A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about family travel

Easter Sun-day

A little R&R does a body good.

sunny 34 °C

After an accomplished week of hiking, a near defeat by the swarms of blood-thirsty mosquitoes, and a chance to take in some of our world's ancient wonders, we were to relax. Added bonus: familiar faces! Marty's family had decided to come down to visit during their Easter break.

From Santa Marta we hopped a bus to Cartagena to meet up with the Argentis. While we had our own adventure on the bus (surprise, surprise!) they had had their fair share of trouble following Colombian "directions". It's a fantastic ideal to name your streets numerically, but it only works if they are sequential, as in- in numerical order. Crazy, I know. Nevertheless, Marty and I arrived to a beautiful air conditioned modern beach-themed apartment and were very excited to sit down in the first real chairs we had seen in over a week! Let the vacay begin. I was only slightly ashamed to show up to see my boyfriend's family for the first time in months not having showered for a solid week, but they didn't seem to phased by it (thanks guys!). Whatever feelings of gross-ness and shame were quickly washed away by (a real shower) and wonderful conversation, updates on life at home and the re-telling of some of our jungle adventures. Ahhhhh vacation!

We spent the next couple days wandering the streets of Cartagena's gorgeous and colorful facades, cute little shops, indulging in some Crepes and Waffles ice cream, and trying to duck in to whichever air conditioned store was closest just before the waterfalls of sweat started pouring down our backs. Don't you wish you could get that image out of your head?? It was seriously hot. The walls surrounding the old city keep the sea breeze out and the stickiness in, but we managed to keep our cool (no pun intended) with a mojito here or a limondada de coco there (the latter is my new favorite non-alcoholic beverage, essentially a blended coconut limeade).

It was great to be back in Cartagena. Not that staring out over the tops of the mountains while standing in the jungle doesn't give you something to look at, but the walled city is a far cry from an eyesore. Its just gorgeous. We took in the gold museum, a warm up for the one we have yet to see here in Bogota, the Inquisition Museum (no sloth this time), the fortress and had some delicious food! On Easter we made it to mass and had Easter brunch on the patio at a nearby hotel managing to escape the already blazing heat.

Later, we packed up and were on our way to Santa Marta. Not without a brief stop at the nearby Volcan Totumo (volcano) where you can sit in the mud that pools at the mouth of the volcano. We opted for pictures and coconut water straight from the coconut instead.

We made it to Santa Marta and checked into our hotel just in time for happy hour. We spent the next week taking in Santa Marta's offerings- Taganga (the backbackers town just outside of Santa Marta), Parque Nacional Tayrona where you can literally stay for days if you want. The white sand beaches are lined by jungle trees that stretch almost to the water and we saw a couple lemurs, plenty of lizards, butterflies and I could have sworn a capibara walk across the path in front of us. IMG_9338.jpg

We also wandered through Santa Marta, lounged at the pool, had our fill of seafood (yummmmm!), went to the aquarium, only accessible by boat and dangled from zip lines across the canopy (which was drier than I thought it would be). IMG_9349.jpg

By the time it was all said and done, I was putting up a little silent protest to the end of my vacation. Not only had it been wonderful to be included in Marty's family's vacation, for which I am incredibly grateful and thankful, but I had really enjoyed getting out of the BOG for a couple weeks. It was just the ticket to recharge the batteries for the last stretch here. We have about a month of work left here in Bogota before taking off for a few weeks of sightseeing elsewhere in South America.

A very heartfelt thank you Carla and Jerry for including me in your family trip and making me feel welcome. Thank you fo Beth for making not 1, but 2 trips down to visit. You have made part II of 'Marty and Monica do Colombia" a lot more rich and exciting.

Posted by tuffchix 14:54 Archived in Colombia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Dìa de San Valentine...

...Colombian Style

rain 10 °C

A few weeks ago, Steph and Aaron decided they were going to make the trek down to Bogota for a little Colombian vay-cay. Marty and I collected them at the airport last Tuesday and pumped them full of water the moment we got home to stave off that nasty altitude sickness. Wednesday morning bright and early we headed off for some delicious Colombian coffee at this cafe Marty had discovered called La Montaña Roja (The Red Mountain) and after multiple coffees each, some delicious Colombian pastries-- the first in a long line of traditional Colombian foods the Smiths would try-- Marty headed off to his last day (thankfully!) at Universidad Libre and Steph, Aaron and I strolled the smoggy mid-town area checking out the adorable puppies at all the pet shops, and snapping oh-so-touristy photos of all the flower arrangements in the flower district called Flores.

We met back up with Marty for a traditional Colombian lunch of the staple: rice, meat, another starch of some kind, veggie of your choice and fresh juice, all of which was delicious and a grand total of $2.00 per person!!! We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Botanical Gardens, sampling the local brews (all slight variatios of Budweiser with much more Colombian names), trying all the local fruit from the local fruit market, "Surtifruver de la Sabana", and then heading out to our favorite funky restaurant called Tienda de Cafe in the Usaquen neighborhood near the university where I teach.

Thursday and Friday were both early days as we headed out to camp and woke up early to herd nearly 80, 4th and 5th graders (and occasionally their teachers) through a couple days of English immersion activities out at Bochica. Steph and Aaron fit right in with Marty and I alongside our Colombian counterparts and despite the mayhem that is Colombian children at camp (or any children really) we had a great time. Not to mention getting to spend time in the cloud forest, who wouldn't love that??!

Finally on Saturday we slept in. Finally. After a traditional Colombian breakfast of eggs, ham, arepas and coffee we headed north out of Bogota through the towns of Chia and into Zipaquira back to the Salt Cathedral. This time we were smart enough to ditch our tour (something about a guide speaking in Spanish through a Play-Skool-like microphone and speaker was just not that exciting).

Saturday night happened to be Valentine´s Day and Marty and I had been dying to try this highly recommended, kinda funky, steakhouse in Chia for a while so we made it our stop on the way back. Funky is an understatement. This place is like, well, if an antique warehouse and Disneyland made a baby and then the devil breathed a little of his fiery gusto on it, you would get Andres Carne de Res. It famous for its meats and we went all out with the sample platters to taste them all. Mojitos were definitely in order (c'mon, they came in carved and painted wooden bowls) and we managed to stuff ourselves full before the boys so gentlemenly picked up the tab.

Sunday was a day to hit up some of the sites within Bogota. Our original plan to hike up Montserrate was pushed aside due to laziness and we voted to take the tram up and walk back down (which Im not sure is all that much easier- thousands of uneven cobblestone steps are not really my idea of a nice walk). A few sore tushes later, we headed into the Candelaria to the Plaza Bolivar, where my phone was promptly stolen- which went unnoticed until hours later. Later that night back in Suba we rounded the corner for the best empanadas in all of Bogota from our local empanadas guy, Samuel!

Monday was Steph and Aaron´s last full day so we made the most of it, filling our backpacks with souveneirs, sipping beers from the Bogota Beer Company, making a stop at the Juan Valdez Cafe for coffee, attempting to go to the closed Gold Museum, hitting up music store row for Marty and Aaron to drool over 200,000 peso guitars (about $1000 USD) before heading off to work. That night we practically liked our plates clean at Crepes and Waffles before finishing off with their delicious ice cream and heading home to wind down and take in the last week.

We are so lucky that Steph and Aaron could come down and are super excited Beth is coming next week! Check out the pictures of the latest tourism coming soon on Shutterfly.

Posted by tuffchix 14:34 Archived in Colombia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Holiday Hullabaloo: Chapter 6

The End

sunny 28 °C

The last few days of the family vacation was wonderful. We spent the days wandering around the one main street and a couple of smaller streets that make up Bocas del Toro. The boys hadn't quite had their fill of diving so we scoped out a dive shop for them to get a couple last dives in before heading back to the chilly waters of NorCal or the non-existent ones of Bogota. I went along for the ride and before I knew it I was suited up, in the water and taking home my books and video to study for my scuba certification course. Sucker.

I went back bright and early the next day, before anyone was up to finish up the first part of the course and get another dive in (I'll complete the rest of my course anywhere and anytime I want). It was a pretty lazy couple of days (I'm not complaining, don't worry) and by the time we were all up and around day 2 we had time to make a quick trip to Red Frog beach.

Just a boat ride away from the main drag in Bocas, Red Frog beach is on the non-sheltered side of one of the other islands in the Bocas archipelago. Not being protected by other islands or small bays, the damage from the hurricane season that had hit Panama pretty good this year was evident. Uprooted trees lined the beaches, signs were half buried in the sand and the red frogs had pretty much vacated the area. Fortunately, the hike out to the beach from the dock on the opposite side of the island was gorgeous. You walk past magenta wild ginger, mangrove trees and our second sloth of the vacation (first was in Cartagena...check out the pick on Shutterfly! I named him/her Francis).

We enjoyed dinner over the water and made our way back to the hotel for our last night in Panama. Bright and early the next morning we woke to a gorgeous sunrise and hopped the puddle-jumper back to Panama City. The fam was heading back up to CA and Marty and I were going to be making our way down to Colombia's coffee region before heading home to Bogota.

It was a great trip, seeing family, new places and getting out of the city were top on my list of things to do for the holidays. While the Caribbean part of our vacation was over we weren't quite done exploring.

For all the pics from the "Holiday Hullabaloo" part of the trip check out the 'Christmas Trip' album at http://beyondbogota.shutterfly.com

Posted by tuffchix 14:22 Archived in Panama Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Holiday Hullabaloo: Chapter 5

Beautiful Bonaire, sea day, the Panama Canal and then some...

sunny 27 °C

The last port was Kralendijk, Bonaire and it could get any prettier, it did. Bonaire is famous for its scuba diving and windsurfing. They are also home to a protected mangrove forest and plenty of its own history. While dad took in the latter, the boys hopped a boat to dive in the national marine reserve and mom and I kayaked our way through the mangrove forest.

The island was beautiful, whether you were on land, on the water or under the water. Unfortunately, we had the shortest time in Bonaire and after our activites and checking off quite a but of avian and marine life (jellyfish, baby barracudas, brightly colored parrot fish, tarpin, pufferfish, corals, crabs, and more) we boarded the ship for the last time.

The day ended unfortunately when Marty caught the Dutch Antillean version of Montezuma's Revenge. Luckily our next and last day was at sea so he didn't miss much other than the Royal Caribbean Belly-Flop contest and the Miss Royal Caribbean pageant which I'm sure was a real disappointment for him.

Dec. 28th we were back in Colon, Panama where we had left from and were making our way later that day to Bocas del Toro, a sleepy little backpackers paradise on the northern Caribbean side of Panama. On the trip back we stopped at the Panama Canal's Gatun Locks (1 of the canals 3 locks) and saw a huge cargo ship making its way from the Caribbean side to the Pacific (in the mornings ships pass from Caribbean to Pacific and in the afternoon the locks work in the opposite direction). Its pretty amazing to see these huge ships pass through the canal, being pulled through and raised up with the narrowest of margins on either side. There may be as little as a foot between the ship and the walls of the canal. The photos will show a little better how the whole system works, but its pretty fascinating to watch and I don't have a drop of engineering blood in body. That's saying something.

After the Gatun Locks we caught our flight up to Bocas del Toro although upon arrival we were a few bags lighter than when we started. Apparently if your bags are too heavy, they just don't put them on the plane until they feel like it so 3 of our 5 checked bags didn't make it until the next morning.

We checked into our hotel in Bocas del Toro called Playa Tortuga and settled down to relax for the next couple of days.

Posted by tuffchix 13:58 Archived in Panama Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

On Our Way...

semi-overcast 23 °C

We're here!!!...in Florida, that is. Four days of scrambling around trying to check things off the 5 mile long 'to do' list-- everything from last goodbye coffee/dinner/drink dates, to cramming 9 months in 2 checked bags, 1 carry on and "1 personal item", to a last stop at In 'N Out (here is where you can call into questions our ability to prioritize) was stuffed into the small window we had between confirming last details with the YMCA on Monday and our departure earlier this (Thursday) afternoon.

We figure we're doing this right by weaning ourselves from California life, giving ourselves a chance to adjust and relax a bit outside of everything familiar at home before throwing ourselves excitedly into our new lives in Bogota. After a crazy week, I am definitely excited about the chance for a little R&R here in Tampa and later this weekend in Orlando!

Posted by tuffchix 22:26 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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