Buying Alabaster in Luxor, Egypt

One of the things that Luxor, and Egypt in general, is known for is alabaster and our guide made sure to take to one of the alabaster factories. At the factory, you can find two types of products, those that are machine-made and those that are hand-made. The differences are fairly obvious as the machine-made products are thinner, lighter, and don’t have tool markings on them while the hand-made are heavier and have distinct tool marks. Alabaster comes in three colors, dark green, tannish-yellow, and white. One of the reasons that alabaster is prized is due to its translucence and the effect of the light passing through the soft stone.

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Chiseling the Soft Stone

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Filing the Surface

Before going into the store with all of the various products made out of alabaster, we were treated to a demonstration of how the artisans made vases from the stones. It is a three or four step process depending on the product being created. In the first step, the stone is chiseled into the basic shape of the design of the object being created. Next, if it is to be a vase or candle holder, a kind of drill is used to hollow out the stone. Afterwards, the outside of the stone is filed and sanded to make it completely smooth to the touch. Finally, if the artisan desires, images are carved into the surface such as hieroglyphs, scarabs, or an ankh.

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The Alabaster that We Purchased

 

Once the workers demonstrated the tools to us, it was our turn to take a turn chiseling and drilling into the alabaster. Although not complicated, it was actually tiring work, so one could only imagine spending a full day of shaping the alabaster. After spending time learning about the process, we went into the store to decide if we wanted to purchase any of the alabaster products. Having seen the process, we focused on those that were hand-made and eventually chose a couple of alabaster vases that we now put on display, lighting candles inside of them to show off their color and semi-transparency.

 

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View of the Workers

Going to an alabaster factory while in Egypt is definitely worthwhile and certainly a must if you are in Luxor. There is certainly nothing wrong with getting a machine-made alabaster product as they are uniformly shaped, extremely smooth, and sometimes allow more light to pass through. Every time we see our hand-made alabaster vases, we are reminded of our day in Luxor.

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Hollowing Out the Stone

 

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Pot Roast with Dumplings

One of the meals that we had many different times in Europe was meat with some sort of dumpling. It would often be beef, but we also had it with pork, turkey, deer, and goose. We have enjoyed this recipe several times and it is easy to prepare and truly delicious. Rather than make our own dumplings, we use packaged biscuits which become soft and gooey when steamed. Because the biscuits are cooked in the same pot that the beef simmers in, they soak up a lot of flavor. This is definitely the type of dish that can be modified easily by adding different vegetables like onions or peppers, but we like the simplicity of the dish as we prepared it. Because it is slow cooked, the meat comes out fork tender and the sauce thickens up nicely, but if you want it thicker, you can certainly add some cornstarch to it.

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Pork and Potato Dumpling in Europe

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 lb Chuck Roast
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 28 oz Can of Diced Tomatoes
  • 32 oz Package of Beef Stock
  • 2 Cloves of Fresh Garlic – minced
  • 8 Whole Cloves
  • 1 tbsp Parsley – chopped fresh or dry
  • 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 package of Refrigerated Biscuits
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
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Brown the Roast

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat a cast-iron Dutch oven with the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Season the beef on both sides with salt, pepper, and the garlic powder. Brown the roast in the oil for about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add the beef stock, tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, and additional salt and pepper to the pot and stir to deglaze. Heat until it starts to simmer and then reduce the heat to low and cook slowly for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the sauce has thickened slightly and the beef is tender. Arrange the biscuits over the roast, covering it completely, and sprinkle with the parsley. Put the lid on the Dutch oven, cover tightly, and cook for 15 minutes, shaking the pot periodically. Remove the meat and biscuits to create individual servings, covering the beef with the sauce.

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Add Ingredients and Simmer

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Cover with the Biscuits

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After the Dumplings have Steamed

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Beef with Dumplings

 

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Interesting Foliage in South America

During our trips to South America, we have come across some very interesting plants and trees. Especially when it comes to visiting the Amazon, there are often pops of bright color amid the mostly dense green foliage. Although they came in many different colors, the vibrant red flowers and leaves certainly stood out. Some of them were fairly normal looking, but others are very different and unique. We often take photographs of wildflowers during our hikes, so it seemed natural to capture images of these flowers as we trekked around the jungle. Do you take photos of seemingly random flowers or plants as you travel or hike?

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Budding Flowers

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Is It a Seed Pod?

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Pop of Color

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Vibrant Red

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Colorful Leaves

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Fairly Average Flower

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Unique Flower

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Reflection on the River

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In the Darkness of the Jungle

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Red Leaves

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Getting Ready to Open

 

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The Perfect Itinerary for a Trip to Southern Spain

There are so many wonderful places to see in Southern Spain, so we have put together what we considered to be an ideal itinerary for visiting the region. We rented a car for the 2 weeks that we spent there, which is ideal as it is easy to get around and the highways are not very busy. Although we stayed at one central location so that we didn’t have to continuously pack and unpack, it could easily be done by going to each place individually.

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Alhambra in Granada

 

  1. Granada – You will want at least 2 days in Granada with the highlight of city being the Alhambra Palace. There are wonderful restaurants and plenty of quaint hotels to choose from. Situated near the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the city has breathtaking views. Although we only spent a couple of days in Granada, it is certainly worthy of more time if you have it available.

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    Fountain in Alhambra

  2. Malaga – We flew into this city and then immediately drove to our home-base in Estepona, but we made sure to come back and spend a day in the city later. You can also catch a high-speed train to Madrid if you want to see something other than Southern Spain. Sitting on the coast of the Mediterranean with a history that stretches back almost 3,000 years, it is certainly worth at least a couple of days during your time in the region. There are also several museums that are worth visiting in addition to the many sights around the city.

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    Organ in the Malaga Cathedral

  3. Marbella and Estepona – Basically the Spanish Riviera on the Costa Del Sol, you could easily spend two weeks just enjoying the beach, water activities, shopping, resorts, and award-winning restaurants. We stayed in Estepona, so after every day trip, we would return back to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean. Not a bad way to end a busy day of sightseeing. Even if you can’t spend a couple of weeks in these resort towns, you should at least plan on a couple of days to enjoy the beautiful beaches and eat some fresh seafood.

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    Beach on the Mediterranean

  4. Benahavís – With only a single road that leads to this town in the mountains, it is a food lovers paradise. Even if you don’t spend a full day in the town, it is certainly worth visiting if you are in the Marbella area. It is quintessential Spain with a truly relaxed atmosphere and some of the best restaurants and wine that we had during our time in Spain.

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    Streets of Estepona

  5. Ronda – The bridge that spans the canyon is worth seeing from both above as well as below. There is also the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain within the city and there is a unique and historical bullfight that takes place in Ronda once a year. While in the area, it is certainly worthwhile to visit one of the many vineyards and olive farms for a tasting. We spent a day in Ronda and felt that we were able to get a true sense of the city, but you could certainly spend more time if you have it available.

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    Hiking to the Bridge

  6. Tangiers, Morocco – Although not in Spain, we would highly recommend taking a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to see this historic city. Being at the crossroads from Africa into Europe, Tangiers is a fascinating city with a cultural blend that is unique to Northern Africa. We hired a private tour guide so that we had transportation to get outside of the city, but it certainly isn’t necessary. Although we only spent a single day in Morocco, we would recommend getting a hotel and at least spending 2 days if your travels allow.

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    Tangiers

  7. Gibraltar – Just seeing the Rock of Gibraltar and the fortress is worth making this part of your travel plans. Given that it is part of the United Kingdom, walking the streets of Gibraltar will make you feel like you are walking a street somewhere in England with all of the pubs, British flags, and fish and chips vendors. A day in the city is enough to take the tram up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar to see the amazing views as well as to walk through the city itself.

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    The Rock of Gibraltar

  8. Seville – As the capital of Andalusia, it is certainly a highlight of any trip to Southern Spain. To truly get a sense of everything that this historic city has to offer, you will want to spend at least 3 days in Seville. With its historic cathedral, old town, Jewish quarter, and museums, there is much to see in the city. If you do drive to Seville, the narrow streets can be difficult to navigate. Be sure to enjoy some Iberico ham while you are in the city as it is truly delicious.

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    Seville Cathedral

We certainly enjoyed our full two week adventure in Southern Spain and would highly recommend it to anyone traveling there. We visiting during November, which turned out to be ideal as far as temperatures go, but if you want to spend more time on the beach, then you should consider summer. If you do go during summer, expect the coast to be packed with visitors as many people from across Europe head to the beaches and resorts in the area.

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View of Gibraltar

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Cliffs of Ronda

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Coast of Morocco

 

 

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The Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is fascinating not only for its opulent, over-the-top decorations, but also for its truly interesting history. We visited during autumn, so the gardens weren’t in bloom, but they were still beautiful. There are several different sites on the palace grounds including the Royal Apartments, the Royal Stables, the Gardens, the Estate of Trianon, and the Hall of Mirrors. It is a quick train ride from Paris to reach Versailles, which is about 12 miles (20 kilometers) outside of Paris.

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Gardens in Autumn

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Gold Plated Details

We recently watched the miniseries about the building of Versailles, and although completely dramatized, it does actually provide some insight into the building of the palace from what was originally a grand hunting lodge. Over time, additional wings were added to the main palace building and additional salons added. Although it is interesting to see how King Louis XIV enlarged the palace starting in 1878 until his death in 1715. It certainly wasn’t without controversy and certainly was a factor that lead to the revolution in 1789.

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Palace From the Gardens

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The Vast Palace Grounds

As you walk through the Royal Apartments, it is hard to imagine the King and Queen sitting in their beds and receiving visitors. It is even harder to imagine that select members of court and the church would gather around the bed on the wedding nights to confirm the consummation of the nuptials. Walking through the Hall of Mirrors is certainly an experience that we will never forget as the light from the windows that open to the gardens reflect off of the gilded mirrors.

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Hall of Mirrors

 

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Gold Clock

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Palace of Versailles

Walking around the palace and its grounds provides a glimpse into a period in time when wealth and arrogance knew no bounds. Versailles should definitely be on your itinerary when planning a trip to Paris and it will take you a full day to fully enjoy all that there is to see.

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Painted Ceiling

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Statue Lined Roof

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Apartment Bed with Viewing Area

 

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Top 10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone

We have been fortunate to have been able to visit Yellowstone National Park over a dozen times in the past fifteen years and through those visits we’ve definitely learned some lessons.  It seems that most visitors to the park drive the various roads that traverse the park, stopping at each of the various landmarks as well as stopping whenever they run across a large number of vehicles pulled off on the side of the road, the sure sign of a wildlife spotting. Especially during the summer, there can be hundreds of people crammed around the walkways to get a glimpse at Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, the Grand Prismatic Spring, or the Paint Pots.  If you want to make the most of your visit to Yellowstone, here are a few things that we recommend.

  1. Hike one of the many trails that are in the park.  When hiking, the park recommends that you go in groups of three or more, make noise, and carry bear spray, but we’ve found that just the two of us is fine.  It never ceases to amaze us at how many people cram into the walkways and viewing stations, but as soon as we step onto a trail, we’re virtually alone in the park.  Some of the most beautiful sites in Yellowstone can only be seen by hiking to them and it also greatly increases your chances of seeing wildlife in the park.  Some of the trails can be strenuous, so be sure to know your limits and always hydrate appropriately.

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    View From a Trail

  2. Talk to a ranger at one of the visitor centers or ranger stations located throughout the park.  The rangers will be able to tell where certain wildlife is more likely to be seen, which trails are the best to hike and which ones should be avoided or are closed, as well as just provide great information on the park itself.  The rangers are there to assist people and are always extremely friendly and proud of the park that they serve.  Don’t be afraid to ask them questions, whether it is about where to go and what to see or questions about the various animals, plants, or geological wonders that abound throughout the park.

    Grizzly Bear

    Grizzly Bear

  3. Visit the park during the off-season.  Having been to Yellowstone in all four seasons, we enjoy going almost anytime other than summer.  Fall is probably our favorite season as the Aspens have turned to a spectacular gold and the animals are all very active as they prepare themselves for the upcoming winter.  During winter, though, you are more likely to see wolves or some of the more reclusive animals, but be prepared for snow and check for road closures as not all roads are open during the winter.  Spring is also a wonderful time to visit the park as the wildflowers start to bloom and you will likely see some newly born wildlife with their parents.

    Moose in Winter

    Moose in Winter

  4. Go on a ranger led hike.  It is worthwhile checking on the availability of the ranger led activities in advance as some of them book out weeks in advance.  Ranger led hikes allow limited numbers of participants, so you really get a one on one experience and learn things about the park that you never would otherwise.  The rangers all have vast knowledge about the history of Yellowstone as well as everything to do within the park and they are enthusiastic to share that knowledge with you.

    Ranger on a Hike

    Ranger on a Hike

  5. Don’t approach any of the wildlife.  It amazes us every year to hear about people approaching wildlife in the park and then being seriously injured or killed.  None of the animals are tame, they are all wild animals and this isn’t a petting zoo.  The elk and bison may seem docile, but any animal that is startled or protecting its young can be unpredictable and aggressive.  We all want that amazing photo to share with our friends, but it isn’t worth risking injury or death for it and having a telephoto lens is a much safer way to get that special shot.

    Wolves at Play

    Wolves at Play

  6. Take your time in the park and give yourself several days to see everything.  There is too much to see in Yellowstone to try and cram it in to a single day or even a couple of days.  Despite all of the times that we’ve been to the park, we’re still finding new places to hike and new beautiful sites to see.  Especially if you visit the park during the summer, expect plenty of traffic on the roads and around all of the major attractions.  Don’t be one of those people who stop at one of the various geological wonders like Old Faithful or the Grand Prismatic Spring, take a couple of quick pictures, and jump back in the car.  Take time to look around, read what information is available about what you’re viewing, and look for ways to view it that are different.  Perhaps you’ll capture a picture that is truly different than what most park visitors see.

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    Mammoth Hot Springs

  7. Don’t over plan, see the main attractions, but give yourself time to explore.  There is so much to do and see in the park that you could put yourself on a tight schedule and try to see it all, but then you’d miss out on some great opportunities.  Give yourself a chance to take a boat out onto Yellowstone Lake or go horseback riding in the park or Grand Tetons.  Have dinner on a covered wagon excursion or pack a picnic lunch to eat on a long hike.  The best memories are usually those that were made because of a spontaneous decision, so let yourself find one of those memories in Yellowstone.

    One of the Many Waterfalls in Yellowstone

    One of the Many Waterfalls in Yellowstone

  8. Visit the park near dawn or dusk.  If you’re going to Yellowstone, it is likely that you’re hoping for the opportunity to see some of the wildlife that is abundant in the park.  Although the bison and elk are easy to see in the park, especially in summer, other animals can be harder to find.  It is well worth getting up early or staying late in the park because the wildlife is more active during those times.  We’ve been fortunate to see bears, both black and grizzly, moose, wolves, elk, bison, bald eagles, coyotes, beavers, and many others during our various visits.

    Black Bear

    Black Bear

  9. If you have younger children, have them do the Junior Ranger program.  We’ve had the kids participate in the Junior Ranger program at several national parks and earn the Junior Ranger badge at each of them.  The Junior Ranger program is a great way to entertain the kids, while also helping them learn about the park and the animals that reside there.  They are given a booklet with several pages to complete (simple games like word find or match this animal to its environment, etc.) and when completed and returned to the ranger station, they are awarded their very own ranger badge.

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    Beautiful Scenery

  10. Be very observant and always scan all around you whether you’re driving through the park or hiking.  You’ll likely run across a large group of vehicles pulled over on the side of the road with people out with their cameras taking pictures of some sort of wildlife.  If you want to be the first vehicle to stop for that wildlife encounter, pay close attention to your surroundings at all times.  You’d be surprised at how often you may run across something very interesting just by having everyone in the car, obviously not the driver, looking through the trees for anything that might be an animal.  It is even more important to be observant when you’re hiking because you don’t want to surprise an animal while on a trail.  Always look as far ahead as possible as well as scanning in all directions, just to be sure that you see any animals before they see you.

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    Plenty of Deer in the Park

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Garden of the Gods

Anyone visiting Colorado should definitely make their way to Colorado Springs to visit the Garden of the Gods.  The rock formations, with their vibrant reddish-orange color, are visually stunning against the back drop of Pikes Peak and the surrounding foothills.  It is hard to imagine that the majestic orange sandstone rocks that are so beautiful today were once sand dunes millions of years ago when an inland sea covered the area.  It is this vast geological history with all of the forces that produced the Rocky Mountains that gave birth to the rock formations that make up the Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Many people are aware that Colorado is an active area for discovering dinosaur fossils, but most people don’t associate that with the Garden of the Gods.  The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center opened an exhibit in 2008 to celebrate the discovery of a new species of dinosaur based on fossils that were found in the park.  The discovery actually occurred in 1878, but the fossil was misidentified as a Camptosaurus and it wasn’t until 2006 that it was reexamined and determined to be a new genus and species.

Dinosaur Exhibit

Dinosaur Exhibit

Fossil Skull

Fossil Skull

The park offers great activities for people of all ages.  There are hiking trails, nature walks, Jeep and Segway tours, rock climbing, or even bird watching as there are many species of birds that make the rocks their home.  Rock Ledge Ranch, located within the park, is also worth a visit as it provides a glimpse into the early settlers and native inhabitants of the Pikes Peak region.  Whether capturing images with a camera or a canvas, Mother Nature has made sure that there is plenty of picture perfect opportunities.

Rock Climber

Rock Climber

Steamboat Rock

Steamboat Rock

Not surprisingly, over time people have given names to many of the formations within the park.  Some are obvious such as Balanced Rock.  Others are more imaginative, such as Three Graces, The Cathedral Spires, Getaway Rock, or Steamboat Rock.  None is probably as famous as the Kissing Camels, which is an often debated conversation amongst the visiting tourists as to whether they really look like camels.  With or without names, each of the different rock formations is inspiring to realize that time, weather, and geological upheaval could reveal something so amazing and beautiful.

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

Kissing Camels

Kissing Camels

Fittingly enough, the park got its name from a couple of surveyors who were exploring the local area.  When they came across the park and its natural beauty, M. S. Beach, for whom the story is attributed, stated that it would “be a capital place for a beer garden”.  The other surveyor, named Rufus Cable, replied “Beer Garden!  Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble.  We will call it the Garden of the Gods”.  The name stuck and after a long day hiking and climbing in the park, a beer is the perfect complement to a day outdoors.

Rock Formations

Rock Formations

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Obviously there are other attractions in the Colorado Springs area that are all worth a visit as well.  Places like the Cave of the Winds, Pikes Peak Scenic Highway, the Cog Railway to the summit of Pikes Peak, Seven Falls, or the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, just to name a few.  But a visit to Garden of the Gods is on the top of our list of sites that need to be seen, not just in Colorado Springs, but in the whole state.

Behind Kissing Camels

Behind Kissing Camels

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock

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Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland

The Gullfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle in Iceland is truly spectacular. We visited during the winter and the falls were mostly frozen, which made them even more beautiful. It was a very cold day and the observation decks were being hit by the spray from the waterfall, making it even colder as we stood and took photographs. It is an amazing display of the forces of nature at work.

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Powerful Waterfall

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The Start of the Canyon

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Amazing Beauty

Gullfoss Waterfall translates to Golden Waterfall and is probably one of the most photographed images in Iceland. The waterfall is created by the flow of the Hvítá (White) River as it flows into a canyon. Although we could have hiked around the waterfall to see it from various views, it was way too cold while were there to take the time to do that. It was the last of the places that we visited as we drove the road that loops around several famous locations outside of Reykjavik known as the Golden Circle.

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We Were Very Cold

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Panoramic View

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Looking Down at the Second of the Falls

As popular as Iceland has become as a place to visit, Gullfoss Waterfall can be quite a busy spot as tour buses travel there throughout the day. Watching the water as it flows down the two steep steps down into the canyon is almost mesmerizing. It was definitely a highlight of our time in Iceland and should be included as part of any visit to the island.

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Kanchipuram, India

One of the most memorable day trips that we took during our time in Chennai, India was visiting the city of Kanchipuram.  We were told that Kanchipuram was the place in the state of Tamil Nadu to buy silk, so we drove the hour southwest out of Chennai, about 45 miles (72 kilometers), to visit the city.  In addition to buying scarves and other silk products, we also visited the Ekambareswarar Temple, which was another gorgeous temple that we were able to see while we were there.  It was one of the hottest days that we encountered while we were in India, but the beautiful sites and the thrill of buying the silk items more than made up for any discomfort we felt.

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Parrot Sitting on a Temple

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Ekambareswara Temple

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Worker Spinning Silk

Walking around the Ekambareswarar Temple was one of the few times while we were in India that we weren’t overwhelmed by crowds.  Obviously, it is India, so that is a relative term, but it did feel more relaxed than some of the other places that we went to.  As with most temples, tour guides will come up to you and offer to take you on a tour and the price always has to be negotiated, but we chose not to pay for a tour at this particular temple.  Heading southwest away from Chennai takes you to more of a jungle feel and we enjoyed seeing the parrots that were content to make the temple grounds their home.

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Another Parrot on Top of the Temple

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Candles, Spices, and Other Shops

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Temple Door

One memory that we’ll never forget was getting blessed by a temple elephant while we were in the temple.  Apparently, at the time that we were in India, many of the temple elephants were on “holiday” where they are pampered and spoiled once a year for all of their hard work.  We handed the elephant a coin, which he took with his trunk, and then we bowed and the elephant gently tapped us on the head with his trunk.  We were surprised by how soft the elephant’s trunk was, we were expecting it to be leathery and hard, but it wasn’t.  In addition to being blessed by the elephant, another interesting site within the temple was seeing all of the ribbons tied to the “wishing tree”.  We were told that many woman would tie a ribbon in hopes of getting pregnant, but people would tie ribbons on the tree for many other reasons as well.  It was just another tradition that we enjoyed learning about.

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Elephant that Gave Us a Blessing

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Wishing Tree

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Decisions, Decisions…

Going to the silk shop in Kanchipuram was quite the experience.  We were told that Indian women from around the country order the wedding saris from Kanchipuram due to the high quality of the silk.  We sat down at a table and the owner of the shop started pulling out bundles of silk and laying them before us.  If we found a color pattern that we liked, he would pull out several more bundles and lay them in front of us.  We ended up buying scarves for every female family member that we could think of as well as a beautiful table runner that we use on our formal dining room table.  The best thing that we bought, however, was an absolutely gorgeous sari.  Everything that we bought in Kanchipuram that day probably cost us less than what a single silk scarf would cost us here in the United States and was even less expensive than the silk that we bought in Chennai.

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Choosing a Sari

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Walking Among the Temples

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So Many Details

If you are ever in Tamil Nadu and want to buy some silk, a trip to Kanchipuram should definitely be on your agenda.  The owner of the store couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly and we truly enjoyed the experience, even with some struggles with the language.  Fortunately, you don’t have to haggle over prices at the silk shops, the price that they quote is what you pay and it is so reasonable, there isn’t any reason to complain.  We came home with several souvenirs on our trip, but the silk items we bought are definitely some of our most treasured.  Not to mention that our family and friends were quite thrilled to receive such beautiful items.

 

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A Magical Day in Tangiers, Morocco

During our trip to southern Spain several years ago, we made a point of making our way across the Strait of Gibraltar to visit Tangiers, Morocco.  We took the high speed ferry from Tarifa (near Gibraltar) to the port of Tangiers, where we were met by our guides to start what would be a truly memorable day and definitely one of the highlights of our entire trip.  Tangiers is a unique African city as it has been the doorway to Europe for centuries and therefore has a varied population, although it is still mostly Muslim.

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Lighthouse on the Coast

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Streets of the Medina

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Market Stall with a Variety of Nuts

We started our day by visiting a neighborhood market, which was extremely busy with locals buying a variety of fresh foods. It is hard to describe the market in Tangiers other than to say that the colors and aromas overtake you at every turn.  There are merchants with spices piled to the ceiling, olives of every possible variety, exotic fruit, butchers with meat on display, and every variety of fish imaginable caught fresh from the Mediterranean Ocean.  As we walked among the merchants, we were given samples of olives, dates, candy, and more.  It was truly a magical experience.  After leaving the market, we were off to the Kasbah or Medina, the fortress and oldest part of the city.

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Various Cuts of Meat

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Fresh Fish on Display

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Vegetable Market

Walking the streets of the Kasbah was like walking back in time.  The cobblestone streets and grand arches led to a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean.  It is off the coast of Tangiers where the Mediterranean Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet.  Before we left the Medina, we were treated to our own private performance by a snake charmer.  Having seen snake charmers on TV and movies, we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it turned out to be fascinating as the charmer played his flute and waived his hand in the face of the King Cobra.  We weren’t, however, prepared for what came next as they wrapped a live snake, not a King Cobra fortunately, across our shoulders so that we could take some pictures.

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Walking in the Medina

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Snake Charmer in Morocco

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Entrance to the Medina

From there, we left the city and headed down the coast where we enjoyed gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean and a nearby lighthouse.  After a short time, we stopped to ride camels on the shore of the Atlantic.  It was a little touristy, but at the same time, how many people get to say that they’ve ridden camels on the beach.  From there we visited the pre-historic Caves of Hercules, which is a beautiful geological attraction. It is famous because it has an opening in the shape of Africa to looks out onto the ocean.

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Camels on the Beach in Morocco

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Cave of Hercules

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The Coast of Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean

Once we got back to Tangiers, it was time for a late lunch, which was good because we had definitely worked up an appetite.  We had quite the meal in a tiny, family owned, restaurant, that was authentic Moroccan chicken served in a tagine with hot tea.  The food was incredible and the family that served us couldn’t have been any nicer.  After lunch, we were taken to the shops of some local artisans with the hope that we’d buy some authentic Moroccan products.  We visited a spice shop where we did purchase some saffron, cumin, and marjoram at prices you could never find in the States.  At the carpet weaver’s shop, carpets of every description were laid at our feet as we enjoyed some more tea, but as tempted as we were, we decided not to buy one.

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Tajines and Dishes for Sale in Morocco

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Lunch at a Moroccan Restaurant

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Coast of Morocco

Finally, we took the ferry back to Spain and our wonderful day in Morocco came to an end. Although we hope to return to Morocco and spend more than just a day, we were very happy with the day that we did spend there. 

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