Saturday, January 19, 2013

Redcastle Restaurant in Danshui District of Taipei,Taiwan and Historic Mojacar, Spain


What could these two remote locations in the world possible have in common.  Well, only one thing that is also many things at the same time, and I will get to that later.   Keep Reading and you will soon figure it out......

First, let me talk about Mojacar, Spain. 

According to Wikipedia and my other research, Mojacar, Spain is a relatively small municipality situated in the south east part of the Province of Almería (also known as Andalucia).  The outskirts of this town is at sea level,  and borders the Mediterranean Sea.  Mojacar is about 100 km from the capital of the province, Almería.  This very old city (actually ancient) is an elevated mountain village still displaying the traditional white color homes and buildings from centuries ago. Records indicate this town has been populated since the Bronze Age around 2000 BC.  Phoenician and Carthaginian merchants arrived to serve the growing needs of the communities. For a period of time it was under the control of Greece, and was called Murgis-Akra, (Moxacar in Latin and later named Mojacar by the Moors).  In the 8th century AD, the North African Islamic Moors took control of much of southern Spain including Mojacar and the Almeria Province.

This area was under constant struggles between the Moors, Jews and Christians  for a long period of time through the 14th century. As the Christian forces pressed from the East of Spain, watchtowers and fortresses were built in Mojacar by the entrenched Moors to reinforce the resistance.  By 1435, Christians engaged the Moors in a fierce where much of the population of Mojácar was put to the sword.  Over the centuries, Mojácar once again began to expand until the early 18th century, when the census of the time recorded 10,000 people.  

Mojacar (top right) as seen from Mediterranean Sea - Courtesy of coastalparadise

I visited this hilltop town in southern Spain along the Mediterranean Sea back in 2003.  We stayed at an RCI Gold Crown Resort in Mojacar known as:

Vista Natalia II
Cuesta de la Fuente 22-24
Mojacar, Spain
Europe 04638

Our resort/hotel in Mojacar, Spain

As we drove along the Eastern coast of Spain from Barcelona, we stopped in many beautiful towns in Spain including Murcia, Valencia, Benidorm, Granada, Almeria, Seville, and others.  On a side note, Benidorm is a coastal beach resort area along an near desert landscape with high rise hotels and condos.   

Benidorm coast line - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Valencia is a wonderful city, friendly, with great tappas restaurants, and an old Spanish Medieval Castle style casino hotel, 12 km from the city known as the Gran Casino Monte Picayo.  

Casino Front Entrance - Courtesy of internet

Our Room at the Valencia Casino Hotel

Hallway outside our room at the Valencia Casino Hotel

The following photos are from various cities and towns we visited during our trip.....

Exciting narrow alleys and shopping areas at every turn!

A fantastic old Tappas Restaurant

Cool parks/meeting places in every city we visited

Now this is a majestic looking building

I loved this old church

An Incredibly stunning old Building

Beautiful down town areas..yes even with McDonalds!

Another beautiful building

But approaching Mojacar and seeing this white city on top of this isolated mountain was almost majestic from a distance.  From the center city, you can see almost 360 degrees including an awesome view of the Mediterranean Sea with sandy beaches just 2 km away from the Vista Natalia II resort.

Mojacar - Courtesy of Wikipedia
Aerial view of Mojacar - Courtesy of spainisculture

Driving around the winding and confusing roads, we finally found the Vista Natalia II.  We parked in the small parking lot along the main road, and quickly realized, the only way to the lobby and the rooms was up this VERY steep set of stairs climbing long the mountainside.  

NOTE: All photos below not indicated as "Courtesy of ...." were taken by myself during our trip to Mojacar.

From the Parking Lot to the hotel...."Look at those steps we have to climb!"

From outside the lobby ... "Oh NO! More steps to our room!"

With heavy bags to support us during a 3 week trip, it was not a simple task to get our bags to the front lobby as I struggled up (what seemed like) about ~100 winding and uneven stone steps.  After check in, we found out our room was further up the walkway and many more steps to our room, but we did get some assistance from the lobby.  For more than a week, we climbed up and down these steps every time we wanted to go exploring, shopping or just about anything.  The only option was to stay in our small room or take the trek up and down the steps of this quaint time share.
Mojacar, Spain, located in the province of Almeria, situated between Malaga and Alicante, is growing in popularity due to its unspoiled beauty. Vista Natalia II is perched on the mountainside at the entrance to the charming Moorish village of Mojacar. In Mojacar you can stroll amongst the winding (and very steep) streets, or visit the many shops selling an assortment of articles, including their famous handmade rugs.  Finding a parking place in the upper center city is near impossible, so to get there, we had to walk, and walk and walk UPHILL! 

"Yes, we made it to center city.....finally"
A beautiful mountainside home as seen from center city area
The arid mountainside with the Mediterranean Sea beyond as seen from Mojacar

OK, you got an idea of Mojacar, Spain. Except for the painful climbing of about 150 stairs multiple times every day, we truly enjoyed this southern Spain adventure.  A vacation in southern Spain by car can be an inspiring adventure you will not forget!


So maybe you already guessed the connection with the Redcastle Restaurant founded in 1899.  Unless you have a GPS, good directions, or a friend/guest/tour guide that has been there before, it is not an easy place to find in the Danshui area.  Even if you are on the road, it is not easy to see because you have to climb a combination of many sets of stairs to find your way near the top of the hillside.   

Set of Stairs - One thing that is also many things (steps) at the same time!

Several stairs on the way up junction and you can venture off to other areas buildings, small peaceful parks, etc.  But I did count over 85 stairs that I had to climb on the most direct route to get to the front door of this restaurant and I worked up quite an appetite getting there! (Not all steps are shown in the pictures below)

"I should have taken pictures of the stairs near the bottom....little did I know there was more steps to climb!"

......... Another set of stairs!

A small peaceful garden about half way up
"Oh BOY!  so many more steps"

"Will the steps ever end?  Is the Restaurant in Heaven or still on Earth?"

"....many more steps to go, but I can see the Redcastle now"

"Getting very close now"

"There it is!  just a few more sets of stairs!"
"We made it there is the front door"

A marvelous front entrance

"A beautiful old front lobby....I can hardly wait to see the rest of this place"

Look at these charming rooms

"This must lead to even more rooms...I am getting hungry...Let's eat!"

We ate in this room
These rooms are decorated with antiques and small treasures to admire

Our group tour was seated on one of many small to medium size eating areas, and each one was decorated with a fascinating motif and artwork along the walls and ledges.  Once seated, we were treated to quite a delicious feast.

Great Menu Selection

My Place Setting

This sweet & fruity dish was one of my Favorites!

Really Yummy

I Love Peppers in my Chinese dishes - Delicious

The Beef was so Tender, and the sauce .... Scrumptious!

Rich chicken soup .... I had to have a second bowl!
Ok, As you can see, the food was very tasty and delicious for my American palette.  My appetite was thoroughly satisfied.  Usually there are a few dishes not to my delight in most Chinese Restaurants, but the food at the Redcastle Restaurant left me wanting more....... If I am in Danshui, I will go back to the Redcastle.

I must say, climbing the steps in Mojacar was arduous, but considering the quaint historic city, time share charm, friendly people, it was well worth it.  The Redcastle climb to the top was not too bad at all, and if you take the trek up those stairs, there are many great dishes that you will enjoy, so when in Danshui, consider the Redcastle Restaurant.

Redcastle Restaurant
Sanmin St. Lane 2, #6, Danshui
Taipei, Taiwan R.O.C.
MRT: Danshui (Red Line), then take the metro Bus #631 or #26 to Chong Jian St.,
Hours: 11am-10pm d\Daily
Phone: 02-8631-1168

For those new readers, in many of my articles, I try to find synergy and common aspects between places I have visited in the past and present. I will always try to make my stories interesting, factual as best i can, and entertaining.  I do NOT receive compensation from anyone or any place that I write about in my blog.  So, my opinions are unbiased, there is no conflict of interest......simply my life experiences from this global traveler.

Edward C.

Let's Soar with Eagles 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Top 10 Vacation destinations around the World: Barcelona, Spain #1; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Venice Italy; Maui, Hawii; Singapore, Shanghia, China; Munich, Germany; Brussels, Belgium; Tokyo, Japan; Las Vegas, Nevada. "Travel can change your life" and Artist I-Fang Wen's destiny

Several of my readers have asked the question: Where are the best places to go on vacation? 

Oh my goodness, what a great question !!!!!

I have many that I love, but this is not a simple question to answer.  It really depends.  First, it depends on where you live and how far you want to travel. Second it depends on how much you want to spend. Third, (and often most important) it depends on what you like to do on vacation.
You already know I have traveled close to 40 countries, hundreds of cities, and all 50 of the US states.  Of the hundred or so vacation spots I can think of or know about, everyone has something different to offer.  There are simply wonderful places for everyone with almost any interest, any age group, and any vacation budget.

I believe vacation spots are life experiences that most everyone treasures and enjoys.  They are fun to plan, can be wildly romantic, Seriously thrilling, and so much more.  I also know for a fact that many of the best vacation experiences are inspirational and re-energize us from the daily work, tasks and responsibilities that fill our days, weeks and months.

I know an artist that loves to travel and express her inspiration in her paintings.  It turns out that artist, I-Fang Wen, traveled to Barcelona, Spain and when she returned to her home town, I-Fang quit her financial career and was inspired to become a full time artist.  This was her Destiny.

Travel can INSPIRE & change one's LIFE! 

She painted many of her favorite moments in Barcelona.  This included Flamenco Dancers, and the many Antonio Gaudi wonders such as Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, and Sagrad Familia.  Here is her INSPIRED painting of Antonio Gaudi's Casa Batllo that she painted after her tour of Spain.

Artist I-Fang Wen's Oil Painting "Casa Batllo" courtesy of I-Fang Wen

You can see more of her work on her internet blog.  The link is below:  

You can also be INSPIRED on your vacations if you select and plan your vacations in some detail or even if you spontaneously just go on the "spur of the moment".  The key to inspiration is to let the challenges in your daily life behind, let loose, and enjoy every minute of your time on vacation!

I too have been INSPIRED by my travels on business and vacations.  I have always wanted to write a book on my travels and adventures.  My inspiration is now being expressed in this blog.

Make a decision today for your next vacation, and let yourself be INSPIRED!

So here are my top 10 vacation spots in the US and Worldwide from MY perspective, interests, and budget.  I have also added 11 other great places to go or to at least put on your “Bucket List”.   I do not have the many photos with me on my trip to Asia, so I have added a few photos from the internet and the few photos I have with me.  Most of the photos are Courtesy of Wikipedia

In future blogs, I will go into more detail about some of my experiences in many of these wonderful vacation locations.  In the meantime, at least you have my perspective on the places I have enjoyed the most, and those I would definitely want to visit more times in the future.



1.          1.  BARCELONA, SPAIN **********

The famous La Rambula Boulevard is 1.2 km of great tourist attractions.  Street vendors & entertainers, bars, Flamenco night clubs, hotels, shopping and so much more!  The most incredible sights are the architecture in Barcelona that goes back many hundreds of years.  The most famous and eccentric are those designed and built by Gaudi, including park Gruel. Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Sagrada Familia Cathedral, and much more.

Barcelona Spain Collage

Aerial View of Barcelona

My photo of Gaudi's Casa Mila

My Photo inside Gruel Park

My photo inside Gruel park

My Photo of front of Sagrada Familia cathedral


My favorite place to relax and enjoy what I want to do.  The area is loaded with 5 star and 6 star resorts and time shares.  World famous salt water fishing, plus snorkeling, scuba diving, whale watching, glass bottom boats, zip lining, golfing, ATV Rentals, shopping,  and great silver jewelry.  Fabulous restaurants abound specializing in Mexican cuisine.  One of my favorites must stops is NikSan Japanese sushi restaurants with a unique Mexican twist consisting of very special sauces used with different dishes.  One day trips to LaPaz, and Todos Los Santos for art galleries, Hotel California, and much more. 

Los Arcos outside Cabo San Lucas Harbor/Bay

The Cabo San Lucas Bay with the Harbor Marina in background

My Fishing Buddy and a very small Yellow Fin Tuna

This is my Huge Striped Marlin

My Fishing buddy Caught a small Striped Marlin


Ahh, Venecia! (As they say in Italian).  This city has the old world charm and mysteries, and tons of modern day shopping.  Great restaurants, awesome sightseeing on foot or gondola. Many quaint 3 star to 5 star hotels are scattered around the alleys and canels throughout Venice.  Visit  the nearby islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello (Murano is famous for its glassworks of art dating back over 1000 years.   By train or car, you can easily do one day trips to Milan, Pisa, Florence and much more!

Rialto Bridge in background along the Grand Canal in Venice

Collage of Venezia, Italia

Giudecca Canal and the Saint Mark's Basin

Piazza San Marco in Venice, with St Mark's Campanile and Basilica in the background


What can I say?  This is a superb vacation spot with great quality resorts, incredible beaches, island tours, shopping in Lahaina, golf, fishing, boating, snorkeling, and fine food.  Visit a Volcano, Lush green mountains & valleys, and much more. While vacationing there, I bought a book entitled “MAUI ON MY MIND”  by Rita Ariyoshi.  The author tells a great story of adventures to enjoy, but the photos are very incredible.

Landsat satellite image of Maui. The small island to the southwest is Kahoʻolawe.


Haleakala Volcano Crater - Maui, Hawaii

Fleming Beach, Maui, Hawaii


I simply love Singapore.  It is a modern city, ultra clean, and full of adventures.  The hotels are excellent, and the food/restaurants will exceed your expectations.  Their MRT/Subway is great, and is one of the cleanest in the world.   You cannot rent a car in Singapore, and there are taxi’s everywhere so getting around is easy.  Here is my list of some of the things to do in Singapore:

·         Visit Clarke Quay and Boat Quay along the Singapore River:  Great bars, restaurants, shopping and more.  Try a “HOT STONE” restaurant on Boat Quay, where they serve you your meat or seafood and vegetables raw to your table with a sizzling hot stone, so you can cook yourself right at your table.

·         Sentosa Island (Asia’s Favorite Playground” & New Casino

·         Orchard Street Shopping

·         Raffles Hotel:  (Singer Michael Jackson often stayed there).  Try the famous LONG BAR, home of the “Singapore Sling” beverage.

·         Jurong Bird Park: Overhead tram ride, and incredible bird exhibits….talk with birds too!

·         Side Trip to Johore Malaysia:  Johore boarders Singapore across the Johore Strait and is an interesting one day trip to shop, do sightseeing or just sample local Malaysian foods.  If you want to explore a little farther into Malaysia you can visit other Malaysia states including Kuala Lumpur & its Twin Tower sky-scraper, or Malacca both within a 3-4 hour drive or so.

Downtown Singapore Skyline at Night

Sentosa Island

Raffles Singapore Hotel Long Bar

Singapore Jurong Bird Park

Jurong Bird Park UniRail

New SANDS Casino


An incredible mix of the old (ancient) and the new modern China.  The skyline ifs filled with some of the most majestic and awe inspiring sky scraper buildings in the world.  There are 5 star and 6 star hotels and resorts everywhere, and the food is just an epicurean delight.   The city is separated by the Huangpu River into the PuDong and PuShi areas.  

Do not forget to visit the OLD City area near Yuyuan Garden.  Small streets and alleys and hundreds of shops for everyone.  Great shopping everywhere, but if you go to the old city and purchase local gifts, be prepared to pay a high price unless you have a Chinese guide/friend, or you are terrific at Haggling for a lower price!   I bought some wonderful Chinese snuff bottles, hand painted.  I asked the price and then sent my Chinese friend to purchase for me, and he got a price less than 1/4 the price I was quoted. 

Sample of a modern snuff bottle, hand painted (inside the bottle!)

Shanghai - Clockwise from top A view of the PuDong skyline; Yuyuan Garden, China Pavilion along with the Expo Axis, neon signs on Nanjing Road, and The Bund

Shanghai Bund skyline at Night

The New Shanghai and the Old

Shanghai World Financial Center (left) and Jinmao Tower (right)

Below are just a small sample of the photos I took on one of my trips to Shanghai.  The pictures include the modern shanghai skyline as seen from the Bund, Jing'an Temple in Shanghai with modern buildings in the background, Xintiandi Nightlife area, and more.

Shanghai skyline from across the river in the Bund

Xintiandi Shopping Area with great Restaurants, Movie theater & Night Life

Xintiandi Shopping Area - One of the first lifestyle centers in Shanghai

YuYuan Garden area

City God Temple of Shanghai

Shopping in the YuYuan District

Old Temple in Shanghai
Jing'an Temple

Jing'an Temple

Jing'an Temple

Jing'an Temple


Munich is the heart of the old state of Bavaria and has so much to offer.  In September, you must go to the Oktoberfest in the central park. (take the subway or cab because you don’t want to drive home after tasting the many fine German beers.)  Oktoberfest 2013 is from September 21 to October 6, 2013.

There are museums, great restaurants, shopping and more.  Take the high speed train for one or two day excursions around the country.  Visit the Burghaussen Castle and Austria, just a few hours away. 

Munchen_The Munich Frauenkirche, the Nymphenburg Palace, the BMW Headquarters, the New Town Hall, the Munich Hofgarten and the Allianz Arena.
Famous Hofbrauhaus Restaurant and Beer Hall

Munich Oktoberfest at night

Munich Oktoberfest crowd heading for their favorite Beer "Tents"

Typical German Sausage and Pretzels served at Oktoberfest


I worked  for a US company with Headquarters in Belgium.  Very Friendly People.  Interesting split in cultures between the Flemish in the North and the French in the South. Belgium has many hundreds of local & international beers to drink including some of the best and most interesting beers to drink in Europe.   A side note on Belgium beers, most are high alcohol content (5% to 11%) and the brew masters in Belgium select or design a special glass to drink their beers.  Cool local bars and pubs only sell a minimal selection of brands of beers, because space is limited to store all of the special glasses needed to serve each different beer.  The rarest and most desirable beers are produced by Abbeys and by Trappist Monks.  The most unique beers are lambic beers which I do not think tastes like beer at all.    Some of the beers produced in Belgium include: 

Amber ales; Blonde or golden ale; Brown ale; Champagne beers; Dubbel; Flemish Red; Hop-accentuated beers and India Pale Ale; India Pale Ale; Lambic beers (including Gueuze and Fruit Lambics; )Oud bruin, or Flemish sour brown ale; Pils or pale lager; Saison; Scotch ales; Stout; Table beer; Tripel; White or wheat beer; Winter or Christmas beers(Hundreds of varieties).

There is historic sightseeing, antique shopping, and fine food.  In the fall and winter, many restaurants serve rabbit, hare, boar, and much more game on their menus.  Side trips to Germany, France, Netherlands, Luxembourg.  Visit the cathedral in Antwerp to see some famous “Rubens” art work, as well as the diamond district.  I love the shopping, and local shops in the old city of Brugge in the North.

A collage with several views of Brussels, Top: View of the Northern Quarter business district, 2nd left: Floral carpet event in the Grand Place, 2nd right: Brussels City Hall and Mont des Arts area, 3rd: Cinquantenaire Park, 4th left: Manneken Pis, 4th middle: St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, 4th right: Congress Column, Bottom: Royal Palace of Brussels

Two Abbey/Tappist Beers

A Unique Belgium Beer Glass


Japan is expensive, but there is so much to see and do.  Easy to get around on the subways and trains.  Outstanding fresh fish and excellent restaurants everywhere.  Super shopping in Ginza, Roppongi, and the modern Mid Town.  Near Ginza visit Tsukiji, the largest fish auction house in the world, with the freshest sushi, sashimi, and seafood. They handle and sell almost 2000 metric tons of fish every day. Visit the Hot Spring resorts in Ito (Shizuoka Prefecture); See Mount Fiji;  and take the high speed “bullet” trains (Shinkansen)  to Osaka, Sapporo, Kyoto and local trains to so many sightseeing spots.  Side train trip to shop in the Princess shopping Outlet in Karuizawa.  Of course, for those cherry blossom lovers, travel to Japan in the spring to see the wonder and beauty of cherry blossom trees everywhere you go.

Close up of a cherry Blossom cluster

Tsukiji Fish Market area

The Japan "Bullet Train"

Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom at Imperial Palace

The newer Las Vegas, has much more for the family than simply gambling.  The shows at most of the larger casinos are first class and full of exc itement and enjoyment.  I personally love gambling on a limited budget, and the Texas Hold-Em tournaments can fill a day long marathon if your skill or luck is above average.  The newer casinos have many areas, rides, and special events just for kids, so take along the family, and experience the city of lights to its fullest. 

Las Vegas Strip at Night (2005)

Las_Vegas_From top to bottom- Downtown Las Vegas skyline, Vegas Vic, Binion's Horseshoe, Plaza Hotel & Casino, Fremont Street Experience

(Honorable Mention)
First, just read my blog, and you find great ideas, fabulous food, and much more about Taipei and the surrounding area.  You must visit the Taipei 101 Sky Scraper and go to the top of the tower.  All around the 101 is great shopping, a fabulous cinema theater, splendid restaurants, etc.   Visit the Chaing Chi Shek and the many temples and historic sites in the city.  The High Speed Train can get you from Taipei in the North to KaohSiung in the South in just a few hours.
2.       ROME, ITALY – Ahhh, the romance of historic Rome. So much to see and do, and excellent shopping and restaurants. 
3.       HONG KONG, CHINA  - Great City, Great Food, Excellent Shopping, Boat to Macau (& their casinos)
4.       BALI, INDONESIA – Fine beaches, Awesome Sight Seeing, Great Local Craft Shopping, Inexpensive, Great local foods.
5.       DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMERIATES – This is on my BUCKET LIST to do, but Very Expensive
6.       MONACO – The French Riviera Hot Spot. So much to see, do, and fabulous food.
7.       ARUBA – Great beaches, water sports, deep sea fishing and tourist shopping.  Super Hotel resorts & Casinos
8.       ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – A must for the snow bunnies and skiing in the ALPS.  Cool “OLD CITY” shopping, restaurant, bars and more.  Side trips to Germany, Liechtenstein and Austria.
9.       BEIJING, CHINA – The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Modern sky scrapers, & Olympic tourist spots.  Excellent food, and interesting night market. 
10.   LONDON, ENGLAND – Historic site seeing, Superb shopping, some great to fabulous restaurants, and cool local pubs.  Side trips to Hadrian’s wall in the North, and Scotland.  Excellent B&B’s (Bed and Breakfasts)
11.   PARIS, FRANCE – Fabulous sightseeing, shopping food, Art Galleries, the Louve Museum and so much more.  This would have been in my top 10, but I find many French people not so friendly to tourists. Side trips to the wine countries and take the High Speed train to Brussels or other great European cities.