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Photo Essay

Nicaragua rocks!

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The entire country rocks, literally. Yes, we did love Nicaragua that much, but actually we are talking about the fact that each evening, Nicaraguans around the country, gather together with friends and family, either in their front room or even outside, and rock the evening away in their rocking chairs.

But even in the early mornings, as we made our way through the already-blazing hot streets, we caught glimpses of men and women, sitting in their cool living rooms, peacefully reading the paper and sipping their coffee in their rocking chairs. The fact that the Nicaraguans build their houses with such an open front and keep their doors and windows wide open is a reflection of their open, even gregarious nature. Welcome, it says, talk to me, we are all a part of life in this town.

Luckily, the rocking chair tradition is not limited to private houses – we had rocking chairs in many of our hostels and even in a few restaurants. It was a fun way to try out one of the aspects of ‘being Nicaraguan’.

As the sun set, we enjoyed some Flor de Cana rum and watched the world go by from our rocking chairs.

And yes, it rocked!

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Goodbye 2010: Our year of travel in pictures

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An amazing year is coming to an end – our first as full-time travelers! Rather than rattle off a list of everywhere we’ve been, check out our year in pictures, from the pre-trip ‘planning’ phase to the rather unexpected place where we are ringing in the New Year!

In January we made the semi-spontaneous decision to become digital nomads and to leave London, where we had been living since 2007.

In February, we packed up our apartment and Dani drove a few boxes to her hometown of Erfurt in Germany, where she stored our stuff and said goodbye to friends and family.

Jess did the same in March, home in chilly Chicago.

In April, we met again in Britain and spent one last ‘stay-cation’ in the seaside town of Brighton, before starting off the trip of a lifetime:

We started our adventure in Las Vegas, of all places…

…before heading to San Francisco up the Pacific Coast Highway in May, the first of many road trips to come.

June saw us exploring the Arizona desert during our Tucson house-sit, then the canyons (Antelope, Canyon de Chelly and the Grand Canyon) in the north during one last road trip in the U.S.

We stopped in Los Angeles again in July…

…and from there we flew into Mexico City, where we started our Mexican adventure.

We spent August exploring Southern Mexico from Oaxaca to the Pacific Coast, San Cristobal, Palenque and the Yucatan.

In September we discovered the beautiful beaches of Belize

…and in October we began our two-month tour of Guatemala, which included Mayan villages, market towns, volcano climbing, the colonial town of Antigua and Lake Atitlan.

In November, we took a 2-week detour to El Salvador, where we found some rough Pacific beaches, hiked a volcano crater and visited colonial towns like  Suchitoto (pictured) and those on the Ruta de las Flores.

In December, we headed to Honduras, where we finished the ‘Maya trail’ by visiting the last of the series of Maya ruins at Copan. We’re ringing in the New Year at Lake Yojoa, before heading to Nicaragua to start of 2011!

Happy travels to all fellow travelers and happy New Year to all our readers out there!

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Our journey through Mexico in pictures

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Mexico was  only the second country of our trip, but we (unexpectedly) fell in love with the country and extended our stay there again and again – in the end we spent 88 days there, and traveled more than 3600 kilometers (2370 miles) through the country.

Reminiscing (yes, again), we looked through our thousands of photos and decided to take you on a photographic tour of our journey through Mexico:

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The two faces of Playa del Carmen: A walk up the ‘famous’ 5th Avenue

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Anyone who has been to Playa del Carmen knows 5th Avenue, or ‘Quinta Avenida’ in Spanish. That is, if you ever needed to use your Spanish while you were in Playa.  As we made our way down 5th for the first time, we were shocked at just how Americanized this once sleepy fishing village had become. 5th Ave is Playa’s main street, and has been carefully created for tourists. You can pay in U.S. Dollars everywhere, and the prices at restaurants and in shops lean more toward prices in the U.S. than the rest of Mexico. (Pizza, and there is a lot of Pizza in Playa, can be even more expensive – much to our pizza loving dismay).

We rented an apartment to the far northern end of town, out of this ‘tourist zone’ and we quickly discovered that there are two faces to Playa’s 5th Avenue:

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Views from above: San Francisco

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Being built on various hills, San Francisco has a number of viewpoints for magnificent vistas of the city and the bay. Here are our Top 5 views:

Telegraph Hill – Coit Tower

Coit Tower, which sits atop Telegraph Hill, offers both fabulous views from the top in addition to some fantastic murals inside. Even without entering the tower, the views from the 284 foot-high Telegraph Hill stretch over much of San Francisco. You can walk there easily from Fisherman’s Wharf or Chinatown and overlook the entire San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz and the Financial District.

Coit Tower is open daily from 10am to 5pm, $4.50

Treasure Island

The vista point on Treasure Island offers the best views of mainland San Francisco’s financial district and the Bay Bridge. The small island in the San Francisco Bay (which is only accessible by car) is best visited at sunset or at night when the Bay Bridge and twinkling lights of the skyscrapers are at their most stunning.

Twin Peaks

A name more familiar to some as a television cult classic, the San Francisco area of Twin Peaks lays south west of the city centre and has the second highest altitude (910 ft / 280 m) in all of San Francisco (Mount Davidson being the highest). Twin Peaks might also be the most famous view point of the city by the bay. In good weather you have all of San Francisco spread in front of you including the entire bay. In addition to its views, it also is home to a lot of wildlife such as raccoons, butterflies, hawks and skunks.

Bernal Heights Park

The viewpoint from Bernal Height Park is nowhere near as famous and only half the height (433 ft/132 m) of the Twin Peaks vista, but the views are equally as beautiful, especially of the Financial District, the Bay and both the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge. Well off the beaten tourist path, Bernal Heights park is the perfect spot to sneak off too for a quiet picnic.
Buena Vista Park

With a name like Buena Vista, you can be sure the view is likely to be good. Just a short walk from Haight & Ashbury, Buena Vista Park is one of the highest hills in the city (569 ft /173 m) and once you conquer the steep climb to the top, you will be rewarded by the splendid views over the city.  Though the hill is very popular with dog owners and dog walkers, during the week, it is possible to enjoy the views from the top with few people around you. Not only recommended for the views, sprawl out on the lawn at the top with a good book or set up a romantic picnic for two.

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Views from above: Mexico City

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The best way to get an overview of a city, especially one that sprawls like  Mexico City, is to see it from above. So we headed to the top of the Torre Latinoamericano, the only skyscraper in the historic center of Mexico City. However, at only 183 m (597 ft)  and 45 stories high, the Torre does not compare to towers in the U.S. or Asia, though respect must be given for the fact that Mexico City is hit with many earthquakes. The Torre Latinoamerica certainly towers over the rest of Mexico City’s skyline.

The views from the top are stunning – both daytime and nighttime, as long as the city is not too shrouded in smog:

To the  West you see the Alameda Central, a public park with lots of street vendors.

The food stalls at the Alameda seen from the Torre Latinoamericano.

Looking East you see the historic city center, the Zocalo (the main square), the Cathedral and the Palacio Nacional.

Mexico City’s Cathedral close-up. It is the oldest and largest cathedral in Latin America.

The Zocalo with the huge Mexican flag and the Palacio Nacional. The Palacio is the seat of the federal government and houses various murals by Diego Rivera, including one of his biggest and most famous, which depicts the history of Mexico stretching from wall to wall in an intricate, elaborate piece.

The view to the North offers vistas of the mountains that surround the city. The big building on the right side in the front is the Museo Nacional de Arte.

To the North you can also see the Plaza Garibaldi, famous for its Mariachi gatherings (especially on Fridays and Saturdays), when hundreds of Mariachi musicians congregate and bring the Plaza to life with their music.

The Palacio de las Bellas Artes is well worth a visit as it not only shows murals of Mexico’s greatest muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco, but also for the building’s interesting architecture itself.

Located East of the city center is the Zona Rosa, the business district of Mexico’s capital, with the only tall buildings in the city.

The buildings of the Zona Rosa and Paseo de la Reforma covered in smog.

Seeing the lights of the city at night reveals the entire dimension of this 10 million-strong metropole. The fluorescent strip is the Eje Central, the main 6-lane drag that goes from North to South through the entire city.

Mexico City view to the North at night.

West of Mexico City with Alameda Central.

The Palacio de las Bellas Artes at night.

The Tower is open daily from 9.30am to 10.30pm, MX$60.00 (about US$4.50). The entrance fee allows you to go up to the viewing platforms as often as you like on the day of purchase thanks to a colored wristband and includes a museum on the 38th floor which gives more information on the history of Mexico City, the earthquakes and the construction of the Torre Latinoamericana. There is also a fine dining restaurant on the 41th floor.

Adress: Eje Central & Avenida Juárez
Metro: Bellas Artes

Mexico City attractions map

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