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    South & Central America Travel

    So Much to Love About Mexico City

    Ciudad de Mexico

    Location: Ciudad de Mexico

    Despite our hundreds of countries and thousands of miles covered over the years, we had never made it to Ciudad de Mexico until late 2021. At that time we came just to enjoy a week long Eating My Way Through Mexico City food tour…thinking that was all there was to do. Boy were we wrong. So, we couldn’t wait to get back to this fascinating and historic place because there is just so much to love about Mexico City.

    Centro Histórico Ciudad de Mexico

    Ciudad de Mexico

    Beyond the food – which is phenomenal and inexpensive, CDMX has some of the friendliest people, most beautiful architecture, incredible ancient and recent history, fantastic parks and green spaces, so many museums and… well should I mention the food again? So on this our second visit, we dug deeper to find more of the heart of this place which helped us to realize there is so much to love about Mexico City.

    Fabulous green spaces and parks in the city

    Museo Nacional de Anthropologia

    We spent three amazing hours at the Museo Nacional de Anthropologia and you could easily spend an entire day. A vast and impressive collection that chronicles the ancient and recent history of the geology, people, and arts of Mexico. One of the best museums I have ever been to any where in the world…and that is saying something. Tours are available but it is simple enough to do without a guide. Entry fee is around $5. The museum also houses a fantastic restaurant with foods that focus on each distinctive region of Mexico. Do not miss.

    Museo National de Anthropologia
    Museo National de Anthropologia

    Free Walking Tour

    On our last visit we did an incredible free walking tour (tip-based) in the regions surrounding the beautiful historic centro area. I highly recommend that if it’s your first visit to Mexico City. This time we decided to do a free walking tour of the Roma Condesa, the neighborhood where our hotel was. We used Estacion Mexico, the same tour we used last year. Our guide Eduardo was funny, knowledgeable and passionate about this place. We loved it!

    Walking Tour Roma Condesa
    Walking Tour Roma Condesa

    Ballet Folkloric

    We try to do cultural performances whenever we can. And we often do performances just to see local performance venues. This Ballet Folkloric gave us both opportunities. The show was one of the best I have ever seen with music, dancing, acrobatics and more…performed in one of the most beautiful theaters I have ever visited, the Palacio de Belles Arts. Do not miss this show.

    Ballet Folkloric
    Palacio de Bellas Artes

    Eat Like a Local Mexico City

    When we visited before, we spent five days with Eat Like a Local Mexico learning, tasting, cooking and seeing the wonders of the history and culture of Mexican food. We enjoyed our new friends and we definitely wanted to tour with them again. Eat Like a Local Mexico owner Rocio created a personal tour for us and guided us herself. A special treat for us was starting our tour with a cooking class learning to make Octopus Tacos with Chef Diego at Temporal. Then we worked our way around the city enjoying so much wonderful local food from tacos pastor to tamales and the finale was a very unique dessert made from mushrooms. Be absolutely sure to book with Eat Like a Local Mexico when you visit Mexico City. Don’t choose any other food tour…and don’t eat before your tour!!

    Making tamales with Chef Diego
    Tacos Pastor
    Beautiful dessert of chocolate mushrooms

    Pujol

    I booked our dinner reservation at Pujol seven months in advance, because I did not want to miss having dinner at this restaurant, one of the top five restaurants in the world. It is expensive, but it was a wonderful experience to enjoy some very unique and beautifully presented dishes. And the service was outstanding. Cost was $165 per person before alcohol or tips for the prix fixe dinner. This price and experience were similar to the prix fixe dinners we had in both Maui at Merriman’s and in Giverny France at Jardin de Plumes.

    Pujol
    Pujol
    Pujol

    Lucha Libre

    Pronounced Loo-Cha Lee-Bra, this national Mexican past time is a spectacle and a lot of fun. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it but I loved it. It’s a real performance that requires a lot of athleticism and choreography for the scripted wresting match. The masked gladiators are wonderful performers. Lucha Libre started more than 100 years ago. Today thousands of people come out several times a week to enjoy the show and cheer on their favorite masked gladiator. You can attend this on your own, but we chose to go with our guide Alberto from Tours by Locals. I’m glad we did because he provided us wonderful insight, history and stories, as well as other details about beautiful Mexico City and the surrounding area.

    Lucha Libra evening finale
    Purchased some masks for the
    littles back home
    All the bravado and much more

    Teotihuacan Pyramids

    Wow. This place was way better than I was expecting and we loved our guide Hilary from Tours by Locals. We spent the entire day exploring this ancient site located about 25 miles northeast of Ciudad de Mexico. Teotihuacan construction began in 100 BCE, long before the Aztecs. The actual name of the people who built it and lived here is unknown and there is no written record. But they left behind this vast site that today is still being discovered. The Aztecs settled here and ruled the region much later from about 1200 CE until the Spanish obliterated them in the 1500’s. Archeological research and discovery first began in 1904.

    Today Teotihuacan is a UNESCO Heritage Site and the second most visited site in Mexico after Chichen Itza in the Yucatan. I highly recommend visiting this fantastic ancient cultural site when in Mexico.

    Teotihuacan

    Xochimilco

    The UNESCO heritage site south of the center of Mexico City is where the remains of the original lake and canals still exist. When the Spanish arrived they drained and filled in most of the lakes and canals that were built by the Aztecs. Today only the Xochimilco canals remain. Here the people have for generations used the rich fertile soil for agriculture. The floating gardens are the small islands in the lakes and canals that have been secured using willow trees. Today’s agriculture is primarily flowers, and the gorgeous blooms make their way to homes and businesses, restaurants and hotels all over the city. The tourist boats might seem a little kitschy but we did the boat ride early on a Monday and had the whole place to ourselves. We really enjoyed seeing this unique way of life with our guide Juan from Tours by Locals.

    On board the Lupita
    One of the floating garden nurseries
    A way of life still

    Coyoacan and UNAM

    On the same day we visited Xochimilco (see above) with our most amazing guide Juan, we also visited the amazing murals at the Universidad National Autonoma de Mexico. UNAM is the largest university in Mexico and home to one of the most astonishing works of art I have ever seen. The tiled building that houses the central library is a UNESCO heritage site by architect and artist Juan O’Gorman from 1952. This incredible work of art tells the story of all of Mexico from ancient times to present day. It is truly a remarkable thing to see, and having the significance of the art explained to us in detail by Juan was absolutely fascinating. Learn more here.

    Central Library Mosaic Mural UNAM by Juan O’Gorman

    Our next stop was the amazing Coyoacan neighborhood…a fantastic artist neighborhood and home to the Frida Kahlo Museum. But Coyoacan has more. A vibrant and wonderful place to explore, full of shops and history. We visited two significant churches; a former monastery Church of San Juan Bautista, and Capilla de la Conchita a remarkable chapel built by Cortez in 1525. We walked around the colorful parks and streets and had a delicious lunch. Juan took us to a teeny coffee shop that has been operating since 1953 and we also had the famous Coyoacan Churro. I really love this neighborhood.

    San Juan Bautista
    Capilla de la Conchita
    Incredible coffee
    Chocolate filled Churro

    We also made a brief stop in the high rent district San Angel – the Beverly Hills of Mexico City. Where the Spanish built the summer homes and still today the rich and fabulous live here. Cobblestone streets and fortress style mansions line the streets.

    Cobblestone Streets
    Colorful neighborhoods

    So Much to Love About Mexico City

    Since we visited the Frido Kahlo Museum Casa Azul last time we did not do it again this year…but I highly recommend it.

    Frida Kahlo (and me)

    We also highly recommend The Red Tree House hotel. This is the first time we have ever returned to stay a second time in a hotel because of an excellent first experience. This boutique style hotel is a favorite among Americans. Book well in advance if you can. Comfortable and in the great neighborhood of Roma Condesa and the service is fantastic. The Red Tree House offers a delicious breakfast and nightly wine and beer happy hour. Don’t miss it. Rooms range from low $100 USD and up.

    The Red Tree House Hotel

    Getting around is easy by Metro, Metro Bus, Uber, Didi or Taxi. Something for everyone. We took a taxi from the airport on arrival but then used Uber or the Metro the rest of our trip. Many locals speak English but if they don’t they are always willing to work to help you understand. If you stay in the main tourist areas and more populated neighborhoods and shopping areas you will always feel safe.

    We found the Metro clean and easy to maneuver

    We will be back

    I now consider Mexico City one of my favorite cities anywhere in the world. Yes I love Paris, Barcelona, Jerusalem, New York and more. But something about Ciudad de Mexico has really captured my heart. Thank you to the local people for helping me see there is so much to love about Mexico City. And there is still so much more to see…so Hasta Luego Ciudad de Mexico. Until we meet again – Muchas Gracias.

    Colorful and Incredible Mexico!

    See last week’s post Eating My Way Through Mexico City

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    South & Central America Travel

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

    We spent an entire month in this awesome little place. Let me take your hand and introduce you to San Juan del Sur with Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua.

    I’ve wanted to visit Nicaragua for a long time. But since 2018 there has been a lot of bad juju here, and so I patiently waited to see what would happen. Well, it was worth the wait. Particularly since we wanted to visit the smaller coastal towns, and not the larger cities, where more of the recent trouble has been. Statistically both Costa Rica and Mexico have a lot more random acts of violence than Nicaragua. But Nicaragua continues to be misunderstood.

    Americans flock to Mexico and Costa Rica but continue to fear visiting Nicaragua. We felt very safe during our visit to both Granada and the tiny fishing village of San Juan del Sur. We did not spend anytime in Managua. Yes we are so glad we came. And if we visit again we would also consider the popular Corn Islands in the Caribbean side and Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua. But for this visit we spent most our time in San Juan del Sur. And now our recommendations – Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    San Juan del Sur

    More than Surf and Parties

    San Juan del Sur is home to lots of American and Canadian expats, as well as a destination for the younger surfing and partying crowd. We chose to stay about a ten minute walk outside of town, which proved to be a good decision because it was quieter on the weekend nights. We don’t party all night (those days are long over) nor are we surfers. Both activities are really popular here, although it never seemed to be super busy or loud. But, luckily, we found a lot of great stuff we could do beyond the surf and nightlife.

    San Juan del Sur, being a casual beach town, is pretty laid back. While in other parts of the country wearing shorts or swimwear around town would be frowned on, here it is accepted. On our daily runs here we also felt safe, and many local people frequently gave me a thumbs up and a cheer as I ran by “bueno bueno!”.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Cristo de la Misericordia

    The area around San Juan del Sur has both poverty and wealth. Nicaragua is, unfortunately, the poorest country in Central America and the average person lives very simply. The average income is about $300 USD a month. A teacher earns about $500 and a doctor around $2000. However, there are also big mansions and construction on large secluded resorts. These are for the expats that come here due to the incredibly inexpensive property values and cost of living. An American could comfortably live here for about $1200 – 1500 per month. You would give up some creature comforts like bagged salad from the grocery store, a Starbucks frappuccino or Target bi-weekly shopping trips but you know, $1200, so…

    Windy

    The weather is nice and warm in February, averaging about 85f everyday. But the wind was obnoxious. Apparently, and unbeknownst to us, February is the windiest month. But that said the locals all claimed this wind was “not normal” gusting in the 25-35 mph nearly every day. Generally the dry season is November to April and there is much more rain from May – October. But the difference in temperature between the hottest month of April and the coolest month of January is only about 5 degrees Fahrenheit

    Windy season in San Juan del Sur

    Getting Around

    We did not wander far from the San Juan del Sur area, and when we did it was usually on foot. From our condo we could get to the town by either wading across the ankle-deep river, or when the river is low enough there was an enterprising young lady who would set up a bridge. For about fifteen cents you could cross her bridge. Otherwise the longer way to the town was about a mile and a half. However, at times the high tide makes the crossing impossible. There is a boat that operates, but only when someone wants to make some money so you never know. There are buses, which are old USA school buses (we did not use), and lots of taxis. We also used a hired driver from Southwind Travel and rented a side by side ATV for two days.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    This is the toll bridge – 15 cents
    The same river at high tide

    When possible we tried to use local tour companies, guides, taxis, shops and restaurants in support of the local people. And along the way we discovered Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua.

    1. Hiking

    Like in most places we visit, we did not have a car, although we did rent a “side by side” ATV for two days. But we headed out on foot to hike to two local beaches. To the north we did a ten mile round trip to Marsella Beach. To the south we did a six mile round trip to Playa Pena Rota. These long dusty hikes aren’t for everyone, but we enjoyed our hiking days. It makes sense not too stray too far from civilization for safety reasons, but we enjoyed these two separate beautiful beaches in the area. The geology at sea level is both rocky and sandy and made up of sedimentary rock that forms beautiful shelves along the coast, as well as interesting formations.

    Another hike we did was to the giant Jesus, officially known as Cristo de la Misericordia. This short but very steep hike not only gets you up close and personal with the iconic landmark, it also gives you the best view of San Juan del Sur town and beach. On the days we rented the side by side, we did some more amazing hikes…see more below.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Playa Pena Rota
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Playa Marsella

    2. Cooking Class

    Since cooking (and eating) the local food is always high on my list, we signed up with Pacific Adventuras for a cooking class in a tiny town about 20 minutes from San Juan del Sur. The class was only $30 per person and was one of our favorite eight things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua. We requested to learn two of the regions most popular dishes; vigoron and tostone. We enjoyed the class with Chef July of Rancho Tere and our guide Cesar so much we signed up for a second class as well. At the second class we learned to make another popular local seafood stew dish and it was fantastic.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Cooking at Rancho Tere
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Tostone

    3. Rent a Side by Side ATV

    We decided to splurge for two days and rent a side by side vehicle. These are the vehicles of choice here to get out onto the rough terrain. Expensive by Nicaragua standards at $130 USD per day, it was totally worth it for the adventures we had. We booked our side by side through Southwind Travel, the same company we used to transport us from the airport and back. The side by side is an open vehicle cross between an ATV and a Jeep. We loved our time and packed a lot into our two-day rental.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    The Side by Side – so much fun

    4. Up to the Canopy

    With the Side by Side we wandered up into the canopy to a place called Parque Adventuras Las Nubes. Here there are many options including zipline, but we decided to just do some mountain hiking around the canopy in hopes of seeing animals and birds. The visit was $18 per person and we went on a guided hike through the beautiful area. Before the hike started our guide drove us up to the top of the canopy over the most intense road I have ever been on. Our side by side would not have had the power to make it up this mountain, over boulders and through deep crevices…but his vehicle did.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    View to Lake Nicaragua and Ometepe Island and volcanos
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Beautiful

    Once on the hike, we had stunning view back down to San Juan del Sur to the west, and to Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua to the east. We saw lots of birds, hundreds of butterflies, one sleepy sloth, one shy tarantula, monkeys and learned about flora. It was a great learning opportunity.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Sleepy sloth
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Howler Monkey

    5. Lunch with a Local Family and Mountain Pool

    Possibly the best thing we did in all of Nicaragua was on the second day of our side by side rental. Again through Pacific Adventuras and with our same favorite guide Cesar, we drove an hour and a half south, nearly to the Costa Rica border. Most of this drive was on long, dusty, rocky terrain, through rivers and dry creek beds.

    Eventually we arrived at our destination, the home of a local family in a very remote area. Robin, the owner of the land, took us on a hike up to a waterfall (not much water this time of year), but the natural pool was not dry and we took a refreshing dip. The hike was a bit challenging, but since we hike a lot we didn’t have any trouble. Only once my husband had to give me a hind side push to get me up a rock. It was really remarkable to be out in the middle of nowhere and see the geology, nature and way of life.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Hiking up the dry waterfall with Robin
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Taking the plunge in the natural pool

    After our hike we returned to Robin’s home where his wife had prepared a simple yet delicious lunch for us made 100% from staples they grow or make on their beautiful property. Their farm includes cows, goats, pigs, chickens, and turkeys, as well as rice, beans, vegetables, fruit and more. What a wonderful day that was.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Crossing rivers and dry beds in our side by side
    Simple and delicious, fresh and local food

    6. Beaches

    This part of Nicaragua has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The beach in San Juan del Sur itself is nice, but the prettiest beaches are north and south of the town. As mentioned above we hiked to two beaches. Then the days we had the side by side we set out to visit several more that are too far to walk to from SJDS. Over the two days we visited the surfer beach of Playa Maderas, where we watched the amateur and first-time surfers give it a go.

    We also spent several hours at Playa Hermosa, one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. You might recognize it because Survivor Nicaragua 2010 was filmed right here. At that time it was just an empty gorgeous beach, close enough to SJDS town for the crew’s needs. Today though, Playa Hermosa has a lovely restaurant and some hotel rooms too. It’s $3 to enter and the relaxing hammocks and beach chairs made it a favorite of mine.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Playa Hermosa
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Playa Maderas

    On day two of our vehicle rental and after our waterfall hike we stopped to check out two more astonishing beaches in the far south part of the region. Ostional Beach is a local fishing village beach and Playa Coco is a beautiful beach that is also home to a turtle hatchery. I recommend both of these.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Turtle Hatchery at Playa Coco
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Fishing boats at Playa Ostional

    More Beaches

    Through social media we met a woman from Washington State who connected with us. She lives here half of the year (like many Americans and tons of Canadians). She was so kind to pick us up and take us to some more beaches we would not have seen without her assistance. We had beers and also went out to dinner. Gracias to our new friend!

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Playa Majagual
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Gorgeous Majagual Beach

    We also spent one day at Hush Resort located at Playa Maderas. We decided to take a class at Hush in the morning (a holistic tapping class) and then spent the day enjoying the pool and restaurant at this beautiful resort overlooking this stunning beach.

    Tapping Class at Hush Madera
    The Pool at Hush Madera

    7. Shops with the Locals

    To get our food supplies we had to shop a couple times a week. We found a favorite produce vendor, a favorite fishmonger, a favorite bakery and a favorite carneceria (butcher). On shopping days we would head out with our backpack and reusable shopping bags and gather what we needed. There is one store (Pali) that could be defined as a “super” market, but it wasn’t very super and I didn’t love it. Not to mention the fact that it’s not locally owned (owned by Walmart). So, we were much more inclined to make the effort to visit the small businesses in town to get our supplies. Plus it’s fun, when you aren’t in any hurry why not?

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Yucca root is a staple food
    A little taste of home

    There is also a small mercado. We did get some produce here as well, and went in search of a colander when we discovered there was not one in our condo. We found exactly what we needed.

    On two occasions we visited one of several tiny pharmacies in the town for sunscreen, Benadryl, and a new hairbrush. I was hoping to find a hair dryer, as surprisingly our condo did not have one. But apparently we would need to go to the bigger city of Rivas for that kind of thing. I managed four weeks without a hair dryer.

    8. Excellent Restaurants

    We did not eat out very often, using the kitchen in our condo most days. But we did discover some delicious little gems in this town over the four-plus weeks we were here and they certainly fall into Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua. There are many more but here are our recommendations;

    IKAL – we watched the Super Bowl here and enjoyed a giant burger

    Rockys Dough – found this delicious little donut shop and I had to give it a try

    Dale Pues – a favorite local spot is kind of hidden but we enjoyed a good meal here

    Rocky’s Dough
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Dale Pues
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Ikal on Super Bowl Sunday

    El Timon – we had Valentine’s Day dinner here and ordered the giant seafood platter for two

    The Beach House – right on the beach, the top restaurant in SJDS, the sushi was our favorite

    Rancho Tere – the restaurant where we took our cooking classes is a very popular local spot with excellent local food.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Valentines at El Timon
    Sushi at The Beach House
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Vigoron at Rancho Tere

    And still more restaurants…

    The Art Warehouse – natural foods restaurant; I had a vegan bowl that was one of the best I’ve ever had.

    Sabores de mi Patio – this brand new hidden little neighborhood joint was super delicious and inexpensive. We really enjoyed the food and the service.

    Pizza House SJDS – located in the building where our condo is, this tiny place serves a delicious pie.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Beef Ribs at Sabores de mi Patio
    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Vegan Quinoa Bowl at The Art Warehouse
    Pizza House SJDS

    Nachos – this is were we ate with our new friend from Washington. It was cheap and delicious.

    Tuanis – not in downtown but an easy walk out at the port this very popular spot for food and nightlife has the most amazing BBQ plate on Sundays. So glad we got here on our final night. Delicious.

    Gastro Garden – a fun hidden garden that is a food court. Perfect for groups or if you want to taste some international options. Pizza, Thai, BBQ, sushi and more.

    Chicken Fajitas at Nachos
    One of the many offerings at the Gastro Garden Food Court
    Giant portion at Tuanis

    Pico’s Po’Boy – this tiny shop opened in our building while we were here and it has delicious sandwiches

    Mammamia – We probably never would have eaten here if we hadn’t gotten a recommendation. Teeny little hole in the wall with pasta and pizza but the bread was incredible!! Order the bruschetta.

    Indio del Sur – popular breakfast and lunch spot we enjoyed the Nica Tipico $4

    Picos PoBoy
    Indio del Sur
    Mammamia

    Hush Maderas where we took the Tapping class had a really good menu and we ate delicious Dorado (Mahi Mahi) This beautiful plate was only $11.

    Simon Says – we only had coffee here one morning but the menu looked really good and the garden is a lovely hidden gem.

    The Hip – A little taste of Canada (for all the Canadian expats) and we had a wonderful fresh salad here.

    Dorado at Hush Maderas
    Coffee at Simon Says
    Salads at The Hip

    We stumbled on the Nicaragua Craft Beer Co. so of course we had to visit there too. Outstanding beer! We did the tasting menu and had some appetizers too.

    Nicaragua Craft Beer Co.

    Things to Know Before You Go

    Communication

    What’sApp is the way to communicate here, like many countries. Although What’sApp is not that popular in the USA, when you travel you should definitely have it on your phone. It’s used for reservations, taxis and general communication.

    Money

    The local currency is the Cordoba, and we try to operate in the local currency but US dollars are widely accepted and also available at the ATM. Credit cards are also accepted at many places.

    Transportation

    We don’t recommend renting a car because there are often police stops to check insurance etc. If you don’t speak fluent Spanish that can be a problem. When we rented the Side by Side we were ready for this possibility but it didn’t happen. Taxis and tourism transport vehicles are abundant. Also, on the rural roads people drive really fast, but on the city streets and highways they seem to keep the speed down. But they love to pass!!

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    The pool at our condo

    Language

    Neither of us are fluent in Spanish but we know enough to get by. There is less English spoken here than in many places we have been. After almost three months in Central America (with another month to go) our Espanol has improved tremendously. Agradecida por la oportunidad. Muy Bien.

    The Water

    Don’t drink the water. Filtered water is widely available.

    Know your ability as far as the surf. It is strong. Don’t go in if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are lots of surfing classes for beginners. Check out Casa Oro. And don’t swim in the river. Crocodiles. ‘Nuf said.

    Sunrise

    Dental

    While in SJDS I had my teeth cleaned. Nicaragua has a lot of dental tourism, though not as much as Costa Rica. I had an implant done in Costa Rica (read about it here) several years ago and so I had no fear in having a cleaning here. They did a wonderful job at Forever Smiles and it was only $50.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    We never expected to love it here so much

    Why You Should Consider San Juan del Sur

    Although I sound like a broken record, I am surprised how many Americans flock to Mexico and Costa Rica but avoid Nicaragua and Guatemala. Mexico and Costa Rica have vastly more violence, including against tourists. Nicaragua’s issues are primarily political, and a tourist sees little of this. The main issue for visitors is petty crimes, crimes of opportunity when you don’t protect your belongings, and theft which occasionally involves weapons.

    I am writing this on the day the shootings occurred at Michigan State University back in the USA. These random acts of gun violence have become so common place in the USA, and yet we are conditioned to think Nicaragua is more violent! You can travel safely and inexpensively in San Juan del Sur, with caution and preparation just as you would for any other destination. And you will love it. I personally would even consider living here.

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
    Sunset from San Juan del Sur beach

    Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

    Thank you for reading my post Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua.

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    South & Central America Travel

    Granada Nicaragua – Colonial Charm and Much More

    Granada Nicaragua

    We spent six days in Granada Nicaragua and found so many surprising things. You could easily see this small town in less time, but we had the time so we took it. Let me tell you some of our favorite discoveries in Granada Nicaragua – Colonial Charm and Much More.

    Iconic Granada Cathedral – Immaculate Conception of Mary. Granada Nicaragua Colonial Charm and Much More

    Arrival

    We flew into Managua from Miami, but based on our research did not have any interest in hanging out in Managua. So we moved right along. After a slow process getting through passport control and inspection, we met our driver right outside the terminal. I had booked ahead the driver through Southwinds Tours. He spoke perfect English and transported us safely on the 45 minute drive south to Granada.

    We stayed at a small hotel in a perfect location in Granada called El Almirante. Easy walk to everything. This hotel was inexpensive, had fabulous staff, was popular with both locals and foreigners, and offered a great breakfast. We did find it was noisy however and our room was very small. After six nights we were definitely ready to move on to something bigger.

    Pool at El Almirante
    Breakfast at El Almirante

    A Little History

    Granada (region) was populated long before the Spanish arrived with a thriving indigenous population. In 1524 the city was named after the town of the same name in Spain, by Spanish conquistador Hernandez de Cordoba.

    During the colonial era Granada was a sister city to Antiqua Guatemala and the cities have a very similar look architecturally. For many years Granada was in conflict with the city of Leon with the power struggle between families and politicians. This was often violent.

    In 1834 Candido Flores attempted a revolt against the government in Leon, but the failed attempt left Granada in shambles. Next American William Walker attempted to take control of the city and declared himself President. An anti-abolitionist, Walker wanted to keep slavery and run the region of Granada. When his attempts failed he burned the city. He was later executed in Honduras.

    Granada was spared from most violence during the Sandinista vs Contra period in the 1970’s – 1990’s – luckily. It’s why you can still enjoy this gem Granada Nicaragua Colonial Charm and Much More.

    Ancient colonial buildings

    Granada Nicaragua Colonial Charm and Much More

    There are many things to do in this pretty little town. We did not do them all, but here are some of our favorites;

    Self Guided City Tour – Using Map My City we created a self guided tour that we did in just a few hours on our first day. Starting at the amazing Mercado Municipal and working our way through several historic sites including the Willliam Walker House, Iglesia La Merced, La Polvora Fortress, Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral and San Fransisco Convent Museum of History. We climbed to the bell towers in both cathedrals which I high recommend. At the Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral you will find the Parque Central de Granada area, always lively and full of vendors, food, families, and people just relaxing.

    Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral on Parque Central
    Mercado Municipal
    San Francisco Convent Museum of History
    Iglesia la Merced view from Bell Tower

    Mombacho Volcano Hike – we took a guided tour up to the Mombacho Volcano using Danny’s Tours. We were picked up at our hotel and drove the 45 min up the steep road to the top of the volcano. Then we hiked with a guide along the trails and enjoyed flora and birds and fantastic views back down to Granada and Lake Nicaragua. The view includes being able to see Masaya Volcano about 15 miles in the distance with venting steam. We also stopped at a Las Flores Coffee Plantation on the way.

    Hiking on Mombacho
    Looking at Masaya Venting from Mombacho

    Lake Nicaragua Boat Tour – we also used Danny’s Tours for this excursion and it was the most fun of all the things we did. Our guide Manuel picked up at our hotel and drove us to the lake where we boarded a small boat. Motoring around the dozens of islands on the lake, learning history, seeing how the locals live as well as the millionaire mansions was incredible. We saw so many amazing birds, as well as monkey, bats and fish. I highly recommend this. You also can choose to do a kayak tour.

    Monkeys on the tour of Lake Nicaragua
    Tour of Lake Nicaragua

    Walk along Lake Nicaragua – on our last day with time to spare we took a long walk, seeing some of the less touristy neighborhoods and walking along the lakefront. Though very neglected and in need of some TLC, a park stretches several miles along the lake and we enjoyed the walk.

    Lake Nicaragua
    Walking through the lakeside park

    Carriage Ride – A popular activity, though very touristy, is to take a horse drawn carriage ride through the city. We decided to do this on our final day. The 40 minute ride was $15 with an English speaking guide pointing out sites along the way and answering our questions.

    Carriage Ride Granada

    The Food!!

    Wow. The dining options in this small town were phenomenal. What a surprise that was. Not just the local food but international cuisines of every kind. These listed here are all amazing.

    Nectar – located on the Calle La Calzada, a pedestrian area bursting with dining options, we chose Nectar at random but turns out it is a highly rated spot. We enjoyed Nicaraguan cuisine including our first time having tostone, a fried plantain topped with meat and cheese. Delicious

    Tostone a very popular Nicaraguan food

    The Garden Cafe – we read great reviews about The Garden Cafe so we headed there for a late lunch and enjoyed our quinoa bowls so much. They have a wide range of healthy foods based on local ingredients. Absolutely delicious.

    Goat Cheese bruschetta at The Garden Cafe

    Pita Pita – This was such a surprise to find such authentic Mediterranean food in Nicaragua. The baba ganoush, hummus and falafel were excellent.

    Lamb Kebab at Pita Pita
    Hummus, Baba Ganoush, Feta and more at Pita Pita

    Boca Baco – We had an exceptional meal at this little tapas place that also serves sushi. What more could you want? We enjoyed half a dozen tapas to share, including fabulous deep fried shrimp and a delicious beef carpaccio. Highly recommend.

    Happy Hubs with fantastic Beef Carpacio
    These shrimp with spicy sauce – so good at Boca Baco

    Bistro Estrada – another delicious surprise, and in a beautiful garden courtyard. We loved this hidden little gem and the authentic Nicaraguan menu.

    Beautiful garden courtyard at Bistro Estrada
    Arne loved this traditional Nicaraguan Tierra Dentro only $8

    Tosto Metro – You must eat here…if you can find it. We went to the Mercado three times trying to find it. On the third try we were determined and we found it. It’s very hidden in the chaos that is the Granada Mercado. Just a few steps to the left from the main entrance, but if you blink you’ll miss it. And we did…but the third time was the charm. Tosto Metro does burgers. Only burgers, but it is exceptional. You choose beef, chicken or pork. It’s served on a bun made from plantains. Accompanied by the absolute best sauce. And sweet little treat at the end. Perfecto.

    Blink and you will miss it
    Tosto Metro Burger with Plantain Bun. Messy and delicious.

    There are many, many more. You won’t go hungry in Granada Nicaragua – Colonial Charm and Much More

    Granada A Pleasant Surprise

    I encourage you to visit Granada Nicaragua. It has a lot to offer and you will be pleasantly surprised. Next week I’ll post about San Juan del Sur Nicaragua so be sure to come back!

    Exploring the fort in Lake Nicaragua

    See last week’s post Our Favorite Things in West End Roatan

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    Inspire

    Away We Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again

    The Americas – North, Central and South

    Although we have been able to do some amazing travel over the past couple of years, we have not gone out for extended travel like we did in the past. Since we began the Grand Adventure our longest trip was 18 months, and several other trips were nine and ten months. We now feel confident to go long term again with the PanDamit waning and our health great. Away We Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again.

    Away We Go

    We started this travel life in 2016 when we sold almost all our belongings to begin a long planned and dreamed of retirement life of travel. It was everything we had dreamed of and more. But Whoa! That stupid PanDamit changed everything. If you have followed us for awhile you know our story of getting trapped abroad and giving up our itinerary to come back to the USA and wait.

    If anything, the PanDamit has made me more patient and able to relax and let things be what they are. But that said, we are excited to embark once again this time for seven months. So let me tell you our plans – Away we Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again.

    Maui, Hawaii USA

    Maui

    Our first stop is back to Maui. Maui is our favorite island, but we think this may likely be our last visit there for a long time. Maui is expensive, and through all of our travels we have learned we can travel much less expensively on islands beyond North America. Specifically Moorea and Cyprus our two favorites. It’s important that we stay within our budget, if we want to sustain long-term travel for the years ahead. And staying on budget in Maui is impossible. But, we made these reservations a year ago, when we still didn’t know what the PanDamit future looked like. So, we are headed back to Kihei and back to enjoy this beautiful paradise. We will be on the island of Maui from October 20- December 19.

    Roatan Island, Honduras

    Roatan Honduras

    The island of Roatan has been on my wishlist for longer than we have been traveling on the Grand Adventure. I first became aware of Roatan about 15 years ago when I watched a travel program about an American couple who had purchased a house there. OMgosh it looked so beautiful. It’s a bit of a saga to get from Maui to Roatan, but that is what we will do. It involves a night in Los Angeles and Miami. We will arrive at our Roatan Airbnb on December 21st. Time on Roatan December 21-January 26th.

    Granada and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

    Granada Nicaragua

    Like Honduras, Nicaragua has been on my travel list for a long time. This country is under traveled especially by American’s who don’t understand it. Recently Nicaragua made Travel and Leisure’s list of most affordable places to retire on a beautiful beach. Okay, please and thank you. We have a week in Granada at a resort and then just under four weeks at at Airbnb in San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. Time in Nicaragua January 26-February 28th.

    Mexico City Mexico

    Mexico City Mexico

    Last December we were enchanted by our week in Mexico City and so we decided we needed to return. Another undervalued destination for American’s who tend to only head to the beaches of Mexico. We fell hard for the beauty, history, architecture and food of Mexico City. We want to see more. We will stay at the same hotel we loved last year, The Red Tree House. We plan to explore more and eat everything. Mexico City, Mexico February 28-March 7.

    Bolivia

    Bolivia

    Bolivia is one of a few South American countries we still haven’t visited, and I have long wanted to visit this country, see the salt flats and get to know it better. Because Bolivia is a bit of challenge to navigate, we have decided this is a good country for us to hire a guide. So we have hooked up with Intrepid Travel to spend eleven days seeing Bolivia. But, before we embark on the tour we will spend a week in La Paz. A week might seem like a long time, but we have purposefully decided to do that, to help give me time to work through the altitude sickness I know I will suffer from. It’s happened before. We have the time, so we will take it so I can acclimate comfortably and for multiple days. If you have never experienced altitude sickness, it’s not fun…but it is a good weight loss program. We will be in Bolivia from March 8 – 25th.

    Barbados

    Barbados

    There are a handful of Caribbean Islands, mostly in the south, that remain on our wish list including Barbados. So after Bolivia we make our way (via Miami) to Barbados where we have rented a sweet little suite of an Airbnb for 8 days. And then we board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Barbados. Barbados March 26-April 2nd

    Southern Caribbean Cruise

    Bonaire

    Our first cruise in five years, we will head out for a week aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas cruising to Trinidad and Tobago, Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada and Aruba. We have been to two of these islands but the others are all new to us. Cruising, although not something we want to do regularly, is such a great way to see multiple places on one itinerary. The ship returns to Barbados. We are onboard April 2-9th.

    USA

    Atlanta Georgia

    April 9th we fly to Atlanta Georgia USA. Through the rest of April we will be be hopping around as we make our way to Boston for a college reunion. Although we have not yet nailed this down, we currently are planning to visit Atlanta, Savannah, Washington DC, New York City and Boston. We will be back to our summer home in Washington State by May 1st. We love Washington State and the west coast in the summer!

    Away We Go – The Grand Adventure Begins Again

    We really like this itinerary because it has the things we love the best; long term stays in inexpensive, sunny places with options for both adventure and relaxing and lots of great food. Who doesn’t like that?

    The Grand Adventure Begins Again

    We plan to continue to blog about our travels, although sometimes I need to take a bit of a break. I plan to do that a little when we are in Hawaii and have banked some blog posts ahead of time. But for now, as we near our TENTH ANNIVERSARY of this My Fab Fifties Life blog, I will write and share amazing photos and adventures of this crazy and fabulous post-PanDamit travel life as regularly as I can. As always, I say thank you for your continued support and engagement. We love your comments on each post especially.

    Away!!

    Note – I have yet to post all the blogs about our recent adventures in Maine and Acadia National Park and in Palm Springs. It’s coming soon – please stay tuned.

    See last week’s post Eating My Way Through Paris

    Photos in today’s blog post from Canva.

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    Europe Travel

    Monet’s Giverny and A Wee Bit More

    The Colorful Normandy & Brittany Region of France

    Last week’s blog post was all about our wonderful and surprising visit to the islands of Guernsey and Jersey in the English Channel. Although quick it was really lovely. We left Jersey by ferry and made our way to France for our next adventure, Monet’s Giverny and A Wee Bit More.

    First a Quick Visit to Saint Malo

    We made our way to France and the ancient walled city of Saint Malo for one night only. We arrived midday and were able to enjoy the beauty of this historic city, the beach and a dinner of mussels and frites – a well known dish from the region.

    Saint Malo Beach
    Ramparts of Saint Malo

    Next Morning

    The next morning we rented a car and enjoyed a leisurely drive across the north of France, leaving Brittany and coming to Normandy. This area has so much to see, including Caen and the magnificent Mont St. Michel. But since we have visited here a few times before we decided to stop only in two places my husband had never seen. Beautiful Bayeux which reminds me of the village in Beauty and the Beast and is home to the remarkable tapestry depicting the battle of William the Conquerer. We also made a brief stop at the Omaha Beaches and the American Cemetery at Normandy. I highly recommend these things when in Normandy.

    Bayeux
    American Cemetery at Normandy

    On to Giverny

    Giverny has been on my bucket list for a decade, and we were set to visit in June 2020, but the pandamit changed all of that. So on this trip it was a high priority to tick it off the list, finally. What a magnificent place, not just Monet’s Garden but the teeny village, our remarkable hotel and one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Monet’s Giverny and A Wee Bit More.

    Monet’s Giverney and a Wee Bit More

    O Plum Art

    I booked this boutique hotel just a week or so in advance and I am so glad we got in because it is tiny and spectacular. Only three rooms inside a historic farm house, but totally renovated and decorated in modern light colors. It was really lovely. And the breakfast the next morning was out-of-this-world good. You can make a reservation for O Plum Art here.

    O Plum Art
    One of several amazing breakfast dishes, smoked trout at O Plum Art

    The Village of Giverny

    I was surprised to find that Giverny is not really a town. It is just Monet’s Gardens, and historic homes – most which have been converted to inns and restaurants. Giverny is really just one main street, a few little shops and lots of great history including an ancient church. Behind the church is Monet’s tomb.

    Main Street Giverney
    Main Street Giverney

    Le Jardin des Plumes

    In association with our sweet little hotel, we booked a table for dinner at the companion restaurant down the street. The Chef and his family run the restaurant as well as two small inns. The restaurant is incredibly unique. You don’t really have a menu. Instead you choose if you want three, five or seven courses. We chose five courses, which were all small courses. But in addition to the five courses we had at least another 10 small “bites”. It was sublime. We ate literal works of art in every mouthful. Our five courses were Halibut, Chicken with Mushroom Soup, Tomato/Lobster, Beef Tongue with Pickles and an apricot dessert. Absolutely incredible. In addition our special bites included oysters, salmon candy, apple sorbet, cod balls and so much more. I have shared several photos here and if you visit Giverny I cannot recommend this highly enough. Be sure to make a reservation at Le Jardin des Plumes

    By the way our breakfast at O Plum Art was done by the same chef of this amazing dinner. No surprise it was so good.

    Tomato and Lobster
    Oysters
    Me very happy
    Turmeric Bite

    Finally Monet’s Garden

    I’ve written before about My Favorite Gardens Around the World. Visiting renown gardens is one of the things we try to do in many of the destinations we go to. Gardens tell a story of history, culture and art – all wrapped in a colorful canvas. Monet’s Giverny was all that and more.

    Monet’s Gardens
    Monet’s Gardens

    In 1883 Claude Monet acquired land next to his home in Giverny to create a water garden. He diverted water from the nearby Ru river. Monet’s masterpieces of his waterlily collections were painted at this water garden. The garden expanded for years and through his middle and late years Monet painted what he sowed.

    Monet’s Gardens
    Monet’s Gardens

    Unlike many of the highly manicured gardens found in the French chateaus, Monet’s Giverny is a riot of color and texture. The garden changes throughout the season and is designed in color blocks but also includes trees, bamboo, roses and of course, the waterlilies.

    Monet’s Gardens
    Monet’s Gardens

    Monet died in 1926 at 86 years old. He had been in Giverny for more than half his life, and the gardens were mature and substantial by that time. The houses and outbuildings flowed seamlessly with the gardens throughout the 2 and a half acres.

    Monet’s Family Home
    A Renoir in the house

    Today the garden’s and the house are managed by the Foundation Claude Monet . The gardens are cared for year-round but are only open to the public April 1st to November 1st. We enjoyed seeing it in the fall, when everything was still in bloom but also a bit large and chaotic and overgrown. It was both dazzling and disordered and I loved it.

    Beautiful day and fun tour

    A Few Tips For Monet’s Giverny and A Wee Bit More

    Come in the fall or spring when there are less visitors. The tour buses and groups seem to arrive in the morning, so wait to enter until a bit later. Allow two hours at least and don’t miss going inside the house to see how Monet and his family lived and his collection of priceless art from well known painters. We arrived at 10:30 in the morning, did the full walk on our own, and then did it again because the tour groups had left and it was much quieter. I loved the second time around because we noticed new things. I took photos of many plants I’d like to add to my own garden.

    Monet’s Gardens

    You can make this a day trip from Paris (many people do) but again I recommend staying, strolling, eating and breathing the beauty of Monet’s Giverny and A Wee Bit More.

    See last week’s post about Visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey and Jersey here. Be sure to check back next week to read about Eating Our Way Through Paris.

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    Europe Travel

    Visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey

    We meant to visit here in 2020. But…well, you know. When our travels were shut down in 2020 we eventually got refunds for most of our reservations. But in Guernsey and Jersey we received vouchers from Expedia to be used at a later date for our hotels. And so, 26 months after our original booking we are visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey.

    We came with few expectations, just a desire to see a place we have never been. We knew only a bit about these islands and arrived with an open mind. Our stay on both islands was very short. But we enjoyed a taste of these unique places.

    Where Is Guernsey and Jersey?

    Protectorate countries today, Guernsey and Jersey retain their association with the United Kingdom, despite the geographic location close to France. We flew direct to Guernsey from Gatwick Airport London, a flight that took about an hour. Our flight on to Jersey three days later was the shortest flight we have ever taken, only eleven minutes.

    A Brief History

    This islands separated from mainland Europe about 6000 years ago and prehistoric evidence has been found. Third century Roman occupation of Europe brought settlers fleeing to the islands and Christianity arrived in the 10th century. The islands fell under the Duchy of Normandy and then King John of England throughout the middle ages. Little changed in the next centuries as the islands were a disputed stronghold.

    St Peters Port Guernsey

    As Napoleon and the wars of modern times unfurled, the islands once again found themselves under occupation due to their strategic location in the theater of war. Following German occupation during WWII the islands recovered industry, and tourism began to boom in the 1960’s.

    The flag of Jersey

    Today the people of Guernsey and Jersey are British nationals. The islands are known as Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey, self-governing but under the protection of Britain.

    Guernsey Things to Do

    Guernsey is very small, only about 6 miles long and 3 miles wide. However since it is very rural we decided to rent a car during our short three night two day visit. Driving in Guernsey is a bit nerve racking…tiny one lane roads dominate the island. If you aren’t up to tackling these roads, the island has a very well run bus transit system.

    During our two days we enjoyed a handful of the highlights of the island, but there are many more places to see with more time available. You can learn more at Visit Guernsey.

    German Underground Hospital Guernsey

    German Underground Hospital – both islands are home to several museums, tunnels and sites related to the five year occupation of the island by the Nazi Germans during WWII. We chose to visit the German Underground Hospital site. It was fascinating. More than 70,000 square feet, hand dug tunnels that served for a very short time as a hospital and ammunitions storage during the war. Absolutely fascinating. Be sure and have a coat or sweater as the tunnel is very cold.

    Little Chapel Guernsey

    Little Chapel – In 1914 Brother Diodat began a labor of love to build this beautiful tiny chapel and cover every surface with pottery and tile. It’s a lovely thing to see and enjoy and I highly recommend a brief visit.

    Jerbourg Headland Guernsey

    Jerbourg Headland Coastal Hike – as I’m sure you know, we love to walk and hike, and the island of Guernsey offers some lovely pastoral and coastal walks. We chose to do a coastal walk on the Jerbourg Headland. From the easy parking access at the start (with restrooms), we wandered the coastal trail with stunning views south east. It was a foggy morning and we saw a bit of rain, but still the views were great…I’m sure on a clear day you could see forever. Some steep parts but not a difficult hike.

    Lihou Island at High Tide
    Walking to Lihou at low tide

    Low Tide Visit to Lihou Island – at low tide you can make the trek on the causeway to Lihou Island. Be sure to check the tidal chart or risk getting stuck on the island. At low tide the path and causeway is exposed, though not completely dry so wear the proper footwear to make the trek. Enjoy a brief walk and maybe a picnic on the island before returning the way you came. No services on the island, except for a self-catering hostel for groups with advance reservation. A unique experience, a must when in Guernsey.

    St Peters Port
    Victor Hugo House

    Saint Peters Port – on the east side of the island is the capital city of Guernsey St. Peters Port. A lovely little coastal town, with shops, restaurants and historic sites including the home of Victor Hugo and the historic Town Church – the oldest in the Channel Islands.

    Guernsey Restaurant Recommendations

    The Hook – the best meal we had on Guernsey hands down was at The Hook. In fact it was one of the best meals on our two week trip. The Hook is located right in St. Peter’s Port. Be sure to make a reservation for this popular spot. I enjoyed a lovely cod dish and my husband had the Beef Wellington.

    Beef Wellington at The Hook

    Crabby Jacks – Much more casual and on the west side of the island facing Vazon Bay; we stopped for a late lunch early dinner at Crabby Jacks after our low tide walk. Lots of fried fish, burgers and salads, my husband had authentic fish and chips while I really enjoyed a delicious fish pie topped with cheesy mashed potatoes.

    Fish Pie at Crabby Jacks

    Jersey Things to Do

    St Aubin

    We arrived Jersey via a very short flight from Guernsey and had two nights and two full days here. This island is bigger than Guernsey but not by much, coming in at nine miles by five miles. The main city of St. Helier is very cosmopolitan and quite beautiful. We chose to stay close to St. Helier and not rent a car. But with a car, or on a island tour bus (all were full so we couldn’t do this), you can easily see the sites of the island that includes multiple castles and forts as well as WWII tunnels.

    Jersey Museum and Art Gallery

    Jersey Museum and Art Gallery, Saint Helier – this small but very interesting museum in the heart of the port city is a great place to start and learn the history of this fascinating island and its people. Run by the Jersey Heritage Foundation, we particularly enjoyed a very well done film with a great historic story told through today’s residents. A must in St. Helier.

    Elizabeth Castle

    Elizabeth Castle – Also run by Jersey Heritage visiting Elizabeth Castle is fun and interesting. Don’t miss it. Access to the island castle just off shore is by amphibious boat, or at very low tide you can walk to the island. We enjoyed the boat ride and a self-guided tour of the Castle on a beautiful sunny day.

    Portelet Bay

    Saint Aubin and Portelet Bay – on our second day in Jersey the sun shone bright and we decided to do a very long walk from St. Helier to Portelet Bay. This walk took us through the tiny seaside hamlet of Saint Aubin and then up and over the hill to Portelet Bay on the other side. A total round trip on foot of eleven miles; we enjoyed ocean views, pastoral fields, cows and crops and forests. This route would be very easy to do with a car. From St. Helier to St. Aubin you can enjoy Le Petit Train, a 35 minute ride in the summer months. I highly recommend it.

    Jersey Restaurant Recommendations

    Dover Sole at La Taverne

    La Taverne – we booked this restaurant in advance, a highly rated small space not far from our hotel. I enjoyed Dover Sole (a favorite of mine) and my husband had veal and oysters. Very good and the service was great.

    Quayside – our taxi driver from the airport told us this restaurant was his favorite on the island, but highly recommended getting a reservation no matter where we planned to go as Saturday’s could be very busy. So we were happy to find online an early dinner opening. Covered outdoor seating with a view of the marina, the food was really delicious although our waitress seemed distracted. I enjoyed fish again and Arne had a ribeye steak.

    How to Get Here?

    Boarding the ten minute flight from Guernsey to Jersey

    If you are in the United Kingdom or France flights are easy to either island. You can also take a ferry from Saint Malo, Brittany, France which is what we did leaving Jersey and going to France. The ferry was huge and it was also packed on a sunny Sunday. Many people make the trip as a day trip and turn around and go back the same day. Try to do this on a weekday instead to avoid the crowds. You will need to pass through passport control as United Kingdom is no longer in the EU.

    We flew between the islands, but there is also a ferry. The flight was only slightly more expensive and took ten minutes as opposed to two hours so we decided flying was better for us due to our tight travel schedule.

    A Few Other Things to Know

    Very narrow roads on the island of Guernsey

    Weather can be windy and rainy anytime of the year. We experienced, sun, rain, wind and fog all during our short visit. The British pound is accepted on both islands and credit cards are used everywhere. Wifi service is strong and reliable. Driving on Guernsey is not for the faint of heart but doable, Jersey roads are better. Transit and taxis are widely available on both islands.

    Agriculture

    Both Guernsey and Jersey are known throughout the world for the quaility dairy produced by the Guernsey and Jersey Cows. The cows and the cream are highly prized

    Cows
    Delicious

    Additionally both islands produce cider from locally grown apples. Both alcoholic cider and non-alcoholic I had the cider several times and it was very refreshing. On the island of Jersey the grown the world famous Jersey Royal potato. We were served the potato at most of our meals and it is small, tender and very delicious.

    Cider
    Jersey Royal potato

    Visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey

    Thanks for reading our post this week Visiting the English Channel Islands Guernsey & Jersey. I hope you will come back next week to read about our visit to Monet’s Gardens in Giverney.

    Hiking on Guernsey. Come prepared for all weather.

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    North America Travel

    A Visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon

    We spent a week in Central Oregon last month with my husband’s family, enjoying the beautiful city of Bend and the resort of Sunriver. It was our first time in Sunriver, but we had visited Bend several times. Bend and Sunriver are about 20 miles apart. The high desert area of Central Oregon is one of my favorite places in the Pacific Northwest. I wish we had more time, but here are some of the things we recommend on a visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon.

    Where are Bend and Sunriver

    Located about three hours from Portland Oregon and six hours from my summer home in Port Orchard Washington, Bend and Sunriver are in the high desert of Central Oregon, offering a lovely dry climate with warm days and cool nights in the summer. Winter brings snow and cold but still dry compared to the area we live near Seattle. Bend and Sunriver are year-round playgrounds for hiking, cycling, water sports, downhill skiing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing as well as many other activities.

    Bend Oregon

    The Deschutes River runs through Bend

    Incorporated in 1905 Bend historically was a quiet logging town on the Deschutes River. Today however, Bend’s population has grown to just under 100,000 with many newer residents moving to the region for its outdoor recreation and beauty amongst the ponderosa pines. The city has a historic downtown, with shops and restaurants, many parks and is known for its many microbrewery options.

    Golf in Bend

    Rivers Edge Golf in Bend

    Bend has many golf courses, but we only have visited a few with our favorite being the Rivers Edge Course right near town.

    Restaurants in Bend

    A huge variety of restaurants are available in historic downtown Bend as well in the surrounding area. We have not been to as many as we would like, but our favorites currently are Wild Rose for its amazing northern Thai Cuisine, Longboard Louies for a quick Mexican lunch, McMenamins for burgers and beer, El Sancho Taco for the best Mexican in Oregon, Sintra for breakfast and Pine Tree Tavern for the history.

    Wild Rose
    Longboard Louies

    Beer in Bend

    Because we love beer, we always make an effort to try some different breweries when in Bend, as we work our way through the more than 25 breweries in the greater Bend area. During this visit we enjoyed checking out Good Life with its great outdoor beer garden, Sunriver Brewing with some delicious looking food although we didn’t eat there, and The Yard located in the courtyard of the Bunk and Brew Hostel.

    Good Life Brewing

    Sunriver Oregon

    Swans on the pond, Sunriver

    The first explorers filtered through the area in the early 19th Century and homesteaders started farming the region in the late 1800s. Sunriver is located on the grounds of the former Camp Abbot, a World War II training facility. The U.S. Army camp opened in 1942, but by June 1944 the camp was abandoned and most of the settlement was razed.

    In 1954, state highway 97 was completed in its current location and four years later, the Mt. Bachelor ski area opened. Both served to make Central Oregon a prime vacation and recreation area. Portland land developer John Gray acquired what would become Sunriver in 1965 and transformed the landscape into a residential and resort community.

    Today about 1700 people are full-time residents of Sunriver, but the population expands on weekends, holidays and in the summer.

    Family dinner on the deck

    Raft the Deschutes

    Since we were on a family vacation with a total of seven people, renting a raft at the Sunriver Marina seemed like a perfect activity for the family. Our raft for seven was meant for as many as ten, but I think ten people would have been uncomfortably crowded. We enjoyed the leisurely drift down the Deschutes on a beautiful day. Ten person raft was $330 (about three hours and includes transportation back to the Marina) but many options are available including kayaks and tubes.

    Family goes rafting
    Old guys pretending to be teenagers

    Cycle and Run or Walk the Paths

    Our giant Airbnb (five bedrooms and six bathrooms) was located right on one of the main paths that meander through the Sunriver resort. So every morning at sunrise I was the first one up and after the obligatory coffee, I was out onto the path for a run. Flat, paved and absolutely beautiful, I loved having that available. The rest of the family enjoyed it for running and long walks as well.

    Several of us brought our bikes and a few rented bikes, and we enjoyed a couple leisurely rides through the forest and along the river on the safe and well maintained trails.

    Family goes cycling
    My morning run

    Golf and Activities in Sunriver

    We did not golf while in Sunriver but there are four courses available as well as several swimming pools, a Nature Center and Observatory, horse stables and a shopping and restaurant center with events, concerts, markets and art fairs.

    About seven miles away back towards Bend on Hwy 97 you’ll find the High Desert Museum. Fun and interesting especially for families.

    High Desert Museum
    MIL with horse art

    Nearby Hiking

    On our final day we did two easy hikes that were perfect even for my 88 year old mother-in-law. Both these hikes would be good for kids and families too. I recommend the Benham Falls hike and the Lava Lands State area hike.

    If you are interested in more strenuous hiking there are many options near Mount Bachelor.

    Benham Falls
    Lava Lands

    A Visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon

    We had such an enjoyable time in both Bend and Sunriver – a perfect place for a family vacation. I certainly would love to go again. You should consider a visit to Bend and Sunriver Oregon for your family or for couples too. There is so much to do.

    On the river
    With the hubs

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