I go places, and I like to write about them. Simple really, until you’re in the jungle where Wi-Fi is just a tribal name for those flies that put you to sleep.

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To Mexico City With an Infant – Part 1

Traveling is something that neither one of us wanted to give up when we had a child. In our love-hate relationship with Chicago, the hateful days land primarily in the forever greyness between the end of winter and the real end of winter. For those of you who cheat at life by living somewhere without slush, it’s like the stressful 15 minutes between pulling pecan pie out of the oven and not searing your mouth with goodness.

So, we escaped five days of April to Mexico City and did some learning about traveling with an infant. Read more

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Free Range Colombia – Day 20: Enchanted

Originally, we thought we’d head to the northern coast of Colombia, spend the night in Cartagena and hop on a bus to Tayrona – a popular national park a few hours northeast of Cartagena. One American couple we met said Tayrona was definitely pretty, but not the best hike in the world. Hm. And the Spanish couple staying in the Amazon with us couldn’t stop going on about how “super enchanting!” Cartagena is. Hm. And we were tired of transportation. Getting to Tayrona from Cartagena requires a lot. Hm.

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Free Range Colombia – Day 17: Puerto Nariño

On Day 17, we took a trip to the small town of Puerto Nariño on the Amazon River. About one hour by powered canoe, it’s popular for a lack of streets, well-manicured walkways, a small museum and common services that can’t be found in the villages. However, we enjoyed the way our Lonely Planet guide spun the quaint, jungle town into an ecotourism destination. Let me translate from “American hippie” into “Amazonian Reality” in the parentheses…  Read more

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Free Range Colombia – Day 14: The Great Boat Caper

Today we woke up in a room cooled to a comfortable 68 degrees. It would have been even more notable at the time if we’d had prior experience to the perma-sweat about to come.

After a now typical morning breakfast of two fried eggs, a home-baked roll, a solid coffee and smile upon payment, we headed back to the hotel.

JOHN: I packed the backpacks, keeping the most necessary items accessible – in priority:

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Free Range Colombia – Day 12: Cleveland v. Pereira

We woke up too early – tired and crabby – in Salento.

or.

We woke up too late – hungry and rushing for the bus – in Salento.

 

We wanted the 7:50am bus to Pereira [map], the workman’s town and capital of the coffee region where we were to catch the plane to the Amazon on the following day. Many mountain-turns and grinded-gears later, our small bus arrived at the Terminales around 9am.

 

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Free Range Colombia: Day 10 and 11: On the Back of a Willys

When we told Jorge at Hacienda Guayabal that our next stop was relatively nearby Salento, his face dropped. He launched into the kind of story that every person has about someplace that was dear and has changed, but not for the better. When Jorge was a kid, Salento was quaint, beautiful and affordable. The people used to gather there on the weekends to sell and buy, but now it’s too expensive and they must travel further to sell and buy. Tourism has changed it… Read more

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Free Range Colombia – Day 8 and 9: Into the Coffee Fields

Today we completed our first domestic air travel from Bogota to Periera, a large working class city in western Colombia with connections to the Zona Cafeteria – the coffee zone. Located in the mid-elevations of the Andes mountains, it’s warm, muggy and covered in tropical coffee farms. First stop… Hacienda Guayabal – our splurge for the trip where we’ve read that the service is excellent and the coffee culture authentic.

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Free Range Colombia: Day Seven – Pride and Passion

Louis, John and I hopped in a taxi cab on Friday morning to check out Iza, a nearby pueblo known for its beauty and merengón (a cake-ish treat with a thick layer of jammy-fruitness)before getting the bus to Bogotá.

Louis is a get-things-done kind of fellow. As John and I casually looked for a nice shop where we might put our big backpacks for an hour, he was already inside a building with doors wide open, asking the first person he saw behind a desk to watch our stuff. This request occurred using perhaps 2 Spanish words, a string of Sp-English words and a whole lot of gestures. Smiles exchanged, bags dropped, “muchas gracias” expressed. Louis hadn’t noticed that the office was marked: “Juzgado Municipal ” as in, the municipal judge… Read more

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Free Range Colombia – Day 4 and 5: Seemingly Simple

Sometime in between the taxi, coach bus, mini-bus, and second taxi rides, I wondered if we had made a mistake. Villa de Leyva is one of the many colonial towns north of Bogotá in an area called Boyacá, and it was starting to feel like too big a pain in the butt to be worth the trip. Once we finished all the transportation, I still wasn’t convinced. Renacer Colombian Highlands seemed like a nice enough hostel above the touristy town, but they were doing some work on the buildings and it was noisy and not tranquil and I couldn’t stop sneezing because the crazy Páramo ecosystem is high and dry. Read more

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Free Range Colombia – Day 2: Shifting Gears

The weeks leading up to our Colombia adventure, I found myself explaining away the lengthy duration of the trip.  “You see,” I said over and over again, “we get to take over 3 weeks because John works for the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago and we’re not Jewish and there are a lot of Jewish holy days in September and I freelance, and don’t you see? We are going to take advantage of this time.” Read more

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Free Range Colombia – Day 1: Sleepless in Bogota

 

  1. Mop. Mop. Sweep. Wash. Rush. Watch a midnight episode of Narcos. Zzzzz.
  2. 2am. BUZZ! Check. Think. Check. Lock. Exit. Walk. Walk. Run.
  3. Swipe. Sit. Wait. Relax. O’Hare.
  4. Wait. Move. Wait. Move. Grumble. Move. Drop bags. Go.
  5. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Take off shoes. Raise arms up. No pat down. Thanks.
  6. Take off. Land. Welcome to Florida! Take off. Land. Welcome to Colombia!

What’s the plan Stan?

Stan is one part guidebook, one part local hotel owner, one part fellow tourist and one part spontaneous wanderlust. We have an idea… Read more

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Things We Will Not Die From In Colombia

It’s almost time to go, however, we’ve been envisioning the experience for months. Soon, imagination will shift to reality at the airport when I smell the Cinnabons and the guy ahead of me in security acts like he hasn’t flown after 9/11. It’ll feel too real when I try to slide into the 12 inches between my airplane seat and the seat in front of me. Wait, that might be nine inches – we’re flying Spirit. In fact, flying Spirit Airlines might be the only answer to the now common question: Read more

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Glorious Fall Colors at Devil’s Lake – Wisconsin State Park

It’s always a crap-shoot Googling something to do over the weekend. Sometimes we end up with suggestions on drunken street “festivals,” yet another improv troupe (we’re in Chicago) or a great deal on a hotel in Phoenix. Last weekend, our roll came up boxcars when we searched “fall colors in Wisconsin” and “devil’s lake state park.” A few clicks later and we were on our way through a rainbow maze of country roads lined with autumn trees toward a mesmerizing view of Wisconsin’s beautiful Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo. Read more

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One Couple’s Advice – Things to Do and See in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Full of food, culture and history, Plovdiv is an exciting oasis of urbanity, culture and youthful energy in a region that probably has more horses than people. Venturing east from Sofia into the Bulgarian countryside, we assumed the capital city was the best representation of modernity we’d experience until the Black Sea. It’s no surprise that one of the country’s few interstates runs through Plovdiv. Its busy pedestrian streets, trendy shopping and historic old town made for a full two-day visit. If we had given it more travel time in our calendar, we could have easily spent another two days relaxing in the parks, eating away the day in the affordable restaurants or traipsing into the mountains to a secluded monastery.

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A Bulgarian Escape Day 13 – Heading Home

Having accomplished the must-see stop on our second-to-last day in Bulgaria, we had the freedom to leisurely drive back to Sofia and drop off Sparky on Friday. We were not sad to say goodbye to Sparky. After days of watching other cars whip around us because little Sparky couldn’t cut the mountain roads, we left the little car offering this advice: stick to sea level, kiddo.

With time to visit Sofia again and buy some trinkets, John and I set off on foot. Our last day in Bulgaria. The last day of our honeymoon. Read more