Tag Archives: trip

A recent adventures update

The time has come to return to Honolulu on the final leg of our most recent epic travel adventure.

For the past three weeks, James and I have had the most incredible series of adventures with some of the best travel companions and friends we could wish for. Our trip kicked off with a one day adventure in NYC with one of my earliest and best childhood friends, Matthew. We explored the #highline and reveled in the gorgeous summer weather. Next stop was London, where we were welcomed to stay at the lovely flat of our favorite British blogger and proverbial “hostess with the mostest” Carla (check out her cool blog Zoubisou). After a truly amazing five day stay in the UK (which will be recapped in an upcoming post), we were off again to Bergen, Norway to rendezvous with our intrepid traveling companions Emily and Pat and received the warmest of welcomes by our favorite Norwegian, Mari. Not only did she open her home to the four of us, but she took on the roles of tour guide, translator, navigator and entertainer! (In traditional Norweigan national attire no less- but that’s a story for another day.) Bergen is a beautiful city and I look forward to sharing our adventures there after I have a chance to process some photos at home to illustrate the stories.

After Bergen, our party of four headed north, flying first to Bødo and then boarding the Hurtigruten MS Løfoten to the magical islands of Løfoten, north of the arctic circle. The awesomeness of our experiences here under the midnight sun are hard to put into words, so I will wait to share more details when the photos can lend some visual punch to my experiences of awe and joy.

After what seemed like the blink of an eye, we were all back in Oslo for our final night before parting ways. James, Pat, Emily and I stayed together sharing laughter, wine and the History Channel’s #vikings until the last possible minute (James and I grabbed the last train of the night from Oslo back to our airport hotel).

A flight from Oslo to Newark and a long overnight layover allowed for one more night with Matthew and his wonderful husband Bobby. We managed a nap and got to sit in on a Mathieu Blue rehearsal for an upcoming performance of his on Monday! It was surreal and wonderful to be a part of the behind-the-scenes with an awesome band and creative team as they launch my best friend’s lifelong dream of performing his original songs (and some rocking covers too) live in New York City. The night wasn’t complete until we grabbed our NYC slices to go and hopped in a cab back to Harlem.

Fast forward to the current moment, and James and I are side by side aboard our #united flight back to Honolulu. I reflect on the past few weeks with a heart full of friends and adventures and can’t wipe the grin off my face. What a trip it’s been. The sharing has just begun my friends, there are stories and memories galore to explore. But first, two more episodes of Vikings, a blanket and a nap are necessary to top it all off.

#summerinnorway was #epic

-Meagz

Atop Reinebringen
Atop Reinebringen Photo credit: James Brogan
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We made the list! 17 Hawaiian Instagrammers Show Us Why Hawaii Is The Most Vibrant Place On Earth by Kate Siobhan Mulligan at the Matador Network.

17 Hawaiian Instagrammers Show Us Why Hawaii Is The Most Vibrant Place On Earth by Kate Siobhan Mulligan. Shutter Force Photography was selected as one of the 17 by the Matador Network! Check us out and be sure to follow our photos on Instagram @shutterforcephoto.

Hot springs, long drives and surreal places in wild, wild Wyoming

Thermopolis.

Sounds like a made up place, right? Some odd mishmash of science and Greek, with a dash of fantasy. Then you find out it exists (and it’s a tiny town in Wyoming) and it sounds even more strange and unbelievable.

My husband James was born and raised in Wyoming, but I met him in Hawai’i and most people would lose a bet to guess his origins. That’s likely because there are a lot of people (and places!) in Wyoming that regularly defy the stereotypical Wyomingite. Thermopolis is one of these places.

Everytime I visit I am surprised and delighted by the uniqueness of Wyoming; a place where the west is still pretty wild, just not always in the way you think it is.

James and his family have been telling me stories of their childhood trips to “Thermop” since I first met him/them nearly ten years ago. I didn’t realize at the time they were actually telling me about a town called Thermopolis (I thought for a long time it was a theme park, like Wyoming’s version of Six Flags). So on a recent visit to the Equality State, we take a short drive to make the introduction. Just a mere 2.5 hours from Casper (a “short” drive for Wyoming natives- the state is HUGE), the trip to Thermopolis is through a whole lot of… open space. There are small little townships scattered through the plains (some with populations of less than 50 people), and antelope. And cows. And fences. And tons and tons of sky. As a New Hampshire native, I think all of it’s brilliant. James yawns.

Then we drive into the Wind River Canyon (the yawning stops immediately) and we are surrounded by towering canyon walls, some as high as 2,500 feet high, containing rock formations dating all the way to the precambrian era. That’s almost 3 million years ago. Yeah, for real. The Burlington railway snakes along the river and we scan every ledge for a sighting of the many Bighorn sheep that make these ancient cliffs their home.

Wind River Canyon. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography
Wind River Canyon. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015

After exiting the canyon we emerge shortly into the town of Thermopolis, the home of the world’s largest mineral hot springs and Wyoming’s first state park.

We were able to make a reservation at a renovated historical building (now operated by Best Western) located right within the park. Perfect. We check in and make our way over to the Star Plunge, one of three recreational establishments that utilize the hot spring mineral water to fill their pools, water slides and vapor room. I don’t know if a water slide will ever appeal to me more than one with 90-100 degree water flowing inside it. There’s a faint smell of sulfur in the air (mineral hot springs, remember?) but I was prepared for it, and to be honest, it smells a heck of a lot better than Yellowstone. I’ve got a sensitive nose and was pretty worried that I wouldn’t handle the smell well, but it never took away from my good time splashing around all the pools, hot tubs and steam room and before we leave I no longer even notice it.

Thermopolis Hot Springs. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015
Thermopolis Hot Springs. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015

The late afternoon is spent driving around the plains within the park, where herds of buffalo and deer roam about. We eat an early dinner at Las Fuentes Mexican Food and order the local favorite, a breaded chicken breast with aioli corn and raspberry chipotle sauce, topped off with a massive (real fruit) blackberry margarita. I was thrilled.. After dinner, the calories need some walking off, so we drive back to the park, bringing our cameras down past the Smoking Waters.

Smoking Waters, Thermopolis, WY. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015
Smoking Waters, Thermopolis, WY. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015

We wander across the “swinging bridge” for some awesome views of the mineral springs waterfall melting down into the Big Horn River as the sun sets. After the stars came out, we go night shooting and have fun (except for the little incident that involves me attempting to sneak up on a deer and instead stepping into a hole in the dark and tumbling awkwardly down a hill onto the pavement, the fall punctuated by curses. Oops.)

Frozen Hot Springs. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015
Frozen Hot Springs. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015

The morning of our departure we successfully find the bison in the park (check!) and then make for the rock shop as we headed out of town. Ava’s Silver and Rock Shop is not to be missed. Even if you are just driving through on your way to/from Yellowstone, make a pit stop here to view some amazing gems and learn more about geology in 40 minutes than you might in half a college semester. Discover petrified wood from the ashes of the last Yellowstone explosion, geodes that glow under blacklight and even find fossils of dinosaur bone marrow. Ava designs beautiful jewelry and Eddy has been a geologist for over 30 years. He was even part of the team in the early 90s that discovered over 35 dinosaur skeletons in the region, many of whom are found in the Wyoming Dinosaur Center right in Thermopolis. You won’t want to leave!

Thermopolis meets the Big Horn River. Photo by James Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015
Thermopolis meets the Big Horn River. Photo by James Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015

When I go back to “Thermop”, I will be sure to return to the mineral baths, sign up for a whitewater raft through the Wind River Canyon and maybe even do a day of digging for Dinosaurs. It’s a small, unusual and wonderful place that totally validates its strange name: Thermopolis, Wyoming. Go visit! -Meagz

Krems, Austria – 15 Photos to Take You There

One of the most surprising and breathtaking towns to stumble upon, Krems an der Donau is a hidden gem in Lower Austria, bordering the Danube and comprising the eastern part of the Wachau Valley.

A departure point for riverboat cruises of the Wachau region; Krems harbors many wonders that emerge with a mix of adventurous wandering and a healthy dose of curiosity. The following fifteen photos toss you into the magic and mystery of Krems and will spur a desire to personally explore one of Austria’s oldest treasures.

-Meagz

Laura gets us to Krems!
Colorful houses adorned with beautiful flowers. It must be summer in Austria.
The winding and narrow streets of Krems
Cobblestones and gorgeous facades

Strolling through the streets in awe
A tower to climb to, with a view
Made it to the tower, but still feeling small
Hallowed grounds
Hauntingly beautiful
Window to the world
Let no home be not beautiful
Oops, I shot the photographer! http://www.patcorlinphotography.com

 

A street? Or a driveway? How about both.
Krems an der Donau

Las Vegas Great Eight

The Great Eight: ‘cuz Top-Ten lists are tacky

1. See a Cirque du Soleil show
 
All of them will blow your mind and the real trouble is choosing which suits your fancy. The combination of a great recommendation and being a lifelong Beatles fan led me to see ‘Love.’ Located at the Mirage (coincidentally my favorite hotel in Vegas, or is it coincidence? Hmmm jury’s still out), the whole night of seeing ‘Love’ is an experience. Go eat at one of the incredible restaurants: Stack, BLT Burger, California Pizza Kitchen, Fin…(good luck choosing)…and then head over to Revolution, an all sensory stimulating bar rocking the Beatles pre and-post show to get you all kinds of in the mood for the Fab Four.
 
 
2. Tour the City Center
The largest privately funded construction project in the United States ($9.2 billion, according to Wikipedia); my jaw hurt from hanging open while exploring this massive complex made up of Aria, Vdara, the Mandarin Oriental LV and Crystals. Vdara and Aria are both LEED certified hotels (bonus!) and look and smell amazing. Yeah, I said smell. The Aria and I are linked for eternity by the olfactory sense. Walk into the lobby and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Also, Cafe Vettro has the best boneless buffalo wings in Vegas. (Sorry Hooters, you and I are quite incompatible) Aria’s restaurants and shops are breathtaking and I cannot wait to go back and spend more time exploring.
The Chandelier Bar at The Cosmopolitan

Make sure you also pass through (and spend time at) The Cosmopolitan hotel and casino (adjacent to the City Center). My mind is still reeling from the contemporary luxury the place is literally “dripping” with.

3. Le Village Buffet at Paris for breakfast

My favorite meal of the day is breakfast and my favorite place to get breakfast is in Paris for Cabernet soaked pear halves, custom-made crepes and mouth-watering croissants. Sometimes I wake up at home and think about buying a ticket to Vegas… just for breakfast at Le Village Buffet.

4. Stay at Bally’s
The hotel with the most bang for the buck in Vegas: Bally’s. It’s the diamond in the rough of the dated hotels. The central location on the strip is excellent. The rooms are very basic and nothing special, but the beds are comfortable and clean. Who’s hanging out in their room anyway? It’s Vegas, baby!
blu pool @ Bally’s

The amenities are sweet: the blu pool @ Bally’s is bumpin’ on the weekends with loud jams poolside (although the drink prices are outrageous). If you’re on a tight budget, the buffet has an express buffet breakfast for $11.99. Ask for Alice at the reservations desk. She’s friendly, genuine and jovial; she’s been working in Vegas for nearly 30 years and kicks butt at her job.

5. Fremont Street Experience
There’s something so-very-nostalgic about taking a trip down to the Old Strip. Getting to see pieces of the The Golden Nugget opened in 1946 and it’s a staple of Vegas lore. I wandered the Golden Nugget a few years ago for historical value, and didn’t think it needed to be revisited. Boy, was I wrong! It has been completely renovated and it is the most unexpected surprise in Vegas. What a thrill to see the new life in the old place. Gorgeous updates inside and out, the entire place has a fresh, hip vibe. Our dinner at the Chart House with the gorgeous aquarium in the center was fantastic. I recommend the Edamame hummus and the Hot Chocolate Lava Cake haunts my dreams.
6. Bellagio dancing waters

One of the most famous shows in Vegas doesn’t feature the scantily clad or a rhinestone King impersonator or even a price tag. This free show flows with an unrivaled magnificence: the famous dancing waters at the Bellagio. You saw it in Ocean’s 11, and the movie magic isn’t even as cool as seeing it live. If you can only see it once, check it out at night.

Image belongs to Angie's Reviews - click to go to her site
Bellagio Dancing Waters

Enjoy the time portal transport you’ll ride on the way back to your seven-year-old-self, agape in wonder at the power of the water.

7. Take Time for Tequila
Go find the Tequila Bar tucked in the back of Bally’s.  It’s like a hole in the wall with a great happy hour, decent prices for food, excellent fare, a margarita in a fish bowl and it features the biggest plate of Nachos I have ever seen. (Note the size of the salt shaker for reference). Yes, please!
Tequila Bar at Bally’s
 
 
 
 
 
 
8. Diversify your dining and do different dishes at different digs
(How’s that for alliteration? Snap!) There’s no way to choose the best restaurant in Vegas. It’s an impossible feat. Instead, try a self designed “Tour of Vegas Cuisine.” Do a different course at a different restaurant in one night! It’s the perfect way to see and taste as much of Vegas as possible, while going on a grand adventure. My “Tour” looked like this: before dinner drinks at Le Centre bar in Paris-featuring 2 for 1 martinis (raspberry lemon drop is the bomb! Thanks Mr. Joshua!). Then we cruised for appetizers at Aria-flashback to the heavenly buffalo wings; then entrees at Cafe Bellagio where I loved the yellow curry salmon. Most important: dessert. Serendipity 3 at Caesar’s Palace. The Frozen Hot Chocolate seems like an oxymoron, but I’m saying you just have to overcome the double negative and just it. If I had room I would have loved to try the fried oreo sunday, but that just means I am destined to return.

Until next time… M