marta goes places

Joined January 2018Living in: New York, United States
  • Day3

    Last day in Zion

    December 29, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ -2 °C

    Since we had abandoned the idea of taking the Zion shuttle the previous day, we wanted to get up early on our last day and do some of the Zion hikes. We got pastries for breakfast and, after checking our options at the visitor center, we managed to get to the 10 AM shuttle. Not the earliest, but not too bad.

    We had considered doing the beginning of Angel's Landing. Definitely not the end, which is considered dangerous and apparently super scary for people who, like me, can't handle the view of cliffs very well. And we also thought about going to the Upper Emerald Pool through the Kayenta trail. Following the recommendation of the ranger, we finally decided to hike the Sand Bench trail. This hike, which isn't too long and can be done by horse at other times of the year, was not as spectacular as some of the others we had done the previous two days, but still very beautiful. And best of all, there were very few people, which is the main reason we picked it.

    I thought it was gonna be super cold but it wasn't. In fact, I had to end up taking some of my clothes because I was too cold. I guess it's better than the opposite... The sugary breakfast wasn't a great idea and it didn't take too long before I started feeling tired and hungry (shocking, right?) We had packed some snacks though, so we got to eat them on a rock, enjoying the landscape.

    When we got back to the trailhead we considered walking all the way through the lodge and to the Grotto, but we decided to take the shuttle to the Grotto and home to the lodge instead.

    Mistake. We got confused about the distance and didn't realize this wasn't a real hike, but a short walk. At the same time, it made us waste the time we could have spent on a real trail. We still could have done it afterwards, but by then I was getting more concerned about the timing, and I wasn't that excited about it anymore. Anyway. I guess we could have done more but it was also nice to take it easy.

    We had some coffee at the lodge and took the shuttle back to the visitor center, where we had left the car.

    Our flight was leaving from Las Vegas and we decided to have dinner in the city, but outside of the Strip. We stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Aimie, which was decent, and finished our road trip at the airport, ready (not really) to go back to work.
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  • Day2

    Kolob Canyons

    December 28, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ -5 °C

    The drive from Springdell to the Kolob Canyons wasn't short, but the views from the window were beautiful.

    We went to the visitor center and learned that there were basically three hikes we could do. One would have taken eight hours. Another, three and a half, which would have been fine if it hadn't been because by then it was already past 1.30 PM, sunset was around 5 PM, and weather would get progressively colder. So we decided to do the third one, a short hike in the snow to the Timber Creek Overlook.

    It was indeed short and not exactly isolated, but it was so pretty. The microspikes came in handy again since all the way was through snow and ice. The views were spectacular, incredibly gorgeous. It was very cold, with snow flying like dust from the road, but we were well prepared.

    I wish it had been longer, but I still think we made a good choice. It would have been ideal to walk for a bit longer, but this was a good option at that time of the day.

    After the hike, we found ourselves in a weird situation. It was too late to do another hike, but we still had a couple of hours of light left. We decided to drive back through Zion and play it by ear.

    We ended up staying in the car all the way to our hotel and just stopping on the road a couple of times. One of them was particularly fun. We run into a bunch of bighorn sheep that were hanging out on the rocks. At some point, they decided to cross the road, which blocked the traffic for a few minutes, just to end up going back again to the same point they had come from.

    We had planned to have dinner at a pizza place near our hotel that had very good reviews, but when we went there after taking a shower and changing, we found it closed. We ended up going to a restaurant in Kanab instead, Vermillion 45, which was pricey but excellent. I had delicious lamb chops and we shared a really good salad.
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  • Day2

    Zion National Park

    December 28, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ -5 °C

    We woke up early and went to have breakfast at a place called Cordwood. It had good reviews and it was nice, but we found it too expensive for what it offered. For example, it only had one savory option in the menu, orange juice cost $6, they didn't have an espresso machine, and service, despite friendly, was slow and brought us the check before the actual food.

    After breakfast, we went to the Canyon Overlook Trail. It was cold but sunny, so it felt much better than what I had anticipated. The Canyon Overlook Trail is a short but beautiful hike. It's very easy but it offers gorgeous views. I have to say though that towards the end, on the final viewpoint, people were freaking me out by going too close to the edge (and then sliding or tripping, luckily not down) and not paying attention to their little children running. But heights in the mountains always scare me, so just ignore me here.

    After the hike and having some snacks in the car, we drove through Springdell and to the visitor center. Our plan was to leave the car, take the shuttle and hike the Grotto Trail to the Zion Lodge. There we so many people and everything was so crowded that e had to reconsider our plan because we were afraid it would take us an hour just to board the shuttle.

    So we decided to drive to the Kolob Canyons instead.
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  • Day1

    Huntress Slot Canyon in Kanab

    December 27, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 0 °C

    After flying to Las Vegas and spending the night in our hotel in Mt Carmel, we started the day pretty early. We wanted to see if we could get a permit to visit The Wave. Permits for Coyote Buttes North, which you need to visit The Wave, are given through a lottery, and only twenty people are allowed each day. Permits for a total of ten people are issued via an online lottery, and ten more are issued via a walk-in lottery at the visitor center.

    With that in mind, it's not surprising that we didn't get one. It was disappointing, I guess, but the truth is that we had barely planned this trip, so it's not like this is something we had been dreaming of for months. Besides that, this may not have been the best time of the year to see it, since it was snowing.

    In any case, after wasting an hour at the visitor center with all the lottery shenanigans, we went to have breakfast and plan the rest of the day. We found a coffee shop, Jakey Leigh's, that served a pretty decent breakfast with eggs, bacon, and good cappuccinos, and we decided to do a hike nearby.

    This ended up being a great decision. We went to the Huntress Slot Canyon. It's an easy and beautiful hike, perfect for the snowy day, although we didn't do the whole thing.

    We had rented an SUV AWD vehicle, so we drove on HWY 89 and turned right on road 106L. We kept going for a bit and left the car to continue walking. I'm not sure if we wholly followed the map, but I believe we walked until we reached the canyon trough 106V and continued to 106T. I would say we only did half of 106T before we turned back, but all this part was terrific in the snow. We were the only ones around, and going through the rocks was very fun. There were also a lot of animal footprints, which we enjoyed following. It kept snowing for a big part of the hike, but it didn't feel too cold, and we were well prepared.

    We were back in the car around 2.30 PM or so, and by then, I was quite tired, but we decided to have some snacks we were carrying and continue to Bryce to make the most of the day.

    We stayed here, and it was convenient, comfortable, and clean.
    Best Western East Zion Thunderbird Lodge
    https://www.bestwestern.com/en_US/book/hotels-in-mount-carmel/best-western-east-zion-thunderbird-lodge/propertyCode.45027.html

    This is the hike we did. It was a lot of fun and accessible on a snowy day.
    https://visitsouthernutah.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/HUNTRESS.pdf

    More information about the trails can be found here:
    https://visitsouthernutah.com/trail-maps/

    And if you want to try visiting The Wave, which we didn't do, check this out first:
    https://www.thewave.info/

    Oh, we also used this app, Kanab Trails, to help guide us.
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kanabtrails.kanab&hl=es_US
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  • Day1

    Bryce Canyon National Park

    December 27, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ -4 °C

    After Kanab, we drove to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was a lovely drive, going through the Red Rock Canyon State Park and its tunnels and watching bison in the snow from the car.

    We didn't arrive there until 4 PM and we weren't even sure if we would actually leave the car, since sunset was around 5 PM, but Dean was told at the visitor center about a short hike from Sunset Point, going down the Navajo Trail, which we could do without worrying much.

    We didn't do the whole trail, but we went down from the sign of Wall Street (he he he, Wall Street) to the Two Bridges and back. There were a lot of people, even when it was snowing and quite cold (19 °F, that is -7°C!) and I was very happy to be using the microspikes Dean had given me for Christmas on my boots.

    The views were breathtaking! So beautiful! We saw the iconic Thor's Hammer, and the snow only made it more amazing. By the time we got back to the car, it was getting dark. It kept snowing and it was cold, so we just went back to our hotel. We had dinner at the restaurant of the hotel, called Thunderbird, which was decent, although we had to wait for 20 minutes to get seated, despite having empty tables. I guess they were very busy?

    Thunderbird Restaurant
    https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g57075-d510724-Reviews-Thunderbird_Restaurant-Mount_Carmel_Utah.html
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  • Day7

    Cienfuegos

    November 29, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    We left the house very early to go to Cienfuegos, but I spent almost all the ride sleeping and didn't really mind. We stopped for lunch at a place on the road called Pio-Cua, which was recommended by Lonely Planet but was actually pretty mediocre.

    The house in Cienfuegos was centrally located and had a gorgeous patio, although the room was not as good as other places we stayed in.

    We went to have a walk around Cienfuegos. The town seems to be less catered to tourists, which I generally would say it's good, but it took us ages to find a place to get a coffee. I think there were also more references to the Revolución, but I may be wrong about this. The Malecón is beautiful and a fun walk.

    When it got dark we went to a supposedly French restaurant, Doña Nora, which was only somewhat French. The food was good though, and I enjoyed the lamb I had.
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  • Day6

    Hiking in Viñales

    November 28, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    For our second day in Viñales, we decided to visit the Cueva de Santo Tomás cave. This cave can only be visited on a tour and we decided to take the earliest one, at 9 AM. Our house helped us arrange a car (25 CUC) that drove us there and waited for us while we visited the cave. The cave was quite interesting and the guide was friendly and entertaining. We even saw a tarantula hidden in the rocks.

    We went back to Viñales, where we needed to get two main supplies that we had run out of: money and internet minutes. I waited in line at the Etecsa office while Dean went to change money. We were surprised to see we had spent so much money, but I guess we had several nice meals and tipped generously. We also got the Cubanacán bus tickets to Cienfuegos (32 CUC each), where we were heading the day after.

    After running these errands, we took a long walk around town. Truth to be said, the town is tiny and it mainly has one street, but we went back and forth looking for ice cream, a restaurant to have dinner later (it was Thanksgiving night) and to buy Dean a hat and even more cigars.

    After going back home and taking our traditional Thanksgiving picture with my fake inflatable turkey that I carry around when I travel at this time of the year, we went for a hike.

    The hike was so fun! We had read that hiking in Cuba by yourself is not that easy. There are not many well-defined trails and tour guides expect you to book their services to do this. But we did a bit of research and we found a route that seemed reasonable.

    We got somewhat lost, somewhat repeatedly, but the whole thing was a highlight of our trip and not as complicated as we had been led to believe. Many people were doing the same as us and locals were friendly and helpful when we asked for directions.

    We walked by some sort of cabins, where we saw something that looked like a giant rat on a leash. A Cuban guy told us the name and that we could pet it, which I did. Apparently it was a hutia (jutía, in Spanish.) They're rodents that live in the Caribbean Islands, and at least one-third of the species are extinct, but a couple of them are common and widespread. I'm gonna assume this was one of them.

    We headed to the Cueva de la Vaca. This was fun and it felt magical because we entered one side and exited the other without really knowing what we were doing or where we were. It was beautiful and while looking at some climbers in the rock -- this area is well-known among climbers --, an old Cuban man stopped and chatted with us about climbers, his son, who was visiting from the US, and how Americans would easily shoot you for entering a field. He was proud of Cubans welcoming and helping others, and of the Cuban doctors, who travel internationally.

    We also stopped at a bar that seemed to be the most random place ever, all empty and in the middle of a gorgeous field, and drank mojitos, which by then we were treating pretty much like water.

    We were out for longer than planned and it got dark before we were back, but we found our way back to town and had a shower before going to our Thanksgiving dinner at La Cocinita del Medio, a restaurant that we had seen recommended. It was good, but not extraordinary. We ended the night at the Centro Cultural Polo Montañez, some sort of social club with live music, where a group of young dancers was giving a show.

    Cueva de Santo Tomás
    https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g616288-d1637073-Reviews-Cuevas_de_Santo_Tomas-Vinales_Pinar_del_Rio_Province_Cuba.html
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  • Day5

    Horse tour in Viñales

    November 27, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Our bus to Viñales was scheduled to depart quite early. We had bought the Cubanacán tickets a couple of days in advance at one of their hotels, for 14$ each. When the day arrived and we showed up at the scheduled time, we were told that the bus may appear on time, or 30 minutes later, or one hour later, but it turned out to be very punctual, comfortable, and convenient. We had read the AC would be freezing, but it wasn't anything that a sweatshirt wouldn't solve.

    The bus... leader? Coordinator? Guide? Anyway, the guy who wasn't the driver and made sure all the passengers were there was very fun and friendly, and spent all the trip making jokes. We later would learn that his name was Luis and had a sister and Boston who he hadn't seen in a while, and we agreed to bring her back a gift from him.

    We arrived in Viñales and went to our house, simple but clean and comfortable, which was a little bit out of the main street, on a dirt road. The area is beautiful and a main tourist destination with activities, and we had planned to take a horse tour to the farms, which I guess is one of the most popular ones. We went to have dinner at a restaurant called El Campesino, which wasn't particularly special but it was very close.

    I never ever go horseback riding unless I'm traveling, but I have to admit I really enjoy it. This particular tour took us to the tobacco, rum, and honey farms. It was interesting but a bit of a tourist trap, where we were expected to tip a bunch of people along the way besides the 20$ we paid for it. Still, it was fun, and Dean got to buy cigars. I learned how cigars are made, which was actually fascinating, and we ended up swimming at a lake nearby before heading back to the house, where we had dinner and went to bed early.
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  • Day4

    Fourth day in Havana

    November 26, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    I got up early to go to the Museo de la Revolución, but it turned out it didn't open until 10 AM, so I went for a walk while Dean took a run around the Malecón. The museum wasn't that interesting because a large area was closed for renovations, but I still enjoyed the visit. Dean met me there and we went to El Dandy, in Plaza del Cristo, for a coffee and a snack.

    I really enjoyed this place. The decoration was cute, the location was convenient, the coffee was good, and it wasn't expensive, so it was a nice, chill place to have a break and decide what to do next.

    Afterward, we went back to Clandestina to chat with Eva's friend. I got a poster and a bandana, as well as the 2 CUC guide. I think that by then we had realized the store was actually a quite cool and hip place of the island and we had seen it referenced in multiple places.

    After going home and resting a bit, we went to a place that Eva's friend had recommended, El Café, where we shared an excellent pork sandwich. We also visited the Fototeca de Cuba, which I found very disappointing. This center hosts the most important collection of Cuban photography, but when we went there was only a little exhibition with little context. I'm guessing it may be better at times, but it wasn't this particular one. We continued exploring the streets around Habana Vieja and run into the galley Habana: espacios creativos, a new art space that had just recently opened.

    We stopped at a purses store called Zulu and later continued to the Taller de serigrafía Rene Portocarrero, one of my favorite places of this trip. It's a serigraphy studio that has been open for more than 35 years. It's not exactly a gallery, but you can visit it and the people who work there are friendly. We spent a very good time chatting with Ramón, who showed us around and told us a lot about the studio, the work, and his own life. We ended up buying a couple of prints and I wish I had got more.

    We had considered walking around the Malecón for sunset, but we ended up staying so long that by the time we left, it was already dark. We went to have dinner at a very popular place called O'Reilly, which had good food and live music. The menu seemed quite conventional but it ended up having some creative takes. It was very crowded though and we shared a table with another couple of tourists.

    Museo de la Revolución
    https://www.tripadvisor.es/Attraction_Review-g147271-d147980-Reviews-Museum_of_the_Revolution_Museo_de_la_Revolucion-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Provinc.html

    El Dandy
    https://www.tripadvisor.es/Restaurant_Review-g147271-d7747065-Reviews-El_Dandy-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Province_Cuba.html

    El Café
    https://www.tripadvisor.es/Restaurant_Review-g147271-d10344588-Reviews-El_Cafe-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Province_Cuba.html

    Habana: espacios creativos
    http://habanacultural.ohc.cu/?p=29983

    Taller de serigrafía René Portocarrero
    http://serigrafiacuba513.com/

    O'Reilly 304
    https://www.alamesacuba.com/es/la-habana/restaurant/orelly-304/
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