A Travellerspoint blog

A tale of two islands: Sardinia and Corsica

Quinn's childhood friend Jeremy, joined us for a hiking adventure on the Italian island of Sardinia and the French island of Corsica. It was a trip filled with sunshine, seafood, hiking and driving.

Day 1: Jeremy arrived in Luxembourg and then we all flew together on Ryanair to Alghero. We rented a car and drove to Stintino arriving around midnight. It was quite the day of travel for Jeremy.

Day 2: Checked out Stintino and La Pelosa beach. Drove over to Santa Teresa di Gallura with a quick stop in Costa Paradiso.

Photos from around Stintino

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Bank with laundry above it!

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Creepy eyeless statue

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models

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Photos from La Pelosa beach

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Day 3: Hung around Santa Teresa di Gallura and enjoyed a nice walk along the coast of Capo Testa and some delicious food with oceanside views. We started it all off with breakfast on the patio.

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Day 4: Took a ferry to Bonifacio in Corsica. Enjoyed some beverages on the pier. Suffered a curvy road up to Ajaccio

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Day 5: Walked around the city of Ajaccio and also out to the Pointe de la Parata.

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Day 6: Hiked the English Forest trail. Had some nice views and saw a ton of wildflowers.

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Day 7: Drove to Corte. Stopped midway on the drive to see the Cascade de Anglais.

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Standing on a cool bridge looking at a train bridge with a cool bridge under it!

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Day 8: Our home in Corte

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We did a long day hike to a church. We started from the town of Santo-Pietro-di-Venaco.

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There ended up being snow on the route and we dug in up to our waist sometimes. Oops!

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We met two Canadian gals on our hike up at the church (in the picture above). We ended up running into them in town that night and had a really fun time having dinner with them. Then we ended up meeting them unplanned at the trail head of our hike the next day. Our paths were meant to cross. They were super fun hiking buddies and we all enjoyed a bunch of laughs over a Corsican dinner together. Sometimes in our travels we run across people that have a special impact on us. Annie-Kim and Mathilde were two wonderful people who we wish we had known earlier and hope we have the good fortune to come across again.

Day 9: Long day hike to Gorges de Tavignano, starting with a picture of Corte.

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Cows on our trail!!!!

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Day 10: Long day and drive back south to Bonifacio and ferry back to Sardinia followed by another drive to Alghero. Who the heck came up with this plan?

There was a rally car race going on during our time on the island. We stopped at Porto Vecchio on our way back to Bonifacio and were able to join in a bit of the rally car fun. By the end of the day, we felt like we had done a rally car race.

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One last look at Bonifacio on the ferry ride. Also, a wild pair of shoes.

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Day 11: Day in Alghero

This turned out to be the most quaint and adorable town of the whole trip. I wish we had more time there.

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End of Day 11: Flew back to Germany.

Posted by trackers 13:25 Archived in France Comments (0)

The heel of Italy

Believe it or not, we have had very few hiccups in our trips but this one started out with a doosey. Is that a word? Anyhoo, after our late night flight to Bari, and a long wait for the transfer to the car rental place we were left without a rental car. We rushed back to the airport and had to spend a small fortune for a last minute rental. While this experience was extremely frustrating at the time it made us realize how few issues we have run into during our travels. I don't know if we are incredible lucky or incredibly over prepared or maybe a little of both but I am happy that we don't often run into these issues.

Luckily the owner of our apartment and home for 3 nights was incredibly understanding and kind and did not make us feel even a little bit bad for showing up at 2AM! Poor guy. Our place was super cool and was located inside of the building seen below. It was a cave type house and super cool inside. The owner and his wife had painstakingly restored this apartment that in the early 1900's housed about a 12 people. It was built in the 1500's! I love places like this. He did a really cool job with uplighting and the whole place felt very special. Here is the outside of the place at 2am.

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One thing I love about staying at independently owned places is the interaction with the host. The following morning I received a text from him saying, "Today the sun is shining. Forget about the difficulties of last night and enjoy the beauty of Ostuni." What a wonderful and thoughtful man. I will follow this up with views from around the town of Ostuni. This is a town on the hill that has a bunch of Greek influence and the typical white washed buildings you often see in the Greek isles.

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We heard that Ceglie Messapica was the mecca for food in the area. We ate at the most amazing family run restaurant and basically had all we could eat and a liter and a half of wine for about 30 euro total. It was fantastic. The owner of the restaurant spent tons of time explaining each dish to us in a combination of English, Italian, and German. In the Bari area you get 6 or 7 appetizers as part of the antipasti. The variety was really fun and gave you the opportunity to try many different dishes from the area.

Something very unusual in this area is that the meals come with a plate of raw carrots, celery and fennel. It comes out with your pasta. All the other diners were crunching away as this is apparently a thing people do here. We found it very amusing.

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As we drove back to our town, we saw a little for sale sign and decided to pop in. After we "sidestepped" the fencing we were able to wander around a beautiful property with some conical houses that are typical of the area.

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We had some intel from our restaurateur that Martina Franca town was worth a visit. We arrived just in time for the rest period where everything in Italy shuts down for 3-6 hours. So here are some pics.

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We met two little adorable girls from Albania who were super interested in Quinn's camera. The little girl took this picture of Quinn and then he took the next picture of her.

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I was feeling artistic in Martina Franca, which does not happen often.

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The next morning we set off for "Parco Naturale Regionale Dune Costiere da Torre Canne a Torre San Leonardo." That's quite the name isn't it?! It is a regional park that includes sand dunes, farms, olive groves, and coastline. We rented bikes from a very informative fellow who gave us a beautiful book of national parks in the south of Italy. We set off on the bikes for a fun day of adventure. The first few pictures are the view from and of Ostuni before we left.

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Our tour included about a million 100+ year old olive trees, a friendly farmer and some of his delicious ricotta cheese and pecorino, a tunnel that was definitely too small for Quinn and us pushing our bikes through the sand along the coast so we could get an upclose view of the ocean. Our bike rental guy recommended an amazing restaurant to us for lunch. We got the last reservation and we saw about 3 couples get turned away. The grandmother luckily saved us from not getting seated by letting her family members know that we made a reservation with her. Thank goodness for Nonna! These pictures show the multi plate appetizers that are typical of the region.

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Our next few nights we spent in the beautiful town of Lecce. This town is full of grandiose historical monuments. They are not polished like you might see in Rome but instead have a bit of patina which really appeals to me. On Saturday night, the streets were filled with people going for the before dinner walks and all of the buildings were uplit. It felt like actually living in Italy.

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The next morning we set out bright and early for the town of Gallipoli. On our way out of town we saw this amazing man with his very unique bicycle. Gallipolli is a quaint fishing village turned tourist mecca. All of the tourists on this day were Italian but I am sure that during the summer people visit from all over the world. As you can see in one of the pictures, sea urchins seemed to be the popular item to eat here. I didn't partake but there were lots of people standing at tables around the fish market enjoying them fresh from the shell.

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The next day we checked out some more towns including Taranto and Leuca which is the southeastern most point of Italy.

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We also came across a beautiful sea cave, a man with the coolest car with suicide doors and some secret beaches.

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We had to drive back up the coast to head out to the airport and we stopped again in Polignano al mare. Frequent readers of this blog will remember that we went there with my parents a couple of years back. This time we were treated to a beautiful sunset and some ice cream.

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Posted by trackers 11:57 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Race in Apeldoorn

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Quinn found a 10 mile race to do in the Netherlands in February. Odd that they are doing races in miles instead of kilometers but maybe it is just for the novelty of it? We had a fun little trip up there and I always enjoy the Dutch architectural style. We stayed in the cutest little BnB with the best decorated room we have ever had. I got to eat all of my favorite Dutch specialties (mostly this cheap potato salad that they have at the grocery store) and some pub food the night before the race.

Here are some views from around the adorable town of Apeldoorn.

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I LOVE Dutch style. Most of the houses have HUGE picture windows on both sides of the house so you can see all the way through from the front to the back. Quinn and I were wondering if this leads to more camaraderie and chatting with neighbors and also if it keeps neighborhoods safer because people are more connected to their community. Also, it could just lead to a bunch of nosey nellies. I have no idea. Either way, it must allow for some great natural lighting.

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You have to love the Dutch. This is three sets of grown men riding tandem bicycles together. They have bikes for everyone here and it is ingrained in the culture. Sometimes there is more space set aside for bike lanes than there are for cars.

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We set out for a long walk to find an area where farmers had built little bridges across the canals with the trunks of downed trees. We had read about it in a little tour book and after about 4 hours of walking we finally found one.

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Tree with texture, warts, or bark?
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Race day always has a ton of excitement around it. Of course the Dutch use bicycles for their mobile information stands about their town. This was a super fast race with the winner averaging under 4:50 per mile over 10 miles. Quinn ran the 10 miler in under 58 minutes and 60 minutes was his goal. I was so proud.

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It is really fun to see Quinn in competition again. I was rusty with my race picture taking skills so neither of my shots are very great. Normally you can pick Quinn out of the crowd, but the Dutch are quite tall as well.

On a different note, Quinn has also been taking more pictures around our town. Our little river through town had some frozen spots last month and we went out on the ice to play around. Here is the evidence. This is no small piece of information, since this is a river and it took weeks of temperatures in the teens to freeze it solid.

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That's all for now.

Posted by trackers 13:18 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Getaway to Barcelona

We piggybacked on our friend Sydney and Jeff's trip to Barcelona. That was a good idea.

We almost didn't make it there because a snow storm rolled in and it was the biggest snow storm I have seen in Germany. Our drive to Frankfurt airport was almost double the normal time and we saw at least a dozen semis completely stopped in the middle of the autobahn because they could not get traction to make it up the hills. We were so happy that we made it to our flight on time and that it wasn't cancelled.

We arrived to Barcelona in the afternoon and were STARVING. After we checked into our apartment for the weekend we hit up a pulperia which is an octopus tapas bar. That kicked off something that we have never done before. We found a way to eat at that restaurant every one of the four days that we were in Barcelona.

After our bellies were filled we really wanted to see the ocean so we strolled down multiple pedestrian friendly streets to the oceanside. I haven't been to another city that was quite so pedestrian friendly. There was a little corner store where we picked up some wine and cups and enjoyed the sunset looking over the beach. We also happened to meet two guys traveling who were from England and Italy. We spent the evening bar/restaurant hopping with them and enjoying craft brew on the beach.

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This is how they collect trash in the district with all the walking streets.

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The next morning Quinn got in a run and Ethan and I slept in a bit. Our day started off with a visit to the Boqueria Market for breakfast.

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Along the way we strolled along the Ramblas and stopped off at the Barcelona Cathedral which had an incredible number of chapels. I have never seen quite so many in one church.

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Next up we strolled around the park near our house and passed an enormous fountain/monument with horses and a chariot perched at the top. The park was beautiful and bustling. Everyone was enjoying the sunshine.

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We kicked back for an afternoon chai tea inside of a swanky coffee house to await the arrival of our friends Jeff and Sidney. WOOT WOOT. We joined them for some wine and then set out for more adventuring and gawking at the architecture.

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Quinn and Jeff unknowingly dressed the same for our first night out and had quite a laugh over it. We eventually returned to the ocean for sunset, and repeated our night much the same with hopping from one tapas joint to another for most of the night.

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Somehow we ended up eating quite a variety of food in Barcelona. Not only do they have delicious tapas, but there was a ramen shop (Japanese), empanadas (Argentinian), and this delicious torte that the boys devoured late one night. I think we ate at 5 different places before we ended up back at the octopus bar for yet another treat. There are no pictures to capture what happened late into the night, but we may have made it to bed only narrowly missing sunrise.

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In a rare state of vulnerability, Jeff revealed his magic potion for his awesome manliness. The secret is Bvlgari Man in Black.

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We managed to get out and explore the city under another day of perfect sunshine, and devoted our time to seeing some of Gaudi's most famous buildings. The city was really alive with people, especially in the parks and esplanades. The promenade approaching the Arc de Triomf is filled with street performers and children chasing bubbles.

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La Sagrada Familia is a church still under construction after multiple generations. It has been built by multiple families and each architect puts their own spin on making it into a mishmash of styles and ideas.

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At La Sagrada Familia, Quinn was more preoccupied with taking pictures of people taking pictures than actually capturing the church itself, but sometimes people watching is the main attraction. Check out the guy in black with the steel tipped dress shoes. Notable was the women who was so captivated by a shop window that she stopped mid-run to take a photo and call a friend about it but continued to run in place the entire time.

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Every corner and street in Barcelona is a surprise, with flourishes of artwork and design at every turn.

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Beyond just eating and drinking, there is a hint of history as well. These steps near the Cathedral known as the Placa del Rei mark the place where Christopher Columbus was received after his discovery voyage to America.

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Of course our night wouldn't be complete without another trip to the Pulperia Tapas Bar.

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Though our night was only beginning. For the second night in a row, we visited the best gin bar in the city, and possibly the best we have ever been to. They have 90 infused gins, and dozens of other popular gins if you want something more standard. We decided to try a flight of gins, matched with tonic, and they ranged from interesting to downright disgusting. Nobody had any notion that Roquefort cheese would be good, but it was even worse than any of us were prepared for. Quinn also ended up doing shots with a study abroad student from Madison.

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Gin and tonic paired with Sidney and Jeff is a recipe for one hell of a good time, and these pictures are all you need to understand.

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Monday was our last day, and we hit up the Park Guell before we left town. You can read about it online, but it is another Gaudi hotspot and is known for El Drac, which is actually a statue of a salamander. Some of the shapes in the park are a mix of Dr. Seuss and Willy Wonka's factory.

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Graffiti abounds in most cities, but it seems to be taken quite seriously in Barcelona. True artists work to create murals on many of the shop rollup doors and alleyways.

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We couldn't have asked for better food, weather, or travel partners on this trip. It was an incredible time!

Posted by trackers 12:08 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Christmas, New Year, Birthday and Winter Fun

We hosted a Christmas Eve dinner for our friends who decided to stay local for the holiday. It was a fun affair with about 10 people. I may have gone overboard with the number of courses but almost all of the food got eaten so I will call it a success.

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We went over to our neighbor's house the day after Christmas for luncheon. Unfortunately, I was sick so I only participated in the last hour of the event. Our neighbors have been such good friends to us and have welcomed us and guided us through all of the pitfalls and questions of living in a foreign country. We will be forever grateful to them and will definitely miss them when we move. All 3 of their sons were home for Christmas and Quinn was invited out with Marvin for his annual barhopping event with his buddies. Marvin is the middle son and is 23 years old. They went to 8 bars all around town and the evening ended at our place with this many guys still standing. As their "midnight snack" they cooked up some fondue and special mashed potatoes! Sure beats the Taco Bell that is the typical food at bar time in the States.

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It was a fun Christmas season even though I was under the weather for Christmas day. Quinn got a break because I couldn't speak for about 36 hours. Turns out I am an excellent communicator by facial expression, gestures, and a series of whistles.

We took another jaunt to Colmar to celebrate the new year with our friends Kyle, Julie (plus kiddos), Linda, and Jerry.
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It was predicted to be a sun filled weekend but instead a fog descended upon us and turned the whole area into a frozen wonderland. It was beautiful to see all of the frost covered trees and icy spiderwebs. This area really knows how to do the Christmas decorations and Christmas market. Everywhere you turn there is another square jammed with little stalls selling holiday trinkets, rides for kiddos, spiced wine vendors, and there is even a skating rink.

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On new year's eve we trekked out to a neighboring town of Turckheim to do some wine tasting with Linda and Jerry. Turns out it is pretty much an all you can drink "taste" affair and there were so many to sample. I believe the final count was somewhere around 12, plus a whiskey.

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We whipped up a fancy feast for New Year's eve including Salmon, cheese/meat tray, and a million little snacks. We welcomed the year in with Champagne and a little French/German New year fest on TV. It was quite entertaining.

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The day we drove back to Germany the sun finally decided to show its face. Everything was still covered in frost. We went to another neighboring little town, Riquewihr, and hiked up into the vineyard and along the hillside. The photos don't really do it justice. The whole area for a 3 hour drive was covered in frost.

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We were treated to another little surprise when we returned. Our friends from Yokota, Jenn and Matt and their son Mason hopped over to Germany. They came and stayed with us a for a few fun filled nights and we were able to catch up with them and enjoy making some new memories. One of those memories will be one which I am sure Jenn will want to forget, as she fell down the stairs and broke two of her ribs! OUCH. Fuzzy socks and wooden stairs are a bad combination. This actually happened to me a couple of months back but luckily I only ended up with some scrapes and bruises. Poor Jenn was not so lucky. Jenn and I also share the same birthday so we had a little birthday celebration together which was super fun. Quinn treated us all to his famous mussel dish followed by an ice cream birthday cake. I used my candles that my friend Melinda gave me years ago and it is fun to think of her every year on my birthday. Thanks Melinda. It was really great to have old friends to celebrate another milestone. Thanks for including us on your European tour.

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On my birthday we took a little day trip to Dusseldorf. This town has the distinction of having the largest population of Japanese people living outside of Japan in one city. There were a few Japanese companies that opened their doors here and it has just grown and grown. So we went there to check out the city and enjoy some Japanese food for my birthday. We timed it so we could eat both lunch and dinner. We enjoyed sushi and udon for lunch and Ramen and Gyoza for dinner. I miss Japan. The downtown of Dusseldorf has a cute walking area and a really nicely developed pedestrian riverfront. Of course, being that it is winter it is not quite as scenic but it was still pretty. We went for a short walk but the icy wind kept us from staying too long. Also, I still had not kicked my cold at this point.

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On one of the coldest days in January so far, we went to Eifel park. We convinced Elliot and Lissett to join us and I think they thought we were absolutely nuts. It might have snowed on us a bit. Eifel park is a wildlife nature park as well as an adventure park for children. They have some rides and playgrounds for kids. It is a huge place with quite a lot to do. However, in winter, the only part that is open is the nature park. They have a variety of animals and it is about a 2 mile walk to make the full loop of the animal part. We were just in time for the wolf feeding at 2:00. Since we were the only ones there the zookeepers chatted us up a bit and then offered to show us them feeding the lynx. They have a family of 5 lynx at this park which is highly unusual because lynx are typically solitary. Watching them throw the meat in and have the HUGE cats catch it in midair was super cool. The craziest part is that Ethan was allowed in the park so he was just a few feet away from some pretty mighty predators. Next up, they fed the bears. We got to go so close to the area where they were feeding them. I could see the plaque on their teeth! The bears were not fed enough over the summer (the zookeeper has since been let go) so they did not go into hibernation like they were supposed to. So now the zookeepers will have to feed them all winter. This is a bummer because taking care of the bears is about a 2 hour a day task. Bears need about 22,000 calories per day! Isn't that amazing? If they don't put on enough weight then their brains do not secrete the hormone necessary to go into hibernation. So we got to see their little nests and watch them chow down on sandwiches, grapes (which they ate one by one and spit out the seeds) corn (each kernel is taken off the cob) and raw pork. They took the food so gently from the zookeepers hand. It was incredible. Somehow the bears know when winter is coming and one year, one of the bears built himself a little den in the wooded enclosure and went to sleep super early. He didn't come out until almost April. The zookeepers thought he was maybe dead because he went into hibernation for 6 months. They went out there with the truck and sure enough, he popped his head out of his den after his long slumber. We really enjoyed chatting with the zookeeper and hearing all of his tales. Not often you get a private feeding tour. The rest of the pics are from our time walking through the wild enclosures where you are with the animals. Ethan was a little too interested in the ibex, donkeys, and rabbits.

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