Michigan’s Finest

From Saugatuck Dunes and windmills in Holland to sandboarding to Sleeping Bear to homemade cherry pie to Traverse City and drop-off cliffs and teal waters to the best fudge I’ve ever tasted on Mackinac Island to weird birds and crystal clear springs to drinking blueberries to sunsets and rainstorms and Pictured Rocks cruises to my first pasty to Ann Arbor and tiny surprises to all the waterfalls chased and miles driven home- here’s some of Michigan’s finest with my family.

Day One:

Drove to the Saugatuck Sand Dunes & took a buggy ride, watched the most gorgeous sunset over the water, visited Mt. Baldhead Park

Day Two:

Visited the cute town of Holland & Windmill Island Gardens (next best thing if you can’t visit the Netherlands!), Ottawa Beach, spotted Big Red Lighthouse against some dark blue skies, hit up Tunnel Park, went sandboarding at Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Inspiration Point, Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park

Day Three:

Stopped through Traverse City and had some cherry pie, drove to Old Mission Peninsula to see the Old Mission Point Park & Lighthouse, admired the blue hues of Torch Lake, and cruised through the scenic Tunnel of Trees

Day Four:

Stayed the night in Mackinaw City, caught an early morning ferry to Mackinac Island to awe over Arch Rock, indulge in the best fudge, and Sanders hot fudge cream puff. This is a car-free island, so no motorized vehicles, and a lot of horse drawn carriages. Simply beautiful.


Day Four/Five:

Left the city for Kitch-iti-Kipi, Manistique. The most beautiful teal water, and watching the fish swim below your feet!

Day Five:

One of our bucketlist items: Pictured Rocks National Landshore. Still stunned this place is real. We finished our outing just as the rain started falling. Obviously one of the highlights of our trip!

Day Six:

Tahquamenon Falls State Park (nicknamed “Root Beer Falls” for a good reason!), and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Day Seven:

We started our venture back home. Stopped at the Cross in the Woods, Stepping Stone Falls, Ann Arbor & Graffiti Alley, enjoyed some blueberry beer to toast to a wonderful trip!

If you live in the beautiful state of Michigan, how lucky you are! It was so good to get out and explore this beautiful state and make memories with my family after months of being cooped up. I feel very grateful to experience such natural beauty & calm my restless soul for a bit.

xoxo,

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Peru: Part I of II

First part of my South America journey! Enjoy ♥
DAY 1. Thursday July 14- *Travel Day*
Woke up at 4:45 am, caught the 6:15 am Greyhound bus to the Latrobe  airport, was the only one there for two hours before the counters even opened up.

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About to get on the Greyhound bus!

 From there, I flew to Fort Lauderdale, then to Lima, getting in around 9:45 pm. Saw the most amazing view above the clouds. It wasn’t very clear, you couldn’t see much, but all I knew is that it looked like the sun was slipping right over the end of the horizon, like we’d reached the edge of the earth. Beautiful. Shared an airport taxi to my hostel and fell fast asleep.


DAY 2. Friday July 15 *Miraflores & Lima*
 In the morning, I explored Miraflores. It was overcast and sprinkling a little, yet many were out running along the coast and the parks. I loved Parque del Amor (Love Park). It was adorable, and reminded me of Park Güell in Barcelona.

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Morning mist off the coast.

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Too bad there wasn’t any sun in Lima!

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Panoramic view of Parque del Amor. See the kissing statue in the back?

Later, I walked to Miraflores center, near Kennedy Park (a park with a ton of stray cats- over 100!).  Met a guy named Ben who was also doing a walking tour of Lima.  Our group took the bus into Lima and walked to Plaza de Armas, where we saw the changing of the guards.  During the tour, I also met Sydney, Samantha, and Justine, who were all from Canada and doing a trek. We began all walking together to the markets. We tried pisco sour (4 different cocktails- straight, with lime, with orange, and one coffee one).  After, we said goodbye to Ben and the four of us girls got ceviche and shared a pork dish and paella which was really delicious. Never thought I’d be saying this about fish, but ceviche is so refreshing!

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Tastes so much better than it looks, I promise.

We met two guys, Austin and Tommy, who are going sandboarding tomorrow also.
Ended up parting ways for the evening, and I walked to Larcomar (megacomplex shopping center) to get my PeruRail tickets, then returned to the hostel. I had to wake up very early for the bus for my full day of adventure!

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Larcomar.

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Ben & I.

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Every single shop had the same colorful patterns.

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Plaza de Armas.


DAY 3. Saturday July 16 *Paracas, Huacachina*
6 am, got on the PeruHop bus. Drove along the coast- where you could really see the poverty of the country. About four hours later, we arrived in Paracas (Ica) and boarded the boat to the Ballestas Islands. Saw sea lions, penguins, crabs, starfish, and a ton of birds.

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Just a bit windy on the boat!

 

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Can you spot the sea lions?

 From there, a short drive to Huacachina. Sandboarding was up next! It was SO COOL to be on the sand dunes. Words can’t express. We loaded up 9 people plus the driver in the buggy. Drove uphill, got out and got some pictures, then sprinted across the dunes. I was breathless! The boys were running and jumping off the edges.  Went up to the top of the dunes to board down- such an exhilarating experience! But it leaves you with sand on (and in) almost every part of your body.
 After a couple hills, we piled back into the buggy and went to watch the sunset.

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Never will I forget this.

 It was seriously the most perfect thing I’ve ever witnessed. You could see the oasis and the town of Huacachina and these huge mountains all around and just nothing but these beautiful massive sand dunes. We sat on top of the buggy listening to music and watching the sun sink below the horizon. After the sun went down, then came the wild ride. I can’t even tell you how fast we were going. The speed (and crazy driving) wasn’t the issue- the problem was my seat belt flew off! And when you’re going that fast  over these massive dunes and steep hills it’s basically like a roller coaster.  I was coming up off the seat and really close to either hitting my head off the top of the buggy or being ejected out from the side where I was sitting. Luckily the new friends I’d made grabbed on to me quickly, and we got the driver to stop so I could buckle back up. BUT THEN IT HAPPENED AGAIN. And yet again, they helped hold on to me and luckily when we stopped Tommy offered to switch seats with me which I gladly accepted. Despite that, with the adrenaline rush and views alone, I’d rate it 100/10. Got some more photos of this incredible oasis, and then headed back to Lima for the night.

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Huacachina from above.


DAY 4. Sunday July 17- *Cusco*
Today is where I feel like my journey truly begins. It’s the part of the trip I’m most worried about, doing Machu Picchu  and making sure I’ve coordinated things correctly, and also the altitude sickness especially.  I was up until 2 am getting my pack ready. My plan was to catch a flight from Lima to Cusco, then a collectivo (mini-bus) to Ollantaytambo, a smaller town outside of Cusco. I did this since Cusco is over 11,000 feet above sea level. Since I was on a shorter trip, I didn’t have time to give my body the chance to acclimate, so I wanted to get to shorter elevation ASAP to make it easier. Luckily, the altitude never ended up making me sick at all.
Unfortunately by the time I got off the plane and got my bag,  everyone was already gone. There was nobody to split a cab ride with. I knew to be smart enough to take taxis from inside the airport, because even though they were more expensive, they were safer. So I finally gave in. The man didn’t speak a lot of English, so we spoke in Spanish for the ride to Pavitos Street, where I’d get the collectivo to Ollantaytambo. At first we were having a fine conversation about food and drinks and sights to see in Cusco. Then he said I was beautiful. I said thanks and changed the subject. Started to feel weird.  He asked me if I wanted to go for a beer but I said no, I’ve got to go. Then he said again how beautiful I was and how much he liked me, right as he reached his hand back and slid it all the way up into my thighs and between my legs. Thankfully, we had just pulled up to Pavitos Street.  I quickly got out of the car and ran to the collectivo. I was in shock, but thankful that I removed myself from the situation and that it wasn’t much worse.
The ride to Ollantaytambo was beautiful from what I could stay awake for. We passed Urubamba and finally arrived at my hostel (Hostal Los Andenes).

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Coca tea on the patio to help with altitude.

The first thing you notice in Ollantaytambo is the massive ruin I’m sitting on in the picture below. I bought a tourist ticket for the ruins, and climbed up past the terraces of Pumatallis.

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Left a piece of my heart in this town.

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Which one of us is terrified?

From there, I set out to explore more of the Sacred Valley. With a group, we drove down miles and miles of a wandering dirty and dusty road. I was having a lot of trouble breathing because it filled the car. The road was very dangerous and narrow. At the top, we got out and looked below at the salt flats- the size alone was overwhelming. Here they are up close:

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Peru’s Salinas de Maras.

We walked down into them, it’s such an intricate system! They all flow into one another and are owned by families that live in Maras. I got to touch the water (it was warm!) and taste the salt. Next, we went to the Moray ruins. It is believed that all these different terraces, which vary in design and orientation to the sun, were used to measure the effects of climate conditions on crops.

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Rays of light over Moray.

After a long drive, we arrived back to Ollantaytambo, where I was ecstatic to find that the hot water worked! It was so heavenly because it was freezing out at this point. Wrapped in thick wool blankets, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

DAY 5. Monday July 18- *Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes*
The next part of my journey was to take the train (PeruRail) to Aguas Calientes.This is the town that sits at the bottom of the valley of Machu Picchu. There are no roads into Aguas Calientes, you must either take the train or arrive on foot.
As my train wasn’t for another couple hours, I hiked the mountain on the other side of town and enjoyed fresh banana pancakes with maple syrup at Hearts Cafe. I don’t know if I’ve ever had anything better. It was the perfect morning dish. So good!

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About to board the PeruRail train. Next stop, Machu Picchu!

After about an hour and 45 minutes, I arrived!

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The town of Aguas Calientes.

 After a full day of hiking and that train ride, I was almost too exhausted to even eat dinner. I repacked my bag and checked to make sure I had everything I needed. I planned to get up early to hike Machu Picchu, and didn’t know what to expect. Just that it’d feel surreal to finally be there…
 Stay tuned for Machu Picchu, Copacabana, and Isla del Sol!
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