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    Sahara Sunrise, Morocco

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    A Question of Etiquette

    June 15th, 2008 by mary

    You’re standing two feet away from a priceless masterpiece surrounded by other admirers when an urge to sneeze wells up within.

    Do you sneeze on the person next to you or the unshielded Van Gogh?

    Posted in art, paris | No Comments »

    We get into modern art

    June 12th, 2008 by steve

    A few of the pieces at the Pompideau Centre (museum of modern art) next to our apartment in Paris.

    Posted in art, paris | No Comments »

    Dude, where’s my camel?

    June 12th, 2008 by steve

    It was just like the movies. I wake up from a heat-induced nap under the high desert sun and…my camel is gone.

    Actually, it was a bit funnier than that. We’re out in the middle no nowhere in the Moroccan Sahara, taking our high-noon siesta, and the guide is rounding up and saddling our camels. Mine starts to walk slowly away.

    Then he starts to run.


    Then he’s gone.

    My camel had such desire to be free that even with his front two legs tied, he managed to outwit and outrun his captor. That meant I got a free 2 hour walk through the desert. Which I enjoyedtremendously…not being on a camel!

    He was easily corralled later in the day by a nomad on an ATV, but was a bit sad to see that the ropes burned through his ankles. Rough life, that of a desert camel.

    Posted in morocco | No Comments »

    Trials and Tribulations of Tapas to Tajine

    June 12th, 2008 by mary

    Valencia to Granada

    My brother and mother were coming out to visit us and we were going to take them on a two week whirlwind circuit through Spain, Morocco, and Paris. It all sounded good but started off with a missed flight. After a half day delay everyone was happily reunited in Valencia. The second problem was lost baggage. I knew John looked like he was traveling a little light. Of course the airline had no clue where the bag was or when it’d get to Valencia or whether or not they could forward it to Granada before we left the country. All we could do was file a claim, hope against hope, and dress John in our extra clothes. Then we were off in the rental car on our long drive to Granada. Directions was the next challenge. It was 8:30pm when we got to Granada but thanks to MapQuest it was 11pm when we found the hotel though it was only 5 minutes from the freeway exit. Our printed instructions basically told us the hotel was right in front of us. The problem was the 200foot vertical cliff separating our bumper and the hotel lobby.

    Granada, the Alhambra and TAPAS!

    Our first sight seeing was the palace of Alhambra positioned on a hilltop over Granada. We had a picturesque day exploring the Andalucian style of living. Granada itself is a scenic city with an attractive old town.


    But our strongest and most cherished memory are the tapas. It took us a couple of tries before hitting upon a gem of a place. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, you must eat at Bodega Castaneda. They serve the type of food that makes you giddy and is complete with festive, friendly ambience making it hard not to eat into the night.The last night in Granada, and Spain, was topped off by receiving John’s lost backpack. Now he could finally change his underwear.

    Fez, Morocco

    In Algeciras we took the ferry across to Tangier in Morocco. We had a couple of hours to waste away in the medina before picking up the next rental car. We drove directly to Fes, arriving in the dark. During the day a guide took us through the medina but quickly lost interest in us when he realized we weren’t the souvenir crazy type of tourists.

    Back Roads of Morocco

    During our two day drive to the Sahara we took a touristique scenic route that was only supposed to add 1 hour to our drive but ended up being a 7hr loop, half of which was on windy piste roads. I say loop because we actually arrived back at our starting point without trying to. We were happy to put our heads down that night even if it was hostel style living with in room sink and shower.

    Back in the Sahara

    The dunes of the Sahara appeared as a thin line of yellow in the horizon and quickly crescendoed to mountains of sand as far as the eye could see. The first evening’s 1.5hr camel ride was fun with the wind ushering us forward. When it started raining all the berber guides yelled in jubilation. It only rains 20 days each year in the dunes so each time is worth celebrating. I joined in the festivities by busting out my umbrella. A girl scout’s motto is ‘Be Prepared.’

    Before sunrise we toiled up Erg Chebbi, fighting against the cold and harsh wind threatening to toss us over the dark side of the massive dune. Sand was blasting us in the face but we endured to see the sunrise over the Sahara. We were signed up for a two night desert camel trek so we got back onto the hump and rode off toward the Algerian border. By this second day our rumps were tender but it was the sun beating down that really wore us down. After lunch Steve had to walk because his camel, though bound with roped feet, ran away over the dunes. We had dinner with a berber family before mom tossed in the towel and opted to be transported by a four wheeled vehicle back to the hotel. The remaining three of us rode back to camp in the pitch dark gripping onto our camels as we couldn’t see the terrain any more.

    Morocco’s Many Landscapes

    The next day, we rode for another couple hours to meet mom back at the hotel and continue our drive to the Todras and Dades Gorges and top it all off with a visit to the famed Ait Benhaddou kasbah outside of Ouarzazate.

    But wait! there’s one MORE day in Morocco

    We were ready to leave Morocco by now and a short walk through Marrakech’s medina was enough to satiate our curiosity. Thinking we were at the airport an hour too early to check in we settled into the cushy seats and let time passed. An hour and a half before our flight we make our way to the counter only to find out that Morocco had moved it’s clock an hour forward three days ago. Funny how no one mentioned that though we had on numerous occasions reason for them to. This meant the flight was within half an hour and check-in was closed. There was nothing we could do but cough up more money to change to the next day’s flight. It was more than we paid for the original tickets. Well, we made use of the extra night and day in Marrakech by buying crappy souvenirs. Take that! Of course our flight the following day was delayed by 2hrs. But at least we were leaving Morocco.

    Home Sweet Paris

    We took in the normal sites like Notre Dame, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, the Marais, and watched the French Open on the big screen in front of Hotel de Ville since we were foiled at every turn when we tried to get tickets. Food, of course, was a highlight. The French know how to roast their duck. Gelato was good and the chocolate is quite possibly the best in the world, though your wallet will ache from the indulgence while your belly sings.

     

    Posted in morocco, spain | No Comments »

    Too much time on my hands

    June 11th, 2008 by steve

    Welcome to the new website. It’s impressive what a bit of caffeine and a few college-style late nights can do for you.  These days I’m showing my age by drinking more tea than coke, though.

    On the left, you can jump directly to photo albums and now you can move directly from country to country to follow the trip in order. The new-and-improved video collection is hosted by Youtube, so you don’t need to download the clips. Much nicer. There’s even a few previously unreleased gems hidden in there.

    There’s plenty to do still, so let me know if you find any egregious mistakes or bad links and I’ll add them to my todo list.

    Enjoy.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    yet another vacation vacation

    May 24th, 2008 by steve

    We’re off on another adventure. Tonight we fly to Valencia, Spain to meet Mary’s mom and brother for a 10 day tour. We’ll spend a few days in southern Spain, seeing the Alhambra and a bit of the frontier before crossing the Straits of Gibralter and moving through Morocco. That means back to sleeping under the stars in the desert for us. I’m pretty accustomed now to hot showers and a clean sheet, so this is going to be rough.

    We’ll be following some of the same trail that we did almost exactly two years ago in Morocco. We pick up our car in Tangier and will drive to Fes the night. After wandering the ancient medina of Fes, we’ll head out to the big dunes near Merzouga. We’ll spend as much time on camels as our butts will allow and then head south, hopefully finding the Tondra Gorge and some nice kasbahs on our way to Oarzazate. The trip will finish up in Marrakech with our flight home on June 4th.

    Until then, au revoir.

    ps. we’ll leave the key to our place under the doormat if you’re passing through Paris while we’re gone. Just do the dishes before you leave, please.

    Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

    success

    May 18th, 2008 by admin

    yay, new blog works sorta. i deserve some bacon 

     

     

     

    Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

    Starbucks will never make it in Europe…

    May 9th, 2008 by steve

    We headed into the Latin Quarter tonight for the beginning of a two week jazz festival. There’s a few shows most nights in different venues and a bunch of the small ones are free. Very cool and cultural and Parisian, right?
    There were 4 concerts tonight and 3 of them were in a Starbucks. The Latin Quarter isn’t all that big, but there are at least 4 of Seattle’s best affront to the Old World in place.
    Welcome to the Americanification of Europe. Buy Starbucks stock.

    Posted in paris | No Comments »

    Singing The Baguette Blues

    May 9th, 2008 by steve

    We both love the bread in Europe. A warm baguette with lots of super crunchy crust and moist fluffy innards makes any day better.
    Most mornings, I run across the street to get a fresh baguette and then fry up some bacon and eggs to complete a perfect brunch. Yes ‘brunch’. It’s light out until nearly 10pm here, so we’re night owls these days.
    So the whole daily fresh baguette thing is great and all, but we’ve discovered that the grass is not always greener. Several times now, we’ve bitten into (and been bitten back by) squishy, dense or otherwise boring bread. It’s horrible. We’re not in Milpitas; this is Paris. We have expectations to be met. The bread should -always- be crisp and yummy.
    We’ve boiled down a few theories to these rules:
    4) Don’t buy on a Monday morning or after a holiday. The oven just doesn’t have its heart into the job yet.
    3) Skip it on a humid or wet day. It’s just not worth the risk.
    2) Think twice if the counter girl says “blahblah pas bien blahblah”
    1) NEVER EVER buy at the Naturalia grocery. Even if they are the only boulangerie open on Sunday. UGGGG. Healthy bread in any language sucks.

    Mary says: the baguettes from the Nature store are like Cold War bread ‘da! you veel eat rock!’ but today we found a boulangerie that sells the lustiest bread we’ve had. it’s simply glorious.

    Posted in food, paris | 1 Comment »

    Paris!

    April 29th, 2008 by steve

    After 2 years, 2 weeks, 2 days and 38 countries, we have finally reached the end of our envisioned trip. We realized long ago that too quick a move back to civilization would likely cause headaches and internal bleeding, so we decided that Paris would be our method to slowly and safely try out ‘normal’ life again.

    We have a cute little apartment in the Marais district just a 10 minute walk from the Louvre and Notre Dame. What’s ‘little’? How about 350 square feet. That’s smaller than our bedroom at the Los Gatos house. And we’re very happy to have so much space in this part of town. There are flats half this size for rent.

    We’ve already installed geraniums and fun lights we picked up in Bangkok. For the first time in 2 years, we have a closet, and it’s already full. My allocated space has a suit, 3 t shirts and 2 wetsuits…
    What now? Well, we’ve been wandering around town so far. Saw a ballet last night in French :) We’re going on a side trip to Spain and Morocco with Mary’s mom and brother in a few weeks. And…and… well we’ll just have to see. We’re STILL on vacation, after all.

    Posted in paris | 3 Comments »

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