Friday, November 27, 2009

Say goodbye to the Mo'

With Movember winding down its time to say goodbye to my 'stache. After having more of a Fu Manchu for most of the month, today I went with a restyle to more of what I would consider a proper mustache. Let me know what you think.

It has been a lot of fun growing the mustache this past month. From choosing which style to grow and watching the progress of the guys on my team, to the constant laughs it generated, the mustache has made the month a more memorable one. I want to thank everybody for their support, especially those that kind enough to donate to the mens health cause. My team ended up raising more money than we expected so it was a successful Movember!

Here is my Movember team, well without Ged.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Berlin – History in our lifetime

Heading to Berlin we weren’t 100% sure what to expect. Our research into the city was somewhat quelled by our busy work schedules and the fact that I dropped our Lonely Planet guide between the train the platform on a extremely busy commute to work. How does that happen you ask? On days when trains are delayed, as was the case, the number of people trying to get on already-full trains grows exponentially. As the doors open everybody loses their already small regard for others, all surging on the train at once to avoid waiting for the next one. In all this commotion as I took a step onto the train somebody knocked the book out of my hand which fell through the small gap between the platform and the train about 4 feet down next to the track. Mind the gap right, Ugh!

I was able to retrieve the book the following day but it had rained and the damage was done. It was in rough shape and took many days to fully dry out.

Our motivations for visiting the city were driven by history. From the World Wars to the Berlin Wall we wanted to understand and get a feel for these events. So to get our dose of history we used three tours, a free general city walking tour along with two Fat Tire bike tours. The first bike tour focused on the Nazi / Third Reich years where as the second bike tour focused on the Cold War years, tracing the Berlin wall throughout much of the city.

The tours were so fascinating. We couldn’t get enough. Seeing the city now after the war still rebuilding, learning all the ins and outs from the war, topped off by struggles of the city from the wall and Cold war was just mind boggling. For starters November 9th, 2009 was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall, which means in my lifetime there were people living in a drastically divided Berlin. I am sure some of you know the story but hearing first hand how the wall finally came down and the coincidence of mistakes that lead to its demise was incredible. We were both literally sitting on the edge of our seats, the steps of the Berlin Cathedral while our free-city-walking-tour-guide told us the fascinating story of the fall.

The unlucky East German press secretary who in a few poorly thought out statements, undermined a government and brought down the wall. It’s the stuff of movies played out real life. After he wrongly announced the checkpoints were open, thousands of East Berliners rushed in mass to the wall checkpoints and forced there way through. Nothing else could be done, the integrity of the wall was compromised. Actually, you can’t even script that type of drama.

Even today the effects of the wall are still visible. Biking through the old East Berlin neighborhoods is like taking steps back in time. The old soviet style buildings still have the working class propaganda on them that was prevalent at the time, which give such insight to what it would have been like behind the wall. In certain areas you almost felt like you were watching a documentary about East Berlin as local people went on with their daily life. For brief moments you could lose track of time before remembering it was 2009 and realizing the old communist rule was gone. These people weren't trapped behind a wall anymore.

The massive, unattractive housing blocks, built for efficiency and equality, showed signs of the struggling modern city. The tour guide said there is a roughly 20% vacancy rate for apartments in the city – talk about a buyer’s market. But he also told us that his first apartment in the city didn’t have heat and the elevator only stopped every other floor (on purpose!). He talked of having to start a fire in his kitchen oven for heating and having to start the fire under his water tank 1.5 hours before he wanted to have a warm shower. That glamorous lifestyle could be yours for a whopping 195 euro a month – that’s cheap! These are all traits of East Berlin apartments, many of which have still not been modernized, as is obvious by his recent experience.

One highlight not on the beaten track that we were able to visit thanks to the bicycle tour, was the Soviet Memorial at Treptower Park. To put into a word it was just STAGGERING. The size and scale was such a tribute to the 5000 soldiers buried there after World War II. This is one of the most impressive memorials in Europe we've seen and one not to miss! Check out this photo where you see a person in the picture to gauge the true scale of this memorial park.

There is more to Berlin than history but for us that will have to be on the next trip. We hear there is quite a nightlife. But we spend so much of our days going, going, going, that when we see a sign outside a bar that says “Open until 8am!”, we cringe.

Berlin Photos

Monday, November 16, 2009


I am growing a moustache this year for Movember. I have decided to put down my razor for one month (November) and help raise awareness and funds for men’s health – specifically prostate cancer.

What many people don’t appreciate is that one man dies every hour of prostate cancer in the UK, more than 35,000 men will be diagnosed this year and that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. Facts like these have convinced me I should get involved and I am hoping that you will support me.

To donate to my Mo click this link and donate online.

Movember is now in its third year here in the UK and, to date, has achieved some pretty amazing results by working alongside The Prostate Cancer Charity. Check out further details at:

If you are interested in following the progress of my Mo, click here Also, this is a worldwide event, I just registered on the UK site. The US site is, so your donations are used world wide.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Berlin Wall

November 9th marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall and we had the chance to visit Berlin in mid September leading up to the anniversary. The wall left a lasting impression on us. From standing at the infamous Brandenburg gate, on both sides, to seeing some of the remaining sections of the wall deteriorating from lack of restoration, to the impressive East Side Gallery and Check Point Charlie the Wall is still a huge focus point in shaping modern day Berlin.

I'm not sure how to best describe it but the wall invokes so much emotion when you stop to think about it. We took a bike tour tracing the wall throughout the city which gave us a good understanding of the divide the wall caused. Imagine one day waking up, walking outside your front door and a row of barb wire is just outside your door step...barbed wire which became a wall. Or having family a couple streets over but now there is a line, or wall, you can't cross to see them again. Think about living in one area of Berlin, a wall is put up and one day you can't get to work. This was the reality that some people faced in our lifetime and it was hard to swallow.

On top of this, as American's, we should understand our part in the divide. Let's not argue right or wrong in this case but when the city was divided between the allies and the Russians it was only inevitable something like this would occur. I mean just have a look at this photo of the tank standoff that occurred at Check Point Charlie in 1961, one of the crossings from East to West Germany controlled by the USA. Maybe I was asleep in history class when we talked about the wall but I'd swear we didn't hear much about it even though we played a huge part in it.

The story of the fall of the wall was equally intriguing. Rather than a "story", it was a chain of events that set in motion something that could not be stopped and the final day, that press just can't make that stuff up. We sat literally on the edge of our seats, on some church steps, as a tour guide explained this fascinating chain of events.

Anyway so let's just all be glad the wall has fallen! Here are a few photos of the East Side Gallery in honor of the fall of the wall.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Istanbul – Bazaar’s

From the massive Grand Bazaar and quiet Arasta Bazaar to the aroma filled Spice Bazaar above, we had such a good time wandering around the busy narrow streets containing the bazaars. As you could imagine you could buy anything and seeing it all was fun. Of the bazaars we visited my favorite was the Spice Bazaar where the mounds of spices and turkish delights were fascinating. Just outside it there was also a huge outdoor "pet shop" where you could scoop out your pet food from one of the some 30 varieties just like would the spices, along with buying your live game bird for dinner that evening.

The most interesting item for sale we saw had to be in the "witch doctor section" where they were selling LEECHES in big plastic jugs half full of water! I guess people just rock up and take home a bag full of leeches to treat themselves. Weird!

While exploring the Spice Bazaar we decided to buy some Turkish delights to take back to friends and coworkers. At these bazaars the name of the game is negotiating. We stopped in at one stall selling loads of spices out front and Turkish delights inside. Getting to know the salesman, I quickly made friends. When you want something in Istanbul everybody is your friend especially once they realized you are actually interested in purchasing something.

Talking to him he let us sample just about everything. This shop and many others like it have big cases of honeycomb literally right out of the hive ready for sale. It’s not like going to your local super market and picking up a jar of honey. Here you buy the comb full of honey. Its sort of like buying cheese at a deli, you just say how much you want and they cut it off for you and package it up.

Knowing we couldn’t really take any with us I asked for just a taste. After a strange look the the guy said, “Nobody ever asked for that before, but why not”. So he cut us both off a piece to try. You basically just chew out the pure sweet honey goodness and spit out the wax. Score - one giant sugar rush!

In the end, he gave us what seemed like a good deal on Turkish delights. I was able to negotiate him down to almost half the original price. Happy as could be, we left with 1.5kg of Turkish delights sealed up ready for a flight back to the UK.

Our last morning, Steph decided she wanted to have a Turkish bath. I passed on the experience but here’s her morning experience in her own words:

“I left the hotel quite early, around 7am, and made my way a few stops on the tram to find one of the more popular bath houses. The Turkish bath is a combo of sweatin’ it out in an intensely hot domed room and then having a massage/bath scrubbing from one of the bath attendants. I was one of the first people there with only one other bather in the hot room (another tourist – from England). So, we both had the little chat of “do you know how this works?” and since neither of us did, it was quite entertaining to see her go first! They take a little scrubby mitt and a mass amount of suds (I’m talking mounds (!) of silky suds all over you while you’re laying down) and scrub/massage you head to toe. Then, they take you over to one of the marble sinks, you sit on a low marble ledge and they even lather up your hair and dump buckets of hot water over you. At that moment, I felt very much like a muddy dog getting washed in the backyard – not the most posh spa-like experience – more utilitarian. But hey, it was fun. I did get a proper scrub down, sweated it out as much as I could stand in the hot room (laying on hot marble can only be tolerated for so long before you feel like you will melt and become a puddle in the floor!), and I even had a dip in the hot tub. The bath house was very pretty – the hot room being all marble – floor to dome, with little archways that lead in to the little rooms where you have your hair washing. The actual baths (large hot tubs) vary across bath houses but this one was quite modern. They also have a lounge where you can relax in your robe afterward having a fruit juice, a chai or a nap. Also, as pretty as I thought it was, they say that the men’s sides of the bath houses are always so much nicer. Oh yeah, there are two sides – one for ladies and one for men. All in all, it was a neat experience!”

Finally, to wrap up Istanbul I wanted to tell everybody how much we enjoyed our time there. It was such a fantastic mix of Europe and Asia. It is as raw as it is civilized. It’s a city that can satisfy all sorts of travel desires. From unscripted Asian experience to get of your comfort zone to European city style historic site touring and comforts. If you are looking for some place different and exciting you should give a strong look to Istanbul and Turkey.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Istanbul - Carpet Buying Experience

Carpets, carpets, and more carpets. A trip to Istanbul is not complete unless you have a carpet buying experience which isn't hard to come by even if you weren’t looking to buy a carpet. Let me tell you about our experience.

It was our first morning. We slept in a bit but then set out to explore. We were in the Hippodrome near the Blue Mosque having stopped to look at our map to figure out if we were on the correct road. A well dressed man in khakis and a polo shirt (with an embroidered South Carolina logo) was walking by with a young lady and he said “Do you know where you are going?”. Even though we said yes, we did, we somehow found ourselves in a conversation with them, mostly due to his American accent. He was out with his niece, in town for Ramadan, and he is an exporter – he sells big, expensive carpets in the US in Florida. Since he mentioned he was a carpet exporter we started asking about carpets and where we should go if we were interested. He made it clear that he only did exporting so we saw his advice as unbiased. One thing led to another and he said he could get one of his employees to teach us a few things about carpets.

Before we knew it we were being escorted by his niece (he had to go meet a friend) just a couple blocks away to a house with his and his wife’s name painted in a flowery sign above the door. Quaint, right?

Walking in, the place was like a museum, with old masks, cloaks, rugs, etc everywhere! They had stacks of folded carpets down every hall, most stacks at least 6 feet tall. The employee took us to a room and laid out several carpets and said can we pick the 2 real carpets out of the 8 he presented. We picked one of them. He then proceeded to go through each carpet explaining how we could tell it was a not 100% genuine. He also took a lighter to the wool carpet to show us that it doesn’t burn (burning wool smells like burning hair, by the way – it doesn’t burn but it stinks!).

So after the lovely little demo, which we could tell was well rehearsed, he started showing us some of their carpets. They make most themselves in Turkey but also buy a few from places like Iran. Another guy showed up and started helping show us their carpets, unfolding the 8x10 rugs one by one starting a massive pile in the middle of the room. Undoubtedly, there were a couple that we really liked. When they had about 25 rugs unfolded and stacked in the floor, they started taking them away, asking what we thought of it. They were selling us a carpet! Narrowing the stack down to the couple we were interested in! The afternoon had morphed from a “have my friend teach you about carpets” to “the original guy coming back and starting to talk price saying he doesn’t normally sell directly to individuals”.

To wrap up this long story, we did not get back to London with a carpet. For starters, the nice carpets are very expensive. Our favorite is the one pictured above.

In hindsight, we were so impressed with the casual way that he “picked us up” on the street. It seemed a truly chance meeting and casual conversation that led to a 3 hour carpet buying experience! We didn’t feel like we were targeted until afterward when we trying to piece together exactly what had just happened. And we realized how he actually gathered lots of info about us in our “casual conversation” – information that let him know we could be potential buyers. In the end, that was the biggest swindling we had ever been a part of and we didn’t even know it until afterward!

I actually googled “carpet buying experiences in Istanbul” when we got home and I found one person’s blog who said they were in the Blue Mosque area and someone asked “Do you know where you are going”! Simple words – non-intrusive, polite, casual – but the key phrase to say “you’ve been targeted!”

(We’ve got his business card, in case YOU are interested! They do make lovely carpets – we do think he is a legit business – I googled him too. He is recommended by a couple tourism guides as “appointment required”. His spiel about not normally selling to individuals is a fib to make you feel like you have a rare opportunity in front of you, but his carpets are beautiful and appear quite high quality. If we were to buy a carpet in the future, we might go back to him, although fully aware the next time!)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Istanbul – Roof Tops and Ramadan

I could go on for days about the sights in Istanbul. The Aya Sofia – an old church turned mosque turned museum, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque better known as the Blue Mosque, the many bazaars, the palace… they were all so incredible to see and shouldn't be missed. As strange as it may sound I instead want to talk about the roof tops of Istanbul. You can find roof top terraces in the form of restaurants, cafés or bars all over Istanbul. Sitting out in the warm summer evenings, with a sea breeze blowing, made enjoying the views of Istanbul and the Bosphorus so memorable. Looking out at both Europe and Asia was such a thrill.

One afternoon we sat and watched the sun go down, on a roof terrace of course, where we met an entertaining fellow named Mario. He was a British guy working in Istanbul and a life long traveler. This was his local. He is playing a friendly game of backgammon in the background of the photo. After talking for a few hours we joined him for an ice cream at his favorite shop followed up by a Turkey history lesson over a late night tea – commonly referred to as a ‘chai’.

Now, before researching Istanbul I had always heard of Turkish coffee and after visiting Istanbul I’m not sure why. Although I did have a Turkish coffee, the people seem to rarely drink it opting instead for a ‘chai’ tea. It is a strong tea served everywhere in odd hourglass-shaped glasses. Everybody drinks it throughout the day and besides being good to drink, it is cheap. We found it to be a great excuse to stop and relax while touring around.

One thing we didn’t realize before arrival was that we’d be there during Ramadan, the Muslim religious month for fasting from dawn to dusk. There were big crowds on hand to celebrate Ramadan and a festival-like atmosphere set up around the blue mosque. We hung out here one evening and took in the sights and sounds, even sampling some interesting Turkish treats.

Hearing the last call to prayer for the day, we decided to cap off the evening by following all of the prayer goers into the Blue Mosque. Shoes off and Steph's arms and shoulders covered, we made our way into the mosque. What a site! The walls and ceiling were covered in blue mosaic tiles, with massive round columns supporting the huge dome. The huge carpeted prayer area was lit up by large low hanging chandeliers. After being ushered into the visitors section we sat and watched as they prayed signaling the end to their day.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Istanbul - A rough start

The trip to Istanbul, our first to the Asian Continent, didn't get off to the best start. We knew ahead of time we had to buy a visa on arrival and took enough British Pounds to do so, opting for our normal technique of getting local currency after landing from an ATM. At the front of the line in passport control a Turkish man asked for our passports and said 40 dollars please. Thinking it was a translation issue we slid our pounds through the window at which point he looked up holding our passports shaking his head saying we must pay in US Dollars or Turkish Lira. So to make a long story shorter, we could not pay in British Pounds like most of the rest of the passengers on the plane because we had American passports. For some reason you can only pay with your country's currency or in lira. We had neither. On a side note, with negotiations in progress to join the EU, Turkey may want to think about fixing this policy.

Leaving Steph by herself and handing over my passport to security, I was escorted out of passport control to an ATM to get cash. This shouldn’t have been a problem but my card didn't work due to a “Card read error”. With no other option I headed to the dreaded money exchange window and swapped my pounds for lira.

Escorted back to passport control we again tried to buy Turkish visas only to be a few lira short due to the fees from the money exchange. Are you kidding me! Luckily another traveler, a Canadian girl, had the same problem and lent us the money to buy our visa's to get through passport control.

Finally allowed to enter Turkey we tried Steph's ATM card but it failed too. The same card read error. This was starting to get old until a bit of persistence paid off when we tried the last machine on the other end of the airport that happily accepted our card and gave us much needed Turkish Lira. Whew!

Outside the airport we found a shuttle and soon were at the Asian shore waiting on a ferry to take us to the Sultanahmet District on the European side of Istanbul. The ferry ride treated us with some fantastic views of the sights to come. In fact we were so smitten taking photos from the ferry's top deck that the ferry pulled into our stop and then left again before we could get off! Again, are you kidding?! I’m not sure what to say here but I guess we were totally off our game with the airport fiasco and now this.

After scampering down to the lower deck and trying to communicate with the boatmen, we found out our ferry was jumping over to the other side (the other European side only 2 minutes across the river, not back to the Asian side which is a half hour away), then coming straight back - good news. Now that we were watching the ferry stop process, we quickly realized they only do a slightly prolonged touch-and-go. All of the commuter ferries have a huge tire on the front allowing them to slowly bump into the dock long enough for people to quickly jump on or off. They don’t always stop and dock. Lesson learned.

Back to try again, we jumped off the boat to a fairly hectic scene. In the heat of the day, sun blazing down, taking it all in was great. People everywhere hustling to get on and off ferries, busses honking, trams dinging past on the nearby bridge, taxis in the background honking and zooming past, people selling anything and everything all supported by the sea traffic’s engine hum, arrival horn blasts and resulting waves crashing into the sea wall. It was a brilliant welcome to vibrant Istanbul.

Through all of the commotion we noticed about 3 or 4 boats lined up, all very ornate, rocking heavily in the surf and all serving fresh fish sandwiches. How could we pass this up? (Plus, we had heard about them thanks to good 'ol Rick Steves) Stepping up and placing an order, I watched the grill man, below take a piece of fish off the grill, stick it in a crusty roll, cover it with lettuce and onions, douse it with lemon juice and hand it over to me in trade for a couple lira (less than a pound!). Verdict: not too bad. Would pass on the onions if we did it again.

All was now going well. We were sitting and enjoying our fish but then I noticed out of the corner of my eye a young boy running up to the table selling something, which turned out to be tissues. I instinctively grabbed one of my bags and pulled it closer. Well this offended him. He angrily said “NO NO NO” and shook his finger at me proceeding to yell in Turkish to all his friends doing the same. It was just a reaction; I didn’t think he was trying to steal it. Sorry young Turkish boy, us visitors can sure cause a fuss!

One thing to know is that Istanbul has a very low crime rate. It is a very peaceful city and we never felt threatened or endangered in all of the crowds and chaos that is Istanbul.

Fish sandwiches eaten, we then dropped our bags at the hotel and re-grouped from our rougher-than-normal arrival and headed out to soak up more sights and sounds.

Istanbul Photos

Saturday, August 22, 2009

4th Plinth Wrap up

I've had a lot of inquiries asking how it went up on the plinth so I thought I'd run you through the morning.

Needing to arrive an hour and a half early, I was up at 3:15am and on the N87 night bus to Trafalgar Square a few minutes before 4am. Arriving right on time, I went to the temporary building setup for the event where I had to go through a quick security check. Inside I met the event crew and the participant on before me. She was an older lady who was playing an accordion up on the plinth.

So first things first - paperwork. I had to sign my life away giving the artist and Sky Arts the rights to use my content for TV shows, books, and whatever else they come up with. Then I had to do an audio interview about my life and how I came to be where I am today. Questions such as "Why did you decide to participate", "Tell me a little about yourself and your cause", "You are from Kentucky, can you tell me about Kentucky and what its like there", "talk a little about your parents", "and about your brother", "I noticed you brought your wife with you, can you tell me about her". All being good, challenging questions at almost 5am. Afterward there was a quick photo session to capture me in still life on that day.

Why the interview and photo session, you ask? Well its more than just an art project. Its meant to be a grass roots view at individual people and who they are at this particular time in history. The interview is going to be archived in the Wellcome Trust for anyone to listen to in the future. The website explains the project like this: "One & Other is an extension of the exploration of the connection between individuals. The volunteers on the plinth become both representations of themselves and of the human population of the world, viewed by fellow members of the wider society which they inhabit."

Left with a few minutes of down time, I sat back on the couch, sipped a coffee and watched the lady with the music box. Then about 15 minutes before 6am they fitted my microphone and we made our way to the big cherry picker that would lift me up on the plinth.

The time on the plinth went much faster than I thought it would. The first time I looked to see what time it was it had already been 30 minutes and before I knew it, the cherry picker was already on its way to pick me up.

Now down from the plinth, I had one last task which was to sign the plinther guest book. Then it was a few handshakes and off to Canary Wharf to work.

So, what did I think? Well, the preparation was harder than I thought it would have been. What do you do for an hour to represent yourself in front of the world (or London, at least)? What would you do?

Watching other contestants added what I thought at the time was pressure to perform and entertain. In the end, I didn't need to entertain but just be true to myself and have a little fun. So with my flag, sign and self, I represented who I am, my family and friends and hopefully Kentucky well. It was a great experience that I will remember for quite a while.

Here is the video if you missed it and a few photos too.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Let the show begin

I'm all set to take my spot on the plinth.

You can watch it live at 6am (1am EST) or later from my profile.

Here is a map showing where the participants are from in the UK. You can also put yourself on the plinth

Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

4th Plinth

I just got a call to participate in an art project that is allowing people to stand on the 4th Plinth at Trafalgar Square. The basic premise is this, "Every hour, 24 hours a day, for 100 days without a break, a different person will make the Plinth their own."

So from 6am to 7am Monday morning London time, I will be standing on the 4th Plinth. Anybody have any ideas what I can do for an hour?

The project website is below. You can watch a live feed of what people are currently doing and will be able to watch me live on Monday morning. Here are some of the highlights of what other people have done.

Drop me an comment or email if you have any ideas for my time on the Plinth.

One and Other Project

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Nights in Paris

With the day in Strasbourg at a close we piled back in the car for the final few hour drive into Paris...well, the outskirts of Paris, to drop the car at the airport.

After saying farewell to our Audi A4, we were back on public transit for the first time since Munich and stuck on a delayed train. Actually a malfunctioning train with no a/c which gave us a chance to discuss public transit versus personal transport. Would we rather be sitting in traffic on the autobahn or stuck in a broken down train somewhere between stations...tough question.

This time in Paris we tried something a little different; we rented an apartment instead of checking into a hotel room. We stayed in a one bedroom apartment full of old charm on the fifth floor that had huge windows opening out over the street. It was a fun place to stay for a few nights. It didn't come with normal hotel services such as room service or house keeping but it gave us extra living space and the unbeatable experience of living in the city like a true Parisian. The apartment was a great change from hotels so keep this in mind when you are traveling. It's worth the extra hassle if you don't mind sacrificing some hotel nice to haves.

Now with our arrival in the city being well after dinner, we headed to one of the places that goes well into the night and a place where you can always get food - the Avenue des Champs-Élysées! We were on the hunt for a midnight pizza and by the time we finally cut into our pizza's it was well after 1 am. Expensive? Yes. But the atmosphere on the Champs-Élysées with its tree lined streets, high end fashion stores and people who want to be seen was totally worth it. We even did our best to dodge traffic for a few photos of the Arc de Triomphe in the middle of the 12 lane boulevard. Too fun!

The next couple days we did the normal amazing sights in Paris. Its only normal by Paris standards...local bakeries to get pan au chocolats for breakfast, the Musée d'Orsay, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, strolling through the streets and along the River Seine shopping for art...and the list goes on. We just enjoyed what the city had to offer.

The only real problem was the heat. It was well in the the 90s which in a city not geared for heat, serving water in 2-gulp glasses, was at times overwhelming. However we did take opportunities to get out of the sun or cool off. For instance, instead of eating our crepe filled with Nutella in the sun we sat in the shade and enjoyed views of Notre Dame. Or at the Louvre, where the fountains were calling our name, dipped our feet in the water and cooled off along with all the other hot visitors.

A big highlight for me was having a birthday in Paris. To celebrate we used a recommendation from a friend at work, who is from France and lived in Paris. It was a quintessential Paris cafe with locals spilling out. There was even a short wait for a table! Luckily for us, our waiter had spent a few years in the UK and spoke very good English. He helped us pick a great bottle of wine to accommodate our nice steak dinners even arranging to have a huge firework in my dessert. I'm not exaggerating, this wasn't your average candle - it was a mini roman candle! Excellent! For dessert Steph and Tara enjoyed Nutella tiramisu and it was served in an old fashioned canning jar - they said it was incredible but I can't say for sure because I didn't get a bite...

I need to give a big thanks to my awesome Mom and Dad for the great birthday dinner! We were thinking of you.

Before I get to the last night of our trip I want to quickly mention the hilarity that ensued on the top of the Arc De Triomphe during our visit at rush hour. I'm sure its a daily occurrence but seeing the sheer number of vehicles trying to all at once squeeze through the huge roundabout at rush hour was such a laugh. Cars as far as you can see trying to get into the roundabout and the chaos in the roundabout for cars trying get out, all horns blaring. You'll have to see the photos to fully understand the size of the traffic jam. In this case, the public transit wins hands down.

Upon reaching our last night in Paris we realized our non stop trip was starting to catch up with us. We needed to slow down so what better way to do so than to have a picnic at the Eiffel tower. After rounding up some cheese, wine and pastries we did exactly that, stopped and enjoyed one of the best views in the world. Under the clear skies and warmth of the summer evening we watched the Eiffel tower go from day to night and sparkle in all its splendid glory.

A perfect ending to a European road trip enhanced by the great company!

Paris Photos

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day in Strasbourg

There’s no better way to start a day in France than with a croissant and coffee. This became our regular breakfast for the next few days while in France. Easy to find and relatively cheap! So after the breakfast of French champions, we headed for the much talked about astrological clock. We were told to line up early so we could ensure we’d see it all – the sight included a 20 minute video about the clock then you could see it in action as it struck 12:30pm.

The clock was intricate and ornate but unfortunately the video and 12:30 striking were quite a letdown after all the build up. But we’ve got some lovely pictures of the artistry on this beautiful clock but it wasn't much of a show.

We then took a leisurely boat cruise around the town, which included going through 2 locks, which was a new experience. Strasbourg is a larger small town, if that makes sense, and we could tell there was loads to see and do but we were there only briefly.

To top off the day in Strasbourg, we climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the cathedral tower for a commanding view of the city. What a sight! Old crooked buildings with erradic rooflines, the new modern buildings of the European Parliament and the other historical buildings such as the Palace.

Next stop – Paris!


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Colmar to Strasbourg

Colmar was a lovely little cottage style town with its cobbled stone streets. The slower pace of life there was great. We were finally able to enjoy a warm summer evening with a late dinner topped off with some regional treats that included our first taste of Alsacian wine and the tarte flambet – most resembling a pizza but no tomato sauce…just white sauce, cheese and a bit of bacon/ham on a pastry-like base. That is the traditional style – Tara and I had ours with Munster cheese and potatoes – yum! Full from dinner we enjoyed a lovely walk through the streets and then hit the sack.

On leaving Colmar the next morning, we began to see the Vosges mountains which run south to north in the Alsace region. Along the base of these mountains are the vast vineyards and towns that form the Route du Vin (the wine road). The wine road produces some award winning wine and was the perfect path to Strasbourg, our next destination.

We picked up a wine road map from the Colmar tourism office who helped out tremendously giving us a head start by quickly circling a half dozen of the best towns along the route. Along the route we quickly found that there was a town, then you went up and down a small hill and you were already to the next town!

We stopped at a couple of the recommended towns and had some food and wine. The “road” literally has a vineyard or wine cellar (a wine merchant’s store, not necessarily his vineyard) every few feet. The picture at the top of the article is one of the many picturesque towns we found.

The Alsacian wine is generally white and sweet. We tried a little of everything and the Reisling was probably our favorite. In walking in one wine cellar we found the merchant entertaining a young couple, speaking in French. He attended to us as well but we quickly found he spoke very little English. Fortunately the young couple spoke great English and they became our official translators. They were down for the day to buy wine; they lived about an hour away.

The merchant’s wine was the best we had so far so we tried several. We also asked if he gave tours of his production facility. After a few sentences through our new translator, a quick tour was agreed only if the couple would translate, which they luckily did.

This particular merchant was a cooperative wine maker meaning he sourced all his grapes from several surrounding vineyards (he didn’t grow his own). Of the 2 million bottles a year he produces, most of them are exported, many going to Asia where they pair well with the Asian cuisines. On the tour, we were able to see the massive stainless steel tanks used to produce the excellent drinks we just enjoyed along with the almost fully automated bottling process. It only takes 2 or 3 staff to bottle all that wine.

After our tour, it was recommended we try the winemaker's sparkling wine that had recently won “effervescent of the year”. It was great! It's called Cremant. Not sweet, not too dry and perfectly bubbly. During our tasting the merchant, with the help of a little translation, was adamant it was better than champagne but just not from the Champagne region. We’ll let you know if we can find it being sold in the US as we would recommend you all try it. And best of all, it was only 6 euros!

A big thanks to our gracious friends who happily translated for us.

With a memorable wine road experience in our pocket, we decided to call it a day on the route du vin and headed on to Strasbourg, knowing we needed to find a hotel!

With the help of Satnav we found a hotel. The lady at the desk offered us keys to let us go look at the room and we scored a family room (for 4 adults) with two double beds and loads of antique furniture that I wished I could pop in my bag like Mary Poppins! Loved it! And, we had a view of the cathedral that dominates the small town’s skyline.

Dinner was lovely – more tarte flambet for Tara and I – and Josh got adventurous in ordering the “pork cheeks” which turned out to be quite yummy! After our dinner we retired to our family room, enjoyed a bottle of our wine from the day’s route and played Zac and Tara’s favorite card game “345”. Good day!


Neuschwanstein Castle – Fantasy Land

We arrived just outside Fussen in Hohenschwangau to try and find our hotel just as darkness was setting in. Since we were arriving after normal check-in hours we had to call the phone number on the confirmation. The 24 hour desk was up the road at another hotel where we had to go pick up the keys.

As we were about to go in the main door of our little B&B, a lady came out asking if we were the Koch family. Nope. Apparently we had been given another family’s room keys. We told her our name and handed her our confirmation and she was quick to point out – the reservation was for JULY - not June. Oops. Upon discovering this mistake and having four people standing out in the rainy night, the lady made a big scene yelling, "Ei-yi-yigh!" as she stormed off into the B&B, turning on lights and booting up the reservation system. After she settled down she turned out to be really nice and gave Zac and Tara a room with a view of the castle. An exceptional room with no reservation, whew!

You must know that the Neuschwanstein castle was the inspiration for the Walt Disney World castle and is truly like something out of a fantasy. There is just something magical about it. After dinner we headed back out into the rain to take a few photos and enjoy the night view. It was pitch black and the castle was amazing perched up on the side of the hill. Going back to our childhood days again ala the Etch-A-Sketch, we tried our hand at creating some light painting masterpieces. One of our better results is the photo above, done by the little known artist Znoland...

The next morning we woke up to more clouds and rain, which meant no paragliding over the castle. Doh! I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Instead we headed out for a tour of the castle. On top of the mountains where the views are spectacular, King Ludwig II (who was a bit odd, they say) created a fantasy world of a castle, inside and out. The castle was supposedly in honor of composer Wagner and was decorated to include scenes from his operas including a fake cave. One of the highlights is the view from a bridge near the castle which ranks in our top 10 views list. It was quite surreal although I could be biased from all the Disney castle commercials over the years...

After braving the raining cloudy weather in Bavaria, we headed towards our next stop - Colmar, France. Along the way, we even ducked into Switzerland and realized at a rest stop we didn’t have any money because they weren’t on the Euro. That meant no toilet break until we were back in an EU country because all the toilets cost 50 euro cents to use!

Bavaria and castle Photos

Let the road trip begin

This day was supposed to be a short drive to Hohenschwangau near Fussen in southern Germany to paraglide over the Neuschwanstein Castle but with the weather still poor we had to change plans. No paragliding would happen today. Instead we opted to drive southeast to Berchtesgaden to try and visit Kehlsteinhaus or better known as Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

We piled into our (free upgrade) Audi A4 wagon and put the hammer down on the Autobahn. I’m should say that driving on the autobahn is quite fun. You are able to put your foot down and just go. During long sections you don't have to worry about the speed limits. Fast, slow, what ever you feel like driving. Oh just make sure you get out of the way when you are going too slow. At one point we had the A4 around 120 mph and were being passed by other cars! I am not kidding. It was an awesome adrenaline filled few minutes for at least Zac and I. Tara and Steph were sitting quite nervously in the back seat.

Stopping off just into Austria, we found a picturesque little alpine café for lunch that was set beside a spearmint cream colored river flowing down the mountain and through the town. The nice lady working could barely speak English but she managed to say mozzarella and tomatoes while showing us ciabatta bread – sold, 4 please!

Taking our time, we headed up the mountain where we could catch the bus up to the Eagle’s Nest. Unfortunately we missed the last bus by 20 minutes. It was closed. At 4pm! What a bummer!

The only other option was to drive through the mountains to see what we could find. We ran across some incredible views and a mountain playground which turned out to be quite fun. They had swings and slides and a giant teeter-totter which entertained us for a long time. Up down, up down, we laughed and enjoyed the views of the Alps and the storm brewing in the background.

After playtime was over we took off for Fussen.

Bavaria Photos

Friday, July 3, 2009

Munchen – Start of a European road trip

To entertain Zac and Tara who flew over in dire need of some vacation, we decided a road trip through Europe would be fun... starting in the beer and brat capital of the world - Munich, Germany. We wanted to get a feel for what we had heard was one of the most livable cities in the world known as Munchen in Germany, which is by far much more fun to say!

First things first – we had to try try litre of beer. In reading up on the many beer halls in the city most of the reviews said we should head straight for the Hofbrahouse even as touristy as it can be. The reviews are correct! It was a fantastic way to spend an evening listening to the German band jamming away, enjoying the huge litre beers and a smorgasbord of sausages and sauerkraut.

The next morning we geared up for our bike ride through the city. Since we only had a short time in Munchen it was the perfect way to get a feel for the city even through the cold and rainy weather. A few of the stops included the world’s biggest beer garden in the huge English garden in the city center, the place where the Nazi party got its start and the man-made surfing wave that our Hawaiian tour leader uses every day to keep up his skills. One interesting place was dodger’s lane - back in the day locals would walk this lane instead of the main road to avoid saluting the giant swastika installed in the area. Not saluting could see you sent to a work camp or worse... killed. So dodge we shall…

Another fascinating place was at the University where a group student protesters called the white rose resistance, threw anti-Nazi leaflets out of the 2nd story window onto the Gestapo waiting below to take them away. There is a monument to the students with what looks like leaflets scattered across the pavement. They were taken and the 1940's. Sad story, but worth a read.

Our favorite experience in Munich was by far the yodeling bar we stumbled upon later that night. Being a true local hangout, we were fish out of water that went something like this:

Walking up a narrow winding set of wooden stairs we could hear the distinct music echoing from above. Smiles already on our faces, we opened the door at the top into a tiny attic bar with 8 or so tables, a bar and a small area with a chair for the older gentleman who was yodeling and playing the accordion at a lightning pace. With only a few other groups of people in the bar we were quite obvious tourists as we sat down. We then found out the yodeler was quite the comedian where even in German it was quite obvious when people are having a joke or 5 at your expense. We just laughed pretending we understood the German jokes, soaking up the atmosphere. The jokes were on us and it was all the better we had no clue what they said.

As the night went on he warmed up to us indicating when we should sing and gesture in certain songs. We meet a local in the bar who was happy to do his best at joke translation and a few were even funny. At one point he asked, “How did you find this special place” and “What you mean by I am awesome?”

As the bar filled up we shared a table with some guys from Switzerland who were quite entertaining as well. I think they were just as enthralled by our accents, as we were with theirs.

Even just a short time in Munchen was enough to see it is a livable city and a city I can’t wait to get back to.

Yodle-ley-hee-hoooooo, it’s on to Fussen tomorrow.

Munich Photos

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cheers from Munchen

All is well in the land of beer and brat. We have successfully meet up with Zac and Tara and are in fully enjoying all that Munich has to offer. I have to be brief but after a few beer halls, a bike tour and a late night yodeling tavern which I'll explain later, we are already having a good time.

We are leaving Munich shortly to move on to more adventures - we'll write more soon!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Winding up the short trip to Corfu

To answer my previous question we had our drinks and moved on. As a traveler in unfamiliar environments you can never be too cautious. When something seems a bit off you have to take notice.

"We are just going to have drinks. We had a late Greek style lunch and just aren't hungry." Then we endured the following slightly uncomfortable minutes while we finished our drinks and enjoyed the view.

Afterwards we found a local fast food kebab style place and had a good simple dinner. It turned out to be a better option.

The next morning was already departure day and we only had the morning hours before we had to head to Corfu town and the airport. Up early we headed to the beach for breakfast and some last minute sun. At 8:30am we were no joke, the only tourists on the beach. The restaurant workers and beach hut workers were there setting up shop, but weren't open until 9am. It was kind of nice "owning" the beach for the morning. Oh, and even by 11:30 when we packed up there were only about 20 people in site. It was sunny and hot so I'm not sure why it was a slow day.

Arriving at the airport we dropped off the car and checked in for the flight which was delayed. An hour and a plate of tzatziki later, we found out it was significantly delayed - almost 5 hours. Luckily the airport is tiny and Corfu town was nearby so we jumped in a taxi and headed back out for some more sight seeing.

Corfu town was great and would have been a shame to miss otherwise. With fantastic Venetian style buildings, a mighty fortress castle as you can see with Steph above and great bay to see. We strolled the streets then found one last taverna for a snack before heading back to the airport.

For once we were glad the plane was delayed because it gave us more usable time to spend on the island.

Before this trip I thought last minute travel was a myth. Even saying so out loud looking at some of the prices for airfare leading up to the trip. I may of even said something about needed to change its name, but I was proven wrong.

It was an eventful and extremely enjoyable last minute trip that we concluded was so good because we had zero expectations. We didn't have time to plan or research anything, so everything we did and ran across was a surprise. :) We're going to try to do this more often.

Enjoy the photos

Travelling Dilema

Our cheap trip was a package deal from one of the major tour providers here in the UK. It was just the start of high season in Corfu so seats on planes and hotel rooms were empty. Throw in a credit crunch and you really start to notice the effects. Restaurants, hotels and beaches were all empty. You could tell that everything was geared for big crowds but they just weren't here, yet...hopefully.

Now back in Sidari after our beach hopping experience, we needed dinner.

One of the hardest things when traveling is eating. Finding good "local" places at good prices can be a tough but rewarding task. There are always so many places to choose from and finding the gems can be tough. One way to sort though bad places is to look at the crowd eating. If its busy or full of locals you know it may have potential.

So with all the restaurants having lots of open tables, they all looked the same. The clientele wasn't any help. They were all serving similar food at similar prices and quite a few placed on the beach. After trying some rationale such as "big and shiny", "looks the most local", "has more comfortable looking chairs", "has a Greek looking cook", "serves only local beer", "has the best view", "best menu", etc...nothing worked. Nothing helped us narrow down our selection so we just had to blindly guess and ended up at a place off the main street with a big open air patio and a sea view. We sat down and a friendly Greek server welcomed us so we ordered drinks to start. As we perused the menu "IT" happened.

An older British lady approached our table and said in a low voice, "Please be careful. They have already overcharged two other tables and our food is so bad we can't eat it. Be warned."

This really took us back a step. We had already ordered drinks and told the guy we were hungry and interested in the fish on special.

My question to you is the following:

What would you do?

  1. Ignore a fellow traveler's advice, continue with your drinks and order food knowing there is a likelihood things could go wrong?

  2. Take her advice, cancel your drinks and leave as quickly as possible?

  3. Finish your drinks and make up some excuse as to why you are not hungry anymore?

  4. None of the above

Leave us a comment with what you would do.

Truly Last minute Greece

I'm not sure you are going to believe this but we just got back from a weekend in Greece that we booked the day before. So less than 24 hours later we were sitting on the plane cruising at 33 thousand feet to the island of Corfu at a staggeringly cheap price. All the better right...

On arrival in Corfu all we had was the name of the hotel, the city it was in, and a picture of it. No directions, address, maps or arranged transportation. I know its not like us but in the rush we didn't get to those details. To sort out transportation we headed straight for the rental car desk and in less than 10 minutes we were in the car and on the road all before the rest of the flight was through baggage claim. Traveling light does have its benefits. So with a map from the rental car company and a few recommendations from the lady working the rental desk we set off.

Driving up the coast we stopped in the village of Kalami. Strolling along the quiet beach we found the recommended taverna. It was a great time to get out of the afternoon sun and relax. We enjoyed some excellent humous and some local sourced calamari. The taverna had a fantastic open air patio covered in grape vines shielding us from the sun but allowing the breeze to make it a relaxing few hours.

Now the challenging part. Finding our hotel. We drove to the town of Sadari where the hotel was and after a few minutes of driving around aimlessly we gave in and asked for directions. It took a couple attempts but we finally found it. The picture came in handy because there was no name on the hotel.

Dinner started out great with a seat at another taverna on the beach as the sun set. We had some delicious tzatziki and Steph had a bowl of olives all to herself. It was "Greek" night which at first seemed nothing special but turned into quite the spectacle. It started with some dancers doing their Greek dance to some music. Then they lit the floor on fire in preparations for the big finale. Music playing we all stood there in awe as the floor in the middle of the restaurant was in flames as the guy kept fueling it. I took a short video in case you don't believe me. After they put the fire out they gave us all plates to throw at the feet of the dancers during the final dance. Check out Steph, how cool is that!

With a great day in hand we took a walk on the beach. The only problem on the day turned out to be the flip flop that I blew out on the way home.

The next day we let the sun wake us up and headed back to the beach for breakfast. All of the tavernas/restaurants have beach patios which make for incredible dining. We ate breakfast and sipped coffee all morning enjoying the warmth of the sun and calm of the beach and ocean views.

As usual we couldn't just sit around all day at one beach so we headed off to do some beach hopping. Driving in Greece is quite the experience. The roads aren't the best but quite adventurous. They go from nice paved roads to bumpy hardly call that a road, in and out of tiny villages with one way passes. After a few beaches and some good high views from above we hit the jackpot.

The road took us well up one of the mountains where a cliff side taverna was calling our name. We sat literally on the edge of a cliff staring down below and a fantastic set of coves and beaches having lunch. We made friends with the local owner who recommended the kebab meal that wasn't even on the menu. It really hit the spot. The photo was taken just after lunch.

So what do you do after a big meal late in the afternoon...nap on the beach, of course. We made our way down and spent the last few good hours of the day snoozing on the beach.

More to come.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Wales Wrap Up

After lunch we suited up again this time, in a less restricting wet suit, and headed to a nice village, Fishguard, where Moby Dick was filmed, to do some sea kayaking. We settled into our kayaks and paddled up the coast line dwarfed by the tall rugged cliffs. No seals this time but we did stop and watch some interesting birds that are related to penguins, which are known to be terrible flyers. They live on the cliffs and spend all day trying to land on the small ledges. When they leave the ledges instead of flying up they drop like stones going almost straight down even though they are flapping their wings like mad. Getting back to the ledge is even more of a challenge because they keep having to circle because they change there minds at the last moment which is fairly entertaining. They head toward the ledge then at the last second circle around for another attempt and can spend hours trying to land.

With the sun setting we headed back to the lodge for dinner and a bonfire. The sky was clear and the fire was great. We roasted some marshmallows (they don't make good marshmallows here!) and entertained the the non Americans with stories of S'mores then called it a night. We were exhausted.

The next morning we had our last event of the weekend - a 7 mile hike along the Pembrokshire coast line. The weather was bright and sunny so the hike was very enjoyable. We walked along the coast high above the sea in and out of little sea side villages making our way back to the lodge.

After taking it easy the rest of the day on Sunday, actually getting sunburnt, we set off for the drive home the next morning. We stopped off to tour a coal mine called Big Pit which supplied much of the coal to drive the UK's industrial revolution but has been turned into a museum. We put our hard hats and lights on and toured the actual mine. We left thinking, why hadn't we done this in KY or WV where we still mine coal.

Arriving back in London there were protests in front of Parliament blocking our preferred route to drop the car off back at Waterloo station. A few detours later, a wave to the queen and a "Hey look kids, there's Big Ben..." we were able to find our way back to drop the car off. Oh and a tip for anybody renting a car in London, ask for a Hybrid because you don't have to pay the congestion charge which can run 8 pounds a day.

We went to Wales to get away and that is what we found. Fresh air, open spaces and adventure. We made some new friends, funny enough one girl was from Northern Kentucky and another couple live around the corner from us in Clapham. Small world huh?

Here is the photo link in case you missed it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wales and coasteering

We were starting to get a little stir crazy with winter winding down. To escape we booked an Easter bank holiday weekend trip to Wales. Rugged coast line, beautiful countryside and best of all, sparsely populated outside Cardiff and Swansea.

To make the most of the long weekend we took off after work opting to do the easy but boring motorway driving to Swansea.

One quick side note. Driving into Wales on the M3 you cross a great bridge across the bay where you have to pay toll. This is when you see that the pace of life has changed. Things instantly SLOOOOW down and from the non stop, out of my way attitude in London to the "Have a lovely evening" way of Wales was a very welcome way to start the trip. Even if I did have to pay toll for it.

Knowing we'd be getting in just short of midnight we opted to stay at a cheap sea side B&B in a little place called Mumbles. Well cheap is what we got. It was a bit rough but luckily we only had to sleep and go...

A major theme for the trip turned out to be the weather. Wales is known for its unpredictable weather and there were no guarantees we would even see sunshine but we did and lots of it. What a change from the winter gray of London.

From here a buddy of mine from Wales recommended we explore the Gower, a little peninsula sticking out below Swansea where he was from. We drove around the peninsula ending up in a fantastic village, Rhossili, at a place called Worm's head. It is a little island stuck out off the coast. Possibly resembling a worm's head? We walked along the high cliffs out towards the island that is only reachable in low tide.

From Rhossili we headed towards our main stay near the village of Mathry stopping along the way at a fantastic castle. If you don't know Wales its the land of castles. Throughout the centuries everybody wanted their own piece of Wales so in defense they built castles and lots of them. This particular castle was stuck on a hill top with a staggering cliff face. Check out the photos. Very cool. I'm not sure if you can see it in the pictures but there is a man made walk way built out on the cliff face leading to a natural cave which was fun to explore. Steph got a big kick out of taking our small flash light and leaving me in the dark. Not funny Steph!

After a bit of castle exploration and a few pictures we set off to the main attraction. Our Adventure Cocktail Weekend. A 2 day adrenaline filled weekend of coasteering, sea kayaking and hiking on the rugged coastline all staged from a 5 star ecolodge. Green and fun, what a combination! All provided by our friends at Preseli Venture.

I'll start with the lodge. It was a very camp-like atmosphere. With housing facilities for 30+, all full for the weekend. Some of the rooms had bunks for 6 or more and a big room to eat and hangout. Meals were served all at once and were a very hearty mix of soups, lasagna, jacket potatoes, ect. By "Eco" they really mean self sufficient. They would never say but I'm guessing it was geothermal powered. They used ecotricity and the building was built to maintain all the heat possible plus, as everyone should, they made huge efforts to recycle everything.

Now back to the events. First up Saturday morning was coasteering. Yep - you read right so what is coasteering. Its a combination of swimming, climbing, jumping off cliffs through sea caves, up and down with the sea swell all in the frigid ocean which even in April was a staggering 7 degrees. ( 40 Fahrenheit ish ). Luckily full winter wet suits were provided along with gloves, booties, buoyancy aides ( haha ) and helmets.

Once at the coast we made our way down to the sea, sun shining and waves tumbling. We all took a big gulp knowing what we were about to do. As we edged into the cold water it hit us. The water was so COLD it was almost painful. In fact, it was painful.

Eventually the wet suit did its job and we started to warm up, sorta. Then a distraction. A bull seal, how cool! It came to investigate and then was off. Game on.

Up and over rocks, swimming through little coves dodging the surf we went. Jumping off into the water at different points was the best. The last jump was 25ft up and was exhilarating. Just the pure shock of it all. The water was so cold, on the rocks the sun warmed you up and then nervously jumping off back into the cold water adrenaline pumping all the way.

Before I go for now, I should say I froze the whole time. The wet suit helped but not enough. Steph had a hard time breathing deeply - it was so cold! After more than 2 hours we were ready to get out! The hot chocolate afterwards was needed but I'd still recommend it to anybody with an adventurous spirit. It was a fantastic way to spend a morning.

Kayaking and hiking still to come.

All Wales Photos