Category Archives: Travel

Kep, Cambodia

This was just sitting in my drafts..I guess it didn’t post.

A few weeks ago Matt went to Kuala Lumpur for a teacher course and I got left behind:( So instead, I had a weekend getaway in Kep with some friends.

Kep is one of the towns of the ocean famous for its crab. We drove down on a Friday (it takes about 3 1/2 hours) and spent the weekend in a jungle-y lodge spending time at the pool, ocean, and eating crab.

 

You can hover over some of the pictures to see the caption…

 

Aside from ocean and crab there is lots of things you can do in Kep. There is a pepper farm, national park, island day trip, the beach and probably more with research.

I guess next time I will bring Matt with me.

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Home Away from Home

I’m currently sitting in the Singapore airport waiting for the last leg of our flight. Folks, Singapore airport is as good as you’ve heard! There is loads of shops, a butterfly garden, a movie theatre and free massage chairs. Also, I am watching someone garden the many many orchids as we speak.

But, that’s not what this post is about…I figured I’d give a few shout outs to Mallorca before they drift away in the chaos to come.

I was really, I mean REALLY looking forward to Spain this summer. Particularly the Paella! We did hit up some of our old favorites, but we tried some new things too. I am about to embark on a post about food and drink, but yes, TCNJ didn’t disappoint either. We had great classes, classmates and professors. Now we are just one course away from being Master and Master Hansen.

Our biggest hit of the summer was vermouth. Have you ever had vermouth on its own before? We hadn’t. We often have cocktails with vermouth, but apparently Spain is really into vermouth. You can get it on tap! And it costs less that 3 euro!

This is our favorite vermuteria. They give you chips with hot sauce…odd…and look at the food goods in the back round.

We also tried a new wine bar. Knowing my readers, this is an activity that would really take off. They give you a card and you can choose from any of the 48 wines they had. You can choose from a sample, half glass or full glass. At the end of the night, you settle your card. It is a fun way to learn how different grapes might taste.

Here are a couple of others snaps:

I was thrilled to see this house. In past summers it was run down and boarded up. Looks like the city of Palma decided to fix it up!

I took this rather crooked shot in Cala Figurea. We have been there each year for a walk around the fishing village and a sea side lunch. But come on…look at this boat garage. Literally everything is beautiful!

Bowling League

Someone at our school put together a bowling league for the month of Ramadan. Since we all get to leave work at 1:30pm everyday, it is the perfect time for an afternoon bowl!

Well, I know how much Matt loves to bowl (how many readers have been to a Matt Hansen bowling birthday?) so we signed up, but I am a bad bowler! And a grumpy bowler. The first day, I bowled like a 65.

Well all that has changed! Turns out all it took was a little consistent practice to become a pro. To no surprise Matt bowled the highest individual score of 203 (10 pin). But…guess who scored the second highest individual score…ME! a 175!!!! (There were about 20 bowlers by the way.) We also both bowled turkeys once in the four days.

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Photo evidence. Who knows how these skills will transfer to my historically equally poor showing at 5 pin bowling.

 

Winter in Amsterdam

I don’t even know when I wrote this…It’s been sitting in the drafts for ages. Here is a little blast from the winter.

When we flew back to Canada for Christmas, we scheduled a stop over in Amsterdam for two days. The first challenge was clothing. In preparation for the negative temps in Canada, the moderately chilly Amsterdam prepared us, though we only have a few warm clothes with us. Thanks to International Day, I was sporting my Canada mittens and my favorite stylish winter hat. We both had long johns, but it was still a bit nippy.

Over the course of the two days, my priority was to hit a Christmas Market. Although many of the best ones were out of town…we found this gem. I mean…if it has mulled wine over an open fire, what else do you need?

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Like many of our trips, there was a heavy focus on food and drink, but as we walked to our tasty destinations, we enjoyed the little shops, many, many bikes and quaint buildings and canals. It was a really nice way to prepare for Christmas. We also went to the Van Gogh museum. We chose it over the Rijks museum, because the sheer size of Rijks was intimidating for us museum newbies. We chose to focus on just one artist, and it was fun.

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On our way back from Canada, we had a 12 hour layover in Amsterdam again! I highly recommend taking advantage of this stop over since it only takes 20 minutes by train to get from the Airport to downtown, which is a popular area. This time around, we opted for a fancy lunch, which turned into a 15 course tasting menu! The chef even asked for feedback on the dishes. Though others would probably choose to spend their 12 hours in a different way…I have no complaints.

Ferrari World

Well, our time in the UAE is gradually coming to a close, so it’s time to check off some of those tourist must dos. Cue: Fastest Roller Coaster in the World.

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Ferrari World is a Ferrari themed Park. The rides are all transportation themed, and it is meant to feel like walking through the streets of Italy.

Being roller coaster fans and crowd fearers, we arrived at Ferrari World when it opened. Coasters are better when you don’t wait in line. We hit up three coasters including the FASTEST IN THE WORLD. It was pretty fast, though not our favorite one. We went on a couple more less scary rides, and thought we would maybe go back on the fast ones again.

Then…

We went on a 4D ride. Major mistake Brittney! As Matt and I stumbled off the “Family Friendly” movie ride, it was really a question of who felt more sick. We were both very queasy, nauseous and shaky. Apparently these big kids can only stomach the fast rides.

So home we went. Haha don’t worry, we had fun and we still like roller coasters.

The Rest of Jordan

Don’t hate me for putting in the rest of Jordan into one post. I have a few posts of the UAE that I wanted to share with you, so I want to wrap this spring break up! There were three more things we did in Jordan beyond what you already read. 1. Karak Castle. 2. Bethany Beyond the Jordan and 3. Little Petra.

Why no Dead Sea you ask…IT. WAS. CLOSED! Bizarre I know. How can one close a body of water? There was a Arab World Leader’s Summit while we were there, so the road and hotels were closed:( Oh well.

Here is the Karak Castle slide show. I said it once (twice?) and I’ll say it again… I love castles with no roped off areas. Are we allowed to follow this ancient hallway? Always yes.

Also, shout out to Matt. Nice photos!

Not pictured it the photos was the straight drive up a mountain to get to this place. I swear you would burn a clutch out (does that sound like I know mechanics?) in one month (one day if I drove) in this place.

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After a long drive back from Petra, we stopped at Bethany Beyond the Jordan for a tour. Since the River Jordan is the border between Jordan and Palestine this was a military controlled area. In one spot, there was a rope across the river!

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This is the Baptismal site of Jesus by John the Baptist. The ruins are of 4 churches that have stood here over time. Originally, this was part of the River Jordan, but the river has naturally moved. Now, the site is still over a fresh water spring. Matt went for a dip in the River Jordan where it lies now.

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This is the River Jordan now, and you are looking into Palestine. The church in the distance is across the border.

These last photos are of Little Petra, which is about 20 minutes from the Petra entrance. Remember, Petra is a city, is goes quite a ways. We went here on the first day we arrived at our camp. I consider it a little teaser of the big event.

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What you see from the road. It really gets you pumped up for the adventure that awaits!

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…it wasn’t. Haha but great advertising.

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I loved spotting little stair cases high in the rocks. I like spending time imagining what was there in its prime.

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I really wanted this one to be its own post, just to take you back to the charming Congo days. This photo deserves it’s day in the sun!

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Traffic Jam

 

 

Petra

I find that many people have heard of Petra but don’t really know much about it. If you have seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade you have seen the most popular building in Petra where he drinks from the cup.

But, Petra is so much more. First, Petra is not the building you know, it is the name of the ancient city. We walked between 7 and10km through the ancient city. It is crazy how many buildings there are laid into the rock. And, you can climb where you like. See stairs…will climb. The Treasury (From Indiana Jones) and The Monastery are the most architecturally beautiful buildings…you can’t go in those, but you can explore everywhere else.

Not only did the Bedouins live in these rock caves up until recent, different historical civilizations built in the area throughout the past 2000 years. Again, my apologies…dates just don’t stick in my head.

My last little niglet if you plan to see Petra: GO EARLY! It opens at 6am I believe. We arrived around 7:30ish and is was still pretty empty…and not hot. There were places where we asked ourselves: “Are we allowed to walk there? No one is there…” But on our way back there were people everywhere. After walking through the sites, we headed out around 12:30pm and it was packed!

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We had to climb many stairs to see the Monastery. This is the view from the top…looking down on where we had been before. We had already visited those building in the distance that morning.

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The Monastery. Stunning. I didn’t even know it existed. It is an uphill climb to get there. Some people don’t see this one since it is a bit out of the way, where as the Treasury is almost right at the start.

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Is the Jordan, or Bedrock.

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This is an old church…I’m no historian clearly, but how cool are those knocked over columns.

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Everywhere you look…even up high there are faces of buildings. Also no people, just donkeys! That’s the prize for going early.

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The Treasury. See how it is in the rock side. Those dots going up the side were for old scaffolding during the build!

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It might surprise you that the inside of everyone is pretty much one room. The Treasury has a few rooms but it seems people spent time on the outsides, not the insides.

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Do you see the grate on the ground. It was recently that someone discovered a floor below the ground! Also one the middle column at the very top there is a “treasure bag” that was believe to hold treasure. There are bullet holes in it from people checking for treasure.

Your turn to weigh in…Which is more impressive: Treasury or Monastery?

Amman, Jordan

Before going to Jordan we were told by several travelers to skip Amman. Apparently the Traffic is bad and there is more to see outside of Amman. Two people told us that Amman was not to be missed. “A little Greece,” “Charming culture.” We opted to risk it and head into Amman’s center. Though, we cabbed to our hotel in the center, and only rented a car once we were headed out. It was a good decision I think. The roads are a bit confusing.

We really loved our time spent in Amman. It had a charming hustle and bustle. We walked along the streets then BAM! ancient ruins, right there!

 

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Roman Theatre right in the center of town. Apparently they still occasionally do shows here. The stairs were a bit treacherous! (RARE! A picture of Matt!)

On our first evening, we signed up for a cooking class at Beit Sitti. A family run business in a charming house. This was our first introduction to how adorable Amman is.

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These are the walking directions from our hotel to the cooking class. Great 8 minutes. Upon walking: STRAIGHT UP! some of these little turns are actually staircases. Little narrow stairs to expedite your trek from street to street. Many of the stairs are painted and decorated.

The location of the cooking class was an old family home. We learned that Amman is built on 7 mountains. (Hence the 7 pointed star on the Jordanian flag) The charming buildings, narrow roads and stairs were reminiscent of Mallorca a bit, and maybe what I imagine Santorini to be. (Donkey’s included, but not in Amman anyone…I don’t think)

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I loved this art work on the stairs right outside the house.

The cooking class was lovely. We made a traditional rice and chicken dish, a salad, pita bread, hummus and a nest like dessert. My favorite was the smoked rice. They put charcoal in the rice pot to smoke it, then added almonds and raisins to it. The chicken also had a delicious sauce. We had rice and chicken almost every evening (once it was lamb and rice) and I didn’t tire of the different flavors and sauces.

Below is a utensil chandelier and a plate wall. I took these because I think my mom would like them. And of course, the food.

This was a great night to introduce Jordanian food. It was delicious. For breakfast everyday there was hummus. Everyday. It’s possible I could tire of hummus:)

After our evening in Amman we headed to Petra, but we came back for our final night and day. In the evening we sought out the “hip” street with some cute shops, restaurants and roof top hangs. This made us love Amman even more! I love an up and coming area.

Our last day we went to the Amman Citadel: various ruins that sat on top of yet another mountain. It was amazing how many times that area changed power. There were ruins from so many different centuries. Maybe if I was more fluent in history I could go into detail. I’m just going to spout words like Roman, Byzantine, pre 1st century. I hope that suffices.

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Here is a view of part of Amman. You can see the Roman theatre down the hill. If you want a wider view, and view of the citadel, check out this panorama that Matt took. (Click the circle arrow in the top right corner. Then, hold your mouse to move around on a computer.) Panorama

Above all, something I really enjoyed about Amman was the walkability of the city. It was a fun place to stroll and window shop.

Hopefully I’ll be back soon for more Jordan…and more UAE. I’ve got some local topics queued up.

Down the Rabbit Hole

When we visited Fujairah, I wrote how cool it was to visit a castle that wasn’t roped off. We visited two more castles in Jordan that captured the same experience. In a later post, once those pictures are edited, I’ll post about Kerak Castle. For now, enjoy my favorite anecdote from our trip. Seriously, such a surprise adventure…

We visited Montreal Castle in Shoubak, Jordan one afternoon. Just like the first castle we had been in, this crusader castle was quite damaged by earthquakes, but it had some really cool quirks. First, we walk into one castle room where they had collected tons of stone art, pots etc from the area, then in the next room there were wooden boxes full of writing tablets! Think Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when he finds the coffin with the tablet about the location of the Holy Grail. All I wanted was to pull out a piece of paper and some charcoal to capture a rubbing of the words! We don’t have pictures of this dark room, so I hope my description is sufficient.

Next, we come across a stairwell that goes down into the dark. Not roped off? Let’s go! Down…down..down….DOWN…ummm it’s still going. How far do we go? But, really is it safe? Thank goodness for this cellphone flashlight! Still going! We can’t even see the light of the entrance.

I was the first one to chicken out, so Matt and I turned around. AND about halfway back up…the light on the phone goes out, so we had to stumble out. Alas it always remains a mystery?

Not!

As we re-emerge, a group said that they have a guide who is taking them down. IT COMES OUT DOWN THE MOUNTAIN!!!!! There’s a way out! So naturally, we joined them.

Boys and Girls, I’m telling you, what a find! Apparently this route was originally leading down to the well, the water supply for the castle. People would have to walk the 200m or so down to the well, then back up again. There were little notches in the wall for their torches too!

This time with our guide we ventured down the steps and down..and down and so on. It really goes a long way. We were essentially walking down the mountain…inside the mountain. At the end, we climbed a ladder and popped out on the road!

I’m just so tickled by this little find that would likely NEVER happen in Europe or North America without headlamps and helmets.

Check back soon for more Jordan themed blogs.