Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Exit Plan - Sunshine State or Bust!

Happy 15th Birthday, Emma!!

By Kathy

Here is a quick update from the SandStar Crew. Our position has not changed at all in the last few weeks but plans are being made to change that! We are still in the same marina in Puerto Rico on lockdown but the borders of the Bahamas have been opened for boats who are transiting so it is time to start moving! Now, there are several rules to how you transit the Bahamas but we will get to that later. For now we are excited that we have made it to the WHAM! BAM! GET THERE NOW! part of the plan.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is still on lockdown. They tried to move the curfew back to 9pm but that lasted all of a day before they moved it back to 7pm. From what we heard it had to with local officials wanting it to be 7pm again.  We still do not have a way to rent a car so within walking distance we have the mini-mart and three restaurants and last night we made the discovery that Pizza Hut delivers to the marina. 

We wish we could see this island in its true form. It is so beautiful and the people are very friendly. There is always a kind greeting and a few words of conversation with everyone you meet here. We have had several people offer to give us a ride to the regular grocery stores and I even had a stranger offer to pick up food for Easter weekend for us when everything was closing for three days when he learned we did not have a car. The restaurant owners have been really nice and we hope that they can survive this lockdown. We really want to come back by air when travel is permitted and the island is fully opened.

The beautiful beach right next to the marina

We are very thankful to be in a nice and safe marina

We have had a little bit of fun with our meals. The family size sub for lunch was a hit!

Sam wanted to try the 80's culinary masterpiece - the Hot Pocket! He had learned about them from The Goldbergs. Luckily they had them at the mini-mart.

A "to go" special from one of the restaurants - An adult version of a capri sun. Flavor: Sangria. 

The State of the Crew

Just like everyone, we are getting a little restless. The seasons have definitely changed in the last 6 weeks since we arrived and it has gotten HOT! So now we are restless and sometimes sweaty and uncomfortable. Dan and I miss meeting new people and just hanging out and chatting with friends. The kids miss other kids. We actually said good-bye to our kid boat friends in January and February and we had one bonus afternoon in early March with our friends on Sea Sparrow so it has been a while since they have played with other kids but they are trying to keep in touch with text messages. 

We miss these crazy awesome people! This picture was taken in Jan 2020, only a few months ago but it seems like it has been much longer. 

An afternoon of DND - Our last kid playdate with the Sea Sparrow crew in early March 2020

The Plan

The moment we have been waiting for has arrived! The borders have been open in the Bahamas for boats trying to make it back to the states. Each boat needs approval from the Bahamian government to sail through the waters. All vessels have to follow certain rules about not going to shore and only stopping in certain designated areas if needed. They want minimal to no interaction with people who are moving through their waters. Last Thursday we got our approval from the Bahamas for our passage! We are planning to set sail this weekend (May 3rd). It will take us about 7-10 days to make it to Key West. This is where we had to really think hard about what to do next once we reach the sunshine state - East Coast vs West Coast?  There are pros and cons to both but in the end the west coast won and we are heading back to St. Petersburg!! This is where it all began when we casted off the lines a few years ago. It was very exciting to make the reservation for the marina downtown. After we arrive, we will unpack the boat and put all of our personal belongings in the POD that has the rest of our house contents. Then we hit the big question mark. Where to go next? Our house is not available until August so we will need to figure this out. Stay tuned for our Land Plans!

Highlights from the last few weeks:

The Internet and the Boat Break

We still have it but it is like riding a roller coaster and immediately switching to watching turtles race. Up, down and sometimes it just stops! It is really annoying and not a huge deal most of the time but when you need to have some important video calls it is a no-go! To fix this problem we rented an apartment in the neighborhood with screaming internet for a few days. Dan was able to have some important video conference calls and we got a little boat break. The apartment had AC and HOT SHOWERS!! This was a huge treat!!

Taking advantage of the extra space and nice TV to play Just Dance. This can be a bit challenging on the boat

Emma is 15

On April 8th we celebrated our little girl turning 15!!! I still can’t believe she is already 15. Everyone was excited for a great day of celebration.  We snuck her big gift back with us in our luggage in November when we flew from Florida to Grenada. We kept it hidden and under wraps which is a lot harder to do on a boat when the kids feel like they can look for things anytime and anywhere in any cabinet. We really surprised her which was awesome!! We were also able to pick up a few little things the two days we had in Puerto Rico before the lockdown and from the mini-mart to fill out 15 bags to celebrate the 15 years. We also invited two new guests to the party – Ben & Jerry. This was a big treat to find dairy free ice cream and we have never been able to get ice cream from the store to the boat without it melting when there are bus rides and dinghy rides involved. It was an awesome celebration with lots of calls and messages from friends and family, double decker tacos, a juice bar, cake and ice cream! She felt lots of love!!

Let's Celebrate!!

Bag #14 was the big one - She was so surprised!!


This is our third Easter celebration on the boat. I have been carrying around a set of plastic eggs that have been used in the Bahamas, Antigua, and now Puerto Rico. They have come in quite handy. If you are thinking about living the cruising lifestyle with kids this is a good “must have” on your boat that might get missed. We were able to have a great egg hunt around the marina. It really doesn’t matter how old they get they still enjoy hunting Easter eggs.

We had one special egg - Sam found it this year!

An egg hunt at the marina's closed restaurant. We had some pretty good hiding spots.

Time to Prep

Since we got our approval from the Bahamas we are in full prep mode. This will be our longest passage so everyone is a bit nervous and excited. Dan has been working on our route planning and this morning he is working an alternate route because it looks there is a possibility a front that might develop next week and head south. We will know more as the week progresses.  

The beginning our trip to Florida! This part will take us about 3 days

We also want to make sure we have enough fuel to make it to Florida if we never raise the sails so we ordered a fuel bladder from a US based company called ATL. I know that sounds a little odd but it is exactly how it sounds. It is a heavy duty bag that you fill with fuel and when it is not in use it can easily be stored. It arrived on Friday and the quality seems top notch which is a big plus when you put 50 gallons of diesel in something. We will fill it up before we leave and I will get another picture of it all set up for our next post.

The fuel bladder arrived!

And they sent us a bonus pair of sunglasses! 

I am working on planning our passage meals and reorganizing the pantry so all of our snacks are within reach and not in some random cabinet or bin.  We will do a lot of pre-cooking before we leave so most meals you can throw together and eat cold or just quickly heat up on the stove. We are also going to bulk order some chicken lo mein and soup from the local Chinese restaurant. Dan is also very hopeful we will catch some fish!

The kids have been working hard at accelerating some of their school work. We knew that a long passage was very likely in our future so they have been trying to finish up some subjects for the year and get to a good stopping point in others. Lots of excitement and high fives this week as they finish up some subjects but they will still have about 3-4 weeks left when we reach land for other subjects.

Trying to get the morning started!

Overall, our emotions are all over the board. We are still worried for family and friends on land and hoping they stay safe and healthy. As we are starting to see some of the effects of a closed society, we hope that in the coming weeks a plan can be made to help with jobs and the opening the economy that does not jeopardize health.  We also worry for our friends that are on boats. Some are still “stuck” on islands in lockdown and others are making plans to make a big jump to a safe harbor in the coming weeks. All of us on SandStar have some nervous energy around this big passage coming up this week. It seems that everyone is nervous about a different piece of it. This is a situation where I think we will all feel better once we cast of the lines and start the passage. Then there is a lot of excitement about the next chapter and what that will be like as we make landfall and think about new jobs and new schools and where the heck we will be this summer. Stay safe!!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Staying Home!

By Kathy

We just wanted to post a quick update on the SandStar crew. We are still in Puerto Rico at a very nice marina. We are in Week 3 of self-quarantining on SandStar. The most we have moved was from Dock B to Dock A to get better ventilation in the boat.  Kids are working really hard at school and using this extra time to accelerate their school year since our timeline to return to the mainland has changed. Since borders are closed, we do not have set plans but we are expecting to move a lot quicker once they start opening and it will not be the nice stroll we had planned through the Bahamas to get to Florida. More like a WHAM! BAM! GET THEIR NOW! Kind of plan. We know school will be tough to keep up with once we start moving.

We are safe and in a nice gated community. Since it is private we are still able to walk the beach and the streets. The curfew did move from 9pm to 7pm but that does not really impact us. Spirits are still pretty high on the boat but there has been some moments where you read too much on the internet (fake or real?? Who knows?) and all of the sudden you feel trapped instead of safe. This is usually me and Dan will talk me down to a more logical frame of mind.  

Highlights from the last few weeks:

The Internet – Yes, we have the internet on the boat for the first time in 2 years. My job as the Byte Police has gone away but now I am taking over the role of Screen Police. As frustrating as it was to try to do things like banking, blog posts, and cloud backups when you have limited internet I had forgotten what it was like with three kids face down on their screens for hours at a time when the internet is unlimited. It makes me miss the days when kiddie communication was done via VHF. The plus side is that they have been able to keep in touch with friends and family on land and on boats.

Netflix – Oh Yeah! The benefit of the internet. We haven’t had this for quite some time. It is a nice treat.

Leprechauns – We tried….we didn’t catch. Sam and Dan made a pretty awesome leprechaun trap on St. Patty’s Day. He tried to lure them in with Euros and Cheerios. They made a HUGE mess in the salon with cups and papers but got away.

More School -  Yes, you read that right. Normally this idea would be met with a lot of complaints and a possible mutiny. But the kids have embraced some extra online school with Crash Course lessons. I picked them out and assign them for the week. I try to balance between something they should know like Study Skills with something they are interested in like learning about Jobs in Engineering. 

Wheels – We were able to get the kids kick scooters to use around the marina. They have daily races around the parking lot. Emma took the trophy in last night's race. The good news is  that so far nobody has gone into the water. 

Exercise – The goal is to do something every day. A run, a walk, or an exercise routine on the dock. It is all goodness!

Organization - We have never had spreadsheets with our food inventory on each cabinet. Now we do! The bathroom cabinets have also been cleaned out. I am still perplexed why I had makeup, hair spray and a few bottles of dry shampoo on the boat for the last three years. 

Celebrations – We are working on plans for Emma’s 15th birthday next week. Since we have some extra minutes in our day we are coloring wrapping paper (and it is pretty relaxing) and making our own gift bags (thank you YouTube). We are not quite sure what the plans will be but some ideas are watching one of her favorite movies, a game of dominos, a favorite meal, a juice bar, and of course cake and ice cream. One thing that we learned in cruising when it comes to holidays is to plan early. Since we knew we would probably not have any visitors this year that could bring goodies from the US we had already planned ahead for her birthday. PHEW! We also grabbed some cake mix and frosting in Antigua not knowing what the other islands would have in stock.

We have spent the last three years living in very close quarters and really depending on one another for support, fun, laughs, school, safety, and general watering and feeding so this still does not feel too much out of the normal for us. Don't get me wrong, we do miss the luxury of being with friends and making new ones, the leisurely shopping trip at a grocery store, a nice happy hour at a local restaurant, and exploring our surroundings. We will not ever take those things for granted in the future. We know keeping to ourselves and staying at home is the right thing to do for our family and for others around us. We are not sure what the coming days will bring so we are taking this one day at a time. We will keep you updated either on Facebook or the blog. Stay safe!

Friday, March 20, 2020

A Safe Haven

A view from our spot in the marina

By Kathy

Hello Everyone! We wanted to post a quick blog about where we are and what we are doing during the these uncertain times. First, let me start by saying we are safe in a very nice marina in Puerto Rico. The marina has very few boats and only a handful of the boats have people on them.

The Original Plan
Our plan this season was to make some miles and head back north. We have been moving at a pretty quick pace since leaving Martinique after the holidays. We stop for only a few days in most anchorages and have been on move almost every week. Two weeks ago we arrived in the Spanish Virgin Islands which are part of Puerto Rico. We spent about a week in Culebra waiting out a weather system. Then last week we moved over to a marina in mainland Puerto Rico. This would be our first marina stay in almost two years. We had big plans to see the island by car, visit old San Juan, eat lots of mofongo, hike the rainforest, shop at West Marine, and fill the boat with lots of groceries to make it back to FL over the next 6-8 weeks. After our 4 day marina stay we planned to cruise the southside of Puerto Rico, hop over to the Dominican Republic, make the jump to Turks and Caicos, then cruise our favorite islands in the Bahamas before reaching Florida. But our journey would not end in Florida. We planned to stay for just a few days to switch out our big dinghy with our small dinghy, unload some of our personal items from the boat into storage, and restock provisions. Then we would continue down through the Keys with a stop in the Dry Tortugas and then on to the coast of Mexico. We left time on the calendar to cruise Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala before leaving SandStar with our friends at Belize Sailing Vacations and flying back to St. Pete to re-enter the land life and start the school year. As you can guess, all of these plans changed in just a matter of days but we have been practicing our ability to change and adapt over the last few years because plans are always changing when you live on a boat.

The New Plan
As things started getting worse with the spread of the virus we started modifying our plans. The first thing to be taken off the list was cruising Mexico and Belize. We were not comfortable going to Florida where the number of cases were increasing daily and then sailing away on a long passage to Mexico. We were worried that we may contract the virus while we visited Florida and then start showing symptoms on a multi-day passage or in Mexico. Then as borders started closing over the weekend and early this week we decided to stay put in Puerto Rico until we can make it to the next few ports and back to Florida. We were still planning on leaving the marina after a weather front this weekend and cruising the southside but we were told once we leave the marina we could not come back. All the marinas are in lockdown for transit traffic. We have friends who are on other islands that are in anchorages and have been told they do not have access to land. They have to stay on the boat. We have not heard that this is happening here but it could happen so we decided to sit right here at this marina at least for the next few weeks.

Puerto Rico
We have only seen a teeny tiny bit of the eastern side of Puerto Rico and from what we have seen this is an amazing island. They have hills, mountains,  rainforest and it is just stunningly beautiful. Everyone we have met has been super friendly and the people in Puerto Rico are taking this very seriously. All non-essential businesses have been closed since Monday and a curfew has been set in place from 9pm-5am. Everyone is practicing social distancing and we have not seen any groups congregating all week. Once we heard of the businesses closing on Monday we made a decision to do all of our provisioning on Sunday afternoon. We heard about the closings when we were at West Marine and could not read the notice on the door that was written in Spanish so we were not sure what it meant for grocery stores. It was not planned and we barely had a list. The original plan was to provision in smaller shopping trips to various stores over the course of the week since we were going to need to stock the boat for a trip back to Florida. We did it all in a few hours on Sunday from one grocery store. The stores were well stocked and the rest of the island is shopping like normal. We were the oddballs with two carts of food. It sounds like a lot but that is a normal big provision run for us when we plan to not see a good grocery store for an extended period of time. The only extra items that we bought were 10 containers of powdered Gatorade for rehydration if somebody gets sick. We did make one last run to a Super Walmart before returning our car to pick up some extra pain relievers in case of fevers. We realized once we entered Walmart they really do mean essentials only. They had whole sections of the store taped off so you could not shop for anything but essentials. The only sections of the store that were open were grocery, pet care, baby care and health and beauty.

The Marina
We are in a small marina in a gated community on the south east side of Puerto Rico. No visitors are allowed to enter the front gate so the place is pretty empty. There are lots of houses but we are guessing a majority of them are second homes and vacation rentals. The marina has a great staff of people that will help answer any of our questions. The community also has a small but well stocked mini-mart that is open in case we need anything. They have somebody at the front door that will open it for you and they only allow so many people in at a time. There are a few restaurants within walking distance and they are doing delivery service.

What are we doing to keep busy?

It is a usual school day for us so not much has changed on the school front. To all of our friends who have been thrown into homeschooling without a lot of notice we learned a few things over the years.

It is hard to homeschool your kids. Especially if you have more than one and in different grades. It will take time to get a routine down and it will be different from when they are in a classroom with 25 other kids. Do not be afraid to change the routine if it is not working. Figure out what works for your each of your kids individually. We handle Emma’s school day different from Sam’s school day and that is different from Jack’s school day. Take a deep breath and take it one day at a time. You will have great days and some not so great days.

Speaking of days….in homeschool you have two extra days for school. You can spread out your school load to Saturday and Sunday too. This took a bit of time for our kids to grasp that Saturday and Sunday are now just like any other day of the week when everyone is at home. You also have more hours in the day. Our kids will sometimes opt to do school in the evening just to change things around a bit.

We cannot do our usual swimming or hiking but we have found other ways to keep our bodies healthy. We are able to exercise by taking walks along the empty beaches, Dan running around the neighborhood, and the kids have been doing Deck of Cards workouts on the dock next to the boat. It feels good to be sore from a good workout.

We ordered a WIFI booster a few days ago and it just arrived. We have WIFI at the boat! Everyone is very excited to not have to monitor every byte that is consumed and we are able to use all of our devices.  It doesn’t take much to make a cruiser happy.

Reading and Writing
We have been living a lifestyle of having time on our hands so we have gotten use to this but it was hard to get into the groove when we first started. Everyone is reading and Dan is catching up on his technology books. I am hoping to finish our first video and catch up on some blog posts.

Let the organizing begin!

The Reorg 
We are doing a massive inventory on the boat of food stocks and making note of where everything is located. I should have done this years ago but this year we have hit our stride in provisioning for the long haul so it becomes even more important when you want to find that one can of beans you know you bought but have no idea what cabinet it is in. Originally I thought I would only have a day to do this after our provisioning run but since we will be staying for a while I can take my time. We are also going through random storage areas and trying to figure out what will need to be removed from SandStar and what can stay once we reach Florida.

Party Planning 
Emma will most likely turn 15 right here in Puerto Rico in a few short weeks. The boys are planning a big blow out party for the five of us. The highlight is that we are able to get ice cream from the mini-mart. They have Ben and Jerry’s Dairy Free Fudge Brownie ice cream. We did not even know this existed! So for the first time in 3 years we will have cake AND ice cream for a birthday. Again, it doesn’t take much to make a cruiser’s day.

Overall spirits are high on SandStar. We have gotten use to being in isolated locations so being on the boat with just the five of us and very little outside interaction feels a bit normal.  Yes, we miss our friends and we are disappointed we did not get to do what we planned for the rest of our time on the boat but staying healthy and doing our part to keep others healthy is a lot more important so we will hang out here on the boat in Puerto Rico until we feel it is the right time to start moving again.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Please Let Us In!!

The boys are ready for the wrestling show!

By Kathy
Actual Dates: September 10th – September 13th 2019

When we started planning this trip we had a wish list of things to see and do. There were three big items on that list. The first was to see Machu Picchu.  We thought we would hike the Inca Trail too but we would have to take the other two items off the list to do that because of the cost. The second was to see the Amazon from a canoe and stay in an eco-lodge along the river. The third was to see and hike Torres del Paine in Patagonia. We were successful for our first item on the list and now we are moving right into our next big item, the Amazon! After doing some research we found that seeing the river from Bolivia was the most cost effective. But there was one big hurtle to get over before heading up river. We had to get into the country!

Will we get in?

When we were still on the boat earlier in the year and researching entrance requirements for the countries we would visit in South America they all seemed pretty straightforward except for Bolivia. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Bolivia and what you have heard in the news for so many years? The drug war. Yes, you can imagine the US is very careful letting a Bolivian citizen into the country. The Bolivian government gifts a bit of a  reciprocal hassle back to US citizens that want to enter Bolivia. I read so many blogs about other people’s experiences, combed over the information on the embassy website, fretted over the details and tried really hard to understand how to get into the country. I know there is a much easier way to get a visa into the country but it requires you to send your passport into the Bolivian embassy in the US with your paperwork and $160 and then you are good to go before you ever reach Bolivia. Unfortunately, that was not an option for us. We are always in a foreign country so we always need our passports at hand and there is no way we would trust the island mail service with our passports. So, we were stuck with option two which is to obtain our visa when we arrive. The possible required documents list was pretty extensive. You had to have copies of your passports (possibly multiple copies and color and black and white), new passport photos, proof of departure, proof of lodging, bank statements, and $160 in crisp, brand new US dollars. We were pretty quick to realize what you were asked for at the border really depended on whether you entered by air or by bus and your border police. It also depended on what kind of mood they were in at that particular moment. We had passport photos made before we left Grenada, I made copies of all the documents when we were in Florida, and we made a trip to the bank in Ft. Lauderdale and asked for 8 brand new $100 bills. You read that right….$800 to get into Bolivia for a family of 5. YIKES!! The bank teller was very patient and looked in multiple drawers to make sure she gave us the newest and best bills. We landed in La Paz , Bolivia and watched all of our fellow Canadian, European, and  South American passengers walk right in with minimal effort. The airport facility was pretty nice and probably a lot better than the ones that you find at the border by bus.  After several lines  and some waiting they only got us on two things. First, not only did we have to a copy of our lodging and proof of departure but we had to have five copies! The next thing was they were going to reject one of the $100 bills no matter what just to be difficult. They were perfect bills. But we planned for it and brought a couple of extras with us. After a few long lines and an escorted trip to the kiosk to make copies we were in Bolivia!!!!

The Bolivian Hiccup – It is a big one.

The plan for Bolivia was that we were going to fly into La Paz,  stay the night, and the next day take another flight to Rurrenbaque and get picked up by the eco-lodge to start our river adventure. We also planned a few extra days after the amazon trip to relax in La Paz and catch our breath since we had been going not stop for about 3 weeks. Well…..that is not exactly how it ended up happening.  

Our night in La Paz was pretty relaxing with a nice afternoon nap and a good steak dinner. We woke up the next day and walked to a highly rated empanada counter for breakfast that was a few blocks away. We had just enough time to do this before the taxi picked us up for our flight. While eating breakfast we decided to check to see if our flight was on time. My heart sank when I saw the dreaded word “CANCELLED”! What??? We had a taxi arriving in an hour, we had a hostel booked in Rurrenbaque, and our eco-lodge canoe was scheduled for the next day. We did a quick search and found that the regional airline had a small kiosk in the mall a few blocks away. After some Google translate and a very patient and kind customer service rep at the kiosk we were booked on new flights but the next flight we could get on was three days away AND we would have to take separate flights. I would fly in the early morning flight and Dan and the kids would fly in the evening flight. The other problem was that we had no lodging booked in La Paz, a taxi arriving soon, an apartment we needed to vacate right away, a hotel reservation in Rurrenbaque, and an eco-lodge expecting us for a five day visit. This was one of those take a deep breath moments.

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

We had new flights and now it was time to vacate our apartment and set up shop in the coffee cafe in the mall next door to figure out next steps. The taxi was cancelled and emails were sent to our hotel in Rurrenbaque and the eco-lodge. We were crossing our fingers that we could change our reservations. In the meantime, we were hotel-less. No place to stay in La Paz. We found a few options online and many questionable ones. One of the hotels was a bit out of budget but pretty close by so I decided to walk and talk to them at the front desk while Dan, the kids and the luggage stayed at the mall. This is when our lemons started turning into lemonade. We ended up with one of the kid’s favorite hotel rooms (an actual hotel and not a hostel) complete with big breakfast buffet and a cheap minibar. How often do you get to tell the kids “Have whatever you want in the minibar”? The Rurrenbaque hotel had no problem moving our reservations to three days later. Remember those extra days we added to our time in La Paz after the amazon trip? That small decision ended up allowing us to move our whole river adventure to accommodate the cancelled flight and the new flight date. It may have been a bit of a hassle to get into the country but Bolivia was very flexible with reservations and the businesses really wanted you to visit and have fun in their country. I can only imagine what a nightmare it would have been if the eco-lodge was located in the US. We would have probably lost the entire reservation or would have had to pay a crazy change fee. Now that everything is settled and we are in our nice hotel room and ready to do a little exploring of La Paz as we wait for our flights.

Around La Paz

We had planned for a few days in La Paz and had already started looking at things to do since we would not have connectivity on the river. We just did them a little earlier than expected.

We loved the vintage buses around La Paz

We found a great Argentinian steak house in La Paz. A little glimpse of good steak before we get to Argentina  

We haven't had steak in ages!

The Sky Train

La Paz is a BIG city. When you see it as you are leaving the airport you feel like you are entering a large bowl full of little buildings. With this kind of landscape getting around in a vehicle can take a long time. The streets are small, lots of traffic, and you have to deal with going up or down as you drive around the city. But they had an amazing set of sky trains around the city. They were all color coded so it was pretty easy to figure out even if you could not speak Spanish.  It was a tourist attraction just to ride the sky train in a complete circle to get an aerial view of the city. We took the tour of the city and stopped by one of the big local markets. They had everything from food, toiletries, auto parts, used clothes and shoes, etc.

We didn't get a great picture of the "bowl" of La Paz city but you can see lot of buildings as we climb the hill

Ready for our Sky Train ride!

Flying around the city!

This was a super cool colorful neighborhood we went over

We made it to the market. You could find some seriously used auto parts

Lots of carts like this walking around selling a certain type of item. This cart was full of matches.

The corn looked amazing!

A little glimpse of the market street

Some of the vendors had a sense of humor with their displays

The market was huge!!

Cholitas Wrestling

If you look up things to do in La Paz, the Cholitas Wrestling show is on the top of the list. What is Cholitas Wrestling? It is women wrestling in traditional Bolivian clothing. Sound cheesy? Yes, it is absolutely cheesy and staged but that is the attraction to the show.  It was just like the staged wrestling shows that you see on TV but these ladies have to wrestle in poofy skirts, blouses, and dress shoes. It looked so uncomfortable. It was as dramatic as  you can imagine with throwing, jumping, hitting, spitting, and a corrupt referee.

Time to start the show!

A boy, his popcorn, and a bottle of coke waiting for some wrestling

All of the boys got masks!

Sometimes the fights continued out of the ring

There was even around where the men wrestled

Yes, you are seeing this right. One of the wrestlers is about to leap from ring and jump on the other one. 

But the one in the yellow skirt took her down

Everyone is friends in the end!

The Drippy Cauldron

We were not expecting to find the wizarding world of Harry Potter in Bolivia. But that is what we found. We almost missed this little Harry Potter café when the translator listed it as the Drippy Cauldron instead of the Leaky Cauldron. It was located in a pretty old building that had the kids attention right away with their signs as you walked in. Inside we found a cute restaurant with an upstairs area that had costumes, statues, and movie memorabilia. We mixed our own potion in a small cauldron and you cannot go to a Harry Potter café without trying the Butterbeer.

Anything that has a 9 3/4 sign is promising!

The kids are ready to explore this restaurant

Lots of potions and books along the walls

And some movie memorabilia 

They had a huge hippogriffe flying out of the ceiling

Sam and the house elf

Emma dressed as a Beauxbaton student 

Emma picked Ravenclaw and Sam picked Hufflepuff

And Jack is playing the part of a Slytherin student

Sam channeling his inner Harry!

Time to make our cauldron of potion. You can see all of our ingredients we are about to add to the cauldron.

It turned out pretty tasty!

You also have to try some butterbeer!

Sam is having a lot of fun in the costume room

They even had a set of wands that were used on set in the movies

Now it is finally time to take our flight to the Rurrenbaque for our river adventure but I am debating about what to write for our next blog. I know the natural sequence would be to write about the river trip and I will but we just finished an unbelievable holiday season and I really want to write about the holidays in the islands. It is top of mind right now because we just said see-ya laters to a big group of our cruising friends and when we leave Antigua next week it will be another set of see-ya laters. Cruisers never say “good-bye” it is always said that we will meet again. So for the next blog post I am not sure what will happen….stay tuned!!