Rain & Iguanadons….Bangkok

Day 4

Began with an early morning rainstorm, as previously mentioned.  We then ventured to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (wat=temple).
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We took the free English tour and learned just as much about our tour guide as about the palace and temple (38, learned English from Harry Potter, loves to touch ladies, & single – shocking).imageimageimage

We finished our tour, complete with our first Wat & shoe-removing experience just in time for the afternoon rainstorm.  Our umbrella has started struggling at this point, but we make it without getting too wet.  Our parents, mine in particular should note that we spent almost 4 hours at a religious facility.  This may be a record, but it does include the visit to the textile museum, which was really cool.  The Queen started an organization to bring Thai silk back into practice to provide jobs and money for struggling rural economies.  It was pretty successful and there are beautiful silk garments and tapestries now from an industry that was dying out.

Day 5

We were intrigued by the textile museum and continued our silk tour at the Jim Thompson house.  He was an American architect who promoted Thai silk around the world and revived trade outside of Thailand.   He disappeared mysteriously in Malaysia, but his house was turned into a museum.  He combined 7 Thai structures into one to make his house.

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There were lots of animals at his house.

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Living and nonliving.

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This kitten was passed out in various locations while we were there, including the lap of one of the guides, who gave him a Thai massage.

Across the canal are two of the original silk making facilities from Jim Thompson’s time.  They still produce the cloth on big wooden looms and will show you the whole process.  If we have any money left at the end of our trip, we intend to go back and buy something here.

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There are no pictures after this as we left the museum to go to the nearby Vietnamese Embassy to pick up our visas.  Along the way, it started to rain.  And then pour.  And not the usual 15 minute afternoon shower.  This was torrential.  Seeing that we had to be there between 4 and 4:30 to pick up the visas, we had no time to wait out the rain.  We trooped on with our fading umbrella and skimpy poncho.  Never occurred to us to get a taxi.  Nope, we haven’t yet, why start now?  I was very proud of my waterproof shoes, until I realized that they won’t stop the rain that runs down your ankles from getting into your socks and then into your shoes.  So my feet were a full 5 minutes drier than Riki’s. Success.  And then his dried out faster.  Fail.

We took the cheap bus home, which was full, and hot, and slow.  The traffic is really bad for about 3 hours every afternoon.  The umbrella has been retired. Fail.

Day 6: Today

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Still need to identify these canal creatures.  Iguanadons as Riki is calling them.

I forgot to mention that they LOVE their king and queen here.  There are pictures everywhere, along the street, in the buildings, in our hostel.

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Riki loves flags.

With our tickets from the Grand Palace (500 baht) from the other day, we also got tickets to a bunch of buildings in the Dusit area.  The first building was the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, which has a very impressive exhibit on artifacts made for the king.  The building was pretty amazing as well.   Riki tells me the king who built these buildings prevented colonizing by western countries because he was already so modern as he had gone to school in England.

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What is not so modern about this building is the dress code.  While I was completely covered, shoulders, ankles and all, I am now the new owner of a rather stiff and almost mauve colored sarong.  Riki was wearing the same clothes as me, but no sarong for him.

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Oh well, it was 50 baht (less than $3) and I can use it as a beach towel, maybe.

We couldn’t take pictures inside, but there is a crazy dragon chandelier covered in green shiny beetle shells.  Then we went to another textile museum, where we learned to differentiate between northern and southern Thai patterns.   Also with our Grand Palace ticket, we were granted entry to the Vimanmek Mansion Museum.  We had a free English guide for the large teak home of the former kings, but she really only wanted to talk about the gifts in the rooms that were given to the king from around the world, not the building or rooms.  It was incredible, but also, no pictures allowed.

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Fish in a canal.

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There are these little shrines all over the city and when people see Buddha they bow slightly and clasp their hands together in front of their chest.

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 We have started playing I-SPY an Asian animal.   Mostly cats, sometimes dogs, toads, iguanodons, fish, cockroaches, really strange sounding birds, etc.  You can play along too.

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Sights, sounds & smells….Bangkok

Its 5:30 am, Bangkok, Day 4. That’s early you say. Well yes, but its pouring and the clang of the rain on the metal roofs around us is deafening. At least to me. Riki is out cold. This is the first rain we’ve had, despite it being the rainy season. So that’s lucky. We were going to get up early anyway to go to the Grand Palace, just not this early.

We arrived in Bangkok Sunday morning at 5:30, like I said, that’s early. Having had the brilliant idea to sleep only a few hours Friday, so we could sleep on the plane Saturday, neither of us managed to doze off at all on the plane. Luckily, there were lots of movies and no screaming children. We flew Thai Air and were not impressed. Turkish Airlines had friendlier service and better food. It was still above average though, and if you fly first class (which we did not) they have a fully reclining seat. We did really enjoy the flight attendants’ uniforms, which were semi-formal Thai suits and all different.

Needless to say, when we arrived at our hostel before 7 am, we were exhausted. The reception wasn’t open and the person on duty managed to communicate that we could leave our bags and come back to check in at 1 pm when our room would be ready. So that’s what we did.

View from our room
View from our room

We are staying just north of the large backpacking area centered around Khao Saan Rd and so we headed that way, like walking zombies. There are no pictures from this day, as I don’t think Riki had the energy to get out his camera. We wandered down toward the Grand Palace, where we discovered it was Car Free Day, where we encountered thousands (and I’m not exaggerating) of people riding bikes to a large park, Sanem Luang. This made it incredibly difficult to cross the road and we kind of shuffled/sprinted our way through the bright green-shirted swarm. It was still too early for anything to be open, so we meandered from park (I use this term loosely) to park looking for a comfy bench. These are hard to come by. We finally found a nice shaded (did I mention its hot?) spot of grass among some older ladies doing their morning stretching and managed to doze off for a minute, or less.

Later, we went to check in and took a quick 6 hour nap.

Day 2: Embassy & Hospital

We took the bus to the Vietnamese Embassy, which is a success in itself, as there are about 100 bus lines and no real map of where they go.  So we got one in the right direction and the ticket taker told us when to get off.  Oddly, the bus we took cost 6.5 baht (~32 baht = $1) but we have yet to see a .5 baht coin.  But since we are two, I guess we won’t.  We turned in our passports and application (2500 baht each) and headed out on to their embassy row in search of the Red Cross.  Having just decided to add Nepal to our itinerary, we were lacking in the Polio vaccine department and read that the Red Cross administers them for $20.  Well we found the anonymous Red Cross clinic, but that turned out to be mostly for AIDS testing.  A nice American guy working there who had lived in New Orleans for awhile pointed us in the direction of the Red Cross Travel Clinic, which is literally right next door to a snake farm – they share an entrance.  We did not partake in the snake farm and were turned away at the clinic because they only had a combo Tdap-polio, which we had both just received.  This is why we ended up at the hospital.  Sorry if you were expecting more drama.  We walked right in and were escorted to the appropriate clinic.  An hour later and $30 poorer ($2 for the polio drop, $3 for hospital fees,  and $10 for the doctor – each) out we went.  We were really impressed with the system and I will attribute the efficiency to the all-female staff (except for a pharmacist, who we didn’t need).  We wandered back up to the shopping district, where we ate dinner for $4 total and caught the same bus back to our hostel (this time it was free, apparently sometimes they are free).

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Day 3

First stop this day was to get Riki a hair cut. A $2.50 hair cut.  He looks a bit like the monks they have all around here, but no orange robe.

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Then we took a water taxi ($1 for two) for about half an hour to the south.  We meandered back up through Chinatown and were particularly fascinated by the car parts area.  So, if you want to buy any kind of metal for your tuk-tuk or motorcycle or car, there is a street, well more like a large alley where there are heaps and heaps of car parts.  I’m not sure how they find the right one, but maybe they just hammer one and melt it until it fits?  We passed through the flower market, which is an incredible economy in itself.  It is hard to imagine how 50+ vendors all selling the same thing in one place makes sense but that’s how it is with a lot of things here.

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We stopped at Amorosa bar for a drink and to watch the sunset.  Highly recommend, though the drinks are more expensive ($4).  We watched the sun set over Wat Arun and met a nice British couple.  When we were leaving the man tried to pay for our drinks because “it’s so nice to see Americans get out, because you don’t have to leave.” To which I replied, “you don’t have to leave either,” which may have been a bit harsh because I’m sure he meant well, but he was at least 6 Beefeaters and tonic in.  Anyway, we ended up walking home because the boat stops running at 6:30 and we couldn’t find out where the bus stopped (fail).

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Some more images below.  Sorry they are not in order, but our Ipad is not cooperating.  I could rant for an hour about the backwards way we have having to do everything because Apple products are stupid.

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We have yet to identify this 5′ river monster.image image

Bags are packed…..A list

It has been interesting getting ready for this trip.  We’ve read a gazillion backpacker’s blogs about what to bring, see and do.  Ultimately, we won’t be prepared for everything, but we should have the bases covered for the big stuff (as far as we know).  From our research we’ve decided less is more.  We don’t want to be hassled with heavy suitcases getting on trains and buses.  Oddly enough, my parents had extra backpacks we could use (not so odd if you have seen their garage).  One is my mom’s from the 80’s or earlier (fact check Dad?) and the other is a backpack they acquired on a previous trip to Asia.  That saved us hundreds.  We did look at buying new bags before we knew about their extra ones, but they were a couple hundred dollars each.  So thank you M&D.

Scroll down for pictures if you are already tired of text.

If you know Riki (see previous post with similar title for more on Riki), you know he takes pictures, lots of them.  So along with our big backpacks, he has a smaller day pack mainly for camera equipment.  I am also bringing a camera, but it is wallet size and water/shock proof.  Besides that, I have a day pack that folds up very small and a medium sized purse.  Everything has to fit in those bags for the next few months.

So this is a list of what we’ll be wearing.  And anything we acquire along the way, which since we have just added Nepal to our itinerary, we will be adding some warmer clothes when we get there.

 Pretty much everything is moisture-wick, fast dry, or something of that nature.  No cotton, as it is slow to dry and generally heavier.  We did most of our shopping at Academy Sports, REI, Columbia Outlet and the Eddie Bauer Outlet.  Ironically, a lot of the things we bought were made in Southeast Asia.

Julie’s Packing List (top to bottom, left to right):

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3 pairs of pants – (Capris, pants that roll up to capris, regular pants)

Sleeveless orange dress

Long sleeve cardigan

Blue shorts

Thin black tights

Coccoon Sleep sheet

Travel Towel

Inifinity scarf

4 shirts (will probably add a tank top or two for layering)

Long sleeve Omni Shade Columbia shirt

REI Raincoat

Light fleece jacket

Not pictured:

Hiking shoes

Flip flops

Silver Sperry flats

4 pairs of athletic socks

4 pairs of Exofficio travel underwear

Bathing Suit

Various toiletries & travel paraphernalia

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All snug in their dry bags

Riki’s list (left to right, top to bottom):

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Black Columbia fleece

4 pairs Exofficio travel underwear

Belt

6 pairs of athletic socks

Bright blue athletic tights for layering

3 T-shirts

1 Fitbay shirt (check out http://www.fitbay.com – a friend’s new start up)

1 thin long sleeve shirt

2 pairs of pants

Regular shorts

Amphibious shorts

Mess shorts

1 heavier long sleeve shirt

1 “Safari” button down

Not pictured:

Marmot raincoat

Adidas athletic shoes

Flip flops (because they haven’t been purchased yet)

Various toiletries

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Note our New Orleans flags.

Bag Weight: J- 11 kg (24.25 lbs)  R- 11.5 kg (25.35 lbs)

Don’t be fooled, my bag may look smaller, but it weighs about the same.

We also have a plethora of random items that may be useful, or not, including:

Sharpie, duct tape, playing cards, small flashlight, thin rope, rubber bands, tons of Ziplocs, paperclips, safety pins, scissors, etc, etc

Larger items we are also bringing include:

Camelback AllClear Water purifier, raincovers for our big backpacks, notebooks for drawing, travel alarm clock (if we can find one before we leave), eye masks and a small power strip/converter with USB and plugs

Oh, and sunscreen, don’t forget the sunscreen.

To be or not to be….Helsingør & Copenhagen, Denmark

We left Sweden Tuesday morning and took a 20 minute ferry from Helsingborg to Helsingør.

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Having fun with candy teeth.

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Posing with the Hamlet castle.

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There it is.  The castle where Shakespeare’s Hamlet is set.

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We met our gracious hosts, Gig and Knud, at the ferry and explored the castle and Helsingør before heading back to their place just to the north.

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They still have the cannons, but seemed to be mostly used as intimidation to collect taxes on the boats passing through the sound back in the day.

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Hamlet Castle

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Never have I seen so many jellyfish.  Apparently they are mostly harmless, unless they are red.

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Lots of great little streets, some dating to the Middle Ages.

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Then we headed a bit north to Gig & Knud’s house, where they have a great view of Sweden!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Drinking some great Danish beer with a view.  It is only 4 km (2.5 miles) across here so most days you can make out the buildings on the opposite coast.

That evening, we met for a family dinner in Copenhagen, tapas-style.  We had a great time catching up and seeing Nicklas & Malin’s renovation in-progress.  I particularly enjoyed learning that the Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians can all understand each other and at one point in the evening all three languages were happening simultaneously (not that I knew at that moment, they all sounded strange to me).

We spent the next day wandering in Copenhagen before our flight back to Zurich that evening.

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Look, marsh, just like Louisiana.  Except these have trolls apparently.

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Copenhagen is very walk-able and bike-able.  The amount of bikes is overwhelming and every sidewalk is covered with locked-up bikes.

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As this is our last European post – We’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who has made our trip so delightful up until now.  The list is long:

Gig & Knud & family for your time in Denmark and opening up your home to us.  Gunilla, Ulrika, Nick and Jonas for the great visits, walks and food in and around Båstad.  Mica, Calle, Shirin, Myran, Ebba, Alex and Marcus & Co. for the tours, cuisine, nightlife and Peter Forsberg spotting (I’m still not exactly sure who this is but Riki made me add it) in Stockholm.  The Spaniards in Spain for towing us all around Asturias and keeping us full.  All the aunts in Zurich, Noggi, Toodle, Sabine & their families, for dinners, fishing, rides, advice, and much, much more.  And lastly and mostly, many, many thanks to Ouma for agreeing to put up with all our chaos for the last few weeks.  The last month would not have been possible without her.

A big thanks to our parents, who so generously have arranged for some of our travel and provided support and advice on our great adventure.

And to all for carting us around, to and from the airport, train station, etc while we trip through your lives.

Thanks for reading, see you on the flip side.

Beach Rabbits & Beach Goats…….Båstad, Sweden

A quick flight from Stockholm, Båstad is located on the southwestern coast. Upon our arrival, our friend Ulrika took us directly to the polling center to see if Riki could vote here. Turns out that he can and he did. It is a big election for Sweden. The current party has been in power for 8 years and many people are worried that they will lose this time (this is tricky to write as we are sitting in Riki’s grandmother’s house awaiting the results, but I will probably not finish this post til after the election). Check back for the results.

I have been to Båstad before, but it was in the winter. It is a very cute town that hosts a very popular annual tennis tournament. Other times of the year, it is quieter and consists of small streets and a small beach and harbor. And the beach has rabbits! (Not pictured as they caught us off guard and disappeared by the time we got the camera out, but they were there, I swear). There are many little shops, a church that is getting a new roof, a hotel and a couple of restaurants.

So it’s the middle of September and it’s pretty chilly, but that does not stop people from getting in the water. We sat on the beach this afternoon and timed the length of time each person was in the water. One and a half minutes max. Then they got out and immediately changed into dry clothes. We saw our fair share of naked old people today.

(don’t worry – that’s not a video of them, just the British queen, and she’s not naked)

The incumbents did not win and it doesn’t seem like many people are thrilled, including the winning party? At least that’s what I’ve gathered.  We spent the day with Ulrika and Nick wandering the coastline.

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Not only are there beach rabbits, but beach goats. Easier to capture than the rabbits.

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Note my my amazing rock tower – among many.

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Nick, Ulrika, Julie, Riki

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It was pretty windy.

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Torekov harbor

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An abandoned quarry.

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We had dinner at Riki’s grandmother’s new place this evening.  It’s a very cute house with a courtyard entry, so close to the center of the town, but still very private.  Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce.  Very Swedish and Very good.

Tomorrow we will take a ferry across to Denmark.

Bridges, Boats & Bikes….Stockholm

This is my first post using entirely the Ipad, so please excuse the formatting, as I don’t have as much control over the layout.

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Our first night – The Old Town

Riki is going to get a hair cut once we get to Asia, so let’s call this a before shot.

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Stockholm is a very cool place.  The last time I was in Sweden was for New Years and it was not the same (so much more light in the summer). The sun has been out every day and the sky has been almost completely clear.  The temperature is a bit baffling though.  You can go from sweating in the sun to needing a scarf in a matter of seconds, just by stepping into the shade.  Riki’s cousin, Calle took us out our first day and we walked all over Stockholm, which is not too tough.  It’s not a huge city and it’s very walkable for being made up of a bunch of islands.  It appears to be even easier to bike, which we haven’t done, but plenty of other people are.

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View from Sodermalm

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Ferry Trip to Vaxholm

We took a ferry about an hour out into the archipelago to a small town called Vaxholm.  While there wasn’t much to do there, the boat trip was well worth it, especially the slower, cheaper ferry we took back.  They pass gorgeous little islands covered in trees and dotted in bright houses.

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A giraffe crane to rival the one in Zurich.

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(Riki is trying out a new feature – tilt frame – which makes everything look miniature)

Vaxholm

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This was the view from our picnic spot in Vaxholm, where we ate meat and bread, no cheese.  And apples – they have a lot of those here.

After our boat trip, we met up with all of Riki’s cousins (and plus ones) and aunt for dinner.  We visited our second buffet (?) style restaurant, which doesn’t really do it justice.  I’m not sure what to call them, but you order at a counter and they cook the food to order and it’s much better than a buffet.  Later we met up with an old friend of Riki’s and saw some of Stockholm’s nightlife, which was much more happening than Zurich’s.

Friday, Riki’s aunt took us to the oldest outdoor museum, called Skansen, which happens to be on the same island where she lives.  It has a bunch of old Swedish buildings that were dismantled and reconstructed here.  They also have things for kids (or big kids).

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One of the reconstructed buildings was a machine shop, where they had a single engine running many belts that could power multiple tools at once.  My dad would have been proud, we spent a few minutes trying to figure out how it worked.

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They also had a zoo there, with Scandinavian animals, which include reindeer. But not Rudolph, he is from Finland I learned.

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And we met Riki’s aunt’s dog, King, who looks way more vicious than he is.

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Chocolate, cheese & the most expensive taxis in the world…Zurich

 I am writing from 11,000 meters in the air, hoping the only baby on the plane, who happens to be seated in our row, will stop screaming soon. But it reminded me that I needed to do a Zurich post, so that’s good I guess.  Though, as Riki just pointed out, these parents today have spent the most time trying to calm the baby down that we have ever seen. But to no avail.

Which leads me back to last week when we flew from Barcelona to Zurich. (The screaming has gotten worse)

After 4 great days wandering around Barcelona, we headed back to Zurich for a week of organizing and visiting family. Plane karma strikes again though and we are seated with two boys behind us who quickly discover how to slam the tray tables up and down. Upon takeoff, karma continues. This time in the form of the business class passenger in front of us who has so kindly stowed his cut flowers, complete with extra water, in the compartment above us. As the plane ascends, the bag leaks and streams of water cascade over our heads and onto the boys behind us. Luckily our bags were in another compartment and the woman with a laptop up there rescued it in time. This didn’t help quiet the boys and they were ultimately separated, but not before we started our final descent into Zurich.

We spent the first few days in Zurich planning our stay in Bangkok and figuring out how to squeeze in a side trip to Nepal while my parents are there. We located where we will go in Bangkok to get our Vietnamese visas and our polio shots. We also went to the Zurich city hall to register our marriage. We have yet to confirm that we actually registered, or what it will do for us, but we did fill out some paperwork.

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We had lots of family meals and broke out of our meat, cheese and bread habits. Basically, by adding pasta. The food in Zurich is great, except that I have not been able to find peach yogurt (they have delicious peaches though). There are incredible dried meats and so many different kids of Swiss cheese (with and without holes). We took Riki’s cousin, Fridolin fishing in the river in downtown Zurich and to everyone’s surprise, we actually caught a fish!

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That evening we went to, and I’m not sure what to call this exactly, but it was a bunch of shops that were open very late and there was music and food. In New Orleans this would have been like white linen night or art for art’s sake. The best part was a Swiss band playing country music while wearing cowboy hats and pin-striped suits. Imagine your typical Swiss banker donning a plastic cowboy hat and playing the banjo. Good music, mediocre vocals, but very amusing.

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Saturday, Riki’s sister Chia and her husband Greg arrived in Zurich after a week or so in the mountains. Riki’s aunts, Noggi and Toodle, organized a big dinner for us, complete with champagne to celebrate our wedding and a flowered crown straight from Greece. We managed to coordinate our colors and took this group selfie outside Riki’s grandmother’s house.

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Riki has two little cousins not pictured who we enjoyed seeing. They have grown so much since I last saw them 2 years ago. They were not too keen on playing with us (perhaps because my German is non-existent and their English is about as good as any toddler’s) but I think we made an impression. There is now a very attractive bug-eyed helicopter that sticks out its tongue called Julie and a much more handsome cymbal-playing airplane potentially called Riki.

We are beginning our descent into Stockholm where we will meet up with the other side of Riki’s family….and the baby still screams.

FREE Days & Old Friends….Leaving Barcelona

I really meant to do Barcelona in just one post, but obviously that hasn’t happened.  We have been busy trying to book the next segment of our trip and I’ve put this on the backburner for a few days.  So here goes.

Sunday we had high hopes of getting an early start and hitting all sorts of attractions, but as we were actually able to sleep in…..I forgot to mention that our little apartment had no A/C so we had to sleep with the windows open and it was incredibly noisy Friday night and early Saturday too.  We could very clearly hear all the conversations around us as everyone had their windows and doors open and across the “street” (10 feet away) we could hear the TV and the bickering of the old women (incomprehensible in Catalan but definitely bickering).  This was not the case Sunday morning.  Everyone was quiet, presumably from the late nights they had and we had some peace.

After walking all day Saturday, we opted for the metro to Montjuic, which included a short funicular up part of the hill.  Were we not on a budget, maybe we would have continued up the hill with the cable car, but at 7 Euro, we’d rather walk.  And I’m glad we did because we found these really cool terraced water gardens, where there were a couple of little kids with nets looking for frogs, which was pretty entertaining.

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At the top of the hill is a castle, which according to our book was supposed to be free, as it was pretty much just walls and a couple of good views.  Not free anymore, 8 Euro.  So we walked all the way around and found an archery club with some pretty impressive bows practicing alongside the walls.

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Some amazing succulents they have here.  Below the castle is an area built for the 1992 Olympics, which includes a Calatrava TV tower.  Unfortunately, the area is underutilized and the best use of the space was some teenagers skateboarding in the empty fountains.

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There’s an art museum midway down and some great views of La Sagrada Familia.  The area at the bottom of the hill was built for the 1929 International Exposition and includes a rebuilt version of the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion, also no longer free.  The tall, red Venetian Towers mark the entry to the avenue where it meets Placa d’Espanya (it pains me to write it in Catalan).  Also adjacent to the circle is an old bullfighting ring (beyond the towers to the right in the picture) which has been turned into a mall and eatery, as well as a viewing platform, cinema AND rock museum.  Really great re-use of the space.  The glass elevator from the 5th floor down costs 5 Euro.  We took the regular one, no problem, and free.

We had every intention of taking advantage of the free Sunday afternoons at the Picasso museum.  Every intention, I swear.  But, by the time we got to the beach, well, those plans went out the window.  The beach is also free.  Having not brought a bathing suit, I waded in to my knees, but Riki was wearing his amphibious shorts (more on those to come in Asia I’m sure) and joined the entire population of Barcelona in the water.  Not kidding, Riki thinks there were more people on the beach than they have in the entire city of Cleveland.  It wasn’t even crowded when he took this picture – people had already headed out by this time.

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LAST DAY

Our flight didn’t leave until 18:00 (this is also painful to write as military time is used all over and I always second guess my conversions – Look down at your watch if you still own one – it only has 12 segments, not 24 – someone needs to get the watchmakers on the same page as the time keepers and just pick ONE way) so we had the whole day to visit a few neighborhoods we had missed.  Here’s a collection of sites, signs and graffiti from our last day – as well as a special treat at the bottom!

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Banksy-esque street art near the spot where we were meeting this girl!

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Social media is not my favorite thing, but in this case, I am SO glad we were able to connect with Isolda.  She had been in Barcelona for a week and had just found an apartment a few blocks from where we were staying.  We had a less than delicious lunch, but the conversation made up for it.  We hustled off from our lunch, straight to the airport for our flight back to Zurich.

Hope you like church…Barcelona Day 2

If you don’t know who Gaudi is, you should look him up.  I can’t even begin to go into all that he has done.  Interesting fact, though sad, he was hit by a tram on his daily walk and nobody recognized him so they took him to the pauper’s hospital.  He died two days later and his funeral was attended by thousands of people.

Saturday morning we got up early and headed to see La Sagrada Familia, thinking it being early, we wouldn’t have to wait in line.  Well apparently that is a common misconception, as the line snaked all the way around the building by the time we got there.  So we waited.  The line moved, slowly.  By the time we got to the ticket counter, the first available elevator to the towers wasn’t for 3 hours, so we booked a later ticket and decided to come back at the end of the day.  You must go up one of the elevators if you visit.  It’s incredible.

Since we were not terribly far from Park Güell, we decided to walk up to another Gaudi site.  At the top of a hill is a 50 acre park overlooking the city.  Meant to be a high-end residential development, it had 60 triangular plots that were never developed around an incredible park and community space that was constructed.

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And this is when terror struck.  The man who we asked to take the picture of us (above) managed to half drop Riki’s camera on the ground.  All seemed to be fine for awhile but it now appears the lens is messed up.  Luckily, there is an entire bag full of lenses that we carry around and we were off to more picture taking in no time.  It isn’t even that great of a photo of us.

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This is a must see in Barcelona.  Really incredible tile work and a great place to picnic.  Be advised, it appears the city has started charging for everything.  I guess if you really do hate the tourists like they say they do, charge them an arm and a leg and maybe they’ll go away?  Our book was only a year old, but it appears that many places that used to be free now cost at least $8.  Oh well, totally worth it.

We spent the next few hours before our entry ticket for La Sagrada Familia wandering around the neighborhoods with the most modernist architecture (and graffiti).

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La Sagrada Familia

I came with the Spaniard seven years ago and was excited to see how far they have come in the construction process.   Since my last visit, the floors and roof were completed in time for the pope to consecrate it in 2010.  I remember plywood lined paths around the main area of the church, in which hung huge sheets of plastic.  Cristina and I went up the Passion Tower and had amazing views of the city and a great spiral staircase trip down.

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Proof that I also can take pictures.

We opted for the Nativity Tower this time, even though Riki claims to be afraid of heights (I think he was lying to me – I saw no evidence of this and we were VERY high).  La Sagrada Familia has come a long way in 7 years, with incredible stained glass and more towers, but I don’t see them finishing in 2026 as planned, which is 100 years since Gaudi’s death.  They still have an entire side to complete (the main side) and a whole apartment building is supposed to be demolished to make the main entryway plaza.  Not going to happen.  The literature says: “Est. Completion Date – 2026?”  They know. No way.

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If you go, check out the museum in the basement.  It has great pictures of the progress of the church and lots of huge models (architecture people!).

After 10 straight hours of walking, we ate dinner at 8 pm (GASP! blasphemy in Spain) and crashed early despite the draw of the lively bars nearby.