Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mama, We're Coming Home

It's official.... The time has come for the Grand Adventure to conclude. Just over a week left! We'll be landing in Portland on Monday, the 23rd, just in time for turkey and stuffing. Many of you have been asking, so here are the details:

November 23, 2009
Iceland Air Flight FI451
London to Reykjavik

November 23, 2009
Iceland Air Flight FI681
Reykjavik to Seattle

November 23, 2009
Horizon Air QX2047
Departs: Seattle (SEA) on Mon, Nov 23 at 7:00 pm
Arrives: Portland, OR (PDX) on Mon, Nov 23 at 7:50 pm

In an effort to answer the other questions we keep getting: our house is still rented out to tenants through January, with the possibility of extending it further after that. This could be very helpful depending on the job situations, as no mortgage means no problems, right? We will likely be staying with Jeremy's parents until then. We have been kicking around the idea of renting something small and fun (like a loft in the Pearl District - we hear they are a steal these days) in the meantime. Call it an extension of the adventures.

It will probably take us some time to get cell phones dialed in again, so connecting over email will still be our best bet: and Or you can call us at the house at 503-697-7388. I think I have two phone numbers memorized, so call us, we won't be calling you. :)

Once we're settled in and past the jet lag we'll start the job search, so if you hear of anything, let us know. Jeremy is planning to be the guy that cuts down your Christmas tree for you....he won't stop talking about how fun it would be to work at a tree farm for the season! Maybe I'll stay inside and sell hot chocolate and wreaths.

Other than that we are VERY excited about seeing everyone and getting caught up on all that we've missed over the last year. See you all very soon!!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mashed Potato Fairies

Well, it would seem I spoke too soon and/or jinxed our string of good luck by declaring it publicly, because it all went south, and quickly. After leaving lovely Croatia, we spent a few quick days in Montenegro, driving through the beautiful Kotor fjord and then settling in the green expanse of the Durmitor National Park for a few nights. There we were able to do some great hikes that afforded insane views over the Tara River canyon as well as fit in a slow, easygoing, albeit fun raft trip. Not quite the thrilling, white knuckled trip our guidebook promised, but I guess we'll have to come back in May for that experience.

We bombed through the SW corner of Serbia, free-camped for one quick night on a random street in Skopje, Macedonia, and then arrived in Greece. This is where it all fell apart. Greece had it out for us! First we ran out of gas. Jer had been somewhat desperately searching for a gas station, none of which had appeared for over 50 miles, and so we hit the skids. No problem, we have a gas can with a few spare liters that should buy us about 50km. Well that lasted about 10km instead, and again we found ourselves stranded on the highway. Luckily there was a small construction site just a short ways up the highway, where Jer was able to coax one of the guys to run him to the gas station and back. This meant he got to ride in the owner's brand new Audi wagon (the car Jeremy has been drooling over since we arrived in Europe). He said they hit 200km (that's about 120mph) and it felt like butter.

We went limping into a gas station in some unknown town in northern Greece, popped the hatch, and discovered the problem. One of the fuel lines had cracked and was dumping gas as we drove. We found a small garage that could fix the problem for us in the morning. Unfortunately this meant bedding down in a somewhat frightening campground in this town that we still don't know the name of. A hot shower would at least wash our woes away....nope, keep dreaming. Is it too much to ask for a nice warm shower after a hellish day? Why yes, yes it is. And first you'll have to kill 8 good sized spiders on the shower floor before dousing yourself with ice water.

The garage was able to replace the fuel line in a few short hours, and with a mere 120 euro missing (which seemed very reasonable), we were off again. But only temporarily. We came to a screeching halt once again, this time because the water light started flashing and then the temperature gauge immediately hit crucial levels. Pop the hatch again, and this time we find a radiator hose sheered off. It was old and brittle and had just had enough. A road assistance van pulled over and I watched as Jer and the guy played a game of charades to work through the issue, since the guy spoke zero English, and well, our Greek is limited to reading the alphabet letters (and then only the ones in caps!). Together they were able to cut the dead end off the hose and by warming it with a lighter and stretching it profusely, get it to fit back onto the such and such part. Yeah, I know, I shouldn't be the one reporting on car stuff, so bear with me.

This same scenario played out another 3 times, and each time it was increasingly difficult for Jer to get the hose to stretch and refit. He was covered in black diesel grime and sweat, and up to the gills with frustration and despair. Not only that, our water tank was depleted from refilling the radiator, so if this happened again before we could find water, we were really going to be in trouble. Can you say S-T-R-E-S-S-I-N!!

We finally landed in Athens and at this point we were just desperate to find a campground for the night and worry about the fixes the next day. It was getting late and all tourist information booths were closed at that point. Between our two guidebooks (we pilfered a second one back at a Venician campground) and the GPS, (which is loaded with lodging options and is usually how we find a campground), we could not come up with a single thing. In a huge city like Athens! We drove around and around 2 different places that were listed but didn't seem to exist at all. We paid tolls to get off an exit, drive around aimlessly, and then pay the toll again to re-enter the highway. We finally decided to try our luck by heading into the busy part of the city to find an internet cafe to look up a place to stay, only to break down just before a very busy intersection. Guess how many people pulled over to help us? Nada. Nada single one.

We hadn't eaten or had any water for ourselves to drink since breakfast, so the glow of that McDonald's sign was like a gift from the heavens. Feeling a little refreshed, we found an internet cafe. We easily mapped one of the campgrounds we'd been searching for when Jer decided to run back out to the van to grab the GPS so we could plug in the coordinates and find this effing place once and for all. We hadn't been away for more than 10 minutes at that point. He comes back and says we need to go. The van has been broken into and our laptop was gone. The quiet, calm way he relayed this info was actually kinda creepy. I think he was just out of reserves at that point and had nothing left to even get mad.

Someone had used a screwdriver or something similar to jam the driver's side lock because it was unlocked when Jeremy went back and we haven't been able to unlock it with the key since. That's still on the list to get fixed. It seems to have been a mad dash to grab whatever they could find because as far as we can tell, only the laptop was taken. Our ipods, our hard drive with all our pictures (WHEW!), the GPS, all still there. Granted they were hidden away and would've taken some searching, but all the doors and hinges were open so it seemed like they went through things, at least briefly. The biggest punch to the stomach was that in that 10 minutes of internet time, I read an email from my boss, breaking the news that my job wouldn't be available for me to go back to. Yep, my dream job that you've all heard me rave about time and again, working for the most amazing people and doing work I actually enjoyed....the perfect fit I've always searched for. Yep, no more. It was all just too much to take in and we were both stunned, exhausted, and totally bummed out. We didn't even talk about it much. The day had just zapped us into empty little shells with Filet o' fish in our bellies.

This all happened on a Friday, and we were stuck in Athens until at least Monday when the garages would re-open. Let me say that Athens is not a city worth more than a day out of your life, and maybe not even then. I'd say skip it all together and fly straight to the islands if you want to visit. The Acropolis/Parthenon was a sight I've always been dying to see but turned out to be very expensive, and shockingly unimpressive. Maybe we've been ruined by the amazing ruins of Rome or Cambodia, but really?? This is the famed Acropolis?? IF you can see it through all the scaffolding....

We tried everything to get out of the doldrums. Treated ourselves to movies, saw our first live futbol game at the Olympic stadium, drowned ourselves in tallboy Mythos beers and countless gyros (the real deal Greek tzaziki is unbeatable). We'd be lifted for a short period and then fall right back down into our bummed out status. This was most disturbing of all because it's so unlike us. We were like a couple of zombies meandering around. We just couldn't manage to cheer up and roll with the punches this time.

Luckily, the VW dealership was able to get a connector part for us for next to nothing, and Jeremy was able to reattach the existing hose. We mad-dashed outta Athens shortly after, catching a ferry to the island of Santorini. We landed and rolled into a primitive campsite a few meters in from the black sand beach on the SE side of the island in Perissa. It was closing for the season in two days but the lady welcomed us to stay as long as we wanted and left the power, and hot (albeit salt water - that was interesting) showers on for us. Things were looking up already. That was, until we checked our email, only to have the same news from Jeremy's company. Skanska is looking at a hiring freeze at best, but more likely to downsize, so bringing Jeremy back on board wouldn't be in the cards until this time next year. On top of that we got news that the company we bought the van from doesn't have funds to buy it back like planned (AGAIN, due to the economy. At this point I'd like to send a shout out to GW and his cronies for the lovely situation they put us in). We'll have to sell it through her on consignment, rather than to her for her own resale. It should sell with no problem, but not until Spring when the season starts up again. Man, when it rains, it pours! I've come to think that's better though - get it all over with at the same time instead of a long, painful, drawn out barrage of bad news.

So, since the funds from selling the van was the chunk of change we were planning to go home with, coupled with our new-found (okay, not so new-found, just permanently-found) umemployed status, we are more than a little stressed about what life will be like when we land home. We are therefore cutting out about a month of the trip, and heading home in time for Thanksgiving. It's a strange dichotomy of emotions at this point, as we're very excited to get home and see everyone, get back to life as we knew it, etc. But at the same time, we've cut out several places (among them Egypt/Jordan, which was my toppity-top destination spot of all), are fast-tracking the drive back to Holland, and are now heading back from this adventure to possibly very stressful and less than ideal circumstances. We won't be able to move back into our house for a few months and will probably be crashing with Jeremy's parents until then. I guess we always said we'd be starting over like we were fresh out of college....just didn't know how literally that would translate!

Thankfully though, just when we thought we couldn't drag our knuckles through the doldrums for one more minute, we stumbled into the Blues Bar in Perissa and met Tony, the Greek/Canadian bartender and owner who literally never wipes the shit eating grin off his face for a minute, not even when it's 5am and he's praying we'll all just get the hell outta his bar. Then there were the British angels: Mike and Julie, and Clive and Elaine, who were all so gregarious and optimistic that it was contagious down to our bones. A few days later the Marin County firefighters rolled in, led by John the big teddy bear. It felt like everyone was a big, happy family, and every single night for a week straight, we'd all congregate at the Blues Bar and hang out until the wee hours. The crew helped us to put things back in perspective. We'd already acknowledged what great luck we'd had all along, and I'd even said I'd been feeling like we were "due" for something unfortunate to happen. It was just our time. We left Santorini revived and refreshed and feeling like ourselves again. Turns out a little beach and boozing time was just what the doctor ordered.

Though the computer held some important documentation (copies of downloaded credit card and bank statements, copies of our tenants' leases, and our huge budgeting spreadsheet), none of it was life threatening to lose. We did have some subsequent fraudulent charges to our bank account that were reversed, but besides a nasty email from our previous tenant, it doesn't seem the thieves have done anything with her personal information. What we miss most is the sentimental information like our travel documentation of where we've been and stayed, videos from our bull fighting experience, and videos we'd created as we were in the midst of putting together a Cribs style video about Floyd the van (which was going to be hilarious!) Ah well. I also had several VERY funny, witty, and extremely well written blogs, FULL of hilarious stories and interesting tidbits waiting to be posted as well. My best work to date, for sure. Maybe they'll get recreated someday. On that note, without the computer, we probably won't be blogging anymore after this. We will continue with the posts and pictures once we're home though, so keep tuning in. We still have so many stories to share, both for your reading enjoyment and our memories, but we can't afford the time and cost of doing it all in internet cafes anymore. We'll keep you posted as to actual landing dates and times, and will VERY much be looking forward to catching up with everyone!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Father Figure

Though we'll likely be the last people we know to take the plunge, spitting out a Mini-Budd or two (that one's for you, Bucholz) is still in the not-too-distant future for us. It's no secret that I have my reservations, however, from the alien being kicking around inside me (not to mention the frighteningly large belly that develops), to the sleepless nights (I LOVE my sleep), to a few years down the road when the cute little baby turns into the toddler monster and I want to send him/her/it back to where it came from. Each time I express one of these concerns, Jer responds with a calm, “Don't worry, honey, I'll get up in the middle of the night with it. I'll change all the poopy diapers. I'll....... “ His calm helps dispel some of my fears, and there's never been any doubt that he will make an amazing daddio. However, my confidence in his fatherly abilities has taken a serious nosedive recently. Who knew he would be such a neglectful, murderous father instead??

After solidly denying my half serious, half joking comments about how we need a little kittie or doggo to accompany us in Floyd, we instead settled on a small plant from Ikea. Our newest addition was clearly and undeniably an effeminate French man, and was aptly named Pierre. I have the blackest of black thumbs and am determined to turn my thumbs green. Pierre was the perfect test run for this. If I can keep a plant alive and thriving in a tiny little van, I surely can do it in a house with actual oxygen circling through it. Right?

Yes, I just referred to Pierre in past tense. That is because HIS FATHER chose to leave him out on the curb at the Paris airport. FOR GOOD. We set him out there to soak up a little sun, and while Mommy was napping (okay I guess that doesn't bode exceptionally well for my motherly skills either), Daddy decided to drive away and leave poor little Pierre to fend for himself. For the rest of his undoubtedly short, sun-crisped life.

I was seriously upset and guilt-ridden about how we'd left our one and only son in the sun on a curb at an international airport. In order to recover from our grief, we headed back to Ikea (they are everywhere in Europe) and added Gonzales to our family instead. As you can imagine, he was clearly a sassy little Spanish guy, ready to shake things up. He also thrived under unusual van conditions (clearly due to my greening thumb), until we did a hike in the such and such mountains outside Mogadouro, Portugal. Once again, little Gonzales was transferred outside, this time to the top of Floyd, to catch a tan. My warnings of “Don't neglect your son this time” did no good for poor Gonzales' fate. Sure enough, we landed back at our campsite later that night, as a family of two rather than three. Actually, I mean a family of three, rather than four. Please don't tell Floyd I said that – it would really hurt his feelings.

So, once again we are childless. And sadly enough, I don't have a single picture of either Pierre or Gonzales to commemorate their brief time with us. I guess I didn't realize how short-lived and fleeting it would be. In all seriousness, it was rather surprising and amusing to realize the level of guilt I felt over the fate of these poor, innocent spawn that we so mercilessly left to bake in the sun (without a bit of sunscreen, I might add.) Are we fit to be parents after all? Can I really trust Jeremy to get up in the middle of the night to change poopy diapers while I, pills popped and earplugs inserted, snooze soundly away? Or should we just resign ourselves now to cats and nieces? Oh great, now Nate and Eleissa won't even let us babysit, I'm sure of it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Running? With the Bulls

The slam of Ricardo and Yolanda's car door next to us woke me up, at 8:00. SHIT!!! The bulls are released at 8:00 and we're at least 20 minutes from getting there, even if we haul ass. I ran over to Jonathan and Courtney's tent - “Dude, it's 8:00!!! I slept through my alarm!!! FUCK!!!” “Uggggg...” was the response I got. Well, back to bed I go. Talk about pissed. And not only pissed, but I was feeling terribly guilty about being the one with the wake up call and sleeping through it. And it was the last day of the festival so it's not like we could just do it tomorrow. Plus, Rick and a few other guys from Holland had left us a note to please wake them up when we got up in the morning to go running. DAMMIT!!!
I had totally blown it. I can honestly say that this is the one thing that I truly regret on our trip so far. I had the chance to run with the bulls and I chose to party all night long instead. I'm an idiot. I really hated myself that day.

But as pissed as I was, I apparently wasn't going to let it ruin my day. While (my) Courtney laid in the van, hungover, watching The Hangover on the laptop, Jonathan, Kevin and I were at the bar doing tequila shots and drinking beers. I guess it helped to numb the pain a bit. We couldn't let the trip to Pamplona go to waste, so we opted for the next best, most authentic event of the festival – the final night of the bull fights. Honestly, this was not something that either Courtney or I really wanted to see, but we weren't going to judge before we saw it. As it turns out, it was quite gruesome and hard to watch at some points, but at the same time quite graceful and you could see the great tradition of which the sport was born. To the bull fight, we can now say “Been there. Done that.” Don't have to do it again. It actually gives Courtney nightmares sometimes.

So we made the best of our last night in town. We still had a few cocktails but managed to tone it down a little. Jonathan and Courtney bombed out of town at around midnight to go meet up with a friend in France and Kev stuck around to “pursue other ventures”. We passed out for a long snooze after two hard days of liver abuse. Other entertainment highlights from Pamplona included touring the beautiful Airstream trailer of Bill the Brit (plusher than plush could be) and sitting, wondering curiously, with beer in hand, why the three guys across the way were going full force into their workout routine that would probably have made me puke on my best day. One armed push ups, upside down push ups, bending steel, lifting cars, knocking over trees... We hung out with the guys later on and they were actually really cool, we just all agreed that nope, not on our holiday.

So now I'll probably end up like Billy Crystal, running with the bulls when I'm 50, coming home with a new a-hole. Overall Pamplona was awesome, but could have been the probable highlight of the entire trip if only I wasn't such a dumb ass. I guess it was especially cool since it wasn't even on the itinerary until a few days before we rolled into town. I'll try hard not to regret too much the things that almost weren't even possible anyways. I'm looking on the bright side.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bitter Sweet

It's classic Courtney and Jer travel planning. Not until we are on the way to Bilbao do we realize that (say it really fast like you're really excited about it) “Hey, after the concert we can bomb down to Pamplona and catch the end of the San Fermin Festival (aka the Running of the Bulls). Theeeen we can bomb down to Barcelona and catch the Tour de France. We can paint a big Livestrong logo on the side of Floyd since he's the perfect shade of yellow and go kick it with Lance. Sweet!” Knock knock. Who's there? Reality checking in. You already missed the Spanish legs of the Tour. Better luck “next time”. “Next time”... an unfortunate recurrence in this story.

So out of Bilbao we go heading to Pamplona. With the GPS set on “no toll roads” we have a wonderful tour through the Spanish hill towns. It was surely a slower go than taking the highways, but so much more enjoyable. We passed through some of the cutest little villages, often only at 20 km per hour with the steep hills, and by some of the most picturesque sunflower and wheat fields you could imagine.

Rolling into the campsite outside of Pamplona that evening we were greeted by crowds of sangria soaked festival goers, bus loads full of travel-Europe-on-a-bus-in-a-drunken-haze ala spring break twenty-somethings and plenty of Euro-pop, oonce'ing its way out of the stereo at the bar. Apparently we arrived at the right time. San Fermin runs for one week, and we got there on day five. We got in a bit late that night so we had some dinner and relaxed before bed.

The next morning we were up bright and early, ready to catch the 7:15 bus into town. We made our way into the bull ring, as opposed to trying to cram our way along the path that the bulls run through town, and got to some empty seats in the upper deck. A bit short on the requisite all white outfits with red belt and bandanna around the neck, we stood out a little in the crowd. Sorry, my white pants were at the dry cleaners. They had a big screen that would scroll through all of the stats for the bulls that were running that day – Vandalico, 550 kg... Oficial, 535 kg... Incapaz, 615 kg... Suenomio, 635 kg!!! Courtney and I had talked the night before about whether or not I would actually run with the bulls. My answer was yes, I would love to be a part of this amazing experience, but knowing absolutely nothing about it, maybe we should watch from the bull ring the first day. Now that we're there and seeing the size of those mothers... holy crap. So aside from the frightening tale of the tape that they had scrolling on the jumbotron, there was a band down in the bull ring entertaining the audience as well as several bands in the crowd that would burst out in song every few minutes. The crowd was always chanting and singing along, so festive and everyone was in such a great mood. No doubt largely enhanced by the vast quantities of sangria that are consumed on a minute-by-minute basis.

To start the events off, there is a traditional chant that all of the runners do, praying to San Fermin for their health and assuredly their hides as well. A giant bottle rocket is shot off to signal that the bulls have been released from their pen and that you need to start movin' your ass. Then another rocket goes off to signal that all of the bulls are actually out of the pen and that you're about to get trampled. They have a flying camera on a wire, akin to those you find in NFL stadiums, that follows the path of the run all the way into the bull ring and that is beamed onto the big screen so everyone in the stadium gets to watch the action. About a minute and a half later the first runners trickle into the ring, then they start to flood in, then the six bulls run into and directly out of the ring, led and followed by the tender-bulls that are used to guide the ornery (ie non-castrated) bulls on their journey to the ring. A third rocket goes off signaling that the bulls have entered the ring and then quickly a fourth and final rocket goes off to signal that all of the bulls are safely out of the bullring. Man that was exciting! Let's go home.

Not quite. Now comes the entertainment for those of us who were sitting patiently in the bullring through all of this running excitement. First off, Juan Madden gets in the control booth and starts going wild with the instant replay. All of the prime gorings and tramplings from the run are reviewed, in slow mo, forward, back, highlighted with a little bubble where each guy took a hoof to the nuts or a horn to the rib cage. This is on par with good old American trash TV. Once they've finally run through all of the good footage, the live entertainment starts. One at a time, while all of the runners are still in the bull ring, they let another bull loose to play with everyone. This guys is smaller, has corked horns but is still feisty. Here's the chance for all of the runners who felt that they didn't get a big enough thrill on the run to see what they've got against a live bull. It's not so much that they do their best matador wannabe moves, rather they run by the bull and smack him on the butt or get in front of him and try and juke him out as he charges. The pros will run and dive over the bulls for a good cheer. After five minutes or so they trot a giant, calm herder-bull into the ring and he rounds up the wild one. This goes on six times and after an hour or so the show is over.

As a new bull is released into the ring, all of the crazy folks will lie down in front of the doorway so that the bull jumps over the pile of people. Usually the pile gets so big that bulls only make it about half way across the pile and have to jump off the people mid-pile. There was one guy who was kind of the all-star of the show this day. An obviously western guy with big blond dreads rolling down his back. He stood out because of the hair, and because he wasn't in uniform, so you would always spot him when he got close to the bulls. One time he got a little too close and the bull ended up with his backpack hanging off of a horn. That brought a big cheer from the crowd. He got it back eventually and continued to test his fate as the bulls kept coming. One time he got kind of tangled up with the bull and kind of had to hold onto its head and horns to keep from getting gored. Now this, if done on purpose, is a big no-no. There is definitely a certain etiquette to interacting with the bulls, and touching their heads is highly frowned upon. But then again, if it's the only thing you can do to not get totally trampled then go for it. But some folks in the ring didn't think that Dreads was playing nice and went after him throwing haymakers. I don't think they landed any, and things got broken up pretty quickly. The most entertaining part of the interaction was when the cops then dragged the angry Spaniard who was ready to fight over the wall and out of the bull ring like a ragdoll. That got the biggest cheer of the day.

One of the funniest things to watch was when the bulls would clear the wall. Now the runners who are seeking refuge would jump over the wall of the bullring, out of harms way. The walls would often get lined with people who didn't want to look scared and actually jump over the wall, but didn't want to get in the middle of the ring to tangle with the bulls. The bulls would often drop a horn and run along the wall, forcing all of those taking a rest to flee in an instant. It was like a mini wave. Hilarious. After all six bulls had their chance to run around with the guys in the ring, we made our way out to the streets of Pamplona. We wandered the streets for a while, up and down the path that everyone runs and just took in the sights of old town Pamplona. An obvious highlight from our walk was the helping of warm churros and thick, chocolate dipping drink that we munched on. Mmmm... churros... A little shopping and a bit more wandering and we were back to the campsite by mid day. Time to do laundry.

A little while later we got some new neighbors – Jonathan, Courtney and Kevin – travelers from OZ and NZ – coming to Pamplona to see what all of the excitement is about. Well, Kev had been to Pamplona earlier that week but he was back to pursue his aspirations with the pretty bar maid at the campsite. Go Kev! We hung out all day and after several bottles of sangria, several bottles of wine and a few beers we were heading back into town to party. Downtown was so lively and everywhere you went there were people chanting, singing and loving the overall merriment of the evening. Every beer seemed to be at least a litre, so things got fuzzy quickly. What was very clear to all of us now is that the boys were going to run with the bulls tomorrow. The Courtneys weren't quite game, but they were down with grabbing a ringside seat and taking lots of photos of us hopefully not getting a new hole. I was much less apprehensive about running too, since I now had some buddies to do it with. All we had to do was wake up at 5:00 am, IN TWO HOURS, so that we can make it to town on the 5:30 bus and get there in time to get onto the path before the officials lock it down. Let's just say we should have stayed up all night.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More From Our Back Door

There were of course your ancient ruined houses speckling the hillsides and the resident goats crossing the path in hopes of a handout. As we neared our halfway point about three hours in, we made our way down a side trail to the riverbed. Cool, clear and ready for a swim if only it were a bit warmer that day. The trail went on much further but we opted to do a 180 and head back to the van. Amazingly, the landscape was so beautifully varied that the walk home offered up totally new scenery, just by turning around.

The natural beauty of the Ruta de Cares brought with it some other truly unique and entertaining sights to behold.

I told Courtney at one point along our hike that I'm sure we'd see some fashionable Spanish lady walking this trail in heels. Well, here she is.

And something we didn't expect to see - a unicycler. A frickin' unicycler!

La Paz and Picos de Europa definitely gave us the back-to-nature feeling that we were looking for. It's been interesting to see the phases we go through – feeling naturey, feeling like the city, feeling like “doin' stuff”. We have definitely found that it's a pretty even balance, with a bit of lean towards the natural goodness. It's the hippie in us. Thanks for all the Berkeley-esque influence Mom and Dad.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The View From Our Back Door

After three weeks of ice cream, blue cheese cream sauces and Courtney and I not sharing meals (like we normally do now) in France with the Family Meibergen, then concert quantities of concert booze and concert food and then shifting it into high gear for three days in Pamplona, we were ready for a break. Nature was calling, and we didn't just have to pee. North we went to San Sebastian, along the Atlantic coast for some sunny beaches and good tapas. We found both and for two days we soaked them up, but this wasn't scratchin' the nature itch.

We headed west along the coast until we came to Llanes, Spain. Fortunately for us, back in Pamplona Bill the Brit had told Johnny the workout king who then told us about a great campsite up in the Llanes area called La Paz. Well we found it and Bill was right, simply amazing. Camping La Paz is situated right on the water on a fantastically terraced hillside. Pretty much every single site has a wonderful, unobstructed ocean view and makes you feel like you're camping right there on the beach. And this was only half of the greatness that this area had to offer.

Not a bad view from the showers.

We were also right on the edge of the Parque Nacional Picos de Europa and what we found there was just as great as the grand camping status that La Paz had offered up. We drove into the park for about an hour, parked Floyd along the roadside and made our way to the Ruta de Cares trail. The trail runs from the little village of Poncebos and follows the Rio Cares pretty much as far as you want to follow it. You're in the middle of the mountains and the trail fires off at a pretty good grade right from the start. The valley that you're in is surrounded on all sides by steep cliffs that give you a serious sense of vertigo when you look up their faces at the the drifting clouds. After a while the trail works its way right onto the cliff faces so that your high side goes straight up the rock face while your downhill side drops of a sheer cliff. You've got your four foot wide path and that's it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Let's Rock!

A much anticipated visit by the family Meibergen was just what we needed. With the exception of a few weeks in China with Murphy, we've been void of live and in person contact with friends and family for the past eight months. Our visit with Carl, Sheila and Ben through France was very relaxing and at the same time quite action packed. But this was only a warm up for the next few weeks of adventure.

Their 5:00 am wake up call was supposed to be our 5:00 am wake up call, but a crappy nights sleep, sore throats and apparent general lack of z's lately resulted in hitting the snooze button until closer to noon. Well, at least we got more than twelve hours out of our 33 Euro parking space in Nice – at least that was worth it now... So with a Big Mac in our bellies we hit the road. The pre-dawn wake up was supposed to get us on the road and bombing over to Bilbao, 1,000 km to the west along the northern coast of Spain, to a three day concert festival – Bilbao BBK Live – arriving in town just as the opening act started playing on Thursday evening. Well the late start, Pyrenees, low power-to-weight ratio of Floyd and sheer distance ensured our late arrival. So unfortunately we missed out on seeing the Ting Tings, Depeche Mode, (Michael - will you ever speak to us again??)The Editors and a few more. We were definitely sad we missed them all, but luckily we had two more days of acts to look forward to.

A night spent at another lovely French rest area left us refreshed and ready to rock. When we bought the tickets online back in May, while we were in London, we were stoked to find them for only 40 British pounds each (rather than the 150 Euro sticker price) and that included camping. What we didn't read in the fine print until the night before the show was that it was for tents only, carried in on the complementary shuttle bus, up at the venue. Floyd was unfortunately not going to be able to rock out with us this time. Anyways, we made it into town and eventually found our way to the over-sized parking lot where our high-top super van could actually fit. It was a great spot actually – right on the river in the middle of central Bilbao. And it didn't cost a dime. A nice stroll to the other side of the river, a complementary shuttle bus ride and few hundred feet in elevation got us to the venue that evening. The show was in a great spot on a hilltop just outside the city with an amazing view of everything below. Dueling stages were set up for quick transitions between bands, there was a grassy hillside that offered sunny views of both stages and the beers were large and cold, albeit 7 Euro a pop.

Friday night we were entertained by the likes of Supergrass, Babyshambles, Dave Mathews Band, Chris Cornell, Kaiser Chiefs, Jane's Addiction and Echo & The Bunnymen. For a while we were happy with lounging on the hillside, soaking up the rays, tunes and drinks, but the concert vibe struck us as the night went on. As we sat and watched the show we noticed that while one stage was rockin', the other was in transition for the next act and left almost totally void of fans. Well hell, if that's the case I think we have an opportunity to get up front. We've both seen Dave several times and absolutely love his live shows. Now we had the chance to see him from the front rail instead of the nosebleeds. So we went and stood at the front of the crowd, well, in the second row rather, and swayed to the sounds of Babyshambles that were pumping out across the lawn. We were also entertained by the drunken, obnoxious, please-foreigner-hook-up-with-me American girl who stood right in front of us. Classic entertainment. And of course, much to our pleasure, Dave's show, while only an hour and a half long, was awesome. The guy is so charismatic, funny, dorky and damn talented on stage. Plus Tim Reynolds played with them and they have picked up a very respectable replacement on the saxophone. Highlight show of the night for both of us. As for the rest of the night - Chris Cornell was rad when he played old Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog or Audio Slave songs, mediocre when he pulled out tunes from the new album (WTF was he thinking teaming up with Timbaland?!?!)... Kaiser Chiefs were really good... had never heard of Babyshambles before but they were good, Jane's Addiction was super lively and energetic and back with the original line up that included dreamy,shirtless Dave Navarro so Courtney was happy... there were super kebabs that weren't so super and enough free Modelo bandanas to last a lifetime.

Saturday gave us the opportunity to sleep in, do a little grocery shopping and recoup a bit from the sickness that had hit us both. That night we made it to see the Phenomenal Handclap Band, Baddies, Asian Dub Foundation, Primal Scream and Placebo. Everyone put on a good show, but we especially enjoyed the Baddies (very British pop) and Phenomenal Handclap Band (quite an eclectic mix of sounds). Courtney and I were both a little tipsy and really looking forward to hopping in to the Guitar Hero tent that they had set up, but after seeing the guy rock the drums on expert and put the video game to shame, we shied away. I think our video game guitar skills are best left for Jimmy and Sara's living room. We opted out of the late night DJ tent both nights, but apparently it was open with x'd out concert goers dancing around in trancy goodness until 7:00 am each morning. More power to you guys... I'm going to bed.

We were able to have a nice bike ride around central Bilbao on Sunday. There is a beautiful old town area that is classically cobble stoned, narrow streeted and quaintly European, as was to be expected. The real highlight of Bilbao in terms of the touristy things to do is the Guggenheim Museum. It's as wild on the outside as you'd expect and according to the guidebook, much better to look at than what's actually inside the museum. Ya, we didn't go in. No time. We were off to our next destination – Pamplona!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Potato Fairies

After three days of on and off showers on the beaches of Bol on the Croatian island of Brac, we solemnly made a very serious toast to more sunshine in our future. After clinking his pivo (beer) to my Grasevina (crisp white wine) we discussed the possibilities of this coming true, and decided that such an intentional and earnest toast was as good as a Native American rain dance.

Beginning the next day, and every day since, we've had nothing but glorious sun-shiney days and not a drop of rain.

Just outside the city of Dubrovnik, we pulled off to the side of the road to look up the address for the campground we were hoping to find. I noticed we were surrounded by thick bushes of wild rosemary everywhere I looked, so I jumped out and snipped a few sprigs. We agreed that we'd definitely look for some potatoes at a market in town so that we could make our favorite rosemary, caramelized onion and garlic breakfast potatoes. We arrived at the campsite when it was pitch dark and settled in for the night. The next morning we awoke to a full sack of potatoes on our “front porch”, along with a voucher for the remaining 15 minutes of internet time at one of the reception area computers. The potato fairy heard our call and delivered!

We figure we're on a roll now, so next stop: Vegas!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The French Invasion

I'm not sure how or when, but through the course of many email exchanges working out the details of our impending travels together, my dad decided the Meibergen/Buddress combination was heretofore to be known as Team Buddbergen. After much anticipation, Team Buddbergen finally reunited in Paris on June 23rd. We picked everyone (all whopping 3 of them: Mom Sheila, Pops Carl, and bro Ben) up in Floyd, who was thrilled to make their acquaintance, and watched in awe as Jer managed to effortlessly maneuverer us through the busy streets of downtown Paris toward our hotel.

The fun started with 4 days in Paris and we really packed it in. We visited The Louvre, the Orsay, and L'Orangerie, and those were just the museums! We saw Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter a few times, as the city bike tour we took led us back to the handful of sights we'd already seen. We had a hilarious tour guide and it was a fun experience, ending with an hour long river cruise on the Siene. We scored some amazing night shots of the Eiffel Tower as we cruised along, sipping on our bike tour boxed wine.

I don't think any of us were prepared for the amount of walking we did in those 4 days, covering all the main sights and neighborhoods. My mom and Ben were especially jet-lagged, as they had both come off of crazy work schedules (Ben finishing culinary school at the same time), and at one point my mom just had to crash and take a nap. My dad headed to Versailles and the three of us made our way to Montmartre and the Sacre Coure, scored a bench and had a great time (again) sipping cheap wine and people watching.

It soon became a joke/contest to see how many shots we could acquire of either of my parents snoozing, as it was the most commonplace sightseeing of all. It didn't matter if it was on the bumpy, shaky underground metro, or literally standing next to our bicycle tour guide, the rents were catching zzzz's, Parisian style!

Somewhere along the way, another competition erupted: the crustache contest. Both Ben and Jer have the good(?) fortune to be hairy dudes, so growing a mustache in the few weeks we spent together was a no brainer. I couldn't decide whose was scarier. Ben's little sparse, black strip of hair made him look just like the prepubescent Hispanic teens in 7th grade at Carson Junior High, who were an anomaly because NO ONE could grow facial hair at that age. Jer's was thicker, but didn't look that way because it was bright red and the way it caught the light made it look pretty sparse. I think the contrast of the red-stache to his dark hair made his a little crustache-ier because it just looked WRONG. The whole idea was awful and hilarious, especially since every day Ben would whine and plead that he hated it and please please could he shave it off. He had sworn to keep it until he deplaned and could shock and horrify his girlfriend Dani – I forgot to ask – did she get to see it? And now that I think about it, did we ever declare a winner?

We had a few tasty meals in Paris, but the stand-outs food wise were the crepes and the glaces (ice cream cones). I couldn't decide if I liked the savory (ham, cheese, mushrooms, onions) or the sweet (banana and nutella) crepe more. The glace at Amorino takes the cake though. Not only do they serve it up in an appetizing flower-shaped concoction of multiple flavors, the ice cream is outta this world. It TOTALLY whoops the ass of the famous Berthillon ice cream if you ask any of Team Buddbergen!

After everyone was thoroughly exhausted, we made our way south to Provence, and specifically to a charming little town called Rognes. My dad had found a great little villa there for the week with an awesome patio and pool area.  It was such a treat for Jer and I to have the house and pool, that we stayed home from a few daytrips just to enjoy that. Each morning we were greeted by a gaggle of donkeys, which the neighbor brought over to munch on the grasses that lined the villa's driveway. My dad affectionately named a few of them, Monsieur Eddie is the one I remember most, and they were very docile and let us pet them and ride them bronco style around the lawn. Kidding! They did gratefully accept our offers of carrots and apples, however.

The only downside to our lovely villa had to do with the fact that it was a country house after all, and while that meant we had fresh lavender for our bedside tables, rosemary and thyme to cook with, and mint for our mojitos, it also meant that we shared the house with our fare share of creepy crawlies. None caused any real trouble, until one night when Ben glanced up from his book to find a quarter-sized spider chillin right by his head in his bedroom. We were already asleep, but awoke to Ben's frantic whispers of “Jer, umm, JER! Can you come help me PLEASE?!” Family vacations are all about getting closer, right? Well I learned that my 6'4” thickly muscled brother is a total and complete wimpy scaredycat when it comes to spiders and had to call on his brother-in-law to kill the spider for him! This I never knew, and unfortunately for him, I don't think any of Team Buddbergen will let him forget it.

I especially loved Provence.  Everywhere you turn, there are fields and fields of sunflowers or lavender, so it's beautiful and smells great! We checked out a few of the charming neighboring towns, including Uzes, St. Remy, Aix-en-Provence, and the Pont du Gard, an amazing old two-tiered Roman acquaduct, but mostly we just relaxed. True to Buddbergen style, we played games: cards or our newly aquired mental stimulator called Hive. We cooked some pretty fabulous meals too, a few of which were good enough to rival those of the famous French cuisine we sampled along the way (Ben is nearly graduated from culinary school, after all!) Beer can chicken was definitely a yummy and funny-looking highlight, as well as some tasty pastas and a throw-everything-we-have-left-and-need-to-use-up-together quiche on our last night that turned out to be scrumptious. And of course, there was no shortage of fantastic wine to accompany these meals. Our favorite was the Bandol Rose (Ros-ay...I don't know how to do the fancy accent over the E). Ros-ays from the Rhone Valley are fabulous....dry, zesty, and very refreshing. In other words, they are completely opposite their syrupy pink cousins that have such a bad reputation in the States.

The last stop on the French tour was to again head south, to the coast. We stayed in a charming hotel called Hotel La Parisiana in La Napoule, about 10 or 15 minutes West of Cannes. I still miss the morning breakfast of dark, rich, coffee and the most exquisite, flaky crossiants ever to walk the earth. We always loved taste-testing the array of amazing jam flavors that came in itty bitty mini jam jars. Not exactly environmentally ideal, but adorable nonetheless. La Napoule was a quieter, smaller version of the madness of Cannes and it was just perfect. My favorite part was the night market that opened up each evening along the boardwalk. After dinner we'd grab a few scoops of our requisite glace dessert and make our way over there. We had so much fun strolling through the tables and booths, finding all sorts of cool crafty things and great gifts. We've seen our share of markets on this trip now, but this one never got old.

After a quick evening in Nice, where the fam was to fly out of at the crack of dawn the next morning, we were definitely sad to see the Meibergens head home!  In the beginning it was clear that all 3 of them were in desperate need of a vacation, which made for an interesting contrast to our well slept, relaxed lifestyle, but when they left they seemed relaxed and at ease. I think the vacation had done everyone good! I felt a little depressed for a few days afterward even though it was also nice to get back to “normal life” again with the two of us and our boy Floyd. We made off West along the coast to continue our adventures.....

More French pics

Mom napping as she literally stands directly next to our tour guide giving his history schpeel...though maybe this was the best position of all so as not to get busted... Not to mention the standing nap - you'd think she was Jeremy's mom instead of mine!

Not too hard to believe they're related to me, huh?

Notre Dame at night...Jer's work is postcard worthy, eh?

Sunflower fields in Provence


The Provencal palace

Our last night in Nice

Sacre Coeur in Paris

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chubby Mickey

We were on our way out of Disneyland Paris looking for a candy apple for Courtney as our last treat of the day. To her dismay though, all of the candy apple carts were closed so the search continued. We ended up with a multi-colored, three layered bucket of cotton candy to snack on – a distant second but still tasty and fun to munch on nonetheless. What I didn't know about cotton candy is how incredibly fun it can be too!

I honestly can't believe how easy this was... Courtney, Michael and I were sitting near the exit waiting for Tanan and Maria to finish up with their souvenir shopping. The child in me couldn't resist so I dared Courtney to see how much cotton candy she could fit in her mouth at once. Kind of the Chubby Bunny of whipped, colored sugar I suppose. She pulled off a chunk.

“Is this enough?”

“No. I think you need to eat the entire white, second layer of the bucket.”


Wow. Amazing.

She proceeds to pull out the entire second layer of cotton candy from the bucket, pull off wads at a time and shove them in her mouth. To give you an understanding of just how much cotton candy we're talking about here, the bucket itself was about 8 inches in diameter, and said layer of sugared fluff was about 2 inches thick. It didn't take long for the strung sugar to congeal back into a giant mass of sugar blobbiness in her mouth. It got to the point where she couldn't even produce any more spit to get it back into a more dense solution. I was laughing so hard that I didn't even have the wherewithal to take a single damn picture. Luckily Michael was in prime paparazzi form. It took a while, but she did it. I still can't believe I only had to ask once.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Calling all web geeks

Granted this request is only about 11 months late, but I'll ask anyway. Does anyone know how to put a little tracker map onto our blog that can show where we are? It's probably the most common question we get from everyone and since our blog is always dreadfully outdated it's pretty hard to tell.

Thanks to anyone who can help out. Some foreign goodie is coming your way...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sole Low

As many of you know, though I still feel like a kid at heart, I am an old lady in body. Surgeries on both feet by the age of 30, and a thriving collection of Dansko clogs under my belt, I've effectively given up on the idea of wearing heels, or for that matter, cute shoes in general, ever again. (Though the good-for-you shoe companies are coming around with more attractive styles all the time.)

Much to Jer's chagrin, the hunt for comfortable and functional shoes on this trip has been as bad if not worse than at home. All pairs I started with have long since been replaced, and many of those recycled now too. Until, WAALAAAA, the clouds parted and the heavens shown down on the size 8W men's Chaco sandals in an outdoor store in Brisbane, Australia. Jer had been wearing his Chaco's since the summer before we left, but when I tried them they were unbearably uncomfortable. For some reason this pair was different, maybe because they were men's? Not sure, but I slipped into those babies and pretty much never took them off. No need for my old lady arch supports, good for walking, hiking, biking, whatever. These were the shoes to change my world.

UNTIL, some j-hole on a bus from Hue to Hanoi in Vietnam decided these shoes would change his world instead. So the search began again, first with a pair of Fauko's (what we called the fake Chaco's sold everywhere in Hanoi) that were not the same and crapped out very quickly. Then we hit up the Nike store in Guangzhou, China and I settled on a pair of running shoes. My podiatrist discourages my wearing of Nike's but says she understands since we get the 50% family discount (thanks Lis!). She warned me that they'll only last for 2 to 3 months at the most with regular wear, which is true at home. I can feel when a pair of shoes is going out and once they die, boy are they dead. (Also to Jer's chagrin, and now I have back-up from the doctor that I need to keep shoe shopping!)

So with the amount of walking we do these days, my new Nikes lasted me a solid 3 weeks. 3 weeks! The dreaded search was on AGAIN and shoe shopping had officially lost its appeal. I just wanted to find a comfortable, functional, and cute (if possible, but unlikely) pair to last me for a tad longer than 3 weeks! The search finally culminated CULMINATED in Amsterdam, after 8 or 9 other stops, at the Skecher's store, of all places. But if I remember back, after my entire backpack was stolen during my first European trip with Bolton, I replaced the lost shoes with an ugly, clunky, but very comfortable pair of Skecher's too....and they lasted quite well....hmmm. Anyway, I zoned in on the UGLIEST, DORKIEST, most horrific pair of shoes I think I've ever seen in my life. A “new technology” shoe they have coined Shape-Ups. It looks rather like a normal tennis shoe but with an inch of extra squishy foam under the sole. The technology is supposed to mimic walking barefoot and the natural roll of taking a step without shoes on at all. At the same time, it promises to tone your legs and butt, relieve back, knee, and joint pain (which had returned in full force to this old lady, hence the desperate search), and improve your posture. They did it! Invented a miracle shoe! Maybe my search was over for good. I could be the new Shape-Ups spokesmodel and own a dorky pair in every possible color!

But could I do it? I do have some fashion scruples left, and these things were just a completely embarrassing 6 inch tall eyesore. And I'd be wearing TWO of them. I hemmed and hawed, and we continued the search to see if a slightly more attractive pair of workable shoes existed anywhere. In the end I sucked it up and bought my new Rollers (as Jer calls them). It was immediate relief physically, but mentally it took a whole new gearing up. Everywhere we walked, I could feel people staring at my hilarious new shoes....and I'm not making that up. It wasn't just paranoia, they are head-turners! See for yourself.

I'm over the embarrassment for the most part now and wear them with what little pride I have left. I can't say my buns are now perfectly sculpted and rock hard, but they really do give you a bit of a workout when you walk. Because of the squishy sole, you're constantly trying to stabilize yourself, which engages muscles that you end up feeling a bit at the end of the day. And let me say that squatting over a nasty toilet you don't dare sit on is no small feat in these things either.....trying to squat and stabilize, while rockin' and rollin' back and forth, aiming correctly at the same takes skill and practice! They have definitely taken some getting used to though....staircases especially presented a daunting challenge for this clutso at first; either direction I had to hold onto Jer for support. Even now that I'm used to them I still often “peel out” with a nice loud tire screech sound, and usually always just walking along even ground. Just one more way these babies turn heads.

Go out and get yourself a pair – all the cool kids are wearing them!

Friday, August 28, 2009

You're Going to Sleep Where?!?!

Actually, sleeping in the van has so far been really good. I can't say that the dining area that folds down to a bed with too thin of cushions is on par with the dreamy queen size Sealy Posturpedic at home, but it works. Usually a bit better for Jer than Courtney. She woke up this morning claiming that she had just slept on rocks. So ya, it's a little hard sometimes.

But as far as where we've stayed, it's all over the board. I guess part of the brilliance of the van is that we can pull over pretty much wherever we want and have a meal or a snooze. We've utilized the fully outfitted rest areas many times - no power, but we have the gas and 12 volt to cook and see by. Sometimes it's the oversized vehicle parking lot in whatever town we're in.

We've also had some wonderful free-camps along the side of random roads. Sometimes it takes a while of driving through the neighborhoods to find an acceptable spot to pull over, but sometimes it's very rewarding too. This spot was up in the very north of Holland in a town called Harlingen. We were able to park for free right alongside one of the canals, and since it was a place where boats often moor up there was power for us too. Brilliant!

The campsites we've become accustomed to are a far cry from where we go for camping at home. Usually when we head out into the Pacific Northwest we're taking to the deepest, unmarked forest roads to find the off-the-beaten-track plot of cleared land to drop the tent and get away from anyone and anything. Over here we're looking for something that's a bit more akin to a KOA at home. (Damn you KOA...) With being on the road the actual way of life, we like the amenities. Showers – good. Showers with hot water – good. Free showers with hot water – GOOD! Wi-fi – hit and miss whether we get it or not, but good. Toilet paper in the stalls and soap by the sinks – good. Toilet dump stations, recycling stations, water fill up stations and all of those other facilities to take care of your caravaning needs – good. A big enough plot that gets you far enough away from the neighbor kids so that their screaming doesn't bother you as you try and sleep in – priceless. Even more priceless if the people next to you don't chain smoke and stankify the entire area.

Most of the campsites are pretty clean and give you a sectioned off plot that will be yours for the next 12-72 hours. These are usually pretty standard, but some sites that we've come upon have been downright beautiful. This one, in particular, was in Llanes, Spain along the norther coast. It was a beautifully terraced hillside right on the water and our spot looked over pretty much all of it, with the crashing waves of the Atlantic right out our back bedroom/dining room window. Loved it.

I gotta say, once we get home I won't be sorry to get back to camping in the middle of nowhere, in the woods, in a tent, un-showered, with a cooler of beer, hot dogs and s'mores. Mmmmm... s'mores... But I can say with a good deal of confidence, when we get to that RV'ing age in our later years, a trip down the I-5 to the Marathon factory and showroom will definitely be on the books.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

F'n Ducks!!!

They're everywhere! Next thing you know there's going to be another Joey Heisman banner hanging off of Big Ben.

In Brugge. It's kind of oddly cool that it looks like the Oregon O. Well not cool, shitty, but you know what I mean.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another great conversation

So over the past few months we've had several conversations about how we think we're kind of getting dumber. Ya know, we're really not using the hard working, thinking parts of our brain all that much these days. But topics come up in conversations that seem like things that should be no-brainers. When exactly is Thanksgiving? What's a galaxy? What's the time difference to Portland again? (This happens very often.) Here's another prime example. I love this one...

Scene: Walking the streets of Damme, Belgium, a small town north of Brugge.

Courtney: I know people from France are French and people from Holland are Dutch, but what are people from Belgium called? Belgish? Belch?

Jeremy: (wearing a solid WTF look) Ummm... Belgian, maybe?

Laughter ensues. Twice now this has happened. I was wildly entertained the first time, so you can imagine my delight when it came up again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

China to Relax, HK in a Flash, Bangers & Mash

Translation - photos from Hong Kong, China and the UK. All of which had much more to offer than the title may portray.

Uploaded, released and ready to view.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Courtney's Back - Part 1

When in response to my mom's comment that she often can't tell which one of us is writing a certain blog, Jeremy said “I'll let you in on a little secret. It's always me.” And since it literally has been months since I've put my thoughts to paper/screen, I figure it's time to stop writing blogs in my head and actually write blogs on the blog.

(It turns out that a 5 month silence makes me a tad long-winded. Since Blogger will only allow 4 pictures to be posted on a blog, I broke this post up into several parts so I can include more pics. So....keep reading.)

So we hit a wall in Vietnam. Loved it loved it but then one day we woke up on a bus, covered in bedbugs, and someone had stolen our shoes. It felt like the downnsides of the place had gradually and unknowingly caught up with us all at once and we were over it. So we decided a change of scenery was in order, and after visiting Murphy in China, we forwent (is that a word?) (forgoed?) the original plan of Thailand and Laos and headed straight for Europe. The time with Murph was fantastically just what we needed to refuel....her apartment was very cute and cozy, she had a million pirated movies, really cool friends, and I was able to do some cooking and baking which was awesome. Best of all, we had some serious QT with one of our dearest friends, one who could also relate to the woes of traveling. From there we spent a quick 2 days in Hong Kong, which was a cool city. Kept reminding me of San Fran, of all places. But we were so excited to get the F outta Asia and land in chilly London. Wow, I had a whole new love for that city! We covered every square inch of the place and ate amazing food....I think I could totally live there. I don't remember being dazzled quite that much the first time around.

After that we headed to Holland, to a little town called Utrecht. We totally fell in love with the place. It's a small university town with a hoppin' restaurant and bar scene, and full of cute canals. The cobbled streets were great to stroll around and people watch.

We also found the most amazing doner kebap place that we went back to at least 5 times. Back when I travelled through Europe with Bolton, kebap stands were everywhere, crazy cheap, and insanely tasty. There were days that we literally ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Well they're no longer found at little street carts, but in actual shops now. But every town is still chock full of them and they're still awesome!

Utrecht is where we bought Floyd, an old 1987 mustard yellow VW campervan, our home for the remainder of the trip (more to come on him later). We spent about a month touring around Holland and we absolutely loved every inch of the place. We started with a quick trip to Den Haag. While in Utrecht, we made friends with Jesse and Kristine, some locals (he is originally from CA and married a Dutch woman 20 yrs his senior). They were a lot of fun. She plays in a salsa Holland, hilarious! We went to a concert of hers – the reason for the trip to Den Haag -- and it was great music and totally fun. I got coerced to the dance floor by this old Argentinian dude named Carlos who was hilarious. I totally hammed it up and he was in love! He told us later that we need to look into going to some nudist camps (when the weather warms up, of course!). He said he'd just gotten back from one 3 days ago and that was why he was “so enthusiastic!!” He was a freakin riot. But we're actually intrigued by the idea and are totally going to look into it!! Ha ha. We like being naked, so why not! Though he said it's mostly old people so the scenery may be a little wrinkly for our taste. I'll definitely report back after that one.