Wednesday, May 11, 2022

West Palm Beach to Columbus Day - 3

 Today we are off to Magnolia plantation and then to Charlotte, NC. We will stop in the middle at Columbia, SC, to see the capitol building and some art work. We were on the road by 9 am.  

The drive was kind of small roads and in less than an hour we were at Magnolia plantation. It is an old plantation turned into a tourist spot. I had two minds about but I really did want to see it. The tickets were about 70$. We spent about 3 hours here. We did not go inside the house, just looked at the gardens and walked on the huuuge property. The gardens were nice. There were lovely bridges on the canals. Some alligators to be seen. Lots and lots of flowers. The house itself was not as big as I was expecting. The gift shop on the other hand was big. I did buy some gifts. I wish I had bought something for myself.

Magnolia Plantation

Bridge on a Lake in Magnolia Plantation
We left in the afternoon and in less than two hours we were in Columbia. We parked near the capitol building. It was just meh. We could have gone in but did not. 

I had three main things on my list here. A mural and two sculptures. All were worth it! 

Mural that makes it seem real
Biggest fire hydrant
Chain holding the buildings together

There was nothing much else to do so we went on to Charlotte, NC. I had one stop there at Metalmorphosis. It was definitely worth the stop. 

Evening was going to be dinner with a friend. All in all good day.

This was also the last day of tourism as tomorrow is just the straight drive to Columbus, OH.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

West Palm Beach to Columbus - Day 2

 The drive to Charleston was about 3 hours. It was okay....not too scenic but not bad either. We went to the old part of town first to see the Liberty Square - it was a little overrated. There is one style of bridge that is so popular here. And it is really pretty to look at and photographs wonderfully. 

After Liberty Square we drove towards Rainbow Row. Parked on the road for free and walked towards the Customs Office. It was a nice old building. Opposite that was the market, which was really about 3 blocks of one huge building of local artist shops. So much shopping to do and nothing I could buy (don't need anything!). We walked back to the car. Saw the Pineapple fountain and walked through the park to the Rainbow Row, nice colored houses, were nice. They were pale colored but still look nice. 

It was about 2 pm, so we drove to the White Point Garden, also called the Battery. It was a nice promenade to walk on. There was no one out there as it was weekday and afternoon. We had our quick lunch of pooris and then walked around. There were a lot of flowers blooming. There was nothing much to do in the city. Small city, historical houses but gets boring soon.

We decided to drive to Angel Oak, about 15 miles away. It was through cities, really pretty drive. Angel Oak was also amazing! It was a live oak tree more than 600 years old. It was really huge and just lying on the ground all over. I had put this on the back burner, but I am glad we got the time to see this. 

We drove back to the hotel. Had dinner at Juanita Greenerg's Nacho Royale. It was good place to eat! Went to Patriots point to watch the sunset. Lovely bridge watching and again many many bugs out there! 

Monday, May 9, 2022

West Palm Beach to Columbus - Day 1

It is time to go to Columbus. Since I am driving this time, I was planning to stop in a few places to sightsee to break the boredom of driving and also enjoy some vacation. It has been a long time since I have travelled!

The Plan

The plan was to stop at Jekyll Island, see the driftwood beach, go on to Charleston, SC and then off to Charlotte, NC. The final day would be to go to Columbus, OH. I have to find hotel for three nights. The total trip was four days. I could have had a longer vacation...but another time. 

First Day

Drove from West Palm Beach to Brunswick which is west of Jekyll Island. I did not know explore what was on the island except for the driftwood beach. So booked a hotel in Brunswick, which actually turned out to be okay. Brunswick was about 5 hours. We started by late morning and reached the hotel by 5ish. Drove about 30 mins east to Jekyll Island. I did not know that the island was inhabited. It has a hotel, shops and homes. There was a 7$ fee to get on the island. The main beach was lovely, but I wanted to see only the Driftwood beach. We drove up and down the island, but the beach was kind of hard to find. It was not easy to find. 

Finally we found it, it was a short walk from the main road. It really is quite something to see - out of the world. The wood pieces were everywhere. Really pretty and spooky. We spent good time there and then drove back just in time for sunset. The flowers around were lovely, but the bugs were out too! Many many mosquitoes! 

That was the it! The first day. Room was okay. Lunch and dinner were pooris today. Nothing creative. Tomorrow on to Charleston.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Final Thoughts

A few thoughts after coming back from Mexico.

Safety – I found all the three places we visited to be quite safe. I still would not walk by myself anywhere at night, but as a family, it was safe to walk in the early night. I am not sure about after 9 pm as we were not out that late any day. I think in Playa del Carmen on 5th Ave, one can be out late also. Other places were all safe in the day time without any issues. 

Money – If one is not staying at one of the all-inclusive places, then I would budget minimum 100 pesos per day per person. That would include only the food.  Any shopping would be separate. Food is not exactly cheap, but we found that paying in pesos was cheaper than paying in dollars. And a lot of restaurants would charge more with credit card, so better take cash.

Shopping – I wish I had known that I would find everything in Cancun's Mercado 28 so I could have skipped all the shopping everywhere else, especially Playa del Carmen was the most expensive of all places. Valladolid was really good for general shopping, clothes, shoes etc. But I would not have shopped at Chichen Itza either. It seems that you would not find these things elsewhere, but we found everything in Cancun and better prices.

Food – This was a little bit issue for us because we are vegetarian. But we did not really have problems anywhere. We were happy with pizza also. But even street food could be made vegetarian. So all good. I would say some of the food was really tasty, the sauces were very good and guacamole was just great! There were chips and sauce everywhere. Street food was actually quite tasty.

Transportation – It was not that difficult to get around in this part of Mexico. The Ado buses connect cities and are comfortable. Within the city there are plenty of taxis and one can bargain but can get good price. We were able to reserve taxis online also to and from airport. All transportation was on time and safe and clean.

Time – I always feel that I need one more day in these places I visit. I would have liked to spend one more day in Playa del Carmen and gone to visit Cozumel and Tulum. Xcaret was definitely a good visit but it was a controlled environment. I would have liked to see more of nature.  I would have also liked to stay one more day in Valladolid and maybe visit some cenotes – although that is debatable, because almost all cenotes charge 40 or more pesos per person to visit. So it probably would become and expensive day. But I do miss not going to even one.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Day 8 - Last Day

Today was a rainy day. No rush to get up early but still have to have breakfast in case they close up. It was simple breakfast, bread and butter with coffee. Kids had milk, which was not tasty. We sat until it kind of stopped raining.

We had only one place to go today – Mercado 28.  It took us a bit to get there. 
I think we kind of entered a side door because later I saw that the market was marked so well from another street. Oh well. The market is really big! And the prices here are the best. We found everything that we were buying everywhere else. There were so many more choices and of course bargaining. So we did any last minute shopping there.
We have to check out around 1 pm since our taxi will come and take us to the airport. The taxi was on time and the drive was about 20 mins. We got there in good time to check in and sit and finish our bread and snacks. Security took out the achaar and jam. No worries. In any case. That was it for Cancun. Nice trip!
At the Cancun airport

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Day 7

Today we have to go to Cancun. We have the morning. Bhaiya, Sarvesh and I decided to go see the Mercado, Viki and Bhabhi were too tired. Bhaiya was looking at Google maps and walked us about 1 km to the wrong direction. I advised him to take a taxi to the market. (20 Pesos). The market was not that great. There was a lot of meat stuff, some vegetables and some bags and clothes shops open. We did not buy anything and left shortly as we had a bus to catch at 11 am.
We walked back, as it was not really that far from the hotel. Checked out of the hotel and walked to the bus station. This one is smaller and more crowded. And yet again, the bus was on time and comfortable. A movie was playing again. It was about 2 hrs to Cancun. The drive was quite boring – not much to see outside. Cancun is a big city but only a couple big roads. The bus station is in the center and is a hug building. We walked to our hotel from there. It was a little convoluted but not far. On the way we passed a nice garden and some nice restaurants.
The hotel check in was ok. There was no power at that time since they were fixing some electrical thing. We left shortly for lunch to one the nice dhabha we saw on the way. We got some burritos. All good. little too cheesy, but tasty. The hot sauces were good.

From there we walked to the main street to figure out how to get to the hotel strip. When we asked a bus about it, they told us to take the big red or green bus for 7 pesos per person we could go as far as we wanted. We took it to about half the way. There was a huge grocery store there and a big office for the Xcaret park information.  We were right on the beach. It was really crowded and I was not in the mood for taking off my shoes and walking on the sand. 
We moved on from there and apparently what Bhabhi was saying is that we can walk into any hotel, like Vegas hotels. We did go into one, but I did not feel comfortable. 

After going into one hotel, I did not feel comfortable walking into any other hotel. Besides, it would be a long walk to get to the hotels. We walked back to the big supermarket where we had gotten dropped off. We had a coke! Of course. Cannot miss that opportunity.

We then took the bus the Xcaret tower. Our Xcaret band will give us two free rides on the tower. We took our first ride up during the daylight. Nice 15 min ride up and down. It was pretty view. Then it was time to walk around a bit so that we could go about an hour later for the night ride up. There was a nice hotel there with plenty of christmas decoration. We just took pictures from outside and then crossed the road to get to the lagoon side. The lagoon was very clean with clear water. The scenery was just beautiful. We walked back to the tower.  The mosquitoes had decided to come out now!
The night ride up the tower was quite nice. I can take night photos only with my phone. It was a nice ride. Then it was time to take the bus ride back to center. But Bhabhi said there was another park that we could stop at. We were all tired but since that was our last night, we went. The park was full of shops and people. It seemed like there was a night market/fun time going on. There were plenty of shops (thelas) and a number of eating places.  We had our marquesitas there again. We all love that stuff! By now poor Viki has bad throat and is super tired.
We got some quesedillas there – but their quesedillas were actually fried and not made on a pan. It was not that great. But it was nice to see so many people eating out and having fun. I wish we had eaten something else instead of the quesedillas.

Then it was time to walk back, and we came across the prettiest Christmas tree! I have never seen anything so beautiful. We admired it and then walked back. 
I am not happy walking back through these empty roads but luckily we are five of us and there is strength in numbers.

That was it! That was our last night in Cancun.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Day 6

Christmas day! I got ready and around 7:15 went to check if our driver was there – he was – thank God! But there were no other taxis there, so good I had talked to him yesterday. I told him we would be ready in about 20 minutes which turned out to be 30. We quickly ate our breakfast and were on our way to see one of the wonders of the world.

It took us about 40 minutes to get there.  The drive was pretty boring, nothing scenic. 

The line for the tickets was not very long; and they take credit card so at least we save some money. They charge two different tickets, one for federal and one for state. I think one was cash. We still have to get a guide so we have to pay cash there to save 100 pesos so we can use cash. It was advised that we take the guide and I'm glad we did. Rosalba our guide was for 1 and 1/2 hours. It was really nice inside because we had come so early there were hardly any people there. The pyramid was right in front once we got past the visitor’s center and the little path that has a boundary to the temple (that’s what the pyramid is).

It was great, we got some nice shots of the pyramid. It was a large pyramid but of course not as big as Egypt but good. And yes the pyramid had all stairs on the four sides; very symmetrical. The pyramid was made according to astronomy. One interesting thing about the pyramid was the acoustics. From side of the pyramid if we clap then we can hear the clapping sound come back as the sound of a bird from the pyramid. From other sides it would just be the echo of the clap. Really cool!
We walked around with the guide. She was okay, but I’m sure she gets tired with people just taking pictures and not paying attention to what she was saying. And I understand that there was no crowd there, so it was good to take photos then, but we had the guide only for 1.5 hrs. So a tough decision! It seems to me that the Mayan culture was a little violent. They believed in human sacrifice and would also kill any visitors (which is fine!). Their pyramids are covered with skulls and sacrificial symbols. I wonder why they would rule by fear.

We saw the huge field where the competitors would play hockey with a fire ball. And then also when they would play ball like a basketball but with hips and shoulders but not legs or hands. The rings for the basket were really high! Amazing! The field was as big as a soccer field. There was a place for the spectators and also for the priests. (We has seen the game played out in Xcaret at the night show, and I was not even sure that was real – but I guess it was!).
Our guide at this point told us a few more points to visit and then she left us. We took a little break, I went to the restroom – all the way out to the entrance – bad idea, it was too crowded and I was lucky to get in and out fast. There is a restroom in there but Bhabhi had sacred me into saying that the reviews said it was dirty. (But it was not).

We had some snacks and then walked to see the cenote where the American explorer found many artifacts. Apparently, he bought this whole area for $17 and then cleaned the cenote and eventually found all these artifacts in them, which he took for himself.  Mayans are not too happy about it – but they also did nothing to clean this area up.
The walk to the cenote was lined with vendors. We were stopping and shopping and walking. We then came to the middle at the main pyramid. Had our lunch of bread and then walked the other side to see the observatory. It was a little bit of a walk, but we got there. it was okay, there was a lot of damage to the structure, but one could still see that it was the observatory.  By now I was exhausted. We walked back and I called the taxi driver to take us back. It would take him 40 mins to get there, so we sat around the pyramid enjoying the sight.

Bhabhi wanted to stop at the cenote in the middle, but just the entry would have been some money, even just to take a photo, so there was not point in going. Also the driver did not want to wait while we took photos. So we just drove back. Meanwhile, Bhabhi looked through Google and found another church to visit, so we had the driver leave us there. It turns out the church was closed (it was 25th – so why??). We walked back from there to our hotel and rested.
Bhaiya found a good restaurant, Yakuna Cucina Mexicana, to eat for that night. It was near the church. We left around 6ish to go to the central square, near the church, and just sit. I saw this thela for a snack – marquesitas so Sarvesh and I got in line to try it out. It took about 30 mins for us to get ours. It was very tasty! They were personalizing it for everyone, that is why it was taking long. But it was worth the wait. As usual we were sharing, so I did not get the full taste but still it was good.
We then walked to the restaurant, which had only this one waiter. The guest coming out of the restaurant was an American and he highly recommended it (he was also a vegetarian).  And yes, the food was good. bhaiya eats very little, so we shared a bit with him. 
We walked back and went to sleep.  It had been a tiring day.