Merry Christmas from Bert and Patty!

By , December 10, 2010 11:15 am

Gosh, how time flies. It’s Christmas again, can you believe it!? I hope each and every one who is reading this post is happy and healthy and enjoying this holiday season.

And, now that I got that out of the way, I’m not sure where to start so I will start by saying that every year we’ve written a Christmas letter, but this year, we are doing this post instead.

Let’s see, where to start, where to start??!! I think I will summarize the year and what an amazing year indeed. Last year at this time we were heading down the East Coast of Australia: “A Dingo Ate My Baby”, enjoying some fun in the sun, meeting other travelers and getting ready to spend the holidays with our friends Sonya, Aaron and their families/friends: “Our Time In Melbourne”. Aussie holidays are amazing as they are filled with much food (especially meat—can you imagine one meal consisting of roast beef, ham, seafood, sausages, turkey and steak?) and equal amounts of alcohol. These people know how to celebrate life and friendships and do so at the drop of a hat. We really like that and felt so privileged to have gotten to be a part of it.

After a really cool pre-New Year’s party down in Foster with Aaron’s family and friends, we rang in the new year in Sydney with the world famous Sydney Harbour fireworks – from a very special rooftop vantage point where we were able to take in the whole experience: “Waiting for New Years Eve”.  A few days later, we headed over to Asia which started six months of an excellent adventure filled with awe, and admiration. Never in my life have I been in such chaotic places with such lovely, happy people – it was true nirvana.

We loved Indonesia, with all of it’s beauty, kindness, and soothing massages. See our post on it here: “Indonesia – Islands of Paradise”. Ubud, Jogjakarta, Seminyak/Kuta and Nusa Lembongan each treated us with special memories and experiences. Ever snorkeled over a seaweed farm to get to a coral reef? We were even lucky enough to get over to Jakarta and not only see LaLa, but also meet her lovely husband Chris and their beautiful daughter Raissa. While in Jakarta, they took us to a Durian restaurant, where we enjoyed the succulence of the mysterious yet misunderstood fruit – Durian. Paul loved it – Christine thought it smelled and tasted like a rotten shoe.

Malaysia was a gem. We spent Chinese New Year (14 February) in Kuala Lumpur. After over a week of tramping about the city we began to feel like locals. Leaving Kuala Lumpur, we took a longboat out of Kuala Tembeling, we enjoyed the majesty of Taman Negara National Park – at over 130 million years old it’s the oldest tropical rain forest in the world: “Riverboat to the Rain Forest”. We stayed in a $3 hostel in Kuala Tahan, across the river from the National Park, and enjoyed eating at several of many floating family restaurants on the Sungai Tembeling. Leaving Taman Negara, we made our way up to Kota Bharu, then out to the paradise in the South China Sea known as Pulau Perhentian Kecil: “A Utopia Called Perhentian Kecil”. There we overdosed on fantastic foods at waterside restaurants (the roti was our favorite), great beaches and new friendships. Our $10 beach side room spoiled us and made us feel like castaways.

Thailand, our next stop – was as exciting as ever! We were welcomed in with open arms, big smiles and extremely limited broken English. Phuket wasn’t as interesting as we’d hoped and we were excited to get out of there, bypass Ko Samui and get to Koh Tao – another small paradise: “The Ko Tao Conspiracy”. We arrived in Bangkok in early March, coincidently the week the Red Shirt political protests began and after a few days, we got out of town just in time:  “All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go”. In Chiang Mai, a real highlight (aside from Muay Thai: Thai boxing!) was spending an afternoon talking with the monks at Wat Phra Sing Waramahawihan. Ever get a massage from a convict? Christine has . . . ask her about it sometime. Outside Chiang Rai, we were able to stay with an Ahka hill tribe and truly experience the countryside from a locals perspective: “Hilltribin’ in Chiang Rai”.

Laos was a unexpected surprise. What a dream. “A Wonderful Place Called Laos”. We were able to experience the rural life by hiking into remote areas north of Luang Nam Tha and stay with people living in hillside communities and experience a simpler way of life. Simple food, simple fun. In Luang Prabang, we spent an afternoon playing in the Nam Khan River with dozens of local children. The monks we saw and were lucky enough to met were gorgeous, with their saffron robes, simple lives and pure hearted attitudes about life. Ever had your laundry washed in a river? . . . next to a boy taking a poop? . . . next to a lady washing vegetables? . . . Welcome to Laos! We can’t wait to go back!!

Vietnam is a destination that is on the  top of our “we can’t wait to go again” list. We started in the north in the city of Hanoi and, over 30 days,  made our way down the coast to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Along the way, we visiting some of the most gorgeous beaches and met the kindest people: “A Song About Uncle Ho”. While in Ho Chi Minh City and Hue,  I even learned a thing or two about the war that I do not remember being taught in school – an extremely  humbling experience to say the least: “Good Morning Vietnam – Part 1”

Finally, our last stop in South East Asia took us through the delightful and still devastated Kingdom of Cambodia: “Phnom Penh, Cambodia”. It is amazing in it’s own right–the tragic history, a humble country, a proud kingdom, land mines, amputees and of course – Angkor Wat: “Angor Wat”.

Before we knew it, it was mid-June and we were on a plane from Bangkok, heading to the wacky country of Egypt. So different than Asia or anywhere else we had been in that we had to be on guard 24/7: “Cairo: The Scammers and the Savvy”. Seemed like everyone wanted a piece of us. We managed to have a good time seeing the pyramids on camel back: “Walk Like an Egyptian”, snorkeling in the Red Sea with new friends: “Sinai, Snorkeling, and New Friends”,  climbing Mt. Saini all night to see the sunrise, “A Magical Sunrise and Another Crazy Driver”, and taking sunset falucca rides on the Nile in Cairo.

Then, in June, we went to the land of my ancestors, the amazing country of Greece. Holy Cow! What a fantastic destination! We explored Athens: “Strike Four: We’re Out”, Mykonos, Santorini, Anafi: “Santorini and Anafi”, and Crete and had an absolute ball. I was able to spend my birthday whizzing around on a scooter, eating wonderful foods, drinking flavorful wines, and swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea. We were so taken by the natural beauty of the islands, the black sand beaches, zooming around on scooters, wonderful hospitality, and the food that was so tasty that every meal seemed like a feast!

Before we knew it, it was July and we were heading to Brussels to meet up with Dirk and Aimee and had such a great time; good laughes, pancakes, military parades, and endless hands of Uno–it was so great to be with old friends, but the time together was far too short!

After that, we headed to Dublin on 24 July and met up with Barb and Jordyn for a week of fun and discovery. Then, Paul and I rented a car and took a road trip and couch surfed our way around the the island–so much fun. I highly recommend Couchsufring to anyone who wants a local experience. In fact, it is because of Couchsurfing that we totally changed our road trip plan and believe we had a much better time because of it. Then, we spent a weekend with a cool couple we met in Australia and they took us to meet their parents in Donegal which was good fun before they dropped us at Paul’s Aunt Iris’s house in Northern Ireland. We spent the next week or so getting to know Iris, Sharon and Emma. It was a great time listening to stories, sharing stories, and we even rented a car to see Giant’s Causeway.

While visiting the girls in N. Ireland, we got the scoop on a great apartment in Edinburgh–talk about luck. Next thing we know, we had rented an apartment sight unseen. So, we headed to Scotland and moved right into our new pad: “We’re Here!” It was so surreal to go from a small backpack; staying only a couple of nights here and there to all of a sudden having our own two bedroom apartment in Edinburgh. It was gorgeous and perfectly located!


The first order of business was to find a local pub (Barony Pub on Broughton – which coincidently used to be a storehouse that was used – among other things – to keep witches and criminals awaiting execution!). Then checked out the Edinburgh Festival. We were so taken by the beauty of the city with the Edinburgh Castle looming over Princes Street, church spires, the extinct volcano Arthur Seat, the picturesque Carlton Hill, beautiful medieval architecture, wacky looking taxis, double decker buses, and of course, crowds.

This city is so old and beautiful that it actually has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (the old town, circa 1600’s and the new town, circa 1700’s). One of the first things we did was buy bicycles and explore the paths, beaches and further parts of the city. We went to all the museums and even discovered ceilidh’s (which are Scottish traditional dance nights–such good fun), we drank at pubs, walked around the gorgeous streets, played some bingo and, oh yes, we did a lot of job hunting. I won’t bore you with the details of job hunting but let’s just say, the UK is going through a bit of a transition at the moment and getting a job was not as easy as we had anticipated. So, after a few months of kicking around and job hunting, Paul was offered his previous job with a wonderful company back home in Seattle. Christine, along with being homesick, found that her job skills were better in demand back in Seattle,  so we made the decision to head back home in early January 2011.

We are both enjoying the last few weeks here in Edinburgh with the the heavy snows, the gorgeous German Christmas market, ferris wheel, ice skating, yummy mulled wine and exceptional local food (Deep fried Mars Bars, Fish and Chips, Haggis Neaps and Tatties, and of course, whisky!)

We are looking forward to Hogmanay on New Years Eve with Helen and Darraugh where we will dance the night away at a ceilidh and fireworks. We are ever so thankful to have had this amazing year and look forward to going home and having another amazing year. So, that’s it in a nutshell.

With that, I will wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!!!

2 Responses to “Merry Christmas from Bert and Patty!”

  1. Nancy Rickert says:

    Beautiful stories and photos. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures! Can’t wait to see you guys back in Seattle! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  2. Phew, 2010 was quite the ride! We are so happy to have found and followed your blog through our (almost mirrored) journey!! Cheers to an adventure of a lifetime – can’t wait to exchange stories over beers in 2011!

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