Traditional Full English Breakfast

Until I went to Great Britain last summer, I didn’t even realize there was a traditional full English breakfast. I always just assumed the British, Irish and Scottish all ate exactly what we do — bacon, eggs, waffles, pancakes, etc. Apparently, that was just me being a stupid tourist.

I was first introduced to a traditional full English breakfast in Kilkenny, Ireland. My mom and I walked into this restaurant and aside from a case full of pastries, there was just one thing on the menu – a full breakfast. Since I was hungry, there were no other options, and I wanted to eat like the Irish — I dove right in (not knowing what was included).

Traditional Full English Breakfast

Traditional full English breakfast

A traditional full English breakfast consists of poached or fried eggs, bacon (which is more like a thin slice of ham — not the bacon we’re used to in America), sausage, baked beans, a fried or grilled tomato, and white and black pudding. Depending on where you are, there are also sautéed mushrooms (my breakfast in Kilkenny didn’t include them, but my breakfast in London did). It’s a massive amount of food.

I didn’t know what white and black pudding were all about, I was just going to eat them no matter what. A few minutes into breakfast, one of the workers came up to our table and asked me, “How come you haven’t tried the blood pudding?” I wasn’t exactly sure what she was talking about, so I gave her a quizzical look. She pointed down to the black pudding and said, “That’s blood pudding.” That was the last thing I ever wanted to know. After that, I was hesitant to give it a try (I have a weird thing about eating blood). I finally gave it a try though, and I wound up eating the whole thing of black pudding (although I’m pretty sure I held my breath for the last few bites). It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever tasted, but I honestly wonder if I would have liked it if I didn’t know it was blood pudding? I guess I’ll never know the answer to that.

The traditional full English breakfast I had (in Kilkenny and London) was a little bland, but it was still good. I just remember being really, really full when I was done. There’s quite a bit of food to consume. I’m heading back to London this summer and I won’t hesitate to have another traditional full English breakfast when I’m there. In fact, I might do some research to find out who serves the best in the city. When in Rome (or London), right?

The really cool part is, you can make a traditional full English breakfast at home. Aside from the white and black pudding (which I’m not sure are easily found in America), you can get all the ingredients you need at your local store. If you really want to make it traditional, buy back bacon (aka Irish or Canadian bacon) instead the bacon you typically have for breakfast. Don’t forget the baked beans! That’s one of the things that makes a full English breakfast unique.

You have to eat a traditional full English breakfast when you’re in Great Britain. If you don’t have plans to travel abroad, then you should cook one at home. It’s always fun to step outside of what you know and try something different. In this case, it’s not that much different than what we normally have in the States, but it still gives you a feel for how other people eat around the world.

Have you ever tried a traditional full English breakfast? What did you think of it? I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more on the world of food, sports and music!

Full English Breakfast

Traditional full English breakfast

Pont des Arts | A Bridge Loaded With Love In Paris

I’m a dude. That means I love football, beer and working out. It also means that I’m not always good at spotting romance. In Paris though — love screams in your face. It’s everywhere. I heard a guy propose to his girlfriend on top of the Eiffel Tower, I watched couples holding hands while walking down the Champs-Elysees, and I saw love literally locked to the side of a bridge — the Pont des Arts.

Pont des Arts in Paris

Pont des Arts

My mom and I started our second day in Paris at Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame Cathedral. After we finished there, we started walking toward the Champs-Elysees. Instead of staying on the main streets, my mom and I walked the foot paths along the Seine River. I highly recommend this, especially if you’re looking for a romantic route around the city. There aren’t many people down there, it’s a really nice stroll, and you get where you need to go.

According to Wikipedia, there are 37 bridges (or ‘ponts’ in French) that cross the Seine River in Paris. All of them have their own unique features, but one of the coolest bridges is the Pont des Arts. As my mom and I approached the Pont des Arts (a pedestrian bridge that leads to the Louvre), we quickly noticed a bunch of small, shiny things (a lame description, I know — I couldn’t think of anything better) glistening on the bridge. We thought it was just the design, but we quickly noticed it was much more than that as we got closer.

Those small, shiny things are actually padlocks attached to the grates of Pont des Arts. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of padlocks, and all have names and/or little messages written on them. My mom and I didn’t know what the purpose was; we only knew it was cool looking. I took several pictures of the padlocks, noted where we were (I didn’t know it was the Pont des Arts at the time), and planned on investigating the bridge later that night. Luckily, my mom is a talker, so my investigation wasn’t necessary.

Pont des Arts Love Padlocks

Love padlocks on Pont des Arts

As we started walking away, my mom sparked a conversation with a couple strolling along the river. My mom asked the pair if they knew the purpose of the padlocks on the Pont des Arts. The woman (who was luckily American and spoke English) knew the answer and wasn’t shy to share it with us. Here’s how it works:

Couples place a padlock (with their names/message on it) on the bridge, lock it up, and then throw the key into the Seine River below. The gesture is meant to symbolize the couple’s everlasting love. The woman and her husband who explained the meaning to us were actually newlyweds, so they were going to take part in the romantic ritual later in their trip.

I had never seen anything like the padlocks on the Pont des Arts before, but I thought it was a pretty neat idea. It seems to be catching on elsewhere too. After our visit to Paris, I noticed bridges in other European cities being used for the same thing (but not nearly to the same level as the Pont des Arts).

The Pont des Arts is just another shining (literally) example of romance in Paris. Around every corner, on top of a tower and even locked to a bridge — love is everywhere in the “City of Light.”

Have you ever seen the Pont des Arts? Even better — do you have padlock on the Pont des Arts? I’d love to hear all about it! You can simply leave a message below, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more fun travel stories and tips. If you can’t travel the globe, experience the world with me!

Eiffel Tower | An Experience I’ll Never Forget

There’s nothing to me that scream EUROPE! more than the Eiffel Tower. It was the landmark I was most excited to see when I was travelling abroad a few months ago (Big Ben in London was a close second). I had seen the Eiffel Tower a million times on television, in history classes and even the replica in Las Vegas, but nothing compares to actually seeing the Eiffel Tower in person.

Eiffel Tower At Sunset In Paris

Eiffel Tower

After three days celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in England, my mom and I took the Eurostar train (through “The Chunnel”) to Paris. We got in to the city in the late afternoon, checked into our hotel, and then headed to dinner on Rue Clare (a popular street for shopping and dining in Paris). After an awesome meal at the Cafe du Marche, we walked directly to the Eiffel Tower.

This might sound stupid, but I was actually giddy to see the Eiffel Tower. I know it’s a cliché, but I felt like a kid on Christmas waiting to open presents. I just couldn’t wait to get there. After a couple blocks — it happened! I was suddenly standing in the Champs de Mars, staring at the Eiffel Tower.

It was the perfect time to be there. The sun was just beginning to set, so the colors in the sky were amazing. After all of the years seeing the Eiffel Tower in books, etc., the whole scene didn’t seem real to me. I couldn’t stop taking pictures, I couldn’t stop staring and I just flat-out couldn’t believe I was standing where I was.

I had planned on going to the top of the Eiffel Tower the next day, but my mom pitched the idea of heading up right then. I wasn’t sure about going to the top of the tower at night (I thought the view might be better during the day), but I jumped at the idea (and I’m glad I did — the view is amazing at night).

Eiffel Tower View At Night

A view from the Eiffel Tower

You can get to the top of the Eiffel Tower two ways — you can take the elevator or you can walk. The tickets for walking are cheaper and the line to get up is much shorter. I had NO interest in walking to the top of the Eiffel Tower, so we waited in line to catch the elevator. We had to wait an hour just to buy tickets (you can get tickets online to save time), and then we had to wait another ten minutes to get on the elevator (I’m not complaining — I’m just letting you know what to expect). You can purchase tickets to the second floor, or you can pay a little extra to get to the third floor (the top of the Eiffel Tower). Believe it or not, you can actually get to the top of the Eiffel Tower for just 14 Euro (which is about $18).

It was a perfect night to be on top of the Eiffel Tower (we went to the third floor). It was nearly a full moon and there were some light clouds in the sky, so it made for an awesome atmosphere. There’s a good reason they call Paris “The City of Light,” because the lights literally shine for miles. You can see many of Paris’ popular landmarks (The Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, etc.) from the top of the Eiffel Tower as well. I actually took this video to give you a feel for what it’s like to be on top of the Eiffel Tower at night:

I couldn’t seem to pull myself away from the Eiffel Tower. It was like a magnet. I took way too many pictures and shot too many videos. My poor mom is scared of heights, so she was ready to go long before I was. My addiction to the tower wound up causing a massive problem. While standing on top of the tower, I suddenly remembered that the Metro (Paris’ subway system) shuts down at 12:30am. I don’t remember exactly what time it was (I think it was 11:45pm), but we needed to move FAST if we wanted to catch our trains.

Tim Lewis Running Down Stairs Of Eiffel Tower

Me messing around as we’re sprinting down the Eiffel Tower stairs

We easily made it down to the second floor, but then we got confused. My mom and I wasted time standing in the wrong line for the elevator to the ground level, and then we couldn’t find the correct line we were looking for. With no better option, we jolted to the stairs. We had experience this amazing, peaceful time on top of the Eiffel Tower, and now we’re suddenly sprinting down the 670 steps of the iconic Paris landmark. While we were running down the stairs, the nightly light show started. You could hear the crowd below erupt in cheers. It was actually a cool experience as the lights flashed all around us.

We finally made it to the ground floor, but the closest Metro station was still a quite a distance. We obviously weren’t the only ones who lost track of time. There were groups of people running in the same direction we were. My mom and I made it in time to catch the first train to Place de Italie, but we weren’t in time to make our connecting train back to the hotel. We tried our best, but a security guard was there to stop us. My mom and I were suddenly stranded in Paris with no clue how to get to our hotel.

We walked out to the street and pulled out our map. It would take forever to walk back to the hotel (we were on the opposite side of the city), so we were just going to flag down a cab. The problem was – it was dead silent — there were no cars on the street at that time of night. While we were staring at our map, a nice man on a bike stopped and asked if we needed help. He didn’t speak much English, but he spoke enough to guide us to a taxi line about two blocks away (so much for the French being rude, right?).

Eiffel Tower Paris, France

Eiffel Tower

That wasn’t the end of the road for us. We walked up to the first cab in line and the driver rolled down his window. He said something to us in French that we didn’t understand, so we responded by asking is he speaks English. He shook his head to say no. There’s no quit in my mom though, so she whipped out our hotel information, pointed at the address, and asked if he could take us there. He looked at the paper for a second and finally nodded yes. After a taxi ride full of praying that the dude actually knew where he was going (I’m still convinced he drove around in a couple of circles to crank up the fare), my mom and I finally made it back to our hotel safe and sound.

That’s what I love about travel — you never know what’s going to happen next. It wasn’t anything like we planned, but it makes for an unforgettable memory and a funny story.

The Eiffel Tower was everything I hoped it would be and more. I’ll never forget the first time I saw it in person. This should go without saying, but I would advise anyone and everyone to consider Paris and the Eiffel Tower when planning a trip to Europe. It’s well worth your time!

Have you ever been to the top of the Eiffel Tower? I would love to hear about your experience! You can leave a message below or connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. And, don’t forget, if you can’t travel the globe, experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com!

Hofbrauhaus | The World Famous Beer Hall In Munich

I’m convinced Munich is heaven on Earth. Any city on the planet that features beer gardens and beer houses on their maps (marked with massive, overflowing steins) is a place for me. I encourage you to check out several different beer halls when you’re in Munich (they’re all over the place — in the middle of the park, smack dab in the center of a street market — literally everywhere), but you MUST stop by the world famous Hofbrauhaus.

Hofbrauhaus Munich Germany

Hofbrauhaus

Munich was the final stop on my trip to Europe back in June. Germany was the eighth country my mom and I visited on our whirlwind 20 day trip, so I was starting to wear down a little bit. Don’t get me wrong — I could have stayed in Europe forever, but I just couldn’t stomach another art museum or fancy church. I just wanted to eat, drink and be merry in the capital of Bavaria.

My mom and I were doing our best to trek around like tourists on our first day in Munich, but then the rain started dumping down. We’d already stopped at a beer garden in the middle of Englischer Garten, so I figured a pit stop at Hofbruahaus was the next logical step (it makes sense, right?). My mom wasn’t quite as excited about it as I was (she’s not into drinking, so she loves to see me guzzling beers — please note the sarcasm) We walked in the door and the Hofbrauhaus was exactly what I expected. There was oompah music blaring, beer flowing and people everywhere.

Hofbrauhaus Mug Munich Germany

The famous Hofbrauhaus liter mug

You can order your beer “helles” (light — Hofbrau Original), “dunkles” (dark – Hofbrau Dunkel), “weisse” (white (or wheat) beer — Munchner Weisse), “radler” (half light beer and half lemonade) or “russ’n” (white beer with lemonade). The light beer, dark beer, radler and russ’n are typically served in liter mugs at Hofbrauhaus (that’s 33 ounces — equivalent to almost three cans of beer), while the weisse is usually served in a smaller half-liter glass. Be warned — German beers are stronger than American beers. Hofbrau Original carries a 5.1% alcohol content (Hofbrau Dunkel is 5.5%), while a Coors Light is 4.2%. You can get knocked around pretty quick if you aren’t careful.

The common food at a beer house or beer garden in Munich is sausage (I’m partial to bratwurst), sauerkraut (with bacon), large pretzels and pork knuckles (exactly what it sounds like). The menu at Hofbrauhaus goes well beyond that though. It’s a real restaurant and a beer hall. While I stuck with the pork knuckle for dinner, my mom order some spaetzel noodles with cheese (egg noodles with Tegernsee-style grated cheese and fried onions). In my opinion — you can’t go wrong with Bavarian food. It’s the best!

Pretty Patty Lewis at Hofbrauhaus

My mom cautiously drinking a beer at Hofbrauhaus

Hofbrauhaus is committed to its regulars (many who still stroll around in lederhosen). If you take the time to walk around the beer house you’ll see the regulars’ steins locked away in the back. It’s basically a parking spot for their glass when they’re away (locked down like Fort Knox — literally called beer stein safes). There are also reserved tables labeled ‘Stammtisch’ — those are for the regulars/groups that frequent the Hofbrauhaus. You want to avoid those tables if you can. My mom and I knew that when we were there, but the place was packed (which is amazing because it can serve up to 5,000 people at a time). We were forced to sit at a reserved table (or leave — and that wasn’t an option), and no more than 25 minutes later one of the regulars showed up (we could tell by his fancy stein and the look he gave us when he arrived). We offered to leave, but he didn’t understand much English. He shook his head and waved his hand telling us we could stay. It only got awkward when the Hofbrauhaus server showed up and made it very obvious that we were at the guy’s table (even though we understood that before he showed up). It wasn’t a problem though (since it was his reserved table after all); we just got up and moved to another spot.

Typical Bavarian Beer Garden Lunch

Bavarian beer garden lunch in Munich

That’s another one of the great things about Hofbrauhaus — all the awesome people you meet. Before the regular showed up to claim his spot, I was clanking glasses (Prost!) with the guys at the table next to us. I’m not even sure where they were from, but I’m guessing it was Austria (I have no idea though). At the next table we went to, my mom and I met three guys from New York City who were in Munich for their friend’s wedding. After they left, two guys (they were photographers) from Brazil sat next to us. They weren’t the most talkative, so I sparked conversation with two dudes sitting nearby. It turned out they were from Buffalo, New York, in Munich for business. It’s easy to make friends at Hofbrauhaus and it really adds to the experience.

If you’re a drinker or not — you need to visit the Hofbrauhaus in Munich. It’s the most famous beer hall on the planet in a city where beer is king (just look at Oktoberfest – born in Munich — for crying out loud). The Hofbrauhaus is the best of Bavaria all rolled into one location.

Have you ever been to Hofbrauhaus? What did you think of it? I would love to hear from you! Simply leave a message below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget — if you can’t travel the globe; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com!

Bruges | A Unique Medieval City In Belgium

I get different reactions when I tell people I visited Bruges, Belgium. There are the folks who have heard about it, and then there are the people who have not. Those who know Bruges want to hear all about it; those who don’t know Bruges just want to know where in the heck it is. At it’s core, Bruges is a beautiful, well-preserved medieval city — packed with tourists.

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

When I originally planned my trip to Europe, Bruges wasn’t in the equation. It wasn’t until I invited my mom to join me that the idea came up. I had seen the movie In Bruges (starring Colin Farrell) several times. Bruges looked like a cool little city in the film, so I jumped on board.

After three days in Paris, my mom and I hopped a train to Bruges. There are no direct trains from Paris to Bruges, so we had to stop over in Antwerp first (you can also travel through Brussels). Each leg of the trip was a little more than an hour, making it about a three-hour trek altogether (with the time in between trains in Antwerp included).

Bruges was everything we expected it to be. It’s easily the most unique, picturesque city I’ve ever seen in my life. Often described as “the most well-preserved medieval city in Europe,” Bruges prides itself on its spectacular architecture and flowing canals (Bruges is known as the ”Venice of the North”). You need to have your camera ready at all times, because there’s a picture waiting around every turn. I could try to describe the city’s beauty, but my words won’t do it justice. Bruges is truly incredible.

Bruges, Belgium Buildings | City Center

Buildings in the historic Bruges city center

My mom and I only planned one day in Bruges before we needed to leave for Amsterdam, so we tried to make the most of our time in Belgium. The first thing we did was hop on a canal tour (you can get discount tickets through your hotel). This is a MUST in Bruges, and it’s a great way to learn about the city before you really dig into it. Our canal guide was very informative, and he kept the half-hour trip entertaining. The seagulls in Bruges also made the canal tour entertaining for me, especially when one of them pooped on my chest (it appeared to be a kamikaze attack — the bird dove down toward me, pooped and swiftly flew away). All I could do was laugh and clean myself off (thankfully my mom had tissue on her). It definitely created a good story.

Here’s a quick video I took on our canal tour, so you can get a feel for what it’s like to be in Bruges:

After the canal tour, my mom and I took it pretty easy in Bruges (which was nice after the hustle and bustle of London and Paris). We walked around the cobblestone streets, stopped in the different churches (Basilica of the Holy Blood, etc.), admired the 300-foot belfry in the historic city center, strolled past many of the stores (shopping is BIG in Bruges) and even saw a real windmill in Belgium (that was apparently high on my mom’s list of things to do).

Bruges, Belgium Canal Cruise

A view of Bruges from the canal tour

Bruges is awesome, but it’s not perfect. The city really isn’t built for a 31-year-old dude (I see why Colin Farrell’s character complained about Bruges being boring in In Bruges). It seems like it’s more for couples and families. Speaking of, there are way too many tourists in Bruges. People are everywhere (not to mention the horse-drawn carriages and bicycles). I know that I was a tourist there too, but it really took away from the experience. My mom and I made it a point to see the main areas, but avoid them as well. Bruges thrives because of the tourism, and the residents know it — that’s why they jack up the prices on everything (Bruges is really expensive). When it rains (which it did when we were there), the canals get a little stinky too.

I actually enjoyed Bruges more at night than I did during the day. Many of the tourists go to bed early, so the city really quiets down. With the canals, bridges and buildings in the city all lit up, Bruges is perfect for a night-time stroll. I honestly think the city is more impressive at night than in the day. Again, my words can’t even describe how aesthetically pleasing this place is.

Bruges, Belgium At Night

A canal in Bruges at night

There’s one final thing I want to touch on about Bruges — the food! It was expensive, but it was delicious. Belgium is famous for its waffles (which they actually eat as an afternoon snack — not a breakfast food), chocolate, mussels and beer (especially white beer). I happily downed all four when I was there, and I highly recommend you do the same.

As you can tell, I thought very highly of Bruges (for the most part). It was definitely worth a stop along the way on our trip, and I would tell everyone to visit at least once (because you’ll never see another place like it). With that said, one trip to Bruges was enough for me. I would honestly never plan another trip there again. It’s incredible, but I don’t feel the need to visit again.

Have you ever been to Bruges? What did you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a message below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I’m open to all of your questions about Bruges as well. And, don’t forget — if you can’t travel the globe; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com.

Why Are Europeans Fascinated By Route 66?

I know Route 66 has a special place in American history, but that was a long time ago. I never once thought about getting my kicks on Route 66, because I wouldn’t waste my vacation time on that. I honestly didn’t even know people still cared about the old highway until I went to Europe. That’s when I found that Europeans are fascinated by Route 66.

Route 66 SignI decided to swing by the hotel bar for a couple of drinks one night in Edinburgh, Scotland. That’s where I met Kris the bartender. He was originally from Latvia, but relocated to Edinburgh after his girlfriend broke up with him. He wanted a fresh start, so he and a friend moved across the continent. Kris and I quickly bonded once he found out I was American (which didn’t take long). Kris had a passion for American basketball (he played with Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins growing up) and American cars (his dad sold them in Latvia). Even though he thinks Americans are racist, Kris told me how bad he wants to drive his Chevy Malibu down Route 66. As he told me about his dream, he leaned back, put one hand out like it was on a steering wheel, and started nodding his head with a ‘cool’ look on his face. I always thought there was nothing worth seeing on Route 66, but there was nowhere else Kris wanted to be. Since he talked about his dream with so much pride, I didn’t question him for a second, but it definitely struck me as odd.

I flew from Edinburgh to London a few days later, and I met this guy named Ravi at the airport. He was a young go-getter working for IBM. He just graduated from college, but he was already climbing the ranks. He had a company car (a BMW) and traveled all over the world for work. Ravi and I wound up next to each other on the plane (it was one of those pick-your-own-seat airlines) after he found out I was American. He always wanted to go to Las Vegas, and I had been there several times, so he wanted to pick my brain about the best places to go in Sin City. We talked the entire flight. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation shifted, but Ravi told me about his friends that were going to America to drive Route 66. Seriously?! We were suddenly talking about a bunch of 20-something-year-old dudes rolling down Route 66 for fun. That sounds like a snorefest to me, but I quickly realized that Kris the bartender wasn’t unique in his dream — many Europeans are enamoured with Route 66.

Route 66 Map

Map of Route 66

Known as the “Mother Road” or the “Main Street of America,” Route 66 was one of first highways in the United States. Built in 1926, Route 66 started in Chicago and stretched through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and ended in Los Angeles. It served as a main path for Americans heading west during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, kept America moving west during World War II (California was a hub of industry), and pushed vacationers into Los Angeles during the 50s. The highway was also made popular by a hit song (covered by plenty of artists over the years) and a television show in the 1960s.

That was then — this is now. There’s a complex interstate system across America, so Route 66 isn’t what it used to be. It was even decertified in 1985, which means the old highway doesn’t even fully exist anymore (it’s impossible to drive the original path uninterrupted from Chicago to Los Angeles). When traffic died; business died – and so did Route 66.

Route 66 Highway Sign

Does this look exciting to you?

I actually played craps with a pharmacist from Amarillo (one of the main cities along the old Route 66) in Las Vegas last week. When I asked him what Route 66 was like nowadays, he just sort of shrugged and gave me a look like it’s nothing special. I laughed and told him about my experience with Europeans and their interest in Route 66. He told me that’s not a surprise, because many of his customers are Europeans who need something from his pharmacy as they cruise the old highway.

I’d take New York, Chicago, Buffalo or even Tuscaloosa before I’d ever think about driving Route 66. I’m either missing out on a treasured piece of Americana or Europeans have the wrong idea about Route 66. I’m sure people fight on both sides of the argument. I personally think history books need an update in Europe – there’s much cooler stuff to see in the United States now.

Have you ever cruised Route 66? Am I not giving the “Mother Road” enough credit? I’d love to hear from you! Simply leave a message below or connect with me on TwitterFacebook and Google+. Don’t forget — if you can’t travel the globe; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com.

The Blabbermouth Las Vegas Taxi Driver

When you flag down a taxi, you never know who you’re going to find behind the wheel. Some cabbies are extremely nice, while others want nothing to do with you (the latter is true for most taxi drivers). I’ve met some strange characters in a cab, but no one will ever compare to the taxi driver I just met in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas At Night

Las Vegas

My dad and I enjoy going to Vegas together. We go every year, so that’s why we booked a last-second weekend trip to Sin City (we were overdue). We were just there from Wednesday-Friday. We didn’t want to get too wild and crazy, so we both had a chill trip in mind. All we wanted when we got there was sunshine, the pool and a cocktail. But, before we could have all that, we needed a cab to our hotel.

If you’ve ever been to Vegas you know there’s a taxi line at the airport. As you know, that’s a bigger crap shoot than craps itself. You never know what you’re going to get. We walked to our assigned cab, hopped in and that’s when the adventure began…

Our cabby never stopped talking from the second we got into the taxi until the second we got out. Not only did he talk a lot, he talked loud and he talked fast (I’d compare him to the guy who did the old Micro Machines commercials). He would even change the inflection in his voice to make a funny point (almost like a stand-up comedian, but it was more annoying than funny (he actually reminded me of Carlos Mencia)). At one point he even reached back and turned down the television monitor (that was blaring advertisements at us) to make sure we could hear him. For two guys who just wanted to be by the pool – it was a brutal way to start the trip.

At times he was trying to be funny, but other times he was sharing gambling advice. I’m not a big time gambler, so instead of covering my ears, I figured I would take any tips I could get. The driver started talking about craps (the game I prefer to play in Las Vegas), and shared this wild story:

Las Vegas Taxi Driver Story

Chips from Caesars Palace

The cabbie claims that he pulled up to a casino a little while back and two guys got in his taxi screaming, “Go! Go! Go!” Thinking the guys just robbed the place, he told them he wasn’t going anywhere until they explained what was going on. The guys explained they were MIT graduate students, who wrote their master’s thesis on rolling dice. They decided to put their findings to use in Las Vegas and it paid off. The two allegedly rolled 32 consecutive and 28 consecutive times on the craps, taking bags full of money from the casino. Since they just took the casino for a bunch of money, and since they thought they had a hand up on craps (because of their thesis), the two felt like they were going to get in trouble (hence the urgency once they got in the cab). Interested in their story, the taxi driver asked the guys what their secret is…

The two apparently rolled the dice two million times in different combinations. Their best rolls happened when they had two fives at themselves with a four and a six up (so, you’re looking down at the four and six and the fives are facing your body — at least that’s the way I understood it). The guys then explained that the average craps roll is thrown at an angle of anywhere between four and seven degrees. In their experiment, the two said they had their best rolls when they swept the dice (set the way I just explained) across their body at no angle at all (so, just straight across the table). The driver then explained to us that you’ll hit two, four, six, eight, nine and ten more often than not. Since I have no rolling strategy when it comes to craps, I figured I’d give it a try.

Believe it or not, I quadrupled my money the first night I was in Vegas. I don’t know if the strategy actually worked, or if I just had the confidence that the strategy worked (craps is a crazy game of karma). No matter what the reason, I rolled better than I have in years. I wanted the dice in my hands every time. That was the first night — I wasn’t so lucky the second night. I hit a few numbers, but it wasn’t anything like Wednesday (and my funds dwindled quickly). I’m not encouraging gambling and I’m not even telling you to use this strategy (since I’m not even sure I did it right). I’m just saying you should take the advice for what it’s worth (one winning night and one losing night on the craps tables in Las Vegas).

Bellagio Water Show At Dusk

The water show at Bellagio

It’s only about a ten minute cab ride from the airport to the strip, but the cabby still managed to sneak in some advice about slot machines (he said to look for lots of cigarette butts in the ashtrays near a machine – if there are lots of butts that machine has been paying out or is about to pay out), a story about how the Flamingo got its name (Bugsy Siegel‘s girlfriend had long pink legs, so they called her the Flamingo) and he even shared a story about his past life when he used to clean up murder scenes (you can’t make this stuff up). That’s A LOT to squeeze into one cab ride, but he managed to do it. It was truly unbelievable.

I’ve never been happier to get out of a taxi in my life (and I’ve been on some wild rides). I don’t regret getting in his cab, because it makes for one heck of a story (I mean, it’s Las Vegas — the capital of crazy stories). I’ll never experience anything like that again (mostly because I’m not sure anyone else in the world can talk that much). I will tell you this though: It’s an adventure I only need to live once. If I ever see that cabby again — I’ll wait for the next taxi.

Do you have any crazy taxi stories? Maybe you’ve even crossed paths with this guy too. I’d love to heard from you! Simply leave a message below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. And remember — if you can’t travel the globe; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com.


Taking A Trip To The Top Of The Space Needle

I’ve seen the Space Needle a million times in my life. The deck off my office at work literally looks right at the Seattle landmark. I’m not talking about from a distance either — we’re right across the street from the Space Needle. Whenever I go outside to soak up some sun or take a quick break, I see the tourists buzzing around the attraction. Just a few weeks ago, I became one of those ‘tourists’ too.

The Space Needle in Seattle, Washington

My view of the Space Needle from work

As you might already know, I just moved back to Seattle after several years away. To help me get acquainted with the city again, I planned a four-day Seattle staycation last month. I did as all the tourists do when they’re in the Emerald City. I rode The Great Wheel, went to Pike Place Market and visited the top of the Space Needle — something I hadn’t done since I was a little kid.

On the first day of my Seattle staycation, my friend Tove and I marched around the city during the day, and waited until night to visit the Space Needle. We finally made it to the 50-year-old, 604-foot structure at 10pm (it closes at 11pm Sunday-Thursday; 11:30pm Friday and Saturday). It was a Monday, so there was no line at all (even during the peak tourism season). We just walked up, bought our tickets ($19 apiece — you can buy tickets online to avoid extra lines when its busy) and took the elevator to the top.

I was torn on what time of day to visit the Space Needle. Should we go during the day or at night? It was a tough choice, but like I mentioned, we finally settled on the night. I’m not sure that was the best decision though. Don’t get me wrong — the view of Seattle from the top of the Space Needle at night is incredible. There were clear skies, so it felt like you could see lights for miles. On the other hand, Seattle is famous for beautiful mountains, the Puget Sound and its greenery (that’s why it’s called the Evergreen State). At night, you can’t see the mountains, the Puget Sound just looks like a black blob (the awesome lakes in the area look the same way too), and there’s no green to speak of. With that said, I did hear one person on the observation deck say, “The view is much better at night, that’s for sure.” I guess I need to see the view during the day to compare it, but knowing the area like I do, I just feel like the daytime would be better to visit the top of the Space Needle.

You can take a look for yourself! This is a quick video I shot from the top of the Space Needle. Again, the view is still incredible at night — this clip doesn’t even do it justice:

I don’t care how much it costs or what time of day it is — the Space Needle is a must-see tourist attraction when you visit Seattle. I’m not just saying take pictures from the ground level; you need to go to the top. I even encourage a trip to people who live in the area and haven’t seen the view from the Space Needle observation deck in a long time. It’s always good to be reminded what a beautiful city we live in.

Have you ever been to the top of the Space Needle? If you have, what did you think of the view? I’d love to hear from you! Simply leave a message below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. And don’t forget, if you can’t travel the globe; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com!

Space Needle Seattle Washington

The Space Needle from the ground up

An Unbelievable View Of Greenland From The Sky

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined seeing Greenland in my lifetime. I’m a fair weather traveler, so a large country full of ice doesn’t exactly tickle my fancy. Luckily, I cruised over Greenland on my flight home from Europe in June. The view was absolutely mind-blowing, and the best part is, I got to see the ice-covered country from the comfort (and warmth) of my airplane.

Pictures of Greenland from the sky

The east coast of Greenland from my airplane

I’ll first explain how I wound up over Greenland. The last city on my European adventure was Munich. Instead of traveling to Frankfurt and flying ten hours direct to Seattle, my mom and I decided to fly from Munich to Reykjavík, Iceland (another country I never thought I’d see), and then continue home to Seattle. Or flight from Reykjavík cruised north, stayed high above the Arctic Circle and eventually dropped down through Canada into the Emerald City.

I got excited when I saw the flight plan over Greenland on my airplane monitor. I had no interest in visiting the country, but I had no problem seeing it from 35,000 feet. I was fortunate to have a window seat, so I kept my eyes glued outside. The first thing I noticed were the massive chunks of ice floating in the Atlantic Ocean. There are literally miles and miles of ice chunks leading up to the coast of Greenland (check out my picture). I had no idea that’s what it was like until I saw it in person. It was pretty unbelievable.

There were some clouds partially blocking my view between Iceland and Greenland, but the skies totally cleared right before we approached Greenland. That allowed me to have an incredible view of the country. It was beautiful — unlike anything I expected. I thought I would just see a massive ice cap (don’t get me wrong – there was plenty of ice), but there were also rocky mountain peaks and massive melt-water flows (and absolutely no green to speak of). I couldn’t take my eyes off the place, and it wasn’t just me either. One of our flight attendants got on the loud speakers and encouraged people to take a look.

A view of Greenland from the sky

Greenland

My view of Greenland only lasted so long. As we approached the central part of the country (which really is just a huge ice cap that literally covers 80% of the country), the clouds rolled back in and killed the fun. It was a spectacular experience while it lasted though.

I’ll probably never fly through Reykjavík again (because I wasn’t a fan of Icelandair, and the tiny, tiny, tiny airport was crammed with people), so there’s a very good chance I won’t see Greenland again. Even though it was unintentional, the ice-covered country was definitely worth seeing once. It was a sight I’ll never forget.

Have you ever flown over Greenland? Better yet — have you ever visited Greenland? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and/or Google+. You can also check out several of my videos from Europe right now on YouTube as well. And — don’t forget – if you can’t travel the world, you can experience the world with me on http://allaroundtim.com!

‘The Great Wheel’ | Seattle’s Newest Attraction

You don’t always have to go far for a travel adventure. Sometimes you can find plenty of fun in your own backyard — just like I did last week. I spent four days playing tourist in Seattle — where I now live and work. I grew up in this area, but it’s much different to scout a place as an adult than it is a kid. I hit up Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and now no ”staycation” (or vacation) in Seattle is complete without a ride on ‘The Great Wheel’.

The Great Wheel Seattle Sunset Ferris Wheel

‘The Great Wheel’

‘The Great Wheel’ (or technically ‘The Seattle Great Wheel’) is Seattle’s new Ferris wheel (it opened in late June). You can find the attraction on the waterfront on Pier 57 (near the Seattle Aquarium). It’s not like you need directions though — ‘The Great Wheel’ is easy to spot. That’s because it stands 175 feet tall, making it the largest year-round Ferris wheel in the United States.

Modeled after the London Eye in England (but much, much smaller), ‘The Great Wheel’ is an awesome addition to the already spectacular Seattle skyline. The Ferris wheel can fit as many as 252 people in its 42 enclosed gondolas (which have air conditioning and heat if needed). ’The Great Wheel’ provides unique views of Seattle and the Puget Sound (it literally extends 40-feet over Elliot Bay) that you can’t find anywhere else.

This is video I captured on ‘The Great Wheel’ last week. I was on the left side of the gondola with my back toward the water, so that means I was looking at the city. Enjoy the ride!

A full ride on ‘The Great Wheel’ consists of three revolutions. It’s a little slow to get started just because of the time it takes to get everyone on and off the Ferris wheel. That’s not a complaint though — I think it’s a good thing. The slow start allows you to soak up the views. The entire ride (including the time it takes to get people on and off) lasted 25 minutes, and I’m told that’s the average time for a cruise on ‘The Great Wheel’.

View from 'The Seattle Great Wheel'

A view of Seattle from ‘The Great Wheel’

The wait time to get on the Ferris wheel is a much different story. There are actually two lines you have to wait in: one to buy tickets ($13 + tax for adults, $11 for seniors, $8.50 for children 4-11, while kids 0-3 are free (although they still need a ticket)), and the other to get on ‘The Great Wheel’. I highly recommend buying your tickets online to save time (that way you can skip the ticket line and just wait for the ride instead). I rode ‘The Great Wheel’ on a Monday (after buying my tickets in advance — allowing me to skip at least 70 people in the ticket line) and only had to wait about 20 minutes to get on the ride.

I want to pass along one small warning, especially to those of you who want to ride in a gondola alone. If ‘The Great Wheel’ is busy (which it has been since it opened) and you don’t have a group large enough to fill a gondola (they seat eight), you likely have to ride in a cabin with other people. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing (I rode with a nice family visiting from Houston); I’m just letting you know that’s how it works.

I’ve heard mixed reviews on ‘The Great Wheel’. Some say it’s overpriced and/or the ride isn’t long enough, while others rave about their experience. I’ll say this — if you’re a local you might not enjoy the Ferris wheel as much as a tourist, but ultimately, I think everyone should take at least one spin on Seattle’s newest attraction.

Have you been on ‘The Great Wheel’? If you have, what did you think? I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget that if you can’t travel the world; experience the world with me at http://allaroundtim.com!