Two Months Gone, Say WHAAATTT?

***NOTE WE ARE HOPING TO GET PICTURES POSTED IN PERTH, WE HAVE RUN INTO A SPACE ISSUE ON THE IPAD COMBINED WITH SLOW INTERNET CONNECTIONS***

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Cooking School In Bali

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Kai (brown tabby) and Ace (black and white tabby)

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Blaze (our Sun Conure )

Salutations and good tidings,

November 10th, 2012 is officially two months of travel for us. We have been gone 61 days and Kailey is in desperate need of a “Biggie size” Soy Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks. It’s really the little things you miss the most, like our animals :-). This is the longest that either of us has ever traveled continuously and it’s a learning experience to say the least. I don’t think that the trip is what either of us imagined it to be, not to say that in a bad way but we just didn’t have any real way of truly knowing what it would feel like to travel continuously for so long at a fairly brisk pace.

We leave in 5 days for the second to last leg of our journey the drive from Perth to Sydney and it blows our minds that we have come so far across the world. At this point it now it feels like we are officially heading back TOWARDS home as opposed to AWAY from it. It is a very surreal feeling to look at an Ipad full of photos, and blog posts detailing the last two months where a lot of it has become a slight blur. We definitely developed the ABCs in Europe (Another Bloody Church/Castle/Cathedral/City), but then Rae showed up and was so excited over old stuff that she cried, which in turn made us excited. Even though the days of week have long ago faded away to meaningless words (A common morning discussion is: What day is it? What is the date?), there have been experiences which will always be good memories and even better a lot of these we can share with friends that we will talk to and see back home.

It’s a humbling thing to take yourself and throw yourself from one foreign experience to another. You begin to realize just how fortunate we are to have the things we do at home and how different and amazing the world can truly be. The Discovery Channel got it right, the world is just awesome! While it is very easy to get wrapped up in the things at home that seem so important and forget how big the world is. Your worries and problems, when put in the context of everything else that is out there really aren’t that big. This trip has definitely helped Kailey and I as we figure out the whole being married thing, and also made us realize how lucky we are to have such amazing friends and family. Everyone that came to our wedding and agreed with us that this trip was a worthwhile cause will never know how much we appreciate you, though you can expect us to say it a few times once we get back and hopefully we have sent you a post card. Let us know if anyone else out there would like one!

We are now faced with a three week drive across the south coast of Australia before a rendezvous with a lot of family and friends for Kailey’s brother’s wedding, Christmas and New Years. It will be a nice way to end our trip with the people who we miss and getting some quality family time in. We could write more about the emotions we are feeling or the experiences that have meant the most to us, but I it is hard to put it all in words. Don’t worry we will keep writing and re-writing if WordPress continues to eat our blogs. Currently our best advice is if you want to know what this feels like to travel the world like us then make a plan to do it and stick to your plan. It took us a lot of pre-planning and it was hard to believe until we actually landed in our first destination and time began to pass, but take 4 months or more, pack your bags, watch out for bed bugs, walk out your front door, good luck and have a wonderful journey!

~ K. and Sam

Bali or Bust

***NOTE WE ARE HOPING TO GET PICTURES POSTED IN PERTH, WE HAVE RUN INTO A SPACE ISSUE ON THE IPAD COMBINED WITH SLOW INTERNET CONNECTIONS***

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Hello All,

Total travel time to reach our first hotel in Bali:
16.5 hours on planes
5 hours in airports
3 hours driving

It’s a hike to get here, but its nice, hot and humid once you arrive. We spent the first day sleeping off and relaxing after our marathon travel. We stayed in Tulamben which is a very small area on the north of the island. We are in diving paradise and that is all anyone around here really does. Lots of diving and snorkeling. You walk into the water (10 meters from our door), and you are on a coral reef known as the coral garden. We stayed at the Paradise Palms Beach Bungalow which is a collection of little bungalows that are really quiet and peaceful (leads to lots of sleep).

After we got our bearings the first day and slept a lot. We got out, walked around and had some good Indonesian food. We also bumped into a few people who kept asking about my uncle Roger who may or may not be some sort of local legend here….either that or a boogeyman type story, tough to say for sure. We ended up talking with one of the local dive shops and decided to go snorkeling the next morning on the USS Liberty shipwreck which was only 150 meters down the beach. The wreck was absolutely amazing, you are swimming along a coral garden when all of sudden you are looking at the stern of a ship, iron everywhere. You can then swim along the entire breadth of a very intact warship, complete with a few machine guns sticking out and one very large barracuda swimming around. It was a really awesome sight to see, and the crowd of divers swimming in and around the wreck threw off a huge mass of bubbles which were also fun to swim through. On the swim back we ended up among a huge school of Jack Fish which was another surreal moment as these hundreds of fish swam all around you and the light cut through the different density layers and cast some pretty amazing lines and shadows. We got out after a nice long snorkel and proceeded to just relax, soak up some sun and enjoy the rest of our day.

The next day Arca picked us up and we headed out for Ubud, where we would be staying for the next four days. The three hour drive was a very nice way to see some scenery and landscape since it had been dark when we arrived. The massive volcano was the first surprise coming up over the first hill. After that we settled in for a nice relaxed tour of the Bali countryside. We arrived at our hotel, met Wayan (another friend of Roger’s) who was extremely nice and helpful, checked in and arrived at our room. This trip is technically our honeymoon since we never got to take one and upon our arrival in our room we found flowers and a heart made of rose petals on the bed (awwwww). We took pictures and then got settled took a quick nap before Arca was to take us out to a monkey temple on a cliff.

On the way to the monkey temple we stopped at a village made famous by Julia Roberts in “Eat, Pray, Love” and went down to see the white sand surfing spot. It was crowded to say the least and apparently all due to the movie since prior to that it was fairly empty according to Arca. We saw some surfers and people hanging out and even got a chance to walk in the water a bit which is very nice and warm. We then climbed back up as we didnt want to miss the sunset at the temple.

The monkey temple was an interesting sight and we made sure not to wear any earrings, sunglasses or shiny objects as the monkeys apparently cannot resist taking them and will take them no matter how strongly you protest. We walked around the temple with Arca filling us in on the culture and history behind it and then made our way to the farthest edge of the cliff in order to watch an amazing sunset, while some fire dancing went on behind us. After our temple visit we headed to the beach to a restaurant Arca knew about that served great seafood. He wasn’t kidding, the only thing on the menu is several types of seafood and you just pick which type you want, how much and how you want it cooked. The fish is still in the container from the boat which probably arrived a few hours before we did. They then simply clean the fish and cook it whole before serving it to you will rice and some delicious sauces. After this we were thoroughly tired and headed back to the Hotel in order to get some rest before our early morning the next day when we would be doing a cooking class.

The next morning we woke up and had a traditional Bali breakfast which was awesome and then made our way over to the cooking class. The class was awesome the woman that taught it has been working here for 10 years and have lived in Ubud all her life. She was a great cook, halarious and really fun to cook with. It was also nice since she really focused more on the culture behind the food and the ideas behind Balinese cooking rather than just a recipe. She would discuss the reasons for each ingredient, what to do if you can’t find it (Uajimaya here I come) and how everything we made was what people in Bali cook for everyday meals. The menu we prepared was a sweet and spicy salad, fish wrapped in banana leaf, fish cury, spinach tomato sambal and fresh sambal. It was all super delicious and really fun. After the class Kailey and I spent the afternoon relaxing, reading and taking it easy till the sun went away and we could head out into the city to wander around. We were so full from lunch we skipped dinner got a bit of Gelato and then headed home to happily fall asleep.

We woke up later on again had breakfast and then to the city market we went. The actual market is under construction but there is a temporary market filling up an old building next door. We wandered from stall to stall taking in what can only be descried as a giant flea market crammed into a space much too small to contain it, but it was a neat experience and after a morning of wandering in the heat (did I mention its the hot season here?) we headed back to the hotel for some swimming and sun. We decided that with the heat and the many options available to us that river rafting was probably the most enjoyable way to spend our last day in Bali. Wayan helped us to book a good company and even got us a pretty sweet discount to boot. We relaxed further that afternoon and then went out to a local restaurant that our friend Anna had recommended from her time in Ubud.

The next morning we woke up had our breakfast and then were picked up by the rafting company and drove out to the outfitters headquarters in order to get suited up and ready to raft. Sobec rafting is a really nice group of people and we spent 2 hours on the Aryung (sp?) river heading through some decent rapids. Our guide Jackie was a really funny guy and we had a very good time going back and forth with the other boat, our boat somewhere along the way got the name of “Business Class” since we were the better boat and always out front, of the other “economy class” boat. Jackie luckily was there to protect us from the various crocodiles and monitor lizards that we came across in the river (this was really him just slapping the water as hard as he could with his paddle and screaming either “crocodile” or “monitor lizard” to make us all jump with fear). He also treated us to several rousing renditions of “row, row, row your boat” on our merry cruise downstream. After the raft we got to have a good Balinese lunch and then when we were quite full we headed up the 200 steps back to the pick-up point.

On the way back up Sam was walking behind Kailey when all of a sudden the bushes on the side of the path rustled and then a creature sprung forth! Fearing for her life Kailey screamed as the vicious chicken made its way quickly across the path. Kailey and Sam were highly amused as was their guide Jackie who made it quite clear how funny he thought this was. The drive back was good and the rest of the afternoon was spent, planning, blogging and trying to get everything up to date before we reached Perth!

The next morning we were greeted after breakfast by Arca, who was ready to take us back to the airport and send us on our way to Oz. We loaded the bags said goodbye to Wayan and headed out. We made it to the airport and checked in, with a few hidden fees assessed by the Balinese government as a kind goodbye.

Honestly we are not sure what to think about Bali. It has some very nice parts, lots of tourist traps, a significant amount of poverty, and lots of stray animals. The stray animals really got to Kailey and we attempted to visit a Bali Street Dog Rescue Sanctuary called BARC. Unfortunately they had just moved to a lager piece of property and were not yet set up for visitors. They still need a lot of donations and after seeing many stray dogs, we are planning on helping them out with a donation when we get home. Feel free to check them out online yourself! Another thing that disturbed Kailey to tears thanks to Dubai and the National Geographic Channel was that Indonesia uses elephants in their tourism industry. Although we do not know how the elephants in Bali are kept or specifically treated, we did watch a special on the elephants of Indonesia from our Dubai hotel. There was this super horrible part of the show where they showed a YouTube video of “Breaking the Spirit of the Elephant” where the newly captive creature is put in a pen where it can not turn around or get away or stand on it’s hind legs and for 7 days it is starved of food and water while it is continuously beaten with chains, sticks, hammers, nails etc until is practically collapses… all to teach it that humans are in control and forever it’s boss. For both of us this was definitely one of the worst videos we have seen in a while. In the end we could not stomach it and had to change the channel, even though we both like to be informed of the realities of situations. We vowed from that point on that we would do nothing with elephants or monkeys while in Bali.

We boarded our plane with a bit of anxious excitement and headed off over the water to Perth. Australian road trip HERE WE COME!!!

~ Sam and K.

Dubai Debacle

***NOTE WE ARE HOPING TO GET PICTURES POSTED IN PERTH, WE HAVE RUN INTO A SPACE ISSUE ON THE IPAD COMBINED WITH SLOW INTERNET CONNECTIONS***

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Hello all, well this ought to be good:

We landed a little before midnight and knew that we had to clear customs, get our bags and then would soon be off to our hotel in the airport for some good rest for the night before we fly again. On the flight Kailey was worried that we had not booked enough time at the hotel but Sam assured her that it was a traveling hotel and all would be OK. So we land, get through customs with little hassle then get our bags. We had to get our bags no matter what as our connecting flight was over 24hrs later. After we got our bags we saw no sign for the hotel and upon asking we were then told we should not have gone through security to get our bags, which means that we thus were exiting the airport. AHHHH, but we didn’t know and we had to get our bags… who knows where they would have ended up. So to the Emirates desk we went to speak to a supervisor as we were then told that maybe they could get us back in to our hotel.

As a side note, the Russian Emirates person who checked us in was a super stickler for the rules, we think because of who we were and our carry ons were weighed and we each had to practically empty them to make them each 7kg. It was a little bit strange, as clearly many others in line could go through with well over any weight limits and our carry-ons were not even full.

Back to our story. We are up at the Emirates counter speaking to the manager who it turns out can get us in, but we can’t take our bags with us as it is carry on luggage only. This would have been nice to have seen somewhere on a website how this hotel works and what the rules were. Who knows how the russian check in lady would have dealt with us then, but at least we would have packed our carry on accordingly. At this point Kailey was practically in tears and so tired, that she was ready to just sleep on a chair in the airport lounge for the next 24 hours.

We could raid our luggage and grab what was needed to get us through the next 26hrs, locking our luggage with the Emerates desk at the airport. This also meant that we would have to clear security and customs again of which we just go through and do the exact same thing (out and in through security and customs) 26hrs later. Argggg what to do.

So we decided to not leave our stuff at the airport and play the crazy customs security game and cancel our hotel reservation making it that we then had no place to stay or sleep. Our next move was to go to the hotel reservation desk and book a room at the Holiday Inn express which we saw upon landing and almost booked at initially. We found an agent to help us, and at 1:30am it was booked up.

Now working on plan C or D we were then told to go to the last booking person at the end of hotel reservations and speak with them. We got there and spoke with the person who had two rooms left… we would have to book two nights though which is what Kailey was worried about in the beginning and thus her intuition was right. Two nights with half a night already gone and leaving a half a night early. At this point thought it was what it was and we were exhausted. The booking person kept giving us discounts on our stay and I felt like we were back to bartering in Russia.

Finally though we got a room and there was free car service to and from the airport so all we had to do was wait to be picked up, check in and soon sleep as long as we wanted.

After some sleep and room service and naps we are off to the giant super mall to find some dinner and apparently find Starbucks!!! We were going to the City Centre Mall which is one of Dubai’s big Super malls. We go there and immediately were greeted with familiar shop names which made us miss home a little less at this point. There were all the major clothing stores, pink berry fro yo, many restaurants we recognized and even a Borders bookstore (they apparently still exist overseas). Just about everything was in English too which was another blessing. After hitting Starbucks and getting Latte’s we were then off to Borders where we found some more Nicolas Sparks romance novels, and an awesome guide for Australia called Backroads Australia that has different drives for driving across Oz, which is what we were up to. Until this point we did not really know how to specifically go about planning our Aussie road trip other than we were going to do it. The book also came with an awesome map and overall the book has pretty much been our bible since landing in Oz. For dinner we got much desired mexican food and then we went back to the hotel to gather our things and wait for 2am to depart to the airport for our flight.

Bali here we come!

~ K. and Sam

Snowy St.Petersburg, Russia

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***NOTE WE ARE HOPING TO GET PICTURES POSTED IN PERTH, WE HAVE RUN INTO A SPACE ISSUE ON THE IPAD COMBINED WITH SLOW INTERNET CONNECTIONS***

… How many times have I written this Russian blog only for it to disapear??? THREE!!!!!

Hello World,

I would just like to first point out that there is something slightly disconcerting when you fly a new airline for the first time and when it lands the entire plane erupts in applause and cheering. It gives you a sense that you were in far more danger than you realized and everyone around you was waiting for the wings to fall off while you were busy eating your inflight meal.

Welcome to Russia my friend. We soon learned from Ashley that this was customary practice in Russia for both take off and landing.

Tuesday October 30th, we arrived in St. Petersburg literally shell shocked. Italy had been a blast, but was jam packed and we were tired to say the least. After three days of battling with insect terrorists (which is what bed bugs are) we were emotionally and physically drained. We got out of the airport and found Ashley, Kailey’s best friend of 20 years, awaiting our arrival. We then proceeded to make our way by bus and metro to their home in St. Petersburg (details of this you will have to ask Ashley as we don’t really remember much). We arrived after some indeterminate amount of time and promptly placed our bags out on the balcony in the Russian cold to try and kill whatever insect terrorists may have still been hiding in our luggage. We then got a chance to visit with Ashley and ‘Jamin, show all of the cool gifts we had been hauling around for them in our bags, and the promptly fall into a wonderful relaxed sleep. SNOW!!!!

On Wednesday (HALLOWEEN!!!) we woke up after the kids had all gone off to school, and said hello to 2 year old Elsie. Elsie was very adamant that both Sam and Kailey got the opportunity to “see baby sleeping” and to “see baby sleeping….again!”. We had a relaxed breakfast before we headed out for some quick sightseeing before Joyelle(7) and Silas(5) needed to be picked up from school. We went into downtown St. Pete and walked around the main road. We headed over to a very famous cathedral that was very impressive. After that we continued walking on and turned a corner and before us stood The Church on the Spilled Blood which was really amazing to see (if you haven’t yet google image search it). It was what most people associate with Russian buildings and Czars. We then headed back and on the way back we grabbed some delicious Blinis, our new favorite Russian food. Since today was also Halloween, we went trick or treating in costumes with the kids to a fellow American neighbor’s house, the McFaddens. Russians do know about halloween, but it is not yet widely celebrated. I was a black cat. Sam wore his mask from Venice and all black to be some sort of ninja. Joyelle was a princess of sorts, Silas was batman, Elsie was Masha and Ashley was her Bear (A Russian kids cartoon). Unfortunately ‘Jamin had to work, but he was filled in on the details later.

Thursday was free day at the Hermitage (The world famous Russian Art Museum). Ashley, Sam and I packed Elsie up and hauled her off to the museum with us while the older kids were at school and ‘Jamin was at work. We did not spend all that long at the hermitage, but if you can think of the artist, they probably have his or her work. Also since it was free day we were alright with not spending loads of time there. After the museum we then went to a cafe that sells sweet and savory pastry pies for lunch. As for ordering, your options are a quarter, half or full pie with each being about 8in in diameter. We got pieces of many of them and enjoyed them a lot. The Salmon one in particular was really good. We spent the rest of thursday hanging out and enjoying the company of one another. We also decided that our bags had probably been out in the cold on the balcony long enough and brought them in. Fast forward to 3am where Sam is jumping out of bed exclaiming that he is being bitten. AHHHHH, oh no!! I see his bites and they resemble his previous bed bug bites which can only mean one thing…there is a terrorist stowaway!! We begin tearing the bed apart in search of the little creature of terror. There it was, on the sheet and we squashed the little bugger. We were in a panic though and were hoping that there was only one of the terrorist, but we could not be sure. So at 3am we decided to go nuclear sending all of our belongings back out to the cold. We sent the evil Rome hostel an e-mail asking for a full refund on our stay as initially they had only refunded us for one night, claiming that they were loosing money. We also decided that everything would be rewashed before it was bought inside using Ashley’s 95 degree C boiling cycle on her washing machine. FORTUNATELY, Ashley and ‘Jamin didn’t freak out too much and were on board with our plan. We also decided that our bags would be thrown away and we would be buying new luggage in Russia.

On Friday we were with Elsie and Silas as Silas had no school. So we had a fun morning outing day with the kids and went to Ikea and the local Russian mall where the kids could run around in two big play areas to burn some energy. Russian kids play quite different and more violently than American kids. This day also marked the beginning of our Laundry “fun”. Ashely doesn’t have a dryer so we would be once again living amongst our clothes as it all dried. That evening Sam and I sent ‘Jamin and Ashley out on a date while we became the parents of three for the evening. Ashley and ‘Jamin had not been out on their own in over 6 months so it was about time that they had some adult time. Sam and I did just fine as parents and had a good time with them all. We taught the older kids how to play tic tac toe, hangman and connect four, while Elsie was just glad tot be part of the mix.

Saturday, was a good day as we went to the Russian Zoological museum in the later morning and then luggage shopping in the afternoon followed by everyone going out to dinner down town that evening. After hearing the word museum, the older kids decided to stay home so Ashley. Sam and I were off for a kid free adventure while ‘Jamin watched them all, thanks ‘Jamin! Kailey had heard about the museum from one of her professors back home as they are only one of the museums in the world to have a full Steller Sea Cow skeleton on display (think, extinct giant manatee/dugong = marine mammal = super cool for Kailey). The museum overall was pretty awesome and the first room you entered was the marine mammal room where on display they have several full skeletons including those of a blue whale, northern bottlenose whale, and a sperm whale head. They also have stuffed Lake Bakal Seals and a whole pinniped section. The highlight was definitely the Steller Sea Cow skeleton and we were grateful to have Ashley with us translating signs. We found luggage at the local mall after striking out at several other stores. Dinner out with everyone was good and full of Russian foods from a little cafe. We are again grateful to have Ashley and ‘Jamin with us to help translate and explain things to us..

Sunday was another day of laundry! Yippie!! We also send the day just hanging out after the Latvala’s got back from church and we had an awesome dinner of Ashley’s “best in the world” lasagna” as per Kailey’s request. Kailey swears it is soooo good and Sam does agree it is good too! Hopefully Ashley will share the recipe when we return to the states, but my guess is that it is so good due to the lactose Finish cheese they can get in Russia.

Our last full day in Russia was Monday and we spent the morning with all 3 kids (it was 3 on 3 as ‘Jamin was working) at the souvenir market in St. Pete. Ashley, is an excellent barterer and we were able to get what we were looking for including a patch, matryoshka dolls and matryoshka doll christmas ornaments. On our way home we also went to the grocery store and were able to pick up Kailey’s favorite Russian treat, sunflower halva. It’s good!! We shall see if any of the two blocks make it home to the states. That night we had a homemade pizza dinner with everyone and just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company.

On Tuesday afternoon we left via Taxi after giving everyone big hugs and holding back tears.

Overall our trip to Russia was great and exactly what we needed minus the terrorist bug incident. We got to spend some good quality time with the Latvalas although we wish it was more. The kids are great, well behaved and mannered. Elsie and “Seaam” became fast good friends bonding over “see baby sleeping” and Silas also enjoyed Sam guy time where “they would just look at things in his backpack” Kailey and Joyelle hit it off with lots of crafty time and game playing. Although our time was short and our goodbye was bittersweet, we know that we are fortunate to see the Latvala’s again in January when they are in our neck of the woods. We can’t wait!!!

~ K. and Sam

Hang on tight, here comes Italy

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Getting Ready for our Tuscan Bike Ride

Hello All,

Forgive us if its been a while, we were on a whirlwind tour of Italy. I’ll keep it brief and let the photo journals speak for themselves:

***NOTE WE ARE HOPING TO GET PICTURES POSTED IN PERTH, WE HAVE RUN INTO A SPACE ISSUE ON THE IPAD COMBINED WITH SLOW INTERNET CONNECTIONS***

Milan & Venice:

Florence:

Cinque Terre:

Naples:

Rome:

Ok so things started rather mildly, our friend Rae came out from Seattle to join us for the Italy leg of the trip in Milan. As an excellent third wheel, we were now the “Rae in the middle” group as our photos will show. Luckily, Rae is a smart lady and after we missed each other in the subway she found Kailey at the hostel so it didn’t turn into a crazy scramble to find each other to start the trip. Rae is a great travel buddy if you didn’t know. Kailey got another girl to talk to, Sam got a wine drinking buddy and overall she is way into all the old stuff of Italy being an art history major and also really into history. It was like having our own traveling historian with us at all times that cried at moments because she was so excited and her dreams were coming true :-). Milan was pouring rain and kind of dirty so luckily we only spent one day there before heading off to Venice. This is where the fun really starts!

Sam lost our digital point and shoot camera….if you haven’t read about that fun adventure read about it now (https://teamgarther.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/the-heart-of-darkness/). That almost made things really uncomfortable for Rae and really awful for me. Luckily, as you may now know it turned out to have a happy, albeit unlikely, ending. When we arrived in Venice we walked out of the train station to see the cathedral, the canal and the people. Italy was off to a good start. We stayed outside the city in a camping ground that except for the incompetent staff was actually a pretty good place to stay. The first time we tried to take the bus back to the hostel we used the map the young woman at reception had drawn for us and would have wound up completely lost, be it not for two Czechs who had a smartphone and randomly happened to cross paths with us on their way back to to the campground themselves (seeing a pattern yet?). The rest of the time was spent eating lovely seafood, traveling around by boat (that is their bus system), seeing the sights and generally enjoying a very lovely city. Rae even went for a romantic gondola ride….for one 🙂

From Venice it was off to Florence to see the birthplace of the Renaissance and to get into the Tuscan country side. Both were well accomplished through city wandering and bike riding through Tuscany (video upon my return). Florence was a great place with great food and a good hostel. The bike tour of Chianti and the Tuscan countryside was a perfect way to get a very small glimpse of the area and also have the chance to taste some great chianti wine, olive oil and local culture. The bike ride was an easy one so long as you took the van up the last hill….Rae and Sam weren’t so lucky and decided to ride it. Yes, Kailey wimped out to save her knees and be our sherpa. This hill was a monster and by the top Sam was happy to have cold water poured on my head in the middle of October. Unfortunately, the large amount of pasta and wine Sam had at lunch seemed a little less delicious but it stayed down.

After Florence we continued our sunshine exposure by heading over to Levanto to try and see Cinque Terre. We had heard rumors in Switzerland of more landslides and trail closures, but supposedly they were minor and were going to be quickly repaired. By the time we arrived they had another landslide that sadly killed two Australians and ALL the trails between the villages were closed for the foreseeable future. Plan B or C was now in play. We settled into our hostel then went out for a drink and a dinner recommended by the hostel reception. We got drinks in a local bar that served microbrews from around the world, homemade antipasti and had an awesome atmosphere. We then headed out for dinner nearby at an excellent seafood restaurant.

Day two of Cinque Terre was our day of bike riding north as was also recommended by our hostel reception since the Cinque Terre trails were closed, which would take us to two small, non touristy villages (Fumara(sp?) and B…). We could even bike along a brand new path that had just been completed where the old rail lines used to be. We were happy to olbige, rented beach cruiser bikes and spent an awesome day riding north hanging out in the small villages before returning home to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant on the beach before we headed off to our free Levanto town walking tour. The walking tour turned out to be really awesome and you would never notice how much old history was around the town until someone told you about it. Levanto was even at one time a main shipping harbor for the area, which is kind of crazy as the sea level has dropped and the former harbor is now quite a ways inland.

Day three was our last day in Cinque Terre and we spent the day on the trains going from town to town as the train time tables permitted (you kind of have to jump around from town to town to make the trains work) starting with Monterosso. Monterosso was Kailey’s favorite as it had an awesome beach. Vernazza was Sam and Rae’s favorite as it is a little harbor town (see the pictures). We ended the long day of walking and taking trains with Sam and Rae taking a sunset dip in the Mediterranean Sea (Kailey was too cold and took pictures and video of it all), then we all had an amazing gourmet cliff side dinner at L’Anchora dell Tortuga in Monterosso (we will let the pictures speak for themselves). This meal was among one of Sam’s favorites of the trip.

Naples was next on our stop with the goal to accomplish seeing Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii. The city of Naples is big, but rather dirty as apparently the mafia at least runs the garbage system. We got in late from the train and Kailey was feeling car sick from having to ride backwards for several hours, so she had a 7 -up cracker dinner while she got her body to calm down and Rae and Sam split a pizza. We were only in Naples for one full day so we had to make the most of it. This included a “fun” trip that ended up being much longer than we anticipated to mail some things home that we had picked up in our travels and didn’t want broken. 4 weeks later the package made it and luckily nothin was broken (visualize a bright yellow Italian Post box half full of our breakable belongings that we were not allowed to add more packaging to…). Finally we were off to the train to Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii. On Mt. Veusvius we went all the way to the top via bus, 4WD converted military truck and walking. The crater is still smoking and you can see where the new dome is forming inside the crater. From the top you can also see Naples and the surrounding towns below as well as old lava flows. After our Volcano tour we were then off to Pompeii which was a thing all three of us had wanted to see for along time. Pompeii was massive which was incredibly impressive for a vacation resort built in its time. Apparently it has been continuously excavated for the last 200 years and they still are not done. There are the casts of the bodies around, but out of respect and Kailey’s wishes we did not take any pictures of them (you can google that yourself). Rae loved Pompeii and probably could have spent at least a week there herself. Following our long day of sight seeing we then had famous Naples pizza for dinner (Naples is where pizza was created). Sam and Rae liked their pizza, but Kailey was not impressed. We went back to the hostel packed up and prepared for our departure the next morning to Rome, our last stop on our whirlwind adventure.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it tried to kill Sam in one. We arrived in Rome in the early evening from Naples and settled into our hostel which at first glance looked awesome. It was a large three bed dorm, no bunk beds, A/C, large cabinet, we were very impressed. We did a bit of planning, got an idea of what we would do the next day and decided that since it was the one free day a month at the Vatican Museum it made sense to take advantage. We were told to get in line by 7:30 or 8:00 since on the free days even the locals got in line to see it. We went out for a quick bite to eat and to get to bed early since we had to get up at 6 to get in line in time. Well 6 am rolled around and Sam woke up feeling itchy and burning all over. He asked Kailey who had been up for a bit if the windows had been left open as he was covered in mosquito bites, Kailey replied that the windows were all closed as the A/C was running…..this meant only one possibility…..the boogeyman of travelers, the Freddy Kruger of the backpacking world, the Jason of all who sleep in hostels and hotels….Bed Bugs AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH. We turned on all the lights and started tearing the beds apart. We saw a small bug crawling on the wall and soon discovered a dead one under the bed. All it took was a quick google search to confirm, Sam had been pillaged by bed bugs. Sam was dispatched with the bug to reception and returned shortly with the message to pack up everything immediately and leave our items in the center of the room where they would be moved to a new room. We still wanted to go to the museum, but now had to deal with this so we consulted the not so savvy about bed bugs night guy receptionist and agreed to come back by 2pm to continue to deal with the problem encountered. We then left the highly rated hostelworld hostel to get to see the Vatican Museum. We are going to leave the bed bug story alone for the most part since it was one of the most heinous experiences Sam and Kailey were forced to go through. To sum up events, the three of us spent the next two days cleaning all our belongings, laundering everything we had that was washable, living amongst our laundry and worrying every night that you will get bit again. (Side Note: when you think it is a brilliant idea to bring lots of wool layers as they tend to not get smelly and you can layer them to keep warm, it is a brilliant idea until you have to mass wash them all and they have to hang dry as they are not able to go in the dryer. Did we mention that the heat didn’t work in our room?) It was a really unfortunate part of the trip that ate up a lot of travel/sight seeing time and sleep, but one that we made it through. It sucked, bed bugs are gross, but it was what it was. The one thing that made it truly the worse was the resulting attitude and response of the hostel… I don’t think they really cared! If Sam didn’t want to make a pattern out of Seattle residents ending up in Italian jails then that building would most likely be on the receiving end of several moltov cocktails. Regardless back to the good stuff…

The Vatican Museum was massive! It was a truly amazing collection of artifacts and works of art. It was one of those moments where you know you are seeing something that everyone in the world has heard about and dreamt about seeing. The Sistine Chapel was one of those sights where the pictures and the descriptions don’t begin to do it justice. That being said all of the signs instructing people to remain silent and respectful didn’t do a whole lot of good as the dull roar of everyone “whispering” was pretty unnerving, even the PA announcement in a host of languages didn’t work to silence the crowds for more than a minute. The rest of that day was spent in activities that lent themselves unfortunately to dealing with terrorists of the insect variety. Rae luckily was able to go on a nighttime tour of Rome, while Sam and Kailey did manage to get a really good dinner in at a local restaurant near the hostel.

The next morning we were off to see the Colosseum, and had managed to figure out the convoluted websites and get advance tickets with an underground and 3rd level tour which are closed off to the public. The tour was really great since we were able to first skip the line and then after wandering on our own for a little while we met up with our guide who took us around the restricted areas giving us a great picture of what the history and culture of the Colosseum actually were. After our tour we walked along the Palatine Hill over to the Roman Forum and then on to the Circus Maximus where Rae did a victory lap in honor of her Italian tour. After all of this we made our way back to the hostel where we got clean and relaxed and then went back to the restaurant that Kailey and Sam had found the night before. It was another great meal with the same waiter recognizing us and welcoming us back. The meal ended with some excellent dessert and a surprise couple glasses of wine from the owner of the place. It was a great end to the day.

The next day we packed up and headed to the bus to make our respective flights onwards, Rae to London and Sam and Kailey to St. Petersburg. Rome wasn’t about to let us go so easily as our bus kept us nervously waiting its arrival for 20 minutes before showing up and driving like mad in order to deliver us on-time to the airport. The airport was bittersweet since Sam and Kailey were really excited to see Ashley and Russia, but bummed that we were saying goodbye to Rae. Luckily though it seems as though our fates would be crossing paths soon in Oz! On to the plane we went and off to Russia we flew!

~K and Sam

We are still going

***NOTE WE ARE HOPING TO GET PICTURES POSTED IN PERTH, WE HAVE RUN INTO A SPACE ISSUE ON THE IPAD COMBINED WITH SLOW INTERNET CONNECTIONS***

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Hello All,

We have not given up on the blog and photo journals, we promise. The iPad is just out of memory and until we move some stuff off of it to the cloud we can’t publish photo journals. We are working on this problem as we type, but it is a slow progress with slow internet connections. Italy was a great two week whirlwind adventure, Russia was nice and fun full of visiting Kailey’s far away best friend and her family. we have spent 26hrs in Dubai and are currently on our way to Bali for 8 days. If you kindly hold on while we make space, we promise a new blog post and photo journal very soon!

~Sam and K.

Austria and Switzerland Together

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Hello All,

For your enjoyment and leisurely read, we’ve combined our adventures into one easy to read bulletin of things we’ve done as the photos rather speak for themselves.

Austria Photo Journal
Switzerland Photo Journal

48 Hours In Austria:

– Sound of Music Tour
– City wandering
– Eating at an awesome veggie/vegan cafe
– Enjoyed the pouring rain

96 Hours in Switzerland:

-Arrived in the dark rain, missed the last bus to the hostel and took a taxi
-Woke up the next day to sun and mountains.
-Hung out with our roomies (Larissa and Alee).
-Cable car rides to the mountains (First and Manlichen).
-Hiked from Manlichen to Kleine Schleidegg.
-Watched the Swiss air force practice over the mountains.
-Repaired Sam’s duffel bag with super glue, duct table and a screw driver.
-Listened to the cowbells echo throughout the hills.
-Made delicious homemade meals at the hostel.
-Sunbathed and relaxed.

Overall this week was good and although it rained on us quite a bit it was nice to get out of the cities and into small towns where we could get some fresh mountain air in our lungs. We spent as much time as we could just out walking around, since we were in some of the most beautiful vistas ever. We also cooked and just relaxed at our hostel. Fall in mountain towns definitely moves at a very slow pace and so we had no problem just slowing down and enjoying the areas. Austria was a bit tough since it POURED the entire time, but we still got out and walked through the city a bunch in addition to our sound of music tour. Switzerland likewise had a bit of clouds and rain, but it also had sun and amazing sunsets, mountains and a nice picture book feel to it. It was very easy to fall into the lifestyle of the town and just wander, hike and stare up.

After our time there we left the hostel and headed to the train station. On the way Kailey got to play interpreter between an elderly Swiss woman and a group of Taiwanese tourists. Kailey and the woman then proceeded to talk to each other about how she spoke German so well, and the interesting mix of tourists in the Swiss mountains (p.c. for why there are so many Asian nationalities represented). We arrived in Milan that evening and found some decent pizza. We got back to our hostel and fell asleep so we could wake up early the next morning and try to find Rae at the subway station near us. Until next time for our two week Italy recap unless something else happens along the way.

~ K. and Sam