Philippines 2018

Posted: May 2, 2018 in Travel

Before joining my beautiful wife for baby Infinity’s first overseas trip, daddy made a little stop in the South Asian Sea to do some scuba diving. Because access to the Bacuit Archipelago is by small propeller plane and boat, and accommodation was bare bones, it wasn’t ideal for mommy and baby.

The was my first site of Palawan island from the window of said propeller plane.

Once on the beach, the friendly Philippine locals were a joy to be around. This guy politely talked me into buying his shark vertebrae bracelet.

Because a typhoon was passing through the area, the water visibility wasn’t suitable for diving. But I did manage to do some exploring between downpours.

The main form of transportation on land were these “tricycles”. It was awesome to see the creativity involved in decorating them.

The main form of transportation on the water were these cool outriggers.

The seafood was amazing!

I ate some scrumptious lemongrass ceviche on the beach as the sun set.

My accommodation was a bit ramshackle, but if I came back with the family, perhaps we’d spring for one of these treehouses!

When the weather cleared up a bit, I was able to tour the archipelago off the coast of El Nido, my base of operation.  (My video of the boat trip and underwater life.)

Amazingly, these little limestone islands hosted a lot of tiny beaches and some even contained secret lagoons inside them.

Here’s a video of a little kayak paddle I made through one of these hidden lagoons.

When I made it back to the civilization of Manila, I had the opportunity to stay with my friend’s father-in-Law. Sam and his wife graciously took me on a tour of Manila that included a meal overlooking the bay.

The Philippines is one of God’s wonders. 5000 islands populated by very friendly people. You can’t go wrong. I hope to return!


Daddy and daughter had to get one more adventure in before school started!

We rented a small apartment in the heart of the old town, overlooking The Malecón – a cool paved walkway that weaves along the seashore.

Puerto Vallarta sits on the beach and is a pretty quick jump from San Diego.

First of all – the FOOD. Some of the best we’ve had!

Fresh ceviche on the coast is hard to beat.

Tacos Revolution delivered the goods, and the political commentary…

Second – the weather. We came during the off season, which meant torrential downpours almost every evening, and warm humid days.

We had to explore during the day before the storms hit. In this video daddy almost gets electrocuted when a lightning bolt sends overhead lighting down.

Daddy crosses the bridge to La Isla Cuale, famous for its wild cat population.

This angel seems most happy when there is shopping nearby!

Although we spent the first days of our trip close to the local culture, we splurged on a resort room the last couple of days using hotel points.

I never met a sunset I didn’t like…

Our mission was to see the beauty of The Majestic Redwood Forest in Northern California and explore Southern Oregon.

The Avenue of the Giants set the tone for this adventure. “This world-famous scenic drive is by far the most outstanding display of giant trees in the California redwood belt.”

These two weren’t sure driving over a thousand miles with a 2 year old, 10 year old, and a pregnant mommy was the best idea, but we don’t regret it a bit!

We picked up a faster than average rental car, and kept driving until we reached the Giants.

We drove through the famous “drive through tree”. There are actually several of them in the area, and one of them was toppled during a recent storm.

It was great to get off the road and wander through the splendor of creation.

During exploration, we found evidence of previous road trips…

Inna climbs a giant!

It was great to see the children so stoked on being out walking in the beauty of nature.

When we made it to the coast, the scenery didn’t get any worse.

Cuba 2017

Posted: August 18, 2017 in Travel
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We wanted to visit Cuba as soon as we heard visitation restrictions for Americans were loosened by the US government.

We actually started this trip in 2016, spending Christmas and New Year’s in Cuba, and coming back in 2017.

Of course we had to visit the capital, Havana…

But first we stayed in the less known Boca de Camarioca.

Princeton woke up on his first day in Cuba, looked outside, and thought to himself, “Where am I?”

When eating out, chicken, beef, or lobster cost exactly the same amount. Guess which one we often chose?

Princeton had no problem making friends…

He even met a new friend in the park!

You can’t think of Cuba without thinking of these classic American cars that are still very much a part of the culture.

“Che Guevara was a prominent communist figure in the Cuban Revolution (1956–59) who went on to become a guerrilla leader in South America. Guevara’s image remains a prevalent icon of leftist radicalism and anti-imperialism.” – The History Channel

After the revolution, the US imposed an import blockade, so no new American cars have been imported since the 1950s. Those that exist have been painstakingly maintained using Cuba ingenuity, including parts from household appliances and Russian tanks.

The National Capitol Building in Havana was the seat of government until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. It is Havana’s most ambitious and grandiose building, and is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Some say the design is similar to the United States Capitol. What do you think?

Not every building in Havana is as grand, although these are probably even more functional.

Cuba isn’t the easiest tourist destination, but a day at the beach in Varadero makes it all worth it.

We found out Inna was pregnant with our baby girl just before leaving for Cuba! Momma and baby jump for joy!

Aside from visiting Havana and Varadero, we made it to the other side of the island and spent time in Trinidad, a Spanish colonial settlement.

The streets of Trinidad are packed with character.

We will always cherish our memories of this beautiful island nation!

Aruba 2016

Posted: August 4, 2017 in Travel
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After a week of exploring the nation’s capital and the Chesapeake Bay area, daddy and daughter took advantage of the direct flights offered on Southwest from Baltimore to Aruba!

It is true what they say about Aruba being One Happy Island.

Per usual, daddy and daughter snuck away from our little Airbnb and checked out the waterslides at some of the high end resorts.

The crystal blue waters and white sand beaches are some of the finest in the Caribbean.

But what some don’t know is that the island is quite dry and cacti thrive as well as palms.

On the less inhabited drier side of the island, we took a little road trip to the east coast.

Because of the lack of traffic, Zhenya got her first chance to drive all by herself!

Feeding the wild donkeys was a highlight of road trip around the island!

These trees are probably the most iconic symbols of Aruba and look good from pretty much any angle.

We were able to patch together an angel costume for Halloween, and Zhenya was able to celebrate All Saints with our landlord’s daughter.

Sunset on our last night before heading back to Baltimore…

Since Zhenya became an American citizen in 2014 and daddy had never been, we set out on a trip to see our nation’s capital!

It really was an honor to be able to see monuments to the great men that founded and moved our country forward through history.

Daddy had been reading Michener’s Chesapeake at the time, and was excited to explore that region as well.

This city mural depicts life on the Chesapeake.

Daddy and daughter got outside the city and crossed the Chesapeake and explored some of the marshlands around the Bay.

Baltimore itself was also intriguing. The view overlooking the waterfront impressed.

Daddy’s friends Dave and Liz took them on a tour of downtown Annapolis where they toured the United States Naval Academy.

And what trip to the area could be complete without tasting the delicious crab cakes?

Politics aside, back in DC, there were a couple sites you just couldn’t miss…

Being from California, seeing the fall foliage was a treat!

Did you know that Southwest flies to Aruba direct from Baltimore and not from San Diego? That happens to be another great reason we chose to visit this region…

Italy 2016

Posted: June 23, 2017 in Travel
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My wife’s sister had a new baby! We were determined to make it to Italy to assess the baby and attend his baptism.

Here we pose overlooking my sister-in-law’s city of Itri, located between Rome and Naples.

Zhenya and daddy arrived first since mommy still needed to finish her work. Pizza made this little girl happy!

We had fun wandering the streets and snapping pictures with the street art.

A highlight was spending the day at the beach! Spiaggia di Serapo was our favorite beach.

But as you can see, there were huge crowds. Daddy found a private cove were we could relax away from the mayhem.

We were surprised that with thousands of people nearby, none of them ventured this way.

We rented an apartment on Airbnb that afforded 180 degree views of the Bay.

While Zhenya and I waited for Inna and Princeton to arrive, we took a little trip down to Syracuse, Sicily.

The clear, calm water made for great beach days. This was our favorite beach, located a block from our apartment.

Night time in Syracuse was amazing.

Our only daddy/daughter selfie in Sicily came out a little blurry, but it so captures the moment.

Beautiful Italian art decorates every church.

On our way back up to Itri to attend the baptism, we stopped at one more Airbnb along the way. Our host prepared awesome home-made pizza!

The next morning we toured “The Church of the Seaside Grotto“, an ancient church built inside a sea cave, and carved out of the existing rock.

We took a break to view Mount Vesuvius lurking over the Bay of Naples as we drove our rented Peugeot north towards the baptism where we would meet up with Inna and Princeton.

And here’s the proud mother herself, Irina, Inna’s older sister. Baby Micky is ready to be baptized! Grandma on the Italian side of the family looks on.

Inna’s parents were able to make it down from Ukraine to attended the baptism! The tall chap in the middle is my cousin, Andreas, born in Ukraine, now fully integrated into Italian culture.

I can’t say I was cool or comfortable during the long ceremony conducted in Italian…

Even Princeton thought it was a little long…

But the celebration afterwards more than made up for a few sacred hours sweating in the Catholic church.

Italian food really does rule the world…

Fresh seafood was the main course.

Inna, Zhenya, and Princeton became fast friends with their new Italian cousin.

The remaining summer nights were spent around the table at Irina and Francesco’s country villa.

Daddy found the ruins of this ancient church while hiking in the foothills of Itri.

He brought the family back to enjoy the view and have a picnic.

I think we found our happy place!

We also visited the Vatican, Pompeii, Rome, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast during this trip.  But if I posted those pictures, I might break the internet.