Perfect Orlando, Florida for Family Friendly Getaways

Orlando, slap bang in the centre of Florida, has been a popular tourist destination for many years, and its popularity keeps growing. In part it’s because of the sunny weather, but it’s also due to the sheer number of attractions either in or near the city. With so many cheap flights to Florida readily available, Orlando is a top spot for a family holiday.

The symbol of Florida

The symbol of Florida

Before you set off to the airport, though, it’s good to pack some games or other forms of entertainment to take on board with you. It takes approximately 8 hours to fly from UK to Florida, which can be a bit of a challenge for some members of the family. Younger ones, especially, will be feeling excited about visiting their favourite theme parks. A few games and perhaps a film or two on a tablet will keep them distracted until the plane touches down.
Theme Parks

You can’t mention a family holiday in Orlando without talking about its theme parks. The first, Disney World, opened in 1971 and Orlando now has the largest number of theme parks anywhere in the world. Walt Disney World is the largest, incorporating Magic Kingdom, Epcot and the Animal Kingdom alongside many other themed areas.

SeaWorld offers marine creatures alongside an amusement park, while Universal Studios features rides and attractions based on the movies. For a more immersive experience, Wet ‘n Wild is a water park with slides and pools suitable for kids of all ages.

Shopping

For kids and adults alike, the impressive shopping options in Orlando provide numerous choices to indulge in a little retail relaxation. The Florida Mall is one of the largest in the country, housing over 250 stores, while the Mall at Millenia features famous US brand names like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. In fact, there are so many shopping opportunities in Orlando that family holidays to Orlando, Florida might end with an extra suitcase on the way home!

Kennedy Space Centre

About an hour’s drive east of Orlando is the Kennedy Space Center. The launch site for all of Nasa’s space missions, it also has an extensive visitor centre with exhibits and attractions all about space travel that will inspire awe in even the biggest kids.

Beaches

Also around one hour out of the city, families can access some of Florida’s best beaches. Cocoa Beach, New Smyrna Beach and the famous Daytona Beach, which boasts over 23 miles of golden sands, as well as a traditional wooden boardwalk and a beach-front water park.

Daytona Beach sourse:tripadvisor

Daytona Beach sourse:tripadvisor

Everglades

The Florida Everglades are one of the country’s most distinctive natural habitats. At more than one and a half million acres, it is a truly impressive wilderness of swamps, rivers and woodland. You can explore the glades on foot, bike, canoe or air boat. Alligators, opossums, skunks, bobcats and all manner of birds live in the Everglades and, if you are very lucky, you might even spot one of the hundred or so Florida panthers that call the area home. If you need more critter action, head to Gatorworld back in Orlando for reptile shows and displays.

Walkway in the Everglades

Walkway in the Everglades

A Seminole guide

A Seminole guide

My favorite boat trips

I love to travel by boat;  day trips, night trips, ferries all is welcome. I am not that fond of cruises though because after a while I feel trapped and bored, I even walked off one because I couldn´t stand it any longer, causing quite an uproar as you can imagine.
Therefore here is a selection of the best boat trips I have been on in very different countries.
Sunset trip Muscat/Oman
And the winner is…. Yes, this unforgettable sunset trip on a dhow, following the coastline of Muscat. It can´t be beaten for romantic, exotic and breath taking, white rocks alternating with black rocks, spits of sand in between and lounging on the cushions and carpets of the gently swaying dhow.

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Paddle steamer on the Chiemsee
Chiemsee is a lake in the south of Bavaria/Germany, surrounded by mountains and with two islands in the middle. Herrenchiemsee is the location of King Ludwig´s last dream castle and Fraueninsel holds a famous monastery. The paddle steamer of the Fessler Chiemsee fleet is sooo wonderfully old fashioned.

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Ferry Vigo to Islas Cies/Galicia
Vigo is a big port town on the Atlantic Ocean in Galicia/Spain. Located several miles off shore are the paradisic islas Cies, a nature reserve with the whitest and finest beaches, lush vegetation and an abundance of hiking paths when you are finished with sun bathing and swimming. The ferry ride is only about half an hour but it´s pretty to see the twin islands rising up out of the water.

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Miami River tour with Dr. George

Surprisingly, not that many visitors to Miami know that there is actually a broad river flowing into Biscayne bay. The Miami river comes from the Everglades, is regularly dredges do allow the traffic of container ships and the tour, offered by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida in Flagler Street, leads along historic landmarks, expertly explained by a historian only known as Dr. George.

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Where to go for your honeymoon?

The honeymoon trip is probably the most important vacation of your life. Wedding stress over, it`s a time to send your marriage off to a good start, to be remembered and cherished over the years, often to be repeated either to renew the vows or to rekindle romance when the marriage has hit the rocks. Get your decision of where to go wrong and it can have dire consequences not like any other trip where reality did not meet your expectations.

The choice of your destination depends (apart from the budget) entirely on the taste of the newly weds and their ability to agree. I have divided my suggestions in three ´themes´so to speak, Luxury and Glamour, Adventure and Romance. And I have added a forth, which, although often a favorite, can, in my very personal opinion lead to an early divorce.

Luxury and glamour

My favorite for that category is Miami in Florida. You can´t beat the glitz and glamour of South Beach, the plethora of clubs for entertainment at night and the fabulous shopping in Lincoln´s Road by day.

There is no shortage of 5 star hotels for the vacation of a lifetime in South Beach either, although my favorite remains the time honored Delano. There are less expensive hotels too , all along Ocean Drive with the added advantage that some of them are located in the famed art deco buildings.

When you have enough of lounging on the beach or dancing the night away, you may want to head for Downtown Miami, polish up on history at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida in Flagler Street, visit the Bayside Market of the Mary Brickell Village and have the best  (biggest and cheapest) steak in Miami´s oldest pub: Tobacco Road near the Miami River.

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Talking about that, many visitors to Miami do not realize that there actually is  a river, a big and busy one at that. You can take a boat trip along the river and learn more about Miami history along the way.

Another trip not to be missed is  a ride on an airboat in the Everglades. And if you want to venture further afield, drive across the bridges with stunning views all the way to watch the sunset in Key West.

Adventure

The choice for adventure trips is huge, you could actually honeymoon all year long to catch them all. Few will have this luxury, so my suggestion is Jordan.

Not to be missed is a visit to Petra, the rose colored ancient city discovered by chance. Arrive early in the morning before the tourist buses descend, make your way on foot or horseback along the narrow gouge and alight with an ‘ohhh’ of admiration on your lips when you catch the first glimpse of the stunning treasury.

Petra

Petra

But there is more to Jordan than Petra. Rent a car and venture out on the highway leading through the desert, but watch out for wild camels which cross the road at their leisure. Visit the best Roman ancient site  and temples outside Italy in Jerrash and the castle of Ayun.

Temple in Jerrash

Temple in Jerrash

Dip your toes and cover yourself in healing mud at Amman Beach, a Dead Sea resort, or relive the stories of the bible by a trip to Mount Nabo where Moses first caught sight of the Holy Land.

Amman beach resort

Amman beach resort

If you want truly adventure, book a trip to Wadi Rum. This is something you cannot do on your own as guides and 4x4s are required to reach the wild, wild destination where you will camp and sleep under the stars. As you can see, a touch of romance is added to the adventure.

Romance

Why not head for Europe if you chosen honeymoon  theme is romance? In particular to Salzburg in Austria, city of Mozart and Sachertorte. Maybe my association with romance and Salzburg results from the fact that on my fist visit I happened upon a lavish wedding in one of the many parks, complete with sunshine and horse drawn carriage.

Wedding in Salzburg

Wedding in Salzburg

Salzburg invites to leisurely strolls through the old part of town rather than physical exhaustion unless  you decide to make your way to the impressive Festung Salzburg on foot. You can easily take the cable car and enjoy the view from the top.

And then of course, there is the world famous Café Sacher and the chocolate cake called Sachertorte. Sit  and look at the wall of fame and the river Salzach which flows at your feet.

Cafe Sacher

Cafe Sacher

Visit Mozart´s birth house and the museum and if you don´t happen to be there at the time of the Festspiele you can still listen to concerts  year around.

If you feel like an excursion, you might take the train to Munich or the Chiemsee to look at King Ludwig´s last (and unfinished) castle Herrenchiemsee.

The people of Salzburg have a soft spot for honeymooners. Just mention the fact and you´ll find that you´ll  get even better treatment  including a few extras than you would get anyway.

 The danger choice: cruises

I know that what I have to say about cruises will probably invite controversy. However, I am only expressing my personal experience and what I thought of this choice as a honeymoon destination at the time.

It sounds fabulous, gliding across the sea on a swimming palace, never to have to deal with luggage, food no end and at any time of day or night and your every whim catered for by countless  stewards and maids.

This is of course all true, but…..after two days I started to feel claustrophobic. By then you have explored every nook and cranny of the boat and there is nowhere else to go. Your ability to live together as a married couple is tested to the limit. The same applies to your co-passengers. It´s always the same people you happen upon, whether you like them or not. You share the same table  unless you opt to eat a la carte or use the self service facilities , gym space and deck space is also limited.

Sure, there are land excursions  but unless you decide to go off on your own, as I did, it´s guided tours and, again, the same people all the time.

Cruise ship in St. Thomas

Cruise ship in St. Thomas

From start to finish you are tagged and processed, there is little room for individual freedom and all of this may put a strain on a brand new marriage and, in the worst of cases, lead to an early divorce!

I´ll be interested to hear your opinion if and how I am wrong.

 

 

 

 

Enjoying Cultural Dining in Miami

Who would have thought that a managing director for an RV rental company turns out to be such an excellent food writer? Meet Joe Laing and see what he has found out about ethnical food in Miami.

Enjoying Cultural Dining in Miami

By Joe Laing, El Monte RV

When you are traveling, eating should be a part of the adventure. In our melting pot of a country, one of the joys of hitting the road is enjoying the palates of cultures in various places. Fortunately, Miami, Florida has its share of ethnic food offerings, and there are many options that diners can experience during a visit to this fascinating city. You can enjoy so many varied cuisines, from Cuban to Peruvian. Here are some wonderful choices.

Traditional fare may be your preference in which case Tobacco Road in Brickell is the perfect choice. With live music that is sure to please, you can find lunch or dinner specials for extremely reasonable prices. Their herb roasted chicken is superb and the King Cut Prime Rib is to die for. Wednesday nights provide some wonderful live jazz for you jazz lovers.

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For Cuban cuisine, nothing can beat Versailles in Little Havana. A very authentic menu, with sugary Cuban coffee and delicious Cuban bread, will make your meal that tasty kind which you never forget. Double fried tostones are a favorite as well as the plaintains. News media frequent this restaurant in order to get social commentary from the local Cuban population.

Love Italian food? Then Casa Tua should be your choice for dinner. In South Beach, this spot can put the romance back into any relationship as well as feed your appetite with stone crab, lamb chop or other Northern Italian cuisine. You can sit in a cozy nook and savor fine wine and take in all the sounds, sights and marvelous smells.

French cuisine is at its best at Le Bouchon du Grove in Coconut Grove. The ambience will make you think you have come across a little restaurant in the heart of France. This is a warm and friendly atmosphere that will make you feel at home. Savor the French onion soup as an appetizer then order salmon for a special treat.

It is said that the Greek food at Mykonos is the best in all of Miami. Is this something you feel the need to explore? Head to Mykonos on Coral Way and order the lamb, the Chicken Gyro Platter or Vegetarian Mousaka. To satisfy a raging appetite, Mykonos will provide the best Greek cuisine imaginable.

If you are on the go and need to pick up some take-out, great Mexican food is awaiting you at Los Tres Amigos. You will find them on NW 20 Street and NW 10 Avenue. You can call ahead and have it ready for you. Tripe and beef with Mexican herbs may be your choice, or perhaps a Green Mexican Salad. Try the Pollo a la Parrilla, which is grilled chicken, served with rice and beans.

Peruvian food is a new experience, and El Meson del Paraiso is the place to go for the best. You won’t find any fancy dining, but you will find delicious Ceviche de Pescado (fish under finely sliced onions and drenched in lime juice). You may wish to order a seafood plate then lucuma ice cream for dessert. This is a small spot where you can go with no reservation and enjoy a meal like you have never had before.

Don’t miss the Akashi Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar for some excellent food. The quality is of the highest kind, with a quiet place to dine and reflect. The sushi truly is the best in town, with amazingly artistic presentations. Try the salmon, shrimp or yellowtail. Drop in while on vacation, as the dress style is casual and the staff friendly and helpful.

North Miami offers a surprise with Caribbean cuisine at Moca Cafe and Lounge. Creole Chicken is one of the favorite dishes to order. You will find entertainment as well, to make your evening complete. There is nothing like tasting the island flavors and seasonings.

Indomania is the choice for the original taste of Indonesian cuisine. Some of the dishes you may not know how to pronounce, but the translation is on the menu and you can just point. Try the chicken in mild coconut curry, the sweet and sour cucumber or the shrimp crackers. You can also order vegetarian.

Miami is a true revelation for terrific eating experiences and the choices are abundant. This is just a start to your culinary vacation in this modern, melting pot of a city. When you visit Miami and try each restaurant above, you are basically traveling the world right here in southern Florida. Enjoy!

About the Author

Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV, your nationwide source for RV rentals. El Monte RV also sells used motorhomes through eight different locations across the United States. For more information on purchasing a used motorhome see http://www.elmontervsales.com/home/.

Coral Castle Miami – a work of (lost) love

I am on a new mission. I want to find and explore buildings and monuments all over the world which have been constructed because of love. The stories behind them are as fascinating and awesome as the structures themselves. They show that love really can move – if not mountains – then at least huge blocks of stone.

A point in case is the Coral Castle in Homestead Miami and the story  of Edwin Leedskalnin.Born in Riga in 1887, Edwin came to the US and fell in love with Agnes Scuffs, a girl 10 years younger than he. All went well until Agnes called off the wedding, just one day before the ceremony.

Ed was heart broken and inspired to begin his life long labor of love, to create a monument to his unrequited love. Sweet Sixteen Agnes.

He was a tiny man, just 5 feet and weighing 100 pounds. After acquiring 10 acres of land in Homestead, Ed set about moving over 10.000 tons of coral rock, then constructing his castle and carving to rock into astonishing shapes. He was busy with his labor of love for 23 years, until his death in 1953.

Even more amazing than his tiny stature is the fact that Ed work all on his own. He was secretive too, only carving and building at night and so he created one of world’s great mysteries: how did he do it? How did he move there massive coral rocks? And Ed wasn’t about to give his secret away. He would show visitors around his castle for a few cents and when questioned he would only say that he knew the ‘secret of the pyramids’.

Coral Castle still leaves experts and visitors baffled confronted with an unbelievable achievement. For example the castle features  a gate which weighs tons, but can be opened at the touch of a finger.

A coral rocking chair, stairs, walls, narrow windows, the marvels of Coral castle are endless and Ed sure knew how to create a mystery.

Ed. Picture courtesy of coralcastle.com

Ed. Picture courtesy of coralcastle.com