Beef Empanadas

One of the things that we were told that we had to try during our recent trip to Ecuador were empanadas. We got a sampler platter of them, which was a great way to try several varieties. Empanadas are dough stuffed with chicken, beef, cheese, or other fillings, usually they have some spices like cumin and chili powder that can be baked or fried. They can also be sweet and made with fruit for a dessert. We decided to make ours using ground beef and peppers, which made for a nice flavor profile. Although you can make your own dough, you can also choose a pre-made dough or even phyllo dough. You can make the stuffing as spicy as you like, but we found the ones in Ecuador to have spice, but not be spicy. They are usually served with some sort of dipping sauce like guacamole, salsa, or we made an adobo aioli. They might not be the prettiest, but they were very tasty. We made a small batch, but you can certainly can increase it to feed a larger crowd.

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Empanadas in Ecuador

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Our Version of Empanadas with Aioli Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 lb Lean Ground Beef
  • 1/4 tbsp Garlic Salt
  • 1/2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/4 tsp Seasoned Salt
  • 1 Clove Garlic – minced
  • 1/4 Green Pepper – chopped
  • 1/4 Red Pepper – chopped
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion – chopped
  • Vegetable Oil
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Peppers and Onion

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Stuffed Empanadas

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat a medium frying pan to medium-high heat with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Brown the ground beef with the garlic salt and drain off the grease and set it aside. In the same pan, add another tablespoon of vegetable oil and then add the tomato paste, vinegar, cumin, chili powder, oregano, seasoned salt, minced garlic, bell peppers, and onion. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add the beef back to the pan and heat for another 5 minutes. Put the mixture aside and let it cool to room temperature. Roll out the dough on a cutting board with flour to keep it from sticking. Cut the dough into 4 to 6 inch rounds. Spoon filling onto each round making sure not to overfill them. Wet the edges with either water or egg so that it will stick when pressed together. Carefully fold the dough over and press the edges together with a fork or with your fingers. At this point, you can deep fry the empanadas until golden brown or bake them in the oven. We did a combination of the two where we fried them in a tablespoon of vegetable oil until the sides were golden brown and then finished them in a pre-heated oven at 325 degrees.

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Sautéing Filling

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Frying the Empanadas

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Ready to Eat

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Posted in Recipes, South America | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s in a Name?

When we talk to people about our blog site, we often get asked for the meaning behind our name, LivingTheQLife. It is actually pretty simple, our last name starts with the letter Q and when we first decided to start writing about the places that we’ve traveled to and the food that we’ve eaten, we thought to ourselves that we are fortunate to be living a good life. That simple thought turned into our name since we were living our lives in the best way that we could. This week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge is anything with the letter Q, so we could have chosen just about anything, but here are few photos that represent the theme.

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Queen Victoria Memorial in London

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Hiking Around the Rim of Quilotoa in Ecuador

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LivingTheQLife in Amsterdam

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Opaque Clouds in Colorado

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Changing of the Guards in Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece

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Another View of the Victoria Memorial for Queen Victoria in London

 

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Art and Inspiration

One of the things that we always enjoy when walking the 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado, is watching people play the fancifully decorated pianos on the street. This certainly isn’t isolated to Denver, but providing access to musical instruments in a public setting provides an opportunity for impromptu gatherings of people enjoying themselves. As soon as someone stops and starts to play, usually better than one might expect, people start to gather, perhaps someone starts to sing, and the next thing you know you are enjoying a show. We often see homeless people playing the pianos, which is not only a reminder of their humanity, but is likely a brief opportunity for them to escape from their plight. In this time in the world when music classes are being eliminated from schools, seeing how music can connect people of all ethnicities should serve as an example to be replicated not eradicated. Have you seen anything similar in the cities that you’ve visited? If so, we would love to hear about them and how they are received in those places.

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Listening to the Music

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Just a Place to Relax

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Practicing Her Skills

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Play Music and People Will Come

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Classical Music

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Colorful Pianos

 

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Christmas Markets in Europe

We were told by many people about how wonderful the Christmas markets in Germany and other places would be and they were certainly right. Whether in our home town at the time, Frankfurt, or some of the places we visited during the holiday season like Prague, Vienna, Strasbourg, Cologne, and others, we were fortunate to go to several different Christmas markets. We had made the assumption that each city would have one central market that everyone would visit, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Each city has several different markets, usually one near the main cathedral, but then there are a half dozen or so more markets at different popular areas as well.

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Christmas Market in Frankfurt

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Market in Prague, Czech Republic

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Festive Stall in Strasbourg, France

In today’s world, unfortunately, any event that brings a large number of people together also means that it becomes a target for those who wish to harm people. That means that a common sight at most of the markets that we visited were armed police and plenty of barricades. Fortunately, that doesn’t stop most people from going out and having a good time, shopping, drinking, and eating at the various stalls in the markets. The Christmas markets are truly wonderful and it would be a shame if people didn’t bring their families out to enjoy them. For children, the markets can be a wonderland with all of the decorations, candy, music, and general merriment. They are a playground for adults as well with the gluhwein, sausages, and gift stalls for shopping.

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Stuffed Animals in Hochheim, Germany

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The Second of Four Christmas Markets in Vienna

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A Little of Everything in Cologne

You might ask us what our favorite Christmas market was, but we couldn’t choose a favorite as they were all great in their own ways. Perhaps one of the most unique might have been the one in Vienna, Austria, where they turned the sidewalks into skating rinks. Although the market at the harbor in Cologne was also pretty interesting with its nautical theme. Of course Frankfurt has a special place in our heart since it was our home for a time.

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Nautical Market in Cologne

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Skating at the Market in Vienna, Austria

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Gluhwein in Frankfurt

Obviously there were plenty of beautiful Christmas trees at each of the markets and they are beautiful both during the day when you can see the ornaments as well as at night when the lights shine brightly. One of the biggest trees that we might have seen was actually in Brasov, Romania, which we visited just shortly after Christmas and the markets had just completed. There is nothing like a beautiful Christmas tree to get you in the mood for the holidays.

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Christmas Tree in Brasov, Romania

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Christmas Tree in the Old Town Square of Prague

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Christmas Tree Frankfurt, Germany

So, the advice that we would give to anyone traveling in Europe during the holiday season is to get out and enjoy the Christmas markets wherever you can. We have even gone to a wonderful Christmas market here in Denver, Colorado, and intend to visit one in Chicago over this holiday as we visit our youngest daughter. Our very first Christmas market was in Stratford-Upon-Avon in England, but the tented stalls were nothing in comparison to the wooden stalls with their ornate decorations that we saw in Germany. If you do go, have a gluhwein for us, but be careful, sometimes they add rum to them and the alcohol can sneak up on you.

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Christmas Market in Stratford-Upon-Avon

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Christmas Ornaments in Denver, Colorado

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Christmas Market in Würzburg, Germany

Posted in Austria, Colorado, England, France, Germany, Romania | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Don’t Take Life, or Travel, Too Seriously

Life in general, and especially travel, can be overwhelming, stressful, and exhausting. There is a temptation to get caught up in the minutia of daily activities, the worry about missing out on something special, or just generally feeling like something might go wrong. It isn’t easy, but we all need to lighten up a little bit and let ourselves be childlike in our adventures. If we could all view our lives, our travels, the things that we do and the places that we go with the unabashed wonder of a child who has been let loose on a playground, we would all enjoy them better. How many times have you stood in a line, whether to get on a plane, get into an attraction, or waiting for a popular restaurant and found the people around you angry, pushy, and basically rude? Do they truly believe that if they try and make everyone around them as miserable as they are that somehow their experience will be better? There are times when we see people that are this intense that we want to just mess with them a little.  Tell them that they are in the wrong line, that they don’t have the proper reservation, anything to mess with their minds a little. Perhaps that wouldn’t be nice, but this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Cheeky and maybe a little mischief would wake these people up and let them realize that life is to be enjoyed, not just rushed through. One of the things that we enjoy are seeing whimsical signs or different things that remind us to keep the child inside of us alive as we travel. Here are some photos of signs or other things that remind us to smile and enjoy life. How do you keep your inner-child alive?

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Troll Statue Outside of a Store in Reykjavik, Iceland

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Family Fun Restaurant in Cochabamba, Bolivia

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Dona on a Merry-Go-Round in San Francisco

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UFO Crossing Sign in Roswell, New Mexico

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Whimsical Creations in the Chocolate Museum in Cologne, Germany

The following are a series of signs outside of restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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Definitely Silly

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Perhaps a Little Hokey

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Truth in Advertising

 

Posted in Arizona, Germany, New Mexico, Photo Challenge, San Francisco, South America, Travel Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Wharf Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia

We tend to try and find good seafood whenever we travel places and our recent visit to Old Town Alexandria in Virginia was no different. We chose to go to The Wharf Restaurant and we were not disappointed. Located on the historic King Street in the heart of Old Town in a building that is over 200 years old, it has wonderful charm as well as fresh and delicious seafood. We stopped in for lunch and were surrounded by a variety of locals, a sure sign of a places popularity.

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Outside of the Restaurant

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The Bar Area

We started with a half-pound of steamed shrimp with an herb butter and what we assumed was Old Bay Seasoning. That probably could have been lunch on its own, but we followed it with Salmon Chesapeake, which is salmon stuffed with lump crab and a crab butter cream. The salmon was cooked perfectly and the crab was fresh and delicious. Although we didn’t get dessert while we were there, the bartender told us about a local ice cream shop called Pop’s because we kept seeing people walking by the window with ice cream cones.

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Peel and Eat Shrimp

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Salmon Chesapeake

With its exposed beams and stone walls, the ambiance couldn’t have been more perfect. Although we were there for lunch, it would be a wonderful location to have a romantic dinner for a special occasion. Every member of the staff that we talked to were all very friendly and welcoming. We certainly hope to have another opportunity to enjoy a meal at The Wharf again on a future visit.

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Old World Ambiance

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View of the Restaurant

 

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Life in a Palace

Palaces are certainly highlights of many cities throughout the world. They can be wonderful examples of wealth and opulence, but are also reminders of how powerful rulers and other leaders can become. While we would like to shame them for their excesses, it is hard not to walk through these gorgeous “homes” and wonder what it must be like to be able to surround oneself with such incredible artwork and beautiful furnishings. We don’t think that we could ever go to the extremes that the kings and princes achieved, but we have bought artwork from many of the places that we have visited and those paintings adorn the walls of our humble home here in Colorado. We find the memories of our travels to be worth more than any amount of personal possessions. For now, we will just have to visit palaces of the past and imagine what life must have been like for those who wandered through the hallways, bedrooms, and ballrooms. This week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge are words that start with the letter P and have at least five letters, so we have chosen a few photos of palaces from our travels.

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Prague Castle Complex, Czech Republic

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Schloss Wilhelmshohe

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Fountain in the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain

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Palace of the Doors in Cochabamba, Bolivia

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Christmas Tree in the Main Courtyard of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

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Palace at Versailles

 

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Another Day in Paradise

We spent the last week in Cabo San Lucas, which is our favorite place to go and unwind from our hectic lives. This was definitely a vacation where we pretty much sat by the pool and watched the sun set every day. Unlike normal travel that is filled daily with different adventures and sightseeing activities, our time in Cabo is about relaxation and refueling our batteries. We have been to Cabo many times, so we didn’t plan any activities like parasailing, paddle boarding, or snorkeling. We did go on a jazz cruise out to the arch, however, which was beautiful as always. After a week of silence, we should be back to our normal routine this week. Here are a few photos from our time at the beach last week.

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Sunset at the Arch

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View from Our Room

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Looking Out from the Resort

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Sunset

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Heading out on the Jazz Cruise

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We Walked the Beach to a Favorite Restaurant

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Sunset on the Jazz Cruise

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Catamaran Race

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Seagulls Overhead

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Heading Home

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Sunset over the Ocean

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Science at the Center of the World

One of the things that we really enjoyed during our visit to Quito, Ecuador, was going to the true equator and participating in several experiments. The first experiment was to close your eyes and walk along the equator line. Oddly enough, everyone found it hard to keep their balance and walk a straight line. We were told that it was because of the conflicting pulls from the northern and southern hemispheres causing you to want to lean one direction or the other. Next we watched as water was poured into a sink in each of the hemispheres and, although there are ways to make it swirl the way that you want, when nature is left to its own design it swirls in different directions. The same is true of hurricanes and typhoons where in the northern hemisphere things spin counterclockwise while in the southern hemisphere they spin clockwise. Water going down a drain does the same thing, counterclockwise north of the equator and clockwise south of the equator. Next was an experiment that we’re not completely sure if it works or why it works, but our guide had us push up on his hands while we weren’t on the equator and we were able to force his hands upward. Then we moved to the equator line and he used a single finger and was able to keep us from pushing his hand upward. The final experiment was to balance a raw egg on a nail on the equator line, which isn’t easy, but a few people were able to succeed. Definitely not something that you can do at home, unless you happen to live on the equator. All of them were very interesting, so for this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge of Experimental, here are some pictures of the experiments at the equator.

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Balancing Egg

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Going Down the Drain

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No Experiment, Just Us at the Equator 🙂

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Setting Up the Egg

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Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

Walking the streets of Old Town Alexandria was very nostalgic for us and reminded us of walking the streets of old towns in Europe. The history of Old Town Alexandria may not go back as far as those medieval towns, but it does have its roots in the foundation of the United States. Situated just outside of the Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C., the cobblestone streets of the city were once walked by many historic figures that influenced and shaped the country. Even today, you can still find gas lit lamps on the sides of the brick buildings that date back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

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King Street is the Main Street of Old Town

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Walking the Side Streets

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Beautiful Homes

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Historic Streets with Shops and Restaurants

Today, of course, the streets are lined with upscale cars and tourists enjoying the variety of restaurants, retail stores, antique shops, and museums that are in the area. It is a residential area with a very walkable lifestyle, although it is a very expensive area to live in. At night the streets are lit up and the streets are full of people enjoying a night out on the town, especially during the summer, but even in the fall when we were there.

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Nighttime in Old Town Alexandria

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Autumn in Old Town

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Brick Buildings

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Working Gas Lamps

In the early days of its history, it was a busy seaport as boats would make their way up the Potomac River to deliver their goods to be sold in the Northern Virginia area. Today, the waterfront area is a bustling art district with the focal point being the converted Torpedo Factory, which houses a variety of artists selling their artwork. There are also many restaurants with views of the river where you can enjoy a nice meal while watching the yachts, river taxi, and dinner boats that make their way along the Potomac.

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Waterfront Restaurant

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Sitting Riverside

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Yacht on the Potomac River

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Marina in Old Town

We had a short visit, so we spent most of our time walking the streets and stopping in a few shops and restaurants, but we did take the time to tour the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum. Founded in 1792, it was an active apothecary in this particular location from 1805 to 1933. Upon closing, it was immediately purchased and preserved as a museum, with all of the original ingredients still in their glass jars almost a hundred years later. Although most of the sales of the apothecary were to other pharmacies around the area, but they did mix and fill prescriptions for many people, including George Washington and his family as they have notes from Martha Washington requesting prescriptions.

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Apothecary Sign

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Inside of the Museum

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Glass Bottles

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Unicorn Root and Mandrake Root

A visit to the Washington D.C. area should definitely include taking time to step back in time and walk the streets of Old Town Alexandria. Although the restaurants can be a little pricey, there are an abundance of choices and something can be found to suit anyone’s tastes. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, walking through the art district and window shopping as you walk by the various shops is still a great way to spend an afternoon.

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Cobblestone Streets

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King Street Trolley

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Historic Buildings

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Apothecary Entrance

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Glass Harp and Christmas Music

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Close-Up on the Glass Bottles in the Apothecary

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Enjoying the Harbor

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Diversity of Buildings

Posted in Virginia, Washington DC | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments