Taipei, Taiwan: rain, pork buns and temples

It had finally come – our family vacation to Taiwan! We had originally been planning a trip to Thailand, but the flights went up in price before John had his leave approved. So Taiwan it was! It was Chaucer who wrote that spring is when folks long to go on pilgrimage, and I can’t deny that’s what we were feeling. It was time to go. After moving every year for 6 years in a row, we were feeling the need to go somewhere. This is the longest we’ve lived in one place since having children (mind you, it’s only been a year and 4 months). John had visited China in 2015 before the kids and I were able to move out here to Okinawa with him, but when we found out the Visas to get into China were over $200 we realized we wouldn’t be able to take the whole family. So for that reason I was really excited to see Taiwan. It was about as Chinese as you could get without actually going to China. The main culture we witnessed was Chinese, as the language spoken is Mandarin, but there is also a lot of influence from Japan and other Asian countries. India even has a pretty big influence on this large island. They call Taiwan the “The heart of Asia”.


We had booked our trip to start at the end of the rainy season, and were hoping and praying that we wouldn’t get too wet. Overall, the weather ended up being perfect, and we only had rain the first day we got in town. We were so thankful!

It was a whopping 1 hour and 25 minute flight from Okinawa – so we were in the country before 10am and had there whole day to get settled and explore. I had booked us an AirBnB apartment in the Wanhua District, which is an up and coming hip area with lots of cute cafes and coffee shops. It was also a pretty short walk to the metro station which turned out to be very helpful. Thankfully, Taipei had just opened up a new line on the metro station that took us straight from the airport to Taipei Main Station, near our apartment.

We had decided to leave all our devices at home except John’s small iPad (he still had to receive work messages). We really wanted to unplug during this vacation. When we landed we got a chip for 10 days of data and  went on our merry way. It was a bit difficult finding the place, but I had printed maps and had a phone number to reach our host. Once we found a pay phone we were able to meet up with him. The apartment we rented was super cute, with turquoise walls and Art Deco light fixtures. It was Tiny!! But really perfect, since the kids had their own room with a bunk. They were so happy to have a new space all to themselves!


As soon as we dropped our suitcases (all two of them – read about that here) we headed out for the famous beef noodle soup of the area. Our host had given us the scoop on a great hole in the wall place nearby. It reminded us of the tiny restaurants in the Mercados of Lima, Peru. You definitely don’t go there for the atmosphere!


Lunch at the Beef Noodle shop

But the noodles were delicious. Violet had a lot of fun playing with them.


Olivia wasn’t too keen on them though, so she was a bit pouty through the meal – just keeping it real 😉 At least she had fun playing with the noodles after we were done eating. I’m sure this was probably not considered good manners, but I don’t think anyone saw us…lol. Generally, you’re not supposed to touch your food with your fingers at all. We ate with chopsticks for 10 days straight! Thank goodness we all knew how.

It rained all morning and into the afternoon, but after a short rest back at the apartment it had cleared up pretty nicely. We walked out to the bus station and on the way found this beautiful tree blooming with the biggest blossoms!


Blooming tree

The city was busy, but not overwhelming. Probably 2/3 of the people rode scooters, which made things seem a little less crowded.

We got to the bus stop and boarded, but either we boarded the wrong bus, or just didn’t know how to work the system. Regardless, we jumped out at the first stop, which happened to be several blocks past where we were trying to go. We just took the scenic route 😉 We were walking to the Dihua Street area, where there are a lot of new shops and cafes that have opened in the historic buildings. Along the way we tried a green onion crepe from a street vendor. It was delicious! Cliff really liked it. Once we got to Dihua St. we saw there was a lot going on – from plays and music, to the tea cart guy who’s teapot whistled sharply through the air to alert passersby to his presence.


Tea cart/bike guy

We bought the kids a few taro and red bean treats while we were walking.


Red bean treat

We saw our first temple here. It was busy, with lots of locals and a few obvious tourists lighting incense and offering prayers. To who, I’m not sure.


We continued walking and found a nice little bakery, where we grabbed a loaf of sweet taro bread for breakfast the next day (we had learned in our previous trip to have backup plans for meals, especially the first one of the day – hungry kids are not fun to travel with!). We also found many little open shops selling dried fruits, so we bought a bag of dried kiwis, pineapples, and mangos, as well as some dried figs stuffed with walnuts. Those were lifesavers on some days when the kids needed a little pick-me-up.


Walking further down the street we finally spotted something that would satisfy us for dinner – the famous pork buns of Taiwan. Their operation was coming to a close, but we managed to grab the last few they had left. They were already washing out the pans behind the stand in the street.


Pork bun stand

After the kids ate we hailed a taxi, since we’d walked quite a ways by now and it was getting dark. Once the kids were in bed and settled, John went out to try one of the many foot massage parlors nearby. Most of them offered hour foot massages for the equivalent of about $15 USD. We tried out a few places over the 10 day trip… It was a great first day. We were excited to see Taipei 101 the next day! The 4th tallest building in the world! More to come later…


Hokkaido, Japan: Otaru

If you haven’t done so already, you can read about the rest of our trip in Hokkaido, Japan here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4.

The last day of our trip was finally here. We only had one day in Otaru, so we really packed everything in as best we could. We went to a fish market for breakfast, which was such a fun experience.

John got a roasted fish with rice, miso soup and sides, the kids got roasted salmon with rice and miso and I got the seasonal sashimi platter, complete with raw shrimp! Yikes!

These are very traditional breakfasts for the Japanese. The appetizer, that was served with the oolong tea, was dried squid. It was our first time trying it, and it was surprisingly good! John and the kids loved their fish, and I liked my sashimi platter, though it was just a bit strange eating cold fish while it was so cold out – in the morning.


Sashimi set for breakfast

It was some of the best seafood I’ve had though! The hot tea was really nice too. The ladies who ran the fish market restaurant were so sweet, and kept talking to the kids. When they heard them playing Janken (the Japanese paper, rock, scissors game) they were so excited and came over and started talking to them in Japanese. At one point Violet got pretty rowdy and hit her head hard on the corner of the table. The sweet ladies did everything they could to console her, but the favorite was a singing and dancing cat statue they brought out. Too funny.

It was time for us to catch our bus for the aquarium after breakfast. The ride up there was so pretty, as we rounded the snowy coastline of Hokkaido.


The aquarium was definitely a highlight of the trip. 

It was situated on top of quite a big hill, and had a gorgeous view of the ocean and nearby mountaintops.


View from the top of the aquarium

We made it there just in time for the daily penguin walk! This was the highly anticipated moment of the trip for myself at least ;).

The penguins were all corralled outside and made a few circles around the pathway so everyone could get a good look and a good picture. They were so cute!!


Violet had again fallen asleep out of self defense in the cold, so she missed that part, but Olivia really enjoyed it.

Cliff was so excited to have found a green snow shovel and some big piles of snow, that he barely watched the penguins! Kids can be so funny. We did manage to peel him away from his very important job for a few minutes 😉

We ended up staying for a while after the penguins left and did some sledding down the hills. John pretty much scared me half to death at one point, as I thought he was going to go right over the edge of a 30 foot drop off. The snow had all but covered the barrier, and it wouldn’t have taken much to go over! He is insane sometimes. I’m convinced I’m the only reason he’s still alive now.

We all had a really fun time though. Olivia worked hard to dig a snow slide and then we took turns sliding down on it.


Moments like this make the difficulties of traveling with little ones worth the memories. They even convinced their mama to try out the snow slide.


The views were amazing up there, and we thoroughly enjoyed the family time.



We also got to see the seals, who were in a very good mood.


Playful seals

I didn’t think the rest of the aquarium would be that appealing to us, since we have the Churumi Aquarium in Okinawa, but I was wrong! There were some of the most interesting fish and sea creatures there! The kids even got to touch an octopus! The “octopus supervisor” put this octopus away after the kids kept getting a little too close to his mouth – yikes – I think he was saying it was hungry!


Touching the octopus – “tako” in Japanese

Lastly, we saw them feed the porpoises and saw a few more local fishes.

It was a really fun visit! Definitely worth the bus ride out. When we got back to Otaru, we took the mile and a half walk to the music box museum.

Along the way we had lunch at a local seafood restaurant. Sashimi rice bowl and grilled eel with miso soup. So delicious!

Cliff actually slept through lunch in the stroller but when he woke up we got all the kids got some street food too, since they weren’t a fan of the raw fish ;). They had corn on the cob and some sort of a fish pancake that looked pretty good. Apparently “Royce” chocolate is a really big thing in Otaru. Since my dad’s name is Royce I had to take a picture 🙂

The music box museum was in a beautiful old historical building and had wooden balconies lining the inside.


We’d never seen so many music boxes! We had told the kids they could pick out a music box as their souvenir when we went, so we spent a while perusing the place helping them pick out the perfect ones. I regret I didn’t take any photos of the inside – it was pretty unbelievable! At one point when I went to pay, John turned his back on Violet and she piled as many music box bears as she could reach into her stroller. She either was surprised at herself or was trying to look innocent…”who, me??”


“who, me?”

Otaru was such a cute little town. We really loved our short time there. The old buildings were so fun to see, and the canals with the rushing water along the snowy banks were like something out of a storybook.


The canal at nighttime

We stepped into a local chocolate shop on the walk back and had some hot chocolate to warm us up.


Hot chocolate pit stop!

We also got to check out a couple of the glass shops. I would have loved to spend hours combing the little shops, but it’s not super practical with 3 kids 5 and under! It was starting to get dark now, so we made the trek towards the ramen restaurant we’d picked out for dinner. We were excited about this one. It was ranked as one of the best restaurants in the town, and we agreed!

The ramen was absolutely delicious. The kids liked it too, and they also are the bonito fish rice and dumplings. There’s nothing like a soulful bowl of ramen to warm you up after hours of walking in the freezing cold snow! Next, we headed to the train station again to pick up our tickets for the next morning, and some bakery breads for breakfast (we’d be leaving too early to get anything then). On our walk back home we stopped in the pathway of candles and snow sculptures that snaked along the alley. Some of them were surprisingly intricate! The sculptures were a gift from the Korean country to the Japanese. It went along for blocks, and we were all pretty cold, so we didn’t get to see all of it, but what we did see of it was really beautiful.

I could hardly believe our trip had come to an end! The next morning we would pack up early and get on the 6:00 train back to Sapporo to catch our flights to Tokyo and then back to Okinawa.


The canal outside our hotel

Traveling with three kids 5 and under…we finally did it. We were crazy, but we did it 😉


Going home!

Hokkaido, Japan: The Chocolate Factory

If you haven’t already, you can read about day 1, day 2 and day 3 of our Hokkaido trip.
The next day was Wednesday, our last morning in Sapporo, so we made a quick stop for breakfast in our favorite cafe (or the only one we could find, really, since breakfast isn’t a very big thing in Japanese restaurants).

Hot chocolate with breakfast – what a treat!

The newly fallen snow made everything look really fresh and beautiful. After breakfast we finished our laundry, packed up our room, and ran down to the ice sculptures to see which ones were looking the best.

The Portland Ice Sculpture, work in progress

The international ice sculpture contest went all week and the winner was announced on Thursday, after we left Sapporo. Portland was the rep for the U.S. – it was looking good! Our favorites were Macao and Latvia, but they were all pretty amazing. Macao ended up winning First Place on Thursday, and Latvia was the Runner Up.

The Latvia Ice Sculpture, work in progress


The Macao Ice Sculpture, work in progress

After that we grabbed our luggage and took a taxi to the Chocolate Factory. Cliff’s birthday is on Valentine’s Day, and we were just a few days out, so we celebrated it by taking them to the Shiroi Koibito Factory, courtesy of Grandma and Poppy.

The courtyard of Shiroi Koibito Factory


Clock Tower and Courtyard

The factory was beautiful. It was like something out of a fairy tale! A huge clocktower stood at the edge of the courtyard, and inside the courtyard there were dozens of little playhouses, each with its own little kitchen or bed.
Inside the Factory, Cliff and Olivia got to go into the kitchen and decorate their own cookies.

All “chefed” up!

Cliff decorated a cookie in the shape of Hokkaido, and Olivia decorated a heart cookie. They both did a great job!

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The birthday boy and his finished cookie!

We had lunch after cookies (priorities, right?!), then the kids played in the little town of playhouses outside, had a snowball fight, and warmed up indoors in the kids play area for a bit.
Next we went on a factory tour to see the line where they assemble the chocolate sandwich cookies (which are out of this world delicious – I only wish we’d bought more).

Checking out the chocolate cookie assembly line

Before leaving we had to try out the cafe located on the top floor, overlooking the clock tower and the park grounds below. We all got a parfait and John and I shared a coffee. It was delicious! By the time we were done it was nearly dark out. It was time for our fairytale experience to come to an end.
We called a taxi and he drove us to the train station again where we boarded our train for Otaru, about another half hour from the edge of Sapporo. The snow was so deep everywhere, from the snowfall the night before.

Walking to the train station

It was about 19 degrees out at that point, but we were all pretty well bundled. The kids were all troopers, and they loved getting on the train (though Cliff fell asleep in my lap about 4 minutes after we started moving).
We got into Otaru after dark, but our hotel was a straight walk down from the station. We were glad we just decided to walk, even though it was so cold, because the town was beautiful all lit up!

Ice lanterns were everywhere!

Nearly every little shop and restaurant had ice globes with candles inside them. It was gorgeous! There were also quite a few snow sculptures along our walk. We found these fun sculptures of seals and frozen fish inside of ice blocks!

Seals and fish!


We found the minions!

We were staying right on the canal, in a beautiful old historic hotel. It really felt like we’d stepped back in time. The town had a European feel to it (I say that, but I’ve yet to go to Europe!) with lots of cafes, chocolate shops, glass shops and music box shops.

Our pretty girl on the canal!

After we got settled into our new hotel room (which felt huge after our tiny double twin room in Sapporo), we ventured out for some dinner, again to no avail. We’ve made a decision to never again try to find food in a new city on the night we get in town, if it’s after 6pm. We almost always strike out!
Though we walked into half a dozen restaurants and street food shops they were all either closed or closing. We finally settled for the bakery food we’d bought at the train station and the cookies the kids had decorated at the chocolate factory. It was a strange dinner, but you do what you gotta do. We tried to make it fun for the kids, though Olivia reminded us the next morning that she’d only had pastries and cookies for dinner the night before (parenting fail!). We only had one day left in Hokkaido, so we were soon out the door for breakfast and exploring. More coming soon!

Hokkaido, Japan: Sapporo Snow Festival

The first morning the kids were so thrilled to get out in the snow. Of course we had to have a snow ball fight on the walk down to the festival.

That first day we just explored the main Snow Festival site, Odori Park. It was 13 blocks of snow and ice sculptures, food vendors, snow slides, and snow shows.

I think this girl was the official Snow Festival character, from what I understood.


The Cup Noodle snow sculpture and slide

It was pretty overwhelming at first, but so very cool! We were glad we had bought some snow spike guards to put on the bottom of our shoes, since it was really slippery in places.


This entire “building” was a snow sculpture!

The food vendors were amazing. It was so cool to see they could just leave all the uncooked seafood and beef out in the cold, and when you ordered they’d grab a piece and throw it on the grill right there in front of you.


Raw crab and beef tongue, waiting to be cooked.


The crab on a stick was so yummy, and the kids loved the corn on the cob 😉

John and I tried the crab in a shell, which was topped in a cheesy corn sauce and had seaweed mixed in. Corn is a pretty big deal in Japan. They even have corn sushi at most restaurants, and they almost always put it in ramen.

For lunch we ventured down to Ramen Alley. We’re not positive we found it, but after wandering for about 45 minutes in the blistering cold, we finally found a ramen place that was open and looked good. The province of Hokkaido is known for its food and boasts the best ramen and the best seafood (thanks to the icy cold waters surrounding the island). This place did not disappoint. It definitely ranked near the top of our ramen experiences.

The ramen shop

We walked around and saw some more ice sculptures after lunch and then headed back to the hotel.


I loved the horse ice sculpture

 After a rest we all decided to try the onsen inside the hotel. An onsen is a Japanese hot mineral spring. I had brought all our swimsuits when I saw there was one in the hotel. However, we didn’t need them! In Japan apparently they are gender-segregated and nude. It was quite an experience, and though I didn’t think I would like it, I actually did. Violet wasn’t so sure though. It was pretty hot! The process of the Onsen is what was so amazing. You undress, then shower off in a small open stall. You’re supposed to shower with hot water to acclimate your body to the hot spring. Afterwards, you use the indoor hot spring, and if you’re feeling brave, you walk outside to the open air onsen, where the surface of the hot water steams as it hits the icy cold air above it. It was much hotter in the outdoor onsen. I didn’t go out with the girls, but later when I went back alone I did and it was such a cool experience!

Open-air onsen at our hotel (pic from their website)

After you soak for as long as you can stand, you go back to the showers, and they have soap and shampoo so you can bathe off. Then you dry off and proceed to the line of vanities where you can blow dry your hair and use oils and lotions on your skin before you dress. When I went back in the evening the onsen was crowded with probably near 100 women, all doing their evening routines for bedtime. It seemed very relaxing, and there was hardly any speaking at all. Just silence as everyone quietly processed their day.

Since we all got naps that first afternoon, and had already had our showers for the evening, we decided to go back out to Odori Park to see the light shows. It was a completely different experience at night!


Happy and bundled!

The kids got their chocolate bananas that they had been promised too (we had bribed them for good behavior while we were dragging them around looking for the ramen place). No, we are not above bribing. It’s the only way we survive traveling with little ones. Seriously.

Chocolate bananas!

In Texas we eat frozen chocolate bananas, but here the bananas were raw, then dipped in chocolate and decorated, and then they stood them outside to freeze the chocolate. Pretty neat!
I tried a fresh scallop, cooked on the grill. The king crabs looked good, but they were so expensive!
We got to see the Star Wars light show, and many other lit up sculptures.

The Star Wars sculpture in the daytime.

Violet was bundled up warmly, and just wanted to know “why??” She was such a good sport through all the cold weather. At the end the kids couldn’t resist the fluffy snow lining the pathways, and had to have another snow ball fight. It was such a fun night!

Feeding our kids real foods

This post is a little different than most here on our blog.  I’m deviating from the travel aspect of our lives and talking more about food for our littles since a lot of people have been asking me about this lately.  Feeding kids can be challenging. Feeding kids in a foreign country can be downright scary.

Eating choclo (Peruvian corn) on a trip

Eating choclo (Peruvian corn) on a trip

Thankfully, we had already committed to feeding our kids real foods before moving overseas, so that’s made things much easier while living in Peru.

We first started eating “real foods” back in 2012, before I got pregnant with Cliff.  We were finally in a home, after 6 months of moving around the country, and we just slowly stopped buying the boxed things we’d come to rely on…cereals, pastas, jarred foods, bread, crackers, baby “finger foods”, and so on.  As we cut these things from our diet we noticed we were all feeling much better.

Olivia eating plain yogurt at 10 months

Olivia eating plain yogurt at 10 months

It was a slow transition, but after about six months, we were mostly free of processed junk and were eating a lot more quality vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy.  Olivia was about 18 months at this point.  She had always been a little bit of a picky eater, but transitioned fairly well to our new way of eating.  Sometimes convincing her to try a new vegetable was really difficult, but we always offered her a little bit of everything we were eating even if we knew she didn’t like it.  I felt like that was key.

Snacking on an apple from our backyard apple tree!

Snacking on an apple from our backyard apple tree in CA!

For a while, our strategy was for her to clear her plate.  Except, since we were dealing with a strong-willed child, she often put up a fight and dinner would turn into a long drawn-out battle.  After reading the French parenting book, Bringing up Bébé, we decided we needed to switch strategies.  By this time, Cliff was just starting to eat solids as well, around 10-11 months old.

Starting solids around 10 months

Cliff trying out some squash around 10 months

Our new plan was to offer them everything we were eating, as before, but just require them to taste each thing – not necessarily clear their plates.  This took away the pressure that Olivia, especially, would feel when a new scary vegetable loomed in front of her.  It still takes some convincing sometimes, but they are both very good at tasting a bite of each food on their plate now.

Eating out at a sushi restaurant

Eating out at a sushi restaurant

We don’t force it, they know the rule, and usually do try everything, though some meals they skip over an item.  We just casually prompt them to remember to taste each thing before they are excused from the table.  Many times they are surprised by how good something tastes and end up asking for more.  Like the asparagus in our scrambled eggs the other morning, that Olivia assured me she disliked…but then she asked for thirds.

"I LOVE kale, mama!" (It was chard...but, cool!)

“I LOVE kale, mama!” (It was chard…but, cool!)

Something we’ve noticed is that as soon as we allow candy and processed junk back into their diets, they immediately lose their appetites for real foods.  This keeps us diligent in the quality of foods we are offering (though they do get their share of treats).

One vegetable that Olivia has detested for over two years, is tomatoes.  And yet, every time we serve food with tomatoes, I put a piece or two on her plate.  One day recently, she tasted it, looked up with a huge grin on her face and said, “Mama, I LOVE tomatoes!”  She still doesn’t eat them all the time, but it was a big victory just to have her try them and actually like them.  They both love salad if it’s got a little homemade dressing on it.

Eating salad for dinner

Eating salad for dinner – this was his third helping

 And broccoli is a favorite.  Cliff eats his weight in peas and sweet potatoes, and they both really like mashed cauliflower and fish.

Salmon with veggies - one of Cliff's favorites

Salmon with chard – one of Cliff’s favorites

I think it also helps that we’ve allowed each of them to “help” in the kitchen and be a part of the meal.  Olivia, especially, is much more likely to eat something if she has helped wash it or cut it up.  Cliff…he eats anything, the struggle with him is keeping him hungry for the meal!

Tasting some homemade marinara sauce

Tasting some homemade marinara sauce

 It’s been a long and purposeful journey, but we have been so thankful that our littles will eat more than the typical pasta and rice, especially since traveling around we often can’t find such specific foods.  They are adventurous little eaters now, and though they still put up a fight on some new things, it’s exciting to see them develop a taste for real foods!

Baked scallops at a restaurant in Paracas, Peru

Going for the baked scallops at a restaurant in Paracas, Peru

Lima series: Barranco *hip and bohemian*

One of our favorite places to visit in Lima is Barranco: a neighboring district, just a couple miles south of us.



 There’s a beautiful bike path that runs by our house along the coast so we usually load up the kids in the stroller and make the trek there on foot.

Walking through Barranco

Walking through Barranco in Spring

 Barranco is very different from Miraflores, which definitely caters to tourists and the wealthy Limeneans.  It’s earthy, hip and bohemian; filled with local artist shops, wall murals, and brightly colored houses and buildings.

Brightly colored buildings

Brightly colored buildings Photo credit: Linda Massingill

Mural photo credit: Linda Massingill

Mural photo credit: Linda Massingill

 The Plaza de Armas is especially pretty.  In case you haven’t noticed in our travels, there are many Plaza de Armas.  Every district/town in Latin America (that we’ve seen) has one.  This one has a nice big fountain and faces a beautiful old church.  Often, there are events going on here.

Playing at the fountain

Playing at the fountain

At the Plaza

At the Plaza

It’s surrounded by local restaurants and a couple of coffee shops, including our favorite coffee shop in Lima, Arabica.  When we went with John’s parents and Aunt this summer, we got to sit out back on the beautiful patio surrounded with lanterns and chirping birds.

Enjoying the patio at Arábica

Enjoying the patio at Arábica

We were happy to find they were serving iced coffee, since it was a pretty warm day.

We’ve been to almost all the museums in Barranco, now, but our favorite is definitely the Museo Pedro de Osma.  It’s a little pricey at S./20 per person, but definitely worth it anyways.  Shoot, I’ve paid to go three times with different visitors we’ve had in town.  It’s a great place.

Birds on the lawn at Museo Pedro de Osma

Birds on the lawn at Museo Pedro de Osma

At the museo

At the museo

It’s housed in a Spanish Viceroy’s mansion and the home alone is worth seeing with gorgeous stained glass windows and a beautifully manicured lawn.

Stained glass windows

Stained glass windows

Huge painting

Huge painting

 The silver exhibit is the highlight of the museum, though the last time we were there they had a wonderful temporary exhibit with some breathtaking modern oil paintings.



The MATE Mario Testino is a neat museum to visit, depending on what photographers are being showcased.

The MATE Musem

The MATE Musem

 We were lucky enough the visit when they were showcasing some shockingly beautiful photographs of classic movie stars from the early 1900’s.  There’s also a permanent exhibit of Princess Diana there.

Recently, we also visited the free electricity museum with the kids.

At the Museo de la electricidad

At the Museo de la electricidad

 They enjoyed the interactive stations.

Happy kids

Happy kids

 The room of old electronics (many of which were the first ones marketed) was really fascinating.

Cliff the Chef

Cliff the Chef

Checking out old electronics

Checking out an old telephone

 There was even a big juke box where you could play a classic song for a sole.

A favorite restaurant of ours in Barranco is Burrito Bar…where Texans go when they’ve got a hankering for Mexican food.  Because let’s face it, the worst thing about South America is that it’s not anything like Central America.  Finding chips in this city is impossible.  It’s been served at exactly two restaurants (and we hunted for those!).  After living here for 3 months, stumbling upon Burrito Bar was like finding a buried treasure on a desert island.

At Burrito Bar with family

At Burrito Bar with family

 They even have guacamole!  That is to die for.  Anyways, enough with that, I’m getting hungry again.  Another favorite restaurant of ours is Sofie’s Cafe.  If you’ve got a hankering for waffles, it’s the place to go.  We went twice when Grams was visiting.  We liked that it was super kid-friendly.

At Sofie's Cafe

At Sofie’s Cafe

 It was a wonderful Sunday morning walk to make for a nice brunch.

Walking in Barranco

Walking in Barranco

On the weekends, there’s also a Feria on Jr. Unión that can be fun to peruse.  They cater to hippies, I would say.  You can find anything from homemade clothing, incense, handmade soaps and lotions to jewelry and some possibly scarring nude photography (watch your kids! hah!).  The Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs) is a pretty place to visit, too.

Puente de los Suspiros: Mamaw and Livi

Puente de los Suspiros: Mamaw and Livi

Me and Cliff at the bridge

Me and Cliff near the bridge

 Legend goes that if you make a wish and walk across the bridge with your sweetheart, it will come true.  Near the bridge there’s also a look out over the ocean that’s really breathtaking.

Me and Mom at the lookout

Me and Mom at the lookout

 So…those are some of our favorite things to do when we visit Barranco.  It’s definitely my favorite way to spend a day in Lima.  If you’re ever in Lima, it’s worth putting on the “to see” list!

Huaraz, Peru (day 3) Laguna Llanganuco

Our third day in Huaraz, Olivia ran a fever during the night, so I didn’t think we would make it out to the lake like we had planned. However, she slept in late and when she woke her fever was gone, so we decided to get out despite the late start. It was going to be a pretty low-key day anyways – mostly driving.

The lakes we were headed to were high up in the mountains, Lagunas Llanganuco.

Beautiful farmed countryside

Beautiful farmed countryside

The drive up was pretty. We accidentally took the wrong mountain road up, so it was particularly challenging, but John managed it like a pro and we were there not much later than we had anticipated.

The Cordillera Blancas

The Cordillera Blancas

We were unprepared for the beauty that awaited us at the lake.

We made it to the lake!

We made it to the lake!

At the lake

At the lake

The first lake sat below a huge glacier, and was absolutely breathtaking.

Laguna Llanganuco

Laguna Llanganuco

The water was a gorgeous teal blue color. Our guide told us it’s that color because of the algae that grows at the bottom of the lake. We decided to take a little boat ride out into the water.

Ready for a boat ride!

Ready for a boat ride!

It was a fun little excursion.

Nice day for the lake

Nice day for the lake

Cliff really wanted to throw his baby doll over the side for a little swim…but we successfully saved the baby.  John got to row the boat for a bit, too, which was a fun experience for him.

Rowing our boat

Rowing our boat

We were a heavy group, with six of us in the boat!

Enjoying the water

Enjoying the water

We missed lunch at the little “restaurant” that was by the lake, but the mamitas were able to scrounge up two pieces of choclo for the kids.

Happy to have some lunch!

Happy to have some lunch!

Chowing down on choclo

Chowing down on choclo

Choclo is Peruvian corn. It’s boiled and then traditionally served with a piece or two of queso fresco. The kids love it, which is good because it’s on pretty much every menu and in every market.

After the kids finished their light lunch, we decided to take the rocky road down just a bit further and get a peek of the next lake.

Lake under the mountains

Lake under the mountains

The second lake

The second lake

 It was beautiful too!  The road was pretty bumpy in places!  We were so glad for a 4×4 vehicle on this trip.

Part of the road ahead

Part of the road ahead

Runoff from the mountain

Runoff from the glacier

Crossing one of the numerous bridges

Crossing one of the numerous bridges

After crossing a land bridge, we came upon a herd of cattle that were grazing in the bright green grass.

The land bridge across the lake

The land bridge across the lake



 Cliff was enchanted.  He loves cows!  We grabbed a snapshot with our Texas A&M flag before loading back up into the car.

Gig 'em Ags!

Gig ’em Ags!

 It was such a fun excursion!

On the way back down the mountain, we picked up some hikers who were growing weary under the hot sun.  It was a crowded but nice trip down the mountain and we enjoyed visiting with the Austrian hikers and admiring the scenery.

The snowy Cordilleras

The snowy Cordilleras

Waterfall beside the road

Waterfall beside the road

Farmland beneath the Cordilleras

Farmland beneath the Cordilleras

 Once we got down the mountain road, we had a late lunch, or early dinner, in Yungay.  The kids had fun chasing a cat around the restaurant during before and after the meal.

The last stop on the list for the day was the cemetery in Yungay, where 25,000 people were killed in The Ancash Earthquake of 1970.

Walking to the memorial

Walking to the memorial

 It was the deadliest natural disaster in Peru – the entire town was completely wiped out in just 3 minutes.

Memorial at sunset

Memorial at sunset

 Today, there is a beautiful memorial site where the city and the Plaza de Armas once stood.

Walking through the memorial

Walking through the memorial

 You can still see a bus, sticking out of the ground – not much more than twisted metal in the dirt.  It was a sobering tour.

Old bus

Old bus

 As the sun was going down, we were amazed by the beauty of this place.



 Thankfully we made it back to Huaraz without incident through the very dark mountain roads.  It had been a long day.  We were all ready for some rest!