Posted in Travel

NZ West Coast Glaciers & Tramping

First trip to the West Coast? Check. Not to oversell it, but it really is impossible to decide which region of New Zealand is the most beautiful.

It was about a 5 hour drive from Christchurch, west through Arthur’s Pass and then south to Franz Josef Glacier. The weather didn’t give us ideal views, but it kept the sandflies (somewhat) under control.


I think my favorite part was the signs.dsc_0415


We camped at Lake Mapourika, a doc site just outside of town.


The next day we went on to Fox Glacier.



That afternoon we stopped off at the famous Lake Matheson, an incredibly calm, dark lake that gives a perfect reflection of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Unfortunately, the lake was not calm enough (nor the weather clear enough) to allow for the famous views, but the walk was still beautiful.


Check out the picture on the doc site for what it’s supposed to look like!

Day 3 and 4 were spent tramping the Copland Track. An absolutely stunning walk through lush forest and along a bright blue river. It was a full day’s walk (we normally shave a bit of time off the estimates, but it took us all 7 hours) to get to Welcome Flat where we took a dip in the AMAZING natural hot pools, with a perfect view of the Sierra range. After relaxing our sore muscles and feet a bit, we doubled back about 3 hours to camp at Architect Creek. The stars that night were unbelievable. img_9107img_9113img_9115img_9125

SCALDING water bubbling up from the ground:


The trenches above leading the hot water to the pools below.


And a beautiful walk at dusk, back to where we would camp.


Since our walk was a little shorter on the second day, we decided to stop for a quick dip (VERY quick – it was FRIGID) and lay out in the sun. We ended up making it to the car just in time for the weather to completely crash, so we were thankful for the sunshine that we did get!



Posted in Travel

Tour of Vatican City

And here is the long overdue final installment of my European trip!

Definitely one of the highlights (probably THE highlight) was a tour of Vatican City. We got to walk miles (and miles) through the museums, and end with the unbelievable St. Peter’s Basilica. We did a 4 hour tour with the company Walks Inside Rome and it was really top notch. Our guide was adorable, hilarious, and INCREDIBLY well educated.

Before I proceed with the pictures that I do have, I will quickly make note of the Sistine Chapel. Our tour included time in the Chapel before it was opened to the public. It was truly unbelievable. To see the most famous ceiling in the world, and have it be even more beautiful than you can imagine, was such an amazing experience. No photos were allowed, but you know what it looks like 😉 We particularly appreciated our quiet time in the Chapel when we had to double back through a couple hours later – it was so jam-packed that our group had to split up and each person had to slowly find their own path from one side to the other.

Entrance to the grounds


Walking through the Hall of Maps…


…and Hall of Tapestries…


Moon rocks given to the Vatican, followed by a diamond-studded monstrance and collection of papal rings.


The art collection was unbelievable…seeing so many of the works of Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini and more, IN PERSON, was like…just wow. I was also astounded by all the things that came from all over the world – the Vatican Museums hold far more than Italian and religious pieces! I would not call myself an art person – I’d choose a natural history museum over an art museum almost any day of the week. But I was seriously in awe – if there is one museum of art in the world that you need to see (though I’ve been to the Prado and hear the Louvre is quite renowned), this one is probably it.



Although some of it seemed a bit…silly?


The Hall of the Maps was one of my favorites. Seriously beautiful and unbelievably accurate!


First glimpse of St. Peter’s Basilica


Just a few days before it would close for decades, at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year, we got to enter the Basilica through the Holy Door


The Pieta (Michelangelo)


A pilgrimage procession


What an incredible finale, to be inside the most famous church in the world. I won’t overload you with all of the photos I took, because none of them do it any justice. It was truly awe inspiring.


Thanks Vatican City, Mom, and Europe in general for an incredible experience. Until next time!

Posted in Travel

When in Rome

The final stop on our European excursion – The Trevi Fountain, Michelangelo’s Moses and St. Peter’s chains, the Pantheon and Colosseum, Spanish Steps, various piazzas and countless astounding buildings did not fail to impress. Best eats in Trastevere. Highlight: Vatican City (still to come!)