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, July 14, 2008

Tour de France, Mountain Stage



One of the best things about Europe is that you actually have the chance to see the Running of the Bulls and the Tour de France in the same week. And that's what we did.
We drove up to the base of the Col du Tourmalet to check out the parking situation yesterday, and in the process got cut off by a white cow meandering in the fog. But it's safe to say that there's no parking at the top of the mountain and we were in for a hike on race day.

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The hike up wasn't so bad. The most unexpected thing about this experience was the preponderance of camper vans that had parked the day earlier. I mean, we're kind of in the middle of nowhere, but look at all the people:
Because we had to get here early and won't be leaving until late, I brought along some material to study for my Professional Engineer exam. But I got a little light headed from the altitude. Probably could have thought that through a little better.

We also brought along our new video camera, and were still learning how to use it. I ended up not taping the cyclists as they slowly passed by me at the top of the mountain. What I recorded instead was everything before and after they passed, because I thought the indicator meant I was recording, but it meant it was paused.

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Later that evening, we were in a restaurant and heard "Happy Birthday" in four different languages (French, German, Spanish, English) by patrons singing for a little kid.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Hiking around Spain

On our way back to Castillo after watching the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona's festival of San Fermin, we thought we might as well get out and hike a bit in the beautiful Spanish countryside.


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Like I said, we were coming from the festival...
Normally we don't wear white to go hiking.
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The Running of the Bulls

The parties went on all night. And it appears that everyone who was drinking is now lining up to be chased by bulls. Apparently, the sun also rises on those lacking common sense. To be fair, I would be down there getting ready to run (but sober) if Kacey hadn't forbid me to. Also, it seems a little unfair that only men are encouraged to run.

From our spot just above the shrine, we could see where the bulls would be coming from (just down the street to the left) and where everyone would be running to (just down the street to the right).

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A little ceremony in front of the shrine just before the start.
The crowd and officials gathered beneath our position to perform a little ceremony at the shrine of San Fermin, then they all pushed up to a line to await the release of the bulls.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pamplona & Castillo

We flew into Biarritz, France yesterday and picked up the smallest rental car we'd ever seen to take us to Pamplona. But it got great gas mileage and that's what we needed it for. We drove down to our bed & breakfast in Castillo, Spain. Seriously, this town looks like it's straight out of Don Quixote. Cobblestone alleys winding past old wooden doors and stucco walls.
Today, we explored Pamplona and the San Fermin festival. You might know it as "the running of the bulls." We were prepared with our all-white outfits and purchased some red scarves to complete the ensemble. We thought about trying to push our luck with pale khakis, but we would have looked ridiculous next to everyone else in white. You might notice some folks wearing green scarves, we think that it's because they're Basque. We rolled into town rather late, so we didn't see the bulls today, but we did stay up all night in a prime location over the shrine to San Fermin, which is the starting line for the correadors...those running with the bulls.
This is the starting line for the Running of the Bulls.
We had a great view from our spot just above this photo.

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FYI: it's really hard to keep all white outfits clean while napping on the public sidewalk. Here are some more pictures from the festival (the actual running of the bulls is has it's own post).
That bull's got some major cajones to pose like that.

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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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