Archive for the ‘Travel Bliss’ Category

Grab your Coppertone 45, put on those flip flops and meet me on the lido deck!

The giveaway you’ve been waiting for is here!

Two years ago, I held an “Aloha Mystery Giveaway” which involved me searching high and low for that perfect mystery gift during our Hawaiian vacation.

I had so much fun that yes…I’m doing it again!

Ladies and gents, I present to you the…

caribbean mystery giveaway

Next month, a floating hotel will take my hubby & me to six gorgeous Caribbean islands!

Throughout our cruise, I will be on the lookout for the perfect gift for one lucky reader.

Unlike Hawaii where I had an idea of what kinds of gifts I might find, the Caribbean is a completely different story.

I have no idea what I will find!  (But that’s all part of the fun!)

The giveaway begins TODAY so enter NOW to win!

How do I enter, you ask?

1.  Leave a comment telling me what your dream cruise is and why…AND YOU’RE IN!

2.  If you want to DOUBLE your chances, follow me on Twitter (and just notify me that you did.)

The giveaway will close at midnight (PST) on Tuesday, February 17th  

Good luck to you all!

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With only 3 weeks to go before my hubby and I embark on our Caribbean adventure, I’ve been in a cruise state-of-mind 24/7!  February can’t come soon enough, but what helps is taking a look back at my very first cruise to Ensenada almost 10 years ago.

So grab a refreshing beverage, meet me on the lido deck and enjoy these images I captured from my Carnival Cruise of 2006!

Carnival Paradise






























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Cruising into 2015
I have some exciting news…can you guess what it is?

I’ll give you a hint…

It involves tropical breezes, sand between my toes, crystalline turquoise waters, breathtaking views, relaxation and a wonderful man by my side.

Drum roll please…

At long last, my hubby and I will be crossing off one of our bucket list items and taking our dream cruise to the Caribbean islands! 

The last time I went on a cruise was back in 2006 when my best friend and I took a 3 day cruise to Ensenada aboard the Carnival Paradise.  We had a blast, and since then, I’ve been dreaming of the day when I’d take my next cruise.

No stranger to the open seas, my hubby served in the US Navy for 9 years, but this will be his first pleasure cruise. Needless to say, he is looking forward to this slightly different boating experience and to crossing off one of his bucket list items, scuba diving in the Caribbean!

February feels far away, but I know that before we know it, we’ll be flying off to Puerto Rico for the beginning of our journey.

I look forward to writing my next 2 blog series, “Caribbean Bliss” which will feature “8 Hours in…”, a look at all there is to do and see on each of the islands in just 8 hours, and “Cruising Bliss” which will feature “Carnival for Couples”, a look at the various fun activities designed for couples.

I hope you join along in the fun!

What has been your favorite cruise destination?

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The Soul of Airbnb

I’ve been a big supporter of using Airbnb for awhile now, and I’ve even written about my experiences at the Bali Tree Cottage in Captain Cook, Hawaii, Halemano in Hana, Maui and a mountain cabin in Lake Arrowhead, California.

The thing that makes Airbnb so special is the hospitality you’ll receive from your hosts.  It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from…Airbnb hosts are known for going the extra mile to ensure their guests feel at home and have a wonderful stay.  My husband and I have been very lucky with the positive experiences we received at the Airbnb locations we stayed at, and in many ways, it was thanks to our hosts!

I wanted to share with you a media campaign that Airbnb created recently.  It’s a true story and has special ties to the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989.  When I saw this, it gave me chills not only because of the story itself, but because it truly is a testament of what Airbnb stands for.

I hope you enjoy “Wall and Chain”.


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Originally Published on The Traveling Jar


Turkey – a far away land, not generally understood by the average traveler.  Mostly, Istanbul comes to mind.  It is a first-class city being torn from tradition, with “red alerts” issued by the government as “unsafe” to travel to.  Don’t be afraid of what your government may say about it, go if your heart desires and live your life without regrets!

I digress, and back to the Turquoise Coast, folks.  The Turkish coastline that sits across from Greece, bordering the Aegean sea and Mediterranean, is regarded as a cultural treasure trove that provides travelers with a fascinating mix of history, a mythological, ancient past, and beautiful scenery, with great food and a nightlife to boot.


I was too tired from my action packed days to do much at night other than a glass of wine (Turkish wine is actually quite good), but if you’re looking for nightlife, head to the city of Bodrum.  You can also find many options in the city of Antalya, one of Turkey’s largest resort cities and most populace.



Our trip took us aboard a gulet – a traditional Turkish fishing boat.  We sailed the turquoise seas with a group of people.  We went Oversea Adventure, so there was a captain, crew, and handful of travelers along with us.


We sailed down the coastline through the teeny islands covered in vegetation, poking out of misty sea salty waters, unlike anything I had ever seen.

We swam in the crystal clear waters, snorkeled to catch our nightly meal (fresh fish or octopus), hiked into ancient cities, sunned on the deck of our gulet, uncovered pristine coves, and tiny villages with the friendliest people you could imagine, and explored half-submerged ancient cities.


It was an experience I will never forget.

Beyond fun in the sun, there is some serious history on the turquoise coast.  Nerd it up!  Make sure to stop at Ephesus or as the Turks call it Efes (yes, like the Turkish beer).  If there’s one ancient city you need to see, it’s this!  Efes is the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean.

You can spend an entire day here if you’re a real ruin buff, but if your interest is slight then a few hours will suffice.


In addition to Efes, there are dozens more ancient ruins to see.  We visited Myra, which was incredibly beautiful.  It was a leading city of the Lycian Union and in early Byzantine times.

Pictured above are ruins that I saw while we were in the Gulf of Fethiye traveling through by boat.  Fethiye is a great option if you’re interested in seeing ruins because you are able to see the ruins from the city center while traveling by foot, car, or boat.  Many travelers opt to do cruises so that you’re able to combine the ruins with nature. The city of Fethiye is also home to the ancient city of Telmessos.  Telmessos was the most important city of Lycia, with a recorded history starting in 5th Century B.C., and its ruins, the Hellenistic theater as well as many rock cut ruins, can be seen in the city of Fethiye.


Remember to challenge yourself daily while you’re living it up on the Turkish coast.  Do something outside of your comfort zone, whether that’s diving for an octopus, bartering for a scarf, or trying a Turkish food that you have never eaten before.  Do what makes you happy, be safe, and enjoy the many jewels along the turquoise coast!

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Highway 1

A few weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated our 4th anniversary by taking to the open road and experiencing one of the most scenic coastlines in the U.S. – Highway 1 (otherwise known as PCH or Pacific Coast Highway).

My personal favorite stretch of PCH starts at Pismo Beach and ends in Carmel. Filled with shear cliffs, curvy roads, turquoise water, breathtaking views and crashing waves, it’s as if you stepped into an idyllic postcard.

So sit back, relax and join us as we travel this little stretch of heaven.

San Simeon

San SimeonI loved the elephant seals bathing in the sun!

San SimeonHearst San Simeon State Park

Highway 1

Highway 1

Rocky Creek BridgeImpressive Bridge #1: Rocky Creek Bridge

Rocky Creek Bridge

Bixby BridgeImpressive Bridge #2: Bixby Bridge

Bixby Bridge At 279 feet high, the Bixby Bridge was a sight to behold!

Bixby Bridge
CarmelThe white sands of Carmel Beach

Point Pinos LighthousePoint Pinos Lighthouse – Although not directly off Highway 1, it was a short drive from Carmel and worth the visit!

Point Pinos LighthouseFor a donation of $2.00, you can have a tour of the lighthouse from 1:00-4:00pm every day except Tuesdays & Wednesdays.

Point Pinos LighthouseView from the front of the lighthouse.

17 Mile DriveNo visit to Monterrey is complete without doing the 17 Mile Drive!

17 Mile DriveLife is good at the Spanish Bay.

17 Mile Drive

17 Mile Drive

The Lone CypressThe Iconic Lone Cypress

The Lone Cypress

Point LobosOn our last day, we experienced Point Lobos State Reserve…a must do!

Point Lobos

Point LobosThe scenery is breathtaking!

Point Lobos

Point LobosAnd don’t worry, if you ever lose your driver’s license in Point Lobos like I did, they will happily mail it back to you!  (And how they ever found it will forever be a mystery!)

Point Lobos

Point Lobos

So if you ever want to experience one of America’s most breathtaking coastlines, pack up your car with munchies and great tunes, head to California and get ready for a sensory experience you’ll never forget!




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No trip to the Big Island is complete without a visit to St. Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church, otherwise known as “The Painted Church.”

The Painted Church

Minutes from the Bali Tree Cottage near Kealakekua Bay, we decided to attend mass in remembrance of a special family member who had recently passed.

The Painted Church

The Painted Church

Upon entering, we were overwhelmed by not only the warmth and hospitality of the priest and parishioners, but with the intricate and masterfully painted artwork depicting biblical scenes and lives of the saints.

The Painted Church

The Painted Church

The Painted Church

The Painted Church

The Painted Church

Since 1842, the Catholic church was an important part of South Kona.  This wasn’t always its present location or its original name for that matter. The first church was actually located near the beaches of the City of Refuge and called St. Francis Regis chapel.  Seeking a cooler climate with more fertile soil in the 1880s, the locals started moving to higher ground.  Father John Velghe, a Sacred Hearts Father from Belgium, decided to follow his many parishioners, and with their help, the church was dismantled and moved up the hill to its current location.



In August 1902, the church was consecrated and renamed in honor of St. Benedict.

This small Catholic church became “The Painted Church” after Father Velge, a self-taught artist, skillfully painted its interior between 1899-1904 to communicate Bible stories to non-English-speaking Hawaiians.

Today Saint Benedict’s Church is listed in the Hawaii State Register of Historic places and the National Register of Historic Places.

The Painted Church


St. Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church is located at:

84-5140 Painted Church Road
Captain Cook, Hawaii (HI) 96704
Phone: 808-328-2227


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If you want to step into a colorful dream of a postcard, may I introduce the cheery island of Burano!  Located in the Venetian lagoon in Italy, you can’t help but feel a smile spread across your face as you experience this little wonder of an island! From the beautiful flowers perched on windowsills to the picturesque canals lining brightly colored homes, it really is a photographer’s paradise! Stroll down narrow roads and wander into shops filled with souvenirs, tasty treats and what the island is known for, lace!




If you ever go to Italy, take a day to experience this special little island.

Burano is one of those places that will remain in your heart forever!


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Last Friday, I happily said “Au revoir” to 40.

But this time, I was excited to grow another year older because…(and feel free to sing along it if you know the words)…

“26 miles across the sea, a Birthday Island was awaitin’ for me!”

You see, my hubby and I wanted to do something fun (but without the hefty price tag), so we decided to take advantage of Catalina Island’s “Birthday Island” promotion consisting of discounts and freebies for the birthday girl or boy to enjoy!  BRING ON 41!

Birthday Island

When you check in with Catalina Express in Long Beach, they will give you a stylish “Happy Birthday” ribbon to wear throughout the day to score your birthday freebies/discounts and to enjoy VIP treatment…

oh…and to hear “Happy Birthday” from complete strangers!

Birthday Island

The biggest perk for celebrating a birthday was getting a FREE round trip ride from Long Beach to Catalina on the Catalina Express!  That’s a savings of $74.50!  SCORE!  To earn this freebie, you must leave from Long Beach ON your birthday.  We chose an 8:30am departure to make the most of the day.

Catalina Express

View of Long Beach

Leaving Long Beach

After our arrival around 9:30am,  we strolled down Crescent Avenue until we reached the Metropole Market Place where we discovered our first stop – Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co.  As soon as I entered the store, the associates greeted me with “Happy Birthday!” and automatically handed me one FREE 12oz. cup to fill with their wide selections of gourmet coffee!

Catalina Coffee & Co.

Free Coffee!

Around 10:30, it was time to head over to Parasail Catalina to partake of my FREE parasailing flight!  We registered online a few days earlier, so once we arrived, we were ready to go!


This offer DOES require that you fly tandem, so either find someone on the boat who is solo but wants a partner, or bring a friend or date who doesn’t mind paying the $65.00 (600′ flight) or $75.00 (800′ flight).  Or if you’re feeling generous, split the cost so you can both enjoy the savings!  I let my “date” pay his way 😉



Parasailing800′ here we come!

ParasailingJen approved.

ParasailingHubby loved it too!

After enjoying our amazing flight over the bay, it was time to satisfy our hunger with a picnic lunch.

A few days before my birthday, a free $10 birthday voucher from World Market appeared in my email inbox.  It pays to be a part of their rewards program!  We took advantage of this gift and stocked up on picnic supplies for Catalina – from salami, gouda cheese, crackers & grape leaves, it was the perfect meal to enjoy while overlooking the ocean view by the Avalon Theater…and it was FREE!


Part of the fun of Catalina is to just walk around and explore the island!  We came equipped with our cameras and practiced our photography to our heart’s content!






Descanso BeachDescanso Beach



After enjoying the island, it was time to cool off with a FREE ice cream cone at Lloyd’s of Avalon!


After scanning the flavors, the choice was clear…

Lloyd's of AvalonDouble Fudge Brownie!  Oh sweetness!!!

It was heavenly and the ideal treat for this warm day.  On your way out, they will stamp your ribbon because yes, there are people who have taken advantage of the freebie, and some have even come in multiple times on their birthday pretending that they didn’t know it was a ONE time offer!  Tisk, tisk…

If you’d like to take in a museum, enjoy a FREE 30 minute walking tour of the historic Avalon Casino.  I didn’t get a chance to do this due to time constraints, but next time for sure!

My hubby showed interest in doing the Under Sea Garden Glass Bottom Boat Tour, so for $15.00 a person (no freebie here), we enjoyed watching the ocean’s wildlife play and swim under the boat.  It was an interesting and fun journey out to Lovers Cove.



IMG_3453The fish became quite animated when food was tossed their way.


Before we knew it, dinner was upon us consisting of yet another FREEBIE, this time at Buffalo Nickel Restaurant.


Near Pebbly Beach, this low key, out-of-the-way restaurant served a nice selection of Mexican and American food.  There was a birthday menu to choose from, and I decided on the tasty and satisfying Tostada Salad.



A shuttle van transports you to and from the restaurant since it’s too dangerous for pedestrians to walk there.  Not bad for a birthday meal!

We closed the evening with enjoying ocean breezes, taking in gorgeous views of Avalon Harbor and chasing the sunset as the Catalina Express took us home.

Catalina Express

If you’d like to do something completely different and fun (without the hefty price tag) for your birthday, then “Birthday Island” is the place for you!  Check out this complete list of all the freebies/discounts you too can enjoy as you welcome in another wonderful year!

And for those of you who’d like to learn about the history of Catalina Island, please check out my friend Rob Rhein’s new book “Catalina A to Z: A Glossary Guide to California’s Island Jewel.”

What’s been your favorite birthday getaway?


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Catalina Dreamin'

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