Mueller State Park in Colorado

We certainly love hiking in Colorado and one of our favorite destinations is Mueller State Park, which is in Divide. We always plan a trip for this time of year as the Aspen leaves turn to a vibrant golden-yellow. We are a few weeks away from our annual pilgrimage, but we have gone hiking in the park at least a dozen times over the years. Any time of year when the ground isn’t covered with snow is a great time to visit the park and there are trails to suit any level of hiker. There are also camping sites, but we would highly recommend making reservations in advance as they often book up during the busy seasons.

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Aspen Grove

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Beautiful Scenery

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Snow in the Distance

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Aspen Tree

One of the reasons that we like hiking in Mueller State Park is that it has beautiful views of what we in Colorado Springs consider to be the backside of Pikes Peak. We have seen many different animals during our visits including deer and elk, but seeing wild turkeys was definitely one of our favorite memories. It is always a good idea to stop at the visitor center and talk to the rangers there about what trails to hike and which ones to avoid. Bears usually get active as winter approaches and they start foraging to store fat for their hibernation.

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Wild Turkeys

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View from a Hike

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Colorful Aspen Trees

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The Elk Rub Their Antlers Against the Trees

We certainly enjoy the beautiful autumn colors from many different places around the world and we will always remember how beautiful it was traveling down the Rhine River in Germany with all of the colorful trees. There is, however, something special about the vibrant colors of the Aspen trees against the backdrop of the pine trees and dark boulders. We would certainly recommend that anyone visiting Colorado Springs, if you have the time to make the 50 minute drive, go to Mueller State Park. Even if you don’t get out and hike, just driving through the park and seeing the incredible scenery is well worth it.

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Autumn in Koblenz

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Trees Starting to Change

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Not Just Colorful Trees

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Hiking in the Park

 

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Flying to the Amazon

When we were in Ecuador, we had to take a flight from Quito to Coca, which is a small town in the jungle. The tour company booked our flight for us, so we really knew nothing about it until we reached the airport. We knew that our flight was on a local airline and that it would take a little over 30 minutes to reach Coca, but that was all that we knew. In general, flying does not make us nervous, but this was not necessarily a typical flight.

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Our Plane

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Flying Over the River

Once the announcement occurred that it was time for us to board our flight, we walked out onto the tarmac to head towards our plane. It wasn’t a tiny plane, but it was small enough that we consider it to be a “puddle jumper”. Being in a small plane wasn’t a concern as we have flown in them many times in the past, but we immediately knew that the flight would likely be more bumpy as that is often the case in smaller planes.

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Close to the Mountains

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First Glimpse of the Jungle

The flight itself was over some interesting terrain as we had to fly over the Andes Mountains and then eventually over the Amazon Rainforest. Again, we’ve flown over mountains and forests in the past, but being in a smaller plane also meant that we would be flying at a lower altitude. While that would give us great views of the mountains and jungle, it also meant that we would be closer to the mountain peaks than we would have preferred.

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Outside of Coca

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Andes Mountains

In general, the flight was fine, but we definitely experienced quite a bit of turbulence. As we neared Coca, it became evident that it was a much smaller town than what we were expecting. It also made it clear why we needed to be in a smaller plane as the airport and runway were very small. It was really more of a clearing in the jungle with a small building than a traditional airport.

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Coca

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Surrounded by the Jungle

 

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Delicious Lamb Biryani

This is a sponsored post on behalf of The Spice House. The recipe and all opinions are our own.

Our favorite meal when we visited India was Lamb Biryani. It isn’t a particularly difficult dish to create, but it does take a bit of time and preparation. One of the reasons that it is so flavorful is that it uses a variety of spices, some of which can be difficult to find. We used several spices from The Spice House and created our own take on Lamb Biryani. It turned out to be quite delicious and very fragrant. Depending on how spicy you like your food, you can control some of the heat by changing the amount of cayenne pepper or type of green chili that you use. We served ours over Basmati rice, but regular rice would be just as good.

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Spices from The Spice House

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb Lamb Shoulder Chops – cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 8 Whole Cloves
  • 4 Black Cardamom Pods
  • 4 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1 Large White Onion – sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp Minced Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Minced Ginger
  • 3 tbsp Fresh Mint Leaves – chopped
  • 3 Tomatoes – chopped
  • 3 Serrano Peppers – chopped (and deseeded for less heat)
  • 2 tbsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Harissa Spread
  • 4 tbsp Plain Yogurt
  • 2 tbsp Lemon Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 1/2 tsp Saffron
  • 2 tbsp Warm Milk
  • 1 cup Basmati Rice – cooked to package directions
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • Salt to taste
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Onion, Spices, and Mint

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat and, once the oil is heated, add the cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks for about 1 minute until they are fragrant. Add the onion and cook until lightly brown stirring frequently, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Stir in the mint and cook for 1 minute more. Add the lamb to the onion and spice mixture and cook until the meat begins to brown on all sides, about 15 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, serrano peppers, and cayenne pepper and cook for about 10 minutes. Finally, stir in the yogurt, milk, saffron, harissa spread, and lemon juice and cook for about 15 minutes. Serve over the rice.

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Sautéed Onions and Spices

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Lamb Mixture

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Add the Tomatoes and Peppers

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Lamb Biryani over Basmati Rice

 

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E-Bag Products that are Perfect for Every Traveler

This is a sponsored post on behalf of E-Bags.  All opinions are our own.

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Getting Ready for a Trip

If you travel with any consistency, you are always looking for products that will make your travel better. E-Bags is a company that provides a variety of products that any traveler should consider. From travel handbags, luggage, and backpacks to products like packing cubes. We had the opportunity to try a variety of products and found all of them to be ones that we will continue use on all of our upcoming trips. Not only are they great for taking with you as you travel, but we also found them to be easy to collapse and store when not in use. Another thing that all travelers are looking for in products they purchase.

The TLS Motherlode Weekend Convertible Backpack is not only perfect for a quick weekend getaway, but also versatile enough to take as a small suitcase on any trip. Like a lot of people these days, we try to limit ourselves to carry on bags when flying and this is a perfect bag as it meets most airline standards. It has many different, zippered compartments allowing you to pack your clothes, shoes, electronics, and bath supplies in a convenient and organized manner. It can be worn as a traditional backpack, but also comes with a shoulder strap that allows you to take it as a traditional suitcase.

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Plenty of Room for Everything

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Easy to Access Front Zipper Section

Another product that we tried was the Anti-Theft Crossbody Handbag. Having a bag that has slash resistant straps and RFID protection is an absolute must for anyone who travels, whether internationally or locally. This particular bag is made of lightweight nylon and has plenty of compartments to store phones, credit cards, passports, and all of the personal items that you need. It is even perfect for everyday use as well as for when you are traveling.

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Provides Safety and Comfort

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Room for All of Our Electronics

Packing Cubes are an ideal way to stay organized when you travel. We tried a 4-piece  set, which was an ideal pairing to the Weekend Convertible Backpack. When traveling for a couple of days or even a week, using packing cubes to separate clothes or put outfits together works out perfectly. The cubes are thin and lightweight, so they don’t add any bulk to your bag and, if you roll your clothes, they work even better.

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Organized with Packing Cubes

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Weekend Bag Worn Over the Shoulder

E-Bags has a wonderful variety of products, all specially designed for travelers. We believe that they are a perfect resource for anyone who travels, whether for business or pleasure.

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Top Things to Do in Athens, Greece

Athens is certainly one of the most historic cities in the world and there is plenty to see if you decide to travel there. It is probably true that no matter where you dig in the city, there is a high likelihood that you will discover new ruins and they continue to find new artifacts and sites continuously. As we walked through the town, we even came across a new find that had recently been discovered during the digging of the subway system. You can certainly hire a guide to take you through all of the famous sites, but it is certainly possible to visit them on your own as we did. These are the places that we enjoyed most while we were in Athens, but be sure to take your time, eat some fresh seafood, and perhaps have sip of ouzo.

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View of Athens, Greece

  1. The Acropolis – This is really a complex of historic sites that made up an ancient citadel. Sitting atop a rocky mount that overlooks the city, there are many famous ruins that have been reconstructed. There is the Parthenon, the Erechthion, the Temple of Athena Nike, and more. We recommend that you buy a package bundle ticket that provides access to many of the other famous sites as you will likely want to visit them all anyway. No visit to Athens would be complete without going to the Acropolis.

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    Temple of Athena Nike

  2. The Agora of Athens – Located at the base of the Acropolis, walking these ancient grounds with the statues, pottery, and stone walls is truly fascinating. The highlight of the site is the Temple of Hephaestus, which is one of the most well-preserved ancient temples in all of Greece. Among the statues that you will see as you walk the ancient roads is the remaining torso of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. There is also a museum on the grounds with many historical artifacts.

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    The Temple of Hephaestus above the Agora

  3. Temple of Olympian Zeus – Although it is now just a series of columns, this site must have been a central point for the people of ancient Athens. Looking down at the temple from the Acropolis will give you a sense of its true size as it carves out a large portion of the city.

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    Temple of Zeus in Athens

  4. The Roman Agora – Although smaller than the Agora of Athens, it is definitely still worth visiting. One of the most interesting structures on the site is the Tower of the Winds. It is an ancient clock tower where archeologists have discovered an ancient sun dial, wind vane, and a water clock. There are several outdoor restaurants in the area, which makes it a great place to visit during lunchtime where you can have a meal overlooking the ancient ruins.

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    First Glimpse of the Roman Agora

  5. The Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – If you are in Athens on a Sunday, you should definitely make your way to the Syntagma Square at 11:00 am for the changing of the guards. Although the changing of the guards happens every day at 11:00 am, the performances on Sunday has more participants and more elaborate uniforms. While you are there, take time to see the Parliament Building and Presidential Mansion.

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    Dramatic High Stepping

  6. Odeon of Herodes Atticus – Sitting on the southwest slope of the Acropolis, this is something that shouldn’t be missed. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an ancient amphitheater and standing at the top provides incredible views of the city beyond the columns. Although truly part of the Acropolis, not everyone makes there way to this ancient site, so it is worth pointing this one out on its own.

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    View of the Amphitheatre

  7. Acropolis Museum – With nearly 4,000 objects on display, there is a wealth of treasures housed in the museum.  Although we didn’t actually make it to the museum during our visit due to it being over the holidays, we have included it on our list as we have heard nothing but wonderful things about the museum.

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    Ancient Pottery

We have been to many fascinating cities, but Athens is definitely one of our favorites. It is one of those special places where you can really feel as though you’ve been transported back thousands of years in time to see things that could have been lost to time. A week in Athens would allow you to do some day tours to the outlying areas, but you should plan for at least three days in the city itself.

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Parthenon

 

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Sunsets Over Water

We really enjoy watching a pretty sunset regardless of where we are traveling. We have seen many beautiful sunsets with the sun slowly descending below the horizon. Although we enjoy the sunsets that turn the mountains into gorgeous silhouettes, there is just something special about a sunset over a body of water. Whether it is an ocean, lake, or river, these sunsets have an almost therapeutic effect.

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Sunset in the Costa Del Sol in Spain

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Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

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Sunset Over the Nile River

Perhaps it has something to do with the humidity in the air that transforms these sunsets. It also helps when there are clouds in the sky as they also reflect the rays from the sun. The only problem with looking back at photos from previous sunsets is that it makes us wish that we were on the beach right now.

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Sunset in Puerto Vallarta

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Sunset in Florida

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Sunset in Cabo San Lucas

 

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Going to Extremes

The more that you travel, the more that you realize that the scenery of most places will remind you of some other place that you have visited. When we first started traveling we expected to be find everyplace that we visited to be strange and exotic, but were often surprised at how familiar the landscape actually was. Part of that is for obvious reasons. The various regions of the planet are by there very nature similar due to forces of nature and the climate. Also, the mind tends to try and make relations to what it has seen before as a coping mechanism to keep from becoming overwhelmed.

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Andes Mountains in South America

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Standing in the desert in Egypt

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t unique and special locations, there are many of them around the world. What it does mean is that sometimes you have to go some extremes to truly experience something that is completely different than what you’ve seen before. The more that you do that, the more difficult it will become to find new ones. That is just a part of what makes traveling so addictive. If you have never been to the large mountains before, you will be awed by their magnificence. The next time you visit a place and see those peaks reaching for the sky, you will be reminded of your previous trip. The same is true of rainforests, arctic tundra, tropical islands, vast deserts, and dramatic canyons.

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Amazon Rainforest

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Lava Fields in Iceland in Winter

We certainly haven’t even been close to visiting every place around the world and we will continue to pursue those moments when we truly see scenery that is new and unique to us. The time of year can also change the way that a place looks, so seeing it in different seasons can also effect your perception of it. No doubt we will have plenty of moments where we say “doesn’t this place look a lot like…”. How far are you willing to go to find the places that aren’t like anything that you’ve ever seen before?

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Great Sand Dunes in Colorado

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View of the Quilotoa Caldera and Lagoon in Ecuador

 

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Beer and Wine Around the World

We have always been advocates for eating local foods when traveling, but we equally believe in trying the local wines and beers. Wine tastings are a great way to try a variety of wines and get a true sense of what the region has to offer. Likewise, many cities have their own beer varieties which are specific to that location or are brewed just for the season. Some places are obvious locations to try certain things, like beer in Germany or wine in France, but you can find local varieties in places that might surprise you, such as Iceland or Egypt.

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Local Beer in Egypt

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Wine Tasting in Ronda, Spain

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Wine Purchased from a Wine Tasting in Strasbourg, France

It isn’t just about trying different varieties of beer and wine, it is also about going to the places where locals like to gather with friends and family to relax and have a drink or two. There is something special about the atmosphere of a historic pub that is just warm and welcoming. Going to places like the Brazen Head in Dublin, Ireland’s oldest pub, can be as interesting of an experience as visiting the famous sights in a city. If you take the time to chat with the owners, you just might find yourself having a drink with them while learning more about the city and the best of the local wine and beer to try.

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Brazen Head Pub in Dublin

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Drinking Games in Reykjavik, Iceland

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Wine and Food in Italy

We don’t believe that there are set rules about what pairs well with certain types of food as we think that it all depends upon your taste. As long as you choose something that you enjoy, it will likely taste good with your meal. There isn’t anything wrong with having a red wine or beer with fish or white wine with something with a robust flavor such as duck. The one exception might be for desserts where a sweeter wine certainly makes some sense, but on the rare occasions that we eat dessert, we usually just have a normal glass of wine.

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Beer in Kilkenny, Ireland

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Obvious Where We had This Beer

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Dark Beer in Romania

If you add in the different festivals that happen throughout the year, but especially around the holidays, there are even more opportunities to taste local favorites. You don’t have to be in Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest and you can probably find someplace close to you to enjoy this annual celebration. Wherever you travel, you should take advantage of the local libations, including specialty drinks in addition to the local beers and wines. We enjoyed so many different drinks during our travels, but Apfelwein in Frankfurt might be close to the top of our list. Do you have a favorite beer, wine, or drink experience?

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Apfelwein in Frankfurt

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Beer in Iceland

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Local Beer in Quito, Ecuador

 

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The Banks of the Nile

Cruising down the Nile River from Luxor to Aswan when we were in Egypt was a wonderful experience. Obviously there were the temples that we visited along the way, but just cruising on the Nile was relaxing and wonderful. It was a great way to beat the heat and most of the cruise ships have a pool on the upper deck to help you cool off. The shoreline is covered with tropical trees and plants, but the desert is clearly visible not far in the distance. It is amazing how narrow the actual vegetation actually is and how hard life must be for those people who live along the banks.

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Children Swimming by the Shore

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Hut on the River Bank

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Boat on the River

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Valley of the Kings from the River

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Looking Down the River

As the ship cruised down the Nile, children would run to the shore and wave at the passengers excitedly. Other times, we saw children swimming and splashing near the shore, doing their best to get out of the heat as well. Occasionally we would see some boats with fisherman, but the ship usually sailed in the afternoon and was docked in the morning, so we weren’t on the water when most fisherman would be out. Although we saw plenty of feluccas in Cairo, most of the boats, other than other cruise ships, were much simpler.

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Sailboat Crossing the Nile

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Families Playing in the Water

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Water Buffalo with a Bird on His Back

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Boats on the Shore

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Desert Behind the Tropical Vegetation

Seeing the Temple of Kom Ombo in the afternoon after we left Edfu, was truly incredible. We could see the temple columns off in the distance as we rounded one of the river bends and it loomed larger the closer that we came to the dock. Other than the many sunsets that we saw, the temple was probably the most fascinating sight that we saw. We spent four days and three nights on the cruise and every day brought different and yet similar views of the shoreline.

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First View of the Temple

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One of Many Sunsets

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Temple of Kom Ombo

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Local Tour Boat

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Pool on the Deck

For anyone visiting Egypt, we would recommend taking a cruise down the Nile River. The cruises go both directions, either from Luxor to Aswan or from Aswan to Luxor. It is possible to do the tour by land, but we feel that if you have the time, going by ship is far better. We were fortunate that our tour company booked us on one of the nicer cruise ships and we enjoyed our time onboard very much.

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Another Hut on the Shore

 

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Desert Looming

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Grove of Palm Trees

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Splashing and Swimming

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Livestock Grazing in the Marsh

 

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Brothers Grimm Museum in Kassel, Germany

Living The Q Life

Kassel is part of the German Fairy Tale Route and is best known for being where the Brother’s Grimm went to university and lived. The museum itself is dedicated more to the work that the brothers did on documenting the German language and creating the definitive German dictionary than on the fairy tales that made them legendary. The tales themselves were collected by the brothers by visiting the owners of inns on the heavily traveled roads in the area. The owners of the inns would recount stories told by travelers as they passed through the region, which provided the brothers with a rich collection of folklore to work with.

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imgp9744 From the Brothers’ Grimm Museum

IMGP9741 Painted Tree Stumps in the Museum

Over time, the brothers wrote down and printed over 200 stories, which are still popular to this day. Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel and…

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