Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizons from Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar

hammock at Kendwa Beach

Looking out to the horizon from Kendwa Beach was very peaceful.  My husband took this picture of me in a hammock and I love how the horizon lines up with the beach.  The simplicity of the tree and the single boat just reminds me of how relaxed we were at this moment.  That’s why I choose it for this week’s photo challenge: horizons.

Kendwa Beach sunset

Kendwa Beach is on the northwestern tip of the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania.  We went there for some much-needed rest and relaxation after our safari and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.  It’s been over five years since we went to Africa, yet I can still vividly remember our trip.

boats offshore at Kendwa Beach

Interested in the Weekly Photo Challenge?  Follow the Daily Post to get the weekly theme every Friday.  Make sure to tag your posts with “postaday” too.

The Mystique of Neuschwanstein Castle

at Neuschwanstein Castle

On our recent trip to Germany we visited Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the most popular castles in Bavaria.  It was a rainy day, which may not have been ideal weather but the castle was still spectacular and magical.  Dark clouds swirled around it adding to its mystique.  It was as if we were stuck in a Disney movie when the evil queen takes over the castle.

 castle courtyard

Speaking of Disney, Neuschwanstein is said to have been one of many castles across Europe to have inspired the design of Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom.

 from the bridge

We thought the wet weather would mean less crowds, but we were wrong.  By the time we arrived there was a long line at the ticket office.  While in line we learned that anyone can wander around the perimeter of the castle but you need a ticket for a tour inside.  The next available time we would have been able to get tour tickets was four hours later.  We decided to pass on the tour and explored the grounds.  I’m sure it would have been a great tour but I know I’ll be back for another visit.  Maybe next time we will get there early.

Walk This Way: Crossing the Charles Bridge in Prague

Charles Bridge

Strolling along the Charles Bridge is like visiting a popular museum.  With ornate statues, artists, vendors and gorgeous views of the Vltava River, it’s easy to see why it draws a big crowd.  The Charles Bridge is one of the most famous sites to visit in Prague.  Each of the 30 statues are captivating and held my gaze for several minutes.

Even though the statues are now replicas of the originals, they are still quite impressive.  The originals are on display in the National Museum of Prague.

This statue below of St. John of Nepomuk is thought to bring good luck when you touch the base.  For a saint who was thrown from the bridge in 1393, I’m not sure exactly why it’s good luck.

St John of Nepomuk statue-1

The Charles Bridge was one of many sites we explored while visiting Prague.  It is such a beautiful city with amazing architecture around every corner.  I would definitely go back for another visit and would recommend you add it to your next trip to Europe.

Pislner Urquell at the Charles Bridge

Sparkling Eiffel Tower at Night

Eiffel Tower- Night and Day

During the day the Eiffel Tower quietly poses for millions of pictures while by night it comes to life with thousands of twinkling lights.

Looking up the Eiffel Tower at night

Our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in Paris was at dusk before the lights were illuminated.  We admired the tower for several minutes from the Champ de Mars. There were many people lounging in the grass, enjoying their wine with a view.  This looked like a great idea so we came back the next night.

Eiffel Tower midnight light show from Champ de Mars

There is no bad view of the Eiffel Tower from the Champ de Mars. We easily found a great spot to relax for the evening.  The tower grew brighter the later it got.  Around 11 pm the lights sparkled for a few minutes, then again at midnight.

At 1 am the main lights turned off which left the smaller flickering lights.  It was as if the Eiffel Tower were vanishing right before our eyes.

Then all the lights went out.  It was perfect timing since we had just finished off a couple of bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne.

Eiffel Tower after midnight

Throughout the year the Eiffel Tower is host to multiple light shows.  I can imagine how beautiful it must look on New Year’s Eve.  If you are planning a trip to Paris I would suggest you save one night to do this too.  Au revoir!

Josh and I at the Eiffel Tower

Bavarian Biergarten Hopping

Germany's Highest Biergarten2Finding a Biergarten in Bavaria is like finding a Starbucks in Seattle.  There are plenty of them!  Since Oktoberfest is going on right now in Munich, I thought I would celebrate by remembering a few Biergartens we visited on our recent trip to Bavaria.  Josh and I spent a few days in Munich and a couple days in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen near the Austrian border.  From what I can remember, we visited at least six different Biergartens.

The Chinesischer Turm (The Chinese Tower) is the second largest Biergarten in Munich and can seat more than 7,000 people.  It’s hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city in the Englischer Garten.  A couple liters of Dunkel Bier (dark beer) paired with a Schweinshaxn (roasted pork knuckle) was heavenly for our taste buds.

At the north end of the Englischer Garten, the Seehaus Biergarten sits right on the shore of the Kleinhesseloher See.  The setting is so serene with swans swimming and paddle boats coasting by.  We were lucky to find a spot right next to the water.

One of the most famous German breweries is the Hofbrauhaus in Munich.  While it is technically not a Biergarten, they do have one set up.  We had our healthy share of a few liters of dark beer with a side of schnitzel.

The Viktulienmarkt Biergarten in the heart of the market was right next to where we stayed at the Hotel Am Markt.  It was a little too convenient for us beer lovers.

Just to show you how serious and passionate Germans are with beer, they built the highest Biergarten in Germany on the highest peak in Germany. The Zugspitze at 9,718 feet above sea level sits right next to the border of Austria.  We took the Zugspitzbahn from Garmisch-Partenkirchen then a gondola to the top.  Hundreds of peaks and several alpine lakes formed a spectacular view of the Alps.  A Lowenbrau with an apple strudel at this elevation made the experience much sweeter!

This last Biergarten is technically not a Biergarten either.  We stayed at the Riessersee Resort right on the lake.  They served beer at the swimming area so of course we grabbed a few bottles.  Sunny skies, cool water and the surrounding mountains created the perfect setting to enjoy some brews in between refreshing dips in the lake.  The dock was at just the right height like a swim up bar at an all inclusive resort.  Spending time here is one of my favorite memories of our entire trip to Bavaria.  It was magical!

So many Biergartens and we did not have enough time to visit all of them.  I’m sure our liver appreciates that we paced ourselves!  If you want to check out a Biergarten on your next trip to Munich in the summertime you can find a list by clicking here.  Cheers… or Prost!


View from the Roof of Africa: Kilimanjaro

Rebmann GlacierGazing down from the roof of Africa at sunrise is a moment I will never forget.  We were at Stella Point, just a few hundred feet from the summit of Kilimanjaro.  We had been hiking since midnight and I had focused on the light from my headlamp for the past six hours.  We paused for a moment at this point to take in the view. The sky was filled with vibrant shades of orange and red hues.

sunrise behind Mawenzi at Stella Point

I rubbed my eyes to adjust to the morning light but everything was blurry.  My mind started to race.  Was there a haze in the distance?  Did I have something in my eyes?  I could not see the sharpness of the peak Mawenzi or the details of the glaciers nearby. It was the kind of blurriness you get after having your eyes open in the pool for too long.

Glacier on Kilimanjaro

I started taking inventory of my health.  My breathing and heart rate were normal.  I was sore from hiking but nothing that I was not used to.  The summit was so close and I was not about to let my vision slow me down.  I asked Josh to take plenty of pictures so I can see it all later and then followed the trail carefully.

At the Summit!

Less than an hour later we made it to the top.  It was 7am on December 30th, 2007 when we stood in awe in front of a sign welcoming us to Uhuru Peak, Tanzania.  At 19,340 feet above sea level, Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest free-standing mountain.  We celebrated and took plenty of pictures.  Even though it was all blurry, the memory is still very clear to me.

Mt Meru in the distanceBy the time we descended from the summit that day my eyesight was back to normal.  I had Lasik Zyoptix corrective surgery in 2003.  Since then my eyes are more susceptible to the low pressure and low oxygen levels resulting in blurred vision. I still have yet to find a doctor to confirm that it was the cause of what happened.

Machame Gate

Six days prior to our summit we started our trek on the Machame Route.  From our first steps on the trail on Christmas Day 2007, we saw the spectacular mountain beckoning us.  Throughout our hike we enjoyed the amazing scenery and wildlife surrounding us.  White Colubus Monkeys jumped from tree to tree above the trail.  Higher up the mountain where the tree line grew thin we saw Senecio Kilimanjari and Lobelia plants which are unique to this region and elevation above 9,000 feet.

Lava Tower was a challenging hike for us on day three to help with acclimatization.  This peak reaches to about 14,000 feet above sea level.

Lava Tower

The porters are amazingly strong.  Each morning they would pack up our tent after we left, then pass us on the way up and have everything set up by the time we got to our next stop.  It was unbelievable!

Our Porters

By New Year’s Eve we were back at the hotel in Arusha, Tanzania and celebrating our accomplishment with a few Kilimanjaro brews. The entire trek was an incredible journey which will forever hold a place in my heart.

Happy New Year!

Here are more pictures from our trip. Enjoy!

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above the Corsair Wreck

From Above the Corsair WreckFrom above in more ways than one.  This Corsair plane is the only natural wreck that recreational divers can visit on Oahu.  All others were either intentionally sunken as artificial reefs, protected as memorials or are in too deep of waters for recreational divers.   I’ve been told that while on a test flight around the island after WWII, the pilot ran out of gas and ditched the plane in Moanalua Bay.  As far as I know, the pilot survived the crash and the plane has become a famous dive site in Hawaii.

Side view of the Corsair Wreck

The plane sits at about 107 feet below the surface surrounded by a field of garden eels. Plenty of marine life such as squirrelfish, starfish, damselfish, nudibranchs and octopus have made this wreck their home.  I’ve even spotted a tiger shark above this wreck once.  The thought of seeing that shark still gives me goose bumps!

Here are more pictures from around the dive site.  If you want to check it out I recommend these two dive shops:

Island Divers

Kaimana Divers

Longspine Porcupinefish under the wing of the Corsair Wreck

Field of Garden Eels around the Corsair Wreck

Front view of the Corsair Wreck

Interested in the Weekly Photo Challenge?  Follow the Daily Post to get the weekly theme every Friday.  Make sure to tag your posts with “postaday” too.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life

Luckily this week’s photo challenge happened on a spectacular day in the Pacific Northwest.  A day in my in life in Seattle typically starts off like most people: with coffee!  Having plenty of Starbucks near my office makes it easy to fulfill my caffeine fix.  After many productive hours at my desk, I headed out to Kerry Park to enjoy lunch while gazing at the iconic Space Needle.  On an extremely clear day Mount Rainier can be seen in the distance.

Now that Spring is here, I can get back into routine evening runs around the lake after work.  Today I ran up the west side of Lake Union to the Fremont Bridge.  I turned around near the Google offices in Fremont (also know as the Center of the Universe.)

Catching the sunset with a margarita and a burrito from Agua Verde was the perfect way to end the day.

Interested in the Weekly Photo Challenge?  Follow the Daily Post to get the weekly theme every Friday.  Make sure to tag your posts with “postaday” too. Cheers!