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Photo Friday – Offerings in Bali

5 Oct

We were fortunate to be touring temples in Ubud, Bali during a holiday based around the full moon (though the celebration only happens either twice per year, or once every seven months…we keep getting conflicting information).  The temples were packed with locals, the women dressed in brightly colored silks while the men wore crisp white shirts and patterned sarongs.   We hung around on the sidelines and watched dozens of women parade by, carrying the offerings – gigantic platters of fruits, roasted duck, and sweets – on their heads.

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Fireworks in the Monsoon

4 Jul

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If you are joining us for the first time from Global From Home, welcome!  If you didn’t come from there you should pop on over and check her out, we did a virtual interview with her as part of her Abroad Blog of the Week series and it’s up on her site today.

We hope you hang around and check out some of our archives, there’s a list of topics in the sidebar, or you can start out with the following:

About – You know, all the who, what, where, when and why of it all.

Photo Fridays – As implied, this is a collection of photos posted weekly on, you guessed it, Fridays!

Roundups – Interested in what it costs to travel around the world?  Check out our country specific roundups for details of what we have spent so far in each country we’ve visited

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I’ve spent a few 4th of July holidays outside of the States, and I have to say, it’s always a little odd to wake up and think, “Oh, hm.  Today is the 4th of July?”  It certainly snuck up on us this year and we only realized the holiday had rolled around again when we were invited to prance about in the street with sparklers and crazy spinning firecrackers with some people we met at our hotel.  It was great fun, especially considering that it’s been pouring all day, but the skies cleared for just long enough to make everyone on the block think we are insane!

For me, the 4th of July is about more than just celebrating our freedom and independence.  It’s also about celebrating my personal independence from tobacco, because 8 years ago today on another 4th of July abroad in a rainy place -Oxford, England, I had my last cigarette!  I mention this because in the last 8 years, I have saved at least $30,000 (based on the very high cost of cigarettes in NY, which is well over $10/pack at this point) because I quit.

$30,000

That’s a whole lot of travel.  Or a small down payment on a home.  Or a car.

My intent is not to preach at you about quitting smoking, I’m just saying, sometimes our habits cost us way more than we think they do and if you are trying to trim the fat, this is a really good place to start.

Happy 4th of July!

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec

On the path to the San Francisco glacier

We spent Christmas Eve hiking up in the Cajon Del Maipo (more about that in a future post) and grilling up another delicious steak.

Incidentally, I discovered where Santiago has been hiding its Christmas Spirit.  It was alive and well all along at an enormous mall in Las Condes.   I made a mad dash there late on the 23rd in an attempt to replace the fleece that I lost in Valpariaso, and the instant I entered the doors I was awash in the sparkling lights, heaps of cotton snow, and holiday consumerism that is typical of home.

I managed to get my fleece and get out without being sucked in by the appropriately extravagant window displays, which seemed to scream “Ashley! You totally need a new summer dress!!!”.  I did, however, stick around long enough to see Santa in his rightful place – a giant throne, surrounded by lovely elves in very short skirts.

On the walk back to the subway I cranked up the Christmas mix on my iPod, and the irony of listening to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” while wondering if I had applied enough sunscreen to prevent yet another sunburn, did not escape me.

Feliz Navidad?

23 Dec

In the USA, decorating for the holidays starts so early that you have to be living under a rock somewhere to not realize what time of year it is.  Cities have begun to put decorations on public streets earlier and earlier, while holiday music creeps into the background before the first snowfall in the northern states.

I am a true Colorado girl and it takes a certain mix of signals, including snow, egg nog and lots of blinking lights, to really get me in the Christmas spirit.  Here in Santiago?  Well, let’s just say I keep forgetting it’s even December.

First off, there’s blazing sunshine and sweltering heat every day.

Christmas spirit in the Santiago cemetery

Second, there are no trees.  Christmas trees I mean.  Even in NYC there were makeshift stands lined up along the Avenues starting as early as mid-November.  Practically anywhere with a small patch of floor space, be it an office building lobby, the supermarket, or the deli on the corner of 16th and 6th Ave, would have a tree up no later than the first week of December.  Interestingly enough, we saw quite a few miniature trees all decorated up during our trip to the main cemetery here in Santiago earlier this week.

Third, the traditional decorations are few and far between.  I’m used to seeing storefronts dripping with tinsel, lights and elaborate window displays. Storefronts that demand you spend your precious holiday dollars with them because they have exactly what you need and you can’t get it anywhere else.  Here? Well, every once in a while we see a paper Santa face (circa 1976) hung in a window.  In Valparaiso we were eating in a little restaurant and it took us the better part of an hour to notice the one solitary Christmas bulb hanging by a pathetic strand of garland at the top of the window.

I don’t mean to say there is NO holiday spirit to be seen in Santiago, I mean Chile is officially a Catholic country and Christmas is a national holiday here.  We have seen wrapping paper for sale in a few places, there was a display of decorations available for purchase at a local market, and we heard the Spanish version of ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ at the supermarket a week ago.  It’s just that our senses haven’t been assaulted with holiday cheer like they would be at home.

We have, however, seen Santa in a few surprising places.

Santa decorations were spotted in Lima, Peru at the very beginning of November!

It's too hot for reindeer in Valparaiso, so Santa rides the boat like the rest of us.

The economic downturn has apparently extended it's reach to the North Pole as evidenced by the fact that Santa is moonlighting with Groupon to help pad his income.

How will we be spending our Christmas?  Since most everything will be closed, we’ll be cooking at home (helllloooo grilled pork tenderloin with homemade mango and apple chutney…and this, recipe is at the end of the post), sampling a traditional Chilean holiday drink called Cola de Mono (kind of like a White Russian, or a Mudslide), skyping with family, and watching the season finale of Dexter online.

Happy Holidays, wherever you may be!

Feeling the Love in Ollantaytambo

13 Dec

Ollantaytambo, Peru

We intended to spend just one, or maybe two days in Ollantaytambo.

The thing about intentions is that you never really know where you might end up if you let them run off course.

On our way back from Machu Picchu we decided to stop over in this little village – there are more ruins there and I have a vague recollection about it being one of the places where the Inca really held out on a battle against the Spanish.  In any case, those ruins are included in the tourist boleto and we were hell-bent to get our money’s worth on that particular purchase.

"I can haz snuggles?"

We chose our hostel based entirely on the fact that the write-up said they had cats, and we really miss our own kitties.  It was as simple as that.

We arrived exhausted after getting up at 5 am and tromping around in the scorching heat all day, so we were a little disoriented when we walked into the common area and found a group of people popping champagne and the hostel owner scurrying around with bags of groceries and packages of flowers.

We had walked into a pre-wedding celebration.  The hostel owner’s sister was to be married the next day, and she was frantically trying to finish preparing for the festivities.

Recalling the insanity that was the night before our own wedding, we asked if there was anything we could do to help.  It didn’t take long before we found ourselves chopping carrots, peeling garlic, arranging flowers, hanging garland and moving tables and chairs around.

Flowers dry in the sun

By the next morning, we had been invited to attend the two-day celebration.  We were told to be ready to go at 9.

Good thing the groom has a sense of humor...

Apparently the bride has a long history of being late, and this day was no exception.  As we waited, we got the opportunity to get to know the groom and his family (from Germany) and receive our traditional decoration to wear to the first ceremony, which was really a two-for-one with a civil service and the traditional shaman ceremony.

Justin gets some traditional flair

To begin the traditional ceremony, the wedding party and guests paraded through town, following the Shaman who spent the better part of the 20 minute walk blowing on a conch shell to alert our presence to everyone in the area.

We wound our way through town, over a fence, into a horse meadow, past some crops, over an irrigation ditch and into a cornfield.

There are small ruins scattered all through the Sacred Valley, many of which are never seen by tourists as they are too small or are located in someone’s field.  I can’t think of a more stunning place to be married.

The ceremony was long (3 hours), and at times, intense.  We didn’t understand most of what the shaman was saying, but overall we got the gist of what was happening.

Unlike most weddings we’ve been to, the ceremony involved a lot of guest participation, especially with the parents.

At one point the men and women were separated and sent into different areas.  We gathered in our circles, the women with the bride and the men with the groom.  We were given some kind of herbs to smoke (not those kind of herbs…) and as we each took a puff, we were asked to give some words of wisdom, advice, or support to the bride and groom.  It was an interesting mix of thoughts, given in German, Spanish, and English and was mostly about marriage and love, but also about staying true to yourself and finding support when you need it.

Mom and sister give advice to the bride.

Something we found very interesting was that during the “I do” part of the ceremony, the bride and groom told each other not only what they liked about their partner, but also what they didn’t like.  People we have spoken to about this ceremony are often confused as to why we would be so drawn to this part since the general consensus seems to be that you shouldn’t be telling your loved one what you don’t like about them, especially at your wedding.

Let’s be real here.  People don’t typically love everything about their partners.  The thing about marriage is that if you go into it thinking everything is going to be perfect and that love conquers all, well, you’re in for a hell of a surprise.  Marriage is a partnership and, like all partnerships, there will be times when the partners don’t agree.  Love, in and of itself, doesn’t solve problems.  People solve problems.  What drew me to that portion in the ceremony was the fact that it was so honest.  They were saying that they loved each other for all the ways that the other person is so wonderful AND that they loved each other in spite of whatever imperfections they might have.   They were really committing, openly and clearly, to their partner as a whole person.

Near then end of the ceremony a young girl came running up with a plastic bag filled with fresh milk.  The parents of both the bride and the groom took turns tossing cups of wine, and this milk, to the four directions.  Afterwards, the bride and groom took turns pouring the rest of the wine and each guest drank from the same cup.

Justin partakes of some ceremonial wine

After it was all said and done, we headed back to the hostel for the first night of the fiesta and a huge homemade meal.

The next day was the traditional Christian ceremony and large reception.  It was held a few kilometers outside of town at Tulupa, a restaurant in yet another stunning little valley.

Tunupa Restaurant in the Sacred Valley

The ceremony was lovely, the food was excellent, and the pisco never stopped flowing.

Like most events where people have been drinking and dancing for 6+ hours, there came a point when the crowd started to get tired and began to take a break from the dancing.  There is a way to stop this.  It’s called “Crazy Hour” and it involves scary clowns with balloons, masks, bizarre hats, confetti, foam (yes, foam) and a serious dose of dance music.  Within seconds everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was back on the floor whooping it back up.  Amazing.

Exhausted, happy, and very drunk we finally piled into a minivan, with the groom’s family and friends, to be carted home sometime in the wee hours of the morning.   The journey may or may not have included rambunctious group singing of various American rock classics, and a rousing chorus of Mein Hut Der Hat Drei Ecken…the only German song I know all the words to.

When we started out on our adventure around the globe we left our itinerary wide open, knowing that we wanted to be available to take advantage of whatever the universe might present for us…for example, a random invite to an incredible wedding.

For more pictures, check out the slide show:

Harpoon Brewery BBQ Tasting

2 Aug

Ashley and I were driving around listening to a local radio station when there was an announcement for the 11th Annual Harpoon Championships of New England Barbecue the following weekend at the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, VT.

Forty teams competed for prize money and trophies with a select few selling their award-winning barbecue to the public.  There were great Harpoon varieties on tap for our tasting pleasure, a live band (minus the vocals, which was nice) playing some good music and a sunny, blue sky.  What more could we ask for?  This was exactly what we needed in our first week of transition from New York City.

We strolled around the grounds and had a small sampling which included beans, ribs, pulled pork sliders/sandwich, wings and, of course, chocolate-covered bacon.  I’ll venture to guess that Ashley enjoyed the chocolate-covered bacon the most.  I’m going with the pulled-pork sandwich from, none other than, the Bastey Boys booth.  This booth had a number of different sauces to taste with the sandwich and we sampled as many as we could until the pulled pork ran out.  All in all, we enjoyed everything we sampled.

This was the booth to beat!

Mmmmm....sweet and savory!

Of course, the best part of the day was the tasty brew.  We’ve only been to Harpoon Brewery a couple of times because we usually go to Long Trail Brewery (Bridgewater Corners, VT) instead.  I do have to admit that Harpoon is slowly growing on me.  I tried the Belgian Pale Ale which had a tangy aftertaste (not too bad).  However, I really enjoyed the India Pale Ale and its hopped-up, cheek-puckering aftertaste.  There’s nothing like an hoppy brew!  I am definitely willing to visit Harpoon, again, to give it another shot.

After strolling around for a couple of hours we found a picnic table in the shade.  We sat listening to the live band play some instrumental, classic rock tunes and enjoyed the surroundings.  Sunshine (and shade), tasty beer and easy-going people.  I could get used to this.

4th of July Firemen

20 May

Original post: July 5, 2007

The 4th of July in Ouray is total madness. We started by going to a crack-of-dawn pancake breakfast to raise funds for the local search and rescue teams.  Stellar pancakes and the whole town comes out so if you aren’t there early, well let’s just say the last few people got only the leftover nubbins of some of the best bacon I’ve ever had.   Following the breakfast there was a dinky, yet somehow charming, little parade and then finally, the fire hose fights.

One of the more popular "floats"

The parade route was packed!

It’s a tradition that every year the fire department recruits teams of people who want to compete in a reverse tug-of-war of sorts. The teams of two suit up in their fire-gear complete with full coverage helmets and duct tape around their wrists to keep their sleeves down.  The whole town gathers in the main intersection to watch the teams attempt to blow each other off the road with the fire hoses. It’s got to be one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen, so I’ve uploaded some pictures and clip of it to youtube for your viewing pleasure.

Soaking the crowd before the game begins.

Our view from a nearby roof

These guys were getting pounded!

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