Seven Magic Mountains

I have been waxing poetically about things to see and do in Las Vegas for over four years now, yet there is never a lack of adventures and sites in my city! My latest must-see is a large-scale public art exhibition called Seven Magic Mountains that debuted this summer about 10 minutes south of the Strip. Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s massive, brightly painted boulders are free to visit and will be displayed for two years.

We visited on a Saturday morning in July. A rather warm day, I’d recommend a trip in the fall when the desert temperatures are cooler. I was lucky enough to hit the seven towers at the perfect moment to capture an image sans humans, and a patient photographer can most likely get the same shot. For more details about this vibrant art installation and driving directions, click here.

August 2016 Travel Photo of the Month

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Four years ago, four close girlfriends went to Belize and Guatemala for one of the more adventurous trips I’ve taken. We explored caves, went “wheeeee!” down a zipline, hiked, toured Mayan ruins, and spent a day on horseback. You can read more about what I’d recommend in both countries in past posts Belize It Or Not! and Tikal.

For this month’s travel POTM™, I thought I’d share an atypical photo for my bloggery: a view from souvenir shopping in a small village in Belize. The wares were colorful and quite eye-catching! In case you’re curious, I brought home a ceramic Mayan calendar and a hand painted ornament–Christmas ornaments are my item of choice everywhere I travel.

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Local Souvenirs in San Jose Succotz

Nature Near Nevada

A dear friend who has visited me in Vegas multiple times is visiting this week, and I attempted the impossible: show her part of my beloved city that she has not yet experienced. She has already done many of my Las Vegas like a Local recommendations, including the Mob Museum, laughing our way through A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder at the Smith Center, and multiple activities on the Strip. We did take in Rock of Ages this weekend—which has recently moved to the Rio—and we nostalgically belted out ‘80s anthems at the top of our lungs…another must-see if you’re so inclined.

Alas, there is not much else that my friend Brandi hasn’t experienced in Las Vegas, even though I am constantly proclaiming each visit her “best trip ever.” With that in mind, I decided that it was time for a road trip: on to explore nature-y sites in neighboring Utah and Arizona. If you’re looking for a fast-paced (read: crazy) excursion to accompany any time in Vegas, then this is your itinerary.

Day One: Zion National Park and Horseshoe Bend

We started out around 9am from Vegas and drove approximately 2.5 hours on I15 to Zion National Park—and what an interesting drive it was! The road instantly started to climb when we crossed first into Arizona; then later in Utah, the topography became even more stunning. When we arrived in Springdale, Utah, we cruised through the quaint town, ignoring the many shuttle stops. After paying to enter the park and driving around mistakenly trying to find a spot, we turned around and parked in town and hopped a shuttle. The two shuttle lines were a very convenient to get around the park; we chose stop 5 to hit the Emerald Pools trail, and the online trail descriptions were most helpful in determining the right trail for two inexperienced hikers. We spent about 2 hours total in the park from start to finish, and while it is possible to spend—and enjoy!—so much more time in stunning Zion, we had to hit a very curvy mountain road to head to our next stop.

And that mountain road required some very active driving through canyons and a dark tunnel; approximately another 2.5 hours, and we made it into Page, Arizona, where we booked into the Best Western Plus. It was clean and adequate, plus had a nice hot breakfast. (Note: try to stay on top floor to avoid thunderous upstairs neighbors.) Not two girls to rest, we headed immediately to our next adventure: hiking about 20 minutes to see Horseshoe Bend. This is a magical place where the Colorado River has carved its way around a canyon—a spectacular view! Brandi and I caught the splendor and took photos before making the trek back to our car—mainly because we were worried that idiot tourists who were too close to the ledge would fall to an untimely death. Plus we were starved for dinner. Not much to feast on in Page though—the “Texas” BBQ place is most likely your best bet.

Day Two: Antelope Canyon and Valley of Fire

Our second day started off bright and early with the aforementioned hotel breakfast before checking out and making the 10 minute drive to the Lower Antelope Canyon. Our tour was operated by Dixie Ellis, and I highly recommend the photo tour. Picture this (pun intended): a quick walk in a small group, private canyon views, plenty of time to set up tripod and DSLR camera, and two hours of exquisite shooting in a place sacred to the Navajo. Pictures from another friend’s tour were the literal inspiration of this trip, and Antelope Canyon did not disappoint. Book the photo tour, bring your tripod, and plan to hit the canyons first thing in the morning. The Upper Canyon is famous for light beams, but we were more than happy with the imagery we collected. (One can tell the difference between the below tripod photos on the tour versus the others taken via iPhone.)

Page is a small community, but it was big enough to have a Sonic, which we hit before driving on the Glen Canyon Dam across Lake Powell (stunning and Hoover Dam-like!). Then, we hightailed it back to Nevada, crisscrossing across Arizona and Utah stateliness several times. It took us roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to Hurricane, Utah for a quick break, then another similar time period before we pulled into the Battleborn State’s first state park: the Valley of Fire. One can understand why several movies (Star Trek, Total Recall) filmed their alien scenes here against the stunning red rock scenery. Nevada residents save $2 on entry at the information center, and a 6 mile one-way drive takes one through quite a bit of the park’s landmarks. It was too hot to hike at 113° F, yet it was a lovely drive and well-worth some incredible photos.

Another 45 minutes’ drive, and we were back to the City of Sin! Keep in mind that cell phone reception is often spotty at best in this part of the country. For this trip, I recommend exactly two tanks of gas, plenty of water and sunscreen, very comfortable clothes (and close-toed shoes…can’t convince myself to buy hiking shoes), a great camera with tripod, an excellent playlist, and an incredible friend with whom to enjoy the journey!

 

Travel Photo of the Month: July 2016

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The very thought of the Hamptons brings up images of sipping rosé, pristine homes (or compounds!), and tidy seaside towns where the Manhattanites summer. My husband and I were invited by friends to visit their lovely home there last month, and visions of white parties started to dance in my mind. And the villages were charming! We learned the reputations of each of the Hamptons (quaint Sag Harbor! laid back Shelter Island!), and we got to experience the Monday evening drums on Sagg Main Beach in Sagaponak. June’s travel POTM™ is a photo I took while leaving the beach, walking to the beat of the drums.

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Sagg Main Beach

Travel Photo of the Month: May 2016

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A year ago, in an remote and exotic location, my new husband Jacob and I were on our honeymoon. After weighing the Maldives and French Polynesia, we settled on the latter because of less travel time. While it seems like a world away, the flight to Papeete was only 8 hours from LAX, and we arrived early in the morning ready to get on island time at the Le Meridien. Our first stop: Tahiti–the island that houses a capital city best-known for its les roulottes (French for caravans); I call them food trucks.

I’d recommend travelers to skip Tahiti and head straight to the lush landscapes in Moorea or the stunning waters of Bora Bora…yet that is for a future blog post. The best part of our first day in paradise–snorkeling with my hot husband, who is the guest photographer of this month’s POTM™. Enjoy!

Shallow Waters in Tahiti

Shallow Waters in Tahiti

Travel Photo of the Month: April 2016

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Nothing says summer like midsommar in Sweden. Since we’re ending April and springing into summertime shortly, I had to share one of my favorite photos from 2007. This particular year, I spent the summer living in Stockholm, which is one of my favorite cities in the world. The travel POTM™ is a photo I took of the island Stadsholmen from my neighboring district of Södermalm. The Tall Ships had just arrived for that year’s version of the famed race, and I captured a gorgeous event moment of the skyline when looking at the ships. To this day, this photo is still the background wallpaper on my iPhone.Copy of DSC02421

Shannita en Ciudad de México

During my two years of high school Spanish classes in Texas, my nombre en español was Shannita. As much as I tried to pronounce the words and phrases in Spanish, I was never very good at it. Later in life, I also tried learning via the Rosetta Stone program. I picked up vocabulary words but speaking the language was not a strength. Little did I know how I’d use this knowledge recently on a business trip to Mexico City.

Aqui, I will share my picks for a quick trip to the capital city, one of the most populated in the world. Stay: I was in a southeast part of town in the stylish Live Aqua; it was trendy, very clean, and the amenities (Molton Brown and remote control curtains/lighting) were stellar. The lobby was decorated in books throughout, and the meals I had on property were lovely. It was close to Polanco, an upscale district with beautiful flowers and expensive villas.

Eat: attached to my hotel was Porfirio’s, and it was heavenly. I highly recommend the elote para preparar (done up nicely tableside) and the brisket tacos. The following day, my colleague was kind enough to give me an afternoon tour downtown, and we enjoyed a late lunch at Azul Histórico, which was in walking distance from many famous sights. The ambiance was quite lovely–candles strung up in trees–and the presentation of our tasty mole plates were deftly crafted.

See: no trip would be complete without a drive down the famous Paseo de la Reforma, which is often compared to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. This was our thoroughfare into downtown, home of the Catedral Metropolitana (one of the largest cathedrals in Latin America) and the Palacio Nacional. Near the cathedral, once can see excavations to pyramids and architecture from earlier civilizations underneath, with reminded me of Rome. Lastly, a jaunt down a pedestrian street brought us to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which is a beautiful domed building that houses an art museum and theatrical performances.

My sixteen-year-old self would have been proud of the Spanish vocabulary I retained, yet she would have been even more impressed with the exciting, fast-paced capital city. Ciudad de México es muy seguro, moderno y muy interesante. I highly recommend a long weekend visit–hire a driver, and get out into the city!