Condors of the Andes Mountains — Chile

Leave a comment

DSC_0720My first trip to Chile began with a trip to the snowless  Andes Mountain range, during mid summer. The road to the top of the Andes from Santiago had more hairpins than a Miss America contestant. Seriously, the road bent and turned, slamming us against each other or the van’s side panels. My insides felt like I had a load of laundry on spin cycle. After 90 grueling minutes the van finally reached the top, where two-mile high air did not DSC_0704-smprovide much relief for my sea level lungs. Our guide told us to watch the skies for condors, and I did. Updrafts swept up the steep valley sides to create a perfect place to watch several of the large South American Condors. Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) the Andean condor has a maximum wingspan of 3.2 m (10 ft 6 in) making it one of the largest flying birds on Earth. Only four seabirds  exceed the Condor’s wing span.

Best-Condor-2This condor is a female and lacks white on the feathers.

Condor-1This is a male condor getting ready to land on a building

Valparaíso Chile, Colorful Coastal City

Leave a comment

DSC_0320-smMy recent visit to Valparaíso, aka “Jewel of the Pacific” provided me with many photo opportunities, from street art to stray dogs, from steep streets to broken down buildings. One image shows a multi story building with laundry hanging in the breeze and three cars parked on the rickety structure. Chile is one of the most Earthquake prone zones in the world. Ask anyone who lives here and they quickly start rattling off the most recent “BIG” quakes. At one time the city featured 26 ascensores (funiculars), but after the major quake in 2010 only 8 currently work. Also note, several sources, including Wikipedia don’t agree with how man Ascensores are in Valparaíso or how many are in working condition. Valparaiso is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of these unique ascensores.

Be sure to visit My Cruise Stories for more about Valparaíso

DSC_0333-smEverywhere you look, sidewalks, buildings, hillsides, streets and parking lots, Earthquake damage can be easily seen. In 1960 a shallow Earthquake caused a Tsunami that sent a wave 13 km inland. But people here are resilient, rolling with the quakes’ destruction, and building, if you can call it that, on steep hillsides. Upon close inspection of many side hill buildings, I would not dare to risk my life literally living on the edge. But these residents do and with a smile.


Side Streets & Street Art of Valparaíso Chile

Leave a comment

DSC_0202-smValparaiso Chile sits on the Pacific Coast and offers an eclectic blend of culture that reminds me of a mix of San Juan Puerto Rico and Antigua. In 1969 art students from Universidad Católica’s Instituto de Arte began painting the numerous walls of the hillside city, often times called “Little San Francisco.” The original intent of these students was to create an “Open Sky Museum.” Their work continued until 1973 when a military coup began. When the coup ended in 1990, years past the “Hippie” era, local artists picked up their paint brushes and began restoring and painting new walls with the help of the city’s “big shot” artists and wannabe artists. Today the art adorns walls, sidewalks, stairs, and businesses to create one of the most colorful, eclectic must see cities in South America.

DSC_0349-smHere’s a few pictures from this quaint little city by the sea, where street art is perhaps the main attraction. Street art is so much part of the city the artist have an unwritten code, “Don’t ‘tag’ or otherwise ruin another artist’s wall art. The city also has a large population of stray dogs, that are well kept. No rabies, mange or fleas exist here, and locals seem to feed and water the dogs. Most of the local veterinarians also provide free services for these strays, when needed. When walking the streets of Valparaíso always watch your step, there’s lots of doggie doo everywhere. Also note, the southern end of the city, especially on the grounds of the Navy building, has dozens of stray cats that like to beg for attention.

Blue Mountains New South Wales Photo Safari

1 Comment

Today Phil & Maureen Breckell took me and my wife, (www.mycruisestories.com) on a photo safari to the Blue Mountains. The weather had an eerie fog with threatening black clouds and occasional blue splotches of sky mixed in for a unique opportunity for us to create some “artsy” images. Here’s a slide show of a few of my favorites. We also visited several lookouts near Katoomba and ventured over the top of the hills toward Lithgow, where we spotted four wild emu.

Australian Bass Fishing Adventure at Lake St. Clair in New South Wales Australia

Leave a comment

Go Fish Magazine

Bass Fishing in Australia High above Lake St. Clair in Australia, a mob of kangaroos feed on a grassy knoll overlooking the lake

High above Lake St. Clair in New South Wales, a mob of kangaroos feed on a grassy knoll overlooking Lake St. Clair. I’m here to go fishing, and of course get lots of photos. Australia’s bass fishing can be a challenge, especially if you don’t have a clue where to go or when to go. Luckily, my daughter Sheri, who lives near Sydney, has a great network of friends and family. Prior to my month long visit to Australia, She hooked me up with her sister in-law’s father in-law, Phil. Phil knows the area and has lots of “mates,” the Auzzie term for friends or buddies. Knowing my passion for fishing, Phil arranged a fishing trip with Bill Thomson, a local postal manager who also has a love of fishing. My…

View original post 1,081 more words

Carnival Cruise From Sydney Australia Aboard The Legend

Leave a comment

Snorkeling With Tarpon at Grand Cayman Island


Marine Park, Grand Cayman Island

Paradise Restaurant, Grand Cayman Island

My travel tastes include enjoying some interesting activities. Recently my wife and I spent 15 days cruising aboard the Carnival Splendor, with several port stops that included Grand Cayman Island. One of the coolest, free things to do include swimming with tarpon. The Paradise Restaurant, which sits at the edge of the water, also has a public marine park with steps from their outdoor area into the water. Five to six times daily, they feed the tarpon raw fish and chicken.

These daily feedings have “tamed” the tarpon to the point of the fish approaching any swimmer who enters their watery world. They are not aggressive at all, but do provide some great fun.

Grand Cayman Island

Port stops at Grand Cayman include “tendering” because of shallow waters.

Cruise ship visitors to Grand Cayman arrive by “port tenders” that carry 100 plus passengers from the ship’s offshore anchorage to one of the city’s docks. On the day of our arrival rough waters prevented the captain from anchoring in front of Georgetown. Instead, the ship went to Spotts Bay, on the other side of the island. Luckily Carnival and the city worked their magic and quickly put into place all of the necessary vans, taxis, excursion providers and even some beach vendors. Later in the morning, after we anchored at Spotts Bay two cruise ships with later arrival times than us were able to anchor in front of Georgetown, which provided the usual flood of people to enjoy Grand Cayman’s wealth of activities. Amazingly, few people know about the tarpon.

While in Georgetown Dawn, another hardcore cruiser aboard the Splendor told use about a unique place to buy “special” rum. Uhmm I wondered. What kind of place could she be talking about? After all, every cruise ship port plus the cruise ship itself has all kinds of rum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABig Black Dick’s is the place Dawn lead us to, on main street, directly in front of the cruise ship tender docks. Upon entering the uniquely named establishment, someone offered samples of their unique rum — several flavors in fact. Not being a fan of alcohol, other than wine, I accepted the sample. After tasting the sample it became clear why the place was crowded — great tasting rum! In addition to the spirits, the store also offered several other items for travelers looking to bring home something they could not find anywhere else. I’m sure many of the items purchased here is a direct result of the branding and most likely became “gag” gifts.


Big Black Dick, Grand Cayman Island

Looking for a unique shop in Georgetown Grand Cayman? Try Big Black DIck’s

Perry Street Brewing

Leave a comment

DSCN2387While visiting Spokane recently I joined Kendall Jones of Washington Beer Blog, to visit Spokane’s newest brew pub, Perry Street Brewing. Kendall used his vast beer network and found out that this new pub offered a selection of seven beers on tap, free Wi-Fi and friendly atmosphere.

After checking into the Hotel Ruby we called a cab and gave the cabbie the pub’s address. Within five minutes our cab pulled over and deposited us across the street from the pub. From the outside the pub is very discreet, with just three big letters, PSB to let patrons know they have found Perry Street Brewing.

Once inside, several happy looking patrons sipped beer while enjoying conversation. Unlike many brew pubs, you could hear conversation without yelling. Perhaps Sunday nights are a bit quieter, but I enjoyed the casual, quiet ambiance. Kendall has been teaching me about beer, even though I prefer wine. The education has been exceptional — knowledge is power. For 27 years beer avoided me. Well, more accurately, I avoided beer. But now, with so many craft beers available, and a friend like Kendall mentoring me, why not give beer a chance?

Seven little taster glasses later, two beers slipped past my lips and into my taste bud’s “I like this” memory. Perry Street Brewing’s  Milk Stout won my approval with the Scotch Ale a close second. Both beers had flavor without the strong hop aftertaste. The beer menu describes these two beers as follows.

Milk Stout — Sweet stout featuring raisin and prune notes, poured on nitro for a velvety finish. AVB 5.1 % IBU 13.5

Scotch Ale — Deep amber color with biscuit, graham cracker, and roasted notes. Clean, malty profile hiding a touch of smoke. ABV 6.6 % IBU 25

While this comfortable and very friendly brew pub does not offer it’s own menu, they have partnered with Spokane’s burgeoning food truck business. Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 8 pm different food trucks park in front of the pub and provide quality eats to go with the craft beer. Fridays and Saturdays from 3 to 8 the food trucks stay busy with longer weekend hours.

Next time you visit Spokane, check out Perry Street Brewing or any one of a dozen other craft breweries in the greater Spokane area. For more information about beer, check out Washington Beer Blog

Hotel Red Ruby

Leave a comment

Spokane’s Hotel Ruby provides an inexpensive alternative to the Davenport Hotel, Spokane’s premier hotel property. My stay recently coincided with a convention held at the Davenport. Fortunately for me, when I tried to book a room at the Davenport they were full, which forced me to find other, accommodations. Luckily, with the help of some savvy locales, they suggested Hotel Ruby, a remodeled motor inn.

Upon entering the colorful little lobby an employee with a wide smile quickly checked me into my room. Minutes later the electric key opened the lock to reveal a small, but well-appointed room with all of the comforts a tired traveler could need. The room featured 50s style art on the walls, a flat screen TV, small refrigerator, fully tiled bathroom, small closet, spacious queen bed and laptop sized desk and chair. At just $74 dollars this artsy hotel provided a perfect, comfortable and clean room within a five minute walk to the Davenport. Additionally, they offered free high speed Wi-Fi for those of us that can’t travel without “connecting” to the rest of the world via the Internet.

Visitors to the Hotel Ruby can also use complimentary ruby beach cruiser style bikes. By day hotel guests can bike downtown Spokane in style. During night hours guests can use their 2 for 1 drink voucher they received at check in at the hotel’s on site Sapphire Lounge. The hotel also owns the historic Bing Crosby Theater. The cross promotion between the hotel and theater is obvious, from the art on the hotel’s outside walls to the art and feel of the rooms decor.

My Travel Tastes rates this hotel a solid 9 out of 10 for value, cleanliness, friendly staff and amenities. The one point deduction comes from the small room size, which most travelers will overcome because of price and the hotel’s prime locale.

11 Fun Facts About Carnival Cruise Line’s Cruise Ship Liberty

Leave a comment

Cruise ships world wide have their own unique hidden personalities. While cruising for 14 days on an Eastern and Western Caribbean cruise aboard the Liberty I learned several fun facts that reveal this ship’s interesting statistics.
1. Cozumel Mexico is a port where some passengers literally miss the boat. When they say don’t be late that does mean “don’t be late.” Cozumel Mexico has several really fun and exciting bars that encourage lots of drinking. Some passengers drink a bit much or simply don’t pay attention to “ship’s time” and fail to catch the boat before it sails away into the sunset. Luckily though, passengers can take a ferry to the mainland and hire a car to take them south to Belize, the next cruise ship stop – at their own expense of course. When leaving the ship ALWAYS set your watch to ship’s time and make sure to return on time or the ship will leave without you.
2. It is harder to feed the crew of the Liberty than the passengers. During a seven day cruise the guest menu is different each day and then starts over for the next cruise. The crew’s menu however, lasts 29-day menu before starting over.
3. The Liberty crew comes from 60 nations with 27 nations represented in the dining room. With workers from 60 nations they all have their own preference of meal choices, the reason for a 29-day menu, which is an effort of the kitchen to provide cuisine to please everyone without boring them from repetition.
4. The kitchen has 140 chefs, most of which come from India. These chefs are highly trained and provide quality and consistency every single meal. The chefs cook the food and the waiters help plate the food. A picture hangs on the wall for each dish to insure accurate and precise plating for each dish served.
5. Chefs aboard the Liberty prepare over 15,000 meals daily.
6. According to the Maitre’ D approximately 250 people eat two dinners each day during the cruise.
7. On average during a week-long cruise aboard the Liberty, passengers consume 40,000 liters of hard alcohol, 3,502 bottles of wine, 1,402 bottles of champagne, 28,150 bottles/cans of beer, 24,500 cans of pop, 620 gallons of fruit juice, 1,000 pounds of coffee, 900 gallons of milk, 20,000 Danish pastries, 12,900 slices of white bread, 36,000 slices of bacon, 22,000 eggs, 6,200 pounds of flour, 1,100 pineapples, 1,003 melons, 2,500 apples, 4,320 bananas, 5,300 heads of lettuce, 6,700 pounds of potatoes, 3,000 pounds of tomatoes, 7,000 pizzas, 1,000 pounds of pasta, 900 pounds of salmon, 600 pounds of ham, 1,300 pounds of baby back ribs, 2,200 hot dogs, 4,800 hamburgers, 400 pounds of veal, 1,000 pounds of lobster tails, 15,000 pounds of shrimp, 2,500 steaks, 4,500 pounds of chicken, 2,200 pounds of prime rib.
8. A free sushi bar offers passengers a limited selection of sushi every day except during formal nights. At first glance the sushi bar looks like it would cost extra, which might explain why so few passengers have discovered and taken advantage of the sushi bar.
9. The crew’s favorite port in the Caribbean is St. Maarten. This quaint dual country port offers free Internet, some free “phone home” benefits and lots of fresh food to suit the tastes of many nationalities.
10. Saint Thomas and Cozumel are two favorite ports of call for cruisers aboard the Liberty.
11. Belize is the least favorite port of call, according to comment cards sent to guests via e-mail after their cruise.