Friday, December 24, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Then we headed to Uxmal to see our first maya temple. Today we have a much better map so we got to the right highway directly. We had our first (and hopefully last) encounter with the police. After a bit of conversation with the policeman it was quite clear that he just wanted a bribe, even though he was threatening to put us in jail because we didn't have our passport and we could be illegal Immigrant. Even though this place is very nice we would not become illegal immigrants in mexico thank you very much! We gave him a bottle of water and he let us go.
We found Uxmal without any problems and once parked we headed for our first mayan complex. It was located in a luscious jungle- very Lara Croft according to D.
We started by looking at the pyramid of the Magician. It's a beautiful pyramid with an elliptical shape which makes it very elegant. Unfortunately we can't climb it anymore. We then headed to the Nunnery Quadrangle. It is a huge courtyard bounded on each side by long buildings. We observed our first details of the Mayan architecture and how they decorated their buildings. Unfortunately, limestone is a bit like gruyere and the stones didn't resist the time.
On the way to the Governor's palace, we pass by the ball court. This one is actually fairly small. The biggest one is in chichen itza. The ball court is surrounded by two walls on which people stand to watch the game. They had to put a rubber ball through the small hoop located way above the ground. It's like the quiddich game of Harry Potter but without the broomsticks!
The Governor's palace is quite an important structure. It's built on a platform and has a temple at the top where you have an impressive view of the pyramid of the Magician. It is guarded by a double jaguar throne. The person that discovered it didn't take it because it was to heavy to transport but he didn't look below it where there was a cache full of jade and ceramics! On the platform we saw the temple of the turtles. It is quite small with an open courtyard but was nicely decorated with little turtles.
next stop was the Great pyramid that looks like a typical Mayan pyramid. It's about 30m high and it's one pyramid that we can still climb. It took a bit of effort to get to the top but the view from the top was totally worth it. We were almost the only one there and we could really enjoy the view as long as we wanted.
Our final stop at Uxmal was the Dovecote. It derives its name from the patchwork of niches in the roof comb of the high wall. It was very well made and a bit of a shame that we could not get any closer. We went back to the entrance via the Quadrangle of the birds, located just behind the pyramid of the magician to observe the pyramid once more before heading out. The first site was absolutely incredible.
We made it to Merida fairly quickly and decided to go for a quick caffeine fix at Cafe Chocolate which was about a block from our hotel. D had a treat: cappuccino con nutella. It was super good. After such a hard day, walking around, we went for a quick dip in the swimming pool -quite cold at first- but it felt really good.
Diner was on the main plaza with a local band playing the guitar, very good music - besa me besame much lalalalala!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Navigating our way out of Merida was quite a challenge, especially with the maps we had, something that became a recurring theme for todays adventure. But after seeing the baseball stadium and finding a useful Pemex gas station we were on the right track, a few more villages and topes major, and now anti-topes, some being anti-topes major which might in another life be confused with cenotes, and we turned down the right road.
We boarded our tiny horse drawn carriage with our swimmers on and masks in the rucksack and set off down the railway track at a leisurely clip. After a few minutes, we got to the first cenote. We went down a flight of wooden stairs and found an amazing pool of clear water. It was absolutely magical. You can understand why the mayas thought they were magical places and they were dedicated them to the god of water. The water depths was 3meters for the shallow part and about 10 meters at the 'deep end'! There was a few people in the water but we had a really nice time swimming in the blue water and looking at the small fishes. After 30 min in the water it was time to get back on our little carriage and go to the next cenote.
The access to this cenote was much steeper than the previous one and getting into the water was quite tricky as you had to go down a very slippery ladder type thing with tilted wrungs, some of which were missing. D went first and helped me out. We took our masks this time so we could see the bottom of the cenote which was much smaller than the previous one but still had quite a bit of light coming through some small holes in its roof. There were also some tree roots hanging down through the ceiling of the cenote. Since it was so difficult to get into the cenote S decided it would be fun to jump into. It was a lot of fun but my swim suit decided to go visit a different part of the cenote ;-)
Now time to move on to our third cenote. This one was very different as it was only accessible via a small hole (literally) and we went down through it descending a vertical ladder. Definitely worth it. The cenote was only lite via a few collapses of its roof, so t was actually quite dark until our eyes got used to it. The access to the water was even more difficult than the previous one so D and i jumped in and it was a lot easier. We saw a few bats flying around in the dark above us. After a few minutes of swimming and snorkeling around the clear water we decided it was time for us to head back, really a fabulous experience. Our little horse brought us back safely to the start of the "rail road". Before hitting the road again we stopped for some lunch, a buretta and a poc cho (yucatan speciality like pork tacos), after which we headed back to Merida. This time we found our way a little bit more easily than on the way in!
Back in town, we dropped all our stuff and went for a bit of a tour of the town and bought some xmas decoration - a little angle and a little santa claus. We also found a shop making chocolate from yucatan, so we bought a few bars to sample and a few to take with for the family at xmas.
After all that swimming and walking, it was time for some dinner. We went to a place recommended in all the guide books called alfredo continental. We had some enchiladas and pollo pibil. Very filling and yummy. Time to go to bed for a good nights sleep to be full of energy for Uxmal tomorrow!
Monday, November 22, 2010
We found our little car shortly after the boat deposited us at the quay side, the boat ride from the island scooting by very quick as we were buried in our books. First stop Pemex...it was to be a 4hr drive to Merida and we weren't exactly topped up!
We cruised through some pretty dense forest and a few villages with lots of dogs strewn about the roads, accompanied by loads of turkey vultures too. Soaz did a magnificent navigating us through some tricky and particularly unmarked roads to get us all the way to Izamal and the golden plaza. But first some lunch. Just opposite the convent we found a local hostelry which did us a super chicken baguette and chicken taco which really hit the spot, it had been a while since breaky it now being 3pm. We walked round the great st Antonio de Padua convent grounds first built in 1562 built on top of an ancient Mayan pyramid, and in the distance we saw a real mayan pyramid, hopefully many more to come over the next few days. The rain was never far and we decided to continue to Merida, only about an hour further.
We finally made it to Merida where the traffic was quite bad with one way streets and trucks parked everywhere. After a couple of turns around the blocks we finally found our hotel, hacienda Merida. Gorgeous hotel located very close to the town center, with a little pool shimmering blue in the dark and only 8 rooms. We cleaned up and decided it was time for an aperitif, Pina colada, and our man even brought us a little nibble to accompany it, very thoughtful. We had a little stroll towards the main square which was all lit up for two hundred years of Merida. We felt it was a very typical spanish colonial town with the central square being a large open plaza with archways all round and a church, lots of street vendors, and traffic chaos! We found a great spot for dinner, S trying the pollo de pibil, half a chicken wrapped in banana leaves marinaded in Mayan sauce, really tasty!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Hire car pick up was an adventure for sure, negotiating the insurance requirements was a learning experience, so it was nearly 4 by the time we were cruising along the road following signs to Merida, it was going to be a bit of a race against the setting sun to make the one turning up to isla Holbox, and to get the last ferry across to the island. It was slow going getting out of town mainly because of all the pot holes you could loose small armies in! Cancun looked busy but we cruised along with Soaz giving excellent directions and we turned north to Chiquila as the sky turned nice and fiery, the roads had significantly improved and we cruised along making sure to take the "topes" (super high speed bumps) really slow, certainly effective traffic calming tricks!
We found a suitable 'Estacimientos' for parking the car whilst we were to be on the island and got a chap to bike the bags over to the pier where we almost immediately got whisked away by the 7o'clock ferry that left at 6.20, we were pretty happy to have arrived when we did, that was meant to be the last ferry for the day! We bumped along in the dark for about 30mins before disembarking and being greeted by a set of golf cart taxis, what better way to get to our hotel, the Holbox Dream, very pleasant! We were after the owners bed time and found a notice at reception that #2was for us, spot on, so we dumped our bags and headed for dinner.
We walked down to the main square, most likely the Plaza des Armas I'm sure, and spied a super looking fish place. We were very well fed, a huge surf and turf grill platter with excellent prawns, lobster tail, "white fish" and 3cuts of meat, which paled into the background in comparison - a great way to end our first day, tomorrow will be the 21st!
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
link to 1st ever post, 28th September 2005...here's to lots more posting and exciting times to come ;-)
Sunday, September 26, 2010
The transition all set out as the sun comes out, super fun, altho the swim was a little nerve racking!
Monday, September 06, 2010
An early start, quite some distance to cover in the car to get back to Seattle and the airport. The sun had also decided to take a labour day holiday, the cloud clung to the sides of the hills and rolled in off the sea, we cruised through a few small towns and navigated ourselves to the ferry port north of Seattle, making a direct line now for the first ever Starbucks, which we noticed in fact has a very slightly different symbol to the well known green circle! We actually got our coffee in le Panier which caught our eye as it had exceedingly good pain au chocolate! Delicious, and how S managed to find us a seat I've no idea!
We strolled around the lovely Pike Place market which had many gorgeous items, although none of which managed to make it into our hands! It was all very pleasant and we it felt quite similar to norway with all the boats in the harbour, bays, greeness and mountains close by!
Sunday, September 05, 2010
We got ready and headed to port angeles and then hurricane ridge. We found a nice walk of 1.6 miles which should bring us to a nice view point where we could see olympic on the south side and canada on the north side. After a quick snap at the amazing views already, we took off for our hike. Along the way we found a very cute and speedy chipmunk. It was really really fast. We kept walking hoping to see a marmot or a bald eagle. We got to the top and the view on the south was nice but not so much in the north...Canada was in the clouds! D spotted a marmot on a little rock quite far away but with we could see it quite nicely with the binos. We got closer and realize that there were actually 2 of them. They were quite big (at least bigger than i thought). We observed them for a while but the clouds were coming in so it was time to head back as we were getting quite cold. We had a close encounter with a deer along the way. But it was not too close and it looked nice. Back at the visitor center we had a nice cup of coffee to warm us us along with a nice cliff bar.
D spotted a secret back road across to the rafting place which was at the Elwha river. We headed back down the road and a little offpiste as the road turned into a dirt track. As we were a little early for the trip we took a side trip up a fabulous dense forest track where the light amongst the trees was just great.
Dave the kayak man gave us big yellow water proof trousers and wet suite boots to keep us dry and warm and we met Lorenzo the boat pilot for our trip, it was going to be a private trip just for us in a little blue inflatable. We headed about 6 miles up river back into the park before getting into the boat, it was a beautiful afternoon and we were quite excited all suited up ready to go! Lorenzo gave us a couple of tips and then it was "forward paddle 2 please", lovely. We cruised past some fisherman before hitting our first rapid, although the water was fairly low it was great fun as he led us through a bunch more rapids and told us about the mountains and trees. It was his last trip for the season. We saw lots of dippers dipping along the rocky shores and fishing along the banks, as well as a couple of kingfishers shooting away from us into the distance. "forward three please"! We managed to take a couple of pics as we cruised along a little flatter section before some more rapids, and then into the pools at the bottom infront of the dam. He showed us an enormous drowned cedar tree that still stood resolute since the construction of the dam in 1915! Then we were at the take out where the van was waiting for us and we headed back to take off out wet socks and trousers from all the splashes and excitement! Definitely a wet bum!
As dinner at lake crescent had only been nice enough we decided to make a trip up to the SolDuc hot springs for a bathe before trying their dinner. It was a lovely drive up through the forest as. The sunlight slowly slipped away, we paid our dews and hopped into the pools along with quite a few other folk, the birds were coming in to roost for the night overhead. It wasn't too sulphury and being a pleasant temperature we soaked for a while before showering and heading in for dins, lovely salmon followed by more salmon, but no space for pud unfortunately. A bit of a drive home, quick glance at the wonderful exhibition of stars overhead before packing all our stuff and crashing into bed. What a day!
Saturday, September 04, 2010
The ranger lady told us we weren't going to get too low a tide today so the rock pools wouldn't be very accessible, but we took a fabulous walk along the beach seeing the mist rising out of the sea blowing along the sands where the sanderlings and sand pipers ran up and down the beach avoiding the breaking surf. Seagulls grouped in flocks as the sea receded and we walked along the log strewn shores. Such a romantic start to the day!
We drove up the coast and stopped at the big cedar, which was really very large! And then further up to Rialto beach which was really pretty. Unlike the beach next to Kalaloch which had been very nice fine sand this was quite cobbly with occasional dark sand from the basalt outcrops. Again there were logs all washed up at the back of the beach, but by this time we were more interested in finding the tide pools with the promise of anemones and star fish. We weren't disappointed, altho the tide wasn't very low we could still get close enough to stick our noses into the pools and see some of the incredible greens of the anemones and purple and oranges of the star fishes. We decided to dash back to Beach 4 where we found yet more tide pools and lots of barnacles and a great selection of star fish, fabulous. So many photos and several wet feet episodes as we got a little too close to the now incoming tide! Well worth it though!
By the time we'd walked over all the cliffs and taken a million photos it was nearly 3...definitely time to get going up to the Hoh rain forest, it was hard dragging ourselves away from the blue blue sky and sweeping beaches where we could see some sort of scoup diving in the surf zone, but the mountains were calling.
We flashed our NP frequent flyer badge and were waived into the park free of charge, the rain forest that receives something like 12ft of rainfall per year just around the corner. We saw a cafe called the hard rain cafe instead of the hard rock cafe!
We did a little walk called the hall of mosses which was covered in lots of mosses, all hanging from the trees, both amazingly impressive. We saw a little red squirrel eating his 4hr while we were fearsomely nibbled by the mosquitos! Then we carried on to the xxxx walk it really was a great walk. About 5 mins after D said how quiet it was, but where are all the animals did we spot across the other side of the river a herd of Roosevelt Elk, fantastic, time for the long lenses and the binos and even a male with some large antlers! We were super pleased with seeing them...
We headed back for the car to get to our final destination of the day, Lake Crescent lodge. We got in the car and a few minutes down the road, some cars stopped to observed some elk munching on the side of the road. We did the same and parked the car nearby observing from the other side of the road at a safe distance. D took some nice shots making his famous moose impression!! Then the elk decided to cross the road and we didn't want to scare him of so we stayed quietly in the car. He decided to munch literally right in front of the car. S not being the best with animals at such close quarters was quite (actually very) scared and hid behind the dashboard, D kept saying "don't to look up". I glanced a few times and didn't like what i saw..his huge antlers right in front of the windscreen! The ranger came to our rescue and the damn elk would not move whatsoever even with the flashing lights and the sounds...unbelievable. We finally managed to leave and i was quite happy about that!! We made it back quite late at the crescent lodge so we settled quickly and headed for a well deserved dinner overlooking the lake. Time to rest to be ready for another day of adventure tomorrow!
Friday, September 03, 2010
It was nearly 10 by the time we got on the road heading to the coast, first stop lake quinault on the very southern edge of the park, it was fabulous heading along the tree lined roads catching glimpses here and there of the Olympics way in the distance, it was a gorgeous day with lots of blue sky and warmth, there were lots of crows and the occasional bigger bird circling over head.
We stopped into the national forest ranger station to get some tips and then at the general store for some snacks before seeing the worlds largest special tree, pretty large diameter, Soaz even did some climbing and posed for the camera half up the trunk!!
We were headed for the end of the road for a walk along the huge river, the scenery was super nice, lots of heavily wooded valley sides and most of the trees carrying large mossy beards! The river must have a massive energy in flood for the logs strewn about the gravel beds were plentiful and mostly full size trees, not just saplings, but today the river was pottering down quietly enough for a dipper to be enjoying lunch on the banks and in the current, we watched him and a juvenile perhaps at a road stop with sweeping views up to rocky peaks in the distance. S spotted a fine waterfall so we stopped and posed next to the park sign and admired the falls before finding the start of our chosen walk for the day.
Wolf bar camp spot was 2.5miles walk along the edge of the river, there was a little car parking spot where we changed and packed our cliff bars before sauntering along the little path, the trees were huge, towering above us, many covered in long wispy mossy fronds, nicely dry today, and difficult to imagine this place reportedly gets 12ft of rain a year, fingers crossed none this weekend please! It was a great walk, we saw a big green toad with a white stripe down its back, some large green slugs, lots of insects, some of which decided to eat us and even a little snake that disappeared quickly into the undergrowth!
It was a very nice walk and we went back towards lake quinault using the north road this time. We stopped at the National Park ranger station but they were closing. The lady gave us a few tips and we were on our way to see the trail. It was a very pleasant trail where we saw lots of moses.
It was then time to head to kalaloch our final stop of the day. We got there just fine and checked into our nice little log cabin which look like a norwegian cabin with a fire place. D made a nice fire for us and the cabin temperature increased by 10 degrees easily.
We had a fantastic dinner, made of baguette with chives and cream cheese topped with salmon and marion berry jam...soo good! Followed by alaskan salmon and halibut and the grand finale was a marion berry cobbler...such a tasty dinner! Now time to go to bed and rest for tomorrow's adventure.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
It was gorgeous, and the chap was very friendly, we got settled and D even sneaked in a couple of much needed chocolate biscuits, well we had been on the go since 1pm and it was pretty much midnight NOLA time. Such a nice room and soft sheets, we were out like lights!
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Sunday, August 01, 2010
Unfortunately it was time to head to the airport! Got the car filled up and return and that was it for our trip to LA! Amazing first vacation trip in the US...cant wait for the next one!
Saturday, July 31, 2010
We then went to the new Simpson attraction where we got on a virtual roller coaster! It was time to get to the lower level and the jurassic park ride where we got completely soaked!!! But the weather was so nice,it didn't matter. We went to see some exhibit to calm ourselves after these roller-coaster rides. We had to do a final one though..the mummy one....d had his eyes closed the whole way...it was very scary!
We went on to see more shows with 3D effect like Shrek and terminator and also how these effects are created! It was 5 o clock by then so time to go back to the hotel to get ready for tonights show..morcheeba! I cant believe we were in la the day morcheeba was playing at the hollywood bowl! We bought some snacks and a great lemonade and a $10 glass of wine that d make last until the end of the show! Morcheeba was even better than i was expected and had a fabulous time. The main artist Sergio mendes was not bad either and we listened to a lot of brazilian music with great musicians, singers and the belly-samba dancers with feathers and naked butts!!
When the show was over, we walked..yes you heard it right we actually walked in la back to our hotel...absolutely brilliant location!
Friday, July 30, 2010
After a 45min drive we got there and stopped at the visitor center to pack up on maps and a few postcards and a nice bell with a coyote for the porch of the new house. Off we went with the top down.
We first stop at the barker dam where we went for a nice walk. We saw some nice birds and dougal even caught a squirrel flying! We were getting quite hot and were happy to be back in the car.the next stop was the keys view where we spotted the sanandreas fault and could see the palm spring valley. We went back slightly back on our steps and took the direction of the east to see a special arch. We followed the recommendations but the campground was closed and we were not sure where to go...that never stopped us and we decided to go on a dougal epic (initiated by me i have to admit!!). After a bit of searching we finally found the trail. We finally found the arch thanks to a great spot from dougal. It was totally worth it!
We were dying of thirst by now and we were quite eager to get the the oasis of mara where we could get a drink and see some nice wildlife. We got our drinks but didn't see any birds. I spotted a rabbit tho! We decided that it was time to go home and we stopped at mc donald for a smoothie. I think none of us stopped there in the last 10years.
We drove for a couple of hours and made it back to LA. We decided to drive down hollywood boulevard and we spotted a couple of stars...on the sidewalk, not real ones. We decided to go to Mulholland drive to spot the big hollywood sign. We got there just fine after a bit of a struggle with traffic. We went back down through the neighborhood on the hills and saw some amazing houses. Time to head to the observatory that dougal really wanted to see. We got lost thanks to the roads being blocked but dougal was the best copilot and we finally found it. There was a million people there..incredible. We saw some nice exhibit and we discover that the planet were revolving around the earth in a plane!!
We went back down griffith park and head to our hotel. Due to a show the road was blocked and since we didn't want to get lost we decided to make an illegal u turn right in front of a police car...almost got myself a ticket but i played the very apologetic french part very well and got away with it!! Didn't even have to cry!
By then everything was closed so dougal went for a night food hunting..he finally found a subway and got us 2 sandwiches..i don't know how you'll survive in the us without subway"!
Thursday, July 29, 2010
We got to the boat and picked some nice seats upstairs.
As we sailed off we could see the nice houses on the harbor front..would not mind one of these as a summer cabin! We saw some pelicans diving to get some fishes and started looking for some dolphins. We saw a herd of dolphins and they put a show for us. They jumped out of the waters and we saw a lot of baby dolphins as well. One of the help on the boat spotted a blue whale so we headed over there. In between we saw 1000 of dolphins and lots of birds as well. It was amazing. We got closer to the whale and we could really see the spit of water and his back as he was coming in and out of the water. Then our spotter saw another one and we went to observe that one. We saw his back very well and then he went for a deep dive and it was time for us to get back to the harbor. We just passed a sun fish...truly amazing creature. It's the biggest fish and he has only one bone. We could not believe our luck on this trip. We decided that we needed to send a note to Stephen Fry and Mark Cowardine. You don't need to go to Baja california and hire a plane to see a blue whale. Just take a boat trip from newport beach ;-)
Of to the desert but first we thought we had to drive top down along highway 1...coastal cruising in california!! We went up to long beach and we spotted 1 or 2 platform and also the fake island off long beach which are actually oil platform...sincerely they are way more attractive than the platform. We parked and went for a quick stroll along the marina and found a place for a nice cup of coffee and a quick lunch fix before heading to palm springs. Off we went to the highway and battled through LA traffic...thank god for the HOV lane which helped us escape most of the traffic. Yes,in the US you qualify as a high occupancy vehicle if you are 2 in the car! We made a spot along the way to an outlet mall to stretch our legs a bit and buy a couple of jeans for dougal. We got some very good deals!
We then headed to the palm spring areal tramway. It's a rotating cabin which goes up 6000 ft to the san Jacinto mountains. Amazing views from the top and we got the best place at the restaurant up there where we had some nice salads to finish the day. We got to our hotel just fine and it was a great place where we got a little cabin for ourselves and it had 3 pools open 24/7. We were too tired to enjoy them just now but what a fabulous first day!