Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
One of our favorite authors was in town signing books at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore. Terry Brooks, is an American writer of fantasy fiction. He writes mainly epic fantasy, and has also written two movie novelizations. He has written 23 New York Times bestsellers during his writing career, and has over 21 million copies of his books in print. He is one of the biggest-selling living fantasy writers.
He's also a cool dude and we enjoyed spending an afternoon hearing him talking and getting to chat with him
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Friday, March 22, 2013
Thursday, March 21, 2013
The Castillo de San Cristóbal is a Spanish fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was built by Spain to protect against land based attacks on the city of San Juan. It is part of San Juan National Historic Site.
Castillo de San Cristóbal is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World. When it was finished in 1783, it covered about 27 acres of land and basically wrapped around the city of San Juan. Entry to the city was sealed by San Cristóbal's double gates. After close to one hundred years of relative peace in the area, part of the fortification (about a third) was demolished in 1897 to help ease the flow of traffic in and out of the walled city.
This fortress was built on a hill originally known as the Cerro de la Horca or the Cerro del Quemadero, which was changed to Cerro de San Cristóbal in celebration of the Spanish victories ejecting English and Dutch interlopers from the island of this name in the Lesser Antilles, then forming part of the insular territorial glacis of Puerto Rico.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Seriously. OK, so not in a handbasket - in a taxi. But still.
It turns out, Hell is a group of short, black, limestone formations located in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. Located in West Bay, it is roughly the size of half a soccer field. People are not allowed to be amongst the limestone formations but viewing platforms do exist for visitors.
There are numerous versions of how Hell received its name, but they are generally variations on "a local official exclaimed, 'This is what Hell must look like.'"
It is also claimed that the name "Hell" is derived from the fact that if a pebble is thrown out into the formation, it echoes amongst the limestone peaks and valleys and sounds as if the pebble is falling all the way down to "Hell."
Regardless of how it first came to be called Hell, the name stuck and the area has become a tourist attraction, featuring a fire-engine red hell-themed post office from which you can send "postcards from hell", and a gift shop with 'Satan' passing out souvenirs while greeting people with phrases like 'How the hell are you?' and 'Where the hell are you from?'
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Monday, March 18, 2013
We love visiting churches when we travel. Churches and graveyards. They both can reveal so much about a culture - both in the present and over time.
When we were in Puerto Rico, we visited the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, which is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan, and is the second oldest cathedral in the Americas. The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, is the oldest.
The original cathedral in what was the city of Puerto Rico (changed to San Juan after the Spanish-American War) was constructed from wood in 1521. It was destroyed by a hurricane and the current structure constructed in 1540, being reshaped in later centuries, the last time being in 1917.
The first school in Puerto Rico (and the oldest school in the United States after Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States) was the Escuela de gramática (Grammar School). The school was established by Bishop Alonso Manso in 1513, in the area where the cathedral would later be constructed. The school was free of charge and the courses taught were Latin language, literature, history, science, art, philosophy and theology.
The cathedral contains the tomb of the Spanish explorer and settlement founder Juan Ponce de León. It also has a shrine to the Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago, the first Puerto Rican, the first Caribbean-born layperson and the first layperson in the history of the United States to be beatified.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Friday, March 15, 2013
We spent a day at some incredible Mayan ruins outside of Costa Maya Mexico. Did you know that the Mayan civilization did not disappear but instead only declined? There are around 6 million Mayans living in Mexico today.
Kohunlich (X-làabch'e'en in Modern Mayan) is a large archaeological site of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, located on the Yucatán Peninsula about 25 km east of the Rio Bec region, and about 65 km west of Chetumal on Highway 186, and 9 km south of the road. The Spanish name does not actually derive from Mayan but from the English Cohune Ridge where cohune palm grew.
The site covers about 21 acres, surrounded by dense sub-tropical rainforest, and it contains almost 200 mounds, that remain largely unexcavated. The city was elaborately planned and engineered, with raised platforms and pyramids, citadels, courtyards and plazas surrounded with palace platforms, all laid out to channel drainage into a system of cisterns and an enormous reservoir to collect rainwater.
The site was settled by 200 BC, but most of the structures were built in the Early Classic period from about 250 to 600 AD. Many of them are still covered with thick vegetation and overgrown by trees. The city appears to have functioned as a regional center and stop along the trade routes through the southern Yucatán from Campeche and Rio Bec area to the west, and the cities along the east-coast and to the south, in the el Petén region of Guatemala and neighboring Belize.
The site is best known for its Temple of the Masks, an Early Classic pyramid whose central stairway is flanked by huge humanized stucco masks. The Temple was built around 500 A.D. and is one of the oldest structures at Kohunlich. After 700 A.D., this temple was covered over with a Terminal Classic construction, which protected the masks and accounts for the marvelous state of their preservation today. The only standing remains of the later temple are some steps in the lower portion of the stair.
The road approaches the site from the north and leads into an enormous central plaza ringed by pyramids and temple platforms. To the north there is a massive, raised acropolis, or citadel, with a palace complex around a courtyard to the north-west. Further east there is the Temple of the Masks, built in honor of the sungod. Originally there were eight carved masks flanking its central staircase; only five remain, three having been looted.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Saint Martin (French: Saint-Martin; Dutch: Sint Maarten) is an island in the northeast Caribbean, approximately 190 miles east of Puerto Rico. The island is divided roughly 60/40 between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands; however, the Dutch side has the larger population. It is one of the smallest sea islands divided between two nations, a division dating to 1648.
The southern Dutch part comprises Sint Maarten and is one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The northern French part comprises the Collectivité de Saint-Martin (Collectivity of St. Martin) and is an overseas collectivity of France.
On January 1, 2009 the population of the entire island was 77,741 inhabitants, with 40,917 living on the Dutch side, and 36,824 on the French side. Collectively, the two territories are known as "St-Martin / St Maarten".
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
This is an island out of a dream. Quiet, white sand beaches. Clear and unbelievably blue water. Snorkeling in fish-filled water that feels like an aquarium. Half Moon Cay is a wonderful place, and we loved visiting there.
Little San Salvador Island, also known as Half Moon Cay, is one of about 700 islands that make up the archipelago of The Bahamas. It is located roughly halfway between Eleuthera and Cat Island. It is a private island, owned by Holland America Line, which uses it as a port of call for the cruise ships it operates in the region.
Little San Salvador Island is located about 100 miles southeast of Nassau. Holland America Line purchased the island in December, 1996 for a price of $6 million USD. It has since developed 50 acres of the 2,400-acre island, with the stated goal of maintaining as much habitat as possible for wildlife. The island is also a significant nesting area for waterfowl. The island does not have deep water docking, requiring the use of tenders for cruise ship passengers to disembark and embark.
Activities offered on the island include swimming, sunning, scuba diving, jet-skiing, cycling, and snorkeling. Deep-sea fishing, parasailing, glass-bottom boat rides, and nature walks also are available. A variety of water toys are available for rent, including Hobie catamarans, Sunfish sailboats, windsurfing sailboards, and kayaks. There are volleyball and basketball courts, horseshoes, shuffleboard, a fitness trail with exercise stations, horseback riding, and nature trails for hiking.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
We are cruising in the Caribbean to escape the harsh San Diego winter. ;-)
This is a shot of a beautiful beach in Grand Turk. Grand Turk Island is an island in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is the largest island in the Turks Islands (the smaller of the two archipelagos that make up the island nation) with 6.9 sq mi. Grand Turk contains the territory's capital, Cockburn Town, is the administrative, historic, cultural and financial center of the territory, and has the second largest population of the islands at approximately 3,720 people.
Grand Turk gained international attention in 1962 when John Glenn's Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft landed in the vicinity of Grand Turk Island off the southeast shoreline. A replica of the Friendship 7 is on display in Grand Turk at the entrance to the Grand Turk Island airport.
The name comes from a species of cactus on the island, the Turk's Cap Cactus (Melocactus) intortus, which has a distinctive cap, reminiscent of an Ottoman fez.
Grand Turk is possibly the landfall island of Christopher Columbus during his discovery of the New World in 1492. San Salvador Island or Samana Cay in the Bahamas is traditionally considered the site of Columbus' first landfall, but some believe that studies of Columbus' journals show that his descriptions of Guanahani much more closely fit Grand Turk than they do other candidates.