Posts Tagged With: bus ride

Reflections on Ending our Trip Around the World

This morning we find ourselves in the Atlanta airport en route to Cincinnati, officially back in the United States. During our six hour bus ride and a ten hour flight, we have had a lot of time to reflect on our travels and all that we have seen, learned and experienced.  Now that it is over, we can say without hesitation that this trip around the world has been an unequivocal success.  We are proud of what we’ve done; it has been incredibly satisfying and rewarding.   It hasn’t really sunk in that it is over, and what a bitter sweet ending it is.  We have stayed in so many hotel rooms, it will be nice to sleep in a familiar bed for several nights in a row.  And we will have significantly fewer buses, planes and trains in our near future.  But we wouldn’t trade the many different beds, moments of frustration and exhaustion, bumpy flights or even bouts of food poisoning.  It is all part of the overall experience. We would do it all again in a heartbeat.

On our last night in Mar Del Plata, really our last night of the trip, we laid in bed and talked about all that we have learned from our travels.  Of course, the list is endless and we shared everything from the silly (a”hairy coo” is a Highland Cow in Scotland ) to the practical (the London Heathrow airport has absurdly restrictive security) to the profound (by and large, people around the world seem to want similar things from life).  Not only has our understanding of other cultures grown, but also our understanding of our own culture.  We have seen the ways the U.S. can be much more restrictive than other countries, to the point of making us feel stifled.  At the same time, we have grown to appreciate things like vehicle emissions standards and road construction because the lack of these things in other countries is incredibly off-putting.  Traveling for four months did not allow us to spend tons of time in any single city, so we cannot call ourselves experts on any one place .  However, it is amazing what 3 or 4 days can do to create a real impression–the people, food, drink, transportation, shopping and overall vibe of a city shows itself pretty quickly.  We can now speak knowledgeably about cities around the world which six months ago we might not have even been able to find on a map.

We are happy to report that even on the last day of the trip, we’re still finding ourselves surprised.  Predictability has certainly never been an issue on this trip, and as we sat on the bus from Mar Del Plata to Buenos Aires, the movie in the DVD player was not another of the terrible movies we expected.  Instead, it was the new James Bond movie, Skyfall.  You know, the one that just came out in the U.S. on Friday?  How refreshing, if not a bit surprising, to have a movie that might actually entertain us!  Of course, we stopped paying attention when we realized it was dubbed in Spanish–those DVD pirates sure are quick!

As our trip comes to an end, we find ourselves overwhelmed with feelings both confusing and understandable.  We know the real world will be calling soon, so we have begun taking steps to ease the transition–polishing our resumes, reaching out to potential employers, making appointments to look at apartments.  But, we didn’t want to pull the emergency break on our journey, either.  We wanted to savor the end because we still can’t believe it is actually over.  No longer will we have to be hyper-vigilant about our surroundings, keeping an eye on our bags at every turn and constantly jotting down notes on our observations from the day.  We won’t have to worry about where we will be sleeping two days from now or if the room falls within our accommodations budget.  Nor will we have the pleasure of discovering a great local favorite like the Shopska salad or a wonderful free walking tour.  Our life experienced a huge tectonic shift when we left New York City to travel the world, and we are now on the cusp of a new shift.  Yes, our way of thinking will shift with it, we just hope that the perspective we have gained from our experiences stays with us.

We look back and feel so thankful for the amount of support and encouragement we have gotten from friends, family and even total strangers.  It has been much appreciated and has helped inspire us each and every day to continue with our efforts in writing the blog.  What started out as a travel journal for us and a way to keep in touch with our loved ones has turned into a labor of love that is a happy surprise.  It has been a pleasure writing each day and we are so thankful that we have had experiences enough to fill the page.  Of course, there was always so much more to say and we constantly found ourselves editing down to make the entries readable.  To those daily readers, thank you for going on this journey with us.  We feel so enriched from all we’ve seen and done, and we hope in some way you feel enriched, too.

Although this is the end of our trip, we are smart enough to know that this is not the end of our journey.  In fact, in some ways our journey is only just beginning.  As we enter this new phase and into a life with more routine, we will always have this remarkable story to tell.  But never fear, we will continue to make more stories, both at home and abroad.  One thing we know for sure is that this trip has made us hungry for more travel.  It is such a big world out there and we have so much more to see.  Yes, we still have lots of travel in our future.  But for now, we can officially say that we have completed a voyage around the world.

Brooke and Phil

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Categories: Destinations, Eating, Post Trip Reflections, The End of our Trip, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Back through Mendoza

As we trek onward through Argentina, we’re putting our phenomenal time in wine country behind us and heading back east. Ah, I already miss enjoying a daily bottle of wine. A cheap ride on the city bus took us back into the city of Mendoza. Brooke and I were looking forward to one more day in Mendoza since we liked so much of what we saw the first time around. One of Argentina’s larger cities, the central area of Mendoza is compact, walkable, tree lined and punctuated with several lively public squares teeming with ample green space and functioning fountains. The sidewalks are packed with people on their way to school and work or, in the evening, leisurely ambling across town. Toss on the marble tiling found everywhere and the aqueducts running beneath the sidewalk that feed the city and Mendoza is an easy place to like. Returning to endless dinner options doesn’t hurt either. A tasty Italian dinner at a popular favorite restaurant called Marchigiana was a big success. We’ve found quality Italian cuisine is common in Argentina which is no surprise given the amount of Italian heritage found throughout the country.

One last great photo from our time amongst the vineyards

Zip Lining or Hail Protection Gear?For a change of pace, we headed down to the Avis storefront and decided to rent a car for the day. It’s been several weeks since we’ve had a chance to do any leisurely driving and this seemed to be the right place for it. One insight we’ve gained from traveling is that if you don’t know how to drive a manual transmission car, you’re not going to get very far in just about any country. Lucky for us, Brooke and I are both well versed in the five speed, although the reverse on our tiny Chevy sedan was a bit tricky. One of the primary reasons we rented a car was to scoot out to the Argentina Rafting company outdoor complex about 45 minutes away. Our plan was to tackle a long-standing adventure on our list that we hadn’t had the chance to do yet: Zip Lining! Or, depending on your geographical preference, you may call it Canopy or even Flying Fox. After waiting for a guide, we strapped on our harnesses, hiked up to the start of the course and we’re ready to, er, Zip. Not so far- just about five minutes before we were going to descend down the first line, it started to rain. Then the rain turned into heavier rain. And the heavier rain turned into hail. Nothing says, “you’re not going to be Zip Lining today” like a hail storm. Good thing we had these handy helmets on to protect our noggins from the nasty sky ice. Actually, good thing it started hailing before we started the two hour course. Once you start, there is no where to seek shelter between each zip line.

Undaunted and not discouraged, we hopped back in our rental car and began the scenic drive past the foothills of the Andes and back into Mendoza. We wandered a bit and even found ourselves in a local Wal-Mart stocking up on snacks. Sad to report that an Argentine Wal-Mart is identical to an American Wal-Mart. Our car made it’s way to an extraordinary nature reserve/city park north of the city that offers everything from soccer fields to golf courses. I even managed to sneak in a quick park nap on a bench near the lake. Later, we found ourselves enjoying a late lunch at an outdoor cafe in the center of town. Over afternoon coffee, sandwiches and even more empanadas, we allowed ourselves to wonder what we’ll be doing two weeks from now. After this trip is over, we have a lot of unknowns and another big adventure waiting for us. Even though it likely won’t include afternoons at outdoor cafes, it should make for an exciting and remarkable time.

After re-fueling and returning the car, a small slew of logistical challenges in their own right, we made our way back to the Mendoza bus station and prepared for another comfortable 14-hour bus ride back to Buenos Aires. And I think that this bus was a little bit newer and nicer than the last one. Really, anyway you slice it, these are high quality buses. The overnight ride was comparable to the easy-going trip out that we wrote about last week. Although the morning traffic getting into the center of Buenos Aires was brutal and seemed to last forever.

Sunset view from our bus

Fireproof - forced to watch on a busThe one constant on both of our bus rides? Terrible, terrible movies. Films so bar that we never heard of any of them. I kept hoping and hoping that the next flick the bus attendant was going to pop on would be a box-office smash. Or at least enjoyable. Instead, each film was worse than the one before. And with a screen a few feet from my head, there was no escaping. The first film was “A Little Bit of Heaven” – an obnoxiously adorable Kate Hudson movie that started out like all Kate Hudson movies. That is until Kate Hudson gets a terminal case of cancer and spends the rest of the film dying with dignity and grace. The second movie was “Get The Gringo” a 2012 Mel Gibson movie that might have been the most brutal and violent movie I’ve seen in years. Not so much suitable for a public bus ride, but I’m more stunned that they are still letting Mel Gibson make movies. The last film was “Fireproof” an independent starring former heart-throb turned evangelical actor Kirk Cameron. It was in Spanish, but I got the gist: small town Fire Chief spends a lot of time crying and being angry about his failing marriage until he accepts Christ’s understanding. Awesome. The Avengers it was not.

After a brief stop in Buenos Aires our next stop is the beaches of Mar Del Plata! Can’t wait to check out another Argentine town.

-Phil

Categories: Argentina, City Visits, Destinations, Differences, Driving, Mendoza, Relaxing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Carlsberg, Christiana, and Copenhagen

Hello again from Copenhagen! We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy three full days of absorbing Danish culture, food, sights, fun and history. And now that we get into these older European town, there is more than enough history to go around. In keeping with one of the goals of this trip, we continue to see, learn and grow just a bit more each day. For example, we know now that the Danish flag employs one of the oldest flag designs in the world. And, finally, we’re back in a part of the world that has paper towels in the bathroom. Also, I’m slowly becoming able to sort out the distinct differences between the three Scandavian countries: Denmark, Sweeden and Norway. Until now, all three unfortunately ran a bit together like a jumbled mess in my mind.

Since day one, we’ve been resting our head in a variety of different hotels and hostels, but we’ve also had some terrific luck trying out Air BnB- a handy webstie that helps travelers find paid homestays. Currenty, we’re hosted by an incredibly gracious and friendly Dane named Thais who lives a short bus ride from central Copenhagen. We’re staying in his small, airplane-themed flat for three days; Thais has been a stellar host. His dream is to live in an old airplane, but since he is currently unable to do that, he brought the airplane to his apartment. Complete with a safety card that has important information, genuine airplane seats and an overhead compartment for storage, it is clear that he is a bit obsessed with airplanes. It is certainly the biggest theme home we’ve seen in a long time, but it works really well for him! In part, because he is a writer for several European flight magazines, reviewing aircraft, airports and all things aeronautics related. Thais has provided directions, suggestions and even pointed us to a nearby park, Utterslev Mose, where we were run in the morning. Our stay at “The Aerohotel” here has been great and we are glad the weather is finally cool enough (55-65 degrees) for us to run again.

Today we began with a tour of the Carlsberg Brewhouse and Museum. Until about a week ago, I though that Carlsberg (along with Heineken) was a Netherlands based beer. Wrong again, Phil. Turns out that not only is Carsberg one of Denmark’s biggest exports and industries, they are also the world’s 4th largest brewing company with over 500 brands including acquisitions of other European beers. While not that big in America, bottles and tap heads were common throughout Asia. The self-guided eleven dollar tour of Carlsberg (the etymology of the beer’s name is the combination of the name of the owner’s son and the Danish word for hill) was well worth it. The fact that the price of admission included a few beers didn’t hurt. While most of the main brewing facilities have been moved to the Jutland area of Denmark (just don’t ask us to point it out on the map), the company headquarters go back over a hundred years with plenty of well-perserved buildings that show off an interesting history.

I found some of the exhibits on the well-organized Carlsberg tour more interesting than some at the National Museum. The tour took us through that stables that are home to the company’s remaining Jutland Horses. This stout, large and somewhat rare breed, which resemble the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, were historically used to pull beer carts throughout the city and are still used in ceremonies today. The museum also houses a collection of 22,000 unopened beer bottles from the last couple of hundred years! 22,000 glass bottles, many donated from one Dane’s private collection, placed carefully on glass shelves in one room! Good thing we’re not in an area prone to earthquakes. They also really have kept their original buildings in wonderful shape to illustrate the brewing life back around 1900. The trip out there was worth it alone to see the entry gates complete with giant elephants and to watch the modern day brewing of small batch Jacobsen’s Ale while perched from an upstairs bar.

From Carlsberg, we took a trip to the famous Freetown Christiana: an area of Copenhagen that has been occupied by squatters on an old set of military barracks for more than 40 years. Christiana is intended to be an open commune where anyone can live and designed to encourage artists and foster free thought. But our reality was that it looked more like a bunch of burned out hippies sitting among sub-par graffiti art splattered across random buildings. The central draw is the Greenlight district or Pusher Street where they sell weed- lots of weed – openly. Just don’t take out your camera while nearby. Christiana residents declare themselves as not part of the E.U and eschew taxes, but they still receive city services such as mail, electricity and water. It has a long, complicated history and apparently the city officials conduct pre-announced raids from time to time. But for the most part, everyone is allowed to just occupy this space without much resistance. Visitors are welcome and a happy community of about 900 live carefree and proud of their little neck of the woods. It’s…odd. After a worthwhile visit, we left with more quetions then answers. We have determined that squatting is handy when you have an entire complex of well kept old buildings to live in and no one is going to kick you out, but even with understanding some of the turbulent past and issues, were still surprised that this large chunk of land is just allowed to be occupied unpaid by a collective mass.

As we wrap up Denmark for now, note that starting tomorrow Brooke and I are embarking on the most luxurious and relaxing part of our round the world trip- a nine-day Baltic Capitals cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Whilst we sail the open seas, we’ll have considerably limited internet access. For the next little bit, our blog posts may be intermittent as wifi becomes available. Off to Germany, Estonia, Russisa and beyond courtesy of the Norwegian Sun!

–Phil

So many bottles at Carlsberg!

Another photo from Thais’ Aerohotel!

Phil is showing his Denmark Pride (on Flag Day, nonetheless)

Categories: Beer, City Visits, Copenhagen, Differences, Hotels, Museums | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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