Vacations

Europe, 2016. Berlin, Prague, Dubrovnik. by Mialy DeFelice

Leaving SF.

Leaving SF.

So again, my apologies for being the worst 'blogger' ever. I have had a very travel filled summer and finally have my feet firmly planted in California, and am going to try to catch up with posting the photos from our trips. First up is our trip to Europe. We went to Berlin, Prague, and Dubrovnik. Very excitingly, I also embedded an interactive map to the bottom of this post, where you can see a bunch of places that we liked in each city, it is by no means exhaustive (I didn't really keep up with a lot of the things we did), but I think think its fun, cause you can see some of the places we went :).

Berlin, Germany

The corner near where we stayed.

The corner near where we stayed.

We actually liked Berlin quite a bit. We stayed for 4 days in Mitte, which was within walking distance of everything we wanted to see. We seriously walked everywhere, but its not something I would necessairly recommend. One day we accidentally walked like 16 miles. It was not the best. Also, we were there on some scorchingly hot days. It was intense. Not something I even anticipated would happen given how northern it is.

I was kind of obsessed with how graffiti filled Berlin was. It was beautiful how it really blended and added to the charm of the city.

Since the only place we had been in Germany we had been to before was Munich, I had been expecting the food in Berlin to be just as meat heavy and well... German, but the food, suprisingly, wasn't like that at all. It was our best food experience our entire trip. It was really ethnically diverse, and we didn't have any trouble finding some really cool places to go. Also we consumed a lot of sorbet and gelato here due to the insane heat.

We basically spent one entire day walking to museums and sights (Gemäldegalerie, the Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, and Museum Island). Prior to going I don't think I would have thought we would have spent so much time in Museums, but that day was insanely hot, my body was threatening to melt the entire time, and then the rain came... so we went indoors. I'm pretty glad we did too. The Gemäldegalerie was just such a beautiful collection. And Museum Island was great as well. We went to two of the musuems (Pergamon & Neues) there that were more history museums, and were absolutely stunning, especially the Pergamon, which boasted some huge achetectural installations including the Ishtar Gate (one of the gates to Babylon), and the Market Gate of Miletus.

The actual reason we went to Berlin was for the shopping, but very disappointingly we didn't find the trendy shopping area of Mitte till the last day, and unbeknownst to us everything is closed on Sundays. Live and learn, and now you know...No shopping is to be had in Berlin on Sunday.

On the train to Prague, on a train with a compartment (btw, he is playing Pokemon,  BEFORE  pokemon go even came out, on an old school Nintendo, that couldn't even be charged there.

On the train to Prague, on a train with a compartment (btw, he is playing Pokemon, BEFORE pokemon go even came out, on an old school Nintendo, that couldn't even be charged there.

Prague, Czech Republic

View from Pražský Hrad overlooking the city.    

View from Pražský Hrad overlooking the city. 

 

So. Prague. Eric really really wanted to go to Prague. I was indifferent, but basically our entire trip was centered around going there. But I have to say, I don't think it quite lived up to the hype. And there is a lot of hype surrounding Prague. So while, I thought it was perfectly nice, and cute, I basically just want to temper people expectations. It is extremely crowded and super touristy. I think if you are wanting to go to Prague to get that quintessential "european city" feel, I would say that Vienna is probably closer to your expectations. (For the record note: we went to Prague in the summer which is notoriously busy for Europe, and went to Vienna in the winter... so take a HUGE grain of salt with everything I just said).

Our beautiful hotel. I wish I could have gotten better pictures, but it was sort of impossible. But I highly recommend BoHo Hotel if you are ever in Prague. 

Our beautiful hotel. I wish I could have gotten better pictures, but it was sort of impossible. But I highly recommend BoHo Hotel if you are ever in Prague. 

All that said, Prague was pretty picturesque in its own way. We went to a castle overlooking the city, which afforded great views, and we generally just spent a lot of time walking around. We spent 3 days in Prague and I think that was enough to see all the sites, and still have a lot of time leftover (if youre in a pinch I think 2 days is good).

Trdelnik (sort of a doughnuty thing)  filled with a custard ice cream. Hiding from the crazy rain in a doorway.

Trdelnik (sort of a doughnuty thing)  filled with a custard ice cream. Hiding from the crazy rain in a doorway.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

A look from the walls.

A look from the walls.

We spent four days in Dubrovnik, and it was the real highlight of the trip. I basically added it on, cause I always think its fun to end every trip on a beach. But this was really a treat. Even the ride from the airport was beautiful.
Croatia is known for its beaches, and now that I know that there are even more beautiful ones than the ones we went to, Im itching to go back to explore the coastline more.

All those red roofs!.

All those red roofs!.

Our first day there we spent in the Old Town, which is a tiny litte city (you can walk the entire thing in a few hours), on the water surrounded by walls (and you enter by walking over a MOAT!!). We walked a protion of the walls but our timing was terrible (noon) and we were dying in the heat.

I mean come ON!

I mean come ON!

The city itself was so ridiculously adorable I couldnt stand it. Its a little touristy, but just coming from Prague (which was like Vegas in comparison) I didnt really notice it.

The rest of the time we spent at a bay off the Adriatic and swam around in the water. It was super relaxing, and I cant wait to plan another trip entirely to Croatia.

Thats our hotel in the back there (the white building). It was pretty cool, you enter from the top floor, and then take the elevator down into the hotel... its was super beautiful with sweeping views and great decor. But not the best service. 

Thats our hotel in the back there (the white building). It was pretty cool, you enter from the top floor, and then take the elevator down into the hotel... its was super beautiful with sweeping views and great decor. But not the best service. 

Beautiful sunset view from the top of our hotel.

Beautiful sunset view from the top of our hotel.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the pictures. I will try to post our photos from Maui soon :) See ya!

 

 

Bali. Part II. by Mialy DeFelice

Oh, Ubud. There are so many things I could say about this place. Ubud will always remain in my heart a wonderful and horrible place. Our villa was one of the nicest places we have every stayed. It was super modern, with our own little pool. It was absolute perfection; Eric and I were practically beside ourselves. Then, the night we got in, we woke in the middle of the night to terrible news; one of our best friends passed away while we were in Sanur.

It's hard for me to articulate this pain. Its all encompassing. At first the tears fell in sobs. Now I can't sit too still cause if I do, the tears will just start streaming down. No drama, just tears. I find myself sitting and staring for hours repeating her name in my head a million times. At one point, before things started popping up on Facebook, I turned to Eric, with all sincerity, and asked if he thought it was just a terrible joke, cause it seemed too crazy to be true.  I can feel myself changing little by little. Because of how she died, I find myself getting so fearful. Ubud has sort of dangerous roads, and the sidewalks are liable to open into pits. I became afraid of walking. I am trying to actively oppose the fear in my head, but its hard. I am hoping that when this is all a little less raw, that it will all get easier. 

At first when we got the news, I was horrified that we were going to miss her funeral. But as time has gone on, I think its better this way. I need to remember her how she was in life. I can't see her in death, its too terrible.  In life, Jenna was an amazing friend. One of those rare gems of a friend. We didn't need to talk all the time to know that we would always be there for one another. She was super passionate about everything she did, and I am grateful for the time I got to be with her. I wish I could write more about her and what she meant to us, but it is too sad and personal. Suffice it to say, every memory I have of Bali is suffused with memories of her and a profound sadness. Though we were in such beautiful and amazing surroundings, I had an extremely heavy heart. I don't want to cloud all my writing about this beautiful place with the sadness I was feeling, so just know it was there; behind the glittering images, there is real sorrow.

The day after we got the news we were scheduled for a cooking class in a Balinese house. We didn't want to cancel last minute so we just went. I was thankful for the distraction, though I was in such a daze I don't really remember much of it, except how beautiful Balinese house compounds are. They all have the same basic structure, part shrine, small outdoor living areas, and the gardens. So beautiful. 

The rest of our time in Ubud, was spent exploring. There are wonderful little markets and galleries, and we purchased way too much stuff (especially for people trying to minimize). The problem is that everything was both exquisitely beautiful and affordable. A dangerous combination. We went on a hike to see some neighboring rice terraces, and spent a lot of time in our villa.

We actually have a video of another little chicken deciding on whether or not to cross the road.  :)

We actually have a video of another little chicken deciding on whether or not to cross the road.  :)

I didn't actually take that many pictures of Ubud itself, as I was too busy being engrossed in my surroundings. It was every single thing I was hoping it would be though. It was busy, hot, crowded, and full of amazing treasures. There were tons of little streets to browse in, and so much amazing food for so cheap I couldn't believe it. 

Every morning there we got the biggest breakfasts (as they were included).  They were tapas style so we tried a LOT of stuff, and the menu rotated so much that we never ate the same thing twice. I would recommend this place for the breakfasts alone.

On our way out of Ubud to our next place in Padangbai, we took a little tour of the area. We started off the day at some wood working and art galleries. The level of detail in the traditional work was quite exquisite. I also learned that you can carve sandalwood. I had previously only thought of it as a scent wood, kind of like cinnamon.

We next went to a farm where they grow everything from coffee beans and pineapple to cinnamon and cloves. They set out the cutest little drink sampler for us, and Eric fell in love with the Tumeric Tea (the bright yellow one) while I loved the Pandanus one (the one with a little leaf). In Bali there is a very popular Luwak coffee. They basically gather coffee beans from the stool of the Luwak cat that eats the beans. Everywhere we went people were trying to get us to buy this coffee. It is insanely expensive, especially for Bali standards (a normal cup of coffee will cost you $1 while Luwak will cost from $5-10). But our biggest problem was the treatment of the cats. In the wild, coffee is a small part of their diet, but in the coffee farms they are caged and forced to eat a lot of coffee. One site I read compared Luwak coffee to fois gras. Needless to say, we didn't drink any.  We did, however, buy some of their Tumeric and Pandanus tea along with a heaping pile of saffron (which in Bali is super affordable).

The little graffito is from Ubud ;) 

The little graffito is from Ubud ;) 

For our last stop, we ate lunch overlooking this volcano in a crater... surrounded by a lake. The views were unreal.

Anyway, sorry for how long this post is. The last part of this Bali series is of our trip to Padongbai.

Have a wonderful day! 

Bali, Part I. by Mialy DeFelice

IMG_6420.JPG

As I write this I am battling extreme, extreme jet lag. It's been a few days since we got back from Bali, and I have still not gotten back on schedule. This morning, I dragged myself out of bed, begrudgingly, at 11:30, and at nearly 3:00 in the afternoon, I still haven't eaten a thing. Last night I had to go out, and it was only 10:30 (!) before I had to call it a night. Jet lag sucks. I'm hoping I can get it together soon though. However, this post is about our recent trip to Bali!

Our first stop was Sanur Beach on the east side of the island. We decided to come here over the more popular beaches of Kuta, Nunsa Dua, and Seminyak because it was supposed to be quieter. Although our hotel was nice, the resort itself was quite large, so it was still quite a bit busy. Nonetheless, it is quite a beautiful area, and we totally took the opportunity to do absolutely nothing. It was here that we were also introduced to how spectacularly inexpensive room service is in Bali. Like for real. It is the same price as the hotel restaurants, so for homebodies like Eric and I were were in food heaven.  We actually had to force ourselves to go our for fear of never seeing the ocean. 

I tend to shy away from the sunshine. 

I tend to shy away from the sunshine. 

Some quick things about Bali that we were introduced to right off the bat.

1. They drive on the opposite side of the road.

2. There are a lot of scooters. 

3. Road lanes mean almost nothing.

4. Dogs run wild and will come right up to you (if I had gotten my Rabies vaccine I would have been  LOT more chill about this).

5. The food is insanely cheap but the drinks are really expensive (w.r.t. the cost of the food). 

It was also here in Sanur that Eric lost his wedding ring... oops! It was kind of funny really, and we were lucky enough to be able to get him a new one on our way to Ubud in one of the little jewelers villages.

There is not much for me to say about Sanur specifically since we didn't leave the resort once. On our way to Ubud, though, we saw a lot of fun things with our guide Komang. On our first stop we got to see how Batik and Ikat fabric is made. It was extremely fascinating and astonishing the level of work and care that goes into these pieces. We got two pieces of Ikat and a little piece of Batik. You know how you see that something is handmade, and you think... okay sure, but there is probably a machine in there somewhere... but nope, they really make this fabric by hand and its so beautiful.

There were ceremonies all the time in Bali. This one they were walking all the way to the ocean.

There were ceremonies all the time in Bali. This one they were walking all the way to the ocean.

The temple on the ocean was beautiful. We were there at high tide so the waves were pretty intense. Also thats the Indian Ocean there in the back!

I was honestly blown away by the rice paddies and the planting process. They actually hand plant and tend to all the rice. The rice terrace valleys were unreal.

These rice paddies were breathtaking and stretched for miles :)

These rice paddies were breathtaking and stretched for miles :)

Since we were at the temple on the lake during dry season, it did not so much appear on the lake as along side it. There is also a volcano in the background by the clouds cover it up :)

A wonderful pink swan paddle boat :)

A wonderful pink swan paddle boat :)

Anyway, thats it for Part I of our trip. I will post Part II (Ubud), and Part III (Bloo Lagoon) later this week. Have a great day!

Belize, Part II. by Mialy DeFelice

Transient

For the second half of our trip we few out to Ambergris Caye (and island off the northern coast of Belize).  Our aim was to squeeze in as much relaxation time as possible, and boy did we succeed!  We spent most of our time swimming in the ocean or laying on the beach (fully ensconced in shade of course).  One day we kayaked out to the barrier reef and snorkeled around to see the beautiful fish.  It was so nice to see Eric fully detach from work.  Lack of internet is a wonderful thing.  One day we traveled into the main city San Pedro, for lunch and a look around. 

Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient

Belize, Part I. by Mialy DeFelice

Transient

I don't think I posses the ability to describe in words how truly amazing Belize was.  It was just, wow.  We started our trip in Western Belize and our first full day saw us in Guatemala to visit Tikal National Park.  The Mayan temples were absolutely astounding, and thanks to our amazing guide we learned not only a ton about Mayan and Guatemalean culture, but did you know that a scene from Star Wars was filmed here?  It was absolutely amazing/nerve inducing to climb to the top of Temple 4, and see the tops of the other temples peaking out over the treeline.  Back in the time this area was inhabited, the trees were removed to make the entire area visible, crazy right?

Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient

The next day we did a hike to the Actun Tunichil Muknal (A.T.M.) caves in Belize, and though I have no pictures from this day (cameras are not allowed because 2 years ago someone dropped their camera through a skull), you will have to trust this that this was the most amazing thing I have ever done in my life.  You basically hike through a watery cave system (swimming, wading, climbing...) to get to a series of Mayan sacrificial sites, that is intact (everything is exactly where it was found in the 80's).  I honestly had the most most amazing time and I recommend it to anyone who is physically capable (its a little intense, you have to be able to swim, and be okay with climbing up a bolder, and hoisting yourself up a ledge....then coming down that same way). But it's totally worth it!

Transient

Our remaining time in San Ignacio was spent taking in the local food and sites.  There was a Mayan site (Cahal Pech) that was close to our Hotel, so we walked there and explored some.  Most of these sites are still under excavation so its really cool to just walk around and see what is being found.  The food in San Ignacio was absolutely amazing, gotta love rice and beans!  Also, who wouldn't want a fresh cup of watermelon juice with breakfast??

Transient
Transient

All in all San Ignacio was the most amazing.  For all the planning I did, there was nothing that could have prepared me for how much fun this trip was!  

Anyway, I'm off, have a wonderful day!

Palm Springs. by Mialy DeFelice

Last weekend we headed to the desert to have a little mini getaway for the holiday.  I don't think Eric or I were expecting how truly, horrendously hot it can be in Palm Springs. 108 with 37% humidity anybody?  Despite having to constantly reapply sunscreen, we had a wonderful time.  We basked in the sun, and went to Joshua Tree.  Here are a few pictures from the trip. :)