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Wordless Wednesday: Plazuela de La Rogativa

Plazuela de La Rogativa

Touring Old San Juan

Old San Juan city wallsThe night before we left Vieques, we checked what time our rental car on the mainland had to be returned and realized that with the ferry ride and the drive back to the airport, we were cutting it very close. We tried to push our return time back, but the car was due to be rented out again shortly after we returned it. The ferry from Vieques ended up being delayed and we were worried the whole drive back to the airport. We ended up returning the car an hour and a half late. Luckily, they were very understanding and didn’t even charge us any extra. If you are visiting Puerto Rico and are looking for a reasonably priced car rental, check out AquiCoqui car sharing. It worked well for us!

We dropped off the car, but our time in Puerto Rico wasn’t over. We still had two days left to explore Old San Juan and that is not a city where you need a car to get around. We dropped off the rental car at the airport and took an Uber into the city.

To kill time until our Airbnb was ready, we hung out at Chocobar Cortés, a unique restaurant where every dish contains chocolate. We enjoyed it so much, we went back the next morning to try their breakfast! Chocolate Cortés has been making bean-to-bar chocolate since 1929. They opened their first restaurant in 2014 in Old San Juan and have since opened up additional restaurants in the Bronx and Condado. If you are looking for a unique restaurant in Old San Juan, I recommend you check it out, but beware that the wait can be long at times.

Even though this was our third time in Old San Juan, we wanted to get to know the city a little better so we took a Free Walking Tour. We discovered free walking tours in Europe and they are a great way to get to know the city without having to spend a lot of money on a tour. Just to be clear, free walking tours are not totally free. Participants are expected to tip what they think the tour was worth. Our guide took us around the city to places we had been before but we also got to see some new parts and we learned a lot about the history.

Interior of San Juan CathedralOne place we got to explore on the tour was the Cathedral of Old San Juan, the oldest cathedral in the United States. The original cathedral was built in 1521. That building was destroyed by a hurricane and was rebuilt beginning in 1535 but was not completed until 1802. The beautiful cathedral contains the tomb of the explorer and founder of San Juan, Juan Ponce de León.

After our tour, we took some time walking Paseo del Morro, which goes around Castillo del Morro. One interesting thing about this area is that it is home to a cat rescue called Save a Gato. We spent our time walking the path and photographing the cats for the rescue so they could find homes for the cats. The National Park Service recently announced a plan to try to remove the cats from fort grounds so Save a Gato can use all the help it can get. To learn more about the organization, visit

One of the cats of El Morro

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read more about our time in Puerto Rico, check out my Circle Tour of the Island. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Visiting Vieques

Sunset from Playa Punta Arenas

After our time in Rincon was complete, we headed back across the island to catch the ferry to Vieques. Vieques is an island off the east coast of Puerto Rico and is popular with beachgoers and those looking to see the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. Vieques is accessible by ferry from Cieba, just south of Fajardo. We bought our $2 ferry tickets online about a month in advance so when we got to Cieba, we parked our car and waited for our time to board.

Wild Horses of ViequsThe ferry ride to Vieques was a little rough but it wasn’t long before we were docked on the island of Vieques. We booked a Jeep from Coqui Car Rental, which was a short walk from the ferry terminal. We picked up our vehicle that was ready for the rough roads the island is known for, dropped off our bags at our Airbnb, and went out to explore the island. We quickly discovered that maneuvering our big Jeep through the narrow roads of Isabel Segunda was a challenge, but we ended up needing the off-road capacity the Jeep provided later on in our exploration of the island. I was surprised by how many wild horses roam the island (left).

Playa Negra

We downloaded a Vieques History Audio Tour that helped get us acquainted with the island and its history. The tour took us from near the ferry terminal in Isabel Segunda to the sugar mill ruins, the breakwater, the lighthouse, and the black sand beach. The black sand beach on Vieques is unique because the island is not volcanic. If you have seen the black sand beaches in Hawaii (or in our case, the Azores), this is different because the beach is mostly normal beige sand with black streaks. Those streaks are tiny magnetic rocks (mostly magnetite). The brown sand gets pulled out to sea with the waves, but the black sand stays behind. It’s a very unique sight to behold. The black sand beach is accessible from the road by a trail that runs along a creek bed, so waterproof shoes are a good idea if you plan to make the trek. The beach is very rocky and not recommended for swimming.

One of the things we learned on the audio tour is that three-quarters of the island is inaccessible because for 60 years the U.S. Navy used it as a live-fire range and it is full of unexploded ordinances. In 1999 a local man was killed in an off-target bombing and the people of Vieques lobbied global human rights forums to end the bombing on the island. In the early 2000s, the weapons training area was shut down and the land was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is working on cleaning up the residual bombs.

After exploring the island, I wanted to experience the sunset on the westernmost beach on the island, Playa Punta Arenas which is located in Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. We climbed in the Jeep and were jostled over the rough dirt roads in the park. Prepared for a lot of people jostling for the best sunset spot on the island on New Year’s Day, we parked and were shocked to find that there was no one else around except for hermit crabs on the beach. I still can’t believe how serene that experience was (top)!

If you are looking to have a pristine Caribbean beach all to yourself, consider a trip to Vieques. What it lacks in amenities, it makes up for natural beauty. Be sure to check back next week when I detail our experience in Vieques’ bioluminescent bay! Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our time in Puerto Rico, check out my Circle Tour of the Island. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Puerto Rico Circle Tour

Paseo del Morro

We are back from another wonderful trip to Puerto Rico, our third visit in less than two years. It is safe to say that we love the island. We wanted to explore more of the island this time, spending time on the west side of the island as well as one of the outer islands. Here is a preview of what is to come on this trip report:

Waves Crashing near Castillo del Morro

It was another wonderful trip to an island paradise. It was very hard coming back to frigid, cloudy weather. I miss the beautiful Puerto Rican sunshine! I’m sure we will be back before too much longer.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I land in San Juan and head to Casa Bacardi! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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Revisiting Whitefish Point

Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Whitefish Point is a cape on Lake Superior and is known as the most dangerous shipping channel in the Great Lakes. The area is even known as the Graveyard of Great Lakes. I have visited Whitefish Point many times over the years but I had never been to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. I have to admit that I wasn’t interested in visiting until my favorite television show, Expedition Unknown visited on an episode looking for missing French Minesweepers from World War I. Since Josh Gates visited, I figured I should visit as well, so when we were up in St. Ignace for Labor Day, we made the trek to Whitefish Point.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum consists of many historic buildings that were built by the Coast Guard. The Lighthouse Keepers Quarters from 1861 is furnished as it was in the 19th Century. The Surfboat House from 1923 is also available for touring but was closed when we visited. The Motor Lifeboat House from 1923 is also open to the public and that is where the film about the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald is played. The Whitefish Point Lighthouse (top) is the oldest operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes, built in 1861.

Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum SignThe Main Museum building features exhibits about shipwrecks throughout the history of Lake Superior. The biggest display was dedicated to the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank 17 miles off the coast of Whitefish Point in 1975 with all 29 crew members on board. The museum displays the bell from the ship and you can hear the 1976 Gordon Lightfoot song while you browse the exhibits.

The museum is pretty small and costs $15 per adult ($11 per child) to visit so I understand why I had never visited before. I would have been more interested in the video if it talked about more of the nearby shipwrecks, not just the Edmund Fitzgerald. Overall, I recommend visiting Whitefish Point for the views, but it’s hard for me to say if the museum is worth it or not. If this is your only stop in the Upper Peninsula, it is probably worth it, but if you are continuing to Soo Locks or Pictured Rocks, I would suggest you save your money for a boat tour at one of those locations.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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Motown Museum

Hitsville U.S.A. Exterior

Since writing the Ultimate Michigan Bucket List, I have crossed off many items on the list but there was one that was only an hour away that I still had not visited. After wanting to visit for years, I finally made it to Hitsville U.S.A., The Motown Museum.

Located on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, The Motown Museum is housed in the former home of Motown Records. Berry Gordy Jr. founded Tamla Records in 1959 after receiving a $3 royalty check for a song that he wrote. His friend, Smokey Robinson, suggested that if he was going to make so little, he would be better off going into business for himself. Gordy bought the home that would become known as Hitsville U.S.A. The Gordy Family lived on the top floor and the first floor was converted into an office and recording studio. The home is now connected to the home next door where the museum and gift shop are located. Within 7 years of purchasing Hitsville U.S.A., Gordy would purchase 6 additional homes on the block and convert them into a publishing office, finance department, artist personal development, and administration offices. The Museum owns most of these houses today.

Motown Album Covers

Gordy moved Motown Records to Los Angeles in 1972 but his sister, Esther Gordy Edwards refused to relocate so she stayed behind and was put in charge of what remained of Motown in Detroit. She received several requests from fans wanting to visit Hitsville U.S.A. so she hung posters and gold records and by 1985, The Motown Museum opened to the public.

Michael Jackson's Fedora and Glove

In 1988 Michael Jackson donated a black fedora and a rhinestone-studded glove (left) along with $125,000, the proceeds of the first show of his Bad World Tour to the Motown Museum.

In 2011, Paul McCartney visited the museum and wanted to play the 1877 Steinway Piano in Studio A only to find that it was not in playing condition. McCartney had the piano shipped to Steinway and repaired and returned to play it at a charity event with Berry Gordy in 2012.

Claudette Robinson: A Motown Her-Story

As of January 2024, the current exhibit is Claudette Robinson: A Motown Her-Story. Claudette Robinson was one of the founding members of the Miracles, the first group to be signed by Motown. Before beginning her singing career, Claudette served in the Marines during the Korean War. Claudette married bandmate Smokey Robinson and had two children Tamla and Berry.

Hitsville U.S.A. can only be seen on a guided tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable and passionate about Motown and its history. The tour ends in Studio A with a song and dance session to My Girl. So, I can say that I have sang and danced in Studio A. As of January 2024, admission to the museum comes with a copy of Berry Gordy Jr.’s autobiography. The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday 10-6 and admission is $20 for adults and $17 for children and seniors.

Motown Studio A Control Room

Studio A Control Room

It is important to note that the museum is planning on expanding. The expansion will include interactive exhibits, a recording studio, a performance space, and a cafe. A guided tour will not be required in the new space. They are anticipating opening in 2025, but since it has yet to break ground, I am skeptical it will be open by then.

If you are planning on coming to Detroit, I highly recommend a stop at the Motown Museum. While I knew some of the history as the child of a music nut, I learned a lot on the tour (Did you know Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have a Dream Speech at Cobo Hall in Detroit before Washington D.C.?). We got very lucky walking in and getting the last two spots for the next tour so I do recommend purchasing your tickets online in advance at

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Icelandic Church

Icelandic Church Krýsuvíkurkirkja

12 Hours in Iceland

Posing Sheep of Iceland

We ended our time in Europe with a twelve-hour layover in Keflavik, Iceland. Out of all the crazy things we did on our trip to Europe, when I look back on our trip, this is the one thing that doesn’t seem real. We had a night flight from Madrid to Iceland that was so strange because the later it got, the lighter it got outside as we got closer to Iceland. I think I mentioned in my last post that it was very hot on our last day in Madrid (101°F). It was hot in the airport and it was hot on the plane, so I was still wearing shorts and sandals when we landed and I was OK being cold (40°F) as we walked from the airport to a rental car agency at 2 am.

Something to know if you are planning on exploring Iceland a little during a long layover, all the rental car agencies that we looked into require you to pay for a minimum of two days. If you want to explore on your own it won’t be cheap. If you land during the day, there are shuttles that will take you to the famous Blue Lagoon if that is what you want to do on your layover. There are not many other options when you land at 2 AM. So, we got into our very expensive rental car and drove to our expensive, lackluster, hotel where we crashed for a few hours and took VERY hot showers before heading out to see as much of Iceland as we could before it was time to go back to the airport and finally head home.

Road going by Kleifarvatn Lake

Road going by Kleifarvatn Lake

We found a guided driving tour of the Reykjanes Peninsula on the free app Locatify SmartGuide. It took us around the volcanic features, lakes, and hot springs and told us about the geology as well the some of the local legends about trolls and fairies. Our first stop was an overlook on Kleifarvatn, the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The interesting think about Kleifarvatn is that most of the water comes from underground. The water level has diminished greatly since the Icelandic Earthquakes of 2000.

Gunnuhver Hot Springs

Gunnuhver Hot Springs

Our next stop was the Gunnuhver Hot Springs, a collection of mud pots and steam vents with an intense sulfur smell that took me right back to the hot springs of Yellowstone. The name Gunnuhver comes from a local legend about an angry ghost, Gudrun, who legend says, was trapped in a hot spring by a local priest 400 years ago. Iceland’s largest mud pool can be found at Gunnuhver and unlike the other geothermal areas in Iceland, the groundwater is 100% saltwater which gives a different look to it.


Our next stop was Krýsuvíkurkirkja, a historic church (above). It was built in 1857 and closed in 1929 but has since been used as a residence until being transferred to the National Museum. The original church burned down in 2010 but it has since been rebuilt in the historic manner.

Bridge Between ContinentsOne of the final stops of the trip was at the bridge between the continents (left). This is the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart. Visitors can stand on a bridge separating the two plates. One side of the bridge has a sign that reads “Welcome to Europe” while the other says “Welcome to North America”. The giant fissure the bridge scales really drives home the tectonic theory that the plates are shifting a few centimeters each year.

After that, we headed back to the airport, dropped off our rental car, and flew home. Even though we got to the airport several hours early, we really didn’t wait around much at all. Since we were leaving the Schengen area (a group of 27 European countries where you don’t need to show your passport to cross their borders. This is the area that will be requiring a visa for Americans to visit at some point in the future) we had to go through passport control and additional security screenings. The boarding process was very complicated and involved multiple escalators and a bus to the plane. If you are flying out of Keflavik to a non-Schengen country, give yourself more time than you think you will need.

My one complaint about this experience is that Icelandair seems to be expanding its U.S. service faster than Keflavik Airport can support. It was very crowded in the area after passport control. There was only one set of bathrooms and one food option, but that seemed to be where all the people in the airport were. There weren’t even enough gates for all the flights. We had to be bussed out to our plane.

Overall, we had an amazing time in Iceland. I feel like we barely scratched the surface. If you are thinking about a trip to Iceland, be aware it is VERY expensive and it is not easy to convert Icelandic Kronas to U.S. Dollars in your head like it is with the Euro. The few meals we had there were pricey for what they were and the hotels were outrageous. The sights are unlike anything else I had ever seen, just make sure you budget appropriately for your time in Iceland or you may be in trouble.

Thanks for stopping by! This marks the end of my recap of our Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. Next week I will post a final recap, so keep your eyes out for that. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Two Days in Madrid

Palacio de Madrid

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After our time in Toledo, we took an early train back to Madrid. Our flight wasn’t until the following evening so we had almost two full days to explore Spain’s Capitol.

We stayed in a boutique hotel near the Palacio de Madrid called Hotel Principio Pio which felt very similar to Hotel Per La in Los Angeles. One benefit to hotels when arriving at a destination early in the day is that often you are able to check in early. We arrived around 10 am and even though check-in wasn’t until 3 pm, our room was ready so we were able to set our bags down and relax a bit before we started to explore the city. I only really had two goals for our time in Madrid, the Prado Museum, and Palacio de Madrid. We decided to break them up and do one each day.

Plaza Mayor

Madrid’s Plaza Mayor

After settling into our hotel, we headed to the Prado. I was able to buy tickets online in advance which allowed up to skip the line. The Prado Museum is Spain’s premier art museum and is known to house one of the world’s finest collections of European art, especially Spanish art. Being my first visit to a European art museum, I enjoyed seeing new-to-me artists such as Goya, Francisco de Zurbarán, and El Greco. Probably one of my favorite parts of the museum was a special exhibit that showed the similarities between selected works of El Greco and Picasso. Picasso spent many hours in the museum in his youth and many of El Greco’s paintings were the inspiration for some of Picasso’s famous works. The Prado is also home to an older version of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. I could’ve stared at it for hours comparing it to the most famous one. If you enjoy art and art museums, the Prado is a wonderful museum that you need to visit in your life. Wonderful guided tours of the Prado can be found on Viator.

We started our second day in Madrid with a guided tour of the Palacio de Madrid. While I was able to get tickets to the Prado a few days in advance, all the tickets to the Palace were booked up so, to see it, we had to book a private tour. In the end, I am glad I did because our tour guide explained a lot about the palace and the history of Spain that you wouldn’t get just by walking through. It did get crowded at times, but we had earpieces so we were able to hear her even if we were separated, which was really nice. More tours should invest in this equipment!

Lions on the stairs of the Royal Palace

Lions on the stairs of the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace of Madrid is the largest palace in Europe at 135,000 m2 (1,450,000 sq ft) and is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, although these days it is mostly only used for official functions. The palace is full of lavish furnishings and amazing Spanish art. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted in most of the palace so I don’t have any pictures to show you. One of the rooms that was open on our visit was the crown room where a rather simple-looking silver crown is on display. It is much less ornate than what I expected anyway and our tour guide explained that the Spanish “are not the British”. Overall, I highly recommend a guided tour of the Royal Palace and I had a great experience with Madrid walking Tour and Royal Palace Skip the Line tour on Viator. Combination tours of the Prado Museum and the Royal Palace are also available on Viator.

Architecture of Madrid

The Architecture of Madrid

After our tour of the Palace, we still had the whole day ahead of us and we had checked out of our hotel, so we booked a hop-on hop-off bus tour. This allowed us to get to see the rest of the city and enjoy the breeze from the top deck of the bus. From the bus, we learned more about Spanish history, including that in 1874 a military coup overthrew the monarchy of Spain. A dictator named Fransisco Franco ruled from 1939 to 1975. In 1969, he named Prince Juan Carlos (the grandson of the most recent king of Spain) as his successor. When Franco died, Juan Carlos transitioned the government from a dictatorship to a constitutional monarchy and his family still rules today. In 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated the throne and said “We do not want my son to wither waiting like Prince Charles.”

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop back next week as we fly to our final stop on the trip, Iceland. To read more about this trip, check out Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Night in Toledo

Toledo at Night

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