Thursday, April 26, 2018

Did You Know This Stuff About Booze?

In America, it's a hot topic that never ends, along with gun control and abortion.  For centuries, the world has brewed, distilled, mixed, poured, drank and argued over booze.  Here are some facts that I thought you would all find interesting about the world as it relates to booze.

Did you know that the United States has the highest legal drinking age in the world?  There are only 11 other countries in the world that make young people wait until they turn 21 to drink alcohol.  The United States also has some of the toughest criminal laws associated with drinking and some of the most stringent regulations in the world.  Coincidentally or not, the United States also has one of the highest death rates associated with alcohol.  Countries with a low or no drinking age, have less deaths from alcohol than any other countries in the world on average.  They also have less commercially produced alcohol and less people and less cars.

Another interesting fact is that the temporary prohibition of alcohol in America started the very year that women gained the right to vote.  Did they have anything to do with one another?  Interesting question.  Other facts about prohibition include that the major manufacturers of alcohol did not go out of business during the 13 year fast.  NASCAR was a direct result of rum running and bootlegging during that time.  Crime rose and deaths did not stop.  I would guess that's why booze is back.

But, drinking is a thing around the world.  There is no alcohol in Arab countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and so on.  Most countries in Africa have no real drinking age.  Not all, but most.  Europe regulates drinking to anywhere from 16 to 19 years of age, depending on the country.  There are some nations around the world where the drinking age is only 10.

All that being said, there are many interesting facts about people and alcohol.  Alcohol has been part of travel for a long time.  The country that we know as the Czech Republic these days has been a tourist spot for drinking for millennia.  They have an amazing history of beer in particular, and Prague is home to the oldest pub in Europe.

France is famous for wine and other spirits.  Absinthe is a French spirit that was banned in many countries for years.  Famous for being forbidden, it is now legal in most places again.  Champagne, as we know, comes from a province of France, as do Bordeax, Burgundy and many others. 

Guiness comes from Ireland and is one of the most popular beers around the globe.  Travelers come every day to take a tour of the main brewery in Dublin and learn how to make the shamrock in the head when they pour the beer.

There are also famous cities when it comes to drinking.  New Orleans in the U.S. is famous for partying.  They have so many ways to drink that no one can count them all.  They have alcohol slushies, voo doo pubs, entire holidays devoted to partying, and over 40 parades every year.  They are ground zero for American Mardi Gras and world famous for their pub crawls.  They now have a place called the Remedy Room where you can go to get hydrated before or after a wild time.  This is a medical style facility with IV's and B12 injections.

Munich is one of the most famous drinking towns in the world, with Oktoberfest at it's Zenith.  Every fall people from all over the world descend on this town just to drink beer.  It is one of the world's biggest parties, coupled with some lenient drinking ages in Germany.  They do not hold the world record for the world's biggest single party.  That too, belongs to New Orleans.

Some countries are a little different and so are their liquors.  It's called the Black Death and it is an Icelandic liquor.  This potent drink is the national drink of Iceland, which didn't have a national drink until 1989, when it's prohibition finally went away.  The lack of alcohol over the years made it extremely expensive to drink in Iceland.  They now have some locally produced beer and liquor, so the prices are getting better, but if you want to drink in Iceland; bring a lot of money.

Drinking and driving is a problem all over the world, so there are always drinkers looking for a solution.  The Netherlands came up with something that has become known as the Pedal Pub.  This is a moving bar.  It's a modified bicycle with the bartender steering.  The patrons pedal the bike, which is no longer a bicycle, but it gets people around without them driving.  It started in Amsterdam, like most other party things and now is available in many metropolitan areas around the world.

The pub crawl is another idea that has helped drinking and driving. This concept of walking from bar to bar in a single neighborhood and then calling an Uber has cut down on drinking and driving problems in cities dramatically.  There are pub crawls in most cities listed on websites with maps and meeting places.

So, what if you don't like to be told what to do?  What if you want your own booze?  What if you don't want to buy someone else's alcohol?  Then go to Washington State.  This place is home to over 1000 micro distilleries and micro breweries.  They make almost one fifth of all the micro concoctions in the United States.  You can try just about anything out there, and they have resources on the web that will help you find them all.

All my life I've been told about responsible drinking.  If that means peddling my bar, walking and calling an Uber, or driving through a package store and taking it home; then so be it.  I've often wondered if making less of a big deal out of it might make it less of a problem.  It works for other countries.  I don't think that it's a coincidence that we have strict laws and big problems.  America is a country of people who don't like to be told what to do.  We took prohibition and turned it into a major sport.  Is it any wonder that we aren't interested in following strict regulations and laws?

At any rate, there are some interesting tours, parties, festivals, parades, and cultures built on booze.  So, check the rules before you go and have a great time participating in some of the oldest traditions in the world.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Just a few facts for you...


1.     The Czech Republic has some of the most amazing caves around?
          Punkva Caves are part of the Moravian Karst and is an amazing place to visit while visiting   
          one of Eastern Europe's most interesting post Communist countries.  

2.      Baku, Azerbaijan is where old meets new and is the new playground for adults.  It has casinos, 
         nightclubs, and all the facets that you would find in Las Vegas.  Azerbaijan is also the home
         of formula one's latest race.

3.       The Albuquerque Inernational Balloon Fiesta is the largest hot air balloon festival
          in the United States?  It takes place in October over a 14 day period and balloonists come
          from over 50 different countries around the world.

4.       Svarlbard, or Spitsbergen is a great place to see Polar Bears.  There are now several options
          to go to this mysterious land and experience seeing the magnificent creatures.

5.      The Church of the Nativity is one of the holiest sites in Christendom and it is located in the
         holy city of Bethlehem.  While technically Bethlehem is located in Israel, it resides in the
         yet to be recognized nation of Palestine.  It's an amazing place to visit and has many holy
         Christian sites.

Just a few little fun facts.  I will pop in with more facts off and on while I work on some other projects.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 5, 2018

And This is What It's Like to Vacation in The Mall

I've wondered for many years about what I've often called the super mall.  There are many of them around the world and they come with more shopping, eating, drinking, and entertainment than I was able to imagine.  So, I took the opportunity to get away from it all and take a vacation in a mall.  The mall of choice was the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  The time was February.  Right around Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year.  The temperature when we landed in Edmonton was -11 Fahrenheit.  My experiment was to see if you could truly spend an entire vacation inside a mall and have a good time and have everything you needed.  Crazy.

West Edmonton Mall is an amazing place.  Second largest indoor water park and wave pool in the world.  Second largest indoor amusement park in the world.  Ethnic neighborhoods, activities, restaurants, a hotel, surfing lessons, movies, 800 stores, doctors, dentists, spas.  The list goes on.  This is the largest contained mall in the western hemisphere.  I arrived a day late, due to travel issues.  I left a day late due to travel issues.  I stayed at the Fantasyland Hotel.  This is the themed room hotel that is actually in the mall.  I had a normal room, because I just didn't need a theme.  My theme was vacationing inside.

Could it be fun?  I found a waterfall by the sea where the Santa Maria sits across from the aquarium and the sea lion show.  I couldn't believe that even though it was fake, I found a waterfall in the dead of winter in Alberta.  I love waterfalls and no matter where I go, I seem to find one.  That held true in Edmonton.

Let's start in Galaxyland Amusement Park.  Not joking.  Indoors, huge place, two monster roller coasters, one kiddie roller coaster, a virtual reality ride, swings, a train, other adult rides, a fun house, other kiddie rides, a playscape, bumper cars, carousel, shooting gallery, arcade, and on and on.  It's unbelievable.  I learned a great tip for this trip, especially with the parks.  There are different prices for the parks, some of the other attractions and the hotel.  Go during the week.  Things are much cheaper and less crowded.  You don't have to wait in lines and you don't have to pay as much.  The mall has a multi play pass for the major attractions, and during the week; it's cheaper to just pay per attraction.  Look before you leap on that one.  And if you have time, do it during the week.  Are the rides fun?  You bet.  I had a great time, but since my companion has some vertigo issues, I didn't choose to spend the whole day at the park.  I spent even less than the day pass to go on the rides that I just couldn't miss.  It was a great experience and I loved the major rides.

 One of the other major attractions in the mall is World Waterpark.  I spent the day at that park.  It was well worth the price of admission.  It was -7 Fahrenheit outside the day that we went to the park.  There are several different water slides in this park.  They have a loop, trap doors, the one I call the toilet, and so much more.  They are amazing.  I rode them over and over.  They also have that giant wave pool.  I played in it forever.  It was amazing.  The natural light is like you're right at the beach.  I even got a little sunburnt.  In winter, in Alberta, at the beach.  Love that.  We also zip lined over the wave pool.  We even discovered later that you can learn to surf on that wave pool in the off hours.  Amazing.  I even had a beer at the beach side bar.  They have cabanas and even have a flow rider.  It's an amazing place, and it was the biggest single reason that I wanted to go to the mall.  It was worth it.  I would so do it again.  Once again, it is part of the multi play pass, but the single price is perfectly reasonable during the week and the crowds are less.  It is crowded.  It's a very popular attraction in Edmonton.

Who doesn't love sea lions?  The mall has an aquarium and some fun to watch sea lions.  To tell the truth, the aquarium is underground in a cave environment.  I wasn't thoroughly impressed with that one.  It is the third part of the play pass, but if you wait until 4 pm to go, it's less money.  Here's what I found.  You don't spend a lot of time down there, because there isn't much to see and it smells pretty fishy.  I felt sorry for the penguins being bunged up like they were, and it was my least favorite thing at the mall.  The sea lions however.  That's another story.  They perform once or twice a day and you can view them from around the show.  You don't even have to pay.  You do pay if you want to get a picture of your kids with the sea lions, but my kid was home, so I watched that show every day for free.  The sea lions seemed to be having a great time and we enjoyed it.  You can come by at many times during the day and the sea lions will be out playing with their trainers.  It is one of the best things in the mall, and you can see it all day long.

 Okay, what else is there in the mall?  Well, at one end of the sea we have certain attractions.  There is a shooting range and gun store on the second level.  They were having a Valentine's Special when I was there.  You could pay to shoot with their guns.  You could also bring your own.  You could also buy guns.  The security in the place is very good.  We didn't have time to fit it in.  Maybe next trip.  There is also a radio station on that level.  Capital 96.3 radio.  You can walk right into this station.  They even have a small radio museum and a gallery of famous people that they've had on.  It's an interesting stop.  What else is in that area?  It's right by the hotel.  So this is your entry point when you stay at Fantasyland.  The movie theaters are there on the third level.  They also have a natural light ceiling in the lobby and arcade area.  There are several theaters up there including an IMAX.  We went to see the latest Star Wars while we were there and the seats were comfortable, like in your living room.

There's a replica of the Santa Maria sitting in the sea. For a couple of bucks you can take the kids on it and look around.  If you want, you can rent the space for a special event.  There are also remote control boats next to the ship that you can rent to play with.  That end of the mall is also home to small stall shopping that showcases local businesses.  There's a virtual reality place at that end of the sea, with 15 different virtual adventures to choose from.

Also on that end of the mall are the adult specialty shops.  There is a liquor store there, the Supply Sargeant with military surplus and lots of knives, the Love Boutique for adults only, and Caesars Bingo Parlor.  Add that to the shooting range, and you have lots of adult time.

But, there's also Adventure Mini Golf on the lower level right underneath Europa Boulevard.  Mini golf for the kids and high end shopping for the adults.  Europa Boulevard is the scenic area.  The shopping is high end.  The food is minimal. But it reminds me of the Venentian in Vegas minus the canal.  It's pretty and once again has the natural light glass ceiling.  You find couples strolling in this area, just admiring the view.  It is one of the quieter places in the mall and the place to get flowers for your partner.

Eat, drink and be merry.  These things are essential, especially when on vacation.  If you can't find something to eat and drink in that mall, I can't help you.  It comes with Chinatown, Bourbon Street, Jubilations Dinner Theater, and two giant food courts.  That doesn't include all the other places that are just hanging around.  We ate at the grocery store in Chinatown.  It was fabulous and we had all kinds of things to choose from and several food stations to get it from.  It was amazing.  We ate breakfast at A & W in the food courts.  They serve a full breakfast every day.  Sure, you can order room service, but it's boring and expensive.  I got my iced coffee at Starbucks, my doughnuts at Tim Horton's and my drinks for the room at London Drugs.  It's a great while you stay supply stop.  We had Mexican, Japanese, Korean, and Greek right at the food courts.  When we wanted a restaurant where we could sit down and be waited on, we went to Bourbon Street.  They have some great ice cream and a comedy club down there.  And we were there during the Olympics, so every time Canada got a gold medal;  drinks got cheap.  It was fun, and don't forget perks like the fact that we weren't driving because we were staying in the mall.  Responsible drinking.  Cool.

This mall has everything.  It has neighborhoods.  You can eat Durian Fruit in Chinatown if you want.  They have great ice cream and an English Pub on Bourbon Street.  They also have lots of pizza and beer.  This mall has live trees, and ride on toys for the kids.  They have River City Games, which is an entire store devoted to games.  They also have a whole store devoted to bath bombs.  It's crazy, and when you buy all your stuff at Tiffany's and Hudson Bay, you can stop by a luggage store and get an extra bag to put it all in.  Amazing.

You never know what you're going to see in the mall.  Edmonton is founded on oil.  They have a statue for that.  There's a regulation ice rink in the middle of the mall with a Starbuck's hanging over one side and a Tim Horton's hanging over the other.  They have local hockey leagues almost every night and people sit, drink their coffee and watch the games.  It's amazing.  There was a Lamborghini being raffled off while we were there.  I saw it on my way to the Palace Casino.  That's right, a casino.  It's small and mostly slot machines, but they are enlarging it as we speak and it will be about four times the size with much more to do soon.  That's not far from Dragon's Tale Blacklight Mini Golf.  That place is awesome and has a house of mirrors to go with it.

There's so much to do.

 Then there's the partial list of things that we didn't have time to get to.

Number one, we had to leave before Chinese New Year.  I hear that they have a parade, special entertainment and a fire breathing dragon for the occasion.

It was day three before I even knew about the bowling alley.  Ed's bowling has wildly entertaining regulation bowling and duck pin bowling.  They have a restaurant/bar up there in their little hidden hole in the mall and soon they will have an escape room.  There's so much to do that we looked around a little and went on our way.  We were running out of time.

Another thing that we missed was the Rec Room.  This is a new arcade and all around entertainment place.  They have all kinds of things to do in there.  Once again, we were running out of time.  I guess we should have stayed longer.

Do you hate to travel in winter?  This place is great.  We ran out of time.  Our hotel was amazing and comfortable.  We didn't need to rent a car, because there's a shuttle to and from the airport.  I never went outside and I had a great time.  I didn't wont for anything.  I didn't feel cooped up.  Wow.  The experiment was a success.  A mall is a great vacation spot.

I do have to add some advice here.  I learned some things on this one.  I bought a package deal and took the insurance in case I needed to change my plans.  Read the rules.  I couldn't change my plans with the airlines, because of the budget seats.  It didn't matter if I paid for insurance with the bundle.  I also had no problem rescheduling the hotel when things went wrong.  I didn't need the insurance.  It was a waste of money both ways.  Also, when the weather went awry, the airlines took over their part of the package and the bundling company couldn't help me with anything after that time.  Be careful how you book.

Another piece of advice that I don't like to give is to be careful with airlines.  I thought that going to Canada on Air Canada would be a good idea, but they never showed up.  I ended up flying United and Delta.  I don't think I would book Air Canada again.  Sorry.  It was the only bad part of the trip.

Other than that, go to a mall for vacation.  Especially in the winter.  It's a great time and you're never bored.  Enjoy!;label=msn-Ke*XKozFyqgm9SzaOHOFIw-16803729345%3Atikwd-16715048519%3Aloc-190%3Aneo%3Amtb%3Adec%3Aqsedmonton+alberta+canada+hotels;sid=ab7db5f2cd42f6160199cc48514bccbf;city=-564064;keep_landing=1;redirected=1;src=city;utm_campaign=Canada;utm_medium=cpc;utm_source=bing;utm_term=Ke*XKozFyqgm9SzaOHOFIw%3Fmsclkid%3Da5523e812a6316b83e88641c57203dd0;ptlrs=1

Thursday, December 7, 2017

If You Don't Have Much Time to Enjoy Christmas...Try This!

There are a million opportunities to do things at Christmas.  Sometimes it can be difficult to fit things in with all the shopping and the working to pay for it.  Face it, most of us spend most of our time preparing for Christmas and not enjoying the season nearly enough.  So, in the spirit of all of us Americans trying to make it all fit in a multi tasking over worked under rested not enough family time style of world;  I had an idea.

My idea is to just get out and look at the lights.  Six Flags joined the party this year and are having holiday lights at most of their parks.  It doesn't matter if it's warm or cold, the parks are open on the weekend evenings for your entertainment.  There are also many other amusement and theme parks around the country that do this nowadays.  Lake Compounce in Bristol, CT is the one that me and my family visit every year.  It doesn't matter how young or old you are, it really helps lift those Christmas spirits.

Nothing beats that trip to New York City to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, see the Rockettes and peruse the shops in Bryant Park, but if you don't have time to spend the day doing that then hop in the car and just take a drive through Dyker Heights in Brooklyn.  They are known far and wide for their neighborhood light displays.  And that's the trend that most intrigues me.  The drive through light show.

There are drive through and walk through light displays all over the country these days.  We've always had Hubbard Park in Meriden here in Connecticut, but now we have Holiday Lights Fantasia in Hartford as well.  The drive through or walk through light displays that you find all over these days is something that you can fit into your schedule.  You can spend an evening or even an hour or less getting your Christmas spirit on.  For the events that charge admission, you will be doing something nice too.  Most drive through and walk through programs are to raise money for a charity.  So, you can fit it into your busy schedule and help raise money for some worthy causes.

There's something in your area, no matter where you are.  Branson, Missouri is literally covered in lights.  Disney goes crazy in both Florida and California.  In Arizona, they have a decorated tumbleweed tree.  Alaska has North Pole and Santa's home and in Santa Claus, Indiana the whole town is done up.  Frankenmuth, Michigan has Bavarian Christmas and the world's largest Christmas store with Bronner's.  Georgia lights up Lookout and Stone Mountains.  In Kentucky you can drive through an underground Christmas display in Louisville.  There are thousands of places that you can take a little time and either drive through or walk through some amazing displays.

Drive through it, under it, or by it.  Whatever it takes, do not let this season slip by without taking at least some time to enjoy it.  Time is precious.  Don't waste it.  By the time you realize that you've wasted time, it could be too late to make up for it.  Gather the kids, even if they're teenagers, grab your phone and look up a local activity.  Why stand in line to see Santa?  There are so many other ways to get your holiday spirit up this time of year.  Whether you spend it in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Bryant Park in New York, or in downtown Glendale, Arizona; take time to enjoy the season for just a little while.

Life is something to be enjoyed.  Family and friends are the people that we should be enjoying it with.  All work and no play makes Nina a dull girl.  Whatever the reason, Christmas only comes but once a year.  Get out and enjoy!