Thursday, January 12, 2017

Salt Lake Christmas

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.




During Christmas I took a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah is one the most beautiful states in the Union. I will even make the bold statement that I find it to be the most beautiful state in the Union. Yes, even more than Colorado. Also, I am a huge supporter of the grid system in city planning, and Utah took that system and perfected it. In at least most Utah cities, they take a centre point (in Salt Lake City, it is the LDS temple), and name the streets by how many blocks that street is from the centre and in what direction. For example, if you are in Salt Lake City, on a street that runs east/west 3 blocks north of the temple, you would be on 300 North St. It makes finding addresses much easier and more efficient.

I met up with my sister who is attending the U (University of Utah), and with our younger sisters, and my wife, we went to lunch at The Pie Pizzeria. There, my wife and I partook of Polygamy. Damn, that beer was delicious.




After lunch, we went up to the Utah State Capitol Building. Tours are free, and as long as the group is less than 10, they accept walk-ins for those tours. We, however, opted for self-guided.



The building is located on Capitol Hill off of 300 North St. facing downtown Salt Lake City to its south.




Upon entering, the first floor has exhibits of Utah’s history, a few offices, and a visitor’s centre. Also, the Seal of Utah is laid into the floor.



Going upstairs is to enter the main floor. Here, you get your first view of the dome of the building. Here is the “Gold Room,” officially the State Reception Hall. Also, on this floor is the Governor’s Office.



Up the grand staircases on either the east or the west ends of the building will lead to the third floor. Here is where the House of Representatives meet,



the Senate,



and the Supreme Court (albeit, only ceremoniously, as they officially meet at the courthouse in downtown). The fourth floor has offices and the galleries for observing the House and Senate.

No talk on Salt Lake City is complete without discussing the LDS, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, temple. The temple is located on Temple Square,




and includes the Tabernacle (home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). Also is the Assembly Hall,



two visitor’s centres,



and of course, the temple itself. As non-LDS, we were not allowed in the temple itself, but we were allowed on the grounds. It is an architectural gem literally in the centre of the city. And during the Christmas season, it is well lit with Christmas lights.



Special thanks to my sister who took these pictures on her phone, as mine had a dead battery.

Utah is gorgeous. I spent a weekend in Bryce Canyon in Southern Utah long before I started this blog, so I do not have pictures to share, except by linking to its official site. The orange rock and the eroded hoodoos found there are the most beautiful natural landscapes that I have ever seen. Being in the mountains, there are numerous ski resorts, many close enough to Salt Lake City to spend time there as well. Spend a week in Utah, and you will not regret it. Just bring your own booze.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Review of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.

While at Grand Cayman, I was able to visit a place that I was very excited to go to: the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. I was able to get a ride, as the park is roughly a 20 miles drive in the North Side district from the hotel. When I got the opportunity set up to go to Grand Cayman, and I was researching things to do on my trip, this was the first thing I saw, and was excited to go. I knew it was something my wife would have wanted to see as well, had she been able to come with me.




Entrance is KY$10.00/adult, $15.00 for a guided tour. My tour took about an hour and a half. The park is 65 acres of land jointly owned by the Cayman Island Government and the National Trust of the Cayman Islands. They have numerous tropical plants that themselves serve as natural habitats for native animals, especially the endangered blue iguana.

Starting at the Visitor’s Centre, the park makes two main loops. First and foremost, the flagship exhibit of the park: the Woodland Trail. This loop is about a mile, and it showcases the ecological diversity of the Cayman Islands, containing more than 50% of plants native to the Cayman Islands. More than half way around the Woodland Trail is the Blue Iguana Habitat. While these iguanas can be seen throughout the park, it is here that houses the Blue Iguana Recover Program.

The second loop, which is really just an extension off of the Woodland Trail, houses four other loops and five exhibits.

First exhibit is the most recently opened Orchid Boardwalk. This exhibit showcases ten different orchids, including three endemic to the Cayman Islands, such as the Cayman Islands Banana Orchid.

Second exhibit is the Xeriphytic Garden. This showcases various succulents.

Third exhibit is the Heritage Garden. This exhibit showcases a Caymanian house with plants that served of great importance to the people of the Cayman Islands throughout its history, like in farming, such as the plantain and banana trees, and in industry, such as the silver thatch palm, whose palm leaves have made everything from rope to thatched roofing. There is also included a homeopathic garden, where herbs were used by Caymanians for various illnesses and injuries.

Fourth exhibit, and my personal favourite, is the Colour Garden. Starting with pink, moving into red, and then throughout the spectrum until lavender, the garden is divided by the colour of the flowers. This garden expertly blends wooded areas with open grassy areas containing trellises and gazebos. It was here that I saw most of the blue iguanas, and a parrot, and took most of my pictures.

Fifth exhibit is a natural lake. This lake serves a natural habitat for many animals, such as iguanas, turtles, ducks, and more. Around the lake grow a variety of palm tree.

Of my stops along Grand Cayman, this was by far my favourite. I know that I need to come back to Grand Cayman and bring my wife, but this is definitely the first major place we will go when we come back. This is a place where I can spend many more hours, perhaps all day, just enjoying the sites and taking it slow.

Grand Cayman

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.




I am a loyal customer of the Kimpton Hotel brand. They are always very nice, the staff is very attentive and hospitable. They have daily wine hours at least at most of their locations, free Wi-Fi for Kimpton Karma members (free to sign up), credit for the bar, and more. They opened a new location in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, right on the legendary Seven Mile Beach, and gave me an offer too good to turn down. So I went, and I loved my stay. Read my stay and review of the hotel here.

First things first. The Cayman dollar is pegged to the American dollar; meaning that, regardless of the global market, the Cayman dollar is always worth the same realative to the American dollar. And the Cayman dollar is worth more, making everything more expensive on the Cayman Islands than in America. KY$1.00 = US$1.25. That is something to keep in mind before you leave to a trip there.

First day I arrived, I checked in, and then checked out the bike that they offer at no additional charge. I took that bike to a restaurant called Catch.



They offer fresh seafood from Cayman’s waters and nestled off the beaten path on a harbour in West Bay. I ordered a conch ceviche and a dark 'n' stormy cocktail. It was among the best seafood that I have ever had. Anyone taking a trip to Grand Cayman should take the time to go here. You will be satisfied.




Most of the population of the Cayman Islands live on Grand Cayman, and even then, they live in or close to George Town, on the west side of the 20 mile island. George Town is where all the banks that give the Cayman Islands their notoriety are at, and where all the cruise lines make port. Thus, this is where most of the tourist end up, and where most of the stores are at. Camana Bay is a very nice harbour and shopping centre, and basically a city to itself. I spent an afternoon in George Town, and it was a fun experience. I ended my day with a dinner at Fidel Murphey’s, drinking Guinness and watching the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League (go Real Madrid!).


Of course, no mention of Grand Cayman is complete without mentioning Rum Point. It is a very touristy, but fun destination on the island. This was where the Mud Slide cocktail was created (no ice cream here though, just vodka, Kahlua, and Bailey’s on the rocks), or so they claim. Also, here you can catch a boat to take you to Stingray City, a location off the shore where you can swim alongside, and even handfeed, wild stingray.

When I was making my itinerary for this trip, the place that I was most looking forward to was the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. I wrote a full article about it here. The same day that I went to the botanical gardens, I took a stop by the Pedro St. James castle in Bodden Town. This was where autonomous rule started for the Cayman Islands. At that time, they were officially part of the colony of Jamaica (only roughly 100 miles to the east), and they are now a British Overseas Territory. This was a great place to learn about the history of the Cayman Islands, both its political history and the history of slavery there.




Rum. Rum all around. They have a distillery that makes their own rum, as most Caribbean islands do. The distillery, Cayman Spirits Co., offers tours for US$15 and lasts roughly 30 min. It was Seven Fathoms Rum that won me over, and of course I brought a bottle back home with me.




I loved this place, and I fully intend on coming back here. It is well worth the expense to go and to stay. Yes, it was humid in December. Yes, it is hotter in July, but the reality is that it stays around the mid-80s year round. It is stunningly beautiful.

Oh, and if you tell someone to "go to hell", you may be sending him to paradise instead.