Monday, May 31, 2010

White Castle & Number 1 Buffet

Two small reviews in one post again.

Jonathan had never been to a White Castle, and I haven't been in at least 15 years, so we drove up to New Brunswick one Sunday afternoon for a late lunch there. They sell the little burgers (sometimes referred to as "sliders"). They also have them in a chicken variety (and also fish, apparently), and the normal stuff like french fries, onion rings, and mozzarella sticks.

Hamburger: nothing special. Cheeseburger: I thought it tasted a lot like McDonald's, honestly. Plus the bun was a little soggy, and I kinda hate that. Chicken: get it without the cheese. French Fries: undercooked. Mozzarella Sticks: a hair below average.

JB can say he's been, and I now recall that I don't like White Castle.


I really had a craving for Chinese food. We haven't really had much Chinese since we've been here, focusing mainly on Japanese since that's more prevalent in our area. Plus, we were spoiled with California on that one, LoL. We searched around online and found a buffet about fifteen minutes away that had great reviews. It's actually called "Number 1 Buffet" and it's in Morrisville.

It's only $5.99 for dinner, and the food is pretty good. For the most part, it wasn't greasy. The selection was pretty good, and most everything was very fresh. They had the typical foods: steak & peppers (average), chicken & broccoli (good sauce), pepper chicken (average), sweet & sour chicken (good), spring rolls (vegetarian and average), lo mein (average), fried rice (average), egg drop soup (really good), wonton soup (above average), chicken teriyaki on a stick (good chicken but pretty tasteless sauce), bourbon chicken (slightly below average), and General Tso's chicken (not spicy at all). They also had several types of dumplings/"dim sum", stuffed shrimp, and crab rangoon. The dumplings were all pretty good, although one tasted like pork and scallions and not much else. The Chinese donuts were also very good.

We'd go back. In my opinion, it's hard to find a buffet that even has an overall "average" rating, so this was a good find. I kinda wish they had filled the shrimp egg foo yung while we were there (it was empty the entire time), and maybe there will be a bigger selection of steamed/fried dumplings next time.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hollywood Tans

So for our fourth cruise, we did a lot of preparation. As one would guess, this means extra gym sessions and less desserts... but at the same time, we added a new process. We decided to try getting a base tan before we head to the Bahamas.

Neither of us had ever been to a tanning salon before, and I had only ever "laid out" about ten times in my entire life. But, we gave it a try for a month (and I probably should have posted about it before the trip, but I just thought about it). And while it's not really something I'd ever want to do regularly, it was different, kinda exciting, and produced pretty quick results.

Jonathan narrowed down the nearby ones on the internet, and I went and scoped out the top two in person. Island Sun Tanning was the one I had seen about ten times before, as it's in the same plaza as my favorite Dollar Tree (don't laugh. I think they're all different. I've been to three within fifteen minutes of the apartment, and yes, I have a favorite). And, they were slightly less expensive than the one we went with. But, I didn't feel the employee (a manager of some sort) did a good job of selling me on it, and they didn't have all of the amenities we were hoping for. They also weren't interested in giving me a tour without committing a little more.

Hollywood Tans had a pretty impressive website, but I was kinda baffled when I looked at the address. Turns out it's in the same plaza as my main grocery store (remember, there are tons around here!). A plaza I had been to probably 50 times in the past eight months... but I never saw it before. The employee there was really helpful, took me on a full tour, and explained several options plus how the specials factor in. Oh, and it's about a half-mile from our apartment. Sold!

We did stand-up tanning beds at the HT-54 power (although our very first tans were HT-60 since we had upgrade coupons). We started at 5 minutes a session, and eventually hit 7 minutes each (although Jonathan did his very last session at 8). It's really rather boring to stand in a small room for that long, but at least they had radios playing to give you something to listen to. It took me a while to figure out how to maneuver in order to get tan everywhere and not have areas white (like the combination of lifting your arms versus leaving them down at your sides).

Jonathan was a bit red after his first time, and I got red once in the middle, but otherwise we never burned from it, which is good. I never really got used to it, but Jonathan did. He could even understand how someone could get addicted to it, although I still don't understand how someone would ever even like it, LoL.

The result? We were tan going on the trip, and just got tanner there. We still used sunscreen while in Nassau, but otherwise were good with our base tans. It's not something I'd recommend to everyone, and not something I'd jump on doing again, but it's not all bad and I can see the benefits.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Other Florida Stuff this Trip

We were back at the house in Melbourne around 11am, after a pretty uneventful debarkation from the ship. We had to wait about 15 minutes for the shuttle back to the Radisson, but that was apparently very fortunate. We were unable to contact them by phone, but found out that it was the first shuttle in the last 90 minutes, and the driver was rather harried as he had no idea where the other drivers and shuttles were that morning.

We hung out for a little bit, then Jonathan's parents came and I went with them to take Jonathan to the airport. We stopped at Texas de Brazil on the way there (planned), and had a late Mother's Day lunch. As always, the place was delicious, although eating earlier in the day (4pm) was a little different, and I don't think we had as much. Nothing specific to report about (the smorgasboard of veggies, cheeses, meats, and more is a bit much to remember!), but it was the first time I had tried the parmesan chicken drummette, which I found to be delicious!

On Monday I drove across the state to visit with my friend Amy from camp, her husband, and their three-week-old daughter. We had a nice afternoon of catching up a bit, and I got to hold and feed little Elizabeth. We all went out to Applebee's for dinner (the unofficial Girl Scouts restaurant, LoL), which was nice since I don't go there often. I had originally wanted to get in a side visit with some other friends while I was over there, but by the time I had nailed down my plans, it was kinda late in the game. Plus, because of a glitch, I lost the contacts in my phone on Sunday morning (pretty much as soon as we got off the ship, LoL), so I struggled enough to get the main numbers I'd need until I could remedy the situation (which has happened and I have everything again).

Tuesday was an Amy-and-Tori Day, really. It started with lunch in St. Lucie West with my sister at the West End Grill. None of us had been there before, but we'd totally recommend this little place. Their lunch specials are very reasonable, plus they have cards for buying 5 lunches and getting 1 free! I had the caribbean chicken salad wrap (it was the special of the day), which was fabulous. The flavor was great, although I couldn't quite place the sauce. Kyla went with a chicken caesar wrap, and Tori went with the turkey club sandwich. It's of interest to note that none of the sandwiches had cheese on them, which was interesting. They both found their entrees to be tasty as well. They had the fries as a side (they came with Tori's, Kyla had to pay extra for some reason), and I chose the chips. The chips are homemade and perfectly handcrafted... GET THEM! :)

After that, Tori and I spent the afternoon shopping (unproductively, might I add), then we went to look at the state of her house. It's really getting close to being lived in now, and I'm very excited for her. Her new easy chair is especially comfortable. We then headed to Vero to have dinner with BK at Olive Garden (the long-standing restaurant where the three of us often dine), where I went with the current special, the chicken cheese crespelle, or something similar to that. It was average in taste, and below average in value. After that it was a quick trip to Abbott's for custard, then back to BK's house for a game of Phase 10.

Wednesday was uneventful, mainly because I was coming down with something and was trying desperately to feel better before my evening flight (didn't work, which made for a miserable flight, but three days later I was fine).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cruise to the Bahamas: Day 3

We set sail around 6am, but we were all asleep. We got up around 9 and were at breakfast by 9:30. Jonathan & Ebad went with the eggs benedict while Bryan and I went with the bagels and lox. That really is my very favorite breakfast on the cruise ships, since it's served with tomato and onion (and capers but I don't add those), and there's just enough cream cheese and salmon for the bagel's surface area.

We headed right up to the top deck and played a rousing game of 9-hole miniature golf. Bryan & Ebad tied for first place, and I came in third (I don't know that I win at miniature golf much at all... I usually come in last or just over last, LoL). It was blazing hot outside, so we went back inside. I checked out the shops and the sales (they sell gold/silver jewelry by the inch, but I wasn't too impressed this time around), and we all did our own things until we met up for lunch at 1pm.
because of the setup of the course, it was impossible to get all of it in one shot, so here's a few of the holesaction shot of Ebad putting

Ebad, Jonathan, and I wanted to try out the Mongolian Grill. The lines had been long all cruise, and we ended up waiting about half an hour. We were able to choose each ingredient, then specify the meats and sauces. It took a few minutes for the chef to actually stir-fry everything together, but in the end it was good. All of the ingredients were delicious, and I wish I had gotten the squid on mine in addition to the chicken. The szechuan was unbelievably hot, though. I went through a couple of rolls and an entire frozen drink as I ate 3/4 of mine. Ebad (who grew up eating very spicy foods) was sweating bullets eating his, and ended up heading inside for a shower as soon as lunch was done. Jonathan's wasn't as hot, despite choosing the same sauce... we think it's because he went with glass noodles instead of udon noodles (his noodles picked up the flavor in a great way!).

Bryan went for a run, Ebad & Jonathan entered the blackjack tournament (I didn't enter this time, but as it turns out I would have had a fighting chance), and I wandered around. Around 4pm, Ebad, JB, and I went to play Bingo. Ebad and I actually played, and Jonathan had a good time making sure we marked all of our cards (we had 3 each), and he also played some scratch-offs. Ebad really got into it (he had never played Bingo before), and I had a good time, although neither of us won anything. Jonathan, on the other hand, spent $10 and won $19 (plus, got two entries into the drawing to win a 5-day cruise, but our luck wasn't that good!). Then, something unexpected happened. While we were playing Bingo, an announcement was made that a crew member had been seriously injured, and we were turning around to get to the nearest port (Freeport, also in the Bahamas) so he could get medical attention. They assured us that it would not affect our overall travel time (and it did not), but we were able to go topside to see that island, as we circled the area for a bit. Then, it was time to tackle the waterslides. We had found Bryan, and Ebad decided he didn't want to get wet, so it was just the three of us on the different slides. We were really surprised that there were no lines when we went, since we had seen a couple dozen people in line every time we had walked by previously. They were pretty fun, but the bottoms were designed for kids.... meaning you didn't slide very far after the slide was parallel with the ground, presumably because of weight. It was still pretty fun.
Bryan coming down the big, yellow, twisty slideJonathan and I racing down the blue slideshere we are at the bottom!

After drying off, we headed straight for sushi, where we had different varieties than we had on the first night. However, none of them were fantastic - the salmon nigiri was probably the best. We changed for dinner and then headed for the show, which was before dinner that night. It was actually probably the worst revue I have ever seen on a Carnival ship (and at this point Jonathan and I have seen about 15 of them), but I think it had more to do with the choice of songs than the performance of the entertainers.

Then, it was on to our final dinner. Jonathan and I had onion soups. I liked it, he didn't care for it (mind you, that's probably the soup we're pickiest about). Bryan went with the mushroom soup, and he thought it was very good. They had cheese plates while I went with the tomatoes and mozzarella... the only appetizer I wouldn't get again (not that it's bad, just rather plain in comparison to the others). The guys went with yet another steak-ish entree, and I had my favorite favorite favorite - penne mariscos. It's penne with a tomato-based sauce, with scallops, shrimp, and calamari rings. It's SO GOOD, I absolutely love it whenever it's offered. This time in particular, the calamari was perfect. It filled me up to the point where I didn't order dessert, LoL. Bryan got the poached pear and raved about it.
most of our dinner crowd
our waiters dancing on the final night - to the right is Denzil, to the left is Nengyah (sp?)
Then, it was back to the rooms to pack our bags so they'd be picked up by the luggage crew. Bryan went to hang out with some people, Jonathan and Ebad went to play some blackjack one last time, and I headed over to watch some karaoke. Around 1am we decide to get some pizza and then order some sandwiches from room service. We hung out, watched television, and enjoyed the end of the cruise before heading to bed about 3am.

We were off the ship as soon as we ate breakfast the next morning, so there's not much to say... Jonathan went with the waffles, I had pancakes, and Ebad tried out the bagel that the rest of us had been bragging about. Bryan slept through breakfast and met us for debarkation. We found our luggage extremely quickly (which was lucky... sometimes it takes quite a while), and then we said goodbye to the cruise ship as we waited for the shuttle back to the cars at the hotel.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cruise to the Bahamas: Day 2

Our second day on the ship was our port day in Nassau. Jonathan got the earliest start by hitting the ship's gym at 7am, and the rest of us were up and ready for breakfast when he got back shortly after 8:30am. Now, there are several breakfast options onboard, but we kinda prefer the main dining room, which is seated as-you-arrive for breakfast, as opposed to assigned seating. Also, the menu is the same every morning, so you can try different things. Bryan when with the bagel & lox, Ebad chose the poached eggs, Jonathan went with the french toast, and I chose a ham and cheese omelet. Ebad thought poached eggs were pretty good, Bryan enjoyed the toasted bagel so much that he ordered it again the following morning, and Jonathan thought the french toast was good. I thought the omelet was about average, honestly. But, to be fair, I usually have a bunch of veggies in my omelet, so maybe I just wasn't accustomed to just ham and cheese. I also had a banana, which was surprisingly served already sliced! There were various side dishes ordered, but I can only personally brag about the hashbrowns, which were wonderful. I found it to me amusing that we each chose a different juice that morning. I chose apple, Bryan went orange, JB went tomato, and Ebad tried grapefruit. I left the boys to decide on our course of action for the island (we weren't able to decide on activities sooner because our group members were kinda in-limbo for a while), and headed off to a gemstone seminar. It was very informative, and I specifically learned a lot about the difference in buying diamonds for various pieces of jewelry and various settings. I also made friends with the destination shopper, who later gave me an extra freebie coupon. I headed up to meet the boys on deck and struggled a bit to get to the area where we planned to meet, LoL. We watched the ship port in the Bahamas, and then headed down to change quickly before we got off of the ship. The boys booked us on a historical tour of the island that began at 1pm. We had just under an hour to grab a quick bite, and Jonathan and I thought we had a great places in mind. However, for whatever reason, about half of the places were closed, if not more. This left long lines and we cut it really short. We ordered fried conch, baked turkey wings, rice, and plantains, and ate as we walked back to the pier. The conch was among the worst I've ever had (and when conch is good, I'm in love), and the rice wasn't very tasty. The plantains were average, which is what I expect from a street vendor. The turkey, however, was fantastic. Actually, perhaps phenomenal. I'd get it again in a heartbeat, and I kinda only eat turkey like three times a year (not counting sliced deli meat, of course!).

We got back to the pier in the nick of time, and hopped a bus to get to the start of our tour. There, we handed in our tickets and got in a roomy van with air conditioning (hard to come by in other countries we've been to). We had a little over two hours of informative commentary as we rode through the streets of Nassau. Not only did we see some landmarks, like two forts and the Queen's Staircase, but we also got to see a lot of the actual island. Last time Jonathan and I were in Nassau, we stayed on the Paradise Island side for the most part, but had a cab-tour of the wealthy areas of Nassau... this time we saw the poverty-stricken and middle-class areas, and heard a lot about the school systems, the politics, and how the hospitals are run. We thought it was very reasonable at $30pp. I don't know that Bryan or Ebad enjoyed it as much as we did, but there were no complaints, and we know that, at the very least, they found the canons at the forts and the views around the city enjoyable.
The tour guide was nice enough to drop us off downtown, so we did a little shopping before heading back to the ship. I enjoy the Straw Market quite a bit, since you can see all sorts of interesting handicrafts. However, you do get harassed by the vendors pretty hardcore, so I didn't buy anything this time. I did get some great aquamarine pieces and another loose sapphire at other stores in Nassau, though. Ebad and Bryan got some ice cream, then we went to the Tortuga shoppe. Jonathan and I love that place (it's a chain throughout the Caribbean), but we didn't get anything this time. Bryan picked up a few souvenirs for people, and then we stopped and sent a postcard before heading back to the ship.We decided at that point that we weren't going to spend the evening in Nassau. Although the ship was docked until 6am the next day, it had gotten so rundown since the last time we were there that there wasn't too incredibly much to do. So, we headed up to the Lido to grab an afternoon snack (hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza, chicken tenders), and then we split up. Jonathan and I went to lay in the sun and then enjoy a hot tub, Ebad took a nap, and Bryan just laid out.

We get dressed for dinner (it's elegant night, and I was excited to wear a new floor-length summer dress I had picked up at Kmart of all places), and head to the Captain's Party about 7:45pm. We only got one free round since we arrived so late, but we did have front row seats for all of the officer introductions. We were right on-time for dinner, but the dining room was surprisingly swamped (most of the time it's not as crowded on port days). We get the cheese plates brought out, then the soups (I got the pumpkin, which is my favorite of the Carnival soups), then other appetizers. I had ordered the proscuitto ruffles, and for the first time, my order never came. I might have gotten upset, except a) Bryan let me have some of his, b) I wasn't starving, and c) I was really into reading an autobiography by the first American to have completed a contract on a Carnival cruise ship in the dining room. Because of the third in particular, I was able to recognize how much extra weight our head waiter was pulling, and since he was otherwise magnificent, I didn't mention it. I ordered the lobster and shrimp, which came with mashed potatoes and broccoli. A couple of the guys also had this, but then they also had the prime rib with baked potato and onion rings. The lobster was great, and I wish I had ordered a second one from the get-go. The shrimp and mashed potato were also scrumptious, and the guys reported great things about the meat, but not the potato, LoL. My favorite Carnival dessert was served that night, the banana layer cake. That with a side of chocolate ice cream was fabulous. When we got back to the room, the nightly towel animal greeted us... this time a frog! Ebad and JB hit the casino for a bit, while Bryan and I talked. Bryan headed off to meet some people, and I visited the art gallery and took some photos of various areas of the ship. At midnight we went up to the Lido for the Mexican buffet, but we weren't very hungry. Plus, nothing was that great, except for the mozzarella cheeses and the chocolate cake. From there we did some wandering, enjoyed the evening air, and people-watched a bit before bed.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cruise to the Bahamas: Day 1

We should have laughed when we thought our problems were over after the baggage issue. There was virtually no wait to go through security at the cruise terminal, and Jonathan and I flew right through the steps to get your entry card for the ship. However, Ebad got detained for about an hour while they called several agencies to verify the status of his visa and whether he was eligible to sail. In the end, he got the OK (we knew he would, they just need to familiarize themselves with the policies of internationals, really), and we got on the ship.

We took a pretty good embarkation photo, and proceeded to get some lunch. We did the deli and the buffet. The grilled ham and cheese was excellent (always is on a ship!), and the guys liked the reubens, too. Nothing spectacular on the buffet, but nothing was bad, either.

Then, we checked out our rooms. It was really nice to have them directly across the hall from one another. Last time we were on the same floor but about 30 rooms apart and around a corner. This made a big difference, since we could open our doors to signal we were ready to go to the next activity, or just keep them open and wander back and forth as needed. Totally would do this again. We did some exploring and made our way up to Deck 12 (we were on 7), for the 3pm spa raffle. They always raffle off some spa treatments, and I always enter. I've never won, but I've gotten discounts before (still haven't used any... but someday!).

After that, we headed down for the "safety briefing" which was pretty quick. We didn't even have to don our lifejackets like we do on some of the ships. Then it was time for sail-away, so we grabbed some drinks for take-off. Our luggage arrived at our rooms shortly before 5pm, so we unpacked a tad and then separated for a bit.

I went to the shopping talk for Nassau (I almost always go to these, since you get great advice on souvenirs, plus coupons for discounts and free items in various stores), while the guys checked out what the casino had to offer (Ebad is pretty good at blackjack. On our last cruise he made back all of the money it cost him to go!).

We met back up a little after 6pm and had some sushi (which was conveniently located just off the casino, LoL). Nothing spectacular, but the shrimp nigiri was average and the spicy tuna was good... except the spicy was a cajun spicy which was unexpected. The salmon/asparagus/mushroom roll wasn't good. We followed this up by attending the martini tasting. 5 martinis for $15 (decent size, too). I wasn't a big fan of any of them (not a martini person), but I was surprised I didn't like the Nuttini, which sounded great from the ingredients list, LoL! Overall, nobody was head-over-heels for any of them, but they were fun to try.
We changed and headed for the dining room. We were seated at a ten-top this time, and four of our tablemates were also from Melbourne! This is incredibly chance, and it was fun to have their company each night. The other two people at our table were from Tampa, probably about our age, and very quiet. The food the first night was scrumptious, as always. Jonathan and Bryan each ordered a cheese plate (and did each subsequent evening as well), which came with brie, gouda, port, bleu, and swiss (I often got their pieces of swiss, LoL), plus some fruits and breads. My starter was the smoked duck, which had a great flavor. Jonathan and I both had the broccoli-cheddar soup, which was very hot. It's not my favorite soup, but it's still pretty good. Pretty much the entire table chose NY strip and baked potato as their entree, but I went with the chicken-pesto-pasta dish, which was also average. The rice I added as a side was fabulous, despite the fact that it was just plain, white, long-grained rice. The guys all went with sherberts for dessert, but I chose the banana split (one of the secret dessert items). The banana split was great, with delicious ice cream, fresh banana, and homemade whipped cream. We also went with espressos all around, which is the norm for me, since they're free at dinner and they give me the pep to keep going all night, LoL. The waiters also dance to a different song every evening, so here's a few pictures of the first night, hehe. We went back to the rooms to finish unpacking and to rest for about half an hour before heading out to the comedian. Our towel animals had been made while we were at dinner... the first night it was the dog. The comedian was Al Romero, you may have seen him on television or whatnot. Most of his jokes were average, but Ebad and Bryan in particular felt he was kinda bad. Afterward, I read a bit and then headed to bed soon after.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cruise to the Bahamas: Preparation

Okay, so the majority of the time, I try to make the posts on this blog interesting to most of our readers. Really, I do. However, the next few might be boring to some of you. Why? Because they're about a recent cruise we took to the Bahamas. I know, it sounds exciting, right? However, I tend to be verbose about vacations, and since cruises are (beyond a shadow of a doubt) my favorite type of vacation, I got wordy. Sometimes really wordy. I could cut it down... but I don't really want to... I kinda want to have as much documentation as possible so I can remember the trip, LoL. So.... my apologies. Feel free to scroll through and just look at photos if you want.

Okay, the background on this trip: This was our fourth cruise. It's our second one on the Carnival Sensation, our second one out of Port Canaveral, and our second one to Nassau. Why the repeat? A good friend of ours, Ebad, has finally finished his time at Florida Tech. He came here ten years ago, and a group of us wanted to give him a fun send-off. Five of us took a cruise just before Jonathan and I moved to California (out of Miami to Key West and Cozumel), so we knew it would be a good time. However, shortly before sailing, one had to drop out, so it was just Jonathan, Ebad, Bryan, and myself.

Now, the pre-trip: It was a typical flight for us - Philly to Orlando, this time on US Aiways (which we've flown many times before). We were good as far as getting out of the house on time, filling the rental with gas, and getting to the airport. However, as soon as we got to the security lines, we were stopped. Apparently US Airways has decided to take advantage of its customers by forcing them to check bags WITHOUT measuring them. The rules on their website suggest a maximum size of 14x11x20, or a total of 45 inches, lxwxh. Well, the only thing they were using to enforce this at security was that box-ish metal thing that is already 14x11x20. So, if you have a bag that exceed one dimension (say, 22 instead of 20) but is shorter on another dimension (say, 12 instead of 14), you had no way to argue that your bag was indeed within limitations. If your bag exceeded ANY of the dimensions, you were sent back downstairs with a "fast pass" to check your bag. They were being very consistent, and dozens of us were turned away, some with backpacks the size of the ones we used in high school.

The people downstairs have no idea what to do with the "fast pass" flyer we each have. We check our bags (at $25 a pop), go back up, and go through security. We inform the woman that the people downstairs didn't know what the "fast pass" things were, and she said, "I know. we just started using them." After security, we head to the gate, keeping an eye out for a courtesy desk. At the gate, we're informed that the nearest desk is rather far, but we head for it anyway. When we get there (it took us 8 minutes to get there, walking fast), we run into a man who is of little help. He has no idea what the policies are, and notes that there's no way he can help us (in addition for seeking reimbursement, we were more concerned about the enforcement of their true policy, as we didn't want to shell out another $50 on the way back). The best he could do was give us a WEBSITE where we could file a complaint. He refused to give us even a phone number, which is ridiculous customer service.

We get on the plane and move on with our plans. Well, we're 50 minutes late taking off, but manage to get in only about 10 minutes late. HOWEVER, we now have to wait for baggage, so we make our friend wait extra long as he circles the airport. This also causes us to be late to Ebad's going-away party in Melbourne, at Broken Barrel.

But, we get through it, get to Melbourne, and I get things together to leave. We head up to Port Canaveral with Joe and another friend, with Bryan and Ebad to meet us when they're ready to go. We spend a couple hours hanging out at Milliken's Reef, which is a restaurant/bar on the beach. The dance floor is literally the sand, and it's really a neat setup. Their chicken tenders and french fries are pretty good, and the guys enjoyed the chicken sandwiches (the parmigiana and buffalo varieties, respectively). Our server was rather new and had issues ringing up the checks, but that's not the end of the world. It was also Ladies' Night, so I got a couple free drinks which was a fun surprise. The music just kept getting louder and louder, and we were already the farthest table away, so we left.

Around midnight we headed over to the hotel where we were staying, while the guys left to head back to Melbourne. Soon after we got up to the room, Bryan and Ebad arrived. We all hung out a little bit, did some planning, talked about how the morning would go, and then went to sleep. The beds and pillows were fantastically comfortable, and the bathroom was well-stocked for four people, offering two sinks and plenty of towels.

The next morning we wandered around the property a little bit, and came across the magnificent pools at the Radisson. If we were there longer, we definitely would have made use of them! We ran a few quick errands to Wal*mart and the bank, and we were ready to go for the 11:30am shuttle I booked us on. This worked out great, since we were able to avoid the parking fee at the cruise terminal. Stay tuned, I'm going to pick up when we arrive to get on the ship!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Our Third Anniversary

First, we'd like to thank everyone for the cards, calls, texts, facebook messages, and gifts. It was wonderful to be remembered and thought of from all across the country.

Arirang is one of our favorite restaurants in the area. We've been there probably a dozen times now, including Jonathan's birthday dinner and once while his parents were in town. So, it fit well that we have our Anniversary Dinner there this year. We have quite the history of celebrating special moments with hibachi/teppanyaki, and Arirang did not let us down.

We invited several people to join us, and we ended up with a total of six for dinner, which was good, considering we set it up for our actual anniversary, which was on a Tuesday this year. We had a delicious meal, and everyone was able to catch a piece of zucchini in his or her mouth (this chef gave each person three tries, so that helped, too!). As always, the food was excellent, and I had my leftovers on the way to the airport the next day (more on that in the next post).

After dinner, we headed back to our apartment for champagne and red velvet cake (which, by the way, is a pain to find up here in PA. I went to 12 stores, 3 had it, and none were that great), and to watch various parts of the wedding video. We showed the "trailer" and the middle part of the ceremony, then the exciting parts of the reception (read: entrance, cake cutting, bouquet toss, car decorating, etc.). We also spent some time recounting various parts of our courtship, which is always entertaining (I will never tire of seeing people's expressions when we mention that we didn't live together the first year we were married, LoL).

Between this memorable night, the Niagara Falls trip a couple weeks prior, and the Bahamas trip in the days that followed (to be posted sometime in the next week or so), I think it's safe to say that we won't forget our third anniversary.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rushing Avenue Q

We had an empty day. We have a list of things to see & do in New York City. We took about half an hour to plan, and tried it out.

We took the 8am NEC train in, and then jumped on the C train (wanted the E but it was not servicing that day) up to 50th street. Three blocks to New World Stages, and we were behind three people for the 10am rush by 9:43am.

Now, a quick run-down on what "rush" is. Some theaters have a policy where they hold tickets that you can buy tickets the day of the show at a reduced rate (we paid $53 total for our tickets, in comparison to $192 it would have been to buy tickets in the 12th row online). Sometimes only students can do this. Sometimes the theater holds a lottery. Sometimes people arrive very early in the morning and dozens are in line by the time the box office opens. Now, since Avenue Q has been running for over five years now, we weren't too concerned. Plus, we did have back-up plans.

The doors were unlocked at 10:01am, and we bought the first two tickets for the matinee, receiving 101 and 102 in row A of the orchestra (aka front row, house left). Since Avenue Q has puppets, it was rather fun to be that close, LoL.

After we had our tickets, we headed over to the Radio City area to see the fountain and walk around a bit. It was raining slightly, so there weren't a lot of people out. We bummed around a bit, did some shopping (Jonathan found a new pair of sunglasses for our trip to Nassau), then headed over to eat lunch at the Times Deli on 44th Street (between Broadway & 6th). I had a grilled chicken wrap with cheese, peppers, and tomatoes. Jonathan has a meatball sub. Both were delicious, and the place was quick and cheap. The upstairs seating (which has a tiny internet cafe as well) wasn't air conditioned, but otherwise it was a great stop.

We walked over to Bryant Park and walked around. We saw the ping pong tables and the "reading room(s)" and the petanque courts (none of which were there when we saw Bryant Park in January). We people-watched for a while, then headed to get some caffeine at Tim Hortons. I swear, that stuff is SO GOOD. I had an iced mocha, Jonathan had an iced cappuccino. Yet again, both were wonderful. We hung out there until it was time to walk over to see the show.

New World Stages is a bit unique in that several shows play there simultaneously in different rooms. We were in stage 3. Avenue Q isn't a show for everyone (and certainly not for children), but we both enjoyed it. I was familiar with about half of the songs ahead of time, plus several clips and the general storyline. Jonathan had heard two of the songs before, but otherwise went in cold. I don't want to give away too much, but I will say that it was very different from when we saw Next to Normal. Jonathan thought the songs were catchier in that, which surprised me. Personally, I get a couple songs from Avenue Q in my head every now and then, LoL. Jonathan also decided that our next show will be 39 Steps, which is a straight play also at New World Stages.

When the show was over we took the subway back to Penn Station and rushed over to the NJ Transit to hop the train back down to Trenton. Overall, it worked out really well. EXCEPT for the unexpected fact that the fare has changed. There's no more "off-peak" prices, so instead of $43 for both of us to take the train in and back during off-peak hours, it's now $62, which is significantly higher. This means less day trips for one, and also the prospect of driving in has become more feasible (we also found a garage that allows you to park for 12 hours for $19, which is extraordinarily good for midtown, from what we've seen).

What were our back-up plans? Well, I had the addresses for the theaters showing American Idiot and The Addams Family as well, so we were going to head over to TKTS to try and get tickets to one of those (or Avenue Q) over there. TKTS sells tickets day-of also, for 20-50% off regular price. There are three locations, but the one near Times Square (aka "under the red steps") was our plan. Should all three of those be sold-out (or not have any seats left that day to sell), we were going to do the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Remembering Us

Last year I did a big wedding review, mostly in photos. Today, on our third anniversary, I thought I'd give you all of the links to our story that have been posted so far so you can find them in one place.

Engagement: Seattle

Wedding Retrospective I
: Bridal Shower, Bachelorette Party, Bridesmaid Luncheon
Wedding Retrospective II: Rehearsal Dinner & Afterward
Wedding Retrospective III: Getting Ready for the Wedding
Wedding Retrospective IV: Ceremony & Limo Ride
Wedding Retrospective V: Reception, Part 1
Wedding Retrospective VI: Reception, Part 2

Honeymoon I: The Ship (Carnival Victory)
Honeymoon II: The Ports (San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Thomas)

Our First Anniversary: Dinner with friends & a Cruise to Nassau

Our Second Anniversary: Denver: The Rockies, The Mint, and The Capitol
Our Second Anniversary: Denver: Garden of the Gods & Pikes Peak
Our Second Anniversary: Denver: Miniature Golf, Casa Bonita, and Karaoke
Our Second Anniversary: Denver: Candy Factory, Coors Brewery, Red Rock, Museum of Art, Party

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Niagara Falls: Part III

We had more planned for Sunday than we actually ended up doing. Of course, we should have seen that coming. We got up and walked over to a local dollar store so I could pick up a few things (postcards and a gift for my sister, mainly).

Then, we got to ride the inclined train. This was one of two included modes of transportation on our trip passes. The other one was the PeopleMover, which was a bus we took later in the day. The inclined train is really a giant waste... stairs would have worked. It seats five rows of eight and it brings you up and down the hill where the Table Rock Welcome Center is. Saves the walk, but nothing special. There is a nice view. It looks much cooler than it is. Still, here are a few photos.Our first real attraction of the day was Niagara's Fury. More ponchos (we didn't keep these ones). You go inside a big room that has grates on the floor and poles to hold. A movie plays, and you learn about the formation of the falls, and particularly of the whirlpool. It's animated, so kids probably had a good time. The ground shook and tons of water comes down on you (we didn't see this coming!). You also get blasted with soap at one point to simulate the ice age, which I didn't appreciate. Overall, it was extremely interesting to learn about, but I could have done without the water on this one.

We took the PeopleMover up to the White Water Walk. This attraction was the least crowded of any we went to. You go down an elevator and then you are in a tunnel. When you come out, there's a walkway along the side of the gorge. You can go along about a quarter mile, looking out on the class 6 rapids. It was pretty cool. There were also several plaques, and we read about those who went over in barrels, tight-roped across, tried to swim it, and other feats.
at the end of the path, there is a wall of rocks that is covered in gum. I thought it was really weird.

We picked up a few more souvenirs at this point (maple syrup and ice wine truffles) and headed back across the border. Our plan was to go into the State Park on the New York side and see the view. We also considered doing the Cave of the Winds. However, it was $8 to park and there wasn't all that much to see. Plus, it was already 2 o'clock, we hadn't eaten lunch, and it was going to be a seven-hour drive back. So, we drove around the outskirts of the park and decided to save Cave of the Winds for another trip. (For anyone interested, we also saved the Daredevil Museum, the Whirlpool Spanish AeroCar, the Butterfly Conservatory, and the Floral Clock for another trip, LoL.)

On the drive home we made two stops (other than gas). The first was lucky. On the way up, we had seen a billboard for Kutter's Cheese Factory, but forgot about it. Amazingly, at the exit we got off on to eat lunch, there it was! So, we stopped and picked up three varieties of rather cheap cheese (we haven't tried any yet, but they sounds great!).We stopped for lunch at Indian Falls Log Cabin Restaurant. If you happen to be near Corfu, NY, stop there. The view from the patio is nice, overlooking the Indian Falls. The food was overly reasonable. The service could have been a bit quicker, but the deliciousness of the food made up for it. I went with the cabin sandwich, which was chicken and ham with swiss. Jonathan chose the steak sandwich. The fries were absolutely delicious... the kind with light skin on them, but cooked so the skin almost tastes like breading. We also split an order of pepperoni rolls, which were served similarly to eggrolls, but tasted like pizza... wonderful.

Here is the view from our table, as we prepared to head out and drive home.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Niagara Falls: Part II

After heading back to our hotel for a quick change of clothing (we knew we'd get wet on our next stop!), we headed over to Maid of the Mists. We had a short wait before we were on the boat and heading into the mists of the Horseshoe Falls. It was very exciting, and certainly the attraction we'd recommend most highly. If you have been to Niagara and not done it, you really should. And, this time we had blue ponchos!
ready to go!
looking at the American Fallswater over the rocks. The red pathways are part of Cave of the Winds, an attraction on the NY side.
Bridal Veil Falls
me with the American
Jonathan with the American
another Maid of the Mists boat (they run from both the American side and the Canadian side)
this was as close as we got before I shielded my camera from the waves of mist

Then, back to the hotel to take off wet things (on the plus side, we really came to love our "new" water shoes, they were awesome!! and I say "new" because we bought them on clearance a year ago but they've been in the boxes, haha) and have a nap.

We walked across the street to the Casino and walked around. We had some more great views of the Falls, and signed up for players' cards. No bonus here, tho, so no playing, LoL. However, the tables were really pricey... we rarely saw a table minimum of less than $50, and we've also never seen a casino so full (it's not the only one in the area, either!).

We decided to have the Grand Buffet for dinner. It was a tad overpriced, but we could understand why it would be worth it to some. My favorite was the build-your-own-pasta bar, as the concoction the guy made for me was fabulous. Jonathan thought the lamb was good, and we both enjoyed the noodles. The dessert was rather disappointing, aside from the tiramisu (made as a mousse of sorts) and the cookies (chocolate and caramel chips in one cookie!).

Since it was after 9pm by then, we walked over and saw the Falls by night, since they're illuminated in colored lights for several hours. That was very beautiful, and quite romantic (staring at the falls in general is!). I guess we can understand how Niagara Falls is the honeymoon capital of the world! Speaking of which, anybody know of a couple who recently honeymooned there? I'm just curious. I know my grandparents honeymooned there, but otherwise I can't think of anybody.The American FallsThe Horseshoe Falls. Both were amazingly difficult to photograph so I bought a couple postcards.

We decided to go to the touristy area (Clifton Hill) and see what was going on. The place was hopping, and was still going strong after 11pm when we moved on. It was kinda like I-Drive in Orlando or Old Town in Kissimmee, if you're familiar with either of those. Bowling alleys, miniature golf courses (even two next door to one another), indoor mazes, chocolate shops, and all sorts of other gimmicky places (Ripley's AND Guinness Book, for instance). The indoor glow-in-the-dark miniature golf was the only one we really thought about doing, but decided to pass in the end.