Here are some of the other pictures I took on Kelly and Jovi’s last walk of 2013.
Wow, I haven’t blogged in a long time.
Wow, a lot has happened since the last time I blogged! There are many, many things I could have written about!
Wow, it’s so hard to catch up when I haven’t done this in a long time. Feels like a tremendously big empty canvas ready to be painted, and also having a lot of paint, a lot of imagery but the size of what needs to be tackled is overwhelming and it feels like it’d take forever.
Wow, I know better than that. Just start, and since it’ll take a long time to get there, might as well enjoy the journey.
Wow, I was right! This is kind of fun. I really do need to blog more often.
Wow, what a lame intro. Story time.
Kelly last Saturday, and is now in Costa Rica. She’s chasing her dream, and I’m incredibly proud of her for finding the strength to do so after going through some really trying trials of life. I won’t see her for another 13 days or so.
Wow, I miss her.
2 years ago, I lived one of the happiest days of my life. Every day that goes by, that one day means even more.
We’ve shared many memories, smiles, trips, meals, dances, tears and disagreements. I cherish every single one of them, for bringing us to where we are today and for leading us to wherever we’re going. That makes me very happy, because I don’t really care where it is we’re going: holding your hand in mine makes any journey wonderful.
I’m sure some more my happiest days of my life are yet to come. I’m also sure you’re going to be a part of every single one of them.
I love you.
After a great time at my brother’s wedding, our trip was turned into a road trip to Chile with my parents.
I had been looking forward to this for multiple reasons, one of them being that I hadn’t been to Chile myself in over a decade, and I wanted to see how things were looking nowadays. It was also going to be nice to go to the beach, sight-see and eating out. However, the by-far biggest reason that I was excited was to share an experience with Kelly that meant a lot to me: sharing a piece of my childhood.
My parents used to take my two brothers and I to Chile for vacations. We’d all 5 get in our car (a Renault sedan) and hit the road early in the morning so that we’d be settled into a rental near the water by sunset, where we’d make home for a week and go to the beach and have an overall kick-ass summer vacation.
Kelly got to see a preview of what this trip was like as far as scenery when we headed up to Uspallata, but that was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. And since I hadn’t done the trip in a while either, I was almost as taken aback as her when we were deep into the Andes with its towering peaks, dramatic shadows and sharp turns in narrow roads.
After collecting a Chilean stamp on our passport, Kelly was introduced to the signature of the part of the way from Mendoza to Chile: 28 hairpin turns in a row to go down a very steep tall mountain. As a handicap, South-Americans like to throw old cargo trucks into the mix. The views are breathtaking, in both senses of the word.
We headed right into Santiago, Chile’s capital, where my cousin Laura lives. Her and her fiance put us up for the night, and we had a great time chatting and visiting their fancy and modern apartment.
On Monday, Laura and Nicolas had to go to work, so my parents and us were tourists in Santiago for the day. We walked around downtown, went to the seafood market and had a deliciously fresh lunch, took the subway to get across town, and “climbed” to the top of Santa Lucia Hill to get a panoramic view of the city. The view from the top is pretty cool, but Santiago is so damn smoggy that a better picture is that of the hill itself.
In the afternoon, we headed north towards Reñaca. I explained to Kelly that when I was a teenager most “cool” people from my landlocked motherland of Mendoza migrated here for the summer and it was hard to find a Chilean vacationing there. But this was the very end of summer, and it was not busy at all! We practically had the whole town to ourselves, which meant we didn’t have to wait to get into somewhere and it the only sound at night was that very soothing one of the waves crashing.
We woke up from our rental condo to a gorgeous view of the Pacific. Fresh ocean air meant we could see for miles, and far to the left (so, the South) we could spot our day-trip destination of Valparaiso.
In sharp contrast to the cosmopolitan modernity of Santiago, we marveled at Valparaiso’s super old buildings and its humble working-class denizens. There’s a maze of one-way narrow cobblestone streets, with even thinner sidewalks; there’s a slight smell of ocean, fish and salt… everywhere. There are people hustling you to hit up their lunch spot or to take boat tour around the area and maybe even fish something. But since we were only there for the day, we only had room to do one thing, so we did the best thing one could do in this world-heritage site: Get on a cable car/elevator and walk around the brightly-colored buildings that line the whole city.
Taking pictures in here was fun. There are great color combinations, very artful graffiti and it almost feels like being in a movie set.
Photographically speaking, I took one picture that I feel very lucky to have captured. To me, it conveys a lot about this particular experience: it’s busy and chaotic, bright but strikingly pretty, and results in a happy feeling after realizing you’ve spent a few seconds wondering the backstory to at least a couple of things depicted. I think one of these days I’ll make a print of it, that’s how much I like it:
We also visited Viña del Mar and Concón (where we got to eat at a place where Anthony Bourdain and his show went!), spent time on the beach and even dipped into the Southern Pacific’s waters, ate typical Chilean dishes and bought a souvenir or two.
The biggest thing I appreciate of these few days in Chile is to have spent it with my other half and my parents, all together and having fun. This quick getaway meant a lot to me because I got to revive and relive memories from my youth, and on top of that make new ones of these very happy days that I got to spend with the 3 people I love the most in the world, in a beautiful place.
Time for part deux of our report, when we boarded a train in London, somehow traveled in a Chunnel (in a Tunnel under the Channel) and ended up in France.
There were several little tunnels on the way, so we weren’t sure about when exactly we had made into France. We didn’t see any signs, there wasn’t a greeting played and we certainly didn’t smell baguettes or armpits -yet. Clever enough to figure it out, we knew we were in the old Gaul when we saw that cars were driving on the right-hand side of the road.
After the first few footsteps in Gare du Nord, I knew our vacation’s time for adventure had come. Trying to hide my “holy shit, I don’t remember any French” face, I guided us to where all the taxis were hovering. I flagged one down, and the first words that came out of my mouth were not perfect French. Far from that, they weren’t even in broken French! It probably would have been excusable if I’d gave it a shot in Spanish/French, but nope. I might as well have been wearing a Hawaiian short sleeve button-up shirt, because this was me: “Excuse me, Do you speak English?”.
Luckily, the cabbie said “Yes” and we managed to get to our hotel, giggling the whole way there because we just had a small preview of what our next 3 days were going to be like.
We stayed at the Hotel Eiffel Capitol Paris, a pretty modest little place that made up for its lack of modern amenities by its service, charm and above all: location. We were three blocks away from the Eiffel Tower, which we went and saw right after we put our suitcases away. And we saw it again, and again and again.
Time for the list!
- Unlike England, Paris was difficult to get around in. Sure, it was partly because everything seems to be named the same: Take two spoonfuls of maple syrup, hold your breath, and all the subway stops end up sounding the same.
In addition to the language barrier, the subway is not entirely a subway. There is a combination of underground trams, above-ground trains and inter-city long-distance trains that make it worthwhile to double-check what train you’re getting on. Fortunately, we didn’t end up taking a train to anywhere we didn’t want to go, but we did sit on a train that didn’t move for 5 minutes until an inspector came by to politely ask us to disembark, since we had arrived to the end of the line for the day, since the rest of the route was under construction.
- Paris was the place where we wanted to be for our first anniversary of married life. In fact, that’s why we planned our trip! The other cities, all the other stuff… that’s just filler. Really awesome, memorable filler.
- The Eiffel tower is great. We did many things around it, as it meant something for Kelly and I before we even got there (and now it means even more).
We took the elevator to the very top (reservations are the way to go!, we waited 5 minutes with a dozen people unlike the poor fools that were in line for hours with hundreds of others), took pictures and marveled at how vast and humongous Paris is.
On one evening, we decided to go have an dinner appetizer on the fields by the tower and wait until the sun set and the tower is lit up.
It turns out that this is a very popular thing to do, even amongst Parisians. Right next to us was a group of about six young adults that were not only obviously locals, but painfully superior in their partying ways: They had coolers full of hard alcohol, mixers, champagne, wine and beer. Oh, wait, they’re locals, so don’t forget to include the cigarettes that they all smoke like it’s the age before knowing that they’re cancer sticks. Anyway, these guys were pretty loud and fun to watch. We debated befriending them, but we had enough for ourselves with our modest plate of cured meats and a little wine bottle.
- Besides the Eiffel Tower reservations, we didn’t have much planned. We figured we’d play it by ear, and that’s how we ended up going to the Louvre on the day that it was closed. Oh well, we still got to walk around a lot.
- Since the subway was more trouble than it seemed to be worth to us, we ended up walking around a lot. This yielded a much richer experience in my opinion, there’s no way we would have walked by what seemed like an abandoned public showers underground plaza – and was now being used instead as a gigantic urinal that you could smell from a block away.
- One of the most picturesque walks we did was from the top of the Avenue des Champs Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Walking past famous shops, seeing people ranging from dressed up model wannabes to the stereotypical fat tourist, being almost run over by someone on a Vespa or trying to take a picture without a huge tour bus in it, we could have spent all day just hanging out there and not getting bored.
- Eating in Paris was pretty fun. Most of the fun comes from not knowing what something on the menu means and ordering it anyway by pointing a finger to it.
However, most restaurants cater pretty well to foreigners, despite the preconception that the French will treat you like a second class human if you don’t parler le français. Once you understand that in Europe, waiters are laid back and you have to be assertive, the whole feeling of “service sucks” goes out the window. I have no complaints about the way we were treated, au contraire.
While on the subject of food, I do have to say: The French know how to make fries, but they don’t know how to eat them. Mayonnaise is not complimentary at all!
- The gypsies are present in Paris, but they share their annoying ways with trinket salesmen with some sort of African origin. The gypsies hustle with their petitions just like in London, but the African tchotchke slingers are all over the place with tiny Eiffel Towers, magnets, t-shirts and whatever else one could imagine would be a good souvenir. They are all ready to take off in a split second, with all their goods on a blanket that transforms into a bag with a draw string.
We saw this in action a lot by the Eiffel Tower, where the way of the black market (ouch, no pun intended) is to whistle when a cop is near. Suddenly, you see a bunch of thin and dark-skinned men running in one direction, and they’re all smiling and laughing because they know they could run two marathons before a pansy cop in full uniform would catch them.
Our visit to France went pretty smoothly, except for the very last hours. We boarded our train to our next destination, settled into our seats and we were away! Relaxing and looking forward to the rest of our trip, we weren’t expecting the bucket of ice-cold water that was coming our way.
The train captain came by asking for tickets, we handed him our passes. He told us that there was a problem, and that we hadn’t gotten our pass validated right before boarding, and we were going to have to pay a fine of €150 because we were missing a stamp. He gave us a shake of his head, literally asked us: “Have you not read the tickets’ instructions?”, told us to get our stuff together and that he’d be back to see what could be done.
Freaking out because that was a lot of money, we read and re-read the train pass booklets. He was right, we apparently needed to check-in before we used the pass on Continental Europe (this train pass didn’t count for the Chunnel trip, but was our transportation for everything else). It would have taken us less than 5 minutes to get it validated, but we were already miles away from Paris.
After about 10 minutes of panic, Captain MeanPants showed up again. He told us that he’d decided to waive the fine and proceeded to stamp our passes without much problem. Although relieved that we didn’t have to spend a ton of money to cover up for a small oversight, we couldn’t help but wonder why he had to be so rude about it all. Sure, we could have paid attention to every single word on the tickets, but if he had the power and ability to make it all work out with a simple little stamp, we only had one conclusion to draw from this experience: he was a dick because he could, and also, because he’s French.
We certainly look back into our time in Paris with much fondness, despite the small hiccups. The many wonderful memories will definitely outlast the bitter time on the train. Even so, we have even gotten to the point where we can laugh about it all, and that’s when you know that not even a snotty train captain can ruin traveling with your better half.
Oh yeah, the pictures are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicoyogui/sets/72157627273975309/
Better late than never! Our trip to Europe this past summer was tons of fun. It’s embarrassing that it’s taken me this long to write about it. So anyway, here it goes. Part one of four is about England, as you might have already figured out.
- We stayed at the Waterloo Novotel. It was a very nice hotel, just a couple of blocks away from the subway (aka, the Tube) and also from the Parliament. The only bad thing about the hotel was that they didn’t include breakfast. I don’t think pegging the hotel for the rude Italian tourists would be fair, so I’ll leave that for later.
- England was definitely the easiest city to get around in that we visited. Perhaps this was because the maps we got were well designed, clear and understandable. Perhaps it had to do with everything being in English, and the lack of a language barrier. It definitely helped that the Tube was straight forward and not a spaghetti-like mess of lines and stops.
- It only rained once on us! We were expecting to experience the famous London crappy weather, but we saw the sunshine more than half the time we were there. However, when it did rain, it was pretty awesome, and we walked around under an umbrella in the early evening as we tried to find a place to eat. The day after the rainy night, there were puddles everywhere.
- For anyone traveling to London for more than a couple of days, look into the London Pass. We had one, and it helped us figure out what we wanted to see, and there are plenty of discounts in there that in the end, the Pass ends up paying for itself. We even got a free canal trip out of it, which saved us time and gave us a unique view that we probably wouldn’t have sprung for if we had to pay for it.
- There are tons of tourists everywhere! Specially with the “nice” weather, walking around the major attractions (the Big Ben, for example) was pretty hectic. People pile up trying to get a picture, gypsies bring on the hustle and try to get you to sign a petition of some sort(which I think is a distraction to get into your pockets, bags and purses). On one hand, it’s a pretty colorful experience because there are people from all over the world, but it can be a bit stressful if you’re not ready for it. Luckily, we didn’t have any bad experiences (or got robbed by a gypsy).
- On one day, we walked several miles and tried squeezing in as many sights as we could. Our feet got pretty tired early in the day, but we kept on keeping on.
- An early morning, we took a trip to Abbey Road, which turned out to be lots of fun and costing us a trip on the subway and nothing else. We crossed Abbey Road on the same intersection as the famous Beatles album cover, and got tons of pictures.
Kelly told her mom that we’d be there, and since it was early morning, it was only about 10pm in Reno. Kelly’s mom happened to be looking at the Abbey Road webcam, and saw us goofing off live over the internet! She says that she could hear us laughing and yelling “Go over there!” and counting down for pictures and the like. Good times!
- As many will tell you, the most forgettable thing about London is the food. Our best meal was at an Indian restaurant! We did experience “pub food” at a very friendly little joint near the hotel.
If I had to talk about our culinary experience in England, it’d be pretty simple to explain: Fish & Chips, Indian food and above all: beer.
- We took a day trip to Liverpool because we wanted to do the Magical Mystery Tour. Kelly is a huge Beatles fan and looked forward to this for a long time. I like them too, but I pale in comparison to Kelly’s knowledge of their history and music.
- The trip started by taking a train from London to Liverpool. It was my first time on a train, ever!
- From the Liverpool train station, we walked all the way to the Beatles Story museum. It’s a self-guided audio tour that takes a good hour or more to go through. I learned lots of new Beatles trivia, got to hear some music from before the band was official and enjoy my wife being a happy fangirl.
- After the museum, we got on with the actual tour. The bus was pretty goofy, very old fashioned and smelled like cabbage. Ok, maybe it didn’t smell like cabbage, but it wasn’t a fresh smell either.
The bus took us around to many places in Liverpool, like the houses were each of the Beatles were born or raised. Everytime we went to a place that had a song named after it, they played the song through the bus; for example: “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields”. Pretty fun!
We’d stop at most of the places and take pictures. A total act of herding tourists, but we enjoyed playing our part and we absolutely got out, took pictures and looked around with big eyes taking it all in.
- The tour guide on the bus definitely made this worthwhile. We had to look him up after we got home, so we’re not 100% sure about his name being Neil Brannan. Anyway, he was funny, witty and shared a lot of cool stories about the Beatles. He was even in the movie “In His Life: The John Lennon Story“. Here’s a YouTube clip I found of him giving out the tour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZFAk8lqrSQ. If you’re going to Liverpool, do this!
- Liverpool was a perfect one-day trip. We got in, we did everything we wanted to do and we even had time to spare to hang out downtown. We debated going to Stonehenge and having a day trip for that as well, but it just didn’t happen. No regrets though, Liverpool was definitely worth it and a very cherished memory.
All of the pictures from England are on Flickr, so go there to see a bit of what we saw. Here’s a link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicoyogui/sets/72157627396790814/
Tomorrow morning, we head out on a little trip to celebrate our 1st year of married life.
In a nutshell, here’s the itinerary:
- Leave Reno at 3AM (in about 6 hours!). Destination: San Francisco. By car.
- Leave San Francisco at noonish. Destination: Heathrow, London, England.
- England – Paris via the fancy Eurostar.
- Paris to Amsterdam in some sort of high-speed train.
- Amsterdam to Berlin.
- Berlin to San Francisco.
- Drive from San Francisco and get home.
We’re so excited! Bags are packed, camera batteries are ready, and our passports and plane/train tickets are lined up.
We don’t have any idea of when we’ll be getting online again, but if I can, I might try to push a picture or a small update up to here… otherwise, look for a trip report sometime in August!
Our honeymoon in Fiji was everything that a dream honeymoon includes: warm weather, sunshine, the beach, warm water, friendly people and lots of fruity drinks.
The main lasting impression about Fiji in itself that I can share is that the people there are wonderful. From the moment we stepped in the Nadi airport, we were greeted by genuine smiles (saying Bula!).
We were at the very end of the customs line, so we were one of the last people from our flight to get out to the transportation area, where a van was supposed to pick us up to take us to our hotel for the night. But since we were holding up the van with a few people, the van left us behind… and one of the manager from Rosie Holidays took us, and was totally cool about it.
But anyway, more to the what-when-where of the trip report, as it should be!
The first night we landed into Nadi after dark, so we couldn’t go to our resort because it was on another island, and they don’t navigate to small islands at night. So we were taken to a hotel in the mainland, Sofitel. We didn’t really get to enjoy it much, because we were so tired from traveling that we pretty much ate, went to sleep, woke up, ate, and left.
After an hour-long boat ride in the Captain’s lounge, we arrived at our destination: Tokoriki Island Resort. Our boat was too big to come near shore, so the resort from the island sent a small boat to pick us up. About 12 people fit in the boat, with our luggage and all. Getting out of the boat, my feet landed on the beach, where I got my feet both in the soft sand and the warm water at once. I probably smiled from ear to ear.
The next thing that happened was the welcoming. While our paperwork was checked, a fresh fruit beverage was handed to us, and the manager Ramsey gave us a welcome speech. The end of the speech consisted of him and most of the staff within earshot singing to us. Check out this video, which even though is not us, shows you just how happy everyone that is greeted in such a way looks. We sure were!
From there, we were shown to our room. Ramsey himself (who I found very appropriately named akin to Ramses, because he is huge and imposing) showed us in, and told us “Welcome home”.
The decorations in our cabin bure had fresh flowers as decorations everywhere, but what they did to our bed took the cake. Kelly was speechless, and we were both feeling indeed very welcome, and at home as well. The magic had started.
Our daily activities consisted of sleeping in, enjoying our delicious meals from the very tasty resort kitchen (which is a VERY good thing if you’re going to an island that doesn’t have anything but a hotel on it!), sunbathing by the pool or on the beach, taking pictures and enjoying each other.
One of the most unique things we did was visiting Yanuya village, where most of the resort staff live and commute to and from by boat every day. We took a small boat with a few other people and a couple of “guides”, who were actually young men who live there and do work at the resort.
We were shown around the village, had a Kava ceremony with the Chief, checked out the women’s art market and visited the school.
Most people would say that Fiji is the 3rd world. This island only has electricity from 6 to 9pm, most houses consist of metal sheets nailed together to form a one-box room, there barely is phone service and you can’t even think of using the internet. But they seem so happy.
We saw three toddlers playing together, with a plastic yellow toy bucket full of sand and dirt. It was so simple and just plain awesome. That kind of thing really makes you think and wonder about some of the things that we see everyday in the “first” world and we accept to be the norm.
This all ties in with how nice Fijians are. They’re well aware of how much they depend on tourism, but I don’t think that’s all there’s to it. Take for example tipping, which is not expected nor demanded; people are nice to you not because they’re trying to get some extra coin out of you. Also, even when we saw them talking in Fijian amongst each other, there was always laughter, smiles and a jovial tone. I might have a skewed point of view, but I’m comfortable in saying that Fijians are easily some of the nicest people on this planet. Whatever they’re doing as a culture, seems to put a lot of value on respect and friendliness, and many other cultures could stand to learn from this one.
On a more personal level, my favorite thing about our entire honeymoon was spending it with my wife. It seems obvious, but it’s also important. The moments leading up to our wedding were busy, and we didn’t get to enjoy each other as much. Having two weeks to ourselves, where we spent every minute next to each other, was the perfect way to start our marriage. We shared many memories, and we’ll always be able to look back on when we got married and remember the dreamy honeymoon before any of the busyness of the actual wedding.
We took lots of pictures, but there are some particular special ones there. We took pictures at sunset, every night. I’d set the camera on a tripod, place Kelly somewhere on the frame, get all photo-nerdy with aperture and exposure settings, set a 10 second timer and run to get in the picture. We would do this at least a handful of times, to make sure we got at least one good picture for every night we spent in our little paradise island.
Looking at those pictures makes me happy. I’m a lucky person, and the pictures remind me of it. I’m very lucky and very grateful of being able to experience a place like Fiji, with its wonderful people, incredible landscapes and warm weather. But above all, I realize that I’m the luckiest (and most grateful) when I think that I’m sharing all this with a wife that surpasses any dream I could have.
Oh, one last thing which is just a funny anecdote: When we were leaving Fiji, on the boat ride to the airport, something strange happened. A song that we heard at a most random time in our trip to Argentina came on the radio: Gangster’s Paradise, by Coolio. We looked at each other in disbelief, and agreed that from now on, we’re bound to hear this obscure hit from our youth when we’re abroad, traveling together. Which we hope is often, and plentiful.
Tomorrow, we leave on our honeymoon. The destination: Australia (Sydney and Cairns) and Fiji. Oooooh yeah!
We’re packing our suitcases right now, so I’ll have to share about our wedding day when we come back from our honeymoon, in a couple of weeks.