Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Brief Trip to Denver

I took a long weekend trip to visit with my brother and his girlfriend, Pam, and to see an old friend of mine. I left right from work on Friday to fly up to Denver. Walking through the ramp to get into the airport, I felt a gust of cool air. I knew I was definitely not in Kansas, or Arizona, anymore! Brrr!

First we went to their new house in the Baker district, which is one of the oldest areas in Denver. They recently bought a gorgeous historic house that had been recently renovated and has such amazing attention to detail. We caught up a bit and headed to our dinner reservation, which was a 15-minute walk. It was so great to just walk to dinner and not have to drive everywhere like you do in Phoenix!!
We got to a really busy street lined with bars, restaurants, shops and various other businesses then arrived at our place, Beatrice & Woodsley.The website looked really cute but that in no way prepared me for what was inside. I entered the door and it was like I was transported into an aspen forest in a huge little cabin. There were actually aspens throughout, sheer white curtains, various very old-looking tools, wooden bridges and it was illuminated by many lanterns. It felt like we stepped into a Beatrix Potter book. Simply amazing!

Everything about this place was quaint and the attention to detail was truly impressive. The food and drinks were amazing. Then the bathroom.. I’m not even sure how to describe it, truthfully, but I have never seen anything like it. The most interesting part was the sink. I wasn’t even sure how to use it, and stared at it for a full minute before trying it. A long band of metal beads were suspended from the ceiling over the bowl and on either side was a long wooden piece that you had to pull—on one side to turn the water on, and on the other to turn it off. The water washed down the beads. It was quite an engineering feat and incredibly impressive. Sadly, I didn’t get a picture but I’m not sure it would have really done it justice.

I ordered a sampler of sorbet, and they brought it in an adorable ceramic piece with three little areas for a scoop. The flavors were interesting, like a citrus mint. It came with a candle propped in a big blackberry, for my birthday. Such a fun night and truly sweet. I felt like we were transported to some other world in the woods somewhere, and it was really an amazing experience.

We walked home, which felt great after the meal. What a fun way to start my birthday weekend!

The next day we started with this adorable little waffle place for breakfast called Waffle Up. They are a few blocks from the house and have some great sweet and savory waffles made in a Belgian style with dough and not batter. They are called Leige waffles. Yum. Double yum. We walked back home and here is what we saw.

Squirrel! :)

Last night my friend Frank came over to the house. I have known him for 15 years through work and we have stayed in touch. He moved to the area 6 months ago. We walked to a large bar that was having an amazing costume party and had a great band playing. There was a T-rex, doctors, dolls, Rosie the Riveter, a hurricane and so many really creative costumes. It was a lot of fun!!

We headed back to Frank's where I met Tola. Beautiful Tola.

On Sunday Frank and I headed to the mountains. We stopped in Frisco for breakfast, to a great place that was really cute. Here is a sign that was posted in the bathroom. 

Frisco is a really cute small town with a gorgeous backdrop of mountains.

Then we headed out and drove on to Vail. I had never been and was curious. I expected it to have a downtown street similar to Breckenridge, but it didn't. It had an area at the base of the mountain with condos, apartments and hotels, restaurants, shopping, etc. It was very quaint and had a Dutch/German flare in areas with the architecture. We walked around a lot with Tola and went to the base of the ski lift.

We headed out and drove past Dillon Lake, which was absolutely gorgeous with the backdrop of snow-covered peaks. We decided to drive down to the water and walk around a bit. The weather turned out pretty nice for the mountains in the 50s.

We went to Idaho Springs to walk around for a bit and to grab lunch at a brew pub. Quaint little town and very cute. Then we headed back for a bit before heading out to a pub to meet Frank's daughter and husband and niece and husband and to watch the Bronco's and Green Bay game. Denver is a bunch of rabid football fans. :)

On Monday, my *birthday* we went for a beautiful hike that followed a stream. It was well shaded but sunny in parts, and we hiked to the sound of birds and the flowing water. It was gorgeous.

Perfect!! It was a great day and I headed home, happy from the weekend and very happy to see my furry monsters at home. :) Well done, Colorado!! 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Santiago, Valparaiso and Easter Island Pics and recommendations

Here are the full picture albums. I had technical issues with picasaweb and may need to find another vendor.. couldn't label many of the pics, they get scrambled during import and only a portion get pulled in. Very frustrating. I tried to reorder then as best as possible within a reasonable amount of time.

Santiago 9/2015

Easter Island
Easter Island

Valparaiso 9/2015


  • Sur Patagonica restaurant (Lastarria)
  • Plaza de Armas
  • Catedral Metropolitano
  • Basilica de la Merced
  • Free Walking tours (excellent!)
  • Correo Central (post office)
  • Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbian
  • La Moneda (presidential palace). The changing of the guard ceremony is impressive if you can catch it (every few days)
  • Citizen Square
  • New York Street
  • Mulato (Lastarria) empanadas, good pisco sour, merkem spice
  • Parque Forrestal
  • Bellavista (patio bellavista)
  • La Chascona (Pablo Neruda's house/museum)
  • San Cristobal (amazing views)
  • Santa Rita and Concho y Toro wineries
  • Pomaire

Easter Island:
  • Marae Cabins
  • Haku Honu restaurant
  • Hanga Roa Harbor
  • Kia Koe tours (more affordable than many options and good guides)
  • Aka Hanga ruins
  • Tonariki moai
  • Rano Raraku quarry
  • Anakena beach
  • Te Ra'ai (traditional show)
  • Ranu Kao volcano and Orongo caves
  • Vinapu
  • Kuki Varui restaurant
  • Te Moana restaurant (excellent and great value, nice sunset view-- if you have sun!)
  • Ahu Tahai ceremonial plaza
  • La Kaleta (simple fare, good sunset view on the harbor)
  • Free walking tour
  • La Sebastiana (Pablo Neruda house/museum)
  • Av Brasil- amazing murals and statues
  • Lukas museum (cartoonist)
  • Plaza Sotomayor (and consider a boat ride to see the city view and sea lions)
  • Hotel Gervese (best pisco sours and nice view!)
  • Cerro Concepcion- neighborhood with great wall art, restaurants, art vendors (oldest funicular)
We never found good restaurants here and ate a good number of empanadas- simple and inexpensive. Mi Casa and Cinzano restaurants I would NOT recommend. Cinzano is the oldest in the area and over 100 years old. I didn't like the food, the decor or the service so cannot recommend.

I also wouldn't recommend the Ibis Hotel. It's right on the water which we thought would be great, however, given that earthquakes happen frequently, they had no policy posted as to what to do, and locked us out of the hotel when we tried to go back after the evacuation at 1:30 am with no note posted. People who were in the hotel were assisted finding other accommodations. Given that earthquakes happen frequently, I would recommend staying higher up. :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Valpariso- last day

It's taken me a few days to post this as my laptop died, then my backup laptop died. So I gave up and tried to take a couple of days to decompress from the trip before getting it figured out. It feels really strange being back and though I weathered the dramatic events well enough, I'm sure feeling it now that I'm home. We had aftershocks for the day and a half after the earthquake so we were on edge the entire time. In fact, one woke us up that morning! Apparently a trucker entered our room as I heard a lot of swearing.

We woke up and wanted to walk around a little, and headed back up Cerro Concepcion to see if there was an artist there with paintings that we saw on the free walking tour. We tried two other times with no luck, so it wasn't meant to be! We wandered a bit through that neighborhood which had some cute stores and murals. Apparently not too impressive as I didn't take any pictures! We were just soaking in the last rays of the city.

We walked down the main road by the hotel and saw a bunch of military personnel with machine guns. It's hard to know if that should make us feel more safe.. or less. We decided to look for lunch though many places were closed. We got an empanada at a little place we walked by many times. Most of the stores were closed as it was Fiesta de Independencia, Independence Day in Chile.

As we were walking back, we started hearing noise that sounded like the boom of a large drum and sure enough there was a parade! Several different groups of military professionals, some in blue and white uniforms, some in army fatigues and others went marching down the road. In front of them were policemen scouring the trash, looking in alleyways for explosives. The sad reality of today. We got a good laugh as several dogs brought up the front of each parade group marching like they were part of it. People followed along as well.

We decided to head out at around 2. We had planned to leave around 4 but we were done so we left. The bus ride was around an hour and a half and had some pretty views.

We got to the airport over five hours early and couldn't check in, so figured we'd grab a snack. I can't even tell you what we received, but it doesn't look like it was ever once alive. Mystery meat is a nice way of saying it. Horror!

We checked in then decided to get a last pisco and spend the rest of our local money. We found these hilarious keychains-- we had seen some wood carved little men figures that if you pulled their head, their, ahem, member, would pop out and it was disproportionately sized. They had keychain versions of them, so with several giggles, we bought a few.

literally, the last picso sour

the flight was long but uneventful and we didn't sleep. We get into Houston and got to try out our Global Entry card. Score! It was awesome and we went through immigration and customs in under ten minutes. We board our flight and were delayed an hour and a half, with no message from the pilot as to why. Maybe an hour in, a man with full hazmat gear came aboard. Are you kidding me?? what more could happen.. we don't know what the issue was though cushions were carried out. This was one of the planes with the tv screen in the seat in front of you and guess what was playing in a trailer, over and over and over.. yup, San Andreas. Sick. Truly.

Made it home and I had to drive I10 where there is a shooter who is targeting cars on the highway. There was a 'shooter tip line' sign up all over the highway, so I was wide awake for the drive. I have never been quite so thrilled to be home after a trip. I enjoyed Chile for sure, though didn't love it like I loved Peru. Even before the earthquake and all that! I did love Easter Island and honestly would recommend this trip. but for me, I will continue traveling and seeing all that I can in this big wide world that we have!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Valparaiso day 2 and 3- Earthquake & Tsunami day

I thought I'd have a relatively slow and mild day to write about, and it's taken me close to a day to sit down to write this as yesterday was rather intense. To go in order..

We woke, had breakfast at the hotel and decided to wander Valparaiso some more. We headed towards Av Brasil which has small parks in the middle of the road (split going each way) with statues for blocks. We passed Mr. Drunk, where last night we purchased a bottle of water and soda. Yup. we did.

There are a lot of brightly-colored buildings with old beautiful architecture, though they are all marred by graffiti. I did't expect to see quite so much on all buildings, even museums, churches and historic buildings. There are a lot of painted murals on some buildings which almost make up for it.

We turned and started walking up. The hills in this city are quite steep and are everywhere. There were some really gorgeous murals on the way. We found a funicular but it looked like it wasn't open as we didn't see anyone there, so we started up the stairs.

And up.
And up...
Dear Lord. We made it, barely. Wow. And we still had a ways to go up.

Partway up, a man was walking down, and we now realize he was saying, "why didn't you take the funicular up, idiots!?" Good cardio day for sure.

We passed a beautiful Catholic Church called Parroquia Las Carmelitas. The houses on top of the next hill were even more brightly colored. The streets are narrow and windy, and it's unbelievable the old standard clunkers can drive up and down them. There are areas that can only be reached by foot.

We wandered and wandered looking for Pablo Neruda's house, La Sebastiana. We saw his mural on the side of a school wall and knew we were close, and then suddenly it was right in front of us.

This house was impressive. While La Chasconna in Santiago is very odd and quirky, this one is actually very nice. Unfortunately we can't take pictures inside, but it was worth the climb (and climb!) He has many collectibles here as well, and the living room is all large picture windows with an amazing view of the bay. His bedroom had the same. 

When he wanted to buy a house here, he requested that he could see all of Valparaiso from the home. This one came on the market and was half-built by a Spanish man, who died during construction. He bought it, naming it after this former owner. It took three years to complete building and furnishing and includes many treasures and gifts from famous artists, politicians, etc.

You walk into a small room and when you start up the staircase there is a stunning mosaic of tan, black and white which is a large map of patagonia, done by an artist. I should mention the original front door was a spiral staircase. Each room is more interesting and the views fantastic. Thee is a large carousel horse in the living room a round fireplace designed by Neruda and some gorgeous stained glass in several places.

Well worth visiting. We walked a bit more in Bellas Artes checking out the murals then headed back down.

We then took the Concepcion funicular, the oldest and most expensive (300 CP) to Gervese Street, which we walked during the tour yesterday. There was an artist with gorgeous paintings I was considering buying, though unfortunately he wasn't there. We decided to stop in the beautiful Hotel Gervese for a drink and a break. It's yellow and large, with lots of wood trim and quite stately. I had considered staying here but it was more costly than I wanted. it was worth visiting.

We met a lovely couple from Copenhagen and enjoyed some pisco sours getting to know them. 

our view

We then headed off looking at what the vendors offered and went into Lukas Museum, dedicated to the cartoonist (one of the murals we saw on the walking tour was dedicated to him.) 

We decided to do an early dinner and went to Cinzano, the oldest restaurant and bar in the area (over 100 years old.) We were quite disappointed. Kim got her usual, lomo a la pobre (steak, fries and fried eggs). The fries were undercooked and the steak overcooked. I got white fish and it was supposed to have a lemon sauce but had a thick cream sauce. Yuck. So far the food has been pretty disappointing in Valpo. The place had little character and we waited forever for our bill, even after asking twice. The only fun part of the meal was the man wearing a t-shirt that said, "Who the fuck is Mick Jagger?"

We left and stopped back in our hotel a bit, and ran into a gal that we met in the empanada shop on our walking tour. She talked to the aussies on our tour mostly. We told her we were headed to a traditional dance show in the plaza and invited her. We planned to meet in the lobby at 7:20.

We met and walked the few minutes to Plaza Sotomayor. there was a stage set up, a large portion of the road blocked off and a lot of seats set up. We didn't expect it to be such a big production. It started fifteen minutes late.

During the third song, we felt a shaking and thought the person behind us were pushing our chairs. I looked, then I saw Kim look, then Rebecca. There was a little old lady behind mine and I don't think she could even reach my chair. We looked at each other trying to put our mind around what was happening. Earthquake. A long rolling one that lasted several minutes. It was an 8.3.

The dancers kept going but we kept seeing people looking back to the port and the water. It was all a bit surreal. Then a policeman went up on stage and started directing in rapid-fire spanish, telling people to evacuate immediately and seek higher ground. We were less than a two minute walk to the water. People started rushing around, pushing a bit though people didn't seem too concerned. Then the sirens and horns started with a message 'evacuate. Tsunami.'

We started to get really anxious then as people were walking slowly single-file up a narrow staircase to start the retreat to higher ground. We climbed and climbed, and thankfully, Valparaiso is so hilly that it doesn't take very long to get high. There was a large open area that people were congregating on. A woman came over to us hearing us speaking English and sounding scared and said not to worry, that we are high enough up and that this happens fairly frequently.

Then we felt another aftershock and decided to continue up. We walked maybe another ten minutes and got to another high and level point in a large opening, where several streets met and the cobblestones were laid in a circle pattern in the area. There were maybe 200 other people there too, including some police and firemen. 

We waited for several hours. We met up with two eighteen-year old German kids who were very sweet, and a few other Aussies briefly. A guy from Raleigh, NC came by to ask what we knew. By that time our phone batteries were all dead trying to get info and let people know we were ok. Information shared and viewed all seemed to disagree so we weren't clear what was going on. We could hear the sirens in the background for quite a while and our phones kept issuing alerts when we had them on.

Around 11 we were cold so went on a search for a cafe. We wandered a while and found a pizzeria. We got some drinks and shared a pizza, the best meal so far in Valpo! We left and it was around 12:30 and went back up the street to where the fire truck was still there, but no one else was. They told us we could probably go back to our hotel (which is right on the water. Not nearly as cool now.) 

We walked down, dropped our German friends at their hostal and went to our hotel. it was locked and dark, and there was no sign up. A man stood outside and said they just left maybe 15 minutes ago. We had no idea what to do.

We walked back up the hill in a numbed and exhausted shock. We figured we'd curl up and try to get some sleep, and now we couldn't get in. We found the hostal and knocked, calling to kevin to let us in. Thankfully he heard us as their room was at the front. They had a lot of open beds, and at 1:30 am we crashed there. He told us he was asked by the owner to not open the door for anyone, but he had heard his name so took the chance.

Around 7:30 this morning the staff showed up, clopping through the house. The woman walked by three times, and the third she stopped in the doorway and slowly walked by. The guy came to the doorway and asked who we were so we explained. We offered to pay and leave but he told us to wait for the owner. She arrived around 8 and we explained what happened. She was very sweet and offered us to stay for free and offered breakfast. We thanked her for her kindness and paid her anyways. In part to be sure Kevin didn't get into trouble for letting us in.

We silently and slowly made our way to the hotel, which was now open. What's strange is the earthquake was around 8 pm and the tsunami (still unsure the size, but between 2 feet and 3 meters) hit three hours later or so, sometime around 11, I think. So by the time the staff left at around 1:30 or a little earlier, all the action was done. It was strange.

We told the girl who helped us how unhappy we were, and that a sign should have been posted telling us what to do. I am not sure she understood. We found out from another guest at breakfast that the hotel told everyone they had to leave (legally they must) and make other hotel accommodations for them. They gave us the night free, which I honestly don't see as any big deal as we didn't stay there, we shouldn't have had to pay. But I personally think they handled it poorly with no notification and should have done more. My tripadvisor write up will be less than favorable.

The harbor today is all still and calm. The port area bustling with sailors, vendors and tourists. All like nothing happened. It's still all kind of surreal. Today we started joking. Kim checked off 'living through a natural disaster' from her bucket list. 

All in all, it wasn't too bad. The sirens were quite unnerving but besides that, we were pretty calm. losing our phone and not being able to reach anyone was a challenge. The earthquake hit something around 200 km away, and that town had five dead. So, we are grateful even though it wasn't a fun experience. And it gives us stories for sure.

We tried to sleep a bit but were too wired, so decided to hop a bus to Vina del Mar for lunch. Rebecca, our Aussie friend, joined us. It has a large square with a park in the downtown, and is quite modern with a lot of shops, restaurants shopping malls and skyscrapers. It wasn't interesting at all. There were a ton of tables selling some of the most interesting mix of things, from inner soles for shoes, to scissors, ace bandages and toilet paper. yup, toilet paper.

We walked a ways and settled on a cute little empanada place. So much for not eating wheat! They were friend which isn't what we wanted, but pretty good. I got a shrimp and cheese, and they got cheese. Another pisco sour and we were in business!

I read that there are some churches and palaces here, but honestly, I was so done. I didn't want to walk more and wasn't very interested in this town. I'm exhausted from yesterday and pretty much done. So we bussed back to Valpo on a bus driven by Mario Andretti and made it in half the time it took to get there. We walked around the dock looking at souvenier shops. It was so amazing to see nothing out of the ordinary on the dock knowing what it was like there 18 hours earlier. 

Quite an eventful end to our trip but we'll surely have stories from it! Spent a couple of hours connecting with people who were scared after hearing about the earthquake to let them know we are ok. Unlike many of my trips I'm ready to go home now. :)

The tsunami trio in the plaza where we were when the earthquake hit.

Tomorrow may be a challenge. We get to the bus terminal here which is hectic and a lot of people get robbed, and bus to Santiago, then have to get to the airport. The issue is it's Chilean Independence day. Too bad we couldn't stay the day as there are supposed to be a lot of activities and festivals. We're unsure if we'll get stuck anywhere with a tough time getting through, but will leave extra early.

Peace out. This adventure is coming to a close. :)