Posts Tagged With: Family Vacation

Vacations in Aruba

Growing up I went to Aruba every May and eventually it switched to every summer. I used to consider it my second home. Back then Aruba wasn’t well known and tourists didn’t flock to it in droves. It wasn’t unusual to run into celebrities who would travel there to escape the crowds. I have met more basketball teams than I can count. I’ve also met several actors and comedians. I met Sinbad in the pool.

My family and I used to stay at the Playa Linda. Our room had one bedroom, a living room with a pull out couch (where I slept), a living room, full bathroom, dining table, and full kitchen. There were two pools. One for kids and one for adults. Nothing special. A staircase led down to the beach with huts. The lobby had a small game room, a small store for essentials, a bathing suit shop, a tourist shop, and a restaurant. Back then there was nothing really around. There was a 2×1 Dunkin Donuts across the street, which made us very happy. On the beach there was a large hut that would have free coffee and cookies at 2pm everyday. The cookies were plain tea biscuits, but I used to love them. There was also a bar by the pool. The place eventually started to feel run down so we moved down to the Hyatt.

The Hyatt is where I have most of my memories. We used to stay on the top floor of the hotel (9th floor). We knew all the staff and they all knew us. They watched me grow up. The top floor has a desk for the concierge, a room with a computer (later addition) library and TV, there’s several areas to set up food and drinks, and another room with seating. We used to eat breakfast here everyday. Cookies would be put out in the middle of the day and I always looked forward to them. At night appetizers and dessert would be put out. Some nights we would make dinner out of the appetizers. Taco night used to be one of our favorite nights. I used to run down the hall in my pj’s at all hours of the day and night for food. I couldn’t imagine doing that now. The hotel had a casino in the lobby. My last year in Aruba I was 18 so I could gamble. I had fun playing the slots and black jack. There were several small shops in the lobby including a TCBY, which I went to every night. There’s also a salon and gym off of the lobby. There’s two restaurants on the lower level. Ruinas del Mar was the fancy one. We used to go there for brunch and for one fancy meal every trip. We used to order grilled salmon for dinner. The other restaurant, the Palms, is more low key. We would order lunch from them. I would either get a grilled cheese w/fries or a tuna pita w/ chips. There’s a bar and a smoothie station on the lower level as well. There are two giant pools with another bar off of the lower pool. There’s also a hot tub and a water slide. I spent many hours on that slide. I’ve won several competitions on that slide. Some for speed and some for tricks. I could do flips and turns on the slide. Beyond the pools there’s the beach. Every afternoon there would be Bingo. We never missed Bingo. The prizes included free drinks (alcohol and smoothies), money, free equipment rentals, etc.

A typical day for us would go like this:

1) Dad woke up to run and play tennis. He would save our pool chairs
2) Breakfast
3) Gym
4) Change for the pool
5) Pool
6) Cookies
7) Lunch
8) Bingo
9) Pool or walk to the other hotels
10) Change/shower
11) Appetizers
12) Finish changing
13) Dinner out of the hotel
14) Dessert in the hotel
15) TCBY and hang out in the lobby, casino, or walk the beach

My mom and I aren’t pool, beach, or sun people. So we often walk to the other hotels just for something to do. We would just walk or shop. We spent a lot of time in the Holiday Inn and Allegro/Occidental, since they were the closest hotels. The furthest we would would be to the Wyndham to the left or the Marriott to the right.

Once a trip my mom and I would take the bus into town and spend the day in Oranjestad. We would spend the day shopping for items to bring home to friends and coworkers.

After I turned 18 we stopped going. I wanted to see the world and going to Aruba every year prevented that. Now everyone has caught onto Aruba. The place has changed in the last 8 years. I probably wouldn’t recognize it anymore. I hear there are so many new hotels, restaurants, and shops.

I’ll do individual posts for some of my favorite places in Aruba.

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Hotel Map Back in the Day

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Updated Hotel Map

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When I was 18 this was the Hotel Map

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Sinbad and I back in the day

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At the mini golf place in Aruba

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Hyatt Lower Pool-Jump Time!

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Playing bingo and being silly

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Some hotel in Aruba

18! I can gamble. Hyatt’s Casino. I won $20.50 that night.

Hyatt Beach

Hyatt Pool Area

Ocean View from Hyatt Room

Ocean View from Hyatt Room

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Waiting outside Ruinas del Mar

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Beverly! She worked at Palms

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Palms Restaurant

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Did I mention I absolutely hate suntan lotion?

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Aruba from our balcony

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Coloring in my room

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She was the house keeper. I loved her.

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Hanging in our spot

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On the 9th floor with Angie

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Bingo Time!

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Hanging out with the amazing women that worked on the 9th floor

Aruba 1990

9th Floor

One of many iguanas on the island

Joking around on the lower level of the pool

Marriott

Hanging with an iguana

Waterslide time!

Aruba from our balcony

Categories: Aruba, Caribbean, Family Vacation, Photos, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberty Bell

When I was a little girl you were able to walk right up to the Liberty Bell and touch it. You could walk all around it and see all the detail. In a post 9/11 world the Liberty Bell is now super roped off. The Liberty Bell has its own building across the street from Independence Hall. Depending when you go, the line for the bell can be very long. Once you get to the front of the line you can only spend about a minute or two taking it in. Unlike Independence Hall you do not need a ticket to see the bell. I highly suggest visiting when it isn’t busy so you have time to really examine the bell. This bell is the replacement bell for the original one that cracked after reaching Philly. The funny thing is this bell also cracked. Then it was repaired only to crack again. It originally hung in the bell tower in Independence Hall.

1995

1995

Categories: History, Philadelphia, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reading Terminal Market

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this place. This is food heaven!

I first saw Reading Terminal on Food Network. Bobby Flay was having a throwdown with Delilah. It was a mac n cheese throwdown and it took place at her stand in the market. I have had her mac n cheese and I can see why Bobby won. It’s just ok. It’s expensive for very little. Oprah says it’s the best mac, but I’ve had better. I found it a bit dry and it wasn’t hot enough for my taste. If it wasn’t so expensive I would get it once in a blue moon just to satisfy the urge.

There are several other places in the market that have mac n cheese. The Rib Stand sells a version that is coated in a nutmeg like substance that’s pretty good. Tootsie’s in the back has some in their buffet. The mac is also just ok. It tastes more like Kraft Mac.

I love the Amish bakery (Beiler’s Bakery) that’s along the far left wall when you enter. They have cakes, whoopie pies, cookies, breads, buns, etc. Everything is good and they often discount right before they close. Saturdays after 4pm everything is on sale. They also have a little candy store (Sweet as Fudge Candy Shoppe) where you can buy fudge. The fudge isn’t cheap, but it is good. It is worth getting if you can only go once. They also have a pretzel stand (Miller’s Twist) where you can see them make the pretzels. I have had several pretzels and they are all good. There are other pretzel places in the market that are also very good. Just make sure you don’t get a well done one/burnt one.

As for chocolates. When you first walk in and head to the far right there is a row of a chocolate and Italian pastry cases. The chocolate cases belong to Chocolate By Mueller and the pastry cases belong to Termini Brothers Bakery. Sometimes you can even see them dip the chocolates. They often have free samples and that’s what I usually go there for. I can’t afford the chocolates and pastries, but from the samples they are good.

The Greek place (Olympia Gyro) in the market is quite good. We’ve brought back spinach pie several times to my Greek grandparents. Again it is expensive, but try to have them pick out the biggest piece.

There is a New Orleans style place in the market (Beck’s Cajun Cafe). I got a king cake roll from them and it was fantastic. The roll was like $1.50. It was my first king cake so I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but my mom and both enjoyed. I’ve been wanting another since my last visit.

There is a bread stand (Market Bakery) that has bagels, rolls, baguettes, etc. The breads are great. I haven’t had a bad one yet. They sell out of the good stuff early in the day.

Many people buy their cookies from The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company. However, I find them absolutely awful. They are expensive, often burnt, and are just not worth it. Their location at the front of the market brings them a lot of business. My favorite cookie place is actually at the back of the market. It is the Pennsylvania General Store. The cookies are out of this world!!!!!!!!! My mouth is watering just thinking about them. There are about a dozen varieties. The cookies are filled with m & m’s, butterscotch chips, nuts, Reese’s pieces, chocolate chips, cinnamon, etc. Some are even dipped in chocolate! They are pricey, but they are worth every single penny!

Other places that are popular in the market are: DiNic’s (Home of the Travel Channel’s pick for Adam Richman’s best sandwich in America!) and Dutch Eating Place (for their pancakes).

Delilah’s Mac n Cheese

Tootsie’s Mac n Cheese

Delilah’s

The famous Reading Terminal pig

Pennsylvania General Store Butterscotch Cookie

Pennsylvania General Store M&M Cookie

King Cake

 

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Categories: Family Vacation, Food, Philadelphia, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Greece Trip Plan

To view the trip plan I created for our 2008 trip click here.

Greece Map

 

Categories: Europe, Family Vacation, Greece, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Ancient Greece

6/25/08
We woke up early in order to eat breakfast and catch the 9am shuttle into Athens . The breakfast was buffet style and it was amazing! They had everything you could possibly imagine. I loaded up on danishes and pastries. My parents ate some eggs and potatoes. We all took granola bars for later. We caught the shuttle and we got stuck in traffic for a bit. The ride was about 40 minutes long. We got dropped off across the street from the Amalia Hotel. We then walked to a travel agency to buy our train tickets to Thessaloniki. We wanted to buy them ahead of time to make sure we got seats.

We then walked to the entrance of the Acropolis. The first thing you see is Dionysos’ Theatre, which is amazing! You’re allowed to walk around and sit in some of the seats. We continued our journey uphill. We then came upon Odeon of Herodus Atticus, which is a bigger version of Dionysos’ Theatre just remodeled. They still hold concerts here. It was quite pretty. On the way up the views of the city are amazing! It’s worth stopping for a second and taking it all in. We then reached the top, which is the Temple of Athena Nike . It’s nice, but it would have been better if the entire thing wasn’t covered in scaffolding. The Parthenon could take your breath away. Though I was tad bit disappointed because I always imagined it to be bigger and grander. The Propylea and the Erechtheion held my interest despite the fact they are smaller buildings. The women on the Erechtheion are really cool, but are not the original ones. The original ones are in the closed Acropolis Museum . On our way down hill, my mom slipped on one of the shiny rocks and landed on her back. It was a scary moment!!!!! Luckily she didn’t do too much damage. She had a bad bruise and was in a lot of pain. Advil to the rescue! We continued down hill until we were at the exit. We stopped at a little shop for water and postcards. We bought 3 water bottles and I bought some postcards, which I later found out was very over priced. The water was reasonable.

We walked through Thisso, which is quaint. We then arrived at the Ancient Agora. The admission was part of the Acropolis ticket. The Temple of Hephaestus was in great condition. The temple is also at the top of a hill, a mini hill. At this point I started to feel pains in my chest and I started to hyper ventilate. My advice, take the hills slowly and drinks tons and tons of water. We explored the grounds and then went to sit by the Church of the Holy Apostles. After cooling off from the intense heat and catching our breath, we went inside the church. There were still some paintings on the walls and ceilings. We then went to the main building called the Stoa. It had a lot of great statues and a museum. The museum was small, but some of the items were really well-preserved. It was a nice collection. We used the restroom facilities and left the Agora. We then proceeded uphill once again to get back to where we started for the Acropolis. This part killed me. I couldn’t breathe and I felt like someone was sitting on my chest.  We took a couple of breaks and I purchased some cheap postcards on the side streets.

We finally made it back to the entrance of the Acropolis. We stopped at a place called Crepe World for a strawberry slushie and cheap beer. The slushie was good and hit the spot. We then headed over to the Temple of Olympian Zeus (completely ignoring Hadrian’s Arch). The Temple was extremely disappointing. There were only a couple of columns left. It was once the greatest temple in Athens and now there is nothing left. Soon there will be even less because those columns were seriously damaged, one of them had even fallen over.

We then went to the Grand Bretagne Hotel to make sure we were set for Saturday when we were staying there. We used the restrooms downstairs, which were so clean and beautiful. We stayed there an extra couple of minutes to cool off from the intense heat. We then went in search of Doris, a restaurant I read about for great doughnuts, we took a long walk and finally found it. No one spoke English, you couldn’t take food out, it was dingy, and the doughnuts didn’t look good. We left. We walked around and bought some pastries and gelato from the stores in the area. We went back to the Grand Bretagne Hotel to cool off again.

We went to Coffee Right for dinner and had the best food! I got the best spinach pie I’ve ever had and my mom got cheese pie, which was good too. The water was cheap! The food was cheap! Great dinner! We then walked down Ermou Street and looked at all the stores. I stopped and took some pictures of the church which was right in the middle of the block. There were lots of vendors selling breads and doughnuts. I really wanted some! We went back to the Grand Bretagne Hotel to use the restrooms. Then we went to the Amalia Hotel to wait for our shuttle. My dad had a beer in the lobby bar and it was way too expensive. We boarded the shuttle and came back to our hotel. We watched How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days while we fell asleep.

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Categories: Europe, Family Vacation, Greece, History, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vouliagmeni

6/24/08
We arrived in the airport after a long, but smooth flight. I felt tired and full from a meal of nothing but disgusting carbs. Bad pasta, bad bread, bad crackers, etc. It took forever to get our passports stamped and then to get our bags. The pre-arranged taxi from George’s company was waiting for us. He took our bags from us and loaded them in the trunk. He then handed us ice cold water bottles. While he drove he answered all the questions we had for him about Greece. He spoke wonderful English. We checked in at the Westin in Vouliagmeni. We found out it would be two hours before our room would be ready. My dad changed in the lobby’s bathroom and went to the beach/pool area. My mom and I waited with all the suitcases in the lobby. We fell asleep on our luggage. No one on the staff offered us anything nor did they try to speed the process up. We finally got to our room! It was small but beautiful. The view was amazing!!!!!!!!!! We had a balcony that faced the beautiful waters. My mom and I took a 15 minute walk down their dangerous curving half ass sidewalks. We turned around after we got frustrated with dodging cars and not really getting anywhere. Besides it was over 90 degrees out and we were hot and tired. We came back to the room and snacked on food that we brought from home. We watched a Bette Midler movie because it was the only English channel. Then we slept for 13 hours!!!!
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Categories: Europe, Family Vacation, Greece, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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