Terri’s Travels: Get your kicks on Route 66! – Cross Timbers Gazette | Southern Denton County | Flower Mound | News

“Terri’s Travels: Get your kicks on Route 66! – Cross Timbers Gazette | Southern Denton County | Flower Mound | News” https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2021/01/29/terris-travels-get-your-kicks-on-route-66/

Terri’s Travels: Amazing Central Arizona – Cross Timbers Gazette | Southern Denton County | Flower Mound | News

“Terri’s Travels: Amazing Central Arizona – Cross Timbers Gazette | Southern Denton County | Flower Mound | News” https://www.crosstimbersgazette.com/2021/03/03/terris-travels-amazing-central-arizona/

Explore Central Arizona!

Amazing ‘Central’ Arizona – Prescott , Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Jerome , Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon! This is smack dab in the center of Arizona where you’ll find some of my favorite areas in this amazing state! We’ve been visiting here since we lived in Phoenix, back in the 80’s, and it still calls our name. It’s really easy to get to…just fly to Phoenix and drive north! 

Prescott is a fun destination that is a rapidly growing mountain town with old western mining roots.  The town’s mile-high location has four mild seasons, an average annual daytime temperature of about seventy degrees, and over 300 days of sunshine.

Built around a courthouse square with many of the original building still standing, Prescott offers a look into the past with the popular Whiskey Row where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday were known to hang out. One of the area’s most unique geological features is the Granite Dells. These are massive granite rocks in dramatic shapes that look otherworldly, especially as they surround scenic Watson Lake.

Cottonwood sits near the banks of the Verde River. This area, along with towns, Camp Verde and Clarkdale, comprises the Verde Valley and is located between Prescott and Sedona.

This fun historical town has lots of great restaurants and wine bars and wineries, and is where the Verde Valley Wine Trail begins. Nearby, Dead Horse Ranch State Park is in the Coconino National Forest and has a variety of outdoor activities, even a great chuck wagon ride, dinner and show at Blazin M Ranch. 

Clarkdale is just a few miles away where you will find the Arizona Copper Art Museum and the famous Verde Canyon Railroad, which offers a four-hour picturesque ride in a classic locomotive. And there’s the National Monument Tuzigoot. This is the fascinating ancient ruins from the Sinagua People dating back 1,000 years ago!

Jerome is an old mining town that sits high on a hillside overlooking the Verde Valley and is known as “The Largest Ghost Town in America.” Basically overnight, this area boomed into a Billion Dollar Copper Camp! Once called the “Wickedest town in the West,” Jerome was notorious for its gambling, saloons and brothels. Jerome’s population reached 15,000 at one point, but by 1953 when the last mines closed, its population dwindled to 50 people. You can learn all this and more at Ghost Town Tours! Jerome now features museums, shops, art galleries and great restaurants like the Haunted Hamburger. Also, check out Jerome Historic State Park. There you can learn the history of Jerome and the massive Copper Mines. It’s all in an old mansion overlooking the Verde Valley.

Sedona is known as “Red Rock Country” and is one of Arizona’s most popular destinations. It’s set against dramatic, massive red rocks and cliffs and is an outdoor lover’s paradise. There are hundreds of hiking trails. So, lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails to see some of the most amazing views in the area. Downtown Sedona is quaint but stylish. The stunning natural beauty here has drawn many artists to the area. Sedona accommodations range from inexpensive, to luxurious spa resorts and spiritual retreats. We love the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Catholic chapel that is built high into the red buttes and was designed to perfectly blend in with the lovely landscape. It is open to the public and well worth a visit. Another one of my favorite areas is Tlaquepaque – an iconic Sedona Arts and Crafts Village. It reminds me of a charming upscale Mexican Villa that is full of courtyards shops and restaurants. The architecture is beautiful as well as the numerous towering sycamore trees!

Oak Creek Canyon is a gorgeous river gorge and is only 4 miles upstream from Sedona. One of the main attractions along this route is Slide Rock State Park. Driving through the canyon is an adventure with lots of switchbacks and breathtaking views. This has to be one of the most dramatic drives in the entire U.S. amidst the stately red rock formations, lush green canyon vegetation, and Oak Creek’s spring-fed, pristine waters!

And these are just a few of the reasons why Arizona is so amazing!

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Are you looking for something to do this summer? Well, I have a great idea for you and its just north of us Texans in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Gathering Place has been named “America’s Best New Attraction” in the country by USA TODAY. And awarded the “World’s Greatest Places” by Time Magazine in 2019. And what a beautiful,  creative and fun place it is!!! We have been countless times and still have not seen everything.  You really need to see this new innovative and very unique FREE Park!

This brand new riverfront park was designed as an inclusive green space where residents and visitors alike can relax and engage with one another. The expansive park makes use of more than 6 million gallons of water and 80 tree species, with attractions like multi-story fireplaces, an adventure playground, boathouse, restaurants, coffee shops, sensory garden and a reading tree. There’s something here for everyone.

The amazing architectural design and use of wood is exquisite! Its mission as “A Park for All” is rooted in ideals of diversity and equality. Every child, of any size or ability, should be able to find a spot on Swing Hill, slide down some giant blue herons, or crawl through paddlefish or life-size blades of grass.

There’s even a 120 foot suspension bridge. Every adult should be able to paddle a canoe through the pond or enjoy a meal in Picnic Grove. It almost seems like someone dropped a theme park in the middle of the city. It’s truly amazing as you can sit back and relax in the luxury seating in a ski-cabin-esque lodge overlooking the 100-acre park on the banks of the Arkansas River.

As stated… everything is free including parking. The main parking lot is located along John Williams Way near Williams Lodge and ONEOK Boathouse. There is additional parking adjacent to Riverside Drive on both north and southbound lanes.

Most parking lots have parking attendants to assist you and answer any questions. The entire park is very well staffed!

The Gathering Place is centered on the east bank of the Arkansas River south of the Downtown area and immediately west of the historic Maplewood Historic District, an upscale residential area. Largely the brainchild of Tulsa multibillionaire and philanthropist, George Kaiser, “The Gathering Place” was designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh. This public-private partnership covers approximately 100 acres of land and as of September 2018, has cost about $465 million to construct.

Groundbreaking on the anchor project for phase two, Discovery Lab, occurred in February of 2020. The $47 million dollar, 50,000 square foot Discovery Lab will be a hands-on museum also featuring classrooms, a café, grand plaza and 300-seat amphitheater. It is expected to be completed by the late summer of 2021.  Also in the works is a new pedestrian bridge that will connect the west and east banks of the Arkansas River at 29th Street and Riverside Drive.  

And if you want to bring your dog, they are allowed every Wednesday on all grassy lawns and pathways throughout the Park. Pets are allowed, leashed, on the Midland Valley and riverfront trails daily. No pets other than service animals are allowed in Park buildings and play areas unless otherwise authorized. 

If you are not sure how to navigate your visit – you can download the official Gathering Place app for free access to an interactive Park map, daily activities and schedules, exclusive Park facts and much more! To view printable maps go to https://www.gatheringplace.org/faqs

The future for The Gathering Place looks very promising as the Kaiser Family Foundation also created a $100 million endowment to support maintenance of the park for the next 99 years. Every city should be so lucky!

Fortunately, our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons live here so we visit this wonderful park as often as possible and always find new things to discover. It’s definitely a park like none other. Go and see for yourself…you will be glad you did!


Our 50th state, Hawaii, is truly a unique paradise! From east to west Hawaii is the widest state in the United States. The state of Hawaii consists of eight main islands: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and the Big Island of Hawaii all in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

If you’ve never been to Hawaii, you need to add it to your bucket list. I would suggest starting with Oahu, it is a great island to begin your Hawaiian experience!

Oahu is home to the state capital, Honolulu.

Honolulu is known for its uniqeness. It is the largest city in the middle of Pacific Ocean with a populatiion of over one million people. Honolulu is known for Waikiki Beach and the dormant volcano, Diamond Head, that is next to Waikiki. Honolulu is the home of the Mai Tai drink and Hawaiian luau.

Waikiki Beach is famous for its beach breaks, making it a popular haven for surfers. It is no wonder that the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, the person credited for making surfing popular as a modern sport, is among the most visited and photographed landmarks in Waikiki.

High-rise hotels line the shore in Waikiki, a vibrant neighborhood known for its popular surf beach. Designer fashion stores line Kalakaua Avenue and nearby streets, and the area buzzes after dark with waterside cocktail bars, fine dining and Kuhio Beach hula shows.

International Market Place is in the heart of Waikiki. It is a retail, dining and entertainment destination, attracting residents and visitors alike. The revitalized International Market Place features shopping in an open air environment and opportunities to experience a unique “Hawaiian Sense of Place” through the celebration of the history and culture of Waikiki and its people.

Water features and Hawaiian landscaping, including an iconic banyan tree, are featured throughout the center and the Grand Lanai offers a varied selection of outdoor dining venues under the stars. My favorite are live music, lei-making workshops and a free hula/polynesian shows.

Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi. The Hawaiian name is most likely derived from lae plus ʻahi because the shape of the ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who mistook calcite crystals on the adjacent beach for diamonds. 

Hanauma Bay  is a marine embayment formed within a tuff ring and located along the southeast coast of the Island of Oʻahu. Hanauma is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Island. In 1956, dynamite was used to clear portions of the reef to make room for telephone cables linking Hawaii to the west coast of the US. 

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a Polynesian-themed theme park and living museum located in Laie, on the northern shore of Oahu, Hawaii. The PCC is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and dedicated on October 12, 1963 and occupies 42 acres of land belonging to nearby Brigham Young University–Hawaii.

The PCC encompasses eight simulated tropical villages, in which performers demonstrate various arts and crafts from throughout Polynesia. Visitors may also take a free shuttle tour of the university and see the LDS Church’s Laie Hawaii Temple and its associated visitors’ center. Seventy percent of the PCC’s approximately 1,300 employees are students.

The USS Arizona Memorial, at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on USS Arizona during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and commemorates the events of that day. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu led to the United States’ direct involvement in World War II. The memorial, built in 1962, has been visited by more than two million people annually. Accessible only by boat, it straddles the sunken hull of the battleship without touching it.

Historical information about the attack, shuttle boats to and from the memorial, and general visitor services are available at the associated USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, which opened in 1980 and is operated by the National Park Service.

Photo Credit:National Park Service

Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the United States. Iolani Palace represents a time in Hawaiian history when King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani, walked the halls and ruled the Hawaiian Kingdom. The Palace complex contains beautiful memories of grand balls and hula performances, as well as painful ones of Liliuokalani’s overthrow and imprisonment.

The Banzai Pipeline, or simply Pipeline or Pipe, is a surf reef break located in Hawaii, off Ehukai Beach Park in Pupukea on O’ahu’s North Shore. A reef break is an area in the ocean where waves start to break once they reach the shallows of a reef. Pipeline is known for huge waves that break in shallow water just above a sharp and cavernous reef, forming large, hollow, thick curls of water that surfers can tube ride. There are three reefs at Pipeline in progressively deeper water farther out to sea that activate according to the increasing size of approaching ocean swells.

Ala Moana Beach Park is a free public park on the island of Oahu, U.S. state of Hawaii, located between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. This 100-acre park has a wide gold-sand beach that is over a half-mile long. Protected by a shallow reef offshore, it is one of the most popular open ocean swimming sites in Hawai’i, with an estimated 4 million visitors annually. And I am one of them! I walk through this park on every trip and love the fantastic views. However, there are sharp corals, so most people prefer the east end of the beach where the ocean bottom is sandy and has no reef or rocks. There are lifeguards, showers, restrooms, phones, tennis courts, picnic tables, food concessions and a music pavilion. Ala Moana Beach Park is a favorite among Honolulu residents. 

The Hawaiian Alphabet, only consists of 12 letters: Vowels: A, E, I, O, U; Consonants: H, K, L, M, N, P, W. This is the alphabet used to write Hawaiian. It was adapted from the English alphabet in 1822 by American missionaries to print a Bible in the Hawaiian language.

Try your hand at speaking Hawaiian – here are a few words and phrases to try!

Aloha – Hello or Goodbye

Pronounced a-lo-ha

Mahalo – Thank you

Pronounced mah-hah-loh

‘A’ ole palikir – You’re welcome/ No problem

Pronounced ah-oh-leh pee-lee-kee-yah

A hui hou – Until we meet again

Pronounced ah-hoo-wee-ho-oo-uu

Howzit? – How are you?

Pronounced how-zit

‘Ono grinds – Delicious food

Pronounced oh-no grinds

Waina – Wine

Pronounced wy-nah

A ‘o ia! – There you have it!

Pronounced ah-oy-yah

To wrap this up, I will say,  A ‘o ia! And until next time…Aloha!


Amsterdam is a compact, historical and very charming city that is a blast to explore! It’s actually one of my favorite cities in Europe and is one the most popular travel destinations in Europe. Amsterdam is well-preserved and is appealing with its 17th-century architecture that provides a quaint backdrop for a city famous for its modern, progressive attitudes. From the city’s world-class art museums to its colorful flower markets, from cannabis-selling “coffee shops” to the racy “red light district”, there’s something exciting and unique to discover in Amsterdam at every turn.

The Amsterdam canal system is the result of conscious city planning. In the early 17th century, when immigration was at a peak, a comprehensive plan was developed that was based on four concentric half-circles of canals. Amsterdam is home to more than one hundred canals and more than a thousand bridges. Actually, even more than Venice! The canals are home to some 2,000 houseboats. Tour operators offer a variety of cruises and excursions. I would highly recommend a canal tour during the day or an evening dinner candlelight cruise. It’s pretty romantic and a great way to see this historical city.

One of the busiest places around is Amsterdam Central Station. It is the city’s main train station and is a stunning, iconic building.  This transportation hub is also an international railway station. From the station there are regular services to destinations such as Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Switzerland. We’ve taken several fun train trips from Amsterdam. It’s easy and safe!

One our favorite day trips was to Lisse to see Keukenhof an epic botanical garden where 7 million flower bulbs, mostly tulips, are planted annually. It is one of the world’s largest flower gardens and is a feast for the eyes full of colors and designs. An important note: Keukenhof is only open from March – May. So remember as you fly in or out of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam look for the numerous tulip farms. The aerial view is a spectacle to see!

The oldest section in Amsterdam is DeWallen. It is home to several historic buildings, including the city’s oldest church called Oude Kerk. Oddly enough right around the corner is Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District, the city’s designated area for legalized prostitution. I’ve never seen anything like it and found it rather shocking but also somewhat fascinating. More than one hundred one-room apartments are rented by a variety of sex workers who entice onlookers from behind windows illuminated with red lights. It is all very organized and tightly regulated…as we learned in our walking tour of the Red Light District. A strong police presence keeps the neighborhood very safe. Visitors are welcome to stroll around this area that is always full of onlookers…but taking photos of the sex workers are absolutely forbidden.

The Famous Anne Frank House is actually Amsterdam’s most visited attraction. This is the structure that once hid Anne Frank, her family and four other Jewish people from the Nazi authorities during World War II. Anne’s father published the diary that Anne wrote while they lived hidden within the building. Oddly enough Mr. Frank, in an attempt to protect his beloved family, moved them from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933 in hopes they would be safe in Holland and away from the Nazi’s and Hitler. The building opened as a museum in 1960. Visitors can view the rooms where Anne actually lived and wrote her diary that chronicles her all-too-short life. It’s truly a heart wrenching story and a sobering experience!

Koninklijk is the Royal Palace located at Dam Square in the heart of Amsterdam. It was built during the “Dutch Golden Age”. My daughter Codi and I loved visiting this opulent site which is one of three royal palaces in the Netherlands. The interior is extravagant and is a premier example of the elaborate Empire style of the early 1800s. The palace is still used by the Dutch Royal Family for Royal events but is also open to the public.

Photo Credit: Royal Palace Amsterdam
Photo credit: Royal Palace Amsterdam

We also loved going to the Van Gogh Museum which is located at Museum Square, or Museumplein. This museum is home to the world’s largest collection of the artist’s paintings and letters. There is also information about Van Gogh’s troubled life and efforts taken to restore his paintings. It’s quite a story about this world renowned artist from Amsterdam that died penniless.

Also in Museum Square, is the famous Rijks Museum. This jewel is arguably the most important of the nation’s and the world’s art and history museums. The total collection numbers more than one million artifacts dating from the 13th century onward.  This gorgeous museum opened in 1885. The most famous are paintings by the Dutch Master Painter – Rembrandt van Rijn. His masterpiece, The Night Watch, is absolutely worth the price of admission. Rembrandt Square is one of the busiest squares in the entire city and really comes to life at night. It’s a great place for shopping, dining and entertainment. The focal point of the square is an enormous sculpture of Rembrandt overlooking a bronze-cast representation of his most famous painting, The Night Watch. It really comes to life with these life size sculptures in 3-D.

On our last trip to the Netherlands we actually got to tour Rembrandt’s home and art studio. It was surreal but such a treat. It’s where he taught art classes and painted all his masterpieces. The picture below is me by Rembrandt’s bed. It was very short because in the 1600’s they slept sitting up as it was believed if one slept completely lying down all the blood would go to your head and you would die.

And one last thing I love about this city are all the bicycles! It’s truly amazing to see, there’s nothing like it! Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly large cities in the world. There are about 1,200,000 bicycles in Amsterdam outnumbering the amount of citizens in the city. Bicycles are used by all socio-economic groups because of their convenience, there’s actually 249 miles of bike paths. I was intrigued to see policemen, professional men and women all cycling in their professional clothes to work. Women are often wearing dresses and heels, I cannot imagine that balancing act. Grandparents or young families can pile on the kids with all kind of innovative, original contraptions they connect to their bikes. On our last visit we saw an entire wedding party on bicycles, it was adorable. No matter the weather, from the very young to the very old, everyone rides a bicycle! It’s their tradition and a wonderful way of life.

The people here are friendly, welcoming and most speak perfect English. There is so much to explore and see. As I always say…Amsterdam is truly a city with a whole lot of personality!!!

Paris: Montmartre and Musee de I’Armeee

Every time I go to Paris, I think I have to go to the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre,  and the Champs-Élysées…but this last trip we decided to dig a little deeper and check out some other areas and museums that may not get as much billing as some of the better known attactions.

We had heard so much about a very quaint district of Paris that is rich in artistic history called Montmartre. We had never been there before and were ready to explore. It did not disappoint!

As we wandered the cobblestone streets and marveled at the bohemian vibe we made our way to the breathtaking view at the highest point in Paris There are many legends and lots of historyin this famous village within the metropolis.

As we walked up a steep hill in this historic neighborhood we saw the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur (known as the big white church).  It crowns the tallest hill in Paris. We figured out that as long as you are heading uphill there is little possibility of being lost for long. Oddly enough, at the bottom of the hill is the BoulevarddeClichy, which is an area that is a little racy and somewhat seedy, but still very interesting.   We took the metro to Abbesses station and stepped out into the heart of Montmartre. But because so many great poets have told us “the journey is more important than the destination,” I would recommend you start at metro Blanche (Moulin Rouge) and gradually enter the village. This will make it feel more like a pilgrimage toward the place that nurtured most of the great artists living in France this past century. Many artists had studios or worked in or around Montmartre, including Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro and Vincent van Gogh. Montmartre is also the setting for several hit films. While on this unique journey we found our new favorite place to eat in Paris. It is restaurant La Mere Catherine and is in the heart of Montmartre. They even claim it is “The First French Bistro”. At our table, which was in a traditional Parisian “bistro” environment, we enjoyed delicious authentic French cuisine. The atmosphere was perfect with the talent of local singers,   accompanied by the piano, they sang to the beat of traditional French songs in their charming dining room. This was an unforgettable evening!  Founded in 1793, it is one of the oldest restaurants in Paris. A plaque at its entrance gives a folk etymology of the word “bistro“. In 1814, while a group of Russian soldiers were dining at La Mère Catherine, they asked for drinks, bystro (Russian for “quickly”). That is when “bistro” became a description of a restaurant where you could get food or drink quickly. All just steps away from the breathe taking Sacre-Coeur.  

Ron and I love visiting historical churches and The Basilica Sacre-Coeur is no exception. We were there on a Sunday night and witnessed a beautiful service and heard a choir sing made up of only nuns. Sacre-Coeur was  built after the French were embarrassed by a brief but successful occupation by the Germans in 1870. The Basilica is based in Roman architecture and took over 40 years to build. From a distance, the stark white domes are powerful and imposing. During WWII, 13 bombs are said to have landed on the church, but resulted in no casualties, which lent the place special status among the local people. For 5 euros you can climb the 80 meter dome and get a spectacular view of Paris.

Our new museum to visit this time was quite a treat as well. It was Les Invalides Museum, officially known as L’Hôtel national des Invalides. I must admit, I had my reservations about going to a military museum. I really expected it to be boring. However…I was fascinated!

It is a handsome complex of multiple buildings in the 7th arrondissement of Paris not too far from the Champs-Élysées.  It contains museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans – the building’s original purpose. The building is the home of the Musée de l’Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, as well as the burial site for some of France’s war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte.

This museum opened in 1905 just after the World Fair. We were amazed at how large it is as it extends over 80,000 square feet and is made up of a museum and two churches with some 500,000 objects. This makes it one of the largest museums of military history in the world. The permanent collections are presented chronologically in ‘historical’ collections representing time periods, from Antiquity to the end of the Second World War.

We enjoyed viewing The World War II exhibition as it is particularly extensive and covers several rooms, with displays on the German invasion, the occupation of France, the resistance and liberation. There’s also coverage of the Holocaust, the American involvement in the war as well as the war in the Pacific.

Visitors can also view a large collection of ancient arms and armor from the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries as well as hunting and tournament weapons and armour. It’s really amazing.

 The impressive Dome Church, which is part of the museum complex, was originally painted by Charles de La Fosse. In 1989 the dome was given a new coat of gold leaf for the bicentenary of the French Revolution (requiring $600,000 of gold).

The church is a real military pantheon, with monumental tombs containing Vauban’s heart, the remains of Turenne and the heart of La Tour d’Auvergne. But the Dome Church is probably most famous for being the home to the tombs of the Emperor Napoleon I, his brothers Joseph and Jerome Bonaparte, his son, the King of Rome.

For fans of Napoleon Bonaparte, there are some very rare items to view, including the general’s own uniforms and hats, his field tent, his personal trophies and even his stuffed horse that is branded with the Napoleon crest. The collection of period uniforms, in general, is fascinating and is among the most extensive of any such collection in the world.

I knew Ron would like seeing this place, but to my surprise, I really enjoyed it too!

Running Around Rio!

Rio de Janeiro is a huge seaside city in Brazil, world famous for its Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, enormous Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mount Corcovado and for Sugarloaf Mountain, a granite peak with cable cars that take you to the summit. The city is also known for its sprawling shanty towns called favelas and has the world’s largest Carnaval festival, featuring parade floats, flamboyant costumes and samba dancers.

We fell in love with Rio and see why it is a very popular destination – one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere, probably because of its spectacular natural beauty!

This Portuguese speaking city has so many wonderful and unique attractions. We spent one morning at Sugar Loaf Mountain, one of Rio’s most famous icons.  We took an exciting ride in a cable car to the top of the Sugar Loaf for panoramic views of this breathtaking city and beaches.

Rio and its endless beaches, dramatic mountains, and backdrop of samba and bossa nova rhythms make this place magical. Made famous in song, Ipanema Beach is still the place to dine, stroll, sunbathe and people watch, but we prefer Copacabana Beach, because it’s not nearly as crowded. Like the famously tanned and toned beachgoers who frequent them, Rio’s beaches are dramatically beautiful, with white sands flanked by mountains and swaying coconut palms.

We were surprised to find that exercise stations line the beaches, allowing locals, and visitors, to work out for free while simultaneously working on their tans.  And…anyone looking for an almost all-over tan can rest assured that a couple of postage stamp-sized swathes of material are considered sufficient for tops and bottoms. Female backsides are rarely seen with anything more substantial than a thin triangle of cloth that perches atop the buttocks – this includes all ages and sizes. And to our surprise, the male sun seekers strut proudly in the smallest and tightest trunks imaginable. Those photos did not make the cut!

One afternoon we took a tour to Rio’s most famous attraction, Christ the Redeemer. To say it’s impressive is an understatement! It’s so big that there’s actually a chapel and gift shop in the base of the statue that I was surprised to find. This iconic statue was completed in 1931 and stands 98 feet tall, its horizontally outstretched arms spans 92 feet. To get there we traveled through the Tijuca Rain Forest by cog train to Corcovado Mountain which provided breathtaking views. The sights of Rio from this incredible mountain-top vantage point were just fantastic. This was a bucket list item for me!

For a more in-depth look at the Tijuca Rain Forest, we hopped in an open Jeep for a tour of this National Park. This section of one of Brazil’s many lush green rain forests offers more panoramic views. The 4-hour eco-tour included an easy hike with a guide where we saw monkeys, birds and butterflies — even sloths! You’ll be amazed by the remarkable contrast of a tropical rainforest right at the edge of a huge city with a population of over 6 million.

And no visit to Rio de Janeiro is complete without experiencing the glamour and rhythm of a colorful samba show. Most shows include more than 30 brilliantly costumed dancers and musicians. It was a fun evening full of excitement that included live percussion, capoeira and hip-shaking samba moves on stage which is a fusion of Portuguese, indigenous and African cultural influences. It’s easy to get caught up in the celebration of the mesmerizing dancers!

If you’d like, you can include dinner at most shows and enjoy a barbecue buffet of a variety of marinated meats or go later to a famous Brazilian steakhouse. No matter where you dine, be sure and try the delicious caipirinha, it’s an iconic and refreshing cocktail that you’ll see people drinking at all hours of day or night around Rio. I learned that this famous drink is simply made from fresh limes and a type of sugarcane juice that is fermented and distilled called cachaca.  This is the national drink of Brazil! So sit back, relax and sip on a caipirinha while enjoying being at one of the most beautiful cities on earth!

(You can follow me on my travels on Instagram @travelwithterri)