I love traveling throughout the world, and visiting exotic places.  I pinch my pennies so I can spend dollars on travel adventures overseas.  There are so many interesting cultures, sights, and flavors in the world; I want to experience all of it, or at least as much as possible.  The hardest thing about traveling to far away places?  Finding adventurous companions.  Most people are hesitant to travel to some of the places I choose.  Challenge yourself.  Get messy.  Ask yourself, if this is the last thing I do will it be enough?  Find the experiences that will satisfy your curiosity and sense of wonder.

 

Best Hotel in New York City - Hyatt Centric Times Square, Manhattan  

Heading to New York City, and not sure where to stay, what the hotel accommodations will be like?  

The Hyatt Centric Times Square Hotel in New York City, is located in the center of the action by Times Square, Rockefeller Center, The Empire State Building, theaters, great restaurants.  Location is everything for a big city getaway.  

New York is expensive, so plan accordingly. There are high taxes on hotel rooms which makes rooms even more expensive.   WiFi is included, breakfast is available for an additional charge. There are a lot of restaurant options on the same block as the hotel.  We found great food on the same block in all price ranges.  The Hyatt Centric is located in the center of everything, yet is quiet, secure, and our room had a great view.  Staff are professional and courteous.  Suggestions for a vacation in the city?  I tip the cleaning staff between $2 and $5 per day.  The hotel will hold your luggage after check out if you have a late flight.  The Hyatt Centric is clean, comfortable, quiet, secure, friendly, and a great location. 

Here is a list of travel essential items I always pack no matter where I travel.  

ID-   Passport, driver's license, Global Entry, Vaccination Records
Chargers, External Portable Battery Charger
Adapter/converter
First Aid Kit, Prescription Medication
Feminine Hygiene Products
Sunscreen
Ziplock Plastic Bags
 Jacket,  Umbrella
Snack bars/packs
Emergency contact list
Photo Copy of Wallet Contents, Credit cards, insurance info, etc.
Cash

 

LOUDEST BIRD IN AFRICA - HADEDA IBIS

Wondering what a Hadeda Ibis sounds like?  The Hadeda Ibis, or Hadada, is a heavy bodied brown bird with pink shoulder patches and a long curved bill.  The Hadeda Ibis has a distinctively loud, penetrating and recognizable haa-haa-haa-de-dah call.  The Hadeda Ibis calls when they are flying or when startled, hence the name, Hadeda.  They roost in neighborhoods loudly calling haaaa in the morning, making them scary, obnoxious, and annoying to some people.  Hadeda live all over Sub Saharan Africa.  I think they are the loudest, noisiest birds in Africa, if not the loudest bird in the world.   Thank you Garry Kelly Safaris.  Thank you Majune Safaris.

CROCODILES - MOZAMBIQUE

Crocodiles are reptiles, have very sharp teeth, and have the strongest bite of any animal in the world.  Crocodiles are extremely dangerous, and can swim at 25 miles per hour using only their tail.  Crocodiles can also travel very fast on land for short distances.  Crocodiles have very good hearing, good vision, and will submerge underwater silently when you approach.  Pay attention around ponds and rivers in Africa so you are not surprised by crocodiles.  Crocodiles typically burst out of the water to grab their unsuspecting prey, and drag it back into the water to eat.  Crocodiles can kill animals as large as buffalo.  Crocodiles are beautiful to see, yet dangerous.

HARTEBEEST - SOUTH AFRICA AND MOZAMBIQUE

The Hartebeest, also known as Kongoni, is an African antelope.  These Hartebeest were in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, with thorn trees and rocks, and Mozambique, with thick forests and long grass.  Hartebeest, and most animals, are much more difficult to spot in the long grasses of Mozambique.  Males and females have horns, and weigh between 220 - 440 pounds.  Hartebeests usually live in herds of 20 - 300 animals.  Thank you Garry Kelly Safaris and Majune Safaris.

TOYOTA LAND CRUISER DRIVING IN MOZAMBIQUE

Toyota Land Cruiser Pickups are by far the first choice for safari companies in Africa.  I have been on many safaris, and always rode in a Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup.  This video shows some of the places we drove in Mozambique during my safari.  Every day was an amazing adventure.  The Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup never let us down.  It is a rugged, well equipped vehicle that can handle the most demanding driving.  Mozambique has very wild and primitive areas, just the thing for adventure seekers.  South Africans love their Bakkies.  Thank you Majune Safaris for a fabulous safari.

LION CALLING ON SAFARI IN MOZAMBIQUE

On Safari in Mozambique, we came across lion claw marks on trees, lion hair,a meal left from a lion, and lion scat, or poop.  My trackers brought out their lion call, a large megaphone, and wrapped it in a blue tarp.  Here is how they called in lions.  Shortly, we had a pride of 8 females and cubs.  Hard to show the lions in the long grass, but the calling was phenomenal.  Thank you Majune Safaris.

PENGUINS AT BOULDERS BEACH, SOUTH AFRICA

If you travel to Cape Town, South Africa, head to Boulders Beach to visit the nesting grounds of the African Penguins.  Also known as the jack-ass penguin for it's donkey like bray, the black footed penguin lives only in the waters off of South Africa.  These little penguins weigh around 7 pounds and are 28 inches tall.  

African Penguins have a pink band over their eyes.  You can tell the baby penguins by their brown fluffy feathers, and the older juvenile penguins look slate blue.  What a fantastic sight to see penguins in the wild in Africa, lounging on the beach, relaxing in the sunshine, and diving into the Atlantic Ocean to fish for food.  I love how they go wild waddling down the beach, wagging tails, fluttering tiny wings.  African penguins are endangered, so please view and appreciate without disturbing them in their environment.  Viewing penguins in the wild is a lifelong dream of mine, come true on this day!

Too funny.  I traveled all the way to South Africa and bought this scarf.  Here it is on Amazon!!

WINE COUNTRY, FRANSCHHOEK, SOUTH AFRICA

Franschhoek lies west of Cape Town, South Africa.  Franschhoek is a quaint village in the wine country with quaint shops, world class restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and excellent wineries.  Franschhoek boasts Cape Dutch architecture, a Huguenot monument, and farms that still have French names.  Ride the wine tram, taste local wines from boutique to large wineries and enjoy the lush scenery.  Franschhoek resembles the wine country in Napa Valley, and is complete with South African hospitality.

GOATSHED FAIRVIEW WINERY, CAPE TOWN, PAARL, SOUTH AFRICA

Fairview Wine and Cheese is a family friendly winery and goat farm with wine tasting, cheese tasting, fresh breads, and a nice restaurant.  Not far from Cape Town, Goatshed is one of the top wineries in the Paarl district.  Fairview has lovely gardens, yummy cheeses, delicious wine, and a friendly staff.  Sample wine and cheeses, shop for breads, enjoy a meal of farm fresh foods. 

If you are visiting Cape Town or the Western Cape of South Africa, be sure to try the many wonderful locally grown wines.  I love the goats in the tower at Goatshed.

I love this goat tile.  It reminds me of my trip to South Africa, and my visit to Goatshed at Fairview Winery.  

The goats in the tower were so charming, and the goat cheeses and wines were fantastic.

 

CAPE VIEW CLIFTON HOTEL, CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA  

If you are traveling to Cape Town, South Africa, the Cape View Clifton is a luxury lodging with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.  Every suite is private, stylish, and has a magnificent view.  If you are looking for something special, this small hotel is peaceful and serene.  The Cape View Clifton is the most magnificent accommodation I have ever stayed in, and I have been a guest there on 2 occasions.  The staff prepares a delicious breakfast, there is a lovely pool, and lovely outdoor garden and patio areas.  The views are breathtaking.

TABLE MOUNTAIN, CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA

Table Mountain in Cape Town South Africa was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2011.  No trip to Cape Town is complete without a trip up the Table Mountain Cableway.  The cable cars carry 65 people and rotate as they climb the mountain for a 360 degree view for all passengers.  Check out the view of Clifton Beach, Lion's Head, Robben Island, Signal Hill, and the new Cape Town Soccer Stadium.  Rock Hyrax, or Dassies, sun themselves on the rocks and nibble plants.  Watch the clouds roll in and cover the mountain with a phenomena known as Kaggen's Karos, or a tablecloth.  My ticket price was R240, South African Rand, about $16 US.

DRAKENSTEIN LION PARK, CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Drakenstein Lion Park is located just outside of Cape Town, South Africa in Paarl.  Drakenstein Lion Park is a rescue sanctuary for about 36 lions, rescued from captivity all over the world.  The stories of each lion tell how they came to live in Drakenstein, free to live out their lives in peace, and with respect.  It is fun to see the big cats relaxing in the grass, rolling, purring, and roaring.  Spend the night at the Ingonyama Safari Tent Camp within the park for a real safari experience.  Seeing so many lions up close is an amazing experience.

CANYON DE CHELLY CLIFF DWELLINGS, ARIZONA  

Canyon De Chelly is in the Northeastern corner of Arizona on the Navajo Nation.  Near Chinle, Canyon De Chelly is a labyrinth of canyons with stunning scenery.  Drive on the rim roads at the top of the canyon, or take a jeep drive through the canyon with a Navajo guide, and learn the history of Canyon De Chelly and Canyon Del Muerto.   Some of the Navajo still live and farm in the canyon floor.  See amazing pictographs or paintings on the rock walls done by ancient people.  Canyon De Chelly is one of the most amazing places I have ever traveled.  The pueblo cave dwellings are inspirational.  Add Canyon De Chelly to your places you must see!

HUBBELL TRADING POST, NAVAJO NATION, GANADO, ARIZONA

The Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona, is the oldest continuing operating trading post on the Navajo Nation.  Locals come get supplies they need, trade native crafts.  Visitors can shop for Navajo Native crafts, tour the Hubbell Trading Post, out buildings, and original farm.  Check out the Hubbell Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation in Northeastern Arizona for a look at life in the Old West.

GOULDINGS TRADING POST AND LODGE, MONUMENT VALLEY, UTAH

Gouldings Trading Post and Lodge in Monument Valley is an old time trading post established in the 1920's by Harry and Mike Goulding.  The trading post is now a museum, restaurant, and hotel lodge.  View the sunsets over Monument Valley from Gouldings Trading Post.  Harry Goulding introduced the beauty of Monument Valley to John Ford, the director, who then came to Monument Valley to make many of the Hollywood classic Old Western Movies, beginning with Stagecoach.  John Wayne starred in many Old Western Movies filmed in Monument Valley, and at the Goulding's Trading Post.  See the John Wayne house, Captain Nathan Brittles’ Cabin, from his movie She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.  The view from Gouldings to Monument Valley is breathtaking.

MONUMENT VALLEY, UTAH

Monument Valley on the Utah / Arizona border is a Navajo Tribal Park.  The red sandstone buttes, rock formations, and cliffs rise 1000 feet above the valley floor.  Many old western movies have been filmed in Monument Valley, many by director John Ford, starring John Wayne.  The solitude and beauty of Monument Valley  show off the vast, sun baked, and wild areas of the Far West.

MOCKINGBIRD SINGS IN ARIZONA

The Northern Mockingbird can sound like 12-15 birds singing outside your window.  They pour all of their personality into their songs.  They are talented singers, and fun to have visit your yard.  Look for a Northern Mockingbird on your next hike or trip to the out of doors.

CODE TALKERS EXHIBIT, KAYENTA, ARIZONA

The Code Talkers were a group of 29 young men from the Navajo Nation, recruited by the U.S. Marines during World War II to send coded messages in their native language, which was undecipherable to non Navajos.  The secret code was kept classified until 1968.  The last of the original 29 code talker died until 2014.  Visit the Code Talkers Exhibit in Kayenta, Arizona at the Burger King.  Look for the Purple Heart set in turquoise.

CAMERON TRADING POST, ARIZONA

The Cameron Trading Post in Arizona was established in 1916.  Located between the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, and Lake Powell, the Cameron Trading Post is a handy and interesting stop for travelers.  There are Native crafts, souvenirs, an art gallery, a snack bar, restaurant, gardens, and a hotel nestled overlooking the Little Colorado River Gorge.  If you are looking for delicious local foods, try the Prickly Pear French Toast or the Navajo Taco, both delicious.

UFO OVER ARIZONA FEBRUARY 19, 2016

I took some pictures of strange lights in the sky near Phoenix, Arizona.  A few days later, I read the same lights were seen by many and reported as a UFO siting.  Here are the pictures and video that I took of what I saw .  You can judge for yourself what you think it might be.  Is this a UFO over Phoenix, Arizona?

COYOTE HOWLING IN ARIZONA

A coyote likes to come by after dark and yowl and howl for his friends.  This day, he showed up before dark, so I was able to get a picture.  I have spotted packs of them in the night, but can't take pictures of them in the night.  I love enjoying wildlife where ever I happen to be.  I hope you enjoy this coyote, too.

Rock Springs Cafe - Black Canyon City, Arizona

Rock Springs Cafe in Black Canyon City, Arizona is not to be missed on a road trip through central Arizona.  If you travel between Phoenix, Sedona, and Flagstaff, be sure to stop at this restaurant from the Old West.  Famous for pies, including Jack Daniels Pecan, and delicious, filling meals with the flair of the Southwest, the Rock Springs Cafe has a gift shop, bakery, ice cream, barbecue, and more.  Serving customers since 1920, check out the buildings and artifacts at milepost 242 on Interstate 17 in Black Canyon City.  I enjoyed a Cactus Collins Cocktail with prickly pear juice, the Sonoran Veggie Pizza on a crisp tortilla shell, Augie Dog hot dog loaded with delicious toppings including bacon bits, fresh tomatoes, green chilies, onions, sauces, and more, and topped it off with triple berry crumble pie a la mode, and chocolate cream pie.  

OUT OF AFRICA WILDLIFE PARK CAMP VERDE, ARIZONA

If you love wild animals and seeing them in a natural environment setting, head to Out Of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, Arizona.  A well run animal park, a safari bus takes you to see dozens of animals in an African Bush Safari for a Serengeti Tour.  A tram takes you up the hill to an area where included animal shows take place throughout the day.  For a fun outing to learn and appreciate animals, head to Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, Arizona.  Just west of Interstate 17 between Phoenix, Sedona, and Flagstaff.   My favorite, getting a sloppy kiss from a giraffe feeding him celery from my mouth.  AlaskaGranny French kisses a giraffe!!

EPIC BURRITOS IN OREGON!!

I LOVE FINDING AUTHENTIC MEXICAN FOOD IN LITTLE OUT OF THE WAY PLACES.  THE NEXT FEW VIDEOS ARE OF THE FABULOUS BURRITOS I ENJOYED AT WONDERFUL PLACES ON A FEW RECENT TRIPS TO OREGON.  

Rigoberto's Mexican Food - Milwaukie, Oregon  

If you love Mexican food and burritos, check out Rigoberto's at 15855 SE McLoughlin Blvd in Milwaukie, Oregon.  Across the river from Portland, Rigoberto's serves classic Mexican food and is open 24 hours a day.  The tortillas are flaky and delicious, the carnitas have a tiny bit of grilled ends, condiments at the salsa bar include grilled onions and peppers, and the food is delicious.  Carne asada fries are terrific.  The staff is friendly, the service is great.  Looking for a great burrito or a full menu of authentic Mexican food in Milwaukie, Oregon, check out Rigoberto's.

Los Temos Taqueria in Milwaukie, Oregon  

Another fantastic find, authentic Mexican food and delicious burritos in Milwaukie, Oregon.  Are you looking for a great burrito and authentic Mexican food in Milwaukie Oregon next to Portland?  Check out Los Temos Taqueria at 17254 SE McLoughlin Blvd in Milwaukie.  They have a clean traditional Mexican restaurant with delicious burritos and other fine Mexican specialties.  The staff is friendy and helpful, even serving complimentary chips and salsas with meals.  Burritos are huge, loaded with tender juicy meats, vegetables, and flavor.  The tortillas are flaky and delicious.  Los Temos has great food at a reasonable price.  Who can't love a neighborhood taqueria?

BURRITO BOY IN EUGENE, OREGON

 Burritos are always a fun treat to find in a local Mexican restaurant.  Whether in my hometown or on the road, I am on the look out for outstanding local places.  Burrito Boy Taqueria Restaurant in Eugene, Oregon has been serving classic favorite burritos and Mexican dishes since 1992.  The food is fast, affordable, and freshly made.  I have been visiting Burrito Boy for my favorite Wet Boy Burritos every time I visit in the Eugene, Oregon area.  Burrito Boy has friendly staff, a clean restaurant, and always delicious food.  My favorite location is 510 E Broadway near the University of Oregon campus, but they now have 7 locations to choose from.  Check out Burrito Boy when you are in Eugene, Oregon.

DOS BANDERAS IN EUGENE, OREGON

I love finding authentic Mexican restaurants when I travel, and sharing out of the way local establishments.  If you are looking for delicious, fresh, quality burritos at a reasonable price, check out Dos Banderas food cart in the little alley at Broadway and Olive in Eugene, Oregon.  The workers are friendly, helpful, and hard at work smoking, grilling, and preparing what may be my new favorite burrito.  If you live or travel to Eugene, make a trip to Dos Banderas for the best big burritos at a reasonable price to take away or enjoy at the tables in the alley.  Delicious smells will guide you to Dos Banderas.  Mmmmm - so delicious!

EL TACO EXPRESS IN SPRINGFIELD, OREGON   

I love finding authentic Mexican restaurants when I travel, and sharing out of the way local establishments.  If you live or visit in the Springfield or Eugene area of Oregon, check out the burritos at El Taco Express.  They are stuffed with juicy, tender, moist, delicious meats and are a great bargain for only a few dollars.  An authentic Mexican burrito for around 5 dollars is a bargain.  Located at 647 Centennial Drive in Springfield, El Taco Express is clean, fast, friendly, and delicious.  

MOUNTAIN GORILLA ADVENTURE IN UGANDA

I traveled to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda on a gorilla trekking expedition, and had an amazing encounter with mountain gorillas.  We hiked for over three hours through the jungle to reach the gorillas.  Our first encounter was the silver back.  Magnificent!  We couldn't have done it without the forest rangers, soldiers, and porters.  They carried our backpacks, hacked with machetes, helped us nearly swing on vines, navigate steep mountain sides, thorns, and wild elephant tracks.  Impenetrable Forest is a correctly descriptive name.
We flew to Entebbe, then took a small plane to Kisoro.  The lodge provided transportation over a rugged mountain road.  Gorgeous accommodations,  fabulous views, lovely people.  It is great to be so well cared for when traveling abroad.  Winston Churchill was correct when he called Uganda "The Pearl Of Africa." 
If you love a challenge, travel to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda, and trek with the endangered mountain gorillas.  If Alaska Granny can do it, so can you! 

MOUNTAIN GORILLA ENCOUNTER IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST

We first encountered the silver back dining on foliage.  Silently, a female and baby appeared. They wandered in to join the silver back.  What an experience!  
The hike through the dense forest was difficult.  The vines were so thick, you would place your hiking stick, and it would disappear below you.  Thank goodness my porter stayed right by my side to pull me along.  I would not have made it without him!  You can see why Winston Churchill called Uganda "The Pearl Of Africa!"

UGANDAN SCHOOL CHILDREN DRUMMING AND DANCING

During my trip to Uganda, we encountered a group of school children who came out to drum and dance for us.  They heard we were coming that way, and were outside as we were passing their school.  They are so adorable.  The people of Uganda are very kind and friendly, which makes visiting their country enjoyable.

 

Eight Days In Africa by Sean Jeffries

This is a great book about safaris to Africa. Sean Jeffries documents how he planned his safari to South Africa, which can seem daunting.  

If you dream of going on Safari to Africa, this book is a great guide of how to turn your dream into reality.

There is nothing in the world like Africa, and one of the most magical places I have traveled.  The people are friendly, kind, helpful.  The scenery is exquisite, and the animals breathtaking.  I have enjoyed my travels to Africa, and plan to visit there again, soon.

 

LYNX ENCOUNTER

We came across a lynx while on a hike, and were we ever surprised.  This is the first time I have ever seen a lynx in the wild.  They are gorgeous cats, and very clever.  They run in circles by instinct to elude predators.  This guy climbed about 40 feet into a tree.  We were trekking in the woods with the dogs, and they do love to chase things!  If you see their tracks in the snow, you will realize you cannot follow them, smart!  These cats are magnificent.

BOTTLE NOSED DOLPHINS IN THE SEA OF CORTEZ

 

On a recent trip to Mexico, I went on a wildlife viewing cruise in the Sea Of Cortez, San Carlos, Mexico.  We saw nesting cranes, pelicans, and blue footed boobies, which I thought only lived in the Galapagos Islands in South America.  The Sea of Cortez is teaming with fish, so is a wonderful habitat for many species, including a winter playground for whales.  Bottle nosed dolphins chased our boat to play in the wake.  Fun!!  Get outside and explore; there is nothing like it.

MEXICO'S COPPER CANYON, TARAHUMARA PEOPLE OF THE CANYON

I recently toured Mexico's Copper Canyon on the train, El Chepe, and encountered some of the Tarahumara people.  They are renowned for their long distance running ability.  Living traditional lifestyles, the Tarahumara raise livestock and live in small homes within the canyon.  They weave baskets and offer other handicrafts for sale.  If you have a chance to visit here, do it!

MEXICO'S COPPER CANYON

by Vivien Lougheed

Travelers come from all over the world to visit Mexico's Copper Canyon.  The Copper Canyon is 4 times the size of the Grand Canyon in the United States, yet is very remote.

 Inhabited by the indigenous Tarahumara  people, visitors are few and far between.  The red and green rock canyons, deep gorges, and lush forests add to the beauty of this region.  

This book is a nice guide to hiking, sightseeing, horseback riding, and accommodations in this wonderful, remote part of Mexico.  

Arctic Caribou Hunt Nunavik, Quebec

I recently went on a caribou hunt to the Arctic region of Nunavik, Quebec.  I felt like I could see the curvature of the earth in every direction.  Animals we saw that are unique to the far north include musk ox, arctic fox, caribou, and ptarmigan.  Cold, windy, rainy, and FUN!  I love adventures.

A People's History Of Quebec  by Jacques Lacoursiere and Robin Philpot

If you are interested in history, this is a well done book about Quebec.  This book details the 450 year development throughout the St. Lawrence Valley.

 Read about the settlements, explorers, and historical forces leading to quests for independence in recent years.

I enjoy reading about places I visit so I can understand the people and culture while I visit.  The cities in Quebec are beautiful, and the Arctic regions pure and fascinating.  

There is nothing like seeing herds of caribou migrating, the occasional musk ox, and the storms from the Pole blowing in ferociously.

 

 

KIWI BIRD ENCOUNTER - Wellington, New Zealand

While on holiday on the north island of New Zealand, my son arranged for a naturalist to lead us on a nighttime hike to find the elusive little spotted kiwi bird.  This shy bird is the size of a chicken, much larger than I imagined.   We could hear kiwis calling in the night, but sightings are quite rare.  
These unusual birds were considered nearly extinct in 1875, and are making a comeback due to the conservation efforts of  New Zealanders.  Our hike was near Wellington, in the Karori Sanctuary.  We viewed many unique bird, reptile, and insect species on our hike.  We used red torch lights to look for the nocturnal kiwis, and needed to be very quiet, a difficult task for AlaskaGranny!

PENGUIN ENCOUNTER - Akaroa, New Zealand

On holiday visiting the south island of New Zealand, I was able to view penguins climbing onto the rocks at dusk. We visited the town of Akaroa, an hour south of Christchurch.  Two types of penguins are indigenous to New Zealand, the white footed, and the yellow eyed.  This viewing was of a solitary yellow eyed penguin.  Watch this little guy scurry up the hill.  It was amazing!

WHALE WATCHING - San Diego, California

On a recent holiday in San Diego, we took a whale watching cruise.  We had the pleasure of viewing several pods, or groups of gray whales.  Take a wildlife viewing excursion whenever you have a chance.  I love finding opportunities to experience the majesty of the out of doors, the beauty and diversity of the animals that inhabit our Earth.

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