Happy 2016!

travel, photos, Instagram, Nepal, Chile, Patagonia, Argentina, Lukla, Nepal, Ama Dublam, waterfall, Portland, Tampa, sea, sky, Fitz Roy

Just wanted to do a quick post in the last few hours of the year here to share my top Instagram pictures.  Some are very recent but it was cool to see some of the ones from earlier in the year – it seems so far away, like longer than a year.  Sometimes, that’s how things go, isn’t it?

In any case, here is my top 9 photos from 2015.  A good year in many, many ways; and a tough year in others.

May 2016 bring you many good things wherever you are!

travel, photos, Instagram, Nepal, Chile, Patagonia, Argentina, Lukla, Nepal, Ama Dublam, waterfall, Portland, Tampa, sea, sky, Fitz Roy

Argentina, Chile, Portland, Tampa, and Nepal all represented!

Finisterre: The End of Earth No More!

sailboat, cross, Fisterra, cape, Finisterre, Atlantic Ocean, tourism, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, Galicia, España

A “short” 90-km walk from Santiago de Compostela, where the famous Camino (Way of St. James) ends, is Finisterre.  Finisterre is a town but the more famous Finisterre is the cape that signifies “the end of earth.”   Back when folks assumed this was the end of earth, hence the name.  (Note:  It is also known as Fisterra in the local dialect, Galician or gallego).

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo

The town of Finisterre from a distance

Many pilgrims who do the Camino, keep going past the end point, the city of Santiago de Compostela.  I did not when I went because the end goal of the Camino, in my book, is entering the Plaza del Obradoiro and then going to Mass at the massive and old Cathedral.

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While 0k for the Camino is in Santiago, this is 0 km too

Finisterre, Fisterra, cape, Camino, Spain, España, Galicia

Posing with friends – and friendly photobombers!

However, I highly recommend hiking or somehow making it to Finisterre.  I personally loved walking the rugged terrain past the lighthouse.

Fisterra, cape, Finisterre, Atlantic Ocean, ilivetotravel, tourism, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The Atlantic Ocean at Finisterre

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Water activities abound in the area

Camino, Atlantic Ocean, Finisterre, Fisterra, cape, Spain, Galicia, tradition

Pilgrims leave articles of clothing upon reaching the end of their Camino

It reminded me when I went to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa (check it out here), maybe just a little less spectacular here but impressive nonetheless.

Finisterre, Spain, Camino, The Way, photo, travel lighthouse

Finisterre lighthouse

If you drive from Santiago, there is an inland route, more direct, and a route that hugs the shoreline.  I recommend the latter on the way over to Finisterre so you can see Finisterre from the distance and see the beautiful coastline.  I am sure in other times of the year this coastline is slightly less hospitable but on the beautiful July day I went, it was nothing short of spectacular.  On the way back, we did take the fast route back – and that was fine with me.

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

The Cape (top left) and the town of Finisterre to its right

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

A small coastal town watched over by windmills, a common sight around there

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

Beautiful waters!

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

A small town along the route

Windmill, Finisterre, Fisterra, Galicia, Spain, coastline

Smart to rely on these guys given how windy it is!

On the way over, before getting to the coastline, we stopped at a small village by the Rio Tambre to visit a charming town right of CP-0201, not far from Santiago.  The Ponte Maceira crosses the river into the village and forms part of the Camino as witnessed by the many pilgrims we saw cross it.  The village is graced not only by the bridge but by a chapel, an old mill, and a very approachable riverside.  Definitely a “must stop.”

Ponte Maceira, Rio Tambre, Galicia, Spain, España, old mill, Olympus, travel, photo

Pilgrims crossing the Ponte Maceira (Maceira Bridge)

Ponte Maceira, Rio Tambre, Galicia, Spain, España, old mill, Olympus, travel, photo

The Rio Tambre

Ponte Maceira, Rio Tambre, Galicia, Spain, España, old mill, Olympus, travel, photo

The village by the bridge

Ponte Maceira, Rio Tambre, Galicia, Spain, España, old mill, Olympus, travel, photo

The old mill and an approach to the river

The only bummer for my visit was that there was a small festival (for the Feast of St. James) going on near the Cape and we could not stop.  I would have so loved to eat fresh seafood and mingle with the locals.  I hear any of the towns along the shore will have incredible fresh seafood.  I believe it!

If you do have time to explore the area, don’t just go to the cape.  Not that it is overly touristy or that it isn’t spectacular, but there are other parts of the coast that are well worth exploring.  The Rias Baixas (which you may know if you know Spanish wine…), just south of Finisterre, are a series of estuaries/inlets from the Atlantic Ocean that create a mini-ecosystem rich in marine life and with many beaches and water activities, a magnet for tourists from Spain.  While certainly not the French Riviera, it also lacks the over-touristed ambience of places like that, making it more relaxed.  So, give yourself an extra day or two and enjoy Finisterre and all that the area around it offers in the region of Galicia!

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

Beautiful coastline

Finisterre, Fisterra, Spain, sea, ocean, travel, photo, Galicia

More of the coastline

Colonia del Sacramento: Uruguay’s Historical Gem

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, architecture

When I started to plan my trip to Argentina for my trek, I thought maybe I’d arrive a couple of days early and do something other than eat and walk in Buenos Aires.  Don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with those things!  Those are indeed very noble activities in my book in that great city.  But I was looking to just do something different.  I looked at one-day or half-day tours, and I looked at museums and other similar attractions.  One thing caught my eye due to my eternal wanderlust:  Uruguay was just across the river and it would be really easy to cross by boat.

I was aware of Montevideo and Punta del Este.  The latter seemed to require an overnight.  Montevideo seemed a tad boring but I thought, “why not?  it’s the capital?”  And then I ran into Colonia del Sacramento (or simply, “Colonia”).  I had never heard of this place.  Quick research led me to find out it was listed in “1,000 Places to See before You Die” so I had to learn more.

Funny how history runs its course…

Colonia del Sacramento was established by the Portuguese across the river from another small town called Buenos Aires in the late 17th century.  The town was part of a ping-pong match in terms of who ruled it:  Spain, Portugal, Spain, Portugal, …, Brazil, and then independent Uruguay.  Must have been exhausting!  The modern town’s old quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a population of roughly 25,000 folks.

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, old map

French map dating from the 1740s made into a mural

Getting to Colonia del Sacramento

Certainly one can get there by road from Montevideo but, if you are in Buenos Aires, the Buquebus ferry leaving from Puerto Madero is quite efficient and convenient.  There are fast ferries that make the crossing in one hour (the river, at that point, is really no longer a river but the sea meeting the river) and slow-poke boats that make the crossing in three hours.  Needless to say, three hours on a boat when I can do it in one was a no-brainer….  The one hour ferry was at 8:30 AM so that was a bit of a sacrifice since there was a line or two to make at the port… But it was the right choice.  On the way back, since we wanted to have dinner in Buenos Aires, we took the ferry that arrived around 6 PM.  One thing to mind is that there IS a time zone difference between Uruguay and Argentina (crazy).

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, ferry, Buquebus

The walkway to the ferry in the port in Buenos Aires

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, ferry, arrival, port

Welcome to Uruguay!

Oh, and another thing to mind is that you MUST bring with you the reciprocity fee receipt for Argentina (if you are a U.S. citizen)… When you leave Uruguay, right at the port in Colonia, you will go through BOTH Uruguayan and Argentine immigration officers.  When you get to the Argentine officer, if you do not have it, you are in a for a nervous wait to see what the officer will do with you.  No, it did not happen to me, but it happened to a friend.  Note:  the other friend hanging with her volunteered to the officer “Oh, I don’t have mine either” – lol!  Somehow, the officer did not care about her but did about the other one.

The town – ruins

The thing to see in Colonia is the old quarter.  When you exit the very modern port facility, you go out of the port and go on that same street uphill and, eventually, you will hit the main street where you will make a left and walk for like five minutes before you hit the old quarter.  (There is a tourism info office outside the main building of the port but I did not go in.)

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, map

The old quarter is on the left side of the map

The old buildings have been beautifully kept up or maintained and the quarter is easy to walk around in.  The old quarter is in a peninsula so you can’t go too far without hitting the water except in one direction (as you can see in the map above).   The old quarter has ruins of fortifications from those centuries when the European powers were trying to take control of the river.  You can also see parts of the foundation of the former Portuguese governor’s house and ruins of the old convent.  Most of these ruins are, one could say, ruins of ruins but, nevertheless, they help understand how the town was set up and defended.

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, travel, photo, architecture, lighthouse

Ruins of San Francisco Convent in front of the lighthouse

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, travel, photo, ruins, Bastion San Miguel

Ruins of Bastión de San Miguel

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, architecture, ruins

Ruins of the Portuguese Governor House in the Plaza de Armas

The town – buildings and structures

There old church, the Basilica del Sagrado Sacramento (Basilica of the Sacred Sacrament) was heavily restored starting in the 1950s.  It is simple in its design and decor.

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, basilica, church

Basilica del Sagrado Sacramento

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, basilica, church

Inside of the basilica

The town is clearly oriented to visitors from Uruguay and abroad with many cafés, restaurants, gifts shops, and art shops.

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, architecture

Local shop

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, café

Outdoor café near the basilica

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, café

Eclectic café chair and table

But the best this charming town offers is just the simple yet beautiful architecture of the streets in or near its old quarter.  A peaceful setting graced by history and architecture!

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, architecture

House near the lighthouse

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, architecture

Shop in Calle de los Suspiros

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, architecture

House in Calle de los Suspiros

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, architecture

Detail of the local architecture by the Plaza de Armas

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, architecture

Home

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, UNESCO, World Heritage, Places to See, travel, photo, architecture, trees

A local street right outside the heart of the old quarter

Lunch time in Colonia!

Of course, we stopped at a local restaurant for lunch where I enjoyed an incredible pasta dish and we all enjoyed trying Uruguayan red wine – an unexpected treat (later followed by a cup of Freddos ice cream!)

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Lunch was this delicious butternut squash gnocchi in a pancetta cream sauce!

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Surprised at how good the local wine was!

A resident enjoying summer…

Colonia, Sacramento, Uruguay, colonial, travel, photo, dog

Dog days of summer in Colonia are awesome!

 

 

Iceland’s South Shore: The Dyrhólaey Peninsula and Vik

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The south shore of Iceland is a popular route for visitors to the island.   One can do a day trek from Reykjavik (though, arguably, a long day) to see the major sights along the ring road on the south (e.g., waterfalls, glaciers, black sandy beaches).  The south shore deserves more than one write-up so I will separate into the waterfalls, the Myrdalsjökull glacier, and the Dyrhólaey peninsula – Vik area.  Here, I want to share some of the views from the latter, the Dyrhólaey peninsula and Vik, just a short distance east of the peninsula, where our day trip ended before returning to Reykjavik.

Vik

I will start with Vik, since it is a small place to talk about.  Vik means “bay” in Icelandic hence why many towns on the island end in “vik” (Reykjavik, Dalvik, Husavik).  It is the southernmost town in Iceland.  When I read about Vik, it is called a village – it has less than 300 so “village” seems appropriate.  Be its size as it may, it is a scenic spot for sure, even if the time of day I visited was not the ideal light for great pictures (I wish I had been there at sunset though that was likely around midnight!).  The basalt rock stacks or towers coming out from the ocean (go straight south and you will not hit land until Antarctica!) are quite impressive.

Vik, Iceland, village, church, scenic, landscape, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Church in Vik

Vik, Iceland, village, scenic, landscape, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Beautiful fields of purple

Vik, Iceland, village, scenic, landscape, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

These recall turf houses even if it is not turf on their roofs; note the layers of rock behind them!

Vik, Iceland, village, flowers, scenic, landscape, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Isn’t this an incredible sight??!! Basalt rock spires in the water.

The Dyhólaey nature reserve

Dyhólaey was declared a nature reserve in 1978.  This covered not only the landscape but the incredible wildlife there, mostly birds I assume.  We saw plenty of cliff birds perching right along the edge of the cliff and then flying off.  The contrast of the white feathers and the black sands below was pretty neat to see.  The black sands are definitely a reminder of the impact of volcanic activity in Iceland, especially in the south of the island.Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, cliff bird,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

These birds are a sight to see as they fly to and from the cliffs.

There is a lighthouse at the top of the peninsula, one of two structures there (the other seems abandoned, maybe a former residence for the lighthouse keeper?).  The lighthouse dates from 1910.  I am not sure but I suspect no one lives in the property any more.Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, travel, photo, lighthouse, Canon EOS Rebel Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, travel, photo, lighthouse, Canon EOS Rebel

One can walk down to the beach right at the base of the peninsula where the black sands and smooth small rocks are right at your fingertips.Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, black sand, lava rocks, volcanic, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, black sand, lava rocks, volcanic, travel, photo, Olympus Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, black sand, lava rocks, volcanic, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, black sand, lava rocks, volcanic, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

As you can see the views from the top of the cliff are spectacular and worth admiring – definitely worth the drive over.

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, basalt,beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Love this lonely stack of basalt

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, basalt,beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

An arch that reminds me of the 12 Apostles in Australia

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, glacier, volcano, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking inland to the glaciers and volcanoes

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, basalt,beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Dyrholaey, peninsula, Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, south shore, black sand, basalt,beach,travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

I agree – the vista is worth soaking it!

 

——– More on Iceland ——–

My itinerary for my week visit to Iceland

A stroll around Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik

Þingvellir:  Where History and Nature Meet in Iceland!

The Blue Lagoon

Goðafoss:  The Waterfalls of the Gods

A Northern Town:  Akureyri

Whale Watching

Postcards from Iceland:  Dalvík

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