Archive for USA

Reasons to visit Florida

Florida, named as Flowery Land by the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon already in 1513, is the US state known for its longest coastline and subtropical to tropical climate. tickets to Disney world Orlando

I have a lot of friends who come from Florida, or moved in there but also many foreign friends who were attracted by its charm to pay a short visit at least. As well, I do know a few people who went to Miami or Key West to work for a couple of months, some of them were even my ex high school classmates from Slovakia.

Fortunately, I am one of those people who has had a chance to visit this paradise already. But I only managed to spend a few days in Miami with Colombian and German friends on my way to Aruba island.

beach Florida

 

Reasons to visit Florida:

 

  • Disney World – recently I’ve been visiting many amusement parks so visiting Florida could not go without getting tickets to Disney world Orlando. Would you join me?
  • animals – crocodile, manatee, alligator, panther, dolphins, whales, eagles and much more can be found in Florida – after my experience of swimming with caimans in the Amazon jungle of Bolivia, I would love to see the difference between them, crocodiles and alligators
  • Mockingbird is the state bird – I so love the birds! I honestly could spend days observing different birds flying, feeding and just cleaning themselves up.
  • Around 1,000 km of beaches – enough said about the Sunshine State to convince not only me to

 

florida beaches

*photo credit

beach Florida

  • Florida has more than 4,500 islands! Island paradise, here I come …
  • Hispanic community – I am one of the biggest fans of Latin American culture so Florida is definitely a place for me. It’s said around 20% of Florida’s inhabitants speak Spanish so I could discuss just anything with them talking in my favorite language ever.
  • Historic districts of towns
  • Fresh fruit and veggies – citrus, watermelon, tomatoes, celery and strawberries, yum! Around 40% of the world’s oranges is produced in Florida so the state drink is my favorite fresh orange juice.
  • Mild winters in Miami – no more freezing! (I am officially allergic to cold if you didn’t know)
  • Wikipedia states there’s more than 3,000 wildflowers in Florida and who doesn’t like flowers?
  • Caves, springs and sinkholes (I’ve visited more than 15 sinkholes in Yucatan peninsula in Mexico and am dying for more!)
  • Great for a city break – Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Sarasota, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah etc.
  • Unique architecture – Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Revival
  • Sports – such as baseball, tennis, golf, car racing, soccer, basketball, ice hockey
  • Special Flash of Green phenomenon can be sometimes witnessed after the sunset
  • Canoe, Kayak, Sailing, Fishing, Boating and Air Adventures – anything is possible in Florida
  • Perfect Wellness – there’s nothing better than relaxing in a spa after a cool adventure. That’s why I started my Adventure and Spa project and as far as I know, Florida is definitely a place to go for both.

 

All the points above make Florida top travel destination of the world, and no wonder why …

Would you add any more reasons to visit Florida? Have you been?

The best restaurants in San Francisco

10 days in San Francisco were really enough to fall in love with San Francisco so much, it became my second favorite city in the world. It is also because its delicious food at every corner.

The best restaurants in San Francisco:

B44 Catalan Bistro

Definitely one of my top restaurants because I love Catalan cuisine. I had dinner there twice, even had my own cute little table by the window and left with a full satisfied stomach. The owner is always there smiling and he even gave me the best CD with SF and Barcelona songs! Both cities are my top 2 places in the world so I see there is no coincidence in this world 🙂

 

I highly recommend trying:

starters:

salad Empedrat – bacalao, baby white beans, salad olivada

Escivada Tapas – warm roasted vegetables, cabrales, pine nuts, roasted garlic oil – a traditional vegetarian dish which denominates the process of grilling the food, BBQ usually done in Costa Brava from February to April. Here in the restaurant charcoal is added to olive oil to make it taste like grilled.

Escivada Tapas in B44

 

main dishes:

Paella hortelana – saf from rice, mushrooms, vegetables, red bell pepper, pine nuts, currants

Paella hortelana in B44 Catalan Bistro

 

Ahi tuna – a la plancha, avocado, baby lentil salad, soy and cava vinaigrette

tuna a la plancha

 

desserts:

Lionesas del Penedes –  cream puffs, ice cream, warm cocoa sauce, toasted almonds)

Lionesas del Penedes in B44

 

tarta de chocolate y platano – warm chocolate, black pepper and banana tart, creme anglaise, candied walnuts

tarta de chocolate y platano in B44

 

Plouf

Just a few metres from B44. Very French and stylish with also some Italian desserts. I had 2 dinners in Plouf too. Fresh bread with butter and the lovely atmosphere (and if you drink a glass of delicious wine) are the best to start with. I really liked the lights and the candles on the tables and the energetic waiters. The owner is very professional too. And there’s a super guy working behind the bar 🙂

Out of many salads, sea food and meat Plouf specializes in, I chose my favorite quinoa with artichokes, also fish with a salad and very yummy dessert.

 

dessert in Plouf SF fresh bread, salad and fish in Plouf SF quinoa with artichokes in Plouf SF

Trattoria Pinocchio

For sure my favorite Italian restaurant in San Francisco. I was there twice as well, once for lunch and once for dinner with my friend Annette from Bucket List Journey. We also met with the owners Maria and Giovanni, they are both so cute! It reminded me of my days living in Brindisi, Italy –  the atmosphere, the best meals ever, and just everything Italian. Hard to say no to it.

We had A LOT of food here! Starters, pasta, desserts … all delicious and home-made. Giovanni brought really great recipes from his homeland back in Europe. And when it comes to desserts, you can choose from home-made cannoli, tartufo, chocolate mousse, tiramisu, vanilla creme brule or poached pear al cioccolato.

 

pasta plate in Trattoria Pinocchio with Annette and the owners of Trattoria Pinocchio yummy starter in Trattoria Pinocchio SF

 

Westfield San Francisco Centre

 I ate in the Food Emporium (vegan food and Buckhorn were my favorite ones offering huge tasty salads), Cupola Italian restaurant (one of the Restaurant Collection Under the Dome) and drank as many healthy Jamba Juice as possible there. Buckhorn restaurant for huge portions of healthy salads in Westfield shopping mall. There is so much to choose from in Westfield, all the different cuisines from around the world and surprisingly, the Food Emporium is not expensive at all.

 

huge salad from Buckhorn in Food Emporium Westfield San Francisco more meals in Cupola restaurant Westfield SF my salad in Cupola restaurant in Westfield SF

 

John’s Grill

This was the first restaurant I had dinner at in San Francisco, it’s also one of the oldest and most famous ones in the city. The walls inside are covered with photos of the city patrons, and furnishings from Old San Francisco. Many celebrities come to dine here. And of course me and my friend TJ from Mighty Travels had a yum dinner here too.

As the name suggests, John’s Grill offers mostly steaks and seafood but as I am not a fan of those, I picked fresh fish with veggies and potatoes. It was so tasty! And the heaven on Earth, the chocolate dessert with berries was just about to come!

 

John's Gril fish John's Grill interior yummy fish at John's Grill SF

the best dessert at John's Grill ever

Lovejoy’s Tea Room

There is no bigger tea fanatic in this world than me, trust me. So when I found out about Lovejoy’s Tea Room place, I was happier than a kid getting the favorite toy. I spent a few hours there with a friend of mine Monica I met at the hostel.

It already started as a lovely time when I saw our table – it said Reserved for the Queen. Yay! At least for a second I felt important 😀 But it was the name of the menu we ordered. We could choose tea, sandwiches, and a lot of sweet treats to go along with. Everything was finger-licking, trust me. Thank God for some fresh fruit and organic veggies too!

Tea Room is such a magical place with beautiful tea pots all around, lots of images and colorful tableclothes.

 

Lovejoy's Tea Room SF Queen's Tea at Lovejoy's Tea Room

 

Godmother

The most famous restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf – if you have your City Sightseeing bus ticket, you will get a free dessert with the best fish and chips in town for less than $10. I haven’t visited it myself as I do not eat fish and chips but heard a lot of prayers about it.

 

Looking for some chocolate in San Francisco? Try TCHO chocolate tour where you can sample different kinds of chocolate, all yummy, I guarantee!

Or how about Food Tour in SF to find other great places to eat?

Also check out my list of 47 things to do in San Francisco.

California history

Origins of the name of California and the Native Americans

The name of California dates back to when in 1530’s the Spanish conquered the Aztecs expending their territories. Hernan Cortez heard stories about beautiful Amazon women living in the jungle without men. The book mentioning them speaks also about the island where they lived – called California. When Cortez arrived to the peninsula he thought the Native Americans women looked like those Amazon warriors so they named the place California only to find out later it was not an island.

From 1500 to 1700’s California belonged to the Spaniards but the Native Americans were not affected by it until the colonization started in late 1700’s. At that time 300,000 Native Americans lived along the Cali coast with the largest amount of cultural habits in here – variety of more than 100 native languages, the tribes all looked different, lived far away from each other etc.

The reason of the big cultural variety of the Native American tribes in California goes back in time until 17,000 to 12,000 years ago when many hunters from Siberia arrived to Cali walking through the ice bridge over the Bering Straight to Alaska. Multiple migrations happened throughout those years.

There was no violence in the Native American tribes life until the Spaniards arrived. Very few Indian rebellions were lead against the colonization. One of them against the Mexican in 1840’s was led by a native mission-educated Estanislao – Stanislaus. A country in Central Valley was named after him and we passed it on our way to Yosemite Valley.

Struggling over the California territory was part of the history for the next years. Several presidios were built in Cali those days to protect it from the Russians who came from the North. From San Diego, through Monterrey up to San Francisco 16 missions were founded with San Francisco being the Northernmost point of the Spanish New World.

The converting the Native inhabitants into Catholicism and bringing them education was followed by a number of diseases. Then another mission was built in Sonoma making it already 21st in Cali.

Then in 1821 Mexico became independent, and Southern USA too.

 

When Marc was filling up our heads with history details, we saw Don Pedro reservoir on our right.

”Hundreds of reservoirs were created around California to catch water from melting snow from the mountains” explained us Marc.

American citizens couldn’t own land when California was part of Mexico until they converted to Catholicism and became Mexican citizens. It is what led to the Mexican Revolution which ended up with raising the Bear Flag for California as an independent state in Sonoma. Unfortunately for Cali, it lasted only 23 days until it became part of the USA.

 

in California

 

Gold Rush

First gold was discovered in Setter’s Mill by Swiss Johan Setter who soon became an American citizen. It all happened East of Sacramento and Setter knew the gold rush was about to come so he kept it secret for months.

One individual could change history of just one area like he did. It is possible, indeed.

When others discovered it, it all went public just 9 days before the Guadalupe Hidalgo treatment and then the US took control over California (otherwise it would be part of Mexico.)

1849 was the year of the first migration of around 50,000 people. Until 1855 San Francisco grew from 400 inhabitants every year by another 25,000 to 60,000. The first Europeans started coming over on around 700 ships and renamed Yerba Buena to San Francisco.

During Gold Rush, small towns such as Groveland we passed through on the way to Yosemite National Park grew a lot. The town is also famous for the oldest and the one continuously serving since 1852. Groveland now has around 15,000 inhabitants only.

The Gold Rush in the West brought huge amount of wealth, then the Silver Rush happened in the East. At both periods, the banks did really well. The Bank of Italy was built here by an Italian, then became the Bank of California and now the Bank of America. Also Wells Cargo started at that time too.

In 1880’s the Gold Rush was over and many people left to the coast. Gold towns became a sort of empty ghost towns similar to Mineral de Pozos – a little ghost town I visited in Mexico.

 

Farming in California

On the minibus from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park, our guide Marc from Extranomical Tours gave us the best insight into California history which I had no idea about.

 

Everyone thinks that California is just beaches, expensive cities, sexy surfers, hot dry weather and Hollywood stars. But in reality, it is much more than that. I would never imagine cows, horses and fields with vegetables together with fruit trees in here.

”Agriculture and farming is bigger than any other industry in California” started Marc pointing out at the fields ”it makes more money than Hollywood!”

We crossed part of 400 km long Central Valley where peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, oranges and nuts grow. Three quarters of world’s almonds come from California. Also more dairy products are produced in the state than in Wisconsin, the milk state.

”Believe it or not, even rice comes from here and is exported to Asia!”

There is a reason why the Cali soil make it so fertile. California used to be below the sea level until 20 million years ago when two plates met there and exposed Cali up the sea. The soil here is now up to 30 m deep. Yes, that’s a lot of soil!

Together with the sort of a Mediterranean climate like somewhere in the Southern Europe it does make a great place for farming.

 

sheep in California

 

California has been a farmers’ home for centuries. But it was put on the map for another reason which made it famous even before its food products. It was only in 1849 when after the gold was discovered here, people started to emigrate to the area. When the Gold Rush was over in the 1880’s is when the farming started.

In 1930’s during the Great Depression aqueducts were built and brought water supplies to the area. It meant more harvest, productive farms and migrations from Oklahoma, Japan or even Turkey and Romania. Large cities began to be built.

 

Top New York City Hot Spots

New York City in the US has always held a great attraction to me. It is without doubt one of the most popular as well as expensive vacation city in the world. As a first time visitor to the city, I found New York to be a completely mind boggling and memorable experience. There are numerous amazing places to visit and things to do here, which will keep you justifiably occupied as well as entertained. Whether for a one day visit or extended vacation, I felt New York City to be a complete package.

 

 

A walk around the Central Park

I chose the popular Central Park as my first place to visit. This wide expanse of greenery is a visual treat. I rented a bicycle and went around the park and took in the vibrant colors in the form of plants and also people. This place has it all – water bodies, rolling fields and also beautiful walking trials. Cycling through, I saw the Bow Bridge and the Alice in Wonderland Sculpture. The view of the lake over which the Bow Bridge stands was breathtaking.

 

DSC_0322

 

The iconic Times Square

I continued my tour with the Times Square – something which New York City is synonymous with to us outsiders. I walked around took in the sights of the massive billboards all around the square. This is also the place for the famous Broadway. I watched various peddlers selling jewelry as well as art pieces on the pavements. I found the Times Square to be very pedestrian friendly and the array of shops here were extremely tempting. I even ended up buying some beautiful tokens to take back home!

 

 

A run through the Yankee Stadium

As an all time baseball fan, the Yankee Stadium was a must visit for me. I opted for the guided tour, which took me through the clubhouse, the Monument Park and also a stroll around the New York Yankees Museum. I was fascinated with all the history of this game that I could learn here. The company of fellow baseball lovers was a welcome addition. I made a mental note to attend one of the sporting events in the city on my next visit. The energy and enthusiasm here was truly infectious.

 

The beautiful Brooklyn Bridge

I had seen this iconic bridge countless times in various movies and television series. But seeing it with my naked eyes was even better. The world’s longest suspension bridge, I got a taste of commuting with the fellow New Yorkers via this bridge. This bridge connects Manhattan to Brooklyn and it is indeed a view to behold. And while at Brooklyn, I also treated myself to the scrumptious pizza at the Grimaldi’s. This pizza joint is located right under the Brooklyn Bridge and serves coal fired pizza, which left me wanting for more.

 

A view of the beautiful skyline of the city

Anyone visiting the New York City will have the Empire State Building on their list. So did I. I wanted to experience the view of the New York City skyline that I had heard so much about. And I also wanted to see the city in its glorious lighted self. Hence, in the evening, I rode up the Empire State Building in the elevator and walked out on the observation deck. I feasted my eyes to the beautiful, 360 degree view of the city skyline. The view of the waterways, skyscrapers, bridges, islands was picturesque. The brightly lit city seemed to shimmer beneath the gradually darkening horizon.

 

A taste of the NYC nightlife

My visit to the New York City would have been incomplete without experiencing the amazing nightlife this city is famous for. Hence, I strolled out after dark and went to the Lower East Side where all the popular bars are located. I decided to try a comedy club and amidst refreshing drinks, had a gala time laughing and cheering the talent there. I met a number of interesting people and socialized well over great food and lively music. The NYC nightlife is definitely not overrated. At the end of the night, I went back to my hotel, with the satisfaction of having spent a wonderful day at this sparkling, lively and classy city.

Check out also the best off-beat places in New York City and surprising facts about NYC.

 

 

About the author – Bob:

I’m a traveling fool who loves to learn about people and places. Learn more at http://www.thetravelingtripster.com. I also love to save money while I travel. Find cheap car rental, airline tickets, and hotels at CheapTravelHunter. Thrifty traveling allows you to see more of the world and really appreciate the people and culture.

 

Interview with my dear Lola DiMarco of Lola’s Travels

Alex and Lola at Cape Cod enjoying the pool

Meeting up with this crazy and funny girl Lola was a destiny I believe! I went to visit Boston when I was in the US and just broke up with my boyfriend so spending time with Lola there was my Independence Day from my ex boyfriend.  We got along so well that then we spent some time in Cape Cod too. Until the end of this year we will reunite again, first in Spain in September and later in some more places. 🙂 I just love this girl!

Alex and Lola at Cape Cod enjoying the pool

Alex and Lola at Cape Cod enjoying the pool

 

Find out more about my lovely friend Lola via her answers:

1. Who are you? Tell us something about you.

I’m Lauren DiMarco but my travel persona is Lola.  The name of my travel blog is Lola’s Travels – where in the world is lola? I’m a gal from the United States – Texas to be specific, but I’m a wanderer at heart and love traveling the world. With my blog, Lola’s Travels, I relay “fun tips for quick trips” in a playful yet informative way. My stories are about what I see, do and learn to encourage people to travel even if only for a short trip and what to do to get the most out of your time away.

 

2. What is your favorite place, city and country and why? (All three of them)

My favorite place I’ve found so far is St. Barts, a beautiful French island in the Caribbean. I love St. Barts because I’m an island girl, love the sun and especially love the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean sea.

My favorite city would have to be Paris. I love its architecture, food, fashion – everything about Paris is like eye candy for me. It’s been a while since I’ve visited but I’ll be returning in late November and I hope Paris doesn’t disappoint.
AND my favorite country I’ve visited would have to be France. Can you notice a theme?? French island, Paris & France! I just adore all things french and the french lifestyle. It suits me…I AM Lola after all!!

 

cute sassy Lola with boa as usual

 

3. If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would it be and why?

I should probably say a far-flung destination that I’ve never been to but, if I’m being honest, it would be St. Barts. It is my happy place. If I had to pick where I would spend the rest of my life at this very moment, it would be here.

 

4. What do you love the most about your home country?

I love that I have the freedom to BE and DO anything!

 

5. How travel changes you?

Traveling makes me realize more clearly how similar we all are in our basic needs in the world. It blurs borders & religions for me. It has made me feel more like a citizen of humankind. I love seeing and doing new things but my passion is with people. We all have something special to offer and my wish would be to meet as many lovely people around the world as possible.

Thank you so much my dear friend for this interview! Cannot wait to see you again soon in Spain 🙂 Miss you lots!
Love,
Alex