Thursday, April 27, 2017

Machu Picchu!! An introduction to the 4 blog posts for this magnificent place!

Machu Picchu!  Just the name elicits thoughts of ancient indians building stone structures high in the mountains to avoid the violent Aztecs bent on enslaving everyone, or beheading people by the hundreds, as depicted in the movie "Apocalypto", possibly one of the most violent movies ever made.  The name also elicits memories of history class or magazine articles, or travel blogs, or brochures of exotic, hard-to-get-to places that someday you will visit.

We are here to tell you this is a Must-See place!  Telling about Machu Picchu will take 4 blog posts!!!  The reason: to get to Machu Picchu, first you fly into Lima Peru, then fly into Cuzco, then take a 1 1/2 hour taxi or bus ride to Olantyambo, then a 1 1/2 hour train ride to Aguas Caliente, then a 30 minute bus ride to Machu Picchu!  This is the way to do it!  I wil tell you many people took a day trip from Cuzco to Machu Picchu.  The busses leave early, arrive about 10 am and depart about 2 pm.  In 4 hours, you can take a guided tour of Machu Picchu, take tons of photos, and quickly experience it.  I am begging you not to do tis!  Take your time!  We did it over 5 nights; 6 would have been better!  This is a destination that deserves your attention and time!  You will be so enriched by spending more time in this area!

The next 4 blog posts will be as follows: 

Cuzco- the capital for this area of Peru, and the main city.  Cuzco exceeded every expectation we had!  We wish we had spent more than 2 nights here (one on each end of our trip to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu).  Spending for 1/2 days here made us wish for a full day to explore.  We never had the time to go through museums or adequately explore the side streets.

Aguas Calientes- described as a small town with really nothing to do, used only as a place to eat and sleep as you go to Machu Picchu really does it a disservice.  With a river running through it, it is cute, has great restaurants, cheap, but authentic shops, and is surrounded by mountains and rain forest.  And, it has thermal baths!!!

Huainipichu/Waynapichicchu/Huaynapicchu- These 3 names all are used to name the high mountain that over-sees Machu Picchu.  Why 3?  Don't know.  It is even a bit confusing as you are directed by your ticket to go to the entrance, and it is spelled differently.  But they all sound the same- although it takes a while to learn to say it.

Machu Picchu- The city itself.  Amazing!!!!  No matter how much you just stop to look and soak it in, the magic never ends.

Altitude sickness.  Cuzco is at 12,000 feet- much higher than almost all of us have ever been, and Machu Picchu is at 8,000 feet, also quite high up.  I had so much anxiety from what people said would happen and what I read, that I almost got sick just fromt the thought of going there.  For Rich and I-nothing happened.  We found that we could not speak long sentences without stopping to breath, and walking uphill was quite tiring.  But many people expressed headaches, and just layed down in bed.  Some people actually vomited.  Everywhere there are tanks of oxygen to help people.  Honestly, we didn't see people have that many problems.  But we took ibuprofin the day before and the morning of, and did drink the coca tea everyone offers.  There are also altitude sickness pills, named sorrochi, available fairly cheaply in an pharmacy.  I did buy them and use them.  

So here goes!  I am going to relive an incredible experience while telling you about it!!!!!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Explore America Series: San Antonio, Texas- a must-see, fun city!

San Antonio Texas- if you are like me, you have seen pictures of the riverwalk in San Antonio, and know the Alamo is there, and thought some day I will just check it out.  Well, we finally checked it out!  Cody chooses a place to go on vacation every year for is birthday.  He chose Rome this year.  After explaining that since he works and has 5 days off, he understood that Rome wouldn't work:-).  So we showed pictures of different places and he chose San Antonio!  So very glad he did!  Turns out that San Antonio has so many things to offer tourists and travelers!  The Riverwalk and Alamo are only two things to do.  There is a series of Missions you can visit, and the Tower of the Americas- a 750 foot tower with an observation deck and, if you choose, a restaurant.

I often use the term "crown jewel" to define places we have visited, and they rightly deserve that title.  San Antonio truly is one of these jewels.  Plan on visiting and enjoying this city- you will not regret it.  Our world is a wonder, and exploring it is a privilege we should all pursue, and really should be the goal of everyone.

The city- a quick over-view:  We stayed at the Hyatt right on the Riverwalk- our room, on the 10th floor, had access to the grand open atrium- of course we had to pretend we were falling:-)

see the people below?

a funny take on carpe diem (seize the day)

Cody and I with the mall Davey Crockett!!

This concealed carry notice was on an incredible number of stores and restaurants

If you want to tour the area in style, San Antonio has a huge number of lighted carriages!

Monuments to the Confederacy can be found throughout.

another gun notice

says it all:-)

History is everywhere!

The Alamo!!!!  (   (  The Alamo holds a special place in the history of Americans.  The history we all know is pretty accurate (unlike the folklore of Tombstone- can you tell I am still bitter?   LOL!).  The Alamo does a very good job in providing historical information on the events of 1836 (we lost), but the subsequent capture of General Santa Anna forced the independence of Texas from New Spain and Mexico.  Absolutely worth a visit through the entire complex, including reading everything in the museum.

The grounds are beautiful!  Huge trees, remnants of the original buildings, and reconstructed structures

The interior of the Alamo.  It was a mission, so had a religious history.  It is amazingly small!
More so that you would expect.

Historical actors provide information on life during the Alamo.  Here, a doctor talks about her tools, lack of
antibiotics, and no sedatives!  Lots of deaths from simple procedures.

Day, or night, the Alamo is impressive

The Riverwalk!!!!  A crown jewel!  The Riverwalk is a U shaped canal with locks at each end of the U where it meets the San Antonio river.  It is about 1 1/2 miles long, and, as it is circular shaped, you cannot get lost:-).  The entire area is developed with good walking paths, flowers, trees, art work, statues, wild life (ducks and squirrels), tons of hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, waterfalls, and sitting areas.  The hotels and restaurants as concentrated in the area known as the square- basically the bottom part of the U.  The crowds can get intense, so patience is required- there is nothing you can do!  But the remainder is serene!  Taking time to just wander is a requirement to experience Riverwalk!  I personally love morning walks- everything is fresh and everyone is still asleep.  Oh, and the Riverwalk is truly beautiful!  I do not jest when I call it a crown jewel of the US. San Antonio has a right to be proud of it.

There are interesting and cute bridges all along the river.  Waterfalls of all kinds abound.

Incrediblly huge and old, and young, trees are everywhere!

There are sitting areas throughout, most from interesting sources, such as this stump,
or drift wood benches, or tiles benches.

Along the streets of San Antonio, the Riverwalk is clearly marked.  You must take stairs down to the river area.

waterfalls of all kinds

everything is picturesque

art is everywhere- tiled mosaics, statuary, etc.

interesting lighting


Riverside bars!  Please take the time to sit and watch and experience

The Missions of San Antonio:  ( and ( A World Heritage site and a National Park.  The city has a bus that travels between 3 of the Missions- San Juan, San Jose and Concepcion.  Take a half day and check them out!  The missions provide a glimpse into life in the 1800's and the history of the entire area.  The missions, in various stages of reconstruction and non-reconstruction show what time can do and what our love of ensuring our history is preserved can do to historical buildings.

Mission San Juan

Mission San Jose- the best preserved Mission, as a full fort, living quarters, church, fields, walls.  Excellent!
At the gate of the Mission

Meeting hall- Rich gives perspective of the size of this meeting hall

Mission Concepcion- a parish that continues to serve the public to this day

Tower of the America's ( ( - a 750 foot tower, with access by an elevator (or stairs- lol!)  At the top is an observation deck, souveniers, and a restaurant.  Built for the 1968 Worlds Fair, the area is definitely worth a visit- especially at sunset!

The Cathedral of San Fernando is incredible- even if you are not Catholic!  (  The Cathedral is just beautiful- a popular parish church in the center of the city, so it is easily visited. And they have a light show that is just incredible!  If you visit, this is a MUST DO!

 Here is the link to the YouTube movie on the light show held at the San Fernando Cathedral- truly worth seeing!!!!