Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Author: Ashleigh (Page 1 of 73)

Wordless Wednesday: Chihuly & Space Needle

Chihuly in front of the Space Needle

One Day in Seattle

Chihuly in front of the Space NeedleWith our crazy plan to get to Alaska, we had one day to explore the highlights of Seattle. It was a dreary day, raining on and off. I feel like we got an authentic Seattle experience.

Chris stayed at a Citizen M hotel in Los Angeles a few weeks before and he really wanted me to experience it, so we changed our reservation in Seattle to the Citizen M in South Lake Union. The hotel really caters to business travelers with small rooms and workstations scattered around the lobby. I think it would be a great hotel for a solo traveler, but there were a lot of things about it that made it challenging for two. But, the good news is it is within walking distance of both the Space Needle and Pike Place Market.

Port from the Space Needle View from the Space Needle

We headed first to the Space Needle. The most well-known of Seattle’s attractions, the Space Needle is synonymous with the Pacific Northwest. Built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the Space Needle is 605 feet tall and was built to withstand a category 5 hurricane and a 9.1 magnitude earthquake. At the top, there is an observation deck and “the loupe”, the world’s first rotating glass floor. It was a great way to get a view of the city, but because of the cloudy weather, we weren’t able to see as far as possible on a clear day.

Boat of Glass

What I was most excited to see in Seattle was the Chihuly Gardens and Glass. I have loved Dale Chihuly’s work since I first saw it in 2012 at Meijer Gardens but this museum highlighted it best. The galleries were made for these unique glass structures and the lighting really made the artwork pop! In the gardens, it was cool to see the glass blended with the flowers in a way that glass additions to an already established garden just can’t do. Combination tickets are available for the Space Needle and Chihuly Gardens and are a great way to see both Seattle Attractions.

Pike Place Market Interior

From the gardens we walked a mile to Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market is the oldest continuously operating farmer’s market in the United States and is famous for the fishmongers throwing fish. Today the Market is home to over 200 stalls selling everything from flowers and fish to local art and souvenir t-shirts. We had planned to eat at the market, but got hungry along the way so there wasn’t anything we needed during our visit. We did stop at Three Girls Bakery for amazing peanut butter cookies and Rachel’s for a ginger beer.

Glass Ceiling Chihuly’s Persian Ceiling

After our day exploring the city, we headed to the Greyhound Station for our bus to Vancouver. The bus station is not in the nicest part of town, but I never felt unsafe while waiting. The drive was almost five hours with traffic and the bus seats were more uncomfortable than I expected, but customs in Canada was a breeze. I heard horror stories from people on our cruise about the lines for customs at the Vancouver airport taking two hours. We were in and out of there in less than 30 minutes for the whole bus. You do have to take everything you brought with you off the bus, including under bus luggage, so it’s a little more of a hassle than in the airport, but it was not bad at all. Overall, the next time I have to go to Vancouver, I will book a direct flight, but if for some reason I had to get somewhere and Greyhound is the only option, I would do it again for a short (less than 5 hour) ride.

Chihuly Glass Chihuly Glass Garden

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Planes, Buses, and Boats: Exploring the Pacific Northwest

Juneau from the Air

Cruise ships in Juneau, Alaska

We are back from another amazing trip! This time, we headed to the Pacific Northwest to cruise to Alaska on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas! We went to a lot of places that have been on my list for a long time and I really feel like I just got my toes wet in this beautiful area!

This may not come as a surprise to longtime readers, but we will go to some great depths for a cheap flight. For this trip, we booked nonrefundable flights to Seattle with a cruise leaving out of Vancouver with the thought that we would take Amtrak across the border, but when we went to book the train we learned that it hasn’t been operating since COVID. There was hope that they would get it running this summer, but now it’s been pushed back to the winter. So, after doing hours of research we decided to take the bus across the border. Because of schedules we ended up book Greyhound from Seattle to Vancouver and then QuickShuttle from Vancouver to Bellingham, Washington where we rented a car for the rest of the trip. I will give our thoughts on these options as it comes up in the trip report.

Here’s a little rundown of what is to come on this trip report:

  • Day 1: Seattle
    • Space Needle & Chihuly Gardens
    • Pike Place Market
    • Greyhound to Vancouver
  • Day 2: Vancouver
    • Capilano Suspension Bridge
    • Downtown Vancouver & Vancouver Lookout
    • Stanley Park
  • Day 3: Embark Serenade of the Seas
  • Day 5: Sitka, Alaska
    • Fortress of the Bear
    • Alaska Raptor Center
    • Sitka National Historic Park
  • Day 6: Juneau, Alaska
    • Mendenhall Glacier
    • Whale Watching
    • Mt. Roberts Tramway
  • Day 7: Skagway & Haines, Alaska
    • Dogsledding & Musher’s Camp Excursion
    • Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park
  • Day 8: Cruise Tracy Arm Fjord
  • Day 10: Disembark Ship, Quickshuttle to Bellingham, Rent Car to Port Angeles, Washington
  • Day 11: Olympic National Park
    • Crescent Lake
    • Rialto Beach
  • Day 12: Hurricane Ridge
  • Day 13: Sequim, Washington
    • Dungeness Bay National Wildlife Refuge
    • B&B Family Lavender Farm
    • John Wayne Marina
  • Day 14: Hoh Rainforest
  • Day 15: Mt. Rainier National Park

As you can tell from this overview, this was a busy trip and I’m so excited to share it with you! Be sure to check in next week as I detail our day in Seattle!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

18 Things You Need For Your Next Trip

Plane WingSome of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra. Prices listed are at time of reporting and are subject to change.

I don’t know about you, but I am always on the lookout for gear that will make traveling easier and more comfortable. Here are some of my favorites that I have found so far:

Luggage Photo

Hard-sided luggage: Hard-sided luggage is sturdier than the more traditional soft-sided and it is lighter so you can fill it up with more stuff before reaching the airlines’ weight limit. I have a complete set of the Amazon Basics brand and I have no complaints about them! The 26 inch (checked size) is $96.32 and 21 inch (carry- on size) is $76.04 on Amazon and is available in four colors.

Carryon Backpack: Sometimes to save money we will fly a budget airline that charges extra to check or carry on a hard-sided suitcase. In those cases, I can squeeze everything I need for a short trip into a personal item. But, since you’re carrying everything you need for the trip, that bag can get heavy so you will want something that is comfortable to carry around the airport. This large backpack is easy to pack, fits within the budget airlines’ personal item dimensions, and is $32.98 for a black backpack. Price varies for the other 5 colors.

Headphones: Most people love earbuds, but I can’t stand them. They hurt my ears. I’ve used over-the-ear headphones for years, but the big ones take up a lot of space in your bag. I love these headband-style headphones. They are so much more comfortable and don’t squish your head as much! And they double as a sleep mask. Bluetooth headband headphones is $17.95 on Amazon and is available in four different colors/patterns.

Cords

Cable organizer: Have you ever gotten to your Airbnb late at night and you just want to plug in your phone and put your head on the pillow but you can’t find your charger in the bottom of your bag? I love this cable organizer because everything is in one place. It does take a while to learn how to fold your long cables to fit in the small pockets, though. The small travel cable organizer is $11.99 on Amazon and is available in seven colors and three sizes.

Portable battery charger: Don’t let your electronics run out of battery when you are on the go! These little chargers had two recharges before needing to be plugged in themselves. And they fit right into the cord organizer I recommend above. 2 pack of USB Battery charges are $13.99 on Amazon and are available in two different colors.

Water bottle: Don’t get stuck paying airport prices for a bottle of water. Most airports have water bottle filling stations now so it’s easy to fill up after security. I like this one because you can clip it on the outside of your carryon and it doesn’t have a straw so it’s easy to clean while you’re out and about. This 26 oz bottle is $21.99 on Amazon.

Packing cubes: I am late to the packing cubes game but they really make packing easier. Sometimes when we travel we share a suitcase and these make it so much easier to determine whose clothes are whose and they seem to make the clothes fit better in the suitcase. If you haven’t jumped on the packing cubes train yet, I highly recommend it. Veken 6-piece packing cube set is $19.99 on Amazon.

Shoe bags: I used to always pack my shoes in plastic bags to keep the dirt from getting on my clothes. Then, I found these reusable drawstring bags for just that purpose! 6 pack travel shoe bag is $5.99 on Amazon.

Hanging Toiletry Bag: Hotel bathrooms never have enough counter space. Keep your things off the counter by using a hanging toiletry bag. I used to always have my makeup and my shower toiletries in separate bags, but now I just use this one bag with nine zipper pockets, and it’s all in one place! WANDF Hanging Toiletry Bag is $15.99 on Amazon. For shorter trips, this PAVILA Hanging Toiletry Bag holds travel-sized toiletries for $19.99 and is available in 6 different patterns.

Charger

USB Charging hub: A lot of hotel rooms don’t have enough plugs for all of our devices and most cruise lines no longer allow power strips. A USB hub allows you to charge all of your USB-powered devices at one outlet and you only have to carry one charger block in your cord organizer! 4 port USB adapter is $9.99 on Amazon.

Roku Stick: This is not something we take with us on all trips, but if we are going to be staying in hotels for a while, I don’t like to be stuck watching scheduled television. I cut the cord a long time ago and must prefer watching what I want when I want to watch it. Why does it seem like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives is always on when you’re in a hotel? Roku Stick+ is 37.99 on Amazon.

Passport

Passport/Vaccine Card holders: On our last cruise, I literally kept our passports and vaccine cards in a Ziploc bag to keep from losing them. I got home and ordered these holders and they look so much nicer. They’re big enough that your documents won’t get lost in your bag. 2 Pack Vaccine Card Passport Holder is $10.99 on Amazon and is available in 15 different color combinations.

Neck pillow: If you’ve ever tried to sleep on a plane, you know that it is hard to get comfortable! This memory foam neck pillow bends to keep your head and neck straight or you can bend it to cushion your head against the window. Twist Memory Foam Neck Pillow is available on Amazon for $24.99 and in available in 5 different colors.

Airplane

Airplane footrest: Flying coach can get cramped and uncomfortable. This airplane footrest allows you to put your feet up and relax on those long flights and takes some pressure off your feet. It folds up small enough that it doesn’t take up too much space in your carry-on. Everlasting Comfort Airplane Footrest is $19.95 on Amazon.

Portable luggage scale: Have you ever packed your bag and headed to the airport, only to learn that your suitcase is three pounds over the weight limit and then have to scramble to move things into your carry-on? This small scale fits easily into your suitcase and allows you to weigh your bag before you get to the airport! Amazon Basics Portable Luggage scale is $10.34 on Amazon.

Scarf with hidden pocket: It’s frustrating when you get dressed and realize you don’t have any pockets! Add this scarf that will carry your phone and ID for you without being bulky! Pop Fashion Infinity Scarf is $10.00 on Amazon and is available in 6 colors to go with every outfit.

First Aid Kit

Travel first aid kit: Accidents happen everywhere, including on vacation. It’s good to always have a basic first aid kit with you on every trip. This 100-piece travel first aid is $14.95 on Amazon.

Travel pill organizer: I don’t have any prescriptions that I have to take every day, but I do travel with pain killers and allergy meds just in case we need them. I used to always keep them in Ziplock bags that took up way more space than they needed. Then, I found this handy pill organizer that lets me fit several weeks of the just-in-case meds that we may need when we are out and about. 2 piece Travel Pill Organizer is $6.48 on Amazon.

Thanks for stopping by! Do you have any must-have travel accessories that I forgot? Let me know in the comments! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Travel Pin Travel Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: St. Maarten from St. Kitts

View of St. Maarten from Brimstone Hill

Explorer of the Seas Review

Explorer of the Seas from St. Lucia

Explorer of the Seas from St. Lucia

This Southern Caribbean cruise on Explorer of the Seas was a trip full of firsts for me. This was my first time sailing the Southern Caribbean, my time sailing Royal Caribbean, my first time sailing with a balcony, my first time sailing with friends, and my first cruise with a port every day. A lot of new experiences, to be sure!

My first impression of the ship is that while it is one of the older ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet and it was due for an upgrade in 2020 that got put on the back burner, it is a beautiful ship. The decorations were more elegant than the two Norwegian ships I’ve been on, but not as over the top as Carnival. Everything was clean and they were committed to keeping the guests healthy.

With a port every day on this cruise, we barely had time to enjoy our balcony. This wasn’t that big of a deal to us because when we booked this cruise, an ocean view was actually more expensive than a balcony. I was really excited to finally cruise with a balcony but I was disappointed by how little we actually used it. Our next cruise has several sea days so I’m hoping to get more use out of the balcony. If you are looking at a cruise with a port every day, save your money and get an ocean view. There’s not that much time to actually utilize your balcony.

The activities and entertainment onboard are where Royal shines. Even though we had a port every day, there was still a lot to do on the ship. Where Norwegian would have trivia once a day, there were 3 or 4 trivia games every day. We played pickleball and mini-golf. We went ice skating. We even tried the Flow Rider. Tip for ladies, if you are wanting to try the Flow Rider (the onboard surfing/boogie boarding simulator) bring a one-piece swimsuit. The first time, I did well until I felt like was going to lose my bottoms and then I was just trying to figure out how to get off it. We probably wouldn’t have done so much if we weren’t traveling with friends who were first-time cruisers and wanted to try everything, but I was really glad we did.

The Explorer didn’t have any big Broadway-style shows during our trip, but all of the shows we saw were top-notch. The ice show was spectacular and how many people can say they saw an ice show or went ice skating on a cruise ship? The singers and dancers were great. They had a group of Argentinian Bolo Dancers on the ship called Impact! and it wasn’t something I had ever seen before.

The cruise director on the ship, Elvis, was one of the best cruise directors I have ever had. He was fun and engaging and was funnier than the comedian they had on board. If you’re ever lucky to sail on a Royal ship with Elvis, you are in for a treat!

Explorer of the Seas in San Juan

The only area where I can complain about the Explorer of the Seas is the dining. We had My Time Dining and I assumed it would work like Norwegian’s Freestyle Dining and I was very wrong about that. While you don’t have to make reservations for My Time Dining, it is recommended. Since this was my first Royal cruise, I didn’t realize you could reserve this before getting on the ship so we were left with late dining times every night because that was all that was available. I want to say it was on the second night of the cruise, even with a reservation we waited an hour in line for a table. After that, we learned to just get there earlier, but no one wants to spend their vacation waiting in line.

My other complaint is that they increased the capacity of the ship (our sailing was close to 100% full) but they were not staffed for that! Dining was the area where this was the most obvious. By the end of our cruise, the buffet was back to being self-serve so hopefully, that will allow additional staff to be serving in the dining room. But, the servers all seemed like they were stretched too thin. In the section we were seated the first two nights, our server came up and asked our table and the table next to us if anyone wanted drinks. Since someone at the other table said no, none of us got drinks. We ended up flagging down the assistant waiter and getting a drink, but we shouldn’t have had to do that. After the second time of this bad service, we asked the host if we could sit in a different section and the service was much better.

We ordered the complimentary continental breakfast room service for the first day before we headed to St. Thomas. We ordered it with an hour buffer and it did not arrive before we had to meet our group on the pier. So, we snorkeled on an empty stomach. Luckily our tour included snacks so we survived until lunch back on the ship but it was very disappointing. The following day we received chocolate-covered strawberries as an apology and that was nice, but it didn’t make up for the fact that we had to go to shore on an empty stomach. We just had breakfast at the buffet for the rest of the cruise.

Our ridiculous table of sushi at Izumi

Our ridiculous table of sushi at Izumi

We did try two of the specialty restaurants: Chops Grill and Izumi. Chops is Royal’s steakhouse. The steaks were great and the atmosphere was relaxed, but it was expensive. I would rather just pay the upcharge for the Chop’s Filet in the dining room and call it a day. Izumi on the other hand was fantastic! One of the friends we traveled with, Joe, was adamant that he doesn’t like sushi and after this experience, he told his wife that he wants to be included when she has sushi with her friends. We learned that you don’t have to book Izumi in advance and pay the $35 fee for this meal. Everything they serve is priced a la carte and we had a hard time reaching $35 per person. Look at all that sushi on that table (right)! Our server was so impressed he insisted on taking a picture!

All-in-all, I really enjoyed our first Royal Caribbean cruise and I think our friends enjoyed their first-ever cruise! We have another one coming up soon and I did consider changing to a set dining time, but then I heard that they are back to sitting you with strangers. I think I would rather wait in line to eat than sit with strangers, but you can make that decision for yourself.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Old San Juan

San Juan National Historic Site

One Day in Old San Juan

Castillo San Cristobal

After a whirlwind seven days on the Explorer of the Seas, we disembarked in San Juan. When planning this trip, I had a hard time figuring out where we wanted to stay on this day, especially once American moved our flight the next day from 1 pm to 5 am. Since Old San Juan is only a 20-minute drive from the airport, we decided to stay at the El Colonial, a boutique, adults-only hotel located in the heart of Old San Juan.

We disembarked the ship early and got a taxi to drop our bags off at the hotel, but the taxi driver couldn’t find it, even though he had Google Maps pulled up on his phone. I am not making it up when I tell you that he literally got out of the van and asked someone for directions. Eventually, we made it to the hotel where they offered us a cocktail (before 8 am, I might add) and held our bags so we could explore the city.

Lighthouse on Castillo San Felipe Del Morro

We first headed to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, part of the San Juan National Historic Site. With the construction of the Castillo having begun in 1589, it is the oldest building in the United States. I’ll never forget, back when I was recapping our St. Augustine trip on this blog, someone commented that they were glad I noted that the Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest building in the continental U.S. because Castillo San Felipe is older.

While under Spanish control, the fort was attacked by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, and the Americans. The fort and the territory of Puerto Rico were transferred to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American war. In 1915, a shot from the Castillo is thought to be the first American shot fired in World War I. During World War II, the military added a Harbor Defense Fire Control Station to the Castillo to keep watch for German submarines in the Caribbean. At 180 feet above sea level, the lighthouse (above) is the tallest point of the Castillo.

From the Castillo, we explored the city a bit. The colorful buildings are very inviting and make the city fun to explore! We enjoyed delicious, homemade popsicles, before setting on a traditional Puerto Rican restaurant for lunch. This was the first time in my life that I had to tell a server I was allergic to bananas and ask what they had that did not contain bananas. If you do not like bananas, you should probably avoid Puerto Rican food. The food was good, but bananas and plantains are a staple of island cuisine and not being able to eat them really diminished my experience. Everyone else loved their mofongo, though!

Castillo San Cristobal

After lunch, we headed to the other section of the historic site, Castillo San Cristóbal (above). Completed in 1783, Castillo San Cristóbal took up 27 acres and featured the gates to the walled city of San Juan. The fortress was built to protect Castillo San Felippe del Moro from a land attack. The walls of the Castillo remained until 1897 until some of them were destroyed to allow the harbor to expand. In 1898 Puerto Rico joined the Spanish-American war when a cannon from the Castillo fired on the USS Yale. During World War II, the Spanish colonial water cisterns were used as fallout shelters. In 1949, together, both Castillos became the San Juan National Historic Site. In 1983, the Castillos and the walled city were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Iguanas on the Castillo Wall

Iguanas on the Castillo Wall

With a 5 am flight, we didn’t stay out too late, although people were still at the hotel bar having a good time when our taxi arrived at 3 to take us to the airport. One day was not enough time for this beautiful city! You can bet that I have Detroit to San Juan flight alerts set up on my phone! You know the song, I left my Heart in San Fransisco? I left mine in San Juan.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Timothy Hill View

View from Timothy hill

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