A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: kcrawf

Home Sweet Home

overcast

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Howdy from America!

Never have the words "home sweet home" meant so much to us as they do this week. On our 300th day (exactly!) we headed home from London to Portland. We're all feeling a mix of emotions being home, like "did we just do that?" or "we WERE gone a really long time!", but mostly we are thrilled to have a home, friends and lives to return to.

For some reason, after all of our careful saving and budgeting for this adventure, we ended up spending our last couple of weeks in 2 of the most expensive cities on the planet. After a fun and sunny week in Provence, we headed for Paris and once again braved the summer tourist crowds in the City of Light. Highlights were frequent trips to the Eiffel Tower (near our hotel), regular morning visits to the patisserie for croissants and pain au chocolat and a trip to one of Emmett's favorites, Playmobil Park.

From Paris, we headed for London. We spent far more time negotiating the Paris train system and Charles De Gaulle Airport than actually flying, but finally made it on Aug. 1. Highlights in London were the Tate Modern Museum, good English beer and a visit to Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station (you Harry Potter fans know what I'm talking about...).

And now home in Portland...thanks to Deb's sister Tristin for meeting us at the airport (and for the goody box!). It's amazing how quickly we have all settled back into our house again and we are all thrilled by even the smallest things: familiar bed, home cooked meals and clothes that are NOT the same we've been wearing for 10 months.

(soapbox statement follows) As we all know, global climate change is an issue we can no longer ignore. We've experienced that first hand as nearly every place we visited was having "unusual" weather as the earth is trying to cope. We've calculated the "carbon profile" for our trip and are using a web-based group called Climate Care to offset our emissions by funding sustainable energy proects. We encourage you, as you make your future travel plans or even after you travel, to do the same. The site is www.climatecare.org.

Thanks to you, faithful blog-reader, we've had over 11,000 hits on this site! Words cannot express our thanks for the support we've received from our family and friends during this adventure. Even though there were only 4 of our traveling, we felt you all there along with us!

Bon Voyage for now...

-The Crawford Family

Posted by kcrawf 20:58 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (4)

The Hills are Alive...

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Bonjour from Provence!

After a generous, fun filled stay with Mirjam in Rotterdam, we headed to the Eastern part of The Netherlands to the town of Enschede to visit even more friends! We met Nicoline and Sander while in Belize last year on our "trial trip" and took them up on their offer to come and stay. While there we toured the countryside by bicycle, shopped at Nicoline's store, visited a Saturday market and played a lot of games with their daughter 4 year old daughter Mara. Again - showered with kindness!

From The Netherlands we headed to Germany for a stay in a castle along the Rhine River. We explored hidden passageways, went for a beautiful hike, ate our fill or Schnitzel and Spatzel, and wandered the rolling hills and forests the country had to offer (a welcome break from the big cities we've been visiting). Oliver spent a good part of the afternoon collecting wildflowers and Emmett built a fort of branches.

Our next stop was Ulm, Germany where we stayed with a giving Servas family, Franz and Renate, who opened their doors to us after we spent an exciting day at Legoland playing and building. We then zipped down the highway to Freiburg where my (Debi's) brother resides during the summer months. We stayed in the city proper for a few nights in a friend's house before heading out to the countryside where Travis lives with a family of 5. Among other things, we celebrated Emmett's 5th birthday, helped feed the cows, picked wild mushrooms, blueberries, and raspberries and had great meals with Tamara, Markus, Mika and the twins.

Today we are ending a glorious week with Keith's entire family outside the small French Provencial town of Cazan. His parents host a reunion somewhere fabulous every two years - a wonderful way to keep the brothers and all of the cousins connected. The beautiful weather has kept us swimming, dining in the cool of the evening with fresh local cuisine and getting to know one another again. What a treat!

Tomorrow we head to Paris to 4 nights, then London for 4 more before returning home. Wishing you all the same blessings at home that have been bestowed upon us here...The Crawfords

Posted by kcrawf 23:33 Archived in France Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Gyros, Gondolas, Gelato & Gaudi

European Vacation...Crawford Style

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Groeten from The Netherlands!

We are fast approaching our ninth month on the road and are all starting to feel a bit anxious for home. We have 5 weeks left to go (fly home August 5) and are excited about the final adventures awaiting us, determined to enjoy every one.

We also wanted to share with you all some of "realities" of travel that don't make their way into the bright and wonderful world of our blog. To be honest, travelling constantly with 2 young kids for a long period of time has its challenges. We've had our share of long bus rides, questionable accomodations and unrecognizable food. Just recently we got on the wrong train, had to hop off at the next stop and spend a fortune on a taxi to race to the airport to catch a flight. We have had more than a few meals where Emmett would order only bread for lack of a better choice. Not to mention the frequent trips to bathrooms that nearly defy description. Top that off with 24/7 family togetherness for 270 days (we love each other dearly but that is a LOT of togetherness) and you've got an idea of some of our challenges. These, however, are the challenges that have made us all appreciate the good old USA (despite the current administration), our city, our friends, our family and mostly each other.

Now, back to the fun... After our last entry we spent a few relaxed days on the island of Syros, Greece. We explored the beaches, rented scooters and enjoyed the great food (yogurt with honey, fresh seafood and gyros).

We then spent 2 great weeks in Italy arriving first in Milan from Greece. Our highlights there were a local pizza place near our hotel (best pizza we've had yet, claims Emmett) and seeing Da Vinci's "Last Supper". We had made reservations weeks before - a must in tourist choked Italy. The painting covers a wall in a small, unassuming church (in what used to be the dining hall of the monks) and is just spectacular.

From Milan we travelled by train to Venice. We stayed in a great old hotel there and enjoyed roaming the narrow pathways, watching how life works in a city with water streets and finding the best gelato shop. We finally decided to splurge and took a gondola ride (80€ or about $110 for 35 minutes!) but it was fun and a great way to learn about the city.

We then travelled to Florence, an amazing city full of history and incredible art. Deb found an apartment for us to rent about 3 blocks from the Duomo. We ate most of our meals in (a treat for us at this point) and the boys enjoyed having a place to call home for a few days. We climbed the Duomo tower (465 steps!), visited the Uffizi gallery (Michaelangelo and Botticelli) and took long walks after dinner.

Our final destination in Italy was Rome. We had booked 2 cabins in a campground in a suburb of Rome as a break from the crowds and city. It had a good pool (which was necessary as it was hot!) and the boys enjoyed having some room to run around. We travelled into Rome (shuttle bus to train, train to subway, subway into city) and joined the masses in visiting the Colesseum and Vatican City. We were all amazed to hear about the crazy events that used to take place in the Colesseum (not the least of which was a fight between a man and a hippo!) The Sistine Chapel is truly incredible and we were glad we braved the crowd and heat to see it.

We then flew from Rome to Barcelona, Spain and a different sort of week. I was fortunate enough to have some good buddies from home fly over to join me for our first ever "International Boys Trip". We had fun taking in the sights, trying the local sangria and even managed a round of pitch-and-putt golf. Travis Dietz joined Deb and the boys (2nd time so far this trip!) at an apartment and they had fun navigating the subway and exploring the architect Gaudi's works like The Sagrada Familia Cathedral, just blocks from their place.

Last night we flew to Amsterdam and are now visiting Deb's friend Mirjam and her family (with whom we also met up in Portugal earlier) in Rotterdam. We are again enjoying unbelievable kindness of our friends as Mirjam has provided us with a place to stay, use of a car and is a great host teaching about all things Dutch.

We look forward to seeing a lot of our friends and family in August when we return and hope you all are having a fabulous summer.

Posted by kcrawf 13:10 Archived in Netherlands Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

Big Birds, Chardonnay and Castles

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Bom Dia from Portugal!

We've returned to the northern hemisphere this month and are all happily enjoying spring time in Portugal. So far our plan of following the sun is working out well as we've had either spring or summer since we left Portland in October.

During the last week of April we finished our time in South Africa along the Garden Route. We watched, fed and the boys even rode Ostriches in the Ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn. We then spent a couple of days in the "Napa Valley of S. Africa" - a town called Franschhoek wishing our wine friends (you know who you are!) were there with us to enjoy some of the fantastic local vintage. Finally, we returned to Cape Town for one last tour - a sobering and moving visit to Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years behind bars. A former political prisoner was our tour guide who shared his story - his spirit of hope and reconciliation was inspiring for us all.

We then flew from Cape Town to Lisbon, Portugal - a beautiful, vibrant, fun city and a great place from which to start exploring Latin Europe. Our Portuguese friend and former Portlander, Patricia Gaspar met us in Lisbon and helped us navigate the city, the menus and the sights. We then drove north to the city of Leiria, Patricia's hometown. Oliver got to spend a day working with Patricia, helping teach English to the local kids. Her family has a beach house in nearby Pedrogao that they graciously offered us as a home base for our visit here. Once again, our friends have shown incredible kindness and generosity. Patricia even did some babysitting for us so we could enjoy a rare night out...Obrigada!

We were joined for a few days by our friends from The Netherlands: Mirjam, Marc, Isabel and Carsten. It was nice for us all to have some friends join us here as we visited the local sights including The Monastery at Batalha, the walled city of Obidos, the University town of Coimbra and the Leiria Castle. The Leiria area is also home to the famous Chapel of Fatima - where, as legend has it, 3 young shepherds were visited by The Lady of The Rosary and then many people witnessed a miracle on May 13, 1917. As this day draws nearer, we are seeing many pilgrims walking (and some crawling on their knees) towards Fatima from the surrounding areas.

We continue our adventure as we head for Spain on May 12th. Missing you all and wishing you a warm and beautiful spring...

Posted by kcrawf 07:51 Archived in Portugal Tagged round_the_world Comments (5)

Where the Wild Things Are

Our adventure continues...

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Sawubona from South Africa!

We are alive and well and now in our 8th country, 3rd continent and approaching our 7th month on the road! We all had a fabulous week in Perth, Australia thanks to our gracious hosts: Amy, Chris, lil' Oliver, Rodney, Clair, Victoria and especially our roommate John who put up with us all invading his home. Thanks to them, we are now fairly well versed in the rules of cricket, know the best fish 'n chips spot in Fremantle and are all huge Bombers fans (Aussie Rules team from Essendon).

We then hopped on another plane and headed due west (for 11 hours!) to Johannesburg, SA. We were fortunate enough to have a great guide and driver from our guest house, Patrick, who showed us around. We visited the township of Soweto, site of famous uprisings during the era of Apartheid and home to some of South Africas most beloved people (Desomond Tutu and Nelson Mandela among others). We visited the hauntingly powerful Apartheid Museum and even got to tour Nelson Mandela's home where he lived prior to being imprisoned.

We then drove northeast about 6 hours to Thornybush Game Reserve, a private game park adjacent to the famous Kruger National Park. We all quickly settled in to enjoy our first (and probably last) 5-star accomodation as a splurge we felt was worthwhile. We spent the next 3 nights and 4 days seeing and learning about the amazing animals, eating fabulous food and enjoying the beauty of Africa. Our daily schedule was up at 5 (!), coffee at 5:30 and then on to the open-air Land Rover for a sunrise game drive. Back for a hearty breakfast around 9, then time for swimming, relaxing until lunch at 1. Tea and coffee at 3:30 and then back out for another evening/sunset drive until about 7, followed by an amazing dinner. Brendan was our Ranger and Rexon our Tracker for our entire visit and we all enjoyed learning from them about life in the bush. We saw almost too many animals to count, but among the favorites were the White Rhino, an entire Pride of Lions, a Leopard and a surprising (and small) favorite, the Flap-necked Chameleon. The safari was a trip highlight that we will not forget...

We then returned to Jo-burg and flew southwest this time bound for Cape Town. We stayed for 6 nights in a small beach town south of the city called Scarborough. From there, we launched day trips to Table Mountain overlooking the city, Boulders Beach and its penguin colony and Simons Town. We are now 500 kms east of Cape Town, along the famous Garden Route in a town called Knysna - famous for its hiking, forests and resident sea creature the Sea Horse. This area looks a lot like Oregon and makes us all a bit homesick, but nothing that a good cup of coffee and a long hike won't cure.

On April 26 we fly to Lisbon, Portugal to begin our final 3 months in Europe. We miss you all and hope our Portland family and friends are starting to dry out from the long wet winter. Until next time....

Posted by kcrawf 08:41 Archived in South Africa Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

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