"Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalks again; we had longer ways to go.
But no matter, the road is life." -
Jack Kerouac


1/2 Way Through!

Tomorrow is the 1/2 way point of trip down to the day, as we bought tickets the other day back home to the US. April 17th we'll fly from Singapore to SLC, 2 tickets for $268 total (thanks for the miles, Tom and Boeing)!

We are in Athens, Greece this moment, catching a plane to Istanbul, Turkey for a couple of days before flying into Bangkok, Thailand on the 30th. From there, we plan on making our way north into Laos, then south into Cambodia. From there, we'll go up through Vietnam and end up in Hanoi. From there, probably fly back down to the peninsula of Thailand and travel down into Malaysia, then some of Indonesia (not exactly sure where yet!) and then end up back in Singapore to catch a plane home. As always, if anyone has any "must-sees" along the way, please comment or email them to us, as we have very little lined-up thus far and would love more suggestions.

While Europe has been a blast thus far, I think that both Emily and I are ready for a change of pace. We've been going fast and furious, seeing sites and museums and learning and enjoying an unwritable amount of things along the way. It will be nice to slow down a bit, and spend a bit more time sitting around and soaking up some culture (with sunglasses on and beers in hand)!


Problems posting comments on the blog?

Hello everyone! This is Emily but I am not signed in under my google account as I wanted to make sure that I was able to leave a comment. Just so everyone knows, you do not need to have a google account to leave a comment. Just type in the blog address, go to the comment link below the post that you want to comment on, type your comment, click on the nickname button and put in your name. This way you don't need to sign in at all. Then just hit publish! I tested this myself and it worked! Good luck! Hopefully this helps, if it does, please leave us a comment.



There is so much to see and do in Rome! And, for some reason, we only allotted ourselves four days here so we have been busy from 8 am to 11 pm every day trying to get it all in and it was oh-so-worth it! We arrived in the afternoon from Cinque Terre, checked into our hostel, and then took metro to the Colosseum. It's huge and spectacular just due to it's sheer size. Really extraordinary. We didn't check out the inside as we wanted to be able to take our time. We did see the Pantheon, which is another amazing Roman structure that has been very well preserved. It was originally built in 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa whose name is still above the door and it's now a Catholic Church. It is also the home of Rapheal's body. Accidentally, we found the Piazza Novana, where sits the Fontana dei Quatro Fiumi or the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Unfortunately, it was partially covered for restoration.

Next day, we went to the Vatican Museum which has an ancient Egyptian section where we saw a mummy from 1200 B.C. and preserved bread from 1300 B.C. Holy shit! The mummy was an older lady with henna died hair (yes, she still had hair and skin! and she had a covering over her left eye socket because that is where they pulled out her brain before mummification!) and her face, hands, and feet were exposed. Mike wanted to take a picture but he felt kind of weird about photographing the dead. In fact, I am not sure that this lady would have been all that pleased about being on display but apparently the Catholic Church was not worried about that! Ha ha! We saw many other really old, amazing things as we wandered through the museum, including many frescoes by Raphael, Pintoricchio, and Michelangelo. There were also many maps that were painted on the walls in the 1500's and huge tapestries from around the same period. After wandering through this magnificent museum for a couple hours, we were finally able to see the Sistine Chapel. We both were open-mouthed at the beauty of Michelangelo's frescoes, Creation and Last Judgement. They were breathtaking! Everyone should go and see this place! After a light lunch and much discussion about the chapel, we made our way to St. Peter's Basilica. The Piazza di San Pietro (in front of the Basilica) is huge, with columns, fountains, an obelisk, and steps for admiring the square. This is also one of the places that the Pope gives his weekly address. The Basilica itself is also amazing with a huge dome designed by, guess who, Michelangelo, and it houses his famous Pieta statue (the guy was a bad ass!). It was completed in 1590. And, of course, St. Peter is buried here...astonishing. We were able to to climb the gagillion steep, tiny, little steps with the roof curving in to the cupola of the building and catch 360 degree views of Rome. After all of this beauty and more church related funness than you shake a stick at, we decided to get some gelato and call it a day on the sightseeing end of things.

Don't worry, though, because the next day was also filled with excitement because we checked out the inside of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. The pictures of the Colosseum speak for themselves. It was spectacular. The Forum is next to the Colosseum and used to be the center of Rome's government and social scene. As another tourist put it, it is a graveyard of Roman buildings and monuments, some of which date back to the 9th century B.C. This is also the place where Ceaser's body was burned and people are still leaving flowers on the rock pile marking it. We also wandered around the Palatine, the hill above the forum and the Colosseum where wealthy Romans and emperors used to have their houses. We also managed to squeeze in seeing Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains church), where they have the chains that bound St. Peter on display and where we saw another of Michelangelo's famous statues, Moses. Both impressive. Interesting bit, if you want to have any light shed on the statue of Moses to get a better look or a better picture, there is a machine in which tourists put money and the light shines for 2 to 3 minutes before turning off again. Brilliant way to make money! Next up we saw the Fontana di Trevi, a fountain that literally seems to burst forth from the front of the building. We did follow custom and threw in two coins each, backwards over our shoulders, one for our guaranteed return to Rome and another for a wish to be granted. A beautiful site to see at night all lit up! We then stopped at a store for a couple of beers (my idea!) and, after much searching, we finally found the Spanish steps built in 1725. We sat on the steps, enjoying our beer and drinking in public!

Our last full day in Rome we went out to Via Appia Antica, a road that was constructed in 312 B.C. We were able to tour one of the catacombs, The Catacombs of San Callisto, which were used from 170-400 A.D. At one point there were as many as 300,000 bodies in these catacombs alone and there are a total of 65 separate catacombs around Rome. None of the catacombs are used anymore and only a few of them have even been partially restored. In the San Callisto Catacombs there were four levels with nearly 3000 rooms. We only got to see a small portion of the first level but it was really interesting. There were little holes in the walls, almost like multi-level bunk beds where the bodies were sealed in with lime and other chemicals to reduce the smell and speed up decomposition. There were two sarcophagi, one which held the body of a mummified 12 year old boy and the other the body of a woman. However, all that was left of the boy was the outer cloth used to cover the body and there was only one recognizable bone left of the woman, the rest had already turned to ash. After our dark, cold adventure, we were blessed by our tour guide, also a priest. We then wandered back down the road and decided to rent bikes for the afternoon (Mike had to feed the monkey on his back). It was warm and sunny and really fun to cruise down the ancient road. Some of the road was made of large cobblestones, which made for a bumpy ride on our cruiser bikes and we were both pining for our mountain bikes. All the while, we were passing Roman ruins just lying about. A fantastic way to spend the afternoon. After returning the bikes, we had a coffee and then took metro to the other side of town to find the Piazza del Popolo. In the piazza, we found an amazing artist who "painted" with spray paint. But instead of mere graffiti, these looked like paintings done with a brush. We are very used to street performers and beggars of every kind at this point but this guy was awesome! He kept our attention for a full 20 minutes and we did give him some money since we couldn't buy one of his masterpieces-worth it. At the other end of the piazza, we climbed the steps to Pincio Hill, where Keats, Mussolini, and Ghandi liked to stroll. We were just in time to catch the sun setting behind St. Peter's Basilica. We then ate dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant where we had wine and strawberry tirimisu to die for. A wonderful way to end our time in Italy. The next morning, we flew to Athens, Greece.

Photos, HERE.

Venice, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre (a.k.a. a lot of Italy)

A game of catch-up for all that we haven't yet shared about Italy.

Venice was a fantastic place to walk all day, getting lost in little alleys and dead-ends and marveling at the canals. The weather was a bit chilly, and not surprisingly, damp, so we had to keep moving to stay warm. Venice seems (to me) to be a very picturesque city, but a complete pain in the ass to live in. Everything is wet and waterlogged, not a lot of (if any?) grass, and so many tourists that it is an epidemic. We ate some exquisite food (lasagne), drank some great wine, and also tried some not-so-great food. For some reason, I thought that Venetian liver might be a lot better than the liver I've tried before. It was not. We only were able to spend a bit less than 2 days before we had to move on.

Venice photos HERE.

Florence was a mess of museums and sunshine, not a bad combination. We saw the statue David, by Michelangelo, at the Academia Museum. Gorgeous, much bigger than I'd imagined, and easy to stare at and absorb for a long time. It seemed to me that it was a perfect copy of the perfect human physique. Comparisons to my physique were quickly quieted by Emily, the museum workers, and complete strangers in the gallery. Next was the Uffizi Museum for (supposedly) the world's largest collection of Renaissance art....I do not doubt if for one minute. Very many beautiful paintings, but the important thing was that it allowed me to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing artworks by all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in one day. The next day, we hit up an English language used bookstore and traded in 5 books that we'd been toting around for just such an occasion for 6 new (well, new to us) books. Then we checked out the Duomo, one of the largest Cathredals in the world. The outside was, truthfully, slightly ugly, but the inside was immense and filled with beautiful tile-worked floors, stained glass windows by Donatello, and a gia-normous frescoed dome. We looked at more old stuff, then settled down for some Italian espresso and gelato. Not a bad way to finish up Florence.

On the way to Cinque Terre from Florence, we stopped in at Pisa and walked 1 mile from the train station in the pouring rain to see what everyone comes to Pisa to see. Although I've seen many photos of the leaning tower, it is quite striking in person. They said 5.5 degrees off of vertical, but it looks like a whole lot more.

Cinque Terre (literally Five Villages in Italian) are a World Unesco protected area that are connected by a hiking path along the Mediterranean. We found a guesthouse after walking down the main drag of Rio Maggiore, the southernmost of the 5 that was superb. A little Italian guy who spoke some English, and his wife (?) who didn't speak a word of English showed us around their almost brand new room for at least 20 minutes (It was freakin awesome! -Em). It was a nice change of pace from the dorm rooms, and not much more than average price after we talked him down a bit (much less than some dorms, actually!). That night, we bought some wine and sat on the moonlit balcony of this sleepy, beautiful little town marvelling at it all. The next day, we were up early to catch the train to the northernmost town and then hike the ~20 km back. The only problem was that it was raining, and raining very hard. After walking about 4 km in 3 hours in all our waterproof gear, we were drenched to the point that long underwear were saturated, gloves had water running off the fingertips, and our shoes squished with each step. We ate lunch, managed to get back into our soaked and freezing cold clothes, and took the train back. We gave it hell, got some great photos and had fun, but in the end, the weather was a bit tougher. The rest of the day was spent drying one set of our 2 sets of clothing, and reading books in the room while the rain poured on.

Later on, while emptying the wet backpacks, Em discovered that she'd accidentally left her camera and her journal in the back(Whoa, this is because I am used to taking all of my valuables with me and never leaving them in a hostel where they might get stolen, they are always in there!). Both were saturated, but the journal is drying out, and the LCD on the camera is almost dry, at which point we will conduct the "power-on" test to see what's left! And, hopefully then we can share the Alps skiing pictures that are on it with everyone. The next morning, we made our way to Rome.

PS, thanks to Jora Deziel for suggesting Cinque Terre a long time back. She was the first of many to recommend it!

Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre photos HERE.


Skiing in the Alps

We rode the train from Barcelona and arrived in Nice, France late that night with plans to go skiing the next day. After much discombobulation, a tram ride, a 2 hour bus ride, and ski rentals (all the while trying to do weight conversions to Kg, height to centimeters, and shoe size conversions to European, all with people who spoke French), we were ready to go. The skiing, a place called Auron (piste map above) was pretty good. The snow was icey and my performance left a lot to be desired, but it was still a great time and we got some gorgeous shots of the Alps (pictures to come later, when we can post them). Back at the hostel, (which had really good, cheap food, cheap bottles of wine, and even cheaper 1 euro tall boys of beer in a vending machine!) we sat and chatted with some other travelers while eating dinner. The next day in Nice, we tried to explore the city a bit and see some of the French Riviera, but it was pouring rain! Instead, we found a used book store with a dingy used English section and bought both The Dubliners by Joyce and Wuthering Heights by Bronte for 4 euro! We then attempted to find a jewelry store or a tattoo shop looking for a replacement for my nose ring, which had fallen out the night before. (Oh, yeah, for those of you that don't know, I pierced my nose just before the trip. Apparently, I did not think that traveling round the world for six months was adventurous enough!) I had to put one of my earrings in my nose to keep the hole open and it looked like a huge green blob on my nose, so it was a relief to find a jewelry store. Amazing how, even on vacation, silly little things still need to be dealt with, from paying bills to where to eat and sleep for the night!

Pictures of skiing to come later.

Barcelona, Spain

We left Portugal by night train headed back to Madrid. This time we spent a little extra and got to sleep in beds, although we had to split up (boys against girls, just like the old days!). It was kind of fun to be sleeping in this little bunk bed on a train. When I arrived in my cabin, this nice lady who was already in bed kept trying to help me figure things out. She only spoke Spanish and kept her sheet over the lower half of her face (I think she must have worn dentures and had already pulled them out), so it took me about 10 minutes to figure out that I had a bottle of water and earplugs waiting for me in a little cupboard. A funny story to tell Mike the next morning as the lady slipped off the train with teeth intact. Overall, the night train was a good experience even though I got little sleep. Of course, Mike slept like a stone, as usual.

After a couple more times of switching trains, we walked from the train station out into sunshine and warm weather in Barcelona. We wandered down the main road and saw over a dozen different street performers, from a woman dressed as a tree to one guy as Michael Jackson and another as Edward Scissor Hands. We found a little pub and caught some more rugby, one of the teams being from Biarritz, where we had been recently.

The next day was a little chillier but nice enough that we spent time strolling through the city park. Wandering down a side street we met a basset hound whose owner must have owned the shop outside of which he was tied. He was very sweet and playful. He started play fighting with me and somehow ended up grabbing my bag (which was on its last leg anyway) and we began playing a game of tug of war. After a few minutes, Mike reminded me that I didn't currently have another bag to hold my things, so I ought to stop before it was a goner. The basset hound had other ideas and even after some serious tugging on my part (and uncontrollable laughter), it took some prying open of the jaws of a dog I didn't even know to get my bag back. He just looked sad that we weren't going to play anymore. That night, we made dinner at the hostel, drank cheap Spanish wine, and watched a movie on the hostel couch. Small things that aren't always an option for us, but are so enjoyable sometimes!

The next morning, we went to a museum of Roman ruins. It was underground in the city center and showed rooms where they made wine, washed clothes, and made a specialty fish sauce from fish guts and rotting fish pieces. When this area was unearthed, scientists found traces of grapes and plants used to dye cloth, which is how they knew what the different rooms were used for. They also found traces of human urine that was used to wash clothes, because of the ammonia. The Romans had tanks outside of the laundry where passersby could urinate to facilitate the clothes washing. Makes me thankful for detergent, but Mike thinks that we should open a laundry using this practice, and place our tanks in the Barmuda triangle, Bozeman, for a near-limitless supply of ammonia! After this, we took the funicular (description, basically a subway that climbs up inclines) up the hill to the palace, which afforded us some great views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. On the walk back down, we found large "musical instrument" type things in the park. They consisted of giant whistles and things that one could jump on and off of like a see-saw and they produced musical notes (probably for children, in retrospect). We also found a zip-line swing that kept us occupied for a few minutes (okay, an hour or so!). It was very fun, running up the hill and then turning round and swinging onto the seat and swinging down. It was equally fun for the other to attempt to get some crazy pics of the one riding. Awww...we are so easily entertained.

Another sunny day in Barcelona and we checked out Antoni Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia, which was truly amazing. It is a beautiful cathredal with huge spires and awesome architecture. Tourists are all over the place and all the while, work is still being done on the building and will be continued for the next 12 years, even though construction begain in 1882! We also checked out some more of Gaudi's buildings scattered around the city. Very interesting curves and swoopy lines.

Photos, HERE.


Crazy small world

Who would have thought that we would be sitting in a Chinese Restaurant (don't ask) in Florence, Italy and we would see people base jumping off the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho?


New Year´s in Porto, Portugal

We took a night train from Madrid, Spain to Porto, Portugal. We were awoken in our seats by the train ticket-taker at 7am and told our stop was coming up soon. We grabbed our stuff, slipped on our shoes, and got off at the tiniest train station ever in Porrino, Spain. The station itself wasn´t open, but the guy behind the counter in the cafeteria told us our next train into Porto would be there in an hour, and gave us some coffee to get going. Three hours later, we pulled into Porto. Almost immediately, a local noticed us looking lost and pointed us in the right direction as we searched for our metro stand. Another stranger, over-hearing the conversation, verified that the first was correct. We dropped our bags at the cheap hotel we´d rented (a treat for New Years) and walked to the town center. The weather was gorgeous, sunny and warm, few clouds and no wind. We grabbed some great views of the old city center from a bridge, then made our way in. The city was very pretty, gritty, and cramped together, all very homey. After lots of looking and picture-taking, we had to get in a power nap before New Years Eve, due strictly to the uncomfortable night train. Later, we went in search of a good dinner. Come to find out, you have to make reservations in Porto, too. We wandered for a long time, rejected at many different restaurants, until we found a cafeteria-type place with tables. It was actually pretty good, and gave us our first experience with the Francesina. The Francesina is a sandwich, made up of about 4 pieces of bread and 4 kinds of meats and sausages, covered in melted cheese and then drenched in a spicy tomato soup. It is served in a bowl, and is fantastic. After, we went to a square where some guy on a stage was singing Portuguese tunes. As New Years approached, a local noticed that we had no raisins and so he gave us each 12 (according to the VisitPortugal site, you eat 12 raisins, each a wish for the upcoming 12 months, we found out the next day). The people counted down from 10, in Portuguese (Em and I tried a little), and of course champagne corks popped all around us. Another older guy noticed we had no champagne, and promptly gave us some of his. Point of story: the locals are absolutely fantastic in Portugal.

The next day, the entire town was shut down for New Years Day. We searched for hours, and finally found a cafe that was serving some food. Since it was cloudy and rainy, we spent the rest of the day in the hotel room watching a movie on cable (Steven Segall) and reading books.

We went to a Museum of Wine and Port (Port wine comes from a region very near Porto) and then walked to the ocean. Once again, a bunch of time spent watching the waves crash on the pier. That night, we finally had the nice New Year´s dinner we had searched for several days prior.

Our last day in Porto, before taking another night train back to Spain, we toured a Port wine company. The tour was fun and informative, the best part being the tasting at the end. After lounging around (and drinking some full glasses of port that no other tour-takers had claimed), we made our way to the train station. Back at Porrino 3 hours later, the same cafeteria worker asked us about our New Year´s and gave us more coffee. We jumped on the night train (in sleeper bunks this time), and made our way to Barcelona.

Photos HERE.


Madrid and Segovia, Spain

We arrived in Madrid after a very long train ride from Bayonne. At our hostel, in the old town center of Puerta del Sol, we found that they had moved us to their brand new hostel a few blocks away. It was quite nice with free internet and a clean kitchen we could use, woo hoo!

We spent about an entire day finding Mike´s insulin pump company branch on the outskirts of town, talking security into letting us in, and having the receptionist help us track down a guy Mike´d emailed a few times. It was a mess, but he did get more diabetes supplies in the end, so a success in the end. That evening, we went with a group from the hostel out for beers and tapas. We didn't know what the tapas that we chose was, we just knew that it had garlic in it. It was called garlic gula. When it arrived, it looked like little worms on toasted bread but we gave it a go and it was really good. We found out later that it is made of Alaskan cod, and is a substitute for much more expensive baby eel. We talked with our dorm mate, a PhD student at Cambridge (originally from Virginia) studying molecular biology. Nice guy, but a complete dork, he earned the (between us) nickname of Bio-Geek.

We tried to go to the world renowned Prado Museum, but with the Christmas/New Years holiday, the lines to get in were about 2 hours long. Since the weather was warm and the sun shining we found ourselves on a park bench for several hours that afternoon, soaking up the sun. Later, wandering around the plaza near the hostel, we did some people watching. For some reason, everyone was buying crazy wigs (think rainbow mullets down to the waist crazy). Young and old, looking silly in the streets.

One of the days in Madrid, we took a train to Segovia for a daytrip. We had no map and wandered around the city for a while, which at first glance appeared to be dead. We finally found the Roman aqueduct from the 1st century AD, which the city is famous for. The aqueduct runs through the center of the city and used to provide fresh drinking water for the people. We also checked out the city's palace and the main cathedral. It was a really neat little city with a lot of character. The aqueduct is amazing; there is no mortar used in the arches, just shaped stones.

At some point, we also checked out the Madrid palace and Cathedral, and ate grilled sweet potatoes and corn on the cob from a street vendor. The final day, we ended up back at the park we´d been to earlier, this time to nap on the grass. It was Sunday, and the park was packed full of locals and tourists, so we fit in. We left Madrid that evening at about 10:30 pm on a night train bound for Portugal.

Photos, HERE.

Bayonne and Biarritz for Christmas

We decided to stay at a Bed and Breakfast in the little town of Bayonne, France, for Christmas and we arrived on Christmas Eve. The owner was a very lively French woman named Sylvie. She spoke very little English but that did not stop her from spending 25 minutes showing us around our room and pointing out everything there was to do in Bayonne. She was very excited about the bowling, encouraging us to go because they had a great sound system with great music.

After she left, we were almost like little kids in a hotel room. An entire room to ourselves, with a shower and a tv. It was like Christmas. Well, it was Christmas. We ate our salami, cheese, baguette, and drank the wine all the while watching Gremlins and The Simpsons in French. (side note, the last night we were in Paris, we walked into our room to find that we had new room mates. The room was quite fragrant and we assumed that the new people weren't that into bathing or had passed some serious gas. No big deal, I just opened the window and then went to take a shower. When I got out, I found Mike laughing. He had figured out that it was our stinky cheese that we had left there in the morning that had made our room smell so badly.) Back in Bayonne, we ate some of the stinky cheese with our noses somewhat plugged. It was good but strong.

Christmas day, we got up and had breakfast with everyone else at the B&B. One of the other guests spoke English (actually an English teacher in France) and Sylvie pretty much forced this guy to sit by us. He was very nice and ended up offering us a ride into Biarritz, the coastal town next to Bayonne. We accepted and they took us up to the light house and then dropped us off next to the beach. It was spectacular, mostly because it was so warm and sunny and there was no wind. There were people surfing and by late afternoon, there were a few brave souls getting into the water. The area was full of rocks and the ocean crashed into them and this made for some wonderful pictures. We spent most of the day soaking up the sun, watching the waves get bigger as the tide came in and the ocean got angrier. After having tapas for lunch, we indulged and bought some delicious desserts from a pastry shop that boxed them up and tied on a little bow. Mike and I walked down the street, found a little bench in the sun and promptly ate them. Mine was covered in powdered sugar and Mike kept making me laugh so I, too, was covered in powdered sugar. Biarritz was a great little town next to the ocean that came alive at night with people strolling along the boardwalk, enjoying the lights and the water. Not a bad way to spend Christmas. Next day, we had breakfast with Jean Michelle and his girlfriend, Sandrine (the couple from the day before) and then we were off to catch our train to Madrid.

Photos HERE.