Lima, Peru: CATS Revisited

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img_1663Lima was our jump off point both coming and going on our trip to Peru.  Truth be told, we did not leave much time to see things in Lima.  We spent a few hours at the Convent of San Francisco after convincing a tour guide to take us on a private tour of the Catacombs underneath to see the bones…

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And spent some time in Centro de Lima at the Hotel Bolivar and area…

img_1658img_1655But mostly, we were obsessed with the “cat park”  in Mira Flores.  Also known as Parque Kennedy.   Now, those who know me know I am partial to cats (good thing my dogs can’t read) – I have always owned them and, well,  I’ve been one. So it seemed only natural to explore the infamous cat park of Mira Flores.

The cat park is a sanctuary for stray cats – not feral, just stray – where they are looked after, protected, sometimes adopted when the population gets too big and loved by all visitors to the park.  In fact we quickly learned, as far as the cats were concerned, if you are in the park you were there to serve…them… in one capacity (providing a lap) or another (providing food). If you sat down anywhere in the park, it wouldn’t be long before you had one, or more visitors.

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When a lap was not to be had, they made do with each other…

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Or the heat coming up through the sidewalk grate.img_1668And were ecstatic when the “Cat Man” to arrived with food and treats!

img_1660img_1661img_1659We spent time there both coming and going through Lima.  Possibly at the sacrifice of seeing some other things – which I am sure in the cats’ mind, was as it should be.

And with one final photo of this Men’s clothing store mannequin, our trip to South America was complete, for the time being, at least.

img_1654Thus concludes the adventures of our South American Summer.

Next up – A Spanish Fall!

For more on South America: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Machu Picchu: Getting There and Away

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img_0937The “Coup de Gras” of all trips to Peru – getting to Machu Picchu!

While it is much easier than back in the day when the only way to reach Machu Picchu was by hiking the Inca Trail (which can be done – with lots of hand holding tours) – it is still a bit involved. The town at the base of MP, Aguascalientes, is only accessible by train – no cars.  And, the only way to get there by train is to catch from Cusco or Oyantaytambo.

We chose the Oyantaytambo route – mostly because of the multitude of things too see in the drive from Cusco to Oyantaytambo (ruins, salt mines, crop circles, quaint towns, more ruins). But, Oyantaytambo is the end of the line, from the quest to Machu Picchu standpoint…

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So, early in the morning, we walked to the train station in Oyantaytambo.

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In a market at the entrance to the train station was a woman selling the best coffee in all of Peru (I kid not!) for a few cents.  Had Machu Picchu not been our quest, I believe Teen and I would have gotten back off the train to get another cup.  However, it was not to be – and so we settled in for the beautiful train ride through the canyon of looming mountains – headed towards Aguascalientes.

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The trip was beautiful with mountains rising up on both sides of the train, along the canyon river, and ending in the rustic town of Aguascalientes…

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And before we did the journey in reverse on yet another train…

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We completed our quest and made for Machu Picchu…

img_0929Next: Machu Picchu!

For More on South America: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Road Tripping in Peru

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img_9147One of my favorite things to do in a country is drive.  Of course, I love trains as well,  But, driving allows you to stop at will. You see things that are not in any guide books, or posted on line.  You get the authentic feel of a country, catch unexpected views,  stop at random roadside stands, and see everyday life in towns.

Since as this blog posts, I am on the road again – this time in Spain, I decided to share some of my favorite random photos from driving in Peru.  Mostly in the Sacred Valley.

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For More on South America: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Maras, Peru: Salt Pond Collectives

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Seriously  one of the surprisingly coolest things we saw in South America – A collective of salt ponds, owned (as the name would suggest) collectively, and farmed by individuals.

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As visitors, we were allowed to walk on the ledges between  and around the ponds and flowing, salty streams.

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And sample the delicious natural salt crusting off of the edges and forming in the ponds.

Farmers come to their ponds to bag up salt to sell, and sometimes,  just hang out and talk.

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These boys were hard at work scraping and bagging salt.  They let me take their picture, but they did not stop working!img_9127

The ponds extend all the way across the  side of the mountain.

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And right to the edge.

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Like I said – very cool, and tasty!

For More on South America: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Ancient Aliens Part 2: The Ruins of Moray

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While it is true I could not stop calling them “crop circles” for the entirety of the trip – they are actually more oval and in truth, called The Ruins of Moray.  Yet mystery surrounds them nonetheless. Theories range from experimental farming by the Incans,  to outdoor theatre, to landing pad for aliens.  All I really know is,  we liked them…whatever their purpose. But, I have to say, I am leaning towards alien landing site because you can never have too many alien theories.

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The walk around.

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Stairs – cool and functional!

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Rules don’t apply…

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Bird’s eye view.

A quick stop, but worth every minute!

Also see: Ancient Aliens Part 1: Lines of Nazca

For More travel in South America: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Ruins for Peru: Marco’s Pisaq

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photo-jul-30-4-50-58-pm  I am sorry to tell you this – but for the most part, this is going to be a boring post.  It is nothing against the Ruins of Pisaq, really – they were amazing and the town was quaint and came with the appropriate amount of South American dogs (aka the street cleaners)…

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This dog has done his job well!

And I always love a good market (Teen picked up a, if not cool, completely “Peru appropriate” hat)…

photo-jul-30-4-49-32-pmHowever, I have to say the most memorable thing in Pisaq was Marco.  Marco, is apparently the man in Pisaq, who “makes things happen.”  For us – well he made the best Empanades in all of Peru happen.  Marco is kind of a mystery, though.  All we know is that whenever there was a question on cooking, pricing, firing, ingredients, materials, you name it – in the little back-of-the-building Empanada quiosk – the workers would yell to the front of the shop for “MARCO!”.  Marco would come, as if out of thin air, do…something…to make all well and disappear as quickly as he arrived.  All I know is, I have never had empanades quite like these before, and fear I never will again.

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All good to go now…thanks to Marco.

Don’t get me wrong,  the ruins were beautiful – with perfectly formed terraces…

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Tucked inside walls of mountains…

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To the halfway point…

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And continuing up…

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To see the amazing views from above.

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All of which I feel sure…Marco somehow had a hand in.

 

For More on South America: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Getting Spit on in Oyantaytambo

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photo-aug-02-11-32-54-amTo be sure, this is not the first time we have been spit on in our travels.

We were innocently there to see the ruins that day.

Through the Incan courtyard at the base…

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To begin our accent at the bottom…

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Stopping halfway up, aghast at how much more hiking up there is to go…

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To finally reach the top to see the “big rocks”…

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And the view…

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And then back down again…

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetTo maybe enjoy browsing the market at the entrance…

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But first, a distraction. We just thought they were cute, and merely wanted to express our admiration…

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But we found out all too late,

the feeling was not mutual…

Chinchero, Peru

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She’s there.

The town of Chinchero – we were going to skip it.  We had such an ambitious schedule of sightseeing on the day we drove near Chinchero, we were going to go on by.  However, our cab driver, Juan – who was taking us from Cusco to Oyantaytambo – encouraged us to make a stop.  He said the church is unique, we did not want miss it.  Ok, we have seen alot of churches in our day and were dubious about the claim.  However, we hate to think we missed something special.  So…we stopped.

To get to the church involved a walk up hill which, after hiking two ruins already that day, did not thrill the Teens.  But we pressed on up the colorful, quaint streets until we reached the church yard.  The church was an old village church – And what do you know, the man knows his country!  It goes down in my book as not only one of the most beautiful churches I have seen, but also as one of my favorite places in Peru.

Honestly, I am not sure I captured it in pictures – but I tried.

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A little Llama shopping.

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The market.

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The church yard

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The church.

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The beautifully painted ceiling

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A little fun.

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She’s still there.

Next time: The Ruins of Pisaq

For More on South America: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Ruins of Peru: Rock Sliding in Saqsayhuaman

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Jaguar Teeth

The ruins of Saqsayhuaman were impressive – ok, maybe not Machu Picchu impressive. Nonetheless, in addition to the pretty cool “Jaguar Teeth” rock construction (see above and below),

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And some awesomely huge, oddly fit together stones,

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That is one big rock…

Saqsayhuaman Ruins had one thing no other ruins we have ever been to, offered…

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A naturally smoothed rock slide! Nothing was put on the rock to make it smooth – no Disney-esk manipulations.  Just smoothed by time, and a lot of behinds. We felt the need to contribute…

The Teens spent most of our time at Saqsayhuaman going down one way,

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or another…

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Racing with new local friends,

photo-jul-30-11-33-37-amUntil it was time to leave,

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For More on South America: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Beautiful Cusco and the No Tocar Lady

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Planning the next adventure…

Cusco is a stunning city and as it happens, the perfect jump off point for our quest to Machu Picchu! We spent days there both coming and going.  In that time we were able to learn some very pertinent pieces of information about Cusco and Peru.

Like, for instance, Peruvian cats are pretty much the same as cats everywhere as in “Lady, hurry up and take my picture and move on down the &$# road so I can get on with what’s really important… my nap time.

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Queen of the market.

As the ever present South American stray dogs, take whatever they can get and sleep wherever they can…

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A rest between trash pic ups…

The merchants work and sell in style and technicolor…

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Teen became a Chincha drink connoisseur … I think hope the kind without alcohol…

Processed with VSCO with g2 presetThe churches were grand and beautiful so as not to be outdone by the majestic surrounding mountains..

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Santa Monica Monastery

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Compania de Jesus

Side Photography Note:  There was a big sign in the way, preventing me from taking this photo symmetrically. Teen pointed out later, the sign said “no foto”.

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I like my Jesus in a gold sequined loin cloth…

And unless you want to be boosted for soles for services rendered – as in payment for letting you take their photo with the baby Llamas…

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Seriously? I only bribe my kids  and pets to pose for me…

Take the photo from the back…

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Be prepared to walk, alot…

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Catch stunning views everywhere you go…

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Oh – and very important!  If you are going to seek out the not to miss, but hard to find 12 sided stone, watch out for the “No Tocar” Lady.  No matter the time of day or night, the minute you get anywhere near the ancient stone, she will leap out of the shadows proclaiming her battle cry of “No Touching!!!!”.  Yeah, well, can’t blame a tourist teen for trying…

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So close…

On the chance of any Incan God repercussions, for my non-payment of the Llama girls, unauthorized photos,  and Teens aggressive attempts to spurn No Tocar Lady, we thought it best to move on…

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Cusco, Peru

Next – The Ruins of Peru.

For More on South America: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Ancient Aliens Tour Part 1: Lines of Nazca, Peru

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We had decided long before our trip we could not miss seeing the lines of Nazca in Peru.  Never mind that there is no real convenient way to get there, never mind that from Lima it takes a taxi – more than 3 1/2 hour bus ride – 30 minute plane ride to even get close, never mind that you have to actually fly over them to see, never mind that air sickness is imminent as the plane roles from side to side to view the lines, never mind that in actuality they are hard to pick out the figures – kind of like trying to see one of those pictures through a random pattern (which I could never do!).  No, none of this was a deterrent as we collectively decided it was something we weren’t leaving Peru without seeing…and seeing as how I eventually had to go back to work, and the Teens had to start school some time, we decided to just suck it up and go for it.

We got up and left our hotel at one of those hours of the morning when it would have been way more fun to just be going to bed.  The taxi picked us up at our hotel in Mira Flores, Lima and took us to the bus station.  From there we caught a bus for the almost 4 hour ride to Paracas/Pisco.

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Yes, the view was somewhat bleak (although I like all views a country has to offer!)…

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We arrived in Pisco where we were to catch the small 12 seater plane that was to fly us over the lines.  However, we had some time to kill, so we went into the nearby seaside town of Paracas.

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Having been warned of the possibility of motion sickness on the small plane as it had to roll form sided to side for viewing the figures, I was way too afraid to eat.  However, this did not stop Teen, who with his uncanny food finding skills, located a vendor with the best wrapped tamales in the entire country of Peru…

photo-jul-28-11-51-36-amFinally, it was time to go to the airport (and I use that term loosely) to get weighed for our flight, strap in, and get ready for our first “Ancient Aliens” adventure…

We were given a map of the Nazca line figures we were going to fly over, and instructed in techniques on how to best avoid getting motion sickness (umm, yeah, forget that, I took motion sickness pills). And finally, we were on our way!

photo-jul-28-1-12-51-pmIt took 30 minutes in order to get to  where the actual figures were, but along the way we began to see signs of the amazing several mile – absolutely straight lines that criss crossed the terrain.

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And finally… The Lines of Nazca! We flew in and around the area for about an hour. Here are just a few of the several we saw that day.  They were harder to pick out than anticipated, but once we got the hang of it, it got easier.  The plane would go around each figure, turn on its side so each side of the plane could get a good view.

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The Hummingbird

 

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The Parrot

I think we all agreed, fittingly, “the spaceman” was our favorite although I was not able to get a photo of him (hmmm?).

And then it was back to the quaint town of Paracas to (finally) eat and get ready for the long trek back to Lima.

photo-jul-28-4-07-06-pmA long day to be sure, but undeniably worth it!

Next time – Cusco

For more travel in Peru: GO HERE

For more Sweet Spot Travel: GO HERE

 

 

 

Bogota, Colombia: City Sites

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Pigeon King of the Corn

In total, our time in Bogota, Colombia amounted to not much more than a long layover on our way to Lima, Peru. However, we are always prepared to make the most of our time – even when it is limited.  In such cases, it is necessary to become street walkers.

Not the kind that make money (although we could have used the extra pesos), but the kind that leave the hotel and don’t return until the “route” is done – hitting all the necessary, not to miss, points of interest.

And while it is true, I like to make the teens hang out in doorways…

For the most part, we keep on the move in order to see all we can in our short time.

First stop, Plaza Bolivar

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Plaza Bolivar

And because pigeons everywhere seem to have an insatiable desire for corn (or, well, anything) …

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Pigeon feeding in the Plaza

Next stop, Senora del Carmen church (or as we came to call it “The Candy Stripe Church”). Sometimes, I get sidetracked enjoying the people in a city – like this adorable Mom and daughter in matching pink animal print…

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Senora del Carmen Church

But, I eventually get back with the program and on with the route.photo-jul-27-10-14-59-am

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Candy stripe church ceiling.

We also wandered past the President’s house where they were getting ready for…something – no one seemed to know what exactly, including the police officers on duty.  We stood around waiting with the rest of the mystified crowd for a while but eventually decided to press on.Processed with VSCO with n1 preset

We did not want to be too late to go through the gold museum – the Museo International de la Esmeralda.  As Teen put it – he did not want to miss a chance to be surrounded by all that wealth.

And with some last appreciation of the architecture.photo-jul-27-9-56-01-amSome hanging with the locals…

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And a snack…photo-jul-26-10-07-02-pmWe were back at our hotel to enjoy the view of the rooftops before flying to Lima the next day.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

For other posts on Bogota and Peru: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Next time:  Peru: Flying over the Lines of Nazca!

Bogota, Colombia: Graffiti Art Tour

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Drug Store mural

We love a good graffiti mural.  In fact, the Teens and I seek them out everywhere we travel- and as a special perk, I can pretty much always get them to pose for me in front of their favorites.

The streets themselves have an art all their own –

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Bogota, Colombia

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In the city of Bogota, vast amounts of construction are under way,

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But, the art can still be seen around just about every corner.

Here are some of our favorites!

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The Cat mural

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The 80’s Mural

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Fly away to the heavens mural.

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Mural for a Pizza restaurant – Day of the dead meets Pizza cutters…

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A helping hand mural.

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The whole Cat mural which extended across two buildings and a door.

Even in obscure places could be found the most intriguing images – like this one that was just a small square of about 12″x 12″ etched into the wall of an abandoned building.

photo-jul-27-11-44-20-amIn truth, I would have liked more time to explore and photograph all of the city art.  Hopefully, the saying is true… there is always a next time!

For more on Peru and Columbia: Go Here

For more Sweet Spot Travel: Go Here

Next time:  Bogota, Colombia: City Sites

 

South American Summer: Peru & Colombia

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Machu Picchu at mid day

This summer, my Travel Posse…

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The Travel Posse

…and I went on adventures in Peru and Bogota, Colombia.  Why have I procrastinated so long in sharing on Sweet Spot?  Well, mostly because as a wife, mom and full time Company Manager at a Regional Professional Theatre – which means I am “mom” to about 100 or more coming and going actors, directors and production staff throughout a season – my time has possibly been commandeered.  But, the truth is, I took so many photographs during the course of our time in these beautiful countries, organizing them seemed vastly daunting – and I have practiced the skillful art of avoidance, kind of like what happens when faced with the prospect of needing to clean the house on a Sunday (or, like, ever!).

However, the experience was way too amazing not to share!  Therefore, I am going to attempt to lay them out bit by bit. I have done what I always do when a task seems impossible – made a list.  I will link each post here as they go up over the course of the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy!

  1.  Bogota, Colombia: Graffiti Art Tour
  2.  Bogota, Colombia: City Sites
  3.  Ancient Aliens Tour Part 1: Lines of Nazca, Peru
  4. Beautiful Cusco and the No Tocar Lady
  5. Ruins of Peru: Rock Sliding in Saqsayhuaman
  6. Chinchero, Peru
  7. Getting Spit on in Oyantaytambo
  8. Ruins of Peru: Marco’s Pisaq
  9. Ancient Aliens Part 2: The Ruins of Moray
  10. Maras, Peru: Salt Pond Collective
  11. Road Tripping in Peru
  12. Machu Picchu: Getting There and Away
  13. Machu Picchu
  14. Lima, Peru: CATS Revisited

SoCal Mini Break: Venice Beach Boardwalk

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Venice Beach Boardwalk Skate Park

I can’t make a stop in LA without a pass through Venice.  When I was a Los Angeles resident, Venice was always a great place to be for the day, with all its color and life!

Luckily, this time, it was only a short walk away from my bungalow in Marina Del Rey to the Venice Boardwalk…

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Close enough to take in the art…

 

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And the people…

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Do a little shopping…

 

 

Take in the local flavor…

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And catch some major skill at the skatepark…

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photo-oct-12-1-34-56-pm…so, I will continue to return.

SoCal Mini Break: Beach Time

For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here

SoCal Mini Break: Beach Time

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Sunset surfers in Marina Del Rey

There comes a moment in every native Californian’s life when getting to a beach is of great rejuvenating import.  Having relocated to the midwest several years ago, times arise when being on a coast line, if only for a few days, is desperately essential.

Just by luck, at the moment of my urgent need to get sand in my luggage,  I happened to be traveling through LAX on a trip.  So, at long last, I found myself in my old stomping ground of Marina del Rey for a precious few days to soak up all the beach time possible.

Marina del Rey, always delivers –  with it’s long pier…

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Steady, straight coast line…

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Beautiful sunsets…

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Surfers…

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Wall art..

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Plus, just a short jaunt away, is Santa Monica Beach and boardwalk…

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And after three days, I was not even close to having my fill…

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So, I will be back, soon … probably with that sand still in my luggage.

Next time: Venice Beach Boardwalk!

For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here

 

Teen’s New Hog

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We now interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you another episode of  Teen Talk.  I assure you, everything you are about to see is real and unedited. Please do not try this at home…Unless you can fold yourself up like a frog.

One day, Teen cleaned out his chop shop…

Teen:  “Mom, I traded that Zebra dirt bike I could never get to run for one that does!”

Mom:  “Really?  (I was perfectly content with the non-running model) Does the new one go very fast?”

Teen:  “Oh, not that fast”

Mom: “hmm”

Teen:  “Wanna see?”

For more Teen Talk – go here!

Teen Talk: Episode #16

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Ready for a snack?

Ready for a snack?

We now interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you another episode of  Teen Talk.  I assure you, everything you are about to hear is real and unedited. Please, do not try this at home. Unless you are Euell Gibbons.

One day, Teen confronted the Food Nazi (aka Mom).

Mom: “Did I tell you I am on the food committee for the post prom party?”

Teen:  “Seriously?”

Mom: “What?  I can make good snacks.”

Teen: “Sure”

Mom: “I can! I like sweets just as much as the next guy…”

Teen: “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa…let me stop you right there before you say something we’ll both be sorry for later.”

The End

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