Day 11: Grand Canyon

We book our Grand Canyon day trip online. Our US $140 package include:

  1. Breakfast: Light snacks + drinks
  2. Lunch at Grand Canyon
  3. Transportation pick up from hotel lobby
  4. Tickets to Grand Canyon Skywalk
  5. Visiting: Grand Canyon West, Eagle Rock, Hoover Dam

We wait for our transportation pick-up at 6:30am. A mini bus goes around different hotels, picking passengers who signed up for this day trip to the assembly area. In the assembly area, we will be assigned to a coach, given 1 drink and 1 light snack for breakfast. Then we embark on a 4 hour coach ride to Grand Canyon.

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Pick Up at Hotel Lobby
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Breakfast Include Snacks & Drinks
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Grand Canyon Tour Stickers
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Transfer to Big Coach
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Catch Some Sleep

Grand Canyon is in the state of Arizona and it’s time is 1 hour behind Las Vegas. It is managed by Hualapai Tribal Nation. We are dropped at the “interchange”  where 2 other bus services bring us to: (i) Guano Point and Eagle Point and (ii) Hualapai Ranch. From there, you are free to plan your time and meet back again to return to Vegas.

I suggest to go for the Skywalk first. Skywalk usually comes with a queue. It will be a pity if you missed it because you need to rush back to catch your coach.

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Collect Skywalk & Lunch Tickets
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Wristband for Skywalk
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Grand Canyon West
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Starting Point
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Bus Service to Skywalk

You are not allow to bring in any video recording gadgets like cameras, mobile phones, food and drinks to the Skywalk. Complimentary lockers are provided. Long objects like tripod can be passed to the helper if they do not fit the locker.

Pictures will be taken by the Grand Canyon photographers. If you have the intention to buy these photos in printed and digital copies, you should take as many pictures as possible. The digital package cost around USD $100, if I never remember wrongly.

The queue is break into smaller groups. Legs are wrapped with a nylon shoe wrap to prevent scratches and dirt from shoes on the glass of Skywalk.

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No Cameras to the Skywalk. Lockers Provided.
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Start of Skywalk Queue
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Magnificant View
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Strike a Pose
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Hugs

We spend some time taking picture in front of the Canyon. But the cliff is not fenced up, whatever you do is at your own risk.

IMG_4041Sitting by the Rock
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The Furtherest Lester Dares to Stand

We headed to Hualapai Ranch for outdoor lunch. There are only 2 meal options: chicken or beef. Drinks are free flow. Pretty decent food. I’m curious how often do they reorder their food supplies and drive all the way to the Canyon? Hmm…

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Lunch Area
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Lunch – Chicken Option
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Lunch – Beef Option

There are Grand Canyon North, South, East, West rim. If you are driving, you might want to do some read up like this.

After lunch, we walk about 10 to 15 minutes to Guano Point. It is a quiet spot where you can see the winding Colorado river.  

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Grand Canyon West
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Colorado River at Guano Point

We are back on the coach by 3:30pm Vegas time. 5 hours at Grand Canyon doesn’t seem adequate.

We pass by Hoover Dam on our way back. It looks magnificient but we can only stay in the coach. 🙁

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Night Starts to Fall
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Hoover Dam

Day 10: Las Vegas

Today is wedding chapel scouting day! We googled a few chapels and went for an onsite visit to the chapels.

There are kazillion couples who get married in Vegas every year. The chapels already know what to advice, what are the procedures and services they can provide. For the benefits of all, I’m going to share our experience here.

Registering at Marriage Bureau of Nevada
Like in every country, couples will have to register their names with the marriage office before the wedding. This is part of the administrative procedure. Couple will have to fill in the forms, produce your IDs or passports and make a payment of USD $60 at the counter. Make sure you know which is your first or last name, at least this is the naming convention you need to follow.

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Marriage Bureau of Nevada
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Marriage Bureau of Nevada
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Fill in Couples’s Details
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Wait in the Line
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Office does not provide recommendations to wedding chapels & services

Administrative staff will request you to check all details and authorise with both your signatures. Last but not least, couples will be given a big white envelop. Inside contains 3 documents: 2 to be passed to the wedding chapel and 1 of them is your marriage certificate. This is a souvenir certificate which means that the certificate is for remembrance only, no legal binding.

You will have to order the actual wedding certificate online after your wedding JP (Justice of Peace) filed your marriage with the authority. Each wedding certificate costs USD $15 not including postage.

One more important thing: once you’ve registered with the Nevada’s Marriage Bureau, you have 1 year to hold your ceremony within the State of Nevada.

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Done
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Given 3 documents in a white envelop.
This is the souvenir marriage certificate.

Visit Wedding Chapel & Discuss Packages
You can now find a chapel to hold the ceremony after all these administrative procedure.

We engaged our wedding service from Chapels of the Flowers. During our first visit, we talk to a wedding planner, Michelle Meyer. She shows us the packages and follow through all the arrangements. I like the fact that Michelle is not pushy, believe she has been in this trade for a long time.

The packages here work like a base, you can add on or change some stuff. You’ll have to negotiate and tell your planner what you want. Of course, all you need to pay is $$$. Money can make wonders in Vegas.

Our Wedding Package
We wanted to choose the simplest package, Simplicity Ceremony, but the bride’s bouquet consist of only 1 stalk of rose, photos are not enough to select and no limo transportation before and after ceremony. We then opted for Traditional Ceremony which includes 6 stalks of roses, a wedding DVD of the ceremony, 8 hours of internet viewing and limo to-fro transportation. We also added a posed one-to-one photography session with the photographer. The whole package costs USD 512.71.

The planner printed the quotation for us to think about, as we are leaving Vegas 2 days later. There will be no refund once payment is made.

Our date and package confirmations are communicate via email. This give us sometime to settle our thoughts, email Michelle with more queries, arrange our date, domestic flight and accommodation on our next return. Full payment is then made electronically.

Before we end our consultation with Michelle, she notifies us that the chapel doesn’t pay salaries to the JP, limo drivers and photographers. They worked on a tipping system. She suggests an amount we can contribute: USD $60 to the JP, USD $40 to the driver and USD $30 to photographer. Ahem~ Money again!

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Chapel of Flowers

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Limousines All Lined Up

Things to Note
I suggest a few things to take note if you want to get hitched in Vegas:-

  1. Research.
    Do your research on the wedding chapels and the packages they provide before coming to Vegas. Most of these chapels have a website.
  2. Email.
    You can email the chapels and check on the venue available dates and time for your ceremony.
  3. Plan Las Vegas trip and visit wedding chapel.
    Plan at least a 4 days to 1 week stay in Vegas for your wedding. You would need to spend 1 day going to the Marriage Bureau of Nevada and visit the chapel venue, talk to the wedding planner. I realise you get to know what you want when you meet the planner in person. Sometime there are stuff in the package they can swop in or out for you. But of course, you might end up being up sell, paying more, because you know the basic package doesn’t satisfy you, speaking of myself. In any case, a good wedding chapel will accept your opinion graciously and will not push you further with services that you won’t need.
  4. Wedding day.
    1 day is set for your wedding. After that, couples can celebrate with either a good dinner or watch a show. We were too shag from the preparation, wedding nervousness, and collapse into dreamland after the wedding.
  5. Return to chapel.
    The consecutive day is usually a return to the chapel. For my case, to view photographs taken on the ceremony and select them. Half a day is gone.
  6. Bring credit card.
    Self explanatory. We *kaching* on our wedding ceremony, then the photos that they try to sell. We wanted the digital copies so much.
  7. Time check.
    Above suggestions will take up 2 1/2 days to complete. You have 1 1/2 days to tour Vegas if you choose a compact 4 days stay. That doesn’t include 1 day to Grand Canyon. Ahem~

I will post more in-depth details on our big day. Watch this space.

Tomorrow we are heading to Grand Canyon.

Day 09: Las Vegas

We drove to Las Vegas on Boxing Day. It should normally take about 4 hours, but it’s holiday season, everyone is going somewhere. The highway gets a little jammed up and I’m not sure how long have we been driving. Stopped by 1 or 2 premium outlets, by the time we reached Vegas, the sun has set.

Vegas is indeed astonishing. Big amazing archietectures, great amount of human traffic, wine & dine, shopping malls and entertainment hub. However, the greatness doesn’t hit me, I guess I’m just too tired travelling on the road. There is one thing for sure: these buildings look extrememly close, but they are deceivingly far away in actual distance.

We shared a room with Lester’s uncle at Monte Carlo in Vegas. It’s on the Strip but towards the end. When you want to walk back after all the shopping, your legs will break. I personally prefer Caesars Palace on our 2nd visit. Room and location are better.

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Room at Monte Carlo
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TV Console & Luggage Area
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Bathroom Facility
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Shower Area

We didn’t do much on the day or arrival, except booking our Grand Canyon day trip and planning to scout for wedding chapel for our big day.

Day 07 & 08: Los Angeles

Our 8th day in USA is Christmas day. We had a heart warming gathering at Lester’s uncle house with his friends. But preparation starts on the eve of Christmas as businesses are closed on Christmas day itself.

Leaving Ventura Beach, we take an hour drive to Los Angeles. Immediately after we parked our car, we headed out for grocery shopping. To save the food preparation hassle, most people tend to “ta-bao” signature dishes from their favorite restaurants. We did the same.

Went to Porto’s Bakery & Cafe which is famous for their pies and cakes. Queuing alone to collect your reserved order take us 1 hour.

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Queue Starts from Porto’s Bakery & Cafe Backdoor
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Customers Queuing to Collect Orders

Dinner at Din Tai Fung. Gosh~ They taste even better here than any of their Asia branches. They have fish and chicken xiao long bao! There are more dish variety, I am so spoilt with choices here. My revisit to Din Tai Feng in the last few days of my trip, I ate 10 chicken xiao long bao by myself. Blurp~

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Ding Tai Feng Dumpling Mascot
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Dumplings Feast
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Fish Dumplings
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Chicken Dumplings Taste Better

We had an early rest on the eve. Christmas decoration is all done up in the house already. I only assist to heat up food and do the dish washing.

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Christmas Decoration in the House
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Busy in the Kitchen
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Crackers to Munch Before Meal
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Christmas Dinner
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Log Cake
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Pumpkin Pie

We sit around the tv, eat, talk, drink to pass our family time. 🙂

Going to spend the next 4 days 3 nights at Las Vegas, the Wonderland!

Day 06: San Francisco

We visited Monterary Bay Aquarium, approximately an hour drive from San Fransisco. This attraction is along our route to Los Angles. You may want to check out the programmes and feeding times line up before visiting the aquarium.

We reached in time for the African penguins feeding. Guests are welcomed to sit casually on the floor or go to the glass dome areas to watch these cute penguins eat. Aquarium staff will also explain what they do and observe during each feed.

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African Penguins Feeding

Marine organisms are always fascinating. The aquarium has set up several spots for the visiting guests to interact with these marine animals. Timid me, I do not dare.

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Touch the Starfish
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Touch the Crabs
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Bat Ray Touch Pool

I love this super big panel of water tank view. Time seems to slow down in front of the big blue water.

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Big Water Tank
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Me Dazing
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Lester Dazing

We dine in the aquarium’s cafeteria. Simple food but delicious. You can also dine outside the aquarium. Before you exit, remember to get a hand stamp, so that your re-entry is valid.

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Pizza & Milk
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Burger & Orange Juice

A 4 hours plus drive brings us to Ventura Beach. We are settling here for a night before heading to Los Angeles.

IMG_6879Comfort Inn at Ventura Beach
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Room
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Bathroom Facility
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Shower Area

Our next base station is Los Angeles where we’ll be staying with Lester’s uncle for the remaining weeks.

Day 05: San Francisco

We are pretty done with the city and shopping in San Francisco by day 4. Today is like going through the checklist and see what we have left out.

We dined in The Cliff House for brunch. This place is by the coastline. It takes us around 30 minutes Muni ride and 20 minutes walking before we reach. Got lost a little along the way (never forget to use Google Maps), but the view is so nice. Worth it!

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By the CoastlineIMG_6698
Sunny & Beautiful DayIMG_3787
The Cliff HouseIMG_3835
The Cliff House Interior

Despite this is so out of the way, the reservation queue is close to an hour wait. We are served with a basket of special bread once seated. They are warm, hallowed and light. Doesn’t have much taste but they go well with soup and whipped butter. We each had a breakfast main course. Blurp full~ Ambience is excellent especially if you get to sit beside the windows, food is terrifically good!

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Special Bread
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Famous Cliff House Clam ChowderIMG_6687
Amercian BreakfastIMG_6691
Seafood Omelet

We then spend the rest of the day in Legion of Honor museum. This museum has more galleries than de Young museum, hosting galleries after galleries of artifacts and paintings. The collection is magnificent. Wish we have a whole day there. We stayed through till the sunset, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Legion of HonorIMG_6704
Legion of Honor EntranceIMG_3975
Sunset at Legion of Honor

This is our last night in San Francisco. We’ll be visiting Monterary Bay Aquarium, then takes another 4 hours long drive to Ventura Beach and stay over for a night.

Day 04: San Francisco

Today is sightseeing day. We are travelled by Muni bus, bringing us to Chinatown, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, these places of interest without a hassle.

After 3 days of western cuisine, we decide to eat Asian food. Took a Muni to Chinatown in San Francisco, it is a total different world. I would say it resembles streets of Hong Kong, a little old, dirty, cluttered and pack with Chinese.

We picked a dining place which labelled itself as Hong Kong cafe, pinning hopes for some good Hong Kong food. Everything we ordered goes wrong, service sucks, we don’t even feel like tipping and probably not even worth mentioning.

We then embark on our Golden Gate Bridge walkathon. One end of the bridge provides the bicycle renting service, the other end provides open top bus tour service. We did a miscalculation thinking that both ends have the bicycle renting services. And we walked to and fro the bridge. Hectic. The return journey took us 30min walk, only if you walk at Lester’s speed. Restrooms are available on both ends. Sun is pretty strong, windy on the bridge. Do put on sun block, sun glasses and a coat. View is magnificent. Definitely a must visit
place.

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Specifications of Golden Gate BridgeIMG_3640
Golden Gate Bridge
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“Happy” Walking

Took a Muni to Lincoln Street where Golden Gate Park is. It is probably a 10 minutes bus ride, but you need to walk into the park to the other attractions.

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One of the Entrances

I actually love Golden Gate Park the most. You can practically spend your whole day there. There are Japanese Tea House, Botanical Garden, de Young Museum, Academy of Science… You would want to come here early in the day. Most of these attractions close promptly at 6pm and admission fees are sold separately.

For museum lovers, additional USD 2 discount for museum admission tickets if you keep and show them a Muni ticket. For students with student ID, do produce them upon ticket purchase, you’ll get admission tickets at student price. International student ID is also welcomed. We visited de Young Museum, hosting the exhibition “Masters of Venice”.

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de Young Fine Arts MuseumIMG_3762
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Masters of Venice Tickets at Student Price

Lester researched a Japanese ramen restaurant for dinner, Katana-ya, near our hotel through yelp.com. The restaurant might not have a reception area, but you can help yourself by writing your name, number of people on the waiting list. Wait for your call when the table is ready.

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Katana-ya
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Self-help Waiting List

They serve pretty decent ramen, exactly what you’ll crave for on cold winter nights. They also serve sushi and other rice options.

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RamenIMG_6649
Ramen

Day 05 is arranged just for me. We are going to The Cliff House to have a wonderful breakfast and then head on to Legion of Honor museum.

Day 03: San Francisco

Travelling to geek’s land: Google HQ and Apple The Company Store!

Rented Nissan Sentra from Hertz before hitting the highway. To “perform” Lester’s virgin left-hand drive, we got ourselves a Garmin Nüvi GPS to guide us around. Satellite signals are not as good within the San Francisco city, we only feel more relieve after travelling on to the highway. I cannot resist not falling into sleep in any car ride. I guess I didn’t give much help to him. Opps~

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Hertz Office at San FranciscoIMG_6471
Our Nissan SentraIMG_6478
Bad Satellite Reception within City

It’s not difficult to locate Google HQ, but there are many Google buildings. Be sure to park your vehicle near the mascots and parking is free. Set tripod and you are ready to snap.

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Google HQIMG_3597
All Android Mascots

We also planned Apple’s The Company Store on the same day. It’s about 15 min drive from Google HQ. You can find a parking lot in their big open space carpark. Parking is free.

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Apple CampusIMG_3616
Apple The Company StoreIMG_6519
Welcome & *Kaching*

We bought a number of their tee-shirts for friends. The Company Store sells mainly Apple’s souvenirs which you can’t get from any other Apple retails, together with other Apple products.

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Part of the store sells souvenirsIMG_6515
The other part sells Apple products

An unplanned visit to Gilroy Premium Outlets, our first outlet visit. We had a quick bite in In-N-Out Burger before shopping. Not the best outlet store but it is enough for us to pass time.

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Gilroy Premium OutletsIMG_6533
In-N-Out BurgerIMG_6538
First In-N-Out Burger

Dinner in San Francisco is always a reservation plus at least 1 hour wait in the queue. We dine in Burger Bar at Macy’s where Lester challenges the World’s Hottest Burger. The restaurant needs him to sign a declaration form to declare that the company will not be responsible to any health treats should one consume this burger.

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Burger Bar at Macy’sIMG_6556
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World Hottest Burger is HOT!

Next up, Day 04 at Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park & de Young Museum.