Category Archives: vacation

the one with all the monkeys, a birthday, and lots of photos

The day of my birthday we hired a driver for 10 hours, for less than $50 USD by the way, to take us to Ubud which is about an hour north of where we were staying in Canggu.  The drive was pretty, we got to see a lot of the country side and how the citizens outside of tourists villages live and work.  Our driver was very nice, he talked… a lot – but was very informative of Bali life in his conversation.

We made a plan to see the Monkey Forest, Rice Terraces, Luwak Coffee Plantation, and shopping.  I also wanted to go to the famous Yoga Barn and the popular temple up there – but they weren’t available/we didn’t have enough time but we got to see a lot and it was an overall wonderful day.

Our driver recommended we stop at a “traditional balinese housing complex” on our way to see the monkeys.  Walking through it was fascinating, the complex is for one family, and the traditional western home that we all know and feel comforted by was broken apart into segmented rooms.  Each room is separate: of course the temple, but also the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, etc etc etc.

Here is the entrance into the complex:

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And then the kitchen, where the lady of the home was cooking you can see the clay pots she was using over the legit fire and stone stove:

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An actual water well…

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This is where/how they kept their chickens.  These are for eating eventually…

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Look how skinny, poor things.  To get myself past it, I had to keep reminding myself that its more sad that how fat and overstuffed our chickens are.

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And these are for fighting… which was quintuply times more sad.  Everyone is open about their cockfighting and breeding.  My heart breaks even in the most magical of places.

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You’ll recognize the hat, I know that is probably not what it is called, but they were wearing them all over the place there.  Also, this hat, as I so disrespectfully keep calling it, was sitting in one of the open aired bedrooms.

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We weren’t given a full tour, so I can’t tell you what these next couple of rooms were for, but aren’t they so colorful?

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This is the family’s temple… every family has one.

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How cute is this mini Ogoh Ogoh?  Two boys were running around playing with it acting like they were carrying it in a parade.  Unfortunately, those photos were too whitewashed to edit.  If you missed the conversation about the Ogoh Ogohs, see post one.

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Poor pup, it was hot.  He did have a water dish, I don’t know if was full or when it was last changed.  He was chained to this tree, at least he had shade.  As you can tell – I have a definite super soft spot for the babies.

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Another colorful, mysterious room.

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So this was extremely fascinating to see.  But then I started wondering if this traditional family complex may have actually been a tourist spot.  Not that that is a negative point, but not only did we donate 20,000 IDR to the elderly gentleman of the home, but then an entire bus load of tourists started coming through.  That and the fact that our driver recommended it, combined with the point that we were in the middle of a village where I didn’t see too many other homes… I just felt like perhaps this tradition wasn’t as well kept as the driver made it seem.  It was beautiful none the less.

Enter Monkeys in the Monkey Forest:

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First, a few rules.

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And then we feed them…

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I definitely got monkey butt in my face, thankfully I didn’t contract any diseases… that I know of, and look at the other monkeys just sitting around, munching their bananas, watching the show.

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And then we walk through the forest, 2.5 hours of getting the absolute pleasure of being with these beauties.  It was so amazing.  There were mommy monkeys, baby monkeys, daddy monkeys just all playing, jumping, eating, grooming, fighting, snuggling, swinging etc etc etc just being monkeys.

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This was the closest we got into a Temple the whole time, and it was closed, and it was in the Monkey Forest.

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So the baby here had found a little snack, and he was getting ruthlessly picked on by the older monkeys.  (Note the gigantic daddy laying and just watching.)  It got to the point they wouldn’t leave the baby alone, so the daddy got up, RAN right in front of me making a bunch of noise, broke up the fight, grabbed the baby, gave him back his snack, and carried him to safety.  It was intense.  I would not be one to cross that daddy at all.

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This guy was HUGE, the photo does him absolutely no justice.

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He was cute, by himself, hanging out, and let me take lots of photos of him.

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I don’t know if he was making fun of me or not – but I had no idea he was eating.

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This is one of the forest employees.  He was messing with him quite a while.  They were playing, I am pretty sure this wasn’t a violent exchange.  At least I don’t think so…

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… because then they parted ways with just a smile and a treat…

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…and he was happy with that.

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We walked all the way down to the bottom of the forest at the same time all of the monkeys were headed that way too.  Looked like it was feeding time or some kind of ritual taking place, because one after one they just walked the railing all headed the same way.

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This is my favorite moment from the time spent with them.  She’s just a momma feeding her baby.

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And this is my second favorite moment – this guy seemed so young, and he was all by himself, and just sitting there.

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There are little shops inside the forest for snacks, drinks, and souvenirs.  Apparently there are monkeys who will go snag the merchandise.  But also – some monkeys who just visit for some social interaction.  This was so sweet.  The man was just sitting there playing with him… the moment was not short lived, making me think it was not the first this interaction had taken place.  It was like they knew each other.

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Before anyone gets offended that they turned a forest into a tourist attraction – these monkeys were in no way being kept for entertainment.  They were able to leave the forest, and often did in the mornings when they would nag the local village markets for breakfast or try to snag their merchandise.  They keep the forest super clean, they are all supervised by the employees for the reason of the tourists to prevent abuse, they all seemed to enjoy their life and they were all comfortable being around us.  Everyone respected their space (all but one guy, who definitely got what was coming to him as the daddy monkey tried to snag his camera, swat it out of his face, and yelled at him).  The entry fee was not much, but went towards the upkeep.  AND they monitored them, they knew exactly how many monkeys they had, how many families there were, where those families lived, and the breakdown of adults, teenagers, and babies.

Anyway….

Moving on, sadly.

We had Forest Cat Poop Coffee at the Luwak Coffee Plantation.  It is the most expensive coffee in the world.  It was okay, strong black coffee, not worth $50 USD per pound.  I didn’t buy any and actually preferred their flavored, non poop, coffee.  But, we did see the process – Forest cats do eat the coffee beans, poop them out, and they are roasted, ground, and brewed.  It was an experience and it came with a nice view of the rice fields.

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Rice Fields.  I was under impressed… other photos I’ve seen were much more impressive and got me wondering where the “better” view was they were hiding from me.  I think it was just the quick stop view.  Still pretty, and we saw a tourist tempt fate, walk too close to the edge, and fall down one level.  That was not cool.  She screamed, her family screamed… She was okay in case anyone is wondering.  Just a couple of knee scratches.  But she won’t be walking the edge of anything any time soon.

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This photo is iconic because is memorializes a moment when a little boy followed me all the way back to the car from the rice terrace view.  He was begging me to buy post cards from him.  Post cards I already bought from another little boy to help their school funding.  He insisted they were different post cards and that I needed ten more post cards in my life.  I must have told him “no thank you,” 50 times in that 5 minute walk back to the car.  The heat and humidity building, and my blood sugar continuing to fall (it had been over five hours since I’d eaten) and I began to get somewhat agitated.  So I looked at him, “how do you say ‘no’ in balinese?”

Bali boy: “yes.”

Me: “no, how do you say the word “no” in your language.”

Bali boy: “yes, you say it like ‘yes.”   He continued to beg.

Granted he got me to laugh and like him a little more and be a little less agitated.  He was persistent, and would one day make a very aggravating salesman.  The driver told me, once we got back to the car, the funds were definitely not going to school funding.

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This was a poster we saw while eating lunch.  We hunted down the store that sold the shirts for Ariel.  It is pretty awesome.

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We got fish pedicures.  It felt like sticking your feet in really aggressive carbonated water.  It tickled.  Majorly.  And was super awesome.

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Then we shopped, we haggled, we bartered in the market and made it back to Canggu just in time for dinner and a birthday surprise from the hubby and The Chillhouse staff.

 

Catch up if you’ve missed any of these bali posts: post one, post two, post three.  Catch up before we wrap things up with a couple more posts: a tour of The Chillhouse, last trip to the beach, and an ongoing maternity shoot.

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they scootered and surfed into the sunset

The day we scootered, surfed, and found the Balinese sunset.

Today was the day, the day Ariel woke up and said she would take on the waves; today was also the day I did not one but two things that scared me for personal growth, a humbling effect, and challenging experiences that should last a life time.

The more immediate concern was how to get to the ocean side.  Two miles to travel in the extreme humid heat, peddle bikes were newly out of the question, and taxi’s are an utter nuisance (mostly because one of my pet peeves is paying unreasonable prices for transportation and never being able to count on being able to find transportation back).

Let’s rent a moped.

Reception let us know the last moped was out, but should probably be back within the hour.  Well, it wasn’t.  We waited for almost two before I approached the desk again.  The young man told us the moped was not back but he would lend us his.  Because he has two and wouldn’t need the second one within the next 24 hours.  I hesitantly thanked him for his amazingly generous offer and then in all of my honesty I felt the obligation to inform him of my inexperience with the vehicle, “that is super nice of you and definitely appreciated, but I really feel the need to let you know that I’ve never driven a moped before and I wouldn’t want to put your personal bike at risk.  Are you still okay with me renting it?”

The hesitation was now reciprocated on his face and a multitude of excuses came flooding out to cover every reason or excuse I may come up with.  The bike is a really big one.  You have to have a license for a moped.  You can get into a lot of trouble with the police if you don’t have a license for the moped…

Just when I was about to give up and order a cab, Ariel steps in with a slightly agitated and slightly more forceful string of comments, “do you expect me to believe that every foreigner here is licensed in mopeds?  I find that very hard to believe.  We haven’t seen a police officer since we’ve been here.  How do people get to the beach around here?  Those bikes are awful, it is hot, I am pregnant, and I want to surf, today.”

Dani jumped right up, “I will learn you the moped.  Come.  I will learn you.”

“Are you sure, I don’t want to get you in trouble or cause any issues,”  very like me to try to change someone’s mind once they’ve already given me the answer that I want to hear.  Also, I started to notice the accidental good cop/bad cop scenario we were playing on the nice balinese man at the reception desk and felt doubly guilty.

But he insisted saying because she was pregnant this would be the easiest and safest way to get us to the beach (and I kind of felt like he was a little scared of that pregnant lady he was trying to protect).  He jumped on his black and white moped and patted the seat in front of him, “come, I will learn you the scooter.”  So I hopped on and for an entire 1 minute and 30 second demonstration and hands on learning experience I learned the bare minimum basics of the motor bike.

Putting that 90 second lesson into real time action was terrifying.  We started off on the wrong side of the road.  Turns are really hard to make.  Other vehicles honked at me, a lot.  I hit a top speed of 7mph ( I think ).  Parking is really difficult.  People were laughing at me the entire time, I must wear my fear on my face.  And it took us about 20 minutes to go two miles to the beach.  Each time I got off of that machine that day I was relieved 1. we didn’t crash 2. I didn’t hurt anyone and 3. the police didn’t get involved.  And each time getting back on it I thought we were testing fate and pushing buttons, like we had already made it once, why risk another ride?

But, we made it to the waves.  We found boards and immediately headed into the water.  Ariel made it safely over the breaking waves at the shore… I not so much.  I got hit once, twice, and almost a third time before a local surfer took pity on me, coached me on when to leave the sand, and gave me a little push.  I was already exhausted.  A string of turtle rolls under a few handfuls of breaking waves and paddling out any further became impossible.   A failed attempt at a wave and I headed in… not after getting plummeted by a set of crashing waves right at the sand as the undertow pulled me out each time for me to surface under another crest.

I managed to stand on solid, sinking, saturated ground, hoping my bathing suit was still in tact but too afraid to look and instead scanned the beach occupants only to find pity and worry in the eyes of everyone on the shore watching me and giving me the impression that had not been a pretty sight as I drug my 9 foot, foam, disaster of a board out of the water, stomping my feet, cursing under my breath.

Only thirty minutes of having the board and I walked up to the board stand sand-bathed, fin scratched, exhausted, and highly irritated,”Is everything okay,” they asked me as I walked up – legitimate concern in their eyes, on their face, and in their voice.  “No, everything is not alright.  This board doesn’t surf.”  I dropped off the board and walked away with as much pride as I could muster.

But the beauty that saved the afternoon was Ariel was successful.

So we surfed and then we found a bench seat in the shade at the beach bar, soaked in the experience, and I simultaneously found the bravery needed to get back on to the scooter to make it back to The Chillhouse.

I breathed a sigh of relief as we pulled up and parked, everyone at reception clapped and smiled in response to my victory of making it back unscathed.

We took the rest of the afternoon to clean up, rest, and cool off.  Knowing we had the scooter until the next morning prompted a spontaneous trip back to the beach to watch the sunset.

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I remember when I was young my parents took a trip to see one of their friends, they visited the beach and wrote, “Hi Sam” in the sand and took a picture of it to give to me when they came back home.  I don’t remember what inspired the photo or the details of the trip – but it is one of my favorites from my childhood.  And.  Well.  Recreating photos is all the rage right now.

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The second trip on the scooter was a little easier and a little more enjoyable.  The sunset was fantastic.  We made it back and ended another night around a community dinner table with France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, England, and Australia recounting our day and being just the way the day made us.

It’s a pattern – a chatty entry and a then picturey entry.  So that means you know what is next…  Come back for a recount of a definite day of highlights with a ten hour trip to Ubud that includes monkeys… lots of them.

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day after Nyepi

As promised, less chatter this time and more photos.

The day after Neypi we left the front gates of The Chillhouse for the first time in over 24 hours.  Nothing had changed, except we felt well rested and the small streets were littered with the aftermath of the Ogoh Ogoh creation and then their ultimate destruction.  Well, if you are Hindu, you could possibly say the air was cleaner and safer as the evil spirits had been frightened away and hopefully would not find their way back until… actually – that part was never described to us, just that offerings were given to Gods daily in order to keep their personal space, home, and temples evil-spirit-free for when they do eventually find their way back to the island.

If I haven’t mentioned how undeniably hot and humid this island is, now is a good time to – and it will probably be mentioned again.  The air is THICK.  I’ve been to many carribean locations and even Fiji.  It is nothing like Indonesia.  Taking a deep breath is hard because you’re breathing in water/air mixture.  This fact is important this day for two reasons, 1. my sister is half way through her third pregnancy, a pregnancy that she will admit is not treating her very well physically and 2. we peddle biked nearly two miles (1.7miles to be exact, I google mapped it) one way in that heat and humidity on free bikes that had not been serviced their entire life, were on their last leg as far as breaks go, and had exactly one (count it, one) gear to work with.

But we made it, and when we did, it was mid day, and we finally saw exactly why surfers from all over the world come here to conquer the waves.  It wasn’t like any beach I’ve ever visited (causally walk across the sand, looking for shells, catch a small wave or two, and maybe body board or skim).  The waves were rough and tall and I knew my skills were no match for them, but Ariel couldn’t wait to get out there.  She missed out that day, she wasn’t feeling well – being with child and all – but she was excited for the first morning she could.

The waves were crowded with surf students from every surf school in the area.

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It was really high tide so we were witness to run away surf boards and gear on not one but two occasions.

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So instead of surfing, we did the best we could with just being in the water without a board, people watched, bought some bracelets from a couple of ladies peddling hand made jewelry, and scoped out the beach side scene which just included some snacks, drinks, toys, and of course board rentals.

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After about an hour, we made our way back, slowly but surely in the even hotter heat.  Half way back we stopped at a Mexican restaurant for a break, a cold drink, and shade.  Effects of which didn’t last long once we got back on our bikes and muscled the rest of the way back to The Chillhouse.  The rest of the day we discovered a long needed nap, swim in the pool, cold drinks, and a very strange sun burn that I had obtained on the outside of my knees and the lower half of my forearms and tops of my hands.  The struggle is real for us pale skinned freckle faced sun burners.

 

Don’t stay away too long, next post: a girl who hasn’t ever ridden a scooter, scooters all over town (remember the traffic videos from post one?), and an unexpected low tide sunrise.  Hopefully my pregnant sister will give us some good guest writing material too, because while I was focused on not killing us in Balinese traffic on a scooter – she was passenger to it all.

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welcome to a silent bali

 

After 36 hours of travel, four airplanes, three layovers, three countries, many airplane movies, tv shows, games, and finally meeting my sister on the fourth leg of my trip, we left the states on March 6 and finally landed in Bali on Neypi Eve of March 8.

Seemingly not very exhausted at all, we were met by the humidity of the Indonesian Island along with a sea people and every grain of happiness and excitement one can possibly muster after traveling across the International Dateline.

Bali did not hesitate to begin to entertain us right away, as trying to find our designated taxi driver was a 20 minute hoot of a time.  More than 100 people held hand-written signs at the exit of customs all crammed behind one small gate that lined the pathway to the parking garage of the airport.

As we happily introduced ourselves to our cab driver two other men came up and grabbed our bags from us.  But instead of walking with us and talking pleasantries they ran up ahead and followed closely behind our fast-paced driver.  It was an odd mix of feeling like we had been robbed and thinking as long as we kept them in our sites we could believe they worked with the driver.  We learned the former was closer to the truth when we finally caught up to the three of them, retrieved our bags from the men, and then they started begging for a tip.  Stumbling through their broken english and half attempted hand gestures by showing us money in the palm of their hands, we finally got the gist and decided to hand over two American dollars, one to each of them, partly because we knew the value of those dollar bills – unlike the stacks and stacks of balinese money we had just exchanged of which we had no idea what even the smallest bill of 100,000 IDR was equivalent to.  To our surprise, our valuable $1 bills were highly rejected and the relentless bag delivery men insisted on no less than “a red one, give us a red bill”.  That red bill was in fact the aforementioned 100,000 IDR which we later learned was equal to almost $8 USD – $8 they were not going to leave without.

This was not the first time we were tripped up by their many currency zeros.

Seated inside the van we left the scene of the $8 robbery at the airport as we drove through the masses of peoples walking through the streets and weaving in and out of traffic on their scooters.  I’ve never felt more unsafe driving through a village, city, county, or state.  There are no street signs, if there were any they wouldn’t be followed anyway.   Not even staying in your lane will keep you safe because the lines on the road that in America that say “stay in your lane” are just decoration in Bali; two lane roads became three, and three lanes became four.  No blinkers.  A lot of horns – which didn’t indicate anger ironically, just an announcement that one was passing or trying to get over in front of another vehicle.  Scooters fit in, between, and around anywhere they could fit.   At one point we headed directly into oncoming traffic as we were passing three scooters and two cars on our left around a bend in the road no less.  We evaded a collision by nearly making it back into our lane… we successfully passed all five of those vehicles, just in case you were wondering.   This experience cannot be described in words.  I really wish I could have mustered the strength to let go of my door handle and sister’s forearm to grab my phone to record our journey from the airport to The Chillhouse but between the muttered curses and the louder gasps of air (followed by giggles from the driver) there was barely time to remember to breathe let alone begin documenting anything via any means.

I borrowed a couple of videos from youtube.com to demonstrate the roadway chaos.  Credit to the posters – and if you need to see more, just google “driving in bali” under the video category and there will be no end to the number of videos for your viewing pleasure.

driving in bali – by wizardair

traffic in bali – by marco pietz

But alas, we arrived safely to The Chillhouse and were immediately informed of Neypi practices.  We arrived on Neypi Eve the day of celebration and parades.  Each Village builds an Ogoh Ogoh to carry through the streets (pictured below).  These scary monsters are finely detailed, painted beautifully, and are used to scare away any evil spirits that may be occupying the island.  At the end of the night they burn the Ogoh Ogohs.

We didn’t get to see the parade or the burning, because no one knew where it would be happening.  But we did get to see one Ogoh Ogoh being carried and a crowd following it to find the meeting place of all the village Ogoh Ogohs.  Truth be told they were the prettiest scary monsters I’d ever seen.  The detail was amazing and made it sad to think about all of the hard work being burned at the end of the night.  But it just goes to prove the hard work isn’t tied to the material object but instead the meaning that drives motivation.

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Even though we didn’t see the parade, we got to see a bit of the village we were staying in.  The streets were lined with small shack stores, food, the occasional employee, and quite a few stray animals.  The dogs were everywhere, everyone claimed they have homes – but many of them were sleeping on the streets like these two sweets.  Made my heart break and want to take them all home with me.

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Ironically they were sleeping under the Superman emblem.  Which, if you know me, you know he’s not only the world’s hero – he is also mine.

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At the end of our short walk, we let it all soak in next to the pool.  A very pregnant, tired sister and myself sat in awe of where we were going to be spending the next week and a half and reveled in the possibilities.

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The next day is a day of rest and silence, where every one is required to stay in doors, stay off the streets, keep all noise to a minimum, and all shades drawn so no light can escape their houses at night.  These Neypi Day practices ensure that all of those evil spirits that were scared away the night before cannot find their way back by way of noise or light.  There are even Neypi police that patrol the streets all day and night to ensure these practices are followed – I know first hand, because our group was spoken to by said police because we were being too loud and emitting too much light.  Oops.

It was a welcomed day of rest, after so much travel and anticipation.  Yoga, massage, swimming, eating, napping.  It was definitely the most perfect day of Neypi Silence.

Don’t be gone too long, next entry: our first day off The Chillhouse premises and on the beach.  I promise there will be more photos and less chatter.

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Europe Day Four… 12 hours in PARIS!

We spent less than 12 hours in Paris.

We got on a train at 5am.

A two hour train ride and we arrived in Paris.

Walked around for 12 hours.

A two hour train nap took us back to our London home.

We were already beyond exhausted, luckily we paid for this trip in advance otherwise I feel like we would have said, “Eh, we’ll see Paris another time.”  But all in all, I’m glad we went.

Not for the weather.  Not for the warm welcoming locals.  Not for the super lack of public bathrooms. But for everything Paris is stereotypically (but oh so truthfully) known for… The architecture, the food, the wine, the cheese, the Eiffel Tower.

We were famished when we arrived and luckily had closer to an american breakfast (with eggs) than we had so far.  If you’ve ever eaten a real French croissant: you will die, go to heaven, come back, eat another (or two), and then never eat a croissant from any other country, baker, or croissant maker again.

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Notre Dame.  Uh!Maze!ing.  Spectacular.  Worthy of only one word descriptive sentences apparently.  The detail was intense.  And Mass was definitely being held while hundreds of people were shuffling through being touristy, which felt a bit intrusive and rude, but apparently its appropriate.

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Is it just me or does the shadow on that wall look like a person with a hunchback?  I don’t remember why I took that photo.  Maybe it was because I saw the shadow.  But seriously.  Common.  Thats just too coincidental.

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Hello, Parisian streets.  You are looking very Paris-like today.

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The Luvre, which is all too fun to pronounce LooVray (no disrespect, Paris, but its good to have a bit of humor in your life.)

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We went inside for all of maybe 2 hours.  It would take you DAYS to see everything inside.  But we were on a time limit.  The pyramid behind hubby, Jay, and C here was actually the entrance.  You take steps underground through the floor of the pyramid and it opens up to an bottom floor and then take steps up to each wing.  It’s crazy.

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I think we were a bit slap happy at this point because for some reason we spent an awful long time hanging out in this area doing nothing but being obtrusive spectators.  haha

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And finally we head on in.  This is the stair case you descend from, the elevator was even more cool as it was just a cylinder you stood on the top of and it just drops down into the floor.  I can’t explain it, I don’t know why I didn’t take pictures of it.  It was very techy and genius though.

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We went in, we saw what we needed to see… and we left.  Good ol’ Mona.  It was small, protected behind a crazy amount of bullet proof, UV proof, air controlled glass, and the room was crowded.  So this is as good as this picture gets.

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And then we ate.  Devine.

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The next piece of this trip needs no introduction…

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The closer we got, the bigger it got.  You may be thinking, “well, duh, thats kind of how perspective works right.”  No, but seriously.  There is no number, no scale, no description, no words that can put this into the correct and accurate perspective for those who haven’t seen it. It is just amazing… the size is incredible.

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This is just one of the legs standing underneath.  There are four elevators from the ground.  Each go up into the legs.  Then you have the first platforms you can stop at.  The last stop is the tippy tippy top, which also has two platforms.  The first two platforms have inside stores, a restaurant, cafes, all inside and then outside is you can walk all the way around in the open air.  The tip top has an inside observation deck and the a small staircase up where you can actually go up to another deck.

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This is standing directly underneath looking up.  Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 10.45.25 AM

So much fear in C’s eyes.  haha The height is no joke, and to actually be next to the fencing was not an easy task.  This photo was taken by Sven actually – he took my camera up to the tippy top when he and C went.  I eventually talked Hubby into going up there with me, we just made it to the first tippy top observation deck.

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At one point we lost B and Jay, they didn’t go up in the tower at all.  WE came back down and they had disappeared.  We paid a cabby 10 euro to use his phone to call them and they had headed back to the train without us.  I guess we spent more time up there than we thought.  After a few photos we high tailed it back to the train station and made it just in time.

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Thanks Paris, for the day.  It was exhausting and exhilarating.  And I think I gained 10 pounds, which I know you don’t approve of – but why do you make your food so dang good!

London England – Day 3… Very Belated

So I’ve had computer issues.  I’ve had work issues.  I’ve had health issues.  But I couldn’t let this trip go unshared, the stories untold, or the pictures undone.  So lets just pretend I’m still there, blogging from a tiny hotel room in Europe, sharing all of this loveliness with you…

We spent most of our last full day in London at the Tower of London.  Google the history and you’ll be amazed.  Basically a tiny city within the city surrounded by stone walls, self sufficient, and the ability to protect itself.  The architecture was gorgeous, the history was mind blowing, and yes, we got to walk into each of those towers because the preservation over hundreds of years old was near pristine.  The jewels of the royal family is also held here – no cameras allowed – but the biggest diamonds I’ve ever seen, most of it way too gawdy for me… not saying I wouldn’t indulge if I was royalty.

There is even a story behind the ravens of London.  Mostly just legend, but none the less, they’ve been raised at the tower for hundreds of years and are seen to protect the crown.  Legend says should the crows ever leave, the crown will fall and London will follow.  That’s a lot of pressure for some birds.

But!  Let me tell you, these birds are no joke.  They no doubt walk around within the tower walls like they own the place, with all the confidence a raven could have.  They are the largest ravens I’ve ever seen, and smart too.  This little kid must have been munching on crisps or something before he stuck his hand back into his mitten before losing it… whatever was in it the raven was going at it with ease and diligence.

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Within the castle walls…

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Everyone wants me to carry the camera kit and take the pictures… but its like pulling teeth trying to get anyone to cooperate when it comes to them being in the photos…

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I’m pretty sure I tripped, tucked, rolled, and got right back up on my feet right after taking this photo (camera unharmed!).  I can only laugh about my clumsiness, though slightly embarrassing.  Week ankles, unsupportive shoes, small feet, I just really don’t know.  I’d like to blame it on the uneven cobblestone ground that is everywhere in Europe.

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Changing of the guard was fun, and loud, and a bit abrasive…   Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.15.30 PM

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I’m a little bit weird when it comes to history and torture chambers and such.  Don’t judge.  I can’t explain it… but this was on of the towers they kept prisoners.  Messages were etched into the stone and still stand in that condition.  You can read some of the confessions or confirmations of the innocence.  Of course we ran out of time before I got to see all of the good stuff… like the actual devices used.

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Part of the original materials used when the tower was being erected.Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.16.21 PM

The London Bridge stands outside the walls, but the view is phenomenal.  Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.16.27 PM

Hubby likes stained glass.  It’s a quiet obsession, I know and it was everywhere within the tower.Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.16.35 PM

There were a few cheesy re-enactors for tourists amusement.  But this guy was good at playing…

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Ever wonder how many times you show up in other people’s photos?

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A very ominous and mysterious photo of B.

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So we ate at The Swan which is one of Hubby’s favorite places to go in London.  Fun Fact: way back when, pubs, restaurants, etc were named after animals because the animals could be drawn.  The photo would identify the establishment and would be easily identifiable to the illiterate.  I hope you can read the sign (not a illiterate joke – more of a photo in web-quality)… again with the history.

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continue: operation Europe mind blown… watch for more posts soon (sooner than the soonest, I promise).

London Day 2… Good eats and amazing views

Time has completely escaped me.  Time and the ability to link to wifi.  Even if I could connect it wouldn’t be like I would choose processing photos and putting together a blog post over getting in my solid four hours of sleep time a night.  The time difference is a killer, by 3am I’m finally sleepy and we are planning our days to begin with the rising sun to get in as much as possible.  At least I have this rooftop balcony view to help me through…

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AND! The amazing European cappuccinos to fuel me.  Never. Have. I.  Had.  Better.

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How to make a English breakfast:  eggs, toast, mushrooms (or peas), hashbrowns, Heinz beans, pork (none for me of course), and condiments.  This is as close to a hot breakfast as you’ll get in Europe… and the eggs are rare.

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Where England wins is dinner: meat pies, fish and chips, more peas, potatoes, beer…

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THIS… OH. MY. GOODNESS… THIS!!   Hands down the absolute best dessert I have EVER had.  Apple Crumble served with piping hot custard.  The apples were fresh.   The custard wasn’t too sweet.  And the crumble was real.  I died a little with every bite knowing it was one bite closer to ending.  I wanted to order a second but ate half of B’s instead.  I will never look at dessert again.

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Before the divine intervention with the dessert, we went to Harrod’s.  The ever famous, ever expensive, ever gigantic shopping mall where a thirty minute jaunt through will find you hustled by hundreds of people, eyed by security, standing in a 15 minute bathroom line, making puppy dog faces at a $600 purse or a $3000 sweater, and exiting with a 2014 Christmas bear from your husband.  It is quite the site, just as dramatic as the rest of London and houses the engagement ring Princess Di was going to receive from her boyfriend whom also happened to be the son of the Harrod’s owner.

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And then we saw lots of pretty structures and buildings:

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And then we trotted through a gigantic park where people were riding their bikes in footie Christmas pajamas…

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We finally happened upon Buckingham Palace.  Photos never do anything justice but they really don’t come close to the extravagance of this building.

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London at night is even more awe-striking.  Just lights and happenings and comings and goings.  Its an entirely new city after dark.  This is the best photo we got of Big Ben and the London Bridge.

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Lastly, Westminster Abbey which also doubles at the absolute best photo I have ever taken to date.  We didn’t get to go inside (Hubby says its amazing) because it was after hours on a Saturday, Sunday they were closed for tours, and Monday we are headed to Paris… maybe next time.  Fun Fact: William and Kate were married here.

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Taking a little break from achy feet as weary travelers before heading to our next stop… wherever that may be.

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