A Night Out in London’s West End

The bar at The Porthouse

The West End of London is comparable to New York’s Broadway, filled with world class theaters hosting the latest plays and musicals and an array of restaurants and bars covering all culinary and liquid preferences.  A night out in the West End is always a memorable experience, one that should be on your short list of things to do if in London.

While on a weekend getaway in London back in July, 2011, there was one play that I had to see, Love Never Dies.  A new musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera that could only be seen in London at the time.  So, we made an evening of it.

Looking for a a nice dinner near the theaters, we made reservations at the historic Savoy Grill located in the world famous Savoy Hotel.  This is a Gordon Ramsay Group restaurant, not as prestigious as his three Michelin-stars Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, but a convenient fine dining alternative that serves amazingly delicious, high quality steaks and seafood.

Savoy Grill
Savoy Hotel
Strand, London WC2R 0EU

 

We indulged in a smooth bottle of 2005 Chateau Noaillac Medoc Bordeaux wine and the Chateaubriand for two, cooked rare.  Didn’t even need a knife for that blood free, beefy morsel of deliciousness.  To this day, the best steak I have ever had.

Our Bordeaux Wine, 2005 Chateau Noaillac Medoc

Our Bordeaux Wine, 2005 Chateau Noaillac Medoc

 

Our amazing Chateaubriand for two, 22oz of delicious, perfectly cooked beef.

Our amazing Chateaubriand for two, 22oz of delicious, perfectly cooked beef.

 

Then onto our play, Love Never Dies, at the Adelphi Theatre.  After a short walk down Strand, we were at the theatre and promptly seated.  The play was good, but not near as good as Phantom.  Reading reviews, I wasn’t alone with this takeaway.  As it turns out, the play evolved while showing in London at the Adelphi, tweaked a little here and there to improve it and bring it together more.  Having seen the changes in their Melbourne production, I can say that it is better now.  The music though was always very good.

Adelphi Theatre
409-412 Strand, London WC2R 0NS

 

With the enjoyable play over, we headed out the side door of the Adelphi Theatre and straight into The Porterhouse bar next door that we conveniently stumbled upon.  Ironically we frequented the Dublin Porterhouse when we were there last, so it was reminiscent of that trip when we walked in.  Other than the name though, that was the only similarity.  The beer selection was far more limited at this location.  Being the weekend, the place was packed with people enjoying the music and cold beverages.  Service wasn’t great, but that’s to be expected in London.  It did have a pretty good beer selection though, so I wasn’t complaining.

The Porterhouse
21-22 Maiden Ln, London WC2E 7NA

The bar at The Porthouse

The bar at The Porterhouse

A great end to a wonderful evening

A great end to a wonderful evening

London is one of my favorite places to visit and enjoying its West End is part of the reason why I love it so.  There are a ton of fantastic shows to see, restaurants to feast at and bars to wet your palette there.  So, you can’t go wrong with any of the options there.  This just happened to be my amazing evening out in London’s West End.

Museum of London

Museum of London

Museum of London
150 London Wall
London EC2Y 5HN

Having been to several of the other sites around London, I wanted to check out a different attraction.  This led me to the Museum of London

 

Stuck in the middle of a business area, the museum seemed a bit out of place initially.  Walking in, I was shocked by how big it was.  Greeted by a young lady with the lovely British courteousness, I walked into this free museum and started diving into the depths of London’s vast history.

Walking up to the Museum of London

 

Talk about old, London before London….

 

Medieval London

 

The People’s City, 1850’s – 1940’s.

 

More of the People’s City

 

The pictures do not do it justice.  In hindsight, I should have taken more, but was caught up reading everything.  We all know that London is an old city, built upon wars and triumphs, but really seeing the changes through the years helps you to appreciate the tumultuous history and pride that Britain has for our ancestral country.  From essentially conquering the world, then war, plague and fire, the United Kingdom has lived through the ups and downs that no country wants to experience.

Definitely worth checking out.

Garden of the Gods with the MHWPC

Sunrise at the Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods is one of the local, natural icons around Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Donated by the heirs of Charles Elliot Perkins in 1909 to the city of Colorado Springs so that it would remain as a park to share with all.  It is truly a magnificent site with the rock upheaval and the splendid Pikes Peak in the distance.

Having been there a few times now, I wasn’t going to miss another opportunity to visit it with the Mile High Wildlife Photography Club (MHWPC) for a sunrise shoot.  We met at 5:30am at the Garden of the Gods main parking lot all caffeinated up.  After everyone got their photo equipment ready to go, we started to hike around to the eastern side of the park to hopefully shoot the rising sun on the rocks, which makes them glow a brilliant red, with Pikes Peak in the background.

The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE) for our shoot

Disappointingly, the sun stayed behind a cloud covered sky to the East for most of the morning, which didn’t make for the most beautiful sunrise.  But, there aren’t too many sunrises that one can complain about, so it was still worth the trip.

All in all though, it was a great morning with some decent shots that I wanted to share below.

Sunrise at the Garden of the Gods

Members of the Club Shooting Sunrise

 

Sunrise at the Garden of the Gods

Sunrise at the Garden of the Gods by Neal Fedora on 500px

 

Sunrise at the Garden of the Gods (Black & White)

Sunrise at the Garden of the Gods by Neal Fedora on 500px

 

“Kissing Camels” on top of the Garden of the Gods

 

“Lone Tree” just Northeast of the Garden of the Gods

Lone Tree by Neal Fedora on 500px

Members of the Club Shooting Geese

 

“Geese on the Peak” on top of one of the formations within the park with 14er Pike’s Peak as the backdrop

Geese on the Peak by Neal Fedora on 500px

 

 

The Johnny Cash Museum, Long Live the Man in Black

Outside of the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, TN
 Johnny Cash Museum
119 3rd Avenue South, Suite 110
Nashville, TN 37201
 

 

Back in September 2012 during the previous ION GNSS conference, I shared a cab with a friendly lady who lived in downtown Nashville.  Although the drive is only about 15 minutes long, we started talking since I had never been to Nashville before.  After some small talk, she shared a childhood memory of living down the street from Johnny Cash where she would frequently see him on his porch.  She was young and didn’t appreciate who he was at the time, but she said “he doesn’t always wear black.”  I couldn’t help but smile about that.  You could just see the nostalgia on her face and in her voice.  A great memory indeed.  For mostly everyone else, the Nashville, Tennessee Johnny Cash Museum will be the closest that we will ever get to him.

Outside of the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, TN

Outside of the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, TN

The museum wasn’t open in 2012, but when I was back in September 2013 I didn’t miss it.  So, before I flew home, I footed it from my hotel to the museum.  You enter through the strategically placed museum store off 3rd avenue.  Going straight to the counter, I bought one general admission ticket for $14.00, sold by the friendly Sierra.

My Johnny Cash Museum Ticket

My Johnny Cash Museum Ticket

The museum isn’t large, but this collection of memorabilia and interactive exhibits is really impressive.  The flow of the museum starts with his early years, school, start of his music career, etc and continues on through his later years concluding with his fantastic Nine Inch Nails cover, “Hurt”.  There were a few secluded side rooms that focused on his wonderful poem narrative, “Ragged Old Flag” and his extensive movie and television career.  For me, It was a very personal story telling the amazing life of this influential man.

Maintaining the flow of the museum, I tried to capture the atmosphere of the wonderful exhibits, mementos and diverse accomplishments and memories below.  Welcome to the House of Cash….

The museum and exhibits when you first walk in.

The museum and exhibits when you first walk in.

J.R. Cash's Birth Certificate

J.R. Cash’s Birth Certificate

 

Young J.R. Cash

Young J.R. Cash

 

J.R. Cash in High School (Junior) J.R. Cash is Top Row, 2nd from Right

J.R. Cash in High School (Junior)
J.R. Cash is Top Row, 2nd from Right

 

J.R. Cash in High School (Senior) J.R. Cash is Bottom, 3rd from Left.

J.R. Cash in High School (Senior)
J.R. Cash is Bottom, 3rd from Left.

 

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two Johnny Cash's first band.

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two
Johnny Cash’s first band.

 

Johnny Cash - 1950's

Johnny Cash – 1950’s

 

Johnny Cash - 1960's

Johnny Cash – 1960’s

 

Johnny Cash - 1970's

Johnny Cash – 1970’s

 

Johnny Cash - 1980's

Johnny Cash – 1980’s

 

Johnny Cash - 1990's

Johnny Cash – 1990’s

 

Johnny Cash - 2000's

Johnny Cash – 2000’s

 

The Million Dollar Quartet, signed photograph

The Million Dollar Quartet, signed photograph

 

Johnny Cash State Shirt, Boots and Photograph

Johnny Cash State Shirt, Boots and Photograph

 

The Folsom Concert Set List

The Folsom Concert Set List

 

Johnny Cash Custom Gibson J-200 Acoustic Guitar (1959)

Johnny Cash Custom Gibson J-200 Acoustic Guitar (1959)

 

The House of Cash

The House of Cash

 

Some of Johnny Cash's Musical Achievements

Some of Johnny Cash’s Musical Achievements

 

Ragged Old Flag Lyrics

Ragged Old Flag Lyrics

 

Ragged Old Flag Video

Ragged Old Flag Video

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

Valentine for June (1998)

Valentine for June (1998)

 

Johnny Cash on the balcony where Lincoln was assassinated in Ford's Theatre

Johnny Cash on the balcony where Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre

 

Johnny Cash at the famous lake house on 200 Caudill Drive with stones (not shown) from the Hurt video after it burnt down.

Johnny Cash at the famous lake house on 200 Caudill Drive with stones (not shown) from the Hurt video after it burnt down.

 

 

Johnny Cash and Paul McCartney with the shirt he wore

Johnny Cash and Paul McCartney with the shirt he wore

 

The Moon Man from Mtv Video Music Awards for his Video "Hurt" (2003)

The Moon Man from Mtv Video Music Awards for his Video “Hurt” (2003)

 

Johnny Cash D-42JC Custom Signature Guitar #65 of 200 from the Martin Guitar Company

Johnny Cash D-42JC Custom Signature Guitar #65 of 200 from the Martin Guitar Company

 

A Johnny Cash Original Art

A Johnny Cash Original Art

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

Nashville is a wonderfully vibrant town, with lots of things to see and do.  The live music scene is, not surprisingly, amazing.  You would be hard pressed to visit a bar that did not have very talented, live music playing let alone the big names that continuously tour through Nashville.  While I was there for example, Taylor Swift was on her Red Tour.  Of course they have professional sports, such as the NFL Tennessee Titans and NHL Nashville Predators.  And a plethora of bars, great restaurants and museums such as the famous Merchants Restaurant & Bar and the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Although the Johnny Cash Museum is worth a trip in itself, the rest of Nashville should not be missed either.

Taylor Swift's Red Tour Buses

Taylor Swift’s Red Tour Buses

 

Just one of the many lively bars in Nashville of exciting Broadway

Just one of the many lively bars in Nashville of exciting Broadway

 

The famous Merchants Restaurant off Broadway

The famous Merchants Restaurant off Broadway

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Hiking the Inca Trail: Preparation

The front entrance of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge (http://www.sanctuarylodgehotel.com/web/omac/machu_picchu.jsp), outside of Machu Picchu National Park.

Visiting Machu Picchu from the Inca Trail has been at the top of my list of things to do before I die ever since I saw pictures of Machu Picchu in National Geographic when I was a kid.  So, I figured I would finally stop putting it off and make it happen.  Discussing it with a friend of mine, we made plans to visit Peru in 2012 and hike the Inca Trail.  Accomplishing a lifetime dream of mine 24 years and 9 months later..

We made the decision to go, but that is just the tip of the iceberg for the planning and preparation required to execute a memorable, safe trip.  First, we needed to decide on when to go.  Reviewing the Inca Trail dates for 2012, it was really open except for February when the Inca Trail is commonly closed for maintenance.  No problem, we had too much in our professions going on that month anyway.  So when?  Since Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are opposite to where we live in the United States.  Machu Picchu has a semi-tropical climate, with warm and humid days and cooler nights and negligible variation from Winter and Summer when compared to where I live in Colorado.  But the rain…I would much rather hike in snow than rain, but preferably neither.  To quote Wikitravel.org, the “rainy season in Machu Picchu is from November to March, so be prepared. The wet months are January to April, when roads are often closed by landslides or flooding.  The best months for visiting Machu Picchu are from April to October.  The High season is June to August (book well in advance).”  Well May it is then!  Now to book it…

Reserving the Inca Trail isn’t as easy as going to some website like ClickHere4IncaTrail2MachuPicchu.com.  The Inca Trail is highly regulated by the Peruvian government.  There are only 500 permits available each day which applies to everyone, including all of the porters, cooks, and guides.  So, that just leaves only about 200 passes that are allocated to tourists each day.  Not a whole lot.  But, we were ready to start booking dates in July, 2011.  So no problem right?  Wrong.  The tickets for 2012 weren’t put on sale by the Peruvian Government until December 2011/January 2012.  Being the planner that I am and worried about not being able to get our reservations for May (we already made our airline reservations), my fun meter was pegged and I was stressing.  It’s important to note that every tour operator will book your Inca Trail passes far in advance, without having the passes confirmed. You can check Inca Trail ticket availability here to confirm for yourselves the dates you are interested in.

My window seat, ready to leave Atlanta.  Next stop, Lima Peru.

My window seat, ready to leave Atlanta. Next stop, Lima Peru.

You have to hike the Inca Trail with a guide, so which tour operator should we go with?  A colleague and friend recommended SAS Travel Peru as they took them back in 2001 and felt that they were professional and had a great time.  Good enough for me, so that’s who we first contacted.  I did say first contacted because the initial impressions were not terribly positive.  Driven by the lack of responses from SAS, we decided to pursue another tour company.  So, we then reached out to Mayuc, Apus Peru, Enigma Peru, Q’enteAventours (aka Ecoinka), Andean Life, Explorandes, Inca ExplorersUnited Mice, Chaska Tours, and Andean Treks.  We received mixed feedback from these tour operators, mostly pretty positive, some mediocre and some not at all.  After going through the responses, we ended up selecting Aventours (aka Ecoinka) as our tour operator based on the cost, their timely, detailed responses from Walter and Rick and the extra night on their Inca Trail tour at their private camping site outside of km 82.  As it turned out, we finally had our Inca Trail permits booked from Aventours on January 31st, 2012 for our hike from May 6-9, 2012.  The cost for the permits to hike the Inca Trail was 254 sol ($95).  In addition to the 4 day/4 night Inca Trail tour with just my friend and I, we added an extra day tour through the Sacred Valley at the beginning of the trip making our tour 5 days and 4 nights.

Airfare booked (way in advance using 70,000 airline miles + $70.74), Aventours (aka Ecoinka) Inca Trail tour operator selected, Inca Trail permits purchased, almost there…  Now, need to book our airfare from Lima to Cusco, hotel in Cusco, hotel near Machu Picchu for the extra day we planned to stay there and the train back to Cusco from Machu Picchu.

Our flights into Lima were really late, so we ended up booking a mid-morning flight out of Lima to Cusco on LAN Airlines for $352.81.  Upon arrival in Cusco, we were promptly picked up by our hotel driver, who took us straight to our hotel.

The in flight meal and free Peruvian beer on LAN airlines (http://www.lan.com/) on our flight from Lima to Cusco.

The in flight meal and free Peruvian beer on LAN airlines (http://www.lan.com/) on our flight from Lima to Cusco.

Aventours was really good about assisting us with our lodging in Cusco.  They referred us to the Torre Dorada Hotel for $110/double room per night.  The hotel is located just a couple miles from the Cusco Plaza de Armas.  They had a driver who was always available, breakfast was cooked to order, rooms great, clean and safe.  Would definitely stay there again.  We ended up staying there both before and after our Inca Trail hike.  If you should expect to leave and return from the same hotel, I recommend finding a hotel to keep some of your personal belongings while you embark on the Inca Trail.  Else, your tour operator will probably do the same for you.  Torre Dorada did this for us and it worked out great being able to leave our dirty clothes and clean clothes for the return home.

Our room and some of our camera gear at the Torre Dorada Hotel (http://www.torredorada.com.pe/en/) in Cusco, Peru.

Our room and some of our camera gear at the Torre Dorada Hotel (http://www.torredorada.com.pe/en/) in Cusco, Peru.

Our driver from the Torre Dorada Hotel driving us to the Plaza de Armas in the center of Cusco, Peru.

Our driver from the Torre Dorada Hotel driving us to the Plaza de Armas in the center of Cusco, Peru.

The breakfast buffet at the Torre Dorada Hotel (http://www.torredorada.com.pe/en/) in Cusco, Peru.  The continental breakfast had some lovely pastries, cereal, tea and coffee.  If you wanted eggs, there was a really nice lady who would cook to order as well in the kitchen to the left.

The breakfast buffet at the Torre Dorada Hotel (http://www.torredorada.com.pe/en/) in Cusco, Peru. The continental breakfast had some lovely pastries, cereal, tea and coffee. If you wanted eggs, there was a really nice lady who would cook to order as well in the kitchen to the left.

Depending upon which Inca Trail tour you take to Machu Picchu, you may or may not be able to spend most of the day at Machu Picchu.  Hikes that come through the famous Machu Picchu Sun Gate (Inti Punku) at sunrise will be able to spend most of the day in and around the magnificent Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.  Our tour lagged most other Inca Trail tours, so we weren’t going to get to Machu Picchu until that afternoon.  As a result, we had planned on staying an extra night near Machu Picchu so we could watch both a sunset and sunrise there.  Most people stay in Aquas Calientes off the Urubamba River down the mountain from Machu Picchu.  There are many lodging options in every price range, in addition to restaurants and shops.  Although you can hike up to Machu Picchu from there, most elect to take the busy bus route to/from Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.  We decided to splurge and split a room at the all inclusive Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge Hotel just outside the gates of Machu Picchu National Park instead though.  And I do mean splurge, at $907.50 (including tax) a night, this place was expensive.  The hotel was nice, but not $907.50 a night nice.  It was fantastic to have a long hot shower, gorge ourselves in the plethora of culinary delights and liquid refreshments though.  A well deserved reward for the end of a journey.  Since there aren’t any other food options at Machu Picchu besides the cafeteria just outside the main gate, it was really nice to be able to have a really nice lunch and cocktail in the Sanctuary Lodge restaurant. In addition, they also held our belongings and arranged our bus to the train station in Aguas Calientes, which was really helpful.  Finally, just being able to roll out of bed, grab a nice breakfast and step out in line (and there was a long line) to get into Machu Picchu was really a great way to start the day.

The front entrance of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge (http://www.sanctuarylodgehotel.com/web/omac/machu_picchu.jsp), outside of Machu Picchu National Park.

The front entrance of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge (http://www.sanctuarylodgehotel.com/web/omac/machu_picchu.jsp), outside of Machu Picchu National Park.

A gorgeous piece of salmon to start our lunch off.

A gorgeous piece of salmon to start our lunch off.

An amazing ceviche to start the lunch off.  The selections of corn and vegetables is worth a trip to Peru in itself.

An amazing ceviche to start the lunch off. The selections of corn and vegetables is worth a trip to Peru in itself.

A lovely local fish with another amazing staple of Peru, potatoes and topped with bacon.  How can you go wrong with that?

A lovely local fish with another amazing staple of Peru, potatoes and topped with bacon. How can you go wrong with that?

I think the picture sums it up nicely....this, combined with a Machu Picchu specialty coffee, delightful.

I think the picture sums it up nicely….this, combined with a Machu Picchu specialty coffee, delightful.

Warm chocolate cake, homemade berry jam/drizzle and sorbet with some fresh oranges.  An amazing desert and lovely combination of flavors and textures.

Warm chocolate cake, homemade berry jam/drizzle and sorbet with some fresh oranges. An amazing desert and lovely combination of flavors and textures.

Baily's, Pisco (Peruvian Brandy), chocolate and coffee....um, yum!

Baily’s, Pisco (Peruvian Brandy), chocolate and coffee….um, yum!

Getting back from Machu Picchu to Cusco requires taking a train from Aquas Calientes to Cusco.  The primary provider for this service is Peru Rail which provides 3 return train services.  The ‘Exhibition’ backpacker service ($75) which only departs at 4:43pm, the ‘Vistadome’ panoramic view service ($86) which departs at 3:20pm, 4:22pm and 5:27pm and the ‘Hiram Bingham’ luxury service ($380) which only departs at 5:50pm.  We had tickets on the Vistadome 604 train, departing at 5:27pm to maximize our time at Machu Picchu.  The train ride is just over 3 hours and doesn’t arrive into Cusco, but nearby Poroy.  Thus, there remains a 20 minute bus ride to get to Cusco.  Instead of taking the bus to Cusco, our tour operator Aventours conveniently arranged for us to be picked up in Poroy and took us to our Torre Dorada Hotel in Cusco.

Getting on the Vistadome train in Aguas Calientes heading to Poroy on our way back to Cusco.   This photo was taken by Lawrence Delp.  All copyrights reserved by Lawrence Delp.

Getting on the Vistadome train in Aguas Calientes heading to Poroy on our way back to Cusco.
This photo was taken by Lawrence Delp. All copyrights reserved by Lawrence Delp.

On the train, enjoying the scenery heading back to Cusco. This photo was taken by Lawrence Delp.  All copyrights reserved by Lawrence Delp.

On the train, enjoying the scenery heading back to Cusco.
This photo was taken by Lawrence Delp. All copyrights reserved by Lawrence Delp.

In addition to all of the planning and preparation for when you arrive to Peru, before any international trip you should always check what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) advisories are for that country.  The CDC advises for Peru several vaccinations, such as the routine ones (measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, polio-virus vaccine, etc.), Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and B and malaria.  Of course what you actually need is dependent upon where you are going within Peru.  Since Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Inca Trail is high in the Andes, only Hepatitis A and Typhoid were required.

Finally, it’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance as well since you never know what can happen.  There’s two types of insurance worth getting before your trip.  The first is emergency medical and evacuation from International SOS, which we purchased should something occur while on our hike.  The other is basic travel insurance for your reservations.  In the past I have used CSA Travel Protection.  For this trip, I did not take travel insurance since the airfare was purchased with miles and the hotels and tour could be canceled with minimal penalties.

This is the first of three posts on this unforgettable trip that I want to share with you.  I hope you find them informative, helpful, interesting and motivational because you really should make Machu Picchu a must-see destination.