Category Archives: observations

Can You Spot the Problem?

no helmets

I pointed out already safety things that are not in place.

Perhaps it’s the pier with no guardrails in Uruguay, or the fact that this family is split on two motos and their children are not buckled up and also not wearing helmets.

Is the US too safety focused or are other places not enough? Here, with children wearing no helmets, I’m going with the former. Especially, once the light changed, they took off like lightning.

Thoughts? Would love to hear.


Heads Up! Oh, Yes, Another One.

I was walking on the sidewalk, minding my own business when I stepped into the street and saw what looked like a head. Yes, another head.

a head

I did a double take because I couldn’t believe it. I looked around and saw a carnicero (butcher) nearby. I had to assume it rolled away from the garbage?

another view

Another head.

I had to take the photos myself this time. I was totally grossed out but had to document it. Two countries and two heads.


First Comes Shopping then Comes Sightseeing

The streets cleared out. So I took a different route back to the hotel and this is what I saw along the way.

Not sure what this was but I loved the stone work and the rounded wood doors.

beautiful stone building

This entire stand was selling fake flowers. They looked so real even standing next to them.

these were fake flowers

I popped into a mall — this didn’t have the same closing time as the center of town but I wasn’t in a shopping mood. It was a huge mall, and just like the one in Uruguay, advertising was everywhere!

mall

No visit is complete without a stop at the local supermarket. I love browsing and seeing the brands and the logos I am familiar with, with their local name. I also like seeing the popular products and you can learn a lot about a country’s cultures and likes from browsing the markets.

Here, there was quite the selection of boxed wine, and Cepita, the South American equivalent of Minute Maid.

Note: When I was there, the exchange rate was approximately 4 Argentine Pesos to 1 US Dollar. That 6.49 you see for a box of wine is actually $1.62 USD.

wine  juice


First up, Shopping!

After I dropped my bags and decided what could use a visit at the laundromat, I stopped at the front desk and asked them about a lavanderia (laundromat) since I wasn’t about to pay hotel prices. They offered to take my things there. I told them I was happy to take the walk if they told me where I needed to go. they wouldn’t hear of it and promised to return everything to me by the morning.

This timing was important since I would be leaving Cordoba the next afternoon and would need my clothes.

Sidebar: I would be heading to Mendoza. No plans were made but I figured I would have the evening to sort that out.

Now was the time to take in my amazing (and luxurious) surroundings, and then explore Cordoba.

My day would consist of shopping, sightseeing and swimming! Because the shops would close in the early afternoon and remain closed for the rest of the weekend, I decided to hold off on my pool time until after shopping and sightseeing!

First up, shopping!

I took my directions and headed to the main shopping street. It wasn’t a far walk and I knew when I had arrived. It seemed like everyone (and their mother, literally) was outside on the main shopping street.

lots of people

I had a mission. I needed to buy a nice outfit. The word nice was very flexible at this point, but I wanted to purchase a skirt that would ‘dress me up’ a little bit. Fear not, my shoes were hiking shoes, or flip-flops so fancy I was not looking for. Since it was Saturday, I had only a few hours before the shops closed for the rest of the weekend.

I knew I was looking for a vestir (dress) or falda (skirt).

I popped in and out of a few shops. I was always asked what I was looking for and I’d be shown to a rack and left alone. In one shop, the owner asked and I replied. As it had happened in other shops, she walked away and I figured that was that.

Just a few seconds later, she brought (or maybe dragged) her daughter (probably 12 or 13 years old) over and encouraged her to speak to me. At first the young girl was shy and probably didn’t understand what her mom was doing. Neither did I.

To humor the mom, and what I realized were her friends who either worked at the shop, or were hanging out, I tried to engage the girl in conversation — in Spanish. Once she realized my native language was English, she couldn’t stop talking. She seemed to want to practice her English and I was more than happy to oblige. It seemed like everyone knew everyone and I felt like we were being watched by half the store.

Knowing that I unintentionally isolated myself in a hotel instead of a hostel, I was likely to be on my own for the evening. I welcomed the conversation, and the shopping help.

After she asked what I was looking for, her first question was: Why didn’t you pack a skirt?

I then had to explain that I was backpacking. The only problem was, I didn’t know the word for backpack and she didn’t know what backpack was.

So came in, the always fun and amusing, charades. I made the motion of putting a backpack on and looking lost. She quickly got it.

There, in that shop, was the first time I heard the word that described me — mochilera. A backpacker.

I taught my new friend a new word, backpack, and she taught me my new word, mochilera.

We pulled a few things off the racks and she stood outside the dressing room — which was a curtain in the middle of the store. It seemed that business was at a standstill because they wanted us to continue our conversation. Each time I pulled the curtain, someone had an opinion. It was like being a contestant on a reality show. Since our vocabulary was limited it was either a smile and a head nod, or a shake of the head which meant no. My new teenager friend was translating for me the other side comments but I got the gist and divided the clothes into maybe or no racks.

It came down to two skirts, and we, or maybe the rest of the store, decided on a pretty purple and black skirt. I bought it and said goodbye and thank you to (essentially) half the shop. I felt like a local walking down the main street with my purchase. Though it seemed on that Saturday everyone had bags and bags of things!

As I was warned at the hotel, the shops began to shut down and roll down their gates minutes before I was warned they would. I saw the streets go from crowded to just a couple of stragglers, including me. See this picture on the left? The gates came down before I left this little outdoor mall and I had to duck through that little hole before they closed them up.

closing up empty street


Lightening My Load

 DSC03314

You haven’t really travelled until you’ve taken on South America…The challenge is deciding where to begin. With so much choice, it’s as though the continent was built for travel; a place that excites, thrills, challenges and infuriates…Brave a white-knuckle bus ride down  Peruvian slopes and be astounded by endless Andean vistas…South America, however is not just about breathtaking sights – its stunning soundtrack is sure to leave your feet a-tapping long after you’re back in the day job…Argentine  folklórica (folk music) trickles out of truck radios in the pampas and the jolting rhythm of cumbia making those Andean bus rides even more absurd.

However, when it comes to experiencing this incredible land the real reward  is undoubtably the South American spirit. The entire continent approaches life with the enthusiasm of an old-fashioned road trip: windows down and stereo blaring. South America is a continent that engulfs you and changes you – your state of mind, your outlook on life. As soon as you step foot on South American  soil, the transformation begins.

Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring

I love guidebooks. They are my souvenirs and my notebooks. I have folded over pages and I have made notes on the white space as I learn information about a place while I’m on the go.

I have a shelf in my bookcase with guidebooks from all of my travels — starting with a Let’s Go Europe: 2000, Lonely Planet Switzerland, Fodor’s New Orleans, Lonely Planet Costa Rica, Frommer’s and a Lonely Planet both from Italy, Lonely Planet Croatia, Lonely Planet Argentina and more.

I was hoping to put my Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring back on my bookcase.

It took less than a week carrying around my book to decide that the book would need to come apart.

This guidebook would not make it home in one piece to take it’s earned spot on my bookcase.

I had seen other backpackers do the same and I had to join them. I was carrying around dead weight and pulling out this huge book every time I needed it wasn’t going to work for me. In fact, I wasn’t pulling out the book because it was so cumbersome.

The prospect of ripping my book apart broke my heart, although, temporarily. It was adding to the load I was carrying on my back but I didn’t want the book to go to waste.

There was so much information on these crisp, brand new pages and so many places to explore! My friend Romina was preparing for another trip to Brazil, which was the biggest section of the book, and which was not a destination for this particular trip. Romina told me that reading the pages of the other sections would also help her practice her English (which was already superb). Knowing that the remaining part of my book would go to a good home lessened the blow.

I took a deep breath, ready to deface a book. I pulled out the pages for Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Romina gave me five paperclips to put together my new, and lighter, ‘guidebooks.’

guidebooks

And I left Romina the rest of the guidebook, still pretty much intact, for her use.

DSC03313


I Wish I Packed Two More Pairs…

Before I left New York I had met three other solo female travelers leaving New York for various destinations in South America just a few days after me.

After one week, I sent them my advice from on the road and a couple of questions – one more urgent than the others, as you’ll see:

***

J – If you can, get another Eddie Bauer bag. Would be great to have a second. No need to duct tape logo, it peels off after three bus rides.

Day pack

Also, take less than you think you need. I did pack lightly and I still have too much. I also packed 8 pairs of underwear and have not been in a bathroom that is clean enough to wash my own underwear. Will definitely need to do a wash in MVD tomorrow. Wish I packed two more pairs.

C – Are are you in Santiago yet? I’m still in Uruguay but if you still want to do that weekend of the 10th in Vina im totally game. Soy sola Americana en Uruguay.

M – Please can you ask your family if they can recommend an English speaking eye doctor in Montevideo. I think I scratched my cornea the other day and am in pain. Have not been in a city yet so hoping to see a doc there. Will be in MVD for two nights I think. Muchas gracias!

Safe travels ladies. Hope to meet up with you soon!


Happy New Year

Once I returned from South America I spent a fair amount of time writing blogs to get (and stay) ahead of real-time. I had months of scheduled posts with the hope to keep writing to stay ahead and with job searching, working and planning a wedding, I just never got ahead of myself. I came to the end of those scheduled posts just before the end of 2012. I have a fair number of draft posts that I am ready to finalize and can start to schedule now. My hope is that once I have them scheduled from now until the end of January, I can spend some time writing to get (and stay) ahead.

I love writing and keeping a journal of my travels on my blog. With that said, I want to make some changes and improvements to my blog for the coming year.

Instead of saying I want to write a better blog (which I do), I have provided specifics on things that I’d like to change and/or learn in order to write that better blog. If I make my goals public, at least I’ll be held accountable if by no one but myself.

I’d like to spice things up. I think there have been posts that are a little bit dry (and I’m the one telling the story!). I want to tell my stories (albeit I am little behind*) from my time in South America and travels since then — without boring anyone or feeling like a braggart. I want to improve my writing and story-telling with each post. I want to make my blog more visually appealing — using at least one photo in each post (starting in this one). I know not every post is going to be spectacular, but I’d like to cut back on the number that are less than stellar. As I prepared this post, I figured out the new tools to fix photo size and placement — which I should have learned before I published the previous post.

I want to learn more about WordPress and its latest tools so that posting pictures is easier. I want to make the process of using WordPress easier on my end. I want to decide what to do with my Simply Three Cents Facebook page since I don’t utilize it other than a place to push out my posts. Should I post in real-time on Facebook with other travel content like I do on Twitter? Should I create a Simply Three Cents logo (since the current logo utilizing three pennies are lame)? Why do the posts that push to Facebook showcase the WordPress logo (maybe because those posts are missing photos?) I’d like to decide what’s the best use of each of the tools I use with my blog.

I have done a fair amount of writing this year for online publications — both paid and pro-bono. I’d love to continue writing for various publications so long as they will have me.

I follow a lot of travel blogs, and while I don’t ever anticipate this to be on the caliber of those (since I am not looking to make my blog a business), I am inspired by a lot of what I see there so I know what greatness looks like IF you dedicate a lot of time to your site with the intention of making a living on it. I’m just not looking to do that right now for a variety of reasons. If I can keep a chronicle of my travels to entertain, inspire and motivate others, in a relatively clean format with consistent and engaging blog posts, I’d be happy with that.

If you’ve been reading, I thank you. If you’re new, welcome. Feel free to use the tools to the right to see older posts based on geography or category. If you like my blog, or a post, feel free to share it. If you hate something, let me know. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know.

*I’m way off in terms of timing from my adventures in South America but the stories are still there to tell. Please bear with me.

Me in the Tram Car Above Salta, Argentina


12 of My Favorite Places in 2012

Full disclosure: I started writing this post in 2012, but I finished it in 2013. I’m going to go back in time to let it post in 2012. Forgive my tardiness.

Following the lead of Katie at Katie Going Global, and her 12 Favorite Places list, I decided to create a list of my own favorite places.

While it may not be the most representative photo of a place (or the best photo), the photo and the place struck a chord with me.

In chronological order, 12 of my favorite places in 2012…

1) Cabo Polonio, Uruguay

This coastal village, accessible only by a 4×4 truck, is a 30 minute ride from the nearest road. Cabo Polonio has no electricity, a dusty supermarket and a peaceful way of life. Just a handful of residents make Cabo their home year-round, including sea lions. As you’d expect, the population peaks throughout the summer with those looking to disconnect.

En Route to Cabo Polonio

2.) Montevideo, Uruguay

I saw four new capital cities on this trip and of those, Montevideo was my favorite. The architecture in the old city is beautiful. Beaches line the Rio de la Plata in the middle of the city. I was fortunate to have new friends as local guides and saw many neighborhoods, and a brief stop at the British Hospital. I was there during the festival celebrating Yemaja, the Queen of the Water. Even though Montevideo is a major city, donkeys still help with garbage collection.
Montevideo

3.) Maipu, Argentina

Vineyards always make me smile. This was a really fun day in a really beautiful place not far from the bustle of Mendoza. This particular vineyard’s property extends to the trees in the far back of the photo. I had always thought I don’t like chardonnay because of it’s oaky taste, but I learned that there are options and I do enjoy a chardonnay from a stainless-steel barrel.

Maipu

4.) Valparaiso, Chile

Before arriving, I was told that everyone finds that they either love it or hate it. From the art on the streets, literally, to the spectacular views, I fell in love with Valpo. I had only planned on staying one night only because I couldn’t figure out where I was heading next yet I wound up staying in Valpo for four nights. Art covered the streets, there’s a lively community and the sea breeze doesn’t hurt.

Valparaiso
Valparaiso_2

5.) San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world. When I arrived, it was experiencing the worst flooding in over a decade.  Here’s a shot of my bus driver calling to find a different route since, yes, that is a river flowing through it. Buildings in town were mostly covered by thatched roofs. Outside, they were mostly covered with layers of plastic tarps to prevent any more water. Inside, buckets were set up to catch the water.

San Pedro de Atacama

Two of my friends arrived in Chile and we spent an amazing few days together navigating the new normal of San Pedro.
SPA2
6.) Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The world’s largest salt flat is simply surreal. I was there in the rainy season which creates a mirror effect from the salt and the flooded flats. You can play with the perspective but the scenery around you is simply jaw-dropping and reminds you how little we are in this thing called, Earth.

Salar de Uyuni

7. and 7.5.) Lake Titicaca, Bolivia and Lake Titicaca, Peru

I guess I hit on a few superlatives during my travels and here are two more. Lake Titicaca is considered the highest lake in the world, and the largest in South America. Bordered by Bolivia and Peru, I spent time on both sides of, and on, the lake. In Bolivia, I happened to be in town during the weekly blessings of vehicles. In Peru, I stayed with a local family on Amantani, an island on the Peruvian side of the lake.

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia Bolivia

Lake Titicaca, PeruPeru

8.) Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Accompanied by a guide, I felt like I was on a school trip. The coolest one ever. I learned so much. Wildlife and nature are pristine in this paradise. Animals and plants found here are found nowhere else on earth. Here, a blue-footed boobie.

Galapagos 2

9.) Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Nashville has my heart. I love country music, I love live music and I love Southern hospitality. I have never had a bad time in Music City and there’s something to be said about traveling with your girlfriends.

Nashville

10.) Taormina Mare, Sicily, Italy

A beachside town just a few miles away from the tourist mecca of Taormina, this was the start of the off-season. Restaurants were filled with locals, the beaches empty since it was a little chilly but the scenery and the weather excellent for sightseeing, relaxing and just taking in the views.

Taormina Mare

11.) Mt. Etna, Sicily, Italy

Driving from the autostrada in Sicily, you can’t help but notice the mountain as it gets closer. And then as you head up, it gets colder. But the height gets you above the clouds and reminds you of the past explosions. If you kick up some dirt and feel the ground, it’s warm from the cauldron bubbling inside. Super super cool.

Mt. Etna

12.) Gozo, Malta

Malta is an archipelago situated just 90 miles south of Sicily and just north of Tunisia in Africa. Gozo is one of the three islands in the Maltese archipelago and is surrounded by water, rolling hillsides and amazing formations like the Azure Window.  Villages dot the island each offering delicious meals, warm locals and stunning views. The pace of life on Gozo is noticeably slower and more relaxed than on its larger neighbor, Malta.

Gozo, Malta

And the trouble with lists, is that I can’t include each and every place.

Just because I left you out – La Paz, Bolivia; Mendoza, Argentina; Arequipa, Peru; Salta, Argentina and Santiago, Chile – doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy you. As for Minas, Uruguay; Vina del Mar, Chile and Villazon, Bolivia, well, I’m probably not headed back your way anytime soon, but thanks for the memories – including the trying time to get my Bolivian visa.

Thanks for reading! A happy and healthy new year to you and your family.


Bumper to Bumper

Parked along the beaches of Punta, I quickly learned that bumper stickers were a big deal.

Check out the car on the far right. How do they even drive?!


Getting Lost is USUALLY Part of the Fun – part two

I was following what seemed like a main street. There were very few street lights, but street lights, nonetheless and it had actual lanes painted on the street and it didn’t seem as much like a residential side street. On this street there were very few streetlights but still more than where I had been walking a few minutes prior.

I realized while it was so suburban there would be no pedestrians. It seemed that everyone opted for four wheels rather than two legs as their primary mode of transportation. There weren’t even any taxis around.

I must have made a wrong turn, or maybe it was my incorrect translation, but I was seriously lost. Damn. There was a bit of an intersection and I couldn’t remember which way I had come from to go back to the restaurant.

Desperate to find my hostel, I walked down the street against traffic shouting ‘Hola!’

I thought for sure the headlamp would allow for a car to see me.

Nope.

I was on the side of the road basically in the grass and nearly dove into the bushes when a car came right at me. The shock of nearly getting hit caused a weird and loud scream to come out of my mouth.

Was it fate? Because THAT scream caused me to be noticed by an elderly couple who were walking to their home.

I could hear them asking if I was okay. (I was.) I ran over to them as they headed towards me. I told them my situation in insanely bad Spanish and I shined my headlamp (I hadn’t yet been traveling one week yet it already proved it’s worth twice in one night) on the business card to show them the address of the hostel and they gave me directions in rapido Spanish.

Frustrated, tired and slightly nervous that my (usually) excellent sense of direction also took a sabbatical, I asked if they would mind walking me there.

They kindly agreed. It was less than a ten minute walk and wouldn’t you know I passed the street I was supposed to turn on oh, like three times.

I thanked them profusely. A hug may have been inappropriate but I hugged them anyway as they waited for me to walk up the driveway of the house/hostel.