A Travellerspoint blog

October 2012

Cambridge, England

Punting and swim practice

sunny 75 °F

Kevin’s golden friend, John (aka JAU), and his wife Carolyn moved to Cambridge a few years ago for his postdoc and we hadn’t seen them for ages. On our arrival in Cambridge, we were immediately impressed by the beauty of the small college town, the enormous flat grass parks, and the second oldest English speaking college in the world.

First up on the city tour included a proper British pint (warm & flat of course) at the most famous pub, The Eagle, where Watson and Crick discovered DNA. Next up on the drink menu was British Pims and Lemonade (very similar to peach schnapps and sprite) and some roadies for a day on the river. The section of the river closest to town was packed with students punting at ramming speed. We fit right in with our meager punting skills and weaved back and forth trying to punt the boat in a straight line.

Once we were bored of trying to go straight, we decided it was time to challenge ourselves to the ultimate punting skill: while approaching a low bridge, the punter pushes his last punt and then hops off the boat, pulls him/herself onto the bridge, over the bridge, and jumps down to the boat on the other side. This took a few attempts but was well worth the challenge.

We loved hanging out with Jau and Carolyn because of their competitive nature; playing frisbee isn’t as fun unless there are punishable rules (think ‘redass’) Since Jau was a collegiate runner, watching the Olympic Athletics with him was like having our own personal history buff commentator, and because Carolyn is a swim coach, we didn’t just go to the pool for a regular old ‘swim.’

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 12:06 Archived in England Comments (1)

Redbourn, England

Meeting the younger generation

sunny 70 °F

From Belgrade, we flew to Luton and were greeted by Robin’s cousin Kate, and her two little girls, Caitlin and Erin. The girls mad us a pretty awesome homemade welcome sign! It had been over 6 years since we were in England for Kate’s wedding and we were excited to see how big the girls were. We enjoyed a good taste of ‘real life’ by enjoying some day to day activities like talking the kids to preschool, tumbling with them in gymnastics class, swimming in the pool, and taking their dog Oakley for walks. The best part about England is that there is a ‘right to wander’ law that makes trespassing non-existent… so are also loads and loads of greenways that travel through the city and into the woods!

The highlight must have been babysitting for a day when Kate’s brother Mike and wife Jacqui, came with their two little boys. While they were off to the Olympics, we had a through life lesson on how hard it was to take care of 4 little kids. At the end of the day, we learned some invaluable new strategies for potty training 3 year olds :-)

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 14:42 Archived in England Comments (0)

Belgrade, Serbia

Recent history comes to life

sunny 85 °F

We spent a day in Belgrade prior to flying off to London. We enjoyed the walking streets of Belgrade and had a great time in the many outdoor cafes people watching and seeing some of the Olympics on TV.

We walked around and up the old fortress, stopping to crawl around the tanks and cannons they had collected from the war. We then set out to see a few of the buildings that still haven’t been repaired from the US bombings in the 90s. Locals told us that it has been left in its demolished state as a reminder of the recent war and what reparations the country should be owed. It was a numbing experience to stand in front of a building that looks like it could collapse at any moment, and were eventually told off by the guards who were not thrilled with us snapping a few pics.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 03:57 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

Kragujevac, Serbia

A three day wedding

sunny 90 °F

One of Kevin’s college roommates, Nikola, let us know well in advance what the date of his wedding would be in Serbia. So we made sure that we would be in the neighborhood. We flew from Split to Belgrade with the Vermz and were greeted at the airport with our first ever escort sign!!

On our way to Kragujevac we stopped for lunch and had a classic introduction to Serbian food: meat! It’s a good thing we agreed to change our diets from being mostly vegan before we left to embracing whatever the culture offers. We ordered something that loosely translated to stuffed burger and ended up with a monster sized calzone shaped meat pie stuffed with cheese and more meat.

We arrived at the Kragujevac Hotel and were greeted by Nikola himself. We checked into our rooms and then headed out for a celebration drink and a tour of the surrounding area. We arrived early so we had one spare day in the KG to hang out prior to wedding activities. We decided to have our own warm up to the Olympics by having archery lessons followed by bowling and then un-synchronized diving.

On the way back from the pool, Robin picked up some accessories for the wedding including some nail polish, fake eye lashes, and some shoes – attempting to fit in with the ultra-fashionable Serbian girls who could give Carrie Bradshaw a run for her money with their high heel collections. That evening, we headed over to Nik’s parent’s house with the groom’s side of the wedding (which in Serbian is referred to as the Swaty). Shortly after we arrived, a gypsy band came to the front door to serenade all the guests. The interesting thing was that the band wasn’t ever invited, it was just that in this small town the word got around.

The wedding schedule, which started on Friday evening, and ended on Sunday night basically went something along the lines of: be ready at 7:30pm on Friday, eat, drink, folk dance, be ready at 10am Saturday, eat, drink, folk dance and repeat on Sunday. In short, the fun part about the weekend celebration was following along with the traditional roll play activities including going to the bride’s house with the entire Swaty caravan to ‘pay off the family,’ taking the bride to the church, escorting her to the husband’s home, drinking slivovitz (plum brandy) that the groom’s grandfather made the year the groom was born (1978), and then learning the traditional folk dances while the band members roamed around the dance floor.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 02:19 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

Split, Croatia

More concrete beaches

sunny 85 °F

In Split, we stayed in a two-bedroom apartment very close to several beaches in the heart of Split. The owner of the apartment gave us some great food and restaurant recommendations, so we set out to try some Croatian food, see the walled city, and relax at the beaches. The beach was a close walk from our apartment, and it was packed with people. Our host supplied foldable cushioned mats and we soon realized why; everyone lying out in the sun was lying on what looked like a concrete sidewalk. Most of the beaches we went to were constructed from either large rocks or concrete, however that didn’t stop us from enjoying the water, jumping off things and laying out in the sun. It’s amazing how much fun people had just being in the water. The most common game the locals played was hitting the ball back and forth with the palm of your hand (in Greece they used a wooden paddle).

We sampled lots of different Croatian (and Bosnian) food while in Split. We tried what is called “cevape” (ground beef, hand rolled into sausage-like shapes that were then grilled, put into a bun, and served with some cheesy sauce and onions), as well as the local oysters and other seafood creations.

Unfortunately, the weather turned on us so we headed to a mall in search of a suit for Kevin to wear at the upcoming wedding in Serbia. Turns out that malls in Croatia are very similar to the US. However, Split did have something much different than we usually see in the states… an old walled city and Palace with narrow streets only for pedestrians. We hiked to the top of the bell tower, which had some amazing views of the city.

Also foreign to us, drinking in public is also common place, so we grabbed some roadies and headed down to the waterfront. We joined in with what seemed like the entire town out on the bluff with the same idea. After chatting with some of the locals we learned about the clubbing culture and headed along the beach to try out the waterfront clubs.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 02:21 Archived in Croatia Comments (2)

Neum, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Count it!

sunny 77 °F

We knew our bus ride from Dubrovnik to Split would have to pass through a small Bosnian border crossing, but we didn’t realize that we were going to actually stop in Bosnia for lunch!

It may not look like it from the look on Verm’s face, but we did have a fun adventure across the street to a Bosnian bakery for some local meat pastries :)

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 02:21 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (0)

Herceg Novi, Montenegro

A day trip to another country

sunny 85 °F

After the Verm sorted out the rental car, Robin packed up our lunch, and Kevin sorted the directions, we headed out towards Montenegro. The drive took us over some crazy dirt roads and through some gnarly construction but we eventually made it to the border! We didn’t exactly know what we were going to do or see in Montenegro, but the sound of going for a ‘day trip’ to another country was pretty exciting. With big smiles on our face, we rolled up to the border crossing guard who promptly asked us where we were going. Silence fell over the car when we didn’t remember any of the city names in Montenegro. Shocked with us, the guard said with his thick Croatian accent “So you don’t know where you are going?” … After a bit of chuckling and fumbling through our directions, we found the name of the city, and were allowed in.

We toured around the streets and couldn’t help but notice how large everyone was. The locals were at least 6’2” and muscular, including the women! It wasn’t until we made it up to Kanli Kula Fortress when we learned that this relatively new country (2006) was using the Euro currency… and we didn’t actually have any! We talked our way into an acceptable exchange and headed through the fortress gates and up to the top for a better view of which beach we wanted to swim at.

We picked our spot and headed down to the rocky shoreline. We basically spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach and perfecting our synchronized diving.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 02:00 Archived in Montenegro Comments (1)

Dubrovnik, Croatia

A city and its walls

sunny 90 °F

When we arrived in Dubrovinik, we were shocked at how many tourists flooded the streets. Walking in the shade was quite the challenge as masses of people walking both directions were all trying to squeeze in to avoid the heat. We arrived in our studio apartment and eagerly awaited the arrival of Kevin’s college buddy who would be traveling with us through Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Serbia. The Vermz arrived a few hours later pulling the world’s largest suitcase through the cobbled streets! We celebrated his arrival by bringing a few of the local 2L beverages up to the overlooking hill for sunset.

We were very entertained by a legendary small stone protruding from one of the walls in the main square. There are endless tourists giving it a try, including us. The object of the game was to stand on the rock against the wall and balance well enough to take off your shirt. This was WAY more challenging than it looks, and is possibly just a way to get tourist to take their shirt off!

Dubrovnik is more charming in the morning, or late in the evening when the cruise ship passengers have left. In the warm evenings, the narrow city streets pack with café and bar goers.

Although the streets inside the city can be very crowded, the walls of the city were not. We walked around the city along the top of the walls for some unorthodox views of the city from above.

While walking along the wall, we noticed some cliff jumpers, so we headed through a small opening in the back side of the city walls which turned out to be a beer bar with several different places to cliff jump.

The water here was beautiful, but the beaches lack fine grained sand, and instead, consist of either big rocks or cement blocks. Our little studio was just 200 meters from the beach, so we took full advantage of morning and evening swims. We were happy to have found so many activities in such a small city.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 11:51 Archived in Croatia Comments (3)

Milan, Italy

Our gateway city

sunny 80 °F

We came through Milan a few weeks ago on our way to France and we returned for a quick stop before flying to Croatia. We had two main objectives here:

1. Eat gelato
2. Eat pizza

We accomplished the first one by having a fancy gelato while on our walk to our hotel.

Now we will tell you how we made the best pizza ever!
1. ask hotel staff where to get a good chhheeeeeeeeese pizza
2. go there and order a basic margarita pizza
3. while its being made, go to the grocery store and buy a chunk of fresh mozzarella cheese, a tub of fresh pesto and a liter of wine
4. mix the ingredients together and serve!

Optional: create a fun salad and end up with quite the feast.

We wanted to see the Duomo lit up in the evening and while on our walk we stumbled across a concert at the Galleria D’Arte Moderna. We sat outside the gates to sneak a listen until we were invited in for a proper seat  The band turned out to be called Violons Barbares and was composed of three musicians one each from France, Bulgaria, and Mongolia. The music was a very entertaining mash-up of drums strings and the Mongolian’s extremely wide vocal range, especially in the low pitches.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 05:20 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Grenoble, France

Filet mignon and Taco Tuesday

sunny 79 °F

We were given the royal treatment when we arrived at Nicolas and Maya’s apartment in La Tronche just outside of Grenoble. We arrived in the evening and Nicolas was midway through cooking us his first fillet mignon. It was such a treat to be wined and dined after we had been camping for the last few days. After dinner (as traditionally done in France) he served us some truly stinky French cheeses (you know, the ones that make the entire room smell when opened), as well as some dips, and wines that he recently brought back from Corsica. Then, to top it all off he brought out his special hand imported high gravity rum in a box!

Nicolas assumed that we should by now have been in good cycling shape and so challenged us to ride the 30% grade up to the Fort de la Bastille! Even with our mountain bike gearing, the granny gear couldn’t save us on this road.

The challenge was well worth it for the stunning view of the city.

It was good to meet up with Nicolas again, we are fortunate to have family and friends scattered about to have a good taste of home now and then. So, here is our challenge for you today! After you eat your dinner tonight, try eating a whole fresh baguette with cheese or yogurt (soy versions acceptable).

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 03:39 Archived in France Comments (1)

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