Luau La Paz Style

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The local cruisers club put on its 10th annual Bay Fest while we were in La Paz. The festivities included a sailboat race, backwards dingy race, seminars, and raffles. The big event was a luau. Seemed odd that it wasn’t a Mexican Fiesta but the club is all gringo’s. They did have a roast pig (not sure where it was roasted?!), tasty rice and salad. We met up with friends from the sailing vessel Dragon’s Toy for happy hour and got to meet some fellow cruisers at our table. It is a good thing we liked our table mates since out of 17 tables we were the next to last to be called to the buffet table. The pig did not die in vain as I’m fairly certain we got the last pickings.

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Somehow they were able to find luau dancers from Mexico that put on a nice show.

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One of the main events for the party was the ugly Hawaiian shirt contest. They must have decided there were too many ugly shirts because they never got around to awarding that prize. Gary solicited input from his Facebook friends on which shirt to wear. Funny, the majority selected a vintage Key West shirt he gets the most compliments on and in fact got several that night. I think the shirt just doesn’t take a good photo.

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Fun time was had by all

Fair winds
Cindy

Isla San Francisco, Sea of Cortez

We got off the docks and headed further north to Isla San Francisco. Unfortunately the morning winds were coming from the north instead of the usual south so we had to motor sail the 6 hours. But the beautiful bay was awaiting us and with only three other boats in the anchorage we had plenty of room to drop the anchor. Unlike the mainland of Mexico, the water in the Sea is very clear so we could see straight to the bottom. We explored some of the other coves by dinghy, hiked across a salt pond to the other side of the island, and hiked to the top of the surrounding hills where we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the bay and the turquoise and blue water.

The bay at Isla San Francisco.  Sereno II is on the right

The bay at Isla San Francisco. Sereno II is on the right

Like the Baja Peninsula, the islands in the Sea of Cortez are desert with cactus and shrubs and most are uninhabited. Sitting in the cockpit we had a front row seat on the flight path of the Brown Pelicans and Bobo’s as they flew from one side of the island to the other. The pelicans glide just inches from the surface. There are 7 types of pelicans and we just learned that the brown pelicans here and in other parts of Mexico are the only ones that dive from the air in to the water for their food. DDT in the 70’s almost wiped them out. Given the numbers that we have seen here in Mexico, I think they are doing very well indeed.

The Brown Pelican

The Brown Pelican

We were prepared for mosquitoes and no-see-ums (which never showed up) but it was the bees that drove us nuts. We heard they can be a nuisance looking for fresh water and they sure were. The anchorage was very calm until our last night. At 2 am the waves rolled in. Picture John Travolta riding the bull at Gilley’s in Urban Cowboy! We pulled up anchor just as the sun was rising and bashed in to the 15+ knot winds coming from the south (the direction we were going, sigh….) for the next few hours. But things calmed down and we had a great ride the rest of the way.

Sunrise over the Baja Peninsula

Sunrise over the Baja Peninsula

The birds start their day at sunrise

The birds start their day at sunrise

Sereno II at anchor Isla San Francisco

Sereno II at anchor Isla San Francisco

Fresh papaya for breakfast

Fresh papaya for breakfast

Fair winds
Cindy

Playa Tecolote

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Having a set of wheels for the first time in 6 months has been awesome. We filled the trunk up with provisions this morning for once not feeling like pack animals schlepping everything back to the boat. Then this afternoon we set off exploring some of the beaches and coves around the bay. Here are a few pictures from Playa Tecolote.

That is Isla Espiritu Santo

That is Isla Espiritu Santo

Where is his lounge chair?!

Where is his lounge chair?!

There was 4 or so restaurants and bars

There were restaurants and bars. Probably pretty happening on a weekend

Sea on one side, mountains and cactus on the other

Sea on one side, mountains and cactus on the other

Fair winds Cindy

Todos Santos

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There isn’t a lot of places we can stop with the boat on the Pacific coast of the Baja Peninsula so we rented a car and hopped on over to the surf and beach town of Todos Santos on the west coast about 1 1/2 hours from La Paz. I had not driven since the end of October and I thought it would feel weird but it didn’t phase me (I do the driving and Gary navigates, it works for us :) ). And it was really nice to have a brake peddle!

We chose the Todos Santos Inn to stay at because it was right in the historic district and it was very old. I knew that only 2 streets were paved and the remaining were dirt. Part of the charm. Here is the sight that greeted us when we arrived in town

Construction 1

Construction 2

The town has decided to pave the remaining streets, put in new sidewalks and all lines underground. They are not just working on one street at a time. Everywhere you turned there were jackhammers going, big holes with no barricades, and mounds of dirt. And the funniest thing was, you could and people did drive down the streets being worked on. The only thing stopping the cars was if the road was totally impassable. Sidewalks here in Mexico are treacherous anyway, but this was a riot. We were walking down one sidewalk and came to a sudden drop. Good thing it was daylight!

This was an elaborate blue sidewalk we were walking on.  Then it just ended!

This was an elaborate blue sidewalk we were walking on. Then it just ended!

But construction and noise aside, we could see that this was indeed a cool little town and I think we captured the good parts in our pictures. I’m hoping that the changes they are making do not ruin the spirit of the place.

We loved the inn and probably would have stayed another night but for the construction. The innkeeper prepared a little history on the place which we tried to capture here in these photos.

History of Todos Santos Inn

History of Todos Santos Inn

History of Todos Santos Inn

History of Todos Santos Inn

Todos Santos Inn

Todos Santos Inn

In addition to books, the library at the inn had a TV and a chess board waiting to be played

In addition to books, the library at the inn had a TV and a chess board waiting to be played

Our room at the Todos Santos Inn.  No we didn't sleep under the net.

Our room at the Todos Santos Inn. No we didn’t sleep under the net.

Another picture of our room.  We had Terrace Room 1 which is one of the original guest rooms.

Another picture of our room. We had Terrace Room 1 which is one of the original guest rooms.

Small heated pool at the inn

Small heated pool at the inn

Courtyard at the inn where it is said that a suitor dropped flowers from a helicopter to impress a girl.  I would be impressed!

Courtyard at the inn where it is said that a suitor dropped flowers from a helicopter to impress the owners daughter. I would be impressed!

The patio where we enjoyed a free hot breakfast.   Made to order. No buffet like at Holiday Inn Express.

The patio where we enjoyed a free hot breakfast. Made to order. No buffet like at Holiday Inn Express.

Loved the pool.  Small and no screaming kids LOL

Loved the pool. Small and no screaming kids LOL

Those are all rooms to the right down the hall

Those are all rooms to the right down the hall

The terrace right outside our room.  Oh how I wish we had stayed another day.

The terrace right outside our room. Oh how I wish we had stayed another day.

And of course the bar at the inn.  Good margarita's and I tried a drink made with Mezcal.  Since I do not like sweet drinks, I liked the smokey taste.  Gary's martini had sweet vermouth instead of dry so I think that got a thumbs down.

And of course the bar at the inn. Good margarita’s and I tried a drink made with Mezcal. It was good now can Gary recreate it? Gary’s martini had sweet vermouth instead of dry so I think that got a thumbs down.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

Not as elaborate as we have seen but still pretty

Not as elaborate as we have seen but still pretty

Children dancing on the plaza

Children dancing on the plaza

Todos Santos

Todos Santos

Todos Santos 2

Todos Santos 3

Todos Santos 4

Despite the torn up roads and all the dust we were glad we went. As always we found good drinks and good food. If only we could get Sereno II from La Paz to Todos Santos in under 2 hours……

Fair winds
Cindy

“Venus Was Her Name”

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We were a few miles out from Costa Baja Resort and Marina in Bahia La Paz when I called to get our slip assignment. Bummer, the lady on the other end of the radio said we had to stop at the fuel dock and come to the office first. We have found the marina’s in Mexico usually send boats right to a slip. Cuts down on the potential for something to go awry! The entrance to the marina is rather confusing so we were both concentrating on that and spotting the 500 foot fuel dock. We rounded the corner and there it was, the 256 foot yacht Venus built for the late Steve Jobs. There was no mistaking it. And where does one put a 256 foot yacht in a small marina? Yup, on the fuel dock. So with a bit of good maneuvering on Gary’s part and the help of two dock hands there we were parked right in front of this magnificent vessel. Sereno II has never felt so small! As we walked down its length on our way to the marina office, the security guard saw our camera and informed us that no pictures were allowed. We politely nodded knowing we had already snapped about 20 pictures before we left the boat LOL. Pictures do not do this boat justice. It really is beautiful in person though the stern is a bit on the square side, which from what we can tell is a ‘garage’ for all the toys.

Steve Jobs boat at Costa Baja Resort and Marina.  Magnificent!

The yacht, Venus, owned by Steve Jobs at Costa Baja Resort and Marina. Magnificent!

The garage door is open and inside was a tender.

The garage door is open and inside was a tender.

If the boat to the left looks small, you can imagine how small Sereno II looked.

If the boat to the left looks small, you can imagine how small Sereno II looked.

And a beautiful picture at dusk

And a beautiful picture at dusk

Street signs and street numbers really go a long way to help get around any city. That and the internet with reliable maps and directions. We were craving pizza this week and according to Trip Advisor the number one restaurant in La Paz is a pizza place. I know, should be a Mexican restaurant right?! According to the map on Trip Advisor it was in the farthest corner of the city so we hopped in a cab with those directions. Around and around we went but the restaurant was not to be found. The cabby called the phone number on Trip Advisor and with limited English and limited Spanish we set off in a new direction. As we were leaving the city we realized something was amiss. We somehow agreed to go an hour away. No pizza is worth that cab fare! Ok maybe Carmen’s in Netcong or Celestino’s in Rocklin :) Ugh, the information on the internet for Mexico is way behind where it is in the States so finding places has been interesting. It is no wonder the mail system is really bad here. We did find another pizzeria and enjoyed some good pizza. And better yet, we received a free caesar salad and free bowl of pasta. Leftovers!

Wood fired stove at the La Paz pizzeria

Wood fired stove at the La Paz pizzeria

Not great but good pizza

Not great but good pizza

Unknown to Gary, I decided to do a Man Overboard Drill yesterday on our crossing to our new marina. I threw one of our floatation devices overboard in a narrow channel so he had the challenge of turning around not once but twice so I could retrieve it. I’m happy to report he passed with flying colors. That is my story anyway. The way Gary tells it, I was swatting at a bee that was bugging us with said floatation device and it went flying out of my hand and into the water. Now why would I do something that stupid?

The inner harbor at Costa Baja Marina.  We were in the outer harbor with the big gals because of our draft.

The inner harbor at Costa Baja Marina. We were in the outer harbor with the big gals because of our draft.

The pool at Costa Baja Marina

The pool at Costa Baja Marina

Fair winds
Cindy

Life in La Paz

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We will be in La Paz until mid May. That should allow us time to get the feel and vibe of the place before we need to move on. There is no better way to do that than to put on our walking shoes. In fact we walked so much I blew out my flip flop (stepping on a pop top, Ha) and Gary had to fix it. The Malecon (their version of a broadwalk) along the waterfront stretches the entire length of the central historic district and is lined with many statues representing the fishing and sea life in the Sea of Cortez.

Beach along the Malecon

Beach along the Malecon

The Malecon

The Malecon

A nice shady spot along the Malecon

A nice shady spot along the Malecon

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A boy fishing with nets

A boy fishing with nets

From 1616 until 1940 Bahia de La Paz was famous for its natural pearls until the oyster beds were destroyed by a blight.

In honor of the oyster industry

In honor of the oyster industry

Jacques Cousteau once called the Sea of Cortez ‘the world’s aquarium’. In 2009 the Mexican government renamed “Isla Cerralvo” to “Isla Jacques Cousteau”. When we left our overnight anchorage of Muertos to arrive in La Paz we had to leave early in the morning to pass between what we thought was Isla Cerralvo and the mainland before the winds kicked up and created strong opposing currents. Many in Mexico have not accepted the name change because they were not consulted so most guide books refer to the island under its historical name.

Jacques Cousteau 1910-1997

Jacques Cousteau 1910-1997

The Malecon really is the most picturesque part of the city. In other towns we have found pockets of neighborhoods where the architecture catches your eye. Here not so much and I’m thinking the homes and buildings are built very boxy and low because of hurricanes. We have not seen any damage here from hurricane Odile’s visit in September last year like we did in Cabo San Lucas.

A small B & B.  It is hilly here so walks are a good workout.

A small B & B. It is hilly here so walks are a good workout.

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The church off the main plaza

The church off the main plaza

La Paz has big box stores like WalMart that are out of the central district. Within walking distance to our marina we have the local markets where we can get fruits, vegetables, fish, beef and even lunch. Nothing is done ‘in the back’, all the chopping off of cow and fish heads is pretty much done right in front of you. No pictures of this gruesome task.

As we were sailing in last week, I commented to Gary that if you take away the water we could easily be in Arizona. We left the tropics of mainland Mexico and came back to the desert of the Baja and this region is no exception. Though, the water is absolutely stunning. Crystal clear with beautiful turquoise and blues. Cannot wait to get out into the Sea of Cortez. We have been busy exploring on foot and getting our arrangements made for our trip to Arizona for Austin’s graduation. But we move the boat to another marina next week that is outside of town and closer to the entrance to the bay. We can then start planning some trips up to the northern parts of the Sea of Cortez. I read that some areas around La Paz have venomous sea snakes. So more research is needed because this girl is not getting anywhere near sea snakes.

La Paz 3

The Sea of Cortez is calling us

The Sea of Cortez is calling us

La Paz 14

La Paz 12

Boat Music

In deciding what to bring on this adventure, we selected those items that meant the most to us for one reason or another and seemed somewhat practical to bring on a boat. My favorite picture of Austin, a Hawaiian Santa Steve had given us, our Buddha from the BVI’s and two ceramic figures from local artists we picked up on our travels. Okay maybe the last two were not so practical! We also brought martini and wine glasses because after all you can’t properly chill a plastic martini glass or drink a fine wine from a plastic wine glass :) Each breakable item has a specific place where it is stored during passages.

Before leaving the relative calm of the San Diego Bay and hitting the big ocean I went through the boat and made sure everything was as secured as I could. That meant going through all the cabinets and making sure they were full enough so that once we hit the ocean swells, nothing would go flying or break. We had a lot of food for four people so the food locker was quite full. We exited the bay out into the ocean under beautiful bright blue skies and so the boat ‘music’ began. Wine bottles and glasses clanging like a cymbal, the steal drum sound of cans, clattering dishes like tambourines, and the xylophone sound of silverware. All combined with a melody of crashing waves hitting the hull creating a symphony of heavenly music. The volume and beat was steady no crescendo culminating in broken glass. Whew I guess I did alright!

Then the sun set, the stars and moon appeared and watch schedules began. The aft cabin contains the food locker and engine all located under the cockpit. Cans rattling, cockpit table swaying back and forth, crew noises, wood creaking, water splashing against the stern not to mention the drone of the engine if it was on. It was described as the ‘House of Horrors’. In the main cabin, the roll of the boat mirrored the clang of dishes and bottles. Instead of counting sheep I was counting the clang of wine bottles. In the cockpit the engine exhaust sounds like thunder and one evening Gary and I both were positive that Greg was playing music in the aft cabin. NOT!

We have since learned how to really batten down the boat when on passages. And if we are anchored out where the boat is constantly moving, we have about five things we need to secure before going to bed. Otherwise somebody is getting up in the middle of the night. It took us two days to figure out that a small squeak that was keeping us awake was a latch on our companion way door.

But when all is quite in the cockpit, I still hear music playing.

The culprit that took us two days to find

The squeaky culprit that took us two days to find

Mazatlan Vibe

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When we go out to dinner we really enjoy sitting at the bar so we can meet people. In Mexico there are very few restaurants that have a sit down bar. We lucked upon one the other night by chance. We needed reservations at the restaurant we wanted to go to so a guy who looked like he was a member of the band that was setting up recommended we try El Presidio. As luck would have it we scored. This place had a real bar with barstools and we sat down next to a lovely couple who have lived in Mazatlan for a few years. So we got the low down on where to go the next evening, which was Saturday.

Plazuela Machado is the place to be for people watching, both locals and tourists, on a Saturday night. This is the central plaza for Old Town Mazatlan. It is surrounded by restaurants with entertainment and craft vendors.

We arrived around 5 PM when the restaurants were just setting up their tables.

Tables waiting for diners

Tables waiting for diners

There were several girls all dressed up each having a photo shoot. I mean like hundreds of pictures taken. This is the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday called La Quincenra.

La Quincenra celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday

We wanted to get some pictures of the streets before sunset so we set out walking the surrounding area.

Mazatlan 1

Mazatlan 2

Mazatlan 3

Mazatlan 4

Mazatlan 5

Plaza 2

Plaza

A few blocks away is the Cathedral, Basilica De La Inmaculada Concepcion. Construction was finished in 1899 and the crown jewel is the pipe organ, built in France by Aristides Cavaillie. It is believed that the organ was first played in May 1899.

Cathedral

Cathderal 2

We could only sneak one picture of the inside as there was a wedding going on and another one waiting. From the number of brides we saw it appeared that there was a wedding scheduled every hour.

Wedding in the Cathedral

Wedding in the Cathedral

It appears this pretty flower girl was awarded a big bag of candy for being a good girl. Notice that her lipstick matches her bow.

Pretty flower girl

Pretty flower girl

And this little guy was all decked out in his tuxs.

The red sneakers match his bow tie.  What a cutie

The red sneakers match his bow tie. What a cutie

Here is one of the many bride and grooms we saw

Bride & Groom

The bride and grooms ride

Wedding Car

One of the things I learned early on after moving to California is that family is very important to Mexicans and they so love children! We see that daily here and we really enjoy watching them interact. We have watched several weddings from afar and it is always a large festive family event. The wedding guests are all dressed ‘to the nines’. The men in suits and the women of all ages dressed in ball gowns. What always catches my attention is the shoes. I can’t wear heels. But here women of all ages wear stiletto heels and high platforms. I wanted Gary to start taking pictures of the shoes but NOT.

As the sun set, restaurants came alive and music filled the air with the sounds of Mexico.

Tables empty earlier are now full

Tables empty earlier are now full

Plazuela Machado 1

Plazuela Machado 2

Plazuela Machado 3

Plazuela Machado 4

Mazatlan 6

Mazatlan 7

Up to now the food we have had in Mexico is ‘good simple food’, mostly mom and pop restaurants. Here in Mazatlan, the food is more complex with an international flare. Though we like simple food, it was a nice change to have some more complex flavors and variety. And restaurants have actual wine and cocktail lists. Typically your choice for vino (wine) is one blanco (white) or one rojo (red) LOL. Sadly, no craft beer.

Here is our ride. Pulmonias are unique to Mazatlan. They are open air and a lot like golf carts but much faster. We were told that they are cheaper than a taxi, but not from our experience! You pay the same price for the privilege of smelling gas fumes and praying you don’t go flying out when the driver is swerving in and out of traffic like the Indiana Jones Ride at Disneyland.

Pulmonias

A great martini

A great martini

Whales, Crab Pots, and an Aerial Show

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The west coast of Mexico is the winter breeding ground for grey whales. We saw a far amount of them from a distance both on the trip down from San Diego and while in Banderas Bay. But nothing like what we saw on our three day passage from Banderas Bay to Mazatlan. Our first morning started out calm enough with one going past us as we were leaving the bay. A little closer than usual on our port side but nothing to get excited about. As the day progressed we saw a few more, again a little closer than usual. Our second day things got, shall I say, a bit exciting. The first thing we come upon is a field of crab pots. It is almost impossible to see these until you are right upon them. With Gary on the bow and me at the helm we had to pick our way around them slowly so that we didn’t catch any of the lines in the propeller. We had no wind so sailing through was not an option. Once we got by we both settled back down in the cockpit. A short time later Gary yells whale. Sure enough there is not one but two whales on a direct line to cross in front of our bow. We had to put the boat in neutral to stop for the ‘whale crossing’. They passed right in front of the boat a few yards off. They were so ‘slow’ and graceful that Gary had enough time to get the camera and take some pictures.

We must have missed the 'Whale Crossing' sign

We must have missed the ‘Whale Crossing’ sign

They seem to travel in pairs

They seem to travel in pairs. Look how close they swim together!

We had whales cross the bow two more times but the most thrilling (or I should say heart stopping, OMG!) sighting awaited us right before sunset. We often have dolphins swim along side the boat. It seems like they make a game out of running with the boat, leaping in the air and generally look like they are having a lot of fun. They make us laugh and it breaks up the monotony of a long passage. We were traveling along about 5 miles off shore in fairly shallow water about 75 feet. We had enough close encounters of the whale kind to last a while and we thought they would stay out in deeper water. I heard a loud splash to my left and when I looked over I saw a wall of water. Yup, we had two whales who for some reason decided to play about 50 yards from the boat! You can imagine the noise and spray when these massive bodies leap straight up out of the water and then immediately fall back in. It is so quick it takes a second to register what you just saw. Gary tried to get a picture but by the time the shutter went off he got only spray. The show went on for a few minutes before they moved off. We are not sure why in the whole ocean they chose to play next to the boat. The hum of the engine could have intrigued them but they certainly looked like they were having as much fun as the dolphins. I am hoping that was a once in a life time experience. I much prefer to view them at a safer distance!

This was one heck of a belly flop.  They fall so fast getting a picture while in the air is almost impossible

This was one heck of a belly flop. They fall so fast getting a picture while in the air is almost impossible

On the way up we spent one night anchored in Chacala Bay.

On the way up we spent one night anchored in Chacala Bay.

The setting sun on our overnight passage right after the whale show

The setting sun on our overnight passage right after the whale show

Thanks Arland for snapping a picture of Gary in our 'car'.  This was right before it started raining :)

Thanks Arland for snapping a picture of Gary in our ‘car’. This was right before it started raining :)

San Sebastián de Oeste

The winds howling down the Sea of Cortez are keeping us here in Banderas Bay. Lucky for us, Arland is back and he offered to rent a car and drive us all up to San Sebastián de Oeste. This is an old mining town 4,500 feet up in the Sierra Madre Mountains. The ride up was beautiful with cattle, corn and coffee plantations. Lots of small towns with speed bumps. Mexico has speed bumps entering and leaving every town no matter if the town only has a few buildings. We stopped at a tequila distillery on the way. Pretty little place but the prices were way over our budget.

Small tequila distillery on the way to San Sabastian

Small tequila distillery on the way to San Sebastián

Tequila Distillery 1

Tequila Distillery 4

They also made liquores

They also made liquores

Arland hanging at the tequila distillery

Arland hanging at the tequila distillery

San Sebastián De Oeste was founded in 1605 as a gold and silver mine. At one time the population was 40,000, but only 600 live there now. The mines are said to be partly responsible for the development of Puerto Vallarta, known then as Las Peñas. It supplied salt by mules to the mines which was used in the smelting process. The gold and silver was sent by mule to Veracruz, where it was delivered to Spain once a year.

A picture of the miners

A picture of the miners. Not a happy looking crew.

Busses and tourist vans visit the town but it still has an old town feel to it. In part because there are only a few shops, restaurants and hotel rooms. Many buildings have been saved and reconstruction is done with an eye on the history of the town.

The town had a fort in order to protect the mines. Today it is used for special events.

Inside the courtyard at the fort

Inside the courtyard at the fort

Inside the courtyard at the fort

Inside the courtyard at the fort

From one of the older sections of the fort

From one of the older sections of the fort

Today the courtyard is a peaceful place to take a nap

Today the courtyard is a peaceful place to take a nap

We enjoyed a nice Italian meal at Montebello.

Montebello

The church was originally built in the 1600’s then rebuilt after an earthquake in 1868.

SB Church 2

SB Church

A shopkeeper came running after us asking if we would come visit her newly opened store. She mentioned the word ‘candy’ so we just had to stop by. We came away with some very different candies.

One of the shopkeepers

One of the shopkeepers

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SB 6

No matter what town we are in, we always see kids on bikes

No matter what town we are in, big or small, we always see kids on bikes

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Beautiful setting for a nice dinner

Beautiful setting for a nice dinner

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