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It has been a while since we posted, so thought we would get an update out to everyone on some recent travels and stories from the amazing summer we have had.
We spent a few weeks back in Canada seeing friends and family, and then took a 3-week vacation in August to visit 4 countries in Europe alone the French Riviera. Literally, travelled via planes, trains, and automobiles...combined with some boating and bicycling. Loved the new experiences!
There are also a few random pics from fun we have had in the Middle East throughout the summer.
Enjoy the stories and pics...
Back to Canada
We went back to Canada in July. Lisa spent a week in Ontario with her Mom, enjoying Canada Day, a Blue Jays game, and a Shania Twain concert.
Lisa then flew to Calgary and got to spend a few days in Calgary, going to the Calgary Stampede with friends before Jeff joined the party.
It was great to catch up with our great friends and to even get a visit from Jeff's dad, brother, and nephew.
Miss all these amazing people!
August vacation - Barcelona, French Riviera, Milan
We spent 3 days in Barcelona. We had heard many great things about this city and it did not disappoint!
It has so many amazing places to see with great architecture and history, combined with some fantastic restaurants and bars.
Jeff loved the paella that is available at almost every restaurant!
We stayed on La Rambla street, which is busy as hell, loaded with tourists so the people watching is great and it is very central to all the sites and areas you want to visit. We took the Hop On, Hop Off bus to visit many beautiful areas of the city.
Some of our favourite highlights include:
- Sagrada Familia basilica - part of a UNESCO world heritage site, construction started in 1882, estimated to finish in 2026
- Park Guell - a beautiful park with many mosaic artworks from Gaudi that began construction in 1900
- the Gothic area - it's Cathedral and some great bars (La Burnessa mojitos)
- MNAC (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya) and the Magic Fountain
- Olympic stadium
- Barcelona beach
Marseille is a beautiful port city with an incredible marina surrounded by bars and restaurants. Up on top of the hill overlooking the city and port is the incredible Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. We just stopped for lunch and a couple beers but definitely a place we want to visit again!
After Marseille, we drove along the French Riviera coast to St.Tropez. It is quite a place. Like what you would expect - lots of massive yachts in the harbour and on the water, lots of expensive shops, but some beautiful scenery, amazing seafood, nice beaches, and several wineries. We stayed at the Toison D'Or resort, which had a private beach, for a couple days. Visited the Chateau Minuty winery for some tasty breakfast samples.
After driving along the coast, we stopped in Cannes for lunch, beers, and some sightseeing. We walked along the famous boardwalk called Boulevard de la Croissette and saw the hotels where all the Cannes Film Festival stars stay. Even got some pics on the red carpet for the theatre. Also, a classic story where Jeff was called an "asshole" by some asian tourists.
Nice instantly became a favourite of ours. It is a beautiful place, filled with incredible buildings with French and Italian influence. There is a kick ass Old Town area filled with many great restaurants and bars.
We enjoyed both the Hop On, Hop Off bus and Le Petit Train, which took us to the cool tourist areas of the city, as well as neighbouring Villefranche-sur-Mer. Jeff even got in trouble on the public beach...once he realized it wasn't a "clothing optional" beach! Jackass!
Some highlights included:
- Castle Cremat - mountaintop winery in a church
- Parc de la Colline du Chateau with beautiful hilltop waterfalls
- the Acropolis statue
- Cathedrale Russe St.Nicolas - a very cool Russian cathedral in the middle of Nice
Monaco is the 2nd smallest country in the world and has just under 40,000 people. It's famous city is Monte-Carlo, home of the famous Monte-Carlo Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo Casino. The casino was insane. Gold all over the place! Quite a place to see...nothing but money here! Could not believe the yachts here - many with helicopter pads and additional speed boats on them. Crazy! We took a boat ride in the harbour to check it all out.
We took the train from Monte-Carlo to Ventimiglia and up to Milan for our last couple of vacation days.
We arrived at the Milan train station (Stazione Centrale) and saw another incredible building. Could've been a museum or cathedral with how impressive it was. We quickly checked into our hotel and went out to check out the city.
We took a bike tour and saw:
- Milan Cathedral - 3rd largest church in the world, took over 6 centuries to build
- Castella Sforzesco - a 15th century castle
- Arco della Pace - the city gate to Milan
- the L.O.V.E. statue in Piazza Affari - a middle finger salute to the bankers
Finished the day in the local area called Brera with a kick ass meal (and massive calzone) at Il Kaimano.
Other summer stories...
We had lots of fun this summer while in the Middle East. Some highlights include:
- a fun yacht adventure in Bahrain in early July
- 2 going away parties (Masalama) for our Aussie friends Toni & Jim who have left Saudi to go home
- many pool parties, both at our place and in Bahrain
- visits to The Hydration Station
- we even found a way to get over to Dubai with friends for our September long weekend
We have a few trips booked - hoping to have some friends come join us...
November 2018 - Thailand - spending a couple days in Bangkok, then on to Phuket to celebrate Lisa's birthday with friends from Canada, Anita, Nicole, and Dennis. Should be some wild times, including some island pub crawls.
December 2018 - We are heading to Frankfurt, Germany and area for an extended long weekend at the end of December. Very excited to do a tour to Neuschwanstein Castle near Austria. This is the castle that inspired Disney's famous castle. May have to break out the winter coats!
May 2019 - Greece - booked into Santorini for a few days, then over to Crete
June 2019 - Uganda - going to do a day of gorilla trekking, a day of chimpanzee trekking, and then a carnivore trekking day. Should be quite an adventure.
August 2019 - still finalizing plans but it's looking like Portugal, south France, and Croatia.
November/December 2019 - South Africa - wine tasting, shark cage diving, safaris, and enjoying Cape Town.
Thanks for checking out our summer stories and pics everyone! Will post an update once we return from Thailand.
Have a great US Thanksgiving everyone!!!
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Hi everyone, we hope you all had a great summer and are ready to jump into the fall season.
It's been a while since we updated the blog. We wanted to wait until we had some actual trips to speak about and we have just returned from our first big trip in this part of the world. Here are some stories and pics from our Italy trip, and a couple other updates. Enjoy...
TRIP TO BAHRAIN
We did a quick weekend trip to Bahrain August 26 & 27 and got some nice pics. In fact, we went there 3 out of 4 weekends. One weekend was just to go over Friday AM for breakfast, then shopping, movie, groceries, and back home.
Anyways, this weekend, we booked into the Ritz-Carlton and had a beautiful pool and beach area. The water was so warm from the summer that we couldn't really even swim - almost hot tub temperature. So we opted for cold drinks in the chilled pool.
Speaking of Bahrain... we've included a screenshot of a cool event they do twice a year called Tribfest. It must stand for TributeFest. Anyways, it's an outdoor event that runs from 10AM-10PM, has food, booze, etc, and many cover bands that switch every hour. Check out this lineup. Unfortunately, we'll miss this one since we're away that weekend. Pretty friggin' cool! We'll hit the spring concert though - April or May!
OVERALL THOUGHTS ON ITALY
What a beautiful country - so much to see & do, you need more than a week for sure!
THANK YOU to Avi & Michele for their recommendations on where to go!
Think of images you have of Italy or have seen of Italy - it really does look like that! Buildings are impressive. In fact, pictures don't do most of the buildings justice!
It's amazing to see the history and see what this culture did so long ago, as their buildings are far more impressive than what you see today!
Our favourite foods?
- bruschetta - Lisa ate it almost EVERY meal! Sometimes 3 times a day.
- pizza - so good here!
- ham & cheese panini - blew Jeff's mind how fresh and good it was.
Meals were so cheap - appies for 5 euros, entrees about 10.
Cheaper than home and much better!
There are small cars and scooters everywhere! Narrow streets and no room for 'Alberta trucks' and large SUV's! Driving - Saudi is chaos, Italy is organized chaos
Piazzas - open markets everywhere... great places to stop, hit a patio, have a drink, and people watch!
Water stations were all over (see the pic later!) - anyone could stop and refill their water bottles. Pretty cool!
Favorite places in Rome - Pantheon and St.Peter's Basilica
Favorite place in Italy - Sorrento...cool streets, not as busy, scenic as hell!
Rome is busy and is the #2 location for pickpocketing (next to Barcelona). Had to be careful. Jeff bought a 'belt wallet' that loops on the belt and tucks into your shorts. He quickly renamed it "the pecker pouch" and said if they wanted his wallet at least he'd get a good grab!
DAY 1 - FLIGHTS FROM DAMMAM TO RIYADH, RIYADH TO ROME
We had an early flight and got into Rome about 1:30PM. Quickly checked into our suite in Trastevere (really cool area) and went walking around. Stopped for the soon-to-be famous "bruschetta, pizza, and beer" meal. Crossed the bridge and went to an open-air piazza called Campo de Fiori. Wandered around and hit the shops and bars within Trastevere. So many cool shops - souvenirs, leather, clothing, food. Italian leather shoes feel soooo good!
DAY 2 - ROME
Got up early to visit the sights of Rome. Had to figure out a game plan since there are so many cool things to see. Walked to the Colosseum, Forum, a HUGE white building (below) - still not sure what exactly it was. Took the 'hop on, hop off' bus. It went to every attraction, had headphones explaining where we were and the history of the area. Jumped off at the Vatican - went in and saw the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. It was impressive but so busy and hot. Apparently, the pope was there, which explains all the people! Then went to Piazza Navona for a drink - it rained every day in Rome from 4-4:30PM, then cleared up. Lisa wonders why there are no toilet seats. Anyone? Trevi Fountain was busy and VERY cool! Apparently, throwing a coin over your shoulder grants you a wish of getting back to Rome again. Walked around looking for the Pantheon, came around the corner of a tiny street and there was the mammoth structure - so f'n impressive! Then off to the Spanish Steps before dinner and waaaay to many glasses (perhaps bottles) of wine. Tomorrow is gonna hurt!
DAY 3 - ROME
Got up early with a couple Advils, had breakfast and did a 'skip the line' tour of the Colosseum. Pretty cool inside! Can't imagine seeing a rock concert in here! Onto the bus again for a 1:30 appointment to get into St.Peter's Basilica. It's a famous and HUGE church in the Vatican. Lisa wasn't allowed in, since she was showing too much skin. Then she bought 2 souvenir scarves and covered up, Saudi style. There is no picture that does this church justice. You simply have to go inside to image the awesomeness of it! We took the elevator up and Lisa freaked. Once Jeff heard he could go to the top of the dome, he did it. 304 steps later and a lot of sweat, he had a killer view, some great pics, a racing ticker, and some wobbly legs. And he needed a cold beer! We hopped onto the bus to Piazza Navona for a beer and some people watching. Then walked to the Pantheon, where we were forced to sit under an umbrella with a few beers while it rained. Walked back through Trastevere and found a VERY cool back alley of bars - nobody drank in the bars, they just hung out drinking in the alley. Hung out with them, then walked over to a restaurant Avi & Michele recommended ... da Bucatino. So good! Off to sleep for an early morning rise to Venice!
DAY 4 - VENICE
Woke up early for a high-speed train ride to Venice. Yes, this thing did 300 km/hr. Venice is exactly what you see in the movies. Busy as hell with tourists, beautiful water, canals, boats, and cool & colourful buildings! There are NO vehicles in Venice, just boats. People water taxi from the airport. They park their vehicles in a parkade outside of Venice. There are so many tiny streets with cool shops. It is so easy to get lost, in fact, that is what made Venice fun. St.Mark's Basilica and St.Mark's Square were both very impressive!! Did a gondola ride - the tourist thing to do, the boat ride in the canal. Sumbitch wouldn't sing to us.
The craziest thing - there is no way you could've found someone in Venice if you tried. Our friends from the Saudi compound, Simon & Michelle, were walking down the street and neither of us knew the other would be there. Spent the bulk of the day wandering the streets and pub crawling with them. Surprise, surprise!
Trained back to Rome, packed our bags for another early morning.
And if Venice was Sinking...
DAY 5 - NAPLES, POMPEII, SORRENTO
Hopped onto our tour bus and headed south to Naples. Stopped for some scenic photos and headed to the base of Mount Vesuvius for lunch. It is a huge volcano that erupted and covered the town of Pompeii in 79 AD, killing everyone. Pompeii was built in 450BC - it was very impressive to see how they built a town back then that was able to keep standing, thousands of years later. Archaeologists have been digging the volcanic lava away from the town for years, finding a town that is still there, as well as many skeletons of Pompeii residents. The people of Pompeii were a horny bunch - lots of orgy paintings, roman bath houses, brothels, and bordellos. They even had symbols to tell people where to go - see the pictures below. Just not sure how good the action was on a stone bed. Good for leverage I guess!
Hopped onto our bus and settled into our Sorrento hotel on the mountain overlooking the Mediterranean. Walked into town and raised some hell.
DAY 6 - ISLAND OF CAPRI & BACK TO SORBENT
We slept in a bit, had breakfast, and hopped onto the ferry to the Island of Capri. It is beautiful! Tons of nice cliffs and grottos to boat into. Next time, we will rent a private boat for sure! Took a very scenic and scary drive up the mountain on a narrow road to Anacapri. Lisa may have shit her pants on one turn! Took the single seat tram to the top - every picture was like a post card. Stopped for a boat ride to the beautiful Blue Grotto (just youtube it) - friggin amazing! Lisa was so inspired by it's beauty, she geared down on our boat and jumped into the water. The Asian couple on our small boat may still be recovering from what they saw! Haha. Awesome! Went back to Sorrento and had a great dinner on a garden patio! What a day!
DAY 7 - FREE DAY (SORRENTO) & BACK TO ROME
We had a free day and walked into Sorrento to check out the streets and do some shopping (and shopping for more bruschetta and beer!). Beautiful place! Loved it here. Took the bus back to Rome and had one last walk to the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and Trastevere markets.
DAY 8 - ROME & FLIGHT HOME
Had breakfast in the Trastevere Piazza (pictures are below) and then cabbed to the Rome airport to come home.
Here's where we had a brutal service experience with our airline - Saudia Airline. Here's a copy of the service complaint Jeff sent in...still no reply. Fuckers!
BRUTAL SERVICE STORY
Yesterday, we were flying from Rome to Riyadh on Saudia Airlines 208 and I experienced the WORST service I have ever seen in all my years of travel.
As my wife & I were boarding, a lady at the gate said something to one of the boarding agents and pointed to my shorts. He came over and said that I couldn't fly in my shorts which were knee length.
I told him I had no other pants and that I had worn those same shorts on the flights from Dammam to Riyadh and Riyadh to Rome with the same airline.
They didn't care and told me I couldn't fly unless I went and got pants. As you know, there are only high end fashion shops in the Rome airport and I had to run around to look for men's pants, worrying that I wouldn't catch my flight.
I only found one pair of pants - a pair of jeans at the Emporio Armani store - jeans that cost me $753.12 SAR or $200.75 US. This is a HUGE unexpected expense and a HUGE inconvenience.
I finally boarded and the men wouldn't give me the lady's name but said she was the Rome supervisor.
Now, I understand if there are rules...questions:
1) Why could I wear the same shorts on 2 of your flights one week ago?
2) why did they not tell me this when I checked my bags so I could've changed into jeans before my luggage was checked?
3) why were there men AND women on the same plane wearing shorter shorts?
At the end of the day, here's what I know.
I have experienced a BRUTAL service story and this was my first experience with your airline. I do expect a reply and want to find out what you will do to compensate me for this.
How you handle this will not only help me determine if I fly with your company again but also will help shape the stories I tell about your company and their service levels.
I look forward to hearing from you.
OK, thats it for now everyone. We are off to Dubai this weekend from Friday to Sunday. Will have an update on that incredible place with stories and pics of some of the fun we have planned.
We'll end with a few random pics - hope you're having a better day than this squirrel!
Chat soon everyone!
All posts are updated by Jeff & Lisa