Olá, Lisboa

On Friday morning, the four of us woke up at varying times but all before 4:40 am, which was when we left our house and cat for the airport. Ethan drove us.

Sunrise over California

Sunrise over California

Our first flight was from Eugene to San Francisco. In San Francisco, we went to the United lounge for a few minutes, where I had a banana, a boiled egg with capers, and yogurt with granola and strawberries. (I’m a fast eater.) Soon, we were flying across the United States with lots to do (watch The Martian and do homework) only a Stroopwaffel to eat. (Those are United’s new morning domestic flight snacks. According to Mom, they are gross. I did not eat one.) We finally touched down in Newark at around 6 pm local time. Then came a long and daunting journey: the search for supper.

We hauled our four suitcases and four backpacks through the terminal, looking for the Ben & Jerry’s, the old food court, less expensive macarons–anything, really. In the end, we went to the United lounge for salad, hummus with pita and vegetables, and chocolate-covered graham crackers. For dessert, Mom, Ethan, and I got frozen yogurt from the Red Mango kiosk right by our gate. Immediately after Mom and I finished our yogurt, we boarded the six-hour flight from Newark to Lisbon. The captain left the seatbelt sign on the whole flight, the sunrise was unimpressive (even though it was our second in 18 hours), and breakfast was a hard croissant with jam.

The sexiest paper on Earth, in the bathroom at the Lisbon airport

The sexiest paper on Earth, in the bathroom at the Lisbon airport

Within two hours of landing in Lisbon, we were in our rental car with working mobile phones, maps, and an idea of where to spend our morning and afternoon (we landed around 7 am local time). An hour later, we had gone eight kilometers and finally found a parking spot, after almost colliding with trolleys, parking in a no-parking zone, and struggling with understanding Portuguese. We left our car and walked by a church with a view on our way to Castelo de S. Jorge Monumento Nacional.

Lisbon

Lisbon

Unlike most European castles, this one was not created as a residence. It was built to house military troops in the 11th century. However, it eventually became a residence for the local royals, then became military barracks again in the 1800s. Finally, last century, the castle became a national monument. Now, hundreds of tourists visit the castle daily, and peacocks and pigeons terrify those who choose to eat at the outdoor café. It was at that café that I discovered pink Magnums (reminiscent of our time in Thailand), which would play a role later in the day.

Mom and me at the castle

Mom and me at the castle

After the castle, we went to lunch at a distinctly touristy location. Dad and Ethan shared vegetable spaghetti and a cheese, tomato, and lettuce baguette. Mom and I shared a vegetable salad and cod. Though cod is considered one of Lisbon’s most traditional dishes (especially bacalhau, or salted cod), I did not enjoy the fish. Neither did Mom. But we ate most of it anyway before heading to the Olive Tree House at 3 pm. Mom and Dad went grocery shopping after we had been checked in, while Ethan and I showered. The parents came back with pizza, ice cream (pink and black Magnums!!), shampoo, bread, and chocolate bars–a healthy diet, yes?

Pink and black Magnum bars. Photo: Bing

Pink and black Magnum bars. Photo: Bing

Portugal! Again.

Early tomorrow morning, the four of us will leave EUG for SFO, then SFO for LIS. This will be our family’s second time in the Lisbon airport, but we will set foot on real Portuguese soil for the first time. We will be there for about a week for spring break.

For Mom, Ethan, and me, this will be the first international trip since 2013. Dad just got home today from an investing conference in Panama City, Panama. Actually, we’ve all been to the Panama airport: on March 21, 2013 (almost exactly three years ago), we flew through it on our way to Newark from Lima, Peru. From Newark, we flew to Lisbon. So we will be in Portugal exactly three years after we were last time, on March 22, 2013. (After Lisbon, we flew on to Casablanca, Morocco.)

Panama City sunset

Panama City sunset. Photo by Dad

Now, all our suitcases are packed, our liquids and gels have been placed in their quart-sized bag, and our alarms have been set. Let’s get this show on the road!

You can read all about it (ideally- we’ll see how it goes) on Eryn and Ethan’s pages.

Broken Arm: Take 2

There is now another broken wrist in the family.

Today, almost three years after Mom broke her arm while hiking down from Refugio Piltriquitron in El Bolson, Argentina, we hiked up to Scout Lookout at Zion National Park in Utah. We arrived here yesterday after a long, icy drive through Oregon, Nevada, and Utah (fortunately, neither Dad nor I crashed the car, despite below-zero temperatures and 80 mph speed limits). This morning, after a high-calorie breakfast, I drove us into the park. 28 degrees Fahrenheit never seemed so warm.

We paid a visit to the visitors’ center-turned-shop before heading to the Court of Patriarchs. There, Ethan and I discovered the ease of letting ourselves slide down the icy hills while hanging onto the handrails. Mom did not enjoy this as much as we did.

We finalllllly found a parking spot at Zion Lodge. It was only a half-mile walk from the Grotto Trailhead, where we started hiking. Ethan had decided not to bring a backpack so I was stuck carrying his water bottle and his hat and gloves as he shed them.

Ethan and I were far ahead of the parents, but we stopped occasionally to let them catch up. The exposed switchbacks up the first mile or so were the hardest. After we entered a shady canyon, the going was easy until we reached eight switchbacks. At the top of those, we reached the infamous Walter’s Wiggles. Apparently these are really difficult, but they seemed very easy, not steep, and short. However, they were also very icy and snowy and we had to go slowly.

The infamous Walter's Wiggles. Now just imagine them snowy and icy

The infamous Walter’s Wiggles. Now just imagine them snowy and icy

Along the way, Ethan and I befriended siblings Ethan and Porsche. Ethan II advised Ethan I on ice hiking technique and the physics of friction. At the top of the Wiggles, we stopped at Scout Lookout while everyone else on the trail continued to Angel’s Landing. Because we didn’t have crampons or any other sort of shoe gear, we played it safe and did not go on.

Ethan and Eryn at Scout Lookout

Ethan and Eryn at Scout Lookout

Ethan and I started down the canyon ahead of Mom and Dad. To take on icy Walter’s Wiggles, we slid down on our feet with our hands behind us, in the form of a crab. This worked well, but Ethan abandoned this approach when some grown men were coming down behind us. In his pride, he continued on down a switchback and out of my sight. Then the two men behind me, who were going much faster than me, exclaimed, “Are you all right?? What happened?”

That was when I saw Ethan, who was grimacing and clutching his left wrist. After assuring him that nothing was broken based on his mobility, the men continued on. And so did we.

We carefully picked our way down to Zion Lodge. We peeked in there and then returned to our hotel, where Mom and Dad set about trying to find a clinic that worked with our insurance. Mom and Ethan finally left for a clinic 40 minutes away. There, they determined that his radius was in fact fractured all the way through, though they only had to put him in a brace because the bone is still aligned.

The worst part about all this is that Ethan will still be able to take notes in AP government as he is right-handed (though he won’t be able to play the piano, saxophone, or guitar).

What’s New?

I’m glad you asked.

Since Christmas Eve, we’ve been quite busy. Let’s start at the beginning.

On Wednesday, January 1, we piled into the car for an eleven-hour ride to Schweitzer Ski Resort, where we spent four nights with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Five of the nine of us skied on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Saturday was by far the best day, as it was sunny and clear. Meanwhile, back in the cabin, my dad cooked all day. On Greek night (Saturday night), he made everything from tzatziki and pita bread to stuffed peppers and white and milk chocolate mousse with dark chocolate ganache, strawberry coulis, and a raspberry on top.

photo 1

It was delicious.

Soon, it was back to school. On January 25, Ethan’s 8th grade class had a talent show/auction fundraiser, and I contributed to both parts. For the cake auction, I baked a dozen chocolate-zucchini cupcakes with cinnamon buttercream. They sold for $60- up $20 from my cookies of 2012. I also asked my friend Charlotte to play the piano while I played the flute. Our song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen won first place.

photo 2

 

The following week was filled with tests, as it was end-of-semester finals for me. On the last day (Wednesday), I was thrilled when my band teacher asked me to join the school’s symphony, which is the most advanced instrumental group at my school. The next week was nerve-wracking, as I hardly knew anyone in the group and had to sight-read all the music. It’s been over a month-and-a-half since then, however, and I know that I have improved.

Last Friday (March 14, Pi Day) was the start of what I dubbed Music Week. On that day, I got to school early to join the symphony at South Eugene High School to play in a festival. It was our first attempt to qualify for the OSAA State Championships. We didn’t make it, unfortunately, but we had played well and our scores reflected that. Monday had piano lessons (as usual), and on Tuesday Ethan had his guitar lesson (also as usual). I was excited for Wednesday, which was the 12-hour trip to Ashland, Oregon, for the symphony’s second chance at states. We performed sub-par, and we returned home dejected. However, Thursday night’s amazing orchestra/symphony/band/jazz band concert more than made up for it, even though we knew our scores (which we hadn’t yet received) wouldn’t be good.

Then we found out today that we won districts by one point and had automatically qualified for the state championships, which are in May. As the only flute player in the symphony, I am terrified.

But I made a cake!

photo 4

And it was pretty darn good.

Ciao!

An Open Apology

I meant to write a post four days ago (December 20, 2013). I really did. I wanted to point out that we’ve been home a whopping six months. I wanted to remember how a year ago we thought we were tough because we’d passed the halfway mark. I wanted to say how good it is to have a real, 12-foot Noble fir Christmas tree instead of a plastic tree my height.

But I didn’t. And I’m sorry. So I’ll do one now.

We’re at home, not in Cape Town. The view out our dining room window is of our dying grass instead of the promenade and the Atlantic Ocean. We have large presents under (beside, rather) our tree in place of the very small ones last Christmas. The best difference of all, though, is that my grandparents are going to spend Christmas with us.

In the last year, we touched thirteen countries on four continents. In the last six months, we’ve adjusted to “normal” life and lost our tans (that was a big tragedy). We didn’t go camping in the summer (silent rejoicing) but Ethan and I did go to camp. We may not have used our canoe at all but we hiked to multiple lakes.

Cupcakes and gelato have become dietary staples, and pizza drowned in vinegar has become the norm (at least for me).

 

The second half of the trip was probably more stressful for us, between worrying about jobs and cars and school when we returned, to the Amazon trip, Morocco, and our house in Semur-en-Auxois being flooded.

But who’s to say it wasn’t the better half?

Ciao!

Bendy

 

Downtown Bend, Oregon

Downtown Bend, Oregon

 

Springfield is my home, but I love Bend, Oregon. Two hours’ drive from our house lies the city of Bend, which we visit annually. Usually, this visit falls in the lovely month of October (only the best month), but this time it was in December. We are staying (as usual) in the Seventh Mountain Resort, which features an ice skating rink, multiple pools and hot tubs, a basketball court, a spider web, and wi-fi– saving the best for last.

While these are certainly perks, one of my favorite parts of Bend is Zydeco, a restaurant in downtown that serves amazing food- probably my favorite anywhere (except maybe Taco Bell). It is to die for. I usually get the steelhead, which comes with mashed potatoes, green beans, pearl onions, and plenty of capers. Delicious. So I ordered the steelhead tonight– but it came with red quinoa, asparagus, and more than plenty of capers. The pearl onions were definitely missed, but the dessert more than made up for that: chocolate pot de crème, which is basically a very rich chocolate mousse. Mom and I shared a serving, while somehow Dad and Ethan managed to polish off a jar (that’s how the dessert was served) each. It was rather incredible, really, watching them put away that much food.

We got back to the hotel too late to go swimming, so we retired to our room, which is roomy enough to have separate bedrooms for Ethan and me.

It’s snowy/slushy/icy here, but not more than Springfield: for those of you who may not have noticed, the Willamette Valley was blasted by an Arctic cold front for two weeks, giving us lovely temperatures, ranging, on the average day, from -2 to 22. And yes, that is Fahrenheit. Since it was so dry for most of the time, school wasn’t delayed because there were no icy roads– it was just super cold. Tuesday, December 3, was very exciting because it snowed. At school. Like, in the middle of the day. It snowed about half an inch at our house and stuck until Friday, which had snow predicted.

All my teachers were banking on a snow day, and my friends put spoons under their pillows and wore their pajamas inside-out.

And it must have worked, because on Friday there was no school. When I woke up at 6 am, we had two inches of snow at our house. By four o’clock there were eight inches and counting, and somehow Dad had driven home from the Eugene airport. (Actually, it’s not somehow– it’s four-wheel-drive.)

Saturday, we were four of the very few who braved the roads to church. On Sunday, we ventured into town for a piano recital at Barnes & Noble (featuring, due to weather, ONLY Ethan and me) and necessary shopping. Monday, the schools were once again closed. I went over to a friend’s house, and we walked to my school to pick up band music. There’s hardly any ice, I thought.

Tuesday was another snow day. Friday and Monday were the two snow days for which my school had allowed– Tuesday started filling up our two furlough days. When Wednesday proved hopeless, all I could do was hope that Thursday would be a school day. Also on Wednesday, there was a voluntary band rehearsal to which about twenty of the ninety-nine involved in the concert come this Tuesday showed up.

Thursday there was no school.

I cried.

And then, lo and behold–

There was school today! (Which was a really good thing, because how would they be able to explain keeping school closed in 40-degree (Fahrenheit) weather when their only excuse for school closure was ice on the roads?)

It may have been a Friday schedule, with all of our eight classes meeting forty-four minutes each, but it was school!

And yes, there is a good chance I was the only one of sixteen hundred students who was absolutely thrilled to have school.

Ciao!

Happy Campers

Well, it’s been a considerable time since any of us have written posts. I may as well do the first for August 2013.

Since returning to the US, we have seen no fewer than seven family members, a dozen deer (including five new fawns), and a black bear. The black bear was up in the mountains, and it ran across the road right in front of our car shortly after we found several bear bones on the side of the road. Last week, my parents saw a bobcat and have photographic evidence.

Right now, my cousin and aunt from Texas are visiting. Yesterday we made two types of cupcakes for a grand total of 22: nine apple-almond with cinnamon ganache and thirteen (surprisingly bland) dark chocolate with peppermint frosting and dark chocolate-mint M&Ms. I’ve also made lemon-blueberry cupcakes, chocolate-orange, and chocolate-zucchini (with a to-die-for cinnamon buttercream), and a few days ago we made lavender cupcakes with a whipped cream frosting.

Ethan and I spent last week at camp and had a very good time. It only rained once and then for only ten minutes on Friday morning. Ethan managed to get a very bad sunburn while wakeboarding, but for all my playing basketball in the sun I came away tan as ever. The only bad thing about camp was that, the day after we left, One Direction’s new single came out and the third in line for the throne was born in the UK. Those Brits. Couldn’t wait for us to get back.

We haven’t gotten poison oak yet, which is rather surprising considering our rather cross-country hike three days ago and the little rainy excursion we went on yesterday.

But I’m okay with that.

Poison oak isn’t necessary.

Ciao!

Home at Last

We have been home a while and have mostly settled back into ‘normal’ activities. We can now spend time with friends that we haven’t seen for a year.

We are home…and I like it.

Posted in RTW

Back to Normal?

I’m not sure if we’re technically ‘back to normal’ yet. It is a normal Oregon summer, though: rainy in June, with hope for sun in July and August. Naturally, it was quite warm until school got out.

We’ve unpacked and unpacked and unpacked some more. As a result, we have piles of things to take to Goodwill and to sell at a used bookstore. Also, my room is completely unpacked, and only a few items remain in my suitcase.

Mom is just outside my room, in the hall, putting away boxes and boxes of Christmas lights, ornaments, and decorations. And she calls–

Ciao!

What Shall We Do Today?

What shall we do today?

Oh, let’s unpack!

And unpack.

And unpack.

And unpack some more.

 

Last night it was too late to post, as we had done a lot of unpacking to make the house livable, but right now it’s a bright, sunny, Friday afternoon in Oregon. Dishes, linens, and clothes have been completely brought down from upstairs (I think). We came home yesterday afternoon after stopping by Costco, our grandparents’ house, and Safeway to piles of mail, Amazon boxes, and our own belongings. Everything’s still totally disorganized, but I think that everything will start to settle down by next week.

Ciao!

Party in the USA

Call the press, someone: I have found a way to comfortably sit in Economy class on an airplane.

It only works if you’re small, flexible, and comfortable on airplanes. It involves sitting with your legs crossed and your head down on one knee. In this way, I slept well for a grand total of three hours on our two flights today. So I was awake for… drum roll… twenty-five hours today. We are deadxhausted.

Our first flight, from Athens to Frankfurt, was only about three hours. We were shocked when we were not put through another security clearance to get on our USA-bound flight from gate Z25. We finally got to the gate after a surprisingly lengthy bus ride and going up several flights of stairs. If you look at our passports, we didn’t visit Greece and Switzerland: we got our passports stamped in Portugal (since we entered the European part of the airport to get food), in Morocco, and then entering France. We only got another stamp leaving Germany.

 

The flight was super super long, but we were wide awake when we landed and got through Immigration and our luggage was in our hands. It doesn’t look like we lost anything on that leg of our trip.

We got our Avis rental car and drove south to Kelso, WA, where Dad got a sim chip at an AT&T store for his phone. Then Ethan, the luggage, and I were dropped off at Aunt Linda and Uncle Scott’s house while Mom and Dad left in the Chrysler to buy a car in Sandy, OR. They returned at around 8 pm, about five hours later. Ethan and I played Acquire with Uncle Scott, with four-month-old Guide Dog for the Blind puppy-in-training Navajo looking on.

Supper was, as we had hoped, hot dogs with brownies and Uncle Scott’s potato salad. Tomorrow morning we’ll be having American French toast.

It’s so good to be back in the US of A.

Ciao!

The Mafia Car

Today, we had a long day. We woke up at 2 am Athens time and hopped on a plane to Frankfurt. We went through that airport and then went to another gate and hopped on our second Lufthansa flight of the 34 hour day.

When we arrived in Seattle, we went though immigration and got all of our bags from baggage claim before heading to the Avis place to pick up our car. The car was gray and shaped differently than most sedans. It looked almost sinister, hence its nickname.

We drove for about 2 hours before arriving at Aunt Linda and Uncle Scott’s house. I am typing this post on the same computer that wrote several of the posts at the beginning of this trip. The parental units dropped Eryn and I off to chat, hang around, and do stuff with the relatives while they went south.

Eryn and I played games with Uncle Scott and his guide dog in training. We swept their treehouse clean and helped with dinner and had it ready by the time the parents came back. It turns out that they had gone to Sandy, OR and had bought a used Ford Escape. When they came back, we saw that it was really nice and that they had returned the Mafia Car.

That’s it for now, Folks!

Welcome Home!!!

If you are on the Pacific coast time for the US, then we woke up at 4 pm yesterday evening when we woke up Greece time at 2 am. We got onto a plane and flew to Frankfurt, and then on to Seattle. We drove down in our rental car to Aunt Linda’s house and are spending the night.

We are back in the US!

Posted in RTW

Aegean Airlines

 

Always alliteration. I seem to sometimes have knack for summarizing some of our day in my titles while making them alliterate. Not illiterate. In any case, we rode on the Aegean airlines today to get from Crete to the mainland. We didn’t even have to wake up very early to do it!!!

When we left the house, we drove for an hour along the northern coast of Crete to Heraklio. From there, we took the Aegean Airlines on their nonstop flight to Athens. When we touched down after only 40 minutes of flight time, we walked across the street to our hotel.

From Eryn and my hotel room, you can see the airport, barely 50 meters away. Tomorrow, we wake up too early to get on a plane to Frankfurt, and then another plane on to Seattle. We will spend our first night in the States in Kelso, WA to spend a night with our relatives, and then on to home!!!

That’s it for now, Folks!

No Fun Allowed

Just nineteen minutes into tomorrow marks the 31,536,000th second, the 525,600th minute, the 8,760th hour, the 52nd week, the 12th month, and the first year away from our house. That’s over 31-and-a-half million seconds. And I still can’t believe it.

My first of two posts on June 18, 2012, began, ‘Today we leave the house. Tomorrow we go to the airport. Wednesday we fly.’  So, if I were to write this thirteen hours ago: today we go to the airport. Tomorrow we fly. Thursday we reenter the house.

In those thirteen hours, we have flown for less than an hour across the Aegean Sea on Aegean Airlines, which actually served drinks and peanuts. I don’t know when I last was served a drink and peanuts—no more, no less—on a flight. I think that may have been back in 2009 or 2010.

At the airport, we got our luggage and took the long, long hike across the narrow, quiet street to our hotel. Ethan and I went swimming in the pool on the 9th floor, which is also a spa. Mom went with us. On our arrival, a woman greeted us with a smile and “No jumping and no diving.”

I had brought the goggles up, and we took turns throwing them into the pool and timing how long it took the other to find them. Dad came by, and we had him hide the goggles. It took me nine seconds to raise them above my head, but Ethan grabbed them from me and claimed victory.

As soon as Dad left to check in at the airport, one of the women who works at the spa came by and said, very quietly, that Ethan and I needed to be quieter. I heard her.

I got out and dried off. It’s no fun swimming when you can’t make noise and can’t jump in or anything.

So.

 

Supper was at the airport at The Olive Tree. Mom and I shared a starter Greek salad (which was still quite sizeable) and a large plate of penne with chicken and sundried tomatoes. It was very good.

Over dinner, Dad and I phrased tomorrow these three ways:

  1. It will be a 34-hour day what with the time zone change.
  2. We’re already in bed (it’s 7:44 pm)—tomorrow (in Pacific Coast time), we’ll be awake from 5:30 pm to about 9:30 pm. Eep.
  3. In Athens time, we’ll be awake from 3:30 am to 7:30 am, on two different days. Eep again.

Ciao!

Triple Threat

We only have three days left on our trip—one in Crete, one in Athens, and one in an airplane and Washington. In honor of this, here are my three favorite places on this trip:

1: Crete has been good to us. So good, in fact, that I am rather reluctant to leave—this seems odd since home is at the other end of this 12-hour journey. No matter; I’ll just stay on Crete and enjoy the summer warmth and the pool that comes with it. Not. I would enjoy staying just for the food, though. Especially the tzatziki, chocolate-coated baklava, grape leaf rolls, lemon chicken with chips and zucchini at Taverna Fantastico, and the chocolate cakes.

 

1: Yes, this is a second number 1. I would count Crete and South Africa as a tie. While similar in some ways (warm, with nice people and good food), there are so many differences. For example, we knew South Africans, such as Oom Dennis and Tannie Marietjie (and their dogs Dinky and Griet). Dad, Mom, and Ethan had already been to the country before and thus knew what it was like. Also, we got extremely lucky, seeing seven cheetahs, three leopards, ten African wild dogs, an African wild cat, two honey badgers, a handful of rhinos, a Cape cobra, both black and white, plenty of lions, ostriches, and spotted hyenas, and more than enough black-faced impala, springbok, gemsbok, elephant, kudu, and giraffe to go around. And everyone knows that Cape Town is the best city in the world.

 

3: Thailand gets the bronze medal in this competition. Like South Africa and Crete, Thailand was certainly memorable for its warmth. It also had Buotong Waterfall, Thai food (green curry and sweet-and-sour curry and banana pancakes, oh my!), six amazing pools, MBK Mall, Jatujak Market (can’t forget my cheap sandals, which have somehow lasted until now), tiger-petting, and elephant riding. Yes, Thailand is certainly a very good (and inexpensive) country. Plus, Thai Airlines is part of the Star Alliance and has really good food and magazines in their airport lounges.

Ciao!

E&E Electric Eels

Today being our last full day in Crete, we naturally spent it packing our suitcases and duffle bag (yes, we are adding another bag). We polished off yesterday’s chocolate cake, and after two rehearsals Ethan and I performed our whole E&E Electric Eels routine. It came off, for the most part, without a hitch. It had lots of flips, tricks, and English-accented commentary.

Dinner was at Taverna Fantastico, which is where we ate supper way back on May 25, our second Cretan day (and our first restaurant-made Cretan meal). We’ve eaten there twice since and have enjoyed the view, good food, and cute rabbits each time. Tonight one of the rabbits was missing.

Did you know that a traditional Cretan dish is rabbit stew?

Ciao!

Packing Day

Today was mostly spent packing. Packing is always interesting, because it gives me a reason to reorganize my suitcase, which is nice because it is usually a complete mess. The case was similar to today, where I made my suitcase and its contents be nice, organized, and folded. Maybe not sorted by color, but you get the idea.

When I woke up this morning, I had breakfast with the folks and then played Minecraft on the computer while my parents and sister went out to the doctor’s office for a follow-up appointment to the one a few days ago. When they got back, we worked on packing.

I was finished with my packing so read a mystery novel called the Whispers of the Stones. When I finished with that, I read a book that John Higham, another around-the-world traveler, recommended to me in an email. It is called Ender’s Game. When we finished doing things around the house and swimming, we went out to eat at Taverna Fantastico and ate our last dinner in Crete.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Blowing Beach

The wind has almost always been present on the southern coast of Crete. Lately, it has been there, and we have been here for a while, so that has been half a dozen times. We went back to the beach near where we had spent the night a few days ago and set up our umbrellas.

Our umbrellas have served us well during our time in Crete. This time however, my parents’ umbrella didn’t stay where they wanted it. It kept being blown inside out while the one that my sister and I were under stayed put. I was glad that we had the one that we had.

While Eryn and I stayed put, my father and mother went over and sat under a big rock. Eryn and I thought about swimming, but the water seemed cool, very cool. We eventually packed everything up and went back home in our car. When we got home, we hung out and swam in our pool before going to dinner at the place with the over-stimulated cats.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Bye-Bye Beach

Today was our last beach day. I have mixed feelings about this. (Well, not really.)

I’m not a beach person. The sunscreen I have to wear is sticky, the water is too cold to swim, the sand is to… well… sandy, it’s too windy to keep an umbrella up and a towel down, and it’s hot as anything.

So it was with some relief that I pulled on my striped dress and purple flip-flops, grabbed my green bag, and headed back to the car. Today being our last beach day also means that we’re nearing the end of our time in Crete, Greece, and abroad.

 

Ethan and I swam in the pool after eating slices of chocolate cake with our parents, since today was Fathers’ Day. For supper we went to Zisi. It’s a really good thing we’re leaving soon so we don’t have to return there because the food is mediocre, the tzatziki is probably the worst I’ve ever had (although all the other places have had really good tzatziki), and the service is atrocious. Our waitron knocked over our bottle of water when he could have easily stopped it, and he served raki even after Dad refused.

Ciao!

Greece Top Five – Last But Not Least

Acropolis – Our mid-day visit to the Acropolis was warm and crowded, but definitely worth the time and effort. The Parthenon was impressive despite the scaffolding for renovations. We almost skipped the nearby Acropolis museum and I am glad we invested an hour or two touring the museum exhibits. The top floor of the museum is a to-scale layout of the Parthenon with the saved wall reliefs and architectural parts and pieces from the east and west pediments placed where they were found in the temple.

Warm sun, pool, and beaches – We called our visit to Greece a vacation from our year-long vacation. It was nice to slow down the travel pace and play in the sun and water. The house we rented on the island of Crete had a pool which was heated most days by the sun. We explored many beaches on the south side of the island and found two that we enjoyed and frequented. The waves were not too cold and the beaches consisted of coarse sand or small rocks. After two days of beach-going, we purchased several sun umbrellas, which made our trips to the coast much more pleasant.

Food – Where to begin . . . OK let’s start with desserts. We tried many types of pastries and baklava to make sure we could make an informed decision about which one is the best. 🙂 Our conclusion: dark chocolate-covered baklava “rolls” with slivered almonds sprinkled on top. In other categories, we thoroughly enjoyed Greek salad, tzatsiki, olives, stuffed grape leaves, zucchini balls/patties, grilled red peppers, and tomatoes stuffed with rice and cheese. Since the climate here is warm, we had many choices of delicious fresh fruit at the supermarkets, including cherries, apricots, nectarines, and watermelon.

Cruise – Our overnight ferry from Athens to Crete was much nicer than expected. The large boat was similar to a cruise ship – nice restaurants, activity areas, cabins, bellhops to assist with luggage, etc. This was probably the closest thing I will experience to a cruise, at least for the foreseeable future.

Acqua Plus Waterpark – Crete boasts about their water parks in tourist brochures and websites. We visited Acqua Plus because it had the largest variety of slides and runs. We had an enjoyable, filled with easy to medium-excitement rides for me and adrenalin-causing runs for the kids. And fortunately we visited the park before the official tourist season began in the second half of June. Almost no lines, no waiting!

 

Driving Dad

My dad is the driver. In Thailand and India, he thankfully didn’t partake in any driving, but in every country since then except for Morocco, Chile, the UAE, and Chile. He has been the only one to drive on this trip except for once my mother drove for 10 minutes on an empty road in Australia.

Today was no different from regular. My father drove the car and everyone else was in their usual rotation of seating assignments. We drove out of town and to the west. We went further than we have ever gone, past the road to the lake, and got to a small town.

We turned off the E75 (the main road on Crete) and went up a hill and down the other side. We went almost to the end of the road before turning back and going towards home the way we came. We then sat around, swam, and read for the rest of the afternoon before going to our landlord’s place down in Rethymno for dinner.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Five Days in the Future: Home

With only five days (!!!!) left on our trip (hopefully), we are suddenly looking at a massive pile-up of things to do when we get home (and even before then). To dump some of the load off our (*ahem*… my parents’) shoulders, here are five:

  1. For Dad: Finish our Shutterfly picture book. With Mom, Ethan, and I choosing pictures from each place, he only has Crete and the back cover to complete. I really like this picture book because (a) it has a lot of pictures of me and (b) there is a lot of pink and (c) almost all the pictures I chose passed Dad’s inspection and made it into this draft.
  2. For Dad: Buy a car. This has been very stressful, but it seems to be winding down and hopefully we’ll be able to drive our very own car up our very own driveway in five loooooong days.
  3. For all of us: I’m really excited about this one, because I made a huge, 101-item shopping list that is pink. Seriously. I’m a list-maker. But this list is very important: we need to eat, of course, so it will be used and I am pretty sure that 91, if not 101, items on this list will be crossed off. We will be stopping at Target, Costco, and Safeway on the way home. Items on this list include PopTarts, yogurt, Red Baron frozen pizza, Moose Tracks ice cream, apples, pasta, pistachios, yeast, maple syrup, and cucumbers, as well as seven non-food items including paper towels and postage stamps.
  4. For all of us: Unpack, unpack, unpack. Dad is the self-appointed box carrier, meaning he will bring down the boxes from upstairs and Mom, Ethan, and I will unpack and organize (yippee!). We all hope he won’t fall, but I think Mom will make sure he’s not wearing socks.
  5. For Mom and me: On Friday, June 21, Mom and I have an appointment with a counselor at one of the nearby public high schools to learn more about it. My High School Dilemma has not yet been solved, unfortunately, but I don’t think it has a lot of importance during this next week, barring this one-hour meeting.

Ciao!

Costas on the Coast

To keep out from under Thalia’s feet as she cleaned our villa today, we escaped to the seashore and talked about Ethan’s social life. It was a long drive for just that one entertaining conversation and salty breeze, but we had to do something and couldn’t find anything better.

Back home, at 2 pm I jumped (well, sort of slid) into the pool and doggy-paddled laps to avoid getting my hair wet. Ethan joined me at around the fourth lap.

After we got out, Mom decided she wanted to swim, so Ethan and I read on the sidelines as she muttered, “It’s so cold! But it’s warmer than I’ve ever had it.”

For dinner we returned to Costas’s coast-side restaurant. We got a record-breaking eight dishes: tzatziki, garlic bread, grape leaf rolls, Greek salad, grilled peppers, zucchini balls, stuffed tomatoes, and chicken fillet. In my opinion, the chicken surpassed even the tzatziki in excellence since the sauce was delicious and the mushrooms were well-cooked.

We stopped for ice cream (chocolate and mint for Mom, strawberry for Ethan, chocolate cookie for Dad, and pistachio for me) on the way back to our car. Technically, it wasn’t on the way back. We took a really out-of-the-way detour. Anyway, we left Rethymno city limits in the dark and got on the E75 towards home.

Ciao!

Compare & Contrast

June 14, 2012: Title: School’s Almost Out!

Content: For our mother, at least… Today is her last teaching day, Friday is a grading day, and then… no school for more than a year! Well, she has to homeschool us, but still… I don’t think we’re as bad as those high-schoolers. Ciao!

June 14, 2013: Title: Trip’s Almost Done!

Content: As far as our plans are concerned… We can only hope that today is our sixth-to-last-day abroad, Tuesday is our last day on Crete, and Wednesday is our first day in the USA, and then… nothing big for more than a month! Well, there’s all the typical summer stuff, but still… I don’t think things will be as hectic as they are now (*ahem* today was a beach day). Ciao!

Blue Beaches

The beaches themselves are never blue, but most of the time, the water is. Today, we went to the beach. We went back to Saint Paul Sandhills and sat there for 2 hours. The beach itself was the same as always, sandy and nice.

This time, however, the beach was cooler than most times, as in it was bearable to on which to walk. We chose a site for our nice umbrellas between some of the pink umbrellas that were already there and sat down. The wind picked up and made whitecaps appear. We sat around and didn’t swim because of the coolness in the air. We eventually packed up and left.

The sun had come out several times throughout our stay at the beach, but it never stayed out long. When we got home, we sat around and read books, watched videos, or played games. Then we had dinner at home of pizza, salad, and green beans before sitting down again to do stuff like right this post.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Damp Down Day

It was, according to Apple weather, supposed to rain here in Crete today. It did not, though, but it was still overcast the entire time. This morning, my parents and my sister went off to the pharmacy to get some medicine, and I stayed home and played Minecraft, rejoicing in the fact that I was finished with all of my schoolwork for the next couple of months.

When they got back, I vacated the computer so that my father could get back to working on pictures, as always. After a while, he asked Eryn and me to help him thin through a set, but after that, it was back to him again. We sat around inside most of the day.

Late in the afternoon, we deviated from our normal activities and went out to dinner. At first, we had decided to go to a place that the folks had seen when they went to the pharmacy, but after a drive-by, we decided against going. Driving around for a bit, we eventually saw a nice Tabepna (taverna) and decided to go. It was good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Week Worth Wanting

With only one week left on our trip (if there isn’t a strike at the Athens airport), here is my Week Worth Wanting list of seven things for Europe (France, Switzerland, and Greece).

  1. THE PASTRIES. In all three countries we’ve visited, the pastries have been to die for. From the chocolate chip twists in Semur-en-Auxois to the chocolate-coated baklava in Rethymno, and everything in between (including pain au chocolat, giant cinnamon rolls, apple pastries, Chocolate Kiss Brownies, chocolate porcupines, and a giant pretzel), we’ve enjoyed just about every mouthful of pastry that we’ve swallowed.
  2. THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING-NESS. Although the language barrier proved almost too much in Semur-en-Auxois, in Greece, Switzerland, and Paris we’ve found plenty of people who speak English, the closest language to our vernacular (which is American).
  3. THE HISTORY. Greek civilization goes way, way back—especially when compared to that of the United States. France is also home to many historical sites, and played a role in many key European happenings, including the French Revolution and World War Two. Notre Dame (the Parisian one), the Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe are, in my opinion, the most notable French monuments. The Parthenon and Acropolis, as well as Knossos Palace on Crete, are the famous Greek sites that have been patronized by this family.
  4. THE SCENERY. In Switzerland, we woke up to the sight of Staubbachfall pouring down a cliff every morning and seeing glacier-covered mountains just down the Lauterbrunnen Valley. In Greece, when eating supper in a restaurant, we see beautiful sunsets. And France’s mustard fields are not to be overlooked.
  5. THE CATS. Seriously. In Morocco, the cats were, well, quite mangy- and rabid-looking, but in Europe they all seem quite sane (if not tame). They are very social and don’t mind being petted in the least. Actually, they mind if you don’t pet them.
  6. THE FOOD. France’s food may not have lived up to expectations, but our first night can never be forgotten: we had pizza for the first time in over a month. In Switzerland, the Bombay Chicken Pizza at Hotel Oberland was the best pizza I’ve ever had, barring frozen pizza (seriously) at home. Greece’s food has continued to amaze and fatten us.
  7. THE WIFI. Every place we’ve stayed in Europe has had wi-fi. This, of course, was planned, but you don’t know if it’s actually going to work until you get there. It’s worked in every place so far and will hopefully work on Crete until June 18, the day we fly to Athens.

 

Au revoir, auf wiedersehen, αντίο, and

Ciao!

Cloudy With a Chance of Grape Leaf Rolls

Nothing much was ‘really’ done today. In reality, quite a lot of work on the computer was completed, and we devoured a lot of grape leaf rolls, olives, and strawberry gummies. But no one calls those ‘real’ work.

The ‘real’ work revolved around finding dinner. Since today was cloudy and cool, we knew that the waterfront restaurant on which we had been planning to visit was a poor choice. We tried heading to Mesi and Faragi, both tavernas, but we could never find them. In the end, we settled on roadside Hovoli. There, we ordered seven (!!!) dishes: tzatziki, Greek salad, grape leaf rolls, stuffed tomatoes, herb pastries, fried zucchini, and the ‘village rooster.’ Although the name acted as a slight deterrent (we were planning on ordering the chicken with okra, but it wasn’t available), I found my piece of the village rooster to be tasty, tender, and mostly boneless.

The highlight of the meal was the petulant cat (even more petulant than two nights ago, on the south side of Crete), who ran to any hands dangling below chair level. It was a very clingy cat and hung around us because all the other guests at the restaurant were oblivious to its needs.

Ciao!

Southside Story

I woke up this morning to the crashing of waves and the coolness of a shower. It was a lot cooler shower than I had yesterday in the same building.

After breakfast (cereal, olive and plain bread [with mocha spread], and apricots), we headed down to the beach for some sun. The water was very high, and Dad, Ethan, and I were walking along the rocks. Mom went around the rocky peninsula, asking, “Why are you going up there?”

Moments later, she was soaked up to her thighs and had her answer.

 

After several hours of lounging around (the water looked too rough to swim in), we packed up and returned to the north side of Crete. Ethan and I swam in the pool before supper, which was at Thavma. Since ‘THAVMA’ is made up of both Greek and Latin characters, we asked our hostess how to pronounce the name (it’s ‘Thavma’).

Supper was tzatziki, potato balls, chicken with mustard, Greek salad, vegetable pies, and grilled peppers. Ethan was scared of the sheep-like dog (as usual). It was sheep-like because it was white, very calm and patient, and had a thick, wooly coat. In the middle of the day it must be a hot dog.

 

Only eight days!

Ciao!

A Windy Wednesday

Today, when we woke up, we were (accidental alliteration again, and again) still on the southern shore of the beautiful isle of Crete. We ate breakfast and then Eryn and I played around on the computer that came with the apartment. We then packed everything into our bags and headed out the door.

After leaving the house, we got into our Hyundai car and drove down along the beach. The waves were very large so we decided not to stay at our usual spot as it was covered in water. We continued on to the next beach and set up our umbrellas on a high spot.

After finishing on the beach with our tanning, we walked back to the car and got in it to go back to Rethymno. After only a day of our vacation from our vacation from our vacation, we were back to just our vacation from our vacation. We drove back for an hour and got some bread from the bakery on the way home, along with some chocolate baklava. Then we went home. For dinner we went to Thavma and had delicious food, as always.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The South Shore

We have been to the south shore of Crete several time already. All of the beaches that we have blessed wtih our presence have been on the south shore of the beautiful isle of Crete. We are again at a beach on the southern shore, but this time for the night.

My father got the idea of spending the night on the southern shore a few days ago, and made it happen. We are staying near the Agio Fotini Taverna, and a beach on which we have spent the afternoon several times. The beach is a fairly secluded beach, with a tavern several hundred meters down the coastline.

There are at least 3 different apartment rental units along the shore, and the one in which we are staying has 6 units in it. All of the units have a computer in the deal and that is what I am using to write this post. We spent most of the day today on the beach or in this hotel room. This morning we drove here from Rethymno.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Nine Days, Nine Things

In honor of only nine days until we get home, here are nine things (in no particular order) that I’ve loved about Crete:

1. Good food. From tzatziki and chicken to stuffed vine leaves and delicious fro-yo, eating food on Crete has never been a boring, unappetizing experience. I do believe in enjoying eating, and Crete is certainly a place to do that.

2. Frozen yogurt. While it’s already been mentioned above, Yum…me needs a slot of its own. With its multi-colored beanbags and trashcan lids (seriously, I looked. They come in pink, blue, and green), the seating was what drew us in. It’s the delicious strawberry cheesecake fro-yo that kept us as customers.

3. Acqua Park. Although yesterday had a few stressful and scary moments, most of the scariness was a good thing. Who doesn’t love the thrill they get going down a steep waterslide? And everyone knows that the only thing more fun than having fun is having fun while getting wet.

4. Our villa. I love our house. I really do. There’s a view of Crete’s north shore, nearby kids to play soccer (ahem… football) with, and a pool in our own backyard. Plus, there’s three bedrooms– meaning Ethan and I don’t have to share!

5. The southern beaches. The beaches on the northern side are avoided, but almost every-other-day we are on the south side, dipping our deeply-tanned toes in the salty waters.

6. The sun. No, not the son. The sun. With our 20SPF sunscreen that claims to tan and protect in hand, we lounge on the beach for hours. Although it does get uncomfortably hot sometimes, I think we all enjoy heat more than cold.

7. The wi-fi. Cape Town is in my Top 3 Places on This Trip (we spent have of our time in South Africa there), but it didn’t have wi-fi. The biggest blessing of our house is the wi-fi, making it easier to do our posts, upload pictures, and all sorts of mundane tasks that would be even worse using Dad’s phone’s megabytes via a hotspot.

8. The animals. Some would raise their eyebrows at this subject, since Crete isn’t exactly known for its animals. However, there are friendly cats and dogs and, the best part, we saw a snake!!! We saw it about a week ago, but I think I forgot to mention it. I don’t think it was venomous, since the venomous snakes in Crete supposedly lurk in the mountains. Whatever this snake was, it certainly wasn’t shy!

9. The other desserts. Although fro-yo has already been mentioned (as has food in general), nothing can beat a chocolate-dipped piece of gooey baklava. It is absolutely divine. Also, our cake from our favorite bakery was perfect (it was chocolate, of course), and we’re currently enjoying a dozen twist cookies from the same. At many restaurants, dessert for supper is fruit served with raki– namely, referigerated cherries. The cherries on this island are excellent.

Ciao!

__sick

You could say I’m homesick. Maybe Paris-sick. Most certainly Cape Town-sick. I miss Cape Town a lot, but I think that’s because Crete is so similar (yet different): good food, nice people, plenty of things to do, and– most significantly, I think– we’re in each place for about a month.

Although the joys and trials of Cape Town, South Africa’s prettiest city, are long past us, we’re still on Crete. Tonight we’re taking a vacation from our vacation (Crete) from our vacation (this year-long trip): we’re spending the night on the south side of the island. After lounging on the beach, we entered our oceanfront two-bedroom apartment. Supper was fish, chicken, tzatziki, French fries (chips), and Greek salad while being splashed by the waves and meowed at by the petulant cat.

It’s only nine days until we get home (eight until the U.S.). Tonight we looked at Google Earth and zoomed in on our home. To my surprise, I’d forgotten how to get there from an all-too-familiar landmark: my school. On school, by the way, Ethan finished today and Mom says she will finish grading our US history essay questions, which will officially make Ethan an eighth grader and me a high-schooler.

Ciao!

Monday Moments

We paid a five-hour visit to Acqua Plus, Crete’s ‘biggest & best’ water park, today.

Dad sat on the sidelines, but Mom risked seven slides, including the three open tubes where you slid down by yourself that were in orange, red, and blue. One was the closed, very warm, teal tube (where you went down without an innertube), and another was one of the orange racing slides, where Ethan and I sat on either side (I won). Ethan and I manipulated her into taking an innertube down one of the Black Holes—the one with more twinkle lights.

“Did you like that?” Ethan asked, grinning, at the bottom.

“No!” was the quick, sharp answer.

So we went on the Crazy River—over and over and over. The ‘crazy’ part is that it has five or six wide slide segments, each about 100 feet long, that end in pools. Sometimes we got stuck in the pools. To my disappointment, I only flipped over once in the pools, and it was an accident. I flipped over in my tube once at the bottom, but that was intentional and only came after many tries.

Mom also floated on the current-less Lazy River, but that doesn’t count as a slide.

I went on all 15 slides possible: the two Black Holes, the three multi-colored slides, an open teal tube and a closed teal tube, the Crazy River, the orange races, and six others. The two yellow slides were between the two teal slides, and one went in a J shape and the other in a S (more or less) shape. The Space Bowl—a.k.a. the Toilet—was a five-second, blue and white closed tube that shot you, at an angle, into the bowl. You went around once or twice and then fell into the hole in the middle—usually headfirst.

The Tsunami was a huge white structure in the shape of a half-pipe. You went down a short, steep chute onto the first part of the ‘wave’. You went down really quickly and then hit the water from each side as it met in the middle, giving you a wedgie. Then up you went on the other side, then back down and up the other side, and up the other side again, and so on and so forth until you reached the mouth of the slide.

The last two slides were the most scary. On the map, the bright blue Kamikazee looks Jumeirah Sceirah-like (that’s the super-steep slide at Wild Wadi in Dubai that I declined to go down. Ethan rode it). However, it’s open and in the shape of the ‘S’ yellow slide, just longer. It’s also very hard to breathe since the spray from your feet hits you square in the face as you speed into the pool below.

The tube slide is very steep too, but you can breathe more easily. It’s only 12 seconds long.

I went on each of these above rides at least twice. Ethan did the same.

Ciao!

Wet Water

Water is wet, and that is a fact. I know that from countless past swims in pools, waterparks, and lakes. Today I learned that simple fact again when we went to the Acqua Plus water park on the isle of Crete. We went there today because we figured that, since school is out here in Greece and in Europe, that tourists from the mainland of Europe will be flocking to Grecian isles like the one on which we are staying to enjoy their holidays.

The park that we went to today is a large one. Eryn and I went on 15 different runs at least twice each. On the far left facing the hill, were the easiest rides, red, blue, and orange, going from left to right. The best one for me was the red one because it was the fastest. Going over to the right, there was next a blue and white slide that dumped someone into a bowl and they went around and around until splashing down into a 1.75 meter splashdown pool.

Next was the tower area. It had two blue slides and two yellow slides. The blue slides on the outsides were easy and tubular. The one on the left was only for kids ages 8-15 and had no top. The one on the far right had a full tube and was very twisty. The two yellow slides in the center of the tower were steeper and more fun. They all went down into a pool at the bottom. Going back towards the hill, there is a ‘Tsunami.’ It is a large white half pipe where a person in an inner tube goes back and forth across the course before finally drifting out.

Over to the right some more is the set of racing slides. Four orange open-topped slides right next to each other for races. Next over was the Crazy River, which was nice and fun. It consisted of 5 pools, one at the top and one at the bottom, along with 3 throughout. The pools were separated by 50m stretches of slide which one navigated by inner tube. Next over were two ‘Black Holes.’ The one on the left was better because it had more lights, but they were both fun and navigated by inner tubes, and mostly dark.

Last but not least, were the two slides at the far, far right. One of them, the one on the left, was called the Kamikaze. It wasn’t that scary at all and was really fun. The one on the far right was a green tube and went really fast for a bit. It was really, really fun. You finally splashdown in the pool at the bottom after a short ride. Eryn and I did all of those, while my mother only did some.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Beach!!!

In case you couldn’t tell by the title, today we went to a beach. We had tried to go to this beach before, but we couldn’t find it. We drove for an hour down to the south coast and the drove on a dusty road to a parking lot. We found a fairly secluded part of the beach, put of the umbrellas, and worked on our tans through the reflection on the water.

As the time went by, I waded out on some stone slabs and saw a snorkeler. Later, we saw a set of kayaks going one way and a single kayak going the other way. We eventually left, packed up our umbrellas and walked to the car. We drove back home the same way on mostly paved roads.

On our way home, we stopped at the Inka supermarket and got cherries, green beans, and strawberries. Yum, yum, yum!

That’s all for now, Folks!

To the Average Reader:

Well, we went to another beach today. I don’t remember what it was called, but none of us went swimming. Dad finally found it after hours of driving, and after about two hours on the beach, we (more or less) retraced those hours. At home, Mom, Dad, and I dipped in the pool while Ethan swam.

So… it was a pretty interesting day to us as each thing happened, but to the average reader it sounds like we’re taking it super easy.

(To the average reader: don’t believe it!)

Ciao!

Slow Saturday

After a long period of procrastination, we set out for Kournas Lake, one of Crete’s few freshwater lakes. There were plenty of people paddle-boating, but we declined to try it.

Back home we tanned (shocker, anyone?), read, and looked at well-decorated cupcakes online before supper at Dionysos. There, we ordered six dishes but decided not to get the tzatziki since it was a side with every dish. We got stuffed tomatoes, stuffed vine leaves, stuffed courgette flowers, chicken filet, and Greek salad, plus one orange juice for Mom.

Ciao!

We didn’t

Some people, when they are annoyed at someone, say ‘go jump in a lake!’ If someone asked us to have done it this morning, we wouldn’t have when we went to a lake this afternoon, even though we had a chance. This kind of reminds me of a poem that I had memorized a while back about a fat cat who sits that way every day just to say come out and play to the nice mice in the mouse house in the small hole by the hall floor. It is entitled, ‘I wouldn’t.’

Back to our travels, not the adventures of a fat cat: the lake that we went to today is one of the largest freshwater reserves on the whole island of Crete. Before going to the lake, we didn’t do anything except for sit around our living room staring vacantly at walls. In the afternoon, we went to the lake. In the evening, we went to dinner at Taverna Dionysos for the second time.

The lake was more than I expected. I expected a bitter cold tiny pond with icecaps in the corners and it to be snowing, even on this tropical island. Funny, right? This place was magnificent. It had a clear bottom about 8 feet down all the way around the edge and it had lots of tourists plying around in little paddle boats.  We eventually left after oohing and aahing from a taverna parking lot that, to us, doubled as a viewpoint.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Frozen Yoghurt Fun

Today we went back to the Frozen Yoghurt place in Rethymno. We woke up this morning and had a leisurely breakfast before hopping in the car (figuratively) and drove down into town. We left around 10:30 and arrived around 11. The first thing that we did was walk down a road towards a fountain.

After a few blocks, we looked at a map and saw that we had passed the fountain a long ways back. We walked back and looked at the fountain, which only had 3 lion’s heads. We looked at it for a while before going to the frozen yoghurt place.

We at lots of frozen yoghurt (over a kilogram) and sat in the colorful beanbag chairs in their sitting area. We ate our frozen yoghurt and then entertained ourselves by watching a large green lizard tied to a chair at a nearby table. It jumped around for a while and then we left.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Yum…me Yogurt

Today we used fro-yo as an excuse to vacate the house while it was being cleaned. We also went to a fountain and the cathedral in Rethymno.

I had the strawberry cheesecake, chocolate, and orange flavors, with chocolate sauce, chocolate chips, and strawberries and a tiny bit of the lemon-chocolate sauce (which was nasty). A bunch of teenaged girls next to us were cooing over an iguana on a leash, which was sitting at a table. I don’t know Greek, but I’m sure they were saying “Isn’t it cute??”

Back home, I swam for thirty-five minutes and then read another 4% of Moby Dick, taking me to 30%. For supper Mom cooked pasta and green beans and made a salad—which, as usual, had too little vinegar.

Ciao!

The OmniCat

Tonight we went to Zizi’s. Eryn might have covered the last time that we went there in her post a few days ago, because I know that I didn’t cover it. In any case, we went back there today. Eryn might have mentioned cats, maybe even all 4 of them. Still, though, I will tell my own story of today.

We went back to Zizi’s and ate dinner. The title of my post isn’t exactly about dinner, it is about the entertainment of the dinner. The cats were there again, and we all commented on what my father commented on the last time that we were there; the overstimulated cats.

When I came back to my seat from a break, I saw that the cats weren’t all crowded around or table anymore. My father commented on how they were all everywhere. They were in the trees above the table, on the ground underneath the table, begging scraps from nearby tourists. They were very nice cats, if a bit skittish.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Bye-Bye Baklava

Well, it’s happened again: we’ve finished yet another platter of wonderful, chocolate-coated baklava.

 

This happened after several hours at Agia Fotini (a beach that we’ve been too before), where we tanned and Dad, Ethan, and I swam. On the home-bound drive, Ethan and I slept. As soon as Dad stopped the car outside our gate so Ethan could open the gate and let the car in, I jumped out with my stuff, tore off my clothes, dropped my bag, and jumped into our pool.

Ethan and I played in the pool for half an hour. I finally did a full twist, which was exciting.

While Dad tanned outside, the rest of us huddled in the house and used our electronics. For supper we went to the cat restaurant. The cats were feeling more dominant and gave us the evil eye(s) as we sat in our chairs with chicken on the table.

After supper, we returned home and, sadly, polished off the baklava. Back to the supermarket!

Ciao!

Crete Thoughts

So far we have been on Crete for almost 2 weeks. We have been to several beaches, several towns, several restaurants, and several historical sites. Of them all, we haven’t been to many of the historical sites, but I think that I have been to enough beaches to say my favorite.

Prior to our acquisition of umbrellas, I would definitely say that Saint Paul Sandhills was by far the best. However, after going there again yesterday, I think that it had too big of waves that time to keep it in the top. With our new umbrellas, most of the beaches that we have gone to would stay in the running if we went again.

The one that wouldn’t would probably be a beach near a tavern that had no sand, only rocks and a bit of surf. In all, there were several that would be good, but I think that the ‘Jelly Belly Beach’ would probably turn into my favorite if we had taken our umbrellas there.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Schooling and Supper

Today was quite the down day. However, I did one important thing:

With an answer about why Bill Clinton’s impeachment was significant, I finished my schooling for the 2012-2013 school year. That is a great accomplishment, by the way. Thousands of questions were answered (I only got about 2% wrong) and I’m finally, finally done.

But it starts again in September—so soon!

 

For supper we re-visited Thavma. At the end of the meal, all four of us—yes, including Ethan and me—were offered tiny glasses of raki, the national alcoholic beverage.

Ciao!

Wet ‘n’ Wild

Ethan was the only one of the four of us brave enough to venture into the cold, wavy Libyan Sea today at Agio Pavlos (Saint Paul). The rest of us sat under our new, striped umbrellas on the sand and had our hair swept around by the wind. When we arrived home after a stop at the bakery, Ethan and I went out to the pool and swam. Ethan and I made up a game with our new blue floating bed. The ‘shark’ was on the bed and the ‘minnow’ started in the opposite corner and had the goggles. The goal of the minnow was to get to the opposite corner and back without being tagged by the shark. The shark had to keep all body parts on the floaty except their arms and hands. If they flipped over, the game was paused as the shark returned to an upright position.

After this, I did schoolwork (I only have 40 questions of US history left!) until we left for supper at a waterfront restaurant run by the same people as our villa, which is called Villa Ivi. We ordered seven dishes: tzatziki, vine leaf rolls, grilled pepper, stuffed tomatoes, Greek salad, zucchini balls, and a swordfish steak. This swordfish was much, much better than the one that Dad and I had five years ago in the Caribbean. As Dad said, I don’t really like it when swordfish is served as a shoe (a.k.a. unchewable).

The food was all very good, and the dessert (melon and cherries) was entertaining.

Ciao!

Windy, Wavy, and Wet

Who: Eryn, Jerry, Susan, and me along with our car

What: A beach day on Crete.

When: Today for about 2-3 hours ending at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Where: At the Paul Sandhills beach under the shade of our new umbrellas that we bought recently.

Why: We wanted something to do today and decided to go to a beach that we knew was nice. Sadly, it wasn’t as nice as we expected, due to the large waves and the wind.

From that chart, you can probably tell that we went to the Paul Sandhills Beach yet again and that it wasn’t up to expectations due to the uncouth weather and the fact that the wind made it seem way to cold for our swimming uses, even though I did swim around a bit.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Windy, Wavy, and Wet

Who: Eryn, Jerry, Susan, and me along with our car
What: A beach day on Crete.
When: Today for about 2-3 hours ending at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
Where: At the Paul Sandhills beach under the shade of our new umbrellas that we bought recently.
Why: We wanted something to do today and decided to go to a beach that we knew was nice. Sadly, it wasn’t as nice as we expected, due to the large waves and the wind.
From that chart, you can probably tell that we went to the Paul Sandhills Beach yet again and that it wasn’t up to expectations due to the uncouth weather and the fact that the wind made it seem way to cold for our swimming uses, even though I did swim around a bit.
That’s all for now, Folks!

Magazines!

For those of you who don’t know, I love magazines. Today was a good day, then, since we visited the Fortress of Fortezza Rethymnon. There were five magazine chambers, three of which had vaulted roofs and two that were roofless. They were used for storage. Today, they’re places to visit and housing for exhibitions.

The fort was pretty much right on the sea, and the look-outs on each outward-facing corner had a refreshing breeze flowing through them due to the windows.

Once done in the fort, Mom led us along the waterfront through restaurants at which we did not eat. Finally she left us as the three of us got sidetracked in the Euro1Shop, where everything costs one Euro. We didn’t buy anything, since there wasn’t anything worthwhile.

We found Mom and then continued on, passing a very cool-looking restaurant that I had seen before. Mom suggested checking it out, and we discovered it was a fro-yo joint called Yum…me. After sampling the strawberry cheesecake flavor, I was sold on the idea. All told, the four of us bought a whole kilogram of fro-yo that we ate on the brightly colored beanbags out front. I had chocolate and strawberry cheese cake, with chocolate chips, strawberries, three different types of cookies, coconut, and chocolate sauce. Mom chose chocolate, mixed berry, and orange flavors, and so did Ethan. Dad kept it simple with a serving of chocolate.

But it was soooo good. We need to go back!

Ciao!

Rethymno Rhythms

Today we went into the town of Rethymno that is just north of where we live. The town has about 40 thousand inhabitants, plus smaller towns scattered around nearby. The city is on the ocean and is alive and bustling with a few locals and…well, tourists. We probably count as tourists, because we went to the main archeological touristic place in Rethymno, but who knows.

The fortezza is on a hill right next to the ocean and overlooks the harbor. It isn’t the biggest fort that I have seen, as some of the ones in India were very large, or at least seemed that way. The fortezza here has everything that one needs to survive for a bit, like powder magazines, gates, armories, and cavaliers.

We walked around the Fortezza before going down to the seashore and looking at a bunch of shops. We walked around for a bit and looked into a frozen yogurt place kind of like Sweetey’s in Springfield. The frozen yoghurt place was really nice and had really cool furniture of multicolor beanbags. Then we got in the car and came back home to swim.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Beach Burns

The sun is hot. Far, far away, the sun is burning. It releases heat, light, and that energy goes vast distances at the speed of light, reaching us on earth in about 17 minutes. Some of those rays are blocked by clouds, others hit people directly on.

We were some of those lucky people who got the direct sunlight. We went to a new beach this morning and sat in the sun. At the first beach, we sat on rocks and tossed smaller rocks into the ocean, and at the second beach we sat around more. The second beach had actual sand and we sat on our towels and tanned or burned. For a little bit, my father and I swam in the water.

When we left the beach, we drove home and sat around. Later, we went out to dinner at a pizza joint and had good food. When we finished with that, we went to a small market and bought two beach umbrellas for future use on beaches for shade.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Beachy Keen

We went to yet another beach today. Well, actually we went to two. First we drove across the island to a taverna, and then walked west among the slippery boulders. We finally got to a beach, but since the tide was up it was invisible underneath the waves. Ethan and I threw pebbles at rocks for half an hour, at which point we walked back to the taverna. Dad said that we had to stay for a while to show the people at the taverna that we were going to the beach, not just making a huge mistake.

We drove three minutes to the east, and then walked on the sandy beach in the same direction. We stayed at this beach for about an hour, with Dad and Ethan jumping in the surf. Afterwards, Ethan and I sat in the shade under some rocks that smelled like something had died recently.

At home, schoolwork was completed before we headed out to dinner at a pizzeria by the bakery. The table at which we ate had white chairs with pink edges and pink seat cushions. The ashtray was blue glass, and the glasses came in orange, green, red, and purple. They even had normal—not red wine—vinegar!

Oh, and the pizza was okay, too.

Ciao!

Monastery Memories

Obviously I only have memories of the monastery that my family and I went to today, because we are no longer there. I think that the main documentation of our time there are the pictures that my father has yet to load onto the computer from the camera.

The monastery is old and has lasted for a long time. It was made around the 5th century, and restored in the 16th. The reason that it was restored was because, sometime a while back, the monastery was besieged. Instead of surrendering, the people of the monastery went into the storage of gunpowder and blew themselves sky-high.

When we left the monastery, its chapel, and trees with bullets still imbedded, we drove for a while before heading home. After sitting outside and reading for a while, we went out for dinner and had a good filling meal. When we left, there was still a lot left over. Oh, well.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Story of Mewmew

I am a cat. I have three orange-and-white friends who also hang out at Taverna Zisi. We live on handouts and hope that we’ll one day land on a fly. Those flies—they really bug me. Today Mewey found a good, slow fly, but it was still too quick.

The most interesting part of my day was when one of the Humans put down her hand and I smelled it. On accident, my whiskers touched the hand. It startled me—contact with a Human!!!—and I ran away. She seemed disappointed, but I can’t let small Human emotions get in my way.

Another highlight was when the same Human dropped her knife onto the patio and fell through a crack to the ground. The filling of the stuffed pepper smelled delicious, and Mewey and I ran towards the smell, hoping for a taste. Mewey was faster and devoured the one grain of rice that remained on the patio.

My day pretty well ended with Mewey, Rrmew, and me play-fighting (claws were sheathed) in the sunset.

Ciao!

Let Them Eat Cake

While we aren’t in France any more, someone still thought that today: me.

After lounging around at the half-off beach (it cost five Euros) and Dad and Ethan swimming in the blue waters, we returned home but stopped by the bakery and supermarket on the way. Our first stop was the bakery, and I chose a beautiful chocolate cake there. Mom also bought some bread and chocolate pastries for breakfast tomorrow. At the supermarket, Ethan stayed in the car with the cake while Mom, Dad, and I went inside and chose, among other things, 20 SPF sunscreen (we only have 30 and 45 right now), cherries, green beans, and peaches.

At home, we lounged around (we did that a lot today!) before heading out to supper at 6:25. We returned to the restaurant on the hill and ordered seven dishes: chicken with zucchini in a lemon sauce, greasy zucchini crisps, tzatziki, chili with egg, Greek salad, vine leaf rolls, and onion pastries. It was delicious, and supper there was a lot easier for me this time because Ethan sat in the chair facing the setting sun.

We returned to our house, and I sliced the cake into five pieces (one half and four eighths) and then served the slices.

Let them eat cake!

Ciao!

Windy Weather

Today there was wind on the southern edge of Crete. Not so much as the wind a few days ago that come north from Africa, but there was still enough wind to make the waves be big. The beach that we went to was the Saint Paul Sandhills. It is just around the point from Saint Paul beach, but it was still nice.

At first, I went out and swam around in the 3 to 4 foot waves, and then I got out when I got tired. We all tanned for a while before Eryn and I climbed a big rock. Eryn and I then walked around the corner of the rock in the ocean and came back to the parents. After a bit of tanning again, my father and I went out and swam in the big waves.

Some of the waves were bigger than others, and my father and I stayed out farther than where the waves broke. We rode up and down, going from trough to top to trough again. Some waves broke a long ways out and were powerful. My father lost his hat in one of them, but recovered it.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk

The proportion of beach time to driving time was rather alarming today, as we spent slightly over an hour on the beach and hours driving around on dirt roads trying to find elusive towns and paved roads.

On the beach at which we lounged, Dad and Ethan bounced in the waves and Mom and I waded. The beach reminded Dad, Ethan, and I of Backwash Beach in Costa Rica because it has small (and quite large) rocks that roll back and forth with the waves and can scratch and squish unsuspecting toes and legs. Also the tide was in, so that probably affected Dad and Ethan’s splashings.

Dad drove our little-car-that-almost-couldn’t around a lot, and we ended up at the beach we visited several days ago. At that point, we turned around and headed home. On the way, Ethan and I remembered things we had done on other two-week spring break trips, such as petting a baby sloth in our backyard in Costa Rica, our volcanically heated pond in our Hawaiian yard, and eating rocket (lettuce leaf) pizza in Pisa.

We made it home, and I set about my algebra final. Now it’s finally finished (several hours later). The only break I took was for supper, which was pizza, green beans, and salad. I had finished pouring extra vinegar on my plate for my pizza and was putting it back down on the table when I knocked over my glass and sent milk onto the table. We had to take off the tablecloth, dry the table, put a new tablecloth back on, and put the whole mess back together before eating was resumed.

Sigh.

Ciao!

Beaches in Crete

Today we went out around 9 o’clock and drove south. When arriving on the southern shore of Crete, we went to our first beach. Along the way, we went down a paved road, turned around, and then went down a badly kept gravel and rocky road.

At the bottom, we found a nicely surfaced dirt road and drove on it until it joined up with a paved road. We went down to the beach and lay out on the sand and occasionally jumped around in the waves. After about an hour of doing that, we got back in the car and found a paved road going up the hill. It came out 5 feet after the place where we had turned around the car. Oh, well.

After that  beach, we drove for several hours and looked out over lots of beaches. We decided to do the Paul Sandhills beach again tomorrow morning and then walk along the beach. When we got home, my father and I swam in the pool while my sister worked on her math test.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Wednesday Wind and Wakeup

I have (currently) one more math problem for the entire year…too bad. I will finish it before I go to bed, however. In any case, there was wind here today. It started last night about the time when I came in from playing football.

The wind was loud. My family reported that the wind howled through the night. I was too busy sleeping. I woke up this morning and had breakfast with my sleep deprived family. We then looked out the window and couldn’t see the ocean so decided not to go to the beach.

We sat inside and did schoolwork before staying inside some more and doing some things like playing Minecraft. We then went out to get some stuff from a supermarket and then got some bread from the bakery. Later, we went to dinner. After dinner, we learned that the dust came from Africa.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Breaking News: Tourist Town Trap Traps Tourists!!

The wind was really blowing this morning, and now, at 8:23 p.m., the wind has subsided but you can’t see the ocean from our house. Our pool was filled with leaves, and it was at least partially refilled with a hose, so it’s probably really, really cold.

Apart from that excitement, our day was rather dull. We visited Lidl and the bakery for food but didn’t check out the restaurant at which we planned on eating until we were back in Rethymno and looking for it. It was on a very touristy street (although Rethymno itself is quite touristy) and the menu had pictures on it. As I learned in Rome three years ago, when menus have pictures all over them the food usually isn’t very good and it is very overpriced.

This would be the exception.

The food was typically Greek—meaning it was delicious (especially the vine leaf rolls stuffed with rice and the fried peppers) and inexpensive. The atmosphere was rather unimpressive, but what could we expect?

Ciao!

Crete Cherries and Castles

Some people out in my audience might not classify a palace as a castle, but it is close enough for what I wanted, which was alliteration in the title of my post.  Today we went to a castle, or palace, if you prefer it that way.

The palace was the Knossos Palace, under which is situated the labyrinth which used to house the Minotaur. Since you either know or do not care, I will not bore you with the tales of Theseus and the Minotaur; suffice to say that the first one killed the latter. The palace, going back to the original subject, is in ruins, not surprising, considering the fact that it was built around 2000 B.C.

We took the guided tour and walked around, learning about the throne room, how the queen had makeup, about the first toilet, and other interesting factoids. The palace has the oldest mosaic, throne, staircase, theatre and road in Europe. The Minoans were also the oldest civilization in Europe.

After about an hour and a half, the tour ended and we got ourselves some fresh juice. On the way home from the Iraklion area, we stopped by a store and bought their whole supply of juicy red cherries.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Kids in Knossos

After a long (one-hour) drive, we reached Knossos Palace. Knossos Palace is the legendary home of the Minotaur and hot and dry. It was definitely a good thing to hire a guide, and she took us—along with our small English-speaking group—around the palace for an hour-and-a-half.

Anything wooden or painted was fake, placed by the archaeologist Arthur Evans. There is a bust of him at the entrance to the site.

There were five entrances to the palace: one each on the north, south, west, and east sides, and one on the northwest. Among other trivia, we learned that the first toilets were found in the palace. The queen had one in her room. She also had make-up tools, which we didn’t see (they were in a museum). Clay pipes carried water in to and out of the palace. There were forty rivers on Crete, our guide told us, and forests, too, but with the Turks and the Venetians came destruction. Now the forests are long gone. In their place are vineyards, olive groves, fields, and towns.

When our tour was over, we re-circled the site, this time allowing time for pictures. We stopped at the café on our way out and ordered overpriced drinks. This seemed like a lot to bear after the $10-per-gallon petrol earlier in the morning. (Suddenly, $4-per-gallon is looking pretty good.) Mom and Dad chose orange juice, and Ethan and I went for the Tooti Frootis, which had a delicious combination of pineapple, banana, orange, and apple juices (delicious especially since you couldn’t taste the apple).

On the way home we stopped in Heraklion and Mom, Ethan, and I looked at the cathedral, and I found a teal dress I really liked (but couldn’t buy).

Also on the way, we stopped for cherries, a dark chocolate bar, and chocolate-coated baklava at a mini market. In case you want to know, the chocolate-coated baklava is really, really, really good.

Ciao!

Chicken of the Sea

“Ethan! I dare you to swim out to that rock,” I called. “That one—out there!”

Ethan looked up from the shore and saw the black rock that I was pointing to. He gamely started swimming out to where Dad was, but he wasn’t trying very hard and kept being pushed back by the waves. Finally he got to the rock where Dad was, but kept turning back on his long swim out to the big rock because he was worried about jellyfish.

“You know how an iguana is called ‘chicken of the tree’?” I asked. “Well, you’re the chicken of the sea.”

He took offense to this comment and, gathering his pride and his courage, hastened out to the rock and back. Dare done, he sat back on the rocks next to me and enjoyed the warmth on what we nicknamed Jelly Belly Beach—the name was chosen due to the large number of small, round, colorful rocks on the water line that reminded us of one of our favorite snacks.

Ciao!

Beaches and Bad Roads

This morning, after a bit of breakfast, we left the house and went to beaches. The first beach that we visited was called Saint Paul Sandhills, and there was a fair amount of people in swimwear… or lack thereof. After a bit of sunbathing there, we drove for 3 hours to go 3 kilometers along the coastline. The roads were un-surfaced and bad and sometimes ended up at people’s farms. Oh, well, at least we got to where we wanted.

At this next beach, I swam around and climbed on rocks before it was time to go and we got into the car and started home. It may sound like not much, but there was a lot of driving time. On the way to the first beach, though, we did see lots and lots of grasshoppers hopping around on the road.

After staying at the house for a while, we went out to eat at a Taverna. We had lots of food and came back stuffed with deliciously delicious food. It was all good, homemade, and healthy. Well, most of it, but still, as I might have mentioned, the food was good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sunday Schedules…

…or lack thereof. Today was interesting. We spent most of it planning what to do on other days. We got up this morning and ate breakfast inside and then sat around, read comics, played Minecraft (only me) read books, and looked at possible beaches to which we might drive.

Around 3 pm, my parents and I went out to swim and swam for about half an hour. Eryn just sat in the poolside shade and read a kindle. When we got back inside, we read for a bit before eating dinner out on the patio. The dinner mainly consisted of rice and beans.

After dinner, Eryn and I went and played with Maria and Bobby. Before long, two boys (ages 6 and 9) came out and played with us too. We played football and then basketball and then tossed balls around. Bobby and I rode on his bike down the hill and around the road. I rode on the axels.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Schoolwork, Supper, Sports, and Stuff

After schoolwork, supper, and other homey activities, Maria and Bobby, along with their two cousins, ages six and nine, were joined by Ethan and me in the lot next door. We started off playing football. The nine-year-old, Maria, and I were winning 6-3 when someone called a time-out. I took the opportunity to climb the steps behind our pool up to the area above the lot and throw down the footballs that were there.

Maria came with me, and as soon as we were up there the boys started throwing balls at us. It ended when someone threw the star football into the thorny bushes and we couldn’t find it.

While we were all standing around feeling guilty, Maria brought ice cream cones, which were eaten with gusto. Before the cones were finished, a new football game was started with the same teams as before. By the time the game ended with Bobby and Ethan riding on a bike, my team had three goals to the other team’s one. And I scored two goals!!

Ciao!

Food & Fat

All we officially achieved today was letting down our ten-year-old neighbors, Bobby and Maria, by getting home from supper too late to play basketball like we’d promised last night.

On the other hand, supper was excellent: Greek salad (feta, tomato, and cucumber), oven-grilled feta, chicken with a lemon sauce, grilled chicken, zucchini chips, and more, all for less than a meal for one person in Switzerland. On a related note, did you know that Greece has the highest obesity rate of any country in the European Union?

Ciao!

Basketball

Last night, after I posted yesterday’s post, Eryn and I went outside and played basketball and football. Football, in this case, means what you Americans might call soccer. I call it football. In any case, Eryn and I played with Bobby and Maria, twin 10 year olds. Before we came back in for bed, we promised to play tonight after dinner.

This morning, I went out and shot some hoops with the basketball that they had left behind and eventually, when the kids came up, played with them while Eryn stayed inside. After a day of sitting inside, we went out to eat. By the late time that we got back, the kids weren’t there and the balls were gone.

Oh, well. That is a shame. Still, though, we will have time to play again, I hope. As I was saying earlier, we did nothing very interesting today, though we did swim in the pool, which was blissfully cool in the spring heat.

That’s all for now, Folks!

One Cool Pool

“We’re now on Crete, which is good, but that means there’s no more English,” Dad commented as we walked into the bakery. We were in Iraklion, the port city where we had landed and gotten our rental car after showers on the ferry, and we were hungry. The bakery was the perfect place to sate that hunger.

The subtitles of the pastries were in English (Dad was wrong), and I chose a slice of spinach pie and a mini sugar-covered donut. Mom and Ethan also chose mini sugar-covered donuts, but Ethan had a cheesy pastry and Mom had two mini spinach pies and one mini cheese pie. Dad ordered a tomato-and-olive ring and a chocolate-frosted mini donut. We ate in the car our drive to our house.

We were greeted by the owner’s sister-in-law when we arrived. According to the car, it was 23°C (73.4°F). It was much, much cooler than it had been in Athens, and the crystal-clear pool in the backyard didn’t seem so inviting.

Dad napped, and then we were back on the road to get groceries. After driving through Rethymno, Crete’s third-largest city, we settled on the Lidl supermarket in our village called Agia Triada. We bought—along with foodstuff including garlic, frozen ravioli, orange-chocolate cookies, and bell peppers—soap, laundry soap, and the cheapest serviettes we could find: we bought three packages. The available bright colors were tangerine, yellow, pink, green, and dark purple. Guess what? We didn’t get pink! Ethan originally chose tangerine, yellow, and pink, but then he discovered the green and purple. After I vetoed the purple, he selected the green. It went well with neither pink and yellow nor pink and tangerine, so I reluctantly dropped the pink. We used white ones from the bakery for dinner, though, so my pain was not even recognized.

 

Upon our return, I happily organized the groceries in our kitchen before heading upstairs to my room. Realizing I’d left my Kindle downstairs in the living room, I dashed down to get it. Ethan was lounging on the couch reading, and I asked him why he hadn’t been swimming—he who had seemed so ready to jump into a pool in Athens at the drop of a hat.

“I don’t know” being the standard response to everything, that was as much as I got. But within five minutes, he was out in the pool. I joined him and Dad outside shortly thereafter, while Mom slaved over a hot stove in the kitchen. After lounging in the sun and reading for a few minutes, I eventually gathered my courage and slipped into the cool pool. Ethan was convinced and returned to enjoy the shallow waters. The shadows were getting longer, and before the whole pool was in the shade Ethan had retreated to the concrete and his towel. I stayed in the pool doing backflips until ten minutes before supper, which was salad, green beans, and pasta with tomato sauce and chicken.

Ciao!

Crete Pools and Water Parks

We, in case you couldn’t tell from the title, have arrived in Crete. After a good night’s sleep aboard the ship last night, we bumped against the dock this morning around 6:30. When we got off, the boat, we found our rental car and got in. After driving for a bit through Heraklion, we found a bakery and bought some pastries and pies.

We then drove for about an hour before arriving at our new house. On the way, Eryn and I looked at a map, which showed a gigantic waterpark. Sadly, it is a ways away from where we are staying, but that is okay. On the way here, we saw a much smaller waterpark, but it didn’t look as fun.

The place where we are staying has a pool. Tonight before dinner, Eryn and I both swam in the pool. It was nice to swim after months of not doing so.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Athens*

*Turns the title into ‘Athens Asterisk,’ because I couldn’t think of any other alliteration for a summary of our time in Greek’s capital city.

 

We saw the typical tourist things (the Pantheon, the Acropolis, the new Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeology Museum, the hill where Paul the Apostle preached, the hill with an elevator in a tunnel to the top [which we did today], watching the changing of the guard) and we also did some non-typical tourist things, such as eating porcupines, ice cream, and other goodies from our favorite patisserie.

Today we rode the elevator to the top of the hill near our apartment. After an hour at the top, we went back down and bought ice cream and bowls of chocolate mousse and a strawberry-cream dish at the patisserie. We ate it in the park several blocks down the hill. This park was a lot cleaner than that near the metro station.

After playing musical benches and finally getting one in the shade, we sat for a while and reflected on our Athenian adventures. Oh, now I discover some good alliteration!

We’re on an overnight ferry to Crete now—we got in a taxi to the port shortly after we finished in the park.

Ciao!

The Closest Thing

In South Africa, when we were at, I believe, the Haven Hotel, I told you all out there about the changes of a woman’s life. When they are young, they want horses, when they get a bit older, they want a man, and when they get older and older, the want to go on a cruise ship. In other words, the way of a woman’s life can be summed up in one word; horsemanship…horse, man, ship.

Today my mother, who is in the 3rd stage of that cycle, probably got on to the closest thing to a cruise. The boat in which we are all riding is large. It may not be the largest boat in the harbor, but it is still very large. There are 9 decks in total as far as I can tell, and we are staying on deck 4. Our tickets may say that we are in room 4009, but I can assure you that the plaque on the outside of the door says 4033.

The levels below us are just for cars and trucks, so we are the lowest possible. The main deck from which you can feel the breeze is number 9. As I said earlier, it is a big ship, and it is big enough to even have a pool. Sadly, though, the pool wasn’t open to swimmers, so we spent a dry afternoon and evening. Tonight, after getting on the boat, we ate dinner at one of the onboard restaurants.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Spring in Switzerland

These are a few of my favorite things . . . . . . . .

Steep, rocky mountains partially covered with snow

Green valleys in the high mountains dotted with traditional Swiss houses – If we lived in Switzerland our house would be of traditional style with red shutters and many window boxes.

Numerous waterfalls – Lauderbrunnen is nestled in a valley of 72 waterfalls.

Many spring flowers, especially pink tulips, red geraniums, and yellow buttercups.

Gondola and cog-wheel train rides – These were fun ways to see the landscape up close and from above, move from town to town, or just ride for entertainment. Unfortunately two of the most picturesque gondola rides were closed because we visited just before the summer tourist season begins at the end of May. We will just have to visit Switzerland again!

 

 

It’s All Greek to Me: Day Two

Moment of the day: Making it as difficult as possible to answer Ethan’s trivia questions about Lord of the Rings since (a) I had no idea who he was talking about, (b) I was trying to annoy and dissuade him, and (c) I was really enjoying called Mary Adoch (or whatever their name is) a ‘she’ when apparently they’re a guy.

Food of the day: The delicious rice-stuffed tomato for supper!! It tasted a bit like the grape leaf rolls we got from Costco at home—a.k.a. they were delicious.

Treat of the day: My delicious chocolate dessert from our favorite patisserie. It is a chocolate mousse shaped like a dome, with a chocolate coating. It had sliced almonds sticking out of it with two white chocolate chips and one red one: the red one was the nose, the white ones were the eyes, and the almonds were the spines on the porcupine.

Person of the day: The guards outside the parliament building, who wore tights, khaki skirts with their khaki shirts, and red shoes with big black fluff balls on the end. We watched the changing of the guard, which happens every hour on the hour.

Place of the day: The National Archaeology Museum, where we saw statues, statues, and more statues. The most interesting ones (in my opinion) were the ones found in the bottom of the Mediterranean. Many of the statues are partially perfect and partially destroyed. The perfect parts were in the ground below the water. The damaged parts were ruined by microscopic sea creatures.

Disappointment of the day: Finding out that Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas didn’t win Dancing with the Stars and placed fourth—but at least Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough won!

Ciao!

Changing of the Guard

In the state capital, Athens, members of the elite Evzones light infantry unit, provide a 24-hour honor guard, with an hourly guard change, at the Presidential Mansion and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier off Syntagma Square at the foot of the Hellenic Parliament. The Changing the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in particular has become a tourist attraction, with many people marveling at the guards, who stand motionless for two 20-minute intervals, during their 1 hour shifts.

Or so says Wikipedia. We saw that changing of the Guard today in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Since you probably learned more than you wanted or needed to about the whereabouts of the Guards, and what they are, so I will go into something that my sister would enjoy…maybe.

The Evzones wore tassels hanging from the back of their hats. Those tassels were then draped over the shoulder and then hung down the front of the tan colored clothing. On the back of the tights, at about knee-height, there was a ball of black cloth fluff hanging on both legs. On top of the shoes, as well, was a puffball.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Final Country

Now that we are in Greece, we are nearing the end of our trip. In just a month we will be home. For us, a month seems pretty short, but that is still a lot of time for experiencing Athens and Crete.

We finished up France and Switzerland last weekend. Both were great, though a lot of the Alps were “closed” due to snow until the day after we left. Oh well.

Our Grecian experience has started out well. The weather is warm (compared to the past several months) and the food is quite tasty. This is going to be a good month.

Posted in RTW

The Acropolis Area

The Acropolis area is large. In my opinion, it includes the Ancient Agora, the Acropolis, the Zeus Temple, and Hadrian’s arch, not to mention a few other things. Today we explored that area further than yesterday. Yesterday, if you didn’t read my post, we went to the Acropolis and visited the a Parthenon in warm Greek weather.

Today we explored the Ancient Agora, a nearby hill, and peeked inside the Acropolis museum. The Agora was mainly a bunch of ruins that some people thought was very interesting. The most interesting, picture-worthy, and noteworthy thing there in my opinion and a bunch of others’ was the large amount of tortoises.

Actually, the best thing in the Agora was the Temple of Hephaestus, which is the most preserved piece of ancient art in the world. We eventually left the Agora and went up to a hill. We then went and saw the Acropolis museum, to see what we missed. Sadly, photographs were not allowed to be taken for some odd reason.

That’s all for now, Folks!

My Life is Ruined: Day Two

Moment of the day: Seeing the tortoise amongst the ruins below the Acropolis with grass hanging out its mouth.

Discovery of the day: It was something of a surprise how easily we found the big bronze plaque commemorating the hill where the Apostle Paul spoke to the Athenians hundreds of years back. It was also a bit surprising how short and slippery the hill was—slippery due to the fact that thousands of people have stepped in the exact same places year after year and worn the rock down.

Food of the day: The delicious green salad (I judge salads based on the dressing, by the way) that accompanied our pizza at dinner.

Treat of the day: My half of Mom’s chocolate baklava left over from last night. It had a chocolate center but was sweet, flaky, and sticky on the outside. Perfection on Earth.

Person of the day: The kind man who scooped our gelato near the Acropolis (Mom and I shared cookie, chocolate, and raspberry flavors). When Dad panicked about his camera—where was it?—he went back to the man and asked if he had seen it. To our relief, he said ‘yes’ and handed Dad the camera, which had been placed behind the counter.

Place of the day: The air-conditioned Acropolis Museum, which has all the statues that remain (except for those in the British Museum). It is where the silver cup given to the winner of the marathon at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 is currently housed. The race was on the last day of the games in Athens, and the champion was Greek. (I care more about the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics because that’s when American gymnast Carly Patterson was crowned Olympic all-around champion.)

Disappointment of the day: Although this may not technically count, the mouse pastry with a bashed-in face at our most-frequented bakery had not been sold. Also—we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the Acropolis Museum.

Ciao!

Acropolis Apocalypse

The sun is hot…I am sweating. Bodies are pressing against me and stinking of sweat as I try to get through the line. I am almost to the front…almost there…

I got there. Eventually, after only a little bit of time, my family and I got to the front of the line and bought our tickets for the Acropolis. For those of you who haven’t, like me, studied archeology or anything like that, then you probably will not know that the Parthenon and the Acropolis are not the same thing, despite ‘common knowledge.’ The Acropolis is a wide field surrounding a plateau.

On that plateau, there are a bunch of ruins, the most important one being the Acropolis. The Acropolis is in ruins, now, of course, and there is a crane sticking out of the middle on ‘restoration.’ I knew that Greeks were smart, but I didn’t expect that.

That’s all for now, Folks!

 

My Life is Ruined: Day One

Moment of the day: We finally achieved victory at Vodafone when (a) we found the store and (b) we got three SIM chips. This occurred while I was playing a candy game on the iPhone 5 and then Fruit Ninja on an iPad.

Discovery of the day: In a thick guidebook on Greece, I learned that Greece consumes the largest amount of cheese per capita, with 25 kilograms (55 pounds) eaten annually. Greece is also the world’s number-three producer of olive oil. 80% of its olive oil is virgin olive oil, compared to Italy’s 45%. However, much of Greece’s best virgin olive oil is exported to Italy, where it’s mixed and then sold as Italian.

Food of the day: Chicken gyros, which is basically chicken wrapped around a stick and turned vertically. It rotates while grilling, and the edges are shaved off to create a serving. The chicken came with tomatoes, onion, pitas, and a white sauce.

Treat of the day: Gelato shortly after leaving the Acropolis. Dad and Ethan each enjoyed chocolate and raspberry flavors, while Mom and I shared a heaping bowl of tart lemon, creamy chocolate, and refreshing pistachio.

Person of the day: The waiter at supper, who was entertaining, spoke English well, and gave us food.

Place of the day: The patisserie we visited yesterday: we bought dessert there (the restaurant where we ate supper was next door). I had a mini vanilla ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and caramel sauces.

Disappointment of the day: The woman at the gate of the Acropolis who had said she would be our tour guide, but that she was waiting for more people, gave up: after all, if you can’t have it a lot, why not have nothing?

Ciao!

When in Athens

When we got into the airport,
We saw a bunch of Greek,
We ate a bagful of pastries,
And tried of Greek to speak.

We failed much at this large task,
then got into a cab,
We drove for a while to our flat,
At there we saw now crabs.

Even though Athens was renowned for its navy in the Greek wars against Persia, we cannot see the ocean from our flat. So, because of that, we saw no crabs. We live inland a bit, on a 7 floor building. We are on the sixth. We arrived in Athens after a 3 hour plane ride this morning from Paris, waking up too early.

We are starting to learn the Greek alphabet, which only has 24 characters!

That’s all for now, Folks!

It’s All Greek to Me: Day One

Moment of the day: Flying over the expansive and expensive beachside villas with pristine blue swimming pools to the Athens airport.

Discovery of the day: The bakery that sells the yummiest-looking stuff I’ve ever seen (I always say that)—and ice cream!

Food of the day: Soft zucchini patties that accompanied our delicious and filling supper.

Treat of the day: My wonderful ½-slice of chocolate pie from the bakery in the Athens airport. Also, I enjoyed my quarter of the ‘traditional walnut cake’ from the same place. These two items made up half of my breakfast.

Person of the day: The charming receptionist for our apartment building. She just might speak better English than me.

Place of the day: Our flat in the center of Athens on a bougainvillea-lined street.

Disappointment of the day: There is no swimming pool in this apartment building!

Ciao!

Chicken Chow

Now we can add another country to our ever-growing list: Germany.

We’ve been there before, but we were not expecting our GPS to take us through the country on our way to Paris from Lauterbrunnen. So now we can say we’ve been to—counting the U.S. and Portugal—seventeen countries on this trip (Thailand, Laos, India, Australia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, the UAE, Argentina, Chile, Peru, USA, Portugal, Morocco, France, Switzerland, and Germany). Tomorrow we’ll add yet another, as we wake up super early to fly to Athens, Greece.

After a relatively uneventful but rather stressful drive from Lauterbrunnen to Paris, Dad checked into the Hilton. Then he and Ethan went to Hertz to return our rental car.

In the meantime, I took two backpacks and three bags up the parents’ room on the sixth floor (Ethan and I are just across the hall). The key card was in my coat pocket. It was hot after struggling with the bags in the elevator, so I tossed my coat on the floor and walked out the door.

I made it to the elevator before I realized my mistake.

Downstairs, Mom asked for a new key while I sat anxiously on a black sofa. We took the suitcases and hats up to the room and waited for Dad and Ethan to return. When they finally did, we got in a van to the airport and had supper there. Mom and I shared a chicken salad and chicken penne. Dad ate the chicken penne, and Ethan had a chicken sandwich.

What wimps!

Ciao!

When in Paris Again

We drove for a long ways today. We drove all the way from Lauterbrunnen to Paris in one day in our gray Ford Focus. We started around 8 this morning and drove north. We first passed through Interlaken and then drove on the northern side of Lake Thun. We then passed through Thun and continued on our way going northwest.

We passed through Bern, the capitol of Switzerland, and then continued on our way. We eventually crossed the border and entered, low and behold, GERMANY! We went for a while on German roads before crossing a canal and arriving in France once again.

We continued on, and while I read some more of J. R. R. Tolkien, my father drove us across France. At around 6 o’clock in the evening and checked into our Hilton hotel near the Orly Airport. We eventually ate dinner in the Eastern terminal and then came back here, to our hotel.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Aborting @ Bort

“Too bad the toboggans are closed,” Mom said mournfully. We were at Pfingstegg, and the toboggan run at the top of the gondola was closed. After riding a ferry around Lake Brienz, we had caught the train up to Grindelwald. We had gotten off at Brienz and, while the boat was stopped for twenty minutes, Dad bought raspberries, sour gummies (ew), and a chocolate bar from the Coop.

In Grindelwald, after taking the gondola up to Pfingstegg, we walked to the gondola up to First (through Bort) and rode to Bort. Ethan and I played on the playground, flipping on the ropes, while Mom played Sudoku on her phone next to Dad on a bench.

We hurried back down and bought postcards at a kiosk near the train station. I was on my way to Die Post when Dad waved me over. Up we went to Kleine Scheidegg. We had the whole three-car train to ourselves. At Kleine Scheidegg, we changed trains and went back down to Lauterbrunnen. On the way home, we stopped at Hotel Oberland for dinner. Ethan and I shared the Bombay Chicken Pizza (as delicious as before—if not better, since I got all the sour cream [Ethan doesn’t like sour cream]) and a green salad. Mom and Dad got a pizza, a salad, and a dish of rosti, traditional Swiss hash browns.

Ciao!

CH Cruises

CH stands for the Confoederatio de Helvetica. In English, that means the Confederacy of the Swiss, or the Swiss Confederacy, or something along those lines. In the case of my title above, it does not mean that we went on a large ocean liner filled with people and swimming pools galore, I mean a simple cruise around a lake.

We woke up this morning and left our house around 11:15 and hopped on a ubiquitous train down to Interlaken. In Interlaken, we used our 6-day passes and got onto a boat headed around the Brienz Lake. We stopped several times around the lake before finally getting to Brienz. We stepped out for a bit and took some pictures and bought a chocolate bar and some raspberries before getting back in the boat and heading back towards Interlaken.

After we got back to Eastern Interlaken, we took the train to Grindelwald, and rode up a tramway that was included in our ticket and hadn’t yet been ridden by my family and me. We looked around on the top and stepped into the UNESCO Park before hopping back out again and catching the tram down. We went up to Bort again and Eryn and I played on the rope and wood playground while my parents ate chocolate.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Up towards Jungfraujoch

Jungfraujoch… the top of Europe, is the highest railway station in all of Europe. It is at an elevation of 11,332 feet above sea level and is only two hours’ train ride from Lauterbrunnen. Today I will be telling you how close we got and why we were only that close.

We went up towards Klein Scheidegg and changed trains there. We got on the red train going up towards Jungfraujoch and rode upwards until the first stop: Eigergletscher.  Eigergletscher is the highest train station that we can go to with our six-day passes without paying extra.

We shivered a while at Eigergletscher before riding the train back down towards Klein Scheidegg. We caught the train back down towards Lauterbrunnen, and, when we got there, my mother and I scoped out Lauterbrunnen’s recycling capabilities. It wasn’t much… only plastic bottles, glass bottles, and aluminum cans.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Schoolwork vs. Skiing

Well, I didn’t take my huge math test today. Instead, we went up to Eigergletscher (Eiger Glacier), which is the highest our train tickets take us without any extra charge. It was cold and snowing and, after viewing the white, we stayed inside for twenty minutes waiting for the next train back down the mountain.

We returned to Lauterbrunnen and Dad and I went to the tourist office. There, I was excited to get my hands on a ski map which shows the runs that were open in the 2012-2013 ski season. Looking around in Eigergletscher or Kleine Scheidegg, an Oregonian finds it hard to believe that it’s already May here and the ski season is over.

Oh, well—at least we crossed skiing off our list in Dubai.

Ciao!

France Favorites

Eiffel Tower — This really is a huge, eye-catching structure. We visited it during the day and night, but only went up to the observations decks during a sunny hour where we viewed the city. The nighttime lighting is impressive, especially when the lights flash on and off once per hour.

Pedestrian malls – France is a great place to wonder around the cobblestone streets, look in store windows, eat ice cream at a sidewalk café, and appreciate the many colorful flower beds and pots.

Stained glass windows in cathedrals and churches – We visited many cathedrals and churches to see 13th to 19th century stained glass windows, with the most impressive ones at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Countryside – While staying in Semur en Auxious we drove and biked through the countryside. We saw many acres of green pastures and yellow mustard fields, white cows, ambling creeks and canals, houses with bright flower boxes in small villages, yellow and purple flowers cascading down rock walls, and fruit trees with white and pink blooms.

Pastries and bread – This country knows how to make delicious breads and pastries! We sampled many types because Ethan walked almost daily to a local boulangerie. One of my favorite treats was similar to a croissant with chocolate chips included throughout.

Miniature Golfing in Grindelwald

Again, like many a day in Cape Town, the three of us (Mother, Eryn, and I) played miniature golf. We played on a course that we had seen yesterday while walking through Grindelwald, hence the title of this particular post.

When we left this morning, we went down into Interlaken and walked around in search of something that we didn’t fully understand. We didn’t find that thing, and so we went back to the train station and rode it up to Grindelwald. In Grindelwald, we walked to the miniature golf place and paid the fee. We went through all 18 holes.

The holes were different from most; one of them was a vertical loop, another was a jump into a net, and another was a horizontal loop. They were all fun, even though I lost. When we finished playing, we found my father again and walked to the train station and took the train back to Lauterbrunnen via Klein Scheidegg.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mini-Golf and Mini Market

We were on our way up to Grindelwald on the train after stopping for a short time in Interlaken. Ethan and I were excited at the prospect of playing mini-golf for the first time since Cape Town. Of course, it’s six times as expensive here, but it was still ‘enjoyable.’

After 18 holes with complex contraptions, Mom won with 80 points. Ethan had 108 and I had 107. Oh, that made me proud: it’s rare when I don’t place last in mini-golf.

On the bright side, the notepad on which the scorecard sat was pink, and so was my ball. Ethan had white, and Mom had yellow. The funniest moment was when Ethan, after giving up on a hole and getting the maximum score, decided he’d try it “just to see if you can really do it.”

The ball went straight up the ramp and flying into the net.

“Ugh!”

 

Mom insisted on shopping (ew) afterwards, and she and Ethan darted in and out of little tourist shops. In the end, we missed the train up to Kleine Scheidegg by two minutes and had to wait another half hour.

In Kleine Scheidegg, we switched trains to Lauterbrunnen. The car was stuffed with Indian tourists—a slight change after our ride up to Kleine Scheidegg, when we once again had half of the train to ourselves.

We walked home after not shopping in the Coop (the local mini supermarket). We had stood outside the automatic doors, but they hadn’t opened, so we had thought, Must be closed. Although it is odd that the Swiss wouldn’t do something on time (it was 6:17 and the shop closes at 6:30).

As we walked away, a man walked through the automatic doors.

Oh, well. We’re eating a chocolate bar as consolation (and dessert). It has three flavors in the squares: green (disgusting and nasty), orange (yummy), and pink (eat this one!).

Ciao!

Who’s On First?

“Hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen… fluorine, neon, lithium—wait, no!” Ethan exclaimed. He was trying to recite the first 50 elements (from hydrogen to tin) on the Periodic Table of the Elements in a short period of time. My record is 19.49 seconds.

 

We were on our way to Grindelwald from Kleine Scheidegg. After riding the train, we got on the gondola to First. Passing through the Bort stop (we didn’t abort), Ethan exclaimed, “Restez assis!”

“What?”

“Look at the sign!”—which read ‘Keep your seat.’ (You didn’t have to get out of the gondola at that stop.)

At First, we got off and walked on the snow-lined road to a frozen lake. On the way back, Ethan and I snacked on a lemon-ginger chocolate bar before we were stopped in our tracks by a mini-avalanche. This mini-avalanche was on a mountain across the valley but was still quite loud and obvious.

 

On our way back down, we stopped at Bort and Ethan and I played on the playground. In Grindelwald, we stopped at the supermarket for groceries such as chocolate bars and chicken.

Ciao!

Flying Diapers

When we woke up this morning, we didn’t know what we would see or do today. We thought about going up to Klein Scheidegg and playing in the snow, but we never imagined seeing flying diapers. Unlike the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service, I think that the flying diapers that we saw didn’t want to do anything to help hurt people.

When we left the house, we took the train up to Klein Scheidegg and romped around a bit before heading down to Grimmelwald. From there, we took a tramway up to the ‘First’ Station. While on the way up, we saw a sign that said ‘Restez Assis’… interesting. We walked around on the top for a bit, going to a lake and seeing frogs, before coming back.

On our way back down, we saw some people riding down cables in red harnesses. We thought that that was interesting and noted it. When the people got out, the red ‘diapers’ flew back up the cables, two at a time. They were actually hooked on a rope, but it looked like the harnesses were flying.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Fire & Ice

We tried going to the base of Staubbachfall first, but the gate at the bottom of the trail was closed due to it not being summer. So we walked for another hour-and-a-half before getting to Trummelbachfall. After paying the 30-franc (US$30) fee, we were in.

Up the ascensor we went, and we were reminded of Valparaíso. At the top we went up the stairs to chutes 6-10. Trummelbachfall is a series of falls in the mountain. The water on the rocks drips and drops and it’s cold and wet as you stand near the wall to get a better view of the falls.

After viewing chutes 1-5, we wandered back to a picnic table by the creek, where we ate an almond chocolate bar and Dad read us a BBC article on grammar– especially apostrophes.

 

In Kleine Scheidegg, after riding the train, it was sunny (totally unlike yesterday, when it had been snowing). Ethan instantly ran to the snow and started chucking snowballs at us.

“I don’t know how he does it, but he misses every time,” I noted.

“Ready… aim… FIRE!” Ethan hollered, missing again.

“Seems more like ice to me.”

 

We caught the 17:31 train back down to Lauterbrunnen, and Ethan hung his jeans over a chair to dry. They were wet after I threw Ethan into the snow.

Ciao!

More Snow!!!

That is what we saw today. We went up to the top station and walked around in the snow. However, that wasn’t until late in the afternoon. We first left the house around 11 o’clock, and walked for a while out to a set of waterfalls.

That set of 10 waterfalls is famous for all being inside a cliff face and not being on the outside, like a bunch of the other waterfalls in the valley. We rode up the Ascensor on the inside of the cliff and then climbed around the top 5 waterfalls. We worked our way down to the bottom waterfall and then left.

We eventually got to the train station and rode the train up to Kleine Scheidegg , which is the station at the top. We got out of the train and hiked up a ways through the snow until we found a nice viewpoint. I threw some snowballs at my family, accidently hitting my mother in the neck with one. Sadly, though, I missed most of the time.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Swiss Snow

Today was the first time I’ve seen snow fall from the sky in thirteen months. That’s a long time, by the way—the last time was (I believe) 2012 spring break, when we lost our power for two days, our tree house fell down, and Willamette Pass Ski Resort was closed due to too much snow.

 

Today was better since we still have electricity. We don’t have a tree house, but all the ski resorts were closed due to a lack of snow.

After buying our tickets, we boarded the train up the mountain and rode to where the line ended. It started snowing on the way, and the little boy in the car ahead of us was practically screaming: “Look, Dad! It’s snow! Look, Dad! Look!”

We could get on another train to Jongfraujoch—the Top of Europe (not really)—or we could go to Grindelwald. We chose Grindelwald because there was a mannlichenbahn we wanted to ride in Grund, which was a stop on the line. After walking through the interminable parking lot, we read the sign that said ‘Closed 8 April 31 Mai.’

Back to the train station we went. At Grindelwald, we changed trains and headed down toward Interlaken. At another station, we changed trains to Lauterbrunnen. There we went across the street and bought a lemon-lime Lindt bar (which was gross) and four ‘chocolate kisses’ at the bakery. We ate the chocolate kisses—brownies in a cup—while waiting for the gondola to come down the mountain across from the train station. It finally did, and we rode up.

At the top we got into the train car and rode to Murren, where we stayed for about half an hour. It was snowing and cold, the bakery was closed, and Ethan was in a snowball frenzy. Going back down the hill and Ethan had a snowball in his hood and several in his pockets. I dodged in front of Dad, using him as a shield. Ethan threw one at Dad, and then cried, “I missed!”

I turned around and wham! Ethan’s last snowball hit my hot pink umbrella. I burst out laughing, but now one of the rods on my umbrella is bent. Hopefully it can be fixed…

 

On the way down Ethan and I played 20 Questions. He almost stumped me with bumblebee hummingbird, and I got him with pygmy shark, ibex, wolverine, and trumpeter swan. I relinquished my hold on the role of ‘chooser’ when he correctly guessed red-and-green macaw.

Ciao!

Snow in Switzerland

In yesterday’s post, I told you that we had driven to Switzerland. Today, we did a bit of exploring around Lauterbrunnen and found some nice things. One of those nice things was snow, and in great quantity. For those of you who have been skiing high up in the Cascades of the Rockies or in any mountain range, you will have seen lots and lots of snow; we didn’t see that much.

After having breakfast and wishing Mother a happy Mother’s day, we set out to the train station and got tickets for 6 days before hopping on a train and going up. We went up until the end of the line at about 2000 meters above sea level, and found snow. Not enough snow to ski on, but still enough to make lots and lots of snowballs. I did. I never hit anybody up at the top, even though I got close.

We rode some more rails back into Lauterbrunnen and then went up the tramway. At the top, we took a train to Murren. There, I found some more snow and threw at least a dozen snowballs at the rest of my family…only a few of them found their mark. We then rode the rails back to the tram and trammed back down to Lauterbrunnen.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Lauterbrunnen

Lauterbrunnen means ‘louder fountain.’ We think that that is signifying the 72 waterfalls scattered about the valley of Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen is in Switzerland, and it we drove into Switzerland and from France today.

After yesterday’s French activities, today we drove. By the way, the answer to yesterday’s riddle is ‘mice.’ In any event, today we drove. We started out around 9 o’clock, and drove until we got to the French border. At a border shop, we bought a highway ticket, so we could go on the highways of Switzerland, and then we were off.

We drove through groves of yellow and green trees and mountains. We went through tunnels and on the lakeside before finally driving into Lauterbrunnen. We then found our new accommodation, which isn’t super luxurious and mansion-like, but it does the job, as we won’t be here too long.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Spar Swiss Cheese

Holding your breath for 1.8 kilometers would be more impressive if you were walking (or running), but doing it for 1.5 minutes seems pretty impressive to me. Which is good, since I did that. We drove through four or five tunnels after crossing the France-Switzerland border on our way to Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen means ‘loud fountain’ in German. Although Switzerland has four official languages (Italian, German, French, and Romansh), two languages are primarily spoken in the touristy Lauterbrunnen: English and German.

We arrived in the town at about four in the afternoon after buying groceries from Spar in the town of Interlaken. Along with salad dressing, green beans, lettuce, bread, milk, yogurt, and eggs, I was sure to add Swiss cheese to the basket. Once the organizing was done, we went out on a walk. It wasn’t sunny today, so we couldn’t see anything that beautiful. However, we could still see about six of the seventy-two waterfalls in the valley. The main one is Staubbachfall, which is right behind the town. It is 297 meters (974 feet) in height and was first measured in 1776. Then, it was recorded as being the height of ‘900 Bern shoes’—Bern being the capital of Switzerland.

For supper, we ate dinner while seated on chairs swathed in soft sheep skins at Hotel Oberland (‘top country’ in German). Mom and I shared a green salad with French dressing and the Bombay pizza. The Bombay pizza came with sour cream, a raisin-y chutney, pine nuts, and chicken on top of mozzarella, tomato sauce, and a wonderfully thin crust. It was surprisingly delicious.

Ciao!

Haiku Holidays

A River Beside,
with mighty rains coming still,
a house with flooding

Roughly describes our time during the flooding. A more peaceful haiku of our time here might go like this,

Sunlight on Flowers,
yellow in mustard fields,
the beauty of France

Shows how beautiful France can be if you come in the right season; just after the rain, and right as the flowers are blooming. Since, however, I am more into riddles and limericks; I bestow this one upon you:

Green Willow trees,
Upon some blue rivers,
Flowing to the seas,
Water it delivers

Rain clouds gather,
In the blue sky above,
Rivers lather,
Releasing the above.

And so on and so forth. I probably could go on for a while, but you get the idea.

That’s all for now, Folks!

PS:

It scurries all ‘round,
all the crumbs to eat,
it makes no sound,
To cats, MEAT!

That is a riddle that I composed today. The answer will be in tomorrows post.

Finished in France (For Now) On a Friday

Unless we don’t have our visas to Switzerland (and visas aren’t needed), we’re good to go tomorrow. We get to wake up earlier than usual to drive to Lauterbrunnen.

 

In the meantime, today was our last Friday in France. It started off the way it normally does: with Ethan going up to the boulangerie and buying a baguette, pain cereal (healthful bread), and braided pastries with lots of chocolate chips. For breakfast, I ate a boiled egg, a pastry, a slice of baguette, and an orange. No one else in the house ate an egg, and Dad and Ethan had pasta from last night’s supper to go with their other carbs.

Mom reviewed me on my math while Ethan read Finding Waldo. In the background, Dad was working on the computer. Eventually I got to work on my last persuasive essay of the year on the computer.

That was pretty much our day—right after that we left for supper at the ice cream place. It was only 4:15 p.m., but we wanted an early supper.

Mom and I shared a chicken tart and a green salad with asparagus, mustard, boiled egg, and tomato. Ethan had the cheese sandwich and Dad had some toast with pesto on it and the same salad as Mom and me. For dessert Mom and Ethan had ice cream, Dad had two creeps, and I had a gaufre.

“What’s a gaufre?” Mom asked.

“It’s a rodent with long teeth that likes to dig holes” was, more or less, all the response she received from Dad and me. When my waffle came and I frowned in disappointment, Mom asked if it was like I expected.

“No,” I said sadly. “It was supposed to be a soft waffle, not a crunchy one.”

 

Oh, well. Next time!

Ciao!

The Delightful Death March

We walked 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) today around Lac de Pont (Bridge Lake). After arriving at the parking lot, we walked down the beach and across the dam and, under a red bridge, saw the overflow area, which had obviously been used recently.

It only took us three hours and we were going at a fairly slow pace. Ethan talked about Minecraft the whole way, and I, after yammering on about skiing for the first hour, walked ahead of the others.

We didn’t see any animals or anything particularly interesting. It was what we didn’t see that was interesting: where there was supposed to be a bridge and an island, there was just lake.

We also saw a flour mill that had been drowned in the 19th century when the dam was created.

After the walk, we stopped at the Intermarche and bought butter, lettuce, tomatoes, chocolate bars, oranges, cookies, and dryer sheets. We had supper at home again, and I thought everything needed more vinegar.

Ciao!

Day of the Death March

Today was the Day of the Death March. Luckily for us, it did not rain today, so it was an okay walk. We first drove to a lake about 5 kilometers out of town and then parked in a nearby parking lot. We left the car (locked) and walked down to the beach to look at the water.

Seeing as though it wasn’t warm enough, there were not any people in swimsuits, only in sweat suits. We went past them all and crossed the lake on a bridge before starting to circumnavigate the lake. The lake was 12 kilometers all the way around, and we did all of it in 3 hours. Not exactly our best time, but still…

When we finished walking around the lake, we got back in the car and drove to a supermarket. After Eryn and Mother finished doing the necessary shopping for dinner, we drove back to the house. In the house, we did whatever we wanted to do until it was time for dinner. After a dinner of pasta, zucchini, and salad, we retired to the salon and read books.

That’s all for now, Folks!

D-O-W-N D-A-Y– What’s That Spell?

Doing the breakfast dishes—scraping off egg shells and orange peels

Other chores (such as reading Baby Blues) go by

Winning Scrabble—against Mom and then myself

Nagged to do schoolwork—the ‘happy days’ of the 1950s

Dishing up the chocolate cake with crème anglaise

All enjoy the (super yummy) treat

Yesterday the weather was better—it rained today

 

 

Ciao!

I Took the Garbage out

Today was a rainy day. I mostly sat inside and read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. From time to time, I got up and had a break from my usual repertoire of sitting around, but mostly, it was the same as when it rains here.

I speak like I know the rain here. I may not know the rain, but I sure do know the chocolate bars. We have sampled countless flavors of chocolate bars, from lemon and ginger to pate de almande. We have tried so many flavors that they mostly blend together. Today, for instance, we had almond, the day before yesterday we had the lemon and ginger, and about a week ago we had the pate de almande. It is fun, eating chocolate, and I enjoy it.

Later in the evening, when it was raining a lot, I went against Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout’s example (for reference, please see link below) and took the garbage out. I took it all the way to the end of the road, but that wasn’t far, so I stayed somewhat dry without a rain coat.

http://mste.illinois.edu/courses/ci407su01/students/north/kristy/Project/K-Poem-Net.html

That’s all for now, Folks!

Biking in Burgundy, or Failing & Falling: A Short How-To

As I sit in this chair typing my post, I’m trying hard not to wince. Despite the fact that this chair has a cushion, it is painful to sit because the bicycle seat on which I sat for seventeen kilometers (about 10.6 miles). We drove to the tourist information center in Montbard only to find it closed for lunch, so we sat on a bench in the sun for an hour.

Riding the yellow bikes along the Burgundy Canal was Ethan’s idea, so he must have enjoyed it the most. I would say the most exciting part of the whole ride was on the way back after we had watched a boat go through a lock.

“You should learn how to mount a bike,” Dad said, and continued by showing me how: stand with your left foot on the left pedal and then swing your right leg over to the right pedal. Easy-peasy… right?

-Some people are rather challenged when it comes to things like this (I am one of them).-

So I stuck my left foot on my left pedal and swung my leg over.

Except I didn’t.

Instead, I hit the back wheel with my foot because I was stressed out because Dad and Ethan were really close and I didn’t want to hit them. So I fell down against my bike and now have a lovely bruise on my leg.

After another failed attempt, I did manage it—although who knows if I can now perform the skill consistently?

Ciao!

Biking in Burgundy

Yes. With today’s bike ride, I will have ridden a bike on 5 continents, the two exceptions being Antarctica and Africa. Africa is sadly missing, even though that is the continent on which we spent the most time. Still, though, we biked today, and it was fun.

The Burgundy canal is 150 miles long and has 189 locks for raising and lowering boats up and down the canal. We drove in the car north to Montbard and rented 4 bikes for two hours. We first got onto the bike path that ran along the edge of the canal, and then we rode away.

We rode for about an hour; passing trees, farms, forges, and houses.  When we got to the one hour mark, we turned around on the path and went back, passing over bridges and across roads. We stopped for about 20 minutes to watch a boat be lowered down in the locks.

First the lock woman opened the top gate and let the water inside the lock be brought up to the level of the upper canal. The boat drove into the lock and got shut in with the closing of the top gate. Then, the bottom gate was opened and the boat slowly went down. When it reached the level of the lower canal, the bottom gates were opened and the boat was FREE!

That’s all for now, Folks!

Heads Rolling

When most people talk about rolling heads, they usual say it in the phrase, ‘heads will roll!’ Today, though, my definition of rolling heads is a bit simpler…and less gory. My definition of rolling heads is when people nod their heads in unison to music. Maybe it is not a perfect description, but it is adequate for my uses.

Today we went out on a walk. The walk went along the river for a ways before cutting across and going along the edge of a cow field until we got onto a road, and then walking along that road back home, making a large loop. When we got home, we had dinner and then sat around reading books and generally being lazy.

We finally left the house again, this time for an organ concert. At the concert, we faced the organ and listened to several songs. At one point, the people in the row two rows in front all started to nod their heads in unison to the same beat. We finally left after an hour and a half of organ playing.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Aural Stimulation

Mom convinced us to go on an hour-long walk in the area around Semur-en-Auxois, so we went outside to enjoy the green and the sun and the lowering waters.

After the walk, Mom made supper (pizza, rice and zucchini, broccoli) and at 7:30 we left for Notre Dame de Semur-en-Auxois for the organ concert, which was a fundraiser for the organ in Notre Dame de Paris. We also went to a fundraiser/organ concert for the organ in Notre Dame de Paris itself.

This one was more uncomfortable in the long run since it was twice as long (an hour and a half verses forty-five minutes) and the music was, I think, less interesting. However, it was warmer inside this cathedral.

Ethan was the youngest attendee. Almost everyone else appeared to be older than my parents (and that’s pretty old). Almost everyone also smiled at the organist’s apparent mistake: when playing in the high notes, he randomly hit a lower note, which sounded like a fart.

Ciao!

Walking Sunday

Today was Sunday, and almost everything was closed. I say ‘almost’ because the main thing that was open was the farmer’s market on the pedestrian walkway. When I went up to my father and attempted my Spanish with ‘moi carne,’ as in, much meat, and then my father went on about ‘oinki carne’ and ‘clucki carne.’

After I finished being annoyed with my father, we went back around to our house the long way. It was mother’s idea, and when we got home, she wanted to walk along the river on our bank, which we had never done before. We kept going for only a little ways before coming along to a barricade. We did not go past the barricade, instead, we walked back home.

Later, we had dinner in our house of pizza, zucchini, and other such things. I think that today was a good day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Barricaded Because of Beyond

Everyone, write this date (May 5, 2013) down: for the first time in over two-and-a-half months, I wore something besides pants and a shirt in public. It was one of my Dijonian dresses, and it was very exciting. For me, at least.

We walked across Pont de las Minimes and into town, where there was supposed to be a farmers’ market. Mom declined to buy anything, so we kept going to a shop where we bought a newspaper. Although news of the flood (the water’s gone down about five feet already) was splashed across the first four pages, Semur-en-Auxois didn’t make any of the pictures—or the article, for that matter.

Oh, well.

After chilling in the house for a while and getting diesel for the car, we walked down the river to a barricade because the road beyond it was in a state of disrepair.

“So much for our walk,” Mom said.

Back at the house, Mom prepared a supper of pizza, salad, and zucchini. None of it had enough vinegar.

Ciao!

Brownies, Brown Dogs, and Bussy

Today was spent in relative ease. We spent most of the morning inside, telling the TV news reporters that there was nothing to see, and generally just sitting around. I personally read Lord of the Rings, so I had a good time.

Eventually, we left on a quest to see the Chateau de Bussey, an old manor up in the hills. We left our house and its receding floodwaters in our car and drove to the museum. On the way from the car to the Museum entrance, my father and I both petted and scratched a nice looking dog that had looked endearingly at us over the fence with his paws stuck through the holes.

Eventually, after we finished walking through the museum and going through a maze that wasn’t amazing because there wasn’t any way to turn wrong. We then left and went back home, and when we got home I made us all some Pecan and Chocolate brownies. They were very, very good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

An Amazeing Adventure

It was so sunny today that we couldn’t decide what we wanted to do until after noon. That was a good thing, too, since Chateau de Bussy-Rabutin closes at 11 a.m. and re-opens at 2. We arrived in the town at 2:15.

On our survey (“it’ll only take two minutes”) over which we slaved for five minutes after our tour, we said that, overall, the place was satisfactory. It would have been nice to have a speaking guide who spoke English, but the brochure was okay. Ethan and I enjoyed the maze, even though there was only one way. Someone had cut a hole and made a shortcut that cut the time in eight. Ethan and I didn’t notice this until we were done. We went out that way, too.

Also on our survey was the question “What could have made the shop better?” Options included more kids’ products and more books. I added a new box and checked it off.

What did it say?

 

Gelato.

Ciao!

Foul Weather Friday

There are a lot of tourists on Pont de las Minimes taking pictures of the quickly-rising river. I’m not one of them—I prefer to stay inside and on the top floor. This house on the river is interesting: the kitchen, living room, dining room, master bedroom with ensuite bathroom, and another bathroom are upstairs. Out of the front door and down some stairs is the entrance to the bedroom for Ethan and me, which has its own bathroom.

It also has several inches of water.

Earlier this morning, after schoolwork, Mom made us get our clothes and luggage off the floor in case it flooded. Within an hour, we were back downstairs and packing up all our things. I will be sleeping on the fold-out couch in the living room tonight; Ethan’s thinking the floor looks pretty good. (“I like my mattress hard.”) We went to the grocery store “between evacuations,” as Mom called it, and we bought tortillas, refrigerated pizzas, tomato sauce, pasta, oranges, asparagus, chicken, and some other food.

Mom called it “between evacuations” because after we came back, the property managers (Jackie and Ian) showed up on our doorstep. Dad helped them move the beds and some other pieces of furniture into the storage room. Two police men came by shortly thereafter and, through Jackie, said that there would probably be a siren, and, if we hear it, we are to get into the car with our stuff and drive to the Intermarche. So we packed up everything and stuck it in the car. Dad, Ethan, and I have our backpacks inside right now. If we’re still in the house by morning, we’re unpacking (except Ethan and I will stay upstairs).

In other news, I landed on Ethan’s Coventry Street in Monopoly. He had a hotel on it, and I had £5, plus properties. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to lose (a.k.a. be done with the game). I wasn’t quite done, though—Ethan and Mom had me stay as the banker until Ethan’s victory. Later, I played Scrabble: one game with Ethan and one with Mom. I beat both of them, only because of my awesome words ‘quay’ and ‘quilts’ and ‘adze’ and ‘zee.’ Together those earned me about 100 points.

Ciao!

Evacuation Emergencies

I was thinking about titling my post ‘Wet-‘ something or other, but when I came up with the title that you see, I knew that it would be best. You have heard from previous posts recently that it is very wet this spring in France, and that was proved today a lot.

When I woke up, I walked to the boulangerie and bought the day’s supply of 1 baguette, 4 pain au Chocolat and 1 pain cereal. It was raining the whole time, and when I got back, I sat in the living room and won our monopoly game that has been sitting there for some time on the floor. I finished with 11 hotels and all the properties, un-mortgaged, of course.

Just so you know, our house is arranged on three different levels. The bottom one is directly on the river, and is Eryn and my bedroom. It is also only accessible by an outside staircase. Then there is the kitchen/dining room and salon area, where we spend most of our time, and finally there is my parents’ room on the very top with an inside access stairway.

We started seeing the water level rise a bit earlier, and Eryn and I had put all of our stuff up on our beds. When a police officer came and advised us to clear out, we took our bedding and luggage upstairs and waited. Eventually, the property caretakers came along and put the beds and everything in a storeroom above the oncoming onslaught of water, as it was flooding the room.

Safely on the top floor now, we have most of our stuff in the car in anticipation of the air raid siren to go off to signal for us to evacuate, but we hope that that doesn’t happen.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Quest for (Colonel) Mustard

Today was spent on a quest for Mustard.  Dijon mustard is famous for its strong flavor, and we experienced some of that while trying to find some good varieties. We finally found some in a streetside shop.

Inside the shop, there was shelf after shelf of mustard bottles. There were lots of different flavors, from raspberry to blackcurrant to wine. We got a bottle for ourselves and have not yet delved into it. I think that we will, though, in the morning.

We found the mustard on our day’s excursion to Dijon. It is about an hour from our base by driving, and we walked around and saw several churches and gardens during our walking, and also ate sandwiches and pain au chocolat.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Day de Dijon

Today we visited Dijon of mustard fame. Yes, we did buy mustard. Later we saw it at the supermarket Intermarche and realized how overpriced it was in Dijon. Oh, well—we know for sure that it was Dijonian.

We started our Dijon day off at Notre Dame, which is home to two bells: Jacquemart, which has run since the church was finished in the fourteenth century, and its counterpart: Jacqueline, Jacquelinet, and, finally, Jacquelinette.

After a stop at the tourist office, we continued our stroll towards the garden. On the way, we stopped at the mustard shop and then a patisserie/boulangerie, where Mom and I got pain au chocolat and Ethan chose a guacamole-chicken sandwich. We ate at the park. Shortly after we were done eating, it started raining, so we packed up and headed on to the next cathedral. Outdoors always seems so much warmer after being inside cathedrals.

On our way back to our car, Mom and I dropped by H&M where we actually found some awesome inexpensive clothes. We came out with our wares and headed home. We stopped at the Intermarche in Semur-en-Auxois on the way and had stir-fry for dinner.

Ciao!

Schoolwork Studies

Today was mostly spent by me immersed in my schoolbooks so that I could get the Lord of the Rings trilogy on my kindle. My father had promised me that if I got two weeks ahead I could buy them, and this is the closest that I have ever gotten. I hope that I will make it.

When I wasn’t buried in a book with my pencil in hand, we were going outside on walks. Whenever the sun was shining, which wasn’t very often, we would go out. The first time was to go to the church, and we achieved that. The church even had nets below the ceiling to keep the pigeon poop from falling on the heads of worshipers.

The last walk out went to dinner, and we went to the place that we had been to twice. I talked several times about our family and Eryn, but no one at the table thought that it was funny, especially Eryn.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Picture Perfect (That’s Me!)

There was no funeral in Notre Dame today, so we went in for forty-five minutes. After

looking at a stained-glass window, I ran to my dad.

“Did you see what that window said?”

“No.”

I dragged him back to the window and pointed out the truck that read “rican Red Cross” (a.k.a. American Red Cross). The top part of the window showed a French flag and an American flag. Below the window was a plaque which read:

In Memory

Of the dead of the 310th Infantry 78th Division

United States Army who fell in the Great War

1917—1918

And of whom the greater part rest in France

A la Memoire

Des morts du 310th Reciment d’Infanterie 78th Division

De l’Armee Americaine qui tomberent durant

La Grande Guerre en 1917 et 1918

Et dont la plupart reposent en terre Française

 

On the way home, we stopped at a patisserie and I bought myself the chocolate mousse Louvre. I ate it slowly, savoring every bite, while I read about the Cold War for school. Once that was done, I went back to the living room and sat on the couch in front of the 1,000-piece puzzle. I had filled in all but the largest of the holes earlier, and I had tucked a piece in my pocket so I could definitely put the last piece in. Dad came over and put in a few pieces, and we were eventually left with the one piece missing.

I put it in.

 

For supper, we went to L’Entract for the third time. We got there at 6:20 p.m. after trying to take a picture like that of the puzzle. They didn’t open for forty minutes. So Mom wandered off to see why all the fire trucks were in the area and I took pictures.

Eryn Leaps Into the Air In Front of Notre Dame Cathedral

Eryn Leaps Into the Air In Front of Notre Dame Cathedral

Ethan Jumps In Semur-en-Auxois

Ethan Jumps In Semur-en-Auxois

Ciao!

Monopoly Money Matters

Today we started another game of monopoly. So far, none of the three of us have gone bankrupt, but I feel that one bankruptcy is just around the corner.  I have one full monopoly (yellow) Eryn has the first set past go, and Mother has the railroads.

We only played for an hour, and in that hour, not much has happened, so we can’t see a clear winner. The future is foggy, and as the Artful Dodger might say, the fog is sometimes very helpful. See Terry Pratchett’s Dodger for full details.

In any case, we played monopoly today, and hope to continue tomorrow and maybe see a winner by tomorrow, and have that winner have won by the next day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Periodic Table of the Elements (Rain)

Today’s weather element: rain.

We were planning on visiting Notre Dame (the church of Semur-en-Auxois) after eating ice cream, but a funeral was in progress. Instead we headed home and Mom, Ethan, and I started a new Monopoly game. We halted the game after an hour so Ethan and I could do our favorite task.

In school, Ethan and I are “enjoying” working out of a workbook on the Periodic Table of the Elements. Besides learning about uses (such as fluorine in toothpaste and erbium in pink glass) and origins of names (Curium was named after Pierre and Marie Curie, Francium was named after France, and Einsteinium was named after Albert Einstein), Ethan and I are also memorizing the Table. Actually, the memorization started in Morocco, and I know from hydrogen up to cadmium (atomic number 48). Ethan only knows up to ruthenium (atomic number 44)—we’re separated by rhodium, palladium, and silver. Ethan’s favorite element is arsenic, naturally, but I prefer oxygen.

Ciao!

A Modest Bell Tower

The modest bell tower in the title that my mother mentioned while ‘guiding’ us through a UNESCO World Heritage site seemed more of budget cut to me than being modest. The reason for that is that the bell tower was barely a tower; it barely came up above the ridgeline of the roof from which it was protruding.

We saw all of that when we were walking through an abbey this morning. The abbey is named L’Abbeye de la Fontanay, which I think means the abbey of the Fountains, which is an apt name indeed because the use of the natural supply of water to keep fish and to turn a waterwheel which in turn made a hammer hammer a block of wood to help the monks craft iron.

We first went and saw the Church, which was a traditional church with barrel arches and not much fluff. It used to have enameled tile flooring, but now the floor is only dirt. Inside the church, near the alter, are two tombstones that depict a knight and his wife, both of which are not carved ultra-well. We then walked up to the monks dormitory, which also had a dirt floor, and learned that the monks lived in close quarters, with only a small screen separating them from their comrades.

We then went outside and saw the boiler room and other rooms. We also saw two gardens with fountains in them, hence the name of the whole Abbey. We finished off by looking through the museum part, which pictured broken sculptures, video, and a shop.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Monopoly

We visited the Fontenaye Abbey this morning, where we viewed the areas we couldn’t go (such as most of the area) and admired the fountains.

Once we got home, Mom, Ethan, and I resumed our Monopoly game. It didn’t take long for Ethan to go out after he landed on Mayfair (the British version of Boardwalk) and gave me everything (the cost for rent was 2,000 pounds).

We went back into town shortly thereafter, planning on getting ice cream. The ice-creamery was closed, so we went to a patisserie where I chose a dessert called “Louvre.” It’s shaped like the infamous pyramid and tasted better than the similar chocolate dessert we had in the Louvre. This one had chocolate mousse with a dark chocolate shell. The base was a thin layer of white cake. In the mousse were four delicious raspberries.

Back at the house, after schoolwork, Mom and I continued Monopoly. With my monopolies on one-and-a-half sides of the board, as well as the railways, she knew it was going to be hard. I had one orange, one green, one yellow, and one red card and I wasn’t going to give them to her so she could have more monopolies. Slowly her £8,000 was dropped into my bank account. By the end of the game, which I won (she lost by £12—she needed to pay £2,000 and ended up with £1,988 after mortgaging and selling everything), I had over £23,000.

You want to know my way of winning?

Ending with the most money.

Ciao!

Parisian Paragraph (Plural)

After a week in Paris, we did not, according to TripAdvisor, hit up the top three main attractions, including the Musée d’Orsay (#1) which was very close to our flat. We crossed #4, Pont Alexandre III, once and also paid a visit to #7, the Louvre, and #8, Jardin Luxembourg. Ten and eleven, Saint-Chapelle and Notre Dame, respectively, were visited. Since Notre Dame was just a few minutes’ walk and across the Seine from our apartment, we visited it several times: for an organ concert, free Sunday tour, the chance to go the towers and be like Quasimodo, and at night.

The Eiffel Tower is #15, and we saw it every day and were in its general vicinity four or five times. My favorite part was seeing it at night when it was lit up with blinking white lights. The Seine, #17, was crossed multiple times every day. On our way to the Louvre, we were crossing Pont Neuf (the Ninth Bridge) and were told to hurry along in our crossing because they were filming a movie and we mere peasants were in the way.

We visited numbers 21 through 23: Arc de Triomphe, the towers of Notre Dame, and Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, one of the few (and the only one we found) English bookstores in the city. We visited it on a whim because it was only a few blocks from our house.

In terms of food, our breakfasts were boiled eggs, oranges (sometimes clementines or bananas), Kellogg’s Special K, cheese, baguettes, and some pastry that Ethan would bring home along with the baguette. Snacks were usually high in sugar, such as ice cream and chocolate bars. We had plenty of variety in our suppers, but I think we were all very excited for that of our first night: we had pizza for the first time in a month! (Morocco is not a pizza country.) And there was vinegar! (You probably don’t know, but I love vinegar. And pizza dipped in vinegar is wonderful.) Later, we would enjoy salads at a vegetarian restaurant, two meals from Subway because we had to have a quick supper, another meal of pizza (that wasn’t as good), and mushroom risotto.

Oh, I’m feeling hungry already…

Ciao!

Paris Impressions

Looking back upon it now, Paris seemed like a very novel place. As we have had several rainy days here, I have decided to go back in time in my mind and posts to tell my many readers what I learned about Paris and what I thought about it, besides the fact that the Eiffel Tower is really tall.

One issue that I think some people have is the expense. Paris is expensive, but I am wondering if the occupants and laborers of the city get paid respectively to the city prices, as in, they get enough to match the prices. I think that, though, one of the reasons that we were surprised by the prices was our time in countries that had currencies that were worth less, and so we were used to have a dinner be in the 100s range of that currency. In Paris, it is 40, and twice or three times as much.

Another thing that I learned about Paris was how nice the people were. They seem nicer out in the countryside, but even in the crowded city, people on the street greeted a passerby with a cheerful ‘bonjour,’ even if they had never seen the person before.

In all, I think that Paris is a great place to live, even if it is a bit expensive; the people are nice and there are enough ways to get around, aka Metro, Bus, and taxis.

That’s all for now, Folks!

French Village Life

130423 25614 FR Semur-en-Auxois, River ArmanconWe have taken up residence in Semur-en-Auxois, a medieval town of about 4,500 souls in the Burgundy region of France. The first several days were gloriously sunny, but it then rained for a couple of days. In this photograph, you can see our white house, just left of centre on the river Armançon. This is providing a good base for exploring the area, and a comfortable place to catch up on things left undone during our hectic days in Paris. Read Ethan’s and Eryn’s posts for more details.

Posted in RTW

Rain Relaxation

Today we lounged around inside and relaxed, as there wasn’t much that we could do with the rain pouring down outside and the river bursting its banks. And so we spent much of our time sitting around inside, playing Scrabble and working on the puzzle, which is almost finished.

Later in the day, we went out under our four umbrellas of four colors and got some ice cream. I got a good selection of two scoops of chocolate, one scoop of vanilla, covered in chocolate with a deluge of whipped cream on the top. It was very good.

I am thinking that most of us are hoping that the rain stops sometime, as the height of the waterline of the river is getting higher and higher, not to mention the fact that we have been stuck inside for two days, not counting my daily runs to a boulangerie.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Double Down Days

Today was another down day. There are two interesting bits:

  1. We got real ice cream today! (Chocolate and coconut for me, with some of Ethan’s whipped cream and chocolate sauce.)
  2. The river is several feet deeper today after yesterday’s consistent drizzle.

Ciao!

A Wet day in France

Today, when we woke up, it was precipitating slightly, but by the time that I left to get some items from the boulangerie, it had stopped. However, once I got back, it started again, and it hasn’t finished since. The rain came down in torrential amounts, washing the streets of debris and making the river flow higher than usual.

However, since it is spring in France, the rain is expected, so we have anticipated it with some dread. Once we get to Switzerland, though, the rain will be frozen and in the form of snow, so we will be thoroughly chilled.

Today, we mostly stayed inside, with the notable exception of going out to dinner, which we did at two restaurants. The first one was not to our culinary tastes, so we went to the place that we had gone to on our first night in Semur.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Definite Down Day

I had the last doxycycline pill today!

For some reason, we had 4x+1, and since I happen to be the snottiest person right now, I got the one.

 

In other news, it rained today so we just stayed inside and worked on our puzzle, which is a picture of this town/village. Also, Dad deleted pictures (!!!) and Ethan and I forced ourselves through some schoolwork. I texted the most I’ve ever texted in my life on our little green Nokia phone: it was just things to my parents like ‘Algebra 2 workbook’ and ‘Done with question 44’ and ‘Is everyone else going too?’ and ‘Hey wheat thin.’ (That last part was to Ethan.)

Ciao!

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom!

We visited four towns besides Semur-en-Auxois, as well as one special site, today:

  1. Salmaise– This was the biggest town, and we parked by the church. We looked for the patisserie, as advertised on the tourist map, but we didn’t find it. The lavarie, which was a bathing area, was deserted but Ethan and I posed for pictures anyway.
  2. Sources de la Seine– At the source of the Seine River, the French have built a fountain and a concrete grotto. We stood at the top of the first bridge over the little stream while Dad took a picture.
  3. Frôlois– We looked for the chateau at the next little town, and we found it: a large castle-like structure on the hill above. Once at the top, we could hear someone practicing songs on a piano and the bees humming, but we couldn’t admire the view since some people had built houses in the way.
  4. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain– The anise factory in the next little town sold candy, and we were sure to get some. Mom, Ethan, and I took a much-needed stop at the toilettes, which were purple. Then a woman came in and said something quite loudly while gesturing at Ethan: there’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom.
  5. Fouilles d’Alesia– This was not intended to be our last stop, but, because of the late hour, it was. We walked around a Gaul-Roman town, admiring the rather short and deteriorated structures. Ethan and I worked on the activity booklets that we’d been given since we’re just so young.

Ciao!

A Day with Good Hair

I think that I mentioned yesterday how we saw, in a museum, a decapitated statue head that had interesting hair. Well, odd life, but we saw the real thing today. The real thing, actually is still a statue, but it is downsized some. It is in the traditional form of Gaelic looks, as in, what people thought they looked like during the reign of Napoleon III.

The form of a Gael back then looked like what we called a Viking. They wore horned helmets. That is about where the similarity ends. The statue of the defeated king in fighting with JC has long, shoulder length, unkempt hair, a face like Napoleon III, a long mustache, and a pearl necklace. All of which have been proved to be falsehoods about the Gaels.

We saw the statue near Alesia, an ancient town of ruins in eastern France, where we are now. Alesia was place number 5 on the list of our things to do. The first was a town, in which we walked, the second one was the source of the Seine river. We then went to several more towns before arriving at Alesia.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Armor Appearances

Today we went out into the village where we are now residing to explore. Eventually, we came upon the Museum and went in. It was free, which was nice, and the giant head near the door had a neat hairdo. We walked down the aisle and looked at statues.

Most of the statues had what looked like warts coming out of odd parts, and we deduced that that was for more effectual 3D imaging. When we finished looking at statues, we arrived in a room in which Eryn and I tried out a bow and felt the weight of a heavy shield.

We continued with the museum until we got to the top level, which had paintings and several other statues. When we finished, we walked back to our nice house along the riverbank.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Supper After (And In) Semur

After a rather rough and early start this morning, we set out to visit the tourism office. There, Mom re-stocked her supply of brochures while Dad asked about restaurants and how to pronounce the name of Semur-en-Auxois. We walked around the town before stopping at a patisserie, where Dad chose one chocolate éclair, one pain au chocolat, one apple pastry, and one raisin pastry. Returning home, we sat around our table on the river eating our goods. Dad eventually got up to feed the ducks, which came up to our feet.

We went back out for the museum, where we saw statues, paintings, lots of rocks, dead snakes, and a human skeleton and where Ethan and I practiced our drawing-the-string-on-a-bow-back skills.

To get to Intermarche, the supermarket, we piled into the car. After 1.5 kilometers, we passed the store and kept going to get a feel for the town. Back inside the Intermarche, I helped Mom buy tomatoes, cheese, kiwi, milk, chocolate, cereal, eggs, oranges, serviettes, and dryer sheets.

For supper, I had ravioli with the special cheese of the region called Époisses. Dad had chicken with the same.

Ciao!

When in Burgundy

We are now in the Burgundy region of France. Ah, the countryside at last. After a week of hectic activity in Paris, we now will wind down and warm up in this ‘quaint’ little village. We drove most of the morning today and finally arrived in the late afternoon. We got into our place and unpacked a bit before going to dinner.

At dinner, my mother and I decided to share a several dishes, and when I asked her about pizza, ‘Do you want a margarita?’ she said ,’No, we are getting tap water,’ and I replied, ‘Mother, I was talking about pizzas!’ She agreed and dinner was good.

Our house is right on the river, and from it we can see the ramparts of the city. I think it is a good location, and so did the marketers.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Not Going In-Seine

This morning we vacated our flat near the Seine and Notre Dame, realizing we’d never gone in-Seine.

After picking up our Hertz Ford, Dad maneuvered the car through the Paris traffic before we hit the countryside. We stopped at a gas station after Ethan nearly peed his pants. Along with the necessary business, we also bought… Magnums! Ethan and I had a “new” type of Magnum that was a lot smaller than the normal ones.

At around five p.m. we reached our “cute” little cottage, and, after nesting, we walked around the deserted little town. After several false leads, we found a restaurant that served fish, pizza, salad, and pasta. Dad enjoyed his ravioli, Mom and Ethan shared a salad and pizza, and I loved my salmon filet with rice, a creamy sauce, and lots of lemon.

Ciao!

The Cusco Disaster

If you remember, in Cusco we had a sewer problem. Today, my family and I descended down into the sewers of Paris and experienced the same smell, though more acute. We were walking around in the underground sewer museum.

The sewer museum was built a long time ago and it still works today, though there have been a few additions. The original sewer system was designed and directed by a man of the name of Eugene Belgrand. He designed contraptions to keep the solid waste from clogging up the tunnels, including using the pressure of the water to push the sand and other buildup out of the way.

After we finished that, we took the metro to a shopping mall underneath the Louvre and looked around. I spent most of my time in the Apple store looking at iPads, iPods, and iPhones. When we finished with that, we left and went to spend some time in the Luxembourg Gardens before looking at the Pantheon.

That’s all for now, Folks!

 

Sewerman or Eau No!

In case you want to know what the Cusco Disaster smelled like, you can visit Paris’s Sewer Museum. Eau de no!

We were behind a school group of little fifth graders, and we caught up with them in the souvenir shop while they were watching a video: it started with a woman peeking into a drain and saying, in French and English, since they did the video twice, “Oh, no, I dropped my keys! What am I going to do?”

She ran to a phone booth. We expected her to come out as Superman, but the booth was clear and she just called… Sewerman!!!!!

He came and got her car keys for her, and she kissed him. In what genre would you put this film—comedy? Action? Sci-fi? Romance?

Our next stop was the mall around the inverted pyramid near the Louvre. Dad checked up on our Hertz rental before he and Ethan went to chill in the Apple store. Mom and I, meanwhile, paid a visit to the totally amazing store of Pylones—it is awesome! My favorite things were probably the porcupine toothpick holder (you put toothpicks in the holes in the porcupine’s back so it looks more porcupine-ish) and the pink and orange trashcan with a face painted on and plastic fins, like a fish.

We stopped at Jardin de Luxembourg on our way up to the Pantheon, where we saw murals of Joan of Arc and Saint Genevieve and the tombs of Pierre and Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and others.

After supper, we got ice cream at our favorite place, Amorino, and Dad and I shared a grande cup of cinnamon, chocolate Amorino, and banana flavors.

Ciao!

Concierge, Carnavalet, and Crepes, OR Desserts and Death

We actually went to four different tourist places today: Sainte-Chapelle, where we admired the stained-glass windows, the Concierge, where we read the names of over 2,500 French citizens, including the likes of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, who had been killed by the guillotine after spending the night in the Concierge, Musée Carnavalet, where we went on a whim from Baroness Orczy’s I Will Repay, the second book the Scarlet Pimpernel series, and the towers of Notre Dame, where we went all the way to the top and pretended we were Quasimodo.

At Notre Dame, we also learned that the only gargoyles on the towers are the pipes that take the rainwater down from the roof, not all the other animals, which are chimera. One female chimera, who looked like a cat, was eating a stone deer. Yummy.

Speaking of yummy, we were originally going to visit an Italian restaurant for supper, but it was closed. So we went across two bridges to the second island, where we found a little restaurant with a table. So we sat. While we were perusing the menu, a group of four older American ladies came in and sat down next to us.

We ordered the set menu, and by the time we were done with our main courses (chicken curry for Dad and Ethan and mushroom risotto for Mom and me), they hadn’t even finished their salads. Our desserts finally arrived: chocolate-covered crepes for the three of them, and a chocolate cake in cream for me.

“That looks good!” all the ladies exclaimed.

“Yes, it does,” I said, half to myself. Mortifrying.

Everyone started laughing, while I stared at my plate red-faced. Oh, well—it was really, really good. Ethan and I finished quickly, and the ladies looked over and nearly screamed.

“You’re so fast!”

 

Ciao!

Today we went to…

…Notre Dame. Again. Notre Dame means ‘My Lady’ in French, and today we climbed up the towers today. We didn’t see a hunchback, but he could have been hiding. Or he could also be dead because the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ was written in the 19th century.  Notre Dame is, this year, celebrating its 850th anniversary, so there are lots of building and bleachers out in front with which to admire the view.

As we ascended, we went around and around a central column, like the stairs on the cathedral on the hill overlooking the City of Paris. We kept on going up and finally arrived on a balcony that connects the north and south towers. We took pictures for a while before climbing the stairs up to the top of the south tower. From there, we walked around, took pictures, and then waited to be let down the stairs.

We eventually got out into sunlight again, and had walked about statues before returning home, back to our apartment on the banks of the Seine River.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Notre Dame

Notre Dame,
Is the claim to Fame,
Of Paris,
On the River Seine

Today we,
Up and went to see,
The church,
With big pink trees

Later then,
We went there again,
To hear,
One play an organ

In other un-rhyming words, today we went to Notre Dame. We went on a tour in the afternoon, and in the evening came back to hear a man play an organ.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Not Disney’s Notre Dame

At Notre Dame, our English-speaking guide was named Fredérique. She was one of the two English guides. The choice was simple: did you want to go up the bleachers with Fredérique, or did you want to stay on solid ground with the other woman? We chose Fredérique.

At the top of the bleachers, she talked for a long time about Notre Dame’s history. Notre Dame, which means ‘our lady,’ referring to the Virgin Mary, used to be painted in bright colors. During the French Revolution, the kings from the Old Testament, who were portrayed on the front of the building, had their stone heads cut off because the revolutionaries didn’t like kings. Later, twenty brightly painted heads were found under a bank.

On solid ground in front of the giant Gothic doors, Fredérique discussed all the symbolism, such as the square shape of the front of the building representing Creation and the circular window representing eternity, since it has no end or corner. Statues of the prophets, gargoyles, apostles, angels, devils, and saints, as well as Jesus, decorate the front of the cathedral. One of the most interesting was Saint Denis, the first patron saint of Paris. He was an evangelist in 200 A.D., and he was popular, which the Romans in Paris didn’t like. So they killed him, and legend has it that he walked over to his head, picked it up, cleaned it, and then walked over to the spot of a present-day church, where he died “for real.”

Inside the cathedral, Fredérique talked about the architecture while we admired the stained-glass windows. Once we were sufficiently rested, she took us over to a pillar and showed us the workers’ signatures on the stone. In this way, the boss could tell how many pieces of stone a man had shaped and/or affixed in a day.

There were several Joan of Arc statues inside, as well as the Notre Dame. Notre Dame Cathedral was the place where it was decided that Joan of Arc’s reputation should be rehabilitated. It is also the location of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the cross. Napoleon gave it back to the church after he was crowned king in the cathedral. It had been M.I.A. because Notre Dame had been used as a temple of the goddess of reason during the French Revolution. Later on, the general public had seemed to have given up on the cathedral until Victor Hugo wrote Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was hugely popular and later made into a Disney movie, which I’ve seen.

2013-04-20_Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hunchback of Notre Dame- Disney version

Ciao!

Art Antics and Antiques

Today we went to the Louvre. The Louvre is a timeless art museum located on the banks of the Seine River in Paris. In it are well known pieces of art, including the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. As I already said, we went there today.

We met our guide under a small arc in the front courtyard of the museum. We went under I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid and started our tour. This wasn’t one of those ‘here are the facts about so-and-so, made in year such-and-such, and made by the great artist ______.’ This was a Louvre tour ‘dedicated’ to young teenagers, presenting a quest at the beginning of the tour, with smaller sub-quests.

Our guide, Laura, was something like Gandalf the Gray, a guide that knew its stuff. She took us through galleries upon galleries of art. She showed us the development of movement in statues, from one small step made by a bronze statue of Apollo (11). Then she showed us a statue of a man about to be flayed alive hanging by his hands, with all of his muscles stretched. He had picked up an enchanted lyre and had won in a contest in Apollo, and Apollo sentenced him to death by being flayed.

We continued, on, eventually seeing painting that showed stories, not just sculptures, and saw many, including Leonidas I at the Battle for Thermopylae. In any case, it was a fun tour that I think we all enjoyed.

That’s all for now, Folks!

With Laura and the Louvre

If you’ve read Life of Pi, or watched the new movie, you know that Piscine Patel came from the little French town of Pondicherry. We went to the Indian restaurant Krishna Bhavan for dinner tonight. The waitron who welcomed and served us knows French, Hindi, and English and comes from Pondicherry.

“She’s going in my post,” I told Dad. (She did!)

We toured the Louvre today. It was slightly like déjà vu after the British Museum in London. There were sphinxes, mummies, and multiple sarcophagus, as well as the Italian and Greek nude statues and paintings (the paintings were French, too). The sole mummy we saw was wrapped much better than the ones Dad and I saw in London, though, and we had a guide (the British Laura) to make things slightly more interesting.

Louvre Table-Holders

The Stone Men Who Used to Hold Up a Table (Or Something)

Our tour ended after three hours, and we hunted down the café, where Dad and I shared a chicken sandwich and a chocolate cake modeled after the Louvre Pyramid designed by I. M. Pei, which does not have 666 pieces of glass—it has 673: 603 that are rhombus-shaped and 70 that are triangular.

We walked around some more. I wanted to take a picture by a stone boar we’d seen earlier, which I thought would be representative of the museum since it was rather boar-ing. (Rather—after the tour it got more interesting because we could be on our own and wonder over some of the rather queer paintings and sculptures.) We couldn’t find the boar, so instead I posed next to a piece of stone that had a cow with its tongue sticking out on it.

Ciao!

We & Willamette Are Famous!

After touring the catacombs this morning in between tour groups and piles of bones, we returned home to rest and anticipate ice cream. Shortly thereafter we were on our way to Sacré-Cœur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. We weren’t able to climb to the top—instead, we just got to the bottom of the dome. Oh, well—there was still a good view of the Eiffel Tower.

Back on terra firma, we watched a man kick a soccer ball [football] while standing on a wide post on the staircase. Then he climbed the light post, still kicking the ball, and returned to his original position. After that he took off his vest, then his button-up shirt, and then his long-sleeved undershirt. And then he took off his tank top. That was the part of his act that got the most cheers.

We went to the gardens and fountain across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. There we took pictures and watched the skateboarders and rollerbladers. We returned to our flat to rest a short while before dinner, which was 15 and 30 centimeter sandwiches from Subway (Sub15 and Sub30). We ate in a park until around 8 p.m., only twenty minutes in, at which point we were kicked out. (The sun sets quite late here.) Dad extracted money from the ATM, and we went back down to the metro to go to the Eiffel Tower.

Sitting in the same gardens as earlier, we all got excited when first the big central fountain went on. We were even more thrilled when the guy with the tripod standing in the dead center moved out of our pictures. After that, the tower was lit up with its golden lights, and then the flashing lights started flashing.

I chose pistachio, coffee, and cinnamon flavors for my ice cream near our flat after the Tower. While waiting for Mom to finish ordering her ice cream, Dad pointed out the sign for one of the flavors:

FRAMBOISE

Willamette

That’s exciting, since we’re from the Willamette Valley like those raspberries!

Ciao!

French Staircases

Today we went to a major attraction in Paris. That major attraction was proved to be major by the large line that was already forming by the time that it opened. The attraction was the catacombs. The catacombs of Paris are large and extensive, and they used to serve as a quarry for limestone up until after the French Revolution.

Now, after climbing down flights upon flights of stairs, a visitor can see that there are bones galore stacked on top of each other for about six feet above the floor. There are what we think are femurs stacked for about two and a half feet, before a row of skulls, and then another set of femur stacks and another set of skulls. On the top are assorted bones, mainly mislaid skulls. There is an estimated 6,000,000 bones in all of the catacombs, unlike the catacombs in Rome, in which Eryn and I only saw a single bone.

Eventually, we left the catacombs and rode the rails to a basilica that overlooks the whole city. After going inside, we climbed up to the dome. From there, we could see the Eiffel Tower. When we got back down, we watched a guy play with a soccer ball, including making it spin on a stick, putting that in his mouth, and then climbing a lightpost.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Big Three

Today we were surprisingly busy: we saw Paris’s three key sights in the space of an hour. First, we saw Notre Dame right across the Seine from our flat. Then we went down the elevator that’s in our apartment building to the RATP station. Dad bought the tickets, and we rode the underground train to the Champs-Elysees station.

“You know what’s missing?” Dad asked as we got off the train.

“‘Mind the gap’?” I guessed.

“Yep.”

That’s true—of course, we wouldn’t know what avis la vide means if we saw it, but we could guess.

We climbed to the top of our second big monument, the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, counting the stairs (259, as my count went) as we went. At the top, we saw our third, final, and most recognizable Paris monument: the Eiffel Tower.

From the top, we saw, apart from the Tower, Notre Dame, the American church, Invalides, and an opera house, among others. Dad took more pictures when we got back to the bottom of the arch. Our next stop was Place de la Concorde, and Dad was thrilled to stand on the Concorde bridge because it reminded him of good, old (well, quite young relatively) USA.

Mom, Ethan, and Dad had ice cream from a man whose family has been making ice cream for three generations (he’s the third). He asked us where we were from, naturally, and Mom replied, “The United States.”

“What part?”

“Oregon.”

“Oh, really? In Salem?”

I was rather surprised that this man knew anything about Oregon, but he said that some of his relatives live in Rhode Island.

“The smallest state, but the most corrupt—that’s what they say.”

 

Within two hours, we were standing at the base of the Eiffel Tower, debating whether to take the stairs or the elevator. We chose the elevator and went straight up to the top, where we admired the breath-taking view through the chain-link fence with holes larger than my head but still small enough to dissuade would-be committers of suicide.

Mom and I rode the elevator all the way down, but Dad and Ethan took the stairs from the middle. It took them about half an hour.

We ate supper at a vegetarian restaurant, and I enjoyed palm hearts for the first time in a month. Yes! Then we had ice cream while admiring Notre Dame, the river Seine, and the fire-jugglers. I had my favorite combo: chocolate, banana, and cinnamon. It was the first time I’ve had that combination since Valparaiso, Chile—two-and-a-half months ago. *swoon*

Ciao!

What’s a Lens?

My sister is different. She may be absolutely brilliant in math and science, but when it comes to photography equipment, she is sometimes absolutely clueless. A prime example of that is when my father is taking a picture of Eryn and I in front of some interesting scenery (the Eiffel Tower) and he told us to look at the lens, my sister asked, ‘What is the lens???’ I answered her question, and she said, ‘Oh yes…I knew that!’

Today we went to the Arc de Triomphe, which is on the western end of the most expensive street in the world; Champs Elysses. We climbed up the spiral staircase on one side, took some pictures from the top, and climbed down the other side. On the other end of the 1.9 kilometers of Champs Elysses, we popped out of the metro system at the Plaza de Concorde. On the south end of the plaza is La Seine, the river that runs through the central of Paris.

We then went to the Eiffel Tower. After waiting in line for a while, we bought our tickets and worked our way through another line for the elevator halfway up. After we got out of the legs and about halfway up, we switched elevators to one that had four skylights and rode up. When we got off, we were on the top of the Eiffel Tower. We oohed and aahed for a while before taking the straight elevator down. My father and I took the stairs down one of the legs, while my sister and mother took the elevator. They arrived at the bottom before us.

About that time, my father started taking more pictures and Eryn asked the aforementioned question.

That’s all for now, Folks!

La Rive Gauche

130416 23934 FR Paris, RER train from CDG airport, Eryn, SusanAfter a short flight from Fes, we arrived in Paris where we will stay a week before heading out to the French countryside to stay in a village. We are installed on the Left Bank, on the southern shore of the Seine, in the 5th Arrondissement, just across from Notre Dame cathedral. It is a great location, if a bit tourist-infested. The costs of things has been a bit sobering after Morocco. $50 for the half-hour train ride from the airport, for example; whereas in Fes, a half hour in a taxi ran about 15-18 dirhams, or $2. Oh well.

Lots to see and do here, and the weather seems to be cooperating.

For more details, check out Eryn’s and Ethan’s Notes.

Posted in RTW

From Fez to France

We woke up (ridiculously early) this morning in balmy Fez, Morocco. On our way out of the medina with our luggage we actually saw a dog. And not just one—three!

Once at the post office, Majid met us and we piled into his van. We arrived at Fez’s small international airport half an hour later. About two hours later, we boarded our Paris-bound flight. After that I don’t remember much, since I slept for most of the flight, but I do remember crossing the Mediterranean.

Now we’re in Europe, where it’s safe to drink tap water and it’s okay to flush toilet paper down the toilet. (I also have some slight knowledge of the French Revolution, thanks to The Scarlet Pimpernel.)

At four p.m. (two in the afternoon by Fassi standards), we were outside our apartment, which is on the Seine about a hundred meters from Notre Dame. Our landlord is Italian, but he spoke in English. Our experience at dinner was totally different: six different languages were spoken: Japanese, Afrikaans, English, Italian, Spanish, and French. On our way home, we stopped at a chocolate shop. Then we stopped to check out the gelateria, which happens to be three stories down from our living room. Yes!

Ciao!

The Holy Hand Grenade; When in Paris

In this case, unlike in the case of Arthur and his company of brave knights trying to vanquish the rabbit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, the ‘holy hand grenade was actually a fruit. It might not have been holy, but it fit in one’s hand and was called a grenade.

Today, we woke up early in Fez and hopped into the van with Majeed and all of our stuff. We went to the Fez airport, checked in, went through passport control and security, and waited in the departure lounge for our plane to arrive, empty, and then start to fill with passengers for the flight to Paris, with us being four of those passengers.

Eventually, we saw the orange tail of the EasyJet aircraft destined to take us to Paris without harm. We eventually arrived in Paris after several hours of flight time, some of it occupied by a screaming toddler in the seat right in front of us. When we got to the CDG airport on the northwestern corner of Paris, we hopped on the metro and rode it to the stop nearest our flat. Excusez-moi, apartments.

Later, when we went shopping for some things, mainly stores and Orange shops, we found a supermarket, and, in the fruit and veggie section, there was a fruit that said ‘Grenade’ from ‘Uran.’ We think that that means that those are grenades from Iran, but you can never be too sure.

The Holy Fruit Grenade of Uran

The Holy Fruit Grenade of Uran

That’s all for now, Folks!

Adeiu, Alami and Africa!

Tomorrow we get to wake up really, really early (what fun) to fly to Paris. So, while we’ll still be in the land of French and escargot, at least we’ll be away from couscous and tagine. You may be interested to know that we didn’t have couscous or tagine today: instead, for supper we went to Café Clock for the ninth and final time. Ethan had falafel (what else?), as did Dad, while Mom enjoyed her plate of tapas and I had a chickpea burger. For dessert, Mom and I split a chocolate soufflé while Ethan devoured his orange-almond cake.

 

We’ve been in Morocco since March 22—it’s been twenty-four days. A relatively short time (especially compared to South Africa), but I think it was enough. Our landlord, Alami, thinks the opposite and told Dad this morning, while they were out working on mail and Ethan and Mom were at physical torture, that there was plenty we didn’t do. That’s true: while we did just about everything inside the medina, we didn’t do much in Fez outside of it because it would have been too far to walk, and the taxis only legally fit three passengers.

But we got to ride some lovely, cud-chewing camels, so it all worked out in the end, didn’t it?

Ciao!

Tomorrow we get to wake up really, really early (what fun) to fly to Paris. So, while we’ll still be in the land of French and escargot, at least we’ll be away from couscous and tagine. You may be interested to know that we didn’t have couscous or tagine today: instead, for supper we went to Café Clock for the ninth and final time. Ethan had falafel (what else?), as did Dad, while Mom enjoyed her plate of tapas and I had a chickpea burger. For dessert, Mom and I split a chocolate soufflé while Ethan devoured his orange-almond cake.

 

We’ve been in Morocco since March 22—it’s been twenty-four days. A relatively short time (especially compared to South Africa), but I think it was enough. Our landlord, Alami, thinks the opposite and told Dad this morning, while they were out working on mail and Ethan and Mom were at physical torture, that there was plenty we didn’t do. That’s true: while we did just about everything inside the medina, we didn’t do much in Fez outside of it because it would have been too far to walk, and the taxis only legally fit three passengers.

But we got to ride some lovely, cud-chewing camels, so it all worked out in the end, didn’t it?

Ciao!

Visual Volcanic Vapor, Veil, and Valley

Tonight, when we were sitting on the rooftop balcony of the Clock Café, my father and I looked out towards the west, towards the sunset, and saw an interesting hill and cloud formation. There was a purple-ish hill in the front, and then a purple-ish cloud in the background, with light orange and white wisps of cloud vapor in between.

That created the look of a large volcano caldera, with the wisps of vapor steaming up from the lava. My father commented on how it was tilted towards us, but when my sister and mother looked, they couldn’t see anything that resembled a round mountain a couple of minutes later.

Today, we mostly stayed home, though my mother and I went to her last PT. When we got back, my sister was the only one home and my father and Alami were at the PO trying to ship our packages home. When my father got back, he told the story of all the complications that were needed to be gone through in order to ship a package to the US. We then sat around some more before I went outside and played with my friends one last time, said goodbye, and then went with my family to dinner at the Clock Café.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Morocco Memories

Colors of Fez — The city, especially the Medina area, is filled with colorful things to see (and buy!) Embroidery, woven fabrics of silk or wool, leather slippers and jackets, porcelain and pottery, spices, and tiles.

Landscape — Morocco is not just kilometers of red, sandy desert. We saw many acres of green pastures and pine or cedar forests with snow.

Cooking Class — Eryn and I took the all-day Moroccan cooking class at Café Clock, just a one minute walk from where we stayed for three weeks in the Medina. We had a wonderful time getting acquainted with our four classmates, all from the US. And the food we made was much more flavorful than what we had sampled at area restaurants. The lentil soup and date rolls were delicious! Souad, our entertaining and knowledgeable instructor, told many stories and shared interesting facts about food, shopping, and life in this country

Fruit — One of our guides told us that Moroccans name their seasons by which fruits are ripe. We visited during orange and strawberry season. Yum!! We often enjoyed fresh oranges or strawberries for breakfast and just-squeezed OJ with dinner.

Donuts — OK, donuts don’t seem very Moroccan, but two street vendors in the Medina made and sold these amazing treats which we greedily consumed on at least two occasions. We learned during our month in this country that the locals love their desserts! We tried many varieties of yummy, sugary creations. The only down side is that chocolate is not often an ingredient in their tasty snacks and after-meal treats.

Cast off — Finally, after 8 weeks my arm was free of a cast!! Recovery of strength, movement, and flexibility is a slow process, but fortunately I see improvement each day. I experienced three weeks of physical therapy at a large medical clinic and the therapist taught me stretches and exercises I can do for the rest of our trip. I am not doing pushups yet. Maybe that will happen in France.

Peru Favorites

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Reaching the summit and then the base of Huayna Picchu at Machu Picchu — This was quite the hike! In the picture Huayna Picchu is the tall steep peek in the background. The trail includes over a thousand stone steps, steel cables in spots for assistance, and at the summit one wooden ladder to climb. And I did the whole thing, even with a cast on my arm. Doing the hike wasn’t necessarily fun, but finishing it was great.

Visiting my brother in Arequipa — Richard researches earthquakes in Peru and it was fun to learn more about his project. And he was very gracious to be our tour guide and translator while in this city.

Chocolate Cooking Class in Cusco — The kids and I took this class at the Chocolate Museum. It was fun to learn more about cacao, but even more fun to make chocolate candies with a wide selection of “mix-ins.” My favorite additions were chili powder, nuts, coconut, and coffee nibs.

Colorful clothing of women living in mountain villages — Each geographic area has a unique hat and often a specific wool jacket or sweater as well. Red was a common hat color.

Many, many flowers in plazas or gardens and along mountain roads — We were very fortunate to visit this country in spring when the flowers are more abundant.

Pockets of People

Tonight, when we were walking home from dinner, there were sections of the walking-only road that were very congested, and others that had very few people on them comparatively. I say comparatively because when my mother and I go to her PT early in the morning, there is almost no-one out there, save a few early-risers.

Anyway, the people came in pockets, and they came every 10 meters or so. For those of you using the imperial system, that is about 32’ 9.703125” using www.metric-conversions.org. So, in other words, the pockets of people were about 30 feet apart.

Today we went almost nowhere. My father and I went out and got doughnuts late in the day, and then I played soccer out in the alleyway with some of my friends. Then, I went inside and got ready to go, did some stuff on my kindle, and then we left to Tommy’s, and on the way home, we encountered the pockets of people.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Fez in Morocco (Poem Version)

Food includes couscous, and, in the extreme,

Everybody’s favorite—the good old tagine

Zis is the life,” say foreigners here

It is the truth—if you don’t drink beer

Now muezzin is singing—it’s seven o’clock

My brother is thinking ‘Now I wanna rock’

Our dinnertime has come, so we go outside

Ready for some food—more vegetables fried

On time comes our meal. Guess what it is?

Couscous for three—the tagine is his

Chef comes over to break up a fight

Of waitron and waitron… oh, well, good night

 

Ciao!

Best of Our Time in Chile

Colors in Valparaiso — This town is saturated with color, which I love. We hiked colorful stairs up the hillside neighborhoods, admired vivid murals along walkways, and observed many blue/red/yellow/green/pink/purple houses from lookout points.

Eating Ice Cream in a Plaza – We especially enjoyed this pastime in Valparaiso and San Pedro de Atacama. The ice cream was usually yummy and watching the many locals and tourists was never dull. On the weekends the plaza we frequented most in Valparaiso had a fair atmosphere – street jugglers, face painting, roller bladers, trinkets for sale, popcorn, and cotton candy. And an abundance of dogs meandered by.

Street Life in Valdivia — Each day food, entertainment, craft, and tourist-service vendors line the river-front roadway towards the outdoor fish/produce/meat market. We tried the blue cotton candy and the traditional peach drink along the street and several times purchased yummy cherries and blueberries at the open-air market.

Quinoa – This is a staple food in Chile and we enjoyed it in salads, guacamole dip, and soups and as a side dish. It is a great source of protein and grown abundantly in the high plains. I was inspired to find online quinoa recipes to try when we get home. Ethan said he would love to have quinoa salad in his school lunch next year.

New Animal Sightings — We observed viscachas, vicunas and guanacos, which are three varieties of animals that we had not seen on this trip or prior adventures. Viscachas look a lot like rabbits and the other two mammals remind me of llamas.

Argentina Favorites

Buenos Aires – Central District — The main or government section of town is very interesting because of the fountains, ironwork on balconies of old and new buildings, political posters or signs, and many dog walkers since a major part of the population lives in apartment buildings. One dog walker we observed had 12 dogs on leashes.

San Telmo area of Buenos Aires — This is the area where we stayed and is the oldest neighborhood. I loved the cobblestone streets, outdoor restaurants, and smaller plazas.

Ice Cream — Argentinian ice cream is delicious and we made sure we had some of this calcium-rich food each day!! I think my broken arm was an indication that I need to eat more. 🙂 My favorite flavors included a variety of chocolates, blackberry with cream, and lemon mousse. Each town we visited had a variety of ice cream shops and most made their own flavor creations. We had a good time sampling flavors from the different vendors.

Chocolate — Bariloche is the chocolate town in Argentina. In just two blocks there were over 12 chocolate shops that catered to locals and tourists. One store even sold chocolate cell phones and cameras We sampled goodies from two shops and decided that this would be a great place to retire!

Fresh Orange Juice — A glass of fresh squeezed OJ is one of my favorite drinks. All restaurants we patronized offered this selection on their menus and we were even brave enough to purchase this fresh drink from a couple of street vendors after watching them squeeze the oranges. Muy delicioso!

Mountains, Lakes and Rivers — Even though I have vivid and painful memories of the Andes mountains in Argentina because of my broken arm, the area is very beautiful! My favorite river was Rio Azul, with very blue waters, as you might guess from the name.

Food in Fez Makes Me Ready for France

In a couple days we’ll be in France, which is a good thing since I don’t think I can stand couscous and vegetable tagine (vegetables cooked in a funny-looking pot)all day, every day, much longer.

In other news, we decided to go to Borj Nord today after pancakes and scrambled eggs at Café Clock. Mom decided we would take the shortcut up the hill, so we did. The hill was actually a lot steeper than it looked like from the medina, and Mom was worried we would fall down the cliff into the bus terminal’s trash.

We didn’t.

Instead, we arrived at the front door of Borj Nord, now a museum, at 12:08. We were informed that it closes at noon.

So.

That’s how it goes.

 

We wandered around, admiring the view and taking pictures and talking about Lake Okeechobee, for a while before we returned to the medina and resumed our normal hiding-from-the-sun-inside-our-house lives until supper, which was—you guessed it!—couscous.

Ciao!

Dizzying Dumps

Today we went to the Café Clock for breakfast. Three of us had the Ricotta Pancakes while my mother had scrambled eggs. We then immediately left and didn’t stop at home so that we could get to a fort on a nearby hill as soon as possible.

We first weaved our way through crowd filled streets, crossed a major one, and then started up a dirt path. We went up, headed towards the fort that was at the top of our field of vision. We kept going up until the trail ended except for a small ledge that extended about a foot before dropping off down onto some partially burned garbage some 50 feet below.

We walked along the edge, clambered up an easy slope, hopped over a small fence, and were right down the road from where we wanted to be. We walked up the road, into the place, and then found out that it was 8 minutes too late to go in, as it closed at 1200 hrs, and it was 1208 hrs. Too bad. We looked around for a while on top before descending a different way.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Trio of Trips

That is my mother’s suggested title for today’s post, and Eryn says that she (Mother) is getting illiterate. I don’t know. I just work here. Today we, excuse me, I went on three trips out of our house in Fez. The ferst one was one going to Mother’s physical torture this morning, the second one was out on a shopping expedition to get food and sweets, and the last and final one was to dinner at Le 44.

For the PT, my mother and I went, and while she hissed, I did schoolwork. Then, I went with my mother to Marjane to get some chocolate bars for deserts before hopping in a third taxi and heading back to the ancient Medina, where we stay.

For food, we went out and bought sweets, bread, eggs, oranges, and several other things that are around the house after going down to see if the doughnut place was closed. Sadly, it was, so we had to make do with sweets.

For dinner, we went to Le 44 and sat up on the roof terrace, at the farthest away possible table from the kitchen. My father says that the waitron used to be overweight, but with tourists that sit up on the roof, he has gotten skinnier.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Forty-Four on a Fassi Friday

After Mom and Ethan returned from their appointment with physical torture and the supermarket Marjane, we worked on schoolwork, pictures, and the like—sound familiar? (See yesterday’s post.)

Eventually we went outside, hoping for donuts, but all the donut shops were close because it’s Friday and Morocco is a Muslim country. So back up the hill we trudged. We bought sweets near Thami’s, as well as eggs, oranges, and spicy bread, and returned home.

For supper, we went to Le 44. Mom and I shared salad, carrot soup, and spicy spaghetti. My dessert consisted of seven bites of chocolate cake stolen from Ethan and Mom.

Ciao!

Today in 100 Words

Well, it may be a good thing that we’re not doing much these last few Fassi days since it means that (a) Dad doesn’t take more pictures and (b) he can work on deleting, editing, and uploading the pictures we already have. On the other hand, Ethan and I have more time to do schoolwork—yay.

I did leave the house today: once to buy breakfast food with Mom and once to eat at Thami’s for the fourth time. Mom and I shared the vegetable couscous and vegetable tagine. Now we’re eating dark chocolate and listening to John Denver.

Ciao!

Rock Management

For those of you who don’t know what rock management is, it is when a manager asks an employee to get them a rock, and is never satisfied with the rock that is brought to him. That is about what happened today to my father and I at the Post Maroc office today.

When we arrived, we pressed the button for a slip and it rolled out. When our number was buzzed, it stayed on for a split second before being replaced by another number held by someone else. The security guard then made us his personal project and started looking at boxes for us. The first one was too small, and the second one was too big. We finally decided on the first one. And we hope it will work.

The rest of the day was mostly filled with schoolwork, naps, car shopping, laundry, and other such things that happen on such a down day.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Buying, Bargaining, and Brass

This morning, my mother and sister went to PT, while my father and I stayed home and did techy stuff. When the women in my family came back, we sat around for a little bit before heading out on a shopping expedition. We left our house and walked down the street, turned right, then right, and then walked down the hill on the way to some stores that we had been to before.

First, we went to a scarf shop that Eryn had been to previously, and my mother bought a scarf, after bargaining of course. After we left that specific shop, we walked down the street to the brass shop that we had gone to on our second day in Fez. We looked around in both outlets of the shop, and then compared different models. If this sounds like car dealings, I have, by the way, been looking at cars as well today.

We looked at the three different sizes, outlawed one, and continued on the last two. We decided to only get the small one, and we bought it for roughly the correct price. My father then went to an ATM to extract the amount of money needed for the purchase, and we were on our way. On our way home, we bought delicious doughnuts. Yum.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Horses, Holidays, and Hawaiians

We got up early this morning and walked bare-footed across tile flooring on the roof of the hotel and watched the sun rise above the horizon. Then we went back to sleep. We did things that did or did not need to be done, and then, in the middle of the afternoon, we saddled up on our camels and rode away. We rode for about an hour on the dunes of the Sahara desert before arriving at a camp. My father and I climbed up a nearby dune, and my sister and mother followed soon thereafter, and we watched the sunset from the summit.

We then went down and ate dinner, and after dinner, Amy, Autumn, and Andrew went with Eryn and I to the top of the dune again and we sat up there while everyone else sat by the fire and listened to drumming. The three As were Americans from Italy on holiday, but soon they will move to Oahu on Hawaii. Later, we went down, got into our tent, got into our beds, and went to sleep.

The Next Day…

We woke up this morning and rode camels away after watching the sunrise from the large dune near camp. We rode back to the hotel and cleaned up to eat. Then, Eryn and I hung out with Amy, Autumn, and Andrew (ages 11, 16, and 14, respectively) and the pregnant cat. We then left in the car with Majeed.

Later, when we stopped to look over the edge, men with horses trying to get us to ride apparated on site, bring with them horses, and laying siege to us in our car. When we got back to the car, another man had appeared with his portable store, so there was a shop outside our window. That reminded us of yesterday, when we were at a lake, and out of nowhere,  8 guys appeared with wares, trying to sell us stuff.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Falafel and Faux Nuts in Fez

I escorted Mom to the clinic this morning, where she received her typical round of torture (this time sans crying). We rode a red taxi back to the house, where Mom started laundry because it was sunny. The cleaning lady arrived at 14:00, and we left to buy a scarf and a lamp. Mom used her newfound bargaining skills to negotiate the scarf’s price down to 100 dirham (still US$10), and we set off down the hill to the lamp shop.

The parental units finally decided on a lamp and a price, and Dad, the shop helper, and I set off to get money from an ATM. I thought we would be going to the one by the donuts, but I was, unfortunately, mistaken. Once we’d bought the lamp, we left it in the care of the shop. We hope we’ll see it in several months, since they’re mailing it to us.

Ethan decided to lead the way to the donuts, and off we went.

“Haven’t I been here before?” I remarked dryly as we arrived back in the coppersmiths’ square, which was next to the shop. Somehow we found our way to the donut street, and Dad decided it was down the street. It was 16:30, and we’d told the cleaning lady we’d be back by 16:00. Mom and I went back home, and Dad and Ethan went downhill.

We passed the donut shop.

“Should I tell them?” Mom asked.

“No.”

“Well, I think we should, just to be nice.”

“I’m not into this ‘nice’ thing.”

“I’m going to call them anyway. Hello? Yes, we just passed the donut shop. Okay. Bye-bye.”

After we returned safe and sound, Dad and Ethan arrived with four delicious, greasy, sugarcoated donuts.

At about 19:00, we ventured into the streets for supper at Café Clock. Mom, Dad, and I ordered falafel while Ethan chose a cheese sandwich, which he shared with Dad. (He had part of Dad’s falafel, meaning that Ethan’s been to Café Clock for supper four times and has had falafel four times.)

Ciao!

Fine to be Back in Fez

We’re back in Fez!

We arrived after ten hours of driving across Morocco (ugh) in Majid’s van. All eighteen of us at the camp woke up at 5:50 a.m. to watch the sunrise from the top of the dune. By 7, we were back at the hotel. It felt wonderful to have a warm shower.

Ethan and I had breakfast (banana, egg, cheese, bread, orange juice) and then went out to lounge by the pool. We left after Mom and Dad had breakfast.

During the ride, I alternated between sleeping, snacking, staring out the window, and reading Long Walk to Freedom [And an Even Longer Book] by Nelson Mandela.

At about 5:30 p.m., we passed through the little town of Ifrane. Majid calls Ifrane, a university town, the best town in Africa. It was very European, between the German-style architecture and cold springtime weather. (Not as cold as Switzerland, where we’ll be in a month, though—the daytime highs are 10F.) I’m surprised people could stand the cold enough to be out and about in Ifrane’s green, well-manicured parks—but then again, I haven’t been in real cold in eleven months.

Ciao!

The As and the Es

Today we rode for forty minutes (advertised as two hours) to a camp in the desert. We rode on camels—I was on Bob Marley, Mom topped Jimi Hendrix, Dad rode Ali Baba, and Ethan sat upon Shakira. We’d gotten scarves at a shop in town earlier before going to a lake, where eight men set up shop right in front of our car, selling stone camels, wannabe fossils, and other trinkets and baubles.

The man who walked with our camels said that there would be nine guests in the camp, but in the end there were eighteen: four Moroccans, two Frenchwomen, three Spaniards, and nine Americans. The family of five came with three kids: Autumn, 16, Andrew, 14, and Amy, 11. They’ve been living in Naples, Italy, for three years and are currently on spring break. In two months, on June 15, they move to Hawaii.

After supper (rice with eggplant salad and tagine with mystery meat), the five kids climbed the dune. From the top, we could see the lights of the two nearby towns, which made us realize how close we were to civilization.

Eventually, we went back down to where the thirteen adults (plus “musicians”) were listening to the men who walked with our camels play the drums. Shortly thereafter we went to bed in the cold tents.

Ciao!

Monkey Madness

Our driver today at first called the monkeys ‘crazy monkeys,’ but by the time that we left the place with the monkeys, he was calling them chimpanzees, which also didn’t sound right. Barbary Macaques is the correct name of the monkey, and it is also the type found on the rocks in Gibraltar where we had gone in 2004. This time, however, we saw them on the side of the road while going through the Middle Atlas Mountains while driving south from Fez to the Sahara, where we are now.

We got in the car with Majeed early this morning after breakfast, and then got into his car and drove away. After driving for a while, we got out at a monkey stop and walked around for a bit, but didn’t see any monkeys. I amused myself by punching out the ice in little bird baths by some picnic tables, before we were in the car again. Majeed had just turned the key in the ignition before he saw monkeys coming towards us. We stayed for a while and fed crackers to the monkeys and watched them nibble on them. After a while, the crowds started to arrive and a monkey hopped onto our car, and we stayed for a bit longer before the monkey got off and we left.

A bit later, we looked out the window, and right outside was a snow bank. We got out to see the snow and take pictures, and I threw a snowball. Later, we stopped to look at the beautiful scenery, with storks in the foreground and snowy mountains in the background, with a green wet field in the front.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Swimming Monkeys and Snow Near the Sahara

We’re in the Sahara Desert now, after ten hours of driving. We left Fez with Majid in his van at 6:30 this morning. That meant that the parental units got up at 4:45, while I was aroused an hour later. Breakfast was a quick meal of oranges, boiled eggs, bread, and milk, and afterwards Ethan washed the dishes.

After two stops, we stopped to see what Majid called the “crazy monkeys.” It was freezing cold—literally—and after about ten minutes Majid decided that the monkeys weren’t going to come out because it was too cold.

Of course, shortly after he said that, the monkeys arrived. They’re Barbary macaques, which used to be found in Tunisia, but that population has gone extinct. Now they’re found in only two places: the Atlas Mountains in Algeria and Morocco and Gibraltar. We saw them when we were in Spain about nine years ago. The 300 or so Barbary macaques in Gibraltar were introduced (no one knows quite how—maybe they swam?) and are thriving, while their African counterparts are becoming more endangered by the day. The macaques in Gibraltar make up the only population of primates in Europe that is not caged in.

Up we went til we were at about 6,000 feet. By then, the snow patches were several inches deep. It has been 54 weeks since I’ve last seen real snow—and we were on our way to the desert.

Ciao!

Couscous and Cake

Tonight we’re celebrating Mom’s birthday. (I won’t tell you how old she will be tomorrow.) We get to eat cake and ice cream! This is after a supper of couscous and tagine at Thami’s. We planned on going to Scorpion du Desert, but it was too loud. We’d forgotten that Saturday nights are music nights.

We would have gone to Café Clock, but we went there for breakfast. For a while, there was a leak coming from the floor above us. After our Cusco Catastrophe, we were immediately on edge, but it turns out it was “just water”—not cleaning solution as we had thought.

After breakfast and working on pictures, we went to the Bata Museum which had lots of old clothes and paintings and rugs and locks and keys. It was in a building surrounding a garden. Once we were done there, we left to a larger garden, which was well-maintained. Dad tried to extract money from the ATM next to the man who sells snails, but it wasn’t working, so we went down the street to another one. On the way up, we bought deep-fried, crispy, thin donuts, which were coated in sugar.

Delicioso.

Ciao!

Gardens Galore

Today we went to gardens. Well, one of them was officially a garden while the other one was debatable, as it was also a park. The first one had an attached museum that we also saw. In the museum there were old clothes, old clothes, and old weapons and instruments.

The first garden was small and not very well maintained. There were overgrow hedges and bees by the dozen. However, the fruit trees had heavy branches, laden with ripe fruit. The oranges were ripe and everything was in bloom.

The second garden was much better cared for; the fountains were running, the hedges were trimmed, and the flowers were all in rows. Sounds a lot like French garden. Not surprising considering that Morocco was a French colony, so at least it isn’t too much of a surprise. We will be able to enjoy gardens like that in the rain in France. FUN!*

That’s all for now, Folks!

*Not

No Hissing Today

On other days when there has been PT, my mother has hissed her way through the time, in an effort not to scream, cry, or in any other way embarrass herself overly. Today, however, her PT was relatively devoid of any hissing, though there was the occasional squeak from her physical therapist.

I went with my mother to her PT this morning after waking up early and having a not-warm-enough shower. After eating a small breakfast, my mother and I went out. On our way home, we swung by Marjane and got some groceries, ice cream, and cake.

When we got back, we let ourselves into the house and went around doing regular tasks, and when the rest of the family got home, we sat around some more. Eventually, I went out and played with Mohammed and his friends with a ball, while the rest of my family went on a shopping expedition. Later, we went to dinner at Le 44 and then came home and ate a chocolate bar.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Djellaba on Jerry

A djellaba is a Yoda-like robe worn by both men and women while outside in Morocco. Here in Fez, it is not uncommon to see a woman walking down the street in a fuzzy felt djellaba that is black with pink polka dots.

Dad and I went out shopping this morning while Mom and Ethan were at P.T. Dad has been mentioning getting a djellaba, and Mom is against the idea (“Where would you wear it? And when?”), so it seemed like the perfect time.

We walked down the street a ways, looking for a good-looking shop where we could seek shelter from the cold rain. While we were being given the typical spiel by the owner, Dad’s phone rang: Mom and Ethan were back, it was raining, and they didn’t have a key.

They called back a few minutes later: Ethan had a key in his pocket.

Meanwhile, Dad had been convinced to try on a thin cotton djellaba. This one was white, and Dad called it “too see-through.” The next two were thick and woolen and dark, and these were modeled with more enthusiasm.

1300405 23925 MA Fes, djellaba, Jerry

Jerry Models a Cotton Djellaba

We left without buying one, though, with Dad saying, “My wife doesn’t like this, but we’ll think about it.”

So…

 

 

Ciao!

Male Meat

My father read in a guide book that the people in Morocco believe that male sheep meat is more tender than female sheep meat. To prove that their meat is take from rams, the owners of butcheries have ram legs that have one testicle hanging off the end, to prove its sex.

We have seen several of those male sheep legs hanging from the knee from a rail above the counter at a butcher’s, and had always wondered what they were. Know we know, and it is an interesting tidbit of information that might be useful to pass on in stories, as it might be funny, interesting, or gross to different people.

Another thing that is sometimes displayed in meat shops is the decapitated head of a camel, complete with wet and bloody hair on the lowest bit and something throaty hanging down by a small amount of tissue. Not exactly my favorite sight.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Strawberries and Souad

Mom and I took a cooking class at Café Clock today. Our group of seven had Americans and only Americans: two older women traveling together from California whose names were Mary and Katherine, Linda from Tucson, Arizona, whose husband had declined to attend the class (although he came to eat), a man named Mike from Minneapolis, and the two of us. Our leader was Souad, who ran us through the menu. We chose a soup, a salad, and a main course before coming to the desserts.

“Where’s the chocolate?” I asked. Souad, who was sitting next to me, eagerly suggested making chocolate-dipped strawberries along with the date rolls. That was fine with me!

In the market, Souad showed us our chicken B.D. (Before Death) She also showed us some breads, hair conditioner, and herbs before we bought chicken, spicy bread, strawberries, cilantro, fava beans, and peas. Then we retreated to the upstairs kitchen.

Several times while we were cooking, people came through the cinema and up the stairs to where we were, looking for the rooftop tables. Souad always directed them up the stairs. The real way to get to the terrace was just going up the stairs that everyone else used.

We made a lentil soup, smoked eggplant salad, herbed chicken, and sticky date rolls before coming to my part.

Souad poured some vegetable oil in a pot and then added baker’s dark chocolate. I stirred as she placed the strawberries and sesame seeds and almonds next to me. Then, I dipped the strawberries in the chocolate and dropped them on wax paper, sprinkling them with sesame and almond. Eventually, everything was either setting or cooking, so Souad talked about the culture.

The soup was served with couscous bread, the spicy bread, and a scoop of the (now cold) eggplant salad. Along with our (rather tough) chicken, bread was served.

The crowning glory was, of course, the dessert platter. The strawberries were the best.

Ciao!

Clock Cafe with Chocolate Cake

Today was mostly spent indispensable while we listened to the pitter-patter of rain drops in great multitude upon the roof of our Dar in Fez. As in India, this is a hot country and the rain always seems to find us. I still have a sneaking suspicion that we take rain wherever we go, something interesting in light of the episode of ‘I Dream of Jeanne, My Master the Rainmaker,’ that we watched this evening.

In any case, in between droplets, my mother and father went out for PT, while Eryn and I stayed home. Eventually, after the parents had come home, we all went to the Clock Café. Eryn and Mother shared a chocolate pudding souffle, while I had an orange and almond cake. Both were good, and when we finished, my sister and mother signed up for cooking classes tomorrow morning.

In the end, we left the Café, and my mother and I went out to get supplies for dinner. When we got home, we did some stuff for a while before getting ready for supper. After a supper of soup, bread, and strawberries, my parents and I ate the remainder of some ice cream that we had, and then we worked upstairs on finishing up what left we had to do to go to bed, including writing this post.

That’s all for now, Folks!

I Dream of Mice and Men

After Mom and Dad returned from P.T., we eventually we decided we were going to go to a garden. I grabbed my rain and down jackets, umbrella, and shoes and was ready to leave when the rain started pounding on our roof.

So much for that.

Instead, we went to Café Clock where we had lattes and hot chocolate, and Mom and I shared a chocolate pudding soufflé. All of us had the soufflé, actually—Dad, rightfully so, since he paid for it, but Ethan stole his delicious bites away after he’d eaten his slices of orange-almond cake. The soufflé was served with whipped cream this time, not sour cream, which had been served with the soufflé last time.

Back home, I read Of Mice and Men, as well as the poem by Robert Burns that inspired the title (To a Mouse). Supper, which was soup, bread, and strawberries, was eventually announced.

Mom, Dad, and Ethan had chocolate palm-oil ice cream. Mom and I washed the dishes before heading upstairs to watch I Dream of Jeannie.

Ciao!

Souk Sales

Today we went back to the leather souk that we had gone to with our guide for our walking tour a few days back, and this time we seriously looked at the products. My father and a looked at ‘poofs’ which are like small beanbags, while my mother and sister looked at slippers and shoes. Eventually, when we were about to leave, I convinced my family to at least look at the leather jackets, even if we weren’t going to buy any.

When we got to the jacket floor, I looked through some styles and picked the one that I like the most; a black leather jacket with 5 pockets, 4 on the outside and a small one on the inside. I poked around at some other things while my mother tried on a red jacket, decided it wasn’t what she wanted, and then found one that she wanted that was also red. We didn’t feel like buying, but we just wanted to know the prices, and it was a lot.

The guy at the counter convinced my father to state a price, and they agreed to it and now our family’s wardrobe now has the accoutrements of two new leather jackets from Fez, Morocco.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Tannery and Thami’s

For supper, we ate at Thami’s again. We were enjoying the meal of couscous, tagine, and Moroccan salad (cucumber, tomato, parsley). After a hard day of shopping, we were beat.

Dad only paid for two leather jackets and four table runners, but the bargaining process at the tannery was long. We’d returned to the tannery with the “cute” man and were planning on buying a belt or slippers or something—we were totally against buying a jacket.

When we finally did pay for the jackets, Mom’s red jacket’s sleeves had been altered (which took twice as long as planned) so they weren’t too long. Ethan’s black biker jacket is still a little big on him, but he’ll grow.

At Thami’s, we watched cats climb the tree and jump onto the canopy several times. Eventually, the subject turned to Ethan getting up early.

“I hear it every morning—stomp, stomp, stomp,” Dad said.

“You’re lucky I don’t wear my flip-flops,” Ethan replied, “since then you would hear slap, slap, slap.”

A man came to clear our dishes, since we were done, as I said, “Yeah, I’ll slap you.” I balled my hand up in a fist right as the man cleared my dishes.

Mortified is an understatement.

Ciao!

Needing to Phorget at Physical Torture

80 days to go!

 

I went with Mom to her Physical Torture today. She cried at several times and at one point begged for me to read to her to take her mind off the pain. I’m not sure she would have been interested in what I was reading—reading about the US’s economy in the 1920s for school isn’t all that interesting.

On our way home, we stopped by Marjane (the local super-sized grocery store) building for haircuts. My hair is now blessedly straight, but as soon as I get under the water of the shower tomorrow, my joy will be gone…

Back at the flat, it was raining. From the time we got home from PT to the time we left for supper, we did just about nothing except schoolwork, push-ups, and working on Crete (that would be Dad).

For supper, I had Thai chicken. Between the ginger and coconut milk, it definitely reminded me of Thailand.

Ciao!

A Post about FOOD!

Salad: The traditional Moroccan salad, we think, is chopped up tomato, cucumber, and onion with some sort of sauce. However, we have had other types that are more about six different tapas that are shared around the table.

Bread: The traditional bread here is buns 1 inch tall and about 6-10 inches wide. The bread comes in different varieties; with grains on the top, white bread, and whole wheat, but in essence, it is mostly the same thing.

Fruits and Veggies: Mostly the same as home, though they do like to give eggplant a bit of a smoky taste when cooked.

Meals: The meals are good and cooked, and the curries are delicious. There are many varieties of tapas and falafel like things that someone can try.

Escargot: I decided to leave a section entirely for snails because there are stalls along with the street with vats full of live snails, crawling over each other in the futile quest of getting out and saving themselves.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Day of Adventure

Some of us woke up early today, some of us didn’t. I think that Eryn and I qualify to be in the last category, and my parents qualify to be in the first. Well, we woke up this morning and got out of bed, walked downstairs and put some food into our stomachs, and then continued with our tasks of getting ready to go. At 8 o’clock, we were at the post office and got into a car and drove away. And so ended our time in Fes.

We arrived at Meknes an hour later, and the first thing that we did was look at the city from a panoramic location. We then got into the car and drove to a granary and stable that housed 12000 horses at once. That is a lot of poop. They then used the poop to fertilize the ground around Meknes. We then went to a mausoleum, and then walked into the old medina of Meknes. In the medina, we went to a bakery and watched people for a while, while eating pastries, before going to the car and leaving. And so ended our time in Meknes.

We then drove in the car with our driver to Moulay-Idriss, the oldest city in Morocco. There, we walked up to a panoramic location before walking down to see a mosque, where our driver prayed. When he finished, we walked out, but on the way I bought a hunk of nougat. It was good and sugary when we ate it. And so ended our time in Moulay-Idriss.

We then drove to Volubilis, where there are some ancient Roman ruins. There was a poor section and a wealthy section, and on the floors of both parts’ dining rooms, there were beautiful mosaics of Roman gods and heroes. We took a guide and toured around; walking through and around the Triumphal Arch and standing on the edge of a baptistery. When we finally finished two hours later, we had seen and heard a lot. And so ended our time in Volubilis.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Vomiting in Volubilis

We went on a tour to Meknes, Volubilis, and Moulay Driss. Our driver picked us up at the post office at eight o’clock, and in about an hour we arrived at Meknes. At Meknes, we looked at a mausoleum, strolled through the medina (picking up some chocolaty, pudding-y pastries on the way, and were shown around a building that used to house thousands of horses.

Back on the road, we went to Moulay Driss, the oldest town in Morocco. (Fes is the second-oldest.) Ethan bought some nougat and we tried some. I didn’t really enjoy it, but the locals seem to, since there is a man selling the stuff on every corner.

Volubilis is older than Moulay Driss. It was a Roman town and had lots of mosaics with Venetian tile. The mosaics depicted Roman gods and goddesses, like Venus, as well as the hero Hercules and the four seasons. We had a tour guide at Volubilis who spoke seven languages, including Arabic, French, English, Spanish, and Russian. He told us that the city was built in 70 A.D. and showed us different parts of the ruins, such as the solarium (a.k.a. tanning salon) and caldarium (place to freeze your butt off after you’ve been in the solarium).

He also showed us the room that was for “eating, drinking, and vomiting.” And, no, it wasn’t the dining room.

Ciao!

Football Friends

Football, in this case, is what Americans call soccer. I went outside our traditional house today and played football with some guys. There were also sometimes girls, but they squealed, and that was about all they did.

At the beginning, there was a guy that was older and had a California University Class of 1989 shirt on, but after a bit of playing he left. About the time that he left, another guy about my age came and played on my team that had been subtracted from with the loss of the guy that I first mentioned. This new guy played or a while, and then he went to his house and get two baby chickens and we played with them for a while.

When this friend went to return the chicks, we found a kid a bit younger than me passed out in a dark alleyway. We notified the restaurant next door and they attempted to revive him as we left to go play, with the accoutrement of another guy a bit older than me. We played with him for a while before my second friend left, and then the newest guy named Mohammad and I, along with a few others, worked on our goalie skills. Then I went inside and the group dissipated.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Follow Your Nose

We sort of slept in this morning, leaving the house at 10:30 for breakfast at Café Clock. Mom and Dad chose pancakes with orange juice. Ethan originally ordered pancakes with Fanta, but changed his mind and selected orange juice. I ordered Berber eggs with orange juice.

Eventually, our orders food arrived. The fruit with the syrup-saturated pancakes today included strawberries, bananas, and kiwi. I had half the Berber eggs and one-and-a-half pancakes. Mom ate the same.

We decided we needed to spend the afternoon (yes, it was after noon) doing something, so we decided to find the wool funduq. Ethan was our leader.

In case you want to know, we didn’t find the funduq. We changed our goal: we were going to the tannery.

“Just follow your nose!” Ethan joked.

“You have to,” I pointed out, “since your nose is on the front of your face.”

So we went around and around, passing cow hooves and camel heads—both were for sale.

We didn’t find the tannery either.

So we went back home towards Bab Boujloud, or the blue gate. Once home, we read while the rain pounded on the roof. We went out to eat supper at Le 44 again. This time, I beat Ethan at mancala.

Ciao!

A Day without Dogs

Well, for the first time in all of Morocco, I think, we saw a dog. As mentioned in the previous posts, the Islamic religion forbids the use of dogs as pets, and that is the main reason for getting feral dogs. Today we saw the first one, and it was sleeping.

I have mentioned to my father that in Morocco, it seems as though cats and dogs have switched places; cats are active and ubiquitous, while dogs are practically nonexistent, and when seen, are seen sleeping in the sun, as we saw today. We saw that dog while walking on a tour with Eryn as our guide. We saw a synagogue door, a palace gate, a courtyard, a market, and more gates as required by the tour.

We are starting to be orientated on our walkings around Fez, and hope to get better as time goes by.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Gatos on a Gondola

“You took a lot of pictures today?” I asked, trying to keep the surprise out of my voice.

“On our walk,” Dad replied.

“Our walk” is, of course, the tour that I took my family on. (Think: Dad navigated and I just read from the guidebook.) Our walk took us through Fes Jdid, or New Fez. We started at Point 1, which was a long walk from the nearest Medina gate. It was warm (first time in two days), and my down jacket with the guidebook in a pocket was hanging over Mom’s arm to protect her sore, swollen, sensitive hand.

We started the official tour at the palace gates.

“Made in the Andalusian-Moroccan style, this gate was built in the sixties.”

“Nineteen-sixties?”

“I don’t know! The book just says ‘sixties!’”

 

That’s how most of the tour went—me mindlessly quoting the book and Mom asking for more detail.

We ended up at the Moulay Hassan Square, where we interrupted a game of soccer just to get to the center. From the center, we could see Bab Sbâa (Lion Gate) and Bab Sagma, which is named after the pious Amina Sagma. She was buried there in 1737.

Dar Makina forms part of the square’s high walls. It was the weapons factory ordered to be built by Sultan Moulay Hassan I in 1888. The factory was designed by Italian architects. Another Italian part of the square was the gondola, randomly sitting in a corner. Cats (some fat and some not) were huddled around it—trying to keep warm?

As we walked toward Bab Sagma (we’d come in Bab Sbâa) a man, who had been standing by the gate, came towards us, telling it was forbidden. We’re not sure what was forbidden, but he let us out the huge gate anyway.

Ciao!

Pigeon Poo and Partly Cloudy

Maybe full cloud. And raining. Today was a fairly miserable day, going on a tour and finding everything as far as the eye can see wet. Luckily, it cleared up eventually, but we still had gotten wet, even through our rain coats.

We went to the Medersa near our place again, and then went down through the markets to a wood museum, but didn’t go inside, because we were on a tight schedule. We kept going for a while before finally arriving at the tannery. We looked down from a lookout tower and saw vat upon vat of multi-colored liquid, from yellow to brown. We also so a white-ish liquid that is made of limestone and water to get the wool and fur off the skins.

The whole tannery smelled different because the tanners use pigeon droppings for their tanning, as it is not toxic, as other things are. The finished product doesn’t smell at all. Which is good. We did not get anything at the tannery, but who knows, we might yet.

That included some of our walking tour today with a guide.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Dye and Lye

Khalid was our tour guide of the medina today. He started off by telling us a few new facts about our neighborhood before we hit the Bou Inania Madrasa, which was built from 1350 to 1357. The marble came from Italy, the cedar from the Atlas Mountains, and the tile patterns from Spain. In fact, many of the patterns look familiar, as we have a card game from Alhambra, Spain.

It was raining hard, and Ethan and I discovered that our rain jackets aren’t as waterproof as we thought. Because of this, our down jackets underneath were getting wet—not a good thing. Dad bought a pink umbrella for me, which was a relief. Khalid held his blue plaid umbrella high and led the way.

Eventually we came to the university. The university was built by a woman named Fatima using her inheritance. One of its most famous students was the man who introduced zero to Europe. The university is connected to a mosque (also built by Fatima) which is the second-largest mosque in Morocco after the one in Casablanca that we visited at 1,700 square meters.

On we went to the funduq. (“Funduq” is the Arabic word for “caravanserie.” “Serie” means “hotel” in Persian.) This funduq is being used as a place for making rugs, scarves, tablecloths, and such out of cactus silk, cotton, and/or wool.

Our next stop was the tannery, where we looked out the back window onto the pools of dye and lye. The man helping us spoke Arabic, Berber, French, and English. Eventually he moved on from telling us about himself to advertising his goods.

“This is a poof,” he explained, holding up a round piece of leather. “You can fill it to make it a chair. You can fill it with paper, cotton, or money. Yes, this is a Berber bank!”

Mom later described the man as “cute.”

Ciao!

Rain, Rain, go Away

That is what we hoped for today, but, contrary to our wishes, the rain came and came, pouring in through cracks in the ceiling and getting everything that shouldn’t get damp, damp. At least none of the electronics got wet.

However, with the rain, cold poured in, emanating off of the rain droplets and surrounding us in our quandaries and work. In the end, we just put coats on to fight the chill and settled down, huddling in the bottom of our chairs and conserving heat. The rain I think has ended now, but, luckily, we were always inside whenever there was an exceptionally bad deluge.

That is what happened today, hindering our progress in exploring the wondrous Ancient Medina of Fez. Maybe if it had been sunny, we could have seen some more coppersmiths pound away at their work.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Moroxican Meal

After Mom’s Physical Torture session this morning, the parents returned to find me done with my schoolwork and Ethan in the shower.

Once the shower was done and Ethan had gone back to his room, Mom and I set out to the modern grocery store for groceries—the most important of which was chocolate. Dad has found that there is a definite shortage of chocolate in the medina, and he requested that we bring back enough chocolate to last us a while. We returned with seven bars.

Besides chocolate bars, we also got Mom a shirt, a lighter for our stove, a loaf of bread, jam, butter, palm-oil infused chocolate ice cream, potatoes, mechanical pencils, and two packages of cookies. The world outside the medina is a whole different place—it looks like it’s actually from this century.

Back home, we took our doxy. Two hours later, we polished off the mocha chocolate bar. For supper, we went to Scorpion du Desert, which is right near our house. It’s good that it was nearby, since it’s been raining on-and-off all evening.

Supper included a starter of tapas, which tasted rather Mexican. The rest of the meal, however, tasted quite Moroccan.

Ciao!

Moroccan Impressions of My Country

“Where are you from?”

“The United States.”

“Ohhhh—Barack Obama!”

“Yes.”

“You like Africa—he is pure African.”

 

It’s been a while since we’ve had a conversation like this (about seven months, since this happened on a daily basis in India), and I’d forgotten how entertaining they are. Last night, while eating at Thami’s, our host, upon learning that we were Americans, exclaimed, “Oh, yes, you like Morocco! We were the first to see the U.S. as a country!”

I wasn’t expecting anyone to know that fact—much less bring it up—but they did. We were on our way out to breakfast at Clock Café. Mom and Dad had pancakes saturated in syrup with kiwi and banana and Ethan and I had tomato and scrambled eggs on bread.

Once Ethan’s orange juice was done, we returned to our house so Mom could work on laundry. Later, we ventured out into the medina and went to Bou Inania Medersa, which is a place of learning. We stood in the courtyard, taking pictures of the tiles, while Ethan befriended the two cats who lay in the sun.

Back outside, Ethan and I finally stepped outside of the medina. It was like a whole new world—a whole new modern world, I might add. For our postcards, we bought outrageously expensive stamps before returning to the medina to buy olives, eggs, and sweets for snacks and breakfast.

Supper was at Le 44, which is at number 44 on a little side street. Run by a French woman, it offers a respite from couscous and tagine, which are served by every single restaurant (except this one!).

Ciao!

Medersa Memories

A Medersa is a school of Islamic learning. In Christianity, it might be called seminary. In Pakistan, they are called Madrasas. There are several in the Ancient Medina of Fez, and today we went to one of them. The following are memories that I have of the Medersa.

The ceramics are detailed, colorful, and geometrical. They adorn the lower walls all around the courtyard, adding color and life to the school. There are also cedar partitions that surround most of the open spaces, rendering it hard to see through, but allowing light to shine through. There was also a lot of stucco that has been carved so that, if the arches fell on someone, it would be a most painful death, being pierced dozens of times and having the weight of a roof on top of you.

Another interesting thing about Fez is that it is cat heaven. Though they may not get the pick of fish from fish vendors on the street, they generally rule the city, causing no mischief and generally having the right of way.

That’s all for now, Folks!

When in Fez…

..do as the Fezians (?) do. I am not sure what that means exactly. Maybe it means knowing where you are in the middle of the mazes in the Ancient Medina. Maybe it means sitting behind desks trying to sell things, or maybe it means living in Fes.

At the moment we have only achieved the last one, and for that I am happy. It is fun getting lost on the confusing little streets. I guess that is why there are maps. It is also fun to talk. Everyone wants to know where you are from, what your name is, and if you would like to buy anything.  Knowing the streets is something that takes time and patience. We might have time, but mostly, we stay on the main street going down the center of the medina, housing the market.

Today we walked down the main street. After walking for a ways, we came upon the central market. We looked around at men banging copper pots with hammers and stuff like that before going on a tour at a brass lantern factory. The copper got taped with a pattern, and then a practiced artisan would cut the pattern with a coping saw. Then another man would use hammer and a pointed bit to add texture, before someone else put all the pieces together and formed some sort of lamp.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Cast Off

Mom is relieved to announce that her cast is finally off.

It turned into a four-country trauma (Argentina, Chile, Peru, Morocco) but finally ended this morning at a clinic. After the cast was removed, her PT (Physical Torture) began. She now has to go the clinic three times a week for the next three weeks for PT.

We’re all glad that she can use her right arm– now she can wash dishes again!

Victory in Vertical

Our apartment is very vertical: one corner is devoted to the staircase.

On the ground floor is the dining table, which is the only thing in the center of the apartment. Also, there are three little nooks for sitting and relaxing on couches as well as a full bathroom and a kitchen. Up a few feet is a landing that is unused, and then turn a corner and, up three steps, is the exit to my room, which has a balcony that looks into my parents’ room. Their room’s entry is up a few stairs from mine, but the floors are at the same height.

Ethan has the next bedroom, and above that is the roof, which has a washing machine, clothes line, and a key to move the glass from the skylight. Above the room with the laundry machine is a deck, where Ethan laid for a while this morning as Mom and I did laundry.

Mom was actually able to do laundry with her right hand.

Yes, you read that correctly: her cast is off! It took all of this morning, but she and Dad returned finally victorious.

Right now we’re sitting in the ground floor, eating our Moroccan pastries after a dinner of tagine and couscous.

Ciao!

Dar Mystere

Our casa in Fez is large and different. We arrived at the casa after a 2 hour train ride from Casablanca. When we arrived, we got into the car of a guy that had held a sign with my father’s name on it before arriving in the old Medina from 789, AD. We then piled our stuff into the cart of a man and went off. He took us down the wrong street, but eventually got it correct and took us to our place. The old Medina has a maze of twisty little passages, like the streets and alleyways in Venice.

The casa is tall. When walking in the unassuming door, you see a bench with three round cloth pillows on it and a doorway off to the right. You walk through that doorway and see curtains off to the left and push your way through them and arrive in a courtyard with lit-up lanterns in the corners, and stairs off to the left. To the right, there is a doorway; to the left is a kitchen and to the right is a bathroom. Also in the courtyard is a table with 6 chairs. To the end is a living room area, and to the right from the courtyard is a small sitting area.

Up the stairs, there is a left and a right fork. To the left are my sister’s room and a balcony with a half-bath to the end. To the right of that fork is my parents’ room with en-suite full bath. Up the stairs again, you get to another fork. To the left is my room of two twin beds and to the right is a door. Sliding open the deadbolts and taking the key, one would walk out onto the roof and have the choice of sliding open the glass roof for the courtyard, and a kitchen is straight ahead, using the key to get through the padlock. Going up a set of metal chairs, you arrive on a small balcony that has no furnishings of any kind and only foot-high railing.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Cash Calamity and Cafe Clock

“I’m sorry, sir, but there’s a problem.”

Where have we heard those words before? Oh, I know! At the Bangkok airport when we didn’t have our Indian visas!

Well, this wasn’t as dramatic:

“Do you have cash?”

“I can’t pay in cash,” Dad replied.

“Okay, let me see what I can do.”

A few minutes later:

“Do you have cash?”

“I can’t pay in cash. I don’t have enough.”

“Okay, I need to make a call…” the woman at the front desk trailed off, grabbing the phone and speaking rapidly in French. Eventually, she asked, “Okay, where’s your credit card?”

That was a relief.

We missed the first tram, but six minutes later another arrived going the same way and we got on it. The red trams have only been working since March, and they look a bit like a bullet train.

We only rode for about five stops before getting off at the train station to catch our 11:15 train to Fez, Morocco.

We caught it with plenty of time to spare. We were relieved to get into the right first class car (the other was at the waaay other end of the train, and you couldn’t walk through the train to get to it).

Eventually, the train chugged past all the green fields and cities (including Morocco’s capital, Rabat) and pulled into its final stop, Fez. We found a man with a sign reading “Jerry” and followed him out to his van, where we put our luggage and ourselves.

We got to our lodgings, and we were shown the local market, where we eventually bought bread, yogurt, cheese, counterfeit Nutella, bananas, oranges, and olives (Ethan’s favorite—not).

Back home, I worked on my French before heading out with Dad to look for Café Clock. We found it and returned for supper: I had a chickpea burger with French fries and a mocha, while Mom had chicken with raisins and almonds and Ethan and Dad shared a plate of tapas and some falafel.

Ciao!

Mosque Myths Making Mornings Memorable

Alliteration, how interesting is that? It is not very interesting because a lot of people can do alliteration with any letter. Although ‘x’ would be hard to do, all of that making my title sentence not very memorable in the end. However, we did go to a mosque today and we did hear about a myth and it was morning and it might be memorable.

The mosque was the Mosque Hassan II that was built only twenty years ago. It is a mosque that extends out over the sea, and some guidebooks might say that there is even a glass floor that you can look through to the sea. There isn’t. As it turns out, the builders used regular building techniques to build the columns in the ocean, and then had to fix their mistake, as salt water erodes things a whole lot faster than air. In the end, though, it has turned into a fairly spectacular building.

The pillars on the inside are concrete coated in marble, along with the floor. The glass chandeliers were imported from Venice, and there is local stucco to make the elaborate arches. The women’s prayer balconies above are made of locally cut cedar trees. Underneath, there is an ablutions room where men wash in fountains, there is another somewhere else for women.

Another myth that might be mentioned is my father’s Chicken Myth from the golden arches, our first time eating there. Ever.

That’s all for now, Folks!

McDonald’s in Morocco

I’m not sure if I should be glad, disappointed, or relieved to say this, but I’ll say it anyway: the first time I ever had a burger at McDonald’s was in Casablanca, Morocco.

I don’t get the McDonald’s hype—I can say that now, too. What’s so good about a tiny burger with a little bit of lettuce and ketchup with a chicken patty between two pieces of soggy bread. Seriously. I don’t.

We had McDonald’s for breakfast. After we searched in vain, we moved on to Hassan II Mosque, the seventh-largest mosque in the world according to Wikipedia and the third-largest according to our English-speaking tour guide. The minaret next to the mosque is, at 689 feet high, the tallest in the world. It is topped by a laser that points toward Mecca. The most ornate door in the mosque also faces towards Mecca. The mosque is right on the Atlantic Ocean, keeping the mosque cool—or, today, quite chilly. At least, the floors were cold against my bare feet. Thankfully there were carpets.

After the mosque, we wandered around until it started raining. Then we got a red taxi back to our hotel. Dad had said that it would be a petit taxi since it was red, but it wasn’t—it was a larger Mercedes. In our first taxi, Ethan had had to scrunch down in the back seat so the police wouldn’t see the back of his head because only three passengers could legally ride in the car.

Back at the hotel, we looked for a place for brunch (it was noon, but we still hadn’t had breakfast). So eventually, reluctantly, we settled on McDonald’s. Mom, Ethan, and I got the chicken burgers described above while Dad got a Chicken Mythic, which was by far the better choice since it had less-squished buns and more content. However, it had cost twice as much as ours, but I would have taken it!

We decided we’d done our tourist thing for the day, so Dad alternately napped and worked on pictures as the rest of us read. For supper, we went to the place that was closed last night. I particularly liked the desserts, which included orange sliced very thinly and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Ciao!

2 Days, 1 night, 4 Planes

Leaving in the morning,

On an okay plane,

Leave Peru with Mourning,

Silently to stay sane.

In Panama get out,

Get through the TSA,

To Newark without doubt,

In the states, you don’t say?

Climbing back through a gate,

And sitting in our seats,

Hoping we won’t be late,

More than the eye will meet.

In Lisbon out we climb,

From a gate that is prime, (41)

Now on a tiny plane,

Flying over the sea,

Going away from Spain,

Now in Morocco, you see?

That’s all for now, Folks!

 

Four For Four

In twenty-eight hours, we rode four different airplanes and were on four different continents: we started our trip at 2 in the morning on March 21, when we got in a van to go to Lima’s airport. By 5, we were in the air on our way north to Panama City. On the way we crossed over the equator, putting us in Earth’s northern half for the first time in three months.

After a two-hour stop in Panama, we were in yet another Boeing on our way to Newark, New Jersey, USA. We were required to go through customs and immigration, naturally, but that put us “officially” on a second continent. The next flight landed in Lisbon, Portugal, this morning and we went through customs and immigration there to get to the lounge. So we had “officially” been on three continents.

The last flight was short– from Lisbon to Casablanca, Morocco. As soon as we hit the public part of the airport, we had hit our fourth continent after four flight segments and thirty hours of being awake.

And we’re still not in bed.

Sleep? What Is That?

LIMA, Peru-

March 21, 2013, 01:16- Eryn is startled from her sleep by the sound of her parents packing and showering

01:33- Eryn and Ethan are forced out of their beds and into their traveling clothes, packing quickly

02:05- The van is packed and ready to head to Lima’s international airport

02:31- Four people, four suitcases, four backpacks, and two hats are unloaded onto the curb at the airport

02:49- Checking in is complete: everything that is needed to get to Casablanca of Humphrey Bogart fame is in the hands of the foursome

03:18- Earbuds are bought so that Eryn can more easily listen to One Direction

04:31- Boarding for our Copa Airlines flight to Panama City begins

04:34- Family is on the aircraft and settled in for flight

05:01- The little Boeing 737-700 takes off

PANAMA CITY, Panama-

March 21, 2013, 08:34- Touchdown in Panama City. First time north of the equator in three months (last time was in Dubai, UAE)

08:52- At Gate 23. American-style security checkpoint is viewed from afar

09:08- The security checkpoint is cleared, no problem. First time being in a rather large group of Americans for the family (rather uncomfortable)

09:35- Boarding begins

10:05- Plane (once again Boeing 737-700) takes off

NEWARK, N.J., USA-

March 21, 2013, 16:27- The Boeing (on which was shown Silver Linings Playbook with [most] curse words removed) lands with Manhattan skyline in distance

16:43- Family has successfully cleared one hurdle. Now the luggage must come

17:19- Three suitcases have been recovered by Ethan, and the last one—the father’s—is just around the bend

17:32- Now officially in the U.S.

17:54- Supper is sought in food court after Star Alliance lounge fails to meet expectations

18:03- “The last meal for two days” (pasta, salad, garlic bread, and side) is eaten, along with two heaping bowls of chocolate ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s (the bowls were for all four, not two per person)

19:13- The bookstore is perused. A Lonely Planet USA guide book is scorned: “The only way you can write a USA guide book is by making it 1,200 pages long.” (It contained 1,198 pages.) The book even mentioned the family’s hometown, Eugene, OR—even though the city was barely discussed and was summarized as a hippie town (it is)

19:46- The Boeing 757-200 is boarded. It’s a much nicer plane: the family is in Economy Plus, meaning more leg room and personal screens. The only major problem is that the seats of the younger three members of the family (children and mother) do not lean back because they are directly in front of the emergency exit row

20:15- Take-off. Ethan watches Skyfall while Eryn enjoys the only episode of House available. After drinking doxy, it’s off to bed. Eryn listens to all thirty One Direction songs on the plane (thirteen from Up All Night and seventeen from Take Me Home) as well as “Rolling in the Deep” and “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele

LISBON, Portugal-

March 22, 2013, 07:11- The pilot makes another loop instead of landing. Reason unknown

07:18- Landed

07:44- Inside the Lisbon airport is the family, and the United Airlines agent is searched for

08:17- The decision to head to the lounge on the other side of customs and immigration is made. So begins the long trek

08:28- No lines, no waiting! The family is in the TAP Portugal lounge eating cake, sandwiches, and vegetables

10:28- Packed up and left the lounge to head back to the international part of the terminal (most other European nations don’t count as “international” due to the EU)

11:43- Boarding begins after some annoying Brits bad-mouth One Direction

CASABLANCA, Morocco-

March 22, 2013, 14:02- The twelve-seater lands on Moroccan tarmac

14:48- Into the “normal” part of the airport

15:57- Family arrives at suite which originally had two beds. With four it’s quite cramped

17:58- The quest for a supper restaurant begins

18:30- Dinner is ordered

18:57- Dinner (three chicken meals, including kebabs, and one vegetarian meal) arrives

19:46- The bill is paid. “Gracias”—before realization that Moroccans speak French and Arabic hits (this is about the zillionth instance of speaking Spanish instead of French). “Merci!”

21:25-

Ciao!

Lima, a Colony, a Capital, and a City

Alliteration, as always, answers few questions. I imagine interesting things would happen if someone used alliteration to answer annoying askings, as an animal attacks.  Lima is a big city, crossing the city can cause crashes and collisions concerning careening cars. To stop alliteration, I will tell people more about the city of our residence for the next 5 hours.

The city is on the western side of the continent of South America, on the Pacific coast, and is on a peninsula jutting out into the sea. It is a large commercial and industrial city that has fishing boats and cargo boats cruising around its harbor, looking for anchorage so they can unload their cargo of fish or freight containers. Lima is accessible by all means of transportation except for rocket ships, maybe. We arrived and are leaving via the rather large and ostentatious airport.

That’s all for now, Folks!

South American Summary

After more-or-less three months in South America, we started to get the hang of Spanish and customs. We could go into a heladeria and order ‘dos bolas de chocolate y fresa,’ or go to the supermercado and buy huevos, leche, pizza, lechuga, choclo, chocolate, y pan. When Mr. Gooey in Arequipa told us a bunch of things about Arequipa and Peru in general (such as food, customs, etc.), we found that we already knew a lot of what he was saying.

 

We started off South America in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after a ridiculously long set of flights from Dubai, UAE. We spent two weeks there, idling in the sun and our apartment. We also enjoyed the new types of ice cream flavors: lemon mousse, raspberry, and chocolate Suizo. In El Bolsón, we devoured ice cream at the rate of kilogram a day in between bites of super-cheesy pizza. Ethan and I befriended Juan, Paz, and the rest of their family, and we spent the evening with them when Mom broke her arm.

After a night in Bariloche, chocolate heaven, we rode a bus for eight hours to Chile and arrived in Valdivia, home of the largest-ever earthquake, at ten p.m. that night. Dad and Ethan got some Chilean pesos in exchange for some American dollars at a Chinese restaurant, and we used those pesos to pay for a taxi to take us to our hostel. The highlight of our time in Valdivia was the fresh-foods market, where you could buy all sorts of wonderful things. Because we didn’t have an apartment or kitchen, we only bought raspberries and blueberries.

Two things stand out for Valparaiso: having to walk up and down our hill multiple times each day to get to and from our flat, and the really good ice cream whose name I can’t remember. It tasted like cinnamon, and it was really good with the cappuccino flavor that was mainly marshmallow fluff.

In San Pedro de Atacama, we went on multiple tours up into the surrounding Andes and Altiplano before heading down to Arica, where, after an insanely long bus ride, we celebrated Ethan’s 12th birthday with a cupcake and presents. The next day we went up to Putre. During our time there, we went on two tours with Barbara, the Alaskan woman, and went up to about 5,000 meters above sea level—the highest point on our trip while standing on the ground. We also got to see some really cute vizcachas, which are related to chinchillas.

Back in Arica, we went to a mummy museum and then arrived about an hour too early at the airport two days later. We landed abruptly on Arequipa’s runway late in the morning, and Mr. Gooey was waiting for us. That weekend was spent enjoying crepes from Crepissimo and touring Mr. Gooey’s workplace. On Monday, we flew to Cusco. When we first landed, I thought, This is an ugly city.

We didn’t stay in the “ugly city” long, though—soon we were on our way to Ollantaytambo. After a night there, we were off to Machu Picchu. Somehow we made it up and down Wayna Picchu, the picturesque mountain in the background of just about every Machu Picchu photo.

After a few nights in Cusco, we were off to the Amazon Basin with Reve (the English-speaking guide), Paltacha (the cook), and a ton of stuff. It was hot and humid and we didn’t see any tapirs, despite going to the tapir clay lick two nights in a row.

On our last night back in Cusco, disaster struck. It began with the shower drain gurgling but ended with the floor of our hostel covered in 2-6 inches of brown stuff from the sewers.

We slept in a different hotel.

The next day we caught a flight to Lima Bean. That was yesterday. Tonight will be very short: our taxi to the airport leaves at 2:05 in the morning.

Ugh.

Ciao!

Lima Bean

We got to Lima at around three in the afternoon after a short flight. We spent last night at another hostel in Cusco. When Dad and I went back to Pantastico to get our laundry, the owner said that our laundry would be ready by this evening. We pointed out that we were leaving Cusco at one in the afternoon, and she handed us our two bags.

In Lima, we got in a taxi and rode for half an hour to our lodgings. After a short while there, we dropped off laundry and went grocery shopping. We decided to eat in our apartment, so we bought ravioli, tomato sauce, green beans, salad, and chocolate ice cream. Dad and I prepared supper, and Ethan eventually washed the dishes. Our salad had lettuce, beet, radish, carrot, tomato, and lots of corn—but no beans, so unfortunately we can’t say we’ve had Lima beans.

Ciao!

Hermes

For those of you who are not up-to-snuff on your Greek mythology, Hermes is the god of travel, the road, merchants, messengers, and other sorts of things. Today we saw a bank truck that was probably full of money in the middle of Lima with the name of Hermes. I pointed out to my family that, ironically, Hermes is also the god of thieves.

Interesting.

Last night, after some time and debating, we decided to move to a different place to stay the night because of the brown stuff on the floor of our rooms and so went a couple of yards down the street to a more salubrious hotel. We spent the night and morning there, finally leaving at 11 o’clock AM.

We went to the airport in a taxi, checked in, went through security, and then got on our flight at about 12:30. We flew for about an hour and a half before landing in Lima. We got into a van and drove to our hotel, where we stepped into a VERY salubrious room. We later went to the store to get some things for dinner before coming back to the room, and on the way seeing the bank truck.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sitting in a Cesspool

We had breakfast this morning at The Meeting Place, where all of us had waffles. Ethan and I had fruit (cantaloupe, pineapple, and banana) waffles while Mom and Dad selected Monkey Business Waffles, which had chocolate sauce and bananas. We were there to drop off our Spot, which kept track of us in the Amazon (just in case of emergencies). We had gotten it from Mr. Gooey back in Arequipa, so we’ve been carrying it around for two weeks or so.

Ethan and I played Scrabble and, even with my wonderful word “queleas” (which are birds we saw in Namibia), I lost. We had a conversation about homeschooling with the owner (Steve). We also petted the friendly cat, Mz. Socks, who doesn’t purr—she just meows.

We returned to the hostel, where we did schoolwork and such for a while. Then we left to get ice cream. Mom and Ethan each had one scoop, but then we went to the bakery associated with the hostel because there was no chocolate ice cream. There, we ordered a grand total of two brownies, one cookie, a slice of apple pie, and a vegetarian empanada. We ate in the plaza, where a woman tried to sell her wares to us.

Back in the hostel, Dad deleted more pictures before we went out to supper at the place where we had supper our first night in Cusco about a week-and-a-half ago. Mom and I shared a bowl of chicken soup and curry with couscous while Dad chose tomato soup and Ethan ordered vegetarian risotto. Ethan was excited to go to the restaurant because he wanted to have his virgin strawberry daiquiri again.

The lights flickered a few times, but we still left after enjoying our complimentary chocolate ice cream (wow, we’ve had a lot of carbs and calories today!). There was thunder—not very loud, but very often. The lightning came quickly, too, and we hurried to get home to avoid the downpour.

It was not to be.

By the time we got to the hostel, my jeans and pants were soaked. Thankfully I had decided to wear my rain jacket to dinner, so my shirt was dry. I grabbed my long john pants and towel after kicking off my shoes. I slipped into the bathroom, slowly dragging the heavy door closed. The shower drain gurgled.

Wow, we must have got a lot of rain. That’s odd. Wait—why is there more sound? Oh, well—it is sleeting outside.

I had just started to get changed when water started coming out of the toilet.

Um, okay. What is going on?!?!?!

I hastily pulled my pants back on and flung the door open.

“Ethan! Ethan! Get your stuff out and up! The toilet is overflowing!”

“What?”

“Look at that!”

The drain in the bathroom floor, as well as the toilet and shower, was overflowing with brown stuff. I was horrified. We pulled our stuff up onto our beds. It was sickening, but the smell was only overwhelming when you faced the bathroom. Every room on the bottom floor of the hostel was overflowing with brown stuff. It was gross (understatement of all time).

If we had gotten back to the hostel five minutes later, our stuff would have been ruined. If we stay here, we’re going to be sleeping in a cesspool. Right now, we’re standing and sitting in a cesspool. There are at least six inches of water in the common room of this place.

On that cheery note,

Ciao!

Poop, Pie, and Pools

My father has just told me not to complain about how he didn’t get me a hostel with a pool because of all of the cesspool in the main lobby. The reason for that is because of all of the rain that fell down tonight and burst the sewage system, showering the rooms with, er, things that we thought we had left behind.

We woke up this morning and had a regular morning, going to the Meeting Place Café for breakfast. When we finished with our game of Scrabble and our waffles, we left and went back to the hostel. We did stuff that we usually do on a down day; schoolwork, reading, deleting pictures, and other things. We finished up with that late in the day and went down for ice cream and pastries, including apple pie, before coming back and deleting more pictures.

We finally went to dinner and ate soup and pasta, along with a virgin strawberry daiquiri and water before coming back to our hostel. My sister was in the bathroom when suddenly I heard her hammering at the door screaming,

“HELP!!!”

I opened the door and she rushed out, quickly being pursued by the mad liquids and solids of the toilet system. The toilets bubbled, the showers squirted, and the floor drains regurgitated all that ever went in. In other words, it turned into a wet, brown mess that everyone wanted to avoid. Sadly for the hostel, the only person there was the receptionist, and his place was soon buried in a foot of water from everywhere else, ruining the computer.

Now, a bunch of people in the hall are hurriedly taking bucketsful of the stuff out to the street and letting it run away. We are wondering how we will go to the bathroom and how to sleep.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Don’t Kill Yourself…

…let the caiman do it. That was Reve’s favorite line to say during our time in the Amazon basin. He said that a lot whenever we were getting out of the boat and it was muddy outside, which was most of the time. Our cook during the trip had the name of Palta, or avocado in English, which was sometimes lengthened to Paltacha. I am not sure if that is a sobriquet or something, but it is what everyone called him.

The boat driver had the same name as his son that accompanied us on our trip. The captain got up before us and went to bed before us, but never got to sleep in the boat. I think that the sun was only along for the ride, and he usually sat behind the tarp-covered luggage on the floor. The boat helper’s name was Jonathan and he was the one that tied up the boat, pushed it from the docks, and did other such things.

Those were the main staff and helpers of the trip in the Amazon, and today we left. We started this morning in the boat and went 3 hours downriver. From there, we got into two different taxis and drove to another river, crossed that, and arrived again at the SuperVan. We drove for hours and hours in that before arriving in Cusco again.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mayday with Macaws

I look out from my nest of branches in the Amazonian rain forest and understand for the umpteenth time why it is called the rain forest; it rains a lot. I am the Red-and-Green Macaw that everyone wants to see during their time in the Amazon. I am waiting for the rain to clear up-if it will-so that I can go out over the water and a hide to eat some clay.

The reason that we as macaws need to eat clay is that 80% of our diet is made up of unripe fruit nuts, and the trees have developed a grudge against us and have put poisons in the fruit so that we should die from eating, but we don’t because we eat clay always before we eat the unripe fruit.

Finally, after all of my cogitations, it is starting to clear up. The rain clouds are moving away and I feel like eating clay. When I get to the clay lick, I am one of the first ones there, so I sit on top of a bamboo stick and wait for something to happen. Eventually, it does, and all of us fly back and forth to see if anything is hiding. When we think it is safe, I am the first one down at the lick, eating. As soon as my two friends start to join me, a vulture flies over and we all fly away. Oh, well, at least I got some clay.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Reve wet his Pants…

…almost. The reason for that was because he might have fallen into a stream that was across the path that we were taking through the rain forest near his father’s house on our way to a clay lick that attracts tapirs and other animals to drink, snort, and bathe in the mineral rich soil. All of that, however, was after a day full of boating and other activities that mainly focused around the water.

We had an early start this morning to be ready to leave in the boat at five from the place where we had been staying for two nights. We all clambered into the blue, aluminum boat and drove downriver towards Hummingbird Lodge and the Madre de Dios river, where we had started  a couple of days prior. At first we looked for jaguars, scanning the banks with alert eyes for the flash of a twitching tail or the sight of a jaguar sun-bathing on a log. However, when it started to rain, we pulled out the tarp and hid underneath it and went to sleep, stopping at the ranger station on the way out of the park.

We finally got out of the Rio Manu, and went along the Madre de Dios River until we arrived at the town of Boca Manu, where we got some more gasoline for the boat that was almost out of the fuel. We then stopped again at Hummingbird Lodge and ate our lunch before continuing on down the river, into the rain. When we got to Reve’s father’s house, we got all of our stuff out from underneath that tarp in the back and climbed up the stairs to our quarters. Eventually, we left on the walk that included the parcel in the first paragraph before arriving at the hide for the tapir lick and sleeping for a while before walking back to the lodge to eat and sleep.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Machetes and More Mud

When one gets stuck on the edge of a muddy banked river and has a machete, what one could do was hack away at the mud for a while until there was a nice set of stairs going up the bank so that the crew and passengers could do what they wanted to do. What we wanted to do in that situation was go on a walk to see an oxbow lake from a tour and to look at a large tree.

Once we could walk up the bank, we walked on a trail to the edge of the lake and then up, up, up the tower to the top and looked out over the lake or a while, seeing birds of various varieties before heading off down again. We stopped again at a lookout over the lake and admired the beauty of the Amazonian rain forest before going on to see the big tree.

When we finished with all of that, we drove back for half-an-hour in the boat to the camp, but the dining room lights wouldn’t work. Reve yelled at the resident natives for a while and they came back with a battery that worked just fine, and it all worked out.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Calm Caiman

Getting right up close to a caiman is interesting, especially in a small wooden boat. The caiman might bolt, attack, or just sit there, waiting for something to happen. The last option was what happened to us today as we sat in a lake after dark on a catamaran.

The catamaran was something like two canoes tied together with planks laid across the top, and in the back ends, the captain and his helper paddled with large paddles while we looked for caimans and otters. We eventually saw a family of 8 Giant River Otters from our boat before docking and relaxing for a while.  That family of otters is the same one that appears in Planet Earth, that our guide, Reve, helped film. After that, we piled back onto the boat in the dark and looked for caimans.

One caiman that we saw let us come right up to us, and we got some good pictures. When we finished with all of that, we got out of the catamaran and walked along the path back to the river and got into the boat to drive back to the new camp, where we will be staying for another night before heading down river.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Tropical Tarantulas

There are only 100 days left on this trip, and we are doing some interesting things to spend those days. We are in the Amazon basin still, and have ridden a boat for most of the day. The title of today’s post is saying how tarantulas do not ever need vacation, as they live in interesting places like Columbia, Costa Rica, and most importantly: Peru.

We took a night walk tonight to use up some time, and saw 4 tarantulas of two different varieties. Averaged out, that would be two of each kind, but we saw three of one kind and one of another. The path that we were on wound its way around in the jungle, leaning around giant trees and weaving in between green thickets.

Our first tarantula was an all-black one that Reve teased out of its hole with a blade of grass. We saw another one of those before turning back, and on the way, we saw an orange and black one that never stayed long out of its hole. The final one was the child of the first one, and once we saw that, we went back to the lodge for another early start.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Mudslides and Mud

With rain, there comes mud. Not with the rain exactly, but the mud forms into its squelchy little self when rain falls from moisture in the air and wets the ground, causing it to be slippery, slimy, and sucking. On dirt roads, the rain and mud can cause mudslides, making the roads nearly or really impassable.

We rode on a road that was the former, not the latter, and were able to make it to where we are now to stay for the night. The place where we are now staying is called Bambu Lodge, built by a carpenter and his sons out of bamboo for guests that are on their way to the river. We are in the Amazon Basin, but have yet to get to any such thing as a port or dock protruding into the river that we have been following down a valley.

We left early this morning at about 5 am in a van made for at least 15 people that only had 8. At the first stop, we dropped off the uncle of our guide, Reve, at his house and then drove on. We drove past and walked though some pre-Incan burial grounds before eating breakfast on the road. We then continued on to the eastern equivalent of Ollantaytambo, before heading up to the pass. We stopped at the gate of Manu National Park but did not go in. From there we went downhill to where we are now, at about 730 meters above sea level. Tomorrow we finally get into the boat and on to the river.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Three Cs

We’re back to cell phone service, chocolate ice cream, and Cusco!

 

We started out our day at Reve’s dad’s lodge at five in the morning. We loaded up the boat and left at 5:30. At around seven, we had breakfast (kiwi, papaya, and cantaloupe with muesli and strawberry yogurt). Using the tea bag wrappers, Reve taught Ethan and me how to make origami tea-shirts and swans. I was not very good at it.

In about an hour, we arrived at Colorado, where there were five bars of 3G—that’s very good service for being in the middle of nowhere! Reve found us two vans, and all our stuff, Paltacha (the cook. His nickname means avocado), the boat helper (Jonathan), Reve, and the four of us went in them. Down we went down a muddy, bumpy road to another river, where all the stuff came out, into a boat, and across the river. Once across, we met our van driver from last week. He had come with his five-year-old son.

The ride back to Cusco took about seven-and-a-half hours. The highest point was 4,725 meters above sea level. I listened to One Direction pretty much the whole time, except when we stopped for lunch and, as Reve called them, pee-pee breaks.

We’re going to miss Reve. It was good we had someone who spoke English well enough to make us mind our manners. His favorite sayings were “Don’t kill yourself—let the caiman do it for you!” and “Laha muy, Paltacha! Laha muy!” (I’m guessing on the spelling, but “laha muy” means, roughly, ‘Your food is bad but we’ll take it anyway.’ It was a sort of inside joke.) Not in the van were two other important members of our trek: the capitan and his son, who was called Segundo, or the second (he has the same name as his dad, but we don’t know what it is).

So to them we say,

Ciao!

Terrible Tapirs

We woke up early this morning to see the macaws at their clay lick. Usually there is a path to the hide from Rio Madre de Dios, but it was under about six feet of water. So instead we took Amazon Trals Peru through the “little stream.” At least, Reve called it a “little stream.” However, since this is the wet season, the “little stream” was forty feet wide and ten feet deep.

We arrived at the hide at around six in the morning. After several hours, during which we ate pancakes with honey and butter, the forty to fifty macaws finally appeared. Only two macaws ever made to the actual lick. The rest just watched in the trees and eventually flew away when the vulture appeared.

After Ethan didn’t catch any piranhas in the brown Rio Blanco, we had lunch at the lodge, which was made up of: mushroom soup, deep-fried pepper, boiled plantain, cauliflower, beet, carrot, beans, watermelon, and a drink that tasted like cinnamon. A few hours later, we were eating still-warm spaghetti with mushrooms in the hide at the tapir lick, where we had gone against Dad’s best judgment. It was raining, the light was dimming, and we had no chance of seeing tapirs, since they don’t go out in the rain.

So, after only three hours, we slogged back to the lodge in single file: Reve lead, with his high power torch. Next came Ethan, who cared Reve’s umbrella. I came next, trying not to think because it would give me a headache. A pace behind walked Mom, trying to keep her cast dry under her rain jacket. Dad took up the rear, always right behind Mom, sometimes even stepping on her ankles.

We made it home and are, more or less, ready to wake up at five in the morning.

Ciao!

Bugger Them Bugs

The mosquitoes here may seem bad, but we’ve seen worse at lakes, such as Indigo Lake, in the Oregon Cascades. However, we have lost memories of those and complain to all hours about the bugs here.

Besides mosquitoes (which are big and slow here, and not as determined), there are bot flies, which are parasites attached to mosquitoes. We’ll know if we got any bot flies in us in two or three weeks, which is when the itching/pain appears.

There are also “teeny-tiny” bugs which leave red bumps with scabs on the top. Thankfully, these don’t itch, but the sand flies’ bite-spots do. The most common cause of itchy bites here would probably be the sand flies since they’re too small to get. (Also, just waving them away doesn’t work as it does with the mozzies.)

Unfortunately, the DEET lotion we brought with us is, while effective, greasy, sticky, and very, very strong-smelling (it’s not a good smell).

Ciao!

Not Feather Boas

Reve is a good storyteller, despite his first language not being English. Tonight at the supper table (supper, by the way, being eggplant, tomatoes, potato, pumpkin soup, star fruit juice, and not-so-good chocolate flan), he regaled us with stories about jaguars and pumas.

We ate at eight (and I am being alliterate-ish). The reason for the late hour of supper was that we walked to the tapir clay lick at around three in the afternoon, got there at four, and eventually left at seven.

No tapirs appeared.

We did, however, see two small boas (the largest was 1.5 meters), a poison dart frog (black with green stripes), a small, harmless frog, a swimming spider, three bats, and two tailless whip scorpions.

At the tapir clay lick hide, the four of us laid on mattresses while Reve watched and our gum boots dried. They weren’t wet on the inside (thankfully) since the water on the trail wasn’t that deep, and by the time we started the return trip, the water from today’s rain was already a few inches lower.

Ciao!

Monkey Steamed, Monkey Stewed

We saw three kinds of monkeys today: wooly, spider, and squirrel.

The first type—wooly—was next to a troop of squirrel monkeys. We only saw one or two woolies. Reve told us that they (woolies) are the type that throw poop at people (kind of like baboons do. These monkeys also pee on people). We’ve seen four types of Latin American monkeys before (Capuchin, spider, squirrel, and howler—all in Costa Rica). Now we can say we’ve seen five.

Reve told us that people used to hunt the monkeys, but they’re safe in Parque Nacional Manu. The people hunted the monkeys for food—monkey steamed and monkey stewed.

We also saw the squirrel monkeys on our first hike, which was just along the edge of the river. On our second hike, we went to the second lake. There we saw mosquitoes, mosquitoes, and more mosquitoes as we climbed a tower and looked down on the oxbow lake below. It seemed so hot today. There was only a memory of a breeze on the top of the tower, and below it was a very distant memory.

Ciao!

The Countdown Begins

99 days to go til home, sweet home!

 

In other news, today we wore our gum boots to go riding in a catamaran around a lake and look for caimans. This was after we’d ridden in the boat for five hours, getting to our current lodge.

“I was with some tourist on a night walk,” is how a story that Reve likes to tell begins. “I was wearing my gum boots. We were looking—ooh, aah, things like that—when the tourists say, ‘Look! Look!’ And there was a fer-de-lance between my feet.” He says that’s because the venomous snakes can sense heat, and the gum boots kept his heat in.

 

At the pond, we saw plenty of caimans. We got very close to one to take its picture, and it only swam away when it decided we were too close for comfort. That was one of two lakes that are near this lodge. The lodge is taken care by native people—one family comes in a month. Besides the natives, we (along with our cook, guide, captain, captain’s son) are the only people in this five million-acre UNESCO World Heritage site.

Ciao!

Sweet Lemons and Soaked Clothes

The thunder kept me awake last night for an hour. It was probably the loudest thunder I’d heard in thirteen years.

We got to sleep in a little bit and left Bambu Lodge at 8 in the morning. We stopped at a town and dropped off two people. Reve also picked up some D batteries for his flashlight, and we got our permit for Manu Park.

We stopped at an orchid garden where we saw some orchids and Reve and Ethan picked some “sweet lemons,” which smelled sour but tasted like nothing. (We think they weren’t ripe yet.)

Down in the town of Atalaya, we waited for a while for our boat. It eventually arrived, and we piled in with all our equipment. Instead of our van driver, we have the boat driver, his son, and the “boat helper.”

About half an hour in, we stopped to switch motors. Reve told us that all boats have to travel with two motors—just in case. Twenty minutes after lunch (fried vegetables and a boiled egg), the rain started coming down. I pulled on my rain coat and was fine, but in another ten minutes Ethan and I had to grab the cushion of the bench in front of us and put it over our knees, while Mom and Dad huddled under a tarp.

We finally got to Hummingbird Lodge, and we went on a walk through the forest, getting attacked by mosquitoes and seeing puma and tapir footprints (but no animals). Reve showed us two big trees (a mahogany and a fig). For supper, we had soup, vegetables, a scoop of potato, and eggplant steak. That was when Reve told us that he owns Hummingbird Lodge with a Californian girl. He paid for 15%, she paid for the other 85%. He’s losing land to Rio Madre de Dios at a rate of about 150 feet a year, so in the off season he’s planning on moving the buildings back.

He took us looking for tarantulas, and we saw four: a female and her baby, a smaller of the same kind, and a small brown one.

Ciao!

Cocaine and Cuy

“Here, we aren’t addicted to cocaine. As children we are told, ‘People who make bombs don’t blow up—they sell bombs. People who make guns don’t shoot themselves—they sell guns. Here, we make cocaine and we sell it.’”

Reve, our English, Spanish, Dutch, and Quechua speaking guide, was explaining uses of coca to us. We were standing in the field of coca at our lodge for the night. The other three uses of coca were to chew, to make tea, and to offer to gods.

 

We finally arrived at our lodge after eleven hours on the road: from five a.m. to six in the evening. We descended over 2,000 meters, passing waterfalls and mudslides in the little van that could. We had two meals—breakfast and lunch—and a snack of fruit and doxy. Dad saw a feral guinea pig, our only mammal of the day. We saw lots of butterflies, everyone else saw a non-venomous snake, and we all saw a “cock of the rock,” which is the national bird of Peru. Actually, we saw several of these red and black birds, but only one or two were picture-worthy.

Ciao!

Sweet to Be Swiss

We got to make our own chocolate today!

Dad didn’t, but he still gets to enjoy the results, which were 12 little pyramids, 11 Reese’s Pieces-style chocolates, and six chocolate bars. We could choose from twenty-two flavors to stick in our creations at ChocoMuseo, but I only used thirteen: pink marshmallows, sprinkles, coffee beans, Oreos, Peanut M&Ms, nibs (bits of cacao bean), mint, cloves and cinnamon, chili, sea salt, coconut, and quinoa. I could have used coca but decided not to. Some of the women who worked there were making “experimental” chocolate bars: white chocolate bars with coffee beans, coca, chili, or coconut. The museum doesn’t actually sell full-sized white chocolate bars, so they were definitely experimental.

At the beginning of our “lesson,” Manuel took us upstairs (us being Mom, Ethan and I—we were thankfully a small group) and asked us which country was the leading producer of cacao.

“Peru,” someone guessed.

“Venezuela.”

“Ivory Coast,” I said. (I was right, of course.)

“What’s the second-largest producer?” Manuel asked.

“Brazil.”

“Ecuador.”

“It’s in Africa,” he said.

“Ghana,” I answered. (Right again!)

It was also interesting to learn that, on average, a Swiss eats more than 11 kilograms of chocolate a year, while Americans (on average) eat only 5.3. I can’t wait to get to Switzerland!

Ciao!

Chocolate Crunches

Today was the day were we finally packed up everything into our backpacks and our small duffel bag to take down to the Amazon tomorrow morning. But first, there was an important thing to do before we left: go to the chocolate museum and make our own chocolate.

At the chocolate museum, we learned about the different stages of chocolate from bean to bar. There are three main different types of bean. Two are grown in South America, one in Africa. In Africa, the main producers are the Ivory Coast and Ghana, where there are a lot of beans grown. In South America, there is one type that is grown naturally and another that is a hybrid between the two grown in South America and Africa.

A tree usually has two seasons of harvest, one from October to March and another from June to August. The one from October to March is the larger one, averaging for about 100 pods per fully grown tree. In the other harvest season, there are only about 50 pods per tree.

The tree starts out in a shade covered nursery, growing about 8 inches tall before it is sold to tree farmers. The tree farmer should plant the tree under shade, preferably plantain or banana trees, and fertilize the plant. The plant will start producing fruit in about 2 or 3 years, but will reach full maturity at about 5 or 6 years of age. The plant needs to be tended to every week so that some fungi will not inhabit it and kill it off before it can produce any food.

After the beans get harvested, they are cut open and the white seeds are carried away to where they are dried in the sun and roasted. They then get but into bags and shipped away. The beans are eventually shelled and crushed, before getting mixed with milk powder and sugar to make the chocolate. Eventually, the chocolate gets heated at 40 degrees Celsius and then mixed and molded to form chocolate bars, which take 10 beans to make a 100g bar .

We then went to the factory to make ourselves some chocolate. We first roasted some beans in a clay pot before grinding them into a paste with mortar and pestle. We then used that paste to make several different kinds of drinks; an early Spanish hot chocolate and an early Mayan hot chocolate. The Mayan drink was a little bit spicy, but my favorite was definitely the Spanish hot chocolate.

We also learned that when the Spanish first got to the New World, they thought that the Mayan’s drink was too spicy and bitter. But when the Spanish took some of the beans home, the discovered how delectable the chocolate really is and made the first hot chocolate as we know it. They also kept the chocolate a secret from the rest of the Old World for 100 years!

Then the best part began: we got some warmed chocolate from a bowl and used a variety of molds and mix-ins to obtain chocolate. I got a mold for six chocolate bars and made each one different. There was one that had Brazil nuts, peanuts, and almonds ground up and there was another with peanut butter M&Ms with raisins. When we finished, we went back home for an hour to let the chocolate set. When we got it and tasted it, it was really, really good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Happy Flowers and Plenty of Capers

Sacsaywaman was our destination today (pronounced like “sexy woman”). Well, it was our goal. We didn’t actually make it in because it was 70 soles (about US$30) per person—that wasn’t gonna happen.

So we walked down the hill and up the hill to El Cristo Blanco, the white Christ. You can see the statue at night from Plaza de Armas since it’s lit up like the statue in Rio—it’s not as big, though.

Dad took a lot of pictures (of course) and then we walked down a loooong set of stairs and to our plaza, then on to Pan…tastico! (That’s the name of our B&B.)After a little while, we left for supper at Pachapapa. It was closed, as before, so instead we went to Sara, which is the Quechua word for corn.  All of us had pasta: Ethan had ravioli, Dad selected spaghetti, and Mom and I chose rigatoni. All four had different sauces. Mine was the most flavorful. It’s a good thing I like capers (a lot) because that sauce was very, very caper-y.

I decided not to have ice cream (since we’d already had waffles at The Meeting Place, where I also beat Ethan at Scrabble), but Dad and Ethan decided on chocolate. We ate by the puma fountain, which we’ve passed many, many times.

“There’s a wedding,” Ethan announced.

“Huh?”

“A car with flowers on it drove by.”

“How do you know it wasn’t a funeral?”

“They were happy flowers.”

Ciao!

We saw Saqsaywaman, but didn’t go in…

Pronounced ‘sexy woman,’ Saqsaywaman is an Incan fortress overlooking the Incan city of Cusco. We did not go into the fortress because of the admission cost, but we did climb up and see the white Christ that is lit up at night and overlooks the city.

It was a long ways up, and looking down over the city, we realized that the city ended very abruptly. There is the main square, a small suburb, and then…nothing. The rolling fields of green, separated from time to time with sprinklings of dark green trees, went on forever over and beside the hills that formed Cusco’s geographic location.

There were not very many terraces, so the hills were smoother, but some still grew quinoa and corn to supply the city and the farmers with food. We were impressed by how serene it was, even though, when we turned around, there were the sounds of the city; the car horns, the church bells, and the din of people speaking to each other.

We finally went down the hill with alacrity; being happy that we were not climbing up the flights and flights of stairs that wound their winding way higher and higher up the hill. We were lucky to have climbed up the hill in a valley, but were climbing down the hill on the middle of the face. Later, we had dinner at another organic restaurant, and my ravioli was scrumptious!

That’s all for now, Folks!

Amazonian Anacondas

That is what we are hoping to see on our 7-day tour in the Amazon basin starting on Monday. We went to the office of the tour company this morning to be briefed on our physical fitness and to sign that we will not hold the company accountable if we get injured or killed.

Another thing that we did during our interview was try on rubber boots. When we finished with all of that, we went to the Plaza de Armas. From there, we went up the hill to our hostel and I worked on schoolwork for a long, long time before leaving for dinner.

We had a delicious dinner, and the staff was really nice and gave us a complimentary dessert, which was good. After that, we went to our hostel and bedded down for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Casts and Couscous

The first half of our day was devoted to (a) learning more about our trip to the Amazon on Monday and (b) trying to get Mom’s cast off. Guess what? It didn’t come off! Instead the doctor told Mom to get it off in two weeks (when we’re in Morocco). While Mom and Dad were working on that, Ethan did schoolwork and I read Code Name Verity, which is an amazing book (I spent most of supper telling Ethan to read it).

Eventually (at around 5 p.m.) we went out for a walk, which ended up with us finding a place for supper called Greens Organic. Mom and I shared a bowl of pumpkin soup and chicken on couscous. It was delicious. So was the (free) dessert: the brownie to compare to all brownies.

On the way home, we stopped at Plaza de Armas to take in the atmosphere. Every Peruvian town/city has a Plaza de Armas—the main square. Dad and Ethan started being embarrassing, so I was relieved when we left the public eye.

Ciao!

The Rain in Peru Falls Mainly On You

“So what does Cusco do—mining? Farming? Manufacturing?”

Solo turistico,” Ronnie replied. We were within a five minute drive of our B&B (Bed & Bakery), and Mom was questioning our driver from Ollantaytambo.

In the morning, we’d been given a tour by Elvis, who met us at Apu Lodge at 8 a.m. He walked us around Ollantaytambo in the rain, telling us about how the Incas moved huge stones (by either having people pull the rocks that were on logs, by sending them down ramps, or by some other way), how you can tell from which town women are by their hats, and how messages were sent from Cusco to Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu to the coast (on foot in a relay). He also told us how Ollantaytambo got its name: Ollantay is the name of an Incan king, and tambo means lodge. Ollantay hid there from the Spanish, and once the Spanish captured him (and eventually killed him in Cusco), the Incas were defeated.

After our tour, we checked out the ice cream place, which unfortunately had no place to sit. So we took our ice cream to Corazones Café (Heart Café), where Mom and I shared a piece of cake and a bowl of soup and Ethan and Dad split a grilled cheese sandwich while Ethan indulged in a brownie and Dad enjoyed a huge cookie. Yes, it does sound like we went a little bit overboard in the sugar department, but Dad’s excuse is that we climbed Wayna Picchu and walked around in the rain for four hours.

Ciao!

Some Smart Incas

Breaking rocks is hard. We as modern day humans are still are astonished by how the Incas could put rocks together seamlessly without mortar to survive for hundreds of years. One of the methods of cutting the rock was pounding it with harder rocks, while another was drilling holes, putting in sticks, and then soaking the wood to make it expand and crack the rock.

The moved the rocks from the quarry 50 km away using wooden rollers to go across a river and up the hill. Using alpaca and straw ropes, the dragged the rocks up the ramps. There is a giant rock that is along the roadside, and giant tractors could not even budge it from its resting place in the ground.

We learned all of that from our guide for our half day tour today in Ollantaytambo (Olly).  When we left, we drove to Cusco and there we checked into our bed and bakery before going out for dinner in town. When we finished with that, we went to a bank and extracted some money from the depths of an ATM before heading back to our B&B.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Fountain of Eternal Diarrhea

Some people call the fountain in the ancient city of Machu Picchu the ‘Fountain of Eternal Life,’ but now, it is dirty and there is not enough oxygen in the water, so it is now the fountain of eternal diarrhea. We did not partake of that water, though we did see it a lot.

We left Aguas Calientes this morning and rode the bus up to Machu Picchu. At Machu Picchu, we immediately went across the city to the trailhead for Waynapicchu.  We walked up and down and then up some more, gripping the steel cables tightly when needed, before finally arriving at the top and seeing the view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding land.

By the time that we got back down to the bottom, it was time to go on our tour around the city. We went with 12 other people and learned about how the Incas worshiped the Spaniards when they arrived because they thought that they were gods, and then got slaughtered by the thousands. When the tour was finished, we went off by ourselves and looked at some viscachas and at how closely knit the rocks were.

When we were finished with all of that, we got back in the bus and rode back to AC, were we went to the train station to go back to Olly, where we are now.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Bird Poop

We made it up Wayna Picchu—and no one knows how.

We also made it down, and Mom thinks that’s more impressive.

Wayna Picchu is the picturesque mountain in all Machu Picchu pictures. It’s on basically every postcard in Aguas Calientes, and most in Peru. It is only about 240 meters higher than the starting point—and there are a lot of stairs. It wasn’t as “scary” as people had made it out to be. True, the steps were slippery and the ten-meter tunnel at the top damp, but even Mom didn’t slip. It was only when we were back on level ground in Machu Picchu that Mom and I tripped.

Once we were back in Machu Picchu, we had to hurry to catch our tour group before it left. We formed 25% of the group, which included three others from our B&B. The tour lasted two hours, and we visited all the highlights: botanical garden, guard house, Templo del Sol, and Templo del Condor. The Condor Temple was the most interesting, since the rocks were shaped like a condor, and we got to walk up through the “stomach” of the condor, making us bird poop.

We ate lunch (squished guacamole sandwiches) after the tour, and then we went back inside to look at the lodging for the nobles. Commoners were, apparently, not allowed at Machu Picchu. How can you tell if you’re a commoner or not? Nobles are born with no moles.

 

Eventually we rode the bus down the thirteen switchbacks to Aguas Calientes, where I mailed some postcards. At 6:30 p.m. we got on the train to Ollantaytambo, and that’s where we are now.

Ciao!

Almost There

We are in the town that is at the end of the Sacred Valley closest to Machu Picchu. Tomorrow is the day that we will go up to the ruined Inca town and see why they lived there and see some of their buildings. We are also going to go up Wayna Picchu, which is a large hill at one end of Machu Picchu and is the hill that has the Temple of the Sun on the top.

We are going to go to everything tomorrow, and we are now in Aguas Calientes. We met our guide tonight and talked to him about what we are going to do in the morning. We take the bus around 6:30 to the ruins and then go up Wayna Picchu between 7 and 8 am.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Escape the Eggs

We’re situated in Aguas Calientes, which is a twenty-five minute drive from Machu Picchu. We rode a train for about two hours this morning, talking to Elena and her husband, who live in Spokane, WA. Elena is from Mexico.

Mostly we talked about our trip, where we’re going, how long it is, what we’re doing for school, and all that stuff.

Everyone was excited to see the start of the Inca Trail, which is four days long and really high and I’m glad we’re not doing it!

In Aguas Calientes, we couldn’t find the man with a sign with our names on it, so we just walked to our hotel after finding it on a map. It was raining, of course, which made it Aguas Frios instead of Aguas Calientes.

After Dad had a lie-about, we walked around the town. Mom and I went into a jewelry shop, and when we exited, Ethan and Dad had disappeared down the Via de Escape alley. Eventually they came back and told us what they’d found: a platform that could hold four people in case of an emergency.

“What would you have to worry about here?” I asked.

“Tsunamis,” Dad replied.

“Yeah, it said something about ‘huevos,’” Ethan added.

“Huevos?” Mom asked. “Do you know what that means?”

“Um, waves?”

“Eggs, Ethan. Eggs.”

Ciao!

When in Ollie

The real name of the town that we are now in is really long and complicated, but at least it starts with an ‘o.’ It is out between Cusco and Macchu Picchu, and so we are staying the night in preparation to leave in the morning for Aguas Calientes. Aguas Calientes is on the bottom of the bus route up to the Macchu Picchu area where we will go in two days’ time.

Ollie is a town in the Sacred Valley that has hills with ruins surrounding it. Today, we climbed up one of the hills to see some granaries and to look out over our town. It looks like an ear of corn with the roofs that have exactly the same pattern of reddish-brown shingles that overlap each other. The town is very small and we have walked across it several times.

When we left the hill with granaries, we went over to the bottom of the hill with the Temple of the Sun but didn’t go up because of the admission costs. At the bottom, we saw a really small kitten on some steps and declined to pay some men in traditional dress for their services of standing in front of our camera lens. Later, after we went to dinner, we got some giant brownies and came back to our lodge for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Save the Guinea Pigs!

Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no.

How could they hurt the innocent little guinea pigs at a—I shudder to think of it—cuyeria????? (In case you don’t know, cuy is guinea pig in Spanish, so a cuyeria is where you eat guinea pigs.) I knew that guinea pigs were on the Peruvian menu, but I wasn’t expecting to see “CUYERIA” in big, bold letters painted on the side of a building in blood red.

This was on our way out of Cusco. We arrived in Cusco after a short and uneventful flight from Arequipa. From there, Ronnie took us in his Yaris to Apu Lodge. It was about five minutes into this drive that I saw the dreadful word.

 

We are safe (unlike guinea pigs) in this lodge from the cold and wet of Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is a little village at about 8,000 feet above sea level that is, apparently, a popular American tourist destination, as we learned tonight at supper.

For supper, Dad ordered his usual agua con gas, and Mom, Ethan, and I chose agua sin gas. When our waters arrived, instead of three aguas sin gas and one agua con gas, there were three aguas con gas and one agua sin gas. Mom got lucky and selected the agua sin gas, and Ethan and I had to suffer through our 350 milliliters of nastiness.

Ciao!

Goodbye Mister Gooey

Today we said good-bye to our kind and generous benefactor, the man of the apartment, the Dr. Gooey.  He left this evening with his heavy suitcases and backpack on a taxi towards the airport. This is the last that we will see of him for at least 3½ months. We spent our last day with him going around town and into it to buy some things that were needed and not.

When we woke up this morning, we all ate breakfast and then my mother, Dr. Gooey, and I went into town and went to some local shops where my mother bought something for the table and I bought a drawing pad. We then went back to the apartment, but on the way went to a supermarket and mall to see some ice cream.

When we got back to the apartment, we puttered around for a little while before going to the ice cream shop that my mother and I had scouted out. When we finished with that, we went over to the shops and bought nothing before leaving the mall for real. When we left, we went back to the apartment, and later we went to a restaurant for dinner before saying goodbye to Uncle Richard.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Very Down Day with One Momentous Event

Mr. Gooey left us all alone in Arequipa.

Well, he’s currently in the process of saying good-bye. He’s going home to California, but we still have three-and-a-half months before we can think about home. Anyway, we didn’t really do anything today. Mom, Mr. Gooey, and Ethan went shopping a few times, but I stayed home to do schoolwork while Dad deleted pictures. Eventually, we all left to get ice cream at the local mall, but that didn’t take much time.

An hour later, we left for supper. Mr. Gooey, Ethan, and I had sandwiches (mine was chicken, pineapple, and mayo and very good) and Mom and Dad had salads. Then we came home at 8 pm so Mr. Gooey can catch his flight in an hour or so.

Ciao!

An Evening with the Riddles

Though we did not meet a guy named Tom tonight, we did tell some riddles to one another in the aspiration to get the other’s brain cells to work harder. I was the main one asking questions, though several times in during dinner my father did mention the ‘What is in my pocketses?’ riddle. We did not, however, ever ask that riddle because it was not actually a riddle, just a simple guessing game where some creatures in dark mines know not of what you are speaking.
We did all of that in an Italian restaurant that was overlooking a busy street and on top of a casino. Before that, we had done several things. We left the apartment this morning and went out to a monestary where there was a large, nice, low-light library with a lot of sheepskin bound books. After we had looked around that, we went downstairs and looked at the stuffed birds and such from the Amazon and saw a lot of clay jars. When we finished, we left the monestary and the workers locked the door behind us. From there, we went over to the market where there was everything from chicken feet to flowers to linens. There was also meat of every variety. We then left and did a tour of the cathedral. Among other things, the large bell in the left tower was 5 tons in weight and it took two men to swing the clapper.
After that, we went to Creppisimo, a crepe shop, and ate some crepes. Eventually, we left, and went back to the apartment for some naps. We did some things and took naps before deciding to go out and go to the Italian restaurant. When we finished eating, we thought about riddles for some time before heading back to the flat to do this post and to go to bed.
That’s all for now, Folks!

Quakes Killing a Cathedral

Thankfully there were no earthquakes today [that were big and in Arequipa] because we went to Basilica Catedral de Arequipa. It’s famous for having the second floor of one of its two bell towers fall in the 2001 earthquake and cause a hole to be developed in the cathedral’s roof.

Basilica Catedral de Arequipa has been through more than its share of earthquakes. In January, 1583, an earthquake completely destroyed the sillar building. (Sillar is a type of white volcanic rock. It’s like pumice, but denser.) This was forty-three years after the location of the cathedral was decided. In 1590, plans for a second cathedral took shape, but in 1600 the eruption of the Huaynaputina stratovolcano destroyed part of the new brick building. Four years later, an earthquake demolished the remaining structure.

In 1621, assignments were made for the construction of a new cathedral. This was a mere twelve years after the idea had been suggested.

Seven years later, the man assigned to the project—Andrés de Espinoza—died. However, in 1656, the 180-foot-long building was finished. It survived the earthquakes of 1666, 1668, 1687, and 1784 with minor damage.

In 1844, a fire broke out in the summer and destroyed many of the paintings, sculptures, and furniture. Reconstruction was started two weeks later.

Improvements were made to the cathedral between 1845 and 1868, which brought an earthquake that obliterated the two towers and façade arcs. Nothing major happened in the 20th century, and all was peaceful until 2001.

On August 15, 2002, exactly 462 years after the cathedral’s location was established, the finishing touches were put on the restored towers.

 

We walked on the roof and up to the towers. Ethan and I tried to ring the bells, but we weren’t willing to do it together, and our guide told us that it takes two people to be able to hit the 500-pound clapper against the 5-ton bell.

Ciao!

Sensors, Seismographs, and Seismologists

After being woken up this morning in the ‘maid’s quarters,’ I ate a hurried breakfast and got into a truck with Uncle Richard, my father, and Victor, a seismologist for one of the colleges here in Arequipa. We drove out of town on a road that used to be the main throughway between Arequipa and Cusco. It is now mainly unused, so there was no traffic on our way up through the thousands of meters. We went up and up and finally arrived at the sensor housing that we were going to decommission.

The sensor was a metallic cylinder that weighed about 45 pounds and had an internal pendulum to measure quakes from different areas. It is expensive and fits into a plastic box about twice its size for shipping purposes. We officially decommissioned the sensor as soon as we had moved it from its specified corner where it had been resting for 5 years, pointing north. After we had packed everything away and taped the wires together, we rode back down the mountain.

When we got back to the flat, we messed around for a little bit before we all went with Victor to a mill, where there were llamas, and to a storage facility for the CalTech equipment. In the basement, there were several seismographs that were working while we talked. Victor turned up the amplifier for the sensor and made it look like there had been an earthquake on one of the seismographs for our amusement and we looked at the various sensors in the three rooms. When we were finished, we went back to the flat.

That’s all for now, Folks!

My Mother the Big Bird

With a yellow poncho and only one arm sticking out of the arm hole, my mother commented that she was the ‘big bird.’ We are in Arequipa now and are staying at my Uncle Richard’s apartment in downtown. We woke up this morning early in Arica and drove to the Arica international Airport. When we got there, the airport was empty. After waiting and waiting for a while.

There was finally someone at the check-in counter and we checked in and were the first people waiting upstairs for the police counter to open. We waited for a while upstairs before the police counter opened and we were able to go through that and security before waiting for a while more for the airplane to get ready.

After 35 minutes of flight time, we popped down into Arequipa and found my Uncle Richard waiting for us and reading a novel. When we got out into the parking lot, we found a taxi and all 5 of us got into a space meant for only 4 people. When we finished up with that and all of the grunting of going up 4 flights of stairs to my uncle’s flat, where we spread our stuff out for a while. When we decided to leave, we went out to get keys, Claro, and look into some museums.

We first got some keys duplicated by a streetside vendor before walking down the street for a ways and getting to a convent. We learned about how the nuns were not allowed to leave the walls and only their slaves could go out. We also learned how they were NEVER EVER allowed to see men, and even the priest for Mass was always behind a curtain.

When we finished up with that, we found that outside, it was raining, so on a street corner, we bought a poncho and an umbrella and went to a grocery store to buy some necessities. After going through the necessary steps to get a taxi back to the flat, we rode back and the new keys worked. For the rest of the evening, we have eaten See’s Candy, talked, and done things on some of the various electronics scattered around the room.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Food and Fifty Sensors

Mr. Gooey took Ethan and Dad away for most of this morning up to a volcano, where they removed a sensor. Mr. Gooey is in the process of taking down the program, which had about fifty sensors in Peru, from the coast to Lake Titicaca.

They returned at about one, five hours after their departure. Dad napped for a while Mom, Ethan, and Mr. Gooey talked. Eventually we left with Victor, one of Mr. Gooey’s colleagues, and headed to a flour mill on Rio Sabandia in the town of Sabandia. Dad, we believe, turned on one of the wheels. It was raining, and I hid under my umbrella, occasionally sharing. We also looked at the llama, alpacas, bull, chickens, and guinea pigs, which will sadly be food in a couple months (I’m sure). After that Victor drove us to Mr. Gooey’s main building, where a really, really big earthquake happened on the paper with the needle that carved lines into the paper instead of drawing. That was because Victor turned up the sensitivity. The three sheets of white paper with black ink went three different ways: one was for east-west movement, one wrote about up-down movement, and one recorded north-south movement. Each sheet of paper lasts for twenty-four hours. I guess someone will be there at midnight to change out a the three.

We returned to the apartment for a short while then headed out to a nice restaurant for dinner. All of us had chocolate soufflé for dessert and bruschetta and mushrooms for appetizers. For the main course, each of us chose something different. I chose pumpkin ravioli with caramelized walnuts, which was pretty good.

Ciao!

And now for Peru

Today we left Arica in northern Chile. After a few hours in the airport and a few minutes on the plane, we arrived in Arequipa, Peru. We will be staying here a few days before heading up to the highlands, Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Amazon jungle.

Posted in RTW

With Mr. Gooey

We’re now with our uncle, the Mr. Richard Gooey (at least that’s how his name is pronounced here, according to him). Mr. Gooey has been kind enough to let us stay in his apartment during our time in Arequipa.

We woke up way too early this morning. I’m actually being serious—we didn’t need to be up for at least an hour-and-a-half. Dad actually took Sky Airlines seriously when he read that you had to be at checked in three hours before an international flight. The counters didn’t even have people behind them until about an hour til we boarded. Ethan and I played Temple Run upstairs for a while, and we eventually made it past the police.

The ride was short but sweet, but had some turbulence and the plane tilted all the way over on its side as we neared Arequipa, which was startling.

We saw Mr. Gooey as we waited in line, but we didn’t actually get to talk to him until about an hour later. The line moved slower than some members of my family.

The apartment has a kitchen, bedroom (maid’s quarters), dining/living room, and bathroom downstairs and three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Mr. Gooey, the parents, and I have bedrooms upstairs. Ethan took the maid’s quarters and was thrilled.

We eventually left for crepes (lunch) after See’s Candy (breakfast) from California. I had the Indiana crepe, which was an Indian curry with pineapple and chicken folded up in a crepe. It was so good! While we were waiting, Ethan and I taught Mr. Gooey how to play Parcheesi. After helping Mr. Gooey finish his dessert, we finished the game. Ethan won, unfortunately.

Eventually it started raining. We were in Monasterio de Santa Catalina at the time. It was (and still is) a convent. However, in the past it was for rich, rich women who brought their servants (and sometimes children, if they were widows) with them. They usually each lived in four-room houses. At the its largest, the convent held 174 women in 80 rooms. The greatest number of people in a house was three. Well, the greatest number of rich women (usually family members). The servants didn’t count.

When we left, we walked around the area, getting Claro (cell phone chips) and looking at nativity scenes in a store, including one with an Eskimo family and a polar bear and her cub, a walrus, and a penguin. That could never happen. Polar bears don’t live in Antarctica, and penguins don’t go to the North Pole.

Because the brochure that Mom was using to cover her cast ripped, we splurged on a two-dollar bright yellow poncho for her and a five-dollar rickety umbrella for the rest of us (namely me). We went on to the grocery store, where we got essential staples such as strawberry jam and Special K.

Ciao!

‘The Only Vegetarian Restaurant in Chile’

That is what my father called the restaurant that we went to for lunch/dinner today to try to get to bed earlier. It didn’t work. It is 9:35 PM according to my watch and I am still writing this. The reason for that is because a man name Jack from Washington (state) played the banjo while I played one of the guitars that the hostel provides.

For the sake of my readers, I will start at the beginning of our day: As we are in Arica now, we decided to sleep in to get a little bit more rest. After waking up and getting some food for breakfast in the café downstairs, we stayed inside well past 11:30 playing scrabble, labeling pictures, and reading.

When we finally left the house, we went to the restaurant mentioned above in the first paragraph and ate some vege-meat, rice, and vegetables. When we left, we decided not to buy some of the scrumptious looking pastries behind the counter at the door, even though we were still feeling a bit esurient.

After getting back home, we decided to go back to the market street and get some helado to eat. Eryn and Father shared a bowl of three flavors, while my mother and I shared another. When we finished, we went back home and I played the guitar with Jack on his banjo.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Chatting About Chile

My time in Chile opened with One Direction singing.

Seriously: we were on the bus from Bariloche to Valdivia and, after twenty minutes in no-man’s-land and of listening to One Direction, we crossed the border, reading the sign that said “Beinvenidos a Chile!

After all the border hassle, we arrived tired and hungry in Valdivia, home of the biggest earthquake ever recorded. We spent a week there, taking a boat through seven rivers and enjoying the fresh food from the market. Next came another overnight bus and then a long wait at the Santiago station, waiting for our van to arrive. It finally did—just with a different driver than expected.

He took us on a tour of Chile’s capital, Santiago, and eventually drove us to Valparaiso. We passed another happy week there, especially enjoying the dogs (Harvard, Yale, and Avery) and cats (Olga, Bassy, Pillar, Azul, Midnight, Pineapple, Mickey… I’m sure I’m forgetting some). After all the delicious ice cream we enjoyed in Plaza Victoria, we didn’t really want to leave. But there we were—up at 3 in the morning so we could get to Santiago in time for our flight to Calama: we just barely made it to the gate on time.

From Calama we rode in a van up to San Pedro de Atacama, where we spent a couple days at 8,000 feet in elevation, admiring the flamingoes and poisonous pools. After another night in Calama, we rode in a bus on Ethan’s 12th birthday to Arica. We had a supper of (not-so-good) pizza after we found that Jalapeno was closed. For dessert, we had really good ice cream, and Ethan opened his presents (shirts, colored pencils, candy, sunglasses case, Parcheesi). The next day we went up 11,500 feet and found ourselves in Putre. We were lucky enough to see four carnivores (all foxes—unfortunately. We were hoping for cats) with Barbara and on our own high in the mountains, higher than the top of Mount Whitney.

Yesterday we drove back down to Arica, and we’ll be here til noon tomorrow, when our Peru-bound flight takes off.

As you can see, our time in Chile has had its ups and its downs, but the best part has been the ice cream.

Ciao!

Night of the Dancing Skeletons

Hello from down low! Yesterday I could’ve said ‘hi from up high,’ but I wasn’t thinking about rhyming then.

We’re about 11,680 feet lower in elevation than we were in Putre this morning. We were actually higher at the vizcacha place than at Putre, but I don’t know how high that was.

At the vizcacha place, our first animal was not a vizcacha or a bird: it was a mouse. A dead mouse, to be exact. A dead mouse hanging from a fox’s mouth, to be totally honest. That was pretty exciting (even though Dad thought it was part of a vizcacha). We followed it with Dad’s camera for a while, but then it disappeared. Dad intended on taking a dip in the hot springs, but he decided there was no good way to dry off. Meanwhile, Mom saw foxes on the hill where we saw the three yesterday.

“Foxes, Ethan! Give me the camera and binoculars,” she exclaimed breathlessly.

“Mom, they’re not foxes.”

“Well, they’re red—”

“Those are vicuñas.”

You can blame it on her age. Well, you could technically blame it on anything: the hill was rather far off, and red blobs moving around could mean just about anything.

We finished the loop, seeing more vicuñas and vizcachas and vertebrae but no more zorros.

We got back to the hotel at 11, just in time to collect our luggage for the ride down to Arica, which claims to be the driest city in the world. On the way, we stopped at a museum and looked at mummified bodies. The air is dry enough here to preserve the bodies almost perfectly.

After chilling a bit in the hostel, we left for supper at a place called T&T. But we should have guessed that it would be closed (what with our luck at Jalapeno). So we wandered around for a while. Finally, leaning against a lamppost, Ethan pointed our attention towards the man with the skeleton puppets.

“Aren’t they cool?” he cried. The man was making the puppets’ mouths open and close when the “music” in the background produced a human voice, and both were “playing” instruments (guitar and drum). At the end of each song, of course, the man walked around with a purple felt hat, asking for money.

Ciao!

Mas Zorros

Or ‘More Foxes’

The time for us to leave was rapidly approaching when we had finished packing everything into bags into the dining room and left off in our gray car up the mountainside to where we saw the foxes yesterday. When we got up to the top, we went over to where we had seen a lot of viscachas yesterday, and low and behold, there was a fox, or zorro in Spanish.

It had what we think was a dead mouse in its mouth and it went up to a little cave and the mouse disappeared. When the fox got back out of the cave and walked along the rock-strewn hillside towards where we saw the three yesterday. When it got out of our line of site, we went across the small bridge and across the road.

Across the road, we saw some more viscachas and that was about it. After my father took several pictures of a mouse, we went back across the road to our and down the hill back to Putre to get out stuff and go down to sea-level and Arica. When we got to the bottom, we went to the place where we had stayed last time and lounged around before going to dinner.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Carnivores from the Car

We went to the same place (Cantaverdi) for supper. I had the same meal (salmon with ensalada Nortina [grain, olives, lemon]). Our drive with Barbara wasn’t the same as on Saturday, though.

We actually saw carnivores! Looks like our luck is holding…

We saw twenty-five vizcachas (the chinchilla-like mammals), one guanaco (the same as yesterday), three tarucas (which are otherwise known as north Andean deer), three Andean foxes (cubs), and one rare diademed sandpiper plover. We saw some other birds, too, along with plenty of vicuñas, alpacas, llamas, and cows. Barbara was shocked (shocked!) to see the foxes, but we could tell by the bones littering the hillside that they’d been there a while.

Once our drive was over, we dropped off Barbara at her house and went back to our hotel, where Ethan and I did schoolwork (yuck) and eventually looked at the videos of the fox and cutting off Mom’s cast, among other things (those were the most hilarious).

Ciao!

Viscachas, Vicunas, and Zorros

Parinacota. The name is the name of a town, volcano, and province. All of which are in Chile. The town has an old church. But the guy that runs the place went on strike when a new cell phone tower went up a ways away from the church yard. The bell tower has to working bells and two without clappers. The stairs up on the inside were very short. Even I had to duck down to get up to the top and look out over the small town.

Parinacota was on our tour with Barbara today. We went out in our Nissan X-Trail up the shortcut, and almost got hit when a red mining truck came screaming around the corner. Luckily, both the driver and my father had good reflexes and while he went off the road on our side, we went over to the other side before continuing on. After driving for a while, we got to a hot spring and got out to walk for a while. On the way to the springs, we saw several viscachas sitting on rocks alongside the path. After feeling the water, we went across a bridge, and on the other side, Eryn spotted some movement. I identified them as foxes through Barbara’s scope and with my eyes, and it turned out to be 3 cubs playing around on the opposite hill.

After watching the foxes disappear and seeing some vicunas run around a bit, we went out to the other side of the rod and saw some viscachas again and then, in the distance, some rheas. After doing the necessary ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing,’ we went back to the car and drove away towards Parinacota. After Parinacota, we went back to Putre.

That’s all for now, Folks!

 

4795

The sign said 5200 m.s.n.m., which I think means 5200 meters above sea level, but according to our GPS, the highest that we went today was 4795 meters above sea level. However, I am not just writing this post to argue about what signs and electronics say, I am writing this post so that anyone out there who wants to learn more about our trip can do it without leaving the comfort of their office chairs.

We drove up the hill this morning from Putre, without guides or other people, just us. We went up on the dirt road and saw some Andean Deer eating from farmers’ terraces, but those were about the only animals that we saw for that time. After that, we turned left off of the main highway and onto a road that went up towards some snowy peaks and pinnacles, up north.

After getting up to the summit with the aforementioned sign, we started down the other side, figuratively speaking, as we were still way below the top of the mountain, barely above the desert-like plains down below us. After driving for a while, we got to a large stream, , where everybody got out to see what it was like. Eryn and I crawled through the culvert. It was fun, and we were really glad that we had been wearing hiking boots to go through it, not shoes that were for running and were made of foam.

While we drove from town to town and back on that road, we saw a lot of vicunas on either side of the road. At the end, we turned around and went back the way we came, seeing-again- lots of vicunas alongside the car. When we got back to Putre, we did some work and then ate dinner.

That’s all for now,  Folks!

Pathetic Playgrounds and Other Putre Pleasures

Barbara probably thought we were going to see guanacos yesterday, but we didn’t see a single one. Today we saw a single one, right outside of Putre on our way up to the mountains.

We kept driving til we were at the highest point of our trip: 5,200 meters (if you can believe the sign). Before that, we had looked at a marsh where Dad got his feet all muddy and Ethan and I walked through a pipe. It was slippery in some parts, and my hair got dirty from bracing against the top of the pipe, but now we can say we did it.

We drove down (to about 3,500 meters) where we looked for rheas and foxes and found neither. Instead we found chalky caves in the salmon-colored rock. One of the caves had bones with skin still attached. However, there were only a few bones, so we knew that the puma hadn’t been around recently.

Ethan really wanted us to cross the river in the valley, but we didn’t (thankfully) since Dad didn’t trust the X-Trail. So back up the hills we went. We decided to go to a town called Colpitas. It had about five buildings and eight activities advertised on a sign: bird watching, flora seeing (I guess that’s what the flower means), hiking, picturesque views, a playground, bathrooms, music playing, and old buildings. The playground was rather pathetic: a yellow swing-set structure with two rings and a bar that was way too high for anyone to reach.

While we were in the car, Ethan and I worked on memorizing the Periodic Table of the Elements in the order of atomic number. So far I’m up to zirconium (number 40), while Ethan’s still at krypton (number 36).

On the way home, the dark clouds started to gather. Even though there was thunder and a few drops of rain, the power didn’t go out.

Ciao!

Barbara and Break-Downs

Barbara, the American woman from Alaska, sat shotgun in the X-Trail while Dad drove around on the Altiplano. Well, tried to drive.

After about an hour, Dad stopped to take pictures of the Andes and vicuñas. Barbara, Mom, Ethan, and I waited in the car while Barbara talked about vizcachas, which are closely related to chinchillas. We had seen about five vizcachas on a rocky hill about ten minutes earlier, and Barbara claimed that they were one of her favorite animals.

Dad got back in and turned the key, and we were off.

Except we weren’t.

There was a grating noise and then silence.

The battery was dead—that’s not supposed to happen in a rental car (but Dad already dislikes Europcar).

Lots of semis passed us before a van finally pulled over. It was one of Barbara’s friends from Putre, and he helped Dad start the car. As he left, he said (in Spanish), “Don’t turn it off.”

That meant that one of us had to be babysitting the car at all times, so all six of us couldn’t go down to Lago Chungará at the same time. At Lago Chungará, we saw one Chilean flamingo, lots of giant coots, and some other types of birds, along with the snow-capped mountains. The tallest mountain in Bolivia, just over the border, was hidden by the clouds. Barbara said that the pass between us and the base of the mountain used to be the main Chilean-Bolivian border, but now it’s mined. De-mining efforts are underway, but “no one remembers where the mines are any more.”

On the drive home, we saw llamas, alpacas, and rheas, which were important to me because just two days ago I used the bird to stump Ethan in 20 Questions (I usually win anyway).

Once home, we waited for the thunder to boom, the power to shut off, and the rain to pound on the roof. The first two happened, but, surprisingly, it didn’t rain.

Ciao!

Rheas, Roads, and Rain

In the morning waking up,
showering and eating food,
Drinking juice from a cup,
trying to be in a good mood.

We drive to our guide’s house,
pick her up and drive down, the road with my mom’s spouse.
Away, away, from town.

Seeing deer in numbers,
driving down the road,
trying not to slumber,
seeing fields that were sowed.

Seeing an animal,
right alongside the car
a rodent and mammal,
off of the roadside tar.

Going past the police,
Stopping for some llamas,
Seeing Andean Geese,
Alpacas and their mamas

Looking at flamingoes,
and coots of different kinds,
our time draws to a close,
a rhea we might find.

Reveling in no rain,
coming home and reading,
Wetness would be a pain,
But not at all would eating.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Games & Guanacos

We slept through the alarm again this morning, so Ethan and I got to breakfast a few minutes after eight. We met Barbara, our Alaskan tour guide, there. She drank coffee and talked while Ethan and I munched on crumpets and toast.

After breakfast, Barbara went back to her house near the police station and we got into our car with down jackets, rain jackets, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks, and cameras for a drive of a few hours. We decided to go to Belen, which is Spanish for ‘Bethlehem.’ After missing the turn, we got onto the road with curvas. We eventually got to the tiny village of Belen, which was quiet in the early afternoon sun.

Ethan and I climbed the short red bell tower, still covered with confetti and streamers from Carnaval two weeks ago. There’s lots of pink confetti in the gutters of Putre, too, especially the “river” that goes down O’Higgins, the main street. Barbara called it a river—it’s really just a large ditch that divides the muddy road into two lanes.

We didn’t stay in Belen long. Soon we were back on the road on the way back to Putre. It started raining, of course (it is the rainy season. However, it’s also nearly freezing and it’s summer). We passed the construction zone, the tank from a semi that fell down the hill, and where we had seen nine or ten guanacos early this morning. Guanacos are one of the largest species of mammal in South America, along with the manatee, tapir, and jaguar. Their only real predator is the puma, which is, unfortunately, rare.

Other animals in the area include three types of flamingoes, vicuñas, foxes, and viscachas, which are similar to chinchillas.

When we got home, Ethan and I did schoolwork and, once again, played Parcheesi.

Ciao!

Cars and Camalids

Just like yesterday, Eryn and I slept through Eryn’s watch alarm, and my mother was late in trying to get us up. After taking showers, my sister and I joined our parents in the café, and just as we were getting our food, Barbara, an Alaskan and our tour guide, arrived. We chatted with her for a while about what animals we wanted to see, and then she left and we got in the car for a drive.

We went for a while on the rode that we took into town yesterday, and then, at a truck stop, took a road south. We were in the ‘zonas de curvas’ and there were a lot of very pretty flowers. From pink to blue to red, there were lots and lots of different colors that brightened up the day, unlike what would happen if there was only the usual arrangement of dead grass and cactus.

Eventually, we got to the town that we had been driving to; Belen. In Belen, we got out of the car and walked around some of the 4 churches in the central plaza. At the top of a flight of stairs, my sister and I climbed up an open bell tower and looked out over the town that was even smaller than Putre. When we got down, we all hopped into the car and started the drive back home, passing by a hydroelectric plant.

When we got back, Eryn and I worked on schoolwork while my father worked on labeling pictures. When we got bored of that, we took a walk through the rain towards town. In town, we got some fruits for tomorrow’s tour before going over to a restaurant. After the restaurant, we went to a shop, where I bought an alpaca wool scarf while Eryn and Father both bought some ice cream.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Traveling Bird

A red headed condor flies up, up, up. Being the bird of Chile, condors are protected, and Joyjon the condor knows that, but he still remembers the days when people hunted his kind and vultures for feathers. It is nearing evening, and the bird flies over the coastal town of Arica, which sees the least precipitation of all the cities in the world.

Joyjon is a well-traveled bird, having gone from the southern tip of the new world up to Peru to see his relatives and Machu Picchu. He has been to most cities, from Valparaiso to San Pedro de Atacama to Santiago. Now, he was back in his home city, Arica, where he was born on the large rock that overlooks the city.

He flies over Arica, seeing people with blue and black suitcases board onto a taxi and drive off. Joyjon decides to follow them, and follows the four people to number 602 on Chocabuco. It is a rental car place, but there is no one there, and they go off to the Arica Surf House, check in, and go out to eat dinner. When they come back, they act all festive, like it is someone’s birthday, and Joyjon goes to sleep in a park.

When Joyjon wakes up, he decides that he wants to follow the family of four from the Arica Surf house, and sees the man go back to the rental car place and get the car, and when he gets back, the others come with 30 liters of water and some food.  Then they get into the car and drive east towards Putre.

Up on the high Andes, the air is thin, but it felt good for Joyjon to be up there after so long of being around sea level, stealing some fish off of fishing boats when he became really desperate. He tracks the silver SUV up the mountains and to the little town of Putre, where they get out and check in to a lodge. Joyjon decides to see if the hunting is any good, and heads off for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Arica to Andes

We’re 11,000 feet higher than we were this morning—and it only took three hours of driving for us to go from beach to mountains.

Ethan and I accidentally slept through our alarm this morning, like we did on what we thought would be our last day in Bangkok, Thailand. However, we could still come to Putre, unlike that July morning when we couldn’t get to New Delhi.

We stopped at several viewpoints on the way, but mostly we just sat and drank water to keep off altitude sickness. I’ve had way more water than usual today, as should the rest of my family. Once we got to our hotel in Putre, Ethan and I played Parcheesi (with condors, llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas). He won, unfortunately.

After about two hours, we left for walk in the rain through town. It’s very small, but bigger than I was expecting. I was expecting a small San Pedro de Atacama, but instead it was white (not brown), rainy (not dry), and really, really cold (not warm). We found a place for supper, where Mom and Ethan had vegetable soup and Dad and I had chicken.

So although it sounds like we didn’t do much, our little X-Trail had a huge job.

Ciao!

Ethan’s Getting Old…

Ethan’s birthday is here today

So we all had better say ‘Hurray!’

We rode a bus for eleven hours

And all started off with cold showers

We waited in a bus station

Waiting for some information

About the bus that was going to

Arica, and the desert too

We played Temple Run too long

And I listened to 1D’s song

We each died hundred of times on

Temple Run but kept playing on

In evening light we reached our place

Of destination, hoping for space

In a taxi to Europcar

Where we watched the man go afar

We watched for his counterpart

Who must have decided to depart

While her customers were waiting,

Waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting

Our driver eventually took us out

To our hostel, where we had a bout

With the woman who gave us a key

To room number five-plus-three

In it were only two twin beds

Nowhere for two to put their heads

She went back to the counter and looks

To see if she did it right with the books

Apologetic, she came back

Apparently they seem to lack

Two rooms for a family of four

Ethan and I went knocking on the door

Of number nine, while the parents came up

Then I realized we had nowhere to sup

And that there was only room for two

So there was some more hullabaloo

We finally got a second room

Dad found a place for supper and zoom!

We were out the door and walking

Stopping, seeing it closed and gawking

Gawking at the sign that said,

‘Closed til March 4’ in big red

So off we went, right down the street

Looking for some place to eat

We decided on some pizza

And got it with pig meat- some

Person behind the counter had

Apparently understood them bad

So we all looked forward to the ice

Cream with glad and tired eyes

We took a half liter home with us

Mom bought a muffin in the fuss

We ate the chocolate ice cream

Manjar chips and mango dream

And the banana split til we

Were ready for the birthday he

To open his gifts and watch

The slideshow, made with no botch

By Eryn dearest who sacrificed

Hours of time that were painfully iced

We all got to bed far too late

And wished for morning please to wait

But sun will come how it knows how

And I will say good-night and Ciao!

When in Calama

Pancho, our host in San Pedro de Atacama, told us that he would have recommended us to skip staying the night in Calama, and just take the night bus up to Arica from San Pedro de Atacama, but by then, we had already booked everything that would happen to take us into Calama and out again the next day. Pancho also said that Calama was the ‘ugliest city in Chile’ but that it would be good for us to experience that.

Today we left the hostel and went to town. My father and I rented bikes to ride for an hour, while my sister and mother went out shopping. Father and I went out towards the geysers, and then, about 40 minutes into our hour, we started coming back. Back at the bike rental shop, we got my father’s driver’s license and started towards the hostel. On the way, we stopped and chatted with our Canadian friends from yesterday’s sandboarding.

When we got back to the hostel, my mother and sister were already there, so my mother and I played a game of chess. I won. From there, I watched the Simpsons on the TV while my father chatted with the Brazilian man that went with us three days ago on the full day tour. After that, we got on a bus and went to Calama, where we checked into our hotel to spend the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Fire and Ice (Mostly Ice)

Mom and I went shopping this morning in San Pedro before returning to the hostel and surfing the web, waiting for Dad and Ethan to return from their bike ride.

When they returned, Dad struck up a conversation with the Brazilian man who had gone with us on our tour three days ago. All five of us left on the same van to Calama at 1 pm. The ride across the desert lasted about an hour. We got to the Calama airport, where we found a taxi and rode to our hotel.

Our hotel, which is orange and green, had locked doors, and we waited awhile for someone to arrive behind the counter and buzz us in. Eventually they did, and we were shown our room, which is actually two floors and has two bathrooms.

After lounging around for a while, we walked out to the mall. We found a place for supper called ChoppDog. None of us had any dog: Ethan had the Pollo Supreme, Dad had the Mediterranean salad, and Mom and I each had a Pollo Gourmet. My agua sin gas arrived. Thirsty, I eagerly undid the lid only to be soaked with ice-cold water.

“Well, that would explain it.” Ethan pointed out that most of the water was ice. Our waitress offered us a new bottle, but at a price (and it was frozen, too). So we said gracias, but no gracias, and ate our meal.

We went to the supermarket to get breakfast for our long bus ride tomorrow. We didn’t get anything but ice cream, which we ate in the plaza next to the church. When we got back to our colorful hotel, Ethan went to look at the game room. While he was gone, a woman came and gave us breakfasts for tomorrow: chocolate milk, crackers, cookies, bread, and a cereal bar.

At least there’s chocolate!

Ciao!

Sand and Sunset

We went sandboarding today with six other people. The six were as follows:

  •      A couple from Toronto, Canada, named Ted and Jen
  •      A Spanish-speaking threesome of “chicas” who were Diana, Ogre (at least that’s what I heard), and “Ella.” The name Ella comes from the fact that she was the skinny one of the three, and skinny rhymes with Minnie. Minnie Mouse is at Disneyland, and the first Disney character I thought of was Cinderella
  •      Another woman with a shirt that read “Made With Love,” so she is Olive (because it sounds like I-love. Sort of)

The guide only went down the hill once because of his knees. I went down seven times, and I would say that the first and last times were the best. Ted was definitely the best of our inexperienced little group. Jen was second, Ethan was third, and I don’t know the ranks from then on because Diana, Ogre, and Ella only went down a couple of times, and I don’t remember Olive going down. (Mom and Dad didn’t ride.)

We used wax every-other-ride (so you could call it wax on, wax off). I didn’t really notice a difference, but that was fine with me. I never did get the hang of leaning forward and stopping. Some of my friends snowboard, and I’m really, really glad I ski.

At about eight, we all got back in the van and drove along the road. It was kind of scary seeing the drop-offs that were created by the rain. San Pedro de Atacama normally receives 2 millimeters of precipitation a year (yes, 2). They received 43 millimeters in one day, which is insane by comparison. So there are lots of ruts, wash-outs, and places where the road was.

We drove to a look-out point above Valley of the Moon. We watched sunset from there, drinking jugo de piña and cerveza.

For supper, we had the delicious pizza. While we were standing and waiting, our driver from two days ago- Felipe- drove by and said hola.

Ciao!

Speeding with a Sandboard

Jen, Ted, Eryn, Mother, Father, three young women, and I went sandboarding today. Jen and Ted are backpacking around the world for six and a half months, ending up in Sydney, Australia, where they plan to live and work…For a little while at least. The three young women spoke mostly Spanish, but knew some English.

We all got in a van at the office and went off to Death Valley, where we planned to sandboard. The road was very washed out, but by going in a zig-zag line and not looking over the edge, we made it to the dunes.

The first thing that I noticed was that it was a tall dune. Tall dunes are nice when one is at sea level, but up at 7500 feet, it is less fun. We went up the dunes and got our bindings on, before I zoomed slowly down the hill. At the bottom, I climbed back up again, starting a cycle where I went down and then up, over and over again.

On my last run, I went from a high point and did spins, going down, down, down, trying not to get sand in my eyes while still trying not to slow down too much. At the bottom, we packed up the sandboards and left for the Moon Valley, for sunset.

While waiting for sunset to happen, I made a stack of rocks almost as tall as I was, testing its strength by throwing rocks at it and watching it not fall down. After sunset, when we left, I saw an annoying man tossing rocks at my beautiful tower. I hope it is still standing.

That’s all for now, Folks!

So Long, Farewell

After two days of doing almost the exact same thing, the Australians split from our schedule. Joy, the sister-in-law of David, left early this morning before we even woke up, but we saw David and Gloria, his wife, at breakfast. During breakfast, we talked about their schedule, they were leaving at two.

We spent the whole morning vegging around, poring over our electronics. My mother and I went out and did some shopping, and my mother got a table cloth at a local shop. When we got back, we talked about what to do, and in the end we voted to go on a sandboarding trip tomorrow evening, with the parents just watching the kids go sandboarding.

On our walk to our daily ice cream, we stopped at several sandboarding places and got some information about times and such before finally eating our ice cream in the plaza. When we got back to the hostel, the Australian couple was gone, and we got ready to go on a walk to an abandoned city, which we did, after a 3 km walk, and then we ate dinner, which was very delicious, with quinoa and other scrumptious items.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Panting in Pukara

The Pukara of Quitor was our destination today. We only reached it after about four kilometers and fourteen hours of dithering.

According to the brochure, it was builit* on a splope of the Cordillera de la Sal. These buildings on Cordillera de la Sal included rooms like kitchens, patios, and roofles estructures.

We were told not to follow the arrows through the ruins but to just go up the path quickly because the area closed in one hour (8 pm). Up we went on the switchbacks. It took longer than we had thought it would. Dad and I zoomed on ahead while Mom and Ethan brought up the rear. It took about forty minutes to reach the top. This time included admiring the views and panting (just not in my case. The panting part, I mean).

At the top we took a few pictures, and Dad pointed out that we could almost see Bolivia. It went around the opposite edge of a caldera on a volcano we could see (according to him), meaning that Chile owns the whole caldera.

We walked down, Mom holding Dad’s hand so she wouldn’t fall and Ethan and I talking about what to do when we get home—a common enough subject.

It’s now 10:20 pm and we’ve finally had supper. My chicken and salad were very good, but my favorite part was the quinoa that Mom and Ethan ordered.

*this spelling (along with splope, roofles, and estructures) was used in the official Chile Turismo Rural brochure

Ciao!

Isn’t it CUTE!

The baby vicuña ran down the dusty dirt road, going this way and that, trying to find a way out of the road and up the hill to where its parents were. The driver was unsympathetic, driving the baby down the road away from the others. Suddenly, out of the shadows, there rang a high-pitched voice,

“Isn’t it CUTE!!!”

The light changed and the new lighting showed that the speaker was my mother. We figured that she wasn’t talking about the driver, but we couldn’t be sure, so we kept our mouths shut. Eventually, the vicuña found a spot where it could scramble up the slope and all was well.

That is what happened during our full day tour in the Atacama Desert and Salar. We started out in a large van with the Australian man and women, another man from our hostel, a Bolivian woman, and a couple from London. We started out by going to a town where we saw some llamas and some hand knitted sweaters, blankets, and mittens. After that we went to some flamingo lakes out in the salt pans, and then went high up into the mountains.

After going far up and seeing two lagoons, we went back down, and that was where we saw what happened in the first paragraphs. Then we went down to the valley, ate lunch, and drove back to our hostel, where I played chess with David and Joy, his sister-in-law, the teacher.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Flora, Fauna, and, Foremost, Flamingoes

We went to yet another lagoon today. Actually, it was just one in a system of lagoons in Parque Nacional Los Flamencos. It was called Laguna Chaxa, and it’s home to three types of flamingoes: Andean flamingoes, Chilean flamingoes, and James’s flamingoes. James’s flamingoes only come down to Chaxa in winter when the lagoons at which they normally stay have frozen.

Andean flamingoes are considered one of the rarest types of flamingoes on Earth. We have no idea which type we saw today—either Chilean or Andean, obviously. Looking at my pictures, I believe we saw both.

Besides flamingoes, we also saw some three lizards and vicuñas. Vicuñas’ wool is very, very expensive, more so than that of the llama and alpaca. (We got to see some wild llamas and two in the back of a store in the town of Toconau, which is also the name of the street on which we’re staying.) Because of poaching, in the 1970s, the numbers of the vicuña were down to 6,000, at which point they were recognized as an endangered species. In both the times of Inca rule and now, vicuñas were protected by law. There are now over 350,000 in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, with an introduced colony in Ecuador. Peru is home to the most of these mammals.

 

There were eleven tourists, one driver, and one guide (Felipe) in our van. There was an older couple from London, the three from Australia who we met yesterday (Joy, Gloria, and David), the four of us, and two Brazilians who are, as far as we know, unrelated. The Brazilian man is from Rio de Janeiro and he is staying at our hostel. He speaks English. The woman does not.

After the lagoon, we stopped in a town to place our lunch orders and look at an old church. Then we went higher up into the mountains in the little van that could, passing vicuñas and various types of birds. We eventually stopped at the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons. Miscanti is the bigger one of the two. Cerro Miscanti and the Miñiques volcano loom in the background. Miscanti was separated from Miñiques when Miñiques the mountain erupted and lava came into the lagoon.

We drove back down the mountains from 12,000 feet to about 9,000 feet where we had lunch. All four of us opted for the vegetarian meal: soup, rice, quinoa, tomato, an omelet, and, for dessert, bananas with jam. Everyone else got all that except for the omelet—some got beef, some got chicken. We talked to the English couple. Her favorite place is Sri Lanka, while he likes Peru.

On the drive home we stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn and took pictures. Now we’re back at the hostel. Ethan’s playing chess with Joy (one of the Australians) while Dad naps and Mom tries to use the iPad.

Ciao!

Salty Seas in the Salar

A lagoon was our destination today. It is in Salar de Atacama. It was about 30% salt, making floating easy and swimming next to impossible (according to Ethan—the rest of us declined to do anything but wade). Towards the bottom of the lagoon is lithium. Salar de Atacama is, in fact, the world’s best (largest and purest) source of lithium. It produces 30% of the world’s lithium carbonate, followed by China.

We rode in a bus there with twenty of our new best friends after a rather uneventful morning. Well, there was one exception: Dad cut part of Mom’s cast off with a table knife.

 

“When you write your post, make sure the audience knows that he had the doctor’s permission,” Mom told Ethan and I at supper. “Don’t let them think that it was rogue Dad with a knife randomly sawing on my arm.”

“That’s right,” I agreed. “It was rogue Dad with a knife randomly sawing on your arm on doctor’s orders.”

Mom’s doctor in Valdivia gave permission for Dad to cut the cast down to below the elbow as he was worried about elbow movement. This was last resort—he expected there to be a doctor in San Pedro de Atacama with a saw. He was wrong, but several inches of the cast were removed, along with zero bits of flesh.

 

Once we got home from the lagoon, Ethan rinsed off the salt and Dad asked Pancho, the owner of our hostel, about a place for supper. We went to a pizzeria that, much to Dad’s delight, had thin crust. We ordered two family sized pizzas and a salad. The pizzas were chicken, corn, and red pepper and avocado, palm heart, and mushroom. Both were very good, especially once thoroughly doused with vinegar.

Ciao!

Cast Cutting Cast

Jerry: Doctor, Orthopedic Surgeon, Steak Knife Wielder

Susan: Patient, Cast Owner

Ethan: Assistant Doctor, Holder of Gigantic Scissors and Steak Knife

Eryn: Media

On doctor’s orders, my father cut some of my mother’s cast off today, making her be able to bend her elbow, and she is very pleased with that. The time that we did the operation was about midday, when the sun was shining directly on us. My father got a plain old steak knife from the kitchen and I got a pair of scissors from the laundry room, before going to the operating chair, where my mother was seated and wincing in anticipation.

My father began by cutting horizontally around where he was going to make the final cut, and then did a vertical cut. With a rip, he took a chunk of the cast off, tossing it in the trash can that I had brought along. He continued on doing this until he got it close down to the first cut, and then used the scissors to cut off the final bit off cotton and cast.

After all of that was done and another few hours had slipped away, we went on a tour with some Brisbanites from Australia. They were very talkative once we got to the lagoon, and David talked about his home in Queensland. His wife and sister in law, pharmacist and teacher, respectively, were with him on an annual 4-week trip around South America. They were all very nice.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Traveling on Thursday

This morning I woke up and lay in my bed, looking down at the pillow and seeing the light spill into my room from the bathroom. I heard my sister get annoyed and heard the words ‘water’ and ‘not working.’ So I literally put one and one together and figured out that the water was not working. I didn’t get to take a shower.

After lugging all of our luggage down to the bottom of our staircase, our driver, Louis, came and picked us up to take us to the Santiago Airport. I slept the whole way, so I don’t know what happened, if anything. When we got to the airport, we got in the line and waited our way through to the check-in, where we checked our bags and got our boarding passes.

Security was fast, luckily, so when we got to the gate, they were right about to leave, and we weren’t left behind to find another way to Calama. As I said, we were right on time, and we caught our flight to Calama. Calama is a mining town, popping up when there was a mine of copper found nearby. When we touched down in Calama, we saw that it was a small airport, and when we got inside, we had no trouble locating our travel service to San Pedro de Atacama.

I, as usual, slept the whole ride, and woke up when we arrived, seeing mud and brick walls, bicycles, dogs, and people. For a population of about 1500 people, a lot of them are dedicated to the tourist industry. The hostel that we are staying in is nice, nicer than in Uluru, but not so nice as, say, the MD House. But it is okay.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Sky Plane to San Pedro

We got up way, way too early this morning to not take a shower: there was some maintenance work down the hill and I’m pretty sure they thought that no one in their right mind on Cerro Bellavista would be having a shower at 3:30 a.m.

Our driver came, thankfully, on time and we arrived in Santiago on time to catch our short flight by Sky Airlines to Calama (also in Chile). From there we rode in a van to San Pedro de Atacama, just a few kilometers from Bolivia.

We caught up on some rest at our hostel before looking up things to do and heading out to the town. What do you do here? You go on tours to see nature. And you sleep in hostels, drink coca tea, and eat llama burgers. (We are not going to do that! We know a llama near our house. I am not eating llama.)

We did none of the above. Instead we looked at the clinic (where Mom will visit again tomorrow), ate ice cream, and watched National Geographic in Spanish. It was about crocodiles in Australia—making us think, We’ve been there! One even ate a kangaroo, which would have been pretty awesome. Not for the kangaroo, I mean. For us.

Anyway, we made some reservations for tours and then went out for supper. Dad and I had vegetable soup, salmon, and rice. Mom had salad, chicken, and rice, and Ethan had soup, chicken, and rice. For dessert we all had a spongy square of something lemony.

“It tastes like soap—which makes sense, since it’s a sponge,” I commented. Everyone else enjoyed theirs. (Mine was okay too, once I got used to it.)

Ciao!

Walking on Wednesday

The most interesting part of our day was spent doing something that is not very interesting; walking. When we left this afternoon to get some sandwiches for a lunch-dinner to get to bed early tonight, my mother had picked the place where she thought we should go.

Of we went…We went over to another street and then down some of the ubiquitous steps. Before we went down a set, though, my father pointed out another direction that we should go to get to where we wanted to go. We went down the hill for a while before arriving at a street. We decided that we were on the wrong street, and went down the hill to a large intersection and then up a one-way street. After following the twists and turns through a neighborhood, we decided that we were on the wrong street and that, actually, the one that we had come in on was the correct one.

Back in the intersection, we went up the one that had brought us there in the first place and up. It seemed like a more likely place to have the restaurant, but there was no restaurant in sight, even though we went up a long ways. We finally all agreed that we were on the wrong street (again!) and went back down and to the other street that went up the hill that we hadn’t been on.

About one block up, we came upon the restaurant that we had been searching for one hour. Sadly though, after all of that walking, we were barred from the entrance and shown a sign that said that it was a bar and there were no children under the age of 18 allowed, but in Spanish.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Disappointments on a Down Day

Today was our last day in Valparaiso, so guess how we spent it?

Looking for lunch!

Mom chose El Pimentón after hours of lounging around, doing schoolwork, drawing, and typing (and all sorts of other exciting stuff!). Oh, and Dad napped (even more exciting!).

Anyway, this morning was kind of low-key.

 

On TripAdvisor, someone said that the rush at El Pimentón started at 1 pm. We left at two so as to (hopefully) get there after the rush.

We walked up Rainbow Alley (really called Santa Margarita) and up to Hector Calvo. After a few blocks heading downhill, we turned off onto Chopin (another side alley). Then we turned onto Walker Martinez (another alley), passing Strauss on the way. Finally we got down to Yerbas Buenas. Dad, looking at a map on his phone (which is not exactly correct) said that it was down a few blocks. So we went down and got to a four-way intersection. We decided to go General Mackenna. After about 100 meters or so, Dad realized it was the wrong street. So back we marched up Yerbas Buenas, passing Walker Martinez, Julio Caesar, and, finally, Eden.

“Okay, so you know that intersection back there?” Dad asked.

“Yeah.”

“Well, we were supposed to take the other street.”

Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo… back we went down Yerbas Buenas and up Ecuador. It was just one block up. And then we read the sign: (in Spanish) No minors under the age of 18 permitted.

So.

We went down to the plaza where we had the (not very good) raspberry-mint ice cream a few days ago and found a place for lunch. Dad and I shared a salad and spaghetti, and Mom and Ethan had pizza. While we were there, we finally looked up maneki-neko. Maneki-neko are those cats that wave their arms. White symbolizes luck in general, black is for good health, and gold means monetary fortune.

Plaza Victoria was our next destination, and I got my typical cinnamon ice cream. Dad ordered a cup with chocolate, cherimoya, and lucuma. I didn’t really care for the latter two, but the chocolate mixed with the cinnamon was, as always, delicioso.

Ciao!

Pen Names and Puro

Well, it seems like Valparaiso is a pretty good place for “down days.” Today the only touristy thing we did was go to La Sebastiana, the home of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.

Before that, Dad and Ethan mailed home our box while Mom and I went shopping.

Pablo Neruda was originally the pen name and eventually legal name of Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose the name after Czech poet Jan Neruda.

We went down to Puro Café, where we ate three sandwiches, one quesadilla, and one baguette along with Dad’s mocha and four 350-milliliter bottles of water. We sat around the table talking for a long time before going to get ice cream. Dad was majorly disappointed in the flavor selection but went ahead with getting the half-liter anyway. He ended up getting coconut, cappuccino, raspberry, and Italian chocolate. I got Cappuccino, and Ethan chose Italian chocolate and raspberry. (Dad had been hoping for cinnamon and orange.)

Apparently Carnaval ended today, which is when we thought it was starting. Oh, well. I guess the people here don’t do much for it anyway.

Ciao!

Posting and a Poet

We left around noon, as usual, and went down the hill with a large box to mail home. We talked as we walked and named a new cat, which is on the top of the list:

Name Description
Tiger Black and orange stripes, white belly
Olga Black with white feet
Azul Gray and black spots on brown with a blue collar
Rosetta Gray with a Pink collar
Pineapple Black with orange spots
Midnight Black
Bassy (short for Basket-Case) White with orange back; sleeps in a basket most of the day
Jasmine White with gray spots
Micky White with orange back, really skinny
Africa Black with orange spots, smooth fur, skinny tail
Pillar Black with orange spots, askew fur and wide tail

 

As you can see, we have named a lot, and we have also named some dogs, but I have decided not to go into that today. As I said: We were walking down the hill, and then, my father, who was carrying the large, heavy box, slid on the slippery tile work that goes down the center of the sidewalk and fell. Luckily, he never let go of the box and fell on his butt, so it wasn’t too bad, but his left leg got all bloody.

After dropping off the box at the post office, we went all the way up the hill to the house of the poet Neruda. The house looked large from the outside, but on the inside it only had one bedroom. Still, it was a cool house because each floor was smaller than the one before itself. On the very top, there was only one room, which was the poet’s study. It had a very good view.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A-rhyming Ascencors

In the morning we got out of bed,
lined up at the table to get fed.
Doing some schoolwork to get ahead,
trying not to just go back to bed.

Leaving around noon or there about,
Going to the stairs for another bout.
Walking, walking, always towards the hill,
we always seem to be staying still.

From then on we went towards the hill, finally stopping where there was a tunnel going straight into the side of the hill like a wound bleeding humans. We decided to go in and when we got to the end, we took an elevator up. The called the whole thing an Ascensor. It was probably my favorite one that we have ever rode.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sweets and Sandwiches

We walked alllllllll the way over to Ascensor Polanco, which is actually an elevator. First you walk up a hill to get to the bottom. Then you enter a long, damp tunnel and walk to the elevator. It goes up to floors and voila! You’re at a wooden platform with telescopes surrounding a yellow tower. Floor 2 led to a street that we used to go back down the hill and to the post office.

I finally found the church near our house after much exasperation on the part of the rest of my family at my apparent blindness. We couldn’t find out house, but that was expected.

After the post office, where we bought a box, we continued on our way to ice cream at Plaza Victoria. Mom got Italian chocolate in a cone, Ethan got mandarin orange in a cup, Dad got mandarin orange, Italian chocolate, and marshmallow-cappuccino in a cup, and I got marshmallow-cappuccino and banana in a cone. Mom’s cone dripped all down her hand and ruined the napkins, so those were no help to her or me, either, since mine dripped. The people at the ice cream place don’t know how to squish ice cream, apparently.

Dad and I got some more cash at Ripley while Mom went with Ethan to buy juice. Ethan got a cup of orange-raspberry juice that was very, very sour.

For supper, Mom wanted us to go to Color Café, but it was full. After some more looking around in the Concepcion area, we went to La Belle Epoque. There we ordered sandwich: avocado and palm heart for Mom, gouda for Ethan, and avocado and chicken for Dad and me. Thankfully Ascensor Reina Victoria was still open at 10 pm.

Ciao!

What’s Shakin?

Today held the first earthquake of which Ethan and I have been fully aware. It happened while we were standing in the produce department of the grocery store and wondering what to get for supper (it ended up being broccoli and pasta). It was either a 5 or a 5.7—both happened at the same time in about the same place.

We also found out that Chile is the home of three of the top 10 biggest earthquakes ever—including number one, a 9.5. It happened in Valdivia, Chile, where we were just a few days ago, in May 1960. The most recent big one was 8.8 in 2010.

 

Mother said that it sounds really sad that first we had the brownie course, and right after that we had ice cream. Well, that’s not fully true: I had a few bites of brownie, a bottle of water, and a sandwich. So I deserved my calories. I was not, however, expecting the raspberry-mint sherbet, that was not very good. The orange-chocolate and pepper-chocolate ice creams were good, but there wasn’t enough to go ’round.

From the café on Cerro Concepcion we walked to an ascensor, Reina Victoria, and rode down. It was actually the first time we rode down on an ascensor. The beginning was a little breath-taking, but it was only forty meters long.

Ciao!

Quakes, Rides, and Sugar

We left the house this morning at about noon. We first walked up and looked at a large church right up our hill that had been ringing its bells recently before going down another street until its end. The end of the road was actually just the end of where one could drive, and there were stairs going down the hill from there on. We took a staircase down and passed a cat eating leaves off a bush, though it could have just been scratching.

At the bottom of the stairs, we took a right and then took a left, heading towards the port. We passed by a plaza called Plaza Anibal Pinto where there were good looking ice cream flavors. We voted to keep going towards Cerro Concepción, a hill that we had been to a few days ago with on our walking tour, also holding the number one rated restaurant in all of Valparaiso and its 43 hills. We went over to the Ascensor Concepción and paid 300 Chilean Pesos each to go up the hill the fast way. With a lurch, we went up the hill.

We walked for a while before arriving at the door of the Baker Street Café that wasn’t on Baker Street. Inside, we ate sandwiches and brownies and drinking chocolate submarines (chocolate and hot milk), Mochachinos, and water and sugaring ourselves up before deciding to go back to the ice cream plaza and get some more sugar. Yum!

After the ice cream, we decided to go to the supermarket to buy supplies and food to eat at home tonight and to have actual cereal, not just cereal that tasted like the box it came out of.  At the market, we were buying some vegetables when suddenly, the ground lurched, and all the ceiling signs and the bananas started swinging back and forth but it stopped just as abruptly as it had started. I thought it was really fun, as it was my first earthquake, but my mother wasn’t as enthusiastic about the quake.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Swinging in a Ship

Back when we were in South Africa, in Cape Town, the reader may recall that we went to an amusement park called Ratanga Junction. There, and other places as well, there were large ship-like rides that worked like giant swings. Well, there is one here in Valparaiso that is only about US$1 to ride. It is in a park near our apartment and is very fun: I know that because I rode it.

After eating breakfast this morning, we vegged around a while on the couch doing crossword puzzles and such before finally deciding to go out on a walk to see the ocean, see the arch, look at some parks, and eat ice cream. We achieved all of those, but the part that was most interesting to me was when I went on the swinging ship.

We had walked down the hill and had completed the last thing on our list; eating ice cream, and were browsing through the parks. We went through the one that we had been by earlier and then went on to the one on the other side of a far street. There were several swings and a couple of small rides, the one that looked the most fun was the swinging ship.

I coughed up my $500 Chilean Pesos and got my token to ride. When another person got their token, she and I got to ride on opposite ends. It started up, and with a creak and a groan we started to swing higher and higher and faster and faster until we were nearly vertical. With that vertical swinging, I was very glad that there was a bar across my lap holding me down. Eventually, I was brave enough to hold my arms up for two full swings at full power before holding onto the pole again.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Gatos and Great Food

I always thought that dogs howling to the sound of a fire truck’s siren was an urban legend. Well, today I was wrong—someone should write that down; it doesn’t happen very often. It was startling to hear that as I typed away on the computer, Dad napped, and Mom and Ethan read.

After I had been on the computer a while, we left for supper at Espiritu Santo. We tried to eat there last night but they were fully booked, so its English-speaking owner reserved us a table at Amaya and we made reservations for tonight.

There was only one vegetarian dish: a plate with an orange sauce and eight pieces of ravioli. Ethan chose that. Then there were three fish dishes without any other type of meat: two dishes of rockfish and one of Patagonian toothfish, a type of sea bass. Dad chose the last option and enjoyed the warm salad (originally I thought our waitress said “worm salad”) more than the fish itself, which he said was bland. Mom and I chose two separate dishes of rockfish.

Mom’s was a filet on top of mashed potatoes in a pool of a spicy orange sauce. It was spicy as in it had lots of different spices, not as in it was hot and burning. I chose the rockfish filet on a warm salad, but mine was in a lemon sauce, unlike Dad’s, which had a sweet sauce.

Mom’s pineapple juice was good, too, and each of us had a sip while we talked about Yellowstone National Park and what we want from home (things like all the boxes in the tower and Emma won’t fit in my uncle’s suitcase).

We walked home the long way, through the alley, onto Rudolph, then up Ferrari and our own Rainbow Alley (that’s what I’m calling it now, because of the painted stairs). Our friend the “grrr…BARK! BARK! BARK!” dog wasn’t there, sadly. The way he growled before he barked at us two days ago kind of endeared him to me.

Ethan and I did, however, find three of the cats. The fourth one wandered by, and we decided to name them. First was the fat yellow cat: Bassy, short for Basketcase because he spent a lot of time in his basket.

Next came the black cat, who jumped so elegantly onto the next house that I named her Olga, after gymnast Olga Korbut. She was followed by Pillar, the brown, black, and white cat who sat on the pillar, and Mickey, who was the thin yellow cat. Unfortunately, Bassy is the only one who was brave enough to be petted.

“Did it bite you?” Ethan asked as I came up Rainbow Alley.

“No,” I said, “but its mouth started following my hand, so I left.”

Ciao!

Waking and Walking; a day in Valparaiso

Today was a day where we got some of the exercise that the body needs every day. The reason for that is that we went up and down the long flights of stairs near our house to get away and to it 3 times throughout the course of the day when the sun was in the sky and when the first stars were starting to come out of the blanket of darkness that had settled around us, blotting out all glimpses of the sun as it continued to light other parts of the earth in our continuing circle around the star.

We woke up and ate the breakfast that we had bought at a supermarket last night before sitting around and reading books. After that, we arranged a tour from ‘Tours 4 Tips’ with Nacho, and then went into town to look for money to pay our guide, Benjamin. When the guide arrived and after we had gone up the flights of stairs once to get back from the bank, it turned out that he was not Benjamin, that Benjamin was busy, and that our new guide’s name was Francisco. As the tour was a walking tour, we went by foot until reaching the bottom of our hill (one of 43 in the city) and taking a trolley bus over to the port. The reason for the trolley bus, our guide had explained, was because it took a long time to get to the port by foot and he didn’t want to use up our precious time of 3 hours.

At the port, we got off the bus and looked out across the blue-green water filled with boats of all shapes and sizes, from great cruise ships, to small fishing boats, to cargo boats, almost every type of boat was accounted for. While he explained how there were a lot of poor people around begging and pickpocketing from people, a beggar came up as though top prove his point. We looked out over the Navy building, which was blue, and under one of the arches, an ornate plaque with curls said ‘Armada de Chile,’ the Armada of Chile. Out in the harbor, there were also several large, gray, metal, dull, Navy ships, sitting by the edge of the port, as if being springs, waiting for someone or something to push their luck to far and have them push them away, maybe down to Davy Jones’ locker, but who knows?

From there on, we walked along one of the streets and imagined it in its former glory, all stonework, buzzing, humming, and alive with people, sounds, smells, and sights. All normal sights, except now, instead of having people on balconies lining up their laundry on a line or listening to the radio with a beer and a friend or two, there is nothing but boarded up windows and crumbling banisters, supporting arches cracked under their weight that they have been bearing for years, not complaining as they are stone, unyielding until the end. Another house that we went into also used to be full of glory, though it had not lost as much of its grandeur. It still had green onyx steps and English oak floorboards, still carved doors and banisters and wall panels. But in the end, under it all, there was an incompleteness;  the onyx was cracked, the floorboards faded and scuffed, the carvings on doors were, in some cases, almost completely rubbed away by people touching them. The roof used to be glass, classy and in style. Now someone has replaces that style and touch with some thin corrugated material, yellow and blue and hardly held together. In the end, it was an almost pitiful display of what was once one of the richest streets in all of Latin America now reduced to shambles.

We went back out of what used to be the rich section and went up an ascencio, which is like an elevator that goes up hills on a track like a train on a very steep incline. At the top, we paused for a minute and marveled at the architecture of a building that turned out to be a free museum that we didn’t have time to go to at the moment, but planned to later. We then heard about how graffiti artists respected the street artists and if you had your house painted by a street artist, most of the ‘taggers’ wouldn’t touch your house. We walked past several up-to-date restaurants with views and a large selection of wine and immersed ourselves in learning why there were small, de-elevated sections in the middle of some alleys; they were for horses and rainwater and horse poop, to wash it all away when the rains came, letting there be a clean slate to start over again. We then walked down several streets and into a trolley car and then back up our hill, making it twice. Eventually, we went out to eat, and then down the hill for ice cream, having to come back up again to get home for the night, making it three times coming up the hill to go home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

San Francisco

Francisco took us on a three-hour walking tour of part of Valparaiso. He met us in our flat at 3 pm and we walked down the rainbow staircase, down the streets, and onto a trolley. Apparently, we rode on the oldest one in the city. We rode it for a few minutes to the port, where we got off and Francisco led us down to the water where he gave us the official introduction to the tour. There were three boats in the water with Canadian flags and similar names: I Love Nikol, I Love Jennifer, and I Love Nikol Teresa. Francisco said that the names and flags were just to make the town feel multicultural.

Valparaiso has many cultures because of the California gold rush of 1849. Valparaiso was a stopping point on the route around the tip of the continent, and it was a wealthy city until the Panama Canal was built. Francisco showed us a hotel built by an Italian the same year as the Canal was finished (1914). The Italians packed up and left, and the building now looks like “a nuclear bomb hit it.”

We crossed the street and went to Guillermo Rivera’s house. He was very rich as he was influential in a war and creating school uniforms.

As we stood next to the square, listening to Francisco talk about the square and monument of Arturo Prat, there was a loud beeping.

“Helado! Helado-lado! Beep! Beep! Helado-lado!” a man called, toting his freezer on a dolly. “Helado!” (That’s a common sound here—almost like “Chai-chai! Chai-chai!” at the train stations in India.)

We went on a funicular and rode up instead of taking the stairs. It is 111 years old and called El Peral. At the top, Francisco explained that if you let street artists paint your house, you can avoid getting graffiti. We then turned onto an alley.

“I wonder why there’s a sidewalk on a pedestrian street,” I said to Dad.

“Can anyone tell me why the sidewalk is a lot higher here?” Francisco asked. Ethan piped up with “Trash!” Francisco beamed. “And what else? There are horses here. And what to horses leave?”

There was a long pause before Dad answered, “Poop.” Francisco seemed proud as he sa9d, “That’s right! But what wouldn’t use the low part?”

“Dogs,” Ethan replied.

“Excellent! You are very bright.”

Hmph.

Ciao!

2 Days ago, Yesterday, and Today, or an Adventure to Valparaiso

Two Days Ago:

We woke up and ate pie and fruit for breakfast before waiting outside of the hostel for the man with a tour bus to take us away from Valdivia for a day and go around to waterfalls and such. When our tour guide arrived, he was with a lady who, unlike himself, could speak some English.

We were off. Our first stop wasn’t really a stop as such, we just waited for a ferry to come to our side of the river and take us to the other. From there we went to a gravel bed in a turn of the river and climbed up past blackberry vines, eating some, to the railway bridge that spanned the bridge.

The bridge was not in use anymore, and José, our guide, and I walked along the ties, jumping from one to the next all the way across the river. Everyone else walked along the edge where there was a handrail. At the far side of the river, we went by a house and ate some apples, took pictures of flowers, and then walked back across the river on the bridge.

From there we went to several other places, not the least of which was Huilo Huilo, a waterfall that had enough mist to make a rainbow visible through a camera. Other things that we did included walking by a church, walking on the beach of the lake, kicking stones off a cliff, and eating dinner near Argentina.

Yesterday:

Yesterday we didn’t do much; we walked along the waterfront in Valdivia and tried out the regional drink-Mote con Hueslos or something along those lines- before walking to the mall for some ice cream.

After ice cream, we walked for a while before going back to the hostel, getting our stuff, and going to the bus station. At the bus station, we waited, and right on time, in one of the slots, appeared our 2130 hrs. bus to take us to Santiago. We got on the bus and went off to sleep, and when we awoke, we were in Santiago.

Today:

We waited…and waited, but our appointed driver never showed up. Eventually, he called back and said that he sent a representative for himself to take us to where we needed to go; Valparaiso.

The new driver showed up soon, and with his good English skills, began to show us around Santiago in his van and walking. After walking around for about an hour, we got back in the van and started our drive away from Santiago. Eventually, after a very long tunnel, we got some lunch-chicken legs. From there we drove all the way to Valparaiso and got checked into our apartment, where we are now.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Leonardo, Leoncio, and Leonardo DiCaprio

The bus was waaay too hot. It was nice and cool in Santiago, though, where we waited for two hours for our no-show driver Leonardo. He did send in his friend Leoncio Carrasco Jaque, though, who took us on a tour of the city for a couple hours before we headed into the countryside and toward Valparaiso.

We learned that the judicial and executive branches of government are located in Chile’s capital, but the legislative branch is in the seaside town of Valparaiso.

On the way out, Leoncio told us that the ninjas (police on motorbikes) and female cops are stricter than the others. After about an hour, we got to a restaurant where Mom had chicken soup, Ethan ate chicken with papas fritas, Leoncio ordered beef with salad, and Dad and I chose chicken with salad (and lots of vinegar!).

It was delicious, but the mora meringue  we had after was too sweet for me.

 

Valparaiso is very pretty at night. It’s also very hilly, and the door to our apartment is in the middle of a staircase. The stairs are decorated in squares of pink, yellow, green, orange, blue, and white paint. Because of our large lunch, we didn’t have any supper. We did, however, enjoy ice cream in the plaza after getting groceries. Dad had coconut, frambuesa, and Italian chocolate, Mom licked away at her frambuesa cone, Ethan got something else instead of papaya, and I enjoyed my coconut ice cream heartily.

The plaza is a great place to experience the life of Valparaiso in the evening. It may also be a prime Carnaval spot—Carnaval starts in less than a week, and we’ll still be here.

Ciao!

Tights-Rope Walker

It was nice not to be blinded by the lights outside last night or awakened by yowling cats.

We had a leisurely breakfast at the hostel before heading out, knowing we had to have mote con huesillo now or never. We walked along Rio Calle Calle, rounded the corner, and found a vendor selling mote con huesillo. Dad sent Ethan over to buy the drinks. He finally returned, the cups full to overflowing, and we walked over to the steps to sit down so that Mom could handle the spoon. The syrup originally seemed sickly sweet, but the peach juice started to seep into the sugary water, and it tasted better.

When we were done, I noticed that some foolish pedestrian had spit their gum onto the step where my leg was. That was so gross.

We walked farther down the river to a man who was helping kids walk across a two-inch belt of elastic. It was four feet in the air and not very comfortable to fall upon with it between your legs. At least, I’m assuming that. The guy who did that didn’t look very happy.

Ethan did it, and the man who helped him was wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and black tights. So Ethan and I dubbed him The Tights-Rope Walker. Ethan only fell off once, but there is photographic evidence. We walked around aimlessly some more, had pizza on the island, and eventually wandered back to the hostel where we got our luggage before trudging down the street to the bus station where we got on the Tur-Bus. It actually wasn’t late!

Ciao!

All About Eve

Today we woke up really early after a bad night’s sleep. After showers and the same old breakfast, we got in José’s van with Evelyn, who speaks English. Evelyn’s boyfriend is from Croatia. They met on a cruise on which she was a photographer. She’s very well-traveled; Venice and Costa Rica are among her favorite places. (Her list of Countries I’ve Been To would include Montenegro, Spain, Argentina, Panama, Mexico, USA, and Bermuda.) She’s also traveled to Tunisia, as she was on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

“It was hot as anything,” Evelyn assured us. “We rode camels. I thought they were nice, but mine tried to bite me.”

Our first stop was an old train bridge that we crossed. Mom, Evelyn, Dad, and I stayed near the edge while Ethan and José walked in the middle where there were empty spaces.

Obviously we survived that “ordeal,” and we continued on to the next bridge. We didn’t cross this one (except in the van), but we did walk down the ravine to the riverbed. It had gotten cool and misty, and I was shivering.

Back in the car, we rode for a few more hours, stopping several times, before getting to Puerto Fuy, where we had lunch. All of us had the same thing: chicken with rice, bread with chancho en piedra (a sauce made with garlic, onion, tomato, chili, and cilantro. Literally, it means “pig in stone”), and Tuttifrutilla juice, which was a mix of plum, apple, and strawberry. José discovered that something was wrong with the AC in the car that presumably had to do with the person who backed into us in a town near the lake. Oh, well. We could live without it.

José drove us to Salta Huilo-Huilo (our original destination) where Ethan was disappointed as there was no place to swim. The falls themselves were impressive, but I liked the two nearby hotels, connected by swinging bridges, better.

 

The drive home was a long one. The only interruption was when a cow jumped in front of the car and froze like a deer.

Ciao!

Playing in a Park

We woke up this morning and did everything as usual right until we walked out of the electronically-opening gate. The only exception was that my mother and I walked to the laundry facilities and dropped off a load to be washed, dried, and ready to pick up at the end of the day.

We walked down the river towards the omnibus terminal where we had come in at night, and went past that a ways. When we got to a street corner, we looked at our map and there was supposed to be a tower right at that corner, but it had seemingly disappeared. We walked up this new street, and there another block up the street was a small tower that had been a dungeon.

We saw a park nearby, and presumed that it was the large park that we had seen on the map. It wasn’t. After sitting on some of the benches for a while, we saw some trees that looked like the park that we wanted and went over there, stopping on the way for some ice cream. At the large park, as it was the large park, we lounged around on the exercise equipment and the playground and did flips. Eryn was interested in hanging by the back of her knees from a bar six feet above the ground, while I preferred to climb some poles that were very tall.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Pretty Poem por Hoy

This morning we did basically nothing (except schoolwork, but that doesn’t count)

Work done, we walked to the tower that served as a prison to one man

Our next stop was a plaza, that we thought was the park we were looking for (it wasn’t). So we had ice cream

 

Parque Harneker was where we eventually found ourselves. Ethan and I used the playground, flipping and flopping on the bars

Attempts to climb poles were also made (we failed). However, we (ahem… I mean “I”) succeeded at doing sit-ups on the exercise equipment

Running away from the black dog was what we tried to avoid doing, but sometimes I felt like it as we tried to find a way out of the park

Kids ran wild in the arcade at the mall

Supper was at El Rincon Italiano. We chose the Primavera Pizza Familiare, which had palm hearts, green beans, and corn on a wonderfully thin crust. Eventually, it was time to get our laundry and say, to the mall, Ciao!

Mote and Monologues

We did absolutely nothing this morning.

At twelve-thirty, we left for the waterfront, where we saw lots of vendors selling mote con huesillo. Dad looked it up on his phone, and it’s really whole grains with dried peaches cooked in water, sugar, and cinnamon. And here we’d thought people were eating Cornflakes in Coca-Cola.

We eventually got on the Reina Sofia, which we would ride for six hours.

Our table partners were originally a mother, her three-year-old daughter, and her teenaged son. On the way back, the mother’s English-speaking husband took the son’s place and talked to Dad about Valparaiso. The little girl munched on bread rolls while the rest of us ate empanadas (except Dad, who had his ears plugged). A man spoke one long, virtually uninterrupted monologue solo en Español.

A waitron (South African word!) served us drinks, and Mom accidentally chose the alcoholic beverage. The other six of us had Fanta. Our meals were eventually served: large platters of cheese and vegetables, except for the son, who had a plate piled high with shellfish.

Meanwhile, we were cruising up and down seven rivers: Guacamayo, Calle Calle, Cau Cau, Cruces, Tornagaleones, Naguilán, and Valdivia. After about three hours, we got off at Isla de Mancera, where we stayed for forty-five minutes looking at the fort ruins. Our next stop was Puerto de Corral, and we climbed up a hill to the fort, where we watched a staged fight.

Once we got home, Dad tried to negotiate a way out of town with a tour guide before we went to Agridulce for supper. Ethan and I chose sandwiches while Mom and Dad chose salmon. The salmon was delicious and in a small portion. The chicken sandwiches were good, smothered in mayonnaise, and huge. And I had chosen the sandwich because I wanted something small.

Ciao!

Boats and Battles

I watch it through a haze, as though other thoughts cloud my vision in a way of trying to get to the forefront of my mind so I might focus on them, the sad thoughts, the proud thoughts, and the boring thoughts, all trying to get accepted. But I need to focus, everyone around is staring at the men that march in black, white, and red uniforms with an orange and red striped flag that they raise to a flagpole.

I remember what had happened for us to arrive here, and I review it unconsciously in my head while I watch what is happening. My family and I woke up and ate this morning and then sat and read for a while. I read a book called Dodger and everyone else did their own thing. We finally left for a boat tour that we had booked yesterday that had ‘no announcements and the only time that someone talked on a microphone was when questions were asked.

They were wrong. I think that as I watch the soldiers march up the stairs to where we are, the drummer tapping a steady beat on a drum, while the men hold either swords of muskets, while the man at the back only holds up his pants. When we had gotten on the boat, we were privy to loads and loads on announcements by a man who though he was funny in Spanish, but since we couldn’t understand a word of what he said, it wasn’t funny.

We had sailed for a while before docking in a town and seeing a fort before going back to the boat. From there we went across the bay to a town called Corral and went up to the fort there, where they were just about to do a show. The men now get called to arms and crowd next to the guns with their old muskets pointed down to below. Suddenly, there is a shout, and a unit of men in blue rush up the slope. As opponents and protectors of the fort that we are standing on, the men in red are bound by duty to do what they have to do to keep the fort.

There is a scuffle and suddenly, after a sedate swordfight of only four metal clangs, the men in red are standing before us, heads down, defeated. Their swords, what little of them are left, are taken away, along with flags, muskets, and a derringer from the captain.  The blue captain sheaths his broadsword and points his ceremonial sword to the top of the flagpole as the red and orange flag goes down and the Chilean flag goes up.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Message about a Market

We have gone to a market several times, and each time has been different. The market in question is the disputable fish market, disputable because it sells lots more than fish; from flowers to blueberries to lettuce. So, in theory, though it would probably be considered to be a fish market by some, I believe that it would be a public food market.

Today we went to the aforementioned market, and, like yesterday but unlike the day before, we bought something, but not before we did some other things. Those ‘other things’ are something like this: We walked through the market and watched people sell fish. Once through the open air market with the colorful roof, we continued on past the main tourist area to where there was a map of the world, well, at least a world that had only Chile and Antarctica in it. From there, we watched a silver pendulum swing back and forth on some sort of compass which we couldn’t figure out.

From there, we went to the edge of a submarine and looked at the black metal and the seal at the end before heading back to the market. At the market, we bought a kilo of cherries and a kilo of blue berries before going back to the room. The cherries and blueberries are very good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

#Highlights #and #Hashtags

Highlights of today:

  • Got to really sleep in
  • Walked to the market
  • Bought chocolate
  • Chose which boat company we’ll use tomorrow
  • Purchased cherries and blueberries in the market
  • Death-marched to the mall to buy ice cream
  • Stopped on the way to get ice cream
  • Looked for a tourist information center at the mall
  • Didn’t find one
  • Gladly went back to the hostel
  • Lounged around like lazy bums
  • Got back up
  • Crossed Rio Calle Calle to take pictures of Valdivia
  • Sat on a bench for a long time, watching the seals and birds and boats
  • Decided to walk to a pizza place
  • Pass a bride and groom getting their pictures taken
  • Order pizza, salad, and pasta
  • Dig in
  • Overeat
  • Watch a white limo try to parallel park
  • Watch a white limo fail at parallel parking
  • Pay la quinta
  • Stroll back home, going across the bridge and talking about counterfeit sunglasses.
  • See two different newly-married couples in white cars with horns honking

Ciao!

Seals, Clinics, and Fish

S– Showering early to face the day

E– Eating breakfast, before us lay

A-Arriving home, the parents come,

L-Laying out the work to be done

S-Schoolwork for now for one and all

 

C-Cold rain feeling good to us,

L-Dad and I walk to get a bus

I-Inclined to travel, someday soon

N-North towards Peru, whistling a tune

I-Instructed by the doctor how,

C-Cut off some cast, but not right now

S-Sad that mother didn’t get cut

 

F-Following our instinct to walk

I-I go to the river and talk

S-Saying to my sister dearest

H-‘Hey, let’s go to the restaurant nearest’

Life’s a Circus

My day started when Mom and Dad got dressed, ate, and left for the hospital, leaving Ethan and me to get dressed, eat, and do schoolwork, which we did. They eventually returned, saying that the doctor would call or email the results of the scans. So Ethan and I did schoolwork, Mom supervised us, and Dad napped until about 13:30, when we left. It had been raining when Mom and I had taken the laundry to the lavadero, but it was cloudy when all four of us left, and it was sunny when Mom and Ethan left to pick up the laundry at six in the evening.

We walked around the point and into downtown Valdivia. Mom stopped to find out about the boat tours and Ethan disappeared, so Dad and I hung out in the general area where we’d last seen them. After about fifteen minutes, Ethan re-appeared and told us that Mom was at the other end of the fish market. So he left and returned, this time bringing his mother with him.

Dad decided to ask about bus tickets and things to do at the tourist office, and while we were there his phone rang. It was the doctor. He told us to go to the clinic immediately—which we did. Unfortunately, it was only to tell us that the gap was less than one millimeter. So Mom’s not going to have surgery. We walked some more and, after lots of asking around, waited outside a store til it opened at 15:30. Then we went inside. The three of us stood awkwardly to the side while Mom found a bright orange sling that fit her needs. Once that was over, we got chocolate ice cream and ate it in the plaza. While we ate, Mom and Ethan talked about circuses, rodeos, and cowboy boots.

“And cotton candy,” Dad added. “Cotton candy is an essential part of a circus.”

So it was fitting that, not one hour later, Ethan bought blue cotton candy from a man selling it on Rio Calle Calle. We ate it under the blue sky, staring at the blue water and avoiding Ethan’s blue eyes.

Now our tongues are blue.

Ciao!

Hello Chile

We said goodbye to Argentina and hello to Chile yesterday. A short 8-hour bus ride (including 2 hours of border officialdom) took us across the Andes and into the Chilean lake district and the small city of Valdivia.

Posted in RTW

News Flash!!!

‘It’s broken.”

Was what we heard at the doctor’s office in Argentina, and because of that fall, my mother now has a cast that she will probably have to wear for a long time, yet. Or not. According to the doctor that we went to today at a clinic in Valdivia, there might be some way out of that.

After arriving in Valdivia last night, we went to our hostel and checked in. After sleeping in, we woke up and went down for breakfast, where we ate fruit and bread and a little bit of fruit pie. Then, since we didn’t have much money, we decided to go to town to go to an ATM.

When we finally got to the clinic, we had figured out that no ATMs took US cards for some reason, and because we had accidently left father’s passport at the hostel, we weren’t able to go to a real live teller who might be able to give us money. Anyway, at the clinic, there were, surprisingly, a large amount of English speaking workers who helped us get to the right doctor, who told us to come in at 1920 hrs.

At 1920 hrs, we were at the clinic, and the doctor received my mother and finished diagnosing her before releasing here to us again, after extracting an 0800 hrs appt. tomorrow morning. As it turns out, the radius was actually broken in two places, once all the way through, and another time splitting that small section down the middle.

Also, here ulna had a crack in it. They said that, if the gap between the bones at the end of her radius were more than 2 millimeters apart in their CT scan, then they would do surgery and attach all the bones together with a metal plate, and then she won’t even have to have the cast any more. That is why I am hoping the gap is large.

That’s all for now, Folks!

I Always Knew My Mother Was Cracked

Today a doctor discovered that Mom has a crack in her ulna (the bone next to your radius in your lower arm) and that there’s a T-shaped-crack in her radius. The crack in the ulna is not a problem; he said that it’s common for people to break both. Mom’s right radius is in three parts—one on each side of the T.

We learned this after (finally) getting to a clinic.

Once we had breakfast (carbs and cheese), we strolled down the river, through a fresh food market, to the center of town where Mom and I sat in a plaza while Dad and Ethan looked for ATMs that accepted American cards. No such luck, unfortunately, so we headed to the clinic. Along the way, we found a mall. Dad checked out the ATMs (no success) and Mom found the laundry place we were looking for. We also got water and cappuccino cookies. I pointed out the cookies-and-cream Oreos to Dad.

At the clinic, Ethan and I sat and waited while our parents went from one room to the other with different doctors. We finally waited outside the triage room. Outside was a chart, and we decided that Mom was T5. T1 was needing to be “reanimated”, which would be immediate. T2 was an emergency, and the wait is less than fifteen minutes. If your situation was simply urgent, you could wait up to thirty minutes. Next was “minor urgency,” a.k.a. T4, and the maximum wait claimed to be eighty minutes. For not-urgent situations, two hours was the longest you could wait. That was T5. While we waited, I watched the ladies behind the counter watch soap operas on TV while the sounds of fake crying and babies’ crying filled the room.

Mom eventually got her x-rays, which told the story. On the way home, we passed by a restaurant called Guacamole. After chilling in the apartment and returning to the clinic to discuss the x-rays, we ate there.

The invalid may or may not have surgery tomorrow. If she does have the surgery, then she will not have to have a cast, which would be great. On the other hand, there has to be a 2-millimeter gap between the main section of the radius and the part that the tendons aren’t holding in place for her to have a surgery.

Ciao!

Bariloche & Buses

We woke up yesterday tired but ready to go. After mostly packing, we went downstairs to where the breakfast area was set out for the people staying at the Villa Sofia Hotel. After eating scrumptious chocolate bread and other delicious items, we went back upstairs and finished packing.

After stuffing everything in the boot of our tiny, clunky, badly-made, red Fiat Sienna, we took off. We decided to go around until we found a place to park and then buy some chocolate from an ever present chocolate shop. The traffic, as usual, was horrible. There were no stop signs and next to zero places to park. Finally, after going past lots of full parking places, we found one on a side lane several blocks away from where we wanted to be. Oh well.

After getting our chocolate and going back to the car, my father drove my mother and me to the bus station with all of our stuff while my sister and father went out to return the car. Eventually, after an hour of waiting after the scheduled departure time, the bus arrived and we got on. The seats were surprisingly nice, but couldn’t lay back all the way, unlike the other bus that we rode to Bariloche.

We rode and rode until we got to the first border post, where they stamped our passports and had a dog sniff through our luggage, before going through about 10 kilometers of no-man’s-land. While we were driving through no-man’s-land, we noticed how there were 10 foot high walls of gravel, or pumice, we couldn’t tell which. At the end, the put a dog with our luggage and away we went.

That’s all for now, Folks!

American-Sniffing Dogs

We’re now in Chile!

Our Andesmar bus arrived in Valdivia two hours later than planned, so we skipped supper, had a few pieces of Bariloche chocolate, and headed straight to our hostel and bed.

 

Yesterday morning after breakfast we decided to spend our last Argentinean pesos on chocolate (yay!). After that we dropped Mom and Ethan off at the bus station. Dad and I returned the clunky Fiat at a car-wash place. We found a taxi and rode back to the bus station.

We had to wait an hour for our bus to arrive. We were in seats 4, 5, 7, and 8 on the bottom level, which was empty except for us and an older lady who spoke German and Spanish. On the bright side, Afrikaans is close to German, and my dad is pretty good at that language.

After a couple hours, we got to the Argentinean border. We got our passports stamped and our luggage sniffed, and we were through—sort of. There were kilometers of road between the two countries, meaning that I’ve now officially listened to One Direction in no country. We finally got to the other side, where we got our passports stamped and our luggage sniffed. My suitcase was pulled out, but once it became obvious that it was mine, everyone avoided eye contact. Coincidentally, the suitcases of the other three Americans on our bus were also pulled out.

We were eventually told to get back on the bus. We all found a box of carbs on our seat.

Hours later, we finally pulled into Valdivia. Thankfully, there was a Chinese restaurant that exchanged dollars into Chilean pesos. We piled into a taxi and rode off into the night.

Ciao!

Lazy Luna

Luna was, apparently, the third visitor to our cabaña this morning. According to Mary Lou, Paz and Juan came by around seven to say good-bye. (Ethan and I were still asleep at seven, and our parents didn’t notice them.) Fortunately, Mary Lou came by after breakfast to say her own good-byes and give us the email addresses for Paz and Juan. At some point during the conversation, Luna slunk out of our house. Dad thinks she’s pregnant—she really is a skinny kitty except for her belly.

Mary Lou told us that Paz’s family is from Buenos Aires Province, and her dad is a veterinarian. Of course, Mom then had to say how our cousin is in veterinary school and all that. The family had left early to go on a seven-hour hike. We did a shorter hike—it was about 200 meters, actually, to a creek up near a glacier in the mountains surrounding Lago Mascardi. We also saw the Black Glacier, which is really just a glacier covered in a layer of dirt. These were the first glaciers Ethan and I’ve seen that I can remember. Mom went on to tell us a story about blue ice, how when she and Dad were in Alaska, they went on a plane ride around a glacier, took lots of pictures, and then got home and discovered that the blue part doesn’t show up on film.

The road system in that section of Parque Nacional Lago Nahuel Huapi is somewhat confusing: at the end, eight kilometers are both ways. There is also a section at the beginning, about twenty kilometers, which is both ways. After a corner, it’s one way. Starting at four, you could drive back from the glaciers to the park entrance/exit. We left after a meal of sandwiches and salad.

When we drove into town, we found part of a hill on fire. It seems like fire has been an awful lot of places lately: melting down the ends of the bracelets Paz and I made, burning down a club in Brazil and killing 231 people, inviting rebellion in Catching Fire

We’re now comfortably installed in Villa Sofia, eating delicious chocolate ice cream from Rapa Nui.

Ciao!

When in San Carlos de Bariloche…again

We woke up this morning, and when we got out of bed, we inhaled a breakfast of 7 nectarines, toast, and some pastries. After that was finished, we finished up on packing our bags to leave. When my father opened the door to look outside, the gray cat, Luna, jumped on the porch and ran straight inside. She ran around inside before finally settling down on a chair cushion.

When we were just about ready, Mary-Lou came up and told us the sad news that Paz and Juan had come up to say good bye but we were not up yet then, so she got their email addresses for us. We then got in the car and left for Bariloche.

On the way to Bariloche, we decided to go on a long side-trip to a park that had a large lake in it. We paid the entrance fee and then entered. We drove for a long ways before stopping at a viewpoint and chatting with some Americans from North Carolina. Once finished with that, we continued.

At the end of the road, after several view points, we walked up a trail until we came to a stream. From there, we viewed the large mountain that looked like a large matterhorn. It had lots and lots of blue glaciers on its spires and waterfalls were coming down the sides. In the end, we went back down the trail to a restaurant and bought some food before leaving for Bariloche, where we are now eating ice cream.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Bow Broadcast

By bow in the title, I mean something like the weapon that Robin Hood used in his escapades where he took from the rich and gave to the poor. Yesterday, Juan and his father, Juan, worked on two bows, finishing one and starting on another. Today, Juan and I worked on the second one, whittling it down and sanding off the rough parts.

In the middle of all of these time using occupations, Eryn and I got invited to dine with the large family of Juan, Juan, Juan’s mother, Juan’s mother-in law, Juan’s mother-in-law’s husband, Juan’s sister, Juan’s brother, and Juan’s brother. If you want to have names entered in there instead of just relations to Juan, father and son, then the list, respectively, would be Juan-Cruz, Juan, Juan’s wife, Mary-Lou, May-Lou’s husband, Paz, Lucas, and José. After watching them all consume a pile of chicken breasts, Eryn and I consumed the delicious freshly made strawberry ice cream.

Once finished with lunch, Juan and I worked some more with the bow and strung it. While Juan worked with some strange contraption, I shot the new bow and it worked well. Once Juan gave up, and while Eryn and Paz swam in the frigid water of the recently-filled pool, Juan and I worked on making arrows. I still haven’t finished mine.

That’s all for now, Folks!

–[untitled post]–

Today was definitely a down day. Mom and Dad only went to take the laundry to the service while I made breakfast and Ethan showered. After that I made more bracelets with Paz while Ethan and Juan Cruz worked on the bow, Luna (the cat) napped, Mom and Dad read, Lucas followed his mother and baby brother Jose around, and Mary Lou made lunch. I was invited to stay for the meal, and Ethan lurked long enough to join in. It was chicken, salad, carrot and corn, and pasta. For dessert we enjoyed homemade raspberry ice cream.

Paz and I went back to making bracelets while the grown-ups talked. After all the adults, Lucas, and Jose went away for the siesta, Ethan and Juan continued working on their bow and Paz and I decided to take a quick dip in the (very cold) pool.

The family eventually left for Lago Puelo. We’ll have supper at Pizza Uno, where three of us ate while Mom was at the clinic.

Ciao!

Bridging the Gap

Today, when we went outside, Juan and his father were working on making a bowstave to make a new bow for Juan. I helped them with it; shaving it with a knife before sanding it down. Sadly, right before they were about to string it to shoot it, my family threatened me into the car and we had to go to the Rio Azul…again.

At the river, we went to a place that had two bridges spanning the water from one side to the other. One of the bridges was a nice new suspension bridge with evenly placed plywood slats, while the other one was more of two cables with small logs spanning the gap in between the two cables, while two tiny cables served as handrails. It was also tilting to almost vertical. Fun, fun, fun.

Sadly, we didn’t go on that one, instead, my father and sister opted to go about an hour’s walk up the river to another bridge. Since they are the ones that have all the say in our family, my mother and I had to trudge dutifully behind. After finding a nice and pretty beach with en-suite grass patch, we entered a debate upon what we should do.

In the end, my sister and father agreed on going to the bridge, coming back to the beach, and then eating the cookies that we had brought. We did that. At the bridge, we looked at it, and it looked like a mix between the two that we saw earlier. It was made out of both plywood and logs and was made out of ½ inch cable. My father, sister, and I went across and took pictures out over the water of the blue Rio Azul before heading back.

That’s all for now, Folks!

ABC: Azul, Beaches, Cookies

We hiked along Rio Azul again, but this time it was official. We walked for about twenty minutes threw on a road through a field of blackberries before hitting the actual trail that went along the river. Lots of people were swimming out from the rocks in the deeper, narrower sections. After about forty more minutes, we got to a nice grassy area with an adjoining beach.

“Let’s go to the bridge, then eat the cookies, then come here,” Dad said.

“No!” I protested. “Let’s go to the bridge, then come here, then eat the cookies.”

It was decided. We walked along the edge of a private campground to a gate, where a group of whitewater rafters entered the river.

“I want to do that!” I exclaimed. Of course, we don’t know what company that was, and searching the Internet seems futile.

Anyway, we continued on to the bridge that was “Maximum 1 Persona”. Ethan went first, followed by me, then Dad. Mom abstained because she was worried she’d lose her balance with one arm in a cast. The bridge had wooden slats as the floor with a couple of inches between each. Once on the other side, we had to wait because apparently we started a trend. After all the people had come over, a couple crossed back, followed by the three of us. We walked back to our cookie beach, but it was taken. Oh, well. We plopped down on a log overlooking the water anyway, munching on cookies and watching Ethan throw rocks.

By the time we got back to the car, it was six. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home for peas, pasta, tomato sauce, and a pair of blue underwear for Ethan. (He had been hoping for hot pink—he only chose any because it was brightly colored.) Juan, Paz, and the rest are all at Paz’s uncle’s house.

Ciao!

New Wardrobe Accessory

Three days ago I added another accessory to my wardrobe for the next six weeks — a cast on my right arm from the palm of my hand to four inches above my elbow. Since I am typing with just my left hand, the summary below gives the highlights.

*Steep, enjoyable hike up part of a mountain in the Andes to a lookout and rest spot

*Impressed by many flowering lupines plus beautiful views of the town of El Bolson, Lago (lake) Puelo, and snow-capped mountain peaks across the valley

*On hike down I slipped on loose gravel and sand. Put my right hand behind me to lessen the impact of the fall, not a good idea!

*I heard and felt a large snap in my right wrist. Then LOTS of pain and funny looking wrist

*45 min hike down to the car and a 60 min drive to no-charge (we found out later) government hospital, most of which was on a bumpy, gravel road

*Two very painful tries by two different nurses to get me hooked up to an IV with some pain medication

*X-rays and diagnosis of a broken and out-of-alignment radius

*No bone doctor on duty that day at government hospital so I was transported via ambulance (with lights flashing) to not-free private clinic to see bone doctor there. (An ambulance was required because of my IV, which I did not want removed at the hospital and then re-inserted at the clinic. Two pokes was enough!!)

*Bone doctor takes 30 minutes to manipulate bone so joint is in alignment again and put on cast while I am under anesthesia

*Start to learn how to survive as a lefty and keep cast dry in upcoming rainy weather

*Make plans to get two more x-rays in two different towns – at one week and two weeks after break to make sure joint is healing properly

Dubai Favorites

Wild Wadi Waterpark—This park has many fun rides, even for a non-daredevil mom like me. A new experience was riding inner tubes on the water slides that propel you uphill between the downhill slides. You do not have to get out of the water and carry your tube up flights of stairs.

Tall buildings with very unique shapes and features–One high-rise apartment building looks like it has been twisted to give a spiral effect and the base of the building rotates once in 24 hours so each apartment has an ocean view for part of a day. Dubai has many “ests” including the tallest occupied building in the world.

Dubai Mall – Wow, what a mall this is! It includes an aquarium with a huge window of a fish tank in the mall, decadent cake and cupcake shops, the largest candy store in the world (about the size of a grocery store in the US,) a Versace Store just for children, and a four-story indoor fountain.

World’s largest dancing fountain—Each afternoon and evening the Dubai Mall presents a water fountain show with Arabic and pop music, colorful lights at the night show, and choreographed sprays of water on a 30-acre manmade lake just outside the mall buildings. We did not get to see the evening performance, but we enjoyed one of the afternoon shows.

Azul y Helado

Today was more of a Down Day than yesterday. We didn’t leave until about three in the afternoon. Before then, I made breakfast and made more bracelets with Paz while Ethan played with Juan Cruz and Lucas. Felipe, Manuel, and their mom left this morning, but there was another little boy today. Inez was also there, and she threw her stuffed animal into a tree. She climbed in to get it down, with Paz and me braiding serenely below. Paz’s dad was trying to learn the name of the animal.

“How do you say… an animal that lives in the ocean and on land?”

I had seen the stuffed seal and offered the name. He shook his head. “No, it goes arr, arr. Arr, arr,” he demonstrated, hands clasped in front of him. “Seal,” I repeated. Ethan grabbed the stuffed animal, which was on the ground, and, pointing to it, announced, “Seal.”

Paz’s dad agreed, and that was solved. Eventually the family had lunch, and Ethan and I went back up to our cabaña. We eventually left, stopping first at the laundry to get our clean clothes and then at Mitski for ice cream. Ethan said that Super Sambayón was really good, with “chocolate and nuts and stuff”, so we ordered it along with Frambuesa a la Crema, Chocolate Mitski, and Banana Split. We drove to Rio Azul and walked a little ways before eating on a bench.

The Sambayón was awful. Ethan was gracious, however, and ate most of it. Banana Split had chunks of chocolate in it, and the banana part was good, too. Frambuesa a la Crema was just typical raspberry ice cream, but the Chocolate Mitski was wonderful. It had chunks of white chocolate and almonds in it—muy delicioso. We walked farther up Rio Azul and down to the rocky shore. As we threw stones and dipped our feet in the river’s chilly waters, we saw first a kayaker and then three rafts brave the (not very impressive) rapids. They got wet, by the way.

Ciao!

Rafting the Rapids

Well, because of my mother’s arm issue, we couldn’t do some things today, but we could do others. We woke up this morning at about 9-10 a.m. and did everything about breakfast that needed to be done. After that, Eryn and I played with the other kids and said goodbye to two of the rowdiest kids; Phillipe and Manuel. After they both had left with their mother in their car, Juan, his father, and his mother went out to get a new bicycle tire for someone’s bike. While they were gone, I observed Eryn and Paz making bracelets.

When Juan and family got back, he and I played some more before my parents decided that it was time to leave. We went out to a local ice cream shop and bought a kilo of ice cream ‘for the road.’ In all actuality, it wasn’t for the road, it was for the time when we got to the Rio Azul.

As we had gone that way before, it seemed that we got to the campground a lot sooner than last time. When we got down to the Rio, we went right on the path and up till there was a bench, where we ate the kilo of ice cream. From there, we walked a ways before sitting on a corner of the river next to some rapids. We waded and waited there, while throwing and skipping stones across the water and under hill and over hill. Eventually, we saw a little red kayak come down the river, and the rider steered her way through the rapids quickly and expertly. On the far bank, she pulled up and got out a camera to take pictures of what was to come.

What was to come was actually three large rubber rafts. They were filled on the sides with 6-12 paddlers each. Each of the three colorful crafts made it through the rapids fine, but the last one; a blue one, made it the best, going right through the middle without hitting either bank, like the other ones had. When it was over, I wanted to raft a river.

That’s all for now, Folks!

My Mother got Plastered

We woke up and went through the motions of getting to go yet again today, but this time we had an actual place in mind as we set out at about 1300 hrs. We rode up the bumpy rode in our screechy-scratch-low-power Fiat for a while, before finally getting to the trailhead. We started walking. At the first stopping point, we chatted with an American couple that had been to Antarctica. They were lucky. If we had gone to Antarctica, we would have gone to every single continent on planet Earth.

Anyway, after that, we continued up the hill. When we reached the carved forest we just went around it and didn’t pay to go through it. At the Refugio, we went inside the small café and ordered pizzas and drinks. After getting our drinks and being told to wait for the pizza, we went back out and admired the view.

After finishing up on the top, we went back down the way that we had come to get back to the car. Eryn, my father, and I were a ways ahead of my mother when suddenly she cried out:

‘HELP, HELP!!!”

Eryn and I, in our complete adrenaline rush, ran back up the mountainside that we had been so tired on coming up. Our mother was on the ground, clutching a wrist that looked to be dislocated. My father got back up, eventually, and he helped her up. We were moving again. We took a while getting back, and finally we did get to the bottom and drove to the hospital.

At the hospital, my mother was taken in with my father and the only communication was by texting. After about an hour of standing around in the waiting room, my father came out and got us into the car and told us the story while we followed the ambulance to a private clinic. At the clinic, the looked at her x-ray and told that she couldn’t have her surgery for a while, so we got her book for her and went outside to eat, since she couldn’t. After dinner, we checked on Mother before Father drove Eryn and I home.

After having dinner with the landlords and their family, Eryn and I went up the hill to meet with my mother and father. My mother’s arm was all incased in plaster and cotton, but other than that, she seemed fairly okay.

The next Day:

Well, my mother is feeling better, which is good. Today we slept in a lot after staying up till past midnight last night, or this morning, whichever way you want it, and then woke up. Too bad. After Eryn and I made breakfast and washed the dishes after it, we went out on a drive.

After completing our drive that included the laundry place, the clinic for x-rays, and the grocery store, we came back home and relaxed some more. Eventually, we decided to go to Lago Puelo, so we set off. On the way we stopped at an ice cream shop to buy a kilo of ice cream to eat later. At the lago, we looked out over the water whenever we didn’t have our heads buried in ice cream.

By total accident, when I was walking, I heard honking, looked, and there were Juan, Paz, Lucus, Phillipe, and more riding in their cars towards the lago. I raced back to tell my folks before changing into a swimsuit and going back. When everyone got settled on the beach, Juan and I took turns pumping up a yellow rubber raft that we wanted to paddle around.

We were so slow at paddling the raft that eventually we just jumped in and pulled it, which worked, but the water was cold. After that, we went back to shore to warm up. I had observed both Paz and Eryn making bracelets that they put on a keychain, but where did they go?

I got my answer today when I saw Lucus, a blond-haired 6-ish year old selling them to other families and people on the beach. We heard that last year, Paz made almost 300 pesos worth selling her bracelets. Finally, Juan’s father changed into his swimsuit and agreed to paddle Juan and I out into Lago Puelo. As he is a much better paddler, we went out far against the current. Eventually, Juan and I jumped into the water and swam to shore from far out while Juan’s father got a luxury three person raft all to himself.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sales and Sweet Dinosaurs

Because of Mom’s injury, today was sort of a down day. We slept in til ten, which seemed waaay to early, and Ethan and I had to make breakfast. Once that was over, I washed the dishes and we finally headed out.

Our first stop was the laundry place, where Mom and Ethan dropped off a basket of our clothes. Then came the bank, the clinic (for the x-rays), and the grocery store, where we bought breakfast foods and a scarf that is now Mom’s sling. We drove home and stayed there for about two hours as Dad dealt with the insurance company and I did schoolwork and made more bracelets like the ones that Paz, Mary Lou’s granddaughter, makes. We eventually left for Lago Puelo after a slight delay. On the way, we bought ice cream from Saurios Heladeria Artesenal, whose mascot is a swimming purple dinosaur. Dad and I chose the flavors—four in the kilo container. The woman who scooped our ice cream weighed the tub: 1.005 kilos.

The .005 extra is for the tub’s weight. It’s now become standard that they get really close in weight: at Sumo in BA, our ¾ kilo weighed .755 kilos, and in Bariloche, someone’s quarter-kilo tub weighed .250.

We eventually got to the beach of the choppy Lago Puelo, where we devoured the Black Jungle, Boysenberry, Semi-Bitter Chocolate, and Saurios Chocolate. It was delicious. Ethan went for a walk afterwards, and came running back to us: “They’re here!”

They, of course, means Juan, Paz, and co. Ethan changed into his swimsuit so he could go out on the raft with ten-year-old Juan, and I made bracelets with twelve-year-old Paz. Inez, who was with Paz when I first met her, and her family also came. All of Paz’s immediate family—mother, father, and three brothers, Juan, Lucas, and baby Jose—were there. Lucas went around with Paz’s bracelets and sold them for ten pesos apiece. During the time I was there, Paz earned eighty pesos. Ten of those pesos were brought in by a blue bracelet I made.

Ciao!

Mother’s Mayhem

We’re about to learn how much we depend on Mom’s right arm, as she broke it while hiking in the Andes yesterday. She’s fine now (other than her arm being encased in plaster) and we’re stuck doing the dishes.

130125 17640 AR El Bolson, Lago Puelo, Susan2

To learn more, go to Eryn and Ethan’s notes…

Lion of the Andes

I slept in (again) and then had my typical breakfast of cereal, egg, banana, and toast. After that we just did schoolwork and deleted pictures and napped until about 1:15, when Dad decided it was time to go on the hike up Cerro Piltriquitron.

It was a long and dusty hike up 350 meters, where we met an older couple from Colorado who had just gone to Antarctica by boat. They said it was beautiful, but the boat ride was very rough. In all the questions they asked about our trip, they never asked the Number One Question: What are you doing for school? They even asked a whopping total of seven questions before it turned into a normal conversation.

“You’re the first Americans we’ve seen in a week,” she said.

“Sorry to spoil the run for you,” my dad replied.

We continued on up, passing the garden of carved trees that we skipped. At the top we admired the view before Mom and Ethan each got Fantas, Dad and I chose water, and I ordered a pizza. Ethan was sent away from our bench, but when I was on my last piece of pizza, Mom and Dad tried to convince me to give Ethan a piece. “I’m not moving from this bench or advertising,” I said, thinking that if he wanted it, he would come get it.

But I had pity on him.

“Okay, who wants a piece of pizza?” I asked loudly. “I do, I do!” Ethan cried. He came and stood in front of me. “I do too,” Dad added.

“Okay, Ethan,” I announced clearly. “Do not touch this piece of pizza that is sitting, unguarded, on my lap. I am now admiring the view.” I turned my face towards the rocks, but apparently he had ignored me so I repeated myself. As I watched his reflection on Mom’s sunglasses, I saw him grab a piece. Once we were done eating, we befriended the bearded yellow cat that hid among the lupine. It was a sweet cat, and I got a picture of it yawning.

“I got a picture of it yawning!” I exclaimed. “It’s almost as good as a lion in Kruger!”

“Lion of the Andes,” Dad said. “That’ll be the title of my post tonight,” I decided.

We started down the hill. Dad, Ethan, and I went on ahead, talking about science subjects. We were starting in on pH levels when we heard a cry: “Help! Help!” We looked back up and saw Mom sitting in the dirt. Ethan and I raced back up the hill.

“I fell, and I think my wrist is broken. It’s swelling fast,” she choked out. Dad helped her up. Some people tried to help us, but they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Spanish.

The walk down seemed to take a lot less time than it did going up. Mom held her wrist to her chest, and Ethan and I followed a ways behind. “Finally!” Ethan crowed. We were to the parking lot. Mom and Ethan went to the car while Dad and I went to the view. I took out my camera and—it wasn’t there. “Oh, no,” I whispered. Then, louder, “I lost my camera!”

The ride down to the pavement was excruciatingly long. Ethan and Dad tried to keep the mood light (failing for the most part). Finally we got to the pavement. After a wrong turn, we got to the hospital. We shuffled into the waiting room, Ethan and I leaning against a wall, Mom taking a chair, and Dad knocking on the doors and asking, “Ingles?”

Someone came and called them away. Dad kept us up-to-date by texting us on Mom’s phone. She needed a specialist since the ends of the bone, her radius, overlapped, so she was taken in ambulance there (so they wouldn’t have to remove the IV) while the three of us followed in a car. By then, the doctors had given her drugs, so she was fine. Dad, Ethan, and I had pizza and a salad at Pizza Uno before we returned. At that point, Dad found out that she would be out of surgery in 30-40 minutes as it was about to start, so he drove Ethan and me home, where we are now.

Mom and Dad eventually came home around midnight, Mom’s arm encased in plaster, after Ethan and I had spent two hours down with Paz, Juan, and the three little boys.

Ciao!

Roja, Naranja, Amarillo, Verde, y Azul

Those are the Spanish words for red, yellow, green, and blue. The one that was on our maps and minds today was the last one: blue. Well, actually, the main one that we used today was actually Azul, as in blue, and I won’t keep translating it, but remember that Azul=Blue.

Today we woke up and went through the motions of getting ready to go. After lacing up our hiking boots, we went down into town to drop off some laundry. After getting that done, we went up past our driveway again and to the trailhead of the trail to Cerro Mirador, on the top of the hill that we reside on. After walking up the trail to the top with the viewpoint, we took pictures and then moved on.

After going through, town, we went across a small stream and headed up to a viewpoint of the Rio Azul (Blue River).  From there we drove down to the river and I moved heavy rocks while everyone else in my family sat on large rocks and logs. The river was chilly, and while we were there, we watched two horses cross the blue-colored river about 50 meters downstream.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Dulces and Death Marches

We ate a whole kilogram of ice cream today.

The flavors were orange-chocolate, blackberry, and bitter chocolate. Dad and Ethan are about to set in on another half-kilo with raspberry and chocolate with dulce de leche. This was after we got home from a hike up to the top of Cerro Amigos, looking down from several viewpoints, a walk along the Rio Azul, and a trek to and from Cascada Escondida.

Oops… I just had two spoons’ worth of the new ice cream that we got from Los Lupulos, the restaurant where we had pizza and a salad of lettuce, carrot, beets, palm heart, boiled egg, and tomato. My pizza was, of course, drowned in vinegar. Once we were done eating, Mom and Ethan went off to play foosball while Dad and I talked about gravity, photons, and the bending of the universe. Mom returned to the table after another boy came to play foosball.

We walked back to our Fiat and then drove to the Cabañas. Juan, Paz, and the rest have returned from the lake, and the pool is halfway filled.

Ciao!

Waves that Washed over Us

Well, I made a new friend. The only boys that were about my age on this trip before were Goonpat in India on the camel safari and Marcel in Namibia. Now, however, there is another. His name is Juan-Crews but everybody just calls him Juan. This morning I finally met him, and we pretty much played all day. At the beginning, we played soccer with two younger boys and then one, then we played by ourselves for a while.

In the evening, we pumped up a raft before I got spirited away for supper. After that, when I got back, one of the younger boys was paddling the inflatable raft around in the tiny pool, so mostly he was just splashes. Since my family had decided against going to Lago Puelo, so Juan’s nice father decided to take Juan, his wife, his baby, himself, and me along with the giant inflated raft to the Lago.

When we got to the Lago, there were large waves going up and down. We finished inflating the raft and Juan and I pushed off. Because of the current, we went sideways as much as we went out. We paddled for a while before riding back in with the current. After dragging the raft back over the bumpy and annoying rocks, we arrived to where Juan’s parents had staked out their place before going out in the raft again, but this time with Juan’s father. Juan’s father was appointed the oarsman, Juan the captain, and I the first mate, as we paddled out. For fun, Juan and I back flipped off the side of the raft and into the cold water. When we got back to shore, we went for a swim before packing up and heading for home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Waffles!

We finally, finally had waffles for the first time since Chiang Mai, Thailand. Frozen strawberries, chocolate ice cream, and whipped cream adorned mine as we ate above the Mitski chocolate shop in El Bolson. This was after we walked through the craft market and bought bread and pastries at the bakery.

A rectangular pool was put up here at Cerro Amigos, and Ethan played soccer with the owners’ grandkids. Mother also got us to do some schoolwork today, which we’d been avoiding for the past few days.

Dad commented on how odd it is to be in the chocolate capital of the Southern Hemisphere, and here we are, eating Swiss chocolate that we bought in Dubai.

Ciao!

What are the kids doing for school?

That’s the first or second question people ask us when they learn we are travelling throughout the world for 12 months. And some of you asked that question too before we left home. If you want to know more, here are the details:

 

I did not subscribe to or purchase a specific curriculum program for our 7th grader and our 8th grader. Rather I looked at the specific learning outcomes their teachers would cover if they were at their brick and mortar school. Then I found materials that covered the educational outcomes. For all subjects except math, they have the same curriculum, including assignments and tests, even though they are in different grades. As you can see from the lists below, the books come from a variety of sources and most of them, fortunately, are available on kindle or other e-readers.

 

Math Books for Eryn:

Algebra II Essentials for Dummies (kindle)

Algebra II Workbook for Dummies (workbook)

 

Math Books for Ethan:

Algebra I Workbook for Dummies (workbook)

Algebra Practice (workbook)

8th Grade Use It! Don’t Lose It! (workbook)

 

Science Books:

Spectrum Science Grade 7 (workbook)

Spectrum Science Grade 8 (workbook)

Elements and the Periodic Table (workbook)

Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Walker and others

Phineas Gage: Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman

 

Writing Book:

Fearless Writing Essay Guide (middle school level) by Danielle Denega

 

Reading and Religious Books:

Topic

Title

Author

Adventure, survival Lost   in the Barrens Farley Mowatt
Responsibility Red   Kayak Priscilla Cummings
Perseverance Eric   Liddell: Something Greater Than Gold Janet Benge
God’s Leading Finding   Waldo Ken Smith, David Smith
God’s love, survival Child   of the Crossfire Ruth Alycon Fleck
Faith, perseverance Zion   Champion for God Joy Matthews
Perseverance, survival Far   North Will Hobbs
Literature Holes Louis Sachar
Intelligence, Fortitude, Courage Adventurous   Women Eight True Stories Penny Colman

 

Books about Countries or Continents We Visited:

Topic

Title

Author

Australia (optional book) New   Great Australian Flying Doctor Stories Bill Marsh
Namibia Hyena   Nights & Kalahari Days Gus and Margie Miller
Botswana In   the Company of Cheerful Ladies Alexander McCall Smith
Botswana (optional book) 20 Chickens for a Saddle Robyn Scott
South Africa 50   Flippen Brilliant South Africans Alexander Parker
South Africa (optional book) Don’t   Look Behind You Peter Allison
South America The   Case of the Monkeys that Fell From the Trees Susan E. Quinlan
Greece Galen & the Gateway to Medicine Jeanne Bendick
Greece Archimedes & the Door of Science Jeanne Bendick

 

Social Studies Books:

Homework Helpers US History 1492-1865 by Ron Olson (kindle)

Homework Helpers US History 1865-present by Ron Olson (kindle)

 

Social Studies Books – Additional Reading:

Topic

Title

Author

USA Horrible   Histories – The USA Terry Dreary
Colonial Horrible   Histories – Cranky Colonials Elizabeth Levy
Elizabeth I Beware   Princess Elizabeth Carolyn Meyer
Mary Queen of Scots Mary   Bloody Mary Carolyn Meyer
Ben Franklin Ben   Franklin (10 Days) David Colbert
Revolutionary War Funny   But True History – Revolting Revolutionaries Elizabeth Levy
Revolutionary War American   Revolution Bruce Bliven
Revolutionary War Secret   of Sarah Revere Ann Rinaldi
Abigail Adams Abigail   Adams Girl of Colonial Days Jean Brown Wagoner
Late 1700’s – Yellow Fever Fever   1793 Laurie Anderson
Sacajawea Sacajawea Joseph Bruchac
War of 1812 Billy   Green Saves the Day Ben Guyatt
Industrial Revolution1780’s + The   Industrial Revolution: How Science & Technology Changed the World Carla Mooney
Texas Alamo Victor   Lopez at the Alamo James Rice
Davy Crockett Davy   Crockett: Young Rifleman Aileen Parks
Underground Railway The   Freedom Stairs Marilyn Weymouth Sequin
Civil War Shades   of Gray Tim O’Brien
Civil War Hear   the Wind Blow Mary Downing Hahn
Civil War Across   Five Aprils Irene Hunt
Civil War Elijah of Buxton Christopher Curtis
Reconstruction Era The   Coffin Quilt Ann Rinaldi
West Exploration Jason’s   Gold Will Hobbs
Early 1900’s – Ukraine Days   of Terror Barbara Smucker
1900s – Typhoid Deadly   Julie Chibbaro
Theodore Roosevelt Theodore   Roosevelt Up Close Michael L. Cooper
20th Century Horrible   Histories – 20th Century Terry Deary
Women’s Suffrage You   Want Women to Vote Lizzie Stanton? Jean Fritz
WW1 Horrible   Histories – Frightful First World War Terry Deary
WW1 Unraveling   Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Home Front During WWI Ann Bausum
Great Depression The   Mighty Miss Malone Christopher Paul Curtis
WW2 Horrible   Histories – Woeful Second World War Terry Deary
WW2 We   Were Heroes: Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins, a WWII Soldier Walter Dean Myers
WW2 Pearl Harbor Under   Red-Blood Sun Graham Salisbury
WW2 Rosie   the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front Penny Colman
WW2 Navajo Code Talkers Nathan Aaseng
Holocaust I   Have Lived a Thousand Years Livia Bitton-Jackson
Holocaust Shadow   of His Hand (Daughters of Faith   series) Wendy Lawton
After WW2 The   Circuit Francisco Jimenez
Civil Rights Movement My   Louisiana Sky Kimberly Willis Holt
Civil Rights Movement The   Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 Christopher Curtis
Civil Rights Movement I   Am #4: Martin Luther King Jr. Grace Norwich
Vietnam War All   the Broken Pieces Ann Burg
Vietnam War The   Cracker: Best Dog in Vietnam Cynthia Kadohata
Cold War Smuggler’s   Treasure (The Wall book 3) Robert Elmer
Communist China Red   Scarf Girl Ji-Li Jiang
Communism The   Seventh Escape Jan Doward
Reagan Ronald   Reagan Up Close James B. Sutherland
9/11 Thunderdog Michael Hingson

 

Lakeside Lounging and Lunging

Today we awoke from our night’s rest in Bariloche to the dawn of a new day, a couple of hours after dawn. After getting all cleaned up and somewhat packed, we went out for breakfast. Sadly, though, the breakfast area was all locked up, so we just had some of the meager amounts of food that we had brought from BA.

After checking out of our room, we went out in our bright red Fiat that was clunky and barely went backwards to the meadows and hills and lakes surrounding Bariloche.  After the grocery and chocolate store, our first stop was at a place that had ski lifts to get up to the top. We rode up to the top and looked around before riding the lift back down. After that we drove for a while before stopping at a lakeside. I went down and felt the water before deciding that it was warm enough to swim in.

After changing into my swimsuit, and lunged out into the deeper waters and lunged back out because it was so cold. However, after waiting some time, I went back out to a rock. From there, I went deeper to another rock, and so on and so forth until I was over deep-ish water and I back-flopped in from a large black rock. I stayed swimming around on my back for some time before swimming back out. Then we left and went on a drive to where we are now: El Bolson.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Strays and Stamps

We drove alllllllllllllll the way from Bariloche to El Bolson today. It wasn’t that far, actually, only about 130 kilometers. It took a long time because we had several stops. First, we rode a ski chairlift up Cerro Campanario to the top, where we had a good view of Lago Nahuel Huapi Parque Nacional and San Carlos de Bariloche. Ethan bought some postcards but decided not to buy stamps at the moment because it cost forty pesos (about six dollars) for one postcard stamp. The postcards cost five pesos each.

Ethan and I tried to befriend the small cats. There was one at the bottom of the chairlift and one at the top. There were also lots of stray dogs, but there are those everywhere.

Our next stop was Lago Moreno, where Ethan went swimming and Mom and I went wading. I had meant to jump from rock to rock with my shoes on, but my left foot slipped and I decided to hop back to shore. Ethan got my sandals from the car.

We took the scenic loop, passing (apparently) one of the best hotels in the world. Then we drove to El Bolson. Part of the road was blocked off by police, so we took the straighter shortcut. As we drove through the Andes in our bright red Fiat Siena, we munched on cookies, crackers, and hard candies. We finally got to El Bolson, and after some difficulties managed to find our accommodations. There is an empty pool here and lots of thirsty mosquitoes.

Ciao!

A Bus to Bariloche

Well, for all of you who don’t know, Bariloche is famous for its chocolate. We, after 21 hours of riding a bus, have arrived in just that location. The bus services that we used were the ones by the name of Via Bariloche. They all go to Bariloche and we used one of the ones from Buenos Aires.

The bus that we rode in was a double decker bus that had little screens for each seat. What we should have guessed was that all the videos would be in Spanish. Anyway, we rode on the top of the two levels and we got the 4 seats on the right in the front two rows. The row in the front with Eryn and I had views out of the front too, so you could see where we were going. After eating the dinner that we brought, the ‘flight attendant’ came up and gave us more food. Then we went to bed.

In the morning we woke up and ate the supplied breakfast before reading until we pulled into the station. From there, we rode in a taxi to the main drag to look for the rental car place, but it was invisible to us muggles, I guess. In the end, we just had the driver drive us to our hotel and from there we got out and went down to see the chocolates. The chocolates were good and when we got back, our bright red car was sitting in the car park gleaming and just waiting for someone to drive it.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sumo, Juice, and Parks

Today we did several things, some of them fun, some of them annoying. All of them, though, were things that took up time while we waited for this day to end and tomorrow to go half-way so that we could hop on to a bus and relax for the 20 hour journey across Argentina to a place called San Carlos de Bariloche. In one of the books that Eryn has re-read several times on this trip ‘360 Degrees Longitude’ the author describes how the streets smell like chocolate and every other shop is a chocolate one.

Today, in preparation for the long bus ride, we went to the Carrefour grocery store to buy some things. But since that wasn’t the first thing that we did, I will try to tell you the story of today from the beginning. We woke up this morning (as usual) and ate breakfast (still the usual) before heading out on a walk to check (again) if Wafles SUR is open. So far so ordinary. After that, things started to differ, though not that much. We went to the plaza of Colonel Dorrego after loitering outside of Habibi for their free wi-fi and for ordering some takeout for tomorrow. At the plaza, we just stood around outside while my father finished up some things before we decided to go to Sumo ice cream shop. When we got there, everything was barred, but the doors were wide open so we waited across the street in the park for the shop to open. Some people went inside, and we took that as a good sign and got ice cream and went home.

After waiting at home several hours, my father, mother, and I went out to the plaza again for orange juice and wi-fi before checking on Wafles SUR, which, as usual, was closed. We then went to the Carrefour Express and bought some water and stuff before returning back home, where we are now. Soon we will go to the Italian restaurant for dinner before turning in for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Chocolate & Chow & Chocolate Chow

We are now in Bariloche!

After a 21-hour bus ride, 1,569 kilometers, and lots of carbs, we made it. We used the Via Bariloche bus service, and the food was, well, awful. Breakfast was toast, bread, two croissants, and a muffin. I only had the croissants and bread, along with a banana we’d brought. For supper, they served pasta, flan, dulce de leche, rice, some type of meat, and cheese. Since we’d had supper already—take-out from Habibi Cocina Arabe that took faaaar to long to get yesterday—we were full. Supper was an Arabic salad, vegetables, falafel, and rice.

As our lunch today, we had chocolate ice cream and truffles. Sounds delicious, right? It was!

We had to walk all the way down the hill again to pizza after seeing that the Afghan-restaurant-that-was-Argentinean-cuisine-not-Afghan was too expensive for our taste. First we stopped by a market, where I bought the hat of my dreams which I will use for skiing at Willamette Pass when we get home.

Speaking of which, it’s open and the slopes are beckoning with seven feet of snow at the top! I wish I could go, but at least I got to ski in Dubai.

Anyway, the pizza was really cheesy, as Argentinean pizza typically is, but the salad and jugo de naranja were good as usual.

Ciao!

Observations, Challenges, and Favorites in South Africa

Observations

Life after Apartheid – Some South Africans are still figuring out how to deal with prejudices and past injustices from Apartheid. We spoke with several white individuals in the central part of the country who told us about areas considered unsafe to visit because “there are so many black people living there.” And others told us about white people losing farms that had been in their families for many generations because the government wanted to give their land to black families to make up for racial inequalities in the past. Both of these perspectives were sad to hear.

 

Pannekoek – This Dutch pancake is very popular throughout South Africa. It is usually about 10 to 12 inches in diameter and much thinner than traditional pancakes in the US. They are often rolled with a sweet or savory filling. One favorite way for South Africans to enjoy their pannekoek is with sugar and cinnamon rolled inside and sometimes topped with a light sugar syrup. We enjoyed eating this traditional food at a Pannekoek Restaurant in Drakensberg. Yes, the majority of items on the menu were pannekoek meals. Jerry was the only one in our family who ordered a savory pannekoek—butternut-filled pancakes with a chili sauce. Yummy! The rest of us got our sugar fix with pannekoeks filled with and smothered with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, bananas, and/or fresh whipped cream.

 

Challenges

Christmas away from home – We had to put most of our family Christmas traditions on hold for a year. But we were able to continue a couple of our holiday traditions, even though we were south of the equator and experiencing summer weather instead of playing in the snow. My sister graciously sent Eryn and Ethan red stockings that were very similar to the ones they have at home and Santa filled the stockings on Christmas Eve with candy, gifts, and goodies. As part of our Christmas dinner, we prepared two of my favorite traditional dishes: pumpkin pie and cranberry jello salad. The pie recipe I used was for fresh pumpkin, since you cannot buy canned pumpkin in Cape Town. So the spice, sugar, and milk ratio was a bit different than my preferred recipe. I used my mom’s cranberry salad recipe and found all the ingredients to make this yummy dish.

 

Car accident on our last day in South Africa – A traffic cop signaled us to enter a busy intersection that was not controlled by traffic signals, or robots as they are called in South Africa. Unfortunately a driver coming from the road to our left did not heed his yield sign. He entered the intersection right in front of us and we could not avoid hitting him. No one was hurt, no air bags deployed and the other driver was polite and reasonable, fortunately. But we still had a lot of paperwork to complete – police report, rental car company reports, credit card company reports, etc. Our rental car company did not seem to care which vehicle caused the accident. They only stressed the importance of filing a police report and completing their paperwork. If the other driver did not file a police report he is considered at fault and then his rental car company has to automatically pay for repairs of both vehicles, regardless of how the accident occurred.

 

Favorites

Kruger National Park – We were able to spend a whole week at Kruger and stayed in five different rest camps, but we only travelled to a fraction of the 7,523 square miles of the park. We saw a wide variety of animals, including three uncommon sightings: wild dogs, two leopards and a cheetah with her five cubs. One unique aspect of our visit was the abundance of wild flowers and not-so-tall green grass. Neither I nor Jerry had visited Kruger before during the spring season.

 

Visit with Dennis and Maritjie – Jerry met Dennis during his student missionary year at Helderberg College in the 1980’s and has kept in touch with him over the years. Dennis, a pastor, and Maritjie, a nurse, live outside the small town of Koster, which was founded by Maritjie’s family several generations ago. We had a good time touring their family’s farm and the surrounding sights. It was good to visit places with people who were familiar with the area and could give us added perspective.

 

Drakensberg Mountains – This forested area reminded us of Oregon, including the cold air, rain and fog. But all the forests in South Africa are planted, rather than naturally occurring. So, the trees are in nice straight rows and all about the same height, which takes a bit away from the out-in-nature feel.

 

Table Mountain – This is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. The view of the mountain from Cape Town with a bit of cloud (tablecloth) over the top never gets old. And when looking out over Cape Town, the ocean, and the surrounding area from the summit on a clear day, you can’t help but feel that it definitely deserves its new title: one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Challenges and Favorites in Namibia

Challenges

Getting enough sleep while in Etosha National Park – The best times to view the animals are at sunrise, sunset, and late in the evening at the lighted waterholes in the rest camps.  So we got up very early and went to bed very late and tried to nap in the afternoon during the heat of the day.

Credit Card Fraud – We learned the hard way not to let our credit cards out of our sight when paying for goods and services. When we were in Swakopmund a store or restaurant employee apparently took a photo of our card before returning it to us and then “new” cards were made so that the offenders could make fraudulent purchases about two weeks after we left Namibia. In the course of one weekend they purchased about $7,000 of stuff at grocery stores, a phone/stereo/music store, and a few other stores. They were busy! By the end of the weekend we realized something strange was happening and called the credit card company to cancel the number, go over the list of fraudulent purchases,  and ask for new cards to be sent to us on another continent.  It was all quite a hassle and we now keep a close eye on our credit cards. If a waiter or waitress cannot bring a credit card machine to our table, Jerry carries the card to where it can be scanned.

Flat tire on bad roads – Many roads in Namibia are unpaved, but most are a smooth enough gravel surface that doesn’t cause tire problems. We did, however, experience a particularly rough road one very hot afternoon and ended up with flat tire. We drove with the spare tire to the next very small town, with consisted of a hotel, restaurant, bakery, small market, and tire store. The tire store employee said that he had been quite busy because of the poor road surface and we ended up buying a new tire because the flat one was not repairable. Fortunately the whole adventure only resulted in a 90 minute delay to our destination.

 

Favorites

Visiting Etosha National Park – We saw many types of antelope, lions, rhinoceros, giraffes, warthogs, jackals, and zebras. The most rare sighting was a leopard just after it had killed a kudu in a small waterhole. We watched the leopard struggle for over an hour to drag its kill to a tree nearby. The next day the kill was in between the trunk branches of the tree and a hyena was munching on it.

Hiking up and running down the sand dunes in Sossusvlei

Celebrating Eryn’s Thirteenth Birthday in Swakopmund – This was our first real city in about three weeks and we were able to find birthday candles, cake, and ice cream for a proper birthday celebration

Touring the Krystal Gallerie in Swakopmund – The mining of platinum, diamonds, and other precious stones is an important part of economy of Namibia. This museum/store contains many beautiful gemstones, including the world’s largest quartz crystal cluster on display.

Sitting at Starbucks

Today we did just what I mentioned in my title; we sat at Starbucks. We woke up this morning and we got out of bed, we took showers and then brushed the hair, on our heads. Wait a minute, that sounds a little bit too rhyming, so I will try it again: This morning we woke up and took showers, after that we had a breakfast of pasta, pizza, and cereal. That may seem completely loaded with carbohydrates, and it probably is, but we didn’t have all of that each, we each only got one of the items on the list that I mentioned.

After breakfast, we lounged around and did schoolwork, mainly math, before heading out to Waffles SUR to get some waffles. As it turned out, Waffles SUR was closed, as it was yesterday, so we just decided to head to Starbucks because we needed some Wi-Fi. At Starbucks, we ordered coffee and some food and checked out the Wi-Fi, which was slow. Finally, after looking around some, my father found a Wi-Fi network that worked whenever you were near a city park. We got that, and then used that for a while before my mother decided to go the local pharmacy before going back to the apartment.

While my mother and sister were off, my father and I used the park Wi-Fi to call one of his colleagues at work to talk. After he finished, we got some freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the local carts and then walked home while drinking it. When we got home, my mother and sister arrived back successful and we all just sat down and did what we thought needed to be done.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Lost by the Door

Today we went a lot of places; the Evita Museum, a small ecological reserve in the middle of town, and to a place to get money. We went first to see if Waffles Sur was open, which it wasn’t, and then we continued to the Independencia Subte (Metro) Station. When we got off at the General San Martin Estacion, we walked across the largest street in the world: the Avenue de Julio. After going up to the regular money transfer place to get a few more pesos, we got back on the Subte and rode until we got to the Italia Estacion before getting off and going into a park.

That park turned out to be the aforementioned small ecological reserve. We went in the closest door to us, and then we found a shady area with a bench and ate some cookies that we had bought at a local supermarket. To our surprise, there were resident cats, and we tried to attract their attention, but they never seemed to see us. After watching the big gray cat jump up on the bench with Eryn and then jump down, she left, and I took over. I simply distracted the cat with a straw wrapper and then caressed it. I don’t think it started purring, but it was happy.

When we got up to leave, we walked and we walked, through all possible paths and all the way around the fence line before we concluded that the entrance where we came in was actually the only one that was not chained and padlocked. After that we went to the Evita Museum before heading back home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Tigre, a day without Tigers

There is a town up in the delta at one end of the Rio de la Plata that is called Tigre. It is a large-ish town with boats and cars. It is a little bit like Venice in the terms with the boats, but it is actually on the mainland and across the river are houses on all of the little tributaries.

We woke up this morning and got out of bed, ate breakfast then went down the road to the subway station. We rode all the way up to the end (Retiro) then got off and walked and walked and walked up to where there were ferry terminals. We got on a ferry and rode out of the port and across the ocean for a three hour tour in a boat called the Minnow. Actually, it wasn’t called the Minnow, but it was not unnamed, and we actually got only a two hour tour, but after riding across part of the giant (250 kilometers across, the largest in the world) river, when we got into the houses on the water, it got kind of repetitive.

When we pulled into Tigre, we went out on a walk to try and find the restaurants that were mentioned on the brochure that my father had got on the boat. We went to one restaurant and ordered salads and drinks, before continuing on to the number 5 bus stop. From there we rode to the end, then walked (unintentionally) in a loop before getting ice cream at McDonalds. Then we walked down to the train station and rode all of the way back to BsAs.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Starbucks and Subte

Wafles Sur wasn’t open today either, so we settled for Starbucks. Ethan selected a grande Café Mocha with an Espresso Brownie, Mom decided on a Chocolate Crème, Dad chose a grande Mocha Frappuccino, and I ordered an alto Mocha Frappuccino with a Cheesecake de Frambuesa. We sat at the only four-chair table not taken in the upstairs half. Ethan and I reviewed our trip so far while Dad worked with the internet on the iPad and Mom sat there. The cheesecake and brownie were rather bland, but