Cultural Spots to Visit in Tel Aviv


The country of Israel is one of incredible beauty and rich cultural heritage. Tel Aviv epitomises this in a variety of ways, most of all through the number of historical sites it boasts – a dream for those with such interests.

With more than 2.5 million international visitors every year, and the second-largest economy in the Middle East, the popularity of this amazing city is constantly growing. People are excited about what it can offer – here, we provide a brief glimpse into some of the cultural spots you should visit.

The History of Tel Aviv Museum

Based in the first-ever municipality building of Tel Aviv, this museum showcases the last 100 years of an intriguing city. From the small suburb known as Jaffa to the vibrant, bustling and entrancing epicentre of culture it is today, this is the number one spot to visit if you’re interested in the origins of Tel Aviv.

The old mayor’s office, first occupied by Meir Dizengoff, has been restored after the building was shut down for a number of years, and visitors can enter to see the amazing views of Bialik Square. The architecture is all original, making a trip to the museum a genuine Tel Aviv experience.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art

The largest art museum in Israel is based in Tel Aviv, and it has been open since before the country itself even existed. It contains a host of incredible artwork from Israeli and international artists, of both impressionism and post-impressionism.
While many interesting exhibits come and go over time, there are works of a number of famous names that are based here permanently – such as Henri Moore, Picasso and Auguste Rodin. The new wing, which opened just three years ago, also has some notable architecture worth viewing.

The White City

Tel Aviv is home to the world’s biggest collection of Bauhaus-style buildings, with their colour earning the area in which they’re located the nickname of “The White City”. They were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s by Jewish people emigrating from Germany, and have been restored following its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

The intention of building these structures was to recreate the atmosphere of café-culture in Europe, but with a more modernist style. Today, the district has a fun atmosphere with restaurants and boutiques lining the streets.

Trumpeldor Cemetery

When visiting a city for the first time, most people’s idea of fun doesn’t generally involve paying a visit to the local cemetery. However, at Trumpeldor, you’ll find the resting places of a fascinating mixture of local celebrities including artists, politicians and other well-known individuals.

There are also a number of memorials of historical events, such as the 1921 Tel Aviv riots and the 1918 evacuation by the Ottomans. Overall it’s a fascinating insight into local history and the people that have inhabited this city.

Interested in booking a trip to Tel Aviv and visiting some of these locations? Contact Chic Collection for special offers.

Popular and Fast Rising Health Tourism Destinations


Spa resort, Thailand

Medical science has never been better. Innovative technologies and breakthroughs have almost made medical scientists “gods” with their abilities to prolong life, change gender, facilitate pregnancy, and more. The only factor that seems to limit one’s medical options and healthcare is the patient’s ability to pay for the cost of the procedure. With many countries’ direct efforts to resuscitate tourism in their country through health tourism, patients around the world are getting a shot at getting cheaper medical care. To be able to prepare well, a patient or medical tourist needs to know which health tourism destinations have the best medical service providers for their need.

If you have a serious medical condition or you simply want to enhance your physical attributes, you have many options. Here are some of the top health tourism destinations and contenders that deserve consideration.

India: It is shockingly cheap. Many Americans continue to be shocked by the low prices of medical care here. With its excellent facilities, it is dubbed as the “world’s premier medical destination” for the past 25 years. Almost half a million medical tourists come to India each year to receive medical care, particularly for cardiac and orthopedic procedures. Coming here help them save about 50 percent of the total cost if performed in the US.

Australia: The country is perceived as one of the most popular when it comes to aesthetic dental procedures. This, despite the fact that the cost of dental implants Melbourne is higher than in other parts of Australia (or the world, perhaps). It is quite understandable given that the procedure involves minor surgery, and the results are lasting. Dental implants offer a permanent solution to missing teeth, wherein a custom-made tooth (that looks like the real thing) is attached to an ‘anchor’ that has been surgically implanted into a person’s jawbone. So if you have missing tooth (or teeth) and want a foolproof solution that’s almost the same as the real stuff, go to Melbourne, Australia for dental implants.

Thailand: A reputable leader in elective surgery and first-rate medical infrastructure. This destination has been serving international medical tourists for over a decade now. It boasts of its UK and America-trained health professionals. It is associated with the leading and largest unified hospital group in South East Asia known as the Bangkok Hospital Group.

In Mexico…

Mexico: It is right there in the backyard. Due to its proximity to US and Canada, Mexico is a preferred destination for many medical tourists from these two affluent nations especially for dental and cosmetic procedures. About 150,000 to 500,000 medical tourists come here yearly to take advantage of savings estimated to be between 50 and 75 percent.

Costa Rica: It is WHO-recognized for quality healthcare. It even ranks higher than US, but cheaper. So what is to stop Americans, Canadians and other rich neighbors from accessing medical care from this country? Approximately 15 percent of the tourists coming here take advantage of its cosmetic and dental care that is 50 to 70 percent cheaper than in the US.

Malaysia: It has a special burn treatment center and cheap health packages. Among the well-known low-cost health packages that includes a battery of tests – blood chemistry, chest X-ray, bone density scan and treadmill test – are the so-called “well-man” and “well-woman” packages. This merely costs about $340 that is very different from the usual $2,500 in the US.

Singapore: WHO’s best health care system in Asia and the 6th in the world. The Biopolis, a biotechnology research center, has a stem cell bank. Singapore has liberal laws on the use of human embryonic cells for research and treatments. It’s a world-famous destination for a whole range of medical procedures such as cardiology and cardiac surgery, hepatology, orthopedics, neurology, oncology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, and of course, stem cell therapy.

Hungary: The country with the “most number of dentists per capita than any other country”. These dentist are found all over the country which is why medical tourists from all over Europe are coming here for major dental care, full-mouth restorations and implants, and cosmetic oral surgeries. Hungary is also well remembered for its mineral springs, baths, and spas.

You’ll notice that most of these leading and fast-rising health tourism destinations are not just luring medical tourists because of the less expensive life-saving and elective medical procedures. These places are also great vacation places that offer patients great and cheaper ways to recuperate. The meaning of health or medical tourism truly comes to life in these destinations.


Venice Revisited


italy-austria border
By the border of Italy and Austria at dawn.

Visiting any city in Italy means going the scenic route. No matter how many hours that route would be, 5, 7 or 9, it’s a surefire beautiful and awesome opportunity to take drive by shots. It means even waking up as early as 5 in the morning while on board the night train to catch a glimpse of dawn is so worth it.

It has been six years ago since I last set foot on Venice. Then and there I have loved it and knew that coming back would be a very welcome option. Despite the fact that I would walk for hours wouldn’t deter me to explore this floating city…and, it’s exercise, too! Going up on the bridges, up and down, getting lost here and there would surely make one lose calories! Except, of course, if one eats pizza the whole time! ^_^ Here are some of the many beautiful things we saw in Venice, probably you’ll get some tips when you go for a vacation.

venice island 1
Drive by, an island seen from the train.

We got to the main Venice island shortly after 8 in the morning, yes, we took the night train which left Vienna close to 9 o’clock the previous night. We got to sleep on the train’s beds! :D

We soaked in the smell of this Italian city, the sun barely shining yet, the scenery that welcomes tourists getting ready for a lot of walking. Of course, I sat, wonder and do what I love most, take photos of whatever I could. This trip was to actually rendezvous with H’s highschool friend whom he had not seen since…graduation.

Vaporeto passing by…

 The city of bridges is still as pretty as I remember, probably much colorful this time! It was still spring so the cold and blue skies were a perfect tandem to enjoy the long walks. The shade provided by the colorful buildings are a refuge when the sun gets a bit too hot. Or, one can actually cool down with a cone or cup of gelato that every Italian city offers on every corner! You just have to pick the best one! Yes, no matter what time of the day, a gelato is perfect to make you feel better! ;)

Gelato Panna cotta

Our quest started then and there, conquering bridges, stone and wood…we went left then right, between stores to open plazas . We’ve met people going back, going ahead, selling stuff, performing with their instruments or simply singing their hearts out.

bridge, city of bridges
Wooden bridge
venice bridge
Stone bridge

While I boast of having a good memory, I seem to not remember seeing love locks on any bridge 6 years prior. This time though, the Ponte dell’ Academia have a number of them already. It would be interesting to know how this would fare, and here’s hoping it won’t fall from all the weight accumulated  by the locks. Remind me which city did such happen? Paris?

love locks
Love locks at Ponte dell’ Academia

Brunch was toast, pizza and a handful more italian delicacies under the Campanile at Piazza San Marco (featured on my food blog). The danger of dining al fresco is obviously being bombarded by pigeon droppings, good thing we never got any. :D There was a huge crowd (like always) at the plaza, probably because there was a mass being held at St. Mark’s Basilica (to which the bell tower belongs to).


Venetian experience won’t be complete without riding a gondola, despite it being a bit expensive than the usual fare. (That’s 80€ for half an hour). There are of course, water taxis, waterbuses or vaporettos you can take  to go around Venice. It would cost 7€ one-way for an adult and the same amount for children on a roundtrip, the tickets are valid 1 hour after validation. Note also that kids under 6 are free.

Gondola’s front tip
gondoleros, venice
Gondoleros at the Grand Canal

The highlight, probably, of every walking visitor in Venice is the Ponte di Rialto. It is the oldest bridge across the Grand canal, one of only four in the said canal. While there are a lot of shops on the bridge itself, both sides are open for people to walk about, gawk at and probably spend many hours wondering what if they actually find true love then and there. Uuugggghhh, sorry just got carried away.

rialto bridge
Rialto bridge

The bridge is truly a busy site…and sight. Like in any other italian city, there are those selling imitation bags and whatnots. They’d go scrambling when the Carabinieri comes by. It’s amusing to watch. :D

While there, don’t forget to grab some murano beads, masks (they’re really neat) and what other souvenirs the colorful City of Waters offer its consumers.

tables out
Tables out, pizza time!

So finding some quiet streets and a good place to eat is not hard to do in Venice. Fresh produce, like below, is abundant and that goes well with your pasta and wine! I’m not sure what the rule of thumb is when dining in Venice but I suggest to try the restaurants  far from the Grand Canal as the ones there might cost much higher. (It must be the view!)

Fresh catch

Tired yet? Nah, with a beautiful backdrop of the sun, you can forget how far you’ve walked for 10 hours and just go on. And I haven’t started about the night landscape yet! :) I would do that soon along with the musicians I’ve recorded and other details I could share.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate that Venice is so worth being listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon. Its colorful history and buildings will make you fall in love and wanting to come back all-over again, no matter if it’s summer, spring or fall.

venice, water transport

UK – Realization of a Lifelong Dream

london, tower bridge, blue hour, uk city breaks
Tower Bridge – Blue hour

While the nearest I’ve been to Britain is through movies and pictures, I much prefer going there through another route, books – through short stories, poems and other forms of literature. Well, it could be the old English countryside but it is nonetheless vividly described with such romanticism and charm; they’ve become places where I always want getting lost to. My companion while I travel were Wuthering Heights on the Moorish marsh, The Other Boleyn Girl while admiring the rural landscape of medieval England, Tintern Abbey through the banks of the River Wye and of course, Sherlock Holmes through the streets of old London. All these and many other books depicting the British landscape had instilled in me the longing to walk on those cobblestones and see the beauty of patchwork quilt of green fields with my own eyes.

Imagine the hysteria I caused when hubby told me to browse for UK city breaks that we can book for on  a  semester break – I was like an attention-deprived toddler screaming my heart out for a lollipop!

stonehenge, uk city breaks
photo via pinterest

In my head I am already planning where to go, what to do – first, to be inspired by some of the world’s greatest works of art, we’d go visiting: David Hockney at the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, and Salts Mill in Yorkshire, William Tate at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, John Constable at the National Gallery in London, LS Lowry at the Lowry in Salford, Greater Manchester and most of all JMW Turner at the Petworth House in Petworth in West Sussex.

And what about installations and creations of Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko? We’ll visit Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives, Cornwall, Tate Britain, London, and Tate Modern, London to see their works…for free!

But, with just a short stay it would be impossible to do everything in one go. I still have to convince hubby for at least 2 weeks of hopping here and there to have everything else done. There are a lot of other whyfors the UK is a top tourist destination, aside from the arts as cited.

Second, and needless to say, photography is one of the other reason why I love to travel in general. That I am able to take a chunk of reality in that particular moment that may never happen again through photos is my motivation. So where are the most picturesque places in the UK for perfect photos? Here’s my list:

Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Still an awe to this day, the prehistoric monument has baffled every visiting individual at how our ancestors were able to carry these humongous stones at where they stand now.

Tower Bridge at Night, London. This bascule and suspension bridge over the River Thames is most picturesque at dusk.

The Jurassic Coast, Dorset. One of Britain’s many World Heritage Site worth visiting in this lifetime. It is consisted of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous cliffs, spanning the Mesozoic Era, documenting million years of geological history. How could one say no to this piece of creation?

Seven Sisters, Sussex. A series of chalk cliffs by the English Channel, occurring naturally as a result of erosion. This is living proof that yes, our Creator knows and has crafted his masterpieces well.

Isle of Harris, Scotland. Talk about an oxymoron of sorts in the most beautiful sense. White-sand beaches spectacularly laid out in front of views of snow-peaked mountains in the distance.

Wastwater Lake, Cumbria. England’s deepest lake and coincidentally the title of the play my daughter takes part in.

Castles? Here’s a list: Warwick Castle in Warwirckshire, Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, Stokesay Castle in Shropshire, Leeds Castle in Kent, the Tower of London in London, Cardiff Castle in Wales and of course, Windsor Castle in Berkshire where the queen resides. I am sure there’s a lot more to list down, with 400 to be found only in Wales, even a whole month won’t be enough to see all.

Wheew! A short-stay will definitely not suffice to see the grandeur that is Britian, there’s still so many to see and there’s so little space in this humble blog to list all of them. But, you know what I really want to see the most? Jane Austen’s House in Hampshire. You can never just make a hopeless romantic forget her heroines.


london eye at night
London Eye at night.

photos courtesy of:

All the Nice things in Nice


nice, france
Arenes de Cimiez
We’ve established from the previous posts that when in Rome, you’re told to do as the Romans do.  But when you happen to find yourself in the vicinity of Nice, France, you don’t have to try too hard to pose as a dignified Frenchman or a lady with her nose up in the air.  Just be your touristy self, and bask in the many fun things Nice has to offer.  With the many different attractions in this part of the globe, you’re sure to find something to suit your fancy, here are some of what I recommend:

Arenes de Cimiez.  If you are a huge fan of jazz music, then this is the perfect place for you to get your fix.  This is where they hold the annual Nice Jazz Festival amid the backdrop of the remains of the Roman city of Cemenelum.  Here you’ll also find a park with a vast olive grove that stretches as far as the eye can see.  The thousands of olive trees sprawled around the garden and the wide lawns make it an ideal place for families to hang out.


musee matisse
Musee Matisse

Musee Matisse.  The artsy one will definitely consider this place to be Mecca.  This museum holds the personal collection of artist Henry Matisse.  Here you’ll find his famous sculptures, paintings, drawings and gouache cut-outs.  If you have kids with you, you can bring them here as they also hold children’s workshops and various activities on specific themes.  The museum is situated in a villa within the premises of the Arenes de Cimiez park.

Cote d’azur observatory.  You just might find your luck and get to wish on a falling star when you visit this famed astronomical observatory in Nice.  It’s right on the summit of Mont Gros, 1,066 feet above sea level.  Now that’s reaching for the stars!  They have a guided tour, so as you gaze in wonder at the sky, you’ll get to understand what the universe is all about.


nice, france port
Nice port


Vieux Nice.  Also known as The Old Town of Nice, this is one place where you absolutely wouldn’t mind getting lost in.  If you were a mouse and this was a mouse trap, you’d say, “Bring it on!” This is where it’s happening, as it’s always bustling with activity, day and night.  You can drown yourself in drinks or stuff yourself with a good old traditional meal as you take in the Mediterranean baroque feel of it all.  Be sure to sample their main local dish called “socca” (a yummy pancake made of chick pea flour, water and olive oil).  If you’re not up for partying, you can simply do a walking tour and explore the different shops lining the streets.

Castle Hill.  What could be more wonderful than standing on top of a hill, bellowing at the top of your lungs as you bask in the beauty of the view below you?  This is just what you might end up doing when you find yourself atop Castle Hill.  Restrain yourself from bellowing, and you could simply walk along the secluded tree-lined footpaths winding up to the Hill.  Once you’re up there, the view is breathtaking.  Don’t miss the astounding waterfalls on top of Castle Hill, overlooking the Promenade.
There’s never a dull moment in Nice, France.  With the many stunning places to visit and things to do here, you won’t feel homesick at all. I say, book a week or two in a one of the nice apartments in Nice (pun not intended) and enjoy this enchanting city in full. It won’t even come as a surprise if you no longer want to go back home.

Colline du Chateau, castle hill nice france
The waterfall on the Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill)


Rome Alone


Five hours in the Eternal City is never enough to cover and discover all that this enchanting comune has to offer. That’s what I had though when hubby and I went “roaming alone in Rome” for some me-time each with the challenge of not taking a taxi but just the metro trains. :D I was hesitant at first but, I thought it would be good for me since I walk slowly, I could drink in the culture, sights, atmosphere and scenery more and escape the eye rolls I get from the annoyance I seem to bring hubby whenever I get left behind. ^_^

Five hours….considering my being slow, I could have seen more, taken photos of the city more but, in a nutshell, this is a story of what I did and saw in Rome…alone. Well, with a good-old map actually and my ever-reliable 7d.

Sunny view of the Colosseo

Sun high-up (it was 5:30PM!), kissing my skin as it pleased, people – tourists and locals alike walking here and there…vendors, gladiator-clad men, each busy with their routine abound. Hubby and I separated at the metro train station Colosseo – most probably named after the  building just across – the largest ampitheatre the world has known. Albeit a famous tourism spot nowadays, the Colosseo or Coliseum still stands proud today, 1933 years after its completion and even marking its way to a spot in the New Seven Wonders of the World list.

A few steps from the Colosseum is another historical monument, the arch of Constantine. For some unknown reasons, I cannot find a decent shot of it from my archives. I think they were doing some renovations to it as on many other buildings that time. The above photo though shows it peeking a bit…(I’m sure hubby took a photo of this when we went back together but that would be in another post).

tourists dwarfed by the Colosseo

Not being a sun-lover, I went around the elliptical structure immediately, stopping in middle-awe (where there’s shadow of course) and just savoring all the history and magnificence it imposes. Had hubby been there, we were sure to have gotten in but, I was hesitant to go in alone so I got back to the train station instead. Rome’s train stations are relatively clean…well, most that I’ve been to and as expected, the trains themselves are crowded.

Did spoke with an American family while on board…they’re from Detroit and spending a whole week in Rome, then was there last day. What struck me would be the sticker warning signs the train doors have. Quite morbid for my taste. :D

going down to the trains

So I got off at the metro station Ottaviano, one of the nearest station that leads to Vatican City. Via Ottaviano (street) is lined up with shops, trattorias, pizzerias and of course residential houses. I was tempted to just shop than actually go to my destination – St. Peter’s Square. Hubby and I went there early in the morning that day but, it was too warm and humid I didn’t really enjoy it so much, I was seeking shelter from the shadows of the surrounding buildings at the plaza.

It was a bit before 7 then so it has cooled down a bit. It was also at this time when I saw the time-traveller musician. (Had you been to my music and food blog you’d know him). I walked the street parallel to via Ottaviano, the wall of the Vatican city on the right and a handful of souvenir shops on the left.

not sure which street :D

I entered the plaza/square via the colonnades – the right side and this time, there aren’t as much tourists, no sun to annoy me but, also no hubby to go inside with and see the beauty of the Sistine chapel ceiling, nor the Pieta and not even the Vatican Library. Even not being catholics, seeing these historical pieces were on our bucket list. Sad to say, we run out of time the following days and never got to fulfill this. Rome being an hour away from Vienna by plane is easy to revisit and I’d definitely cross these out  from the bucket list when I get back. ^_^

At the square, the Tuscan colonnades were towering over the crowd of people as it was designed like to embrace them – symbolically back into the church. It is said to be one of Italian architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s most innovative design.

obelisk and fountain
St. Peter’s square – Colonnade, Obelisk and Maderno’s fountain

I walked around the square a bit more, shot this and that corner and went back the same route I had earlier. This time, I did some shopping. Bought some chocolates – Italian kisses, Baci, and a handful more sweets, some souvenirs and a few pieces from my favorite design house, Desigual.

I spent a considerable amount of time gawking at stuff there, teehee…when I finally got hungry and when my phone battery was almost dead, I went to the nearest restaurant I saw…and that’s a review shared on my food blog. ^_^ Long story told, I had one of Rome’s more known dish, pasta alla gricia made special with the experience of meeting a polyglot.

Saldi…calling me to shop. :) I obliged

When dusk blanketed the city, I headed for the Pantheon. I didn’t follow the map this time but the advise of the above-mentioned polyglot. I took the scenic, longer bus route. I hopped off at Lagro Argentina and went the wrong way so I had to ask for directions a lot of times. ^_^

The Eternal city lives well to its name, the night streets so picturesque, I think it took me longer than I should reaching the spot where hubby and I would rendezvous because I stop by every corner to click my camera.

Still very much alive at 9 in the evening, my perception of Rome as a very busy city all transpired there.

streets at night

I arrived at Piazza della Rotonda in one piece. ^_^ Rome’s very lively culture, the Italians’ happy disposition and free-spirited nature can all be seen in here. I spent some minutes listening to Italian music played on guitar at the middle of the plaza….I was waiting for hubby but, I was too surprised when I saw him there held (actually dragged) by a pantomime…Had I not been so quick, he would have probably been taken away by a chinese lady! ^_^ The night went on with some more walking, night shots, wine, pasta and more walking. This trip may not be one of those cheap late holidays we booked in a hurry…we definitely spent more but it’s all worth it! Sometimes opting for the budget offer is a good idea, but spending a bit more, that’s both time and money, in a city as Rome, is definitely one to try!

Piazza della Rotonda and Pantheon


The Alcatraz Island – The Famous Tourist Trap


san francisco bay bridge
Golden Gate bridge (all photos in this post by hubby)

If you love watching movies, especially the ones based on true stories, actual historical places, or real people (those whose names became popular either because of their good deeds or their notoriety), then you have probably seen “The Rock” and “Escape from Alcatraz”. Both movies were set in the infamous Alcatraz Island, a small island located in the San Francisco Bay, about 1.5 miles offshore from San Francisco. Because of its topography and its size, the island was aptly nicknamed The Rock.

A tour of the island will bring you face-to-face with the site of the first lighthouse and US-built military fortification on the West Coast. In 1868, the entire island (with some areas converted into housing rows) became a military prison. Later on, The Rock became a federal penitentiary (1933-1963) that was off-limits to the public. Then, in 1964 and 1969-1971, a group of Aboriginal peoples (Indians of All Tribes) from San Francisco who were trying to save themselves from Native activism marred by public protests (they were being terminated by federal policy) sought safety on the island and stayed there for 18 months. This move by the Indians of All Tribes was monumental for it sparked a change in the federal policy towards American Indians.

the rock, alcatraz island
The Rock, Alcatraz island

It was only in 1972 when Alcatraz Island became a national recreation area, the justifiably popular tourist attraction that it is now (one of many prisons to become so), and to this day, it continues to draw in thousands of tourists, year in and year out.

The allure of the area extends far beyond the walls of the prison, although the same never fail to mesmerize tourists. The Rock itself exudes a unique appeal – the island is rugged and exceptionally beautiful at the same time, with gardens, tide pools, and bird colonies that will surely leave visitors breathless. Given that it right smack in the middle of San Francisco Bay, it offers an unparalleled view of the city.

It is worth noting that only inmates who posed greatest threats of violence and escape were sent to Alcatraz, which is considered a maximum-security prison. There, inmates were housed one man to a cell. Unlike inmates at other prisons who could spend their days out of their cells to do mandatory work programs, attend education classes, or enjoy recreational activities, Alcatraz inmates had to earn time out from their cells through good behavior.

a building’s remain in the island

There is a cell house audio tour being offered, which is a self-guided tour featuring narration of former inmates and guards. You’d get a glimpse into the lives of the most notorious federal inmates in history such as:

Alphonse “Al” Capone – also known as “Scarface”, he was the brutal kingpin of the Chicago underworld. He was incarcerated because of federal charges of tax evasion.
James Lucas – he tried to kill Al Capone by stabbing him in the shower.
George “Machine Gun” Kelly – a notorious kidnapper.
Floyd Hamilton – Bonnie and Clyde’s accomplice and noted bank robber.
Arthur “Doc” Barker and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis – both are members of the infamous Ma Barker Gang.
Roy Gardner – last of the “Old West” train robbers.
Morton Sobell – convicted in the Rosenberg espionage case
Robert Stroud – the Birdman of Alcatraz and one of the most notorious criminals in American history. He was depicted as a kindly bird lover in the movie “The Birdman of Alcatraz” where Burt Lancaster played his part, but in reality, he was a homicidal sociopath whom officers in Alcatraz likened to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

alcatraz cells

You’ll also see the recreation yard (or at least, part of what’s left of it), where inmates played their favorite sport of softball during their few hours of yard time on weekends. There are collections of objects made by notorious inmates, historic photographs and documents, escape materials, and inmate artwork, as well as items used by officers, including correctional materials, when Alcatraz was a federal penitentiary from 1934-1963; military prison period materials from 1859-1934; and the American Indian occupation of 1969 -1971.

Obviously, there is a wealth of knowledge and history waiting for tourists at Alcatraz Island. The rich history of the place makes it one of the most popular tourist attractions ever, and it surely deserves a spot in your list of must-visit places.


The Musical Greats of Seattle

Seattle Skyline, Space Needle upfront (wiki)

Seattle, Washington, known as the City of Goodwill and also as Emerald City, is known for coffee, rainy weather, the Space Needle, and some great musical legends. While it may not be along the lines of New York or Hollywood in terms of being a magnet for entertainers, Seattle’s high quality of life, strong arts culture, and much educated populace are enough reasons for the city to generate more talent than anywhere else.

Here are some of the famous artists, musicians, and bands that came from Seattle or at launched their careers while living in Seattle.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix had a short-lived career, spanning seven years. In all of those seven years, the last three years catapulted and cemented his stature as the “Black Elvis”. These last three years of superstardom were and still are considered among the most influential in the history of pop music.

Jimi Hendrix was born and bred in Seattle. In fact, his first ever gig was in the basement of Temple De Hirsch, a synagogue in Seattle. His ticket to fame was touring with the Isley Brothers and going to London, where he attained worldwide fame as a singer, songwriter, and guitar phenomenon.

He died a premature death due to the fatal combination of alcohol and sleeping pills. He was only 27 years young then.

2. Ray Charles

Technically, Ray Charles isn’t a native of Seattle. He was born in Albany, Georgia on September 23, 1930, lived as a blind, orphaned young boy in Tampa, Florida, and later on moved to Seattle to get as far away as he could from where he currently lived.

He stayed briefly in Seattle, but it was noted that it served as the launch pad of his career. This was where he cut his first record and developed the genre-bending musical style that made him the international star that he was.

ray charles
Ray Charles, 2003

3. Quincy Jones

Quincy is a record producer, composer, arranger, conductor, film and TV producer, and musician rolled into one. His career spans six decades and his resiliency in the entertainment industry is proven by his record 79 Grammy award nominations. Of these, he has won 27 awards, including the prestigious Grammy Legend Award in 1991. He has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry including Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson. Incidentally, Quincy Jones was a good friend of Ray Charles, and in fact, owed his musical beginnings to the latter.

4. Nirvana and Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain grew up in the logging town of Aberdeen. In the late 80s, he formed the band Nirvana together with his fellow Aberdeener, Krist Noveselic. Nirvana was famous for grunge music, and it was in the early 90s, through the said genre, that Seattle shot to a type of cultural prominence it has never experienced before.

Kurt’s strong vocal prowess, uncanny command of melody, and adolescent rage combined to form hits such as “Smells like Teen Spirit”. Sadly, Kurt’s life was cut short when he took his own life at the age of 27, after struggling with depression, stomach pain, and heroin abuse.

5. Kenny G

Known as the titan of smooth jazz, Kenneth Bruce Gorelick was born in Seattle, Washington on June 5, 1956. He attended Franklin High School and University of Washington. After graduating from college, he became a successful jazz instrumentalist and even played along with Barry White while on tour. Eventually, he recorded his own work, which paved the way for his multi-platinum success. Over the years, he has sold over 70 million records and he continues to be a popular jazz instrumentalist to this day.

Some of other famous bands/musicians (living and otherwise) who hail from Seattle are:

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam
Alice in Chains
Bing Crosby
Dave Matthews

All these names are proof that Seattle has, indeed, a great musical history and that it has produced more talent per capita than any other city in the United States.

Kurt Cobain, 1993

Where to? Emerald City versus City By The Bay


Twelve hours apart from each other by car and just about two hours by plane, Seattle and San Francisco tend to be two cities with a highly educated, nature-loving, culturally-rich population. They are both favourites among travellers, especially those who enjoy long driving trips. There are still a lot to see and do in between and what would you actually expect when you spend a week in each of these wonderful cities? There are so many differences and similarities, so let’s try pinning them down and maybe if you’d be in a pinch in choosing which city to stay longer in, this list would help.

Seattle (hubby)

Skyline and Architecture

Depending on where you stand, both cities offer perfect panorama skyline shots. Both define what makes each a unique city and would spell a character of being bustling, friendly or adventurous.

Seattle holds the most number of high-rises in Washington, numbering over 200 completed ones and is still growing. There are 13 listed complete skyscrapers and a lot more under construction. The tallest building in Seattle is the 76-story Columbia Center. A visit to Seattle’s observation tower, the Space Needle is a must-see!

San Francisco boasts of 436 high-rises and 21 skyscrapers, the tallest of which is the Transamerica Pyramid. Of course, the famous Bay Bridge, one that has the longest span in the world, at dusk would be a lovely sight.

Don’t forget to take your camera and a fast lens when going out at the blue hour for a captivating shot.

San Francisco skyline
Downtown San Francisco at dusk, famous bridge on facade (wiki)

spell rain over Seattle (Christian Bobadilla –



The best months to visit Seattle is between May and September, typically a mixture of clouds and sunshine with mild temperatures. Although many would say it is rainy all throughout, don’t be discouraged, locals would prove you that there are much more lovely days to walk by than not and  why not enjoy a dance in the rain while you’re there?

San Francisco’s Mediterranean climate is characteristic of the cool-summer and moist mild winters. The fog that blankets the city at times, gives it a mysterious aura that sends tourists wanting to discover more. September and October are the best months to visit San Francisco, for with its crisp air, mild temperature and there’s a bit of sunshine that would peak from the foggy landscape.

bay bridge fog
Makes for a perfect postcard (wiki)

Pacific Science Center, seattle
Pacific Science Center (wiki)

Culture, Entertainment and the Arts

Seattle and San Francisco fare well in the scene of music, entertainment, and the arts. Seattle has been a regional center for the performing arts for many years and is considered the home of grunge music being the home to artists such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Mudhoney. It also lists Jimi Hendrix,Duff McKagan, Kenny G, Nikki Sixx, and Quincy Jones to its famous  musicians. And though much younger compared to other cities, it is home to a number of museums such as the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture which holds 14 million artifacts and specimens. There are also a  lot of notable art galleries and studios mostly housed in the famous Pioneer Square. Overall, Seattle’s lively neighborhood would be dear and valuable to music and art enthusiasts.

Diversity describes San Francisco’s various museums. To name a few, there’s the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum and Learning Center, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Mexican Museum, the Museo ItaloAmericano, the Museum of Russian Culture and the Museum of the African Diaspora. The museums’ names alone would describe the multifarious culture you will experience in the city.

Palace of fine arts
Palace of fine arts, SF (hubby)

Seahawks (hubby)

Outdoor Activities and Sports

Seattle’s nickname “Emerald City” comes from the lush evergreen forests in the area and this is not just lip service. Strategically located between the saltwater Puget Sound to the west, lies the Kitsap Peninsula and Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula; to the east, beyond Lake Washington and the eastside suburbs, are Lake Sammamish and the Cascade Range, spanning all-over 7 hills. Thus, Seattle is perfect for hunting, as well as a handful of activities such as sailing and kayaking in the waters of Puget Sound, camping, skiing, , rock climbing, bicycling, and hiking: all year-round in the any of the hills and even the cities suburbs. Seattle boasts of more than 5000 acres of parkland, walking alone is worth an activity to do everyday in this picturesque city. It is fitting to be called the fittest city in the United States for all these activities citizens enjoy.

San Francisco Bay is famous for boating, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing and Golden Gate Park has facilities for such sports as tennis. There are a number of clubs and parks open for golf, swimming and rowing. The Escape from Alcatraz triathlon is a must for professional and amateur triathletes for its annual race. The city has a yacht harbor in the Marina District and hosted this year’s America Cup yacht racing competition.

Both cities’ professional sports profiles fare well in the country, not limited to football, baseball and basketball.

sf giants
Batting, SF Giants (hubby)


That each city is unique and offers diverse chunks of culture, architecture and entertainment is given. Seattle is a bit an underestimated city that has a lot to boast while San Francisco lives up to its reputation of being one of the best cities in the United States. It is in the best interest of every traveller to get the finest holiday experience in every city they visit. In the same way, there are several sites for online holiday comparison where one can get deals from to somehow save a few bucks which he or she can add to his or her pocketmoney. Seattle and San Francisco are two cities worth visiting, one may be cheaper than the other but with a good planning and some researching, you’d be able to enjoy the best of  both  these beauties!

Much Ado about the Space Needle


Seattle is considered the major commercial, educational, and cultural powerhouse of the western Washington region. It may seem like an ordinary city, but you would never want for anything when you visit the place. The city boasts of extraordinary and fun things to do no matter what age group you belong to.

At least three bodies of water surround Seattle – Lake Union, Lake Washington, and Elliot Bay. In addition, it’s where you’ll find Mount Olympic, Cascade, and Mount Rainier. Aside from these natural treasures, Seattle boasts of a thriving city life, world class museums such as the Seattle Art Museum, classic theaters, restaurants that serve world class cuisine, and many more famous landmarks.

seattle space needle
at 605 ft

Nevertheless, one of the most famous distinguishing features of Seattle is the Space Needle. This 605 feet tower, which was built for the 1962 World Fair, has become a favorite tourist attraction and a symbolic figure in Seattle. It is to Seattle as Sears Tower is to Chicago or the Statue of Liberty is to New York.

Edward Carlson envisioned the Space Needle, and he had the Stuttgart Tower in Germany to thank for the inspiration. Upon seeing the tower in Germany, he immediately made rough sketches on a napkin of something that would eventually become the Space Needle. Carlson’s original design had a top that looked like a floating balloon. However, the man who was responsible for bringing it to life was John Graham. For practical reasons, Graham and his team of architects decided to tweak Carlson’s original design, transforming the balloon top of the tower into a UFO. This is the sauce-topped tower we see now.

You’re probably wondering why Carlson would design something so futuristic. Well, the theme of the 1962 World Fair hosted in Seattle was “Century 21”, which explains why the Space Needle’s design had to be so. At 605 feet, the Needle seems to be teetering on a precarious ledge. However, the architects made sure that its concrete foundation was 30 feet deep in order to balance the structure. The actual tower and 24 lightning rods ensure that the structure is safe when lightning strikes.

Ever since it was created, the Space Needle has always had a light atop the structure. Through the years, this light has seen different “versions”, the most recent of which is the Legacy Light. The Legacy Light was first illuminated on New Year’s Eve of 1999/2000, as the whole world ushered in a new millennium. This beam of light shines its light skyward from the top of the Space Needle and is lit up to honor national holidays and commemorate other special occasions celebrated in Seattle.

The Space Needle owes part of its appeal to its observation deck, which is at 520 feet, and this provides a 360-degree view of Seattle’s landscape. Through telescopes found on the deck, you could zoom in on 60 different landmarks found around the city of Seattle.

The Needle also has a restaurant called the SkyCity, which revolves fully at 500 feet every hour. Incidentally, Where Magazine’s Visitors Choice Dining Awards named this restaurant “Best View”, and the Washington Wine Commission named it Best Restaurant for 2009. There is also the Skyline Banquet Facility that hosts events at 100 feet. If you want to go shopping for souvenirs, there is a gift shop at the base of the Space Needle aptly called the Space Base.

A trip to the Space Needle would be pretty special, and just the mere sight of this beautiful structure is enough to confirm that. If you haven’t been there, go and visit the place to find out why people are abuzz about it and why Seattle Weekly calls it the “Best Place to Get Engaged”.