Monday, July 28, 2008

Finally a little dose of summer

As some of you know I've been moaning about not having much summer weather (hot weather). Well I think summer has finally started, even if its just short lived because the last few days have been fairly warm - in the mid-eighties. This is a heat wave in British terms. They have even been calling it an Indian Summer because its warm and dry. Not sure about that one but hey we'll go with it...

Luckily there was a festival, Sundae on the Common '08, sponsored by Ben & Jerry's (yep the famous one from Vermont) on Clapham Common which is only a few minute walk from the flat. A bit of rock music and all the free ice cream Steph could handle. From Chunky Monkey to Bohemian Raspberry to Cookie Dough we tried our best to sample them all but you can only eat so much ice cream.

We went with our New Zealand friend and his British girlfriend who are moving back to New Zealand in September. We had a great day on the common enjoying the music, soaking up the sun, eating the ice cream and people watching. One of the best parts was only being 10mins from home instead of the usual long commute home after a festival.

In other news its fairly slow from here until we head to Spain at the end of August. Steph better watch out because I see loads of flying tomatoes in our future.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Feedback Needed on Travel Idea

Ok travel buffs. We just found the ultimate travel itinerary. 18 weeks, 13 countries from London to New York by bus (the long way 'round).

Oz Bus - London to New York

Also intriguing is the London to Sydney trip which probably fits us best even though its only a mere 13 weeks.

So now we need some feedback. We think this would be incredible but we want to hear feedback from others.

Is anybody interested besides us?

Our thoughts.

First, 18 weeks on a bus sounds tough. Second, 18 weeks off work, also tough. But that would cover your travel desires for a good few years...and there was mention of camping so apparently we'd not be in the bus all-day-every-day. I guess situations like these define "leaves of absence". (Lots of people in Europe take extended leaves from work to travel, do charity work, or what ever their hearts desire. I think as Americans we get set on the American-dream-track and there's no chance/thought of derailing for most of us. After a monumental, fulfilling and exciting trip like this, some of us might even be ready to settle down.... ;)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cruise Photos

I have uploaded all of the cruise photos.

Cruise Photo Collection

There are quite a few so you may be interested in the Flickr slide show option. Once you choose a set to view you can can hit the slide show link for easy viewing.

We're off to central London for some fish and chips then to do some last day sightseeing.

It's a shame its almost over...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Recovering back in London

We are back in London after our fantastic trip. The flight home was delayed so we got home later than expected but we made it. After the shipped kicked us off bright and early so we spent the whole day in Venice flying out late last night. We did some more sight seeing, shopping and had some good Italian pizza and gelato.

Today we are resting up because it was a such long day yesterday. Garland and I just got back with some Indian take away for a late lunch. He actually had Indian food for lunch and liked it. Crazy I know.

We have a couple more days with Garland and are going to do a bit more exploring in London. If the weather is nice tomorrow we may try to get to Stonehenge.

I'm working on the pictures and should get them posted shortly.

Garland says, "Tell everybody hi for me. Its been so much fun and so so exciting. Tell them I have a lot of stories and photos to show off and I will see everybody soon. oh yeah, Hi Mom and Dad!"


Our last port of call was Split, Croatia. Now, if you are anything like any of us - you probably know very little about Croatia. In talking to a few others it was supposed to be a beautiful country with beaches, mountains, rivers and as always historic towns. Since its fairly new to the tourist scene its still very unspoiled and still very Croatian. After going to a few other historic cities we decided this was the perfect place to get a little outdoor adventure so we scheduled a rafting trip down the Cetina River.

We made our way outside of Split to a quant little town called Omis, where we met up with our rafting guide, Marco. Before we set off we had a quick safety demo and a bit of training on how to paddle as a team. What is bomba you ask? Bomba is a Croatian word; we used as a command in more dangerous rapids. When Marco yelled "Bomba" we had to all get down in the center of the boat putting our paddles on the side of the boat so he could navigate the rapids and interesting situations safely. Bomba! (After a bit of research it appears to mean grenade or bomb so I'm not sure if I'm spelling it right, but you get the idea).

The Cetina (set-ina) river isn't all class 5 or 6 rapids but does have a few bomba rapids. We cruised along the river navigating the rapids, paddling on the calm stretches and stopping occasionally to swim, explore caves and jump off the rocks! Yep, I said jump off the rocks!

About mid way through the trip we tied up on shore where Marco said he had to navigate the next set of rapids without us. We could either take a short walk on the outside of the river or to go through a small cave. Easy right, well if you choose the cave there's no turning back and you must swim through about 10 meters of 5 degree celsius water (40 fahrenheit) and climb up and down numerous rocks and boulders to make your way along the side of the river. Garland wasn't super happy about the near freezing water part but after a little encouragement we said we'd take the cave. It was a GOOD choice.

The entrance to the cave was short climb away and hidden by a ice cold waterfall. We walked through the waterfall and climbed down into the cave where there was a small pool of water. This was the cold swim and there was no turning back. I could tell Garland was nervous and he asked Steph to go first. When she got about half way across she turned and gave us the cue to follow. At this point Garland had nervously climbed up a rock above the water so I went in first. You must know I'm carrying a waterproof jug with our SLR camera and the camcorder so I needed to keep it out of the water as best I could. As I went in Garland and quickly followed. He jumped off the rock straight on my back. As the ice cold water stung my skin he landed on me and dunked me under. Trying to keep the camera jug arm out of the water I was swimming with one arm and a frantic Garland on my back who was doing his best to hang on and stay out of the chilly water. At one point I lost a flip flop and dunked the water proof jug but we made it across all in one piece, albeit cold but adrenaline filled. And we even had dry cameras in the end ;) It was so much fun!

The remainder of the cave exploration was just as exciting keeping the adrenaline going. We climbed from rock to rock, over small gaps and around some crazy ledges all in the very little light. It was a bit scary at times but was an absolute blast.

Exiting the cave we found ourselves at one of the serious rapids that Olympic rafters use to train on. We had an amazing view of Marco as he passed the challenging rapid.

Getting back in the boat we navigated quite a few more rapids until we reached a place called Devil's Pass where we stopped to take a break. This was the deepest part of the river which had a great rock cliff to climb up and jump off. And we did! Too much fun. We have video of Garland and I jumping off. (Steph, having gone cliff jumping in Hawaii was content being the camera woman for this one)

The rafting trip ended with some lazy paddling to the end of the line. We were exhausted! It was time to get back to Split, grab some lunch and find a beach to briefly relax at before boarding the ship for our last night at sea.

I'll get the pictures up as soon as I can...

Friday, July 11, 2008


Ahh - picture perfect Greece - narrow, cobblestone streets just wide enough for walking and the occasional moped shaped by tall white-washed buildings with bright blue shutters and doors - all framed by the majestic turquoise blue Mediterranean ocean. Wow. Enough said.

Well not quite enough - we might as well tell you what we did while on this little piece of paradise. The sites, sounds, and people made for a day to remember in Mykonos. It seemed like every corner we turned there was a friendly face smiling at us or saying hello.

So as you can tell from the picture above Garland and I rented a moped. Steph wanted to do some shopping so we decided it would be fun to get out of the town and cruise the island. What a blast! We speed from one side of the island to the other seeing lots of the beaches and white houses Mykonos is famous for. At one point we ended up at a remote rundown lighthouse on the other side of the island from the cruise ship with what seemed like nobody in sight for miles.

After a few hours on the beach we decided to have a quick and easy gyro for lunch. We ordered two pork and one chicken filled pitas with tomato and seasoned greek yogurt spread all topped with french fries. Yummy. While ordering I was chatting with the lady who was serving us asking about the yogurt and other random questions that I usually have, one being, "how do you stay so skinny working around these amazing gyros"? She said she has a gyro every day but then sticks strictly to salad for dinner. Funny huh. She even gave me the recipe for the yogurt spread. Then, later in the day after our moped ride we were thirsty so we went back to the gryo shop to grab a drink. Well I guess I made a good impression because I ended up leaving her shop with a big bucket full of the yogurt spread. How cool! We brought the bucket to dinner on the ship to share with our table mates then gave the rest to our head waiter.

Here's what Garland had to say about Mykonos.

"Well lord it was hot and we had to take several breaks, but we saw some cool stuff and the people are usually really nice but the people in Mykonos are even more nice. Mykonos has really nice beaches that are warm and the water feels so good. Josh and I swam in the ocean waiting for Steph to finish shopping and we just swam out just sort of treading water and then Steph finally got there. We dried off and got on the boat. I really like Mykonos. Athens had better history but Mykonos was just better overall.

During the trip I met an 11 year old girl who sits at our dinner table from New Jersey and we became friends and started hanging out on the ship together and her mom is really fun as well. We all are having a really good time."

Finally, a bit of mid-cruise analysis from Garland. I'm paraphrasing here...

So far its been a really good experience. I didn't realize there was so much in the world to do and see. Its really cool to meet people from different countries like our table mates and waiters. Adrian, our head waiter, from Romania is so cool. He lets me have two main courses every night for dinner. (Tonight it was 2 sirloin steaks and a dessert). Our other waiter, Jeronimo is from Dominican Republic and is fun.

Up next is Croatia...

Monday, July 7, 2008

It was hot, hot, hot! (in Athens)

"Hot" was the word of the day in Athens - it reached around 95-98 degrees Fahrenheit. We hopped off the boat as soon as it docked and made our way from the port to Athens via the metro. We were already sweating from every pore by the time we got to the train (the cruise ship gave us directions to the train however they failed to mention that it was at least a twenty minute walk. We might have opted for a taxi had we known). Anyway, once in city centre, we came out of the train station and there it was - ancient ruins perched upon a hilltop above us - amazing! We started the tedious climb up the hill, stopping frequently in the shade to guzzle some water and rest. The sweaty climb paid off when we got to enjoy the temple of Athena, the Parthenon and a couple other sites that I'm afraid I'd have to pull out the book to tell you their names. Regardless - the structures are impressive. It is hard to imagine man made those monstrosities over 2000 years ago, some even in BC. Oh, and I got yelled at by an Acropolis staff person. Josh was going to take my pic in front of the Parthenon and I raised both my arms to the sky being excited by the monstrous building behind I did a lady frantically blew a whistle and motioned for me to put my hands down - huh? Fortunately, there were some other tourists right next to us (who took the great photo above) and they said "she is telling you to put your arms down - its considered disrespectful - you're not the first to be whistled at". Well - you learn something new every day...I am going to have to google that to figure out how I was disrespectful of the gods, I assume.

After taking in all the history on the hilltop, we headed down the hill to the Plaka - the shopping area! haha - no, I did not walk away with much - actually only a 1 euro charm of the Greek eye - for good luck! Garland snagged a cool bronze bull. We stopped for lunch at an outdoor restaurant with water misting fans (purposefully chosen). The food was all great - chicken souvlaka for me, lamb souvlaka for G and chicken and pasta for Josh - all uniquely Greek and tasty! We then made our way through the Plaka towards the Temple of Zues - something Josh was looking forward to. It did not disappoint. Although very few columns remain in comparison to its glory days, the remaining dozen columns are quite impressive.

After admiring the temple of Zeus, we headed swiftly back to the boat boarding at 7:10pm (last call being 7:30pm or the boat leaves you!). All in all, it was a hot, hot, hot day accompanied by some of the oldest and most impressive structures we have ever seen. We decided you could have probably cooked an egg on some of that marble (in case you didn't realize - most, if not all, of the structures are made from solid marble - whoa!). Although lunch was good, the heat curbed our appetites and Garland made up for it at dinner putting down a shrimp cocktail, two (I said two!) main courses of pork loin, finished off my linguine marinara and had two scoops of chocolate ice cream and claimed he still wasn't full.

A bit of tidy up before we go. First of all, internet access isn't what we had hoped. Its tough on the ship and at a port of call its difficult because we are so limited on time. Our apologies but we will do the best we can until we get back to the UK. We are blogging almost every day but can't post it straight away which is why you are getting 3 entries at once. Second, to the Draper family all is still well. We are having a fantastic time and are meeting some fantastic people. As we speak Garland's actually at the arcade with a girl his age that sits at our dinner table from New Jersey. And finally we are at port tomorrow and will have a phone if any urgent has come up or if Kathy wants to quickly check in. We should be ashore between midnight to 1pm EST.

Thats all from here. Off to Mykonos...

Cruising to Greece

The cruise has been a big hit so far. Plenty of food, sun and activities to keep us all entertained as Garland writes below.

"Well our cruise is awesome! It has put put golf and a rock wall which I dominated (of course) lol jk. But it has almost everything you name it. Josh and I have been having so much fun so far. And we have been ordering room service at 1 and 2 in the morning. Tomorrow we make it to a port and hit Greece! And now all I can say at 2:17 in the morning is...look out Greece here comes Garland and the Nolands!"

We climbed the rock wall which was a blast!

Today we are in Athens, Greece. It's supposed to be scorching hot but we are going to brave the heat in the name of Social Studies. Even though Garland doesn't totally agree or may not be totally enthused because we are on vacation, but we are going to give him a bit of "Real Social Studies". The living breathing and inspiring sites and sounds of ancient Greece. I know I'm excited.

Before I go let me give a quick parent disclaimer. The trip is going smooth and we are keeping Garland out of trouble ;). We have loads of photos and video to show you. He's having fun, loving the unlimited ice cream (only after solid meal of course) and totally enjoying meeting so many people from other countries and cultures. Tonight we took in a musical show that was a musical covering movies over the years before a midnight swim. Try not to worry, all is well from Europe.

Andio (goodbye in Greek)...

Starting in Venice, Italy

After arriving in Venice I must say I miss the summer heat. Being in London now for our second summer it just doesn't get and stay warm like it does in KY. It's nice to get a dose of it even if just for a few days. We had a fairly easy trip into the city but had a bit of trouble finding our hotel. Even the second time around all the streets look the same and are just not labeled the same on our maps...gees. We had a mid-night dinner then wondered around St. Marks Square giving Garland his first taste of Gelato. Anybody think he liked it? Walking around the square and around the canals was so peaceful and so Venice. Amazing!

The next morning we toured a bit more of Venice taking Garland to see the Rialto bridge, the markets, and all the shops. One of the big hit's was the fish market and all of the different types of fish.

Here's what Garland wrote about his first of two parts in Venice.

"Well, we started to pack for Venice again and boy we packed more than we realized, which we learned after we got lost after and had to walk for 2 hours. We had a normal flight about two hours and we flew right on the side of Venice and it was amazing...but when we got there it was nice and warm. We took a bus to the outside of Venice and then took a water taxi into the city,which took about 30-45 minutes. Then we started to get lost and boy it sucked. We would think we were going the right way but we would get so far only to have to turn right around. The only reason we got lost was because the narrow streets are either horribly marked or not marked at all. But eventually we got to our hotel. Then we went out to eat and after Steph decided to show me gelato! I loved it! it's better than ice cream. The guy who we got them from gave us a discount so that all 3 of us could get one because he couldn't give change for our big money. We all ate our gelato out in ST. Mark's Square and Steph named the water on in the square pigey water because all of the pigeons there poo and even die in that nasty water lol. Then we all went back to our room and went to sleep. The next morning we all got up and went out to explore some more of Venice it was long but fun. At the end of the day we hopped on another water taxi and then we went down and got on our cruise!"

Bon Voyage!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Garland has landed

We had an exciting day yesterday because Steph's nephew Garland arrived to start his holiday. He had to fly over by himself and with a little help from the Detla staff he didn't have any trouble. It took a few movies, snacks, and naps but he made it through ok.

Once he landed and dropped his luggage, Steph took him to see a bit of central London including the Eye, Big Ben, the London Zoo and the London Aquarium. The photo was taken in Trafalgar Square outside the National Gallery. In just one day away from KY he's already becoming a transportation expert, navigating planes, trains, the tube and the double decker buses. Finally after a big day we decided to take it easy for dinner having pizza just around the corner from our flat here in Clapham.

As any of our previous visitors know, to ease the effects of jet lag we set a goal of staying up until 10pm the day you arrive and it was no different for Garland. He struggled through dinner but after the pizza he went over and beyond staying up until midnight. What a trooper! Although I think he's paying for it this morning as he's a complete zombie ;)

I posted a few of the photos from day 1 and we will continue to post updates throughout his trip so keep an eye out. Today we head to Venice to catch our cruise to Greece and Croatia.

One last note. Garland says to tell everybody he is doing great and having fun so far. To his mum and dad he says, "don't worry, I'm ok".