Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado

Located about 30 miles outside the town of Alamosa in Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes are a fascinating feature that has been created by nature over thousands of years. The giant sand dunes sitting at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains highlight the diversity of habitats in southwestern Colorado, which ranges from wetlands, prairies, mountains, and forests. The sand dunes seem oddly out of place, it is almost as if a piece of the Middle East was scooped up and dropped in the mountain valley. The reality is that they were created after a large lake dried up thousands of years ago and the wind drove the sand to the base of the mountains.

DSC_7013

Sand Dunes and Mountain Peaks

DSC_7038

The People Give Perspective to the Size of the Dunes

DSC_7018

The Size can be Deceiving

DSC_7028

Hiking the Sand Dunes

Although this year the mountains did not receive a lot of snow and therefore the runoff was minimal, usually there is a river or stream running at the base of the sand dunes, making the contrast even more interesting. One of the good things about the stream not being there was that we didn’t have to get our feet wet in order to get to the base of the dunes, but the bad part was that it was even more sand to walk through in the heat of the sun. It is not easy walking in the sand and even harder walking up the steep sides of the dunes. They may not seem as large from the distance, but the actual peaks of the dunes can be as high as 750 feet (230 meters).

DSC_7077

First View of the Dunes

DSC_7025

A Sandboarder

DSC_7051

People at the Peak

DSC_7037

At the Base of the Sand Dunes

As more and more people visit the dunes, one of the most popular things to do is to bring a sandboard and go sandboarding. People will spend hours climbing to the top and then boarding their way back down. Just to reach the top is difficult, so to do it over and over again in order to shred the sand is a real achievement. It also means that you will be surrounded by plenty of crowds as people flock to the area. There is camping nearby and you will find and endless array of motorhomes and RV’s. Since it is a national park, you can expect to pay $20 per vehicle to get into the park, which is good for seven days.

DSC_7010

Walking to the Dunes

DSC_7032

Like Walking on a Strange Planet

DSC_7078

Prairie, Dunes, and Mountains

It took us about three hours to drive from Colorado Springs to the Great Sand Dunes, but it is well worth the drive. We hadn’t been to the sand dunes for over twenty years, so it was also a little bit nostalgic for us as we remembered bringing our young children there to play in the sand. We only spent a couple of hours at the sand dunes as climbing the hills is very exhausting and hard on the legs. Even though we were walking in the Sahara Desert only a few weeks ago, visiting this unique place in Colorado was really something special.

DSC_7053

The Struggle to Reach the Summit

DSC_7045

A Sense of Scale

DSC_7019

Looking Away from the Dunes

 

Advertisements
Posted in Colorado | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Philae and the Temple of Isis

When we were in Aswan, Egypt, we took a boat out to Philae, which is an island with a variety of temples. It was a very interesting site with plenty of things to see and definitely worth a half day to visit. The temples were moved to higher ground after the High Dam was built in order to save them and it was well worth the effort. As Aswan is in the southern part of Egypt, the temperatures can be quite hot, so be prepared and bring plenty of water.

DSC_5967

Temple Entrance

DSC_5958

Row of Columns

DSC_5978

Looking Up at the Entrance Wall

DSC_5974

Walking Around the Temples

Clearly the Temple of Isis is the highlight of visiting the island, but there is also the Temple of Hathor and the Kiosk of Trajan. The columns, hieroglyphs, and entrance were extremely impressive. We took our time walking around the temples and seeing them from every angle, but seeing them from the boat as we neared the island was truly stunning. There are still archeological activities occurring at the site and we saw people actively working while we were there.

DSC_5953

View from Our Boat

DSC_5999

Hieroglyphs on the Temple Walls

DSC_6015

Amazing Views

DSC_6006

Archeologist at Work

There are a few other sites worth seeing in Aswan, but Philae was what stood out most to us. The history of temples goes back over 2500 years and seeing how well preserved they were was fascinating. We would definitely recommend a visit to the island to anyone who makes their way down the Nile River to visit Aswan.

DSC_6026

Temple Wall

DSC_6012

Lotus Columns and Clear Blue Skies

DSC_5959

Exterior Wall

DSC_6010

Temple of Isis

 

Posted in Egypt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Show of National Pride

One of the things that seems universal about traveling is that residents of a country, region, or city are fiercely proud of their country and culture. Even if they aren’t particularly pleased with the people in government at the time, they still remain very passionate about their country and want others to know that it is a wonderful place to visit. Even if the country is struggling financially, tourism is always a valuable source of income and pride for the citizens. This week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge is Flags or Banners and we have enjoyed seeing flags of various countries during our travels.

DSC_2466

Italian Flag Shading Us from the Sun

IMGP2094

Netherland Flag on a Clock Tower

SCAN0374

US Flag on the Washington Mall in DC

IMGP1976

Irish Flag in Dublin

IMGP1095

Flag of Greece in Athens

SCAN0134

Many Flags at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

 

Posted in Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Creamy Potato Salad

One of the things that you can find in many different countries throughout the world is potato salad. There can be a lot of variations, each with its own flavor profile, but we have been making this recipe for years. It is creamy, refreshing, and can be paired with just about any entrée. It is also perfect for summer picnics or any large gathering. We happened to serve it with some halibut that we’d dusted with Old Bay Seasoning and then breaded, but it could have just as easily been served with hot dogs, hamburgers, or anything else. The key to a good potato salad is to not over cook the potatoes, but to get them just to the point that a knife slides easily through them and then immediately cooling them off so that the cooking process stops. If you over cook the potatoes, they will become too soft to mix with the sauce.  This is one of our favorite side dishes, so we hope that you enjoy it.

Potato Salad

Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 Medium Potatoes – cut into half-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tbsp Brown Mustard
  • 1/2 Stalk of Celery – finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Onion – finely chopped
  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs – chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Celery Salt
  • 2 to 3 tbsp Milk
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Dry Ingredients

Dry Ingredients

Instructions

Place the potatoes into cold, salted, water and heat to a boil.  Boil at a slow-rolling boil for approximately 20 minutes or until a knife easily penetrates the potatoes.  Drain the potatoes, put them back into the hot pan to help get any excess water off of the potatoes, then put the potatoes into a bowl and chill them in the refrigerator until cold.  If you are in a time crunch, you can put them in the freezer until they are chilled (not frozen).  In another bowl, mix the mayonnaise, mustards, celery, onion, celery salt, milk, salt and pepper, stirring until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Add the egg to the potatoes and gently toss with the mayonnaise mixture until all of the potatoes are fully coated.

Wet Ingredients

Wet Ingredients

Mayonnaise Mixture

Mayonnaise Mixture

Perfect Side Dish

Perfect Side Dish

dsc_1093

Sauerkraut and Potato Salad in Frankfurt, Germany

 

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sailing on the Nile River in a Felucca

One of the best ways to escape the hustle and bustle of Cairo is to enjoy a ride on a felucca on the Nile River. These sailboats have been used for transportation for hundreds of years in the region and are still quite popular today, although mainly for tourists. There are plenty of other tour boats that you can take, but if you want a truly relaxing experience, then a felucca is the best choice. It takes skill to navigate the river using these unique sails, especially since they are at the mercy of the wind.

DSC_6572

Feluccas on the Nile

DSC_6552

Our Captain

DSC_6538

Looking Up at the Sails

DSC_6559

Motorized Tour Boat

DSC_6384

Feluccas at Sunset

One of the most popular times to sail on a felucca is at sunset, both because of the beautiful scenery as well as the winds are usually stronger as the sun goes down. It is also one of the busiest times on the river as the dinner cruise ships join all of the other tour boats. Getting out on the river is also an excellent way to beat the heat of Cairo. We do not always do the touristy things, but sailing on a felucca is something that is worth taking a couple of hours of your time in Cairo to do.

IMG_8661

Cairo Tower from the River

DSC_6563

View from the Felucca

DSC_6383

Lots of Boats on the River

IMG_8659

Another Felucca Heading Our Way

DSC_6542

Relaxing View

 

Posted in Egypt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Visiting Dahshur Outside of Cairo, Egypt

We enjoyed seeing a wonderful variety of pyramids during our time in Cairo, but visiting Dahshur was probably one of our most interesting experiences. First, we were virtually by ourselves as we walked around the pyramids as there were less than a dozen total other visitors there during the time that we spent there. Also, since it is the site of the first smooth sided pyramids, one successful and a couple of others that weren’t successful, it is an interesting look into the learning that occurred by the ancient Egyptians to create what would later become the Great Pyramids. Dahshur is located out in a remote area of the desert, which was purposeful as they wanted the pyramids to be away from any well-traveled area.

DSC_6051

The Bent Pyramid

DSC_6081

The Red Pyramid

DSC_6106

Stairs Inside of the Pyramid

DSC_6079

Looking at the Red Pyramid from the Bent Pyramid

We visited two of the pyramids, the first being what is commonly referred to as the “Bent Pyramid” as they miscalculated the dimensions of the sides and had to curve the walls as it neared the peak in order to keep it from collapsing. Although it was never used as a tomb, it is certainly still fascinating to see. Imagine all of the work that must have gone into building such a structure only to deem it a failure despite the fact that it has survived thousands of years.  From the bent pyramid, you can see the ruins of another pyramid that collapsed called the Black Pyramid, which was actually built in a later time period, as well as the first actual smooth sided pyramid off in the distance. Standing in the desert and seeing the pyramid off in the distance was very surreal and it almost felt as if we were standing on the surface of Mars or some other distant planet.

DSC_6067

Standing Outside of the Bent Pyramid

DSC_6070

Crumbling Pyramid in the Distance

DSC_6088

Looking Up at the Entrance of the Red Pyramid

DSC_6104

Entrance to an Antechamber

Visiting the Red Pyramid as it is called due to the color of the stones that were used to build it, was simply amazing. Partly due to the fact that we were basically alone as we visited it, but also because we were able to climb up to the entrance and then down the steep tunnel leading to the tomb and antechambers. Although it was well worth the effort, be prepared for a steep climb up and down and the tunnel is only about 4 feet high (1 1/3 meters), so you have to crouch as you scoot your way down. The ground of the tunnel was smooth, so wooden boards with metal slats have been added to allow you to keep from sliding down the near 45 degree angle. In addition to the physical exertion, be prepared for the heat. In the desert heat, climbing into the pyramid is almost like climbing inside of a clay oven.

IMG_8312

Tunnel Entrance to the Tomb

DSC_6089

Brisk Climb to the Entrance

DSC_6116

Floor of the Tunnel

IMG_8315

Inside of the Antechamber

Although there aren’t any colorful hieroglyphs or anything remaining inside of the tomb and antechambers, seeing the Red Pyramid in Dahshur is definitely an amazing sight. The Red and Bent Pyramids were both built by King Sneferu between 2613 and 2589 BC, which makes them almost 5000 years old. The son of King Sneferu, King Khufu, would be inspired by his father to build his own pyramid, which is now one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is known as The Great Pyramid of Giza. Obviously we would make our way to see the Great Pyramids, but seeing the pyramids of Dahshur was the perfect way to start our time in the Giza Plateau.

IMG_8307

Steps to the Pyramid

DSC_6103

Looking Up Inside of the Tomb

DSC_6064

Erosion on the Bent Pyramid

DSC_6094

Taking a Break During the Climb to the Entrance

DSC_6055

Hot Desert Sand

 

Posted in Egypt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Winding Your Way Through the Mountains

Living in a place that is surrounded by mountains, one thing that is clear is that the shortest distance between two places is not a straight line. Roads have to twist and wind based upon the contour of the land. Especially with high mountain passes that can be closed because of snow on a frequent bases, it also becomes important to provide ways to wind through the valleys so that you can avoid those high mountain passes. Driving through the Andes mountains in South America was a clear example of these winding roads that navigate the rugged scenery. Also, with such steep slopes, using switch-backs that go back and forth allow for vehicles to go up or down in a relatively safe manner. After passing through the mountain passes, we descended down the other side using Death Road. It has since been replaced by a modern highway, but it still draws travelers like us, especially those that want to ride bicycles down the twisting road. Roads like these are definitely ones that prove the saying that the journeys is as rewarding as the destination.

IMGP9353

Winding Road Through the Andes

IMGP9432

Looking Down at Part of Death Road

IMGP9357

Climbing High Up the Side of the Mountain

IMGP9462

Winding Down Death Road

IMGP9355

Roads Carved into the Side of the Mountain

 

Posted in Photo Challenge, South America | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Eating in Egypt

We wish that we could talk about all of the unique foods that we discovered while we were in Egypt, but the reality is that we didn’t get too many opportunities. Our first four days were spent on a cruise ship going down the Nile river and all of our meals were provided for us. The food was extremely good, but except for one dinner that focused on Egyptian food, it was pretty generic. We did go out to a couple of local restaurants while we were in Cairo, but we actually found the choices to be somewhat limiting. Our hotel had several restaurants, so we did try a variety of foods at the end of the day after our tours completed, but they were somewhat international in nature. We always try to eat local food whenever possible, so we took advantage of the few opportunities that we had.

DSC_6809

Street Café with Roasted Meats

IMG_2728

Buffet on the Cruise Ship

IMG_8690

Dips and Vegetables

IMG_8567

Food in the Hotel Restaurant

IMG_8003

Eating on the Ship

We were there just a couple of days before the start of Ramadan, which was fortunate since all of the local restaurants basically close while everyone fasts. One of the things that ate that we really enjoyed was mixed grill, which included beef, chicken, and vegetables. We also enjoyed the wonderful breads along with sesame dips and baba ghanoush, which is made with eggplant and tahini. In general, we didn’t find the food to be as exotic as some of the other places that we have visited. If we had to describe Egyptian food in general it would be that it is mostly based on breads and vegetables.

IMG_8414

White Beans

IMG_8562

Indian Curry

IMG_8418

Mixed Grill

IMG_8413

Baba Ghanoush and Yogurt Dip with Marinated Vegetables

DSC_6935

Coffee House in a Market

Although alcohol is not consumed by a majority of people in Egypt, they did have local red and white wine that was actually quite good. We also found a nice lager that was brewed in Egypt that was very refreshing, especially when returning from our tours in the heat of the desert. Of course we also had hibiscus juice and tea as well, which was refreshing as well. There are plenty of coffee houses with really strong, espresso style coffee, and plenty of people smoking shisha (hookah) pipes. One thing that was hard to get used to was the public acceptance of smoking in restaurants. Not only will you find an ashtray on your table, you will likely be surrounded by people smoking cigarettes wherever you go to eat, including the international hotel restaurants.

IMG_2989

Egyptian Lager

IMG_7765

Egyptian Wine

IMG_8412

Simple Soup

DSC_6806

Shisha Pipes for Sale

IMG_8564

Lamb Chops

 

 

Posted in Egypt, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Capturing History Through the Written Word

In this digital age, we actually still are fans of owning physical books that we can open and read. Throughout history, the sharing of stories by writing them down has been an important part of preserving knowledge about the cultures that they represent. To some extent, everyone who has a web site and shares their stories is continuing in this same tradition, but obviously on a grander scale in this world where we are all connected electronically. One of the things that we find fascinating is when we come across an ancient text during our travels. Whether it is the Book of Kells in Ireland, papyrus hieroglyphs in Cairo, or just an ancient bible in a church, seeing the care given to these books and manuscripts is an important reminder of how much respect needs to be given to what has been written by our ancestors.

DSC_6598

Ancient Bible in a Church in Cairo

IMG_4322

Library at Trinity College in Dublin

DSC_1294

Writings and Books in the Sigmund Freud Museum

DSC_6495

Writing on Papyrus in the Cairo Museum

IMG_8726

Historic Books in a Church

IMG_8632

More Papyrus Writings

IMG_4320

People Enjoying the Trinity College Library

DSC_6597

Ancient Bible

DSC_1295

More from Freud

 

Posted in Austria, Egypt, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Valley of the Kings

There are many fascinating sites to visit when in Luxor, Egypt, and the Valley of the Kings is certainly one of those. We spent two days in Luxor, first visiting the east bank of the Nile with Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple and then visiting the west bank on the second day. Two days is the minimum amount of time needed to visit Luxor, but it would probably be best to spend three to four days if possible. The Valley of the Kings is probably best known for the discovery of King Tutankhamun (King Tut) by Howard Carter in 1922 and you can watch a short documentary at the main entrance showing the removal of the treasures and sarcophagus that were found. You can purchase an extra ticket to go into the tomb of King Tutankhamun, but since he suddenly died at the age of 19, his tomb is small and unimpressive and not really worth the extra entrance fee.

IMG_2687

First View of the Mountain

IMG_7799

Colorful Paintings and Reliefs

DSC_5325

Sarcophagus inside of Tomb

IMG_2704

Walking Through the Tombs

DSC_5273

Pyramid Shaped Mountain

After centuries of building the pyramids to house the pharaohs on their journey to the next world, they came to the realization that the pyramids did as much to attract looters as they did to symbolize their wealth and importance. Often the treasures were stolen from the pyramids within a few years, if not months, from the burial of the pharaoh’s mummified corpse. To help conceal their burial locations, the pharaohs started building their tombs in the valley of the mountain Al-Qurn (The Horn) because it was shaped like a pyramid, which symbolizes eternal life. Starting in 2100 BC, this isolated location became the final resting place for at least 63 pharaohs, although new tombs are still being discovered.

IMG_2706

Vivid Colors

DSC_5314

Boat to Travel to the After Life

DSC_5286

Empty Tomb

DSC_5304

Entrance to King Tut’s Tomb

DSC_5300

Tomb Entrance in the Side of the Mountain

Many of the tombs have been damaged by treasure hunters, floods, and more recently the effects of tourism as people enter these ornately decorated burial sites. In order to reduce the impact of people entering these tombs, the ticket allows entrance into three tombs that are selected on a rotating basis as they restore other tombs. Be sure to bring plenty of water as walking through the Valley of the Kings is hot, dry, and dusty. Fortunately, there is a tram that will take you up the hill to the base of the valley and there are a couple of covered areas to provide some shade from the relentless sun. Also, if you want to take photographs inside of the tombs, you will need to buy a photography ticket, which is 300 Egyptian Pounds (about 18 USD). Through some miscommunication with our guide, we did not have a photography ticket and were stopped by one of the guards, which led to quite an awkward moment. Fortunately we were able to get everything straitened out and our guide returned to the entrance to get us a ticket, but not without some embarrassment on our part.

DSC_5276

Market at the Entrance to the Valley of the Kings

IMG_7794

Trams to Take You to the Tomb Sites

DSC_5284

Ceiling of One of the Tunnels

IMG_2700

Painting of the Workers

IMG_7804

Hot Day in the Valley

A long tunnel leads to the actual tomb chamber and the longer the life of the pharaoh, the deeper into the side of the mountain is the tomb. On the sides of the tomb are the two antechambers, one that housed food and necessities for the pharaoh in the afterlife and the other that contained the various treasures. The paintings and hieroglyphs are amazingly vivid and tell the story of the greatness of the pharaoh. Regardless of the time of year that you visit, expect there to be large crowds visiting the tombs along side of you. Take advantage of the slower moving lines to fully appreciate the details of the reliefs that adorn the walls as you slowly descend into the heart of the mountain. Unfortunately your guide is not allowed to go inside with you, so they will likely explain what you will see by showing you pictures (which are available for purchase) prior to entering the tombs.

IMG_2709

Hieroglyphs and Cartouches

IMG_2701

Fascinating Painting

DSC_5310

Walking Down to the Tomb Chamber

DSC_5291

Scarab Relief

DSC_5283

Colorful Details

Touring the Valley of the Kings was an incredible experience and one of the many highlights of our time in Egypt. We recommend getting the photography ticket as it is the only way, other than purchasing post card photos, to truly capture the magnificence of these tombs. Mummification and the building of tombs wasn’t just for pharaohs, there are also the Tombs of the Nobles, those who were rich enough to create a lasting memorial to themselves, as well as the Valley of the Queens. To walk through the tombs with the vivid colors that have survived for three to four thousand years is something that we will certainly never forget.

DSC_5316

Beautiful Despite the Damage

DSC_5296

Telling a Story

DSC_5312

Walking with the Gods

DSC_5290

Inside of a Tomb

 

 

Posted in Egypt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments