Saturday, February 27, 2010

The travels of Justin and Kristin, An Index

Venice 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Rome 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Cairo 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2
Dahab 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Florence 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Pisa 2010  ( 1 )
New York 2010  ( 1 )  ( 2

Montana 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )  ( 4 )  ( 5 )
Borneo 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Bali 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )  ( 4 )  ( 5 )  ( 6 )  ( 7 )
Phi Phi Islands 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )
Phuket 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )
Hong Kong 2009  ( 1 )  ( 2 )  ( 3 )  ( 4 )  ( 5 )

Sunday, February 21, 2010


We made it home safely after a very long travel day that included wind sprints through JFK, suspicious lasagna dishes, juggled (and dropped) slices of pie, and one final Ciao.  Was Italy a great place to visit?  Yes.  Are we aching to go back?  Not really.

We have a different taste palette regarding travel, and with our palette comes a slight bias towards the road less traveled.  Italy is a travel heavyweight.  Most people that visit Europe will, at one point or another, include Italy on their itinerary.  What this creates is a destination that is so accommodating to tourists that it borders on culturally inauthentic, especially if you stay within the tourist comfort zone.  Rome and Venice feel suspiciously like theme parks, while Florence seems to shine on its own terms.  I could imagine that a Florence and Tuscany trip in the early Fall could provide a near religious experience.  I would suggest at least a week and a half, just as the summer tourist season is coming to a close, in Florence and the surrounding Tuscan area.  My suggestion would be 4 nights in Florence, a few in a Tuscan farmhouse, and than maybe a few in Siena, San Gimignano, or Lucca.   If I ever return to Italy, that would be how.

Egypt both wowed and disappointed.  Dahab is on my shortlist for coolest places that I have ever been, while Cairo only impressed upon me a desire not to return too soon.  To be fair, Cairo is an acceptable travel destination, but only for a short duration.  I feel that Luxor and Dahab are probably the best places to visit in Egypt, and I am almost positive that if I saw the entire country; I would still feel the same way. Dahab is especially intriguing because it is a great base of operations to explore both Jordan and Israel.  A great 2 week trip could include southern Egypt (Nile, Luxor), Dahab (Mt. Sinai, day trips to Petra in Jordan and Jerusalem), and then a couple nights in Cairo on the way home to see the Pyramids.

As we get our travel agency off of the ground in the coming months, I am going to use this web page as a vehicle to discuss travel tips and ideas, while slowly separating our content into two categories, narrative and informational.  Whenever I sit down to write the blog after a long day in whatever destination, I am almost overcome with ideas.  I do not know if I should be writing about: what we did, how we did it, or how you should do it.  This creates a maelstrom in my head, and most of the copy that is input to the computer is choppy, rushed, and sadly half baked.  I am fine with our narratives carrying these traits, but as we evolve, I would like to think that we are making ourselves and our readers better with digestible information.   

We both appreciate all of you that followed the website for this trip.  While the numbers did not approach those of our summer trip to Asia, I felt that the source material was also possibly not as interesting.  It is probably no mistake that our readership spiked while in Dahab, a fairly unknown location outside of the circle of the well traveled.  I think people like to read about things that are new to them.  Seriously, what can I say about Rome?  Most people already have a well polished expectation of a place like that, and it is almost redundant to read (or write) about such a place.

This is why I am extremely excited to announce our next trip.  The itinerary is in its final stages, though we are still wrestling with exacting the order.  There will be four of us this time, and we have all purchased our big tickets passing over the Pacific already.  I will give more details later, but will say that it includes Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar-Burma, Sulawesi, Bali, Flores, Malaysia, Bangkok, and more Cambodia.  We leave June 1.  

Monday, February 15, 2010

Venetian Goodbye

Venice is a lot like living in a painting.  Beauty lurks with each turn of the head and the colors and reflections seem ephemeral at times.  You blink and the picture changes.  The size of Venice ceases to exceed its usefulness.  No corner, road, bridge, or shop seems wasted or useless;  each thing plays a part in defining her character.  The peeling paint reflects the past's ages and glories, with the new layers an homage to the upkeep of a starstung legacy.  While people may come and go, none forget Venice.  Hemingway hunted, Napoleon conquered, Monet painted, Leonardo invented, and millions more have gasped and gawked in the shadows of this most storied village.  We love this place.

The morning began with a feast of nutella and bread.  Since Carnivale is nearing its conclusion tomorrow, the crowds seem to be at a peak.  We opted to spend a quiet morning in Murano.  Murano is a glass making island about a 10 minute boat ride from Venice.  In the late 13th century, all of the glassblowers in Venice were exiled to Murano due to a fear of fires.  Since glassblowers need extremely hot furnaces, an d Venice had been ravaged by fires, this served logic well.

Saw this electronics store on the way to the harbor to board a boat for Murano, seems like pretty old stuff,
very very old.
We really like walking in Venice, but it is important to have a good map.  There are many walkways that end abruptly like this, and surprisingly few bridges.

 A petrol station, really long hoses for the boats

 This dog took the boat to Murano with us, and was nipping at everyone's toes.  I think he was herding us.

 Murano looks alot like Venice except a slower pace and is slightly more industrial looking

We stopped in a few glass shops, and tried to find a working furnace to see some artisans at work.

 We happened upon this alien looking glass urchin in front of the old clock tower.

 This was the main waterway bisecting Murano

 A very colorful glass chandelier.  I tried to spark up some conversations about the glass business since is is the family business, but all I got was Italian shrugs.

 I particularly like this type of glass design which I believe originated here on Murano 

 Main St. Murano 

 I really like this dog's shadow 

 Our search for some glass artisans at work was not going well.

 We passed empty courtyards at peaked into quiet buildings.

 We finally happened upon this two man team

 They were drinking beers and making glass.  It was about 11am.

 Furnace and some colors 

 The hot furnace where the artisans heat up the glass to mold it

 They heat it up and than use tools to shape the glass accordingly 

 Very very hot

 One of the guys heated up this ball of glass at left,

 and dropped it onto the main piece,


 and dry.

We enjoyed watching the glass blowers at work, but needed to head back to Venice to see how Carnivale was coming along.  We hopped on a random boat with expired Vaporetto cards, and luckily did not get fined or yelled at.  Also, the boat delivered us right to our desires.
 It always feels grand pulling into San Marco.

 Carnivale seemed to be going smoothly, very busy with tons of great costumes.

 The costumed need to eat as well.

 The crowds seemed somehow more cramping today.

 The dogs had given up.

 These two were peacefully dancing, until
 Some strange music started playing and this person jumped out from behind a curtain and juggled some things with moderate skill.

 It was stranger than impressive, but we stuck around in hopes for more.

 She yelled at some poor man that walked through her circle, and for a little while we wanted more...

 All they seemed to do was juggle, so we bounced.

 Crowded is an understatement.  At one point I tried to walk and my legs ceased to grip land.  I was wedged between two people, floating inches above the ground.

 I have never seen so many photographers in my life.

 Love the colors 

 We were constantly wondering what type of person was behind the mask, and I think that is kind of the original point of Carnivale.  You could party and hide your identity so that transgressions would perhaps be less real.

 In the very impressive and old Basilica di San Marco, over 1000 years in the same site.
 Since photography was prohibited I just snuck these in.  Kristin would cough wile I pulled the shutter trigger casually tilting the camera around my neck.

 The ceiling is beautiful.

 Just really impressive  and epic, hard to translate the size of this place


 This was in the entry 

 The exterior of Basilica di San Marco

 Unfortunately, part of the building was under construction.  It seems like part of these historic buildings is always under some kind of construction, as it is rarer to find one without scaffolding.

 SO, I tried to cover the construction area with some revelers 

 The light posts all have a very romantic rosy color 
 The crowds were chaotic, but in a place like this it is tolerable.

 I love these pointy masks 

 I turned around and this fella was right in my face.

 I love the harbor in front of San Marco

 Through the posts 

 I could not tell if this was a costume or not.  Would it be disappointing to dress up and receive little interest from photographers?  

 If there is a next time, then I want to check out this building over there, looks so peaceful

 We could not even go to any museums because the lines were ridiculously long.


 We decided to eat really cheap today, and only spent 20 euros on meals all day, eating sandwiches and...

 Ice Cream

 This freakish crew demanded food.

 We threw it in the sea.

 This costume was a real head turner 

 We wanted to stick around for sunset, but had to follow the freakish.

 Really scared the crap out of this kid, so what does he do?


 Strange scene

 Kristin pointed out that this paint peeled in the perfect shape of an elephant.

 This lady cussed us out for not tipping her, made us glad that we did not tip her.

 You should never get used to this sight,  but after a few days, you do.

 We happened upon this out of the way piazza just filled with the costumed

 Of all colors


 Every gesture

 Hard to take a bad picture with these subjects 

 What do they talk about?

 I love this picture.

 Probably my favorite costume as well

 Rose lady

 Like Mardi Gras except no beads and more cameras

 Venice is a fun city to get lost in.  It is small enough that you can always find your way home.

 We walked back to Piazza San Marco.

 It was a little quieter.  We reasoned that it was probably due to a depletion of the cruise crowd 


 Human Traffic jam 

 we decided to walk to the ghetto.

 Finding several dead ends,

 And waterways were we hoped for paths.

 Venice houses the ORIGINAL ghetto, named such for the Jewish minorities that lived there.  Ghetto means slag in venetian.  Slag is a by-product of smelting ore.

 Today, it looks similar to the rest of Venice.  Jewish Venetians were forced to live in the ghetto, and were even locked in at night.  They were also only permitted to take certain types of work, such as doctors, money lenders, and merchants.  The best doctors in Venice were Jews living in this ghetto because they understood many writings on anatomy and cures.  

 When Napoleon conquered Venice, he removed the gates.  

Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" even lived within these gates.
  We ate at a really tasty vegetarian restaurant for dinner.  This is Gorgonzola and pistachio Tagliatelle.
  Kristin's Ricotta and Tomato Tagliatelle
Tomorrow, we head for Rome.