Tonight we went to Gayord Palms for their annual ICE! exhibit in Orlando, FL with Kaitlin, my roommate, and his gf for . The experience starts with a short video clip about how they bring in ice sculpting artists from china who are passionate about their work, the massive refrigeration units, and numerous tons of ice to be sculpted. After that, there is a short video clip about Shrek, since the sculptures are based on the Shrek Christmas. After watching the videos, you get parkas, which are necessary as the ICE! exhibit is less than 20 degrees inside. I didn’t bring gloves, but I would highly recommend them.
This weekend we decided to head to NYC. After my parents drove down to Orlando, we got them in the inflight simulator as well as flight simulator. The inflight simulator demonstrates the safety equipment on the Airbus A320, and does limited motion, such as a failed take off or a water landing. The flight simulator is a CAE flight simulator for the Airbus A320, which does full motion and graphics.
Because of the flight loads to JFK, I had to send my parents to New York’s JFK airport on an earlier flight, and then Kaitlin and I would follow on the 3pm flight to LGA, as flight loads were lower to that airport. Once we got there, we took the express bus to Penn Station and then walked to our hotel where my parents were waiting. Since it was late, we walked to grab dinner and my parents went back to the room. Kaitlin and I walked around times square and 5th Ave to take photos of all the amazing Christmas decorations this time of year.
The following morning we ate breakfast at a local cafe, and then my parents went to a museum while Kaitlin and I took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. The ferry wait was almost an hour, and it was freezing! We took lots of photos, and after we were each done, we met up for dinner and more walking around times square. This time we went to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. We wanted to ice skate, but the line was so long there was just no way that was going to happen.
For Kaitlin’s Birthday we decided to head to Cancun, MX and spend the weekend at the Grand Parnassuss All Inclusive Resort and Spa. The resort was excellent, as was the service. The only complaint I can think of would be that the buffet food for lunch wasn’t amazing, and the mini golf was closed at an early hour.
The dinner each night was excellent, the beach was excellent, and we went later in the year so the weather was great for laying out on the beach!
Today we (my parents, Kaitlin, and myself) had the chance to visit the Jacksonville Navy Base and watch the Blue Angels at the Jacksonville Air Show. It was very cold, so attendance was low, which made getting out easy, but also made it darn miserable to stand there taking photos!
So after going to Puerto Rico last week for work, I decided to return for a fun-only trip with Kaitlin. I took a few hours off of work, and we caught the JetBlue flight out of MCO to SJU. Upon arrival at the airport, we took the shuttle to Hertz, where we had a rental car waiting. One thing we didn’t expect, is that Google maps would not do turn by turn directions, so finding our way to the resort was a nightmare. After nearly two hours of struggling, we finally made it to the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort and Casino, which I highly recommend for the money.
The next morning we woke up semi early and headed towards El Yunque Rainforest, a US National Park which was amazing. We drove along the main road, and finally parked to hike to the Peak. During the hike, it started to rain after not having seen a single cloud in the sky! By the time we got to the Peak, we were drenched, but the rain had backed off. After about 30 minutes of enjoying the view, things quickly changed and it was yet again flooding.
After a nap back at the hotel, we decided to go kayaking in the Bioluminescent Bay. To get there, you rent kayaks on a guided tour through a marsh covered lagoon, kayaking in the dark and using glow sticks to keep from hitting each other. Once you’re in the bay, it’s very dark with surprisingly little light pollution compared to the rest of the island. Every time you paddle, the bay lights up around the disturbed water and gives off a blue glow, one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while!
This weekend Kaitlin and I hopped on a JetBlue flight from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Dulles Airport (IAD), grabbed a rental car and headed towards West Virginia for some horseback riding and whitewater tubing. We stayed at a cheap hotel in a small town near Harpers Ferry, WV, which turned out to be a dump in the middle of a town with nothing to do…live and learn, I suppose.
The following morning we woke up early to grab breakfast and head towards Elk Mountain Trails in Knoxville, MD where we had scheduled a 90 minute horseback ride. At first we thought 90 minutes would be too short, never having rode horses, but as it turns our my rear end was sore around the 45 minute mark, so 90 minutes was longer than I would have done if anything. The horses were all well trained and for the most part we didn’t have to steer them, they simply followed the horse in front of then, with our guide being the leader. The trails were pretty, with a variety of wildlife along the way.
After finishing up there, we headed to River Riders where we changed our Kayaking reservation to Tubing due to the extreme heat index (over 110) that day. We were able to eat a quick lunch on site, then get our life jackets and board one of their many renovated school buses that they use to transport rafters back and forth between the drop and pickup sites. The tubing was fun, however it wasn’t nearly as wild as the website made it look, with only a few short drops scattered along the river.
Tonight Kaitlin and I went to “Red Hot and Boom” at Lake Eola, and annual event hosted by the City of Orlando. I took some video, which should hopefully give those of you who find this while Googling next year an expectation of what you’re going to see. I would suggest parking as far away as possible and walking there, because it took us over 1 1/2 hours to exit the area and get onto 408. The fireworks were excellent, way better than any of the other local shows that I’ve been to.
As most of you know, I recently joined on with jetBlue as a Learning Systems Analyst, and my primary role of support will be the BlueGuru project, which is a MarkLogic based content management system for all of the company’s documentation. Our corporate publications office is based out of Forrest Hills (FSC), so I took a flight to JFK and stayed a few days to meet the staff, as they are the primary people that I’ll be writing to support.
As a team field trip, we went to Long Island Cradle of Aviation Museum, which the Corporate Publications manager had setup. This museum was excellent and filled with knowledgeable tour guides who gave you an introduction to the museum, and from there on out there were several people at each station in the museum willing to answer any questions you might have about the area. For a lesser known place, it certainly had a ton of exhibits. Not as full as let’s say the Smithsonian, but honestly it was much better staffed.
The following day I got off earlier and was able to explore the city. My first subway destination was to the World Trade Center Memorial, which had quite a bit of construction going on and wasn’t really much of a sight to see. It did put it in perspective how huge the two towers must have been, and I couldn’t help but envision what NYC looked like as they came crashing down. After the World Trade Center stop, I headed uptown to 42nd street, better known as Times Square. I roamed the streets for about 2 hours, looking at the various things to do. Getting hungry, I stopped for some authentic NY pizza, which was as delicious as advertised.
Since I had been in Washington DC all week for a MarkLogic training event, I decided to talk Kaitlin into flying into Dulles Airport (IAD) to meet me for a weekend of sight seeing. There was a jetBlue flight out of Orlando at 1:15pm with plenty of seats open, so she was able to fly standby and even got a legroom seat! Since I didn’t have a whole lot to do that morning, I went over to the airport and did some freelance work while waiting for her at the terminal.
After the plane arrived, we rode the courtesy shuttle to the Hertz rental car location slightly off airport property and picked up our Nissan Versa. Hertz is great for travelers under 25 because they have a gold club membership which waives the age fee. We then headed to Chevys for an appetizer while waiting on some of her friends to get ready to go to dinner.
The next day, we got up a bit early and toured the monuments, then headed to Vapiano for lunch in Chinatown. Vapiano is a newer chain restaurant that is gaining popularity in the DC area. You get a menu, and after deciding what you’d like to eat, you walk up to the chef line and tell them your order. They’ll ask you how spicey, what extras, etc you want, and then cook your meal right in front of you. To pay, you simply tap a RF card against the computer and it adds the items to your total bill.
After lunch, we were off to see the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, which I had been to a few times, but Kaitlin hadn’t. The museum offers several rotating exhibits, so even if you’ve been there before, there’s always something new. The oceans exhibit is excellent, with lots of video, as well as fossils and preserved marine animals. Most famous, the dinosaur exhibit is good as well, but that’s never been one of my key points of interest. Once the museum closed at 5:30pm, we walked around the National Mall and took photos in front of all the monuments.
Since I had never done a manatee tour, I thought it would be a fun weekend getaway. Kaitlin and I booked reservations with Florida Manatee Tours in Crystal River, FL. Because the weather had been warmer recently, the manatees were hanging out in the bay, where visibility is low, and weren’t in the spring area like they traditionally are. We did catch one in clear enough water to film, so I embedded the video.
If you turn up the volume and listen carefully, you can actually hear the manatee chomping away at the sea grass. Manatees are almost always eating, as they get over 1500lbs, and need to eat 10% of their body weight each day. Since baby manatees are fed milk form the mother, they don’t have to worry with eating such large amounts of food, so they’re more likely to play, since they have all this spare time on their hands!