The Skyview Wheel in Atlanta

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Atlanta, my hometown, likes a good prop like any other self-promoting city in the U.S.  We got the Olympics, we build & raze sports venues like there is no poverty around, etc.  When I heard we were getting a Ferris wheel in downtown Atlanta, I rolled my eyes (OK, not literally).  Another waste of money, probably tied to one of our many corrupt public officials…

Skyview, Atlanta, downtown, Ferris wheel, views, Olympus, ride, thrill

The Skyview wheel

Well, today, I was taking care of friends’ kids for the afternoon and after a visit to the Coke museum (the World of Coca-Cola, which I visited for the first time about a month ago), I decided to cross Centennial Olympic Park, kids in tow, and maybe give the Skyview Atlanta Ferris Wheel a shot.  We had contemplated doing this earlier in the day but there was severe weather coming through town and they close the wheel during bad weather.  After a two hour visit to the Coke Museum, the skies were clear and I decided we should give it a go since we were already there and I figured it would be a thrill to the 7- and 9-year olds with me (I was not wrong!).

Centennial Olympic Park, 1996 Olympics,  Atlanta, downtown, Olympics, fountain, brick, park, Olympus

On my way to the Skyview, I stopped to check in on my brick in the park, RIGHT by the Olympic rings fountain!

Skyview, Atlanta, downtown, Ferris wheel, Olympus, ride, thrill, visit, tourist attraction

Approaching the Skyview: it sure looks bigger the closer you get!  (The Tabernacle in the background)

There was no line and we headed right into our “cab”.  The kids were thrilled!  The wheel moved to load the next cab and the kids were so excited.

Skyview, Atlanta, downtown, Ferris wheel, views, Olympus, ride, thrill

And the wheel started to move!

After loading the groups behind us, the wheel started going for real and, as we reached the top, we stopped.  (They were loading another group.)  The kids’ eyes opened BIG.  The 7-yr old started laughing nervously and squirming a little but she handled it fine!  We started going again and they realized we had reached the highest point.

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My fellow explorers on the Skyview!

Skyview, Atlanta, downtown, Ferris wheel, views, Olympus, ride, thrill

Looking down onto Centennial Olympic Park and its rings water fountain

The views were pretty cool, though for me, having worked in downtown Atlanta skyscrapers, the views were not new to me – just maybe more fun this way.  The ride was a thrill and seeing the kids enjoy it so much was well worth it!

Skyview, Atlanta, downtown, Ferris wheel, views, Olympus, ride, thrill

Looking towards CNN

Skyview, Atlanta, downtown, Ferris wheel, views, Olympus, ride, thrill

View of downtown Atlanta

I highly recommend the Skyview to anyone coming to town or even for intown folks who’d love an experience up high!

Reflections on Beginnings and Endings…

Plane ticket, paper ticket ,travel, flights, nostalgia, no electronic ticket,

I was having a conversation with a dear friend who already has lost both her parents.  It was a bittersweet conversation remembering parents gone on both sides and how parental relationships live on beyond that event called “death.”  The conversation took me back to reflections I have been having this past week about how life, like travel, is a long series of beginnings and endings.  Some endings are close to their beginnings and some are far apart.

In travel, for the most part beginnings are full of excitement and eagerness (except for some work ones…):  ready to take a break, ready to see a new place, ready for a challenge (hiking Kilimanjaro), ready to see people I enjoy seeing and being with (family and friends), or ready to go to places I know well for a sense of “home” (Santiago, Paris).

Plane ticket, paper ticket ,travel, flights, nostalgia, no electronic ticket,

A plane ticket from days gone reflecting many beginnings and endings all in one

Endings in travel, on the other hand, sometimes are not the “funnest.”  Of course, this is not always true.  Sometimes I do long to return to my home base and see “my people” and enjoy being in my home (I happen to like where I live, I suppose!).  Or sometimes a trip has been too full of action and its ending is a welcome break for rest.  But who likes to leave, say, Italy and all that amazing food??  Or leave a beach resort where life is lazy, full of sun and fun?

But, like in many other things, without endings there would not be new beginnings.  What would life be if it were a non-stop trip?  (I can already hear some RTWers or global nomads disagree!)  Of course, I mean this more in a philosophical way but the kernel of truth is the same.  If there were no moments of sadness, the joy in joy would not exist, right?  Same with travel beginnings and endings:  much as I may not want to leave dear ones I am visiting or a destination I am so connected with, I would not get to experience the joy of reuniting with loved ones if the visit never “ended” or I would not get to experience the thrill of arriving in that awesome destination!

Easier written about than lived by but that is my aim:  to always remind myself when those endings come, those endings bring an opportunity for new beginnings too.

May your life be full of exciting and sought-for beginnings (with some good unexpected ones) and may the endings be nothing but sweet…

Having a Good Time in Willemstad, Curacao: Beach, Food and Music

Map showing Mambo Beach, Curacao

Last year, I visited Curacao, formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, with a couple of friends after spending a few days in Trinidad and Tobago.  Curacao is an interesting place – the Netherlands in the Caribbean, for sure, but also an incredible melting pot – many folks speak Spanish due to its proximity to and semi-shared history with nearby South America.  Yet it also shares a lot with the other Dutch islands in the hood as well with Surinam, another former Dutch colony.

Curacao, license plate

Even the license plate shows off the beautiful architecture

There is much to write about this island.  I struggled with how to not write about it all in one long post.  So this post will focus on the food, fun and beach as I experienced in a very short visit.  I did not get to scratch the surface of what Curacao has to offer so I will, upfront, tell you that and then challenge you to discover Curacao yourself and perhaps share back with me what you discovered!

An upcoming post will focus more on the incredible charming architecture of this island.  Enjoy!

My hotel

First, Curacao’s capital, Willemstad (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), has two sides along the canal that splits it:  Punda and Otrobanda.  Punda is the better known side with the pretty pictures folks normally see whenever Curacao is mentioned (more on this in the next post!).  Otrobanda is or was the poorer side though it contains some neat/charming architecture too.

I chose the Renaissance in Curacao (part of the Marriott family) as my hotel, located in Otrobanda right by the canal entrance.  While the hotel was not an all-around knock-out (e.g., the confusion at breakfast on what was included in my rate and what was not), there were a couple of things that hit it out of the ballpark.  One was the upgrade they welcomed me with.  A corner suite was definitely a great way to greet a Platinum guest.  Thank you for that!!  I wish I had had others sharing the room with me but that was not the case so the space was not taken advantage of.  But what I did greatly enjoy was the humongous bathroom!  Larger than my master bedroom at home!

A cruise ship passes my hotel room at the Renaissance in Willemstad, Curacao

The view from my room includes passing cruise ships!

But what really blew me away was the infinity pool.  Now you may say “seen one, seen them all” but, my friends, this was no ordinary infinity pool:  it was a beach on an infinity pool!  You walked into it as you would on a beach from the sand and the beach chairs.  It was huge and at the far end, the wall dropped down to the rocks by the sea.  When I first exited the hotel and looked at the pool, it seemed the sea was part of the water in the pool – I did not realize it was a pool at all!!   Bravo, Renaissance!

Infinity beach pool at the Renaissance hotel in Willemstad, Curacao

Heavenly!

Beach

Curacao has lots of beaches to choose from, 38 or so.  Some of the best are on the west end of the island.  Beaches in Curacao are not the typical long stretches of sand and surf that we typically envision.  Instead they are smaller, less obscenely huge places to enjoy the sun and surf!   We picked Mambo Beach just for being convenient to us as we were staying in Willemstad and had not rented a car.  I imagine it is far from the best beach but it was definitely enjoyable.

Map showing Mambo Beach, Curacao

Food and Entertainment

We ate at a couple of places that also doubled as entertainment with live music.  I could have kept returning to these places except I ran out of nights!

On our first night, we decided to watch sunset at a high vantage point on the fortress walls in Otrobanda at the entrance to the canal leading to the bay/port.  It was very near to the hotel and these places offered the right angle at sunset to look -or stare- at beautiful Punda!

View of Punda at sunset from Otrobanda in Willemstad, Curacao

Beautiful Punda at sunset

Wine as we enjoy the view of Punda from Otrobanda in Willemstad, Curacao

Wine sets the right mood…

Along the fortress wall in Otrobando in Willemstad, Curacao

Along the city wall we were lounging at

Later that night, we went to Avila Blues Bar for both dinner and entertainment.  The hotel is well known for hosting the Dutch royal family (allegedly, the heir to the throne comes to play here, wink, wink).  The blues bar is on a pier by itself so you are sitting above the sea.  The band plays on a loft-like second story above the bar.  The food was great and so was the music.  More importantly:  great atmosphere!

Avila Hotel Blues Bar by the sea near Willemstad, Curacao

For lunch one day, we sat at one of the average cafés right by the canal that is the entrance to large bay (St. Anna Bay).  While the food was not spectacular, watching people, ships and the movable-floating bridge (aka, Queen Emma Bridge) was fascinating or, at least, entertaining (notice the mist in the picture below coming out under some umbrellas).

Waterfront cafes and restaurants in Willemstad in Curacao by the entrance to the bay

Curacao floating bridge in Willemstand

The floating bridge passes us by as we ate lunch

The Queen Emma "floating" bridge in Willemstand, Curacao is for pedestrians

When not pulled away to let boats pass, the Queen Emma “floating” bridge is for pedestrians

Another night, we went to a Cuban place near the old fortress walls in Willemstad called Mr. Congas.  Its owner is a friendly but serious Cuban guy – the music is authentic (take it from this son of Cubans!) and the food is decent (but I have had and can cook it better!).  The place has an indoor space built into the former fortress walls and an outdoor area where the live music plays.  It was a great evening to sit outside, listen to music (dance for those so inclined), eat, and have a few drinks!

Live Cuban music at Mr. Congas in Willemstad, Curacao

Cuban food at Mr. Congas in Willemstad, Curacao

Cuban food at Mr. Congas in Willemstad, Curacao

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Curacao has a lot to offer – much beyond beaches.  Beautiful architecture, sun, surf, food and a lively entertainment scene.  It is a definite must-see in the Caribbean!

Couple enjoying the view of Punda across from Otrobando in Willemstad, Curacao

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