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...