What was your favorite country?
That is the most common question we now get after our ten months of travel visiting over twenty countries.
This is not an easy question to answer. After all we spent a fair bit of time in amazing countries like Italy, France, and Ireland. But the one that tops the list is…
It was the fourth country of our trip and we spent about a month there in July of 2013. Our SA experience started on the Western coast in the town of Richards Bay which is in the KwaZulu-Natal region. We spent a week on safari at the Zulu Nyala private game reserve. Then we spent a couple weeks driving from St Lucia to Cape Town.
We made many stops along the way and stayed at different guest houses. Because of this we got to see a lot of the country and meet a lot of South Africans. I can report that it is a nation overflowing with beautiful landscapes, amazing animals, and very friendly people. All this is the reason SA tops the list of places we went on our journey.
But what really pushed it over the top was Cape Town and the area surrounding it. Here in the very bottom of the African continent you will find a very modern city filled with diverse neighborhoods and plenty of things to do and eat. We enjoyed good food, good coffee, and great (very affordable) wine.
For us South Africa had the perfect balance of urban amenities and exciting wildlife. We would have no problem returning for another month. Or two.
In the old town of Riga there is a beautiful building found at 10 Meistaru iela. It is pretty easy to find because there are usually tourist around it with their cameras pointed toward the sky.
This house is the Kaku nams or the Cat House. It was built in 1909 and on the top your will find angry cat statues perched on the rooftop. Why? Well there are a few stories.
One story says that the cat’s tail is facing Riga’s Town Hall as a form of permanent protest. The tail also involves permanent protest but the cat is pointed toward the Great Guild. When we were in town we heard that it was the town hall the builder was snubbing.
Maybe the guy just liked cats?
No matter why those cars are up there it is pretty cool. And of course you can get all sorts of black cat souvenirs around Riga.
Driving in South Africa was one of the more interesting experiences of my year of travel. The land is as diverse as the people that live there.
My wife and I spent about two weeks driving from Richard’s Bay to Cape Town. We drove on everything from super modern highways to back road full of potholes. One particular long day of driving we were rewarded with the experience of being engulfed with sheep on the road.
Greetings from The Empire State!
That’s right we are back in the good ole U.S. of A. But that does not mean out adventures are at an end.
We stayed in Europe for as long as legally possible, using up 85 of the 90 days our visa allowed. After Europe we always thought we would head to Southeast Asia but both of us reached a point where we just really wanted to be back in the United States. But we are not quite ready to go home, wherever home ends up being.
Currently we are working at a B&B in Upstate New York in exchange for room and board. This is a gig we arranged through a website called WorkAway.com and so far it has been a good experience. Though it would be nice if it stopped snowing.
After this our plans are once again open. We do have some ideas but nothing is set yet. But at the end of April we need to be in Oregon to do a bit of house sitting.
2013 was on of the most amazing years of my life and I am very much looking forward to what 2014 has in store for us.
How is 2014 treating you? I hope well. I know it has been some time (and a few countries) since my last update, to be honest I just have not been in the blogging mood. But I figured I should get an update posted so you know that we are OK.
When I last posted we were in Morocco. Since then we have traveled to Italy, Turkey, and are now Greece. Morocco made us grumpy, Italy refreshed us, Turkey surprised us in a good way, and Greece is surprising us in a different way.
Also as the calendar changed we also realized that we need to start planning our re-entry into the non-traveling life, something we both discovered we are ready to do. We are both ready to get back to work and once again contribute to society.
A few days ago we flew from Tours France to Marrakech Morocco, landing in the 19th country of our trip. The Ryanair flight was a preview of what to expect in Morocco as it was crowded, chaotic, loud, and full of interesting smells. Which about sums up Marrakech.
The city is maze after maze of narrow streets full of people. The chaos is increased with the addition of bicycles, mopes, donkey carts, and cars on any passage they can fit through. It is all a bit overwhelming to say the least.
And for the traveler there are things to watch out for besides speeding scooters in Marrakech. There are plenty of “friends” seeking to “help” you or offer you “gifts.” (Please use your imagination for Dr. Evil air quotes here.)
Stopping even briefly to look around and decide where to go instantly draws attention and suddenly someone will appear to offer assistance. They will appear friendly and just there to give a bit of kindness but there is always, always, an ulterior motive. (always!) It is exhausting and really takes away from the experience of the place.
It has been nice to walk around and see first hand many things I have only seen on tv or in photos. But no photograph or video could ever truly capture what it is like to walk the streets of Marrakech.
This is a holiday that is uniquely American so here in Blois France it is just another Thursday in late November. Joyce and I thought about attempting to create a meal as close to a traditional Thanksgiving diner as a French grocery store would allow but then decided instead we should take the oppurtunity to treat ourselves to a nice meal out at a French restaurant. But it will still be a day to reflect on what we are thankful for.
On our adventure the most obvious thing to be thankful for is the kindness of friends and strangers alike. Because over the past 242 days as we have navigated our way in and out of 18 countries we find ourselves often counting on the help of others. We have received rides from point A to B, meals on our plates, and roofs over our heads, time and time again. Some from friends we have known for many years but many from people we just met.
I am also thankful for you dear reader. Many of you are friends and family who are the people we are missing very much as we head into the holidays. I hope these words find you well and I hope one day soon we can share a table in order to break bread together. But until that day you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve taken a break from packing in order to write a quick update on our trip. Tomorrow morning we hop on a bus that will take us to Edinburgh Scotland to once again put us on the road for spell.
We’ll spend about two weeks in Scotland getting about as far north as possible which should be interesting this time of year. Then we work our way back down ending up in Paris. Beyond that we do not have plans at this point.
The month in London has been great and I am a bit bummed to be leaving. We really covered a lot of ground and also got to experience what life is like as a Londoner.
If I had to pick a favorite it would be Westminster Abbey because it was much more than I expected. And we were able to take communion during our visit which was almost surreal because the chapel we did it in was filled with the tombs of England’s kings.
The downside of London is that it is a bit too familar. Being here lacks the adventure of traveling to a foriegn land. And for that reason I am already starting to look forward to countries outside of Europe.
How are you? Have any trip planned?
Spending an extended amount of time in London has been nice for many reasons. There are basic reasons like being able to fully unpack and settle into our place, staying caught up on our laundry, and having a fully kitchen to cook in.
But it is also nice to be able to visit a city and not feel rushed or worried about missing something. The other day we took a little city cruise on the Thames and the boat captain mentioned an exhibit that is at the Tate Modern. It is a very famous piece within the art world that I did not know was at the Tate. At other places on our travels I would hear things like that and be a bit sad because we would not have the time to see them. But here in London we have the time to learn about the city as well as visit what we want.
We’ve done a pretty good job so far, we’ve seen:
The British Museum, London Tower, Tower Bridge, London Zoo, Shakespear’s Globe Theater, The Maritime Museum, The Monument to the Great London Fire of 1666, take a canal and river cruise, HMS Belfast, Dickens Museum, Westminster Abbey, British Music Experience, Chislehurst Caves, Churchill War Rooms, Pollock’s Toy Museum, National Portrait Gallery, as well as spending a lot of time just walking around the city and taking it all in.
For Americans London is a familiar place to be because in many respects this is the city that berthed our nation. The picture of at the top of the post shows the wharf where the Mayflower launched from and many of our founding fathers spent time in London, most notably Ben Franklin. And the apple did not fall too far from the tree because even now in 2013 the American culture and the British culture are very similar even if neither would want to admit it.
And though we speak the same language it is true that, like most things, we Americans have improved it and are more efficient with it.
All of this makes being in London very relaxing. In some ways it doesn’t even feel like we are traveling because everything is so familiar.
A few days ago we stopped in Dingle Ireland for a food festival and discovered an Aussie selling grilled kangaroo meat. Never thought I would be able to say I ate kangaroo in Ireland but I did. It was good. Juicy and full of flavor the way red meat should be.
Now we are in London, we arrived last night after taking the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead Wales. Then it was a series of trains, both above and below ground, to get to our host’s home in London where we received a warm welcome.
For me London is almost more of a fictional place than a real place. The way New York City is because so many movies and television take place in these great cities. I am really looking forward to spending the month here. Many of the writers, musicians, and artists I enjoy come from London which just adds to my enchantment with the city.
Also for the month that we are here we will be staying in one place which will give us a chance to catch our breath a bit and plan the second half of our trip. (Also catch up on our laundry!) Right now we do not have anything beyond London booked but will most likely nip into Scotland before heading south to Spain or Italy.
Ireland was amazing though and we may just go back for more. We went for a travel blogger’s conference with the hope of finding some direction for our travel writing. If we are smart we can use our blogs to earn money so that we can continue the trip beyond a year. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what direction I want to take my travel writing that will require a new website so that I can keep this one going to keep friends and family updated. I’ll keep you posted.