Monthly Archives: January 2010

Puente del Inca

Good guesses! I knew I would probably stump people with this one, but it’s such a cool place I just had to share the shot.

Puente del Inca. Argentina.

The photograph is actually of Puente del Inca (“bridge of the Incas”), a bridge naturally formed, as Ben suggested, above some hot springs, high in the Andes of Argentina. The now rusty-mustard colored building you see, whose color can be attributed to years of sulfur deposits from the hot springs, is the remains of a luxury hotel that was built into this unique location.

Hot Spring. Puente del Inca, Argentina.

Me sampling an old thermal bath. Puente del Inca, Argentina.

Each room had its own thermal bath, for only the most elite travelers to enjoy. A nearby train station was once the last stop in Argentina along the Ferrocarril Transandino (Transandine, or “Trans-Andes,” Railroad), which was originally opened in 1910 (it was the first railroad to connect the Atlantic and Pacific coasts) but has been out of service since 1984.

As you can see, much of the surrounding buildings were destroyed by an avalanche of falling rocks and glacial floods in 1965. But exactly one structure was spared: the church.

Puente del Inca Church, Argentina.

Puente del Inca ruins. Argentina.

In fact, it survived virtually unscathed. Not only were the thermal waters of Puente del Inca believed to have magical healing powers (read about the Inca legend here), but after the avalanche destroyed the entire village, leaving only the church standing (seen in the background of the Mystery Snapshot), people believed this had to be a miracle. Of course, this only encouraged travelers (and now tourists) to trek to this very special place, and the inevitable circus of tour guides and souvenirs stands now surround it.

Alta Montana Circuit, Argentina.

Alta Montana Circuit. Argentina.

Alta Montana Circuit. Argentina.

Puente del Inca is located very near to the border between Argentina and Chile in the Mendoza Province. I took these photographs in January — the dead of summer. During the winter, the bridge is dripping with ice, while hot springs flow deep inside. That interaction between ice and heat is believed to have contributed to the unique formation of the bridge. Nearby Aconcagua is a popular hike for serious climbers, as it is the highest mountain in the Andes (and of the Americas!).

Top of Aconcagua. Argentina.

Argentine side, Alta Montana.

Chilean side, Alta Montana.

If you find yourself in Mendoza, Argentina, take a break from all the malbec wine tasting (ok – only a very brief one!) to get into the nearby Andes, where you can trek the Alta Montaña circuit (at the border of Argentina and Chile, you’ll be at an altitude of 4,000m/13,120ft — so ascend slowly and carefully — most do make the trip in a tour bus),  and walk the Inca Trail, or go horseback riding (“cabalgatas”) with some gauchos, followed by a traditional asado,  in the lower hills. Most hostels have sign up boards to do any and all of these activities, and hotels or tourism companies will definitely hook you up.

Gaucho on horseback, overlooking the city of Mendoza, Argentina.

Random fact: the movie “Seven Years in Tibet” was actually filmed here, a couple thousand feet above Puente del Inca — NOT in Tibet! Pretty cool, eh? Ahh, the random offerings of Argentina just never stop… :-)

Alta Montana, at 4,000m, w/ friends Kerry and Molly in 2005. It was COLD and WINDY!

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Rooftop Activity

Happy Mystery Snapshot Day!

Keep the photographs and contributions comin’. I have thoroughly enjoyed the participation of every single contributor, so thank you. We’ve got a few photos and travel stories on deck, but I’m always looking for more.  I’m going to start introducing more discussions, news items, random travel tips and maybe even a couple reviews (as can you). Feel free to make suggestions and tell me what YOU’D like to see on T w/ T. Send any and all ideas to: travelswithtavel@gmail.com.

Today, I’m providing us with the Mystery Snapshot, just like the good ol’ days…

Can you tell me where this is? (Country/region/province), what this is (it kind of looks like…?!?), and/or why this is…? There’s a lot going on geologically, for starters. Any insight you can come up with — even if it’s a complete guess — is worth a comment.

Rooftop Activity

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When In Bruges

Dawn’s Mystery Snapshot is, in fact, of beautiful Bruges/Brugge, Belgium. My favorite guess would have to be Nato Potato’s, “Somewhere in space. Or Belgium.” But the winner is Ursula, who was right on (even if she only guessed Bruges because she “likes the way it sounds”).

The Beguinage. Bruges, Belgium

When it comes to languages, things get a little more complicated. The official language in Bruges is Dutch, but Flemish — a slight variation of Dutch — and French are also widely spoken. I’ve read about it, and Dawn has kindly explained it to me, but if I’ve learned anything about Belgium it’s that language is a VERY complicated issue. But no need to freak out about which Rosetta Stone to buy before a visit: For better or for worse, most people in Holland are fluent in English. Many Dutch people speak even better English than we do.

View from Belfry. Bruges, Belgium.

Bruges, Belgium

Dawn writes:

“If you didn’t recognize the orange tiled rooftops, or the narrow canals, you must have noticed the two cathedrals that dwarf the rest of the landscape (there are nine others out of view).  Notice also that this view is from far above even the cathedrals.  The photo is taken from The Belfry, up 366 steps of a narrow, winding staircase.  The 13th-century building was an observation tower for spotting fires and other danger, and there is still a full-time “carilloneur” who plays the 48-bell carillon.  It’s almost ear-splitting from the upper tower, where you’re right next to the bells!

Bruges, Belgium.

“At street level, the city is a perfect fairy tale.  It has the cobblestone streets and smoky cafes of quintessential Europe; the courtyard of the Beguinage blossoms with daffodils in April, and Belgian beer, waffles, frites and chocolates tempt you from every corner.  If you wander far enough down hidden, winding alleys, you’ll find the creperies, old city gates, and windmills that most tourists never know about.

Windmill. Bruges, Belgium.

Canal. Bruges, Belgium.

“The movie, ‘In Bruges’ [watch the trailer here. The movie picks on Bruges but, at the same time, does a good job showing how beautiful it is] is right about one thing: it’s no party town. But that’s exactly what draws people to it.  Particularly as an American, standing among 12th-and-13th-century buildings is just surreal: here we understand what HISTORY really is.”

* NOTE: All the photographs in this entry were provided by Dawn R. Dank u wel!

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Back to the Euro

Happy Friday, people!

Is it just me, or does wanderlust get even MORE intense as winter turns slowly into spring? This happens to me every year. The holidays pass, a couple long weekends appear on the horizon, and I can barely contain my fantasizing about where to run away, even if it’s only for a few days. Currently, I have February 12th to 16th FREE. To me, a long weekend like that is better than gold. Last year, I spent it in Miami (boy was I happily surprised with that place, which was like being in an ostentatious, model-filled version of Latin America), but I need help figuring out where (and with whom) to escape to this year… Thoughts?!

Let’s travel back to Europe for this week’s Mystery Snapshot…

Provided by the lovely Dawn R., please tell me which European city this might be. Then, tell me which languages are spoken there… (That is kind of a hint, for those who like hints.) Ready, set, GO!

Mystery Dawn

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Chica-go? Chica-WENT!

I’m back from a very quick trip to Chicago and, believe it or not (I don’t), it was my first! I am barely allowed to have an opinion, but since I have a blog… I WILL! (And please share your opinions, too.) Chicago Bean

A bunch of people have asked me what I thought of the city. Let me preface this by saying I have a LOT more to see and learn! But we’re all entitled to first impressions, right? (As long as we’re willing to be wrong…)

I will say that, despite the rumored cold (it was surprisingly comfortable for a January weekend while I was there, probably no colder than 20 degrees), despite the generous dose of grey (I did have one beautiful day of misty sunshine!), and despite the sloppy leftovers of post-holiday snow patches on the sidewalk, people just seem to love this place. I can understand why.

This is clearly a proud city, but it’s not obnoxious-proud like Boston (sorry guys), or stuck-up-proud like New York (I still love you NY!), or chip-on-its-shoulder proud like Philly (eek… this is going to bite me back)…  [And for the record, I really think Boston, NYC and Philly are awesome places.]  It’s just hey – let’s bundle up, go eat, watch a Cubs game, and grab some beers-proud. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time in the Midwest [fact] to appreciate that sort of simple, friendly charm (yes, sometimes friendly cities confuse me a little) but Chicago is as tough as it is charming. Kind of how I like my men. (Umm…) It’s got the boxy build of a warehouse-meets-high-rise, yet it’s comfortable, modern, breathable and fresh.

Chicago Architecture

Every city has its tough days and its glory days, but Chicago seems to focus mostly on what to eat today. I like that it’s got a no-nonsense vibe. Much to my delight, it is a foodie city.  For the most part, it seems to have fun with grub. People go out to eat so that they can enjoy a place, not pick it apart. The food-culture is unpretentious yet informed, familiar yet refreshing. Even with such an amazing selection of restaurants and bars, residents find themselves settling on a couple local favorites where, before they know it, the owner is showing them photographs from her freaky 80’s prom-hair days, and making fun of their dates while a nearby group of diners looks on and laughs.

I’m under the impression that Chicago is also a beer city, and a coffee city, and a sporty city, and, well, a happy city… Yep, pretty much my kind of city, except for the whole cold thing. But the cold is bearable thanks to the awesome people, who seem constantly upbeat and pleased with Chicago despite the low temperatures. I picked up on their strategy: never lose sight of summer, no matter how far away it might be.

Chicago View

Every Chicagoan asked me how I liked their city (even if  I had been there less than a day). After telling each person my positive first-impressions, I was consistently and continuously reminded of one thing: that I absolutely HAD to see Chicago in the summer time. (Is this a trick?!) These poor people don’t even realize that summer only lasts three months, and that’s what’s so cute about them — it’s all they need!

Ahh, I love their optimism. Those summers must be pretty awesome if it gets them through the other 75% of the year! Maybe the winters aren’t that bad after all…

For the foodie culture, the just-beautiful-enough streets, the variety (be it food, beer, ways to pass a Saturday afternoon), the blending of architectural styles, the pedestrian-friendliness, the positivity, the cleanliness-mixed-with-Brooklyn-esque-grunge, and sure, for the constant availability of cabs…  I give Chicago two thumbs up.

Yep, even during the winter.

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Mysterious Montana

*Before revealing the last Mystery Snapshot, I feel obliged to mention the earthquake that hit Haiti yesterday evening. While in the Dominican Republic a month ago, my friend and I hoped to cross the border into Haiti for a day trip to learn more about the country first-hand. We considered riding motorbikes to Port-au-Prince until we found out it was a 7+ hr ride (and I had only 3 full days on the island). We were also strongly discouraged by locals because of Haiti’s crime and poverty. Nevertheless, we encountered many Haitians looking for opportunities to work in the DR, where life is better. This isn’t news to anyone, but Haiti is a struggling nation that seriously needs help right now. This earthquake has devastated a country that was already in pieces. How to help: http://www.oxfamamerica.org and http://www.redcross.org.

Now, onto the Mystery Snapshot revelation…

Mountains of Montana

As Sarah Z. said in her comment, “Montana? Total guess, but I have always dreamed of going there, and in my mind that’s exactly what it looks like.” Congratulations, you were right on! When I think of Montana, I’ve always imagined exactly what this photograph captured: beautiful mountains and horses. I absolutely must make a trip to this lovely state…

Montana on Horseback

Yes, Sarah Z., last week’s mystery snapshot came from the beautiful montañas of Montana! (I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now, but the word Montana comes from the Spanish word for mountain…Just a little tidbit.) Huck and ThatGuy, you were both REAL close! Everyone else, great guesses.

Montana Horse

Schuyler explains:

“The picture was taken this past summer (2009) while wrangling some of my family’s horses off of a mountain. We use it to graze the horses from our camp in White River, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana. Every night we turn the horses loose so they can graze. In the morning we get up early, ride up this mountain (Haystack Mountain) and herd them back to camp.

On this particular morning they were almost at the top.  The mountains in the distance are part of the Flathead Alps, also where my family’s outfit does hunting during the fall.”

Schuyler Dudley in Beargrass

To learn more about how you can end up on a horse in the ridiculously beautiful mountains of Montana, or to learn more about the area and what you can do there, check out  Schuyler’s family’s outfitting club, Mills Wilderness Adventures of Montana.

A horse in Montana

Bighorn Sheep on Haystack Mountain

* NOTE: All the photographs in this entry were taken by the wonderful Schuyler Dudley, my lightweight rowing buddy and favorite cowgirl from college. She’s a TRUE Montanan. Thank you Schuyscraper!!

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We’re Pretty Too

As many of you know, this past Thursday was Travels with Tavel’s six-month birthday…

Happy half-birthday T w/ T!!

I want to share some state-of-the-blog information (and a celebratory Mystery Snapshot, see below), because these numbers wouldn’t exist without you guys, my loyal daydreamers. I had not been counting, but when I woke up and looked at the date,  January 7, it occurred to me that I had started T w/ T on July 7 — exactly six months (to the DAY) earlier. Then, when I looked at the total number of blog hits, I saw a mathematically beautiful number: 3,600.

The math was easy: 3,600 hits over six months = 600 hits per month = 150 hits per week = an average of about 21.4 hits per day. I don’t even know what those numbers mean in comparison to any other blogs, but all I can say is that they made me so happy and PROUD. If nothing else, this means I’m not the only person out there who fantasizes about travel. There is a lot more I plan to do with T w/ T, so brace yourselves because the next six months are going to be even more FUN!

On Thursday, I had my highest hit-count in one day. Until then, the most hits the blog had gotten in one day was 127. Well, on T w/ T’s six-month birthday, it got 230 HITS! I take that as a good omen, and cannot wait to see where we go from here (in the world, and with the blog).

Don’t worry, I wouldn’t leave you with this many words and no photograph!

Today’s Mystery Snapshot comes from my favorite cowgirl, Schuyler Dudley. Yes, she took this photograph. Tell me where in the UNITED STATES this photo comes from: the state, mountains, region… Get as specific as you can. A horse-lover myself (and one who has never been to mountains like these), I am immediately putting this place on my places-I-must-go-in-the-US list.

Mystery Mountains and Horses

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Beisbol in the DR

This was an interesting one! I loved your thoughts.  I’ve gotta give my congratulations to Geordie, who — even though his final guess was incorrect — noticed that perhaps the stick held by the boy in last week’s Mystery Snapshot was a makeshift baseball bat used by a child in the Dominican Republic…

Boy w/ Bat, the Dominican Republic, Lisa Andracke

Most people, including myself, believed the photograph was of somewhere in Africa. That is partially why I wanted to use it. It is actually from Lisa Andracke’s trip to the Dominican Republic, and shows a little boy who had just finished a game of baseball in the outskirts of Santo Domingo. After my previous images from a different region of the Dominican Republic, I thought I could trick you all by showing you another side of the country. One thing people don’t realize about the D.R. is that it’s not all sandy beaches and palm trees; there are actually several microclimates on the island — humid, dry, tropical jungle, savanna, and forest.

Here, Lisa, who was working on a documentary about baseball at the time, explains the photograph:

Childrenin the Dominican Republic, Lisa Andracke

“In the first week of February, 2008, we awoke before dawn with the excitement of a new day. The color and texture of the sunshine just after it rises and immediately after it dips above the horizon is beautiful — golden, streaking, dramatic and glamorous. Glamorous like Hollywood wants to be, yet peaceful.Baseball in the Dominican Republic, Lisa Andracke

“We filmed people sweeping packed dirt, which was also their porch. We filmed everything from landscapes to people riding a packed bus (with no side doors) to work. We drove along with our guide, not sure of what we’d find.

“We spotted an impromptu baseball game, boys against girls. One girl wore a plastic pink shower cap to keep her hair out of her face she stepped up to bat. The boys stood ready in the outfield — each one partially clothed and barefoot. You could hear the crack of the ‘bat’ and the accompanying cheers and shouts that got everyone excited.  I can’t be sure who won that day but the girls sure had a fire in their eyes.

“The photograph was taken after the game ended and the children dispersed. This boy walked away with his baseball bat — a stick. One of the reasons I chose to push the shutter was because the grass, the tree, and the color of the sky reminded me of Africa. But we were in the in outskirts of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.”

View of the Dominican Republic, Lisa Andracke

*NOTE: All the photographs in this posting were taken by Lisa Andracke.

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