Allure Cruise – St. Thomas

Welcome to the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  St. Thomas is the gateway isle of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. It’s known for its beaches and snorkeling spots.  We did our research on what to do on this island and decided to go into town and walk 99 steps up to a spot that at the top has a 1679 watchtower called Blackbeard’s Castle, in reference to the area’s pirate history.  It is actually more than 99 steps, but we weren’t counting:)

As you can see from the picture above, the steps are a brick staircase.  You do have to watch where you are going as parts of the steps are not too sturdy.

This is the 17th-century watchtower known as Blackbeard’s Castle.  You have to pay to go to the top of the Castle; which we did and the view was really quite awesome.  After the walk up, we figured we had worked up an appetite so, again having done our research, we found a restaurant that conveniently was right next door to Frenchtown Brewing.  The ladies in the group went to the restaurant and the guys headed over to the brewery.

The restaurant is actually a pub named Pie Whole which is known for it’s pizzas.  We enjoyed a salad and a well deserved adult beverage and the guys joined us after their brewery tour and they had pizza which they said was very good.

As you can see from the above picture, the guys enjoyed the Frenchtown Brewery and even bought a full growler.  Of course, they had to drink the entire growler prior to getting back on the ship, but we found a nice garage to sit in:)  It was a full day so we headed back to the ship to get ready for our dinner.

Next week St. Martin and the dutch side St. Maarten.

Allure Cruise – Bahamas

We all loved this ship, Allure of the Seas.  There is just so much to do and see on it.  Here are a couple of pictures of the ship that will show just how big it is.

Our first port of call was Nassau, Bahamas.  We have been to the Bahamas on cruises several times before and actually debated not even getting off the ship but we found this garden that looked very interesting.  It is called Versailles Gardens and French Cloister.  As you can see from the pictures below, it is a beautiful place to go to and take pictures of.

We spent some time there just wondering around and enjoying the views.  After taking our pictures and seeing the beautiful scenery, we decided to go back into town and check out a new brewery that had recently opened.  It was called Pirate Republic and we all enjoyed having a beer and wine and drinking on the deck and just enjoying the view.

We got back on the ship early and just chilled out a bit before our dinner that night.  Next week I’ll take you to St. Thomas.

 

 

Maine – Portland

Portland is a city set on a peninsula extending into Casco Bay. The Old Port waterfront features working fishing wharves and converted warehouses with restaurants and shops.

We decided to take a trolley ride around Portland to get some history and see some sights as we only had a couple of days to tour this city.

The tour was very informative and lots of fun with our group taking up about half of the trolley.  One of the first stops was the Portland Head Light, informally known as the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse.  The light station sits on a head of land at the entrances of the primary shipping channel into Portland Harbor.  It started out being a beautiful day so the picture of the lighthouse at the top of this post turned out beautifully.

After a lunch stop, we then took a boat tour of the harbor area.  It was about an hour long and took in some pretty scenery.  However, the weather had turned a bit rainy so this picture of Portland Harbor Breakwater Light (Bug Light) was a bit cloudy.

While most of us went on the trolley and boat rides; the brewers did not.  As Maine is the the U.S. city with the most craft breweries per capita, they opted out of going with the rest of us and did a few brewery tours instead.  Below are just a couple of their stops.

I’ll leave you with one more picture of the Portland Head Lighthouse.  Doesn’t it look like a postcard and someplace that you would love to visit??

 

Maine – Booth Bay Harbor

This is our group shot in front of the house that we rented in Bar Harbor right before we left to continue our trip.  We stopped off first in Camden.  Camden is called the “Jewel of the Coast.” A beautiful seaport town with a harbor full of sail boats, Camden has been used as the setting for so many movies, from Carousel to Peyton Place.  It is quaint and adorable so we stopped there for lunch before heading on.

Above was our next stop; Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park.  It was a beautiful day driving there, but as soon as we were within a mile of the park; fog rolled in and made the pictures not as clear as we would have liked.  Pemaquid is home to one of Maine’s most iconic lighthouses.  In fact, the Pemaquid Light is on the Maine quarter, the first U.S. coin to feature a lighthouse. The Pemaquid Point Light was built in 1835, and marks the entrance to Muscongus Bay and Johns Bay. This beautiful light and lighthouse keeper’s home and museum are preserved in a spectacular coastal park, perfect for picnic grounds on the smooth rocks that border the ocean.  We all loved this stop even with the fog.

We had booked the Topside Inn in Booth Bay Harbor and I would highly recommend staying there if you are in the area.  It is run by two men and they are very accommodating.  The rooms are very lovely and most have a beautiful view of the harbor area.  Booth Bay is a small harbor town with lots of quaint shops and restaurants.  There is some hiking that you can do and this is a good place to just rest, shop and relax a bit.

We did go to the Coastal Main Botanical Gardens and that was a beautiful stop. Then we headed  on to Portland; our last stop on our Maine trip.  Please join me next week as we explore Portland.

Maine – Bar Harbor continued

This picture is typical of what you will see in the harbor area in Bar Harbor.  It is a quaint little town.  If you’re considering a vacation in Maine, Bar Harbor should top your list of destinations, as it is truly one of the best places to visit in Maine.  Not exactly a well-guarded secret, but not overrun with tourism either, Bar Harbor is a Maine vacation spot that is awesome.  Of course one of its many attractions is its close proximity to Acadia National Park—over 50 square miles of mountains, lakes, hiking, biking, views and dramatic coastline.

We all really love Acadia National Park.  The pictures below are some that we took on our drive around the Park.  There is a scenic 27-mile loop that begins at Hulls Cove Visitor Center and offers access to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain.  If you get the opportunity, go to Cadillac Mountain at Sunrise as it is supposed to be spectacular.  Most of Park Loop Road closes for the winter (December – April 15).  We really enjoyed Jordan Pond and if you can make sure to eat a meal there and get the popovers as they are yummy.

The first picture below is Thunder Hole.  The next picture is one that we took while hiking the carriage roads.  The bubbles at Jordan Pond is next and the last is just a scenic picture we took of the water.

Besides hiking, our group went kayaking and biking.

Acadia National Park was our main source of entertainment here in the Bar Harbor area but there were plenty of other sites that we got to see.  The picture below is one of the most photographed bridges in the area.  While not officially located within the National Park boundaries, this is still a must-photograph for any visit to the area. Situated right next to the Selectmen’s Building (built in 1780), the Somesville Bridge is something that you can’t help but see and stop at when driving by. This idyllic white bridge spanning the small waterway is a fantastic location for photographs.

And speaking of photographs, we found a photographer that owned Acadia photo safari and he took us out on a boat to take some awesome photos.

Of course, what stop in Maine wouldn’t be complete without eating lobster.

From Bar Harbor, we traveled to Booth Bay Harbor.  Please joint me next week as we continue our journey through Maine.

 

 

Maine – Bar Harbor

We traveled to Maine with our group of travel friends.  We decided to split up the trip to go to three places; Bar Harbor, Booth Bay Harbor and Portland.  We flew into Portland and from there rented cars and drove to the house that we rented near Bar Harbor.  Our first stop was for dinner in Portland and we found the most adorable spot to eat in.  It was called Miss Portland and the food was pretty good.  We then stopped at the nearest Trader Joe’s to pick up food and drink to last for this portion of our trip.

The we drove a few hours to the house that we rented.  The house we rented was huge, but since we had 14 people to accommodate, it needed to be big:)

Bar Harbor is a town on Mount Desert Island. It serves as a gateway to the mountains and cliffs of Acadia National Park. Towering over the park, Cadillac Mountain has trails and views of the town, the bay and the Cranberry Islands. Sand Beach is ringed by mountains. From the town pier, the Shore Path winds along the bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Porcupine Islands.

There is so much to do in Acadia National Park.  Acadia National Park is a 47,000-acre Atlantic coast recreation area primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Its landscape is marked by woodland, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks such as Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast. Among the wildlife are moose, bear, whales and seabirds.  Sorry for the short post this week, but please come back next week and I will go into more detail about Bar Harbor.

 

Glacier National Park

As the sign above says; Welcome to Montana!  We just returned from a trip to Glacier National Park.  We had a great time!  The scenery was beautiful and we had a great group of friends that went with us.  We flew into Kalispell and drove to Glacier National Park.  It was approximately a three hour drive, but it was such a beautiful drive.  We took the Going to The Sun Road into the park and if you have a chance, I would recommend you driving in on that road.  It is a bit of a curvy drive, but the scenery is so worthwhile seeing.  We were lucky we drove in on it as half of the road was shut down due to wild fires for the rest of our trip.  The wild fires made for some smoky pictures, but it was still beautiful.  We stayed at Many Glacier Hotel which is inside the park on the east side.  It is very nice and just like most national park hotels; the rooms are cozy; aka very small:)  Many Glacier Hotel has a deck in the rear that overlooks a lake and this was our view every morning.

Our first morning there, we decided to do a red bus tour so we could get an idea of where things were in the park  There are about half dozen different tours that the red bus offers, but we took the shorter, four hour one.  Red Bus Tours are the perfect way to enjoy Glacier National Park. Most of the red buses are restored originals that have been on tour since the 1930’s. The guides are seasoned Park veterans who are here because they love the Park and enjoy sharing it with visitors.  Once aboard the bus, they roll the canvas top back to reveal a commanding view of the best scenery in the Park. They pick you up at Many Glaciers Hotel and several other hotels in the area.  Here’s our crew.  As you can see, we took up almost the entire red bus.

After the red bus tour; our bus driver took us back to our hotel where some of us decided to do a hike to Red Rock Falls.  It was a beautiful falls and unbelievably we ran into people we knew from our home town.

We took many hikes while in Glacier National Park, but the hidden lake trail was perhaps the most challenging especially to those of us who were not experienced hikers.

The hike to Hidden Lake begins from the west side of the Logan Pass Visitor Center.  The trail begins as a paved surface, but soon turns into a raised boardwalk after only a short distance. At this elevation snow tends to linger around well into the summer. The boardwalk helps to keep hikers above the snow, slush, and mud. Once the snow melts, however, the Hanging Gardens becomes an incredibly beautiful carpet of wildflowers.

A little more than a half-mile from the visitor center, after climbing a series of steps, hikers will reach the end of the boardwalk section. From here the trail shifts to a more southwesterly course, and begins heading in the direction of Bearhat Mountain.

Even relatively late into the season it’s likely you’ll have to cross over a couple of small snowfields as you proceed towards the overlook.  It was very smoky when we arrived at the overlook that day so we did not get a very clear view of the lake.

clements-mountain

We enjoyed this hike, but the over 250 steps sure made it a challenge.

We found a variety of items at Many Glacier with huckleberry in them; huckleberry beer; licorice and tea to name a few.  We would spend nights on the deck outside enjoying these treats.

This is a view of the sunset we saw from the deck.

Some of our crew saw a lot of wild life.  I don’t have pictures to show here, but their pictures were awesome as they saw elk, deer, bears, and big horn sheep.  I personally only saw a couple of bears and that was from the comfort of the car:)

Part of our group left Glacier National Park midway through the week and traveled to Banff National Park in Canada.  Join me next week as I take you on that part of our trip.

 

Hawaii – Kauai

We docked in Kauai on a beautiful sunny day and this stop was an over night one.  We all went our separate ways the first day.  My sister and my niece decided to have mimosas on the beach and have fun in the water.  I must say that the mimosas sure looked yummy.

Part of the group went out to see Waimea Canyon Lookout and the Kauai Island Brewery.  They had some great pictures that they took at Waimea and of course, they really enjoyed lunching at the Kauai Island Brewery.

I love to take pictures so I found Kauai Photo tours and booked a tour for me and my husband.  It was a fun trip with a very knowledgeable photographer that took us to quite a few beaches.

After our photo tour; the rest of the group picked us up and we went to the beach that was known for their sunsets.

It was fun to take the pictures, but the police showed up and made us all leave. We went back to the ship after that and just enjoyed relaxing.  The next day, we had arranged to take a plane ride with the Wings Over Kauai.  I was not excited to go as I hate heights, but I really think this was a highlight for me.  Below are some of the pictures that we took of us in the van leaving for the tour and pictures from the plane.

After the plane ride and some shopping in the area, we all headed back to the ship where part of our group decided to do the rum tasting.

The rest of us feasted on the chocolate covered strawberries that the ship gave to one of our group.

We all enjoyed our Hawaiian adventure but the trip kind of kicked our butts:)  Those two can sleep anywhere:)

Aloha until our next vacation!

Hawaii – Kona

The sunny Kona District stretches almost two-thirds of the entire West side of the island of Hawaii.   Kona was the first capital of Hawaii.  There are lots of historical landmarks within walking distance of the pier.

It was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived at Kona so some of our group went snorkeling.   They found Fair Winds Cruises to take them and they all had a great time.

The rest of the group decided to just explore the city a bit and shop.  We had a very relaxing lunch and proceeded to go shopping.  A friend of one of our  cousin’s lived in Kona and operated a bead shop so we all went there and found some interesting beads.  We also stopped by a flower market that had lots of colorful flowers.

Both groups then met up at the Kona Brewing Company for some beer.  Kona Brewing Company is a brewery in Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island. Since October 1, 2010, it has been owned by Craft Brew Alliance. Kona’s year-round beers include Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, and Fire Rock Pale Ale

Please join me next week as our next Port of Call will be Kauai.

Hawaii – Hilo

Welcome to Hilo; the home of Volcanoes National Park and that was our first stop of the day after debarking from the ship.  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is on Hawaii Island (the Big Island). At its heart are the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa active volcanoes. The Crater Rim Drive passes steam vents and the Jaggar Museum, which features volcanology exhibits and a viewpoint overlooking Halema’uma’u Crater. Thick ferns mark the entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku). The Chain of Craters Road weaves over lava. Trails crisscross the park.

We all really enjoyed exploring Volcanoes National Park.  It was exciting to see an active volcano and go through the lava tube.

Mr. Pineapple guy was our mascot for this trip and he enjoyed being along for the ride.

Here’s a road shown below that has had parts covered by lava several times due to eruptions of the Kīlauea volcano.

Our next stop was the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center.  For over thirty years the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation has brought delicious macadamia nuts roasted to golden perfection. You can visit the factory, enjoy free samples and shop for a delightful array of island treats and gifts including the exclusive selection of MAUNA LOA products found nowhere else.  It was a fun stop.

We then really all wanted to see one of the beaches that has black sand made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools.  It was quite a ride to get to one of them, but we finally found one and it was worth the drive.

We had a great day exploring Hilo and spent the evening on the back deck of the ship enjoying this spectacular sunset.

Please come back next week as we go to our next port of call; Kona!