Tag Archives: off the beaten path

Museum of Medieval Torture

13 Dec

I don’t know what I was thinking going here, I really don’t.  I mean, I can barely see the news or most new movies now without getting that panicky ill feeling in my gut and I just can’t watch.  Yet, there I stood.

iphone pics incl. paris and prague 812Today I did not have anything really planned because it is the coldest day of my trip in Prague (low of 18 degrees) so I was taking a leisurely stroll across the Charles Bridge right before dusk.

I got to the other side and noticed the Medieval Torture Museum was right there.  I must have thought it would be cheesy, I actually was hoping for some really ridiculous dioramas that talked or something but it was ONLY instruments of torture with old illustrations of the devices in action.

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It’s a pretty lousy museum for many reasons but for the price of 150 ck (around $7.75), you too can be truly horrified at how terrible human nature is.

Top Five Holiday Things to do in Nashville

27 Nov

1.  A Country Christmas at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel- complete with World’s Largest Nativity and thousands of lights.  Park at Opry Mills mall next door and walk over to avoid a hefty parking fee at the hotel.  Otherwise, free.

The off the beaten path option (I’d recommend seeing both!) right next to the Opryland Hotel is Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at the RV park.  It is a drive-thru dancing light display with music and even Santa.  $2 per carload.  2572 Music Valley Drive, Nashville, TN.

2.  The Nutcracker at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center– December 9-23rd come see the Nashville Ballet and the Nashville Symphony beautifully perform this classic Christmas ballet.  From $35.  505 Deadrick Street, Nashville, TN.

Pro Tip:  Before the show, pop in to the Hermitage Hotel around the corner and go to the Oak Bar for an excellent cocktail and beautiful architecture.  The Oak Bar did not allow women for many years so make sure to take a peek at the opulent men’s bathroom (yes, even women).  231 6th Avenue North, Nashville, TN.

3.  Dickens Christmas in Franklin- Victorian street festival with period food and drink, horse drawn carriages, a Christmas market, your favorite Christmas Carol characters such as Ebineezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, as well as a town sing a long at 4:30.  December 8-9, 10 am – 5 pm Saturday, 12 pm to 5 pm Sunday.  Free.  510 Columbia Avenue, Franklin, TN

4.  Chad Bernard’s Holiday Lights– one of the nation’s largest displays of lights AND it’s a drive-thru.  This is true Nashvegas glitz. $10 per car.  Eat more rhinestones baby!  791 E Old LaGuardo Rd., Lebanon, TN.

5.  Walk-thru Bethlehem– You may have heard that Nashville is Music city.  One thing that will also become abundantly clear when you visit is that Nashville loves it’s churches.  The walk thru Bethlehem at Woodmont Church has goats, sheep, etc. and is supposed to be a window into Ancient Israel.  You’ve got to see it to believe it folks. December 9th 1-7 only.  Free. 3601 Hillsboro Road, Nashville, TN.

Pro-Tip:  After, go for a drink at the Greenhouse down the street.  It’s a truly hidden Nashville gem literally in a greenhouse filled with plants.  2211 Bandywood Drive, Nashville, TN.  Mon-Sun 5 pm- 3 am.  

Top 5 Things to do in (and around) Cozumel, Mexico

12 Nov

1.       Diving

Cozumel has some of the world’s best reefs, and is ideal for new and experienced divers.  Inexperienced divers will enjoy having a dive master with the group who will help you with extra weights if you need it, or even take your photo.  Divers with more experience are given freer access to deep dives with high visibility, as well as cavern and wreck dives.

Some of my favorite dive spots are Punta Dalila, La Francesa, and the Cedral wall where you can see loads of fish, as well as sea turtles, octopus, moray eels, crabs, a nurse shark or two, sponges and beautifully colored corals.

In Cozumel, unlike other locations, you will normally have a dive master out with the group, no matter the skill level.  I would highly recommend ProDive Mexico as your outfitter.  They have several locations throughout the island and on the mainland (Playa del Carmen), have full gear rental you can trust and have a PADI 5 Star rating.

Pro Tip 1: If you are looking for a hotel with dive shop, the Allegro Cozumel is an excellent choice.  It has a ProDive Mexico shop right on the property, and the boat leaves from the hotel so you don’t waste time or money with taxis or other travel.  They offer trips but also full courses so you can get certified while you are there, or work on a specialty.

Pro Tip 2: Trips are offered daily to dive or snorkel with whale sharks, the largest fish in the world, from June through September.  You don’t want to miss this if you will be there during the summer months!

2.   Punta Sur

If you drive to the southernmost part of the island, you will reach a sign to visit Parque Punta Sur and Faro Celarain, which has the lighthouse and is a wildlife preserve.  You pay a suggested admission of around $10 USD, hours are between 9 am – 5 pm.

Pro Tip:  Bring bug spray and sunscreen with you everywhere you go.

The first stop you come to is the crocodile preserve on the right, with small ruins on your left.  The ruin is called Tumba del Caracol.  The crocodiles live in the brackish mangroves at Punta sur but you will not see them anywhere else.

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When you continue towards the lighthouse, look to your left and notice sticks or paint stirrers in the sand.  If you are lucky enough to be there between April and September when the sea turtles lay their eggs and hatch, you will see lots of sticks where community activists have marked where the eggs are in the sand.  The area is heavily protected from poachers with good cause; thousands of sea turtles come ashore each year to lay their eggs.  Learn more here.

At the end of the island you will reach the lighthouse, established in 1908. There is a small maritime museum on the ground floor where you can read about past lighthouse keepers and see how they lived, then you ascend the 127 stairs to the top of the lighthouse where you climb in directly under the clamshell Fresnel lens.  Then you can climb out onto the balcony where you can see the staggering beauty of the clear ocean on one side, with the mangroves on the other.

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3.       Cenotes

Cozumel and the mainland of Playa del Carmen are loaded with “cenotes,” or sinkholes.  Many of these cenotes are open to the public for swimming, snorkeling, and some even for diving.

Two must see cenotes on the mainland are Ik-Kil, close to Chichen Itza, and Cenote Ponderosa.  Ik-Kil is very large, with a depth of 85 feet.  A quick shower is required before descending the long staircase down and then you can run and jump in.  Ik-Kil is quite crowded due to its proximity to Chichen Itza, so for something more relaxed, check out Cenote Ponderosa, also known as The Garden of Eden cenote.  It looks like a dream lagoon, something only seen in movies and is sparsely populated.  It is not nearly as deep but has stalactites and stalagmites that you can swim through while snorkeling, and you can also set up a dive excursion.

Ik-Kil

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Ponderosa

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4.      Coba

While I absolutely recommend the trip to Chichen Itza, there are other, much less crowded ruins that are closer if you’re coming from Cozumel like Coba.  From Cozumel, anything you do on the mainland you must take the ferry.

Pro Tip: There are two ferry companies.  DO NOT buy a round trip ticket, even though it might save you a dollar or two, IF you want to control your return time to Cozumel.  Carefully review the timetable of your outgoing ferry before buying the round trip ticket or you might be stuck waiting hours for the last ferry at 10. 

Coba is a rather large ruin site situated around two lagoons.  Historians think Coba had around 50,000 people, making it one of the largest and most powerful civilizations in the Yucatan.  Coba is a series of sites, with a central temple that tourists where can climb to the top as well as a ball court.  When you arrive you will be accosted to take a pedicab to the central temple.

The walk is a little long (and hot, BRING WATER), but an integral part of the experience of Coba.  The white roads are ceremonial and along the way on your pilgrimage, you will notice the flora and fauna that the people relied on for every aspect of their lives.  One such example are the trees from which many of the buildings were painted.  If you apply water to the white park of the bark, the trees will change red, or blue or yellow.  In the picture below, you can see the yellow ‘paint’ created.

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5.       Back away from the All-Inclusive meals

While it’s great to wake up and have all you can eat food, the meals are prepared for the general public.  Meaning, you will never have full-flavored meals in a resort due to dietary restrictions, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to add anything but salt and pepper so what else can you do but EAT TACOS!

My favorite places on the island are below, in no real order:

  • Coconuts– Unbelievable atmosphere.  This is a perfect restaurant to visit if you go to Punta Sur, as it is close by.  It is at one of the highest parts of the island so you sit almost at a beach front cliff.    There are dogs running around that are cared for by the restaurant that are fun to watch, and bonus points that they don’t beg for food- even though they will eat it.
  • Los Otates– Pozole.  Some people like soup when it’s hot, and I am one of those people.  You will see many local people eating here, and in a town that does not eat out often, this means something.  Los Otates also has tacos that are nothing to scoff at.
  • El Pique– Best Tacos.  Cheap eats, perfectly simple menu, and off the beaten path.
  • Chilangos Taqueria– Best authentic Mexico city-style cuisine.  Huaraches, tamales, and quesadillas.  This late night spot is definitely off the beaten path so you may actually get to practice your Spanish in Mexico!  Delightful.
Rachel Louise Martin, Ph.D.

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