Las Vegas – Red Rock Canyon

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday!? In anticipation of the big Thanksgiving meal we took the kids on a short ‘walk’ to work up an appetite. Calling anything a hike is always a gamble and will trigger a string of complaints but we have been in the same spot before. Apparently a hike is anything above 2 miles according to my son and just too much effort (that does not mean we don’t do it anyway, we just deal with the complaints for half an hour and after that it suddenly subsides and everyone is having a good time).

Our friends live really close to Red Rock Canyon which is a State Park right next to Las Vegas. It features a scenic drive and beautiful hikes. We parked the car at the Calico Basin parking lot and walked up to the big red rock formations you see from there. We did the same walk/hike before but in a loop. Since we did not have as much time until the turkey was ready, we just went a little up the hill and then turned around.

There were a lot of rock climbers to watch what was really fun. We are not climbers but made our way up the hill what involves climbing over quite a few boulders. Ther are also plenty of different rock patterns to observe.

I did not get as far up as the rest of my family because I got a little dizzy. The air in Las Vegas is very dry and that combined with the altitude was a little much that day. The view was beautiful nonetheless. On the left in the distance you can see a little of the Las Vegas strip.

I am happy to report everyone made it back home without injuries. It was interesting to watch the other hikers climbing up while I was waiting for the others to come back down the hill. There was a family with two little kids and the expression on the mom’s face was exactly how I must look like watching my kids climb up a rockface (terrified and nervous). There was a couple where the woman was grumbling about ‘just a short Thanksgiving hike’. It all sounded very familiar (my husband has a reputation for coming up with interesting ‘short cuts’).

This is Las Vegas, too. It’s not all the strip with its casinos and glitter.


Realizing dreams – Meow Wolf Las Vegas

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

Our Elementary School PTA is financing art classes and their teacher is amazing. She introduces the classes to a new artist every couple weeks. During one of the classes she showed them a video about Numina the Meow Wolf art exhibit in Denver. He came home so excited and was asking how far Denver is. I looked up the exhibition and realized that Denver might be a bit far, but that there is the Omega Mart also by Meow Wolf in Las Vegas. So today was the day he was looking forward to.

You enter the exhibition through the Omega Mart which is set up like a super market with all kinds of weird products. Through the freezer we went into the main exhibition area.

There is a whole backstory to the Omega Mart you can find online according to the kids. Because I don’t want to hit publish I am trying hard not to get sucked into that right now but I am sure you can find it online if it interests you.

It all feels like a wild dream with many sounds, colors and patterns. There are all these walkways and stairs you can explore. It’s called an immersive art experience for a reason.

The pictures really don’t do it justice. Behind every corner you end up in a new room or walkway.

It’s a very different art experience to a regular museum but if it helps to get the kids interested I approve. And honestly we all had so much fun. So much so that we are already thinking of visiting another one. I know it’s not for everyone but do you think you would go?

The exhibit is located in Area 15 in Las Vegas. It’s a big warehouse space filled with exhibits, experiences, food and stores. It’s loud, dark and colorful. It was fun to wonder around for a while and take it all in.

Inside you are greeted by this giant skull. Projections change its appearance every so often.

Outside you will find more art installations, too. After seeing all this part of me would be interested in going to burning man one year but I think I could not stomach the heat and the dirt (not to mention the required organization beforehand).

We ended the day with a cooking class in ‘how to make cheese spaetzle’. My husbands family is from the Black Forest originally an and this is one of our most loved recipes. There are multiple ways to make spaetzle but we opted to get our friends a spaetzle press and I chose a German cook book in English that has the recipe. Even though my husband was not convinced that it was a very good interpretation of the original. We made do and according to him the result was 8/10. Not too bad…

Roadtrip to Las Vegas- Day 3

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

The last stretch of our Las Vegas travels lay ahead of us. It’s ~ 320 miles from our hotel and google maps said it would take 5 hours. I think with stops and everything it ended up being 7 hours – somehow those distances always seem theoretic and I learned from previous trips that you should always plan for some extra time.

I always feel like there is not much that much to see or nice places to stop on that stretch of the trip but we made do.

Elmer’s bottle Ranch entrance

Our first stop on the way was Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch about 2.5 hours in. Josh from California through My Lens wrote about it here. He also had quite a few other suggestions for stops along the way so we have more to see on upcoming trips. I read it’s a little unpredictable if the bottle tree place is open but I suppose we got lucky. It was pretty impressive what the guy did with bottles and other found things. You can freely wonder around between the bottle trees and it was a fun place to explore for sure.

Times gone by
All the bottles…

We had lunch at In-N-Out Burger in Barstow what was about the half way point. In theory we had plenty of time to get to our next stop before sunset but we hit some traffic after Barstow. We drove by the Seven Magic Mountains before but I really wanted to stop this time and get a little closer. It’s not really a detour when you drive to Las Vegas as the street just runs parallel to the highway. There was just the last bit of sun on the stone columns when we parked the car. We still had a look up close and saw the sun set over the mountains. It was a good end to the day.

Seven Magic Mountains
Sunset on the other side

We made it to our friends house safe and sound and picked up some dinner up from the Cheesecake Factory. It was so much fun to take a couple of extra days and now we have a couple of days here before we head back.

I know a couple of you mentioned that driving seemed safer then flying because of the pandemic and in some ways I agree. You have more control of how close you get to people but then you also are at more places. We tried our best like we always do. Fingers crossed all goes well.

My friend mentioned that we should go grocery shopping for Thanksgiving today. Have you been shopping for the holiday yet if you celebrate? It always feels like everyone thinks that the stores will be closed for a week but then it is just that single day if that at all.

Good Night

Roadtrip to Las Vegas – Day 2

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

I have to say I did not plan well in advance this time around other than booking the hotels we were going to stay at. We had to cancel a trip short notice the presidents’ day week (my son started to have covid symptoms the day we were supposed to leave and sure enough he tested positive), so I am a little reluctant now to make plans.

We have been in the area before so we had one spot I wanted to try again. In December 2019 we did a road trip that also took us to Pismo Beach. We visited the Monarch Butterfly Grove back then which had about 3000 monarchs visiting over the winter at the time. Since then the monarch population recovered somewhat and this year there were close to 24,000 in that specific location.

Monarch Butterfly Grove

It’s a little hard to tell from the picture above but they hang high up in the trees in huge clusters. Those little specs in the sky – butterflies, too. They were everywhere. The picture below shows the view through a binocular that was set up by the volunteers.

Through the binoculars

What I did not realize last time was that the beach is fairly close, too. So that was our next stop. There were some concerns that we were on the way to make the outing a hike but as soon as the water was spotted all was good again.

through the dunes to the beach
through the dunes to the beach
dipping our toes in the pacific

Next stop on the map was Ostrichland near Solvang. I saw Instagramfriends post about it and it looked very entertaining. You have to pay an entrance fee and get to have a look at some ostriches and emus that roam around behind fences. If you are brave enough you can also feed them. You get a kind of dust pan that holds the feeding bowl and if you watch how they pick at the food it’s probably a good idea to be able to hold it as far away as possible (my feeling about it). But it was fun, too and everyone agreed that it was worth it.

Seems to taste good

For lunch we stopped right next door at Hitching Post II. They had tables set up outside in the shade and the pulled pork tacos I had were very yummy. In the distance you got another view of the ostriches.

Lunch with a view
Tacos, yummy

I always wanted to visit Solvang. It’s a small town that is known for it’s Danish-style architecture and bakeries. It always looked very quaint to me when I saw it in pictures but it did not match the vision I had in my head. Maybe I had an off day? It felt just very touristy and busy to me and did not live up to my expectations. So the only picture I am willing to share is of one of the arches at the mission Santa Ines in Solvang. There was a private event at the time and we just walked in the garden for a couple of minutes before driving on.

Did that ever happen to you that you thought something would be great and then you were just left wondering what all the fuss is about? Maybe we should have stopped at one of the bakeries and it would have become clear but I also wanted to get to the beach before dark because I promised.

Old arch at the mission Santa Ines in Solvang

Last sight seeing stop of the day was at the beach in Santa Barbara. We already went here a couple of times and we knew it would not disappoint especially at sunset.

Walk on the beach

I always find it fascinating that a walk on the beach is just fine but as soon if we hit a trail there is always complaining from one family member 😉 We do it anyway from time to time and most of the time it will stop after 30 minutes.

Sunset in Santa Barbara

We headed to our hotel in Camarillo shortly before the sun was completely gone. For dinner we just picked something up at Trader Joes and called it a day.

setting sun along 101

Stops today:
Paso Robles – Pismo Beach – ~45 miles – ~45 minutes drive
Pismo Beach – Ostrichland – ~50 miles – ~45 minutes drive
Ostrichland – Solvang – ~4 miles – ~5 minutes drive
Solvang – Santa Barbara – ~33 miles – ~40 minutes drive
Santa Barbara – Camarillo – ~44 miles – ~45 minutes drive

Roadtrip to Las Vegas – Day 1

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

On the road

Thanksgiving week break started for us yesterday after school, hurray! I am so glad school is out now for the whole week. I kind of needed the break, too. When I asked the rest of the family what they wanted to do, my daughter suggested we visit our friends in Las Vegas. Luckily they are happy to have us and honestly I can’t wait to see them again. They moved away a couple of years ago and I miss them dearly. I met her at work when we first moved here and we became really good friends. When our son was born my daughter stayed with them when we had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. They feel more like family to me.

Las Vegas may not necessarily be my first choice for a vacation spot. We stayed a couple of times by now already before they moved there just because it’s so convenient when you do a road trip through that area (California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah). We don’t gamble, I hate the smoke in the casinos but like in any place you can find other things to do (and the Cirque du Soleil shows are amazing) – I will report more next week.

I was thinking about flying this time but with 4 air fare tickets and the holiday timing price wise it came down to almost the same and we do love a good road trip. It’s a long drive from us and it took us anywhere between 10-14 hours so far (google maps tells me 9 hours but it is wrong, I can tell you that). Most of the time we spent a night in Bakersfield to break it up a bit and there are things you can do just not very many – maybe later more about that.

So yesterday I packed up the car in the morning while the others finished up work and school and off we went. Instead of the 5 we are taking 101 this time. The first night we stayed in Paso Robles. It’s a little over 200 miles and the drive took a little over 4 hours. We arrived pretty late so we just hopped quickly in the hotel pool and went off to bed.

I made no concrete plans for today yet. The hotel has breakfast so we will likely decide then.

What would you have done – road trip or flying and spending more time in one place?

When to visit Germany?

A North Sea beach at Cuxhaven (nice in summer and winter)

Friends of mine were asking me the other day, when would be the best time to visit Germany. I have not written anything for almost two years now but I thought it might come in handy if I wrote something about it down.

So, when is it a good time to visit Germany? I would say it depends what you want to do and if you have to stick to the school schedule.

We usually go in the summer since the kids are free for longer than two weeks (and we would have to organize camp otherwise), the cousins are off school, too, the days are longer and you can actually go outside without getting wet or cold (at least if you are lucky enough to catch a summery summer). We also went last winter for the holidays because we did not go in some time. Certainly long enough to make me forget how miserable winters can be. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with the family especially during the holidays (that’s why we went after all) and the Christmas markets and winter as an idea (curling up on the couch with a good book, candles and a hot tea, a fire in the oven – what else is there to do if it gets dark at ~4pm), but the weather usually really sucks. In our three weeks the sun came out on three days! Since the days are so short the jet lag seems even more painful. We are also not talking snow either but wet and cloudy. It sure reminded me how spoiled we are in the Bay Area where the weather almost always is good enough to go for a bike ride, hike or just out to play. I guess you can already tell I prefer going in the summer. But since we almost always go to hang out with family our situation is a little different. So, I am trying to be a little more objective:

Go in the spring or fall:

  • if you you want cheaper airfare (especially June – August and mid December- early January airfare can get steep)
  • good weather with less crowds (April, May, September and October) – attractions can get busy during the summer month when schools are out in Germany and booking might be easier as well since Germans tend to plan far in advance

For families with kids in school this might not be an option.

If you go in the summer:

  • weather is mostly nice
  • days are long
  • you can go to the pool and relax (no shouting at your kids because they are running, no serious checking on height restrictions on slides – just be responsible yourself)
  • go to the beach
  • enjoy nature, go for a hike or a walk or a bike ride
  • go to the beer garden
  • get an ice cream in a cafe
  • take a boat tour
  • walk the streets in old towns
  • everything is green

If you go in the winter:

  • days are short
  • go to museums
  • go for the food
  • go for the Christmas markets – some markets, especially in bigger cities, now stay open until after Christmas or even until New Year but some smaller ones (which can be really nice) happen before the school break starts
  • go for the snow (if you are lucky, more likely in southern Germany)
  • keep in mind that some attractions might close around the holidays (Christmas and New Year)

I am not saying that winters are always rainy but it is colder. I am also not saying summers are always great – we had some quite rainy summer vacations, but then you still can do all the things you can do during winter (except the Christmas markets). You might want to visit for Oktoberfest in Munich or the Carnival (about Carnival on Wikipedia). In the end you have to decide what works best for you.

I am curious: what would you want to see when visiting Germany?