Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Real Christmas Tree

Our lifelong dream of getting a real tree for Christmas was finally achieved this year. We scoured the Anchorage bowl for Christmas tree sellers with just four days to spare, and we eventually found a beautiful spruce, so realistic that it actually looked like a fake! We had a grand time getting it home and decorated for the big day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Wedding

Steve and Luz Helena were married in the chapel of the Club Militar in Bogota, Colombia. The ceremony was a fun, quirky blend of Catholic and Jewish traditions. A chuppah was erected in front of the altar, and after the bride walked around it seven times to symbolize their bond, the priest swiftly called on the congregation to take communion!

The reception was a fabulous party. The breaking of the glass was followed by a boisterous 'Hava Nagila' and lots of Latin American dancing. The happy couple definitely started their new life together in style. Mazeltov!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bogota: Cathedrals and Museums

The capital city of Colombia boasts hundreds of museums and thousands of cathedrals. We visited the gold museum, which houses the Poporo Qumbaya, the symbol of Steve and Luz Helena's wedding.

We walked down several picturesque streets, including one lined with shops selling military paraphernalia. On this street is the Police Museum, which showcases the life and death of Colombian druglord, Pablo Escobar.

We caught a funicular up to the Monserrate Cathedral at the top of the hill. There are several myths surrounding the cathedral, the most important of which is never to enter the cathedral with your partner if you are not married. If you do this, you will be doomed never to marry each other. Since we visited the cathedral on the day before Steve and Luz Helena's wedding, we made a conscientious effort to separate the partners!

The Cathedral is also famous for having a black Mary and Jesus. Thousands of Colombians make pilgrimages to the Cathedral to seek miracles from the fallen Jesus.

150km outside of Bogota are the salt mines of Zipaquira. Here an underground Roman Catholic church has been built within the tunnels of the mine 180m below ground. The cathedral is full of symbolic carvings and chambers reflecting birth, life and death. It holds 3,000 people for services on Sundays, and baptisms take place with salt water.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Isla del Sol

A group of 27 islands, known as Islas del Roasario, lies an hour's boat ride from Cartagena. We went on a day trip to Isla del Sol, which has a very tropical feel to it. There were lots of activities on offer, such as snorkelling, scuba diving, and kayaking through the mangrove swamps. We settled for some time on the beach and in the brightly colored hammocks swinging beneath the thatch.

At midday we caught the boat to a nearby island, home to the Oceanio, a rustic aquarium. There were boardwalks that extended into the ocean and the areas in between held the sea life. There was a small variety of sea animals, but the aquarium staff induced feeding frenzies to please the crowds. The highlight of the trip was Vanessa climbing into the shark enclosure to pet a shark!

After the aquarium we returned to the Isla del Sol for a buffet lunch with traditional grilled king mackeral and lots of starch - potatoes, plantains and yuca - washed down with some very strong Colombian coffee. We ended the day back on the beach, listening to the waves lapping against the shore and trying to remedy our pale Alaskan complexions. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cartagena: Old Town

We were invited to our friends' wedding in Bogota, Colombia, so we flew down a few days early to travel around the country. Our first stop was Cartagena, a city on the north coast of Colombia. Our guidebook described the Old Town of Cartagena as the "Venice of South America", with rambling streets lined with bougainvillea-covered balconies. This statement is almost accurate, but Lonely Planet fails to mention the crazy, almost Indian-like traffic that swarms these idyllic streets. There are moments of calm to be found in the leafy plazas around the city, which we experienced on a Sunday afternoon.

Cartagena boasts many museums and cathedrals and we paid visits to the Palace de Inquisicion and the Convent de San Pedro. The Palace de Inquisicion displayed some interesting torture instruments, and eerie scenes of death set in a beautiful courtyard.

The Convent was founded by Jesuit monks in the 17th century. One of these monks, Pedro Claver, dedicated his life to ministering to the slaves brought over from Africa, He was known as the "Apostle of the Blacks" or the "Slave of Slaves", and he was the first person to be canonized in the New World in 1888. He was honored in death with his glass coffin placed in the altar of the church, his skull visible to the congregation.

We wandered through the labyrinth of streets, past the vendors selling fresh fruits and arepas, to the fort wall which surrounds the city. Along these walls are canons and watch towers, while dungeons lie below. We eventually found the ubiquitous Cafe del Mar, where we enjoyed some cold sangria while watching the sunset over the sea. Just beautiful!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Big Apple

We had an eight-hour layover in New York on the way to South America, and so we hopped on the train into the city. It was nearing sunset when we arrived in Times Square and we were dazzled by the bright advertising lights and crowds of people.

We had a quick walk around the edge of Central Park, checking out the famous sights like the Home Alone/ Die Hard bridge, the horse-drawn carriages and the semi-frozen lakes. It looked more autumnal than wintery to us, but it was beautiful. 

Just before we had to go back to the airport, we strolled down 5th Avenue, checking out the fancy boutiques and the hotdog stands. We had a quick look up at the Empire State Building, before calling it a night. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010


On our way to the trails, we drive past Service High School which has The Most Perfect Hill For Sledding Down. We were always quite envious of the families whizzing down the slope, three to a sled, and we finally got to join them. Our inner kids were unleashed in our Ninja Turtle sled!

Thanksgiving weekend

Thanksgiving is the most important holiday in America and it's not hard to see why: we spent the day at our friends' house and we filled up on some great turkey and football. Our first American Thanksgiving was a lovely holiday, and we are thankful we got to experience it together :) Thanks, Ubon and Cindy for a great time!

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. On this day, shops slash their prices and open their doors from 3am. Daniel and I set our alarm for 3:30am, and then we hit the queues... We went more for the experience than actually to buy anything, but we were put to shame by the hardcore Alaskan shoppers who were prepared to wait in the snow all night. 

These shoppers had strategies and tactics for when the doors opened, and we witnessed some remarkable tag-team efforts by the bright-eyed regulars. We came away empty-handed, but full of respect for the shoppers sporting HDTVs purchased for only $50.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

So after a few weeks of ice and slush, we finally had a proper of day of snow. Twenty-four hours and six inches of dancing snowflakes, powdery fluff and winter wonder. Here are a couple of photos of the snow - the bicycle is taken about halfway through the day; it's now completely covered...

Daniel discovered a new trail through the woods so we hiked up for some spectacular snowy views. The big mountain is Flattop, a favorite of ours, but as yet unconquered in the winter. Watch this space...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I was invited by some of my running buddies on a Boys Only Hunting Trip. We hitched up a trailer with four ATVs (four-wheelers) to a gigantic RV (house on wheels) and headed 2 1/2 hours out of Anchorage to Eureka.

After an epic five-hour trek around Anchorage before we even set off, we finally arrived in Eureka at 1am where we were greeted by some faint Northern Lights(!) and snow...

We set out early on Saturday morning on our ATVs to go and find us some game. Most of the party were dressed in camouflage gear and carried enormous rifles.

We saw lots of bear tracks but no bears. We did come across some caribou, ptarmigan and a lynx, though. Unfortunately none of them ended up on our dinner plates! We cruised across the wintering landscape, passing glaciers and snowcapped peaks, and even a signpost in the middle of nowhere.

On the way home we stopped off to "shoot some bottles" (literally) so at least we shot something. All in all it was a great weekend away!