Valley Forge National Historical Park

Located outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Valley Forge National Historical Park preserves an important part of the history of the United States. During the Revolutionary War, the site served as the campsite of the Continental Army commanded by General George Washington. Although it would end up being a source of national pride, it was almost the disastrous end to the budding country. With limited supplies and a harsh winter, although not as harsh as made to believe by popular myth, between 1,500 and 2,000 soldiers died from disease and malnutrition. Fortunately, they overcame the hardships and were able to gain independence for the country.

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Monument in the Park

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Reproduction of a Log Cabin

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Canons Aimed and Ready

It was during their time at Valley Forge that the fledgling army trained to become an actual military force. Because of that, Valley Forge is often referred to as the birthplace of the American Army. Today, it is a wonderful park with reproductions of the huts where you can find actors portraying life as it would have been in 1777 when the soldiers trained at the camp. You can also visit Washington’s headquarters, which was certainly more comfortable than the log cabins that the average soldier lived in.

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Inside of a Hut

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Actors Taking a Break (Notice the Cell Phone)

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Farm House

In addition to preserving an important piece of history, the park is also just that, a park with plenty of walking trails and open grass areas where you will find plenty of people jogging, picnicking, or simply enjoying a day in the sun. We lived in the area shortly after we were married and spent many weekends enjoying the park. We even celebrated our first wedding anniversary by riding horses in the park, which is a wonderful memory of ours.

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Open Fields

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Statue of General Steuben

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Chapel

When visiting the Philadelphia area, you should definitely make time to go to Valley Forge.  With over 3,500 acres to explore, it is a great place to learn about the history of the early army as well as to enjoy a nice day in the park. Be sure to check the park’s calendar of events as there are a variety of things to see or participate in throughout the summer months.

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Historic Building

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Chapel Tower

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Another Monument

 

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Sunsets on the Nile River

We had heard that the sunsets in Egypt were amazing and we weren’t disappointed. During our four day cruise down the river, we saw several different sunsets over the palm trees that line the coast. Even when we were in Cairo, our hotel overlooked the Nile and we saw some beautiful sunsets over the city. As the hot day comes to an end and cooler air moves in, the winds pick up and send sand into the air, giving the sun something to reflect off of in the otherwise clear skies. We have always been a fan of watching sunsets, but these will always be particularly special to us.

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Sunset in Cairo

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It May Look Like the Moon, But It is the Sun

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Sunset as We Departed Luxor

These are from Luxor after spending the day visiting the Valley of the Kings.

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The Start of the Sunset

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Simply Stunning

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As a Bird Flies Toward the Sun

Another beautiful night as we left Edfu to head to Aswan.

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From the Distance

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Zooming In

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Clear Sky

The view from our hotel in Cairo.

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River in the Foreground

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Orange Haze over the City

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Lights Starting to Turn On

 

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The Tower of London

The more formal name of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London is probably a better representation of what you will see if you visit the Tower of London. It is actually a castle complex with several buildings and not just a tower as you might expect when you first hear the name. It is certainly one of the busiest tourist locations in London and has quite a fascinating history. Enjoying a tour by an expert guide dressed in colorful clothing will provide you an understanding of the almost one thousand year history of the Tower of London.

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Walking the Fortress Grounds

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The White (Great) Tower

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Historically Dressed Tour Guide

Construction of the Tower began in 1078 and the castle was enhanced and modified over the following centuries. The complex served as a castle, fortress, prison, and palace, but today it is a museum that is visited by hundreds of tourists on a daily basis. In 1240, King Henry III made the Tower of London his home and whitewashed the Great Tower, which is now called the White Tower. He also added a church, great hall, and several other buildings. It truly was a castle that was fit for a king.

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Looking Up at the White Tower

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Castle Exterior

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Walking Inside of the Fortress

Although it was considered a prison, it was really more of a place where prisoners were held before being executed. There is even an executioners axe and block on display from the time when crowds would gather to watch people being beheaded. One of the most famous executions, of which there were many, was of Queen Anne Boleyn in 1536. As it was also a fortress, one of the sights you will see when touring the complex is the armory. Seeing all of the weapons will give you a sense of the history of the instruments of warfare as well as the knights with their suits of armor.

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Executioners Axe

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Knights Armor

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Modern Guard

It is hard to believe that it has been over a decade since we visited London, but certainly the Tower of London was a highlight of our time there. Not surprisingly, it was rainy while we were there, but we did have a great view of the Tower Bridge as well. With its interesting architecture as well as its complex and interesting history, the Tower of London should be on the itinerary of anyone planning a visit to London.

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Tower Bridge

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Historic Grounds

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Busy Entrance

 

 

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Chicken Curry

Indian food is something that can be found in countries throughout the world. It is interesting that we can find curry powder in stores, but true curry dishes are based upon a variety of spices, of which the proportions can be adjusted to change the flavor profile. This was our own personal creation and it is a little spicy, but quite delicious. We enjoyed eating a variety of dishes when we were in India and one of our favorite memories is of visiting a friend who lived in Chennai and eating fish curry at her home. Typically, this would be served with white rice or bread, but we decided to pair it with long grain rice instead.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Large Chicken Breasts – cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 2 tbsp Medium-Hot Chili Powder
  • 2 tbsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/4 cup Whipping Cream
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Wash the cubed chicken and keep moist.  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, the paprika, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1 tsp turmeric.  Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and add to the oil, cooking until the chicken is a nice golden brown, approximate 4 minutes per side.  Remove the chicken and set on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.  Add the chicken broth and whipping cream to the same skillet that the chicken was cooked in.  Add the remaining chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and turmeric and bring the liquid to a low simmer.  Add the chicken back to the skillet and heat together until the liquid becomes creamy.  Cook rice according to the package directions and serve the chicken curry over the rice.

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Flour Dusted Chicken

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Simmering Curry

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Spicy Chicken Curry

 

 

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The Grandeur of Ancient Columns

Thousands of years ago, stone columns were created to replace wooden ones that were susceptible to fire and rotting. Despite their original purpose, simply to bear the load of the roof overhead, they have since become works of art. They are also a symbol of wealth and prestige and are a standard feature of many capitals, palaces, and homes of the wealthy.

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Temple of Hercules in Athens

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Columns in Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

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The Roman Forum in Rome

If you mention columns to most people, images of ancient Rome and Greece probably come to mind, but Egypt is also one of the first places to use columns as well. In fact, during our time in Egypt, we found the columns there to be some of the most interesting features of the temples that we visited. Obviously, there is nothing like walking in the Acropolis in Athens and seeing the columns on those ancient temples as well. Walking through the Roman Forum in Rome is literally a path that takes you through a series of ancient columns, some standing and some fallen.

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Large Columns at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

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Unique Columns in Luxor, Egypt

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Roman Columns Reaching Towards the Sky

Regardless of where you find them, columns are an interesting piece to any architecture. Whether you consider them to be structural or artistic in nature, they are often the only thing to survive the ravages of time.

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Beautiful Lines

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Single Column in Karnak Temple

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Is it Art?

 

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Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt

On the second day of our cruise down the Nile River, we stopped in Edfu to visit the Temple of Horus (also known as the Temple of Edfu). It is one of the best preserved ancient temples in Egypt as it was buried by sand, which allowed most of the features to remain intact. The temple was built during the Ptolemaic period between 237 and 57 BC and was dedicated to Horus who was the son of Isis and Osiris. He is typically depicted as a man with the head of a falcon, or just as a falcon, and is considered to be an avenging god.

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Amazingly Detailed Hieroglyphs

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Lotus Columns

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Statue of Horus

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Stunning Temple Entrance

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Looking Up from Inside of the Temple

Getting to the temple from the dock was as fascinating as visiting the temple itself. After leaving the ship, we jumped into a horse-drawn carriage and made our way through the sandy streets of Edfu. The streets are lined with shops that contain everything from clothes to freshly baked bread. There is a constant stream of carriages as travelers are hustled from the many ships that arrive throughout the day to the temple on the other side of the town. It is a wonderful glimpse into the daily lives of the locals who live in this busy tourist destination.

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Standing Outside of the Temple

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Freshly Baked Bread

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Riding in the Carriage

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Local Life

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The Key of Life

The temple itself is quite spectacular, from its typical twin towers with hieroglyphs to the lotus flower columns that line the inside of the temple. Two of the more interesting features of the temple is the statue of Horus that looks as if it could have just been carved yesterday and the temple room with the ritualistic ship inside. The details as you walk through the temple complex are truly amazing and our guide made sure to stop and share important information about the stories that were told on the various walls, rooms, and stairways. We spent about two hours exploring the temple in the desert heat and were exhausted by the time we returned to our ship.

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Looking Back at the Entrance

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Standing in Front of Horus

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Ship to Sail in the Afterlife

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Cartouches on the Temple Wall

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Stairway within the Temple

Although Edfu is not as easy as some other locations to get to from Cairo, it is certainly worth going there. We went to several temples during our trip to Egypt, but seeing the Temple of Horus was definitely one of the most memorable. Only the Temple of Karnak, due to its size, was more impressive to visit.

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Temple Wall

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People Walking the Streets

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Temple Columns

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Detail Above the Doorway

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More Hieroglyphs

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Another Image of Horus

 

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Hiking Around a Mountain Lake

There probably isn’t anything more relaxing than getting away from the crowds and walking around a lake in the mountains with no one else around. With temperatures heating up, we are enjoying hiking once again and the higher altitudes mean more comfortable weather. We really enjoy this trail, which is one of our favorites, as we are able to make it as long or as short of a hike as we would like. We went on a weekday afternoon so that we could avoid the crowds and truly immerse ourselves into nature.

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Beautiful Mountain Lake

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Water on the Trail

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Down on the Shore

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Rugged Scenery

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Looking Down at the Lake

The trail is located about 20 minutes from our house and takes you past a couple of reservoirs. The first part of the trail is relatively steep, but then it somewhat flattens out. As we always say, you can’t go hiking in the mountains without expecting some difficult terrain. There are often people fishing in the lakes or sitting on the shore enjoying a picnic. It certainly made for a relaxing afternoon and a good way to start getting back into hiking shape. We are planning to get on a trail again this weekend, but this time we expect to choose a trail that we’ve never hiked before.

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More Views than Just the Lake

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Wildflowers are Starting to Bloom

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We Could Stand There for Hours

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Boulders Along the Trail

 

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The Giza Pyramid Complex

No visit to Cairo in Egypt would be complete without going to see the Great Pyramids. Although the Pyramid of Khufu is officially known as The Great Pyramid, the entire complex is often referred to as the Great Pyramids of Giza. The Pyramid of Khufu is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World and also one of the most intact wonders and stands 481 feet tall (146.5 meters). There are actually six pyramids that make up the pyramid complex as well as the Great Sphynx. The Pyramid of Khafre still has the limestone covering at the top of the pyramid that would have covered all of the pyramids making their sides completely smooth as opposed to the exposed stones that are visible today.

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The Great Sphynx

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Pyramid of Khafre

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Looking Up at the Great Pyramid

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View of the Giza Plateau with Cairo in the Background

The three large pyramids are certainly the focal point of the complex, but there are other interesting features of the site including pits where the remains of a ship were buried. It is important to understand that to the ancient Egyptians, because the sky was blue and water was blue, they believed that they needed to sail to the afterworld. It was an important connection to the Nile, which they relied on for there survival, and the world of the gods. The three smaller pyramids were for queens of the Pharaohs which serve as a reminder that the Egyptians had a high regard for women of royalty. Clearly, the Great Sphynx is also an important sight to see while spending time on the Giza plateau.

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One of the Queen Pyramids

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One of the Pits Where the Ship was Unearthed

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One of the Many Camels

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Busy Road Between the Sphynx and the Great Pyramid

Because of its close proximity to Cairo, the pyramid complex is extremely busy with tourists, horse drawn carriages, camels, and people peddling trinkets. It is worth having a guide with you so that you can learn the historical facts regarding the pyramids, but it is a location that you can visit on your own. Riding a camel in the desert with the pyramids in the background is about as touristy as it gets, but is worth doing for that classic photo opportunity. Although fascinating, it only takes a couple of hours to fully see the Great Pyramids and the surrounding sights.

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Yes, We Rode the Camels

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The Great Pyramid Up Close, People in the Foreground Providing Scale

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Face of the Great Sphynx

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The Giza Plateau

Clearly, seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World is an incredible experience. Gazing up at the pyramids, seeing not only their height, but also the symmetry of their architecture has to make you marvel at the ingenuity of the people who built them over 4,500 years ago. In fact, the Great Pyramid was the largest man-made structure for over 3,800 years, truly an impressive feat.

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Walking Around the Great Pyramid with the Pyramid of Khafre in the Background

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The Great Sphynx

 

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The Great Pyramid

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Walking Among the Pyramids

 

 

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Enjoying Food and Beer in Alamosa, Colorado

Alamosa is a small town in southern Colorado that has a lot of historic charm. We enjoyed spending a weekend there while we visited the Great Sand Dunes. As is typical of the region, there are plenty of Mexican restaurants, but there are plenty of other choices as well. It was very hot during our visit, so having a cold beer that was locally brewed was also a must. In addition to the restaurants, there was a local fair going on and we enjoyed walking through it and visiting the various tents.

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San Luis Valley Brewing Company

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Walking Around the Fair

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Spicy Caribbean Pasta with Shrimp

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Tortillas Made to Order

We went to a casual Italian restaurant that is actually in an old movie theater that has been redecorated to become a quaint bistro. We had read before going that they offered half portions on their pasta, providing the opportunity to share two different options. Considering the size of the half portions, a full portion would have definitely been too much for the two of us. We had homemade lasagna as well as a very spicy Caribbean with shrimp. Both were very delicious and we took the leftovers from the Bistro Rialto back home with us.

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Italian Bistro

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Homemade Lasagna

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Funnel Cakes and Other Food at the Fair

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Alamosa Amber Ale

We stopped at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company a couple of times and enjoyed their Alamosa Amber as well as their Valle Caliente, which is a lager soaked on Hatch Chile. The lager had a little heat to it, but overall the taste was very smooth. We did, of course, visit a very popular Mexican restaurant that actually served an all-day buffet. We don’t eat enough to take advantage of an all-you-can-eat buffet, so we ordered a pork burrito, but the food on the buffet was fresh and very popular. It was our last meal before leaving Alamosa and in some ways we wish we would have found Calvillo’s sooner.

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Mexican Buffet

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Pork Burrito with Salsa Verde

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Valle Caliente Lager

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Local Beers

One thing that we enjoy about visiting smaller towns are the locally owned restaurants that use fresh food grown in the area. There are always a few chain restaurants, but we avoid those whenever possible. Having the opportunity to taste locally brewed beer that represents the tastes of the area is a definite benefit and almost expected in Colorado these days.

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The Domes of Rome

When traveling throughout Europe, the domes of cathedrals tower above the cities. Rome, however, seems to have more than its fair share of domes that dominate the skyline. It isn’t just the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, domes seem to be almost everywhere in the city. As interesting as domes can be when seen from the outside, they are often elaborately decorated inside and were often the focal point for the artists of their time. This week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge is Arch, Dome, or Half-Circle. Looking at the skyline of Rome it almost seems as though you can find a dome around every corner.

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St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican

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Ornately Decorated Dome

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Multiple Domes

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Dome Ceiling

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Skyline of Rome

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Simple Dome

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Windows Inside of a Dome

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Church Dome

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Domes Across the Skyline

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Dome Inside of Another Dome

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Ancient Dome

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Domes Around a Plaza

 

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