Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On the Road Again

Hello All!
I'm about to be back on the road, or in this case in the air. I'm headed to Madrid today to meet up with teachers from all over the country. It's pretty exciting because we are going to spend four days not only learning about Madrid, but how to lead a tour. Journey and I will we totally ready for our trip to Peru by Sunday. Well, maybe not totally ready, but we will know a whole lot more.

Before I talk about my itinerary, I must comment on the packing miracle that has occurred. I was able to fit over 11 different outfits, a trench coat, and a light jacket among other things in just a carryon bag. It was nothing short of amazing. I just hope I didn't forget anything! Oh well, the shopping is great in Europe so I'm not worried. I wish I had taken a photo of all of the things before it all went to the suitcase.

So my first stop is Miami where I will have a 5 hour layover. Then it's an overnight flight to Madrid. I will be arriving at about 7:30 tomorrow morning. For any of my young followers, what time will it be in Kissimmee when I land in Madrid? I hope I can sleep on the plane because as soon as I get there we are going to hit the ground running. We will be taking a walking tour of Madrid and heading to the Prado, a famous art museum. I'll try to sneak some pictures for 3rd grade while I'm there. And that's only the first half of the day! More details to come when I get a break and when I find an internet connection.

Until next time...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pristine Portland and Serious Salmon

I am gradually trying to catch up on my blogging, so I am posting in March for a trip that I actually took in November. I know, I know I must get better about this, but sometimes life just gets in the way.

Back in November I took a much needed jaunt to Portland, Oregon to visit one of the coolest people in the world, my friend Amber. We met under unusual circumstances, but that just makes for a fabulous friendship. We met on the CCS volunteer trip to Tanzania, so it was about time one of us trekked across the country to see each other in the "real world." We barely spoke in the year that passed between the life changing trip and the day of my flight, but this is one of those rare situations where it felt like no time passed even though it had been over a year. Friends like that are hard to find.

First stop was to the 30th floor of one of the tallest buildings in downtown Portland called the Portland City Grill. Great wine and stunning city views provided the perfect first stop to my weekend in Portlandia. This was shaping up to be just the weekend I needed.

There are so many things to see and do here, and one of top destinations is Multnomah Falls just outside the city. The falls are absolutely stunning, like something out of a movie complete with a viewing bridge for a photo op.  It is actually one of the places where the show Grimm was filmed. Multnomah Falls Lodge was the perfect spot for a leisurely lunch. While the falls were pretty breathtaking, the thing that got my attention the most was what I saw at the bottom of the falls in the calm part of the river. It was salmon spawning season, and there just happened to be some feisty salmon working their way up stream. I was completely fascinated by these committed creatures, so fish became the new focus of the day.

Just as we got to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery the typical Portland rain reared it's ugly head. The hatchery was an interesting place with an entrance reminiscent of a military base. Hatching fish was apparently serious business. Inside the hatchery, there was all sorts of interesting information about all sorts of fish that inhabit the nearby waters. I was still in search of Salmon, so we descended to the bottom floor to see the infamous fish ladders. This was truly amazing, a hidden gem of the natural world. These salmon, nearing the end of their lives fight the rushing current swimming through the ladders until they reach the place where they were born. If they make it that far, they lay their eggs and die shortly after. What an unfortunate adventure.

My need for fish knowledge was not yet satisfied with the hope of seeing a sturgeon on the horizon. This was not just any sturgeon, oh no, this was Herman the Sturgeon. This larger than life specimen hailed at over 10 feet in length and over 450lbs., and if that wasn't enough, he has been on the planet for over 70 years. This prehistoric beauty did not disappoint, and I was fascinated just standing there staring at him swim by wondering how these seemingly gentle giants have managed to survive so long.

After a long day of fish facts, it was time head to the famous McMenamins. This place was really something. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of this quirky little village (except for myself enjoying one of their local creations), but the best way I can describe it is a cross between the Vermont brewery Magic Hat and an assortment of charming little buildings from the age of traveling snake oil salesmen.  I found out that the McMenamin brothers made it their mission to convert old buildings like schools, lodges, and theaters into "pubs." They are much more than pubs though, they are pieces of history brought to life with a nostalgia of times gone by. There are countless McMenamins gems throughout Washington and Oregon, and I highly recommend that if you are in the area you find one and stay for a while to experience all they have to offer. It was the perfect end to a knowledge filled day.

Once the rain subsided, we headed back home to Amber's house to spend some time with my furry friend Harper in front of the fire. What a sweetheart!