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Eating and relaxing in Las Vegas

Our weekend trips to Las Vegas tend to be busy. We usually cram everything we possibly can into the less-than-48 hours we’ll be here. Sleep comes only out of necessity. So it’s a little weird that I’m starting a new post at 6:20 am, after getting a full night’s sleep and then some. I think we were in bed by 9 pm. That’s pretty lame. Keeping it relaxed in Las Vegas

New day in Las Vegas

It’s just after dawn here in Las Vegas. I’ve been awake for an hour or so, and I’m working on my second cup of shitty in-room coffee. Our room at the Orleans has a view of the Strip. Since we’re west of the Strip, I’ve been watching the sun rise over Luxor, Mandalay Bay, and the McCarran airport. Fresh start in Las Vegas

Halfway from Phoenix to Las Vegas: Wikieup, Arizona

Roughly halfway between Phoenix and Las Vegas is a place — I hesitate to call it a town — called Wikieup. It’s a perfect spot to stop for a bathroom break and a bite to eat. Road trip to Las Vegas

Las Vegas road trip status update

The status of this weekend’s road trip to Las Vegas is now unambiguous. Kathryn’s doctor this morning ordered her to spend the weekend in Las Vegas. Sweet! I’ll submit a health insurance claim when we get home. Road trip to Las Vegas

Road trip to Las Vegas appears to be happening

It’s been touch and go this week.

Kathryn and I have a tradition of road tripping to Las Vegas the weekend before Christmas. We’ve been doing it since 2007.

However, since last weekend, the trip has been growing increasingly uncertain. A certain family health issue — I don’t want to elaborate right now — has been threatening to interfere with the trip. Road trip to Las Vegas

Kuba Kuba in Richmond

Kuba Kuba is a restaurant that left an impression on me when I lived in Richmond, despite having eaten there only a few times. It was high on my list of places to visit during our recent stay. Kuba Kuba in Richmond

Is my wife sexier now that she’s Silver Preferred?

When Kathryn boarded the Charlotte-to-Phoenix leg of our return trip from Richmond, she was already an attractive woman. By the time we landed, though, something had changed. She seemed even sexier. More radiant. Wife upgraded

Richmond, Virginia: Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

When I lived in Richmond, I wasn’t much of a church-goer. In the three years I lived there, I can count the number of times I attended Mass on one hand. Zero. Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond

Richmond, Virginia: Splurge at the Jefferson Hotel

I don’t often splurge on hotels. It just seems like a poor use of my travel budget. As long as a room is reasonably clean, reasonably located, and reasonably priced, I’m happy. It’s rare that I spend more than $100 a night for a room in all but the world’s most expensive cities. In the United States, the major three-star chains are more than adequate. Jefferson Hotel in Richmond

I usually pack shoelaces

I like to travel light. The easiest way to travel light is to limit the amount of footwear I pack. I typically travel with at most two sets of footwear. More often than not, it’s just the one set I’m wearing when I leave the house. This one set of footwear is often a pair of well worn hiking shoes. If any part of such shoes is going to fail, it’s most likely the laces. I’ve found this out the hard way. Why you should pack shoelaces

Bottoms Up Pizza

When Kathryn and I arrived in Richmond last Saturday, we were hungry. Food on the plane is a ripoff nowadays, and our layover in Charlotte was too short to grab a meal. After we picked up our bag and rental car, we drove straight to Bottoms Up Pizza. Bottoms Up Pizza in Richmond

Seeing Virginia again for the first time

Kathryn and I recently returned from a long weekend in Virginia. I lived in several cities in Virginia for a total of about 13 years. Kathryn had never seen Virginia at all. We felt it was important to make sure the trip was new for both of us. In view of that, I’ve created the following list of things we did for the first time together. More… »

Going places: November edition

I’m writing this installment of Going places from home on a Sunday evening. That’s a bit unusual. More… »

Puerto Vallarta: Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is perhaps the most photographed building in Puerto Vallarta. It’s located in the heart of the city center. We decided to go there for Sunday Mass during our stay. Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta: Running the gauntlet at the airport

Prior to our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, I hadn’t arrived in Mexico by air since a 1989 vacation to Ixtapa with my parents. So, in stark contrast to my previous experience, I was pleasantly surprised to see Puerto Vallarta has a clean, modern international airport terminal. Complete with air-conditioned jetways, no less. Timeshare gauntlet at the airport in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta: Getting around by bus

Kathryn and I recently spent seven days in Puerto Vallarta. Other than the rides between the airport and our resort, we did not use a taxi once. All our travel around Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding areas was on the local buses. Riding the bus in Puerto Vallarta

Safely home from Mexico

Kathryn and I arrived home safely from Mexico yesterday evening. I’ll continue posting updates until I’ve run out of stories from the trip. More photos are coming too.

Puerto Vallarta: Day trip to Sayulita

An update from Puerto Vallarta on Friday, morning in Mexico.

Kathryn and I decided to take a day trip yesterday to Sayulita, a village on a small bay some distance north of Puerto Vallarta. We traveled there by bus, one of the ones the locals use. I’m not sure how long the ride was, maybe a bit over an hour. The trip there and back only set us back 100 pesos for the two of us, so it was a cheap excursion, at least for the transportation. It was a different look at Mexico and an interesting change of pace from Puerto Vallarta. Day trip by bus to Sayulita

Puerto Vallarta: Much ado about nothing

An update from Puerto Vallarta on Wednesday, dinner time in Mexico.

Well, after all the preparations, Hurricane Juvo was a bust. Kathryn got some internet time today to track the storm. It has already passed us and has been downgraded to a tropical depression. The employees of the resort, who just this morning were bracing for the worst, have already brought back the chairs and umbrellas around the pool area, and it looks like dinner service will take place by the ocean as normal. Hurricane Juvo downgraded

Puerto Vallarta: Still awaiting Juvo

An update from Puerto Vallarta, Wednesday morning in Mexico.

We’ve been gearing up for Hurricane Juvo since Monday, but it’s taking its sweet time getting here. When we left the U.S. on Saturday, it was forecast to hit Puerto Vallarta directly Monday evening. Hurricanes are unpredictable though. The latest report is it’ll come ashore as a category-three hurricane much further south in the state of Jalisco, then follow the coast north toward us, probably having weakened to a tropical storm by then. That should happen this evening. Gearing up for Hurricane Juvo

Puerto Vallarta: Weathering the storm

An update from our vacation in Mexico, Monday noon.

We knew before we left the States that a hurricane was looming off the Pacific coast, and the forecasts at the end of last week were that the eye would pass over Puerto Vallarta this afternoon. We can’t seem to find a weather report on the television, but folks we’ve talked to seem to think the storm is now tracking south of here. More… »

Going places: October edition

Out of an abundance of caution, I’ve declined in years past to divulge the details of upcoming travels. Unfortunately, being too tight-lipped has caused me to miss some opportunities, like meeting up with friends traveling to the same places. So I’m going to open up a little and provide an overview of the plans Kathryn and I have for the next few months: More… »

Confession at St. Peter’s Basilica

During our trip to Rome earlier this year, Kathryn and I recognized how long it had been since we’d last received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession, or Penance, or whatever the Church is calling it this year. Far too long. The gift of the Holy Father’s blessing at the General Audience earlier in the week, and the possibility we would receive it again after praying the Angelus on Sunday, increased our desire to receive the sacrament as soon as possible. Confessing sins at St. Peter's Basilica

The opposite of a travel photo

What’s the opposite of a travel photo? A photo you take while sitting at home in front of your computer. I captured this sunrise over Phoenix this morning by rotating my swivel chair 90 degrees to the right. More… »

The healthier lunch hour

On my way back from McDonald’s, I saw an ambulance pull up in front of LA Fitness. Who would have thought I had the healthier lunch hour?

Learning a language

Mastering prepositions is the hardest part from learning any language.

Incomparable sunrise at Shaw Butte

It was another beautiful morning in Phoenix. I arrived at the trailhead for the Loop at Shaw Butte at 5:48 am, and the temperature was 68 degrees. More… »

Wasted opportunity

I wrote off any chance of getting out for a hike in the early morning today because I had a 9 am meeting scheduled with my team lead. So what did I find when I arrived at work? An e-mail from the team lead telling me he’ll be out sick today. It was a perfect 73 degrees this morning. An opportunity wasted.

Another beautiful morning

It would be another beautiful morning for a hike in Phoenix. After two mornings of hiking the Loop at Shaw Butte, though, I think I’m ready for a break. My knees are a bit wobbly today.

Favorite Phoenix urban hikes: The Loop at Shaw Butte

This summer was one of the hottest on record in Phoenix. When enduring the scorching heat of June, July, August, and even into early September in the Valley of the Sun, it can be easy to forget what’s here to enjoy the rest of the year. Fortunately, mid-September rolls around every year and reminds us we have eight to nine months of nearly endless outdoor possibilities in front of us. Hiking at Shaw Butte in Phoenix

Germany: Any reason to celebrate in Monheim am Rhein, Cologne, and Düsseldorf

I arrived in Paris six days ago and spent a couple nights there. I didn’t do much in Paris that I haven’t done before. Mostly, I just enjoyed being there, sitting in cafes, walking through parks, and so forth. The only new thing I really saw was the museum of the police prefecture, which actually I didn’t find very interesting, aside from an exhibit of some of the firearms used during the Liberation.

I left Friday morning by train for Cologne, Germany, where I planned to visit a friend of mine, Christian, who lives near there. I had planned to spend the morning in Paris, but after speaking to Christian by phone, it seemed like it would work out better with his schedule if I arrived in the mid-afternoon. The rail line between in Paris and Cologne is a mostly high-speed line called Thalys, so the trip took less than four hours, with only a few intermediate stops. More… »

Mission San Xavier del Bac: White Dove of the Desert, Tucson

During our recent weekend trip to Tucson, Kathryn and I took an opportunity to visit Mission San Xavier del Bac, just outside the city. As luck would have it, there was a Mass scheduled there Saturday morning. It was to celebrate the 366th birthday of Fr. Eusebio Kino, the Jesuit priest who founded the mission way back in 1692. So we made sure to schedule our visit to coincide. Mission San Xavier del Bac near Tucson

Sonoran hot dogs at El Guero Canelo in Tucson

A couple years ago on one of my other blogs, I wrote about my first experience eating Sonoran hot dogs in Phoenix. I had first read about Sonoran hot dogs in an in-flight magazine on US Airways, but the article was about Tucson, not Phoenix. Since then, I’ve been looking forward to an authentic Sonoran hot dog in Tucson. The time arrived on a recent weekend trip. El Guero Canelo, Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson

Things you probably don’t know about me

Here’s a list of things you probably don’t know about me. It’s in no particular order. More… »

On tipping: Servers and housekeepers

How well you tip your server in a restaurant says little about your character. How well you tip your housekeeper in a hotel room speaks volumes.

Is it Jesus Mary Joseph or World Youth Day?

I discovered today that the French expression for World Youth Day is les Journées mondial de la jeunesse, which is abbreviated JMJ. That’s pretty cool.

Montpellier, France: Donating blood at the Place de la Comédie

On my way out to do the shopping this morning, I was walking across the Place de la Comédie, and I noticed a sign that there were blood collections going on. I hadn’t given blood since I was seventeen years old, and I hadn’t actually tried since September 11 last year, when I was turned away because of the crowds. I wasn’t in a particular hurry, so I figured I could kill an hour or so giving a pint. Giving blood in Montpellier

Three simple rules for traveling

There are lots of lists out there with things you need to know about traveling. Over the years, I’ve developed three simple rules I swear by. Not surprisingly, I formed these rules by violating them. Follow these three rules when traveling

The English woman on the train from Ljubljana to Salzburg

I’ve been reviewing a lot of my old travel blog posts recently and sharing the more interesting ones on Facebook and Twitter. While doing this, I noticed a glaring omission on my part. There was a story I never told because, at the time, I was so embarrassed by my naivete with respect to the opposite sex. It happened five years ago this week, in August 2006.
More… »

St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow

Usually when I talk or write about St. Mary’s Basilica, I’m referring to the beautiful Spanish mission style Catholic church in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. I received confirmation there. My wife and I were married there, and we remain parishioners there. It’s quite special to both of us. St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas: Secret hidden pizza on the Strip

On our recent trip to Las Vegas, Kathryn and I decided to find the secret, hidden, nameless pizza place at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. I had read about it in the local paper some months earlier. Cosmopolitan Las Vegas pizzeria

St. Peter’s Basilica: You are Peter, and upon this rock I build my church

Kathryn and I visited St. Peter’s Basilica several times during our trip to Rome. On Wednesday, we decided to climb to the cupola of the basilica. We were in need of a good workout, so we passed up the elevator and took the stairs. Tibi dabo claves regni caelorum

General Audience with Pope Benedict XVI

Kathryn took this wonderful photo of the Holy Father at the General Audience on February 23, 2011. We arrived two hours early, and despite the throngs of people already waiting to get into the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall, we were able to get some great seats. Seeing the Pope in Rome

Apologies for the long delay

I want to express my apologies for the long delay in producing posts about our trip to Pennsylvania and Rome. It seems like there haven’t been enough hours in the day for me recently. I’ve prepared several pages of notes on paper, and I’ll try to get everything online before the rest of my memory fades. Thanks for your continued patience.

False start: Who needs money?

Our 2007 trip to Europe started with a flight from Phoenix to Phoenix. The aircraft we boarded to begin our journey had a mechanical problem just after takeoff. However, it had too much fuel to land safely, so we circled west of the airport for about an hour before landing. We then rescheduled a later flight. Who needs money?

Dealing with airfare for a multi-city itinerary

When we first started planning a trip to Pennsylvania that would continue on to Europe, I wasn’t really sure how to go about booking the airfare. More… »

Packing carefully: Is one suitcase enough?

Several weeks before our trip, Kathryn and I began negotiating how much baggage we would bring. I wanted to pack light, especially since we would be using public transportation in Rome to transfer between the airport and our guest house. I insisted we could share one small suitcase. She, on the other hand, wanted to travel with more options. She thought we should bring one suitcase each. The difference in price wasn’t really a factor. The extra piece would cost us $25 more on the Phoenix to Philadelphia leg of the trip, but it would be free on all the international segments. More… »

New format for my travel tales

My wife Kathryn and I recently returned from a ten-day break in our daily routine. First, we spent three nights in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the wedding of a very good friend of mine. After a night spent on a plane over the Atlantic, we then spent six nights in Rome, Italy, for some sightseeing and pilgrimage. More… »

Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

Sunday was the final day of our trip to Los Angeles, and it wasn’t really supposed to be much of a day for us. The plan was to get up early, pack up our things, find a place to attend Mass, and make the long drive back to Phoenix. Cathedral in Los Angeles

Great day in Los Angeles

For the most part, Kathryn and I slept pretty well the first night in L.A. I was woken up by a bit of noise around the pool area at midnight, but I got back to sleep pretty quickly. What woke me up was the sound of a beer bottle hitting the ground. Luckily it didn’t break. The managers must have given the folks a talking to, because they drank from cans the following night.

We woke relatively early Saturday, around 6:30 or so, knowing we had a big day in front of us. We had a light, early breakfast at the hotel, mindful of the fact we’d be attending Mass later. The breakfast served was what a lot of hotels now refer to as deluxe continental, which means continental plus a waffle iron. Kathryn and I shared a waffle and each had some cereal and something to drink. After heading back to the room to shower and dress, we got in the car and headed over to St. Francis. Tourist trail in Los Angeles