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My Week in Virginia Beach
We were looking to go away to nice vacation spot at the water. With my wife pregnant, we didn't want to leave the U.S., and Florida was out due to risk of Zika. That is how we decided to travel to VA Beach.


We left on a Sunday morning, stopping first to buy food for the 7-hour drive. It was a very enjoyable drive down.
In order to get to our destination, we had to pass through a magnificent Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel.

Day 1-Sunday


We arrived Sunday late afternoon to our hotel; Holiday Inn VA Beach - Oceanside.

We choose this hotel due to its proximity and private entrance to the beach. All rooms have a private balcony which was a must for us. We also looked for a room that has a kitchen, so we can eat comfortably in our room, but when we arrived, we found out that only the king suite has a kitchen. The room was clean, as the reviews had said. It was a bit small which was fine as we spent of the time on the balcony or outside. We had requested a quiet room and received one on the 12th floor.

After settling in we went for a late evening stroll on the boardwalk. One of the things I liked about this boardwalk, was the separate pavements for bikes and pedestrians, so when taking a walk, we were not constantly stopped by bikers. The beach and boardwalk were well maintained and very clean.

As there aren't any kosher restaurants in VA Beach, we brought along all our food in 2 huge ice boxes. When we wanted to eat supper, we took an out the double wrapped frozen restaurant meals (I bought them from a takeout in Brooklyn) and microwaved them. We brought along plastic ware and cutlery as well. In order to keep the ice box cold we replaced the ice every day from the ice machine. We
would back and forth from the ice machine to our room until the ice box was fill. It's a miracle the ice didn't use up...

Day 2-Monday


Early morning, after watching sunrise, I set out on a 45-minute drive to the nearest minyan. The Bnei Israel Congregation of Norfolk is the nearest shul, located in Norfolk VA. Although the drive is long it was pleasant as there is no traffic early morning.

 After breakfast we set out on our first trip in VA Beach; Ruddy’s Dolphin Tours (www.rudeetours.com),  $22 per adult. We took the 11am one so we should still have time to spend on the beach. The tour company promised to give you another free ride if no dolphins are spotted. Dolphins are very common in VA Beach, and we were very excited to see them. The trip turned out to be awesome. The captain steered to the regular places where the dolphins hang out, and boy were they jumping around! They came very close to the boat and even swam alongside us for a while. There were loads of dolphins out and we enjoyed every second!
When we came back, we went to buy some beach gear. Plenty of cheap stores dot the Avenue. We bought sunglasses, flip flops and colorful beach towel. Before going down to the beach, we filled our small ice box with ice, water bottles and soda.
The beach was awesome. It is extremely clean and has plenty of lifeguards. They rent chairs and beach umbrellas, but we decided against it. We sat in the sand, swam a bit and headed up to start the supper process.

Day 3-Tuesday


We decided to dedicate Tuesday to the beach. We drove out to Walmart, bought chairs and an umbrella (for cheaper than it would have been to rent for a day) and some water bottles as the hotel charged $2 a bottle. The weather was beautiful, and we really enjoyed our time by the sea.

Day 4-Wednesday

We awoke to sunrise. Watching it from our balcony, in the cool morning air, was breathtaking. We laid back down for a quick nap. After eating breakfast, we left for a cruise that passes through a naval base (www.misshamptoncruises.com) $24 per adult. We saw many warships, battleships, hospital ships, guard ships and much more. The tour guide was knowledgeable, informative and funny. He described each ship's purpose and the battles it had fought in.

After that it made a stop on Fort Wool, a civil war era fort. (They only make the stop weather permitting as it is difficult to get to the Fort in bad weather) The fort hasn’t been touched and has many interesting sites, such as cannon shooters and watchtowers. We both enjoyed it and is a great idea for anyone who enjoys history or military.
It was a very windy day and the waves were quite wild, so we did not spend much time on the water.
It was July 4, so at 7:30pm they had a firework show on the water. Many people went down to the beach to be able to see it close, but we stayed in the balcony. Turns out we had an amazing view, as we were high up and didn't have to push through masses of people. The show was really nice and lasted half an hour. Afterwards plenty of people fired their own fireworks and the beach was alive with activity much later than usual.



Day 5-Thursday

We started our last day early. We packed up and checked out early so we can have time to sit on the beach a bit. After loading up the car we asked if we can keep it parked in the lot for a bit longer. They agreed. However, it turned out to be very hot and so we left after not too much longer.

We started the long drive back home. When passing through Delaware we decided to stop for coffee. We stumbled upon a mall which had a Starbucks and many other great stores. We bought plenty of things for cheap and spent 2 hours in the mall. When we got back home it was very late, so we bought supper and sat down thinking about the awesome trip we took



Summary


It was a beautiful trip. We didn’t want to tour around a lot, we preferred to relax on the short vacation break we get from work. The beach was a fantastic place to do that. Even the short trips we took were relaxing and not high pressure. However, there are many other trips one can take such as parasailing, wild boat rides etc. We loved the relaxation and the clear air. Recommended trip for any couple looking for a nice outing!

 


December 25, 2018, 09:44:12 PM
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Our 3 Day Scottsdale Arizona TR We were looking to get away somewhere local for a few days, and having done already done Miami and not wanting to be with a million yidden, I chose Arizona.
I will point out. Overall the trip was great. But the traveling is tiring, especially the return which was red-eye. So on that end Miami is much better.
I was researching resorts in Scottsdale, and couldn't find that much info about it here, which is why I'm writing this up now...

We wanted something just relaxing, wasn't planning on doing anything major. And I wanted something more than just a hotel building, so we have grounds to enjoy. And I wanted something more than just a room, so for hanging around indoors we have some room.
Primarily my choices were between the Canyon Suites at The Phonecian and the Suites at the Sanctuary Camelback.
Ultimately I settled on the Sanctuary, but we went to The Phonecian to visit, so I'll give my 2 cents on that too.

This was a last minute trip, so I wasn't a true DDF'er in getting my best value for points etc. I just took whatever I found.

I took the Spa Suite, which comes with an (enclosed) outdoor bath. I paid approx $500 a night. They have some packages which might be worth checking out, some with food which wasn't relevant for us, others with spa services etc.
Once we booked, we got an email from the hotel concierge asking what she can be of assistance. I asked about kosher food options and babysitting, seems she's done it enough, they told me they will put a fridge and microwave in the room, and they can order me food from Segals kosher catering. She also gave me a recommendation for a babysitting service.

We left NYC 12/16 to PHX. We went with a 4-month-old infant.
There was no availability in First, I bought 2 economy seats using skiplagged (NYC-LAS) for $123 each. We had an empty seat between us, so we had some space for the baby.
I rented a car using Sixt. I have some status there due to a status match to my AA Plat (maybe from here?) I booked the 2nd to highest class and they let me choose any car on the lot. They were out of some of what I wanted, but I got a Mercedes GLS-450. Base price was $26 a day and with all fees, total was $162.
Initially, I wasn't planning on renting, rather to use uber, but decided to rent so I have where to keep my belongings the last day, after checkout depending on where I'll be headed. I don't regret it. It was a convenience. BUt note, the rentals are off terminal, there are shuttles that drive prob 10 minutes to get to the rentals. So needs to factor that on return if timing is tight.

The hotel is ~25 min from the airport. Upon arrival, they asked us to go in to check in, and then I was to follow the bellman (in his golf cart) to the parking next to our room.
The resort isn't 1 building. All rooms are spread apart all over in little compounds of 2-4 rooms each, so there are separate parking next to each area. Likewise, there are separate pools next to some of the sections. There is the central area that has the main pool plus restaurant/bar etc. We followed him with our car, and once parked he drove our luggage and us to our room. We got into our suite. It was huge. A large living area with couches/bar/tv, a separate bedroom, huge bathroom area which had closets, sinks etc, separate shower and toilet. And two doors which open to the outdoor bath.
In the front there's a huge balcony which extends from the living area to the bedroom area.
The rooms are very nice, It might not be modern and fancy, but it's very nice and rustic

Our room indeed had a microwave, but no extra fridge. But we had the fridge from the minibar which we emptied for whatever we needed.

We didn't order in advance food. So we had to start looking for that now. We arrived to the hotel approx 8pm.

When I did my research I had seen that there are lots of kosher places, with the Hechsherim being either the Vaad of Phoenix, or Chabad. I will only state what I did. No idea how the hechsherim compare.

We placed an order with Postmates. I signed up for trial for Postamtes Unlimited, so I wouldn't pay for delivery. We ordered from http://thekitchen18.com/ which is next to the Chabad house, and is under Chabad Hechsher. Ultimately that was actually almost the only meat place we ate from the next few days.
We ordered a min, some sides and drinks. The food arrived approx 45 min after we ordered. The postmates dropped it off at reception and they golf carted it to our room. The food arrived hot, and delicious. I didn't take pics of the food so I won't go into what exactly we ordered, but everything was nice sized potions, and very tasty. Even all the dipping sauces were delicious.
Our total order was $75. We had way too much food, so we put some in the fridge.

Monday morning we woke bright and early (after all it's 2 hours behind). I went to daven at http://www.chabadofscottsdale.org/. Never mind that shachris is 6:45. I didn't check it out, but there should be another daily minyan at http://www.ahavastorah.org/.

For Brunch we ordered some small stuff from https://www.imperialkosher.com/home/ They have a Milchig and Fleishig store. We ordered Milchig as they are PY & CY. I heard that https://www.milkandhoneyjcc.com/ is a nice place, but they told me not everything is CY. So I ordered from Imperial, again with Postamates, and delivery worked out perfect.

During the day we used the spa, the spa is very nice. Gender separated Dressing, showers, sauna, hot tub, relaxing area. And for any treatments they come and fetch you and take you thru the waterfalled outdoors to your room.
We took a babysitter for a few hours. We used the recommendation we had gotten from the concierge, http://www.achildsgardenaz.com/ And I have to say, I was very hesitant at first to use a service like this, but it was perfect. They have a whole group of sitters, all screened, fingerprinted. When booked them I got a text with all the info on my sitter. She was a young lady with BA in education and some other stuff. They come fully equipped with toys etc. They charge $19 an hour with a minimum of 4 hours. The owner worked around even though we booked last minute so that we had the same sitter every time we asked for one. Using this service allowed us to really enjoy our vacation, even though we went with an infant.

To explain the area. All around all you see is mountains. Even when driving around the local roads, all houses are 1 story (I wonder if intentional so as not to ruin the views). All the greenery is either palm trees or cactus. The weather by day was 70 and evening 55. We didn't see a drop of rain. The air is dry and crisp. It really was wonderful.

There are some trails for sunrise and sunset to go up to the mountains to see them, but with the baby I didn't want to go. But even from the resort, watching sunset was something else. I doubt the pictures capture it well. But the mountains turn red!

Dinner was again Via Postmates, from http://manhattanpizzeria.com/. By the time we got the food it wasn't that hot, so we had to use the fireplace to warm it up...
Food was huge portions, and delicious. One of us is Gluten Free, so we took the GF pizza, and it was better than any GF pizza we'v tasted in the northeast.

Tuesday was Asarah B'teves so we didn't do much (which was anyway the aim of the whole trip). After Mincha-Mariv in Chabad we had dinner at Kitchen 18. And like previously, the food was delicious, with many unigue flavors. Portions were huge, and the prices actually not that bad.
Our waiter was very knowledgeable about GF, and kept on substituting whatever we wanted with foods that would be good for both of us.

Wednesday we went to buy some souveneirs for back home, and our kids only wanted Cactus plants, so thats what we went to go get. We found a nursery that sells cactus, and they packed it up for us nicely in paper and boxed it, so that we can take it on the plane.

I found an app called Alltrails that has all the walking trails around. We chose something labeled Moderate as we were taking along our baby in a carrier. It was a very interesting walk, as its on desert mountains with barely any greens around, and cactus trees and plants as far as the eye can see. The walk wasn't so moderate after all so we headed back midway.

Our flight back was 11pm. They let us have late checkout and we went out some more.
We stopped by The Phoenician (TP). We wanted to see how it looks and how it compares to the Sanctuary Camelback (SC).
Here's my opinion. TP is a much larger and much nicer complex. There are Huge grounds, golf courts, walkways, grass etc. So for serenity, it's much better. It has many large pools, plus some water slides and climbing activities for kids. So it's better for when traveling with children.
It has one main building, which has 5-star modern lobbies etc. It's a beautiful hotel building. Besides for that it also has a separate building called The Phoenician Suites which is like an independent hotel building with its own lobby and pool. There also are some separate buildings for other types of rooms, I wasn't sure what. It also has Residences which are much larger, but we didn't go to check it out. On the other hand, there were many areas that didn't look well maintained and clean. So seems that while they're a new (or redone) resort, they're lacking in maintenance.
They also have a "Cactus Garden" which is a few acres of trails in gardens full of all different cacti species.
SC isn't as large, it doesn't have any large buildings. All rooms are in structures spread around the area. As such there is no grand lobbies or hallways. On the other hand, the reason I still am happy I went to SC is for the privacy. I didn't want to have hotel building with hallways etc. In SC I had my own entrance from the paths into my suite. And the main thing is that the balconies in SC have solid walls, so when sprawled on the chair all I see is above that which is the sky/trees/mountains, while in TP the porches have gates, so there is no privacy from them to anyone below, and they're low 2-3 story buildings, so everyone sees everything.

Dinner was again at Kitchen 18. The place was packed, I really don't know where they get that many people. Food was again delicious, I should just remember not to order that much!

We headed back to the airport pretty early, returned the car and checked in and went to the lounge. We went to admirals lounge. No great shakes. Pretty small and not many amenities, but still much better than just sitting at general gate seats. Our return we flew AA in first. I'm still debating if economy with extra seat might be better, especially with a baby so we have where to put him down.

In summary, We thoroughly enjoyed this trip. While the travel time is a bit long, to be able to travel in the US, to warm climate, beautiful 5 star lodging, daily Minyan, great food, and not be with multitudes of other Yidden, it was worth every penny!

While looking for a listing of all food and hechsherim, this was a good resource https://www.ahavastorah.org/restaurants.html


I don't have too many pictures, but I do have some. But never having posted pics here, how is the best way for me to put them all in? I dont want to just post 4 at a time


December 28, 2018, 03:42:39 PM
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Antarctica TR: the trip after Dan I took the same ship, the RCGS Resolute, that Dan took, on its very next voyage after TeamDan.  Dan suggested I post a TR report here but I'm not very good at this sort of thing, so I'll just highlight my trip with respect to Dan's (or what I know of it based on what I've read so far).

First off, I have to say that I eagerly kept abreast of Dan's posting about his trip, to see if it would have any impact on our voyage.  I was nervous when I read about some fuel issues and also something that a passenger on that trip posted on tripadvisor, complaining about the diversion that resulted in less time in Antarctica proper.  But, in the end, everything on our voyage turned out great.   

Quick aside: we befriended some ship staff, who only had very warm things to say about TeamDan.   Understandably, they said it was a little bit of a learning curve for some minor things at first, but they really liked the group a lot.  It was nice to hear that!

Unlike Dan's cruise, our trip was not blessed with the diversion to the Falklands for fuel.  I say that because I would have gladly accepted that because of the wealth of wildlife they must have seen there.   (I did not see any mention of this yet in Dan's reviews, but I base this on what the OneOcean guides tell me of what is possible to see there.  I hope TeamDan had a fulfilling time.)

Days 1&2:  Violent Drake shake, with lots of rolling and waves as high as the fourth deck---the dining deck, which made for interesting scenery while eating!   Although this took its toll on some passengers, we all have some vivid memories.   Such as the sounds of glasses crashing.  Or chairs sliding across the bar.  One passenger even had to get some stitches for a minor cut.

Day 3:  ice blocking the channel, so we were diverted.  No excursions.   There was a very exciting scene though, with a pod of orcas chasing some penguins in the water--photographers went nuts but, really, you cannot capture such a thing in a photo or a video.   Pure drama!

Day 4:  A glorious scene morning!   A morning landing to see gentoo penguins in a bay colored with black, white, grey and...."iceberg blue".  (If you've seen the blue, you know what I mean.)    The afternoon was spent among whales and penguins.

Day 5: Hiking and polar plunge.   Overnight camping.

Day 6: Chilean station with nesting gentoo penguins.    Afternoon kayaking with icebergs and breaching whales.

Day 7: Cruising through an active volcano crater.  Afternoon visit to island with nesting gentoo and chinstrap penguins, complete with chicks.   Awesome.

Day 8 and 9:  Drake lake.  (Day 9 with a little bit of a waste because the calm seas meant that the crossing was very fast. )   

Other stuff:  We had the standard food catering.  All of the food and drink was more like standard "big cruise ship" food, rather than "expedition" food.  IOW, there was good selection and plenty of it.

Good scotch whisky tasting night, with knowledgeable staff.

Excellent guide-to-customer ratio, with more than a dozen guides and another handful of researchers who were doing their own thing (but eager to answer questions).

Had two minor issues, which were dealt with promptly and satisfactorily.    As a result, I am extremely satisfied with the entire trip.

January 01, 2019, 12:23:02 PM
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From East Coast to the West Coast in a week and a half. This past Succos I decided it would be fun to instead of going to only one state for Succos we should try to go to as many places as possible. We started off in Chicago and headed to Monsey for first days. I just found out about this apple picking orchard that is literally 5 minutes from where we were staying (as opposed to driving 1 1/2 hours to go apple picking in Chicago). It was a lot of fun and would definitely recommend it.218D8FB6-9543-402F-9621-979F89011F83 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
After first days we flew from EWR to SFO with UA, the airport was insane and we would've missed our flight had I not had TSA pre-check and held up the plane for my husband to make it through the business/first class security line. We rented a car in SFO and started our road trip down the PCH. Our first stop was Lover's Point Park near Monterey, CA, it's a beautiful area with a great beach for swimming and surfing.25CF7548-A009-42EC-A48B-6BD29B231F3E by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
D8BAF08D-46B8-42BA-A9CF-33A0139DD693 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
After literally dragging my kids out of the water and into the car we continued on to see the famous Bixby Bridge. It was quite a challenge to get close to the edge with my kids to get a picture with the ocean and bridge in it but it worked out! We were lucky to get a parking spot right before the bridge because I am not sure how you would be able to get a good picture without getting out of the car.
405AF79A-5A2B-46B0-8F64-ECFC88D2C796 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
BA1EB86A-81FC-41DC-95FB-7910790B0E5B by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
The car ride on the edge of the mountain with the oceans waves crashing beneath it was terrifying (it probably did not help that my kids were screaming that we are going to die..), thank God my husband was driving  and was as cool as a cucumber.  No pictures I took could do it justice. Our next stop was at Pfeiffer Beach which is in the Big Sur area (no reception for hours at a time) it was a miracle we found it since there is no sign at all for it. Pfeiffer Beach is known for having purple sand and beautiful spots to watch the sunset. It was extremely windy so we could only stay for a little bit but not before we filled a bottle of purple sand to go. C71D6B20-A6F6-4BD1-947E-E65F9CC07AB5 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
3E2939B7-7BD8-4784-ADBF-E1E47C0A4273 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
1C9AAA23-A695-4E1F-AF5D-EDF20413B184 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
It was getting dark by now so we headed back to Monterey and stayed at the Marriott there. After breakfast the next morning we headed out back to the Big Sur to see the famous McWay Falls. The view is breathtaking and glad we made it back to see it. 5771AB99-87EA-498A-BB07-60A794D880C0 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
1B0BA9E4-5E9A-4994-AD18-5F61BF324E71 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
We stopped at Carmel-by-the-Sea on our way up to Oakland for second days of Yom Tov. We had a wonderful time in Oakland, CA. The community is so warm and welcoming and who could beat a BBQ for simchas torah night! We went to Tinley Park which is 15 minutes away. It is a massive park with all kinds of facilities. We went on a real steam train ($3/person) that took us through the woods, they have a petting zoo that you can bring celery and lettuce and feed the cows and other animals with and nice hiking trails with a playground. AC231B6E-C4C0-43D1-B9DA-4B922A5A0D66 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
1A564C33-5107-4469-BD7F-1B63F70DAE84 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
70A3D0D2-A46A-4116-9AFA-ACD3D136B51A by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
On our last day we decided to check out San Francisco for the few people in our family that haven't been there before. We started out by going to to Marin Headlands and getting a good view of the Golden Gate Bridge. You park your car in the parking lot once you get there and can hike to the top to get the best view. My kids enjoyed looking out for hawks and even saw one close up.315B0B12-FB21-400C-AC2D-B00158EB0316 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
AED71D99-D419-4D17-A5AE-A0BAF28F92E2 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
After crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge we headed over to Lands End Point/ Sutra Baths. They have a cool cave where you can see through the cracks the waves crashing through. My kids also walked along the edge of the Sutra Baths which made me quite nervous. It's a great spot to have a picnic as well. We also saw many wedding parties taking pictures there. 1C9A994A-95A5-4703-A9EB-DC2D78564068 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
6B1163FA-5D03-4AC5-8247-370F782E4AB4 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
By this time we were starving at headed over to the popular Israeli style restaurant called Frena. The neighborhood is the worst I ever seen and car thefts are a daily occurrence there. The food is awesome, we all enjoyed and took more to go (they have sufganiot and hamentashen year round!). IMG_2681 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
We got to SFO and hung out a while at the Air China Lounge which is part of Priority Pass Lounges and then met up with some friends that happened to have a stopover in SFO on their way to Australia. 3E3E8C18-CF6D-4094-B8CA-0685DF8475FB by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
We had a stopover in Las Vegas on our way back to ORD for 4 hours so we grabbed an UBER and went to check out the strip. We saw the volcano eruption at the Mirage, went to the Bellagio for the fountain show and the Ventian to get Coffee Bean for the flight to Chicago. 8A4096FF-0EB0-45BC-A4AC-80E8160DC02B by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr
AA7F3C1E-4724-4572-9FF1-752082970BE9 by Divora Marinelli, on Flickr






January 14, 2020, 11:22:22 PM
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