Friday, December 30, 2016

The Best of What We Did and Where We Stayed in 2016

It’s been fun running around the planet this year staying in interesting places, doing exciting
Canada Geese in Texas
things and eating marvelous food! This blog is concerned with the best of the best; in this case, anything with a rating of four carrots, unless otherwise labeled, from my evaluation scheme (see Reading the Reviews). The review blog is actually divided into two parts. The first is about the places we stayed and our activities (The Best of What We Did and Where We Stayed in 2016), with the second having to do with food (The Best of What We Ate in 2016). Within each blog there are also two sections: International and US.

What we did internationally:
Four and one-half carrots
Copenhagen, Denmark: From Går rundt Copenhagen del to
Our best decision was getting the Copenhagen Card. It comes with a booklet that tells you what is free or discounted and where things are located with a map. Included is a pass on buses, water buses, trains, and metros in the entire Capital Region. You can use this card 24 hours a day for the number of days you’ve chosen.  It’s well worth the cost. If you buy online, it’s cheaper and you pick it up at one of the Tourist Information offices.
Four carrots
Copenhagen, Denmark: From Går rundt Copenhagen del to
These are fabulous places and worth spending a great deal of time in each.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket (Dantes Plads 7, 1556 Copenhagen, + 45 33 41 81 41) was my favorite place in Copenhagen. It is a must if you visit this city.
Canal Tours Copenhagen (Gammel Strand 32, 1200 Copenhagen K, +45 3296 3000) is a nice way to spend the first hour of the day. Be sure to get there by 9:00 AM so you get on
Copenhagen, Denmark
the first boat, otherwise it gets crowded, especially if it’s a nice day. Also, if you’re using the Copenhagen Card, you must get on at the Ved Stranden location.
National Gallery of Denmark (Sølvgade 48-50, 1307 Copenhagen, +45 33 74 84 94) is a very good art museum, particularly for the history of Danish art.
National Museum of Denmark (Prince's Mansion, Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 Copenhagen K, +45 33 13 44 11) will give you a historical perspective of Denmark and Greenland. It’s a good place to go to understand Scandinavian culture.
Tivoli Gardens (Vesterbrogade 3, 1630 Copenhagen, +45 33151001) is simply fun. There are some historical and cultural exhibits, but mostly there are places to eat, rides, and gardens. If you have kids, you’ll want to take them here.

Holland America Cruise Norway to New York: From At gå ind I Greenland
The Holland America cruise did not have any tours included, and in some ports you were on your own, anyway. In Greenland there are few places to get lost because there are only a few places to go. By far the most interesting port, and one I would go to again, is Nanortalik.

What we did in the US:

Growing up, my parents and I loved the scenery around this area. I was fun to go back. Hot Springs National Park (369 Central Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901) is a very nice place
Bath House Parlor
to go for a couple of days of laid-back touring, particularly if it is not racing season. The free self-guided tour of the Fordyce Bathhouse was good and well worth the time to read all of the information plaques. There is also a short movie that is entertaining, as well as informational; see this first to really understand what it took to keep these houses running. This area is fully accessible, but the hallways are old, so there are some tight areas. Across the street is a large parking garage that is free to the public. Other bathhouses weren’t open for touring.
Mid-America Science Museum (500 Mid-America Blvd, Hot Springs, AR 71913, 501-767-3461) is a wonderful science museum. There is an entrance fee, but parking is free. The setting is beautiful, particularly with the wildflowers in bloom. There are outside seating areas with tables near the stream.

Garden Sculpture
National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military (Navy Pier, San Diego, CA 92132, 619-686-6200) was a really nice surprise and I’d go back to it, again. I’d also probably spend more time there examining all of the statues more closely.

Onion Seed Heads
For years all I’d done was drive into Denver to go to the Natural History Museum; I’m absolutely tickled that Rebekah introduced me to the gardens. The Denver Botanic Garden (1007 York St, Denver, CO 80206, 720-865-3501) is a wonderful jewel tucked into the university area of the city. If you go, plan to spend at least three hours wandering the grounds. Be sure to check out the sculpture in the parking garage – it’s an interesting array of colorful panels that reminded me of a rainbow or the petals of a flower. I’d like to go back during spring and fall just to see what was new in the gardens.

New Mexico
We needed several more days to explore everything in this lovely city, but the following are our highlights. Albuquerque Museum of Art and History (2000 Mountain Road NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, 505-242-4600) wasn’t open when we could spend time there but
Tribal Statues
the exterior sculpture garden is quite extraordinary. We particularly liked the set of sculptures that commemorated the exploration and settlement of the area.
Albuquerque Old Town (303 Romero Street NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, 505-243-6393) includes the old square and the San Felipe de Neri Church. There are several old buildings around the square that were there when Route 66 went through. These hold shops, galleries, and restaurants; some are rather touristy while others reflect the local culture. There are also people on the square selling their hand-made goods; some are quite remarkable.
Dragonfly (324 San Felipe Street NW Suite A, Albuquerque, NM, 87104, 505-322-2896) is a dress shop specializing in goods from Nepal. Prices range from really good to really expensive, but the items are of higher quality and the young lady running the store knows her merchandise and gives good advice.
Petroglyph National Monument (6510 Western Trail NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120, 505-899-0205) is amazing. The time you spend depends on how into hiking, climbing and exploring you are. Since it’s free you can spend as much or as little time as you’d like without feeling as if you should or should not move along.
Yarn Store at Nob Hill (120 Amherst Drive NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106, 505-717-1535) has some interesting items that are knitting related but not yarn. The yarn selection is good and the people running the shop are knowledgeable.

Made in New Mexico (104 Cam De Santa Fe, Taos, NM 87571, 575-758-7709) is a cute little shop with items that are only, as the name implies, made in New Mexico. It’s worth a
Mountains near Taos
visit whether you buy something or not. We found a great coffee mug with Southwestern rabbits adorning it, dried peppers ready to be processed and used, and sacks of ground hatch pepper if you like spicy foods. They also have an online presence.
Santa Fe Plaza (63 Lincoln Avenue, Santa Fe, NM 87501, 505-955-2503) is a good place to wander around soaking up the history and people watching. If you want to enjoy art, there are plenty of galleries; it you’d like something to eat, you can spend a thrifty amount or really splurge; and if you need some retail therapy, your needs will be met.

Art Deco Architecture
Fort Worth has an abundance of things to do; this is a great choice. Fort Worth Botanic Garden (3220 Botanic Garden Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas, 817-392-5510) is open daily. An admission fee is charged for the Conservatory and Japanese Garden; the other gardens are free. There is plenty of free parking.

The refuge is in what is unspoiled coastal Texas; it’s a lovely place to visit.
Flagged trees and palms
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (1 Wildlife Circle, Austwell, TX 77950, 361-286-3559) is always fabulous. Make sure that if you visit you have sturdy shoes, insect repellant, sunblock and a hat. Keep in mind that the animals are loose and they are wild; it’s not a controlled environment, but with adequate preparation and common sense, it’s quite safe.

Where we stayed internationally:

Holland America Cruise Norway to New York: From On the Sea, on the Sea, on the Beautiful Sea…and Cruise Review
The staterooms, at least those with a balcony, are relatively large and the bathroom is
Greenland Fjord and Dave
adequate. There is plenty of space to walk around the bed, room to store the suitcases under the bed, and even enough space to sit at a small table or at the desk. I did like the fact that we could always turn on the TV to see where we were in relation to where we were going and the current weather conditions. There was plenty of room on the balcony to sit in the deck chairs and there was a small table. I spent a good deal of the time I was outside standing because if I sit I can’t see over/through the railing. The bed was comfortable and the bedding was of good quality. You could get fresh towels and linens every day, but we opted to get everything changed every third day. Our stewards were in the room twice a day to clean and to bring us fresh fruit. When we did have breakfast in the room, the tray was removed promptly so there wasn’t an ‘old food’ odor at any time. The water from the sink was drinkable, although you could get water from the Lido deck and bring it into your cabin. I wasn’t particularly happy that the wall between the bathroom and bedroom creaked loudly when the ship rocked or that water could be blown in under the door to the balcony.

Where we stayed in the US:
Four and one-half carrots
Rock house
Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge (3877 AR-88, Mena, AR 71953, 479-394-2863) is one of my favorite places to stay. Although they are still struggling with their online reservation system, a quick phone call connects you with a friendly staff member who can answer all of your questions. The new rooms are great; there is even an up-to-date coffee bar provided, along with a small refrigerator. Bathrooms are spacious and all (I think) have walk-in showers with seats. There are now fully accessible rooms and an elevator. All of the furnishings are new and very comfortable. Views from the lounge and dining room, as well as all of the guest rooms, are excellent. Internet speed is moderate to slow, but it is free. Room rates are reasonable.
Four carrots

The Embassy Suites San Diego Bay - Downtown (601 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA
San Diego Bay
92101, (619) 239-2400) was our headquarters again this year. The rooms are quite comfortable with plenty of toiletries, trash cans, seating areas and places to put your ‘stuff’. The internet is good and access was free (although I don’t know if that was because we were in a group). Breakfast, which came with the room, was good; you can have hot food prepared or eat off the buffet. I did both and was not disappointed. In the evenings there is a happy hour with snacks and free bar drinks. The servers are happy for whatever tip you want to provide. Some days the snacks were better than others, but the drinks were always good. The only real negative is the cost of the parking, $46/day – very expensive particularly with so much public transportation and free parking in the area.

New Mexcio
Sleep Inn Airport (2300 International Avenue SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106, 505-244-3325) is a very nice place to stay and at a good price. The room was very comfortable with plenty
Route 66 sign
of amenities, trash cans, and an excellent internet connection. The sink was in a small alcove with the toilet and shower in a separate room with was pretty small. There was a free breakfast that had all the normal foods but there was a young lady who was cooking omelets to order and doing an excellent job. They also had an evening offering that was cookies and hot chocolate one night, and chips and salsa another evening. We’d like to stay there again.

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