Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Trip Report: Mexico City

Michelle's Big Adventure in Mexico City
Hi everyone! My name is Michelle and I am Linda’s youngest sister. I am a Spanish teacher in East Texas and this summer I was able to go on vacation with my best friend Raquel who is also a Spanish Teacher. We decided to travel to Mexico City in August for about a week. Jarrett has asked me to write about my trip, so here it goes!

Day 1
We arrived in Mexico City at about 10 am on Tuesday. On our way to the airbnb is when we first noticed the crazy amount of traffic that is found in Mexico City. Once we dropped off our bags, we went to a coffee shop that a friend wanted us to try. I did not have the coffee, but my friend seemed to greatly enjoy it.

After this we decided to get some groceries in order to be able to eat at home and save some money, I mean we are on a teacher's budget after all. This was THE LONGEST grocery trip EVER! It took us about an hour and a half to get to a Walmart because the Traffic was insane! It wasn’t even that far away! We decided to have tacos for dinner because we’re in Mexico City and of course you have to have tacos!

Day 2
On Wednesday, we decided to go to downtown Mexico, but there was a protest going on and we opted not to go for safety reasons. So, we headed to Frida Kahlo’s home in Coyoacan. Now before you head there, I would recommend that you purchase your tickets ahead of time online, otherwise be prepared to wait for a while. They only allow about 40 people per group to enter the house. The prices vary, but if you have either a student or teacher ID you can get a discount, but you still have to pay extra in order take pictures inside.


Once we got into La Casa Azul de Frida Kahlo all I have to say is that it is simply breathtaking. I’ve never been a huge Frida Kahlo fan, I’ve always admired her work and how she did not stick to gender norms. This home belonged to Frida’s family and she lived here growing up, after her parents passed away she and Diego moved in and did some renovations. They may have lived in the same house, but they did not share the same bedroom. Right as you enter, there is a sign that reads “Frida and Diego lived in this house from 1929-1954.”


There is art by Frida all over the house and quotes that were said by Frida. Their kitchen had their names on the walls and doves as well. I couldn’t tell what that was made of since we couldn’t actually go into the kitchen. Frida’s studio area looked as if she had just left for a day and let us in her home. Some of her brushes were out, her wheelchair was in front of a canvas. There was a special exhibit of Frida’s most famous dresses and jewelry. We went in and there they were, the most iconic outfits as seen as in pictures, painting, and articles. Even some of back braces and cast were on display. I am so thankful that I got to see it.


That night, we went to dinner with my cousin Jorge who lives in the City. We went to a restaurant called La Casa de Tono that is well known for their pozole. I had it, and I’m not normally a pozole person, but this one was delicious! After dinner, we went to the statue of the Angel de la Independencia. Apparently, it’s light is different every night. While there we learned that the statue had fallen once during an earthquake and after that, it was put on a higher level not only because of the earthquake but also because the city is sinking. After that, we just walked around for a bit before we parted ways.


Day 3
The next day we visited the anthropology museum. I’m a giant anthropology geek so this was my favorite! The museum is quite big but the entrance fee is fairly cheap. It was about $70 pesos which ends up being about $6 dollars. The museum is huge and they have so many great exhibits that I would recommend any of them. Since we were in a bit of a time crunch, we stuck to the first-floor exhibits which focused on early civilization and Mayan exhibits. Each exhibit was carefully thought out and very beautiful.


After the museum, we went to downtown Mexico, also known as “El Zocalo.” We saw the balcony where the president of Mexico stands during “El Grito de Dolores” on the night of September 15, beginning the festivities for the 16 of September, Mexico’s Independence Day! We were able to see the ruins of “El Templo Mayor” this temple was one of the most important one for the Aztecs and was located in their capital of Tenochtitlan, which is present-day Mexico. This place was also very affordable only $70 pesos as well! You are allowed to walk on the pathways they have for people but you are not allowed to go into the ruins. The museum is fairly small but still very informative and beautiful.


Day 4
On Friday, we spent our day with God and La Virgin de Guadalupe. We traveled to “La Basilica de Guadalupe” where we saw the old church that you can tell is sinking and tilting, but inside it is so mesmerizing. We waited in line to get some gifts baptized in holy water. I got a rosary for my mom, a keychain for my dad, and a bracelet for me. Nothing for Linda and Denisse, because they’re heathens. We then watched a ceremony of all women dance and worship the Virgin. It was so cool. We made our way into the new Basilica and sat down to take everything in. You could feel the peace in there. It was wonderful.


Day 5
On Saturday August 12, it was my birthday!! I turned 23 and all I wanted to do was visit the pyramids of Teotihuacán. So, we woke up early in the morning and drove there. It took us about 2 hours to get there because of construction. Once we arrived, I was super excited to climb the pyramids, until I actually saw one. They are so small y’all and the steps are so steep! Just getting to the other side of the pyramid was tiring.


We met a very nice vendor who was selling a Sun God and a Moon God musical instrument that doubled as a pottery piece. When he found out it was my birthday and that we were Spanish Teachers he asked us to record something for him, which we did. In the recording, he explained what music was played for each God. He then played happy birthday using the Sun God and it was great. I obviously had to buy it!


Raquel tried to climb the pyramid, which I refused because I am terrified of heights and there were way too many people going up and down. I decided to sit on one of the smaller pyramids and just take everything in. The beauty and the hard work that so many Aztecs put into building these wonderful pyramids. My mind couldn’t help but wonder how different life was for them. Raquel could only get halfway through the Sun pyramid before coming down. You have to be super fit for those pyramids! It is said that if you wear white to the pyramids, you will be filled with positive energy, so I did. Hey, I’m a teacher, I’ll take any positive energy I can get!


After spending about 3 hours in the pyramids we headed back and had dinner with Maricela and Gabriel. We all rested from the long day and then night time hit, we decided to go to the monument of the revolution also known as “El Monumento de la revolución.” This also lights up at night and has a museum inside. The price varies on the type of tour you take. We went at night time so the museum was closed. You can take an elevator up but not down. Once we got to the top, I panicked. I hadn’t realized how tall it was going to be. Once again, I’m terrified of heights!!! Luckily, Raquel and Maricela were with me the entire time and I can’t deny that the view from the top was breathtaking.


It took me a while to make it down the stairs, but once I did I went straight to the gift shop! I bought Linda and Jarrett shirts that were among the most famous revolutionaries in Mexico, Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Villa. My birthday ended with a tour around the Mariachi Plaza, which is where many Mariachi groups are and people can just drive by and hire them. This area isn’t very safe, so if it’s not early at night, I would avoid it. Lastly, instead of birthday cake, I had birthday churros from a great place, which sadly I don’t know the name of, but they were delicious!!!

Day 6
Sunday, we went to a market called “Mercado de artesanía” where they sold so many great things! I wanted to but everything I saw! I purchased an embroidered Mexican peasant shirt and some pure silver earrings with a real turquoise stone in them. Raquel purchased a beautiful chess set for her dad that was made of stone. We walked around for hours and that was it.

Day 7
On Monday we had a few hours to kill before our flight, so we decided to tour Mexico City’s most popular wax museum and they had celebrities from all over the world. From Michael Jackson to the Queen of England. My favorite would have to be a tie between Pedro Infante and Alejandro Fernandez. Yes, I did fangirl when I found their wax figures. Judge me, I don’t care.


We returned to our air bnb and said our goodbyes to Roo and Maricela. Gabriel drove us to the airport and so at last we said goodbye to him. I never truly realized how beautiful Mexico City was until I spent 6 days there. It was the trip of a lifetime and I can’t wait to go back! Raquel and I are already planning our trip to Cancun next summer! Thanks for reading all about our trip!

Conclusion
I would like to thank Dr. Miranda Recinos and her family for their hospitality during our time in Mexico City. I’ve adopted Maricela and Gabriel as my third set of grandparents. My heart goes out to all the people affected by the earthquakes that have affected Mexico recently, but if it there is one thing I learned on my trip, is that the people of Mexico are resilient and fighters.

Lastly, I’d just like to say how much this trip helped me get a better understanding of my culture and who I am. I’ve always known I was Mexican-American and traveled to different parts of Mexico, but I was never old or mature enough to understand everything I was looking at. This is the first trip I make to Mexico with an opened mind and heart. By doing so, my heritage has become my biggest pride. I love being Latinx and everything it entails. Thank you México city for helping me understand a side of me I didn’t even know was misunderstood.
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Monday, October 9, 2017

Lessons Learned as a Hurricane Harvey First Responder

Lessons Learned During Hurricane Harvey

I recently volunteered to assist in Texas areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. I was with a team that began with high water rescues and searching houses for survivors. We quickly transitioned to handing out life-sustaining supplies at distribution points. Along the way, I learned valuable lessons as a first responder and some of those could be beneficial for impacted area survivors.

in a parking lot in ingleside, TX
Flipped semi-truck at a distribution point

Power

With food, water, and shelter provided, I quickly realized power was going to be one of the biggest issues. I had a personal, work, and satellite phone, to receive calls from various people and agencies in support of our mission to help locals. The catch, we were in areas with no power or areas with so many people hooked up to the grid there wasn’t enough power to go around. Thankfully, I took an amazing combination for keeping my communication equipment powered up. I have a StrongVolt 5W solar panel and a KMASHI 1000mAh power bank.


There were some hard lessons learned using my solar panel about having enough space, enough watts, and being weather resistant. First, make sure you have an enough room to lay the panels flat in direct sunlight. I learned that hanging the panels didn't work well and they needed to be flat. Second, most electronics will only charge so fast, no matter how many watts, but a larger panel will provide more power in the shade (like when a cloud blocks the sun). Finally, make sure you get a panel that is weather/water resistant as hurricane weather could lead to more storms. I took a StrongVolt because I bought it on a Woot sale, but there are better or more cost-effective options out there.

taken from woot.com
The StrongVolt 5W solar panel. taken from woot.com

The battery pack I brought turned out to be a keystone piece of equipment. I would charge all of my electronics while sleeping using the battery pack, and throughout the next day, I would use the solar charger to top off the battery pack. Additionally, if there was ever any power, I would use that as well to recharge the battery pack. This method turned out to be an efficient means to keep everything charged and I never had a dead phone as a result. However, I wouldn't have had such a great result with a smaller battery pack.

Taken from Amazon.com
KMASHI 10k mAh Battery Pack. Taken from Amazon.com

Finally, I would definitely add an inverter to my power kit. After returning home, I purchased an Aukey 300W power inverter. The key is to make sure it can charge by 12V auxiliary power outlets and by car batteries with gator clips. This way, any car with a battery provides a means for power, which includes abandoned cars in a bad enough situation.

Food, Water, and Caffeine

Food and water are going to be key for any survivor and first responder, so having a reasonable amount on hand is paramount. MY crew was handing out water and rations three days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall.

In Aransas Pass, Tx
Soldiers handing out rations (MREs)

I ended up taking a stove for a specific reason and it wasn't water purification, but that is an added bonus. I took the stove to make coffee and that you ended up being a major hit with my crew. As someone who loves caffeine, it seems like this treasure is oft overlooked. If you are interested in learning more about stoves, check out our stove basics 1 and stove basics 2 posts.

boiling water for coffee
Primus canister stove I used for making coffee

In the areas we were in there was a water boiling warning. Furthermore, it can be hard to fill up your bathtub beforehand if you know a flood is imminent. This is where a stove, your gas stove in your home or a portable stove, will be key until bottled water or water treatment is restored.

Lastly, everyone needs food to last long enough for supplies to arrive. A lot of people we handed out food too had plenty of food in their refrigerators, but they had no way to keep it cold. I took along some freeze-dried food as insurance in case food was in short supply. It might be worthwhile checking out Wise Foods for some options.

Conclusions

While I know my lessons learned as a first responder aren't going to completely cover the needs for a disaster survivor, there is definitely some carry over. Having a strategy to cover the big three: food, water, and shelter plus power will go a long way.

Let us know any tips and tricks you have when dealing with a natural disaster. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 
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Monday, October 2, 2017

Meet Mitsu The Worlds Smallest Survivalist

Guest Post: Adventuring with Mitsu


Meet Mitsu: An adorable, twenty-three-pound, one-eyed Shiba Inu who specializes in being a drama queen and acts like the biggest diva around. Her cute appearance may lead you to believe that she is a house dog first and foremost, but behind that fox-like appearance is a hunter who hasn't lost touch with her primitive roots. 


Every morning we follow the same routine: she jumps down from the cozy bed where she curled up in luxury and comfort all night. She lets me put on her pink collar and harness her for a walk. We go outside, she takes her sweet time to walk the pavement to the grass, and then we approach the woods for our morning hike. 


As soon as we head down one of the trails, Mitsu grows increasingly energetic. She starts to smell the air and listen to every crunching leaf and snapped branch. She picks up her pace and responds immediately to every sign of movement. If she can, she pounces at moles and mice, tackles rabbits, and flushes deer. She wades through water, travels through thick foliage, and climbs hills and rocks. As far as hiking buddies go, Mitsu is the ideal. 


Of course, that love of the outdoors comes with a price. Specifically, the price of potentially losing her in the woods if I get too complacent. In the seven years of her life, we have never had a close call - until recently. On one of our morning walks in our woods, dragging her long leash as usual, she caught a scent and ran to track it - and I failed to step on her long leash to prevent her from chasing that smell. It was a dangerous mistake.

Allow me to explain why: we recently moved from Texas to the Wisconsin Northwoods. It's a beautiful place to live, but it means that sometimes when walking outside my house, I encounter a black bear. It means I fall asleep to the sound of coyotes howling and, when I am lucky, even occasionally a chorus of wolves. It means that no matter how good Mitsu is at traversing the wilderness, she is still one small dog in a huge forest where other, bigger animals are hunting to survive.


After three hours of searching, calling, squeaking a favorite toy, and going deeper in the woods than I ever had before, I feared the worst. I went home because I hadn't eaten that morning and I was beginning to feel it. I grabbed something quick and ate outside, watching the main trail, and thinking about all the horrible ends my dog would meet. 

And then, just like that: along came Mitsu, perfectly fine, still dragging her long lead, tired but unharmed, looking at me as though she just had a peaceful walk in a safe neighborhood suburb, rather than a 3-hour romp in the deep woods. She found her way home, and walked right up to me without any alarm or relief. 


Lessons were learned that day, but not by Mitsu. No, the only one who learned a few lessons was me. I learned to be more careful and alert to both Mitsu and my surroundings. I learned that I shouldn't get complacent, that hiking in the woods is not the time or the place to get lulled into the comfort of routine. 

And I learned that if I happen to make another mistake in the future, I should have a little more faith in my dog.

This was a guest post by Jenna Savage, so go ahead and let her know how much you enjoyed it in the comments. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Trip Report: Downtown Dallas Adventure

Downtown Dallas Weekend Getaway 

After working through my birthday, as is the case with most years, Linda decided to plan a birthday weekend getaway from August 11th through 13th. This isn't our first birthday adventure trip and you can check out some past trips like Fredericksburg day 1 and Fredericksburg day 2.

Indigo Hotel

Our base of operations, which we didn’t even spend much time in, was the historic Hotel Indigo, which is in Downtown Dallas. Because of its age, the hotel feels small and the rooms/hallways are tiny. In addition, don’t expect any free meals, but they do have a small restaurant and bar, which are pretty good albeit expensive. Overall, it’s a nice hotel that wants to be upscale but feels a little older.


The Indigo Hotel was built in 1925 and 89 years old. In addition, this is actually the first hotel to bear the Hilton name. Furthermore, Hotel Indigo was once the site of the Dallas Opera House and the Titche-Goettinger department store. Finally, if you are looking for spooky places, it's rumored to be haunted due to its long history.

Big D Fun Tours

The next morning, we woke up, ate a quick bite in the hotel restaurant, and took a short Lyft ride to Dealey Plaza. We made the incorrect assumption that the bus tour was somehow affiliated with the Sixth Floor Museum. An employee set us straight and we walked to a small kiosk in the plaza across the street. We checked in and had a small chat with the odd kiosk employee who provided 0 details on how everything worked. Having no instruction, I wandered around Dealey Plaza while Linda, thankfully, found the bus we needed to get on. We eventually loaded up and were on our way with the tour. A little surprisingly, the driver is not the tour guide and ours didn’t add anything extra to the trip. Instead, the tour is prerecorded and our driver had to occasionally time location with the story.

 

If you are looking for a tour that stops, lets you out to take pictures, this isn’t that tour. At least in my experience. Our trip started in downtown Dallas as we learned about the events leading up to JFK’s visit and the plan for JFK’s motorcade and how it changed last minute. We then traveled a short distance to visit some key Lee Harvey Oswald sites. We passed by the hospital where JFK and Oswald spent their last hours. A little bit further down the road, we took a brief stop at Oswald's Rooming House. People currently live there, but they have a small sign in the front yard that says you can schedule “appointments”. 


Next stop is the site in the Oak Cliff neighborhood where Oswald tried to walk away from the assassination site and where he ended up murdering Officer Tippett. We also learned how bystanders were able to use Tippett’s radio to report the murder to the police. Finally, in this area of town, we passed the Texas Theater where Oswald eventually apprehended by the Police.


For the final section, we learned some history on Jack Ruby and headed back to downtown Dallas. We passed by some of Jack’s old business and the Dallas police headquarters building, which is where the ramp Jack walked down to kill Oswald. Lastly, we headed down the Main Street route that the JFK motorcade before ending back the former School Book Depository Building (Sixth Floor Museum).

JFK Sixth Floor Museum

After a quick lunch, we made our way back to the Sixth-Floor museum. The museum was originally the Texas School Book Depository but is now the Dallas County Administration Building. The museum looks at the life and death of JFK using an audio guide and some short movies sprinkled in. It was hard to move through the museum because it was packed and quite a bit of information was fresh from the bus tour. However, standing in the spot Oswald fired his shots was very surreal and a unique experience.

Nightly Spirits Ghost Tour

After a free dinner from Hotel Indigo, we headed off to a downtown Dallas ghost tour. Dallas is one of the older cities has a ton of haunted places and ghost stories. The tour is a mix of a pub crawl and ghost stories. The general premise is to walk to a bar in or near a haunted building, grab a drink, and then settle in for some history and ghost stories.

The tour was ultimately fun, but I went in with my expectations set high from previous tours and your guide was very energetic, over the top, and frequently went for the easy scream scare. While Nightly Spirits ask that you don’t directly share their stories, I will list the locations we visited so you can do a little research. The first stop was Frankie’s Downtown in the Davis Building, Money Alley, Press Box Grill in the Wilson Bldg (it stormed hard during our time here), Pegasus Plaza, and the Rodeo Bar in the Adolphus Hotel.

Trinity Treetops Adventure Park

After another night in Hotel Indigo, we headed off to our final destination: Trinity Treetops Adventure Park. It’s an aerial obstacle course reminiscent of Army obstacle courses from my past except you are harnessed in and at least 10 feet in the air. There are 6 courses of various difficulties and all are self-guided. Once you are hooked in, you move at your own pace through the lane until completion.


Linda and I were the first ones there, so they trained us up and set us free, which worked in our favor because a Girl Scout Troop showed up a little after us. I fired up my new FITFORT 4K Cam and we started out on Green which is the second easiest. Green was various types of aerial bridges with ziplines sprinkled in. After that, I moved on to the 2 blue courses, which involved similar obstacles and ziplines; however, these were twice as high, harder to balance on, and tougher to navigate through. I briefly considered trying the hardest, black, lane, but I was far too tuckered out and had to call it quits.



I’d love to hear your experience and adventures from Dallas, so go ahead leave some suggestions below in the Comments. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 
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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Gear Review: Primus Yellowstone Classic Trail Stove

A Long-Term Review of the Primus Classic Stove

I have been using this stove for about 5 years as my primary stove and I’ve never had an issue. If you want to learn more about different stove types, make sure you check out our previous post Stove Basics 1 and Stove Basics 2. When I was getting back into backpacking, I needed an affordable stove and this was the best option at REI. This stove is ubiquitous in outdoor stores, but the best price is generally Amazon.


Background

Weight: 8 oz
Size: 2.8x2.4x2.9”
Boil time: approximately 3 min
BTUs: 10,000
Price: $15 to $20

Canister stoves are generally considered lightweight and durable. The fuel source is an isobutane and propane mix in small metal canisters, which is where they get the name canister stove. The canister is generally the heaviest part of the setup and doesn’t get any lighter as your burn fuel. Finally, canister stoves are extremely easy to use and maintain.

How I Use It

I have used this stove for a variety of outdoor activities including backpacking, hiking, glamping, and I would cook lunch when I worked in the woods. On hiking or backpacking, I bring this along to cook hot breakfast, dinner, and warm drinks. For Glamping and cooking lunch, I have a large isobutane container and cook some well-rounded meals using a 1L pot and skillet lid.

Performance

The Primus Yellowstone has never had any significant performance issues. The stove boils fast, is a stable platform, and functions great in adverse weather. Additionally, this stove is incredibly durable. I have never performed maintenance other than halfheartedly wiping it down after use or drying the stove.

Less than Ideal Weather

After years of use, I have rarely seen a decrease in performance in less than ideal weather. Out of the hundreds of times I’ve used this stove, I can only remember a single time when the flame was completely extinguished by strong wind. Furthermore, wind will decrease the overall performance, you shouldn’t use a windscreen as it can overheat the fuel canister, but the stove will boil water fine.
I have also been lucky enough to use the Primus Yellowstone stove in light to moderate rains. Rain will decrease the performance of your cook times and will make a worrying sizzle sound the entire your pot and stove are hot; however, I was still able to brave the rain and cook a nice warm meal in about the same time as ideal conditions.

Boil Time

The Primus Yellowstone is a great source of heat and brings 300 ml of water in an open pot in approximately 4 minutes and make sure you check out the boil test. For comparison, Jack’s Etekcity stove boiled water in 4.5 minutes in the same conditions, and you can check out that boil test here. The Etekcity stove will save you 3 oz, but increase you boil time around 30 seconds.


I think one of the reasons the Primus Yellowstone stove boils quickly is the larger burner. It works exceptionally well on a wide pot where the large burner creates a lot of heat that doesn't escape out or around the pot.

Stability

The Yellowstone stove has a fixed pot stand with 4 smooth legs, which allows the stove to accommodate pots of all sizes. This makes sure the stove amazing stability. The biggest concern to stability is finding a cook site that is relatively level and free of debris. If you are a beginner and don't have all your gear perfectly dialed in or for younger/uncoordinated adventures the great stability and pot size accommodation will significantly smooth the learning curve.


Issues

Overall the issues with the Primus Yellowstone stove are pretty limited and for your beginner or intermediate backpacker/hiker, this is still a solid investment. In addition, there are some inherent issues with canister stoves which are not limited to just this stove but will be addressed anyways.

Size and Weight

Over the years, nesting my cook gear has become more important as I’ve learned a low volume pack can be just as important as a lightweight pack. Plus, nesting can reduce the awful noise of metal on metal clinking caused by stove, canister, and pot interactions as you walk. On top of being large, this stove is also considered heavy for canister stoves. You can easily find a stove with a similar boil time around half the weight.


Fuel Level?

An issue with all canister stoves; there isn’t a good way to check your fuel levels in the field. I have seen ways to measure canister to estimate the fuel left and tools that allow you to cannibalize almost empty canisters to refuel another canister. Unfortunately, neither will provide an accurate estimate while out adventuring; therefore, using a canister stove will require a little extra planning if you intend to be out for an extended period.

Weather Issues

Wind is the enemy of all flame and this is true with canister stoves. There are clever designs and picking good cook sites, but windscreens can’t be used because heat buildup can cause canisters to overheat and explode. Finally, canister stoves have decreased to non-existent performance in cold weather, so if you live in a cold climate, there are better fuel options available.

Final Recommendation

I have found the Primus Yellowstone stove to perform exceptionally in diverse scenarios, and this evident as I have never replaced this canister stove as I’ve collected various new and fancy stoves throughout the years. It’s not a bad stove to start with for the low cost, simplicity, and reliability, especially for beginners; however, if I had to do it over again, there are cheaper and lighter models available that I would consider better options. However, this is a great bargain stove for beginners or some good canister stove in a pinch.

Let us know your experience hiking in St Edwards Park and any recommendation on which route to take. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Trip Report: St Edwards Park

Day Hiking St Edwards Park

On June 1st Jack hit me up to do some local day hiking. It's been such a long time since we adventured together, I jumped at the chance.


Background

Info: St. Edwards Park offers 6 trails with two considered the main trails. The park is considered a wilderness gem inside the city and is spread over 80 acres with a creek, pools, small waterfalls. If you want to bring a pet, they are allowed as well.
Address: 7301 Spicewood Springs Rd., Austin 78759
Admission Cost: free
Difficulty: easy to intermediate


The Adventure

We made it out to the trailhead with no issues and took a look at the area map to decide which trails to explore. After deciding we would do a sampling of green and brown trails we headed out.


As we started off, we quickly met a group just socializing in the middle of a trail intersection with multiple little and unleashed dogs. Thankfully, the girls remained calm and we moved past without incident. Not much further, we quickly realized what a hot day it was and it felt like we were hiking in a sauna with all the humidity. As we headed down towards Bull Creek, the trail was muddy in more than a few spots.


We ended up at a small dam, where I walked across to take a few pictures and BeeGee did some wading. Angela hating water wanted no part of it and hung back with Jack. After that, we paralleled the creek for a bit before he intersected the road and used that to cross over the creek. Then it was all uphill on a rocky trail similar to the type of trail I've come to expect in central Texas.


We reached what appeared to be the highest point of the trail after a handful of minutes, which led us to a 4x4 track. Not sure if this was still the Brown trail or access road, we decided to start back down; however, we spotted a side route and took that instead. This turned out to be an amazing decision. After walking a few steep ups and downs, we found ourselves on a ridge trail with a fabulous and picturesque view of the surrounding area.


For me, the view made my entire trip and after soaking it in we started our hike up and back towards the trailhead. There were a few more steep inclines and declines on the way out and at least 1 or 2 guesses on which of the spider web like trails was the way out. We just kept searching for the creek in the lowlands and before we knew it, we were back at the trailhead. This is an area I intend to further explore with BeeGee and Angela, but it will have to wait for cooler weather so can see the entire park in a single go.


Let us know your experience hiking in St Edwards Park and any recommendation on which route to take. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. 

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trip Report: Trip to London Part 2



London: Part Deux

This is part 2 of our holiday trip to the UK and London in December 2016 and January 2017. Make sure to check out our London trip part 1 and here is a little background info as a reminder:

Travel Agency: Go-Today
Flight: Delta Airlines
Destination Route: Austin to Atlanta to London
Return Route: London to New York to Austin
Hotel: London House Hotel

Day 3 (Continued)

So last I wrote, Jarrett and I had returned from Bath and Stonehenge.  It had been a long day, and we were EXHAUSTED. Yeah, that’s right.  I’m a millennial and I capitalized a word, because I cannot put enough emphasis into how exhausted we were, particularly me. After a nice dinner at a tiny Moroccan place near the hotel, Jarrett and I headed back to the hotel for a “nap.” It was too late for us to try to get any tickets to view the celebrations by the Thames; the city limits the amount of people that can attend those celebrations with the fancy fireworks, and you have to get them months in advance.  However, we planned on going to Primrose Hill with a bottle of champagne to welcome 2017.

London Eye Fireworks for New Years. From traveljee.com
London Eye Fireworks for New Years. From traveljee.com

Day 4: New Year’s Day

Unfortunately, my nap ended up lasting several hours because next thing I know, I wake up to find that my phone says it’s 1:00 a.m. I elbowed Jarrett to tell him we missed the New Year celebrations, and he replied with a very tired, “I know. I tried waking you up several times, and you kept telling me ‘no’ and falling back asleep.” So, we both then got up, had some leftovers and champagne, and called it a night again.

So there you have it. Yours truly ruined our New Year’s celebration in London.  I don’t think we’ll ever get over that.

Westminster Abbey

When we arrived at Westminster, we saw a long line ahead of us.  Fortunately, the staff at Westminster are very efficient, and we were in the Abbey within 20 minutes.  Knowing there was so much history in this building, Jarrett and I made sure to purchase tickets for a guided tour at the front desk.

from  a stroll by the abbey a few nights before
Westminster Abbey at Night

We are glad we purchased the tickets because our tour guide, a verger, was phenomenal.  He guided us into various chapels where many famous monarchs are interred, including Edward the Confessor and Henry the III.  My favorite chapel though was the one where Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary I are located, side by side and across from their great-grandmother, Margaret Beaufort.  However, the big crowds do not allow you to enjoy them peacefully for long.  Fortunately, there are pictures to remember that visit by.  Towards the end of the tour, we saw the tombs of notables such Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.  After the tour ended, Jarrett and I went down to see the most ancient sites within the Abbey. We were hoping for something like the tombs underneath the churches in Italy. Unfortunately, there were not very many for us to see. Nevertheless, the place is magical and I am so glad we got to go inside of it and walk around it several times.

A quick and sneaky photo from inside Westminster Abbey
A quick and sneaky photo from inside Westminster Abbey

Hampton Court Palace

Address: Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU, UK

On the same morning, Jarrett and I boarded the train and headed to Hampton Court Palace.  I am a big Tudor history geek, so it was on my “must” list. The palace is gorgeous and huge; it covers both the Tudor and the George II era.  I regret that we got there in the early afternoon because we needed more time than we had to properly explore the palace.

Inner Courtyard at Hampton Court Palace
Inner Courtyard at Hampton Court Palace

The staff at Hampton Court is spectacular.  During the Christmas season, they have guided tours where the tour guide acts as one of Queen Catherine Parr’s ladies in waiting. At the time, Queen Catherine is at another palace, anxious over King Henry VIII’s declining health.  The tourists follow along as other “noble staff.”  Through the tour, our tour guide tells the staff about the brief history of the palace at the time, all the rumors and intrigues that plagued the court, and all the nugget of historic gems hidden within the palace.

The Great Hall in Hampton Court Palace
The Great Hall in Hampton Court Palace

We toured the Georgian section of the palace individually.  I love art and had to appreciate all the treasures in there, while Jarrett was more interested in the history.  Somehow, we both still managed to finish touring the area.  Unfortunately though, we did not get enough of the palace. By the way, if you go during the winter season, Hampton Court Palace also has an ice rink. Plan accordingly for a great day and night at the palace.

William's State Chamber in the Georgian Apartments
William's State Chamber in the Georgian Appartments

After the palace closed, we headed to town to find a place to eat.  We found Poyntz Arms - Shepherd Neame, a nice and cozy place with excellent food and drinks.  It even has a nice big dog walking around, so for us, it was just perfect. 

Day 5: Warwick Castle

Address: Warwick CV34 4QU, UK
Opened: 1068
Architectural Style: Medieval architecture

Somewhat late in the morning, we boarded the train for Warwick.  I am not as knowledgeable when it comes to The Wars of the Roses, but ever since I watched The White Queen, I also wanted to appreciate the history from that period.  It is also a castle in great condition and I knew Jarrett would love to tour it to see its military prowess. 

Heading into Warwick Castle
Heading into Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is currently owned by Merlin Entertainments, the company that owns Madam Tussauds. Even before that, the Castle had been sold to Madam Tussauds itself.  It is officially a theme park, and it does an excellent job of showing historical artifacts while at the same time interacting with the tourists. It covers different eras ranging from the 1100s to the 1900s, from William the Conqueror to The Wars of the Roses to the Edwardian Era.  They have guided tours, interactive buttons, screen shows, games, and gardens. 

The town of Warwick below the castle
The town of Warwick below the castle

The Castle exposes you to architecture from across the centuries as well. What stands out to me was the Red Room, which was a formal waiting room; the dining room with its furniture from various exotic places; the main hall, which was actually rebuilt in the 1800s, yet appears medieval; and the motte, believed to be there since the Norman period. It is like traveling in time in one place.

The Motte at Warwick Castle
The Motte at Warwick Castle

The Castle is filled with wax figures from Madame Tussauds, including figures King Henry VIII and his six wives (though that is just because the company had nowhere else to put them).  I think if more museums had the budgets to become theme parks like Warwick Castle, more people would visit them.  Even though it was rainy the entire time we were there, we had a wonderful time.

Wax King Henry VIII and his 6 wives
Wax King Henry VIII and his 6 wives

In the evening, following the Castle’s closure, we headed out to find some food.  It being so early in the year, it was dark pretty early and the town felt eerily desolate.  Jarrett and I managed to find a nice place to eat at though:

The Roebuck Inn


Ancient 1470 hostelry with black beams and white walls serving hand-pulled ales and hearty cooking.
Address: 57 Smith St, Warwick CV34 4HU, UK

I enjoyed the fish and chips; we cannot recall what Jarrett had but it was scrumptious.  We both also discovered Strongbow Dark Fruit, which is flavorsome. We cannot wait for Dark Fruit to make it to the United States.  So, if you find yourself in Warwick, make sure to check out the Roebuck Inn.

The Roebuck Inn in Warwick
The Roebuck Inn in Warwick

Day 6: Magic of London with Afternoon Tea

I am not sure whether I recall the order of the events of this day properly.  However, I will do my best to recall the experience.

Tower of London

Address: St Katharine's & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB, UK
Hours
Monday        10AM–5:30PM
Tuesday        9AM–5:30PM
Wednesday   9AM–5:30PM
Thursday      9AM–5:30PM
Friday           9AM–5:30PM
Saturday      9AM–5:30PM
Sunday        10AM–5:30PM
Built: White Tower: 1078; Inner Ward: 1190s; Re-built: 1285; Wharf expansion: 1377–1399

On our final day, we took our final Premium Tour, Magic of London with Afternoon Tea.  We started the day bright and early with a tour of the Tower of London.  There is so much to see there and such little time!  After a summary tour of the place, including the sites of execution of historical figures such as Anne Boleyn, we joined the line for the Crown Jewels.  You have to get in line as early as you can to see the Crown Jewels because otherwise, you will end up waiting for hours.  The items are magnificent to see, and many had me wondering how in the world monarchs ever wear them. As a history buff, though, I was sad to hear that most original crown jewels were destroyed after the abolition of the monarchy in 1649. So, most of the exhibited jewels only date back to the period after the Restoration of the English monarchy.

The Royal Throne in the Tower of London
The Royal Throne in the Tower of London
After the crown jewels, I headed over to the towers where the Princes in the Tower are said to have been held.  The rest of the tour is now a blur to me. I still regret I did not have time to actually go into The White Tower or into the rooms where Anne Boleyn spent the time leading up to her coronation. 

The Bloody Tower. The murder site of 2 princes in the tower
The Bloody Tower. The murder site of 2 princes in the tower

Walk through the Palaces

Since there was no Changing of the Guard that day, we took a walking tour of London.  We walked by St. James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace.   I will say that having recently watched The Crown, I was able to recognize some places very easily, including Clarence House. 

A glimpse of Clarence House
A glimpse of Clarence House

Cruise along the Thames

Following the walking tour, we took a one-hour cruise along the Thames River. The boat was a modern catamaran with indoor cabins, so it was a nice relief from the cold and wet weather, which our tour guide swore was not London’s typical weather nowadays. I am not sure I can believe him because it was cold and wet the entire time Jarrett and I were there though.  Anyway, it was nice to be indoors, warm and cozy, as we watched the historic city of London. From it, you can see, as the website quotes, “The Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe, St. Paul’s, The Shard and The Tower of London and Tower Bridge.”

London from the River Thames
London from the River Thames

Tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral

The tour at St. Paul’s was a little faster than the one at Westminster. It has plenty of gold and marble, and an amazing dome at the very top.  It is such a sight to behold. I am sorry to say though that at this time, I do not recall much of our visit. Probably because it was too short.  Such a shame, considering the rich history of the building.

The Dome inside St Paul's Cathedral
The Dome inside St Paul's Cathedral

Afternoon Tea

Once our tours were done for the day, we went to a restaurant within a hotel for our evening tea.   They served us traditional tea with a great variety of sandwiches, as well as champagne.  It was a great way to end an entire day of tours.

A stop for afternoon tea
The view from Park Plaza Westminster Bridge 

Overall, London and the towns around it offer plenty to see.  So much, that six days was simply not enough.  I definitely recommend it for a vacation.  Just keep in mind that you might need a vacation after that vacation. While you're at it, let us know about your previous experiences or your dream trip to the UK. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date.
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