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Culture, General travel, North America, Travel Gear, What to Pack

First Day in Alaska

August 17, 2017 • By

I am a city girl.  I ride the subway, I hail cabs and I complain about garbage and rats.  The sound of heavy traffic, roaring fire engines and honking horns soothes my soul.  Carry-out menus line my kitchen shelves and my refrigerator contains a handful of perishable items.  Breakfast for idiots is my kind of book and I have a chef who cooks for me. I live in a 465 square foot studio and identify my neighbors not by their faces but by the sounds of footsteps or a hair dryer and blender.

Why on earth did I decide to visit Alaska?  This is an easy answer.  It’s the complete opposite of anything in New York City.

An hour after my arrival in Alaska, I found myself on the side of Mt. Alyeska in Girwood hiking the North Face trail.  My friend Brooke Edwards outfitted me with bear spray, binoculars, layers of clothing and the important and necessary day pack and off we went.  At some point while swatting mosquitoes, yelling out, “Hey Bear,” I wondered why I would embark on this journey.


Mt. Alyeska, Alyeska Resort, Girwood, Alaska

Brooke assured me this was an hour-to-the-top type /kind of hike and I would appreciate the views.  I admired how she didn’t break a sweat and I struggled to maintain my dignity. Brooke may not have understood my current level of experience involved(better word) “hiking” up 20 or so steps from the subway to the street and a few block stroll along a flat and even surfaced Lexington Avenue. (See Life on the 6 Train)

The view at the top exceeded my expectations and I was happy to get a sense of my surroundings and take in the scenery of the Turnagain Arm, a branch of glacial water surrounded by towering mountains that leads to the Gulf of Alaksa.  Turnagain Arm proved not to be the Northwest Passage Captain Cook sought to discover but its natural beauty rivals any landscape I’ve seen in the world.

Catching my breath, I hobbled to the restaurants as I peeled layer after layer exposing my sweaty back and the markings of an out of shape city girl.  I hoped Brooke would be amenable to a “Kelly kind of eating and drinking break” before heading down the mountain.  She did better than that, after a brief exchange we decided to go fancy in our hiking gear and dine at Seven Glaciers Restaurant, where I feasted on my first Alaskan halibut and a Boullabaisse soup, loaded with seafood and a saffron broth.  We topped off my first day with a pleasant tram ride down the mountain and heaps more wine at the Alyeska Resort.


My expert guide Brooke Edwards at our first toast after hiking Mt. Alyeska, 7 Glaciers Restaurant

With the midnight sun (11:30 PM sunset) toying with my emotions and idea of place, I settled in for a few hours of desperate sleep before jolting awake at 5:30 AM when the sun beckoned me to hit the road.

Culture, South America

Colombia’s Cheat Sheet

December 29, 2015 • By

Colombia’s Fast Facts

Safety: Travel to Colombia is safe but use caution. There is a large police presence in the cities. Be aware of fake currency

Fantasy Aisle

Joining the USA and Colombia

Flag: The colors of the Colombian flag–red, blue and bright yellow–red for a reminder of its bloody past, blue for the two oceans that cover the coast (the Atlantic/Caribbean and the Pacific) and yellow for the gold that made its people rich

Weather: No seasons – land of eternal spring and summer (cool at night in Bogotá) and sun is strong due to higher altitudes


Fantasy Aisle

Parilla and more

La Comida: Lunch is main meal. Corn is found in everything. Try an arepa. They are a staple in Colombia. Seafood is popular along the coasts and pork and beef inland

Dress: Blue jeans and t-shirts suit every dress code

Drugs: Coca leaves are grown more abundantly in Peru and Ecuador than Colombia

Christmas: Colombians like most Spanish countries celebrate on the 24th of December with the birth of Jesus Christ. They begin praying every night to the nativity scene from December 16- December 24

Economy: Average salary is about $400 a month. Main industries include oil, textiles, gold, coal, emeralds, shipbuilding, food processing, tourism

Cafe: Colombians do not drink coffee after 1:00 PM

Juice: Fruit juice of guava, orange or papaya is more popular than soda/pop

Botero's painting, Una Familia at the Museo Botero

Botero’s painting, Una Familia at the Museo Botero

Art and Culture: Music is a part of everyday life. Outdoor art adorns parks and plazas

Family: Families live together and move together. Family life is important to Colombians

Sport: Fútbol is popular inland and baseball along the Caribbean coast. Cycling is a popular sport and mode of transportation throughout the country

Fantasy Aisle

Salt Cathedral located in a salt mine in Zipaquirá

Religion: 75 percent of Colombians are Catholic

Language: Spanish

Size: Nearly 50 million

Capital: Bogotá

Government: The Government of Colombia is a republic with a separation of powers:  Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches.  The legislature has a congress, the judiciary a supreme court and the executive a president.  Former corruption has plagued Colombia progress is being made

Drinking and Driving: The people can drive at 16, and drink at 18. The two do not mix

Body art: Tattoos are popular among men under 30

Women: Women grow their hair long to the waist. They have a reputation for being the most beautiful in world. Beauty pageants are a source of pride for Colombians