A Travellerspoint blog


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After the longest train ride ever we arrived in Porto Portugal. We went straight to the tourist info office to get a map and she even showed us where our hostel was (we had booked this one in advance). So, knowing where we were going we headed to the hostel. When we got there, we were quite shocked to find out that they didn’t have our reservation. It turned out that we had written down the wrong hostel, we hadn’t actually booked that one; we had booked a different one. They were extremely helpful and pointed us in the right direction and we were off to find our hostel.
When we got there we were happily surprised, our host Martin, gave us some coffee and sat us down to relax a little while he checked us in. It was awesome. The place was called The Yellow House, and we highly recommend it as a place to stay in Porto. They had a backyard where you could go outside and hang out, and a grill if you wanted to use it for cooking, and a full kitchen. We got a double room, which was nice so that we didn’t have to do the dorm thing, though it would have been fine; all of the people we met there were super friendly, lots of Australians, some Germans, Swiss, Austrians, and more. Not to forget the house kittens, gato and mas gato. They were really sweet and cuddly.
For supper we headed up the street from the hostel to a little restaurant and got 2 soups, 2 mini pizzas, and 2 cervajas for only 6 euros! Yeah, things were finally getting cheaper ☺
With full tummys we got back to the hostel and found some homemade sangria, apparently they make some every night for the guests to enjoy for free. We each enjoyed a glass while meeting some of the other guests.

The next day was the day we booked grandstand seats to watch the qualifying round of the Red Bull Air Races! We got up and enjoyed the hostel provided breakfast and headed down to the river for the air show. The streets were already filling up with people.

Being airplane nerds (Darren especially) the Red Bull Air Races were a sight to behold. These pilots are incredible. They fly so close to the water along the Duro river and do a half cuban eight so frickin close to the cities bridges that you really think they could crash and burn any second. Watching it on TV is nothing like seeing it in person. Over a half million people line the river and the narrow streets to witness the event. This is something everyone should add to there bucket list. There was also an incredible air show before, after, and in intermission. They had the Portugese airforce, brietling aerobatic team, a bunch of helicopters and more.


The next day we had planned to blow off the air races and do some sight seeing in the city. We gave it our best effort to check out the Portuguese Stock exchange and to sample some port wines on the other side of the river, but we kept getting distracted by the planes roaring through the city so we gave up and enjoyed the show for rest of the day. We did make it across the river and had a totally different perspective of the race coarse. We parked ourselves on top of the hill and took some more pictures and video.

The following day we booked ourselves on a late afternoon train to Lagos. Most of the Aussies we met in the hostel recommended that we go there to experience the Algarve. That morning we checked out of the hostel and finally got a chance to do some Port wine tastings. All the good wineries are across the river from the main city so we dropped our packs of at a train station locker and crossed the steal bridge. The wine tastings are the thing to do in Porto. Most of the wineries let you taste the wine for free or for maybe 1 euro. The port wine we have in the states is a little iffy but the stuff in Porto in really good, strong as hell too. As luck would have it we ran into one of our Aussie hostel mates along the river font and checked out one of the tasting rooms with her. Her name was Alex and we had gotten to know her pretty well over the last 3 days. Turns she was on a massive trip here self and she had come to Porto from Lagos were she had worked during the tourist season (more on her later). After maybe a few too many glasses of port we barely made our train and headed south to Lagos.

Picture overlooking the city of Porto
Darren by one of the big steel bridges the race course was confined between
Darren & Colleen with the River and Porto in the background
Darren & Colleen Tasting some Port Wine

Posted by crantravel 15:07 Archived in Portugal Comments (3)

Basque Country Here We Come!!

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In leaving Paris and heading to San Sebastian we woke up at around 5am so that we could walk to the train station in time for our train at 7am. I’m sure we could have easily used the bus system to get us there and we could have slept in a little longer, but the early morning walk wasn’t bad at all. Actually it seemed as though there were still people out in some of the bars from the night before. We made it to the station with some time to spare. The train ride was rather luxurious, we were really getting used to the first class trains.

We arrived in San Sebastian around 3pm and we needed to find a place to stay. (We hadn’t booked anything ahead of time) So we went to the tourist information office, which we were told all cities have and they can find and book places to stay for you and activities, etc. Well, this one just handed us a huge booklet full of different accommodations because he couldn’t speak English and we had to wander the city ourselves to find one available. We ended up finding a place just a couple blocks away, Santa Ana Pension, a family owned place and we got our own room and bathroom and they were available for the two nights that we needed.

We explored the beach right after we settled into our room. The beaches in Europe (Spain in particular) are a bit different then the US, first thing I noticed was that there were tons of ladies sun bathing topless. Young, old, skinny, fat, it didn’t matter.
The beach itself was beautiful; the weather was perfect too. Hot and sunny, and we thankfully managed to keep from getting sun burnt. The water was refreshing and cool. Ahh to be at the beach ☺

After the beach we decided to look for a place to have supper. We went to a place our tour book recommended, they served pinxos (the Basque version of tapas), but we had no idea how the whole ordering thing worked. We stood there dazed and confused for a while until a younger customer gave us a little advice on how things worked and we ended up ordering a couple of sandwiches. We shared a chorizo sandwich and a sandwich with and egg and potato omelet in the middle. We also tried the local drink txicoli (which is a local sweet white whine); the bartender has to pour it into the glasses at arms length, it was quite the pour, the drink was pretty good too.

The second day we walked to the top of a place called Mt. Urgull. It’s a cool lookout with a castle and a statue of the patron saint of the city. You could also see all three beaches and some of the mountains behind the town. After that we wondered around town for a while. That night we tried the pinxos and txicoli again. We must have been getting a little better with the concept. The bartender seemed impressed that a couple of Americans could pronounce txcoli (chik-co-lee). So much so that he shared a class with us. We had no idea what he was saying. But it was a cool experience.

Posted by crantravel 10:57 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

The Louvre is amazing!

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From Bruges we took the train to Paris, via Lille France where we stopped to walk around for about an hour. There was a huge street festival going on and they were selling everything imaginable. We were actually able to buy some body wash from a street vender. The festival seemed to be featuring Native American Dancers. This was a little odd for 2 reasons; 1, these guys seemed to be on some kind of European Tour because we saw them in Oslo as well as Copenhagen. 2, they were dressed as plains Indians with the headdresses and the eagle feathers, but they didn’t speak English. I (Darren) approached one of them to ask were they were from. Turns out that they were actually from Peru and had recorded some albums of different kinds of “Indian Music” and were selling them at the festivals across Europe. (It was a little weird)

Once we arrived in Paris we had about a 2-3 mile walk to our hostel from the train station. We stayed in a place called BJV Louvre, it was well priced and located basically across the street from the Louvre. The first night in the hostel we had a couple of roommates, a brother and sister from Israel, who had just completed their service in the army. They were celebrating by taking a trip to Cuba via Paris.
That evening we headed over to the Louvre and took a ton of pictures.

We ate supper at a place famous for its atmosphere, Chartier, it was super busy and they sat us down right next to a French couple and the conversation was thin because they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak French, but Darren and I just enjoyed the bustling atmosphere and our meals (which were really just ok). When we left there was a huge line to get into the restaurant, so we were glad to have gotten there early.

The next day was the first Sunday of the month, which in Paris is, free museum day ☺ We went to the Louvre around 9am and got in for free! Though we did splurge on a couple of audio guides. We went straight to the Mona Lisa – hard to believe how tiny it is.
Then we wandered about soaking in all of the amazing art and sculptures the Louvre has to offer. We only made it through some of the hallways containing paintings and some of the Greek and Roman sculptures.

Later in the day we walked to the Arc De Triomphe, took some pics, and the walked down to the Eiffel Tower. We got there right at dusk, so we got to see it light up, and at the top of each hour it has lights blinking all over, so it sparkles for about 5 minutes every hour, it was really cool. The architecture in this city is jaw dropping everything is really old and really huge. You can tell this city founded that whole Napoleon complex thing

Posted by crantravel 10:19 Archived in France Comments (1)

In Bruges

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From Amsterdam we took the train to Bruges via Brussels. In Brussels we got off of the train and wandered around for a little bit. Long enough to grab a Belgian waffle.
And checked out the main square. Here's a little video that we took, hopefully it will work (since this is the first time we're trying to put one on our blog):

After about an hour we got back on the train to Bruges. As soon as we exited the train station in Bruges we were welcomed by our host (Andre) of the B&B we were staying at. It was awesome, he picked us up right from the train station and drove us to the B&B. He took us to our room, gave us a map and bus tickets (if we wanted to take a bus into town, or else it was about a 3km walk) and pointed out some recommendations of places to see, eat, etc on the map. It was so great to have such personal service. As soon as we got all of our stuff situated in our room we walked into town.

It was right around suppertime so we went looking for a good place to eat, but it was kinda weird everything was shutting down. There were only a couple of places still open and serving food. We ended finding a really good place, though it was a bit expensive. We shared some shrimp, coconut curry pasta, and some soup. And of course we tried some of the local brews.

The next day we walked into town again (no need to take the bus, the walk was really nice). We found the main square (we remember from the movie) and decided to climb the Belfry Tower.
We climbed up 366 stairs to get to the top to overlook the city

They had some beautiful canals, and had tours going through them, but right when we were trying to decided whether or not to go on the tour it started pouring rain, so that pretty much made up our minds.
Here's a pic along a canal:

Here's a pic in front of the town hall, with a horse drawn carriage going by.

Later in the day we made our way to the only surviving brewery in the city of Bruges and took a tour. They are using the latest in technology to brew their beer, but they took us throughout the whole facility where they used to brew the beer so many years ago. Below is a picture of Darren in front of a case of Belgian Beer glasses. The Belgians take their beer so seriously that every single kind of beer they make deserves to be in its own special glass.

We also of course had to try some delicious Belgian chocolates yum!

Posted by crantravel 13:20 Archived in Belgium Comments (2)

Vegas has nothing on Amsterdam (whats that smell??)

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After a night train from Copenhagen we arrived in Amsterdam around 10am. We found our way to the new hostel (The Flying Pig) and we were surprised that we were able to already check in. Just on our entry into the hostel, we could tell this one was definitely different from Copenhagen. It had a bar downstairs, smoke room, and little outdoor area; there was already a bunch of people gathered in the downstairs area. We got to our room, which we were sharing with four other people, got all of our stuff situated (we got to use our padlocks for the first time, glad that we had them along), and then headed out on the town.
Our first stop was, no...not a coffee shoppe, but food. We grabbed some falafel at the Snack Store, it was pretty tastey and cheaper than Denmark which made us very happy.

We decided that we'd go visit the Anne Frank Huis and hope that the lines weren't too bad to get in. There was a bit of a line, but it went pretty fast and before we knew it we were immersed in the lives of those that went into hiding there years ago. It was very interesting to see where the eight of them lived years in hiding. At first the area behind the bookcase seemed like a basic, almost large 3 bedroom apartment, but just thinking about never being able to leave that area for as long as they did, it no longer seemed so large. If you ever make it to Amsterdam, we recommend a visit to the Anne Frank Huis, its kind of a somber visit, but well worth it in our opinion.

Later that night we spent some time at the Hostel's very own bar. They were serving 2 for 1 Becks at only 4 euro. What a bargain compared to scandinavian prices. We met quite a few travelers from all over the world. Some from the states (most of them were from Oregon... I wonder why??) quite a few Australians, two French Canadian girls, two guys from France, and one gentleman from Ireland. They all had similar stories on how they ended up in Amsterdam. Most of them were youngsters, in there early 20's, and were fulfilling there own needs to see the world before they got tied town with a career and a family. They all seemed a bit curious that a married couple from the states had decided to do the same thing later in life. Oh well, better late then never, though we felt ancient in their midst, we still enjoyed the english speaking company. Later that night we walked over to witness the greatest spectacle in all of Amsterdam, "The Red Light District". For those of you who have seen it, you know what I'm taking about. For those of you who haven't, you've got to see it once before you die.

The next day we wanted to go to the Van Gough Museum and since it would have been a bit of a walk we decided to rent bikes. A thing about Amsterdam, bikes are everywhere! They have the right of way and will run you over if you're walking in the bike lane in their way. It's a bit intimidating, but we decided to do it anyways. We made our way to the museum no problem and just as we entered it started down pouring, so good timing on our part.
The museum was wonderful, and we're very glad we opted to pay for the audio tour. We got to hear lots of extra background about the paintings and Van Gough as we made our way through the museum.
Thankfully as we left the museum the rain had let up and we made our way back to the hostel. I was biking behind Darren and he gave me, and I'm sure himself, a bit of a scare when a large black van clipped him in the shoulder with the van's passenger side view mirror! Darren was able to steady himself enough to make it to the side walk and stop. The van just kept right on going. After taking a little breather we made it back to the rental place and... the bikes were promptly returned and we decided that taking our chances on foot was ok after all.

Here are some pics we took of Amsterdam:
Me with a rental bike in front of our hostel:
An amsterdam canal:
This was some cool paintings we saw outside of a sporting goods store
Some of the side streets are super skinny, we tried to capture one of them here.

Posted by crantravel 13:37 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)


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It was sad leaving Stockholm and our wonderful hosts, but alas we had to go, and our next stop...Copenhagen. Neither of us really knew what to expect, but we were hopeful.
The hostel atmosphere was unexpected, no one talked to each other, everyone pretty much kept to themselves. I dont know if it was just the Denmark atmosphere??
But we managed to keep ourselves busy galavanting throughout the city during the day; We followed along with our guide book on a walking tour.
We walked through a lovely park and Botanical Gardens:

We grabbed some lunch (brunch) at a little coffee shop. Thankfully we decided to share, not only was it really expensive, but it did come with a lot of food. Eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt with granola, a couple of pancake/crepes, some fruit and some bread. We both managed to walk away very full.

After lunch we walked to the tower where we could get a full view of the city:

The following day we took a canal tour and saw the famous sculpture of The Little Mermaid:
IMG_3289.jpg (We couldnt really get a good picture of her face since we were in a boat in the water)

It started pouring rain that afternoon and our night train to Amsterdam didnt leave until 7pm, so we ended up catching a movie. The taking of Phelm 123. We had wanted to see Arrogant Bastards, but when we got to the theater we were too late. which is a good thing, because apparently a lot of the movie is in French and German and the only subtitles they had in Copenhagen was Dutch (we found this out from a guy who was our train roomie from copenhagen to amsterdam, he watched that movie and missed out on half of it because he didnt know what was going on)

Basically we spent a lot of money in Copenhagen (its an expensive city), saw the sights, and were ready to head out to the next city after a day or two.

Posted by crantravel 10:53 Archived in Denmark Comments (1)

Hej Magnus and Lilas!

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We arrived in Stockholm around 10:20pm and our UND college friend Magnus and his girlfriend Lilas were kindly waiting for us at the station. Darren and I were both a little out of it having been riding on trains all day, but they took us straight to a counter to purchase bus/train tickets for the city and then took us to their apartment in Stockholm. It was so wonderful to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar city. (and to not have to worry about finding our hostel and figuring out how to get there)
After some catching up we headed to bed, after all for Magnus it was still a school night (He had to go to work the next morning)
We ended up waking up the next morning around 9:30am, a bit later than we thought we would, but enjoyed some much needed sleep :-)

We met up with Magnus for lunch and it was delicious :-) I had some lamb and rice with sauce and Darren had some lamb with french fries. We stuffed ourselves silly. After lunch we departed our separate ways and Lilas promised to meet up with us later, but until then we were on our own. We enjoyed a lovely walk along the water and came upon the City Hall.

From the City Hall we walked over to 'Old Town' Here's a view of the city hall from across the water:

Stockholm is pretty much surrounded by water and there are islands everywhere, you cant really beat the views of the city with the sparkling water surrounding you. It was a beautiful day in Stockholm. We met Lilas later on in front of the Royal Palace.

Lilas took us on a walk through a nearby park, it was a great peaceful walk; hard to believe that this park is so close to the city.
We met Magnus back at their apartment and we gathered up some food and drinks so that we could go have a picnic. Magnus took us to this little park where we climbed out on some rocks and had a wonderful view of the city (we could also hear a live band playing some blues music near by)
Here's a great picture of our fabulous hosts where we had our picnic:

From our picnic site we made our way through the city and to Darren's big B-Day celebration spot The Ice Bar of Stockholm. It was a very cool experience - literally and figuratively. They had us wear these huge blue thick ponchos with gloves attached before we entered...The Ice Bar.

Here's a pic of Darren, Magnus, and Lilas inside the bar.

Everything was made out of ice. The tables, the benches, the decorations, it was great.
Here's a pic of what they served our drinks out of, basically a brick of ice with a hole for the beverage to go into. They used some fun coloring to make them all look pretty cool too.

Happy Birthday Darren!

Posted by crantravel 07:54 Archived in Sweden Comments (3)


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We made it to Bergen at 7am in the morning, after getting maybe a few hours of decent sleep on the 8 hour train ride. We locked our packs up at the train station and decided to wander around Bergen for a while. We found the fish market.

We booked a 4 hour Fjord tour starting at 10am. Until then we walked around town looking at all the cool buildings and through the fish market. We ended up buying a fillet of marinated/smoked mackerel to eat with some crackers later in the day.

The Fjord tour was just what we needed for a relaxing day in Bergen. It was so peaceful and calming, not to mention beautiful. (and a little chilly on the water)

After the tour we went to our hotel, City Box, and checked in. Once we gathered all of our bags up to the room we decided to attempt to do laundry. Just small things like socks, underwear, Darren had a couple of light shirts he wanted to try to wash.

At first we though that our clothes would never dry before morning, at that point we made a pact that we would only do laundry now when we had at least 2 nights to be able to dry things out. Our items were pretty much completely dry by morning, but I dont think we'll chance it next time.

For dinner we picked up a few items from the grocery store to eat, plus the mackerel we picked from the fish market earlier that day.

After dinner we decided to check out the city at night.

The next morning we checked out of our hotel, headed to the train station and rode the scenic train to Olso. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, I'm really glad that we took the day train. We had to change train in Oslo, and then we headed for Stockholm :-)

Posted by crantravel 05:50 Archived in Norway Comments (4)

Norway ya ya :-)

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We made it to Norway a couple of hours late due to our plane to take us from Iceland to Oslo arriving late in Iceland. When we finally made it to Oslo we met up with one of my mom's cousins (Turid) and her husband (Erling) for a quick, but extremely delicious lunch at Hereford Steakhouse. (The food tasted even more wonderful since we hadnt been fed at all on the airplane - we just had some twizzlers and cheez-its to tide us over; we also grabbed some skyr - yogurt - in the iceland airport.

From Olso we took a train up to Hammar and spent the night at another one of my mom's cousin's (Marianne) houses. That night we had a delicious typical Norwegian summer dinner. We met Marianne's 3 daughters Guro, Stine, and Andrea and her husband Rolf. Their family was wonderful we really enjoyed our stay with them :-)

The next morning we had a typical Norwegian breakfast, which included some brown cheese (cooked goat cheese) and it was surprisingly delicious. Marianne took us up to Lillehammer to see the giant ski jumps. Darren and I also went on a simulator of downhill skiing and the bobsled, it was pretty fun.

From Lillihammer we went up to a small town called Alvdal and went to the oldest house in the town. The lower level is 450 years old and the second story is 250 years old.

We got to have dinner inside the house, we had Norwegian meatballs, not to be confused with Swedish meatballs, potatoes, and veggies. For dessert we had ice cream topped with cloud berries. (they look like salmon berries that grow in the pacific northwest but were a bit sweeter)

There were some really cool tools that were in the house:
And of course Darren found the old wood beer stein :)

We slept in the hotel in Alvdal that night and the next morning enjoyed another Norwegian breakfast. That afternoon was the big family get together with my mom's relatives she found from family history.
Here's a photo of everyone that was there:

We had a lot of fun talking with everyone, the guys had a blast talking about hunting, the reindeer season had just opened and a lot of the Norwegian guys had been hunting that morning or were going hunting the next day. Later that day we went to a different cabin and the guys there had gotten 3 reindeer that morning.

That evening we headed back to Hammer and spent the night at Marianne's house. Here's a scenic picture we took as we were driving back:

The next morning we were invited to Marianne's youngest daughters school to talk about where we're from a little about our jobs, etc. It was a good chance for them to practice their English. My dad got up there, and since he is a bit of a ham - to say the least - he performed a poem, sang a couple songs, the kids loved it. Darren and I also talked some, I told them that we live really close to where the book "Twilight" takes place, the little girls giggled and thought that was pretty cool. After the classroom visit we headed back to Oslo on a bus.

Darren and I left our packs in a locker at the train station and we went with my parents to check in at their hotel. For lunch we ate at Papas Kebabs and had a lamb gyro type roll, but instead of pita bread it was more like a tortilla. It was delicious, and huge Darren and I probably should have shared it.

We walked all around Oslo. We saw the Nobel Peace Center. Here's a pic of Darren trying to look intelligent in front of it:
We saw the Royal Palace:

We also wandered around Vigeland Sculpture park:

That night we decided to catch the night train over to Bergen, it left at 11pm. We ended up paying extra so that we could get our own sleeping cabin in hopes that we would sleep better there and to have the cool experience of being in our own little sleeper cabin.

Posted by crantravel 02:45 Archived in Norway Comments (3)

and then they were gone...


Hello everyone,

Well this is it. today is the day we finally leave for Europe. We've checked everything about a thousand times, we've packed and repacked even more and know we finally get to start the big trip.

We left Seattle on Saturday after 2 days worth of going away festivities. We did an overnight visit with Bryan, Liz, and Maddie in good old Moro, OR, (Darren's brother, our sister-in-law, and our little niece) then we decided to mix things up by taking a new route to MN. Usually we basically take I-90 all the way to Fargo then take a right to Minneapolis. This time we decided to soak up some new scenery. We drove from Moro all the way to Driggs, ID, we me made one notable stop at Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls, ID.
The falls were beautiful and they're right off of I-84. After spending the night in Driggs we explored Grand Teton National Park.
What a place! after that we drove across Wyoming and made a quick stop at Mt Rushmore for some pictures (if you get there during sunset they have a little program and a lighting ceremony which was really cool).
After that we drove through the night and made it Colleens parents house around 8 am. Last night we enjoys a little more going away festivities, and today we're off.

Here are some pics of all of the stuff we're bringing with us on our 6 month journey:

Next time you'll be hearing from us from another country!!
Until then~
Darren & Colleen

Posted by crantravel 12:04 Archived in USA Comments (3)

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