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Home Again ~ we still have at least one more post to follow

Monday, October 14, 2013

Off we go again. This time just Jeff and myself. First we will hit China for 2 weeks then onto Nepal for a 3+ week trek in the Himalaya's and then 5 days in Hong Kong. Watch us go. Not sure about internet connections etc. but we will do our best. Cheers~ Karen

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Thanks for joining us on The Road to Nowhere.

We have thoroughly enjoyed sharing our travels with you through and now we would like to invite to our home to help us celebrate our return to the USA

When: saturday 18 September 2010

Where: our home; 9112 185th PL SW
Edmonds, WA 98026

Time: 3pm until we tire

contact info: kmarie66@hotmail.com, mathews_jeff@hotmail.com, timothyj22@gmail.com or 206-436-4707

We will provide the main course, if you will bring a salad, side dish and/or dessert to share. There will be beer and lemonade but if you want something different please bring it along. We will share photos and stories but really want to see you and say thank you for joining us.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Two Weeks in Paris Aug 13th - 27th

It's hard to believe we are nearing the end of our trip, but here we are driving into Paris on Friday the 13th in the rain. Turns out to be good luck since it is a condo we are checking into and it has two beds and one bedroom. First time in a bed for us for several weeks now. Dining room even has a table and chairs. Oh the luxury!!

We have two weeks to explore Paris so we decide to take our time and explore slowly (knowing we will miss some things). We still have our car until tuesday the 17th, and looking at the weather forecast we decide we shall drive to Versaille on saturday 14th August. This also gives us a chance to drive and discover the neighborhoods a bit.

We visit Versaille in the morning, unfortunately not arriving quite early enough to avoid long ques, almost an hour just to get tickets as we did not do this ahead of time online. We opt to visit the gardens first as the weather was nice (storm clouds looming) and the fountains were operating at this time. The shear size of the gardens are impressive and the to think they were for royalty and their guests is unfathomable. Sculptures of famous historical people, mythological animals and real ones, fountains depicting Greek Gods fetes are everywhere. We spend a lot of time exploring and walking the mazes in the gardens. We make our way to the two smaller palaces toward the back of the gardens. Marie Antionette was once a resident here and they do a good job with their information boards telling the history. The palace was primarily constructed out of a pink and yellow granite, not really to my liking, but impressive none-the-less. Of course the furnishings were very French, very ornate with colorful tapestries and gold. I must say it was very impressive. By 3:30 in the afternoon we are ready to tackle the que for the maIn Palace of Versaille, and lucky for us the line is much shorter than it was early this morning and we are inside in a short 10 minute wait. We get an audio guide for our visit and begin. We have not been in an overly tourist place in a long time and are overwhelmed by the number of people. We follow along, making our way through the beautiful Palace and apartments. We are thoroughly exhausted by the end of our visit and the vote was to return to our condo for a glass of wine and dinner.

We have rain for the next several days but take the opportunity to explore some of the markets on the outskirts of Paris and our own neighborhood of Vincennes. We return our car on tuesday and discover the Paris Metro, which has a station a short 10 minute walk from our place. We take ourselves in to Paris early wednesday to explore the Louvre! We arrive early buy a 6 day museum pass and begin exploring. We chose to find the Monna Lisa first, which of course is surrounded by people, but amazing! We continue on the 1st floor seeing much of it before (it is now mid afternoon) we decide we need fresh air and a break from the Louvre. The afternoon is lovely and we decide to walk the gardens toward the Arc de Triumph. Along the way we stop at the Musee de la Orangie which has Monet's Water Lillies and others impressionist paintings. We arrive at the Champs de Lessay, the grand boulevard, and walk along until we reach the Arc de Triumph. Gorgeous from the ground and the view from the top is fabulous.

We continue through the week and see Notre Dame; its Tower, Cathedral and Crypt, the Conciergy and St. Chapelle, the Musee of Maritime, Pantheon, Musee de Cluny, Chateau Vincennes, many of the Jardines (gardens) of the city and of course the Eiffel Tower. What can I say the Eiffel Tower is amazing! We take the stairs up, which is quite an easy task after we have spent the year walking, hiking and climbing stairs. We have chosen a most glorious day for this as the skies are true blue and we can see for miles. We arrive just at opening time and make our way up before the crowd is too large. Did you know the Eiffel Tower was constructed in 1 years time and was meant only to be temporary! They decided to keep it only after they began using it for antennas for radio. Could you imagine Paris without an Eiffel Tower. It would be like Seattle without the Space Needle, just not right. We also visited the old medieval part of Paris, Sacre Coure, many other churches and the Catacombes

We enjoy markets and Paris has many weekend "flea" markets and we discover a couple of them, no treasures but enjoyable. Tim, on the other hand does not join us for the markets but takes himself off across the city by train to a soccer field he spotted while we were atop the Eiffel Tower. Of course I was worried but he had a map and the desire, so off he went. We all had an enjoyable sunday. Jeff and I are off to Louvre once again but even after spending the better portion of the day we still do not come close to seeing half of it. Tim has taken off to play soccer once again saying he was "museumed out".

We cooked most of the time in Paris, but we also did eat out a couple of times and even got the chance to meet up with a young man we had met in Thailand. Philippe promised to take us out for Snails when we came to Paris and he was good to his word. We met him at one of his favorite restaurants for dinner; snails, duck pate, sausage made from pig intestine, steak and wine. Not to forget Tim and Philippe each had an enormous ice cream for dessert. Thank you Philippe for a lovely evening filled with good food and conversation, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Our "Road to Nowhere" has come to an end, as I write this we are flying back to the USA and our many family and friends.

Cheers ~ Karen

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Carcossone and France Aug 6 - Aug 13

We left Spain and headed for France on the 6th of August. After driving about six hours (with stops), we arrived at the town of Carcassone. We drove around for a period, looking for a campground to stay in. We were turned away from the first one and were allowed to stay in the second for two nights (we were hoping for 3 - 4 nights). We settled in for the night and fixed dinner.

The next morning, we were up and off to explore the old medieval walled city. As you approach the old city, it looks like a fairy tale. The walled city sits on a hill above the river. The wall is punctuated by pointy topped turrets. Although there were a ton of tourists and the city is rather touristy (all the shops and restaurants are only for tourists), we enjoyed our self guided tour that took the entire day. We hiked along the wall, visited the castle, and wandered the streets. The fortress was started during the roman times and subsequently added on to and reinforced throughout time. A number of the towers on the wall are from the original roman construction.

The next day, we moved on without a plan. We visited the castles of Lastours. These were a group of four castles built in the 11th century and were occupied by supporters of the Cathars (a variant of Christianity that opposed the Roman Catholic church and accused it of corruption of the faith). Pope Innocent III (appears to not be so Innocent) decided to deal with the group by instigating the Albigensian Crusade. For 20 years from 1209 until about 1230, the crusade marched on and the Cathars were exterminated. The opening assault of the crusade was the massacre of the town of Beziers and 20,000 people within the town walls seeking shelter. Then things got nasty. The castles of Lastours held out for two years until they surrendered in 1211. The same defenders regained their castles in 1223 and held out until 1229 when they were finally defeated. The hike to the castle makes it clear why they could hold out for so long. They are located on the ridges of some very high hills in the steep valley. The nice thing about visiting these castles is that you can climb all over them and do pretty much anything you want. After the castle, we drove on to a very small town St. Afrique and stayed in the municipal camp ground.

Monday we were driving along and saw a sign for Roquefort and thought, we like the cheese, maybe we should see where it comes from. We took a quick turn and stopped to visit the town. We took two different tours in the town of the caves they use for the cheese. The town is located along a cliff that has massive caves with fissures that go deep in the ground and bring air up from the depths. This is where the caves that the cheese is aged. To be called Roquefort cheese, it must come from the area within a 200 meter line along the cliff. The story goes that the cheese making procedure came from a shepherd that left his sheep cheese and bread in a cave and found it a while later. The cheese had a blue mold on it, but had a wonderful taste. Thus began the process of making Roquefort cheese. They make the cheese out of sheep milk from the surrounding area and then place it in these caves with mold from loaves of bread that have been left in the same caves. In anywhere from three months to one year, the cheese is ready. We buy some for a snack and are amazed at the flavor. I have eaten "Roquefort" cheese at home, but it certainly wasn't real Roquefort. There is a massive difference.

After visiting the cheese makers, we drove on to a Medieval city called La Couvertuirade. It is another walled medieval town and is just amazing. The houses are the same houses from 700 - 800 years ago. We walked through the village and headed out of the walls to get pictures looking back. It is a very small village and from a military standpoint, it wasn't overly defensible. Primarily the walls were to protect the villagers from groups other than armies. Especially during the various periods of disease (The Black Plague, etc.). It was a great day and we found a place to sleep in Nant.

All through this period we are driving on narrow roads, through windy canyons. Sometimes the roads got so narrow that one car barely fit on them.

Tuesday we drove up to a town located on the top of a cliff nearby. The town in called Cantobre and is perched on a rocky point over the river. Again this is another medieval town. Very small. About 10 - 15 buildings and a church. We wander around and then move on to Abime De Bramabiau. This is a limestone cavern with a river running through it. Another beautiful place. We decided to stay in the town of Millau. On the way to the camp ground, we stopped at La Graufeesenque, the ruins of part of the Roman town that was the beginning of habitation in this area. This town was known for Roman pottery. Pieces of pottery from this town have been found throughout the Roman Empire. The ruins were of the area that contained the pottery kilns. After a long day, we settled down into our campsite and made dinner (BBQ Rabbit). While we were making dinner, a van drove through the camp ground selling veggies and 5 liter boxes of wine. Of course we had to buy a box of wine.

Wednesday was more castles in the gorges. We spent the day driving up the Gorges du Tarn. The river and surrounding area is beautiful. Reminds us a lot of home (other than the castles and the medieval villages sprinkled every where). Another tour of a castle on the hill, then we camp on the river. Tim and I go swimming in the river for a bit before dinner.

The next morning we drove north towards Paris and finally arrived on Friday the 13th. Although we are in the land of Friday the 13th, nothing ominous happens and we drive straight to our condo in Paris. We have completed our driving in Europe without much in the way of incidents and are now ready for our final adventure.


Valencia, Sagunto and beyond July 31 - August 5

We are thoroughly exhausted after our time at Pueblo Ingles and we need some rest from our holiday. We head to Valencia, the home of the Paella, of course we must indulge.

The drive to Valencia is quite easy, only about 3 hours, although the scenery was a bit dry (similar to driving through Eastern Washington). We arrive in the late afternoon after a late departure from Madrid. Tim still had many friends to say goodbye to, and emotions were running high. We find camping just south of the city in a small village, set up camp and head to the beach. Oops! this beach seems to be an alternative beach, meaning clothing optional. We find a spot well to the far side where there are many families. The sun feels nice and it is good to relax.

We visit Valencia on the Sunday and as many of you know much of Europe is "closed" on Sundays. Being closed means many things; first most grocery stores are typically closed all day, parking is free and some smaller tourist sites are closed. We easily find a shaded parking spot about in the middle of the sites we wish to visit in the old town and market, the Opera House, Aquarium, IMAX and parks. The Opera House, Aquarium, IMAX Theater all look like something out of Star Wars. They are surrounded by fountains and ponds and are quite the display of modern architecture. We end our evening with a fabulous Paella, salad and bottle of wine.

The next morning, we head 25km north of Valencia to the historic village of Sagunto. What we did not realize is in Spain the historical sites are closed on Mondays! We walk around town and up to the Roman Theatre; we will stay through tuesday to explore more. We spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach.

We are up early to visit the castle and the roman theatre before the heat of the day. Amazing, just amazing. It is so hard to imagine that these sights were all built so very long ago with out the help of "modern" inventions. We could still see the remains of the original Roman fort, temple and then the subsequent additions made over the centuries. definitely different yet they still used the old walls reinforcing and expanding as each subsequent group inhabited the hilltop.

We visit the beach of Port Sagunto, and thankfully this is a regular beach. Arriving back at our camp groung, we find the Gypsies have come and come in numbers. All seem very nice but ... we (like everyone around us) are a bit more watchful of our things. No worries.

We head north out of Sagunto keeping to the coast of Spain. We stop in the "small" village of Pineda de Mar. I say small because it is a small town but now it is the height of tourist season and people are everywhere. We find nice camping minutes from the beach and quickly decide we must stay two nights as they are having Paella the next day at 2pm. The photos here are great but the sight of it all was incredible. We purchased some Sangria and for 10 euro we got enough Paella to satisfy the three of us quite nicely. How lucky we are to have been here on this day in particular, as this is a once a year event! Jeff is working on plans of how to obtain a large pan to do a Paella party at home. We will see. Our last night in Sagunto, we meet the neighbors from Holland. It rains as we are making dinner. This is always a challenge for us since we sit on the ground outside our tent for cooking and eating. They come and invite us to eat under their covered front porch. Yes, they look like real campers as opposed to us who look more like Gypsies. It was very nice of them and we stay for drinks and talk into the evening. Many thanks to them for a wonderful night.

The next morning is dry and we pack up and are on our way to France. We hate to say goodbye to Spain, but are looking forward to saying hello to our old friend France.

~Karen & Jeff~

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Granada July 23rd

Oops, sorry we got a little ahead of ourselves with the Pueblo blog entry.

As Karen and I left Portugal, we needed to find a place to stay that was within several hours of the hotel we needed to be at for the Pueblo Ingles program. We looked at the map and decided we would stay somewhere around Granada. On the way to Granada, Karen read that they had a nice site to visit called the Alhambra, so we decided to try to see it. We arrived to town around 5:00 pm and decided to find somewhere to stay and see the Alhambra in the morning.

We found a nice little camp ground just off the freeway, literally off the freeway. We decided to eat at the restaurant and had a lovely dinner with a French/Thai family living in Vietnam in Spain on holiday. It was a wonderful evening chatting with them.

The next morning, Karen and I got to the Alhambra by 7:30 am. The ticket office opens at 8am with the grounds opening at 8:30 am. Apparently, it is hard to get tickets especially in the summer, but we get lucky and have no problems. Some times, accidents are better than anything you plan. The Alhambra is amazing

The Alcazaba, the Alhambra’s fortress, dates from the 11th – 13th centuries. History in this fortress is extensive. The Nasrid Palace was used by the Muslim rulers in the 13th-15th century and is the centerpiece of the Alhambra. Actually Granada has a history of 8 centuries as a Muslim capitol.

Today what you see is a Christian influence over the historic Muslim buildings, and I must say the beauty of it all is one of the most amazing sights. The site is built with direction of utmost importance and one can definitely see and feel the impact of the direction. We spent over 2 ½ hours exploring the palace alone and even then felt we could have spent longer. We visit the “fort” where the legions of soldiers lived and watched over the Alhambra, what a magnificent views they had of the surroundings

A quick visit to Charles V palace and we must be on our way. We have spent the entire morning here and we wanted more….. I guess that means we must visit once again. I hear the night visit is most spectacular.

A historical bit of trivia for you: the hall of ambassadors, which is in the Nasrid Palaceis the site in which Christopher Columbus received the “go ahead” from Ferdinand and Isabel for his journey to discover the new world.

~Jeff & Karen~