This blog was always a dream of mine — to create a log for my memories and summarize an incredible trip around the world with my husband. We created this blog together in hopes of memorializing this trip and our feelings. I think it did just that, but not without challenges. Attempting to keep the blog real time while traveling and planning every detail of our trip turning out to be infeasible. While I longed to be writing about the best meal I ever ate in Japan or about the lack of sidewalks in developing countries it was more pressing to figure out where I was going to sleep that night or how to get from the airport to our destination. Sometimes it would take 15 minutes to load a single picture to the blog (thanks crappy internet) or I wanted Scott to share some photos he took for a post and his creative process is a bit slower than mine (leading to frustration for both of us). All of these things let to me being frustrated and behind on the blog. There still is no post about our last country, Costa Rica. Not to throw Scott under the bus, but I wanted him to write that one. He didn’t ever get around to writing it and I don’t blame him. I always wanted this to be “our blog,” but maybe it was never supposed to be that. Maybe it was always supposed to be my little corner of the internet — an outlet for my thoughts and a place to share our adventures (even if it is just for me to look back on one day). I never wrote any posts about our road trip when we got back to the US. I never wrote a recap post of our whole trip with all of the stats I painstakingly kept track of. So I am taking back the blog! Today I read through old blog posts and I love the way it took me back to my exact feelings and thoughts at a particular time. The past year there have been no posts — I feel like I missed an opportunity and am sad that there is not a lasting record of my year to reflect on.
I am back in the US, back at the same job as I had before, and back to my “regular” life. It has been a year. We bought a house (not just any house, it is OUR house we have been living in for the previous 5 years and where Scott and I started our life together). We hiked. We ran races. We started a business running an Airbnb out of our guest house. We worked. I became a PE (professional engineer — it took months of studying to pass the test). We ate incredible food. We traveled to Cleveland, NYC, Steamboat, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ouray/Teluride, and Texas. We celebrated weddings and engagements. We discovered new restaurants and places in a city we know and love. We had some family health scares. Although these things don’t have the same ring as quitting our jobs to travel the globe, these things are important too. These small adventures are the moments that make up my life and I want to have a lasting account of everything in between. I crave my adventures from the past, but I also look forward for the adventures to come. There will be some more posts about our journey ’round the world, our road trips around the USA, and about returning home. There will also be posts about my “regular” life at home too — because that is an adventure worth celebrating too.
September 2017 Update — Still so far behind on the blog, but I will catch up with real time eventually! Life is starting to be back to normal here in Denver, but more on that later. First, lets talk about Guatemala….
We did not go in with many expectations in Guatemala. To be honest, we chose to go there because there were cheap Spanish classes and accommodations weren’t very expensive. We barely explored any of this country – we had read some tales of dangerous situations that can happen when you travel in this country and it made us less interested in long bus rides and seeing a lot of places. In retrospect, we should have, but we went to Guatemala with the primary goal of taking some Spanish classes. (Side note: One of Scott’s friends is getting married in Antigua in March 2018. Maybe we will get to return!)
We would have loved Antigua regardless of when we arrived, but our trip was timed perfectly so we were there during all the Semana Santa (Easter/Holy Week) celebrations. We loved Guatemala’s lakes, volcanoes, colors, beautiful culture, and friendly people. Our time in Guatemala was a highlight of our whole RTW journey and we cannot wait to go back to explore more places.
Things We Liked
Routine, Semana Santa celebrations, Colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, Spanish classes (one of us liked it better than the other), rooftop patios, volcano views and free movies
Things We Disliked
Bedrooms with no windows, no hot water and no wi-fi (I know, I know we are divas)
The whole reason we ended up in Guatemala was for Spanish classes. We both signed up for a week of 4 hours/day of one-on-one Spanish instruction. I loved it. Scott maybe didn’t. This was no surprise for either of us. I am so glad we both decided to take Spanish courses though – it was super fun to do together and we both learned a decent amount! We took courses at Antiguena Spanish Academy and our instructors Blanca and Aurora were awesome to get to know and to learn about their life, culture, and beliefs. We had class everyday from 8 am-12 pm and then had the afternoons free to ourselves to get some studying in.
Semana Santa Celebrations
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a big deal in Central America and Guatemala, but it is a REALLY big deal in Antigua (Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter Sunday). We were there in the week leading to Holy Week and I have never seen anything quite like the celebrations there. They say that each week the celebrations become more extravagant and more people show up. It was quite by accident that we were there during this time – we usually just miss the festivals, celebrations, or big events because we just didn’t know about them. It was an amazing coincidence and the city was so alive.
There are grand processions, floats and intricately designed “alfombras,” or carpets, that line the streets for several weekends leading up to Semana Santa and almost the entire week prior to Easter. The coolest part was to walk around and look at the alfombras. They are truly a work of art made entirely of colored sawdust, flowers, vegetables and leaves lining the streets. They are so detailed and the families/businesses making the alfombras painstakingly spend hours creating these beautiful carpets. A few hours after the carpets are complete the processions wind their way through the streets with the alfombras destroying the carpets.
The processions was a huge parade with marching bands and a series of intricate floats depicting the Virgin Mary and the crucifixion of Christ. Every street and corner was filled with men (of all ages) dressed in bright purple robes and many females wore black with a black veil on their heads. The men wearing purple robes carried the main float with the scene of the cruxifixction — there were close to 80 men with the wooden float on their shoulders and it almost hurt to watch them carry it as it was so heavy. The women wearing white shirts and black veils carried another wooden float with the Virgin Mary and it looked equally heavy for them as well. The processions happened all day and night long and throughout the day you could catch the procession happening in different parts of the city.
Rooftop Bars and Volcanoes
Although the tallest building in Antigua is only three stories hight, the views are amazing! Rooftop patios with views of three volcanoes, perfect weather, and a scattering of colonial architecture. We went to as many rooftops as possible and the views could not be beat.
You don’t have to head to a rooftop to see the volcanoes as they are visible all throughout the city. One day at Spanish class I saw a crowd growing looking at something – my teacher, Aurora, casually mentioned that one of the volcanoes was erupting and asked if I wanted to go see. What?! It was really cool to see an actual volcano erupting and I cannot believe how nonchalant she was about the whole thing (it apparently happens pretty frequently).
Although the tallest building in Antigua is only three stories hight, the views are amazing! Rooftop patios with views of three volcanoes, perfect weather, and incredible architecture. The architecture here reminded us of Cartagena, Colombia, which is famous for Spanish Colonial architecture.
For the first time in our entire trip we had a routine. We stayed with a host family in the city which was really just a hotel in someone’s house that provided three meals a day.Our digs were not the nicest place we have stayed in (windows, wi-fi, and hot water were all things we missed dearly), but they were perfectly adequate. Our schedule looked a bit like this:
7:00 am — Wake up and take a cold shower
7:30 am — Breakfast served at the homestay (usually a pancake, cereal, or something similar)
8:00 am — Walk over to the Spanish school to get educated
12:00 am — School is out for the day! Time to walk home
1:00 pm — Lunch is served at the homestay (the biggest meal served of the day — avacados were usually included as they are cheap and abundant in Antigua)
1:30 pm — Nap, go to a coffee shop with a sweet patio, explore the city, study Spanish…
6:30 pm — Dinnertime at the house (we did skip dinner sometimes to go explore the local food scene)
Note: If you ever make it to Antigua, go to Porque No. It has 4 tables, most of which are up on the second floor via a ladder-type structure. It was incredibly charming.
7:00 pm — Relax, study, apply for some jobs, watch The Wire, etc.
10:00 pm — Time to sleep!
We didn’t have any school a couple of the days when Semana Santa festivities were going on so we spent our days walking around and watching all the people make alfombras and the processions. It was really amazing to have a routine again after 8 months on the road with ZERO routine — even if it was just for a week.
Total Number of Nights: 8
Currency: $1 USD = 7.35 Guatemalan Quetzal
Number of Miles Traveled: 1,150 miles (including our flight from Houston)
Number of Miles Walked: 52 miles (average of 6.5 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 112,129 steps (average of about 14,000 per day)
We never expected to make it to Mexico anytime soon, but when we found out our good friends were going to be in Sayulita for a week in March so we made it happen! To be honest with you, I am not sure if it was our favorite place. Don’t misunderstand me – Sayulita is a pretty cool little place, but for us it seemed as if everything in town was only there because of the mass number of American tourists there. It also didn’t help we were with a bunch of college kids on spring break. Our week was filled with tacos, beers, beaches and good friends and for me that was perfect.
Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta
Things We Liked
Friends, tacos, cheap everything, nice beaches and relaxing for a while
Things We Disliked
Getting sick and tourists everywhere (it was the most touristy place we had been in a while – which isn’t a terrible thing, but the town lacked some authenticity)
Friends in Mexico
We met our good friends, Eleni and Taylor, and it was incredible to be able to catch up with them. They will be moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico for Eleni’s residency soon (whoa, when did we get old enough for that?) and we are bummed they will not be in Denver anymore! Before they take off we decided to eat tacos, drink margaritas, and enjoy some sunshine in Mexico while celebrating their new adventures! Some of Eleni’s friends from Florida also came down and it was amazing to get to spend some time with Anna and Kyle as well. We all had a good time and we love nothing more than to see people we love while we are on the road!
Everyone gets sick in Mexico. We have traveled the world for 7 months eating unknown food of questionable quality in just about every country we have been in. We have never had any problems anywhere – even in India where they say it is inevitable. We certainly were pretty confident that Mexico would be no problem for us. I admit that this was a bad assumption and we got the inevitable sickness most people get in Mexico. All six of us got sick at one point or another and unfortunately for me I was stuck in bed a solid 2.5 days unable to eat or drink anything. Scott did not feel quite right almost a week after we let Sayulita as well. Mexico won this round…
I never knew that Mexican food is comfort food to me until we arrived in Mexico – I mean it really should have been no surprise for this girl who was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I felt so at home with tacos, burritos, and salsa everywhere. It was all super delicious and I will never get tired of $1-2 tacos!
Surfing the Boogie
After surfing in Indonesia we have been itching to get back on a surfboard ever since. Eleni, Taylor, Scott and I decided to take a lesson from some Mexican guys on the beach – after a short on land portion we hit the waves. They help you figure out where to catch the waves and even give you a little push to help out. After an hour with these guys we were feeling really tired, but we were also pretty sure that we could replicate the process on our own since we were pretty good at catching the waves. Another wrong assumption – I am a terrible surfer and there is no way I am going to catch a wave without an instructor helping me through from start to finish. It was so much fun though and we were only slightly beat up afterwards.
Total Number of Nights: 8
Languages: Spanish (although English is widely used everywhere we went)
Currency: $1 USD = 20 Mexican Pesos
Number of Miles Traveled: 1,800 (including our flight from Miami)
Number of Miles Walked: 37 miles (average of 4.6 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 79,240 steps (average of about 9,905 per day)
Transportation Used: Bus, plane, and taxi
Type of Accommodations: Hotel and Airbnb apartment
We decided to head to Mexico to meet up with friends! Upon looking for plane tickets to get to Mexico we realized that getting to and from Mexico from anywhere in South or Central America was going to be really expensive. It was WAY cheaper to go to Mexico from the United States…so that is just what we decided to do!
We passed through Miami, Florida for 4 nights to stay with Scott’s grandfather, Pops. It was amazing to be able to spend some time with him, watch some movies, go clothes shopping, and ship some things home. We always thought we would end our trip flying through Miami for a few days to Pops, but we decided to push this visit up a month to see him on our way to Mexico!
After our week in Mexico, we headed back to the USA for another brief visit…this time to Houston, Texas for 4 nights to see both my grandmothers, my parents, my brother’s family (including our 3 year old niece), and my aunts/uncles. This was a bonus visit I never expected to happen on this trip and it was amazing to be able to see some family on our last leg of our trip!
This blog post was terribly hard for me to write and isn’t the most exciting. I have become used to writing about our times in foreign lands seeing places I have always dreamed about, but this post is much, much harder. These two mini-trips back into the US have been very special to us both though and I am so thankful our travels led us back “home” for a little while.
Aventura, Florida and Houston, Texas
Thoughts on Being “Home” in the USA
Wow, the US is expensive. We didn’t pay anything for accommodations while we visited, reward points paid for our rental cars, and we had some free meals and we still felt like we spent a lot of money. We are not used to going to target for some mini-shampoo containers and Cliff Bars and walking out with our wallets $40 lighter. We ordered sandwiches at the grocery store and spent $18 on sandwiches alone. We shipped three boxes home (clothing, souvenirs, a glass bowl given to us by Pops, and Scott’s old camera) and we paid $85 in shipping costs. The US is one of the most expensive places we have been on our travels and I think that we started to forget how much things really cost in the States.
The biggest shock upon returning back to the US is the size of everything and the amount of stuff. Grocery stores are incredibly large and there are 100 brands for everything. Heck, Target has TWO aisles that were just for laundry soap. Why is there so much of everything? We learned how little we could live with and to return and be surrounded by SO many things is overwhelming. Yes, I like options too – I nearly passed out I was so excited by the different types of yogurt I could purchase (although Noosa is always the right choice). At what point is it just too excessive?
Our trip to visit Scott’s grandfather, Pops, flew by. We exchanged out our wardrobes with some fresh clothes, we ran errands, relaxed with a beautiful view, caught up with Pops, and ate some fantastic meals. Scott’s love for going to the movie theaters traces back to going to the movies with his grandparents – so that was high on the list of things to accomplish in Florida. The three of us settled on the movie, Hidden Figures, and it was a really great picture and I left feeling inspired (and wishing I was smart enough to be a rocket scientist). It was a fabulous way to spend a few days and we loved that Pops could be a part of our trip round’ the world.
Our trip to Houston was supposed to be a fun trip to visit both of my grandmothers. It worked out that my parents were going to be in town (my Dad had a conference in San Antonio for a few days) and that I was going to be able to see my brother and my niece as well! A few days before our trip my Grandmother (my Mom’s Mom) had a minor heart attack and ended up in the ICU – every piece of good news was met with several pieces of bad news. It is heartbreaking when someone you love is sick and there is nothing that you can do about it. The quick trip to Houston turned into a well-timed one, as I could be there to visit my Grandmother in the hospital.
I am not sure what to say about our time in Texas. We were able to see so many people that we love and that filled my heart to the brim. We also had to deal with the uncertainty and worries that are associated with hospital stays and it was really hard. We were able to spend a few days with my other Grandmother getting spoiled with great food, good conversation, and to feel some normalcy. I loved seeing her and being able to spend some time at her house. We were able to visit one of my aunt and uncle at the hospital and it was wonderful to see them. I was able to catch up with my cousin, Tara, and hear about her plans to move to Korea (update July 2017 — that is not happening, but she is in a immersive Korean language program at UCLA for the summer) while reminiscing about our time together there. We were able to see the pastor from my church growing up when he came to visit the hospital. We made it to Kingwood (where I grew up) on official business and we were able to catch up with great family friends, The Thieles. We were able to see my brother and my three-year-old niece (and give her some Mexican maracas so she can bother her parents with her new musical skills). We were able to visit my Uncle who was hospitalized a few months back and it was fantastic to see him recovering well and catch up with him.We were also able to spend some time with my childhood dog, Grace, who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma and isn’t really doing well. Nobody ever expected to have 17 years with her, but it doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to our littlest member of the family.
It didn’t feel right leaving when there was so much going on in Houston. It was the hardest goodbye for me and I haven’t cried so hard in a long time. Hell, I am still crying on the plane as I write this. My heart is so full from this visit, but it is also very heavy.
Total Number of Nights: 8 (not consecutively — we had a week in Mexico in between)
Currency: $1 USD = $ 1 USD
Number of Miles Traveled: 2,200 miles (including our flight from Mexico and Colombia)
Number of Miles Walked: 21 miles (average of 2.7 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 45,874 steps (average of about 5,734 per day)
Transportation Used: Car
Type of Accommodations: Staying with Family
Number of Beds: 4
July 2017 Update — My grandmother ended up passing away in April and it was really miserable being so far away from home. Grace, our longest standing dog member of the family, crossed the rainbow bridge in May. Unfortunately, life isn’t always beautiful scenery and good food. In an effort to make this a true account of our trip I want to include the shitty stuff too. Rest in peace Lena Ward — I will miss you so much.
The soundtrack to Colombia is vibrant, loud, and catchy – there is music blaring from every shop, restaurant and around every corner. Fruit vendors selling mangos and pineapples litter the city. Seafood is abundant and you can buy ceviche almost anywhere. The vibe here is a mix of Caribbean and Latino. There was more poverty than I expected. To be honest, I am not sure if it was my favorite place in the world. I struggled to find the food scene past ceviche, arepas and fresh fish. Perhaps we didn’t dig deep enough into Colombia, as it is a big country and we really only spent time in Cartagena. The glimpses we did see were incredible and Colombian culture is animated and so dynamic. If I could redo our time in Colombia I would go to some other cities to try and get a better feel for this country.
Bogota (just in passing on an overnight layover) and Cartagena
Things We Liked
Ceviche, limonada de coco (holy crap these are good), and beaches
Things We Disliked
Hot weather, overall food scene, and expensive accommodations
The Colors of Cartagena
The city of Cartagena is full of vibrant colors and beautiful architecture. The streets are really stunning and every corner you turn seems to be more and more beautiful. There was one problem though…the streets were complete chaos during the middle of the day with a lot of people, tourists and Colombians alike, street vendors, and cars. We much preferred the mornings and later at night when the streets clear out and the beauty of Cartagena can be seen more fully.
Street Food, Dancing, and Trampoline Hopping
On Saturday night in Gemsmani, a neighborhood close to the center of the city, comes to life. The square was packed full of locals waiting for food at one of the street vendors, musicians, dancers, and kids playing on a giant trampoline that was brought to the square. We sat there for hours watching all of the action and eating all of the food. We ate hot dogs (perros calientes in Colombia are out of this world), arepas, meat on sticks, and ice cream popsicles. We loved this evening and it was our favorite thing we did in Colombia. Sometimes the Old City in Cartagena felt very touristy — we struggled to really get to the heart of the culture and people because of this. This night in Gemsmani felt almost completely opposite of the tourist center and you could feel the culture and life of the people in Cartagena.
Beer & Laundry
We have really come to appreciate having access to a laundry machine. We have a very limited amount of clothing and clean laundry is sometimes hard to come by. When we arrived in Cartagena we knew that finding a place to do our laundry was a priority so we set out to do just that. There is a little place in Cartagena called Beer and Laundry — it is magical!
This is how it works: you bring your laundry and the lady who runs the store will wash, dry, and fold your laundry while you hang out and have a few beers. You can also order some food while you wait – pizza, beer, and laundry are a match made in heaven for a long-term traveler. You can also just drop of your clothes and pick them up later, but where is the fun in that? While we were waiting on our clothes to be finished we met a ton of people and loved swapping travel stories with them. Most of the people we met had been backpacking around South America for the past couple of months – it was particularly awesome to hear all about their experiences since we had to skip most of South America this time around. Sometimes it is the experiences that you least expect (like doing our laundry) to be the ones to create our favorite memories.
Ceviche & Coconuts
The food scene in Cartagena was hard for us to figure out. What we did figure out pretty quickly is that ceviche is big in Cartagena and we LOVE it. If you aren’t familiar ceviche it is ……..When we order ceviche in the US it is $15 and served in a shot glass. It was wonderful to pay $10 and get a bowl of ceviche big enough for us to split at lunch. Our favorite ceviche was a fish, conch, and calamari mix in coconut milk from La Ceverceria, a place that Anthony Bourdain visited and put on our radar.
Coconuts and coconut flavored everything are all over this city. My favorite is the limonada de coco and I think I sampled this delicious drink at almost every restaurant we visited. This coconut flavored lemonade tastes as good, or dare I say even better, than a pina colada. I love me a good pina colada, but damn…these things were incredible. You could say that I am obsessed and I am on a quest to make the perfect limonada de coco once I get back home.
There are beaches closer to Cartagena than Playa Blanca, but they are not nearly as nice. We took a shuttle to Playa Blanca to spend the day sitting along the crystal blue waters that make you have been transported to an island in the Caribbean. We spent the entire day lounging on beach chairs saying no to vendors trying to sell us massages, bracelets, hats, and sunglasses. We wish we would have spent a night or two staying here, but we already had a place in Cartagena.
It was a fabulous day…until we went to walk back to the shuttle. We could not find where we had entered the beach to get back to the last shuttle of the day. After asking around we found the way to the parking lot. There was no shuttle in the parking lot even though it was supposed to be leaving in 10 minutes! As we are panicking a bit a “helpful” taxi driver asked what we were looking for…and one conversation in broken Spanish later he told us that our shuttle had just left. Since we don’t trust anyone and something about the parking lot felt different we decided to run down the road a bit further. We found an identical parking lot with our shuttle about to leave in the parking lot! Whew.
Total Number of Nights: 7
Currency: $1 USD = 2,957 Colombian Pesos
Number of Miles Traveled: 4,350 miles (including our flight from Argentina)
Number of Miles Walked: 36 miles (average of 6 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 76,387 steps (average of about 12,700 per day)
Transportation Used: Taxi, mini-bus (shuttle), Uber, and plane
This post is out of order and only has one theme: Scott taking photos around the world. While he photographed some of the world’s prettiest places, I had to practice being patient while I waited for him and in the process I took a ridiculous amount of photos of Scott taking photos. Also, if you haven’t noticed in some of the other posts his photos are REALLY good. Without further commentary, here are my favorites of Scott taking pictures in cool places. You may need to give this post a minute to load!
Our time in Patagonia was amazing and completely opposite of Buenos Aires — it is hard to believe they are in the same country. We stressed about our itinerary a lot….was it wrong to make it all the way to Patagonia and not do the W trek in Torres del Paine? Was it smart to go backpacking for 5 days when we had to rent all of the gear we might need – not only would that be expensive it would be difficult to be stuck with gear that was only adequate? Where do we store our laptops and other technology while we backpack? It was frustrating since we have everything we might need back in Denver, but we were left ill-prepared. For this post, I am going to let the pictures do most of the talking.
El Calafate and El Chalten
Laguna de los Tres (16 miles), Laguna Torre (15 miles), Chorrillo del Salto (5 miles), and Los Condores and Las Aguilas (3.5 miles)
Things We Liked
NATURE and views like the one below
Things We Disliked
Expensive, bad food, rainy, windy, unpredictable weather and our lack of camping/hiking gear
Ultimately we decided to skip Torres del Paine (and the 3-5 days backpacking with rented gear) and instead spend 4 nights in El Chalten exploring some of the premier day hikes. The hikes were long, but stunning. The weather rarely ever cooperated. There were days when we hiked with cold, sideways rain and with wind about to knock us over. We had read that the views in Los Glaciers National Park rivaled the views in Torres del Paine National Park (and that some people even preferred Los Glaciers National Park). A few days we rented hiking boots two of the days (thank goodness!) and even some day packs for some of the longer hikes (7 plus hours). Although they were not the greatest boots they saved our feet and I am so thankful we were able to rent some gear!
My favorite hike was Laguna de Los Tres — although the last kilometer very steep and almost straight up, but the stunning views of three glacial lakes and and Mount Fitz Roy made every step of the 16 miles of hiking. The pictures really say it all….
Our other favorite hike in the area was Laguna Torre, clocking in at 14 miles round trip. I would have loved this hike even more if there wasn’t rain the entire day and clouds obscuring our view most of the hike.
After El Chalten we headed to El Calafate to check out Perito Moreno Glacier. We have seen a couple glaciers before but this one was really special. Every so often pieces of the glacier would fall of into the water and it sounded exactly like thunder. To hear the glacier creak and crack was amazing. We took a boat ride to get a better view before trekking on the glacier — it was touristy and I loved every minute.
Don’t Drink the Water
Fun fact about Patagonia is that you can drink the water. I am not talking about water from the tap either (although you can drink that too) — I am referring to lakes and rivers. Never have I ever heard a park ranger encourage me to dip my water bottle into the river and drink it. There was nothing better than filling my bottle up with some nice, cold glacial runoff water and drinking it. We even had ice cubes from a glacier in our whiskey on the rocks at Perito Moreno Glacier.
We really loved our time in Patagonia. It is incredible here. It also reminded us of Colorado and made us so, so excited to go back and explore our state more 🙂
We went to Argentina in February. It is now June. Oops. I knew this would happen eventually, but I really wanted to stay up to date and stay in real time (which actually never happened). We have just returned home and have so much to catch up on the blog. We also have so much to process in terms of being home once again. I have no words to describe any of that yet. Until then I am going to time travel back to Argentina and think about all the wonderful times there.
South America…finally! I have been itching to get to some Spanish speaking countries for a while now. Emalie, my sister-in-law, wanted to come visit us in South America and we decided Buenos Aires was just the place to do that! We never really anticipated making it to Argentina on this trip and we certainly did not expect to spend 18 nights here. Our original plans included Maccu Piccu in Peru and the Bolivian Salt Flats, but our plans on this trip are constantly changing in a way that has been impossible to predict. We had no gear for Maccu Piccu, we would be arriving in rainy season, and we would be unable to do any of the treks we wanted to do because we didn’t sign up in advance.
Since we would be so far south in Argentina in Buenos Aires we started thinking that maybe Patagonia would be a possibility. The weather is perfect this time of year, we found relatively cheap airfare to get there, and we have always dreamed of going there so a new plan was born (Sidenote: This plan really makes no more sense than Maccu Piccu since we still have no hiking gear, but I digress). Since our trip to Buenos Aires and our adventures in Patagonia are complete opposites of one another, I am going to write two separate posts.
Expensive, potentially unsafe cities, hot weather (really, really hot), and malbec
We had heard that Buenos Aires might not be the safest of cities and we found out the hard way one night when we almost got robbed under a bridge (that was out of the view from the road) just a block away from our apartment. In our 7 months of traveling, I have never felt so unsafe or uncomfortable. Lesson learned…we took Uber and taxis at night going forward.
1. Emalie in Buenos Aires
We spent just over a week in Buenos Aires with Emalie eating empanadas, learning about tango, getting some sun, taking day trips to Uruguay, sampling all the helados (ice cream) and wandering the city. We were so, so sad when it was time for her to go back to the US at the end of the week! We had a wonderful time exploring a new place although we all agree that Buenos Aires might not be our favorite city in the world. Spending 9 days there was maybe a few days too long for us, but we never ran out of things to do, see and eat! We are starting to feel really tired of moving around every few days so it was really awesome to unpack our bags and stay put for a while. Also, Emalie visiting was a breathe of fresh air…we much needed her impromptu mini-concerts in the living room to take away some of our stress (although it did not help us book anything any faster) 🙂
Special thanks to Emalie for putting up with Scott and I try to frantically plan Patagonia a few days before the trip (like I said…it was a tad bit stressful for us).
More on that in the next post!
3. Day Trip to Uruguay
We talked about doing 2 or 3 full days in Uruguay to check out Montevideo and Colonia del Sacramento. In the end we decided to be lazy and just take a day trip to Colonia, a cute town that is a UNESCO site and that is quite literally the opposite in every way to Buenos Aires. It is about 1.25 hours away by fast ferry service. We enjoyed some quiet wandering around the cobblestone streets and almost melted due to the heat. There is not a ton to see in Colonia del Sacramento so once we had seen all the site we checked out the beach close to town along the banks of the Rio de la Plata. Even with no ocean in site we enjoyed our afternoon at the beach before catching the last ferry back to Buenos Aires.
In an attempt not to just tell you the awesome stories and show you beautiful pictures I must admit to a blunder we had the first attempt to make it to Uruguay. Scott had not been feeling well for about 24 hours and decided the morning before our 8:15 am boat that he would not be going with Emalie and I. We obviously didn’t like this as life is more fun with Scott in it so we tried calling the boat company a few times – I am pretty sure the answering machine told me in Spanish that the office would not open until 8 in the morning, but there was no way for certain. We had to leave the house way earlier than that to make it to the boat on time. We wasted a lot of time trying to get in touch with them that we were running later than we wanted to be. Finally we decided we had to go and we would try to get them to change the tickets and if they wouldn’t then we would be going to Uruguay without Scott.
We hopped in an Uber and told the driver we wanted to go to the port. Well, he took us there and upon arrival we learned that we were actually 10 minutes driving from where we should be. Finally, we arrived at the ferry company’s port at 8:20 am. 5 minutes after the ferry took off…
We talked to the office and they told us we needed to get a doctor’s not for Scott if we wanted to change the tickets. Emalie and I are pretty okay at expressing ourselves in Spanish usually, but both of us were unable to communicate effectively. It was embarrassing how badly we were communicating. It just wasn’t working for us. When they asked what was wrong with Scott and why we wouldn’t go to the doctor we explained we were afraid to go because our Spanish was so bad (not totally true, but I had limited vocabulary to explain our situation). We must have butchered the language so bad that they felt sorry for us. Tickets were changed for two days later and we were all able to go to Colonia together!
Beating the Heat at Parque Norte
There is no beach in Buenos Aires much to all of our surprise.The city sits along the Rio de la Plata and there are no beaches within a few hours of the city. A heat wave had rolled through town right before we arrived we knew we needed to find a pool. Enter, Parque Norte. This place reminded us of a Vegas pool or a water park and it is a popular local hangout. It is located under the airspace of the domestic airport located in the city. Every few minutes a commercial jet would fly pretty low over the park as it was approaching the runway – it was nice to relax and watch the planes fly by. We rented some lawn chairs, an umbrella and drank some cold refreshments while enjoying some sun. We went back again we enjoyed it so much the first time around!
The Best and the Worst Steak
Argentina is known for beef, especially steak. We have some mixed reviews. We went to a restaurant nearby our house with good reviews. The service was awful (even bad in South American standards), it took us over an hour to get a bottle of wine we ordered, and the steaks were up there with the worst steaks I have ever consumed. It was confusing to say the least.
We decided that this could not be our only steak experience so we headed to one of the most well known places in Buneos Aires, Las Caberas. They have a happy hour deal every night that is 40% off your entire bill. All you have to do is shown up just before 7 and be out of the place by around 8 so they can continue their regular dinner service. It was fantastic! When we passed back through Buenos Aires after our Patagonia trip we hit up the happy hour here one more time.
Queso, Queso, Queso
Everything in Argentina has queso on it. Argentine style pizza 10% crust and 90% cheese, we ordered a steak, which came with more cheese than steak, and there was rarely anything we ate that did not come with a healthy amount of queso. I love cheese just as much as the next person (or maybe more), but perhaps they have taken the level of mediocre cheese on everything just a bit too far.
The Stats (including Patagonia)
Total Number of Nights: 18
Currency: $1 USD = 15.4 Argentine Pesos
Number of Miles Traveled: 10,000 miles (including our flight from London and to Patagonia)
Number of Miles Walked: 144 miles (average of 8 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 310,504 steps (average of about 17,250 per day)
Transportation Used: Taxi, Uber, bus, boat, and plane
Type of Accommodations: Hostel/hotel (3) and apartment (2)
This post is a continuation of my first post about our time in Europe! I can’t believe we almost skipped Europe on this trip. Maybe it was because it was the middle of winter, but it was not nearly as expensive as we thought it would be (which was the only reason we had decided to skip it anyway)! There is so much to see and do in Europe and we could have traveled there for a year and not seen everything on our list. We settled on a few cities we have always wanted to go to that had some cheap flights.
We met up with my parents in Barcelona and had a great time! I wish we could have seen some other parts of Spain, but we were hoping to make this trip an actual vacation for my parents instead of our usually rushing from place to place (as we did with them in Japan). After Barcelona we went to London. The flights to South America were relatively cheap from London and the British Pound conversion rate was in our favor so it seemed like as good of a time as any to go!
We blinked and our time in Barcelona was already over. My parents met us in Barcelona for a week and it was the absolute best! They took a break from snow and cold in Cleveland to hang out with us in Europe. It is a shame we didn’t get to explore more of Spain, but it was fantastic to have an entire week to see Barcelona – there is so much to do, see, and eat in this city and we did not have to rush around trying to see too much. We ate our way all around the city and ate an unspeakable amount of pinxtos (smaller snacks similar to tapas).
Nights Spent: 7
Things We Liked
Family, Spanish (finally!), pinxtos and tapas, good wine, beautiful architecture, nicer weather, sunshine, football, and sangria
We also liked having an awesome patio at our Airbnb.
Things We Disliked
Not being able to utilize our awesome patio fully since it is winter, being on the lookout for the notoriously crafty Barcelona pickpockets, and still being sick (although we have both improved significantly).
The Bueschers Take Barcelona
I have been able to spend more time with my parents this year during our travels than on any other year in recent history. It has been so fun to see the world together…some of my favorite memories are traveling with my family. This year we have been able to travel with them to Niagara Falls (to both the US and Canadian side), Japan and now also Spain – how cool is that?!
FC Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid
Football, or soccer as Americans call it, is a big deal in Europe and Spain is no exception. We were able to go to a semi-final game in Barcelona at Camp Nou to cheer on the home team, FC Barcelona, against Atlético Madrid. It was a really cool experience and everyone was mostly behaved (except for the fan that went rogue and ran onto the field. It probably helps that they don’t serve alcohol at the games. The crowd would go through a range of emotions: quiet, anger, happiness, back to anger….it was a blast even though we usually had no idea the full extent of what was happening! The game ended in a tie (I still don’t understand how that works), but at least we didn’t lose.
Super Bowl & NYE 2017 (Again)
For as long as I can remember my parents and I have always gone through our highs and lows for the year on New Years Eve/Christmas. Some family friends got me started on writing out the highlights and lowlights when I was really young and I have loved doing it ever since! Spending Christmas abroad this year meant that we were not able to complete our yearly tradition…so New Years Eve happened once again in February! I always love reminiscing on the past year over a glass of champagne and this year was no different. We made it to midnight where we toasted to the new year (that was already 10% complete) before we turned out attention to the Super Bowl!
The super bowl started at 12:30 am in Barcelona. We watched the game until the end of the 3rd quarter…the Patriots were down and there was no way that they were going to win. It was around 3:30 am at this point and it just seemed smart to head to sleep and give up on the game. There was a 99% chance that the Falcons would win and it was really late already. The next day we woke up to the news about the Patriots and their epic comeback in the 4th quarter/overtime. My dad didn’t even believe me in the morning when I told him what happened. We may never forgive ourselves for going to sleep and missing out on the excitement.
Eating Everything in Barcelona
We are our way through Barcelona – tapas and pinxtos (smaller than tapas) were my favorite and I wish this style of eating were bigger in the US. Places that serve tapas in the US usually are expensive, pretentious, and I need to order so many tapas to have enough food. We really enjoyed being able to go into a place to grab a few pinxtos (priced at anywhere from 1-2 Euros/piece) and have a glass of wine or sangria. Our apartment was located 2 blocks from Blai Street, a street filled with reasonably priced pinxto places and the best tapas place in town, Quimet & Quimet. If you ever make it to Barcelona, do me a favor and eat at all of these places! The food scene in Barcelona is next level.
One of our most memorable dining experiences was our last day when we went to try a traditional Catalonian food that happened to be in season, Calçots. We initially learned about these onions on an Anthony Bourdain episode and did not think we would be able to try them ourselves until we arrived in Barcelona and saw them on a menu. The wait staff at the restaurant we went to did not speak English well (just about as good as my Spanish). They presented us with bibs, rubber gloves, and told us to put them on as our first dish of the calcots showed up on our table. The waiter then announces to the entire restaurant that we do not know Spanish and asks if anyone can help him explain how to eat them. He took one of our onions and demonstrated the proper technique – you are supposed to hold the top stalk, break off the bottom and pull the onion out. Once you do this you dip the onion with a healthy coat of sauce and strip the onion of the meat with your mouth. The meal was an absolute mess and we left the restaurant with grins from ear to ear. We had so much fun!
There are wine regions all over Spain and it didn’t feel quite right to visit without learning more about Spanish wines. We signed up for private wine tasting with Blended and Bottled where we learned about Cava (equivalent to the champagne of Spain) and other wines of the region. We paired them with some Spanish meats and cheeses and had a fabulous evening! None of us knew that we liked Spanish wines so much and I will certainly pick up some wine from Rioja in my future.
It was always the idea that half of our trip would be in Asia and the other half in Spanish speaking countries. We are now 6 months into our trip and have not set foot into a place we can use Spanish until now – it has been slightly frustrating, but how can you complain when we have had the opportunity to see so many incredible places? With the exception of our 5 days in London to finish off our Euro-trip all of the remaining countries we will visit on this trip speak Spanish as a primary language. I am so excited about that! I have forgotten most of my speaking skills and need some serious practice, but I am ready for the challenge…even Scott is remembering his Spanish from high school and it has been really fun.
La Sagrada Familia
After visiting a few cities in Europe we have seen a fair share of impressive churches. La Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudi, is unlike the others. The outside is stunning even with the ongoing construction site since the church is not yet complete. Seeing the outside of this church would be a notable activity when in Barcelona, but the inside…the inside is unlike anything I have ever seen. It is incredible and so different from any other place I have ever seen. My engineer brain can hardly understand how so many curved lines in the architecture of this church make any sense structurally, but damn it is beautiful.
We love London. This could be partly due to the fact that we felt comfortable here – we could speak the language, eat comfort food, and shop at familiar stores. It could also be that London is just a really, really cool city. It is like NYC, but with much more charm. Everywhere you look there is beautiful architecture, a museum (usually with free admission), or a historical site. I am not sure if you can ever run out of things to do in London. It was really cold and rainy most of the time we were here, but it did not stop us. London is an incredibly beautiful, picturesque city and has so much character despite being so large. The iconic red double-decker buses, black taxicabs, and red phone booths litter the city and the style in the entire city is so unique.
In addition to seeing the London sites we also got some things done in London. Both Scott and I saw the doctor (which was free – I still don’t understand why), got haircuts, and restocked our bags with some much-needed supplies. We ate really well, drank good beer, and I was able to get my earl grey tea fix.
Nights Spent: 5
Things We Liked
English, T.K. Maxx (yes, just like T.J. Maxx), beautiful architecture, museums with free admission, the tube/the Underground, Chipotle, craft beer, full English breakfasts, fish & chips, and being comfortable.
Things We Disliked
Expensive (although the exchange rate is fantastic right now – thanks Brexit!), the weather could have been less cold, and mushy peas – what is the fascination with those? We really disliked very little.
Whole Foods, Chipotle, and T.K. Maxx (just like T.J. Maxx, but way better selection) to name a few of our favorites. I freaked out in the middle of the street upon learning there was a Chipotle nearby and I had zero chill at the Whole Foods salad bar. You could not wipe the smile off my face as I ate my salad, which is really embarrassing. These things are really basic, but to us they were incredible and familiar (and they might have made us miss home a bit). We were able to go to the drugstore and restock our cosmetics and toiletries that were running low with the same brands we love back home. We could absolutely live in London if someone told us we had to move there. It was a highlight to go to some places we have been missing!
New York City has Broadway, but London has West End. Anyone who has been to NYC probably knows about TKTS, the place you can stand in line to get cheap tickets to Broadway plays the day of. London has this too! We decided to see a show for Valentine’s Day because…why not? We were able to find reasonable tickets to Kinky Boots, a show that we had heard rave reviews about from family and friends. We knew nothing about it, but decided to give it a shot. It was amazing! We had a great time. Our seats were way better than expected and the show was full of energy and hilarious. It was a memorable V-Day across the pond. Also, we had ramen before the show and found a shop that sold our beloved pastries from Portugal, pastel de natas, for desert (we may or may not have snuck them in). I swear those things are like crack.
All of the Sites, All of the Sights
Big Ben, Hyde Park, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey…the list is endless. There are so many iconic and historic places in London to see. As I mentioned above, most of the museums offer free admission so we were able to go to the Natural Science Museum and the National Gallery (which has some pretty famous artists’ works). We wish we had time there as there is so much to see in the city.
Changing of the Guards
We went to go see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. Most of the year they have this everyday, but during the winter it only takes place every other day. That could be why so many people were there, but in reality it is probably always packed with tourists. We could hardly see anything despite arriving almost an hour early. The ceremony is a bit spread out so we were able to see the new guards march in and the band, but other than that we were in the dark. I hear the ceremony is really great, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see much. We did get to see a bit of the fanfare though! There were police on horses, the band that marched in uniform and of course the Queen’s Guard. We don’t regret going to see the excitement, but maybe wish we would have gotten there another half hour early and would have known exactly the best spots to stand. We will know for net time we make it to London!
Total Number of Nights: 12
Languages: Spanish and English
Currency: $1 USD = 0.95 Euro = 1.24 British Pound
Number of Flights: 2
Number of Miles Traveled: 1,525 miles (including our flight from Lisbon)
Number of Miles Walked: 88.4 miles (average of 6.8 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 190,260 steps (average of about 14,635 per day)
Transportation Used: Taxi, metro, train, and plane
There are endless ways to do a trip to Europe and quite honestly the options were overwhelming. There are so many spectacular places just a quick (and cheap) plane or train ride away – how do you choose where to go?? My parents planned a trip to meet us in Barcelona. Done. We had two weeks to make it from Dubai to Barcelona. Next time we make it to Europe I would love to get a Europass and ride the rails around, but that took far too much planning and instead we are city hopping our way through Europe via low-cost airlines!
So our route turned out to look like this: Prague, Czech Republic–>Amsterdam, The Netherlands–>Lisbon, Portugal–> Barcelona, Spain–>London, England
I split our time in Europe into two blogs posts so it wasn’t outrageously long. I really, really wish we had more time in Europe!
Prague, Czech Republic
This city is a fairytale and I have never been somewhere so spectacular. Winter was in full effect when we arrived with snow covered ground and extremely cold temperatures. We went directly from 90 degrees in the desert to 20 degrees and did not have much in our bags for cold weather (although we do have light down jackets from New Zealand) – it was a bit of a shock to our systems. Our first order of business was to buy new, warm shoes and some socks that could keep our toes from freezing. Although we were freezing the entire time, we think that going in the winter added to the charm of the city, as there was hardly anybody there. I can imagine Prague being overrun in the summer with tourists (it is amazing, I totally get why it would be). We absolutely loved our time in Prague and can’t believe we almost left Europe out of our trip.
No trip to Prague is complete without a visit to Prague Castle. I would agree with this, but we also almost froze in the process. The entire visit took about 2 hours from start to finish and not a single part of it was in a heated environment. At St. Vitus Cathedral no hats were allowed either so we were even colder walking through the Cathedral with bare heads (full disclosure: they let me keep my hat on so only Scott had to suffer in the cold with a bare head).
Old Jewish Town
We were staying in the old Jewish quarter, Josefov, which is one of the most preserved Jewish quarters in Europe. We were able to walk around this area, see a really old Jewish cemetery, and visit several old synagogues, which are now used as museums. This was one of our favorite things we did in Prague!
The Jewish quarter in Prague was not destroyed during World War II like most other Jewish quarters in Europe. Hitler left most of the synagogues and Jewish items in Prague untouched so that after the war there could be a museum to an extinct race. That gives me chill bumps – what a dick!
Prague in Pictures
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
I have never had a strong interest in going to Amsterdam…all I have ever heard about is legal weed, the red light district, and other crazy stories involving debauchery. Amsterdam is awesome and I was so wrong. It is one of my favorite cities in the entire world and I could easily live here for a little while. The city is full of cobblestones, bicycles, beautiful architecture, old buildings, canals, and so much history.
Nights Spent: 4
Things we Liked
Food scene (although we did not eat too much Dutch food), legal weed, architecture, bicycle culture, museums, cheese!, stroopwaffles, craft beer, bitterballen (among other fried goodies) and walking around the canals.
We also ran into some of Scott’s friends from Boulder and it was amazing to catch up over a beer or two! I love it when things like that work out.
Things We Disliked
We both got sick in Dubai and were still fighting it off during our time in Prague and in Amsterdam – it was awesome to be able to go to a doctor that spoke English and could send us off with some things to help our sniffling and coughing, but it is never fun to be sick.
We did not try a ton of Dutch food (it just wasn’t that available to us), but our stomachs loved Amsterdam just as much as we did. A favorite spot for us was Foodhallen, an indoor food market with almost infinite options — you could get anything from dim sum to a charcuterie platter. One of our favorites was a sampler of 5 different flavors of bitterballen, a meat-based Dutch snack served molten hot.
Unfortunately, we went to multiple restaurants that happened to be closed for the next few weeks and up to a month. I know it is middle of winter and Europeans love to go on holiday, but it was super inconvenient to make it to a restaurant we had researched only to have it be closed. Fortunately, since so many places were closed upon arrival we discovered some really good Dutch fried food instead that was always open. These places litter the city — they are little shops that have little doors with fried goods behind each door. All you have to do is drop a few coins in the slot next to your food of choice and the door pops open revealing a hot, fried Dutch specialty of some sort. Who would hate that?
Legal weed makes us feel like we are back in Denver again, except for the fact you buy it at certain coffee shops and are encouraged to order a coffee and smoke it right there at the shop. I cannot confirm or deny if I participated, but when in Amsterdam…
Anne Frank House
In elementary school I did a project on the Diary of Anne Frank and I have been enthralled by her and her family’s story ever since. At the time I was just a young girl when I learned her story – but that is why it was so powerful. She was a young girl too, just like me. The only difference was that we were born in different times and that she was Jewish. I never could understand why that mattered. I still don’t.
We visited the house where they hid from the Nazis for two years. You were able to see the pictures on the wall in the bedroom, the bookcase that would close and hide the secret annex away, and the famed red and white-checkered diary that got the world talking. It was humbling to be there and on National Holocaust Remembrance Day no less.
It was especially haunting to learn more about the fact that the Franks were denied a request to be refugees in the USA where they would have been safe, but instead they hid for two years here behind this bookcase before they were found and sent to their deaths. It is all so very relevant to what is happening right now.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank
Portugal was never high on either of our list of places we wanted to go and to be honest we knew very little about it (besides the fact that the weather was way better there than in most of Europe). We thought it would be a nice place to recharge our batteries and try to get healthy since we are both still fighting sicknesses. Unfortunately we are not the best at staying put and instead explored the city as much as we could. Lisbon is very walk able and easy to get around on public transportation – although there are so many hills to navigate! The seafood is abundant, the wine is cheap, and pastry shops are on every corner. It was not a bad place to spend a few days and do our best to learn enough Portuguese to get by (our language skills turns into an ugly mix of English, Spanish and Portuguese).
Nights Spent: 5
Things We Liked
Coffee, cheap and abundant wine, cable cars, seafood, Lisbon Aquarium, castles, and Pasteis de natas
Things We Disliked
Street art is cool, but graffiti and tags are not. Lisbon is full of graffiti and we did not find it to be very appealing.
We had a less than positive experience with Airbnb here — their customer support is the worst and we could not get them to help us in a timely manner and get us moved to a more suitable place.
Palacia de Pena
This place looks like it was created by Walt Disney to put in a theme park – except this one is the real deal. This palace was originally built in the 1800s and it was really cool to check it out.
Pasteis de Nata
We are so addicted to these little egg custards – it was a very unhealthy obsession. A few days of the trip we were on a two or three nata a day habit. They were like crack. These things are just so flaky, sweet, and creamy. We especially liked them when they were fresh out of the oven and sprinkled with some powder sugar and cinnamon on top. I am drooling just thinking about them! We went looking for the best one in town and we decided that our favorite was at a place called Mantegeria.
Lisbon in Pictures
Our time in Lisbon was supposed to be very relaxing. There was not as much to see here as other European cities we had been to and we needed a break. We don’t know concept of rest and instead set out to see as much as we could.
Total Number of Nights: 12
Languages: Czech, Dutch, and Portuguese
Currency: $1 USD = 25.14 Czech Crown = 0.95 Euro
Number of Flights: 3
Number of Miles Traveled: 2,750 miles (including our flight from Dubai)
Number of Miles Walked: 87.3 miles (average of 7.3 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 187,900 steps (average of about 16,656 per day)
Transportation Used: Uber, bus, metro, tram and plane