I have always enjoyed traveling, even if it meant sleeping in a tent when I was younger. I prefer hotels and cruise cabins now, but the motivation is the same...an adventure waiting to happen. Sometimes you will find me traveling with my husband and/or family. Sometimes I will travel alone, and sometimes I will travel with friends. I hope you find it entertaining to keep up to date with me as I explore the world around me. Warning...I like to take pictures of food so don't read if you're hungry. More adventures await...see ya soon...Amy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving with the Animals

Today is Thanksgiving! We decided to spend the last day of our trip at the San Diego Zoo, in San Diego. It was about a two hour drive south. We were surprised to see that there were quite a few other people who also decided to do the same. The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park in San Diego. It is one of the largest and most progressive zoos in the world. It is said to have over 4,000 animals of more than 800 species. We had seen Giant Pandas at a zoo in Washington D.C., and the San Diego Zoo also has a Giant Panda exhibit. Even though it was pretty chilly,  most of the animals were out. The zoo is pretty expansive and hilly so we had a quite a good day of walking around. We ate our Thanksgiving lunch at a fast food stand in the zoo. We left in mid afternoon to go back to Los Angeles. We had checked out of our hotel so that we could move to a hotel closer to the airport. Once we located our hotel, we asked for a recommendation for dinner and found a little family owned spot nearby for a good hot meal. While reviewing our trip details, we realized that we had really enjoyed our trip to L.A. and planned a return trip for Cirque du Soleil and a longer tour at Warner Brothers Studio.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Behind the Scenes

We had a lot of fun today on a tour behind the scenes of Warner Brothers Studio. The tour started with a movie to introduce us to various films and TV shows that are produced by Warner Brothers. After the movie, we boarded a small tram that would take us all over the back lots of Warner Brothers Studio. We saw TV sets from current shows as well as past shows. We had a great tour guide that told us all kinds of interesting information about different soundstages and sets. We drove down make believe streets of homes that had been backdrops for a bunch of movies and shows we had seen before. We saw where Spiderman hung upside down and kissed his lady love. We found out that since the kiss occurred in the rain and he was upside down, that he stuffed his nose with cotton balls and vaseline to keep from drowning! We went inside one of the houses on the lot, which was basically a shell, and we were able to see where lights would have been mounted, how a scene would have been staged, and how a set could be customized to whatever was shooting there. We spent a short amount of time on the TV set of 3 1/2 men and learned what it meant to film with a live audience.  We regretted that we had not checked to see what TV show might have been shooting so we could get audience tickets. We had been told that if we saw any "stars", not to take pictures, or act crazy, or shout at them. As we were driving by the Conan O'Brian soundstage, we saw Conan O'Brian walking our way. Danny recognized him and said "Hi" and Conan lifted his hand and said "Hi" back. It was so cool! We actually saw someone famous!! One of the most famous and easily recognized sets that Warner Bros. had was the set from the TV show Friends. Friends doesn't shoot anymore, but they have preserved the set so people can see what a working set looks like. It is located in the building where crews "check out" props for the different sets they are working on. We all decided that this was the most fun thing we have done on the entire trip! We went back to Hollywood Blvd for lunch and ate a quick meal at a little pizza place. The Wax Museum was included in our Hollywood CityPass, but we had not planned to visit it. Danny thought all the people would be inside cases or behind glass walls and that it would not be interesting. We had a little time to kill so we decided to make a quick run through. We were pleasantly surprised to see that all the exhibits were out on the floor and that you could even touch them (which we didn't). Danny and Hallie had fun posing with some of their favorites. It turned out to be more fun than we thought it would be. The Disney Movie "Tangled" was opening today in the theater it had premiered in two weeks earlier, the El Capitain. We bought tickets for the afternoon show. Watching the movie in this theater was sooooo cool. There was a mini concert on the old organ and a Disney stage show before the film. Tangled is Disney's version of Rapunzel and we thought it was very funny. We had been driving by several interesting looking places on our way to the hotel and decided to check one out for dinner. We realized, on our way to be seated, that we had stumbled upon a gay bar/restaurant for our dinner choice. This one was populated by men. We got a good giggle out of it, enjoyed our meal and left before dessert. Hallie had a great idea to eat dessert back at our hotel, since we had only eaten breakfast in the restaurant. It turned out to be a wonderful idea and dessert was fabulous! Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and our last day in L.A. Until tomorrow......

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Trip to the Beach

There's more to Los Angeles than just Hollywood and movie stars, there are beaches! We are not "beach people", but we do like a good drive to see something new and felt like we would be missing something if we didn't check out the beach scene. This is the off-season and it's pretty cold so we knew there wouldn't be much beach activity. We drove down Santa Monica Blvd (aka the historic Route 66) which literally ended at Santa Monica beach. We turned left and found our way to Santa Monica Pier. Danny and I took off our shoes and stuck our feet in the Pacific Ocean, which was pretty chilly! Hallie doesn't like sand and kept her shoes on. We walked down to the end of the Pier, but didn't ride the roller coaster or ferris wheel. The amusement park scene is lost on us now that we don't have little kids. We got back in the car and drove to Venice Beach, a few miles south. We walked down the pier, stopping to watch some young men attempt to surf. They couldn't seem to catch a good wave while we were there, but they tried anyway. We ate lunch at The Terrace restaurant at Venice Beach. We took another short drive north past Santa Monica and up to Malibu beach. We expected a lot more glitz and glamour at Malibu beach, but it looked just like the other two beaches we had just seen. We did notice much bigger homes going up the hills though. Danny was surprised to find that Sunset Blvd came all the way down to the beach from Los Angeles. He decided to drive it all the way back up. We took a detour and stopped at a few shops on Melrose Ave. It was a little creepy there so we didn't stay long. We ate dinner tonight at Beso Hollywood. This is Eva Longoria and celebrity chef Todd English. We thought the homemade guacamole and the fabulous chocolate torte we our favorites. All of our steaks were a little overcooked and that was our only disappointment. We think that people around here must eat very late as this supposedly popular restaurant was nearly empty. Tomorrow we have another tour scheduled. Until then....

Monday, November 22, 2010


We bought a Hollywood City Pass to save some money on some of the tours we wanted to enjoy. We took a Redline walking tour of Hollywood that started at the Grouman's Egyptian theater. Our tour guide was a young man that had lived in Los Angeles his entire life and he seemed to know the area well. The tour was a walking tour which was really neat because we walked over a lot of stars on the ground. The stars are divided into 5 categories...film, music, theater, radio, and television. In order to get a star, you have to be nominated in your category, selected, and then pay $25,000. We had the privilege of observing a "star" ceremony. The creator of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, received his star after being introduced by James Cameron, a director and personal friend. Guy said it was only fitting that he was once a street performer and now he had a permanent spot on the sidewalk with his star. It was really cool to be a part of the ceremony as we are huge Cirque du Soleil fans. We ate lunch at Johnny Rockets and were transported back to the soda fountain days of the 50's. We used our City Pass again for a Starline tour of the homes of the stars. We boarded a van that did not have a top so we had an unobstructed view of everything. It was VERY cold while we were driving and thankfully the driver had some blankets in the back. The tour was really neat, but went really fast. We saw a lot of homes, but most of them were surrounded by walls and we could only get a glimpse through the beautiful gates. We thought it was interesting that the older stars like Carol Burnett and Bob Barker lived in small normal looking homes without gates and noone seemed to bother them. Contrast that with Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston who had very large homes with almost zero visibility and electric fences. We really liked all of our tours and even though the driving tour included a lot of information, we thought it gave us a really good idea of the neighborhoods of L.A. We did a little bit of shopping downtown in Hollywood and ate supper at the Hard Rock Hollywood. Until tomorrow....

Sunday in Los Angeles

One of our favorite things to do when we travel is check out an area church. Our kids will never forget all of the times we went to Max Lucado's church while visiting San Antonio for conventions. We decided to go to Oasis Church on Wilshire and really enjoyed their worship and the pastor's message. This church believes very strongly in plugging in to your community and church with service projects. There's something for everyone to do or participate in. After the service we went to the Farmer's Market for lunch. The Farmer's Market has been located at 3rd and Fairfax since 1934. It was full of small places to eat and we ate crepes at The French Crepe Company. In my opinion, crepes are better in France, no reason why in particular, they just are but lunch was still good. After lunch, we went to the Petersen Automobile Museum at Hallie's request. Hallie considers cars to be works of 3D art. As sculpture and 3D art is her passion, I figured that if she can come with me and look at the Impressionist art in Paris, then we should support her in what she thinks is beautiful. It was really interesting and we were glad we went. The cars truly were beautiful and our favorite exhibit was one that combined fashion with autos, mostly set in the late 30's and 40's. We spent the rest of the afternoon at The Grove, a shopping area next to the Farmer's Market. We had reservations for dinner at Maggiano's Little Italy also located at The Grove. We decided to stay at The Grove and watch the lighting of the BIG Christmas tree. Mario Lopez was the M.C. and there were musical numbers before the lighting of the tree by Dan Aykroyd. The artists that performed were David Archuleta, Jesse McCartney, Dave Koz, Charice, Michael Grimm, and Wilson Phillips. The sound was not good where we were standing and we had to look at a monitor to see what was happening, but it was still cool to be involved in such a popular event here. Tomorrow we tour Hollywood. Until then....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

L.A. or Bust!

Our enormous bedroom
the living space of our room....i know it's HUGE
the deepest tub I've ever seen and the fabulous shower
We think it's odd that with such a huge room and bathroom, there is only ONE sink
View to the left of our room
View from our room to the right...Whisky a Go Go, the place where The Doors got their start as well as a few others
A previous credit card of mine had accumulated quite a few air miles that needed to be used so I could cancel the account. That is how we found ourselves in Los Angeles, California today. Hallie had a great start to her college career last year with a 3.8 overall so we let her choose where we would jet off to. Ben is working at a new job and in culinary school so his schedule is not as flexible at the moment. Los Angeles would not have been a first choice for Danny or me, but Hallie said she had never seen the west coast and though L.A. would be fun. Our day of travel was without incident, except for one thing. I had booked the tickets with Continental before they merged with United. We checked into the airport and boarded the plane assuming that our tickets would match our itinerary. Well, imagine our surprise when we checked our tickets in Houston and discovered that we were on the flight that would leave an hour earlier than the one our itinerary showed. This only gave us about 25 minutes to get to our gate in another terminal and snag a lunch. We moved quickly and managed to do both. Danny was able to watch the LSU vs Ole Miss game on the plane with satellite TV located in the seat back. It was really cool! We followed the signs upon exiting the plane for baggage claim. Somehow we managed to go to the wrong baggage claim area and had to exit the airport and re-enter at another terminal. Our bags were the last on the belt, but we got them. We are staying at The London on San Vicente, one block off of Sunset. It's a beautiful hotel with unbelievably large rooms and bathrooms. We dropped our bags off and went for a walk on Sunset to find someplace to eat. The hotel had recommended a steak restaurant, but before we found it, we stopped to check a menu at Mirabelle. A man walking by said it was a great place to eat, so we went inside. The food was really good, and we managed to eat everything before Danny and Hallie almost fell asleep at the table. Going backwards in a couple of time zones is tough. Tomorrow will be our first day to explore. Until then....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Innsbruck, Austria to Zurich, Switzerland

Our train arrives into the station at Innsbruck

My view of the aisle from inside the train

Beautiful scenery from the train window
More scenery along the way

Entering Zurich on the train

Our room at the Radisson Blu

I've never seen a hotel TELL you how much they are liable for if there is theft from your hotel room safe. Wow!

This stone wall has the appearance of being woven. I didn't even see this door until Danny pointed it out to me

What I wish all chocolate milk tasted like....70% cocoa content chocolate melted in cold milk....miam, miam

The Bahnhofstrasse...the miracle mile of shopping in Zurich

Old Zurich along the riverside

Old Zurich along the riverside

Old Zurich with a McDonald's right in the middle

Our dinner restaurant, Swiss Chuchi in the Adler hotel

We ate the traditional fondue and a salad for supper. A perfect ending to our journey

Danny doing his best to enjoy the scenery despite the clouds of cigarette smoke

Our table neighbors were eating a typical swiss dish Raclette....kind of like having a hibachi at your table. They bring cheese, potatoes, tomatoes, and the meat that you choose and you cook it yourself. There is a little tray at the bottom to melt the cheese in. We didn't eat this on this trip, but maybe next time

Yet another Maserati

Old Zurich

We thought these sculptures made out of farm implements were really unique

Old Zurich

We thought this restaurant sign was funny....doesn't it just look like a fork with a vienna sausage?

Oh if only Laduree had been open!

Old Zurich in the background with more modern Zurich in the foreground

Zurich HB train station
We had a late morning train today so we slept an hour later than usual and took our time getting ready. We ate breakfast at the hotel and once again saw some very, very strange things on the buffet. There's a lot of food in this world I have never encountered and after what I have seen just on the breakfast buffet here, I'm not so sure that I want to. Our train to Zurich was delayed 20 minutes this morning which really wasn't much of a problem. Riding the train is so much easier than air travel because there is no security and you arrive for your train about 20 minutes before it departs so your wait isn't very long either. Of course I have Danny to lift the suitcases on and off the train, so you would have to ask him if he thinks it's easier or not. I thought that we would be eating lunch in the Zurich train station again, but I was mistaken. We wouldn't arrive in Zurich until after 4 so we snacked on nuts and chocolate until we got there. We are staying at the Radisson Blu Hotel at the train station. The station and the hotel are also connected to the airport so we never really have to leave the building tomorrow. After arriving in Zurich, we changed trains to a different train that would stop at the airport train station. We found the hotel in the station, dropped our bags in our room, and got right back on the train to go into the old town part of Zurich. The hotel gave us a recommendation for a restaurant that would serve authentic swiss food, but when we arrived, they said we needed a reservation to eat inside even though this was not an expensive restaurant. We knew that the smoking section was always outside, so we gritted our teeth, held our breath, and tried to choose a table outside that wasn't surrounded by smokers. The food was delicious and the fondue was better than what we ate in Luzern, but we weren't successful in avoiding the smokers and Danny left the table with a terrible sore throat. It's really a shame that sitting outside at a cafe in Europe, watching the world go by, used to be a really pleasant and fun thing to do. It's very irritating that non-smokers have to choose to sit inside where it's warm and stuffy or else suffer from respiratory irritation....grrrr. After dinner we walked through Old Zurich and walked down Bahnhofstrasse, the one mile shopping street which is very much like Michigan Avenue, aka the Magnificent Mile, in Chicago. We stopped at our favorite bakery, Sprungle, for one of those cold chocolate drinks we wished we had tried before and a dessert to eat back at the hotel. We will spend the evening packing and preparing for our trip back home tomorrow. It's been an incredible journey with family and each other. Our travel arrangements have been flawless thus far, which is a refreshing change of pace for me. I hope you have enjoyed following the blog as much as I have enjoyed recording the details and memories of my trip. Until next time....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A day in Innsbruck

Wide variety of fruits on the breakfast buffet

Someone please tell me what these things are and why oh why are they with the fruits???

I thought this was hashbrowns wrapped around cheese until I saw a little tail. Little tails mean little shrimp and this went uneaten on my plate.

Hmmmm...what kind of jam should I choose for my croissant?

Wide variety of meats and cheeses

Don't have a clue what these fishy things are and they certainly don't look very appetizing for breakfast!

Floral shops sell flowers and wreaths. I guess you would put a candle in them on the table?
View from the funicular on the way to the cable cars

Waiting to ride the cable car up the mountain

We saw this guy jump off the side of the mountain. He had such an audience, we think he might have been a little nervous and almost smashed into the side of the mountain below.

Danny enjoying the view
We hiked up to the top of this observation deck and then Danny went even further to the top of the mountain.

View of Innsbruck from the top of the mountain or at least as high as I was going to go

On the search for a quick lunch bite, not a 2 hour meal

Lunch with GIANT hot dogs

Not exactly sure why a giant tongue hanging out of a window would be considered art, but here it is!

A sign AND a lamp...lucky for me

Loved this Owl sign

Even McDonald's has an interesting sign

Amorino...the best gelato I've ever eaten!

My yummy gelato...note the beautiful flower shape. It's a trademark for this company

Danny's yummy gelato..He bought a size bigger cone and he got a baby cone on top WITH a spoon.

The River that runs through Innsbruck

The Golden Roof...a famous landmark here. Every Asian we saw was taking a picture of themselves in front of it. I think they knew more about it than we did.

Old Town Innsbruck

The churches here are just built in as part of a row of buildings instead of a stand alone structure

The Ottoburg...our dinner spot

Danny's Meal...GESCHMACKVOLLES...pan sauteed strips of chicken breasts with onions and other finely chopped vegetables, new potatoes, and baby corn
My meal...ZWIEBELROSTBRATEN...entrecote steak "Old Vienna Style" with a roasted potatoes, fried onion pieces and red wine sauce
Today was another beautiful day in Austria. We had a very interesting breakfast experience as you can see from the pictures. We have been amazed at the number of Asian tourists, both in Switzerland and here. This hotel provides not only a typical European breakfast, but also many Asian selections. It was a very varied buffet that was included in the price of the hotel room. The location for this hotel has been just perfect. It is located in the older part of Innsbruck which has made walking our main mode of transportation. We rode a funicular and a cable car up to the top of one of the mountains that surround Innsbruck. The scenery was beautiful and we walked up to the highest overlook point. Danny then hiked further up to the top of the peak. It was really neat to see Innsbruck from so high up in the air. We rode the cable car down to a point and decided to walk to the AlpenZoo which is exactly what it sounds like, a zoo with Alpine animals. We did not know that the completely downhill walk would be about 30 minutes long, but it was beautiful and shady through a wooded area. Had we rode a little further down in the cable car, the zoo would have been around the corner. The zoo was pretty neat and most of the animals were out. I enjoy zoos and I think that comes from my dad, who also loves to visit zoos. We came during dinner time so many of the animals were eating. As it was an Alpine Zoo and adapted to the terrain, we did a lot of walking uphill and then downhill. Needless to say, we had quite a walking workout today. We rode the funicular back down to the town and walked around the old city. It was about 2 o'clock and we were hungry, so we bought a “hot dog” with mustard from a stand in the old town. The meat was long and skinny, not at all like what we have at home, but very good. We walked back to the hotel to rest our weary legs for awhile. During the late afternoon, we walked back into town and really enjoyed looking at the beautiful signs located above many of the stores. They are very elaborate and made of iron. We ate gelato at Amorino, something I have wanted to try in Paris but haven't had a chance to, and it was incredible! The scoops are dipped into a flower shape. When I told the man behind the counter that I only wanted chocolate, he appeared to disapprove and told me it was a lot of chocolate and I should have other flavors with it. I relented and added Nutella ice cream, which I have to admit was very good with the chocolate. Danny had pistachio, chocolate, and coconut on his cone. It was all one scoop, but layered like a flower. Gelato as a work of art! Dinner tonight was at Ottoburg, a very old building that was once part of Innsbruck Castle. It also had a Tyrolean menu and was delicious. We almost went back to the same restaurant we went to last night because there were other things on the menu we wanted to try, but we are glad that we decided to try a different restaurant. Tomorrow we will board a train back to Zurich. We are actually looking forward to lunch and dessert in the train station in Zurich! Until then....