Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What's the English Word for...?

The following is an excerpt from our forthcoming travel book, "While We're in the Neighborhood"

by John

One Semester of high school Spanish does not prepare you for driving through Spain.  "Si", "No", "Gracias" and "Donde esta el bano?" is pretty much the extent of my bilingualism.  So as we got ready for a 2002 driving trip that would take us from Barcelona to the French Riviera, we thought it would be a good idea to get one of those electronic translators.  Select your 'language from' and 'language to', type in the word or phrase and, Voila!  You have your instant translation.  (By the way, what's the English word for "Voila"?)

The translator works just fine when you're strolling through a tourist attraction or sitting in a restaurant, when you have time to casually type in the word you're looking for.  But when you're cruising down the Spanish version of an Interstate at 70 m.p.h. with highway signs flying by, well... not so much.

We arrived in Barcelona by train from Madrid and picked up our rental car.  After a couple of days driving our way around the coastal city with few problems, we set out on our journey along the Mediterranean toward Nice, France.  Shortly into the drive, we were able to discern from the signs (even without the aid of our translation gadget) that we were going to have a choice of two roads that would get us to the same destination.  What we couldn't figure out was one additional word on the signs: peaje.  That was our choice.  To peaje or not to peaje.

I was at the wheel while Ann was gamely trying to find the translator and set the proper 'from' and 'to' languages.  The exit was fast approaching.

"What's peaje mean?" I pleaded.

"I don't know," she said.  "I'm not there yet."

But the exit was, and a decision had to be made.  I guided the car toward the sign that said peaje. There was no turning back now.  We were headed for the Spain/France border via peaje, whatever that meant.

Just then Ann shouted, "Toll!  It means toll!"

Merde!  That's not Spanish, but it was appropriate under the circumstances.

Like our Facebook Page here.
And Follow us on Twitter:

Monday, June 16, 2014

"How Far Away Have You Traveled?"

by John
Our path around the world starting in Indy. 14 airports in 14 days.

That's the question we got from our waitress at dinner the other night when the subject of travel came up and we indicated that we had traveled rather extensively.  I don't think we've ever had that particular question. We always get "What's your favorite place?" or "Have you ever been to________?"  (Italy and probably, respectively).  But the way this question was phrased was a new one.  "How far...?"  My initial response was, "As far as we could, because once we had gone so far, we were on your way home."

I was thinking of the classic riddle:
How far can you walk into the woods?  The answer: Half way. After that you're walking out of the woods.

That was the case on a trip back in 2010 that took us around the world (see the accompanying flight path nearby).  Ann wrote about it in a previous Excellent Adventure post.  Now, even though we can officially say we joined the Circumnavigator's Club, I suppose we didn't technically go as far away as physically possible on the planet.  That would be the exact opposite side of the globe from Indianapolis; a point somewhere in
The farthest away spot.  Flight 370?  Maybe.  Ann & John?  No.
the southern Indian ocean.  Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 might have made it there, but not us.  Yet.

It is an intriguing question, nonetheless.  So we'll ask you.  How far away have you traveled?

Click here to Like our Facebook Page.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Day in Petra

Ann likes to say, “I’ve never met a ruin I didn’t love.”  That’s why we often plan our trips around seeing world-renowned archeological sites, like Pompeii, the Parthenon, and the Pyramids.  (What the… do all the great ruins start with ‘P’?)  Well, add another one to the list: Petra, Jordan.  Petra is the city carved from the mountains in an area of southern Jordan called Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses).  It’s most recognizable structure is the Treasury, made famous in the scene near the end of Indiana Jones and the LastCrusade.  You may have seen it and assumed it was a Hollywood back lot.  No, it’s the real deal… and then some.  Petra isn’t just The Treasury.  It’s a vast complex of caves, tombs, stairs, and temples, all carved into the pink sandstone in the 3rd century BC by the people known as Nabataeans.
 Ann first visited Petra some 40 years ago on a trip with her family, so it was way past time for a return visit for her and my first.  Our trek to Petra was part of a G Adventures tour of Jordan and we spent a full day hiking more than 17 miles up and down the treacherous stairways, through the narrow passages, and in and out of the ancient tombs.  What follows are some of the visual highlights of our breathtaking (literally and figuratively) experience.

The narrow canyon that leads to The Treasury
and the rest of Petra.
Ann & John in front of the iconic Treasury.
A 2-hour hike up 650 steps and across some
treacherous plateaus got us this rare view of
The Treasury from above.
This is an amphitheater - like the rest of Petra - that
was carved out of the existing rock.
These are known as the Royal Tombs.
A closer look at one of the Royal Tombs, this one
called the Silk Tomb.  It takes its name from the
colorful ribbons of ancient stone that are said
to look like silk fabric.
Perhaps the most impressive structure at Petra, The Monastery.  For scale, note the people standing in front.
You can also see by the outcropping of stone on the right side of the picture how deeply this building was
carved into the mountain.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Perpsective on Snow

"In December it was pretty.  Now it's just a cold bucket of suck.  #winter"

                 (l)Yellowstone.                (r)Cold bucket of suck (aka, our driveway)
That was a Tweet from our friend Greg Cooper on January 20th that pretty much sums up this winter in Indiana.  The first gentle snowflakes of the holiday season gave way to January's Polar Vortex and all it entailed: endless school and business closings, road closings, sub-zero temperatures, etc.  And just when we're about to get to temps above freezing that might actually start to melt the permafrost that's been on our driveway for weeks, there's talk of another Snowmageddon on the way.  Wonderful.

Ann & John at the Grand Tetons
Earlier this month we decided to escape the snow and cold of Indiana and visit... the snow and cold of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  The big difference between the snow and cold of Indy and that of Jackson Hole is that it was by choice.  Oh, that, and the beauty and grandeur of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  That's a little different, too.

You see, whether you enjoy snow or dread it is a matter of perspective.  Shoveling snow: bad.  Playing in snow: good.  And when you're in Jackson Hole there are any number of ways to play in the snow.  Skiing.  Snowboarding.  Tubing.  Something for every skill level and adrenaline junky.  We chose to snowmobile through Yellowstone National Park.  Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours was our guide on the full-day tour of this beautiful national treasure that took us through the scenic, snow-covered forest,

past the numerous waterfalls and cascades,

around the steaming pools of Yellowstone's many geyser basins,

across the Continental Divide

John, Ann and Ann's son Zack (front)

and finally to Old Faithful herself.

Wow, this thing really blows

During our stay, we also fit in some snow tubing (we don't ski), a drive through the Tetons and a side trip to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival.
Zack, Ann & John stargazing at Sundance

Under the right circumstances (Jackson Hole), snow is either the direct source of the fun or simply a nice accent.  Under the wrong circumstances (Indiana), it's a cold bucket of suck.

Click here to Like our Facebook Page.