Extra Life E-Mail

We are just a couple of days away from our Extra Life fundraiser and today I received an e-mail that is a great reminder of why we are raising money for Children’s Hospital and the families who need them. You may become a little teary eyed while reading this, but this short e-mail is nothing compared to full story of what this family has gone through. (More information here: dominicaml.blogspot.ca

 

Hey there friend,

You may not know me but we’re friends because we’re both involved in Extra Life. Whatever your reason, giving back through Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals feels amazing. It’s what’s keeping me going.

My name is Sean Rooney and I live in Canada. It’s a three-hour drive to our nearest CMN Hospital, Alberta Children’s. Once my 11-month-old son Dominic was diagnosed with leukemia, I made that trip twice a week for the better part of 18 months.

I started a blog early on, dominicaml.blogspot.ca. Then, a friend introduced me to Extra Life. Aside from the money we raised, I found a network of people all across the continent who were giving back with me. People like you.

Throughout his treatment Dom laughed and giggled, started giving people thumbs-up at every opportunity no matter how bad it got. But cancer doesn’t discriminate. In Orlando for a Wish Trip, we made it to Disney World for exactly two hours before we had to leave for another of Dom’s treatments.

Two days later, on Sept. 3, 2015, Dominic passed away.

I hope that you never have the same motivation to give back that my wife Trish and I share. But you’re my friend and I want you to know how important what you’re doing is. As we head into our marathons this year, let’s remember to give thumbs up at every opportunity and put our hearts into doing what we can.

These kids don’t get a break. For many of them, their entire life is a marathon. Let them inspire us and let us inspire each other to keep pushing for more for them.

Thank you for all that you’ve done and are doing for families like mine, and for little boys and girls like Dominic.

#DominicStrong,
Sean Rooney
Fellow Extra Lifer

If you would like to help families like this and help CMN to provide better care, please consider a tax deductible donation to Extra Life. 100% of your donation goes to Children’s Hospital. Donate Here

Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll share all of my Tweets, Facebook messages and everything in between to help us reach our goal and make our first Extra Life fundraiser successful!

Hope to see you on November 6th!

Extra Life – Raising Money For Children’s Hospital

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It’s been a while since my last post, but this is as good of a reason as any to add something to the blog.

If you or someone you know has children, there is also a chance that at least one of those children has been treated at a Children’s Hospital. 62 children enter a Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospital for treatment every minute — that’s one child every second. Some are battling cancer. Some are suffering from a traumatic injury. Others require constant care because they were born too early, or with a genetic disease. Regardless of why the kids are there, CMN Hospitals always have their doors open.

This is why I am partnering up with Extra Life. Extra Life is a way for gamers to do what they love doing, playing games, while raising money to help support CMN Hospitals. I am currently putting together a team and we will be livestreaming for 24 hours straight starting on November 6th at 10:30PM CST. We have 3 people as of this writing but we would love for more to join. Here are a few things you can expect to see on our livestream:

  • A 24 hour livestream at Twitch.tv/Duetschbag
  • People playing games (and being hysterically ridiculous)
  • PC game giveaway(s)
  • Awesome opportunities to control what we are doing via donations

My goal for this year’s fundraiser is $730 and our team goal is currently $1337 (some of you get the reference). This may change as more people join us and we definitely hope to raise more! $730 may be an ambitious personal goal for my first fundraiser, but let me break down some numbers to explain why I chose that number:

  • 365 days in a year at $1 a day is $365 (This was my original number but it seemed kind of low)
  • I think we can do $2 a day, which still seems like a low number, but achievable
  • If each of my 243 FB friends donated $3, this goal would be reached easily
  • If each of my 243 FB friends donated $5, we could raise over $1,200 dollars!!!
  • If each of my Twitter followers donated $7.10, we would hit the $730 goal

These are small amounts to make a large difference in a child’s or family’s life.

Now that you know how much I’m trying to raise, let’s talk about the money:

  • Extra Life and CMN have underwriting in place so that 100% of donations go to the hospitals
  • Each hospital decides how that money is best spent
  • Donations have gone to support research, training, equipment, and uncompensated care
  • Each donation is tax-deductible (ONLY THROUGH MY DONATION PAGE BELOW)

Donations can be made at any time but we would love to have everyone donate prior to our live stream on November 6th. This gives us the chance to talk about our fundraising progress the day of the event, set bigger goals if we reach $1337 and come up with creative ways to meet the new goals.

Donations can be made here – http://bit.ly/1M5GglU

Join out Facebook event here to keep in touch: http://on.fb.me/1KIVK09

Date of the event: November 6th at 10:30PM CST to November 7th at 10:30PM CST

Place: Watch us on Twitch.tv/Duetschbag – Even though this live stream is for the kids, keep in mind the language may not be child friendly

Join our team: http://bit.ly/1KMLTYV

If you can’t join us for the whole 24 hours, it’s no big deal. You can still join and game on your own time, in chunks or however you see fit. All that matters is that we raise money for this awesome cause!

For more information, stay tuned to my Facebook feed or Twitter (@duetschbag) – On that note, I would greatly appreciate any shares or re-tweets the day of the event and the days leading up to it. This will help us out tremendously in getting the word out!

Have a question or want to join? Message me on Facebook or any other method you prefer.

A big thank you to everyone who will be supporting this cause with us! See you on November 6th!

I Created Some Games

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Most of you have seen this already, but my first couple of games have officially been released and are free to download!

To see the latest information on them, check out mothereffinghorse.com or you can check it out at the dedicated page on this blog.

Graduation

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It seems like it has been an eternity, but I finally graduated!

I learned a thing or two during my time at FVTC, but overall I didn’t find the curriculum all that difficult. I’m not saying that none of it was difficult, but I’ve been working in IT long enough that many of my IT courses were a refresher. I think the real challenge was dealing with real life and pushing towards the completion of my degree.

During my schooling I got married, got a dog, sold a house, bought a house, sold that house, did a fair amount of traveling, worked full time at my career, took care of a house, fulfilled family obligations, tried to make time for friends, bowled on Fridays, planned for my (Kelly and my) future and who knows what other things came up in between there. All of this on top of physically going to class, taking classes online, preparing my advanced standing documentation and doing boat loads of homework. There were times where I would come home from work and do homework until I went to bed. Then do it again the next day. So while my school work wasn’t always challenging, life in general was.

So what did I learn or what did I get out of the college experience? Well, I learned about products, techniques and skills that will make me better in my field. I have broadened my critical thinking skills (which is extremely important because there are so many ways to apply critical thinking) and I learned even more about myself. I’m more confident in my abilities, I learned that I really enjoy learning about new things (especially in technology), I enjoy being challenged and, based on my experience over the last couple of years, I can handle anything that’s thrown at me. Overall, I think that the college experience has made me a better person.

I’m excited to be done with school but also excited to find new challenges going forward. It’s time to focus on some projects I’ve been meaning to do, enjoy life for a while and to see where it takes me.

I would like to congratulate any other 2014 graduates. You’ve worked hard to get to this point so make sure to keep moving forward and don’t give up on your dreams!

I would also like to apologize to friends and family. I know I couldn’t always make it to every planned event or outing and I feel bad that I couldn’t hang out as much as I wanted too. Hopefully you understand why that was and now that I am done we can start to make up for lost time! Looking forward to seeing everyone more often!

Last but not least, I definitely have to thank my wonderful wife. It was hard not being able to hang out with you whenever I wanted because school work was in the way. There were times when it was difficult to get the time consuming things done around the house and even some of the smaller things. There were times where I was very stressed out, crabby and irritable. But through all of that, you were there to support me and helped to keep me motivated when I couldn’t do it myself. And you did all of that even though you were busy yourself with finishing up your degree, working full time and fulfilling all of the same obligations that I had too, plus more. I’m so proud of you for your accomplishments and want you to know that I am so lucky and so thankful to have someone like you in my life! I love you so much!

Exchange Alias PowerShell Script

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At some point you may have had to add an alias for one or multiple users on your Exchange server. If you have a single user or even a couple of users, it’s not a terribly difficult task. On the other hand you may have a number of users that need an alias, but your mail policy covers all users and not just the ones who need the alias. This leaves you with the option of adding a new mail policy for your users or adding the aliases manually.

This PowerShell script will do the latter but will handle all of the dirty work for you. After downloading the PowerShell script, open it in your preferred editor and read the instructions. You can add as many users as you want by just copying the line, adding the users name as it is in Active Directory and adding the new e-mail alias.

It’s roughly the same amount of typing work (unless you have a replace text command in your editor), but could potentially save you hundreds of clicks and switching between menus in the Exchange Management Console. The benefit of this is that once you have a script catered to your organization, it can be reused which will save a ton of time on future changes.

Enjoy and feel free to leave comments below!

DOWNLOAD: Exchange Alias Script

Programming & Game Development – The Best Worst Time Ever!

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In the very little bit of spare time that I get (usually my lunch breaks) I have been playing around with different game development tools, techniques and tutorials. The concept of game development has always been interesting to me but, as I found early on in my college career, programming is not my strong suit. Because of that, I have been looking at programs like Unity and GameMaker (and some other ones that I haven’t really dove into yet). These programs allow you to get started without a ton of programming experience but are also very powerful for knowledgeable users. There are many tutorials all over the internet to help you make a game, understand concepts and even learn how to program for these technologies and that’s what drew me in to them.

My only real coding experience was with Visual Basic when I took an Introduction to Visual Basic class in 2010. I was able to complete the tasks in the book no problem, but when it came time to work on the projects outside of the book, I struggled. At the time, I found it hard to understand the concepts but still worked through it. I later reread my VB 2010 book and reviewed some of the tutorials and things started to make more sense. Later down the line I had been playing with other languages like C# and Java (although didn’t spend a whole lot of time with them) and took a PowerShell scripting course. The PowerShell scripting course is where I realized that I was finally able to start looking at scripts/code and troubleshoot them on my own without having to ask for assistance all the time. This was a HUGE accomplishment for me!

Now back to current events! I gave Unity a break for now because the tutorials I have been using are a bit longer and more in-depth which is hard to do over a lunch break. Instead, I have been using GameMaker to create smaller games and games where the tutorials build on one another. Once I finish up school and have some additional time, I’ll be able to jump back in and play with Unity again. My first tutorial was a simple game where you click a ball (actually it was more of a stuntman shaped like a ball) and it bounces in a random direction. Each time you click it moves faster and you score points on each click. The next game was very similar except there are multiple pieces of fruit which give you points when clicked. If you click on a bomb that randomly appears, your score is reset to 0.

The current game/tutorial that I am working on is combining many tutorials to come up with a game that is similar to Breakout. Instead of using the assets (sound, images, etc.) that are provided by GameMaker, I am using my own so that I can get a feel for the design aspect as well. Currently I only have some crappy development graphics so I can get the game created. Later I will go back and create some nice sprites to add to the game to give it depth. Currently the graphics are bad, game play is slightly buggy due to some changes that need to be made to the sprites, and the sounds are… well… the music and the sound that is made when the ball destroys a block were done with my voice. They are hilarious, temporary and hilarious! The only modifier that I have on the sounds is when the ball crushes blocks in succession, the pitch of the sound goes up. Until I can figure out how I am going create (or where I am going to find) descent music and sounds, they will remain this way.

For the most part, everything has gone fairly well. However, some of the tutorials are broken and so this requires me to do a little research to get certain portions of the project working. Then there is the pause script that I can’t seem to get working right. All of the tutorials I have found are outdated which means the functions that are discussed are no longer used. This is frustrating.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting links on my blog to download the finished sample games along with fixes and new additions as I add them. I’ll also be updating my personal Youtube channel with some progress reports you can see what I have been working on.

March 2013 Vacation Part 2 – St. Thomas

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Before I go into the second part of our vacation, it should be noted that we didn’t do much between the time we boarded the ship in Puerto Rico and arrived at the first island. So to make it quick, we got on the ship in the afternoon, ate some lunch and then relaxed in the hot tubs for the rest of the time until our departure (at about 10PM). Then everyone gathered on Lido Deck, for the departure party that Carnvival does, and watched as we sailed away from Puerto Rico.

If you leave on a cruise from Puerto Rico, make sure you are looking at the side of the island where the forts and lighthouse are. It looks especially cool at night!

Our first stop was St. Thomas. The excursion we had booked was the Screamin’ Eagle Jet Boat. This was an extremely short excursion, probably about 30 minutes on the boat, and was even cut a little shorter by someone’s stomach who couldn’t handle the ride. The ocean was extremely calm when we went and this probably would have been way more fun if it was wavy, but our driver was awesome and still did a very good job at making sure everyone got soaked. So all in all, it was a good time, but if you have been on a jet boat before, you could probably go without doing this excursion.

Screamin’ Eagle Jet Boat

After the boat ride, we walked around port for a little bit and checked out some shops. During that process we were checking cab drivers for prices to go to Coki Beach as well as the point that overlooks Magens Bay. I think we ended up paying about $7 per person and had a group of 8 of us.

Our driver dropped us off at Coki beach where we enjoyed the gorgeous water and scenery all day long. A few people from our group even went snorkeling. So if you are there and come across a snorkel in the water, let me know! A helpful hint for Coki beach; if you plan on getting drinks at the beach bars, I recommend using the waitress/waiter that greets you upon entering the beach. Sure you’ll have to tip them, but it’s better than dealing with the crabby bartenders. Also, make sure to bring cash. We had an issue with the bartender taking a credit card and it would have been much easier to just use cash. Otherwise, you could also just bring your own mugs and booze to the beach and make your own drinks. If we go back, I’ll definitely be taking that option.

Coki Beach - Picture of Coki Beach, East End
This photo of Coki Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

After a long day in the sun, our same driver came back to pick us up (we still hadn’t paid him yet for the ride). He gave us a tour of the island on our way to Maegn’s Bay and even stopped for a couple of photo ops. The scenery was beautiful and the ride, while to some may be nauseating and scary, was very exciting!

Magens Bay – It’s a little overcast so the picture doesn’t do it any justice

After Magens bay we made our way back to the ship for the evening and prepared for our next day which was our day at sea.

In my next post, I’ll be talking about our day on Barbados (which was also my wedding day) instead of the day at sea. This is also the case for each night that we were back on the ship. The reason for this is that Carnival has so many activities to do on their ships and so many ways to relax, that most of what we did on the ship wasn’t really all that interesting from a blogging standpoint, but was an extremely great time with the people we were traveling with.

How To Be A Cheap Ass Gamer

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If you are one of the few people that admits to knowing me, you more than likely know that my hobby, stress relief mechanism and passion is gaming.  You might also know that my library of games is pretty ridiculous. Sometimes being an avid gamer comes at a cost. And sometimes that cost can be pretty high depending on your habits. I’m going to share some of my tips to keep costs down while maximizing your game library.

Everyone is probably wondering about the title of this blog post, other than the fact that I just said I am going to tell you how I keeps costs down. It comes from one of my favorite websites, Cheap Ass Gamer. CAG is a place where people are constantly posting about video game deals that they find as well as other information pertaining to video games.  It’s a huge community of people working together to find the best prices on hardware/software and having fun while doing it.

Cheap Ass Gamer

The first step to becoming a CAG is to sign up at CAG. After that, take a look around at some of the forums and find what interests you. There are some that you may like better than others but there are three specifically that I would recommend subscribing to; Video Game Deals, The Amazon Thread and the Sunday Ad Video Game Deals thread. I opted to receive e-mails once a day from each of these threads. So each morning, I receive updates on the latest deals in each thread. Receiving these e-mails helps to identify trends in pricing. After a while, you  become knowledgeable enough to know which prices are good buying prices for those games that you’ve been eyeing up.

You know that $60 game that you want on day one? Why not save $10+ and wait a week? You would be surprised at how many games either price drop or go on sale within the first week to month after release. An example of this most recently is SimCity. It released in March for $60 and within the first month, it is down to $40 on sale. Not to mention if you picked it up before a currently un-recallable date in April, you could register the game and get another EA game free due to some of the launch issues SimCity suffered. So not only would you have saved $20, but you would have gotten a free game out of it, just by waiting a little bit longer. I ended up getting it for $40 on Green Man Gaming which also came with a $10 voucher to use towards another purchase on their site. On another mention, Borderlands 2 has something similar happen. I remember at launch the game was $60 and by the end of the week I had seen it on sale for $30. A little bit of patients can save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

Stay Informed

The CAG forums are a great way to stay informed on awesome video game deals, but there are other ways to get even more information. Sometimes even before it gets posted there. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, make sure to follow or like the following:

Twitter Cheap Ass Gamer

Twitter Steam

Twitter Green Man Gaming

Twitter GOG

Twitter Gamefly

Twitter GetGamesGo

Twitter Humble Bundle

Facebook Cheap Ass Gamer

Facebook Steam

Facebook Green Man Gaming

Facebook GOG

Facebook Gamefly

Facebook GetGamesGo

Facebook Humble Bundle

Keep in mind this is not an all inclusive list, but is a really good starting point for anyone looking to save some cash or to keep up with the latest in gaming.

Limit Pre-Orders

The biggest way to save, is to limit your pre-orders. I know, some of you are thinking “Nope! Sorry. Not going to happen!” Hear me out; going back to my previous statement, you can save anywhere from $10 – $30 by waiting even one week in some cases. Depending on what you are purchasing, that savings alone can get you a few more games (I’ll explain later). Also, I’m not saying “never pre-order again”, I’m just saying “limit that number.” When you think about it realistically, how much time do you have available to play a bunch of your pre-orders? Especially during the holiday season when there is an over abundance of new games being released. Some of those can probably wait a couple weeks before you purchase them.

In a normal year, I pre-order about two games. Call of Duty (don’t judge me) and one other that is a must have. Sometimes more, sometimes less. We work hard after all so it’s nice to treat yourself every once in a while.

IF Console Exclusive THEN

   Buy for console

ELSE IF Multi-Platform

    Buy for PC

END IF

Sorry for the long title, but I hope I got the point across. The reason I say to buy multi-platform games for PC is this; with digital platforms such as Steam and Get Games as well as sales on Amazon, you can purchase PC games at a ridiculously low price! They always have various weekly and monthly sales, not to mention that most of the time PC games are cheaper than their console counterparts anyways. This isn’t always the case, but a lot of times it is. With the console exclusive games, obviously you can’t get them on any other console but the one they are exclusive to. Lastly the exception to this rule, is that if you see a game cheaper on console than on the PC, then it would make sense to buy it for the console.

In regards to this as well as pre-ordering, here is a good example: Grid 2 looks amazing and I was a HUGE fan of the original. For PS3 the pre-order is $59.99 from Amazon. Although it comes with a $10 Amazon gift card, I found the game at Green Man Gaming for $44.99. GMG also has a 20% off coupon making it $36. That’s $23.99 saved by a simple platform switch. Not to mention I am able to stack my $10 credit on there from purchasing SimCity. Talk about an awesome deal!

Getting Console Exclusives For Cheap

This sometimes takes a while after release, but many times you can get console exclusive games, or even multi-platform titles, at a very good price. Games like Brink and Mafia II I was able to get for free after rebate, granted this was two years after they released. I also got Warhawk with a headset for $15 on Newegg. These games are brand new in the package and are cheap. Sure, I got to them a little late, but they are still fun to play nonetheless. For even more options, you can buy used games. Gamefly sells used games at pretty awesome prices. In comparison to somewhere like Gamestop where it is hit or miss, all used games come with original box, booklet and any online passes required to play multiplayer. I have had nothing but good luck with them and all games are nearly, if not, mint when I receive them. But you can also purchase used from other retailers in your local area and can sometimes find some good deals. I picked up MAG for $.99 the other day at Gamestop thanks to a tip from a fellow CAG user. The deals are out there, you just have to take a few minutes to look for them.

F2P Games and B2P Games

F2P (Free To Play) and B2P (Buy To Play) games are a great way to keep costs down and meet others who enjoy playing the same types of games as you. This concept is huge on PC but has been making its way to consoles more recently. F2P is just that, but allows for micro transactions to give you some cool items as well as support the developers. I won’t list any games because a simple Google search will turn up a ton of results and their are A LOT of them. B2P is similar except there is an upfront cost as well as optional micro transactions to follow. My two favorite B2P games are Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World. Both games include hours upon hours of story line and game play making them the biggest bang for the buck in my book. In either I haven’t felt like I needed any micro transactions to make the game more enjoyable or to benefit myself in any way.

Last But Not Least

Stack your rewards! An example of this is if you get reward points on your credit card, buy gift cards for your favorite places like Gamestop or Best Buy. This will allow you to receive the reward points on your credit card. You can then use the gift cards for purchases at these stores and you’ll get points back on your reward program from the store you are purchasing from. If you don’t have a reward credit card, watch for promotions that double points or give you significant increases in points. Sometimes, depending on the deal, it may be worth it.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this post and are now on your way to being a CAG!

March 2013 Vacation Part 1 – San Juan Puerto Rico

Vacation was amazing! So for anyone who couldn’t make it, I thought I would share the experience here! For any place we visited or anything that we did, I’ll try and include a link so you can check it out in depth if you so choose.

After the long travel day starting at about 3am, five hours of flying time and some other moving around time, we finally arrived in Puerto Rico where we checked into our hotel, At Windchimes Inn.

This hotel was awesome! From the moment we got there, the staff was absolutely terrific. We had an issue with our credit card going through (not our fault of course) as well as had to make a room change and instead of keeping us in the lobby until everything was figured everything out, they gave us our rooms anyway so we could drop off our luggage and then we walked a block away to the ocean to hang out. When we got back to the hotel, we were able to call our credit card company and get everything straightened out. They were really friendly the entire time we were there and were more than willing to help.

You can probably see from the picture on their website that the whole building is fortified by a cement wall. The rooms are of course inside of the wall, as well as the pool, an outside bar and a patio area. The rooms weren’t fancy by any means, but they were definitely nice and what you would expect to see in an island boutique hotel. I don’t believe all rooms had it, but ours included a sink, mini stove and mini fridge. When we were hanging out by the pool or on the patio, you would occasionally get a whiff of sewage, but keep in mind it’s an island and isn’t the only place that has this problem. This is bound to happen on a majority of islands or if you have been to Mexico, you know what I am talking about. The smell is easy enough to forget about.

Our first night we went to a place called Bebo’s Cafe for dinner. Another island caveat, services is slow. Island people are very laid back so expect meals to take longer than usual. I had ribs and Kelly had mofongo. Mofongo is a fried plantain dish that contains some form of meat like chicken or pork and then has some vegetables. I highly recommend you try this whenever you have a chance, it is delicious! The restaurant was nice and the food was pretty good. I probably wouldn’t go back just because I think there are other places I would rather try, but overall it’s a good place to eat. After dinner we hung out by the pool and had some beers. If you are looking for something different/local, try Medella, Carib, Presidente or Modello (Modello is a beer out of Mexico). Otherwise the 24 Seven (basically a 7 Eleven) store has some US beers as well. Most gas stations do to, but I love the 24 Seven stores there. We had one that was one block behind the hotel and two blocks over. There was also a Quiznos where we got a quick breakfast on occasion. But remember, quick is still slow in island time.

On day two of San Juan, we went to Old San Juan. We talked to the person at the front desk and they told us that bus 53 goes to the bus terminal to Old San Juan (I could be wrong on that number so make sure to check if you decide to take the bus). We walked west down the road that the hotel was on a little ways and found a bus stop. A lady who was out walking suggested walking a little further down to the bus stop near the Walgreens because they apparently pick up more often than at the stop we were waiting at. So we walked down and got on the bus. We ran into to ladies who we found out were on the same cruise as us. They recommended Condado beach if we were looking for a nice beach to go to. I’ll talk more on that later.

When we arrived in Old San Juan, we just roamed around for a while checking out the city and looking for a potential lunch spot. I really wish I could remember the name or the location of the place we went, but I can’t*. All I can tell you is that the place was a couple of blocks away from the bus terminal in a little square. There was a bar at the front of the building with an open wall/doorway. There were two memorable signs, “Best mofongo in the world” and “Best margaritas in the universe”. When you walk in, the restaurant is at the way way back of the building. I’m pretty sure they do have the best mofongo in the world, it was so good! After lunch (well, beforehand to) we looked through some of the shops. Our plan then was to go to the Bacardi factory as well as the forts.

My mofongo

There is a free trolley that will take you to the forts as well as a nice little cruise around the area. We waited near one of the signs and jumped on the trolley headed to El Morro. I would highly recommend this fort as the view was gorgeous and the history behind it was very interesting. After walking around and taking advantages of all the photo ops, we decided it was time for a drink.

El Morro

Because of our time restrictions, we decided not to go to the Bacardi factory. To get to the Bacardi factory, you have to take the ferry. One thing we learned was the the Don Q distillery was right down by the port, which is relatively close to where the bus station is. We decided to go there instead. It really wasn’t much of a tour, but more of a self guided “read the history on these posters that we hung” type of tour. Either way, there was a free drink at the end which AMAZING! I don’t care for Pina Coladas, but this was the best frozen drink I have ever tasted! On that note, we purchased two bottles of rum from the distillery. On another note, getting it there was cheaper than anywhere we found on our cruise. We did end up buying another bottle at the duty free store in the PR air port before we left for home and paid a couple dollars more for it.

After the tour, we did some more shopping around and then found a spot for dinner right near the port called Tijuana’s Bar and Grill. I think a majority of the people got fish tacos, but I got regular tacos. I also got a chorizo and cheese dip with chips. The dip was really good, but definitely greasy and was quite a large quantity. I would recommend sharing it, otherwise you’ll just feel sick from eating it all… like I did. Probably the best part about this place was that they had Red Bull Margaritas! It honestly wasn’t all that great, but it definitely gets a reaction when you tell people you had one.

Red Bull Margarita

Now that dinner was over, it was time to head back. We hopped back on the bus and headed back to the hotel. If you are unfamiliar with the area, I suggest taking the bus when it is light out. Because of the standing room only on the bus, the darkness and the combination of being somewhere new it was really hard to see where we were. Thankfully we met a comedian on the bus who was somewhat familiar with the area. She was able to help us find the correct stop and entertained us on the way. And if you haven’t noticed by this point, almost everyone in Puerto Rico has an awesome attitude and are extremely nice. We got back to the hotel and had some beers in hand, only to find out the pool was broken. We sat on the patio for a bit while we were deciding what we should do, when all of a sudden one of the hotel workers came out and told us that their sister hotel down the road has a hot tub that we could use.

The other hotel is literally one block away and is above the Niche restaurant (which is also the place that serves breakfast for the two hotels. The key for your room (as well as the hotel) will also let you into the side door at the sister hotel which is just after the entrance to the restaurant. From there, you walk up some steps to the roof top hot tub. This hot tub was amazing! It was literally two to three times bigger than the pool. If you stay at either hotel, skip the pool and hit the hot tub in the evening time.

On day three, we took the recommendation of the ladies on the bus and went to Condado beach. We decided to walk to the beach and stop at shops on the way. The walk was 1.7 miles from the hotel. Fair warning, if you walk, do not wear flip flops and your suit. It was a bad idea. The bus goes right past that area too so you can do that or take a cab. Since the bus is only $.50, that is probably your best bet.  It was a nice and long relaxing day on the beach. Snorkeling was pretty good and the view was awesome! It was a bit rocky so might want some sort of waterproof shoes for the water. Once you got out far enough it wasn’t rocky at all, just getting in and was kind of a pain. There was also a guy selling some delicious beef on a stick right near the beach. Very good stuff! You’ll also see people walking around all over Puerto Rico selling frozen slushy drinks/treats. That is also very good. On our way back to the hotel (walking again) we stopped at a few more shops and then eventually dinner.

Our group split up a bit for dinner. Some of us went to Subway and the others went to a place called The Taco Maker. The Taco Maker is kind of a combination of Taco Bell and a mediocre sit down Mexican restaurant. Overall, pretty good though.  After dinner, it was back to the hot tub for a while and then off to bed. The next day was the day that we were leaving for our cruise.

Because we couldn’t board the ship until 2pm on our last day in Puerto Rico, we stored our luggage at the hotel after our checkout and went to the beach across the road. The beach was beautiful and the waves were huge. This is also another place where you will want to have shoes to go in the water. It’s not that there are a ton of little rocks like at Condado Beach, but complete rock once you get about five feet out from the shore. That’s a dangerous combination with the big waves. After the relaxing day at the beach, it was time to catch our cab and head to the cruise port.

That is the end of part one of our vacation. I plan to post about the whole vacation, but as you can see, it took a month to get the first post up. Feel free to ask questions if you have any and I’ll try to respond promptly. Also, I am sure that I missed a few things, so as people remind me I’ll probably post some updates.

Stay tuned for more to come!

At Windchimes Inn

Bebo’s Cafe

*I believe this was roughly the location of that resturant

Tijuana’s

Condado Beach

The Taco Maker

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