Five Days of Sailing? Why Not?

I was talking to a friend about traveling to Panama from Colombia and he said, “why don’t you sail here?” At first I thought he was crazy and then I actually looked into it and it seemed like the thing to do. So, I set off on a 43′ sailboat with 9 strangers and 3 crew from Cartagena to Panama City and I had the time of my life!

After what seemed like hours of research but was actually about 15 minutes, I decided to book my boat through Blue Sailing. They have tons of boats leaving throughout the week and were very easy to book with. I shot off an email with a few of the dates I was looking at and asked for a boat that was not usually the party boat. I ended up on Big Fish 2 with Captain Eliecer otherwise known as Capi or Original and 6 Dutch and 3 Germans.

We had a departure time of 8pm but didn’t actually leave until about 11pm or so as we were waiting on the captain. Right away I learned that we were all going to have to be very flexible with each other on this trip. Our luggage and shoes were collected and put in storage under the boat and only our little backpacks were allowed on board.

The trip includes all meals and water but any snacks or other beverages have to be brought on board. I decided a bottle of rum was the appropriate drink for my trip across the Caribbean.

Anyhow, the trip from Cartagena to San Blas (the gorgeous islands this trip is all about) is about 30-36 hours at open sea which means no getting off the boat. No showers. No hanging out on top of the boat. Just sitting around and taking in the open seas. I was lucky enough not to get sea sick and we had really good weather and pretty easy sailing. I can’t say that everyone felt as good as I did.

As soon as we were allowed to jump in the water, I was off the boat! I was able to shower (just means getting in the ocean and being rinsed with fresh water when you get back on the boat) and take in the beauty of what I would see for the next three days. The water is so clear and so calm so most of us swam to this little island. The captain paid our fee in leftover food and we spent the day lounging in paradise!

That is our boat in the distance. A fairly easy swim and after being on the boat for 30+ hours, it felt AMAZING to swim!

Most of the islands have a name and a family that live on them. They make their money selling beers and coconuts to the tourists and also exporting the coconuts.

This island is considered to have the “swimming pool” and the beach is shallow and calm and you can just sit in it forever. After a day of snorkeling and around the reef and three jelly fish stings, this was the perfect way to wind down and relax. They happen to sell Miller Lite which I thought was hilarious since I wold never drink this in the states. But, gotta support the local community!

The pictures just don’t do it justice for how clear and beautiful the water was. The only downfall was the amount of trash that would wash up or the trash that was stuck in the algae around the reef. This is a HUGE problem and really shows the importance of finding sustainable solutions to water bottles, straws, plastic bags, disposable cutlery and all other things that should be recycled. Okay, I will step off my soap box now.

Part of sailing is attempting to fish. Although we failed, we were able to buy some lobster from a local and actually have a bbq on one of the islands. Fresh lobster means fresh killing. The little guy in the video I named Eduardo and his sacrifice was greatly appreciated. Our captain had to ask the chief of the island for permission and we paid in some food and drinks and had a great night!

Finally it was time to go through customs and officially enter Panama. Once inside this little building I really started to understand what I was going to feel like on land after being at sea for 5 days.

This was such a magical and amazing experience and I cannot wait for my next adventure!

It Seemed Like a Good Idea…

I was heading to Maui and looked at a map and thought to myself, Maui is on the way to Asia, let’s find some good airfare. Good airfare was found but the route was out of hand! Note to self, check the route prior to purchasing the ticket.

After a glorious 8 days in Maui I jumped on a flight to Hong Kong, via Los Angeles. You read that right. I had to fly back to mainland US to just turn around and fly for 15 hours to Hong Kong! After about 28 hours of total travel time from leaving the hotel to landing, I finally made it! A smart person would have decided to look at a flight from Maui to Oahu and then to Hong Kong. Lesson learned…

Luckily my friend from college lives in Hong Kong and picked me up to the airport and swooped me off to her place where I quickly unpacked, brushed my teeth and showered. What’s the best way to best jet lag? Stay awake! Off to dim sum we went! Having a local to find a place and also order made everything incredibly easy!

One would think after such a long day of travel I would just hunker down and go to sleep. Not this girl! We jumped on a ferry to head on a mini vacation to Macau. The ferry is only an hour ride from Hong Kong and it is the perfect mini vacation! Don’t forget your passport because it is needed to go through immigration.

Macau is like a mini Las Vegas but we treated it as a place for culinary indulgence and time to see a show. We checked into the Broadway Hotel and wandered the streets in search of food. We ended up at a cute outside dining area in food alley for some hot pot which is always a winner. There ended up being a little mini Christmas parade that went past our table which provided a little live entertainment.

With food in the tummies and the jet lag really kicking it, it was time to go to bed. I made it until about 10pm but as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out! I didn’t even say goodnight to my friend! There is always tomorrow…

My Tour of the PNW…Portland

My last stop on my mini US adventure was to Portland, Oregon. This was not my first trip to Portland but I wanted to hang with my friends for the weekend and do a little wine and beer tasting.

I took Amtrak from Seattle to Portland which was just a few hours and very scenic. For anyone that hasn’t headed down the coast by train, I highly recommend it.

My friend picked me up and we went to Deschutes to start the beer tasting. The selection was pretty great and the beer was was a great way to start the afternoon. After that we went to 10 Barrel Brewing for dinner and some more beer. They have a couple with a pretty high % so watch out when you are ordering!


The next day was all about wine tasting. My friend told me about this wonderful winery called Prive and so we started there. It was a private tasting and husband and wife that run everything. There is a $20 dollar tasting fee that is waved with the purchase of some vino. The bottles start at around $35. This is an absolute must see as far as I am concerned for wine tasting in Oregon.


Next up was Alexana! I was very excited to visit here since I have been to their sister vineyard Corazon del Sol in Argentina. There is a beautiful outdoor patio to enjoy a fine selection of wines. The tasting fee is $20 and the selection varies depending on what they are tasting that day. Unfortunately for us, it was incredibly hot and not enjoyable to be outside.


One cannot just consume wine and not eat. We stopped at this great little place called Red Hills Market where they were having a Veuve Clicquot party. I was hoping for a free glass but alas, only food was consumed.

The last stop was not planned and we just found something in the surrounding area. We ended up at a  winery called Four Graces. The tasting fee was only $10 but once again, it was so hot that we just stayed in the tasting room and didn’t get to enjoy the beautiful picnic area they had to offer. They served a delicious crisp white that was perfect for the weather!


It was an eventful two days in Portland with mouth watering discoveries. There is often pretty cheap airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco which can be found on Skyscanner (my favorite website for booking airfare) for a quick trip up the coast.

As usual, LA greeted me with her smoggy air. Welcome home!

My Tour of the PNW…Seattle

I have been a bit MIA lately but the travels are starting up again. Living in the United States I think I take for granted everything that is within a short flight from me or even a short drive. I took a few weeks to visit friends and family in Seattle, Fairbanks and Portland.

The trip started with an easy flight to Seattle to visit my sister who just moved there to receive her dual masters at University of Washington. The view of the city skyline did not let me down!

We went to Gas Works park and went blackberry picking to make a homemade pie because why not? I would say that the final score was blackberry bushes: 4 Jenna: 2. I walked away with a lot of blackberries and a lot of scratches.

Gas Works Park


The final pie was blackberry and peach with a crumble on top and edible flowers. It really helps to have a sister who knows about plants and can tell you what you can and cannot eat.

There is not a city I can go to without looking for graffiti or street art. According to some Google research I found an alley that was meant to have a legal street art wall. However, once we arrived to what happened to be a warehouse just across the street from the Starbucks headquarters, there was absolutely nothing. But Seattle did not let me know down and there was random art throughout the city.

Our day turned into a random day of exploring different neighborhoods that put us in Capitol Hill and some of the gay bars. There was a large contingent of military around and my sister decided to invite them to a bbq at her house the next day. We had a great time with them and even got to pretend to be a Marine for a moment.

There is a lot to see in Seattle but I was treating the trip as more of a place to live like a local. We took a stroll along Alki Beach and captured a beautiful sunset on the water. 

Each time I have been to Seattle I have had a totally different experience since I was there for different reasons. Like any travel experience, living like a local is the way to go!

A hidden little gem in Belgium…Bruges

Bruges is a quaint little city in the Northern part of Belgium with a population of just under 120,000 people. It is an incredibly cute place that tourists often take day trips to from Brussels as it is only a one hour train ride each way. However, I had friends that went and told me that I should spend a few days in this city. After just one hour in the city I extended my stay to make this a three day adventure! The architecture and winding streets were just begging me to stay and explore. Not to mention, there was a lot of different beer that needed to be tasted.


  
  
  
There are over 4,000 different Belgian Beers and some are even brewed by monks at monasteries! I went to the Bruges Beer Museum, The De Halve Maan Brewery and also participated in a beer tasting class. I learned a lot throughout these few days including the strength of a Belgium beer and how easy it can creep up on you.


 During the tasting we tried Duvel, Orval, Westmalle Trippel and Chimay Blue. I learned a little about each to share.

Duvel – The actual word means devil and it came to fruition because when it was being developed, everyone would say they had a devil of a hangover. It is considered a light beer with 8.5% alcohol and a champagne finish.

Orval – This is Trappist beer meaning that it is brewed in a monastery and must use the same water source as the monastery and all the profits go to charity. So when you drink a Trappist beer you are actually helping society. This beer is 6.2% alcohol and has a bitter start with a dry finish.

Westmalle Tripel – This is also a Trappist beer from the 1700’s. The same monastery makes a beer that is apparently the best in the world but you have to make a reservation to get it and you must have a Belgium license plate to drive on and you are only allowed two cases/year. Not only that, the fermentation process completes in the bottle after 5 years! The tripel has 9.5% alcohol and is a sweet start with a bitter alcohol finish.

Chimay Blue – This is a dark Trappist malt and barley beer. It is 9.0% alcohol and has a sweet start with a licorice finish.


 There are many other beers from Belgium to try and not all get exported to the US. Heading to Bruges was a great way to get a little taste of all there is to offer.

The city of chocolate and beer and mussels…Brussels!

Brussels is the capital of Belgium. When I think of Belgium I think of chocolate and beer and waffles. I was not let down when I arrived and although I did not indulge in all the delicacies, I went into to the stores for the scents and smells.

Every type of chocolate is available

The waffle is super sweet and add on the cream and nutella, I was on a sugar high for about a week.

Moules and frites are everywhere on the streets and something you must try!

I gave in and had some pho for lunch one day. DELICIOUS!

Manneken Pis is famous in Brussels for no particular reason.

Even if I didn’t sample much of the local food, I took the time to sample some of the local beers and headed to the Brewers’ House to see how beer was made in the 1800’s and how it is made now.
  
  

Of course, going through a city is not complete for me until I find some graffiti.
  

Cambridge for the day

After a few days in London it was time for a little day trip to Cambridge. We jumped on the train for about an hour ride and were transported to some very old and interesting places. Cambridge is the alma mater to some very smart people including James Watson and and Francis Crick. These are the lovely gentleman that discovered DNA in 1953. They went to celebrate and announce their discovery at a pub called The Eagle which has been open since 1667. Obviously my mom and I had to eat there in order to be surrounded by such knowledge while I drank a lovely beer called DNA.

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It was a beautiful day to walk around and get lost in Cambridge. We stopped for a coffee and tea to watch people punting on the River Cam where I was secretly hoping someone would fall in!

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It was a great little day trip and a very easy ride. I can see how people would choose to commute into London and live in this area. Everywhere you turn is history and giant churches.

A is for Albania

After a few weeks of mostly cities and pretty crappy weather, it was time to move on and head to the sunnier coasts of the Balkans. I decided my next stop would be Albania with a one night stop in Tirana on my way to Saranda.

Tirana is much like any other capital city and especially like the capital cities in the Balkans. The Romans had their time here and then the Ottomans and then Albania gained their independence again. I spent the day walking around and taking in a few sites and trying the local beer!

Albanian beer

Albanian beer

Albanian Currency

Albanian Currency

Once I made the journey down the Albanian coast, I arrived in beautiful Saranda and knew I would not be leaving any time soon. Saranda has a lot of Greek influence as the island of Corfu is just 1.5 hours away. The town had everything that I needed for a week of relaxation!

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I have stayed in quite a few hostels during my travels and the host at the SR Backpackers was by far the most gracious and helpful person I have ever met. He even hosted a bbq night for us on the beach with delicious skewers and salad and rice! Sometimes, the smallest of things can make all the difference after a few months on the road.

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Museums, museums and museums

 

Today was a Prague museum crawl day. It all started with an Andy Warhol exhibit at the Gallery of Art Prague. I have seen Andy Warhol plenty of times in various museums, but I have never seen a Warhol exhibition. Many of the famous pieces were there as well as a few that I had never seen. My minion made the trip with me to this gallery as well.

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The same gallery also had a Salvador Dali exhibition. I love Dali and discovering new pieces that he has created.

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The Museum of Communism was next on the list and a bit depressing. I find it very necessary to learn about the trials and tribulations of a country to truly understand the culture that I am experiencing today. When I was growing up, this country was Czechoslavakia and not the Czech Republic and Slovakia. A lot has changed in recent years and I found the description of what a “socialist man” was to be very interesting (see picture below).

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The last museum for the day was the Prague Beer Museum. Czech beer can be very hoppy which I find to be absolutely delicious. It was a perfect end to a great day!

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Beer and friends and bones…oh my!

Everyone that has ever been to Prague has told me what an amazing place the city is. I can say that after one day, I completely agree. I arrived in Prague still not feeling 100% but knew that I had friends to meet up with. One of the things Prague and the Czech Republic are known for is their beer. We went to a place called Pivovarsky Klub which claims to have the most beers available in Prague. I tried a Benedict which was a n unfiltered Pale Ale as well as a beer called Demon. They were both absolutely delicious! On top of that, I had beer and sauerkraut soup. Needless to say, I was in heaven!

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The next day we ventured on a 1.5 hour train ride to the Sedlec Ossuary or the bone church. I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but the result of the art that was created out of 40,000 bones was absolutely amazing! The artist signed his work in bones and the chandelier has at least one of every bone from the human body somewhere on it.

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The day ended with dinner at a delightful restaurant called Lokal. Great atmosphere and good food. We know I love to take pictures of the money in various countries and this is the Czech koruna. I still haven’t exactly figured the conversion, but everything is CHEAP!

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