Being born in France and being there for years as a child didn’t take any of the charm or beauty away from this vacation. This is a map of our travels and the names of the places we visited. Below you’ll find pictures and commentary.

France

Here are photos that correspond with each visit and below the gallery is a more complete explanation.

Paris

During our quick stay in Paris (approx. a day and a half) we were able to visit the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur, Notre Dame, Le Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concorde. It was extremely efficient and cost effective to take the Metro from one location to the next. We did have someone with us that knew Paris well so we didn’t have to fumble trying to plan our routes but even without knowing Paris, it is moderately easy to get around. With a little help from the weather and a bit of luck we were even able to get to the top floor of the Eiffel Tower with very little wait. When people think it’s going to rain, they shy away from visiting it so you could save yourself hours in line by choosing the right day and time. We stayed in Paris in a tiny apartment that we booked through AirBNB which worked out just fine and was much cheaper than booking a hotel. Check it out here.

Normandy

The picture you see of Normandy is a tiny village called Villeray where my grandfather lived and I spent many childhood summers. The castle in the photo is the Château de Villeray which is now a hotel and spa.

Rhone-Alpes

This region of France is one of the most beautiful and fruitful in France. Stunning mountain vistas and endless vineyards on hillsides are picture perfect and have lots of tastings called ‘demonstrations’. This is also where some of the worlds best chocolatiers operate and where truffles are grown.

Pont-En-Royans

A charming little village with an incredible riverside view of cliffside houses built right into the rock. Take a short walk around the village and you will up at one of its many ice cream vendors to help cool down during the hot summer months

Cabris

A tiny little village with nothing to do except for admire the views. If you are staying in Peymeinade I would recommend taking a taxi to the top and walking down through the pedestrian trails.

Nice

Nice is a beautiful and classic city in France. The main courtyard is impressive and so Apis the water display in the centre. Transportation is great and simple and keep an eye out for the grassy railroad tracks as under them flows a covered up river meant to keep everyone connect.

Cannes

Everyone knows Cannes is the film capital of the world but most people don’t know that it is also a city of beautiful beaches and great wealth.

Monaco

The richest tiny country in the world, Monaco is filled with luxurious cars, stores, beautiful women and giant yachts from oil rich Arabic countries. The amount of money here will make you sick.

Eze

While the exotic garden was like every front yard here in Phoenix filled with cacti and spiky plants, the view is absolutely spectacular. The tiny village is filled with art and tourism shops and a few nice places to grab some refreshments.

Tresserre

A small little village less than 20 miles from the beach and from Spain. I loved the wild almonds and blackberries growing along the roads and beautiful scenic views of vineyards and lush green hills.

St. Martin du Canigou

This incredible monastery built on a rock face in the mountains is simply breathtaking and truly a wonder. A mildly difficult hour long hike is undoubtedly worth the reward.

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I had high expectations for my first cruise. My mind had visualized a giant boat where I could breath the fresh ocean air from the railing overlooking the endless sea while feeling and smelling the cool breeze of the mighty ocean. With that said, it didn’t quite end up like that. We took a bus from the Orlando airport which drove us to Port Canaveral where we went into boarding our might ship. The entry wait wasn’t bad at all, similar to going through airport security the port security was quick and painless leaving us antsy to get a look at the insides of our home for the next 4 days.

Once inside I was surprise at the size. It wasn’t as big as I had imagined. Visions from the Titanic were far off from the small lobby and motel looking hallways. The first encounter after boarding was a booth where passes were sold for alcohol. They charged about $225 per person for 15 drinks per day for 4 days. However, they required everyone in the same room to get the pass. We went for it and made sure we made our moneys worth. We had tried to stash some bottles of wine in our checked bags however once our bags arrived they came with a note from port security saying they had confiscated our bottles until the end of our cruise. They did however allow 1 bottle of wine in your carry on bag.

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The food was buffet style for breakfast and lunch and dinner was served at a specific time everyday and where you were seated at a large round table with the same group of people for the duration of your cruise. The breakfast food was pretty bad.. don’t get me wrong I still made the best of it with custom made omelettes and all of the breakfast additions and unlimited coffee. Lunch had choices of your typical American food such as burgers, hot dogs, fries, with an Asian wok station, pizza, desserts and other random foods all at a very mediocre buffet quality. For dinner you would choose from a short menu what you were to eat and of course you can choose one of everything if you want to. Out of the steak, lobster, soups, salads and desserts only a few of the dishes were actually memorable. Overall I would call it disappointing.

Thankfully there were plenty of other amenities to keep us busy. We played a round of mini golf, hit the Jacuzzi, comedy club, bars and of course the casino. Our first stop at Freeport was okay. They took us to a semi private beach where we were able to lay out, snorkel, kayak, paddle board.. I went snorkeling but there wasn’t much to see. They sponsored activities like flip cup and sand volleyball which were fun.Reef Shark

Our other stop was Nassau where we were able to buy souvenirs and I also went to scuba in the morning. We went to 2 sunken ships sites, one which was accompanied to 10 ft reef sharks which were awesome to see. That alone made the trip.

I would definitely do another cruise but definitely a different, larger ship and another destination.

Sunrise at Haleakala Crater

Should you find yourself on a vacation to Maui, Hawai’i and have a full day to kill, watching the sunrise at the Haleakalā Crater is an unforgettable excursion. The uniqueness and magnitude of the crater will leave you feeling accomplished and hopefully satisfied depending on the weather conditions. You can go there by driving yourself or take a tour however I have not found sunrise tours, just day time tours. That’s probably because most people find it to be too cold or don’t understand that great rewards require sacrifice. Did I say cold? I meant freezing.
Haleakalā Crater stands tall at just over 10,200 feet. Not only is it cold but being so high up puts you above or in the clouds, which means not just very cold but also windy and wet.
Leaving from Ka’anapali takes approximately 2.5-3 hours. We left our hotel at 2AM and arrived at the summit around 4:45AM. Being there over an hour early meant we had to sit and wait in the freezing cold for the warmth of the sun to defrost our bodies. However, we were not alone and the parking lots filled up very quickly so it is a good idea to get there early and prepare yourself for the long, cold wait. 10730944_10152378585415658_4989650363197091271_n
My girlfriend and I decided to rent a Harley for our trip and discussed our plans with the very nice lady at Aloha Motorsports. Thankfully, one of the mechanics had done this ride before and warned us that if we were going to attempt this, we would need to be very prepared. He mentioned the Salvation Army would be a good place to find some cheap warm clothing so we set out to get some supplies:

  • Gloves
  • Jacket
  • Thermos
  • Thick socks

With 2 pairs of socks, jeans, 2 shirts, 2 sweaters, gloves and a helmet, It was still cold at the top. If you plan on riding to the top, I would highly recommend a windbreaker and face mask to cover your nose and of course some eye protection. You may want to stop at the base of the crater to put on the extra layers since it can get pretty toasty with so many layers. Up until around 7000 ft we were pretty comfortable, however at 8000 ft, the fog and the cold started showing no mercy. After 8000 ft the fog was so bad we couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of us, and with sheer cliffs on one side we had to go no more than 15 mph and proceed with extreme caution.

Besides the bitter cold, and blinding fog, the ride itself was pretty smooth until getting near the top. We saw a small deer near the edge of the street so be careful and drive the speed limit. A collision with a deer, especially on motorcycle would be devastating. The roads are well paved and pretty straight until you reach the base. Once you start climbing Haleakalā, the roads get very windy with lots of turns and no street lights so drive slow and be extra careful. Even in a car this is a pretty dangerous drive.

Once reaching the top you’ll pass the visitor center and then the lower parking lot. It can be very confusing since there are multiple places to stop but if there is another road, you haven’t reached the top yet. From the lower lot, you can continue up another 1/4 mile and reach the summit. At the summit you’ll find a rounded building with glass windows. This is where those that don’t want to wait outside in the freezing cold winds camp out. It is a good place to read up on the local wildlife, weather conditions and history of the crater. Many people will simply stay indoors to watch the sunrise but I would highly recommend you take a seat on the wall outside and wait it out. The glass windows tend to fog up and you will surely not get the full experience indoors. Be brave, and wait outside.

At 10,200 feet you can bet on seeing a beautiful view of the night sky and waiting for the sunrise seems like a primal but incredibly humbling thing to do. Once you start seeing a glimmer of light, let me magic begin. If you’re lucky the clouds will clear up just in time for you to snap some photos of the breathtaking colors and you’ll start to appreciate how high you really are. Some people get impatient and leave before the clouds clear out and miss what the came to see by just a few minutes. I would hang out for at least an hour after first light to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity. I can’t understand why someone would drive almost 6 hours total and not spend 1 hour waiting to see what they came for. The best reward is on the ride down. The scenic road and panoramic views continue all the way down the crater. There are also a few cafes along the way to stop for breakfast or coffee. This was absolutely a once in a lifetime trip that I will never forget. I’ve attached some photos of the sunrise and the views from the ride down.

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arrivalAs most couples do I often get asked where I met my fiancee. While the story of how we met is pretty hilarious, you’ll have to ask in person for that one. Instead, let me tell you about how we ended up in Fiji together less than a month after knowing each other.

Since 2009 I’ve run a web development company called Bonsai Web Solutions. I was a LOT more active with it years ago than I am now and I used to do a lot of business to business barter deals. I would build a website in return for ‘Barter Dollars’ that I could use with any other barter member. If you are a small business owner and are looking for new clients, this is a great way to generate lots of business. After doing several decent sized jobs, I had generated a sizable piggy bank of barter dollars and decided to use them for two tickets to an all inclusive resort in Savusavu, Fiji. The problem was that at the time not only did I not have a girlfriend or fiancee but not even a worthy lady friend to invite. Also, I had a good feeling this would be a pretty romantic atmosphere so bringing a man friend was not a preferable option. I decided that if I didn’t find a suitable companion in time, I would go alone and get my scuba diving fix.

smallplaneMy trip was scheduled for Feb. 26th and on Feb 1st I found my companion. While I’d love to tell you the story of how we met, I’ll skip to about 2 weeks after knowing when I said something like this.. “soo I’ve got two tickets to Fiji in about two weeks.. want to go?” Obviously she said yes and two weeks later we were on our way.
While her friends thought she was crazy to spend 10 days in a foreign country with a man she had met barely two weeks ago, we were both super excited.

In order to reach our destination we had to take a very long 12 hour flight to Nadi, Fiji and then a tiny connecting flight to Savusavu. However, the connecting flight had only enough room left for 1 so I had her stay an extra night in Nadi while I took the last seat to Savusavu. I knew I wanted to get there first to make any preparations I needed and get familiarized with the resort.
Once there I spent the first lonely night alone anxiously waiting and anticipating the arrival of my future wife. I walked around the resort, had a couple of drinks and got to know the patrons and the system. Upon arrival I was treated to a coconut filled with a delicious punch and a foot massage! I talked to the hosts and inquired about what kind of surprise I could prepare and reserved the massage and romantic dinner for two. The preparations we’re absolutely breathtaking and the meal was perfect. The actual cabana we were in was used to film a scene in The Bachelor, this was a truly magical scene.

The next 10 days were spent exploring the jungle, waterfalls, the ocean, going to an incredible church in a local village, and countless more adventures. Below is a small gallery of some of my favorite photos. During our incredible trip in paradise, there was only 1 thing left to do.. fall in love.