Thursday, August 04, 2011

Riley the fire dog

We recently took Riley to a local fire station. He is usually snoozing in the middle of the day, so he wasn't too photogenic. However, he did love the fireman!

From Riley at the Fire Station




From Riley at the Fire Station




From Riley at the Fire Station




From Riley at the Fire Station




From Riley at the Fire Station




From Riley at the Fire Station




From Riley at the Fire Station

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Patagonia Day 3: Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis

Here is a world map showing you where Ushuaia is. Look how close we are to the Antarctic peninsula!



From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis




The sun rises at 4am in Ushuaia in December! It was only dark about 4 hours that night. Our b&b had sheer curtains so we didn't sleep very late. We were able to walk to town and leave our bags at the office of Cruceros Australis so we could explore Ushuaia that day before getting on the boat that night. I had planned on going Tierra del Fuego National Park or Estancia Harberton but it wasn't possible for various reasons, one being that it was Christmas Day.
I was bit bummed that I had not planned our one day in Ushuaia better. I guess I had focused too much on the rest of the trip.

Every time we have traveled over Christmas we always find that we are so bored on Christmas day because not much is open. When will we learn? Maybe this year when we're in Portugal on Christmas day! We'll be visiting our friends LeeAnn and Ricardo (check out their blog) in Spain and then moving on to Portugal.

It was cold and drizzling in Ushuaia that day which made for an even worse experience in Ushuaia because we had no where to take cover. We were getting good use out of our cold rain gear but I was also sad because the mountains were fogged in this morning.

From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis

We made our way to the east end of town to the prison and maritime museum. Ushuaia was a penal colony from the late 1800's until 1947. The prisoners spent much of their time building a train, now known as Tren del Fin del Mundo or End of the World Train.

From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis




From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis


An old wooden ship in front of the old prison:

From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis



From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis




There were a lot of brightly colored flowers in Ushuaia which was surprising to us, given the cold and dreary nature of the city


From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis




From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis



I wished this was our destination

From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis





At one point we walked into a gift shop and there was a dog sleeping on at mat right inside the front door. The employees didn't seem to mind but it was so sad for us to see. It was a taste of what we would be seeing a lot of in Chile and Argentina: homeless dogs.

We had lunch at one of the few restaurants open in town which cost about US$60--where is this inexpensive food everyone talks about?

The Yamana museum was the only museum open in town that day. It was a very small but informative museum. The Yamana are the indigenous inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego.

With still a few hours to spare we found free wifi in the tourist office (I've never been in a tourist office in another country in my life) and skyped our family to wish them a Merry Christmas.

It was finally time to board the boat! Our boat is the tiny blue and white boat in front of the cruise ship

From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis






From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis




Finally!

From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis



As we started to pull away from Ushuaia the clouds started to clear



From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis




From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis




From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis




As soon as we left port in Ushuaia, Argentina we were in Chilean waters. We had to make a quick stop on Isla Navarino in Chile to get our passports stamped. In 1978 Chile and Argentina nearly came to war over border disputes in this part of Patagonia. War was avoided by intervention of Pope John Paul II.

Soon we were sailing the famous Beagle Channel on our way to Cape Horn!

From Patagonia Day 3--Ushuaia and Cruceros Australis

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Animal lovers-PLEASE HELP!

A Place to Bark is a dog rescue located in Portland, Tennessee that saved 705 dogs last year from being euthanized in a shelter! Owner Bernie Berlin works tirelessly answering calls for dogs in need of placement every day. She takes dogs from high kill shelters, from the side of the road, from the sheriff, the list goes on and on. She rehabilitates the dogs (when needed) and places them with other rescue groups in and around Tennessee and Chicago.



Check out this video about A Place to Bark:




A Place to Bark runs on a shoestring budget, but they are facing the decision of closing their doors on August 1 if they do not receive more funding. They have received a $20,000 matching grant so for every dollar you can donate, it will be matched 100%. Even the smallest donations will help, so if you feel moved, please please donate. Please go to their website and donate through Paypal by clicking here. A Place to Bark is a 501 (c)(3) registered non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization and so all donations are tax deductible.

You can also help by donating old towels, blankets, baby receiving blankets, toys, collars, leashes, cages, food, bleach, treats, milk replacement, microscopes, slides, scales, stethoscopes, muzzles, pet beds and cat litter. If you choose to donate any of these items please send them to:

Bernie Berlin
"A Place to Bark"
P.O. Box 649
Portland, Tennessee 37138

View their facebook page here.

Check out their youtube channel here.

Most importantly, adopt or rescue your pets, please don't buy from breeders. Thank you!!!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Patagonia Days 1 and 2--29 hours of travel to get to the southernmost city in the world!

After many years of planning and waiting, we finally took our trip to Patagonia. For those of you who don't know, Patagonia is the southern portion of Chile and Argentina and is extremely wild and rugged terrain. It is considered by some to be one of the last great undiscovered frontiers. Patagonia is very sparsely populated and its size and lack of infrastructure make getting around quite challenging at times. Our trip was 16 days and I feel like we only saw the "tip of the iceberg" (no pun intended). The trip was more than I imagined it would be and I would love to return one day.

I always do detailed trip reviews on my blog because I know my family and friends enjoy reading them, but I also want to show people who are doing research for vacations that any trip can be done on your own and without a tour. When doing my research for trips I rely heavily on personal accounts through blogs and I hope my blog will do the same for others.

My number one recommendation for a successful trip is to do the driving yourself vs. taking a bus or train. I have a passion for seeing sites that are "off the beaten path" and having a car gives you the freedom to explore places that a train or bus don't allow. What if you were on a train and saw a great photo opportunity, but missed it because you couldn't get your camera out of your bag fast enough? If you were driving you'd be able to make a U-turn for that photo opportunity. You're also able to see more sites when driving yourself because that beautiful vista everyone talks about at the edge of town is too far for the train passengers to walk from the station.

It can be done and it isn't scary! I think a lot of people are afraid of driving in other countries. I recommend studying the driving signs for that country before you leave (because they ARE different than ours) and learning simple directional words in the language that is spoken in the country your visiting. One of our favorite parts of driving in other countries is the opportunity it gives us to listen to the local radio stations. We love hearing what is popular in that country at that time (Shakira is very popular in Argentina and Chile. Who knew?). After spending days in the car you start to hear the same songs over and over again. We like to make a playlist when we return home and play it from time to time and reminisce about our trip.

Ok back to my trip review...

We flew American Airlines from LAX-Miami. When we landed in Miami I had arranged for a rental car during our 6 hour layover so that we could drive to Ft. Lauderdale to my favorite restaurant there, Bimini Boatyard for some of their famous Bimini Bread. I've been eating at this restaurant with my parents from a very young age and we never miss a chance to eat Bimini Bread when in Ft. Lauderdale. The bread is sweet and injected with butter, confectioners sugar, and many other very unhealthy but delicious ingredients and it really is to die for. The recipe is top secret but originated in Bimini in the Bahamas, just 5o miles from the coast of Ft. Lauderdale. The best part about our meal is that we got a free loaf of Bimini Bread because the restaurant was running a Foursquare
promotion that offered a free loaf to anyone who checked in at the restaurant. Being the foursquare fanatic that I am, I took them up on this offer.

Back at the Miami airport we got upgraded to business class. Have I mentioned how much I love American Airlines? Loyalty really does pay off. I treasure my gold status because of upgrades like this.




From Patagonia Day 1 and 2

The service in Business Class was wonderful also. We both enjoyed another hot dinner and watched movies. I tried my hardest to stay awake as long as possible so I could reap the benefits of the good service, but eventually fell asleep, flat on my back. We woke up to a hot breakfast and the anticipation of landing in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the first time in our lives!

After paying US$140 each to enter Argentina (this fee is good for 10 years) at customs we were off to baggage claim and to find our driver who would drive us across town to the domestic airport for our flight to Ushuaia, Argentina--the southernmost city in the world! I had arranged our driver through the Argentina office of my company, Endemol. After looking for our driver for 30 minutes, I finally approached a man who was holding a sign that said "Wolter". Sure enough, this was our guy and after standing in a long ATM line, we were off.

On our drive to Aeroparque (the domestic airport in Buenos Aires) our driver pointed out the River Plate football (soccer) stadium. During my resesarch I read that Porte├▒os, which means "people of the port", or in this case refers to people who live in Buenos Aires, are divided by their love of one of two local football teams, River Plate or Boca Jr's. I tried to ask our driver which team he liked in my very broken Spanish and after some back and forth he let me know very passionately that his heart belonged to the River Plate.

Aeroparque is on the coast just across the street from the Rio de la Plata, so with time to spare before our flight we walked along the banks and had a look at the murky water. Unfortunately we had to check our bags with my camera so I have no pictures of this day until we got to Ushuaia. Buenos Aires was HOT. I was not prepared for this heat and immediately started to regret my decision to leave my warm weather clothes behind.

The flight was almost 4 hours to "del fin del mundo" or "the end of the world". Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world located on the island called "Tierra del Fuego" which is Spanish for "Land of Fire" and is the northern border for the Beagle Channel. As I got my first view of Ushuaia from the air I was overcome with emotion. While planning our trip I came to a point that I actually felt like I had planned too much. I was afraid that I had seen so many pictures and read so much information that I wouldn't be impressed with what I saw...but I was wrong! Ushuaia from the air was beautiful. After all these years of wanting to go to the bottom of the world I was finally here, and it was a bit surreal. Again, I don't have any pictures of this magical moment but the site of the Martial mountain range rising steeply behind the town of Ushuaia will forever be etched in my memory.

We landed at the tiny airport and caught a cab to our hotel for the night, Apart Hotel Cabo de San Diego. The hotel was impeccably clean and the room was extremely large. Two things that everyone wants when staying away from home.



From Patagonia Day 1 and 2




From Patagonia Day 1 and 2


Since it was Christmas Eve we asked the owner of the bed and breakfast where we could eat dinner. She had a menu for one of the a local restaurants that was serving that night and they featured a prix fixe menu that was US$90 per person. I had been told by many people that the food in Argentina is very inexpensive and so we decided to try to find a cheaper alternative.

Walking down Avenida San Martin (the main road in Ushuaia) we came across a few restaurants that were open, but most were closed because of the holiday.



All of the restaurants we found had prix fixe menus and all were about the same price range as the one our hotel had suggested to us. We enjoy going to local restaurants and sites instead of overly touristy places so when we saw a little house on the hill with an Italian restaurant sign on the door, we knew we had found our place.

When we walked in we realized that this was actually a home that had been converted to a restaurant. We were greeted by a young girl who didn't speak any English, so she used sign language and over-enunciated Spanish to explain what was on the menu. There was a small buffet full of casseroles, several fish dishes and desserts. There was also a choice of a beef or chicken entree after we sampled the buffet. All of this could be had for 140 pesos or US$35.

We sat down at a folding table and watched as a woman brought out more casseroles and other dishes one by one to the buffet table. It was like we were invited into her house and she cooked whatever she wanted and everyone ate. Even though I didn't care for much of the food (a LOT of fish and seafood) it was a neat experience. Just like in Europe, our waitress never came to our table to ask how our food was or check on us like they do in the States. We weren't sure if we had understood the waitress correctly when she said there was a choice of beef or chicken after the buffet. It seemed odd that we'd have another full meal after all the food on the buffet, but they sure didn't want us to go hungry. After about an hour of going to the buffet and trying to flag our waitress down, we finally both ordered the beef dish for our entree. It also wasn't great (and we were starting to wonder what about this restaurant was Italian). After dessert we were ready to leave (we had traveled 29 hours to get to Ushuaia) and go to bed but the woman who was doing all the cooking started pouring champagne around the tiny restaurant and then she sat down to eat. It was very much a family vibe in the restaurant which was fun because it was Christmas Eve.

Sorry for the lack of interesting pictures in this post but I promise the pictures get better! Check back soon for more on our trip. You can see pictures of Days 1 and 2 here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My muffin

From Riley and friends