Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On the Road in Spain

It's been a whirlwind of a spring. We haven't posted anything since March (though most of you follow us through facebook these days), but we have been busy. We fly home to see Rob's brother get married and then Erika followed her stint in Taiwan with another trip to Cape Town. Rob joined her and we enjoyed a fantastic road trip along the Garden Route on the southern coast of South Africa. Once home, we settled in for the rest of the spring, summer, and our last remaining time in Amsterdam, which is just flying by. In May, we took advantage of our last big trip in Europe and headed to Spain.

We started in Madrid, where we very quickly assimilated into the culture, enjoying many afternoon naps and gorging on tapas. At one point, Erika thought Rob would figure out a way to eat ham at every meal. Between meals, we visited several museums and walked through the city. We stopped for a drink in the beautiful Plaza Mayor and people-watched. While we spent most of the time completely enthralled with Flamboyant Fat Spiderman, we really enjoyed the locals dressed as Chulos and Chulapas, who were equally adorable, whether they were 6 years old or 80. The outfits are worn in celebration of St. Isadore and the beginning of the bullfighting season.

After a wonderful night of tapas bar hopping with some Spanish friends, we headed to Seville. A gorgeous city (with more amazing food), Seville is lush with beautiful gardens and home to a beautiful cathedral and an old Moorish palace.

We finished our time in Seville with a traditional Flamenco show, which was a little bit touristy, but totally worth it anyway. The singing, dancing, and guitar playing was incredible.

We pushed south to Cadiz, a sun bleached city said to have been founded by Hercules (how cool is that?!). While Cadiz was lovely, we had more fun in nearby Jerez de la Frontera, which is the heart of the Spanish sherry country (the word 'sherry' is a deviation from the word 'Jerez').


Needing a break from a few days on the road, we stopped in Estapona, a little beach town on the southern coast. We enjoyed a day in the sun, a quick trip to the spa, and some of the best seafood we've ever had. After the nice break, we moved north to Ronda, stopping first in the beautiful village of Grazalema.

Grazalema is one of several Pueblos Blanca, or White Villages, which were established high in the mountains by farmers who were trying to avoid gangs of bandits. All the buildings are painted white and the villages look stunning beneath the craggy rocks. They're also a pain in the neck to get to, hence the whole avoiding the bandits thing.

Ronda is famously built on two cliffs with a massive bridge connecting the two sides of town. The bridge is quite beautiful, as is the view of the valley below.

For the last day of our trip, we stopped in Cordoba to visit the unbelievably beautiful Mezquita, a massive mosque-turned cathedral that dates back to the 10th century. Filled with stunning Muslim architecture and design alongside Catholic altars and imagery, the Mezquita is an amazing departure from most of the Giant European Churches we've seen during our time in Europe.

Finally, we spent one night in Toledo before flying home. Toledo is an ancient city, built on a hill, and the streets are so narrow that some buildings have had parts of the walls scooped out to allow cars to navigate. Naturally, we thought it would be a good idea to drive to our hotel, so Rob got first hand experience driving through town.

Our trip to Spain was an incredible experience and a great last big trip before we move home. And now, here's an elephant standing on its trunk:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hong Kong

In the footsteps of Erika’s grandfather, Erika’s work with her firm has provided the opportunities to see parts of the world we may not have otherwise explored. While the travel has its hardships, particularly for a pair of happy newlyweds, we know we’ll be able to look back on these years with fond memories.

The most recent escapade took Erika to Taipei, Taiwan where she spent about 8 weeks overall working her tail off. Even with all of that, she was able to see a bit of Taiwan and make it over to Hong Kong a couple times to check out her grandparents old stomping grounds and visit a friend that moved there from Amsterdam. Rob was even able to make a trip out East himself to see a bit of Taipei and then was able to spend a few days in Hong Kong.
The first trip to Hong Kong was over Thanksgiving weekend where Erika helped her friend Tina put together a proper Thanksgiving spread…with the turkey complements of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (it's in that tin).

Tina just so happened to live within walking distance of Grandma and Grandpa's old apartment on Tregunther Path so, on the last day in Hong Kong, Erika took a stroll up the “hill” (ah-hem – just short of a mountain). More than halfway up the Peak Tram, at the top of the vast and beautifully constructed cityscape, and at the base of the greenery that makes up the remainder of the steep Peak hills which reign over Hong Kong, it was apparent right away how Grandma and Grandpa could have called this home for so many years and it was nice to share in a bit of that history.

Both weekends in Hong Kong were filled with good eats (this was also true for Rob’s later visit to Hong Kong). It seems that you just can’t go wrong with food in that city…between dim sum, champagne brunch, secret kitchens and places you simply get a good feel about…there is great food lurking behind every street corner.

Overall, Hong Kong was quite the city and it has one of the most stunning skylines we think we’ll ever see. Whether you are looking at it from above…

Or below…

It’s a memorable one.

There is more to come on Taiwan and Bangkok which capped off the Eastern part of Rob and Erika's journey abroad.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Swiss Christmas

We celebrated Christmas this year with some friends by taking a trip to Switzerland. Rob's friend Don joined us and our Amsterdam friends, Brent and Ruth, for a week of skiing in the mountain village of Engelberg.

After an adventuresome day that included hours of flight delays and a race to catch the last train to town while lugging skis and suitcases and relying on Rob's ever-declining command of the German language, we arrived at our rented apartment around one o'clock in the morning and crashed. Of course, all the travel induced stress was forgotten when we got our first view of the mountain:

Engleberg is not a large resort, but the runs are very long and there were enough of them to keep us busy. One of the big draws to this part of Switzerland are its many fantastic off-piste (off-trail) runs, and while we decided we weren't up to the challenge, we certainly contemplated it:

The weather was a little harsh this year and throughout the week different areas of the mountain were shut down due to insanely high winds. Still, we skied plenty and filled our time with other activities. There's always apré ski:

Or a night time, torchlit snowshoe trek on the mountain:

Or Swiss Fondue:

While Ruth and Erika wowed us with many delicious meals, we had Christmas dinner at a nice restaurant in town. We had a wonderful time and felt so thankful to be able to share such a memorable Christmas with friends.

Monday, December 28, 2009


As we look forward to the new year, we're trying to take this week to catch up on some posting here. We've definitely dropped off from our earlier posting pace, but it's been such a busy year, with Erika in Africa for the better part of the first six months, the wedding, and Erika's recent work in Taiwan. Still, this year has been an other wonderful opportunity for us to travel a little bit. In November, we flew to Budapest with our friends, Pete and Azure, for a quick weekend of sight-seeing and, as always seems to be the case, amazing dining.

While Rob had been to Hungary before, neither of us had ever been to Budapest and we were excited to explore the city. We got in on a Saturday morning and wandered through the city, starting in the old Pest side where our hotel was, and working our way across the famous Chain Bridge into Buda. We had a late, delicious lunch and wandered without much purpose, taking in the beautiful buildings and river scene, so by the time we made it up the Castle Hill, or Vár, the museums and churches were closed. We wandered over to the Fisherman's Bastion, an old battlement on the land that is said to have been manned and defended by local fisherman during the Middle Ages. The bastion is incredibly well lit and gorgeous:

After a solid day of walking (and climbing up and down the Vár) we took a break on a cocktail-fueled river cruise along the Danube. The view from the river at night is astounding, though the glass windows prevented us (but not the obnoxious girls in front of us, whose camera flashes were blinding) from taking any good pics. Still, the boat ride was very educational and we'd recommend it to anyone visiting Budapest.

We finished off the first day with a truly incredible meal at the restaurant Klassz, which, in addition to fantastic food (who knew Hungarian food was so good?) had an extensive collection of Hungarian wines (who knew Hungarian wines were so good?).

Sunday began with another trip back across the Danube to visit the Cave Church, a, um, church in a cave that still serves mass and is run by an order of monks that date back to the 13th century. Outside the church is a statue of St. Stephen, a canonized king of Hungary who founded the state of Hungary in the 11th century, and who remains the symbol of the republic. That's cool and everything, but check out his crazy toes:

We made a sad, late attempt to get into the gargantuan Parliament building, but the English tour was sold-out well before we arrived. We settled for a quick pit stop at the "most beautiful McDonald's in the world" in one of the train stations, but despite the lovely light fixtures, we were unimpressed- the most beautiful McDonald's in the world still smells like french fry grease. Here's Parliament:

After two solid days of walking, you need a break. What better way to relax than in one of Budapest's famous spas? In pools of 100 degree (or warmer) natural spring water, we relaxed with 300 of our closest friends- it was a little crowded. Refreshed, we headed out for one last, memorable Hungarian dinner before returning home the next morning.

Friday, November 13, 2009


A couple weeks ago, Erika had some work in Ireland, so Rob flew up to join her for a quick weekend road trip. We originally planned to focus on a few, small areas, but quickly bit off more than we could chew. Erika's work was in Shannon, so Rob drove up from Cork (after enjoying the traditional Irish treat, Starbucks. There was a time when Rob would feel like a guilty, typical tourist for having a Starbucks, but after two years in a country where a take-away coffee is nearly impossible to find, some of the snob is wearing off).

We made our way through the gorgeous-even-in-the-overcast-fall-weather countryside to Galway, where we stayed in a fantastic bed and breakfast. We were planning to double back to the south after a morning in Galway, but our hostess convinced us to head north, into the area known as Connemara. The thing with Ireland is that it is beautiful everywhere, but each part is uniquely beautiful, so, if you're not careful you end up driving the entire island as you realize, "Oh, we're not too far from X, let's go check it out, too." This is a perfectly wonderful way to travel, but not if you have reservations 5 hours away.

Connemara is beautiful (how many times will we use 'beautiful' when describing Ireland?) and we had a great morning drive to the coast, along the only Irish fjord, in which dolphins are often found if you have the time to stop and look for them. We visited some lovely shops and saw a castle and Rob clapped like a six-year-old when our car was forced to stop for a passing herd of sheep: "It's just like the movies!"

We finally made it back to Galway for a late lunch (for some of the best chicken pot pie we've ever had) and then pushed on to the Cliffs of Moher. Unfortunately, two things happened then. One, we'd spent too much time (and daylight) in Connemara, and, two, the 'cute' picturesque, windy Irish roads caught up to us and we got a little carsick. So we raced to the cliffs, trying to reach them before sunset but also trying not to drive too fast. It was pretty stupid. We made it in time to see the cliffs and grab a photo, but just barely:

Finally, we continued on (after an insane GPS-inspired trip through several farms) to Kilarney. Though we'd originally intended to drive both the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula, we actually learned a lesson from the first day, and chose to just do the Ring of Kerry. The drive around the Ring of Kerry is absolutely breathtaking. The weather wasn't great for photographs, but we managed to get in a few.

Like our trip to Scotland, we just barely got a taste of Ireland and can't wait to get back. We ate well, the beer was phenomenal, the people were fantastic and the countryside is stunning. You just can't see it all in two days.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


We spent the weekend in Munich at the Oktoberfest. It was fantastic! Rob forgot to pack the camera, so we relied on our friends, Paul and Simon, to capture a few pics for us.

Erika and Paul

A big group of folks from Amsterdam went down and one of them had the foresight to reserve a table months ago, which is key, since most visitors spend half their time there trying to squeeze in to a table. We enjoyed our own table on Friday, but were thrown in with the masses on Saturday. Though we didn't make it into one of the main tents, we managed to carve out a little space for ourselves. The Duffys, our friends from Germany, and several of their friends joined us and we got to play with the kids. Rob even spoiled Denali with a SpongeBob SquarePants balloon, a horn (which he made sure she kept for the car ride home), and a pony ride. He's clearly not afraid of being accused of buying her love.

The Oktoberfest was a lot of fun- we had several liters of beer and tons of delicious, fatty German food, some of which Rob even remembers eating.

It was Erika's first trip and she likened it to Vegas- a whole lot of fun, but you don't want to go every year and it takes a week to detox when you're done. And, at the end of the night, you have to carry Rob home.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Malaysia (Truly Asia!)

For our honeymoon, we headed to Malaysia (Truly Asia) for some time on the beach. We stayed on the island of Langkawi, which is actually a group of 99 small islands, though we were on the largest of them. Malaysia (Truly Asia) is a beautiful country and the islands were blanketed with deep green forests covering the large hills and surrounding the many gorgeous waterfalls. Because of its location on the western side of the main Malaysian (Truly Asian) peninsula, Langkawi is sheltered from most of the normal monsoon rains, which is important if you're honeymooning near the beginning of monsoon season. Oh, and the lame (Truly Asia) joke is from the Malaysian tourism commercial that plays about 50 times a day on CNN International. When we told our friends in Amsterdam that we were going to honeymoon in Malaysia, the most common response was, "Truly Asia?"

The honeymoon was everything we wanted it to be, which is to say that it was incredibly relaxing. We took multiple trips to the spa for massages and sat on the beach or poolside and enjoyed many delicious cocktails. The food at the resort was fantastic, although we had our best meal in town at the Ramadan bazaar. That part of the country is primarily Muslim, so each evening a couple hours before sunset, little roadside stands and town markets spring up, selling amazing local food in preparation for the end of the daytime Ramadan fast. For something like 3 or 4 dollars, we bought a giant spread of grilled chicken, meatball dumplings, and several roti with unbelievably good dipping sauces. Roti is the local flatbread, which is fairly simple, but the sauces were out of this world. Here's one of the vendors frying up some roti:

Though we were content to sit in the sun and read (and enjoy a cocktail or three), we did manage to venture out a bit and explore some of the island. We took a tour of a few of the islands main waterfalls:

Our favorite event was a sunset dinner cruise we took one evening. The boat sailed around several of the small or uninhabited islands and the crew grilled and served us another awesome meal:

It was a wonderful honeymoon and we're excited about going back to that corner of the world and exploring more of Malaysia!

(Truly Asia!)