¡Puerto Rico!

Puerto Rico VacationWe just returned from a very relaxing vacation in Puerto Rico. Going into the trip, we didn’t have a lot planned, but ended up doing quite a bit while we were there.

Day 1:
We flew in on Thursday, July 28th, and landed in San Juan that evening. We picked up the keys to our condo (thanks, VRBO!), which had a great view of the Atlantic Ocean and decided to go exploring. We wandered around a bit looking for something to eat, and happened across the Ritz Carlton Hotel that was just up the beach from our condo. We ended up returning there quite a bit for various amenities on our trip. We grabbed dinner in their “casual” restaurant (which didn’t seem to be that casual), but had WONDERFUL food, and decided to call it a night.

Day 2:
We got up and took a short walk on the beach back to the Ritz to see if we could book some excursions through their travel office. We booked a kayak tour at Fajardo Bioluminescent Bay, and a rainforest hike/tour. Once our tour business was taken care of, we asked around, and determined that taking the bus would be the easiest way for us to get out to Old San Juan. After a long bus ride, we arrived at the corner of the island. Old San Juan is a large island on the north side of Puerto Rico, and is a bit of a small historic colonial city within the city. Old San Juan is surrounded by a large wall, and has two large Spanish forts that used to be the gateway to the Caribbean. Before the United States took over in the late 19th century, San Juan was an important Spanish gateway to the Caribbean islands. Fortresses and city walls were made to protect their harbors from invaders. We wandered around the city and walked through both of the massive forts on the island. The forts were really interesting to explore since they all had multiple levels and many lookouts and turrets to traverse. After a long hot day of hiking around Old San Juan, we took a long bus ride back to the condo to rest.

Day 3:
Day three started with a little relaxation. We slept in a bit, and then rolled out of bed to hit the beach. We “borrowed” some beach chairs from the Ritz Carlton and sat in the sun to read a little bit. We may have treated ourselves to a couple tropical drinks before taking a dip in the ocean. We grabbed lunch from a street vendor on the beach (a Puerto Rican hamburger and hotdog). We hung out on the beach a bit more to let our food digest, then headed back to the condo to clean up. After washing out all the sand, we went for a short walk to what became our favorite restaurant on the trip, La Playita. It was our favorite because it was right next door to the condo, sat right on the ocean, and because they made great strawberry Mojitos! We ordered a local appetizer of Steak Mofongos (fried plantain cups filled with marinated steak), and some delicious Mojitos. After our snack, we returned to the condo to rest a bit (it’s tough work relaxing!!). We took a quick catnap, grabbed a bit of dinner, and got our things together for our Fajardo Bioluminescent Kayak Tour. We walked back to the Ritz Carlton again and got in a van to drive us an hour to Fajardo. When we arrived, they were having a blackout, making things a bit tough. We were given a short kayaking demo, and assigned to a two-person kayak and thrown into the water. We were a bit leery at first since it was pretty windy, and in the pitch black it seemed like we were out in the middle of the ocean. That changed quickly when we started winding through a narrow stream covered on all sides by trees and vines. There were about 20 people in our group, so a long line of kayaks wound their way through this canal for about 20-30 minutes in the pitch black. Needless to say, there were a few collisions in the darkness. Throwing a bunch of people who have likely never been in a kayak before into a dark tunnel and having them row in a straight line was a bit difficult. We finally arrived in the bay, and it was really amazing! The water is full of micro-organisms (dinoflagellates) that glow a green-blue light when they are disturbed by something moving through the water. So as we paddled our kayaks, or moved our hands and feet through the water, it glowed amazing blue green light. It’s hard to explain, and none of the photos or videos I could find do it justice because it’s so dark. I found one video that shows it, but it’s something that you really need to experience. After spending a little while playing in the glowing water, we make the difficult (DARK!) paddle back to the van and headed back to the condo where we hit the sack for a short night.

Day 4:
We got up early and followed our well-worn path back to our favorite place (Ritz Carlton), to get on another van to take us to the El Yunque rain forest. The drive was about an hour, and when we arrived our first stop was the La Coca Falls, a fairly large waterfall near the entrance to the park. After a short photo-op, we jumped back into the van and rode to the trail-head. There was a nice path that we followed along a flowing creek through the rainforest. We hiked for about 20 minutes and came across another big waterfall that had a pool below it with people swimming. We were wearing our suits, so we decided to ditch our bag and jump in. IT. WAS. COLD! We carefully made our way back to the falling water, which was very difficult on the uneven slippery rocks in the pool. We eventually  made it under the water, and could barely see it was coming down so fast. We had someone snap a few photos, but it’s hard to see it under the pouring water. After getting our photos, we worked our way back out to the trail again to hike down to where the van was waiting for us. After changing clothes, we rode to the last destination on the tour to the Yokahu Observation Tower, an old observation tower with great views of the forest and a city nearby. We climbed the spiral staircase and took a few photos at the top before piling back into the van to head back to San Juan. We arrived back at the condo, cleaned up a bit, and went to our favorite restaurant (La Playita) for a few yummy Mojitos and a walk on the beach to round out a fun-filled day.

Day 5:
On our 5th (and last full day) in Puerto Rico, we slept in a little bit and then walked to the bus stop. We hopped on a bus to Old San Juan, then found Pier 2 and jumped on a ferry that we took to Cantaño, where we disembarked and quickly found a cab to take us to Casa Bacardi. Casa Bacardi is the main Bacardi distillery for most of the world. We exited our cab and walked up to the Bacardi Pavilion (shaped like a gold flying bat), where they gave us our free drink tickets. The English-speaking tour didn’t start for about 30 minutes, so we had a seat and drank some free rum. The tour took us through the history of the company. They originally started in Cuba, and left for obvious reasons. The tour was interesting, but was a little like a big advertisement for Bacardi. They told us about their process for making rum, and we got to smell different samples and flavors of the varieties that they make. After the tour I bought a muddler (to make Mojitos) from the gift shop, and we took another cab back to the pier, and the ferry back to Old San Juan. We visited a Puerto Rican restaurant for lunch that was supposedly the birthplace of the Piña colada. We did a little more exploring in Old San Juan along with finding a couple geocaches, one which was surrounded by pigeons that freaked Jess out. We got back on the bus and rode back to the condo. We cleaned up, and hit the beach again since it was our last night on the island, then we went to our favorite restaurant again for dinner, and went for a long walk on the beach to get some ice cream before heading back to our last night in the condo.

Day 6:
For our last day in Puerto Rico, we got up a bit earlier than we had previously, and took a final walk on the beach, nearly beating a quick rain shower. We packed our suitcases and called a cab (in Spanish!) to take us to the airport. We learned in the airport that Tropical Storm Emily was bearing down on the island. Apparently the governor gave everyone the day off to prepare for the oncoming weather. We were a bit worried we wouldn’t get out, but all of our flights were right on time and we made it back to Iowa a bit earlier than expected.

We had a really fun trip, and it was tough to leave. We really got used to our daily stroll on the beach followed up by a Mojito. Check out photos from the trip in our gallery!

Surprise Birthday Trip

Scott sure surprised me when he woke me up at 6:30 am last Thursday and told me to take a quick shower and pack a bag for warm weather.  Needless to say I was a bit confused that early in the morning.  After packing my bag, we got in the car and driving for about 15 minutes he told me we were going to Orlando to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to celebrate my 30th birthday!  I’m a pretty big Harry Potter fan so I was very excited.  We got to Orlando on Thursday afternoon and shopped at an outlet mall close to our hotel.  On Friday, we went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and made a beeline to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter portion of the park.  I have to say, it was pretty great.  I was impressed with IMG_5397all the details in the village area and the rides were fun, except for the Hippogriff ride, which was entirely too short and a bit of a letdown.  Everything else was great though.  I particularly enjoyed the butterbeer in Hogsmeade and eating lunch at the Three Broomsticks.  We were especially fortunate because we didn’t have to wait in line too long for the rides.  It was a weekday in late September so that probably had something to do with it.  We were lucky enough to ride our favorite rides several times.  We rode the Forbidden Journey (my favorite Harry Potter ride) twice; the Hulk twice; and the Dragon Challenge roller coaster three times.  All in all, it was a good day at the theme park, even considering the downpour mid-afternoon.

On Saturday, my actual birth day, we decided to go to Epcot.  Neither of us had been to Epcot in many years so we decided what better place to be on you birthday than Disney World?  Before I entered the park, the ticket booth “cast member” gave me a birthday button.  I wore the button all day and all the “cast members” wished me happy birthday (34 times to be IMG_5422exact).  And one lady even sang happy birthday to me.  We had a good time visiting all the “countries” and checking out the rides.  I think my favorite was the Mission: Space ride.  We were exhausted at the end of the day at Epcot.  Walking around theme parks for two days can be tiring.  We capped off my birthday with dinner at Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney.

It was a bit difficult leaving Orlando on Sunday morning because we had such a great time there (and we had to get up at 4:30 am–yikes!).  But I had a fantastic birthday and was thoroughly surprised.  Thanks, Scott!

Christmas Travels

Well, we’re back from the great white north, and finally settled back in after a couple weeks of holiday travels. We flew to Omaha in mid-December, and spent about a week in Atlantic, then drove to Iowa City (through the great blizzard of 2009) on Christmas day. We spent another week in Iowa City and then flew back to warm Tucson the second day of 2010. It was a nice trip, and was good to see friends and family. We’ve added holiday photos to the gallery.

October & November Catch Up Post

Loyal Blog Readers: Boy, it’s been a long time since we’ve heard from you, what’s been going on with Scott and Jessica?

ScottandJessica.net: Funny you should ask, we’ve actually been pretty busy the last few months.

Loyal Blog Readers: Well, as far as we know, the last thing that happened was a few people visited you, and you did some fun things.

ScottandJessica.net: Let us bring you up to speed on the latest happenings.

Loyal Blog Readers: Good! We can’t wait!

ScottandJessica.net: Let’s start out with a trip back to Iowa in October. We took a trip back to attend Iowa’s homecoming game. We both played in the alumni band. Jess has done it a couple times, but it was Scott’s first time in alumni band. He hadn’t picked up his trumpet in 10-plus years. Fortunately it still worked, and played well enough to march through pre-game in an Iowa win over Michigan. We got a taste of some fall weather, and even a bit of snow in the morning before the game. Check out photos from the trip in the gallery.

Loyal Blog Readers: Wow! That sounds like it was a pretty fun trip! Go Hawks! Did you guys do anything fun for Halloween?

ScottandJessica.net: Funny you should ask, we went to a couple of Halloween parties, and had a good time dressed as Mario and Princess Peach (y’know, from Super Mario Brothers?!?). You can see some lovely pictures from Halloween in the gallery.

Loyal Blog Readers: Ha ha ha! What great costumes!!! Looks like you had a good Halloween. You guys usually post home improvements on the site, have you done anything to the house lately?

ScottandJessica.net: Actually, we did just finish up a small project. We’d been talking for quite some time about getting curtains for the master bedroom (the blinds didn’t quite block out the STRONG Arizona sun). We took a trip to Phoenix to visit grandma a couple weeks ago, and swung by IKEA on our way home, and believe it or not, bought some new curtains. Before hanging the curtains, we decided to go a bit further, and paint one of the walls in the room (for you TLC/DIY/Home&Garden/HGTV watchers, it’s known as an “Accent Wall”). And before looking at the photos, you can probably guess what color it is…

Loyal Blog Readers: Green!

ScottandJessica.net: What can we say? We like green. Anyway, check out the photos below, of our new and improved bedroom.

Loyal Blog Readers: The room looks nice… and that’s a lovely, “accent wall!” (like how we threw that into conversation?!?)

ScottandJessica.net: Why, thank you! So far, we’re enjoying it – less sun in the morning, is always a good thing.

Loyal Blog Readers: Thanks for the update, and try not to let it go so long without a post next time.

ScottandJessica.net: Sorry about that… we’ll try.

Travel to Seattle (and Cooler Temps)

Here we are in the dog days of summer… and it is HOT! We’ve seen 100+ temps the past few weeks, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up any time soon. I guess that’s what you get for living in a desert. Fortunately, we were able to escape for a few days last week. Jess had a training in Seattle, and I flew out to join her for a long weekend. Even though they were heading into a “heat wave” in Seattle (please note the quotes), it was still much cooler there than here. I flew in on Wed, and joined the training group for dinner that night at a great seafood place. Then on Thursday, I had the day to myself while Jess spent one last day in a stuffy classroom. I met up with one of my old co-workers and had coffee, then did a bit of exploring on The University of Washington campus. I then took a stroll though Pike’s Market before heading back to meet Jess for dinner in the Space Needle. We took the elevator to the top and did a little sight-seeing from the observation deck before having dinner in the rotating restaurant at the top of the Needle. The next day we took an “Underground Tour” of Seattle. Apparently the city was originally built at sea level, but when it burn down in 1889, they decided to rebuild it, and elevate the streets to avoid future flooding, and to prevent their toilets from backing up (seriously!). That left a large collection of underground passageways around the original buildings. Many 2nd floors became first floors that you now see at the ground level. It was an interesting tour of the city’s history. After that tour, we took another one in a duck boat/bus. They drove us around the city, and then the bus turned into a boat, and we took a short tour of Lake Union (the location of Tom Hanks’ houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle). After the tour, we hiked out to Safeco field to take in a Mariner’s Game (they lost) before calling it a night. On Saturday, we took a harbor tour, then jumped on the water taxi to West Seattle. Apparently the only beach (Alki) in Seattle is across the sound in West Seattle. There was an art fair happening at the beach, so we walked around there for a little while, and then grabbed the taxi back downtown, had a big pile of shellfish for dinner, and said goodbye to Seattle. It was tough to hear the captain say that the ground temp was 110 when we landed in Tucson.

Photos of our trip can be found in the gallery.

Alaskan Cruise

We made it back from our Alaskan cruise safe and sound (and tired) Sunday afternoon. While we were out in the last frontier, we kept a short daily journal of our adventures. We’ve also added a ton of photos (can you measure photos in tons?) to the gallery. We actually cut down the number of photos (we took over a thousand!) that were uploaded to the site. If you ever want to see the entire 4 and a half hour slideshow (narrated by James Earl Jones) just let us know.

Day 1 – Seattle
We ran into some “difficulties” before making it to the boat. We flew into Seattle the night before, and had dinner at a Karaoke “townie” bar (yes… it was interesting) before the Iowa portion of our traveling party arrived a bit later that night. The next morning we got up and met some old friends of Cindy from Germany. They shuttled us to IHOP, where we had a deliciously IHOPPY breakfast. When we returned to the hotel to gather our luggage and take the hotel shuttle back to the airport to catch our transportation to the ship. things took an unexpected turn. Our hotel rooms in Seattle were connected, and Joanna and Cindy’s room was somehow deadbolted… from the inside. We couldn’t wait much longer, so we got a ride to the airport while the others attempted to get back into their locked (from the inside) room. This involved a crowbar, and a ladder to break the 2nd story window allowing them access to their baggage so they could race back to the airport. Luckily everyone made it with enough time to catch the shuttle to the ship. We all checked in, and the giant boat took off from Seattle, and we were on our way. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring the ship that we’d call home for the next seven days. That night we had an amazing dinner (they all are!), saw a show, and then went to bed.

Day 2 – At Sea
We had beautiful weather on Day 1, but Day 2 wasn’t as nice.  We played games, watched shows, and were generally lazy as our ship made its way to our first port of call.

Day 3 – Ketchikan
We finally made it to our first port of call, Ketchikan, on Day 3.  It was pretty rainy and cloudy in the morning, but the weather eventually cooperated and the sun peeked out.  We got off the boat and spent most of the day touring this quiet fishing village (well, it’s not so quiet when 4 cruise ships are pulled up at the pier).  We hit some shops, saw some totem poles, went to the museum, and then took a small tram up a mountain for a better view of the town.  It was a gorgeous view and one we will not soon forget.  After we got back on the boat at 4pm, we took off and did some scenic cruising en route to our next port of call.  Scott actually spotted a pod of orca off the starboard side (that’s the right side for you landlubbers) while we were cruising through mountain ranges.  That evening we had a great dinner (it was Italian night) and then saw a comedian who actually used quite a few of the same jokes from the other night that we saw him (all the good comedians were booked, apparently).  Then it was off to bed to prepare for an early morning of cruising through glaciers.

Day 4 – Tracy Arm Fjords and Juneau
On day 4, we woke up to a narrow Fjord (which means it was carved by a glacier). There were high snow-capped mountains on either side of the ship, and icebergs floating all around us glowing blue. On our way out of Tracy Arm Fjord, we passed our sister ship the “Golden Princess” as it was leaving the fjord. Later that afternoon, we stopped in Juneau where we took a brief tour of the city by bus, and took a charter boat out for a whale-watching tour. We saw multiple hump-backed whales, and took quite a few photos of them coming out of the water. It was amazing seeing all these whales out in the wild. We also saw several other animals on the tour, including eagles, sea lions, and seals.

Day 5 – Skagway
In Skagway we disembarked in the morning, and took a bus tour to the summit of the White Pass. On the way up, we got lucky and saw a black bear eating dandelions along the side of the road. We crossed into Canada, then turned around and headed back. On our way back over the US boarder, we saw the Skagway port director who was featured on the TV show Homeland Security USA (he let us through). When we got back into town, we did a little exploring (shopping) before getting back on the boat.

Day 6 – Day at Sea
Sleeping, eating, resting, eating, eating (eating), sleeping.

Day 7 – Victoria British Columbia
We spet half the day at sea, then pulled into Victoria, BC around 5 pm. We took a double-decker bus tour through the city. Who knew Victoria was such a beautiful place. We saw The Empress Hotel, and their beautiful legislative buildings, and took a nice stroll through the city after our tour along fisherman’s wharf. We boarded the ship for the last time, and enjoyed our last dinner on the ship (we need to go on a diet when we get home!).

Notable Quotes from the Journey:

  • Break it now!  – Cinny
  • They had to break the window.  Yeah, that just happened.  – Jo
  • I just fell on my butt.  – Jo
  • Is this a show?  – scratchy old lady voice
  • I’m almost positive this will be full.  – Alaskathy
  • Random Dinner Guy:  Miss, you dropped your bag. Jo:  (Yeah, I put it there.)
  • I don’t like pina coladas, but I feel like I should.  – Jess
  • I’m on a boat!  I got my swim trunks and my flippy floppies! – Everyone
  • You look sexy gorgeous.  – Ramil
  • Joanne, kiss me like a French girl.  – Piazza Performer Guy
  • Jess:  That sausage looks bloated. Jo:  That’s what she said.
  • That’s on you.  – Jo
  • Enjoy your dinner, bon appetit.  – Ramil
  • Big man, little voice.  – Waiter in Explorers Lounge
  • Of the 9 desserts we had last night, that was my least favorite.  – Scott
  • Do you guys know where the aerobics class is?  – Random Lady
  • This isn’t Sea World.  – Alaskathy
  • Everyone loves my books.  – Alaskathy
  • Booze Cruise ’09!

Birthday Surprise Trip

Last weekend for my birthday Scott told me to pack a bag and that we were going on a surprise birthday trip.  He didn’t tell me much except that I would need stuff for the whole weekend.  An hour into the trip I still didn’t know where we were going, but I had my suspicions.  We finally hit Phoenix and were heading north when I finally got it out of him that we were going to Sedona, Arizona!  For those of you who don’t know about Sedona, it’s probably one of the most beautiful places in Arizona, in my opinion.  The scenery is absolutely amazing.  What’s cool about it is the red rock that’s everywhere in the mountains.  We stayed at a vacation rental by owner for the weekend and hiked around a lot.  We also did a little bit of shopping in the gallery district.  Check out our photos.  There isn’t a bad view in Sedona.  We had a good time enjoying the weather and relaxing.  Thank you, Scott!

Random Pile of Photos

We’ve been collecting a few random photos fro a little while now. They don’t really have a specific place of their own to live on here. Several are from our anniversary last month. We kept the top tier of our wedding cake (it survived 2 moves!), and ate it on our anniversary. We’ve also got a few new house photos. We’ve been adding storage shelves/brackets/doors to provide some places to put our stuff.

Yard Work

It’s time for another catch-up post. We’ve been busy since moving into the new house. We took a quick vacation in DC after Jess’s work trip. Photos from DC are up in the gallery. Since then, we’ve been getting settled into the house. This includes a lot of work in the back yard recently. We wanted to get things taken care of out there before the Monsoons come in mid-July. The first task was digging in the HARD NASTY Arizona dirt to install drip irrigation so we can grow a few plants back there. This weekend, while Jess is in Chicago for her sister’s bachelorette party, I did a few other jobs in the yard, including laying pavers out from our patio (thanks for helping Will!). Now we just need to cover the rest of the ground with rocks. Later this week four and a half tons will be dumped in the middle of our driveway. I guess that plans out our weekend for us. After the rock goes in, the last item left to do is plant a few things out there. I’m sure we’ll have photos up when everything is finished. It will be nice to have the yard all said and done so we can move onto new projects (painting!).

I set up the laptop to capture a time lapse of the pavers going in.

Music: Kevin MacLeod