An Adventure in Camping With a 10-Month-Old

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Well friends, we did it — Lotte’s first camping trip! And we survived! (Mostly.)

This weekend we packed up our Forester (which seems to be getting smaller and smaller on us, theses days!) and joined my cousin and her family and some of their friends out near Boreas Pass Road at Selkirk Campground for some straight-up tent camping with our 10-month-old.

I can hear you now saying we’re crazy, and maybe a small part of us is, but we just had to give it a try! We settled on one night — Saturday — to ease ourselves into it, and while Chris gave the overall status of the trip a 60% grade (more on why later), I’d say it was more like a 75%. Don’t get me wrong — the daytime was amazing, an A+! The night, however … well that was another story.

Here’s a couple things I learned from camping for the first time with my 10-month-old:

  1. One night is not enough for everything you have to do to get prepped for camping. With all the food and gear and baby gadgets we had to get together, I felt like we should be leaving for a month, not 24 hours. Still, I think having just the one night ended up working out okay since, as I mentioned above, things didn’t go so well at night. However, if/when we camp again, I think we’ll shoot for at least a 2-night minimum.
  2. Prepare for all contingencies. Anyone who has gone camping will already know this, but when you have a baby with you, put that on your list three times. I had checked the weather before we left and saw it was meant to dip down to the lower 40s at night, so we were ready, but it actually ended up dipping to the lower 30s (?!?!?! That’s mountain life for ya!), so I was extra happy we were prepared.
  3. Don’t think you’ll sleep. At all. Get in all the rest and relaxation in the days leading up to your camping trip that you can, because camping with your baby will not be relaxing. As I mentioned already, our night wasn’t so great. Lotte was up about every two hours, and while she mostly went back down relatively easily, still, she was up crying every. two. hours. So no sleep was had by anyone (including the family in the tent closest to us … sorrrryyyyy!). I don’t think she was cold, necessarily, since her nighttime attire included a long-sleeved onesie, socks, fleece pajamas, her winter sleep sack, socks on her hands, her winter hat and a fleece blanket (plus eventually we brought her over to our mattress to sleep with us, so she had our blanket on top of her, too). I think it was just the overall weirdness of being outside and in a tent that she just couldn’t get used to. Whatever it was, she wasn’t having it!
  4. Be down for anything. For as frustrating as our night was, the day was gorgeous and filled with fun. We hiked and watched the sunset and made smores and they had hammocks and there was a beautiful stream, so it was very fun. The one thing I hadn’t really thought about, though, was that at this crawling age, we couldn’t really put Lotte down anywhere (dirt, and anything else, goes right in the mouth these days), which meant Chris or myself was holding her all day long. Again this was fine, especially for one night, but it definitely wasn’t something we thought of ahead of time.

Anyway, after unpacking when we arrived, here’s what we actually got to see and do. It was pretty spectacular …

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^^ I am never not taking glorious mountain photos from the car window when we drive places around here!

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^^ My cousin’s daughter is one year almost to the day older than Lotte, and they are just the cutest together!

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^^ The relaxin’ in a camp chair in the sun part of camping? Lotte had that part nailed 😉

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^^ Look at these glorious views! I would definitely recommend this area for camping, just be sure to bring your rugged, all-terrain vehicle because some of the roads were quite bumpy to navigate.

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^^ There’s my man, settin’ us up for the night. We actually don’t have any camping gear ourselves besides one cooler … is that crazy? We borrowed this stuff from our camping-pro friends, though, and it was pretty amazing.

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^^ This. Little. Face. All dirty and scratched up 😉

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^^ Dubious tent face :/ A sign of things to come!

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^^ These two ❤

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^^ When Lotte wouldn’t sleep, we went for a walk with her, which at least meant we were able to catch this glorious sunset … so thanks for that, Lotte!

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^^ We woke up to 34 degree temps, and I needed to breastfeed Lotte, which I was not about to do in that frigid weather. So we started up the car, put the heat on and Lotte and I hung out there for a little bit in the wee hours of the morning. Oh, parenthood 😉

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^^ Maxin’ and relaxin’ while we all pack up.

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^^ My cousin with Lotte. We were so thankful for the invite and had so much fun tagging along the trip … thanks Court!

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^^ We made a few pitstops on the way home to take in the views, too.

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And that was our camping in a nutshell! Super gorgeous, very fun and entirely exhausting 😉 And would I do it all over again? You bet I would!

I hope everyone has a fun Fourth of July plans. We’ll be heading out of town to the Twin Lakes area to check it out. Until next time, bis bald!

My First Solo Flight With the Little

 

Well friends, Lotte and I were meant to leave today for our little east coast adventure, but because of the snow they got I decided to change our flight to Friday to avoid any potential delays or other issues. The main reason I did that was because this is my first flight solo with my babe, and to be honest, I’m a little nervous! I just hope all goes well – and if anyone has any tips on traveling with littles (even though I’ve written my fair share of articles on the topic, I feel like you can never have enough advice!), please do feel free to share in the comments.

For now though, I’m allowing myself to bask in the extra two days of packing, which perhaps is a bad thing! (See below.) We have quite the itinerary for this trip — Lotte and I — including cousin Rory’s 4th birthday party in Pennsylvania, a trip to D.C. (Lotte’s first!) to visit Lisa, and a fundraiser for my mom next Saturday that my sister and I are hosting, among other things.

So I guess all of this is to say … pray it goes well for me, friends!

Bis bald!

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Let’s Talk About Amazing New Orleans: Day 1

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Well friends, we’re back home after a crazy couple of days in the Big Easy! We landed late Thursday and really hit the ground running Friday through Monday night, when we flew back. I feel like we got a good lay of the land from just those couple of days, but New Orleans is definitely a place I would say I’d like to head back to.

I figured the best way to go about blogging for this trip is to break it up by days. Friday morning we really wanted to just take our time and meander around the city, being sure to hit up some of the spots our many, many friends who have been before suggested we see. Here’s what we got up to:

Breakfast was take-away beignets and coffee from Cafe Du Monde, which we ate by the river while we listened to some locals jam away. Chris kept saying how the one thing he really loved about this city was how it seems to have a soundtrack of its own, and I couldn’t agree more.

_DSC2334^^ The Streetcars that ran along Canal Street were so cute — until we took one! More on that later, though …

_DSC2338^^ I took a lot of pictures of buildings people, because … I mean … come on! So gorgeous!

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_DSC2348^^ We decided to do take away from Cafe Du Monde Friday, but we were able to sit down at a table on Monday morning, and it was fantastic. The people watching alone is worth it, but to sit at a table and dunk your beignet in coffee — you’ll think you died and went to heaven.

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_DSC2381^^ Check out the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral in the background. Our tour guide on Sunday told us that Walt Disney modeled the Magic Kingdom castle after it, after coming to New Orleans and being blown away by its beauty. I could definitely see that.

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_DSC2395^^ There are no open container laws in New Orleans, which makes for a pretty interesting time. You can’t have glass bottles on the street, but there’s a lotta paper baggin’ it happening around here!

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_DSC2407^^ Look at this little kid, just playin’ his drum as he crosses the street. This is quintessential New Orleans, if you ask me.

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After breakfast we wandered around the French Quarter, down Bourbon Street and happened upon Cafe Beignet, where we sat to get some drinks and listen to the live band.

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_DSC2420^^ The first of many Sazeracs 😉

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Lunch on Friday was at Lüke’s, which was close to our hotel but also happened to have some amazing food. We had oysters (but of course), Court-bouillon with redfish, crab, shrimp, oysters and Louisiana popcorn rice. Chris also had the seafood gumbo, while I opted for the Lüke salad. It was a spectacular lunch, to say the least.

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After lunch we took a quick rest back at our hotel. I should take this chance to talk a bit about where we stayed — The Whitney Hotel. This former bank has kept many of its old banking structures, which makes it super quirky and fun, and its location is enough removed from the madness to be quiet, but also just blocks away from where all the fun is. I’d highly recommend it for anyone’s stay!

_DSC2450^^ The front lobby.

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Our Friday evening consisted of some more exploring, with stops at The Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone (an actual spinning carousel — don’t worry, it’s sloowwwww — and live music make this place so. much. fun!), drinks at The Golden Lantern [which Chris says was his favorite bar out of all those we visited … even if it was a gay bar ;)] and a bit of a walk to Mimi’s in the Marigny, which is, as the name suggests, in the Marigny section of town. We had some delicious tapas for dinner there.

FullSizeRender (94)^^ One of the many second line parades we saw while in town. Anyone can register with the police department for any reason to have a parade, and they will be given real police escorts and everything. Of course you have to hire your own band, though — but those aren’t hard to come by in New Orleans. See the bride in the back? So much fun!

FullSizeRender (93)^^ Checking out the scenery at The Carousel Bar.

IMG_9652^^ So much fun!

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IMG_9665^^ The band in the background could be heard all the way up the carousel part of the bar, which was really cool.

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^^ Delicious dinner at Mimi’s. Tapas rock.

IMG_9695^^ My husband, up to something at Mimi’s, that’s for sure.

And that was our first jam packed day in New Orleans friends! I’ll leave you with this, amazing orchestra duo which we went back to see the following night as well, because they were just that good. Bis bald, friends — and I’ll be back tomorrow with more!

Yellowstone, How We Love You

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After spending a full day with the Tetons on Thursday, Chris and I packed up our belongings from the Tiny House and hopped back in the car to head over to Yellowstone National Park, where we would be spending the next day and 1/2.

A word first about where we slept — the Kings Inn Cody Hotel in Cody, Wyoming.  While there’s a lot to love about this hotel (the eccentric decorations in the lobby and stairwell and the free continental breakfast come to mind), and the town of Cody appeared to be really adorable and quaint and quintessentially mid-western (although we didn’t really get to explore it), Cody is actually quite a distance from the park (about an hour after you make it out of the park, which can take a while depending where you are), so I’d recommend trying first to find somewhere closer, if that’s possible (which it wasn’t for us).

Anyway, it doesn’t matter where we stayed, because we spent full days in the park anyway, and only made it back to the hotel on Friday and Saturday night to pass out. (We made it back so late on Friday that everything was closed for dinner! We had to order pizza from Dominos and save some for the following night, since we knew that would be a late night, too!)

So Yellowstone — oh, Yellowstone. Where do I begin? There’s just so much to love. For starters, it’s important to recognize that it’s been an incredibly active animal season in Yellowstone this year, which is amazing and also a bit scary. There have been some pretty terrible bear encounters, and even a couple of bad bison encounters at some of the parks recently. So we took our bear spray with us again everywhere, tried to hike only when we were with other groups of people and made lots of noise whenever we were in bear territory … the last thing you want to do is come up on a bear and scare or surprise him. Luckily we were safe the entire time, but it’s important to be smart and stay vigilant every single time you visit a park with wildlife. These are wild animals … and no matter how tame and calm they may seem while you’re watching them from afar, things can change in an instant and you really need to stay on your toes.

Okay — enough of that! Once you have properly educated yourself on the way to handle wild animal encounters (!), there is no end to what you can see and do in Yellowstone!

Here’s what we got up to:

_DSC1687^^ One of our first views upon entering the park — you see this and you just know it’s going to be awesome!

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_DSC1706^^ Our first animal sighting in Yellowstone — an elk!

_DSC1709^^ Overlooking Old Faithful from our hike up Observation Point.

_DSC1721^^ Old Faithful erupting! So cool.

_DSC1743^^ Walking around all the different geysers in the Old Faithful area was amazing — they’re so gorgeous and unique.

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_DSC1777^^ Bison!! The first time we saw one we were like “Woah! Look at that Bison!” Then we quickly realized that they are everywhere in the park … still cool though!

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_DSC1806^^ Big-horn elk!

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 ^^ Bear footprint! We saw this about 20 minutes before a black momma bear and her baby walked right up to our car as we were driving home. Chris and I spent about 10 seconds yelling at each other to “grab the camera! grab the flash flight!” before just sitting back and enjoying the sight. Ah, nature. Perfectly lovely, when you’re safe in your car and can watch from a distance 😉

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_DSC1841^^ Guys, there’s a coyote in this picture, I swear! The park was especially active with coyote and wolves around this time, too. Unfortunately we were about 5 minutes too late to catch the wolves on our last night, but we saw some amazing pictures from people who did get to see them!

_DSC1845^^ See that big ole’ grizzly lumbering off to the right side of the photo! We were lucky enough to catch this sighting about 10 minutes after we got into the park on Saturday.

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_DSC1860^^ The Mud Volcano — there are a bunch of different geysers to see around this part of the park, as well, definitely worth checking out!

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_DSC1893^^ The Lower Falls as seen from our ridiculously steep Uncle Tom’s Trail hike.  You guys, this hike is absolutely worth it — if you’re feeling fit enough to do it. It’s definitely not a joke. Yellowstone is over 7000 ft. above sea level, which is pretty high, even for me, coming from Denver at 5280 ft. The hike itself covers a span of about 500 feet, and includes hundreds (I’m not exaggerating) of steps. If you take your time and acclimate before attempting this hike, it’s totally worth the view at the end, though. For those afraid of heights, the open metal stairs might pose a small problem, too. I’d recommend just holding onto the railing and looking straight ahead … not down!

_DSC1897^^ The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

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_DSC1909^^ See? Stairs … and lots of ’em!

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_DSC1943^^ This mom and baby big-horn sheep were grazing right next to the side of the road, totally oblivious to the cars and people.

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_DSC1966^^ Views on our Trout Lake hike. This hike is gorgeous (as you can see from the above photo), and it’s relatively short to get to the lake, but it is steep, and it’s deep in bear country, so do not do this hike without bear spray and lots of other people to make noise!

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_DSC1974^^ Not sure where this skull came from, or what kind animal it is, but let’s just say it was a bit unnerving to come across it while walking around such a serene, beautiful lake!

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_DSC2019^^ Dipping our toes in Lamar River, where tons of people were fly fishing, which is so fun to watch!

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_DSC2035^^ The prong-horn antelope in this picture practically blend right in — can you see ’em?!

_DSC2036^^ While the momma and baby bear was my favorite bear sighting, this was Chris’s. There’s a big ole’ grizzly in the middle of this photo (find him!), which some kind fellow watchers were nice enough to let us borrow their telescopes to see closer. He stayed in this field for hours, eating berries, chasing bison and just generally having a grand old time. It was really something to see.

_DSC2051^^ Another prong-horn antelope.

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_DSC2065^^ This bison and a friend of his wandered super close to our group while we were watching out for the wolves on our last night in Yellowstone. I was a tad scared, to say the least, but no one else seemed to mind, and he did end up minding his own business. Still, it was definitely a bit closer than I normally like to get to wildlife, unless I’m in my car. (Makes for good pictures, though!)

_DSC2086^^ There was a fire that had been started by lightening the whole time we were in the park, but it was far enough away that it didn’t pose any real threat to the visitors just yet. The park has a “let it burn” policy, actually, as this type of thing is nature’s way of rejuvenating the land.

_DSC2096^^ Final, farewell Yellowstone photo — gosh darn you’re amazing!

And that, my friends, is it. Our trips to Jackson, the Tetons and Yellowstone, in three succinct blog posts. Here’s what I’ll say — you could spend weeks here and probably see something new every single day. It’s an amazing, amazing place, and I hope to be back again in the future.

Bis bald, friends!

A Day in Grand Teton National Park

Jackson Lake, Wyoming

After settling into our amazing tiny house last Wednesday, we woke up bright and early Thursday morning, ready to tackle the awesome splendor that is Grand Teton National Park.  We got up around 6 a.m., made some coffee, and sat on our front porch overlooking the Tetons while we planned our day.

Here’s how the day went:

We started with breakfast at a cute little bakery right in the downtown part of Jackson called Persephone, where we ordered coffees, breakfast sandwiches and scones to go. It was busy, but we didn’t have to wait too long, and the food was amazing, so I’d highly recommend checking this place out if you’re in town.

After grabbing breakfast, we headed across the street to an outdoor store and grabbed some bear spray.

A note about the bear spray, people — it’s expensive, but it makes all the difference in terms of comfort level when you’ll be hiking (or even just standing!) in areas where there has been heavy bear activity, like there has been this year in both the Tetons and Yellowstone. For example — we ended up seeing four bears in Yellowstone … but that’s a post for another day 😉

Anyway, after breakfast and bear spray, we started the drive out to the park. The road we originally wanted to take was actually closed down due to bear activity (see!), but no matter where you drive around the Tetons, you’re sure to see some amazing stuff.

Here’s what we got up to and saw:

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_DSC1591^^ Jenny Lake

_DSC1595^^ The views on our Hidden Falls hike.

_DSC1597^^ Jenny Lake as seen from the Hidden Falls hike.

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_DSC1650^^ After our hike, we stopped off at Dornans to have some drinks overlooking the mountains.

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_DSC1675^^ Doesn’t get much more Wyoming than this.

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On our way back to our tiny house, we stopped off at the grocery store to pick up some veggies and smores to grill and some wine to drink. Chris was dying to try out the outdoor grill that came with our tiny house, and I was dying to stare up at the stars all night long — so it worked out well for both of us!

We also decided to try out The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, right in downtown Jackson, which is about as cowboy/Midwest as you can possibly get. It’s definitely worth a stop-in for a drink if you’re in the area!

FullSizeRender (84)^^ You can’t really tell from this photo, but we’re actually sitting on bar stools that are saddles. Fun!

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_DSC1670^^ Grilling for dinner right next to our tiny house. It was the perfect way to end our day full o’ fun at the Grand Tetons!

The next morning we would be up early (again!) to head over to breakfast at The Bunnery in Jackson before driving about an hour or so to start our Yellowstone adventure.

But more on that to come later, my friends. For now — bis bald!

The Art of Asking Someone Else to Take Your Photo

Perfect_London_Pic^^ A perfectly framed London pic … because it was taken by someone else!

If you are anything like myself and Chris, there are many, many times in your traveling life where you’ll be forced to do one of three things:

  1. Ask someone to take a photo of you and your traveling partner.
  2. Take a selfie of yourself and your traveling partner.
  3. Use a camera timer to take a picture of you and your traveling partner.

For a long time, Chris and I avoided all three of these options and just switched off taking photos of each other in the places we were visiting, but I soon came to realize … that blows! I wanted both of us in these photos, so I was going to have to suck it up and figure out the best way to go about that.

Having tried all three, I have to say that asking someone else, however awkward and annoying you might feel about it, is absolutely the best way to go about it … with some etiquette caveats, of course. Selfies, particularly if your traveling partner is much taller than you are (as mine usually is), can sometimes come out like this:

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or

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Hmmmm … definitely not our best. And camera self-timers are great in a pinch, but it generally takes quite a few shots before you get everything lined up right and have everyone smiling with their eyes open at the exact second the camera takes the photo — let’s just say it can be a bit time consuming.

So, that leaves you with the dreaded travelers conundrum — asking someone else to take your photo.  However, if you don’t want your awesome photo to end up like this:

Machu_Picchu Fail^^ Thanks, lady who took our photo directly in front of the Machu Picchu ruins after we had hiked Huayna Picchu. It’s not like you could have told us we needed to move over to the right a bit in order to get the full effect …

… there are some caveats I would always follow.

The Travelers’ Guide to Asking Someone Else to Take Your Photo

1. Don’t be hasty. There’s really no rush. Take your time to scope out the crowd and see who seems to be taking the most thoughtful, well-placed photos themselves. If they’re careful about the shots they have on their own camera, they’re more likely to be careful with your shots, as well.

2. Be polite. I’ve never actually encountered someone who wasn’t happy to take our photo, although there usually is a bit of nerves that can come along with it. (Hey, it’s a big deal to take a photo for people in a place they may never, ever be again!) Don’t crowd people while they’re busy first experiencing a site, don’t ask the single mom chasing after her kids and don’t ask the couple that you’ve noticed bickering all throughout your tour. I’ve found that apologizing for the interruption tends to go a long way, too, as in: “I’m so sorry to bother you, but would you mind taking our photo quickly?”

3. Show them how to use your camera.  Don’t wait until you check the photos someone has taken to realize they didn’t know how to use your zoom — give them all the important intel up front to avoid any confusion. Make sure the camera is already on and ready (sometimes ours goes into hibernation mode when it’s on and hasn’t been used in a while, and it takes a couple seconds to reboot, which tends to confuse people. I’m aware of this now, and try to make sure the person taking the picture doesn’t have to worry about that) and tell them any and everything they need to know about the flash and your zoom.

4. Be very clear about what you want. This is perhaps the most important part of asking anyone to take your photo — what is it exactly that you want? Perhaps if I had thought of this before having that woman take our photo in front of Machu Picchu, I would have remembered to clarify that we wanted the entire ruins in the picture … not just the trail off to the side. Sigh. Do you want your picture horizontal or vertical, or both? What specifically in the background do you want captured, and where do you want to be in comparison to that background? Does it kill you when people cut your feet off in photos? It doesn’t hurt to ask them to take a couple shots, too, just to avoid the inevitable blink or weird smile that can ruin a photo. Politely inform your snapper of how you want the picture to look, and that will help them frame the perfect shot. Believe me, people want to do a good job, so as long as you’re friendly here, people won’t mind a little direction.

5. Don’t be embarrassed to check it. Most people will offer this anyway, but don’t be afraid to really check the photo after it’s taken. If it’s not exactly what you had in mind, just say: “Oh these are great! But would you actually mind just taking one more quick one that gets that waterfall in the background?” If that’s too embarrassing, wait for that person to leave and start over again with someone else.

6. Always reciprocate. It’s just common traveling courtesy to reciprocate the offer back to someone who has just taken a photo of you. Of course if they accept, be sure to go through all the caveats in reverse so that you can be sure you’re snapping exactly what they want, as well. An even better idea — ask them first if they’d like you to take a picture for them. After you’ve already helped them out, they might feel more inclined to do the same for you.

It may seem like a lot to go through to get one photo, but at the end of the day, if you really don’t think you’ll be making it back to that once-in-a-lifetime place, it’s totally worth it.

Do you guys have any additional tips of your own when it comes to asking people to take your photo for you when traveling?

Bis bald, friends — and happy travels!

Ecuador Part I: Quito and the Amazon

Hi friends,

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):

_DSC8207^^ 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.

_DSC8234^^ 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.

_DSC8288^^ 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.

_DSC8354^^ 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!

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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.

_DSC8447^^ 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.

_DSC8459^^ 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.

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_DSC8539^^ Sunset over the Sacha Lodge lake was pretty epic every night.

_DSC8612^^ 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.

_DSC8622^^ Baby tarantulas! We would see very many of these during our stay at the Amazon, most of them a whole heck of a lot bigger than this one.

_DSC8641^^ Look at this little cutie patootie!

_DSC8654^^ These parrots fascinated me. They come to the clay lick to eat the clay, which helps neutralize the acid in their stomachs from eating berries and such. Such smart parrots.

_DSC8697^^ 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.

_DSC8698^^ Another shower monkey!

_DSC8726^^ How cute are these cabins!?

_DSC8764^^ 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.

_DSC8794^^ We took a lot of canopy walks high above the trees, where we saw tons of birds like Toucans and Hummingbirds and even a King Vulture!

_DSC8852^^ 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?

_DSC8880^^ 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.

_DSC8882^^ Look at those teeth!

Amazon_Hammock^^ Amazing Amazon hammock views.

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!