Category Archives: Reviews

First Day in NOLA: Ghost Tour!

We made it to New Orleans around 1:30 and checked into the Royal St. Charles Hotel. The place seems nice so far and they even gave us free drink tickets for a complimentary Bud Light upon arrival. We got settled in and got our Bud Light and went on our way to check out New Orleans.  From what I saw immediately was that I liked our location of our hotel; it wasn’t on Bourbon but it was definitely walk-able to everything.  One of the first things we saw when walking into the French Quarter, was this little guy chilling at  police station…


We decided to get a late lunch at Gumbo Shop. The place was very cute; we sat in the little courtyard seating area. I had the chicken gumbo and don had the crawfish pasta. Our meals were really good. I would definitely go back to Gumbo Shop.


After lunch we had some time to kill before our ghost tour so we decided to do a little walking around. We walked to Jackson Square and saw St Louis Cathedral.


Jackson Square was a cool little park too, there’s a nice view of the Mississippi River there also. We looked around at some of the cool shops in the Quarter and then we decided to get a drink before heading over to the ghost tour. We got a drink at Harry’s Corner because when we looked in it looked so old and it only had like 3 old people. It seemed unique; it was a cute little place. We talked with the bartender and there was this very cute older couple. When the man went to pay he had not realized it was a cash only bar. He and his wife looked so distressed so we decided to get their drinks. The man was so happy and surprised it was awesome. He wanted to bring us a check to our hotel to repay us but we told him to pay it forward and do the same for someone else. I hope he got the chance to!

After our drinks we headed over to the Voodoo Lounge where we were supposed to meet for our Ghost and Vampire Tour. Our Ghost Tour was booked through French Quarter Phantoms. I heard about them through my friend Amanda, her brother is a tour guide there. We were able to have her brother, Sam, as our tour guide and he was great! When you checked in for the tour you were able to get 2 for 1 Hurricanes…so of course we did because it’s NOLA.20161110_171559

The tour was good and interesting. If you’re in New Orleans you have to do a ghost tour, so why not book with French Quarter Phantoms. There’s so much history and cool stuff to learn!

After the ghost tour we went to Molly’s at the Market to meet up with Jerome. Molly’s was cool we got some chips and guac here. Jerome introduced us to a really cool chocolate alcohol drink.


It was really nice to catch up with and see Jerome and he showed us another cool place called Sylvain. This place a really cool bar and the best Sazerac I had in New Orleans. After Sylvain we went to the Carousel Bar. Carousel Bar was cool because the floor of the bar actually moved around like a carousel. We didn’t stay here long because it was getting late, it was crowded, and we had already drank enough. On the way back to the hotel we picked up some chicken from Willie’s Chicken Shack because we were hungry…I don’t really remember if it was good.


Red Rock and The Strip

This morning we woke up early again, made some breakfast at home and got on the road to Red Rock Canyon. It felt a little cooler out today, which was nice but still pretty hot. We opted to do the scenic drive at Red Rock, although it did allow us plenty of opportunities to get out and walk around and take some pretty cool pictures.


The views were pretty amazing.  We took so many pictures, but pictures really couldn’t do the place justice.



Once we were finished exploring Red Rock we decided today was the day to try In and Out Burger. Don had already had it before and of course Kelsey had too, so I was the only one who hadn’t tried it. The burger was definitely good. I am still unclear if it it was better than Shake Shack…I’m leaning towards liking Shake Shack more, but In and Out is close behind. I think it is better than Five Guys. I was even surprised that the fries were pretty good at In and Out;  I had read that many people don’t like their fries. I thought they were good, better than Shake Shack fries.

After lunch we checked out Mount Charleston National Park. It was pretty awesome. The elevation at the park is much higher than Vegas so it was about 20-30 degrees cooler at times. I think the lowest temperature we saw in the car was 65. We wanted to try a short trail here so we chose Robber’s Roost Trail. It was a very short trail that headed up to a rocky cave like structure. After that trail we went to the Desert View Overlook. The views from there were amazing. It was so cool to see the different landscapes at this elevation. From the overlook we could see the Northern part of the Mojave Desert and some of the old bomb test sites.




We had a busy day and we knew we were about to have a busy night! I had a problem though, my eyes were so dry and painful. Everything was dry: my nose, my skin, and my eyes. My eyes were so painful  I even googled “las vegas painful eyes”, and it’s a thing! It’s called Las Vegas Dry Eye Syndrome. I found so many people on travel forums talking about their eye problems whenever they visit Vegas.  I felt so relieved that other people had experienced this, but I needed it fixed because we were going out to the strip tonight.  It was about 4 pm when we got back and I took out my contacts and pretty much cried in the shower because  my eyes hurt so bad. I can’t remember the last time I cried from physical pain (probably one of my foot injuries in the Philippines). The pain was a 9 out of 10. I laid on the bed with a cold washcloth over my eyes and hoped it would get better, especially because I HATE wearing my glasses. I decided though that I would not be able to wear my contacts this night.

We decided to go to dinner at BJs Brewhouse before going to the strip. I also picked up some eye drops.  I read online that many people recommended the GenTeal Gel Eye Drops so I decided to get those. I also got regular drops because I was kind of scared of the gel. The gel was amazing though, if you have this problem get the gel!

Now for The Strip. It was crazy! I couldn’t believe how big the casinos were! We started at MGM Grand because one of Kelsey’s friends gave us free tickets to see David Copperfield. That guys is crazy, seriously how does he do that stuff?! Good show, glad we went, it started at 9 and wasn’t done until about 11 or 11:30. After the show we were ready to explore The Strip. We started out by riding the tram around to see the strip, then we got off at Caesar’s Palace. I could not believe how big the strip was. I wanted to see things from Caesar’s to Mandalay Bay and  that was a far walk! When you look at the map it doesn’t look that far, but it is, it’s like  2 miles! We tried some roulette at Caesar’s; I’ve never really gambled. After Caesar’s we tried to watch the fountains at Bellagio but we found out that they stopped at midnight. So from the Bellagio we went to Cosmopolitan. Here we wanted to try a drink that has a flower in it that numbs your face. We went to the chandelier bar but we were told the drink is only available upstairs. We decided to just stay here and have a drink; we were getting tired and we still had a long ways to go. But we did get a second wind here at the Cosmo, we had some fun watching my sister play and win roulette. From the Cosmo we went to New York New York. Here we stopped for some NY style pizza and it was pretty good, or I could have been slightly buzzed. All I know is that I was extremely hungry. From New York New York we trudged on. We made it through Excaliber and finally to the Luxor. The Luxor is definitely my favorite, just because it is a pyramid. We didn’t actually go in the Luxor, I just really wanted pictures of the outside. Next time we will go in the Luxor. Around 3:30 in the morning we made it to Mandalay Bay. I wish we could have spent  more time here, but we were exhausted. We got home around 4 am. I couldn’t believe we stayed out that long. Time passes so quickly on the strip! I was pretty amazed by how ginormous the casinos were.










Las Vegas: Hoover Dam and Fremont Street

We finally made it to Vegas last night around 9:30 pm. My sister has been living here for a little over a year and this is my first time in Las Vegas. Our flight was on time and uneventful so that was good. The minute we stepped outside the airport it was like opening an oven to check on food. So freaken hot! But super dry. It was weird. Kelsey picked us up and we headed back to her apartment and pretty much we just hung out and went to bed.

I was excited to check out if Vegas had any different Pokemon than Chicago and I found out my sister pretty much lives on an Ekans nest.


Today we got up early and made breakfast. Then we got on the road for the Hoover Dam. I’ve never thought much about the Hoover Dam until I saw Tom Green visit it on his show. Basically he kept saying over and over “the biggest damned dam, you would think they would make the elevators bigger”. Ever since then I’ve wanted to see if the elevators were small. I would say they were about average. The dam itself was ginormous and it was pretty cool to see and hear about its history.

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After our tour of the Hoover Dam and taking all of our pictures we headed over to Lake Mead. We went to a look out point to take some pictures.

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It looked so crazy. It was like looking at another planet. After checking out Lake Mead we headed back to Boulder City for some lunch. We were going to decide here if we wanted to head back to Vegas or go to the Valley of Fire Park.  We ate at The Chicken Shack in Boulder City. The chicken was great. I had buffalo strips, Don had garlic wings, and Kelsey ordered a cheeseburger. The service was great also.

We decided to head up to Valley of Fire Park.  The drive took a little more than an hour I think and we stopped to take pictures in random spots. It was pretty cool to drive through the desert. I really haven’t seen this type of landscape in real life until now.



The Valley of Fire gets its name from the red rocks there. It was pretty cool.  We basically drove through the park and took some pictures. It was too hot to hike.



We got back to Kelsey’s apartment around 5:30 and we got ready to go out in Container Park for dinner. Container Park was pretty cool the restaurants and shops were all in shipping containers. We ate at a place called The Perch. I chose this place because we were looking for Hawaiian food and Yelp told me it was #2 in Las Vegas I think. It seemed more like Asian Fusion but it was still a good place. We had Fried Calamari for an appetizer and drinks. Kelsey and I had beer; Don ordered this lychee martini that wasn’t on the menu and it was delicious.  For my dinner I had the Chimichurri Chicken Sandwich and it was amazing. Kelsey had the Chicken Quinoa and I can’t remember what Don had but we were all happy with our meals. We were supposed to meet Don’s friend Sam here but we decided to meet up after.

We met Sam at Oak & Ivy. It was basically a whiskey bar.  I ordered some sort of whiskey cocktail and I really wished I would have just stuck to an old fashioned. After having a drink we headed over to the Fremont Street Experience because the bar we wanted to try had a crazy, long line. The Fremont Street Experience was basically just walking down a street with tons of crazy bars and casinos. There were a lot of performers and musicians as well. The most famous thing about Fremont Street is the giant, lighted screen on the ceiling. This was pretty cool. Fremont is basically the old strip, so a lot of the casinos and stuff are much older. It was definitely an experience. I mostly felt depressed walking into most of the casinos. It seemed rundown, with old people just gambling away.



We walked the whole thing and Sam was with us. We watched the special show at midnight. It was music synced with lights and images on the screen. It was pretty cool. The show was about 10 minutes and by then I was tired and pretty much ready to head back but we tried out Banger Brewing.  It was pretty good. I had a watermelon wheat beer that was delicious. We were out there until closing which I think was 1 am. Then we said our goodbyes and got an uber back to Kelsey’s. We had the weirdest uber driver. He talked the whole way home and I was basically sleeping. We did a lot today. I was super tired and my right eye hurt like something was in it. But we got a lot planned for tomorrow so stayed tuned.

Chocolate Tour and Making Our Way to Playa Samara

Sadly when we woke up this morning we had our last breakfast at Volcano Lodge and Springs. This place has been awesome. The rooms are great. We have spent so much time at the pool and hot springs. It was actually sad to leave but there was excitement to travel to another part of Costa Rica.

This morning was relaxing because we didn’t have anything planned until 10am and we went to bed fairly early last night. I woke up and packed. Then I sat on our patio for a bit. We went to breakfast. The breakfast here has been great. We are definitely going to miss that since we are going to a house and will have to fend for ourselves now. After breakfast we decided to check out the little trail behind our room. There wasn’t much there, but we were happy to see that the ants are back in front of our place. It’s just cool to see them working and carrying these flowers to wherever they are going.

The ants travel this same route so often they have made a path.

We checked out of Volcano Lodge around 9am and headed to a chocolate tour. Chocolate and coffee tours seem like a popular thing to do here and we found this place last night that looked cool so we decided to check it out before we leave the area. It was called Don Olivo Chocolate Tour. When we got there it just looked like someone’s small house. The property turned out to be very large as it expanded far behind the house into several orchards of fruit trees and a plethora of Costa Rican crops and plants. Our tour guide was named Minor and he was great. This is a small family owned farm started by Minor’s grandfather, who we learned had passed away not too long ago. Minor’s father was also there. The first thing we did was make sugar cane water. It was sweet and very tasty. We placed stalks of sugar cane into a grinder which then poured out into a pitcher. What was interesting was that the cane was extremely heavy at first but after squeezing out all the water it became paper light. The property had all sorts of plant life: papaya, mango, bananas, pineapple, medicinal plants, and of course cocoa. We were able to try lots of different fruits. The tour was really informative. Minor spoke about the history of the farm and some of the struggles they go through. He also pointed out many birds and wildlife.

Making the sugar cane water. This grinder had a crank that squeezed the cane through a grinding press and drained into the pitcher.
Papaya. This was a huge papaya grove on the property. Interesting fact, is that the papaya fruit has a defense mechanism  that causes it to bleed when the skin is injured. The liquid that it bleeds will irritate and burn human skin. Harvesting is done with gloves and carefully. Even throwing the fruit around will cause the liquid to spray around.
Pineapple. Minor’s father cut a fresh Pineapple for us and we ate it. It was delicious.

Probably the coolest part of the tour was actually seeing how chocolate is made. He explained that the chocolate we taste from the stores is nothing like theirs. Most mass produced chocolates are made with a lot of additives and chocolate substitutes. Once we tried it we understood what he meant. Real chocolate is only made with two ingredients – cocoa powder and sugar.

Real Chocolate comes from the cocoa tree. This is a picture of the Cocoa fruit. In Costa Rica, there is a fungal disease currently affecting Cocoa Trees, killing approximately 30% of the yield through “black rot”.
Flowers from a cocoa plant.
Once the cocoa fruit is hand picked from the tree the seeds are removed and put into a bucket to ferment. You can smell the fermentation process at work. I believe the seeds only ferment for 4 days. No more, no less.
Next the seeds are dried in a greenhouse. Once dried, the seeds are ready to be sold to manufacturing companies. Most Cocoa farms only take the process to this state. Minor’s farm however goes a step further as their cocoa only goes to local restaurants and only 1 or 2 big customers.
Next the cocoa seeds are roasted
Then the cocoa seeds are put in this grinder that cracks the shells.
When the seeds are ground up the shells are left behind. The best way to separate the seed from the shell is by picking them up in a bowl and letting the wind carry the shell away as you pour the seed back into the container.
Next the cocoa seed is put into another grinder in order to ground it up into a fine powder. This is done twice in order to produce a very fine powder.
This is ground up 100% pure chocolate. It smelled great but the taste was very bitter.
By adding brown sugar, a substance more like the chocolate we all know can be made. This is 90% cocoa, 10% sugar. It tasted much different than the mass produced chocolate we normally eat which is usually made with many other ingredients and most of the time with zero real cocoa.

After we tried the chocolate Minor and his father made us hot chocolate. It was good; a little hard to drink because it was an extremely hot day. We finished the tour around 11:30 and we were ready to get on the road for Playa Samara.

About an hour into the ride we stopped at the German Bakery for lunch. We had seen a ton of signs for this place on the way to Arenal so we decided on the way out we should check it out. It was called Tom’s Pan German Bakery.  The lunch here was great. I had the bratwurst sandwich. Kelsey had a sandwich also. Don had a meatloaf that came with an egg. The food was really good, and the German beers were huge. . We didn’t try any of the bakery items although they also looked good. Just take a look here. We really enjoyed this place and it was definitely worth the stop


After lunch we drove about 3 more hours to Playa Samara. The changes in landscape were pretty cool. It definitely looked a lot dryer. Once we got close to Samara we started looking for Casa Papaya, our beach house for the next 3 nights.

It was pretty easy to find but it was up in the hills a bit. I kept thinking I did not want to drive up here at night. When we finally got to the house we tried the code for the gate to get in and it didn’t work. We tried it so many times. The owner, Sharon, was out of the country for our stay so we had a contact named Melissa that we could call in case of any problems. So we called her and she didn’t pick up. We had directions to her office in town so we got in the car and left. It was already close to 5:30 so I was nervous we would not see her. We made it to the office and me and Kelsey went inside. We looked lost and this woman asked us if we needed help. I said “yeah we are looking for Melissa.” She told us she was Melissa, so we explained our situation. We went into our office and after about 20 minutes of making phone calls we got the codes we needed. We went back to the house and got in. We found out the old owner, which I had been in contact with earlier, lived up on the hill further. She came down to assist us and she did not seem happy Melissa bothered her to get in the house. But oh well, we were finally here.

The house looked ok. There were a lot of ants and flying ants and Melissa explained it had just rained for the first time in over 100 days so there might be more bugs. It was a little concerning but I hadn’t seen any spiders so maybe it was ok. I didn’t really see any mosquitoes either. We heard a noise outside and Melissa told us those were howler monkeys. I couldn’t wait to possibly see them in the morning. The place had a nice looking pool and patio area with a grill so we planned on maybe grilling out the next evening. Casa Papaya also has another house on the property that can be rented called Casa Mango. It’s a bit smaller and no one was there right now, but we were told someone would be there later in the week. After Melissa left we got settled in and decided we should go to town to eat because we had no food, only beer.

We went out to eat at a Mexican place in Playa Samara called Coco’s Mexican Restaurant. It was pretty good, just average Mexican food. We walked around a bit then we stopped at a sports bar for a drink. We went back to the house and decided to all hang out in the living room. There were more ants and flying bugs. There were a couple of geckos that were making crazy noises. We never knew they made noises! They chirped. We had some beer and played War. We tried not to focus on the bugs. So far though no spiders. Now it was getting late though and we wanted to try to sleep….but things were going to get much crazier…and that will be in the next update.

Pandemic Legacy April Review

We lost our first game! We each played the same characters as the March campaign: the quarantine specialist, operations expert, dispatcher, and scientist. Starting out the game the objectives were the same as the last one, accomplish two out of the three objectives. The objectives were cure the three diseases, make military bases in every region, or eradicate one disease. This game was especially harder than the previous ones though for us.

When we got to the second epidemic the city that Don’s character was in,  I believe it was Johannesburg, outbroke so he had to take a scar. The operations specialist has the first scar since we started playing legacy. He chose the scar that would make him discard a card whenever an epidemic card is pulled.

During the second epidemic card we were instructed to pull the next legacy card. This one told us that the yellow disease which is c0da has mutated even more.  Basically from the description it sounds like this disease creates zombies. The cities that are infected with the yellow disease are called faded cities now. They get a faded sticker and instead of yellow cubes they get faded markers, which look like little zombie figures. Faded cities are bad because if they outbreak they spread to the surrounding cities even if the surrounding cities are of other colors. They work just like the regular cubes in that if you run out of them and can’t put anymore on the board you lose the game. Also if you are in a city that becomes faded your character takes a scar. Basically the only way to control the faded cities are to keep quarantines on the yellow cities.

We were going through the cards and we were realizing we were not close to any of the objectives. We made a plan of how to get the cures but the blue cure was complicated. This game as well as the last game I found myself struggling as the scientist to get enough cards to create cures. It should be easy for me to cure because I need one less card than everyone else, but instead I am struggling to get cities of the same color. I am wondering if this is because we are not using the researcher. Maybe we should switch it up next time by taking out the scientist and putting in the researcher.

We were no where near getting military bases up so we opted to try to eradicate the black disease because it had already been cured. Things seemed to be going on track and I would be able to cure blue on my turn. We failed to realize though that the red disease was getting out of control and on Ian’s turn, right before mine, red exploded twice and we ran out of red cubes, meaning we lost the game. It was very disappointing. I think even if we found the cure for blue in the next turn we still would have struggled to eradicate black. Eradication of diseases is one of the hardest things to do in pandemic so next time I think we are focusing on military bases. Even though we lost we will be able to replay April’s campaign one more time before we have to move on.

Since we lost we got to add 2 to our funding, meaning we will get event cards in the next game. This will be nice. And even in losing, you are able to pick 2 upgrades. I believe for our upgrades we chose to keep 2 military bases to be in every game. This will help us accomplish our goal in the next game.