Thursday, December 17, 2009

Felices Fiestas!

Happy Holidays! This is our official "holiday card" and we hope it finds you happy and healthy. We had an incredible year traveling around the world! Below are a few highlights from the 17 countries we visited. We look forward to re-joining the economy and having a productive 2010!

Jen & Ryan

Nemrut Dagi, Turkey

Abu Simbel, Egypt

The Monastery in Petra, Jordan

Hiking with Ryan's Dad, Cydne and Jen's Brother at Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Rome, Italy

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Tokyo, Japan

Sydney, Australia

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Mount Cook, New Zealand

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Wine tasting with Jen's parents and brother in Montevideo, Uruguay

Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile

Machu Picchu, Peru

Humantay, Peru

Santa Fe Island, Galapagos Islands

Mitad del Mundo (The Equator), Ecuador

Fourteen day raft trip down the Colorado River with Ryan's Mom, Jim and friends in the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Monday, October 5, 2009


We are home safe in Colorado and it seems I left my creativity on the other side of the ocean. Nothing. I have not a creative ounce in me to write about Jordan. I’ve managed to get Ryan to commit to writing the Egypt blog and Joe to writing the Turkey blog. That means I’ve got Jordan. Jordan, Jordan bo bordan, banana fanna fo fordan, Jordan. That’s it. Not good.

What can I say about Jordan? “Toto we’re not in Kansas anymore.” What was your first clue? Maybe, the Burka clad women? Or, that all the men yelled at me as I started through the security line at the airport and then firmly re-directed me to the separate WOMEN‘s security line. Oops! That said, Jordan was FANTASTIC!

The countryside is dry, sandy, sand colored and a hot 45 degrees Celsius. One night sleeping in a Bedouin Tent in the Wadi Rum Desert was enough to make you dream of snowy Colorado. Life revolves around tea (regular Lipton brand with mint leaves) and we shared it with locals in castles, tiny villages and isolated mountain tops. We indulged in warm kunafa, a Jordanian sweet made from cheese, shredded dough, pistachios and simple syrup. Bobbing in the Dead Sea was like no other experience in our year of travels. With the salinity 9 times that of the ocean, you literally could not sink. In fact, you could barely keep your legs underneath you in the water (it is also the 2nd saltiest body of water on earth after Lake Aral in Djibouti).

Seriously. What can I say about a country reported to have the oldest map of Palestine recorded in a mosaic map on the floor in St. George’s Church (AD 560), the site where Christ was baptized in the River Jordan at Bethany, the spot where Moses saw the promised land at Mt. Nebo, where the first five apostles met and the early foundations of Christian faith were laid. The country speaks for itself. It is progressive, beautiful, welcoming of tourists (including “Americans”), full of incredible food, gracious people and home to Petra.

Petra, Petra bo Petra, banana fana fo Fetra, fi fye fo Fetra, Petra. :) Amazing! Petra deserves its place on the New 7 Wonders of the World list. We explored the Siq and Treasury Building at night by candle light and hiked 8 miles throughout the ruins by daylight starting at 6:30am to avoid the heat (and we still drank 6 liters of water each and only peed twice)!

My favorites:
Ahlan wa sahlan! = welcome or be as one of the family and at your ease

Mensaf = lamb, rice, pine nuts, with yogurt and liquid fat from the cooked meat…..yes, LIQUID FAT! …..and it was tasty!

Free Shipping = Jordan loves their tourists so much that the government pays for all shipping to the U.S.! Joe ‘s handmade mosaic table benefited greatly from this!


Our Photos:

Monday, August 10, 2009


Slithering into the cool glimmering sapphire Adriatic Sea. Diving into bowls full of fresh whole grilled squid and shrimp. Listening to haunting lullabies from the sea organ in Zadar. Staring back at the beady eyes watching us from the full bowl of fried sardines. Eating the best John Dory we’ve ever tasted. Ok, it‘s the only John Dory we‘ve ever tasted and it was the best! Laughing with family on the rooftops, balconies, promenades, cliff sides, atop walls, within palaces, over pizza and while recounting stories of taking the bus instead of a taxi after flying 15 hours to save ten dollars. Ducking in the back seat while Ryan backed the monstrous van back down the one lane dead end hill that Joe navigated him up. Running for a ferry with all our luggage and jumping from the dock to the ferry as it pulled away from shore. Loving our Croatian adventures!

By now I imagine you’re wondering what pants have to do with anything. Well, pants have a lot to do with everything. There are happy pants as we set out to hike around Plitvice Lakes. Grumpy pants after nearly having heart attacks running for the ferry with our luggage. Have I mentioned running for the ferry before? Anxious pants as we’re not sure our gargantuan van will literally fit between the walls of an alleyway. Crazy pants as five adults pile into a convertible cabriolet to 4WD for an hour and a half to the best swimming spot ever (at least that’s what we tell ourselves). Funny pants as we recount our traveling adventures. But, these are not the pants I’m referring to in the title. Those pants have to do with Rick and Cynde (Ryan’s Dad and Step-Mom) meeting up with the Trio in Croatia and going with the flow and flying by the seat of their pants. Other than a hotel reservation in Zagreb for our first night and a car rental, we had NO plans or reservations for the rest of the trip. Rick and Cynde traveling JJ&R style. And, satisfied energized pants came out of the adventure.

Our Croatian adventures began in Zagreb where Rick, Cynde, Joe, Ryan and I all met. Joe’s luggage decided to go partying without him from South Africa to Spain and who knows where else. While waiting for his luggage to appear in Zagreb we decided to take a day trip, in our rented 12 person “passenger van”/mini bus that was more bus than mini, to Lublijana the capital of Slovenia. The van was easy to maneuver in the wide city streets (little did we know what was to come). The city was beautiful and we enjoyed the best pizza of our trip at a river side café.

With only a small hangover, Joe’s luggage found us in Zagreb and we headed out of town. Plitvice Lakes National Park with its numerous crystal clear glowing blue lakes and waterfalls was our next stop. We spent the day hiking through the Unesco World Heritage site. The lakes were like nothing we’d seen before where the mosses and algae absorb calcium carbonate as river water rushes through and the encrusted plants grow on top of each other (called tufa) forming travertine barriers and creating waterfalls. Truly spectacular!

The up and coming city of Zadar was our next stop where the minibus posed the biggest challenge (see photos). Good thing the men are so adept at maneuvering motorized toys! We found a quirky little apartment where we cooked dinner, strung our laundry across the living room to dry and walked a few paces to the Adriatic where Ryan and Rick played. After a couple days there, we packed the minibus and Split (had to get at least one Simms-ism in there :)).

On our way to Split we visited Sibenik, known for its World Heritage site Cathedral of St. James. The cathedral is the sculptor Dalmatinac’s masterpiece with its unusual 71 heads on the exterior walls which are character studies of ordinary 15th century citizens. We also stopped at Krka National Park to see more beautiful waterfalls and lakes with tufa. In Split we landed a fantastic apartment! This place would cost you millions in New York! The apartment along with much of the living thriving population of Split is located within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace. The palace itself is has served as a military fortress, imperial residence, fortified town and is another Unesco World Heritage Site with the Roman ruins covering 31,000 sq meters. We said goodbye to the minibus in Split and opted for other modes of transportation.

To the islands by foot and ferry we traveled (good story, you should ask Rick about it). We don’t recommend running down the dock yelling for the ferry crew to hold the ferry and being the last passengers to jump aboard. Do you know that I had visions of jumping from the dock to the ferry boat with my backpack on, not quite making it and being suspended in air wedged between the two until I plummeted to my death below being drowned by the weight of my backpack. Good thing I handed my pack over before I jumped and we all made it on board with about 2.5 seconds to spare. Korchula was our island of choice and where we stumbled upon another fantastic apartment (dirt cheap) with an ocean view run by a sweet family who provided us with flasks of their homemade wine. After more swimming in the Adriatic, dining sea side on fresh mussels, oysters and fish we headed to Dubrovnik.

One more short ferry to the main land (we didn’t have to run for this one) and we made it safely to Dubrovnik. We enjoyed more great food, swimming (see a theme here?) walking the great wall and strolling the Stradun. The 400 steps up to our apartment gave us an incredible view of the city from our balcony, prime viewing of the Maltese Falcon that came into port and nice buns, too.

By going with the flow, having patience and being flexible we were able to have an outstanding trip. We could go where we wanted , when we wanted. Rick could run to the market to retrieve delicious bakery and produce items for our breakfasts. Cynde could stroll and photograph at will. Joe could nap under a shady tree near the sea. And, Ryan and I could do laundry, hanging our clean pants in the sun to bask in the warmth of a beautiful Croatian day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


After returning to mainland Italy from Sicily, we visited Alberobello (at the top of the heel of the boot). Alberobello is not on most tourist itineraries, but is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to trulli unique buildings. Trullis are made out of limestone with conical roofs and were originally constructed without mortar so that the homes could be quickly disassembled to avoid taxation. We enjoyed walking the streets and eating more great food including braised baby octopus, a local specialty.

Next, we traveled north to the Piedmont area near Turin (Torino). This region is famous for its mountains, sweet hazelnuts, Nutella, chocolate, Martini, the Slow Food Movement, FIAT, truffles (the mushrooms) and wine (including the sparkling Asti Spumante). Do we need to say more?! Everyone should travel here. We stayed in Asti and took day trips to the surrounding areas. A cooking class in Neive was a highlight that involved one-on-one time with the chef and learning to prepare meals such as fillet of rabbit with rosemary and garlic. We made our own pasta that was served to us during a 6 course lunch (each paired with a wine from their vineyard) to complete our class. In Turin, we explored the city via a chocolate tour. Yes, chocolate tour! The tour consisted of walking from historic café to historic café sampling the famous Turinese chocolates. In Alba, we learned about black and white truffles with their bold evolving flavors and hope to cook with them in the future.

We left Italy with a bang! Our one day in Rome, before flying to London, was incredible! Luca (a friend of my Sister In-Law--Jodi) and his girlfriend Michaela, both who live in Rome, toured us around the city in style. We covered 10 miles on foot, ate at their favorite (and best) gelato shop near the Pantheon, toured churches with Caravaggio paintings, ate at local restaurants, fell in love with a “completo” (shot glass lined with Nutella with espresso poured in and topped with whipped cream) and revisited a few sites we‘d seen on previous trips and enjoyed even more the second time. What an amazing day! Thank you Luca and Michaela!!!!!

Buon Viaggio!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I have delayed writing about our time in Sicily because I feel like I just can’t do it justice on paper. You really have to live, breath, feel and taste Sicily. It is the ultimate place of simplicity and contrasts coming together to make one perfectly harmonious experience. If you can understand the title, I mean really understand the title, then you will get Sicily.

The deep red velvety liquid dances on your taste buds as it flows from a white Dixie cup. A white plastic Dixie cup?! How could the nectar of the gods be served in a little white plastic cup? And yet in Sicily, how could it not? There could not be more of a contrast between the deep crimson liquid and the white plastic. And yet it couldn’t be any more perfect or taste any better than just as it is paired with the Pasta Alla Norma at the Mom and Pop restaurant in a back alley in Palermo, Sicily. In Sicily, there is no need to dress things up to make them appear better than they are. You don’t need crystal to bring out the wines beauty. You just need to close your eyes, gulp it all in, and savor the raw and honest flavors.

In Sicily, tomatoes don’t get dressed up to the nines to go out with Tagliatelle, but rather they go as they are, bold, sweet, delicious and maybe with a little olive oil and basil. One bite and BAM!….Tomato! Fruits and vegetables taste like they‘ve had sun on them. The egg yokes are the most brilliant orange color. The chocolate is spicy and direct from the chocolateria. Nothing is marked “organic” because everything is right out of a field and they would not have it any other way. Complexly flavored pasta is made from 3 simple ingredients of the right freshness, quantity and preparation.

Sicily is a place of extremes. The largest gruffest man spends his day making intricate marzipan works of art in the shapes of fruit that cannot be distinguished from the real thing. People are so passionate when having conversations, that I swore two men were about to get into a fight in a restaurant. It turns out they were just sharing a story about Grandma. Every Sicilian man is seen wearing designer sunglasses--Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Carrera---which it turns out can be purchased for 10 Euros at a market that does not exist. The dark and dilapidated streets are full of vibrant life and energy with music, voices and laughter. The smallness of their homes is inversely related to the fullness of their lives. The darkest of darks and the lightest of lights. The extremes balance themselves in harmony.

We traveled to Sicily armed with our newly refreshed Italian language skills and a desire to experience new places. We had no expectations and were rewarded by our interactions with people who live their lives with passion. A passion that Sicilians exude in their daily lives, in conversations with friends, in picking out fresh food for the days meals and in pouring their wine into plastic Dixie cups. We left Sicily with a different perspective of how to live our lives and took a few good recipes, too!

Friday, June 5, 2009


I like to joke that I left Joe and Ryan in charge of writing the blog for South America from November/December 2008 so that they can take the blame. I’m not sure that I actually told them they were responsible for the blog until a month or so after the trip. Yet still, 5 whole months have gone by and they’ve yet to produce a blog. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to rescue them so they’ll be indebted to me :) .

The story below really did happen and to be honest was a very small part of our time traveling with my parents in South America. It just so happens that for me the one dark and dramatic event is much more exciting to explore and elaborate on in writing than the 1,000 happy and fantastic times we had together. Hmm….what does this say about my imagination? And, why am I revealing this? Oh, well.

After the story I’ve tried to highlight our time with my parents traveling from Valparaiso, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, by boat through the Straight of Magellan and the Beagle Channel. My parents flew home from Buenos Aires and we spent a few more weeks traveling to Iguazu Falls and Mendoza, Argentina.


Sitting in a South American Police Station. How did I get here. It was more of a statement than a question. You should avoid police stations, I thought to myself, especially in other countries. You never can be too sure which one’s are going to help you. Minutes ago we were sitting with our parents and my husband having a coffee at an outdoor café and now my brother and I are in the police station. The police station in Santiago, Chile. Am I dreaming? Did the nice man really return to the café and ask us to help him by going to the police station? As we walked to the police station he said that he was a nurse and worked at a nearby hospital. Surely he is trustworthy, after all he helps people for a living. How did he know to come back to the café to get us? Hmm. Maybe I should ask him.

He says that he saw the whole thing. My brother holding the camera to take a photo. The young man running by and snatching the camera. My brother chasing after him. Me following close behind. And then the old guy with white hair decided to chase after everyone. Why did the old guy have to do that the nice man asked? He said that it wasn’t right that the young man snatched the camera, but if the old guy had a heart attack chasing after everyone it would be a tragedy. The nice man said he had to run after all of us to make sure he was there to help if the old man had a heart attack because he is a nurse. We laughed. Yes, laughed. A good honest belly laugh. It’s ok we told the nice man as he looked at us in horror. The old man with the white hair is our Dad and he is in the best shape of all of us. He could chase the young man for miles. Really?, said the nice man. Yes, really, we replied chuckling to ourselves.

The police sergeant took one look at my brother and said you a boxer, huh. My brother quickly and honestly replied no, American Football. Ah, the sergeant said with a grin and immediately became more at ease with us. Good answer I thought as I stared at the thieving young man’s bloody nose and made a mental note that my brother’s prompt response helped us dodge an unforeseen bullet. We recounted the events to the police sergeant in one part Spanish, two parts English with the nurse translating and 3 parts charades until the sergeant understood the mornings events.

Thinking about that bloody nose and those wild dazed eyes makes my skin crawl. The thieving young man had a bad morning. What was he thinking stealing a camera out of a big strong man’s hands? I bet he wishes now that he had chosen a different path for his day. I imagine the young thief thought he was home free when he rounded the corner at the end of the block with the camera in his hands. I’m sure he was smelling victory when he rounded the second corner. Then from his hiding place behind the pillar, the thief thought where on earth did the big guy come from when he spotted my brother running up the street. And, why in the hell is the girl chasing after him yelling donde esta el hombre?! Donde esta el hombre?! Mi camera! Mi camera! The thief’s heart had to sink in his chest as he saw not one, but two, three, all of the people on the street pointing to him as he hid behind the pillar.

As I look back on the event, I think this is the point in time that the group mentality began to take over. You know the mentality when all logic and reason go by the wayside and nice peaceful strangers turn into a cruel violent gang. This metamorphosis took place before our eyes. The thief waited until my brother was about even with the pillar when he made a break for it in the direction from which we had just come. As my brother turned to run after the thief a nice man on the street struck out at the thief kicking him in the leg and slowing him down enough so that my brother put on the full lineman wrap around tackle taking the thief to the ground. Without warning the angry mob descended. Punching, kicking, screaming the dark wrath of the mob connected with the thief’s body lying underneath my brother’s. My dad arrived on the scene ready to fight off the mob to protect my brother and he realized that each connecting blow from the mob targeted the thief and miraculously left my brother untouched. Through the chaos, my dad recovered the camera from the thief.

Then came the sobering blow. One mobster landed a full force kick to the thief’s head. Whoa! Stop! Pare! No mas! No mas! My dad, brother and I all yelled. Enough! The dark magic mob trance was broken. In a matter of seconds the entire group dispersed. The thief jumped to his feet with a wild dazed stare and a bloody nose. The mob regained their former selves and a few people asked if we were ok. Without skipping a beat, everyone walked off and returned to their daily business.

As we walked away, I remember wondering if we should call the police. I looked around to try to get a signal from someone, any local person, to instruct us as to what we should do. This isn’t my country. I don’t know how things work. I looked to them for help. No one made any indication that anything should happen except going on their merry way to continue their day. In retrospect, I see my error. I was looking for an indication as to the right thing to do. I was looking to the mob for my answer. Probably not the best place to look given what they had just participated in.

The thief’s day got even worse. As he was walking a few blocks from where the camera recovery took place, he happened to walk down the street where the police station was located. At the exact time that the thief walked past, the nurse who saw the whole event walked by, too. The nurse indicated to the policeman standing in the police station doorway that the thief had just stolen a camera a few blocks away. The thief was arrested and the nurse was told to provide witnesses or the thief would be released in 24 hours. Thus, the nurse returned to our table at the café where my husband had been left to protect my mother and my purse while the rest of us ran off to the circus.

We learned our lesson from the “camera incident” (as we lovingly refer to it). We are always careful with our valuables and now we are even more careful. And, if we are put into a similar situation again, we’ve all agreed not to chase after the thief.

Santiago, Chile
-Mom and Dad flew in to meet us, government strikes prevented us from some of the sightseeing as all the parks/monuments were closed, ate great steak w/ Roquefort sauce at Le Assassins…..twice.

Valparaiso, Chile
-Stayed at the Hotel Brighton perched on the cliff top, rode the 1800’s ascensor that hugs the cliff side, cruise departed from here.

Vina del Mar, Chile
-Beautiful beach town, visited the museum containing 1 of only 2 Moai not on Easter Island.

Puerto Montt, Chile
-1st stop on cruise, walked around town.

Puerto Chacabuco, Chile
-Beautiful views.

Straight of Magellan
-Beautiful mountains along the channel, penguins swimming next to the boat.

Punta Arenas, Chile
-Saw thousands of Magellanic penguins (characteristic coloring)

Ushuaia, Argentina, and Tierra del Fuego
-Ate wonderful king crab. King crab is only found here and Alaska.

Beagle Channel
-Six glaciers lined the channel, two of them came to the waters edge.

Cape Horn
-Rough seas with weather that completely changed within minutes.

Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
-Very British, enjoyed beer in a pub, toured museum dedicated to the Falkland Conflict.

Puerto Madryn, Argentina
-Visited wildlife reserve with Elephant Seals on Peninsula Valdes.

Montevideo, Uruguay
-Beautiful vineyards, fantastic lunch at a winery with wine pairings, beaches, tour guide told us that people here strive to own their own apartment and banks don‘t provide mortgages .

Buenos Aires, Argentina
-Recoletta Cemetery, the best steak we’ve ever eaten at Cabrerra’s Restaurant, incredible malbec wine (Luigi Bosca a favorite) and panqueques (crepes) con dulce de leche. Yes, it was all about the food!

Mom and Dad flew home.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina
-Hundreds of beautiful waterfalls and the big Garganta del Diablo (on par with Niagara, Victoria and Angel Falls). Absolutely amazing! One of our favorite places!

Mendoza, Argentina
-Malbec, malbec, malbec. Oh, and steak, too.

We flew home for the holidays and had a fantastic time seeing family and friends!


Photos Chile (mostly):

Photos Argentina:

Monday, May 25, 2009


How many smellies can one person be,
You say one maybe two or three possibly.
Traveling the world can make one see,
Seven smellies I am, I am you will see.
One smelly for my feet that will make you want to cry.
One smelly for my shoes that will make you want to roll over and die.
Two smellies for my pants that are difficult to describe,
And, I likely won’t reveal them without a big bribe.
Three smellies for my shirt of toil, dirt and sweat,
That have unknowingly become the ultimate triple threat.
One smelly for my mouth that could be fixed in a minute,
If only my toothbrush didn’t have mold in it.
See you think traveling the world is always happy and fun,
But sometimes the smellies make you feel done.
You pray for a washer instead of woolite in the sink,
And, dream of bounce freshness instead of the stink.
To the rescue comes a maiden with smelly good lotion,
Let’s hope it will work like a magic potion.
Banishing the smellies from the kingdom forever,
May require a bonfire or something more clever.
So come meeet us traveling if you’re brave enough to see,
That you too can have smellies, seven smellies with me.