click here for 2003 Travel Logs~
What better way to spend a birthday then to go to Disney World and Universal Studios! Well, that's exactly how we celebrated the birthday of Rafi's dad. I was the only Disney virgin, so everything was new to me, but Rafi and his fam showed me the ropes. We visited Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and MGM. The shows were fun, the rides WAY fun (especially the Tower of Terror and the Rock 'N Roller Coaster!), and seeing that it was "Soap Opera Weekend", the crowds of screaming housewives were hilarous. We even took a few photos of celebrities, but don't ask us who they are, for we're not really sure!
The characters were so much fun, and it was really enjoyable to see how excited some of the kiddos got when they spied one. Hmm... did I say kiddos? I think I was really just thinking of when Tita saw Chip and Dale! Actually, I think she was stalking them, as evidenced by the photo to the left. ;-) I think the cast of Toy Story were Rafi's favorite, while his dad took a liking to Goofy. As for me, I was partial to Buzz Lightyear who gave a good thumbs up.
One thing we did learn while on this trip is that riding roller coasters with Rafi's mom is FUN! I haven't laughed until I cried in so long, but I think it was mutual, as she laughed at my screams, too. She's a great riding partner.
Universal Studios was incredible, too. I know that Luis really enjoyed the Blues Brothers street show. And we ALL fell in love with Mission Space! The G forces were so strong and real that we began to wonder if we had really left the building! But if you go in the future, skip the hour-plus long wait for Test Track - booooo! The ET ride seemed magical to me, though, as I've always had a soft spot for ET. It was really cool to see his home planet and other friends. :) Of all the rides, Rafi and I most enjoyed "The Mummy" ride. In fact we rode it several times!
To celebrate Rafi's father's birthday we all went to Dolly Parton Dixie Stampede . These horses (it was a rodeo musical) were so well ridden, and the show was actually pretty humerous. They served a numerous course meal (soup, biscuits, chicken, pork, apple turnover, etc.) that was pretty tastey - oh, yeah, and served with no utensils! It was messy but that made it even more fun. We also had a little Disney Birthday cake in the hotel room - complete with Mickey on the top and candles but no matches!
We had a great time in Florida and thank Rafi's parents for inviting us. I will never forget my first time at Disney. :)
Las Vegas, Nevada
happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas - or so they say, but I'm here
the beans! Mark
picked us up at the Yuma, AZ airport after Rafi, my mom, and I
endured a turbulent plane ride. He looked the same - tall, thin,
and tan. We had no trouble picking out his car in the parking
lot - the huge white truck! Then Mark took us to have dinner with
his good friends Don and C.J. at a local steak restaurant. Mom
is still raving about her filet mignon.
apartment is a typical bachelor pad - little bit of furniture,
massive entertainment center, and lots of musical instruments.
And he had cleaned! Thanks, Mark! ;) After a good night's rest
(and an early morning swim by Mom and I), we took his other car
(a green Cavalier) to get our rental car loaded up with our goods.
Off to Vegas we went! Oh..wait...not so fast. It's pouring down
rain. Okay, off we go! Nope..wait some more...there are floods
so our roads were closed. Have to find another route. Okay finally...
Vegas, here we come!
barely made it! With no time to spare, we grumpily checked in
(Excalibur), threw our luggage in our room (no time for a bellhop),
and ran over to Treasure Island to see our show Mystere!
A few pre-show drinks helped us to relax and get in the Vegas
mood. This was the most incredible show - definitely worth the
ticket price, if not more. The talented acrobats, dancers, and
musicians kept us all on the edge of our seats while telling their
rythmic, colorful tale - all in French! .
night (and the next day) were spent touring different casinos,
winning and losing money, and seeing different attractions. Many
things had changed since we were there last. The moving statues
in Caesar's Palace weren't quite as incredible as Mom and I remembered
(hehe...we remembered not being able to tell if they were robots
or not, and being majorly impressed by this now mediocre laser
light show). There were tons more hotels on the strip, but it
wasn't as overwhelming as it was back then. (This probably has
to do with me not being 17 this time.) And one of us (couldn't
be ME? hehe) almost passed out while watching the Pirate Show.
On a side note, we were not impressed at all with any of the food
we had in Vegas. In fact, the only food we had that was reliably
good was from the downstairs Krispey Kreme - which we named the
official food of Vegas.
and I were involved in a celebrity spotting, too! Not that we
were that pumped about who it turned out to be, but shopping in
Gucci was non other than Tara Reid and Paris Hilton. Later we
learned from the magazines that they were in town for her sister
Niki Hilton's wedding. In person they looked like regular girls
- just cute and well dressed.
drive back to Yuma was more enjoyable - especially since I slept
the whole way. (Yes, I get a bit grumpy during car trips.) When
we got back to Yuma, we stopped by the Yuma
Territorial Prison Museum. Aside from the the impatient
ladies who work there, the museum had fascinating artifacts and
stories - plus we were able to tour the prison cells themselves.
the rest of our stay Mark showed us around Yuma, treated Mom to
a chile pepper, took us for delicious authentic Mexican tacos,
and gave us a tour of where he works (he is a federal Border Patrol
agent). It was hard to say goodbye (made even harder by delayed
flights), but we had a great time seeing Mark and hope to see
him soon - maybe this October, right Mark? :-D
(Panama City, Bocas del Torro,
Only a week or
so after returning from our ski trip, we set out on another excursion
- Panamá! As you all know, Panamá is Rafi's home country,
and his family and many of his friends still reside there, so we
had several items on our agenda during this trip.
The day after we arrived we celebrated
30th birthday with family, friends, and a HUGE pan of paella
at Rafi's parents' home. A good time was had by all - especially
Rafi who was very happy to be surrounded by everyone he loves most.
Rafi didn't have the only birthday
during our trip! We also celebrated little Luis Raul's 1st birthday
AND big sister Nicole's 6th birthday! They had a joint
birthday party complete with refreshments, a cake, and a
Several days of relaxation followed
Resort. This was our second time there, so this time we
knew exactly what to do - sleep and eat. And that's pretty much
what we did. Rafi's parents were able to join us, too, so that made
everything all the more fun.
Next we visited Bocas del Torro
with a few friends. We took a small plane (which was fun!) to the
islands, and stayed in a quaint hotel with an ocean-view room. Our
first day there, Yiyo, Rafi, and I rented rusty, but entertaining,
bicycles - $1 per hour - and found a not-so-swimmable beach. The
next day the girls, Odilie and Yariela, joined us, so then we set
out on a tour of the area. Our destination was Zapatillas Islands
(zapatilla means "sneaker"). On our way there we watched
a group of very playful
dolphins "surf" in the wake of our boat, which
was really neat to see. After saying goodbye to the dolphins, we
made a pitstop
at Isla Caracol to order our lunch, and then we set out
islands. Once there, we donned our snorkel gear and set
out. The fish were plentiful and gorgeous - big silver ones, yellow
striped ones, blue flat ones, etc. - so for a good couple hours
we snorkeled (with the occasional dive for a closeup look). So I
wonder why were surprised to discover scorching sunburns down our
whole backsides when we finished? Ha! Our
boat guides then took us back to our original pitstop where our
lunch was waiting. After a tasty lunch, we spent the rest of the
afternoon by snorkeling around the area, where we were greeted
by some small jellyfish (which give me the creeps), vegging on the
deck, and sunbathing. Then off we went for the boat ride back to
our hotel. After
a night of good food and lots of rest, we took our plane ride full
of worn out, sunburned passengers (of which we were some!) back
to the city.
Rafi, his brother Luis, Luis'
wife Mónica, and I also took a tour
of the Gamboa Rainforest via the Panamá Canal. A
long boat ride brought us to all kinds of wildlife - monkeys, reptiles,
birds, etc. To pass by huge ships in our little boat was pretty
Since the rainy season had begun, we took it easy over the next
few days by sitting outside, eating a wonderful lunches, taking
long naps, and reading good novels. Linda, the parrot, (who constantly
wanted my finger to hold) quite enjoyed our company. :) The weather
did cooperate, however, enough for Rafi and his big brother Luis
to go golfing one afternoon. Hmm... GOLFing
or GOOFing? haha..
The rest of our time in Panamá was spent by more relaxing,
with nieces and nephew, and eating BIG
churros and nice dinners
with family and friends; oh yeah - and by having an office
visit with Rafi's dad. ;) We had a wonderful time and look
forward to visiting again this December. Thanks to Rafi's family
and friends for everything!
officially a skiier! This April I had my first ski
trip, and it was fantastic! Rafi is a more experienced snowboarder,
so for him this trip was just practice, but for me it was a whole
We (and ONLY 12 others) rented
an awesome cabin at Kirkwood near Lake Tahoe. The cabin was really
enjoyable, aside from shoveling snow and ice just to get into the
cabin, due largely in part to its large living room picture window
and its hot tub. It was really peaceful waking up to stillness and
silence every morning in a warm house with snow piled practically
up to your window ledge.
A short drive up the road brought
us to Kirkwood Ski Resort. We got our gear (skis for me, snowboard
for Rafi) and set out for the slopes. Okay, so Rafi got to set out
for the slopes. I, on the other hand, took a beginner's class with
our friend Chris. It was very humbling to have all these little
kids ask us if we were their teachers as we waited for the instructor!
Ha! But Chris and I did pretty well during our lesson, and in a
mere two hours were DOMINATING that bunny slope! ;-)
Day two brought more excitement
- and a killer snowboarder sunburn for Rafi! The slope ratings are
as follows: Bunny (super beginner), Green (beginner), Blue (intermediate),
Black Diamond (advanced), and Double Black Diamond (super advanced).
I am very proud to say that by the end of day two I was able to
comfortably ski the Green slopes and even a few Blues (with some
coaching and help from Rafi and a couple friends, of course)! Rafi,
though, spent the rest of his day boarding the blacks and trying
some jumps. At the end of a long, exciting, but tiring day, we all
headed home to take showers and naps. That night Rafi cooked incredible
steaks for the lot of us, too. :)
Later, the snowboarders donned their gear again and started doing
jumps on a homemade ramp outside our window!
Our final day of skiing had
me up early and ready to go. By this third day I was starting to
feel pretty confident, so I spent the day perfecting the Green and
Blue slopes. Rafi had a great last day, as well, for he skiied....."The
Wall"! Apparently, this wall is so steep that if you ski it,
you MUST get the t-shirt! Needless to say, Rafi ended up getting
a t-shirt AND a cap. Haha... So by the time we left, I had worked
my way to Blue slopes and Rafi to the dreaded Double Black Diamonds!
What can I say about skiing
- I'm hooked! I was really amazed at how quickly I picked up the
sport, and how much fun a day on the slopes can be. I'm ready for
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