^^ Well friends, this weekend was … disappointing … to tell the truth. Chris and I refrained from heading to the mountains because of a big snowstorm that was meant to come and never did. Oh well — at least I had these beautiful flowers to look at at home while we hunkered down for no reason whatsoever. Lesson learned, I suppose. Bis bald, friends!
This past weekend Chris and I hosted our first visitors to Denver, which was both fun and nerve-wracking, since we haven’t been here that long ourselves and definitely haven’t done as much exploring as I normally like to have done before invite people to try things.
But I guess that’s where TripAdvisor comes in handy these days, right friends?
Anyway, we had ourselves a right nice little weekend with our friends from NYC, and although I don’t have photos of everything we tried, I’d like to put a little list together here, since really I feel like we hit on some places that are sure to become our “locals”, if you will. (Of course it helps that they’re all walking distance to our apartment.)
Friday we met up at the local dive Star Bar for drinks before dinner. The menu changes every week, so it’s hard to say what they’ll have from one day to the next, but there are tons of local brews on tap, and they have live music, pool tables and skeeball, and while they don’t serve food themselves, they have menus available to order in from many of the tasty joints that are right on that block, as well.
We decided to forgo ordering food to the bar, though, in favor of heading over to Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza, which is right next door. We ordered a bunch of things to share, including the Arrosto salad, the Queens pizza and the Nutella Pizza for dessert … all of which were amazing. Plus the atmosphere was fun and festive … this would be a place we’d head back to, for sure.
Saturday we attempted to meet up with our friends for breakfast at Snooze in Union Station, but when something is rated the No. 1 place to get brunch, you better believe there will be a line, and at an hour and 45 minute wait time, we weren’t having that. So we headed on over to The Delectable Egg, instead, and had ourselves a delicious breakfast, including some of the best coffee I’ve ever had (ever), and a mouth-watering Bloody Mary.
^^ I had mine sans bacon — thank you very much — but it was still delicious!
After breakfast we went for a little walk by the Platte River (in winter, yes, we’re badass, what can I say?) and over to REI to show them how big and fun it is.
Then later we wandered over to the Wynkoop Brewery (during what would turn out to be our first significant snowfall since we’ve been in Denver, no less) for their free brew tour (definitely worth it), some beers and appetizers.
Dinner was at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (which we visited the last time we were here in April, as well), and Sunday we met up again for coffee and bagel sandwiches at Bruegger’s Bagels. And while I have to say that nothing, and I mean nothing, beats eating an egg and cheese bagel from our favorite deli on the corner of 3rd and 89th while sitting on a bench in Central Park or taking a walk around the Reservoir, Bruegger’s is a place that I would probably be okay bringing visitors to … if I had to pick ;)
And that was it friends — our weekend of boozing and eating in a nutshell! Hopefully when the weather gets warmer we’ll be able to branch out with our guests and take them to Red Rocks, on hikes and out and about a bit more, but for now, we’re just grateful to have friends who are willing to explore a new city with us — who could ask for anything more?
Bis bald, friends!
^^ We had our first Denver visitors this past weekend, my friends. It was so great having friends visit from back east, not to mention the fact that it forced us to get out and explore a bit more. Part of that exploring included a tour of Wynkoop Brewery, which we had been to the weekend before on our Brew Tour for Valentine’s Day, but that didn’t include the actual tour of the entire brewery, which was free and totally worth checking out. I’ll be sharing more on what we did with our visitors later in the week, but for now, enjoy this photo of barley and hops, friends!
As our Denver integration continues, I thought I’d share some photos from Chris’s recent hiking/snowboarding experience at Keystone, since he starts his job next week and our weekday riding is coming to an end.
At least it was amazing while it lasted! Bis bald friends — and have a fabulous weekend!
As I mentioned yesterday, Chris and I used Valentine’s Day as an excuse to cash in on a Christmas gift from our soon-to-be-brother-in-law and take a walking brewery tour around Denver. Since we had only been to one brewery before the tour, it really was a fun thing to do on a Saturday.
The tour started out at Rock Bottom which, as it turns out, was the very first Rock Bottom in what is now a chain of over 30 breweries around the country. Each place has its own brewmaster, though, and we started out with the Fire Chief and the Mochaholic.
After Rock Bottom we took a little stroll over to Wynkoop Brewing, which I think was my favorite of the four breweries that we visited. The brewery opened in 1988 and was one of the first in the area. Its success encouraged other breweries and restaurants to set up shop in downtown Denver … and the rest is brewing history.
After Wynkoop we headed over to Falling Rock, which unfortunately I don’t have photos of — but we really enjoyed this place. It was less high-brow than the others we visited, with its dark lighting and postered walls and super tasty beer. We got pitchers of the Dry Dock Double IPA (my favorite), the Bull & Brush Brown and the Avery White Rascal. Plus this place is basically right around the corner from our apartment, so that’s always a plus!
After Falling Rock it was off to our fourth and last stop — Breckenridge Brewery — where we had the Agave Wheat and the Ophelia. We actually ended up sitting at a table with two couples who were visiting Denver for the weekend, so we all ordered some beers after the tour ended and hung out watching the rugby (yup, rugby) games for a little while.
It was a pretty successful outing, to say the least. And now we can say that we’ve been to a couple breweries in the area which, I’m pretty sure, makes us real Denverites.
So thanks again for the awesome gift bro-in-law! We’ll have to take you on our own little brewery walking tour when you’re in town ;)
Bis bald, friends!
^^ Happy Monday friends! This past weekend was Valentine’s Day, so Chris and I decided to take advantage of a Christmas gift from our soon-to-be-brother-in-law to Chris and partake in a fun little brewery walking tour. I won’t say too much here because I’ll do a full post on it, but we had only been to one brewery before Saturday, so it was definitely a fun way to spend Valentines day! Thanks for the awesome gift, brother-to-be!
January 12 to February 12 — Chris and I have officially been in our new home state for one whole month, friends. And so far … there have been a lot of ups and downs! It’s been an adjustment period, getting used to the differences and finding a place to live and getting settled and back to work regularly. Three months off is a looonnnnggggg time my friends! But we both feel incredibly lucky to have been able to do that, and we’re looking forward to getting our routine settled here in this new place.
Some positives have included spending time with and getting to know a little bit better some family that lives out here, lots of gorgeous mountain views and sunrises and sunsets, a fun rooftop at our new apartment and, of course, lots and lots of snowboarding.
So cheers to one month in Denver — and here’s to many more wonderful ones!
^^ This was our very first night here. I was feeling sad because of our apartment situation (no use crying over spilled milk here), and a friend asked me to send her a photo of what we were doing our first night in Denver. At the time it felt silly to snap a photo of us in our pajamas, eating take-out Chinese (which was delicious, by the way) and drinking beer, but now I’m glad we have it.
^^ Our very first night in our (second) new apartment, we headed up to the roof with some beers to watch the sunset. I think it was looking over this new mountainous skyline that I felt for the first time like we could maybe make this whole moving thing work.
^^ My brother-in-law’s sister (ya got that?!) invited us out our first Friday here to the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, and it was one crazy (silly) experience, let me just tell you ….
^^ Believe it or not we still haven’t been to many breweries (we plan to hit some up this Saturday for Valentine’s Day … how romantic!). We did, however, make a Friday night of it at Rock Bottom Brewery a couple of weekends ago …. thanks for the gift card Mom and Robert!
^^ A very sweet apartment-warming gift from my sister and her fiancee. You can’t really tell from this photo, but I think I can finally say that our apartment is really starting to come together. And yes, that’s Chris peeking from around the corner.
^^ Seeing as how we spent about 10-years’ worth of a travel budget last year alone, we don’t plan on taking too many crazy trips this year (other than back to the East coast for wedding stuff, of course, and hopefully a couple other drives out to Yosemite, Montana and the Grand Canyon). That’s why I love times infinity our travel wall, cause if you can’t actually travel, it’s still super fun to relive past adventures. Trips represented here include: Australia, New Mexico, London, Peru, the Galapagos Islands, the Bahamas, Niagra Falls, Banff, Rome, NYC, Virginia, Iceland, Key West, the Great Barrier Reef and Venice. Sigh. I love ‘em all.
^^ We don’t even have to go to our roof to see fabulous sunsets — this one was taking place right outside our living room window. (Ah, to have a living room window. These are things you can easily miss out on when you live in Manhattan!)
^^ Some family was visiting from the East coast this week and we went to spend a day with them in Keystone. They stayed at the lodge right at the base of the mountain, and OMG you guys … how amazing is this place?! I’m trying to figure out how we can win the lottery and move here. Simply gorgeous.
And that’s about it friends … 31ish days in a nutshell. It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been fun and sad and frustrating and amazing. And such is life, right my dear people?
Bis bald! And a very Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!
^^ Hi friends! This past weekend Chris and I had a nice little couple of Colorado days, which I think finally started to make me realize … holy crap, we actually live here. This isn’t a vacation. Saturday was 70 degrees and sunny (the weather here is insane), so we checked out an awesome little diner right across the street from us for breakfast and took a 3-mile walk down by the South Platte River, Cherry Creek and the downtown area. Then on Sunday we had some family in town, so we met up with them in Keystone for a little snowboarding and family fun time. We got back late last night ready to tackle the new week. Bis bald, friends!
Can there be such a thing?
Well guys — Chris and I have been in Denver for about 3 1/2 weeks now, and while I’m not necessarily homesick, I would say I’m feeling a certain wistful nostalgia for all the plans we made last year and all the traveling we did. From South America to Australia to traveling cross-country — along with all the time we spent with my family at home in between — I loved every last second of it, and as Chris and I were just saying: we wouldn’t have changed one damn thing.
So I guess it’s a good thing that I haven’t had time to upload the photos from my camera since right after South America, then, because it afforded me the opportunity to relive November, December and the beginning of January all over again.
And I thought I’d share some of that here … you know, in case you wanted to partake in my wistful nostalgia.
^^ Chris and I were lucky enough to be able to spend a whole week with his sister and her boo in Canberra. Kate took the week off to hang with us, and it was pretty much the best ever. This little pooch hung out with us while we did some wine tasting at a vineyard in the area.
^^ After Canberra Chris and I headed off to Coolaman to visit one of his besties from college. While there we took some time to visit the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory (where I simply had to snap this photo because comeon!! Do these two not remind you of Lucy and Ethel working at the chocolate factory?! Simply the best.) We also ….
^^ After Coolaman we drove to the Taronga Zoo in Dubbo. This zoo is amazing, folks. We rented bikes (which I highly recommend), and rode around catching all the shows that we could. With over 4,000 animals and more than 20 keeper talks every single day, there is so much to see here. And the wide open zoo plan means that the animals are as close to their natural habitat as possible. It’s really pretty amazing.
After the zoo we headed back to spend our final week — Christmas week — in Bathurst with the fam.
And that’s it, friends. Nothing like a walk down memory lane (and a rockin’ blog for documenting it all) to make you feel better, right?
Bis bald, friends! And here’s to future plans and travels and adventures that are just as exciting as those of our pasts.
^^ Happy February everyone! We had our first (significant) snowfall since Chris and I moved to Denver, and it sure did make this city pretty. I snapped this pic on our way to a Super Bowl party last night. Oh and that’s another thing — how nice is Mountain Time so that when the Super Bowl was over, it was only 8:30 instead of 10:30? Lovin’ that!
Bis bald, friends!
I know this post is about three weeks late, but sheesh 2015 started with a friggin’ bang, did it not? I feel like we’ve barely had time to sit at all since we arrived in Denver. I did want to throw up just a couple of photos of our halfway-cross-country trip from New York to Colorado, though, as well as give a little bit of info on some of the places we stayed and ate. We didn’t have a ton of time to spend in each place (I think the longest we stayed was about 20 hours in St. Louis, although many of those hours were spent sleeping), but I really feel like we still got a good idea what each place was about … and we loved ‘em all!
Oh by the way, in case you were wondering, our route took us this way:
We made stops in:
- Columbus, Ohio at the Red Roof Plus Downtown
- St. Louis, Missouri at the Hilton St. Louis Downtown at the Arch
- Kansas City, Missouri at the Holiday Inn Kansas City SE- Waterpark
All the hotels were great (especially the Hilton in St. Louis — totally walking distance to the Arch!), and pet-friendly to boot.
So without further adieu … a bit of our cross-country trip in photos:
^^ We hopped into the car on Thursday, Jan. 8th, all four of us as a family. Everyone was all, “Oh my gosh, you’re taking your cat and your rabbit in the car with you? For four days? Across the country?” And we were all, “Ummm, yeah. They’ll be totally fine!” And guess what friends — they really were! Totally rocked it, is what this kitten and bunny did! Good job guys – we were very proud of you.
^^ Helloooooo Ohio! Unfortunately we only spent a couple of waking hours here, but when we checked out TripAdvisor for a suggestion on where to eat, it turned out the highly rated Flatiron Bar & Diner had received pretty great reviews and, wahooooo!, it was basically right in our parking lot! I ate a delicious fried oyster po’ boy and Chris had the gumbo and we had some beers — it was just what the doctor ordered after 10 hours of driving.
^^ Penny and Nugget had no trouble making themselves at home in our hotel rooms — especially the Hilton in St. Louis which was super swank.
^^ Like I mentioned before, the Arch was only a couple blocks from our hotel, so we just had to head out at night to catch it all lit up …
^^ And it did not disappoint!
^^ That night we grabbed some drinks at the Hyatt, which was right across the street from our hotel (we had cheated a bit and ordered room service for dinner, which was FABULOUS!). I got this beer based solely on its name (obviously), and it turned out to be totally delicious.
^^ We purchased tickets online the night before and headed out (in the frigid cold, I might add) the next morning to head up the Arch and see the sites. It really was a pretty fun experience, but be warned clustrophobes … this is maybe NOT the activity for you! I wouldn’t consider myself to be claustrophobic, but even so, the tiny little vessels that carry you to the top of the Arch had my heart racing — and Chris and I were in there alone! (On the way up we were alone at least … we shared with two people on the way down.) I can’t imagine how it would have been if the intended six people were squished together in there!
^^ This is the Old Courthouse, where the slave Dred Scott sued for his and his wife’s freedom in 1846. This statue stands as a monument to the couple — and everything that historic case stood for — outside of the courthouse today.
^^ For lunch we headed to Schlafly Brewery, which was really super amazingly fun.
^^ This is Pen and Nuggs making themselves comfortable in our Kansas City hotel. Unfortunately we didn’t take too many photos in Kansas City (or I tried, I should say, to take some of the adorable downtown area, but they came out horrible). But we really, really loved it here! The downtown area is super cute, and we ate dinner at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, which was so fantastic, even for me, a vegetarian. We ordered fried mushrooms and Chris had steak (obviously), while I got a salad and some of their BBQ shrimp on the side to add in. It was heaven on a plate.
^^ After four days of driving and 1,836 miles covered (plus lots of McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and Subway for lunch), we had made it to Colorado, my friends, and our final destination — Denver — was in site.
And that’s it in a nutshell, ya’ll! It was a wild, fast and furious couple of days for us, but it was super fun, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way!
Bis bald, friends! Chris and I are off to the mountains again today — I hope everyone else is making the most of the lovely winter months, as well!
^^ Well friends, this past weekend was our first weekend being one of those Denver couples. You know — the ones who head out super early on Saturday morning for the mountains and head back to the city on Sunday. And I gotta say — I didn’t hate it ;) Although I’m still getting my snowboard legs, the views at Vail (above) and Keystone are nothing to scoff at. Even if you’re not the best snowboarder in the world (ahemthat’smeahem), it’s still fun to just be at these mountains and to watch everyone else … especially the amazing little kids! Ohmygersocute!
^^ Well, friends, our move to Denver hasn’t been as seamless as we would have hoped, but we’re making it work. After a couple days of frantic searching, we finally found our apartment, and we’re starting to make it home. So far, all we have is what’s above. But the rest of our stuff is scheduled to be delivered on Thursday, and I’m really looking forward to getting everything set up and getting back to a normal work routine. In the meantime, though, I’ll be posting soon about our epic road trip from New York to Denver. (A little preview: It was pretty awesome!)
Bis bald, friends!
^^ Well friends, after a road trip that included driving 1,787 miles through eight states with stops in three cities in those states (Columbus, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri and Kansas City, Missouri), Chris, Penny, Nugget and I have arrived in Denver, Colorado — our new home. Well, we’re not actually in our new home quite yet, because it isn’t ready for us yet, but we’re at least here, in this new city, and ready to get the ball rolling! Here’s to a fabulous, fun, fruitful 2015 ya’ll!
^^ Welcome to 2015, my friends! This year is going to be a big one for me and Chris (starting with a move to Denver, which kicks off this Thursday!), and we rang in the brand new year with lobsters, champagne and some celebrating in Pennsylvania with the fam. Happy Merry Jolly New Year to you all — here’s to family, friends and fabulous fresh starts!
Well, friends, it’s been quite the year! When I’m old and grey and looking back on my travels, this will certainly be one of my favorite years to reference. Here’s how our adventure-filled 365 days played out:
In January Chris and I headed upstate for a first anniversary trip to Saratoga Springs, which we promptly fell absolutely in love with.
As the winter weather dragged itself out in NYC, Chris and I decided to spice things up a bit, so we packed up and headed over to Iceland (blogged about here, here, here, here and here — man I know how to drag out a trip, don’t I!). While there we saw the Northern lights (once in a lifetime experience), rented bicycles to ride around the city, tried out some local beers, relaxed at the Blue Lagoon and generally fell in love with Iceland’s gorgeous scenery.
In March I headed down to Florida for a little girlfriend’s/birthday getaway in Jupiter and Marathon Key (the trip was about 10 days long, so it lasted from the end of March all the way through my birthday into the beginning of April.) In Florida we saw spectacular sunsets, amazing marine life and even took a kayak ride through the mangroves. It was a spectacular birthday, indeed.
After deciding to pack up and move our little family to Denver, Colorado, Chris and I decided — maybe we should visit there and see how it actually is before doing so! So in April we flew out to the middle of the country with my sister and her then-boyfriend (now fiancée!) to check out Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver. What we found were really sweet people, tons of awesome breweries and amazing outdoor opportunities.
In late April/early May I took the bus down to D.C. to visit a friend for her birthday, and we decided to rent some kayaks (which is kind of becoming our thing now) and take them out on the Potomac.
In June Chris and I hopped in the car and took a day trip to Phoenicia and Otter Falls, places he visits every year when he and a bunch of his running friends run a relay race in the area. He had been wanting to get me up there to taste the amazing pancakes at Sweet Sue’s Restaurant (they don’t disappoint!) and see the waterfall at Otter Falls.
In July I headed to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware with my immediate family and a ton of our extended family for some quality beach time (and a delicious seafood night — a time-honored family tradition).
In September Chris and I were lucky enough to cash in on one of our awesome wedding presents and take a helicopter ride high above beautiful ole’ NYC …
We also participated in my family’s annual Penn State football tailgate weekend in Happy Valley, but this time with one very notable addition — our nephew, Rory ;)
And then, at the end of the month, I was honored when the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau invited me out for a visit to their beautiful city (blogged about here, here and here). P.S. This trip included my first ever hot air balloon ride — amazing!
October and November
Well, friends, October and November were the months to end all months for us. After about a year and a half of planning, Chris and I finally headed out on our four-week long adventure to South America, including Peru (blogged about here, here and here) , the Amazon, the Galapagos and Costa Rica. There’s not much more that I can say here about this part of the year that I haven’t already said in my other posts about them, but I’ll just say one more time — this was the trip of a lifetime, and we’re so grateful we were able to take the time to do it.
And then, my friends, after all of that, Chris and I were lucky enough to hop back on a plane in December and fly off to spend the holiday season with Chris’s family in Australia.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of other amazing things that happened this year, like taking part in wedding ceremonies and bachelorette parties for six of our friends, my baby sister getting engaged, checking a couple of big NYC things off our bucket lists (like this visit to the Cloisters and this one to the Met rooftop bar), and, of course, saying farewell to the city we love so dearly.
^^ Revisiting my absolutely favorite restaurant in Manhattan.
^^ Checking out new and fun areas in Manhattan.
^^ Taking a gorgeous fall hike in beautiful areas to break in new hiking shoes.
You’ve been a pretty stellar year — 2014. I’m sad to say goodbye, but excited to see what 2015 holds.
Bis bald, friends — and very merry and happy New Year!
^^ Well friends, here she is — my final 52 Project photo of 2014 — holy cow! I absolutely love this one, too. It’s now 12:30 a.m. in Sydney, Australia, and Chris and I fly out in just a couple of hours back to the states. This trip to Australia has been a whirlwind, but it’s been an absolutely lovely one. So farewell for now, sweet Australia – until we meet again! I’ll be back tomorrow with my year in review, but until then-bis bald, friends!
^^ Well friends, this photo pretty much sums up our past couple of days out here in Australia. We’ve been traveling around a ton, visiting friends and family in other parts of the country, and it’s been really beautiful to see the area this way. We’re settled into Bathurst now for the holidays with the family, and we’re really looking forward to it. So happy holiday week to all of you — and look out for my Year in Review post, coming at cha super soon ;)
So I’m writing my final post on our four-week South American trip, and it’s making me sad, friends. The only positive here is that I’m posting it on the same day that we’re flying out to Australia for three weeks, so a gal can’t be sad for too long, ya know!
Anyway, Costa Rica. After three weeks of hiking and snorkeling and walking and swimming, our thought about Costa Rica was that it should be a relaxing place for us to chill for a couple of days before heading back to the states. As such, we booked three days at Posada El Quijote (you can find the site for the actual hotel here) in Escazu, Costa Rica (right outside of San Jose), and then a full week at Barcelo Langosta Beach, an all-inclusive resort in the beach town of Tamarindo.
Let’s start with Posada El Quijote — it’s adorable, to say the least. The hotel is a tiny boutique one nestled in the town of Escazu, which is one of the richer towns in Costa Rica. (Our cab driver told us Mel Gibson bought a house here. Not sure if that’s true, or if it’s even a draw, to be honest, but there it is.) Anyway, the included breakfast is a HUGE draw for the place — it’s some of the best breakfast we had on our entire trip, as was the view from the backyard, where Chris and I took to having some drinks after sunset every night, watching the twinkling lights of San Jose in the background. Some highlights of Escazu for me (besides the hotel, which I would highly recommend), was eating at both Tiquicia (with its amazing city views as well) and La Casona de Laly , and taking a tour of the city of San Jose.
About San Jose itself, in my opinion I’d highly recommend not staying directly in the city if you can avoid it, because other than a few good museums and a gorgeous concert hall, the rest of the city is really pretty much chain restaurants and concrete. (Check out this Lonely Planet review before making your final decision, is all I would say. In our case, staying outside of the city and taking a half day trip into the city itself to check things out was more than enough.)
After three relaxing days in Escazu, Chris and I packed up our stuff again and loaded it onto a bus headed for the coast of Tamarindo and the Barcelo Langosta Beach resort. The bus ride turned out to be longer than we had hoped (five hours!), but once we were off the main highways and driving through the smaller towns, I really enjoyed seeing the homes and shops and some of the average Costa Rican way of life.
After what felt like forever, we finally arrived at Barcelo Langosta. If you’ve ever stayed at an all-inclusive before, you won’t be disappointed with this one. The staff was very friendly, and offered many of those all-inclusive activities most people enjoy (water aerobics, dance classes, live music on certain nights, beach volleyball, etc.), and the buffet was pretty great for all-inclusive food, especially since they switched up their theme every night to keep it fresh. They also have one restaurant on the grounds, which if you stay for longer than three nights is included in your price, and that was super tasty. We saw tons of wildlife around the resort, too, like two different kinds of monkeys, green lizards, land iguanas, birds and more. The beach is public, so it can get a bit crowded, and it’s not the best beach for swimming because the waves tend to be rougher there (which makes it perfect for watching surfers!) and there are a lot of rocks. But the sunsets were some of the most gorgeous ones we saw on our whole trip, and to not have to think at all about what we were going to do about eating during the days made it a lot more laid back for us, as well.
^^ We watched the sunset from the beach every night, and Chris even joined in to play beach volleyball most nights, too. He took a surf lesson, as well — although I’m not sure how much that’ll come in handy when we move to land-locked Denver, Colorado ;)
^^ We went zip lining with Pura Adventura while we were in Costa Rica, and it’s seriously my new favorite thing! You can’t imagine the feeling of gliding through the air, feeling completely weightless, watching the most amazing views unfold before you. Unless, of course, you’ve ziplined before, then you absolutely can imagine it ;) This was our amazing crew.
And that was pretty much our Costa Rica experience, my friends. Although I’m glad that we went zip lining and Chris took surf lessons and we had time to relax, if/when we ever do make it back to Costa Rica, I’d be sure to plan a few other things that the area is known for, like checking out the rainforest and the cloud forest and a volcano or two. Still, I feel lucky we were able to see the animals we did see, just from the resort.
And that’s it in a nutshell, ya’ll! South America in four weeks — Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica. I want to add Brazil, Chile and Argentina to my list of must visit places now, because South America is so vast and beautiful and has so much to offer — I would just highly recommend to anyone who loves adventure travel to get out there when it’s possible. You won’t be sorry!
Okay friends, so we’re off to Australia now! We’ll be gone through the holidays, and we start our drive out to Denver pretty much as soon as we get back … so … wish us luck!
And happy holidays to all of you! May your days be filled with friends and family and lots of love and laughter. And snow!
So, how exactly do you blog about a trip that has meant so much to you for so long? It’s hard to know where to start, friends, I’ll tell you that much.
Let me start from the beginning. When I first started out in college as a bright-eyed freshman, I went in as a biology major, since I had had the dream of becoming a vet for oh-so-very long (nevermind the fact that this dream eventually gave way to my one of being a journalist … let’s skip that part for the purposes of this story). During fall semester of my freshman year, I became obsessed with a school trip to the Galapagos, where we would be following in the footsteps of Darwin, making amazing discoveries and partaking in fascinating experiments.
Not to make things dramatic (who are we kidding — I’m nothing if not dramatic), but my parents wouldn’t let me go. So it became a goal of mine to, at some point, make it to this beautiful, interesting, historic place.
And a few weeks ago, I did, friends — I accomplished the goal. Go me! And it was way, way, way more than I ever could have hoped it would be. Little did I know what adventures awaited both me and Chris when we signed on for the 5-day Aida Maria cruise in the Galapagos (which, by the way, was booked by Southern Explorations on our behalf as part of our whole Ecuador package). Little did I know that we would fall in love with our tour guide (a Galapagos native named Reuben who walked around everywhere barefoot), or snorkel 2-3 times every single day with everything from sharks to sea lions, or see penguins and owls, as well. (Penguins, for goodness sake!).
If you’re an animal lover, you must add the Galapagos to your list, because there is no place on earth like it, my friends. So far in life I’ve had the great opportunity to snorkel in some pretty amazing places (the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Great Barrier Reef, to name a few), and nothing even came close to snorkeling here. (Sorry, Barrier Reef. You were awesome and all, but the Galapagos has my heart.)
Let me start by explaining our boat to you. The Aida Maria is a small-ish sized yacht that fits up to 16 guests, and we had 15 on board for our trip. Lucky for us, Southern Explorations booked our trip early enough so that we got a top room (there were only two available, and we were told they’re booked on a first-come, first-serve basis), because it really helped make the cruise special to be able to open our bedroom door every morning to gorgeous Galapagos waters. The size of the ship also means that space is pretty limited, and while we had bunk beds in our room, Chris and I used the top bunk to store our luggage and we slept together on the bottom bed. I’m honestly not sure what people did who didn’t share a bed, because there would have been very little floor space for luggage.
In terms of our itinerary and the islands we visited, here’s what we did:
AM: We woke up after cruising all night in the midst of Genovesa, a shield volcano in the eastern Pacific Ocean
PM: The Barranco (aka Prince Phillip’s Steps and the place where we found owls!) at the top of Genovesa
AM: Daphne/Black Turtle Cove
PM: Cerro Dragon (a trail that runs through three different environments even though it’s just 1,600 m long) on Santa Cruz. It’s named this because the northwestern side of Santa Cruz Island is home to an impressive population of Conolophus subcristatus, or Galapagos land iguana. We also had our final (and my favorite) snorkeling excursion on this particular outing. It was here that we saw sharks again, and I had one playful little sea lion who swam in circles around me while I snorkeled, waving her cute little fin at me the whole time. Oh Galapagos — you slay me with your magical moments.
AM: The Charles Darwin Station, where we saw giant tortoises! We were a bit bummed as we left that we hadn’t seen these awesome animals in “real” life, but as we were driving back to the airport we saw three or four them along the side of the road — so check that off the list ;)
PM: It was back to Baltra to catch our flight back to the mainland Ecuador
Something else that was really cool about the trip is that everyone’s itinerary was planned by the National Park Service in order to keep as few people as possible on the islands at the same time. So for example, even if we were docked at an island with two or three other ships, we were never doing the same activity at the same time as the people from the other boat. If we were hiking, they would be snorkeling, and vice versa.
The last night of our trip we even got to go out to a bar (which was a good thing because the ship ran out of booze!) with a couple other young people from our boat and our tour guide (there were some restaurants, shops and bars at Puerto Ayora, which is where our tour guide was from. We even got to meet his adorable wife and 5-year-old son!)
Now let’s get to the fun part — the photos!
^^ This (not so) little guy is a land iguana. We came across another one later in our hike that walked a good 100 feet towards our group of 16, bobbing his head in warning the whole while, before getting a couple of feet in front of us and turning around. I think he made his point, though ;) Land iguanas are pretty territorial, but they’re also pretty harmless.
^^ Pink flamingo!! Look at this scenery — does it not look like another planet?
^^ Clawless lobsters at the fish markets in Puerto Ayora.
^^ How cute are the giant tortoises?! They can live to be between 120 and 150 years old, so you just know they’re super wise ;)
^^ The sea lions would get so close to you! And our tour guide would say, “Just see what happens.” Animals on the islands are super curious, and because humans aren’t their predators here, they are just fearless. It’s pretty cool.
^^ A few minutes after this photo was taken this sea lion would take a big ole’ dump in the water while I was snorkeling, totally bringing me back to earth (and out of the water!) from the surreal moment I was having. See the one in the background, too? With his nose in the air? I always wondered what they were thinking when they did that. So cute!
^^ Chris took this photo of me at Sullivan Bay on Santiago to demonstrate how far and wide the lava fields went. And our tour guide went barefoot on this! Poor Reuben — his feet were too big for standard Ecuadorian mens’ sizes, so he grew up not wearing shoes most of the time, and now his feet are tough as nails! (As was demonstrated on many, many, many occasions on this trip.)
^^ The site of one of our many, many snorkel adventures.
^^ “There’s a blue-footed booby on the rocks!” This was an inside joke amongst everyone on our boat, since we came to realize that we could listen carefully for Reuben to call out loudly when we were on hikes or outings and he spotted some wildlife he really wanted us to see. His enthusiasm was seriously contagious. You could tell he loved his job and loved the Galapagos and just wanted to teach us everything he could, and that was just the best.
Honestly, we took about a gazillion photos here friends, as I’m sure you can imagine, and culling them down into just a couple is really hard. But I think what I’ve included here gives you a good indication of what the Galapagos is like — and it’s simply a heaven on earth.
So after our five days on the boat we caught a flight back to Quito and Jorge dropped us back off at La Rabida for what turned out to be only a couple of hours, since our flight to Costa Rica was super early in the morning and we basically had to be picked up at 2 a.m. to check in and such.
We leave for Australia this Monday (ah, I can’t believe it!), but I’ll be sure to get my final South American post — Costa Rica! — up as soon as possible next week. So bis bald for now, my friends! I shall see you all again very soon!
Christmas in New York City, ya’ll!
Yesterday I caught an early train from upstate into the city for the day to do a little Christmas shopping, catch up with friends and — you know I had to — go ice skating at Bryant Park.
Oh New York, I’ll miss you most of all at this time of year.
^^ I stopped into Club Monaco on my walk to check out their selection of Strand books, and this door to their mannequin closet was open, so I had to snap a pic. It’s all legs and arms, yo.
^^ If I’m being completely honest, it felt a little weird going into the city, knowing I couldn’t go home to my apartment whenever I wanted, and knowing I’d be catching a train back upstate later that night to go home. It truly is the end of an era, my friends, and it felt just like that.
Bis bald, friends. I’ll be back tomorrow with our Galapagos adventures!
So after our adventures in Peru, Chris and I packed up our belongings and headed to the airport to fly a bit up the continent to Ecuador, where we would be taking part in the second, third and fourth parts of our South American adventure: Quito, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands.
A note about this part of the trip, before I get into it. We booked everything in this section of the trip with a company called Southern Explorations, which I would highly recommend to anyone looking to book an adventure in South America (they have many different trip options). Here’s what was included in our trip package:
- Our hotel during the nights we’d be staying in Quito
- A half-day tour of Quito
- Our trip to the Amazon
- Our trip to the Galapagos
- Transfers to and from the airport for each and every one of those trips
- Meals for everything except the days we were in Quito
Here’s the thing about booking the trip this way — it was pricey. Honestly, I’m sure we could have put the puzzle pieces together ourselves and paid less, but at the end of the day, it was so incredibly nice to know that we were being taken care of (and that we wouldn’t need to even think about little details like where and when to bring our passports, how much the Galapagos Park entrance fee was, etc., because they reminded us of everything along the way), that we didn’t mind paying a little extra for that sense of comfort. The hotel Southern Explorations booked us at in Quito (called La Rabida) actually turned out to be one of our favorite hotels of the trip, too. The breakfast was always stellar (and we ate dinner here one night, too, and it was super tasty), there was always a fire burning in the fireplace at night and plenty of books to read about Ecuador, and there was even an adorable little fat brown bunny that lived in the garden of the hotel, named Brownie, that you just know Chris and I became obsessed with. Oh, and the coffee!? Amazing.
Here’s a bit of what we saw during our stay in Quito (which was three days before we flew out to the Amazon, then one half day/night between the Amazon and the Galapagos and one more night again before flying out to Costa Rica):
^^ This statue was a gift to the city, but its back faces towards the more poor area, and the people who live there unfortunately took that to be a bit of a slight.
^^ The Old Town section of Quito is beautiful during the day, but our tour guide warned us that it can be a bit desolate, and even dangerous, at night. If you make it here, however, be sure to NOT MISS the Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus church. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos inside, but I’ve never been to a more beautiful church, and it’s absolutely not to be missed when you’re checking out this part of Quito.
^^ We were in the old section on a Monday, so we were lucky enough to catch the changing of the guard at the Presedential Palace, which really is quite the show.
^^ We also visited the part of Quito where the lines of latitude and longitude are zero, which was fascinating. (There are actually two of these places. The first was the one the French thought was zero latitude, but the Ecuadorian army later scientifically determined the actual spot to be about 200 meters away. Still, that’s not bad for an educated guess!) Anyway, the equator line is so weird! This is me, trying to balance an egg on its end (which our tour guide and someone else in our group successfully managed to do), and you have practically zero strength on the line as well. It’s also incredibly hard to walk in a straight line when you’re directly on the equator (as demonstrated by Chris, below), and the water really does flush in different directions to either side of the line. So cool!
I feel as though I would be wrong to ignore something that came up a lot while we were in Quito — which is safety. We didn’t do a ton of research on the area before heading there, since it was part of our package anyway, and we’d be spending so few days there, but as it turns out, there’s quite a bit of noise on the internet about the safety of tourists in the area. While I think a lot of this has changed in recent years, I think it doesn’t hurt to be on high alert if traveling to this area. (Of course I think it doesn’t hurt to be on high alert when you travel to any area, but perhaps a bit more so in this particular one.) I wouldn’t walk at night anywhere (cabs are readily available, although you need to be sure to get in legitimate cabs with meters, and make sure the cab drivers actually turn on the meters, because they will try to stiff you), and don’t be flamboyant about things that call you out as a tourist — like carrying ginormous cameras or stopping to look at a map every couple of feet. The first day we arrived in Quito it happened to be a holiday, and we found the city to be pretty empty and a bit desolate, which to be honest made it a bit creepy. But after the city filled with people again, and when we roamed around during broad daylight, we found the people to be friendly and helpful, and nothing was scary at all.
We also had some of our favorite meals here in Quito. Our tour guide (Gorge, who was one of our favorite tour guides of the whole trip), suggested one little restaurant called Mama Clorinda, where we ate empanadas, potato soup, shrimp and rice and lamb stew (Chris, not me), that was all totally delicious. Chris also really enjoyed the steak at La Casa de mi Abuela.
After our three days in Quito, we headed back to the airport with Gorge to catch our flight to the Amazon, which was a pretty surreal experience in and of itself. We stayed at Sacha Lodge, which we really loved. The food here was pretty amazing, especially considering the fact that it was buffet style made for dozens of people all at once, and the lodges themselves were gorgeous, wooden cabins with big, bright hammocks on open porches directly in the rainforest.
^^ These little leaf cutter ants were so amazing! They were one of the first signs of life we saw when we arrived, and there was a whole big stream of them running across the path we had to walk to get to our lodge, busy carrying those little leaves to their new destination.
^^ To get to the lodge, we had to fly to another city from Quito, take a 2.5 hour motorized canoe ride, walk a mile through the rainforest, then take another 15-20 minute canoe ride to the lodge itself.
^^ The very first night we were there we went on a night hike and saw all kinds of creepy crawlies. You’d think that seeing creatures like this would freak me out, but honestly it didn’t — it was all fascinating.
^^ One of my two favorite moments in the Amazon occured while I was in the shower. Like I mentioned, our cabins were pretty awesome, and the bathrooms were the absolute best. The back of the shower was just a screen, which looked out directly into the rainforest. So one day while I’m showering, I happen to notice some movement in the woods, and it was this little monkey, along with about five or six of his friends! Monkeys — just chillin’ in the rainforest — which I could watch all to myself while I took a shower. Once in a lifetime experience, for sure.
^^ One day we went into the butterfly house, which housed hundreds of amazing, beautifully colored butterflies, along with one nasty, huge tarantula that had moved in and just occasionally snacks on the butterflies.
^^ This snake, which we happened upon on one of our hikes, is referred to as the Venti Quatro, because once bitten by it, you’ll die within 24 hours. Nice, right? And he was thisclose to us on the hike. This was also right before a tree branch broke and Chris was showered with fire ants that bit him all over his arm. While he was in pain for about nine hours after it happened, he now thinks this is pretty bad ass. I mean, if you’re going to be in the Amazon, you might as well have a story to tell, right?
^^ We went piranha fishing, and I was the first person to catch one! It was so crazy. You put some meat at the end of a fishing pole, and when you throw the line in, you can’t even see the piranha attacking it, you just see the meat moving around in the water as they snip at it. This is a red-bellied kind.
The thing that makes both Chris and myself a little sad is that our camera didn’t have a better zoom, because some of the birds we saw were absolutely amazing, and our camera just wasn’t cutting it in terms of capturing their essence. But we spent four days in the Amazon, and it was both terrifying, beautiful and exhilarating. We did a lot of activities during the days, but we also had some time to relax, which was highly welcome.
After our Amazonian adventure, we packed ourselves back up, headed back out on the canoe rides and hikes that would eventually get us to the airport, and flew back to Quito, where we would have a half day before flying back out the next morning to … THE GALAPAGOS!
Guys, if you know me at all, you’ll know that making it to the Galapagos has been a dream of mine since my freshman year of college (so, you know, for a little while now!). Once we got there, it was more than I ever could hoped for. I can’t wait to share that experience with you tomorrow!
Bis bald for now, my friends!