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Author Archives: Sherri Vade

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Seattle Washington

Seattle, Washington USA

Growing up as 1990’s teenagers in Australia, Seattle was (and still is) a musical mecca for us. The home of many pivotal musicians, bands and the birthplace of grunge music, it’s art culture and technology has inspired us our entire lives. If you had told “teenage us” that one day Seattle would be a 2-3hr drive from home for the Vades, they would have told you, you were nuts. We were lucky to visit Seattle on many occasions over the last 10 years. It will always be one of our favourite cities. In almost every way, it aligns with our taste, style and of course musical flavour.

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Situated in the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America, Seattle hugs the shoreline of an inlet called Puget Sound. Only 190 km south of the Canadian border it the largest city in the Pacific Northwest region. With its origins as a logging town during the Gold Rush era, Seattle grew as a major shipping port after the two World Wars. Today, Seattle is most well known for aircraft manufacturing with Boeing aircraft produced there. In recent years it has become a tech hub thanks in a small part to the region being the birthplace of Bill Gates and Microsoft. Other tech companies follow with the likes of Expedia, Amazon and Getty Images all having major offices or their corporate headquarters in Seattle. It is also home and birthplace of the coffee giant Starbucks. So turn on your Windows PC, log into Expedia, book a Boeing flight and grab a coffee frappuccino on your way to the airport.

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Music also plays a huge part in Seattle’s history. From the 40s and 50s, its jazz music scene laid the ground for musicians like Ray Charles and Quincy Jones. The 60s and 70s saw artists and bands like the Sonics and Jimi Hendrix.  In the mid-1980’s through the 90s, the grunge rock era exploded onto the airways with bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Alice In Chains. These bands brought a raw and unapologetic sound that mirrored the tension between disenfranchised youth, traditional lumber and working-class culture and a new post-punk movement.

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We have visited Seattle many times, so it is hard to provide a Diary entry. Instead, enjoy our list of favourite things to see and do in Seattle. We typically spent 2-3 days here at a time, but travelers could easily spend 7 days with so much to see and do.


 

Getting to Seattle

Car

If you have access to a car, the drive from Vancouver to Seattle is approx. 2 1/2 hours. Remember that you do have to cross an international border and be processed by border security. Depending on what time of the day you are traveling, border wait times can be anywhere from 5 mins to an hour or even longer.

 

Bus

It’s pretty easy to get a bus from any destination. You will have multiple departure and arrival times throughout the day so you should be able to find a time that suits your needs. One thing to remember with buses is that your trip time will be significantly longer and it is possible that there are multiple stops along the way.  We had one of our favorite traveling moments on the bus to Seattle. As we came to the end of the ride the bus approached the crest of a hill before descending towards the city.  As the Space Needle came into view and the City spread out before us our MP3 player started playing an Alice in Chains song as if it knew the band was coming home.

Train

Traveling by train from many USA Cities or Vancouver is a great way to get to Seattle. Not only is a train ride a super fun way to get around, you get to see coastlines and scenery that you wouldn’t normally see from a car or plane. Amtrack has several trains that stop in Seattle. You can start your journey in Vancouver, Los Angeles or Chicago and with tickets starting as low as $60 USD, this is a great alternative for travel. For more info and schedules and pricing visit www.amtrack.com/regions/northwest

We have taken the train to and from Vancouver on multiple occasions. The ride is only 4 1/2 hours so you won’t lose too much time out of your day. The King Street Station in Seattle is conveniently located in the downtown core. Once you arrive you can jump straight into sightseeing.

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Plane

Sea-Tac Airport (Seattle-Tacoma Airport) is an International Airport located approx. 20km South of Seattle. Most domestic and some international flights use this airport so you may be able to fly straight into Seattle this way. From the airport, there are multiple ways to get to the Downtown core such as light rail, bus, rideshare, hotel shuttles and taxis.


A great way to see all the sites and save some money is to purchase a City Pass. Most major cities have CityPASS and it gives you a discounted entry into some of the top attractions. If you are planning to visit multiple landmarks and museums, this may be a great option for you. 


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Space Needle

It’s about as Seattle as it comes. It’s what you see in all Seattle city skyline promo shots and was made famous by the TV series Fraiser. As you would expect, it is the top attraction you must visit when you are in Seattle. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the needle stands at 184m (605ft) and features an observation deck at 520ft and a restaurant at 500ft. It only takes 43 seconds to reach the top and where you will get views of the city, Elliott Bay, the Cascade Mountains and sometimes even Mount Rainier (if it’s not raining!) It is not the cheapest experience and if the weather is bad it can be a little underwhelming.  But let’s face it, if you visit Seattle and you don’t do it, there might be something wrong with you.

Location: 400 Broad St


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Seattle Centre Monorail

Also built for the World’s Fair, the monorail links Westlake Centre to the Space Needle and surrounding attractions. While the ride is short, it is a cool step back in time as the trains haven’t changed much since the 60’s. 

Location:

Seattle Centre location: adjacent to the Space Needle

Westlake Center Mall location: Fifth Ave and Pine Street

 


 

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Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)

We love this place! Founded in 2000 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, MoPOP is a non-profit museum that is dedicated to contemporary pop culture. The museum features many different exhibits ranging from movies and science fiction to music that has shaped the Pacific Northwest. The outside of the building is worth a visit to see. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, it almost resembles a smashed electric guitar with many different colors of sheet metal covering the building’s exterior. A visit to MoPOP will take most of your day. Each time we have visited, we have managed to visit MoPOP, the Space Needle, and the Chihuly Garden in 1 day. There is so much to see and do at MoPOP so make sure you give yourself enough time.

Location:

325 5th Ave N


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Chihuly Garden and Glass

Located in the same plaza as MoPOP and the Space Needle, this museum is dedicated to local glassblower Dale Chihuly. With eight different galleries including an outdoor garden full of glass sculptures, the most amazing piece to see is the 100 ft sculpture that fills a glasshouse. The photos of this exhibit don’t do it justice. Seeing these glass pieces close up is amazing.

Location:

305 Harrison St


Pike Place Market 

Established in 1907, Pike Place is still an active Farmers Market with Fish Markets, Craft Markets, and Restaurants. Beneath the main arcade, you will also find quirky bookshops, jewelry shop and art shops. Famous attractions at the market are the flying fish, Rachel the PiggyBank and the original Starbucks location. This is a spot that we always visit in Seattle. We recommend The Crumpet Shop for a quick and delicious bite to eat.

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Gum Wall

Tucked underneath the markets is a small alley completely covered in chewing gum. Read into it as you will; is it guerrilla public art, an irresponsible idea that got out of hand or a statement on human tendencies to follow a community effort no matter how strange. It sounds truly disgusting and honestly, it is a little. However, is definitely worth checking out. If you feel the urge, you can leave your own sticky mark.

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Pier 57 | Seattle Great Wheel | Wings Over Washington

A relatively new attraction to the Seattle skyline, the Seattle Great Wheel is located on Pier 57 near the Seattle Aquarium and the Crab Pot. Each ride lasts between 10-15 mins and you get spectacular views of the city skyline and Elliott Bay.

Wings Over Washington is a flying theatre ride that tours audiences across the state of Washington. Strap into the seat as in room rises and bounces within an immersive 5K drone capture video experience.

Once you have finished your rides be sure to check out the surrounding Piers and then stop by the Crab Pot for an amazing Seafood feast (the long wait times are definitely worth it). they are famous for the Sea and Alaskan Feasts. Which includes more crab and shellfish than any heart could desire.

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Location:

Pier 57 – Miners Landing


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Kerry Park

Just out of the downtown region it is a great spot for views of the Seattle skyline. You will need a car to get here but once you get here, the city views are spectacular. Keep in mind this is a residential area so be mindful to the locals.

Location:

250 W Highland Dr, Queen Ann Hill


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Pioneer Square (Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour)

The original downtown Seattle, this area is full of beautiful old buildings. We took the Underground Tour and learned all about the history of Seattle and the Great Fire of 1889 that almost destroyed the entire city. The tour itself is roughly 90 mins and it takes you through a series of interconnecting tunnels under the bustling streets of the city. 

Location:

614 1st Ave, Seattle


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Fremont Troll

A giant troll located under a bridge in Fremont. Sculpted in 1990 by Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead. The mixed media public artwork was commissioned with a partial goal of rehabilitating the area under the bridge, which was becoming a dumping ground and haven for drug dealers. Derived from Scandinavian folklore the troll holds a Volkswagon looking for more cars to pull into its lair.  Check it out, it’s a great photo op. The Fremont area has many other great public art installations and there is a map you can pick up to visit them all.

Location:

Troll Ave N, Seattle


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Snoqualmie Falls (and Twin Peaks locations)

A 35 min drive East of Seattle is one of Washington states most popular scenic attractions. The 270-foot waterfall is a stunning sight and the area provides hiking, lodging, and picnic options.

We were visiting the area to see the locations where the 1990s TV series Twin Peaks was filmed. We are huge fans of the show and David Lynch, the shows creator. The falls are actually featured in the shows opening credits and the hotel located next to the Falls is one of the shows most recognizable locations. If you head South from the Falls to North Bend, you can visit Twedes Cafe which was the original location for the Double R Diner in the show. This cafe is full of Twin Peaks memorabilia and you can even grab a slice of Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.


Have you visited Seattle?  What are your favourite spots, comment below

 


Want to read more?

Read our travel tips for San Francisco

Read our tips for traveling with pets

Read our adventure in London

Read our adventures in Iceland

Read how to travel with friends

Read tips on using Ride Share App

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Top 5 Camera Kit Tips | Africa

Top 5 Camera Kit Tips | Africa

A trip to Africa is an experience of a lifetime. Many people will want to capture the experience for the future. To do this right we have some recommendations for the camera kit you will need. Here are our Top 5 Camera Kit Tips | Africa.


Top 5 Camera Kit Tips | Africa #1

Choose the right camera: We recommend you invest in a DSLR camera with at least a 75-300mm lens. This gives you optimum zoom length while photographing the animals from the Safari cars. We also recommend a 17-85 lens to use for closer shots. There are some things to remember when picking your camera:

  • Digital SLR cameras come in two formats. Mirror and Mirrorless. The simplest way to understand the difference is the way the light hits the sensor.  As you might expect with a mirrorless camera the light is directed onto the sensor without a mirror redirecting it. This limits the amount of moving parts in the camera, but for mirrorless cameras, with large sensor, they can be a more expensive option. Cameras with mirrors often have better battery life and larger sensors but the size is the trade-off. Mirrorless cameras are lighter because of less moving parts, but most do not have an optical viewfinder which might be an issue for the SLR purest. Some mirrorless cameras do not have the same lens options as their SLR counterparts. They are quickly catching up to DSLR and adapters are available. However, do your research because the “glass” (lens) will always be the key to a great shot.  
  • Affordable options: If you don’t want or can’t afford to invest too much money, opt for a point and shoot camera that has a long optical zoom. When on safari there are often large distances between you and the subject (animals). A good quality lens with optical zoom (not just digital) will improve the quality of your shots for subjects further away.
  • Video Camera – Almost all DSLR and point and shoot cameras have a video mode included, there are other options such as Go Pro and 360 cameras.
  • Phones – Smartphones have pretty good cameras in them these days. Maximize your phone camera storage to take pics that you can instantly upload to FaceBook and Instagram.

 

Here is what we traveled with:

A good quality theft proof camera backpack ( but keep in mind the less it looks like a camera bag the less likely someone will steal it)

  • Canon 50D with 3 lenses. (17-85mm,75-300mm & 50mm Prime) 
  • Canon SX710 HS point and shoot.
  • Samsung Gear 360 (2017) Spherical Camera.
  • GoPro with Adapter Parts (depending on the trip activities).
  • iPhone 7 (multiple).
  • iPhone adapter lens (Macro and Fish Eye).
  • Spare Batteries.
  • Battery chargers and USB power supplies.
  • Cube tap power adapter.
  • Multi-region international power adapter.
  • Multitool.
  • Monopod with small tripod feet.
  • Mini Tripod with flexible legs.
  • Tonnes of Memory Cards.
  • Cleaning Kit.
  • Laptop and USB Drives.
  • Ziplock bags (be warned plastic bags may be illegal in some countries like Kenya).

Top 5 Camera Kit Tips | Africa


Top 5 Camera Kit Tips | Africa #2

Memory & Storage – be prepared to take a lot of photos on Safari. This may be your only time to have this experience and you don’t want to fill up a memory card in the 1st few days and risk the rest of the trip. You should invest in a high size GB card (16-32GB in size) and have multiple for each type of device you have. You also want to pick a memory card with a fast speed. This will be vital for shooting video, but also handy if you want to take rapid-fire shots or long exposure night time images. The Mbps speed is the amount of time it takes to write the data on the card. The higher the better.

HOT TIP – after each day of Safari, review the photos you have taken that day and immediately delete any that you do not like.

Also, note – when shooting with an SLR camera you have an option to shoot in RAW or JPEG format or both. The benefit to shooting in RAW is better resolution and much lower or no compression. Plus you are able to non-destructively edit the images in photo editing software. If you edit a JPEG photo and save over the original there is no going back. Keep in mind that shooting in both RAW and JPEG format with chew up your memory space significantly.

If you are taking a laptop on your trip, we also recommend that you transfer off the cards to a backup device or Cloud Service. Then you can reformat your cards at the end of each day. But be careful you don’t delete the wrong files.  Also remember that internet access in Africa is slowly improving, but not like other more developed countries. Uploading to Cloud Services might have very low bandwidths and be unreliable in remote areas.

Top 5 Camera Kit Tips


Top 5 Camera Kit Tips | Africa #3

Date and Time:  Set your date and time zone to the country that you are traveling in. This will make sorting through your photos after your trip much easier. If you are like us you will come home with thousands of images and videos.  The frustration from sorting through the wrong time references is very avoidable.

Top 5 Camera Kit Tips


Top 5 Camera Kit Tips | Africa #4

Protect your gear: Safari is an extremely dusty and dirty endeavor. This means that your cameras are going to get very dusty. Make sure you are cleaning your lenses on a regular basis to avoid dust specs on the lens. Take care if you are changing lenses out in the open. You want to avoid getting dust on the inside of your camera. Remember you will likely have dust on everything, to the extent that you can’t tell what is dusty anymore (because everything is). When in doubt clean your hands and change your lens inside your bag.  The last thing you want is the camera shutting down midway through your trip.

Top 5 Camera Kit Tips


Top 5 Camera Kit Tips | Africa #5

Live in the Moment: Put your camera away and enjoy the.moment. While we understand you want to capture the memory and experiences, don’t miss out because you are lost in camera settings. You don’t need to spend the whole trip looking through a viewfinder. It’s a big wide world and there is no better device to capture a panorama than a human eye.

Tanzania Sunrise

 

 


What are your tips for taking photos in Africa?  Leave your comments below:

 


Get Tips on Rideshare Apps

See all our Travel Tips


  • 7
Uber Rideshare

Rideshare Apps | 7 Simple Rules

With more and more cities allowing rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft, here are some tips you should know before signing up and riding with these services.

 

To sign up for one of these services, you simply download the App to your phone, enter your personal information and you are ready to ride.

 

Click here to join UBER

Click here to join Lyft


  1. Confirm Your Driver And Car Before Getting In. Once you have selected a ride, the app will give you the car make, licence plate, and driver name. Make sure that the driver confirms the passenger name before getting into the car to avoid being scammed.

  2. Give Feedback. This is an important part of rideshare safety for both the drivers and passengers. At the end of each trip, rate your driver and leave feedback so you can keep good drivers on the road. Drivers also give customers ratings so it’s important to be a courteous passenger to ensure you get picked up for your next destination.

  3. Share Your Trip With Someone Else. Both Uber and Lyft have the ability to allow you to share your trip via GPS. To do this hit “Share My ETA” option directly through the service app.Share a rideshare

  4. Beware of GPS obstructions. This one has caught us out.  Buildings (especially in cities) can affect your devices ability to pick up an accurate GPS location. When you order a ride make sure your GPS location is correct.  Also be aware that the drivers GPS might be affected. We once got a lower than usual score because the driver was in the wrong location, but we were. Of course, you can dispute inaccurate scores, but ain’t nobody got time for that.

    Building affect Rideshare


  5. Schedule Your Ride In Advance. If you know you need to be somewhere at a specific time or early in the morning, like the airport, you have the ability to schedule a ride anywhere from 30 mins to 30 days in advance. This will ensure you get to your destination on time.

  6. Don’t leave things behind! But If you do. If you accidentally leave something in the car, contact the driver immediately, If you can not reach them then contact the rideshare provider and complete a report via their process. Don’t panic, most items are returned very quickly. But remember, the basic rule of all travel is to check your personal items repeatedly. We always check our important documents (passports visa etc) when we exit any transport. We also do a pocket check and then look over the transport vehicle one last time before we exit it. It is very easy for something to fall out of your pockets as you exit a vehicle and it is worth a backwards glance as you shut the door.Rideshare baseball cap

What tips do you have?  Leave them in the comments below!

Want more tips for vacations with automobiles visit this page


  • 14

Mexico City, Mexico

Check out our suggested itinerary here

The capital of Mexico and with an estimated population of 21 million people, the Four Friends embarked on exploring their biggest adventure yet, Mexico City.

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With only 2 full days to explore the city, the Four Friends squeezed in as much as they could.

MEXICO CITY DAY 0.5

Arriving into Mexico City International Airport in the late evening, it was straight to the Hotel Krystal Grand Reforma to catch up on some sleep before our first full day of adventure.

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MEXICO CITY DAY 1

When we began planning this adventure, we very quickly realised that we would not be able to fit everything in our first visit. We stumbled upon a website, ToursByLocals.com that offers private personalised tours by local members of the community. With over 30 countries on offer for tours, this is a great way to meet the locals and create the type of tour that you want to do rather than be bused around with 100 other people and little time to visit the sites. We decided to try something that we have never done before and booked a sightseeing, market tour and cooking class.

It was an early start to the day, meeting our guide Heike at the San Juan Markets. These markets are over 150 years old and has a variety of gourmet, exotic and imported fresh ingredients. Here, we wandered through the stalls and learnt about local fruits, vegetables and meats that we had never seen before. We then each picked out 1 item each that we would like to try, and this gave us the opportunity to interact with the locals (try to anyway!)

We then headed off on the next part of the tour. We walked through to Chinatown, known locally as Barrio Chino, which is said to be only only the the smallest Chinatown in Mexico but in the world (only 2 blocks). As we continued we saw some amazing architecture sure as the Palacio de Bellas Arte (Art Museum) and the Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de México (Mexico City Cathedral). The Cathedral is a stunning piece of architecture. Building started in 1573 and finished in the 19th century, it sits opposite the Republic Square. The cathedral is open to visitors. Be sure to check opening times before you visit. We learnt about the food culture in the downtown core and also how the city has grown and changed over the decades.

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Then it was off to the 2nd part of the day – a cooking class. We entered through a small non-marked door on a bustling street, down a long hallway that opened up into a beautiful courtyard. We were now in a small housing community. Over the next 3 hours, we immersed ourselves in what a typical day of Mexican cooking would be. This still remains to be one of the most amazing travelling experiences we have had together.

In true Four Friends fashion, the day was not over. We had yet another tour to take in that would take us into the evening hours in the city. This tour was a Cantinas, Mariachi & Lucha Libre adventure! The evening started at the top of Mirador Torre Latino (TV Tower) which is a skyscraper in the middle of the downtown core with stunning views of the entire city. Here the group drank, of course, Tequila!

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Next was a short walk through to Plaza Garibaldi which is a square that is filled with budding Mariachi musicians ready to serenade you (for a fee of course). After some more tequila, it was onto the main event. We arrived at Arena Mexico to a sea of Lucha Libre masks. The arena is the premier wrestling arena in Mexico and was filled with people of all ages. Everyone was hyped and ready for the wrestling to begin. Although we couldn’t understand what was being said, the energy in the building was electric and it didn’t take long before we were on our feet chanting the names of the heroes and villains. If there is only 1 thing you must do when you visit Mexico City – Lucha Libre is a must do. One thing to note – no cameras of any kind are permitted into the arena. You must check them at the door.There are many different tours available or you can purchase tickets at the door.

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MEXICO CITY DAY 2

After a good night sleep, it was up again early for our next tour. This time, we were heading South to Xochimilco.

On the way, we stopped at the National University of Mexico. Apart from being the largest University in Latin America, it is a UNESCO World Heritage after being designed by some of Mexico’s best-known architects of the 20th century. The main campus features a huge open courtyard that is full of murals that were painted by some of the most recognized artists in Mexican history such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siquerios. 

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Xochimilco is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is best known for its extensive canal system the area attracts tourists and residents where you ride “trajineras” which are colourful gondola-like boats. These boats are brightly painted and almost all of them are adorned with a female name at the front. There is a long table in chairs on each boat which allows you eat and drink and you cruise down the canal. The canal is full of other trajineras that have merchants that sell a variety of things such as corn on the cob, cold beers, candy, flowers and children’s toys. There are even Mariachi bands that will float up to your boat and play a few songs.

On land, the area if filled with vendors and carnival rides for you to wander and pick up some locally made goods and food. We couldn’t resist grabbing a bag of fried crickets and palanquetas (a candied pumpkin seed and nut snack)

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Our evening continued with a visit to the Monument to the Revolution. This is a monument to the Mexican Revolution of 1910. It is considered to be the tallest triumphal arch in the world. It stands 67 meters and construction was completed in 1938. Today, visitors to the monument are able to go to the top and visit the observation deck with panoramic 360 views of Mexico City. If you are feeling adventurous, you can climb the stairs to the summit.

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The surrounding area of the monument has many restaurants and patios available for some authentic cuisine. We decided on Taqueria Fonda Argentina Revolucion. A traditional Argentinian restaurant that specializes in meat dishes. Although no one spoke English, we managed to order some delicious dishes including empanadas, stuffed peppers with cheese (find name) and grilled meats.

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MEXICO CITY DAY 3

With an early afternoon departure to our next destination, we were limited with our time. We took an early morning stroll down the Paeso de la Reforma to the Angel of Independence. Probably one of the most famous monuments in Mexico City, this monument commemorates Mexico’s independence and is topped with the goddess of victory.

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It was then time to pack our bags and say goodbye to Mexico City.

adiós hasta que nos volvamos a encontrar


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