Mexico City, Mexico – Impressions

In our travels, there have been places that have failed to live up to their reputation as a travel destination and then there are those that have surprised us that more people haven’t travelled there. Mexico City is one of those places. When there is little first hand accounts (other than that of the travel book writers) we end up travelling to a new city and a new country with preconceived notions of what that place is like. So it may be surprising to you that Mexico, specifically Mexico City is not a dangerous place infested with drug cartels and dragged down by the desperation of poverty. Mexico City as I see it is a city that is misunderstood (or at least carries an outdated reputation). Don’t get me wrong, Mexico City has its share of poverty and crime but you (or Trump) may be surprised to know that the US has eight times more total crimes than Mexico and specifically six times more violent crimes (source).

The reality is… Mexico City is a city that prides itself on its grand architectural and cultural history. It is a city that celebrates art of all forms. It is a city with possibly more impressive galleries and museums than any other city in the world. It is a city with a myriad of culinary flavours that can cater to anyone who loves food. And who doesn’t?! It is a city that offers warm hospitality whether you speak Spanish or embarrassingly little. Here is the Mexico City we saw.


View from our hotel room overlooking the Zocalo (main square or Plaza de la Constitución) on the right with its giant flag of Mexico, the Mexican City Metropolitan Cathedral on the left and Palacio Nacional (National Palace) across. Unfortunately not much of the 240 m X 240 m Zocalo can be seen due to a combination of tents set up for a festival and the ongoing restoration of the 700 year old square.


A street in the historical centre.


A street festooned with flags.


Excellent public photography exhibit that sends a powerful message about the beauty of nature and the negative ways humans impact nature. This was found along one of the main roads – Paseo de la Reforma.


Also along Paseo de la Reforma, located in the median strip, is a series of bell sculptures that can be rung in various ways (including this one by swinging). It’s perfect for keeping tired kids going.


Artistic expression of green wall found in the historical centre.


A Diego Rivera mural found on a random wall in the city. Do you see Frida Kahlo?


From Diego Rivera to this street art from an artist unknown to me, Mexico City is overflowing with art.


Another exceptional mural made by one of the talented street artists of Mexico City.


From visual art to performance art. We came across this ritual and celebration of Aztec music and dance in an area that was considered the centre of the universe by the Aztecs.


Incredible costumes of the performers.


Including painting the face.


Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). One of the “newer” architectural beauties in the city having been constructed in the 1930’s. It hosts art events of all forms.


One of the doorways to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. It is the largest cathedral in the Americas. Construction began in 1573 with the last section constructed in 1813.


Chapultepec Park looking up towards Chapultepec Castle.






One of the food markets in the city.

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An incredible bakery in the city. There’s practically a bakery on every block.

Next up on the blog is going to be some of the highlights from what we got up to in 4 days in Mexico City!

Travel Day – Mexico!


Photo credit:

Here we go again! It seems so long since we’ve had a travel day! Of course we’re doing Mexico the C-family way. Unlike many Canadians, we won’t be headed to places like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco. Instead we’re hitting up Mexico City and travelling around the Veracruz region staying at a field station in the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve. A little tree counting, a little monkey hunting and a whole lot of Mexican food and culture coming your way!

New Zealand, South Island, Otago coast (Moeraki+Katiki+Dunedin)

From Christchurch we headed south into the Otago Region along the coast making stops at the Moeraki Boulders, Katiki Point Historic Reserve and the city of Dunedin. I will apologize now for the excessive number of photos of boulders. I admit I was obsessed and took hundreds of photos from every conceivable angle. Consider yourselves lucky that I’m only posting a handful.

Moeraki Boulders


View on waking up on the second morning in New Zealand


Not a bad spot for some freedom camping


In search of dinosaur eggs


Distracted by the sunrise


Found them! The Moeraki Boulders are large spherical boulders of concretions washed out of the mudstone by coastal erosion. Concretions are formed when mineral deposits in water around a nucleus, often organic in nature such as a leaf or shell. They are pretty much geological curiosities that have taken millions of years to grow (Moeraki Boulders are from the Paleocene Epoch). They are also eerily cool, especially in the first morning light.


It’s easy to imagine that we have come across a nest of dinosaur eggs.


For a perspective on the size of the boulders


The Moeraki Boulders are a special type of concretions called septarian concretions due to their angular cavities. Here are my peeps checking out one of those cavities.


Sitting here since before mankind


Another cluster of boulders


My baby dinosaur hatching out


The cracks are a characteristic of septarian concretions. This one reminds me of a green turtle.


A look at the insides of the boulders


Katiki Point Historic Reserve


Katiki Point Historic Reserve is famous for its incredible coastal views and its resident penguins and fur seals.


Just a ten minute walk from the entrance will bring you to the point where gorgeous vistas and the resident colony of fur seals awaits.


Here’s one of the residents


I’m sure this one wanted me to scratch his belly but Marc was adamant that I not go near it. Tempting isn’t it?



Searching for penguins. Sadly it was too early in the day and they were all out fishing.


The countryside around Katiki Point




Otago Harbour and the surrounding countryside around the city of Dunedin



Here are the two reasons for our stop in Dunedin:) We were fortunate to have an old friend and a new friend play host and tour guide for us. Other than showing us incredible views of Dunedin they also took us to see glowworms! It was incredible to see them start glowing as the light of the day faded. Unfortunately my photography abilities just wasn’t good enough to capture their magic.



Otago Harbour on the left and Dunedin on the right as the sun is setting

New Zealand, South Island, Christchurch

New Zealand: a country where the people share a name with a bird and a fruit and every bend in the road leads to a one lane bridge and spectacular landscapes. This first post on our journey through New Zealand comes at an interesting time. As I write this, New Zealand is in the news. Those memorable landscapes we drove through are now forever changed by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that took place three days ago. It resulted in a lift of the seabed by almost two metres and a mind-boggling 100,000 landslides.


Landslide covering a highway that we once drove. Image source: NZ Defence Force


Seabed that has lifted. Image source: National Business Review (photo via Mark Enlin)

As I read the stories and see the images coming through the Internet, I think of driving on the roads and the highways that are now torn apart or covered up. As I read that the famous seal breeding ground at Ohau Point has been destroyed by the the earthquake, I think of visiting the baby seals there. It is one of our fondest memories from New Zealand. More than ever, I am grateful that we had an opportunity to travel through this incredible country. And now I get to share it with you.

Our journey began in this sweet ride…


So we upgraded from the campervan in Australia to this swanky camper for our New Zealand escapades. It was so comfortable that we briefly contemplated selling our belongings and living in it for good. 


We set out from Christchurch with an ambitious itinerary for the next three weeks. The plan was to head south from Christchurch, make a stop in Dunedin to see a friend and then cut across to Queenstown and Wanaka before going back up north through the West Coast then over and around to Kaikoura. We would then take the ferry over to Wellington and move through the North Island stopping in Rotorua, Matamata, and finally ending in Auckland. Not only did we manage to do all this but we ended up adding a couple of days in the Coromandel. Ready to hear all about it?

Well, here’s Christchurch and day one of our Kiwi journey.


View outside our camper on the first morning. Travelling by camper allowed us to wake up to scenes like this one. 


And this one


Typical New Zealand scene: bird, water and mountain


One of many murals found throughout the city of Christchurch


Many buildings that were damaged in the 2011 earthquake still stand unrepaired. 


While in the city we managed to fit in a game of chess…


climb a tree at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens…


and smell a very large flower.



Australia: Part 3 – Central New South Wales (Gosford to Sydney)

How is it that over a month has passed since my last post?! Real life has returned in the form of school lunch making, homework assistance, extra curricular activities and one thing after another before falling over with exhaustion at the end of the night. Most evenings I don’t even have enough mental energy to speak coherently never mind write coherently. So that’s my long explanation for my absence and forewarning about the timeliness of future posts. Now that I have absolved myself sufficiently of guilt, I can share the last part of our Australian adventure…

We continued to head south through New South Wales, making a few stops in the Gosford area before travelling south to Bouddi National Park and finally Sydney. We did take a detour inland to Canberra but despite it being Australia’s capital, there’s very little to share from our stop there. Although it was in Canberra that we managed to pick up a couple pairs of long coveted Blunnies (a.k.a. Blundstone boots).

The Gosford area


We decided to stay the night at a campsite in the small town of Patonga outside of Gosford. Patonga sure was pretty but there was nowhere to buy groceries and the town had only one restaurant. Made our dinner choice pretty easy.


Our campsite in Patonga. Thankfully we still had beer in the campervan fridge. Not a bad spot for a pre-dinner drink.


And we got to enjoy this early evening scene while having that drink.


The next day we headed to Brisbane Waters National Park to checkout ancient Aboriginal rock engravings ranging from 200-2000+ years old. Here’s the morning view from the top.


The rock engraving sites are easily accessed off the main road although spotting the sign for the site was a challenge. At the site, there are engravings of people and animals (kangaroos, fish, etc.). The kids are pointing to an engraving of a man wearing an elaborate headdress with a boomerang in one hand and a shield in the other.


After checking out the ancient Aboriginal rock engravings we headed to the Australian Reptile Park which was on the kids must visit places after scouring the guide book.


Australian Reptile Park has been involved in the collection of snake and spider venom since the 1950’s for Australia’s antivenom program. All of the venom for Australia’s antivenom program come from the work of just two guys who get snakes and spiders to try to bite them all day long. How do these guys explain to their mothers what they do?


Along with reptiles and arachnids, Australian Reptile Park is also home to cute and cuddly animals like this wombat.


And no visit to the park is complete without watching the crocodile show. Hard to see how big this crocodile is with it mostly submerged but trust me when I tell you it’s MASSIVE. This nice zookeeper, dangling a partial chicken carcass to tempt him, was definitely intimidated. At least she has a big stick and Blunnies to keep her safe.

Bouddi National Park


Continuing south from Gosford we headed to Bouddi National Park, one of the most breathtaking national parks in Australia. This is saying alot as Australia is the land of beautiful national parks.


Ready for our walk!


There are several walks to choose from. We chose the incredible Bouddi Coastal Walk.


Out of this world rock formations


This walk was so beautiful that I just couldn’t stop taking photos


Beautiful Bouddhi


We made sure they didn’t stand too close to the edge


The cutest little beach was at the end of the coastal walk



We left the rugged natural beauty of Bouddi and headed to the city life of Sydney. View of Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.


No visit to Sydney is complete without taking a trip on the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly which offers amazing views of the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour and of course Sydney itself.  Here is a view of the famous Sydney Opera House from the harbour. Did you know the Sydney Opera House is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?


This rain shrouded view of Manly was also captured from the ferry.


No Nemo or Dory, just a couple of cute kids


The “shells” of the opera house


Walking through the historic area of Sydney referred to as “The Rocks”


There was no question we were going to have lunch and a pint at the Lord Nelson, the oldest pub in Sydney.


Strolling through Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens


A view of the city at dusk taken from the seawall of the Royal Botanic Gardens

Australia has hooked me with its beauty. There is no doubt that we will be back for more. We were fortunate to see as much as we did. Choosing to travel by camper was definitely the right choice for our family and made all our stops possible. It got us even more excited for our upgraded ride for our travels in New Zealand. Coming up next!


Our ride and our home for our incredible days in Australia

Australia: Part 2 – Northern New South Wales (Byron Bay to Valla Beach)

From Brisbane we headed south, leaving the state of Queensland and heading into the spectacularly beautiful state of New South Wales. In northern New South Wales we made stops in Byron Bay, Red Rock and Valla Beach. Each one was pure eye candy!

Byron Bay


Cape Byron Lighthouse at Cape Byron State Conservation Area. It was from here that we had the magical experience of seeing humpback whales breaching and pods of dolphins riding the surf.


Byron Bay


Tallow Beach at Byron Bay


Alot of time was spent doing this

Red Rock


Although Red Rock is a tiny hamlet of a few hundred people, its got a caravan park where you wake up to this.


Best kind of morning!


Beach at Red Rock


The rock for which the hamlet is named after.

Valla Beach


The sand was so fine, it squeaked when you walked on it.


In her element


One of our favourite activities…looking for wildlife!

More of spectacular Australia coming up so hang tight!

Australia: Part 1 – Brisbane and the surrounding area

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since we have returned home. Now that the children have started back to school, I’m finally getting around to writing about Australia. Honestly, it’s taken so long just because I didn’t know where to start. You see, Australia caught me off guard. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to seeing it like I was for some of the other places we visited. I thought it wouldn’t be able to compete with the exotic beauty of Southeast Asia. Boy, Australia proved me wrong. It completely blew me away with its beauty during our journey along Australia’s legendary Pacific Coast from Brisbane to Sydney. Having finally sorted through the THOUSANDS of photos I took, I’m finally ready to share our Australia adventure with you.

Our first stop was the city of Brisbane, the capital of the Australian state of Queensland. During our brief stop, we visited the City Botanic Gardens and took a walk along the Brisbane River.


City and river


Riverfront by the botanic gardens

We also took a jaunt out into one of Brisbane’s suburbs to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary. It’s also where it’s possible to hold a koala and hand feed dozens of kangaroos.



A mama and tot enclosure where there were half a dozen mamas and their babies


A koala kindergarten class


When it was our turn to hold a koala and take a photo, the only koala willing to come was one of the heaviest males. Isabella had to brace herself:)


You not only get koalas at Lone Pine, you get to pet and feed as many kangaroos as you like


A mama and baby. And yes, the baby was as soft to touch as it looks.


Had them eating out of his hands

From Brisbane, we took a day trip with friends out to Lamington National Park, where this happened…


We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we bought that dish of bird seed


The face of both terror and joy


A moment of calm amongst the madness


Going to Lamington is not only for the birds but for this


And trees that are this much bigger than boys


And walkways that take you through the tree canopy

Want to know where else we visited in Australia? Stay tuned!

Java, Indonesia

Sorry for the long absence! We’ve been off the grid travelling Australia and New Zealand by camper. Can’t wait to share what that was like with all of you! But before I do, let me finish up with Indonesia…

We decided that we wanted to experience a little bit more of Indonesia than just Bali so we hopped on a quick (just over an hour) and cheap ($50 round trip!) flight to Java to visit the Buddhist temple site of Borobudur and the Hindu temple site of Prambanan as well as to see Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia. All three are easily accessible by flying into Yogyakarta in central Java. We based ourselves close by Borobudur and travelled by hired car to Prambanan and Merapi.

Seeing Borobudur and Prambanan, we couldn’t help but compare them to Angkor in Cambodia. Stylistically they are similar having been built around the same time and eventhough Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, both Borobudur and Prambanan are dwarfed by the size of Angkor (since it is a site of a city, not just a temple). Borobudur and Prambanan are also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.



Walking up to Borobudur


Looking out from Borobudur


Two of the many panels of carved Buddhist reliefs covering the temple



Lots of boy size ledges to rest




Some of the 72 stupas of Borobudur


Inside each stupa is a seated Buddha


An exposed Buddha sitting inside a stupa


Us of course:)


Another shot of the iconic stupas


West side (back) of Borobudur

Mendut temple (one of the two other temples that form a straight line with Borobudur)





Walking up to Prambanan


It’s clear Prambanan is a Hindu temple from its more intricate structure


One of the smaller temples in the Prambanan complex



The restoration efforts are daunting


Mount Merapi (aka Fire Mountain) has erupted regularly since 1548 with the most recent large scale eruption in 2010. It can easily be visited on the way to or from Prambanan.


The way most people visit Merapi without having to hike it.


Smoke is always rising out the top of Merapi


Route the lava flowed in the 2010 eruption


Many damaged and abandoned homes like this one all around Merapi


A memorial for the 2010 eruption shows the carnage in the form of animal bones, melted household goods and lava booms

Our experience in Muslim Java was quite different from Hindu Bali. The people were friendly but definitely more reserved than the Balinese. And the sound of prayer woke us up in the morning and lulled us to sleep in the evening. I’m really glad we were able to visit a different part of Indonesia to give us a different perspective.


Bali, Indonesia

I always thought Bali was the quintessential tropical island getaway. I had visions of lounging underneath billowing canopies and a perfectly blue sky looking out over a powder fine sand beach towards a clear turquoise sea. Turns out Bali is not quite like this. The sky was a mix of blue and stormy during our visit. The beach was a little less fine and a little bit more littered. The ocean might be turquoise if you venture past some of the muck. And I’m sure you could find a place to lounge under a billowing canopy but it will cost you. This is sounding like a negative review of Bali but it isn’t really. Bali is just different from what I had expected.


We stayed in two parts of Bali so that we could get different experiences since it was our first visit. We started out in the laid back town of Ubud which many consider to be Bali’s cultural heart. It’s in the interior of the island but from there any of the coast is within a day trip away. If we were to return to Bali, this is where we would base ourselves. Here are some scenes from around Ubud:


Bali is the Hindu enclave in Muslim Indonesia


This is a small hotel in Ubud. Very typical look for private homes, small hotels or homestays in the town.


An example of ornate Balinese decorations found on buildings.


An elaborate entrance in a temple but this kind of intricate decoration is also found on private residences.


Offerings like these can be found daily on most sidewalks, doorsteps, shrines, etc. 


Balinese women carry things on their head. Even heavy construction material that require others to assist you in getting it on your head.


Statues like these are found all over Bali.

When in Ubud, the must visit destination is Monkey Forest, where there are so many monkeys you’ll literally trip over them. These monkeys are the naughtiest we have seen in all of Asia. We got clued in we were close to Monkey Forest when a monkey came running down the street (crossing traffic no less!) to snatch the bag of chips out of Dominic’s hands. By the time we realized what was happening, that little cheeky monkey was already back across the street and ripping through the bag.


This monkey was actually outside the forest waiting for unsuspecting visitors.


Just another day in Ubud.


Yep that baby has his mama’s teat in his mouth.


If you didn’t care for monkeys, Monkey Forest is lovely just for a stroll.


Top monkey


Pretty spaces in Monkey Forest


Hoping Marc had something for him in his hand

To recover from Monkey Forest, we took a nice peaceful bike ride around the Bali countryside. Take a look:


During the bike ride we stopped to talk to a couple harvesting cocoa beans. Yep, this is the start of heavenly chocolate.


We passed pretty villages like this one.


And farmers tending to their crops.


We stopped to chat with these woman who had gathered to make preparations for a community celebration in three days time. The whole community comes together for the preparations.


The most expensive coffee in the world comes out of this sad creature’s bum. Yep, we stopped for refreshments at a coffee plantation where the specialty is Luwak coffee or otherwise known as civet poop coffee. 


After the beans have been “processed” by the civet, it gets hand roasted (likely by little old ladies like this one).


A complimentary flight of coffee and tea. This does not include the Luwak coffee. A cup sets you back $5 which is enough for a meal at a restaurant in Bali.


After the bike ride, we went for a stroll in the countryside.


And crossed rivers with only a soft plastic pipe as a bridge.

We completed our Balinese experience by watching a Kecak performance (dance and music drama) and fire dance. The Kecak performance involves over 100 men sitting in a circle creating music by rhythmically chanting while the main dancers performs the story of Ramayana.


The setting for the performance.


The Kecak performance


The fire dance where the dancer kicks and dances through hot embers.

But no matter how we spent our time in Ubud, we always took time out in the afternoon to refresh. For $50 a night, we got a huge room with breakfast and this lovely pool.


Just lovely and peaceful.


Until these guys get in. The boy got so good at jumping and swimming that he has now given up his swim bubble and free swimming. Yay!


Since we stayed in an interior location, we decided on the beach town of Sanur for our other location. From everything I read, it was slower pace than the main beach town of Kuta and had a nice beach good for families with young children. Sadly, it was unimpressive. During our three days, we went to the beach once and then spent the rest of our time hanging out by the very nice pool at our hotel. Nevertheless, here are a few photos from our stay in Sanur.


Just an ok beach.


Colourful Balinese boats


The pretty pool at our hotel.


We did manage to visit a tiny sea turtle conservation (tiny = 4 tanks on the beach) and saw these adorable baby sea turtles.


And a few gorgeous adult sea turtles like this one.

Permai Rainforest Resort, Borneo

From Kuching, we moved to the village of Damai (less than an hour drive) to stay in a cabin in the trees at Permai Rainforest Resort . The resort is the real deal. It’s located right in pristine Bornean rainforest so you are sharing the resort with all kinds of wildlife: monkeys (macaques, silver leaf and proboscis), river monitors, snakes, birds, flying lemurs, and of course all kinds of insects and lizards. The resort faces the South China Sea where the Irrawaddy dolphin can be found. And just a few minutes boat ride away is the mangrove forest of Kuching Wetlands National Park, home to crocodiles and the endangered proboscis monkey. The resort’s accommodations include numerous cabins, ten treehouses and one campground and they are all by no means fancy but they offer a rustic comfort in spectacular surroundings.


Looking at the resort from the South China Sea (you can see a bit of treehouse #2 and #3 peaking out at centre left).


One of the cabins


Our treehouse (#10)


View from restaurant


Natural jungle pool


One of two private beaches at the resort


Sunset at the beach


The resort also offers a multitude of activities that we took full advantage during our three-night stay. We signed up for a night walk in the forest, a daytime boat trip that included dolphin watching, a visit to a turtle hatchery and snorkelling and an evening boat cruise to the mangroves of Kuching Wetlands National Park.

During our night walk we saw numerous insects and lizards including giant stick insects, a huge cave centipede, and several blue-eyed lizards. Sadly I didn’t bring my camera so no photos to share. But here are some wildlife we saw during the daytime around the resort:


Can you spot the flying lemur? It was on a tree right in front of our treehouse.


One of many lizards we encountered. Not sure what kind this one is.


Horseshoe crab just cruising the shallows at the beach.


One of many river monitors we saw.


A cute little leaf snake hanging out on a tree by the resort restaurant.

On our daytime and evening boat trips we saw all of the animals we hoped to see with the exception of the sea turtle. We saw several dolphins but these were even more difficult to snap a photo of than the pink dolphins in the Hong Kong harbour. And we saw proboscis monkeys and crocodiles in the mangroves but it was impossible to photograph them due to camera capabilities, distance of proboscis monkeys from eye level and speed that the crocodiles move. You’ll just have to take my word for it that we saw them all.

Here are some photos from our activities nonetheless:





Mangroves of Kuching Wetlands National Park


A fishing village located in the mangroves.


Nightime in the mangroves. There were fireflies everywhere but this photo just couldn’t capture their magic.


During our dolphin watching trip, we cruised by this protected “bird island” full of migrating birds.


Satang Island. Privately owned but the owner allows the national park service to run a sea turtle conservation program there.


Old sea turtle tracks leading from the water to the site where she buried her eggs. 


The national park staff dig up the eggs buried by the sea turtles and transplants them to tubs for their protection. When they hatch they are released to the sea. There are 140 Hawksbill turtle eggs in this red tub. 


Walking the lovely beach at Satang looking for evidence of sea turtles.


Hiking the trail at the resort. There were challenging parts like this one that you climbed with the assistance of ropes. The little guy did great!


Tree in the forest on the trail.


Right by the resort is the Sarawak Cultural Village where you can see traditional homes and crafts of the areas indigenous tribes. It is also possible to homestay at the village in one of the traditional homes. There were demonstrations of some of the tribes’ practices.


Playing music on a traditional instrument that has been modified for electric capabilities. Unfortunately I cannot recall which tribe this musician belonged to now.


There were also activities at the village like this one where you could shoot a real blowpipe. Marc got 2 out of 3. Pretty impressive!


The cultural village also had a show two times a day demonstrating traditional dances. This one even picked up a heavy trough with his teeth while he danced.


Tribal person in traditional hunting outfit getting dart ready to shoot from blowpipe.


Guess who he picked out of the audience to shoot a dart out of his blowpipe?

Our time in Borneo was incredibly memorable. Yet there’s so much more to do and so much wild to explore. It just means we will have to return! For now, onwards to Indonesia…