Tag Archives: Vacation

Medellín Day 7: Trip Home & Final Thoughts

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We didn’t have a choice on the return flight home time, but when your flight is at 6am and you need to be at the airport 2 hours early and the airport is 1 hour away, you get up VERY early. But the hotel had a car waiting for us at 3am and we got to the airport in enough time to take advantage of our Priority Pass lounge access.

Global Entry was kind of scary in Miami, in that the first step was taking a picture of us and then it printed our entry receipt. That meant the other steps, scanning the passport, fingerprints, questions about the trip were all skipped in favor of facial recognition. I guess that is our future.

Our last leg to DC went smoothly. Had to wait awhile for our luggage, but we were home to see Tashi by early evening.

Our visit to Medellín was wonderful. We were able to do everything we had planned without so much as a hitch. We used for Metro transportation, we took advantage of cheap and easy Uber and even figured out cabs when we had to.

The people were the best part. We were treated warmly everywhere we went. Very little English was spoken (it’s our fault we have never mastered Spanish), but people displayed patience and worked with us. The 3 guides we had for our tours were each wonderful. They were honest, open and we had real dialogues with them about culture and politics in our two countries.

We felt safe everywhere we went, being careful and aware of what areas were safe for our planned activities. We definitely want to come back and explore more of Colombia.

Thanks for reading along. You know there will always be new adventures!

 


Medellín Day 2: Pablo

We wanted to see the Medellín of Pablo Escobar from a historical perspective, not to in any way glorify his activities. So we chose a tour that brought us to the significant places, without enriching his family or his former associates.

We started at the building he was in when the combination of good guys and bad guys (hard to always say who was who) surrounded him.IMG_8557

Pablo went out the back window (which is now bricked up) and was shot on the roof of the building behind it.IMG_8558

We visited the cemetery where he and his family are buried. IMG_8562

When you want your hits to go well, you take the bullets to church of course. In this case, a church where a vision of the Virgin Mary has appeared, Iglesia de Santa Ana. We got there just as a Good Friday service was finishing up.IMG_8566

Next to the church was a restaurant where they were preparing buñuelos, a fried corn and cheese ball.

There were as big as your hand!IMG_8572

The square was full of people and color.IMG_8576

Our last significant stop was at La Catedral, Escobar’s “prison” high on a mountaintop.IMG_8585IMG_8583IMG_8582

Now used by Benedictine monks, they are quick to point out that they are not making use of Pablo’s buildings.IMG_8588

Our guide from Medellín Travels was young and had learned his history well. He had answers to every question and did not in any way romanticize the believed 100,000 murders that took place during the time of Escobar. We were glad we did the tour, we came away with an understanding of the period.

We got back to our hotel in time for a late lunch. We were going to walk to get a last pizza before Passover, but the afternoon rainstorm timed itself to thwart that effort. We found a small restaurant open across from our hotel and had a not-so-great lunch.

For dinner, we had a reservation, but our Uber pulled up to a darkened restaurant. We had tried to plan for Good Friday, but our plans were only as good as the reservations taken for the night. We had the Uber take us to an area with plenty of restaurants, and we decided Greek was calling our name. So we ate at Greek Connection, complete with lamb, plate smashing and belly dancing. So a traditional Passover seder!

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Medellín Day 1: 6 Hours South

After trips to Argentina, Peru and Chile (and a little begging by my childhood friend Maria), we finally planned a trip to Colombia to add to our South American countries. We will be visiting for 6 nights, staying in Medellín the whole time, with two tours and the rest on our own exploring the city.

Getting to Medellín was pretty simple–a 3 hour flight to Miami and a 3 hour flight from Miami to Medellín. American Airlines was fine, and when we heard the travelers assigned to the exit row for the 2nd flight couldn’t stay there, we volunteered for the hardship of more legroom!

Immigration, getting our luggage and Customs at Medellín’s airport was a breeze. The airport had an ATM, so I got Colombian pesos. Only problem was, the car from the hotel that was supposed to meet us didn’t. After looking around and trying to call, we went to the Information desk and a very nice woman called the hotel and determined there was no car. But she negotiated for the hotel to pay for a cab and got us in a car.

So while the Hotel Sites didn’t wow us from the start, it is a lovely hotel in a great location. We dropped our luggage and headed for the Santefé Mall, as we wanted to get SIM cards before Good Friday, since things may be closed. The mall was truly something to see.IMG_8541

We came upon the Movistar store first, so that was our choice. While the employee spoke no English, I communicated that we wanted data only cards, at least 2GB. And maybe 15 minutes and 70,000 pesos later ($22), we had cards with 2.5GB. One of the easier SIM purchase stories.

The mall had a sporting goods store, so I got my desired souvenir, a national soccer jersey.IMG_8553

It had a Starbucks, so we got a Colombia mug. And it had a grocery store in the basement, which had Ellen giddy as she loves little more (maybe Tashi) than foreign grocery stores. IMG_8542

We were going to walk to dinner, but it was pouring so we got an Uber instead (less than $3). Our reservation was at one of the best restaurants, Oci.MDE. We had a great meal, tuna tartare as an appetizer, beef tenderloin for me, short ribs for Ellen as the main course, and then a delicious ice cream sandwich with salted caramel. Not a bad start!IMG_8552


Philippines Day 9: The Fort

We were on our own today, Ben & Courtney went back to work.

Courtney had arranged a driver for us to take us to the oldest part of Manila. The Philippines had been colonized by the Spaniards back in the 1500’s. The history reminded us of our visits to Peru and Chile.

First stop was Fort Santiago.

We visited two churches, Manila Cathedral, destroyed in the war and rebuilt

and San Agustin Church which survived.

We went out on a pier in the harbor and got a view of the US Embassy.

After dinner, we walked through a night Market at Mercado Central. Such sights and smells.

One more day of sightseeing before we head back to the States.


Philippines Day 4: Crazy fun day

We took a tour of the Bohol island today with a driver. We did such fun things!

First was visiting the habitat of the tarsier marsupial. They are little (5 inches tall) monkey-like creatures. They are nocturnal, so we got to see them resting in trees.

Next we went to the Chocolate Hills, a series of over 1000 mounds created by coral piles that had been pushed up from the sea. To get up top, we rode ATVs!

  • Our guide was a very talented photographer, taking all sorts of trick shots.

For lunch, we took a boat ride down the Loboc River.

We visited our first church, the Baclayon Church. It was much nicer inside than it appeared.

We didn’t really have expectations going into the tour, but we saw so many varied and interesting things. It was a very memorable day.


Budapest Day 3: 13.1 Miles Of Fast Fun

Today was race day! Ellen came with me to the start. We helped a runner from Uruguay, who was racing around looking for the subway in near panic. We were glad to get her going in the right direction.

The expo looked pretty much the same as a race in the USA, except it was also set-up on race day.

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There was a warm-up that I half-heartedly participated in, mostly because I don’t like to tire myself out before the race!

The race had 6 corals, even with an expected time of 2:10-2:15, I was in corral 5.

About 10:15am, I was off! The race started in Hero’s Square and went right down Andrassy Avenue. Much of our activity yesterday, House of Terror, Opera House, lunch, was on that street, the main boulevard in Budapest. So it was familiar.

We went right past our Airbnb, and then over the chain bridge to Buda. This is the only picture I took during the race, I decided I was racing for time.IMG_2457

So only a few differences between this race and a race in the States. I liked that the course was marked in kilometers. Even though you are running 21 instead of 13, you feel like you get more regular signs of accomplishment as you reach them much quicker. Instead of gels or gummies, the glucose they handed out were pieces of bananas and white sugar mints (that looked like marshmallows to me at first).

From my watch, I was under a 10 minute/mile pace for every mile except one, and that included water breaks every 2-3 miles. I knew I was on a good pace, and I wanted to try to beat 2:10. It was warmer than I like, getting up to 72°F and the sun was out. But I gave myself no excuses, picking up the pace the last several miles. Mile 13 in fact was my fastest at 9:04 and the last part of the race (.22 miles on my watch since you always go longer than the official race distance) was 8:37 pace. I was really happy with my finish, the 2nd fastest of my 13 half-marathons.

For the first time for me, I had raised funds with this race for the charity I have been consulting for. If you’d like to make a donation to SOS Children’s Villages, please click here.

While I was running, Ellen was doing her own exploring. In those 2+ hours, she went to Hero’s Square, City Park, the zoo, and the Miniversum. We met back up near our apartment, going to the Spring Market (like a Christmas market but around Easter). I got a bread for lunch, Ellen got a potato latke-type thing with toppings. We went back to the apartment to eat.

Soon though, we were off again, We decided to treat ourselves to the baths and a massage. We went to Rudas Baths.IMG_2461

Saunas, pools of different temperatures, a beautiful outside pool that had a view of the Daube. And then after all that, the Lavender Dream massage, which was a scrub with lavender salts followed by a massage. Took much of the pain from the run away.

We walked back to the Pest side, pulled out our phones and found a place for dinner. A small cafe, Gerlóczy Cafe was just perfect. Salmon for me, duck breast for Ellen.

One more thing on the way home. Ellen wanted to ride the ferris wheel in a park near our apartment. So we did. The top had an awesome view of the Buda side, the castle and the church. IMG_2473


Budapest Day 2: Full Day (and then some)

We had a lot to do today, making up for some lost time yesterday. So first thing was to pick up the race packets. The expo was at the start/finish. IMG_2424

Luckily, that was also right at Hero’s Square.

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We stopped at Coffee Cat for a quick breakfast.

Next stop was the House of Terror. Housed in the building where all the torture and killing took place, it told the story of the “double occupation” of Hungary, first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets. What a terrible 50 years this country had. No pictures inside, so here’s from the exterior.

Lunch was next, at a Rick Steves recommendation of Menza. It had an old time, kitschy interior, with really good food. Hungarian stew, anyone?

Because we weren’t bummed enough by the House of Terror, we then walked to the Holocaust Memorial Center. 90% of Hungarians Jews were expelled, with most turned over to the Nazis in 1944 and sent straight to Auschwitz. Just an awful reflection on the Germans and Hungarians of the time.

We figured we needed to lighten up, so we had a late afternoon dessert at Gerbeaud Bistro, near our hotel. IMG_2435

Now it was shopping time. Ellen found a Hungarian exclusive charm at Thomas Sabo. I found the Hungary national team soccer jersey, my souvenir of choice when we travel.

Had time for only a short rest, then dinner time. Pasta carboloading at Akademia Italia. A bright and friendly restaurant, we both had pasta. Yum!

After dinner we walked to the Chain Bridge and looked out over the Danube. Such a pretty city. IMG_2443

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Now off to bed, there’s a race to be run tomorrow!


Iceland Thanksgiving: Day 1

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When visiting a country you have been to 3 times previously, it’s pretty easy to hit the ground running. We got on the plane and slept. We landed and knew just where to get our SIM cards (Arrivals Duty Free store, ask the cashier, Nova cards). We knew where to catch the FlyBus to the Blue Lagoon.

What was different this time was it was dark. We landed at 6:30am, were on a 7:30 bus to the lagoon, arrived there at 8, and got out of the water just around 10:30am…when it was just starting to get light. It was cold and windy and rainy, but with 100ºF water, it was still really comfortable and relaxing. But you miss seeing the moonscape-like lava fields on the way in from the airport.

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We then bussed into the city, found our AirBnB (our first time using it), met up with our friend Robyn who had arrived one day early, and headed into town. It’s never a mystery what my first desired stop is. img_1737

Got to visit the new flagship store. But since I own 3 jackets, a shell, a hat and a t-shirt, there really wasn’t anything compelling to buy. So I bought a pair of socks.

We walked more through town, which just feels like home at this point. Like seeing City Hall. img_1733

The Christmas decorations are up, and since there are only 5.5 hours of light now, they get to be lit up a great deal. img_1738

Ellen had picked a tapas place that Ben had recommended to us, Tapas Barinn. Fairly traditional tapas, a good amount of fish offered.

We were supposed to do a Northern lights tour tonight, but it was canceled due to the weather. Although the lights were a big part of coming in November instead of our traditional summer visits, we had read that the weather can be uncooperative, so you shouldn’t have your heart set on seeing them. So we don’t. We have two more shots the next two nights, but we’ll see what happens.

We have museums scheduled for tomorrow and the Golden Circle tour for Saturday. On the way home from dinner, we had to walk by the hot dog stand made famous by Bill Clinton. img_1739

Hope everyone back home is having a happy Thanksgiving!

 


Peru Day 9: Finishing Lima

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We made the most of our last day in Peru. Today was the day to do Lima and we did it!

We Uber’d (for $5) from Miraflores to the historic area. Plaza de Armas, above, was a picturesque square, with the Catedral, Presidential Palace and other great buildings.

We started at the Catedral. Unlike the other churches, we could take pictures inside. They had an brochure in somewhat awkward English that gave us a good idea of what each section was about. DSC_0426

We then walked the streets, happening upon a parade, we know not the reason for. Here’s some video and pictures of the parade.

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Even the young ones enjoyed. DSC_0459

We couldn’t help but notice that there were riot police at every corner of the square. Not sure if that is normal for near the Presidential Palace but we sure didn’t start any trouble.DSC_0429

We happened by the Presidential Palace right at noon, so got to witness the changing of the guard. I have videos that I’ll try to add later.DSC_0434DSC_0466

Our next stop was the San Francisco Monastery and Catacombs. We couldn’t take pictures inside, but we saw a lot of skulls and bones!DSC_0479DSC_0480

Being Capitol Hill residents, we couldn’t help but take a picture of the Congress. DSC_0484

Lunch was in Chinatown. We were the only English speakers here, but it was so worth wandering into Salon CaponDSC_0491

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My only souvenir on these trips is usually a soccer jersey from the national team. In this case, we had to find an Umbro store which meant going to the Jockey Plaza mall. We found the helado store that had been recommended to Ellen. And the soccer jersey. And enjoyed walking around.

Our last dinner was a place recommended by our neighbor, Elvis, when I was out walking Colby just before we left. It was a short walk from our hotel, and just an amazing Amazon-themed menu. ámaZ was delicious. We were sitting just next to a young couple, who happened to be huge foodies who live in Crystal City. We chatted just about the whole meal, sharing stories and food. Hope to see China & Nathan sometime back home!

We fly home tomorrow, via AeroMexico with a layover in Mexico City. Not long enough to explore anything more than the airport, but we’ll make the most of that.

Thanks for reading along. As usual, I’m asking, as a marketer, for you to like or comment this post, especially if you’ve been lurking so I know who has been following along.

There will be one more post to sort through our experiences and impressions. Buenos noches!


Peru Day 8: Cusco to Lima

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Ellen was especially glad that we were trading in 11,000+ feet of altitude for sea level. It just took a little longer than expected.

First though, we can’t say enough good things about Casa Cartegena. They greeted us by name when we came downstairs this morning, grabbing our suitcases so I didn’t have to carry them both. They had already run our credit card, so they handed us the receipt. We had arranged with OUR cab driver from the Cusco/Oly runs to take us to the airport, he was there to greet us. While he went to get the car, they ran to breakfast to bring us some juice and orange breakfast bread. Seriously, just the best experience there.

We got to the airport plenty early, checked our bags and waited. Then we heard the flight before us was canceled. Just as our flight should have been boarding, we got the news ours was canceled too, as the whole airport was closed for fog. Back downstairs to the check-in desk. Unlike in the States, they brought the luggage back and we had to recheck it. I had missed that, but luckily Ellen noticed and retrieved our bags, just as I got to the front of the line. We’ve noticed that the Peru airports are very efficient and well managed. They brought extra employees to the desks and had a supervisor available. So our 8:15am flight was replaced with an 11:50am flight. That was better than we expected. So we found a coffee shop and chilled for awhile. All travel will have some bumps, this wasn’t so bad.

Arriving in Lima, we got our luggage and met the driver our hotel had arranged to meet us. We are staying in the Miraflores district of Lima, rather upscale and nice! We took off immediately to explore the neighborhood, finding the nicest outdoor mall on the water. DSC_0396

We then walked along the Malecon and were happy to find Paddington! DSC_0401

A little while later, we found Parque del Amor that reminds us of Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona. It  really was nice at sunset.

We kept walking along the water to our restaurant, El Señorio de Sulco. We got there early, 6:30 for a 7:00 reservation, and had the place to ourselves for at least an hour. We enjoyed the attention, I told Ellen it was like a The Bachelor date when the couple has no one around them. We enjoyed a tuna/tomato/alvacado appetizer and meat dishes for dinner. Everything tastes so good here. And so reasonable.

We did an American thing to get home, we requested an Uber. Uber is big in Lima, touted as one of the safest ways to get around. We were surprised when a taxi pulled up, but the driver was great and it cost all of 7 soles ($2.10) for a 9 minute, 2.1 kilometer ride.

Tomorrow we have a full day to explore the city. We’ll start with walking tours and see what else we want to do on our last full day in Peru.