Monday, February 21, 2011

Serenity atop the Andes


Looking down on Machu Picchu.  Huayna Picchu is the peak across the valley than can also be climbed for a view

Machu Picchu turned out to be different than I imagined it would be, in so many ways. It was the one thing I was most excited about it is for most people visiting Peru.  I did not take the time to do much research before we left for Peru, wanting instead to have a completely "in-the-moment" experience (and not plan out every day, like my type-A personality usually wants to do).

I was first struck, sadly, by how commercialized and touristy the experience is.  I'm sure it wasn't always this way, and I understand the local's need to make a buck off of us tourists.  But the town at the base of MP (called Machu Picchu town, or Aguas Calientes) gave me such a headache.  It is row after row of overpriced mediocre restaurants, stalls of the same wares to be sold, and cheap backpacker hostels.  It is set in such a gorgeous the base of the Andes on a rushing river, but those things are overshadowed by the haphazardly thrown-together tourist town (it actually is an ancient town, but tourism is the new industry replacing farming).

The scene at the top of the mountain is not much better.  There is a super-expensive hotel at the top of Machu Picchu and more people selling wares.  You have to pay to use the restrooms, pay for a guide, etc.  While this is certainly not abnormal in tourist destinations (I would love to know how much I've paid to pee in the past 9 months!), it still starts to take away from the spiritual MP experience.

Once inside the gates, and around the bend, Machu Picchu spreads out before you like a green maze dotted with people in raincoats.  Our guide toured us all over the town, explaining where the commoners lived, the royalty lived, and where the farming happened.  It was supremely amazing, but I never really felt like I was in Machu Picchu.  It just didn't look like I had pictured...and there were tourists EVERYWHERE!

Not until we climbed to the top of the agriculture terraces, and escaped from the masses to a semi-secluded terrace on the side, did we look down and feel like we finally were in Machu Picchu.  Sitting and staring and feeling the energy and excitement of the space was something I will never forget.  It was humbling and awesome.  If you go, I suggest going in the off/rainy season.  I can't imagine what the crowds would be like if tourist season was in full swing!

PS, I have also heard that if you stay at the hotel at the top, or come in via the Inca Trail (3-5 day hike), you have the opportunity to be the first ones or last ones in the park for the day...and therefore have the place more or less to yourself.  Next time!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Photo Friday

a postcard from San Francisco

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Amtrak Architrekkin

 The Portland, OR Union Station

 train tracks


The Arcade!

It is 10:22 pm, and I am somewhere in snowy south Oregon on the Coast Starlight train. We have right at twelve hours to go until we land in San Francisco, and I've already eaten through my snacks...this isn't good.

This is my first time riding Amtrak since '98 when my family took this same line north to Vancouver. I don't remember much because we had a sleeping room and I such luxuries on this trip! I'm in a Coach seat (and there are outlet plugs at every seat and free WiFi!). However, I don't think I'll be getting much sleep judging by the crowded car, some babies, and a crew that looks/sounds like they are ready for a party.

I have been in Portland for several days visiting friends and checking out the city. I do love Portland, but I definitely feel like you need to have a dog on a leash, or a baby stroller to fit in. And if I lived there I would probably shop too much because all the shops are so cute and eclectic.  :)

I am headed to San Francisco to visit two Hawaii friends and am really looking forward to the city by the bay! But until then, I'm enjoying this laid back train traveling!

Update:  The ride went well, I think I got more sleep than I ever do on redeye airplane flights!  If we ever settle back on the mainland, hopefully it will be near an Amtrak line.  Tennessee is a void of sad!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We Go To Miami and Hang Out in a Parking Garage

Herzog & de Meuron's 11 11 Lincoln Road is a mixed-use development recently completed near the pedestrian shopping street of Lincold Road.  Take the elevator to the top of the parking garage and get some great views of Miami Beach!  Of course, only archi-dorks like ourselves will hang out in a parking garage and think it's awesome...

Cole and Ethan checking the views, the columns, and their phones

 The top floor parking deck that also double as event space (someone even got married there).  The wood-wrapped stairs connect to the owner/developer's penthouse on the roof.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Obama's Thoughts on Marriage

In honor of Valentine's Day and love:

“Sometimes, when we’re lying together, I look at her and I feel dizzy with the realization that here is another distinct person from me, who has memories, origins, thoughts, feelings that are different from my own. That tension between familiarity and mystery meshes something strong between us. Even if one builds a life together based on trust, attentiveness and mutual support, I think that it’s important that a partner continues to surprise." --Barack Obama


Friday, February 11, 2011

Photo Friday

The welcome sign to Dahab, Egypt.  That is Mubarek waving at us in the center...and as of today, he's waving goodbye! Congratulations to the Egyptian people who fought for their freedom!