American Southwest Family Vacation

We followed historic Route 66 on our way to see the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, plus much more in New Mexico and Arizona.

End of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Here are our stories from two and a half years of living in Saudi Arabia while exploring the region.

Excursions to Oman

On two different trips, we strolled Muscat, hiked Wadi Shab, and sailed a dhow through the fjords of Musandam.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Our Adventures in Sri Lanka

Safaris to spot leopards and elephants, swimming in the Indian Ocean, sipping tea in the mountains, and several more!

Monday, March 31, 1997

Europe Trip 1997 Summary (E97)

As it turns out, a flight to Europe was cheaper than flying home for Spring Break. So, that's what I did. I visited England, Wales, and the Netherlands.
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5 countries in 22 hours?

Amsterdam, Netherlands
So the next morning I woke up at the time we agreed to make the train, according to the schedule. I told Micah it was time to get up and he muttered something and stayed in bed. I showered, told Micah he should get up, Micah muttered again. I munched some food, told Micah we had 15 minutes before we had to leave, he told me that we had over an hour. All I had to say was "Daylight Savings time" and he flew out of bed. He replied: "OH!" He threw all his stuff together and we were on our way. We got to the train station at 0900.

Today's travel plan is to go from Amsterdam to Brussels, passing thru some part of France to connect to the Chunnel and on to London, then to Boston. Our first train arrived, and we were told that we had to have had our seats already reserved. But the next train would not make it to Brussels in time to make the connection. So we talked to a train guy, and since this particular train was affiliated with Eurostar, he said he could sell us some extension tickets. The tickets cost 42 Gilders. Neither Micah or I had Gilders on us. So I paid in dollars (12 bucks) and Micah paid in pounds (7 sterling). Best money we spent on this trip, and I got a good lesson in the European train schedules & practices.

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The train we boarded, by the way, was the one that we would have been on had we gotten that special pack that was not offered to us when we bought the Eurostar tickets. The "reserved" seat train was mostly empty. The ride was nice, and we saw canals everywhere. We even got offered Chocolate Easter eggs by fellow travelers.

We switched to Eurostar in Brussels and had 30 minutes layover. We saw the countryside during the day this time.
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Sunday, March 30, 1997

One Amsterdam Busy Day!

Brussels, Belgium
   After going thru customs at midnight, we tried to orient ourselves. But there were no staff anywhere. At all. We went out to try and find the hostel, and after walking around for half an hour we satisfied ourselves that:

   A) there were no obvious street signs in Brussels,
   2) We might not be at the same station listed next to the hostel. Midi vs. Nord. Oops.
   III) we would be waiting for the 0443 train to Amsterdam in the station.

There were about 8 other people who did the same thing. The station opened up into the night air, and even in the warmest place, you could see your breath. It was shiveringly cold for the three and a half hours we waited for the train. We tried to sleep, but the two night cleanup people were cleaning the floors so we had to keep moving. We boarded the train at 0447, and it had heat and reclining seats. Ahhhhhh. I sat in front of a Delta Gamma from Berkley. She was studying abroad, and touring with friends. Imagine the sterotypical California Sorority girl. yep. A Russian guy was almost thrown off the train, something to do with his ticket. The conductor had the presence of a Nazi and the police to back him up.
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Saturday, March 29, 1997

Good Friday in England

Southampton, England
The day started off well. We saw a horse in front of the gate of the hostel. We talked to the old folks who were there on holiday.

The cab came around 0825. We caught the bus at 9:25 AM from Ringwood to Southhampton. It arrived in Southhampton around 1010. We caught the 1015 train to London. All the road were packed by people on holiday. Glad we didn't take the bus. Animals seen:cows, sheep, a goat (in the changing of the guard back in london), horses, and hogs.
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Friday, March 28, 1997

Southern England

Monmouth, Wales
We had to catch the bus to Newport, Wales, so we woke up at 0600. No breakfast! They didn't even have showers attached to the place. The showers opened up into the brisk morning Welsh air, which was actually quite pleasant after the hot water kicked in.
Our hostel. Showers are in that addition to the left of the triangle.
At around 0700, we walked down the main street, which was quiet and quite empty. The aroma of freshly baked bread hung on the cool air. We walked from the Newport Bus depot to the train station, and got on a train for Salisbury around 8:40 AM (a whole 20 minute wait).
This picture always reminds me of fresh baked bread.
An old city gate in Monmouth
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Thursday, March 27, 1997

The Wye Valley

We woke up at 0800 to catch breakfast (notice a trend here?). We didn't shower, since there was a line, and we didn't feel too dirty. We checked out of the hostel and went to town. We bought 11 o'clock bus tickets to Chepstow, Wales at around 10 o'clock. Then we went to get some money.
Cardiff Castle
We also saw Cardiff Castle, and while we were in the castle, (around 1045) Micah realized he had left his camera case in the hostel. So he jumped in a cab, and I saw some more of the castle before walking back to the bus station where we'd agreed to meet. Micah got to the bus station 2 minutes before the already late bus would leave.
View from Cardiff Castle keep

We got off the bus in Chepstow and had lunch in a fish and chip shop. We got on another bus to Tintern Abbey, which I put on our agenda based on the poem my class read in high school. As a side note, most buses in Wales seem to be de-commissioned tour buses. We got in to the Abbey just before admissions closed (no Tower of London repeats for us). We took a bunch of pictures.
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Wednesday, March 26, 1997

The Land of Wales

London, England
We woke up around 0800 and on our way to check out of the hostel, noticed that the male/female ratio had changed to our favor. Oh well. Since we had not yet checked out St. Paul's Cathedral it was now or never.
We climbed to the very top of it (above the dome) WITH our packs on. we had to crawl up one very tight staircase.
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Tuesday, March 25, 1997

Tower Time

We woke up at 0800, caught breakfast and switched rooms (hostels are weird that way.) Being an even day, we got to see the changing of the guard, at around 1130. We went back to the Fish and Chip Shop that we ate at before, since it was very close by. Then we cut across town, back to Harrod's, which was open this time, and spent some time there.
After that, we went over to the London Dungeon, which is now just a tourist attraction. After that we crossed the Tower Bridge and walked up to the Tower of London at 1703. The last tickets were sold at 1700. Denied!

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So we went back to the hostel, napped, and then had dinner in Chinatown. We stopped by Soho Square and Leicester (pronounced as 'Lester') Square. We would have gone to the Hippodrome (a club that had a college night on Mondays) but we slept instead.

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Monday, March 24, 1997

London on a Sunday

We woke up at 0900 to catch the last part of the hostel provided breakfast. The choice was between between Traditional English and Continental. We went back to sleep until 1100. The shower was an overhead set-up, and you had to hold the button in to get water. No curtain that I could remember, but each shower was behind a lockable door.

We had Burger King for lunch, which wasn't too good for a county known for its kings. Then set out for Harrod's. It's the oldest, coolest Department Store in London. 1830's, I think. Anyhow, it was closed. So we walked over to Hyde park, and saw the famous "Speaker's corner" where there were all sorts of people speaking to audiences. There was a Nation of Islam group, and an Arab guy shouting "no American Power" among them.
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Sunday, March 23, 1997

Top of the morning to you, too!

Woke up to birds chirping in the sunlight. A pleasant breeze was blowing thru the window. We had a Traditional English Breakfast (beans in tomato sauce, sausage, ham, eggs, toast...neither of us had the beans though), and checked out of the hostel.
We went down to the nearest rail station and picked up some postcards and Weekend Subway passes. It was worth it since we managed to visit Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Picadilly Circus, Fortnum & Mason (the store where the Queen gets her groceries, Buckingham Palace (missed the guards by a couple of hours...only done on even days until later in the spring), and Trafalgar Square (all while wearing our fully loaded backpacks.) We had fish and chips for lunch. We also did not have a place to stay for the night at this point.


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Saturday, March 22, 1997

Britannia Bound!

The journey begins.
The plan is to visit:
  • London, England
  • Cardiff, Wales (Tintern Abbey)
  • Southampton, England (Stonehenge)
(Update: We added Amsterdam to the agenda after we were already in Europe, which tested our schedule's flexibilty.)

I woke up 0530 and did the usual morning thing. Micah Hawthorne (MTH for those Chi Phis) was my travel companion. We got on the "T" at 0630. Boarded the plane at 0835 Boston time, deplaned 2030 London time.

While we were walking through Heathrow, we were wearing our Chi Phi gear, and were asked if we were Chi Phis. Unfortunately, the inquirer was only a Greek Advisor from Albany, and we talked about the chapter there for a minute or so. We hopped on the Tube (London Underground Rail system) at 2100, and got to the hostel at 2300. Talk about a long commute. The hostel was nice, but since were got in so late, I never actually got to talk to anyone. Two of my roommates probably didn't even know I was in there.


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End Of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

We spent two and a half years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on our second tour in the Foreign Service with the US Department of State. As you migh...

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