Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Peru - April 2017

Cusco

After 18 hours and three flights we arrived exhausted in Cusco, Peru. Just walking up a flight of stairs to our hotel took some effort - this city is over 11,100 feet in elevation.

After a three hour nap, we ventured out to the city's main square. Cusco is an old colonial city dating back to the 1500, when the Spanish conquistadors invaded and took it over.




We put on a few miles walking through the city. We managed to find a friendly and busy local hangout for a beer and a late lunch.


In the evening we ate at another local hot spot that was family-run just around the corner from our hotel. It had a pizza oven that kept the cook plenty busy. It had a very cozy atmosphere with great food.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Amsterdam - 2017

December 2016 - January 2017

I have been remiss to blog our recent winter trip to Amsterdam to visit Meredith, Elliot and Isla. But -  better late then never. 

It was a month long trip. We arrived just before New Year's Eve, in time to experience the barrage of firecrackers that are set off around the city much of the day. As midnight approaches, the blasts increase in numbers continuing into the next day. With eyes shut, it would seem like a war zone. 


The first several days in Amsterdam we spent at friends of M&E's (Sarah and Nathan) while they were on a trip to the U.S. It was fun to explore a new neighborhood (yet not far from from Meredith).

                                

Bringing Isla over to the flat wasn't a problem because she was very familiar with it and she knew the toys well. Julian and she are best buds at school. 

                               A morning snack - rice crackers with peanut butter.

                                   Isla shows off her yoga moves - downward dog.


                              
                                                         A little reading time.

                                      

It was moving day for us, when Sarah and Nathan came home. We borrowed Meredith's cargo bike, an Urban Arrow "bakfiets" to haul our gear to our Airbnb flat. It was about a ten minute bike ride.

                                        
                                We always enjoyed picking up Isla at her school. 


      Painting is great fun. But after filling up a sheet of paper, painting Oma is even better.


                                                                         
     The playground of Sarphatipark is only a couple of blocks away and even at 37F is lots of fun.


                     I took a bicycle ride along the Amstel River one foggy morning.



                               A bike ride in Sarphatipark after a little snow dusting.



On one of our days when Isla was in school Diane and I visited the Stedelijk Museum. The main exhibition was by a Swiss sculptor, Jean Tiguely. He created what was called "kinetic art" - sculptures that were mechanical in nature and had moving parts.

                                              
 



There were rooms filled with his creations. The one above is one of his larger machines. Every few minutes it begins to run, makes some sounds and then shuts off. Although this series of gears, cams and bells does not create anything, some other sculptures he made created things. One machine we saw drew - it was art that created art!

                              
The Van Gogh museum is adjacent to the Stedelijk Museum. It's superb.

                      

We took a tour of Utrecht with Maarten and Ineke one afternoon. It's a historic city with charming canals and narrow streets. The highlight was a visit to the Speelklok Museum. The museum has a comprehensive and superb collection of musical boxes, player pianos, musical instruments, clocks and huge street organs that still work.




Afterwards, we still had time to take a walk in the woods in Loosdrecht. It was cool. But beautiful scenery.

The following day we took Isla to the Amsterdam Museum, a museum dedicated to the history of Amsterdam and its international airport - Schiphol. We concentrated on the airport section where Isla could enjoy some of the displays.

                                    

Even more to Isla's liking was Tunfun, an enormous underground, indoor playground that we took her to when it was cold and raining. It's a perfect place to get away from nasty weather. 


                           

                                                                     

    We also took Isla to her music class twice. A small class, with lots of hands-on activities.


We got a chance to participate in the Amsterdam Women's March. Over three thousand people showed up to participate. Lots of interesting signs. 



   
 We had lunch with our friend, Ton. Unfortunately, Marleen was not feeling well, so couldn't make it.

                                                     Lunch at a local cafe.

We had an opportunity to visit The Hague with Maarten and Ineke. We went to the beach area known as Scheveningen and to the "Gemeentemuseum" in The Hague. The museum focuses on sculptures.





                              

One day before heading home we met up with family. Gys had flown in from Spain for business and was able to meet us at a cafe, along with his mom, Nelly. It was great to reconnect, catch up on family news and otherwise just share some time together. Meredith and Isla also were able to join us. 


























Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cancun and Cozumel - 2016

Cancun

       

Waking up in our room at the Omni at sunrise has its benefits. The hotel grounds are quiet with only the din of the surf to entertain the senses. A cup of coffee and the morning's paper is all that's needed. 

Of all the times we've been here, this was a more relaxing trip with no special outings. We made one trip to downtown Cancun where we purchased school supplies to donate to a Mayan school. We ended our escapade at a lovely restaurant serving a tasty Mexican buffet. 

        

The following day we took the bag of supplies to the Sandos Hotel, a Spanish company, that helps to distribute the contributions. The staff was very appreciative and extremely welcoming.

For the remainder of the week we read, put in some pool time and beach time, had jacuzzi dips and, for me, some lap swimming.

On check out day, we took the bus to the downtown bus depot and boarded an express bus to Playa del Carmen. After a little over an hour, we were dragging our suitcases through the streets of PdC finding our way to the Cozumel ferry.

      
                                    Diane at the Playa del Carmen ferry building.

       
The ferry took thirty minutes to get to Isla Cozumel. It was a catamaran hull type with two decks and comfortable seating.

After getting to Cozumel, we checked into our hotel and took a walk along the waterfront. We found the waterfront to be nicely maintained. It had a lot of white washed walls and some fun sculptures.

       


        


        
You see a lot of families on their motor bikes, particularly on Sunday. I spotted as many as a family of five on one bike.


      
They seem to have quite a penchant for Isla's name here in Cozumel - it was everywhere you looked.

      
We rented scooters a couple of times. This was on the day we visited the windward side of the island, a sparsely inhabited side with a rugged and windy shoreline.

                                
The attractive central town square is a bustling place, with hawkers, stores, restaurants and bars. 

We signed up with a dive outfit, Grand Cozumel, for me to go diving and Diane to snorkel. They had a good sized boat that was comfortable. The crew was friendly and professional and they served a big lunch. My two dives were very good - one dive at Palancar Gardens and the other near the marina. Lots of beautiful coral formations, soft coral and lots of fish. Unfortunately for Diane, the snorkeling was a bust because of the wind and current. 
 
       


        


                               
                                 Ready to take the splash into that 80 degree water.

     
              We spotted a small Ray (Note: this one and the following two photos I didn't take.

      
                               Although it looked like a snake, this is a spotted eel.


      
                                     We saw several colorful Moray eels like this one

       
                                                            Big lunch.

 
       
                     
View from our hotel room. Each day one or two cruise ships docked.

When the cruise ships were in town, thousands of tourists came ashore. There is another town a few miles south, that is just for cruise ship passengers. We saw as many as four ships anchored on the same day - that's in addition to the two ships that were near us. Needless to say, it can get too crowded ashore.

        
The Mexican version of a cargo bike is ubiquitous on the island. Used in deliveries, as a self-contained mini-food bar, used by ice cream vendors and in lots of other inventive ways.


        
           We had a light lunch in the northern part of the island. This was Playa Azul. 

        
                        These kids were having a fabulous time jumping in and out of the water.

        

 We spent some time here enjoying the views. This was the Casa Mexicana Hotel, a sister hotel of where we were staying and had reciprocal privileges.