Xi’an in December

Xi'an in December 2014

Our Honeymoon Part I
Country: China
City: Xi’an

Back in December 2014, we went on our honeymoon. It was my husband’s first trip China! Our first stop was Beijing, which you can read about here.

Our second stop along our journey as newlyweds brought us to the bustling city of Xi’an. The weather was cold, but not as cold as it was Beijing. 

Our itinerary prior to visiting:

Screenshot of Xian Itinerary

Prior to this trip, I had never been there before. So, I did not know what to expect. We ended up staying at the Hilton Xian, which came with a breakfast buffet. Overall, it was a nice stay. 

Cost for one night: $148.70.

Terracotta Warriors

The main reason I had wanted to visit Xi’an was to see the Terracotta Warriors, which was outside of the main city. We ended up finding a shuttle to see the attraction. Here are some of the things we saw along the way.

After purchasing our tickets from the office, we soon realized we would be seeing a lot of statues that afternoon. Indeed we did. It was as if we were seeing warriors and horses over and over again. Although it was interesting to see the different exhibits, we couldn’t help but ponder if this type of visit was our cup of tea.  We’re not huge history buffs or anything. And just seeing a few made me realize that it was more than enough.

The Journey Back

We had to find a way back to the hotel that evening, so we just listened to the ladies calling us back to the city. We took a shuttle and ended up staying in that evening because we were too tired to explore. Our hotel overlooked the city wall, so we felt as though we didn’t need to actually visit it.

Could not think of a more wonderful way to relax than to soak in the hotel’s wonderful tub! 

More to come on our honeymoon in China! Next stop: Luoyang.

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Little Rock, Arkansas

On Monday, October 27th, we made the 5 hour drive from Dallas, TX to the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas. Of course we defaulted by using Hotwire to book out hotel in downtown area and ended up landing La Quinta Inn & Suites. We were pleased that this place offered a fitness center, free breakfast, and complimentary parking too. There was minimal traffic on our drive, but as soon as we hit the downtown exits, we noticed a significant amount of cars. Luckily our hotel was on the edge of the downtown traffic, so we bypassed all of the stopped cars along the way, and it only took us a few minutes to arrive and check in. We noticed an entrance through the parking garage, but we had to check in to grab the room key to swipe to enter the parking garage.

After reading the Lonely Planet Travel USA guide, we were ready to take on this city. One thing we like about this book is that it gives you highlights of each of the major cities and places of interest in the U.S. It is just big enough with some small maps of downtown streets and just small enough to not be too much of a hassle to lug around during our road trip.

Our hotel is pretty close to the River Market district. We decided to walk there, but the hotel also offers a free shuttle to the market. It was around 5pm when we left the hotel to search for a place to go for dinner. We enjoyed our stroll to the riverside. Autumn was peering its way through to us as we felt the wind blow through our hair and clothes. Along the way we accomplished finding and placing our mini Frisbee placement in a nearby cache.

After that quick find, I was craving buffalo wings, so we decided (since we loved it so much in Texas) to check out The Flying Saucer. Trying some local Arkansas beer was definitely a plus too! The Queso Fondue looked pleasing to us and because the waitress informed us of the larger portion of this appetizer, we decided to just get the buffalo wings in addition rather than getting individual dinner entrees. I’m glad we definitely went that route, because we were really full, and we did not even finish those dishes. One thing we noticed was there was also a Flying Fish next/near the Flying Saucer we went to, similar to when we were in Dallas. I just came across this article, in the Memphis Business Journal, which confirms our initial idea that they are in fact owned by the same company!

After dinner we walked along the water and noticed some sculptured scattered throughout the area. We took some photos of the artwork and some neat touristy signs. There were a few running electric trolleys in transit and many people in restaurants on their laptops and electronic devices. The streets were really clean and the atmosphere was really nice.

The Farmer’s Market in the downtown area only opens on Tuesdays (May-August) and Saturdays (May-October). It’s just too bad we missed it already, although it was still romantic and run to see the area as the sun set and the moon came out on a quiet Monday evening. There is just so much to see in Little Rock, and we were surprised there are so many historical sites to visit. On our walk back to our hotel, we passed the Capital Hotel, the Marriott, and the Doubletree Inn by Hilton and down Broadway to reach our hotel.

The next morning we decided to stay in, skip breakfast, and get a nice workout in the morning at the fitness center. It was a small but functional room, and we really worked up some sweat in there. On to our next state: Tennessee, where we will be exploring Memphis!

Wisconsin

On Wednesday, September 3rd, we left the New England area for Milwaukee, WI. We decided to gain some miles by driving and sleeping for a few hours at a rest stop before hitting our intended city. So we just put in Milkwaukee, WI as our destination in our GPS and let it take us there. We ended up spending a few hours at night in the Poconos area in Pennsylvania before continuing our drive around 7am.  During our trip we booked a hotel at the Hilton City Center in the downtown area.

Let me tell you it was not easy, but we did it. We thought, the end was so near! But, after driving for about 17 hours or so…we realized that our cell phones were behind one hour compared to the time we had been looking at on our watches. So the GPS listed an anticipated arrival time of 4:13pm to the city, and it was 3:55pm by the time we just passed through Chicago. Michael looks over to me as he is driving and says to me: “I really hope the GPS means that we should be getting to Milwaukee in fifteen minutes and not an hour from now”. Unfortunately, I did have to break the news to him that it was completely unrealistic for us to be so close to another city in a completely different state so close to Chicago, IL.

We pulled over to an “Oasis” (service center) and just got some gas and I took over driving the last hour to our hotel. Boy were we excited to check in and sleep on a comfy bed for two nights.

We got to the hotel around 6pm after gathering our belongings and checking in. Michael really just wanted to stay in that evening and order room service. So we decided to take advantage of the fitness center at our hotel for about an hour or so and ordered room service while we watched the Federer & Monfils evening match on ESPN. It was such an intense match. We were really happy to had stayed in because the food was so delicious! It was by far the best room service food I had eaten in a long time! I really vouch for the food and service at the Hilton in terms of room service. We received our food in less than 30 minutes. The House Soup (tomato with a basil cream) was so fresh and tasty! And, my cobb salad had so many items on it. I was so happy they gave us ice waters with lemon and an assortment of condiments. They even called us about a half hour after delivering the food to ask us how everything was going with the food and if we needed anything else. I had a hard time sleeping that evening because I think I had taken various naps throughout the day and didn’t get much sleep the night before. My sleep cycle was all messed up. To add to that, my brain was still adjusting to the one-hour time difference.

The next morning we slept in and left our hotel room by 11am to explore the city. We knew there were a few different events going on in the city which include Oktoberfest and Indian Summer Festival. In the AM we were still undecided on which event to attend, so we made our way to the Public Market which was located by Lake Michigan. It took us about 10-15 minutes of walking to get to the market. Michael and I ate lunch there at one of the local fresh food places called the Green Kitchen, which had freshly squeezed fruit/vegetable juices and sandwiches/salads. It was very delicious.

 

After lunch, Michael insisted we taste the Bienenstich which has custard and almonds. So we bought a quarter of a slice of it and decided to head to the park to eat it. It took us a little while to find the entrance after exiting the market, and along the way we discovered the site for the Indian Summer Festival. We had about a 15 minute conversation with a Crowd Controller named Richard who had been working all the events at the Summerfest location for over 35 years! It was so interesting to talk to someone who had been a Milwaukee native and loves what he does in operations with managing the crowds who attend these events. He spoke highly of the Indian Summer Festival, and we were impressed with what others had to say about the event.

We ended up walking along the pathway next to Lake Michigan, essentially on the opposite side of where we were a few months ago in Michigan. This gave us an opportunity to experience the lake that we loved on the dunes side a bit more on this side. It was a lot more calm and there were beautiful rocks that lined along the coast at Lakeshore State Park. For an urban area we felt as though the air was quite fresh and the architecture is quite low for a city. There were many restricted areas within the state park that had prairies and marshland where nature could run its course, which was neat to see in a city. It was getting a bit warm as we hung out on the benches at the Discovery Park, and we decided to head back to the hotel and relax for an hour or so before heading back to the Indian Summer Festival.

Before we headed back, I asked Michael to search for a cache nearby so we could place our mini Frisbee in the city. To our wonderful surprise we came across one right in the Discovery World park we were in! In no time we placed our Frisbee, played some unique outdoor “instruments” and were on our merry way to the hotel. Another reason we wanted to head back was because we wanted to purchase some school supplies. Why you ask? On Friday, September 5th from 4pm to 6pm there was free admission to the Indian Summer Festival with a “suggested” donation of school supplies. We initially did not notice the part at the end so we were just going to hang out around the park and walk around the city before it hit 4pm, but we decided it would be a nice gesture to get some stuff for the kids.

After relaxing a bit at the hotel, and also planning a bit for the next city we are to hit, we were in search of an office supply store. We found and OfficeMax about two blocks away from our hotel and on the way to Henry Maier Festival Park, where Indian Summer was held.

We had a great time walking along the path next to the lake, and we were bewildered to spot a gaggle of geese who felt the same way, as they were enjoying the walk too! At first we only spotted about five geese walking in a straight line, But, then…we saw so many more closer to the lake’s edge. This park displayed a unique sense of joining together of two different worlds: one of a primitive natural one filled with wildlife and the other with a modern look and feel of a city populated with humans.

The festival was neat because we had a chance to experience some of the food and also see some cultural performances. I found a hands-on arts and crafts tent where I spent the majority of my time. Michael was very patient with me because he is the knot expert! There were a variety of projects you can select but I chose to make a dream catcher. I thought it would be nice to experience making one, but I did not realize how much time it would take. I was actually pretty proud of my semi-finished product. I completed the inner weave (which was the most time-consuming portion of the project). I just need to add a few strings with beads and feathers to spruce it up a bit before I hang it up somewhere permanent. We walked around and checked out different vendors in the festival park afterwards. The theme this year at the festival was Horse Nation. So we saw various kinds of native horses there. One in particular caught our eye as it resembled a cow with its black and white spots.

We watched the Opening Ceremony and caught a bit of the drumming performance. It was so nice to see that all nations were represented at this festival through the drum performance, as it kicked off with a traditional African dance. Then we saw Brazilians performance a drum and dance, the Irish perform a step dance, the Arabs perform, the Koreans perform the drums in a seated positions, and a gentleman who was of German decent play the accordion, the Aztecs perform a standing drum ensemble and another Native American children school perform a chant. There was also a mix of American bands too! Everyone in the audience really embraced the performers’ unique cultures, and it seemed to really bring out the best in people.

Overall we thought the festival was a great opportunity for us to attend as it really showcased the cultures of the people here in the United States which is essentially a melting pot. The only event we were hoping to catch was the amateur boxing tournament, but they were running on an hour delay. So we decided to skip out and walk back to our hotel. It did start to drizzle a bit so we were glad we brought our own umbrella this time around. We knew there was a cold front coming in through the area so we were prepared.

The next morning we took the five hour drive to Minneapolis, MN for a Saturday night out in the city!