Category: miscellaneous

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Peru: Introduction


We have talked about visiting Peru for years, and the last year quite seriously. We do not usually go on tours but rather spend a good amount of time putting together our own itinerary. So I spent hours looking for a tour that best matched the itinerary. We went through a newer tour agency based in Lima called Peruvian Soul. They have preset tours that they will then customize, and one in particular matched what I was looking for.

Some of the unusual tidbits I picked up while we were there before I delve into the experience itself:

  • Peruvians are short, I fit in pretty well. This is mostly due to the mountains’ thin air, causing the body to develop larger lungs for smaller bodies.
  • Peruvians are hagglers. Expect to negotiate prices for taxis and most shopping.
  • Nowhere can one throw toilet paper into the toilet. This was the hardest aspect because frankly one goes into autopilot in the bathroom. They have garbage cans next to toilets and are good about keeping up with it.
  • The roads and sidewalks outside of Lima are super slick cobblestone. It’s impressive people aren’t slipping all the time.
  • A lot of quinoa is grown here. Unfortunately, like many crops that become popular outside its country of origin, the price is now greater than many Peruvians can afford.
  • It’s easy to confuse the Incan flag for the gay pride flag; however, if you look closely you’ll see the Incan flag covers all seven colors of the rainbow and the pride flag only six.
  • A Peruvian woman with two braids is single. After marriage it becomes one braid.
  • Many doors are painted blue to keep away the devil. When the Spaniards invaded, they converted much of the population to Catholicism.
  • Drivers are frightening. They make their own lanes and rules. Driving here requires a lot of luck and confidence. They also “talk” a lot to each other; one must be a heavy sleeper to make it through the cacophony of honking.

We left on Friday, 28 August, packing as lightly as possible. Our tour contact spelled Herr’s name incorrectly repeatedly, which was something we needed to address a few times throughout the trip. I brought my luggage to work and Herr met up with me on the way to the airport that afternoon. Our flight path took us first to Chicago, then Dallas, and then to Lima. It took from 4:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. the next morning, but we stayed in the same time zone the entire time. This was our first time south of the equator and to South America.


So if you have visited this site anytime recently you may have noticed it has been a good while since it was last updated. Because of multiple events, it has been on a hiatus. The winter of 2012 I spent almost a fortnight in San Antonio, TX providing training to a colleague. Not long after returning to Europe, I accepted a job that relocated us back to the U.S. Months were spent packing and then looking for a permanent location. We bought our first house (and acquired our first mortgage… 🙁 ), and another few months passed as we unpacked, settled in, and handled our first few incidents as homeowners.

It was about this time that a big project at work really started to pick up steam, which left us gasping for breath once we launched in October of 2014. We were all fried and sort of floating for a few months as the dust started to settle, and we are now slowly starting to make some progress again. During all this, not much traveling could be done. Over the holidays we did manage to take an extended wedding trip though, so it’s time to start bringing this site back to life! Thank you for your readership.

Alpine Adventures

Two months ago we spent an intense week of outdoor activities with two friends for an experience of a lifetime! We don’t have all the photos yet because we had to use waterproof film cameras and ended up accidentally swapping it with a friend.

Saturday: Labor Day Celebrations

After taking a quick stop outside of Munich to pick up our fourth partner in crime, we arrived in Garmisch-Partinkirchen, the location of our quaint cabin. The resort hosted celebratory activities including traditional Bavarian musicians, mechanical bull riding, and short game challenges. Then once the sun went down, the fireworks came out! And it was quite a show, lasting 15 minutes. A fun way to start the trip!


Sunday: White Water Rafting

The rafting happened in Austria, but we were able to get in on a group that included travel to the location. Woohoo! The weather was agreeable (and seemed to trend that way once on the Austrian side of the Alps), so squeegeeing into the wet suit, while not easy, was exciting. We had a really fun guide, and some of the fellow rafters were in the water more than the raft… but mostly intentionally. Out of all the water-based activities, the rafting was surprisingly the least intense (just say that to your shoulders after paddling for an hour!).

Monday: Kayaking

Kayaking occurred on the German side of the Alps, and the weather confirmed it with grey misty clouds. Luckily, the instructors said this was good weather for kayaking. Unfortunately, one friend had to stay behind, feeling under the weather, so the three of us joined a small group to get some practice done in the Eibsee Lake before heading to the river. The lake was gorgeous, although the kayak paddling was much more difficult and tiring than it looked. And going straight isn’t easy too! Once we got the basics, they had us play kayak polo. It was a bit unbalanced (there were some really good kayakers in the group), but really fun anyhow!

The river was a bit intense, but at least the current would push us along. The more difficult aspect to the river was doing a 180 into eddies. I didn’t catch that a “rock” bar (think “sandbar”) was in the middle of the river, and got caught on the wrong side. I ended up “scooting” across the rocks, which was harder because I couldn’t stop laughing while everyone else passed me by giggling. By the end I think we all felt a bit bruised.

Tuesday: Tandem Paragliding + Bike and Hike

The morning started off cloudy, so we weren’t sure the paragliding was going to happen until an hour before. It was early, but the guides checked and give it the green. We rented a couple bikes and went to small hut to meet two locals. My guy had 5,000 flights under his belt, and spoke enough English for us to get along. They had on gigantic nylon bundles that looked to weigh as much as them, but we had to walk fast to keep up.

Taking the egg-shaped lift up the Alpine mountain, we turned down a dirt path to be ambushed by cows with giant bells around their necks. The lined up on the ridge, five or six, before breaking into a fast gallop at us. And what do they want? Treats and petting. Awwww… one was tempted to eat the parachute, but we were running and up in the air in time. Tandem paragliding means the only work you need to do is the initial run, then you let the guide take care of the flying part while you sit in almost like a canvas chair. We did some crazy spins before making a landing. It was awesome!

Unfortunately, the same friend felt sick again after that, so the three of us took the bikes along the trail to the Partnach Gorge, which was spectacular! We saw it a bit about four winters ago, but this time we walked the whole thing, then had the bright idea to hike up to walk along the ridge. I think one of us was feeling a bit murderous after that… but it was a beautiful day with a relaxing bike ride back to the cabin. I’m glad we didn’t do the tour thing for this and just went on our own. It was easy (the logistics), and no pressure.


Wednesday: Geocaching and Spa Day

One friend had to head back home, so we took the morning to try our hand at geocaching, unsuccessfully. We weren’t terribly prepared, although we did print two geocaching sites from geocaching.com. We used a car GPS, and while those are fairly accurate for driving, we couldn’t input the coordinates properly, and it was off by 10-15 feet (not bad for a car GPS).

We had to return, but it got us on a geocaching kick. The few other times we were still underprepared though, not being able to translate the degrees properly and not having a handheld device (we tried the car GPS again, which just doesn’t work). Someday we’ll get it right! But as Herr drove one friend to the airport, me and our other friend enjoyed some time in the spa, pool, and outdoor hot tub. Woohoo! It was a nice needed break, especially with the activity coming up the next day…

Thursday: Canyoning

Canyoning. In one word? Awesome. We had to get up early to drive back to the Feel Free company in Austria. Once we crossed into the Austrian Alps, the sun broke through although it was still a bit chilly. Donning wet suits, rappelling equipment, and hiking boots, we piled in a van and drove up high in the Alps, where we were dislodged near a bridge over a rocky river. That we then rappelled over and into… we saw beautiful waterfalls, slid down natural rock slides, cannonballed into small but deep pools of water, rappelled a good deal, and earned several bruises. It was quite an experience! At the end, they set up a fire and grilled cheese spaetzle. Yum! I had only boiled spaetzle before, who knew it could be grilled, giving it a smoky campfire taste? This activity is one I think we all would love to do again (although I honestly can’t think of one activity we didn’t really like).

Canyoning with waterfall.

Friday: Vipiteno and Bolzano

Because we spent so much time on the go, we opted for a bus tour through Austria and into northern Italy. We made a stop in Vipiteno to sample wine and shop a bit, then went to Bolzano for lunch and to visit the Otzi exhibit. Otzi is the oldest preserved human and is “iced” daily. The exhibit was fascinating, although it was disturbing to see a musical had been made from his story… a musical. I had to look it up when we got back, and it seems absolutely dreadful. But it was a beautiful day in Italy (and honestly, there are very few days in Italy that aren’t).

Saturday: Linderhof Palace

After checking out, we made a slight detour to see Linderhof Palace. Photos aren’t allowed inside, but the interior was opulent and cozy at the same time. I think the grotto was the best feature, manmade for Ludwig II to enjoy his private opera or other musical performances, sitting in a cave or paddling around in his golden swan boat, and afterwards swimming in the interior lake that could be heated. Dude! He also created several cabins from folklore or fairy tales, where he would have servants dress in costume for the full effect. After that, the ride home was fairly humdrum, although we took a fairly scenic road along the border that inspired me to look into possibly doing this trip again in the future with a slightly different locale.

Linderhof Palace.

So concluded our outdoor adventures, but the bruises lasted a few weeks longer as a reminder. 😉

Italy and the Adriatic: Part 5

Venice Day 1

The captain had mentioned early views of Venice from the ship around 6 a.m., but the sun was streaming in the port holes before that even. We made it out of our room by 6:30 a.m., but we were still well out of the Venice area. The ship finally docked at 10 a.m. after puttering through the city for nearly an hour, and the sun was out to greet us! After collecting luggage, many of the passengers bee-lined for the nearest water bus. It was a bit messy, but everything came together for our almost 45 minute ride up and through the Grand Canal. Luckily, the B&B was only a block away from the stop, so finding it and getting logistics in order was a snap.


First up was a winding route to the Santa Maria della Salute, one of Venice’s four plague churches, after a quick lunch stop (seafood pizza, anyone?) in a campo en route. It’s mostly a huge domed room, and it does leave an impression. Worth the circuitous trek! The Guggenheim Museum was on the path back, but we kept going until the Accedemia Bridge and on to San Marco Square. Crowded, but not phobically so. I understand “loggia” now, so many arches! The basilica wasn’t open, although a line funneled through the entryway to get a sampling of the golden mosaics littering the ceilings of this building, so we bought the ticket to the Doge’s Palace that included four other museums.

Santa Maria della Salute.Basilica mosaics.

The Palace wasn’t terribly busy at all (still have shivers at the thought of the people crunch at the Vatican), so seeing the Doge’s apartments, the judicial suites, and the new prison over the Bridge of Sighs was quite pleasant. I particularly enjoyed that last bit (I don’t know why I find dungeon-y areas to be interesting), so we picked up Casanova’s escape from a Venice prison to read later on. Just off San Marco square in direction of Rialto, we ate at a standard Italian restaurant and learned some important lessons. One. Don’t sit, there’s a fee. Two. Italian waiters aren’t all that friendly, but it doesn’t matter because they throw in their tip in the bill. Three. It’s better just to order “on the go”.


After that enlightening experience, we went our separate ways as Herr and I wished to see the square at night. There was some time left before then, so we mostly “got lost” (Venice is very much so a rat maze, but one could hardly get lost if one wanders enough; it’s an island for heaven’s sake!) looking for a Bankomat. We gave up and asked for directions after a while and made our way back to the square for dusk. Not as many folks, but still a substantial number (only 9 p.m. though). We got photo happy then made our own way to Rialto Bridge and back to the B&B.

Shop window.Gondolas.Marble walls.Gondolas.

Venice Day 2

A wicked storm passed through in the night that made for bad sleep, so waking up was not an easy task. Sunday isn’t a very active day in the city as well, which was good for us as most places didn’t open until 10 a.m. Because the weather was so cold, we spent much of our day indoors. The day before we passed a permanent da Vinci’s machines exhibit in a de-sanctified church, and it was en route. It held 55 of 60 reproductions from da Vinci’s codices and was a fun way to start off the museum run.

This time was much easier to find our way to San Marco, where we explored the Museum Correr (a more general museum of Venetian history), the Archaeological Museum (which really didn’t feel like it had much to do with Venetian history), and two rooms of the National Library with displays of books from the San Michele monastery and a fabulous map created by a monk, Fra Mauro, that I really enjoyed.

By then the basilica had opened up and we popped in line to see the interior. It is worth seeing, but photography is not allowed (strictly speaking), and still too many tour groups! And that was another prohibition: do not give explanations inside the basilica. No one was following those rules very well, and no one seemed to care too much. Because the bell tower was just across the way, we paid the eight euros a person to go up the elevator (I never paid so much to go up to a vantage point yet in Europe, and that includes the Eiffel!). The top was extremely windy but offered great views of the city that we didn’t stick around to enjoy so we could get out of the wind just as quickly. We later learned that in 1902 the bell tower crumbled to a pile of rubble of its own accord, so this one is fairly new construction for Venice and is already experiencing the cracking the previous thousand year old one did. Herr learned the city is putting a titanium ring in its foundation to stop the ground from shifting out from underneath it, so I’m curious if that really helps.


We took nearly the same path as the day before and crossed the Rialto bridge in the daylight. I was interested to see the famous market, but it’s mostly closed on Sunday (except for some vegetable sellers and souvenir shops). So that was a quick run through and back to the B&B to drop off our goodies. Herr went to a Vivaldi concert that evening, but I took it mostly to relax. We did a lot of touring this trip, and it was all starting to catch up to me!

Venice Day 3

Venice, in the last day, was spent at the Guggenheim Museum and the park with a whole lot of wandering around aimlessly (mostly wherever shiny objects glinted) until the train left for Verona. Sadly for tourists, weekdays seem to be jam packed with classroom visits (the museum was formerly a house, so get the large airy vault-like rooms out of your head), with children showing very little interest in the subject matter that a full paying audience would have liked to appreciate. At the Guggenheim, I counted around seven or eight classes that came jabbering like a flock of seagulls all with some critical proclamation to make about life. The collection itself suits a broad audience, some of it appealing more to others in different rooms. We both saw fascinating pieces, regardless of the feeling of struggling upstream in trying to forge through the masses.

One of the last remaining parks on the main island is near the bus and train stations. Hearing the sounds of cars and buses was jaunting after two days within the carless town (although motor boats are everywhere). We sat in the shade of trees with the entertainment of pigeons playing in the water then walked some more along the Grand Canal with gelato in hand. Late in the afternoon we caught the train to Verona. The B&B was located on the top floor, so there was no getting away from MORE STAIRS! Oh the stairs, stairs, stairs… but I digress.


Verona wasn’t quite what I expected. I think I had more of a Tuscany village picture in my mind based on Letters to Juliet, but the city is a fairly modern European city. On the way into the old city is the Roman Theater and Archaeological Museum. The Ponte Pietra bridge (partially bombed in the war and reconstructed with brick) took us in with no real plan. Piazza della Erbe isn’t too far from the bridge and houses a fun market filled with several fresh fruit vendors.

Roman ruins.

Just farther south is Juliet’s House. The archway is littered with graffiti (e.g. love notes), but the house itself is now kept clean. The alley was crowded, and we decided to pay to go into the house. Keep in mind that Juliet’s house isn’t really a historical fact, and even the “infamous” balcony isn’t real. The protrusion was added in the early 1900s and could even be a sarcophagus! We saw several “hanging” sarcophagi, which made me curious about them in their open air stone gazebos (I believe they are the Scaliger Tombs). The house’s interior was reconstructed to resemble what a house may have looked like in the time of Shakespeare. The Romeo and Juliet theme was carried throughout, but it was overall a modest display and surprisingly quiet (most people just do improper things in the alley to the poor bronze Juliet statue).

Love graffiti.Juliet house.

We stopped for a fresh fruit cup snack, then walked down the main shopping street that came out at the amphitheater that is still in use. Unfortunately, the troubles we had getting in (bring exact change!) weren’t quite worth the effort. Along the trip were some beautiful theaters and amphitheaters already, and while this one was still in use (workers were setting up a stage while we sat there), we found nothing really significant about it. However, afterwards we stopped for a fruit popsicle dipped in chocolate and found heaven! Ohhhh, so good! We sat in the neighboring piazza and devoured them. My goal from that point on was to have another one, but sadly we never did cross another shop by happenstance (grrr).

The Via Roma cut right to Castelvecchio, which was an impressive structure right on the river. It houses a museum, but we liked the idea of moseying around outside more. Another unique Veronese feature are the forked battlements. I’m not quite sure what their purpose was, but they do stand out. The Ponte Vittoria is connected to the Castelvecchio with even more stunning views of Italian hills, the river, and architecture, and it offered a good deal of languorous water and bird viewing. After a while we made it a bit farther north to a park for some more viewing in a seated position and finally determined to see at least the exterior of the duomo up close. We crossed back into downtown, saw the duomo and Anastasia church exteriors, came across the Scaliger Tombs and Romeo’s House around the corner. That building is privately owned and only offers its exterior to the public.

Scaliger Tombs.

At that point we were pretty cooked and made our way back to the B&B to meet up with our ride (the innkeeper) to the airport, but we had enough time to jaunt up more stairs in a hill (more!) for a decent vantage point of the city. Verona wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was still a good visit. I’m not sure I would have put it at the end of our trip like we did (with so many fantastic cities already in our memories), but it was fun to get a little caught up in the Romeo and Juliet romance and have one really tasty fruitcicle. 🙂