodles!



So this is just a start of the many awesome eats you can experience in Oahu, I’ll be posting the next part that covers some activities and sights soon!

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20161026 – Fungwaii Part One

The Fungs go to Hawai’i… Part ONE

20161026_150832My wife’s family have never really traveled much together and we decided about a year ago to try to have a family trip to Hawaii. So after much planning and waiting we were finally ready to go! Quick shuttle ride to LAX, breeze through security thanks to TSA PreCheck and we sat down for a nice lunch at Skewers, right next to our gate. Just a note about the TSA PreCheck, earlier this year we had decided to sign up for GlobalStar as we had a trip to Paris planned for May. Included in the GlobalStar program is enrollment into the TSA PreCheck program as well. The application requires a thorough background check, interview and a $100 fee. The ease of returning from France, going through immigration and customs was well worth the effort. The ability to use the TSA PreCheck lines through the airport security is a nice perk as well. Going and returning to LAX we only one person in front of us in line at the security checkpoint. I just wish that people would read the TSA PreCheck instructions and familiarize themselves with the process. Both times the people in front of us had no clue what to do, which is frustrating as the short wait would have been halved if they knew what they were doing… oh well, what can you do?

Getting through security so quickly gave us plenty of time to find our gate and settle in for a leisurely lunch. We found some seat with good view of the gate and waited for them to call our zone. I wish that all of the gates would designate areas for each zone rather than allow passengers to stand around the gates blocking the entrance. For our international flights, it was nice that they had organized queues for each zone. So, after an unexplained one hour delay with Delta having to switch planes at the last minute (slightly worrisome!), we finally arrived at Kailua Kona airport, tired but happy to finally be on the Big island again!20161027_002458

Day One -Kailua Kona

Our first day would be getting some supplies and checking into the house that we rented through Home Away but first we needed some food and coffee to get us started on the right track! We had read reviews that Daylight Mind Coffee Company had great views of Kailua Kona and so we headed down Ali’i Drive to check it out. We decided to share the braised short rib loco moco for breakfast and it really hit the spot, it was a great version of the local specialty. If you’ve never had a loco moco, you’ll have to try one the next time you come to the islands. Usually it is a hamburger patty served over rice and a fried egg, topped with brown gravy. We’ve had a few versions of the loco moco over the years and this one ranked among the best. the views here were also excellent and we would highly recommend this place if you are in Kailua Kona!

Short Rib Loco Moco
Short Rib Loco Moco
View from DLMCC
View from DLMCC









After breakfast we headed over to the Farmer’s Market across the street and picked up some fresh fruit and some vegetables for the house. The selection here is nice and there are lots of local vendors selling other trinkets, souvenirs and jewelry as well. Our friends were also staying in Kona nearby so we called them up and offered to drop off some fruit. We hung out at their nice beachfront house for awhile before deciding to grab some lunch at a local favorite, Broke Da Mouth Grindz. Broke Da Mouth is located in the northern industrial area of Kona, definitely away from where most of the tourists hang out. We had read some reviews of the place and so we had to come check it out. We ended up ordering two combination plates to share with us and my wife’s parents who arrived just in time for lunch. Broke Da Mouth is hawaiian slang meaning that the flavor or taste is so good that your mouth will be broken and they are accurate with that description. They specialize in Filipino cuisine like adobo and lechon kawali but also Hawaiian lunch plate items. Adobo is a slightly sweet and vinegary sour braised dish and they prepare it very well here. Lechon Kawali is also pork and it is roasted with the crispy rind left on the fatty meat, also very well made and goes great with the housemade sweet chili sauce that is bottled in tequila bottles on every table. The braised short rib was tender and flavorful but the real star of the show was the Garlic Furikake Chicken! Garlic chicken can be found at many Hawaiian food joints and furikake is the seasoned seaweed and sesame seed flavoring that’s found on top of almost everything here on the Big Island. But Broke Da Mouth is known for the Furikake Chicken and the reputation is well deserved! Crispy without greasiness, garlicky but not overpowering, slightly sweet capturing that ultimate in umami flavoring. We devoured it all and were left wanting more!

Combo #1 with Furikake Chicken and Pork Adobo
Combo #2 with Short Rib and Lechon Kawali

Overall, the food and service were great and it kept us coming back, in fact we visited three times over the week we were in Hawaii! The place is small and it is in a hard to find plaza just off Kaiwi and Luhia, just south of Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. I think the only downside is the pricing, it is not cheap but we thought that the quality and flavor of the food was worth the price. Our family and friends tried quite a few things on the menu and enjoyed it all!

After the great lunch with friends it was time to hit up Costco and then on to check in at the house that we rented for the week. Located in Holualoa which is mauka (uphill) from Kona about 15 – 20 minutes, the home is located in the famous Kona Coffee belt, away from the tourists and crowds of Kona. Located on the mountainside it definitely felt like we were escaping. Situated on a few acres of a small ranch with goats, sheep and even a cow it was a great environment for relaxation and a different experience for the young kids in our group. With 11 adults and 3 children we needed a place with plenty of space and this place was the perfect fit, however we would probably not stay so far away next time as it was inconvenient if we needed to “run down the hill” for supplies or breakfast.

Keopu Mauka Hale

That evening my wife and I went down into Kona for a late dinner at Huggo’s on the Rocks where we sat in chairs on the sand, next to the bay where we could see the fire dances of the luau’s across the water. Not to be confused with the nicer Huggo’s next door, this place was the perfect end to a long day, with a pina colada, live music and the lights reflecting off the water! This was just the start to our Hawaiian adventure we were calling Fungwaii2016! Thanks for reading and Part Two will be up soon!

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20161018 – Five Car Camping Essentials

Planning a multi-day backpacking trip can be daunting, deciding what to bring and what to leave behind for space and weight savings can be agonizing. Many times through trial and error you learn what works and what doesn’t and you begin to carefully craft your packing list. Car camping is much more forgiving. Items that are too heavy for backpacking can now be brought along. Items sacrificed due to weight and space can help bring a little more comfort to your campsite. This post is to cover some of the very basic items that you will need. If you are just looking for a comprehensive list, check here at REI.com…

Assorted styles from backpacker to family

#1 – Tent  For years we used a three man Coleman tent we bought at Wal-Mart, much like this one here. This little tent served our car camping needs for many years until we wanted to go backpacking and we upgraded to the REI Half Dome tent similar to this one. Lightweight and small, the Half Dome served as our shelter for many trips until recently when we purchased a rooftop tent from Front Runner Outfitters which now serves as the official *Adventure Not Included basecamp. If you keep your eyes out for sales you can pick up a good tent for car camping for less than $40, for example this one from Big 5 Sports on sale for $30 until this weekend. Keep in mind that these inexpensive tents are not good in inclement weather, in fact few but the very best made tents will stand up to heavy rain or hard winds but unless you want to drop $500-600 on a tent from Northface or Mountain Hardwear, retreating to a local rooming establishment is your best option. Trust us when we say, sleeping in a 3 season tent in gale force winds or below freezing temperatures is not much fun and there is no shame in staying at a nearby motel for the night. Sleeping in your car is always an option but it is not very comfortable. Since our Half Dome tent has gone MIA, our personal choice for our next tent is most likely the REI Passage for the light weight, double doors, ease of setup and good reviews.

Front Runner Outfitters rooftop tent
ALPS Mountaineering mummy bag

#2 – Sleeping bag and #3 – Sleeping Pad  There are many choices here but the best and warmest option we have found is a good fitting mummy bag. The fit is important because if the bag is too tight you will be uncomfortable and if it is too big you’ll have a hard time staying warm. If you are backpacking, finding the perfect balance between weight and warmth is important. Car camping however is much more forgiving and I would place a greater emphasis on warmth. You can always open up the bag to vent some warm air but you’ll never be able to generate more heat from a light bag. Personally we use ALPS Mountaineering mummy bags that are rated to about 30 degrees. We got them from the REI outlet for about $80 each and they have been great for us. We have slept in colder temperatures with these but we would not recommended to use them below about 40 degrees without an additional liner or blanket. If you never plan on sleeping out in the cold there is nothing wrong with the classic style sleeping bag from Wal-Mart that you can pick up for about $25.

One of the essential items that go along with the sleeping bag is a sleeping pad. We currently use the Therm-A-Rest 3/4 length pads which are self-inflating pads that are intentionally short to save space and weight. These three quarter style pads only provide cushioning for the upper body and hips and work very well for our older frames when sleeping on the ground. Sleeping pads accomplish two things, providing a little padding and insulating you from the cold ground which can quickly sap the warmth from your body. Some people might prefer an air mattress but they don’t always fit inside the tent and they are prone to leakage. If you go this route, make sure that the mattress fits inside your tent before you take it out for the first time.


Camp chairs make camp life better!

#4 – Camp Chair  Although some might think this is not an essential item, this can make a huge difference in making your camping trip a more comfortable experience. It never fails that someone is ALWAYS sitting in my camp chair around the fire at the end of the day because they didn’t bring their own. The uses are not limited to camping either, we use ours at the park, tailgates, backyard and even the garage. Although they make a lot of different styles, you just can’t beat the basic collapsing camp chair. Outdoor Gear Labs even did some testing on several different types of camp chairs and this ALPS Mountaineering model was the winner. But at $60 can you really see much difference in the $7 Ozark Trail model? Yes, the ALPS model looks heavier and the max capacity of the chair is 800lbs compared to the 225lb weight limit of the Ozark model but it also weighs 13lbs compared to the less than 5lb weight of the Wal-Mart chair. I’m sure that the ALPS model will last quite a long time but I can’t see dropping that much coin on a camp chair that’s ultimately gonna get used and abused. The Ozark Trail chairs aren’t the most durable things in the world but ours have lasted through many desert camping trips and beat sitting on a rock!

ALPS Mountaineering camp chair
Ozark Trail camp chair
Dinner by headlamp

#5 – Headlamp  Another indispensable item that every camper should have, headlamps will make your life easier. Imagine this scenario… it’s late at night, you were fast asleep in your tent but now… nature is calling and you can’t ignore it any longer. Okay, look for your flashlight… where is it?!? Oh, okay it rolled over to the other side of the tent… okay, open the zipper and try to get your shoes on, all while fumbling with the flashlight. Switching hands, under your arm, pinched at your neck… wow, this would be nicer if I had BOTH hands free! OK, so do I need to continue?? The LED headlamp is a great innovation in camping technology that everyone should be using. Hands-free, lightweight, bright easy to direct beam and can be found for a low cost. This really is an essential item and these Black Diamond models are really great value and are highly recommended by many hikers and campers.

Personally, we use the Enduro model from Streamlight because I’m a Streamlight fanboy and own a couple of lamps from them. Powered with two AAA batteries and providing 6 hours of continuous light on high, durable, powerful and light. we’ve had these headlamps for a few years now and I use them all the time around the house, on the car and in the backyard, anywhere I need a hands-free light. Not to mention that it makes answering the call of nature in the middle of the night SO much easier without fumbling around with a flashlight!

Streamlight Enduro headlamp


So that’s it, those are the first five essential items to have to go car camping. That wasn’t so bad was it?? Next time we’ll cover some essentials for one of the most important parts of camping…  COOKING!  Thanks for reading and remember to find your adventure where ever you may wander!

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20160518 – Paris Wander

So we survived the labor riots, missing airliners and the huge floods and we are back home sorting through the hundreds of pictures that we took on our wander through Paris. Just wanted to share a pic of Mont Saint Michel taken from the surrounding salt flats! Just a surreal sight to be sure! More pics and a post coming soon!


20151028 – Family Central Coast Adventure

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Our family is pretty spread out across California from San Diego to Sunnyvale so we don’t get together very often. We try to see each other at least a couple of times a year but this year I wanted to do something special. Irene and I looked at renting a house so that the whole family could spend time together. We have been spending a lot of time up in the Central Coast area and so Avila Beach was definitely in the front of our minds When we found Casa Contenta on VBRO.com we knew we found the right place. The home is a beautifully designed and furnished 3 bedroom Spanish Hacienda with a 2 bedroom guest house and a loft over the garage. This was the perfect place!

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The plan was to stay from Wednesday to Sunday and have plenty of downtime to relax or pursue whatever adventure they wanted to indulge in. The area has plenty of activites from kayaking, biking, surfing, ATV’s, golf and of course, our favorite… eating! So the whole gang was able to make it and they all showed up on Wednesday afternoon. After a great dinner cooked on the grill on the patio, we planned for an excursion out to Solvang the next day. Breakfast at Paula’s Pancakes was on the agenda and we couldn’t wait to see my little nephew stuff his face with Danish pancakes. This place always has a line out the door and is very popular on weekends but it is a absolute must do when visiting the area.

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Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish settlers and now is home to a number of Danish bakeries, restaurants and stores. The architecture reflects traditional Danish styles and there is even a copy of the Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen and the Round Tower or Rundetarn in the town center. We wandered through the streets after breakfast, hunting and gathering like our family does best. We found some stuffed olives, tapenade and smoked gouda to bring back to the house and we had to stop to try an abelskiver! Although we’ve stopped here in Solvang a few times, this was the first time to try one of these Danish treats. Fluffy and similar to a doughnut hole with bright red strawberry jam, they would go great with a good cup of coffee. Despite the name, they are not apple flavored as I thought and subsequently was disappointed… some warm apples in the center would have been perfect!

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Later that afternoon, we decided to drop by the Kelsey See Winery to pick up my wine club shipment and visit the tasting room. This small family owned winery is located in See Canyon which was right next door to Casa Contenta. I fell in love with this place a few years ago while visiting the area and even considered buying property nearby. As always this friendly tasting room did not disappoint and I bought a couple of extra bottles to share. The grounds here are beautiful and inviting, combine this with great wine and couple of really fluffy dogs and peacocks running around the property and it makes for a relaxing afternoon.


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That evening we went down to the Harford Pier which is the commercial fishing pier in Avila. Built in 1873 for shipping purposes and to serve as Port San Luis before the train lines were built. It is one of my favorite places to visit in the area and although most tourists probably go to the Avila Beach Pier on the other side of the bay, I like to walk down this one! Sea lions are found most of the year, basking under the deck and many times you will hear their barking and grunts while you walk. The restaurant at the end, Olde Port Inn, is a nice place to grab some fresh seafood and a drink while enjoying the sunset. While we are mentioning places to eat, Fat Cats Cafe in the parking lot of the pier is a nice spot to grab a late breakfast.

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Another of our favorite stops is the Avila Valley Barn located right off the freeway. This place used to be open only seasonally but has recently started staying open all year round. Stocking up on the seasonal fruit and vegetables at the open air farmer’s market or stopping by for an ice cream is something that we rarely pass up. Behind the market is a small petting zoo where you can feed, see and espeically smell some animals. The baby goats are always entertaining and watching little kids excitedly feeding the animals always elicits a smile or laugh from us. Unfortunately for us, my nephew wasn’t feeling well and had to end his trip early so we didn’t get to see him interact with any of the animals. That didn’t stop us from visiting them but the fun was diminished some.

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Saturday night was the big event at Casa Contenta! My niece offered to prepare a turkey dinner and wow did she deliver! Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mac and cheese, green bean cassarole… and the yams… my god, the yams… I don’t even like yams but these were delicious! This girl can COOK, she most definitely is part of this family!

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After the awesome dinner and packing what will be the best leftovers EVER! We packed up to head back home. We said goodbye to each other and to the wonderful home wistfully thinking about the next time we can get together. Whenever our family gets together it is a true adventure, so until next time! Much love and happy thoughts!TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 072

To see more pictures from this trip, click here!

20060523 – Parisian Exploration

La Défense  is a major business district of Paris located just west of the city. Europe’s largest purpose-built business district. The Grande Arche and esplanade is surrounded by many of Paris’ tallest high-rises.





Notre-Dame de Paris also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a historic Catholic cathedral in the fourth arrondissement of Paris. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. The Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave but after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.




The Latin Quarter is an area in the 5th and the 6th arrondissements and is situated on the left bank of the Seine directly across from the Notre Dame. The area gets its name from the Latin language, which was once widely spoken in and around the Panthéon-Assas University since Latin was the language of learning in the Middle Ages in Europe.



The Eiffel Tower is a wrought iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Constructed in 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world



Les Invalides, commonly known as Hôtel national des Invalides, is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement, containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, which was the building’s original purpose.


Several notable tombs are located at Les Invalides, the most famous is that of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was initially interred on Saint Helena, but King Louis-Philippe arranged for his remains to be brought to France in 1840. Napoléon’s remains were first buried in the Chapelle Saint-Jérôme in the Invalides until his final resting place, a tomb made of red quartzite and resting on a green granite base, was finished in 1861.


The Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides


Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte was the youngest brother of Napoleon I


The Louvre Museum is one of the world’s largest museums and a historic monument in Paris. Considered by many to be a central landmark of the city.


Aphrodite of Milos, better known as the Venus de Milo, is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. Created sometime between 130 and 100 BC, it is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.


The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is a boulevard in the 8th arrondissement, 1.2 miles long and 230 ft wide, it runs between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located.




The Pont Alexandre III is a deck arch bridge that spans the Seine and connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower. The bridge is widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in the city and is classified as a French Monument historique.


The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle at the western end of the Champs-Élysées.


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20060522 – Italian Lakes and Lucerne

Early in the morning we are on the road to our next destination, the Italian Lakes District and Lake Maggiore. Along the route we pass the Italian Alps and numerous waterfalls. This area is truly idyllic and so beautiful, it is a shame that we are merely passing through. Almost at every turn we are greeted with sights like these:



Along the way we also pass by many small villages that have a very strong Swiss influence, as evident in the architecture.


Eventually we get to our first stop at Lake Maggiore for a boat ride across the lake. It is fairly cool outside so the rest of the tour group is huddled up inside the boat while Irene and I get the entire upper deck to ourselves! Over 40 miles long and averaging about 2 or 3 miles wide. It is the second largest lake in Italy and the largest in southern Switzerland. Along its coasts are lined with picturesque villages and towns and the boat tour was a highlight of the trip.




Once we arrived at our destination we went along with the optional tour to the Stanserhorn, taking the funicular railway to the top. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with us and the clouds have completely blocked off our view of the alps. We were assured that the view was spectacular but, oh well… it was cool to explore around the mountain and the ride up was really nice.DSC_0361



At least we got to see some snow!


Finally we arrived at our final destination for the evening, Lucerne, city in central Switzerland where German is spoken in this area of the country. Lucerne is the capital of the canton of Lucerne and part of the district of the same name. With a population of about 81,057 people, Lucerne is the most populous town in Central Switzerland, and a nexus of economics, transportation, culture, and media of this region.


Located on Lake Lucerne, there are many bridges in the area with the most famous, the Chapel Bridge, a 669 foot long wooden covered bridge originally built in 1333, the oldest covered bridge in Europe, although much of it had to be replaced after a fire on 18 August 1993. Part way across, the bridge runs by an octagonal Water Tower, a fortification from the 13th century. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century depicting events from Lucerne’s history.


After dinner we walked around the City and ran into these performers playing these Alpenhorns!




The City was truly beautiful at night!


The next day we wandered around the City and asked about Bertel Thorvaldsen’s famous carving of a dying lion, called the Löwendenkmal. The Lion Monument is found in a small park just off the Löwenplatz and not easily found unless you know what to look for. The carving commemorates the hundreds of Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when an armed mob stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris. This was a really impressive monument and we were very happy to have found it. All too soon we were headed off again to our next destination.

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20060520 – Venice Adventure

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The next stop on our itinerary is Venice which was about a four hour drive through Italy. This unique city was established on a group of 117 small islands connected by bridges and canals. The ride over to Venice was nice with the Italian country side for entertainment, we passed a couple of walled cities on hilltops that really looked alluring. We hoped that someday we could return to explore these places. Our first stop was at the Venice Terminal where we were dropped off and quickly led to a vaporetto or water taxi for a quick tour around the city.



Looking down the Cannaregio Canal and the Ponte delle Guglie from our vapporetto on the Grand Canal.



After our quick tour around the city we are dropped off at the very popular tourist attraction of St. Mark’s Square. Here Irene had to brave her fear of birds to enter the square and I watched with much amusement as the bird seed vendors threw seeds towards her to encourage the pigeons to follow her! After hearing so much about this place I was in amazement at actually being able to walk around and take it all in. We joined a tour of St. Mark’s Basilica known in Italian as the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. They do not allow pictures of the inside of the cathedral so you’ll have to take a tour yourself! The opulet gold mosaics and decor of the interior is impressive and you can see why the Doge’s kept the Basilica to themselves for so long, only after control of the Basilica was handed over to the control of the Patriarch of Venice did it become the City’s Cathedral in 1807.


After our tour we were allowed to wander the Square for a few minutes before we were led on a walk through the town. Our guide kept saying that we would walk “slowly, slowly” but then would take off at a quick stride leading us through alleys and squares. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”


But soon we arrive again at the Grand Canal and for our gondola ride! While not the romantic gondola ride you so often see in the movies, it was an interesting way to see the city as you are much lower and closer to the water. Much too soon the ride was over and we were being rounded up to head back to our hotel located just outside of Venice. The hotel itself was located in the middle of farmland and we had the feel of being in the Italian countryside. I would have loved to explore more the area but by the time we got back and ate dinner it was late and we were exhausted from the rapid pace of the tour.



The next morning we were up and out early again, we caught another vaporetto to Piazza San Marco, more commonly called St Mark’s Square. The view from the sea was inspiring and I tried to imagine ancient sailors coming here to see the city floating on the sea. This view was very refreshing as it was a great change from the bus ride, although the coach style bus was very comfortable, especially considering the distances we were covering.



Can you tell that Irene was happy to be here?


Our first stop of the day was a Venetian glass blowing demonstration. I’m not sure why but I’ve always been interested in glassmaking. Ever since I was just a little kid, I loved watching the glassmakers at Disneyland. I would stand at the display window watching in awe as they transformed the molten blobs into figures or horses or birds. Murano glassmaking is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the art of glassmaking.

Murano glass is made on the Venetian island of Murano, which has specialized in creating fanatastic glassware for centuries. Murano’s glassmakers led Europe for centuries, developing or refining technologies such as the creation of crystalline glass, enamelled glass, glass with threads of gold, multicolored glass, milk glass, and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano still employ these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass figurines to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.

After the demonstration we are led to a Murano glassware store where we pick up a few souvenirs to take home. Once we secure our purchases we head outside and there we are, in Saint Mark’s Square, early in the morning before anything had opened up. We were left to our own devices until our tour of the Doge’s Palace begins. Fairly empty and with all the shops closed I decide that we should just sit and have an espresso at one of the cafes. We pick out a nice spot in the middle of the plaza and sit at one of the tables. We ask for an espresso and water and immediately the waiter begins delivering glasses, a carafe of ice water, the espresso and a biscotti. Could you ask for anything more? A real italian espresso, warm sun on our faces, watching people stroll by while we leisurely chat at our table. Well, as you could have guessed, there was a premium to pay for this experience! To date, that was the most expensive cup of coffee I’ve ever had… live and learn, right?!




The Doge’s Palace is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and is one of the main landmarks of Venice. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice. The north side of the courtyard is closed by the junction between the palace and St. Mark’s Basilica, which used to be the Doge’s chapel.The rest of the buildings make up the administrative rooms and the Doge’s personal apartments.

Prior to the 12th century there were holding cells within the Doge’s Palace but during the 13th and fourteenth centuries more prison spaces were created to occupy the entire ground floor of the southern wing. A corridor leads over the Bridge of Sighs, built in 1614 to link the Doge’s Palace to the structure intended to house the New Prisons. Enclosed and covered on all sides, the bridge contains two separate corridors that run next to each other. The famous name of the bridge was supposed to refer to the sighs of prisoners who, passing from the courtroom to the cell in which they would serve their sentence, took a last look at freedom as they glimpsed the lagoon and San Giorgio through the small windows.


The infamous Bridge of Sighs


So that concludes our tour of Venice, we were quickly rounded up by our intrepid tour guide, Guy, who tells us to slowly, slowly follow him through the narrow streets and bridges to get back to the bus. So we quickly follow Guy over the cobblestone paved streets to board our bus to head over to our next destination. We say a reluctant good bye to Venice as we are whisked away to Switzerland!

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20060519 – Roman Wander

Follow us on instagram @adventurenotincluded or for more photos, check out our Flickr album here.

Irene and I were celebrating our tenth anniversary and she had always wanted to visit Europe so we booked a tour with Trafalgar and after a nice flight to Frankfurt for a lengthy layover where I discovered that I could not make heads nor tails from the German public transportation maps, and an exciting cab ride from the airport to our hotel in Rome, we had arrived! Having missed our orientation with our tour group we barely made the bus to take us to our first stop of the day, Vatican City!


After a short but interesting bus ride over to the Vatican we were escorted quickly through a side entrance and through the massive Tuscan colonnades that circle the main courtyard of Saint Peter’s Square, wow what a reveal that was! Our tour guide quickly organized us into the queue to enter into Saint Peters Basilica… while waiting in line I took the chance to jump out of line to snap a couple of shots!DSC_0009

Saint Peter’s Square Fountain


I found it very interesting that this massive Egyptian obelisk stands in the center of the Square. Originally erected at Heliopolis, Egypt, by an unknown pharaoh, Emperor Augustus had the obelisk moved to the Julian Forum of Alexandria, where it stood until 37 AD, when Caligula ordered the forum demolished and the obelisk transferred to Rome and placed in the Circus of Nero, where it would preside over Nero’s countless brutal games and Christian executions. It is thought that the obelisk was a “witness” to the crucifixion of Saint Peter. Later, it was moved to its current site in 1586 by the engineer-architect Domenico Fontana under the direction of Pope Sixtus V.


One of the smaller domes next to St. Peter’s Baldachin


St. Peter’s Baldachin


The large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy over the high altar is intended to mark the place of Saint Peter’s tomb underneath. The dome overhead is the tallest in the world rising over 448 feet and over 136 feet in diameter. Everywhere you turn there is more to see and we were only allotted an hour inside the Basilica. Amazing works of art, frescoes, mosiacs, sculptures and tapestries were everywhere, it would take hours to be able to view them all. Before we knew it we were outside again in the Square.







The Apostolic Palace seen behind the colonnade is the official residence of the Pope, also known as the Papal Palace and Vatican Palace. The building contains the Papal Apartments, various government offices of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, private and public chapels, Vatican Museums and the Vatican library, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms and Borgia Apartment.

We shuffled our way out of Vatican City while others in our group shopped for souvenirs we made our way out to do some exploring. The group set a meeting time and place and we took off. Walking down the narrow streets we walked along the outer wall of the Vatican where we found a public fountain where Irene promptly filled her water bottle… “Hey, it’s free water!” she quipped. We strolled along and made our way back towards the meeting point and passed by an impressive looking castle.




The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant’Angelo, is a towering cylindrical building initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. The popes converted the structure into a castle in the 14th century and connected the castle to St Peter’s Basilica by a covered fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo. The fortress was used as a refuge during the Sack of Rome in 1527. Soon it was time to move on so we boarded the bus to head to our next stop.


The Altare della Patria also known as Il Vittoriano, is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. The monument holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame, built under the statue of goddess Roma after World War I. The largest monument in Rome, although we did not stop here we did circle around allowing me to grab a picture. This ended up being a common technique for us to document some of the places we drove by. Finally we arrive at our destination, the Colosseum!


The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheatre is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome. Built of concrete and sand, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built and is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Unlike many other amphitheatres, which were located on the outskirts of a city, the Colosseum was constructed in the city centre, placing it both symbolically and precisely at the heart of Rome.

Construction of the Colosseum was funded by the opulent spoils taken from the Jewish Temple after the Great Jewish Revolt in 70 AD. According to an inscription found on the site, “Emperor Vespasian ordered this new amphitheatre to be erected from his general’s share of the booty.” Along with the spoils, an estimated 100,000 Jewish prisoners were brought back to Rome after the war, and many were used as slaves working in the quarries at Tivoli where the travertine was quarried, along with lifting and transporting the quarried stones 20 miles from Tivoli to Rome.

The history here is amazing and to see this huge structure still standing after all these centuries is hard to comprehend. We were unable to see the interior of the Colosseum due to extensive renovations that were underway as well as to the Arch of Titus that is nearby, but to be able to stand and see these structures for ourselves was impressive.



The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century A.D. honorific arch constructed in 82 A.D. by the Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus. Commemorating Titus’ victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem, this arch has provided the general model for many triumphal arches erected since the 16th century, perhaps most famously it is the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. From here we were supposed to meet up with our group so we headed off to the park where the bus was waiting for us. Once we got to the park we noticed that although there were several busses waiting, none of them were ours! We backtracked our way to the street near the Colosseum and tried to locate someone from our group but didn’t see anyone. Oh well, so I guess we need to get a cab! We start to walk our way back to the main street, when Irene sees our bus driving away! Luckily for us, some members of our group saw us walking on the street and told our tour director, Guy, to stop. We jump back on the bus and head towards our hotel. That evening we are given a choice to go on an optional tour or we would be free to wander on our own. We decide to go on our own so we hop a transit bus and head back into town…


Our first stop is the Spanish Steps, which climb a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. Very popular with tourists and locals alike, we were interested to see the steps but didn’t feel the need to stay. Especially after falling prey to a “friendship” bracelet scam at the top of the steps. This scam involves locals welcoming you to Italy and claiming that they want to share a local custom of braiding a bracelet of string to your wrist. Of course, afterwards they demand payment for the bracelet. We paid a couple of euros to make our escape but we learned a lesson to not be so trusting of friendly strangers in these touristy areas. With all of the crowds and noisy vendors we quickly made our way down the narrow streets to see our last stop of the evening…


The Trevi Fountain was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi. Standing 86 ft high and 161.3 ft wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Another touristy area but this was something that we really wanted to see. Avoid the vendors hawking the cheap souvenirs and the scammers with the roses and just take in the beauty of this fountain, we especially liked the fountain lit up at night. We ended up eating at a very small restaurant close by the fountains. We had no idea of where to go, remember this was way before Yelp or Tripadvisor and so you kinda just had to go with your gut. Fresh tomato and mozzarella salad followed with pasta tossed in a fresh tomato and cream sauce. You could not ask for a better way to end our day in Rome, onto our next city! Venezia!

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