Category Archives: GREAT DESTINATIONS

Sharing our favorite destinations

Abu Dhabi…Say What

My Journey to the Middle East

 

One evening as I was sitting on the couch my husband casually said. hey would you like to go to Abu Dhabi in a couple weeks. Ahhh really? Umm Sure. I mean he has spent the past 4 years on projects in the UAE and so of course I want to see this country I have heard so much about.
Flying over Baghdad
Flying over Baghdad

I really wasn’t sure what to expect and I will say as we were flying over Baghdad I was a little concerned about this trip we were on. Once we landed and walked through customs, had this fancy camera that takes picture or screen your eyeball, we were both welcomed. But before we could exit we had to go through one more screening of all our luggage.  Once we exited and grabbed a taxi to our hotel, it was about 10-15 minute drive. We pulled up and our doors were open for us, all our luggage was carried, doors held open for us. I felt like royalty and this how we were treated on a daily basis.

 

I never knew I wanted to walk through a Mosque until I was moments away…Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

mosque
mosque

 

 Middle East has never been on my Bucket List but I am so blessed to have experienced this beautiful country. Not at all what I had pictured it would be like. As a American when we hear Middle East it’s not exactly a vacation destination. BUT it is that and more!! I felt like I was in a big city such as Los Angeles. Only difference is here in Abu Dhabi we were treated amazing by everyone we encountered! So much respect is shown here. It’s their vibe and it’s an awesome experience.

Finally I get to ride a camel!!

I did always want to ride a camel and this experience was awesome! Dune Bashing through the Arabic desert!! Yes Please! I’d do that over and over! Such a ride! Dune Surfing…I tried and had a blast doing it! Check out this Company Those in this company were so kind! What a great experience!

Camel RIde with my Amore
Camel RIde with my Amore
Dune Surfing
Dune Surfing

Paddle Boarding on the Persian Gulf… Never had I thought I’d have these chances and great experiences! And look at the skyscraper in my view!

Aldar headquarters building
Aldar headquarters building

It was an awesome learning experience, visiting a Muslim country and having a peek into their world will be unforgettable. It was a Grand place, a Grand experience and the people there were out of this world!! We were treated like royalty every where we went.

The hotel staff was amazing and would bring us vases of flowers and they would on a daily basis leave fresh lilies on our bed and in the bathroom. They would bring small plates of sweets and they knew we were water drinkers and would line our cabinet with water! We would have fun animals made of towels on our bed upon our return!

You can check out Al Raha Beach Hotel here.

Our towel friendsIMG_1456


The modesty that this country lives was a nice setting to be in. I had no issues covering my shoulders and not wearing shorts in public areas. It was really nice not having lunch in restaurants and having someones crack right in front of you. No saggy pants…conservative dressing is not all bad.


I enjoyed hearing the prayers throughout the day. I didn’t understand it but someone translated what the prayers were about.Just as we pray… Be good, do good and spread good. I loved that when we flew Etihad to Abu Dhabi that they have a prayer prior to take off. That was awesome!! Who doesn’t want a prayer prior to flying.

The cuisine is from all parts of this world!

My husband and I love great food and we had no shortage of that! The cuisine here is amazing. So many different cultures are here and so we enjoyed German, Italian, Arabic, Lebanese and more!

Arabic Dessert IMG_2976This dessert was out of this world…full of flavors of cinnamon, cardamom. Served hot and yes I had seconds!!

There is a small glimpse into our time in Abu Dhabi!!

 

Soriano Nel Cimino, Italy

IMG_1668Our Favorite Destination

Soriano Nel Cimino, Italy

As my husband and I  were minutes away from our destination. A quaint village Soriano Nel Cimino,Italy. A place we have been twice before in a span of 6 years and although it wasn’t often… It felt as though we were coming home!

We have no residence here,in Sorinao Nel Cimino and we stay in a time share ‘resort’ it’s not your usual resort with a pool and all the amenities next to the big beautiful sea. But up on a hill a very steep hill sits a historical building, once a Palace said to house a son of a Pope!  But back to my point!! It’s not the resort or the location that gave us this warm feeling! It’s memories of the prior years of our days spent at the Piazza mingling with the locals who are the friendliest people we have ever met on our journeys. They greet you in the morning the afternoon and evening! They chatter…they smile and look in to your eyes!

Here we are tourists invading their amazing quaint and full of so much life village and they love it! They live there and just don’t go through the actions… They live life to the fullest!!!

You hear so many different conversations going on… Laughter and many hand movements… They are Italian! They meet and greet each other on benches next to the road and at the Cafe Bar. The people of this village don’t sit in their homes all day! But spend most of it outside! I love how you can hear Soriano Nel Cimino slowly wake up in the morning and then vibrantly till after lunch and then it’s as though All of Soriano Nel Cimino is in a Siesta mode and once again around 5ish you hear the life of this village! And you just can’t wait to get out and live among the locals!!

IMG_1677


I was in a conversation with a new friend and he was shocked to hear that America has no Piazza! He asked where you visit with your neighbors and sadly I said we don’t come together and therefore not everyone even knows their neighbor! Shocking for him. He couldn’t believe it.  In a moment I was sadden cause what living we are missing out on! The locals take such an importance on remaining social and being outdoors. Enjoying a coffee or a beer. Most noteworthy is how the elderly gentleman group together… Together being the main thought here!! How wonderful that they are not growing old alone but together!!

The elderly walk up the very steep mountain hills with no problem where I’ve seen younger visitors struggle. I just love seeing this kind of community! The locals of Soriano Nel Cimino are one big family.

If you want to really see Italy!! This is the place. It is so close to Rome, Tuscany and Florence. We visit these very touristy cities in Italy but are always so happy to return to Soriano. It is relaxing. You will experience real Italian cuisine at Rottezzia. Voted #1 by Trip Advisor.  Read about them here.

This is a family run restaurant in a cave! Mama  cooks, and it is amazing!! Egisto, the father, meets and greets the guests and you’ll find him joining guests for meals. Speaks great english and has become our friend. Emanuel, the son, runs the bar and Giada, is your hostess along with some other family members. It is our favorite place in Italy to eat!! Aside from Mama’s house!

IMG_0093 IMG_0418Our Favorite Table out on the balcony.

 

Diamond Resorts International

Diamond Resorts International

 

Diamond Resorts International is a vacation ownership.  You can read more about them here.  I am going to share a bit about our experience.

We are Timeshare owners and have been for 7 years now. For the most part we are satisfied customers but recently when hurricane Odile struck Baja, California many Diamond Resorts customers were left with no choice but to have their reservations cancelled.
Understandingly we were not able to travel to Cabo San Lucas.  What is not understandable is the way Diamond Resorts has been treating us. We had planned for a 14 day stay in Cabo which we used 15,960 points for. These were our points that were from 2013. Points at Diamond Resorts can be carried over for 1 year. But due to this situation happening in September and our planned Cabo vacation taking place in November, we had no big chance to find a vacation spot in less than 2 months.  When I was speaking with the representative about this issue I was told we were lucky that our points were even being returned, that it isn’t something they must do.  After sending an email too
Sarah Hulme | Senior Vice President of Global Club Operations  sarah.hulme@diamondresorts.com I received a phone call from another Customer Service Hospitality of Diamond Resorts International. She apologized that there was very little that could be done in this situation. That we still had to use our points of 15,960 by the end of this year. I asked for her assistance in finding another tropical location where we would be able to use our points. She did some searches but everything was turning up only needing less than 5,000 points which meant we would still remain at a loss. Using less points is great any other time! But not in this situation.  I would expect more from Diamond Resorts. Her only other idea was that we book through Interval International for a vacation next year, that would not only take our points but this comes with a fee. We have used Interval International and have no complaints my rant about all this is we had this wonderful 2 weeks planned in Cabo and we just want to be somewhere tropical in November and not next year!

We are very disappointed in the way Diamond Resorts has handled this situation and I know we are not alone in this. You can read about others here.

 

 

 

Maui

In Maui there is so much to do and so many different companies selling certain activities that it can be a bit intimidating. One thing I do prior to traveling is research, research, research!! I want to find the best prices, the activity with the best reviews and coupons or promo codes for online booking! We also don’t mind the timeshare meetings! Hey if we can score an activity that normally costs $90 a person and for 90 minutes of our time we are given this!! Oh yeah we are going to suffer through it!!

So here is a horseback riding activity we did!! It was fabulous! The horses were well trained, the views were just breathtaking and Frenchie our guide was pretty cool! We were also lucky to be in a group with only another couple.

Mendes Ranch
Mendes Ranch

Did I mention this was our first trip to Maui? So of course we had to go out to Molokini and snorkel!  What a amazing time. First time snorkeling for me. Was a bit overwhelming at first. Lucky for me my husband was right next to me! I soon relaxed and enjoyed the view. And what a view it was. Beautiful multicolored schools of fish swimming right next to us. Gorgeous coral to admire. The crew was great. They provided the suits and lunch! Nothing real special but it was good and filling.  We had enough time in this crater area and our next stop was Turtle Town where we were once again in the water and this time we were swimming next to these amazing turtles. What an adventure. Do you need to go on one of these snorkeling adventures? Not really, you can rent snorkeling equipment and go to the beach! But why not hop on a cruise and enjoy all the dolphins you may see and just the beautiful Pacific as you sit back and relax! And if is Whale Watching season…double bonus! I have no pictures to share from that adventure. A little to wet to get the Nikon out!

I also do my homework on Restaurants… Who doesn’t love to eat? I use YELP for this. I read the reviews and check out the menus.  Our first time in Maui we stayed at a bed and breakfast and so this place was nearby and when you see all the locals eating their, you know its good! So good we went there several times!

Right across and a bit down is a great place to have pizza and a cocktail!

One place that was recommended and we gave it a try was Mama’s Fish House. Very nice restaurant situated on the coast in Paia. Prices are quite high and the food quality very low.  I would give this place a 10 for its location but its food and service would be half of that.

There is so much more to share about Maui but I will be saving that for another post!