A Travellerspoint blog

Warm and Fuzzies

Nothing beats sharing your lap with a nice fluffy kitty cat or a roly-poly puppy. I'll even admit to cuddling up with a guinea pig, bunny, or hamster now and then. As a true animal lover nothing beats the warm fuzzies brought about by an affectionate critter. I've had almost every pet imaginable (so long as they have fur or feathers and appear somewhat cute) and growing up I insisted on working at the zoo as an adult. I just never could get enough of the warm and fuzzies.

So imagine my delight this past weekend when the kiddos I nanny for suggested a good old fashioned trip to the zoo! There are plenty of great zoos in the greater Seattle area - would it be Cougar Mountain Zoo? Woodland Park Zoo? Northwest Trek? Alas. None of the above. Apparently I have been missing out on the greatest zoo of all: The Seattle Bug Safari.

Now having admitted to being an animal lover, I must clarify that my adoration stops short of all reptiles, insects, and spiders. I must admit that I am quite fearful of creepy crawlies, and even a harmless house spider will find me on top of a chair fearing for my life. I was petrified knowing I was about to encounter all my greatest fears in the period of one afternoon.


Luckily, The Seattle Bug Safari was not your typical zoo: no sprawling landscapes to discover and cages to happen upon. Instead, the Bug Safari was a tiny room lined with aquariums containing 50 or so exotic species of spiders and insects. Oh don't get me wrong, this was no walk in the park. They had it all. Poisonous - you bet. Gigantic - we're talking mammoth. Creepy - without a doubt.


I sucked it up and put on my brave face as we wandered about taking in the murky habitats. Our guide happily stuck his hands in the cages to rustle up the twigs and cause the millipedes and centipedes to reveal themselves. He gave us the full tour including a demonstration in which I discovered if you poke the scorpion just so they ferociously jab their stinger at you. The Goliath Bird Eating tarantula is most definitely the largest spider in the world - it could easily take on a small cat with one swipe.

Fear prevented any photography of the Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula, but here's a nice regular sized one for comparison.

The wonder of it all was that the kids loved it! They soaked up every bit of knowledge, leaned against the cages with ease, scampered about admiring the critters. I on the other hand was tense, rigid, and scared for my life. It didn't help that the kids were listing off all the poisonous snakes and spiders I will encounter on my trip to Peru. I looked to our tour guide for some sense of solace, but he simply gave me a regretful nod.

The only creatures which I could stand to look at for longer than one second were the cockroaches. Imagine my surprise when after a while I sort of became fond of those little fellas. I mean put me in a room with 50 poisonous, biting, death inflicting spiders and of course I'm going to make friends with the innocent, sleepy cockroaches.


Not quite the warm and fuzzies, but somehow they were oddly charming. Never fear though, I will refrain from acquiring any cockroaches as pets (at least on purpose) and for the record I still prefer pets of the fluffy, cuddly variety.

Posted by Jennylynn 21:46 Archived in USA Tagged animal Comments (0)


A year in review

Looking back on 2009 I can't believe I was able to accomplish all that I did. Not only did I maintain a nearly full-time work schedule, but somehow during all my travels I logged almost 50,000 air miles, and on top of that Dan and I got hitched. So to start off 2010, I feel it fitting to take a trip back in time and review the highlights of 2009.

The year started off with a trip to Alberta to visit the seven darlings whom I used to nanny for. The highlight was visiting Banff National Park where we snowshoed around Lake Louise, took in an ice sculpture contest, and perused downtown Banff's many colorful shops.


In February I accompanied a family as a "travel nanny" to the sunny shores of Wailea, Maui. Although I was there to "work," by definition lounging on the beach, boogie boarding, and sand castle building are not categorized as "work." I even had several days off where I joined a whale watching cruise, partook in the Feast of Lele Luau in Lahaina, and spent many evenings getting to know other travelers at the Humuhumukununukuapua'a Bar at the Grand Wailea.


In March my closest friend Natalie and I took South Beach Miami, Florida by storm in a trip that included lots of beach lounging, drinking, and getting hit on (or proposed to) by random Italian men. Oh sure we took in many cultural activities as well, such as a tour of the rich and famous in Miami's equivalent of Beverly Hills: Coral Gables.


Then in May, it was off to London with the family I work for. Let's see, two words can describe this trip: Sleep Deprivation. Although I was given the select evening or afternoon off, I was also bunking with a one year old who had an extreme aversion to sleeping through the night. It was quite the adventure.


Following London, we then jetted off to Greece for two weeks of vacationing in Rhodes, Crete, and Santorini. Three words can describe this trip: Continued Sleep Deprivation (See above). On the plus side, I discovered the benefits of staying at 5 star accommodations: Private pools, room service, free bottles of wine, and stunning views.


After the whirlwind three weeks in London and Greece which included several hours of sleep a night, I was very excited about to take an Alaskan Cruise with Dan in June. The cruise was pleasant, but the port stops were the show stoppers. We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, toured Glacier Bay, and then finished off with a road trip into Denali National Park.


The rest of the summer was spent around our home base in Seattle, but in September Dan and I made a short trip to Boston where we enjoyed tromping through the rain drenched colonial streets.


Boston was followed up by a trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts where the skies cleared and we enjoy discovering the Cape's many famous beaches and lighthouses.


In October I took a solo trip to Washington DC where I logged many a mile wandering amongst hundreds of famous landmarks.


Later in October Dan and I joined 25 of our closest friends and family for a week in Kaanapali, Maui where we renewed our vows in a sunset ceremony on the beach.


Although we love our families dearly, we departed early to spend the remainder of our vacation on the island of Kauai where we hiked, explored, and enjoy many sun soaked afternoons at the Grand Hyatt (courtesy of my very generous employers).


In December I then finished the year just as I started it, with another trip to Alberta where the temperature lingered in the negative and the sky was heavy with snow.


2009 was filled to the brim with travel and now that the year has come to a close, I can only hope that 2010 has just as many adventures in store. Here's to another year of travelling!

Posted by Jennylynn 11:51 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Toboggans and Tuques

Winter in Alberta

snow -10 °F

I've been on a bit of a hiatus of recent. My lack of blog material is not for want of motivation, nor is it due to a lack of stories to tell. Rather, I was caught up in the wintery, festive cheer of my most favorite holiday ever. While I was gathered with friends and family for various Christmas celebrations, my blog gathered dust.

If that weren't enough, immediately following Christmas I set off for a tiny town called Innisfail tucked up in the frozen abyss of central Alberta where I spent the past week on house arrest with seven rambunctious kiddos.

With a population of just under 8,000, Innisfail is a far cry from the happening city of Calgary just one hour south. With little more than a run down main drag lined with farm equipment shops, Innisfail is a sleepy farmers dream. Summers are warm and fair, but Winter brings snow, ice, and negative temperatures. This wasn't my first visit to Innisfail and definitely not my last. For tucked up in this igloo of nothingness lives a family that I would do just about anything for.

On this particular visit the temperature neared -15 degrees Fahrenheit (-25 with wind chill), as such we spent most days tucked inside their cozy home baking, watching movies, and doing puzzles. That is, as long as the kids weren't fighting. Because as I'm sure you can imagine, with seven kids locked tight inside a small space, chaos is inevitable. WWE watch out, these kids can throw punches and insults like the best of them.

When the weather warmed to a toasty 4 degrees Fahrenheit a trip to the Innisfail Ski Hill was in order. Ski Hill is somewhat of a misnomer as no one really dares to ski this icy steep drop off. Instead local high school kids gather to perform death defying trips down the nearly vertical cliff on an assortment of toboggans and inner tubes. Was I scared, hell yes. Was it fun? Absolutely.



Several mornings I woke early to try and capture the beauty of the all the ice and snow in pictures. With temperatures far colder than anything I have experienced I didn't last very long. But hopefully you get the gist.


Spending the last of the holidays in Alberta was a wonderful way to kick off the New Year. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and I wish you all the greatest peace, love, and joy in 2010.

Posted by Jennylynn 20:48 Archived in Canada Tagged photography Comments (0)

Plus Sized Kitty Cats

In the mid 90's when most preteen girls had rooms plastered in posters of hunky stars of the day like Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Luke Perry, and Leonardo DiCaprio, and bands like 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys, I was busy wallpapering my room with pictures of tigers. Yes, I am referring to the likes of Siberians and Bengals, and no I will not use this as an opportunity to make a Tiger Woods wise crack. I simply was deeply in love with tigers and I was committed to do anything to prevent them from becoming extinct. I had grand plans of studying Zoology and working to preserve what little natural tiger habitat is left. But, as with all my peers, my natural teenage instincts to obsess over celebrity hot throbs would prevail. Eventually the tiger pictures came down off the walls and were carefully placed into scrapbooks and boxes, but the passion for these majestic creatures never died.

This past weekend I visited the Cougar Mountain Zoo in Issaquah, Washington for their annual Reindeer Festival. Although as their name would suggest, we did not see many cougars, but I was more than thrilled to discover they had a beautifully designed tiger habitat.



They also had an odd assortment of other animals. Like this toothsome fellow:


Being a Reindeer Festival, we of course made a quick visit to see Dancer


These cranes were absolutely stunning


Always a good reminder...


As I was leaving I noticed that the zoo offers a behind the scenes Tiger Experience. For $250 one can get up close and personal with these striped felines. Although it sounds appealing, I can't help but recall the time I asked a zoo keeper in Alberta, Canada if I could go in the tiger enclosure and she graciously opened the gate...


And then they led me to the lion's den...


Even though they ripped my clothes to shreds, I still thought of them as plus sized kitty cats.

On a side note, I think the Alberta based zoo was closed down shortly after my visit. Apparently letting your guests enter the animal cages is not exactly the safest way to run a business.

Posted by Jennylynn 09:03 Archived in USA Tagged animal Comments (0)

The Hills are Alive

Dan and I arrived in Interlaken, Switzerland by night train. Waking up and pulling back the curtains revealed snow capped craggy peaks lined by green, rolling hills dotted with pastures and Swiss chalet style homes. We cracked open the windows and peaked up ahead to see that the tracks climbed further up the hillside taking us deeper into the mountain pass. Within hours we would be at our home base for exploring the Alps.
Once in Interlaken it was just a short walk to our Bed and Breakfast - The Rugenpark Hotel, where we experienced the highest level of hospitality and customer service we have ever encountered. The owners, Chris, Ursula, and their dog Monty, exuded warmth and generosity. Dan and I would both be celebrating our birthdays during our stay, and the morning of each of our birthdays they burst into the breakfast room with cakes, presents, and songs. They truly were the best hosts we have ever had. Our room was charming and quaint, but the view from our window was what really stood out.
On our first day the weather was beautiful, and we missed not a beat booking our tickets to the top of Mt. Schilthorn. The ride to the top took two hours on several systems of trains, gondolas, and hiking, but once there Schilthorn provided 360 degree views at 9,600 feet above sea level that were out of this world.
We wasted no time deciding that rather than riding back down, we would simply hike our way back to the nearest train station. It was a good idea in theory, but the sore muscles which ensued for nearly a week proved I overestimated my hiking ability. The hike clearly turned out to be more difficult than anticipated (who thought hiking downhill is more grueling than hiking up?!) but nothing will ever compare to the beauty we encountered as we wandered through cow pastures, hiked along pristine glacial lakes, and finally arrived at the quaint, hillside town of Murren.
Waking up the next morning I literally could not move. I shuddered in pain just touching my legs. I was stiff, sore, and in no position to hike up or down any more mountains. We decided to take it easy with a leisurely boat ride to the nearby town of Spiez. It truly was a beautiful town complete with a castle, ancient church, a bustling harbor, and vineyards lining the hills.
On the ride back dark clouds rolled in and the water became choppy, soon it was pouring down rain and lightening and thunder crashed overhead. Once back in Interlaken we decided to have a night on the town to celebrate our birthdays with the cheapest fancy dinner we could find. We found out that cheap is not something which exists in Switzerland. We couldn't believe how over priced everything was. We couldn't find a dish in town which cost less than $15 USD. We settled on a little fondue joint where we dipped the night away and set ourselves back a good $100 USD. At least they brought us a free birthday dessert complete with firework style candles. It was definitely a birthday to remember.

The next day my muscles continued to ache but I was not about to let them deter me from engaging in any outdoor pursuit. We rented bikes for the day and rode all along the lakes on either side of Interlaken (Interlaken literally means between the lakes). It probably wasn't the smartest idea as my legs burned the entire time, but it was beautiful and secluded and an experience I will never forget.
Switzerland was incredible despite being overpriced. We both soaked up every bit of the mountain scenery we could as we would soon be heading to the sun soaked canals of Venice. I think Dan was a bit more sad about leaving Switzerland than I was. Frolicking through the Alps we was totally in his element, it was definitely a sight worth seeing.

Posted by Jennylynn 09:53 Archived in Switzerland Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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