Hi readers. Wow, what a week… it started in Serbia. Do you even know where Serbia is? Serbia is a little Balkan country bordering believe it or not, eight other small countries. We visited Belgrade the capital city. Our first afternoon we explored the old ramparts, and oddly enough there was a photographic exhibit on the USA. There was a beautiful picture from every state. Later that night went to the bohemian quarter, perfect for us, and we listened to traditional music.
Our next day we wandered and ate dinner at the coolest opera restaurant, we pulled a rope for our waiter to come and sat in a vintage opera box. At the end of the night a pianist and a violinist came and played, the violinist was hilarious.
Hey readers. We were just in Budapest and had an awesome time. We were all super excited to explore the city so we went on a walking tour along the Danube River. Our guide was great and we learned a lot. Did you know that Hungary is one of the oldest countries in Europe? It was founded in 896. We also went to the healing Turkish baths and soaked in the water for hours. We were sooooooo pruny when we finally got out. The baths were in an old mansion and have been there for over four hundred years.
We felt the soul of the city the minute we arrived in Krakow, Poland. There were tons of charming cafes, restaurants, and cathedrals. We stayed in the center of the Jewish Quarter which is the more bohemian, residential part of town. The days were filled with so many fun things, and a couple of very sad things, too. We zipped around town in a golf cart with a college student who told us all about their history. Did you know that at one point Poland didn’t exist and if anyone even said Poland they would be shot by a communist leader?
On the tour we went to many churches, synagogues (Jewish temples) and museums. One of the churches had a stone water fountain. If you drink from the fountain you are suppose to live for at least 100 years. We tried it, but it tasted like rotten eggs… icky!
Iceland is an amazing island filled with bubbling volcanoes and icy glaciers. One actually erupted just two years ago leaving many towns under ashes.
As we were getting ready for London my cousin was chosen to play on a professional soccer (or, as they say, “futball”) team in Iceland so we did what any good family would do and took a slight detour to The Land of Fire and Ice.
We ended our days in Michigan with a fabulous family wedding and hopped on a train to Chicago, another amazing city surrounded by lakes. We saw friends and enjoyed a few more days of midwestern summer fun. Then it was on to London for the 2012 Olympic Games.
We stayed with our friend Joanna who has a beautiful flat in West London. We loved staying with her and living like a local. She gave us the scoop on riding the underground and the classic red double-decker buses. We did sooooooooo many fun things, I couldn’t help but think I am the luckiest girl in the world! We had a picnic in Hyde Park which is one of London’s many huge parks. They put up big screens to watch the Olympics and there were venders and activities happening all around us.
We could see the Rocky Mountains from the window of our airplane as we arrived in Denver. We spent two great days exploring the city and then we went to the town of Golden for my cousin Ryan’s wedding. On the way we saw the Continental Divide, the line that divides the flow of water between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.
We had an awesome time seeing aunts, uncles, and cousins. The wedding was at a beautiful cathedral and the reception was super exciting. We danced until midnight (well most of us did.)
The Mother’s Day holiday brought us home to Michigan to share special days with Grandma and Grandpa. One of the things I focused on while in Michigan was my report on Henry Ford. This was my last project for the school year. It was awesome that I picked Henry Ford because my Grandparents live right outside of Detroit which was where Henry Ford lived and the Henry Ford Museum is just 30 minutes away.
The museum was amazing. Every Ford car ever made was on display as well as the chair Abe Lincoln was shot in and even the car that John F. Kennedy was shot in. Did you know that Henry Ford was the first man to use the assembly line to make automobiles? Well he was. The Ford Model T was introduced in 1908 and by 1919 Ford’s Assembly line had put out over 4 million Model T’s. I sure learned a lot.
Read the whole post »
We landed in Miami, shocked that everyone spoke English and that we were back in the U.S.A. The morning after we landed we drove to Coco Beach and checked into an awesome hotel with a water fall and a huge surf shop.
We were all so excited to board the Disney boat the next morning that we didn’t do much but talk about it while we walked the beach and had dinner on the pier. The cruise was my brother’s birthday present. I was soooo excited I could barely hold it in.
We boarded the ship and Mickey Mouse greeted us. Then we explored the many decks and our state room filled with Mickey everything. We put our stuff down and ran out to do one of the many activities.
We pulled into the Recife bus station missing our amazing surfer buddies and then we meet Carlos, another amazing friend. He was an exchange student with my cousins a few years ago. My Cousin Kayla’s family owns a farm in Indiana so he learned to speak English and all about agriculture. Carlos met us at the bus station and drove us back to his family home. His mom and step dad then moved out of their master suite so we could be comfortable.
In the afternoon his step father took time off work to take us on a tour of the city. We started with the oldest jail in Brazil; all the cells are now little shops. Next we went down to the waterfront to see the new cruise ship dock. They are preparing for the World Cup and the Olympics here too. Later we went to the old city that is more than 500 years old.
We drove into Praia do Forte not knowing what to expect, but within a few minutes we knew we were going to love it. Gallego, a smiling, surfing, and snorkeling caretaker greeted us and welcomed us into our friend’s beach house. Before we even got our suitcases from the car we went to the beach and felt the warm water on our toes. The house was beautiful and had a pool in the backyard, but best of all we were ten steps from the ocean. We were all super excited to explore the cute beach village and the coral reef full of little critters.
Our first night in town we explored and met Alexandre the owner of the Billabong surf and skate board shop and decided we would take our surf lessons with him the next day. Alexandre, Marcio and Lideo, three amazing guys with electric personalities picked us up in the morning. We spent some time on the shore learning the basic moves and then we hit the waves.
Oh no, the bus is sold out! There isn’t another bus until tomorrow. What are we going to do?
About 15 minutes later we found a bus that would take us to another station, where we would take a bus to a ferry terminal, where we would take a ferry to Salvador, so we hopped on. About 17 hours later a protest took place on the highway and we waited for hours until we realized they weren’t going anywhere, so we then drove to a nearby bus station where we sat and waited some more. A bunch of people got sick including Everest so we named the bus “the vomit comet.” Then they told us we would have to sleep on the bus one more night.
When we finally arrived at the bus stop the next morning we were all VERY happy. We had more moving and grooving to do but we were finally in Salvador de Bahia on our way to Basso in Santa Teresa.
Read the whole post »
We arrived in the city of color and samba, Rio de Janeiro, with our eyes wide open. Our home the first three nights was Bossa, in the historic part of town called Santa Teresa. We spent our days exploring the city and taking in all the sites. We started with two huge landmarks Sugar Loaf (the big rock in the pictures of Rio) and Christ the Redeemer, both were incredible. I have seen pictures of this giant statue my whole life so standing there next to him was truly amazing.
Leaving our hotel in Paraguay at 2:00 am wasn’t super fun but we arrived at the immigration office just five hours later. While we waited for our boat over to Iguazu Falls, Argentina we stared at the beautiful river from shore. The sunrise and the morning mist were truly magical. This is where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil all join together.
When our ferry arrived we all hopped on very excited to see some of the largest waterfalls in the world. Tomorrow we would go to the park, but first we had to get our Brazilian visas. We left the consulate office with our passports stamped, explored the town and found a tourist office. After hearing about all the activities we decided that The Great Adventure boat ride was by far the best even though we were told “YOU WILL GET SOAKED”. The next morning we suited up, put on our life jackets and boarded the 9:00 o’clock boat. We traveled down the river for a while, as we got close to the falls our jaws all dropped in awe.
We crossed an amazing suspension bridge from Argentina to Paraguay with one more stamp in our passports.
It was a rainy morning when we arrived at the Trinidad Jesuit Mission. The ruins of the church were spectacular and there were beautiful remains of living areas as well. The Jesuits set up a type of living for the native Guarani people that was very communal. Each family was given a small home and the children were schooled. There was a big central plaza with the main church, a hospital, a coligio which housed the priest and also contained art workshops, and the cabildo which was where the Guarani’s chosen leader lived. The food was shared equally between every one. The missions were growing throughout Paraguay and Argentina but in 1641 an army of 3000 slave traders took over and there was an abrupt end to the Jesuit Missions. Many years after the missions had been buried in to the earth they were discovered and found in great condition, especially considering they were almost 400 years old. Well that was my history lesson for the day.
Our first night in Cordoba, Argentina we were wandering the cool streets full of art galleries and found an oil painting that perfectly captured our many weeks in South America. There are two horses; saddled gaucho style, standing by a beautiful river that looks like so many we have seen along the way. We just had to have it.
After making friends with the gallery owner and making our purchase we wandered a little farther and found a sushi restaurant. We loved having something different for a change and the sushi was very yummy. The next day we went on a city tour and learned about the history of Cordoba.
Read the whole post »
Pasado del Jamon. We pulled in to The Ham Hotel happy to be there. This was one of the coolest hotels in Argentina. There was a big playground, a soccer field and vines to run and play in. There were also all kinds of animals; dog, cats, horses, guinea fowl, puppies, peacocks, and parrots. Mom and dad had fun touring the beautiful wineries and Everest and I had fun playing at the hotel.
We pulled up to San Antonio, our refuge in the high country near Aconcagua, the western hemisphere’s highest summit and stood in awe of the magnificent Andes Mountains. We were ready to do some hiking.
We started our first morning with our new guide, the montana perro (mountain dog), the best guide on the mountain. We hiked up the river bed and down the snail trail. It was gorgeous. The sky was sapphire and the wind was blowing, it was a fantastic day for a hike. The vast mountains took our breath away. We saw so much wildlife, from stallions and cows to colorful birds and foxes.
We went back to a delectable dinner in the refuge after our big adventure with a really big appetite.
Read the whole post »
We boarded the Buquebus (the modern ferry) excited for Argentina but completely in love with Uruguay and sad to say goodbye.
The boat ride was beautiful. The sun was setting over the city when we pulled in to Buenos Aires. After a short stay in Buenos Aires we moved on to Mendoza, a smaller city 14 hours away in the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
We arrived in Mendoza for the start of Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (National Wine Harvest Festival) the biggest event of the year. There were all kinds of activities each day. There were concerts and wine tastings and shows, all of them giving thanks to God for the wonderful harvest. The water supply in Mendoza is very small so the harvest is a big deal.
Candombes (Uruguayan drummers) filled the streets pounding tribal rhythms on their drums and colorful singers and feather topped dancers followed. It was Carnival time!
On our way to Carmelo we found a cute little wine and cheese shop with a fun patio and garden. The owners let us tour their cheese storage. Incredible smells of blues, brie and their most famous parmesan filled the room. We sampled an enormous fruit and cheese platter. It was amazing and yummy.
From riding horses like the wind to riding water slides as fast as can be… Our next stop was Salto, the land of thermals in Northern Uruguay. Thermals are pockets of hot water that bubble out of the earth because of uneven heating under the earth’s crust. We spent hours each day relaxing and playing in the water. Since we were in the land of the thermals there were lots of hot springs and water parks.
On Valentine’s Day mom and dad surprised us with tickets to the biggest water park ever. There was a lazy river, pirate ships, rafts, a flying fox and awesome water slides. My favorite was the one that took us slowly at first and then dropped us strait down from 0 to 100.
It was insanely fun.
Read the whole post »
We are now in gaucho country, where instead of surf boards all of the Uruguayans have saddles. Our first Estancia or ranch, Pinos, was named because the owner had planted 450,000 beautiful pine trees on the property. We were so happy and excited to ride horses and see all of the animals.
Our first day there we held baby goats that were only two days old; they were soft and super adorable. Their mom refused to feed one of the babies so the owners had to feed her warm goat’s milk from a bottle.
The next 2 weeks we spent on the beach, one of my most favorite places on earth. Our first stop was La Pedrera, a hippie village on the sea. While we were there we went to a ceramics school and made tons of beautiful things.
Long beach walks every day were both beautiful and relaxing. I love the sand between my toes and the sound of the waves. Sure I miss home, but when we have stops like this I am so grateful we are on this trip. After three fabulous days in town we left for a beach house two steps from the waves. It was a fantastic place to relax and take it all in. I spent hours sitting in a hammock enjoying the surrounding beauty. One of the nights at the house I made my parents a three course meal with vegetable soup, sautéed shrimp and spinach pasta, and durazno y naranja helado (peach and orange ice cream).
We are back on the road again in South America. Our first stop is Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. The town was full of excitement and so were we. Our first night we went to soccer game or, as they call it, futbol. It was a rivalry game so it was extra crazy. There were people in the stadium lighting off fireworks and chanting anthems. The crowd was filled with black and yellow bumble bee jerseys and red, white and blue jerseys. They were the most energetic fans I had ever seen.
T’was Christmas Day and all through the house all the creatures were stirring, even a mouse. For Christmas I got a kindle fire and a lot of pretty clothes. Everest got a spy set, a remote controlled car that is insanely fast, a life size stuffed tiger, and a lot of logos. We spent the day lounging around the house and playing with our new toys. We had a delicious family dinner that night. Everyone obviously over ate but it was the perfect way to end a wonderful Christmas.
That next morning we left for the Potawatomi Lodge, our home away from home. I have been going there since I was born. My parents have shared a family reunion there for the past 30 years. During the winter they have a toboggan run (it is kind of like a sled going down an steep icy hill). It was super fun and super fast.
I love spending time with my family, especially because we only get to see them two times a year. We spend hours sitting by the fire, play card games, and building snowmen. This year my eleven year old cousin Kayla and her sister came and we got to hang out together.
After three great days we went back to grandma and grandpa’s to ring in the New Year. We went to an exciting hockey game with Olivia (my friend who helped me raise money for the orphans in Nepal). Her older brother JD is an amazing player. We also went to an arcade with my aunts and uncles and won 2666 tickets!!! Last time I played at an arcade in Santa Barbara I won enough tickets for a lava lamp. Have you ever won so many tickets?
A few days later Uncle BJ came to Michigan and shared dinner with us and played at the park.
On our last night we went to a Mavericks Pistons basketball game that was awesome! The Mavericks won and we got free shirts, pizza and lottery tickets. Our holiday season was awesome, but I am super excited for South America!
Now that we are back in the USA things are a little bit different. Even though I miss the craziness of Asia, it is still nice to have people stop when you cross the street. The day we arrived was my grandma’s birthday so that night we had a little party with all the family. The very next day we meet with our close friends the Dahls from Seattle. We played with them at the park and went sledding down a turf hill on cardboard boxes.
Michigan is a lot colder than what I am used to in Santa Barbara, but most of the time the cold is fun especially when it is snowing. We went and did lots of fun things while we were back. We went bowling, and it was really fun! I actually got second place.
I baked cookies with my Aunt, and we met up with our friends, the Katz family, in the small town of Birmingham near where my grandparents live. The little white lights in the town were beautiful; it felt so much like Christmas. Finally on Christmas Eve we went to my aunt and uncle’s house for a family party. When we got home we put out the milk, cookies and even some carrots for Santa and the reindeer.