Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dublin, Ireland and London, England

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin was one of those places we've always wanted to go to, though we weren't sure what exactly we wanted to see and do there. We knew we wanted to go to an Irish pub and to see some of the city, and that would probably be about all we had time for in our two short days there.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cardiff (Wales), Stonehenge, and Edinburgh (Scotland)

During the decade before Carter was born, Doug and I spent nearly every Thanksgiving weekend in London. It was a quick trip during which we'd go out to eat at our favorite restaurants and go to a lot of theatre, and do a little bit of Christmas shopping, if we had time. The last time we went was when I was pregnant with Carter, and I basically haven't been to the UK since. When we realized that we could organize the trip so that we could be in London over Thanksgiving, we decided it would be a lot of fun to continue that tradition.

We spent two weeks in the UK and Ireland: We started in Cardiff, Wales (and took a side trip from there to see Stonehenge), then headed to Edinburgh, Scotland. After that we went on to Dublin, Ireland, and then to London, England.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Jerusalem, Israel

Our final stop in the Middle East was Israel. Doug has been to Israel for business on several occasions, but this was my first time there. It was a quick half-hour flight from Amman, Jordan to Tel Aviv, Israel, and from there we had a road transfer to Jerusalem.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Jordan and Petra

Our original plan had been to fly to Cairo from Dubai and spend a few days in Egypt. But it became clear several months ago that Egypt is probably not a good place to go as a tourist at the moment, and so we changed our plans and stayed in Dubai a little longer before heading to Jordan.

Our primary reason for going to Jordan was to visit Petra, the ancient city carved out of the rock faces of a canyon. But first, we spent a day in Jordan. We had a nice room at the Sheraton in Amman with a balcony and lots of space to hang out, and we really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

I think the first time I heard about Dubai was about ten years ago. One of seven emirate states of the UAE on the Persian Gulf, Dubai is the most populous by far - though the vast majority of the population are immigrants from other places in the world who've come to work.

Dubai is a city of excess in nearly every way. The wealth on display is unbelievable, jaw-dropping. We saw incredibly expensive cars, families with a nanny for each child, and new buildings and roads going up everywhere. There are huge construction cranes in nearly every direction you look, and everything seems designed to make you feel like you're surrounded by glamour and wealth. It's like Las Vegas without the vice.

And it has the (current) tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam is another city I hadn't been to in at least 15 years. We only had two nights here, once again, so it was a quick stay. Our hotel was conveniently located close to the train station, so we didn't have far to wheel our luggage.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Brussels, Belgium

I haven't been to Brussels for twenty years, and so it was a place I was really looking forward to seeing again. We took the train from Paris and arrived mid-afternoon, which gave us a chance to drop off our stuff at the hotel and head to the Grand Place, one of the most beautiful and iconic central squares in Europe.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Paris, France

Paris is one of those quintessential European destinations, a city not to be missed on the itinerary of a traveler to this part of the world. Despite that fact, it had been more than a decade since my last visit to Paris (though Doug has traveled there on business many times). It's an incredibly beautiful city -- perhaps the most beautiful in the world, and its reputation as the center of art, fashion, and cuisine is definitely deserved.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bordeaux, France

Doug has spent a lot of time in Bordeaux over the years on business, but it was a place I'd never been. One of his colleagues there offered to show us around during our visit, and so the four nights we spent there were absolutely fantastic. On the first night we arrived, we were invited to dinner at the home of Yann (Doug's colleague) and his wife Sophie. Sophie is a fantastic cook and prepared some classic dishes from the region for us, including duck liver, some incredible local wild mushrooms, and some cheese made by a friend of a friend. We enjoyed many bottles of wine and great conversation, and Carter was even brave enough to try both duck (which he loved) and scallops (which he didn't - but at least he tried).  Their hospitality that evening was only the beginning of a wonderful time in southern France.   

Friday, November 1, 2013

Barcelona, Spain

The first time we ever visited Barcelona was when Carter was a baby. We took a trans-Atlantic cruise and one of the stops was Barcelona. It was a rainy day, and we spent much of the 8 or so hours we were there sitting on a bus, looking through dirty, rain-streaked windows while Carter dozed in our arms. Two years later, we had another cruise that ended in Barcelona, and so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to explore the city. We ended up really loving it, and so it was a place I wanted to visit again on this trip.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is a city we've been meaning to visit for years. It straddles two continents and is one of the most multicultural cities on the planet, but it also has an incredibly rich history.  Neither of us had been there before, so we weren't entirely sure what to expect. I thought it might seem exotic and intimidating, but instead it was somehow both unique and familiar. The old part of the city looks like a typical town in southern Europe -- and then you turn a corner and see the slender minarets of the nearest mosque piercing the sky. Church bells ring on the hour, and then you hear the Muslim call to prayer -- often a real person singing, rather then the taped version we've heard in so many other places. It's one of the only places I've been where you see women who look like Swedish underwear models sitting on a train next to women in niqabs, and no one blinks an eye at the contrast.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Munich, Germany (Oktoberfest)

On a trip like this, you get to check a lot of things off your bucket list. For me, one of those time was to go to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. I've always loved Oktoberfest celebrations, even when I was a kid. I liked the festive autumn atmosphere, and the German music and food, and when I got older, it was a fun place to enjoy a giant glass of beer as well. Oktoberfest celebrations are popular in the US as they are all over the world, but I wanted to see the original one myself.

And so we went to Munich in the middle of Oktoberfest. I had an idea of what to expect because Doug spent a night at Munich's Oktoberfest about 15 years ago, but the reality of it is so much bigger than I could ever have imagined. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Venice, Italy

Venice is one of those special places on the planet that is iconic. Nearly everyone has heard of Venice and has a mental image of what it looks like, with palazzi surrounded by canals and sleek blacks gondolas pared by men in striped shirts with straw hats. And the thing is, that's basically what it looks like. It's one of those rare tourism experiences that meets your expectations almost completely.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rome, Italy (part 2)

As I mentioned in the previous post, we spent  most of our time in Rome just hanging out and enjoying. We went to our favorite restaurants (like Taverna La Scala below) and also discovered some new ones.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rome, Italy (part 1)

Rome is a city we've spent a lot of time in over the last almost-two-decades. It was a city Doug spent a month in when he was 19; he fell in love with it then, and I was utterly enchanted by it the first time we visited together. Rome is a sort of enigma -- it's not the cleanest or most beautiful city in the world, nor is it set in a stunning location. It can be noisy and chaotic, and hotter than hell in the summertime, but it always has an indefinable sort of charm.

And of course, there's all the incredible Roman ruins everywhere.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bucharest, Romania

Short post here! From Mfuwe, Zambia, we flew to Lusaka, where we spent the night before catching a flight to London early the next morning. The flight was ten hours long, but it went very smoothly, and we made it to our hotel at London Heathrow with no difficulty.  And of course, our arrival in London meant that we've now visited seven continents in 2013.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

South Luangwa (part 2)

In the previous post, I wrote about the house we stayed in and shared some pictures of many of the animals we saw. Here are even more pictures from our week in South Luangwa.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

South Luangwa, Zambia (part 1)

Our third and final safari stop was in an area we'd never visited before: South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia. We kept hearing great things about it everywhere we went in southern Africa, including the fact that this area has the largest concentration of leopards of any place in the world. Since it had been nearly a decade since we'd seen leopards in the wild, we were really excited about that.

We flew from Livingstone to Lusaka and then on to Mfuwe on small prop planes.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Livingstone, Zambia

We had a road transfer between Chobe in Botswana and Livingstone, Zambia. The border crossing is at Kazungula, where the Zambezi River provides the border between the two countries. Actually, there are four countries that meet at Kazungula: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia. The river at this point is about 400 meters across, and there is no bridge. The only way to cross is on the Kazungula Ferry. This is also one of the major trucking routes of southern Africa, and the ferry is only large enough to take a few tractor-trailers at a time.

As we approached the border, the queue of tractor-trailers was at least a mile long. We asked our driver how long they would have to wait for their turn to board the ferry, and he said as long as a week! As we drew closer to the border, we could see that a small town was set up on each side of the river, with shops, food stalls, bars, and all sorts of things needed to keep the truckers occupied while they waited.  We also saw many prostitutes, of course.  We got our passports exit-stamped and then took a small passenger boat across the river. I wish I'd taken photos of the ferry and the lines of trucks and the stalls along the side of the road!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chobe, Botswana

On our first trip to Africa over 15 years ago, Doug and I did an overland camping safari. Our trip took place mostly in Chobe National Park in Botswana (which is huge enough to spend a week in, easily), and our first campsite was near the banks of the Chobe River. We stopped by the famous Chobe Game Lodge while we were there, and I always thought it would be a great place to visit someday. It turned out to be one of the three places Doug found in southern Africa that would accept five-year-old children, and so we decided to pay it a visit.

The lodge was made famous in the 1950s as the place where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got married for the second time. (There's even a framed copy of their Botswana marriage license on display.) It fell into disrepair in the 1970s, but was refurbished and reopened in the 1980s. It's very special because it's the only permanent structure allowed in the entire park.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

On our first trip to Africa in 1997, Doug and I stopped in Victoria Falls. When the Zambezi River is high, this waterfall becomes the widest curtain of water on the planet. Even when the water isn't high, it's a spectacular sight. The falls lie on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, and on our very first visit all those years ago, we started on the Zambian side. Livingstone was a very quiet town then; there was really one hotel set up for tourists coming to see the falls, and we were among just a handful of guests staying there. The Zimbabwe side, in contrast, felt like spring break. The town was full of backpackers there to party and go whitewater rafting and bungee jumping before they headed off on safaris. The streets were full of locals and tourists alike, all with big smiles on their faces.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Madikwe, South Africa

In 1997, Doug and I traveled to Africa for the first time, and on that trip we did an overland (i.e. camping) safari in Botswana. We spent nine days with a small group of people and a guide exploring northern Botswana and the Okavango Delta. It was an amazing experience, and we immediately decided we wanted to do it again. Two years later, we were back, this time staying in a variety of tented camps and lodges throughout the delta, and we loved it even more. Over the next decade, we returned to southern Africa five more times and explored camps in South Africa and Namibia as well, but the Okavango Delta was the place we loved the most.

We always planned to bring Carter to Africa as soon as he was old enough to go on safari – which is generally considered to be 8 or 9 years old, and in some places, 12. But we couldn't bear the idea of traveling through Africa and not having some sort of safari experience, and so last fall Doug began a long search for camps and lodges throughout southern Africa where we could realistically and safely take a five-year-old on safari. He found a total of three that said they would take small children, and we decided to go to all of them. Jaci's Camp in Madikwe, South Africa, was the first of these.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Capetown, South Africa

First, apologies for the delay in posting! Internet has been a little less reliable lately, and sometimes even nonexistent. When it does exist, it's often metered, which makes uploading lots of photos a challenge. I'm going to try to get caught up as best I can, though I may only have internet (sort of) for the next two days and then possibly none for two weeks. We'll see what I can get done!.

Capetown is often described as one of the most beautiful places in the world to have a city. The views are stunning, absolutely, and the weather is lovely, and the ocean very blue. It's an incredible gateway to southern Africa.

The first time I ever visited Capetown was in 1999. It was my second trip to South Africa (the first was in 1997, not terribly long after the end of apartheid), and I was startled by the land of contrasts that it was then. There were tall buildings, beautiful homes, great restaurants -- and also shantytowns, and people who were homeless, and a lingering sense that all was not yet well.  More than a decade later, the country seems to have emerged from its rough patch and is moving steadily forward. Not that people don't have complaints about the way things are being run -- no government is perfect, after all.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Australia, part 2 (Cairns, Sydney, and the Hunter Valley)

We did so many amazing things in Cairns that I didn't even have time to fit them all into the last post! On our third full day in Cairns, we went on an evening safari. The safari started in late afternoon, and our guide surprised us by first turning into a nearby suburb. We soon realized why he'd taken us there: we saw hundreds of wallabies just hanging about in people's yards and in vacant lots.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Australia: Melbourne and Cairns (part 1)

Apologies for the length of time between posts - my mom came to Australia to travel with us for a couple of weeks, and we had so much fun that I didn't have much time to work on updating the blog.  This was actually our second time in Australia on the trip. We were here about a month earlier and spent most of our time driving around in the wine regions north of Melbourne. This time we started in Melbourne and stayed a few days.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Moorea and Tahiti

When you think of the South Pacific, one of the places you probably think about is Tahiti. It just sounds incredibly exotic, doesn't it? Tahiti. Like a place of incredible beauty and tradition and relaxation. And so, we decided we had to travel to Tahiti while we were in the area.      

The flight from New Zealand was around five hours long. The time change is only two hours, but since you cross the international date line, it's actually a 22 hour time difference. You arrive nearly a full day in the past, basically. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

New Zealand, part 3: Queenstown

The last place we visited in New Zealand was Queenstown, down at the bottom of the South Island. Queenstown is located in a stunning valley on the edge of a lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

New Zealand, part 2 (Taupo to Wellington to Marlborough)

We left Taupo and drove south to Wellington, which took about 5 hours. It was a chilly day and we saw some snow on the ground along the way.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New Zealand, part 1 (Auckland and Taupo)

New Zealand is a country I've always wanted to visit, so it was a must-see on this trip. We flew from Fiji to Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, at the top of the North Island. Most of the flight was water, of course, but as we drew close to New Zealand we saw islands with sheer rocky cliffs dropping off into the ocean, topped with rolling hills of green grass. It was stunning from first sight.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


A long time ago we looked into taking a cruise around the South Pacific. The idea of visiting such exotic-sounding destinations as Fiji and Tahiti was thrilling, and though we ultimately didn't book that cruise, the idea of visiting those places remained in our minds as a sort of ultimate beach trip. When we began planning this trip, we realized we had an opportunity to pick some island destinations in the South Pacific. Bali was the first of those exotic destinations, and the second was Fiji.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Driving around Australia

Bali marked the end of nearly three months in Asia. We were all ready for some cooler weather after those months of heat and humidity, and we were also excited to do something different.

We first flew to Perth in southwestern Australia, which was a lot greener than I had imagined western Australia would be.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bali, Indonesia

Bali was the third of five beach weeks we're spending during this year. Bali was a place I knew little about before we planned the trip, other than that it was a beach destination popular with Australians, and that there was a terrorist attack there several years ago. When we were choosing the exotic beach locales for the trip, Bali was a place we both mentioned almost immediately (along with Tahiti and Fiji, both of which are coming up soon).

We thought it might be a bit quick to go back to a beach resort so soon after Koh Samui, and in retrospect, I think it was. It was going to be hard to top Koh Samui, and it might have been better to have a few more weeks between the two. But of course, that doesn't mean we didn't enjoy it!

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Singapore is a city Doug has been to many times on business, but one I've never been to until this trip. It's one of his favorite cities in the world and he was excited to bring Carter and me here. Singapore is an extremely international city. It's sandwiched between Malaysia and Indonesia, almost on the equator, and is an incredible melting pot of cultures. Singapore is a big financial center, and so people from all over the world live and work here. As a result, there are incredible restaurants, world-class shopping and entertainment, and one of the largest and most successful casinos in the world. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Koh Samui, Thailand

After our visit to Vietnam we headed back to Thailand for the second of five beach weeks during the trip. We'd had a fantastic time in Goa and we hoped our time on the island of Koh Samui would be at least as good as that week was. It exceeded our expectations in so many ways that it's hard to describe the experience. I'll have to let the pictures speak for themselves.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (part 2)

The highlight of our time in Vietnam was the time was spent in the Mekong River delta. We spent two days touring in this area, which was a 90-minute drive from Saigon. Along either side of the freeway was farmland, beautiful countryside dotted with rice fields and farm houses.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam (part 1)

I was a child in the 1970s, and though I have no memory of the war in Vietnam while it was actually happening, it was definitely a huge cultural presence in the US in the late 70s and 80s. My elementary schools had many kids who'd just arrived from Vietnam, whose parents had incredible stories about how they'd escaped. And until the last decade, the idea of visiting Vietnam as a tourist was something that had not occurred to me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Siem Reap, Cambodia (part 3)

We spent one of our mornings in Siem Reap exploring the ruins of Ta Prohm Temple. It was possibly one of the most amazing sites I've ever seen. Our car dropped us off at the crumbling stone gateway, beyond which was a long gravel pathway through the forest.

As you can see, at this early hour, we basically had the place to ourselves.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Siem Reap, Cambodia (part 2)

Tourists flock to Angkor Wat by the the thousands, and it is a glorious and impressive sight, of course. But for me, the real magic of Siem Reap lies in many of the other sites. There is nothing quite like the feeling of having a thousand-year-old ruin nearly to yourself, early in the morning. There is no incessant chatter of other tourists and their guides, no crowds to navigate past, no other people appearing in your photographs, just massive stones rising from the jungle that has been slowly reclaiming them for a thousand years, their intricate carvings worn by time but still astonishingly stark and beautiful. The heat and humidity of the day is not yet oppressive, just on the edge of stifling, and you can close your eyes and imagine what these temples might have looked like when they were first built, when they rose out of the jungle as a sign of power and wealth.

This is Angkor Thom, the ancient Khmer city.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Siem Reap, Cambodia (part 1)

We've traveled a lot in the last two decades, and I can honestly say that there have been very few places that truly surprised me, that exceeded my expectations in almost every way. Siem Reap, Cambodia was one of those places. 

When I was a child in the 1970s and 1980s, I only knew of Cambodia as a place where refugees came from. The Khmer Rouge and the killing fields dominated my ideas about the place, and though I knew there were amazing temples and ruins to be seen, it was difficult to get past my preconceptions.  Add to that that we'd read we were going to be there at the absolute hottest time of the year (one guidebook described the heat as "hellish"), and I wasn't sure I was really going to enjoy our time there.

But from the moment we landed at the lovely airport in Siem Reap, everything about the city was picturesque and charming. It was hot, yes, but the air-conditioned hotel van was waiting for us (with cans of cold beer) to whisk us off to the Soujourn Hotel, a lovely little boutique hotel just outside the city.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pattaya, Thailand

On our last day in Bangkok, we headed down to Pattaya, a city on the coast, to visit a former colleague of Doug;s who lives there. It's definitely a beach town, and is a popular tourist destination. The beach was packed when we drove past. 

We went up to the top of a hill to see a lovely view of the city.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bangkok, Thailand (part 2)

Bangkok is primarily a Buddhist country, and there are temples everywhere. There are nearly 500 temples in Bangkok alone, so obviously they are an important part of life in this city. We've visited Catholic cathedrals in Italy, Hindu Temples in India and Nepal, Shinto Shrines in Japan, and Buddhist Temples in nearly every country we've visited in Asia. And I have to say that the ones in Thailand are some of the most ornate and beautiful I've ever seen. If Italy has most of the beautiful cathedrals in the Catholic world, then surely Thailand has the most beautiful Buddhist temples.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Bangkok, Thailand (part 1)

Leaving Kathmandu was nearly as difficult as arriving. The line for passport control was an hour long, and there were maybe only 20 people ahead of us. Luckily, Carter has learned to wait patiently in lines (as long as he has my phone or the iPad to play with), which made it feel much less like torture than it might otherwise. The Kathnmandu international airport is rustic, perhaps one of the most rustic I've ever seen (including Iquitos, Peru). The domestic airport was even more rustic: the baggage claim area is a hut next to the parking lot!

And so I was completely caught off-guard by the incredibly modern, glittering international airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The contrast was stunning, especially considering that it wasn't a very long flight between the two places.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kathmandu, Nepal

When we were putting this trip together, Doug asked me if there were any places on my "bucket list" that I wanted to visit. Obviously Antarctica was one and Easter Island was another, but one that I mentioned that day was Kathmandu. It was a place that had been in my mind for a long time, and I had images of colorful flags, snow-capped mountains, yaks, and Sherpas. I had no idea what to expect or if my expectations were even realistic, but it was one of those exotic-sounding places that I really wanted to see.

For the most part, Kathmandu just looks like a city. Considering that it borders India and most of its people are Hindu, one might expect it to be similar to India, but it really isn't. The architecture, the culture, and the general feeling of being a tourist there are all completely different.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Agra, India

If I had to describe India in a single phrase, I think it would be "functional chaos." Everywhere I look, everything appears to be in a state of utter chaos, and yet, it works. I have no idea how.

Every mode of transport conceivable is used in India, everything from bicycles to pushcarts to motorbikes to motorbike taxis to bicycle rickshaws to trucks, cars, buses, ox-drawn carts, horse-drawn carts, elephants, and so on. All of these could be present on a single road at any time. Lanes are optional, and generally ignored. Horn honking is an art. Cows randomly block the road. I have no idea how people ever learn to drive here, because it looks pretty damn intimidating.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Goa, India

One of the things we decided to do this year was visit a handful of beach resort areas. Doug is not a beach person, and despite the fact that we've done so much traveling together, we've never been to a resort. When we were choosing our itinerary for this trip, there were several places that we wanted to go that are clearly beach destinations, and so we decided that we would visit some beach resorts. In all, we're spending a little more than five weeks on the beach this year. Carter and I are very excited!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mumbai, India

The last time I was in India was 1999, and it was a trip that changed my attitude about travel. Prior to that trip, I enjoyed doing things the "hard way" when we traveled - taking public transportation, staying in local hotels, and trying all the foods I came across. In 1999, I learned that there are many places in the world where you just can't doing that without being prepared to experience some really bad things: food poisoning and robbery, among them. I have a photo of myself from that trip standing in front of the Taj Mahal, and right after that photo was taken, I threw up. In a trash can. And it only got worse from there. By the end of that trip, I'd learned that you just can't approach travel so naively.

So you can imagine that it was with a bit of trepidation that I headed into this part of the trip. Doug has spent quite a lot of time in India for business, and he's had much better luck than we had then -- but he's done it by staying in very nice hotels, arranging private transportation, and being extremely picky about what he eats. So obviously, this part of the trip would fall under the "spare no expense" category.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hong Kong and Disneyland #3

From Beijing we headed to Hong Kong, one of the world's great cities. It's been a decade since I was last in Hong Kong, but the central part of the city looked exactly the same with its lush green mountains and skyscrapers nestled against the edge of a spectacular bay. It felt astonishingly western after Japan and Beijing.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Some more photos from Beijing

Here are some more photos from Kyoto and Beijing that were on my phone and didn't make it into the last post.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Beijing, China

There have been several times in my life when I've had the experience of traveling to a place that loomed a bit notorious in my imagination. In 1993 I spent some time in the former East Germany, just a few years after the wall came down and reunification occurred. My 1980s childhood years were filled with Reagan-era propaganda about how horrible communist states were, and of course, at the age of 21, I didn't yet understand enough about the complexities of such things to even begin to question the things I'd been taught. The reality of being there and talking to the people was incredibly eye-opening, and it was a lesson I didn't forget.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kyoto, Japan

We're currently in Beijing, China, and I had to use a VPN to get to this blog. I don't know if China blocks all Blogspot blogs or if there's something about ours in particular that tripped the censors. Interesting...

We spent the second half of our time in Japan in the city of Kyoto, which is a beautiful place full of shrines and temples and history. I've been there once before about eight years ago, and was eager to come back again on this trip.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

LA to Tokyo

One of the things we decided to do on this trip was to visit all of the Disney parks in the world during the year.  The next continent after South America and Antarctica is Asia, and we knew that the trip from Buenos Aires to Tokyo – cities which are basically on the opposite side of the planet from each other – would be far too much to try to do all at once. So we first flew from BA to Miami, where we spent the night, and then the next day we made our way to LA.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Falklands to Montevideo

After the days we spent in Antarctica, the rest of the cruise was fairly anti-climatic. One highlight, though, was our brief visit to the town of Stanley in the Falkland Islands.

I first heard of the Falklands when Argentina invaded back in the early 80s. I remember seeing the war footage on TV, with the British troops fighting back, and it seemed like a very strange place for two countries to fight over. Every time we've been to Argentina, I've seen graffiti and murals proclaiming that the Malvinas (the Falklands) belong to Argentina, and I suppose I had the impression that there was still controversy about it. I thought that perhaps, in the Falklands, the people were divided about their nationality, that it was still a subject of great debate.

And then we went to Stanley.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


We've been incredibly fortunate in our lives to have the opportunity to do things that few people get to do: riding in a boat up a channel of the Amazon River, and watching lions just a few feet away from us in an open-top vehicle in Africa, for example. And this experience is definitely one to add to that list.

As the ship grew closer and closer to the Antarctic peninsula, we wondered what to expect. We honestly thought we'd be a bit disappointed, that the experience of finally visiting the seventh continent would be somehow anti-climatic. We spent the morning hanging out in the cabin and waiting. Every now and then Doug would go out on the balcony to see if he could see anything. At last, he ran into the room and said, "I see land!" 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ushuaia, Argentina, and Cape Horn

Tierra del Fuego is a place I've always wanted to go, and so watching the ship's GPS display show us getting closer and closer to the bottom of South America was really exciting. Early in the morning we navigated through the Beagle Channel (named after the famous exploring ship on which Charles Darwin sailed through these waters) towards the town of Ushuaia. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Buenos Aires and cruise down the coast of Argentina

This wasn't our first trip to Buenos Aires, and it won't be the last, most likely. The last time we were here, it was my birthday and Doug and I went out to a tango show, which was then cut short because Carter got violently ill back at the hotel and we had to return. And then Doug caught whatever bug he had and was miserably sick for days. Doug wasn't all that enthusiastic to return after that experience, but the timing of the cruise meant we had nearly a week to hang out in the city.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cuzco and Machu Picchu

We arrived in Cuzco about a week ago, expecting a contrast from the Iquitos area. And wow, the areas are so different that it's stunning. The amount of cultural and geographic diversity in a country as small as Peru is simply amazing.

When you arrive in Cuzco, the first thing that hits you is the altitude. The city is at around 12,000 feet, and at first the simple act of walking around takes your breath away. It's completely bizarre to walk up a very slight incline and find yourself panting like you've just sprinted that distance instead. The locals have traditionally drunk mate de coca (tea made from coca leaves) or chewed the coca leaves to alleviate altitude sickness, and this remedy is definitely encouraged for visitors. It's a bit like caffeine in its effect when you drink the tea, though chewing the leaves will leave the side of your mouth feeling a little numb. Whether it actually helps with the altitude or not, I can't say. I drank a lot of it and Doug didn't, and I'm not sure if our experience was any different!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Vlog #1: Santiago

My first attempt at editing together a vlog! Future vlogs will be much more interesting, I promise. ;-)

The Amazon, part 2

We're riding in a small boat down a creek off of the Napo River, one of the tributaries of the Amazon. The sun is hot and the humidity stifling, and the movement of air over us as the boat motors upstream is a relief. We're looking for a good spot for catching piranha, says our guide, Ricardo.  Doug and I attempted to fish for them on our visit 18 years prior, with no luck. I don't expect it to be different today; they're hard little buggers to catch. We pass houses, small platforms with thatched roofs and almost no furnishings. Small children swimming at the water's edge pause to wave as we pass. They're used to seeing tourists, but the sight of a child as young as Carter seems to surprise them.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Amazon

Eighteen years ago, Doug and I were looking for an exotic destination for our honeymoon, and after a lot of thought, we decided to go to South America. (This was 1995, and South America was quite a lot more exotic then than it is now.) One of the places we decided we wanted to see was the Amazon rainforest, and we chose one of the only ecotourism companies that was operating in that area at the time: Explorama. The conditions were rustic, but hey – we were in the jungle! My memory of those five days we spent with Explorama was that it was hot and humid and there were lots of mosquitos, and that we saw amazing things.

Fast forward nearly two decades. When we decided that we would spend a couple of months of this trip in South America, we immediately thought about going back to the Amazon. There are many more companies now, but we really wanted to go with Explorama again. We even decided to stay in the same lodges, just to see how much they had changed.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Easter Island to Iquitos

We're currently about an hour and a half up the Amazon River from Iquitos, Peru. Doug and I were in this area when we went on our honeymoon almost 18 years ago, and the fact that I have bars on my cellphone right now is pretty insane. I didn't even have bars on Easter Island, standing next to the tower! We're staying at a very nice lodge right now and tomorrow will head even further into the rainforest to something more rustic. This is my last chance to update until late next week.

I wanted to post a few more pictures from our last couple of days on Easter Island. We spent our last full day hanging out and relaxing. We took Carter down to a tiny local swimming spot so he could play in the sand and swim, and he had a blast. Check out the moai in the background.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

Prior to this trip, I couldn't have pointed to Easter Island on the globe. I knew it was part of Chile (from a Chilean folkloric dinner show we attended on a mid-90s visit to Santiago, half of which was Polynesian dancing, to my great surprise), and I knew it was quite a ways from the coast of South America, but I didn't really know much more about it than that.

When we planned this trip, we wanted to visit favorite places as well as new ones, and Easter Island was on the list of places that sounded very interesting to see. My mental image was of a semi-barren, sort of gloomily beautiful island, not unlike the Azores, but much more sparsely populated. I knew the big thing to do was to go see the giant head statues, which I'd always heard were shrouded in mystery. We planned to spend five nights there, which I worried might be a bit much. After all, we'd go out and look at the statues in a day, probably, and then what?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Andes and Easter Island

We're now in Easter Island, and the internet connection we have is so slow that uploading pictures is not really feasible at the moment. When I have a chance, I'll edit this post and add a whole bunch of pictures, but in the meantime, I can least give an update on what we're doing.

On Thursday we hired a car and driver to take us up to Valle Nevado, one of the ski resorts in the mountains about an hour and a half drive from Santiago.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Los Domenicos and Chilean food

We've now had almost three full weeks in Santiago, and we're really taking it easy. If we go out and do one thing every day, that's totally fine. This is a city we've spent a lot of time in and we have a list of stuff we'd like to do, but we're definitely not feeling any stress about getting out and seeing the sights. The rest of the year will be spent at a much quicker pace, so these weeks have been more about getting used to being on the trip and relaxing a bit.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Still in Santiago

Per our original itinerary, we were supposed to check out of our hotel in Santiago on Friday morning, pick up our rental car, and drive down to Santa Cruz to spend a week in the wine region. Since Carter was sick for the entire first week we were in Santiago, we decided to adjust our schedule so that we could actually spend some time here. So on Friday morning, we checked out of the Ritz Carlton and headed a few blocks down the street to the W, which is our favorite hotel in Santiago.

Our room at the W has a balcony, which I am LOVING. Also, the air conditioning works, which makes Doug very happy. Our room at the Ritz was nearly 80 degrees for the entire week and a half we stayed there, and there was nothing to be done about it. Doug was miserable, and he's so much happier now.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Carter!

After another rough day yesterday, most of which Carter spent lying in bed and glumly watching videos on the iPad, he nearly bounced out of bed this morning. He was ready to go and was even hungry. We were incredibly relieved, especially since today was his 5th birthday. We'd been keeping our fingers crossed that he wouldn't have to spend his birthday sick and miserable.

After breakfast (his first actual meal in a week!) we asked him what he most wanted to do on his birthday, and he said he wanted to ride the double-decker tour bus. And so we did.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

We left the hotel!

Carter is finally starting to feel better. Yesterday was his fourth straight day of vomiting, and we decided to call a doctor to make sure there wasn't something bigger going on that we'd missed. The doctor's conclusion was pretty much the same as ours, that it was either a virus he picked up on the playground or it was food poisoning. It was good to have reassurance though. She also gave us something prescription-strength pedialyte-type stuff, which I had no idea existed, and he started bouncing back very quickly after drinking that.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

First round of trouble.

We spent a lot of time planning for this trip, and one of the things we planned for was getting sick. We bought private health insurance and had to work out what we'd do if one of us needed to go to the doctor. We packed a good supply of over-the-counter medicines and got prescriptions for multiple rounds of antibiotics for each of us, should we get food poisoning.

The surprise was that we'd have to deal with it so quickly. Very early in the morning after our first full day here, Carter threw up in the middle of the night. And then he proceeded to vomit every couple of hours for the next day and a half. He's only been sick while traveling once before, and that time it ran through him fairly quickly. This doesn't seem to be as intense as before, but it still means we've spent the last two days holed up in our hotel room taking care of him. We're still not sure if it was something he ate (the last thing he had before getting sick was chicken nuggets at Ruby Tuesdays) or if he picked up a bug while playing in the park. It's starting to seem like the former, since Doug and I are totally fine.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Doug had been watching the availability of frequent flyer seats in business class from Dallas to Santiago and saw that some seats opened up on the flight on December 30.  We had originally planned to leave on the 31st, but we were packed and ready to go, and so -- why not?

The flight went smoothly and we landed in Santiago on the morning of December 31. It's summer here, and oh, this place is gorgeous in the summer! The temperatures are in the 80s and it's not humid at all, so it feels lovely outside. We checked into the hotel and changed clothes, then headed over to one of our favorite local restaurants, Tiramisu, when has fantastic pizza.

And after that we spent some time hanging out on a local playground, one Carter has played at many times before. But it's been cold every other time he's been here!

Doug and I sat on a bench in the shade and watched him and realized: Wow. We're here. We're really doing this, for a whole year. Our phones weren't working yet, so we could do nothing but sit there and watch Carter play, and it was a strange feeling to be disconnected. We've spent so much of the last six months planning and stressed out and trying to cover every detail. It was very strange to just sit there and realize that we had nowhere in particular to go, nothing in particular to do.

We thought it might be fun to spend New Year's Eve in Santiago instead of on an airplane. We thought we could go out for our traditional New Year's Eve dinner of teppan yaki, and there's even a great teppan yaki restaurant in walking distance of the hotel. But it turns out that in Santiago, they roll up the streets on New Year's Eve. Everything is closed -- every restaurant, every bar. Apparently people stay home and go to private parties! We finally found a single open restaurant, which added a 50% surcharge to the bill. It was full of Americans who were apparently just as desperate as we were. It was a good dinner, but crazy expensive.

After that we spent our evening in the hotel room. Doug had bought some wine for us earlier in the day, and we watched a movie and just hung out. Carter finally passed out around 11:00.

Everything is closed today as well, so we'll be eating room service, going to the park, and maybe swimming in the hotel's pool later. Serious sightseeing will have to wait another day, but honestly, that's okay.