Seychelles Stunning Beaches Part III – La Digue

Welcome to La Digue!  This was the smallest of the three islands we visited.  It’s the third largest inhabited island in the Seychelles, but it’s still pretty small.  No cars!  Everyone gets around on bike or foot.  We loved it.  Here are the beaches on which we spent our time.

Village of La Passe on the east coast of the island – walking just outside of town at low tide.  This beach doesn’t even have a name that I could find, and it’s too shallow to swim, but the great views of Praslin are breath-taking.  One day we just sat on a log and ate our lunch while taking it all in.

View of Praslin from Village of La Passe

 

Grand Anse – A picturesque beach with huge waves and surrounded by large granite rocks.  Imagine long sweeping arcs of pristine white sand.  The big waves roll in from across the Indian Ocean and they are both wild and wonderful.  There are many warnings not to swim due to a strong undertow, but we were not the only ones in the water and in this (admittedly strong) swimmer’s opinion, the Seychellois are much more cautious about swimming than us Northeasterners!

 

From Grand Anse, you can take a leisurely hike to Petite Anse by walking across the rocks and following the footpath.  During the 15 minutes it took us, there was some beautiful scenery in the form of hidden pools, unlike what we saw on the beaches.

107b A hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

A hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

107a A hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

How gorgeous is this?  Another hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

 

Petite Anse – This is the Sister beach to Grand Anse.  It was raining when we got there but still beautiful enough that we decided to wait it out under one of the little palm frond shelters there.   Swimming here is also regarded as dangerous, but that didn’t bother us.  We stashed our things in a crevice between those famous granite rocks, and dove in.

110 We can (try to) keep out of the rain

We sat under one of these palm shelters to keep out of the rain

 

Anse Cocos – We continued on the path to get to this beach which is also accessible only on foot.  This beach is more sheltered; it benefits from a natural lagoon formed by granite rocks providing calm waters to swim in.  I believe it was low tide, however, and it looked… well… murky.

 

Anse Source D’Argent – This place is reputed to be the most photographed beach in the world, and it’s not hard to understand why once you see it.  It was my absolute FAVE of not only all the beaches we saw in the Seychelles, but in the world!!  It has soft white sand, clear turquoise water and huge granite boulders sculptured by the elements and time itself.   The very shallow waters are so sheltered by the reef that they actually felt HOT when we snorkeled.  I had to swim super far out to get to lukewarm, and finally somewhat cool water.

The one downside to this beach is that the only access is via L’Union Estate, which requires an entrance fee for non-residents.

ASA55 Low tide, Anse Source D'Argent

Low tide, Anse Source D’Argent

ASA70 Anse Source D'Argent

Anse Source D’Argent

ASA56 Uh oh, another beautiful Seychellois beach

Uh oh, another beautiful Seychellois beach

ASA69 Source D'Argent beach

Source D’Argent beach

Seychelles Stunning Beaches Part II – Praslin

Mahe was gorgeous, but the moment we arrived on Praslin via ferry, I knew I was going to like it even better.  It’s smaller and definitely easier to get around.  We hopped off the ferry, onto a bus, and 15 minutes later arrived at our guest house.  That afternoon we were on a beach!

Anse Volbert – Also known as the Côte d’Or (“Golden Coast”), this beach has sugary white sand, crystal clear water, great views and the occasional friendly dog.  It’s a popular beach on the island but 1½ miles long so it never felt crowded.  Best of all, it was within easy walking distance of our lodging!

P19 A boy and his dog

A boy and his dog.

Anse Lazio – It is frequently called ‘the best beach in the world’.  Even on a cloudy/rainy day, it was beautiful.  Its fame has led to great popularity though, so it can feel crowded compared to other beaches.

P82 Back on shore

P84 Anse Lazio, Seychelles

Grand Anse – We learned firsthand that this is more of a town on Praslin that has beach along it.  There were lots of fishing boats in the water here.

P184 Oh look - no one here

Oh look – no one here!

P183 Drying fish on Grand Anse

Drying fish on Grand Anse.

Anse Kerlan – It was difficult to find public access to this beach as there were several private chalets along its side, but once we found it, we had it to ourselves for hours.

P189 My beach baby

Postcard perfect beach – Anse Kerlan

P192 A whole driftwood tree

This is one of my favorite photos we took in the Seychelles

Anse Consolation – This was the most difficult beach for us to get to, as we had to transfer busses in Grand Anse.  What we didn’t know is that the buses take a several hour break during lunchtime, and we happened to need our transfer right about then.  No worries – it led to our first real hitchhiking adventure (if we don’t count the one inside Haleakala National Park).  And we’re alive to talk about it!

Seychelles Stunning Beaches Part I – Mahe

For our 12th wedding anniversary last November, we spent three weeks in the Seychelles.  When we talk about our trip to the Seychelles, most people’s first question is, “Where are the Seychelles?”  The Seychelles, officially known as the Republic of Seychelles or more commonly Seychelles, is its own country.  It consists of 115 islands that lie in the Indian Ocean, 932 miles east of Kenya, in Africa.  If you know where Madagascar is, head north and a little bit east, and you’ll find the Seychelles.

Since few people we know had any idea of where the Seychelles are, it wasn’t totally surprising that we didn’t run into many Americans while we were there.  Did I say “many”?  I meant “any.”  In fact, at the Visitor Bureau on one of the islands, the woman working there just could not believe we were Americans visiting “for fun”; she was convinced we must be in working for the US government in some shape or form and stationed in Dubai, which is a common stopover on the way to the Seychelles from the US.

So your next question might be, what made us think to go there?  It took several ingredients.  For starters, any remote island beach destination sounds pretty great to us.  More specifically though, it was due to the fact that as a boy, Elliott had a stamp collection, and in it he had a few stamps from the Seychelles.  They really stood out to him, and ever since then, he’d wanted to go.  There was also the fact that we knew Kate Middleton and Prince William had honeymooned there; and if it was good enough for royalty, we were thinking it was pretty special!  (For those of you who are interested in this type of thing, it turns out other celebrities have been drawn as well, such as George and Amal Clooney, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.)  All of this wasn’t quite enough though, for as you can imagine, remote islands that draw celebrities can be very expensive to reach.  Finally, after years of telling Elliott his dream might very well never happen, the missing ingredient came along – a super-discounted airfare.

The Seychelles are mostly known for their stunning beaches.  I normally like to be surprised, but I did peek at a few photos of beaches on the Seychelles before we went, and I was immediately super excited.  We’ve been fortunate enough to lie on many a-gorgeous beach, but these appeared top-notch in my opinion!  So what makes them more beautiful than a beach, on, say, St. Thomas?  The islands in the Seychelles are either granitic (made of granite) or coralline (made of coral).  We visited three of the granitic islands: Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue.  And since these islands are all made of granite, it’s not unusual for the beaches to be edged by enormous, pinkish granite boulders.  To me, they *are* the beauty.

As we traversed the islands we went from big to small.  We started on Mahe, where it sometimes took hours on the bus to get to a destination.  We then went to Praslin, where an hour bus ride gets you anywhere you want to go.  We ended on La Digue, where there are no private vehicles, the most-used form of transport is bicycle, and if you’re hardy, you can walk just about anywhere you want to go.  We spent most of our time in the Seychelles relaxing on her beaches, so now I’d like to simply share their splendor with you, our readers.  Since we have so many gorgeous photos, in today’s post we’ll just cover the beaches of Mahe and Praslin.  Take a look, and be sure to check out our next post, which will showcase beach photos for La Digue.  If you’re a beach and nature lover, perhaps you’ll want to add Seychelles to your own bucket list.

Bel Ombre – We walked to this beach on our first day on the Seychelles.  We didn’t have much time as it was already late afternoon, and it wasn’t a fabulous beach at all by Seychelles standards.  But we loved it, and I had a blast swimming, and Elliott loved all the bats that came at dusk.

Beau Vallon – Famous Beau Vallon Bay, on the northwest coast of the island, has the major hotels and restaurants on the island.  We whiled away the better part of a day here.

Sunset Beach – A gorgeous beach beyond Beau Vallon that we could walk to; ironically, we couldn’t see the sun set through the clouds!

Port Launay Marine National Park – Lovely, horseshoe shaped arc with white sand and calm waters, known for its protected status and excellent snorkeling.

Anse Major – We had to hike to this beach, but that’s what made it extra special.  As if the hike itself wasn’t rewarding enough… there was a secluded beach at the end!  And there was plenty of great snorkeling too.

M186 Lovin' life

Lovin’ life.

Takamaka Beach – Stunning, picturesque beach with beautiful golden sand and impressive palm trees, as well as the Takamaka trees that give the beach its name.

M233 Down at the end

Down at the end.

M234 My rock!

Elliott climbs his rock…

M237 A spiritual moment

and has a spiritual moment.

A Birthday Bundle o’ Treats

It was September and we were happy just hanging out in our home in Cuenca, Ecuador.  But Fall was looming, and my only job was to pick out what I wanted to do for my birthday.  What a job!  So much fun, yet so overwhelming – there were so many choices!  I kept waiting, looking for last-minute travel deals, since that is one of the things I’m best at.  We considered a few different deals that came along, but in the end, I chose a partially familiar trip full of fun for both of us.

Four years ago, when we left our careers and traveled around the world, three months of that travel entailed a driving trip across the good ole’ USA.  Our first stop was Chicago – a city we love – to attend Chicago Seminars: a frequent traveler, points and mile collecting conference.  Well, this conference occurs every year, same time and place, and we hadn’t attended *any* points and miles conferences in the past four years.  With the way things had been going in 2016 in the points and miles world (poorly, if you aren’t aware), I figured it was time.  There’s less and less shared on the internet these days about points and miles collecting (because the more people who learn about and participate in a deal, the quicker the deal seems to get shut down), and meeting people in person is the way to go.

So our first stop was Chicago!  This time we flew from Ecuador.  We stayed downtown our first night, using points for what turned out to be a great hotel.  The Holiday Inn Chicago-Mart Plaza River North is situated right in the heart of things and literally sits on top of the Chicago Sun Times building.  We had space and windows and views out the wazoo!  Naturally I took about a billion photos before we even left our hotel room.

This is the outside of our hotel

Chicago Sun-times – the outside of our hotel

When we did leave, we walked up the street to an OfficeMax, where ironically, we took advantage of a deal to earn a bunch of points and miles!  But by that night we were acting like normal folks, getting together with our long-time friend Tamara who used to live and work with us in Philly, for an amazing pizza at famous Giordano’s.  I was in heaven.  I would like one of these pizzas every day for the rest of my life, please!

With Tamara at Giordano's

With Tamara at Giordano’s – Look at that PIZZA!!!

The next day we took the train out to the suburbs of O’hare and stayed in another nice hotel, this time the Sheraton Suites Chicago Elk Grove.  Our room was a beautiful suite with a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and bar area that make you want to just hang out inside the hotel all day.  Of course with a conference to attend, we had very little time to enjoy the hotel, but we did eat breakfast there each day, and I managed to get an early morning swim in one morning.

The Chicago Seminars Conference was awesome.  I won’t go into a lot of detail, since there are many other bloggers who have already done that, and have done a much better job than I could ever do.  Most of our readers aren’t looking for the nitty-gritty of points and miles collecting.  That said, we met a ton of great new people, as well as some new bloggers, and we reconnected with a couple of old faces from four years ago.  There were enough advanced sessions to keep me happy despite it being more of a beginner/intermediate level conference, and Elliott was only overwhelmed once or twice when we accidentally sent him to a too-advanced session.  And we came away with some great new tips, and great inspiration.  There were some individuals who make my craziness appear novice, and I loved getting the details of what they do and how they do it.  Mission accomplished!

The next leg of my birthday journey was also a familiar one.  We rented a car in Chicago this time, and drove once again from Chicago to Wisconsin Dells, just like in 2012.  This time it wasn’t a surprise, but we headed to the exact same destination – Chula Vista Resort.  Wisconsin is famous for its indoor water parks, and I’d had such a blast four years ago, I decided I wanted to play in a water park once again on my birthday.  Can you blame me?  As an October birthday kid, I never got to have birthday parties in a water park!

We stayed two nights and had a great time playing in the water park all day both days.  It has great water slides, tube rides for one and for two, and a huge bucket of water that slowly fills and eventually dumps right on you if you stand in the right place.  My favorite rides are the tubes that are at least partially in the dark, and where you have a chance of spinning around as you go down, but I really love them all!  When we needed a rest, there was always my other favorite, the Lazy River.

One unique thing about our stay this time was that we decided to participate in a sales pitch.  We were told it was not a timeshare, but rather a discount program, and in return for our two hours, we’d get a bunch of food vouchers.  Food?  We like food.  We were in.

Anyone who has ever listened to a timeshare presentation knows they love to go longer than the promised 1-2 hours, and our biggest concern was losing precious time in the water park.  But these guys had found a way to make us all happy.  Before the presentation officially began, our salesperson took us out to breakfast.  So while he did start the sales talk here and there during breakfast, we didn’t care since we were eating a delicious meal.  Afterwards he stayed within his time limit, and once his manager realized we weren’t buying, they couldn’t THROW us out of there fast enough.  We were happy to oblige, having enough food vouchers in our hands to buy our meals for the entire stay!

wd-23-happy-birthday-to-me

Happy Birthday to ME!

On our last morning we woke up early and drove as the sun rose, back to Chicago.  All in all it was a great way to spend my birthday week.  Chicago, one of my favorite cities – good.  Pizza and friends – always good.  Points and miles?  Extra good.  Indoor water park and free food for two days – super good.  And somehow, there was still more to come!  But the last part was built in for the love of my life.

Lava, Lava Everywhere!

Welcome to our adventure with red, hot lava.  We’ve got photos, we’ve got videos, we’ve got a story.  Stick with us through this post and we promise you won’t be disappointed!!


Stephanie: Ever since our first visit to the Big Island of Hawaii, it has been my goal to get us out to see flowing red lava up close. Just before we had left the Mainland, Elliott asked if the lava was accessible this time. Kilauea volcano has been erupting steadily since 1983, but often the flow is underground or inaccessible.

Elliott: “Do we really need our hiking boots? Can’t we just do our hikes in Tevas? If we’ll only need our boots if we are hiking to red hot lava, can’t we just check and see the status of the eruption before we leave Philly?”

Stephanie: I informed him that even if the lava wasn’t accessible today, that didn’t mean it wouldn’t be accessible in three weeks when we arrived on the Big Island. Things change very quickly there.

Just a few days after we arrived on Maui, we heard another tourist mention hiking to the lava. I checked with him to make sure he meant active, flowing lava. We had arrived in Hawaii on July 23rd, and the flow had become accessible to hiking on July 26th. I was beside myself!

Elliott: “Good thing we brought those hiking boots!”

We were determined to go see it. Now that we were back on the Big Island, it looked like we were finally going to get our chance. But first, a little background information is in order.

The National Park Service does not try to stop people from hiking to the lava. Instead, they advise that you be in shape, bring tons of water and a flashlight, etc…. Much better than the standard American Way of saying “Oh, you might stub your toe, so a 15 square mile area is closed to the public.” We did have a run-in with a Fear-Of-God salesman on our first day, though. This guy works for our vacation club, and does a talk on the activities available on the island. Usually, we don’t bother with this sort of thing, preferring to figure it out on our own, but they offered free breakfast, so what the heck.

Stephanie: This guy was a completely sleazy sales guy, the type who scares you so bad you have no other choice than to pay him to guide you safely to everything you want to see. I was ready to leave within about two minutes of listening to him.

Elliott: He started by telling us how terrifyingly dangerous it is to hike out to lava. You could get lost and wander the lava wastelands forever. You could crack through the surface and boil in a fiery lake of hot lava for eternity. (Can I get a Hallelujah, brothers and sisters?) Even driving on the island was a life-in-your-hands activity; you could get in a horrific car accident and spend the only vacation you may ever take in your life in a hospital. Fortunately, he had a solution to all this doom and gloom. He informed us that the BEST way to see the lava was to take a $500 helicopter tour, and get a real nice view from several hundred feet in the air. Oh, and none of that troublesome walking was necessary. His tours were designed to pick us lazy Americans up at our door, so we wouldn’t ruin our vacation by actually having to do something for ourselves. Why am I telling you all this? To show you how easy it ended up being to do this on our own.

Stephanie: Easy? Maybe. But it took a lot of planning and a lot of driving to do this as a day-trip from the west side of the island.

Elliott: Right. Ann, Stephanie and I opted to leave at 4:00 am. This would give us plenty of time to make the 2-hour drive from Kona to the end of Chain of Craters road–

Stephanie: Which you slept through, while Ann and I navigated in the dark fog and rain–

Elliott: to hike the four miles to the actual lava flow, and still beat the heat of the day. We also brought snacks, six liters of water and two liters of Gatorade to keep us hydrated. It turns out we were WAY over-prepared.

Stephanie: Over-prepared? Maybe. But it’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. Besides, we didn’t know what type of terrain we’d be hiking these eight miles on – gravel road, or newish hardened lava? It makes a huge difference (1.5 vs 2.5 hours, each way) and it wasn’t clear from the information online.

Elliott: We did luck out in that respect. At the end of Chain of Craters Road in the national park, there is a 4-mile, emergency-access road. The lava happened to be flowing above-ground, right across this road and then into the ocean. This means that the bulk of our hike was on the gravel road with no chance whatsoever of getting lost. It also meant we could go faster since we wouldn’t be clambering over an unmarked lava field.

Four miles later, at the end of the gravel road, a rope had been strung across it to let us know that we weren’t supposed to go any further. We took it as a sign that we were headed the right way and ignored it.

Stephanie: I think it was there to discourage us from going further forward in that direction. The road had been consumed by lava at that point from some former eruption anyway. But it didn’t stop us from going right or left. First, we followed the rope about 100 yards to the right, over the lava, to the coast where we had a much more intimate view of the lava waterfalls that we had seen from the ship two weeks before. This was our first view of red lava (sans zoom lens), and it was amazing, but this was not what I was going for.

Elliott: Beautiful, but not good enough. The lava was underground, and only broke the surface when it got to the edge of the cliff. We wanted to get right up to it, but the clouds of steam mixed with sulfuric acid made us keep our distance. So we returned to the end of the rope and decided to head inland to find the flow. Ann left us to our own devices, as we started off following the heat shimmer.

Stephanie: This time, we really were clambering over fairly fresh, silvery-black lava. As we followed the heat, we would feel the ground to see if it was getting hot. As we got closer, I found the glow of fresh lava deep in a crevice, and showed it to Elliott. I could feel how close we were getting!

There were two other hikers nearby, and we started working as group to find the red stuff. We were all looking in different directions, stepping quickly now. We were investigating any place that had steam coming out of it, felt extra hot, or appeared to be lighter in silver than the other areas. It was tough because we’d be sure we were there, and we’d stare hard at the silver, waiting for red to poke through. When nothing happened, we’d carefully test the strength of the lava we were about to step on, realize it was hard lava, move on and start all over again. We had to find it, so we’d look for the next spot, and the next. And then we finally saw it. Red!

Elliott: The actual lava was less than a half mile from the end of the road, and is probably the most amazing natural phenomenon I have seen in my life. It would ooze from the ground like bright orange toothpaste, and immediately start to cool once it hit the air. As the lava cooled it turned a sparkly silver color which would eventually settle into the familiar black of the Hawaiian lava fields. We could stand about five feet from it and watch it flow while feeling the heat from the liquid rock. LIQUID ROCK! You really don’t think about what that means until you’re seeing it with your own eyes. This is rock at a temperature of 2200°!! When we would stand right next to it for a photo, it was like stepping into a blast furnace. If I wanted to keep my eyelashes and leg hair, I could only stand there for a few seconds. Take a look…

121-us-and-the-lava

Us and the lava

VIDEO: Filling the Crack

Stephanie: What he said. This is seriously the best experience we’ve ever had!!!!

It got better with time, too. It’s nerve-wracking because you know how dangerous it is, yet the lava keeps changing and making new shapes, forms, waves, and even lava “falls.” I didn’t want to leave. Elliott and the two other guys were ready to go before I was. But I insisted on staying, and I’m so glad we did. The lava flows kept getting bigger and better!

136-filling-the-crevice

Filling the crevice

VIDEO: Lava in the Crack (good one!)

138-oozing-out

Oozing out

VIDEO: Best Oozing

182-fresh-breakout

Fresh breakout

VIDEO: Big Dramatic Lava Flow (awesome!)

The other cool thing was that we stayed so long, that this entire triangular area got filled with the lava. Originally we were standing in it, having these other guys take photos and videos of us. 20 minutes later, we were taking photos and video of brand new lava that was now covering the areas we had been standing on! Amazing!

124-damn-thats-hot

Damn, that’s hot!

Elliott: Wow! That was seriously amazing. If you have a chance to get up close to flowing lava, take it. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

Stephanie: Take it even if you have to hike five hours each way (which we didn’t). I don’t care – I would do it. It’s incredible. Just be prepared – it is exciting, exhilarating and yes, definitely dangerous. Use common sense though and you should be fine.

On our hike back, we helped coach lots of people on what they were about to encounter, how to prepare for it, and how to find it. We had fun betting on which people would make it all the way to the red stuff.

Elliott: On the drive back up Chain of Craters Road, we stopped with Ann at the Thurston Lava Tube. Lava tubes are like long caves formed when new lava flows beneath the surface, and hardens on the outside edges of the tube, allowing the red lava to flow out and create a lasting space. The Thurston Lava tube is a bit more tourist-y than some we’ve seen before (like the one on the Galapagos Islands), but worth a stop.

We rounded out our volcano-oriented day with a stop at the Jaggar Museum in Volcano National Park for a view of the Halem’uma’u crater of Kilauea. (I looked for information on Mick Jagger in the museum, but there was none. They need to rename that place.) There’s isn’t much to see at the crater. There is a lake of lava inside, but it is well below the surface, and cannot be seen except from the air.

209-halemumau-crater

Halem’uma’u Crater

Stephanie: The crater is much better when viewed at night. While Elliott was still sleeping and we were approaching the area of Volcanoes National Park, I woke him up to show him the glow of the lava coming up from that crater, and reflecting on the clouds. It was really cool, and you see that same glow all night.

The Jagger Museum has a lot of great exhibits as well – definitely worth checking out to learn about the volcano and lava you’re viewing.

Elliott: After all the volcano-ing, I’d say the day was pretty full. We spent the rest of it driving back to the west side of the island, relaxing, soaking in the hot tub, and wondering how the rest of our time on the Big Island would ever measure up to being close enough to flowing red lava to dip our toes in. (Editor’s note: Dipping your toes into flowing lava is a very bad idea, and we are not liable if you actually do it.)

MileHighDuo Goes “Home”

Our July and August travel this year has been (and will be) all within the USA, but we did manage to fit in a new state.  After our long weekend in Toronto and our time in Philly and New Jersey, we flew to the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado.  Now how is it we never managed to fit that into our year of travel back in 2012 and 2013?  It would seem entirely appropriate for the MileHighDuo, after all!

Ironically, we didn’t even plan to stop in Denver.  We went there because it was going to be the start of the next segment of our travels (look for our next blog post to understand what I mean).  But going to Denver turned out to be a really wonderful thing.  We loved being at high altitude for a bit during our travels since we’re used to living in Cuenca at high altitude now.  But more importantly, we reconnected with an old face from Elliott’s childhood, and ended up leaving feeling like we’d made a lifelong set of friends.

We stayed with Chuck – the brother of Elliott’s best friend from high school.  As we headed to Denver, Elliott told me stories about Chuck and him; it had been a bit weird when they were kids since Chuck was the age of Elliott’s younger sister Rochelle, but they’d had some good times together when Chuck was living in  New Jersey for a year.  Now, Chuck is married and has ten kids (yes, you read that correctly).  We were a tiny bit daunted, but we figured staying with Elliott’s sister and her six kids just a few months ago had been good practice!

We had a lot of fun with Chuck, his wife Julie, and the ten kids.  They gave us our own space in the basement, including a gated area for our stuff where no curious little kiddies could enter.  On our first day we piled into their huge van for 14(!) and they drove us up through the mountains to the local area of Georgetown, where we picnicked and played in a local park.

Then they drove us around downtown Denver.  I’m not sure which was more fun: seeing the sights, or feeling special as the kids argued over who got to sit next to us!

That night we had an adults-only dinner outing for Mexican food.  Ahhh.  Those kids are great, but so was the Mexican food and adult conversation!

The next day we went to their local pool and just played the day away with the kids.  Since it was plenty warm and I love to frolic in pools, I didn’t mind spending time there at all.  Sightseeing, schmight-seeing!

There was lounging:

There was swimming:

There were slides:

There were bubbles:

There were headstands:

There was general merry-making!

On our last full day, Chuck drove us to Boulder where he works, and we toured his company “plant.”  It was pretty cool seeing all the machine parts they make, especially since we only ever worked in boring IT offices that made nothing but code.  Elliott found the perfect widget and claimed it as his own souvenir of Chuck and our visit to Denver.

Then we walked to a local bike rental rack and kiosk, and checked out some bikes.  This was actually a major milestone for me, as I’ve wanted to rent bikes from one of these kiosks ever since we first saw them in Luxembourg in 2009!  (Lack of foreign credit cards and other similar silly issues always got in the way.)  But this time we had the right country’s credit card, and we got our bikes with ease.  The cost was only $8 per person for a 24 hour rental, as long as we checked in every half hour.  There were many bike kiosks throughout the little city which made that very easy.

We rode all around, finding the next kiosk on the map each time.  We rode through the little downtown area, checked out the University, and rode along Boulder Creek.

We had a picnic lunch and watched the tubers go down the creek, usually with goose bumps on their skin and audible shivering.

Since there was no easy way to rent tubes, we agreed we should wait until next time for tubing.  But when we saw some guys swinging on a rope swing into the creek nearby, we were intrigued.  After chatting with some girls about their tube ride, and then watching one of them try the swing, I was hooked.  After a few minutes of chatting about it, I got Elliott hooked, despite the frigidity of the water (which is REALLY saying something).  Yeah, we could wait a couple weeks and find a rope swing in our next destination, but this was here and now.  We went for it.

The rope swing was awesome.  They always are!  Elliott decided to go first to get the ice pool plunge anxiety over with, and I videoed him.  Only I didn’t actually video him!  It wasn’t a ploy, though it did foil his plan to do the rope swing one time only.  I really somehow screwed up the video, and I appealed to his vanity when I let him know if he wanted video of himself, he’d have to do it a second time.  Then it was my turn.  I gathered up my nerve, held on tight, and swung out as far as I could.  I let go at the top of my swing, and jumped into the water.  Even anticipating all of that cold, there was no way to be prepared.  The water was so shockingly cold that my entire system seemed to shut down.  I tried to swim through the Arctic to the shore, and realized there was a strong current working against me!  Still in shock, I realized I’d just have to get to the closest point on land.  I clambered up some nearby rocks, and, finally, I was out.

Elliott had decided to take that second swing so we could record his adventure.  And then of course I had to take a second swing… luckily the second time in was much less of a shock!  We changed back into our clothes, took a nap in the park, and hopped back on our bikes.  After riding back into town, we parked the bikes and walked along one of the main shopping promenades on Pearl Street.  We found some fun souvenir-filled shops, and Elliott found a great music store.  Before we knew it, it was 5pm and time to return to our friend Chuck’s office.

That evening wrapped up our time in the Mile High City.  We battled a raging thunderstorm as we made our way out to the car with Chuck, and saw a TRIPLE rainbow on the way home.  We had a delicious Italian dinner with the family, prepared by Julie (with help from the kids), and showed off our rope swing photos and video to the kids.  Then it was time to say goodbye.  We all agreed, we’ll have to make Denver a more regular stop in our travels going forward.

A Very Special Place

After our long weekend in Toronto, we took Megabus back to Philly, and joined some friends and family in a birthday celebration for Elliott a few days later.  The next day, we packed the car full of our suitcases, food and toys, and headed to Ocean City, NJ.

Ocean City is a special place for me in so many ways.  Growing up in New Jersey, I went with my family “down the shore” many times over many years.  I remember trying to brave the waves, my older siblings and parents trying to teach me to body surf, eventually always getting sucked under by a “big one,” and trying to ramp up my bravery for the next time.  I remember how delicious-tasting those Pringles and warm-from-the-sun Chips Ahoy cookies were, that Mom had always packed for us along with our sandwiches. I remember Dad always proclaiming he hated the sand and hot sun and saltwater, and then putting it all aside to come and swim in the ocean with us.  I remember building drip castles with my brother, throwing a Frisbee with my other brother and sister, and walking the boardwalks of the various beach towns.  I remember the long drive home after day trips when I was still covered in sand, sitting in the car, and having to wait for five older people to use the one shower when we got home before it was my turn.  The Jersey Shore is about family in a way the namesake TV show never bothered to explain.

Ocean City, NJ is special to me in other ways.  It’s home to the beach where my husband first proclaimed he loved me.  It’s the home of the beach on which my husband proposed to me, on a night with a full moon, a brightly viewable Venus, and even a brightly viewable Mars.  It’s home to a boardwalk we’ve walked up and down countless times, a beach we’ve walked along countless times, a place we’ve eaten hundreds of French fries and dozens of soft ice cream cones.  It’s even the location of my very first surrey ride, and surreys are a VERY big deal in my world.

This particular week, we visited Ocean City with my dad and Ann and Ann’s family, as part of their annual family vacation.  We swam and boogie-boarded, we took walks on the beach and boardwalk, and we ate French fries and pizza and ice cream.

We played games and miniature golf and watched movies.

We celebrated Elliott’s birthday on the actual day, and helped teach some of the grandchildren to ride bikes.

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One of our many, awesome, early-morning bike rides!

It was another special week filled with family and fun.  And through it all, we were reminded that no matter how far we go in our travels, there’s always a place back home that’s just as special as can be.DSC05146 8x10