Wednesday, June 30, 2010

time to reflect...

The differences between our first and second stints in Africa are as vastly different as the continent itself. From the bush to the desert southern and northern Africa are like night and day.

Tunisia has been a country of surprises for me. Maybe if I hadn’t tried so hard to decide what it was all about before I actually got here it wouldn’t have been. I like to be prepared and sometimes that leads me to prejudge more than anything else.

I won’t lie and say I wasn’t a little concerned about coming to an Arab country bordered by Libya and Algeria. Our only other experience with Northern Africa was Egypt and although many of the people we met were absolutely wonderful and warm and welcoming (I’ve run out of w’s) there were also people that made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and a little too welcome if you get my drift. It was and still is the most difficult country I’ve ever visited. But, Tunisia has been easy. It's been comfortable and with the help of our translator and pal, Frenchie, it has turned out to be a lot of fun.

Tunisia has been round of pleasant surprises like our favorite town, Pheobe Buffay (aka Sidi Bou Said)…

the amazing ruins at Dougga…

and the vastness of the Sahara…

Our location in northern Africa allowed us some pretty amazing weekend travel outside of Tunisia, like our trip home with Frenchie…

our trip to Luxor…


and the jaw-dropping Petra…

It’s been a round full of laughs…

Ali Baba’s hat…

and jumping in each other’s photos…

We’ve really had a great time this round, but like all good things it must come to an end.

We’re moving in just a couple of days. I’m ready, the Wife is ready. We’ll think we’re not ready when saying goodbye to Frenchie, but it’s time to go...and that's what we do best these days- go.

Monday, June 28, 2010


For our last weekend we headed south to Sousse. Technically our hotel was in Monastir, but Sousse was the town we visited so let’s go with that.

Saturday we decided to get the tourist attractions out of the way and headed to El Jem. My guidebook stated (many times actually) that the Roman coliseum there was finer than the one in Rome. Note to self and to those reading- don’t buy “Rough Guide” travel books. I’ve never been so annoyed or disappointed with a guidebook. Needless to say this coliseum wasn’t better than the one in Rome. It was very nice though and was interesting enough to make the trek without the over-hype…

After making our way back from El Jem, we headed into the medina in Sousse. This old fortified area of the city houses their souk...

I lost my shopping mojo a few weeks ago and the high tourist prices in Sousse and constant beckoning from the shop owners didn’t revive it. Which is actually a very good thing considering how much we’ve already bought and are trying to figure out how to get home.

We made it back to the hotel in time for a couple of hours on the beach where I was thoroughly entertained by a gregarious pack of older Italian ladies and enjoyed the sunset before heading to dinner...

Sunday I refused to do anything but relax and get some sun and that is exactly what Jules and I did while Frenchie went on a shopping spree in the souk.

I ended up burning a few areas to a crisp, but am still happy I was able to get a little color before leaving for Germany this Friday. I absolutely cannot wait to live in dresses and skirts.

We’re stopping in Lisbon on our way to Cologne…just the first of many new cities we plan to delve into this summer in Europe!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.

“She rolled her eyes and said, “You must be an Obama Democrat.”

“I am,” replied the man. “How did you know?”

“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help to me.”

The man smiled and responded, “You must be a Republican.”

“I am,” replied the balloonist. “How did you know?”

“Well,” said the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You’ve risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You’re in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it’s my fault.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

i heart progress

from cnn:

The Obama administration is expected to announce Wednesday that gay workers will be able to take medical leave to care for the sick or newborn children of their same-sex partners as part of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which generally allows those working for companies with 50 or more employees to take 12 unpaid weeks off to care for newborns or children with serious health issues.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

obviously there have been some on here.

i've been meaning to change things up for a while and passing 10k hits seemed like a good time to bite the bullet. then, lo and behold, blogger makes it here it is...our new blog home.

everything should work the same, although i'm thinking of removing album links after a while. just seems a bit junky. what do you think?

speaking of what you think remember that comments are open and we do actually love hearing from you. we miss you. unless you're a stranger, then we don't actually miss you, but we still love hearing from you all the same.

if anything looks wonky just let me know.

happy reading.


When you travel almost every weekend you are bound to have some weekends that just don’t measure up. Our weekend in Luxor was one of those weekends for me. Mainly I blame Egypt…more specifically the Egyptian men that think it’s okay to treat women with absolutely zero respect. I’m sure there are a great deal of Egyptian men that don’t behave in this manner or even condone it, but I’ve never in my life seen such a concentration of pigs. Nor, do I ever want to again. As I told Pablo- I hope that’s the last Egyptian visa my passport ever receives.

So excuse my standoffish post about that weekend. The constant hassle put a bad taste in my mouth and a cloud over my head for much of the weekend. I sometimes feel like we’re so blessed that we should never complain. That this opportunity is so great that we should somehow put on a happy face even when that is the last thing we want to do.

Substandard weekends are not our norm. Disappointing weekends are even rarer. But it’s true that sometimes our travels aren’t soooo amazing…even when we’re getting to see very cool things and even when all signs point to wonderful …sometimes they just aren’t.

***BUT ***

Then you have weekends like this past one in Jordan…a kind of weekend that redefines the word amazing for me and makes me want to never stop traveling.

Jules had to take a vacation day for us to make the trip work. We left on Thursday and arrived very late that evening after a layover in Istanbul. We met up with the guys from the Egypt team after breakfast the next morning and set off for Petra.

Jordan’s crown jewel and most visited site, Petra is on every “must-see before you die” list. It was built over 2000 years ago by the Nabataeans, an ancient Arab tribe, who controlled the region’s trade routes. It is massive, it is astonishing, it is laden with jaw-dropping beauty and mystique.

You begin your journey with a decent walk to the As-Siq, the main entrance to Petra. The As-Siq is a narrow and deep gorge with walls soaring over 250 feet tall and is about three-quarters of a mile long. The formations, the patterns, the colors- it is truly other-worldly in its beauty.…

As you reach the end of the As-Siq you get your first glimpse of Petra’s most famous monument, the Treasury…

It was originally a tomb built in the 1st century for an important Nabataean king and later was used as a temple. It is beauty carved out of beauty…

After the Treasury you continue on through the street of facades, to the theater and colonnaded street. Everywhere you turn you are blown away by the awesomeness that is the remains of this once thriving city…

We had all agreed if time permitted that we would try to make our way to the Monastery. I knew from reviews and Frenchie that the climb up was intense. Taking my ankle, the Wife’s newly painful heel, our empty stomachs and dehydrated bodies into consideration we hired donkeys to take us to the top. It halved our journey time to only 20 minutes and had I not been busy steering my donkey from the edge of a cliff and from taking out other tourists I would have taken photos. Apologies to the one lady I didn’t see who got the full-throttle donkey head-butt.

We still had a bit of a hike up to get to the top after the donkey’s dropped us off. After feeling like I couldn’t take another steep step, I knew we had made the right decision to take the donkeys. We also made the right decision to go up to the Monastery…

Exhausted we bucked up for the last hike up to get an even better view…

The close to 4 mile walk back was tough. I’m so glad we got to see the Treasury in a different light and without so many tourists…

But, really it was a tough walk back and the 3 hour van ride back to Amman wasn’t too much fun either. HOWEVER- it was so worth it. It was all so worth it and I would have driven twice as far and walked twice the distance to see this incredible place.

Saturday we visited the city of Madaba, which is known for its mosaics. Unfortunately, we had no idea where any of them were located so we only saw the one of the holy land located in a little Greek Orthodox Church. We then went to Mt. Nebo. Of epic biblical importance, this is where Moses first saw the promise land as well as where he died. The site is maintained by an order of Franciscan monks and also contains some large and impressive mosaics, a small museum and a church. During winter days when there’s no haze you can see all the way to Jerusalem. With it being summer there wasn’t much of a view and the church was closed for repair, so our trip up was fairly short-lived.

We then made our way down to the Dead Sea. When I say down, I mean down- the Dead Sea is the lowest point in the world. It is also 4 times saltier than our oceans, hence the “dead” part. Nothing but a few microorganisms can actually survive in it.

The real fascination with the Dead Sea, or at least our interest in going, is that you cannot sink. The hypersalinic water is so viscous you just bob like a balloon on top. Really. It was so bizarre to be able to stay afloat with no effort whatsoever. Look Mom, no hands!! Or feet!!

You had to make a bit of an effort to even get your legs down from the surface, but once down there you could literally stand in the water. It’s a wild experience and even more so when we got into the pool and sank like stones.

The guys had to leave for Egypt that evening, so after an early dinner we said our goodbyes. It’s always so strange saying goodbye, not knowing if you’ll see each other again until January.

We were up way before the sun on Sunday to catch our two flights back to Tunisia. Only 2 weeks left before we are Europe bound! This weekend we’re keeping our feet on the ground and driving south to a beach resort town here in Tunisia. I’ve got to get some sun on these legs- they haven’t seen the light of day since we left Costa Rica.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I don’t want to call people out on Facebook individually*, but really people- you need to stop reposting that status talking about how Americans need to start raising money for the oil spill and that we care more about Haiti than our own citizens and shores. We don’t need concerts or foundations. Why in the world should Americans donate their hard earned money to pay for the devastation that a multi-billion dollar company caused??

I know everyone is fired up and good for you- you should be. Just realize that BP and BP alone should be paying for every single aspect of the clean-up...every single cent.

*although i obviously have no issue calling them out here

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Egypt- Take 2

On our way to South Africa last year from Greece we stopped in Cairo and were awe-struck by the pyramids. They’re the kind of huge that can’t be fully appreciated until you’re standing in front of them. You can read all about that trip here.

Egypt is a history lover's dream come true- they have treasures beyond treasures in this country. Aside from the pyramids we have really wanted to go back to see the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. After much debate about the costs, the difficulty of getting there and time schedules we finally decided to just do it. Jules and Frenchie took a couple days of vacation and we met the team that is working in Cairo there last Thursday. Egyptians work Sun-Thurs.

We had to fly overnight and then had a long layover in Cairo before getting to Luxor Thursday morning. Our hotel was overlooking the Nile and after inhaling some breakfast we all went straight to bed. After a good 4 hour nap Jules and I headed to the pool where I baked in the insane Egyptian sun for an hour. It was all I could handle and sadly my sunscreen worked too well because I got zero color for my suffering.

The Cairo team arrived that evening and we walked through town to a little pub for some dinner. Walking that evening I was quickly reminded how much I disdain the manner in which Egyptian men conduct themselves with women. The too close for comfort whispers in my ears, the cat calls, the leering…I had my fill in the 20 minute walk and unfortunately had 4 more days to endure.

Friday we had to depart at 4:40am for our hot air balloon ride. We were taken to a felucca (boat) and served tea and coffee before crossing to the west bank of the Nile. We stood around for well over an hour before they finally told us the wind was not safe enough to fly and we’d need to try again tomorrow. Which the guys did the next morning while Jules and I writhed around in bed- sick from whatever we had eaten the night before. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…

On the agenda for the day was the temple of the Queen Hatshepsut...

and the Valley of the Kings. Which unfortunately didn't allow photos. Our guide said there was no actual reason they forbid it, but if you want to see it you'll need to go there. They are crazy strict about it and will not only fine you on the spot, but also delete the photos from your camera.

The highlight of the Valley of the Kings was of course King Tut Ankh Amen’s tomb, although not the most impressively decorated, it is the only tomb that still holds its mummy. And of course we all know about him so it was amazing to actually be there and see it.

Since we had cut the balloon ride out of the day we had time to check out the tiny, but interesting Mummification Museum as well as the Luxor Museum before heading back to the hotel for some much needed showers and a little lunch. It was well over 100 degrees and some of the guys had gone out to another temple, but we were more than happy to get out of the sun and enjoy the air-conditioned museums.

That night the World Cup started so we divided up the matches between the hotel lounge and another restaurant on the Nile…the restaurant I blame for our inability to go on the rescheduled balloon ride Saturday morning.

We caught up with the guys afterwards and toured both the Karnak Temple…

and Luxor Temple…


Very impressive and they are still excavating the Avenue of Sphinx that led from one to the other…

We all left for Cairo that evening and some of us went out for a late bite and some football. Sadly none of the guys who were giving me such a hard time about the USA team were with us to see that England was in fact not going to kick our arse.

Jules and I were still not feeling well the next morning so we skipped out on another trip to the pyramids. We headed back to Tunis early evening and I have to say I was glad the weekend had come to an end and we could finally get a full night’s rest.

This weekend we’re headed to Jordan to see Petra. My ankle is getting better every day and I’m hoping will hold out for the insane amount of walking we’ll need to do to see everything.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

not constantinople

I wish I had more to say about Istanbul. Unfortunately, a sprained ankle and a very rainy Sunday kept us from doing a third of what we wanted and had planned to do. I just refused to start the vicious cycle of ignoring the pain on weekends just to pay the price all week. I did that in Greece last year and was not signing up for it again.

Saturday we did go to the Blue Mosque, Haghia Sofia and to the Grand Bazaar.I wasn’t that impressed with the Blue Mosque. It was really beautiful from the outside, but to be honest the interior pictures look nicer than it was, at least to me. My opinion may be a little skewed because of the fact that it smelled. As with any mosque you have to take off your shoes to enter. I don’t know if this is common since I think this was the first mosque I was ever allowed to actually enter, but it had wall to wall carpeting. Considering the percentage of dirty feet with thousands of people a day walking around and well, you can imagine. I was so happy I had worn tennis shoes and had socks on!

Haghia Sofia was lovely…in that dark and ancient sort of way. And it didn’t smell so it gets two thumbs up.

It was a little bit of a walk to the Grand Bazaar, but not far enough for a taxi to take us. I was limping pretty badly by the time we had been to only a fraction of the shops. Even with the little we explored this place was pretty amazing. It is now all covered and spans over 60 streets with over 2,500 shops!! I’m already planning a trip back just to buy lighting fixtures for the new house. Oh and to see the rest of the city…yeah, the city.

Sunday was pouring rain so both my foot and the Wife got the day off. Jules so rarely gets to actually relax. She works all week and then runs around like a tourist gone mad almost every single weekend. So, I was happy she got a rainy Sunday to lie around and read.

Even with missing out on all there is to do and see in Istanbul- and there is a ton- we both really enjoyed our weekend. We were happy to be somewhere where people spoke English and I almost cried when I saw the International Herald Tribune in the lounge. I haven’t had a newspaper in English since we left the States. Which I thought was crazy with Costa Rica and all the expats that live there, but whatever…I was thrilled! I read papers online, but it just isn’t the same.

We’ve got a 4 day weekend ahead of us. We’re meeting the Egypt team in Luxor to see the Valley of the Kings. It’s supposed to be amazing and we can’t wait to see our friends!