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We have just returned from the longest vacation we've ever had - 4 weeks!
Wow, what a feeling! It was such an incredible and emotional trip:
First, it was great to get back to Canada and see the stores, restaurants, and pubs that we are familiar with.
Second, it is fucking Canada! What a Country. Beautiful scenery. Friendly people. And to be back for Canada's 150th birthday. Awesome!
Third, and most importantly, it was a trip to get back to the best friends and family one could ask for.
Yes, we honestly are so lucky to know and love these amazing people!
So, how was the trip? Check out the pics and stories below...
Amsterdam (June 23-28)
Amsterdam and Frankfurt are the two main pit stops on the way home from Saudi, so we chose to stay in Amsterdam for 5 days to flirt with the debauchery and see if all the stories are true. Yep, they all appear to be the real stories.
Just a few things about Amsterdam:
- we stayed right near Dam Square, which was a perfect 'home base' for us. Close to all the areas, the train station, the ferry station, shops, great people watching, and most importantly, right next to the Red Light District
- There are bicycles everywhere! They have right of way and Jeff came very close to being run down by them many times each day. There are parking lots all over designed for bikes. See the pics below.
- Amsterdam is also known for the beautiful canals filled with riverboats touring people around and houseboats that people live in and also rent out
- Amsterdam has legalized prostitution and marijuana and is home to the world famous Red Light District. You will see girls in windows with a red backlight, showing their bodies off, and trying to lure their prey inside. We did make a game of it one day...sitting on a pub bench sipping beers, we watched to see which lady could 'close the deal' first, and then how long the guy would stay inside. The first guy was only 4 minutes. Not an Amsterdam record, I'm sure!
- And yes, there are many 'coffee shops' with menus for you to purchase much more than coffee. We did have an interesting experience at the Bulldog Coffee Shop - amazing people watching, especially the guy with the orange cowboy hat. See the pic below and ask us for the story.
- The Red Light District is filled with sex toy museums, prostitution museums, marijuana/hemp museums, sex toys shops, and then of course, many strip clubs, live sex shows, and some interactive sex houses. There were also some where there talented artists chose to incorporate cigars, fruits (Bananenbar), and large black markers (see our personally signed post card pic below - definitely a keeper!)
- because of the 'anything goes' type of vibe, Amsterdam also hosts many bachelor/stag and bachelorette/stagette events. We saw many events - groups riding pedal taverns and boats drinking their day away, people in costumes, and many singing and having fun! Awesome!
- we did have a pretty cool excursion one day...for $25 euro each (about $25 US), we went up the A'Dam Lookout to overlook the water, Amsterdam, and see an overhanging swing, then took a 45-minute canal cruise filled with Heineken, and then tour the Heineken factory. Not a bad deal!
- there is a cool new area called NDSM. It is a short ferry ride from the main area and is an old shipping area. They have converted all the old metal shipping containers into residences, apartments, restaurants, and bars. There is a huge arts community there and if you're luck enough, you can even get a "Barbie Peepshow". Ask us and we can tell you all about it! A place called Sexyland had a unique concept. It is a small building made of 3-4 metal shipping containers. It has a bar, a stage, a dance floor, and speakers. They rent it out to people for parties, games, events, and concerts, with the tenants getting use of the bar/stage, etc. They catch is that you can only rent it once a year so they have 365 events each year, with someone different renting it each day. Different! Not what we expected when we walked into Sexyland.
- in terms of foods to try, there are fries everywhere. They also do have a unique food called Bitterballen - chopped up beef, beef broth, flour, spices, herbs, butter, then battered and deep fried, served with mustard. Good pub snack.
- our two favourite pubs - the Old Sailor was always packed and good people watching. We also found the Louis Bar Cafe de Dam, a small pub near our hotel. That was the perfect spot for a night cap that often turned into many more. Met an amazing couple, Ian and Ann from Melbourne and chatted with them quite a bit about their travels, as they were on a trip that included Ireland, UK, Prague, Germany, and a few other stops. Great people!
- some good neighbourhoods to check out - Jordan, Leidsestraat Square, and Rembrandt Square
Note - Canadian friends - Amsterdam is a great party place! It is a direct flight for us from Saudi and also for you from most Canadian cities. Hint, Hint!!!
Enjoy the pics...hope you're not easily offended.
Canada 150 in Calgary
As we said, it was incredible to fly back and have Canada150 absolutely everywhere. Talk about fueling the patriotic fire we already have...here's a few pics from our flight, as well as some of the cool Canadiana we saw.
Woke up on Canada Day (July 1st), took one look at the forecast. This was the forecast:
We were all fired up to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday with an epic party.
Our friends Avi & Michele Patel were throwing a 2-themed party for a bunch of us.
1 - RED & WHITE - They had decorated their house and backyard in red & white for a Canada Day party...flags, red & white lights, red & white flowers. You name it - they are AMAZING hosts! The bash would start around noon. Everyone would be dressed in red & white.
2 - GREEN & WHITE - Around 6:30pm, everyone will switch into green and white to cheer on our Saskatchewan Roughriders football team.
The adrenaline was rushing.
It was Canada's 150th.
The Patels know how to throw a killer party.
We had friends travelling from all over to come celebrate the day - Layne, Glenice, and family flew in from San Diego, Jeff flew from Vancouver, Vern & Noreen drove in from Saskatchewan, Shane & Dennis came from Edmonton, and we had the Hauta's, Juniors, D'Amours who came in from all over Calgary. Our friend Nicole was able to join as well as new friends, Jody & Nick.
This was going to be a day to remember. And it was! At least the parts that we remember. WOW!
Okanagan - Kelowna & Vernon, BC
We flew to Kelowna to go visit Jeff's brother Jason and new nephew Jakobe in Vernon. Jeff's dad had also driven in from Saskatchewan. Spent some awesome time with them at the hotel, visiting the Predator Ridge golf course, and the Kangaroo Creek Farm. It sure was nice to catch up with them, as it's been over a year since we all have seen each other. And now there's a new Tycholiz boy to deal with. As if three of them wasn't bad enough.
The Okanagan area is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Jakobe needed an afternoon nap, so we decided to hit some wineries and enjoyed some BC wine and some amazing views! We finished off the trip with a visit to one of our favourite restaurants, Ricardo's Mediterranean Kitchen, in Kelowna. This is a 'must stop' for us every time we are in the area. Went with Jason, Tera, Jakobe, and Tat but also had a chance to meet up with our 'wedding crashers' and good friends Dena and Dallas (with their two girls). Awesome food, awesome people!
Sure hope we can see Arn and Tone next year!
We flew from Vernon and arrived in Edmonton to see some more great friends and family.
Immediately went to the Canadian Brewhouse on Ellerslie and racked up one of the largest bar tabs I can remember. Thanks for coming out to see us Shane & Sara, Dave & Melissa, Jesse & Mallory, and Jason (aka Big Willmsy). And of course, thanks as always to our gracious host Dennis!
Had a chance to meet up with our Aunt Sue and Aunt Lyn for breakfast and to catch up. Always fun to chat with them!
We were so excited to get back to Whitefish, Montana after missing it last year. We've been going there with family & friends since 2009 and love it every single time. There is some good shopping, nice restaurants, and some outstanding pubs and breweries, but this trip is simply about getting to a cottage and hanging out with some of your best friends and their families!
It's a pretty simple week. Wake up, breakfast, spend the day at the lake floating and sipping beers with your floating bar. Enjoy the 35 degree sunshine. Then go up, shower off, BBQ up some meat, drink some more, and sit by the camp fire.
Honestly, the biggest task you have all week is the constant battle to keep the coolers filled with cans and ice. Not a bad problem to have! They even made it easy this year with a motorized tram to haul things up & down the hill to the lake.
The week finished off with a scenic drive through Glacier National Park and then a group steak dinner at the Keg in Calgary!
Thank you to the Vinny's, Patel's, and Junior's for an amazing week, and also to Nicole & D for the happy ending!
Jeff flew back to Saudi via Seattle and Dubai - brutal jet lag. Got home about 12:30am Wednesday, slept most of the day and worked Thursday. Came home after work, went to bed at 5:30pm, woke at 2am. Finally got back to sleep at 4am and woke from his coma at 3pm. What a write-off that weekend was.
Lisa enjoyed a week in Ontario, visiting her mom in Woodstock. She had a chance to visit with her, as well as aunts, uncles, and her grandmother. She is now back in Saudi working on her jet lag recovery!
We will conquer this jet lag next time!
We have a few more trips coming at us soon - hoping you can join up on any of them:
August 30 - September10
We will be in Kenya doing our African Safari for the Great Migration - stay tuned for some stories and pics. Jeff now has one month to figure out his new camera and zoom lens!
This is a long weekend - just finalizing our getaway. It's narrowed down to either Oman or Abu Dhabi.
October 30 - November 9
Off to Dublin for 3 days and London for 6. Looking forward to the Guinness and Jameson factories, as well as some authentic Irish and British pubs. And maybe more.
We'll be in Dubai for Lisa's 40th Birthday. An Ed Sheeran concert, followed by a fun weekend!
February 15-March 4 - T&A2018
We will be meeting up with our T&A friends in Negril Jamaica for a couple weeks of sun, Red Stripe, jerk chicken, and other Jamaican delicacies. This trip is always a wicked time. Will follow it up with a few days in Miami.
Our task over the next 2-3 weeks is to plot out travel for our 2018 calendar and get the vacations booked - they are due by Sept.11. Fingers crossed for another trip back home - stay tuned for vacation dates & locations and we hope we can see you all!
These next two images pretty much sum up our summer vacation. THANK YOU to everyone who came out to see us and touch our hearts once again! You make it so hard to leave! Love you all!!!
This pic is just random but we got a kick out of it. "Peace of Mind" is good.
Cheers everyone...be safe!
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We haven't posted since our Prague trip at the start of April. Here's a quick update on spring 2017 in Saudi...
Bahrain Tribfest - April 28, 2017
We cabbed over to Bahrain for fun day of Tribfest, which is a bunch of tribute artists performing as famous musicians and bands - the list of entertainers is shown below. We went over with our friends Hayden, Christy, Luc, and Tracey. After building a good food base of bacon butty's (fancy egg mcmuffins), we ventured over to the Rugby Club to drown ourselves in sun, Coronas, and great music. We will be back for the next one in October for sure!
Pool pics and other...
Some random pics from spring...spring involved lots of BBQ's and cocktails to keep hydrated. One of the tough parts of living the expat life is many people friends are transient, getting moved to different countries or heading back home. We just lost a great friend, Preston "Rhino", as he moved back to Texas. We will definitely stay connected and are looking forward to seeing him and his wife Leah in Jamaica as part of T&A 2018! We had a few great nights out with our friends Luc & Tracey - drinking & dancing with their band the Manic Street Teachers.
Trip to Jubail
In April, we visited Jubail, which is about an hour and 15 minutes north of us. A beautiful area with our sister compound, Murjan, on it. What an incredible compound - gym overlooking the Gulf, 3 pools, 3 private beaches. They hosted a "Bazaar" which had lots of Arabian gifts, artifacts, etc and even had a cool photo booth where we could wear traditional Arabic clothing.
Pics of Jakobe
Received a few pics of Jeff's nephew Jakobe - love the early mentoring Jason is showing. Will see him this summer!
We'll end this update with a few pics of our friends!
Thanks for checking out the blog everyone...stay tuned for the next update - pics and stories from our first trip back home...SO EXCITED for that!!!
All posts are updated by Jeff & Lisa