Go See Do Photography

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

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 15)

Visiting Grand Canyon National Park

Our day at the Grand Canyon started early. I think we got to the Visitor’s Center around 8 o’clock, about an hour before they open. Because of that, we were one of the first cars in the parking lot and we were able to get some photos of the canyon while the lighting was still good.

If you’re not staying at one of the hotels in the park, there is not a lot of nearby lodging. We ended up at the Best Western Premier Hotel in Tusyan, which is right outside the boundaries of the park. Its one of two hotels you drive by to get to the South Rim. The hotel was rated highly online and the price was right so we booked it. Overall, I was very impressed with the hotel. The room was large and the bathroom was HUGE. It was a great surprise. Especially in an area where you will get people to stay at your hotel no matter what it looks like, I was impressed. If you are visiting the Grand Canyon, I highly recommend you check out the Best Western. The only way to get closer to the canyon is to stay in the park, which is pretty pricey and the rooms book up fast, even in the winter.

Besides a few hotels, there’s not much in Tusyan beside the National Park. There are a few fast food restaurants and there are some more formal restaurants located in the lodges in Grand Canyon Village, but nothing was very highly rated so we decided to skip it and just eat on the road. There is a grocery store in Grand Canyon Village where you can get the staples. It would be very handy if you were camping in the park or staying in one of the lodges that has a kitchen. You don’t have to worry about stocking up outside the park, although the prices in the park are more expensive than at a grocery store in Flagstaff.

Thanks for stopping by! For more information about the Best Western Premier, check out TripAdvisor. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Wordless Wednesday: Duck on a Rock

Grand Canyon National Park: Desert View

View from the Watchtower at Desert View

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the desert, I think of snow. No? You don’t? Well, my first experience in the desert was 2 days of rain then driving north to discover several feet of snow. I was excited to experience dry heat on this trip and it felt exactly the same as the air feels in Michigan. For an area called Desert View, this, while still beautiful, was not the landscape I was expecting, even in February.

The Desert View Watchtower (below) is the man made landmark of this part of the park. Built in 1932 by architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, it is meant to replicate towers in other southwestern cities. The tower was built to blend in with its surroundings. Colter herself described it as “One that would create no discordant note against the time-eroded walls of this promontory…The color and texture of this weathered surface rock naturally matched our terrain as none other could, but we were at the necessity of using it in just the shape it was found, as any tool mark became a conspicuous scar on the face of our walls. So we were obliged to select carefully for size and shape every unit of stone built into our masonry.” (NPS)

Climbing the watchtower affords great views of the canyon and the surrounding landscape. The interior of the tower on the first floor is decorated with paintings by a Hopi artist. Paintings on higher floors are replicas of those found in other southwestern sites. The paintings help get you in the mind set up the people who lived in the places many years ago. I imagine if you visit in the summer months, the watchtower gets very crowded, but it was relatively empty on this cold, snowy February day.

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Wordless Wednesday: Snow in the Canyon

Kolb Studio

Kolb Studio at the trailhead of the Bright Angel Trail

The Historic Kolb Studio was built in 1905 and was originally a family home and photography studio of Ellsworth and Emery Kolb. The brothers were thrill seekers and were known to do crazy things to photograph of the Grand Canyon. They made their money photographing tourists riding mules down the canyon. They would develop the photos and the tourists would pick them up when they got back to the top of the canyon.

When the brothers first arrived at the Grand Canyon, they set up their first studio in a tent. Being that this is a desert and the closest water is 6,000 feet below, they had to get creative to find water to develop their photographs, like a muddy cow pond near the studio. Of course a dark room is essential to film photography and tent does not get dark enough to successfully develop film. So, they took over an abandoned mine shaft for that task.

The location of Kolb Studio was no coincidence. It is perched precariously at the top of the canyon, right at the trailhead of the Bright Angel Trail (the trail that goes to the bottom of the Grand Canyon). The brothers charged tourists $1 per mule that went down the trail, which was pretty expensive in those days, but was preferable to walking. The Kolb family operated the studio for over 75 years, until Emery’s death when the building was acquired by the National Park Service (grcahistory.org).

Now, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It currently serves as a gift shop and a museum to the Kolb brothers and Grand Canyon art. If you are looking to take home a qualitity photo of the canyon, stop by the Kolb Studio. They had the best photos we saw in any of the park stores.

Thanks for stopping by! Check back next week to hear more about our trip to the Grand Canyon! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

100 Years of the Grand Canyon

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of Grand Canyon National Park. Afraid that the Grand Canyon would turn into a tourist trap like Niagra Falls, Theodore Roosevelt declared it a National Monument in 1908, which protected the unusual landscape from development. It took 11 years for congress to get on board and designate The Grand Canyon as the 15th American National Park.

I recently got the chance to visit the Grand Canyon after a flush of strange Arizona weather. Where I was, in Phoenix saw two full days of cold rain. After north in the state saw copious amounts of snow. Roads were shut down. People were stuck at home. There was a message on the National Park Service page advising people to cancel their plans and come back another time. We were very close to doing just that, and if it wasn’t for the clerk at the rental car counter telling us that the roads should be fine, we probably would have. Luckily, by Saturday afternoon, the roads were clear so we headed north. The winter is the slowest time of the year at the Grand Canyon. After our experience this summer at Acadia, I was grateful for that. Because of the crazy weather and the travel advisories, I think traffic was even lighter than usual for a weekend in February. We left our hotel early Sunday morning and we were maybe the third car in the visitor center parking lot. It was cold, but definitely worth it.

The Grand Canyon is indescribable. You really have to see it for yourself to appreciate it. There’s a quote about the Grand Canyon that I love: “I have heard rumors of visitors who were disappointed. The same people will be disappointed at the Day of Judgment.” -J.B Priestly First view of the Grand Canyon Theodore Roosevelt described it best: “In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Cruise Planning Tips

Ship at Sunset

Sunset on Norwegian Gem

It is quite possible that I enjoy planning a trip as much as the trip itself. Planning and research makes the anticipation of a trip so exciting! Alright, you used my tips from last week to book your cruise. Now, what?

Gem in Nassau 19/100

Norwegian Gem in Nassau, Bahamas

1. Buy trip insurance. Trip insurance is something I never really thought about before, but for a cruise it is incredibly important. If you get sick and have to be evacuated off of the ship, your health insurance will not usually cover it. You don’t want to end up with thousands of dollars of medical bills that could’ve been prevented with a $100 insurance policy. I really like the options on insuremytrip.com.

2. Find out what travel documents you need. Are visas required for any of your ports? Do you need to renew your passport? It can take weeks to get a new passport so you don’t want to put that off.

3. Set a flight alert on Hopper. I love that Hopper searches for flight deals for me and lets me know when is the best time to book. It frees me up to think about other parts of the trip that are much more fun!

4. Research the ship. Read about it on the Cruise Line’s website. Cruise Critic also has lots of ship reviews to help give you an idea about what your cruise  is going to be like. Figure out what needs to be booked in advance. Can you book dining or shows before boarding? Is it necessary to book it in advance?

5. Research the ports. Cruise Critic has great port guides that tell you everything you need to know about your ports. What are the most popular things to do in each port? What currency do they use? What language do they speak? How safe are they? This will give you an idea about if you want to explore the port on your own or if you should take an organized excursion.

Evening on Deck

Evening on Carnival Valor

6. Start looking for a hotel or pre-cruise stay. I think by now, you know I’m a huge fan of AirBNB. If you are driving to the cruise port, look for a hotel that offers free parking for cruise passengers. That could save you a lot of money!

7. Book your excursions. Finding the perfect excursion can be a little overwhelming. Do you want to book through the cruise line or do you want to use an outside company and save some money? For our upcoming cruise, we got a $50 shore excursion credit through NCL, but even with that, they were significantly more expensive than Shore Excursioneer on the cave tubing in Belize City. For our Costa Maya day, we booked through NCL because we have a limited time in port and I was worried that an outside company won’t get us back to the ship in time. If you book a shore excursion through an outside company, make sure you let them know what time you have to be back on the ship. Most of them have a guarantee that they will get you back to the ship in time, just like the cruise lines. This is how they make money so they will do everything they can to make sure you don’t miss the ship.

Skyline Sailaway 14/100

Sailing out of New York Harbor

8. Book onboard activities. NCL opens up their dining reservations 60 days before sailing. If you are not planning on doing any specialty dining you probably don’t have to book anything in advance. They do reserve some times to be booked onboard, but to get a table at the busy times, it doesn’t hurt to book in advance. For the larger ships, you can even book your shows online ahead of time. This is my first time on a mega ship, so I will let you know how that goes!

9. Pack. Ok, you don’t want to do this too far in advance, but you can start planning what you want to bring before you actually start to pack. Maybe you have to go shopping. That’s always fun! Space is limited in cruise ship cabins, so you do not want to overpack. Think about how many formal nights there will be. How many swim suits will you need? What will you wear on sea days or in port? I’ve been trying to find a good Caribbean Cruise packing list and I haven’t been able to find one I like. I may have to post mine after this cruise!

Thanks for stopping by! Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Choose Your Cruise

Carnival Valor in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

It’s the time of year where it’s hard to get the motivation to get outside and take pictures. It doesn’t help that this has been such a weird winter with its temperature fluctuations and winter storm after winter storm. Planning for our upcoming cruise is the only thing keeping me going right now.

Our cruise is getting close and I think we have everything booked. We have booked our flights and our pre-cruise stay. We’ve made our specialty dining reservations and booked our shore excursions. I think all that’s left is packing our bags but it may be a little early for that.

In all of my planning, I think I’ve learned a thing or two about picking and planning for a cruise and I thought it would be a good idea to share! Here are the steps I use to pick my next cruise!

Atrium on Carnival Valor

1. Think about when you’d like to cruise. As a teacher, my travel times are limited to times when it is busier and more expensive to travel. If you have more flexibility, you can get great deals and avoid the crowds. Hurricane season tends to be the cheapest time to travel, but be prepared for itineraries to change to avoid storms.

2. Think about where you want to go. The Caribbean is one of the most popular cruise destinations and because of three availability of cruise ships in the Caribbean, it tends to be cheaper than other destinations. Cruises to Alaska are big in the summer months, as well as Mediterranean cruises. My absolute dream cruise is a Hawaiian islands cruise.

3. Think about what kind of atmosphere you’d like on your cruise. Are you looking for something formal? You may want to look at Princess or Celebrity lines. Are you looking for something more high energy? Check out Carnival. Do you want something more laid back? Check out Norwegian.

4. Think about the size of the ship. Smaller ships tend to be more intimate while bigger ships have more options in dining and entertainment.

5. Think about your stateroom. How much time are you planning on staying in your stateroom? If you’re only going to use it for sleeping, you can save money and go with an inside or oceanview cabin. If you plan on spending more time in your room, you should splurge for a balcony cabin or a suite.

Towel animal on Carnival Valor

6. Book your cruise. Typically, the best deals are found booking way in advance or waiting until the last minute. Of course, if you don’t live near a cruise port, booking last minute means higher flight costs, so keep that in mind. Cruise fares are typically the same no matter if you book them through a travel agent or straight from the cruise line. So, once you find your cruise, unlike airfare, shopping around is not really going to save you money.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I give more cruise planning tips! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Lets Talk About Food

Wings at Duff’s in Buffalo, NY

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head?” -Anthony Bordain

Hot Brown from Ramsey’s in Lexington, KY

If you fly across the world, see the sites, but then eat at a restaurant that you have by your house, did you truly experience the culture of the place you visited? I have to say you did not. I don’t think you can truly experience a place and a culture without trying their food. James Beard said “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

In all of our travels we try to find unique dining experiences, foods we can’t get at home. Do we typically dine at 5 star restaurants, of course not. Sometimes it’s as basic as finding a local fast food chain that we don’t have at home. If it’s something I can get at home, I try to avoid it while traveling. There was a time a few years ago that we were in Chicago and I was getting hangry. I really wanted to try to find a cool, local place to eat, but my hunger was getting in the way of making decisions. We ended up eating at Panera and I was so upset that I wasted one of our few meals in Chicago on something that is 5 minutes from my house.

Bento Box from Wild Ginger in Corning, NY

With all the technology we have it is so easy to find good and authentic food wherever you go. I talk about it all the time, but TripAdvisor is a great way to get travelers’ honest opinions on restaurants and find places that are under the radar. When we were in Boston we found this very trendy Mexican restaurant called Lolita Cantina. The food was unique and the dining experience is one I will never forget. The meal started with a granita with a splash of tequila and it ended with cotton candy and temporary tattoos.

If you’re looking for something less fancy, go to the dining tab on TripAdvisor and there should be a section labeled cheap eats. We tried all kinds of good restaurants that were unbelievably inexpensive. My favorite was a tiny Italian restaurant in Concord, Massachusetts that served huge portions of pasta. It was not a place I would’ve found just walking around. We also had really good gyros near the campus of Southern New Hampshire State University.

Thin Mint Latte at Higher Grounds in Traverse City, MI

When you travel, branch out of your comfort zone. Try some foods you wouldn’t try at home. It will expand your horizons and transform you. Talk to the people where you’re staying. Find out where they like to eat. Of course check out TripAdvisor. You won’t be disappointed.

Do you have any tips for finding authentic places to eat when you travel? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you for stopping by! Do you have any trip planning tips that I missed? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

National Plan for Vacation Day

The last Tuesday in January is designated as National Plan for Vacation Day. Why? I have no idea, but I have been doing a lot of planning lately and thought I could talk about it here. As I mentioned in my annual New Years post, I have two trips coming up in the next few months and I have been busy planning for all the little details for those trips.

Since it had been a few years since we had flown, the search for the perfect flights took a lot of searching and waiting, and searching some more. One thing I learned from this search is that nowadays, most of the best deals will actually be found booking directly through the airline, instead of Expedia or a company like that. I used both Kayak and Skyscanner to search with Hopper to tell when the was the best time to book. For both of our trips, we got better deals on one-way flights than on a round trip tickets. Those sites helped us pick through all of the flights find the best deals.

For both of our upcoming trips, we are staying in AirBNBs. AirBNB is great because it allows you to find inexpensive vacation rentals for every need. You just want to crash on a couch, you can probably find it on AirBNB. You need a house for 10? They have that too. AirBNB was a saving grace for our pre-cruise stay in New Orleans because hotels near the port are $300+ per night.

There aren’t many AirBNBs near the Grand Canyon that still have availability a month out, so we went the hotel route for that night. My trick for finding hotel deals is to look at both TripAdvisor and Priceline. TripAdvisor has the reviews and Priceline has the best deals. We ended up getting a great price on the #1 hotel in Grand Canyon, Arizona by checking Priceline before booking TripAdvisor’s deal.

I have been scouring Pinterest for how to handle one day at the Grand Canyon as well as must dos for a short trip to New Orleans. TripAdvisor is great for finding the heart of an area, but it can be overwhelming, especially with a limited amount of time. I’ve been enjoying reading what Bloggers enjoyed during their trips and what they would recommend skipping.

Thank you for stopping by! Do you have any trip planning tips that I missed? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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