Gaudi, Gaudi everywhere!

I wasn’t sure what to expect of Barcelona since I had never been and had not been back to Spain since 1998! I only had two days so I spent the first day being the ultimate tourist and jumped on a city sightseeing tour. I must say, this was the perfect thing for this city to get an idea of what I wanted to stop in and see the next day. 

All I can say is that the architecture from Gaudi blew me away and may be some of my favorite I have seen across the world! Most of the pictures I ended up taking were from Casa Mila which was a house designed by Gaudi over 100 years ago. I still found the architecture to be modern and interesting. 


                 


  
More importantly. I had some amazing tapas and wine and paella as one does when in Spain.


  

Bogota

I went to Colombia with the intent to just stay in Bogota and get a taste of Colombia. Little did I know that the Copa America was going on and that it would consume a few of my days there. I was able to watch two games and see Colombia beat Brazil and tie Peru. It was incredibly exciting to watch a futbol match in a country so excited and proud of their sport.

 I was told I had to go see the Catedral de Sal or Salt Cathedaral of Zipaquira and was not sure what to expect. Honestly, it was a lot of crosses and lot of bible references but was a cool experience. The cathedral is in a salt mine and definitely an interesting experience.


            I was also told I must go to Monserrate which is a beautiful cathedral (see a theme here) at the top of a mountain in Bogota. It is about 3200 meters high and you can hike it or take the train/cable car there. It is a beautiful view of Bogota and well worth the trip.

  

Sometimes though, and more often times than not, traveling is about the random little experiences and the people  you meet and not the big tourist attractions. We were heading home one day when we were stopped by a group of students that just wanted to practice their English. The questions were, “Are you Single?” What is your name?” Where are you from?” How old are you?” And they were very cute. When they would forget how to say something they would run to their teacher and ask her and write it down.

And then of course there are the people I love meeting and bonding with to make the travel experience just amazing!

  

Bogota Street Art

I went on a free graffiti tour through Bogota and once again, was blown away by what street art can be. The first graffiti in Bogota was written on the walls of caves by the indigenous Chibcha people. From there it evolved into a form of social commentary and cultural expression especially during the height of the civil war. Graffiti is technically not a crime in Bogota and the streets have exploded with art! The new mayor was a former M-19 member (a Colombian Guerilla movement) and would use the streets to get his message across. He thinks the streets should be free to give messages and the most that can happen for graffiti is a small fine equivalent to a parking ticket.

Stinkfish is a Colombian street artist who commonly features stenciled faces with elaborate and intricate designs through them.
  

Toxicomano is another street artist from Colombia that uses their punk rock style to show off their anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist graphics.

This street art shows how the poor would literally carry the rich on their back to make money. Often times this meant carrying society, religion and commerce with them and it came with a price.

The street artist Crisp is from Sydney but currently lives in Bogota. He likes to use stencils to portray visually appealing and political pieces.

Lik Mi is a female street artist that spent some time in India. Her stickers are influenced by yoga, kama sutra and these dogs.

You can recognize the work from Pez anywhere you are. He is from Barcelona and loves to paint fish characters with big eyes and a big mouth!

  I don’t know who this piece is by but I love the details of the hands.

This piece is a collaboration between a few members from the same crew. It is a huge mural on the side of a hostel.

This piece is meant to show how there are homeless everywhere in the world and thus the box over the face. It doesn’t matter where you are, the socioeconomic pitfalls can be seen around the world.

There is a crew in Bogota called APC (Animal Poder Crew) started by Stinkfish (mentioned above) and has about 20-30 members. These members are from all around the world and all have a different style but collaborate well together.

An Ecuadorian Wedding

My time in Quito was spent on vacation and not really being a tourist. Two of my wonderful friends got married and I was there to experience it. They put on quite a set of events for us. The first night was a girls night/boys night where we were driven around in chivas and had an awesome time. We stopped at one spot for appetizers and drinks and then another to dance the night away. It was a great night!    

  
       The next day was for a day of recovery and the one day I had a tourist moment. I went to the top of the mountain on the teleferico (cable car) and took in the sunset and the crazy altitude of 12,000 feet!

   
        The day of the wedding was a little hectic. We had a transfer set up for all of us at 11 to be at the wedding by noon and we were late! We didn’t miss much of the ceremony and got to experience a beautiful wedding in Spanish. We broke for a small cocktail reception and lunch and then a night of dancing until midnight!

   
                    Some of us weren’t quite ready to head home and went out in the touristy bar area for a few before finally calling it a night.

   
 The wedding brought in people from all over the country and it was great to see two people so happy together. Now, it is time for my vacation to end and the travelling to begin!

  

Galapagos!!

The few days I spent in the Galapagos were absolutely amazing! The Galapagos is made up of a series of islands and I was staying on the island of Santa Cruz which has the largest population of any of the islands and is still pretty small. I went on two different snorkeling excursions and a day tour of the Charles Darwin Station and Tortuga Bay.

The first day was a tour around the bay where if the water temperature is right, you can see white tip reef sharks. Apparently it was not right and we stared at an empty lagoon. Epic fail! However, some of the other spots let us see some beautiful fish and blue footed boobies. As we were heading back to end our tour, the guide pulled donuts in the water to create a circle and started hitting the edge of the boat. Before you know it, a shark was swimming around our boat. We finally got to see one!

    


 The second part of the day was to go visit some tortoises and walk through some lava tunnels. The tortoises were absolutely gigantic and just magnificent creatures. I will let the pictures speak for themselves! The lava tunnels seemed like dark wet caves where barely any life could survive.  

    We did experience some tortoise copulation as our guide called it at the end of the tour. It was interesting to say the least as it was two males and they were not exactly facing the right way. I guess anything goes in the animal kingdom!

The next snorkeling trip was to an island called Pinzon. Here we were able to snorkel with white tip reef sharks, sea lions, penguins, iguanas and sea turtles. The iguanas have adapted to swimming because as new islands were formed, the only thing to eat was algae. Therefore the iguanas learned how to swim and stay under water for about an hour. The islands are truly a pinnacle for studying evolution!

  

The Charles Darwin Station hosts many tortoises at all different ages in order to keep them protected and repopulate the island. It also explained the various currents and why the islands are the way they are and how various animals have adapted to survive there. Our tour guide was very enthusiastic and overloaded our group with scientific terms that didn’t really stick. But, it was nice to learn a little bit about winds and tides and currents that create the mircro ecosystems that allow the Galapagos to have the variety of wildlife that makes it such a great place to be.  

It really is all about the journey 

Today was a simple travel day with a 2 hour flight. All I had to do was leave Quito and get to the Galapagos. Somehow this translated to a day that took about 6 hours to get from point A to point B. 

  
It all started when I was actually very early (3 hours) to the airport and the check in counter didn’t even open until about an hour before the flight. What airline does that? Avianca does. This is where I met Beth from the UK and Matt from Germany. We had nothing to do but stand in line and chat. I also discovered there is a $20 departure fee on top of the $100 fee you pay on arrival in the Galapagos. I’m not sure what the fee is for but I have now basically paid for a visa and I don’t even get my passport stamped!

The flight was seamless and landed on the island of Baltra. There is nothing on this island except an airport and some cacti. You have to then take a bus to a ferry to a taxi to get into town on the island of Santa Cruz. However, the buses were not running anymore but luckily my tour package includes an airport transfer. My new friends jumped in the truck with me along with some people they had met on the ferry including an Assistant Professor from Texas that grew up in Ecuador.  There ended up being 10 of us in the truck including a kid on her mom’s lap. For the first half of the drive, I rode in the back thinking that this is what traveling is all about. Random encounters with strangers. 

   
 We stopped at the craters for a little history and walk and then continued into town but not before our driver had to explain to the police why so many people were in the truck. 

   
 Eventually I made it to my hotel to start my Galapagos journey. 

Something other than Quito

I had two nights to spend in Quito between Bogota and The Galapagos. Quito airport isn’t exactly near Quito (think about a 30-45 minute drive) and I had some friends that were renting a car and traveling to some other cities Ecuador has to offer so I decided to tag along with them. I stayed at a cute little place called Hostal El Parque and had my own room with a king bed for just $20USD/night!

I don’t think this is a legal plate

We took a day trip and went to Otavalo and Cotacachi which means as we were driving, we crossed the equator. I thought there would be a line down the middle of the road or something to show it, but it was just a sign. Anyhow, Otavalo is a cute town about 90 minutes from the airport with a HUGE market with tons of local handicrafts and food. I managed to escape with just a few bracelets and some delicious food and good times.


   Our next stop was to Cotacachi which is known as the leather village. I thought Florence had great leather but this place was fantastic! I wanted every purse and jacket and was drooling over some of the prices. Handcrafted leather coats for $150USD or less!!! I had to remind myself that I was I was backpacking and did not have the space or the need for a leather coat in my bag. I did splurge a little and bought a cute pair of leather shoes that were on super sale and I just couldn’t resist.


    We intended to head to Laguna Cuicocha but got a little distracted with shopping and missed the 5:00pm park closure. We drove to the gate and still managed to see some amazing views. The entire drive was full of gorgeous views of volcanoes and cascading landscape with a layer of fog that hovered at all the peaks. It was a beautiful day and a perfect way to not be in the city!

I’m back on another adventure!

I know I have been MIA for a few, but I do have to work to fund these travels. But, I am back at it again for a few month trip to South America and Europe! It all started with a new backpack and a drop off at SFO for what should have been an easy flight to Bogota.


I use Skyscanner to search for all my flights. It is an amazing website/app that finds incredibly cheap airfare and get creative with the flight route. I booked my flight with Jet Blue and when I got to the ticket counter they informed me that I would not make the connection they booked me on and rerouted me. I went from San Fran to Boston to Orlando and finally made it to Bogota! A quick refresh and overnight at a hotel and I am off to Ecuador for the real adventures to start!


 Stay tuned for many more adventures to come!