Travel - Page 3

Puerto Rico: The Gallery Inn


Perhaps it was the unmarked entrance or the greeting of exotic parrots and masses of trailing plants.
Whatever it was, we knew from the moment we walked in that this was no ordinary hotel. 


Online reviews touted varying opinions such as:
“It’s like walking into a Fellini movie.” “Charming & Romantic.” “Spooky!” “Not for everyone.” “You get it or your don’t.”
It sounded like the perfect place for us to spend our 11th Anniversary and final days in Puerto Rico. 


The children took off within seconds of arriving, following a labyrinth of stairs and hallways to secret rooms and passageways.


Our generously sized family room, the ‘Balcon’, overlooked a courtyard and the sea. It was quite fun to stay somewhere so different from the usual minimalist or modern accommodations I tend to book.


Every ounce of space is filled with something; a piece of art, greenery, color, anything to grab your attention for half a second before your eye is lead to the next thing.

GalleryInn8GalleryInn5GalleryInn7This sprawling 300 year old hotel is owned by American artist, Jan D’Esopo and her Puerto Rican husband, Manuco. Along with creating and maintaining this incredible, museum-like space, she also invites varying “artists in residence” to stay and work at the hotel. We enjoyed chatting with the current artist and painter, Bart Lindstrom, and his girlfriend, Kathy.


When you’re not busy wandering the streets of Old San Juan, there are plenty of activities to do around the property;
from swimming in the unusual sculptural pool…


Lounging poolside in an old world daybed…


To getting a massage in an historic kitchen…


Or playing a song on a vintage Steinway in the Venetian-style music room. (Chamber music concerts are performed throughout the year by local musicians.)


 Even better, hop on a golf cart with Jan, the artist in residence, the server and possibly a parrot or two and be whisked away to the beach house for Happy Hour. It’s the perfect place to watch the sun set and to chat with Jan (who is fascinating) or the artists and other guests. A parrot might even pluck out a song for you on the guitar! 

GalleryInnBeachHouseGalleryInnBHGalleryInnBeachHouse2GalleryInnBeachHouse3GalleryInnBHHappyHourWhen you return from the beach, head straight to the patio overlooking the pool (if weather permits) or into the ornate dining room where a delicious meal will be prepared and served to you. You’ll likely be intoxicated by the breezes of jasmine while an unexpected classical guitarist serenades you as you dine.

GalleryInn4As night falls, you may lie in bed replaying the magical day while listening to the calls of the Coqui Coqui frogs outside the open windows.
Perhaps it was all a surreal dream.

If you find yourself wide awake, unable to sleep, climb up to the rooftop deck to catch the sunrise.

GalleryInnRooftopRainAnd if you’re lucky, the artists will already be there studying the first light of day and how it hits the clouds. Maybe you’ll be graced by an early morning shower and instead of washing away the mystique in the early morning light, it somehow only adds to it. This place will be forever embedded in your soul.

The Gallery Inn 
204-206 Norzagaray,
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico: East Side Story


On any given day, I could dole out a list of places I’d like to visit and prior to last month, Puerto Rico wasn’t on it. It’s not that I had anything against the island — I simply knew very little about it. The oddball connotations I had with Puerto Rico were: West Side Story(!?), birthplace to J. Lo and Ricky Martin, and cruise ship port. Luckily, my travel “To Go” list is easily expandable, as is my willingness to learn! When my husband booked a job there in May, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to discover more about this United States territory.

PuertoRicoBoricuaFounded by Christopher Columbus in 1493, Puerto Rico is comprised of Spanish, African and indigenous Taino cultural influences with a heavy dose of American colonization. It’s an easy destination for US travelers as there’s no need for a passport, most everyone speaks English, the dollar is accepted, cell phones work as they do back home and there’s a Walgreens (or Walmart, McDonalds, KFC, CVS, etc.) every so many miles. Luckily, for all of the interspersed American-isms, there are plenty of areas that still feel foreign. And on a positive note, it was a comfort that driving there was more like The States than say Mexico or India!

PuertoRico_FlowersPuertoRicoPalominoBeachGenerally when we accompany my husband on his photo shoots, we don’t have the luxury of picking our own hotels. While most of his jobs are usually at nice resorts, they aren’t always the character-driven places that I would have painstakingly chosen. Luckily, our accommodation at the historic El Conquistador Hotel was pretty good. For what it lacked in decent dining and perhaps dated surroundings, it completely made up for itself with its private Palomino Island. A short, 8 minute ferry ride whisks guests away to one of the prettiest stretches of beach I’d seen in a long time. (Sidenote: Palomino and the tiny, neighboring Palominito Island (seen in the distance above + below) made appearances in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.)

PuertoRicoPalominoBoatsPuertoRicoPalominoIslandWhile my daughter snorkeled and I floated my 7 months pregnant body through heaven, my son was enthralled with wrangling iguanas, lizards, geckos, snails, mollusks and hermit crabs. My sincere apologies to the various reptile families that were displaced and/or disrupted because of him.

PuertoRicoIguanaPuertoRico_IguanaMIguanaLoveWhen we weren’t lounging beachside (or at the hotel’s Coqui Waterpark), we tried to explore other parts of the island. Just outside of Fajardo, in the Luquillo Mountains, is the only national tropical rain forest, El Yunque. We spent several hours hiking through it one day. On a funny note, I’d read somewhere that Puerto Ricans “don’t really like to walk or get their shoes dirty”, so the whole park has a series of paved hiking trails. It wasn’t the most spectacular rainforest I’ve ever been to, but it was nice to be amidst the greenery and out of the sun for an afternoon.

PuertoRico_ElYunqueElYunqueWaterfallPuertoRicoElYunqueHikeElYunqueLeafElYunqueCocoFrioAs far as dining in Puerto Rico is concerned, there seemed to be three main options: very traditional Puerto Rican fare, American fast food chains and a handful of modern and trendy restaurants (mostly found in San Juan). I played it pretty safe as I wasn’t feeling too adventurous this late in my pregnancy. Sadly, it wasn’t until our last two days that we ate some really good food. If you find yourself in the Fajardo area, I’d highly recommend Pasion por el Fogon. The children and I had a fantastic meal there on our last night at the El Con. And for a little cultural integration, we stopped at the “Luquillo Kioskos” for some authentic street food on our way to Old San Juan. We had driven past them several times and I’m glad we took the time to visit. They’re a series of 60 dilapidated kiosks that serve food and drinks, as well as sell souvenirs and trinkets. They look a bit dodgy by day, but come dusk, they are packed with people and boast loud music you can hear from the road. I didn’t realize they butted up to a public beach, until I wandered out the backside of one of the kiosks and saw a massive string of cars, wave runners and beach-goers lined up all down the coast.

PuertoRicoKiosko1PuertoRicoKiosko2LuquilloKiosko180360CoolCatsPuertoRicoJukeboxAs I’ve said before, I have a tendency to visit a place once and then scratch it off my list as “DONE.” However, I don’t feel like I saw everything I wanted to in Puerto Rico. Some of this was due in part to being so pregnant. Here’s what we missed:

I would have liked to visit Bio Bay with it’s luminescent waters, but kayaking in the dark with two children and an enormous belly didn’t sound so appealing! We also tried to take the ferry to Culebra Island to visit Flamenco Beach, supposedly one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Unfortunately, the public ferry system in PR was akin to a DMV in a Third World country. ¡Ay Caramba! I was also bummed we never got over to the west coast and more specifically, the city of Rincon, which is famous for it’s surf. And finally, I speak for all of us when I say, we must go back to the lovely city of Old San Juan. Our unforgettable stay there deserves a post of its own.

¡Hasta Luego!

Less is More


Happy New Year, friends! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday break. Our trip to England was everything I needed; relaxation, spending time with the family, cooking big meals for everyone and mostly a chance to let go of all of the stress I’d accumulated in the past few months.

Over the holiday, I sat down and made a list of the things I wanted to change in 2013 and I’m proud to say, it’s my least ambitious list to date!

My #1 priority is: do less.

YAY! It has finally dawned on me that I can’t keep up with the pace I’ve been keeping. Homeschool, photography work and maintaining a home and family are like three full-time jobs. Although I was somehow making it work, it wasn’t as satisfying as much as it was exhausting. I don’t want to feel so harried and hurried this year.

As it is, the universe answered my plea in it’s own ironic way with some pretty shocking news just before we left for England. So, even if I wanted to wear my Superwoman cape for another year, I simply couldn’t. I’ll explain more soon. Until then, here are some images I shot in England.

(PS. This blog is 6 years old today!)

New Mexico


October 2010

What do you get when you take back to back vacations?

  a. Lots of laundry
  b. Exercises in packing
  c. Strange viruses
  d. More photos than you’ll ever know what to do with
  e. All of the above

Within one day, we went from the cloudy and green Northwest, to the sunny and dry Southwest. Talk about a 180/360! 

Like Vancouver, I’d always wanted to go to New Mexico.  It didn’t matter that I’d essentially be single parenting on the road for two more weeks (okay, maybe a little) because at least we’d be charting new territory. 

Thanks to this insatiable need to travel and photograph the world… I wanted to present these photos as “an essence” of what I saw and experienced, just in case you’ve never been! 

 Cultural:  Whether you want to learn more about the 19 Indian Pueblos of New Mexico, the blend of Colonial Spanish and Latino/Hispanic heritage, or the great American Cowboy – there’s plenty of well-incorporated diversity within culture to take in here.  In many ways, this is the definition of Southwestern.


Flavor:  The official state question is “Red or Green?” and I quickly came to realize there’s good reason for that.  It comes with everything!  I honestly thought I could handle “heat” (as in chile peppers) until this visit, but boy was I wrong!  They are not messing around here and when they say “spicy,” they mean it.  I ate more enchiladas, beans and rice than I ever have in any two week period. Ever.  We made a point to ONLY nosh in local restaurants (no national chains) and eat mostly regional food, with a few interjections of pizza to keep the niños happy.
Historical:  Honestly, I had no idea that New Mexico was steeped in so much history.  Did you know that Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States?  It’s also one of the oldest cities in all of America, complete with the oldest house and public building!  While Adobe-Pueblo isn’t my favorite architectural style, it harmonizes perfectly with the environment.  Plus, I like it’s ancient quality. And speaking of the ancients, there are petroglyphs and cliff dwellings throughout the state.  We didn’t get to see any of the latter, but plan to on our next visit.
Colorful:  New Mexico is chock full of color.  How can one not love all the turquoise, reds, oranges, and yellows?  Between the Native American and Spanish influences — the costumes, the beads, the food, the chiles — nearly everything was kaleidoscopic.
Museums:  Apparently, I’m attempting to break the world record of “most museum visits in one year!”  I will talk more about this later, but we went to a couple of fabulous ones in Albuquerque.  While the museum tour was getting a little tedious and predictable, I can honestly say that I’d never been to one devoted entirely to rattlesnakes until this trip.  I have the “Certificate of Bravery” to prove it.  Fun times!
Artistic: Between Vancouver and Albuquerque, I returned home with the overwhelming feeling, “Vegas needs more public art!” Everywhere we went, there were enormous murals covering walls due to new “urban enhancement” laws.  In my experience, the longer I live in the desert and the Southwest, I can see why this type of environment is strangely conducive to creating art.  It’s no wonder New Mexico has been home to artists like Georgia O’Keefe, Laura Gilpin and Bruce Nauman.



CA Central Coast


May 2011

Have I ever told you how much I love the Sunshine State? Well, I do. It seems to be my third home these days. But the Central Coast… not so much. I never go there! (Okay once or twice when I was in college I drove up to Seattle, but the only thing I remember is smoking out to Mazzy Star and staying in weird motels. Don’t judge.) A few weeks ago, we decided to take Highway 1 from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo before heading home to Las Vegas.

Thankfully this journey was different than my last. I was older, completely lucid, and with my husband and children. Although it was planned at the last minute (homage to 1994!), everything somehow managed to work out. We left San Francisco (future post), stopping as many times as they’d let me (see *Sidenote) and drove until the road closed just after Big Sur. We thought we might have to backtrack, which would have been disheartening given we’d already driven 5 hours straight (minus my insatiable need to stop every 2 minutes for a photo.)

*Sidenote: Ever wonder what it’s like to travel with a photographer? Who wants to go on a road trip with me? My family was ready to leave me with the “other guy” en route with us, who was apparently on the same photo journey as me. Don’t think I wasn’t tempted to hop in his Forerunner and ask my husband to pick me up in San Luis Obispo! Unfortunately, he had a tripod and well, that’s just too high maintenance for me. HA!

Anyway… we got past Lucia around dusk and realized we’d have to take the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road through the Los Padres Mountains, which was basically switchback after switchback all the way up and down the mountains. That is when I stopped taking photos as an attempt to keep car sickness at bay. An hour and half later, beeping the horn around every turn, and a drive through two different military training camps (v. weird), we finally made it out the other side onto the 101. It was one of those drives that we will never forget.  But what was on the other side was equally crazy! More on that later…



Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero


 The Slammer, Half Moon Bay


 “Prime” real estate.


 Peeking through the trees, grace meets fury.


 Wildflowers, rolling hills and rocks.


The California Riviera?


A quick stop for gas, ice cream and wine at Big Sur General Store.


 Wibbly-wobbly road through the Los Padres Mountains.



I fully believe in taking the scenic route at least one way! It’s important to slow down and take in the beauty that surrounds us.

Map Credit

Great Salt Lake


Kissing Cousins 

August 2010

Last week while visiting SLC, we decided to head west to check out the city’s namesake, The Great Salt Lake. As soon as we arrived, we were reminded of our trip to the Salton Sea last year. Much like other things in Utah, these two places are most certainly related!

A wolf in sheep’s clothing? 


An other-worldly landscape.


An overwhelming sense of abandonment.


 Skeletons of life and the stench of death.


 Where art and arson merge.


 And history repeats itself.
It’s just a façade of normalness.


With a touch of horror.


Don’t wait to find out.