Getting to know the Mayans!

Hello again!

Today we decided to take in a little history, so we spent the morning exploring the Mayan ruins in Tulum that we saw previously from the beach. The site at Tulum was originally a fort that supporting the trading port there, as well as being the location of several temples and the local population. It’s actually pretty big, and a lot of the layout is still clear and intact. We were excited to get started!

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The first thing that we came to is one of the most famous structures, the Templo Dios del Viento (Temple of the God of Wind). It’s pretty stunning, and overlooks the bay:

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Since this temple overlooks the bay and is close to a small beach entryway it’s very likely that this was used as a look out post for anything approaching.

It’s actually not that big itself, and you can see that it’s surrounded by several even smaller structures. The theory is that these smaller structures acted as alters, since they are replicas of the temple itself but far too small to fit people inside:

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We next moved on to The Palace, which was definitely looking the worse for wear compared to the other buildings which were reasonably intact. It was still looking very nice though, and we were very impressed to see that it was being guarded by several Iguanas:

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New game – spot the iguanas!
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The iguanas up close, looking very regal

You can see that the building originally had pillars on the front in very traditional style, and apparently at the time all of these buildings would’ve been very spectacularly painted.

The most interesting building by quite a long way was the Castillo (castle), which was massive and mostly intact:

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Both the building and the additional walls that guarded it are still there, as well as several of the carvings on the building. The main god that was worshiped in Tulum was the Descending God, also known as the Diving God. He is depicted with his head down and his legs above him, and you can see his mural in various places around the site. It’s most prominent in the Temple of the Descending God, which is in the picture above but hidden behind that tree… Here’s a close up picture to redeem myself, and a sketch from one of the info boards for comparison:

This meant that we got to keep an eye out for this fresco, but our interest was still primarily in iguana spotting:

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Such aloof creatures

After we had finished having fun we headed down to the also lovely beach at Tulum to relax. We were pretty warm after walking around this site in the sun all day so my lovely husband broke every rule we’ve learnt in Fort Collins and bought me an extra large Starbucks Frappuccino with caramel and whipped cream. Was that special enough to deserve a mention in our esteemed blog? Perhaps not. Did I enjoy it very much, and feel hydrated for the first time all week? My goodness yes. As an extra treat while I drank this, we were able to continue our game of spot the iguana. This is because one had apparently escaped the ruins, and was sitting next to the table near us glaring at us:

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“Stop Starbucks, support local businesses”

After that we wandered around the local shops looking at the trinkets, and I bought myself a little replica Mayan temple to remember the trip by. We also looked at the very strange assortment of other gifts… I was very disappointed to pass up the Denver Broncos Luchador Mask, although I’m sure that if I were to wear such a thing in public it would only cause alarm.

Finally, we spent the rest of the day relaxing away on the beach. It was still warm way into the evening, so we hunkered down with our towels, bounced around in the sea a little, and then relaxed and read our books like the old people that we are in our hearts 🙂

More soon! Xx

Adventuring around Tulum

Hi Again!

I hope you’re keeping up with the blog posts, sorry that they’re coming a little thick and fast! We’re trying to stay on top of it so that we can remember all of the details for you 🙂

So, another day and more exploring to be done. Yesterday we decided to check out one of the most famous attractions in the area, the Grand Cenote. As I mentioned yesterday there are lots of underwater lakes in the area since the erosion exposes the groundwater, and the Grand Cenote is one of the most well known of these lakes. As well as being very cool geologically, these are a great place for snorkeling since you see lots of fish and sometimes turtles.

We got there in the morning before it got too busy and were pleased to discover that the Cenote is surrounded by some really lovely gardens.

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We had a quick stroll around, and found yet another bird. We’re a little low on birds in this post, so take your time to savor this round of ‘name that bird’:

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Not quite as exciting as the other birds, but he did pose nicely for this photograph

I’ll admit, we were taking our time walking around since there was a mandatory shower before entering the Cenote, and the showers looked pretty damn cold. Sadly though after our walk it could be avoided no longer, so we braved it and made only a few squeaking sounds when the water hit us…

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Plus a whole lot of pulling silly faces

Unpleasantness over, we were off! We rented ourselves some snorkeling gear, and got ready to start exploring.

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Hyped!

The water in the Cenote was somehow even colder than the shower, so I faffed around and insisted on taking more pictures while Rob bravely entered the depths:

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And then lied to me about the water temperature…

As you can imagine I decided not to take our fancy camera into the water, and instead shamelessly borrowed this photo from another website!

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Kudos to http://www.roadaffair.com for being more committed photographers than us!

Anyway, as you can see it’s basically underground caves that you can paddle around in, and they were really quite spectacular. There were lots of fish swimming around (in fact fish spotting was so easy that we kept bumping into them by accident…) and the stalactites and stalagmites were beautiful. As well as that there were also scuba divers exploring the area, and watching the scuba divers was really interesting. They were a lot deeper than us, and so we couldn’t really see the area unless they were there because they would then light the area up with their torches. It was very beautiful seeing the caves illuminated, although I don’t think I’d like to be that deep underwater myself!

As well as the interesting fish I was also really interested by the bats in the cave. They were hanging from the ceiling in little groups, and occasionally flying around to move positions. They were very fluffy and cute, plus occasionally some of the more delicate tourists would see them and freak out with is always amusing.

After exploring the Cenote we headed to the beach for a little more snorkeling, further up the coast. I was very excited to explore Akumel beach, since apart from being stunning it is famous for the Sea Turtles that live there! Until a year ago you were able to swim right up with the turtles, but they have since put a stop to that since understandably it was not doing the turtles much good to have people messing around with them all the time. You can still swim near the area where they eat and usually catch a glimpse of them though, which was still plenty exciting for me!

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Plus Akumal is not a bad place to be generally

 

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Despite the slightly wonky horizon 😉

We parked down in the shade and swam on out, and it was freaking awesome! The turtles are apparently missing the attention of local tourists since they were swimming up and down just on the other side of the no-swim line, so we got to see their little heads bobbing up and down in the water! Again, sadly no pictures for the sake of our camera so here’s one I borrowed earlier:

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They were literally that close, just swimming up and down and looking fabulous. This was extremely exciting, and got even better a few minutes later. I was looking underwater with the snorkel to see if I could see anything, and one of the turtles swam under the rope and started eating the seaweed on our side of the beach! I was floating about two foot over him, watching him slowly chow down on sea grass. The water was actually not very clear, so I could only see him from that distance, but it did mean that no-one else was crowding around and bothering the poor turtle. I followed him around as he ate for a few minutes, but then I lost him when he crossed back over into the turtle zone. Still, good times! He was pretty big at about three foot across, and seemed very relaxed. A definite treat, despite the murky water!

After that excitement (and me possibly perforating Rob’s eardrums with my squealing) we decided to head on further down the beach. The neighboring bay is called Half Moon Bay, so we walked on over there to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing. We found a bar that had hammocks, tree-houses and a mariachi band, so that was us very much set for the rest of the day. I spent a little time exploring the wildly unsafe tree-houses, and then settled down to read. Pure Bliss ❤

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More soon! Xx

Welcome to the Jungle…

Hi Again!

We’re continuing our Mexico adventures, and had an amazing time yesterday exploring the jungle at the Punta Laguna!

Punta Laguna is a small village about an hour away from our hotel, and part of the Ma’ax Yetel Koo nature reserve. This translates to “House of the spider monkey and the jaguar” from Mayan, which is the language spoken in this very traditional area. The Punta Laguna village specifically is very small with many of the residents having never visited larger cities, and the area only recently got electricity. As you can imagine their lives are very closely tied to this nature reserve, and they do a great job protecting it. Happily, they also do guided tours of the area, which we took part in!

It was pretty darn hot and humid when we got there, but we liberally applied our sun screen and bug spray, loaded up with water, and off we went. We had been told that the guides are both very knowledgeably, as well as being insanely good at monkey spotting. Our lovely guide demonstrated this almost immediately by spotting a Spider Monkey about 40 seconds into our walk:

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Can you see the monkey yet?
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Found him!

Our guide pointed him out and walked us over, and told us a little more about the monkeys. Apparently they live in small groups of eight or so, and they constantly move around the forest throughout the day. They very much enjoy eating Elephant Ears, which are the pods you can see in the tree above. Our monkey friend looked very relaxed as he ate, and didn’t seem to mind us taking pictures from below.

Now very bouncy and excited, we made our way deeper into the jungle. As well as the monkeys, the actual jungle was very interesting. Firstly, the jungle itself was very beautiful:

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It was also extremely relaxing to walk through, since it was very quiet apart from little birds chirping away. Speaking of birds, we also saw some of these! They were extremely fast little things though, so this is the only one I managed to catch on camera:

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Still everything to play for in name that bird round 2!

We also saw several other little friends, including these leaf-cutter ants:

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I’m taking a stand on this, leaf-cutter ants are pretty cool

Plus these pleasingly easy to photograph iguana friends:

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I still failed to spot them without the guide – thank goodness for Max

As well as the wildlife the jungle itself is actually virtually unchanged since Mayan times, so there are lots of old ruins dotted about that are really fascinating. Apart from being extremely old, these ruins are unusual in that the area around them is similar to how to was at the time (so you get a better idea of context) and they have also not been restored in any way by archaeologists. So these temples and dwelling were building by the Mayans over a thousand years ago, and they’ve been basically untouched ever since! It blew my mind a little.

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Plus the natural lighting through the trees really does a good job of making them seem even more epic

So anyway! We walked around the jungle for around two hours, and saw all of the cool stuff above, plus the laguna itself:

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“Swim at own risk, contains crocodiles”

This includes both the big lagoon/ laguna, as well as the various cenotes dotted around the place. Cenotes are naturally occurring sinkholes/ pits that form due to the limestone bedrock collapsing to expose the groundwater, and while most are fun the ones in this forest looked a little hardcore…

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NOPE

So anyway, there was lots to see, with the exception of more monkeys. This was totally understandable given that the whole reserve is around 5000 acres, and we told Max that we’d still had a great time. Max, however, did not think that only seeing one monkey was an acceptable monkey tour… In case it’s not already clear, Max is a total hero.

It turns out that Max’s brother is one of the biologists who studies the monkeys, and apparently the monkeys often like to hang around in his garden and eat the fruit there! So, out of the reserve and over the road we went to search for monkey’s in peoples gardens. We were allowed to sit down for a quick water break while Max searched ahead, which is good since we were both sweating pretty profusely.

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I think the fact that we’d both turned very red was also a little alarming

Very quickly Max was shouting at us to come over though, and there they were! More Spider Monkeys:

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Once again snacking on Elephant Ears!

They were in a tree just 20 feet or so away, so we were very excited. It was the closest we had ever been to wild monkeys, and we felt extremely lucky to get to see them. This record for monkey closeness was broken almost immediately when they bounced over to the tree above us, and started eating fruit over Rob’s head!

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Eeeee!!

We stood there for about ten minutes watching them chow down on fruit, and it was pretty darn adorable:

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Please don’t drop seeds on my expensive camera, Monkey friend

It was very excellent. We babbled away excitedly to Max, took 10,000 more pictures, and then headed back to our car to desperately re-hydrate. Our conversation on the drive home was basically just the word ‘monkey’ over and over again, in varying pitch.

That evening we’d finally calmed down a little, and we’d booked an authentic Mexican restaurant for dinner at a place called Cetli. It was describe as a very small restaurant that served very amazing food, and that was definitely the case. We parked up outside in the conventional Mexican way:

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Stop car at your exact destination, apply handbrake, walk away

We then went inside. Right away it was pretty clear that ‘small’ was being a bit generous. There were only three people working the whole place, a family, and they had clearly converted their house to make the restaurant:

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I’m not sure why the kitchen was behind bars, but I’m sure it’s fine

There were also only eight tables, and we were told that food would take a little while to come out. We assured them that this was totally fine, and they gave us a starter of traditional Mexican dishes to tide us over:

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Omnomnom!

Starting at the bottom, and then ascending left to right we have: Mince meat and cheese on a little bread thing, cheese empanadas, whole grain bread made in house, a spicy green dip, some garlic bread wrapped in a piece of dried leaf, cheese in a beetroot relish, orange sprinkled with fried crickets and finally some more cheese.

I am sure that these dishes all have correct names, but I absolutely can’t do better that the info above. Sorry!

I can tell you that it was all stupidly delicious, and that I wolfed down most the plate. Rob flat out refused to try the crickets, and also wasn’t a big fan of the grainy bread. I was a big fan of everything but the last cheese, and sadly whilst I did try the crickets they were not great. Cricket really does not have a lot to offer as a meat, in my opinion…

Anyway, already stuffed we ploughed on with the main courses – I had the Istak, which was fish in a white almond mole, dark chocolate and sesame seed sauce, and Rob had the amazing chile en nogada, which is poblano chilis stuffed with meat and spices. Rob definitely made the wise choice here, his food was unbelievable.

Finally, we decided to finish the night off with a cocktail at one of the local bars. There was a place nearby (strangely called Batey) which we were told did outstanding cocktails, and boy was that the case. I had a Mojito and Rob had a Caipirinha, and both were amazing – the highlight was definitely the fact that there was a guy there chopping up sugar cane, so each drink came with a freshly chopped up, sugary stick.

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Despite being tasty, anyone who has tried Caipirinha’s knows that one is generally enough. Stuffed full and tired out from our adventures, we headed home and passed out like fatties 🙂

More soon!

Welcome to Mexico!

Hey guys!

Very sorry for the long delay since we have last posted, we’ve been living the life of boring adults instead of going on fun adventures (boo). Enough of that though, we’re now back up to our exploration of the new world and visiting Tulum in Mexico!

Tulum is about an hour South of Cancun, and is on the Caribbean Coast:

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Woo!

You can see that it’s quite a distance from Colorado, but they do direct flights from Denver and it’s pretty inexpensive so off we went!

As well as being on the Caribbean Coast Tulum is famous for it’s many Mayan ruins, as well as lots of exciting wildlife in the many jungles. We landed Saturday afternoon, and we’re very excited to get exploring 🙂

On flying into Cancun we rented a car, and drove our way down to our hotel in Tulum. Rob bravely did the driving, which is a pretty exciting experience here in Mexico! It’s most definitely anything goes, but apart from having to pump the breaks whenever anyone cuts us up (which happens pretty regularly) we haven’t had any problems. I’m ashamed to say it was a little tricky to get used to driving a manual car again, but it all came back quite quickly!

Our first full day in Tulum we got off to a very exciting start when we got the chance to view some of the local wildlife from the comfort of our own bed. This happened when poor Rob went to pick up his shoe, and found a little friend guarding it:

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Don’t let the great magnification on the camera fool you, I was a long way away when I took this picture…

Rob then did a great job of not freaking out and running around screaming (which I absolutely would have) and instead went to get the maid while I stood on the bed taking pictures and not helping in any way. Sadly our rudimentary Spanish did not furnish us with the phrase ‘there is a scorpion in my shoe, please make it go away’ but we did manage to usher her into the room and point at it. Thankfully it seems like this was not our lovely maid’s first Scorpion since she very calmly went and got her broom, whacked the scorpion with it, and then swept it out of the room. Rob and I then argued about who’s job it was to check the rest of the room for any little friends (I lost, since as Rob put it ‘I was the one who booked the scorpion hotel’) but fortunately I didn’t find anything. We are now keeping a towel pressed against the gap in our door, to stop anything else making it’s way inside…

Anyway, after that excitement it was time to go relax on the beach!

Playa Paraiso (Paradise Beach) is a famous beach just a short drive from our hotel. We were extremely excited to see the sea for the first time in a very long time, and it did not disappoint!

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We started out with a quick lunch on the beach in one of the many beautiful restaurants:

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After admiring one of the many beautiful totem poles!

I had some great shrimp tacos while Rob enjoyed the chicken fajitas (this was quite an expensive restaurant for Mexico, and our meal came to about $25/ 21 pounds for everything! – the food here is both delicious and very inexpensive), and once we were nicely full we headed off to walk along the beach.

The most famous Mayan ruins in Tulum are the ruins that overlook the beach, and after a short walk we were able to see them and we were very impressed:

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Don’t worry, touring these ruins in full is definitely on our to do list!

As well as looking at the landscape we got to see some excellent birds, although I’ve failed my parents completely by not being able to name any of them… And so, once more, we play name these birds 🙂

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Sanderlings, maybe?
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Pelican thing
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Batman!

After our lovely walk we decided to relax for a bit, and staked out a palm tree to call our own:

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Then, into the sea!
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It was pretty windy at the start so the sea was extremely choppy, but it was nice and warm and we had a great time bobbing up and down on the waves 🙂

I’m going to finish the blog here since we’re now off to go explore the jungle, but we’ll be sure to keep you all posted on our time in Mexico so more soon!

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Rob & Cat xx

New Mexico Road Trip!

Yes friends, another Road Trip! I hope you’re not getting sick of them yet, we have many more planned to make sure that you’re not without interesting pictures anytime soon 🙂

But first, new camera!! Massive thanks to Barry and Margaret for getting us a new camera for Christmas ( ❤ ❤ ❤ ), and thanks also to Rob for letting me open it before Christmas for road trip purposes 🙂 We got this very flashy thing (pun intended):

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I actually got the camera out to take a picture of the camera before realizing that I was an idiot…

It’s a Canon Powershot sx530 HS and I love it like a child. To compliment the camera we splashed out on a nice carrying bag so that we don’t break it, and insurance for when the bag inevitably turns out to not be enough to counteract my clumsiness.

So, our trusty Subaru was as excellent as ever, and we were ready to go! We had three days so went for a very managable 900 miles only:

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Woo!

We drove from Fort Collins to Taos and then took a day trip over to Santa Fe (via the High Road to Taos) before heading home via the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was actually not too bad, the drive to and from Taos is about 5 1/2 hours and Santa Fe is about 1 1/2 from Taos. The rest was made up by the detour to the Sand Dunes, which was well worth the trip.

We started on Thursday (Thanksgiving!) and drove down into New Mexico for the first time!

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I’m not sure why I look half the size of Rob in this picture…

Happily we got to Taos just in time for a fancy Thanksgiving dinner at Martyrs Steakhouse! We had not planned to go fancy and were dressed like two people who had spent the whole day in a car, but nowhere else was open so in we went.

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‘No, we will not be needing the wine list’

The food was really excellent and the staff were lovely despite having to work Thanksgiving, plus we got to try some excellent beers:

My Session was a tasty wheat beer from Full Sail Brewery, and Rob had the excellent local Monks Ale. It’s hard to read, but the label at the top let us know that it was ‘made with care and prayer’, which was awesome. Even more awesome was the way that they somehow managed to make the top of the beer foam up like a little halo. What a time to be alive.

We filled our faces with steak until we could barely move and then went off to explore the town. Taos is quite small, and I’m not sure there is a single three story building in all of New Mexico. The style of the buildings blew my mind, they are so pretty:

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60% of them have chilis outside, and about 90% are art galleries

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After walking around in awe as the sun set we headed back to our hotel to get some well earnt sleep. We’re both working quite hard the moment so were very happy to have a few days off where we could sleep in and relax!

Saturday we headed over to Santa Fe via the High Road To Taos. The High Road to Taos is a scenic byway that runs through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains – it’s 56 miles long with very excellent views.

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Needless to say it was pretty steep in places, with lots of fun twists and turns.

We also saw a Roadrunner, who lived up to his name by running out in front of the car and giving us a good reason to slam on the brakes. I did not manage to get a picture, but he looked a lot like this little guy:

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Meep meep!

Once we got to Santa Fe we continued to be impressed with the gorgeous building style, and took many photos as we walked around:

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We were excited to find that the massive number of art gallieries was complimented by a few of gourmet chocolate shops, which made me very happy!

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I bored Rob by telling him all about how these are made 🙂

We decided we had to give one of the galleries ago, so had a walk around the Museum of Contempory Native Art!

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They had a large retrospective exhibit by Rick Bartow, entitled “Things You Know but Cannot Explain”. It was pretty weird stuff, and definitely what you would expect from a guy who described art as ‘free therapy’, but I found it very interesting:

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The museum also had permanent works by a range of artists, which were all non-stop awesome:

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It was an excellent day.

To make things even better we stopped on the way back to visit a winery!

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So good! We tried a whole range of things, and then bought a really lovely bottle of Red Wine called Zozobra, which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon ❤

As well as being delicious, Zozobra is themed around a local legend of the same name – every year in Santa Fe the effigy of Zozobra is stuffed with notes that people write their troubles and worries on, which is then burnt. We weren’t there at the right time, but the pictures look pretty darn awesome!

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Slash slightly terrifying

It’s recommended that when you drink the wine you do so near a fire, so that you can write down your own worries and burn them. Santa Fe is seriously awesome you guys.

Finally, we stopped off at the Rio Grande Gorge, which was everything it promised it would be:

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After our busy day we were pretty hungry, and we were lucky enough to fluke a big win for dinner! We went to a local Mexican Restaurant called Bella’s Mexican Grill, and it was most definitely in the top ten best meals that I’ve ever eaten:

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GO HERE. DO IT.

Our waiter recommended that we have the Guacamole and chips to start, the Guac being freshly prepared by hand at your table for you. He then also suggested the Carne Asada and Chile en Nogada, both of which completely blew our minds. The Chile en Nogada was especially delicious, it was beef stuff peppers with the most delicious sauce that we will spend the rest of our lives trying to recreate.

I’m salivating a little just thinking about it, om nom nom.

Anyway, we got another good nights sleep and then headed home! On the way we had one final look around Taos Plaza:

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After which we headed on to the Grand Sand Dunes, which Rob hadn’t seen before. This time we were followed around the whole time by a friendly crow who was either there as our spirit guide, or hoping that we would fall and die so that he could eat us:

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“I actually just want you to take lots of pictures of me”

Not wanted to let Mr Crow down we did lots of running down hills again, which was extra chilly now that the temperature had dropped by 20oC! We got our toes out and powered through though, very good times!

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Step One – Climb Sand Dunes
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Step Two – Pose Dramatically
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Step Three – Run!!!

Rob actually managed to look quite graceful while running down the sand, but couldn’t completely avoid doing the ‘I think I’m going to die’ face. That said I was still making a much more ridiculous face, combined with a little shock at how cold my toes were, so I stuck mostly to photography 😉

It was excellent!! The moral of the story is that New Mexico is totally kickass.

The End 🙂

Awesome US Road Trip! – Part 3

The adventure continues!

After Flagstaff we headed North again back towards Colorado, but on the way we stopped in to see a little of the Grand Canyon! Specifically Horseshoe Bend, a little meander in the Colorado river which is non-stop beautiful:

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And of course, big! You can just see the teeny white boats down below, it was so pretty. It was also totally undisturbed, and of course safety rails are for children! Just kidding, they don’t get rails either. Happily there wasn’t any wind, so we didn’t have to watch anyone get blown down to their death.

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Not for lack of trying by white t-shirt guy!

So yes, super beautiful!

 

Next step – Antelope Canyon! Antelope Canyon is an extremely picturesque, narrow canyon near Horseshoe Bend which we absolutely had to go visit. We’d seen lots of pictures and we had our cameras, so we booked into a Navajo led photography tour and off we went!

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Lets goooooo!

The tour guide gave us a lot of advice for how to set up our cameras which we didn’t really understand, but happily he took my camera off me after a while and altered the setting himself. Pictures ensued!

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Between us we took about 500 pictures of this canyon, and rest assured that I will show you all of them given even the slighest chance 😉

After Antelope Canyon our tour of amazing rocks continued with Monument Valley which is just by the Utah boarder! We got there just as the sun was setting so the light wasn’t amazing, but it was still so great. It’s an extremely flat area with these massive rock features that are just stunning:

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And now a daytime picture that I googled 😉

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❤ ❤ ❤

We stopped, we photographed, we stood in awe and then on to Cortez! More beautiful driving, and we were at our stop for the night. The reward for all the driving was some amazing Mexican food in a fun crazy restaurant, so very tasty:

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Although that deer head haunts my nightmares

Next day, on to the Great Sand Dunes National Park! This is exactly what it sounds like, some very big sand dunes somewhere where it makes absolutely no sense for sand dunes to be.

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The foreground is sand dunes, the background is mountains. At the very front, large trees for scale!

As with all things you can just run all over it, so off we went! It was very nice walking barefoot across the sand, although very tiring to climb:

 

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“Just head up”
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And so we did!

I’m not sure why, but there was something about being around so much sand that made us excited like little children. It was really great fun trying to run up the sand dunes, and then having to sit down and drink water when we were out of breath. All interspersed with pictures of our happy little faces of course!

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Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand!!!!

So much fun. But of course the best part came on the way down! I would say it took us about an hour and a half to climb up, and 20 minutes to get back down. The sand is super loosely packed so you can run down without falling over, and you kind of sink in with every step! I will preface the next picture by saying that it is impossible to run downhill on sand, have fun and also maintain a graceful disposition:

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Also stopping is basically impossible unless you intentionally crash into your poor friend and camera woman…

So fun, don’t care 😀 😀 The best part was that a lot of the sand was loose enough that it even made noise when you stepped on it, so the sand would hum as you ran through it. It was enough to make you feel pretty epic, I must say 🙂

After lots of extremely tiring running around and we were both pretty sandy and it was getting dark, so we headed on to our next hotel in Alamosa! I was very excited about this hotel, which was in direct violation of Sarah’s rule that we shouldn’t stay anywhere where we were likely to be murdered. It was a murder cabin if ever I saw one, and it was amazing:

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This was the aptly named ‘White Tailed Deer Room’

It was also not far from a great Brewery that Sarah found, so after a quick deer themed shower…

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Seriously, where do you even find stuff like this?

…we were off to the San Luis Brewery!

This brewery both had truly amazing beer and food, and as a bonus it was showing the Broncos game so we were both very happy campers. We ate lots of food and I explained American Football to Sarah, the Broncos absolutely stomped the Texans, and we even found room for dessert:

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Hello friend ❤

It was a great time!

The next day we continued to cover ground by heading North some more, back towards Fort Collins! I wanted to stop for breakfast at the extremely creepy looking ‘Chill & Grill’…

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How could this not be amazing

… but Sarah wouldn’t let me throw us into the jaws of death twice in 24 hours, so instead we had some truly delicious coffee from a local coffee shop:

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Clever shop name = good coffee, every single time

Full of caffine we hit the road, off towards the wonderful Garden of the Gods!

We’ve mentioned Garden of the Gods before since it’s one of the places we visited when Barry & Margaret were here, but it definitely warranted a second visit:

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Yeeeeaaa!

We walked around a little, and then straight back in the car as we headed for Denver! Denver is about an hour and a half south of Fort Collins, so broke up the journey home nicely. Plus it’s a really beautiful city, so it was great to be able to walk around and look at it a little more 🙂 Highlights of Denver include…

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Awesome interactive art pieces!
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Beautiful architecture
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Non-interactive art that is poorly guarded!
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The wonderful 16th St Mall
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And it even looks good after sunset 🙂

So yeah, we wondered around Denver for a few hours and saw the sights before heading back to Rob and to Fort Collins!

We were sad to finish our holiday, but it was nice to be back home after a very tiring adventure! And of course, there will be more adventures soon!!

Can’t wait 🙂

Xx

 

 

 

 

Awesome US Road Trip! – Part 2

Hello again! I hope you’re ready for more exciting pictures of the US – I have so, so many to show you 🙂

So, on with the adventure! We’d just finished Vegas and were heading off to our next stop, which was Flagstaff. I’ve always wanted to visit Arizona so was extremely excited, and it did not disappoint!

We left Vegas in the morning and drove over the day which meant that we got some pretty amazing views of the Grand Canyon and other scenery as we drove!

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There were much better views that this, but we were too busy gawking to get the great shots. It sounds kind of stupid to say but the Grand Canyon is really, really big. It blew my mind a little.

From Flagstaff we travelled south on a few day trips to visit famous small towns in the area – first stop, Jerome!

Jerome is an old cowboy town that became a ghost town when the gold and copper deposits dwindled around the 1940s, causing the population to drop from over 15,000 to the 450 people or so that live there today:

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It’s at a similar altitude to Fort Collins (~5000ft) but feels much higher since it’s basically on the edge of a hill. Sarah chose to avert her eyes for much of the driving, which was the usual road-next-to-an-unfenced-cliff scenario…

I confess that I did also want to go since it’s where the lead singer from Tool lives, but don’t panic! This is not your usual stalker/ murder scenario, the attraction was actually that the town and the area has inspired a lot of his music, and he also runs a store and vineyard right there in this tiny city in the middle of nowhere 🙂 There store was pretty weird, but I loved it. All the clothes were modelled by zombie mannekins that would attack you if you got too close, plus there was an in-store barber if you felt like getting a shave!

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Checking the prices of things was a real struggle

The wine tasting store was also amazing, very cute. I sadly couldn’t drink since I was our designated driver, but I had a great fun taking pictures, asking questions and living vicariously through Sarah 🙂

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So happy ❤

After Jerome we moved on to Sedona, which is famous for its beautiful location and red rock surroundings. Again we were treated to another stunning drive!

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You can see part of the town ahead, it really was tiny

We decided to go for another hike after the indulgence of Vegas, so we hiked up a red rock structure called Cathedral Rock:

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Technically more of a climb than a hike…

 

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Off we go!
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It was stunning all the way up, of course 🙂

Then you climb over the top, and see this!

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❤ ❤ ❤

Much water was drunk, and we took many, many pictures 🙂 We also took quite a few pictures on the drive back to Flagstaff as the sun was setting, I now definitely understand what photographers mean when they talk about getting the best light at sunset!

 

 

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I’m running out of synonyms for ‘pretty’, but it was all just so very pretty! I will look up some more adjectives for next time 😀

Part 3 coming soon! xx

Awesome US Road Trip! – Part 1

Hi All,

Sorry for the long delay since posts, I’ve been travelling and it’s been fabulous so brace yourself for lots of pictures!

For the last two weeks Sarah and I have been doing a road trip around the Southwestern US, something that I’ve been really wanting to do ever since we got here. There are lots of national parks in the US, and the few we’ve seen so far were stunning so we were excited to check off more!

We went hardcore on route planning, because sleep is for the weak:

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A casual 2,043 miles plus local travel, woop woop!

The first stop was Moab, somewhere we have been a few times before but is so beautiful we couldn’t resist stopping by again. It’s home to the Arches national park, which is just stunning. We managed to get there just as the sun was setting, and it was so very gorgeous!

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We walked around a little and watched the sun set, before heading to our hotel and the local brewery for the night!

The next morning we got up to do some daytime hiking along Devil’s Garden, which has several beautiful arches that I haven’t seen before. It was a very long hike in very hot sun, made longer and hoter by us getting slightly lost on the primitive trail…

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Oh past Cat, you fool…

Still, very beautiful!

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The Delicate Arch!
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Beautiful Views!
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Big Ol’ Rocks!

It was really stunning, it’s very hard to capture the scale in the pictures. Also as always in the US personal safety is very much your own responsibility, so there was lots of standing near steep cliffs and scrambling over loose rocks, great stuff!

Once we eventually found our way back to the car and rehydrated vigorously we went on to Bryce Canyon, the next stop on our road trip. We had booked a very cute looking Wooden Cabin that totally lived up to expectations, and we were very relieved when we got to go to sleep after our long day 🙂

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Gorgeous AND only two minute from a coffee shop. Good work, cabin ❤

Awake and full of coffee we headed off to our second long day of hiking, at Bryce Canyon National Park! This is probably the park I was most excited to see, since our friends who are living in Utah said it is their absolute favorite place in the US. It absolutey did not disappoint!

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And that was just the view from the car park! We went on a long hike that took us down through the rock spikes, which are called Hoodoos. There were lots of up and downs, but we had lots of water and clear signage this time so we had a great hike! So, so many beautiful views:

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Go visit Bryce Canyon, is what I’m saying. It was honestly just breathtaking the whole time, and we only got to do one of several hikes.

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But we did the hardcore one again, yay us!

After these two whole days of healthy hiking we had arranged to switch gears, so it was time for our two day stop-over in Las Vegas! We had to cross two state lines to get there, so got to do lots of fun posing by signs 🙂

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I was actually really impressed with Las Vegas – we mostly included it as something that everyone should see once and a chance to do something different mid-trip, but it wasn’t as tacky as I was expecting. We stayed at the Excalibur which was really nice, as well as being on the main strip:

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As always it’s hard to get scale, but you can kind of see the tiny room windows on the side buildings!

We arrived quite late so basically just had dinner and went to sleep on the first night, so we were ready nice and early the next day for some more walking, this time up and down the strip!

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We remembered to bring lots of fluids again, mostly in the form of Starbucks 🙂

It was really lovely walking along and looking in all the hotels, they were so varied and just stunning. My definite favorite was the Venetian, which was amazing. The interior was decorated like the streets of Venice at sunset so every store has an exterior design and the ceiling is painted to look like the sky, and the whole place is softly lit.

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There was also a canal complete with gondolas, because Vegas

It was awesome. Although close runners up are the Bellagio, which was full of live flowers and a terrifying giant squirrel:

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Squirrel not pictured, for your own safety

The Luxor, which is just ridiculous. The Sphinx is on the front, and the main building is a giant black pyramid that shoots a powerful beam of light into the sky.

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Blame my camera for refusing to focus properly
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Plus Caesars Palace!!
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And of course the Flamingo, which delivered everything the name promised

We even made some exciting friends along the way!

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Was I supposed to pose?

As well as checking out the many amazing sights, we also tried our hand at one of the top things to do in Vegas – shooting big guns! We booked a visit to the not-reassuringly named Battlefield Vegas to do some heavily supervised firing of guns, which was excellent fun despite the alarming decor:

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Oh… Hi there…

We fired big guns and little guns surprisingly well, and then had a great time playing around with the extremely big guns that for some reason they choose not to keep loaded:

It was a ridiculous place, I guess is my point.

Anyway, much fun was had and we spent the final night enjoying cocktails in the Mandalay Bay bar that overlooks the strip. Amazing views and $16 cocktails, woo!

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I’ll give you some time to absorb the madness above, and will do my best to get Part Two out as soon as I can!!

Much love!

Fatty Week!

Hi All!

Sorry for the delay in blogging, we’ve had an excellent time on holiday with family to distract us so we’re quite behind!

We got back two weeks ago, and since then we’ve been trying to get back into well-behaved grown up mode… Except for last week, which I’m pleased to announce turned out to be an unexpected Fatty Week! We were invited out to lots of tasty meals with lovely friends, and it would’ve been just rude to resist 😉 So, you get to be treated to a short and unexpected food tour of Fort Collins while I write the next blog. Enjoy, and no judgement please!

So, Monday. We eased in gently with Sandwiches from Choice City Deli, still maintaining a moderate facade of healthiness. This is more convincing if you haven’t seen the Choice City Deli sandwiches:

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This was almost the same size as my whole head…

Choice City is famous for selling an exciting selection of local meats, including things like Bison, Rattlesnake and Elk. I tried none of these and settled for tasty Italian Salami, with a side of crisps 🙂 It was very tasty, and I got a great workout trying to fit my big mouth around the sandwich. So far, so good!

Tuesday, we were back at work after the three day weekend due to the Labor Day bank holiday. Boo! We worked long, and we worked hard. We both got back around 6:30 and had no food in the house, so we took the easy way out. Tasty Chinese Takeaway from East Moon! It was fabulous. Not feeling too guilty yet, so life is good.

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Plus we plated up the food, so that it felt more classy! #protip 😉

On Wednesday we really meant to do a food shop. We really meant to, at this point the week was still salvageable and no major fatness had occurred. Alas, some great friends of ours from England were visiting Denver and invited us to eat with them at the SaltGrass Steak House, so we had no choice. It was a really warm evening and a beautiful sunset, although the camera struggled to capture it:

I tried. Anyway, my goodness the steak was amazing. Just perfectly rare, with some little shrimp on the side 🙂

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How am I supposed to resist this?

This was a little indulgent (especially when accompanied with a 22oz beer, Mmmm ❤ ) but also real high quality stuff. No regrets.

By Thursday, things had admittedly gone a little off the rails. We helped our friends Jaclyn and Willie move house in July, so they invited us out for an unexpected but very pleasant thank you meal! I did almost no lifting and instead spent most of the time playing with the Chihuahua, but Rob worked like a trooper in the 37oC heat, bless him 🙂

First we went to the Chocolate Cafe, which we actually hadn’t visited before despite it being highly recommended. We decided that we probably couldn’t handle a pre-dinner dessert, so instead had a Mexican Hot Chocolate each. It was absolute heaven:

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I’m salivating like a beast just looking at it again

Seriously, there are no words. Anyway, after the hot chocolate we walked over to the Melting Pot, which is a Fondue Restaurant in Fort Collins. It’s super tasty – you usually have a cheese fondue followed by a chocolate fondue, both of which they make in front of you. I think it goes without saying that both are accompanied by wine.

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The wine adds some challenge to the ‘Don’t burn yourself on the hotplate or drop your bread in the cheese’ game

We had both an Alpine cheese mix fondue and a Chili cheese mix. Om nom nom. Then, after a quick heavy breathing break, on to the chocolate course!

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A.k.a The fire course!! Woo hoo hoo 🙂

Really awesome evening, we’re extemely grateful to Willie and Jaclyn for showing us such a good time!

By Friday, we had pretty much given up any attempt at health. It was the end of the week, we were sleepy. We went to McDonalds and then ate it while watching Original Star Trek on the couch 🙂

So admittedly, this all looks pretty bad. OR DOES IT? The good news is that we felt guilty enough after Fatty Week that we went out first thing Saturday and did a big food shop with plenty of vegetables. Side salads are being served with every meal, and we will be making ourselves little packed lunches every day to keep us from temptation. I even felt guilty enough that I went to the gym for the first time in over a month, oh my poor little legs!

Now that we don’t have delicious meals out to distract us so much we will be much more on it with the blogging, so look forward to Grand Teton Part Two shortly!

Much love! ❤

Grand Teton National Park – Part One!

Hi All,

Happy news! We finally managed to scrounge up enough internet to put up a blog post about the fun that we’re having so far this week 🙂

We’ve been having an excellent time already as my Aunt, Uncle and Parents are visiting, which is a treat of the highest caliber! They got here at the start of August and so far have been exploring Fort Collins and the surrounding area. Much fun was had, but sadly Rob and I were at work for most of this fun so were not there to document the experience! We are assured that all the top Fort Collins experiences have been checked off though – they toured New Belgium, hiked around Estes and the Rockies, saw the Lions, Tigers and Bears near Greeley and were forced to play a few games of Shuffleboard!

Now though we have moved on to explore wider America, specifically the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks! The plan is to do five days in each since both are beautiful and relatively close together, and they’re only about a seven hour drive from Colorado. The mountains are puny in comparison to the Colorado Fourteeners (named because they are over 14,000 ft tall) and it does mean travelling across Wyoming, but we are promised that it will all be worth it.

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So puny!

The drive to Grand Teton was not actually that bad – it’s a very long way and there is almost nothing of any value along the route, but there is no traffic and the views from the car are pretty spectacular. The landscape is very flat, so you can see quite a long way and we were often treated to big hills or small canyons!

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We also saw the occasional crazy cyclist riding along, at least 20 miles away from civilization of any kind, but we were too concerned for their safety to take any pictures. The few populated areas that there were only contained five or six buildings, and looked way too creepy for us to be willing to stop there! Instead we managed to find what I suspect is the one and only Subway in Wyoming in the town of Rawlins, about three hours away from Fort Collins, and so stopped for our first refreshment break.

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This would turn out to be last time that we had phone signal and wifi simultaneously for quite some time. After our lunch we continued our drive, and saw literally no humans except for each other for about two hours. We then quite unexpectedly arrived in the town of Lander, which was really pleasant and by far the most built up place we’d seen. It also seemed to have the same hippy vibe that we love so much about Fort Collins, and we stopped for coffee at a chill Café with a Bouldering Wall built into it.

Refreshed, we continued on the last stretch, stopping only briefly to fill our beer cooler with ice at a Gas Station that contained a surprisingly varied range of guns and leather saddles. It also had potato chips, so we were happy bunnies 🙂

At last, we arrived at our magnificent log cabin! We are staying in a group of cabins in Coulter Bay, just at the edge of Jackson Lake. The authentic log cabins are very impressive, and the lack of internet is made up for by the comfy beds and hot shower. There are at least power outlets thank goodness, so Rob and I aren’t in danger of going completely insane away from the gentle glow of computer screens 🙂

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We spent quite a lot of time initially walking around with our phones out desperately hunting for signal, so to distract us from this the family suggested that we all go for a walk down to Coulter Bay.

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It is extremely beautiful, and the Tetons could not be more picturesque. It’s also a really nice change to see so much greenery, since there are very few trees like this in Fort Collins. We walked around the lake a little keeping our eyes open for bears, but no big animal spots so far sadly!

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Lots of little animal sightings though!

After a lovely night sleep in our cabin we decided that we needed to see a little more of the lake, so we rented some canoes and off we went! Canoeing is far more tiring that I remember it and co-ordination in a three person canoe can be an issue, but we got organized and I think did pretty well! We also enjoyed some great views and amazing wildlife:

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Mr Pelican!
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Whatever this is! I’m going to guess Osprey…
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Such awesome views!
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Go team 🙂

 

It was a really good time, although by the end of the trip my arms were basically useless noodles. In the spirit of embracing the holiday (and getting the legs to match) we followed this up with a Ranger led hike around the nearby Swan Lake. The aim was to learn a few more interesting facts around the park and maybe see a little more wildlife, which happily we did!

Ranger Reva taught us a little more about the ever changing geography of the park, as well as about the make-up of the complex eco-system. We also learned a little more about the formation of the Grand Tetons and their Glaciers – part of what makes these mountains so picturesque is that it is not accompanied by foothills and a wider mountain range. The mountains pretty much stand alone, so can be viewed from lots of locations without much effort.

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Apologies for wonky horizons!

We also saw Swan Lake as promised, which is covered in an impressive number of lilies with a few ducks stuck in the middle. It’s also changing its geography extremely quickly – silt is flowing in with the water and being deposit to form a growing island, and then grass is slowly growing on that and soaking up the moisture, at which point trees can start growing and eventually the whole thing just becomes more land. That was a pretty heavily over-simplified, but you get the idea!

As well as this we saw a few birds, including a Bald Eagle which was too far away for pictures and a few Grey Jays that were trying extremely hard to get photographed! Here is one blatantly posing:

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Possibly it was nailed there?

Eventually it started to rain so we had to make our way back to the cabins, at which point we got a chance to relax and dry off a little. We bought plenty of beer and movies with us so got to spend the evening moving around as little as possible, and we’re now bouncy again and looking forward to the second part of the week!

More soon!