To Market, to Market in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, California – In a state known for celebrities, food is the real celebrity in the capital city, Sacramento – especially on Sunday mornings and despite the fact movie star governors aren’t unusual.

Your choices are limited only by what's in season. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Your choices are limited only by what’s in season. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

The reason is the Sacramento Certified Farmers’ Market, the official name of what most locals call the Sunday Farmers’ Market Under the Freeway. The casual name comes because all of the cantaloupe fondling and tomato pinching happens underneath an elevated portion of U.S. 80 at 8th and W Street. After awhile, you don’t even notice the rumble of the cars and trucks overhead.

It’s quite the spectacle. As many as 110 farmers, plus four bakeries and two fish sellers, artfully arrange tables of guaranteed-fresh California produce and try to entice some of the wandering thousands of shoppers to take their food home. The four-hour event (8 a.m. until noon) can attract 12,000 people.

Dan Best. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Farmers’ market coordinator Dan Best. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

“This is direct from the farm, direct from the field, with cash straight to the farmers’ pockets,” said market coordinator Dan Best, who declared he’d probably be a volunteer helper if his paying job with the Certified Farmers’ Markets of Sacramento County didn’t exist.

Some of America’s most fertile cropland is right here in California’s Central Valley, producing 230 crops that get shipped all over the country and internationally. (Trivia: California exports more sushi rice to Japan than Japan grows for itself.)

Imagine how much fresher and better the produce is at the Sunday Farmers’ Market Under the Freeway than at your local supermarket.

Produce often comes with good conversation. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Produce often comes with good conversation. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Those brilliantly orange carrots, those firm bell peppers and those tempting tomatoes probably spent no more than an hour or two in the beds of their growers’ pickup trucks before going on display. Know, too, that the farmers can bring delicate items to the market, ones never meant for packaging and shipment nationwide.

“Our purpose is saving the small-acreage farm. We put a face on people’s food,” Best said.

Not all broccoli is created equal. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Not all broccoli is created equal. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Indeed, talking with the farmers is one of the treats of visiting the market. Learn about Romanesco broccoli (that peculiar-looking vegetable was new to me), ask about the flavor of the honey or get coached about which avocado to buy.

You might think that the farmers’ market is strictly for locals, but think again. Even if you have a plane to catch the next day, you can load up a picnic basket with whatever fruits are in season, a loaf of fresh bread, a jar of honey, a bag of pistachios and other treasures and head for a picnic table at Old Sacramento, where Sacramento’s boom town days are recalled, or a bench in a city park. Some items make great gifts for the folks back home, too.

The Sunday Farmers’ Market Under the Freeway operates every Sunday of the year and is the largest in California. It has sister markets scattered around Sacramento County other days of the week. Some are open year-round, while others are seasonal.

Honey is a year-round good choice for a traveler's "souvenir" from the farmers' market. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Honey is a year-round good choice for a traveler’s “souvenir” from the farmers’ market. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Sacramento cultivates the nickname of America’s “Farm to Fork Capital,” a reputation that restaurants such as Mulvaney’s B&L, Grange, Blackbird Kitchen Beer Gallery, Kru and Ella Dining Room and Bar verify to visitors every day.

However, you can get even one step closer to the farm with a visit to the Sunday Farmers’ Market Under the Freeway.

Tips for a good farmers’ market experience in Sacramento

  • Bring cash in small denominations. Don’t expect farmers to take your American Express card.
  • Explore before you start buying. The farmers are competing, so you may find a better price for an item in the second place you look.
  • Trying to bargain for small items isn’t well received.
  • If the farmer isn’t too busy, enjoy some conversation about his farm and livelihood.
  • Keep track of your car keys. Market officials say keys are the No. 1 lost-and-found item. (Shoppers often find them in a produce bag, dropped there inadvertently after buying some of those beautiful veggies and fruits.)

Go to for farmers’ market details, farm-to-fork suggestions and other ideas for exploring California’s capital city.


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Casting for Seafood in Kansas

WICHITA and MANHATTAN, Kansas – I went to Kansas expecting to order beef, beef and more beef – and enjoying every bite – until a salad crowned with a steelhead trout filet threw me off track at the first restaurant I visited.

Food that originally had fins instead of hooves ended up occupying much of my trip through the landlocked heartland. I was delighted that there were chefs who would give seafood a whirl in a state 650 miles from the nearest saltwater. Here are three finds in Wichita and two in Manhattan.

It was Taste and See in Wichita that started it all. I was ready for its Big Red Burger (grilled beef with andouille sausage, red apples, red wine onion jam and Amish blue cheese) until I saw the description of the Skinny Pink, a salad.

The Skinny Pink salad at Taste and See started the seafood journey. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

The Skinny Pink salad at Taste and See started the seafood journey. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

There, in the middle of beef country, was a temptation not to be denied – a “sensual and moist steelhead filet glazed with ginger and riding a plantain hashbrown” with carrots, cucumbers, avocados and organic spinach in a Mandarin sesame vinaigrette. A sea-run trout filet salad in Kansas? My friends in the Pacific Northwest would be proud.

In fact, the whole menu at Taste and See is unexpected and geographically diverse. Venezuela-born Chef Jason Febres has been on multiple TV network food shows, and he pops out items with influences from South America, Cuba, China, Indonesia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, India and elsewhere. All that may sound overly ambitious, but it’s not.

The Anchor is the neighborhood bar and grill everyone should want within a short cab ride of home. Concrete floors, funky décor, 58 beers on tap, bartenders who know their stuff and a kitchen that’s primed for bar food.

Every neighborhood deserves a bar at notable as the Anchor in Wichita (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Every neighborhood deserves a bar as notable as the Anchor in Wichita (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

There are wings, poutine, whole fried okra, fried pickles and more for starters. The variety of burgers will make your head spin. How about a Haystack (a beef patty piled with fries, covered in queso and served on Texas toast) or a Bratwurst Burger (a red wattle pork burger with Havarti cheese, mustard and beer-braised sauerkraut or apple relish that’s served on a pretzel bun)?

So what was my seafood salvation? I found a salmon BLT tucked among the sandwiches. It was a nice hunk of salmon flavored with bacon from the Chop Shop, a butcher shop affiliated with the restaurant, and accented with tomatoes, arugula and red onion and lemon dill aioli. I’d definitely found a bar and grill (and butcher shop) looking to please all types.

Comedienne Phyllis Diller had an artistic side. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Comedienne Phyllis Diller had an artistic side. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

In contrast to the funkiness of the Anchor is the Larkspur Bistro and Bar. Interesting art from Phyllis Diller (yes, the comedienne had an artistic streak, too) decorates inside walls, while a patio open to the Kansas skies entices when the weather is right.

The menu is a blend of Mediterranean, French, Italian and American, and the seafood is fresh. I started with calamari and crab cakes, bypassed a tempting entrée of lamb T-bones and settled on a nicely prepared Rocky Mountain trout with caper and pine nut butter.

There’s a good beer scene in Manhattan – not a surprise in a university town – making places such as the Little Apple Brewing Company popular.

The dedicated keep their mugs on display at the Little Apply Brewing Company. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

The dedicated keep their mugs on display at the Little Apple Brewing Company. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Giant steaks rule the menu (porterhouses, T-bones, ribeyes, strips and more), but the staff can suggest one of the many beers to match the Maryland crab cakes that provide an alternative to beef. Don’t let the restaurant’s strip mall location make you doubt this is an excellent dining choice. It’s been serving steaks, beer and crab cakes to the discerning since 1995.

Another big beer statement is made at the Tallgrass Tap House in Manhattan’s revitalized downtown. The main Tallgrass brewery is a few miles away (a wonderful new use for a building that used to house a Verizon call center), but there’s beer being brewed at the Tap House, too. There’s indoor seating and a rooftop deck with a view toward the Flint Hills.

Beer in the tanks and beer on tap at the Tallgrass Tap Room. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Beer in the tanks and beer on tap at the Tallgrass Tap Room. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

While beer is definitely the main attraction – with permanent selections such as 8-Bit Pale Ale and Buffalo Sweat, an oatmeal cream stout – there’s a solid bar food menu that’s heavy on items such as classic burgers and meatloaf sandwiches. I already was a fan of the oatmeal cream stout when I found yet another Kansas piscatorial meal – a plate of fish and chips made with beer-battered Atlantic cod.

For Wichita visitor information, go to, and for Manhattan visitor information, go to


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Down-home Dining in Downtown Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Du-Par’s Restaurant and Bakery is far from the flashiest attraction at the Fremont Street Experience, the old-turned-new entertainment district that was the original Las Vegas, but it is at the top of my list.

The entrance to Du-Pars is unassuming, but the food is great. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

The entrance to Du-Par’s is unassuming, but the food is great. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

You can have the SlotZilla Zip Line and the army of showgirls, superheroes and guys in Elvis costumes who will pose in photos with you. Give me a down-home restaurant with a pie of the month, waitresses in 1950s-style uniforms, steaming bowls of oatmeal and plates overflowing with omelets and hashbrowns.

If you have to wait in line to get in – not an uncommon experience – the pastry case you must stand beside really sets the stage. Gigantic pies beckon, and the oversized doughnuts make Krispy Kremes look positively wimpy.

Waitresses in 1950s-style uniforms make sure your cup stays full. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Waitresses in 1950s-style uniforms make sure your cup stays full. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

The restaurant’s address – One Fremont Street – tells a lot. There’s been a hotel/casino/restaurant on this corner since 1905.

The original was the Hotel Nevada, which expanded in 1931 and became the exotic-sounding Sal Sagev. Ideas of exotic evaporate when you realize that “Sal Sagev” is “Las Vegas” spelled backwards.

There was a watershed moment in 1955 when a group of Italian-Americans from San Francisco bought the site and created the Golden Gate Casino. That explains the framed photos of cable cars and other San Francisco scenes on the walls of Du-Par’s.

Pies and muffins are popular items at Du-Pars. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Pies and muffins are popular items at Du-Par’s. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

The hotel’s original restaurant was the Bay City Café (there’s still an etched glass panel with this name near the Du-Par’s counter for solo diners), and it claims credit for introducing shrimp cocktails to Las Vegas in 1959.

While all of this was going on in Las Vegas, two San Franciscans moved to Los Angeles to open a restaurant in 1938. They were James Dunn and Edward Parsons, and Du-Par’s uses parts of both partners’ names. The original continues at the Los Angeles Farmers Market, and there are four other Los Angeles-area locations.

You can't get more basic than hot oatmeal and cold orange juice. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

You can’t get more basic than hot oatmeal and cold orange juice. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

The home cooking and bakery treats of Du-Pars hopped over to Las Vegas in 2010, bringing comfort food to Sin City visitors 24 hours a day by occupying the Bay City Café space.

Du-Par’s brags on its buttermilk pancakes, daily soups and chicken pot pie, but it’s the bakery pies that are so special in today’s world of commercial sameness.

Consider this partial list: Green apple, peach, cherry, rhubarb, blueberry, boysenberry, gooseberry, pumpkin, mince, sweet potato, coconut custard, pecan, lemon meringue, coconut cream and banana cream – plus three flavors of cream cheese pies.

As wholesome and down-home as Du-Pars is, there’s no escaping that you’re in Las Vegas. Proof was a table tent in December that promoted the pie of the month (Bartlett pear) and solicited votes for a provocatively clad candidate for Miss Santa’s Helper.

This Miss Santa's Helper candidate solicited votes on table tents. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

This Miss Santa’s Helper candidate solicited votes on table tents. (Photo: Tom Adkinson)

Visit the website of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a jackpot of information about the whole city.

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Ladies! Are You Looking For a More Stylish Fitness Tracker? Then the LEAF by Bellabeat is For You!

Unlike most fitness trackers out today, which tend to either be a rubber bracelet or a clip on for your belt that looks similar to the old style pedometers, the LEAF is a beautiful piece of jewelry.

The LEAF can be worn in four different ways. A bracelet, necklace, a brooch on the collar of your shirt or clipped onto your waistband. It is a very versatile piece of jewelry and it also comes in three different tones. Silver, Rose and gold.

Photo provided by Bellabeat Inc

Photo provided by Bellabeat Inc

I will tell you that like any fitness tracker or other device out there, it has its pros and cons. I do find that for the woman on the go, who wants something to not only track her activity for her, but also wants it to look nice while wearing her business or dress attire, then the LEAF is the best fit.

Photo provided by Bellabeat Inc

Photo provided by Bellabeat Inc

The LEAF will help you track your steps, your activity (it won’t let you be idle for long), your cycle and your sleep patterns. It also has breathing exercises that you can use to help you relax. This is a feature that I love!

The App for your phone that is free to download is very easy to use. Once you have synced your LEAF you are ready to go. Keeping track of everything you need to stay fit and healthy.

I will tell you, I tried wearing it every way you can. The most accurate step readings are when it is worn on your waistband or as a brooch on your collar. The only problem I had is that when on the waist of your pants, it can slip off easily. As a brooch, there is no problem at all, you don’t even notice it is there.

Photo provided by Bellabeat Inc

Photo provided by Bellabeat Inc

As a bracelet it is far too sensitive and over counts your steps by a large margin. I also found it a bit bulky, as I have very small wrists. As a necklace it is beautiful, but doesn’t count steps very well.

So, try it every way and see which works best for you. If you want my advice, stick to wearing it on your collar!

Photo provided by Bellabeat Inc

Photo provided by Bellabeat Inc



One thing I really love about this tracker is the ability to use their breathing exercises to relax. Anyone who has ever had to run through and airport after being held up at security knows how badly you can sometimes need to just BREATHE! The LEAF has a few different exercises that you can do, all with music available to download.

I think the LEAF is a great addition to any woman’s wardrobe, so many of us are working on getting and staying fit, and this beautiful LEAF can help you do just that.

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Getting Dirty in Las Vegas


Breathalyzer first, bulldozer second. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – It was a good thing that I passed the Breathalyzer test because that meant I got to drive one of Ed Mumm’s bulldozers.

Mumm’s business may seem a bit over the edge – it’s called Dig This and is a place where people with absolutely no experience can play around on earthmoving equipment – but he’s not about to let a tipsy customer climb into the cab of a Caterpillar bulldozer or excavator.


You control 10 tons of bulldozer, but your coach is nearby. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

The location of Dig This is a surprise. It’s a five-acre patch of open land on South Rancho Drive with a clear view of the high-rise hotels and casinos just across the Las Vegas Freeway on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s a sandbox for adults, and the roaring diesel engines wait for the next group of people who want to play. The bulldozers and excavators are a far cry from what used to be here – miniature golf, bumper boats and go-karts.

The Dig This owner says women perform better than men. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

The Dig This owner says women perform better than men. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Perhaps unexpectedly, Dig This is not just a men-will-be-boys place.

“Bachelorette parties love us, and truth be told, women often are better at the controls than men are,” Mumm said.

“That’s probably because women know how to follow instructions,” said one of my female companions for the day.

Regardless of gender, Mumm has had customers as young as 14 and as old as 86. All go through the same indoor training program and have the same guidance in the field.

In the classroom, instructor Junior Diaz explains the program as he maneuvers a toy bulldozer and a toy excavator around a tiny sandbox. The real pieces of equipment are no toys. The bulldozers waiting for you are D5G XL models weighing 19,862 pounds, and the excavators are 315CL models weighing 36,930 pounds.

Junior Diaz uses toys to explain how the real equipment works. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Junior Diaz uses toys to explain how the real equipment works. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

“Don’t overthink this,” Diaz said, explaining that although you’ll be alone at the controls, you’ll be wearing a headset and in constant radio contact with a coach standing nearby. The coach, by the way, has a kill switch so he can shut down your machine if you try to make a run for the border.

The hotels and casinos of the Las Vegas Strip are just across the freeway from Dig This. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

The hotels and casinos of the Las Vegas Strip are just across the freeway from Dig This. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Your time at the controls can be either on a bulldozer or an excavator or both. Dig trenches, build mounds, create a “bulldozer teeter-totter” or put 2,000-pound equipment tires in a stack. There’s even an excavator skill game called “excavator basketball” where you use the excavator’s bucket to lift a basketball off of a traffic cone and then drop it into the goal, one of those one-ton equipment tires.

Excavate and Exfoliate

Las Vegas often makes for some odd pairings, and Dig This and the Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian and the Palazzo have teamed up for one of the most unusual package plans you’ll ever find.

“Excavate and Exfoliate” combines the roaring excitement of operating heavy equipment at Dig This with the soothing relaxation of the Canyon Ranch Spa. Just imagine yourself a heavy equipment operator after a hard day on the job site. What could be better than some steam room time, a massage and the refreshment of some cucumber water?

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North Beach Bar & Grill, Tybee Island. What a Find!

The North Beach Bar & Grill was a fantastic find. It sits between the lighthouse and the beach on the North Shore of the Island and is the perfect setting on a peaceful evening.

We arrived and were greeted with beautiful live music being played by a fabulous couple. The staff was extremely friendly and took care of everything we could dream of.

Sitting outside on the patio, enjoying the warm evening after a big storm has passed through, it was perfect. We watched and listened as families and couples around us had a wonderful dinner with much chatter and laughter. This is a restaurant for everyone.

Ropa Vieja - so delicious!

Ropa Vieja – so delicious!

The menu ranges from your basic American faire to gourmet dining! You will have no trouble finding the right dish for you. Whether you want a hotdog or a seafood dinner, you will find what you’re looking for.

The bar itself was lively and everyone was having a great time.

If you find yourself spending some time on Tybee Island, you really must take the time to enjoy a meal at the North Beach Bar & Grill. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

From the appetizers, to entrées and then the desserts. Oh the desserts! You can’t beat homemade pies and cakes, can you? Do yourself a favour and order a slice of the coconut cake! So fresh and delicious!

I know we will be returning to the North Beach Bar & Grill on our next visit to Tybee.

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Rolling on the River in Laughlin

LAUGHLIN, Nevada. — The Colorado River is more than a linear oasis in the desert between Laughlin, Nevada, and Bullhead City, Arizona. It’s also a major recreational asset.

While jet skis, powerboats and river taxis do zoom around on this stretch of the river, many visitors enjoy quiet, self-powered escapes in kayaks, especially if your float starts early in the day. For instance, Desert River Outfitters puts about 7,000 people on the river each year for a variety of short floats lasting between two and four hours.

Davis Dam is the initial backdrop for a float through Laughlin. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Davis Dam is the initial backdrop for a float through Laughlin. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

You put in just below Davis Dam and start your float with some surprising backgrounds — the towering, sparkling, gaudy casinos of Laughlin and the Home Depot and beautiful homes of Bullhead City. Just beyond that, however, the scenery calms down, nature starts to prevail. Rock formations, grassy banks and the occasional mallard duck replace the casinos and the beer-drinking spectators on the Laughlin Riverwalk.

The towering casinos of Laughlin line part of the Colorado River. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

The towering casinos of Laughlin line part of the Colorado River. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

There are a few niches in the riverbank, alcoves almost, with patches of sand and smiling picnickers, and perhaps too soon, the takeout site comes into view. Your float is over, and the real world is just over the hill.

Despite casinos, jet skis and the occasional powerboat, moments of solitude are possible on a Laughlin float. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Despite casinos, jet skis and the occasional powerboat, moments of solitude are possible on a Laughlin float. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

(Visitor information is available at

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Lights on the Colorado

DSCN4142LAUGHLIN, Nevada — The Colorado River provides a nighttime mirror for the casino lights of Laughlin as seen from the Celebration riverboat. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

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Great Food, Beautiful Views and Awesome Staff – AJ’s Dockside Restaurant, Tybee Island, GA.

I have to say that AJ’s Dockside was a wonderful find.

DSC_0698Located on the shores of the Back River, you end up with a beautiful view of the water, the water fowl and if you’re there in time, the sunset.

The people there are so friendly and courteous. Service is fantastic. The food. Well, let’s just say that I ate until I could no DSC_0701longer eat! It was THAT good. I especially enjoyed the conch fritters! Not something that I get to have very often and they were fabulous. The homemade remoulade sauce was some of the best I have had. I also enjoyed the fried shrimp and scallops, which were so fresh and delicious. Willem had a fresh made burger and salad, which he truly enjoyed.

DSC_0700AJ’s Dockside is the place to be if you want to enjoy the sunset, but be forewarned. They do NOT take reservations and it gets very busy at that time of day. If you want a chance at a table for the sunset, go in early and give your name, then head back to your room to get washed up etc…they’ll have been able to tell you approximately how long your wait should be. Return and hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to get your seat at the right time.

AJ’s Dockside is a great place also if you’ve been spending your day out on the boat, as you DSC_0703can drive right up to their dock and enter the restaurant from the waterside. They also have kayak rentals for those interested.

DSC_0702It is a small family owned restaurant that prides itself on great service and amazing and fresh food. It caters to everyone…families are more than welcome.

We sat on the dock for our lunch and enjoyed the fresh air and views while we dined.

If you’re visiting Tybee Island anytime soon, you really must make a stop at AJ’s Dockside. Believe me, you will love every bite!

Our Mascot, Maurice the Moroccan Monkey, hanging out at AJ's Dockside Restaurant in Tybee Island, GA.

Our Mascot, Maurice the Moroccan Monkey, hanging out at AJ’s Dockside Restaurant in Tybee Island, GA.

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Scenic and Informational Train Trip Through Quito to El Boliche Recreational Park

If you are in Quito, Ecuador and are looking for a wonderful way to enjoy the surrounding DSC_0231 (2)area and learn about the history, legends and landscape, then you really should take a day and book a trip on the Train. This extremely comfortable scenic viewing train will take you from Quito to El Boliche, with a couple of short stops along the way.

DSC_0241 (2)While on the train, you will be treated to fresh coffee, refreshments and breakfast. All the while, your guide will give you information about the area you are passing through, the volcanoes and some of the legends surrounding it all. Each car has a dedicated guide and service. Your guide is more than happy to answer all of your questions and they encourage you to get involved.

On this trip you will make a short stop at Tambillo, where you can enjoy something from DSC_0272 (2)the cafeteria and use restrooms…then after boarding again and heading off for more adventure, you will stop at Machachi, where there is a cultural demonstration with wonderful music and artisans. We are told before arrival that we all MUST dance when we stop there, and with as wonderful as the music is, everyone does end up dancing. You can’t resist!

DSC_0282 (2)This is such a beautiful way to experience and view the country, all while learning about it and the mountain range.

Your final stop is at El Boliche Recreational Area. With an elevation over 9,600 feet, I will warn you….bring a jacket! I forgot to pack mine and well, it was COLD! Your guide form the train will take you on a short hike. Showing you the flora and explaining details about it, the park and the fauna in the area. It isn’t a long hike, but be prepared if you have some breathing issues, due to the elevation, it can be rough for some.

DSC_0297 (2)It is a beautiful forest. This park also has other things to see and DSC_0300 (2)learn about. Your guide will show it all to you. From the alpacas to the dancers. This park also has cabins that you can rent and stay at. It really is quite a beautiful spot.

The train itself was fantastic. Comfortable and relaxing and really such a wonderful way to enjoy the countryside. I can guarantee you that you will enjoy this part of your visit to Quito if you decide to take it.

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